Sunday, November 8, 2015

Banana Mini Bundt Cakes with Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Buttercream

So, I made these. They are pretty good. 
Ok, who am I kidding? They are amazingly good. Full of 
sweet-salty, peanut butter goodness and banana bread love. 
Elvis would be proud.
You can never go wrong with the banana and peanut butter combo, but this Salted Caramel Peanut Butter from Skippy kind of takes it to a whole other level. 

Let's talk banana bread. It never fails when I want to make it, my bananas are not ripe. They should be really ripe, so you get a sweeter and more fragrant bread {and they are just simply easier to mash up}. My method is usually to put them in a paper bag with a couple of apples overnight. Here's another solution that's even quicker from Food and Wine magazine.

These sassy little banana bundt cakes are even more delicious, once you top them with peanut butter buttercream. I could just eat this buttercream by itself.... so creamy and delicious. It would also be marvelous on a chocolate cupcake or sandwiched between two chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies. 

Hey, did you know it's Peanut Butter Lovers Month in November? All the more reason to find ways to celebrate and savor more peanut butter. 
Of course I like to bake with it, but I also get my PB joy by adding it my breakfast oatmeal or smoothie. So many ways to enjoy it with all the new items on the market, including powdered peanut butter, flavored peanut butters like maple and chocolate, and even single serving packets that you can carry in your purse or keep in your desk.

Love peanut butter and taking pictures? You seriously need to celebrate with the #myPBjoy Instagram contest this month! You can win free stuff....and who doesn't like free stuff?

Here’s how #myPBjoy works:

  1. Eat peanut butter – by the spoon, paired with a snack or combined into a favorite dish!
  2. Snap a photo and Instagram it using #myPBjoy
  3. Win PB prizes when you follow @peanut.butter.lovers on Instagram. Southern Peanut Growers will randomly pick one winner each week of November beginning Nov. 9, who will win a mixed bag of exciting new PB products.

I love how these banana cakes look with the mini bundt shape, but you could certainly use this recipe in muffin pans {regular size or mini muffin} or a traditional loaf pan. Enjoy y'all.

Banana Mini Bundt Cakes with Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Buttercream
Makes about 9

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons powdered peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
1/2 cup roasted chopped peanuts
3 ripe bananas
2 eggs, beaten
7 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 plain Greek yogurt

Peanut Butter Buttercream {you will end up with extra buttercream - I froze mine}:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup of creamy peanut butter {I used salted caramel}
3 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease mini bundt pan well. {You could use butter, but I used pan spray}.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, powdered peanut butter, sugars, baking soda, salt, and chopped peanuts.

In another bowl, mash the bananas well, but leave some chunkiness. Stir in the eggs, butter, vanilla, and yogurt and blend gently.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry and stir together till just combined. Place batter into bundt cups to fill up about 3/4 way. Bake in oven until just done, about 22-25 minutes. {Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick or skewer down the center of the cake - it should come back clean}.

Allow bundt cakes to cool in the pan for about 5-10 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

While cakes are in the oven, prepare the buttercream frosting. 
Place butter and peanut butter in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat the butter and peanut butter together until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed.
Add in half of the confectioners' sugar and mix in on low speed. Add the other half and mix again. Turn up  the speed to medium and beat until well combined, smooth, and fluffy.

Place the buttercream in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe onto your cooled cakes.

Disclaimer: Although I received compensation for this post from Southern Peanut Growers, all opinions expressed and the recipe/recipe photos are uniquely mine.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Caramelized Pears with Brown Sugar Bacon and Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

I don't normally eat dessert for breakfast. But then this happened.
I made this when the light was streaming in my kitchen window in the early morning. I couldn't resist. And neither could Jay. 
We gobbled it up. 
Technically this is a dessert recipe. But if you want to eat it for breakfast, I won't judge.

When a dessert has contrasts....I am interested. I love the interplay of soft with crunchy, silky with crispy, warm with cold. Of course, that means I get excited about cobblers, crisps, homey pies and such, served with ice cream or gelato. It's got streusel? 
Oh yeah, I'm in.
I had these pears that were almost past their prime and I got the idea to caramelize them, throw in some salty/sweet bacon, and top with dulce de leche ice cream. 
Hey, if you don't do bacon, leave it out. Add some toasted pecans or almonds instead. Don't do dairy? Use vegan butter and a non-dairy ice cream instead. 
Lots of options, so make it your own. It's so easy and so darn good. This would be a great do-ahead dessert for a fall dinner party.

