Sunday, April 28, 2013

Strawberry Margarita Cupcakes

Cinco de Mayo is less than a week away.  We love Mexican food, and I'm always up for celebrating with fun libations, so it's definitely my kind of holiday.  I have a few more ideas and recipes to share with you this week, but for now I'll go with the motto of "eat dessert first," and start with these cupcakes.

How do you like your margarita?  Frozen or on the rocks?  Salt or no salt?  I always order mine on the rocks, and like to mix it up with salt/no salt.  My standard margarita is also a Texas-style.  While in theory a strawberry margarita sounds like a great idea, the execution isn't usually all there, and it is usually cloyingly sweet with artificial strawberry flavor (side note:  Try these if you want an awesome strawberry margarita).  However, a strawberry margarita cupcake?  I think the theory and execution are both pretty spot on here.

The cupcake base is a standard white cake that's infused with lime juice, lime zest, and tequila.  The cupcakes are brushed with tequila, and then frosted with a tequila-lime infused strawberry buttercream.  A sprinkling of sea salt finishes them off, and the resulting cupcake is pretty spectacular.  A tart cupcake, just enough boozy flavor to make it interesting, and a sweet strawberry frosting.  These are so good that I may forgo margaritas altogether and simply eat cupcakes instead. :)

Strawberry-Margarita Cupcakes
cupcake adapted from Martha Stewart, via Confections of a Foodie Bride
frosting adapted from Martha Stewart
makes about 24 cupcakes

Tequila-Lime Cupcakes

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temp
  • 3 limes, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 Tbs + 1/4 cup tequila
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line two muffin pans with liners.  

Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl, and set it aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating them fully before adding the next one(s).  

Whisk together the vanilla, lime juice, lime zest, buttermilk, and 2 tablespoons of the tequila.

Starting and ending with the flour mixture, alternate adding the flour and the buttermilk mixture in 2-3 increments, with the mixer at low speed.  Mix just until incorporated.  Divide the batter among the muffin tins.

Bake 18-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, and the tops spring back with touched lightly.

Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow to cool 5 minutes.  Brush the tops with the remaining 1/4 cup of tequila and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Strawberry-Margarita Frosting

  • 1 1/2 cups diced strawberries
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • healthy pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, at room temperature
  • 3-4 Tbs lime juice
  • 2-3 Tbs tequila
Garnishes:  fleur de sel, lime slices, and strawberry slices

Puree the strawberries in a food processor and set aside.

Combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer set over a small pan of simmering water.  Whisk constantly by hand until the sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).

Attach the bowl to the stand mixer and fit with the whisk attachment.  Starting on low speed and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, mix until stiff (but not dry) peaks form.  Continue mixing until until the mixture is light, fluffy, glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the mixing bowl), about 10 minutes.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing well between each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, increase the speed to medium, and mix until the buttercream comes together (it can take up to several minutes, but it will come together eventually).  Switch to the paddle attachement and beat at medium-low speed to remove air bubbles, about 2 minutes.  Gradually add the strawberry puree, lime juice, and tequila, and mix to combine.

Frost cupcakes as desired, sprinkle with salt, and garnish with strawberry and lime slices before serving.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Salmon & Melting Cherry Tomatoes

Tomatoes... so close, yet so far away.  I daresay it's the produce I look forward to the most throughout the year.  There really and truly is nothing like a peak-seaon, homegrown tomato.  What would life be without homegrown tomatoes?  (side note:  Does anyone else know that song by John Denver?)

So while we still have a few months before tomatoes are plentiful and flavorful, cherry and grape tomatoes are starting to come into season now.  With a quick sauté of garlic, onions, balsamic vinegar, and fresh basil, they create a luscious and flavorful sauce.  And use that sauce to top salmon?  You have a pretty amazing meal.  We've been eating a lot of salmon lately, and this was definitely a great preparation for it.  The rich, buttery flavor of the salmon plays really well off of the deep, slightly sweet flavor of the sauce.  It reminded me a bit of this chicken with tomato-herb pan sauce, which is also a favorite dinner around here.

I broiled the salmon, but you could certainly cook it on the stovetop or grill as well.  I served this with a side of roasted asparagus, and called it a day.  So while I'm still yearning for summer and tomatoes, this dinner will hold me off until the time comes.

Salmon & Melting Cherry Tomatoes
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa:  Foolproof
serves 4

  • 2 lbs salmon, cut into 4 portions
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 2 cloves minced fresh garlic
  • 2 cups (1 pint) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved through the stem
  • 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbs julienned fresh basil leaves
Preheat the broiler.  Line a baking sheet with foil, and arrange the salmon fillets in a single layer.  Lightly brush each fillet with olive oil, then generously sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Broil the salmon for 8-10 minutes, or until it is lightly browned on top but still translucent in the center (you can use a butter knife or fork to test).  Remove from oven, cover with foil, and allow to rest until it's ready to serve.

