12/19/11

Eggnog Cupcakes

Eggnog Cupcake

Okay, listen.  I don't have to tell you these cupcakes are good.  You know they're good because I wouldn't post them if they weren't. You don't have to like eggnog to like these cupcakes.  Here's my confession.  I think eggnog is gross, but I don't mind the flavor.  It's the texture I can't handle.  So, give these cupcakes a try.  They are interesting and unique, and it's a flavor you only get to enjoy for a short time throughout the year. 

Merry Christmas,
Jenny

Egg Nog Cupcakes
Yield: about 18-20 cupcakes

Ingredients: 
For the cupcakes:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
¼ cup dark rum or bourbon (optional)
1 cup eggnog
¼ cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sugar

For the frosting:
20 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2½ tbsp. eggnog
1 tbsp. dark rum (0ptional)

For garnish:
Ground cinnamon or grated nutmeg
Cinnamon sticks

Directions:
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg; whisk to combine.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the rum, eggnog, vegetable oil, vinegar, and sugar.  Beat on medium-low speed until well blended.  Add in the dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling the cups 2/3 full.  Bake 22-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until smooth, 20-30 seconds.  Add in the powdered sugar, salt and nutmeg, and mix on medium-high speed until incorporated and smooth, about 1 minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add in the eggnog and  whip on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 4 minutes.  With the mixer on medium-low speed, blend in the rum.

Fill a pastry bag with the frosting and decorate the cooled cupcakes as desired. (I used a large, unlabeled star tip for these cupcakes). Sprinkle with ground cinnamon or grated nutmeg, and garnish with cinnamon sticks if desired.

Source: Annie's Eats cupcakes adapted from Baking Bites, frosting adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

12/17/11

Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

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Banana Cupcakes
Ingredients:
For the cupcakes:
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ cups sugar
6 eggs
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. buttermilk
1 1/3 cups mashed ripe banana


Directions:
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt; whisk together and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Reduce the mixer speed to medium low and add in eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Mix in the mashed banana until well combined.  With the mixer on low speed alternately add the dry ingredients and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing only until just incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about 2/3 to ¾ full.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes.  Allow to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 18-24 cupcakes.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Ingredients:
2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 cup creamy peanut butter
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup heavy cream

Directions:
Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Source:  Cupcakes, Annie's Eats; Frosting, Brown Eyed Baker

10/26/11

Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies

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I love sugar cookies, and these sugar cookies are perfect. They are soft and buttery, and with the addition of frosting, they are amazing.  They are perfect for many occasions as the frosting can be dyed with food coloring and sprinkles added.  Give these a try.  You won't be disappointed.  

Soft Sugar Cookies 
Ingredients:
For the cookies:
4½ cups all-purpose flour
4½ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
1½ cups (3 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
3 large eggs
5 tsp. vanilla extract

For the frosting:
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/3 cup (5 1/3 tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
7-8 tbsp. milk (plus more, as needed)
Food coloring (optional)
Sprinkles (optional)

Directions:
To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt, and whisk together to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat together on medium-high speed until soft and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed.  Blend in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients mixing just until incorporated and evenly mixed. 

Cover and chill the dough for 1 hour.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, scoop a scant quarter cup of dough and roll into a ball.  Flatten the ball slightly and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the cookies at least 2-3 inches apart.  Bake about 10-12 minutes or just until set.  (Do not overbake!  The edges should be no more than very lightly browned if at all.)  Let cool on the baking sheet for several minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To frost the cookies, place the confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl.  Add the melted butter, vanilla, and milk to the bowl and whisk until smooth.  Whisk in additional milk as necessary, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you reach your desired consistency.  Tint with food coloring if desired.  Use an offset spatula or spoon to frost the cooled cookies.  (If the frosting begins to thicken as you decorate, just continue to whisk in small amounts of milk to keep it workable.)  Top with sprinkles if desired.  Store in an airtight container.

Source: adapted from Hostess with the Mostess

10/24/11

Oreo Truffles

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Do you like Oreos?  I'm not a huge fan. I'd pass on an Oreo for a chocolate chip cookie every time.  The only exception to my rule is when the Oreos are used to make these Oreo Truffles.  These are great for the holidays. 

Oreo Truffles
Ingredients:  
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened 
1 pkg.  (16.6 oz.) OREO Cookies, finely crushed (about 4-1/4 cups), divided 
2 pkg. (8 squares each) semi-sweet chocolate, melted  

Directions: 
Mix cream cheese and 3 cups cookie crumbs until well blended.  Shape into 48 (1-inch) balls. Dip in melted chocolate; place on waxed paper-covered baking sheet. Sprinkle with remaining cookie crumbs.  Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm. Store in tightly covered container in refrigerator.

Source:  Kraft Recipes

10/4/11

Apple Cream Cheese Bundt Cake with Praline Frosting

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I'm not going to give you an introduction to this cake.  I think the title and the photo paint a pretty clear picture that this cake is delicious.  Oh, I should mention that it also has a cream cheese filling.  Need I say more?

