Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sweet and Spicy Roasted Cucumber Soup

I don't know why I do the things I do sometimes. For example, I do not like cucumber. There has never been a point in my life where I have enjoyed eating a cucumber, in any form; yet when I decided I wanted to make soup, I couldn't shake the urge for cucumber. Typically cucumber soup is served cold (another thing I do not like in the least bit: cold soup), but I thought doing a roasted spiced soup would be perfect for the rainy weather we've been having here in New Jersey.

Cucumber is fresh and light, which reminds me of the spring I'm hoping will come very soon. The vibrant green is cheery, and unlike the sodium-filled soup you buy at the store, this has no salt. I repeat. No. Salt. Something about the smoothness of the avocado, cream from the greek yogurt, and that pinch of spice gives this soup all the flavor it needs. I don't know how, but I took something I found rather dull and flavorless and made it.... really damn good!

You can make the whole batch (sans yogurt), freeze it, and add the yogurt last minute for a long-lasting soup you won't get sick of. If you're feeling sniffly and wishing for sunny weather (like me) then I think you'll enjoy it too. :)

Sweet and Spicy Roasted Cucumber Soup
Makes: 12 servings  Prep: 15 minutes  Total: 1 hour

4 cucumbers, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup, 1 tbs olive oil (divided)
2 tbs honey
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 yellow onion, diced
1/2 tbs coarse ground pepper
2 cups vegetable broth
1 avocado
2 tbs parsley, plus more for garnish
1 cup plain greek yogurt

Lay peeled and sliced cucumbers in a baking dish. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup olive oil, honey, red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper. Pour over cucumbers and toss to cover. Roast in the oven at 300 degrees for 45 minutes.
Saute onion in 1 tbs olive oil for 3-4 minutes until soft. Sprinkle with pepper and cook for another minute. Add vegetable broth and cook on medium-high heat just below boiling for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a food processor, add cooked cucumbers, broth, avocado and parsley. Process on high for 2 minutes. Add greek yogurt, garnish with parsley and serve. (If refrigerating or freezing, wait to add yogurt until just before serving.)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cranberry-Raspberry Chocolate Cake Truffles


Happy Valentine's Day! What better way to celebrate this wonderful/terrible holiday than by sharing these cake truffles with your significant other/eating them alone while sobbing and watching a romantic comedy? Whether you are a lover or hater of the holiday, you're probably a lover of delicious sweets and that is why these cake truffles are the perfect treat. :)

I was lucky enough to share these yummy cake truffles with many people I love in my life. My roommates here in New Jersey got the first taste. Then I mailed a box to Dylan in Cleveland as an early Valentine's Day gift. (If you have any doubt about how good these are, he got the package on Saturday afternoon and they were gone by Sunday night... I gave him six...) Finally, I got to spread the love with some beautiful Boston friends I stayed with this weekend. These rich little truffles go a long way, so sharing them with loved ones is easy.

Cranberry-Raspberry Chocolate Cake Truffles
Makes: 40 truffles  Prep: 15 minutes  Total: 24 hours

1 box white cake mix
*3 eggs
*3/4 cup vegetable oil
*1 1/4 cup cranberry juice cocktail
2 8-ounce cream cheeses
1/2 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup raspberry jam
20 ounces chocolate chips (white, dark or milk)
Pink and white sprinkles

*Ingredients depend on box directions. The important part is to replace the water with cranberry juice.

Mix boxed cake as directed, replacing the water with an equal amount of cranberry juice. Bake as directed and let cool. Crumble cake into a large bowl.
In a mixer, combine cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. Add cream cheese frosting and raspberry jam into the crumbled cake and mix until fully incorporated. Roll into 1-inch balls and lay on a parchment paper covered baking sheet. Refrigerate overnight.
Remove cake truffles from fridge. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave in 30 second increments, stirring in between. Dip balls in chocolate, lay on baking sheet and cover with sprinkles. Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Peanut Butter Banana Cupcakes with Nutella Frosting

This was one of those food visions I get every so often. Dylan introduced me to the combination of peanut butter and nutella on toast but I've never seen it in a recipe before. The idea came together quickly and I knew I had to bake them ASAP. These cupcakes are suuuuper rich, so be prepared because you may only be able to eat half. (Uhhh let's be honest, you're gonna eat the whole thing.)

