Saturday, July 30, 2022

Zucchini Muffins

 


Summer squash and zucchini have made their way back to center stage in my kitchen of late, showing up to the table in mostly savory preparations, as I endeavor to enjoy more of the season’s bounty.  But my fondness for the scrumptious zucchini muffins and zucchini bread I enjoy on occasion turned my affections in that direction recently—and moist, delicious zucchini muffins finally came to life in my kitchen.





It was the perfect way to indulge a weekend morning.  Grating the fresh zucchini, bringing the ingredients together with a few flicks of the wrist, filing the muffin tins, baking them off in the hot oven, reminding myself to be patient while they cooled, and finally—finally—enjoying the fruit of my labor.  Simple pleasures that never get old in my world.





So if you don’t have a garden with zucchini sprouting up (I don’t), grab a few the next time you’re at the market and bake a batch or two.  Bonus: zucchini are in season and cooking and baking with the freshest, seasonal ingredients always yield the best (read: tastiest) results.  Not to mention that they’re more economical in-season, too. 


They’re perfect as a quick breakfast, a snack, for dessert, or any way you want to enjoy them.  Vegetables never tasted so good :), or yielded more…


Happy Eating!


Zucchini Muffins


Ingredients:

2  large eggs, room temperature

1 1/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups grated zucchini

1 cup vegetable oil

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg


Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.


In a large bowl, beat the eggs.  Mix in the sugar and vanilla extract. Stir in the grated zucchini and the oil. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt.


Stir the dry ingredients into the zucchini mixture (be careful not to overmix!)


Prep your muffin pan with paper muffin cups or grease generously.  Use a spoon, ice cream scooper or small measuring cup to fill the cups up completely.


Bake until the muffins are golden brown or a tester comes out clean (about 20-30 minutes, depending on the oven). Remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a wire rack for about five minutes.  Remove from the muffins from the muffin pan and cool them another 20 minutes on the rack.  Eat and enjoy!


P.S. Muffins can be stored in the freezer for up to two months. 


Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes  

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Thursday, June 30, 2022

The Creamiest, Dreamiest Classic Cheesecake

 


When you’ve been away from one of your happy places, even for great reasons like celebrating family milestones and traveling, such as my recent hiatuses away from home two weekends in a row, it feels oh so good when you’re back—in full force.


I speak of me and my kitchen.  Specifically, creating beautiful, scrumptious food in my kitchen.



So taking several hours last Sunday to indulge in baking was a welcomed return.  The recipe of choice was a dreamy cheesecake recipe by Dorie Greenspan, that I happened upon in the New York Times Cooking archives, during my search for inspiration.  And not only did I thrill and delight myself with the finished masterpiece—I finally checked baking a cheesecake off of my epicurean ‘to do’ list.


Can you believe it?! I’d never made a cheesecake before then.  


I grew up eating my mom’s beloved cheesecake pie (a lighter version of full-on cheesecake) and have otherwise eaten my fair share of cheesecakes over the years.  But baking one myself?  Not until last Sunday.  And I’m so glad I did.  In fact, I’m already dreaming up other flavor variations and nuances for future baking escapades.  



Nothing was spared with this all-in, high crust (humble brag), cream cheese x heavy cream, delicacy.  (I opted for all heavy cream for my first go ‘round, but sour cream and heavy cream, or all sour cream, can also work beautifully, I’m sure.)  Still, my instincts were spot on for me and the creamy, cheese-cakey bite after bite I was seeking.


For a final finish, a.k.a garnish, I decided to add some macerated summer berries for a bit of color and extra goodness. (Totally optional, however, because this baby stands very well on her lonesome.)





I have to admit that I was so proud of my labor of love when I finally went in for the ‘unfolding’ from the springform pan and to take my first bite.  Did I mention, you’ve got to be ready to commit, because it’s a 7.5 hour endeavor—at minimum (chill down time, included.)  Mine was longer because I took the overnight chill down route. But It. Was. Worth. It.  The technique is evident as you go through the recipe—but when you’re in pursuit of unforgettable, too good to be true, results, don’t sweat the technique. ;)





I invite you to make it for yourself, family, friends, enemies that you want to convert to friends, lol!, and anyone else you want to delight (or impress) and spread the joy of baking that’s guaranteed to indulge…


Happy Eating!


