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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I'm still recovering from my Valentine's Day baking fit.  Seriously.  I'm almost finished though, I promise. I wanted to end on a good note.  Well, a great note, actually!  These are by far one of my favorites for the sweets category, but I only make them a couple of times a year.

Red Velvet Cupcake

Pretty, isn't it!  Do you remember from my previous posts about the perfect chocolate cake from Hershey's?  Well, if not, let me remind you.  It's my favorite cake recipe to use and I wouldn't dare change it for the world, until now.  I've tried for years to make a red velvet cake recipe that tasted good, looked good and was moist, but held its shape.  I failed miserably each time.  Oh, I'd get it almost right, but the cake would be too moist, or too firm, but not just right.  Until now.

The original recipe is here, but I've adapted it to make my own version.  I don't like a really, really red cake.  It tends to stain your teeth, your clothes and your fingers, if you're so inclined to use them.  This is still red, but a deeper red and still pretty!

You'll need to preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.  Why not 350?  Well, I want the cupcakes to bake at a lower, slower temperature so that they bake evenly, and don't have any unsightly humps on them.  I know, that sounded really weird.

Red Velvet Cake Mix

2 cups granulated sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 small box of chocolate instant pudding mix
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup water

1 oz. bottle of red food coloring

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pudding mix.  Using a whisk, stir the dry ingredients until well incorporated.  In a second bowl, mix the wet ingredients (minus the food coloring) together.  Now, using a mixer on low-medium speed, slowly incorporate they dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  Once they're thoroughly incorporated, add the bottle of red food coloring, being careful not to splash it on you or your kitchen.  It stains!  If you prefer a brighter red, only use 1-2 Tbsp. of cocoa powder.

See, the color isn't too red, but you can still see what kind of cake it is!

Now here's the trick for really pretty cupcakes.  Using jumbo sized muffin tins, spray them with baking spray, placed a regular size cupcake liner in the pan and fill the liner almost 3/4 full of batter. This will result in about 18 thicker, wider cupcakes, versus the 24 you would normally get from a cake mix. Bake at 325 for about 18-20 minutes, until when tested with a toothpick, the pick comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes and gently move to a cooling rack to continue cooling.  Once cooled, get ready to frost them.  This frosting is so easy and it's my go-to recipe for red velvet and carrot cake recipes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick of butter, at room temperature
1 8 oz. block of cream cheese, at room temperature
2 lbs. confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar, if you please)
2 Tbsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. milk

In a mixing bowl, mix butter and cream cheese until incorporated.  Slowly add powdered sugar, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  About halfway through, add vanilla and milk, mix. Add remaining sugar and continue mixing.  If you want a variety of colors, split frosting into equal amounts and using food coloring, add a drop or two and mix until you get the desired shade.  I split mine into thirds but only used two colors.  The remainder will come in handy for another recipe!

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Using a large pastry bag with a jumbo open star tip, I started in the center of the completely cooled cupcake and literally just went in a circle to form the rosette.  On a couple of the cupcakes (in pink), the consistency wasn't right yet and it was just a pretty swirl.  I didn't get any complaints.  If you don't want to waste your pastry bags, you can create a variegated color on your cupcakes by simply putting the darker color in the same bag as the lighter colored frosting.  I squeezed out any excess white frosting that I didn't want to use and added the pink in the same bag.  Give it a light squeeze to get it started and the results are on the bottom right of the picture above.

These got rave reviews last night and I had a leftover one for breakfast this morning.  What?  It has cream cheese in it!  :P  Check back soon for the recipe for the leftover frosting OR you can simply load the cupcakes up with a really thick frosting and enjoy the whole batch!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Valentine's Day brings out a lot of emotions in people.  Some good, some not so good.  Mine were good, I hope yours were too!  I made a plethora of goodies yesterday to share and this one was so easy, I couldn't resist sharing it with you!  Well, I thought it was easy.

I purchased a bunch of strawberries and washed them, dried them and brought them to room temperature.  In a double boiler, I melted one bag each of Ghiradelli 70% cacao chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips and milk chocolate chips over really low heat, stirring occasionally.  Once it was almost melted, I added 3 Tbsp. vegetable shortening, to aid in thinning the chocolate.

