Our Favorite Recipes of 2014

It’s a few days late now, but Happy New Year! These are some of our favorite recipes that we made in 2014. Of course we made many more dishes that were not blogged about (or were blogged about in previous years), but of the ones we posted, these are the very best. We ended the year on a delicious note- our family hosted a New Year’s Eve party, and we had all kinds of delicious things like stuffed mushrooms, pimiento cheese dip, triple onion dip, hummus, ham and cheese sliders, Grandma pizza, blondies, chocolate cake with marshmallow buttercream, and confetti sprinkle cookies. As you can imagine, we spent many hours in the kitchen! It was mostly fun though (and some of those recipes would’ve made this list if we had blogged about them in 2014!).

Without further adieu, here are the best recipes of 2014 on We Like Two Cook (in no particular order)!

1. Chocolate Chip Waffles (with or without the toppings pictured)

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Waffles can sometimes be way too crunchy or soft and floppy. These waffles are perfect, in both texture and flavor, and are made even better with the addition of chocolate chips.

2. Broccoli Slaw

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I’m sure my Grandmom is happy to be reading this one! While I used to not be a huge fan of broccoli, I now really enjoy it when prepared well, especially in this delicious slaw. Crunchy, tangy, and fresh- what more could you ask for?

3. Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

roastedstrawberryicecream2

When we got Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, this ice cream (and the heavenly milk chocolate) was one of the first recipes we made. It’s truly fantastic, and has a nice tang from the buttermilk.

4. French Onion Toasts

frenchoniontoasts

I love, love, love caramelized onions. They make pretty much any main dish better! I was bound to enjoy these French onion toasts, since they’re the goodness of caramelized onions on top of French bread and covered in melted Gruyere cheese.

5. Gooey Butter Cake

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This is one delicious dessert. It may be rich, but it’s worth every bite. A yeasted base is topped with a gooey, buttery (of course) topping that gets amazingly caramelized around the edges. Give it a try!

6. Spicy Macaroni and Cheese

spicymacandcheese

While in my opinion macaroni and cheese from a box is kind of gross, there is nothing better than a bowl of homemade mac and cheese. This one is particularly awesome- it has jalapenos, pepper jack cheese, and roasted red peppers. Yum!

7. Funfetti Cupcakes

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Pretty much everyone’s favorite cupcake as a kid was funfetti, right? This homemade version of the boxed classic is spot-on. It’s fluffy, full of sprinkles, and has a tiny bit of almond extract to boost the flavor. Topped with whipped vanilla buttercream, it’s definitely one of my favorite cupcakes!

8. Vegetarian Pot Pies with Feta Scallion Biscuits

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Biscuits are one of my favorite things, so the addition of feta scallion biscuits (which are amazing on their own), makes the flavorful vegetable filling even better. Dare I say that these are even better than chicken pot pies?

9. Orange Ricotta Chocolate Chip Muffins

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These muffins are one of my very favorites ever; they’re soft thanks to the ricotta, and have the addition of orange zest and chocolate chips. I could eat way too many of them in one sitting!

10. Banana Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream Frosting

banananutellacupcakes

Banana bread is one of the best breakfasts, in my opinion, so I loved these cupcakes. They’re moist and delicious on their own, and are made even better with a decadent Nutella buttercream.

 

Eggnog Snickerdoodles

eggnogsnickerdoodles

I know Christmas is over and most of you are probably no longer in Christmas baking mode, but I thought I’d share these cookies we made on Christmas Eve anyway just because they’re awesome! Snickerdoodles have always been one of my (Celine) favorite cookies. This eggnog-flavored version, which has nutmeg and rum extract to add an eggnog taste without ruining the texture by adding eggnog itself, is particularly fantastic and I know for sure I’ll be making these again! They are perfectly chewy and have just the right amount of eggnog flavor- they’re pretty addictive! These went over really well with all of our brothers. Happy Belated New Year’s- tomorrow we’ll be putting up a post with our favorite recipes of 2014!

