Thursday, March 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Siena (and her favorite dog biscuit recipe)!!!

Happy Birthday Siena! Our little pooch is celebrating her first birthday, and she spent her day in typical California girl fashion, lounging around the pool and soaking up the sun.
Looking at her now, I can't believe that she is the same tiny pup that we brought home last spring:
To mark this special occasion, I busted out the mixing bowl and baking sheets to make Siena her favorite homemade treats. Lately, she's been turning a deaf ear to us (doggy adolescence?), but when these treats are dangled in front of her we get her full attention.
I really enjoy making these dog biscuits for Siena. With a short and sweet list of all natural ingredients, I know that I'm feeding her a snack that is really wholesome and nutritious. Nutrition aside, Siena LOVES devouring these biscuits.

Siena Bites
adapted from (original recipe is found here)
makes about 16

2 C. barley flour
1/2 C rolled oats
1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese (swiss cheese is good alternative)
1/4 C grated parmesan cheese
1/2 C applesauce
2 Tbsp flaxseed oil

Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients, and add enough water (2-4 Tbsp) to form a dough. Roll mixture between two sheets of parchment paper to 1/4 inch thick. Remove parchment paper and cut out biscuits with a cutter. Re-roll scraps and continue cutting out biscuits.

Space biscuits 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 30 minutes until nicely browned and firm.

Transfer biscuits on a wire rack to cool.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dulce de Leche Duos (TWD)

For all of you caramel fanatics, this week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe for Dulce De Leche Duos is calling your name. Luscious dulce de leche is incorporated into the cookie dough. If that isn't enough, a generous dollop of this caramel-y goodness is sandwiched between two cookies.

On David Lebovitz's blog, he writes about this delicious spread and aptly describes it as a "shiny and deeply caramelized milk jam". As I continued to read, I was surprised to learn that one can make homemade dulce de leche with canned sweetened condensed milk --- check out the recipe here. I was lucky enough to find canned dulce de leche at my grocery store, but will definitely consider going the homemade route next time.
The cookie dough was suprisingly very soft and sticky. Instead of struggling with a spoon or scoop to work with the dough, I used a piping bag with a large round tip to portion the dough on the baking sheets.
These cookies are definitely meant to satisfy a sweet tooth. I actually enjoyed the cookies more sans the filling. With the dulce de leche filling, I thought they were a bit too sugary sweet for my personal taste, but I can see how those who love caramel would swoon over these gems.
For the recipe, please visit Jodie's blog, Beansy Loves Cake.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Coconut Cupcakes

My friend T asked me to make cupcakes for a friend's birthday. Her friend's favorite cake flavors are coconut and chocolate, and I was more than happy to oblige:
Along with a couple dozen cupcakes for the birthday party, I wanted to give the birthday girl her own personal box of goodies - you've gotta indulge youself on your birthday, right? Not to detract from the yummy chocolate cupcakes (made with my favorite chocolate cake recipe), but I wanted to spend a little time fawning over the coconut cupcakes. I am not a huge coconut fan, but there is something about these cupcakes that I cannot resist. I've made these cupcakes countless times over the years, and without fail I am rewarded with pefectly moist and flavorful cupcakes each time.

Coconut Cupcakes
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
makes 12-15 cupcakes


6 oz (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 oz shredded sweetened coconut
toasted shredded coconut to top the cupcakes


8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
6 oz unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 lb powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in coconut.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.

Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with the toasted coconut.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Soft Chocolate & Raspberry Tart (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe for Soft Chocolate and Raspberry Tart was one that I was really looking forward to making after reading Dorie's delectable introduction:

"After this tart hs baked and cooled just a little, the chocolate filling takes on the lovable characteristics of pudding, becoming soft and creamy and seductively slithery, and the flavor of the berries intensifies."

I wasn't thrilled by how the tart looked out of the oven. I used an 8"x11" rectangular tart pan, and the filling didn't quite cover the raspberries, so these raspberry nubs poked through the top. As Dorie described, the filling was soft and and velvety smooth, but the tart held it's shape as it was cut. The crust is Dorie's Sweet Tart Dough w. Nuts, and flaky texture was a fantastic contrast to the soft filling.
Looking at this tart, you would assume this to be sweet, rich and filling right? Actually, the chocolate filling was subtly sweet, and it did not overpower the the flavor of the raspberries.
With a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream and additional berries, this tart is a perfect sweet ending that doesn't send you into a food coma.
I loved this tart! I'm looking forward to making this again in a smaller pan and experimenting with a different fruit - I think cherries are calling my name.
For the complete recipe, please visit Rachelle's blog Mommy? I'm Hungry. Also, join me in checking out the TWD blogroll, as I'm curious to see how everyone's tarts turned out....all delicious, I'm sure!

Toasted Coconut Custard Tart (TWD)

This is a very tardy Tuesdays With Dorie post, which should have been published two weeks ago. My apologies to the host for that week, Beryl of Cinemon Girl, as I had all of the best intentions of getting this written sooner.

Coconut evokes very strong reaction by people - either you love it or hate it. I like coconut in my drinks (hello pina colada) but am not crazy about having it front and center in my desserts. My hubs is the other extreme and LOVES of his all time favorite desserts is coconut cream pie. As you can imagine, the hubs was pretty happy to hear that Beryl selected Toasted Coconut Custard Tart as her TWD pick.

