Best Blueberry Muffins

Diva Entertains Blueberry Muffin

Based on the feedback from family, neighbors and assorted friends, these really do deserve the ‘best blueberry muffins’ moniker.  The top of the muffins are dusted with lemon zest and turbinado sugar (also known as ‘raw’ sugar.  But you can also use granulated sugar) and the insides are moist, loaded with blueberries and absolutely delicious!

This recipe is adapted from one published by Cook’s Illustrated magazine.   I simplified their recipe to make it easier to make yet, in my opinion, just as tasty.  (The magazine goes through an added step of cooking down a portion of berries to make a sort of  ‘preserve’ that you then spoon over the batter of each muffin.  It did not make for a quick recipe and, in my opinion, I thought it did little to improve upon the taste).

This delicious recipe is whisked by hand in a matter of minutes.  You can use either frozen or fresh blueberries.  If using frozen, add them frozen to the flour mixture (if thawed you’ll end up having blueberry juice mixing with the batter which makes for a rather unappetizing ‘blue’ to the batter).  And the baked muffins freeze beautifully!

In addition to her line of Wine Favors, Diva Entertains is now offering Personalized Wine Boxes.

Moroccan Spiced Chicken

Diva Entertains Moroccan Spiced Chicken

This has fast become a favorite of ours.  Not only because of the exceptional taste, but also because this dish comes together fast.  Really Fast.  Perfect  for a weeknight; impressive enough to serve to company.  I’d recommend doubling the sauce and serving the chicken with rice, making sure to drizzle some of that extra sauce on the rice.

The recipe came from a Gourmet magazine and was entitled “Moroccan-Spiced Chicken Paillard”.  Paillard is a French term that means pounded thin and quickly cooked.  Which is the key to success with this dish.  Do both (pound thin, cook quickly over med-high heat) and you’ll have succulent, tender piece of chicken every time.

 

Chive Potato Cakes

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A friend shared this wonderful recipe with me and it has fast become a family favorite.  Although the recipe calls for Manchego cheese, you can substitute an easier-to-find, less expensive substitute such as Gouda or Fontina.   You can also use  a softer cheese such as crumbled goat cheese, simply mix the other ingredients first and then fold the goat cheese in.

You can also shape them into large cakes (as shown here) or smaller, thinner cakes.  I like the smaller ones the best.

Chive Potato Cake (Cafe Pasqual’s cookbook, circa 2003)

Makes 6 ‘large’ potato cakes or 12 small ones

  • 2 whole bulbs garlic
  • 5 medium-large russet baking potatoes
  • 1/2 cup grated Manchego cheese (or gouda, fontina, etc.)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh chives
  • salt and pepper
  • butter for frying
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Trim and roast the garlic cloves by cutting off tips, then placing the whole heads, cut side up, in a small baking pan.  Fill the pan with enough water to go 1/2 way up the side of the bulbs.  Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour.
  3. Place the unpeeled potatoes in a saucepan, add water to cover, and bring to a boil.  Boil until tender, 25 to 35 minutes; test for doneness by piercing with a fork.  Drain the potatoes and let them cool until they can be handled.  Then, grate them into a large mixing bowl, skin and all, using the largest holes on a hand-held grater (I found that the skin easily comes off while grating).
  4. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves from their skins onto the grated potatoes.  Add the cheese, egg and chives and mix well.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Form the mixture into 6 cakes 1 1/2″ thick or 12 cakes, 3/4″ thick.  Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or for up to 24 hours before cooking.
  6. Melt the butter in a 12″ inch skillet and fry the cakes until golden, about 4 minutes per side.

Little Touches: Pear and Blue Cheese and Honey – Perfection

Diva Entertains Pear-Blue-Cheese-Honey

No recipe here.  Just 3 simple ingredients.  Which when are combined are absolutely divine!

What’s the ticket to success here?  Simply to purchase the freshest pears and good quality blue cheese and honey.

Pear and Blue Cheese and Honey

  • pears
  • blue cheese
  • honey

  1. Stand a pear on its bottom and slice of a bit of the rounded side.  Then slice pears into 1/4″ slices until you near the core.  Repeat on other side of pear.
  2. Cut 1/4″ slices of blue cheese from the cheese wedge.  Place wedges on top of pear slices.  Cut into smaller pieces to fit pear wedge if needed.
  3. Drizzle each pear wedge with honey.  Serve and enjoy!

Little Touches: BBQ Deviled Eggs

Diva Entertains BBQ Deviled Eggs

Here’s a delicious and fun take on traditional eggs deviled recipes: BBQ Deviled Eggs.  Just as easy to make  – but with a little extra zip to it.

When you go to fill the eggs you can either spoon the filling in each egg or you can place all of the filling in a ziplock bag.  Remove the air and close the bag.  Then push the filling toward one of the non-zip corners, snip off the corner to make a 3/4″ opening and pipe the filling into each egg.

