Monday, March 26, 2012

Red Velvet Cupcakes w/ Cream Cheese Frosting by Recipe Girl

I've been on quite the cream cheese kick recently (Exhibit A, Exhibit B), but this recipe wasn't even my idea. My mom suggested we make it for my Dad's birthday. Surprisingly, I had a hard time finding a Red Velvet Cake recipe, but there were plenty of cupcake recipes. I'm okay with cupcakes, but I refuse to make cake pops. Just try not to cringe when watching this commercial.

Cupcakes remind me of the personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut. What a great idea. A small personal pizza that makes kids (or adults) feel special. You have a whole pie to yourself. Plus, I'm sure they can mark up the price of a personal pizza more than a regular. And I would assume the same is true for Cupcakes as well. Anyway, this is a pretty straight forward recipe that I look forward to trying.

The Good

  • Simple recipe
  • Very moist
  • Coconut flour is always a plus

The Bad

  • Icing came out flat (probably my fault for using honey)

Overall - 4/5 Stars
These were really tasty and very moist. We cooked them for a minute less than on the recipe and they came out perfect. As a substitution I used honey in the icing which might have messed with the consistency. I think next time I'll try what the recipe calls for and just use agave nectar. But overall these were great. We've already used this recipe twice in the last week. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Actually Delicious Turkey Burgers by Trudi Davidoff

I used to be the weird kid at soccer tournaments who ordered a turkey burger and an orange juice while everyone else was enjoying a nice juicy cheese burger and a coke. I'm not sure if I really liked the taste of Turkey burgers better, or if I just thought I was making the "healthy" decision (that certainly wasn't the case for the Orange juice). Either way, I've been eating turkey burgers for years, and only recently have they began to lose thier appeal. There is much tasteier meat out there (duck anyone?). Turkey can be so dry sometimes, so making turkey burgers at home can be very dissatisfying. Even molding the burgers was a little disgusting. I felt like I was playing with pink plasma.

That being said, my parents still love turkey burgers, so I volunteered to find a recipe for the family. I went to google recipes (which is great by the way), typed in "Turkey Burgers" and got the one with the most ratings. So, here it is, the highest rated Turkey Burger recipe on the internet (as of now).

The Good

  • Liked the onions
  • Good combo of spices

The Bad

  • Too meatloafy

Overall - 3/5 Stars

Better than most turkey burger recipe, but I know there is a better one out there. Granted I used almond flour, but it gave the burgers kind of a meatloaf consistency - which was of putting to me (my dad probably liked it). I'll continue to look for other recipes.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Grain-Free Pumpkin Cheesecake by The Foodie and The Family

I decided to give up chocolate this year for lent. Well, not really for lent (because I don't pretend to be religious), but at least the time frame that lent represents. It's more of a personal challenge, and I'm curious how often I would be temped by something so delicious (the answer is: everyday). In lieu of chocolate, I've been finding some awesome desserts that feature other flavors. 

This recipe, unlike the last paleo cheesecake I tried, is pumpkin flavored. I was drawn to it by the photos. Tara, the writer and chief of The Foodie and The Family makes the cheesecake look so dense and rich. I had to try it. 

The Good
  • Thick rich consistency
  • Very easy to follow
  • Not too sweet

The Bad
  • Would've added a bit more pumpkin puree
  • I burnt my crust

Overall - 4/5 Stars

This cheesecake is super rich and light on the sugar (which I like). It has a subtle pumpkin flavor, which is nice, because it's not overpowering. It has a fantastic thick creamy consistency. The only draw back to this recipe is the crust.

The recipe calls to cook it for 20 minutes (before the rest of the cake). I put it in the over for 15 and when I took it out it was already burnt. That was a little frustrating. I'll have to be more careful with that next time. But the recipe had a very nice flow to it. Once the crust is cooking you have time to prepare the filling. 

I would make this again, but maybe I'll use Everyday Paleo's recipe for crust - which was delicious when I made it two Thanksgivings ago. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Creamed Spinach by Paula Dean

As I open my palate to new and exciting vegetables, some of my previous favorites are losing their appeal. Broccoli, spinach and peppers were my "favorite vegetables" if you can even call them that. But before paleo, I didn't enjoy eating them, and I really only tolerated them to add variety to my meals. However, spinach is very easy to cook (sauteing spinach takes less than 3 minutes), so this was a vegetable I was able to enjoy with very little effort.

Now, I really enjoy brussel sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, beets (the list goes on and on), and cooking spinach was getting boring for me. I typically saute spinach in butter for three minutes, add salt and pepper, and it's done. It's just not satisfying anymore now that I have experienced vegetables with much more character (rainbow chard anyone?). So, I decided to find a way to prepare spinach that I hadn't tried before. This creamed spinach recipe comes from OMG... Paula Dean.

