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Lemon Pilsner Cake

 If you have ever had the opportunity to talk to a brewmaster, you have seen it. You’ve seen that look that lets you know that there is an art and a respect for what they do that goes far past what most Americans experience at their day jobs. The look that tells you that the paycheck isn’t the reason he does the job. The flavors, the journey, the solving of the problems that yield to an end result of a drinkable, shareable masterpiece. You’ve seen that look.

It’s because of that look that I try to create recipes that respect the years of love and hard work that go into the process of making Craft Beer. I had the idea of making a lemon cake with pilsner, but the issue is always the hops. Hops are a hard ingredient to cook and bake with, given that they often reduce to a very bitter product. Scrimshaw Pilsner, while still a pilsner, has a low, and well balanced hop taste. It is also from one of my favorite breweries, North Coast, that produces an incredible variety of craft beer. And you can bet that if you are ever lucky enough to take a tour of the brewery, you will see that look I’m talking about, all over the place.

Lemon Pilsner Cake

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/3 tsp salt

2 tbs lemon zest

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

1 1/4 cup sugar

3 eggs

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup Pilsner

Icing:

4 oz cream cheese, softened (cold cream cheese will result in lumpy icing)

1 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup Pilsner

1/2 tsp vanilla

Direction:

Preheat oven to 350.

Spray a large loaf pan with butter flavored cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest until well mixed.

In the bowl of  stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping the bowl between additions. Add the lemon juice and mix until well combined. Turn the mixer on low and add the flour a bit at a time until just barely combined, do not over mix.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and add the pilsner, stirring with a wooden spoon until just combined. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes or until the top turns a light golden brown and a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before serving.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the cream cheese and the powdered sugar, beating until well combined. Add the remaining ingredients and whip until smooth.

Top the cake with the icing, chill prior to serving.

 Cooking and baking with craft beer. 

Apple Ring Pancakes

As a kid there were a few phrases that take an ordinary day and give it a bit of a sparkle. Like hearing the name of YOUR school being read over the radio as a closure for a Snow Day. Or hearing: "Let’s go get ice cream!" or, one of my favorites: "Breakfast For Dinner!!" 

And now that I am a mom, I want to have breakfast for dinner too. It’s fun. But then I have the responsibility of an entire humans future health on my hands. That’s a lot of pressure. The way I reconcile these two things is by taking an ordinary pancake and filling it with a slice of fruit. Breakfast for dinner and a serving of wholesome fruit. 


These babies only have 60 calories each. And you don’t even need massive amounts of syrup, the apple in the middle has the flavor and moisture to compensate. 

Apple Ring Pancakes

2 large apples (I used Fuji Apples)

1 cup of flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup reduced fat (or fat free) sour cream

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup sparklink water or club soda

(yields about 20 apple ring pancakes)

Preheat a griddle to 375, or use a large skillet. Coat with butter flavored cooking spray prior to cooking pancakes. 

Peel and core the apples (I use this apple corer all the time). Cut the apples into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. Thicker slices will give you a crispier apple once cooked and a thinner slice will give you a softer apple once cooked. 

In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt until well mixed. In a separate bowl, add the sour cream, egg and vanilla, mix until well combined. Make a well in the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients and stir until just barely combined. Add the sparkling water and stir. One at a time, dip the apple slices into the batter and place on the hot griddle. Allow the pancakes to cook until the edges start to look dry and then flip over, cooking on the other side until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Repeat for all apple slices. 

You don’t need syrup for these little guys but I couldn’t resist using the last of that Coconut Caramel Sauce that I made the other day. So good. 

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Prosciutto Wrapped Olives Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Last week, I mentioned how bloggers rarely make the same recipe more than once. We are in constant pursuit of the Next Big Thing. That exciting recipe that will be pinned, and shared and trafficked like crazy. Our poor spouses wondering why we rarely make their favorites anymore.

Over the weekend I had some readers ask me which recipes I DO make all the time, so here is a list for you.

Ten recipes I make on a regular basis:

1. I made these breakfast muffins last night, as a quick on-the-go breakfast for this week. Less than 200 calories and keep me full until lunch. 

2. In one form or another, I make this salad several times a week. It’s my go-to lunch. 

3. This is the pie crust I always make. 

4. I always make this vegetable gratin for holidays, it was one of my first posts so forgive the photos.  

5. When I make layer cakes, this vanilla pastry cream is what I usually use as a filling.

6. This Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake is an easy dessert that I tend to make again and again. And once you make the whipped cream from scratch, you’ll never buy store bought again.

7. I roast a chicken at least once a month. You should too. It is cheap (about $5 and feeds 4), easy and you can make delicious broth from the scraps.

8. Eggs Benedict is a fav of my husbands and I make it at least once a month. This Italian Eggs Benedict with Pesto Hollandaise is a one of my favorites.

9. I’ve also started to make my own tortillas. Not just because they are so much better, but they are also a way to use up that bacon fat I store in the fridge and they only cost a couple of cents to make yourself.  

10. And for number ten, I’m including this recipe below. It was so easy, quick and with only 3 ingredients I can’t imagine never making it again. Oh, and super addictive if you love goat cheese and prosciutto as much as I do.


