Strawberry Short-Cup-Cakes

My toddler loves strawberries.  She requests that I always cut off the leaves, and insists that I do NOT sugar them, and then can eat roughly half a pound a day.  She essentially exists on strawberries, cherry tomatoes, and cheese.  It’s a good life.  Because we always need to have strawberries on hand for her, I buy a carton every time I see them (sort of like milk – it’s never on the list because it’s ALWAYS on the list) – the grocery store, Costco, Target, etc.  So sometimes I don’t pay enough attention and end up with 5 pounds of strawberries.  While my little cutie COULD consume 5 pounds of strawberries in a matter of days before they go bad, it would be awfully hard on her stomach.  Enter strawberry shortcupcakes.  They’re basically a vanilla cupcake with a strawberry balsamic filling and a strawberry buttercream on top.  Pure heaven.

Unfortunately my strawberry-lovin’ daughter takes books very seriously and had recently become obsessed with Pinkalicious before I made these.  In the story, the little girl makes pink cupcakes with her mom, eats too many, and turns pink.  To my two year old literalist, it was not a risk worth taking, so she wouldn’t eat them at all.  Her loss.

Note: if you don’t have/want to buy cake flour, you can substitute AP flour, just take 2T of each cup out and replace it with cornstarch.  Also, all in all, you’ll need 5 sticks of  butter, 1.5-2lbs of strawberries, and 9 eggs so, just be aware.  These really are a lot of work, but if you’re looking for something impressive and outstanding, their worth the effort.  I’d recommend baking the cupcakes the evening before, and filling/frosting the next morning.

Strawberry ShortCupCakes

for the cakes:

2 sticks butter, softened

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

5 eggs

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

3 cups cake flour

1Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 1/4 cup buttermilk

for the filling:

12 oz strawberries (fresh or frozen)

3 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

for the frosting:

12 oz strawberries (fresh or frozen)

1T balsamic vinegar

1 and 1/4 cup sugar

4 egg whites

3 sticks of butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350. To make the cakes, begin by beating the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.  Add in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla.  Stir the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt) together and alternate adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk until everything is incorporated.  Fill cupcake liners to 2/3 full (mine made roughly 24).  Bake for 15-18 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before proceeding.

2. To make the filling, hull and finely dice the strawberries and toss with the sugar and balsamic vinegar.  Allow the mixture to set while you core the cupcakes.  You can either use a knife or a handy coring tool (like this).  Spoon a bit of the strawberry mixture in each cupcake until full – sort of mashing the strawberries in with the back of the spoon.  They can mound a little over the top, they will be covered by the frosting.

3. To make the frosting, hull and roughly chop the strawberries and toss with balsamic vinegar.  Cook the mixture over medium heat in a small saucepan for several minutes until fragrant.  Allow to cool.  Meanwhile, stir the egg whites and sugar together in a heatproof bowl over simmering water, whisking constantly until it hits 160 degrees.  Transfer to a stand mixer with the whisk and beat on medium high until the mixture is completely cool and stiff peaks form.  This takes 10-12 minutes for me.  While it’s beating, pour the strawberries into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Put it in the freezer while you finish the frosting so it’s nice and cool.  Once the stiff peaks are achieved, turn the mixer down a notch or two and add in the butter, in small chunks until it’s all incorporated.  Bump the speed back up and beat another 4 minutes until the frosting is fluffy.  Add in the strawberry puree until incorporated.

4. Frost the cupcakes using a piping bag to cover the strawberry filling.

Nutrition:

If you yield 24 cupcakes: 352 calories per cupcake, 18g fat, 31g sugar.

