Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I Scream, You Scream!

Although these will do nothing to cool you off on a hot day, I had to share! I loved the new royal icing so much that I couldn't wait to make more cookies. My mom came down this afternoon and we cranked out several summer themed cookies, but these were by far our favorite design. I think they would be really cute favors for a party and the bonus is they won't melt on you!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Watermelon Decorated Sugar Cookies

We had another Throwdown yesterday and to sweeten my chances of victory I made these tasty cookies to compliment my watermelon lemonade.
They are by far my favorite sugar cookie recipe and though I didn't think I could find a better "royal icing" recipe, I think I hit the jackpot. The royal dried hard enough to stack and package the cookies nicely, but was still soft enough to be delicious and not break your teeth.
Now I am looking forward to the cookie orders I have in August because I am confident they will travel well and taste fantastic.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Not only is this a great way to burn through your stash of zucchini, it is a really delicious dessert. The deep chocolate flavor is complimented by the small amount of coffee, and the zucchini makes for an incredibly moist cake. A simple way to wow your guests and get a small dose of veggies while you are at it!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake
via Clotilde's Chocolate and Zucchini blog
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 scant cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules or 2 tablespoons strong cooled coffee -- this is just to deepen the chocolate flavor, you won't taste it in the finished product
3 large eggs
2 cups unpeeled grated zucchini, from about 1 1/2 medium zucchini
1 cup good-quality bittersweet chocolate chips, or chopped chocolate
Confectioner's sugar to garnish

Serves 12.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 10-inch round springform pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a mixer (or by hand in a large mixing bowl), beat the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the vanilla, coffee, and eggs, mixing well between each addition.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the zucchini, chocolate chips, and about a third of the flour mixture, making sure the zucchini strands are well coated and not clumping too much.

Add the rest of the flour mixture into the egg batter. Mix until just combined; the batter will be thick.

Fold the zucchini mixture into the batter, and blend with a spatula without overmixing. Pour into the prepared cake pan, and level the surface.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer onto a rack to cool for 10 minutes, run a knife around the pan to loosen, and unclasp the sides of the pan. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar or a chocolate glaze if desired.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Zucchini Slaw

I have been on a slight Sara Foster kick lately, so when I ran across this recipe for zucchini slaw I thought it would be a new and delicious way to use up all that zucchini.
Although some readers may scoff at the idea of using raw zucchini and summer squash, I urge you to give it a go. Because the veggies are julienned, the texture is crunchy and the taste is fresh, much like you would expect from any slaw recipe. Unless you have mad knife skills, I would highly recommend that you purchase a julienne peeler. For under $10 you can impress your friends and family and sway them into believing that you are on the fast track to auditioning for the next Top Chef.
Note: I have included the Sweet and Tart Dressing recipe if you would like a lighter version of this slaw.

Zucchini Slaw

Serves 4-6
2 medium zucchinis, cut into 2-inch julienne
2 yellow summer squash, cut into 2-inch julienne
2 carrots, cut into 2-inch julienne
4 scallions, julienne (white and green parts)
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and julienned
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Creamy Slaw Dressing
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Combine the veggies and parsley in a large bowl as you cut them. Drizzle with the dressing, salt and pepper, and toss. Adjust salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container. With the creamy dressing the slaw will keep nicely for up to 3 days. With the sweet and tart dressing the slaw should be served immediately.

Creamy Slaw Dressing (makes about 3/4 cup)
1/2 mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar **I used Raspberry Vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to one week.

Sweet and Tart Slaw Dressing (makes about 1 cup)
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a jar and shake until the sugar dissolves. Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to one week.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Makin' Whoopie

I couldn't resist the title which transports me back to the good 'ol days of skinny microphones, tuxedos, and Bob Eubanks talking about makin' whoopie on the Newlywed Game was probably the most off-color phrase the FCC had to worry about.
Those simpler times also make me think about my grandmas overflowing Tupperware cookie jar and her delicious recipe for zucchini chocolate chip cookies. When I saw a recipe for zucchini whoopie pies over at Gourmet I was convinced the I could adapt it by using my grandma's recipe, sans chocolate chips, as the base. My overabundance of zucchini was finally paying off!!
These delicious pies had the perfect balance of sweet and tangy with the addition of the cream cheese filling. Next time I throw these together I will go more the bite size route since they are quite a filling treat.

Zucchini Cookies
1 cup grated zucchini
1 tsp soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped nuts

Mix the zucchini, soda, sugar, shortening and egg until light and fluffy. Sift the flour, cinnamon, cloves, and salt; add to the zucchini mixture. Add nuts and chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoons on greased pan. Bake at 375 degrees until they start to brown, 12-15 minutes.

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt

Beat together cream cheese, butter, confectioners sugar, vanilla, and salt with cleaned beaters at medium-high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Pipe or dollop filling on flat side of cookie and top with another cookie.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sara Foster's Pickles

Don't get too excited, I am not completely done sharing zucchini recipes with you yet, but I thought it was time to throw a little something else in the mix.
The cucumbers have just started to come on, so I had a small collection of the little beauties and pickles were just the thing to make. I have not made many pickles in my day, but these were the easiest I have encountered. I ran across the recipe in Sara Foster's Fresh Every Day cookbook. The recipes I have tried in the book have been successful, so I thought I would give it another go.
The pickles were no exception. Simple, quick, and full of flavor, these pickles would be a great addition to sandwiches and burgers on the grill. One caveat: they do have quite a little kick. You could certainly hold back on the red pepper flakes if you are so inclined.

Makes about 1 quart

1 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dill seed
4 to 5 small Kirby (pickling) cucumbers, peeled in stripes and sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
1 small white onion, thinly sliced into rounds

1. Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, black pepper, cloves, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and dill seed in a quart jar. Place the lid on the jar and shake until the sugar has dissolved.

2. Layer the cucumbers and onion in the jar using a wooden spoon to press them tightly into the jar. Place the lid on the jar, shake it well, and refrigerate at least 4 hours, shaking the jar occasionally to keep the ingredients mixed. These pickles will keep in the refrigerator for at least 1 month.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Zucchini Sticks

In my quest for zucchini recipes I stumbled across these delicious baked zucchini sticks featured on the Skinny Taste website. I have mentioned the site previously, but it really is a treasure trove of great tasting, healthy food. If you are following Weight Watcher's, it is practically a must.
Being that the zucchini sticks were a fairly healthy alternative to something fried, I thought I better punch up the calories be serving them with cilantro ranch sauce. The sauce was very simple and had some powerful flavor that complimented the zucchini sticks perfectly. I imagine it would be a great sauce for fajitas, french fries, or even a dressing for sandwiches.

Zucchini Sticks
very slightly adapted from Gina
3 medium zucchini sliced into 3" x 1/2" sticks
1 large egg white
2/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
cooking spray
1/2 tsp garlic powder
fresh pepper
In a small bowl, beat egg whites and season with salt and pepper. In a ziplock bag, place breadcrumbs, garlic powder and cheese and shake well. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray and set aside.

Dip zucchini sticks into eggs then into bread crumb and cheese mixture, a few at a time and shake to coat. Place the breaded zucchini in a single layer and spray more cooking spray on top. Bake at 425° for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Cilantro Ranch Sauce
1 pkt Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix
8 oz salsa verde
1/4 cup cilantro
1 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
Tobasco to taste

Combine all ingredients and blend. Season with Tobasco.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Zucchini Tart

You better get used to seeing a whole mess of zucchini recipes because they are coming out of my ears! We have six plants and I never imagined we would have this kind of luck, but we are harvesting at least a couple every day.
Although I would never consider freelancing in the baking department, cooking is something I am much more comfortable with taking risks. I knew that I wanted some type of tart, so I turned to Smitten Kitchen for a simple no-shrink tart that did not have to be par-baked. I have to say it wasn't as flavorful as some tart doughs I have made, but I can make some adjustments next time.
As the dough firmed up in the fridge, I caramelized some onions and sliced the mushrooms and zucchini. I only par-cooked the mushrooms and zucchini since it would have lots of time to cook in the oven. Then I set about layering the tasty goodness in the tart dough. First, a healthy dose of goat cheese seasoned with fresh basil, chives, parsley, salt and pepper. Next came the caramelized onions and mushrooms, and finally I layered the zucchini on top. I baked the tart for about 25 minutes at 350 and voila...my freelancing paid off.

