Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Too Hot To Handle...

This looks delicious right? A nice warm bowl of soup filled with all kinds of goodies like chicken and rice, black beans and fire roasted tomatoes, cheese and sour cream, chips and avacado, and--an ungodly amount of spice. I mean, I messed up this one so bad I almost choked when tasting the broth. Never one to give in to a failure that will result in throwing away an entire meal, I vowed to tame the heat and figure out a way to make it possible to still enjoy. 

Fear not--I know exactly where I went wrong and adjusted the recipe for you so you don't have the same painful results or need to call your local fire station. Instead, you'll have a delicious slightly spicy, chicken tortilla soup that's hearty enough to serve for dinner and fresh enough to enjoy for lunch with friends.

(To cut the heat on my batch and make it possible to enjoy a bowl for dinner I added an additional 4 cups of water, 2 Tablespoons of brown sugar, half a vegetable boullion cube and drained and rinsed half of the solids in a colander with cold water. I still think the absolute BEST way to cut this heat would have been to whip up a huge batch of frozen margaritas but alas, we were out of tequila.)

Not Too Hot Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 2-3 cups water (start with 2 and see how you personally feel)
  • 28 oz fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 chipoltes in adobo (start with one if you're worried about spice and add them one at a time, chopped into the soup...if you want some extra spice, add a third).
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 can black beans drained and rinsed (I added 2/3 whole, 1/3 mashed)
  • 1/2 cup instant rice (I used brown rice)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • juice of one lime
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Optional Toppings (naturally I recommend them all)
  • sour cream
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • avacado
  • crushed tortilla chips
In a large pot on medium high heat, add the olive oil and chopped onion. Salt and pepper the onion and cook about 5-7 minutes until soft and lightly brown. Add in the chopped chipolte and whole, raw chicken breast. Pour in the chicken broth and 2 cups of water and bring the pot to a boil. Cover the pot and allow to boil about 15 minutes.

Reduce heat to low and remove the chicken breast and allow to cool on a cutting board. While the chicken is resting add the fire roasted tomatoes (YUM!, you wan't to go for the fire roasted version here..don't skimp out and use regular tomatoes if you can help it). Stir in cumin and chili powder.  Using two forks, shred the chicken and return it to the pot. Bring the pot back to a boil and stir in the rice, allow to boil covered for ~5 minutes and then reduce the heat back to low and cover. At this stage taste the broth and decide if you like the heat factor. If you want to dilute it a bit (or stretch it to stretch your buck with all the added ingredients) add another 1-2cups of water or chicken broth. Stir in the beans until heated through, about five minutes.

Serve with avacado cubes, sour cream, shredded cheese and crushed tortilla chips.

Have you tried a Dressing on the Side recipe? Leave us a comment and let us know how it turned out, if you made any changes or if there's anything else you'd like to see!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Goat Cheese alfredo

 After this post, we discovered just how much I love goat cheese. (That afternoon I made both goat cheese tomato soup AND chocolate peanut butter cupcakes where I might have sampled some icing and ended with a terrible stomachache--not recommended all at once...)

On one of my lunch dates with a girl friend at a now out-of-business perfect lunch spot, I ordered the special that featured goat cheese and caramelized onions over short cut pasta. This recipe is adapted from that lunch and is getting to a place of pure goat cheese-y goodness. As always this one is quick, easy but disguised as a fancy schmancy dinner. Perfect for a dinner party, family supper or Monday night Daytona says rich comfort in a very adult way.  It's earthy and unfussy and perfectly balanced with the bite and sweetness of the onion and the tangy creaminess of the goat cheese. A finishing touch of truffle oil on this baby would take it completely over the top.

Goat Cheese Alfredo with Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 8oz package baby portabellos, sliced
  • 5oz goat cheese
  • 4 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 16oz pasta (I used whole wheat spaghetti, but perfer a short cut like penne or rigatoni for this one)
  • 1 1/2 c milk
  • 1/2 c reserved pasta water 
  • salt & pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil to cook the pasta. Meanwhile in a large, deep skillet over medium heat melt 2 Tbsp butter. Add in onions and sprinkle with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5-7 minutes until soft and translucent. Add in mushrooms and continue cooking about another 5-7 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper. 