Chopped Chicken Salad

As summer comes upon us, the weather gets warmer, and I want to spend more time in the pool and less time in the kitchen, I find myself craving dinners that are refreshing, easy, and still filling.  Salads with protein are one of my favorite ways to get in some vegetables and a hearty dinner without spending hours over a hot stove.  This chopped chicken salad makes a ton – so if you are only serving a few, you’ll have leftovers for a few days of lunch.  Alternatively, served with cold beers and a killer dessert, it’s great when you have company, too (it’s beautiful to serve).  It’s also one of those meals that you can mix up the ingredients on based on what you need to use up in the fridge – the cabbage and carrots are a must to me, but any other crunchy vegetables would work well, too.  I use finely diced grilled chicken, but any leftover protein would work (shrimp. beef, even tofu).

I’m also excited to share that I’ll be sharing nutrition information for my recipes.  I’ve been pregnant and/or breastfeeding continuously for the past 3 and a half years, so being aware of my calorie intake is important.  I certainly believe that there’s a time and place for splurges (um, see the cheesecake I posted last month), so meals like this that pack in a lot of protein and vegetables without a ton of calories make for a great hearty lunch or dinner – especially when there’s great dessert to be had.  I hope you enjoy this new feature.

Chopped Chicken Salad

2 grilled chicken breasts

1 small head purple cabbage

3-4 carrots

3-4 green onions

1 mango

small handful of chopped roasted peanuts

small handful of cilantro

for the dressing;

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp sriracha

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

2T honey

1/2 cup peanut butter

2T lime juice

2T sesame or olive oil

2T fish sauce

1/2 cup water

1. Chop the cabbage and finely slice the carrots and arrange in a bowl.  Finely dice the green onions and mango.  Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and arrange all in the bowl.  Top with chopped peanuts and cilantro.

2. Stir all of the dressing ingredients together until combined (unless you’re using natural peanut butter, the emulsifiers in the pb will keep it from separating).  Either dress the salad or serve with the dressing on the side (my preference).

Nutrition information:

272 calories for 1/8 of the salad and the dressing.  Note that this does not include the peanuts, which can account for a lot of calories if you aren’t careful.  They aren’t completely necessary, but if you add, say, a tablespoon, you’re adding about 80 calories.  I typically skip them unless it’s dinner and I need some extra protein and calories.

13g fat

10g cholesterol

20g carbs

13g sugars

18g protein

 

Miso Salmon

In the past decade of dating/being married to my husband he’s made a lot of requests in the food department.  I enjoy a challenge and, with the exception of one ill-conceived and poorly executed pesto, he’s always been happy to eat everything I make.  Lately he’s suggested more seafood and I have been trying some new fish dishes.  We cook with shrimp a lot, but other fish is not my wheelhouse – I am not experienced enough to make substitutes well based on what’s available.  I also have been generally opposed to salmon – it seems like salmon got trendy in the early 2000s and it was everywhere and generally poorly prepared and I just got tired of it.  I never buy it, but it was on sale at the grocery store and Ross wanted more fish, so I gave it a try.

This dish might be the single easiest dinner I’ve ever made.  It takes 3 minutes of prep the night before and 10 minutes of cooking the day of.  That’s it.  I’ve served it with rice and with quinoa, usually with grilled asparagus on the side.  It’s insanely good.  The miso paste may be hard to find, I located it at Whole Foods.  It’s fermented soybean paste – so it stays good forever in the refrigerator.  Whether you’re a long time salmon lover or a salmon skeptic, give this a try.  Mostly because you can make it in 11 minutes.  You do need to marinate it overnight, so keep that in mind.

Miso Salmon

adapted from Keepers by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion

2/3 cup red miso paste

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

3 Tbsp brown sugar

1lb of salmon filets (at my grocery store, this means 2 long filets so I cut eat in half to get four pieces)

1. Place the miso paste, vinegar, and brown sugar in a large ziploc bag or tupperware and mix together until combined.  Add the fish, making sure to coat all sides, and place in the refrigerator overnight.

2. When you’re ready to eat, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, spray or brush with a little olive oil, and heat the oven to 400.  Arrange the salmon pieces on the foil skin side downand bake for 6 minutes, flip them over, and bake an additional 4 minutes, until you’re just able to flake the fish with a spatula.

