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Recipes

Cheesy, Baked Spaghetti Squash

Tabitha Helms

We got a couple spaghetti squashes from our Urban Delivery box, and I was really excited to try out a couple recipes. I've never eaten spaghetti squash before and was amazed at how easy it was to make it look stringy like spaghetti! I made two recipes at once, placing the casserole version in the fridge for a later date. It kept well, and I was so relieved to have it to throw in the oven after a really long day of working in my classroom! Here's the casserole version I made. If you want to save it for later in the week, just cover it and put it in the fridge after you top it with cheese. IMG_0603

Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Casserole

1 medium spaghetti squash 2 tablespoons butter 1 small yellow onion, cut in half and very thinly sliced ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more if you like it spicy 1 teaspoon fresh thyme ½ cup sour cream ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Cut the spaghetti squash in half and remove the seeds. Place in a covered dish with a ¼ inch of water and microwave for 10 -12 minutes. In a medium sized skillet over medium heat, add the butter, onions, red pepper and thyme and cook until the onions are slightly brown in color. Salt and pepper to taste. Using a fork, scrape the insides of the squash and transfer to a small bowl. Combine the squash, onions, sour cream and half the cheese together and mix well. Transfer the mixture to a buttered baking dish and top with remaining cheese. Place into a 375º for 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown on top.

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Tilapia Tostadas with Roasted Corn Relish

Tabitha Helms

It was a use up the veggies and frozen tilapia night. This turned out messy but quite tasty. The green salsa wasn't very spicy, so I added siracha on top at the end. I'm not huge on spicy things. Siracha actually burns my mouth. But this needed a bit of a kick. I usually burn tortillas when I cook them, but this broil method worked great! Thanks to myrecipes.com for the recipe! IMG_0610

Serves 4 (2 tostadas each)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/4 cup green salsa
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup yellow corn kernels
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced seeded jalapeño pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 cup diced peeled avocado
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 pounds tilapia fillets, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 1 cup packaged angel hair slaw
  • Lime wedges (optional)
  • Siracha for added spiciness

Directions

1. Combine sour cream and salsa.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add corn, bell pepper, onion, jalapeño, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to pan; sauté 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove mixture from pan; wipe pan clean with paper towels. Combine avocado and juice; toss gently. Stir avocado mixture into corn mixture.

3. Preheat broiler.

4. Sprinkle fish evenly with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Place cornmeal in a shallow dish; dredge fish in cornmeal. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add half of fish to pan; cook 3 minutes. Carefully turn fish over; cook 2 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and fish.

5. Coat both sides of tortillas with cooking spray. Arrange tortillas in a single layer on baking sheets; broil 2 minutes on each side or until crisp. Place 2 tortillas on each of 4 plates. Arrange 2 tablespoons slaw on each tortilla. Divide fish evenly among tortillas; top each serving with about 3 tablespoons corn relish and about 1 1/2 tablespoons sour cream mixture. Serve with lime wedges and drizzle with siracha, if desired.

Garlic Lemon Tilapia, Kale Chips, and Cucumber Salad

Tabitha Helms

Cooking for one is not nearly as fun, but for those of us that love to cook and don't want to resort to a microwave meal that tends to be not as healthy anyway, this combination is a good one for a night in. Gear up, this recipes got not one, not two, but THREE recipes for you to try out: Garlic Lemon Tilapia, Lemon Kale Chips, and Refrigerated Cucumber Salad! I had individually frozen, tilapia fillets in the freezer and some kale and cucumbers from our weekly, Urban Fresh Delivery box, so I pulled up my Healthy Eating pinboard and found some good ones!

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Garlic Lemon Tilapia By Shruti's Dilectable Dilites

Ingredients:

1 tilapia fillet, (defrosted if frozen) 2 cloves garlic, grated 1/2 T butter 1 T lemon juice 1 tsp parsley 1/4 tsp oregano (opt.) salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Melt butter on a low flame in a small sauce pan. Add garlic and saute on low for about 1 minute. Add all but 1/4 T of the lemon juice, shut off flame, and remove from heat. Spray the bottom of a baking dish lightly with cooking spray and remaining 1/4 T of the lemon juice. Place the fish on top and season with herbs, salt, and pepper. Pour the lemon butter mixture on the fish and top with fresh parsley for garnish Bake at 400° until cooked, about 15 minutes. (or until semi-golden)

 

Lemon Kale Chips By Elana's Pantry

Ingredients:

1 bunch kale, washed 2 T olive oil 2 T lemon juice 1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

Cut stems off kale leaves and discard. Chop leaves and toss with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Spread out on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

I like mine really crispy, so I'll cook them a little longer than that. They should shrivel up and turn a darker color. You can feel them, they don't stay hot for too long, and determine if they're crispy enough for you. You can take the cooked ones off and put the others back in for longer.

