Sunday, March 27, 2011

Seared Ahi Tuna full of flavor!

I wish I could live off these awesome tacos!

I designed this recipe to encompass it all- healthy, rich flavors and wonderful textures. This is a dish you will want to make repeatedly!

The Chipotle Mayo and Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette dressing that go along with this recipe are also very versatile. Use these 2 recipes in other dishes you prepare throughout the week--Spread some Chipotle Mayo on your sandwich....add the Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette to your favorite salad....etc!

Seared Ahi Tuna Tacos- woweee!!!!

Seared Ahi Tuna (outside is browned, center is raw)

Notice all the flavors and textures!

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette Dressing

Seared Tuna Tacos (Brenna)
Author: Brenna Bowers 
Serving: 2 people (2-3 small tacos each)

¾ pound fresh Ahi Tuna steaks*
2 tsp Montreal stake seasoning
1 avocado, cubed
1 cup cabbage, shredded (optional)
½ cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
2 green onion stalks, chopped
2 Tablespoon fresh cilantro
½ cup grilled corn, sliced off the cob (optional)
1 cup black beans (optional)
4-6 fresh corn tortillas (small)

Chipotle mayo:
Adobo chili sauce* (to taste)
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup mayo
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Sesame Honey Lime Vinaigrette:
2 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 small lime, zest and juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoon honey
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
salt and pepper
2 Tablespoon cilantro, minced
1-2 Tablespoon green onion, minced
dash Tabasco
¼  Tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of fresh garlic and ginger (optional)

Sprinkle the tuna steaks with Montreal steak seasoning.
Place a large skillet on one of the large burners of your stove. Lightly spray the pan with olive oil spray (just to keep the tuna from sticking).
Turn on the flame to high heat. Once the pan is very hot, place the tuna onto the pan. It should make a wonderful sizzling sound (if not, remove the tuna and wait until your pan gets hotter). Sear for about 2-3 minutes per side or until the meat become brown on the outside (to sear is to get a golden brown color on the outside of  the meat while not completely cooking the center…browning and searing creates great flavor).
Once all the sides of the tuna steaks have been seared (the middle still raw) remove it from the heat onto a plate. Let it rest about 2 minutes and then slice into chunks.

Chipotle mayo:
In a small bowl, combine the Adobo chili sauce, sour cream, mayo, and lime juice. Chill until ready to use.

Cilantro Lime Dressing:
In a small bowl, whisk all the ingredients until well mixed.

In a medium bowl toss the avocado, cabbage, tomatoes, green onion, cilantro, black beans and grilled corn in a couple of the Tablespoons of the Cilantro Lime Dressing.
Heat up the fresh tortillas (Tip 1). Spread a thin layer of the Chipotle Mayo onto the tortilla, add the seared tuna and a few spoonfuls of the veggie mixture.

*Purchase good quality Ahi Tuna- buy “sushi grade” for you are not cooking this meat all the way through so you want to be careful where you purchase from. My recommendation is Whole Foods (

*Adobo Sauce explained by Wikipedia: “adobo sauce is a condiment in which chipotles (smoked, ripe jalapeño peppers) are stewed in a sauce with tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, salt, and spices.”

Tip 1: My family prefers to heat tortillas over a pan on the stove (about 10-15 seconds per each side of a tortilla). But another quick way to heat tortillas easily is to place the stack of tortillas you will be eating into a clean kitchen towel. Place it in the microwave in 30 second increments until they are all heated through.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Carrot Cake Cookies- these make me smile...

As many of you well know, amongst one of my favorite foods is Carrot Cake. I am constantly looking for more ways to use carrots in my baked goods.....this is one more  wonderful recipe that does the trick! These cookies are very easy to make, a recipe your friends will really enjoy, and tastes great warmed up in the microwave or chilled in the freezer.
Make this recipe your own by adding ingredients such as ginger, allspice, raisins, different nuts, etc

*I personally have adjusted this Martha Stewart recipe, making it my own by adding maple flavoring, more cinnamon, less nutmeg, nuts instead of raisins, and omitting the ginger... cause that is just how I like it :)

A delicious Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwich with Cream Cheese frosting in the center.

It is moist, chewy, and mmmhhmmmm gooood!

I opted to make these cookies small and bite size for my guests.

Notice how much the cookies spread in the oven.

Believe me, this cookie is equally as good as Carrot Cake itself!

Carrot Cake Cookies (Brenna)
Author: Brenna Bowers  (adapted and adjusted from Martha Stewart)
Makes: about 20 cookie sandwiches

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 sticks butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon maple flavoring
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups quick oats
1 1/2 cups finely grated carrots, (about 3 large carrots)
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Cream Cheese Frosting:
6 ounces cream cheese
1 Tablespoon milk
1 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar

Carrot Cake Cookies:
In a large bowl, add the brown sugar, white sugar and butter; beating until light and fluffy (about 4 minutes). Next, add the eggs, vanilla extract and maple flavoring mixing the dough just until evenly combined.

In another large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture; mixing just until the batter is combined. Stir in the oats, shredded carrots (and nuts). Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.

Spoon about 1 Tablespoon of dough onto prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between each cook (they spread out quite a bit). Bake for about 15 minutes (it is better to pull the cookies out sooner than later to make chewy cookies!). Allow the cookies to cool completely before frosting them.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
Beat the cream cheese, milk, and vanilla on low speed until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar one cup at a time. Whip the frosting for about 2 minutes once all the ingredients have been combined to make the frosting fluffier.

Place about 1 teaspoon of frosting on the bottom of a cooled cookie. Place another cookie on top to form a cookie sandwich.

Place the cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator or freeze them for up to 2 months.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Banana Foster Cupcakes.....go bananas!

I created this recipe when I wanted to celebrate a friend’s birthday;  incorporating her favorite dessert, Banana Foster,! The results were terrific. This recipe was made so that the cupcakes were fluffy and yet  full of real banana flavor (you better like bananas if you are going to try this one!). The frosting was designed to be quick, simple, and rich in flavor. Carmel, a necessary ingredient in Banana Foster, is also incorporated in the center of each cupcake for a tasty surprise. Lastly, these sweet and delectable cupcakes are topped with sautéed bananas!

 Banana Foster Cupcakes

Author: Brenna Bowers
Makes: 24 cupcakes

Banana Foster Cupcake

Mashed bananas- with a fork

Dry and Wet ingredients- stirred separately and then combine and beaten well.

Banana Foster Cupcake batter

I use my favorite cookie scoop to fill the cupcake holders,  only fill muffin cups 3/4 full

*Notice the recipe calls for 1/4 cup of flour in the cupcake batter- the purpose of this is so that the cupcakes turn out "dome shaped" not "flat topped"

Caramel Cream frosting ingredients

Carmel Cream Frosting- notice it is smooth and thick

Slice bananas 1/4 inch thick- only when ready to use...don't want them to brown

Sauteed banana ingredients warming up in the pan

Saute the bananas low and slow! (one minute per side)

Lightly cooked bananas, remove with slotted spatula and chill.

Sauteed bananas

Remove a small hole in the center, top of each cupcake with a paring knife.

Fill the cupcake hole with caramel sauce.

This will be a nice surprise to bite into!

Frost with a piping bag  using #12 Wilton tip, top with a sauteed banana and pearl sprinkles.

Banana Foster Cupcakes
Author: Brenna
Makes: 24 cupcakes

3 ripe bananas, mashed (want many brown speckles but not a fully brown banana)
3/4 cup water                                                                                    
1/4 cup oil
3 whole eggs
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp maple flavoring
1 box white cake mix
¼ cup flour (tip 1)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon

Sautéed Bananas:
2 firm bananas
1 Tbs butter
3 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs water
¼ tsp cinnamon
Dash salt

Caramel Cream Frosting:
½ stick butter, room temperature
½ cup powdered sugar
1 (16 oz) jar premade vanilla frosting
1 (16 oz) jar premade cream cheese frosting
3 Tbs caramel syrup (found at Trader Joes or Vons) (extra needed to fill the cupcakes later)
1 Tbs Rum (optional)

“Better Crocker Pearl Cupcake Gems” (optional) (these are sprinkles)

In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Add all the wet ingredients to the mashed bananas and beat well (about 1 minute). In another large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and beat until the batter is smooth (about 2 minutes).
Place cupcake liners into a cupcake pan (this recipe makes 24 cupcakes). With a large cookie scoop or oversized spoon (I prefer the stainless steel cookie scoop #16, fill only ¾ full) fill the cupcake liners ¾ full so that the cupcakes do not overflow!

Bake at 350 F degrees for 13 minutes- better to pull them out when the top crack is still moist so they do not over bake.

*Pressed for time? Then make the cupcakes a day ahead of time, just cover with saran wrap (when the cupcakes have cooled) and place on the counter overnight.

Sautéed Bananas*:
Must be made the day of so they do not turn brown- even best if made a few hours before!
Turn on a large sauce pan to medium-low heat. Add in the butter and let it melt. Once melted, add in the brown sugar, water, cinnamon, and salt. Slice up the firm banana into ¼” slices (do this step right when you are ready to put the bananas in the pan to keep them from turning brown). When you see small bubbles forming in the brown sugar-butter mixture, add in the slices of banana placing one layer in the pan. Make sure all the bananas are in the mixture! Cook for 1 minute on one side and flip them all over and cook for another minute on the alternate side (remember we want low want the banana to just take in the flavor not to turn mushy). Remove the banana slices from the pan with a slotted spatula and place onto a plate. Cover right away with plastic wrap (while it is still warm) and place into the fridge to chill. The bananas must be cool when you place them on the cupcakes!

*alternate option to sauteed bananas: place on top of each cupcake a banana chip or freeze dried bananas

Caramel Cream Frosting:
In a large bowl, add the room temperature butter (not melted and not cold!!!!) and the ½ cup powdered sugar. Beat with your electric mixer for about 1 minute- you want the mixture to become creamy. Add in both the premade frostings, caramel sauce, and Rum (add more caramel or Rum if you like…but don’t overdo it because you then will need more powdered sugar if it is too runny). Beat until the frosting is smooth and even in texture and color.

Must happen the day of! You do not want to place the sautéed bananas on any sooner than needed (right before service is best).
1. Remove a small hole out of the top of each cupcake using a paring knife. Fill the holes of each cupcake with the left over caramel sauce.
2. Place frosting into a piping bag with a #12 Wilton Tip. Pipe the frosting in a circular motion onto each cupcake starting from the outside in a circle and moving inward.
3. Remove the bananas from the fridge once they are cooled and lightly press each banana between paper towels- this will remove express liquid. Place onto the cupcake.
4. Sprinkle a couple “Better Crocker Pearl Cupcake Gems” (found at Vons/Safeway)
5. Let the frosting harden (about 20 minutes) and then place the cupcakes on a tray and cover with saran wrap. Place in the fridge until service time.

Tip 1: I have added some extra flour in the recipe because the first time I baked these, my cupcakes did not have a nice “dome shape” like I prefer but rather my cupcakes baked with a flat top”. So this recipe has been adjusted to make the cupcakes have a nice round shape and bake properly if you add the ¼ cup flour!