Prosciutto Wrapped Olives Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Ingredients:

24 large (or colossal)  Black Olives

6 thin slices of prosciutto

2 oz goat cheese

Directions:

Cut each slice of prosciutto in half, length wise, and then again width wise forming a “T” cut. This will leave 4 sections of prosciutto, about 4 inches by 1 inch for each slice of prosciutto.

Stuff all of the olives with goat cheese.

Wrap each olive with a small slice of prosciutto and secure with a toothpick.


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Homemade Roasted Garlic and Caramelized Onion Dip Plus How To: Roast Garlic & How To: Caramelize Onions

One big food blogger secret is that we rarely make recipes more than once. It’s true. And sad. It’s this constant race to provide new, fun, exciting, creative content for you that leaves us little time to revisit those recipes that we love. Of course, there are always those few recipes that we will make all the time, for the rest of our lives even if it means missing an opportunity to create a new post. This is one of those recipes for me. All I want to do now is make it all over again and add bacon and parmesean cheese. 

So addictive, creamy and delicious. 

It’s a simple recipe with only a few ingredients. It isn’t hard to make but it does take time to develop the flavors, time that is well worth it. I’m moving myself and my family away from process’s foods as much as I can, a little at a time and this is my way of having that onion dip that everyone’s mom used to make with the instant soup mix packet, but with loads more flavor and no mysterious chemicals. 

Also, I’m going to show you the right way to cut an onion. 

And how to roast garlic. 

Two skills that I hope stick with you for the rest of your life. My kitchen would be a much different place without onions and roasted garlic. 

Roasted Garlic and Caramelized Onion Dip

1 whole white onion (I used a Walla Walla Sweet onion)

1/4 cup olive oil, plus 1 tbs, divided

1 large head of garlic

8 oz cream cheese (softened)

1/4 cup sour cream

salt and pepper to taste

How to cut an onion:

Cut the onion in quarters. 

With the tip of the knife close to the center, make vertical cuts all the across the onion, about 1/4 inch apart.

Then cut the onion in the other direction, cutting across the cuts you just made. 

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat 1/4 cup olive oil. The key to caramelizing onions, and not BROWNING them, is: low and slow. Heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmery, then reduce the heat to low and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Stir occasionally until the onions are soft and have turned an amber color. You want them to have that amber color or the sugars in the onion haven’t been caramelized yet and the flavors are not developed. This will take between 30 and 40 minutes, but you only have to stir occasionally so it isn’t a lot of work.

 How to roast garlic:

This is very easy and gives you the most incredible tasting stuff. If you haven’t roasted a head of garlic yet, you should. 

Preheat the oven to 400.

Cut the top off of the head of garlic. 

Place on a sheet of aluminum foil and drizzle with 1 tbs olive oil. 

Fold the foil up over the garlic into a tight packet. Place in a baking dish (I use a muffin tin) and place in the oven. 

Bake at 400 for 30 minutes, or until garlic is soft and starting to turn an amber color.

Once you have brought out those incredible flavors in your garlic and your onions, break out the food processor. 

Add the softened cream cheese, sour cream, onions and squeeze the garlic head until the soft cloves pop out and add them to the food processor as well. 

Process until smooth and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

So simple, so good. 

Next time, I’m gonna try it with bacon and Parmesan cheese. I’ll let you know how it goes. 

Printable: Roasted Garlic and Caramelized Onion Dip

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Girl Scout Samoas Waffles Recipe With Coconut Caramel Sauce

I had a couple of crack dealers show up at my door the other day. Looking all smug in their green little uniforms, pretending to be nothing more than just innocent little children. But they knew what they were doing, trying to force me to buy their crack. Or Girl Scout cookies. Whatever. I don’t need this guy with his cartoon gun to help me choose my favorite cookie, that’s easy: Samoas.

And you need to get creative when you have 17 boxes of cookies because you remember what it was like to try and sell stuff as a kid, and people shut their door in your face or calculated the cost per ounce and then told you it wasn’t a "good buy" as if that was the point, then once you grow up, you are a total sucker for kids selling crack. I mean cookies.

I’ll tell you my brilliant selling strategy I used when I was a kid.

Picture this:

Late 1980’s, tiny, blond, innocent looking elementary school kid with huge blue eyes outside the grocery store. My target was hip looking men in their early 20’s.

Me: "Sir, will you help us raise money for Rick Dees?"

Him: "What happened to Rick Dees?"

Me: "He’s in the hospital, he fell off the Top 40."

Worked every time. They laughed and then bought cookies. Humor and crack cookies are a dangerous combination.

Another dangerous combo? Waffles and crack cookies.

Girl Scout Samoas Waffles With Coconut Caramel Sauce

6 Girl Scout Samoas Cookies

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbs sugar

3 eggs, divided into whites and yolks

1 3/4 cup milk

1 tbs vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

Butter flavored cooking spray

Coconut Caramel Sauce Recipe

Preheat waffle iron.

Roughly chop the cookies and put them in a food processor, processing until mostly crumbs are left. A few larger pieces are fine.

