Friday, May 30, 2014

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Sorbet Frosting

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Sorbet Frosting
Happy Cookie Friday!   Summertime is finally here!  (Just saying that makes me want to get up and dance to High School Musical 2!)  I hope you all have a fun end of the school year!   Hope you enjoy these yummy summertime cupcakes!  Like I've said before...I LOVE LEMON!!!  We are off to Mexico on Monday so I won't be checking in for a bit...but I promise to bring back all kinds of great ideas, photos and foods from Mexico!  Hasta Luego!

Lemon Cupcakes

1 cup butter, softened
1 ¾ cups sugar
3 cups flour
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
3 teaspoons lemon extract
Zest from one lemon

In bowl of electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.   Mix dry ingredients together.  Beginning with four mixture, add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, ending with flour mixture.  Beat in vanilla, lemon extract and zest.  Fill cups half full ONLY.  Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.  Cool on bakers rack.   Frost when completely cool.
                                    
Lemon Sorbet Frosting

12 cups powdered sugar
1 ½ cups butter
8-12 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon extract

Beat all ingredients together in bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Begin with adding only 8 tablespoons of lemon juice.  If frosting is too stiff add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice at a time until soft but stiff.  Fit a BIG round or star tip in a pastry bag and fill with frosting.  Pipe one dollop of frosting in center of the cupcake.  Now start winding a big thick strip of frosting around the outside of the cupcake.  Swirl frosting towards the center overlapping as you go, until you reach the center top.  Add your favorite sprinkles, top with a blueberry, raspberry or add a little live flower or a candy flower to make them perfect for any occasion.  Let set uncovered in a cool location until ready to serve, even overnight if needed.



Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cranberry Pecan Romaine Wedge Salad

Cranberry-Pecan Romaine Wedge Salad
After a really fun 12 mile bike ride, along the beautiful C&O Canal to the quaint little Civil War town of Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, we were famished!  We dove into a little cafe for lunch where I had a delicious salad similar to this one.  I love this salad combination of the cranberries, pecans and blue cheese!  Plus, it's really fast and easy enough for week night dinners and elegant enough for lunches and dinner parties.  Hope you enjoy!  

3 hearts of Romaine lettuce
3/4 cup chopped pecans 
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Blue Cheese Dressing
extra blue cheese, crumbled

Cut hearts of romaine in half lengthwise, giving you 6 romaine wedges.


Place romaine wedges on individual plates or on a platter.  Dress each romaine wedge with Blue Cheese Dressing, sprinkle chopped pecans and dried cranberries over the top and garnish with a little extra crumbled blue cheese.  

   Blue Cheese Dressing

I L-O-V-E this blue cheese dressing!  Believe me, you'll never go back to store bought dressing after this one!

1 ½ cups mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
½ lemon, squeezed
1 cup crumbled blue cheese 
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon coarse salt
 ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper to taste


In bowl of food processor or in blender, whip all ingredients together until smooth.  If needed, thin with a little milk.  Dressing may need thinning after refrigeration.
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Friday, May 23, 2014

Sugar Cookie Tarts

Sugar Cookie Tarts

These amazing sugar cookie tarts are one of my very favorite spring and summer desserts! Sugar Cookie Tarts are the best of both worlds...delicious sugar cookies and scrumptious fruit tarts, combined!  These give you the look of beautiful fresh fruit tarts without all the fuss of an actual French pastry.  These tarts look like you've put in a lot of time and effort, but they are really simple and fast.  They are perfect for brunches, open houses and parties and best of all, they are positively mouthwatering!  This recipe will make 27 Sugar Cookie Tarts. For an elegant dinner party dessert, serve a sugar cookie tart with a mini scoop of sorbet on the side. Hope you enjoy this original Andrea recipe!  Happy spring! 


Sugar Cookies

1 cup sugar
¾ cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
1 lemon, juiced and zested
2 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In bowl of electric mixer combine sugar, butter, egg, vanilla, lemon extract and lemon zest. Save the lemon juice for the Lemon Glaze.  Mix until creamy while scraping the bowl often.   In separate bowl mix flour, baking powder and baking soda.  Add to butter mixture and mix until well blended, about 1-2 minutes.  Roll dough into 1 ¼ inch balls.  Roll dough balls in extra granulated sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheet. 

Dip bottom of a drinking glass in sugar and flatten dough balls into 2 ¼ inch circles.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or just until tops of cookies begin to break slightly.  Let cool 2 minutes and remove from cookie sheet.  Cool completely.  Frost with Lemon Butter Cream Frosting.


