Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Party: Katie's Baby Shower

My little sister is having a baby in a few weeks.  I helped with her baby shower this last weekend.  It's hard to believe that this will be grandbaby number 15 for my family and even harder to believe that the baby of the family is having a baby!  She's having a boy so we went with a "little man" theme and stuck with the colors orange and gray, the same colors they used in his room. 

A big family means there's lots of people to help with events like this!  This shower was definitely a group effort, which was nice because if you've ever given or helped with a shower, you know they can be A LOT of work. 

We went with comfort food, which tends to be right up Katie's alley.  My sister-in-law, Britney, made mini loaves of homemade brioche for grilled cheese sandwiches.  They turned out delicious!

Here's the menu and some pictures of the details. 
  • Mini Grilled Cheese Sandwiches:  bacon and cheddar, three cheese, and ham and swiss
  • Roasted Tomato Soup
  • Sweet Potato and Beet Salad 
  • Limeade
  • Peanut Butter Bars
  • Vanilla Cupcakes

Three choices of mini grilled cheese sandwiches:

Cute cake and cupcakes made by my sister Emily:

Bottles of limeade with orange and gray striped straws:

The cute guest of honor:

Hurry up and get here, little nephew!  I can't wait to meet you and love you already!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I think it's pretty normal to have tastes and preferences change as you get older.  Buttercream would not have been my frosting of choice as a kid.  A few years ago my mom was making my sister's wedding cake. {She's talented like that.}  She made and decorated the cake, but ordered the buttercream from a local bakery.  Making enough buttercream for a wedding cake would be pretty labor intensive.  I think this is when I really fell in love with this grown-up version of frosting.  She had a huge bucket {literally} of buttercream and I used cake scraps, graham crackers, or just about anything that would make a suitable vehicle for the silky goodness that is buttercream. 

True buttercream does not have powdered sugar, a common ingredient in most frostings.  It's made by making a meringue from egg whites and combining it with a cooked syrup and, of course, a truckload of butter.  It's not super sweet, but is smooth and light and amazing.  I've noticed that many cupcake shops say their frosting is buttercream, but very few places actually use true buttercream.  There's a tiny little cupcake shop in downtown Seattle called Yellow Leaf that has lots of different interesting and delicious flavors of buttercream.

I made this tonight for cupcakes for a church event, but neglected to take pictures of any of the cupcakes.  Good thing I had a little dollop left for a graham cracker.  It made for the perfect snack since I mostly care about the frosting anyway. 

A few notes on buttercream:
  • You'll need a candy thermometer to keep track of the temperature of the syrup. 
  • If the mixture looks a little soupy while mixing, don't fret, it will come together in the end. 
  • The buttercream is done when it thickens slightly and the soupiness disappears.
  • Although the recipe calls for unsalted butter, you can use salted if you'd like.  I like the sweet-and-salty combo so I like to use half salted and half unsalted butter.   
  • Buttercream can be made 1 week ahead and chilled, covered, or 1 month ahead and frozen. Bring to room temperature (do not use a microwave) and beat with an electric mixer before using.

  • 4 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces and softened
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or almond or coconut extract)

Combine egg whites and salt in bowl of a standing electric mixer with whisk attachment or other large bowl.

Stir together sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over moderately high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
When syrup reaches a boil, start beating whites with electric mixer at medium-high speed.
Once whites are frothy, add lemon juice and beat at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. (Do not beat again until sugar syrup is ready—see below.)

Meanwhile, put thermometer into sugar syrup and continue boiling, without stirring, until it reaches soft-ball stage (238–242°F).
Immediately remove from heat and slowly pour hot syrup in a thin stream down side of bowl into egg whites, beating constantly at high speed.
Beat meringue, scraping down bowl with a rubber spatula, until meringue is cool to the touch, about 6 minutes or longer. (It's important that meringue is fully cooled before proceeding.)

With mixer at medium speed, gradually add butter 1 piece at a time, beating well after each addition until incorporated.
(If meringue is too warm and buttercream looks soupy after some butter is added, chill bottom of bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice and cold water for a few seconds before continuing to beat in remaining butter.)
Continue beating until buttercream is smooth.
NOTE:  Mixture may look curdled before all butter is added, but will come back together before beating is finished.
Add vanilla extract and beat 1 minute more.
Source:  Epicurious

Monday, April 15, 2013

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Burritos

I made these for a friend who doesn't eat meat.  Honestly, I probably wouldn't have made them if I had been cooking for myself because I'm a meat lover.  Well, it just so happened that I was cooking these late the other night and hadn't eaten dinner yet.  I thought I'd better taste test them; you know, make sure they were edible before delivering them.  Turns out these are SUPER tasty!  I'm not kidding.  Apparently, sweet potatoes and black beans are a magical combination.  I thought they would need sour cream or some sort of salsa to boost the flavor, but nope, they were flavorful and de-lish all on their own.

