Roasted Almonds

Since the previous recipe was not baking related I decided that to put in this super simple recipe for roasted almonds. My friend Amber introduced me to roasted almonds and let me tell you if you have not tried roasted almonds, or thought raw almonds were ok, then this will make you love almonds. By roasting the almonds you release a distinct almond aroma and when the almonds are cooled it gives the almond a great crunch. I think the crunch is the best part!
Almonds are great for snacking or when you are counting down the time to lunch or dinner. Also, they are packed with nutrients such as protein, magnesium and vitamin E.  Which helps you lower bad cholesterol (LDL). Keep the portion size to a handful or 1 cup.

Roasted Almonds
from Amber
If you don’t want to turn on the oven then you can use a toaster oven, works just as well.
You can put as much almonds as you want and keep the same time.

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Before baking
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After baking. Enjoy!

2 cups almond

Oven temp to 350°F and bake for 10 mins.
Let the almonds cool and enjoy the crunchy tasty almonds.

Berry Crumble

One day I watching Ina Garten on her food network show, Barefoot Contessa, she was baking a peach blueberry crumble and I thought oh my goodness, that looks so delicious! I have to make it! Actually almost everything that she makes I also want to make because it looks delicious, even a simple fruit platter or antipasto. Ina Garten is by far one of my favorite cooks because she always looks happy, relaxed and easy going, then again who wouldn’t when you live in the Hamptons. Plus, she has all these fabulous friends that come over and help her cook or decorate. awesome! Speaking of fabulous friends, I have a friend (J.Z.) that also loves Ina Garten as much as I do. My friend has a few of her cookbooks, sadly I only have one but that one has her signature in it!
I realized that I haven’t really talked about music in a while, the songs I am listening to now are by Lana del Rey. Her music has a more low and slow, sometimes a sadder, tone to her tunes but I guess her music grew on me and I like it. Some of her more popular songs are blue jeans, blue velvet (this song was played in an H&M commercial with her in it) and young & beautiful (this song was on The Great Gatsby soundtrack and trailer). Now on to the food!

Berry Crumble
Adapted from Ina Garten
Instead of using peaches I used frozen raspberry and strawberry along with the blueberries, just because I didn’t have peaches. Also I found that the recipe asked for a lot more flour than I thought it needed or it could be because I didn’t have enough fruit. It’s a bit of both, to remedy that I would add on two more cups of any berry of your choice and lowering the amount of flour (which is done below).
If there is anyone out there that is following a gluten-free diet then instead of using flour you can use cornstarch and you don’t have to make the crumble, this is great over other things such as gluten free ice cream or banana bread…..Hi Amy!
In the original recipe the dessert was plated in ramekins but if you don’t have those you can put it in a baking dish or casserole dish.
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Colorful ingredients.
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Berries combined with the flour mixture.
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The crumble and fruit mixture.
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Ready for the oven.
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Top it off with some ice cream and its ready to eat!

For the fruit:
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cup raspberry
1 cup strawberry
2 cup fresh blueberries (1/2 pint)
For the crumble:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, granulated sugar, and flour in a large bowl. Toss well. Gently mix in the blueberries, strawberry, raspberry. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. Spoon the mixture into ramekins or baking dish.For the topping, combine the flour, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas, or if you are like me then use a knife to cut the butter into itty bitty bits. Rub the mixture with your fingertips until it’s in big crumbles, then sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Place the ramekins on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the tops are browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

If you want to make these early, store the unbaked crumbles in the refrigerator and bake before dinner.

Crème brûlée

I hope you all had a wonderful Fourth of July with tons of fireworks, I know I did! It’s so beautiful to look at but it makes the loudest noise and creates such a scare with it goes off, nevertheless its still fun to play with fireworks!
This fancy named dish was made because I really wanted to make something special for my family since we went through a lot sweat and work to put on a large event. Plus, I had half and half just sitting in my refrigerator.

