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Lemon Cheesecake Yogurt Cups

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Today is my last official day of summer before I head off to Seattle for another year of school. Therefore the activity on my blog will most likely go from once a week to about once a month due to the crazy nature of my schedule this year. But nevertheless starting my own food blog was certainly a wonderful adventure and experience this summer. I didn’t quite get to all the things on my list but that just gives me somewhere to start next summer! Or this year since I will be doing lots of cooking now that I finally have a kitchen! For my last blog post of the summer I am sharing a healthier dessert than usual. These lemon cheesecake yogurt cups are a lightened up version of cheesecake, using low fat cream cheese and greek yogurt. The best part about these is that they are baked in cupcake form, giving you instant portion control. (Not that you can’t eat more than one at a time…) These are a cinch to whip up and are especially cute when topped with a few berries or whatever fruit you have around the kitchen. The only change I made was that I forgot to get vanilla wafers at the store so I substituted a simple graham cracker crust instead. If I were to make the recipe again I think I would go with the vanilla wafers so that the end product would be easier to pick up and eat. Thanks for reading and enjoy!

Creamy Lemon Cheesecake Yogurt Cups (from the blog, Gina’s Skinny Recipes)

Ingredients:
12 reduced fat vanilla wafers
8 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz fat-free vanilla Greek yogurt (I used plain and just added an extra dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 tbsp all purpose flour
Berries or peach slices for topping (optional)

Directions:

Heat oven to 350°.

Line cupcake tin with liners. Place a vanilla wafer at the bottom of each liner.

Gently beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth using an electric mixer. Gradually beat in fat free yogurt, egg whites, lemon juice, lemon zest and flour. Do not over beat. Pour into cupcake liners filling half way.

Bake 25 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool to room temperature. Chill a few hours in the refrigerator.

P.S. In case you were wondering, these babies only have 108 calories per cup! Also I apologize for my less than ideal photo, the light in my kitchen is not the greatest at 11pm.

Vegetarian Lo Mein

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This recipe is awesome. It’s light, delicious, full of veggies, and will definitely impress your friends, parents, and potential lovers. Stir fry foods involving a wok can seem intimidating but do not fear the hot pan and even hotter oil. Just follow the directions and maybe use an extra long spoon so you can cook without burning yourself. By some miracle, I made this recipe successfully without any injuries or mishaps, so you definitely can too. I would highly suggest chopping and measuring out all your ingredients before starting to actually cook, makes the whole process much faster and then you aren’t rushing to chop garlic while your sauce is already coming to a boil. This serves 2-3 people but you could easily double it for a whole crowd of family and friends. Enjoy!

Vegetarian Lo Mein (from the blog, Can You Stay For Dinner?)

For the Sauce:

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (Canola will work if you don’t have sesame oil)

1/4 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder (I could not find this at the grocery store so I just left it out and my sauce still had lots of kick!)

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon Sriracha hot chili sauce

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Remaining Ingredients:

2 teaspoons canola oil

2 cups bean sprouts

1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts

1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced (I used Cremini mushrooms, wayyyy cheaper and equally yummy)

1 cup shredded Napa cabbage

1/4 cup grated carrot

6 oz Chinese egg noodles or whole wheat spaghetti

Cook the egg noodles or spaghetti according to package instructions, drain and set aside.

Stir all sauce ingredients together in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until thickened and glossy, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, set a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the two teaspoons of canola oil and swirl to coat. Add the bean sprouts, mushrooms, cabbage, and carrot. Saute for about 3 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the cooked egg noodles and the sauce, tossing to combine. Serve immediately.


Seafood Pasta

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I spent this past Labor Day weekend with my family up at Whidbey Island, land of abundant seafood and farmers’ markets. We were too lazy/inexperienced to catch our own seafood, but still wanted a seafood feast our first night there. We bought steamer clams and shrimp at the local Star Market and cooked them up in a simple linguini. My mom and I vaguely followed a recipe from Sunset Magazine but the recipe got lost in the shuffle of vacation and I can’t seem to find it online. Basically what you should do is simmer garlic, olive oil, a little white wine, red pepper flakes, and canned or fresh tomatoes with a little parsley or basil. At the same time, boil water and cook pasta of your liking. Add shrimp and clams (or mussels) to the tomato mixture and cook until the shrimp is pink and the clams have all opened. Discard any unopened clams and do not eat! Plate the pasta and serve tomato/seafood mixture on top. Enjoy!

Rosemary Focaccia

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I’ve been thinking about trying out a new bread recipe for awhile now, mostly because I am obsessed with the smell of bread baking in the oven. But I wasn’t quite sure what to make until I tried a piece of rosemary focaccia at the Festa Italiana last weekend. Boom, there was the inspiration I needed for my bread adventure. Baking with yeast is always somewhat of an adventure for me because you never know if the yeast is going to proof correctly or if the dough will actually double in size. However, this recipe was very straightforward and the yeast and dough behaved quite well. There isn’t any kneading involved, but you do need a stand mixer with a paddle and dough hook attachment. Fresh rosemary from your yard is preferable of course, but store bought or maybe even dried rosemary would work fine too. This focaccia is a perfectly sophisticated accompaniment to a dinner of pasta or even just a bowl of soup. You could probably even try slicing it and making sandwiches. For me the best part of all was the aroma of olive oil, yeast, and rosemary wafting out of the oven while the bread was baking – kitchen perfection!