Lemon Butter Cream Frosting

1/2 cup butter
4 cups powdered sugar
juice from 2 lemons 
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream all ingredients in an electric mixer until fluffy.  Place a spoonful of frosting on a cookie and spread it around with the back of the spoon.


 Top with a big pinch of fresh blueberries, sliced strawberries and fresh raspberries. You could also add some kiwi slices and clementine sections. Garnish with a sprig of mint.  You are going to love these!  


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Savory Sauteed Veggie and Cheese Crepes

Savory Sauteed Veggie and Cheese Crepes 
I adore crepes, seriously.  Any kind, any where.  (Well, let's be honest, preferably in Paris.)   

1 cup favorite grated or crumbled cheese
(Blue cheese, Feta, Swiss, cheddar or mozzarella) 

Sauteed Veggies
(Have this ready before you begin cooking the crepes.)

1-2 red or yellow bell peppers
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
couple handfuls fresh spinach

In large saute pan saute onions, garlic and peppers until soft.  Toss in spinach, saute a minute and turn off the heat.  



Crepe Batter


4 cups milk

4 eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter or canola oil

1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons wheat flour 

1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons white flour
2 teaspoons salt 

I like to make crepe batter in a big plastic pitcher using a stick blender to blend ingredients.  That way I can easily store unused batter in the refrigerator until breakfast the next morning or for  savory crepes for dinner.  You can also use a blender to blend the batter.  In blender or with a stick blender, mix ingredients thoroughly.  Heat a non-stick skillet or crepe pan, over medium-high heat.  Unwrap a stick of butter half way and rub butter on bottom of hot pan.  Pour a little batter into pan  pick up pan and roll batter around to cover the bottom of the pan.  When batter on top has solidified, turn over with a spatula (preferably with a wooden crepe spatula) and brown other side for just a minute.  Place a spoonful of sauteed veggies on one side of crepe. 



 Sprinkle some cheese over veggies.  



Fold crepe over the top of veggies.  Heat until cheese melts. Fold again if desired and serve hot.

Bon Appetit!


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Must Do NYC

MUST DO NYC
Anyone planning a trip to the Big Apple this summer?   We recently met up with family in downtown Manhattan and had a fantastic time!  Here are some fun pictures, ideas and addresses for your stay.  These are some of my favorite places to hit when we're there.  

My Favorite Places to Stay...


The Belvedere Hotel   
319 W. 48th Street
240-7000
Located in Midtown Manhattan, the beautiful Belvedere Hotel is within walking distance of Broadway theaters and the Ellen's Star Dust Dinner and close to Times Square.

Marriott Marquis
1535 Broadway, New York
800-992-2694

Located in Times Square, if you are there for Thanksgiving...you'll see the Thanksgiving Day Parade, parade down the street right in front of the hotel.  This hotel is close to everything!



My Favorite Musicals:
Les Miserables, Lion King and Wicked



Favorite Sights...
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Museum of Modern Art

Rockefeller Center


Radio City Music Hall 
(See the Christmas Spectacular if you are there around Thanksgiving or Christmas)
Central Park and Central Park Zoo

(Here's us in Central Park)
Saint Patrick's Cathedral  
Fifth Ave. between 50th and 51st Streets.  
Across from the street from Rockefeller Center.  This incredible cathedral is a famous landmark of New York City.  It's Neo-Gothic style breathtaking and something you don't want to miss.  My father-in-law was working for Bobby Kennedy at the time of his assassination, and attended his funeral held here in Saint Patrick's Cathedral.    

American Museum of Natural History

Central Park West at 79th Street (right across the street from Central Park.)
212-769-5100
Remember the movie...Night at the Museum?  Filmed right here!  The museum is definitely fun for everyone!

Toys R Us (if you have kids along)
This store has a life sized moving dinosaur, and life sized Lego incredible hulk an indoor Ferris wheel...your kids will love this place!



The Park Hotel
Any Eloise fans out there?  Here's where the Eloise children's books take place.  Yep, it's a real hotel!

(Gotta love the police on horseback!)
Statue of Liberty
You'll have to take a boat ride to get there, but it's worth it! 

Ellis Island
Part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument, this is the site where millions of immigrants entered this country from 1892-1954.  Today there is a immigration museum there on the island in the restored immigration building that was built in 1900.

