Saturday, September 15, 2012


I shop for cooking supplies like most girls shop for shoes, and when it comes to food I'm a hardcore hoarder.  Discovering Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati this summer was a curse and a blessing.  I spent far more of my paychecks in the international and wine sections there than I probably should have... but I also came out with a lot of really good stuff.  My biggest problem is my affinity to buy things without any idea what to do with them.  But sometimes I find things so awesome I just put them in my shopping cart and figure I'll research what to do with them later.  A great example is something I picked up a couple weeks ago at the Olive Leaf in Bloomington:

Espresso Balsamic.  I mean let's be honest, there was no way I walking out the door without a bottle of this.  Of course I have no idea what dishes are really appropriate for espresso balsamic, but fortunately I have a brilliant roommate who suggested a excellent use for this bottle of magic: espresso balsamic glazed steaks.  I had never cooked a steak before, but the idea was genius enough that I had to give it a shot.

We decided to make a great steak into a great meal, and since vegetables are more my forte anyway let's start with the side dishes. 

Whoever says they don't like brussels sprouts just isn't cooking them right.  Halve them, douse them in a bit of olive oil and balsamic, sprinkle on a bit of sea salt, and roast them until they start to brown and you'll change your mind.  We also included a more widely favored vegetable in our gourmet endeavor:

Steak and potatoes belong together if you ask me.  I love a mix of fingerling and blue potatoes, which is what I used here, but sweet potatoes are also an excellent choice.  Put either next to a balsamic reduction, though, and I'm definitely not complaining.  The recipe we used was a simple combination of sauteed shallots seasoned with rosemary and a generous amount of espresso balsamic.

I could eat this on anything, but a pan-fried filet was killer.  It also added really great flavor to the brussels sprouts and potatoes.

Combined with the brain power of my roommate this year is probably going to include a lot of really good homemade food that I'm going to share on here as often as I can.  There are a ton of culinary resources in Bloomington and with only one year left I'm determined to tap into all of them.  In the meantime, if you're lucky enough to be in Bloomington stop by the Olive Leaf and pick up something delicious :)

Espresso Balsamic Glaze:
Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small sauce pan.  Once heated, add one whole chopped shallot and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary.  Stir occasionally until shallots become translucent, about 2 minutes.  Add about 1/2 cup of espresso balsamic and cook for about 1 more minute or until the mixture reduces to a glaze.  Pour immediately over steak (or just about any other meat) and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Coconut Macaroons

Going to a gym with a television screen on every cardio machine made working out a little easier in high school. The channels, however, were limited and I'd usually end up watching the Food Network while running on the treadmill. My friends joked with me about watching Ina Garten, Sandra Lee, and Giada De Laurentiis make food while I tried to burn it off, but I loved picking up new cooking tips. Once I started classes at IU and had to adjust to new gym lacking in television screens I got through workouts listening to music and/or reading instead.

Now I obsessively read magazines while on a bike, but I didn't ditch food as a topic and one of my favorites is Food & Wine. I was never the only one in the gym watching the Food Network, but I think I'm the only one reading recipes.

Most of Food & Wine is filled with recipes I don't have the skill or resources to attempt, but every issue has a couple recipes I have to try. I came across this recipe for macaroons last week while cycling and bought the ingredients just a couple short hours later.


These Coconut Macaroons call for just a handful of ingredients and are far easier to make than I imagined. If you like coconut, these cookies have a perfect sweetness and a decadently chewy texture. These will definitely be a future Christmas go-to recipe for me and I encourage you to give them a try!

Coconut Macaroons, via Danny Cohen and Food & Wine Magazine

One 14-ounce bag sweetened shredded coconut

One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted*

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine the coconut with the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla.


  2. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt until firm peaks form**. Fold the beaten whites into the coconut mixture.


  3. Scoop tablespoon-size mounds of the mixture onto the baking sheets, about 1 inch apart***. Bake in the upper and middle thirds of the oven for about 25 minutes, until golden; shift the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Transfer the baking sheets to racks and let the cookies cool completely.


  4. Dip the bottoms of the macaroons into the melted chocolate, letting any excess drip back into the bowl. Return the cookies to the lined baking sheets. Drizzle any remaining chocolate on top and refrigerate for about 5 minutes, until set****.

  5. Eat them!
My notes:
*I used semisweet chips and I loved this choice. Bittersweet is pretty comparable though, so I would use whatever you have laying around.
**Egg whites have formed stiffed peaks when you lift the beaters out and the egg whites stick up in peaks without falling back into the bowl. You can over beat egg whites so be careful!
***I actually scooped "batter" with a tablespoon to help my macaroons look somewhat uniform. The batter is pretty sticky so it's tough to make them really round, but the chocolate helps cover up rough edges!
****Instead of fighting for space in the fridge I just let the dipped cookies sit on the counter until the chocolate set and that worked fine.

