October 31, 2011

Ghosties Cupcakes

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We have been reading the “Three Little Ghosties” book by Pippa Goodhart, this Halloween. It has best illustrations! (by AnnaLaura Cantone"). This is where I got the name for these cute little cupcake treats.

For my daughter’s Halloween Party at school we were assigned a dozen cupcakes. For this recipe I used my Chocolate Cake recipe and Vanilla frosting recipe:

Chocolate Cake

2  cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 package of instant chocolate pudding (only the powder)
1 1/4 c. milk
2 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks room temperature butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350

Whisk together flour, baking powder, pudding powder and salt. Measure out the milk, set aside.

With an electric mixer in a large bowl combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time allowing each to incorporate well before moving on to the next ingredient.

Incorporate the dry ingredients and milk by alternating – half of the dry ingredients and half of the milk.

Use a small ice cream scoop for the cupcake batter. It makes the perfect size cupcakes. Scoop a heaping scoop of the batter into each cup. Stick one Reese’s miniature peanut butter cup in the middle of the batter in each cup.

Bake for 18-20 minutes. (The time will depend on your oven.  Since moving and changing ovens I have had to cook these for 21 minutes otherwise they deflate because they aren’t cooked thoroughly.)

 

Vanilla Buttercream

1/2 cup shortening (used the Crisco stick because it’s easier to measure)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup) – room temperature
4 cups confectioners sugar
2-4 T. whole milk
1 T. vanilla extract

In a stand mixer, beat the shortening and butter together, add the vanilla bean and extract.  Incorporate the sugar gradually – 1c. at a time. Once sugar is incorporated (it will look dry) add the milk 1 tablespoon at a time until you get the consistency you like. It will be about 2-3T for a medium consistency.

Cover with a wet cloth while not in use, or place in the fridge if you plan on using it much later.

Use a cake decorating bag or a zip lock bag and spoon in the frosting. Cut a big sized corner off the bag. Pipe on the ghosties by holding your bag straight up and down and squeeze some frosting in a spiral motion onto the cupcake. You can also squeeze the frosting out and press down a little then back up and then down again, repeating this action.  

Eyes & Mouth

Melt some of your favorite milk or dark chocolate in the microwave (at 30 second intervals stirring each interval until completely melted) or melt in a double boiler (I use a small pot with a few inches of simmering water, and a metal mixing bowl that is big enough to sit on the pot, not in it).

Allow the chocolate to cool enough to handle.  Pour your chocolate into a zip lock baggie, cut a super small tip off the corner of the bag and pipe on the eyes and mouth. Using dots for the eyes and different shapes for the mouths – oval, sad, circular – filled in solid with chocolate.

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September 29, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower and White Bean Pasta

One of my go-to dishes during the winter. It is meatless so you can feel good about going meatless one night a week. Cannellini beans are low-fat, packed with fiber (10g) and a 3oz portion has 10% of your daily value of iron (about the same amount of iron found in a 3oz portion of beef) and the cauliflower is a great source of vitamin C.

You know there is always that debate about how to cook your vegetables – steam, boil, microwave, roast. Truth is it varies. For example (I got this off Dr. Weil’s website),

“A study published in the November 2003 issue of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that broccoli cooked in the microwave lost up to 97 percent of its antioxidant content but lost only 11 percent when it was steamed. Another study showed that spinach cooked in the microwave retained nearly all its folate but lost about 77 percent of this nutrient when cooked on the stove.

The one consistent thing I read is that how MUCH or LONG you cook your veggies usually determines how much nutrients are lost. If you overcook vegetables (they are mushy), you are losing many more nutrients, than if you cook them to a tender crisp. I keep most of my vegetables tender- crisp. I am no nutritionist, I do read a lot about food on my quest to learn “how” to properly prepare foods, so count this as my own, unprofessional, conclusion.  Bottom line, though, as long as you are eating vegetables regularly you will be healthier in general!

If you want to learn more about properly cooking vegetables Alice Waters: The Art of Simple Food is a great vegetable cooking guide!

1 head cauliflower
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 shallot
½ box spaghetti noodles
1 can cannellini beans (or other white bean)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
½ cup shredded parmesan

(You could also use a can of garbanzo bean and roast them with the cauliflower to mix it up – roasted garbanzos are a great snack or mix them with roasted chicken and tomatoes – they are really good!)

