Friday, May 27, 2011

Lemon Meringue Pie

I am a huge, like HUUUUGE, fan of chocolate. If you want me to try anything, just dip  it in some chocolate. Seriously.

But, as much as I love chocolate, I am realizing that there is more to the world of desserts than just white, semi-sweet, and dark.

Citrus has been slowly making its way into my dessert cravings. First, it was a bit of orange zest into a recipe. Then it was the addition of the zest and juice. Citrus really has a way of waking up flavors. But, the beauty of it is that it can also stand up perfectly well by itself.

Case and point - the lemon meringue pie. A wonderfully lemony dessert that can hold its own on the plate (not to mention, it doesn't leave me in a food coma after a slice - or two.) I didn't have to adjust this recipe at all, and the filling was so lemony - but not in an overpowering way. Light, fresh and amazing.

In the spirit of full-disclosure, I will say that i probably need to try making meringue again, as mine wept after a few hours. Oh well, I could just eat it with my eyes closed, and I would be none-the-wiser. :) Maybe you'll have better luck with the meringue than I did!


1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water
2 lemons, juiced and zested
2 tablespoons butter
4 egg yolks, beaten
1 (9 inch) pie crust, baked
4 egg whites
6 tablespoons white sugar


    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

    To Make Lemon Filling: In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1 cup sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt. Stir in water, lemon juice and lemon zest. 
    Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil. Stir in butter. Place egg yolks in a small bowl and gradually whisk in 1/2 cup of hot sugar mixture. 
    Whisk egg yolk mixture back into remaining sugar mixture. Bring to a boil and continue to cook while stirring constantly until thick. Remove from heat. 
    Pour filling into baked pastry shell.
    To Make Meringue: In a large glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites until foamy. Add sugar gradually, and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue over pie, sealing the edges at the crust.
    Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until meringue is golden brown.

      Tuesday, May 24, 2011

      Black Bottom Cupcakes

      School has been an interesting transition. I wake up more than an hour later, I feel rested and alert, I have time to make coffee and actually eat a well-balanced breakfast. By the time I get home, I have the time to clean the house, do laundry, unload the dishwasher and play with the puppy more than I ever got to before. 

      If there was ever a time before where I was not sure if this was the right decision, I'm absolutely certain now. I feel like a whole different person - happier, and much more content (maybe that's the extra sleep talking).

      The house has started looking so much nicer, as I'm slowly, but surely, checking things off my mile-long to-do list. Even the puppy seems happier to be getting twice-daily walks - when he used to get maybe five a week. 

      Once the house is taken care of, I can't wait to start sharing more recipes than I have been in the more recent past! Yay!

      Here is the other recipe I made for the National Food Blogger's Bake sale. I love these cupcakes. And the best part is, if you omit the cheesecake filling, you have a dairy-free, egg-free cake, sometimes known as Wacky Cake or Crazy Cake.

      Black bottoms are such a throwback to being a kid - perfect birthday party fare - both easy to transport and very little mess since there is no frosting. 

      Sometime I'll have to make the bundt cake version and share that here, it is absolutely delicious! But these will have to suffice for now. I hope you enjoy!

      Black Bottom Cupcakes
      From My Recipe Box


      1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese, softened
      1 egg
      1/3 cup white sugar
      1/8 tsp salt
      1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
      1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
      1 cup white sugar
      1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
      1 teaspoon baking soda
      1/2 teaspoon salt

      1 cup water
      1/3 cup vegetable oil
      1 Tbsp Cider Vinegar
      1 tsp Vanilla extract


        Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line muffin tins with paper cups or lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.

        In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, egg, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt until light and fluffy. Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside.

        In a large bowl, mix together the flour, 1 cup sugar, cocoa, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Make a well in the center and add the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Stir together until well blended. Fill muffin tins 1/3 full with the batter and top with a dollop of the cream cheese mixture.

        Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

        Friday, May 20, 2011

        Kentucky Derby Pie

        Today is a big day for me.

        Today is my last day at my current job. A job I've been with for nearly four years. My first job out of college. My first taste of the real world.

        While I am happy that I am embarking on a new journey on Monday, I can't help but feel a little sad that I am leaving a job and coworkers who have been a huge part of the last four years.

        I am so thrilled that I got to work here while I did, and I am very thankful for the opportunities that this job has provided me. But, I am ready to take a leap of faith, and pave myself new path in a different direction. I am going to enjoy the journey, and I look forward to see where this decision will eventually take me.

        And thank you, too, to all of you who have shown your support during this time. The decision-making process has not been an easy one, but sticking with my guns and following through with this has been so much easier knowing I have my friends and family backing me up.

        You all are the best. The cat's meow. The bee's knees.

        So how about we focus now on something sweet, tasty, and delicious?

        There are quite a few people who have yet heard of the wonderful dessert called the Kentucky Derby Pie. I liken it would be similar to the love-child of a pecan pie and a chocolate chip cookie (though some people think the pie should have walnuts, I grew up with pecans, so I'm sticking with my guns here).

        When I made desserts for the National Food Blogger's Bake sale, I wanted to make things that traveled easily, and tasted delicious. The fact that these mini-pies were absolutely cheek-pinchingly adorable was just an added bonus.

        The only thing missing from the mini pies that I wish I could have found a way to package was the bourbon whipped cream that my family makes to serve the pie with. Essentially you whip up one cup of heaving whipping cream with one tablespoon of powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons (or one tablespoon if you're feeling rather daring!) of bourbon.

        Nothing like a little bit of bourbon to cure what ails ya.

        Kentucky Derby Pie
        From our Family Recipe Box
        Makes 1 - 9-inch pie or about 30 mini pies


        1/2 cup butter, melted
        1 cup sugar
        1/2 cup flour
        2 eggs, slightly beaten
        1 teaspoon vanilla
        3/4 cup chocolate chips
        3/4 cup pecans or 3/4 cup walnuts
        9 inch unbaked pie crust


        Line pie plate with pie crust.

        Combine all remaining ingredients and mix with fork, whisk or hand mixer until well blended..

        Bake in pie crust at 350 for 45 minutes, or until brown on top! (the mini pies baked in about 25 minutes)

        Monday, May 16, 2011

        Funfetti Cupcakes (and some news!)

        I have been a terrible blogger. My apologies for that. I have been baking, I promise, and I have news to share (and hopefully it's a halfway decent excuse for my absence this past week!) First of all, this past weekend was the National Food Blogger Bake Sale. On Saturday, May 14, we sold baked goods at The Poison Cup (1128 W. Armitage Avenue) in Lincoln Park. The proceeds from the bake sale will be donated to Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale!  We had a great time, despite the crummy weather, and I'm confident that we brought in a respectable amount of money for a great organization!

        I ended up make black-bottom cupcakes and mini Kentucky Derby pies recipes which I will definitely be sharing soon! But the amount of baked goods (and people) that showed up to support this cause was amazing. Look at the tables upon tables of baked goods!

        Kudos to Maris Callahan at In Good Taste for organizing such a great event!

        The other part of the equation is that, aside from getting ready from the bake sale, we also said goodbye to two dear friends this weekend who are moving back to the DC area from Chicago. We had a great day with them, and we will miss them immensely, but I am so excited for them. They have two great opportunities ahead of them, and I see nothing but success in the future!

        If that isn't enough, things have been really up in the air with me for a while now (like since February), but now that my plans are concrete, I am comfortable sharing! This is somewhat surreal to say, but this is my last week working as an engineer. Starting Monday, I am going back to school full time to earn my Master's Degree in Secondary Education so that I can become a high school math teacher. It's a gigantic change, but one I am 100% ready for and excited about. Last month, I had to take a 5-hour exam, similar to the SAT or ACT on steroids. There was a reading comprehension, language arts, math and essay section. I got a perfect score on the language arts section (woohoo!) but ended up missing one question on the math section. Of course, I'm the math person that always performs better on the English/language arts stuff. If I didn't pass this test (who average pass rate is 25% of the total test-takers) I would have had to take it again ASAP, as I couldn't register for classes at my school without a passing grade. Needless to say, this past month has been super-stressful waiting for results of this test and, essentially, my future.

        Once I found out I passed, I paid my admission deposit and will now be registering for my classes this fall (I'm already set on my summer classes).

        I am excited, anxious, nervous and ecstatic at the same time. I really hope to keep up with the blog and the posting, but I hope you can forgive if there is a lapse or two in postings as I'm transitioning to this new phase.

        Today is my last Monday at work, so it is somewhat bittersweet. I've been here for nearly four years, and it was my first full-time job out of school. My mood has been happy, sad, elated and depressed, sometimes all at the same time. Call it a rut, a “mood” (complete with air-quotes) or a case of the “Mondays.” (props if you know that reference!)

        No matter what the day brings, I don’t seem to be able to get past the fact that my alarm went off and I had to get out of bed. Did I mention my alarm goes off at 5:20 in the morning? The sun is not even awake at that hour, which begs the question…”Why am I?”

        Days like these, I need to bring out the big guns to pull myself out of the weeknight doldrums. Those ‘big guns’ come in the form of itty-bitty sprinkles inside nothing other than a funfetti cupcake. I did not eat funfetti a lot as a kid, but the few times I did have it, I was in heaven. Light-as-air cake contains a rainbow of color throughout. How can you not be happy eating a rainbow?

        I do not buy cake mix all that much, so I did not have a box of Funfetti on hand. But, I did have everything in my pantry, including the rainbow sprinkles, to bring them to life from scratch.

        This recipe did not disappoint. The light almond flavoring gives this cake a little something special, which elevates it above your traditional vanilla cake. The cake itself is a little more dense than it’s boxed counterpart, but I’ll trade that any day for a homemade treat sans preservatives and other ingredients I cannot pronounce. The frosting is my first attempt at a cooked frosting, and I was so pleased with how it turned out.

        Smoother and lighter than its eggless-uncooked buttercream sister, this frosting was reminiscent of marshmallow fluff, and a perfect counterpart to the nostalgic cake. A few sprinkles on top and, ta-da, the “Mondays” have all but vanished.

        Bake yourself up a smile today.

        You deserve it.

        Homemade Funfetti Cupcakes
        Makes one dozen cupcakes

        1 1/4 cups AP flour
        2 teaspoons baking powder
        1/2 teaspoon salt
        6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
        1 cup sugar
        3 large egg whites (room temperature)
        1 teaspoon vanilla extract
        1/4 teaspoon almond extract
        1/2 cup milk
        1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles

        Preheat your oven to 350C. In a small bowl, whisk together your flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

        In a large bowl with an electric mixer, whip together your butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg whites, one at a time, until thick and white. Add your extracts and mix again.

        With a spoon, slowly mix in your dry ingredients and milk/yogurt mix, alternating between the two. When everything comes together (taking care not to over mix), add the sprinkles and lightly fold in a couple times. Again, do not over mix.

        Spoon in the batter to liners and bake for about 20 minutes or until your tester comes out clean. Set out to cool before icing.

        Vanilla Swiss Buttercream
        From CCakery

        3/4 cup sugar
        3 large egg white
        18 tablespoons butter, softened
        3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
        Extra sprinkles

        Over a double boiler, whisk together the egg whites and sugar until the granules have a disintegrated. Pour the whites into a mixing bowl, careful not to get any condensation or water into it.

        With an electric mixer, whip the whites until it forms soft peaks. Continue mixing and slowly add the butter, about 4 Tablespoons at a time and mix until completely incorporated. Mix well - after adding your butter, your buttercream will reach the "curdled stage". Don't worry, just keep mixing and it'll smooth out.

        After everything has smoothed, add the extracts. When everything is incorporated, use buttercream to pipe over your cooled funfetti cupcakes. Add extra sprinkles on top. Enjoy!

        Don't forget to stop by my Facebook site if you like what you see!

        Thursday, May 5, 2011

        Maryland Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

        Happy Cinco De Mayo! Obviously, I'm a terrible blogger and totally forgot about it, so I don't have a Mexican fiesta planned for you today. I'll go sit in blogger time-out for a few minutes.

        In the meantime, if you're still with me, you can read about something else totally delicious, if you're ok with it not being fiesta-themed!

