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

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

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

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.)

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

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

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


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

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

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!