Monday, July 30, 2012

Grilled Corn & Pepper Salad

Mmmmm.... summery!

4 ears of corn, seasoned and grilled
1 large green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup black or pinto beans
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup cotija cheese
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil

Set grill to medium heat.  Shuck corn, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on grill and turn occasionally, browning the corn just slightly.  This should only take about 5 minutes per side.

Set the corn aside to cool.  Chop other vegetables and combine in large bowl.  Remove the kernels from the corn and add corn to the mixture.  Mix together with remaining ingredients and add salt and pepper to taste.
That's it!

Tips - This can be served cold or at room temperature.  If you have time you can also grilled the peppers.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Dipped Frozen Bananas


This is so easy, a child could do it.  In fact, I think it would be a fun project for kids!


Lots of bananas!  I chose to use cute baby ones, but you could also use full size
Almond Bark or Melted Chocolate, various flavors
Toppings galore!
Cake pop sticks or skewers

Do you really need these?

Start by peeling the bananas and laying out a long piece of wax paper.  Melt the chocolate or almond bark in the microwave, stirring to keep from burning.  Skewer each banana on one of the cake pop sticks.  Using the stick as a handle, dip the banana in the melted chocolate.  Allow the excess to drip off, then lay flat on wax paper and sprinkle immediately with the topping you plan to use.

Some of the toppings I used were M&Ms, toasted coconut, mini chocolate chips, toffee, candy coated sunflower seeds, and chopped nuts.

Allow the bananas to dry for about 20 minutes before moving them.  Once the chocolate has set, place bananas in a container and put in the freezer.  The bananas will be ready to eat in about an hour, but you can also make them a day ahead of time and leave them in the freezer overnight.  Yum!  The toasted coconut and toffee were my favorites!

Sweet & Spicy Steak Stuffed Mushrooms

I came up with this one as a last minute appetizer idea, but it turned out really well, so I thought I'd share it!

1 pound skirt or flank steak
1 pound large mushrooms, rinsed
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup thai chili garlic sauce (add less or more, depending on how spicy you like it!)
1/2 tsp black pepper
Olive oil or butter, for sauteeing mushrooms

Garnish:  Cilantro (optional)

Preheat grill to high.  Mix all sauce ingredients together.  Reserve about 1/2 cup of the sauce for later.

Pour sauce over steak and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.  When ready to grill, remove steak from sauce and pat dry with paper towels (you won't get a good char on it if it's wet).  Grill the steak for about 3-4 minutes per side for medium rare.  Remove and let rest for 5-10 minutes.

While the steak is resting, remove stems from mushrooms.  If desired, you can chop those up and add to the steak mixture later, or you can just discard.  Saute mushrooms in a little bit of olive oil or butter.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from pan and flip upside down on paper towels to drain.

Dice steak into small pieces and mix with reserved sauce.  Stuff each mushroom with the mixture and garnish with cilantro.  If the meat and/or mushrooms have grown cold while doing this, simply pop them into the oven for 5 minutes or so, then serve!  These can also be made in advance and heated in the oven just before serving.


Wedding Shower Cake

This post is mostly about the pretty pictures.

I won't write out the full recipe since I assume if someone is ambitious enough to make a cake of this type, they will be confident enough to choose their own flavors and fillings.

This is a tiered fresh fruit cake with buttercream frosting.  The first layer is mango, the second layer is blueberry, the third layer is strawberry champagne, and finally, an itty bitty mango layer on top.

I flavored the icing slightly differently for each flavored tier.  For the mango, I made a cream cheese frosting.  I paired the blueberry layer with a standard vanilla buttercream.  And for the champagne strawberry, I used a white chocolate cream cheese frosting.

I almost stopped at 3 layers but at the last minute decided to add a fourth!

I dyed each of the frostings to match the cake inside, and filled the layers with the corresponding fruit (blueberries, sliced strawberries, mango chunks).  I also baked some of the fresh fruit into each layer, and added a bit of pure extract to really give it a strong fruit flavor.