Take a head of cauliflower, pull it apart and then cupt it up into bite-sized pieces. Coat the pieces lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with some salt and pepper and toss.  Roast the cauliflower in a 450° oven for about 15 minutes, or until it starts to brown. (all ovens are different you make take more or less time)

Meanwhile cook spaghetti noodles according to the package directions, reserve 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water when draining the noodles.

Put 2T. Olive oil in the pot and sauté the shallots for 2 minutes. Add the roasted cauliflower and sauté for another minute more.

Drain a can of cannellini, or other white beans. Now add the beans, cooked pasta, and reserved pasta water to the pan and toss. Finish the pasta off with chopped parsley and serve with parmesan cheese and a light salad. (You can add many more vegetables to this dish if you’d like – zucchini, squash, eggplant, just roast with the cauliflower)

(and my daughters slight addition – avocado. To her, avocados goes with EVERYTHING!)

(NOTE: I am going to replace these awful photos with new ones when I make this recipe this week! Ones with nice natural lighting instead of this ugly yellowish lighting – these were taken indoors last winter pre-off camera flash and softbox days). — As promised – 100 times better, right! :)

September 25, 2011

Weekly Menu September 25-October 1

First off, I cannot believe October is in the title of this post! Really?! the holidays are about to begin?!

Okay, now, Weekly Menus! Now that this Summer-thing is out of the way and moving and unpacking are almost complete, I want to start up the weekly menu share again. So here it is…

Sunday 

- Pot Roast (my grandma Kamon’s recipe – tweaked)

Monday  

- Chicken Noodle Soup (my daughter’s favorite and she’s sick this week so we are busting this favorite out)

Tuesday 

- Turkey Tetrazzini (my good friend Linda brought me some of her Tetrazzini…Mmm can’t wait to eat it!)

Wednesday 

- Roasted Cauliflower and white bean pasta

Thursday 

- Balsamic and brown sugar slow cooked pork roast  (New recipe!) with roasted Brussels sprouts (if I can find any…no luck yet!)

Friday 

- Pasta Puttanesca with a simple salad and  vinaigrette

This is our usual “eat out” night, but since we have done that so much while packing and moving I’ll save it for another week.

Saturday 

- Grilled Marinated Chicken with grilled zucchini

September 7, 2011

Cinnamon Bun Popcorn

(recipe from Just Get off Your Butt and Bake)

This recipe is a fantastic idea for teacher gifts. My daughter and I made this for her teacher on the first day of Kindergarten. Crispy, sweet, cinnamon-spiced popcorn with a creamy chocolatey swirl is such a perfect snack. Seriously, it almost did not make it to the teacher. Actually I’m pretty glad that we were giving it away because my daughter and I would have eaten it all in minutes. My mom took some home and instead of sharing with my dad and brother, she saved it for herself. Really it is that good.

This would work really well as a Halloween treat for a costume party, or to give away as Fall treats! However, I would eat this at any time of the year and it would make me smile. What will make you smile is that this is very easy to make.

Cinnamon Bun Caramel Corn

12 cups of Popped Popcorn (1 cup of kernels)

1 cup nuts (optional) – cashews, almonds, peanuts, pecans

1 Cup Brown Sugar

1/2 Cup Karo Syrup

a pinch of salt

1 stick or cube of Real Butter

1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)

1 teaspoon Vanilla

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Almond bark, vanilla chips or white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 250 degrees

Pop your popcorn – I use my air popper so that there isn’t the added oil from popping in a pan and it cuts down on the hard kernels too. You could even use microwave popcorn, but I’m not sure how buttered microwave popcorn would taste. Remove any kernels.

You will need about 12 cups of popcorn.

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Once melted add your brown sugar, Karo Syrup and salt.

Over medium heat melt the butter and sugar (You can do this part in a microwave by cooking in 2 minute intervals and stirring until completely melted).

While the butter and sugar are cooking get the vanilla, cinnamon and baking soda ready. Once the sugar and butter are melted, remove from heat and add these last three ingredients. The caramel will lighten in color and sort of poof up…this is good!

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Pour the caramel over the popcorn in a very large bowl (or a few big bowls if you don’t have one large). Toss the caramel and popcorn until completely coated (oh and you can add nuts at this point too).

Place your pan or pans in a preheated 250 degree oven.

