Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sweet Coffee Popsicles


Sun is shining, the weather is sweet
Make you want to move your dancing feet

*1 pot extra strong coffee, your favorite flavor *3 table spoons sweetened condensed milk *popsicle molds

I ran a 5k "mud and obstacle" race today in costume as Black Swans  with three of my girlfriends.  It was my third year at "RunAmuck."  Check out Ericka's photos here at The Sweet Life. My shoulders are seriously red with sun burn,  my calves are sore and my manicure is a mess,  but I feel amazing and refreshed.  It's really starting to feel like Summer!

Since I love iced coffee so much, and it's been so warm lately, I thought I would see how coffee popsicles might taste.  I used my new favorite flavor Dunkin Donuts Strawberry Shortcake.  It's just a hint of strawberry so that it's not to sweet.  It's dreamy.  If you don't make the popsicles at least try the coffee.

1. Make a pot of strong, strong coffee.

2. Sweeten it with three tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk (too much cream will keep them from hardening).

3. Let your coffee cool in the fridge for a couple hours.

4. Pour into popsicle molds and let them harden over night.  If you have trouble removing them from the mold, run some hot water over the mold briefly and they should slide right out.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Apple Cinnamon Muffins with Cream Cheese Icing

I was really craving muffins yesterday.  I went with apple, cinnamon because Nick loves cinnamon.  This particular muffin recipe is extra soft a fluffy.  I added bits of Fuji apple (the best apple for baking) and the swirled icing to make them irresistible.  Yum.

1 box Betty Crocker Premium "Cinnamon Streusel" Muffin Mix , 3/4 cup milk, 1/4 cup canola oil, 2 eggs, 1 package low fat cream cheese, 1 stick salted butter, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1 Fuji apple, muffin tins

I am going to eat one of these bad boys for breakfast today and not feel guilty at all.  You know why?  Because I just started the P90X work out.  I plan to eat healthy over the next 90 days but allow myself decadent desserts that I can burn off through out the day.  Get ready for some serious breakfasts recipes!


Muffins

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F (or 400 degrees F for dark or nonstick pan). Place paper baking cups in 12 regular-size muffin cups.

2. Stir muffin mix, milk, oil and eggs in medium bowl just until blended (batter may be lumpy). Peel and chop your apple pieces, stir into mix. Divide batter among muffin cups (each about 2/3 full).

3. Sprinkle streusel over batter in each cup; press lightly. Bake 16 to 21 minutes or until golden brown.

Icing

1. With a electronic mixer whip room temperature cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar until it is smooth and incorporated. Add water last for a thinner consistency. 

2. Fill a piping bag or squeeze bottle (I picked up my Wilton squeeze bottles from Michaels for $2 and I use them to decorate all my dishes!) to create the swirled icing.

NOTE: I frequently use boxed mixes that you can buy ahead of time to show that with a little thought and some extra ingredients anything can look unique and taste and homemade. Maybe you're a mom and you work a full time job as well... Do you have time to make 24 cupcakes from scratch? Probably not, but you could make these easy orange creamsicle cupcakes that will wow everyone!

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Anniversary

To celebrate our year together Nick took me to Meadowlark Botanical Garden. It was the sweetest most thoughtful idea ever.  It had been cloudy all morning but the sun came out just for us as soon as we got there.  I took a million photos  (He knew I would).

In season this month are: Daffodils, Minor Bulbs, Tulips, Magnolias, Flowering Cherries, Potomac Valley Native Wildflowers, Rock Garden, Conifers Collection, and Lenten Rose.



This Asian gazebo is still under construction. The wood work was gorgeous, and Japanese cherry blossoms had just been planted. Imagine this 15 years from now...




This one of the red and dark purple tulips is my favorite.  It reminds me of something from Midsummer's Night Dream.


I can't wait to go back next month for the Peonies, they are my favorite, and then in June for the Daylillies.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Feta Stuffed Campari Tomatoes

Campari tomatoes are my favorite. They are the least "grainy" of all tomatoes, juicy and a perfect size.  This dish is similar to something I've eating at Jackson's.  They serve campari tomatoes stuffed with blue cheese as a side dish.  My version uses feta.

*10 Campari tomatoes *8 oz. Feta cheese *2 Tablespoons cream cheese *Dried parsley *1 Sprinkle garlic powder *1 Tablespoon olive oil


1. Pour feta cheese into a bowl, then work cream cheese into the feta with a fork, incorporating the cheeses thoroughly.  The cream cheese helps lighten the taste as well as bind the mixture.

2. Add two pinches or half a teaspoon of dried parsley and a sprinkle of garlic powder, mix with your fork again.


3. Add olive oil and mix thoroughly, too much olive oil will over power the flavor of the feta so be careful.  Less is more.  Place the mixture in the freezer to chill.

4. Slice the tops off your tomatoes and completely remove the inside meat and seeds of the tomato with a small spoon or melon baller. 

5. Take the cheese mixture from the freezer and fill each tomato using a spoon. Pack lightly. Add a sprinkle of parsley to the top of each and serve.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Strawberry and Avocado Salsa

I eat with my eyes. I love bright, and fresh foods that look as good as they taste. That's why when I saw this simple recipe in my May issue of Cooking Light, I had to try it.


*2 teaspoons canola oil *1 1/2 cups peeled ripe avocado *1 cup chopped strawberries *2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro *1 table spoon minced, and seeded, Hungarian wax pepper (or jalapeno which is a little hotter) *2 teaspoons fresh lime juice *season to taste with sea salt

I really liked how this salsa brought out the tart nature of the strawberry rather than the sweet. Served with cinnamon and sugar pita chips this was a perfect Spring day snack.

1. Dice your cilantro, and seeded wax pepper (I threw the pepper in the food processor to get it into a really fine chop).

2. Chop your strawberries into small bite sized pieces then do the same to the avocado. 

3. Mix the cilantro, strawberry, and peppers in a bowl with the canola oil and lime juice.

4. Gently add the avocado last so you don't end up with a film of avocado mush on everything. Salt and serve.


The Cooking Light recipe included instructions to make your own cinnamon tortilla chips. Because I was in a hurry to use my avocados before they over ripened I bought these instead. They were so good we couldn't stop eating them. I was instructed never to buy them again because we would devour them too quickly.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What I Love about Sunday

Sorry for the late post. Yesterday --  while writing -- my computer crashed.  It seems I have a new follower whose blogger profile is a virus.  Thanks a lot.  (Don't worry they have been removed)  Anyway, this Sunday went by fast and was full of set backs. [Deep Sigh] Aside from the technical disaster, the farmers market wasn't open and I am still not feeling 100% healthy since my strep throat, but still, it was a beautiful day and I didn't have to go to work...

1. It was the first time I wore my new Jess LC Diversey necklace and matching earrings.



I saw these a while ago and still had been thinking of them so finally I treated myself. P.S. I ordered the silver chain with the gold paisley by mistake and the customer service at Jess LC was amazing. Jess is super sweet and it was really easy to correct my order. Im not really a jewelry person but this collection is simple and classy. Love it.

2. Green leaves are blooming all over! Look at how pretty cherry blossom trees are even when the flowers fall off. It's time to drag out summer clothes this week. It could get into the high 80's by the end of the month in the DC area.



3. Salmon and cream-cheese with capers on French bread for breakfast. Yum! Breakfast is making a comeback. (I didn't plan on posting the instructions or what to purchase to put this together but if enough people ask I will. It's so simple!) Look for more breakfast posts soon, I will explain why later.



4. Nick went golfing with the guys this weekend and I was able to sit back with my extra thick People Style Watch Summer issue and totally zone out. I found a bunch of things to bookmark and come back to. I don't know how to shop at malls anymore (except when I have to try on pants) and honestly I am 100% okay with that.



5. Last but not least, Nick bought plants! Two tomato plants, one cucumber and one basil. I am so excited! I don't have a green thumb, but Nick does. Fresh caprese salad here I come!



Saturday, April 16, 2011

Servathon 2011

Today we woke up at 7am (it's Saturday) for "Servathon," an effort to bring together young people in the DC area and give back to the community. It's basically a morning of community service (8,000 youngsters this year) and then a bar crawl in the Dupont Circle area after.

In 2009 I cleaned a library in Chinatown. Last year we painted the map of the United States on a elementary school playground. This year we painted murals inside an elementary school. (I can't take credit for this good habit, a very good friend has been a very good influence)




Last year, while I painted certain states pink, a tall, funny guy named Nick purposely picked pink paint too and followed me around the map until I gave him my phone number. The rest is history <3

Tomorrow I am headed to the farmers market down the road with my camera. I plan on getting some bright photos and fresh ingredients for a spring salsa!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Nick's Deviled Eggs

Nick made these for me last night. I had five and then stopped myself. Deviled eggs are a common hors d'oeuvre in the summer and around the holidays, but sometimes, don't you crave them for just the hell of it? (!!!pun!!!) We have been talking about making deviled eggs for days. I love that creamy, salty, soft, cold texture. Delicate and delish. Really simple recipe as well.