When onions and mushrooms begin to turn light brown and caramelize, reduce heat to medium-low and create a well in the middle of the pan. Melt the remaining butter and sprinkle with the flour. Whisk them together and cook for about a minute. Slowly add the milk and whisk together. Stir all the contents of the pan together and allow to bubble and thicken. Season again with salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce seems too thick reserve a mug of pasta water right before you drain it off and add it into the sauce a few tablespoons at a time (this will have some of the starches from the pasta and will help hold the body of the sauce). 

Drain off the pasta and return to the pot. Add the sauce to the pasta and serve. 

Sit back while your guests ooh and ahh over another amazing dish from your kitchen.  For best results enjoy with good wine and good friends. (for less than best results enjoy on a Monday with a migraine while watching Nascar...)

Cardigans: A Love Story

a peek into the collection--you know what they say, three 44 is a crow
  I like to think I'm a strong person, until I take a good look into my closet. Apparently, I have a few weaknesses. One is stripes. Two is cardigans. Add them together and things become a little fuzzy.  Saying no to the combination would only be from passing out at the idea that such perfection can exist. Colors and price almost don't matter. It's a sickness, a pretty sickness and a cozy one.....but one that I'm quitting cold turkey for the next 40 days.

After taking inventory of my closet I learned a couple of things. The most important one worth sharing is my abundance of cardigans. 44 and counting. I tell myself it's not that bad--most are different colors, patterns, cuts, shapes and weights. I am lying to myself. It is that bad. If I can go six whole weeks without wearing the same cardi twice--there's a serious problem. This is after consigning some and donating others....44 soilders still remain.

So, for lent-- the ultimate annual test of will power--there's no bread or chocolate being given up on this end. Retail therapy and the call of the full blown release of spring debuts are on hold until mid April. While I'm sad no new friends will be added to the collection, I'm excited to mix up my existing wardrobe and maybe even edit down the collection a little bit more. 

To set the parameters straight--this pause in shopping is limited only to CLOTHING. Shoes and accessories are still okay (with the exception of scarves : there's 27 of those already in my closet, too.) Oops. 

Taking a page from Miss Blodgett over at YAMF, maybe I'll take a photo every time I wear a different cardi to get a true look at the size, shape, color and fit to help edit out a few.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Salt 'n Peppa

I'm in the market for some new salt and pepper shakers/containers to spruce up my kitchen a bit. I think my (new) huge counter space needs these modern and minimalist cellars. Keeping the gizmos and gadgets fresh and fun make being in the kitchen all the more fun.

ps. late(er) today, a intervention in cardigans. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cupcakes and Couture

The people over at Louis Vuitton have done it again with their incredible window displays. (remember my obsession with the circus windows?) Again, simple in presentation and message, it's so esthetically pleasing and jumps on board with the huge moment cupcakes are having right now. Cons to living in a smaller city--there's no window displays like this to check out.  Have a great weekend dolls. I'll try to be back later tonight with a post of willpower, shopping problems and a much needed rest of the debit card.

On one more side note---Dressing on the Side has reached 1000 page views and I couldn't be more excited or thankful for all of you coming back to see what I've (literally) been cooking up.  Your support means the world to me and I hope I'm bringing some great ideas and accessible cooking to your kitchen.  You deserve to the best and I'll keep working on making this everything it needs to be.

A few things you might have missed:

Glamour reviewed Ben & Jerry's new Greek frozen yogurt 

Minted Magazine recommended this book. (Mine arrived in the mail yesterday) 

Kasey Hamel Custom Design & Event Styling is sponsoring an event that could win you DIAMONDS.



Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cilantro-Lime Shrimp: an event in making the most of your kitchen...

 I hope you kids are prepared for this one. To be honest, I wasn't. At 70 degrees and a day spent at the dog park, I wasn't feeling standing over a hot stove--not quite sure what I was going to make for dinner. Ash Wednesday means no meat in this house and pizza and pasta always seemed like such a cop-out. With left over vegetables and shrimp from last week barely holding on...I put my imagination and scraps to work. All that's missing from this one is a frozen margarita (it's national Margarita day ya'll!)

