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Dec 10, 2014

We Love our Cupcakes

While many food trends come and go it seems that cupcakes are here to stay. New-fangled flavors pop up all the time; some work and other fall flat. But throughout all the crazes cupcakes are pretty much a constant. Basic cupcakes are perfect for after school snacking but when the occasion arises for something more sophisticated here are some tasty options for you to try.


Hazelnuts and caramelized sugar is winning combination on every palate!

3/4 cup margarine, room temperature

3 eggs

2 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 3/4 cups sugar

2 tablespoons hazelnut liqueur

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup soy or rice milk

1/2 cup finely chopped, toasted hazelnuts (filberts)


For the hazelnut cream:

1/3 cup margarine, room temperature

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

5 tablespoons soy or rice milk, divided

1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur

1 teaspoon vanilla


For the brulee sugar:

1/3 cup sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 standard cupcake cups. In a medium bowl stir together flour and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl beat margarine with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating on medium speed until combined. Scrape sides of bowl; beat for 2 minutes more. Add eggs, liqueur and vanilla. Alternately add flour mixture and soy milk, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Fold in nuts.

Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool cupcakes for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from the pan. Cool completely.

Make the cream: In a large mixing bowl beat margarine with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Gradually add 1 cup of the confectioners’ sugar, beating well. Beat in the 2 tablespoons of the soy milk, the liqueur, and vanilla. Gradually beat in the remaining powdered sugar. Beat in additional milk until it reaches spreading consistency.

Pipe cream onto the cupcakes using a star tip like 1M.

In a large skillet cook sugar over medium-high heat until it starts to melt. Do not stir. Once melted, reduce heat to low and cook about 5 minutes or until all of the sugar is melted, stirring as needed with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat. Immediately drizzle caramelized sugar mixture over frosted cupcakes.


Milchig and worth every bite!

3/4 cup butter, room temperature

3 eggs

2 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup cocoa

1 tablespoon instant coffee crystals

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups sugar

1/4 cup coffee liqueur

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups chocolate milk


Marshmallow-Coffee Frosting

2 egg whites

1/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup light corn syrup

1 teaspo 
on strong coffee

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line twenty-four standard muffin cups. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, coffee, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar, beating on medium speed until combined. Beat for 2 minutes more, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Add eggs, liqueur and vanilla. Alternately add flour mixture and chocolate milk, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Beat on medium to high speed for 20 seconds more. Spoon batter into the prepared cups.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool in pans for 5 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely.

Make the frosting: Beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually beat in sugar; beat until mixture is smooth and glossy. Beat in corn syrup, a little at a time. Continue beating until frosting holds stiff peaks when beater is raised. Fold in coffee.

Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees F. Pipe or spread marshmallow frosting onto tops of cupcakes. Place frosted cupcakes on a large baking sheet. Bake 5 minutes or until frosting is lightly browned.

Dec 3, 2014

Great Grapes

The ways to consume grapes are endless! We eat them out of hand; we turn them into jelly, grape juice and wine and add them to salads and other dishes. And don't the raisins! This popular fruit's history goes back to when grape vines were first cultivated in what is now the Middle East. They stayed in that part of the world until Spanish explorers brought them here over 300 years ago.

Grapes are part of the berry family. They have a tough skin and fleshy interior much like a blueberry.

There are more than 8,000 varieties of grapes growing today. Grapes come in many colors, including green, red, black, yellow, pink, and purple and those referred to as "white" grapes are actually green.

Seventy-two million tons of grapes are grown each year worldwide, with most of them being used to produce wine - 7.2 trillion gallons of wine per year, to be exact.

The health benefits of grapes are numerous, with past studies associating them with prevention of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and constipation.

Grapes contain powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols, which may slow or prevent many types of cancer and resveratrol for heart health. Eating grapes may also help to alleviate symptoms of allergies including runny nose, watery eyes and hives.

In all, lots of reasons to try some of our tasty recipes today!


Serve as an appetizer or even dinner with a hardy bowl of soup.


For the dressing

2 tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 teaspoon olive oil

¾ tsp Dijon mustard

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp ground pepper

For the salad

1 pound chicken breast, butterflied or pounded thin

¼ cup pecans

4 cups baby spinach or mixed greens

1 cup seedless green grapes, halved

1 cup seedless red or black grapes, halved

1 large yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 cup sugar snap peas, strings removed

¼ cup sliced scallions


To prepare dressing, combine first five ingredients in a jar or blender; blend or whisk until smooth.

Preheat grill or grill pan to medium high. Brush with oil. Grill chicken 2–3 minutes per side or until nice grill marks appear. Remove from grill and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread pecans on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake pecans for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes, until just toasted.