 

Refrigerated Cucumber Salad By Recipes We Love

Ingredients:

4 thinly sliced cucumbers 1-large  sliced red onions 1-large  sliced green bell  peppers (or color of your choice) 1-tbsp salt 2-cup white vinegar 1 1/2-cups sugar 1-tsp celery flakes (opt.) 1-tsp red pepper flakes

Directions:

Mix cucumbers, onions, peppers and salt; set a side. Put vinegar, sugar, celery flakes and pepper flakes  in a pot and bring to a boil. Once mixture comes to a boil remove from heat and  add 2 handfuls of ice until melted. Place all veggies in large mouth canning jars (2 quarts or 1 half gallon jar) Pour mixture over cucumbers,  store in refrigerator.

Will keep up to 2 months

 

Banana S'mores

Tabitha Helms

It hit me today. You know, that little nudge from somewhere deep inside that says, "It's time for chocolate." You try to push the thought away knowing your waistline certainly doesn't need anything. But then the big, angry, PMS voice comes in loud and clear, "GIVE ME CHOCOLATE NOW!" So of course, you hop right up and oblige. We don't mess with PMS around here. ;) Trying to be somewhat "good" about giving in so easily to this craving, I decided I was going to add some fruit to the mix. I'm sure you've seen these floating around on Pinterest. They were super easy, quick, and hit the spot for that little craving of mine.

Banana Smores_1

Ingredients: 2 large marshmallows, cut in 8ths 1/8 c mini chocolate chips 1 ripe banana, peeled

Directions: Slice open the banana, try to leave it in tact on the bottom; don't cut all the way through. If you do, it's not that big of a deal. Open it up, sprinkle it with your marshmallows and chocolate chips.

Banana Smores_2

Wrap it up in foil and bake at 400 degrees for 6 minutes or until chocolate is melted and marshmallows are gooey.

Banana Smores_3

Open it up, and eat it with a spoon!

Banana Smores_4

 

Note:  The ends of my banana were a little overdone and didn't taste very good. If the banana is a darker shade than the rest, then it's probably best not to eat that spot.  ;)

Eggless Cookie Dough

Tabitha Helms

My sis and I were craving chocolate this evening but we didn't want to mess with a whole ordeal. Mom mentioned we had chocolate chips in the pantry, and I remembered I had seen a recipe for eggless cookie dough on Pinterest. It was simple, quick, and hit the spot for our chocolate craving! I personally suggest halving this recipe because you and I both know that you will be sorely tempted to eat the whole thing, and this is really more than 1 serving. ;)

Image

Directions: Mix together

3/4 c brown sugar

1/4 c butter, softened

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 c milk (I used nonfat, but I think any would work fine)

1 c flour

Pinch salt

1/2 c chocolate chips

We dipped ours in pretzels for a nice salty contrast. Delightful!

Stuffed Avocados

Tabitha Helms

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These are delicious!!!!!! I needed a quick, easy, healthy breakfast on my way to a doctor's appointment. I had a very ripe avocado, some feta getting close to expiration, and grape tomatoes that had been in the fridge for a while. So I went on Pinterest and found a recipe on She Knows Food & Recipes for Baked Avocados. It was super easy and great for what I had on hand.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh vegetables (I used tomato and garlic)
  • 2 tablespoons shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Cut avocado in half and remove the seed. Add 1 tablespoon filling per avocado half. Depending on the size of your avocados, you may have to add a little more or less.
  2. Sprinkle the top with cheese, a little panko breadcrumbs and some salt and pepper.
  3. Broil on high for about 5 minutes until the cheese is melted and the avocado is warm.

It was delightful to eat with a spoon! I was very full but wanted another one, it tasted so good!