Twin Towers Memorial Site
1 Albany, St.
212-266-5211




Favorite Fun Places to Grab a Little Bite of Something with Kids and Teens...


Serendipity III 
225 E. 60th Street
212-838-3531

If you are visiting New York City...hit Serendipity III for their Frozen Hot Chocolate!

Ellen's Stardust Diner 
 1650 Broadway 51st Street 
212-956-5151

The singing wait staff is the reason to hit the Stardust Diner for a lively breakfast, or just for a cup of hot chocolate or shake. I would recommend stopping in for a snack (don't go there looking for amazing food) to enjoy the talents of up and coming Broadway stars, practicing their next hit! You can even sing along!  It's just fun!



Dylan's Candy Bar 

 1011 3rd Ave. 

646-735-0078

This candy store is the brainchild of Ralph Lauren's daughter, Dylan.  Love candy?  You gotta go get some here!  Dylan's Candy Bar is a candy wonderland to everyone's delight!  You may feel like you are stepping onto the set of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  The candy decorating is over the top...but that's what makes it so fun!  You can't miss this place especially if you are taking kids... of all ages.  If you and the kids need some lunch or just some ice cream they have a light menu and ice cream bar upstairs.  



Ok, now for the great food...
EATALY NYC
200 5th Ave. NEW YORK, NY 10010
212-229-2560
You'll find amazing food here!


Good -Bye NYC...Until we meet again!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Pecan Sticky Buns


Pecan Sticky Buns
I am continually mesmerized by the sticky buns I find in the Williams Sonoma catalog.  I have never ordered any from them but I love the idea of having a freezer full of yummy gourmet breads all ready to defrost and enjoy on lazy weekend mornings. (Like I have any of those!)  Nonetheless, my counter top and freezer could still be full of fresh baked breads ready for hungry kids and a husband to come home to. You'll need a large mixer to this recipe, at least a 6 quart electric mixer will suffice.  Course you can make the dough by hand, if you knead it for 10 minutes, instead of mixing it in the mixer for 10 minutes.  If that sounds like too  much work, look at it this way...at least you'll get your exercise!  This recipe will make approximately 72 sticky buns for you to enjoy!

Sticky Bun Dough
3 ½ cups warm water
4 tablespoons yeast
¾ cup oil
¾ cup sugar
1 cup powdered milk
1 ½ cups potato flakes
1 tablespoon salt
3 eggs at room temperature
10 cups flour, plus more if needed
 

*
1 cup softened butter
*
Cinnamon Sugar Mixture
2 brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
*
Caramel
1 1/4 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
5 tablespoons corn syrup
4 tablespoons heavy cream
*
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Spray 3-6 muffin pans with bakers spray.  This recipe will fill 6 muffin tins full of sticky buns.  If you don't want to bake all of the sticky buns at once, you can cut your rolls and freeze them before letting them rise.  Simply remove from freezer and place in muffin tins with the caramel, rise and bake.  Dissolve yeast in warm water in bowl of electric mixer.  Add oil and eggs.  Add remaining ingredients and mix for 10 minutes. Let rise to double.  Divide dough into three or four equal portions. Divide dough into 4 equal portions.  On a floured counter top roll out one portion of dough, into a rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick.  Spread 1/4 cup softened butter on each rectangle of dough.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup cinnamon sugar mixture over buttered dough and roll up lengthwise.  Repeat will each portion of dough.  Make caramel, by melting butter and adding remaining ingredients and stir until smooth over medium heat.  Place 1 1/2 tablespoons caramel in each muffin cup.  Sprinkle some chopped pecans on top of caramel in the muffin tins. Cut rolls into 1 inch thick pieces with a pizza cutter and set in muffin tin on top of caramel and pecans.  Spray a piece of plastic wrap with bakers spray and cover rolls.  Allow rolls to double in size.  Bake at 350 for 11-15 minutes or until light golden brown.  Immediately turn hot rolls out of pan onto a serving platter, to prevent them from sticking in the pans.  Extra baked sticky buns can be cooled and frozen. Simply defrost and reheat for special occasions.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Roasted Asparagus Soup

Roasted Asparagus Soup

Years ago I whipped up an asparagus soup with some left over sautéed asparagus.  My husband never let me forget how delicious it was and has been asking me to make more ever since.  These days, I roast practically all my vegetables, so I've made this soup with roasted asparagus, onions and garlic.  It's a really easy way to get amazing flavor out of your vegetables! The other night, I finally created an asparagus soup recipe that is equally as good as the one he remembers, and surprisingly a few of the kids enjoyed it!  Even if one of them said after eating it, "Can we just have spaghetti tomorrow night?"  This recipe will serve about 6 people.  Serve with some nice crusty bread.  