You’ll need three bowls.

On one bowl, put the cookies crumbs, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Stir until combined.

in the second bowl, put the egg yolks, milk, vanilla and oil, whisk until combined.

In the third bowl, add the egg whites and beat with a hand mixer until frothy and very light, about 4 minutes.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the milk mixture, stirring until just combined. Don’t over mix.

Gently fold in the egg whites.

Spray the inside of the waffle iron with butter flavored spray. Cook the waffles according to waffle iron specifications. 

Top with caramel sauce, and additional Samoas crumbs if you wanna get craaaazy. 

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Coconut Caramel Sauce

The phrase, "If I had a gun to my head, and was forced to choose between [A. non-imporant thing] and [B. non-important thing]…" is hilarious.

Maybe it’s because I’m all hopped up on caffeine and DayQuil, but the thought of some masked man running around with a fire arm demanding that someone choose between Ryan Gosling and Ryan Reynolds fills me with the giggles.

The image I have is of a cartoon man, a hybrid of The Hamburgler and a bank robber from Ducktales running rampant through a mall, guns flying: "EDWARD OR JACOB!?!" It’s like a real life game of Would You Rather? with disastrous consequences. 

+

So lets say that I someday meet this striped shirt, leather newsboy cap wearing, eye-masked character and he forces, yes, FORCES me to choose between chocolate and caramel…my choice would be caramel. * Sigh * I’m so sorry chocolate, but I had a GUN to my HEAD. 

Coconut Caramel Sauce

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup 

2 tbs butter

1/2 cup coconut milk

In a pot over high heat, melt the sugar and corn syrup. Stir until melted, then stop stirring, allowing to boil untouched. You will start to see the edges of the sauce turn a dark amber, while the center is still clear. Swirl the pan, without stirring, to redistribute the sugar so the edges don’t cook faster than the middle. Once the entire pot is an amber color and you can smell the caramel flavors, remove the pan from the heat (about 8-10 minutes). Stir in the butter, the sauce will bubble up furiously. Add the coconut milk and stir until well combined. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving. Store in the fridge in an air tight container.

Printable: Coconut Caramel Sauce 

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Bruleed Blood Orange and Ricotta Mini Cheesecakes

That miniature cheesecake pan I have has begun to taunt me from my kitchen.

Reminding me that my previous reasons for not making cheesecake, namely my drive to avoid having an entire huge cheesecake in my fridge, is now void.

Small, adorable cheesecakes and the ability to "test" a recipe without having to deal with an entire HUGE cheesecake.

And I had an unsightly amount of homemade ricotta after deciding that I should not just make one batch, but I really needed to make two because it was so much better than anything I have ever bought in the grocery store.

All willpower was lost once I remembered the blood oranges I had.

And then I began to wonder how that delicious sour cream topping, that you are sometimes lucky enough to find on top of a cheesecake, would taste if you made it with ricotta.

Then I decided that it needed the crunch of a bruleed sugar crust on top.

I really just don’t know when to stop.


Bruleed Blood Orange and Ricotta Miniature Cheesecakes

I used the Chicago Metallics Miniature Cheesecake pan, and this recipe made 12. You can also use a standard muffin tin lined with cupcake papers, this recipe will make about 6. If you want to make a standard sized cheesecake in a spring-form pan, I would suggest that you triple the recipe. 

Crust:

4 standard sized graham crackers (about 3/4 cup crushed)

2 tbs brown sugar

3 tbs melted butter

Cheesecake:

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup ricotta

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tbs orange zest

1/4 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice

Topping:

1/3 cup ricotta

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1/4 tsp vanilla

Plus 2 tbs granulated sugar for the brulee crust

Preheat oven to 375.

In a food processor, add the graham crackers and brown sugar, process until nothing is left but crumbs. Add the butter and process until it resembles wet sand, adding more butter or graham crackers if necessary to achieve the right consistency. 

Place metal disks into place in the bottom of each slot. Spray with butter flavored cooking spray.

Place about 1 tbs of crust into the bottom each Cheesecake slot. Press very well into place until compacted. 

Place the cream cheese and ricotta in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high until well combined. Add 1/2 cup granulated sugar beat on high until creamed. Add the egg, orange juice, and zest and beat until well combined, scraping the bottom of the bowl to make sure all ingredients are well combined. 

Spoon the batter on top of the crust, filling the cheesecake slots until 3/4 of the way full. 

Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes or until the cheesecakes no longer giggle in the middle when the rack is shaken. This is not a situation where "a tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean."

Allow to cool for 20 minutes before attempting to remove from pan. 

Once cool, press upward in the hole on the bottom of the pan. Disk should remove easily. 

Once the cheesecakes cool, they will sink in the center, this is normal.

In a small bowl, mix the ricotta, powdered sugar and vanilla until well combined. 

Top each cheesecake with enough ricotta mixture to fill to hole in the center until level.

Chill until ready to serve, at least on hour. 

Just prior to serving, sprinkle an even layer of granulated sugar over each cheesecake. 

