Baby Bluebird Cupcakes

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Happy almost Easter, everyone! Sorry we haven’t shared any spring-related recipes prior to this; we’re not very good about planning ahead so we generally do any holiday baking on, or the day before, the holiday. But we do have these to share, and they are quite possibly the cutest cupcakes ever (or at least the cutest we’ve ever made)! Really, they look absolutely nothing like real baby bluebirds, but you know what? They are way, way cuter! Our little brother who is seven particularly liked the adorableness factor, although he was too picky to go near the coconut. He tasted one toasted shred, made a face, and said to keep his plain… figures!

We’re not going to lie, they did take a bit of time overall, but they are still very simple and doable for anyone who has even mediocre decorating skills. We recommend using a piping bag, not a ziploc bag, so that you have better control when piping on the beaks. That was definitely the trickiest part, and a ziploc bag is too floppy (as we learned the hard way after being too lazy to wash our reusable piping bag and running out of the disposable kind!). As for putting on the coconut, you can either dip the cupcakes into the coconut if your frosting is softer, or if it’s firmer, you can press on the coconut. Either method works well! Regardless, these are very fun and festive cupcakes!

Baby Bluebird Cupcakes

Makes 24

Method from Annie’s Eats

Ingredients

24 cupcakes (we used the yellow cake recipe from our King Arthur Flour cookbook- it’s a great recipe from a great cookbook!)

1 1/2 batches chocolate frosting

1 1/2 batches vanilla frosting

Semisweet chocolate (about 1 ounce is enough)

Shredded coconut (about 1/4 of a bag is enough)
Directions
If your cupcakes are very rounded, level them with a small paring knife.  Toast the shredded coconut (in the skillet or oven, it’s your choice, but the skillet is a bit easier) and let cool completely before continuing. Transfer to a bowl.

Using a pastry bag, pipe a ring of chocolate frosting around the outside edge of each cupcake to form the foundation of the nest. We used a large round tip.

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Coat the cupcakes in coconut, either sprinkling or dipping them.  Gently press the coconut into the chocolate frosting.  Shake off the excess.

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Color some of the vanilla frosting light blue.  Using a pastry bag fitted with a wide round tip, pipe three mounds of frosting into the center of each nest to make the birds’ bodies. After the icing sets for a couple minutes, gently flatten any peaks with a toothpick.

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Color the remaining vanilla frosting yellow, and using a pastry bag fitted with a small “V” tip, pipe a beak onto each bird.

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Melt chocolate.  Dip a toothpick in the chocolate and dot eyes onto each bird. Enjoy!

 

Soft Pretzel Bites with Roasted Jalapeno Cheese Sauce

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If there’s anything better than tortilla chips with cheese dip, it’s pretzels. And when you take warm-out-of-the-oven homemade soft pretzels and pair them with a spicy and cheesy sauce, you have something monumental, and we are here to tell you about it. Roasting jalapeno peppers brings out the best of their flavor, and they are a match made in heaven with cheddar cheese (we used a combo of white and orange cheddar). We’ve made this particular pretzel recipe countless times before, mostly pre-blog era, or at a time of day where pictures were not a possibility. We are glad to finally be posting them, and hope you will try them too! They are actually pretty simple to make, and the results are more than worth it. Don’t skip the dip, though. It is mandatory and shockingly good!

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Soft Pretzel Bites with Roasted Jalapeno Cheddar Sauce

Recipe adapted from Smells Like Home; soft pretzel recipe originally from Alton Brown

Serves 8

Ingredients

For the pretzels:

1 1/2 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees F)

1 tbsp sugar

2 tsp kosher salt

2 1/4 tsp instant yeast

22 oz all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups

2 oz unsalted butter, melted

For boiling and garnish:

10 cups water

2/3 cup baking soda

2 tbsp butter, melted

Kosher salt

For the cheese sauce:

2 small jalapeño peppers

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (preferably not pre-shredded)

Salt

Directions

For the pretzels:

