Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fat Free Lemon Glazed Cupcakes

I've been back on the East Coast for just over a week now, and I'm just starting to feel like I'm on vacation. Since I've been hanging out on the left coast for the past three years, its been entirely too long since I've had the chance to see many of my good friends back East. I remedied that malady by taking a whirlwind East Coast World Tour, covering 1300 miles and 7 states in 5 days. It was exhausting, exhilarating, amazing, fun and such a blast. One of the stops along the way was back in my old stomping grounds of Fredericksburg, VA.

Lately it seems that the creative juices often flow whenever the heck they want, with little regard for convenience or time restrictions. This was the case in Virginia, when I had the chance to hang out and bake with the wonderful Bonnie of Bonz Blogz. I have to thank Bonnie for being such a prepared host, with a fully stocked, and may I add impeccably organized pantry, a culinary game plan, and a keen ability to wrangle my travel induced ADD brain into some form of focus. Recipe in hand, off we went bravely into the land of flour and eggs.

Fat Free Glazed Lemon Cupcakes
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup applesauce
1/3 cup egg whites
1/3 cup skim milk
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tsp lemon extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup confectioners sugar
3 Tbsp lemonade
few drops yellow food coloring (optional)

Preheat oven to 350° and line cupcake pan with liners. Combine first seven cake ingredients in medium bowl. Combine remaining four cake ingredients in smaller bowl and slowly mix into first bowl until smooth.

Pour batter into cupcake cups until about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Meanwhile, combine glaze ingredients in a small bowl.

Allow cupcakes to cool completely. Glaze by turning each cupcake upside down and dipping top in glaze. Allow excess to drip off, flip back over and allow glaze to set.

The jury was split on these little guys. My initial impression was that they were more than faintly reminiscent of a Halls Lemon coughdrop, which was a hair off from my anticipated and desired flavor profile. I never want anyone to prejudge a recipe, but in the spirit of creativity, this one might use a good tweaking.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Walnut Brown Sugar Shortbread Bars

Annnnd we're back.

Being off the radar for so long from the blogging world, it's hard to approach the proper tone upon returning. Will anyone still want to read this? Have I been unfollowed by the world? Is this thing on? *tap tap* Are those... crickets?

For whatever the reason, the spirit has not moved my gustatory gray matter in a blue moon. It's not like I haven't tried, mind you. My appetite for Food Network shows remains voracious. I consume daily helpings of food blogs, and I'm certainly meeting the RDA of recipes and food photography. My consumption remains the same, but my execution and production just ain't what it used to be.

In a grand attempt to swing the balance back to normal, I recently attempted a feat not for the faint of heart. Last week, while beginning to succumb to some strange pneumonia like ick that robbed my breath, motivation and my appetite, I went there. The grocery store. The frozen food aisle to be exact. As I stood before my two trusted old friends who've guided me through good times and bad, I waited for it. The internal lightbulb that had so eagerly glowed so many times before. The recognition was there, but the love.. the love was no more.

I stood before Ben and Jerry asking for sweet creamy divine intervention, and I got nothing. Not a twinkle, a flash or a glimmer.

I. Didn't. Want. Ice cream.

And this is how I knew I'd hit my rock bottom.

And now, I stand before you a changed woman. Having crawled out of that cold dark aisle of despair, ice creamless and uninspired, I'm back. This random recipe popped into my head last night and literally was the first thing that's sounded good to me in weeks. Have I ever had it before? Nope. Ever even made shortbread previously? That's a negative ghost rider. Sometimes we can't pick or plan for what brings us back, we just need to accept it and be happy to be there.

Walnut Brown Sugar Shortbread Bars
(Recipe found at Lottie and Doof.)
Makes 2-3 dozen bars

4 sticks (1 lb) plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
9 ounces brown sugar
5 ounces white sugar
2 eggs,
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 pound 3 ounces organic King Arthur bread flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla until combined, then mix in dry ingredients.

Divide dough evenly into prepared sheet trays, spreading smooth and level (I used a rolling pin). Sprinkle with granulated sugar and bake at 325° until golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes.

Let cool completely before cutting into bars.

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

SoCal Locals & a Giveaway: Earnest Eats

First things first, let's start with the awkward formalities.

I've been gone for entirely too long from the blogging world, and I do apologize for my absence. The reason is a good one though, I promise. The location is the same as I've mentioned numerous times before, upstate New York, but this time the reason is a little different.

My mom underwent a stem cell transplant in early July as a treatment for Multiple Myeloma, a rare and particularly nasty bone marrow cancer. I've spent the summer and early fall here with her, and we are both thankful she is this far out from the transplant. All things considered, she is doing remarkably well for all that she's endured in the past few months.