Slice snap peas in half or thirds. Slice grilled chicken into strips. 

Place chicken, salad greens, grapes, snap peas, yellow pepper, scallions in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing; toss gently to coat. Serves 4


A different take!

3 tablespoons cornstarch

2 cups purple grapes

2/3 cup sugar

1 tsp lemon juice

Streusel Topping

1/3 cup flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup margarine, cold, cut into pieces

Cake Batter

3/4 cup margarine, softened

1 cup sugar

1.5 tsp vanilla extract

3 eggs

1 1/3 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder


Place cornstarch and 1/3 cup water in a measuring cup, set aside. Place grapes, sugar and lemon juice into a pot and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, continuing to stir. Add cornstarch to grape mixture and continue to cook until it no longer looks cloudy, about five minutes.

Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Do not skip this step. When assembling the buckle, if the filling is hot it will bubble and overflow creating a mess in your oven.

In medium bowl, add flour, sugar, cinnamon, and margarine. Using a pastry blender, work margarine into dry ingredients, until mixture is coarse and crumbly.

In your mixer, cream margarine, sugar and vanilla together until smooth. Add eggs. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until combined.

Pre-heat oven to 350˚F.  Grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan and pour in cake batter. Drop spoonfuls of grape filling on top of the batter and gently swirl with a knife. Top with the streusel mixture and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Nov 26, 2014

In a Nutshell

Chestnuts have had an important role in sustaining people for centuries. In mountainous areas where grains did not grow well, chestnuts were dried and milled for flour to make bread. In the Mediterranean, in fact, there were regions where chestnuts supplied the only flour for bread.

The chestnuts we buy nowadays at local fruit stores and supermarkets are mostly imported from Japan. At one time there was a large chestnut crop in the United States but most trees were destroyed over a hundred years ago by disease.

In the last few years there has been a movement by farmers and scientists to reestablish chestnut trees as a viable crop. They have been working with those few trees that survived and grafting them to cuttings from the disease resistant Japanese trees.

It is a popular misconception that chestnuts contain more fat than other nuts. In actuality, they are only 1% fat compared to other nuts that can be as high as 50% fat. That is why chestnuts are more perishable than other nuts. They should be stored in the refrigerator and will usually last about a week to ten days. The fat in chestnuts is mostly unsaturated, and chestnuts have no cholesterol. They are also the only nut to provide vitamin C, A and calcium.

Chestnuts can be eaten raw but you’ll enjoy them a lot more if you roast or boil them. Before roasting, cut a shallow “x” on the flat side of each nut. Why the flat side? No special reason; it is easier to cut that side than the rounded side. You can make the cut with a short-bladed paring knife but it’s easier to use a specially designed chestnut cutter. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes in an oven preheated to 400 degrees.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. The cut shell will have curled back. Squeeze the nut gently between your thumb and index finger and the shell should crack open easily. Remove both the hard shell and soft inner skin before eating.

Some people prefer boiling chestnuts. This method is also preferable if you will be mashing or pureeing the chestnuts for use in a recipe. Place whole chestnuts in a pot with enough water to cover them. Bring water to a boil and continue to boil 6-7 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to cool a few minutes.

Remove 3 or 4 nuts at a time and peel with a sharp knife.

Chestnuts are sometimes referred to as “brain food” not only for their healthful properties but also because their unusual shape is similar to that of the human brain. Go ahead and check it out for yourself!


You can use fresh chestnuts and roast them at home or take a shortcut and buy a few packages of prepared chestnuts.

canola oil for soup and toppings

1 medium onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 medium carrot, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

Kosher salt

4 cups chicken broth

1 bay leaf

15 ounces roasted chestnuts

1/2 cup soy milk

For the toppings:

2 cups cubed rustic bread, crusts removed

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan, over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the chicken broth and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer 5 minutes. Chop the chestnuts; add to the pan and simmer until the chestnuts and vegetables are tender, about 10 more minutes.

Puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Add the soy milk and salt to taste. Keep warm.

For the croutons, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the bread and cook, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes until browned. Transfer to a bowl.

Nov 19, 2014

Chip In

With all the interesting chips to be had nowadays, we get lots of requests for ideas and recipes to go with these tasty morsels. Here are some of our favorites:

Apples and butterscotch go together very well!
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons margarine (3/4 of a stick)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 apple, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 9-inch-square baking dish with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides; lightly coat with baking spray and set aside.

Whisk the flour and baking powder in a small bowl. Melt the margarine in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until melted. Remove from the heat and whisk in the brown sugar and vanilla until dissolved; let cool slightly. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture, then the apple and butterscotch chips. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake the blondies until the edges are set and the top is lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely in the pan. Lift out of the pan using the foil overhang and cut into pieces.

