Saturday, April 25, 2015

Raspberry-filled Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Spring has evaded us folks living in the Midwest (I refuse to call myself a Midwesterner) for a long time. And then all of a sudden, the weather reached the 50's, we started to see squirrels and hear birds chirping, and everything felt alive again. A beautiful family of cardinals made its home outside our town home. The bright red streak as the cardinals flit around is definitely a sign that spring is finally here.

To honor spring and the cute little birds outside, I made these raspberry-filled lemon cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting. These would also be great for mother's day which is coming up on May 10th! The cupcakes are a doctored cake mix recipe, which is great when you're in a pinch (or not the best baker) and it makes deliciously moist cupcakes. If you have a recipe from scratch you love, go ahead and use that. The frosting is to die for! Dye it yellow or pink for added cuteness. The raspberry jam filling adds a much appreciated sweetness to the tart of the lemon. All in all, it is a perfect combination.

Give these cupcakes a try and good luck in the kitchen!

Lemon Cupcakes
adapted from Cannellavita
(makes around 24 cupcakes)

1 package lemon cake mix
1 (3.4 oz) package instant lemon pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp lemon extract or essence (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 Fº.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and blend till fully combined. Spoon into a cupcake pan lined with liners, around 2-3 tablespoons per cup (I only needed 2). Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clear. Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting them.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

2 (8 oz) blocks of cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, room temperature 
2 lbs. powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp of lemon extract or essence

Cream the cream cheese and butter together in an electric mixer until well combined. Add in the extracts. Once combined, slowly add in powdered sugar to achieve the consistency you desire (spreadable but not too thick or runny).


around 1/2 cup raspberry jam or preserves
25-30 fresh raspberries, washed and dried

Create a hole in the center of the cupcake. I made mine by putting a thick chopstick in the center and turning it in circles to make the hole a little wider. Fill a ziploc bag with raspberry jam and cut a small hole at the bottom. Insert the cut end of the bag in the cupcake hole and fill the cupcake until you feel the cupcake fill out or you can see that is filled to to top of the hole.

Fit a piping bag with a 3M tip and fill with frosting. Pipe swirls or roses and top with a fresh raspberry. Enjoy!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Penne Chicken Tikka Masala

On my 21st birthday, S took me to a great little restaurant in Chicago called Tandoor Char House. It is a Pakistani restaurant that has some pretty unique items in the "fusion" section of their menu. "Penne tikka masala" immediately jumped out to me from the menu. I had to order it and we both fell in love at first bite.

I knew I had to recreate this recipe when S started asking for it at least once a week. So here's my take on this clever fusion dish - penne chicken tikka masala. I hope you give it a try and please share if you do! I'd love to hear from you.

Penne Chicken Tikka Masala
(serves 4-6)

1 lb chicken breast, cut into thin strips
1/3 cup yogurt
1 tbs melted butter
1 tbs heavy cream
1/2 tsp ginger paste
1/2 tsp garlic paste
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tbsp cumin powder
1/2 tbsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
1 tbs chicken tikka masala powder (optional)

Other ingredients-
1 lb box penne pasta (I used whole grain 13.25 oz box, which was great too)
2 tbs butter
2 tbs oil
1/2 tsp garlic paste
1/2 tsp ginger paste
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp chili powder (optional or to taste)
1 inch cinnamon stick
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 cup (minus the 1 tbs used in the marinade) heavy cream
1/2-1 cup of hot water (optional)
cilantro for topping
grated paneer cheese for topping (optional)

Combine the marinade ingredients together until fully combined. Stir in the chicken until fully coated. Keep covered in the fridge for 4 hours or upto overnight. Remove from fridge 30 minutes before cooking to allow it to reach room temperature.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter with 1 tablespoon of oil in a grill pan or nonstick pan. Fry the chicken pieces in it for 5-7 minutes on medium-high heat or until fully cooked. Set aside.

Boil the pasta according to box directions. You want to leave it al-dente.

Melt rest of butter and oil in a large pot (I used the same one I boiled the pasta in). Add the chopped onion and sauté for 5 minutes or until it starts to turn golden brown. Add in the garlic and ginger paste and cook for 1 minute or until aromatic. Add in salt, chili powder, and cinnamon and cook for 1-2 minutes while stirring constantly.

Add the tomato sauce and cook at a high heat for 5 minutes, constantly stirring, until the oil starts to show through. Add sugar and heavy cream and cook on a low heat, a low simmer, for 2-3 minutes. Add hot water to the pan to thin the sauce to the consistency you like. I added around 3/4 cups of water. Add the chicken and all its juices to the pan.

Cook for a few additional minutes until you are sure the chicken is fully cooked through. Add pasta back to the pan and stir until fully combined. Turn the heat to low and cover and cook for 10-15 minutes so the flavor can infuse into the pasta. Serve with cilantro and freshly grated paneer on top. 


You may also be interested in this dessert I posted a few weeks back - mango cheesecake. This was what we ordered for dessert from this restaurant. Delicious!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Asparagus, Chicken, & Quinoa Casserole

Good afternoon, lovely readers.

This blog, that I have been writing for 5 years, is a chronicle of all of my cooking adventures. I've been through quite a few phases of different styles of cooking for my family. When I was living with my parents, I shared many large, family friendly, and healthy dishes. When I got married, I started cooking a lot of "dinner for two" recipes, romantic and adventurous dishes. 

Now, I've started cooking a lot of healthy but fattening foods for my toddler that seems to live on air. These are dishes that S and I can enjoy and are very nutritious for our little one. Today's recipe is one of these dishes, something that I might cook on a week night. 

I've posted several recipes using quinoa in the past and written about its health benefits as well. One can definitely call quinoa a superfood. It is a great source of protein and vitamins and will give the little one enough energy for his whole day. You can replace asparagus with broccoli if you prefer to give the dish an additional boost of calcium, very important for little baby bones. Best part is, this recipe is baby approved! Y loved it and I'm sure you and your family will too.

So give it a try and good luck in the kitchen!

Asparagus, Chicken, & Quinoa Casserole
(Serves 6-8)

2 tbs butter
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups organic whole milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tbs Italian seasoning
1/2 tbs cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 lb chicken, cut into small bite size pieces
1/2 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cup asparagus, cut into 2" pieces
2/3 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350º.

Melt the butter in an oven safe pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until it is well combined, no lumps. You may need to add a little bit of chicken broth  to get it to a good consistency. Cook it for an additional minute and slowly add both liquids, milk and broth, while constantly stirring so no lumps form. Add in all the seasonings to taste. Cook for 3-5 minutes.

Mix all the ingredients, except cheese and bread crumbs, into the sauce until well combined.

Top with bread crumbs and cheese. Bake covered for 45 minutes until the quinoa has sprouted and uncovered for 10 minutes until cheese is golden brown. The sauce will become creamier as the quinoa absorbs it. Serve warm and enjoy!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Light Vegetarian Potato Soup

I've been dying to try potato soup for the longest time. Now that winter is here, I feel like a permanent chill has settled into my bones. And the best way to remedy that is to drink a bowl of hot, comforting soup!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mushroom and Spinach Stuffed Omelet

Just when I start thinking that spring is finally here in the gloomy Midwest, it started snowing again! Say what?! 

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