Eggnog Snickerdoodles

Recipe from Cooking Classy

Makes 36

Ingredients

2 3/4 cups (398 g) all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup (3.3 oz.) all-vegetable shortening*

1 cup (210 g) granulated sugar

1/2 cup (110 g) packed light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon rum extract

For rolling:
1/4 cup (56 g) granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter, shortening, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until creamy. Mix in eggs and then add vanilla and rum extract. With mixer running on low speed, slowly add flour mixture and mix just until combined.

Whisk together the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg for rolling in a small bowl. Scoop dough out 1 1/2 tablespoons at a time and shape into balls. Roll dough balls in sugar mixture. Bake dough balls on a sheet lined with parchment paper (place dough balls about 2 inches apart) in preheated oven 9 – 10 minutes (the cookies should appear slightly under-baked). Cool on the baking sheet for a couple minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

*You can substitute butter for the shortening (which is what we did), but you should make sure to chill the dough for a couple hours if you’re making this substitution to ensure that your cookies don’t spread too much.

 

 

 

 

Kale Caesar Salad

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I first became acquainted with the world of kale raw, in salads, at an awesome place called Sweetgreen. The Kale Caesar salad is nothing short of amazing- creamy Caesar dressing, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, Parmesan crisps, chopped tomatoes, chicken, and of course, kale. I could eat that salad any day! Leah and I recently recalled that we’d seen a delicious-looking kale Caesar salad on a blog a little while ago, so we decided to give it a try!

This salad, though different from the Sweetgreen one, is still great. The homemade dressing is very flavorful (however, you’ll probably want a breath mint afterwards, though that’s a small price to pay to get to enjoy the salad!), the kale is crisp and fresh, and the homemade croutons and freshly grated Parmesan round the salad out well. You could also top yours with chicken, tomatoes (when they are in season), or whatever else you’d like, but this salad is also just wonderful the way it is- a simple Caesar salad!

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Kale Caesar Salad

Recipe from Annie’s Eats

Serves 2-3 generously, 4-5 as an appetizer

Ingredients

For the dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
3-4 anchovy fillets
2½ tablespoons mayonnaise
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, finely grated

For the salad:
1 bunch curly kale, about 8-12 ounces
1 tablespoon olive oil
Croutons (definitely worth the effort to make instead of buying them! They’re addictive!)
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions

For the dressing:

Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup.  Blot any excess oil from the anchovies, then smash repeatedly with the tines of a fork or the back of a knife until a paste has formed.  Add them to the olive oil-lemon juice mixture.  Add the mayonnaise and whisk the dressing briskly until a smooth emulsion has formed.  Season to taste with freshly ground pepper.  Stir in the grated Parmesan. Taste to check seasonings.

Rinse and towel dry the kale leaves.  Remove and discard the ribs from the leaves, and tear the curly green leaf portions into bite size pieces.  Add the kale to a large salad bowl with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and toss briefly.  Massage the kale leaves for a few minutes until the leaves have become shiny and turn a deeper green color, about 2-3 minutes (this will tenderize them since the leaves are not being cooked. I know it seems a little weird, but it works!).  Add croutons to the salad.  Drizzle about half of the dressing over the salad and toss gently to coat.  Taste and add additional dressing as needed.  Top with remaining grated Parmesan and serve. Enjoy!

Crackers topped with Brie and Blackberry Compote

brieblackberrycrackers

It’s only fairly recently that I (Leah) discovered that I actually like brie, especially brie and fruit (probably thanks to these sandwiches). Since I’m not a huge fan of cheese, I kind of turned my nose up at cheese paired with fruit when I was little. However, I have luckily realized that creamy, slightly salty brie is a perfect pairing with sweet fruits.

If you’re lucking for an easy appetizer to serve on Christmas, look no further! The blackberry compote takes under 10 minutes and then people can serve themselves; put out a plate of crackers, a wedge of brie, and a bowl of compote, and your appetizer is ready. This would also be excellent hot, as the original source shows, so I will be sure to try that next- I’m sure it would be fantastic!

