Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Angie's Famous Strawberry Cupcakes

Katie did not lie when she said these were the best strawberry cupcakes ever. I seriously think I could've eaten about four in one sitting. Wow, wow, WOW!!!!! Whoever this Angie is has some serious strawberry cupcakes skills!

Angie's Famous Strawberry Cupcakes
seen on Good Things Catered


2 1/2 c. cake flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 c. sugar (or a little less if the berries are sweet)
2 eggs
1/3 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. chopped strawberries

1/4 c. strawberries
1 TBSP strawberry liquor
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 TBSP vanilla


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare two cupcake pans.

2. Sift flour, salt, and baking soda in medium bowl.

3. In bowl of mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time until combined.  Add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla until combined.

4. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined the gently fold in berries.

5. Fill cupcake tins 3/4 way. (I used a standard sized scoop.)  Bake for approximately 20 minutes. (Mine baked completely in 21 minutes.)

6. To make the frosting, put berries, liquor, and juice in saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and then reduce to a simmer for 5 mins.  Let cool then blend until smooth.

7. In bowl of mixer mix cream cheese and butter until creamy.  Add sugar, then vanilla.  Add berry puree until smooth.

8. Frost cupcakes when they are completely cooled.

***My sister LOVED them!***

Tasty Tools--Chicken with Mango BBQ Sauce

Joelen's tool of choice for this month's Tasty Tools challenge was the all-mighty blender. As tempting as it was to post some sweet margaritas, I thought I'd try to find something a little more out of the ordinary. I didn't go too out of the ordinary, but I thought blending up a barbeque--make that mango barbeque--sauce would at least show that I did, in fact, cook!

This recipe was very easy and very healthy. You can make the sauce the night before and just let the chicken marinate. By making the sauce, you can really control the amount of salt and sugar. Plus, you cut down on a whole bunch of preservatives.

Chicken with Mango Barbeque Sauce
Ellie Krieger, The Food You Crave

2 TBSP olive oil
1 small onion, diced (about 1 c.)
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced (about 1 c.)
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped (about 1 TBSP)
1 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
3 TBSP unsulfured molasses
2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
2 TBSP fresh lime juice
1/4 c. no-salt-added tomato sauce
1 medium ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced (about 1 1/2 c.)
2 jalapeno peppers or chipotle peppers in adobo (for smokier flavor)
8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
cooking spray


1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about three minutes.

2. Add the bell pepper, garlic, salt, black pepper, allspice, and cumin. Cook about two minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Stir in the vinegar, molasses, Worcestershire, lime juice, and tomato sauce. Cook one minute moe.

4. Transfer mixture to a blender and add mango and jalapenos or chipotles. Blend until smooth.

5. Put two c. of the sauce in a large sealable plastic bag with the chicken and marinate at least one hour, up to overnight. Reserve the rest of the sauce for serving.

6. Prepare the grill or spray a grill pan with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat.

7. Remove the chicken from the sauce, discarding the sauce in the bag. Grilled the chicken until just cooked through, about seven minutes on each side.

8. Serve the chicken with reserved sauce on the side.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Key Lime Cupcakes with White Chocolate Coconut Frosting

I've been holding on to this recipe for a few weeks now, hoping for an opportunity to use it as the perfect ending to a tropical-themed meal. Well, that opportunity just didn't really come around and, being my impatient self, I got tired of waiting. So I just made them. And they were good. Very good actually. The original recipe didn't call for coconut, but I decided to "put the lime in the coconut." Get it?

Key Lime Cupcakes with White Chocolate Coconut Frosting
adapted from Paula Deen's Special Collection, Chocolate Celebrations

***Note: The original recipe was for a three-layer cake. I've included directions for both the original layer cake and the cupcakes I made.***


3/4 c. butter, softened

1 3/4 c. sugar

2 TBSP key lime zest

3 large eggs

1/4 c. fresh key lime juice

3 c. cake flour

1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
white chocolate frosting (recipe follows)

approx. 1 1/2 c. shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For cupcakes, place 24 paper liners in a standard-size cupcake pan. If making the layer cake, grease and flour three nine-inch round cake pans.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar, and lime zest at medium speed until creamy.

