Mediterranean Meatballs with Feta Tzatziki Sauce

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You know what? Meatballs are great. Also, waking up to my husband putting the extra thick fluffy blanket over me¬†because its getting chillier in the mornings now, that’s great too. Super great. Snuggly warm drowsy drifting back to sleep great.

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Mr. Nifty has been getting on my case because he wakes up early, heads off to work and I keep sleeping. I guess he feels really lonely and gets grumpy when he leaves and I’m still all snuggled in bed. So about a week ago I promised to try and get up when he leaves. So far I’ve done it! Twice…

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Yeah, I’m terrible. I don’t know if there is anything more difficult than waking up when you don’t have to. If I had to rush to get to class or work by a certain time it wouldn’t be so hard. But I study remotely which means I make my own hours. And who would MAKE their hours be before 10 AM? Not me, that’s for sure. Any tips for motivating me to get up at the crack of dawn with the hubby? (It’s not really the crack of dawn. It’s more like 7:30. But that’s practically still nighttime, you know?) I’d appreciate any insight. Or a good excuse to keep sleeping in without the shame. ūüėČ That works too.

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Lucky for me, I made these amazing meatballs so Mr. Nifty can forgive me for being a lazy wife. Typically, we don’t really enjoy Mediterranean food. We never eat Greek food, it’s usually Thai, Mexican or Indian honestly. I’m not sure, but the flavors aren’t our favorite. So when I heard our bible study dinner this week was Mediterranean themed we weren’t too thrilled. But I really wanted to make something I was excited to eat. What’s more exciting to eat than meatballs? I contemplated, I researched. I tested. I intensely thought and planned. And then I created the most stupendous¬†Mediterranean meatball. ¬†We love em and there is a bonus round in these meatballs too! BONUS! They are gluten free. I made them with couscous instead of breadcrumbs because I thought it would make them fluffier and less dense. It is soooooo goooooood. And since there’s no gluten all my friends can eat these! They are literally the perfect meatball.

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Amazing ways to eat these meatballs:

  • On toothpicks with roasted red peppers
  • Over couscous with cucumbers and tomatoes
  • Dipped in homemade tzatziki sauce (yeah! I included a recipe for that too! Double bonus!)
  • Stuffed in pita with lettuce and yogurt
  • In a spicy tomato sauce over rice…

Yum!

Mediterranean Meatballs with Feta Tzatziki Sauce
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Little delicious savory bites of meatballs and a creamy yogurt cucumber sauce. Yum!
Serves: 35-40
Ingredients
  • ½ pound each of ground beef, pork, and turkey
  • 1 cup cooked couscous
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 6-8 leaves fresh mint, diced
  • 3 sprigs fresh oregano, diced
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 cucumber, grated with water squeezed out
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta
  • salt and pepper
  • lemon juice
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 40 degrees F.
  2. In a stand mixer or large mixing bowl combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  3. With wet hands, roll meatballs about an inch big and place on baking sheet. You can line with foil beforehand to help with clean up.
  4. Bake about 22 to 30 minutes or until the meatballs are no longer pink in the middle. Let cool slightly and serve warm or at room temperature.
  5. In a small bowl stir together the yogurt, cucumber, 2 cloves garlic, fresh dill, ¼ cup feta. Season to taste with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Serve with warm meatballs. Store in the fridge.

 

Apple Cider Cutout Cookies

Hello world, I want to talk to the non-pumpkin people for a minute here. I feel for you.

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What do you eat when September rolls around? Do you resent everyone else walking around extolling the praises of the all-wonderful PSL? Do you even like fall? Please don’t discriminate against one of the best times of year just because of the shortsightedness that is pumpkin spice obsession. I understand that seasonally spiced lattes have been available to chug for a few weeks now, and blogs everywhere are crowning that¬†rotund orange squash the king of the fall flavor profile. But I always always want to take a step back, take a deep breath of fresh autumn air (smell the crisp leaves!), and remember to appreciate all the other beautiful things to eat that aren’t pumpkin. Everyone deserves to experience the joy of fall, even non-pumpkin people.