BBQ Deviled Eggs (recipe from CuisineatHome.com, June 2010)

  • 12 Hard-cooked eggs, peeled, cut in half, yolks removed
  • 2 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. barbecue sauce*
  • 3 Tbsp. minced dill gherkin pickles
  • 2 Tbsp. minced sweet onion
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Carefully rinse and pat dry halved egg whites to remove any yolk.
  2. Mash egg yolks in a bowl; stir in cream cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, barbecue sauce, pickles, onions and parsley.  Season mixture with salt and pepper; stir until all ingredients are combined.  Divide filling among egg whites.
  3. Drizzle barbecue sauce lightly over each egg. If you like, garnish with a parsley leaf and/or small pickle slice

*I used a honey barbecue sauce

Lightly Creamed Asparagus Soup Recipe

Diva Entertains Asparagus Soup

Now that asparagus is in season this is a wonderful recipe to showcase its freshness and flavor.  It also allows you to play with the amount of cream you add to the soup.  I’ve made it with the cream and without the cream and loved it both ways.  You can also cut down the amount of cream and increase the chicken stock if you would like.

Lightly Creamed Asparagus Soup

Serve 4

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 leek, sliced and rinsed (white and light green portions only)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into thirds
  • 2 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Melt butter in medium saucepan on medium-high heat.  Add leeks, cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic to the pan and stir for 1 minute.
  3. Add asparagus and chicken stock, bring to a boil.  Once it boils, lower the heat to a simmer and cook 5 – 7 minutes until asparagus is crisp tender (depends how thick your asparagus stems are).  Let cool 10 minutes.
  4. Add contents of saucepan to blender, in batches, and puree until smooth.  After each portion is blended, return it to another medium sized sauce pan.
  5. Add cream and reheat soup, mixing well.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Serve!

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Spicy Beef with Peppers

Diva Entertains Spicy Beef with Peppers

This recipe is not only visually beautiful – it’s a snap to pull together.  And let’s not forget how it tastes – fabulous!

Another nice thing about this recipe is that you can easily change or add vegetables to the dish.  Vegetables to add or swap that work nicely here are:  green peppers, onions, snow pea pods, sugar snap peas, thinly sliced carrots, etc.

You can break this recipe into two major parts: 1) thinly slice the meat (see pic below) and toss it in a flavorful marinade.  2) Make a spicy sauce (Ketchup, hoison and chile garlic sauce).  Quickly cook the beef, then the vegetables and finally cook it all for a minute or two in the spicy sauce.

Diva Entertains Thin Sliced Beef

This recipe serves 2 generously although it is so delicious we often double the recipe so that we have leftovers!

Spicy Beef with Peppers (adapted from Gourmet Magazine, 2004)

Serve 2 generously

  • 1 (1/2 lb.) flank steak, well trimmed.
  • 2 tsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. finely grated garlic
  • 1 tsp. finely grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 5 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. ketchup
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Chinese hoisin sauce
  • 2 to 3 tsp. chile garlic sauce
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch strips
  • 2 scallions, cut on the diagonal, into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces

  1. Cut steak with the grain into 1 1/2 to 2 inch wide strips.  Then cut each strip across the grain into 1/8-1/4 inch thick slices (the point is to slice them very thinly).  Put the slices into a medium bowl with the soy sauce, cornstarch, rice wine, garlic, ginger, salt, sugar and 1 tsp. of the oil.  Toss so that all pieces are coated with the marinade.
  2. Stir together the ketchup, hoisin and chili garlic sauce in a small bowl.
  3. Heat 2 tsp. oil in wok or skillet (swirl oil in pan) over medium-high heat until oil shimmers.   Add beef, spreading pieces in 1 layer on bottom and sides and quickly as possible.  Cook, undisturbed, letting beef begin to brown, 1- 2 minutes, then flip the meat pieces over and stir-fry until meat is just browned on sides but still pink in the center, about 1 minute.  Transfer meat and any juices to a plate.
  4. Pour remaining 2 tsp. oil down side of unwashed wok over high heat, and then swirl oil, titling work to coat sides.  Add bell pepper, scallions, and remaining ¼ tsp salt.  Stir-fry 30 seconds, then add reserved beef with any juices and ketchup mixture.  Stir-fry until combined well and sauce thickens slightly, about 30 seconds, then transfer to a platter.

Simple Butter Almond Cake – Simply Wonderful!

Diva Entertains Almond Cake

One of the wonderful members of the recipe swap I belong to shared this recipe.  It’s from the Odense Website (Odense is a manufacturer of Almond Paste). And if this cake is any indication of the caliber of their recipes – trust me; you’ll be a frequent visitor to their site.

The cake is relatively easy to make.  I’m always a bit hesitate to use almond paste because, depending on the brand, it can be quite hard to crumble and incorporate into a recipe.  But Odense shares their secret that makes it incredibly easy: use a box grater to grate the almond paste.  Brilliant!  And so easy to do.

This recipe does not make the typical 2 to 3 layer American cake.  This is a one layer cake made in a cake pan (9″ works best) or a springform pan.  And although this cake is delicious all by itself, no frosting necessary, I like frosting on everything so I’ll include a recipe for it!

Throwing a party soon?  Diva Entertains has an incredible selection of delicious, Edible Favors.  This includes a large assortment of personalized Cookie Favors and divine Chocolate Favors.