Saturday, June 29, 2013

Potato Salad with Bleu Cheese and Crispy Prosciutto

On the drive from North Dakota back to Colorado a few weeks ago, I was craving a hot dog for lunch.  But with lunch options on that quiet stretch of highway being fairly limited, I never did get a hot dog, so we grilled hot dogs for dinner one weekend after we got back.  We topped them with stone-ground mustard and banana peppers, and red onions that Jamie pickled.

A summery meal like grilled hot dogs isn't complete without a side of potato salad, and I love potato salad.  Jamie, not so much.  So I'm always trying to come up with potato salad recipes that I think he'll enjoy, unlike the typical mayonnaise slathered potato salad with hard boiled eggs that he hates.

So for this summer's recipe, I added crispy pieces of prosciutto and diced red onion for a little crunch and bleu cheese crumbles for a nice tang.  I had intended to add diced celery, also, but we didn't have any on hand, so instead I sliced up some raw asparagus stalks.

For the dressing, a combination of just a little sour cream, mayonnaise, olive oil and mustard, with salt, pepper and white vinegar was simple but yummy.  And potato salad is one of those dishes that just seems to get better as it refrigerates, so the leftovers are just as good as the first bite.

Potato Salad with Blue Cheese and Crispy Prosciutto
printable recipe

·         2 pounds small red and/or white potatoes, unpeeled
·         1 teaspoon olive oil
·         4 pieces prosciutto
·         1 stalk celery, finely diced
·         ¼ cup finely diced red onion
·         4 ounces blue cheese crumbles

·         2 tablespoons sour cream
·         2 tablespoons olive oil mayonnaise
·         1 tablespoon olive oil
·         1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
·         1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
·         Coarse salt and pepper, to taste

Quarter the potatoes; place in a stock pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat and cook just until tender, but not so soft that they fall apart.  Drain and cool to room temperature.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the prosciutto and cook until crisp.  Set aside to cool and crumble into pieces.

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, prosciutto, celery, red onion and blue cheese.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients then drizzle over the salad and toss to coat.  Refrigerate for several hours to chill before serving.

Yields about 6-8 servings

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Friday, June 28, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam and Banana Pecan Muffins

I came home from North Dakota with a bag full of rhubarb, freshly cut from Jamie's parents' garden, and I knew that the first thing I was going to make with it would be jam.

His mom had made a couple of strawberry rhubarb pies which we enjoyed while we were there, the tart-sweet combination of the fruit always one of my favorites.  I will have to make Jamie a rhubarb pie soon...

For the past few summers I've made jam, with whatever fruit is available.  Last summer I made a batch of Apricot Peach Preserves with nutmeg and ginger, with the stone fruit we'd brought back from Palisade, CO.  Over the winter I made Cranberry Orange Preserves, one of my dad's favorites.  Other summers, Cranberry Blueberry Jam, Strawberry Apricot Jam, Red Currant Blackberry Jelly, Sweet Black Cherry Jam...  And in the fall, slowly-simmered Apple Butter with lots of spices.  I love, love, love jam on toast.  I even love it on crackers, and if you've never spooned jam onto a cracker with a piece of cheese, you really should.  The other night as I was making dinner, I nibbled on a few crackers with goat gouda cheese and little spoonfuls of this jam, and it was so yummy.

My dad loves my homemade jam, too, and I decided to send him a jar for Father's Day.  So after we arrived home from the long drive back from North Dakota to Colorado, I spent the following evening making a big batch of Strawberry Rhubarb Jam, so that it would be ready to get a package in the mail the next day.

Everything was covered with sticky jammy goodness - the kitchen counters, my stock pot, my favorite wooden spoon, my hands, my apron...  But after standing over a boiling pot of jam, trying not to get burned from the splatters, filling the jars and processing them in their water bath and getting all that stickiness wiped up, I tasted a spoonful of the jam and it was all worth the effort to taste that fresh flavor of summer.

It's been a while since I've made muffins, so I baked a batch of Banana Pecan Muffins on Sunday, one of the first Sundays we've had at home in a while with summer starting off pretty busy.  It was one of those mornings I wanted to last all day, with the warm soft banana muffins, and the jam with its sweet strawberries and hint of tart rhubarb, pajamas and movies on the couch...