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Apple cider is one of those amazing-delicious-I-could-literally-die-happy-as-long-as-I-could-finish-this-mug-of-cider things to enjoy during the fall months. When I was a kid, my family would visit a beautiful apple u pick farm every year when the air started getting cooler. We would pick bags and bags of crisp, juicy, cold apples. Halloween we spent at a Harvest Festival riding hay rides, petting bunnies, and drining mugs and mugs of warm apple cider and eating donuts. It was heaven! I think that might be why I love apple cider so much. It brings bac lots of childhood memories.

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These cookies would be perfect if they were just sugar cookies shaped like cute little apples. But they are so much more than that. They are adorable AND they taste like that spiced deep apple cider I drank as a kid. I was seriously motivated to make apple cider flavored cutouts that really tasted like apple and not just your typical “spice cookies.” And I got it, you guys. These cookies are it! We’ve got apple cider in the dough and apple cider in the frosting so you can’t miss it. I can’t stop eating them.

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So a few notes about some things included in this recipe: apple flavoring or apple oil. I got mine from Amazon (it’s from Lorann Oils) awhile back when I got ambitious and wanted to try making hard candy. It’s optional because the apple cider in the recipe gives it enough flavor, but I think the apple oil gives it an extra oomph. It’s very strong ¬†so only a few drops is needed, but like I mentioned you can totally make these without it and they are equally amazing.

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Secondly, these might look intimidating or seem like they take a long time because they are decorated with royal icing. Don’t be alarmed, you can easily skip a lot of this steps! You can skip the stiff icing and piping and drizzle the thinned cider icing right over the cookies and it will harden as it dries. You can also turn these cutouts into drop cookies if you like. They will be thicker and softer instead of a more firm shaped cookie, but they are delicious that way too! If you want an in depth tutorial of how to frost cookies with royal icing I suggest heading over to Annie’s Eats, she has a great post that is full of information.

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Mmmmm…happy fall! And remember to spread the fall flavor love. *runs to drink the last mug of warm cider*

Apple Cider Cutout Cookies
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 packet dry apple cider mix
  • 1 egg
  • ⅛th teaspoon apple oil
  • 2½ cups flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ cup milk
Instructions
  1. In a mixer cream the butter, apple cider mix, and two sugars until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the egg and apple oil and mix until fully incorporated.
  3. Add all of the dry ingredients and milk and mix until it comes together into a dough. Chill the cookie dough at least 40 minutes and up to two hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out the cookie dough to about ⅛ inch thickness. Cut out cookies with a cutter, dip in flour if it seems to be sticking. Place on a baking sheet 1 inch apart. Bake for 8-12 minutes until the edges are just slightly golden.
  5. Remove cookies to cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting.
  6. For frosting, combine 2 tablespoons of meringue powder, 2½ cup powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons apple cider, 3 tablespoons water, and a few drops of apple oil in the stand mixer and mix for about 7 minutes until the frosting is thick and glossy. Remove about ⅓ cup of icing to tint green and tint the remaining frosting red. In a piping bag outline the apple shape on the cookies. With the green frosting pipe stems and leaves.
  7. Take the remaining red frosting and add apple cider one tablespoon at a time until it is slightly runny. It should create a ribbon of icing that falls back into the bowl and remains on the surface for a few seconds before disappearing.
  8. "Flood" the cookie outlines with the thinned icing, or drizzle back and forth over the cookies for a more informal finish.

 

Pistachio Lime Drizzle Cake with Raspberries

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On your marks…

Get set…

BAKE!

Friends. Dear friends, bakers, food lovers all, a beautiful thing has returned. The Great British Bake Off is back! Yes, August 24th we saw 12 new heroes march into a large (adorable) tent in the English countryside and make stupendous cakes on television. Oh man, it’s glorious.

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So, just in case you haven’t heard of The Great British Bake Off, I’m here to enlighten you and give you the gift of the best hour of television you’ve ever seen! Okay. Well, at least I think it’s the best. It’s an award winning British competition television show where 12 amateur home bakers make delicious and stunning baked goods to be evaluated¬†every week by delightful English judges. According to¬†http://thegreatbritishbakeoff.co.uk/ (the official website of the show),

“The Great British Bake Off is the ultimate baking battle where passionate amateur baking fans compete to be crowned the UK‚Äôs Best Amateur Baker. Over the course of¬†10 hour-long episodes, the series follows the trials and tribulations of the competitors, young and old, from every background and every corner of Britain, as they attempt to prove their baking prowess. Each week the bakers tackle a different baking skill, which become progressively more difficult as the competition unfolds.”

