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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Reindeer Cookies

I had all the Christmas cookies I was making this year all set. That was until I saw these cuties. I couldn't resist, so I made a last-minute trip to the store to pick up the supplies to make these. They were equally as delicious as they were cute. How could you go wrong with peanut butter cookies accented by chocolate-covered pretzels, chocolate chips, and M&Ms? They weren't too difficult to make, but you had to work fast once they came out of the oven. I recommend baking in small batches.

Reindeer Cookies
Source: adapted from Jif as seen on Bakergirl

Ingredients:
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 and 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening (I used 1 stick salted butter.)
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
1 and 3/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt (I used 1/2 teaspoon.)
Mini chocolate-covered pretzels
Mini brown M&Ms (I used chocolate chips.)
Regular red M&Ms

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease cookie sheets with baking spray.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

In another bowl, combine brown sugar, peanut butter, and shortening (or butter) and beat at medium speed until well blended. Add milk, vanilla, and egg and beat until blended.

Add flour to peanut butter mixture and beat at low speed until blended.

Form dough into one-inch balls, slightly pinch the bottom of the ball to form a point, and then gently flatten. Space cookies about two inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 7 – 8 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.

Remove from the oven and immediately press two mini chocolate-covered pretzels into the tops of the cookies for the reindeer's antlers. Don't press too hard. Next, press two mini brown M&Ms (or chocolate chips) for the eyes and one red M&M for the nose.

Allow to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Banana Cream Pie


I know I've been MIA lately. I've been super busy with school, work, and the holidays. I know it's no excuse. I apologize, but I can't say it won't happen again. I want to share one of my favorite recipes from my pastry class that has kept me so busy for the past few months: Vanilla Pastry Cream. We made this in class to fill numerous pastries such as eclairs, cream puffs, fruit tarts, pies, and Napoleons. It would also be a great filling for doughnuts, cakes, and cupcakes. I used it in this banana cream pie I made for my uncle's birthday. It got rave reviews from everyone, including the birthday boy. I chalk it up to the awesome vanilla pastry cream and fresh whipped cream. 

Banana Cream Pie
Crust:
Your Favorite Pie Crust
Follow your favorite pie crust recipe (or open store-bought crust and follow directions) and blind bake recipe. Let cool.

Filling:
Vanilla Pastry Cream
Source: Pastry Arts Class 102
2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 bananas, sliced

1. In a saucepan, dissolve 1/4 cup sugar in milk and bring to a boil. 
2. While milk is heating, whisk together egg yolks and whole egg in a metal bowl. Whisk in cornstarch and 1/4 cup sugar until smooth.
3. When milk comes to a boil, temper egg mixture by adding a cup of the milk to the egg mixture.

4. Add egg mixture to milk in saucepan and stir until thick.
5. When thick, remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla.
6. Once blended, pour into a metal bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Make sure plastic wrap touches the surface of the cream.
7. Put in refrigerator until completely cool.

Topping:
Whipped Cream
1 pint whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Place bowl of electric mixer and whisk attachment in fridge for 30 minutes. Combine cream and powdered sugar. Beat on low speed for 1 minute. Increase speed to high and whisk until stiff peaks form.

Assembly:
Once pie crust has been cooled and pastry cream has been chilled, slice bananas. Layer bananas and then pastry cream. Alternate ending with bananas. Spread whipped cream on top of pie and place in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Drum Cake

I was asked to make a cake to celebrate my cousin Noah's second birthday. I was told any flavor and design. After burning a batch of red velvet cupcakes, I decided to forgo my original idea of monster cupcakes and make my old standby chocolate cake instead. With little time to spare, I needed an easy idea. Noah's parents bought him a drum set as a gift, so my wonderful husband suggested I decorate the cake to look like a drum. It was a great idea! It was quick and easy to decorate and I was very pleased with the way it came out. I topped it and filled it with marshmallow buttercream. As always, it was devoured by all. Happy Birthday Noah!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Baptism Cake

Our niece Rylee was recently baptised and I offered to make her a cake to mark the occasion. I made a half chocolate and half vanilla cake and topped it with my vanilla buttercream. I wanted to make the cross out of roses and cover the cake with tons of flowers, but I haven't made flowers in a long time. I'm really rusty and the roses did not turn out the way I wanted, so I scrapped my original idea and drew a cross and filled it in with the start tip instead. I then scattered some pink drop flowers on top. I kept it simple. I'm really glad I'm taking a cake decorating class next semester at school, so I can relearn how to make flowers. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

"The Pie That Won't Die"

When the theme was chosen for this month's What's Baking Challenge, I knew right away what I would be making. Who doesn't love pumpkin cream pie? Honestly, I love this pie, but I hate making it. It's not that this pie is hard to make. I've been making this pie for many years now. I just want to retire it and try something new. Every year I swear I will never make this pie again. And then I do! It's just that every year I HAVE to make this pie. My family always requests it, so I make it. I like to call it "The Pie That Won't Die." This pumpkin pie is very easy to make and quite delicious. One warning, though: Everyone who tries it, loves it.

Pumpkin Cream Pie aka "The Pie That Won't Die"
Source: adapted from Kraft Recipes

Ingredients:
1 graham cracker pie crust
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon sugar
4 oz. whipped topping (plus more for topping)
1 can (15 oz.) solid pumpkin (not pie filling)
1 cup milk 
2 packages vanilla instant pudding
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

Directions:
Beat together cream cheese, 1 tablespoon milk, and sugar in large bowl until blended.
Fold in 4 oz. whipped topping and spread into bottom of crust.
In another bowl, whisk together 1 cup milk, pumpkin, pudding mixes, and pumpkin pie spice.
Spread mixture over cream cheese layer.
Refrigerate at least 4 hours.
Serve topped with additional whipped topping if desired.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Guitar Cake

I was commissioned by my husband's coworker to make a guitar cake for her son's birthday. I was told his favorite color was teal and went from there. I made a two-layer chocolate cake using my go-to chocolate cake recipe, filled it with chocolate pudding, and iced it with vanilla buttercream. Now I make a lot of cakes. I make them and send them off and that's that. Well ever since I made this cake, I've been dreaming about it. It smelled and looked delicious. I think it was the pudding filling. The birthday boy and his family loved this cake, which made me very happy.

My Favorite Vanilla Buttercream
2 sticks butter, room temperature
5 - 6 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 - 3 tablespoons water

Cream the butter. Add vanilla and beat well. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time and water until desired consistency is reached. Beat well.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pastie

If you're from an old mining community like me, you most likely know what a pastie is. If not, I'll give you a brief history. This savory pastry is said to have originated from Cornwall, United Kingdom.
It was a popular lunch item among miners because the filling of meat and potatoes was enclosed in a pastry that enabled miners to eat it with one hand and discard the part they held with their dirty hand. Although I live no where near the United Kingdom, pasties are popular in my community. Here in Pennsylvania, we are known for mining anthracite coal. While the coal industry isn't what it used to be, you can still get a pastie at any of the area churches' annual pastie sales.


Growing up, I disliked pasties. Most of the ones I had were dry and full of large, crunchy onions. I was reminded of pasties a few weeks ago in pastry class. We made up the dough and made a batch of the savory pastries. They were easy to make and after one bite, I was hooked. It was not the dry pastie I remembered from childhood. It was flavorful and delicious. It was so good that I whipped up a bunch at home. If you're looking for a portable (and satisfying) meal, try a pastie. 

Pastie
Source: adapted from pastry class

Ingredients:
2 pie crusts (homemade or store bought)
1 and 1/2 pounds ground beef
2 - 3 potatoes
1/2 white onion (I omitted since I hate onions.)
1 - 2 teaspoons minced garlic
salt, pepper, and garlic powder
1 egg
2 - 3 tablespoons water

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Make pie crust and roll out to 1/4-inch thick. (Or open pie crust if using store bought.) Cut crusts into 4 half-circles.

Boil potatoes about 8 - 10 minutes, until slightly soft, but still firm. Drain, peel, and chop potatoes. Add potatoes to a bowl with ground beef, onion (if using), garlic, salt, and pepper.

Mix carefully with hands and form into 4 balls. Place each ball on one half of each of the half-circles of crust. Fold over sides to cover meat and crimp edges. Poke a few holes in the top to release steam.

Beat together egg and water. Brush top of pasties with egg wash. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Baked Chicken Scampi

Garlic and butter how I love thee! I love chicken scampi. When I make this dish, I usually saute the chicken on the stove top in a butter-garlic chicken broth. This time I decided to throw all the ingredients over the chicken, top it with some panko breadcrumbs for crunch, and pop it in the oven instead. Out came a buttery garlic dream. The best part of this dish is it's so easy to make. Plus it was so delicious that my husband forbade me from making scampi any other way.

Baked Chicken Scampi

Ingredients:
3 chicken breasts
1/2 lemon
2 - 3 cloves fresh garlic (minced)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, parsley

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut chicken breast in half and place in lightly greased baking dish.
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.
Melt butter in a small saucepan.
Add olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and parsley.
Cook until garlic is soft and fragrant.
Pour butter mixture over chicken and top with panko bread crumbs.
Bake for 30 minutes.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Stromboli

My husband's coworker recently gave me a bread machine. I'm not a huge bread eater, but I do love that I can make pizza dough with it. After finding this tutorial on how to make pizza dough, I popped all my ingredients into the machine and let it do its thing. I was left was some beautiful pizza dough. I decided to skip the pizza and make stromboli instead. After working it to the thickness I wanted, I filled it with a mixture of buffalo chicken and cheese. I popped it in the oven and out came a gorgeous stromboli. It was spicy, cheesy, and delicious. Next time, I have to use the bread machine to actually make bread.


Buffalo Chicken Stromboli
Source: pizza dough from YouTube

Ingredients:
1 pizza dough recipe
3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1/2 cup buffalo sauce
1/2 cup bleu cheese crumbles
1 - 1 and 1/2 cups shredded cheese
1 egg, beaten

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Roll out dough and shape into a rectangle.
Mix together chicken, buffalo sauce, and bleu cheese crumbles.
Spread mixture on dough, leaving a 1-inch perimeter.
Cover with shredded cheese.
Roll lengthwise into a log.
Brush with beaten egg.
Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 20 - 25 minutes.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pastry School Update

I'm about half-way through my first pastry school class. I've learned a lot so far. I got to use a commercial mixer and oven. I learned how to clean a dish machine (not fun). I've played with a doughnut filler (and made a huge mess)! I made a friend. We've made an array of tasty items such as fruit, cream, and chiffon pies, pasties, apple dumplings, cookies, bars, eclairs, cream puffs, and tarts. The most fun and tastiest pastry I've made so far is cream puffs and eclairs. I loved how the recipe called for us to cook the dough before baking it. The tiny mounds of dough blew up into beautiful pastries. It was very interesting. Plus those little devils were delicious.

And then we made tarts. I'm so proud of the tart you see above. It's so beautiful. I've never made a tart before, nor have I ever eaten one. I really wasn't looking forward to class, either. I had fun making these and loved my final product. I don't know if I'll ever make another tart in my life, but at least I have this one. All in all, I'm having fun and looking forward to the rest of my class and moving on to a cake class next semester.     
Here's a fuzzy picture of my teammate, Ericka, and I at pastry class. (I'm on the right.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Apple Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream


I love everything about the fall: apples, pumpkins, cool weather, changing leaves, etc. But I've seriously been slacking this year. Pastry school has been keeping me super busy and I haven't had any time to make any fall treats. When I heard about the What's Baking cooking group from my favorite cooking board, I knew I wanted to participate, especially since this month's theme is fall cupcakes, two of my favorite things. We went to the local orchard over the weekend and picked up a barrel of Macintosh apples that were just begging to be used in a recipe. I had been eying a recipe for caramel apple cupcakes in the October issue of Every Day with Rachel Ray.

I liked the method for this cupcake recipe. Just shred the apples and stir all the ingredients together. No mixer involved. Plus, it yielded only 12 cupcakes, which is a perfect amount since I'm bringing home hoards of treats from school. (This week is tarts!) Instead of topping these with caramel, I opted for a caramel buttercream. While the buttercream was delicious, I don't think these cupcakes needed any frosting at all. It overwhelmed the fresh apple flavor, but they were delicious nonetheless. 

Apple Cupcakes
Source: Every Day with Rachel Ray, October 2010

Ingredients:
2 apples, peeled and shredded (sprinkle w/ lemon juice to prevent browning)
1 and 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs (room temperature)
1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed tightly)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 


Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake tin with 12 cupcake liners.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Whisk in oil and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Gently stir in the apples.

Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full and bake for 22 - 28 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before topping with frosting.

Caramel Buttercream
1 stick butter 
2 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 - 2 tablespoons water
15 caramel candies

Melt caramels in microwave for about 1 minute. Stir well and cool. Cream the butter. Add vanilla and beat well. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time and water until desired consistency is reached. Add the caramel and beat well.

