Friday, September 30, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hello Cupcake!

   I have had and will have several things over the course of the week that require goodies to be made. I have chosen to make cupcakes for each of these events, because they go pretty far for a large crowd. 
  We had an event last night, to which I took Devil's Food Cupcakes (I used the cake recipe but filled my cupcake pans 2/3 full and baked them 15-18 minutes). 
  Some cupcakes were topped with my Chocolate Fudge Frosting (see below), and others with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting (remember the Whoopie Pie Filling?).

Chocolate Fudge Frosting
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. confectioner's sugar
3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
2 tsp. vanilla extract
milk (about 2-5 Tbsp.)

  Beat butter and confectioner's sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly add cooled chocolate and vanilla; continue to beat until shiny and smooth. While beating, very slowly add milk just until frosting turns light and fluffy.

Yes that is a chocolate cupcake "wrapper"!
  Tomorrow is my husband's birthday. They have a tradition in the office where the birthday person brings the treat on their special day; for which I have made Ice Cream Cupcakes. I love these particular cupcakes because they combine birthday cake and ice cream into one scrumptious treat! These cupcakes are completely versatile, so feel free to play around with different ice cream and cupcake combinations. For this occasion I have made my husbands favorite-Red Velvet Cupcakes with Black Raspberry Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream and Raspberry Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting. YUM!!!

Here's how to make these fantastic cupcakes:
  Begin by mixing up your cake of choice. Fill muffin tins a little under half full and bake; slice the dome off the top once they have cooled completely. 
  For the chocolate "wrappers". Melt 12 ounces milk chocolate with 2 tablespoons shortening. Using a spoon, spread the chocolate in a medium-thick layer on the inside of a large paper muffin liner; place the coated liner inside the muffin tin. Repeat the process with the remaining liners and freeze (you may need to melt more chocolate, depending on how many cupcakes you are making).
  Once your chocolate "wrappers" have set in the freezer, it's assembly time (you will want your ice cream to be softened for this). Place a cupcake in the bottom of the chocolate wrapper and press down lightly. Top the cupcake with ice cream leaving a 1/2" gap between the ice cream and the top of the wrapper; freeze over-night (or at least 5 hours).
  Remove the cupcakes from the freezer a few at a time and carefully peel the paper muffin liner from the chocolate; return the cupcakes to the freezer as you go so the ice cream doesn't get too soft. Return all the cupcakes to the freezer while you prepare the frosting.
  Spoon frosting into a piping bag and pipe away. Return cupcakes to freezer until ready to serve.
   These are best if left to soften about 10 minutes before eating. Note: Cupcakes store well in an airtight container in the freezer about 2 weeks.

Whipped Cream Frosting
1 tsp. unflavored gelatin (Knox)
4 tsp. cold water
1 c. heavy whipping cream (very cold)
1/4 c. confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

  Combine gelatin and cold water in a small saucepan; let stand until thick. Place over low heat, stirring constantly until gelatin dissolves. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
  Whip cream, sugar and vanilla until very stiff. While beating, gradually add cooled gelatin to whipped cream. Whip until stiff.
  I tripled this recipe to frost 24 cupcakes. Also, since I made mine chocolate-raspberry whipped cream, here's what I did: I combined 1/4 cup raspberry jam with the cooled gelatin and slowly drizzled that in at the time the recipe states. I then added 3 tablespoons cocoa.

  I love making cupcakes because they leave so much up to your individual tastes and creativity. So, get in your kitchen and start creating!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