Merry Christmas, and we will be back soon with more recipes!

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Crackers topped with Brie and Blackberry Compote

Blackberry Compote adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Serves a variable number

Ingredients:

¼ cup water

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2¼ teaspoons lemon juice

6 ounces blackberries, divided

1/8 teaspoon or less dried thyme

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Brie

Crackers (we used pita crackers from Trader Joe’s)

Directions:

Cook the water, sugar and lemon juice over medium heat in a small pan. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then boil the mixture until it is reduced to about 2 tablespoons.

Place one cup of the blackberries and the syrup into a blender and allow to pulverize until smooth. Strain the seeds if you wish. Add the rest of the blackberries.

Glazed Cranberry Lemon Cake

cranberrylemoncake2

It feels so good to be home for Christmas! Getting back into the kitchen has been one of the best parts (and just being home in general!). Leah and I got home pretty late Wednesday night, and Thursday we looked around the kitchen to see what we had and noticed there was a bag of cranberries in the fridge. Conveniently, earlier in the week we had both spotted this awesome-looking cranberry lemon upside down cake on a blog we read and we decided to give it a try. Bundt cakes are delicious, but usually there’s only so much you can do with them in terms of making them look pretty. This cake, though, has the jewel-like layer of cranberries on top, which makes it very festive- perfect for any Christmas gathering!

The cake itself is a simple lemon buttermilk cake that is fast to whip up. You layer cranberries in the bottom of the pan with brown sugar and then pour the batter on top so that the cranberries are visible when you invert the cake. A quick lemon glaze tops it off and it’s ready for serving! We all loved this cake and it’s sure to become a Christmas favorite for years to come!

cranberrylemoncake

Glazed Cranberry Lemon Cake

Recipe from Annie’s Eats

Makes 1 Bundt Cake

Ingredients

For the cake:

12 tablespoons (6 oz.) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

2½ cups all-purpose flour

2½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1½ cups granulated sugar

Zest and juice of 2 lemons, divided

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

3 large eggs

¾ cup buttermilk

For the glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

1½ tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Grease a Bundt pan with butter. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the bottom of the pan in an even layer, then layer the cranberries over the sugar. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the granulated sugar with the lemon zest. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips to infuse the sugar with the lemon fragrance. Add the butter to the bowl with the lemon sugar and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl when needed.

In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk with 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix each addition just until incorporated. Spread the batter into the prepared pan over the cranberries.

Bake about 50-55 minutes or until golden brown on top and just set (a tester inserted in the center should come out free of crumbs). Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool about 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto a serving platter, remove the pan and let cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar with 1½ tablespoons of the lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the cake and let set before slicing and serving. Enjoy!

Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cake

pumpkincake

Happy belated Thanksgiving! It’s been so long since we’ve published a blog post here. Since we left for college, we sadly have not had access to a kitchen (I can’t wait to be an upperclassmen when I have a kitchen in my dorm!). College has been going really well, but it was wonderful going home for Thanksgiving and getting back into the kitchen for a bit. We made some of our favorite things- lots of salad, these awesome pizzas from Smitten Kitchen, chocolate chip cookies, apple cake, French onion soup grilled cheeses, and more.

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Amongst the “more” is this cake, which we made in honor of our birthday/our Dad’s birthday (both of which happened while we were away at school). It’s two layers of pumpkin cake with a layer of dark chocolate cake, chocolate chip cream cheese filling, and dark chocolate frosting. It was also supposed to have a layer of caramel, but unfortunately we had to eyeball the temperature we were supposed to cook it to since our thermometer broke and miscalculated a bit, so our caramel seized up. Oh well! The cake was still fantastic without it, and very decadent (although I’m sure the caramel wouldn’t be an unwelcome addition!). The frosting is really reminiscent of fudge sauce, but thicker. This was definitely a nice treat to have at the beginning of break! We will be cooking up a storm throughout December/January when we go home for break, so there will hopefully be more blog posts coming during that time.

