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Are these not adorable?  My best friend gave me this cute flower silicone pan for making cupcakes.  I love how there are three different shapes.   Even though, the cakes lose some of the pan’s details, I still think they are really cute and fun.  I made a lemon pound cake, which was lighter than other pound cakes and had a great consistency and lovely taste.  I made these for my sister’s graduation and I’m planning on making them again for her grad party.  I frosted them with a lemon glaze and some simple sprinkles.  Let me know if you have any suggestions about how to decorate or frost cakes from decorative pans such as this one.  It was my first experience and as you can see, I just dripped some glaze over the top and sprinkled them.

 

Powdered Sugar Pound Cakes

Adapted from the Pampered Chef

If you are looking to making more  a lemon cake, you can feel free to add some from fresh squeezed lemon to the batter.  You can also add mix powdered sugar with lemon juice for a lemony glaze.

 

  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¾ tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly spray cupcake or loaf pan with nonstick spray.
  2. Combine butter and powdered sugar.  Beat on high speed of electic mixer until mixture is fluffy, about 2 minutes.  On medium speed, add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Fold in sour cream and vanilla. 
  3. In small bowl, combine four, baking soda, and salt.  Stir flour mixture into sour cream mixture just until incorporated.
  4. Place one level scoop of batter into each cupcake mold or fill a loaf pan until ¾ full.  Bake 18-22 mins or until light golden brown for the cupcakes.  Remove from the oven, cool 5 mins in the pan.  Then cool completely on a cooling rack.  Glaze cakes, if desired, with a mixture of lemon juice and powdered sugar. 

 

 

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You’ll never go back to the bag.  These homemade potato chips are just that incredible.  They are a bit time-consuming, especially if you are cooking for a crowd but totally worth it.  The oil is infused with sage, rosemary, and garlic.  You’ll know the oil is hot and ready for the potatoes once the herbs have become crispy.  Remove the crisped herbs and put the potato slices in one at a time.  After they turn brown, take them out of the oil, lay on a paper towel, and sprinkle with sea salt.  You need to sprinkle with sea salt or whatever other toppings or spices while they are still hot.  Experiment with whatever herbs you prefer (I suggest ones that are more woody and earthy) or top with parmesan after cooked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In order to get the thinnest potato slices, use a mandoline, a food processor, or a vegetable peeler.  I suggest using Yukon Gold potatoes but feel free to experiment or use what you have in the kitchen.  I deep fried these potatoes for the full potato chip experience, but try baking them for a healthier alternative and let me know how they come out! 

 

Sage & Rosemary Infused Kettle Chips

  • 6 large Yukon gold potatoes
  • Canola oil and olive oil, 75/25 ratio for frying
  • 6 whole cloves garlic
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 bunch sage
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.  Wash and clean the potatoes in cold running water. Using a mandoline, food processor, or vegetable peeler, finely slice the potatoes into chips. Drop the chips into a bowl of ice water as you work to prevent them from going brown. This will also remove any excess starch.

2.  Set a large pot of 75/25 canola and olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic (paper and all) and whole stems of fresh rosemary and sage.. Bring oil up to 375 degrees F. As it heats up the oil will get infused with the garlic and herbs. Once the herbs crackle and get crispy and you know they are done. Remove the herbs and garlic and set aside on paper towels.

3. Fry the potatoes in batches until golden and crispy. Drain the chips, dry well on paper towels and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with crispy herbs and garlic.

 

In honor of this nice long Memorial Day weekend, I’m going to share my husband’s incredible Pulled Pork Barbeque recipe with you.  I don’t really do meats so if he is feeling a lack of animal protein, it’s up to him to grill up something up.  Last year, I gave him a stovetop smoker and he loves the combination of grilling and smoking.  Surprisingly this pork is neither grilled nor smoked, it’s cooked low and slow in the oven for about 3 – 4 hours.  So you do have to plan ahead but it’s also low maintenance.  Once you’ve applied the wet rub and have placed it in the oven, there’s nothing left to do once it comes out but just pull it apart with a fork and apply your favorite barbeque sauce.

