Archive | June, 2011

DIY Cupcake Picks

30 Jun

I was trying to think of a creative way to decorate my tie-dye cupcakes and the crafty side of my brain kicked in and thought “why not DIY cupcake picks?” I love scrapbooking but don’t find much time for it these days. I searched through my scrapbook supplies and came across some fun 4th of July stickers. The finished product will be adorable placed on top of my red, white and blue cupcakes (frosting recipe coming soon).

First, gather all your supplies.  What you need: 4th of July stickers or die-cuts, coordinating scrapbook paper, toothpicks, tape, scissors, pen or pencil, circle template that is a bit larger than your stickers (if you are using circles).

Next, trace your circle (or other shape) and cut it out then stick the sticker in the center. Another option would be to simply place the sticker on paper and cut around it, just leaving the sticker visible. I ended up liking the results of the second option better.

Tape a toothpick to the back of the sticker and you are done. Place on a piped cupcake for a festive, unique cupcake topper! Stay tuned for the frosting recipe and all the pieces of these festive cupcakes put together.

Tutorial: Layered and Tie-Dye 4th of July Cupcakes

28 Jun

This is my absolute favorite go-to recipe for white cake. It is light, airy, moist and fluffy but still has a dense enough texture to stand up to stacking.  The deliciousness and ease of this recipe really is hard to believe. I love that there are so many variations on this cake and I can’t wait to try them (I’m waiting for a reason to make pink champagne cake)! To check out the different variations on this cake, check it out here (steps 19-23)!

You really have to try this…you won’t be sorry. Now that you have all checked out the recipe, you have seen that it starts out with a boxed cake mix. Don’t judge. It really simplifies the recipe and with the addition of the sour cream, extracts and other ingredients you truly can’t tell that it started out with a mix. Ok, enough raving about the cake and onto the 4th of July tutorial!

After seeing an amazing tie-dyed cake on Facebook made by my friend Dottilicous Sweets and Treats, I knew it was something I had to try. I couldn’t think of an occasion for the cake so I just kept it in the back of my mind. Then I realized it would be fun for the 4th of July using red, white and blue dyed cake batter.  The tie-dye wasn’t quite as effective with just 3 colors but still turned out really fun. I also decided to try out layered cupcakes which also look great.  Today, I’m going to share the techniques on making these two awesome cupcakes. Later in the week, I will be sharing a fun DIY for cupcake picks and an amazing frosting to top these festive babies!

First, mix up your cake batter then divide it evenly between three mixing bowls. Dye one bowl blue and one red. I use Wilton Icing Colors (I bought mine at Michael’s). They are a gel and they produce a much more vibrant color than the liquid dyes found at the grocery store. Also, they are more concentrated so you don’t have to use as much.  A bit more pricey, but totally worth it in my opinion (and such fun colors).

To make the layered cupcakes, scoop even amounts of the red batter into the bottom of your cupcake liners. Then top with the same amount of white, then blue (filling 2/3 of the way).

Bake according to directions, cut open (or bite for that matter) and enjoy the layered fun!

Now onto the tie-dye! Take about a tablespoon of one batter and gob it into a cupcake liner. Place another tablespoon of another colored batter on top or beside the first dollop of batter. Continue this randomly until the liners are filled up 2/3 of the way.

Bake and gobble up to see the “tie-dye” effect.

Check out the completed cupcakes here!

White Sour Cream Cake
recipe from food.com

1 (18 oz.) box white cake mix
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/3 cups water
1/8 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract*
1 cup sour cream
4 large egg whites

1. Place all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir together with a wire whisk.
2. Add the remaining ingredients and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
3. Pour into cupcake liners (or into greased and floured cake pans).
4. Bake in 325 degree preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.**
5. Cool, frost and enjoy!

*You can replace the almond extract with vanilla if you prefer.
**They may take longer depending on your oven. The original recipe does not include a time so this is how long the cupcakes took in my oven (which seems to cook hot).

Sweet and Sour Pork

27 Jun

Sweet and Sour Pork
This is a super easy dinner that would be great for a busy weeknight. It requires very little prep in the morning and when you come home from work, it will practically be done.

