Amazing Marble Cupcakes {with a twist…of course}

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This weekend, my 8-year-old son and I made these cupcakes together. The interesting ingredients resulted in probably the best cupcakes we’ve made. Yum!

Enjoy! Denise

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Amazing Marble Cupcakes

1 Box Yellow Cake Mix
3 Eggs
1/3 cup Vegetable Oil
8 oz. Pepsi
4 oz. Maraschino Cherry Juice
1/4 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground Cardamom
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Cocoa Powder
Maraschino Cherries

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line 2 cupcake pans with liners and set aside.
  • Add cake mix, eggs, vegetable oil, Pepsi, maraschino cherry juice, cinnamon, cardamom and vanilla extract to a large mixing bowl.
  • Beat on low for 30 seconds then beat on med-high for 2-3 minutes.

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  • Pour 1/3 of cake batter to a small mixing bowl. Add the cocoa powder and mix well with a rubber spatula.
  • Divide the non-chocolate cake batter evenly between the 24 cupcake liners.

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  • Divide and dollop the chocolate batter evenly between the 24 cupcake liners.

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  • Using the dull end of a wooden skewer, marble the batter.

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  • Bake for 17-20 minutes.
  • Cool completely then frost with your favorite buttercream frosting and top with a maraschino cherry.20120826-135012.jpg
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20 Clove Garlic Chicken with Lemon & Olives {slow cooker}

Garlic… You either live it or you hate it…..

I love it!

This recipe uses an entire bulb of garlic!

While it slow cooks, the garlic gets soft and mushy. The flavor mellows…resulting in an almost sweet flavor.

Enjoy! Denise

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Slow Cooked 20 Clove Garlic Chicken with Lemon & Olives

1 Garlic Bulb
1 cup White Wine
1 cup Chicken Broth
4 lbs. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast, frozen
7 oz. jar Green Olives, drainers
2 Lemons, thinly sliced
1 Shallot, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon dried Thyme
Salt, Pepper & Hot Paprika (to taste)

  • Separate cloves of garlic. Peel & smash with the back of your knife. Set aside.

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  • In a large bowl, stir together wine, broth, thyme, salt, pepper and hot paprika. Set aside.

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  • Spray your slow cooker with cooking spray.
  • Place chicken in the slow cooker.
  • Pour broth/wine mixture over chicken.
  • Add olives and garlic. Top with sliced lemons and shallots.
  • Season top of lemons and shallots with salt and pepper to taste.

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  • Cook on low for 8 hours.

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  • Serve with rice or buttered noodles.

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Sweet & Salty Chocolate Toffee Cracker Candy

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I have thought about making this for a while. This recipe is not only easy, it is very rich and flavorful. My colleagues at work loved it…so I guess I need to make it again real soon!

My favorite thing about this recipe s that it is perfect for those last-minute “make & take” events because you can have the ingredients in your pantry….

Enjoy! Denise

Sweet & Salty Chocolate Toffee Cracker Candy

4 oz. Saltine Crackers (1/4 of avg. size box)
1 stick of Butter
1 cup Dark Brown Sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Powder (or extract)
2 teaspoons Himalayan Pink Sea Salt, divided
12 oz. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Candies, Sprinkles, or Nuts

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and grease it with shortening.
  • Place the Saltines in a single layer on the lined cookie sheet; set aside.

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  • In a heavy saucepan, melt the dark brown sugar, butter along with 1 teaspoon of the pink salt, cinnamon and vanilla powder over medium heat.

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  • Bring to a boil while stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Boil for 3 minutes.

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  • Carefully pour the mixture over the crackers. Use a metal spatula to spread the mixture evenly onto all the crackers.

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  • Place the cookie sheet into the preheated oven and bake for 7 minutes (toffee will bubbly).
  • Transfer cookie sheet to a safe surface.
  • Pour the chocolate chips over the toffee; set aside until chocolate chips soften and look glossy.

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  • Use a metal spatula or scraper to smooth out the chocolate chips evenly to cover the toffee layer.

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  • Sprinkle the remaining 1 teaspoon of pink salt over the chocolate layer.

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  • Sprinkle with your choice of toppings.
  • Cool completely. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill. Cut or break into bite-size pieces.

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Caribbean Cooking Class – Grilled Jamaican Jerk Shrimp

Denise From GypsyWorldSpiceCafe.com @ Savory Spice Shop of Raleigh

Below is the recipe for grilled Jamaican Jerk Shrimp that I shared during a Caribbean Cooking class that I presented at the Savory Spice Shop in Raleigh, NC.

The marinade for the shrimp features the Savory Spice Shop’s Jamaican Jerk Season Blend, Citrus Juice and Annatto Oil.

It is perfect for upcoming summer parties. You can grill outdoors or use your grill pan to grill indoors. It is easy and quick especially since you only need to marinate the shrimp for 30 minutes.

I also made this with turkey cutlets.

Yum!

Enjoy!
Denise

Banana Salsa

Grilled Jamaican Jerk Shrimp

2 lbs Large Shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 tablespoons Annatto Oil
Juice from 2 Limes
4 tablespoons Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
Salt & Pepper to taste

    • Combine annatto oil, lime juice and Jamaican jerk seasoning in a shallow dish. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
    • Add shrimp to marinade. Toss to evenly coat.
    • Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

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Caribbean Cooking Class – Annatto Oil

Denise From GypsyWorldSpiceCafe.com @ Savory Spice Shop of Raleigh

Below is the recipe for Annatto Oil that I shared during a Caribbean Cooking class that I presented at the Savory Spice Shop in Raleigh, NC.

Annatto is described as being “slightly peppery with a hint of nutmeg“. I use Annatto Oil for adding both color and flavor to my recipes. It adds a wonderful golden hue to rice, vegetables, seafood and poultry. In my family, it is a key ingredient for making Pastelillos.

Please note that Annatto Oil is a deep golden red. It does stain easily, so, be careful not get it on your clothing.

Annatto seeds have health benefits too!

Enjoy!

Denise

Annatto Oil
*Recipe Source: Miami Spice

1 cup Olive Oil
1/2 cup Annatto Seeds

  • Heat olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add annatto seeds. Cook until oil is reddish gold and the seeds begin to crackle (about 3 minutes).
  • Strain oil into a clean container with a lid.

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Caribbean Cooking Class – Black Bean & Mango Salad

Denise From GypsyWorldSpiceCafe.com @ Savory Spice Shop of Raleigh

Last week, I taught my first cooking class at the Savory Spice Shop in Raleigh, NC. The theme for the class was Caribbean cooking.

We had a lot of fun cooking, talking and sharing information, stories….and laughs.

Below is the recipe for Black Bean & Mango Salad. I love this salad recipe because it is easy to make and perfect for spring/summer parties. The flavors are simple, fresh and versatile. It pairs well with chicken or seafood.

Enjoy!

Denise

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Black Bean & Mango Salad
*Recipe adapted from Miami Spice

3 ripe Mangos, chopped
3 15-oz cans Black Beans, drained and rinsed
1/4-1/2 cups fresh Cilantro, chopped
4 Scallions, trimmed and chopped
4 tablespoons Olive Oil
Juice of 2 Limes
Salt & Pepper to taste

  • Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl.
  • Adjust seasoning as needed.

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Caribbean Cooking Class – Banana Salsa Recipe

Denise From GypsyWorldSpiceCafe.com @ Savory Spice Shop of RaleighLast week, I taught my first cooking class at the Savory Spice Shop in Raleigh, NC.   The theme for the class was Caribbean cooking.  

Below is the recipe for Banana Salsa.  I chose to present this recipe because it is simple, flavorful and colorful. 

Banana?

Yes!

If you like mango or pineapple salsa, you will love it. Also, bananas are SO much easier to chop than both mangos & pineapple. 

Try serving it with blue corn tortilla chips or serve alongside of either chicken or fish.

It was a big hit at the class too. Enjoy!

Denise

Banana Salsa

Banana Salsa
*Recipe adapted from Miami Spice

8 Finger Bananas, diced
1/2 cup Red Bell Pepper, diced
1 Jalapeño Pepper, diced
1 Serrano Pepper, diced
1 teaspoon ground Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Cardamom
4 Scallions, trimmed and chopped
1/2 cup fresh Mint, chopped
1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
Juice from 2 Limes
Salt & Pepper

  • Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl.
  • Adjust seasoning as needed.
  • Serve with blue corn tortilla chips, fish or chicken

Banana Salsa

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Easy as 3-2-1 -> Chocolate Coconut Water Martini

Chocolate Coconut Water? Absolutely! It is amazing.

I am a huge fan of coconut water and have it often with my lunch or after my work out. Recently, I discovered chocolate coconut water. Yum!

Below is my take one of my favorite cocktails…the Chocolate Martini.

Enjoy!

Denise

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Chocolate Coconut Water Martini

3 oz. Chocolate Coconut Water

2 oz. Vodka

1 oz. Kahlua

  • Fill your shaker halfway with ice.
  • Pour the ingredients into the shaker.
  • Cover and shake it good.

Serves 2

Note: I decided to rim my glass with equal parts unsweetened dark cocoa and splenda.

Polish Easter Bread Rolls

Putting A Twist on Tradition – Polish Easter Bread Rolls

It’s that time of year..  Spring is in full bloom and the Easter celebrations are in full force.  

Even with the hustle and bustle of the “everyday” routine, making time to maintain traditions is really important to my family.  

Making Polish Easter Bread is a family favorite.  It’s an all day event because we make several batches. 

Last year I posted my take on the “family recipe”, “Embracing In-Law Family Traditions = Polish Easter Bread”

This year I decided to put a twist on tradition and make Polish Easter Bread Rolls.     They were so cute….I  wish I had thought of this sooner!

Enjoy!

Denise

Polish Easter Bread Rolls

Polish Easter Bread Rolls

1 Batch of Polish Easter Bread Dough

Follow instructions for the making the bread with the following exceptions:

  • Spray cupcake pans with cooking spray.  Set aside.
  • Follow instructions for Polish Easter Bread Recipe.
  • Instead of dividing dough into 6 mini-loaves, divide into 48 rolls.
  • Place rolls into the cupcake pans for the second rise.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Spiced Hibiscus Granita {Spiked}

On the weekends, my husband and I like to take time to watch a movie together. This past weekend I made a dessert  cocktail for our “movie time”.

Granita is easy to make and the variations are only limited by your imagination.   Be sure to check out some suggested flavor combinations at the end of the recipe.

Enjoy!

Denise

Spiced Hibiscus Granita - Spiked

Spiced Hibiscus Granita {Spiked}

Vodka, Tea Bags, Cinnamon Stick

1-1/2 cups Water
1 two-inch Cinnamon Stick
3 Red Zinger Tea Bags
pinch of Salt
1/8 teaspoon ground Cardamom
1 cup Vodka
3-4 tablespoons Lemon Juice
3-4 tablespoons Vanilla Agave Syrup or Honey

  • Add water and cinnamon stick to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil.
  • Remove pot from heat and add tea bags, cardamom and tiny pinch of salt to the boiling water.
  • Cover and let steep for five minutes.
  • Meanwhile, add the vodka, agave syrup and lemon juice to a bowl. Stir to combine.
  • When tea is done steeping, remove tea bags and cinnamon stick.
  • Add tea to the bowl. Stir to combine.

Spiced Hibiscus Granita - Ready to Freeze

  • Transfer tea mixture to a 8×8 baking pan.

Spiced Hibiscus Granita - Ready to Freeze in Baking Pan

  • Place in the freezer for 4-6 hours. Scrape with a fork every hour to break up the ice crystals.

Spiced Hibiscus Tea Granita - Ready to Serve

  • Serve straight up (or add ice cream/fresh fruit).

Spiced Hibiscus Tea Granita - Ready to Eat

Variations

  • Coffee & Kahlua & Cardamom
  • Lemon Zinger Tea & Vodka & Basil
  • Diet Coke & Captain Morgan & Cinnamon (Note:  Just use 2 cans of soda … do not warm the soda!)

Click the Image to Print “Just The Recipe”!

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Mastic Scented Salmon

Mastic Tears

Mastic?

If you have not tried it…you need to!

Mastic will add a very unique (“in a good way”) pine-like flavor backdrop to your dish.

It is typically used for cake, pudding and ice cream recipes.

The suggested serving is 1/4 teaspoon of ground mastic for every 4 servings that your recipe calls for.

My creative cooking “take” was to make poached salmon. Below is an easy recipe that is good to have on file…especially when you need to pull dinner together quickly.

Mastic tears are harvested from the sap of the Gum Mastic tree. It is also used to cure ailments as well as have aphrodisiac qualities. (google “mastic tears” to learn more)

Be sure to look for mastic tears at your favorite spice shop or Mediterranean market.

Enjoy!

Denise

Mastic Scented Poached Salmon

Mastic Scented Salmon

1/2 teaspoon Mastic tears
1/2 cup White Wine
1/2 cup Water
2 Garlic Cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon dried Marjoram
1 teaspoon dried Parsley
1/4 teaspoon Hot Paprika
1 tablespoon Butter, cut into small cubes
1-1/2 pounds of Salmon
Salt & Pepper (to taste)

  • Crush the mastic tears with the 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt with a mortar and pestle; set aside.

Mastic Tears and Kosher Salt

Mastic Ground with Kosher Salt

  • Add the white wine, water and garlic to a large saucepan. Warm over medium heat.
  • Add the salmon to the saucepan.
  • Season the salmon evenly with the marjoram, parsley, hot paprika and mastic-salt mixture. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  • Top with butter cubes and bring to a boil.

Mastic Scented Salmon Poaching

  • Cover and reduce heat to a simmer until fish is opaque and firm (about 15 minutes).

Note: I served with brown rice and steamed veggies….. Delish!

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Gypsy Spiced Apple Crisp

20120220-065956.jpgThe spice Grains of Paradise are tiny, unique pyramid-shaped seeds whose flavor profile can be described as sharp and peppery with a fruity backdrop.

They look ashy when you crush them with a spice grinder or mortar & pestle.

Substitute Grains of Paradise for black peppercorns. Try seasoning your steak with crushed grains of paradise, salt and hungarian paprika. The flavor combination really works.

Look for them at your local spice shop.

My family has been requesting an apple dessert. Below is an apple dessert recipe that features Grains of Paradise.

Enjoy!

Denise

Gypsy Spiced Apple Crisp

Gypsy Spiced Apple Crisp

2 cans (20 oz) Apple Pie Filling
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 cup Evaporated Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 teaspoon Grains of Paradise
15.25 oz box of Butter Pecan Cake Mix
1 cup Butter, melted

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Lightly grease a 13 x 9 baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
  • Crush the grains of paradise with a mortar and pestle; set aside.

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  • In a large bowl, mix together the apple pie filling, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, evaporated milk, vanilla and ground grains of paradise.

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  • Pour mixture into the prepared baking pan.

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  • Sprinkle the dry cake mix evenly over the apple mixture. Drizzle the melted butter evenly over the dry cake mix layer.
  • Bake for one hour or until golden brown.

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  • Serve warm or cold.

Note: I turned the baking dish after 30 minutes. If you want, top with vanilla ice cream and drizzle with caramel.

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