Classic Cheesecake

Ingredients:

Crust:

1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs

3 tablespoons sugar

Pinch of salt

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted


Cheesecake:

2 lbs. cream cheese, room temperature

1 1/3 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 1/3 cups heavy cream


Method:

  1. To make the crust: Butter a 9-inch springform pan — choose one that has sides that are 2 3/4 inches high (if the sides are lower, you will have cheesecake batter left over) — and wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil.
  2. Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. (You can do this with your fingers.) Turn the ingredients into the springform pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs along the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides. Don’t worry if the sides are not perfectly even or if the crumbs reach above or below the midway point on the sides. Put the pan in the freezer while you heat the oven. (The crust can be covered and frozen for up to 2 months.)
  3. Center a rack in the oven. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and place the springform on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.
  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
  5. To make the cheesecake: Put a kettle of water on to boil.
  6. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft and creamy, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat for another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs, one by one, beating for 1 full minute after each addition — you want a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the sour cream and/or heavy cream.
  7. Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in a roasting pan that is large enough to hold the pan with some space around it.
  8. Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the springform pan. The batter will reach the rim of the pan. (If you have a pan with lower sides and have leftover batter, you can bake the batter in a buttered ramekin or small soufflé mold.) Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
  9. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour 30 minutes, at which point the top will be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven’s heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.
  10. After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, lift the springform pan out of the roaster — be careful, there may be some hot water in the aluminum foil — and remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.
  11. When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, although overnight is better.
  12. {Baker's Tips}:
  13. At serving time, remove the sides of the springform pan — you can use a hairdryer to do this — and set the cake on a serving platter.
  • Serving: The easiest way to cut cheesecake is to use a long, thin knife that has been run under hot water and lightly wiped. Keep warming the knife as you cut slices of the cake.
  • Storing: Wrapped well, the cake will keep for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or for up to 2 months in the freezer. It’s best to defrost the still-wrapped cheesecake overnight in the refrigerator.

Recipe courtesy of NYT Cooking 


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Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Chili, Soy and Honey Brussels Sprouts


I get cooking inspiration from so many sources.  From food t.v., to magazines, travel, cookbooks, dining out, and more, there’s no shortage of familiar and novel ways, alike, to feed my passion.  And among the list, scrumptious, unforgettable tastes rank supreme.  

And my latest kitchen foray is a direct result of one such unforgettable dish I had last year while visiting my forever favorite, NYC. I took a chance on a cozy Italian restaurant near my hotel, after a long day, replete with an early flight into the city and non-stop goings upon my arrival.  (Just my speed, and the ultimate allure, whenever I’m in the Big Apple.) So settling in at the bar to order up some pasta, and the brussels sprouts that the server was raving about, was just what I needed to finish a wonderful day.  





So about those brussels sprouts.  They were crispy, with the perfect balance of sweet, spicy and savory goodness.  They were quite literally the best brussels sprouts that I had tasted to date, and currently that ranking still holds.  Who knew you could elevate an already favorite ingredient even further?  That’s the joy of cooking—and eating!


While I can’t recall the exact ingredients that restaurant’s kitchen used, I do recall enough of the flavors to inspire my own twist and nod to the amazing sprouts.  Simple, quick, versatile and supremely flavorful, it’s everything you want in a recipe—and more. Leading with the perfect trifecta of sweet, savory and somewhat piquant notes, I trust that you will make this a star side (or possibly even main) dish in your cooking and entertaining repertoires once you make them.





I crisped them up in the air fryer (but roasting them in a very hot oven will get you there, too) and finished them off in that wonderful marinade.  From there, all that was left to do was to indulge in…


Happy Eating!


Chili, Soy and Honey Brussels Sprouts


Ingredients:

1-2 lbs. brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise

Olive oil

Kosher salt

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon chili garlic paste

1 tablespoon hot honey (any variety of honey will work)


Method:

Season brussels sprouts with a generous drizzle of olive oil and salt. Cook according to air fryer instructions, until golden and crispy.  (For oven roasting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and roast for 18-25 minutes, watching carefully to ensure they don’t burn.


Meanwhile prepare the marinade by combining the soy sauce, chili paste and honey in a small bowl.  Stir to mix thoroughly.  Set aside.


Once the brussels sprouts are ready, pour the marinade over and toss to coat the sprouts. Serve and enjoy!