*TIP: Since I didn't wait for the caramel to cool completely, I used slightly cold butter so it didn't melt during mixing.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Garlic Cheddar Chicken

I've been looking for some different ways to make chicken and I came across this recipe. All I can say about this chicken is wow! This simple recipe yielded a perfectly moist and flavorful chicken breast. It may not be one of the healthiest recipes, but it's certainly delicious. I made a few changes to cut down on the amount of butter and cheese used in the recipe.

Garlic Cheddar Chicken
Source: adapted from All Recipes

Ingredients:
6 boneless chicken breasts, cut in half
1 stick butter (I used 2/3 stick.)
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 and 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (I used 1/2 cup jack/cheddar blend.) 
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a baking dish. 
Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat and cook the garlic until tender.
On a plate, mix the bread crumbs, cheeses, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper.
Dip each chicken breast in the garlic butter, then press into the bread crumb mixture.
Drizzle any remaining butter on top of the chicken breasts.
Bake for 30 minutes.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mini Red Velvet Cupcakes

I originally made these red velvet cupcakes for my good friend's birthday and again for my husband's Dirty Stashe Bash. They were a hit, especially with my self-proclaimed cake-hating cousin. He loved them so much and requested these for his birthday instead of his annual ice cream cake.That's how powerful these cuties are: They beat ice cream cake! I made these mini, so he'd have leftovers to share with his class. As always, red velvet never disappoints, especially when they're topped with brown sugar cream cheese. If you've never tried red velvet, make these now! 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Alice Springs Chicken

I know it's been a while since I updated, but this gal is busy! I'm loving culinary school, but it's kicking my butt to be a student again. It got me thinking back to when I attended college the first time around. I graduated from Penn State eight years ago, yep, it's really been that long. 

To pay for my books and rent, I used to wait tables at Outback Steakhouse. I really can't say I loved waiting tables, but it did pay the bills. I did, however, love the 50% discount I received. It helped a poor college student like me subsist on steak and potatoes. One of my favorite dishes on the menu is Alice Springs Chicken. It's a seasoned chicken breast covered in honey mustard sauce and topped with mushrooms, bacon, and melted cheese. It's so yummy! I was craving Alice Springs Chicken, so I decided instead of heading to the Outback here, I would make the dish at home. It came out delicious, but not as good as Outback. It must be their secret seasonings. I believe it's a blend of 17 different spices. At least that's what I remember from my days as a waitress.

Alice Springs Chicken
Inspired by Outback Steakhouse

Ingredients:
3 chicken breasts, pounded thin and sliced in half
6 slices bacon
3/4 cup sliced white mushrooms
1/4 cup honey mustard
1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic 
salt, pepper, and garlic powder

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a baking dish with nonstick spray.
Cook bacon, reserving 2 - 3 tablespoons of bacon grease.
Saute mushrooms in bacon grease and minced garlic.
Season chicken with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and brush both sides with honey mustard.
Top with mushrooms, bacon, and cheese and bake for 30 minutes.

Buffalo Blue Potato Slabs
2 - 3 potatoes
1/4 cup buffalo sauce
1/4 cup bleu cheese crumbles
salt & pepper

Thinly slice potatoes and place in a single layer on a greased cookie sheet.
Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with buffalo sauce.
Bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees.
During the last 3 minutes of baking, top with bleu cheese and return to oven to melt cheese.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Slower Cooker Carnitas

We love tacos, and I'm the first the admit we eat way too many of them. I get sick of the same old beef and chicken tacos, so I decided to make carnitas or pork tacos. I bought a family-sized pack of pork chops and threw them in a slow cooker with a few ingredients I had on hand. The result was perfectly tender pork with a Mexican flair. Perfect for tacos.

Carnitas Tacos
6 - 8 thin boneless pork chops
2 cups salsa verde
juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon chipotle rub
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on high for 2 - 4 hours or on low for 6 - 8 hours. Shred pork and drain any excess liquid. Serve with flour tortillas and your favorite taco fixings.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Vanilla Cupcakes


I love vanilla cupcakes almost as much as I love Penn State football. I can't wait to return to Happy Valley next weekend to see the Nittany Lions take down Temple. While these vanilla cupcakes were delicious, they were a tad dry. This is the same problem I've been having lately with vanilla cupcakes from scratch: They come out dry. I've tried a bunch of different recipes, such as this one, this one, this one, and this one. I use the best of ingredients and follow the directions perfectly. I even checked my oven with a thermometer to make sure it's at the correct temperature. What am I doing wrong? If anyone could help me, I'd really appreciate it. Or, if you have that go-to perfect vanilla cupcake, I beg of you to send it my way.

