Monday, March 2, 2015

Meyer Lemon Pudding Cakes

It's about time for a dessert around here, don't you think?  How about an individually-sized lemon cake that's equal parts sweet, tart, creamy, and spongy?  Still not convinced?  Then scroll on down and check out those layers.  They form on their own, you know.

It's true.  With just a handful of ingredients and a little patience while you whip egg whites (and wait for the cakes to bake and cool), you can have your very own little cake.  Only, as it bakes, this cake forms a middle layer of light, airy pudding and top that looks and tastes like smooth lemon curd.  It's every bit as perfect as it sounds.  

My sister, one of those people who will always choose lemon over chocolate, would love these cakes.  She is a huge fan of my lemon bars already.  But today's her birthday and birthdays mean cake, right?  I think so.  So Taylor, I hope you have a fabulous birthday.  I can't wait to make these for you when I see you soon.  You'll get your very own personal lemon cake, but no squishing the pudding through your teeth.  It might be your birthday but I'm still the bossy big sister.  Always have been, always will be.

Bring a little bit of sweet-tart sunshine to your plate with these individual lemon pudding cakes.  With three layers of light, fluffy cake, airy pudding, and bright, rich lemon curd, they're sure to bring a smile to your face.  

Meyer Lemon Pudding Cakes
from Annie's Eats

softened butter, for greasing ramekins
3/4 c. plus 1 TBSP sugar, divided, plus more for coating ramekins
1/4 c. plus 1 TBSP all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
zest of 2 Meyer lemons
1 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
4 large eggs, separated

1.  Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Lightly grease inside of six (8-oz.) ramekins with the softened butter then coat with sugar.  Prepare a deep baking dish or roasting pan by placing a clean kitchen towel in the bottom.  Set prepared ramekins on top of the towel in the baking dish.

2.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, 3/4 c. sugar, and salt.  Add in lemon zest.  With clean hands, rub the zest into the flour mixture until evenly distributed and fragrant.

3.  In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, lemon juice, and egg yolks.  Set aside.

4.  In a separate medium bowl, combine the egg white and remaining tablespoon sugar.  Whisk or beat with a hand mixer until soft peaks form, taking care not to overbeat.

5.  Add the flour mixture to the buttermilk mixture and whisk to combine, incorporating well.  Add 1/3 of the whipped egg whites to the bowl and gently fold in with a rubber spatula.  Repeat with remaining egg whites in two more additions.

6.  Once the egg whites are evenly incorporated into the batter, divide it into the prepared ramekins.  Add hot water to the baking dish until it reached halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  

7.  Tent the pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake 20-30 more minutes, until the cakes rise up and the tops are lightly browned.

8.  Carefully transfer the ramekins to a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature.  When ready to serve, gently run a paring knife around the edges of each cake and invert onto serving plates.  Top with candied lemon slices, whipped cream, or other desired garnishes.

Yield: 6 individual cakes

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My Top Three Chilis for National Chili Day

As I write this, I'm hanging out at my best friend's house on ice day number two.  You see, Dallas, like all Southern cities, does not do winter weather.  It's true we didn't get that much ice and got even less actual snow.  Northern cities laugh and shake their heads at how quickly we close down.  But we don't put our money into cold weather measures like salt, snow plows, and the like.  We put it into tornado sirens and early warning systems.  And football stadiums.  I think it's a fair trade.

Especially since snow days mean chili.  It's a given.  Nothing will get every last Dallasite to the grocery store for chili fixins like even the slightest threat of winter weather.  Or a football game.  Again, a totally fair trade.

With our current weather situation coinciding with National Chili Day, I'm wishing I'd gotten ingredients for all three of my favorite chilis.  But, we've got another storm front on its way, so there still time to go to the store and restock before tomorrow.  Two snow days and #NationalChiliDay 2015.  I'm not sad about it.

My three favorite chilis: On the left, the hearty and healthy butternut squash and chipotle chili with avocado the Meatless Monday campaign loved just us much as I did.  Top right, my all-time favorite traditional chili, a slight adaptation of Jamie Deen's stick-to-your-ribs recipe.  Bottom right, a light and healthy white chicken (or turkey) chili.  No matter what you like, I've got you covered for #NationalChiliDay!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Citrus Chicken Quinoa Bowls with Avocado

When the weather is cold and dreary, it can be pretty tough to stay focused on healthy meals.  It seems like we're naturally geared to want thick, rich stews, roasts, baked pastas, and all the mashed potatoes we can handle.

The good news is citrus season comes smack in the middle of winter, making the search for light and enticing meals much, much easier.  Nothing can brighten up the look of a plate as quickly as juicy segments of orange or grapefruit and the taste is always enough to bring warm, sunny thoughts to mind.

These quinoa bowls make those oranges the star of the show.  With a supporting cast of creamy avocado, nutty quinoa, and earthy cilantro, there's nothing not to love.  I made these for lunch and the protein content really kept me going strong all afternoon, even through a pretty intense workout.  If this is what eating healthy in winter can be, I'm all in.

Bright, sunny orange segments are the perfect accent to nutty quinoa, creamy avocado, and earthy cilantro in these healthy, protein-packed citrus chicken quinoa bowls.