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Sunday, April 24, 2022

{Scent-Sational}: The Beauty Hack of Layering Fragrance


My current layering trio - Coco Mademoiselle Body Oil, Body Cream and Perfume

You’re never fully dressed without a…fragrance.  


That beauty and lifestyle ethos was lived before me as I grew up watching both my grandmother and mom regularly incorporate fragrance into their “get ready” beauty routines.


Scents of days gone by lined their vanities and dressers and inevitably finished off the “look of the day” before they headed out for work, church, or wherever the day took them.  As the observant bystander, I soaked it all in, including the way my mother, in particular, layered her scent of the day for the ultimate aromatherapy for those in her path.  And she’s still layering to this day, if you’re wondering. :)


As these things have a way of unfolding, it wasn’t long—high school, to be exact—before I was donning my own signature fragrance. (I’ve always had a signature fragrance in rotation since then.  Anyone else?). Back then it was Giorgio Armani’s Acqua di Gio.  Who remembers that?! I absolutely lovvvved it and would soon recognize my fragrance proclivities as leaning heavily toward florals, citrus, and lighter bodied scents—that carry a punch.


I wasn’t layering my fragrances just yet, but the time would come, when I’d start to adapt that beauty technique, too.  Currently, my layering is mainly centered around stacking the same scent through perfume, body cream, and/or body oil, and there’s a body wash that I’m eyeing to complete the end-to-end experience. It’s an indulgent hack to really give your scent a luxurious boost and lingering effect, while nurturing your skin, as well.  Because who doesn't want to smell sensational longer?


And as layering goes, I’m also excited to dip my foot in the world of layering complimentary fragrances from different perfumers to create bespoke scents that are uniquely my own.  If you’re also interested in doing more with your fragrances, you’ll find this article from L'Oreal Paris on layering fragrance, including a break down of complimentary scents, to be worthwhile.


I’ve shared how I’m wearing my fragrances these days, but I’d love to know what you’re doing, too.  So tell me: is fragrance a regular part of your beauty routine and, if so, how do you currently wear your scents?  A single scent?  Layers of the same scent? Layering different scents or oils?  Whatever you do, there’s no denying the intoxicating scent of a woman who’s adorned in beautiful fragrance.


I’m grateful to my grandmother and mother for giving me the gift of fragrance—and I’m thrilled to share my passion for it with you.


Happy Scenting!


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Tuesday, February 22, 2022

5 Essential Tips for Successful Solo Travel

 

Havana, Cuba

Solo travel can seem daunting for some, but let me assure you that it’s absolutely doable and fulfilling—when done right.  After traveling to four continents and numerous countries, cities and islands as a solo traveler, it’s fair to say that I know a little something about this often avoided way of exploring.


So if you never, or rarely, travel alone, I want to boost your confidence and savvy with five tips for a successful solo journey—because life’s too short to wait around.


1.  Research, research, research.  Although you can’t know everything about a destination before arrival, you can get a major head start by taking the time to research.  From lodging, to dining, to cultural outlets, nightlife, ground transportation, local customs and norms, and more, the more you know, the better.  Not into all that research? Let my travel company, Postcard Travel Boutique, do the heavy lifting for you.


2.  Document and share.  Once your itinerary comes together, be sure to share it with family and/or friends so that they can know your intended whereabouts and monitor your safe comings and goings. This also includes real-time updates and check-ins while navigating your destination(s).


3.  Seek out curated activities that will allow you to safely engage with others, while still enjoying what a destination has to offer.  Hosted tours and classes are really good avenues, among others.


4.  Go at your own pace. One of the biggest ‘wins’ of solo travel is being in complete control of what happens—and when.  Whether it’s sleeping in after a late night, or lingering longer over an art exhibition, there are no rules for enjoying your journey.


5.  Make lots of postcard memories!  And repeat.


I hope the possibilities of solo travel feel more in reach than ever before and that your solo travel confidence is boosted.  When you’re ready to go, go at the pace that feels right to you and keep these tips on hand for….


Happy Traveling!


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Monday, January 31, 2022

{In Case You Missed It}: 2021 Highlights

 


I gave myself the grace to remain in a Happy New Year state of mind for the entire month of January.  And so, here I am on the final day (my how time flies!!), sharing my perennial recap of the year gone by.  So before January is a distant memory, let me get on with the D.M.R. Fine Foods highlights of 2021, despite it being another challenging and fulfilling year-in-one.  


I embraced every wave of energy, inspiration, occasion and celebration to make the most of my passions and share them with you.  I’m always grateful for each and every person who shares this journey with me and appreciate every opportunity to make it worth your while.


So without further ado, here are some of my favorite highlights of 2021:


Food

2021 brought more home cooking, as I relished long-time favorites and new recipes, alike. From Creole Jambalaya, to Peach Shortcakes, Peach Crisp, Skillet Cornbread, Stuffing Biscuits, and more, it was nothing short of happy eating on full display. 


Travel

I eased back onto the travel scene with a mix of staycation/short road trips, to quickie flights to Ft. Lauderdale and NYC, a Caribbean getaway to Aruba, and a final jaunt to Las Vegas, replete with the Christmas aura I love to experience during holiday season travels. You can check out my quick and fun travel recap here.


Lifestyle

One of the biggest highlights of the year was being selected as a 2021 Better Homes and Gardens Stylemaker! Can you say awe-mazing?!  It truly was and no less exciting being honored a second time around, following my 2018 BHG Stylemaker selection.  An exceptionally curated two-day event, marked by the best brands and authorities across the lifestyle spectrum, the BHG Stylemaker team and my fellow Stylemakers made for another unforgettable hallmark in my journey to date and a welcomed nod that my contributions matter.


Collaborations

Finally, I enjoyed the privilege of once again collaborating with fellow culinary creators as we hosted the Juneteenth Virtual Cookout, replete with a bevy of recipes, stories and celebration around the theme of freedom and what it means to Black Americans.  I additionally enjoyed the honor of sharing more about what Juneteenth means to me on the Stasherbag instagram platform for the (now federal) holiday commemoration. Other collaborations with high fashion brand Marcell Von Berlin and America's Test Kitchen were also a delight.


All in all, I remain grateful for the blessings God continued to bestow on me, even as we continue to navigate the “new normal” in food, hospitality—and life, as a whole.  As a final reminder, the archives are always available for you to dig in and devour D.M.R. Fine Foods through the years. :)


Thank you again for being here and here’s to a blessed, healthy, and prosperous 2022!


xx,


Dawn

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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Vegetable and Bacon Frittata




If raiding your fridge and bringing a meal together easily is your kind of thing, then a frittata is just what the home chef ordered.  I’ve always appreciated the easy touch and elegant finish that goes into making this Italian variation on an omelette.  

And while deciding what to make this past Sunday—that would match the ingredients I had on had (yes, I raided my fridge for this) and also yield a healthy, delectable bite—a frittata seemed to be the perfect fit.  Reminiscent of a crust-less quiche (or mini quiches), it is adaptable to whatever you want to toss into the skillet.





From a prep perspective, I cooked my turkey bacon and sautéed my vegetables before pouring in my cheese and egg mixture.  From there it was off to the oven to bake and set-up into a beautiful, golden finish.  And whether you’re indulging for breakfast, brunch, or anytime, it’s a superb dish to serve when feeding a crowd or a party of one.  Bonus? If you find yourself with leftovers, the individual slices make for the best ready-made breakfast in the days that follow.  


So now that I’ve hopefully piqued your desire to bring this dish to life (or a variation matching what you have on hand), let’s get on with what’s most important….


Happy Eating!


Vegetable and Bacon Frittata


Ingredients:

9 large eggs

3 scallions

1 sweet bell pepper

1 Chile pepper

5-6 strips of turkey bacon (cooked)

1 tbs. Olive oil

4 oz. Shredded cheese

1/4 cup milk

Cherry tomatoes, halved

A bunch (a couple of handfuls or so) of raw kale greens

Italian parsley, finely chopped

Parmigiano Reggiano

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Method:


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.


Whisk together eggs, milk, cheese, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Set aside.


Add oil to an oven-safe skillet and heat over medium-high heat (cast iron recommended, if pre-seasoned or enameled). Add in scallions, bell pepper, and Chile pepper and sauté until softened, about 2-3 minutes.  Add in the cherry tomatoes, kale and bacon and continue sautéing for another 2-3 minutes.  Pour in the egg mixture and place skillet in the pre-heated oven.


Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the top is set and golden-ish in color.  Remove from the oven (remember to use oven mitts!) and garnish with parsley and grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Serve and enjoy!


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