3. Beat in eggs, one at a time, being sure each one is incorporated before adding the next.

4. Beat in lime juice until combined.

5. In a medium bowl, sift together cake flour and baking soda. Gradually add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

6. Pour evenly into prepared pans and bake for 18 to 20 minutes (same time for either cupcakes or layer cake) or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean.

7. Let cool in pans for ten minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

8. For cupcakes, frost each cupcake and top with coconut, if desired. Garnish with key lime wedges.

9. For layer cake, spread frosting in between each layer, then on top and sides of cakes. Adhere coconut to frosting, if desired. Garnish with key lime wedges.

White Chocolate Frosting
***Note: If making cupcakes, you could probably halve this frosting recipe.***


6 (1 oz.) squares white chocolate or 6 oz. white chocolate chips
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream

3/4 c. butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 c. confectioners' sugar


1. Put white chocolate and heavy cream in the bowl of a double boiler. Melt until smooth and completely combined. Let cool completely.

2. In a large bowl, combine white chocolate mixture, butter, and vanilla. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.

3. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar until fluffy.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Zucchini and Sweet Potato Muffins

Nesties to the rescue! I posted on the "What's Cooking?" board, asking my girls to help me find a new recipe for zucchini bread. As usual, my girls did not disappoint. Amy, all-around-fabulous girl and host of Sing for Your Supper, answered my call with this amazing recipe. I modified it a bit to make it into muffins that were a little healthier. Definitely among the best veggies I've ever eaten!

Zucchini and Sweet Potato Muffins
from Joy the Baker 
originally seen in
Bon Appetit, November 1992


2 c. all-purpose flour (I used 1 c. AP and 1 c. whole wheat)

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp. cloves

1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

2 c. sugar (I used 1 c. granulated and 1 c. brown)

3/4 c. vegetable oil (I used 1/4 c. oil, 1/4 c. applesauce, and 1/4 c. apple juice)

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 c. grated zucchini

1 1/2 c. peeled and grated sweet potato

1 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

1/2 c. dried cranberries (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees for muffins or 350 degrees for a loaf of bread.  
Spray standard-sized muffin time with baking spray or prepare with paper liners. For a loaf of bread, butter and flour a loaf pan and set aside.

2. Sift the first 7 ingredients into a medium sized bowl.
3. In a seperate, large bowl, beat the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla extract.

4. Mix in the zucchini and sweet potato.  
Add the dry ingredients and stir just to combine.   Fold in the nuts and cranberries, if using, and stir well.  Transfer batter to prepared tin or pan.

5. For muffins, bake until wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. For a loaf of bread, bake until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

6. Cool muffins or bread in pan on a rack for 15 minutes. Loosen the edges of the bread with a butter knife and turn out on a rack to cool completely. Can be prepared 1 day in advance. Wrap in foil and keep at room temperature.

Ciabatta Pizza with Walnut Pesto

Looking for a way to use up a bunch of walnuts and herbs I had around, I stumbled upon this recipe on It definitely used many of my favorite ingredients, and I had been wanting to make a walnut pesto for quite some time. Plus, I was making it for Mom and I, so I was happy to make it on a night when I would be getting a second opinion. I absolutely loved it and my mom loved it, too. The best thing, though, is that this very easy weeknight winner could also easily be served to company. Using the long slices of ciabatta makes a wonderful presentation and you could keep it simple by making the pesto ahead of time and just assembling the pizza at dinner time.

