August 24, 2011

Asparagus and Parmesan Cream Pastry

I LOVE asparagus. I could eat asparagus and melted cheese all day. So when I found a recipe for Asparagus and Parmesan Cream Pastries, I knew I had to make it for dinner. The recipe is very easy to make, and it's great for a light dinner.

You start by mixing together the cream cheese spread. This consists of grated Parmesan, chopped basil leaves, lemon juice, and of course cream cheese. This spread is SO delicious when paired with the asparagus. It's creamy, light, and the freshness of the basil and light taste of the lemon juice made it a perfect match!

While the dough is thawing, wash and cut the asparagus to fit the size of the pastry sheets. The asparagus should be a little shorter than the sheet, and have room on all four sides to the dough and puff up around it.

The recipe says to cut the dough into four equal rectangles, but my pastry sheet came folded into three rectangles, so I decided to rip them apart and just use them like that. Once you have the rectangles of dough ready, spread the cream cheese mixture over the top, and place four asparagus spears into the mixture, making sure to alternate directions! Sprinkle the tops with sea salt and drizzle with olive oil.

It only takes about 18-22 minutes to bake these, so once they turn a nice crispy golden brown, go ahead and take them out of the oven. Once they cool for a few minutes, transfer them to a cutting board and cut them in half the short way so you end up with 6 squares.

This was a great dinner, and very easy to make! They are a little rich, but we all ended up eating two pieces each. The only thing I would change for next time is that I would cut the asparagus every inch or so, then lay it all out in a line like the asparagus would appear normally. This is because when we would bite into the square, one whole asparagus spear would come off! And although the dough was nice and flaky, I ended up brushing off some of the bottom, as it was a lot to eat!

If you love asparagus, try this out and tell me how it goes! Enjoy, my fellow bakers!

August 11, 2011

My oh my, I'm on a roll here! Check out my Baked Potato Skins!

For dinner last night I made Baked Potato Skins. They were very easy to make, and such a delicious dinner! First you start by baking four potatoes. And, okay, here's the thing. The recipe says "4 large baking potatoes." So I thought, hey, we have potatoes downstairs! But they were very small. And looking at the picture on the website, the potatoes are pretty big. So I thought I'd go to the store and find a bag that had bigger potatoes. Well, that didn't really work out. And then BAM! I turned around and saw a sign that said "Baking Potatoes." Who knew there was a difference? Well I guess there is a difference, because these potatoes were HUGE! Just the perfect size for this recipe. And you buy them separate. So I packed up four big baking potatoes in a bag, and strolled away happily. Okay, end story.

You first bake the potatoes in the oven for about 1 hr - 1 1/2 hrs. Let them cool a little bit, then cut them in half lengthwise. Scoop out the insides, leaving about 1/4 of an inch of potato shell on the inside, and SAVE the part you just scooped out! And here's why: In the morning you can make delicious home-made hash browns with the potato insides you saved! Just heat a skillet with olive oil, throw in the potatoes, brown them on both sides, add some salt and pepper, and voila! Easy peasy hash browns for breakfast! YUM!

Then you will make a little mixture that you brush on both sides of the potatoes. Combine olive oil, parmesan cheese, sea salt, garlic powder, paprika, and pepper in a tiny dish. Use a brush to spread the mixture over the potatoes. Bake at 475 for 7 minutes, turn and bake for 7 more minutes until crispy and golden brown.

You then sprinkle bacon (we didn't use sister is a vegetarian) and cheddar cheese inside each potato skin and bake for 2 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

I didn't get a picture of the final product. My sister came home late from work, so she told me to wait to make dinner. We didn't get to eat until 7:00, so we were all starving! We gobbled them all up before I had a chance to take a pic. But you get the idea: Potato skins with melted cheese, topped with sour cream and freshly chopped green onions. Yeah, pretty successful dinner if you ask me.

Side note: The recipe says it serves 8, but for a hungry family of 4, we each ended up eating two potato skins. Which, when you think about it, equals one full potato. So really, I would say this recipe serves 4. But if you are serving this at a party as appetizers, then yes, I would assume each person would only eat one.

Mediterranean Greek Salad: A Wonderful Side Dish!

 For dinner last night, I decided to make a salad side dish. But I didn't want just an ordinary lettuce and ranch salad. I opted out for a fancy Mediterranean Greek Salad, comprised of cucumbers, Roma tomatoes, red onion, and crumbled feta (oh...and black olives, but I decided to leave those out! I wish I liked olives!)

I started out by cutting the vegetables up in order and adding them to the mixing bowl as I went. I first chopped up 3 cucumbers, then added 1 1/2 cups feta cheese. Next, I added the Roma tomatoes. If you aren't familiar with Roma tomatoes, they are about the size of a kiwi, so I had to guess how many would make up 3 cups worth. I ended up buying 9 Roma tomatoes, and it worked out just perfectly! About 3 tomatoes makes up 1 cup.

I know that a lot of the juice in the tomatoes comes from the middle part where all the seeds are, and I didn't want a pile of tomato juice sitting at the bottom of the bowl, so I took out a lot of the juice/seeds before adding it to the bowl. This way it doesn't make the salad really soggy and overly tomato-y.

Then you add 1/3 cup diced sun-dried tomatoes. These come in a jar, and luckily we had some in the refrigerator! You also want to use the juice (about 2 Tablespoons) to go into the salad. This will be kind of like the dressing/oil, but healthier! Add the red onion, and chill about an hour before serving. (That's just my preference.)

This salad was a perfect side dish for any summer meal! Although my family isn't too fond of olives or tomatoes, we really enjoyed all the flavors. In the end, (since we are big fans of cucumbers!), we decided we could have cut back on the tomatoes (maybe use 2 cups next time). But I would highly recommend this refreshing salad to anyone!

On a final note, I would like to add a comment from my mom regarding the salad: "It's so GREEK-Y!"

August 10, 2011

California Grilled Veggie Sandwich

Yesterday I decided to trek on over to the grocery store and pick up some ingredients for dinner. I found a delicious recipes on called a California Grilled Veggie Sandwich. I also picked up some ingredients for a few other dinners I will be making this week. Needless to say, with all the vegetables all these recipes required, I think the cashier was getting pretty annoyed with me. I had about 12 separate bags filled with different veggies, and she had to...wait for it...manually enter in all the codes...I KNOW! I think a couple times she looked up at me like, "Are you serious!?"

I was really excited for this sandwich. It got 5 stars, AND it was the number one most popular summer recipe on the website. So I just had to see what all the hubbub was about. You start out by making the dressing, which is made up of mayo, minced garlic, and lemon juice. Very tasty indeed!

Then you cut up all the veggies! I didn't see a yellow squash at the store, so I substituted it for eggplant. Otherwise, I found all the other ingredients just fine: Red bell peppers, zucchini, and red onion.

Mmm...look at all those colors! Normally I'm not too fond of onion, but when it's grilled, I think it's actually quite tasty! Some of the reviewers on the website also added mushrooms in there...but I'm not a big fan of those either.

Then you just rub-a-dub-dub the veggies in olive oil and place them on the grill! I was actually afraid that the zucchini and peppers would fall through, so I laid out a rectangular sheet of tin foil, spread some olive oil over it, then added the vegetables on top. Also this way you won't have to continuously watch the vegetables. Just check the sides after 5 or so minutes, and flip!

When the veggies were almost done on the grill, I cut the focaccia bread in half (it's a circular bread...or at least mine was. So you cut it like you would cut a giant hamburger bun). Then you spread the already made dressing over the bottom half of the bread, and sprinkle 1/2 cup of feta cheese over that.

I went back to the grill, put all the vegetables on the place (except the eggplant...I put it on the grill to get some nice grill marks on it), then put both the top and bottom part of the bread on the grill to toast it up and melt the cheese. Be careful! Feta cheese takes a little bit longer to melt, and mine didn't even melt fully before the bottom of the bread started to burn. I toasted the top of the bread for a shorter amount of time, turned down the heat, and left the bottom half to melt the cheese.

YOU GUYS. This sandwich is sooo good! And no, you don't eat it like that...we cut it up into quarters and it was so filling! The dressing is the perfect tanginess, but also subtle. The cheese, although not super melty, went perfectly with all the vegetables. And, OH, the vegetables! Grilled to perfection. All of this sandwiched between toasted, italian-seasoned focaccia bread. This recipe is one that you must try! And we didn't even miss the meat. : )

July 20, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles (aka "Awesomeness in a Ball")

If you love cookie dough and chocolate, then you just must try this recipe! There are many variations of this dessert, and most of them are very similar, but the one I used can be found here. It is perfect to make in the summer because it's no-bake and they are sooo refreshing when they're frozen/extremely cold! Oh, and it contains no eggs! Just another reason to love this recipe!