Rosemary Focaccia (adapted from the Dash of East blog)

Ingredients
  • 1 package of yeast (or 2 and 1/4 teaspoons of yeast from a jar)
  • 1 2/3 cups warm water (very important that the water is warm enough, otherwise the yeast will not proof properly!)
  • pinch of sugar
  • 5 cups all purpose unbleached flour (we were running out of all purpose flour, so I used whole wheat flour for the 5th cup and mine turned out just fine)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • table salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon rosemary, finely chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked Pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Combine the yeast, water and sugar in a small mixing bowl and stir until the mixture appears creamy. Set aside.
  2. Combine the flour, 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 teaspoons table salt in a stand mixer bowl.
  3. Add the yeast mixture to the mixer bowl and mix everything together on a low setting of the stand mixer with the paddle attachment.
  4. When a dough has formed, switch out the paddle attachment with a dough hook and knead the dough on a low setting until the dough becomes soft and smooth (about 2-3 minutes).
  5. Pour 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil into a pan 9″ by 13″ and let oil cover entire bottom of the pan.
  6. Place the dough in the pan and cover with plastic wrap to let the dough rise for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  7. When the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 425ºF
  8. Stir together the chopped rosemary and 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Set aside.
  9. Brush the rosemary infused olive oil on top of the dough.
  10. Bake in oven for 25 minutes, until the top turns golden brown.
  11. Remove from the pan and let cool on a wire rack.
  12. Slice, serve and enjoy!

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Waffles Waffles Waffles

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Waffles are delicious. Very delicious. They are sometimes forgotten and neglected in the shadow of big, fluffy pancakes and other sweet breakfast foods. But waffles can be big and fluffy too. And definitely a yummy treat to serve your guests at brunch. Today I had a brunch for some of my friends and wanted to serve something easy, and well, easy. I had worked all day at the city swim meet on Saturday and while I do love fancy brunch items, I simply did not have the energy to plan and create them. Therefore, waffles were a perfect match for my lack of energy but desire for deliciousness. When my family makes waffles on the weekend, we are usually lazy and use a packaged mix. If you are like my family and do this too.. Stop right this second and start making them by scratch. Today I decided to make them by scratch just to see if it was worth the extra few minutes and the answer is yes. Yes yes yes! Waffles from scratch include eggs, milk, vanilla, sugar, and cinnamon – duh they are better! These waffles were of course richer than the ones from the package mix, but they also just tasted more real, like waffles should taste! They were eggy, cinnamony, and vanilly – all things you want on your plate at brunch. To mix it up I also brought out chocolate chips, blueberries, and raspberries that everyone could add to their waffles. I would definitely recommend this, but maybe save the raspberries for after you cook the waffle – ours came out a little messy and torn up, although still very delicious! If you love waffles (and really who doesn’t?), consider adding this easy recipe to your brunch menu!

Sunday Waffles (from the blog, Mother Thyme)
Makes 5 waffles
Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Pinch of cinnamon
2 cups whole milk
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, beaten
Directions – In a large batter bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Make a well in the flour mixture and add in milk, butter, vanilla and eggs.  Stir all ingredients together until smooth. Follow instructions of waffle maker to cook waffles.
Unfortunately, in the hubbub of all the waffle making, I only got one picture of one of our waffle creations. But at least now you can see what a messy raspberry waffles looks like! Of course, we did manage a few cute shots of everyone on the deck as well :)

Carrot Cake

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Some people might consider carrot cake a bit of an oxymoron – vegetables and cake together? Not okay, and not actually dessert. I admit to being a little weirded out by carrot cake when I was younger, but my discovery of this carrot cake recipe a few years ago converted me to a carrot cake lover. However, that love is definitely conditional – not all carrot cake is created equal. Dry carrot cake with overly sweet cream cheese frosting from the grocery store isn’t quite up to par when it comes to what real carrot cake should be. This Grand Central recipe (Yes, I know I’m a little obsessed) definitely measures up and I have had wonderful results and rave reviews with it every time. The cake is studded with shredded carrots, chopped walnuts, and sweetened coconut flakes, making for a unique combination of textures and flavors. The frosting is a nice balance between tangy and sweet, and the perfect match for its cake counterpart. This cake is perfect for birthdays, dinner parties, or special occasions like a visit from your best friend Billy Koch!

Carrot Cake (from the Grand Central Baking Book)

Cake Ingredients

1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar (Do not use organic sugar! It will not combine correctly with the oil and other ingredients!)

