Throwback Thursday Dinner #TBTD

It appears the common theme this week is food to feed a busy schedule and a body aching from head to toe as a result of a tough crossfit week.

Giving into the #TBT trend—why not bring back a classic, easy, and make-ahead meal courtesy of my good friend Jules—baked goat cheese salad. This was a simple, flavor-packed meal that my friend Jules gifted to our group of friends just after college graduation, when money was tight and we were developing finer pallets.

This dinner can be easily misconstrued as unassuming—but the real reason to give this a try is its ability to pack a punch of bright flavor, as well as its ease in preparation and storage. I often prepare the goat cheese patties several days to a week ahead of time, seal them up in freezer-safe plastic bags and take them out as needed for dinners, lunches and even appetizers.

These delectable cheese parcels are perfect on top salad greens (from spinach to arugula to romaine) and even with some hearty crackers or veggies for dipping. Let your imagination go wild – or if you are like some workaholics (eh em) you can even choose to eat these sans veggies altogether.

Goat cheeseCulinary creativity does not stop at the peripheral accompaniments to this treat—you can experiment with the type of goat cheese and even the crusty topping. For instance, I often mix up the goat cheese from prepared fresh goat cheese with honey to mixing ad hoc spices (oregano, parsley, rosemary) with plain fresh goat cheese. And if you really put yourself out there, you may want to try swapping out crushed Melba Snacks, with panko bread crumbs—live a little!

So after another killer crossfit workout, consisting of thrusters (awkward term, effective for toning the shoulders and upper back) and box jumps (tough plyometric that somehow makes me smile like a child every time)—it was time for a delicious dinner.

TBT Goat Cheese Salad
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 12 minutes
Freeze Time: 5 minutes to 5 days

Ingredients
4 oz. fresh goat cheese
1 egg white
1-1 ½ cups Melba Snack crackers, crushed
Salt and pepper
Spices, as needed (use your imagination)
Salad greensGoat cheese salad

Divide and shape the goat cheese into 2 patties. Place the crackers in a plastic bag, sealing tightly and use a rolling pin to crush the crackers into bread-crumb-sized pieces. Set up 2 bowls, placing the crushed crackers in 1 and the egg whites in the other. Dredge the goat-cheese patties in the egg whites, coating evenly, and then dredge in the crushed crackers.

Place the patties into plastic bags and store in the freezer for at least 5 minutes, but they can be left in tightly sealed bags for up to a week.

When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the patties on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake until soft, approximately 12 minutes. Place on a bed of greens and enjoy!

Cheater, Cheater, Cupcake Eater

Clearly my guilty conscience has gotten the best of me on a weekend that generally celebrates the end of self-control and restraint—while I did not give anything up for lent this year (mostly because I was so swamped at work/life, I completely lost track of time), I have tried to make a year-round effort to eat in moderation and log at least 4 workouts per week.

…that was until Wednesday night—now, I will say that this cupcake catastrophe was primarily the result of the obligatory birthday celebrations for colleagues at work—I generally like to combine celebrations at work with my hobby for baking—but I cannot blame this all on work, as there was clearly an inner voice screaming for homemade chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting.

This cupcake recipe was not something new or trendsetting—because when it comes to baking, sometimes the tried and true route is the best course to take—who doesn’t love a good (I mean really good) chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream frosting?

On Wednesday night circa 10:00pm EST, the lessons from my Cambridge School of Culinary Arts baking classes came flooding back to me as I searched for the perfect cupcake recipe—some of those helpful cupcake and baking tricks of the trade will be forever engrained in my memory:

Chocolate—to whip up a more well-rounded chocolate taste, especially in cakes, it is integral to incorporate some coffee (or even a little liqueur). While you may not necessarily taste the coffee or liqueur—think of it like adding a little lemon zest to a pie or tart—the notion is the same, many people describe the effect as “brightening” the flavor;
Sifting—if a recipe calls for sifting, don’t skip this step! Sifting is another critical step to ensure a balance of the dry ingredients before they are incorporated into the wet ingredients—nothing is worse than getting a bite of baking powder or having clumpy-looking frosting;
Anyone can Pipe—anyone can learn to pipe frosting for a professional finish on any cake or cupcake—using a standard 12” piping bag with a variety of tips—just remember the key to beautiful piping is maintaining even pressure throughout

Before you embark on your next cupcake creation, give this YouTube video a view for some helpful tips on frosting:

Onto the cupcakes—as adapted by my favorite cook of all time, The Barefoot Contessa:

Betty’s Chocolate Cake
Cake Ingredients:
• 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
• 2 cups sugar
• ¾ cups good cocoa powder
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 cup buttermilk, shaken – see below for instructions on how to prepare
• ½ cup vegetable oil
• 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Frosting Ingredients:
• 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons heavy cream
• ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray and line cupcake pans—cupcake
liners are not required, but remember to spray extra well if opting to go without.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until combined. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla. With the mixer on a low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the coffee and stir to combine. Stop the mixer and be sure to scrap the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake pans—filling cups a little over ½ way. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool pans for 5-10 minutes and continue cooling cupcakes on a wire rack until completely cooled.

To prepare the buttercream frosting, beat butter for a few minutes in the stand mixer with the Cupcakes
paddle attachment on a medium speed. Slowly add the powdered sugar and turn the mixer down to low. Beat until the sugar combines with the butter. Add the vanilla, heavy cream and cocoa powder and beat on a medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the buttercream becomes light and fluffy.

Note: Do not go out and buy buttermilk, unless you’re planning to make 6 dozen of these treats. Instead, combine 4 tablespoons of lemon juice in a cup of milk –stir and let stand for 10-15 minutes before using.

This cupcake experience inspired some fun Easter-themed cupcakes to be served tomorrow–stay tuned for more details!

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