Peanut butter is the icing on the cake

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One of my coworkers had a birthday last week, which means I did some baking. This coworker requested chocolate cupcakes, so I knew I’d turn to the Joy of Cooking for the cupcake recipe. But the frosting was where I wanted to have some fun.

My mom always made buttercream frosting for cupcakes, but I’ve always found most frosting to be too sweet for my taste. I remembered this coworker being fond of peanut butter, so I looked around for a recipe online for peanut butter frosting and came across this one.

The original recipe called for creamy peanut butter, but I only ever buy crunchy, so I used that. The frosting held up well and complemented the cupcakes nicely. It’s definitely a nice alternative to the more common options.

Ingredients
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream

Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

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Salmon makes a summery sandwich

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I haven’t done much cooking lately. I’ve been looking through my new cookbooks—Curtis Stone’s “Good Food, Good Life” and the Smitten Kitchen cookbook—and have been dining out a lot because it’s Dine Around Seattle month, and when I’m home I’ve been eating a lot of tacos and other homemade concoctions that I haven’t felt were exciting enough to share.

Yesterday I found myself with a couple hours at home, so I wanted to cook so I’d have something to blog about. Especially since I failed to post something last week. I pulled my Barefoot Contessa “Foolproof” cookbook off the shelf and found a recipe for a Salmon and Guacamole sandwich. I had most of the ingredients on hand, so I decided to put this together with a bit of improvisation. The original makes four sandwiches, but the one below makes one.

Ciabatta has been on my list of recipes to try for quite a while now. In lieu of having made any, I decided to just use some multigrain bread I had on hand. But I did get some ciabatta started. Hopefully I’ll have that to share next week.

Since I’m not a big fan of guacamole, I didn’t put all the usual stuff in it. I really like the flavor of fresh avocados on their own, and I’ve always felt the pepper and other additions just detract from that. For this recipe, I kept it simple.

Ingredients
2-3 slices of uncured turkey bacon, baked until crisp
1 4-ounce salmon filet, baked
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 avocado
1 green onion, chopped
1/2 tablespoon La Victoria jalapeño sauce
Pinch of salt
4 leaves of fresh spinach
2 slices of multigrain bread, or a ciabatta roll

If you haven’t baked the bacon or the salmon, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the bacon on a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, place salmon in a baking dish and squeeze lemon juice on it. Once the timer goes off, place the salmon in the oven with the bacon and bake for 15 more minutes, or until salmon is cooked all the way through and the bacon is crisp.

Scoop the avocado into a small bowl and mash with a spoon. Add green onion, jalapeño sauce, and salt and stir until combined. Spread mixture onto one slice of bread. Place the salmon on top. Add bacon and spinach and top with other slice. Serve.

Not your basic breaded chicken

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When fall rolls around, I tend to haul out my cookbooks and start looking for recipes I haven’t tried. The colder weather makes me crave savory soups and roasted meats, and I’m always looking for new ways to keep it interesting. I pulled out my copy of “Foolproof” by the Barefoot Contessa. I was shocked to realize that, although it was a gift I’d received last Christmas, I had yet to try any of the recipes.

Since it was a Tuesday after work, I wanted to keep it simple and use things I had on hand. Despite living pretty close to a grocery story, once I’m in my apartment and out of the rain, I’m reluctant to go outside again. I settled on this recipe for Crispy Mustard-Roasted Chicken.

It’s a pretty basic breaded chicken recipe, but the dijon mustard takes the flavor to the next level, so you really don’t need anything else to jazz it up. It was a perfect dinner for a weeknight and one I’ll definitely turn to again.

Ingredients
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups panko (Japanese bread flakes)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup Dijon mustard, such as Grey Poupon
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) chicken, cut in eighths

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the garlic, thyme, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the garlic is finely minced. Add the panko, lemon zest, olive oil, and butter and pulse a few times to moisten the bread flakes. Pour the mixture onto a large plate. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the mustard and wine.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Sprinkle generously all over with salt and pepper. Dip each piece in the mustard mixture to coat on all sides, and then place skin-side down only into the crumb mixture, pressing gently to make the crumbs adhere. Place the chicken on a sheet pan crumb-side up. Press the remaining crumbs on the chicken pieces.

Bake the chicken for 40 minutes. Raise the heat to 400 degrees F and bake for another 10 minutes, until the crumbs are browned and the chicken is cooked through. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

A one-dish meal fit for a dad

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My dad does not have fancy taste. While some dads might have white-collar jobs and commute in SUVs, mine wears a uniform and commutes on a motorcycle. Some dads might like to dine at a fancy restaurant, but mine prefers to eat his meals out of a bowl after a long day at work.

I recently purchased some bay scallops from the store. While the usual idea of just searing them and having them with a side of cous cous crossed my mind, I wanted to do something more interesting. I looked around for ideas online and came across The Barefoot Contessa’s recipe for bay scallop gratin. I had all but one ingredient — the absinthe — on hand, so I did without it. I scaled down the original recipe so it only made two servings, since I only had a half-pound of scallops.

My favorite thing about the gratin is that it was easy to assemble and put in the oven after work. During the cooking process, the butter and wine came together to form a sort of seafood broth that added a ton of flavor to the scallops. The panko added a slightly crunchy topping that was a nice contrast to the texture of everything below it. A slice of bread was a nice addition that helped soak up the remaining broth.

This one-dish meal is something I think my dad might enjoy. Happy Father’s Day.

Bayscallopgratin2Ingredients
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 medium shallots, minced
1 ounce thinly sliced prosciutto di Parma, minced
1 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoons Pernod (absinthe)
1 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1/4 cup panko
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1/2 pound fresh bay scallops
Lemon, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place 2 (6-inch round) gratin dishes on a sheet pan.

To make the topping, place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (you can also use a hand mixer). With the mixer on low speed, add the garlic, shallot, prosciutto, parsley, lemon juice, Pernod, salt, and pepper and mix until combined. With the mixer still on low, add the olive oil slowly as though making mayonnaise, until combined. Fold the panko in with a rubber spatula and set aside.

Preheat the broiler, if it’s separate from your oven.

Place 1 tablespoon of the wine in the bottom of each gratin dish. With a small sharp knife, remove the white muscle and membrane from the side of each scallop and discard. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels and divide them among both dishes. Spoon the garlic butter evenly over the top of the scallops. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the topping is golden and sizzling and the scallops are barely done. If you want the top crustier, place the dishes under the broiler for 2 minutes, until browned. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of chopped parsley and serve immediately with crusty French bread.

Potato salad fit for summer

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The warmer weather in Tahoe has me thinking about being outside — and the food that comes with it.

Summer is a time for barbecues and picnics, and potato salad is one of the first dishes that comes to mind when I think of eating outside.

Champagne vinegar and dijon mustard are the dominate flavors in this version of the dish. The first time I used champagne vinegar in potato salad was after watching an episode of the Barefoot Contessa in which Ina Garten made this French Potato Salad. I hadn’t considered the combination before, but it has since become my go-to ingredient.

The recipe below is based on Garten’s recipe. I didn’t have all of the ingredients her recipe called for, so I improvised. If you’re looking for an alternative to your mom’s potato salad recipe, this is a great option.

Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds baby gold Yukon potatoes
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
3 tablespoons chicken broth
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
10 leaves of spinach or basil, ripped into small pieces
A small bunch of chives, cut into small pieces
Dash of salt
Dash each of garlic powder, onion powder

Boil the potatoes in a pot of water for 20-30 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain pot. Let potatoes cool for about 10 minutes. Cut into quarters and place in a medium bowl. Add vinegar and chicken broth. Toss gently and let sit until the potatoes have soaked up the liquid.

Once the liquid has been absorbed, add the mayonnaise, dijon mustard, chives and spinach or basil. Mix and add salt and spices to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.