Why Cheese is the New Dessert

It may sound like deprivation at first, replacing your sugary bookend of choice with a few slices of something savory.  How can something that is most commonly used as a appetizer be used as a dessert, you ask?  Well, just check out any one of these cheese’s and you might find yourself making the switch, too.

A cheeseboard from Pistache in West Palm Beach, FL

A cheeseboard from Pistache in West Palm Beach, FL

Evalon, raw goat’s milk.  Full of melty, nutty notes that reminisce the taste of honey.

Gorgonzola Dolce, cow’s milk.  This double creme packs a oozy sweet bunch, bringing to mind a sweet ice cream.

Ewephoria, sheep’s milk.  Nothing like the normal salty crunch one would expect with sheep’s milk.  Sugary, with a hint of pineapple, will leave no question in your mind as to why euphoria inspired the name.

Midnight Moon, goat’s milk.  Dreamy, chewy, with a carmel-y after finish that goes all too well under a full moon.

Prima Donna, cow’s milk.  A mix between Gruyere and Parmigiano that tastes a bit like butterscotch candy.

The best part about cheese is that a few tiny pieces are paced with enough flavor that you don’t feel as if you’re missing out.  Plus, pairing cheese with wine, beer, or dare I say spirits?, can peacefully float you into sleeping heaven.  Not to mention, serve a tray of these babies at a party and you might just win most creative hostess of the year.

The Making of a Vice

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There once was a time that I didn’t like coffee.  Up until about two years ago, I had never even had more than a sip of the stuff, declaring the taste was always too “bold” for me.  I didn’t even know what that meant.  Then, a friend suggested that we go to Awake Cafe off of Irving Park in Chicago.  We went, and I ordered a seasonal latte, and was hooked.  I also spent the bus ride home on the biggest caffeine buzz known to man.

Michael, the caffeine addict, demonstrated how it wasn't enough for him,

Michael, the caffeine addict, demonstrated how it wasn’t enough for him,

When I moved to Michigan, I began drinking coffee like there was no tomorrow.  A pot was started usually before I started work in the morning, and was kept fresh through the entire pasta making session.  Espressos were broken out on thirteen hour shift days, or when we had a lot of catering to put out.  I began to limit my intake, so I could feel the full effect on the really tough days.  Soon, coffee became a favorite treat of mine.

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Living in Chicago, I must say that we are spoiled.  Chicago has many coffee roasters and a plethora of delicious coffee shops.  Metropolis, Dark Matter, and Bow Truss and three of my favorite roasters, all producing a few different types of coffee, and great espressos.

For a nice little treat, try a Mexican Mocha

1 shot of espresso (I recommend Bow Truss’s Hoist)

1 1/2 c hot cocoa

1 t (or more!) of chili powder

Make hot cocoa and espresso, mix together.  Add a dash of chili powder, and taste.  Keep adding chili powder until you can taste the chili.  Now add one more dash.

Enjoy!

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What’s your tried and true coffee?

 

 

 

Margarita Madness, Part 2

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When I lived in Michigan, Michael’s little sister and I spent every weekend making cupcakes.  She had taken a liking to baking but is a hard tongue to please.  I thought the rainbow cupcakes would be a hit, but she was unimpressed.  I had to bring out the big kid flavors.  Writing this post (again) makes me remember how much I loved baking with her, as it was a chance for us to hang out, talk, and learn something new together.  For such a young age, she impressed me with her knowledge daily.

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Margarita Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:

  • 1½ c all-purpose flour
  • 1½ t baking powder
  • ¼ t salt
  • ½ c unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • Zest and juice of 1½ limes
  • 2 T tequila
  • ¼ t vanilla extract
  • ½ c buttermilk

To Brush the Cupcakes:

  • 1 to 2 T tequila
  • For the Tequila-Lime Frosting:
  • 1 c unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2¾ c powdered sugar
  • 1 T lime juice
  • 2 T tequila
  • Pinch of coarse salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.  In an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and sugar together until pale, light, and fluffy (about 5 minutes).  Reduce the mixer speed to medium and add the eggs one at at time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the lime zest, lime juice, vanilla extract and tequila. Mix until combined. (The mixture may start to look curdled at this point, but don’t worry, it will all come back together).  Reduce the mixer speed low. Add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk in two batches. Mix only until just incorporated, using a rubber spatula to give it one last mix by hand.

Put the batter into the muffin cups. Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until just slightly golden, rotating the pan at the halfway point.  Allow cupcakes to cool for 5 to 10 minutes, and then remove to a cooling rack. Brush the tops of the cupcakes with the 1 to 2 tablespoons of tequila. Set the cupcakes aside to cool completely before frosting them.

To make the frosting, whip the butter on medium-high speed of an electric mixer using the whisk attachment for 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low, and gradually add the powdered sugar, mixing and scraping the sides of the bowl until all is incorporated. Give it a mix on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Add the lime juice, tequila and salt mix on medium-high speed until incorporated and fluffy. If the frosting appears a bit too soft, add some additional sugar, one spoonful at a time until desired consistency is reached. Frost cupcakes and garnish, if desired, with lime zest, an additional sprinkling of salt and a lime wedge.

You can garnish the top with thin lemon wedges, dipped in sugar/water/salt and then torched to dehydrate.

*Note: If you would prefer to not use liquor in these cupcakes, just substitute 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract to the frosting.

Enjoy!

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What’s your favorite alcohol inspired cupcake?

-Ashlyn

Margarita Madness

There are many delicious things in life.  In a two part series, we learn that cupcakes are one of them, margaritas are another.  Now you put them together, and you have one hell of a combination!  Perfect for Cinco de Mayo, which isn’t far away, these next two recipes are enough to make you want to celebrate even if you are not from Mexico!

While Michael and I bartended in Michigan, we learned quite a few new tricks that translated into delicious drinks.  This, the virgin margarita, was one of our favorites.  We made it one day for Lexi, Michael’s little sister, really loved it.

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Virgin Margaritas

  • 2 oz simple syrup
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • ice
  • lime wedge for garnish

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously.  Pour into a glass, garnish with a lime wedge.

Enjoy!

As you can tell, this photo of Michael is old, but it's too good not to use.

As you can tell, this photo of Michael is old, but it’s too good not to use.

What’s your favorite way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

-Ashlyn

April Showers

*The next few posts were written about a year ago, while I was living in Michigan for another blog of mine.  I feel like they are still perfect for this time and should be shared with Hungry, Mostly readers!

I have lived a life without color for many years.  I don’t mean I was colorblind or I wore all black as a protest against some horrible happening here on Earth.  I just enjoyed the sleekness of it all.  But I realize now, I was just living in the shadows.  Who doesn’t love the beauty of a robin’s egg or the captivating essence of a sunset?  I mostly enjoy the colors that nature provides on a day to day basis, but living in a region where winter is as cold and desolate as it is long, I have had to find my color elsewhere.  And let me tell you, this rainbow friendly recipe can brighten up any day!

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Since most of you have a favorite white cake mix recipe, make the batter and the follow the instructions for how to make the cupcakes!

Food coloring

Make your favorite white cake recipe, until the baking part.  Once you have prepared the batter, divide it evenly among six small bowls.  Dye each bowl a color of the rainbow. (You’ll have to mix some colors if you only have primary.)

Line your cupcake pan with baking cups. Evenly distribute the purple batter among the cups, then the blue, and so on, following ROY G BIV. After each color, gently spread each color out to make room for the next.  Keep in mind that you need room for six different colors, so don’t go crazy on the first few and then have to skimp on the rest!

Bake the cupcakes according to the cake recipe you have chosen. Let cool, and then frost!

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If you are really up for a challenge, and a simple frosting isn’t enough for you (it wasn’t for me!), up the sweetness with a cotton candy buttercream frosting.  This is not for the faint of heart.  These cupcakes are pretty sweet and this frosting is enough to make your teeth fall out.

  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 to 5 c confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 c milk
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 handful cotton candy

In a large mixing bowl, mix the butter, 4 c of sugar, milk and vanilla at a medium speed until smooth and creamy, for about 3 to 5 minutes.  Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well (for about 2 minutes) after each addition.  The icing should be thick enough to be of good spreading consistency.  You may not need to add all of the sugar.  Add a few drops of red food coloring and mix thoroughly til it’s a desired shade of pink.  Stir in small pieces of cotton candy, stirring until incorporated. It may melt a little bit into the frosting; this is okay.

Start frosting! If you are saving the frosting for later, make sure you store it at room temperature.  If not, it will set. To garnish, tear off small pieces of the cotton candy to top. Make sure this is the last thing you do, if not, it will wilt or melt into your frosting!

Enjoy!

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Blueberry Lemon Muffins

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Maybe it’s the nicer weather (or the thought of it, because it was snowing in Chicago today) that has got me thinking about fruits in desserts, or maybe it was this blog post by my good friend Alexandra that made me think about blueberries.  Either way, I went all test kitchen today and made two different batches.  The first was so pitiful I did not even take pictures.  I didn’t put any sugar in them, and used 1/2 of my gluten free all-purpose baking flour.  They were so gross, came out hard, and tasted mega-metallicy.  Plus, because the blueberries are not in season yet, the punch wasn’t there.  That’s where the lemon came in!  My second batch turned out much tastier, and Michael demonstrated how much he loved them.

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Blueberry Lemon Muffins

  • 2 c flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • ½ t salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 4 T unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 C non-dairy milk
  • 1½ c frozen or fresh blueberries
  • 1 T lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare muffin tin.

In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Mix.  In a mixer, beat egg until completely mixed, about 30 seconds.  Next, add sugar and stir until mix.  Add in butter, and finally milk.  Mix until just combined.  Mix the blueberries and lemon zest into the flour mixture until just combined.  Do not over mix.  Now, fold in egg mixture to flour mixture, again until just combined.

Using a large spoon, fill the each cup until just under the top.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.  Immediately remove from muffin tin and enjoy!

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Are you in the mood for spring?

-Ashlyn

Strawberry and Oat Smoothie

In my kitchen, I have a thrifted chalk board where I write what Michael and I have going each day.  My mom does this, too, and I always found that it helped me realize where everyone would be during the day.  How many times do we ask what time someone has to work, or what time our doctor’s appointment is, only to soon forget and ask again?  This really eliminated that problem.  On the other half, however, I have written all the outdoor activities I want to try, or do more of.  It is a great visual to see everyday and remind myself that I want to be outside and active.  Right now, that’s a little hard considering the location I live in and the current weather, but anything to keep me dreaming!  One thing I have found always pairs well with healthy outdoor activities  is a healthful smoothie.

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Strawberry and Oat Smoothie (adapted from the most searched for smoothies, here)

  • 1 c quartered strawberries
  • 1/4 c raw almonds
  • 1/2 c old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 c almond milk
  • 1 t maple syrup or honey

Mix all ingredients together and blend until very smooth.  Enjoy!

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What’s your favorite way to enjoy fruit?

-Ashlyn