This recipe is fresh and delicious, filling and light. It deserves a perfect late summer evening, good friends and fun cocktails. The shrimp is quickly sauteed in olive oil, where it meets garlic and cilantro before being added to a warm salad of roasted corn and red pepper tossed in a cilantro lime vinegarette. Don't be scared. This dish comes together in less than 30 minutes and with the recipes from last week, requires little more than a quick trip to the express lane. 

*this one is still calling for a better name--leave your suggestions in the comments please!

Cilantro-Lime Shrimp with Roasted Vegetables, served over brown rice
  • 36 (31-40 count) shrimp, cleaned and devained--tails on or off
  • 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 c plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 cups corn kernels, thawed
  • 1 large red bell pepper, trimmed and chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 avacado, chopped
  • 3 cups brown rice prepared to package directions
  • salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Prepare brown rice to the directions of the package. Here again, I used an instant variety. In a baking dish combine corn, red  pepper and onion. Lightly season the vegetables with salt and pepper and bake for about 20 minutes, stirring around occasionally. (*please please please don't skip this step to save a pan or think you should do it all stove-top. Roasting the corn makes it super sweet and delicious in a way that can't really be achieved any other way)

In a large bowl, zest then juice two limes. Grate in two cloves of garlic and stir in 1/2 cup of freshly chopped cilantro leaves. Add the cayenne, cumin , chili powder and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk in 1/2 cup of olive oil and set aside. 

In a deep skillet heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the shrimp and lightly season with salt and pepper. Grate in the remaining 2 cloves of garlic and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of cilantro. Cook until shrimp is just pink, then turn off heat. Add the corn and pepper mixture to the skillet and top with 1/2 the vinegarette. Stir together and allow to warm. Put the chopped tomato into the large bowl of vinegarette and transfer the shrimp, corn and pepper mixture to the large bowl. Stir every body together. When ready to serve, fold in the avacado. Serve the mixture over brown rice (or white rice, or in a burrito or over a salad).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Island Getaway

Last week temperatures around here were so mild it was hard to believe we were still in the dead of winter. We walked in the park without jackets or sweaters and ate lunch outside followed by waffle cones filled with handmade ice cream. It was a day straight from the dog days...not one that should've been spent with the winter blues. 

We decided to invite some friends over for a belated Valentine's double date and thought our dish should mirror the summer like weather. D and I deconstructed a pina colada and found those flavors to be the perfect pairing for an entree of baked coconut shrimp with a side of pineapple cilantro brown rice. Put on your sunglasses, you're going to believe you are on a tropical vacation with this one!

 *Forgive the pictures this time---my hands were covered in coconut and I was running behind on making dinner for our guests*

Baked Coconut Shrimp (serves 4):
  • 36 shrimp, peeled & devained, tail-on (31-40 count)
  • 1 1/2 c shredded coconut
  • 1/2 c corn meal 
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 large eggs with 1 tablespoon water, beaten until foamy
  • salt & pepper 
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.In a small bowl, combine corn meal, cayenne, salt and pepper. In a second bowl, beat eggs and water until foamy. Place coconut in a third bowl. With a clean dish towel, dry off all of the shrimp. One by one coat the shrimp in the cornmeal mixture--shake off the excess. Then dunk the shrimp in the egg and immediately coat with coconut. Place the shrimp on a baking sheet and continue until all shrimp are on the sheet (*you can put the shrimp right up against each other..they don't need room for expanding*) Bake for 10 minutes, turn the shrimp, and bake another 10 minutes until pink and slightly golden. 

Spiked Orange dipping sauce:
  • 1 cup orange marmalade
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon sriracha sauce (or other chili sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut rum
  • 1 tablespoon water
Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl, taste for heat---add more if desired. Set aside while shrimp bakes.

 Pineapple Cilantro Brown Rice:
  • 3 cups brown rice prepared to directions (I used an instant variety)
  • 1/2 c diced fresh pineapple
  • 1/4 c cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • salt & pepper to taste 
One rice is cooked, add pineapple, cilantro, butter, salt & pepper. It's that simple but looks, and tastes much more complex.