This is a great example of using items you have on hand to make something really delicious by just trusting your instincts and experimenting with tastes you enjoy.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Chocolate Ice Cream

Remember a few posts back I was semi-complaining about how it was cool enough to have chili for dinner? Well, someone must have been listening because it has been beastly around here the past few days. Humid, hot, ughhh...time for ice cream!
Several years ago my sister and her husband gifted my dad with a Cuisinart ice cream maker. Just when you think you have him figured out and are sure of the perfect present, he rains on your parade and promptly puts the box in the closet never to be seen again.
Well, I for one was not going to let that ice cream maker go to waste. So far I have tested the waters with Cake Batter, Vanilla Bean, and now this lovely Chocolate. It is an easy, no-egg option that has a very smooth consistency and a wonderfully deep chocolate flavor. I am sure there are ice cream purists who will scoff at the idea of using sweetened, condensed milk in the base, but frankly they can suck it. I will stand by that little can of gooey milk and proudly serve it to my guests. In fact, this ice cream forced my dad to admit that he was sure he just loaned me the ice cream maker-ha!

1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup best cocoa powder you have (preferably dutch process)
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate shavings
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 T. vanilla extract

In medium saucepan, stir together sweetened condensed milk, cocoa, and chocolate shavings. Cook over LOW heat until mixture is smooth and slightly thickened. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes.
Gradually add cream, milk, and vanilla, beating with a whisk until well combined. Refrigerate until cold--overnight if possible.
Place in ice cream freezer container and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fresh Figs!

Since we had an extended holiday weekend, we fixed something that wouldn't normally make an appearance on our weeknight menu unless a good amount of prep had been done in advance. Matt threw together our favorite pizza dough and we rounded up a variety of toppings that we had sitting in the fridge. We also harvested a zucchini from our garden just for the occassion!!

Although I recognize that the picture is beyond atrocious, I am sure you can vaguely make out my two new favorite pizza combinations: carmelized onion, fig, and goat cheese & zucchini and goat cheese. I happened to hit the jackpot with the Black Mission figs on my last shopping excursion at Meijer. They were inexpensive, ripe, and delicious. I simply sauteed them in a little butter and threw them on the pizza at the last minute. As for the zucchini, I also sauteed it so that it would be properly cooked as it doesn't spend a great amount of time on the grill. This will be a great way to use up all the zucchini coming our way!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Chicken Chili

Yes, I know what you are thinking. Chili in the summer?? Well, here in northern Michigan our forecast has not exactly been what you think of as the dog days of summer. Yesterday was fairly gloomy and I had most of the ingredients for this chili on hand, so here goes.

This is a great chili to have on a cool summer day, or even to take you into the fall or winter. For this time of year, it tastes a bit brighter because I was able to use basil from the garden, rather than the tube I am sometimes forced to use when it is not in season.

The recipe originally comes from Ina, but I made a few changes based on our tastes and the spices I had on hand. Served with some piping hot cornbread Matt whipped up, we had plenty for dinner and a nice lunch today.

Chicken Chili
adapted from Ina Garten

1 large onion, chopped

olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and large-diced

1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and large-diced

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, or to taste

1 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for chicken

1 (28-ounce) can diced plum tomatoes

1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves

2 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on

Freshly ground black pepper

For garnish:

Chopped scallions, corn chips, grated cheddar, sour cream

Cook the onions in the oil over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, paprika, and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes to the pot with the basil. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, until just cooked. Let cool slightly. Separate the meat from the bones and skin and shred. Add to the chili and simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes. Serve with the toppings, or refrigerate and reheat gently before serving.