2 bunches asparagus, soaked in water to loosen grit
1 onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic
½ cup butter
3 teaspoons chicken or vegetable bouillon granules or 3 cubes
½ teaspoons sea salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups half and half or milk or cream more if needed

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  On a baking sheet toss asparagus, onion and garlic cloves in some olive oil and a little salt and fresh ground pepper.  Roast for 12-15 minutes until browned and tender.  Cool for a minute puree asparagus mixture in food processor or blender until smooth.  In large pot, melt butter.  Add asparagus mixture and simmer a few minutes.  Add half and half, chicken bouillon, salt, pepper.  Thin with more milk if needed to reach desired consistency and adjust seasoning.  I’ll add another teaspoon of bouillon granules if more seasoning is needed.  As always, if your soup needs thickening...( make a roux with 1/2 cup melted butter and 10 tablespoons flour) and stir the roux into the soup. Serve hot with some crusty bread.



Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Crispy Roasted Broccoli

  Crispy Roasted Broccoli
You never knew how deliciously amazing broccoli can be until you've roasted it!  Even your kids will love it!

2 heads broccoli or 1 lb. broccoli cut into florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper

Place broccoli florets on large rimmed baking sheet and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread broccoli out in a single layer .  Place in 450 degree oven for 12-15 minutes or until edges of broccoli are browned and crispy and stalks are tender when pierced with a fork.



Monday, May 12, 2014

Beet and Roma Salad

Beet and Roma Salad

This delicious salad is a perfect use for summer time tomatoes and fresh beets.  Roast the beets early in the day or even the day before to cut down on prep time. 


1-2 lbs. Roma tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
2-4 fresh beets (wrap in foil and roast at 450 degrees for 60-90 minutes) peel and cube
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cubed
Handful or two fresh basil leaves
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and fresh ground pepper

In a salad bowl place Roma tomatoes.  Stir in cubed beets, cubed fresh mozzarella and basil leaves.  Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Toss gently and serve with a crusty bread on the side.

 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Lemon Ice Cream

Lemon Ice Cream
I'm a sucker for anything lemon...can you tell? Here's a fast and easy Lemon Ice Cream to add to your Mother's Day dessert ideas.  No cooking required!  No ice cream maker required!  Just mix, freeze and repeat.  DELICIOUS!  How easy is that?  Hope you enjoy making this throughout spring and summer!  

4 cups milk, cream or half and half
8 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 cups sugar

Stir all ingredients together in a freezer proof container.  I like to use a Tupperware.  Freeze or for several hours or over night.  Scoop ice cream out of container in to bowl of electric mixer and whip for a minute or two.  Return ice cream to freezer proof container and freeze until ready to serve.  Garnish with a sprig of mint.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Chopped Kale Caesar Salad


Chopped Kale Caesar Salad
A visit to Bryan Voltaggio's Family Meal in Frederick, Maryland last weekend was all the inspiration I needed to make this variation of the ever popular Caesar Salad.  I love the idea of making this salad with kale instead of romaine!  It definitely adds some extra vitamins and minerals.  Okay, so I adore this homemade dressing! You've gotta have some great dressing to go with all that kale, right?  Well this is it!  I love the dressing without the mayonnaise, it makes a lighter dressing without sacrificing flavor.  But if you like the more traditional creamy Caesar dressing, simply add the mayonnaise.   These homemade croutons are definitely a cut above store bought ones, but if you are short of time or ingredients just pick some up at the store. Enjoy!  


pretty salad bowl full of chopped kale
 (cut tough stems off kale before chopping into rather small pieces)
Homemade Caesar Salad Dressing
fine ground Parmesan cheese
Add some grilled chicken, cut into thin strips if desired


Flavorful Caesar Salad Dressing

This Caesar dressing is so good you’ll be tempted to lick your plate clean!  For a more traditional and creamy Caesar Dressing simply add ½ cup mayonnaise.

1/3 cup water
1 ½ lemons juiced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoons sugar
6 cloves garlic
1/2 cup fine ground Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons anchovy paste (optional)

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.  Pour over Caesar Salad add croutons and toss.  Place fine ground Parmesan cheese in a sifter and sift over the salad. Serve immediately.

