Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chicken Pitas with Cream Cheese and Dill

I got this recipe from Cara and Clarence. It's very much "to taste" according to your personal preference--I like a lot of dill and a lot of garlic powder, so I adjust accordingly. The great thing is it's also great as leftovers for lunch the next day. Here is the recipe as I got it from my sister.

Chicken Pitas with Cream Cheese and Dill

Recipe makes 6 pitas


-Pitas (find the kind that's in the refrigerated section by the cheese)
-1-2 chicken breasts, diced (adjust according to how much you want)
-1 red onion
-Romaine lettuce
-sliced olives
-1 lime
-2-3 tomatoes, depending on how much you want
-8 oz cream cheese
-dill, to taste
-garlic powder
-black pepper


Season the chicken with plenty of garlic powder, a little bit of salt, and a good amount of black pepper. You can either fry it in a pan with a little olive oil or grill it.

To make the cream cheese spread: Put the cream cheese in a bowl and add the juice of 1/2 lime to 1 lime, depending on your taste. Add a liberal amount of dried or fresh dill, again according to taste. (We definitely want the dill to stand out so we add a lot.) Add a small amount of juice from the olives. Add a dash of garlic powder, to taste. You want just enough of the lime juice and olive juice to make the cream cheese easy to mix, but it will still have a cream cheese consistency. You also want the mix to taste salty, but not overwhelmingly so.

Wrap the pitas in a towel and heat in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

Spread as much of the cream cheese onto the pita as you'd like. More is definitely better.

Top with the chopped chicken, lettuce, onion, tomatoes, and sliced olives.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Baking Tips.

Here are some great tips from one of my favorite baking blogs, Sweetapolita. Happy baking!

50 Tips for Baking Better Cakes

Friday, July 15, 2011

Food Memory: Borough Market Toasted Cheese.

Of all the food I tried in London, a toasted cheese sandwich was one of my favorites. Melted Montgomery Cheddar cheeses, finely diced leeks and red onion, and garlic sandwiched between buttered Poilane sourdough. The answer you're looking for is Yes.

Kristin and I headed to Borough Market in Southwark one day to see what there was to see and specifically to try the toasted cheese sandwiches. Total heaven. When I got back home I made my own version with gruyere, fontina, and white cheddar on rye, which was pretty good, but nothing like the original. The leeks make the sandwich, so if you decide to try making it, don't leave them out.

This sandwich will always remind me of a warm spring day in London after the morning rain had cleared out, eating a delicious toasted cheese sandwich on the steps near Southwark Cathedral. The memory is that much more important to me because the company that provides such delicious fried goodness (Kappacasein) doesn't trade at Borough Market anymore. I found this notice on their website:

"NEWS: We are no longer trading at Borough Market. We have been forced to find a new home for our market stall after being caught up in a dispute over loyalties. Please come and see us at the reopening of the stall at what will also be our new cheese making premises in Bermondsey."

I'm glad I got to experience it when I did, though, and I will always associate toasted cheese with Borough Market.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Best Ever Texas Sheet Cake.

Hands down my favorite recipe for one of my favorite cakes. Try eating just one piece... P.S. Sorry there aren't any photos--good thing I don't consider myself a food photographer, huh?

Texas Sheet Cake


2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
1/4 cocoa (heaping)
1 cup water
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted (optional)


Mix flour and sugar in a large bowl. Bring to a boil the butter, cocoa, and water. Pour hot mixture over the flour and sugar and mix well. Add buttermilk, baking soda, vanilla, and eggs; continue mixing until batter is smooth. Pour into a well-greased, large sheet cake pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Allow to cool only slighty and frost. I like to start making the frosting during the last 10 minutes or so of baking and then almost immediately spread it on the cake once it comes out of the oven. Once the frosting's on, sprinkle walnuts or pecans over the cake. I usually do half plain chocolate and half with nuts, so people can pick which side they prefer.

Chocolate Frosting


1/2 cup butter
6 tablespoons light cream or milk
1/4 cup cocoa (once again, heaping)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 to 1 package powdered sugar


Combine butter, cream, and cocoa in a large sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Cool slightly and add vanilla and enough powdered sugar to make frosting the consistency you like. Work the frosting over the cake quickly before it sets. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mini Carrot Cake

For the Fourth of July this year, my younger brother requested a carrot cake--it's one of his favorites, but it doesn't get made very often because there are other options, ya know, like chocolate. I was already making two types of ice cream and a giant Texas sheet cake, so I wasn't all gung-ho about making another big cake. Enter the mini cake idea. This little baby was only 6 inches, two layers. I adapted the recipe from several larger versions and added my own twist. The cake flour and extra cinnamon make this a lighter, more summer-worthy version than its heavier counterpart. Simple, light and sweet, this mini carrot cake barely made it through picture time.

