Cranberry Frozen Yogurt

Sometimes there are things I just can’t resist buying, even if I have no real need for them. Like those great suede boots that cover my knee. Or an iPad, which even though I haven’t actually bought it yet, I know it’s really just a matter of time before I give in. Or red quinoa even though I have a HUGE bag of the regular stuff from Costco at home. Or a bag of bright ruby red cranberries, even though I’m not making Thanksgiving.

Big or small, these aren’t always the most practical purchases, but they make me happy.

So even though I didn’t need the cranberries for anything particular, I wanted them just for fun. I had been thinking about making David Lebovitz’s frozen yogurt for a long time, and the thought of a cranberry-flavored frozen treat seemed just too fun to pass up. And luckily, I had my office’s pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving lunch potluck coming up. Perfect!

I followed his basic recipe but made changes to take into account that the tart flavor of the cranberries would need extra sweetener (he called for 1 lb fresh strawberries and 2/3 cup sugar; I used 12 oz fresh cranberries with 2/3 cup sugar plus maple syrup), and used 2% Greek yogurt because it’s so rich and creamy. I also cooked the cranberries with the sugar until it formed a thick syrup, then strained it to remove any pieces, and chilled the mixture before churning in my ice cream maker.

The result was a rich, creamy and slightly tart frozen yogurt that works perfectly as a palate cleanser, mid-afternoon treat or even as dessert for those who don’t prefer sweets.

Here’s the recipe:

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Red Velvet Cupcakes

Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting is my favorite dessert. If you’ve ever spent any real time with me, I can guarantee you’ve heard me whine about needing chocolate cake, and needing it now! It truly is my favorite and when I’m craving it nothing else will suffice. That is until recently when I discovered Red Velvet Cake.

While not a traditional chocolate cake – especially given that it’s best with cream cheese frosting (gasp!) – this moist, delicious cake contains cocoa powder, giving it that hint of chocolatelyness that I need but in a much more quizzical way.

If you’ve never made it before you must try this recipe adapted from Paula Deen, which is one of the easiest from-scratch cupcake recipes out there. It takes just minutes to whip up the batter and get the cupcake tins in the oven!

Here’s the recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes:

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Rhubarb Almond Squares

It’s been a while since my last post and a much longer break than I’ve ever taken since starting this blog. It seems my life has gotten in the way of my hobby a bit, but it’s my hope that with the farmer’s markets now open and fresh produce (slowly) coming in, it’ll be easier to find the motivation to get back in the kitchen!

With that said, we can move on to more important things, like rhubarb.

Every year I get so excited for the first outdoor market of the season that I rush over with hopes of finding an overwhelming variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. And of course, every year I leave with just two items: rhubarb and asparagus.

It’s just the way it is here – May equals leftover apples and potatoes from the fall and fresh rhubarb and asparagus. It’s like they’re the starter vegetables warming us up for the real thing to come.

This year I wanted to do something simple but a little unique with the rhubarb. Playing off it’s tart qualities, I decided to mimic the sweet and sour flavors of lemon squares by making rhubarb squares with an almond crust.

These treats were a gooey, sweet-sour combination with a crunchy almond crust and are were enough to convince me that summer might actually get here soon. Or at least convince me that the wait won’t so bad…

Try the Rhubarb Almond Squares for a pre-summer fix!

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Mint Chocolate Brownies

Yesterday I had the pleasure of participating in the Chicago Food Blogger Bake Sale. It was a terrific event filled with fun people, great treats, and an AMAZING location. Our group raised more than $885 for Share Our Strength! Check out Maris’s recap and Smash Cake Bakery, which will be reopened by the sweetest family on May 1. It’s seriously adorable AND available for private events. Hint, hint…

Aren't these cookies from Kudos Kookies amazing?

The week leading up to the bake sale was a tough one. I was busy with so many things and was experiencing a terrible case of baker’s block. I knew I wanted to make my Marshmallow Mish Mash squares because who doesn’t like chocolate and homemade marshmallows? But what else to go with it that wasn’t too complicated (again, short on time).

Of all people, my non-chocolate loving sister came to the rescue with the suggestion of mint chocolate brownies. That was something I’d always wanted to try – a brownie topped with a layer of mint, then another layer of chocolate, sort of like those mints hotels used to leave on pillows.

Mint Chocolate Brownies

Why don’t they do that anymore, anyways?

So, brownies. I found a recipe on from Bon Appetit that looked promising. It was very late on Friday night at this point (and the bake sale was Saturday morning), so I didn’t make any changes to the recipe other than increase the amount of unsweetened chocolate in the brownie batter. The result was a very deep chocolate and minty brownie. While delicious, it could be a little strong for some people. And you definitely have to be a mint fan.

Here’s the recipe for Mint Chocolate Brownies:

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Blogiversary Celebration with Vanilla Peach Cake!

Blogiversary Collage

Today is Foodie Reflections’ blogiversary! I can’t believe it’s been two years since I first started this blog because I missed writing. My first post on April 6, 2008, was a restaurant review with no photos. At that time I didn’t have a clear direction of the blog’s focus and, to be honest, still don’t. Turns out I don’t like rules, even ones that are self-imposed (shocking, I know).

I generally post recipes because cooking truly is my passion. But I also enjoy sharing stories about my family, holiday traditions, foodie events, or anything relevant in the food world. I’ve taken you with me to Paris, Costa Rica, New Orleans, San Francisco and Florida. There was even a guest post from my sister about her experience hosting her first family holiday. What has remained constant is that it all revolves food.

I need to thank Dan Nielsen (AKA Anna-the-Culinary-School-Dropout’s husband) for being the most unbelievable tech guy! Dan got me started after I told Anna of my plans to start a blog despite having absolutely no clue where to begin. He put up with me through redesigns, specific color criteria (how was I supposed to know he’s color blind?), and my “breaking” the blog on more than one occasion. Dan even created a nifty tool to add printable recipes to the site and it will be up and running as soon as I complete the stuff that needs to be done on my end. Seriously, if anyone out there needs a tech person, Dan’s your man!

Now, on to the food, what I know you really come here for. I was lucky last week to be contacted by Nielsen-Massey Vanillas (not related to tech guy Dan Nielsen, I don’t think…). They’re a local vanilla company that makes the most unbelievable products and I was thrilled when they offered to send me samples of Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Sugar, Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract, and Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste (retail value approximately $37).

Of course, I didn’t tell them that I had half a bottle of the vanilla bean paste in my cabinet – I seriously LOVE that stuff!

I’ve already made a few dishes using their products and will post one of their savory recipes later this week, but in honor of my blogiversary celebration I just had to share this amazing Vanilla Peach Cake with you! What type of celebration would it be without cake???

The recipe was adapted from Epicuious and provided the perfect opportunity to use one of the jars of peaches I painfully canned last summer then promptly forgot about, along with the vanilla extract and vanilla sugar.

Here’s the recipe for Vanilla Peach Cake:

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