Apple Cream Cheese Bundt Cake with Praline Frosting
Ingredients:
Cream cheese filling: 
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened  
1/4 cup butter, softened 
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
1 large egg  
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Apple Cake Batter: 
1 cup finely chopped pecans 
3 cups all-purpose flour 
1 cup granulated sugar 
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar 
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice 
3 large eggs, lightly beaten  
3/4 cup canola oil 
3/4 cup applesauce 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
3 cups peeled and finely chopped Gala apples (about 1 1/2 lb.)

Praline frosting: 
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar 
1/4 cup butter 
3 tablespoons milk 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 cup powdered sugar

Directions: 

Prepare Filling: Beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended and smooth. Add egg, flour, and vanilla; beat just until blended.

Prepare Batter: Preheat oven to 350º. Bake pecans in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Stir together 3 cups flour and next 7 ingredients in a large bowl; stir in eggs and next 3 ingredients, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in apples and pecans.

Spoon two-thirds of apple mixture into a greased and floured 14-cup Bundt pan. Spoon Cream Cheese Filling over apple mixture, leaving a 1-inch border around edges of pan. Swirl filling through apple mixture using a paring knife. Spoon remaining apple mixture over Cream Cheese Filling.

Bake at 350º for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack, and cool completely (about 2 hours).

Prepare Frosting: Bring 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup butter, and 3 Tbsp. milk to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly; boil 1 minute, whisking constantly. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Gradually whisk in powdered sugar until smooth; stir gently 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture begins to cool and thickens slightly. Pour immediately over cooled cake.

9/11/11

Peanut Butter "Cheese" Ball

It's football season, and you're probably on the lookout for appetizers or finger foods.  This is a great snack.  It can be served as a dessert or an appetizer.  It's a sweet spin on the typical savory cheese ball.  The Peanut Butter "Cheese" Ball is like the inside of a buckeye.  I served this with graham crackers and sliced apples. 

Peanut Butter Ball

 
Peanut Butter "Cheese Ball"
 Ingredients:
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (not all-natural)
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup peanut butter chips
Graham cracker sticks, teddy grahams, and/or apple slices for dipping

Directions:
Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, peanut butter and brown sugar in large mixer bowl until blended.

Spoon onto a large piece of plastic wrap; bring up all four corners and twist tightly forming into a ball shape.

Freeze for 1 hour 30 minutes or until firm enough to keep its shape. Place peanut butter and chocolate chips in flat dish. Remove plastic wrap from ball and roll ball into morsels to completely cover, pressing morsels into the ball if necessary.

Place ball on serving dish; cover and freeze for 2 hours or until almost firm. (Can be made ahead. If frozen overnight, thaw at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.) Serve with graham cracker sticks, teddy grahams, or apple slices for dipping or spreading.

Source:  The Girl Who Ate Everything; adapted from Nestle

9/8/11

Hummingbird Cake

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When I was a kid, my grandmother used to sing me the song "If I Knew You Were Coming, I'd Have Baked a Cake".  In honor of her visit, I made a hummingbird cake.  This Southern cake is a mixture of cinnamon, bananas, pineapple, and pecans and is similar to a carrot cake.  It is a very easy cake to make; you don't even need an electric mixer. 

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Hummingbird Cake
Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups chopped bananas


Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Flowers:
1 pineapple

Directions:

Cake:
Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; add eggs and oil, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened. (Do not beat.) Stir in vanilla, pineapple, 1 cup pecans, and bananas.
Pour batter into three greased and floured 9-inch round cakepans. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.
Frosting:
Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla.
Spread Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake; sprinkle 1/2 cup chopped pecans on top. Store in refrigerator.
Flowers:
Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Line two baking sheets with Silpats (French nonstick baking mats) or parchment paper.
Peel pineapple. Using a small melon baller, remove and discard "eyes." Slice pineapple very thinly; place slices on baking sheets. Cook until tops look dried, about 30 minutes (mine took nearly an hour). Flip slices; cook until completely dried, 25 to 30 minutes more (again, mine took longer, so be prepared). Cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 3 days.

Source:  Erin's Food Files


8/4/11

Penne a la Betsy

I've been on a quest to use all of the ingredients that have been hiding in my freezer.  You know...that half bag of tater tots, forgotten waffles, frozen corn, and a lonely bag of shrimp.  I was able to put those lonely shrimp to use in this delicious weeknight meal.  Pioneer Woman calls this recipe Penne a la Betsy, after her little sister.  I didn't have penne pasta on hand, and in keeping with the theme of using ingredients I already have, I used spiralini pasta.  I also cut this recipe in half.  It's easy, delicious, and quick.  Add this to your list of dishes to try. 

