June Foodie Penpals

Let me start by saying that this program is so fun.  If you don’t know the joy of getting a box of goodies from a new friend, you are missing out.  See the bottom of this post for information on how to join in.

The Lean Green Bean

I digress, let me start at the beginning.  My penpal, Jo Ann, is a lovely woman, who lives in Iowa and knows what’s up.  She doesn’t have a blog but she is just as fabulous without one.  We exchanged a few emails about our different lives and I loved getting to know her.  She is an avid gardener and based on my goodies, an amazing baker!

This is a small sampling of what is left from our fabulous box.  Those are sesame peanuts, almonds and goldfish.  Jo Ann also included my favorite – Pizzeria Pretzel Combos!!  So good.  Also, peanut butter from Trader Joe’s, which Sparky has totally stolen, but I hear is quite tasty!  She included a few other granola bars, all wonderful: Fiber One and a Clif bar which reminded me of the Nature Valley granola bars.  The piece de la resistance were the Oatmeal-Dried Cherry-White Chocolate Chip Cookies.  She made them and included the recipe.  I know a few people that will benefit from that recipe in the future.

If you are interested in participating in the foodie pen pals, the awesome Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean has organized this and you can learn how to participate here.


Martha Stewart Cupcake Calendar: Meringue Cupcakes with Strawberry Rhubarb and Creme Fraiche

So I have about 9 days to catch ya’ll up on the Martha Stewart Cupcake Challenge.  I have completed the May cupcake and June will be forthcoming!  I must say, May’s cupcake was a bit of a disappointment.  It photographs well – dramatic, billowy meringues drenched in red strawberry rhubarb dripping down the side.  Unfortunately, they weren’t my favorite.  All the components are fine but overall, it wasn’t my jam.

I have a few complaints that I would like to log with the management (Martha Stewart’s empire).  First off, finding rhubarb in the northeast in May is an impossibility, something one would think our dear Martha would understand since she lives in New England.  So, even though I wasn’t in a position to make these in May, it would have been too impractical anyway.  Also, strawberries aren’t even in season in the south in May, much less up here so I am not sure what she was thinking with that.   Second, if the directions say the meringues might crack, assume they will.

The cupcakes are easy enough, whip a bunch of egg whites and throw in the oven for 3 hours or so.  Meanwhile, whip this strawberry rhubarb concoction together and throw in the fridge.  Make a green smoothie, wonder why you went to bed so late the night before and ask what happened to your life.  Snap out of your reverie, hit the stop button on the incessant beeping of the kitchen timer, worry that the meringues are too done, then debate whether they need more oven time.

I thought the meringues were way too sweet.  The creme fraiche saves the dish because it has no sugar added and if I were to do this again (which I won’t), I would cut the sugar in the compote too.  Really, just make the compote and serve on ice cream, pound cake, pancakes, in a bowl or in a pie.

Meringue Cupcakes with Strawberry Rhubarb and Creme Fraiche
by Martha Stewart
makes 12

Vegetable oil cooking spray, for baking cups
6 large egg whites, room temperature
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup heavy cream


1.  Preheat oven to 225.  Line every other cup of 2 nonstick 12-cup muffin time with baking cups; coat with cooking spraw.  With a mixer on medium-high speed, whisk egg whites, vinegar, vanilla, and salt until frothy.  Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating for 2 minutes after each addition and scraping bowl to make sure all sugar dissolves.  Beat until stiff, glossy peaks form.

2. Transfer meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, and pipe into lined cups so meringuue is about 2 inches above rims, finishing with a peak in the centers.  Bake until meringues are just beginning to color and are completely dry on the outside but still soft in the middle (a toothpick inserted at base of top, through the side, should have moist but cooked crumbs attached), 3 to 3 1/4 hours, rotating tins halfway through.  Remove from oven, immediately remove rom tins, and peel off liners.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

3.  Just before serving, whisk together creme fraiche and heavy cream until soft peaks form.  Using a serrated knife, gently slice tops off cupcakes (don’t worry if they crack).  Spoon compote and then cream onto bottom halves, and replace tops.  Serve immediately.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote

10 oz (2 cups) fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled, chopped
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
10 oz trimmed rhubarb, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 2 3/4 cups)
2 tablespoons water


1.  Stif strawberries, 1/4 cup sugar, and lemon juice in a small nonreactive pan; bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes.  Remmove strawberries; place in a bowl and let cool.  Set aside pan with strawberry liquid.