This doesn’t taste like a typical, bright red takeout sweet and sour but rather a tangy and slightly sweet healthy version. The Worcestershire sauce gives it a bit of depth and the vinegar gives it some zing while the pineapple juice and chunks give it a nice sweet flavor.  Serve it with brown rice and steamed broccoli to complete the meal.

Sweet and Sour Pork
Recipe from Taste of Home Comfort Food Diet Cookbook

2 Tbsp. plus 1 ½ tsp. paprika
1 ½ lbs. boneless pork loin roast, cut into 1-inch strips
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 can (20 oz.) unsweetened pineapple chunks
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
¼ cup cider vinegar
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
¼ cup cold water
Hot cooked rice, optional

1. Place the paprika in a large ziplock bag. Add the pork and shake to coat. In a nonstick skillet, brown the pork in oil in batches over medium-high heat. Transfer to a 3-qt. slow cooker.
2. Drain pineapple, reserving juice; refrigerate pineapple. Add the pineapple juice, onion, green pepper, vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and salt to slow cooker; mix well. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until meat is tender.
3. Combine cornstarch and water until smooth; stir into pork mixture. Add pineapple. Cover and cook 30 minutes longer or until the sauce is thickened. Serve over rice if desired.

Juicy Lucy’s

24 Jun

We were first introduced to the Juicy Lucy when visiting The Nook in Minneapolis.  We saw The Nook featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on Food Network and knew we had to try it out the next time we were in the city and we are sure glad we did!  Sadly, we live 3 1/2 hours away so I had to attempt to make these at home.  Turns out they are very simple and really delicious!

So I’m sure many of you are asking “what is a Juicy Lucy?  It is a burger with American cheese stuffed inside…how could you go wrong?  There are two bars in Minneapolis that claim to have created the Juicy Lucy, Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club.  I don’t care who invented it, I just want to eat it!

First, divide the meat evenly into six equal size patties.

Then fold 3 Kraft singles into quarters and stack on 3 patties.

Top cheese covered patties with the remaining 3 patties and crimp edges so that they are completely sealed. 

Grill and enjoy the cheesy goodness!

Juicy Lucy’s

1 lb. ground beef (I recommend 80/20)
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3 slices of American cheese (such as Kraft singles)

1. Mix the beef, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Divide evenly into six portions then flatten into circles that are the same size.
2. Fold each piece of cheese into fourths so that you have 3 stacks of cheese.  Lay them in the middle of three patties.
3. Top the cheese patties with the remaining 3 patties then seal the edges tightly.
4. Place on preheated grill. Flip the burger then poke the middle several times with a toothpick to release the steam so that the burgers do not ooze the cheese. Cook to desired doneness.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

21 Jun

When I asked my husband what kind of dessert he wanted for Father’s Day he immediately responded with cookie dough ice cream.  I think he must have been thinking about this for awhile.  I made it once last summer and he has been talking about it ever since.  I use the pure and simple vanilla ice cream recipe from The Ultimate Ice Cream Book and stir in chocolate chip cookie dough to create my husband’s favorite flavor.

I know many people are worried about raw eggs, me included, but the thought doesn’t even cross my husband’s mind.  I researched and found a recipe for cookie dough that was eggless for ice cream but he simply scoffed.  He had his heart set on good ‘ole Nestle Tollhouse cookie dough found in the refrigerated section.  I then scoffed but decided to oblige since it’s was Father’s Day and all.  But if you all are interested in the eggless version, check it out here.

I am known for my inability to resist ice cream so the egg really didn’t stop me from indulging.  The vanilla is so pure tasting and is totally tasty on its own but the addition of cookie dough puts it over the top!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream
recipe adapted from The Ultimate Ice Cream Book

2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 2/3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 -1 cup chocolate chip cookie dough

1. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the sugar into the eggs until thickened and pale yellow. Beat in flour and salt. Set aside.
2. Bring the milk to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Slowly beat the hot milk into the eggs and sugar.  Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and place over low heat. Stir constantly with a wire whisk or wooden spoon until the custard thickens slightly. Be careful not to let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble.
3. Remove from the heat and pour the hot custard through a strainer into a large, clean bowl.
4. Allow the custard to cool slightly, then stir in the cream and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate until cold or overnight.
5. Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Meaniwhile, cut the cookie dough into small chunks then place them in the freezer for 10-15 minutes (otherwise it would turn into a cookie dough swirl rather than having chunks of cookie dough). During the last few minutes of churning, dump in the cookie dough. You can also stir it in once the ice cream is done churning. Enjoy right away or place in a freezer safe container.

