Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes

Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes | Cravings & Crumbs

If you were to open my pantry cupboards you’d find, like most people, different bags and boxes of pasta, various types of canned beans, and canisters full of bags with small amounts of assorted grains, dried legumes, and nuts bought from the bulk section at the grocery store.  I just can’t resist the fact that I can buy as much or as little as I want.  I’m like a kid in a candy store, filling bags with a little of this and a little of that, some old favorites, and some that I’m not sure I like yet, but I want to try out.  The favorites usually get eaten first and the others left to languish, waiting for a spark of inspiration.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes | Cravings & Crumbs

That’s how I ended up with a small bag of hazelnuts – just enough, I thought, for an early March salad of roasted beets and gorgonzola.  Well, I got busy and forgot about the beets at the bottom of the fridge drawer and once I remembered I just didn’t feel like eating them.  I did however feel like eating chocolate cupcakes, and so I did, topping them with the toasted and chopped hazelnuts that narrowly escaped their healthy fate.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes | Cravings & Crumbs

Chocolate and hazelnuts are a classic combination.  We’ve all had a crepe smeared with Nutella or a box of Ferrero Rocher during the holidays, but these cupcakes are just a little more festive, can be made ahead, and combine the best of both the creamy rich frosting and the crunch of the hazelnuts.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes | Cravings & Crumbs

These cupcakes use an adaptation of one of my favorite chocolate cake recipes as the base.  It only uses one bowl and doesn’t require softened butter so it can easily be made with little to no advanced planning.  The best part is that even when using regular cocoa powder, the boiling water “blooms” the cocoa to deepen the chocolatey flavor.  So go ahead, save the good stuff for the frosting where it will really shine.  

Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes | Cravings & Crumbs

Biting into one of these you’ll find a light and moist cake, a rich and creamy chocolate frosting, accented by the crunch of the toasted hazelnuts.  Perfection.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes
Yields 12
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Cupcakes
  1. 1 c. sugar
  2. 1 c. all-purpose flour
  3. ¼ c. + 2 T. cocoa powder
  4. ¾ t. baking soda
  5. ¾ t. baking powder
  6. ½ t. salt
  7. 1 egg
  8. ½ c. milk
  9. ¼ c. vegetable oil
  10. 1 t. vanilla extract
  11. ½ c. boiling water
Frosting
  1. ½ c. butter, softened
  2. 1 ¾ c. powdered sugar
  3. ¼ c. cocoa powder
  4. Pinch of salt
  5. 2 T. milk or heavy cream
  6. 2 oz. raw hazelnuts
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.
  2. Sift sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Add egg, milk and vegetable oil and whisk to combine. Add boiling water and vanilla and whisk again to combine. The batter will be very thin.
  3. Fill cupcake liners ⅔ full with batter and bake for 22-25 minutes.
  4. Add hazelnuts to a small pan and bake along with the cupcakes for 10-15 minutes, watching closely so they don’t burn. You want the hazelnuts to be toasted and fragrant.
  5. While cupcakes and hazelnuts are cooling make your frosting. Combine all ingredients except the milk to a bowl and beat using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add milk a little bit at a time until your frosting is the consistency you want.
  6. Lay out a clean dish towel and pour the hazelnuts on top. Fold over the sides to cover and rub/roll the hazelnuts around to remove most of their skins. Remove to a cutting board and chop.
  7. To assemble smear a thin layer of frosting on the cupcakes, then either sprinkle the hazelnuts on top or press the frosting directly in the hazelnuts for a thicker coating.
Notes
  1. The frosting recipe makes more than you’ll need for only a dozen cupcakes, but trying to whip less than a half cup of butter gets tricky. If you want, the cupcake recipe easily doubles to match the quantity of frosting.
  2. Pro tip - cocoa powder has a tendency to clump, so if you don’t want to bother with sifting just add the egg and milk first, whisking/stirring into a thick paste to break up the little lumps, then add vegetable oil and proceed as normal.
Adapted from Hershey's
Adapted from Hershey's
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BBQ Chicken Salad with Creamy Poblano Dressing

BBQ Chicken Salad with Creamy Poblano Dressing

I have a thing for summer food.  What do I mean by “a thing”?  Well soups, stews, and roasts are great, but what I really want year round is to be able to eat something light, flavorful, and that hopefully was grilled outside.  This summer salad hits all the marks.

