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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Funfetti Cupcakes!

I found these on a really cute baking blog a few weeks ago and though I'd give them a whirl. Everything on her site looks really good (her blog here), but I had never tried a recipe from this blog before, so it was a total experiment.

In the end, I loved the idea, but would change around a few things. I found the batter to be too tough-- almost bread-like, which I know was at least partially, if not all, due to me over-beating. And I didn't think it had enough flavor, despite adding more vanilla than the recipe suggested. 

So, below I've posted a different yellow cake batter that I've made before and really enjoyed- it will not change the coolness of the funfetti inside. And I wanted to try making a white chocolate cream cheese frosting, because I thought it would pair well... it was very good. They look awesome and (should) taste great with the new cake batter!

2 cups plus 1 tablespoon cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup nonpareils sprinkles

Whisk the first four dry ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside. With an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add the vanilla and one egg at a time, beating just until mixed. Add the buttermilk and the dry ingredients alternatively, beating slowly just until mixed. Fold in the sprinkles. Pour into cupcake tins lined in papers. Bake for about 15-20 minutes (check with a toothpick- do not overcook). Remove from oven and let cool completely before frosting. Makes about 12 cupcakes.

8 ounces cream cheese, softened slightly
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
5 ounces melted white chocolate, cooled slightly
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 cups powdered sugar
Sprinkles for decorating

With an electric mixer beat together the cream cheese and butter on high until soft and incorporated. Add the white chocolate while mixing and the vanilla. Slowly add the powdered sugar until it reaches the desired consistency/sweetness. I tend to use less, but that is my personal preference. Frost the cupcakes to your liking and decorate with sprinkles.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


This recipe post is a birthday of sorts... its my 100th recipe! I thought for a long time about what I wanted my 100th post to be. I knew it needed to be something sweet and baked. I had originally thought I'd do a big birthday cake- maybe a german chocolate, or a cheesecake... but I try to only make those things when I also have another occasion to cook for (other than the blog), so that it actually gets eaten. I made these last weekend to bring to a girls weekend in Asheville, NC and they were delicious... undoubtedly because they have both butter and crisco in them. Top notch... figured they were worthy of the 100th post. Enjoy! (Adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon plus a pinch of kosher salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1/4 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 3 tablespoons for rolling dough
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon for rolling dough

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

With an electric mixer beat the butter, shortening, and sugar until smooth- about 1-2 minutes. Add eggs, and beat about 30 seconds- scraping down the sides of the bowl when necessary. Slowly add the dry ingredients and beat on low just until combined.

In a small bowl mix together the 3 tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon. Roll the dough into heaping tablespoon sized balls and roll them in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes. Cookies will be crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Delicious.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Homemade Blackberry Jam

I went berry picking this past weekend for the first time in maybe 15 years. I went with a friend who had also not been berry picking in ages. I think we had forgotten how many gigantic bugs we would encounter and I'm sure we looked and sounded like the most prissy berry-pickers the farm had ever seen (there were lots of screams, shudders, and backward jumps to avoid certain critters).

Despite the creepy critters, the end result was wonderful and I can't wait to go back again soon. Not only did we come home with pints of delicious blackberries, but we met a rabid horse, and a bear-dog... And a very nice old man that taught us about the chemistry behind how non-sugar-binding pectin works to thicken homemade jam.

4 cups fresh crushed blackberries
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons non-sugar-binding pectin
4 12ounce glass jars with tops

Mash the berries with a fork or potato masher. Add them to a large pot with the lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add the pectin and bring to a rolling boil again (make sure you also add the appropriate amount of calcium water that will be in the same box as the pectin- I used 2 teaspoons). After 2 or 3 minutes remove from heat. Pour into hot, sterilizing jars and put the tops on. Let sit on the counter for 12-24 hours then refrigerate. These will stay fresh in the fridge for about 3 weeks, or in the freezer for longer. YUM. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Avocado, Apple, Blue Cheese, & Steak Salad

The story behind this salad is that a version of it was first made during a beach weekend when a few of my girlfriends and I were celebrating our friend's last few days as a bachelorette. We all ooh'ed and ahh'ed about it all weekend and have each made and served it at almost every possible occasion since. The last time I made it I grilled a filet and popped it on top (as pictured), although most of the time I make this as a side salad without any major protein. Its amazing either way. The 2 critical items: the dressing, and avocado. If you change it around at all, thats fine, but don't ditch either of those things.

Salad Ingredients
5 ounces mixed baby greens
1 avocado, chopped
1/2-1 granny smith apple, chopped
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 handful candied pecans (homemade or not)
3 ounces crumbled blue cheese

Put all of ingredients together in a large salad bowl. Prepare the salad dressing...

Salad Dressing
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste

Put all dressing ingredients in a small jar. Put lid on tightly and shake to incorporate/emulsify the oil and vinegar. Pour however much dressing you want on the salad. Toss together and serve (with or without filet, although I'm going to just say that pretty much anything is better with filet on top. And yes, I do remember that I used to be a "vegetarian." Shhh.).

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cannoli with Homemade Ricotta!!