Ciabatta Pizza with Gorgonzola, Walnut Pesto, and Pears
found on
originally in Bon Appetit, September 2005

Ingredients: 2 c. walnuts

1 c. olive oil
1/4 c. honey
2 TBSP chopped fresh thyme
1 loaf ciabatta bread (about 1 1/3 lbs.), halved horizontally
10 oz. thinly sliced Havarti cheese
6 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, cut crosswise into strips
2 pears, halved, cored, thinly sliced
2/3 c. crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
2 c. arugula

1. Preheat oven to 450°F.

2. Toast nuts on baking sheet until brown, about 6 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

3. Transfer hot nuts to processor. Add oil, honey, and thyme; blend until nuts are finely chopped. Season pesto to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Place bread halves, cut side up, on baking sheet.  Spread pesto over bread, about 1 cup per side. Top with Havarti.  Bake until bubbly and golden, about 12 minutes.

5. Top with prosciutto, then pears and Gorgonzola. Tuck in arugula. Sprinkle with pepper.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mini Zucchini and Goat Cheese Tarts

A very easy and very yummy beginning to my Mother's Day menu. I was a little skeptical of the pre-made, refrigerated pie dough, but Bon Appetit recommended it. It worked out nicely, though I think I will make the dough from scratch next time. I would've loved to put a slice of grape tomato in the center of these, but not everyone in my family likes tomatoes.

I would highly recommend these as an appetizer to any gathering, casual or formal.

Mini Zucchini and Goat Cheese Tarts
Bon Appetit, June 2008

1 refrigerated pie crust (half of a 15-oz. package)
1 1/2 lbs. 1-inch diameter zucchini, cut into 1/16-inch rounds
1 tsp. salt
2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
2 tsp. chopped fresh lemon or regular thyme
3 oz. soft, fresh goat cheese at room temperature
1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Place pie crust on a floured work surface. Using 1 1/2 to 1 3/4-inch cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out approximately 24 rounds.  Transfer to prepared baking sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart. Cover and place in freezer for at least 30 minutes, up to overnight, until dough is firm.

3. Toss zucchini with 1 tsp. salt in medium bowl. Let stand 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry.  Place zucchini in another medium bowl and toss with 2 TBSP olive oil and thyme. Sprinkle with pepper.

4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

5. Spread goat cheese generously over each frozen round.  Fold three to four zucchini rounds in half and place in concentric circle atop dough round, creating a flower-like pattern.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

6. Bake until crusts are light golden, about 20 minutes.

7. Transfer to serving platter. Drizzle with additional olive oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day Salad

So not exactly the most descriptive title, but listing each and every ingredient was boring. This salad started as the wild arugula salad in the June 2008 issue of "Bon Appetit" and quickly became an entirely different animal. And I'm glad! I happen to think, based on comparing my picture and "Bon Appetit's", that my salad looks better. Of course, it is completely and totally different.

And it looks better when the picture is facing the correct way. I don't know what the deal is. Seriously...tilt your head to the right to see what the salad really looked like.

Mother's Day Salad
from Bon Appetít

10 cups mixed baby spring greens
approx. 1 1/4 c. red wine viniagrette
1/2 c. crumbled goat cheese
3 oz. shaved Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 lbs. herb-marinated chicken, cut into strips
1 1/2 c. grilled herbed peaches (optional)
2 c. homemade garlic croutons

Place greens in a large salad bowl and toss with red wine vinaigrette. Sprinkle cheeses over top. Add chicken then croutons.

Herb-Marinated Chicken

This chicken was kind of a "throw together" deal. I knew I wanted to put chicken on the Mother's Day Salad, so I just used the same herbs as I put in the basmati rice with sweet onions and summer herbs. It turned out great!

Herb-Marinated Chicken

from Bon Appetít

2 TBSP finely chopped fresh tarragon
2 TBSP finely chopped fresh thyme
2 TBSP finely chopped fresh dill
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
zest and juice of 2 lemons
2/3 c. olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Combine all ingredients, except oil, in a 13x9 glass baking dish.  Whisk in olive oil.

2. Lay chicken in baking dish, making sure to caot both sides. Let sit at least one hour, up to overnight.

3. Prepare to preference. (I like grilled or pan cooked.)

Grilled Herbed Peaches

These peaches are great on the Mother's Day Salad or alone. They'd even be great with some vanilla ice cream and an extra drizzle of honey!

I'm a huge fan of grilled fruit, especially as a summer dessert. I love the way the natural sugar and flavors concentrate and develop with the heat. If you have never grilled fruit before, don't wait another minute. I'm sure you'll be an instant convert.

grilled herbed peaches
Grilled Herbed Peaches
an Apple a Day original

6 ripe peaches
3 TBSP honey
2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
2 TBSP finely chopped fresh tarragon

1. Quarter peaches and place in a large bowl.  Add honey, oil, and tarragon. Mix by hand to make sure each slice is coated. Let sit 15--30 minutes.

2. Lay each slice, on one side, over the grill or grill pan. If using a grill pan, you may wish to spray with non-stick spray or brush with extra oil. Let sit, untouched, for five minutes.  Flip peaches to other side and let grill another five minutes.

3. Let cool five minutes, then serve.

Basmati Rice with Sweet Onions and Summer Herbs

Wow, was this good! I love rice anyway, but this was really delicious. The flavors were delicate, but distinctive. I will definitely be making this again.

Basmati Rice with Sweet Onions and Summer Herbs
"Bon Appetit", June 2008

1 1/2 c. basmati rice (approx. 10 oz.)
2 TBSP butter
2 c. chopped sweet onions (such as Vidalia or Walla Walla)
2 1/2 c. water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 TBSP finely chopped Italian parsley
2 TBSP finely chopped fresh dill
2 TBSP finely chopped fresh tarragon
2 TBSP finely chopped fresh thyme (not in original recipe)

1. Rinse rice under cold water until water runs clear. Set aside.

2. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onions. Sauté until translucent, about five minutes.

3. Add rice, water, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until rice is tender, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand, covered, about ten minutes.

4. Stir in herbs. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Transfer to bowl and serve.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Chocolate Pavlova with Chambord Cream and Fresh Berries

This dessert just seemed like the perfect end to the Mother's Day lunch I hosted for my mom and family. First of all, it has chocolate in it. Secondly, I thought it represented both my Mom and I nicely. The base of the dessert is a pavlova, or meringue-based cake. It is named after the famed Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova, which is perfect since I'm a ballet teacher. The cream is laced with Chambord, which is perfect for my mom since it's one of her favorite liquers. Sure, she usually enjoys it in margaritas, but this dessert will work too!

The toppings for this recipe are fairly flexible. You could easily substitute your favorite fruits and change up the liquer to compliment the fruit.

Chocolate Pavlova with Chambord Cream and Fresh Berries
from "Paula Deen's Special Collection: Chocolate Celebration"


For the pavlova and fruit:

6 egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar
1/2 tsp. chocolate extract (I used vanilla)
1/4 c. Dutch-processed cocoa
1 tsp. cornstarch

1 c. fresh strawberries
1 c. fresh blackberries
1/2 c. fresh blueberries
1 kiwi, halved and thinly sliced

For the Chambord cream:

2 c. heavy whipping cream
1/3 c. confectioners' sugar
2 TBSP Chambord liquer (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Draw a ten-inch circle on parchment. (I made mine a square to fir my pedestal.)

2. To make the pavlova: In a large bowl combine egg whites and cream of tartar. Beat at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until foamy.  Gradually beat in sugar, 1 TBSP at a time. Beat until soft peaks form.  Fold in vinegar and chocolate extract.

3. Combine and sift cocoa and cornstarch. Gently fold into egg white mixture.

4. Spoon mixture onto parchment paper, gently easing into size of circle.

5. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Turn oven off and let pavlova cool completely in the oven.

