Saturday, July 25, 2009

Salad Cupcakes

Last night I was reading Cupcakes Take The Cake. I found myself inspired by the mention of "cupcake salad." What I came up with is a simple, fun cupcake you can make for a dinner party.

I started by tweaking a recipe for blueberry buttermilk muffins. This recipe produced enough batter for 12 normal sized cupcakes and 12 mini cupcakes. Also, you don't want guests biting into the cupcakes and having salad toppings spill on the floor. That is why items such as fruit or nuts should be in the cupcake batter instead of sprinkled over the lettuce.

2 1/2 c. flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup melted butter - The original called for 1/4 lb. Didn't notice that until this morning
1 c. chopped cherries
2 Tbsp olive oil

Mix and sift dry ingredients together in large mixing bowl. Gradually add in buttermilk, eggs & melted butter. Mix in olive oil. Gently fold in cherries into mixture. Pour into greased muffin pan. Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before starting the salad layer.

1 Tbsp Ile De France Goat Cheese (Original recipe: La Buchette)
2-3 pieces of lettuce from a bag of Fresh Express Premium Romaine Mix, torn into smaller bits
1-2 Ile De France Mini Toasts / Le Petit Pain Grille, broken into smaller pieces
1/2 Tsbp Ken's Steak House Lite Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette

After cupcakes have cooled completely, cut out the center of the cupcake. I used the round top of a sports bottle in place of a biscuit cutter. Don't push too hard when coring the cupcake, or it will crack on one side like mine did. You can scoop out any extra bits of cupcake with a small spoon if necessary.

Next, press the goat cheese on the hollowed walls and bottom of the cupcake. My first plan had been to use a dip or a ranch dressing. But those would have turned the cupcakes & lettuce soggy right away.

Now sprinkle some of the broken mini toast over the goat cheese. Top with a small amount of the lettuce. Alternate layers that way until the top layer is lettuce. Don't start your layering with the lettuce against the goat cheese. The mini toasts keep the lettuce from becoming mushy next to the cheese. Why mini toasts instead of croutons, you may wonder ? Mini toasts are flat and wide, making them easy to break into pieces smaller than croutons. Square croutons would have taken up too much space in the salad. And breaking croutons would've turned them into crumbs. Mini toasts give the cupcakes thin, jagged pieces that nestle in the lettuce. The result is small, crunchy bites for your guests.

Just before serving, sprinkle 1/2 tbsp or less vinaigrette over the lettuce. Only a tiny amount of dressing is required. Your guests should be able to take a bite and not have dressing splash out on them.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Camel Milk Chocolates

Click on the link in the title for the story. Fans of Gordon Ramsay's F-Word may remember Janet Street-Porter milking a camel and learning about camel milk's health benefits.

Source: "World's first camel-milk chocolates going global", Tamara Walid, Reuters, July 21, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice

"A Taste Unlike Any Other"
"The Antioxidant Superpower"

If there's one thing the AMW family loves, it is fruit. We love fruit in desserts, in homemade smoothies and even with meat dishes. So I was excited when I received samples of POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice recently.

Some of you are probably thinking "Why is it called Wonderful ? And what health benefits do I get from POM Wonderful?" Apparently Wonderful is an actual variety of pomegranate, only grown by POM Wonderful. As far as health benefits, this pomegranate juice has 430 mg of potassium. That's 12% of your daily recommended amount and almost as much potassium as bananas have.

I had tried other pomegranate juices before. I found most of them to have an artificial, overly sweet taste. I discovered the source of that problem when I noticed one brand had blueberries, apples and a few other fruits mixed in with their pomegranate juice; that was noted on their ingredient list, but not on the front label of their juice. To say I was not thrilled at the deception is an understatement. In contrast to that, the POM Wonderful juice promised "100% authentic pomegranate juice" and "no cheap filler juices."

POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice was a big hit with the AMW family. I loved that the juice had a natural, lightly sweet, slightly tart taste. All of us liked the POM paired with chocolates and fine cheeses we had. Smoothies made from POM 100% Pomegranate Juice, ice and a sprinkling of chopped fruit were a favorite, too. I even added three tablespoons of POM juice to a brownie recipe, for a little extra zing. So good!

I also made POM Wonderful pork chops. Those got a rave review around the dinner table (I skipped the cabbage and mashed potato recipes) The POM juice and the Worcestershire sauce gave the chops an amazing flavor. I will definitely be making these again:
POM-Glazed Pork Chops With Red Cabbage and Mashed Potatoes

Makes: 4 main dish servings

Juice from 2-3 large POM Wonderful Pomegranates,* or 1 cup POM Wonderful 100%Pomegranate Juice
4 pork chops, about -inch to -inch thick
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 Granny Smith apples
1 1-lb. head red cabbage, shredded or grated
1 bay leaf
teaspoon fennel or caraway seed
cup water, or more as needed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste
4 medium russet potatoes (about 1 lb.)
1 cup warmed buttermilk
1 tablespoon butter (optional)

1. Prepare fresh pomegranate juice.*

2. Peel potatoes and cut into cubes.

3. Cover potatoes with water and bring to a boil; cook covered until soft, about 30 minutes.

4. Peel and core apples; cut into -inch slices.

5. Heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in a large skillet.

6. Brush Worcestershire sauce on pork chops.

7. Salt and pepper the pork chops and put them into the heated skillet.

8. Brown on both sides and lower the heat.

9. Mix cup pomegranate juice with balsamic vinegar and cornstarch, and pour into the skillet. Cover the skillet and cook until pork chops are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

10. In a large saucepan, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and apples; cook until they begin to soften.

11. Add grated cabbage, bay leaf, cup pomegranate juice, cup water, fennel seeds, red wine vinegar and brown sugar.

12. Add salt and pepper to taste.

13. Cook for 30 minutes or until cabbage is soft.

14. Remove potatoes from heat and drain. Mash with a potato masher; add to 1 cup warmed buttermilk and butter (optional).

15. Serve pork chops and cabbage with mashed potatoes.

* For 1 cup of juice, cut 2-3 large POM Wonderful Pomegranates in half and juice them with a citrus reamer or juicer. Pour the mixture through a cheesecloth-lined strainer or sieve. Set the juice aside.

Applegate Farms: All Natural Breaded Chicken Patties

"The golden crispy breading on our chicken patty is the perfect complement to our tender antibiotic-free chicken."
"Ready to heat * Fully cooked"

Recently, the AMW family taste tested Applegate Farms chicken patties. Normally I cannot get anyone here to eat chicken patties from the grocery store. Their response is always "But I want the juicy Chick-Fil-A stuff. Why can't we have that instead?" However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that wasn't the case when I cooked the Applegate Farms chicken.

I was excited to see "no antibiotics" and "all natural" on the Applegate Farms box. But what really got my attention was the nutrition label. Normally I find myself saying "What the heck is in this ? I can't pronounce half the ingredients." What a change from the usual chemical laden ingredient list:
"Chicken, Water, Contains Less Than 2% Of The Following: Corn Starch, Salt, Natural Flavor, Breaded With: Wheat Flour, Sugar, Yeast, Soybean Oil, Salt, Battered With: Water, Wheat Flour, Corn Starch, Yellow Corn Flour, Salt, Breading Set In Vegetable Oil."

The Applegate Farms breaded chicken patties were really easy to cook. Ordinary chicken patties become soggy if cooked in a microwave or an oven. The Applegate patties, however, were a pleasant change from that scenario. The coating came out crispy in both the microwave and oven tastings. The meat was moist and tender, too!

Another plus with the A.F. chicken was the creativity & flexibility I had in the kitchen. One night the AMW family had succulent chicken sandwiches with lettuce and tomato (Adios, Chick-Fil-A!) Another day I sliced the chicken into strips for a salad. The chicken patties were also delicious at dinner with sides of applesauce and green beans. I got requests for second helpings and even "Is there any left from last night ? I really liked the chicken."

I would definitely buy Applegate Farms Chicken. I liked the all natural ingredients and the ease of meal preparation. The patties also pleased everyone in the family. Thumbs up for Applegate Farms Chicken Patties!