Oh, and today is my mom's birthday. Happy Birthday Mom. 
I love you and am glad we share the thrills of food and cooking.   

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Blue Bicycle - Dawsonville's Gourmet Treasure

 It's always pretty thrilling when you visit a rather unassuming bistro and come away feeling that you found this amazing culinary diamond in the rough. And the owners feel like new friends.
That's exactly what happened when I recently attended a wine dinner at the Blue Bicycle with the Atlanta Food Bloggers Society. It's funny, I'd heard about Blue Bicycle a few years ago, but never made it "up there". So glad I finally did!
Up there is Dawsonville, Ga....a small city just north of Atlanta located along what they call "Hospitality Highway". Famous for shopping at the North Georgia Outlets and outdoor adventure with hiking trails, waterfalls, and nearby Lake Lanier.

Owners Guy and Katie Owen opened the Blue Bicycle in 2005 and have been winning over diners ever since with creative, seasonal fine dining fare. Did I just say fine dining? Yep, I did. And it IS happening in Dawsonville.
Guy is Executive Chef and definitely worked his magic in the kitchen during our dinner. 
His wife, Katie, graciously attended to our table, acting as kind of tour guide - sharing restaurant history, presenting wine tastings with the courses, and deftly answering all our questions about the food. She was pretty amazing really. 

So, let me show you how it all went down! We started with a fun cocktail. An Old Fashioned Apple Cocktail with Buffalo Trace, Applejack, Muddled Apple, and bitters. Way to start off an evening, right?

Katie chose three wines to share during the evening, including Willakenzie Estate "Gisele" Pinot Noir {Williamette Valley, Oregon}, Plentitude White Blend {Georgia's own Wolf Mountain}, and Duckhorn's Decoy Table Blend {Sonoma, Calif}. I particularly liked the Pinot Noir.

Next up, Smoked Trout Rillettes with Trout Caviar and Chives on Grilled Baguette. Also, a fancy Charcuterie Sampler. I'm a huge smoked fish lover, so those rillettes were ringing my bell!

Lump crab cake with not one, but two aiolis - roasted red pepper and saffron. This was my pick of the evening and apparently a restaurant favorite. Not hard to guess why.....full of crab and perfect crispy breadcrumbs.

The Warm Chevre Salad with house made bacon and dijon vinaigrette was so tasty. Really enjoyed it.

We were fortunate to sample sharing plates of several entrees, including:
Lamb Ragu over Pappardelle Pasta, North Carolina Mountain Trout with Lemon Herb Butter and Snap Beans, Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Chimichurri and Red Potatoes, and Smoked Duck Breast with Muscadine Reduction, Roasted Root Veg, and Arugula.
Let me just say that I was a little hesistant to try the duck, because I haven't eaten duck in probably 15 years and I'm not a huge fan of muscadines. I was dubious. But this dish won me over. 
It was really delicious.

Are you hungry yet? There's more.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Pumpkin Scones with Medjool Dates, Pecans, and Brown Butter Glaze

Anyone who knows me well, knows two things about me. 
I love fall and baking in my kitchen brings me a deep pleasure and satisfaction.
When the two come together, magical things happen. Fall conjures up flavors of pumpkin, apples, pears, caramel, brown butter, cinnamon, nutmeg....pretty much all my favorites.
Scones are easier than you think to whip up for a special morning treat. And these pumpkin ones, with brown butter glaze......oh my, they might become your new go-to fall recipe.

I'm a devoted fan of medjool dates. When I want to splurge I buy a container of these big, plump lovelies and pretend they are candy. They are a great substitute for raisins or currants, which are common in a traditional scone.
{Side note: I also really like slivered medjool dates in winter salads with dark leafy greens, in my morning oats, and in smoothies. For me they are the queen of dates.}

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Frozen Lime Terrine with Dulce de Leche

This dessert is dreamy. The kind of thing I dream about anyway. Dulce de leche is highly addictive.
You can make it from scratch {it's not hard, I promise!} or buy it pre-made in the store. I have mixed it in morning coffee, used it for a banoffee pie, topped ice cream with it, sandwiched it between two butter cookies, and lavished it on thick, crispy toast. I have eaten it by the spoonful when I'm alone in my kitchen and no one is watching. It's just so freakin good.
I also really like citrus desserts with lime or lemon. This dessert combines lime and dulce de leche with a graham cracker crust and a simple fresh blackberry sauce. It so, so rocks my world.

This recipe is from Fine Cooking magazine, which I now wonder why I didn't subscribe to sooner. It's really a unique food magazine, with beautiful photography, interesting articles, and sound teaching technique. The recipes always work, which is important!
When I received the issue with this terrine recipe, I book-marked it right away. I mean, it's dulce de leche people!
I finally made it last weekend and shared with some friends.
It's delicious, light, and reminiscent of key lime pie - which is one of my favs. I hope you enjoy making it.
Frozen Lime and Dulce de Leche Terrine with Blackberry Sauce
from Fine Cooking Magazine

1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 Tbs. finely grated lime zest
2/3 cup strained fresh lime juice {from about 6 limes}
1/2 cup dulce de leche (see Tip)
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (from about 2 whole crackers)
12 oz. (2 cups) blackberries, rinsed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbs. Chambord, framboise, cassis, or water  {I used water}

Tip: Look for jarred or canned dulce de leche in your supermarket’s baking or ethnic food sections. Do not use the kind in the squeeze bottle, which is too thin for this purpose.
Line an 8-1/2x4-1/2-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, allowing some excess to hang over the sides.

Put the condensed milk, evaporated milk, and cream cheese in a blender and blend on low speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the lime zest and blend briefly. With the blender running on medium-low speed, slowly pour the lime juice through the hole in the blender’s cap. Turn the blender off as soon as all of the juice is incorporated. (The juice will thicken the mixture; additional blending can thin it too much.)

Pour about one-third of the lime mixture into the loaf pan, spreading it evenly. Spoon half of the dulce de leche in a thick line down the length of the terrine to the left of center. (If it’s too thick to spoon, heat it in the microwave for 30 seconds.) Pour and spread another third of the lime filling on top. Spoon the remaining dulce de leche to the right of the center. Pour and spread the remaining lime filling on top. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the top, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and freeze for at least 8 hours.

Combine the blackberries, sugar, and liqueur in a 1-quart saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the berries release some of their juice but remain mostly whole, about 5 minutes. Let cool briefly, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Uncover and invert the terrine onto a cutting board. If the terrine doesn’t release, let it sit at room temperature for 5 minutes inverted, and then gently bang the cutting board on the counter to release. Carefully peel off the remaining plastic wrap. To serve, dip a knife into hot water and dry it before slicing the terrine into pieces 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Transfer the slices to serving plates and let sit for 5 minutes before serving so they are creamy, not icy. Spoon some of the sauce over each slice and serve. 

Make Ahead Tips

The assembled terrine can be frozen for up to 1 month. Remove from the pan and garnish with the sauce just before serving.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

HOLA! Taqueria - Big, Bold Flavors in Roswell

Brisket Tacos with Jalapeno Slaw, Pico de Gallo, and Chipotle BBQ Sauce

HOLA! Taqueria is a relative newcomer to Roswell, Georgia - but it definitely is making an impression in the neighborhood for authentic and delicious Mexican eats.
I've been there twice in the last few weeks and left feeling full and happy. Executive Chef Luis Ramirez' menu at HOLA! has me dreaming about their succulent Lobster Tacos with Pasilla Cream, a citrusy shrimp salad, and the house fire-roasted salsa. Mexican native Ramirez is well-known to the Atlanta dining scene, having developed menus for many beloved restaurants like Vinny's on Windward, Aspens Signature Steaks, Cinco, and Pure.

Lobster Tacos with Pasilla Cream and Pico de Gallo

Another thing that I like about HOLA! is the atmosphere and decor. It's modern, spacious, has clean lines, and is somewhat industrial looking. It's just feels different than your standard Mexican spot. The bar is really attractive and I love the long high top table that runs down the center of it. Although you can order a House Margarita and be perfectly content, there are also interesting options like the Ancho Chile Margarita, Pink Cadillac Margarita, or Vampira cocktail {Halloween anyone?}. I even enjoyed having a glass of Meomi Pinot Noir during my last wine is an option!

Aztec Chocolate Mousse with Ancho Raspberry Coulis

Finally, I will say that HOLA! really has some interesting and unexpected surprises on the menu. Lamb Tacos? Mussels with Chipotle Butter? Pork Belly Tacos? Kale Salad with Roasted Corn Vinaigrette? Yep!
Don't worry, you can get your favorite standards too - burritos, enchiladas, nachos, fish tacos, taco salads, queso dip, etc.
Oh, did I mention that they have a big, ole brunch on Sundays? Haven't been for it yet, but it's on the to-do list!