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the water, sugar, yeast, and salt on low speed for 10 seconds.  Switch to the dough hook and add the flour and butter.  Mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl and transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide it into 4 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a rope. Cut each rope into 1-inch pieces. Place a barely damp towel over the dough and the formed pretzel bites to prevent them from drying out while you form the other pretzel bites.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an wide 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

Using a flat spatula, gently lower the pretzel bites into the boiling water and boil them for 30 seconds. Depending on the size of your pot, boil 2 to 4 pretzels at a time.  Remove the pretzels from the water using the spatula, drain as best you can over the pot, and place them on the baking sheets. Brush the top of each pretzel with some melted butter and sprinkle with the Kosher salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Lightly brush pretzels with the remaining melted butter immediately after you remove them from the oven. Serve warm.

For the cheese sauce:

Set the jalapeños on a baking sheet and roast under the broiler until blackened on all sides, about 10 minutes.  Or, you roast them over a gas burner on the stove, turning with tongs.  Place the jalapeños in a heatproof bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap.  Allow the peppers to cool for 15 minutes then with a paper towel, peel and discard the blackened skins off leaving just the fleshy peppers remaining.  Slice, remove and discard the seeds, and roughly chop the peppers.  Set aside.

In a small saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter.  Stir in the chopped jalapeños to coat with the butter.  Whisk in the flour, coating the peppers, and cook for 30 seconds, whisking constantly.

Slowly whisk in the milk until no lumps of flour remain.  Stirring constantly, bring the milk to a simmer over medium-low heat until it thickens, about 3-5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the stove and stir in the shredded cheese until all of the cheese has melted.  Add a pinch of salt, if needed.  Serve warm with the pretzels.  The sauce can be kept warm for 15 to 20 minutes over very low heat on the stove, stirring occasionally.  Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave on medium power at 30 second intervals. Enjoy!

Coconut Cream Pie

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Right now, you are looking at one of the best pies ever: coconut cream pie. All pies are good, especially cream ones, but this one really takes the cake (or pie…) in our opinion. Honestly, how can you say no to a crispy, buttery crust filled with an addictive coconut- vanilla bean filling, a cloud of meringue, and some freshly toasted coconut? The answer is that you can’t unless you really hate coconut.

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Most cream pies are topped with whipped cream, which is not a bad thing. However, we prefer that this pie is topped with a fluffy meringue for a couple of reasons. The first is that it just tastes great with the creamy filling! The second is that while a pile of whipped cream is yummy, it’s extremely rich. With meringue, you can eat a whole lot and still feel great.  Also, you don’t have to worry about salmonella with this meringue! You make an easy sugar syrup that you beat into the egg white mixture. This hot syrup “cooks” the eggs, but it still keeps its fluffy texture.

And let’s not even get started on the filling. Three words: so, so, good. Believe us, it will take some self control to get all of it into the pie crust instead of your mouth. But if you do, it’s so worth it.

By the way, this would definitely be a great dessert for Easter! But whenever you do it, just make this pie. You will not regret it.

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Coconut Cream Pie

Pie Recipe from Cooking Light (don’t worry, it doesn’t taste healthy because it really isn’t), Crust from Annie’s Eats

Serves about 8 (1 9-inch pie)

Ingredients:

For the crust:

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. sugar

¼ tsp. salt

8 tbsp. cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

3 tbsp. very cold water

For the coconut pastry cream:

2 cups low-fat milk

1 cup half-and-half

1 1/2 cups flaked sweetened coconut

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 large egg yolks

2 tablespoons butter

For the topping:

3 large egg whites, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup flaked sweetened coconut, toasted (We just tossed the coconut in a skillet over medium heat until it was browned, but you could use the oven as well)

Directions:

To make the crust, mix the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Blend briefly.  Add in the butter pieces and mix on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles coarse sand and the largest butter pieces are about the size of peas.  Mix in the cold water on low speed just until the dough comes together.

Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator.  Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface.  Lift it into your ungreased pie plate. Prick it a couple of times with a fork. Line the crust with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake at 400˚ F for about 15-20 minutes. Remove the weights and the foil and bake until golden, another 5-10 minutes. Let cool.

To make the pastry cream, combine the milk and half-and-half in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 cups coconut flakes. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean; stir seeds and pod into milk mixture. Bring the milk mixture to a simmer and immediately remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Strain through sieve into a bowl. Press on the coconut solids to release all of the moisture. Discard the coconut.

Combine 2/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, salt, and egg yolks in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add the milk mixture to egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly. Return mixture to  the pan and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Remove from heat. Add butter and whisk until smooth. Place pan in a large ice-filled bowl for 6 minutes, stirring to cool. However, you can also chill the pastry cream for at least an hour in the fridge, stirring occasionally. Pour the cream into the prepared crust. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.

For the meringue, place the 3 egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Don’t over-beat! Meanwhile, combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 250°. Pour the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over egg whites, beating at high speed until thick and fluffy. Spread the meringue over pie. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Top with toasted coconut before serving. Enjoy!

Spicy Shrimp Po’boys

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Po’boys are not something that those of us hailing from places other than the south are usually familiar with. Originating in Louisiana, they usually contain meat or shrimp and are served on a nice piece of French baguette. The origin of the name is disputed, but all can agree that this sort of sandwich is very delicious! This one is particularly good, involving spicy shrimp and remoulade sauce. I (Celine) viewed this sandwich with a little trepidation because I’m not normally a fan of shrimp because of its texture and taste. Thankfully, this was a hit with everyone! The sauce is so good- it’s creamy but with the added snap of spiciness.  We both felt that it would go very nicely with chicken as well. The key is getting good baguette, and cooking the shrimp perfectly so it doesn’t get rubbery (which I am happy to say we managed to do!).  This sandwich feels summery and fresh, which is very welcome in during this sort of cold March! Try it, and we are sure you will love it as much as we do.

Spicy Shrimp Po’boy Sandwiches

Recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats, originally from Ezra Pound Cake

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the remoulade sauce:
½ cup plus 2 tbsp. light mayonnaise
2 tbsp. stone ground mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1½ tbsp. pickle juice
½ tsp. prepared horseradish
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. hot paprika
Dash of hot sauce

For the sandwiches:
1 lb. medium-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tbsp. olive oil
1-2 tbsp. Cajun seasoning (we used 1 tbsp., after reading comments on Annie’s Eats about how some people found 2 tbsp. too spicy)
1 baguette (or 4 sandwich rolls)
Lettuce
Sliced tomato

Directions

Stir together all of the ingredients for the remoulade sauce in a bowl. Adjust seasonings to taste.  Chill until ready to use.

To prepare the sandwiches, combine the shrimp with the olive oil and cajun seasoning in a medium bowl.  Toss well to coat the shrimp.  Heat a grill pan (or a wok- that’s what we used) to medium-high and cook the shrimp just until pink and opaque, about 5-10 minutes, turning several times.  Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside.

Slice the baguette into 4 servings, and cut horizontally to open it.  Spread some of the remoulade sauce onto both pieces of the baguette.   Layer the bottom slice of bread with shrimp, then top with lettuce and tomato as desired.  Top with the remaining piece of bread and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Side note: You’ll almost certainly have extra sauce. If you wish, halve the recipe so that you don’t have leftovers.

Vanilla Bean Marshmallows

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Believe it or not, neither of us like plain marshmallows! Some of you may be shocked by that, but there’s something about the slightly rubbery texture that’s off-putting. We sure like rice crispy treats (who doesn’t?) because they’re chewy, crispy, and sweet all in one bite- basically perfection. Well, these are the kind of marshmallows that you wouldn’t want to make into rice crispy treats with. Eating them plain is a good method, and they are even better submerged in a cup of hot chocolate. We have a feeling they would make really, really good s’mores too, but we haven’t tested that yet (homemade graham crackers+homemade marshmallows+good quality chocolate=there’s no possible way this could be bad!). These marshmallows are spongy-soft, like little pillows. There’s no rubbery texture here, and there are also no gross chemicals you might find in a store-bought marshmallow. Plus, they take  under 30 minutes of hands-on time. What could be better?