You can also find the recipe here:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Family Holiday Favorite

I love holidays and I make a big deal out of all of them, especially Christmas. My favorite part of Christmas is finding fun things to give to my family members but my second favorite is, of course, the food! Christmas is probably my best excuse to make boatloads of cookies, fudge, and other holiday treats. When I have the time, I go through flour and sugar like I do oxygen. So the natural Christmas related post from me would probably be some sort of gingerbread cookie (my favorites) or other baked good, but my family spent the week before Christmas in Orlando and I lost pretty much every opportunity to make Christmas cookies.

This year, however, I took charge of Christmas dinner and have a recipe I'm really excited to share. I came across this recipe last year when planning on Thanksgiving meal and it has quickly become a family favorite. I don't remember where I found this recipe for butternut squash stuffing so I wrote out the recipe with a few of my own notes :)

Butternut Squash Stuffing:
12 cup(s) (from 1-pound loaf) sourdough bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

-Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Divide bread between two 15 1/2" by 10 1/2" jelly-roll pans or large cookie sheets. Place pans on 2 oven racks and toast bread 30 to 35 minutes or until golden, stirring bread and rotating pans between upper and lower racks halfway through toasting. Cool bread in pans on wire racks.
*I don't follow this part of the recipe very closely. I'm a big fan of whole grain/wheat bread so I usually just pick whatever crusty, nutty loaf looks the best that day and usually end up using the whole thing. I usually throw all the bread cubes in one pan and let them cool in that.


8 ounce(s) bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
-Meanwhile, in nonstick 12-inch skillet, cook bacon over medium heat 15 to 20 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. With slotted spoon, transfer bacon to very large bowl.
*I don't usually use quite this much bacon, but I also don't measure my bread cubes either... now would probably be a good time to admit I really don't measure anything in this recipe. I use a whole butternut squash without weighing it (see below). I like an equal amount of squash and bread and prefer my stuffing drier, so I guesstimate measurements to turn out that way :)


1 (2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1⁄2-inch chunks
3 stalk(s) celery, chopped

8 ounce(s) (about 4 large) shallots, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

2 tablespoon(s) chopped fresh sage leaves

Salt and ground black pepper

3 cup(s) chicken broth

-Remove all but 3 tablespoons bacon fat from skillet. Add butternut squash, celery, and shallots, and cook over medium-high heat 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender and shallots are lightly browned, stirring frequently. Remove skillet from heat; stir in sage, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
-To bowl with bacon, add bread and broth; toss to mix well. Add vegetable mixture and toss.

-Use squash mixture to stuff 12- to 16-pound turkey, or spoon into greased 13" by 9" glass baking dish. Cover baking dish with foil and bake stuffing in preheated 325 degrees F. oven 20 minutes. Remove foil and stir stuffing. Bake 25 minutes longer or until heated through and lightly browned on top.
*My family has never used the stuffing to actually stuff a turkey, but I'm guessing it would be delicious that way, too!


I swear this is the PERFECT holiday side dish, but it doesn't quite make a meal. My dad made a delicious turkey breast, Sally baked a big bowl of macaroni and cheese, and I threw together a couple more sides:

Fresh green beans sauteed with shallots and slivered almonds

Spinach salad with sliced pears, dried cranberries, toasted walnuts,
and goat cheese, tossed in champagne viangrette

Happy holidays :)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Banana Split Cupcakes

I told myself I would keep up with my cooking blog during the fall semester after neglecting to write more than a few posts over the past year, but with barely any time to cook I unfortunately didn't have time to write either. I've spent the past couple months living off 10 minute meals when I could make it home for dinner and Jimmy John's when I couldn't. Although I could write about a few of the dishes I created to survive the first semester of my Junior Year I'm more interested in showing you some of the recipes I'm making time for now that I-Core is finally over. I have big plans for the rest of winter break, but this first recipe is something I've been dying to try: Banana Split Cupcakes.

A couple years ago I made a Banana Split layer cake for my birthday and it was amazing. Banana-pineapple cake layered with chocolate ganache, chopped strawberries, and heaps of homemade whipped cream... probably one of the prettiest cakes I've made. I loved the recipe (which you can find here: and figured making a cupcake version would be pretty easy. I spent nearly 5 hours baking and assembling two dozen cupcakes, but now that I have time for things like this it was SO WORTH IT.


The base for the cupcake is a banana and pineapple batter. Some people like super light cupcakes, but I've always preferred a somewhat denser cake and the texture of this cake is pretty much perfect.


The next step is a chocolate ganache, a mixture of melted chocolate and heavy whipping cream. It's hard to believe, but it gets better still.


Because the original version of this cake layers all the ingredients I was kind of making this up as I went. I decided to core each cupcake and pipe in as much ganache as I could fit, but I'm sure there are other ways to put these together.