Rainbow Cupcakes

Tabitha Helms

882627_10151555363675390_749646176_o Sometimes, the school year is laid out such that multiple holidays/celebrations happen at once. When that happens you have to double up and teach multiple things at once. Our St. Patrick's Day party landed on a scheduled science day. So I decided to do two in one. We did the science of mixing colors and made rainbow cupcakes to eat for St. Patrick's Day.

It was a bit of a time crunch to do in the classroom. Kindergartners aren't the most patient people in the world. So it was trying for them to have to wait for the cupcakes to cook and cool and get frosted. We barely had time to eat them.

It was a fun project though--super easy. You just mix up a regular batch of white cake mix and separate it into different bowls to mix in food coloring. Gel food coloring gives darker, more vibrant colors if you prefer that. We used regular, liquid food coloring. After mixing in your desired coloring, you either scoop a little from each bowl into muffin cups or combine it all in a cake pan and cook at the desired temperature/time for your type of baked good.

I finished mine off with frosting, white marshmallows for clouds, and rainbow sour candy from Sprouts' bulk foods section for a rainbow. They were a major sugar rush, haha. But the kids of course loved them.

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Cheese Soufflé

Tabitha Helms

It’s official. I can cook. I made a souffle. Let me just tell you that I forgot how souffles puff up so gloriously when they bake. I opened the oven when the timer beeped and caught my breath at the sight of this beautifully puffed, golden cheese souffle. I ran to tell my mother who was getting ready to drift off to sleep but had to run out and see. I grabbed my camera to take some good pictures before it fell in as souffles are wont to do. Don’t be intimidated if you don’t think you’re much of a cook. I honestly didn’t have difficulty with this at all. I’ll take you step by step so you are well-prepared to give it a try. Souffles, if you don’t know, are basically like egg caseroles or quiches. The difference is in the way the eggs are prepared. In this instance, egg whites are beat until they are stiff and folded into the batter of milk, cheese, and spices.

Ready?

          

Ingredients:

1 ½ c nonfat milk

¼ c flour

1 ½ c grated reduced fat cheddar cheese

1 ½ tsp mustard

½ tsp celery or onion salt

5 eggs, separated

¼ tsp cream of tartar

Directions:

Grease a 2 quart baking dish. Heat the milk and flour in a deep saucepan, stirring constantly with a whisk for 5 min. Mixture will become thick. Remove from heat and mix in cheese, mustard, and salt. Place egg yolks in a separate bowl and 1 c of thickened milk mixture to them. Mix well. Add in the remaining milk mixture and stir.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in a separate bowl. Beat until foamy and stiff. (If you’ve never done this before, put the mixer on high speed and let it sit in the bowl for a few minutes. When you stop mixing it, you should be able to scoop some up to make little mountains of egg whites that hold their shape.) Fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture—enough to blend the colors but not hurriedly so the mixture will be light and foamy. Pour into grease dish and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. The soufflé will puff up and will be golden brown on the top. It’s okay if it wiggles when touched or moved. It is cooked through if the top is brown.

Strawberry Shortcake Bites

Tabitha Helms

It’s a new school year and every month we have teacher potlucks. The theme for this month’s potluck is “salads,” but I saw there was a space for desserts, so I scratched out the potato salad I had planned to bring and decided on a sweet treat considering Mom was reminding me I needed to use up the strawberries that I had forgotten were in my fridge. I found this recipe on pinterest.com (of course). I’ve tried it the way that I saw it made on there–on big skewers with lots of strawberries and angel food cake. It was delish. But for a potluck, I thought I’d try it in a smaller size. Here’s what I came up with: Ingredients:

1 cup milk chocolate meltables

2 cups strawberries, halved

1 six pack package angel food cake minis, but in 8ths

1 box bamboo party forks

Directions:

Easter Cakes

Tabitha Helms

It’s been a little while since I’ve tried cooking something new. No time for that with finishing up my graduate program and being on the job hunt. Life is crazy busy. I have been very involved at church lately though, and we’re having an Easter carnival this weekend. I signed up to bake cakes for the cake walk. I have a confession. I have a thing for cute, kid cakes. You know the ones I’m talking about–the ones that you can’t help but giggle at the sheer cuteness and creativity involved, the kind that kids ooh and aah over when they see it. I enjoy these cakes the best. I want to make people smile. So, with that thought in mind, I set about making a couple awesome creations. Due to my time shortage, I used a boxed cake mix. I poured half of the mix into an 8″ wide circle pan and the rest into a dozen muffin cups.  They came out beautifully. I stuck the circle cake in the freezer for an hour to make it easier to work with, and left the cupcakes out to cool.