Vanilla Cupcakes
Source: Annie's Eats

Ingredients:
1 stick butter (room temperature)
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon (I omitted.)
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (I omitted because I used salted butter.)
1/4 cup milk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake tin with 12 cupcake liners and set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest (if using).

Turn the mixer down to low speed and alternately add the flour mixture and milk in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake 18 - 20 minutes.

Cool cupcakes in pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Top with your favorite vanilla buttercream.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Every year my mom throws herself a birthday party on Labor Day weekend. It's just the way it is. Of course we do all the cooking, setting up, and clean up. She requested carrot cake again this year. Since I am transitioning to all cupcakes, I turned it into carrot cake cupcakes. I was determined to make it from scratch this year. I really loathe the idea of shredding carrots, but I wanted to make something special for my mom. Luckily my aunt found a recipe in grandma's old cookbook that calls for carrot baby food. I happily jotted down the recipe and went to work. The original recipe called for a 1/2 cup of each of raisins, nuts, and maraschino cherries, but I omitted all three. They were delicious without and no one missed the fruit or nuts. They had a strong spice flavor with a hint of carrot. They were also super moist. I even converted a few family members with these that swore they didn't like carrot cake. I paired these with plain cream cheese icing, but I think cinnamon cream cheese would be awesome.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Source: adapted from my Grandma

Ingredients:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (I added.)
dash of salt
2 (3.5 oz.) containers carrot baby food
1 cup oil (canola or vegetable)
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla (I added.)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake tins with 24 cupcake liners. 

Beat together sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in carrots.

Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full and bake 17 - 20 minutes.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Watermelon Cupcakes

I have a confession: I don't like watermelon. There I said it. When I tell people this they usually look at me like I have two heads. I've even been called un-American. I've really tried to like this fruit, but I just don't. I think it's the texture and definitely the flavor. Too sweet. So now I just avoid it. I saw a recipe for these cuties about a year ago and I knew I had to make them for a summer party. I finally got around to making these for Labor Day—the end of summer. The best thing about these watermelon cupcakes: They don't taste like watermelon. They're vanilla cupcakes dyed red and spiked with chocolate chips to look like seeds. I topped them with vanilla buttercream tinted green to look like the rind and some green sanding sugar for crunch. Now this is a watermelon I like. The cake was a tad dry, but very tasty, and filled with chocolate chips. What more could you want?

Watermelon Cupcakes
Source: adapted from Beantown Baker

Ingredients: 
1 and 3/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt (I only used 1/4 since I use salted butter.)
2 sticks butter
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk (I used skim.)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup mini chocolate chips
Few drops pink and red food coloring

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cupcake tins with 24 cupcake liners.

Whisk together flours, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In a separate bowl, coat chocolate chips with flour (so they don't sink during baking) and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.

Beating on low, add 1/3 the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, and ending with the flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and food coloring.

Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full and bake 17 - 22 minutes.

Green Vanilla Buttercream
2 sticks butter (room temperature)
4 - 5 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 - 2 tablespoons water
2 - 3 drops green food coloring

Cream the butter. Add vanilla and water. Beat well. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time until desired consistency is reached. Add food coloring and beat well.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lobster

I know I've been MIA for a week or so. I'm a student again and I've been busy learning about pastries and pies. I'm so excited to be in the first class at the new culinary school in my area. I really hope this makes all my dreams come true!

Now onto the post. I'm here to talk about lobster. Super sweet lobster drizzled with melted butter. It took me and my husband almost 9 years to make lobster at home by ourselves. His mom makes lobster for every Christmas Eve dinner. It's never consistent. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's undercooked, sometimes it's overcooked. I figured it was one of those difficult dishes to make, so I never tried to make it by myself. Boy am I sorry. These guys came out perfectly. Plus they were so easy! Warning: These are live creatures. I screamed like crazy trying to put them in the pot, so my husband had to do it. Also, you will get messy, but that's the fun in it.