Stir every 5 minutes and rotate pans. The recipe I used said to cook for 20 minutes for crunchy corn, I think it was more like 30-35 minutes.

Remove the popcorn from the oven and lay out on wax paper on the counter to cool. It will get crunchier as it cools.

Now you can melt the white chocolate and drizzle over all the popcorn – as little or as much as you’d like.

Cinnamon Bun Caramel Corn 1

~Enjoy~

Amanda

September 5, 2011

Easy 5-step Baby Back Ribs

RIB FAIRY DUST (Just for those guys out there…)
3T. Kosher Salt
3T black pepper
2T brown sugar
1T paprika
2T garlic powder
1T onion powder
2t. mustard powder
dash of cayenne (or more if you like the heat)

Easy Baby Back Ribs

While these ribs do take a couple hours to cook, they are simple and do not require much attention or preparation.

1.  Pull off the membrane from underneath each rack of ribs and cut each rack in half.

2.   Coat the ribs evenly with the spice rub, making sure to get both sides.

(At this point you can place the ribs in a glass baking dish cover the ribs and allow them to sit overnight. Or you can move on to the next step.)

3.  Wrap each rack in foil.

(place one piece of foil on the bottom and one on top. Crunch the sides together, leaving room for any steam to move around in the packet.)

4.  Bake for 1 1/2 hours @ 325 degrees.

(Place the ribs in a glass baking dish or on a baking sheet so any drips are not caught by the bottom of your oven)

5.  Once your ribs are done, remove them from the foil.  Finish directly on the grill until both sides are crisp and the rub starts to sizzle.

(If you like barbecue sauce on your ribs, add the sauce during this step. With the grill on med-low, add sauce to the top side of your ribs, close the lid and cook for a 2-3 minutes. Turn and coat the bottom half of your ribs, close the lid and cook a few minutes more. Repeat this step until you have a good layer of caramelized barbecue sauce on your ribs. (2 or 3 times).)

Some people par boil their ribs, but here my opinion why to avoid this method…boiling meat pulls the flavor out of the meat and into the water. Boiling  meat is for making rich Stocks, not to barbecue meat – would you boil a great Ribeye? Remember, tender meat comes from meat that is cooked low and slow over indirect heat, not from the boiling process. Have you ever cooked anything too long in the crock pot and found it was dried out although liquid was in the pot? Yep liquid can dry out meat. It also pulls the flavor from your meat, that is why most roasts call for wine, tomato sauce, or stock to add flavor to the meat while cooking low and slow.

However, If you insist on the boil method, I can attest that ribs do come out tasty, but think how much tastier they could be cooked in their own juices? 

-Enjoy

Amanda

August 30, 2011

School Snack Time

 

My daughter started Kindergarten this year! Yes, I am very excited about her being in school, probably as excited as my daughter. As a child, I loved school, especially the beginning of the year! Meeting new friends, teachers, organizing your new backpack and wearing those new clothes that you picked out weeks ago but only got to admire on hangers. A fresh start to a new year was exciting.

My daughter’s first day of kindergarten went smoothly, without emotional breakdown (not that I suspected my daughter would have any problems). She got to go to the “big kid” school, ride the “big van” at daycare and made a new friend. What an accomplished week for my little Kindergartener.  This year she goes to daycare before lunchtime at school so I do not have to make lunches, daycare provides lunch.  However, we do have to send a healthy snack for the morning at school.  So, my daughter and I sat down and made a list of healthy foods she likes and we made a quick reference guide when preparing snacks (I’m a list kind of person, I cannot live without them, they make sense of my world): carrots, apples with peanut butter, whole wheat saltines with peanut butter and jelly, cheese crackers, raisins, air-popped popcorn, fruit cups (homemade), and homemade granola bars.

You know me, if you read my blog, and I like to make everything from scratch. That is the only way to know, really, what is in my daughter’s food. So instead of store bought granola bars, I make homemade bars and send them to school with her. I pack them with high energy ingredients (do little kids really need more energy? yes, yes they do) and less sugar than in the store-bought bars. I use Alton Brown’s recipe – really anything he makes I trust, he’s the science guy of food.