I used plastic dowels between each layer to add support, and a couple of straws in the top layer.  The tiers are 12 inches, 10 inches, 8 inches, and 6 inches.  As I added each layer, I used a star pastry tip to pipe frosting along the sides to seal it, and then added edible pastel pearls on each edge.  Finally, I garnished the entire cake with colorful edible flowers.

This took me about six hours, but I think the result was worth it, and the customer said it was delicious!  Yay!

This last picture is funny because of the lighting.  That's daybreak folks... yes, I stayed up all night making this cake!  It was light out when I finished.  What can I say, I'm a dedicated baker!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Mixed Berry Summer Salad


I stole this salad recipe.  Heisted it right from a wedding I attended!  It wasn't hard to crack the code.

Yield:  4 entree portions or 10 appetizer sized portions


1 lb baby spinach leaves
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
1 8 ounce container feta cheese
Raspberry vinaigrette (to taste)


Do you really need them?  Rinse the spinach and the berries, slice the strawberries, and toss together with the dressing and feta.  Don't dress the salad too long before you plan to serve it, as the spinach will get limp... and nobody likes that.

Tips:  This would also be good with tropical fruits such as mango or pineapple, or topped with roasted nuts.  Enjoy!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Soy and Ginger Glazed Salmon

I didn't get very good pictures of this for a very simple reason.  I was hungry and had to eat it.

Yield:  Serves 4

1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce 

2 tbsp sesame oil
4 salmon fillets or one giant piece of salmon!


the ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, brown sugar, sesame oil and soy sauce in a bowl and mix.  If desired, reserve some of the mixture to use as a dipping sauce (or use on vegetables as I did!).

Pour the mixture into a shallow dish, large enough to fit the salmon.  Place the salmon filets into the dish flat side up.  Let marinate for 10-15 minutes.

Preheat grill to medium high.  I chose to cook this right on the grill, but if you have a grilling plank, that would probably be easier.  If you do do it right on the grill, be sure to spray it with some cooking spray first.

Cook the fish for about 4 minutes per side, or until it turns completely white.  Transfer to a plate and spoon reserved sauce over it, then serve.  Yum!

Tips:  The large piece of salmon looks impressive but be sure to easy several spatulas to ease it off the grill.  I served this with mixed vegetables (peppers, onions, broccoli, mushrooms) that I had marinated in the same sauce.  Enjoy!

Mango Mojito

Mmm... tastes like summer!

Yield:  One tasty cocktail, multiply for a party or drinking binge!

2 ounces mango rum
3 ounces club soda or ginger ale
1 tsp simple syrup
4 mint leaves
1 lime wedge


Muddle the mint leaves and lime wedge in the bottom of a pitcher or glass.  Add the rum, club soda, and simple syrup.  Taste and add more rum... ha ha.  Add ice and serve.  Cheers

No Bake Candy Bar Cake

I saw this cake in a magazine and had to make it.  It's actually quite simple - no baking!

1 frozen pound cake
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
 4 tablespoons milk
1 16 ounce box powdered sugar
3/4 cup salted roasted peanuts
2 cups caramel

Chocolate Coating:
10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces


Begin by trimming the short ends and top of the pound cake in order to make it flat.  Next, slice the cake in half to make two rectangles, as pictured below.

To make the frosting, microwave the chocolate until melted and add butter, milk and powdered sugar.  Mix until spreadable.

Set the cake rectangles side by side on a rack or baking sheet.  Spread frosting on the short end of each cake and press together to form a long rectangle.  Spread the remaining frosting on the cake in a flat layer and then freeze the cake until firm.

While the cake is chilling, mix the caramel and peanuts in a bowl.  Remove the cake from the freezer and spread the mixture over the frosting.  Return the cake to the freezer and allow to firm up again.  This was an extremely messy step... I got caramel all over my freezer, so if you're smarter than I was, you'll put some wax paper down in there or use a tray that doesn't have holes in it....!