Vanilla Bean Marshmallows

Recipe adapted from Pure Vanilla

Makes a 9×13 in. pan of marshmallows

Ingredients

3 tablespoons unflavored powdered gelatin

1 1/2 cups cold water, divided

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup light corn syrup, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 vanilla bean)

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup cornstarch

Directions

Coat a 9×13 in. baking pan lightly with cooking spray and wipe away any excess. Whisk together gelatin and 1 cup of the cold water in a small bowl and let stand for at least 5 minutes, until the gelatin softens.

Stir together sugar, 1/2 cup of the corn syrup, the remaining 1/2 cup cold water, and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the temperature reaches 240 degrees F.

Meanwhile, pour the remaining 1/2 cup of corn syrup into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Microwave gelatin mixture on high power until it is completely melted, about 30 seconds. Pour it into the mixer bowl and set the mixer to low speed.

Once syrup mixture reaches 240 degrees F, remove it from the heat. Slowly pour it into the mixing bowl in a steady stream, aiming for the space between the beater and the bowl. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for 5 more minutes. Turn mixer to the highest speed and beat for 1-2 minutes more; beat in the vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste. The marshmallow will be opaque, fluffy, and roughly tripled in volume.

Pour marshmallow into prepared pan. Use an offset spatula to coax it into the corners and smooth the top. Sift powdered sugar and cornstarch together into a medium bowl. Sift mixture evenly and generously over the top of the marshmallow. Reserve leftover coating. Let set for at least 6 hours in a cool, dry place.

Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen marshmallow. Invert the entire slab onto a coating-dusted work surface and dust marshmallows with more coating. Cut into pieces with a pizza cutter (or a different type of cutter to make other shapes). Dip the sticky edges in more coating and pat off excess. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

 

Loaded Peanut Butter Cookies

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To be honest, our favorite kinds of cookies are the simple ones. Chocolate chip cookies are a given; dessert perfection in one cookie. Peanut butter and sugar cookies are another reason that we think simple is better. Why fix what’s not broken, right? However, it’s always fun to try something new, especially when making them for a school bake sale. So, for these cookies, we took our favorite basic peanut butter cookie recipe and added mini peanut butter cups and M&Ms. Yes, it tastes as ridiculous/delicious as it sounds. When warm, these cookies are soft, chewy, and full of melted chocolate. Once cooled, they are pretty crispy except for the occasional peanut butter cup and the slightly chewy center. Peanut butter cup bites are the best, by the way. The next time you are thinking about making plain old cookies, give these a try and let us know what you think!

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Loaded Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes about 36 cookies (ours were a little larger, so we got a few less)

Dough Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup M&Ms

1- 1 1/2 cups mini peanut butter cups (or chopped up peanut butter cups)

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter with an electric or stand mixer on medium-high speed for about 30 seconds. Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. If needed, stir in the remaining flour by hand. Stir in the M&Ms and peanut butter cups. If the dough is too sticky, chill until it is easy to work with.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly. Bake at 375°F for 7 to 9 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let them sit on the sheet for a minute or two, and then transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Enjoy!

Ricotta Gnocchi with Kale Pesto

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Gnocchi is one of my (Celine) favorite foods. A restaurant nearby sells amazing gnocchi with shrimp, almonds, marinara, and basil. The gnocchi are tender and delicious, the sauce and shrimp are flavorful, and it is just a spectacular meal! Generally, gnocchi is made with potato and uses a ricer, which we don’t own (although Smitten Kitchen has a recipe that does not use one- someday we’ll be trying it!). It’s known for being a challenging dish to make and get the right texture. These are instead made with ricotta, so they technically are a dish called “gnudi,” but that’s just weird to say, so gnocchi it is. Well, these turned out wonderfully! The gnocchi themselves are tender from the ricotta cheese and flavorful thanks to a nice amount of Parmesan in the dough.