Boiled Lobster

Ingredients:
2 (1 pound) lobsters
1 cup white wine
2 - 3 cups water
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 stick butter
dash of hot sauce

Directions:
Bring water, wine, and garlic to a boil.
Remove rubber bands from the lobsters' claws.
Drop into boiling hot water and cover with a lid.
Boil for 13 - 15 minutes until lobsters are bright red.
Melt butter and add a dash of hot sauce to butter.
Eat like Kings!   

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lazy Day Piggies


This recipe came from my mom. I'm not going to lie, cooking is not one of my mom's strong suits. Let's just say I'm for the most part a self-taught cook. Mom makes a handful of dishes that I can honestly say I love and this is one of them. I never liked piggies growing up. I recently discovered that I am very fond of cabbage. For those of you not from northeastern PA, a piggie, which is sometimes called a pig in a blanket or a cabbage roll, is ground beef and rice wrapped in cabbage and baked in tomato sauce. This recipe throws all the components together in a casserole dish and is baked. It's an easy recipe that is warm and comforting on a cool, fall day. It's also a crowd-pleaser and disappears at family functions.

Lazy Day Piggies

Ingredients:
1 head of cabbage
1 and 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 cup cooked white rice
2 jars sauce 
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Brown ground beef with minced garlic and Italian seasoning. Drain most of the grease, leaving about 2 tablespoons and transfer to a large bowl.

Roughly chop cabbage and add to ground beef. Add rice and sauce. Stir until combined. Season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Pour into a lightly greased casserole dish.

Bake 1 and 1/2 - 2 hours. Serve with a salad and bread.

Monday, August 30, 2010

S'mores Brownies

One of our good friends just celebrated his birthday. I always try to make all my friends cupcakes on their birthdays. This particular friend loves brownies, so I broke down and made some even through brownies aren't one of my favorites. (I know, who doesn't like brownies?) This friend loves brownies with nuts in them, but since he just discovered he has a nut allergy, I had to come up with something different. I wanted to make something that appeals to everyone and came up with s'mores brownies. Who doesn't love s'mores? These brownies got rave reviews, even from someone who's not fond of brownies. (I know; hangs head in shame.) This was an easy recipe that came together quickly.

S'mores Brownies
Source: adapted from Joelen's Culinary Adventures

Ingredients:
1 batch homemade brownies or 1 (21.5 oz) package brownie mix
4 full graham crackers
1 and 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
2 regular-sized milk chocolate bars (I used Hershey's.)

Directions:
Preheat oven according to brownies recipe or package directions.

Prepare brownie mix according to recipe or package directions. Spread batter into a 9x13 pan and bake brownies for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, break graham crackers into 1-inch pieces, chop chocolate bars, and toss with miniature marshmallows. Remove brownies from oven and sprinkle the s'mores mixture on top.

Return pan to oven and bake for an additional 15 - 20 minutes.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Stuffed Eggplant Boats

I mentioned that I like eggplant and now all these beautiful eggplants keep showing up on my doorstep. Have I mentioned I love money, too? Maybe some of that will start showing up as well. I was looking for some different eggplant recipes other than eggplant parm, and my coworker suggested stuffing it with sausage. I liked her idea and came up with my own recipe. You can stuff an eggplant with any meats or veggies you'd like. I kept it simple so my husband would eat it: meat and cheese with peppers and eggplant. This recipe was more time consuming than I anticipated and the skin of the eggplant was kinda bitter, so we ate around it. I'd make this again and experiment with different veggies or meats.

Ingredients:
2 eggplants

1 pound ground sausage
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon canola oil
salt & pepper, to taste
1/3 cup shredded cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice eggplants in half. Sprinkle liberally with salt and set in a colander or on a baking rack in the sink to "sweat."

Meanwhile, brown the sausage with half the garlic and the red pepper. Drain and transfer to a bowl.

After about 20 minutes, wipe the eggplant halves with paper towels. Scoop the flesh out of the eggplant, leaving about 1/4 of it in the skin. Chop the flesh of the eggplant.

Heat a skillet on medium-high heat and add the remaining garlic and eggplant. Saute until golden brown and add to the sausage. Mix well. Stuff the eggplant "boats" and top with shredded cheese.