I liked that the recipe called for a good hit of dark rum. My relationship with rum is a complicated one - I like rum, but rum doesn't like me. As you can guess, tiki drinks are off limits for me.

This recipe is basically made up of three components: tart shell, coconut custard, and whipped topping.

Using Dorie's fabulous Sweet Tart Dough recipe, I made individual tart shells.

The coconut custard can be made in advance, as it needs to be chilled before serving. Along with a healthy dose of rum, the custard calls for a pinch of coriander. I didn't really taste the coriander, but I definitely tasted the smoky, spicy flavor of the dark rum. Toasted coconut is also folded into the custard.

The tart is topped with a rum spiked whipped cream,
then the top is sprinkled with more toasted coconut.
The hubs couldn't wait to dig in. He couldn't speak, as he was too busy devouring the tart, but gave this recipe an enthusiastic thumbs up. I also really enjoyed the flavor of the tart, but didn't enjoy the texture of the shredded coconut in the custard. Next time, I will save all of the toasted coconut for the topping, as the crunchy coconut topping is a nice contrast to the smooth creamy custard and whipped cream topping.
For the complete recipe, please visit Beryl's blog, Cinemon Girl.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Blueberry Scones

So, why in the world did I subject myself to a three week cleanse? I was definitely motivated to improve my health - to rid myself of toxins and to reset my body to function effectively and efficiently are pretty compelling reasons. Of all of the crazy detox plans that I've tortured myself with, this was definitely the most effective and the most reasonable in terms of food consumption. I definitely experienced the benefits of the cleanse --- weight loss (8 lbs for me), sleeping better (I was raging insomniac), increased energy, and improved skin complexion. To learn more about this detox, read Clean by Alessandro Junger MD and/or check out the Clean Program website.

This detox also gave me an opportunity to get centered and to reset mentally and emotionally. Back in January, I decided to quit my job of 8 years and to walk away from a work environment that made me tremendously unhappy. I had a lot of raised eyebrows around me - they think I'm crazy quitting a job in this economy! Did I question my decision - absolutely! Ultimately, I have no regrets about this move.
Even more eye-opening were the reactions of my ex-colleagues. Some have been extraordinarily supportive and have truly been there for me (you guys know who you are - thank U!). For others, they have let their true colors show, and it has been very disappointing.

I'm over it....and I've moved on. After a brief haitus, I'm back working for a new entrepeneurial venture, and it's been great! I'm working with great colleagues, and we're all really thrilled about the future prospects of our business.
During my mind and body detox, I ate a serious boatload of blueberries (you can call me Violet Beauregarde). Those little blue gems were blended into prepackaged smoothies to make them more palatable and were the perfect snack to stave off hunger. I had bags of Trader Joe's wild blueberries stocked in my freezer, and I wanted to make something with them that didn't involve a blender.

During the cleanse, I had really intense cravings for breakfast carbs. You name it, I craved it --- buttered toast, pancakes, french toast, waffles, scones. As I had all the ingredients for scones handy, they were whipped up in flash one morning. Eaten warm out the of the oven, these scones are light and flaky, and just slightly sweet. I especially love using TJ's wild blueberries in these scones, as the berries are small but very flavorful.

Blueberry Scones
adapted slightly from the Foster's Market Cookbook
makes 18 scones

4 1/2 C flour
1/2 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 lb cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 C frozen blueberries (do not defrost)
1 1/4 C plus 2 tbsp buttermilk
Egg wash: 1 lrg egg beaten w. 2 tbsp milk

- preheat oven to 400F degrees
- line two baking sheets with parchment or silpat and set aside
- combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl
- add the butter and cut it into the flour mixture using a pastry blender or 2 knives (I like to use my fingers). Do not overwork the dough.
- add the frozen blueberries
- add 1 1/4 C buttermilk and mix until just combined and the dough comes together. If the dough appears too dry, add buttermilk 1 tbsp at a time.
- turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into thirds. Pat the three portions into rounds about 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut each round into 6 wedges and place on the baking sheets. Brush tops with the egg wash.
- bake 30 minutes, until golden brown and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Thumbprints For Us Big Guys (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie selection is Thumbprints For Us Big Guys, and these delicate shortbread cookies are all grown up with the addition of ground hazelnuts (or another nut) and jam.

As I have been making up for lost time tasting (or more accurately devouring) all of the TWD treats that I tucked away in the freezer during my 3 week detox, I was definitely feeling a little overloaded with the sweets. I cut this recipe in half, and made the cookies bigger than Dorie directed and yielded 16 "big guy" sized cookies. I set aside a couple of cookies and the rest will head to my hub's work.

While I was rummaging through the freezer to find these brownies and these chocolate chip cookies, I stumbled upon a bag of hazelnuts so had to use them in this recipe (mental note: clean out the freezer!). Instead of raspberry jam, I used bosenberry jam.

These cookies were buttery, delicate and tender and was a perfect afternoon snack with a cup of tea.

If you'd like the recipe, make sure to visit Mike's blog, Ugly Food Dude.
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