Saturday, May 31, 2008

Going Bananas

Ironically, I am not a huge fan of bananas, yet I've managed to make two desserts that feature them in the last week. This weekend our neighbors invited us over for a barbecue and I volunteered to bring dessert. I debated making the banana split cake again, but didn't trust myself with the leftovers we were sure to have. So I went with this chocolate chip banana cream pie instead. I've had this recipe from Nestle in my files for years and made it once a long time ago so I decided to resurrect it. Joe loves bananas, I love chocolate chip cookies, and it just seemed like a nice addition to a cookout. The pie comes together quickly and the combination of pudding, bananas and cookies is super! It still doesn't top the banana split cake, but as far as banana desserts go, it's a winner too.

Chocolate Chip Banana Cream Pie

1 pkg. (18 oz.) Nestlé® Toll House® Refrigerated Chocolate Chip & White Fudge Cookie Dough, softened
1 3/4 cups milk 1 pkg. (3 1/8 oz.) banana cream or vanilla instant pudding and pie filling mix (I used french vanilla)
2 medium bananas, sliced
1 cup frozen non-dairy whipped topping, thawed
Chocolate Flavor Nestlé® Nesquick® Chocolate Syrup (optional)
Nestlé® Toll House® Semi Sweet Chocolate Mini Morsels (optional)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease 9-inch pie plate.
Press 3/4 package cookie dough* onto bottom and up side of pie plate. Bake for 18 to 24 minutes or until golden brown; flatten down with back of spoon to form pie shell. Cool completely on wire rack.

Beat milk and pudding mix according to package directions in small bowl; refrigerate for 5 minutes. Spread 1 cup pudding over cookie crust (save remaining pudding for later use). Top pudding with bananas; spread with whipped topping. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until set. Drizzle with Nesquik; top with morsels. Cut into wedges.

Fettuccine with Salmon Sauce

Last weekend Joe and I went to explore a used bookstore that Joe had discovered. Overall the bookstore was a disappointment, but I did unearth a few good cookbooks while we there. One was the Woman's Day Pasta and Grains cookbook. While perusing it in the car on the way home, I came across a recipe for fettuccine with salmon sauce. Since I was already intending to make some kind of fish/pasta dish the next night, I decided to utilize the fettuccine recipe. I thought this was fantastic! It was nice and creamy and really let the flavor of the salmon shine through. Plus it had tons of spinach in it, and I love spinach. Joe didn't love it quite as much as I did (I think because of all the spinach - he's not quite a fan) but I thought it was a very nice dinner!

Fettuccine with Salmon Sauce

12 ounces fettuccine
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk (I used skim)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (I used a little more)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach
2 salmon filets, grilled and cut into bite sized pieces

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook fettuccine according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook two to three minutes, stirring constantly, until smooth. Add milk, mustard, salt and pepper and stir.
Add spinach to sauce and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally to break up spinach. Cook six to eight minutes or until sauce is thickened and smooth.
Add the salmon to spinach sauce and stir to break up large pieces. Remove from heat.
Transfer fettuccine to large platter or bowl and pour salmon sauce over pasta. Toss to coat.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins

I've had this recipe bookmarked since I saw it in the November 2007 issue of Cooking Light. Unfortunately that issue somehow got buried beneath a stack of books on my nightstand and I only rediscovered it a few weeks ago. But it was perfect timing, since I unearthed the magazine in the same week that Joe told me he needed something to bring to a retirement potluck party at his school. The potluck was an all day affair and I figured there would be plenty of desserts and main dishes but not as many breakfast treats, so I decided to make these peanut butter and jelly muffins. I made them in my mini muffin tin since they were going to a crowd, but I also made 6 regular sized muffins for Joe and I to try. These are very good! Not to sweet and the perfect combination of peanut butter and jelly flavor. I could have stood to put a little more jelly in the mini muffins, but the full-sized ones were just perfect. Joe said all the muffins disappeared quickly at the potluck, so I guess other people enjoyed them too. I'll definitely make these again, especially since they were so easy - you only need one bowl! It's almost as simple as making a sandwich.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (about 3 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups fat-free milk
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup egg substitute
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray
1/4 cup strawberry jam

Preheat oven to 400°.
Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, sugars, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine milk and next 4 ingredients (through vanilla); add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.
Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Fill each cup half full with batter. Spoon 1 teaspoon jam into each cup. Spoon remaining batter on top to cover jam. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Let cool in pan 5 minutes. Remove from pan, and cool on a wire rack.

