Saturday, April 16, 2011

Red Velvet Beet Cupcakes

I was so excited when we got beets a few weeks ago because I've been wondering if shredded beets could be used as a coloring agent to make red velvet cupcakes. Since I didn't need a "fancy" dessert right away, I shredded the beets and then froze them. Well, I have a party to go to today, so I took out the beets last night to defrost, along with some butter and cream cheese to soften.

Once the cupcakes were cooked, they had a nice reddish tinge to them, which hinted at a possibly glorious red interior, but when I bit into one, it was just kind of brown. :-(

Still, they tasted good, and for people who don't really like beets, this is the perfect disguise for them.

I'm wondering if I perhaps used too much cocoa or too many beets, even. In hindsight, I probably should have also used white sugar. When I get some more beets, I will try this again with some tweaking and get bake to you. In the meantime, these will certainly pass for the "real thing." Especially from the outside!


1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup hot water
2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp oil
1 1/2 cups shredded beets
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder


1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup cream cheese
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.

Add the eggs and mix on high speed until fully incorporated.

Mix the cocoa powder into hot water and stir until the cocoa has completely dissolved.

Add the cocoa mixture, vanilla, oil and beets to the egg mixture and combine.

Sift the flour, baking soda and baking powder together and add to the wet ingredients. Stir just until ingredients are fully combined.

Line a muffin tin with paper cups. Fill the cups with batter, allowing about a 1/3 inch at the top for the cupcakes to grow.

Bake ate 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting or the frosting will melt.

For the icing, add all of the ingredients into a large bowl and whip at high speed until fluffy.

Ideally, you would use a pastry bag and an icing tip to put the icing on the cupcakes, but I don't own either of those things. I just cut the corner of a 1 gallon freezer bag and used that.

Stay tuned! If I figure out a way to make these cupcakes actually red, I will update this post!

Bon Apetit!

Ginger Peach Granola

I know I just posted a granola recipe, but the first one was just so good, and we just got dried peaches in our veggie boxes, I couldn't resist. Also, this recipe shows how you can take an existing recipe and tweak it to make something that tastes completely different!

No picture today, because it basically looks the same as the other granola...


1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 cup roughly chopped dried peaches
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground ginger

In a large skillet over high heat, melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, add the nuts, stirring constantly until they just begin to brown. Add all of the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Reduce the heat to medium-high, and continue to stir until the sugar has melted and the oats have begun to toast.

Spread the mixture on a cookie sheet and set aside to cool, about 2 hours. Break up the granola with a metal spoon into bite sized pieces.

Bon Apetit!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Minty Orange Granita

I've accumulated a backlog of oranges, and have noticed they've been a bit more tart than I like lately, so I decided to turn them into a sweet dessert. Granita is super easy to make, you just need to be a little bit patient and babysit it for a few hours. There's not all that much to do, you just need to stir it every 2o minutes, so if you're doing homework or reading, this is a perfect side project to go along with that.

The days are getting warmer, so this is a good recipe to have in your repertoire, although at the moment it's pretty cold. The crunchy, icy crystals can be as sweet or as tart as you like, simply increase or decrease the amount of sugar that you use, or even leave it out altogether. You can also adjust how much water you use. Any kind of fruit juice will work for this, and you can flavor the granita with different things, like vanilla or cinnamon, or as I did in this recipe with mint. You could even add a little wine or rum to make an adult version of this dish. The possibilities are endless!


2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 peppermint tea bag
1 cup orange juice

In a small pot over high heat, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Once the water is boiling, stir it to dissolve the sugar, and then turn off the heat.

Add the tea bag and let it steep for 10 minutes.

Remove the tea bag and add the orange juice. Stir to combine, and then pour into a 9x9 baking pan, or similar container.

Put the pan into the freezer. Stir the granita with a fork every 20 minutes until it is all frozen, breaking up the larger pieces that may start to form later in this process. This can take up to 2 hours, depending on how cold your freezer is and the type of container you are using.

Bon Apetit!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Chocolate Chili Granola

I had a whacky flash of insight the other day while eating the walnuts from the veggie box. They were good and all, but after eating a lot of them, the skins started to taste kind of bitter. I thought toasting them might make them more pleasant, then wondered what I could do with toasted walnuts. This led to granola, which somehow led to chocolate, which I understand is not a typical granola ingredient. While I was making it, I thought, "Why not add some ground chilies to go with the chocolate?" I figured that would give the granola a little extra kick, a little something special.

