Thursday, September 25, 2014

Raspberry Chocolate Chip Muffins

These muffins are so delicious they are like dessert. Seriously. It almost felt sinful to eat these fresh out of the oven at 8 o'clock in the morning. But, hey! Who doesn't like to start their day with a delicious muffin or two... or three or four? :)

There is something about the slightly tart raspberry that goes so well with the sweetness of chocolate. That's why these muffins were such a hit in my household. I originally got the idea from a recipe in A Taste of Wyoming by: Pamela Sinclair. But, it called for "baking mix"... which I thought was not only cheating... but, as a pastry chef I don't have that kinda thing lying around my kitchen anyway. 

So, my recipe is completely from scratch and still very easy to whip out in no time at all. You will love it! 


2 cups all purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1 t. salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup shortening
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 t. vanilla

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries 

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

In a large mixing bowl combine all dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, sugar. Add shortening and cut into dry ingredients using a pastry cutter (a fork could work too) until the shortening is pea sized.

Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla and mix just until combined (do NOT try to stir out all the lumps. Lumps are good in muffin batter. Gluten development is bad.)

Gently stir in the chocolate chips and raspberries.

Scoop into greased or lined muffin tin- about 2/3 full.  Bake for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan about 5 minutes then remove and finish cooling on a cooling rack. 

Yield: 12 standard muffins

Monday, September 15, 2014

Zuppa Toscana- Spicy Sausage, Potato, and Kale Soup

I've seen so many "Olive Garden copycat" recipes for Zuppa Toscana floating around that I finally decided to give it a try. And, I must say, after altering the recipe quite a bit I thought this was a fabulous soup! 

It really hit the spot for me tonight.... sausage, potato slices and kale in a creamy broth with just the right amount of kick! Plus, I served it with my homemade Vienna white bread that I am trying to perfect. The whole meal was just so delicious! Very simple to make and I whipped the whole thing out in 30 minutes. What more could you ask for, right?

Anyway, here is my version of the recipe:


1/2 lb. sausage
5 medium russet potatoes, washed and sliced thinly
3 cups kale, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, cut thinly
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups chicken broth
3-4 cups water
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes 

Cook sausage in a pan and drain on paper towels. Set aside.

In a large pot combine potatoes, onion, garlic, chicken broth and water over high heat until it starts to boil. Turn heat to low and simmer until the potatoes are slightly tender. 

Add the cooked sausage and red pepper flakes and simmer on low for another 8-10 minutes. 

Add the chopped kale and heavy cream and continue to heat on low until the soup is completely heated through.

Serve immediately. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

"BLT" Soup with Homemade Croutons, Crispy Bacon and Arugula Pesto

BLT- bacon, lettuce, tomato. How can this be a soup, you might be wondering? First you take this delicious homemade tomato soup. Then you add a dollop of the arugula pesto (the lettuce in this "sandwich"), sprinkle on your homemade croutons and garnish it all with some crispy bits of bacon. And there you have a BLT... soup style.

It is seriously delicious. The creamy and acidic tomato soup is balanced with the mildly sweet and smooth arugula pesto and the smoky, salty bacon bits. And, the crunchy croutons add that delicious texture to complete the whole dish! It really is a winner!



2 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
2 T. minced garlic
2- 28 oz. cans whole tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
cooked bacon for garnish, chopped

In a large pot, heat the oil and butter on medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrots and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes or until translucent and fragrant.

Stir in the tomatoes and chicken broth. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Remove from heat and blend to puree the soup.


1 T. butter, melted
2 T. olive oil
3 slices artisan bread (sourdough, french country, etc.), cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Toss the bread chunks in the melted butter and olive oil until bread is coated. Spread chunks onto a baking sheet and bake at 375ºF for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.

Arugula Pesto:

1 cup arugula
1/2 cup spinach
1 1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 T. pine nuts

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.

*Note: Be careful not to over salt the soup, croutons and pesto. The cooked bacon bits add enough salt to the already naturally salty tomato soup that it is really refreshing if the croutons and pesto are more mild. Just be aware and be sparing with the salt!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Vanilla Custard and Berry Tart

I am nearly ashamed at how long it has been since I posted last. I do have some pretty valid excuses (like spending the bulk of my summer in a kitchen-less cabin in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming).... but I won't bore you with the details! ;) 

The point is... I'm BACK! And, I will strive to post weekly or more if I am able. 

First up is a basic tart filled with a rich, vanilla custard and topped with fresh summer berries! I chose raspberries since I had so many to use up. But, this would actually taste so great with a berry combination, like raspberries, blackberries and blueberries (all fresh, of course) and skip the chocolate drizzle altogether. Honestly, I thought the chocolate ended up making it too sweet. But, do as you may!


Vanilla Custard:

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 T. + 1 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup egg yolks (around 6 large egg yolks)
4 T. butter, room temperature
1 T. pure vanilla

Heat the milk in a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium-low heat until warm. Remove from the heat.

Mix together the sugar, flour and cornstarch. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and slowly whisk half of the warm milk into the yolks. Slowly whisk the dry mixture (sugar, flour, etc.) into the egg/milk mixture until combined. 

Pour the mixture into the saucepan with the remaining warm milk. Stirring constantly, cook the mixture over low heat until the mixture is thick like pudding. With a spatula, push the custard through a sieve to work all the clumps out of the custard. Place the bowl with the smooth custard in an ice water bath. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard to prevent a film from forming. Once the custard is slightly cooled place in the refrigerator and chill for 2 or 3 hours. 

Shortbread Crust:

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the dough forms a ball. Press the dough into a 9-inch tart pan. Bake at 350ºF until the crust is golden-brown, about 20-25 minutes. Let it cool completely.

Remove tart pan from baked tart and place the tart shell on a serving plate. Fill the bottom with the vanilla custard and arrange berries on top. Serve immediately or cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve (the tart will keep for 1 day). 

*Recipe adapted from Catherine and Cheryl Reinhart of Sweet Life Patisserie