Sunday, June 28, 2015

Chocolate Mint Cupcakes

A friend of mine hired me to make cupcakes for her daughter's 7th birthday party.  Her daughter requested chocolate mint cupcakes, which I'd never made before, so I turned to One Sweet Cupcake.

I pretty much followed the recipe, except I used bittersweet chocolate and didn't measure it, reduced the vanilla, and I had to guess how long to bake them.  For some reason, there aren't a lot of baking times in the recipes.

These turned out so great, I ended up making 2 batches, that's right, 48 freaking cupcakes, because I wanted some for my family too!  I frosted them with Vanilla Mint Buttercream, and garnished with half an Andes Creme de Menthe Thin (my friend's idea) and a sprig of fresh mint (my idea) and they turned out FABULOUS and DELICIOUS.  See for yourself.  And then make some for yourself!
 


Chocolate Mint Cupcakes
Adapted from One Sweet Cupcake
Makes 24 cupcakes


4 oz. high-quality bittersweet chocolate bar, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla
1 teaspoon peppermint extract

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place chocolate in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Pour boiling water over chocolate and let sit for 1 minute.  Using the whisk attachment, mix until smooth.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add sour cream, applesauce, oil, eggs, vanilla, and peppermint.  Mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder.  Turn the stand mixer on low, add dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated and smooth.

Line two standard muffin tins with paper baking cups.  Fill each cup two-thirds full with batter.  Bake about 20 minutes, until the tops spring back at the touch of your finger and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 

Remove from tins and cool completely on wire rack before icing.

Frost with Vanilla Mint Buttercream and garnish with halved Andes Creme de Menthe Thins and fresh peppermint leaves, as shown.


Vanilla Mint Buttercream

Inspired by One Sweet Cupcake, I halved the recipe for Vanilla Buttercream and also made it minty to top off some Chocolate Mint Cupcakes.  (I didn't like her recipes for Peppermint Buttercream OR Grasshopper Buttercream for the purposes of this party)  I colored the frosting pale kelly green for a birthday party, but white or any other color would be just as nice. 








Vanilla Mint Buttercream
Adapted from One Sweet Cupcake
Makes enough to frost more than 48 cupcakes in method shown above.  :-)

1 pound butter, softened
pinch of salt
2 pounds powdered sugar
1/8 cup milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla
1/2 tablespoon peppermint extract




In a stand mixer bowl with the paddle attachment, beat butter and salt until light, completely smooth and fluffy.  Turn the mixer speed to low and add half of the powdered sugar.  Mix until smooth. 

Add vanilla and peppermint to milk. 

Alternately, add remaining powdered sugar and milk extract mixture, beating until smooth and creamy.  Add green food coloring (I use Wilton paste colors) and mix until desired shade is reached.

Frost cupcakes as desired.  I garnished each cupcake with

Andes Creme de Menthe Thins and fresh peppermint leaves/sprigs.


**I will elaborate on my technique above if anyone would like me to!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Pecan Shortbread Cookies

If you don't want to sacrifice a precious vanilla bean, which is added for its essential oils and then removed from the dough, add another half teaspoon or so of vanilla extract to the recipe.

Pecan  Shortbread  Cookies


1 ½ cups pecans, coarsely chopped
1 ¼ cups unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons turbinado or demerara sugar
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten


1. Spread chopped pecans on rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 6 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant. Let cool.

2. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter with confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

3. Add scraped vanilla bean and its seeds, vanilla extract, and salt to bowl. Beat at medium speed about 1 minute.

4. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, beating at low speed just until incorporated.

5. Discard vanilla bean. Stir in toasted pecans.

6. Divide dough into two equal parts. Transfer half the dough at a time to work surface and roll into 1 ½-inch-diameter log. Wrap logs in plastic wrap or parchment paper and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

7. Spread the turbinado sugar on a platter. Brush the logs with beaten egg yolk and roll in turbinado sugar.

8. Slice logs into 3/8-inch thick rounds. Transfer rounds to ungreased baking sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart.

9. Bake in 350°F. oven until cookies’ edges are light brown, about 15 to 18 minutes, rotating baking sheets midway through cooking time.


 10. Transfer cookies to wire rack and let stand until cooled completely, about 30 minutes, before serving.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Orzo Carbonara

Who's watching their fat intake anyway? Go ahead. Live a little.

Orzo  Carbonara




6 ounces bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
5 cups canned low-salt chicken broth, divided
½ cup whipping cream or table cream
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste


1.  Cook bacon in large heavy saucepan over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes.
2.  Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel and drain.
3.  Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings from pan.
4.  Add butter and cook until butter begins to brown, about 2 minutes.
5.  Add orzo and 4 ½ cups chicken broth to pan.
6.  Simmer uncovered until orzo is just tender but still firm to bite and broth is absorbed, stirring often, about 8 minutes.
7.  Mix in Parmesan cheese and fresh thyme. Then stir in bacon.
8.  Season with salt and pepper.
9.  Thin with additional chicken broth if desired.