Meanwhile, make the sauce.  Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a medium sauté pan set over medium-low heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender but not browned, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute.

Stir in the tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Cook over medium-low heat 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates and the sauce is thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar and basil, being sure to scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.  Taste and season with additional salt if needed.  

Spoon the tomato sauce over the salmon and serve.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sucre´ Macarons Giveaway!

I took a trip to New Orleans in college, and when I think back, it was kind of a waste.  I definitely didn't take advantage of the amazing local cuisine and shopping... what can I say, I had different... priorities back then.  However, I'd love to visit again, and I already have a list of places to eat/drink/shop.  

Sucre´ is definitely at the top of the list.  It's a sweet shop that offers all sorts of chocolates, candies, confections, and macarons.  When I was first contacted to host a giveaway, I got lost on their website looking at all of the offerings.  Chocolates in every imaginable flavor and combination, handmade marshmallows, caramels, gift baskets, and beautiful macarons. 

I absolutely love macarons.  I received a box of their signature collection, and I'm not exaggerating when I say that they were gone within two days.  Every time I ate one, I proclaimed it to be "my favorite."  So they were all super tasty, but the standouts for me were the strawberry, bananas foster, carrot cake, and almond.  I had initially planned to eat 1-2 by myself, then take the rest to my mother-in-law's for Easter.  But they didn't last long enough.  Sorry, not sorry.

So on to the giveaway:  Who wants to win some macarons?  I'll be giving away a box of their 15-piece Signature Collection to one lucky reader!  To enter, answer this question:  What city do you wish you could re-visit?  New Orleans and New York are definitely at the top of my list!

Rules, disclaimers, etc:
  • One entry per person.
  • US residents only - sorry!
  • You must leave a valid email address to be eligible.  
  • Giveaway closes Friday, April 26th at 11:59 pm.  Winner will be chosen by a random number generator.
  • This giveaway is sponsored by Sucre´.  I received a box of the macarons from them, but all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Strawberry-Poppyseed Chicken Salad

Do you have a "signature dish?"  I don't mean that in a pretentious show-offy way... more like if you go to potluck or are making food for someone, do you always make the same thing?  Are you "known" for a specific dish?  I typically enjoy trying new recipes, so I like to mix things up and rarely repeat recipes.  However, I've made this chicken salad three times in the past week.  And it's pretty safe to say that it could easily become my signature dish.

I've long been a fan of chicken salad, but I am pretty particular about it.  I like having a fruit in there - usually apples, grapes, or even dried fruit.  I am particular about the dressing - easy on the mayo, a bit of Dijon mustard, and a little honey.  And I like having nuts in it as well - usually toasted almonds or pecans.  And I always prefer my chicken salad on a croissant.  So this isn't so different from my basic formula, but it's a combination that I never would have thought to use for chicken salad.

Shredded chicken is tossed with poppyseed dressing and just a little mayonnaise - really just enough to hold it together.  Plain yogurt would work well here too.  A few herbs are mixed in - scallions and basil or mint.  And then fresh strawberries are folded into the salad.  It strikes that perfect balance between sweet and savory, and I am totally and unabashedly in love.  I'm pretty sure I could eat this every single day for lunch for the rest of the spring and summer and be happy.

It was great by itself, on a croissant, or on a bed of greens.  It would be perfect to serve at a bridal or baby shower - so pretty and springy!  I try not to rave over every single recipe I post here (OMG BEST THING EVER!  MAKE THIS NOW!!), but seriously.  This is one of my favorite things ever, you really should make it now. :)

Strawberry-Poppyseed Chicken Salad
adapted from Southern Living, March 2012

  • 4 cups shredded or chopped chicken (fully cooked)
  • 1/2 cup poppyseed salad dressing
  • 2-3 Tbs mayonnaise or plain yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs chopped scallions
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh basil or mint
  • 2 cups chopped strawberries
In a large bowl, combine the chicken, salad dressing, mayonnaise, and pepper.  Stir well to coat.  If it seems a bit dry, add a little more dressing or mayonnaise.  Gently fold in the chopped scallions, basil, and strawberries.  Taste and season with salt and/or pepper.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

(Lighter) Poppyseed Dressing

Poppyseed dressing has long been a favorite of mine.  It's sweet, tangy, and has cute little poppy seeds suspended throughout.  I lived in oblivion, not really knowing what was in it, or how it was made.... until I found a recipe for a homemade version.  SIX tablespoons of sugar.  Whaaaat?  We're making a salad dressing here, not dessert!  That's almost one-third of a cup!  If I want to consume that much sugar, I'm sure as heck not using a salad as the vehicle!