Slowly pass a kitchen torch over the sugar until it melts into a liquid and becomes a golden brown. 

Be careful, sugar burns are super nasty and hurt like a mother. 

Seriously. 

Don’t brulee the sugar until just prior to serving, the sugar will start to turn to liquid after about an hour.

 

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Jalapeno Pale Ale Cornbread

The past few weeks I’ve been craving summer. I live in Los Angeles, so feel free to laugh at my inability to cope with a mild seasonal chill. It isn’t so much the weather of the Summer months that I miss, but the culture of the season. Backyard barbecues, a slower life pace, vacations and water related activities. There is something about the way that summer feels in my bones, the feeling of endless possibilities that the days bring that I miss. Cornbread is an epicurean reminder of what I’m missing out on, and brings a comfort that the Summer isn’t too far away.

Beer is a great way to add a new dimension to cornbread. Not only is it a leavening agent, insuring that your bread won’t be overly dense, it is also a preservative, giving you a few extra days to consume it. But I don’t think you’ll need them.

I chose Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale because it has a beautiful chili flavor, without the heat, a hard thing to accomplish. It also has a bit of a cinnamon and spice finish that pairs very well with a recipe that runs the line between savory and sweet.

If you can’t get your hands on this beer, look for a pale ale with strong, bold flavors of chili and spice.

Jalapeno Pale Ale Cornbread 

Jalapeno Pale Ale Cornbread

Ingredients
  

  • 3 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 tbs chopped fresh jalapenos seeds removed
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • ¾ cup dry polenta course corn meal
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup pale ale with notes of spice I used Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbs raw honey
  • 1 cup corn kernels fresh is better. If you use frozen, make sure they are thawed
  • 2 tbs melted unsalted butter

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Spray a large, deep dish loaf pan generously with butter flavored cooking spray.
  • In a sauce pan over medium/heat, add the butter and the jalapenos and cook until just starting to soften, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the milk and polenta and stir until the milk starts to bubble and is well combined with the polenta. Cover and remove from heat, allowing to rest for about 20 minutes.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and salt.
  • In another bowl, whisk the eggs and the honey until well combined.
  • Add the egg mixture to the polenta pan and stir. Add the dry ingredients and stir until incorperated. Add the beer and the corn kernels, stirring until just combined.
  • Add to the prepared baking dish and pour the 2 tbs of melted butter over the top.
  • Bake at 350 until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 45-55 minutes.

Homemade Ricotta and Prosciutto Wrapped Mangos on Toast

I’ve been re-reading Plate to Pixel this week. An attempt to push myself forward off this photography plateau I’ve been stuck on. I struggle, at times, with the balancing act that is being a mom, working full time, and maintain a blog. When my photos suck, and I know it, I see them as the crack that will bring down the wall and a panic begins to rise within me.

I know that when it comes to the blog trifecta: "Recipes-Photos-writing" I have a long way to go in all areas. The pursuit of goals isn’t about being perfect, or even about raw talent, as much as it is about struggle. Continue to fight, learn, seek objective feedback, challenge yourself, and don’t give up. 

The best thing about this recipe, is how easy it was to make homemade ricotta. Cheese making has been on my To Do list for a while and ricotta was a great intro, so easy and fast. 


Durring my research, I used three posts as guides and made two batches, all of which I consumes over the weekend. 

I used posts from these three blogs:

Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body

Smitten Kitchen

The Italian Dish 

I used the milk I had on hand, and this is what I came up with:

Homemade Ricotta and Prosciutto Wrapped Mango on Toast

2 cups of whole milk

1 cup of cream

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbs lemon juice

8-10 large slices of sour dough bread

1 large mango

4-6 slices of prosciutto, sliced in half down the center to make 8-12 long skinny strips

salt and pepper to taste

To Make the Ricotta:

Put the milk, cream and salt into a sauce pan. Attach a thermometer (either candy or deep-fry is fine) to the side of the pot, making sure that the tip of the thermometer does not touch the bottom of the pan but is still submerged in the milk.  Heat over medium/high heat until it reaches 190 degrees, about 6-8 minutes. You will know it has reached this temperature because it will foam up really fiercely. 

Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, stir only once. you want it to distribute, but you don’t want to disrupt the curds that will be forming. Leave it alone for about 5 minutes. Don’t touch it. 

Place a mesh strainer over a large bowl, line the strainer with 3-4 layers of cheese cloth. 

It will still be pretty thin, this surprised me. I was expecting something that looked like cottage cheese, and it looked more like thick milk. Thats fine. Pour it into the strainer that you have lined with cheese cloth. 

Allow it to drain for about 20 minutes to 2 hours. The longer you allow it to drain, the thicker and stiffer it will be. Remember that once you chill it, it will continue to thicken, so place it to chill when it is a bit softer than you want the final product to be. 

I liked Julia’s tip about tying the cheese cloth to the kitchen faucet in order to speed the draining process up a bit. Worked like a charm. 

Scrape the cheese into a a container with an air tight lid. Chill for at least 20 minutes prior to use. 

Ricotta should keep in the fridge for about 5 days. 

