Posts Tagged recipe

Banana Bread Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling

Banana Bread Cream Cheese Muffins


On Sunday morning I woke up wanting real breakfast, not just some flakes in a bowl.  I hunted around the kitchen and found two very over-ripe bananas.  Not quite enough to make my favorite banana bread recipe, but a good start.

Taking inspiration from a pumpkin cream cheese muffin I had at Starbucks, I decided to stretch the banana bread batter by creating a cream cheesy filling! I just so happened to have pumpkin seeds on hand too, so why not go all out!

I’m using a “vintage” oven that we inherited with our new house.  The appliance guys who delivered our washer & dryer even made fun of it’s two burners and antique look.  I thought I would hate it, but now that I’ve cleaned it up and tested that everything works, I actually kinda like her!

Banana Bread Muffins with Cream Cheese

You can catch a glimpse of the old girl in this photo of the muffins ready to go in the oven.

I also warmed up some hot apple cider and we snuggled on the couch with our breakfast on a 35 degree morning.


Homemade Vanilla Extract

If you bake, you’ve probably shelled out a pretty penny for vanilla extract. Nothing beats that extra sweetness and flavor in a cake, frosting or cookie! At $8.99 a pop for the cheap-o corn syrup stuff or $20+ for the really good stuff, its pricey. You can be like my friend Joey and buy a gallon at Sam’s and yes, that should last you a while.  But what if you could easily make your own at home?

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Now when I say easily, please know it doesn’t take much effort, but I didn’t say fast. If you start now, you could have some ready for Christmas cookies! I’ve had the one above going for about 2 months and it’s not dark enough yet. Luckily I’m patient and have plenty of store bought vanilla bean paste to last a while. I find that we are pretty disconnected from our food and where it comes from. Have you ever spent much time thinking about how vanilla extract is made, what makes it wonderful and where it comes from?  If you just want to hurry up and get your extract started (the sooner the better…) then skip down to the recipe. Otherwise, stick around and I’ll share what I know about this amazing “bean”!

What is Vanilla?

Vanilla beans actually come from an orchid. Crazy right?  I just saw the Vanilla Orchid in person at the Atlanta Botanical Garden (the orchid greenhouse is the best part!)  To get high yields, orchid farmers hand pollinate the flowers. Once formed, the beans are cured and fermented for up to a year to allow the aromatic flavors to develop. (Now you know why it costs so much!) Commercial vanilla extract uses grain alcohol to dissolve the flavor compounds of the vanilla.  The FDA requires a very set ratio of vanilla bean to water to alcohol in order to label it vanilla “extract”.  From what I’ve read, it takes up to two full years for vanilla extract to reach its full flavor. We won’t be quite so precise (or patient) with ours.

I put my jar in the pantry where its very dark with the door closed.  I see it there and I remember to shake it up.  One of the things I read that I’m excited to try is that as you use the extract, top it off with vodka. Supposedly the extract will stay flavorful for 7 years. I also can’t wait to try the same approach with lemon peels, lavender and other flavors that might make a nice extract for baking!


Red Quinoa Cakes Recipe

Allow me to introduce my friend quinoa – a versatile, delicious and nutty grain.  If y’all have already met, don’t worry, you’re about to get re-acquainted in a whole new way.

Uncooked Red QuinoaIf you want to mix it up at dinner, Quinoa (pronounced kee-no-ah if you’re me, or keen-wa if you’re my mom) is an excellent healthy alternative to rice, pasta or potatoes. It contains tons of protein and vitamins! I buy my quinoa in bulk and throw it into the dinner rotation at least once a month.  Until now, my fav recipes have been pilaf or salad style (both excellent recipes to try out if you are just getting started with quinoa).


Quinoa originates from South America and there are three main varieties: red, black and white.  I’ve tried all three and personally I prefer the little bit of nuttiness and pepperyness of the red one, or you can make a medley of all three. Quinoa contains naturally occuring compounds called saponins that act as a pesticide, so pro tip: you’ll want to rinse your quinoa prior to cooking.


Always scouting for new recipe ideas, I came across these quinoa burgers on Pinterest (yes, I’m officially obsessed with this awesome inspiration/idea cataloging tool!). As Jason lovingly pointed out, me and veggie pancakes have a love-hate relationship. I love to eat them, but they hate to stay together in the pan for me.  I thought there were going to be issues with these babies because I ended up with more of a lumpy batter than a patty (thus the addition of a bit extra flour in the recipe below).

Red Quinoa Cakes

Low and behold, the quinoa cakes turned out beautifully. Did I mention they were savory and super satisfying? Moist on the inside, with a crispy exterior and even a bit of a burger texture to them thanks to the quinoa grains. We decided these would be best accompanied by a green salad because they are protein and carbs all-in-one! I topped them with a bit of greek yogurt dip (as recommended in the original recipe) and we also snuck in a handful of sweet potato fries that were free with a coupon.

Have you tried quinoa?  What are your favorite ways to prepare it?


Lemon Curd Filled Cupcakes w/ Marshmallow Meringue Frosting

Who knew lemon could be better than any chocolate out there?  Naysayers, you have to try this lemony combination.  A buttery cupcake with flecks of lemon zest, a tart robust lemon curd studded with vanilla bean and then top it all off with a fluffy marshmallowy meringue. Win!

I made these bad boys as a Mother’s Day surprise. Just one problem when it comes to mom & her sweet tooth… she usually has to shy away from desserts due to a chocolate allergy – bummer!  We couldn’t have all that on her special day, so I grabbed a bag of lemons and a lot of eggs and got to work on this epically delicious concoction.

Y’all know I’ve been in meringue heaven lately with my Robin Egg Meringues and the Tres Leches Cake with Toasted Meringue I made for Jason’s birthday.  I just can’t get enough of the sweet fluffy stuff!  Now I like buttercream just as much as the next gal, but this time I saved the butter for the cake batter and the results were fantastic!

The recipe came together from three different ideas I found out there.  I had been dying to try this lowfat lemon curd recipe and it was the highlight of the cupcake for me with the addition of vanilla beans.  The hardest part is the cramp you get from all that whisking :). I knew I wanted a light flavorful cupcake and any recipe with dairy, be it yogurt, buttermilk or sour cream, immediately gets my vote because all my favs include one of these!  Finally, I wanted an airy sticky texture on my marshmallow meringue, so I found one that didn’t include water and it was just the ticket! Cheers!!

Because these all came from different recipes, I scaled and modified each one to get the right proportion of cake to filling to fluff.  Here’s my recipe as always with my notes and tips in blue:



Robin Egg Meringues Recipe & Tutorial

I had one of those nights where I felt inspired.  Not by a recipe, or an ingredient but just an idea: Create meringues that look like Robin Eggs. You know, those pretty teal blue eggs with brown speckles on them?  Unfortunately, by the time I thought of it, it was much too late to start a baking project and I didn’t think I had all the ingredients.  But I did it anyway…

Robin Egg Meringes

If you’ve never had meringues before, they are a fairly simple treat. Mostly sugar, egg white and a lot of air.  They melt on your tongue like cotton candy and they are one of the daintiest desserts you can make.


Usually they are made in the shape of a rose, a drop or star, but I’ve also come across these realistic-looking meringue mushrooms several times.  These gave me hope that you could make just about anything with meringue, but first I set out on a trek around the interwebs to find any previous attempts at a Robin Egg version.  To my surprise, I learned a lot about Robin Eggs and a lot about meringues, but nada on combining the two!

Finished Robin Egg Meringes


So here it is folks, my late night, super fluffy original Robin Egg Meringue treats!!


I kept a couple and sent the rest of these off to work with Jason.  I’ve decided what I really need are more friends/occasions to bake for here in Atlanta!

Here they are in their final habitat:


Budget Friendly Creamy Tomato Bisque Recipe

An abundance of canned tomatoes from a recent coupon shopping trip left me thinking up a multitude of ways to use this versatile ingredient.  Y’all know I’m a frugal gal, some might even call me cheap (and I’d take it as a compliment!).  Often times, shopping what’s on sale leaves you with an interesting combination of ingredients on hand.  A little creativity and you can get dinner on the table:

Creamy Tomato Soup Recipe


Here is a (very short) snippet of my grocery shopping list from this week.  I scored 8 huge cans of tomatoes for 43¢ a piece, 12¢ sour cream, 67¢ shredded mozzarella and paid 69¢ for 7 delicious ciabatta rolls. (If you have a Publix nearby and want to grab these deals yourself check out SouthernSavers for the Publix Weekly Ad w/ coupon matchups for more details.. you have until 4/23!)


SouthernSavers Publix Weekly Ad

A kitchen full of assorted random ingredients just leads to me get creative and after a few suggestions from Twitter and Facebook friends, I decided to make a chunky tomato bisque, (thanks @mariafrey!) Except that I made it chunk-less (you’ll see what I mean)…


Making this soup allowed me to reconnect with two of my kitchen utensils that don’t get a lot of action: My big ol’ stockpot, and  the stick blender that I used to puree this chunky soup silky smooth!


Stockpot with Onions and PeppersCuisinart Stick Blender

I followed the recipe pretty closely, making small adjustments based on what I had and seasoning to my taste. Its a big batch so you can feed 6-8 easily depending on whether its an entree or starter.

If you add up the extra produce, I made this whole pot of soup for less than 4 bucks! And you know tomato soup gets even better the next day so we’ll be chomping on this with half a sandwich for lunch tonmorrow!

I have a couple more recipe suggestions to try including a super simple tomato sauce (thanks Kristy!) and a tomato eggplant sausage penne that my sis likes to make. I’ve still got 6 cans of tomatoes left so I’ll be adding these to our menus for the next few weeks!


Confetti Chicken Pasta Recipe

Confetti chicken pasta is a “recipe” my I-can-make-anything-with-what’s-on-hand momma whipped up back when I was little.  It took no time for this to become a family favorite and now she makes it with a rainbow of bell peppers and a spicy cream sauce each time.

Confetti Chicken Pasta with Veggies Recipe

Actually, I don’t have her recipe (she’s probably afraid I’d share it… hehe), but I do have a very clear memory of what Confetti Chicken is supposed to taste like. Most of my cooking is that way and I learned how things should taste from the best cook I know!

For me dinner is about sitting down with your family to something that might have taken hours to make, but only a few minutes to eat and savor. You always want more, but there’s no room in your belly so you wake up the next day thinking about those delicious leftovers you’ll have for lunch.  Its about layering flavor – opening up the fridge to see what you have on hand that will work well together – and whipping up something you want to eat again and again! (psst…. you are getting a peek of the kitchen in the new place we’re renting)

Confetti Chicken Pasta with Veggies Recipe

Here are all the colorful veggies and chicken heading into the sauce and pasta!! Don’t mind the Amy vs. Oven burn on my right hand.  That happened the last night before we moved when all was packed and nothing was left in the freezer but a frozen pizza and no utensils…

Here’s the version of Confetti Chicken Pasta that I made last night, but feel free to switch out the type of cheese, veggies and shape of pasta depending on what you have in the house (or what’s on sale!) as I frequently do.

Ok, I’m hungry now, time to start on tonight’s dinner….


Tres Leches Cake Recipe with Toasty Meringue Frosting

One of my favorite birthday traditions growing up was that my mom would always ask us what special meal & cake we wanted and then she’d slave away in the kitchen until it was just perfect. I’ve decided to continue that tradition, so I asked J-Bird for his special request. This year it was Tres Leches!

Tres Leches Cake Recipe with Toasted Meringue Frosting(instagram photo courtesy of Jason)

We were celebrating a BIG birthday – my hubs turned 30!  He was out of town for work on his actual b-day, so we decided to gather up some friends and have a night out at the Japanese Steakhouse (his favorite).  After slathering white sauce over everything and eating about a pound of rice, everyone came back to our place to sing & eat cake!

Torching the Meringue Frosting

His choice of cake actually surprised me because I’ve only made Tres Leches once for a Cinco De Mayo party.  It was kind of fitting for a 30th birthday – I told everyone it was a “Tres Cero” Leches Cake (three zero in Spanish).  Oh the wit.

As far as I’m concerned, any cake you need a torch to make is a winner! The frosting is particularly forgiving because you don’t have to be too exact with your piping skills. You could even make it spiky with a spoon before torching instead. After it was all toasted,  I garnished the top with some strawberry “roses” and blackberries.

Fruit Arranged on Top of Tres Leches Cake

I was so busy baking that I forgot to buy candles, so we got creative with a taper and then had to go a little overkill with lighting it. (Jason REALLY wanted to play with the torch!) Jason Lighting the Candle

Tres Leches is a sticky, buttery cake with most of the sweetness coming from the frosting and berries. The meringue adds that extra touch of caramely flavor that is hard to resist.

Don’t tell, but we ended up sharing leftovers for breakfast with a hot cup of coffee!


Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Pound Cake Recipe

Sometimes all it takes to inspire a new recipe is a fun new ingredient to experiment with, a special occasion or a cool new tool you are just dying to try out.  The cake I’m going to share with you today was really a combo of all three, as I set out to use a new fun mini bundt pan set to make a vanilla infused pound cake for two very important occasions!

