Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year


Have a healthy and happy 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Enchilada Casserole

This is a post I did back in 2008 on my old blog.  I was looking through it to find something to make for dinner that I haven't made in a while.  This might fit the bill:

Enchilada Casserole

I recently tried a new recipe from this book. We had some friends taste test it with us and they thought it was pretty good. (At least I think they thought it tasted fine.) Adam asked me to make it again, which gives the recipe high marks in my book. He likes the addition of corn chips sprinkled on top for some added crunch.

The recipe is given for a 2-quart casserole or a 3-quart casserole. I will show the ingredient amounts for the 3-quart recipe in red.

Bean and Beef Enchilada Casserole

8oz (12oz) 90% lean ground beef
1/2 cup (3/4 cup) chopped onion
1 tea (1 1/2 tea) chili powder
1/2 tea (3/4 tea) ground cumin
1 15oz can (2 cans) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 4oz can (2 cans) diced green chile peppers, undrained
8oz (1 1/2 cups) sour cream
2 Tbs (3 Tbs) all-purpose flour
1/4 tea (1/2 tea) garlic powder
8 6-inch (12) corn tortillas
1 10oz can (2 cans) enchilada sauce
3/4 cup (1 cup) shredded cheddar cheese
fresh cilantro and sliced red chiles for garnish (optional)

1. In a large skillet cook the ground beef and onion until meat is brown and onion is tender; drain off fat. Stir in chili powder and cumin; cook and stir 1 minute more. Stir in pinto beans and uundrained chile peppers into meat mixture; set aside. In a small bowl stir together sour cream, flour and garlic powder; set aside.

2. Place half of the tortillas in the bottom of a lightly greased 2-quart (3-quart) rectangular baking dish, cutting to fit and overlapping as necessary. Top with half of the meat mixture, half of the sour cream mixture and half of the enchilada sauce. Repeat layers.

3. Bake, covered, in a 350-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until heated through. Uncover and sprinkle with cheese. Bake about 5 minutes more or until cheese is melted. If desired, garnish with cilantro and fresh chile peppers.

This is so yummy on a cool fall night. The second time I made it we had it with hot buttered corn on the side- scrumptious!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Grandma's Raspberry Sauce

My Mother-in-Law asked me to make a cheesecake for her annual Christmas Eve soiree.  (My favorite cheesecake recipe comes from The Best Make-Ahead Recipes cookbook.)  She also entrusted me to make her famous raspberry sauce this year, from a recipe that she received from her mother-in-law.  It is a wonderful sauce for cheesecake; the bright, tart flavor cuts through the dense richness of the cheesecake.  As I'm not planning on becoming a mother-in-law anytime soon, I thought I would share the recipe with you.

Grandma's Raspberry Sauce:

Thaw one 10-oz package of frozen, unsweetened  raspberries in the refrigerator overnight.  Put the thawed raspberries in a medium saucepan and crush with a potato masher.  Add 1/2 cup currant jelly and 1 Tbsp cornstarch to the saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until thickened, then for an additional minute.  Off heat, stir in 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice and a dash of salt.  Strain out seeds and cool.  Place waxed paper directly on the sauce and refrigerate until chilled.

I poured the whole amount over my cheesecake and let it run down the sides.  Then I topped it all with fresh raspberries.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Random Stuff I've Been Up To

I had to bake a cheesecake tonight for my Mother-in-Law's annual Christmas Eve party.  I got started a bit late, and now I need something to do to keep me awake until it cools enough to be put in the refrigerator.  Since I haven't posted in a while, I thought that maybe I should go through my pictures and see what I've been up to for the past month. 

