Monday, March 31, 2008

Carrot cake cupcakes

It is cupcake week on Martha Stewart this week! I cannot explain why, but this makes me so very happy. I think I need something to take my mind off of the fact that it is Opening Day today and I am 585 miles from my team. I guess that is ok, since I really disliked everything else about living in Detroit. Regardless, I love cupcakes. There is just something so sweet about your own little cake (or two). I cannot wait to see all the cute cupcakes Martha has to share this week. I made these on Saturday. I did a lot on Saturday. Really too much and made myself sick. Anyway, obviously, I did not make mini cupcakes but the full sized variety. I fully intended to make adorable little spring toppers, but other things took precedence. My husband and I ate all 12 of these in 2 days. The maple cream cheese frosting is really heavenly. I used golden raisins since I had them and they are a nice addition! Can you tell how much I like these cupcakes?

Orzo with bacon, sundried tomatoes, and asparagus

I love dishes where the name is the recipe. This is orzo with bacon, sundried tomatoes, and asparagus and that is what is in there. My 8th wedding anniversary was on Friday and I wanted to make something nice for the man who married me. We had this orzo along with a stuffed chicken similiar to this one here.

For the orzo -
1/2 pound box orzo
5 strips of bacon cooked crisp and the fat reserved
1 bunch of slender asparagus cut into bite size pieces and tough ends discarded
4 ounces of sundried tomatoes, rinsed of oil and cut into strips
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 tablesponns Italian parsley, chopped
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Cook the orzo in well salted water and drain. Heat reserved bacon fat in a large saute' pan over medium heat and add the asparagus. Season with salt and pepper. Saute' until cooked and slightly browned. Normally I blanche asparagus and then saute' but lately I have had good luck finding nice tender stalks of asparagus. Add cooked orze, sundried tomatoes, and parsley and saute' until heated through. Finish with olive oil and bacon.

Some nice additions would be pinenuts and fresh thyme. Also, I make this sometimes without the asparagus and tomatoes but add in petite peas and basil instead.

Friday, March 28, 2008

It went something like this...

Me: "Come on stroganoff, is that all you've got? Can't you give me pretty? Give me pretty... "
Stroganoff: "..."
Me: "Sassy maybe? Sassy... you can do sassy..."
Stroganoff: "..."
Me: "Ok, anything but being brown and just being brown... anything????"
Stroganoff: "..."

So, I had to come to terms with the fact that Beef Stroganoff is not photogenic. At all. It is like the ugly step sister of saucy, sauteed meat dishes. Actually, I always felt sorry for the ugly step sisters... maybe if that kingdom far far away wasn't so consumed with physical beauty, they might have been well adjusted, sweet, less than gorgeous women. Hmmm, I digress. The point here is that this Stroganoff tasted so much better than it looks. Oh, it was heavenly. While I was making it, I realized that I have never once (never ever) written the recipe down. That is one of the perks of going to culinary school - once you've made one saucy, sauteed meat dish, well, you can make another without really thinking about it. You just have to know what makes one different from another. That is a post for another day.

On a completely different note, my rag doll pattern from Gail Wilson Designs arrived in the mail yesterday. We were all really excited about it at my house. Ok, really only I was excited but I was excited enough for 2 people. I'm talking that "I cannot believe it's here" kind of excitement. Now that I think of it, the beagles were excited but only because I was excited. They are silly like that.

Beef Stroganoff - serves 6 or 4 really hungry folks

1 1/2 pounds beef top sirloin
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups beef stock (I like this one)
2 teaspoons prepared Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup sour cream (the full fat kind)
1/2 large (you know, the ones the size of a baseball) onion, thinly sliced
8 ounces of white, button mushrooms
1 pound wide egg noodles, cooked nice and tender in well salted water, drained and held warm
Chopped parsley

