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

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

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

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.)

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.

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

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

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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.