1 dozen (serving size: 1 muffin)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 185(28% from fat); FAT 5.8g (sat 2g,mono 2.3g,poly 1.2g); PROTEIN 5.2g; CHOLESTEROL 5.6mg; CALCIUM 113mg; SODIUM 288mg; FIBER 1.6g; IRON 1.2mg; CARBOHYDRATE 29.4g

Monday, May 26, 2008

Coconut Cake - Happy Birthday Nana!

To celebrate my grandmother's birthday, I offered to make a cake to present to her at my mom's Memorial Day cookout. I asked Nana what kind of cake she would like and she told me either lemon or coconut. Being that I personally do not like lemon, I went with coconut ;) The obvious choice for a cake proved to be Ina Garten's Coconut Cake, as it was recommended to me by just about everyone on the What's Cooking message board. Upon reviewing the recipe, I decided it had to be a good cake. After all, how can anything that contains 5 sticks of butter, a pound of cream cheese and a pound of powdered sugar be bad? I even went ahead and made it more decadent by putting chocolate chips in the cake. Overall, this was a tasty cake! The frosting is unbelievably tasty. The cake was good, but I think I may have left it in the oven a few minutes too long as it ended up being on the dry side. Or perhaps it was because I used large eggs and Ina calls for extra large. Regardless, it was still delicious, and everyone enjoyed it - especially Nana!

Coconut Cake

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk
4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

For the frosting:
1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans, then line them parchment paper. Grease them again and dust lightly with flour.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.
Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.
For the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extract on low speed. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until just smooth (don't whip!).
To assemble, place 1 layer on a flat serving plate, top side down, and spread with frosting. Place the second layer on top, top side up, and frost the top and sides. To decorate the cake, sprinkle the top with coconut and lightly press more coconut onto the sides. Serve at room temperature.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Banana Split "Cake"

Usually, I am a firm believer that if a dessert does not contain chocolate it's just not worth eating. This "cake" however, proved to the exception to my rule. It is so freaking good. Trust me, I had three servings and had to stop myself from going back for a fourth. I'm actually trying to talk myself out of eating it for breakfast right now, if we're being honest. A graham cracker crust is layered with sweetened cream cheese, crushed pineapple, banana slices, vanilla pudding and whipped topping then covered in nuts. It's cool and sweet and perfect for a summer barbecue. I brought it to a cookout hosted by a friend of Joe's from poetry class (hi, Wilbur, thanks for having us!) and everyone enjoyed it. I'm thinking I'll make it next weekend for another cookout - it's a winner! The recipe is from the summer issue of the Kraft Food & Family magazine.

Banana Split Cake

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup sugar, divided
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple, drained
6 medium bananas, divided (I only used four - I didn't put any on top)
2 cups cold milk
2 pkg. (4-serving size each) JELL-O Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding & Pie Filling (I used French Vanilla)
2 cups thawed COOL WHIP Whipped Topping, divided
1 cup pecans, chopped

MIX crumbs, 1/4 cup of the sugar and the butter; press firmly onto bottom of 13x9-inch pan. Freeze 10 min.
BEAT cream cheese and remaining 3/4 cup sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Spread carefully over crust; top with pineapple. Slice 4 of the bananas; arrange over pineapple.

POUR milk into medium bowl. Add dry pudding mixes. Beat with wire whisk 2 min. or until well blended. Gently stir in 1 cup of the whipped topping; spread over banana layer in pan. Top with remaining 1 cup whipped topping; sprinkle with pecans. Refrigerate 5 hours. Slice remaining 2 bananas just before serving; arrange over dessert. Store any leftover dessert in refrigerator.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Heading South

When I saw this recipe on A Taste of Home Cooking, I bookmarked it immediately. I knew Joe would love it, since it was a combination of some of his favorite things - beef, pasta, spices and sour cream. It didn't disappoint. Not only is it easy to make (you only need one pot) it's hearty and very delicious. Joe and I both enjoyed it immensely and it was perfect with my homemade corn muffins. Definitely a keeper!

South of the Border Casserole

1 pound of lean ground beef
1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed from half, minced
1 large bell pepper, chopped (I omitted)
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
28 ounce can of whole tomatoes (fire roasted tomatoes, if you can find them) (I used diced)
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons of cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups sour cream
8 oz penne, ziti or any small pasta
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup cilantro, minced (I omitted)

In a large deep skillet, brown meat until no longer pink. Drain fat, if necessary. Add the olive oil, peppers, onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook on medium-high heat. Saute until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add chili powder and cumin. Add the can of tomatoes, breaking up the whole tomatoes with a spoon, but still leaving big chunks. Add sour cream, stir until mixed. Add pasta. Cover and cook until pasta is al dente, about 25 minutes. Make sure to stir frequently so the pasta doesn't get stuck to the bottom. Serve with the cheddar cheese and cilantro sprinkled on top.