I crocheted a hat for my friend, Bee, over at Bee's Hive o' Drama.  Not only is she a supastar paper crafter, she's wicked funny, to boot.  She also looks really cute in hats.  Sweetpea modeled it for me:

I followed the Color-it-Beautiful hat pattern from the Nov/Dec '08 issue of Crochet Today.  The flower is from the Wrapped Wreath pattern in the same issue.  I've made two more of these, but haven't gotten around to the photography yet.  Here are my links for the hat above:

I knit a basic beanie for Sugarbear's teacher.  He happens to be a BIG USC Trojans fan:

Sugarbear was my model this time:

I made Chocolate-Dipped Marshmallows for Sugarbear's class holiday party:

I just speared some marshmallows on lollipop sticks, dipped them in melted CandiQuik, and sprinkled some Christmas sugar flotsam on them.  Can't get any easier than that.

I made some Christmas lounge pants for the kids.  Sugarbear wanted nothing to do with them. 

At least Sweetpea liked hers.  And I got to test run my new serger (Juki MO-644D) before hubby made me put it back in the box so he could wrap it for me for Christmas/my birthday. 

The kids made their annual gingerbread houses.  Thank goodness for the wonderful kits they have available these days.  They are a bit chintzy on the candy, though, so I made sure to supplement the stash.

I can't believe that I've done hardly any baking this month.  I did make this Cinnamon Bread, and it was yummy, but mostly I've just been in a sewing/knitting/crochet mood lately.  I guess that's better for my waistline anyways.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pumpkin Smoothies

I found the original recipe here at  I "kicked it up a notch" with the addition of pumpkin-pie flavoring syrup.

Pumpkin Smoothies:

Mix 1/2 cup canned pumpkin, 3/4 cup whole milk, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 tablespoon brown sugar,            2 tablespoons pumpkin-pie flavored syrup, and 4 to 6 ice cubes in a blender.  Pour into 2 glasses.  Top with a dollop of whipped topping if you so desire.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Jedi Robe

Sugarbear wanted a dark brown Jedi robe to go with his Anakin Skywalker Halloween costume.  I modified this pattern (Simplicity 5512 view E) to make it.  I made the sleeves less "pointy" and rounded off the hood in the back.  Now I'm wishing I had a serger so the seams would look nicer...oh well, a girl can dream...

Here's my little Jedi:

A note about this pattern:  You need to know how to sew princess seams in order to attach the sleeves.  I realized as I was making this that I do not like to sew princess seams but I am definitely more skilled at them as a result of this project.  I wonder who sews Jedi robes in that galaxy far, far away.  Probably a droid.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Christmas in September

The new Better Homes and Gardens special Christmas magazines are out.  Did I mention how giddy that makes me? 

Hmmm.  What should I make first?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

That's Corny

kalampoki Pictures, Images and Photos

My market has been stocked with lots of yummy, sweet corn lately.  Here's a tip for making boiled corn extra delicious:  Add a tablespoon of sugar to the boiling water before dumping in your corn.  For other veggies, I would usually salt the water, but salt makes corn tough.  The sugar water enhances the natural sweetness of the corn.  I wait 'til the corn is hot and buttered before salting to taste.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

More Hats

I was in a hat making mood this past summer.  They seem to be the perfect, portable project for summertime travels.  I made another Shells Sunhat for a friend's daughter:

Ravelry link here.

I made the sock monkey hats from Stitch 'n Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker for my sister's friend.  She is a collector of sock monkeys and is also a new grandmother of boy/girl twins!

Ravelry link here.

Sweetpea has been taking ice-skating lessons with some friends this summer.  One of the girls had a July birthday, so I whipped up a little hat for her to wear in the cold rink:

This was just a basic beanie of my own design.  It was my first time making a pom-pom.  I think it came out rather cute.  The birthday girl loved it:

Ravelry link here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Books

Yesterday, I was able to spend a nice, relaxing day with two of my sisters traipsing around the little college town of Claremont, CA.  We were worried that it might be very hot there, but fortunately there was a lovely breeze blowing through the town that day.  Although many of the stores are closed on Mondays, one of my favorites, Barbara Cheatley's, was open for business.  In addition to all of the unique gift and home-decor items carried there, they have a wonderful selection of cookbooks.  I couldn't leave without taking a couple of them home with me.  These are the ones I chose:

This has all of the recipes arranged by color.  Beautiful photography and 200+ recipes.  I think that I want to try the Berry and Buttermilk Cake first, since it's berry season.  I may also have to go purchase that ice-cream maker I've been wanting for a while- lots of delicious recipes in this book that I could use it for.

This book has recipes for cookies, cakes, doughnuts,  pies, tarts, custards, ice-cream and candies.  I will definitely have to try out the Chocolate Babka, as hubby is a huge Seinfeld fan.  Firstly, though, I think I would like to bake up the Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies with Cream Cheese Filling.

Lastly, I purchased this book just for fun:   

I'll let you know how this one works out.

Friday, July 23, 2010

BBQ Party Mix

Here's a new recipe I tried for the 4th of July.  Beware!  It is addictive.  It has all the crunchy goodness of a traditional Chex Mix, coupled with a mild hint of BBQ tastiness.  Another winner from Cook's Country magazine (Dec/Jan '08).


BBQ Party Mix

1.  Heat oven to 250 degrees.  Combine 5 cups Corn Chex cereal, 2 cups corn chips, 1 cup melba toast pieces*, 1 cup pretzel sticks, and 1 (6 oz) can smokehouse almonds in a large bowl.  Whisk 6 tablespoons butter (that has been melted) with 1/4 cup barbeque sauce in a small bowl and drizzle over cereal mixture.  Sprinkle evenly with 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.  Toss everything together until well combined.

2.  Spread the mixture on a large, rimmed baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.  Cool to room temperature and serve.  Store airtight for 1 week.

*The original recipe called for melba toast rounds.  I had to go to 3 markets to find them, and ended up breaking them up into smaller pieces anyway.  Any plain melba toast should work.

Friday, July 2, 2010

My New Favorite Hat

One of my favorite gifts to knit for a boy/man is a beanie.  It's a quick, easy and portable project that looks good on most guys.  In the past, I never would have crocheted a hat for a man.  It just didn't seem masculine enough.  That was until I purchased a book called, "Get Your Crochet On!  Hip Hats and Cool Caps" by Afya Ibomu.  It's a book that's filled with soulful styles that make anyone look cool.  The first pattern I tried out was "The MC", as a gift for Uncle D's birthday.  He lives by the beach and is always in need of a cap for a chilly morning stroll on the sand.  I chose a blue/brown color-way and got to work.  The pattern was easy to follow and I like the ingenious idea of adding a row of elastic to help the hat keep its shape.  It also looks fly on Uncle D:

Sweetpea was ogling this hat so I decided to make one for her in a more feminine purple color-way:

I had enough yarn left over to make another girl-size hat in the light purple with the darker purple as the stripe.  It's almost complete.  The hard part will be deciding who to give it to!

Here are the links to my project notes on Ravelry:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Margherita Grilled Cheese

It hit me the other day that we tend to throw out a lot of food.  I tend to forget what's in the fridge, or sometimes I just have a little bit of a lot of things and don't really know what to do with them.  Then, I start to get the waste not/want not guilties.  I've made a pledge to myself to try and use up what we have before I buy more.

Tonight, I had some shredded mozzarella and basil left over from making Cheesy Ravioli Bake a few days ago.  I also had a couple of tomatoes and a loaf of french bread.  I decided to combine my favorite Italian flavor profile, tomato and basil (margherita), with the American classic, grilled cheese sandwich.  I brushed the bottom of the bread with melted butter, sprinkled on the shredded mozzarella, chopped tomatoes (seeded), and chopped basil, topped it all with another buttered slice of bread, and fried it up in a pan.  You know, standard grilled cheese procedure.  It was really good.  I may have to make sure to have left-over cheese, tomatoes, and basil on hand at all times!  Next time, though, I will sprinkle the filling with a little bit of salt to amp up the flavors a bit.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Coffee Cake Muffins

I am fortunate to have a handful of friends who are willing to help me out at the drop of a hat.  About a month ago, I needed someone to pick Sweetpea up from school for a few days.  One of my trusty mom friends came to my rescue and asked for nothing in return.  I decided that I wanted to bake her a little something sweet as my way of saying, "Thanks".  I had bookmarked this delectable recipe in The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book and figured this was a good time to try it.  I'm so glad that I did!

Coffee Cake Muffins

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin.

2.  Pulse 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar, 1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour, and 1/4 cup dark brown sugar in a food processor to combine.  Transfer 3/4 cup of the sugar mixture to a medium bowl and whisk in another 1/4 cup dark brown sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon to make the streusel filling.  Leave the remaining sugar mixture in the processor.

3.  Add 1 cup (5 ounces) flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda to the processor and pulse 5 times to combine.  Scatter 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) chilled, unsalted butter (cut into 1-inch cubes) into the processor and pulse until the mixture breaks down into small pebbly pieces; about 10 pulses.  Add 3 large eggs and 1/2 cup sour cream and pulse 8 times until the batter is combined and thick.

4.  Scoop a rounded tablespoon of batter into each muffin cup, then sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons streusel mixture into each cup.  Divide the remaining batter evenly among the cups.  Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, about 20 to 24 minutes.  Rotate the muffin tin half-way through.

5.  Let the muffins cool in the tin for 5 minutes.  Remove them from the tin* and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

* When I first tried removing my muffins from the tin, the tops separated from the bottoms at the filling.  I ran a thin spatula around the edges and used it to help lift the muffins out of the cups; this worked well.  I reassembled the ones that had come apart, and they stuck together fine when cooled.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Long Time, No See

Well, I haven't been blogging lately for a number of reasons:

1.  The end of the kids' school year had me crazy busy.
2.  I seem to have been making mostly the same stuff I've already blogged about.
3.  Some of the new recipes that I've tried have not been blog-worthy.
4.  Hubby has been taking an online continuing-ed class which has been eating into MY computer time.

And lastly,

5.  I've been too lazy to copy down recipes.

I promise to get off my duff and post some new things soon.  (Or, I guess that means that I still need to sit on my duff, just in front of the computer.)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Chocolate Shakes

I found this recipe a couple of months ago, but it was during Lent and as I had given up dessert for six weeks, I put this on the back-burner.  Last night, though, hubby and I had a hankerin' for something chocolate so I thought it was the perfect time to try out this little number.

The recipe is from my fave magazine, Cook's Country.  It is from the June/July 2007 issue.  They call it the Ultimate Chocolate Milkshake, and I think that is an accurate description.  It is rich and thick and yummy and I might be craving these again very soon.

Ultimate Chocolate Milkshake

Combine 3 cups vanilla ice cream (softened and cut into large chunks), 1 1/2 cups chocolate sorbet* (softened and cut into large chunks), 1/2 cup whole milk and 2 tablespoons room-temp hot fudge sauce in a blender and puree until smooth**.  Pour into chilled glasses and serve.

*I was able to find chocolate sorbet at Trader Joe's.

**I had to help the blender a bit in the beginning, stirring with a spoon once in a while to loosen up the ice cream.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Popcorn" Cupcakes

For SweetPea's 10th birthday party, we decided to go with a "Dinner and a Movie" theme.  I found some cute popcorn-box shaped invitations and they inspired me to try my hand at some faux-popcorn cupcakes I had seen in the book "Hello, Cupcake".  In the book, they top mini-cupcakes with marshmallow "popcorn" and stack them in a popcorn box.  You can find a lot of different versions on the internet for these (a particularly cute one is here at FamilyFun) and following is how I made mine.

To transform the plain white wrappers, I searched for "popcorn clipart" on Yahoo and chose one with lettering that I liked.  I resized the image so the words would fit on my cupcakes, printed out a bunch and cut them to fit.  I ran them through my Xyron sticker maker only to find out they wouldn't stick to the wrappers.  I ended up using a light layer of frosting as "glue" and it worked surprisingly well.

For the popcorn, I used light yellow and white marshmallows, two for each piece of popcorn.  Cut the first piece into thirds, lengthwise.  Arrange the pieces in a clover shape.  Snip the second piece half-way through the top and twist the pieces slightly.  Use a dab of frosting to attach the top piece to the bottom bits.  I needed 10 to 12 popcorns for each cupcake.  I used my favorite buttercream recipe to ice the cakes.

I think that the birthday girl was happy.  Hopefully her wish will come true.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mama Mia!

We've had a wave of illness wash over our home this past week, so I haven't been doing much cooking as of late.  I'm trying to get back in the groove of blogging, and have been wanting to post this new recipe for Cheesy Baked Ravioli for a while now, so I guess that's a good place to start!  A few weeks ago, I was going through some of my old Cook's Country magazines (my fave!) and started bookmarking new recipes to try out.  All the way back to the Ocotober/November 2005 issue is where I found this winner.  It was easy to make, had my favorite Italian flavors of tomato and basil, and the family loved it (minus Sugarbear, that is.  He only likes hamburgers.) so I will be making it again, once we're all well and good.

Cheesy Ravioli Bake

1.  Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot for cooking pasta.  Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to the center position and heat oven to 450-degrees.  Grease a shallow, 2-quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter.

2.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add 2 minced garlic cloves and cook until fragrant but not brown, about 30 seconds.  Add a 28-ounce can diced tomatoes and increase the heat to high.  Cook until thickened and almost dry, about 10 minutes.  Stir in 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil and 1/3 cup heavy cream and simmer until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.  Season with salt to taste.

3.  Add 1 tablespoon salt and 2 8-ounce packages fresh cheese ravioli to the boiling water and cook until al dente.  Add 1 6-ounce bag baby spinach to the pot with the pasta and stir until wilted, about 30 seconds.  Drain pasta and spinach, return to pot, and stir in tomato sauce.  Transfer mixture to baking dish and sprinkle with 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese.  Bake until top is golden, about 10 minutes.  Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Oh, so gooey and yummy, but surprisingly light and fresh.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lemon Chicken and Rice Soup

We had some chilly weather last week and it gave me a hankering to try some new soup recipes.  This one, for Lemon Chicken and Rice Soup, was at the top of the list.  It is actually a version of the Greek soup, Avgolemono.  I found the recipe in an America's Test Kitchen recipe card collection that was published in 2007.  This soup is substantial without being heavy.  The added lemon juice and parsley give it a nice, vibrant flavor.  Best of all, it comes together quickly, which makes it perfect for a busy weekday meal.

Lemon Chicken and Rice Soup

1.  Bring 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth to boil in a large saucepan over high heat.  Cover and set aside.    Pat 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Cook chicken until lightly browned on both sides and transfer to a plate.  Lower heat to medium-low, add 1 minced medium onion, and cook until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.  Stir in hot broth, using wooden spoon to scrape browned bits from pan.  Add 2 carrots that have been peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds, 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, 3/4 cup long grain rice and chicken breasts.  Cover and simmer over low heat until chicken is cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes.

2.  Transfer chicken to a cutting board and continue simmering soup, covered, until rice is tender, about 10 minutes more.  Cut chicken into bite-size pieces.  Off heat, stir in the chicken along with 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

3.  Whisk 3 tablespoons lemon juice with 4 large egg yolks in a bowl.  Whisking constantly, gradually ladle 1 cup hot soup into egg mixture, then stir egg mixture back into soup.  Reheat over low heat for 1 minute.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve.

This actually re-heated well for lunch the next day.  It was a little thick, more like a stew, so I added extra chicken broth when I made it the next day.  I also sprinkled some fresh parsley on top.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cinnamon Crispas

So I was going to a party tonight and wanted to bring something along to share.  I had some leftover flour tortillas and decided I could make something yummy out of them.  Back in the '80's, Taco Bell used to have a treat called Cinnamon Crispas on their menu.  They weren't puffs like the Cinnamon Twists they have now;  they were simply fried flour tortillas that were dredged in cinnamon and sugar.  Simple, yet delicious.  I put them out at the party and they were gone before I could get one for myself.