So, I got this bright idea from Pinterest about making chocolate covered strawberries on a stick that looked like roses...ugh, FAIL!  Maybe with a toothpick inserted through the stem, but not a sucker stick.  I digress, sorry.

Line a large baking sheet with wax paper, place it close to where your melted chocolate is sitting and holding the stems back, dip the berry in as close as you dare, or prefer.  The stems on these berries were close to coming off, so I dipped a little over 3/4 the way.  Place on wax paper and allow to dry.  Repeat until done.

Now, to add the lovely red squiggles (ha ha...this tried to auto-correct me to lovely red squirrels-that would've been a whole other kind of blog!) simply take a bag of Wilton Candy Melts and melt them in the microwave per instructions.  Using a #3 or #4 round tip and a coupler, load melted candy into a pastry bag. Gently press the air out of the bottom of the bag and using a sweeping motion, drizzle the candy over the dipped strawberries.  You need to work fast because depending on the temperature of your hands and your kitchen, the candy starts to set up rather quickly and will harden!  I was able to decorate about 75 berries in less than 3 minutes.  By the 5 minute mark, the remnants of the candy had almost set up in the bag.
Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container until ready to serve-if they last that long!

Now, for these little beauties, well, you know what I mean!  Like I said above, the idea was to make the strawberries look like roses but I kind of failed.  Like miserably!  I tried the toothpick and even though I dipped it in melted chocolate and let it set up first, it didn't stay in the strawberry.  So, next, I tried cutting just the center of the strawberry stem out but it was time consuming.  I finally threw my hands up in frustration and cut the entire stem off and fed it to my goats!

So, I dipped the sucker stick in melted chocolate, inserted it into the strawberry and let it set.  Then, I carefully dipped the whole strawberry up to the stick in chocolate and gently tapped it against the side of the bowl to get rid of the excess.  Then I got tired of holding it to dry.  I mean it took forever!  :)  I tried to rig up a device to put them in and it failed too.  So, I laid it down on the wax paper and it set with an ugly flat side.  Oh well.  I repeated this many times over until I decided that I didn't like chocolate covered strawberries so much anymore!  When it came time to drizzle the rose buds onto the strawberry, I was completely out of patience and energy!  This is what I got!  Not bad, of course, I've opted not to show you the flat side!  I think if the stems had been left on, it might look like a rose from the top, but it doesn't matter.
What does matter is that they're way easier to eat than the traditional dipped strawberry!  I guess one could tie cute green ribbons at the base of the strawberry and call it a stem.  I don't know.  I most likely won't repeat that torture again!  I hope you take the time to at least do the dipped ones, even if you opt not to do the ones on a stick.  Enjoy!

Fried Apple Pies

Fried Apple Pies
I like to bake, I don't fry a lot.  Some folks thinks I'm strange that way, but I've never been a big fan of fried foods. Until now.  These might make a believer out of me!  They're so easy that it's not even funny!  Well, maybe a little.

You'll need the following:

1 can of jumbo biscuits (I like Pillsbury Grands)
4 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced (Granny Smith work really well!)
3 Tbs. butter
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp. cold water
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2-1" oil in a deep skillet (or a Fry Daddy, if you're so inclined)
1 egg
1 Tbsp. water

Melt butter in a skillet, peel and core apples, slicing thinly (or dicing if you prefer), cook until soft, adding cinnamon and sugar in the last 3-4 minutes of time.  Mix cornstarch and cold water in a shallow dish until lumps are gone and add into the apples.  Stir well, continuing to cook, until mixture starts to thicken slightly. Remove from heat. OR you can use a can of pie filling purchased at your local grocers.

In a second skillet, heat oil to 350-360 degrees F.  While the oil is heating, open biscuits and taking each one, roll out on a mat, until thin (like a small pie crust).  Place 2 Tbs. apple filling in each one.  In a small bowl, mix egg and water and beat with a fork.  Using a pastry brush, gently apply the egg wash around one inside edge of the crust before sealing.  Take a fork and using the tines, go around the pie, pressing down to seal it.

