Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Easy Alfredo Sauce

I had my heart set on chicken scampi for dinner. A nice light lemony sauce with a zip of garlic. I opened the fridge and realized I forgot to buy lemons at the store. I did, however, have a half of block of cream cheese waiting to be used up. I was planning on making icing for cupcakes, but the weather has been too hot. I had bookmarked this recipe for an easy alfredo sauce and decided to give it a try. It was very easy to make and very tasty. It had a nice creamy texture, but it was a little thick. Adding a little more milk would have easily solved that problem.

Easy Alfredo Sauce
Source: Adapted from

4 oz. cream cheese
1/2 stick butter
2 - 4 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup milk
1 clove fresh garlic, minced

In a pan, melt cream cheese and butter over low-medium heat. Whisk in milk. Add flour one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. Turn to low and add cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper. Simmer for a few minutes over low heat.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Banana Cupcakes

I was recently asked to make banana cupcakes for a birthday. I have never made banana cupcakes before, so I was at a loss. I needed a recipe and fast. I googled a few recipes and looked through a few blogs, before I went to my fellow nesties for help. A fellow blogger and nestie came through with this Martha Stewart recipe. And like most of her recipes, this only did not disappoint either. I have to try more of Martha's cupcake recipes in the near future. I didn't have time to do a test run with these, but luckily they came out perfectly. They had great banana favor, and the texture wasn't as dense as a muffin. I topped these with a vanilla buttercream per request, but I think a cream cheese frosting would be divine on these.

Banana Cupcakes
Source: Martha Stewart as seen on Loves to Eat

1 and 1/2 cups flour (spooned and leveled)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (I omitted since I used salted butter.)
1 stick butter, melted
1 and 1/2 cups mashed bananas (I used 2 large ripe bananas.)
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with 12 cupcake liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture. Using hands, mix together melted butter, mashed bananas, eggs, and vanilla in well. Incorporate flour mixture (do not overmix). Divide batter among cupcake liners. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes (Mine baked in 20 minutes, so watch them!). Remove cupcakes from pan and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sports Balls Cupcakes

June and July are busy cake-baking months for me. I have a lot of birthdays and parties on most Saturdays of each month. I was asked by my former neighbor to make cupcakes for her son, Eddie's fifth birthday. After some back-and-forth, we came up with 40 cupcakes, three different flavors, and four different designs. I did baseballs, footballs, and basketballs for the boys and princess crowns topped with edible pink pearls for the girls. I was lucky I had a free weekend to do these. I've made dozens upon dozens of cakes and cupcakes for all occasions, but this job was sure a lot of work.

Maybe it was the three different cupcake flavors: vanilla, chocolate, and banana. Maybe it was the vanilla buttercream and chocolate icing tinted in an array of different colors. Maybe it was all the piping. It took me forever to get this job done. I was pleased with how they came out, but just like everything I do, I doubt myself and I think they could have been better.

I had a dozen extra, so my husband and his friend "tasted" them for me and concurred that they were delicious, especially the new banana recipe I tried for the first time (recipe to come in a later post).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Smores Pie

It's difficult to make cupcakes when it's over 80 degrees outside. My husband has forbade me to turn on the oven since it heats up the already hot house. Then, there's the icing dilemma: buttercreams, swiss meringue buttercreams, and whipped creams melt all over the place. And I don't do shortening. So cupcakes were off the list of desserts for this week. I decided to make a dessert that I've been neglecting: Pie! I whipped this together using some stuff I had hanging around my pantry. Don't judge, nothing is homemade and I'm OK with that. I did, however, pretty it up by piping some whipped topping on top and finishing it with a cherry. I'm proud to say this quick and easy pie was very yummy, even if it wasn't homemade.

Smores Pie

1 graham pie crust
1 cup marshmallow fluff
1 contained whipped topping, divided
1 package chocolate pudding
1 and 1/2 cups milk
maraschino cherries (optional)

Whisk together pudding and milk for two minutes and fold in 1/2 cup whipped topping. Set aside. Mix together marshmallow fluff and 1/2 cup whipped topping. Layer marshmallow mixture onto botom of pie crust. Layer chocolate pudding mixture over marshmallow layer. Top with more whipped topping and a cherry.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lager Chicken

This is another recipe brought to you by Randy. One of my husband's favorite things in the world (besides me, of course) is a nice cold beer. When he found this recipe for lager-flavored chicken, he couldn't wait to make it. I was also thrilled since I didn't have to make dinner. (Although I did have to make sides and clean up.) This chicken was so moist and had a nice beer flavor that was complemented by the hickory chips that he used in his new grill box. It was so good that I could have just eaten this chicken and tossed the zucchini aside and I love zucchini! So the next time you have a can or bottle of leftover lager beer (preferably Yuengling if you're from Pennsylvania), make this recipe. You won't be disappointed.

6 - 8 chicken thighs (with skin and with or without bones)
1 bottle or can of Yuengling Lager (or any other lager)
1/4 cup dijon mustard
3 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1 - 2 cloves thinly sliced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

Whisk together all ingredients. Place chicken in a zip lock bag and pour in marinade. Put in fridge and let marinate at least 6 hours, turning occasionally. Drain chicken and discard marinade. Pat chicken dry and grill over a medium-high heat for 20 minutes, until no longer pink.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

BBQ Pulled Pork

This is another recipe from my wonderful husband.
He's the master of the grill at our house and now he's taking over the BBQ category as well. This recipe was for a Memorial Day party featuring BBQ recipes. He wanted to do something different than the old standbys of ribs, chicken, and beans. This recipe came out perfectly—moist and flavorful. It was so delicious, I didn't even put it on a bun.