Cinnamon Crispas

1.  In a pie plate, mix together 1/2 cup granulated sugar with      
2 tablespoons cinnamon.

2.  Cut 6-8 soft-taco size flour tortillas into 1-inch strips or into wedges.  Meanwhile, heat 1/2-inch oil in a large skillet* until hot enough for frying.

3.  Fry a few strips at a time until light golden brown.  Drain briefly on paper towels, then dredge the strips through the sugar-cinnamon mixture.  Repeat with remaining strips.

These would be delicious served with a scoop of your favorite ice cream.

*An electric skillet set at 350-degrees works well for this recipe.  I received this one for Christmas and it performed well for me.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Krispie Kisses

A few years ago, I was looking for a cute Valentine treat idea to make for Sweetpea's pre-school class.  I found what I was looking for when I came across these "kisses" made from Rice Krispy treats in lieu of chocolate.  I decided to resurrect the idea for some friends this year.  These are easy and fun and are adaptable to any occassion.

1.  Make a batch of Rice Krispy treats.   When I made mine, I added pink food color to the melted marshmallow mixture.

2.  Lightly spray a desired-size funnel with cooking spray and pack it with the rice krispy mixture.

3.  Tap the "kiss" onto a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper.  Repeat step 2 with remaining mixture.  My funnel made 7 treats per recipe.

4.  While the treats set until firm, cut an 8 1/2" x 11" piece of paper into 3/4" x 11" strips and stamp a message on one end.

5.  Place one end of the paper strip under the treat on a square of foil.  Pleat the foil up around the treat and trim the tops as necessary.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Chocolate Cream Cupcakes

On the day that my new issue of Cook's Country magazine comes in the mail, the dust bunnies are allowed to linger in the corners and the kiddos head to bed early, 'cause Mama needs time to read this thing from cover-to-cover.  Not too long ago, I received the February/March '10 issue and promptly found many recipes to drool over.  With Grandma's birthday coming up, one recipe I knew I had to try right away was one for Chocolate Cream Cupcakes (think Hostess).

They looked like they would be really yummy, but I was wondering how to make them more fancy for a birthday.  I remembered seeing some similar cupcakes in a Martha Stewart Living magazine that were dolled up for Valentine's Day and knew just what to do:


To say that these were delicious is an understatement.  Everyone was silent as they were eating and only a few scattered crumbs remained on the plates.  I think I might need to whip up another batch for Valentine's Day this weekend.   

Chocolate Cream Cupcakes

1. Heat the oven to 325-degrees and put cucpcake liners in a standard muffin tin (or you can grease and flour the tin).  Combine 1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teapoon salt in a bowl.  In a large bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup boiling water, 1/3 cup cocoa powder (I used dutch-processed), 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli), and 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder until smooth.  Add 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 2 large eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla and mix until combined.  Whisk in the flour mixture until incorporated.  Divide the batter evenly among 12 muffin cups and bake 18 to 22 minutes (check doneness with toothpick).  Cool them in the tin for 10 minutes and on a wire rack until completely cooled.

2. For the cream filling, combine 3 tablespoons water and 3/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin in a large bowl and let sit for 5 minutes to let the gelatin soften.  Microwave until the mixture bubbles around the edges and the gelatin is dissolved, about 30 seconds.  Stir in 4 tablespoons softened, unsalted butter (cut into small pieces), 1 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of salt until combined and the butter is melted.  Let it cool for 5 minutes, then whisk in 1 1/4 cups marshmallow creme until smooth (be gentle and patient, the creme will eventually loosen up and smooth out).  Refrigerate the mixture until set, about 30 minutes.  Place about 1/3 cup of the filling into a pastry bag with a small, round tip to use for piping the swirls on top of the cupcakes.

3.  When you are ready to assemble the cupcakes, microwave 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips with 3 tablespoons unsalted butter until you can stir it smooth.  Cool the glaze to room temperature, about 10 minutes.  Cut a cone out of the top of each cupcake with a sharp knife (this is easier if the cupcakes have been partially frozen for about 30 minutes first) and then cut off all but the top 1/4-inch of the cone (this will be placed back over the filling).  (I'm sorry I don't have a picture of this step.  Check out the magazine- it's worth it for all the great recipes!)  Fill each indentation with 1 tablespoon of the filling and replace tops.  Spread 2 teapoons of cooled glaze over the tops and let set for 10 minutes.  Use the reserved filling in the pastry bag to pipe curlicues across the tops.

4.  Prepare to wow your friends and family.  

Friday, February 5, 2010

Corn Muffins

It's a cold, rainy day in my neck of the woods; a perfect day for baking.  I just may have to whip up some of these yummy corn muffins to go with dinner tonight.  This recipe comes from the  America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book and is one of my favorites.

Corn Muffins

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

2. Whisk 2 cups (10 oz) all-purpose flour, 1 cup (5 oz) stone-ground, medium-grind yellow cornmeal, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teapoon baking soda and 1/2 teapoon salt together in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk 3/4 cup sour cream, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup whole milk, 1 stick melted butter and 2 large eggs together until smooth. Gently, fold the sour cream mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined (do not overmix).

3. Using a greased 1/3-cup measure, portion the batter into each muffin cup. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the pan half-way through baking.

4. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then flip out onto a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Birthday: Round Two

So Sugarbear wanted to go bowling with his friends for his birthday party.  I was flipping through my copy of Hello, Cupcake!, and I found a cute idea for some bowling pin cupcakes.  I also wanted to try out my Wilton Sports Ball pan, so I decided to make a bowling ball cake to go with the cupcakes.

Well, I loved how the cupcakes turned out!  I frosted some standard-size cupcakes, placed some unwrapped, mini-cupcakes upside-down on top of them, and then used some more frosting to attach donut holes to the very top.  I let them firm up in the fridge for a bit and then iced lightly over the whole thing.  Then I used a pastry bag with a #16 star tip to cover the cakes evenly.  The stripes and triangles were cut from strawberry Fruit by the Foot.  In the book, the author melts canned frosting and dips the cupcakes, which gives a nice, smooth finish.  I like to make my own frosting and wasn't sure how it would melt, so I went with piping. 

The ball cake turned out to be slightly difficult.  Next time, I will fill the pans a bit more full of batter and then trim the cake edges down to make a more rounded, as opposed to oblong, shape.  Also, I will ice one side, let it firm up, then flip it onto the serving board and ice the other side.  Sugarbear was more than pleased, so I won't beat myself up about it. 

My favorite frosting recipe produces an icing that is a cross between a buttercream and a whipped-cream frosting.  It came from one of my Wilton cake decorating class books.  They call it Extra-Special Buttercream Icing, and extra-special it is!  Even people who claim that they don't like frosting seem to enjoy it.  It is a good icing for frosting and shell-type borders, but is too soft to pipe flowers.

Extra-Special Buttercream Icing

1.  Cream 1 cup vegetable shortening* and 1 cup softened butter in a standing mixer.  Reduce the mixer to the lowest speed and gradually mix in 2 pounds of confectioners sugar.  Continue creaming until well blended.

2.  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons clear vanilla**, and 6 ounces whipping cream and blend on low speed until moistened.  You may add up to 8 ounces of cream to reach your desired consistency.

3.  Beat at high speed until icing is fluffy.

*No trans-fat shortening does not take food coloring well (it separates overnight), and tends to make a looser icing.  Check the store brand shortenings as they tend to be "old-style" shortenings.  There is also high-density shortening, which is available from cake decorating suppliers, but I have never tried it.

**Clear vanilla won't tint your icing yellow and is available here.