They are topped with kale pesto, which maybe sounds weird if you haven’t had kale before. The pesto has a similar flavor profile to basil pesto, and since basil isn’t in season, this is a substitute that is equally delicious. We think it would go nicely on pizza, sandwiches, or pasta. The finished product is tossed with a little olive oil, red pepper flakes, nutmeg, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, making this a meal we would be happy to receive at a restaurant!

Ricotta Gnocchi with Kale Pesto

Serves 4

Recipe from A Couple Cooks, ricotta gnocchi originally from Bon Appetit

Ingredients

For the pesto (makes enough to cover 1 batch of the ricotta gnocchi, or 1/2 cup):

1 cup kale leaves

2 cloves garlic

1/6 cup walnuts

1/4  cup Parmesan cheese (grated)

1 pinch kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (about 1 1/4 teaspoons)

For the ricotta gnocchi:

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

16 ounces ricotta (about 2 cups)

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ cup finely grated Parmesan (plus more for serving)

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup all-purpose flour plus more if necessary

½ cup kale pesto

Fresh nutmeg

Red pepper flakes

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Directions

For the pesto:

Grate Parmesan cheese and set aside. Wash the kale, and tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces.

In a food processor, combine garlic, kale, and walnuts. Pulse until the ingredients are chopped finely, but are not mushy.

Add grated Parmesan cheese, kosher salt, lemon juice, and balsamic vinegar to the food processor, then turn it on and add olive oil in a steady stream. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate until serving.

For the gnocchi:

In a large bowl, whisk egg and egg yolk. Add ricotta, ½ teaspoon pepper, ½ cup Parmesan cheese, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt and mix until well combined. Add ½ cup flour; stir just until combined and mixture forms a ball; add more flour as necessary if the dough is too wet.

Dust a rimmed baking sheet generously with flour. Use 2 large soup spoons to shape heaping tablespoonfuls of dough into football shapes, and then place them on the baking sheet. Roll the gnocchi with more flour so that they are coated. You should have around 30.

Cook gnocchi in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until cooked through and tender, 5-6 minutes (the dumpling will quickly float to surface, but continue cooking for the entire time until they are fully cooked).

Gently remove to dumplings with a slotted spoon and place carefully in a colander (this will prevent them from breaking up- some of ours broke when we attempted to pour all the gnocchi into a colander at once!). Pour the water out of the pot and gently return the gnocchi to it. Add the kale pesto, a few drizzles olive oil, a bit of grated nutmeg, a few pinches of red pepper flakes, and a bit of kosher salt. Gently toss to coat. Taste, and adjust seasonings as desired. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve hot. Enjoy!

Buffalo Chicken Salad

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Yes, we are still giving up meat for Lent, but by technicality fasting is not required on Sundays. Besides, we were just really tired of eating hummus or guacamole for every meal! We took advantage of this opportunity and made what caught both of our eyes this week- a salad topped with buffalo chicken and homemade avocado ranch sauce. There really are no words for how absolutely delicious this is! Our whole family loved it (well, minus the two picky ones who eat absolutely nothing but cereal,hot chocolate, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches a large percentage of the time), and we are looking forward to making this again soon. The flavors are fresh, the chicken is perfectly spicy, and the avocado ranch sauce adds a bright and creamy element to help tone down the spiciness. We made some bacon crumbles to top our salad, but blue cheese or cheddar cheese would also be nice instead of or in addition to the bacon.

Be warned: the chicken on the top is addictive. Surprisingly, it is relatively healthy too because it is baked, not fried. We love Buffalo chicken dip (not so much the wings), and this chicken really put us in the mood for some of that dip. Maybe this Sunday!