  First off, I want to thank my wonderful hubby for fixing my camera. He spent some time last night disassembling it, fixing it, then putting it back together. I love you!
  Now, I want to share some fantastic new recipes with you. I had my family over Sunday night for Mexican food, because I had several recipes I had been dying to try. Something I've always wanted to learn how to make is Tamales. Now that I've taught myself, I have found I'm in a bit of a pickle-I will never be able to enjoy the average Mexican restaurant tamale because they just can't compare to homemade, but I don't know how long it will take before I want to take on the task of making my own tamales again. Although tamale-making is really quite simple, it is a very time-consuming art. Should you decide to try to conquer tamale making, let me give you a couple pointers-plan two days to complete the tamales, and make sure you have at least two able-bodied helpers to assist you.
  I found two recipes online that I sort of merged into one, with fantastic results. The first recipe is courtesy of Delicious Days and the second belongs to Rick Bayless (Who's recipes I've used before. Remember the tortillas?) I used Nicky's (at Delicious Days) directions for making the tamal (tamales singular form) filling. I used Rick's directions for making the tamal dough, with the following ingredients:
12 oz. lard
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 tsp. baking powder
6 cups Masa Harina
enough chili powder to turn the dough a pale pink (or however spicy you like it)
broth from the meat (which Nicky instructs you to reserve)

A soft cake batter-like dough
  I then followed Rick's instructions for mixing the dough and filling the tamales. I also followed his instructions for steaming them (it took about 1 1/2 hours per batch for them to cook completely). Following these two recipes yielded 45 tamales. We have eaten our fill over the last couple days and frozen the rest to be eaten later (steam frozen tamales for about 20 minutes before serving). I served my tamales covered in enchilada sauce and sprinkled with cheddar cheese. YUM!
  This was the last photo I was able to take before the camera was broken. Sorry I don't have a lovely picture of the finished product.
The other two recipes I tried were:
  Arroz a la Mexicana-A fantastic Mexican rice, so much better than anything others I've tried at home. I did decide to omit the garlic next time, it kind of over-powered the fresh taste of the rice.
  Bacon-Simmered Pinto Beans-Absolutely delicious! I don't think I will ever served re-fried beans along-side homemade Mexican food again. I decided to use canned beans instead of dry, to cut down on prep time (I rinsed and drained the beans before using). I also just did the prep work the recipe called for, then put everything in the crock-pot on high for 3 hours. I used only one jalapeno because I wanted a mild side dish to go with my slightly zippy tamales. I cut the garlic down to one clove (Seriously, who wants to smell like they're trying to ward off vampires?) And lastly, I served the beans with Queso Fresco instead of Cotija because I have members of my family who don't like goat cheese.

  And that's that! Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


  So, I have a slew of things to share but have one big problem-my 4 year old got his hands on my camera and has completely messed it up. I am unable to take photos of anything, which is really holding me up. I will get a few recipes posted tomorrow, sans photos, but will try to borrow a camera for some things you just gotta see.
  For now, try to be patient with me as I attempt to get things on here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Vanilla Beans

  I know some of you are wondering how in the world I am able to afford to make all these scrumptious vanilla bean desserts. I'll tell you, I didn't used to use vanilla beans much at all. How could I, when at the supermarket they fetch $11 for a jar with 2 beans inside?! 
  I'm about to let you in on one of the best secrets around...Amazon. I purchase my beans in bulk on Amazon, and they end up costing me around .50/bean; FIFTY CENTS! Granted, I have to purchase them in packs of about 50 beans. However, I have found that getting a fellow foodie to split the cost of a package is not too difficult. So, wanna try all these fantastic vanilla bean sweets? Do a little online shopping and you'll be on your way!

Recipe Share

I thought I'd share a couple new recipes I've tried recently. In no particular order:

Baked Zucchini with Mozzarella-Jamie Cooks It Up 
  Absolutely Delicious!

  I used this as a sauce for Angel Hair pasta. I omitted the garnish, and instead sprinkled my pasta with parmesan. I also added a little of the pasta cooking water to loosen up the pasta and used balsamic vinegar instead of red wine. Also delicious!

