Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sea Salted Double Chocolate Caramel Cookies

A few weeks ago, I was introduced to Gerry Speirs' site-- Foodness Gracious.  First, I was enamored by his beautiful food pictures.  After I wiped the drool off of my chin, I realized that this talented chef really had a knack for creating fabulous recipes!  The colors, flavors, and textures looked out of this world! 

One of the recent posts on his site was a Salted Chocolate Caramel Cookie.  One of my favorite chocolates is a sea salted caramel, so this seemed like an obvious choice to immediately pop into the oven.

Boy- was I glad that I did!  Gerry has graciously allowed me to post about his fabulous cookie, so instead of re-posting his recipe, just click HERE to read it right from the horse's mouth.  While you're there, check out some of his other posts.  You'll be glad that you did!

My batch of Sea Salted Double Chocolate Caramel Cookies- they only lasted one day!

The recipe was very easy to make.  As Gerry suggests, don't use chocolate chips.  It's much better to chop up your own chocolate so that you can control the chunk size.  Plus, there's just something less glamorous about the chocolate "chip" when you're dealing with a sea salted cookie!  Also, be very careful when these come out of the oven.  You might be tempted to grab one and pop it into your mouth, but the caramel is very hot and can easily burn you.  (trust me on this one- I learned the hard way!) 

Also, you may want to entertain the thought of making a double batch.  This recipe only made 18 cookies, and they were so good that I was lucky to have them even last a single day! 

If you try these, make sure to stop back and let me know how they turned out!  Also, make sure to thank Gerry for creating such a wonderfully easy & delicious treat.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Weeknight Stir Fry #SundaySupper

It's Back to School time!  This year, it's a little bittersweet for our family because it's the first time in about 23 years that neither of the two kids are going back to school in Fall.  The last kiddo graduated in May with her Nursing Degree.  Nonetheless, the days are still getting shorter, the leaves are turning vibrant shades of orange and red, and we're starting to think about tuning up our snow blower. (This is Wisconsin after all-- snow can happen at any point now! Yes, I know it was 93 degrees today...)

Back to School time means that our schedules are much busier than they were during the summer.   This week's #SundaySupper theme features fast meals that you can pull together in less than 30 minutes from start to finish.  There is absolutely no reason why your family has to grab fast food this school year.  Our wonderful team of bloggers has pulled together some mouth-watering menus that will surely keep your palate satisfied for quite some time.

In our house, we would often turn to our local Chinese restaurant when time was short.  Instead of picking up the phone and bringing home the familiar take-out boxes, why not pull together an amazing MSG-free stir fry in less time than it takes for delivery to arrive.  In fact, when I made this for my family, our son even commented to me, "are you sure that you made this?  I think you just ordered take out and slipped it on a plate." 

What's great about this recipe is that you can really do whatever you want with it.  You can use any kind of protein such as chicken, beef, pork, or tofu.  You can use any kind of vegetable, too.  I really love this time of year because the Farmer's Market is full of delicious produce to choose from-- just look at these beautiful colors!

Back to School time is Harvest Time in Wisconsin

The magic of this dish is in the stir fry sauce and glaze.  I even had some Sriracha sauce on had that I put on top of my portion.   Feel free to experiment with your stir fry, but this is how I made mine:

  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • 3 Tbsp sesame seed oil (divided)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red pepper, julienned
  • 1 green pepper, julienned
  • 1 can of baby corn, ears cut in half
  • 5 shiitake mushrooms, cut into small strips
  • 1/2 cup of green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1 large carrot, sliced into very thin coins
  • 1/4 soy sauce
  • 1/4 chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


In a wok or stir fry pan on medium-high heat, add 1 Tbsp of the sesame seed oil and when hot, add the chicken strips.  Lightly season with salt and pepper.  While the chicken is cooking, quickly dice/mince/julienne/chop all the vegetables as directed.  (If you are serving over rice, you should think about starting the rice at this point)

Cook the chicken until it is done and just starting to turn brown.  Remove chicken from the pan.  Add the onion and garlic.  Cook for about 1 minute on medium-high and add 1 more Tbsp of the sesame seed oil.  Add all the remaining vegetables to the pan.  While the vegetables are cooking, in a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, chicken broth, rice wine vinegar, sugar, sesame seeds and the remaining 1 Tbsp of sesame seed oil. Stir. When the mixture is prepared, add it to the vegetables.  Continue cooking for about 4-5 minutes on medium heat.  In another small bowl, make the glaze by combining the water and corn starch.  Immediately before serving, add the corn starch mixture to the stir fry pan and stir to coat all the chicken and vegetables.  Any remaining sauce will immediately thicken and coat the stir fry.  Serve over rice.