HOLA! Tacqueria is at 688 Holcomb Bridge Rd. in Roswell, GA.

Skinny Summer Pizza

We have a lot in common.
You love pizza. I love pizza.
You are crazy for summer fresh fruits and veggies. I am too!
You want food that looks as good as it tastes. Yep.
And of course, you want to savor something tasty without a billion calories. I'm with you.

I ran into some inspiration while grocery shopping the other day, when I discovered these nifty Flatout breads. I was dreaming about ooey gooey pizza, but wondering about how I could satisfy my craving for it without going down the unhealthy rabbit hole. Then bam....I come across these thin flat breads.  I picked up the one called Artisan Thin Pizza Crust with Rosemary and Olive Oil. 
I figured I'll grab some fresh produce and goat cheese to top it. Dinner plans done.

Pizza is one of those things, you can get creative with the toppings and maybe even clean out the fridge in the process. I already had arugula, basil, and corn at home. I imagined that roasted poblano peppers and fresh peaches would be a fun addition. So there you have it...Flatout crust, arugula, fresh corn, peaches, roasted poblano, basil, and goat cheese. Guilt free, skinny pizza.

If you haven't roasted your own peppers before, I highly recommend it. It's easier than you think and that smoky, roasted flavor is super nice. I love roasted poblanos on pizza, quesadillas, in my scrambled eggs, in soups.
So, here's to celebrating the end of summer with fresh flavors {stay tuned, I've got an amazing summer dessert coming your way in a few days} and keeping it real with skinny pizza.
P.S. These Flatout breads are very thin and well...corn rolls around. You figure that one out. Hold onto your slice!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Your New Lunch Spot in Roswell - Le Bistro at Roswell Provisions

Whenever family or friends come into town to visit, I find myself scurrying around to plan a memorable lunch or dinner spot in my neighborhood.
Usually, I pick my go-to places - the spots where I love dine regularly. Sometimes though, it's a fun opportunity to try a new restaurant that's been on my "wanna-check-it-out" list. It makes me a little nervous though - cause I just hope it doesn't turn out to be sucky.
My mom was here last weekend and I found the perfect spot to take her to lunch in Roswell, GA.
And it wasn't sucky. It was such a sweet surprise.  
Le Bistro at Roswell Provisions.

Roswell Provisions is in downtown Roswell, off Canton Street. It is a European-styled market, with wine, domestic and international cheeses, charcuterie, pastries, an espresso bar and tons more. You can casually drop in to purchase a loaf of bread and some locally made cheese {they support many local producers}, sit down and enjoy a cappuccino or gelato, or head upstairs for lunch or dinner at Le Bistro.

You wind up the staircase of Le Bistro and arrive into a warm and cozy French tavern. There is one main dining room, but also an array of small, intimate separate dining spaces. It feels spacious and elegant, but rustic and easy at the same time. I took a peek around and also spotted one small room with a beautiful, long wooden table and dim lighting - it would be charming for a private party.
Big fluffy pillows, dark wood, and crisp linens make the restaurant so inviting. Basically, I just want to hang out here all day, eat baguettes and gooey cheese, and drink some wine.

We sat outside on the covered balcony, which overlooks Canton Street and is sheltered by neighboring trees. All I can say is that dining here was a great experience from start to finish. Our server had that je ne sais quoi.....she was very calm, attentive, knowledgeable. The menu took me back. It's been years since I've been to France and I loved seeing familiar French specialties like Croque Madame and Monsieur, crepes, quiche Lorraine, and Salade Nicoise on there.

Mom decided on La Salade de Poulet {chicken salad on a baguette served with green salad and toast with olive tapenade}. 
Thumbs up all the way.

I got the Le Parisien Jambon Beurre {ham, gherkins, and sweet butter on baguette served with ratatouille}.
Loved it!

Jay picked my 2nd choice (he always asks me what my second choice would be - such a good guy!), Clafoutis Provencal (like a crustless quiche with egg, goat cheese, tomato, chives and zucchini with cream of spinach soup). It was delicious.

Le Bistro is open everyday for lunch and on Saturday evenings for dinner. I am already planning my next trip back and will definitely be diving into dessert.With a dessert menu as big as the lunch menu, you know this is my kind of place. Crepes, creme brulee, apple tart, profiteroles, macaron, chocolate mousse....heaven.