        In my previous post, I recounted our recent crab feast and what I did with a portion of the crab meat collected from our leftover crabs. While the soup used the claw meat and some of the smaller pieces of crab I collected, I saved a half pound of the best, largest chunks of meat for this next dish. I also mentioned before how I’m a crabcake snob, so I had thought about making my own with the meat I had set aside. My husband, however, doesn’t enjoy them, so I wanted to find something that we could both appreciate and eat. How about stuffing what is essentially a mini-crabcake into a baby bella mushroom? Score.

        The recipe itself is straightforward enough and, again, it’s off the Cantler’s website. I soon found out, however that mushrooms are tricky little devils to balance. After realizing that no amount of steady-handedness would keep my mushrooms from tipping over onto my baking sheet, I devised a little plan to make ‘holders’ for each musroom using tinfoil. Smart, right? Well, yes and no. On some of the mushrooms, it worked fabulously. On others, they were still teetering dangerously, threatening to fall off the sheet at any moment. I pressed those down a little harder onto the foil, thinking that would solve my problems, opened the oven door and proceeded to tranfer the baking sheet from my countertop to the oven. I saw one mushroom on the corner of my pan begin to wobble. Which meant, instinctively, I cocked my wrist the opposite direction in an attempt to steady the dancing mushroom. While I successfully kept that mushroom on it’s stand, I watched, as if in slow motion, another mushroom on the other side tilt off it’s holder, roll off the baking pan and fall, splat, right onto the oven door. Crab stuffing side down.

        You could hear the sizzle as soon as it made contact. So I did what any sane person would do, I scooped it all back up and shoved it back into the mushroom and put it on the pan again to bake. (And I made sure I ate that mushroom when it came time to serve!) It took everything I had not to lick up the few pieces stuck to the oven door, it was heartbreaking to have to wipe it up and toss those pieces out.

        A few other mushrooms did tip over as well, but at least they stayed on the baking sheet. They tasted fantastic, but they sure weren’t the prettiest things to come out of my kitchen. That’s ok, I’ll eat them blindfolded if I have to, the taste was out of this world, and the gigantic pieces of crabmeat were so delicious, it made me forget about the pieces still stuck to my kitchen towel from cleaning up my oven.

        As a note on this recipe, I didn’t make the topping because I didn’t want that much mayonnaise on my crabmeat, but I have included it in case that appeals to you. I did sprinkle with the paprika and Old Bay once they came out of the oven, though.

        Maryland Crab Stuffed Mushrooms
        Adapted from Cantler's (again!)

        Crab Stuffed Mushrooms
        1/2 pound Maryland backfin crab meat
        3 Tbsp mayonnaise (i used Miracle Whip)
        1 egg white
        1 tablespoons milk
        1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
        1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
        1/4 teaspoon celery salt
        1/4 teaspoon pepper
        1/8 teaspoon paprika
        pinch ginger
        1 tablespoons cracker meal
        12 fresh mushrooms (about 2-3 inches in diameter)
        For the Topping:
        1/2 cup mayonnaise
        1 egg white
        1/8 teaspoon seafood seasoning (aka old bay)
        2 dashes liquid hot pepper
        paprika, for sprinkling

        Remove cartilage from crab meat, being careful not to break crab lumps. Place crab meat in large bowl and set aside.

        In small bowl mix mayonnaise, egg white, milk, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, celery salt, pepper, paprika and ginger.

        Pour sauce over crab meat and mix gently, but thoroughly. Carefully mix in cracker meal.

        Wash and remove stems from mushrooms.

        Place mushrooms in a baking pan stem side up and fill each mushroom with about 2 tablespoons crab mixture.

        Place in a 375 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until crab meat mixture begins to brown.

        If you choose to make the topping:
        Mix together 1/2 cup mayonnaise, egg white, seafood seasoning and liquid hot pepper sauce.

        Spread a generous amount of topping over each mushroom.
        Sprinkle with paprika and bake in 375 degree oven until the topping becomes a light brown color, approximately 5 to 7 minutes.