Once oil is heated to correct temperature, gently place two or three pies in the oil at a time, for 1-2 minutes each side.  Remove and drain on a paper towel.  Easy, huh!  I never knew!

Now, you don't have to do just apple pies.  You can use any pie filling of your choice!  What freedom!
Hope you enjoy them!

Hearty Winter Chili

Hearty Winter Chili

Hearty winter chili.  Mmmm.  What's the difference in that and let's say, a fall chili?  Usually when I make chili in the fall, it's got a southwest flavor to it, is filled with a variety of beans, corn, cheeses and chilies.  A winter chili, well, it's an old fashioned tomato based chili, full of ground beef, onions, garlic, cumin and pepper with a hefty dose of kidney beans and tomatoes. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

For the recipe, you'll need:

2 lbs. ground chuck
1 large white onion, chopped
Salt/pepper to taste
Drizzle of oil

In a large skillet, drizzled with oil, cook chopped onion until almost translucent.  Add ground chuck and brown, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Remove excess fat from mixture, and set aside once browned.

In a large pot, place 4 cups of tomato juice and add the following:

3 Tbs. chili powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt (if you use fresh vegetables, you may have to increase this amount to taste)
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tablespoon cumin powder
2 tsp. pepper (I prefer white)
Dash of ground ginger

Stir well and bring to a rolling boil.  Add hamburger and onion mixture and 2-15 oz. cans of kidney beans and a 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes (fresh if you have them available).
Return to heat, bring back to boil, turn heat to medium and simmer for 30-45 minutes, until thick.

Now, here's the kicker.  This chili is so versatile, that you can serve it however you like!  Here are some of my favorite ways:

  • Add a thick peanut butter sandwich on the side and a sprinkle of fresh, chopped parsley to the top
  • Add shredded cheddar cheese to the top and a smattering of saltines on the side
  • Add a scoop of salsa to the top and put some tortilla chips in the mix!
  • Now, this is a secret.  So, ssshh, don't tell anyone.  If your chili is a little too spicy for you, add a little peanut butter to it.  It calms it down and keeps a great flavor!  I've used sour cream before, but it seems to make it too light.
  • Last but not least, and my favorite, a thick, gooey, buttery grilled cheese sandwich.  Have the deli cut your cheese on a #4 (nice and thick), butter both sides of your Texas Toast, grill lightly, place cheese between hot slices and grill to perfection.  I like cheddar cheese, but I've been known to use Provolone, Mozzarella and Monterrey Jack cheeses instead.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013



What would the holidays be without these guys?  I've been making them for as long as I can remember and because they're so easy, I wanted to share my recipe with you.  I'm sure it's similar to others that you'll find, but it's sooo good!  Have fun making these holiday treasures!

You'll need:

12 oz. creamy peanut butter
8 oz. margarine (yes, I said it...for this recipe only!  I used Blue Bonnet Light)*
2 lbs. powdered sugar
1 bag Ghiradelli milk chocolate chocolate chips
1 bag Ghiradelli 60% cacao chocolate chips

Place chocolate chips in a double boiler.  I use a glass Pyrex bowl over a pan of simmering water (kept on the lowest heat setting).  It takes a while, but so does the mixing of the ingredients.

In a large bowl, mix peanut butter and margarine together.  *Why margarine?  It doesn't set up like butter does when it hits room temperature or colder and this creates a creamier version of buckeyes. If you like it firmer, substitute the same amount in butter, just bring it to room temperature before mixing.
Slowly combine powdered sugar into the mix until it's fully incorporated.

You can use an melon baller, small ice cream scoop or a spoon, but measure out mixture and roll into balls.  Place in a bowl or large container.  Place in fridge or freezer for at least 20 minutes before dipping.  Place wax paper on a sheet pan and as you dip the balls, place them on the pan.  You can dip them completely like I did, using two forks to turn the ball over, or place a toothpick in them, dip them until they're almost covered, but for me, it's too much work.  These are volume candies, each batch making about 65 pieces.

If you're in a mood to really take your time, you can put some of the melted chocolate in a mold made for peanut butter cups, allow it to set up, place a bit of this mixture in it, top with more chocolate, place in freezer.  Pop candies out when hardened.  Just time consuming, but so yummy!