GRANOLA BARS

(adapted from Alton Brown’s Granola Bars)

8 ounces old-fashioned rolled oats, approximately 2 cups

1 1/2 ounces raw sunflower seeds, approximately 1/2 cup

3 ounces sliced almonds, approximately 1 cup

1 1/2 ounces wheat germ, approximately 1/2 cup

6 ounces honey, approximately 1/2 cup

1 3/4 ounces dark brown sugar, approximately 1/4 cup packed

1-ounce unsalted butter, plus extra for pan

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 1/2 ounces chopped dried fruit, any combination of apricots, cherries or blueberries.

Other Add-ins: chocolate chips, marshmallows, peanut butter, cinnamon chips any combination your heart desires.

Nonstick cooking spray

Butter a 9 by 9-inch glass baking dish and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In place of the first four ingredients, I used about 3-4 cups of my own homemade granola that was already made. If you are not using granola, spread the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, and wheat germ onto a half-sheet pan. Place in the oven and toast for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, combine the honey, brown sugar, butter, extract and salt in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until the brown sugar has completely dissolved.

Once the oat mixture is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees F. Immediately add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture, add the dried fruit, and stir to combine. Turn mixture out into the prepared baking dish and press down, evenly distributing the mixture in the dish and place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Hope all of you out there enjoy this healthy snack!

August 18, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup—Cupcakes

This, my friends, will make you weak in the knees if you like chocolate, peanut butter, especially the two combined. Funny enough I know a guy, he doesn’t like peanut butter and chocolate – I think someone needs to check his frontal lobe for injury or maybe his medulla oblongata needs adjusting!

Moving on…this was a fun cupcake to make. I was inspired by Amanda Cupcake (it must be in the name!) who made milky way cupcakes and melted milky way candy bars and added it to her frosting—so many ideas went fleeting through my head, but first this one…Reese’s PB Cups!

 

Chocolate Cake

(makes about 30 cupcakes)

2  cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 package of instant chocolate pudding (only the powder)
1 1/4 c. milk
2 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks room temperature butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs

1 bag Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups miniatures

1 bag Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups minis (the smallest of them all)

Preheat oven to 350

Whisk together flour, baking powder, pudding powder and salt. Measure out the milk and add the vanilla to the milk, set aside.

With an electric mixer in a large bowl combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time allowing each to incorporate well before moving on to the next ingredient.

Incorporate the dry ingredients and milk by alternating – 1/3 of the dry ingredients and 1/3 of the milk. Once all the milk and dry ingredients are mixed beat the batter for a minute or two.

Use a small ice cream scoop for the cupcake batter. It makes the perfect size cupcakes. Scoop a heaping scoop of the batter into each cup. Stick one Reese’s miniature peanut butter cup in the middle of the batter in each cup.

Bake for 18 minutes.

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Peanut Butter Ribbon

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Mix ingredients together in a sauce pan. Heat over low heat stirring constantly until peanut butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.  Set and aside and cool, while making the frosting.

Melted PB Cups for Frosting

Melt 1/2 cup of peanut butter cups with a little heavy cream over low heat until completely melted. Set aside and cool while making the frosting.

Peanut Butter Buttercream

1/2 cup shortening (used the Crisco stick because it’s easier to measure)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup) – room temperature
4 cups confectioners sugar
2-4 T. whole milk
1 T. vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter ribbon (recipe below)

In a stand mixer, beat the shortening and butter together, add the vanilla bean and extract.  Incorporate the sugar gradually – 1c. at a time. Once sugar is incorporated (it will look dry) add the peanut butter ribbon and milk 1 T. at a time until you get the consistency you like. It will be about 2-3T for a medium consistency.

At this point you may cover with a wet cloth while not in use, or place the frosting in the fridge if you plan on using it much later.

In your pastry/frosting bag (or Ziploc with the corner cut off) drizzle a little peanut butter ribbon down one side of the bag and a little of the melted peanut butter cups down the other side, just enough coat the side of the bag. Don’t let the two pool at the bottom of the bag or you’ll have a giant glop of the candy without frosting. You want the candy to swirl in the frosting…this is fun!

Pipe on the frosting with your favorite tip (or if using a Ziploc cut the tip as big as you prefer for decorating).

Use the new Peanut Butter Cup minis (in the candy isle) to top.