Crème brûlée
adapted from Williams-Sonoma
I found this recipe in a dessert cookbook from Williams-Sonoma. I haven’t made this in a while, so I totally forgot if I did something wrong or it was the recipes fault because It was not right when I first made it, the custard/crème was still very jiggly when it came out of the oven. Does not mean you cannot eat it, the dessert will be more like a creme caramel. I admit it might be my fault since the recipe tells you to pour the mixture through a sieve and for some reason I forgot about it and maybe half and half is not the right dairy to use. This recipe will have to be revisited another time.
Ah ha! I do remember that I definitely need to lower the sugar amount (the recipe below has the changed amount) cause I think this might give someone a head start into diabetes and never to use brown sugar for the sugary tops to be brûléed because it will be turned into a blackened mess and you will be sad…I know I was.
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Getting the ramekins ready in a roasting pan.
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Pour the hot cream into the egg mixture.
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Evenly pour the custard in each ramekin.
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I used a broiler to burn the sugar since I couldn’t find the torch.

2 cups heavy cream

6 large egg yolks

1/4 plus 4 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat an oven to 300°F. Have a pot of boiling water ready and a large baking pan

In a 2-quart saucepan add the cream, stir to mix and set the pan over medium-low heat. Warm the cream until bubbles form around the edges of the pan and steam begins to rise from the surface. Remove from the heat and set aside for about 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the 1/4 cup sugar until smooth, blended and mixture is pale yellow. Gradually add the cream to the egg mixture, whisking constantly until blended. Stir in the vanilla extract. Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Divide the custard among four 5- or 6-oz. ramekins and place the ramekins in the prepared baking pan. Add boiling water to fill the pan halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil and bake until the custard is just set around the edges, 35 to 40 minutes.

Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.

Just before serving, sprinkle 1 Tbs. of the sugar evenly over each custard. Using a kitchen torch or the broiler melt the sugar evenly and golden brown. If you are using the broiler, place the ramekins on a baking sheet and place 2-3 inches from the heat source, watch constantly and rotate baking sheet to brown evenly.
Serve immediately.

Happy Birthday Mom! Banana bread with chocolate.

Wishing my mother a Happy Birthday and Hello July!
Poor bananas. In my house they either get eaten quickly or slowly, or I forget them in the brown bag because I am waiting for them to ripen (It really works, just put an apple inside too). This time it was because the bananas were being eaten slowly, so slow that I had to put them in the refrigerator, but lovely for me to make banana bread!

Banana bread with chocolate
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg
This recipe came from her book A Homemade Life, which has quite a few recipes with a great story behind each one.
The butter and flour can be substituted for a healthier option. The banana and yogurt in the recipe can substitute the butter. Bananas can substitute the full amount of butter or, if you are skeptical, half the amount and the yogurt can substitute half the amount.
As for the flour, get yourself some ground flax seed and substitute about half or quarter the amount. This substitution can be put into use with just about any recipe. Another nifty tip, when you don’t have any baking soda just use double the amount of baking powder.
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getting ready to bake!
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mushy bananas, not a very appealing color.
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Pouring the mushy banana mixture into the dry ingredients. again not the most appealing color or action for that matter..oops.
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poured out the batter into the greased loaf pan and smoothed the top of the batter as best I could.
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Then out of the oven and the loaf has turned a beautiful golden brown. It smelled delicious! I had to restrain myself from eating it because I had to save it for a family gather the next day.

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter (optional because of the bananas)
2 cups all purpose flour (or 1 1/2 cup flour & 1/2 ground flax seed)
2/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips
2 eggs
3 large ripe bananas (about 1 1/2 cups mashed bananas)
1/4 cups of  whole milk plain yogurt or greek non fat yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Set a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 350F. Grease a 9 by 5 loaf pan with cooking spray or butter.

In a small bowl, microwave the butter until just melted. (Be careful and do this over medium power in short burst because it can explode or splatter and that is a big mess.) Or melt it in the preheating oven. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate chips and whisk well to combine. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Add the mashed banana, yogurt, melted butter, and vanilla and stir to mix well. Pour the banana mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir gently with a rubber spatula, scraping down the sides as needed, until just combined. Do not over mix. The batter with be thick and somewhat lumpy, just make sure all the flour has been incorporated. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and smooth the top.

