Thursday, June 30, 2011

5-Minute Lunch: Quick Roasted Insalata Caprese

I was chatting on Facebook the other day, when someone sent me a link to a blog post (that for the life of me I cannot find right now) for broiled Roma tomato halves with mozarella cheese and basil. It looked so good that the very next day, I bought a bunch of plum tomatoes (49 cents a pound and my tomatoes aren't in yet) and fresh mozzarella bocconcini. (Even though I cannot grow herbs in pots -- as hard as I may try -- thankfully, my basil is the only plant that has thrived and I was able to walk into my backyard and snip a few leaves off. ) 

I like light lunches, especially in the summer. So that day, I tried cutting the tomatoes in half, like the recipe read and adding slices of mozzarella to the tops. But every time I bit into a broiled tomato half, the insides would shoot out onto the plate. I was left with cheese and chewy tomato skin. 

I must have done something wrong. Maybe they should broil longer, I thought. But, nope. I tried again, leaving them in longer and the same thing happened. So I decided to cut the tomatoes into slices and broil them with the cheese on, adding the basil at the end. And, oh my. This quite literally became the perfect bite. I've had this for lunch every day since. Let's just say: I bought a lot of tomatoes.

Quick Roasted Insalata Caprese

Makes 8 slices


2 Roma or plum tomatoes
8 slices of mozzarella bocconcini
8 small basil leaves


Preheat your broiler to high. Move the top shelf of your oven to about 4 inches away from broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set aside.

Meanwhile cut your tomatoes into slices, about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick. Arrange on the baking sheet.

Sprinkle with a little salt. Place your cheese on top of each tomato slice. Place under the broiler for about 5 - 7 minutes or until edges of tomatoes start to crinkle and cheese is melted. Remove from oven and place basil on each tomato. Sprinkle with more salt.

I've eaten these right out of the oven, at room temperature and cold. Seriously delicious all three ways.

This post has been linked to the following blog hops:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Very Simple, Very Sweet: Wedding Cake Card

One of my husband's cousins was recently married and for his wedding, instead of buying a card, slapping our names on it and shoving a check in it, I thought it would be nice to make a very simple, but sweet card that had something old (paper), something new (the tape I used), something borrowed (the white ribbon) and something blue (the color of the paper).

This is a very easy card that uses a basic layering technique and simple shapes to create a cute effect.


Double-sided tape
An extra envelope

I started with a spare envelope I had that measured 6 x 6 inches. So I created a base of 5.5 x 5.5 inches with paper that matched an accent color (which was really a miracle that I had paper to match) on the blue flowered paper. This paper was not card stock, so to give it some support, I cut a white piece piece of card stock the same size (5.5 x 5.5 inches) and taped it to the inside.

I then cut out the pieces of the cake. There were two layers for each of the three tiers. I went back and forth on the dimensions and settled on the following:

Bottom Tier:
White -- 2 x 2 .75 inches
Pattern -- 1.75 x 2.5 inches

Middle Tier:
White -- 1.5 x 2.25 inches
Pattern -- 1.25 x 2 inches

Top Tier:
White -- 1 x 1.75 inches
Pattern -- .75 x 1.5 inches

After taping the layers together, I placed them in the middle of the front of the card and adhered them using double-sided tape. I then completed the inside of the card, which was a simple layer of the patterned paper cut at 5 x 5 inches and a white card stock layer on top at 4.5 x 4.5 inches.

I then cut a piece of white ribbon (random length) and tied a bow, cutting each end to even it off.

I used Zots to adhere the bow to the top of the cake.

It's not fancy or loaded with technique, but I thought it was a nice replacement for a store bought card -- and the great thing is all I had to buy was double-sided tape because I ran out when making the Chuggington birthday invitations.

For a personal touch, try making this card for the next wedding you attend!

This post is linked to the following blog hops:

Monday, June 27, 2011

No Bake PB & J Cake Pops (Or Not)

I have a love-hate relationship with my food processor. I love it and all its capabilities. But I hate cleaning it.  There are so many nooks and crannies, food just lodges itself in and never looks back. And I've been been using it a lot lately, so my love and hatred is growing quickly.

But (sigh) I've got nothing but love for these no bake peanut butter and jelly cake pops. There's nothing yuckier than sweating in a bowl of food because your oven is pumping heat into your kitchen during the dog days of summer. So whipping up these little yummy two-bite pb & j jammers is a breeze. With only five ingredients, these are quickly taking this house over as the sweet treat of choice. (Oh, and you don't need a stick in it to enjoy.)