That said, I come to you with many a mea culpa for my extended blogging absence. In a brazen attempt to right my wrong by appealing to your enjoyment of yummy stuff, I give to you a GIVEAWAY of epic taste proportions.

Is that blatant enough for you? :)

Let me tell you about a fantastic company I've recently had the pleasure of learning about, Earnest Eats. Earnest Eats was the brainchild of two friends who came together in 2006 in search of real, simple whole foods with unparalleled flavors. This Solana Beach, CA operation prides itself on using only all natural, high quality ingredients to make their hand made, baked granola products.

The Earnest Eats line consists of two products; Earnest Eats Baked Whole Food Bars, and Earnest Eats Granola Planks. The Baked Whole Food Bars come in chocolate peanut butter, almond trail mix, cran lemon zest and apple ginger flavors. The larger Granola Planks come in maple almond crunch, pomegranate walnut crisp, and blueberry vanilla crackle.

Both the Bars and Planks include a hearty dose of protein, fiber and omega-3's, all of which help make these delicious, healthy and filling snack or breakfast alternatives. In addition to their all natural ingredients, all Earnest Eats products are vegan and wheat free.

I had the pleasure of sampling Earnest Eats Bars and Planks, and was blown away by the flavor combinations, the healthful benefits of the ingredients and how filling they are. I enjoyed them both for breakfast entrees, snacks, and crumbled with some fresh greek yogurt and was beyond pleased with each sample.

Earnest Eats products can be found at Whole Foods, Safeway, Wegmans, Fred Meyer and most recently Ralph's. SoCal folks, be sure to check out Earnest Eats Facebook page as they head to local Costco's for tasting roadshows!

Earnest Eats will provide one box of their Granola Planks and Whole Food Bars to the winner (as pictured above).

(One entry per item completed)

1. Post a comment about the flavor you'd like to try and how you'd enjoy it

2. Follow @socalsustenance and @earnesteats on Twitter (its a package deal!)

3. Tweet about this giveaway and let me know about it.

The winner will be selected at random on Wednesday, October 6.

Good luck to you and it's great to have you back - I've missed you!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

From Porch to Plate: Couscous & Summer Squash Cucumber Cups

Summer has officially begun here in Southern California. It's presence is punctuated by a notable increase in grilling, the arrival of June gloom, and lazy evenings spent savoring the cool of the night breeze. Thankfully fire season has been kept at bay so far, and hopefully it will stay that way.

A recent hot spell last weekend kicked out little garden into overdrive. We decided in early April to use our teeny apartment patio as a container garden. A few tomato plants soon grew into a veritable produce stand, in a mere two weeks and three trips to Home Depot later. Our patio is happily overgrown with rolling planters, hanging baskets and one extremely creative hanging herb garden. We are loving being urban farmers, with tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries, herbs, five kinds of peppers, summer squash, snap peas and pickling cucumbers included in our backyard bounty. Not bad for two city kids and 30 square feet!

To show proper love to our homestead harvest, I've decided to post only dishes containing at least three items from our garden in them for the next two weeks. Why two weeks, you ask, when you have a whole summer of growing ahead of you? In two weeks I'll be heading back to my little slice of lakeside heaven for the summer. I hope to continue with the Porch to Plate posts along with others while I'm there. Until then, we will dine on the literal fruits of our labor, and enjoy the endless bounty of the SoCal summer.

This cool, refreshing starter features summer squash, pickling cucumbers and scallions plucked from the garden yesterday. It's designed to be served cold, in one satisfying bite. The couscous and squash make a pretty tasty cold salad on its own, but enjoy however you choose.

Couscous & Summer Squash Cucumber Cups
1/2 cup couscous
1 tsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup summer squash, diced
2 large cucumbers
1 tsp fresh scallions
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Prepare couscous as instructed, and chill in refrigerator. In a small saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute diced squash and garlic in olive oil for 4-5 minutes, until garlic is fragrant. Add squash mixture to chilled prepared couscous, and season with salt and pepper. Return couscous mixture to refrigerator to chill for 20-25 minutes.

Slice washed cucumbers into 3/4" inch rounds*. Scoop out seeded center area through 2/3 of the thickness of a slice. Heap rounded teaspoons of chilled couscous mixture atop the cucumber rounds. Garnish with sliced scallions, chill and serve.

* I left the skins on the cucumbers, and didn't fancy them up at all. You can run the tines of a fork down the sides of each cuke before slicing to add a festive stripey effect to each round as well.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Equal Exchange Giveaway Winner

Selected via, the lucky winner is....

Comment #6, Noelle from An Opera Singer in the Kitchen!

Congratulations Noelle! Please contact me to claim your gift certificate.

Thanks to everyone for participating and have a great weekend!