Over high-ish heat melt 1 tablespoons of butter and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan. Slice meat into 1/4-thick by 2 -inch long thin strips and season with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Add the meat to the pan in small batches so as to not overcrowd which results in boiling the meat. That's not good. You want to sear the meat to nice and brown. I did mine in 3 batches. Add more butter and oil as needed. Remove the meat from the pan and hold warm on a platter. Melt a little more butter in the pan. Add the sliced onion and mushrooms to pan, season with kosher salt and cracked pepper. Saute' until onions are tender and mushrooms are golden brown. Remove from pan and hold warm on a plate. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and whisk in flour and cook with flour 1 minute. Whisk in beef stock in 3 stages whisking lumps out and allowing it to come to a boil between each addition. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in mustard, paprika, chopped parsley, and sour cream, cook for 2 - 3 minutes over medium heat. Add meat, mushrooms and onions back in and heat through. Serve over egg noodles with good crusty bread.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Comfort food 2

Last summer, I taught my culinary campers to make stove top macaroni and cheese from Alton Brown's recipe here. I also make that at home occasionally. My husband asked for baked macaroni and cheese for Easter and I must admit that we eat it so rarely (since I am always trying to be on a diet) I had forgotten just how wonderfully fabulous this stuff really tastes. I know everyone has a recipe for this, but here is mine.

1/2 pound of elbow macaroni (I like Barilla brand since the elbows are ridged and slightly twisted thereby allowing them to hold more cheesy goodness to themselves)
3 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoons of flour
2 1/2 cups of whole milk
1 teaspoon of ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
14 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese
3 ounces of Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large pot of boiling, well salted water cook the pasta. I am not a big fan of al dente macaroni. I am an American and therefore like my macaroni cooked! Cook the macaroni to desired doneness, drain well and cool to room temperature. If you don't cool the macaroni and add it hot to the hot cheese sauce, it will absorb the cheese sauce and the final dish won't be saucy. I don't like that. I like it tender and saucy.
Meanwhile, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and whisk well for 3 minutes over medium heat. Stir in the milk in 3 stages whisking well after each addition. Simmer for ten minutes and add the hot sauce.
Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the cooked, drained, and cooled macaroni into the mix and pour into a casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown on top. Let this sit for 5 minutes before serving. Personally, I cannot wait that long to dive in with a spoon.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Comfort food

I bought this cookbook when I was 15 years old - in fact it was the first cookbook I ever bought. Needless to say many moons have past since I was 15 but I still have the cook book. In fact, even after 3 years of culinary school and 8 years as a professional cook and chef, I find myself consulting this book for basic recipes. I made buttermilk pancakes from this book this past weekend. Buttermilk pancakes are one of my all time favorite comfort foods. I grew up eating them cooked in a cast iron skillet with just enough oil added to give the pancakes a crispy edge (I am from the south). I made them for my husband this way shortly after we were married and now he just won't settle for anything else.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I found out a few days before Easter that I was responsible for the sunrise service snacks. I had plenty to say grace over already but if I am going to do a thing, I want to do it well. I made country ham biscuits, fruit salad with mint and honey and some Easter egg cookies. I had purchased some lovely daffodils on good Friday, so I was really loving the idea of yellow eggs, cookies, and decorations. Although I have no fewer that 6 cookbooks dedicated to just cookies, I used the sugar cookie and royal icing recipe here.

I didn't make these cupcakes...

I made better ones!
I saw this recipe made on Food tv a few weeks ago. I thought it was a great idea but honestly, I was appalled that the individual used a box cake mix for the cupcakes. So, I decided to make my own strawberry filled cupcakes with a vanilla cupcake made from scratch. The batter is made in the food processor and is not hard at all, so there is no reason to use boxed cake mix! Also, I made a traditional Royal icing since the recipe called for a cooked icing that should use a candy thermometer but didn't so I wouldn't consider it to be a fool-proof recipe. Here is my recipe:

Strawberry filled cupcakes

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon soft butter
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons milk

Take everything you need out of the fridge in time to get to room temperature - and this makes a huge difference to the lightness of the cupcakes later - and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put all of the ingredients for the cupcakes except for the milk into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Pulse while adding the milk down the funnel, to make a smooth dropping consistency.