This recipe is linked to Sweet as Sugar Cookies!

Granola

20 Jun

If you are a busy mom like me, you are looking for a quick, healthy breakfast that tastes delicious. This granola totally fits the bill. It is so simple to throw together in the evening and lasts for about a week in an airtight container. And it’s so much cheaper than buying prepared granola.

Another great feature of this granola is that it is totally customizable unlike the boxed version. Don’t like almonds? Replace them with pecans or walnuts. Use raisins, dried banana chips or dried apricots as the fruit. You can add exactly what you want to make your perfect granola.

I personally love this granola atop some strawberry yogurt with sliced bananas. Healthy, simple, tasty. Just what we need to fuel up for a busy day.

Granola

3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup assorted dried fruit

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Mix first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Stir honey and oil in saucepan over medium-low heat until smooth. Pour honey mixture over oat mixture; toss. Spread on prepared sheet. Bake until golden, stirring every 10 minutes, about 40 minutes. Place sheet on rack. Stir granola; cool. Mix in fruit.

Classic Southern Dessert Series: Lemon Bars

15 Jun

I just bought the most amazing dessert cookbook, Classic Southern Desserts by Southern Living and I am loving pretty much every recipe in it.  I am a true Southern girl at heart although we only lived in the South for about 5 years.  Because I am digging this cookbook so much, I decided to start my first series on this blog.  Occasionally, I will feature a recipe from this book and the first is Lemon Bars.

I love just about any lemon dessert you may throw at me but I have never made or eaten lemon bars.  I truly do not know how I have gone almost 25 years without trying them out.  It really is a shame that I have wasted all this time and I may have to make up for it with these little babies.

Lemon Bars
Recipe from Classic Southern Desserts by Southern Living

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first 4 ingredients; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Pat mixture into a greased 13×9 baking dish. Bake for 18 minutes or until golden.
2. Combine 2 cups granulated sugar and cornstarch. Add eggs and next 3 ingredients; beat well. Pour mixture over crust.
3. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until set. Let cool completely and chill well.
4. Sift 1/4 cup powdered sugar over top. Cut into bars.

Linked to Cupcake Apothecary, Sweet as Sugar Cookies, Everyday Sisters and Sharing Sundays.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

13 Jun

This was my first attempt at sweet potato fries and I was hoping to convert my husband who has never been a fan.  Well, I didn’t convert him and these were good but not great.

I was not able to get these fries crispy which is super important in my opinion.  When I attempt these again I will try baking them at a higher temperature, maybe 450 degrees, for a shorter amount of time.  Or maybe broil them for the last couple minutes.  I think doubling the garlic and onion powder would also be beneficial. 

These are still a good and healthy side dish that I will be attempting again (and making my whiny husband something else).  Our son Noah loves sweet potatoes so at least I have someone on my side.

Sweet Potato Fries

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
2 Tbsp. olive oil (adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. paprika
dash of cayenne

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all ingredients together.
2. Bake sweet potato fries for 35 minutes, turning half way through the baking time.

Proscuitto Ravioli

10 Jun

These ravioli were super easy and so tasty.  I love the use of wonton wrappers rather than making fresh pasta to fresh ravioli a weeknight possibility. It took a bit of time to fill all of them but they were definitely worth it.  I only cooked half of these and froze the other half.  Hopefully they will taste just as good after being frozen.

The original recipe from Giada de Laurentiis called for 10 ounces of spinach but I only used half due to a whiny husband.  In the end, I actually thought it was the perfect amount.

The filling possibilities are endless for these easy ravioli. Chicken and bacon, mushroom, ground beef or italian sausage, lobster…just about anything would be great!