6.  While the pavolva bakes, make the Chambord cream by beating whipping cream at medium speed with an electric mixer in a medium bowl.

7. Gradually add confectioners' sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold in in Chambord.  Cover cream and chill until ready to use.

8. Just before serving, spoon cream over center of pavlova. Top with fruit and serve immediately.

yield: 8 servings

Monday, May 5, 2008

Sausage and Herb-Stuffed Pork Loin

Another tasty recipe from the new Deen Brothers cookbook. They got the idea from a sausage-stuffed turkey breast. I think I'll use a turkey breast next time since I like turkey more than pork loin. If you prefer pork, though, go for it. Like I said...this tasted great! It's a perfect dish for company, too. You actually are better off preparing everything to the point of grilling/roasting the night before.

Sausage and Herb-Stuffed Pork Loin
The Deen Brothers, Y'all Come Eat

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (approx. 1/3 c.)
3 hot or sweet fresh Italian sausages, casing removed
1/2 c. panko or coarse bread crumbs
2 TBSP chopped fresh basil
1 4-lb. center cut boneless pork loin
2 TBSP chopped fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large skillet, heat 1 TBSP of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion. Cook for two minutes, stirring constantly.  Crumble in the sausage and cook until brown, breaking up meat as it cooks.  Stir in panko and basil and cook one minute more.  Let cool, then finely chop mixture.

2. Cut vertical slit down center of the pork loin, creating a three-inch-deep pocket. Leave about 1/2 inch uncut at ends. Stuff the sausage mixture into the pocket. Wrap kitchen twine tightly around the pork loin to enclose the stuffing.  Place in a roasting pan and season generously with salt and pepper.

3. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 3 TBSP olive oil with the rosemary and garlic.

4. Coat the pork loin with the herb mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least four hours, up to overnight.

5. Let the roast come to room temperature while you prepare the grill for medium direct heat. Alternatively, heat oven to 500 degrees.

6. Grill the pork for 30 minutes, turning every ten minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 145 degrees. If roasting, the meat will likely take longer. (My pork loin took nearly 50 minutes.)

7. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest five minutes before carving.

Classic Brownies

Every day since I signed up to receive my free issue of Cook's Illustrated, I've been going to the mailbox hoping it would be waiting for me. Well, this past Friday was the day! I came straight home, tore off the plastic cover, and read it from cover to cover. Just as I anticipated, it was chock full of interesting facts, helpful hints, and delicious recipes. But I must say there was one standout--classic brownies, developed to please everyone. I immediately added the ingredients to my shopping list. I wasn't disappointed...and you won't be either.
Since most of the people I'm making these for don't care for nuts in their brownies, I left them out. But next time I'm putting 'em in because that's how I like them!

Classic Brownies
Cook's Illustrated, undated free issue received May 2008

1 c. (4 oz.) pecans or walnuts, chopped medium (optional)
1 1/4 c. (5 oz.) cake flour
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking powder
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
12 TBSP ( 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into six 1-inch pieces
2 1/4 c. (15 3/4 oz.) sugar
4 large eggs
1 TBSP vanilla extract

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to a 8-inch length. Fit foil into length of 13x9 baking dish, pushing into corners and sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges.  Cut 14-inch length foil and, if using extra-wide foil, fold to a 12-inch length. Fit into width of baking pan, perpendicular to the first sheet.  Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick spray.
Pan should look like so:

3. If using nuts, spread evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

4. Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl. Set aside.

5. Melt chocolate and butter in double boiler.  When completely smooth, remove bowl of double boiler and gradually whisk in sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition until smooth and thoroughly combined.  Whisk in vanilla.

6. Add flour mixture in three additions, folding in with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous.

7. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface.  Sprinkle toasted nuts (if using) evenly over batter and bake until tooth pick or wooden skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes.

8. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, up to two hours. remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang.  Cut brownies into two-inch squares and serve. Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature up to three days.