3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil

2 eggs, at room temperature (Yes, this seems picky and inconvenient, but it is very important to all your ingredients combining properly)

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 and 1/4 cups grated carrots, about 4 big carrots (Do not hand grate them yourself unless you are asking for a long painful death! Please please please just use a food processor and save your hands and soul)

1 cup sweetened flake coconut

6 oz fresh or canned pineapple, drained and coarsely chopped (I don’t include the pineapple because I don’t really enjoy or believe in canned pineapple, but you are welcome to include it!)

3/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped (To toast the nuts, spread them on a baking sheet and throw them in the oven for 5-10 minutes at 300 until they are nicely golden brown. You can coarsely chop them yourself, or save time again by using a food processor)

Frosting Ingredients (This is about enough frosting to fill and top the cake, but if you want to frost the outside of the cake as well, I suggest doubling this recipe)

5 oz cream cheese, at room temperature (Once again, very important to be at room temperature)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 and 1/2 cups (6 oz) confectioners’ sugar (Also known as powdered or icing sugar)

Prepare to bake – Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and lightly flour two 6-inch round cake pans and line them with rounds of parchment paper.

Combine dry ingredients – Measure the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a bowl and whisk to combine

Mix the sugar and oil – Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and oil on medium speed until well blended and slightly lighter in color, about 4 minutes. The mixture will have a slightly sandy texture and won’t appear particularly smooth.

Add the eggs and vanilla – Crack the eggs into a liquid measuring cup and add the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour in the eggs, letting them fall in one at a time and incorporating each egg completely before adding the next. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl once or twice during the process.

Finish the batter – With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients slowly and mix just until incorporated. Fold in the carrots, coconut, pineapple, and walnuts by hand using a sturdy spatula.

Bake – Divide the batter between the pans. Bake for about 45 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time. The cakes are ready when they pull away from the edges of the pans slightly and spring back when pressed lightly in the center. Let the cakes cool for 10 to 15 minutes before removing them from the pans, then wait until they’re completely cool before filling and frosting the layers.

Make the frosting – Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth and well combined, with no visible lumps, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix on low speed until well incorporated, smooth, and spreadable, about 2 minutes.

Fill and frost the cake – Level out the bottom layer with a serrated knife so that the top layer will sit flat on it. Apply a thin crumb coat to the top of the bottom layer and then spread a decent amount of frosting on top of that. Add the top cake layer and spread the remaining frosting evenly on top. If you are going all out, frost the sides and enjoy!

Marionberry Pie

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This pie combines all things good that come from Oregon – marionberries and Grand Central Bakery. Okay, that’s not entirely true, there are WAY more awesome things that come from Oregon than just those two… Such as strawberries, hazelnuts, salmon, Tillamook cheese, more microbreweries than anyone can count, the beautiful beginning of the food cart trend, and me of course. But really, this important and life-changing combination of marionberries and the Grand Central pie crust into one magnificent dessert is something that should be experienced and renowned by all. It is hands down my favorite pie and blows all others out of the water. Which is saying a lot, because I also feel quite strongly about pumpkin and apple pie. Marionberries are a unique hybrid developed and grown in Oregon, a cross between Chehalem and Olallie berries. Which means that they are basically a mix of blackberries and raspberries, but contain fewer seeds, making for a perfect pie filling.

As I have said before, pie perfection is not the goal. That sort of unattainable perfection should really only be attempted in the ridiculously overstocked and beautiful kitchens of Martha Stewart and Ina Garten. The rest of us kitchen mortals have a more important goal in mind: pie deliciousness. So don’t fret if your crust is freaking out and won’t roll out right, just patch it all together and move on. As Julia Child said, “If you drop the turkey on the floor, just pick it up, no one will ever know!” So, if your crust is looking a little misshapen, just do your best and know that once its covered with filling and in the oven, everyone will be fooled! And overcome by the great deliciousness of your pie. Pie is a beautiful art form that asks for improvisation and lots of love. And for you to eat the whole thing with no regrets! From my happy tummy to yours, please enjoy this fantastic pie!

Marionberry Pie (from the Grand Central Baking Book)

2 disks of All-Butter Flaky Pie Dough (Recipe is a bit extensive to include here so either look in up in the book or substitute your favorite pie crust)

2 pints (4 cups) marionberries (You could substitute blackberries I suppose.. But I really don’t condone that sort of behavior or alteration of my favorite pie recipe)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch (if you are in some sort of desperate, no-cornstarch situation, flour is an okay substitute)

1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Prepare to bake – Preheat oven to 375

Prepare the filling – Gently toss the marionberries with the sugar. Combine the cornstarch and lemon juice to make a slurry, then add it to the berries and stir gently.

Form and bake the pie – Roll out the dough and place the first disk in the pie pan. Pour the filling into the bottom crust and top with the other disk. You can either leave it as a whole crust, try a lattice, or if your top crust isn’t looking so hot like mine.. You can use cookie cutters to cut the crust into cool shapes and place them on top. Bake for 30 minutes, then rotate the pan and lower the oven temperature to 350. Bake for 30 minutes more, until the crust is a rich golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

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