Sit back, relax and put an umbrella in your cocktail. Pool boy not included.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

 In an effort to save money and eat maybe just a little bit healthier, I've been accepting the challenge in the kitchen to recreate some of our favorite dishes from local restaurants. There was a period of time last spring we went out for burritos every Wednesday. While it became a delicious tradition filled with lots of cheese and sour cream and fresh chips--it also became an expensive habit for our wallets and resulted in some unsightly consequences right before summer. I haven't totally given up on those burritos but enjoy them now periodically, usually craving the black bean and corn salsa more-so than the burrito itself. The salsa is so good I typically eat 1/4 cup of the stuff before the chips even arrive. With so many tomatoes on hand on their way to the trash bin, I decided to whip up my own batch of black bean and corn salsa. The freshness is unmatched to any from a restaurant and I don't think I can ever enjoy salsa from a jar ever again. 

In the dead of winter this batch is making me crave sunny afternoons, margaritas and hopefully this year--a vegetable garden. 

5-6 roma or on-the-vine tomatoes, quartered
one 14oz can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 C frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 medium-large onion, quartered 
1 small jalapeno pepper, without ribs or seeds
2 cloves of garlic, grated
one large hand full fresh cilantro
salt and pepper
1/4 teaspon chili powder
1/4 teaspon ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper

In a food processor add tomatoes, onion,jalapeno, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, salt & pepper, and 2 grated cloves of garlic. Pulse 5-8 times to desired consistency (this takes almost no time at all). Add the beans and corn to a large bowl, then add in fresh salsa from the food processor and stir. Try to open the bag of chips before eating the entire batch of salsa!

If you like a little more heat, add some extra cayenne or leave the seeds and ribs in the jalapeno to kick up the heat. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pumpkin Doughnuts!

Walking around Target yesterday I couldn't understand why there was an instant magnetic connection between me and a doughnut pan. I never stopped to touch it or even mention it to Dane. I didn't want to think about it. I had no use for it. I had never made doughnuts...I had never THOUGHT about making doughnuts...why was this little gadget whispering my name as I gazed longingly over my shoulder at its resting spot on the shelf?

Maybe it was the little first grade me inside, longing after a treat for which I had been nicknamed after, due to my similarity in shape. Maybe my heft, they thought, was caused by the treat. Maybe...just maybe, that little pan knew a little bit more about the plans for my day than I did. 

And so once out of sight the pan was out of mind and I didn't think about doughnuts again....until I stumbled (no really, I stumbled. I wasn't looking or searching or googling or hoping that maybe I'd find something..) upon a baked doughnut recipe whose ingredients were a measly 10 feet away from my couch. So I pondered and wandered and slowly retrieved all the ingredients and ended my night snacking on pumpkin doughnuts with a cinnamon glaze. 

After throwing out the first batch of dough due to an issue with piping with a wide bottomed ziploc bag, I immediately understood the connection at Target. That pan knew I needed it; I had failed to notice. 

I found this recipe over at Weelicious and love the *mini* treats I ended up with. 

For the doughnuts(makes 24 mini doughnuts/12 standard):
by:Weelicious (and obviously a little bit adapted)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour (the first batch I used 1 C whole wheat, 1 cup all purpose)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract *dressing on the side addition*
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (I used light brown)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 c canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Then set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer cream together butter and brown sugar. Then add in the egg, vanilla, milk and pumpkin until combined. On stir, slobwly add in dry ingredients until just combined.  If you are smart and have purchased a doughnut pan, fill the pan and bake 12-15 minutes. If you do not have a doughnut pan you can still be smart, but make sure you have a regular, standard, gallon size Ziploc bag (I had a 'wide bottom' variety and it does NOT at all work for piping). Fold over the top 1/4 of the bag and proceed to fill the rest of the bag with the dough. Cut off 1/2 inch from one of the bottom corners, twist the top of the bag and begin making doughnuts. I ended up using a disposable cake decorating bag. Carefully pipe doughnut shapes onto the pan, about an inch apart--this is how mine ended up mini. My smaller doughnuts took 12 minutes to bake--the bottom is just slightly starting to brown, but the whole texture is soft and cakey like a fried delicious doughnut.