~Enjoy

Amanda

August 16, 2011

Entertaining with Spanish Tapas

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Yes, I have super slacked this summer on my blog. While writing this post I can’t even come up with a good title. I am stumped or something. Maybe the lazy days of summer have got me, maybe our hectic schedule lately has tripped me. But one thing is certain, I have just plain not wanted to cook much. The heat has made me not want to be around any household appliance that produces heat.   Yes, severely lacking motivation has not helped. Whatever this “down” period is, it can just go back to where it came from, from under a rock somewhere. I suppose everyone goes through periods where they are unmotivated, and the summer is probably the biggest killer for cooking activities.  Hot weather and it seems your daily activities get longer with the daylight so by the time you get home, you’re extra worn out.  With this post I am trying to kick it in gear and get back on track. I might be moving soon (again, yes) and my daughter is starting Kindergarten, so there are lots of big events ahead.  Lots of exciting events on the horizon. Instead of being emotional about my baby beginning school, I am actually really excited. Spending time helping out in her classroom, doing homework, hearing about her days making new friends and learning new things and making lunches—fun stuff. I’m that nerd who loved school – organizing my binders and pencils, excited for what I was going to learn the next year. And is it just me or did everyone love elementary school?  The signs of summer coming to an end are bittersweet. Meaning the start of my favorite cooking season – autumn/fall, meaning I can break out my beautiful Le Creuset  to stew and braise, and bake warm comforting foods.  Those traditional fall flavors for baking, such as: apple—cinnamon, cinnamon—pecan, cranberry—orange, pumpkin, and maple, make my eyes sparkle.  Don’t get me wrong I love summer and it did start late this year, but by the end of summer I am ready for the fall. The transitional seasons are really my favorite. It is like we get a fresh start on a new journey.   

This past weekend I had a little party (one of those hosted candle parties—let me know if you want to order anything…ha ha ha) and I made some Spanish Tapas to go along. Here are a few of my favorite things!

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Feta Stuffed Mushrooms

Clean Mushrooms and remove stems. Toss with garlic and olive oil. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven add Feta (there will be some liquid in the caps just dump it) Sprinkle some crumbled feta. Cook for another 10-minutes.

Remove from oven and drizzle with olive oil

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Shrimp Pil Pil

In a sauté pan over medium heat, add 1T olive oil and 1tsp. red pepper flakes. Once the oil is hot add 1 T minced garlic stirring fast add 1lb raw peeled shrimp and 1/4 cup white wine. Stir shrimp until they are opaque – not completely cooked through (they will cook while they sit). You don’t want rubbery shrimp!

 

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Roasted Tomato Tapenade

(Adapted from Emeril Lagasse…Farm to Fork)

1 1/2 lbs Roma tomatoes (I used heirlooms fresh from the Farmer’s Market)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 springs thyme

3 springs fresh marjoram

3 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1/4 cup kalamata olives

1 tablespoon capers

Preheat 450 degrees

Slice tomatoes in half. Mix the tomatoes, olive oil, minced garlic, and oil in a bowl. Lay cut side of tomatoes down on a nonreactive sheet pan with the herb sprigs. Roast for 20 minutes. Set aside until tomatoes are cool enough to handle.

Place tomatoes with garlic and any juice in a food processor or blender.  (discard the whole herb sprigs). Add vinegar, olives, and capers and blend, but leave it a bit chunky. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. (Will keep for up to one week).

This tapenade was the hit of all of it. It is really good with a sliced roasted pepper or some marinated olives and a little soft ripened cheese! Yum!

~Enjoy~

Amanda

July 30, 2011

S’mores Cupcakes

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That classic summertime, campfire dessert. A gooey mix of melted chocolate, toasty marshmallow and crunchy graham crackers. This is one of the things I most look forward to each camping trip – you cannot camp without eating S’mores! That would be criminal.

As much as I love summer, and S’mores, it’s only natural that I create a special summertime cupcake! I spent a lot of time searching the web, looking at recipes and photos deciding how I thought best to represent S’mores in a cupcake form. I saw everything from a graham cracker crust (similar to a cheesecake) with chocolate cake and a marshmallow on top to a chocolate cupcake with marshmallow crème with graham cracker crumbs sprinkled on top.

I really wanted that graham cracker flavor but the texture of melted chocolate and gooey marshmallow – to stay true to S’mores. So I decided to go with a graham cracker flavored cake, replacing some of the flour with ground graham crackers. Then topping the cake with Nutella (the texture is just like melted chocolate and it tastes so good) and using my favorite Meringue frosting and torching it – which is a good reason on its own to make these cupcakes!

