Friday, February 20, 2009

Tahini Dressing

This one comes from Julie. She says, "I actually made something that tasted so good I wanted to sing it from my rooftop but instead I remembered your blog." Personally, I'm thrilled that Julie remembered Beets and Bonbons as a way to share her favorite recipes, but singing the dressing's praises from her rooftop would have made for an excellent story! Reminds me of the new Dunkin Donuts coffee commercial. Have you seen it?

Julie uses this dressing as a veggie dip and also a spread for wraps. She suggests some fresh veggies and shrimp as a filler. Sounds delicious!! Can't wait to try it, myself!

Tahini Dressing

8oz of tahini (I like Joyva brand best - it's in an orange tin)
a few squirts of lime
3 minced garlic cloves or some garlic powder
1 tbsp cilantro
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper

Put all in blender or food processor, adding just enough water to make it "blendable." It should be a thick, creamy consistency.


[Photo by Editrix, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.]

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ricotta, Spinach and Prosciutto Ravioli

As part two (part one?) of our Valentine's Day dinner, I decided to make these raviolis from an Everyday Italian episode by Giada de Laurentis. I saw the episode years ago and jotted down the ingredients and cooking instructions the best I could. When I happened on the recipe this weekend, I could barely distinguish my chicken scratch. Thank goodness for the Internet, which houses answers to all my questions. I found the recipe posted, and adapted, on another food blog site, Cookbook Catchall. 

For the recipe and adaptation, click here.

For the sauce, I kept the butter and substituted dried sage for the oregano. It was delicious!


Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Our recent trip to Nashville, TN and our cupcake taste test inspired me to try making my own, and what a better opportunity to do so than Valentine's Day. I treated myself to a "Cupcake Kit" from The Chocolate Moose mainly to get the cute cupcake wrappers and pastry bag. It also comes with a recipe book with recipes for basic vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, cream cheese and chocolate frosting plus a handful of fancier cupcakes infusing fruits and other flavors. Below is the basic recipe for chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. I added the heart-shaped York peppermint patties as (edible) decoration.
Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 12 (I halved the recipe, to make 6)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules dissolved in 2 teaspoons water
2/3 cup buttermilk (any fat content)
  • Sift the flower, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl.
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixture on medium speed until smoothly blended, about 1 minute. Scrape sides of bowl as needed.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, beating until each is blended into the batter and it looks creamy, about 1 minute. Mix in the vanilla and dissolved coffee. On low speed, add half of the flour mixture, mixing just to incorporate it. Mix in the buttermilk to blend in. Mix in the remaining flour mixture until it is incorporated and the batter is smooth.
  • Spoon the batter into cupcake liners set in a muffin tin and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 3 cups, for 12 cupcakes
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla with an electric mixer on low speed until smooth and thoroughly blended, about 1 minute. Scrape sides of bowl as needed.
  • Add the powdered sugar, mixing until smooth, about 1 minute, then beat on medium speed for 1 minute to lighten it further. 
  • Spread on cooled cupcakes.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

On the Road: Nashville, Tennessee

For what may be a new feature for this blog, I introduce On the Road, a post on the unique finds and culinary adventures to my latest trip. This one comes from Nashville, Tennessee.

Having never been to Nashville, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I was hoping for some good southern cooking, and of course plenty of cowboy boots and country music. The city did not disappoint. I share with you a few of the highlights. The first breakfast on our list was
Monell's - good, old fashioned country cooking.

1235 6th Avenue N
Nashville, TN

The concept of
Monell's, all-you-can-eat country cooking served family style, would lead anyone to believe that it is just another tourist trap. A hokey experience with tacky decor, mediocre food, and a gift shop. Your assumption couldn't be more incorrect.

