The Kitchen Prep: February 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

From "Fat Tuesday" to "Skinny Thursday"

I have enjoyed this week of festive eating as much as the next girl, I'm not gonna lie. But the way I see it, we still have two more days to go until the end of Mardi Gras week and we've gotta pace ourselves. And by "we", I mean "I". {You might not have a pair of skinny jeans threatening you from your closet as I do. Lucky.}

Anyway, I love to feed my friends. I actually like cooking for others way more than I like making food for myself. {Which could be why, more often than not, I'm eating leftovers or throwing together random things when it's time for a meal.}

When my girlfriends and I have "Girls Night",  I see it as a time to make all the things I don't get to make at home on a daily basis. Like bite sized appetizers. And cute little finger foods. And desserts that include as many forms of chocolate as humanly possible. {Because the hubs doesn't eat chocolate. At all. Weirdo.}

But I also know that these lovely ladies watch their girlish figures. And the last thing I want to do is sabotage all the hard work they do to keep looking svelte.

So, when I volunteered to bring dessert to our get together last night, I knew I wanted to find a recipe that was 1. New Orleans themed {to coordinate with the blog, of course}, 2. Figure friendlier than, say, Nutella Caramel Swirl Cheescake Bars, and 3. Worth the calories.

I'd say these Oven Baked Beignets fit the bill.

When I pulled these out of the oven yesterday and sacrificed one beignet for "quality control", I was so pleasantly surprised with the results. They were warm and delicate little powdered sugar covered pillows of dough. And between the airy texture and the Cafe Au Lait dipping sauce, I didn't miss the fact that they weren't fried. At all.

Sure, they're no Cafe du Monde beignet, I'm sure. But that just means you can eat a few more without the guilt {or the air travel, for that matter.}

Make these to share with friends, or to savor all by yourself.

Oven Baked Beignets with Café Au Lait Dipping Sauce

  • 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1 package quick-rising active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter, cut up into little cubes
  • 3/4 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, for coating
Café au Lait Dipping Sauce
  • 4 tablespoons cups granulated sugar
  • tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips {depending on how chocolatey you want it}

1. In a small bowl, combine warm water and yeast, plus of 1 teaspoon granulated sugar. Stir and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2. In large bowl {or in the bowl of a stand mixer}, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and remaining granulated sugar.With paddle attachment, pastry blender, or 2 knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs.

3. Stir buttermilk and egg into yeast mixture until blended. Pour yeast mixture into flour mixture and stir until combined and soft dough forms. {Dough will be sticky.}

4. On lightly floured work surface {and with floured hands unless you want more dough on you than in the beignets}, knead dough lightly several times until dough is smooth. Spray same bowl with nonstick cooking spray and place dough in bowl. Cover and let stand 10 minutes.

5. Spray 2 large cookie sheets with non-stick cooking spray {or use silicone baking mats}. Punch down dough. On floured work surface, with floured rolling pin, roll dough to 9-in. square. With floured chef's knife {or even better, with a pizza cutter} cut dough into 6 strips, then cut each strip into 6 pieces, making 36 (1½-in.) square pieces.  {They will seem small, but they grow a bit in the oven.}

6. Transfer Beignets to cookie sheets, placing about 1½ inches apart. Let rise 20 minutes in a dark place.

7. Meanwhile, prepare Café Au Lait dipping sauce. In 3-quart saucepan, with wire whisk, combine granulated sugar, espresso powder, and cornstarch. Place over medium heat, and whisk in milk, making sure there are no lumps. Cook for 8 minutes, whisking often, until mixture comes to a slight boil and begins to thicken. {Be careful not to scorch.}

Reduce heat to low and simmer 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Remove pan from heat. Add chocolate chips and whisk until melted and smooth; cover and set aside. Makes 1 3/4 cups {that's a lot, in case you were wondering.}

8. Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake risen Beignets 10 to 12 minutes, or until just golden brown, rotating sheets between upper and lower racks halfway though baking. 

Remove from oven and immediately toss with confectioners' sugar, until coated. Serve Beignets warm with warm Café au Lait Dipping Sauce.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How To: Mini King Cakes

If you're reading this right now, I'm guessing you took it easy on the Hurricanes and survived Mardi Gras, give or take a few strands of beads. Kudos.

Yesterday I posted about the Mini King Cakes I made for my family and friends, but didn't have time to go into detail. So, today I'm giving you a step by step on creating these cute little cakes so you'll be ready to go for next year. {Although you certainly don't have to wait that long if you don't want to.}

As I mentioned, the King Cake recipe I used makes a lot of cake - 2 decent sized ones to be exact. So, I halved the recipe and wound up with 12 minis and a medium cake.

The process of forming the minis was actually pretty easy, though I think using a mini bundt cake pan definitely helped.
Here's how I did it:

{Please pardon the horrible pictures. I took them at night and I'm still getting acquainted with my camera settings and lighting adjustments.} :)

1. Make King Cake recipe, halved.

2. Once the dough has risen the first time, punch it down and roll it out on a floured surface into a 12 x 17ish inch rectangle. Liberally apply softened butter, sugar, and cinnamon. {Alternatively, you can make a cream cheese or fruit jam filled recipe.}

3. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut 4 inch wide strips from dough.

4. Cut dough strip into mini rectangles. {About 2x4 inch}

5. Roll rectangles, jelly roll fashion, into little logs.

6. Bring ends together and pinch dough to seal the seam.

 {They should look like little donuts.}

7. Place in a buttered or sprayed mini bundt cake pan, and press down slightly. {If you don't have one of these pans, just put them on a baking sheet. The holes in the middle might close up while they bake, but they'll still be cute.}

8. Cover and let rise in a warm place, 20-30 minutes.

9. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes, or until cakes start to get slightly golden in color. Let cool slightly, and remove from pans. Cool completely before icing and decorating.

To decorate:

1. Make Creamy Glaze.

{Note: Because I used milk and lemon juice as suggested in the recipe, my glaze looked slightly curdled, though it tasted just fine. If that kind of thing grosses you out, replace fresh lemon juice with 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract, and that should do the trick.}

2. Dunk cakes upside down into glaze, and place right side up on a cooling rack with a foil lined pan underneath to catch drips.

3. Sprinkle with colored sugar while still slightly wet. {I made my own because I only had white sanding sugar in the pantry. Tutorial coming soon!}

4. Allow icing to set, and package these cuties up, if desired.

Well, that about covers it for these little guys.

I know Mardi Gras is over, but I'll be continuing the New Orleans themed foods the rest of the week... and tomorrow I have another Big Easy sweet treat you won't want to miss. Any guesses on what it might be??

I'll also be sharing some info about what to do with all those left over Mardi Gras beads now that the celebration is over. {Unless you want to keep them and rock them all year long. Hey, I won't judge.}

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

King Cake Cuties

Hello All!

I'm running out the door in just a bit to meet up with my dear friend {and her sweet little guy. I hope she'll let me post some pics of him from our meeting!} to spend the day working on a top secret project {!} but I wanted to stay true to my word and bring you another fun Mardi Gras recipe, especially since today is actual Mardi Gras!

Yesterday I posted a spicy dish to put you in the party spirit, but today I'm sweetening things up a bit on the menu. {Really... are you surprised?}

Last year I made a King Cake {good grief, please don't laugh at my photographic "skills" on the blog back then. I'm making progress, folks.} to share with family and friends for Mardi Gras week. But I've gotta tell you... it made a LOT of cake. And while it is "Fat" Tuesday, it would have taken us a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday to finish that baby up.

Since I knew I'd be making a few stops to visit some friends around town today, I thought I'd come up with a more portable idea for the traditional King Cake.

Behold... King Cake Cuties!