One Year Ago:    Strawberry Rhubarb Spiced Chai Tea Bread, in Honor of my Grandma
Two Years AgoCrockpot BBQ Chicken with Bacon

Banana Pecan Muffins
printable recipe

  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 small bananas)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped, toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 350.  To toast the pecans, spread them on a baking sheet to toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, while the oven is preheating.  Place 12 paper liners in a muffin pan.

In a large bowl, combine the mashed banana, brown sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring just until moistened.  Stir in 3/4 cup of the pecans.

Fill the cups 3/4 full with the batter.  Crush the remaining 1/4 cup of pecans and sprinkle over the top of the batter.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on wire racks for a few minutes, then serve warm with jam or honey.

Yields 12 muffins.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
printable recipe
  • 2 pounds sliced strawberries (hulled and wiped clean)
  • 1 pound chopped rhubarb
  • juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons classic pectin
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


~For my previous post on tips for making and canning jam, please click here and read first, before getting started.

~This makes a large batch, and can easily be cut in half or fourths for a smaller batch.

  1. In a large stock pot, combine the strawberries, rhubarb, lemon zest and juice, and cinnamon.  Bring to a simmer over medium low heat until very juicy; simmer for 15-20 minutes until the rhubarb is soft.  Mash the fruit slightly or leave it chunky, whichever you like.
  2. Gradually stir in the pectin.  Increase heat to high (be sure you are wearing oven mitts to protect your hands and arms from boiling jam splatters, or you will get burned) and stir constantly to bring to a rapid boil.
  3. Dump all the sugar in at once.  Continue stirring constantly to return to a vigorous boil that can't be stirred down.  Boil hard for one minute.
  4. Remove from the heat.  Stir in the butter (to reduce any foaminess) and the vanilla.
  5. Ladle into your hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch "headspace" at the top, to allow for expansion.
  6. Wipe the rims with a clean, damp cloth, center the lids on the jars, and screw on the rings "fingertip tight".
  7.  Process in a water bath according to standard canning procedures (about 10 minutes in boiling water at sea level and 20 minutes in boiling water for high altitude).
  8. Carefully remove from the water bath (using a jar lifter) and set on the counter to cool overnight.  The next day, check the lids - if they are indented, then the jars sealed properly and you can store the jam in your pantry until ready to use.  If the centers of the lids are popped up, then they didn't seal properly, and will need to be stored in your refrigerator and eaten in the next 3 months or so.

Yields about 10-11 half-pint jars.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bourbon Caramel Soaked Dark Chocolate Cake

This cake was the sweet, dark chocolate ending to our lobster dinner we cooked for our four-year anniversary, and words can't really describe how good the cake was.  I wish you all could have tasted it for yourselves, but since that's not possible, I'll try to tell you...

It all began, of course, with chocolate cake.  My favorite, from scratch chocolate cake that I've made over and over.  It's completely divine on its own, but this was a special occasion, so it called for something a little more scandalous than "just" chocolate cake.

After cooling the cakes (which, by the way, are smaller than they look in the photos - 3 layers, baked in little 6-inch round pans), I mixed a few tablespoons of good bourbon with salted caramel sauce.  This already has Jamie's name all over it, doesn't it?

As I stacked the cakes, I poked each layer with a bunch of holes and poured the bourbon caramel over it, letting it drip into the holes to soak into the cake.  The bourbon is optional - this can be done with just the caramel - but the flavor of the bourbon in the cake is just so amazing.

Then came the creamy, fluffy, salted chocolate buttercream.  And crunchy toffee bits.  I didn't give this cake any fancy ruffles or decorative piping; it didn't need it.

The finished cake sat prettily on my mirrored cake stand all day, and every so often, I couldn't resist lifting the glass dome lid to breathe in the scent of chocolate and bourbon.  It was intoxicating.

After our amazing dinner of roasted asparagus and tomato salad with prosciutto and goat cheese, crab beignets with spicy red pepper aioli, steamed buttered lobster and crispy smashed baby potatoes, there was almost no room left for cake...  almost.  But we both managed.