I wanted to include this recipe because it combines 2 different veggie box items, the most important of which is the cayenne peppers, which I have found difficult to place in a starring role in any dish. Truthfully though, my aunt gave me a huge jar of ground chilies this summer, so I just used some of that, but the cayenne peppers we got a few weeks ago (a month ago?) can be easily ground up in a spice grinder or even mortar and pestle for this tasty treat.


1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp each cinnamon, ground cayenne & ground coriander
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large skillet over high heat, melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, add the nuts, stirring constantly until they just begin to brown. Add all of the remaining ingredients, except for the chocolate, and mix well.

Reduce heat to medium-high, and continue to stir until the brown sugar has melted and oats have begun to toast.

Spread the mixture on a cookie sheet, and then sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. The heat from the oat mixture will slightly melt the chocolate.

Set the cookie sheet aside to cool until the chocolate sets, about 4 hours, and then break up the granola with a metal spoon in to bite-sized pieces.

Bon Apetit!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Asparagus with Toasted Walnuts

I discovered this method of cooking asparagus quite some time ago and it has since become my preferred method of preparing them. By quickly blanching them and then plunging them into cold water, they develop a sweet and nutty flavor while remaining crisp, yet tender.


1 lbs asparagus
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
lemon juice

Bring a medium sized pot of salted water to a boil and fill a large bowl with cold water.

While the water is coming to a boil, prepare the asparagus. The root end of the asparagus is often woody, and it's sometimes hard to tell how much you need to cut off. Luckily, the asparagus will tell you where the woody part ends and where the tender part begins.

Hold on to the root end of the asparagus with one hand and hold on to the stem a little farther up with your other hand.

Gently bend the stalk, slowly moving towards the tip, until the stem snaps. The asparagus has to be fairly fresh for this to work, and you really have to be gentle, otherwise you'll be left with with some woodiness in the stem, which isn't all that pleasant to eat.

Mince the garlic.

When the water comes to a boil, add the asparagus. Once the asparagus changes color to a brighter green, remove them from the boiling water and put them into the bowl of cold water. Leave the asparagus in the cold water for a few minutes, and then arrange the asparagus on a plate.

Pour the boiling water out of the pot and return it to the heat, keeping the heat on high. Add the olive oil, garlic, walnuts, and a dash of salt and pepper. Stir constantly until the garlic just begins to brown. Scoop walnut mixture onto the asparagus.

Drizzle with lemon juice to taste.

Bon Apetit!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Braised Leeks & Eggs

Here's another kind of fancy looking dish. I saw in this in a magazine and have been anxiously waiting for leeks to reappear in our boxes, which I knew was inevitable. I had never seen a dish made with this combination of ingredients before, but I was intrigued after seeing a picture and reading a description. There was no recipe because it was an article on a restaurant, this being one of their most popular dishes, so I basically had to make this up based on the little information I had. The combination of leeks, egg and mustard turned out absolutely delicious! It might look a little complicated, but I promise it's worth the effort and is on the table in less than an hour from when you start.

Braised Leeks & Eggs

2 medium-sized leeks

1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling on leeks

sea salt

ground black pepper

4 slices of bread

1 clove garlic

1 ½ tbsp prepared mustard*

2 tbsp butter, plus more for cooking the eggs

1 tbsp olive oil

Shredded mozerella cheese

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Trim the tops of the leeks and save for another recipe. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and wash carefully to remove any dirt. Don't worry about how much water gets trapped in between the leaves as the water will help to cook them.

Put the leeks into an oven proof pan or casserole dish. You may have to do some additional trimming to make them fit, but you can save these bits for the croutons.

Arrange the leek halves into pairs and then drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and put into the oven for 15 minutes.

While the leeks are cooking, mince the garlic and roughly chop any of the leek trimmings you may want to use for the croutons.

Cut the bread into medium sized cubes.

In a large skillet over high heat, add the butter, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the garlic, stirring constantly. When the garlic just begins to brown, add the leek trimmings if you are using them. Stir constantly to prevent burning. Once the leeks have become translucent, add the mustard. Stir until combined, and then add the bread cubes. Stir until combined and then spread out the bread mixture on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so to prevent burning.

After the leeks have been in the oven for 15 minutes, remove the aluminum foil and top the leek pairs with mozzarella cheese. Use as much or as little cheese as you want.

Put the leeks back into the oven for an additional 15 minutes.

Once the croutons are finished cooking, remove them from the oven once and set them aside to cool.

Once the leeks are finished cooking, remove them from the oven and set them aside.

Fry two eggs. Place each pair of leeks on a plate and top each with a fried egg. Arrange the croutons around the egg.

Bon Apetit!

*You can use any kind of mustard you like for this. I happened to have some hot and spicy mustard on hand, so I used that.