For the glaze:
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 C powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
Whisk in a bowl while doughnuts are cooling. Either drizzle the doughnuts OR even better, dunk the doughnuts in the icing and place on a cooling rack (put a paper towel under the rack for easy clean up) and allow glazing to set. 

I wouldn't exactly call these healthy but I would call them a skinnier version of a classic and a safer version for an at home treat. Plus, just saying 'I made doughnuts!' sounds so fancy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Heart of the matter...

It wouldn't be right to let Valentine's Day pass without some acknowledgement considering it's our first as a married couple--but I've got to be honest, since our November wedding it's been nothing but holidays and all the fuss that comes with them.  There was hosting our first Thanksgiving, our first married Christmas and New Year's. Then there was my birthday and next week is Dane's. It's hard enough to keep up with life, let alone a year's worth of holidays in eight weeks. It's even more tough to not let these special days go by without notice or acknowledgement--after all--these special moments all deserve to be celebrated in their own right no matter what their proximity is to each other.

So...we celebrated simply with new toothbrushes (nope, not those fancy ones with 100 settings), I'm talking generic store brand for $1. We are livin' it up, baby. 

I fried up heart shaped eggs for breakfast.

...and made some garland for a sweet after work surprise. 

I loved on my Tiffany's heart shaped, make-shift wedding band (until we have one made to fit with my custom ring). 

and arranged a bunch of carnations into a tightly packed pink pouf of freshness on our kitchen table.

I swooned over the cuteness of these cookies made by a friend...(Lauren Fechter, DOTS is jealy of your peanut butter & jelly hearts!)

and made sure Ranger wasn't left out....(a new XXL orange loofa dog!)

and wished and wished there was more time in the day for us to spend together.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Perfect Match...

 On the one day of the year specifically set aside for love it only makes sense to honor one of the most perfect pairings in the confectionary world :: chocolate + peanut butter. While it's hard to adorn these babies with red and pink and hearts, there's no shortage of love felt as soon as you take that first bite. 

Other perfect pairings I have yet to tire of... grilled cheese + tomato soup, chihuahuas + great danes, Kathie Lee + Hoda...

For the cupcakes I used the chocolate cupcake recipe found over at Serious Eats. I used a few Dressing on the Side techniques and adaptations to enhance and customize the cakes, as noted in the recipe below. The peanut butter frosting was one I tried out last year and have been trying to find a way to use it again. The stuff is DANGEROUS. Frost your cupcakes BEFORE tasting the frosting...seriously.

Chocolate Cupcakes (makes 10-12 standard cupcakes)
by:Serious Eats, adapted by yours truly!
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour ( you guessed it, I used whole wheat!)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (I used the buttermilk technique again (1 Tbsp white vinegar + 1 C milk) and it was a leftover batch from the previous worked perfectly)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee (Dressing on the Side addition)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl + hand mixer) add the egg and sugar and cream until light. Add in oil, buttermilk and vanilla extract. When combined add in the instant coffee. Once combined, on low speed, slowly add the dry mixture until combined. Spoon the batter (again, I use a 1/4 c measuring cup as a guide) into cupcake liners and bake for 25 minutes or until center is just done. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
by: Framed Cooks .....adapted by:DOTS
  • 8oz package of cream cheese, softened (I used reduced fat)
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) of butter, softened
  • 1/2 c smooth peanut butter (I used a natural variety but not fresh ground)
  • 1 1/2 c powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
In a stand mixer with the whisk setting, cream together butter and cream cheese. Depending on how soft these are it can take a few minutes. Add the peanut butter and vanilla. Slowly add the powdered sugar until combined, scraping the sides of the mixer as needed. I refrigerated mine before frosting the cupcakes (about 30 minutes). 
I used a pastry bag without a tip to frost the cupcakes (I'm working on my cake decorating collection). As for the little toppers, I had some chocolate covered peanuts in the house and used those as the finishing touch on the cupcakes. These are sure to please anyone without a peanut or chocolate allergy and the coffee adds a depth of flavor to the cake itself. 

Happy hearts day! 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Manic Monday...

Hey dolls! Things are a little crazy/slightly under the weather today (which does not make for a good cook).  See you tomorrow for some NEW and YUMMY treats and recipes that you won't want to miss. Just a thought to leave your Monday behind you!