Bake until the loaf is a deep shade of golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 mins to an hour. If the loaf seems to be browning too quickly, tent with foil.

Cool the loaf in the pan on a wire rack for 5 mins. Then tip out onto the rack, and let it cool completely before slicing (if you can wait that long).

The loaf freezes well wrapped in plastic wrap and again in foil to protect from freezer burn.

Almond butter cookies

There is too much almond butter at home, my dad keeps buying it cause he thinks we don’t have any. Therefore, I had to find a way to make it disappear and that’s where the cookies come in.

Almond butter cookies
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
I admit that these cookies were ok, the almond butter probably made it taste grainy and it was a tad dry since I couldn’t trust to under baked the cookies, so I left the cookies in the oven longer. But the chocolate chips saved the cookies!
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1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup almond butter at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips

For sprinkling: 1 tablespoon sugar, regular or superfine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and the almond butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the chocolate chips. Place sprinkling sugar — the remaining tablespoon — on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a crisss-cross pattern, but do not overly flatten cookies. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Carrot cake pops

These were baked as a request from one of my best friends, she said that she had never seen anyone make carrot cake pops. So I made it with my god sister, it was really fun to make. I think if anyone has a party or kids, they will love this cause kids get to wreck the cake and its a bite size piece of cake that you don’t have to feel super guilty about.

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butter up and flour the baking pan.
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mixing the cake to crumbly blob
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Carrot cake pops
I used a recipe from my previous post Carrot cake.
The great things about this recipe is it can be easily adapted to any type of cake.
The icing will have to be doubled in amount, although the powdered sugar could be cut down since you will have to use more of it in this recipe.
Once you have the ingredients for the carrot cake then all you need is the lollipop/cake pop sticks. I would suggest to cut the sticks in half.

Cake pop assembly
After you have baked the cake and let it cool. Then use a fork to mix the cake till its all crumbled.
Add the first portion of icing to the crumbled cake, this is done to help the cake adhere to each other.
Mix the icing and cake together, it will look crumbled blobs.
Use your hands to shape the cake into a ball, roughly the size of a ping pong ball and place them on a cookie sheet or container.
Place sticks in the middle of cake balls and then put them into the freezer for 15 mins or refrigerator for 30 mins for the cake to firm up and form.
Make the icing while you wait for the cake pops to harden. You want the icing to be more liquidy than the previous icing made, therefore adding less powdered sugar or heating the icing up before usage would allow that to happen.
Take out the cake pops from the fridge and dip them in the icing then place them back on the cookie sheet. Once done with icing put them back into the fridge to harden the icing.
Voila, you have cake pops!

Puff pastry

This baking done was out of  hunger and procrastination (I am very good at that). I had store bought puff pastry in my freezer because I attempted to make napoleons (mille-feuille) once, that was an arduous task, and if I ever made it again I would use it. But instead of making napoleons I made an Asparagus and dill quiche and apple galette since the package came with two puff pastry sheets. When I unfolded the puff pastries I felt that it was not big enough to use, therefore I rolled it out a bit.
As I was baking I listened to Michael Bublé’s new album, To be loved,  to calm my brain down from all the studying. It’s a great album and I love his music.

Asparagus and dill quiche.
Adapted from not derby pie
In the original recipe, a rectangular tart pan is used but I have a circular one and I felt that it’s not much of a tart but more of a quiche since it has cheese, milk and eggs.
Also, I did not have buttermilk so I decided to make my own, which is the yellow/white mixture in the bowl.  That was not a good idea, I knew it too but I still had to try it, because after you bake it all those lumpy bits, which you see in one photo, melts into a big puddle of butter atop the quiche. I had to use coffee filters to soak up all that butter. Well I learned my lesson, buy buttermilk or use the milk you have already.
Another store bought product, as you can tell, is frozen asparagus. No need to boil it just defrost it and use it.
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The weird buttermilk mixture I attempted to make.
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the lumpy butter bits.
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After I soaked out all the butter.