To make the toast:

Using a biscuit cutter, cut 3 to 4 inch circles out of the bread. Place under the broiler until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. 

Peel and slice the mango, wrap with prosciutto. 

Spread each toast circle with ricotta, top with a prosciutto wrapped mango, sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

I also made these with apples slices, and that was equally as amazing. 

Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe Ever

Here I am with a super bold statement of "Best Ever."

Finding the perfect cookie recipe for what you love in a cookie is a bit of a personal journey. Figuring out what you want, and how to make that happen. For me, I love a cookie to be soft, chewy, puffy without being cakey and the perfect amount of chocolate chips.  

I did my research. Years of baking, problem solving, reading and asking people.

Consulting pastry chefs, New York times articles, Grandmas, kids, chocolate companies, and my big Sister.

It all finally paid off. This recipe is based on the famous and ground breaking New York Times 36 hour, Jaques Torres recipe with a bunch of additional advice and changes.

I like to call them Thursday Night Cookies, because if you want to have them over the weekend, you should probably start making them on Thursday night. The wait is worth it, I promise.

If you like the kind of cookies that I like, you will love these. 

Thursday Night Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt, plus 1/2 tsp divided
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups dark chocolate chips

(makes about 30 cookies)

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine both types of flour, baking soda, baking powder, corn starch and 1 tsp salt. All types of flour have different properties and will produce difference results, the combination of these two different types gives you cookies that are both soft and chewy. You won’t get these results if you just use one type or if you use all-purpose flour.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter with both types of sugar, scraping the bottom of the bowl periodically to ensure the ingredients are well combined. Add the eggs, one at at time, and then the vanilla, beat very well and scraping the inside of the bowl between addition.
  3. Reduce speed on the stand mixer to low and add the dry ingredients until just barely combined, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure that the butter and flour are all combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir until incorporated. You don’t want to over mix or your cookies will be tough.
  4. This is where you will need some self control. The butter needs to reconstitute as a solid or the cookies won’t cook well. Place a sheet of plastic wrap over the bowl and press it against the top of the cookie dough, making a tight seal.
  5. Place the cookies in the refrigerator to chill for at least 24 hours, preferably 36 hours. This is important, don’t skip this step or the cookies will spread and become dry and crispy.
  6. Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and using a cookie scoop, or an ice cream scoop, make balls of dough that are a bit larger than a golf ball. Place on a baking sheet, with ample space between each cookie. Sprinkle lightly with the remaining salt. (Only about 6 cookies will fit on a standard cookie sheet.)
  7. Bake each cookie sheet one at a time for 21-23 minutes (*Note: Jaques Torres and I got this cooking time, but I hear from others that they are getting much shorter cooking times. Keep a close eye on your first batch) or until the cookies are just starting to get a light golden brown. Don’t over bake, the cookies will continue to bake about an additional 10 percent after being removed from the oven. Immediately transfer to a wire rack or a row of paper towels. (Here is a great tip from Michelle Tepper: Try cooking on parchment paper and just sliding the whole sheet off of the cookie tray and onto the counter to cool.)

*if you absolutly CAN NOT wait 36 hours, here is the only shortcut I will allow, although the cookies won’t be AS good:
Once the cookie dough is made, scoop the large golf ball sized cookies onto the cookie sheets, cover and then chill them for at LEAST 4 hours. Not one second shorter. This will only work if the dough is in a ball on the cookie sheet, not if it is still in the bowl.

Bacon Fat Biscuits

I’m a bit of a bacon fat hoarder. I make excessive amounts of bacon on weekends, straining and storing the bacon fat that gets left behind into small containers that are now littering my fridge. 

I have to find ways to use it. I make tortillas with bacon fat, which are delightful and this past weekend biscuits were also made in an attempt to decrease my ever-growing stash. 

Bacon and biscuits. Saturday Breakfast Indulgence at its best. 

Bacon Fat Biscuits 

1 cups cake flour 

1 cup all-purpose  

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda 

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

5 tbs bacon fat

2/3 buttermilk, plus an additional 1/4 cup, divided 

1 tbs melted butter 

Preheat oven to 450

In a food processor, combine both types of flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and sugar. Give a quick pulse until combined. Add the bacon fat and process until the flour and bacon fat are well combined and look like course crumbs. Add 2/3 cup milk and pulse until just barely combined. Add additional milk, a bit at a time until all of the dough has been dampened and pulls away from the sides of the food processor. Don’t over process or your biscuits will be tough. 

Remove from food processor and place on a floured surface. Form into a long rectangle and cut into squares with a sharp knife. This will give you square biscuits without any waste. Since over worked dough becomes tough, "scraps" left over from cutting out round biscuits can’t really be re-rolled and used, they should be discarded. Forming the dough into a long rectangle and cutting with a sharp knife will allow you to use all the dough as biscuits without any waste. 

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, then place the biscuits on the sheet. Brush with melted butter. 

Bake at 450 for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. 

Miniature Cheesecake Pan Review & Miniature Lemon Goat Cheese Cheesecake

Cheesecake is a very dangerous thing to make.

Not in the way that Creme Brulee is dangerous, with the open flame and molten sugar that you just want to touch before it’s dry giving yourself the worst sugar burn of your life and using words that should never be said in public. 

But in more of a, I-totally-don’t-care-if-this-will-make-me-gain-137-pounds-if-I-eat-the-whole-thing, kind of way.

But I love it. LOOOOOOVE it.

And then there is this mini cheesecake pan. It’s a fabulous little invention that offers tiny, portion controlled mini-cheesecakes. Let’s be honest, they aren’t good for you, but eating one won’t make you gain 137 pounds.

(Photo from:Chicago Metallic)

Here is the low down on this little pan, the one that made these adorable cheesecakes:

Chicago Metallic Mini Cheesecake Pan, 12 Cavity

Specifics:

Brand: Chicago Metallic

Dimensions: 1.75″ h x 10.75″ w x 14.00″ 

12-cavity mini cheesecake pan made of heavy-duty aluminized steel

Each cavity comes with pop-up bottom disc for simple dessert removal

Measures 13-8/9 by 10-3/5; each cavity measures 2 by 2 by 1-1/2 inches; 25-year limited warranty

Pros:

Creates adorable, small Cheesecakes that bake quickly and provide the right amount of dessert for a small group.

The metal disk inserts make it easy to remove the cheesecakes from their pan, without the use of a cupcake papers which tend to ruin the over all effect.

 The shape is much more attractive than those mini-cheesecakes bake in muffin tins.

Perfect for parties. 

Cons:

Although the product states that it is dishwasher safe, that does not seem to be the case. The small metal disks are almost impossible to get clean in the dishwasher, and the metal pan does not seem to respond well either. Making hand washing a must for this pan.

The Cheesecakes were a bit smaller than I would have liked.

The excessive use of the word "Cavity" on the product materials along with the word "Cheesecake" conjures up disturbing images of Dessert with Jeffery Dahmer. 

Overall:

I really liked this pan and the options that it provides. Although the size was much smaller than I had expected (slightly larger than a mini muffin) the amount of batter needed was small as well, making it easy to throw together without a pound of cream cheese. This also leaves the option of making your basic, go-to, regular sized New York Cheesecake recipe, splitting it up into three different batches and adding different flavors to each, giving your guests three options instead of one. Variety is always a plus.

I love it and will probably use it until it falls apart. You can buy one here

Lemon Goat Cheese Mini Cheesecakes

Crust:

3/4 cup crushed graham crackers

3 tbs melted butter

2 tbs brown sugar

Cheesecake:

1 8 oz Package of (full fat) Cream Cheese (room temperature, very important)

2 oz Goat Cheese (room temp as well)

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbs lemon zest

Lemon curd:

1 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

2 tsp lemon zest

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/2 tsp corn starch

2 tbs butter

Preheat oven to 375

In a food processor, add the graham crackers and brown sugar, process until nothing is left but crumbs. Add the butter and process until it resembles wet sand, adding more butter or graham crackers if necessary to achieve the right consistency. 

Place metal disks into place in the bottom of each slot. Spray with butter flavored cooking spray.

Place about 1 tbs of crust into the bottom each Cheesecake slot. Press verywell into place until compacted. 

Place the cream cheese and goat cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high until well combined. Add the sugar beat on high until creamed. Add the egg, vanilla, and zest and beat until well combined, scraping the bottom of the bowl to make sure all ingredients are well combined. 

Spoon the batter on top of the crust, filling the cheesecake slots until almost full. 

Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes or until the cheesecakes no longer giggle in the middle when the rack is shaken. This is not a situation where "a tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean."

Allow to cool for 20 minutes before attempting to remove from pan. 

Once cool, press upward in the hole on the bottom of the pan. Disk should remove easily. 

While the cheesecake is cooking, make the curd.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, zest, corn starch and lemon juice until well combined. 

Add to a pan over medium heat along with the butter and whisk constantly until thickened, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Allow pan to cool a bit, about ten minutes, and then place in the refrigerator to chill for about 20 minutes or until cool and thick. 

Once the curd has cooled, top the mini cheesecakes with about 1-2 tsp of curd. Chill until ready to serve. 

Spinach Quiche In Red Pepper Cups

I once knew a man who lived to be 101. We had a bit of an unlikely friendship, since he had reached retirement age long before I was even born. He was smart, funny, and seems to have no concept of the age gap, reminding me that once his hip was better, he would take me dancing and then I would fall in love with him and leave my husband.

Life was a constant opportunity to make people laugh, and he took full advantage of it.

When he moved to Los Angeles in the 1940’s to get his pneumonia stricken daughters out of the frigid East Coast winters, he was without money, without a job, and without an education. He walked in to a Taxi company headquarters and asked for a job. He had a fantastic driving record and a winning smile, in his book, that’s the only resume he needed. As soon as the hiring manager found out that he had only live on the west coast of a week, knew nothing about Los Angeles freeways, and had never driven a cab, he shut down the interview.

"If you don’t know how to get from LAX to the Roosevelt Hotel, how are you going to get the client there??"

Jack responded with this famous smile, "Well if you don’t give me the cab, it’s gonna take a whole lot longer!"