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Buffalo Chicken Salad

Serves 4

Recipe slightly adapted from Smells Like Home

Ingredients:

For the chicken:

2 cups panko breadcrumbs

2 tbsp canola oil

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp Kosher salt

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

3 large egg whites

1 tbsp water

1 tbsp Dijon or whole-grain mustard

1 tsp minced fresh thyme or ¼ tsp. dried

Cooking spray

1 lb chicken tenderloins (or thin-sliced breasts)

1/2 cup wing sauce, such as Frank’s Original

1 1/2 tbsp salted butter

For the dressing:

1/2 of an avocado, roughly diced

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup sour cream

2 tsp olive oil

1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

up to 1/2 cup buttermilk

1 small bunch of chives or 1 scallion, roughly chopped

2 tbsp parsley, chopped

1 small clove garlic, minced

1/4 tsp sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

For the salad assembly:

4 to 5 cups chopped romaine lettuce, or your favorite variety

1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half

buffalo chicken

creamy avocado ranch dressing

crumbled bacon, crumbled bleu cheese, extra chives/scallions (all optional)

Directions:

To make the chicken,  preheat the oven to 475˚ F.  In a large skillet, toss the panko with the oil.  Toast over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.  Transfer the toasted crumbs to a plate or a shallow dish.

In a second shallow dish, whisk together the flour, garlic powder, salt, and cayenne pepper.  In a bowl, whisk together the egg whites, water, mustard and thyme.

Cover a baking sheet in foil and coat with cooking spray. Working in batches, dredge a few pieces of the chicken in the flour, then the egg white mixture, and finally the breadcrumbs, shaking off the excess between each step.  Lay the coated pieces on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining chicken.

Spray the tops of the chicken pieces lightly with the cooking spray.  Bake until the chicken is cooked through (check to see that it registers 165˚ F with an instant read thermometer) and lightly golden brown, 10-12 minutes.  While the chicken cooks, melt the butter in the wing sauce in a small sauce pan; whisk the butter into the sauce to combine.

To make the dressing, place all of the ingredients with 1/4 cup of buttermilk in a blender or food processor and blend for 10 seconds. Check consistency and blend in additional buttermilk if necessary.  Scrape down the sides of the blender and blend until the avocado is completely pureed.

When the chicken is finished baking, brush each piece with the wing sauce. If you want it to be more spicy, brush both sides.

Cut the buffalo chicken into strips and lay on top of a plate of lettuce. Add your desired toppings and spoon the dressing on top. Serve with the chicken is still warm. Enjoy!

 

Cherry Meringue Torte

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Tomorrow is Pi day! And what better to celebrate with than a unique pie? Obviously, this isn’t traditional pie, but it still counts. This torte has a walnut meringue “crust,” a homemade cherry filling, and some freshly whipped cream on top. Yum! It actually comes from a cookbook that our grandmother used, so it’s definitely got a retro feel to it (in a good way!).

It doesn’t really slice too neatly, but every piece is delicious. Don’t be scared when you are looking through the ingredient list and see that it calls for crushed saltine crackers. You don’t taste them in the finished product- they just give a slight sweet/salty contrast. We think that some crushed graham crackers and an extra pinch of salt might be good in place of the saltines too. Regardless, we loved this pie and hope that you will too!

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Cherry Meringue Torte

Serves 8

Ingredients:

For the crust:

3 large egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

A pinch of salt

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup crushed saltine crackers

1 teaspoon baking powder

For the filling:

1-24.7 oz. jar of canned cherries in light syrup (we used dark Morello cherries from Trader Joe’s)

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

For the whipped cream:

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon sugar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 300 °F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the egg white, pinch of salt, and vanilla until foamy. Gradually add in the sugar, beating on high speed until stiff peaks form.

Fold in the walnuts, saltines, and baking powder. Pour into a greased 9-inch pie plate, and spread the meringue up the sides. Bake for 40 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, drain the cherries and reserve the syrup. Mix together 3/4 cup of the syrup with the sugar in a saucepan. Heat over medium until boiling. Add the cherries and cook for 10 minutes.