Cannoli are awesome. And I've been wanting to make them for a while now, but didn't know where to start. Cannoli shells involve making a dough, rolling it very thin (through a pasta maker?), shaping them on special dowels, and then deep frying them. I don't have a pasta maker, the special dowels, or a deep fryer, so, I decided to buy the shells pre-made (gasp). I was serving them to friends and was embarrassed that I didn't make the shells myself, so I decided to make fresh ricotta for the filling to make up for it.

HOMEMADE RICOTTA IS AMAZING. End of story. I will never ever (in theory) buy ricotta at the store again. Especially since its 4 ingredients and takes 10 minutes to make. It is so rich and made the world of difference in the cannoli filling, would be amazing in lasagna, and wonderful on a piece of toast drizzled with olive oil.

Homemade Ricotta 
6 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat the milk, cream, and salt in a large pot until the temperature reaches 190 degrees- you don't want the milk to boil. Stir occasionally, to keep the milk from scalding on the bottom. Once heated, remove from stove and add the lemon juice. Stir just once or twice, slowly, then let the mixture sit untouched for 5 minutes.

Pour into a colander lined with a few layers of cheesecloth set over a large bowl. The mixture will separate and the whey will drip into the bowl- discard the whey (you might have to do this a few times while draining). Let sit in the colander for an hour and a half or so (I think I left mine almost 2). Remove the ricotta from the cheesecloth and put in an airtight container in the refrigerator for later use. This recipe will yield a generous 2 cups of ricotta.

Cannoli Filling
1.5-2 cups fresh ricotta
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Using an electric mixer beat the refrigerated ricotta and powdered sugar until fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add the vanilla and blend until mixed. Scoop into a piping pastry bag with a 1/2 inch tip. Pipe into prepared cannoli shells*, starting in the middle and working out on either side. Serve immediately. DROOL. Plan to make another batch of ricotta tomorrow.

* I dipped my shells in melted chocolate then covered them with chocolate sprinkles and colored sugars. Mini chocolate chips would work nicely, as well.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Moscow Mule

I first made this cocktail when I hosted a 60's party at my house a few months ago. It wasn't the only cocktail on the menu (also featured were Blue Hawaiians and Brandy Alexanders- both drool-worthy), but I'm pretty sure this was the crowd favorite. Or maybe just mine. Its kind of like a mojito with ginger ale... and its kind of like a minty sprite. Or a combination of the two... Either way, its awesome. Also, sorry there is no picture... they disappeared before anyone was quick enough to snap a photo. 

½  oz vodka
1 teaspoon simple syrup
½ teaspoon lime juice
3 oz ginger ale
Fresh mint leaves*

Mash the mint leaves in a glass with the simple syrup. Add ice cubes and pour the lime juice and vodka into the glass. Finish with the ginger ale. Taste and add any more of the above ingredients.

*If you don't have fresh mint, you can use a tiny splash of creme de menthe instead.

Mexican Pulled Chicken (Slow Cooker)

This is a recipe that can be found online and in many easy slow cooker cookbooks. Its so simple and its really delicious. The first time I ever had it was at a party and a friend had brought it as a filling for burritos.  It's great wrapped in a tortilla, on nachos, and even on a taco salad (as pictured). So easy, healthy, yummy and adaptable. This time I used half regular jarred tomato salsa and half tomatillo salsa. Some times I add a bit of cream cheese at the end to make it a bit richer, other times I leave it out.

2.5-3 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
24 ounces jarred salsa
1 15ounce can black beans, rinsed & drained
1 15ounce can corn, drained
4 ounces cream cheese (optional)

Pour a bit of the salsa on the bottom of a crock pot or slow cooker. Place the chicken breasts on top and cover with beans, corn, and salsas. Cover and cook on high for 5-6 hours. Shred the chicken with 2 forks. Let cook a bit longer to reduce the liquid. Add the cream cheese in the last few minutes and stir until melted.

Serve in burritos, tacos, over nachos, or on a salad. YUM.

This also freezes well.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Strawberry Shortcakes

Happy 4th of July! These are the absolute perfect summer treat for a BBQ. I served them to friends this weekend to round out a potluck dinner of grilled veggies, steak, and pasta salad. The shortcakes are delicious and very easy to make (1 bowl!) and the strawberry mixture tastes like candy. These were a hit- even my friend who never eats my desserts finished his. Make me this summer!! (Adapted from

1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tbs plus 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 hard-boiled egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tbs cold butter cut into 1/2 inch cube
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2/3 cup heavy cream, plus 1 tablespoon

Strawberries & Whipped Cream:
1 pound strawberries, quartered
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, egg yolks, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and lemon zest and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add 2/3 cup of heavy cream and pulse until the dough comes together. Kneed dough on a floured surface and roll into a 7-inch circle (about 3/4 inch thick). Cut into rounds the size of biscuits (about 6-8). Place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Brush the top with the tablespoon of heavy cream and sprinkle tops with sugar. Place in a 350 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven when shortcakes are slightly browned. Cool on rack.

While the biscuits are cooking mix together the strawberries, sugar, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice. Let sit for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, whip the cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat just to combine.

To assemble the shortcakes, cut each in half. Place strawberries (and juice!!) on top, followed by a generous dollop of whipped cream. Put the top of the shortcake on top and serve.