 

After a 3 week road trip a few summers ago in which we ate the local barbeque in all the places we stayed, we have both grown to like our pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw in the sandwich.  I experimented for the first time and made my own coleslaw.  It was really easy and worth it for a bigger crowd.  I made the coleslaw about the time that Sean put the pork shoulder in the oven so that the flavors could marinate together before serving but it wasn’t long enough to get soggy. 

We served this sandwich with homemade potato chips, which were absolutely amazing.  I’ll post that recipe on Monday in case you are looking to clog your arteries a little more over the long weekend.

Sean’s Pulled Pork Barbeque

  • 1 pork shoulder  (about 4 to 4 ½ pounds)

Wet Rub

  • 4 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup of onion
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • Scant 1 tablespoon cayenne
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Place the salt, pepper, brown sugar, paprika, onions, garlic, vinegar, and cayenne in a food processor and pulse until well combined. Add extra-virgin olive oil until you have a nice paste. Rub all over the pork, being sure to get into the nooks so the salt can penetrate the meat and pull out the moisture – this will help form a crust on the outside when cooked. Cover the pork with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
  2. Allow the meat to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  3. Place the pork, fat side up, in a roasting pan fitted with a rack insert.
  4. Roast the pork for 3 1/2 hours, uncovered, until the outside is crispy-brown (it should look like mahogany).  Depending on the size, it might need to cook for longer.  Let the meat rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes before slicing.

Homemade Coleslaw

To cheat and make the chopping go quicker, I used a bag of broccoli slaw and a bag of chopped purple cabbage in addition to the carrots I sliced on the mandoline.  The flavor and crunch were great.  But if you want to really slice and dice, use ½ head of savoy cabbage and ½ head of purple cabbage.   You can also add fresh parsley or green onions.  Adjust the recipe to your taste and what you have in your pantry or garden.

  • 1 ½ tablespoon whole-grain mustard or a good quality Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup mayonnaise 

  • 1/4 cup sour cream 

  • 1/2 lemon, juiced 

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar 

  • 2 teaspoons sugar 

  • 1 bag of broccoli slaw 

  • 1/2 head purple cabbage, finely sliced 

  • 2 carrots, sliced on mandoline or julienned
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Combine the mustard, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, vinegar and sugar and mix well. 
  2. Add the finely sliced cabbage, broccoli slaw, and carrots to the dressing.  Mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the flavors to marinate.
  4. Serve when you are ready, cold or at room temperature.

 

Very exciting news here from the Spotted Apron kitchen – I bought my first mandoline.  In celebration of the one month anniversary of the blog perhaps?  As you can tell, it’s definitely not an expensive Williams-Sonoma mandoline but it’s still pretty awesome.  If I like it and get a lot of use out of it, then I’ll spring for an expensive one.  I have lived with the fear (which I’ve realized is very realistic) of cutting off a finger tip with the mandoline.  And sure enough I cut my thumb, not badly but enough to freak me out.  You have to be so careful with the mandoline but it can slice veggies razor thin so it’s worth the risk factor. 

 

Onions were my first vegetable on the mandoline for this cauliflower pasta.  I have sliced many veggies, including Yukon Gold potatoes in order to make the most delicious homemade potato chips (recipe soon to come).  But the onions in this recipe were wonderful because they added flavor and cooked quickly, allowing the cauliflower to really be the stand out ingredient.  I found this beautiful cauliflower at a vegetable stand nearby and just had to use it in a recipe.  I had never seen purple and golden cauliflower so I bought it and attempted to find a recipe that highlighted the cauliflower. 

 

This recipe comes from Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse Vegetables.  The cauliflower remains crunchy because it’s not steamed or boiled, instead it’s lightly sautéed.  My only complaint is that I should have added more extra virgin olive oil.  The taste of the cauliflower, walnuts, and ricotta salata all complimented one another wonderfully but there was not much of a “sauce” for the pasta.  I think you just have to go for it and coat the whole wheat pasta with extra virgin olive oil and then mix it with the cauliflower mixture.  I tend to not add a lot of oil to my recipes but the whole wheat pasta really absorbs any moisture so it can easily dry out.   This dish was even more delicious the next day for lunch. 