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Penne a la Betsy
Ingredients:
3/4 pounds Penne Pasta 
1 pound Shrimp 
3 Tablespoons Butter 
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil 
1 whole Onion (small) 
2 cloves Garlic 
1/2 cup White Wine, Or To Taste
1 can Tomato Sauce (8 Oz) 
1 cup Heavy Cream 
Fresh Parsley, to taste
Fresh Basil - To Taste 
Salt To Taste 
Pepper To Taste

Directions:  

Cook the pasta until tender-firm, also known as al dente.

Peel, devein and rinse (under cool water) 1 pound of extra large shrimp. Heat about 1 tbsp. butter and olive oil in a skillet. Add the shrimp and cook for a couple minutes until just opaque. Do not overcook them. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Now, put the cooked shrimp on the cutting board and pull off the tails. Chop the shrimp into bite –sized pieces and set aside.

Finely dice one small onion. Mince two cloves of garlic. In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the garlic and onion and sauté, stirring occasionally. After the garlic and onions have cooked a bit add your white wine. Let the wine evaporate for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. If you would rather not use wine, you can use low-sodium chicken broth instead (about ½ cup). Now add an 8-ounce can of plain tomato sauce. Stir well until combined. Then add 1 cup of heavy cream. Continue stirring. Turn heat down to low and let simmer.

Now chop your herbs, about a tablespoon of chopped parsley and about the same amount of chopped basil. 
Now add your chopped shrimp back into the tomato cream sauce. Give it a stir and add salt and pepper to taste. Throw in your herbs and stir until combined. Finally add your cooked pasta and give it a good stir.

Source:  Pioneer Woman

7/30/11

Cinnamon-Spiked Cherry and Banana Smoothie

With the abundance of fresh fruit during the summer, JB and I have been trying lots of different smoothies.  We've tried many variations with pineapple, mango, strawberries, blueberries, peaches, and cherries.  I thought I'd share this one because it is JB's favorite.  He refers to it as the banana cream pie smoothie. 

Cinnamon Cherry Smoothie

Cinnamon-Spiked Cherry and Banana Smoothie
Ingredients:
1/2 cup pitted fresh cherries (or unthawed frozen)
1 banana
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
1 packet Carnation Instant breakfast
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Ice

Directions:
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and frothy. Add more milk if you like it thinner.

Source:  Adapted from Food Blogga

7/13/11

Cool as a Cucumber

This drink is cool and refreshing.  It's a nice change to sweet tea or lemonade.  My friend described it as something that would be served at a spa.

Random side note:  Did you know that people in South Carolina call cucumbers cukes?

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Cucumber Lime Mint Agua Fresca
Ingredients:
1 pound of cucumbers, ends trimmed, but peel still on, coarsely chopped (I used 2 medium sized cucumbers.)
1/2 cup lime juice (I used the bottled stuff.  Don't judge me.)
1 1/4 cup packed mint leaves (about a large handful), woody stems removed
1/2 cup sugar
Approximately 1 1/4 cup water

Directions:
Put ingredients in blender, add enough water to fill 3/4 of blender.  (I used 1 1/4 cup water.)  Puree until smooth.  Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and pour the puree through it, pressing against the sieve with a rubber spatula to extract as much liquid as possible.  (I couldn't find my mesh sieve, so I layered cheese cloth in the bottom of my colander.)
Fill a large pitcher halfway with ice cubes.  Add the juice.  Serve with sprigs of mint or slices of lime.
Makes about 1 quart (not including ice).

Source:  Simply Recipes

7/7/11

Salsa


I think I've mentioned to you that I'm growing herbs in large planters in my backyard.  Among the things that I am growing, I added jalapeno to the list this year.  They have been amazingly easy to grow.  I planted three plants, and so far, I've harvested about a dozen little peppers.

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Chips and salsa is probably my favorite snack.  The perfect salsa is not chunky, just the right amount of spicy, and packed full of citrusy-flavored cilantro.  Chili's has perfected their salsa, but besides the chips and salsa, I'm not a fan of the restaurant.  So, I've been on a quest to find the perfect salsa recipe.  I think this is it.

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When you find the perfect salsa, as I have, you must also have the perfect chip.  A friend introduced me to Xochitl chips.  You can find them at Publix on the "health food" aisle.  They are wonderful - thin, lightly salted, delicious. 

Salsa
Ingredients:
1 Can Rotel (14.5 oz can)
1 Can Whole Peeled Tomatoes (14.5 oz can, plus the juice)
3-4 tablespoons Jalapenos (I use fresh chopped, but you can also use canned, diced, not pickled.  If you use fresh, be sure to de-seed, so it's not too hot.)
1/4 C. Yellow Onion (diced)
1/2 – 3/4 tsp. Garlic Salt
1/2 tsp. Cumin
1/4 tsp. Sugar
Handful of chopped cilantro

Directions:
In food processor place jalapenos and onions. Process for just a few seconds. Add both cans of tomatoes, salt, sugar, and cumin. Process all ingredients until well blended but do not puree. Place in covered container and chill. A couple of hours of chilling will help blend and enrich the flavor.
Serve with your favorite thin corn tortilla chips.

Source:  CopyKat Recipes
 
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