Bake for 20 - 30 minutes until the eggplant is tender. Top with your favorite tomato sauce.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Raspberry Buttercream

Remember those Duff cupcakes? I topped them with a raspberry buttercream to die for! I was in the mood for something other than vanilla buttercream, but I didn't want to run to the store. I had a jar of raspberry preserves in the fridge and decided to use it in the buttercream. The buttercream was awesome. It tasted like sweet raspberries and perfectly complemented the light white cupcakes. I went up a step further and prettied them up with a few edible pink pearls.
Raspberry Buttercream
2 sticks butter (room temperature) (I always use salted.)
3 - 4 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons seedless raspberry preserves
1 - 2 tablespoons water or milk (or any other liquid)

Beat the butter on high speed for about 3 - 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Turn mixer to low-medium speed and add powdered sugar one cup at a time. Add raspberry preserves and water, until desired consistency is reached. Beat well for about 3 more minutes.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: Duff's White Cake Mix

I was at Michael's the other day picking up some baking supplies when I saw a new line of baking supplies from Duff, owner of Charm City Cakes and star of the Food Network's Ace of Cakes. I'm not a huge fan of his show, but some of his cakes are pretty awesome. I was intrigued, so I picked up a white cake mix to give it a try. As you know I'm always on the hunt for a great white cake recipe. (Anyone have a great one they want to share?)

It was easy to make as you only add oil and water and mix for two minutes before popping it in the oven. The mix makes a 9 X 13 cake, but I chose to make cupcakes instead. (I know Duff would be irritated, since he hates cupcakes. Maybe that's why I don't like him!) The mix seemed kinda coarse and smelled strongly of flour. After I whipped up the batter, I gave it a taste and it tasted like flour and chemicals. I hoped for the best and tossed the cupcakes in the oven. Minutes later, I had 16 perfectly domed beautiful cupcakes. They looked great, but how would they taste?

One bite and boy was I surprised. Don't judge a cupcake by it's batter! They were great. The texture was light, but not too light and it had a nice soft crumb. The flavor was light and delicious. After I ate one, I dreamed about another all day and finally caved. I don't love boxed cake mixes, but you honestly have to try this one.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dirt "Cake"

I never understood the appeal of Dirt cake. First, it's not cake. It's cookies and pudding. Second, it looks messy and unappealing. Third, it's always sitting out in the sun at someone's BBQ and is warm. I was asked to make this concoction for my cousin's husband's 40th birthday party. I assumed I'd be asked to make cake or cupcakes, but she threw me for a loop and asked me to make Dirt.

I never made Dirt before (and frankly didn't really like it ). I looked up some recipes and decided to just layer pudding, chopped cookies, and whipped topping into a sand bucket and top with a few gummy worms. It looked really cool, but would it taste good? Apparently so. I heard one of the kids at the party tell the hostess it was the best Dirt he ever had. It made me smile, so I had to give it a try. Not too bad. It was creamy, crunchy, and sweet. I'm not a convert, yet. I think I'll stick to regular cake, but Dirt cake seems to be a hit at parties—especially with the kids.

Dirt Cake
Source: Unsure of original source, adapted from Kraft

Ingredients:
3 boxes instant pudding (I used 2 vanilla and 1 chocolate.)
6 cups milk
1 and 1/2 containers (12 oz.) whipped topping, such as Cool Whip
1 and 1/2 packages chocolate cream cookies, such as Oreos
15 gummy worms (optional)

Directions:
Add 2 cups of milk to each package of pudding and whisk for two minutes. Place in fridge for a few minutes to set. Meanwhile, crush cookies in a plastic baggie with a rolling pin or meat cleaver. Layer crushed cookies on bottom of sand bucket. Remove pudding from fridge and fold in 4 oz. of cool whip to each bowl of pudding. Layer over crushed cookies and repeat. Top with crushed cookies and top with a few gummy worms. Serve with a shovel.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Cinnamon Dulce de Leche Cupcakes


I was wandering around one of my favorite grocery stores when I stumbled upon a can of dulce de leche. I immediately slipped it into my cart with my wheel of brie, tomatillo salsa, and other goodies I can only get at this particular store. I had read a few tutorials about making my own, but I really didn't want to do all that work for one can of the sweet concoction. Plus it's summer and it's been really hot here, so I'm trying not to have the oven on all that much. These cupcakes were yummy when they were assembled. The cinnamon cupcake was a little dense and lacking a strong cinnamon flavor. They were also pale. The dulce de leche perked these right up. If you've never had it, go find it now or make your own. So delicious. I kept eating it right out of the can.