Chicken Pad-ish Thai

Pad Thai is one of my favorite dishes of all time.  The tang of lime, crunch of peanuts, savory noodles – it’s my go-to at any new Thai restaurant.  Ross requested Pad Thai for dinner last week and, after scouring about a hundred recipes, it seemed like all of them required specialty ingredients.  I’m sure that using one of those recipes would yield a more authentic taste, but I couldn’t really picture dragging my toddler and baby across town to an Asian market where I was unfamiliar with the layout, restrooms, and exit strategy.  So I wanted ingredients I could easily find at Safeway or, better yet, my pantry.

I came up with this recipe and it is really delicious, but you could hardly call it authentic.  It lacks tamarind paste, rice noodles, tofu (due to my sucking at cooking tofu, not availability), and bean sprouts.  But if you’re looking for a noodle dish that’s spicy, a little sweet, and has a lovely peanutty taste, then this is your dish.  You could certainly substitute any protein here – I had intended to make it with shrimp, but the ones at our store looked pitiful this week, so I used two leftover grilled chicken breasts.

 

Chicken Pad-ish Thai

12 oz. linguine noodles (or spaghetti or vermicelli)

1/3 cup fish sauce

2T honey

2T sesame oil

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2T lime juice

1 tsp sriracha

1/2 cup water

1 shallot (or half an onion, if that’s what you have)

3 cloves garlic

2 eggs

4 green onions

handful of fresh cilantro

1/2 cup chopped, roasted peanuts

lime wedges for serving

oil for cooking

1. Boil the pasta according to package directions, I usually boil for 20% less time than it suggests (so 8 minutes if it says 10 – taste and see).  Meanwhile whisk the fish sauce, honey, sesame oil, rice vinegar, sriracha, lime juice, and water together in a small bowl and set aside.  Mince the garlic and shallot, slice the green onions.  Lightly beat the eggs.

2. In a large pot or wok, heat 2T of oil over high heat.  Add the shallot and garlic to the pan and cook for a few minutes until fragrant, about a minute.  Add the eggs and stir constantly to scramble the eggs – about 30 seconds.  Add the cooked noodles, green onions, and chicken, then toss the mixture together.  Pour the sauce over the top and allow it all to cook together for a few minutes.

3. Chop the cilantro and peanuts for garnish.  Serve warm with cilantro, peanuts, and a lime wedge.

 

Tortellini Salad

When I became a stay-at-home Mom, lunch took on a whole new meaning.  On one hand, it was awesome – I wasn’t restricted to 30 minutes with only a microwave for cooking.  I could use a stove!  Any ingredients I wanted!  I could eat whenever!  It was all fine and good until I found myself with 2 screaming kids who also wanted to eat and a menu that basically varied between taco bell and peanut butter sandwiches.  Something had to change.  Once I had my head above water with 2 kids, I made an effort to improve my lunches.  It’s nothing fancy – typically a wrap sandwich, salad, leftovers, etc.

This tortellini salad is a great lunch option whether you work or stay at home.  It’s good cold and actually improves during it’s time in the refrigerator.  You can add or subtract anything from the recipe – depending on what you have.  I like to make a big tupperware full of this and eat a bowl for lunch every day.  As the dressing soaks into the veggies and pasta, they get better and better.

Tortellini Salad

1 large package cheese tortellini (I use the 20oz. Contadina)

1 small container feta cheese (or goat, if that’s what you have)

1lb. cherry tomatoes

1 cucumber

1/2 to 1 cup kalamata olives

1/2  of a red onion

1/4 cup olive oil

3T red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp dried oregano

salt and pepper

1. Boil the tortellini according to package directions, but subtracting about 20% of the cooking time (if it says 10, only go 8).  Half the cherry tomatoes, chop the cucumber, kalamata olives, and onion.

2. Whisk the olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic powder, and oregano.

3. Run the tortellini under cold water.  In a large bowl stir the tortellini, olives, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and crumbled feta.  Pour the dressing over the top and toss to distribute evenly.  Chill before serving.