BBQ Chicken Salad with Creamy Poblano Dressing

This is no wimpy salad with greens so underdressed they choke you on the way down.  This is a crisp and filling salad that uses up the leftovers from your summer barbeque so well you’ll start making extra just so you can have it.  It has all the good parts of a salad – flavor, fresh veggies, croutons, and an awesome homemade dressing (!) and none of the bad.  For those that don’t like salads, this is how to make one you’ll actually enjoy eating!

BBQ Chicken Salad with Creamy Poblano Dressing

The dressing is made with roasted poblano peppers for a slightly smoky and spicy kick and blended with cilantro and garlic to keep with the southwestern/mexican flair.  It’s made creamy with a little mayo, but mostly greek yogurt to keep it on the healthier side.  Let me just tell you – this stuff is good.  The recipe makes more than you’ll need for one salad, but that’s a good thing.  If I leave this out I find myself dipping all sorts of things in it – tortilla chips, veggies, a piece of popcorn…seriously…

BBQ Chicken Salad with Creamy Poblano Dressing

The second best part of this salad (besides the dressing) is that it’s chock full of contrasting flavors and textures.  Crisp lettuce, crunchy croutons, salty parmesan, sweet corn, sharp onion, tender chicken, and of course creamy avocado.  There’s nothing worse than eating an unsatisfying salad and so when I make one I put all the toppings.  And, you know, if you’re looking for a great homemade crouton recipe, I happen to have one right over here.

BBQ Chicken Salad with Creamy Poblano Dressing

BBQ Chicken Salad with Creamy Poblano Dressing
Serves 2
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For the dressing
  1. 2 medium poblano peppers
  2. Small handful cilantro, roughly chopped
  3. 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  4. 1 green onion, roughly chopped
  5. ½ c. whole milk plain greek yogurt
  6. ¼ c. mayo
  7. 1 T. lime juice
  8. Salt and freshly ground pepper
For the salad
  1. Sturdy lettuce (romaine, red leaf, butter, etc.)
  2. 1 ear corn on the cob
  3. Leftover barbecue chicken
  4. Cherry tomatoes
  5. Red onion
  6. ½ avocado
  7. Parmesan or other salty cheese
  8. Croutons
Instructions
  1. If you have a gas stove turn your burner to high and balance the peppers right over the flames. Allow to roast, turning as needed, until the skins are almost completely blackened. If you don’t have a gas stove you can achieve the same effect by using your oven’s broiler. Remove to a plastic bag or covered bowl to allow to steam as they cool down.
  2. Once poblanos have been resting for about 15 minutes, remove to a cutting board. Remove as much of the charred skin as you can (if you’re having trouble use a paper towel to help you get better grip) as well as the seeds and stem. Roughly chop the peppers and add them to the base of a blender with the remaining ingredients. Blend until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds.
  3. Bring a shallow pan of water large enough to lay the corn in to a simmer. Remove husk and silk from corn and add to the pan. Simmer for about 2 minutes, flipping so all sides get cooked. Remove and allow to cool while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Shred or slice chicken, halve cherry tomatoes, cube avocado, and use a vegetable peeler to shave strips of parmesan. Halve red onion through the end, then cut thin slices crosswise. Slice kernels off of corn cob.
  5. Assemble the salad using as much of each ingredients as you like and toss with the dressing.
Cravings & Crumbs http://www.cravingsandcrumbs.com/

Chipotle Lime Corn on the Cob

Chipotle Lime Corn on the Cob

We all have those few food that we love to eat.  The foods that, no matter the day, time, or place, if it’s there we’ll eat it.  The foods that we fall silent while eating because we’re just enjoying the moment – no need for distraction by conversation.  Corn on the cob is one of those foods for me.

Chipotle Lime Corn on the Cob

Corn on the cob is simple, soul satisfying food.  There’s no polite way to eat one – you have to use your hands and you’ll probably have to floss afterwards.  There’s no way around it.

Chipotle Lime Corn on the Cob

Growing up I always had my corn boiled with a little bit of butter and salt.  Simple, summer perfection.  One time I went to a sleepover at my guatemalan friend’s house and the neighborhood she lived in had an elote man who sold to the kids after school.  She and her cousins were so excited to get their elotes con mayonesa…me, not so much.  I wasn’t a fan of mayonnaise at the time and couldn’t imagine who would think up such a foul combination.  I’ve since come to my senses and will gladly wait in a line 30+ minutes at the flea market for my elote with mayo, cotija, chile, and lime.