Mini Two-Layer Carrot Cake


1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten and at room temperature
1 1/2 cups finely shredded carrots
2/3 cup cooking oil
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/4 cup sour cream
1 recipe Cream Cheese Frosting, prepared (I add cinnamon to mine)
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted (optional)


Grease and line with parchment paper two 6-inch round cake pans. Set pans aside. In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, carrots, oil, vanilla, almond extract, maple syrup, and sour cream. Add egg mixture to flour mixture; stir until combined. Pour batter into the prepared pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for ten minutes before removing from pans. Cool thoroughly on racks. (At this point, if I'm in a hurry to frost them, I put them in the refrigerator.)

Frost middle, sides, and top with the cream cheese frosting. If you want, sprinkle chopped pecans over frosting. Et voila!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

White chocolate and raspberry scones.

So back in the day (last spring), I made these scones for my sister's bridal shower brunch. And although they tasted great, making them made me feel like I was on the set of a disaster movie. When it comes to scones, you have to remember one very important thing: Do not attempt to roll the dough out, cut the wedges, and then imagine you will lift said wedges onto the baking sheet. Not gonna happen. What does happen is the inherent stickiness of the dough will proceed to stick, in copious amounts, to anything it touches, and does not come off easily. Well, thought this novice baker, I'll just add flour. Wrong-o. This only serves to make your scones heavy and and brick-like. So this time around, I was ready.

One small tweak to a great recipe (dropping the dough directly onto the baking sheet), and you've got delicious white chocolate and raspberry scones to show off to your friends. Instead of scraping "scones" off your countertop for hours.

White Chocolate Raspberry Scones


2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar, plus two tablespoons for dusting--can also use raw sugar for texture
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of cinnamon
6 tablespoons butter, cold or even frozen
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 egg
Clotted cream, for serving (optional)


Preheat oven to 375℉.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Cut in cold butter; another option is to grate the frozen butter which works really well. The mixture should be very crumbly. Stir in chocolate chips and raspberries. Frozen raspberries should be thawed and dried before use.

Mix together yogurt, vanilla and egg. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Be careful not to over mix.

It's not necessary to knead the dough at this point--remember the stickiness. Plus the dough was far too moist, an additional cup or so of flour would have been needed for any proper kneading to be done--remember the brickiness.

Scoop all of the dough onto a lightly greased baking sheet (or onto a Silpat-lined sheet). With lightly floured hands, use your fingers to shape the dough into a 10-inch circle, about a 1/2-inch thick. Now score the circle deeply into eight wedges, like pizza slices.

Brush some leftover yogurt or egg wash (one egg plus 1 tablespoon water) on top of the dough, then sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of sugar over the entire area.

Bake for 18 - 20 minutes, or until golden, fluffy and when a toothpick is inserted it comes out clean.
Cut into wedges following the lines you made earlier, and serve warm. I prefer clotted cream on mine, and you could even go the extra traditional route and eat the scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Whatever you choose, your tastebuds will thank you.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Beignets a la Cafe du Monde

My current obsession with the South hasn't abated much. In a place where the food is synonymous with the culture, I think I could definitely feel at home. Since my imagination is always bigger than my wallet, I can't exactly jet off to Cafe du Monde in New Orleans for the weekend and enjoy hot beignets absolutely rolling in powdered sugar. But I can recreate that last part in my own kitchen, and pretend I'm people watching in the French Quarter and chowing down on fried goodness. Pair this with a chicory coffee--or chicory hot chocolate for the decaffeinated populace--and you can (almost) be there with me. Warning: Do not wear black unless you want the entire world to know exactly what you've been eating that morning.

Cafe du Monde Beignets


1 envelope active dry yeast
3/4 cup water (110 degrees F)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3 1/2 - 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 cup shortening
Vegetable oil for frying
Powdered sugar in a shaker or sifter


Combine the yeast, water, and sugar in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook (you could also make this in a food processor, or the old fashioned way, by hand). Let this sit until frothy, about five minutes, then add the salt, egg, and evaporated milk. Mix on low speed, then add half of the flour until it starts to come together, then add the shortening. When the shortening is incorporated start adding the remaining flour, a little at a time until most of it is incorporated. At this time I turn the dough onto a floured bench to finish by hand, just like when I make bread; it's a touch thing. Knead the dough adding just enough flour as necessary to make a non-sticky, smooth dough. Place the dough into a large oiled bowl, loosely cover and let rise (I made mine last night and let it rise overnight in the refrigerator).

After the dough has doubled in bulk, punch it down and turn it onto a floured surface and roll out into a rectangle that is about 1/2" thick. With a very sharp knife working at a diagonal to the rectangle, cut into 2" wide strips. Now cut into diamond shapes by making diagonal cuts in the opposite direction. Place the beignets on a floured baking sheet to let rise about 40 minutes in a warm place (I place them in a barely warm oven).

When the beignets have risen, heat 2-3 inches of vegetable oil in a large saucepan to 350-360 degrees. Place 2-3 beignets into the hot oil at a time, being careful not to smash or deflate them. When they are golden brown, flip them over until golden brown on the other side (they go pretty quickly so start checking them right after they go into the oil). Remove to paper towel lined plates to drain. Serve hot topped with plenty of powdered sugar (because the dough doesn't contain much sugar, you will want a lot!). Makes about two dozen.