If you like this, make sure to check out the rest of these awesome recipes that can all be made in 30 minutes or less.  I'm continually blown away by the talent and creativity of the #SundaySupper bloggers.  If you stop by, leave a comment.  I'm sure they'd love to know you were there!
  • Greek Dogs by Supper For a Steal
  • Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad by Magnolia Days
  • Double Duty Fajita Chicken: Nachos Supreme and Enchiladas by Doggie at the Dinner Table
  • Zucchini, Corn and Bacon Crepes by Vintage Kitchen
  • Oregon Shrimp Quesadillas by Pescetarian Journal
  • Korean omelet rice by Crispy Bits & Burnt Ends
  • Lemon Dillled Salmon Croquette Burgers by Granny’s Down Home Southern Cooking
  • Gluten Free Pepper Steak with Rice by No One Likes Crumbley Cookies
  • Crispy Ravioli in Cherry Tomato Sauce by Shockingly Delicious
  • BLT Soup by Meal Planning Magic
  • Korean Pan-Fried Fish by Kimchi Mom
  • Stove top mac ‘n cheese by Gotta Get Baked
  • Deconstructed Enchiladas by In the Kitchen with KP
  • Croque Monsieurs by Juanita’s Cocina
  • Summer Squash and Mushroom Quesadillas by Chocolate Moosey
  • Seared Lamb on a bed of Mashed potatoes with Artichoke Hearts by Cooking Underwriter
  • Garlicky Pasta with Swiss Chard and Beans by Webicurean
  • Baked Spanish Tortilla by Happy Baking Days
  • Grilled Chicken Caesar Pizza by In the Kitchen with Audrey
  • Chicken Pasta with Spinach and Beans by The Lemon Bowl
  • Tomato Pie by My Catholic Kitchen
  • Shredded Chicken in Peanut Sauce Tacos w/ Corn & Zucchini Sauté by GirliChef
  • Tomatillo Chicken Stew by Small Wallet, Big Appetite
  • Pollo a la Crema by La Cocina de Leslie
  • Baked Tilapia Fish Tacos by Home Cooking Memories
  • Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken with a Yogurt Dill sauce and a Greek Salad by Noshing with the   Nolands
  • Wagon Wheel Pasta with Pancetta & Peas by Chelsea’s Culinary Indulgence
  • Lemon & Dill Shrimp Pasta w/ Oven Roast Corn by Mama, Mommy, Mom
  • Ricotta – Tofu Tomato Toasts by Yummy Smells
  • One Pot Spicy Asian Chicken and Rice by Hezzi D
  • Turkey Italian Brown Rice Casserole by Momma’s Meals
  • Flatbread Pizza with Cilantro Garlic Sauce by Mom’s Test Kitchen
  • Cashew Chicken Stir-fry by Diabetic Foodie
  • Chicken Bacon Avocado Quesadillas by Dinners, Dishes and Desserts
  • Roasted Butternut Lo Mein by The Meltaways
  • Potluck Casserole with Cornbread Stuffing by Cindy’s Recipes & Writings
  • Jerk Chicken Chili by Mrs. Mama Hen
  • Loaded Chicken and Steak Stuffed Potatoes by Big Bears Wife
  • Steamed Tofu Serve with Fried Mix Vegetables by My Trials in the Kitchen
  • Pasta with sausage and cherry tomatoes by Tora’s Real Food
  • Chicken Ravioli with Peas and Bacon by Daddy Knows Less
  • Quick N Easy Thai Coconut Shrimp Stir Fry by Sue’s Nutrition Buzz
  • Whole Wheat Pizza with Hummus & Fresh Greens by Family Spice
  • Speedy ‘n Spicy Shrimp Pasta by The Weekend Gourmet
  • End of Summer Grilled Peach and Chicken Salad by Sustainable Dad
  • Teriyaki Tuna Bowl by Family Foodie
  • Weeknight Stir Fry by From Fast Food to Fresh Food
  • Baked Egg with Mushrooms and Bacon by Pippi’s in the Kitchen Again
  • Taco Bake by Daily Dish Recipes
  • Fried Rice and Black Beans by Mama’s Blissful Bites
  • Chicken with Broccoli, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Bow Ties by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
  • Pasta in Tomato sauce and turkey meatballs by Basic & Delicious
  • Pasta Primavera by Midlife Road Trip
  • Tots Your Tots Will Love by The Hand that Rocks the Ladle

    You can also join us on Twitter throughout the day on Sunday. We’ll be meeting up at 6:00 p.m. CST for our weekly #SundaySupper live chat where we’ll talk about Back to School Meals and ways to make meal time easier!

    All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag, or you can follow us through TweetChat or TweetDeck. We’ll be sharing great recipes and tips all afternoon, and we’ll be talking all things Back to School Meals during our chat.

    We’d also love to feature your Back to School Recipes on our #SundaySupper Pinterest board and share them with all of our followers.  Won't you join us?


    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

    Banana Cake

    It's that time of year again when fruit is plentiful and inexpensive.  In our house, we love to stock up on fresh produce, but it seems to spoil so fast!  We found ourselves in the usual summertime predicament of having way too many bananas. 