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Yup. Fantastic! So I watched the first episode this past week and I had this great idea to try and bake one thing from the show each week! I’m not sure if this is a realistic idea or goal, but I decided to try it. It will hopefully inspire me to make new and exciting things more often and you’ll be seeing more yummy things more often. (And who can complain about that?) This first episode featured cakes, which made me doubly excited because 1. I love making cakes! and 2. Mr. Nifty and I¬†had a party we were going to this week and the host asked me to bring a dessert.

The truth is, I rarely make cakes because it’s just me and Mr. Nifty here and it’s really hard to eat a whole cake between the two of us before it starts going stale. One of the saddest things in the world is throwing out a perfectly good cake because it went stale. ūüôĀ My bottom lip quivers just thinking about it. Therefore, having the fortuitous opportunity to feed lots of young people with cake made me pretty enthusiastic.

There are three components to a Bake Off episode: the signature challenge, the technical challenge, and the show stopper. The idea of the signature is to let the bakers kinda give their own take on a traditional recipe. The technical challenge is usually something really difficult and rare and the bakers are given a very sparse set of instructions and limited time to show how well they know how their technique. The show stopper is meant to wow the judges and be spectacular. It’s usually hard and stressful and everyone is flipping out at the end. It’s so great, I love it.

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I decided to try the signature challenge to replicate in my own little kitchen this week. The contestants (and me!) were tasked with making a moist drizzle cake. Traditionally, lemon drizzle cake is the most common and a few contestants made lemon cakes that looked so good. I could probably eat lemon cake forever and never get tired of it. #noshame I also noticed one baker, Benjamina, made a pistachio cardamom lemon drizzle loaf. The idea of citrus with pistachio nuts sounded delicious. Boom! Pistachio cake it was.

And so I present to you:

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Pistachio lime drizzle cake with raspberries! This is the first time I made a pistachio cake from scratch and it was so delicious. There is actually a whole cup of ground up pistachios in the batter and it gives it a really unique crunchy light crumb when you bite into the cake. With the lime syrup drizzled into the cake layers, it is so soft and moist. MMmm! I made three 8 inch¬†cakes¬†with just a little spread of vanilla buttercream and crushed raspberries between each layer. And of course decked out with plenty of pistachio nuts and berries on top so that everyone who saw the uncut cake could get a little excited about eating it. ūüėČ It was a hit at the party we went to and it will definitely be joining the ranks as a tried and true favorite in my recipe box. Happy baking!

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Pistachio Lime Drizzle Cake with Raspberries
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios, plus extra for decoration
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1¾ cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1½ cup milk
  • 3 egg whites
  • juice of two limes
  • ½ cup sugar
  • water
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Prepare three 8 inch baking pans by spraying with cooking oil or greasing with butter and flouring.
  3. In a food processor, pulse the pistachio nuts until very finely chopped. You want them to be almost powdery in texture.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and ground pistachio nuts.
  5. In another mixing bowl, cream the softened butter with sugar and vanilla for three to five minutes until fluffy and pale. Add the egg and beat until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and transfer the butter mixture to the dry ingredients with the milk and stir until just combined.
  6. Clean out your stand mixer bowl and wipe down your whisk and mixing bowl with lemon juice to get rid of any grease from the butter. You'll be whisking egg whites and you want your bowl to be free of grease so that they can properly whip.
  7. Whisk the egg whites on high for about 5 minutes until hard peaks form. Gently fold these egg whites into the batter until just combined.
  8. Divide the batter into your three prepared pans, smoothing the batter on top so that it's even. Bake for about 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for about 15 minutes before turning them out of the pans.
  9. For the lime drizzle syrup combine the juice of 2-3 limes plus enough water to make ½ cup liquid with ½ cup sugar in a sauce pan. Heat over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and remove from heat just at it is beginning to boil.
  10. To assemble your cake you will need lime syrup and vanilla buttercream as well as fresh raspberries.
  11. If needed, trim the domes off of your cakes to make them level with a serrated knife. Lay down your first cake layer and brush the lime syrup generously over the top. Frost a thin layer of vanilla buttercream (you can use a piping bag around the edges to make it look a little prettier) and tear a handful of berries, dotting the vanilla buttercream.
  12. Place the second cake layer on top of the first. Again, brush generously with syrup, frost, and add berries. Repeat with the last layer, but instead of tearing the berries, leave them whole and decorate the top. Sprinkle the top of the cake with roughly chopped pistachio nuts.