Divide the mixture between a 12-bun muffin tin lined with muffin papers (here is a tip - spray the papers with non-stick spray to keep the cupcakes from sticking to the paper), and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. They should have risen and be golden on top. Let them cool a little in their tins on a rack, and then take them carefully out of the tin to cool in their papers, still on the wire rack.

1 (8-ounce) container cream cheese, chilled
1/2 cup thawed and drained frozen strawberries
1/4 cup sugar

In a food processor combine the cream cheese, strawberries, 1/4 cup sugar, and lemon juice. Process the mixture until smooth. Transfer the strawberry mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a small tip. Push the tip gently into the bottom of a cupcake and squeeze in the strawberry mixture until the cupcake plumps. Continue with the remaining cupcakes.


1 pound confectioner’s sugar

5 tablespoons of meringue powder or 2 large egg whites

Put sugar and meringue powder in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add a scant 1/2 cup water; beat on low speed until think and fluffy, 7 to 8 minutes. If icing is too thick to pipe easily, add a few drops of water. Use icing immediately, or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. Stir icing before using. Use a rubber spatula spread the icing on the top of the cupcakes. This icing will set up if applied thinly but will stay rather soft if applied thicker.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Seder dinner recipes II

Last night was the Seder dinner and I think it went really well. My little helpers were so sweet and worked very hard. Here are some more recipes from the dinner.

Carrots glazed with butter and balsamic
Serves 10

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (I used margarine to keep the meal kosher but would normally use butter for this)
3 1/2 pounds peeled baby carrots or regular carrots, peeled, cut into 2-inch pieces, halved lengthwise
6 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add carrots and sauté 5 minutes. Cover and cook until carrots are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes. Stir in sugar and vinegar. Cook uncovered until carrots are tender and glazed, stirring frequently, about 12 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add chives and toss to blend. Transfer to bowl and serve.

Toasty Coconut Macaroons

Makes about 40 cookies

4 large egg whites
Pinch salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 (8-ounce) package sweetened shredded coconut, lightly toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixer fitted with a whip attachment. Whip egg whites and salt until they become white and begin to stiffen. Add sugar in 3 parts. Continue to whip until the egg whites are very stiff. Using a rubber spatula fold in toasted coconut.
On parchment lined cookie sheets, drop a teaspoon of the mixture leaving 1 to 2 inches around each cookie. Place into the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. The outside should be golden brown but the insides should still be moist.

The girls from Culinary Camp (more to come) made these cookies last night. They did an awesome job. Making the meringue with a hand mixer is an exercise in patience and patience is a virtue and virtuous young ladies are lovely indeed. Charecter building through cookies - how wonderful.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Seder dinner recipes

I am committed (or perhaps should be committed) to making a Seder dinner for 30-ish people tomorrow night. I did a test run of the recipes at home, so I am feeling pretty confident that it should all turn out well. Not being Jewish (or is that being not-Jewish?), I really had no idea what I was doing in putting together the menu, so I did a little internet research. It seems lamb is not the meat of choice for a Seder meal as there is not a temple to make proper sacrifice; however, there is a lamb bone present in the liturgy of the meal. Of all the menus I read, there was some sort of citrus chicken, kosher potato dish and carrots. The meal is a balance of spice, sweet, and savory - balanced in that truly none of those is dominant.

Here is the menu:
Chicken soup with matzo balls
Orange spiced roast Cornish hens
Potato kugel
Balsamic glazed carrots
Coconut macaroons
Fruit salad with mint and honey

Here are some recipes:

Spiced orange roast Cornish hens
Serves 6
3 Cornish game hens, backbone and keel bone removed, then halved
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup honey
2 tsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. cumin
6 thin orange slices
Thinly sliced chives

Preheat to 375 degrees
Combine all but oranges slices and chives and marinate for at least 1 hour. Remove from marinade and season with salt and pepper. Arrange on baking sheet and top with each with an orange slice. Roast at 375 for 35 - 45 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Garnish with sliced chives. I lined the baking sheet with foil since I was not making a sauce from the drippings and the honey can get rather sticky and hard to clean up!