Golden Sweet Corn Muffins

I love cornbread and corn muffins, but I typically use a good old Jiffy box mix to make them. That was the plan for dinner the other night, but I ended up getting home earlier than I expected and decided to use my time by making corn muffins from scratch. I scoured All Recipes and chose this recipe because it was simple, had good reviews and claimed to be sweet, which is how I like my corn muffins. These were very good! Better than Jiffy, mainly because they were softer and not as crumbly as the mix. I got 12 muffins and Joe enjoyed the leftovers for breakfast the next few mornings. I may not need Jiffy any more...

Golden Sweet Corn Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Spray or lightly grease a 12-cup muffin pan.
In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir in egg, milk and vegetable oil until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The perfect bite

These. Are. So. Good. I'm not even sure what else to say about them! But if you love peanut butter and chocolate, you won't find a better treat than these brownie peanut butter cups. I found the recipe on Bake or Break and the only change I made was to make them in mini muffin cups instead of standard size ones since I was bringing them to a party. They are simply out of this world. The gooey peanut butter center paired with the slightly chewy brownie and chocolate and peanut butter chips throughout just can't be beat! Make these now!

Brownie Peanut Butter Cups

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup peanut butter chips plus about 1/3 cup more for garnishing
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips plus about 1/3 cup more for garnishing
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray or grease 12 muffin cups. (I used a mini muffin pan and got 28 brownies.)
In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine sugar, butter, and water. Microwave on high for 1 minute or until butter is melted. Stir in 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips until melted. Stir in egg and vanilla extract. Add flour and baking soda, stirring until blended. Allow to cool to room temperature. Then, stir in 1/2 cup each peanut butter chips and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Spoon batter by heaping tablespoonfuls into muffin cups.
Bake for 13-15 minutes or until top is set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out slightly wet. Place pan on wire rack. Centers of brownies will fall upon cooling. If not, tap centers with the back of a teaspoon to make a hole.
Place peanut butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 45 seconds, then stir. While brownies are still hot, spoon about a tablespoon of peanut butter into the center of each brownie. Top with semi-sweet chocolate chips and peanut butter chips. Cool completely in pan.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bahama Mama Banana Rum Cake

When I saw that Blake and Bridget at Blake Makes were giving away Amano artisan chocolate, I knew I needed to snag some - not for myself, but to share with my mom and Nana, who adore dark chocolate. I was lucky enough to win three bars (thanks, Blake and Bridget!) and they arrived a few days before Mother's Day. I already decided that for our Mother's Day dessert I was going to make the Bahama Mama Banana Rum Cake from Jill O'Connor's Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey cookbook and realized that some delicious dark chocolate would be a wonderful addition to the cake. So I put aside two bars, one for Nana and one for my mom, and chopped up the third to add to my cake.

This cake was delicious! It was dense and moist with a rich banana flavor and the sweet, rum-infused glaze is the perfect compliment to the crunchy pecans on top. And the dark chocolate was the perfect addition. The only problem I had was getting the cake out of the pan. When I inverted it onto my serving platter only half the cake came out. I ended up shaking the other half out and sort of smooshing it back together with the first. A bit of the topping ended up lost so it wasn't a pretty cake, but I served it anyway. After all, moms and grandmothers love you even when you make mistakes, and both my mom and Nana adored the cake - and their Amano chocolate.

Happy Mother's Day!

Bahama Mama Banana Rum Cake

For the Dark Rum Glaze:
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup water
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup dark rum

For the Cake:
1 ½ cups chopped pecans, toasted
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (about 3 medium bananas)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons dark rum
3 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup sour cream

To make the glaze: Combine the butter, water, and sugars in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for five minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the rum. Set aside and keep warm.

To make the cake: Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350. Spray a 10-cup tube pan with non-stick spray. Sprinkle the pecans in the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat together the butter and sugars until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the mashed bananas, vanilla and rum. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt over the batter and fold in using a rubber spatula, just until no streaks of flour remain. Fold in the sour cream. Spoon the batter over the nuts in the pan and spread to the edge of the pan using the back of a rubber spatula.

Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out with no more than a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 60 to 80 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Use a wooden skewer to poke holes all over the cake and pour ¼ cup of the warm glaze over the cake. Let the cake cool 5 more minutes. Place a serving platter over the pan and invert to release the cake onto the platter. Spoon the remaining glaze over the cake, a little at a time, until the glaze is completely absorbed into the cake.

Let the cake cool completely before cutting into wedges and serving. This cake will last two to three days if covered well.

