August 8, 2010

Lemon Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

The LCBO Food & Drink magazine brings culinary creations to life in such a dazzling way that you simply must see it for yourself, if you can. The popular (free!) magazines come out seasonally at LCBO stores, usually to quite a bit of fanfare, and disappear quickly. The publication's photographers are truly artists, which makes it a treat to read - and makes it all the more tempting to try the suggested recipes!

We made the Lemon Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes (found on Canadian Baker Too's blog) as the grande finale to our summertime backyard meal (see post below). They took quite a bit of work but oh my goodness they are one of the best (tastiest and prettiest) desserts we've ever made.

Lemon Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes
Note: we made 8 cupcakes by cutting the recipe in half. The recipe below has the full ingredient amounts.
1/2 package Dare Simple Pleasures "Lemon Social Tea" Biscuits --> we had to use a different brand, but try to stick with Dare to make measurements easier
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 packages cream cheese
1/2 cup strawberry jam
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 to 1 cup lemon curd (recipe follows)
6 strawberries (fresh is best)
  • Line muffin tins with papers.
  • Place eggs in small bowl and cover with hot water to warm them up. Set aside.
  • To prepare the crust, put the lemon tea cookies in a food processor. Blend until the cookies are fine crumbs. You should have about 1 cup. Add melted butter and stir until evenly coated.
  • Divide crumb mixture equally between cupcake liners, pressing the crumbs firmly into the bottoms of the cups.
  • Wipe the crumbs out of the food processor.
  • Combine cream cheese, eggs, jam, sugar, and vanilla in food processor. Spoon this batter into the cupcake cups, on top of the crumb crust.
  • Bake in preheated 375 F oven for 20 minutes, or until just set. Ours cracked a little - but don't worry, the lemon curd covers any cracks that may appear.
  • Cool the cupcakes on a rack. Cover and store in fridge until chilled.
  • Top with lemon curd and a strawberry slice.
Tea biscuits about to be turned into dust...

The next food processor combo is about to turn a lovely shade of pink.

Graham-cracker-esque crust made with lemon social teas.

A few cracks appeared on the cheesecake tops. Don't worry if this happens to you too!

Lemon curd adds major glamour to these creamy cupcakes.

Lemon Curd
We also cut this recipe in half. The full recipe, which makes 2 cups, follows.
4 lemons
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup softened butter
  • Squeeze the juice out of the lemons until you have 3/4 cup of juice.
  • Stir eggs with 1 cup sugar in small pot. Whisk in lemon juice. Add softened butter.
  • Using a whisk, stir constantly for 10 - 12 minutes while lemon mixture cooks over medium heat. It should get thicker and a little darker. Do not let it boil!
  • Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl if you'd like, and place plastic wrap directly on surface of the lemon curd. Cool and store in fridge.
Keep stirring!

Prepared lemon curd will keep for over a week in the refrigerator.
Or, freeze it and it will stay good for several months.

Rosemary Ranch Kabobs with Strawberry Feta Salad

A summertime meal in the backyard: cool refreshments, a hot BBQ, lingering over the meal, and finally lighting citronella candles as the mosquitoes come out.

We invited our grandparents over for dinner on the deck, and decided to tackle the meal preparations ourselves. We started marinating the chicken early in the afternoon and tossed the salad just before serving the meal. As sides, we served hot rice and cold marinated asparagus. Our next blog post will be the spectacular dessert!

Rosemary Ranch Chicken Kabobs - from AllRecipes
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup ranch dressing
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary (we used 1 1/2 teaspoons dried)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon white sugar (optional --> we didn't add this)
5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
Assorted chopped vegetables
  • Stir together marinade ingredients (everything on the list except the chicken!) and let the mixture stand for 5 minutes. Put the marinade in a wide bowl or shallow baking dish and add the chicken, coating it in the sauce. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • Thread the chicken and vegetables onto skewers. Grill over medium-high heat for 8 - 12 minutes, until the chicken is cooked thoroughly (juices will run clear). Discard the rest of the marinade.
Strawberry and Feta Salad - adapted from AllRecipes
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar --> we used cherry vinegar and it was perfect!
2 tablespoons balsamic vingar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 head romaine lettuce, torn
1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced --> we used 3/4 cup frozen... and you should definitely use fresh
2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Toast the almonds in the oven (350 F for 5 minutes) or in a skillet on the stove. Remove from heat and set aside
  • To make the dressing, whisk together garlic, honey, mustard, vinegars, brown sugar, and vegetable oil.
  • In a large salad bowl, toss together the almonds, lettuce, strawberries, and cheese. Add the dressing a little bit at a time - you won't need all of it! Toss and serve.

Crispy Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies

These cookies fit perfectly with the sweet and salty trend making its way through grocery stores (tried those yummy Nature Valley granola bars?), restaurants (we've heard of chocolate bacon), and blogs (these cookies!). We adapted a recipe found on PickyCook, a well-organized blog with a huge range of culinary ideas.