When I asked Jamie if he wanted to take the leftover cake to work, he said that this one wasn't for sharing, and that told me just how much he loved it.  And he ate a piece of it every night until it was gone...

One Year Ago:    Egg Salad with Dill, Shallots and Lemon
Two Years AgoApplesauce with Dates and Vanilla

Chocolate Caramel Bourbon Cake

·         1 cup all-purpose flour
·         ¾ cup, plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
·         ¼ cup, plus 2 tablespoons, unsweetened cocoa powder
·         ½ teaspoon baking powder
·         ½ teaspoon baking soda
·         ½ teaspoon salt
·         2 eggs (room temperature)
·         ½ cup whole milk (room temperature)
·         ½ cup sour cream (room temperature)
·         ¼ cup vegetable oil
·         1 teaspoon vanilla

Chocolate Buttercream:
·         1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
·         2 cups powdered sugar
·         1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
·         1 tablespoon meringue powder
·         1/2 teaspoon salt
·         3 tablespoons milk
·         1 teaspoon vanilla

Other Garnishes:
·         3 tablespoons good-quality bourbon (optional)
·         ¼ cup caramel sauce (homemade or store-bought), room temperature
·         Toffee bits
·         ¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Note:  This recipe makes a small cake, just 6 inches.  To bake in 8 or 9-inch pans, double the ingredients and prepare as directed.

Bake the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray the bottoms of three 6-inch round pans with non-stick spray, line the bottoms with parchment paper, then spray the paper also.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt to combine.  Add the remaining wet ingredients and beat thoroughly for 2-3 minutes.  Divide batter between the pans.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, and the cake springs back when gently touched.  Set the pans on wire racks, cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel, and cool completely.

Make the Buttercream:
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for 1-2 minutes until smooth.  In a separate bowl, combine the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, meringue powder and salt.  With the mixer on low, gradually add the powdered sugar mixture by spoonfuls until combined.  Add the milk and vanilla, then increase speed to medium/high and whip for 4-5 minutes until very light and fluffy.

Assemble the Cake:
Remove the cakes from the pans, and level the tops, if needed.  Place a layer of cake on a serving plate or cake board, bottom side of the cake facing up.

In a small bowl, combine the bourbon and caramel sauce.  Using a wooden skewer, poke a few holes in the cake and brush with some of the bourbon caramel sauce, letting it soak into the holes.  Spread with a thin layer of buttercream.  Sprinkle with a handle of toffee bits.  Repeat with the other cake layers, frosting the cake all over with the buttercream and garnishing with toffee.  Sprinkle the salt on top of the cake.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Chocolate Avocado Smoothie

You all know by now how I love my smoothies, and I have a new one for you that's a little surprising...  with avocado in it!

Over the years, I've been leery of chocolate dessert recipes that call for avocado and claim to be the best chocolate pie, cake, pudding, etc... they've ever tasted.  And I haven't gone so far as to put avocado in a chocolate pie yet, because, well, I like my chocolate pie traditional.  Who knows, though, I may try it one of these days.

However, I decided it could be worth trying in a smoothie.  I love Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder, because it's extra dark and chocolatey, and if I hadn't told you that there was avocado in this smoothie, I don't think you'd even suspect when you tasted it.

I used coffee ice cubes in mine, and between the coffee and the extra dark chocolate, it was a tiny bit too dark and bitter, so I added two strawberries for sweetness, which was just the right amount for my tastes.

This is so smooth and creamy, very rich and chocolatey tasting, like a thick chocolate milkshake, but so, so good for you with lots of protein and healthy fat, and very little sugar.  It's one of my new favorites!

Chocolate Avocado Smoothie
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 scoop protein powder (I used Muscle Milk Light, Chocolate Peanut Butter)
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Hershey's Special Dark)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 ice cubes
Note: If you find cocoa powder too bitter, you can add a non-calorie sweetener to the smoothie.  I used coffee ice cubes, and added two strawberries for sweetness to counteract the bitterness of the coffee and dark cocoa.

Blend all ingredients in the blender until smooth.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen