June Foodie Pen Pal

This month Charity sent me an awesome package, filled with items native to her region of Washington State! She made the package special by using coordinating tissue paper, paper straws, and printed napkins. Included in the package were sockeye salmon, trail mix granola bars, almond roca, Tazo tea, chai tea, Starbucks peppermint hot chocolate, a maple chocolate bar (from a recent anniversary trip Charity took to Canada), fruit chews, and a unique Aplet & Cotlet candy. I especially loved the almond roca, salmon, and hot chocolate, but there wan’t anything I did not like. The package was perfect!

Foodie Pen Pal June

For those interested, Foodie Pen Pals is a fun way to try out new things. The swap is hosted by Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean and it is open to both bloggers and blog readers. You can get more information and sign up here. I would definitely recommend it.

The Lean Green Bean

Roasted Strawberry Banana Bread

After strawberry picking 12 pounds of berries over the weekend, I immediately new the first recipe I wanted to bake: Roasted Strawberry Banana Bread from Skinny Taste. I have made many of Gina’s recipes and they always turn out delicious.

Roasted Strawberry Banana BreadI previously made strawberry muffins (I can’t recall the recipe used) and the fresh strawberries added too much moistness to the batter while cooking, affecting the end result and texture. When Gina posted about roasting the strawberries first, I couldn’t wait get berries to bake this recipe. It did not disappoint. The loaf is flavorful and delicious. I will definitely bake it again. I did not modify the recipe in any way, so please visit Skinny Taste to check it out!

Strawberry Picking at Spicer Orchard’s

I love fresh fruit – it’s my favorite food group, hands down. I especially love U-Pick fresh fruit. Lucky enough, in Michigan we have a lot of U-Pick options: apples, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, asparagus, pumpkins, and more!

StrwberriesStrawberry season comes each June (usually right around my June 21 birthday!) and it’s a lot of fun to get out there and pick deliciously fresh, ripe berries. This year my husband and I went on a Saturday morning. Picking for 2013 is the best that I can remember, and I pick strawberries annually. The strawberries were perfect in size and the bushes were plentiful with deep red berries.

We chose to go to Spicer Orchard’s, a great local family farm. They have different U-Pick crops throughout the year, as well as a petting farm, ice cream shop, donuts, and indoor market. I recommend checking out Spicer Orchard’s if you’re in the mood for some Michigan produce.

Strawberry Field

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls

I love cinnamon rolls. I am not crazy about the overly-sweet “Cinnabon” rolls, though. The type of pastry I like is often found at a bakery or a donut shop and it is delicious. I have baked cinnamon rolls in the past using The Pioneer Woman’s recipe. While good, they did not blow me away. This time I decided to use a recipe from King Arthur Flour and it created the ideal sweet cinnamon roll. The dough was very easy to work with, and they baked up beautifully. The cinnamon rolls were best enjoyed slightly warm, but even at room temperature they were tasty.  I did not modify much and also used my bread machine to knead the dough, so please visit King Arthur Flour for their recipe!

Cinnamon Roll



Lemon Yogurt Loaf Cake

This cake is akin to a very moist pound cake. It is almost too moist for my liking. I don’t care for pudding cakes, and this has a texture that is bordering on that soft, but not quite there. Everyone loved this cake and it is a perfect Spring dessert.

Lemon Yogurt Cake

Lemon Yogurt Loaf Cake
Adapted from Ina Garten via Food Network

For the cake:
1.5 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. plain yogurt
1 sugar
3 extra-large eggs
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 c. vegetable oil

For the glaze:
1 c. confectioners’ sugar
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan., line the bottom with parchment paper, grease the parchment, then flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet. Using a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

When the cake is done, let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing from the pan to cool completely on a cooling rack. For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cooled cake.

BBQ Baby Back Ribs

I’ve wanted to make ribs after reading an article in Bon Appetit last summer. With Father’s Day (they’re my dad’s favorite) approaching I knew exactly what rib recipe and cooking method to use. Handle the Heat made these last month and loved them as much as my family did. It’s also nice that the slow and low cooking period can be done, and is recommend to be done, ahead of time.

BBQ Baby Back Ribs

BBQ Baby Back Ribs
Adapted from Handle the Heat, via Bon Appetit

Rub Ingredients:
2 1/2 tbs. salt
1 tbs. dry mustard
1 tbs. paprika
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 large racks of baby back ribs (I purchased mine at Costco and used approximately 7-8 pound for this recipe)

1 1/2 cups barbeque sauce, divided

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two large baking sheets with foil. Combine the salt, dry mustard, paprika, cayenne pepper, and black pepper in a small bowl. Lay the rib racks on each baking sheet and sprinkle evenly with spice mixture. Wrap each rib rack individually with foil.

Bake the ribs until very tender but not falling apart, about 2 hours. Carefully unwrap ribs to cool and pour any juices from the foil into a heatproof measuring cup to reserve (I used a mason jar). Let the ribs cool completely,  then rewrap the ribs in foil and place in the refrigerator until chilled or up to 3 days (chilling the ribs makes them easier to grill without falling apart and the flavor actually develops the longer they’re in the fridge).

Heat a gas grill to medium-high. Wisk together 3/4 c. of the rib juices with 3/4 c. of barbeque sauce to use for basting.