No Bake PB & J Cake Pops


1 cup Medjool dates*
1 cup unsalted blanched peanuts, plus 1/4 cup unsalted blanched peanuts smashed with a mallet
2 tablespoons Simply Fruit Smuckers fruit spread, blackberry
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white powdered stevia


Process the dates in the food processor until chopped into tiny pieces. Add the peanuts and process until they resemble coarse crumbs. Add the fruit spread, salt and stevia.

Process until a ball forms in the food processor. Line a baking sheet with wax paper and form 1 tablespoon-sized balls with your hands. Roll them in the smashed peanuts. Place them on the prepared baking sheet.

Continue making balls until dough is gone. Place in the refrigerator for one hour to firm.

Remove and transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. If you want, add lollipop sticks and enjoy!

These make cute centerpieces or just as a really amazing no sugar-treat for kids and adults!

*I've made these with Deglet Noor dates and the dough doesn't form a ball in the food processor. Because their consistency is more rough, they stay more separated in the bowl. If using Deglet Noor dates instead of Medjool, I would add 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of peanut oil while processing for moisture.

P.S. This post has been linked to the following blog hops:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

Chocolate and cherries. Oh, a match made in heaven, not unlike chocolate and peanut butter. And a match my dad has a particular liking for. So when Father's Day rolled around, I knew where to turn -- to my old standby it-doesn't-get-any-easier-than-this chocolate cherry cake. (It does beg the question, though: Can I exploit this dessert any more?)

I made it as a cake for my dad's birthday in March.

And two weeks later, I made it for my husband's birthday.

So it just seemed fitting, I turn these into cupcakes and make them for Father's Day.

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

Makes approximately 18 cupcakes


1 package chocolate cake mix
1 large can (21 ounce) cherry pie filling
3 eggs
Chocolate frosting
Cherries for garnish


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with papers or grease well. Set aside.

Disregard box instructions and combine mix, cherry pie filling and eggs. Mix well.

Fill each cupcake nearly to the top (these don't rise much) and bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Repeat with remaining cupcakes.

Cool cupcakes on a wire rack. Once they are done cooling, frost.

I used the Wilton tip 1A for the first time with a 12-inch pastry bag and it worked like a charm! And I've got to say all of the men in my life (and women for that matter) really enjoyed these easy chocolaty cherry cupcakes.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Black Bean and Corn Chicken Bake

Have you ever tried mexican crema? If you haven't, I highly suggest you get in your car or on your bike (or whatever your mode of transportation is) and go to the market and buy some. I stumbled upon crema on accident. I was looking for some queso fresco (which I never had but heard of) for some tacos I was making. It was really expensive at my local grocery store and I didn't buy it. I happened to be at Costco later that day and they were selling two queso fresco wheels for the same price of just one at the other grocery store.

I hemmed and hawed about whether I should buy it as I stood in front of the cheese case making everyone in the aisle angry (I'm sure). I mean I had a near 18-month old screaming (in absolute delight) at the top of her lungs at the front of the cart (so high-pitched people have stopped me and said they think she might become an opera singer) and a four-year old launching off the back of the cart and rolling on the ground in an apparent new gymnastic move just learned that day.

So, I bought it. It was creamy and delicious. And disappeared way too fast. So when I saw crema a week later at my local market, I had to try it and you know what? It's even better than the queso fresco. It's thick and luscious -- not at all like the poor excuse of sour cream I am used to. Seriously. Leave now. Buy some mexican crema. And make this.

Black Bean and Corn Chicken Bake 

Easy and delicious, this mexican casserole is a south-of-the border spiced dish loaded with pieces of chicken, corn, black beans, cheese, tortilla chips and of course, topped with crema.


2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts  or 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups frozen or fresh sweet corn
1/4 cup salsa verde
2 cups Mexican blend cheese
2 cups slightly crushed tortilla chips
Salt, to taste
Mexican crema, for dolloping


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Measure chili powder through salt together in a bowl. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook until soft. Season with salt. Add garlic; allow to cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink. Add the taco seasoning, black beans, corn and salsa and a touch of water. 

Cover skillet and simmer for roughly ten minutes.

Transfer chicken mixture to a baking dish and cover with 1 cup of cheese and the tortilla chips.

Bake for 15 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup of cheese and bake until the cheese is melted. Serve each portion with a dollup of mexican crema.

Absolutely delicious!

P.S. This post has been linked to the following blog hops:

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