 

Oh yeah, quick tip on cutting up cauliflower…you want to end up with small little trees, not lots of crumbs.  Start at the base of the cauliflower and cut where there are natural breaks so you end up with lots of small looking trees and it keeps the natural shape of cauliflower.  Or else you might end up with breadcrumbs and lots of waste if you just randomly chop away. 

 

Mulit-Colored Cauliflower with Whole Wheat Pasta

Adapted from Alice Water’s Chez Panisse Vegetables

  • 2 heads cauliflower
(you can use white cauliflower)
  • 1 medium onion

  • 4 cloves garlic

  • 1 pound whole-wheat pasta
  • 
Extra-virgin olive oil

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 
White wine vinegar

  • 1/2 lemon

  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts

  • 4 ounces ricotta salata or feta cheese

1.  Put a large pot of water on to boil. Cut the cauliflower into small flowerets. Peel the onion and slice it very thin. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Put the pasta on to cook.

2.  Saute the cauliflower in olive oil in a large saute pan. When the cauliflower begins to soften, season with salt and pepper and add the sliced onion and red pepper flakes.

3.   Saute over medium to high heat until the vegetables are brown and tender. The cauliflower should still be slightly crunchy and should not taste steamed. Add the garlic and remove from the heat, tossing and stirring so the garlic doesn’t burn; if it starts to brown, add a splash of water. Add a few drops each of vinegar and lemon juice and the toasted walnuts. Taste and correct the seasoning.

4.     When the pasta is done, drain and add to the cauliflower, adding enough extra-virgin olive oil to coat the pasta thoroughly, toss together and serve, with the cheese crumbled over the dish.

 


I have a sweet tooth.  Big time.  Some might say it’s a problem or possibly even an addiction.  But I just think that I’m passionate about sweets, especially good sweets (I don’t want to be wasting those calories on just any sugar-filled baked good!)  So when I get a sugar/chocolate craving, I need something that I can make quickly and easily that will be rich, delicious, and full of flavor.  And these blondies do the trick. 

They are really moist (just don’t over-bake them) and you can vary the recipe according to what’s in the pantry or what your mood dictates.  My favorite combination is chock full of milk chocolate chips, dark chocolate chips, toasted pecans, coconut, and toffee chips.  Ridiculous overload? I think not.  But if it is for you, instead try white chocolate and cashews, dried cranberries with dark chocolate, milk chocolate and walnuts or any number of possibilities!  This is a great go-to recipe for satisfying a sweet tooth or as a quick dessert for last minute guests.  Once cooked, cooled, and sliced, they even travel well. I brought a bunch with me last weekend to Richmond to give to a bunch of newly graduated college kids! 

 Blondies (the best ever)

  • ½ cup of butter, melted
  • 1 cup of tightly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup of flour
  • ½ cup to 1 cup of chocolate chips, butterscotch chips or any other combination

The possibilities are endless…

  • ½ cup to 1 cup of milk chocolate, white chocolate, or dark chocolate chips
  • ½ cup to 1 cup of toasted walnuts, pecans, almonds, or any other nut toasted
  • ½ cup of dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, etc)
  • ½ teaspoon of mint extract or almond extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.  Butter and flour an  8×8 pan.  Mix the melted butter with the brown sugar – beat until smooth.  Beat in egg and then vanilla.
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.  Add the flour mixture into the butter/sugar mixture and mix until all the flour is incorporated.  Mix in any additional ingredients (choco chips, nuts, etc). 
  3. Pour into pan and spread evenly.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until set in the middle.  Cool on a rack and then cut into squares and serve.

 

So it’s been a few days.  I’ve been traveling with my husband to celebrate his sister’s graduation from college.  It was a fun and joyous time but no laptop, wireless, or pots and pans.  But I’m back now and I have some great recipes to share. 

In the past week, I posted the recipes for Vietnamese summer rolls, pea & ricotta dumplings, and strawberry rhubarb crumble.  These recipes were all part of an Asian themed meal (except the strawberry rhubarb which really isn’t Asian at all) we created for a good friend.  But there is one recipe lacking and no meal is complete without a salad.  And this one is really irresistible.  