The recipe calls for fresh strawberries but, figuring strawberries weren't going to be very great this time of year, I bought frozen ones instead. I wouldn't recommend doing so. The strawberries are a really great addition, especially since they keep the recipe truer to a "banana split," but frozen ones were hard to work with. I managed to get a layer of sliced strawberries on half of my cupcakes before I gave up and started frosting them without.

The homemade whipped cream frosting is my favorite part of this recipe. Absolutely delicious. I'm not a huge whipped cream fan, but made-from-scratch whipped cream is incredibly more delicious than the canned version. My roomie and I were eating the leftovers straight out of the piping bag.

Banana Split Cupcakes

I added sprinkles to add to the sundae idea (and cover up my somewhat shoddy piping job), but these are even better yet with a bright red maraschino cherry on top.

Banana Split Cupcakes

I recommend attacking these with a fork... but no matter how you want to eat them these are delicious, I promise!

Friday, July 1, 2011


So... if you've ever read my blog (probably not) you'll notice my last post is dated back to last summer and doesn't even include anything I made myself. I ran into a friend earlier this weekend who brought to my attention that letting my blog die, whether anyone actually reads it or not, is a disappointment to myself. Even though I haven't been writing, I have baked and cooked my way through a number of good recipes over the past year. Maybe I'll have time to revisit some of those recipes this summer and share them with you, but today I'm going reincarnate my blog with a recent recipe.

Whoopie pies have been on my list of things to bake for a while now, and after my plans for this Friday fell through I decided to pull out my KitchenAid, crank up some music and make my own fun. According to the recipe I found, an Amish woman is credited for inventing the whoopie pie when she thought to sandwich two pieces of cake together with frosting. They were given their name because children would supposedly shout "whoopie!" when they found their mom had tucked the dessert in with their lunch. Hence the terribly dorky title to my blog post, find it in your heart to forgive me.

Seeing a book called Whoopie Pies (by Sarah Billingsley, Amy Treadwell, and Antonis Achilleos) while walked through a Sur la Table introduced me to whoopie pies, two cake-like "cookies" with a sweet buttercream filling. The book includes a recipe for classic chocolate whoopie pies with marshmallow filling as well as creative flavor combinations, such as red velvet, green tea, pumpkin with cream cheese filling, and oatmeal with maple-bacon filling :) Having somehow restrained myself from purchasing yet another baking-related book, I found a recipe for vanilla whoopies with Nutella filling on the internet. So after a quick run to Meijer and with recipe in hand, I set out to make a batch of Nutella filled whoopie pies.


The first step in making whoopie pies is whipping up batter for the cookie part. Most cookie batters are thick enough to hold a ball shape, but whoopie batter was alarmingly thin. Whoopie pie batter is really more of a cake batter than a typical cookie, and comes out with the same fluffy texture. Dropping the batter onto parchment paper (a must!) felt more like making pancakes... which made me nervous.


But they came out of the oven fluffy and delicious! Turns out my only error was my tendency to make everything bigger than it should be. The thin consistency of whoopie batter means it will inevitably spread, so palm-sized whoopie pies only require 2 or 3 tablespoons of batter. Had I not made cookies with a 5" diameter, I'm thinking they would have also come out a little thicker which would have been nice.

There is no whoopie pie without a filling and the Nutella buttercream recommended by this particular recipe was killer. I tweaked this recipe a little because I like my buttercream good and fluffy, but the flavor paired with the vanilla cookie wonderfully.


I ended up with about a dozen delicious whoopie pies, but would've had about twice as many had I made them a reasonable size. No doubt whoopie pies are sugary and delicious, but I don't think I'll be adding them to my list of "go-to" recipes. The cookies were easy to make and easier to eat, but I like a cookie with a little more chew to it. For the texture of a whoopie pie I'd rather have a slice of cake, but for the convenience of a cookie I'd rather have an actual cookie. That being said though, put Nutella buttercream on just about anything and I'll find a way to eat it ;)


Recipe for Vanilla Bean Whoopie Pies at
*I doubled the amount of powered sugar in the nutella buttercream, but that really only changes the texture so you can use as little or as much as you like!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Like a Kid in a Candy Store

Hello! This time I'm lucky enough to be greeting you from none other than London :D And although my opportunities to cook here have, of course, been few, I figured I would share a couple of my culinary related adventures with you anyway. I didn't take pictures of the yogurt and cereal I've been eating for breakfast or the "grilled cheese" sandwich I threw together in a small kitchen apartment, but I did snap a few photos while Anna and I were exploring Notting Hill.

Yup, the same Notting Hill in which Julia Roberts' and Hugh Grant's characters fell in love in the 1999 movie. We ventured down to wander Portobello Road earlier this week and indulged in a little bit of shopping. Although Portobello Road is littered with unique shops selling everything from antiques and home decorations to vinyls and funky clothing I had my heart set on visiting one place in particular...