Aren't you in love? I am. :)

I put each mini in a cupcake liner after I finished decorating them, individually wrapped them up in plastic treat bags with some festive beads inside, and finished it off with some pretty ribbon. With these teensy cakes, you can share in the King Cake tradition without committing to having a week's worth of cake on your hands!

I used a different recipe this year, and found that this one tastes a little more like bready cinnamon rolls. Which isn't a bad thing. Both recipes were tasty in their own way.

You can follow the original recipe that I found at Southern Living/My Recipes if you want to make your own King Cake. {Their recipe actually makes 2 medium sized cakes.}, but tomorrow I'll be posting a few tricks to making these sweet little minis. {Just a heads up, if you attempt the minis on your own, I halved the SL recipe and got 12 mini cakes and 1 medium cake.}

Have a "Bead-utiful" day. ;)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mardi Party

This week kicks off Mardi Gras, the gluttonous and debaucherous festival that is celebrated near and far; from revelers on the streets of New Orleans to homes, bars, and restaurants nationwide. Like St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, and various other festive days on our calendars, many have jumped on the celebratory bandwagon though most have no idea what or why they're celebrating to begin with.

Let's face it: We like to party. And we don't need a reason.

Since I'm down with any occasion that calls for food and drink{s}, I thought I'd pull out my feathered mask and don my Mardi Gras beads {purchased, not "earned", of course} and post a few recipes this week that will get you into the spirit whether Bourbon Street is down the road or on the other side of the world from where you live.

But first, some history about Mardi Gras. {I never said these recipes wouldn't come with a price.} Literally translating to "Fat Tuesday" in French, Mardi Gras preceeds Ash Wednesday {imagine that, a Tuesday that comes before a Wednesday.} which commences the Lenten season on the Christian calendar. Basically, Mardi Gras is the last chance to get sinful behaviors out of your system before the start of Lent - a time of fasting, repentence and prayer - in the weeks days leading up to Easter.

In New Orleans, Mardi Gras is synonymous with "PARTY!" and the rich tradition of music, food, and celebration has been around for ages. {Since the 1700's, in fact, according to this source}.

Sadly, I've never been to New Orleans, though it is on my list of places to visit soon. {Hint, hint hubs!} I have to admit that now that I'm well beyond my college years, I don't feel like I'm missing out on too much by not attending Mardi Gras. {If I want to trip over intoxicated people, I would rather do so in the comfort of my own home after a few bottles of wine on girl's night. But thanks.} I do hope that one day I'll get to make my rounds in the Big Easy and check out all they have in store for foodies as they're known for some good eatin' in those parts.

Anyway.... food.

I can't vouch for the authenticity of this Cajun Jambalaya recipe {aside from the fact that it's adapted from Emeril's recipe}, but I can say that it definitely isn't lacking in the flavor department. It's rich, spicy, and delicious. And not all that difficult to put together, which makes it a winner in my book.

So, get into your kitchen and, in the words of Mardi Gras revelers..."Laissez les bons temps rouler"! {Let the Good Times Roll}

Cajun Jambalaya
Adapted from Food Network

  • 12 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined
  • 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning, recipe follows
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 of a medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 of a medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 cup rice
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 5 ounces Andouille sausage {or your favorite}, sliced

  • Creole Seasoning

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/2 - 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Store in a cool, dry place.

    For Jambalaya:

    In a bowl combine shrimp and Creole seasoning well, set aside.

    In a large saucepan heat oil over high heat. Add onion, pepper and celery,  and saute, 3 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, bay leaves, Worcestershire and hot sauce. Stir in rice and slowly add broth. Reduce heat to medium and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice becomes tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

    When rice is just tender, carefully stir in shrimp and sausage. Cook until meat is done, about 10 minutes more. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning if desired.