You can substitute half the white chips for caramel or nougat chips to really punch up the flavor!

2 sticks margarine, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoons vanilla extract
3 cups plus 1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup macadamia nuts, toasted and rough chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place 2 sticks of the margarine and the brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until a smooth batter is formed. While the machine is running, add the eggs and vanilla extract, until incorporated.

Sift together the flour and baking powder. Slowly add the flour mixture to the batter and mix on low speed until a dough is formed. Very gently, by turning the mixer on and then off, fold the chips and nuts into the dough.

Once the dough is all blended, grease a 9 by 9-inch baking pan with baking spray and dust with the 1 tablespoon of flour. Pour the batter into the pan and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until set yet still moist.

Keep an eye on these as they bake—you want them soft and chewy.

1/2 cup margarine, softened (1 stick)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/3 cups flour
8 ounces cinnamon chips
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line 2 cookie sheets with a Silpat or parchment paper.
In the bowl of an electric mixer beat margarine with brown sugar, 1/4 cup regular sugar, vanilla and egg until light and creamy.  Sift in flour, cream of tartar and baking soda. Mix until well combined and batter  is stiff.   Stir in cinnamon chips.

Combine remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a small bowl with the cinnamon.  Using a small cookie scoop or your dampened hands, form balls of batter, approximately 1½ inches in diameter.  Roll balls in cinnamon sugar mixture.  Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. 

Bake 8 to 10 minutes.  Do not over-bake as the cookies will turn dry and brittle.  Cool on wire rack.   Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Nov 12, 2014

Make it Quick!

Quick breads are breads that are prepared with leavening agents such as baking soda or powder, rather than yeast. As a result, the bread does not have a long rising time. These breads can vary widely in texture and flavor, from light and fluffy to extremely dense, and they can be sweet or savory.

Banana breads and similar loaf breads like zucchini bread are quick breads, as are muffins, pancakes and waffles. Typically, a recipe will include flour, butter or oil, and leavening, but it can also include sugar, ingredients like fruit and vegetables, and liquids. Low fat quick breads often use applesauce instead of fat, and they tend to be lighter in texture.

There are a number of different ways to prepare quick bread. One of the most common ways involves mixing the wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately, and combining them at the very end. The ingredients are stirred until they just come together, and then the resulting dough or batter is quickly baked.

Quick bread can also be made with the creaming method, where butter and sugar are beaten together before wet and dry ingredients are added. With biscuits, shortening is cut into the dry ingredients. In all cases, the ingredients should not be worked too much, as the dough can get hard and tasteless if it is handled too much.

Quick bread is great if you are an inexperienced baker as most recipes are simple and forgiving like ours below.


1 cup fresh cranberries

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons grated orange zest

1½ cups plus 1 teaspoon flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

2/3 cup honey

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup orange juice

1 teaspoon grated orange rind

2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with baking spray; line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Coat paper with baking spray as well.

Combine cranberries, sugar, zest and 1 teaspoon flour in a bowl, and toss well. Sprinkle bottom of pan with cranberry mixture.

Combine flour, cornmeal, and baking powder in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Combine honey and the remaining ingredients in a bowl, stirring well, and add honey mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Scrape batter into prepared pan over cranberry mixture. Bake at for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack.

Place a plate upside down on top of bread; invert bread onto plate. Remove parchment paper. Cool and serve.


1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2/3 cup sugar

4 tablespoons canola oil

8 ounces almond paste

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon almond milk or rice milk

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar


Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9x5” loaf pan with baking spray.

Combine flour and baking powder, stirring well with a whisk. Place granulated sugar, oil and almond paste ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition; beat in vanilla. Beating at low speed, add flour mixture and 1/2 cup almond milk alternately to batter, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat just until combined.

Scrape batter into prepared pan; sprinkle with sliced almonds. Bake for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool on wire rack.

Place confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. Add remaining 1 tablespoon almond milk; stir with a whisk until smooth. Drizzle glaze over top of bread; let stand until set.

Nov 5, 2014

More than Guacamole

Avocados are the star of the produce section. Of course they’re the go-to ingredient for guacamole and salads at parties but they're also turning up in everything from smoothies to brownies. So what, exactly, makes this pear-shaped fruit such a super food?

Avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid. They also act as a "nutrient booster" by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients, such as alpha and beta-carotene and lutein, in foods that are eaten with the fruit.

One-fifth of a medium avocado has 50 calories and contributes nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, making it a nutrient-dense choice.  Avocados contain less than 1 gram of sugar per serving and 75% of the fat in avocados is unsaturated making them a great substitute for foods high in saturated fat.

The avocado’s smooth, creamy consistency makes it one of the first fresh foods a baby can enjoy. The fat in avocado is extremely to babies for normal growth and development of the central nervous system and brain.

