Archive for July, 2011

July 30, 2011

S’mores Cupcakes


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.


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


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!



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.


July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

As we celebrate the USA’s birthday I’m sure you are all cooking up a storm (or grilling up a storm). I sure am!

Ribs were the centerpiece to my meal. My favorite grilled meat! This recipe is posted on my site earlier so I won’t re-post it but will direct you to the recipe for Smoked Ribs.

With a simple side salad and baked beans….MMMMMMMM.


(Aren’t these carrots crazy? Purple on the outside and orange on the inside – there are a few white carrots too – they taste the same as a regular carrot. They came in my CSA basket this week – yum…along with some chopped mixed baby greens, cucumber and broccoli)

Oh and not to forget my favorite new cocktail! I am working on the name but for now we call it Watermelon Vodka Juice…puree watermelon in a blender and strain (leave a little pulp if you’d like). Add the juice of 2 lemons or 3 limes, 3/4 cup pineapple juice and 2T simple syrup, you can add a 1/2 vodka here or I keep the juice separate so my daughter can have a watermelon drink too. In a glass with ice (I used lemon ice cubes) pour 2oz of your favorite vodka, pour the watermelon juice 3/4 of the way up your glass then top it off with something fizzy like 7up/Sprite, ginger ale, or club soda…stick a straw in it you’re done!


Hope everyone out there enjoyed their 4th of July!