Friday, February 10, 2012

Cold Front, Warm Belly...

As a cold front comes through the east coast this weekend and yet another day off is filled with gloomy grey clouds--I've made yet another batch of soup. Around here we've had lots of late nights working and our eating schedules have been out of whack--but we've vowed to not visit a drive matter how tempting it may be. In an effort to totally obliterate the mere thought of a drive-thru, I have been working hard at planning ahead (although sometimes these ideas don't go as planned, as it becomes hard to keep spoons and fingers out of the delicious pot). 

Today I followed this recipe that combines the nostalgic flavors of tomato soup and grilled cheese with a sophisticated balance of sweet and tang with the addition of goat cheese. I omitted the heavy cream (so, my fridge is super cold, and the cream was shoved to the back and FROZE...literally, a solid block of cream). The soup was thick and creamy and everything you would hope for in a grown up tomato soup. Add some grilled cheese croutons and you have a soup ready for a lazy Friday night or a Sunday family dinner.

*Funny side note:: I'll only makes soups and sauces with one specific wooden spoon. It doesn't have any special meaning and wasn't a life changing just doesn't seem right without it.

Goat Cheese Tomato Soup
by: A Cozy Kitchen
as always--modified by me!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, diced (about 1 onion)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28 ounce) can of whole San Marzano tomatoes [okay so the closest grocery store to me kinda stinks and has a very limited variety of items...I ended up using ground organic worked out okay but didn't quite have the deliciousness of a San Marzano.)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 ounces goat cheese, softened ( I have a heavy hand when it comes to goat cheese, I love the stuff..I probably used closer to 4-5 I could snack on it of course).

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and saute for about 5-7 minutes, Add the garlic to the top of the diced onions and cook for about 1 minute, or until fragrant.

Add in the tomato paste and cook out for about a minute. This will develop a deeper tomato flavor.  Then add in the tomatoes, sugar, stock, salt and pepper. Sitr and cook for 20 minutes on medium-low.

Working in batches, transfer the soup into a blender (in my case, a smoothie maker) and blend on low, stopping to allow steam to escape. Remember to never fill a blender with hot liquid more than 1/3 of the way. I put the blended batches in a second pot, or you could set in a separate bowl while blending the other batches. The soup will be thick and slightly chunky in texture...if you prefer a smoother soup, pour the blended soup through a sieve over the pot.

Reheat the soup until hot and melt in goat cheese. Try not to eat it all. 

Have a great weekend dolls! Next week we'll have some yummy treats to look forward to!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Disney Inspired Strawberry Cupcakes

It's amazing the power our senses have to deeply imbed memories without asking permission to steal these moments.  The smells and tastes of a meal can stick with you forever, even in small hints and notes, and force you back to a different time. A time of celebration upon a first taste of a vanilla custard reminiscent of that filling in your childhood birthday cake, a time of sadness with a blackberry jelly filled doughnut at a funeral brunch, a spicy heat distinctive to only the salsa enjoyed on the beaches of Mexico. Some things just don't leave you--even if you barely remember them being there in the first place.

Most bring up positive, happy memories--others have just marked moments in time. The cupcakes mark a time of big girl panties, of rolling with the punches, of DOING today instead of waiting until tomorrow, of carpe diem.

...That was all a little deep. Let's get real. At the end of the day they are CUPCAKES and no day with cupcakes is a bad one. It's impossible. You try it. You have a bad day when you're eating a cupcake. You have a bad memory involving a delicious, fresh, homemade with love cupcake. It's impossible.

These strawberry cupcakes are moist and fresh and delicious---and will store the flavors of fresh strawberries deep in your palate that will bring to the surface a time of celebration, a time of progress forward. I made mine Mickey/Minnie Mouse themed for a friend and they were a huge hit with everyone. They'd be perfect for a birthday party, a summer bbq or as always here at Dressing on the Side---a midweek slump that needs a little extra lovin'

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Butter-cream frosting
adapted from Martha Stewart (this makes about 30 cupcakes, I halved the recipe and made 12 standard cupcakes plus 8 mini cupcakes--for quality control tasting...duh)

cupcake ingredients:
1 3/4 C sugar
1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter softened at room temperature.
3 C whole wheat flour (or regular all-purpose)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 C milk
10 oz fresh strawberries, small dice
dark chocolate rounds