Combine the cornstarch and another 1/4 cup of the syrup in a bowl until smooth. Add to the cherries. Cook until thickened; add more syrup if it gets too thick. Let cool.

Beat together the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla until stiff peaks form. To assemble, spread half of the whipped cream into the meringue shell. Pour the cherries on top. Spread the other half of the whipped cream on top. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Honey-Cinnamon Scones

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Here’s another reason for us to buy the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook! These macarons were the first reason, and now these! Well, it’s safe to say if we every find ourselves near a Bouchon Bakery, we will be making a stop, because these scones are really truly delicious. The texture is cakey and tender on the inside, with a slightly crunchy, buttery exterior. Here and there, the melted honey cinnamon butter bits add bursts of flavor. These are scones that are very likely better than your nearby bakery’s scones, we promise. They’re not lacking in lots of preparation time, but conveniently, they are frozen before baking, so you can prepare them the night before and bake them up fresh for breakfast- who doesn’t want fresh scones in the morning?

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Honey-Cinnamon Scones

Makes 12 scones

Recipe slightly adapted from Pink Parsley, originally from the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook

Ingredients

For the honey-cinnamon butter cubes:
30 g (3 Tbs) all-purpose flour

30 g (2 1/2 tablespoons) sugar

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

30 g (about 2 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

20 g (1 tablespoon) clover honey

For the scone dough:

152 g (1 cup + 1 1/2 Tbs) all-purpose flour

304 g (2 1/4 cup + 2 Tbs) cake flour

12.5 g (2 1/2 tsp) baking powder

2.5 g (1/2 tsp) baking soda

91 g (1/4 cup + 3 1/2 Tbs) granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

227 g (8 oz) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

135 g (1/2 cup + 2 Tbs) heavy cream

135 g (1/2 cup + 2 Tbs) creme fraiche, sour cream, yogurt (we used this), or buttermilk

For the honey butter glaze:
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon honey

Directions

For the Cinnamon-Honey Cubes:  
Place the flour in a medium bowl.  Sift in the sugar and cinnamon and whisk to combine.  Add the butter cubes, and toss to coat.  Using your fingers, break up the butter until no large pieces remain.  Mix in the honey using a spatula, mixing until a smooth paste forms.
Press the paste into a 4-inch square on a sheet of plastic wrap.  Wrap tightly and freeze until solid, at least 2 hours.
For the scones:
Cut the butter paste into 1/4-inch cubes and chill until ready to use.
 Sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on the lowest setting for about 15-20 seconds to combine.
Add the butter and, on the lowest setting, pulse to begin incorporating it into the dry ingredients.  Increase the speed to low and mix for about 3 minutes, or until no large pieces remain.
With the mixer running, slowly pour in the cream.  Add the creme fraiche (or substitute) and mix for about 30 seconds, or just until all the dry ingredients are moistened and the dough comes together around the paddle.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle, and pulse a few times to combine.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in the honey-cinnamon butter cubes.
Dump the dough onto a lightly-floured surface.  Place the dough between 2 pieces of plastic wrap, and form it into a 7×10 inch block, smoothing the top and straightening the edges.  Transfer to a cookie sheet and refrigerate for 2 hours or freeze for about 30 minutes, or until the dough is firm.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Using a sharp knife, cut the block of dough lengthwise into thirds and crosswise into quarters, creating 12 square scones.
Arrange the scones on the prepared baking sheet, leaving a small space between them.  Cover with plastic wrap, and freeze until frozen solid, at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight (the scones can be frozen for up to 1 month).
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, and arrange the scones 1-inch apart.  Bake 28 to 30 minutes, or until the scones are cooked through and lightly golden-brown on top.
As the scones bake, whisk together the honey and melted butter.  Brush the tops and sides of the scones with the honey butter as soon as you take them out of the oven.  Serve while warm. Enjoy!
Side note: The scones are best eaten the day they are made, but can be stored in a plastic container for a couple days!