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Banana Zucchini Bread

Alright friends, consider this the end of the hiatus!

Every summer I take a break from blogging because summer just doesn’t seem like a baking season. I have very little motivation to spend hours in the kitchen and instead I want to just buy cartons of ice cream and get my sugar fix that way. Or through endless Starbucks frappucinos. (Is that how you spell frappucinos? That middle vowel is always so confusing. Frappacino, frappecino? Frappocino? Help…)

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Anyways, classes for me¬†start back up in a week which means summer is pretty much over. Here in California the summer weather lasts for quite a while, but that doesn’t mean I can’t anxiously await for Pumpkin Spice to overwhelm the world and take over our souls for four months or so.

I think everyone loves the idea of fall and really welcomes it. It seems to be the most loved of all the seasons and I feel bad that other seasons are neglected. (I’m sorry, summer. I’m just not a show-my-bare-legs-off kind of gal. I still think you’re important, you’re just not my favorite child.)

This Banana Zucchini Bread isn’t a fall recipe per se, but it doesn’t conjure up little school girl memories for me. Zucchini always floods the garden in late summer when kids are heading back to school, and quick breads pack really well into lunches. So while it’s not pumpkin spice-caramel apple-chai latte flavored this recipe is a great way to break the summer silence.

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I’m pretty excited to get back into the kitchen, wrap myself in an apron and start baking in earnest once more! One note though, we recently moved from one apartment to another about an hour away and so I’m still trying to organize my linens, find a good place to photograph, work our the lighting. So these pictures are awful. The bread is not awful. It’s amazing. Okay, back to the blog…

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Here we go. Details: this bread might seem at first to be your typical banana nut bread. But it has extra zucchini and a handful of white chocolate chips which caramelize into the bread giving it little crunches of sweetness through the sweetness. Those little extras make it that much better.

 

 

Banana Zucchini Bread
 
Ingredients
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup oil
  • 2 medium ripe bananas
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup zucchini
  • 1 cup each of chopped nuts and white chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and prepare a loaf pan with cooking spray or butter and flour the pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, oil, sugar, bananas and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Add the flour, cinnamon, and baking powder and stir together until combined.
  4. Add zucchini, nuts, and white chocolate chips and fold into batter until it's well mixed. Pour into the prepared loaf pan.
  5. Bake for 55 minutes to 75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.
  6. Let bread cool for 15-30 minutes before turning out onto a rack and slicing.

Adventure: Brazilian Brigadeiros

‚Äú’I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.’
‘I should think so ‚ÄĒ in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!’‚ÄĚ
‚Äē The Hobbit

Brazilian Brigadeiro

I am a bit like a hobbit. I don’t really want adventures and tea time sounds much more lovely than getting thrown into the middle of “nasty disturbing uncomfortable things.” I like to garden and eat good food. Really, a well planned party is about as much excitement that I could ever want.

But if you are well acquainted with hobbits, you know that even when they protest and avoid scary adventures, they somehow end up finding themselves in the middle of one anyway. And so, much like Gandalf saw the “Tookish” side of Bilbo as he sat in his garden enjoying the bliss of an uneventful morning, God asks me to share in adventures that I would never consider taking on my own.

Brazilian Brigadeiros

When I was 15 my family moved to Brazil. For 6 months I hated everything. It’s so very difficult to describe culture shock. It’s a feeling that doesn’t make sense in that way because you can’t find the words to describe the specific thing that makes you feel so out of place. I hated how I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying, how people hugged and kissed you even if you had never met them, I hated that it was so hot and sticky all the time. I missed Target, libraries, my school and the grand selection of drive thru options. I missed being in control, and I missed being comfortable. But little did I know that Brazil was the adventure of my teenage years. After the initial shock wore off I truly learned to love it. Brazil has a little piece of my timid heart.