Homemade Croutons

4 slices day-old bread of any kind, cubed (I love to use day- old baguettes)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons herbs de Provence or Tuscan herb mix
½ cup fine ground Parmesan or Romano cheese
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

In large skillet, sauté bread in oil and butter, stirring frequently until browned.  Add herbs and garlic and sauté a few more minutes. Transfer bread cubes to bowl and stir in Parmesan cheese.  Toss in Caesar Salad just before serving.


Monday, May 5, 2014

Lemon Sour Cream Pie

Lemon Sour Cream Pie
Hi friends!  With Mother's Day already on the horizon...we will all be menu planning for Sunday.  This week I will be featuring some delicious additions to your menu ideas for your Mother's Day table.  I LOVE this Lemon Sour Cream Pie!  My dear friend Tiffany Walker made this family recipe for a get together one evening...it was so good, I HAD to have the recipe!  You can use a store bought pie crust or make this simple, homemade Perfect Pie Crust.   Have your crust baked and ready to fill with this delicious lemon filling and then refrigerate until ready to serve!

 Perfect Pie Crust

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 scant teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter
4-6 tablespoons ice water
1 egg white, slightly beaten



In food processor, mix flour and salt slightly.  Dice cold butter, and toss gently in flour, careful of sharp blades.



 With mixer running add ice water, 4 tablespoons is usually sufficient, by the tablespoonful until mixture comes together in a loose ball.  Remove from processor and divide dough in half. 



Form each half into a flat circle, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a half hour. Flour the counter top, and lay out a large piece of plastic wrap and flour it lightly. Place dough on floured piece of plastic wrap  Roll out between two sheets of lightly floured plastic wrap into a large circle.  Lay circle in pie pan and form into crust.  Crimp edges and poke holes with a fork in bottom and side of crust.  Brush crusts with egg white.  Bake at 400 degrees for 8-15 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  As oven temperatures vary watch crusts closely for an exact baking time.  Remove from oven, cool and fill with cream cheese layer and then strawberry layer. This recipe makes 2 pie crusts.  Use immediately or freeze on round of dough for later.


Lemon Sour Cream Pie

1 single crust pie shell, baked 

Lemon Filling

1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon rind
½ cup fresh lemon juice
3 eggs yolks, slightly beaten
1 cup milk
¼ cup butter
1 cup sour cream
2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons powdered sugar

Combine sugar, cornstarch, lemon rind, lemon juice, egg yolks and milk in heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thick. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and cool to room temperature. Stir in sour cream.  Pour into baked pie crust. 




 Whip cream and powdered sugar together until peaks form.  Pipe whipping cream over lemon filling or spread whipped cream over lemon filling.  Chill in refrigerator until ready to cut and serve.  Enjoy...your family will love you!


Friday, May 2, 2014

Luscious Lemon Sugar Cookies

Luscious Lemon Sugar Cookies


Hi friends!  COOKIE FRIDAY is here again! Today I am featuring these Luscious Lemon Sugar Cookies.  They are the perfect spring and summertime cookie! They turn out gorgeous every time and have amazing flavor!  I started with a my friend Carrie Spencer's cookie dough for toffee cookies and turned them into these beautiful lemon sugar cookies!  These are a wonderful cookie for luncheons, open houses, parties or just for the weekend!  Have a great one!
1 cup sugar
¾ cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
1 lemon, juiced and zested
2 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In bowl of electric mixer combine sugar, butter, egg, vanilla, lemon extract and lemon zest. Save the lemon juice for the Lemon Glaze.  Mix until creamy while scraping the bowl often.   In separate bowl mix flour, baking powder and baking soda.  Add to butter mixture and mix until well blended, about 1-2 minutes.  Roll dough into 1 ¼ inch balls.  Roll dough balls in extra granulated sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Dip bottom of a drinking glass in sugar and flatten dough balls into 2 ¼ inch circles.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or just until tops of cookies begin to break slightly.  Let cool 2 minutes and remove from cookie sheet.  Cool completely before frosting with Lemon Glaze.

Lemon Glaze

Juice from 1 lemon (from recipe above)
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoon melted butter

In small bowl mix powdered sugar into lemon juice and stir until smooth.  Stir in melted butter and stir until smooth.  With spoon pour ¼- ½ teaspoon glaze on top of each cookie.  With the back of a spoon spread in a glaze in a circular fashion until the top of cookie is covered.  
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