 It’s very simple – just watercress and avocado.  The dressing for it is amazing – balanced with a little sweetness.   I’ll use it on many other salads to come.  My watercress was too stemmy, I could have definitely cut off more of the stem, but it was still good.  Avocado is one of my favorite foods and this salad really made it’s taste and flavor stand out. 

 

Watercress & Avocado Salad

Adapted from Gourmet May 2008

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon grated sweet onion such as Vidalia or Walla Walla (use large holes of a box grater)

  • 1/4 cup finely grated peeled Gala apple (use small holes of box grater)

  • 4 teaspoons soy sauce

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 6 cups watercress (thin stems and leaves only; from 1 large bunch)

  • 1 firm-ripe avocado

1.  Stir together vinegar, onion, apple, soy sauce, and sugar until sugar has dissolved, then stir in oil.  Dressing can be made 2 days ahead, chilled, and covered (stir or shake well before using). 

2.  Just before serving, toss watercress with enough dressing to coat. Quarter, pit, and peel avocado, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Gently toss with watercress.  Enjoy!

 

 

I’m a real mutt, my ethnic roots stretch from China to Italy to Portugal to Germany.  But I grew up with great Italian cooking and one of my favorite comfort foods is a good tomato sauce, preferably with eggplant parmigiana.  My instincts are to make every dish with an Italian flair and plenty of garlic but occasionally I can restrain myself.  My husband and I made these dumplings one night to serve to our dinner guest.  They really are easy and fun to make but definitely time consuming.  We folded and sealed for a good hour to make 73 dumplings. 

 

My problem was that the pea and ricotta filling made me feel like I was making ravioli or tortellini rather than dumplings.  I kept trying to convince my husband how a lemon cream sauce would go perfectly with these and he kept telling me to embrace my Asian roots.  I’m glad I listened (it’s not often).  We tried three different ways of cooking them – boiling, steaming, and frying.  Boiling was definitely the worst. They quickly got waterlogged and soggy.  Steaming was definitely the best and frying was a good alternative to get them crispy and dark.  We served them with an easy dipping sauce – soy sauce, garlic, rice vinegar, fish sauce, and red pepper flakes.

 

For instructions on how to fold your dumplings, you can look on the wonton wrapper package.  My package didn’t have any instructions so I found this great YouTube clip with a quick folding demonstration.  Or you can invent your own way of folding!

 Pea & Ricotta Dumplngs

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

  •       2 cups (about 10 ounces) cups peas (freshly shelled or frozen)

  •      2/3 cup ricotta cheese

  •       2 tablespoons olive oil

  •       scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

  •       1 small shallot, minced
  •       
1/3 cup grated Parmesan

  •       zest of one large lemon
  •       1 package of wonton wrappers, or round wrappers

special equipment: bamboo steamer is ideal, I used a metal steamer sprayed with vegetable oil

1.  Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Salt the water (as you would pasta water) and add the peas. Cook until bright green in color and puffy, about a minute if the peas were frozen, less if you started with fresh ones.
 Drain the peas and run under cold water for one minute to stop the cooking.

2.  With a food processor (or hand blender) blend the peas, ricotta cheese, olive oil, and salt into a puree. I like a bit of texture, so I don’t go too far. Return the mixture to a big bowl and stir in the shallots, Parmesan, and lemon zest. Taste. Add more salt if needed.

2.  Fill the dumplings using an assembly line technique – a dozen at a time.  You can follow the instructions on the wonton wrapper, if there are any,  or check out these YouTube clip on how to easily fold and seal.  Place twelve wrappers out on the counter, drop a very scant teaspoon of filling onto each wrapper (avoid the desire to overfill), rub the perimeter of each wrapper with a wet finger seal, fold in half, and then fold in the two sides and seal.  Set aside on a plate. Do the next dozen and repeat until all the filling is used up.

3.  Set up your steamer, rub each dumpling with a bit of olive oil or spray your steamer with PAM, arrange the dumplings in a single layer (being careful not to overlap), and steam for about three minutes – until the dumplings are tender and translucent. Sprinkle with a touch of salt or serve with your favorite dipping sauce and enjoy.