The Good

  • Nice depth of textures
  • Not the same boring sauteed spinach
  • Packed full of vitamins

The Bad

  • Onion/Spinach ratio was off (too much onion)

Overall - 4/5 Stars

This was a mighty tasty way to prepare spinach. Sometimes spinach can be plain by itself, but adding garlic, onions, and a little cream really adds depth. Especially, since the chewy spinach is contrasted with al dente onions. I will definitely look into some more creamed spinach recipes, and a casserole.

ps. I almost forgot to mention the substitution I made for the recipe. We didn't have any heavy cream (what a sin), so I added about a 1/3 of a cup of cream cheese, and I was surprised at how well it worked. The cream cheese gave it a slightly sour flavor but a richly creamy texture. I would use it again in a heartbeat.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Custard Vanilla Ice Cream by the Kitchn

Ice cream is something I haven't had a lot of recently. Mostly because I've stayed away from milk. But I've seen that some of the best recipes don't even contain milk, just heavy cream.

I was initially interested from Paul Jaminet's Perfect Health Diet blog. He has a recipe that I attempted a couple times, but it wasn't that great (maybe I didn't like the lemon in my ice cream). Whatever the reason, I found myself looking for another recipe.

While cooking Strawberry Cheesecake Muffins with a friend, we had 4 left over egg yolks, and I didn't want  all that nutrition and flavor go to waste. I remembered that you could use egg yolks in ice cream, so I went looking for a simple recipe I could make while the muffins were baking. What I found was mouthwateringly good.

The Good

  • Bursting with flavor in every scoop
  • Fresh ingredients
  • Simple recipe
  • Great consistency

The Bad

  • Raw eggs?

Overall - 5/5 Stars

This ice cream was so rich and cream, I really couldn't stop eating it. It had a nice yellow hue from the farm fresh eggs I got from Wegmans, and the Madagascar Vanilla scent filled my nose with every bite. It had a great consistency as well. It wasn't too icy for homemade ice cream (I dont have a machine); it was actually very smooth.

My mom keeps about 4-5 different pints of ice cream in the fridge at any time. So I decided to compare Bryer's French Vanilla to this recipe and the flavors aren't even close. This one is two leagues above Bryer's. It probably has something to do with the ingredients. I used heavy cream from upstate farm cows, egg yolks from free-range chickens, and even unpasteurized raw honey - which is a powerhouse of flavor by its self.

I'm not sure how I feel about the raw eggs, but that didn't stop me from polishing off this whole batch in a couple sittings. I will definitely make this again.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dijon-braised Brussels Sprouts by Smitten Kitchen

I don't know why everyone hates on brussel sprouts. They are delicious.

I can't say I never liked them as a kid, because my mom never made them for us growing up. But when I hear how much people dislike them usually they are referring to boiled brussel sprouts which, I'll admit, ARE pretty nasty. They get all pale and devoid of flavor.

My favorite way so far that I have enjoyed brussel sprouts has been by roasting them. The recipe couldn't be any simpler. Toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast them at 350°/400°, and presto! They are flaky, crispy and especially delicious doused in butter.

Its about time that I venture into other ways of cooking these little green bundles. And so I found myself digging around on Deb's food blog called Smitten Kitchen. Her photos are fabulous, and I couldn't resist this recipe after seeing them.

The Good

  • Pleasing texture (al dente)
  • Subtle mustard flavor
  • No burnt flavor
  • Novelty

The Bad

  • Needs more flavor

Overall - 4/5

My dad and brother really dug this recipe (perhaps because all they had to do was set the table), and I enjoyed the recipe as well. If for nothing else, it's novelty was appealing. I liked simmering the sprouts which allowed them to soak up the chicken stock and white wine. Once they were done they were very tender, but unlike when they are boiled they still retained their flavor and structure. They were al dente, and I liked that.

But the flavor left me wanting a bit more. More mustard, more butter, maybe both? I'm not sure. I'll definitely use this process of "browning" the sprouts then simmering in chicken stock, because I liked the texture. But I would probably try to tweak this recipe if I made it again.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Leek And Sweet Potato Soup by Paleo Diet Lifestyle

Eating (and most importantly preparing) soup is therapeutic.  It takes time to prepare, because you have to chop up a variety of ingredients. The flavors bubble and simmer as they slowly blend together. Even using a spoon to slowly stir your meal is rhythmic and relaxing in itself. 

As a kid, eating soup meant savoring a bowl of Chickarina or Lipton Noodle Soup. Nutrition aside, there is something to be said for a dish that warms you from the inside out. Now that I am older, I have a desire to cook soups that are a little more nutritious. I made a fantastic Turkey soup on Thanksgiving with our leftovers, thanks to this recipe. I even attempted bone broth soup (which was a total failure).

I just purchased leeks at Wegmans, and when I Googled "Leeks and Paleo" I came across this recipe from Sebastien at Paleo Diet Lifestyle. My experience with his recipes has been nothing short of stellar. His recipes are great because of their simplicity, but also because the ingredients always compliment each other well (see here where I reviewed his eBook). So, I was excited to try out one of his soup recipes.

The Good
  • Great use of leeks
  • Nice consistency with the sweet potatoes
  • Filling

The Bad
  • Bland - needed a little kick
  • Lacking in protein

Overall - 3/5 Stars

Not his best recipe, but one that can be modified to justify cooking it again. The flavors blended well together, but overall it was a bit bland. I modified it by chopping up about a half pound of bacon and tossing the bite sized pieces in. I also added a little bit of chipotle chili pepper. With those two ingredients this soup really packs some flavor.