NOTE: May add one diced shallot or 3 tablespoons diced onion. Chopped mushrooms or chopped fresh asparagus may be added for color, flavor, and interest. <Would these be sautéed in extra bacon grease in separate pan and added at end with cheese?>


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

OMG.  These are seriously soooo delicious.  And super easy!  Trust me, you need to make these ASAP.

I doubled the original recipe and served 4 of us, but we had this as a meal--only had about 1 cup of meat leftover.  So I'm going to post the ingredients for a double recipe and say it serves 4.  If you're serving it as an appetizer, it will probably serve more than 4.  You judge it for your own family, leftovers are terrific!

The original recipe says it's a "copycat" of PF Chang's.  We don't have a PF Chang's around, so I have no way of knowing whether or not this tastes anything like what they serve. 

I decreased a couple of the ingredients, and these were perfect.  Even my picky 8-year-old LOVED them.  I mean it, make these today!


Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Adapted from Damn Delicious
Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds ground chicken
4 cloves garlic, minced
about 1/2 large onion, diced
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2 scant teaspoons Sriracha, or to taste
1 (8-ounce) can whole water chestnuts, drained and finely diced
4 green onions, thinly sliced

1 head butter lettuce

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add ground chicken and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the chicken as it cooks.

Stir in garlic, onion, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ginger and Sriracha.  Cook and stir until onions have become translucent, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in chestnuts and green onions until tender, about 1-2 minutes.

To serve, spoon several tablespoons of the chicken mixture into the center of a lettuce leaf, wrap and eat!

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

A few years ago, I vowed never to buy another cake mix. Since then, I have been collecting reliable cake recipes. I made a half-batch of the recipe below with leftover canned pumpkin and was pleased with the results. By the way, I mixed the batter by hand.

Pumpkin  Spice  Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes


      3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (1 5/8 c)
      2 teaspoons baking powder (1 t)
      2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (1 t)
      1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves (3/4 t)
      1 teaspoon ground allspice (1/2 t)
      1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (1/2 t)
      1/2 teaspoon baking soda (1/4 t)
      1/2 teaspoon fine salt (1/4 t)
      2 1/2 cups granulated sugar (1 1/4 c)
      1 cup vegetable oil (1/2 c)
      4 large eggs (2)
      1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée (about 1 3/4 cups) (7/8 c)
      Cream cheese frosting, optional


1.     Place flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt in large  bowl and whisk to aerate and break up any lumps; set aside.

2.    Place sugar and oil in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until sugar is incorporated, about 1 minute. Stop mixer and scrape down sides of bowl and paddle with rubber spatula.

3.    Return mixer to medium speed and add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, about 1 1/2 minutes total mixing time. Reduce speed to medium low, add pumpkin, and beat until just combined, about 30 seconds. Stop mixer and scrape down sides of bowl and paddle with rubber spatula.

4.    Turn mixer to low speed, slowly add flour mixture, and beat until almost completely incorporated, about 1 minute. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in any unincorporated flour at edges and bottom with rubber spatula.

5.    Fill paper-lined muffin wells three-quarters full. Bake in 350°F. oven for 12 minutes. Rotate pans front to back and side to side and bake until toothpick inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, about 10 minutes more.  

6.    Place pans on wire racks and let them cool for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pans and cool completely on racks. Frost with cream cheese frosting if desired.

NOTE: Half-recipe amounts in parentheses will make 48 mini-cupcakes. Bake 14 minutes.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Wine-Braised Short Ribs

Gotta love short ribs. Great comfort food for the cold months. Simple to make and this recipe gives one an excuse to turn on the oven. Consider baking a loaf of bread while it's on.


WINE-BRAISED  SHORT  RIBS
Serves 4


½ pound chopped bacon
1 ½ pounds boneless beef short ribs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons snipped fresh parsley leaves
2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves
2 teaspoons snipped fresh rosemary leaves
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cups beef broth
1 ½ cups Syrah or other hearty red wine

1.   In large skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Then transfer to 4-quart Dutch oven.

2.   While bacon is cooking, season short ribs with salt and pepper.

3.   Sprinkle short ribs with parsley, oregano, and rosemary.

4.   In skillet, brown short ribs in bacon grease. Then transfer ribs to Dutch oven.

5.   Add chopped onions, carrots, and celery to skillet and sauté over medium-high heat until vegetables begin to brown.

6.   Add beef broth and wine to skillet and bring to a boil.

7.   Pour contents of skillet into Dutch oven.

8.   Cover the Dutch oven with a piece of parchment paper and then the pan’s lid.

9.   Cook in 325°F. oven for 3 to 4 hours or until meat is tender.

10.    Transfer the short ribs to a platter

11.    Strain what remains in Dutch oven. Then skim fat from sauce and boil over high heat until reduced to 2 cups.

12.    Season with salt and pepper. Pour over short ribs and serve.



NOTE: Serve with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or green beans.
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