We start by creaming together butter and brown sugar. You add some vanilla, flour, sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips, then voila! Pop it in the fridge and you've got yourself a delicious cookie dough!

To make cookie dough balls, you simply use some type of scooper (melon baller, cookie scoop, spoon, etc.) or your hands to form them into balls. Once the dough starts to warm up, it becomes stickier, so you may have to refrigerate it for a few more minutes, then take it back out and continue forming balls.

A little side note: Make them smaller than they are in the picture. Unless you want gigantic truffles, I think this is good advice!

Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of me smothering them in melted chocolate bark, or the finished product. But basically, you just melt up some chocolate, throw in a truffle, roll it around with a spoon, then place it back on the cookie sheet. The chocolate on my truffles started to harden after a few minutes since my cookie sheet was still cold from being in the refrigerator. Otherwise, just pop them in the fridge after coating them with chocolate, and they'll be ready to eat in minutes!

Oh, and trust the recipe when it says it makes 3-4 dozen...this is true! My truffles were larger than they should have been, and I still made around 45 truffles!

I froze a few of them in a separate container, and brought them out on our boat on the weekend. By lunchtime, they were still a little cold (not melty, thank goodness!) and perfectly delicious! Enjoy!

I've got some news!

You know how I complain about my crappy camera? Right, the Kodak point-and-shoot and my Droid2 camera? Well, I've got some good news! There might just possibly be a slight chance that I will get a fancy shmancy cool new DSLR camera in the near future! Yes, that's right. No more blurry, grainy, weirdly lit photos of..."what is that? Is it supposed to be a cupcake?" So, stay tuned folks! (Or...for now it's just "folk" I guess.)

Here are my top choices right now:
-Nikon D3000
-Nikon D5000
-Nikon D3100

Yep, they're all Nikon. I know. But I've done my research! If anyone out there has some advice, I'd love to hear it! : ) Have a nice day fellow bakers!

June 28, 2011

(Reddish) Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcakes are a classic! So, for Fathers Day this year, I decided to bake up a batch for my family. I have never made red velvet cupcakes before, so I was a little apprehensive. But I gave it a try and hoped for the best!

Okay, now first let me start out by saying: I HAVE USED SO MUCH BUTTER since I started baking! This is serious people. I bet I have used tens of pounds of butter for baking purposes just in the last year. I feel like Julia Child or Paula Dean, except I'm not trying to use butter as much as them. It's just how recipes are! It astonishing, I know. Okay, enough of that. Let's get to the recipe.

I know, you don't have to tell me. These aren't red. Okay, but there is a good reason! We didn't have much red food coloring...yes, poor planning. So I just put in about 15 drops, and I called it good enough. And, my sister said they should be more red after they have baked. This is a lie.

Proof this is a lie.
Further proof.
My sister (aka the liar who said they would be more red after they
got out of the oven) attempting to frost the cupcakes.
Even so, they did turn out pretty delicious. They just looked like chocolate cupcakes. For the frosting, I used regular Cream Cheese frosting from The recipe for Cream Cheese Frosting can be found here. I also found a Red Velvet Cupcake recipe on, that can be found here. Both are very good recipes!

So, as an end to my Father's Day, I sat outside reading one of my favorite author's books and ate a cupcake. 

Joanne Fluke is a native Minnesotan that writes these amazing
murder-mystery novels! Plus, they include recipes too! 

Here is my collection of her novels. She has a few more, but I
desperately need to catch up! I highly recommend these
books for foodies and mystery-lovers alike!

Oh yeah, and this is the waterfall my dad built. He is very proud of it, so I thought I'd put it up here so you can see his hard work. Both my parents are obsessed with plants and landscaping! They have average jobs by day, but turn into plant and yard connoisseurs by night. We even have a gardening shed, and three different sitting areas surrounded by beds of plants and grape vines! Maybe I'll post more later...but for now, enjoy your summer! 

June 20, 2011

Sopapilla Cheesecake Pie

I was almost going to make this for my final Spanish project, but wasn't quite sure it was traditional or not. I am pretty sure this is an "Americanized" version. Real Sopapilla is a "fried pastry and type of quick bread" according to Wikipedia. The pictures kind of remind me of funnel cakes. But this recipe, the Sopapilla Cheesecake Pie recipe from, seems very different from traditional Sopapilla.

It starts with a can of crescent rolls that you stretch to fit the bottom of the pan. Then, you add the mixture of cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract into the pan to completely cover the crescent roll layer on bottom. Open the second can of crescent rolls, and make a layer on top of the cream cheese. After that, you simply stir together the butter, sugar, and cinnamon and dollop it over the top.

It takes about 30 minutes to bake, and it should come out with a nice golden-brown crust. When it is cooled and ready to serve, squeeze some honey over it (if desired) and enjoy with a tall glass of milk! I recommend this dessert to any cream cheese lover. The crust is perfectly fluffy yet crispy, and the cinnamon topping is so yummy!

Close-up of the bubbling crust just after it
came out of the oven. Mmm!
It's a very rich dessert, so I had to eat it in small amounts. But with my family of four, the pan was gone within days! Such a good recipe!

Oh, and I just have to share's a review someone wrote about the recipe on the website. I thought it was hilarious! Enjoy:
"Ok. This is, undoubtedly, the most outstanding-delicious-amazing-wonderful dessert recipe I have EVER tried. Unbelievable. If you don't rush right out and pick up the ingredients for this, you are missing out ON LIFE! I have tasted a lot of desserts, I have tried a million recipes, but I can honestly say (and my family will agree) that this is the most wonderful dessert ever. It was made by the Gods. You know how every recipe you read on has reviewers improving upon the recipe in some way? Well you won't see that with this recipe. Nope. It would be absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to improve on this one in ANY way. It's perfect. Sent from heaven. And in addition to the perfect flavor is the fact that it LOOKS beautiful, even if you throw the crescent rolls in sloppily (like I did). It's also so unbelievably easy to make that I am ASHAMED I didn't know about this sooner because it would have saved me a lot of sweat and stress while trying to throw something together for potlucks. All I can ask is that you not share the recipe with anyone. It's so good it should be a secret!"

...And sometimes I cook

"You know, sometimes bakers have to cook. And when that day comes, they should pray something doesn't go wrong."  -Laura (Food Blogger)

But nothing went wrong here! Tricked ya there, didn't I? I made up that quote by the way...that's me, Laura. Yep! Anyway, moving on...before school ended, I had a final Spanish project that involved cooking Latin food! I mean, how fun is that? And, I learned two new recipes that I will certainly make again in the future. One dish was Lemon Garlic Tilapia, and the other was an Avocado, Tomato and Mango Salsa. Both were very very tasty, and they would be great summer dishes!

 Let's start with the Salsa. This recipe can be found at entitled "Avocado, Tomato and Mango Salsa," or you can follow this link to find it. The ingredients are very basic and easy to find (not to mention pretty cheap)! You start by peeling/pitting/seeding (if needed) and chopping up the mango, avocado, tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro, and garlic. Then you stir in the salt, lime juice, red onion, and olive oil.  After that, the recipe advises to refrigerate the mixture for at least 30 minutes before serving. This is to blend the flavors together.

The colors look SO great together, and it tastes even better! I did take some advice that critics gave the recipe on the website. They said the juices all went to the bottom of the bowl and it became very watery. So, I drained some of the juice out of the tomatoes before adding them in. This seemed to do the trick! There was  also a tip that you could just buy diced tomatoes in a can and drain them instead of chopping up your own tomatoes. But I enjoyed the fresh taste of the ones I used.

Adding the red onion (1/4 c.)

3 Tbs Olive Oil

1 tsp. Salt (ACTION SHOT! Look at that salt go!)

And now the Tilapia "al Ajillo". Again, it's a very simple recipe. (And I'm glad I didn't mess it up!) It's basically tilapia fillets, some garlic, olive oil, salt/pepper, and chopped parsley and lemon for serving.

The recipe calls for 1 1/2 lbs tilapia fillets. All we had was 2 fillets, so I used those. First you season the fillets with salt and pepper, then heat the olive oil in the skillet over medium heat. Put the fillets in, and after 1-2 minutes, add garlic slices. It doesn't take too long to cook the fillets. Mine took about 4-8 minutes. And you want the garlic to get a dark golden brown color, but not burned.

When the fish is done, test it by flaking it with a fork. If it flakes easily, then it's ready to serve! I served mine two different ways. One fillet I did the traditional way--or the way in the recipe--by sprinkling some of the cooked garlic over the fish, adding some parsley, and lemon juice on top.

For the other one, however, I used some of the amazingly-delicious salsa I had just made, and added it on top. In fact, the recipe mentions that it is also commonly served this way too, with salsa on top. My family enjoyed both versions!

My mom whipped up some steamed corn and Mexican rice, and it was a Latin meal to remember! The tilapia was so tasty with the fresh lemon juice and the garlic slices weren't too overpowering like I thought they would be. It actually added a lot to the recipe! You can find the recipe at, entitled "Tilapia al Ajillo (garlic tilapia)" or follow this link. The fish dish itself has only 260 calories per serving, but it's very filling! I would recommend this recipe to anyone who wants a quick dinner that's easy to make, and doesn't require much effort or ingredients. We always have steamed veggies on hand, and little side dishes that are easy to heat up, so it's a great meal to serve to the whole family!

¡Buen Provecho! (Bon Appetit!)

May 14, 2011

Mother's Day Pie: Banana Cream

For mother's day I decided to bake my mom her favorite pie: Banana Cream. The crust was store-bought, and the filling was well...not home-made necessarily. I know, I know. I'm sorry! But hey, my mom told me that this was the way her mom used to make it for her, so I decided to stick to the tradition!

First I baked the crust, then let it cool and I put sliced bananas on the bottom layer. The pudding is just a Jello vanilla pudding mix that I added whole milk to. Then I mixed a bit of cool whip in, and let it set in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. After it was set, I added another layer of bananas (more spaced out this time) and a layer of whip cream on top.

It was a very tasty pie. I never had Banana Cream Pie before, but I really liked it! The pudding part was kind of runny, so next time I don't think I would add quite as much milk as the package says. But, my mom loved it! So it was a very Happy Mother's Day, indeed! : )

Oh, and with the extra whip cream, I mixed up a little after-school snack that's both healthy and delicious! One layer strawberries, one layer whip cream. And repeat. YUMMY!

PB-NA: An original invention

PB-NA: Peanut Butter Nutella Apple

So a while ago I got this idea to make a gourmet sandwich. And this is what became of it. Nutella. Peanut Butter. Green Apples. All bundled up in whole wheat bread. Now let me tell you, I had never had Nutella before, but I heard it was delicious. This sandwich, although a little strange, was actually quite tasty. 

I had promised my friend I would make her a special sandwich for lunch one day, and she loved it! The apples were a surprise to her. At first she thought it was lettuce, actually. But the crunch of the apples is a really great addition to the sandwich.

When making the sandwich, make sure you cut the apples thin enough. These may have been too thick, and if they are too thick, it's harder to eat. I used Granny Smith apples, Jif creamy peanut butter, and of course that delicious hazelnut spread known to be Nutella.

If you're daring enough, try out this gourmet might just like it!

April 24, 2011

Easter-ish Cupcakes

If you haven't learned by now, I am obsessed with cupcakes. I love to bake, eat, and talk about cupcakes. And since I just happen to have a 3-day weekend to celebrate Easter and all this spring-like weather we are having (actually it just snowed a few days ago...crazy, huh?), I decided to bake some Easter-y cupcakes. My sister came home from college, so she "helped" me bake (not really, she watched me bake, then helped with the funnest part...frosting). We decided to just do a simple chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting, then dye the frosting in spring-like colors. *See previous cupcake post for chocolate cupcake recipe*

We baked a few large cupcakes, but mostly mini cupcakes. We visited my grandma yesterday, so I wanted to bake mini cupcakes to give to her.  The cupcakes turned out wonderful! As always, this chocolate cupcake recipe never fails, and the frosting...well, that's a simple buttercream frosting. Can't really screw that one up, now can we?

While the flavor gets an A+, the frosting method was a little more complex. We decided to try something I've never done before. I've seen it being done on baking shows, so I really wanted to try it. My sister and I divided up the frosting in separate bowls and dyed half of it pink and half blue. Then, I fetched my trusty pastry bag and set it down flat on the table. I filled the "bottom" (or side...however you look at it) with blue, then I put the pink on top. I didn't push the frosting all the way to the tip. I grabbed the bag in my hand and gently squeezed so the colors were equal, right next to each other. Then, the frosting began!

**Tip: When frosting with dual colors, it helps to work with another person so one can hold the bag open and the other can put the frosting in the bag.

The frosting colors together looked like cotton candy, and I think that confused my grandma. We told her it looked like cotton candy and she thought we said it was cotton she gave us a weird look. But she ate three minis, so I think she liked them! That's always a good sign.

Happy Easter, everyone!