Simple and Light Deviled Eggs
8 large hard boiled eggs, cooled and peeled
4 tablespoons low fat mayonnaise (you really can't taste the difference)
1 table spoon dijon mustard
Sprinkle of paprika on each
Sprinkle of chopped green onion or chive on each
salt and fresh pepper to taste

Boil your eggs in a large sauce pan for 25 minutes, when done pour into a strainer and refrigerate your eggs until they have completely cooled. Peel and halve. With a gentle squeeze the yolk should pop right out. Place yolks in a separate bowl. Mix with mayo and mustard until smooth then pipe into the eggs whites again. You can use a zip lock bag, just fill one corner and cut off the tip. Season with paprika, salt and pepper and chives. Chill and serve.


Good work my love. Notice the heart shaped green onion on the egg in the left corner? Total coincidence. Just like Jesus in a grilled cheese.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lemon and Strawberry Cream Mini Cupcakes

When I started off with this mini cupcake idea I was inspired by all the cherry blossoms in the area. I wanted to make mini cupcakes that looked like the puffs of pink and white flowers all around DC. Then I got strep throat  -- then I played tennis because I was feeling better (even though I was warned I could relapse) -- then I felt sick again and half assed my cupcakes.


The plan was angel food cake so they would be totally white and spongy, but I ended up using the lemon cake mix box in the pantry instead because I started feeling tired and lazy. "Yellow is okay too" I thought. Then I took out the raspberries that I had planned to add to a cream-cheese frosting. I thought the dark raspberry color was perfect and the little buds of berry that didn't burst would look like the centers of the blossoms. Turns out they went bad in the fridge after just three days. Did you know raspberries go bad really quickly? So we went with frozen strawberries instead.

*1 box lemon cake mix *2 mini cupcake pans *1 box mini cupcake liners *8 oz. cream-cheese *1 stick of unsalted butter *2 cups powdered sugar *10 frozen strawberries thawed 

They taste good. They look pretty, but they weren't the intended recipe or outcome. I frosted enough for the photos and then felt even worse... I needed to lay down. Currently there are about two dozen un frosted mini lemon cupcakes in my fridge. Sigh...

*Mix cake batter according to box directions. Use only one teaspoon of batter per cupcake liner (they will rise dramatically) Each batch (two pans) takes about 10 minutes at 350 degrees. For the frosting, mix/whip room temperature butter and cream-cheese in a standing mixer until it it is soft and incorporated. Add the sugar one cup at a time until it is also incorporated.  Add the thawed berries last. Stop mixing when you get your desired color. Sweeten with more sugar if necessary (the trick is to taste it constantly!). I bought these disposable frosting bags and tips from Wilton so I can do fancier things. But those little "cherry blossom" dots take forever!


UPDATE: Nick frosted the rest of my cupcakes for me last night... Now that's love.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What I Love about This Sunday

1. It's truly Spring this weekend. I love the pink buds on the trees outside our apartment. It won't be long until they bloom into leaves.


2. It started off gloomy today, but it's sunny and about 70 degrees right now. We played tennis for the first time this season. Honey even got to run free off her leash in the court since it's fenced in. She chased the ball after ever serve. 



3. On the way to the dog park earlier we stopped for Dunkin Donuts. Nick got a strawberry frosted donut with rainbow sprinkles (If I was doing P90X with him I might have gotten one too). I got an iced coffee. Soon it will be only iced coffees. I can't drink it warm in the summer.


4. Honey hurt her leg last weekend and had to stay off of it. You have no idea how hard it is for a puppy to not play. We took her to the dog park for the first time in two weeks today. She ran around like a maniac and loved it. (And she played tennis as I mentioned above!) To top it off she got a Frosty Paw when we got back. (doggie ice cream) Tired and happy Honey.



5. Nick got me this "Spring bouquet" this week since I wasn't feeling well, I put it out on the porch today in the sun and it looks lovely. I am about to make some cupcakes that I will post soon, AND buy some Spring dresses online (thanks Mom!) It really doesn't get much better than this.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Strawberry Butter

I have some kind of intense sore throat issue going on right now. This morning I had no voice, it progressed to a light rasp and now we are back to almost no voice (it's a bit painful as well, I'm praying it passes).  I was a bit hazy on my way to work and drove right past my exit. Then I dropped my phone getting out of my car and cracked the touch screen. Needless to say as soon as I spoke in the office -- and they heard the rasp -- the Lysol came out and I was sent home.