  I'm not sure if it's just me, or what, but every time I make this the sugars in the caramel seize on me. To solve this problem, I just scoop everything into my blender and puree it until it's smooth again. Try warming the cream in a saucepan with the vanilla bean-it won't seize quite as bad, but be sure to remove the bean before adding the cream to the sugar mixture. This caramel is absolutely heavenly. I have served this as an apple dip and also on top of vanilla ice cream along side a slice of warm apple pie. YUM!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fuzzy Peaches

  There is a restaurant located here in Utah that serves a dessert called "Fuzzy Peaches". When I finally got the opportunity to try it for the first time, I was immediately hooked. The dessert consists of battered and deep-fried peach halves served over a warm cinnamon-caramel with scoops of vanilla ice cream and mango sorbet, then drizzled with raspberry sauce. Are you drooling yet?
  The small town I live in has a festival the second weekend of September each year called "Peach Days". Our town is know for it's peaches, and rightly so...they're delicious! So, every September I spend my days in the kitchen bottling peaches and creating anything I can think of to use this delicious fruit while it's in season. This year I knew if I worked at it I could recreate "Fuzzy Peaches". I did it, so here it is:

4 peaches, peeled, cut in half with pit removed
1/2 c. flour, plus additional
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. milk
1 eggs
oil for frying

  Combine flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cinnamon. Add milk and egg and whisk until smooth.
  Heat 4 inches of canola oil in a large frying pan to about 300 degrees. Coat peach halves in flour, then dip in batter (being sure to coat the peach entirely). Place the peaches, cut side down, in the hot oil and cook until golden brown on each side (about 2-3 minutes per side); drain on paper towels.
  To serve, spoon some cinnamon caramel onto a plate, top with a peach half (cut side down). Place one scoop each of vanilla ice cream and mango sorbet next to the peach. Drizzle raspberry sauce over everything.

Cinnamon Caramel-I used the caramel recipe from this recipe on

Raspberry Sauce

1 pint raspberries
2 Tbsp. water
1/4 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. corn starch

  Place raspberries and water in a saucepan; bring to a boil and continue to boil, stirring occasionally 3-4 minutes. Remove pan from heat; pour berries into a blender and pulse until smooth (you may also press the fruit through a strainer if you prefer not to have seeds in your sauce). Return berries to the saucepan; bring back to a boil.
  In a small bowl, combine sugar and corn starch. Slowly whisk sugar mixture into the berries and cook, stirring constantly, until the cornstarch cooks out (about 3-4 minutes). If your sauce thickens too much, thin with a little hot water. Refrigerate sauce until ready to use.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Vanilla Bean Banana Cream Pie

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 3/4 cups milk (2% or whole)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and seeds scraped
2 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1/3 cup cornstarch
3-4 medium, ripe bananas

   Combine the cream, milk, 1/2 cup of the sugar, the vanilla bean, and the vanilla seeds in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat.

Combine the cornstarch, and 1 cup of the sugar in a medium bowl; add egg yolks and eggs, and whisk until pale yellow in color. Set aside.

  Whisk 1 cup of the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks. 

Gradually add the egg mixture to the hot cream, whisking constantly. 
Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly with a large wooden spoon to cook out the cornstarch, until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. (The mixture may separate slightly. If so, remove from the heat and beat with an electric mixer until thick and smooth.) 

Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl; let cool on counter while you prepare the pie crust (see my instructions for making the perfect pie crust).

  Spread a small amount of filling on the bottom of the pie crust, top with a layer of bananas. Spread another layer of filling on top, and top with another layer of bananas. 


Finish with a final layer of filling. Press a piece of plastic wrap to the surface of the filling (careful not to cover the crust or it will become soggy), and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Serve topped with whipped cream.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Using Ricotta Cheese Whey In Baking

  I have been making my own Ricotta Cheese for a few months now and, until yesterday, never took the time to figure out what to do with the whey that remains once the curds are strained. I was certain there were some good uses, but what I found astounded me. Whey is a complete protein with tons of fantastic benefits. Whey can be given to cats and dogs to help their coat stay shiny, can be used to water plants, can be used in place of water when cooking rice or noodles to add flavor, but best of all, is a fantastic substitute for liquids in baking breads (it substitutes straight-up for milk or water, cup for cup). A light clicked on in my head, and I realized that I had been dumping something magical down my sink every time I made ricotta cheese. Well, that won't be happening again! Whey can be stored in glass jars (with the lid on) in the fridge for several weeks, so you better believe, that's what I'll be doing.