    Friday, February 17, 2012

    "Elastic Waistband Friendly"

    One of my favorite bloggers, Jessica at The Novice Chef, has a category of recipes on her blog called "Ass Friendly" {meaning healthy or low calorie, in case you didn't pick up on that}. It's one of the many reasons why I love reading her stuff. {Plus, I'm pretty sure she likes wine as much as I do. Which is a lot. Instant bond.}

    Anyway, if Jessica's healthy recipes are considered "Ass Friendly", then the recipe I'm about to share with you would be part of the polar opposite category we'll call "Ass Hostile". Except that sounds absolutely terrible and a bit like an adjective that would be used to describe a horrible virus you might get if you don't wash your hands. So, let's go with "Elastic Waistband Friendly" instead. In short, this is to be enjoyed in moderation.

    No, friends. This is not one serving.

    Remember that Nutella Caramel Sauce I posted a few days ago? Well, I had a lot left over. And since I know I am not to be trusted with large quantities of anything even remotely related to Nutella, I had to find a way to use it up fast.

    And so, Nutella Caramel Swirl Cheesecake Bars were born.

    These little babies are rich. Buttery. Sweet. They are unassumingly dangerous. And one too many will bring the elastic waistband pants out of their drawer. So share. {Even though you won't want to.}

    They've got a brown sugar shortbread crust, a not-too-thin, not-too-thick layer of cheesecake, and of course... a seductive swirl of Nutella Caramel running throughout.

    Good stuff. And by good, I mean bad. Very, very bad.

    So, get some Ass Friendly recipes from Jessica's blog, and then come back here when you want to treat yourself for all the healthy eating you've done. These bars will be waiting. ;)

    Nutella Caramel Swirl Cheesecake Bars
    a Kitchen Prep original recipe

    For Nutella Caramel Sauce
    For crust:
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
    • 1 1/2 sticks butter, cut into small pieces
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13x9x2 inch baking pan with foil and set aside.

    In the bowl of a stand mixer or a medium bowl, combine sugar and flour. Using paddle attachment, or with a pastry blender or fork by hand, incorporate pieces of butter until the mixture is crumbly. {Will hold it's shape when a clump is pinched.}

    Press mixture evenly into foil lined baking pan.

    Bake for 15 minutes until crust is slightly golden. Set aside.

    For cheesecake:
    • 1 - 8oz. block cream cheese {you can use reduced fat if you're already feeling guilty}
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1/4 cup Greek Yogurt {once again, trying to healthy up the unhealthy}
    In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese and sugar until fluffy and incorporated. Add egg, and beat until combined. Add vanilla and Greek yogurt and mix until smooth.

    Pour into crust.

    Spoon globs of Nutella Caramel sauce onto cheesecake batter, dotting throughout the mixture. With a skewer, toothpick, or tip of a knife, carefully swirl caramel throughout cheesecake to create marbleized effect.

    Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until filling is mostly set {not super jiggly}. If caramel is cooking too rapidly or becoming too bubbly, cover lightly with a sheet of aluminum foil for the last 10 minutes.

    Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate and let cool completely before cutting into bars.

    Thursday, February 16, 2012

    An Homage to Fromage

    My name is Dianna, and I am a cheese addict. {The dairy kind, not the recreational drug kind. Ya gotta be specific these days. My drug of choice is caffeine, thankyouverymuch.}

    I have come to terms with the fact that cheese may, at some point, be the death of me. Years ago, I even had a cheese-related hospital incident when I managed to cut myself badly on a container of feta. Leave it to me.

    Anyway, under my husband's watchful eye {and his rambling speeches about clogged arteries and such}, I've managed to cut down ever so slightly on my cheese consumption.

    In my brain, I know I should not indulge as much as I do. But in my mouth, my tastebuds overrule the logic behind this thinking.

    I have not encountered too many cheeses I can pass up easily, though there are a few that don't rank high on my list of favorites. But the crowning glory of my pasteurized preferences is none other than ooey, gooey, creamy Brie.

    I hardly ever buy it because I know that if it is in my fridge, all bets are off. I can polish off an entire wheel by myself in days. I wish I were kidding.