Brazilian Brigadeiro

I even miss it a little. So every once in a while when the little brasileira inside of me starts yearning, I make the food that brings me back to the adventure days. Rich, salty beef perfectly seared on an open grill, silky beans and perfectly cooked rice, each grain separate from the other. The sharp vinegar, onions, and tomatoes of Brazilian vinegrette next to a fluffy crunchy pile of farofa and fried mantioc.

It is food perfection, my friends. Goodness, those people know how to eat. Brazilians don’t have a huge array of desserts. They are more fans of the savory and salty dishes, but the few desserts that they do enjoy are incredible. After a big party when¬†the bbq has settled down a bit and you feel like maybe you have enough room in your tummy fora bite of something sugary, you can count on a fudgy brigadeiro.

Every single birthday party, get together, or celebration in Brazil has brigadeiros. They are more iconic than cake, even. They are decadent beyond belief and you only need one to be satisfied. Think of them like a Brazilian truffle. Only they are softer, sweeter, and much much easier to make. Hallelujah!

Brazilian Brigadeiros

Look at that impeccable fudgy center! So. Good.

It’s the simplest recipe in the world and takes less time than cookies. It only takes four ingredients and that’s including the chocolate sprinkles you roll them in. Whenever I am standing over the stove stirring the sweet chocolate¬†for brigadeiros, I always wonder why I don’t make them more often since they are easier than easy and delicious. You probably have all the ingredients in your pantry right this moment.

Basically it’s sweetened condensed milk, a little butter and cocoa powder cooked down until it’s thick. Then you let the mixture cool in the fridge, roll them into bite sized balls and¬†baptize¬†them in sprinkles. In other words, you can do this! Traditionally you make this with regular sweetened condensed milk and Nesquick powder instead of cocoa. But I’ve found that while Brazilians really like the super-intense-hurt-your-teeth sweetness, people here in the United States aren’t so enthusiastic about it. So I’ve modified it a bit to make it more North American. ūüėČ Using chocolate sweetened condensed milk and regular unsweetened cocoa powder make these little beauties a little less of a sugar bomb¬†and more suited to our obsession to anything ‘double chocolate.’

Brazilian Brigadeiro

That’s a dessert I can get behind. I’m pretty sure even Bilbo would approve of this chocolatey adventure. He does know the value of a tasty bite after all.

Brazilian Brigadeiros
 
Serves: 16
Ingredients
  • 1 14 oz. can of chocolate or regular sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, plus extra for rolling
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Chocolate or Rainbow sprinkles
Instructions
  1. In a medium sized sauce pan over medium high heat, place the sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder, and tablespoon of butter.
  2. Whisk the cocoa powder with the sweetened condensed until smooth and continue to stir as you bring the mixture to a boil. Cook the mixture for about seven minutes until it is thick and shiny. (Make sure to stir the mixture the entire time to avoid scorching)
  3. Transfer the mixture to a plate or bowl and place in the fridge.
  4. Chill for about 2 hours or until the mixture is firm and cold. Now it's time to shape them!.
  5. Prep your workplace before you start, otherwise you'll get butter or chocolate all over everything. Generously butter your hands.
  6. Then, using a spoon or your fingers, pinch off about a tablespoon of the fudge and start rolling it into 1 inch balls. Roll in chocolate (or rainbow!) sprinkles.
  7. Serve in mini paper baking cups. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.

 

Lemon Berry Creme Brulee

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It seems that the birds chirp a little louder each morning, the sun is a little warmer, and everything is a little greener. On Saturday we went to the farmers market to enjoy the sun, fresh fruits and veggies, and stretch our legs. Of course, we forgot to get cash before we arrived and felt like goobers trying to pick the things we wanted to buy with the 15 dollars in our combined wallets. #embrassing

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But we got flowers and lemons, which is all I needed to be perfectly happy! For our humble easter dinner I decided to forgo a tower beautiful cake that I had planned and made these lemon berry creme brulees instead. They are exactly what you need to end a salty ham feast. It’s light and fresh and you get to eat sugared berries soaked in lemon juice which might be my favorite thing in the entire world. Top that with a sprinkle of fresh lemon zest and you can go to bed because the day couldn’t get any better after a custard like that.

You’ll find me with a spoon devouring the rest of them in my kitchen, thanks.