Avocados are a good source of B vitamins, which help you fight off disease and infection. They also give you vitamins C and E, plus natural plant chemicals that may help prevent cancer. They contain fiber, which helps you feel full longer. In one study, people who added half to their lunch salad or sandwich were less interested in eating during the next three hours.

Adding avocados to your diet is easy if you try some of our recipes today!

Avocado Chummus

Serve with sliced vegetables or baby carrots

2 ripe avocados, peeled and seeded
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt, or to taste
Dice half the avocado and set aside.

Mash remaining avocado, garbanzo beans, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt together until smooth.
Gently stir diced avocado into hummus mixture. Drizzle with additional olive oil if desired; serve.

For the salad:

2 cups cooked corn, fresh or frozen
1 avocado, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup finely diced red onion (about 1 medium)


2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Combine the corn, avocado, tomatoes and onion in a large glass bowl. Mix together the dressing ingredients in another bowl, pour over the salad, and gently toss to mix.

3 Haas avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, optional
1 clove garlic, crushed

In a large bowl toss the avocados and lemon juice to coat. Drain, and reserve the juice, after all of the avocados have been coated. Mash the avocado.  Then, fold in the onions, jalapeno, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic; season with salt. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved lemon juice. Serve with tortilla chips.

Don’t tell—they’ll never know!

4 eggs
1 cup sugar
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp good sea salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 ripe avocados, mashed smooth in a food processor
1/2 cup almond meal or almond flour

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8” x 8” pan with parchment paper.
Using an electric mixer, whip the eggs and sugar until fluffy.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or microwave. Add the melted chocolate to the egg mixture.
Blend in the cocoa, almond meal, salt and vanilla extract.  Now fold in the avocados to the chocolate mix.

Pour into the pan and bake for about 30 minutes. Use a wooden toothpick to test the middle. When it comes out clean, they’re done.

Oct 29, 2014

Pack it In

Cooking en papillote—steaming small portions of food in a wrapper―is a classic technique. Some cultures use grape leaves, banana leaves, cornhusks, or other natural materials to wrap delicate foods before cooking. They add vegetables, herbs and spices for seasoning.

Steaming requires little or no added fat; steam builds up in the packet to cook food quickly yet gently. The nicely wrapped package allows you to add juices, spices, or herbs.
Steaming en papillote (pah-pee-YOHT) requires no special equipment, other than a roll of parchment paper And, of course, cleanup is easy―just toss the parchment when you're done.

Perhaps the best part about cooking en papillote is that it's a solution for busy weeknight dinners. There's something inherently festive about opening a packet at the table to free a cloud of fragrant steam.

 A few important things to keep in mind: Never substitute wax paper for parchment when steaming. Wax paper tears easily, and more importantly, it will burn and eventually leak liquids. Parchment paper can safely be used in an oven at temperatures up to 450°.  The parchment will be puffy and slightly browned when the dish is nearly done.
Cooking en papillote works best with tender foods that cook quickly like chicken breasts and salmon.  Also vegetables with high moisture content like onions, zucchini, or bell pepper.
Think about the size of the foods cooking together in a parchment packet; consider the amount of time it will take for the main ingredient to cook, and cut the accompanying items into sizes that will cook in the same amount of time. If you're preparing a fish fillet with potatoes, for instance, you'll need to slice the potatoes thinly so everything will be done at once. Otherwise, you'll end up with undercooked potatoes or overcooked fish.
Add flavor with fresh or dried herbs, salt, pepper, and other spices, and liquids like wine, broth or juice. Adding a drizzle of olive or canola oil goes a long way towards adding taste as well.

Follow these simple steps to making parchment packages:
·        Cut a 15- x 24-inch piece of parchment.
·        Fold parchment in half crosswise, making a crease down the center.
·        Draw half of a heart shape on paper. Cut out heart, and open the parchment.
·        Layer ingredients in one half of the sheet, making sure to leave at least a 1-inch border around the cut edges.
·        Starting at the round portion of the heart, fold paper, tightly sealing edges with narrow folds.
·        Twist the tip portion of the heart to seal.
·        Place packets onto an ungreased baking sheet, and bake.

Mediterranean Chicken en Papillote

4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons za'atar or other spice mix
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, sliced thin (seeds removed)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Slice each chicken breast on the bias, into three or four equally thick pieces. Place chicken in large bowl and toss with the onion, pepper, tomatoes, Za'atar, oil, parsley, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Place chicken and spice mixture near the center of each square of parchment paper as instructed above. Place slices of lemon on top.

Working one package at a time, fold the parchment over the chicken. Repeat with remaining packets.
Place the packets on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer each packet directly to a serving plate and serve, breaking open the packets at the table.