Note: I added about a cup of chicken broth to stretch the amount of chili. Still a pretty thick chili, nonetheless.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chili Chicken Sandwich

Dorie Greenspan is always a fantastic source for any type of baked good that I might tackle, but her blog is also full of a variety of other savory ideas that are worth a try, as well. Take for example this delicious Chili-Chicken Sandwich. There is really no recipe, just a list of ingredients for you to throw together. We did not have the mushrooms and I substituted green onions for regular onions. As for the sweet chili sauce, I made my own and took Dorie's advice to mix it with a bit of mayo before dressing the sandwich. It was worth the extra calories!
The sandwich had great texture and the flavors mixed well together to provide a fairly light lunch.

Sweet Chili Sauce
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
1 tsp. garlic, minced
2 T. hungarian sweet pepper
2 tsp. ketchup
cornstarch to thicken, if desired

Bring water and vinegar to a boil and then add the rest of the ingredients. Turn heat down and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add cornstarch at end of cooking if desired. Remove from heat and cool. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Strawberry Sangria

If you are looking for a simple drink to serve on those hot summer nights, this recipe is for you. Sweeter than the average sangria, but still providing a tart kick, it was a delicious and refreshing way to slide into the evening. This really is a great recipe to showcase those local strawberries that are abundant in our area as we speak!

Strawberry Sangria
courtesy of Traverse

one bottle of rose
1/2 cup sugar
1 lemon, sliced
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
2 cups Vernors ginger ale

In a large pitcher mix the wine, sugar, lemon, and strawberries. Refrigerate for several hours, up to one day. Add Vernors just before serving over ice.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Throwdown #1 Lemon Braided Bread

A few weeks back, Matt and I were discussing what sounded good to eat on a cold Sunday. After tossing out a few ideas, we ultimately decided on two variations on a tart. A little smack talking later and Matt suggested that we invite the family and have a good ol' Throwdown. You know, a Throwdown a la Bobby Flay of the Food Network? So, to make a long story short, the fam loved the idea and we decided to set up several Throwdown competitions over the course of the summer.
First up, breakfast foods. I immediately knew what dish I would bring. I had some leftover lemon curd in the fridge, so I thought I would try my hand at the Lemon Braided Bread over at the Smitten Kitchen. Deb never lets me down, so despite the fact I had never made the recipe, I went for it. The results were delicious and the presentation was exactly what I hoped for. I didn't make any changes to the dough recipe, but the lemon curd came straight from Martha. Although I have not manned up and tried other lemon curd recipes, I don't know how you could beat Martha's. It is the perfect combination of tart and sweet and it paired really nicely with the cream cheese and sweet dough.
After the votes were counted, Matt and I came out on top with a tie. We are a force to be reckoned with and the family better keep one eye open!!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

This One is For My Homies

I could wax on poetic about how I love the renewal that Spring brings to Northern Michigan... warmer days, evenings spent on the porch, digging in the garden, but when it comes down to it what I really love is the new crop of goodies appearing at the markets and right in our backyard. This meal would not have been possible without the generosity of my good friend Sarah who graced us with two fat morel mushrooms to top our tasty pizzas. Pair that with some local asparagus fried in butter and you have heaven on homemade dough!

Grilled Pizza
1 recipe pizza dough
goat cheese
fresh mozzarella
olive oil
salt and pepper

To be honest, this isn't really a recipe, but I will say that if you want to find success when grilling pizza, you must follow my friend Clay's words of wisdom. He grills one side of the dough (brushed with olive oil) for a couple minutes, removes the pizza from the grill to place toppings on the grilled side and then returns it to the grill to finish the cooking. You really can't go wrong when Clay is in your corner!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Light Chicken Parm