He got the job.

Jack worked as a cab driver, running tourist from the Airport to Hollywood for over 30 years. He was also the very first Employee of the Month for the Cab company, and to date, the recipient of the  most complimentary letters ever sent to the cab company about one of their employees.

As I sat with him only a few months before he died, I asked him if he had any regrets.

"Not really. The secret to living 100 years and not regretting anything is this: Do your best. Don’t hurt anyone. Make friends with anyone who will let you."

Not bad advice.

Here is another recipe to make for your friends. Sit together on long Saturday mornings, chatting, making memories and friends that will stay with you, even when you live to be 100.

Spinach Quiche In Red Pepper Cup

4 large red bell peppers (try to find ones with flat bottoms, that will firmly stand up straight when set on a plate)

6 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 raw breakfast sausages, casings removed, chopped

1/2 cup shredded Gruyere or Mozzarella, (plus 2 tbs for garnish if desires)

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 cup fresh spinach, chopped

1 tbs scallions, chopped

Place oven rack on the lowest position and preheat oven to 350.

Cut the bell peppers in half, across the middle. You can chop the top half of the bell peppers, removing stems and seed, and place pieces in a freezer bag, saving it for a later meal.

Place the bottom half of the bell peppers in a glass baking dish, cut side up. Make sure to use bell peppers that can stand up on their own, or baking them will be a challenge.

In bowl, beat the eggs until well combined. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until well combined.

If you use, chopped frozen spinach, make sure to thaw, rinse and remove as much water as you can, too much moisture won’t allow this to set up.

Place baking dish with red peppers inside the oven. Pour the egg mixture into the red pepper cups until almost full (leave about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch space at the tops) and sprinkle with cheese, if desired.

Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the center of the quiche no longer wobbles when you gently shake the rack.

Baked Sweet Potato Chips With Cinnamon Caramel Dipping Sauce

I made these little chips the other day.

The where so cute, slightly chewy and a little crunchy.

And they are even healthy. Only about 7 calorie each. But, no one eats ONE, that’s insane. So, think of it like 70 calories if you have 10, or 140 if you have 20. And it makes you think that you are eating something that’s bad for you, which makes it taste better. 

But of course, I got to thinkings. About how much I like to dip things.

And how in love I am with sauces. Even though this Cinnamon Caramel Dipping sauce makes it SO much less healthy, its super yummy. And it’s a good example of that balance thing I’m always running my mouth about. 

Baked Sweet Potato Chips With Cinnamon Caramel Dipping Sauce

2 large sweet potatos

Olive oil flavored cooking spray

1/4 tsp sugar

Caramel Sauce:

1/2 cup sugar

2 tbs honey

4 tbs unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375

Slice the potatoes as thin as you can possibly make them. Using a mandolin slicer is the best way to do this, as it insures that your potato slices will cook evenly. If you don’t have a slicer, use this as an opportunity to practice those knife skills! Remember that thick slices will yield much different results. 

Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil, shiny side up. Spray with olive oil spray. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet, making sure they don’t touch each other. Spray lightly with olive oil spray and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Flip the slices over and repeat. Bake at 375 for ten minutes. flip over and continue to bake until the potatoes are browned, about 8-10 minutes. Keep a close eye on your chips, they go from done to burned very quickly. 

Make the sauce:

In a pot over high heat, add the sugar and the honey. Stir until the sugar is disolved, do not stir again while the caramel is cooking, but swirl the pan every 30 seconds to redistribute the caramel sauce. Allow to cook until the sugar is an amber color and about 220-225 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in the butter. Add the cream, vanilla and cinnamon and stir until combined and the sauce stops bubbling. Allow to cool a bit before serving. 

Printable: Sweet Potato Chips With Cinnamon Caramel Dipping Sauce

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Quinoa Carrot Cake Breakfast Muffins

I’m a breakfast girl. It isn’t possible for me to go the 16 hours between dinner and lunch the following day without eating. I become a crazy person when I’m hungry. Like the plant from Little Shop of Horrors yelling "FEED MEEE!!!" at random strangers. If I ever get stuck on a deserted island, or in a plane crash in the Andes, don’t pray for me, pray for which ever poor soul has to deal with the hungry version of me. Not pretty. Plus I just make bad decisions when I’m hungry, which results in me coming to the conclusion that an entire jumbo sized bag of Jalapeno Kettle Chips is just one snack, and it’s totally fine for me to eat the entire thing. 

Because of this, I must eat breakfast. And besides my long standing love with Saturday Morning Breakfast indulgences, I want a super healthy breakfast 6 days a week. 

And you are probably sick of all the quinoa, but I’m not. Not yet. It SO good for you, and if you cook it the right way, it has a great flavor and texture. Don’t cook it the same way you cook rice or it will be mushy.  

My Morning Magical Quinoa Muffin Stats, calculated by Spark People Recipe Calorie Calculator:

191 Calories

3 grams of fiber

4.3 grams of protein 

Plus a healthy dose of Calcium, Vitamins A, B-6 & C

Only .5 grams of the bad Saturated Fat

Not too bad. And an easy thing to grab on your way out the door in the morning. 