    There are only so many slightly overripe bananas that one family can consume on a single day, so instead of freezing them for smoothies, I decided to do some baking.  What's the typical recipe that comes to mind when you think of overripe bananas?  Yep- banana bread.  I'm so sick of banana bread.  Banana bread with walnuts. Banana bread with chocolate chips. Blah blah blah... banana bread.  This time, I dug out the old banana cake recipe.  It's super simple, wonderfully moist, and can be eaten with or without frosting.

    • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1/2 cup shortening
    • 1 scant cup of mashed slightly overripe bananas
    • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
    • 2/3 cup milk
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 tsp vanilla


    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add the shortening, bananas, and oil and using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until well combined.  Add the milk, eggs, and vanilla and beat on medium speed until all the ingredients are incorporated.

    Pour batter into a greased and floured 9x13 cake pan.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Careful not to check for doneness too soon or the cake may fall a bit when you puncture the top to check for doneness.

    When cooled, you can frost with a cream cheese frosting or another frosting of your choice.  **Another option: this cake is moist and delicious enough to eat without frosting!  The possibilities are endless!

    And yes, we still have overripe bananas left in this house!  Besides banana bread and banana cake, what do you do with your overripe bananas?  I'd love to hear some of your ideas!

    Sunday, August 19, 2012

    Beef Stroganoff for #SundaySupper

    This week's #SundaySupper theme is near and dear to my heart.  Cooking with Wine! When I cook with wine, I tend to make a very elaborate, time consuming dish.  Today, I am opting to feature one of the most basic yet elegant staples of every cook's kitchen-- Beef Stroganoff!

    When searching, you may find numerous versions of Beef Stroganoff.  There are perhaps as many versions of this dish as there are varieties of wine!  Some recipes call for white wine and other versions use red wine.  We like our meals to be more earthy rather than light and fruity, so we were perfectly happy using our normal recipe for Beef Stroganoff.  It only takes about 30-40 minutes from start to finish, so it's super impressive when you're in a rush!

    • 1 pound of beef, sliced very thin or cut into small cubes (I recommend strips)  Use a high quality beef or your meat could be "tough"
    • 4 Tbsp of butter
    • 2 Tbsp of all purpose flour
    • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced into strips
    • 1 medium white onion, sliced into strips
    • 8-12 oz of crimini mushrooms quartered (unless you have mushroom haters, go with the 12 oz)
    • 2 cloves of minced garlic
    • 1 Tbsp paprika
    • 1 cup beef broth
    • 1/2 cup red wine (recommend using a Bordeaux, Merlot or an earthy Cabernet Sauvignon)
    • 2/3 cup of sour cream
    • 1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
    • Kosher salt to taste
    • Black pepper to taste
    • Parsley (optional)


    In a dutch oven, heat 2 Tbsp of the butter.  Add the garlic and both onions, and saute for 10 minutes.
    Onions cooking and wine/mushrooms at the ready!

    When the onions turn a light golden color, add the flour to the onions and mix until onions are coated.  Immediately add the beef broth and wine and stir until all the lumps are gone.
    Delicious Cab entering the mixture--YUM!

    Pour yourself a glass of wine to drink while you continue to cook. This is also where I'd recommend starting the water for the pasta.  The rest of the cooking process is going to go very fast, and you'll want your pasta ready when you're done with the stroganoff.

    Continue cooking the mixture over medium heat for about 4 minutes.  The mixture will become thick.  Remove the dutch oven from heat, and empy the onion and sauce mixture into a large bowl and set aside.  Wash out the dutch oven so that you can use it for the rest of the cooking process.

    Season the beef strips with the paprika, salt, and pepper.  Melt the remaining butter in the dutch oven.  When the butter is hot, add the quartered mushrooms and cook on medium-high heat until the mushrooms just start to brown up. (about 3-4 minutes)  Add the seasoned beef strips and cook until most of the pink is out of the meat. (about 4 minutes)  Add the onion/sauce mix back to the dutch oven.  Mix in the sour cream and worcestershire sauce.  Remove from heat.  Serve over noodles or rice and garnish with parsley. (optional)

    As part of this Sunday Supper, we are featuring the Schlossadler Family of Wine.   Many of this week's participants are featuring dishes cooked and paired with a selection of fruity and dry wines from The Wine Club by Schlossadler Wines.  Since 1979, Schlossadler Wines has been importing fine wines from family owned vineyards and bringing it right to your doorstep. 

    A talented group of Sunday Supper Bloggers have developed fabulous recipes, and they can’t wait to share these wines with you:
    1. 2006 H.O. Becker, Kerner Auslese, Rheinhessen
    2. 2010 Ernst Holler, Blaufrankisch, Burgenland
    3. 2010 Kotuku Winery, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
    We welcome you to grab a glass of wine and join us for this week’s special Sunday Supper Wine Event. We will be sharing fabulous recipes along with the perfect wine pairing at 6:00 pm CST.
    But the fabulous recipes don’t stop there!  We have more delicious recipes to pair with wine!

    Join us at 6pm CT for our #SundaySupper Chat with @schlossiwines. Follow along on Twitter by using hashtag #SundaySupper. We love to feature your recipes on our #sundaysupper pinterest board and share them with all our followers.
    We have a special discount for all participants: Free Shipping when you join The Wine Club by Schlossadler Wines use code FFSS1
    Next Shipment is October 2012 ~ Halloween Day Ghostly Whites, Haunted Red for all friendly spirits everywhere.
    Follow Schlossadler Wines:

    Thursday, August 16, 2012

    Homemade Hostess Cupcakes

    Over the last week, my family has gotten a bit sarcastic with their food requests.  On Monday, I asked, "what dessert recipe would you like to see me make next?"  With a bit of a smirk, I got a quick reply that they wanted "Hostess Cupcakes".  I think they were joking, but I was up for the challenge.

    I located a recipe online at the Instructables website by @karenchoward.  Thankfully, I already owned most of the ingredients.  The only thing I needed to obtain was marshmallow fluff. (does anyone keep that on-hand? I guess I do now!)  I quickly got to baking.  Good thing because I was up until almost midnight working on this one!

    Keep in mind that this recipe is amazing, but it is not a quick one.  It contains many steps, and if you are missing an ingredient (like fluff.....) it can add even more time.  This is not a spur of the moment baking endeavor.  That being said, it is potentially one of the most delicious "knock off" recipes that we've ever tasted!  Not only was the flavor spot on for a Hostess Cupcake, but the texture was indescribably Hostess.  This recipe is a keeper!

    Ingredients for Cupcakes

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup of water

  • Directions for Cupcakes

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a sharp knife and a clean, dry cutting board, chop the chocolate and butter into small pieces. Place the chopped chocolate and butter into a large bowl. 

    In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs, but do not combine the eggs with anything yet. Just set them aside.
    In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil. Make sure the sugar is fully dissolved. Working quickly, pour the sugar and water mixture into the large bowl with the chocolate and butter.  Stir until the chocolate and butter are melted.  When the mixture has cooled a bit, add the vanilla and mix until combined.

    In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Using an electric mixer on medium speed, add the lightly beaten eggs to the chocolate mixture and beat until combined. Mix in the dry ingredients.
    Fill lined cupcake tins with batter about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch from the top. I had enough batter for 18 cupcakes. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely.
    While the cupcakes are cooling, start working on the filling.

    Ingredients for Filling
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 cup marshmallow cream (fluff)

  • Directions for Filling
    In a clean bowl, cream the butter until it's light and fluffy. Beat in 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. Add vanilla and 1 tablespoon of heavy cream and beat until smooth. Continue alternating powdered sugar and cream and continue to beat.  Once all combined, beat in the marshmallow cream.  Fill a pastry bag with the filling and stick in the fridge.  (Note: the filling is very messy until it's cooled a bit.  It will likely start flowing out of the pastry bag if you've already cut off the end, so work fast and fill it over a bowl.  I used a medium star tip to fill the cupcakes)  While the filling is chilling, make the ganache.

    Ingredients for Ganache

  • 6 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Directions for Ganache
    Using a sharp knife and a clean, dry cutting board, chop the chocolate into small pieces. Put the cut up chocolate in a medium bowl.  In a small saucepan, melt the cream and butter over medium-low heat and barely bring to a boil.  Once the liquid reaches a boil, pour it over the cut up chocolate.  Using a whisk, stir the mixture until the chocolate melts.  Stir in the vanilla, and whisk the mixture until it is smooth and glossy. 

    Now, it's time to put it all together!  Remove the pastry bag of filling from the fridge and pipe some of the filling mixture into the center top of each cupcake.  You should insert the star tip about halfway in and pull back a little.  Then start to fill just until the filling starts to appear at the top of the cupcake.  I had just enough filling for my 18 cupcakes. 

    Once filled, check to make sure that the ganache has cooled enough that it can be spread on top of the cupcakes.  You don't want it too hot that it runs right off, but you don't want it so cool that it won't spread.  Use your judgement.  I waited about 15 minutes to achieve the right spreading consistency.  Now, cool the cupcakes in the fridge so that the filling and ganache sets.
    You may have noticed that there was something missing-- where are those cute little white swirly things on top?  Well, we thought that they were unnecessary.  We didn't think they'd add too much taste, and this recipe was already so many steps, that we didn't have any guilt omitting them.  If you want the swirls, I would use any white buttercream recipe.

    We stored these cupcakes in an airtight container in the fridge, but we found that they tasted best when taken out about 30 minutes prior to consuming.  The texture was not "cakey" like most cupcakes.  It had that moist, yet grainy texture that hostess is known for with these tasty treats.  Overall, we rated this a 5 out of 5 stars, and will definitely be making this again!


    Sunday, August 12, 2012

    Simple Scrambled Eggs Margherita Style #SundaySupper

    As is tradition on Sundays, I will feature a recipe, or a variation on a recipe, from the #SundaySupper group.  This week was Event 3 of 3 featuring recipes from Katie Workman's The Mom 100 Cookbook cookbook.  At first, I found this to be a difficult challenge because we don't exactly have young kids in the house, and many of the recipes are geared towards getting youngsters involved in the process of the selecting, prepping, and cooking.  This exposes them to different tastes and allows them to play a more active role in making healthy choices.  In the day and age of Happy Meals, this is a very good thing- especially during this Back to School season!

    So, I stepped back and thought about my own household.  Katie's recipes were simple, healthy and usually pretty fast.  We are trying to stay away from fast and processed food.  Maybe we had more in common with this cookbook than we originally thought?  After a bit of browsing, I decided to take a spin on scrambled eggs.  Eggs are fast, inexpensive, packed in protein, and delicious!

    Staying local, I looked at what was being offered at the Farmer's Market downtown, and tomatoes and basil were readily available.  I picked up my supplies from the farmer herself, including a dozen eggs, and I was ready to cook!  Throw in some mozzarella cheese and Voilà! You have Simple Scrambled Eggs Margherita Style.

    • 5 eggs
    • 2 Tbsp of milk
    • 1 medium tomato, diced with seeds/water drained
    • 4-6 fresh basil leaves, rinsed and cut into 1/4 - 1/2 inch piece
    • 4 oz Mozzarella pearls (or a Mozzarella log cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
    • kosher salt and pepper to taste
    • butter or non-stick spray for frying

    Carefully crack the eggs into a medium bowl.  Add the milk, salt, and pepper to the eggs and whisk until blended.  In a medium frying pan, heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Add the egg mixture.  Heat until the bottom starts to set. With a spatula or other utensil, lightly push the eggs around to break up the large pieces.  As more of the egg starts to set, add the tomato being careful not to add too much of the tomato juice/seeds otherwise the eggs may be too soggy.  About a minute before the eggs are done to your liking, add the basil and lightly mix.  Then, drop the mozzarella pearls on top and cover the pan with a lid to melt the cheese.  If the cheese needs more melting but you are worried about overcooking the eggs, you can remove the pan from the heat and let sit covered for a minute.  Serve with a European style bread like a baguette or boule.

    **Side note: One would think that eggs are an easy dish to cook, however my observation is that most people overcook their scrambled eggs.  Scrambled eggs are not supposed to be overly dry.  They should be moist and fluffy.  Adding some milk to the eggs helps to keep them moist, but you should also make sure to pull the eggs off the heat when they have set, yet still have a sheen of moistness on them. If you've never had moist, fluffy eggs, you'll thank me for this tip! 

    If you have kids and are looking for more simple recipes, join us on 8/12/12 Around The Family Table for another #SundaySupper Twitter Chat!  Follow us using the hashtag #SundaySupper.  Katie Workman herself will be joining us again!  It starts at 6 PM CST. Katie is so much fun and will be sharing her Easy Back to School Recipes during our chat. We'd love for you to join us and share your tips and inspiration, too!

    For more recipe ideas, make sure to check out and share the posts from some of the #SundaySupper bloggers below.

    Easy Breakfast ideas:
    Lunchbox Wraps:
    Easy Weekday Suppers:
    After School Snacks:

    Monday, August 6, 2012

    Red Velvet Cupcakes

    After an amazing weekend filled with delicious Julia Child recipes, it's time to switch back to a dessert. You may remember me mentioning my family is "sugar addicted", so this means that I'm on a constant mission to come up with new treats to present to them.  In the past, I would have likely made an 8pm run to the grocery store pick up a bag of cookies. If we wanted to get really fancy, we might get some chemical cupcakes from the bakery. You know the ones- the kind that last 2 weeks without getting soggy or moldy!

    As has been my mission the last year, I'm trying to keep things more real.  I'm also trying to keep my family happy with the things that I make.  For sweets, they generally like simple things like vanilla with chocolate frosting. This is sometimes frustrating since I like to be somewhat challenged in the kitchen.  So, we usually compromise by finding a traditional recipe, and then I take some liberties to kick it up a notch.  Allow me to introduce Red Velvet Cupcakes as adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens Recipe.

    The Red Velvet Cupcake is a basic chocolate flavored, buttermilk based cake that is probably most famous for it's ridiculously obnoxious amount of red food coloring.  I drastically reduced the amount of food coloring, and the results were still acceptable. In my opinion, it does nothing to enhance flavor, and the less chemical, the better.

    Other than that, the recipe I used was a bit more fancy than your run-of-the-mill Red Velvet cupcake. It calls for a white chocolate cream filling and a mascarpone frosting. The white chocolate cream just adds to the delicious moistness that a buttermilk cake normally produces.  The mascarpone frosting is what makes the cupcake gourmet!  Mascarpone is an italian cheese that could easily be mistaken for a light, creamy butter.  Don't let my use of the word "light" fool you. This ain't no light cheese, baby!  It's made with a very high cream content milk.  This isn't a dieter's cupcake.

    Red Velvet Cupcake

    • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup vegetable oil
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tablespoon red food coloring
    • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 18 regular sized muffin cups with a cupcake liner.  In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Next, add oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed until combined. Spoon batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each about 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the top.

    Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the centers comes out clean. (Hint: While cupcakes are baking, prepare the white chocolate filling.  See below) Remove from the oven, and cool in the pan for about 5-10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

    White Chocolate Cream Filling

    • 3 ounces white baking chocolate, chopped
    • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
    In a small saucepan, combine white baking chocolate and 1/4 cup of the whipping cream. Cook and stir over low heat until chocolate is nearly melted. Remove from heat; stir until smooth. Cool for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, beat remaining whipping cream with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Add the cooled white chocolate mixture. Beat just until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Cover and chill.  Once chilled, the filling becomes firm and easier to handle when filling the cupcakes.
    Once cupcakes are cooled and the filling is firm enough to handle, you should make the frosting.  (see below)  Once the frosting is ready, be prepared to fill and frost immediately.  (Hint: Make sure you have enough airtight containers and room in your fridge to store the cupcakes before you start filling and frosting the cupcakes!)

    Mascarpone Frosting

    • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, brought to room temperature
    • 1/4 cup butter, softened
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    • 4 cups powdered sugar
    • 2 - 3 teaspoons milk  
    In a large bowl, combine mascarpone cheese and softened butter. Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating well. Beat in milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to reach desired consistency.

    Now, put it all together!

    Transfer the white chocolate cream filling to a decorating bag fitted with a medium sized star tip. Push tip into the top of each cupcake and force some of the whipped cream inside cupcake. I found it best to push the tip in, wiggle it a bit to compact some of the cupcake and create "room", pull back the tip, and then fill.  Another option is to remove a small bit of the cupcake prior to filling. It's your choice, but the method I used worked fine.  Once all the cupcakes are filled, frost the cupcakes with the mascarpone frosting by piping or spreading it onto tops of cupcakes.
    Store in an airtight container in the fridge.  They are best when consumed within a day or two as they can dry out easily.

    My family loved the cupcakes!  We found them to be just the right combination of moist, sweet, and chocolately.  I suspect that they'd be just as good without the filling, so in the future, I might skip that and stick with the basic cupcake recipe and mascarpone frosting only.

    So, are there any desserts that you've kicked up a notch to make more "challenging", yet they still appeal to your whole family?  If so, let me know! I'm always looking for more ideas.

    Sunday, August 5, 2012

    Ragout of Chicken and Onions in Red Wine #CookForJulia #SundaySupper

    “This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook- try new recipes,
    learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”  - Julia Child

    This week, Julia Child would have turned 100 years old!  It is only fitting that the television outlet that many of us first saw Julia on, PBS,  is featuring a #CookForJulia celebration!   If you are a Foodie, or an aspiring Foodie, you simply must check it out.  Not all her recipes are for everyone.  I'm not sure that I am ever going to make Aspic (meat jello--for lack of a better description?) but many of her main dishes have become synonymous with a chef that possesses a refined skill. 

    So, are you ready for an admission?  Until this week, I had never purposely sought out to cook a Julia Child recipe.  *GASP*, I know!  I'm so thankful for PBS and the #SundaySupper movement for featuring her recipes this week because what came out of my kitchen was the most magical smelling dish that has ever been created by my two hands.  It's easy to see why Julia was such a revered chef.

    For today's post, I decided to make a ragout.    Ragout is just a fancy term for "stew".  You can make stew, right?  Right!  Let's cook!

    Ragout of Chicken and Onion in Red Wine
  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds frying chicken parts, skin on
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • Onions- either 1 large yellow onion sliced or 1 generous cup of pearl onions, skins removed**
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper
  • 1 or 2 large cloves of garlic, minced or smashed with a knife
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp or so thyme
  • 1 large ripe red unpeeled tomato, chopped
  • 3 cups red wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock (or more)
  • Beurre manie, for the sauce (1 1/2 Tbs each flour & softened butter blended to a paste)
  • Fresh parsley sprigs (or chopped parsley)

  • Directions

    In a dutch oven or large, heavy bottomed pot, brown the chicken in the the hot butter and olive oil.  This takes about 5-7 minutes per side.  After browned, remove the chicken and set aside.  Leave the oil in the pot.

    Add the onions to the pan of hot oil and brown. This can take 15+ minutes, depending on the type of onion you are using.  (**Note:  I used frozen pearl onions from my local grocery store.  I love the flavor and texture of pearl onions, but I hate the process of slipping them out of their skins.  Frozen pearl onions is a convenience that I'm willing to live with to save myself time!)

    To the pan of onions, add kosher salt and black pepper to taste, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, tomato.  Lightly mix.  Return the chicken to the pan.  Add the red wine. (I used a Beaujolais because it's a nice, light red.  Avoid anything heavy and old)  Then, if the chicken is still exposed, add chicken stock to cover.  Lightly mix again.  Slowly simmer about 25 minutes or until chicken is done and tender.
    When chicken is done, remove the chicken from the pot.  With the onions and sauce that is left in the pot, do your best to skim off any oils/fat that is on the surface.  I didn't fret too much about this step as my sauce didn't render too much fat.  Increase the heat to a boil and reduce the sauce to your desired taste/strength.  You may need to add additional seasoning to achieve desired taste.
    Once the sauce has reached its desired taste, add the beurre manie.  To make the beurre manie, simply mix equal parts very softened butter and flour.  I would make sure that you have "too much" made rather than not enough. Once you start adding and mixing, it's hard to stop to make more.  I'd rather waste a little beurre manie paste than run out!

    Once the sauce had reached the desired thickness (should be able to coat a spoon), pour a few hearty spoonfuls over the chicken.  Make sure to get lots of the onion!  If you'd prefer, you could just return the chicken to the pot.  This is probably not what Julia would do, but it's what I did and it worked perfectly!

    To serve, pair it with a light red wine.  Typically, use the variety that you used to make the ragout.  In my case, we would serve with another bottle of beaujolais.  (See how I mentioned the wine first?  Julia would be proud!)  To the side of the chicken can be potatoes with parsley or even a hot noodle.  Some folks would serve with salad or another green vegetable.  Be creative. 

    If you're interested in more Julia Child recipes, you should definitely check out the #CookForJulia posts by the #SundaySupper food blog community!  You should also join us this week Around the Family Table for #SundaySupper! That fun starts on Twitter at 2pm CST with these fabulous recipes being showcased and ends with our #SundaySupper live chat at 6pm CST. This is a #SundaySupper you don’t want to miss!

    #CookForJulia Breakfast
    Râpée Morvandelle by Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
    Croissants by Cookistry
    Cheese and Bacon Quiche by Tora’s Real Food

    #CookForJulia Lunch
    Tuna Salad Nicoise by Magnolia Days
    Blood Orange, Walnut, and Rocket Salad by Granny’s Down Home Southern Cooking
    Croque Monsieur by Webicurean
    Spinach and Cream Cheese Pancakes by Happy Baking Days
    Julia’s Chicken Salad by My Trials in the Kitchen
    Pissaladière Niçoise (Onion Tart with Anchovies and Black Olives) by The Wimpy Vegetarian
    Provencal Tomato Quiche by Are you hungry?
    Quiche Lorraine Spoon and Saucer
    Potato and Onion Soup (Potage Parmentier) by Shockingly Delicious

    #CookForJulia Dinner
    Bouillabaisse by The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen
    Boeuf Bourguignon by Chelsea’s Culinary Indulgence
    Orecchiette Con Broccoli Di Rape and Sausages by Doggie at the Dinner Table
    Boeuf Bourguignon by Hezzi D’s Books and Cooks
    Veal Stew with Onions and Mushrooms with Baked Cucumbers and Boiled Potatoes (Blanquette de veau a l’ancienne with concombres au buerre) by Kimchi Mom
    Salmon en Papillote by Girlichef
    Poached salmon with cucumber sauce by Katherine Martinelli
    Lobster Souffle and Deviled Chicken- Crispy Bits & Burnt Ends
    Roasted Chicken with Julia’s Mustard Marinade by The Meltaways
    Wild Mushroom and Herb Stuffed Chicken- Mama Mommy Mom
    Puree of White Beans with Garlic and Herbs (Brandade á la Soissonaise) Avocado Pesto
    Poulet au Porto by Family Foodie

    #CookForJulia Sides
    Hollondaise over Blanched Asparagus by The Little Ferraro Kitchen
    Scalloped Potatoes with Milk, Cheese, and Garlic (Gratin Dauphinois) by Home Cooking Memories
    Ratatouille by Basic N Delicious
    French-style country pate by There and Back Again
    White Bean Dip with Homemade Tortilla Chips Momma’s Meals
    Oeufs à la Diable by What Smells So Good?
    Soubise by The Weekend Gourmet
    Ratatouille by Cupcakes and Kale Chips

    #CookForJulia Desserts
    Cream Cheese and Lemon Flan by Juanita’s Cocina
    Strawberry Sherbert in Cooky Cups by Cravings of a Lunatic
    Creme Brulee by Wine Everyday
    Mousseline Au Chocolat by Small Wallet Big Appetite
    Peach Tarte Tatin by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
    Cinnamon Toast Flan by Vintage Kitchen Notes
    Dark Chocolate Crepes by Family Spice
    Crepes Fines Sucrees by Mangoes and Chutney
    Pommes Rosemarie:Apples Rosie The Daily Dish Recipes
    Espresso Soufflé by Chocolate Moosey
    Best Ever Brownies by In the Kitchen with Audrey
    Orange-Almond Jelly Roll Cake by Mrs. Mama Hen
    Orange Spongecake Cupcakes by Mama’s Blissful Bites
    Orange Mousse with Greek Yogurt by Sue’s Nutrition Buzz
    Frozen Chocolate Mousse by Big Bear’s Wife
    Wine Pairings: Relishing Food and Wine; Thanks to Julia Child! by ENOFYLZ