Morning Mini Muffin Making

I was up at the crack of dawn this morning and found myself with lots of time on my hands. After doing two loads of laundry, surfing the Internet, eating breakfast and wrapping the Mother's Day presents, it was only 8:30, I decided to pass the time by baking. I thought I would make a treat to bring to my co-workers tomorrow, so I hopped on All Recipes and began searching muffin recipes. I came across this recipe for Peanut Butter Mini Muffins and thought it sounded yummy, plus it would give me a chance to use my underutilized mini muffin pan. These are super easy to make and Joe, when he came downstairs to keep me company around 9:30, declared that they tasted like peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. Sounds like a good breakfast to me!

Peanut Butter Mini Muffins

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
2/3 cup chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips (I used regular sized and just eye-balled it)

In a large bowl, combine the first four ingredients. In another bowl, combine the egg, milk, peanut butter, oil and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in chocolate chips. Fill greased or paper-lined miniature muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-17 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Cheddar-Studded Turkey Burgers

I love, love, love our grill! Everything grilled just seems to taste better. So I'm always looking for new recipes that will allow us to fire up the grill. For one reason or another I was browsing Rachael Ray's website this week and came across her arsenal of burger recipes. I printed several off, including this one for Cheddar-Studded Turkey Burgers. I made them up tonight for Joe to grill, and to quote Ms. Ray - yum-o! These were really good! They had some nice heat thanks to the spices and there was melty cheese in every bite. They were simple too, but that probably had something to do with the fact that it was on of her kid's recipes ;) I didn't have a GH ("grown-up helper" in Rachaels' world), but I did okay anyway. I didn't bother making the cilantro cream, since neither Joe or I like cilantro.

Cheddar-Studded Turkey Burgers

1/3 pounds ground turkey breast, the average weight of 1 package
1 medium red onion, half finely chopped, half diced
1/4 pound sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 rounded tablespoon chili powder, a healthy palmful
2 teaspoons cumin (2/3 of a palmful)
1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), plus some for drizzling
1/2 cup sour cream
A handful of cilantro leaves, chopped

Chop and dice onion, cheddar cheese, pepper, garlic and cilantro. Pre-heat a large nonstick skillet, indoor grill pan or tabletop grill to medium-high heat. Combine ground turkey, onion, cheddar cheese, chili powder, ground cumin, jalapeño or serrano pepper, garlic, salt and pepper in a medium bowl and mix everything together with your hands. Score the meat with the side of your hand to separate into 4 equal amounts. Form mixture into four large patties no more than one inch thick.Wash your hands after handling the raw turkey. Drizzle EVOO on the patties and place patties in a hot skillet or on a hot grill with a spatula and cook 5-6 minutes on each side or until turkey is cooked through. For the cilantro cream, combine the sour cream and chopped cilantro, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Pizza Casserole

Who doesn't like pizza? Not us, that's for sure! Bread, cheese, greasy toppings - what's not to like! While a traditional pie will always be tops, I do enjoy trying out new ways to make pizza-like meals. I found this recipe on Melissa's blog and made it just a few days later. It could not have been easier and was delicious! This was originally a Weight Watchers recipe, but I made it more or less the same way Melissa did. I sprayed my crust with Pam before baking and sprinkled it with garlic powder and Italian herbs. As we were eating, Joe remarked that it would be even better with pepperoni on top, so next time I'll add that too!

Pizza Casserole

1 lb of extra lean ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jar of sliced mushrooms, drained (I used fresh)
1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce
Spray of Pam
1 10 oz can refrigerated pizza dough
6 oz of part skim mozzarella cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 425. In a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, cook onion, garlic until softened, add meat stirring until it's browned. Drain, if necessary, and return to skillet. Add mushrooms and tomato sauce, and cook until heated through and most of the sauce has been absorbed (you want your meat mixture more on the dry side then the saucy side). While meat cooks, coat a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Unroll pizza crust dough, and press into bottom and halfway up sides of the baking dish. Pre-bake in the oven for 5 minutes.Remove from oven, then add a layer of cheese, then a layer of the meat mixture, then top with a layer of cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 425° for 12 minutes or until crust is browned and cheese melts. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Margarita Cupcakes

My friend and fellow instructor at the gym, Norman, has been trying to get our little gym crew together for a party for awhile now. He finally managed to find a date that worked for all of us, so tomorrow after we work out we're partying at Norman's! I offered to bring a dessert to the get together and wanted to make something fun. Brownies and cookies are great, but I wanted something that felt fun and festive. I remembered reading about margarita cupcakes on a few of the cooking blogs I read recently, so I went hunting for the recipe. There were a few different versions out there, but I went with this one from Confections of a Foodie Bride. I liked that the base of the cupcakes was a cake mix! The only change I made was to leave out the alcohol (I didn't have it on hand and didn't want to spend the money on it) and just add additional margarita mix. I made my own makeshift piping bag with a gallon Ziploc bag to try to make the frosting look a little prettier, but as you can see my technique needs a little work. Joe said they were cute but that they looked "a little like dog doo." Hmph. I figure once my friends have enough REAL margaritas in them tomorrow, they won't take any notice of my less that professional frosting job ;)