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Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cake
 Recipe from Sweetapolita

Makes 1 3-layer 8-inch cake

Ingredients

For the chocolate cake layer:
3/4 cup (80 g) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1/3 cup hot coffee
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the pumpkin cake layers:
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1//2 cup (120 g) packed light brown sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
2 cups (260 g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt
For the salted caramel sauce:
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Large pinch of sea salt
For the chocolate chip cream cheese filling:
1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (190 g) powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese, cut into cubes, softened
3/4 cup (120 g) mini chocolate chips
For the dark chocolate frosting:
1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar
1 1/4 cups (150 g) dark cocoa powder, sifted
Large pinch of salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions

For the chocolate cake layer:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray an 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottom with a parchment paper round. Into a large bowl, sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a medium measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, ,coffee, oil, egg, and vanilla. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and whisk until smoothly combined, for about 1 minute. Pour the batter into the cake pan.
Bake on the middle rack of the oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.
For the spiced pumpkin cake layers:
Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line bottoms with parchment paper rounds.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and eggs together on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add oil and vanilla and  beat for 30 seconds on medium. Add pumpkin and mix for 30 seconds more.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, and salt, and add to the pumpkin mixture on the lowest speed.
Divide batter between prepared pans and bake on the middle rack of the oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and then invert onto a rack to let them cool fully.
For the salted caramel:
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the sugar, water, and lemon juice. Brush down the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush and increase the heat to medium-high.
Stop stirring and let the mixture cook until it turns amber, about 8 minutes. Quickly remove the saucepan from the heat and add the heavy cream and butter (the mixture will bubble/steam). Return the pan to medium-high heat, and using a candy thermometer, cook until the caramel reaches 248°F.
Transfer the caramel to a heatproof bowl and stir in the vanilla and sea salt. It will thicken as it cools. Store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
For the chocolate chip cream cheese filling:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt, and beat on low until combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 6 more minutes until light and fluffy. Add cream cheese and beat for 1 more minute. Stir in the chocolate chips. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.
For the dark chocolate frosting:
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. The mixture will be thick and grainy.
Whisk in the heavy cream and sour cream. Heat until hot to the touch and smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Transfer frosting to a heatproof bowl and let cool. Refrigerate until spreadable, about 3 hours.
Assembly:
On a cake board or plate, place one of the layers of pumpkin cake. Spread half of the cream cheese filling across it, and then top with half of the caramel (leaving 2 inches around the perimeter of the cake for the frosting to spread). Place chocolate cake layer on top and repeat with another layer of the filling and caramel. Top with a layer of the pumpkin cake. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes.
Frost entire outside of cake with the frosting, using a thin layer. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, and repeat with another layer of frosting. If desired, use a piping bag to decorate the cake and a pastry comb around the sides of the cake. Top with sprinkles, if desired. Keep the cake refrigerated if not using immediately  (let refrigerated cake sit for 2 hours before serving). Serve and enjoy!

Feta Flatbread with Caramelized Onions and Roasted Red Peppers

fetaflatbread

Wow, are we bad at blog posting this summer! The first part of the summer compromised of working and babysitting a lot, while the past month has seemed to have evaporated away in the midst of shopping and otherwise preparing for college. We leave on Wednesday, which is hard to imagine! Leah and I are attending the same college, which I believe we mentioned here before, but my dorm is located about a mile away from Leah’s and we have no classes together, so we will likely have pretty different freshman year experiences. We’re both excited, but of course this is going to be a big adjustment!

The flatbread I’m posting about today has nothing to do with college (except for the fact that I’m going to have to go several months without cooking, sadly), but it is delicious! We took pizza dough and brushed it with garlic-infused olive oil. We then sprinkled it with caramelized onions, crumbled feta, and roasted red peppers and baked it in a flaming hot oven until crisp. The combination was wonderful and we really enjoyed this flatbread.