The circle cake was taken out of the freezer and cut as follows:

The pieces were stuck together with frosting and extra frosting was put on each side of the bunny to make it look fatter. I doused the whole thing in shredded coconut, stuck in a few jelly beans for the nose and eyes, sprinkled green food colored, shredded coconut around it and got the cutest, fuzziest looking bunny you’ve ever seen.

The next job was the cupcakes.

First, I toasted a panful of shredded coconut for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly to keep from burning.

I turned the cupcakes upside down.

I spread a light coating of yellow frosting around the edges and piled some extra high on the top (which was really the bottom).

Then I scooped toasted coconut around the edges and top to stick to the frosting.

To finish them off, I put hot tamale candies for feet and the little cockscomb on top of their heads. I put sixlets in a squirt of frosting for the eyes, and used a toasted almond for the beak. Cute as can be!

Better than Julian Apple Pie

Tabitha Helms

Thanksgiving. The very word emulates savory aromas of turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and the devious scent of homemade pies. I don’t know how your family does Thanksgiving, but mine is mostly from scratch and we always have a gazillion homemade pies. I had a few jobs this year–many of them being combined efforts.  The ones I stake my claim on however are the rolls, which I have made previously and are incredibly simple (You can let the dough rise in the fridge the night before, then stick them in the muffin pans in the sun until you’re ready to throw them in the oven. Packaged rolls don’t even come close to the warm, softly browned rolls fresh out of the oven. A brilliant idea to make them on behalf of my mom!) and I also claim the apple pie with a little help from mom whose job was the dough for all the pies.

I’ve made this pie before, but this one turned out absolutely incredible. It was my favorite by far out of the pumpkin, bumbleberry, and pecan pies that were out that evening. Even my mom who usually doesn’t care for apple claimed it to be better than Julian’s apple pies, with hearty agreement from my dad. Baking pies from scratch is a lot of work, but it is a million times better than the boxed kind. You will never enjoy a boxed pie or store-made pie as much as you will a homemade one. Just sayin’.

OIL CRUST INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2 cup  cooking oil
  • 5 T  cold water

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a large mixing bowl combine flour and salt. Pour oil and water into a measuring cup (do not stir); add all at once to flour mixture. Stir lightly with a fork. Form into 2 balls; flatten slightly with your hands.

2. Cut waxed paper into four 12-inch squares. Place each ball of dough between 2 squares of paper. Roll each ball of dough into a circle to edges of paper. (Dampen work surface with a little water to prevent paper from slipping.)

3. Peel off top papers and fit 1 piece of dough, paper side up, into a 9-inch pie plate. Reserve one portion for use as a top crust. Remove paper.

APPLE FILLING INGREDIENTS

  • 6 cups  thinly sliced peeled Granny Smith apples
  • 1 tablespoon  lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup  granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup  all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup  packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon  ground nutmeg
  •  Dash  ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon  butter or margarine

DIRECTIONS

1. In a large mixing bowl toss apples with lemon juice. Combine granulated sugar, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Add to apples and toss until apples are coated. Set apple mixture aside.

2. Prepare Pastry for Double-Crust Pie. Divide dough in half. Form each half into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 ball of dough into a 12-inch circle. Ease pastry into a 9-inch pie plate.

3. Transfer apple mixture to pastry-lined pie plate. Dot with butter or margarine. Trim pastry even with pie plate. For top crust, roll out remaining dough. Cut design in top crust for ventilation. Place top crust on the filling. Seal and flute the edge.

4. Line cookie sheet with foil and place pie on it for overspill. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 45-50 minutes or until the top is golden brown and apples are tender. Serve warm. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Edit:

This year my fiancé and I decided to do a final year of separate Thanksgivings, so I sent along an apple pie for his family to enjoy. I must say it turned out so beautifully that I had to post a picture for you. I made the top using a leaf-shaped cookie cutter and a knife to score the designs on the leaves. Layer the dough over the top. Brush the top with cinnamon for a beautiful, dusty brown coat on the top.