Chipotle Lime Corn on the Cob

This corn is slightly inspired by my recent recipe for Chile Lime Popcorn and I say only slightly because chiles and lime aren’t anything new, just a classic flavor combination that I like to do in different ways.  Here, the smokiness of chipotles underscores the roasted flavor of the corn and the lime perks up the entire flavor profile.  If you remember, in my recent grilled cheese recipe i wrote about my discovery of the existence of dry jack cheese.  Well, I got my hands on a chunk and I’m here to report that it’s really nothing earth shattering.  I used it here since I had it, but parmesan, pecorino, or cotija would all be equally good, and maybe even a little bit more flavorful.

Chipotle Lime Corn on the Cob

This corn recipe would be great with anything else you might be cooking on the grill this summer, especially anything with a mexican flavor profile – grilled chicken, carne asada, ribs…tell me when to stop…

Chipotle Lime Corn on the Cob

Chipotle Lime Corn on the Cob
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Ingredients
  1. 4 ears corn
  2. 4 t. olive oil
  3. 4 T. butter
  4. 2 chipotle chiles en adobo
  5. Juice of 1 large lime
  6. Dry jack, parmesan, or cotija cheese
  7. Salt
Instructions
  1. Light coals or, if using gas, turn grill to medium-high and allow to preheat.
  2. Shuck the corn, drizzle each ear with 1 t. olive oil, sprinkle with salt and wrap individually in aluminum foil. Nestle the ears in the coals or place on grill over the hot side. Cook for about 12 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small bowl. Mince the chipotles and add to the butter.
  4. When corn is ready, unwrap from the foil and brush each ear with the chipotle butter. Season with salt and garnish with grated cheese. Finish with a squeeze of lime.
Cravings & Crumbs http://www.cravingsandcrumbs.com/

Garlic Confit (Roasted Garlic Oil)

Roasted garlic oil is somewhat of a secret weapon in my refrigerator.  You know when you read cookbooks written by restaurant chefs and all the recipes have like 3 sub recipes for different sauces?  Well this is my sub recipe – the one that takes over an hour to prepare, but makes anything you put it on taste so much more complex.  Even if it’s just spreading it on a piece of toast, this garlic confit elevates quick, everyday meals.  Once you have it in your fridge you’ll suddenly find so many ways to use it.

We’re using the french technique of confit here, which was traditionally used as a preservation technique.  What that means is that we cook whatever we want to preserve covered in oil for a long time at a low temperature.  By confiting garlic cloves, we end up with extremely tender, sweet, almost caramelized cloves and a lightly garlic flavored olive oil.  The cloves can be easily mashed with a fork, or left whole if you want to use the garlic separately from the oil.  The only thing you need to be careful with is to store the garlic oil in the fridge.  Garlic is a low acid food and when stored without oxygen and at room temperature, a toxin can develop what causes Botulism, a form of food poisoning that can be fatal.  However, if you store your garlic oil covered in the fridge it will keep for months.

8 things I used my last batch of garlic confit for:

  1. In a marinade for chicken with lemon juice, rosemary and parsley
  2. Vinaigrettes
  3. Sautéed vegetables
  4. Croutons
  5. Cloves spread on a sandwich with fresh mozzarella, salami, and arugula
  6. Poured over mixed olives and warmed
  7. Roasted potatoes
  8. Garlic bread
Garlic Confit
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Ingredients
  1. 1 c. (4 oz.) garlic cloves, peeled (from about 2 small or 1 ½ large heads)
  2. 2 c. olive oil
  3. ¼ t. crushed red pepper flakes
  4. ¼ t. dried oregano
  5. 1 small sprig rosemary
  6. 1 t. kosher salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325°.
  2. Add all ingredients to a glass or ceramic baking dish large enough to allow the garlic cloves to rest in a single layer.
  3. Cover with tin foil and poke a few holes in the top.
  4. Bake for about 1 hour, until garlic cloves are golden brown and fully tender. Allow oil to cool and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
  5. Preheat oven to 325°.
  6. Add all ingredients to a glass or ceramic baking dish large enough to allow the garlic cloves to rest in a single layer.
  7. Cover with tin foil and poke a few holes in the top.
  8. Bake for about 1 hour, until garlic cloves are golden brown and fully tender. Allow oil to cool and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Notes
  1. Store the confit covered in the refrigerator.
Cravings & Crumbs http://www.cravingsandcrumbs.com/

Shaved Asparagus Brunch Salad

Asparagus Brunch Salad | Cravings & Crumbs

With asparagus in season, so flavorful and plentiful, I’ve been buying so much I’ve been forced to come up with new ways to use it all!  I’m definitely not complaining though, as the necessity led to this brunch salad.  

Asparagus Brunch Salad | Cravings & Crumbs

A salad for brunch might seem strange, but hear me out.  Brunch is usually a pretty heavy meal, which is a great, but eat too much and you can count on hours of feeling sluggish and sleepy.  This breakfast is light and healthy, with just enough richness to keep you satisfied until lunch.  Since you’ll feel great after eating it, you’ll have all the energy to go take a hike, explore a new flea market, or whatever other fun plans you have for the day!  For those of you who think it’s not really brunch unless there are mimosas, well, there’s champagne here, it’s just in vinegar form in the dressing…

Asparagus Brunch Salad | Cravings & Crumbs

The dressing is based off of a warm bacon dressing you would normally put on a spinach salad.  Personally, a leafy salad isn’t appetizing for me first thing in the morning, but the shaved asparagus is tender with a little bite – perfect.  Add pancetta to the mix for that classic breakfast flavor combo, so feel free to substitute bacon.  The poached egg on top adds the final layer of creaminess to the salad as the yolk mixes with the dressing.  

Asparagus Brunch Salad | Cravings & Crumbs

Poached eggs have a reputation for being intimidating, but they shouldn’t be.  At home there’s no need for adding vinegar or constantly swirling your water.  An old friend taught me a trick of boiling water, talking it off the heat, immediately dropping the egg in and covering the pan for 5 or so minutes.  That’s the method I use in the recipe below, but there are lots of other great methods to poach an egg.  If you want more guidance, I found this video by Kenji Lopez-Alt to be really helpful, although I don’t follow all his suggestions.  If you want to cook your eggs in the shell, but still want a perfectly runny yolk, use David Chang’s 5:10 method:  Bring a pot of water to a boil, take an egg straight from the refrigerator and put it in the water and boil for exactly 5 minutes and 10 seconds.  The fact that refrigerators are all within a few degree of each other and water boils at 212°F removes any variation in starting temperature so you can get a perfect egg every time without the guesswork.

Asparagus Brunch Salad | Cravings & Crumbs

Shaved Asparagus Brunch Salad
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Ingredients
  1. 5 fat asparagus spears
  2. 1 small clove garlic, peeled and minced
  3. ⅓ of a medium red onion, peeled and slivered
  4. 1 large egg
  5. 2 heaping T diced pancetta
  6. 2 T champagne vinegar
  7. 1 T olive oil
  8. Salt and pepper to taste
  9. Crushed red pepper flakes
  10. 1-2 slices of your favorite toast (mine is Acme pain au levain)
Instructions
  1. Using a vegetable peeler shave the asparagus into ribbons, saving the tops. The easiest way to do this is to keep the spear flat on a cutting board or countertop as you shave. Place the shavings on whatever bowl or plate you’ll use to serve, and save the tops for later.
  2. Begin bringing a small pot of water to a boil and simultaneously preheat a small frying pan over medium heat on a separate burner. Crack your egg into a small cup or ramekin. Once the water is rapidly boiling, remove the pan from the heat and immediately drop the egg into the water and cover with a lid. Set a timer for 5 minutes.
  3. Into the frying pan add the pancetta, asparagus tops, and half the slivered onions. Saute until pancetta is just starting to get crispy and the asparagus tops are tender, about 4 mins.
  4. When your timer rings, use a slotted spoon to remove the egg from the water. The white of the egg should be taught, the yolk should not feel firm, and overall the egg shouldn’t be too jiggly, which would indicate that the whites aren’t fully cooked. When your egg is done remove to a paper towel.
  5. Turn your attention back to the frying pan and add the vinegar, olive oil, a pinch of salt and the remaining onion slivers. Cook briefly, about 30 seconds. (Note: if you substituted bacon omit the olive oil, as bacon has more natural grease than pancetta.) Pour the hot vinaigrette over the shaved asparagus and toss to coat. Add the poached egg on top and season the entire dish with another sprinkling of salt, freshly ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Serve with toast.
Cravings & Crumbs http://www.cravingsandcrumbs.com/

Lemon and Blackberry Mascarpone Cake

Lemon Blackberry Cake | Cravings & Crumbs

Guys, I’m really excited about this cake.  Why?  For so many reasons!  First off, it was ridiculously easy – so easy I can barely even remember making it the next day.  Second, the taste is amazing.  This cake is all sorts of quintessential spring dessert – there’s lemon and fresh berries, the mascarpone is rich, but the cake is light.  Not to mention, it’s beautiful in it’s simplicity.  Just like the daffodil that blooms next to a mud puddle, this cake has a natural beauty, but the bare cut edges of the cake bring you back to reality.  And that’s another thing I love about it – I don’t believe in stuffy food.  Nothing and nobody should be perfect all the time, or even try to be.  I prefer life to be a little rough around the edges – it’s better that way.

Lemon Blackberry Cake | Cravings & Crumbs

This cake was inspired by my simultaneous need to use up buttermilk and a clamshell container of fresh blackberries.  I know we’ve all been there with the buttermilk.  If you buy it for one recipe you’re inevitably left with at least half a carton.  This cake helps, but just a little bit.  The recipe came together little by little, following a trail of breadcrumbs of inspiration.

Lemon Blackberry Cake | Cravings & Crumbs

Here the buttermilk lends a very moist and delicate crumb, which makes it delightful to eat, but hard to get a clean cut.  Refrigerating the cake for 30 minutes should help if you want nice clean edges, but I think this cake has more personality with crumbs and slightly jagged edges.  Once you get the cake filled and the layers stacked, you definitely won’t be able to cut a perfect piece, so don’t plan on serving this if you’re trying to impress with perfect slices.  I promise though, people will ask you for the recipe.  It’s that good.

Lemon Blackberry Cake | Cravings & Crumbs

Flavorwise, this cake is a real winner.  Blackberries, lemon, cream and vanilla are a hard combo to say no to.  It’s simple and delicious.  

Lemon Blackberry Cake | Cravings & CrumbsThe cake batter is based, very loosely, on one from the New York Times, which adapted it from the Joy of Cooking.  I started out making a full batch in a jelly roll pan, but once I started stacking the layers I realized if I went any higher than two my cake would probably topple over.  In accordance, the recipe below has been halved.  I also swapped the cake flour for all-purpose without any noticeable difference in texture.  I wanted this to be a fancy sort of everyday cake – the kind you just whip up – and everyday cakes shouldn’t use anything but all-purpose.

Lemon Blackberry Cake | Cravings & Crumbs

Lemon and Blackberry Cake with Mascarpone
Serves 6
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Cake
  1. 1 c. + 2 t. all-purpose flour
  2. ¾ t. baking powder
  3. ¼ t. baking soda
  4. ¼ t. salt
  5. 3 T. unsalted butter, softened
  6. ⅔ c. granulated sugar
  7. 2 large eggs
  8. ½ c. full fat buttermilk
  9. ½ t. vanilla
  10. Zest of 1 medium lemon
Filling
  1. 1 cup (8 oz.) mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  2. ¼ c. granulated sugar
  3. ½ t. vanilla
  4. 5 t. lemon juice (from 1 medium lemon)
  5. ¼ c. milk
  6. 12 oz. container blackberries
Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9x9 square baking pan.
  2. Mix together dry flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Add softened butter and sugar to a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer or a whisk, cream the butter and sugar until completely combined.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the buttermilk and flour mixture in three parts, mixing after each addition. Add vanilla and lemon zest with the final buttermilk addition.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to make sure it’s distributed evenly. Bake for 12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool at least 15 minutes in the pan. The cake will pull away from the sides as it cools.
Filling and assembly
  1. Add the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and milk to a bowl. Using an electric hand beater or stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat all ingredients together until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape into a pastry bag or the corner of a gallon ziploc with the tip cut off.
  2. Cut the cake in half to create two rectangles and trim the edges so all sides are exposed, just like how you would cut the crusts off of toast.
  3. Place the first layer on your serving platter. Using the pastry bag, pipe dots or a ruffled line around the perimeter of the cake to create a decorative edge. Fill in the center with a thin layer of the filling. Place rows of blackberries across the short way, leaving a little space in between each row to make it easier to cut slices later.
  4. Place the second layer on top and, following the same steps for decorating, pipe a decorative perimeter and place rows of blackberries. Pipe dots in between the blackberries to fill in the top.
  5. Refrigerate if not serving right away. This cake should hold up well in the fridge, although I can only attest to one day, as that’s how long it lasted in my house.
Notes
  1. To get a cleaner cut on the cake layers, refrigerate for about 30 minutes prior to cutting. Use a paper towel with a little vegetable oil to coat both sides of your knife before each cut.
  2. This cake easily doubles and can be baked in a 12x17 jelly roll pan. In fact I halved the recipe after my first round of testing. However, if you double the recipe be sure not to go any higher than two layers. Lining the pan with parchment is a good idea to be able to lift it out of the pan.
Cravings & Crumbs http://www.cravingsandcrumbs.com/

Fig and Arugula Grilled Cheese

Fig Arugula Grilled Cheese | Cravings & Crumbs

I was recently perusing the online menus of restaurants near my work, trying to quiet my hunger, when something jumped out at me – “best ever slow-cooked grilled cheese”.  Ummm, what?  What in the world is a slow cooked grilled cheese, how does it differ from how I normally make grilled cheese, and why had nobody ever told me about this?

Fig Arugula Grilled Cheese | Cravings & Crumbs

According to my research, all that makes it a “slow-cooked” grilled cheese is that it takes 15 minutes to come to the table.  Generally when I make grilled cheese at home I take about 10 to 12 minutes, so really no revelation there. They use three cheeses (and a lot of them), including one called “dry jack”.  Back to feeling out of the loop.  Apparently dry jack was created in the 50’s, before the proliferation of modern refrigeration, as an alternative to monterey jack that could stand to be left out in the summer.  It has a texture like parmesan and a sweet flavor.

Fig Arugula Grilled Cheese | Cravings & Crumbs

They also include a seasonal fruit mostarda on the sandwich, which intrigued me.  I haven’t ever been one to really love fruit condiments on savory food, but ever since I tried the duck and pork belly sausage from SF Cajun Co. that they serve with fig preserves and whole grain mustard I haven’t been able to get that combo out of the back of my mind.

Fig Arugula Grilled Cheese | Cravings & Crumbs

All of this is just a long winded way of explaining how I got to this delicious grilled cheese sandwich.  Using fresh levain bread, we spread some fig butter on one side and whole grain mustard on the other.  We’re using syrah-soaked toscano and a gouda/parmesan blend as the cheese here and adding a layer of arugula to the middle, which will wilt as we cook the sandwich.  In a cast iron skillet (for even heat distribution) we grill the sandwich over medium-low heat, hopefully getting about 7 minutes per side without burning.  Cut it diagonally and you have perfection.

Fig Arugula Grilled Cheese | Cravings & Crumbs

What we end up with isn’t the “best ever” grilled cheese – that’s far too subjective – but I’ll be damned if it isn’t in the top 3.  The bread has a perfectly buttery and crunchy exterior.  Inside, the cheeses are salty and gooey with a nutty flavor profile which pairs perfectly with the deep flavor of the fig butter and sharpness of the mustard.  I preferred mine with an extra dollop of mustard on the side to pick up the flavor a bit more.

Fig Arugula Grilled Cheese | Cravings & Crumbs

Fig and Arugula Grilled Cheese
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Ingredients
  1. Butter, room temperature
  2. Good bread, such as pain au levain
  3. Fig butter or preserves
  4. Whole grain mustard
  5. Toscano cheese
  6. Gouda/parmesan blend cheese, or both separately
  7. Baby arugula
Instructions
  1. Slice your bread and grate the cheese. You want to grate enough to have an even proportion of each type.
  2. Preheat a heavy cast iron pan over medium heat. We don’t want it too hot since we want to grill the sandwich slowly to get it evenly browned all across.
  3. Butter the outside of each slice of bread. Then smear a layer of mustard on one of the insides and a layer of fig butter on the other inside.
  4. Put one slice of bread in the pan, butter side down. Sprinkle half the cheese over the bread, then add a handful of arugula and then sprinkle the other half of the cheese and top with the other slice of bread, butter side up. Cook the sandwich for about 7 minutes, or until golden brown, turning down the heat if it seems to be cooking too fast. Flip and toast the other side until golden brown.
Notes
  1. Feel free to use any combination of cheese that you like. Just be sure that there's one that will melt well to hold it all together.
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Sambal Chicken Skewers

Sambal Chicken Skewers | Cravings & Crumbs

These sambal chicken skewers are somewhat of a triple threat – spicy, sweet, and satisfying.  Yeah, I know I’m corny, but it’s true!  These skewers were originally published in Bon Appétit in 2013 and they’ve become a favorite of tons of people for good reason!  The marinade is salty, spicy, sweet, and complex, and better yet it takes less than 10 minutes to put together.  That’s what I love about cooking asian cuisines – many of them rely on condiments that are often fermented or a mix of many different ingredients so that you can get deep, layered flavors with nearly instant gratification.

Sambal Chicken Skewers | Cravings & Crumbs

It was sunny here in the Bay Area last weekend with temperatures in the 70s, which had me itching to grill something.  I’ve been spending a lot of time in my parent’s backyard recently, reading in a lounge chair that sits near our barbeque, and the grill has been calling out to me, begging me to come up with something good.  

Sambal Chicken Skewers | Cravings & Crumbs

Obviously, I set my sights on these babies, and they were just as good as I imagined.  These skewers have a classic thai flavor profile – fish sauce, garlic and chiles, with brown sugar to add to the caramelization and acids to help with tenderization.  Many commenters noted that the recipe as originally written is spicy and they weren’t kidding.  Eaten without extra basting these probably wouldn’t be too hot, but I wanted a good layer of the sauce basted on as I grilled them and by the end of skewer #1 my mouth was on fire!  I’ve adjusted the recipe to make the sriracha optional.  You’ve been warned…

Sambal Chicken Skewers | Cravings & CrumbsI chose to serve these with rice, cilantro, thai basil, and lettuce to create a lettuce wrap situation, but these would be equally great just in a rice bowl with some sort of pickled vegetable to brighten everything up.  I also grilled some pineapple spears alongside the skewers as a sweet and juicy accompaniment to tame the fiery chicken.  If you’ve never tried grilled pineapple before please give it a go!  It’s surprisingly delicious!

Sambal Chicken Skewers | Cravings & Crumbs

Sambal Chicken Skewers
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Chicken
  1. ½ c. brown sugar
  2. ¼ c. unseasoned rice vinegar
  3. ¼ c. lime juice (from about 2 limes)
  4. ⅓ c. sambal oelek
  5. 2 ½ T. fish sauce
  6. 2 t. finely grated ginger
  7. 2 large garlic cloves, grated, pressed, or minced
  8. 2 T. sriracha (optional)
  9. 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
  10. 1-2 bunches green/spring onions
Optional Accompaniments
  1. Rice
  2. Herbs such as thai basil and cilantro
  3. 1 pineapple, rind removed and cut into spears
  4. Small head of lettuce such as bibb, gem, or romaine
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients (brown sugar to sriracha) in a bowl to create marinade. Chop chicken into pieces about 1” in size and mix with marinade. Refrigerate for 30 mins or overnight.
  2. At least 2 hours before you’re ready to grill soak wooden skewers in water to prevent burning as you cook the skewers.
  3. To assemble skewers, first chop green onions into 1” chunks, white parts only. Then thread chicken pieces onto the skewer, alternating with onion pieces. Set aside in a tray, covered in saran wrap, until ready to grill.
  4. Add leftover marinade to a sauce pan and cook over medium heat until thickened and reduced by about half.
  5. Cook skewers and pineapple over medium-high heat on the grill for about 10 minutes, turning and basting the chicken with the reserved sauce throughout.
Notes
  1. If you’re worried about using the leftover marinade as a sauce, just reserve half the marinade in the beginning, or make double.
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Cravings & Crumbs http://www.cravingsandcrumbs.com/

Black Bean Tostadas with Chipotle Crema

Black Bean Tostadas with Chipotle Crema

It’s Thursday which means you’ve made it over the hump and are sailing towards the weekend.  It also means you’re still two days away from leisurely cooking and cocktail hours – enter this ridiculously fast, cheap, vegetarian dinner to sustain you until you reach weekend indulgence.

Black Bean Tostadas with Chipotle Crema

These tostadas are simple, but still so satisfying.  They start with shallow fried corn tortillas (you can bake them if you prefer, they’ll just be a little bit drier), then you top them with refried black beans, a cilantro and lime slaw, cotija cheese, and a chipotle crema.  They are all at once crunchy, creamy, salty, refreshing, and satisfying.  Trust me – they seem basic, but you’re going to love them.

Black Bean Tostadas with Chipotle Crema

Here I’ve used the smaller street taco size tortillas to make them more of a snack meal.  I have a thing about that – making my food amusing to me.  I’m entertained by anything that has a dip or topping or is otherwise interactive, and snack dinners check a lot of those boxes.  You’ve got to keep life interesting somehow!

Black Bean Tostadas with Chipotle Crema

The other great thing about these tostadas, besides how delicious they are, is how economical they are to make.  I usually cook my black beans from scratch on the weekend or after work for the next day.  With black beans there’s no need to soak them, in fact you end up with a thicker and richer bean broth if you don’t.  You don’t have to cook them from scratch, but if you do they are literally cents on the dollar and have so much more flavor.  Other than that, tortillas, cabbage, the tiniest sprinkling of cotija and the greek yogurt “crema” are all so cheap you could probably feed 10 people for a dollar each.  Just goes to show good food doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy.

Black Bean Tostadas with Chipotle Crema

All ingredients below are approximate, as this recipe is easily scaled up or down, depending on how many you’re feeding.  This recipe is also just a canvas – you can add any number of other toppings, including meat – may I suggest a chopped achiote chicken breast?

Black Bean Tostadas with Chipotle Crema
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Ingredients
  1. 5-6 small corn tortillas
  2. 2 cups homemade or 1 (15 oz.) can black beans
  3. Pinch of ground cumin
  4. 3 cups green cabbage, finely shredded
  5. 2-3 limes
  6. Small handful of cilantro
  7. Cotija cheese
For the chipotle crema
  1. ¾ cup plain greek yogurt
  2. 1 garlic clove, sliced
  3. 1-2 chipotle in adobo
  4. Juice of ½ lime
Instructions
  1. First, make the crema. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until combined. Feel free to add a tablespoon or so of water to get the blender running, if needed. Making the crema first allows all the flavors to meld as we do the rest of the cooking.
  2. Add the shredded cabbage to a bowl and top with a small drizzle of oil, a pinch of salt, and the juice from about 2 limes - give it a taste to know how many. Chop the cilantro and toss with the slaw.
  3. Next, add a tablespoon of oil to a small frying pan or saucepan over medium heat. Add the beans (with liquid), a pinch of ground cumin, and a big pinch of salt and allow to cook for about 5 minutes. You want the beans to be heated first to get a smooth mash.
  4. Using a potato masher or the back of a fork, mash the bean until they are as smooth or chunky as you want them. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Turn heat to low and allow to continue cooking, adding more water if they start to get dry.
  5. Heat a small amount of neutral oil (about ¼ cup) in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry the tortillas until crispy, flipping halfway through. You’ll know they’re done when the oil has all but stopped bubbling around them. Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. Repeat until all the tortillas are fried.
  6. Finally, assemble! Spread a few spoonfuls of refried beans on a tortilla, add some slaw, crema, crumbled cotija, and a squeeze of lime.
Cravings & Crumbs http://www.cravingsandcrumbs.com/

Homemade Garlic Croutons

Homemade Garlic Croutons | Cravings & Crumbs

Are you looking for a way to seriously improve your salad game?  Swapping storebought for homemade dressing is the first thing you should do.  The second is making your own croutons.

Homemade Garlic Croutons | Cravings & Crumbs

Homemade croutons are far better than any you can get at the grocery store.  Making them yourself also allows you to add any seasoning you like and use up any bread that is going stale or is close to getting moldy.  Not to mention it doesn’t require any skill and very little time.  

Homemade Garlic Croutons | Cravings & Crumbs

All you have to do is cube the bread, toss with oil and seasonings and bake for about 20 minutes.  Just be sure you make at least double what you think you need.  Almost every time I make them people gravitate toward the kitchen and slowly snack on them as dinner is being finished.  They’re so irresistible you might have to set aside what you actually want to put in the salad to make sure you have enough!

Homemade Garlic Croutons | Cravings & Crumbs

You can use any bread you have around, but they’ll be best with a bread that has a good crust.  I usually make them with baguette, french bread, and sourdough.  I would avoid any bread that is too sweet, like a whole wheat sandwich loaf, or too dense.  Of course, it really depends on what salad you’re going to put them on!  I’ve seen salads with cornbread croutons which are both sweet and dense, so really anything goes if it tastes good with your other ingredients!

Homemade Garlic Croutons | Cravings & Crumbs

Homemade Garlic Croutons
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Total Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 6 oz. stale bread
  2. 1 garlic clove, peeled
  3. 2 T olive oil
  4. 1 T vegetable oil
  5. ½ t. garlic powder
  6. ½ t. dried basil
  7. 1 small pinch red pepper flakes
  8. salt & pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350°.
  2. Cube or tear your bread into about ½” cubes. Press, mince, or grate the garlic clove into a medium sized bowl and add the oils. Add the bread to the bowl and toss to coat. Sprinkle seasonings on top and toss again to coat.
  3. Spread croutons on a small baking tray and bake for about 20-30 minutes, tossing ¾ of the way through, until golden brown. If the croutons look very dry when you toss them, feel free to add an extra drizzle of oil before returning them to the oven.
Notes
  1. These measurements are just a guideline. Feel free to use more bread, oil, or different seasonings. This is just a very basic version of the croutons I make. I switch everything up depending on the salad and my mood.
Cravings & Crumbs http://www.cravingsandcrumbs.com/