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a mixer with paddle attachment combine the butter and sugar until fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the eggs one at a time until combined, then add in the vanilla. On the low setting of the mixer add the flour mixture by thirds, alternating with the milk. (It should go 1/3 flour mixture, 1/2 milk, 1/3 flour mixture, 1/2 milk, 1/3 flour mixture). Then fold in the strawberries. Fill your cupcake liners 2/3-3/4 full (I usually use a 1/4 cup as a guide). For this occasion being Disney themed, I used a red cupcake liner with white polka dots---(a little Mickey/Minnie ode).

For the icing (***okay, so this as a plain vanilla recipe is amazing, with the addition of fresh strawberries it became a little runny--so for next time I'd include an extra 1/4 C butter and an extra 1/2 C sugar--the extra sugar works for these cupcakes because the slight tartness of the strawberries creates a balance)
1 1/4 C butter softened at room temperature
2 1/2 - 3 C powdered sugar (start with 2 and increase by 1/4 cups as you incorporate other ingredients including strawberries)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
~7 medium strawberries finely diced.

In a stand mixer whip the butter for about 2-3 minutes. By 1/4 cups add the powdered sugar until 2 cups are combined. Add the vanilla and whip another minute. Add in the strawberries and whip on setting 2-4 for about a minute/2 (I liked that the strawberries broke up even more and made the icing pink) Check the consistency and add the last of the powdered sugar by 1/4 cups. Stop when you've reach desired 
consistency (so it might take anywhere from 2-3 cups of the sugar). My icing was a little runny but it spread across the cupcakes wonderfully and some of the strawberry juice soaked into the cupcakes over night. You could also refrigerate the icing before piping for a stiffer icing to be served immediately.

When the cupcakes are completely cooled pipe on the icing and add 2 chocolate rounds as  3D Mickey/Minnie ears or add 3 chocolate rounds as a 2D Minnie/Mickey silhouette. 

These cakes (more importantly their frosting) deserve a second go-round in my kitchen). They deserve to be perfect--but for now they're a delicious work in progress.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Hey there kittens! I know I promised cupcakes today but I can't quite get the words out right, hang in there--they'll be up by the end of the week and you won't be disappointed. Today I leave you with a few more of my kitchen faves and shortcuts...

I'm not sure how I ever lived (or cooked or baked) without the KitchenAid Stand Mixer.  By far the best gift I've received to date. The candy apple red brightens up the counter tops and is impossible to not love

available here

I'm going to call this the second best gift ever received...the two-tier fruit basket from crate & barrel. We have already covered the quantities of produce brought into our house on a weekly basis--this sits pretty on the counter top and easily holds a dozen apples and our five pounds of bananas. I'm considering purchasing a second for onions and potatoes.

$19.95 at Crate & Barrel
With all of my new baking adventures (and attempts at portion control) I have been stocking up and investing in a wide variety of pretty cupcake liners.  My collection isn't quite this big yet, but I love the idea of storing them in plain sight and using them for all different things besides baking (think:organization, food prep, etc. I have been stocking up at craft stores, dollar bins, and grocery aisles and I'm particularly fond of the polka dot variety to be featured tomorrow on Disney Inspired cupcakes. 

spotted on Pintrest via Reasons to Breathe

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Affordable Fashions

Sunday was one of those rare occurances that both men and women equally waited for in anxious anticipation.  There was planning involved. There was probably food involved (game day snacks, early morning mimosas--coffee plentiful for the earliest of risers). There was screaming in both excitement and frustration. There were undoubtedly foul plays. There was little sleep. It was the balance of his and hers of what some might consider epic proportions. It was the Super Bowl (literally & figuratively). It was the Jason Wu for Target launch.

While I was not up and in line before stores even opened, I browsed online for my Jason Wu for Target wish list. These are a few pieces I wouldn't mind picking up....

1.Long-sleeve sheer blouse in white with black ribbon
2.pleated skirt in navy floral stripe tote
4.long-sleeve sailor sweater in black/cream stripes
5.long-sleeve pointelle sweater in red (to add to my collection of 42 cardigans and counting....hmm maybe I should pitch this to TLC for a show..)

