Sunday, August 30, 2009

My sis and yummy cupcakes

My younger sister Katie (I call her Kat) is a bit sweet-obsessed. She especially loves cakes and cupcakes and stops in bakeries every chance she gets. Yesterday she went to Dorothy Ann Bakery in Woodbury. Back when I was wedding planning Katie was my right hand man when it came to cake-tasting. We cake-tasted at three or four places before I decided on Queen of Cakes in Edina, but Dorothy Ann was one of the first places we tried, in fact (I can't believe I am even admitting this) we went there two separate times to cake-taste. They have a cake called chantilly that is great.

Kat brought me back two cupcakes from Dorothy Ann Bakery, one chocolate with a white frosting filling and a carrot cake cupcake for Erik. When taking a bite of the chocolate cupcake, I literally said out loud, "oh my god". It was that good, really moist and a real chocolatey flavor. It reminded me of a hostess cupcake, only yummier. They are lovely, too. Thanks Kat, my dear, for thinking of your sister!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Post Wedding Session

Teaser pic from Erik and my post wedding session with fabulous photographer Jennie Sewell.

More explanation and photos coming soon...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lake Calhoun

My hubby and I were in need of a day where we spent quality time together. He let me choose so I planned a walk around Lake Calhoun, a stop at Tin Fish and then dinner at Burger Jones.

To make a long story short, poor Erik's allergies got so bad part of the way around the lake that we had to cut our plans short and head home. So no Burger Jones for us (though I had a feeling that paying $10 for a malt was going to suck anyway).

Despite the allergies, Erik suffered through 20 minutes at Tin Fish. In the three and a half years I lived in Uptown in my mid 20's I never ate at Tin Fish, for some reason I thought it seemed like a touristy spot and avoided it. After going there, I thought it was a sweet little place and I'm glad we stopped in for calamari. Though I think pretty much anything fried taste good, this calarmari was awesome, crispy but substantial enough to taste the squid. I did think it was a bit pricey though.

Tin Fish calamari = good
Crabby husband from allergies = not good
Overall date = need a re-do

We'll make up for it sometime soon. Maybe we'll celebrate the last few days of summer on the patio of Cafe Lurcat with bernaise fries and a lavendar martini (for me, not him). Or does anyone have suggestions for a fun date night?

Monday, August 24, 2009


Allison, my coworker, sent me this quick, easy and yummy recipe. She is a super busy gal, always on the go, but still loves to find time to cook her own meals. Rachael Ray's magazine and cookbooks are some of her favorites.

From Allison: They're called scramblewiches and they took about 10 mins total. Cook up some deli meat (I used turkey) add eggs, scramble together. Put in hollowed out whole wheat baguette, top with Swiss cheese and put under broiler to melt cheese. Remove and top with fresh chives. SUPER easy and yummy! From Rachael ray's 365 meals cookbook.

Thanks for the great idea, Allison!

I love getting emails and ideas from readers, please send me photos and recipes of recent cooking adventures (

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pacman cupcake display

My sister-in-law, Nikki, is a woman of many talents. She is super crafty, a great cook, awesome baker and amazing decorator. Nikki addressed all my wedding invitations and placecards and they were a work of art. She is starting her own handwriting, calligraphy-type business on the side so stay tuned if you are planning a wedding or any party and are in need of someone to address invites or add a special touch to any paper products. I will be posting a link to her new website soon.

Nikki was asked by a friend to create a Pacman cupcake display for an 80's party last weekend. Didn't it turn out amazing? For more information on how Nikki put this together click here.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Orzo-stuffed peppers, hummus and beets as big as heads

I made this random meal a couple weeks ago. I love my Giada's Kitchen cookbook but the stuffed pepper recipe was not a favorite. It was good, but not as good as most of the meals I have made from Giada's book.

I also paired the meal with beets from the Farmer's Market, they were perfectly in season, huge and gorgeous. I roast them on 400 degrees with salt, olive oil and freshly ground pepper for about 45 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Then I crumble goat cheese on top, so good.

Here is the recipe for the Orzo-Stuffed Peppers (as you can see in the photos, I used green peppers because they were available at the Farmer's Market, I think we would have liked them more had I followed the recipe and used red or yellow sweet bell peppers.) Another reason I don't think this was a favorite is that I am not a huge fan of mint in savory dishes. Basil may have been better.

Orzo-Stuffed Peppers


1 (28 ounce) can whole Italiam tomatoes
2 medium zuchini, grated
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino romao cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
6 sweet bell peppers (red or yellow)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Pour the tomatoes and their juices into a large bowl and break them into pieces using a pair of kitchen shears or your fingertips. Add the zucchini, mint, cheese, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.