Ready to go in the oven

Hot and ready to eat!

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Tabitha Helms

I donned by lovely apron this morning in celebration of a whole week off of school and baked up a delicious treat! I made cinnamon rolls from scratch, and let me tell you, they are absolutely sinful. They’re so delicious, I am going to be forced to freeze the majority of them so I don’t eat them all in one sitting. I will warn you that this is a very involved baking project, but you can buy pre-made dough and just add in the apple filling and I’m sure it will still be quite delicious! Cinnamon Roll Ingredients: 2 cups milk 1 package active dry yeast 1/3 cup sugar 2 teaspoons salt 6 ½ cups all-purpose flour, divided 2 eggs ¼ cup butter, softened

Filling Ingredients ½ cup unsalted butter, melted 1 cup sugar 1 cup brown sugar 3 tablespoons cinnamon 1 cup loosely chopped walnuts, toasted 2 cups finely chopped tart apples

Apple Cider Glaze Ingredients 1 cup powdered sugar 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon apple cider

Directions Heat the milk in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave for about one minute.

Add the yeast followed by the sugar, and stir to dissolve.

Now add two cups of flour and the salt and beat for a full two minutes.

Add the softened butter and eggs and beat until the mixture is well combined.

Add the rest of the flour, half a cup at a time, and beat thoroughly after each addition.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a floured surface. Knead the dough for five minutes, until it has become soft and elastic.

Put the dough in a large bowl, cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it rise in a warm area for 40 minutes. It will double in size.

Now turn the dough onto the counter and roll it out 1/4” thick into a rectangular shape. Use a pastry brush to spread half of the butter over the surface.

Now make the filling: Combine the sugars, cinnamon, walnuts, and apples in a large bowl.

Spread this mixture over the dough, leaving a 1” border all around.

Carefully tuck the dough over the filling and roll into a long log, starting on one of the long ends.

Cut the log into 24 pieces and place each inside one of the cups of a muffin tin lined with paper liners.

Cover the cupcakes with a towel and let them rise in a warm place for an additional 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350º. Brush the remaining butter evenly on the tops of the cupcakes and bake for 20 minutes. The tops will be a light golden brown.

Make the glaze: In a small bowl, stir to dissolve the powdered sugar in the apple cider. Drizzle this glaze over the cupcakes. Yum yum yum!

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Tabitha Helms

Pumpkin season calls for pumpkin lattes. This recipe doesn’t actually have coffee in it, but don’t forgo making it just because of that. You could probably add coffee actually. I like this one better than the one at Starbucks. Ingredients:

14oz vanilla soymilk

4 T canned pumpkin

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp cornstarch

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients. Pour in small saucepan.

Put over high heat and stir constantly.

Stir until mixture until begins to froth. Stir for one more minute.

Pour into mug and enjoy its steamy goodness.

C0mplete Recipe:

Ingredients: 14oz vanilla soymilk 4 T canned pumpkin 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice 1/2 tsp cornstarch 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions: Combine all ingredients into small saucepan. Put over high heat and stir constantly. Stir until mixture until begins to froth. Stir for one more minute. Pour into a mug and enjoy its steamy goodness!

Makes 1-1/2 cups

Banana Orange Muffins

Tabitha Helms

Whenever school starts back up again early morning wake-ups are back too. I decided to be prepared for my mornings by whipping up some fruity morning muffins. They are delightful! I added a streusel topping to mine made of brown sugar and butter. Ingredients 3 egg whites 1/2 c brown sugar 1/4 c canola oil 2 ripe bananas, mashed 3/4 c orange juice 1-1/2 c whole wheat flour 2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp baking soda dash of salt 1/8 tsp nutmeg

Directions

Preheat oven 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a bowl, combine the first five ingredients. If the bananas aren’t brown, then roll them around while still in the peel to soften. Add the dry ingredients. Divide the batter in 12 muffin cups sprayed with cooking spray. Spoon streusel on top of each muffin for additional sweetness. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Chicken Pesto Panini

Tabitha Helms

My friend Andrew came over to install my new car stereo. I was so grateful to have found someone to do it for me, because although the man at Walmart assured me that I could follow the directions in the package and do it myself, girly me was a little skeptical. I told Andrew I would make him lunch for his hard work. He told me I should wait to make sure he could actually do it first, but I had faith in him. Turned out to only take about 30 minutes to pop that thing in there and let me tell you, it has been amazingly wonderful to have a working stereo again! But I wanted something quick and easy to throw together for lunch that was just super delectable because Andrew had previously told me my recipe blog had inspired him to make creme brulee of all things! I found a simple 15 minute meal to make and let me tell you, it was so delightful! Not to mention so much fun to make; I rarely cook for myself anymore, so I need a friend to come over as an excuse to cook something these days. (Any volunteers??)