Potato Kugel
Serves 10
1/4 cup canola oil
6 large russet potatoes, peeled and left in cold water
3 medium onions, halved
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup Matzo meal
3 teaspoons kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Set the oven at 350 degrees. Pour the oil into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
With the grating blade of a food processor, grate the potatoes and onions, alternating one with the other. When the processor is filled, transfer the mixture to a bowl and continue with the next batch. Work quickly so the potatoes don't turn brown.
Remove the grater blade from the machine and insert the metal blade. Working in batches, return the grated potatoes and onions to the processor and pulse three times to chop the shreds. Transfer the mixture to a colander and press down firmly to remove excess liquid. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
Stir in the eggs, matzo meal, salt, and pepper.
Set the baking dish in the oven and heat it for 2 to 3 minutes or until it is very hot. Remove the dish from the oven and swirl the oil so it coats the bottom and sides of the dish.
Carefully transfer the potato mixture to the hot dish (the oil may splatter). Smooth the top. Bake for 50 minutes.
Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes (total cooking time is 60 to 65 minutes) or until the kugel is golden and cooked through. Cool slightly before cutting into squares.

I must admit that I have never made anything like this, even in culinary school. Honestly, the recipe and procedure are a little counter intuitive to everything I know about cooking and I was therefore a little skeptical. I am happy to say that it came out rather lovely. Crispy on the outside, creamy and lacy on the inside. I worked quickly so the potatoes would not turn grey. The flavor is delicate and simple. Goes well with the chicken above.

I will try to post the other recipes later today!

let there be light

I finally made this bottle into a lamp. A friend drilled a hole in it for me like last summer. I bought a lamp kit and my husband put it together for me but it has sat in a closet with no shade for months. I just couldn't find the perfect shade for it until last weekend at Kmart of all places. That Martha Stewart is always one step ahead of me.

My husband is planning to send this little lamp away to a friend for a wedding gift. The bottle is a Balzams bottle; Balzams is the official drink of Latvia; the friend is also from Latvia. Makes sense, no? Unfortunately, the lamp is so cute that I really want to keep it. I suppose it is always better to be generous.

On a completely different note, I promised recipes on this blog and will be posting some later today.

Monday, March 17, 2008

I love bunnies

I love him! I really love him... I wonder what the bunny killer that lives with me (also known as Pebbles the beagle) would make of a bunny bigger than she? I guess I could breed giant bunnies and find out...


Chocolate cake!

My husband's birthday was on March 1 but he was in Indiana, Ohio, or Pennsylvania on that day. I finally made him a cake this past weekend. I saw the recipe in Cooking Light but changed it up a little since I can't make anything without making it my own. Basically, I took all of the "light" out of it by using whole milk, more whole eggs, and adding chocolate shavings for the garnish. Also, I used coffee instead of chocolate liqueur in the glaze. If I make it again, I will increase the cocoa powder to 3/4 cup for a darker, richer chocolate taste. Here is my recipe for it...



2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup coffee
2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoons canola oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate minichips
1/2 ounce good quality semi-sweet chocolate bar, shaved with a peeler
tablespoons powdered sugar


1. To prepare glaze, combine first 4 ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Cool completely.

2. Preheat oven to 350°.

3. To prepare cake, drizzle oil into a 12-cup Bundt pan; coat pan thoroughly with a pastry brush. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons flour, shaking out excess. Coat prepared pan with cooking spray.

4. Place 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar and 6 tablespoons butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add eggs and egg whites, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

5. Lightly spoon 3 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 3 cups flour and next 4 ingredients (through salt), stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture and milk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition. Beat 2 minutes. Fold in chips. Spoon batter into prepared pan.

6. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately pour half of glaze over cake. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Invert cake onto a serving plate and brush with remaining glaze; cool completely. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons powdered sugar and chocolate shavings.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I thought I would start over with this blog thing. I made a previous attempt but failed at keeping it up. Mostly, I think I will post recipes here.

Here is a picture of my beagles waiting ever so patiently for my husband to come home. I love this picture, although the porch is entirely shabby looking.