I hope you have noticed by now that I like to use recipes as guides rather that follow them step by step.  For me, this makes cooking so much more fun and creative.  I like versatile dishes that I can put my own spin on.  When I found this recipe for Red and Green Pesto, I was immediately intrigued.  I love traditional basil pesto, but I also like to try pesto variations.  For me, the spicier the food, the better, so I was excited to see that this pesto had red chile peppers in it.  However, for those of you who don’t like the heat, don’t worry, to my dismay the peppers really did not add spice at all, just a wonderful roasted pepper flavor.  The red chile peppers with the parsley in the pesto really make for a beautiful, colorful pasta dish.  You could add any vegetables you would like and also your protein of choice whether that be tofu, chicken or shrimp.

 

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 (Recipe adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray)

*TIP*  When roasting peppers, it can be somewhat difficult to remove the skins after they are roasted.  To make this task easier, I like to wrap my peppers in a damp paper towel immediately after they are done roasting while they are still hot.  This creates steam and allows the skins from the peppers to be removed much more easily.


Go ahead, slurp it up like a 5-year-old.  No one is watching :)!

 

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The Best Strawberry Cupcakes

Hi sweet teeth!

I hope you all had a nice weekend!  Mine was very busy and a lot of fun.  It was my good friend Emily‘s wedding shower and bachelorette party weekend.  The weekend would not have been complete without great friends, lovely gifts and a drag show!  After a good night of sleep last night I have fully recuperated!

I volunteered to bring a dessert (you are so surprised aren’t you?) to the event on Friday evening and again, with it being another steamy weekend, I wanted something light that would not weigh us down in our party shoes.  I decided on my favorite strawberry cupcakes with a couple of new twists.

These light vanilla cupcakes are filled with a strawberry and marscapone cheese combination so that when you bite into them you are pleasantly met with a burst of creamy strawberry goodness.  A vanilla simple syrup glaze tops them all off and they are almost as pretty as our beautiful bachelorette!

 

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(Cupcake recipe from Epicurious and Filling and Glaze from Giada DeLaurentiis)

 

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I know I was just saying how hot it is outside, and how could I want warm spicy curry on a hot summer day, right?  Well, I am very thankful for air conditioning and after several hours of cooling off, and some inspiration from blog surfing, I decided that curry was going to be the dinner entrée of the evening.

Often when I make curries, I find that they are too one-note and the flavors are just not as complex as the curries I enjoy when I am at a Thai restaurant for example.  But this time it was different.  This combination was the perfect expression of sweet, spicy, sour and salty.  No one-note curry this time and I could have eaten plate after plate of it!

Also, this was my first time cooking with coconut oil which I loved.  I can’t wait to try baking with it.

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(Recipe inspired by Family Fresh Cooking)

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The heat has been sweltering here in Minneapolis.  Not to mention the humidity.  When I walk outside and immediately feel like I am in a sauna, rich ooey gooey treats do not sound as appealing to me.  Instead I crave cooling treats with fresh summer fruits.

This fruit tart is one of my husband’s favorite desserts.  I like it because decorating it makes me feel like an artist and it allows me to let my creative juices flow.   The tart starts off with the recipe that I use at Christmastime for cut-out sugar cookies.   When this dough is pressed into a baking sheet, the end result is a perfectly thick and chewy cookie crust.  I top the perfect sugar cookie crust with a cream cheese frosting smear and at that point, it is a blank canvas for whatever fruit toppings I have chosen.  Finally, a simple fruit preserves glaze and it looks like it could grace the cover of a food magazine.  Ok, maybe not, but it really will impress your friends and family!

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And the best part is that when you are finished there is inevitably going to be left over fruit and maybe just a spoonful of frosting……

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I did not feel good about saying “adios” to Mexico Week without a grand finale.  Remember the Tres Leches cake that I mentioned earlier this week?  If you are not familiar with Tres Leches, please allow me to enlighten you!  “Tres leches” in Spanish means “three milks”.  The way that these three milks apply to our cake is that you start with a somewhat basic white cake and then soak it in a mixture of sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream.  You can imagine what happens next.  The cake becomes oh so marvelously moist from the sopping up the milks that it literally feels like it is melting in your mouth when you take a bite.

In Mexico, Tres Leches cake is commonly served at weddings, birthdays and other events.  My best friend Naomi had this cake for her wedding and ever since then I have been meaning to attempt to make it myself.  Naomi will have been married for 5 years in August, so what better time than now to follow through with my commitment!

Tres Leches Cake

by Mercedes Porter

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 8 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla

For the milk mixture

  • 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla

For the topping

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 Tbsp corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

For the milk mixture

Pour condensed milk into large microwave-safe bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave on low, stirring and replacing plastic wrap every 3-5 minutes, until slightly darkened and thickened, 9-15 minutes.

Remove from microwave and slowly whisk in evaporated milk, cream, and vanilla.

Let cool to room temperature.

For the cake

Position rack in middle of oven. Preheat to 325. Grease and flour a 9X13 baking pan. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in bowl. Heat butter and milk in small saucepan over low heat until butter is melted; set aside off heat.

With hand-held mixer on medium speed, beat eggs in large for about 30 seconds, then slowly add sugar until incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture is thick and glossy, 5-7 minutes. Reduce speed to low and slowly mix in milk-butter mixture and vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, scraping down bowl as necessary, then mix on medium speed until fully incorporated, about 3o seconds. Using rubber spatula, scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted into middle comes out clean, 30-35 minutes. Transfer cake to wire rack and let cool 10 minutes.

Using a skewer, poke holes at 1/2 inch intervals in top of cake. Slowly pour milk mixture over cake until completely absorbed. Let sit at room temperature 15 minutes, then refrigerate uncovered for 3 hours or up to 24 hours.

For the topping

Remove cake from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. With hand-held mixer on medium speed, beat heavy cream, corn syrup, and vanilla to soft peaks, 1-2 minutes. Spread over cake and slice into 3-inch squares. Serve.

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(Recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

for the milk mixture:  sweetened condensed milk

 sweetened condensed milk after it is darkened and thickened

 finished milk mixture

 for the cake:  dry ingredients

butter/milk mixture

 eggs, thick and glossy

 poke holes 1/2-inch apart into cake

 pour milk mixture over cake

 spread on topping after refrigerating

 so moist and decadent, disfruta!

 

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