Citrus Chicken Quinoa Bowls with Avocado
adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

1/2 c. dry quinoa
2 TBSP olive oil
1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped into 1-in. pieces
2 cloves roasted garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 large oranges, peeled and segmented (supremes)
1 ripe avocado, cubed
2 green onions, chopped (for garnish) 

For the dressing:
1/4 c. fresh lime juice
1/3 c. chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
1 TBSP fresh orange juice
1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1 TBSP honey
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

1.  In a dry skillet over medium-low heat, toast quinoa until fragrant and very lightly browned, 7-8 minutes.  Cook according to package directions, then transfer to a large bowl and let cool slightly.

2.  Meanwhile,warm olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.  In a small bowl, toss chicken pieces with paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper.  Add chicken to pan and cook until done, 7-8 minutes.

3.  Make dressing by shaking all ingredients together in a tightly-lidded jar or whisking together in a small bowl.

4.  Add chicken, oranges, and avocado to the quinoa.  Stir gently to combine.  Add desired amount of dressing to salad and stir.  (I used about 3/4 of it and added the rest to leftovers for lunch the following day.)  Leftovers keep well up to 3 days.    

Yield: 3 servings

Friday, January 30, 2015

Black Derby Cocktail

I'm a self-proclaimed cold weather lover, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate those occasional warm, sunny days that randomly pop up in the middle of January or February.  (Thank you North Texas!)  When the space between those days becomes too much to bear, it's time to make my own liquid form.

You see, another great thing about living in Texas is the abundance of Riostar ruby red grapefruits grown right here in the Lone Star State.  They're so deeply red and so perfectly sweet-tart that I eat them without any added sweetener.  But juicing them and adding booze is a whole other story.  That, I highly recommend.

These grapefruit margaritas are far and away one of my favorite drinks.  I got a major craving for them the other day, but when I went to make up a batch, I realized I was missing orange liqueur.  On a Sunday.  When all the liquor stores are closed.  (One of the only down sides to living in Texas.)  So, I did what any responsible person would do and decided not to drink found a drink recipe using what I already had on hand.

I stumbled upon a recipe for a Brown Derby cocktail, which uses grapefruit juice, bourbon, and a honey syrup.  As I dug a little deeper, I found that cocktail's cousin, the Black Derby.  With molasses (one of my favorite flavors) taking the place of the honey, I knew I'd found just the right drink for me.  

Sweet-tart ruby red grapefruit mixes with rich, oaky bourbon and deep, dark molasses for this one of a kind cocktail sure to bring some sunshine to cure those winter blues.

Black Derby Cocktail
adapted from Saveur

1/2 oz. warm water
1/2 oz. molasses (not blackstrap)
3 oz. freshly-squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice (do not use bottled juice)
1½ oz. bourbon

1.  Pour water and molasses into a small jar or other lidded container.  Shake until combined.  Set aside to cool.  (Can be made ahead.)

2.  Combine juice, bourbon, and cooled syrup in a shaker with plenty of ice.  Shake vigrously until well combined, then strain into a chilled glass.  Serve immediately.

Yield: 1 cocktail

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bon Appetit's Best Banana Bread

Do you have a favorite banana bread recipe?  The one your mom, grandma, or aunt made all the time?  The one they brought to each and every family gathering?

Whether you do or don't, I'm here to throw this one into the mix.  Bon Appétit calls it their favorite.  To be honest, I can't really say it's my favorite.  What I can say is it's a great option for when you want a nice, sturdy, not-so-sweet banana bread.  It really was great for toasting and smearing with a bit of butter or leftover mascarpone.  With a cup of coffee, it really was quite the breakfast or afternoon snack.

My mom is actually the one who made this back when she was here taking care of me after my surgery.  It smelled fantastic as it was baking.  We not-so-patiently waited for it too cool before cutting into it.  Then...disappointment.  All those bananas and rich mascarpone and there just wasn't much flavor.  But the next day?  There it was--a tangy, rich, banana flavor unlike any banana bread I'd ever had before.

So would I make this again?  Yes, I think I would.  I'd just make sure to fix it the night before I need it.  Because what good is banana bread if it isn't packed with that familiar banana flavor?

With four bananas and a healthy dollop of mascarpone, this sturdy banana bread is tangy, rich, and just perfect for toasting.

Bon Appétit's Best Banana Bread
from Bon Appétit, August 2014

nonstick baking spray
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
1/3 c. mascarpone
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
4 large very ripe bananas (about 1 1/2 c.)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 c. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 350° F.  Spray a standard-sized loaf pan with baking spray.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

3.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat brown sugar, mascarpone, and butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until blended.

4.  Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture, and mix until just combined.  Add bananas and mix until just combined.  Fold in chocolate and/or walnuts, if using.  Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth out the top.

5.  Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean, 60-65 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let the bread cool in the pan on a wire rack, about 1 hour.  Turn bread out and let cool completely.  Wrap tightly with plastic wrap.  Let stand at least 6 hours before slicing, optimally overnight.

Yield: 1 loaf