        Monday, May 2, 2011

        Maryland Crab Soup

        As many of your know, I am a Baltimore transplant to the Midwest. And while there are lots of regional specialties here that have stolen my heart (Garret’s Popcorn, anyone?) nothing can compare to the true summer glory that is the crab feast. There is nothing like picking crab meat, eating corn and potatoes and drinking a cold beer on a hot summer day. Another couple around here shares our love for crab feasts, and we decided we would order a half bushel of crabs from a retailer in Baltimore and have them shipped to us in Illinois. While we did a fair amount of damage to our half bushel (approximately 3 1/2 dozen crabs), we still had a fair amount of leftovers. Crab meat spoils fairly quickly, so I wanted to make the best of the leftovers by making some other Baltimore favorites I usually wouldn’t get otherwise. I guess, if I’m being honest, I could buy crab meat from Whole Foods or something, but I have a hard time paying 30 bucks for jumbo lump meat (which I believe it imperative to creating an outstanding crab dish). So while this is not a thrifty meal if you have to go out and buy the crab meat, I was lucky enough to be ‘forced’ to make these meals with my leftovers. What a pity ;)

        The first step for me, because I wasn’t buying my crabmeat, was picking all the leftover crabs. I stood over my sink for over two hours picking nearly two dozen crabs clean. I ended up with almost two full pounds of crab meat by the time I was finished and a ton of cuts on my hands and fingers from the shells. If you’ve ever picked a crab, you know what I’m talking about. As tedious as picking crab meat can be, I still find it amazingly relaxing.

        Maybe it’s a Baltimore thing.

        If I had to rank crab dishes in an order of favorites, I’d have to say number one is steamed crabs, number two is a a *good* crabcake (which I am super picky about), and then you have Maryland Crab Soup. I am willing to admit I’m a snob when it comes to crabcakes. The good ones are going to almost always be expensive in comparison to the other foods on the menus because they will be made with jumbo lump crab meat. And I refuse to order a crab cake at a restaurant unless I know what I’m getting. Anytime we go to a seafood restaurant in Baltimore, someone will almost always order a crabcake. If it comes out and I find myself envious of their meal and jealous that I didn’t order it instead of my meal, then I know that my next trip there I will be ordering a crabcake. Few places make crabcakes that good. Almost all crab meat, with minimal fillers and breadcrumbs mixed in. And heaven forbid I get one little bit of shell in my crabcake. Something about biting into something smooth and luxe like crabmeat, only to be greeted with a chalky crunch of shell or cartilege between my teeth all but kills my appetite for the rest of the crabcake. Some places are a lot more careful than others about picking through their crabmeat before using it.

        The first recipe I want to share is one of Maryland’s staples. Regardless of my snobbiness towards crabcakes, one thing I always order, pretty much regarless of location, is a cup of Maryland Crab Soup. It’s light and delicious and the soup highlights the sweet flavor of the crabmeat without overpowering it. I found this recipe off of the website of one of my favorite restaurants back home, Cantlers. The recipe seemed almost too easy to be true, but the taste was spot-on. I felt like I was dockside on the Chesapeake Bay. Crab soup is also the perfect vehicle for your less expensive crab meats – claw meat and lump crab. If you’re willing to splurge on the crabmeat, or happen to have leftover crabs from your last feast, give this a try, you won’t be sorry. But please, please, do not use the imitation crab meat. This is one of the few times that only the real deal will do.

        Maryland Crab Soup
        From Cantler's Website  (if you are ever near this restaurant, go there!)
         Makes 8 servings.

        4 c low sodium chicken broth
        3 pounds canned tomatoes, quartered (I used a 28 oz can and a 14.5 oz can)
        1 cup frozen corn, thawed
        1 cup frozen peas, thawed
        1 large baking potato, diced
        1 cup celery, chopped
        1 cup onion, diced
        1 tablespoon seafood seasoning (I used more like 3 Tbsp – and my seasoning of choice was, of course, Old Bay)
        1 teaspoon salt
        1 teaspoon lemon pepper
        1 pound Maryland crabmeat, fresh or pasteurized, cartilage removed (regular or claw)

        Place broth in a 6 quart soup pot and bring to simmer.

        Add vegetables and seasonings and simmer, covered, over medium-low heat for about 45 minutes, or until vegetables are almost done.

        Add crabmeat, cover, and simmer for 15 more minutes or until hot. (If a milder soup is desired, decrease amount of seafood seasoning to 1/4 -1/2 teaspoons.)
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