So that you can conquer the world without being a whiney and unreasonable. Or maybe that’s just me. 


Quinoa Carrot Cake Breakfast Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup cooked quinoa (You need to cook your quinoa with 1 part quinoa to 1.5 parts water, too much water makes it mushy)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup fat free sour cream
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 2 tbs raw honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup carrots, peeled and finely grated (place between sheets of paper towels to remove excess water)
  • 1/4 cup of raisins
  • 2 tbs chopped walnuts

(Makes 6 muffins)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, quinoa, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder. Make a well in the ingredients. In another bowl, combine the sour cream, apple sauce, honey, egg and vanilla until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients into the well you made in the dry ingredients. Stir until just barely combined, a few lumps is fine. If you over mix, your muffins will be tough. Add the carrots, raisins and walnuts and stir until just combined.
  3. Grease 6 wells of a muffin tin (or line with muffin papers). Pour evenly into the 6 wells, about 2/3 full.
  4. Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes or until the top springs back when touched.


Homemade Buffalo Wing Sauce

There are food and activity parings that strongly associate in our minds, food that will always be linked to a specific occasion. Crab cakes remind me of weddings, Ritz Crackers and Cheddar Cheese squares are paired with trips to the river, Chicken Salad Sandwiches are for bridal/baby showers and Buffalo sauce is for sports watchin'. Can you even hear that word and not want to put on a team jersey?

read more

The Best Little Quinoa Salad Ever

By now, you  have probably heard a thing or two about this scandal with Paula Deen. If you haven’t, here is a recap:

Paula Dean was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.

Three years ago.

The number 1 treatment for Type 2 Diabetes is diet and exercise.

She continues to cook large volumes of high fat, high sugar food on TV, in her restaurants and cook books.

She now wants to endorse a Type 2 diabetes drug and "comes clean" about her diagnoses.

The public freaks out.

Although we all have opinions about, well, just about everything and everyone we have ever met, I’m not concerned about Paul Deen. I don’t know her, and it’s none of my business.

But I am concerned about you. And me. And what I feel like is my responsibility to you. I have quite a few "special occasion" food recipes on this blog, made with high fat, high calorie, high sugar ingredients. And I hope that doesn’t give you the wrong idea.

I hope you all read my post about how I don’t eat like that all the time and how I stay in shape.

Learning from someone else’s mistakes is better than making one yourself, the same dramatic positive changes without the mess to clean up. Use her as inspiration, not as fodder for gossip. She is unhealthy and needs to make changes in her life, but that’s her business.  How can we take this all in, look at ourself and see how to make our own changes rather than making her the villain? How can we help the people we love who are living unhealthy lives? How can we all be in this together and use it as a way to live better and eat better?

How can we have those uncomfortable conversations with people we love who are killing themselves with food? You know who just popped into your head when you read that. Why haven’t you talk to that person?

Use Paul’s story as an icebreaker in your own life. As inspiration to change. 

Whether she decides to change or not, who cares? 

I’m glad this came out, but can we stop pointing fingers and starting living better?

Here is my salad, my way of staying in shape. I eat it about 5 days a week in various forms and this one is my favorite.

Chocked full of protein, iron, amino acids, general good stuff. It also keeps me full until dinner.

Best Quinoa Salad Ever

 2 cups arugula (or spring greens), chopped

1/2 cup cooked quinoa (Here is how you cook Quinoa the RIGHT way don’t cook it like rice or it will be mushy)

2 tbs pine nuts

1/2 an avocado, chopped

1 oz goat cheese

1/4 cup Pomegranate seeds

2 tsp Balsamic vinegar

Toss it all in a bowl, makes about 2 servings.

Printable: Best Quinoa Salad

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Chocolate, Bacon & Porter Muffins

There is something mysterious and alluring about Alaska. Beautiful landscapes pushing past a transcendental, white washed façade. I’ll even forgive her the birth of ignorant, poorly spoken, female politicians to glimpse the majesty of the Aurora Borealis. It just may be because of this enchanted terrain that the beer seems to have a prestigious eminence. The water is clearer and more ethereal, giving rise to a superior scaffolding for the detailed flavors put forth in Alaskan craft beer.

The Alaskan Brewing Smoked Porter has a bold, creamy, smoked profile that bridges the flavors of bacon and chocolate in these muffins. The savory sweet interplay works well for breakfast or dessert, or anytime in between.

Chocolate, Bacon & Porter Muffins

Chocolate, Bacon & Porter Muffins

Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup Smoked Porter
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 3 strips of bacon cooked, chopped
  • Preheat oven to 400.

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400.
  • In a large bowl, combine the cocoa powder, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and smoked paprika, whisk until well combined.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the egg and the oil. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the egg/oil, chocolate chips and the beer. Stir until combined.
  • Spray muffin tins with butter flavored cooking spray (or line with muffin papers). Add the batter to the muffin tins until about 2/3 full. Top with the chopped bacon, evenly distributed between the muffin tins.
  • Bake for 18-22 minutes or until the top springs back when touched.

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