Margarita Cupcakes
9 oz Margarita mix
3 oz tequila (I omitted)
3/4 oz Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur) (I omitted)
White cake mix (No-pudding mix works best)
3 egg whites
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp lime zest
1 recipe Lime Buttercream Frosting (recipe follows)

Mix together the margarita mix, tequila, and Grand Marnier in a large glass or spouted bowl. You will use 1 1/4 cup of this in the cupcake mix. Put the remainder in the fridge to chill and then consume how you see fit. (I just use 1 1/4 cup of the margarita mix.)
In a stand mixer, add the cake mix, egg whites, vegetable oil, lime zest, and 1 1/4 cup of the margarita mixture. Mix on low for about 30 seconds and then increase to medium speed for two minutes (the batter will still be a bit lumpy).
Spoon the batter into a prepared muffin pan (fill the cups somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 full) and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick registers “done” in the center cupcake. Remove the pan from the oven and cool 5 minutes. Remove the cupcakes and cool completely on a baking rack.
Once the cupcakes have cooled, make the frosting for the cupcakes.

Lime Buttercream Frosting
3 cups + 3 Tbsp cups confectioner’s sugar
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1/8 tsp salt
3 Tbsp lime juice
green food color (optional)

Add the butter, confectioner’s sugar, salt, food coloring, and lime juice to the stand mixer and mix on low using the paddle attachment until combined. Turn the speed to med-high until the icing is fluffy. Add the icing to a pastry bag or use a spatula/knife to frost the cupcakes.
Note: Use additional lime juice or water to thin the frosting, if necessary. (I needed several additional squirts of lime juice to make them lime-y enough!)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Parmesan Crusted Chicken and Lemon Spaghetti

I love when I find recipes that sound tasty and contain basic ingredients that I always have on hand. That's one of the reasons this recipe, from Lovestoeat's blog caught my eye. I had a lot of chicken in my freezer and several boxes of pasta, so this was a perfect fit. And I'm so glad I tried it out - it's great! The chicken was fantastic - full of flavor and nice and crispy! I did make several changes to the original recipe though. I cut my chicken into tenders-sized pieces and sprayed them with butter-flavored cooking spray instead of pouring melted butter over them. I also only baked the chicken, uncovered, for 35 minutes and that was plenty of time. For the lemon spaghetti, I followed the recipe but also added in some black pepper and garlic powder. I was definitely happy with meal!

Parmesan Crusted Chicken

2 large eggs
1 cup dried plain-style bread crumbs
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
3/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan-
4boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Butter-flavored cooking spray

Whisk the eggs in a pie plate to blend. Mix the bread crumbs, garlic powder, and Italian seasonings in another pie plate. Place the cheese in a third pie plate. Sprinkle the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Coat the chicken completely with the cheese, patting to adhere, then dip into the eggs. Coat completely with the bread crumbs, patting to adhere. Add to greased 9×13 pan and spray chicken with cooking spray.

Bake at 375 for 35 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and crispy. Serve on top of lemon spaghetti.

Lemon Spaghetti

1/2 box spaghetti
2/3 cup lemon juice
2/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp dried basil
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp garlic powder

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Whisk all other ingredients together. Toss pasta with the lemon sauce and serve immediately.

Muffins for Dinner

As I've said before, I love having bread with dinner and I'm always looking for new options, so I was excited to find this savory muffin recipe on Amber's blog. These sounded delicious and easy, so I gave them a whirl last night. I used the basic muffin recipe as my base, then added my own touches. I put in about 1/4 cup of grated pecorino romano cheese and 2 tablespoons Italian herbs. Then I tasted the dough and thought it was too sweet and not cheesy enough, so I added some black pepper and a handful of grated Italian cheese blend. That seemed to do the trick! These muffins were delicious! I'm posting the basic savory muffin recipe below - I would recommend you add your favorite cheeses and spices and make them your own!

Savory Muffins

1 3/4 cups AP flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 beaten egg
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cooking oil

Grease twelve 2 1/2" muffin cups or line with paper baking cups; set aside. In a medium bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside. In another bowl combine egg, milk, and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each two-thirds full. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from muffin cups; serve warm.