Feta Flatbread with Roasted Red Peppers and Caramelized Onions

Serves 3 as a full meal and 6-8 as an appetizer

Ingredients

1 ball pizza dough

1/2 cup caramelized onions (see directions here- save leftovers for putting on burgers, in mac and cheese, etc.)

1 roasted red pepper, sliced or chopped

1/2-1 cup crumbled feta cheese

2 small cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 cup olive oil

Dash of red pepper flakes

Directions

Preheat oven to 500-550 with a pizza stone located on the middle rack.

Heat olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan until garlic begins to sizzle and the mixture is fragrant.

Flatten the pizza dough until very thin and brush with some of the garlic oil. Top with caramelized onions, roasted red pepper pieces, and onions.

Transfer pizza to stone and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the crust is brown and crisp around the edges. Let cool briefly, then slice and serve. Enjoy!

 

Nutella Frosting

Nutella Frosting

I can’t believe that the first week of August is over! This summer has been flying by, and we’ll be leaving for college in 18 short days. 18 days is not enough time to buy everything we need and, of course, cook our way through our “make-before-college” list. Well, hopefully everything that needs to get done will get done eventually!

One of our friends came over a couple of weeks ago to bake, and she picked this Nutella frosting for cupcakes. We won’t be posting the cupcake recipe today since we still haven’t found our ideal one, but this frosting needs to be shared before our blog inevitably becomes neglected when we leave for college. It’s heavenly- fudgy, creamy, and full of chocolate flavor. It’s as delicious eaten from a spoon as it is on top of a cupcake. The Nutella flavor isn’t super strong, but it’s definitely there and is what makes the frosting so perfect.

Nutella Frosting

Recipe from Sweetapolita

Frosts about 2 dozen cupcakes or one 2-layer 8″ cake

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups (565 grams) powdered sugar

1 1/2 cups (340 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature (sometimes we like to substitute             1/2 cup of the unsalted butter for salted and omit the pinch of salt)

1 cup (280 grams) Nutella

3/4 cup full-fat sour cream

11 ounces (330 grams) dark chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

1 tablespoon  vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Directions:

It’s easy- place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until very smooth, about 1 minute. Place the frosting in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to let the frosting thicken a bit. Frost cupcakes, a cake, etc. Enjoy!

 

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Éclairs

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One of the first “fancy” things Leah and I ever baked was a batch of cream puffs. I’m not sure how we made that selection, but I’m glad we did! Ever since, we’ve had a fondness for anything involving pâte à choux. When one of the blogs we follow posted a recipe for chocolate covered strawberry éclairs recently, we knew we had to make it- it was just a matter of having the time to get around to it! We finally did, and these were truly amazing.

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The traditional éclair shell is filled with a thick and creamy strawberry pastry cream and then topped with chocolate ganache. You can also top yours (optionally) with chopped freeze-dried strawberries. These are not too difficult to make, but will surely impress your family and friends.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Éclairs

Recipe from Love and Olive Oil

Makes 16 small/8 large éclairs

Ingredients

For the pastry cream:

1 3/4 cups whole milk

2 large eggs

1 large egg yolk

2/3 cup (5 ounces) granulated sugar

1/3 cup fresh strawberry purée

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-2 drops red food coloring (optional; we omitted this)

For éclairs:

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup water

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

For ganache and topping:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
Crushed freeze-dried strawberries for an optional garnish
Directions
For the pastry cream:

Prepare the pastry cream 2-24 hours in advance. Bring milk to a slight simmer. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolk, sugar, strawberry purée, cornstarch, and salt until well-combined and free of lumps. Slowly whisk 1/4 cup of the hot milk into the eggs. Continue adding 1/4 cup of the hot milk at a time until half of it has been added. Whisk the egg/milk mixture back into the remaining hot milk in the pot on the stove. Whisk over medium heat until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Cook for 1 more minute. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla, and if using, food coloring. Pour the pastry cream into a heat-proof bowl and press plastic wrap against the surface so that a skin doesn’t form. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. For the eclairs: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. In a large saucepan, combine milk, water, salt, sugar, and butter over medium heat. Bring to a full boil. Add the flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture is cohesive and pulls away from the side of the pan (2-3 minutes). Transfer dough to stand mixture bowl fitted with paddle attachment and add eggs one at a time, and mix well after each addition, scraping the sides with a rubber spatula as needed. Spoon a portion of the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 in. round tip. Pipe out 5 inch long/1 inch wide tubes for large eclairs or 3-4 inch long tubes for mini eclairs. Allow 2 inches in between each eclair so that it can puff up. Smooth out any imperfections with a damp finger. Bake for 10 minutes until puffed and starting to brown. Reduce oven temp. to 375 degrees and bake until hollow inside and evenly golden brown on the outside, about 12 more minutes. Remove from the oven and poke a small hole in the end of each shell to let steam escape. Let cool fully on a wire rack.
For glaze: Combine chocolate and corn syrup in a heat-proof bowl. Heat cream until it starts to bubble a bit and steam, then pour it over the chocolate. Let sit for a minute or two, and then whisk until completely smooth. To assemble:Spoon pastry cream into a bag fitted with a small tip. Fill the shells until the start to feel heavy. Dip top of each eclair in the glaze, letting excess drip off, and then place on wire rack. Sprinkle with crushed freeze-dried strawberries, if desired. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve within 6 hours. Enjoy!

Grilled Caribbean Chicken with Couscous Salad

Grilled Caribbean Chicken with Couscous

As much as I don’t like to admit this, I find it easy to get in cooking ruts. While the things I bake never really lack in variety, I feel like all the dinners I make are Italian, Greek, or Mexican. It’s a goal of mine to experiment with other kinds of cooking, like Asian, Middle Eastern, Indian, etc. I’m not that picky and I like trying new flavor combinations, so I shouldn’t be letting cooking ruts happen!

I’m not sure how authentically Caribbean this meal was, but it certainly was delicious. The chicken is coated in a flavorful, spicy marinade that includes cinnamon, cumin, allspice, and chili powder. Don’t be scared of the cinnamon- the spices work really well together. Some of the marinade is set aside before it’s added to the chicken, which is stirred into the couscous salad. The couscous salad is made amazing with the addition of grilled red peppers and grilled pineapple. The pineapple was so good that I want to add it to every meal from now on!

This dinner came together fairly quickly (all the steps are very easy), and considering the fact that it uses the grill, it may just be an ideal summer meal.

Grilled Caribbean Chicken with Couscous Salad

Serves about 4

Recipe from The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Salt and pepper

4 (6-8 ounces each) boneless, skinless chicken breasts (trim and pound them if needed)

1/2 of a pineapples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick half-moons

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and quartered

1 cup boiling water (measure the water after boiling- boiling one cup of water will result in too little liquid)

1 cup couscous

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup oil, garlic, cumin, chili powder, allspice, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Measure out two tablespoons of the marinade and set aside. Add the chicken to the remaining marinade; toss to coat.

Brush the pineapple and bell pepper with remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper.

On a gas grill, turn all burners to high and allow to preheat for 15 minutes. Oil cooking grate. Place the chicken, pineapple, and bell pepper on the grill. Cook, turning as needed. The pineapple and bell pepper should be spottily charred and the chicken should be well browned and register 160 degrees (8-12 minutes). Transfer the chicken, pineapple, and bell pepper to a platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil.

Combine the boiling water and couscous in a large bowl, cover, and let sit until the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is tender (about 5 minutes). While the couscous is soaking, cut the pineapple and bell pepper into 1/2-inch pieces. Fluff the couscous with a fork and fold in the reserved marinade, pineapple, bell pepper, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the couscous alongside the chicken. Enjoy!