Upon entering Monell's, you feel like you've entered someone's home. The restaurant has only a few rooms, each housing roughly one table for 12. As your party arrives, you may have to wait a few minutes to be seated because they like to fill up the entire table for each seating. Things move slower in the south and you should not get impatient during your wait, because the true sense of family style dining, often with complete strangers in this case, is an experience to enjoy. Fortunately, this place is so popular that it doesn't take long for enough people to arrive. Monell's has a garden, with benches and swings (and fun garden gnomes), to pass the time on a nice day.

Once seated, a waiter comes over with instructions. Everything is served family style. Food will be brought out as it is ready. Please pass the platters to you left. And, if you run out of anything, or want more, just ask! Your food will be out in 5-8 minutes. Simple enough.

The three of us were seated with another couple and seven southern women in a book club. They were discussing To Kill A Mockingbird. It seemed fitting.

Shortly thereafter, the food arrived in what can only be described as a parade. One dish after another, it kept coming. Biscuits, gravy, sausage, bacon, ham, pancakes, eggs, corn pudding, potatoes, cheese grits, and, as is served at every Monell's meal - fried chicken.

Monell's slogan sums up the experience beautifully: "I've eaten and I can't get up."

1314 5th Avenue N
Nashville, TN

Next on our stop was not so much to eat, but to browse. Lazzaroli Pasta was a must-stop pasta store for our resident Nashvillian, so that she could stock up on fresh made pastas and sauces for the week. What a cute little place, and very nice owners (straight from Philadelphia, I might add). We were so curious about the sign in their window ("PATSA") that we just had to ask. Fortunately, they were well aware of the spelling mistake, but had such a great sense of humor that they decided to hang it anyway. Lazzaroli also has a very nice selection of Italian meats and cheeses, oils, vinegars and flavored salts (truffle salt!).

Ivey Cake (right)     and      Curious Gourmet Cupcake (left)
100 4th Ave N 318 Main Street
Franklin, TN Franklin, TN

Next stop - Franklin, TN. An adorable little town just about a half hour from downtown Nashville. Here the streets are lined with independently owned shops, restaurants, and cupcake bakeries (two!). So, we had to do a taste test! With such flavors as devil's food cake, Boston creme pie, lemon, coconut, red velvet, vanilla with vanilla, chocolate with chocolate etc. it was really hard to decide. As you can see, we picked six flavors overall, to share among four people. They were all delicious! Curious Gourmet piled their icing higher, Ivey Cake has more options, so depending on your mood, I think it is safe to say that you can't go wrong with cupcakes in Franklin, Tennessee.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I see a trend here. Looking back over the past few posts, I seem to be all about blueberries. Good thing, since they are one of the foods often recognized as a superfood - a food that, by itself, has incredible health benefits, whether it be antioxidants, dietary fiber, vitamin C, or the like.

Doing a little more research, it looks like beets fall into this category too. At least by some accounts. Now to prove that bonbons are good for you, and I'll be set. (Perhaps if they are made of dark chocolate!)

I don't know how much about superfoods has been proven, but I do know that incorporating any of these into your diet can't hurt too much. Here is one list of superfoods, as a guide:

  • Beans
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Oats
  • Oranges
  • Pumpkin
  • Salmon
  • Soy
  • Spinach
  • Tea (green or black)
  • Tomatoes
  • Turkey
  • Walnuts
  • Yogurt

Blueberry-Coconut Muffins

I almost want to take my previous Blueberry Muffin post down because I made these the other night and they were SO much better! The consistency of the muffin was not as dense, more a mix between a muffin and pound cake. And the coconut? Delicious. Mixed into the batter it forms a bit of a crisp. A little crunch in each bite.

Blueberry-Coconut Muffins
(which I found on
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup blueberries (I used frozen)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter and flour 7 (1/2-cup) muffin cups (just butter if nonstick).

Beat together butter, sugar, and zest until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in cream, then flour and salt, on low speed until just combined. Stir in 1/2 cup coconut and gently stir in blueberries.

Spoon batter into cups, filling the cups, and smooth tops. Sprinkle tops with remaining 3 tablespoons of coconut.

Bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean and edges are golden brown, about 25 minutes. Invert onto a rack and cool.

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