Although I have been dying to tear into some local asparagus and bathe in the juice of freshly picked strawberries, Michigan weather has a different plan for me. We were teased in April, and now it is back to reality in May. Since those local goodies just aren't ready yet, we have gone back to some colder day dishes, but with a lighter twist. The following recipe for chicken parm is only 5.5 weight watcher points and it is very moist and tender for a boneless chicken breast. The full recipe (along with lots of other goodies) can be found here.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Light Chicken Salad

One of my favorite places around to get a sub is the East Shore Market. They have a variety of delicious snacks, craft beer, and a deli case full of salads. A few years ago my sister keep hounding me to try the "dilly grape chicken salad", but she just couldn't woo me from my Judy sub and it went unnoticed. It wasn't until she had some for her lunch that I finally got a sample. It was so fresh and yummy and simple all at the same time, and I knew this was something that could be easily thrown together. You will have to forgive me for the lack of measurements, but I have never measured for this salad, so throw caution to the wind and give it a try!

Dilly Grape Chicken Salad
any variety pasta
red grapes
green onions
rotisserie chicken
fresh dill
dried dill
olive oil
salt and pepper

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

Here's hoping you all had a fabulous Easter spent with family and friends, I know I did! I can't think of too many things that put a smile on my face faster than seeing a baby dressed up in bunny ears!!
For the occasion my mother, sister, and I got together yesterday to crank out some delicious sugar cookies and also to try some cheesecake pops that have been on my "to do" list for some time.
My mom had already baked her favorite sugar cookies, so all we had to do is whip up some modified royal icing to finish the decorating. We did several shapes, but the bunnies pictured above were at the top of my favorite list. They were inspired by one of my go-to blogs, Annies Eats.
Then, we were off to dip some cheesecake! I copped out and bought some Sara Lee, but I think it was a great stand in for a busy weekend. I simply used a mini cookie cutter on the frozen cheesecake to create the shape and then placed a lollipop stick in each bite. These were returned to the freezer to firm up and then we dipped in melted chocolate and rolled in Easter themed sprinkles. Such a simple dessert that really presents well. I know we will revisit these often!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Roasted Chicken with Balsamic Vinaigrette

In my search for new ways to spruce up the good ol' chicken breast, I often turn to my favorite blogs, but sometimes head straight for the Food Network website. Although I haven't tried many of Giada's recipes, I thought her Roasted Chicken with Balsamic Vinaigrette seemed like the start of a good combination.
It's not that I don't like Giada, but I seem to be picky about who I choose to spend 30 minutes with when it comes to cooking programs. Maybe it's the way Giada changes her intonation when she pronounces words like mozzarella and pancetta, or perhaps the fact she doesn't seem to have a single turtleneck in her wardrobe. Despite these glitches, I have been recently impressed by some of her bold flavors and I plan on hitting her up again in the future.
*Though the recipe doesn't call for browning the chicken prior to finishing it in the oven, that is exactly what I did. Doing this seems to seal in the juices and if you use your cast iron pan, it is a one pot meal.

Roasted Chicken with Balsamic Vinaigrette

adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
2 T. dijon mustard
2T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T. olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 bone-in chicken breasts
1/4 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. red wine
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. butter
lemon zest

Whisk the vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper in small bowl to blend. Combine the vinaigrette and chicken pieces in a large resealable plastic bag; seal the bag and toss to coat. Refrigerate, turning the chicken pieces occasionally, for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove chicken from the bag and brown in an oven safe pan. Transfer to oven and roast until the chicken is just cooked through, about 1 hour. If your chicken browns too quickly, cover it with foil for the remaining cooking time. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Place the baking dish on a burner over medium-low heat. Whisk the chicken broth, wine, balsamic vinegar, and butter into the pan drippings, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the baking sheet with a wooden spoon and mixing them into the broth and pan drippings. Reduce sauce and drizzle over the chicken. Sprinkle the lemon zest and parsley over the chicken, and serve.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lemon Cupcakes

My mom celebrated her birthday last week, so I was put in charge of bringing dessert. We had just shared the Baileys cupcakes a week before, so I thought something fruity would hit the mark. My mom loves anything lemon, so when I saw a version of Lemon Meringue Cupcakes on Martha's site, I knew I had found a winner!
I made my standard white cake batter and topped it off with Martha's lemon curd. When it came to the meringue, I struggled with how it was all going to come together after school and a meeting, so I took the easy way out and topped the curd with whipped cream.
The cupcakes were really delicious and moist and perfect for a birthday that fell on the first day of Spring!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Baileys and Guinness and Chocolate, OH MY!