 

Lemon Berry Creme Brulee
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 lemons
  • 5 egg yolks
  • ½ cup plus additional sugar
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • ½ cup sliced strawberries
Instructions
  1. To make the creme brulee, preheat your oven to 325 F.
  2. Using a vegetable peeler, peel all of the skin from one lemon and place in a saucepan with the cream, and juice from one lemon. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring the cream occasionally for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. In a heatproof bowl whisk together ½ cup of sugar with the egg yolks until light.
  5. In a thin stream add ½ cup of warm cream to the yolk mixture, whisking continually. Temper the egg yolks into the remaining cream in a thin stream, whisking the entire time to avoid the eggs cooking.
  6. Strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve and discard the lemon peel and any cooked egg bits that might have formed.
  7. Pour the custard into individual ramekins placed in a roasting pan. pour water into the roasting pan until it comes up to the middle of sides of the ramekins.
  8. Bake 30 to 35 minutes until the custard is set, but the middles still jiggle a little when you shift the pan.
  9. Remove from the oven and let cool. If making ahead, chill the custards in your fridge and then finish the rest of the recipe prior to serving.
  10. Sprinkle the tops of each custard with about a tablespoon of sugar and use a chef''s cooking torch to lightly burn the sugar. If you don't have a torch, place them on a baking tray and broil them in your oven. Just make sure you keep the door cracked and you watch them every step of the way to make sure they don't get too black!
  11. Mix the berries with 3 Tablespoons of sugar and the juice of 1 lemon. Dust the creme brulees with lemon zest and serve with berries.

 

 

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Almond Madeleines with Orange Glaze

Windy weather brings out one of two parts of me. The first part wants to wrap up in blankets and hope for the electricity to go out so that I can drink tea by candlelight. The blustery rattle is perfect for snuggling down into a pillow fort.

The other part of me that is awakened by windy gusts is the adventure mood. Getting my hair whipped back from my face, watching the trees bend and rustle make me want to go explore or dash off somewhere unknown. Today has been pretty gusty, which was awesome! Because it was adventure gusty and I had archery practice. Archery practice always feels very adventurous. Heroes always shoot bows and arrows, and heroes are always exploring.

Little did I think that wind is bad for shooting. Duh. So practice was cancelled and I decided to make little tea cakes instead. Okay, so that transition needs some work. But tea cakes, or French Madeleines, are the most perfect thing to nibble on while you build your pillow fort and load up Netflix with a cup of tea nearby.

Madeleines can be found in a few places. Your Starbucks might have a few shrink wrapped, and sometimes you find them in a grocery store bakery. But these are sad little chewy lumps that are masquerading as true madeleines. Real madeleines are soft, but firm. Slightly sweet and tender. You can flavor them in lots of different ways, just like cake, but I think that simple ones are the best.

These almond cakes are dipped in a sweet orange glaze that hardens slightly as it dries and gives it a light orange sugary bite to the cute little shells. I had a very very hard time not eating these impulsively while I took pictures. In fact, I’m going to go make tea and fluff my pillows in preparation for my evening. My evening filled with sweet almond madeleines.

Hurray for happy snuggling! Or adventuring, or whatever your choice of windy activity you prefer.

Almond Madeleines with Orange Glaze
 
Serves: 16
Ingredients
  • ⅔ cup all purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup almond flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon orange extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ cup melted butter, cooled
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour your madeleine pan.
  2. In a mixing bowl beat the eggs, extracts, and ¼ cup of granulated sugar 8 to ten minutes until pale fluffy ribbons form when the batter is dropped from a spoon.
  3. Sift together the all purpose flour, powdered sugar and almond flour. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the egg and sugar batter until well incorporated.
  4. Fill each madeleine shell with about a tablespoon of batter.
  5. Bake on the middle rack around 10 minutes or until the tops of the cookies spring back when touched lightly.
  6. To make glaze whisk together 2 tablespoons of orange juice with 1 cup of powdered sugar until smooth. Dip the madeleines in the glaze while still slightly warm and let cool completely for glaze to harden.
  7. Store in airtight container.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

So I’ve been ambitious lately and I jumped into the world of French Macarons. I actually had never eaten one until about a month ago when someone at work came back with a box of them from NYC. It was the best cookie ever. Lemony, chewy and crunchy at the same time. I knew that making them on my own was considered pretty crazy since they are known to be impossibly tricky and finicky.

