To Taste: Mini Cranberry-Swirled Lemon Cupcakes w. Lemon Glaze

I’m offically making a public decree that I’m not longer allowed to complain about baking. My cooking style doesn’t involve alot of precise measuring so baking has always been a chore for me. At this point, the reward is getting too good for me to deny my baking skills. Sweet, swirled, glazed skills…

These baby cakes were created totally out of necessity. Over Thanksgiving, my girl Sunshine, of a Blog Full of Jelly, came for a visit from her new home in Florida with some beautiful citrus in tow. First was a Buddha’s hand, a creepy claw-y shaped fruit with a bright citrus flavor and lots of rind. It’s STILL soaking in some vodka for some serious cocktail making. The other citrus wonder was a Ponderosa lemon – pretty much the BIGGEST lemon you have ever seen – and provided me with over a cup of juice. I also still had a bag of beautiful crimson cranberries from my last farm share pickup and I wanted to make something other than my Cranberry-Pear Shortbread Tart. Combine them with the need to whip up a homemade treat for our friends’, Doc & Erica’s, pre-Holiday house warming and I was ready to bake!

Check out my Mini Cranberry-Swirled Lemon Cupcakes w. Lemon Glaze recipe after the jump! Continue reading

To Taste: General Tso’s Braised + Glazed Spare Ribs

It’s been quite a week! I spent a few days helping my family move my grandparents to assisted living and am relieved to be back home relaxing & cooking. In the moving process, I gathered some food left at my grandparents’ old place, including frozen spare ribs. Not only is my grandma the freezing queen (she dated these 8/6/2007 with no evidence of freezer burn), she also made some of the best sesame-soy-glazed spare ribs. Unfortunately, I don’t have her recipe on hand so it was time for me to attempt my own asian-glazed version. And so resulted, my General Tso’s Braised + Glazed Spare Ribs, a spin on the traditional take-out favorite served with the usual white rice & steamed broccoli. I certainly impressed myself with this one and I know I did my grandma proud, too.

Check out my General Tso’s Braised + Glazed Spare Ribs recipe after the jump! Continue reading

To Taste: Easy Garlic Knots

A few nights ago, I made tasty mini stromboli with a pocket mold I picked up at the VNA Rummage Sale. Both varieties – sauce, tomatoes, fresh garlic & mozzarella and a hearty mix of chicken & veggies – turned out really well. However, one of each kind was plenty to feed us for dinner and I was left with a half pound of white and half pound of wheat dough blobbed together. My budget is always important so food rarely gets wasted in my house, giving me an even better reason to get creative and tell you about it!

TIP TIME! A good pizza dough is pretty easy to make at home, but if you’re short on time, pick up a $1/lb ball of white, wheat, or herb from Trader Joe’s or stop by your favorite pizza place. They usually will sell you a ball of their dough for just a few dollars.

One of my fave extras to order from the local pizza joint are garlic knots, usually halved and reheated in the toaster oven for a midnight snack. They seemed like the perfect remedy for my extra pizza dough and were really easy to make. I gathered some fresh herbs from my garden and had the rest of the ingredients on hand as pantry staples. In under 25 minutes, I had a plate of knots and the most satisfying garlic breath ever!

Check out my Easy Garlic Knots recipe after the jump!

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To Taste: Cranberry-Pear Shortbread Tart

Last week, fresh cranberries (Sunny Harvest | Kirkwood, PA) showed up in my Greensgrow Farm CSA and I can’t say I was thrilled. Throughout the summer, the CSA challenges me to cook with items I wouldn’t usually purchase or, in this case, was convinced I didn’t like. But I needed a dish to take on a weekend trip to see friends in North Jersey and just couldn’t resist the stunning ruby of these cranberries.

After too much time scanning my cookbooks & the internet for inspiration, I finally settled on a simple recipe for cranberry bars. I really don’t enjoy baking (messy flour + precise measuring, oh my!) so I was really excited to discover how insanely delicious and easy this was to make.

In an obvious improvement of Gourmet’s version, Picky Cook added raspberry jam & lemon to brighten the cranberries, but I still lived in fear of an over-tart end product. To buffer this anxiety and use up some produce “on the edge”,  I decided to add the sweetness of yellow pears (Three Springs Fruit Farm | Aspers, PA) reduced into a coulis which created beautiful rosey waves baked atop the cran-raspberry compote. It was the perfect slice of early autumn for an awesome weekend with friends. If only I could always shoot with this natural light and scenery!

