Lemon Meringue Tarts

August 15: National Lemon Meringue Pie Day

We have not been as lucky with lemons lately when we have failed at making a lemon meringue pie (the filling was too runny and the meringue was overbrowned). So we tried to make the best of the situation and bake mini pies (tarts) using phyllo cups and lemon curd. The filling was too sweet when paired with a supposedly crispy-turned-soggy shell. Determined to overcome these Food Flops, we tried again to make mini lemon meringue tarts using a different crust (from our Pecan Tassies recipe). They turned out terrific for our tea time gathering! And now we can post our version of lemon meringue tarts for National Lemon Meringue Pie Day.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • lemon curd
  • 2 egg whites
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup sugar, granulated white 

Directions

Make the mini pie/tart crust by mixing the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add the flour to make a soft dough. Roll into a ball, cover with a plastic wrap and chill it for at least an hour to harden. Then divide the dough into 24 one-inch balls.

Flatten, press and shape the crusts in the wells of an ungreased muffin pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Fill the crusts with a teaspoonful of lemon curd. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until foamy. Continue beating the egg whites and gradually add the sugar until stiff peaks form.

Fill a piping bag with a star tip (we used Tip 1M) and squeeze a little meringue on top of the lemon curd. Bake in the preheated oven at 350 degrees F for about 5-7 minutes, being careful not to overbrown the meringue. Remove from the oven (be careful as the lemon curd is hot and liquefied). Use a toothpick to remove the tarts from the pan when cooled. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate any leftovers. Bring to room temperature when ready to serve.

Notes

  • See our Food Flops page for a photo of our runny lemon meringue pie and other culinary catastrophies.

Japanese Cheesecake

July 30: National Cheesecake Day

Some of the Asian supermarkets around town have bakeries built in the corner and we sometimes pick up a few baked goods on our way out to snack on during the drive home. We especially like the cotton-soft cakes, such as the rolled sponges and light layered ones. So when we saw a viral post on a 3-ingredient Japanese cheesecake, we had to try it to see if we can replicate one of the fluffy Asian confections from the bakeries.

This Japanese cheesecake is made with cream cheese and eggs, just like a New York-style cheesecake, but is airy like an angel food chiffon cake and not dense, creamy and heavy. We made ours mini size (6-inch round) and added a little vanilla for a hint of flavor.

Japanese cheesecake is a sweet and simple snack or a light dessert after a big meal and is a good recipe to try on National Cheesecake Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Epicurious)

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces (1 package) white chocolate (we used Baker’s brand), melted
  • 4 ounces (½ package/container) cream cheese (we used lactose-free cream cheese), softened
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

Directions

Prepare a 6-inch round spring form cake pan by lining the bottom and sides with buttered parchment paper (cut a 6-inch round circle and butter it and cut a strip at least 21 inches long and 4-5 inches high and butter it). Cover the bottom of the cake pan with a large foil piece to prevent water from leaking into it. Set aside.

In a microwavable bowl, melt the white chocolate according to the package directions. Stir until smooth. Cool slightly. Mix in the softened cream cheese. In a small cup, beat the egg yolks with the vanilla, if using.

Add the egg yolk mixture to the chocolate-cream cheese. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually add small portions of egg whites to the above mixture and fold gently until incorporated each time.

Pour the mixture carefully into the prepared spring form pan. Place this pan into a larger pan. Pour warm water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the spring form pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes or until the cheesecake sets. Turn off the oven and leave the pans for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. Place the foil-lined spring form pan onto a wire rack to cool completely. Discard the water from the other pan. Remove the cheesecake from the pan, peeling away the parchment paper, and put on a platter. Chill for about 4 hours before serving.

Notes

  • This Japanese cheesecake tends to deflate a little after it has been taken out of the oven but still tastes light and soft.
  • Substitute the vanilla for other flavorings, such as strawberry, orange or raspberry extract and garnish the finished cheesecake with sliced strawberries, drained mandarin oranges or raspberries. Try coconut extract and sprinkle with coconut flakes.
  • Try our other creamy cheesecake recipes on our blog for National Cheesecake Day.

 

Strawberry Daiquiri

July 19: National Daiquiri Day

Summers are hot, especially in Texas, so Highlander sometimes chills out with a strawberry daiquiri. The fruit is in season and is abundant around this time of the year here. So much so that we have been to two strawberry festivals in Texas (Poteet and Pasadena) which sell the fruit by bushels and baskets! On a hot summer day, relax and cool off with a classic cocktail—strawberry daiquiri—on National Daiquiri Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Cocktails at Love to Know)

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups ice
  • ¾ cup rum
  • ½ cup lime juice, fresh squeezed
  • 3 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries (washed and leaves removed)

Directions

In a blender, place the ice, rum and lime juice. Sprinkle the sugar.

Add the strawberries. Blend/puree/liquefy well. Pour into glasses. Garnish with a strawberry or slice of lime (optional).

Notes

  • For a mocktail (virgin version of strawberry daiquiri), eliminate the rum and substitute with lemon-lime soda.
  • Search our blog for more cocktail recipes.

Texas Caviar

July 18: National Caviar Day

Our Ukrainian friend Olga W. eats real Russian caviar but we have not acquired a taste for that luxury cuisine. We even tried to fill some champagne macarons with caviar as well but we still did not care for it.

Perhaps our taste (buds) leans toward the beer (budget) than champagne (and caviar) kind. So for National Caviar Day, we went the cheap route and asked our friend, Karen B., to make her version of Texas Caviar for our blog. Her recipe does not have roe but lots of richness from the earth instead—beans and colorful chopped vegetables.

Our guest chef is a true Texan and is the perfect person to share her recipe for Texas Caviar. Born and bred near Houston, Karen loves her cowboy boots, the rodeo, BBQs and country music. She and Islander are friends through the local culinary and cake clubs.

Served as a side salad or as an appetizer with (Texas-shaped) tortilla chips, Texas Caviar is an economical alternative to expensive caviar on National Caviar Day!

Recipe

From Karen B.

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion (or half a Texas-sized sweet onion), chopped
  • 1 bunch of green onions/scallions, chopped (green parts only)
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 5 small Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black eyed peas, drained
  • 1 cup sweet corn kernels
  • 1 bottle (8 ounces) zesty Italian dressing

Directions

Finely chop the sweet and green onions, green/red/jalapeno peppers and cilantro leaves. Mince the garlic and dice the tomatoes. Put them all in large mixing bowl. Stir in the drained black beans and black eyed peas. Add the sweet corn kernels. Pour in the zesty Italian dressing and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for about two hours to allow the flavors to meld. Serve in a bowl, garnished with extra chopped cilantro leaves, if desired.

Notes

  • Thanks to Karen B. for taking some photos for our blog and for making Texas Caviar for us. Take special note of her adorable Texas-shaped bowl that she used to serve the dip with tortilla chips.
  • Our church puts on an annual “Denim and Diamonds” fundraiser so we were inspired to photograph the food with our jeans and rhinestones. “Denim and Diamonds” is a popular party theme in Texas and is also a perfect backdrop for Texas Caviar.

 

Patriotic Peanut Butter

M&M Cookies

July 4: American Independence Day

Americans are celebrating the 4th of July today by shopping the sales, seeing a blockbuster movie, watching fireworks, having a picnic or barbecue or enjoying the summer season with family and friends. Whenever we gather with them to celebrate USA’s independence day, we like to make festive food to share, such as these peanut butter cookies studded with red, white and blue M&M peanut butter-flavored candies. This dessert is easy to make and is always a welcome treat at parties with a patriotic theme. Happy 4th of July!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ¼ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup peanut butter M&Ms (we used the seasonal red, white and blue peanut butter-flavored M&M candies)
  • ¼ cup sugar, granulated white

Directions

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the brown sugar. Mix in the peanut butter. Beat in the egg. Blend well.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Gradually add the dry to the wet ingredients and mix until everything comes together. Fold in the M&Ms. Scoop 1-inch size balls form the dough. Roll in the sugar.

Place each dough ball on a lightly greased cookie sheet, leaving about two inches to allow for spreading. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes or until the edges start to brown. Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack and let the cookie cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Yield: Approximately 2 ½ dozen cookies.

Notes

  • The use of red, white and blue M&Ms in this patriotic-colored recipe is similar to the one of the election cookies we made a few years ago.
  • Change the colors of the candies to suit the season (for example, red and pink M&Ms for Valentine’s Day and red and green M&Ms for Christmas).
  • Search our blog for other patriotic-themed recipes.

 

Great Canadian Ketchup Cupcakes

July 1: Canada Day

Canadians seem to have an affinity for ketchup. Ketchup-flavored potato chips are a wildly popular snack—and ketchup cupcakes are a relatively new novelty from our northern neighbors. We made the latter to share with Highlander’s co-workers and proudly observe the national holiday of his birth country.

At first, he did not reveal what the “secret/special” ingredient (ketchup) was in the cupcakes, which look a lot like red velvet flavor. So it was a surprise when his co-workers tasted a tangy yet sweetly spiced cupcake. Canadian flag colors of white and red complete this confection; it is topped with white maple syrup-infused cream cheese frosting and red candy maple leaves.

The Great Canadian Ketchup Cake was introduced by the Heinz company to mark its centennial year in Canada in 2009. Curious cooks like us wanted to try the recipe (in cupcake form) and post the experience appropriately on Canada Day. It is a decent dessert from a creative advertising campaign!

Recipe

(Adapted from Heinz via Kraft Canada)

For the ketchup cupcakes

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup tomato ketchup (we used Heinz organic)
  • 2 tablespoons liquid red food coloring
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Set aside. In a smaller bowl, stir together the water, ketchup and red food coloring. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the brown sugar until fluffy.

Beat in the eggs. Gradually add some of the flour mixture, alternating with the ketchup mixture and blend until smooth.

Scoop into red paper cupcake liners. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely on wire racks.

For the maple syrup-infused cream cheese frosting and maple leaf candy toppers

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 block (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (see Notes)
  • red candy melts (we used Wilton brand)

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter with the cream cheese. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Stir in the maple syrup and blend well. Use a spatula to frost the tops of the cupcakes.

Melt the red candy melts according to the package directions. Spoon into mini maple leaf molds. Let set, unmold and place the candy maple leaves in the center of the cupcakes. Chill in the refrigerator and let the cupcakes come to room temperature for serving. Yield: Approximately 20 cupcakes.

Notes

  • Instead of maple syrup, substitute with a teaspoon of maple extract for a more pronounced maple flavor.
  • We bought our fall leaves candy mold when it was in season at our local craft store. The particular mold we used can be ordered online at Amazon.com. 
  • Search our blog for more Canadian recipes (see our Theme Menus). 

 

Minion Milano Cookies

June 30: Movie Premiere of “”Despicable Me 3” (2017)

The Minions are back with more mayhem in the movie, “Despicable Me 3”, which premieres today. Those scene-stealing stars had their own eponymous movie a few years ago and we made Minion Twinkie cupcakes for the occasion (and for many parties and potlucks as well). This time, instead of Twinkies, we used Milano cookies to make a quick and easy despicably delightful dessert. Make Minion Milano cookies as a fun food to celebrate Gru’s crew of Minions and his family’s return in the third film of the “Despicable Me” franchise.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • Milano cookies
  • Blue confectioner’s coating, candy melts or white chocolate tinted blue
  • Black tube icing
  • Candy eyeballs

Directions

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Set aside. Unwrap the Milano cookies. Melt the blue confectioner’s coating in a deep bowl. Dip the end of a cookie halfway. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Continue dipping the rest of the cookies. Place in the refrigerator to allow the coating to harden. Remove from the refrigerator.

With a small round decorator’s tip, use the black icing tube to pipe in details of the Minions, such as the hair and eye pieces. Press a candy eyeball onto the black icing while still wet. Finish the mouth details. Vary the expressions of the Minions. Arrange cookies on a serving tray.

Notes

  • Minion Mayhem is a simulator ride attraction at Universal Studios in Florida and Hollywood. Japan is set to open one as well.
  • Make Minion Twinkie cupcakes to add to the Minion Milano cookies for a despicable dessert table.

miniondesserttable