Painted Raspberry Macarons

Of course I ignored all reason and tried to make them anyway. So far I’ve made chocolate peanut butter ones, nutella ones, and these pretty painted raspberry ones. I seriously debated if I should put up a recipe for these for Valentine’s Day. I mean, they are perfect for the occasion. Special, loved by all (especially your gals if you celebrate “Galentine’s Day”) they show people that you actually care about them because

1. You spent a lot of time babying these super special cookies to get them just right. Sifting and separating eggs and counting each stroke as you stir the batter only 35 times! It’s slightly stressful. and,

2. You’re willing to share the beautiful result of your labor of love. It’s difficult, I admit, to give them away. But it really does say “I love you and consider you a nice enough human to give my macaron eating obsession and share them with you.” And really, that’s all we want from the day of love, isn’t it? Someone who is willing to give you their food? Exactly.

But! I get carried away. I don’t have a recipe for Macarons yet. I’m just not confident enough that I have mastered this yet. They are delicious, but the process isn’t streamlined, my feet aren’t tall enough, I haven’t decided on the perfect oven temperature, all those little things that make the perfectionist baker in me twitch a little. But believe me, a macaron recipe will be coming to Nifty Spoon in the future. Probably the near future since I’m a little obsessed with them and can’t seem to stop making them. So sit tight, Valentine’s! I will deliver a recipe in due time! Meanwhile,¬†I have lots of great recipes for Valentine’s day if you’re looking for one. I’ll post them below. And remember, no day is too ordinary to spread a little love around with tasty baked things! At least, that’s my motto in life. It’s gotten me this far. ūüôā <3

Valentines Day Recipes:

1.  Red Wine Cake Truffles

2. Chocolate Coffee Custard Cups with Cherry Sauce OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

3. Cherry Chocolate Chip Cake OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

4. Grapefruit Peach Crush OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

5. Raspberry Cinnamon Rolls OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

6. Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Valentine’s Cake Truffles

Red Wine Cake Truffles

Valentine’s day is so cute. I’m sorry, I know there are people out there who hate Valentine’s day and think that it’s a commercial attack on all single people. I feel for you, sad lonely folk. I’m ready to give you a hug. But even when I was single (which was most Valentine’s days, let’s be honest) I still loved it.

Red Wine Chocolate Cake Truffles

It’s just so darn cute. There’s chocolate and hand written love notes and roses and sometimes stuffed animals. You can always use more chocolate and more flowers and Valentine’s day gives you both so we shall celebrate it here on Nifty Spoon!

Red Wine Chocolate Cake Truffles

A few years ago Cake Pops made an appearance and everyone decided they were the new cupcake, the new fad that was here to stay. I admit, cake pops can be adorable. They are portable and on a stick and everyone loves cute things on a stick! But I’m not sure why, I never really liked them. I felt like if I wanted to eat cake I would do just that. Eat cake. Smushing it all up and squishing it onto a stick and then covering it in chocolate that has to be mixed with shortening to make it pretty? It just doesn’t sound appetizing. So I never made cake pops. I ate a few here and there when they were offered. I wasn’t impressed.

And then¬†this Valentine’s day I wanted to make a red wine chocolate cake. Magnificent, covered¬†with red wine¬†chocolate buttercream and delicious. My batter ended up overflowing in the oven. I was too impatient to wait before turning the cake out of the pan and it split into four huge ugly steamy chunks that would never stick together no matter how hard I tried to patch it up with frosting. I was dismayed. What was I to do with an entire ruined (but incredibly delicious!) red wine chocolate cake with red wine fudge butter cream? *tears*

Red Wine Chocolate Cake Truffles

I had to make cake truffles. This was the clear solution. Here are a few things I learned while making these little bite sized treats.

  1. I am not talented or skilled when it comes to coating things with chocolate. It wasn’t a pretty picture, my friends.
  2. Cake pops truly can be tasty! It takes a good cake to make a good cake ball. Quality going in = quality coming out.
  3. Red wine always needs to be mixed with chocolate. It makes it ten times better. Plus…cake! Red Wine Chocolate Cake Truffles

Now, I am no expert at cake ball dipping or drizzling or covering or any sort of make-this-truffle-look-astounding skill. These pictures clearly show that. (Haha! HELP!) So I will direct you to the website¬†that helped me the most HERE. I used the method that recommended a plastic fork with the middle tines broken off and that was very helpful. If you are having troubles with melting the candy coating or chocolate (like I did with my first two attempts, HA!) this tutorial might be a good resource. As far as the cake and frosting–follow this recipe. It’s delicious!