So while I did make the sinfully decadent and unhealthy version once for a party, I made it my mission to lighten it up to be an everyday dressing vs a special occasion one.  The first obvious change is to decrease the sugar.  So I only used one tablespoon, then supplemented with two tablespoons of honey.  Since it wouldn't be quite as sweet, I also decreased the vinegar a bit, so it wouldn't be so sharp.  And then I decreased the oil a bit too, to lower the fat content.

Overall, it is more than acceptable as a substitute for the original version.  I've enjoyed it on strawberry spinach salads and bowls of mixed fruit.  And tomorrow I'll be showing you my absolute favorite way to enjoy it - it's unexpected, but unbelievably delicious.

Light Poppyseed Dressing
heavily adapted from The Pastry Queen Christmas

  • 2 tsp grated or very finely minced white onion
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 2 Tbs white wine or white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 Tbs poppy seeds
In a blender or small food processor, combine the onion, mustard powder, salt, sugar, honey, and vinegar.  Blend until very well-combined, about 15 seconds.  Slowly stream in the oil, and mix until combined.  Add the poppy seeds and mix until they are well-distributed throughout the dressing.  

The dressing can be stored for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Baked Vegetable Quinoa Parmesan

My obsession with quinoa continues (and I have about 2-3 quinoa recipes waiting to be posted - I told you.  Obsessed).  This time I used it to create a comforting, filling, and healthy casserole.  Inspired by my pal Elly's baked chicken parmesan quinoa, I made a vegetarian version.  I chose to use eggplant, mushrooms, onion, and tomatoes, but any veggies would work just swimmingly.  Zucchini and squash in particular would be perfect in the summer months.  I actually intended to add some chopped spinach as well, but forgot until I was putting the dish into the oven to bake.  Oops!

This was a big big hit with everyone in the family.  Smith has been going through  bit of a picky stage lately - or rather, an "I love to throw all my food on the floor" stage.  But he couldn't get enough of this.  And another bonus?  It made a huge amount and reheated wonderfully, thereby giving me lunch for almost a week.  Score!

Baked Vegetable and Quinoa Parmesan
inspired by Elly Says Opa

  • 1 1/2 lbs eggplant, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 cups water or broth
  • olive oil
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 Tbs chopped fresh basil, divided
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbs melted butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a 2 quart casserole dish with cooking spray.

Toss the eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Arrange on a large, paper towel-lined plate.  Microwave uncovered for 10 minutes, tossing halfway through.  The eggplant should be starting to shrivel.

Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to the package directions, using 2 cups of water or broth.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the eggplant and onion, and cook, stirring often, 5 minutes.  Stir in the mushrooms and cook an additional 5-8 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables have all softened and are starting to brown.  

Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Cook until fragrant, then stir in the crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer, remove from heat, and stir in the cooked quinoa, 2/3 cup of the mozzarella cheese, and 2 tablespoons of the basil.  Pour into the prepared pan.

In a small bowl, use a fork to combine the remaining 1/3 cup mozzarella, the parmesan cheese, panko, and melted butter.  Sprinkle over the top of the quinoa-veggie mixture.

Cover the dish with foil and bake 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the top is beginning to turn golden-brown.  Sprinkle with additional basil and serve.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Sausage, Provolone, and Spinach Pizza

This pizza may seem humble and mundane, but for the past year, it's been my favorite pizza.  No, there's nothing fancy or gimmicky, or even all that revolutionary about it.  I've even debating sharing this for months since it seems so boring.  But for some reason, the combination of ingredients does it for me every.  single. time.  So here's what we have going on:  Pizza dough that's been sprinkled with diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and a little garlic powder and salt.  Thinly sliced sweet yellow onions.  chopped fresh spinach (which I pretty much add to everything - gotta get those greens!).  sliced sun dried tomato chicken sausage (I get it from Trader Joe's.).  And a mix of provolone, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses.  The sweetness of the tomatoes and onion play perfectly off of the strongly-flavored chicken sausage and the creaminess of the cheese.  When nothing else sounds good, I know I can always eat this pizza.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Sausage, Provolone, and Spinach Pizza
a Pink Parsley Original

  • 1 lb pizza dough
  • 1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes, juice drained
  • 1/4 tsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced sweet onion
  • 2 links sundried tomato chicken sausage, halved and sliced into half-moons
  • 1 cup shredded Provolone cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven and pizza stone to 500 degrees for at least 30 minutes.

Sprinkle a 14-inch square of parchment paper with cornmeal, then stretch and shape the pizza dough into a 12-inch circle.

Scatter the tomatoes over the dough, then sprinkle with the Italian seasoning, garlic, and salt.  Top with the chopped spinach and sliced onions, then sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top.  Finally, arrange the sausage over the cheese.

Carefully transfer the pizza + parchment to the preheated pizza stone, and bake about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the crust is browned.  Allow to cool about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.