    I made this Brie, Ham & Arugula Quesadilla last weekend as a quick lunch and savored every last bite. It's a quick and easy, but oh-so-satisfying if you're looking to indulge your cheese habit.

    Make it with tortillas for a quesadilla style lunch, or between two pieces of sourdough for a panini style sandwich. No matter how you decide to fix it, just make sure you do.

    Brie, Ham, & Arugula Quesadilla
    Serves 2
    • 2 whole wheat {or your preference} tortillas
    • dijon mustard
    • brie {as much as you want}
    • 6 slices ham
    • 1/2 cup arugula
    Preheat a skillet to medium heat.

    On each tortilla, spread about a teaspoon of dijon mustard. Arrange arugula, ham, and brie on each tortilla. Carefully fold each tortilla in half. {Alternately, use another whole tortilla to top for a bigger snack.}

    Spray skillet with non-stick cooking spray. Cook quesadillas {2-4 minutes on each side} until cheese is melted and tortillas are slightly toasted.

    Cut into wedges with knife or pizza cutter. Serve warm.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    Valentine's "Flours"

    I have never been one for roses. In fact, I'm one of those weird girls who isn't very flowery at all.

    When my husband and I first started dating 8 years ago, I shared with him that if ever I were to receive flowers as a gift, my preference would be tulips. He complied and tulips became a tradition of sorts throughout our courtship and into our marriage. {Poor guy, tulips aren't always easy to find. Oops.}

    Had I received a bouquet of roses like these, I might have changed my mind completely.

    These rose cupcakes just scream,"Will you be my Valentine?" {or even"Will you nibble on me for breakfast?"} Plus they don't require tending, you don't have to worry about pointy thorns, and they smell just as sweet as any other bouquet. {Though I wouldn't sniff them too closely or you might end up with frosting on your nose.}

    These bouquets were made up of mini Vegan Chocolate Covered Cherry Cupcakes with Black Cherry Tea Infused Buttercream. Whew, that's more of a mouthful to say than it is to eat these delicious little bites. You could certainly use your favorite recipe in place of this one, but you might want to give these a try before you decide.

     Whether you are celebrating Valentine's Day with friends, family, or a special someone, I hope it's filled with nothing but the sweetest things! XO

     Vegan "Chocolate Covered Cherry" Mini Cupcakes
    Inspired by

    For the cupcakes:
    42 cherries {fresh or frozen}
    1 cup almond milk
    1 tsp apple cider vinegar
    1/3 cup vegetable oil
    3/4 cup sugar
    2 tsp vanilla
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1/3 cup cocoa powder
    1/2 tsp baking powder
    3/4 tsp baking soda
    1/4 tsp salt

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 mini muffin tins with liners. Place one cherry in the bottom of each muffin cup.

    Mix vinegar and almond milk and let sit for five minutes. Meanwhile, in another bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. 

    Whisk together the almond milk/vinegar, oil, sugar and vanilla. Add wet to dry and mix until combined.

    Pour batter into cupake liners, {almost to top, I use my little cookie scoop} covering cherries completely. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until springy {careful not to burn, it's harder to tell with chocolate cake.} Let cool completely before frosting.

    For Frosting:

    Black Cherry Tea Infused Buttercream

    1 1/2 sticks butter {or Earth Balance if you wanna go vegan all the way}
    4-5 cups powdered sugar
    2 Black Cherry herbal tea bags {I use
    Celestial Seasonings}
    2 tbsp boilng water
    2 tbsp. almond milk

    1/8 tsp almond extract
    1/4 tsp. salt

    *You could add food coloring optionally, but I chose to let the tea's natural red infuse the buttercream with a pale pink.

    Beat butter until soft and pale.

    Brew the tea in the two tablespoons of boiling water and let sit for ten minutes to steep. Add the almond milk.

    Add tea mixture, plus the powdered sugar {one cup at a time until desired consistency is reached} and almond extract to butter. Continue to beat until very light and fluffy.

    Frost cupcakes using this technique for roses.