BBQ Pulled Pork

3 pounds boneless country style pork ribs
1 - 2 cups water (for bottom of crock pot)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon applewood spice
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Fill bottom of slow cooker with just enough water (about 1 - 2 cups) to cover the bottom of the crock pot. Add liquid smoke. Place ribs in crock pot. Make sure ribs are not completely submerged. Mix all spices together and rub into ribs. Pour a little water over the top of the seasoned ribs to moisten spices. Cook on high 3 - 4 hours or low 6 - 8 hours. Shred with a fork and add your favorite BBQ sauce.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pina Colada Cupcakes

As I sit here writing this post, I have The Pina Colada Song playing over and over in my head. Nothing makes me think of summer more than pina coladas. Boy could I go for one right now. One of our good friends had a birthday over the past weekend and I continued my trend and baked him some cupcakes to celebrate. He is one of the only other people who loves coconut as much as I do. I made him tie-dyed coconut cupcakes last year, so I wanted to do something different.

These cupcakes consist of a coconut cupcake topped with pineapple buttercream. I had originally planned on topping them with this pineapple cream cheese, but it was a big, fat FAIL! (I must stress it was not the recipe and totally my fault!) I made these on a hot and humid day and had some icing issues. I never failed with making icing before. I have heard that people sometimes have trouble with cream cheese icing, but to me it is easy. Let the butter and cream cheese come to room temperature and it turns out perfectly, or so I thought. It was so hot in my kitchen that the butter and cream cheese got too warm and basically liquefied when I added the rest of the ingredients. I tried everything to save it: tons more powdered sugar, meringue powder, corn starch, putting it in the fridge for a few hours—nothing worked and it ended up in the trash. 

Since I didn't have any more cream cheese and was running out of time, I opted for a simple pineapple buttercream, which was delicious and very sweet, but not as good as cream cheese icing would have been. And since I've been having issues with homemade white cake recipes, I used a box mix doctored up with some coconut extract and shredded coconut. I topped these with a cherry and a straw to look like a pina colada drink. They were enjoyed by everyone at the party. And my husband gave me a great compliment. He said he thinks he actually prefers the homemade white cupcakes to the box mix since the homemade ones aren't as light and fluffy. He actually now prefers the denser cupcakes he's been complaining about. Go figure.

Coconut Cupcakes
1 box white cake mix
1 and 1/3 cup water
3 egg whites
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 teaspoon coconut extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a cupcake tin with 24 cupcake liners. Mix all ingredients on low speed for 30 seconds then on medium speed for two minutes. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes. Cool in pans for a few minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Pineapple Buttercream
1 stick of butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 - 1/2 cup pineapple puree
3 - 4 tablespoons pineapple juice, rum, or water

Cream the butter. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time. Add pineapple puree and pineapple juice (or rum or water) until desired consistency is reached. Beat well.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Parmesan Dijon Chicken

If you are looking for a simple weeknight dinner, then this dish is for you. We eat a lot of chicken and lately I've been in a rut. I was looking for something easy and quick that didn't require tons of ingredients when I stumbled across this recipe. Who knew such a simple recipe would yield such a moist and delicious chicken. It's got to be the butter.

Parmesan Dijon Chicken
Source: Two Novice Chefs, One Tiny Kitchen as seen on Oishii

3 chicken breasts, sliced in half
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
Salt, pepper, garlic salt, rosemary, and thyme, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix melted butter and dijon mustard in a bowl. Mix bread crumbs, salt, pepper, garlic powder, rosemary, thyme, and parmesan cheese on a plate. Dip chicken into the butter/mustard mixture, then into the bread crumb mixture. Place chicken in an ungreased baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, flipping after 15 minutes.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sliders Cupcakes

So I bookmarked these little cuties last summer, but never had an opportunity to make them. This year when we were invited to a Memorial Day festivity, I knew just what to bring. These were easy to make and put together. You can bake the cupcakes and brownies in advance and then decorate them the next day. And if you like brownies and cupcakes, what's not to love about these adorable sliders.

Sliders Cupcakes
Source: Idea from Bakerella; cake from Hello, Cupcake!

What you will need:
1 batch of brownies (I used a box mix.)
1 batch of yellow cupcakes
1 batch vanilla buttercream tinted red, yellow, and green
sesame seeds (optional)

Yellow Cupcakes
1 yellow box mix
1 cup buttermilk
4 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a cupcake tin with 24 cupcake liners.

Mix all ingredients with a hand mixer on low for 30 seconds then on high for 2 minutes.

Fill cupcake liners about 3/4 full and bake for 15 - 20 minutes.

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

Vanilla Buttercream
2 sticks of butter
6 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 - 6 tablespoons water or milk

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

To Assemble:
Cut each cupcake in half. Using a leaf tip, pipe green icing onto bottom bun to look like lettuce.

Using a glass or cookie cutter, cut rounds out of brownies and place "burger patty" on top of green icing.

Squiggle red and yellow icing on top and down sides of brownie to resemble ketchup and mustard. 

Place top of cupcake on top of burger and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Poke through a toothpick to hold together.