Things got a little better while I worked from home with Honey Bear at my side. She was so glad to see me. Later we decided to made a snack for Nick. It was really easy and could be an impressive housewarming gift or something fun to serve at brunch.

*2 sticks unsalted butter *half cup powdered sugar (or more depending on the sweetness desired *teaspoon salt *About 6 frozen strawberries

I let the strawberries thaw a bit and made sure the butter was at room temperature. Plop the butter sticks (cut in smaller pieces) into a food processor with the powdered sugar and pulse until it seems fully incorporated. Add teaspoon of salt (really boosts the flavor), 4 berries and pulse again until butter becomes soft and pink in color. Add the remaining berries and pulse just a couple times to leave some bright red berry chunks.


In a pretty sealed glass jar with a ribbon this would be a sweet gift to bring to a dinner party, or to a relative. (I may make some and bring it to Nick's family around Easter time) Nick used it tonight to prepare his grilled cheese. Fantastic flavor! Be careful though, you must remember this is BUTTER. It's hard not to want to eat with a spoon.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Co Co Sala, Chinatown Washington DC

Saturday was my third trip to Co Co Sala, a restaurant and "chocolate boutique" located in the Chinatown area of Washington, DC. While my visit wasn't the best experience this particular evening, service and food in the past has been outstanding. Overall I would still recommend that every female in the DC area check out Co Co Sala with her girl friends at least once. It's the perfect starting point for a posh "girls night out." Even if it's just for drinks or dessert.

Their menu consists of "small bites" and "sips" (hence the girls night, my man doesn't do "small bites") and their cocktails are fun to look at while remaining flavorful. I had their well known Co Cojito.  Others ordered "fetish," strawberry infused vodka and foam served with a chocolate covered strawberry, (looked like a strawberry daiquiri).



The "Nouveau American" menu offered several choices for my vegetarian friends as well as small plates with "surf" and small plates with "turf." Also cheese and charcuterie plates. We were particularly happy with the sweet and sour cauliflower with fried spinach. The cauliflower tasted amazingly like chicken while the spinach was packed with flavor and it's fried texture was really unique. We had two orders.

The tuna tartare was aesthetically pleasing and tasted good as well. It was served with a wasabi sauce that could have used a little bit more of a kick but I still really liked it.


I tried the cheese plate this time and was not impressed. I didn't see any signature twist. I could have ordered this anywhere, and honestly it might have been better there. I should have stuck with my "go to" Co Co Sala order. I recommended the mac and cheese served with a piece of chocolate covered bacon. Creamy and unique. Don't be afraid of the chocolate covered bacon. It will become a fast favorite.

The ambiance at Co Co sala is trendy and lounge like with attractive servers in red dresses. Previously they have always been attentive and very nice. While I can't say the same for our waitress Saturday night, Im sure it was just an off day. Unfortunately this may be why we didn't stay for dessert. (That might have been the best part too, damn.) 

Tip: Make reservations ahead of time, if you have a party of more than six you can't reserve a table after 5pm. (This is why I say it's an ideal starting point for a night out) To be honest Co Co Sala would be enjoyed best with a smaller group.

Head over to Zaytinya for cocktails after Co Co Sala,  it's two blocks over and one of the best restaurants in DC (owned by the renowned José Andrés). If you are a fan of Top Chef, you know that Mike Isabella --who made it to the final two in this seasons Top Chef All Stars -- was their former head chef.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Melon and Prosciutto with a Honey Balsamic Dip

I was looking for a fresh snack for my blog today when I saw that cantaloupes were buy one get one free. I instantly thought prosciutto and melon but I wanted to give it my own twist. That's where the sticks come in.


*1 Melon (cantaloupe or honeydew) cubed or balled *1/4 lb. Fresh from the deli section prosciutto (not prepackaged!) *1/4 cup honey *2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar


I love this flavor combination, (salty and sweet is "so Michelle") but it's too hard to eat. The melon shoots out of the tougher textured prosciutto when you use a fork and knife or slides out when hand held. Instead of wrapping the melon with the Italian cured meat, tear it and fold it up into bite sized pieces then place it on toothpicks or mini skewers with the melon. This way you get one perfect bite each time.



The dip is a simple combination of sweet balsamic vinegar and honey whisked together. A spoon or fork won't be enough to mix it, you need a whisk. Nick actually really dislikes cantaloupe (he tried some just to be sure and made a face I have never seen him make before and spit it out!), but he loved the dip that went with this dish. He took off the melon and dipped the prosciutto in it alone. It's so simple but tasty.
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