Makes 4 Servings

Ingredients:

8 slices Italian bread

4 T pesto sauce

1 c rotisserie chicken pieces

4 oz mozzarella cheese

butter

Directions:

Spread butter on one side of each piece of bread. Put 4 slices with butter side down in large skillet. Spread 1 T of pesto on each slice. Top with 1/4 c chicken and 1 oz of cheese each. Place remaining bread slices with butter side up on top. Cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes per side. Serve with pasta sauce or a bowl of tomato soup. Delish!

Blackberry Cornmeal Cupcakes

Tabitha Helms

My brother and his (then) fiancé got me a couple fabulous books for a college graduation gift. One of them was Martha Stewart’s cupcake book. The recipes all sound so amazing! I just want to have a cupcake party and make a million different kinds. My first try was these blackberry cornmeal cupcakes. We had some blackberries in the fridge and cornmeal made it sound a little more healthier….so like a muffin, right? What is the difference between a muffin and a cupcake anyway? But these cupcakes were delicious. Just the perfect amount of sweetness. Not overdone like most frosting coated cakes. Ingredients: 3/4 c. flour 1/4 c. yellow cornmeal 1 tsp. baking powder 1/2 tsp. salt 3/4 c. sugar 1/4 c. buttermilk (or 1/4 c. milk w/ 1/4 T. white vinegar or lemon juice, let stand 5 min.) 1 eggs 3-1/2 T. butter, melted and cooled 16 blackberries

Directions: Preheat oven 375 degrees F. Line muffin pans with paper liners. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and 1/2 c. plus 1 T. sugar. In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter. Pour over flour mixture. Whisk to combine. Don’t over mix. Fill each lined cup with 1/4 c. batter. Top batter with 2 blackberries in each cup. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 T. sugar. Bake, rotating tins halfway through for 20-25 minutes or until browned on top. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes are best eaten the day they are baked but will keep up to 2 days at room temp in an airtight container. Makes 8 cupcakes

Gum Paste

Tabitha Helms

First news first: my best friend is engaged! Whoohoo!! So excited for both of them. Very excited that I no longer have to lie and keep secrets too. That was rather stressful. ‘ At the beginning of this week plans for an engagement party were put into action and I was enlisted to bake the cake! I did some research to find the perfect one. Google searches of “proposal cakes,” “engagement cakes,” and “congratulations cakes” flooded my search engine to no avail. I couldn’t even find a wedding cake topper of a guy down on one knee with a ring. Really? This wasn’t supposed to be that hard! The only one I could find was something along these lines:

I had never used fondant before and I needed to feed 20ish people, so this idea was way out. I managed to find a regular birthday cake that looked like a present (something I’ve done before), but instead of candy, it used gum paste for the ribbon and polka dots.

Having been a faithful viewer of cake decorating shows the past year or so, I decided it was time to move up in my baking abilities and attempt the gum paste. I watched some how to videos, read some instructions from professionals, double checked the container’s directions and gave it my best shot.

Overall, I was very impressed with myself. My arms got very tired from kneading the gum paste for so long and working in the yellow food color. But it did turn out rather well. Pat on the back for me, and encouragement for you–if a non professional like me can make it work, I bet you can too!

Yellow cake – Nicole’s favorite!

Chocolate frosting, with piping bag bottom edge

Gum paste shapes set out to dry overnight

1st step in bow assembly

2nd step, add the loops

3rd step, add the knot to the center

Piping bag with writing tip

The finished product!