Red Wine Chocolate Cake Truffles

Red Wine Chocolate Cake Truffles
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup ilk
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • ½ package of raspberry jello
  • ½ cup softened butter
  • 2½ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 3-6 Tablespoons (or more if needed) dry red wine
  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • Candy coating or chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 9 inch baking pan.
  2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. In another bowl combine egg, milk, oil, and vanilla. Add to bowl with flour and beat on medium speed with a mixer until well combined. Stir in the wine until mixed. (The batter will be thin) Pour into your prepared pan
  4. Bake 30 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean or the top of the cake springs back when pressed lightly. Cool 10 minutes, then turn cake out of pan and cool completely.
  5. When cake is cool, place in a large bowl and crumble into fine crumbs (similar to wet sand) with forks. You can also use a food processor.
  6. For butter cream: in the bowl of a stand mixer or large bowl with a hand mixer, beat butter until creamy. Slowly blend powdered sugar and cocoa powder until well combined. Mix in ½ tsp vanilla and red wine by Tablespoon until the thickness is desirable. Add ¾ cup of frosting to the cake crumbs and stir until the crumbs hold together like a dough when grabbed in your hand.
  7. To roll ball, pinch a amount of the cake "dough" and roll into balls in your palms about 1 inch wide. Place the cake "dough" balls in the fridge for half an hour or in the freezer while you melt the candy coating for decorating. There are many ways to melt chocolate and candy coating, view the website linked above to see suggestions.

 

Green Onion Couscous Cakes with Shrimp

Dear world, this is my new favorite thing ever.

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I feel like couscous is always so sadly forgotten. Everyone is enamored with quinoa because it’s hip and protein filled and healthy and yayayayah. But I will always (100%) choose couscous as my favorite grain. Its texture is fun and different, delightfully chewy and firm and a nice way to switch up dinner after making rice for so long.

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I could eat couscous on it’s own all day every day, but these couscous cakes are the perfect way to snazz it up. They are classy, but soooo delicious. I think they have got to be the best way to impress people without too much effort.

A few years ago I made these for a ladies book club get together for a friend. Even the woman who had a shellfish allergy and couldn’t enjoy the shrimp topping couldn’t get enough of them because they are hands down delicious. They are great! Plus, they are a wonderful way to eat more lettuce. No one can argue with that, right?

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Let’s be honest, your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier isn’t that fun anymore now that we are creeping up on February. No fear, these couscous cakes will make your light dinner or lunch fun again!

Okay, I’m done gushing, here’s your recipe. But seriously. I really like these things.

Green Onion Couscous Cakes with Shrimp
 
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1 cup uncooked couscous
  • ½ cup shredded Parmesan
  • ½ cup chopped green onion
  • ¼ cup Italian bread crumbs
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • Sea salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lb shrimp
  • 3 Tablespoons sun dried tomatoes in oil
  • 1 bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • Salad greens
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 garlic cloves
Instructions
  1. Prepare your uncooked couscous according to package, and fluff with a fork. Transfer couscous to a mixing bowl and let cool completely.
  2. Add cheese, green onion, bread crumbs, salt and pepper to taste to couscous. Stir to combine. Add the two eggs and stir thoroughly to combine.
  3. With wet hands roll a 2 inch ball of couscous mixture in your palms and flatten into a patty shape. In a non stick frying pan sprayed lightly with oil, cook the patties until golden brown on medium high heat. About 2 minutes for each side.
  4. In another skillet heat 2 Tablesoons of butter until melted. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and saute until golden brown. Add shrimp, chopped bell pepper, and sun dried tomatoes. Heat until the shrimp is cooked through and opaque and the pepper are slightly soft but still firm. \
  5. Arrange salad greens on a plate and place couscous cakes on top. Scoop the shrimp topping onto each couscous patty and drizzle the extra garlic butter sauce over the salad green if desired.
  6. Eat while still warm.