Saturday, March 28, 2015

Southwestern Quinoa with Roasted Butternut Squash

My 4 year old daughter helps me cook every time she catches me in the kitchen. She doesn't 
even wait for an invitation, just washes her hands, pushes out the folding step-stool, and hops up beside me, exclaiming, "Can I help, please, Mama?" How could you turn that down?

As a result, she can now tell me when something is simmering or boiling, she knows how much olive oil to add to a pan, and she is gaining a real appreciation for all things food-related. That's my girl! The other day, she said, "Food is much better when we cook it here." Amen, little lady. Amen.

This recipe is so amazing! 

Normally, I'm not really a huge squash fan, unless it is done just right. This, however, had me coming back for more. The flavour is amazing!

Here are my tweaks on the recipe found here on MyFitnessPal's blog:

Southwestern Quinoa with Roasted Butternut Squash

1 medium (about 2 pounds) butternut squash, cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
2 cups homemade chicken stock
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 limes, juiced
2 tsp lime zest
2 MORE cloves garlic, minced
Handful of chopped cilantro (approx. 1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 medium avocados, cubed
goat cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 350F.

Toss cubed butternut squash in olive oil, salt, pepper and 2 cloves of garlic and spread into a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned and soft.

Place quinoa in broth over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cover. Let simmer until liquid is absorbed.

Mix the red wine vinegar with the lime juice, zest, 2 more cloves garlic, cilantro and cayenne. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To make the salad, combine squash, quinoa and beans with dressing. Sprinkle with diced avocado and more cilantro as you like. Serve warm or cold - it's amazing either way!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Perfect Espresso Cupcake

Sometimes I realize that life's best moments can be placed on a palate of colours, flavours, sights and smells, and then brought back down the road. Sweet and creamy frosting with a hint of coffee, and a soft and moist cupcake that melts in your mouth.... these bring back only good memories!

My sister was married last Thursday, and it was the most beautiful and joyful wedding I have been to in years. She met her man in Rome, and they share a love for fine art, fine scotch, and fine coffee. (I respect that deeply, just so you know.)

When we threw my sister's bridal shower last month, I wanted to create a confection that was pleasing to the eye and the palate, and would tell a story even as it tantalized the tastebuds. Espresso cupcakes with buttercream frosting were the final decision.

I couldn't find a recipe that I was happy with, so I took my favourite vanilla cupcake recipe and adapted it. 

Without further ado:

Perfect Espresso Cupcakes with Coffee Buttercream

Makes about 30 cupcakes (this recipe multiplies well)

2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tsp vanilla
3 T instant espresso powder
1 cup coconut oil, melted
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350, and line muffin tins with paper liners. 

Dissolve espresso powder in vanilla. 

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs on medium speed until frothy. Add sugar and continue to beat until very pale. Ad vanilla mixture and oil and beat. Reduce speed to low and slowly add half of the flour mixture, and then half the buttermilk, then flour, then buttermilk. The batter will be thin.

Pour to half-full in the muffin cups, and bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes, or until the tops spring back lightly when touched. Allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool fully.

Frost when cool.

Coffee Buttercream Frosting

1 cup butter
1 cup shortening
2 T vanilla
2 T dark rum (this cuts the sweetness of the icing sugar)
2 T instant espresso powder
Icing sugar

Mix the espresso powder with the rum and vanilla. Beat the butter on high speed with the shortening until it is white and fluffy. Beat in vanilla/rum/espresso mixture until smooth. Gradually add icing sugar until you get the consistency you want. You may add a couple of tablespoons of milk if you need to thin it down.