With St. Pat's falling on a weekday, our family decided to do a little celebrating yesterday. If I'm being really honest, it was just an excuse to see my sweet little niece dressed up in her "daddy's lucky charm" onesie, but there was some food around once you got over that distraction!
These cupcakes were quite delicious and well worth the work, but if you are going to give them a try, be prepared to drop some cash on ingredients. I doubled the frosting recipe per reviews on the Smitten Kitchen site. Also, if I were to make them again, I would surely hollow more cake out to fill with Baileys ganache.

St. Pat's Cupcakes
courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

Makes 20 to 24 cupcakes

For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Ganache Filling (Updated to double it, based on many commenters suggestions — thanks!)
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (optional)

Baileys Frosting (see Recipe Notes)
3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperatue
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination thereof)

Special equipment: 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer and a piping bag (though a plastic bag with the corner snipped off will also work)

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Make the filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains. 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will also work.) Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.

Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, using your 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. A slim spoon or grapefruit knife will help you get the center out. Those are your “tasters”. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.

[This is a fantastic trick I picked up while working on the cupcakes article for Martha Stewart Living; the test kitchen chefs had found that when they added the sugar slowly, quick buttercream frostings got less grainy, and tended to require less sugar to thicken them up.]

When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.

Ice and decorate the cupcakes.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Blackened Chicken with Avocado Salsa

When we start to get some nicer days two major problems crop up in my life. What do I wear and what do I fix for dinner? Too cold for short sleeves and too warm for chili, so to make myself feel better I run out and buy a plethora of magazines with spring fashion and lighter fare.
Better Homes and Gardens pulled through with a simple recipe that can be easily thrown together after work or the gym. It is light and filling and made me feel right with the world despite the brown sludge that has magically appeared now that our snow is melting.

Blackened Chicken with Avocado Salsa
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

for the chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp. blackened steak seasoning
1 T. olive oil

for the salsa
2 T. olive oil
2 T. rice wine vinegar
2 T. honey
lime juice from 1/2 lime
1/4 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 avocado, chopped
1 mango, chopped
1/4 c. red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 c. orange bell pepper, chopped
1/4 c. chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly sprinkle both sides of chicken with blackened seasoning. In a large cast iron pan heat the 1 T. oil over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned, turning only once. Transfer to oven and bake for 15 minutes or until no longer pink.

Meanwhile, for salsa, in large bowl, whisk olive oil, rice wine vinegar, honey, lime juice, cumin, salt and pepper. Stir in avocado, mango, pepper, and cilantro. Serve with chicken.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tortilla Pie

It has been several years since this recipe was clipped from an Everyday Food magazine. Like so many recipes we try, we loved it, had it a few times, and moved on only to forget about how delicious and easy it was.

We modified the original recipe so our version is posted below.

4 flour tortillas (if you buy 9 inch tortillas, you won't have to trim to fit pan)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced

1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno chile, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pkg fajita seasoning
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can (15 oz) refried beans
1 cup beer

1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn
4 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (8 ounces)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion, jalapeƱo, garlic, red pepper, and seasoning packet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add black beans and beer to skillet, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until liquid has almost evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in corn and remove from heat.

Fit a tortilla in bottom of springform pan; spread a layer of refried beans tortilla and layer with 1/4 of the beans and 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat three times, using 1 cup cheese on top layer. Bake until hot and cheese is melted, 20 to 25 minutes. Unmold pie; sprinkle with scallions. To serve, slice into wedges, garnish with sour cream and salsa.