    Monday, February 13, 2012

    Sweet Dreams are Made of...

    I think, given the opportunity, I would be nocturnal. I am most aware and creative when the sun goes down. When my mind should be winding down from the busy day and slipping into "hibernate" mode, it is usually doing quite the opposite.

    Steve, on the other hand, immediately falls asleep once his head hits the pillow. {And most of the time, when his butt hits the couch.} So that means that when we go to bed at the same time, I spend a lot of time staring at the ceiling and thinking about a bajillion different things.

    Many times, this is when I get the best ideas for creative projects, recipes, and completely off-the-wall schemes. I try to jot them down, or even type them into my phone so I won't forget {since it's easier than writing in the dark}, but sometimes the things I thought were brilliant the night before seem to lack appeal in the light of day.

    This recipe I dreamed up a few nights ago did not fall into the lackluster category the next morning. Oh, no. In fact, it sounded more and more delightful every time it popped into my head.

    Nutella Caramel Sauce

    Yes, yes, and yes. When I made my Chubby Hubby Bars a few weeks back, I made some homemade Peanut Butter Caramel to spread over the cookie layer, and it got me to thinking... Nutella has a similar texture to peanut butter... why not try the same thing with Nutella? And so I did.

    This stuff is super sweet, but makes a fantastic topping for a big scoop {or two} of vanilla ice cream. I'm sure you could also stir it into coffee & make yourself a Nutella Caramel Latte or drizzle it over a slice of pound cake for a dose of decadence. The recipe makes enough sauce for quite a few servings... and I can't wait to show you what I decided to incorporate it into. It will knock your socks off.

     Here are a few tips you might want to read before you make this:

    Do practice safety around scalding hot caramel.

    Do stop to lick Nutella off the spoon.

    Do Not freak out when your pot of molten caramel and cream starts threatening to boil over. {P.S. It is not bluffing.}

    Do Not burn the crap out of your tongue when you lick the spoon. {Use a spoon that you DID NOT just dip into the lava-hot liquid.}

    Do Not eat so much of this while you "taste test" that you make yourself ill.

    Follow these simple directions and you will soon find you've whipped up the stuff that dreams are made of.

    Nutella Caramel Sauce
    Inspired by Food Network

  • 1/2 cup half & half 
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup Nutella
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch sea salt

  • Warm half & half in a microwaveable cup {about 30 to 1 minute} until steaming.

    Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil without stirring, until amber brown. {Keep an eye on this, it can burn VERY quickly.}

    Carefully whisk in warm cream until smooth and let cook for 1 minute {caramel will bubble & rise, so use a big enough saucepan so it does not overflow}.

    Remove from the heat and whisk in the Nutella, corn syrup, salt and vanilla extract until smooth. Transfer to a heat safe bowl. Allow to cool until thickened, then transfer to jar or container where you will store.


    Wednesday, February 8, 2012

    Be My Foodie Friend!

    Hi everyone!

    With the 3 ring circus that is my life, I completely forgot to mention that The Kitchen Prep now has an official Facebook page! So... I want to cordially invite you to "like" it. :)

    We're obviously very formal around here. ;)

    Why join me on Facebook?
    • You'll get updated on the latest blog posts, giveaways, and other assorted goodies before everyone else.
    • It's where I share cool kitchen & food discoveries with you such as brands I love, blogs I adore, and gadgets foodies shouldn't have to live without. {Along with any other random stuff that I find interesting enough to share.}
    • You can share your own pictures, thoughts, and triumphs {and disasters if you need to vent!} with me and other food obsessed friends out there.
    • I occasionally post the ridiculous things that I get myself into, so you can have a good laugh at my expense.
    • I won't inundate your feed with stuff. {I typically don't post more than twice a day unless there is something that's just too exciting not to share.}

    And finally...
    • 'Cuz it's what all the cool people are doing. Duh.

    So, if you haven't done so already, hop on over to Facebook and be my friend! :)

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012

    Love Muffin

     Are you and your sweetheart big on celebrating Valentine's Day?