2. Meanwhile, in another small pan over medium-low heat, combine rhubarb, remaining 1/3 cup sugar and the water.  Simmer gently, stirring often, until sugar is dissolved and rhubarb is almost tender, about 6 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer rhubarb to bowl with strawberries.  Add strawberry liquid to pan.

3. Raise heat to medium and simmer until thickened and reduced to 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes.  Let cook.  Stir into strawberry-rhubarb mixture.

Carrot Ginger Dressing – weak WAIW

I have never participated in WAIW (What I Ate Wednesday) because I don’t think my food is that interesting – I eat the same thing for lunch every single day.  I love variety but this never gets old to me.  I make a spinach salad with cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and a side of carrots.  Then I have 2 apples.  Sometimes I eat nuts, if I am working out later, sometimes I eat a banana, also if I am working out later.  I just like the way I feel when I eat this, my body is happy, my belly is happy and I don’t crash later in the day.

Usually my salad is with balsamic vinegar and EVOO but recently, I made this other dressing.  Oh, this was the bomb.com (do people say that?  Whatever, I just did).  Carrot ginger dressing – super healthy, flavorful and packed with belly easing ginger!  I would double this batch to last 2 people for the week.

Oh, and now you see my messy desk.  Real life, ya’ll.  Real life.

Carrot-Ginger Dressing

1 medium carrot, roughly chopped (I threw it in the food processor)
2 tablespoons chopped peeled ginger
1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (unseasoned)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
kosher salt


1. Put the carrot and 1 cup water in a small saucepan.  bring to simmer over medium-low heat and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Reserve 1/2 cup cooking liquid, then drain the carrot.

2. Purree carrot, reserved cooking liquid until smooth.  Add ginger, brown sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt; pulse until smooth.

Red Velvet This

People love red velvet.  Like adore it.  I say, what’s the big deal?  it’s chocolate cake with food dye?  I don’t need food dye to eat cake.  I eat naked, unadorned cake.  But if someone I love asks for cake with food dye, that’s what they get.  My cousin, aka chief-taste-tester requested all cakes which are vehicles for cream cheese icing.  I had already made a different cake but he is the baby and I think you should get what you want (at least the cake you want) on your birthday.  So cake number two commenced.

This recipe is from the Whimsical Bakehouse, a bakery in NY state, the owners of which published a fabulous cake book, with that title and another book, Little Cakes, which is devoted to cupcakes.  That is where I went for the recipe.  If you are looking for a book with a lot of foolproof cake recipes, go here.  They always work.  They have great instructions on decorating cakes too, with good ideas on doing it easily.  Clearly I have no patience because I bought a big tip and do the same thing every time.  I know what I like.  You will too if you make this cake and frosting.  Ciao!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
adapted from Little Cakes
Makes 18

2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon red liquid gel color
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon vinegar

1.   Preheat oven to 350. Grease the top of a muffin tin and add liners.
2.  Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
3.  Add eggs and food coloring until well creamed.
4. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt into separate bowl.
5.  At a low speed, add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternatively with the buttermilk, vanilla and vinegar.
6.  Pour into the prepared molds, filling 3/4.  Bake 18-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack before turning out.

Cream Cheese Icing aka why we all came to the party
from foodnetwork.com

1/2 cup butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1.  Beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy
2. add sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy and smooth.

Summer Bucket List

In my opinion, it’s not too late to join the Joy the Baker Podcast Summer Bucket List because summer starts on 6/21.  Ok so now that that is out of the way…dumdumdadum….

Summer Bucket List 2012!

  • shop at the Farmer’s market twice a month
  • go to Crossfit 3 times per week
  • make grapefruit curd sandwich cookies
  • make a Paleo ice cream, a sorbet and a fruit ice cream
  • eat lunch at City Bakery
  • make this cake for my birthday: Seven Sins Chocolate Cake
  • make 2 new recipes per week and blog them!
  • get my nails painted a not pink/red color….eek I’m nervous about this one!!

Phew, I’m tired just reading it!  I can’t wait to update you on my adventures.   I will say that I went to Crossfit 3 times this week and my hip flexors are out of control sore.  Like woah.  Time to eat some dark chocolate and rest up for the farmer’s market tomorrow morning!!