Check out my Cranberry-Pear Shortbread Tart recipe after the jump! Continue reading

To Taste: Shrimp Stuffed Aubergine

It’s apparently the summer of the eggplant. I feel like they’ve shown up in more than half of my Greensgrow Farm CSA shares this season and I long ran out of patience to deal with them. The greatest success (until now) of my aubergine summer was a killer baba ganoush, some of which is still on reserve in the freezer. When I brought these beautiful graffiti eggplants (Flaim Farms | Vineland, NJ) home, I knew I had to think fast to enjoy them before we left town for the weekend.

With little time to spare, I decided to recreate a dish I made last summer but had failed to record the recipe. I did a quick search for a “shrimp stuffed aubergine” and was pleased to see my Flickr pic of the 2010 creation come up on page 1 of the search! That was a start, but I needed more info on what recipe I built it from. It didn’t take me long to dig up this sad recipe… and my tweaks came flooding back to my memory. Seeing that I rarely make the same thing the exact same way twice, I got right to work on making this dish even better… and writing the recipe this time for you to enjoy, too! This dish is so savory, easy to prepare, and offers a beautiful presentation.

Check out my Shrimp Stuffed Aubergine (Eggplant) recipe after the jump! Continue reading

To Taste: Pork Breakfast Sausage + Egg Sammie w. chèvre + red bell pepper

I had every intention of getting up at a reasonable time yesterday to get some things done around the house. Then I woke up at 12:15pm. Might as well whip up brunch for 1!

Monday night, I made The Food Lab’s Sichuan-style Braised Eggplant (which was AMAZING!) and still had 1/2lb of ground pork leftover. When I saw it in the fridge the next morning/afternoon, I knew just what to make with it – breakfast sausage. I blended the pork with a few pantry items and garden herbs (no sage since Hurricane Irene drowned my plant), formed them into patties, and pan-fried them to crispy, yet juicy, perfection. They belonged on a worthy breakfast sandwich.

I toasted some sandwich thins in the pork-greased pan, smeared the top slice w. Shellbark Hollow fresh chèvre spread and topped it w. sliced red bell pepper. On the bottom slice, I piled 2 of my sausage patties on a fried (over-medium) Sandy Ridge Farm egg. It was a delicious combination of textures – toasty + creamy + crunchy + savory + yolky – and easy!

Check out my Pork Breakfast Sausage “recipe” after the jump!

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To Taste: Fresh Ricotta + Dandelion Ravioli

One of my favorite parts of summer cooking is collecting my farmshare from Greensgrow Farms. Every other weekend, I get a beautiful, diverse harvest of fruits & veggies along with a local cheese and my choice of protein. Alot are basics I’m used to working with (eggplant, tomatoes, onion, squash, salad greens) but sometimes I need to do some research on how/what to prepare with an item. Early in the summer, I got a fresh bunch of crisp dandelion greens. I know they work pretty well in a salad, yet I wanted to do something a bit more fun with them. I poked around the interwebs… but the real inspiration was right there in my memory.

I was blessed with a family who made a point to expose us to great food & restaurants and encourage us to expand our palettes. One of my most ingrained food experiences takes me back to an out-of-the-way, before-its-time spot off the Manatawny River in Pine Forge, PA – Gracie’s 21st Century Cafe. As a kid, I loved the experience of just being at Gracie’s – the zen gardens Kerry & I would play in while we waited for our table, the cooky toys & games on the bar, the jokes my dad made about “writing” his name in the shaved ice in the men’s urinals. It was always a treat when we were headed to Gracie’s.

But the true beauty of Gracie and her restaurant was the creativity she put into her menu – the unapologetic art to her food. I can close my eyes and recall the first time we ate there, the first time I felt true inspiration in a dish. That day’s special was a dandelion ravioli. Dandelion? Like the flowers Gramps is always trying to kill in his yard? Well, kind of, my dad explained… dandelion greens in this case. He happily ordered and shared them with our curious palettes. Love!

So that brings me to what I prepared with my dandelion greens – a light ravioli that I’m sure would make Gracie proud. They were simple, elegant, and beautifully flavored w. a toss in melted black truffle butter. I invite you to give them a try!

My fresh ricotta + dandelion ravioli recipe after the jump!

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