Cinnamon Dulce de Leche Cupcakes
Source: Kitchen Koala

Ingredients:
3 and 1/2 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 sticks butter (diced, room temperature)
1 cup milk, divided
4 eggs
2 egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 can dulce de leche (Tutorial to make your own here.)
1 batch vanilla buttercream

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with cupcake liners.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon into a bowl. Add butter and 1/2 cup milk. Mix on medium speed for about about 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, egg whites, remaining 1/2 cup milk, and vanilla until combined. Add to the batter in three separate additions, mixing for 2 minutes on medium speed after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl between additions.

Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full and bake for 16 - 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Jalapeno Popper Chicken

I love the summer and I love people who have gardens—especially those who are willing to share with me. My husband's coworker gave us a bunch of jalapenos recently. I was going to make salsa, then I was going to make grilled jalapeno poppers, then I saw a recipe for jalapeno popper dip. I finally decided to make a jalapeno popper stuffed chicken. There are a ton of jalapeno popper chicken recipes floating around. Some have cheese inside, some have cream cheese. Some are breaded and others are wrapped in bacon. I decided to pick out what I love about jalapeno poppers and go with it. I used cream cheese, shredded cheese, and breaded the chicken. It turned out wonderfully—creamy, flavorful, and not too spicy. Next time I think I will leave a few seeds and ribs in the jalapenos to kick up the heat.

Jalapeno Popper Chicken
Source: adapted from All Recipes

Ingredients:
4 chicken breasts
1/2 block cream cheese
1/3 cup shredded cheese (any flavor)
4 - 5 jalapenos, chopped (ribs and seeds removed)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup bread crumbs
2 teaspoons taco seasoning
2 eggs

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix together cream cheese, shredded cheese, and jalapeno peppers. Use a knife to make a slit in each chicken breast. Stuff mixture into slit. Use a toothpick to secure if necessary. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Mix together bread crumbs and taco seasoning on a plate. Whisk egg in a bowl. Dip chicken into bread crumb mixture then egg and again into bread crumbs.

Place in baking dish and bake for 30 minutes.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes


I recently had a cupcake order and decided to stray from my tried and true chocolate cupcake recipe to try this Martha Stewart recipe. This recipe had so much promise. It promised rich, tender, chocolate cupcakes and it promised to only dirty one bowl. Martha has never failed me in the past...until now.

The promise of dirtying one bowl was the only promise Martha kept. Now don't get me wrong, these weren't terrible. The chocolate flavor was good, but the texture was very dry. When I unwrapped the cupcake, the bottom was so dry that it separated from the rest of the cupcake and stuck to the wrapper. I followed the recipe, and the only change I made was substituting canola oil for safflower oil. I also didn't overbake these, so I don't know what happened. Reviews said the batter would be thin, but mine was not. I was disappointed with this recipe. I know that I should have never tried to use a new recipe for a cupcake order. It resulted in me having to make a whole new batch of my go-to chocolate cupcakes.

I iced these "rejects" with the leftover vanilla buttercream from the cupcake order and put some fun sayings on them for some friends who were coming over for a cookout. My friends really enjoyed them, but I still stand by my review: too dry. 

One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes
Source: Martha Stewart as seen on Cate's World Kitchen
yields about 16 cupcakes

Ingredients:
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons safflower oil (I used canola.)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two cupcake pans with 16 cupcake liners.

Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl. Add eggs, water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Mix with a fork just until combined.

Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake for 18 - 22 minutes.

Cool cupcakes in the pans for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cucumber Salad

Do you have a bunch of cucumbers growing in your garden this year and don't know what to do with all of them? I wish I had a green thumb. My gardens die. I do have a baking thumb, though. Anyways, you should make this cucumber salad. It's the perfect summer side dish. It's light and refreshing. The vinegar gives it a tart flavor that's balanced by the sweetness of the sugar. This is a simple recipe that was passed on to me by my cousin that I've tweaked to my tastes. Quick tip: After making this salad, let it sit in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavors meld. The longer it sits, the better it will be. 

Cucumber Salad

Ingredients:
2 large cucumbers

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 - 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 and 1/2 - 2 tablespoons sugar
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
Slice cucumbers into thin slices and set aside. Whisk together sour cream, vinegar, sugar, and salt & pepper. Pour over cucumbers and toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.