When flipping through Anna's guidebook I found a page that recommended a bookstore called Books for Cooks. Obviously, I HAD to go there. I was thrilled when I found the shop, hidden on a side street, and nearly died when I walked inside. There were books on vegetables, books on vegan cooking, baking books, chocolate books, Spanish cookbooks, French cookbooks, Italian, Thai, Mediterranean... I nearly cried.


Anna camped out on a couch, admitting she expected this stop to take quite some time, while I tried not to be overwhelmed by shelves and shelves of books. Somehow I managed to only pick out one book, a beautiful book on baking that has everything from recipes for a traditional croissants to Bavarian cake recipes that have me fidgeting for a kitchen. Unfortunately, upon closer examination I realized the book, Tartine, is from a bakery by that name in San Francisco... not a very English purchase. But the fact that it has a divine looking recipe for fresh eclairs has let me adore it anyway!

Besides, I made up for my incredibly American purchase when I wandered into another bookstore across the street. I was exploring a travel bookstore, looking for a book on London to use as a scrapbooking medium for my many photos, and a book on display in the middle of the store caught my eye. It was a recipe book written by the owner of a bakery on Portobello Road called the Hummingbird Bakery.


Where I, of course, convinced Anna to get a cupcake to share. Isn't it cute how they wrapped it up like Chinese takeout? And those awesome cupcake sporks? The place was packed, which wasn't hard to do as small as the place is and as delicious as the cupcakes are! Anna and I shared a carrot cake cupcake that was an excellent choice. Fortunately now I have the recipe for those and others like lemon curd, red velvet, black bottom, and strawberry cheesecake cupcakes (just to name a few).


I'm having a wonderful time in London with Anna, but now I have an incentive to come back home! Spending a few mores days in Europe and then I'll be back in Indiana to start working my way through a bunch of recipes :D

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Either I Got Really Big or These Cupcakes Are Really Small

You know you're meant to have a baking blog when one of the most exciting events of college spring break is making cupcakes. Six hours of making cupcakes. But these aren't just any cupcakes! I should've taken a picture of one of these in my palm, because cupcake bites are small to be... well, a bite! I found these on, new to my list of favorite cooking blogs, and was DYING to make them. I had actually set out to make cupcake pops, a feat I will try someday, but ended up sticking to these because they were so cute and so much easier.

Cupcakes bites aren't very difficult, just incredibly time consuming. You start with a sheet cake (this is one of two cases in which it's acceptable to use a box mix) and cream cheese frosting (this is the only case in which it's acceptable to use a can). You take the sheet cake and break it up in a bowl and mix in the can of cream cheese frosting to make a type of pasty dough:


Bakerella's basic cakepop/cupcake bite recipe calls for a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. I figured I had to try the tried and true way, but... I also decided I had to give me own concoction a go ;) So batch one was the red velvet mix and batch two was a chocolate cake (box mix) and homemade peanut butter cream cheese frosting. Turns out one batch makes about 50 bazillion cupcake bites. Two batches multiply exponentially to make about 500 thousand bazillion. Which is why this whole project took about 6 hours total.

Cupcake Bites

Ok maybe the total cupcake bite count wasn't in the bazillions... But I must have made at least 100. But anyway... back to the process. You can read more about how to make these on the Bakerella blog, there are step by step pictures there that I didn't think of taking. Basically you take your cake and frosting mixture and make balls with a diameter similar to a quarter, line them up on a baking sheet, and let them hang out in the freezer for an hour or so. Then, you fill a peanut butter cup candy molds half way with melting candy coating and place a cake ball in the center. Put them back in the freezer until the candy coating solidifies, which only take a minute or so, and then pop them out of the mold. In a bowl, melt another color of candy coating and dip the top of the cake ball in that color, drop a few sprinkles on and top with an M&M. DONE!

Cupcake Bites

Unless you're like me and you come across tiny cellophane bags in one of the aisles at Michael's and then decide to buy a spool of ribbon and individually wrap dozens upon dozens of miniature cupcakes.

Cupcake Bites

I really could've spent hours cranking these out. Even more than six.

Cupcake Bites

Fortunately I found a way to speed up the packaging process that still looked really cute. I found this thin cardboard boxes, also at Michael's, in packs of three. They come in all different sizes!



MOST people preferred the chocolate and peanut butter combination (score one for me!), but the red velvet wasn't too bad either. I topped the red velvet ones with purple candy coating and the peanut butter ones with white just so I could tell the difference. I also ran out of brown candy coating at the end of the second batch and ended up using semi-sweet chocolate instead. The chocolate tends to melt in your fingers easier, but I think it tastes better. AND if you make a bazillion of these like I did ;) they keep really well in the freezer so you can hand them out for what feels like forever!