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

    Perfect Supper Club Prime Rib

    Every now and then, you need to treat your family to something special.  Some folks go out to dinner.  In our household, we like to recreate the perfect Supper Club meal.  When you think of a Supper Club, what entree comes to mind?  If you're from Wisconsin, you immediately think of Prime Rib!  Many home cooks are terribly intimidated by Prime Rib, but I assure you that it's the easiest, most impressive thing that you'll ever cook!  The key elements are:
    • a good cut of meat
    • a good butcher
    • a good thermometer
    If you have all of those things, you're 99% on your way to the best meal that you've ever tasted in your home cooking life! 

    So, here's the hard part.  Spend good money on a piece of meat.  Call your local butcher.  In my case, we went through Ski's Meat Market.  We called them in the morning and told them we were making Prime Rib.  You have a few choices for your Prime Rib Roast.  Bone in or out. (go with bone in!)  They'll ask you how many ribs you want. (generally 1 to 2 people per rib. Never get less than 3 ribs) They should also ask you if you want the meat cut away from the bone and tied back.  Choose this option.  It makes carving the meat so much easier, and you aren't going to lose anything, in my opinion, by having it cut back. 

    We got a 4 bone Prime Rib Roast, and the cost was $114.00.  "YIKES" you might say!  Well, we fed 5 people plus we had plenty of leftovers.  If we had gone out to eat and ordered Prime Rib, we would have likely spent well over $114- not including drinks and dessert!

    Once you get home, here's how to prepare your cut of meat.

    Unwrap the meat and insert a high quality, wired thermometer into the meat.  This is the one that I used.  (special thanks to the butcher at Ski's for convincing me it was time to upgrade!)  Do not allow the thermometer to touch the bone.  It will likely read a temperature in the 30s or 40s.

    Leave meat out on counter to bring up the temperature.  This is very important!  It's going to feel like a long time.  Mine took about 3+ hours to get to the upper 50s, but this is the key to an even cook.  I covered mine loosely with the butcher's paper while the temperature is coming up.  Many folks say to get it all the way to room temperature, but truth be told, I didn't want to leave my meat out much longer than 3 hours, and I found that the final product was cooked evenly nonetheless.

    Once the meat temperature has come up to at least the mid-50s, rub the cut roast ends only with softened butter.  This will allow the ends to moisten and crisp up when cooking.

    Season the meat.  There's two schools of thought on this, and both are okay.  Some say to over season because it doesn't easily penetrate the rib roast.  Some say that seasoning is optional or should be done lightly.  It's just your preference.  ***Now- read carefully-- here is the magic--- Do NOT use salt to season!!!!!  One trick that I use for all meat cooking is to avoid salt.  It draws out moisture from the meat and can make it overly dry.  You can always add it later when you're eating it.

    Place the uncovered rib roast in a metal pan, ribs facing down.  There's no need for a rack as the ribs act as a natural rack!

    Now, put it all into an oven that's been preheated to 450 degrees. (make sure that your wired thermometer is safe at that temperature- most are, but it's still a good idea to check)  If you have a convection oven, do not put the convection feature on as this can dry out the roast.

    It should look like this: (Note: the digital portion of the thermometer does not go in the oven- that should stay outside the oven)

    Prime Rib Roast- 4 bone

    Roast the meat for exactly 15 minutes.  No more. No less.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and continue roasting.

    Now, simply wait.  I would start checking the temperature after an hour or so.  The meat is not timed.  You should use temperature as your guide.  Remember that the temperature of the meat will increase about 5-10 degrees after you take it out of the oven, so incorporate that into your plans for when you want to remove it from the oven.  Example: If you want Medium Rare, I would remove the meat when it hits about 125 degrees.  Use the following temperature guide for final temperature/doneness:

    Rare 120-125 degrees
    Medium Rare 130-135 degrees
    Medium 140-145 degrees
    Medium Well 150-155 degrees
    Well Done 160+ degrees
    Once the meat hits your desired (pre)temperature, remove it from the oven and loosely cover it in foil.  And for heaven's sake, let it rest!  Resist the urge to cut into it to check it.  The juices will run out, and you will have a dry roast if you do that.  If you've invested in a good wired thermometer, then it will be perfect after the 15 minute resting period. 

    When 15 minutes is up, carve, serve, and enjoy!  If it's as delicious as it was in my household, you will barely be able to get in a picture before your family starts (literally) screaming at you to sit down so they can devour the delicious food!

    Our Prime Rib Roast, Medium Rare
    Served with a baked potato with sour cream/chives, local green beans, and sauteed mushrooms.

    So what do you think?  Is this something that you think you'd want to try?  If so, let me know how it goes!  If not, what's holding you back?  Leave a comment with your questions or fears, and together we can get you on your way to recreating that Supper Club entree you always wanted to cook.