(Note you could also use marshmallow crème in place of the meringue. Pipe the crème on and then torch it)

Graham Cracker Cupcake Recipe

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup ground graham cracker
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 c. milk
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. room temperature butter
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350°

In a food processor, process the graham crackers until you have a fine powder.

Whisk together flour, ground graham cracker , baking powder, and salt.  Separately mix milk and extract, set aside.

Combine butter and sugar in a large bowl or in a stand mixer. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time allowing each one to incorporate well before moving on.

Incorporate the dry ingredients and milk by alternating – half of the dry ingredients and half of the milk.

Use a small ice cream scoop for the cupcake batter, heaping scoops so the cup is about 3/4 of the way full. It makes the perfect size cupcakes.

Bake for 18 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

If I told you that this recipe for Meringue is from chef Thomas Keller, the chef of two 3-star Michelin rated restaurants: The French Laundry and Per Se, you might be inclined to skip the frosting and choose the Marshmallow crème. Please don’t! It is not as difficult as you may think. The recipe is, after all, in Chef Keller’s Ad Hoc at home cookbook – for the home cooks (ambitious cooks). This is a fantastic meringue for frosting, lemon bars, lemon tarts and lemon pies! I highly recommend at least attempting this frosting…then you can say you are able to cook like a 3-star Michelin chef (wink wink).

Meringue Frosting

1 ¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon water

3 large egg whites, at room temperature

½ teaspoon of vanilla extract (if using for frosting)

Combine 1 1/14 cups of the sugar and the water in a medium sauce pan and heat over medium heat to 220°, stirring at first to dissolve the sugar. (Note the syrup will boil vigorously and become very clear when it reaches this temperature, still use a thermometer).

Meanwhile, in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed until they begin to look foamy, then gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of sugar. Increase the speed to medium-high and whip until the whites form soft peaks.

With the mixer running, slowly add the sugar syrup, pouring it down the side of the bowl to avoid the whisk. Add the vanilla, if using, and continue to whip until stiff peaks form and the bowl is cool.

Assembly

Cool the cupcakes. Spread some Nutella onto the cupcakes (while resisting the urge to lick the spatula)

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Pipe the meringue onto the cupcakes, leaving enough of the chocolate showing for the S’mores look. Fire up the torch and toast the tops!

~Enjoy~

Amanda

July 11, 2011

Pesto Pasta Salad

(NOTE: since the publishing of this post, it was accepted to Tastespotting, Foodgawker is still pending. I get so frustrated with those sites sometimes, but it sure is satisfaction when they accept my photos – a challenge!)

During the summer the easy no fuss side dishes are a must-have! Nobody wants to turn on the stove or oven and heat up the house in the middle of summer. A foodie included! While a friend and I were roaming the Farmer’s Market this past weekend, she recalled one of the vendors who made a pasta salad with pesto and toasted pine nuts. She said she sometimes that salad was her only reason for going to the Market. However, there was no sign of the pesto and toasted pine nut salad in sight; so we decided to make our own version.

There was a cheese in the salad that after making this version with mozzarella, we realized the salad at the Market probably had Ricotta Salata. So, maybe that would be a good addition to this salad. We’ll try it out next time.

 

1lb pasta (Campenelli used in the photo above, pesto clings best to textured pastas – getting in all the nooks and crannies)

8oz fresh bocconcini mozzarella (fresh mozzarella)

1 cup pesto (homemade or your favorite store bought)

1 cup sliced grape tomatoes

1/2 very finely sliced red onion

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Cook pasta according to directions on the box, making sure to season the water generously with salt. (think sea water. While the pasta is cooking is the only opportunity to infuse the pasta with flavor).

While the pasta is cooking, toast the pine nuts, thinly slice the onions and cut up the tomatoes. I like to quarter the tomatoes and the larger tomatoes I will cut the quarters in half.

For the cheese, I pull pieces off the ball of cheese rather than cutting it, that gives the pieces a “rustic” feel and the chucks of cheese wrap around the pasta.

Once the pasta is done cooking, strain it and rinse it immediately with cold water. Add the pesto and stir until all the pasta is coated. Then add the onion, tomatoes and cheese and toss.

Sprinkle the top with toasted pine nuts and garnish with fresh basil leaves.

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