Meanwhile, bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the orzo and cook for 4 minutes. The orzo will be only partially cooked. Drain the orzo through a sieve, reserving the chicken broth, and add the orzo to the large bowl with the vegetables. Stir to combine. Transfer the warm chicken broth to a 3-quart baking dish.

Slice the tops off the peppers and remove the ribs and seeds. Cut a very thin slice from the base to help the peppers stand up.

Spoon the orzo mixture into the peppers. Place the peppers in the baking dish with the warm chicken broth. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle each pepper with cheese, and continue baking until the cheese is golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully transfer the stuffed peppers to serving plates. Garnish with basil, if desired.

Here is the link to the recipe I used for the hummus, instead of the full 1/3 cup of tahini (sesame seed paste), I substituted some olive oil. It turned out fabulous.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Masa is the place to be for lunch

Masa has an amazing lunch deal during the week, buy 3 for $10. You can choose from guacomole, a jicama and mango salad, chicken tortilla soup, and many different types of tacos and tortas.

Diane, Amelia (coworkers/friends) and I went last Friday for a fun lunch. It was awesome getting out of the office and relaxing with good food. Masa also has great happy hour deals that include awesome half-priced margaritas. I wish I was drinking one now!

The food is amazing and includes chips and salsa at the beginning of the meal (their salsa verde is made from fresh tomatillos and is great, I could eat it with a spoon, really, I could!). Masa has a great atmosphere both inside and out, but on a nice day you definitely want to check out their Mexi-chic patio.

I didn't know this until I saw a recent episode of "Good Eats" with Alton Brown but Masa is the corn-based dough that is used to make tamales.

Apparently iphone's take better photos than blackberries.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Lemon Raspberry Tart

I definitely have a "trial and error" strategy when it comes to baking dessert or making anything sweet. I don't think there is one single recipe that I've baked recently that I haven't had to re-do all or at least a part of it. It sounds frustrating but I chalk it all up to a learning experience and by the second try I get it right.

It was no different with this lemon raspberry tart I made on Saturday. This was literally an all day affair. The recipe is not for the faint of heart. It is so long that I'm not even going to attempt typing it out for this post, but if you are seriously interested, email me ( and I will send you the recipe. It is from the Williams Sonoma, Bride and Groom cookbook (a bridal shower gift from my maid of honor). This cookbook is lovely, but the recipes are not easy, and not intuitive. It is definitely not a beginner's cookbook. It is supposed to be for newlyweds cooking together, but the thought of Erik hanging out with me in the kitchen while I try to thicken lemon curd over a double boiler makes me giggle.

I was so inspired by the beautiful photo of the tart in the cookbook that all I could think of is that I had to make this gorgeous tart. I don't have an event, dinner, shower, etc to take this tart to so it is just sitting in my fridge. Tart anyone?

Many, many things went wrong with this tart. The dough started off alright but there are so many steps, first you let it set at room temperature wrapped in plastic, then you freeze it, next step is to bake it (this is the part where I tell you I forgot to turn on the oven, and had the crust sitting in there for 20 minutes before I realized it. No, I'm not kidding), and finally you let it sit on a wire rack to cool.

Next is to make lemon curd. Just the name lemon curd sounds complicated, doesn't it? Well, without getting into all the details, I totally screwed up the first batch and had to start over. Luckily I had enough lemons and the second attempt was a success.

By the time I got around to placing the raspberries on the tart I was pretty tired. I started off placing them neatly in a circular pattern, but by the time I got to the middle it looks like I just took a firstful and threw them down. I may have put too much lemon curd on the tart because the raspberries look like they are drowning (not at all what it looks like in the cookbook photo!).

Like I said, this was a good learning experience and the tart actually tastes great (well, I thought so anyway, no one else has tried it yet. My sis will be the first taste tester).

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Yellow buttermilk cupcakes with swiss meringue buttercream

I made some pretty fancy-pants cupcakes last Saturday. I am not a huge baker, and have been known to screw up something as simple as banana bread, so I'm not sure what had gotten into me to take on the challenge of a complicated Martha Stewart recipe. Honestly, I think I was just bored so I gave it a try.