NOTE: I like to make these into burrito bowls. I start with this cilantro lime rice and top it with the sweet potato and black bean mixture.  Sometimes I add shredded chicken and cheese and whatever else I have on hand that sounds good (chopped tomatoes, more cilantro, guac).


  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed small
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced small
  • 1 small red onion, diced small
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 6-8 burrito-size tortillas

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, toss together the sweet potatoes, jalapeno, red pepper, and red onion with the olive oil, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper.

Dump the coated veggies onto a large baking sheet and roast for 18-20 minutes, tossing halfway through. The vegetables should be tender but not mushy at the end of cooking time.

Let the vegetable mixture cool.

Scrape the mixture into a large bowl and toss with the black beans, cilantro and lime juice. Taste the mixture and add additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed.

Refrigerate the mixture until ready to assemble the burritos or use immediately.

Place 3-4 tortillas on a microwave-safe plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave for 15-20 seconds until the tortillas are pliable.

Place 1/4 cup or so of the vegetable mixture in the center of the tortilla and top with a sprinkle of shredded cheese, a little of each kind.

Fold in the sides of the tortilla and roll up. Place seam-side down on a baking sheet.

Repeat with the remaining tortillas (the filling can be refrigerated and used for 3-4 days).

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes, until heated through and the top of the tortilla is golden brown. Adjust the baking time as needed depending on if the filling has been refrigerated or not. For a softer tortilla, wrap each burrito in tin foil and heat through.

NOTE:  If you'd like to freeze these, assemble the burritos (including the cheese) and freeze on a baking sheet.  Once frozen, transfer to a sealed plastic bag. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Caramelized Onion Dip

This dip is absolutely delicious.  It blows any other store-bought or made-from-a-packet kind of onion dips out of the water. Definitely make sure you cook the onions slowly and for the full time.  You want them browned and caramelized; that's what gives this dip such great flavor!  I like to serve it with good sturdy potato chips, like Tim's, that hold up well to the dip. 


  • 2 large yellow onions
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Ksher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

Cut the onions in half and then slice them into 1/8-inch thick half-rounds.

Heat the butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.

Add the onions, cayenne, salt, and pepper and saute for 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes until the onions are browned and caramelized.

Allow the onions to cool.

Place the cream cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth.

NOTE:  I have used an electric mixer before, but this last time I used a food processor instead.  After adding the onions, I pulsed the mixture just a few times so the onions were chopped a little smaller.  Otherwise the dip can be a little stringy and tricky to manage. 

Add the onions and mix well.

Serve at room temperature with good potato chips and/or vegetables.

Source:  Ina Garten

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Chicken Piccata

My sister and I once served this for a bridal shower dinner and it was a big hit.  I like chicken so much more when it is pounded thin, like this.  It cooks quickly and stays nice and moist.  In fact, every time I pound chicken, I think of my friend Emily.  She walked into the bridal shower that night and said in a voice that quickly went from normal to very high pitched, "Is that chicken pounded flat?!"  In my family we call this fa-fa-ing.  Hahaha!  Makes me laugh every time I think about it.  Thanks for being easily impressed, Emily, and for your hilarious response.  

Also, I think I should add, the sauce is super lemony and delicious.

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 1/2 cups seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons), lemon halves reserved
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • capers (optional to add to the sauce)
  • sliced lemon, for serving
  • chopped fresh parsley leaves, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound out to 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.

Mix the flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper on a shallow plate.

On a second plate, beat the egg and water together.

Place the bread crumbs on a third plate.

Dip each chicken breast first in the flour, shake off the excess, and then dip in the egg and bread crumb mixtures.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium-low heat.

Add the chicken breasts and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until browned.

Place them on the sheet pan and allow them to bake for 5 to 10 minutes while you make the sauce.

For the sauce, wipe out the saute pan with a dry paper towel.

Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and then add the lemon juice, wine, the reserved lemon halves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Boil over high heat until reduced in half, about 2 minutes.

Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to combine.

Discard the lemon halves and serve 1 chicken breast on each plate.

Spoon on the sauce and serve with a slice of lemon and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.

Source:  Ina Garten