Next,  make the chocolate coating by microwaving the chocolate and butter together, stirring until melted and smooth.  Remove the cake from the freezer and spread the chocolate evenly over the top and sides of the cake.  Reserve some chocolate for the decoration on top.  Freeze until the chocolate cools slightly, 6 to 8 minutes.  Next, starting at the short end of the cake, dip the edge of an offset spatula into the remaining chocolate at an angle and gently pull up, repeating along the top of the cake to create a wave pattern. This will make the "waves" that you see on top of real candy bars.

Now it's time to eat your cake!  You might want to share; this is a big one!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Blog Apology...... seriously

I owe you an apology.  I know it.  Since I started this blog, I've been very careful to post new content all the time, because that's the point of a blog, isn't it?  Lately, I've let it go, like an old married guy wearing the same pair of 1980's acid washed jeans every day.

This blog is important to me, and I love sharing my ideas as much as I love the feedback that I get from those of you that are reading it.  It's just that...  I've been busy.  Like you all have.  The good news is that my new business (Babycakes!) is growing by leaps and bounds.  This week we had 4 days where we sold out of items, a first for us.  I am thrilled and cautiously optimistic.  Seems like my idea is taking off, just like I thought it would.. but who knows what roadbumps lie ahead.  This is Chicago after all, which seems to be the most corrupt city in the country, and no fan of small business.

I'm posting some new recipes now, never fear!  Thanks for sticking around!  More updates and insults to the city of Chicago to come......!



Friday, July 6, 2012

Swine Symphony

My boyfriend Kyle came up with the name for this little gem.  I had decided to make mini meatloaf bites and was going to make them in a mini muffin pan, but then I remembered I have a tea cake pan.  It makes tiny little cakes with a nice cavity that you can fill with frosting, or, in this case, mashed potatoes.

Anyway, I did some tweaking to my normal meatloaf recipe and think I've finally perfected it!

24 mini meatloaves

1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground sirloin
1 12 ounce package ground chorizo
1 package bacon
3 eggs
3 tbsp thai chili garlic sauce (or to taste)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp sea salt (or to taste)
2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
2 tsp chopped fresh basil
1 tsp black pepper
1 cup panko crumbs

Mashed potatoes (your recipe!)
Basil leaf

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Grease the pan you are using (here's an example of the one I used: Tea Cake Pan) with cooking spray.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.  This is a pretty messy process so if you don't like the idea of wet, raw ground meat stuck under your fingernails, I'd suggest you wear gloves.  It's probably the most sanitary thing to do anyway.

Now at this point you have to make a choice.  You can taste the raw meat for seasoning, or you can guess.  I chose to guess and just poured in a bunch of salt and spices.  Or, you can cook just one, then taste it and adjust for seasoning.

Shape the meat and fill the pan about 3/4 full, as these do swell a bit when cooking.  Place in the oven. These meatloaves will cook fast, about 8-12 minutes per pan.  While the meatloaf is in the oven, cook the bacon in a skillet until just cooked but still pliable (not crisp).  When the meatloaves are done, remove from the oven and turn over onto paper towels to drain the grease.

Now, for assembly!  Take 1/2 a slice of bacon and wrap around the outside of each meatloaf, securing with a toothpick. If you want the bacon more crisp, you can throw it back in the oven for another 5 minutes or so.

Fill a pastry or ziplock bag with the mashed potatoes (make sure they are at least lukewarm or they won't squeeze out easily) and pipe some into each meatloaf.  Garnish with basil, if desired and serve.  Yay!

Tips:  I used roasted garlic mashed potatoes to give this recipe even more flavor.  These can also be pre-cooked, filled and garnished, then reheated in the oven for just about 5 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Look at me... what an idiot, I submitted this for a recipe contest and didn't win.  Wait, it wasn't me that was the idiot, it was the judges!!!!!!!!!