    I have to admit, Steve and I are not the super traditional sort that go the "roses, chocolate, cupid" route. And that's ok with me.

    We don't disregard Valentine's Day altogether, either. It just makes it a little more difficult to go with the V-day flow with a guy who doesn't particularly enjoy sweets, and a girl who isn't a fan of roses. We're weird, what can I tell ya.

    I've mentioned before that the real way to Steve's heart is through his stomach, as is the case with lots of fellas out there. But for Steve, there's really just one food category that renders him weak in the knees: Bread.

    He loves it. And around our home, it's more of a treat than a staple since we try to stay away from the starchy stuff when we can. So when I bake bread from scratch... all bets are off. {I usually have to freeze the extra so that there's less temptation teasing from the counter tops.}

    When I saw the recipe for heart shaped English Muffins, I automatically thought of Steve. And having just received my new Kitchenaid the day before, I was ready to break it in.

    Too bad I didn't think it through, and I started the recipe without checking to make sure I had all the ingredients. {Will I ever learn?!} I will blame it on my excitement to make something for my Valentine.

    I wound up using half all purpose flour, and half bread flour and also used rapid rise yeast rather than regular. Basically, I did not follow directions.

    The result? Un-English Muffin-like English Muffins. They were cute on the outside. But not quite "nooks & crannies" enough on the inside. Regardless, they were still pretty yummy.

    So what do you do with English Muffins that don't meet your standards? Make heart shaped English Muffin Pizzas, of course. And as it turns out, they are one of Steve's favorite childhood treats.

    Are you planning on cooking something special up for your sweetie, family, or friends this Valentine's Day? I'd love to know what you're making!

    English {Love} Muffins
    Found at Disney Family Fun
    • 1 cup milk
    • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
    • 2 tablespoons honey
    • 1 cup warm water )
    • 1 package (1/4-oz.) active dry yeast
    • Cornmeal {enough for sprinkling your baking sheet}
    • 5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon salt

    Combine the milk, butter, and honey in a medium-size saucepan. Warm the mixture over medium-low heat until the butter starts to melt, then whisk it briefly. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the liquid to cool until lukewarm.

    While the milk cools, pour the water into a medium-size mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir the liquid gently with a fork. Set the bowl aside for 5 to 10 minutes, until all of the yeast has dissolved.

    Line two baking sheets with waxed paper and sprinkle on a generous amount of cornmeal. {This is where you'll set the muffins to rise.}

    Pour the cooled milk into the dissolved yeast and gently stir the mixture until well blended. Add 3 cups of flour and the salt to the liquid and beat the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon {or witht the paddle attachment of your stand mixer} until incorporated. Beat in enough of the remaining flour, about 1/3 cup at a time, so that the dough is firm enough to knead and no longer sticky.

    Scrape the dough from the bowl onto a floured surface. Dust the top of the dough with flour. Flour your hands as well, and knead the dough for 3 to 4 minutes. Let the dough rest for about 5 minutes. {Alternately, use the dough hook attachment on a stand mixer.}

    Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, starting in the middle and pushing the pin from the center out, until the dough is a half inch thick.

    Cut the dough into hearts with a heart shaped cookie cutter, or whatever shape you desire. Gather and reroll the scraps and cut out more hearts (you should end up with 16-18).

    Transfer the muffins to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them well apart. Sprinkle cornmeal on the tops. Cover the muffins with a dry, lightweight towel and let them rise until they are almost doubled in height--about 35 to 45 minutes.

    When the muffins have risen, heat a large, heavy, ungreased skillet over medium heat. {Or you can use an electric griddle heated to 300º.} Carefully lift the muffins from the waxed paper and place them in the heated pan or griddle, spacing them an inch or so apart. {You will need to cook in batches.}

    Cook the muffins for about 10 minutes on each side, using a spatula to flip them. You may have to adjust the heat if the muffins are browning too quickly or slowly. Transfer each batch of cooked muffins to a wire rack to cool before splitting and toasting them.