Proscuitto Ravioli

1 (15-ounce) container part skim ricotta cheese
5-ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped
2 large egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
48 wonton wrappers
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
Freshly grated pecorino

1. Whisk the ricotta, spinach, prosciutto, egg yolks, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend.
2. Place 1 tablespoon of the ricotta filling in the center of a wonton wrapper. Brush the edge of the wrapper lightly with water. Fold the wrapper in half, enclosing the filling completely and forming a triangle. Pinch the edges to seal. Transfer the ravioli to baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining filling and wrappers. (Can be prepared up to 2 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate.)
3. Melt the butter in a heavy small skillet over medium heat. Add the oregano and stir 1 minute. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
4. Working in batches, cook the ravioli in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes per batch. Transfer the ravioli to a large shallow bowl.
5. Pour the oregano butter over the ravioli and toss gently to coat. Sprinkle the pecorino over the ravioli and serve.

Linked to the following linky party:
This Week’s Cravings

Lime-N-Coconut Cupcakes

7 Jun

Three years ago today, I married the guy of my dreams and we started our life together.  So in honor of our third anniversary, I decided to make Lime and Coconut Cupcakes to celebrate.

We spent 10 glorious days in the U.S. Virgin Islands for our honeymoon and it was the vacation of a lifetime!  We swam, snorkeled, ate, kayaked, hiked, ate, explored, shopped, snuba dived, ate and enjoyed many delicious tropical cocktails.  These cupcakes are a re-creation of a favorite drink enjoyed on the islands, the Lime-n-Coconut.  Here I am enjoying one of many on our trip.

I fell in love with this little platter on our trip and it just had to come home with me.  When I go on vacation, I like purchasing souvenirs that are unique, useful and special and this definitely fit the bill.

When I tried the batter I was a little worried because the lime flavor didn’t really come through.  I worried for nothing.  The lime was ridiculously tart in an amazing way.  The batter was so light and airy and probably one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever made.  I think I may try subbing lemon or orange juice for the lime to see if they are just as yummy.

I have always been intrigued by buttercreams using flour but have never been brave enough to try it.  After seeing this recipe and all the rave reviews it received I decided it was time to give it a go and I’m really glad that I did.  The original recipe called for milk but Mara from What’s For Dinner?  substituted coconut milk to make it extra coconut-y.  Amazing idea!  It adds an extra sweetness and a delicious coconut dimension beyond just stirring in coconut flakes.  It was creamy, it was dreamy, it was everything a frosting should be.  The only pitfall of this recipe is that it does not pipe well so it’s not as pretty but the taste definitely makes up for it.

Lime Cupcakes
recipe from What’s For Dinner?
yields 15-18 cupcakes

2 sticks salted butter
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
1 tsp. salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place the butter in a small saucepan and melt over low heat. Whisk the warm butter so no milk solids remain. Mix the melted butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until the sugar is well-dissolved.
3. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add the lime juice.
4. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and add to the butter mixture alternately with the milk in 3 additions.
5. Mix until just combined then scoop into lined cupcake tins or one 9×5 loaf pan. Bake until lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean, about 25 minutes for cupcakes and 45-50 minutes for a loaf pan. Allow to cool completely then frost.

Coconut Buttercream
recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen

5 Tbsp. flour
1 cup coconut milk (found in baking section near the condensed and evaporated milk)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup shredded coconut

1. In a small saucepan, whisk flour into milk and heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. You want it to be very thick, thicker than cake mix, more like a brownie mix. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. (If you are in a hurry, place the saucepan over ice in the sink for about 10 minutes or so until the mixture cools.) It must be completely cool before you use it in the next step. Stir in vanilla.
2. While the mixture is cooling, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. You don’t want any sugar graininess left. Then add the completely cooled milk/flour/vanilla mixture and beat the living daylights out of it. If it looks separated, you haven’t beaten it enough! Beat it until it all combines and resembles whipped cream.  Stir in shredded coconut.
3. Frost cooled cupcakes and enjoy!

Recipe linked to Everyday Sisters twice!

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