I'm still on my fitness plan and eating healthy most of the time, but hey, a girl's gotta indulge every once in a while. Although, as my mother told me, "bananas are healthy...."

Peanut Butter Banana Cupcakes with Nutella Frosting
Makes: 18 cupcakes  Prep: 20 minutes  Total: 45 minutes

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups peanut butter chips
1 cup creamy peanut butter (approximately 1 tbs/cupcake)

1/2 cup nutella
1/2 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbs heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, mash bananas and add butter, sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix well. Stir in peanut butter chips and pour batter into cupcake tins. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes until the tops are lightly golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Once the cupcakes have cooled slightly, scoop out about a tablespoon from to center of each cupcake (or less depending on how much peanut butter you want) and spoon the extra cake into a bowl. Fill the hole with creamy peanut butter before topping with frosting.

Combine nutella and melted butter in a medium bowl. Mix well. Add powdered sugar, heavy cream and vanilla and stir until smooth and no lumps are left. Ice cupcakes immediately and store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Baked Shrimp Spring Rolls with Mango Dipping Sauce

Happy Superbowl Sunday! I've been working all morning on these spring rolls since the avocado I bought yesterday wasn't ripe enough to use yet. (Note to self: never go grocery shopping the day before the Superbowl. Ever. Again.) This was my first attempt at Asian food and they were really fun to make! I'm excited to try a lot more combinations with my leftover spring roll wrappers. I also used my new food processor for the first time! Despite the fact that it's a pain in the ass to clean, it's pretty awesome.

I'm pretty bummed that I'm away from Boston when the Patriots are in the Superbowl, but luckily I get to go back next weekend and visit all my friends! I told them that if the Pats win, they better jump in the reflection pool for me. Since most people here in New Jersey are Giants fans, I might be the lone Boston fan at our party tonight (but hopefully bringing these spring rolls will make up for that in their eyes). Anyway if you're looking for a fun, healthy game day snack and all the veggie trays are sold out, try these rolls instead.

Baked Shrimp Spring Rolls with Mango Dipping Sauce
Makes: 24 rolls Prep: 30 minutes  Total: 45 minutes

24 spring roll wrappers
12 ounces frozen shrimp, uncooked
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 cups shredded cabbage
2 cups shredded carrots
6 scallion greens, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1 egg
1 tbs honey

Mango Dipping Sauce:
1 1/2 20-ounce jars canned mangoes
1/2 tbs lemon juice
1/2 tbs honey
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp hot sauce

Defrost frozen shrimp and saute until pink. Let cool, remove tails and chop into small pieces. Season with cayenne pepper and salt and toss.
In a large saute pan, heat cabbage, carrots, shrimp and scallions. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, then add avocado. Remove and let cool.
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Begin rolling by placing spring roll wrapper in a bowl of hot water, and lay flat on a dry towel. Lightly pat and place a heaping tablespoon of shrimp mixture 3 inches from the bottom edge. Lift edge over mixture and tuck, rolling until halfway up the wrapper. Lift horizontal edges to close the ends of the roll, and finish by rolling up to the top and tucking the edge underneath. Lay on a greased baking sheet and repeat with all rolls.
Before baking egg rolls, beat together egg and honey. Use a pastry brush or hands to lightly coat the outside of each roll. Bake for 10 minutes and store in an airtight container until ready to serve.
For mango dipping sauce, blend canned mangoes in a food processor. Add in lemon juice, honey, salt, vinegar and hot sauce. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

*For help, see this great visual tutorial for how to roll egg rolls at Steamy Kitchen.
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