1 bunch of asparagus (about 12 spears)
1 1/4 cups milk
2 eggs
4 or 5 bunches of dill (more if desired), chopped
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Roll the dough into an 11-inch disk (for a 9-inch round pan) or a 16″ x 6″ rectangle (for a rectangular pan) and fit it carefully into the pan, leaving the overhang in place for now. Prick the dough with a fork, then stick in the fridge for half an hour or so to rest (this ensures that the dough won’t shrink when baked. The overhang helps with this, too; I cut it off after the tart was done.) Meanwhile, preheat the oven to  400°F. Put crust on a flat baking sheet and blind bake the crust for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Leave the tart on the baking sheet.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then drop in asparagus and cook just until tender, about 5 minutes. (Slater says longer, but I can’t bare to overcook a batch of perfect ‘gus.) Remove the asparagus and set aside.

Combine eggs and milk in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Add the tarragon to the cream mixture along with a pinch or two of salt and pepper.

Lay the asparagus in the tart crust. (Slater recommends you cut them into shorter lengths, but I think the full spears look elegant in the finished tart.) Pour the cream mixture over the asparagus, taking care to fill in the tart evenly. Transfer the tart, on its baking sheet, into the oven and bake for 40 minutes, until the filling is golden and quivers only slightly when moved. Serve warm.

Apple galette.
adapted from Williams-Sonoma
I was going to try to make this out of memory from the apple pies I’ve made but I thought I better refer to a recipe just to make sure.
I did not want to save the puff pastry for another time, besides I had extra apples that I cut up from the French apple tart.
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2 lb. apples, such as Granny Smith or Jonagold,
peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. all spice
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 Tbs. cornstarch

To make the filling, in a large bowl, stir together the apples, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and cornstarch. Set aside.

Roll the puff pastry to a bit to accommodate the amount of apples you will be putting in. About 12-inch round. Brush off the excess flour. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Arrange the apple filling in the center of the dough, mounding the fruit slightly and leaving a 2-inch border. Gently fold the edges of the dough over the apples, pleating loosely. Lightly sprinkle sugar over the apples.

Bake until the crust is golden and the apples are tender, about 1 hour. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the galette cool completely, about 1 hour.

Enjoy!

Oatmeal peanut butter cup cookies

Over the weekend my god sister came to stay over my house and we decided to bake oatmeal cookies but not just any old oatmeal cookie, we put in reese’s peanut butter cups! I love peanut butter and with chocolate, it’s magical! Actually, every time we bake I am the one who bakes and she waits patiently but this time she took pictures for me. Thanks!

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all the ingredients mixed together.

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Ready for the oven!

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baked and ready to eat!

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Oatmeal peanut butter cup cookies
The recipe was adapted from the oatmeal raisin cookies and I swapped out the raisins for the peanut butter cups. If you want you could add 1/2 cup of dried cranberries for some tartness to balance out the sweetness of the peanut butter and chocolate. I would have done that but sadly I did not have any.

3/4 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup of brown sugar

1/4 cup milk

1 egg

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking spoon

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 cups oatmeal

1 cup mini Reese’s peanut butter cups, cut into quarters

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat butter, brown sugar, milk, egg and in a large bowl until combined.
Add flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt into the butter mixture and mix together.
Stir in oats and peanut butter cups. Drop tablespoonfuls onto aluminum foil or wax paper covered cookie sheets.
Bake 12 to 15 mins. Remove from oven and let it cool

Baked pasta & Asparagus

What a beautiful day! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, flowers are blooming and the smell of fresh cut grass is in the air! This makes me want to listen to really upbeat pop music such as One Direction, yes that’s right I like their music!
asparagus
The asparagus dish came to me because I was hungry and digging through my fridge.  Took a short cut and used frozen asparagus, microwaved it for 3 minutes then crumbled feta cheese and drizzled on some Persian lime olive oil. (My friend Nicole introduced me to this olive oil. If you have never tried Persian lime olive oil, you are missing out, it tastes and smells delicious)

On to the main dish Baked pasta! I found this recipe in a foodnetwork magazine featuring Italian food. It’s quite simple and fast to make, also the ingredients can be swapped with almost anything. When I make this I put in all vegetables, one pound each of zucchini and frozen spinach. As for cheese I play around and put in whatever cheese I have on hand such as cheddar, monterey jack or an Italian blend of cheeses.