Easy Chili and Cornbread

Tabitha Helms

When Nicole came over for her birthday, she had requested chili and cornbread. If I had enough time on Wednesdays I definitely would have made it from scratch, but lack of time deemed canned and boxed food necessary. Ever since then however, I have been craving homemade chili and cornbread! So, when my friend Lanae came over for dinner tonight, it was on the menu! I recommend getting the cornbread in the oven first and then working on the chili. This quick and easy combo can be knocked out in 45 minutes.

CORNBREAD INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose four
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup frozen (or fresh) corn, thawed (optional)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

DIRECTIONS

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Spray 8-inch-square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
3. Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl until combined; set aside.
4. In food processor or blender, process brown sugar, thawed corn kernels, and buttermilk until combined, about 5 seconds. Add eggs and process until well combined (corn lumps will remain), about 5 seconds longer.
5. Using rubber spatula, make well in center of dry ingredients; pour wet ingredients into well. Begin folding dry ingredients into wet, giving mixture only a few turns to barely combine; add melted butter and continue folding until dry ingredients are just moistened.
6. Pour batter into prepared baking dish; smooth surface with rubber spatula.

7. Bake until deep golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes. Serve warm with butter and honey.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef or turkey
  • 2 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can of diced tomatoes with chilis, undrained (sometimes I throw in another can if the chili seems too thick or meaty)
  • 2 cans kidney beans, drained
  • 2 packets Chili Seasoning mix (I usually get a packet of mild and a packet of original, otherwise it’s too spicy for me)

Directions:

1. Brown the ground beef or turkey over medium high heat until fully cooked, about 5-7 minutes. Drain any excess oil (usually not a issue with turkey or lean beef).

2. In a large pot, combine tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, beans, seasoning mix and meat.  Bring to boil.

3. Cover, reduce heat to medium and simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Optionally, you can turn it down to low or medium-low heat and simmer an hour or more.

Makes a big ol’ pot of chili, at least 6 servings.

Layer Cakes

Tabitha Helms

Yesterday was Nicole’s birthday. Apparently she only likes yellow cake with chocolate frosting. So I put my creativity to the test and whipped up a three layer cake. Previously I had only made a two layer cake where the layers were the same size. My aunt bakes quite a bit and had a bunch of different sized pans so I got ready for a new adventure.

Ingredients: 1 box yellow cake mix milk, oil, and eggs called for on the box 1 can chocolate frosting 1/2 T milk fun sprinkles birthday candles butter knife straight edge knife 7-1/2″ round cake pan 5″ round cake pan 3″ round cake pan

Directions: Make cake mix as directed on box. Spray pans with nonstick spray and dust with flour. Pour to same height in each pan. Each sized pan takes different times to finish baking. The 3″ pan was around 20 minutes. The other two weren’t long after that. Remove from oven and let cool. Carefully flip upside down and remove from pans when cooled. Sometimes you can leave them upside down on a cookie rack and leave them until they come out themselves. I had to shake mine a bit after cutting around the edge with a butter knife.

Use a straight edged to level the tops of each cake.

Add 1/2 T of milk to the can of frosting and stir well. This makes it easier to get a smooth frost without cake crumbs in it. Put the largest cake on the plate it will be served on and frost.

Stack the middle cake on top and frost. Use extra frosting to smooth one cake into the next. Do the same with the top layer. Use the butter knife that you used to frost the cake and dip in water. Smooth the frosting with the watered knife. Repeat when the frosting begins to stick to the knife. This technique will give the cake a glossy look. Add fun sprinkles to the cake, stick in some birthday candles (22 for my cake!) and you’re ready to go! Store in the refrigerator.

After dripping wax all over to light the candles…

Smiles from the birthday girl!

Major lung power needed for all those candles!

Excitement through the smoky haze at having blown them all out at once!

Yum!

Banana Bread

Tabitha Helms

Personally, I can’t tell the difference from one banana bread recipe to the next. I like them all; I’m not picky. My attempt at Strawberry Bread last week for small group was an epic (and fiery) fail so I turned to my browning bananas. My small group girls raved over this recipe and told me to put it in my blog, so I will comply.

Ingredients * 4 ripe bananas, smashed * 1/3 cup applesauce * 3/4 cup sugar * 1 egg, beaten * 1 teaspoon vanilla * 1 teaspoon baking soda * Pinch of salt * 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour * Cinnamon

Directions Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix applesauce into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Dust top with cinnamon. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.