Crispy Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies
(the name is quite a mouthful...)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons butter, softened but still cool --> this works out to about 3/4 cup + 1/8 cup
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (we put in about 2 teaspoons)
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats --> do not use instant or quick-cooking oatmeal!
1 cup white chocolate chips
Flaky sea salt
  • Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
  • In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars for about 20 seconds. Increase mixer speed and beat for a minute longer, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl before adding egg and vanilla to the mixture. Beat until well-combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl again.
  • Add flour mixture into the large bowl, mixing on low speed until just combined. Slowly add oats and mix well.
  • Add white chocolate. We found it easiest to stir with a wooden spoon, but you can mix for a few seconds if you would like.
  • Form dough into balls between 1 and 2 tablespoons each.
  • Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat... We'd used our silpat (ours is Patisse brand) mat to roll out cookies on the counter before, but we had no idea it could go in the oven. Very cool! And the cookies really don't stick.
  • Place cookies on baking sheets, leaving an inch or two between each one so they have room to spread.
  • Use your hand to flatten the dough balls so they are 3/4-inch thick. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  • Bake in preheated 350 F oven until cookies are golden brown and edges are starting to crisp - 13 - 16 minutes. We let ours bake for 15 minutes, which left the centers a bit chewy. Let the cookies cool a little bit before transferring to a wire rack.
Combining the wet and dry ingredients.

The original recipe called for a chopped-up white chocolate bar.
Chocolate chips are a little bit easier, but we're sure the chocolate
bar would be decadent!

Dough is done, pan is prepared, oven is on.

Sprinkling the salt.

August 7, 2010

Ginger-Honey Glazed Salmon

We love going through magazines to find recipe gems, but Oprah sometimes serves up complicated ingredient lists. This simple salmon recipe, found in the January 2006 magazine and on the Oprah website, has surprisingly few ingredients.

Salmon is a very good source of protein and omega-3 essential fatty acids (which are one of the reasons some fish are called "brain food"). Improved cardiovascular health is often touted as another bonus of this fish. On the Whole Foods website it's suggested that salmon consumption can lower hostility, decreasing grumpiness.

Ginger-Honey Glazed Salmon
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh ginger
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon sesame oil (we used olive oil)
1 fillet salmon
2 tablespoons olive oil
  • In a small pot, bring orange juice, soy sauce, ginger, honey, and sesame oil to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes on medium-low heat.
  • Pour half of the marinade into a shallow dish and let cool for a few minutes. Put the fish in the dish, coating with the marinade. Turn the skin side up and cover with plastic. Set the salmon aside for 10 minutes
  • Heat olive oil in frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook fish with skin side down, covered, for 3 minutes. Skin should be crisp. Flip the fish and cook for another few minutes until cooked through.
Our mini honey jar - the perfect size for this recipe.

We store ginger in a plastic bag in our freezer.

Salmon frying. Feel free to use packaged cut filets.

August 4, 2010

Chocolate Caramel Thumbprints

Lisa has been itching to make these for ages. They're out of one of our favorite cookbooks, Better Homes and Gardens: The Ultimate Cookie Book (edited by Lois White, 2007) and can also be found online. You should see our copy of the cookbook: there are purple post-it notes sticking out all over the place, marking recipes we just have to try!

These cookies are chockfull of pecans, so take this into account when sharing with others. We don't recommend omitting the nuts though, because they help to hold the cookie together.

Chocolate Caramel Thumbprints
1 egg
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 vanilla caramels (we used regular caramels)
3 tablespoons whipping cream
1 1/4 cups finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon shortening
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat butter for 30 seconds. Add sugar and beat well. Then add egg yolk, milk, and vanilla (make sure to put the egg white in the fridge, because you won't need to use it for about 2 hours).
  • Stir together dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, and salt) in a small bowl. Add to butter mixture and beat until well combined. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 350 F. The original recipe says to lightly grease a cookie sheet, but we didn't bother.
  • In a small pot, melt caramels with whipping cream over low heat. Stir (milk burns quickly) until mixture is smooth. Set the pot aside.
  • Slightly beat egg white. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in egg white, and then in pecans. The egg white will make the pecans stick.
  • Place the balls of dough an inch or two apart (they spread!) on the cookie sheet. Use your thumb to make a dent on the top of each cookie.
  • Bake at 350 F for 10 minutes or until edges are firm. If the center indents disappeared while baking, redo them with your thumb (or a spoon if the cookie is hot). Spoon melted caramel mixture into the dents. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool.
  • Drizzle with melted chocolate if you want to up the decadence factor. Enjoy!
Egg and vanilla added to the batter.


The caramel really spreads!
Store these in the fridge to keep the cookies from sticking together.