Let’s start with a sneak peek inside my kitchen when I’m baking. Here is what it looked like after a recon trip to Publix to acquire all necessary ingredients:

Using the iPad in the Kitchen
We got an iPad last year and as you can see, it’s quickly become our most used kitchen tool!  Its so handy when you need a quick recipe idea, want to do a conversion and I’ve even starting saving our weekly meal plan to it for quick perusing.

More on using the iPad in the kitchen in a later post, for now lets get back to the vanilla cream cheesy goodness.

The star ingredient in this cake is Vanilla. I used two delicious forms to get the rich robust flavor I wanted: Nielsen Massey Vanilla bean paste and Khoisan Tea Bourbon Vanilla powder. Both of these were gifts from my super awesome momma, and both were picked up in the TJ Maxx food aisle for a fraction of what you would pay elsewhere.

Nielsen Massey Vanilla Bean Paste & Khoisan Tea Bourbon Vanilla

The bean paste is a thickened vanilla extract flecked with sweet, flavorful vanilla bean innards!

Vanilla Bean Paste Closeup

Also a gift, but this time from Jason’s mommy, I had been dying to try out this fun Nordicware bundt pan (ps… If you ever don’t know what to get me for Christmas… kitchen toys are always a winner!) With bundt cakes its important to spray your pans very well and I use an icecream scoop to distribute the batter evenly.

Nordicware 4 Shape Bundt Pan


You’ll notice a few air bubbles in my final product. I’m so used to trying to keep things light & fluffy that I forgot with bundt cakes you should tap on them to settle out the air prior to baking.  Mini Bundt Cakes

The three round cakes were a surprise for our good friend James’ birthday.  His wife was out of the country and after some prodding she informed me that he loved pound cake with glazey stuff on top. It was the funniest thing when his sister also dropped off a pound cake the same day!


The remaining heart shaped cake (not exactly appropriate to share for a dudes bday when his wife is in another country) stayed home and got a special Valentine’s day treatment for me and J-Bird to enjoy.   I sprinkled these sweet Wilton Hearts under the cake like confetti and drizzled the glaze over the contours of the cake for a dramatic effect.

Heart Shaped Bundt Cake

I also cooked down some frozen strawberries in confectioners sugar and water and served that with the sliced cake. Apparently we were too busy savoring it to take a photo! At any rate, here’s the recipe so you can whip this up in your own kitchen.



Cheesy Souffle & Mixed Green Salad Recipe

I have been mixing things up for dinner lately and trying to incorporate healthy satisfying dishes that are also light. Cheese is my weakness so I’ve been hunting for ways to incorporate it wisely without going too crazy.

My sweet mom gave me a beautiful red Emeril souffle crock for Christmas and I just love that having the right equipment can make a girl confident enough to attempt even the toughest of recipes. Turns out my preconceived worst-case-scenario visions of catastrophically collapsing souffles were unwarranted and this recipe is actually pretty easy!

I served this along a mixed green salad topped with Craisins and drizzled with The. Best. Salad. Dressing. Evar. Period. (see recipe for that below)

Cheesy Souffle Recipe

Cooking Spray
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. light butter
1/2 tsp.table salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 c. Monterrey Jack cheese
2 large egg yolk(s)
5 large egg white(s), beaten
16 fl. oz.Fat Free Half & Half

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Spray a 2 qt. soufflé pan with cooking spray.

In a saucepot over medium heat melt butter and whisk in flour to make a roux.

Whisk in 1/4 c. of Half & Half until the flour is dissolved.  Add the remaining Half & Half and whisk until smooth and slightly thickened.

Remove from heat adding in the spices,  cheeses and egg yolks.

Beat the egg whites using high speed in a stand mixer until stiff and airy.

Gently fold 1/3 of the eggwhites at a time into the cheese mixture until completely incorporated. This will appear a bit lumpy, but not to worry.

Pour into soufflé pan and bake for 40 minutes

Salad Dressing Recipe

some vinegar (preferably Vincotto Hot Pepper Vinegar)
some Olive Oil (preferably Frantoia)
a little Salt/Garlic/Pepper spice blend

Ok, busted – this really isn’t a recipe. I pour some vinegar into a bowl and whisk while streaming in a similar amount of olive oil.  Once its whipped and thick, I grind some spice blend on top and drizzle it over mixed greens. -Booyah!

For a girl who grew up hating leafy greens & salad dressing,  and whose still not a fan of tartness, this vinaigrette is totally r.o.c.k.i.n. Yes you have to have Frantoia Olive Oil and the Vincotto Hot Pepper Vinegar (which is actually very sweet and not hot in the slightest).  You will never look at salad the same way again!!

Souffle and Salad