Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mango-tomatillo salsa

Although not exactly falling under the "baking" category, this post recipe is equally delicious, trust me! Since we have a huge vegetable- and most importantly tomato- garden, I have been making this yummilicious salsa all summer. It has been an absolute hit everywhere I have taken it and of course at home! In fact, the last party I brought this to, I was asked "to sell the recipe". :)) But since I am more into posting recipes for free :), I figured I'd just put it up here. So, here goes...

Mango-tomatillo salsa

1 very ripe mango, chopped (the riper the mango, the sweeter the salsa)
1 or 2 good size vine-ripened garden tomatoes, chopped (I use large heirlooms with tons of flavor)
1 yellow tomato, chopped (I grow these too and they are even sweeter than the red ones)
2-3 tomatillos, chopped (this was the first year I grew these in my garden and it has been great!)
2-3 tbsp sweet onions, minced
1 small jalapeno, minced (optional- only if you like spicy food)
2-3 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1-2 minced garlic cloves (I know this is not typical for salsa, but I like the depth of flavor it adds to the dish)
the juice of 1 lime

Mix all ingredients. Chill for a few hours or overnight. I like making this a day in advance because I feel the flavors really marry that way. I like using this dish not just as an appetizer, served with tortilla chips, but also as a garnish to grilled chicken or fish- it is amazing!

I have also made this with pineapple instead of mango and it is awesome as well. Also, I have added avocado in it and that makes the salsa really creamy. There are a lot of combinations possible here, and you can really run with it, the key factor is fresh garden-ripened tomatoes. If you don't have a garden yourself, try to get them at a local farmer's market. It will make a world of difference.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mini cupcakes galore :)

An order of 5 dz mini cupcakes for a friend's party today. Two flavors in three different colors: dark chocolate cake with peanut butter cream cheese frosting and vanilla cake with vanilla-almond buttercream (which I make the same way as my regular vanilla buttercream, only I add 1 tsp almond extract as well):

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Chocolate Chunk Brownies

Last weekend we were invited to a party and, of course, I wanted to bring a dessert. :) I wasn't in the mood for making a cake, plus I thought something more like finger food sized portions would be more appropriate, so, I decided to make these decadent brownies. There have been quite a lot of versions for "brownies with a twist" hovering around on Pinterest lately, but I sort of came up with this recipe on my own, combining bits and pieces of others out there. The final result did not disappoint. I made a big batch and took about 2/3 to the party,  saved some for home and brought the rest to my co-workers. Everybody raved about them! Within a day, they were all GONE! What I love about this recipe is the fact that it starts off with a boxed mix of brownies (since I was a little short on time at 11PM when I started baking :)) but then quickly gets transformed into something way, way better than regular boring brownies out of a box. Check this out:


Brownie layer:
1 box brownie mix, your favorite brand, mixed according to package instructions
(in this particular case, I had to add 2 eggs to the mix but I only had 1 left, so I substituted 1 egg  for 1 tbsp flax seed mill and 3 tbsps water- it worked great and I will be doing this on a regular basis from now on!)

Cheesecake layer: 
1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, at room temperature, I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
 Mix everything until creamy and smooth (I actually used my little Kitchen Bullet for that and it worked great)

Peanut Butter Layer:
1 cup peanut butter, melted for about 1 minute in the microwave (I stir it a little after the first 30 seconds), I used natural chunky peanut butter because I like the texture it gives the brownies but creamy will do just fine

And last but certainly not least,
about 2-3 oz of your favorite chocolate, broken up in small chunks (I used milk chocolate in this case)


Preheat oven to 400F.
Cover a 9x13 inch baking pan with foil. Grease well.

Pour 2/3 of the prepared brownie mix batter on the bottom. Next, drop the melted peanut butter by spoonfuls on top of the brownie batter. Pour the cheesecake mixture. Spread the chocolate chunks. Pour the rest of the brownie batter on top. Using a fork, swirl around the batter to create a marbleized look.
Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out almost dry (it may still stick a little bit because of the cheesecake batter but that's okay; as long as it doesn't jiggle in the center, it's done).
Cool in pan. Cut and serve. They won't last long, trust me! :)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Butterfly cupcakes for Miss Lizzie's 3rd Birthday :)

Normally, I don't do too much baking in the hot summer months because I just can't bring myself to turn the oven on when it is 100F outside and no AC can cope with that effectively. However, my sweet daughter Elizabeth's 3rd birthday was an exception. When I asked her what she wanted for her special day, she didn't hesitate too long. "Butterfly cupcakes" was the almost immediate request and I just had to oblige. :) I baked our now favorite vanilla cake recipe (see here) by changing it up just a tad: instead of 1 whole cup of sour cream, I did 1/2 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup strawberry flavored Greek yogurt. The second alteration I made was instead of 2 tsps of vanilla extract, I put 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp strawberry extract. This way, I gave the recipe just a slight hint of strawberry, since the birthday girl loves this fruit. Of course, the icing had to be pink- with pearls on it (!). I just whipped up a batch of the fluffy pudding frosting that everybody in my family likes for its light texture and not too sweet taste. It is super simple when you are not in the mood for major whipping from scratch. It is not too stiff, but holds up somewhat okay for piping, as you can see from the pictures below. 

Fluffy Pudding Frosting

1 (3.5 oz) pkg of instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup of milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 (8oz) container of Cool Whip (thawed)

In a medium bowl, combine pudding mix with milk and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Gently fold in whipped topping until no streaks remain. Add food coring if desired. Frost and enjoy your masterpieces! :) 

Lizzie's favorite colors: pink and purple combined in one cupcake: :) For the decoration, I took the easy way out and used ready made butterflies which are not edible but so adorable, Elizabeth was ecstatic!

The Birthday girl, thrilled with her cupcakes and ready to blow those three candles: :))) 

Print recipe

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