  Yesterday I decided to try making a recipe for Pinto Bean Bread. Check out how it went!

Make The Perfect Pie Crust Every Time!

  I have to thank my wonderful mother for having the patience to teach me (at quite a young age) the skills required to make a perfect pie crust. I learned from the best-the woman won many blue ribbons at state fairs for her apple pie, and much of that had to do with her fantastic crust. Here are the rules she taught me:

  Use a fork to combine the shortening, salt and flour until it forms thick crumbs (you want chunks of shortening to remain-it gives the dough a flaky, buttery-ness)


  Use ice cold water, and not too much of it (sprinkle it in a little at a time, just until the dough comes together)

  Roll the dough out on a well-floured surface. The circumference of the dough should be about 1 1/2" bigger (all the way around) than your pie pan-any bigger and your crust will be too thin to hold it's own against your filling.

  Roll your dough up onto a rolling pin (or fold in fourths) and place it in the pie pan, leaving an even over-hang all the way around. Fold the ends under and into the pan. Crimp the edges. Here's where you can choose for yourself how to bake it. For some reason I have yet to buy pie weights, and I have a real problem wasting dry beans for this, so I simply poke the crust all over with a fork and bake it. Now, sometimes doing this results in my crust shrinking a little, but not so much that I've changed my ways. Maybe someday I'll suck it up and buy some pie weights.
  Bake at 375 degrees for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown (over-baking will result in a very dry crust).

  And the most important rule of all (In my mother's words): "It's not playdough"; meaning don't "work" the dough. You want to handle the dough as little as possible. Your reward for not playing with your food will be the most flaky, buttery crust you've ever eaten in your life!

My mother's pie crust recipe (double-crust):
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butter-flavored shortening
dash salt
(I add 1 tsp. sugar because I love the extra burst of flavor)
ice water (use sparingly)

Watch for my Vanilla Bean Banana Cream Pie to follow (it's why I chose to demo a single-crust for this post).

THRIVE With The Basics Giveaway

  I've talked a little about the THRIVE foods I use and sell. Well, now you have a chance to try some for yourself! Check out my giveaway on Thrive With The Basics (Click the link in the banner below).

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Summer-Squash Fritters

2-3 cups zucchini or yellow squash (I use a combination of both), coarsely grated
¼-½  medium onion, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup flour
¼ cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ tsp salt
Pepper to taste
Cooking oil for frying

  Combine all ingredients in a bowl and set aside for 5-10 minutes. Stir. Pour about 2” of oil in the bottom of a large frying pan and heat to about 300 degrees. Drop fritter batter by rounded tablespoons into oil and fry on both sides until golden brown (the key is to not cook these too quickly as they will be doughy in the middle). Drain on paper towels and serve immediately. Makes 12 (3-inch) fritters. Note: Great dipped in Ranch dressing.

I'm Behind Again!

  As my sister Michelle so kindly pointed out yesterday, I've fallen behind again. I will let you know now, I am prepping for the wedding of one of my other sisters (I'm doing the wedding cake and food for the garden reception), so my posts may be few and far between over the next couple weeks. I do have some new recipes to share today, though.

  These were even more delicious than I thought they would be. I wanted to try them simply because they sounded good. I was a little hesitant, however, about the amount of honey in the recipe giving the cookies a distinct honey taste instead of a rich, delicious brownie flavor. I was wrong. The honey gave it just the right sort of bite.
  I also decided to try doing half the batch rolled in sugar and the other half sans-sugar. I was concerned that the combination of lot's of honey and a cookie rolled in sugar would be so overwhelmingly sweet, it would be hard to eat just one (ultimately it turns out that might not be so bad, as I ate 4 cookies last night alone).Wrong again. We ended up loving the sugar-covered cookies, and the plain ones as well. All-in-all a great cookie choice!