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All the ingredients and baking dish. The pasta was a gift from my cute cousin, she went to Italy and bought that for me.
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Cooking the zucchini and spinach.   Tossing the cooked pasta with vegetables, tomato sauce and half of each cheese.

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before baking

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After baking. look at the browned cheesey deliciousness!

Baked Pasta
From foodnetwork March 2011 issue.

1 pound pasta (faralle, ziti, rigatoni, cavatapi, fusilli, penne or large shells)
4 cups tomato sauce (about one jar of prepared tomato sauce)
3 cups cooked ground meat and/or cooked chopped vegetables
3 cups shredded melting cheese  (mozzarella, provolone, fontina or asiago)
1 cup grating cheese (Parmesan, pecorino or ricotta salata)

Preheat the over to 450°
Cook the pasta till al dente (still has a bite/slightly uncooked) and cook the meat and/or vegetables.
Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce, meat and/or vegetables and half of each cheese.
Spread in an oiled 3 to 4 quart baking dish.
Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the pasta.
Bake uncovered, until browned, about 20 minutes.
Let it cool for a bit and Enjoy!

Granola

I thought I would share this granola recipe as a healthy way to “spring” into the new season (you see what I did there). A very simple recipe that I learned a long time ago and the best thing about it is that it makes your home smell delicious! While you are baking, turn on some music and do  a little dance. Today I was listening to Justin Timberlake’s new album “20/20 experience”, it’s pretty good and usually I don’t listen to his music.

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I buy nuts in the bulk, so I put them in a plastic bag and use a meat tenderizer to crush the nuts. This is especially good if you are feeling stressed, it’s a great stress reliever, you get to hit the nuts and have a little scream while doing that and if someone asks why, you can tell them that you are making granola.

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The ingredients and tools you will need for granola. As you can see my flaxseeds are not grounded there since it’s better to ground it when needed to keep all the flaxseeds fresh and your body utilizes the nutrients of omega 3 fatty acids in the seeds better when grounded. I used a coffee bean grinder to ground my flaxseeds, works perfectly.
I love cinnamon, this is what makes your home smell great, it has shown to give great health benefits. I would also put in wheat germ but I ran out, it’s great to add this since it provides protein and fiber.

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Mix the oil and honey till it looks like this, a great golden mixture.

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What the granola looks like when it’s all mixed together. You will see that everything has a shiny coat on it from the oil/honey mixture.

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The granola spread out evenly, all ready to go into the oven. see you in 20 to 40 minutes!

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Tada! granola all done and ready to eat with yogurt and raisins!

Granola

6 cups of oatmeal

1 cup of honey

1/2 cup of vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups crushed walnut, cashew & almond

1/2 cup ground flax seed

1/2 cup sunflower seed,

1/2 table spoon cinnamon

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees F

Mix the honey and oil first in a large bowl until it’s an even mixture.

Then mix the honey/oil with the rest of the ingredients until all ingredients appear shiny.

Spread the mixed ingredients thinly on a baking sheet (line the baking sheet with aluminum foil for easier clean up and transferring later).

Bake for a total of 40 minutes, at 20 minutes stir the mixture and re-spread it.

If you put the mixture on two baking sheets on different layers in the oven, swap the position of the baking sheets when you do the mixing at the 20th minute.

After you take out the granola, let it cool and then transfer the granola into a container.

You can enjoy your homemade granola with yogurt or eat it as is for a snack or mix it with some raisins or dried cranberries as trail mix.