You'd think I would be more on top on getting out early to try to snag some of these designer for Target lines. I was pretty disappointed that I missed most of Missoni and ended up with a fabric storage box for our kitchen and some rain boots for my niece. I have got to be completely honest though, while I love several other pieces of this collection...they're not a one-size-fits-all kind of cut. The thicker fabrics and heavy pleating just aren't flattering on everyone (me being 'everyone'). 

Did anyone else get any Jason Wu (or other designer) for Target?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Broccoli Chedddar Soup

I didn't realize I was such a fan of soup until I started whipping up all different kinds this winter.  What started after Thanksgiving with tired turkey leftovers has turned into all kinds of varieties and twists on restaurant worthy favorites. Cleaning out the fridge last week I got into a stare down with a four pound bag of broccoli florettes...(yeah, I know--we buy a ridiculous amount of produce in bulk--5 lbs of bananas... 4 lbs of broccoli...3 lbs of apples.......and a partridge in a pantry?) What can I say, we know what we like and where some see excess I see an opportunity to cook and create new things.

That bag of broccoli inspired a soup worthy of lunch, dinner--or a (cold) midnight snack straight from the pot (yeah buddy, it's THAT good). It's the perfect balance of broccoli and cheese and with just a few tablespoons of butter and skim milk, fairly guiltless for your gut. 

As a side note...I also plan on buying 'take out' types of containers to see who I can fool into thinking my foods have come straight from some favorite restaurants--I made a Japanese hibatchi style dinner that could've come straight from the local spots,only with far less fat, salt and additives. 

Lighten Up! Broccoli Cheddar Soup

1 cup chopped onion
3 cups low sodium chicken (or vegetable) broth
2 cups milk (any variety, I used skim)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter divided 
2 cups cheddar (or reduced fat cheddar) shredded
4 cups broccoli florettes, roughly chopped
4 Tbsp flour (I used whole wheat)
2 cloves garlic, grated
salt & pepper

In a large pot melt 2 Tbsp butter over medium heat and add in onions. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes. Grate in garlic cloves and add the broccoli. Lightly salt the pot (~1/4 tsp) and cook about 2 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat once a boil is reached, cover, and simmer until broccoli is al dente.

In the meantime in a medium sauce pan melt 4 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Whisk in 4 Tbsp flour and cook for about a minute.  Slowly whisk in the milk until combined and allow to lightly bubble and thicken. This takes about two minutes. Reduce heat to low and whisk in cheese a handful at a time. 

When all the cheese is melted in to the sauce, slowly add 1/4 cup of the broccoli broth to the sauce pan. This will bring the cheese sauce to the same temperature to reduce the risk of the dairy separating out when combined. 

Add the cheese sauce to the broccoli pot and stir thoroughly. Allow to simmer until broccoli is desired tenderness. At this point use an immersion blender to smooth soup to desired texture--or if you're like me--use a potato masher to break up the broccoli (I liked having chunkier pieces of broccoli).

Sit back, put in a movie and enjoy your soup!

Friday, February 3, 2012

A birthday in pictures...

Before I even finished yesterday's post about my rainy milestones and new boots the sun began to peek from behind the dark clouds and stream through the blinds.  I didn't think much of it as I was sure I'd jinx it but then something crazy kept coming out! The Port City definitely delivered in weather for my birthday (72 degrees and sunny skies!) so I snapped a bunch of pictures to share a photo diary of my day.

We walked in the park to enjoy the weather and see the geese and turtles. Then we took a trip downtown to the river to eat lunch (we've established how much I LOVE a lunch date..outside) at a local spot, Mixto--that features contemporary latin food. We enjoyed pineapple mojitos, fresh salsa and roasted pulled chicken with avacado chipolte spread and cuban style fries (they also have this incredible cuban style ketchup that's smokey and slightly spicy that I love to mix with the sweetness of traditional ketchup for a custom dip).  We walked along the river to take in some winter sun and stopped by Hot Pink Cake Stand for a Reese's and Oreo cupcake. A perfect, non-rainy birthday, despite early morning clouds.