    English {Love} Muffin Pizzas

    English Muffins
    Your favorite sauce {I make my own, here's the recipe}
    Your favorite cheese {I used whole milk mozzarella}
    Assorted toppings {I used fresh basil & Italian seasoning}

    Prehead oven to 375 degrees. Line a small baking sheet with foil.

    Split your English Muffins with a fork. Spoon sauce onto each half. Sprinkle with cheese. Top with your favorite toppings.

    Place on baking sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes until cheese is melted and muffins are heated through and begin getting toasty around the edges.

    Friday, February 3, 2012

    Super Bowl Sunday, Slimmed Down

    We made it to Friday, friends! In fact, I'd say Friday snuck up on me... and I'm definitely behind on posting. Oops.

    Most of my week has been spent filling orders for my little shop {loving the sudden spike in orders, but there's only one person to get them all done!}, working, and bonding with my brand new Kitchenaid. Isn't she pretty??


    {Yep, that's a borrowed pic. I don't normally make it a habit of having random wedding cakes sitting around the kitchen...}

    My "To Share" list of posts has grown particularly long {and I promise I'll get to writing up all the good ones at some point}, but before the weekend starts, I want to leave you with a customizable, Super Bowl-worthy recipe that might give you an alternative option for the Calorie Fest about to go down this Sunday in most of your living rooms!

    How does a Buffalo Chicken Twice Baked Potato sound?

    It's a little something I whipped up last week when I was craving the deliciousness of wings and blue cheese, listened to the angel sitting on my shoulder and went the healthier{ish} route. I found it to be a nice cross between Potato Skins and Buffalo Wings, two game day favorites.

    You can make this as healthy as or calorific as you please, and swap out ingredients as you see fit. {or unfit as the case may be} I won't know the difference {but your pants waist might}. ;)

    Hope your Super Bowl Sunday is full of more tasty treats and less antacid! ;)

    Buffalo Chicken Twice Baked Potatoes
    a Kitchen Prep original recipe
    • 2-4 baking potatoes
    • canola oil
    • salt
    • Buffalo wing sauce {I use this kind because I love it so much I've considered taking shots of it.}
    • Shredded chicken breast {you can make this yourself or buy a rotisserie chicken & shred it}
    • Low fat shredded cheddar {or your fave cheese}
    • Blue cheese crumbles
    • Fat free plain Greek yogurt
    • Onion powder
    • 2-3 Green onion, chopped {optional}

    1. For Potatoes: Scrub potatoes with stiff wire brush. Dry. Puncture each potato a few times with a fork to allow steam to escape. Lightly coat each potato with canola oil, and sprinkle with salt. Place directly onto baking rack, with a foil lined cookie sheet underneath to catch any drippings. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour, or until skin is crispy and potatoes are fork tender. Carefully remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.

    2. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut each in half and scoop insides into a medium bowl, careful to leave a thin wall of potato in each skin so that they hold their shape.

    3. Add a teaspoon of onion powder, salt to taste, and any other desired seasonings to the potato pulp. Add 1/4 cup of Greek yogurt, and mash with a fork until the mixture is smooth and seasonings are incorporated. {You may want to add a little more yogurt at a time until you reach the consistency you desire.}

    4. In a separate bowl, toss about 1/4 - 1/3 cup wing sauce to shredded chicken. Set aside.

    5. Fill potato skins with potato & yogurt mixture, careful not to overfill. Top each potato with Buffalo chicken mixture.

    6. Sprinkle bleu cheese crumbles on each potato, and top off with shredded cheddar or desired cheese.

    7.  Return potatoes to oven until cheese begins to melt and get bubbly and potatoes are heated {7-10 minutes}. *Note: Some low fat cheeses have a tendency not to melt easily. If this is the case, set the oven to broil and stand by. Broil for a minute or two until cheese gets melty.

    8. Garnish with green onion or other toppings.