Grill the ribs, turning frequently while basting with the barbecue sauce mixture, until juicy and slightly charred, about 10 minutes. The rib meat should pull away from the bone, exposing the ends of each bone. Transfer to a cutting board; cut between ribs to separate. Transfer to a platter and serve with remaining barbecue sauce.

Beecher’s Perfect Macaroni and Cheese

This Father’s Day I cooked my family all of my dad’s BBQ favorites – ribs, coleslaw, cornbread, and, of course, macaroni and cheese. My dad has long been a fan of mac and cheese (who isn’t?), so I decided to test out a recipe that I bookmarked last month. Beecher’s is apparently a famous cheese maker in Seattle, and this makes me want to visit when I make it to Washington State!

What made this recipe perfect for a busy Father’s Day is that the Beecher’s Flagship Cheese Sauce can be made up to three days ahead of time. I made it on Friday, so come Sunday all I had to do was cook the pasta, combine with the cheese sauce, and top with the cheese! My whole family loved this recipe, and leftovers tasted great too.


Beecher’s Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from My Cooking Quest

16 oz. penne pasta (one box)
4 c. Beecher’s Flagship Cheese Sauce (recipe below)
2 oz. cheddar, grated
2 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated (I only had cheddar, so I used 4 oz.)
1/2 tsp. chipotle chile powder (I forgot this and it was still tasty)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 13×9 baking dish. Cook the penne 2 minutes less than the al dente package directions; they will finish cooking in the oven. Rinse the cooked pasta with cold water and combine with the Flagship Sauce, mixing carefully but thoroughly. Pour the pasta into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the cheese, then the chile powder. Bake uncovered for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top has a nice golden crust. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

Beecher’s Flagship Cheese Sauce (makes 4 cups)

1/4 c. butter
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
3 c. warmed milk
16 oz. semi-hard cheese, grated (I used Vermont sharp and extra-sharp aged cheddar)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. chile powder
1/8 tsp. garlic powder

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Continue to whisk and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent lumps.

Remove from the heat. Add the cheese, salt, chile powder and garlic powder. Stir until the cheese is melted and all the ingredients are incorporated, about 3 minutes.

Macaroni and Cheese Dish

Marbled Chocolate Banana Bread

This recipe is one that I bookmarked from Cooking Light a long time ago. When I saw Baked By Rachel’s version of their recipe pop up on the Internet, I knew I had to make it. This bread is delicious! A little less nutritious and therefore more decadent than my favorite everyday banana bread, this one is definitely great to serve to company. I used white whole-wheat flour and it still rose nicely with a delicious crumb.

Marbled Chocolate Banana BreadMarbled Chocolate Banana Bread
Adapted from Baked by Rachel

2 c. white whole-wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. butter, softened
1.5 c. ripe bananas (roughly 3-4, the riper the better), mashed
2 eggs
1/3 c. plain yogurt
3.5 oz. dark chocolate (I used chocolate chips because that’s what I had)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars. Add the mashed bananas, eggs and yogurt, mixing until barely combined. Add dry ingredients. Mix well.

Melt chocolate in a medium sized heat safe bowl in 30 second intervals at 50% power. Stir after each 30 seconds, continuing until chocolate is completely melted. Add 1 cup of batter to the melted chocolate and mix well.

Lightly grease a loaf pan. Add large spoonfuls of alternating chocolate and plain batter throughout the loaf pan. Swirl gently with a knife, and be careful not to over swirl.

Bake for 65-75 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack before removing the loaf from the pan. Store in an airtight container or freeze slices wrapped individually.

Caprese Panini

Missing the delicious fresh mozzarella that we enjoyed while in Italy, I set out to make a fresh mozzarella pressed sandwich on bakery ciabatta bread, jazzed up with basil (from my garden!) and tomato (from Kroger – my garden needs another month or two for those). Voila – a satisfying and easy sandwich. I do think that the high-quality bread makes a huge difference. The crunch and extra flavor it adds to the meal is well-worth it!

Caprese Sandwich

Caprese Sandwich
Serves One

2 slices ciabatta bread
2 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly
Basil leaves, approximately 8
Fresh tomato, approximately 4 seeded slices
Olive oil, for brushing

Preheat a panini press or George Forman grill. Brush one side of each bread slice with olive oil. Lay one slice of bread oil side down the the griddle. Layer on the mozzarella, basil, and tomato. Top with the other slice of bread, oil side up, and set down the grill cover. Grill for approximately 5 minutes, or until the bread is golden and the cheese is melted.

Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies, Once More

Last night I baked cookies with my cousin Elise. We chose this Soft-Baked Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe that I have made before, adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction and Averie Cooks. For this batch I did not have bread flour on hand, so I used only all-purpose. In addition, I was impatient (and did not think my 12-year-old cousin would have the patience) and did not allow the first batch to chill for at least 30 minutes as the recipe recommends; luckily it was only about 70 outside and not very humid (i.e. the air temp was mild). For the second round of cookies we refrigerated the dough first; the refrigerated version was marginally puffier, but both looked and tasted great. In summary, chilling isn’t 100% needed and only all-purpose flour is a fine way to go.

Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies