Reviews

Review: LouAna Coconut Oil & Hazelnut Baci Cupcakes

With all the holiday baking going on right now, I find myself longing for those traditional holidays recipes but at the same time love trying out new things. I have dabbled a little with coconut oil in my baking and cooking and decided to give LouAna Pure Coconut Oil a try in some of my holiday recipes. Coconut oil is the latest buzz ingredient with a neutral flavor and aroma which allows for its incredible versatility. It is a natural alternative to butter and other oils, and contains zero trans-fat. While other oils and butter are high in artery-clogging LDL cholesterol and low in HDL cholesterol (known as “good” cholesterol), coconut oil has been proven to actually raise HDL levels in the body.

LouAna

I decided to try this oil out in two different ways in one recipe – Hazelnut Baci Cupcakes which consist of hazelnut cupcakes topped with Nutella buttercream, chopped hazelnuts and even white chocolate Baci. Side note: Baci is the Italian word for “kisses” and the name for a truffle filled with milk chocolate, hazelnut gianduia, and a whole hazelnut, and coated with dark chocolate. I first experienced these little nuggets while on a trip to Italy with my highschool Italian class. In the U.S. I typically have only been able to find them at stores like Home Goods, and recently stumbled upon the white chocolate variety. I knew instantly that something special had to be made with them.

White Chocolate Baci

For these cupcakes, coconut oil was used in place of the canola oil and butter in the batter and even some of the butter in the frosting. The end result was a soft, fluffy cupcake topped with creamy frosting, and admirers that were clueless to the switch. These cupcakes may not be diet friendly, but I am a sucker for cutting out even minimal amounts of guilt from my baking and cooking. When you cannot taste the difference, why not make those little substitutions?

Hazelnut Baci Cupcakes

One year ago: Pasta with Butternut Sauce, Spicy Sausage and Baby Spinach

Two years ago: Blizzard Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Cookies

Three years ago: Buttermilk Pancakes
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Review: The Dollop Book of Frosting & Orange Cut-Out Cookies with Orange Cardamom Icing

Before I defended my dissertation a couple months ago several people came to my rescue with guest posts, including Heather Saffer, winner of Cupcake Wars author of The Dollop Book of Frosting. This cookbook is not only full of fun and creative frosting flavors, but also novel ways to enjoy frosting – because frosting should not be restricted to cakes and cookies. Today her holiday blog tour stops here and I am sharing a recipe from this cookbook that would be perfect to make this holiday.

DollopBookofFrosting
As I expressed previously, Heather’s Ultimate Dude Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream stole my heart upon first sight. I can see why they were the big winner in Cupcake Wars. Flipping through the rest of the recipes I was also drawn to the Strawberry Spinach Cheesecakes with Strawberry Balsamic Goat Cheese Frosting and Vanilla Buttermilk Waffles with Maple Bacon Frosting. Frosting is now for breakfast kids, rejoice! Her recipes will take frosting down avenues you never thought possible. So if you love frosting and are looking for creative recipes then you really need to snatch this up. It would also be a great gift to grab for the sweet-tooth in your life ;-).

Orange Cut-Out Cookies 2

Now I know that I said frosting goes beyond cakes and cookies, but cut-out cookies were a staple for every holiday when I was growing up. We had scads of cookie cutters shapes, food coloring, and festive sprinkles for every occasion. These cut-out cookies pump up your traditional sugar cookie cut-outs with the flavors of orange and cardamom – a combination that will leave your palate both refreshed and comforted. For the upcoming winter holidays, I decided to cut mine with snowflakes and they tasted better than any snowflake that has ever landed on my tongue.

Orange Cut-Out Cookies 1

One year ago: Maple Breakfast Sausage
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Review: Creative Cooking (for One or Two)

I am changing things up a little this Sunday to instead talk about a cookbook that offers recipes which serve one to two people (sometimes up to four depending on how small you portion the servings). Seemed completely appropriate to post such a review on Single Serving Sunday!

Creative Cooking (for One or Two) addresses the problem that many parents have: how to go from cooking large quantities which feed a crowd to smaller servings for one or two when their children fly the coop. Or for those children who are now living on their own (like me still, ten years and counting).

These recipes span from breakfast foods, soups/salads/sandwiches, entrees, all the way to dessert. Many of these recipes can be made in a toaster oven (or microwave), reducing the amount of energy used and heat created compared to a full-sized oven. And each recipe includes degrees of difficulty and approximate calorie counts.

There is also a Festive Feasts chapter which offers meals for holidays and other special events, but with fewer servings for less leftovers. I loved this chapter as it relates to my Thanksgiving Dinner for Two. The festive menu line-ups include New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, sporting events, and even a birthday brunch.

Creative Cooking for One or Two

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Pinto Bean Breakfast Patty Melts & The New Southwest Giveaway

Have you had a chance to check out The New Southwest Cookbook by Meagan of Scarletta Bakes? If not then today is your lucky day because not only am I sharing a recipe from her new cookbook, but am also hosting a giveaway for one lucky reader to receive a copy!

scarletta bakes coverTo start, there’s a chapter which covers all the essentials for a southwest kitchen pantry as well as acceptable substitutions when you cannot locate a certain ingredient in a recipe, which I completely appreciated as sometimes it is difficult to find certain ingredients. Then there is a “building blocks” chapter covering all the condiments and foodstuffs seen in southwestern cooking from roasted chiles to homemade corn tortillas. Although it is not necessary to make your own tortillas, salsa, etc. from scratch, it certainly adds to the experience. I really want to try making my own tortillas once I get my hands on a tortilla press.

Browsing through the subsequent chapters, several recipes immediately struck me such as the fried sage smashed potatoes and the dulce de leche layer cake with sweet pecan “pesto”. The picture of that cake made me swoon, with pecan “pesto” dripping all over the place. But when I saw the pinto bean breakfast patty melts I knew it was time to treat myself to a hearty, spicy breakfast.

These breakfast patties were easy to throw together and I loved that they could be wrapped up before being cooked and saved for later since I typically only cook for myself. After being fried and topped with cheese, these patty melts were layered with spicy flavor – both in heat and spices. If you are a bit timid to spiciness you may want to consider removing the seeds from the jalapenos.

 Pinto Bean Breakfast Patty Melts

Want to win a copy? Use the Rafflecopter widget to enter after viewing the recipe below!

One year ago: Chewy Molasses Cookies

Two years ago: Andes Crème de Menthe Chocolate Cookies
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Review: Taste of Home Recipes Across America

One of my favorite things about traveling is sampling the local food. What food items have you tried during your journeys that you would love to have again? Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza, Southern Fried Chicken or Mississippi Mud Cake? You’ll find those classic regional recipes in Taste of Home Recipes Across America.

Divided into five regions (Northeast, South, Midwest, Southwest, and West), Recipes Across America offers 735 specialties enjoyed by locals using regional produce. You’ll even discover ethnic specialties passed down through generations that became hometown favorites. In addition, hundreds of snapshots of food festivals and landmarks are scattered among the pages. And as a bonus, you’ll also find food folklore, recipe histories and fun food facts.

raa_cov
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Review: Baker’s Secret Giveaway & Lattice Chicken and Sweet Potato Potpie

If you’ve ever shopped for bakeware or have spent any time in the kitchen you have probably heard of Baker’s Secret. Not only do many bakers depend on Baker’s Secret, all Baker’s Secret Essentials products have a premium non-stick coating, are durable & long lasting, are metal spatula safe, are dishwasher safe, and have a full lifetime warranty. What’s your favorite fall recipe using your Baker’s Secret products? Tell me about it in the comments section and then enter the giveaway using the Rafflecopter widget at the end of this post!

Lattice Chicken Potpie 1

With the holidays fast approaching, Baker’s Secret gave me an early holiday present of two of products in order to create two different festive recipes to share with you. I received their 9-inch pie pan and 12-cup muffin pan. Today I am sharing a savory recipe using the pie pan because your pie pan has more utility than just making sweet, delicious pies. How about POTpie? But not just any potpie, a potpie with sweet potato and a lattice crust!

Lattice Chicken Potpie 2

This potpie recipe had been my go-to for many years. The original recipe used canned condensed potato soup, but I like to use cream cheese instead and add in my own potato. This time I decided to use sweet potato (which I peeled and cooked in the microwave for 4 minuets) and some extra seasonings to make it even more fall-appropriate. As for the crust, don’t let the lattice top intimidate you. I simply used a can of crescent dough, sealed the seams and cut into strips. Easy peasy and looks great with the addition of an egg-white wash.

Lattice Chicken Potpie 3

One year ago: Apple-Cranberry Oatmeal
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Review: Carapelli Olive Oil & Crispy Gnocchi

Olive oil is one of those things that I typically buy the generic store brand of. Mostly because it’s less expensive, and also because I generally cannot tell the difference unless using in a recipe where it is the main attraction. So when I received a bottle of Carapelli Extra Virgin Olive Oil to try out, I made sure to pick out recipes where I would be able to taste the difference.

carapelli-extra-virgin-olive-oil

The first thing I decided to make with my bottle of Carapelli Extra Virgin Olive Oil was herb infused olive oil. I got excited thinking about what I would cook with the infused oil once it was prepared, but to my disappointment it grew mold in the air-tight container stored in the refrigerator! Next time I’ll use a different method that doesn’t require leaving the herbs in the bottle. Thankfully I still had half a bottle remaining to try something else in the meantime.

After my failure to make infused olive oil, I decided to prepare something a little safer – homemade pesto. My basil plant had been growing out of control and it seemed fortuitous. This olive oil made me fall in love with my homemade pesto all over again. Pesto is definitely one of those things where the quality of the olive oil matters.

With the remaining small amount of olive oil, I decided to make crispy gnocchi by pan-frying cooked gnocchi in olive oil. This results in what you would expect – gnocchi with a crispy exterior. Served along with the Lighter Chicken Parmesan I shared yesterday, this meal was a hit!

Crispy Gnocchi

Two years ago: Butternut Squash Soup
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Review: Fleischmann’s Pretzel Creations & Apple Cinnamon Pretzels

Like many people, I cannot get enough of the pretzel trend. I enjoy many different versions of the soft-baked pretzel, whenever possible. In fact, my meal selection is easily swayed by a pretzel bun. Oh that sandwich comes on a pretzel bun? Sold. But of course, my favorite is making my own pretzel buns at home.

Pretzel Creations

Now Fleischmann’s Yeast is making it even easier to make your own pretzel creations at home. Fleischmann’s Simply Homemade Baking Mixes is introducing Pretzel Creations, which makes fresh-baked pretzels in less than an hour. The package contains pretzel mix, yeast, baking soda and pretzel salt – all you need is water and oil.

Pretzel Creations 2

In a large bowl, I combined the pretzel mix, yeast, water, and oil. According to the directions all that was left was to mix it together and then let it rise, covered, for only 25 minutes! But I decided to knead my dough a little bit to get a smooth dough which I am more accustomed to.

Pretzel Creations 3

After the dough was done rising, I decided to divide the dough in half and make two different things. With one half I made regular pretzels and they came out perfect. I served them with a bacon cheddar ranch dipping sauce.

Pretzel Creations 4

With the other half, I decided to stuff the dough with apples tossed in cinnamon-sugar. After boiling, I sprinkled them with more cinnamon-sugar. Don’t they look like little apple pies?

Apple Cinnamon Pretzels 1

They even tasted like apple pie, but with a pretzel crust. Originally I had contemplated stuffing them with apple pie filling, but worried that would be messy and more difficult to seal. Using fresh apple slices and cinnamon-sugar sounded good enough to me and they turned out to be delicious. Eat alone or serve with a cinnamon-sugar cream cheese dip.

Apple Cinnamon Pretzels 2

Two years ago: Basil Butter
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Review: Dining Out at Home Cookbook 2

For those of you familiar with Stephanie Manely of CopyKat.com, you know that she specializes in recreating dishes from your favorite restaurants at home. She also put together a cookbook called the “Dining Out at Home Cookbook” to further pursue restaurant favorites in the home for less. Today I am sharing a review for the sequel called “Dining Out at Home Cookbook 2″.

In her second cookbook, she hares copycat recipes for Starbucks’ frappuccinos, Logan’s Roadhouse Loaded Potato Skins, Olive Garden’s baked pasta romana, Coldstone Creamery’s cake-batter ice cream, and many more.

Dining Out at Home Cookbook

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Review: Prevention RD’s Everyday Healthy Cooking Cookbook & Giveaway

I interrupt today’s regularly scheduled Single Serving Sunday post with a celebration of the release of Nicole Morrissey’s cookbook, Prevention RD’s Everyday Healthy Cooking (Skyhorse Publishing). Complete with a giveaway of the cookbook to one lucky reader!

Nicole Morrissey is the blogger behind Prevention RD and is a registered dietician offering smart, sustainable solutions to healthy weight loss since she started her blog in 2009. She firmly believes that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and this motto is evident in her recipes. From healthier versions of mozzarella sticks and chicken tortilla soup, to creative recipes such as creamy chicken pesto enchiladas and carrot cake pancakes you’ll be satisfied while also being proactive about your health. There are even chapters dedicated to carb and dessert lovers

Prevention RD Cookbook

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