The cupcake batter is simple, but it was the frosting that was a bit tricky. This buttercream frosting contains egg whites that have to be combined with sugar, a pinch of salt and whisked constantly in a heat-proof bowl over simmering water. After you do that the mixture is transferred to an electric mixture where it is supposed to rise up into soft, frosty peaks. I stared at this mixture for about 20 minutes waiting for it to rise and it never did. I totally screwed up and I think it is because I accidentally got a bit of egg yolk in the whites and thought I'd just go with it. Um, not so much.

I gave up about midnight after the frosting disaster and gave it another try the next morning. Success! And best of all, the cupcakes are adorable, aren't they? The consistency of the frosting turned out perfectly.

I received some mixed reviews of these cupcakes. I actually thought they were great, they taste light and moist with just the right amount of sweetness. Kristin really liked them, and she is a pretty avid baker so I take her opinion of sweets pretty seriously. Erik (my hubby) liked them as well. A few of my coworkers thought they were a bit plain and that the frosting was a bit blah.

This recipe calls for about 10 pounds of butter, not really...but it does call for a ton of butter. I was quite shocked when I kept adding butter stick after butter stick, but I assure you, this recipe makes a lot of cupcakes (36 normal sized), hence the need for mucho butter. I made 12 normal sized about about 45 minis.

Yellow Buttermilk Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream


3 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups sugar
5 large whole eggs plus 3 egg yolks, room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

5 large egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Cupcake Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together both flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

2. With an electric mixture on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium. Add whole eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated and scraing down sides of bowl as needed. Add yolks, and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and beating until combined after each. Beat in vanilla.

3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until cupcakes spring back when lightly touched and a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer the tins to wire racks to cool 10 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto rack and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

4. To decorate cupcakes, transfer buttercream to a pastry bag fitted with a large star-shaped tip. Pipe spirals of buttercream on top of each cupcake.

Buttercream Preparation

1. Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a pan of simmerimg water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved.

2. Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, whisk until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool, about 10 minutes.

3. With mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, whisk in vanilla. Switch to the paddle attachment, and continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula, and continue beating until all frosting is completely smooth. Keep buttercream at room temperature if usig the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freezae up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with a paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Cafe Twenty Eight

Sunday morning brunch. Good friends. Adorable location. Amazing food. Great weather. Patio seating.

Sound perfect? It was!

Erik and I met my best friend Kristin and her boyfriend Tim at Cafe Twenty Eight on Sunday morning in Linden Hills, Minneapolis. Before Kristin suggested Cafe Twenty Eight I had never heard of it, but there will definitely be a second trip. The restaurant is family-owned, many ingredients are organic and from local farms. Everything we ate was delicious.

I had a breakfast burrito, Erik and Tim had egg scrambles and Kristin had an onion and gruyere quiche with a pear salad. She also had a blueberry pancake. Kristin is a tiny little thing but she can eat A LOT (she runs marathons and does triathalons), while I'm on Weight Watchers and had to excercise restraint to only eat half of my breakfast burrito. I could have eaten two of them.

Check out the food pics, yummy!!!

I haven't spent a lot of time in Linden Hills but oh my goodness, what an adorable little haven. There were about 5 more restaurants I walked by that looked amazing (Rice Paper restaurant, Zumbro Cafe to name a couple).

Check out those potatoes, and that organic chicken sausage was amazing.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Chilled Zucchini Soup

I had no plans on Saturday other than spending time with my hubby so I decided to try a couple new recipes. I bought a ton of zucchini at the Mpls Farmer's Market last Thursday and I found a chilled zucchini soup recipe from a recent issue of Food and Wine magazine that looked really good.

The recipe was pretty simple, and super light (no heavy cream). The soup was good (not amazing, but good), and if I were to make it again I would probably add more basil and salt. It was a really beautiful soup and had awesome texture (though I ignored my husband when he said it felt like Malt-O-Meal).

The recipe didn't call for this, but I added a small dollup of sour cream with some parmesan.

Chilled Zucchini Soup

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliceed
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
8 small zucchini (3 pounds) thinly sliced, plus long zucchini shavings for garnish
Kosher salt
3 cups water
2 tablespoons finely shredded basil
2 cups ice
Freshly ground pepper
2 cups purslane or baby arugula


In a large saucepan, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in the thyme and bay leaf and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the sliced zucchini, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the water and bring to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Discard the bay leaf and stir inn the shredded basil.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until very smooth. Transfer the zucchini puree to a large bowl. Stir in the ice. Refrigerate the zucchini soup for at least 3 hours, until thoroughly chilled.

Season the soup with salt and pepper. Ladle into shalolow bowls and top with a small handful of purslane (or arugula) and zucchini shavings. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.