Monday, February 27, 2012

Mini Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Normally I do not do a lot of baking for the simple fact that I am not very good at being given a limitation for my ingredients.  The way I love to cook is a little more of this, a little more of that.  Plainly speaking, I don't measure things out very well.  

However, my cousin, recently, called and has asked me to make some mini red velvet cupcakes for her birthday.  I couldn't tell her no, so I have been practicing some recipes and found one I liked.  

Originally, I went over to my cousin's house and we spent the latter part of a morning trying out one recipe.  While the cupcakes came out very moist and delicious, they did not come out of the wrapper.  This causes a problem when serving at a birthday party.  So what I did was I called my best friend, the baker, and asked for some advice.  She said that while the white vinegar used in red velvet cake is normally a staple it does not really  add any flavor to your cupcakes and only adds to the fluffiness.  (Good word!!)  Fluffy, while good, is not beneficiary when your cupcake crumbles while being pulled out of it's wrapper.

In conclusion, what I did, being the genius I am, got online, found a great recipe, and changed it a little.  I used Paula Deen's recipe because I have heard she makes the best red velvet, and it was easy.  The original recipe can be found here.   

  • 2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 c vegetable oil
  • 1 c buttermilk, cold
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 1 tsp red gel-paste food coloring
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line your first mini muffin pan with cupcake papers and spray with Pam.  (The Pam will help the cupcakes come out of the wrapper once they are finished.)  

2.  In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with the paddle attachment.  Add the sifted ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.  

3.  Using a small cookie scoop, scoop the batter into each paper wrapper.  This recipe makes about 5 dozen cupcakes, so unless you have that many muffin tins, you may have to bake these in batches, like I did.  Bake in the oven about 10-15 min until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 stick butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp maple syrup
  • 2 c sifted powdered sugar

1.  In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and maple syrup together until smooth.  On low speed, add the sugar, 1/2 c at a time until incorporated.  Increase the speed and mix until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  

2.  Frost the cupcakes how you would like.  I am not good at this part, but I do suggest cutting a small to medium hole in a Ziploc bag to make a piping bag.  If you have tips, they can be inserted here instead of having to buy more bags.  

3.  I added candy sprinkles to mine, but feel free to use nuts, fruit, or even plastic signs that say "Happy Birthday".  Haha!  ENJOY!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I used to make this in college because it makes a huge pot of food that can be eaten all week long.  I'm not sure how many people this would feed, but I am guessing about eight.  It would be great served room temperature on top of some crusty bread as an appetizer at a party.  

Do lot be afraid of the eggplant.  I didn't even like eggplant when I first tried this recipe.  Over the years I have changed it a little for my tastes.  Feel free to add or subtract ingredients for your families liking.  

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 to 3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 Cubanelle Italian long green pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1/2 c large green olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1.2 c black olives, seeded and chopped
  • 1-3oz jar capers, drained
  • 1/2 c golden raisins
  • 1 medium firm eggplant, chopped
  • 1 -32oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 14oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1.  Preheat a large, deep pot on the stove over medium heat.  Add the oil and let it heat up a minutes, then add the garlic and red pepper.  As you chop each vegetable, add them to the pot, just until you get to the celery.  This whole process should take about 10 minutes.  Don't overcook the vegetables.

2.  Increase the heat a little and add the olives, capers, raisins and eggplant.  Add the tomatoes to the pot and give it one big stir.  

3.  Cover the pot and cook on medium to low heat until all the vegetables are soft.  Stir in the parsley and remove the pan from the heat.  **This can either be eaten warm like a stew with some crusty bread, or I like it cold like a dip.**  ENJOY!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lemon and Olive Chicken

I love to make this recipe at my house.  It is very easy, uses very little preparation, and tastes so good!  Prepare this next to some wild rice and sweet carrots and you will have one happy family.  

  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lemons
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 c green olives, pitted and halved
  • 1 c chicken stock
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1.2 tsp crushed red pepper

1.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  In two batches, sear the chicken, skin side first, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate.

2.  Cut the lemons in half lengthwise, and then into thin slices crosswise.  If the skillet is dry, add more oil.  On low heat, add the onions and garlic and cook until soft, but not brown, about 4 minutes.  Stir in lemon slices, olives, stock and 2 c water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.  

3.  Put the chicken back into the pan on top of the vegetables, pour in any accumulated juices from the plate, and sprinkle with thyme and red pepper flakes.  Cover, and simmer until the chicken is just cooked through, about 15 minutes.  **Remember to make sure a thermometer inserted into the middle of the chicken reads 165 degrees.**  ENJOY!!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Crispy Oven Fish

My husband only likes his fish fried and I only like my fish pan fried, so when I found this recipe that was really light and very delicious I had to jump on it.  I have changed it from the original a little and I can't even remember where I found it, but I love it.  My kids just mainly like the fact that there are chips involved. 

When shopping for a good fish for this recipe, I mainly look for a white flesh and I try to find the thickest fillet I can.  This does work great with tilapia, or catfish which are fairly inexpensive, but I like a good piece of swordfish every now and then. 

  • 2 1/2 c crushed potato chips (I use Lays)
  • 1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley (I sometimes use dried parsley because it's mainly for color)
  • 1/2 c mayonnaise or salad dressing
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice (3 lemons)
  • 1 lb fish fillets, fresh

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Combine chips, cheese and parsley on a plate, or a dish with sides.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  In a small bowl combine mayonnaise, and 2 Tbsp lemon juice. 

3.  Dip fish in remaining 2 Tbsp lemon juice, then mayonnaise mixture, then cover in chip mixture. 

4.  Arrange fish in oiled baking dish.  Bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until fish flakes with a fork.  *The fatter the fillet, the longer the cooking time will be.  Serve with a green vegetable and some fluffy rice...YUM!  ENJOY!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Party Dips

This is a collection of some of my favorite dips.  The Wind-Down Dip is something I came across in college and I ate it all the time!  It is perfect with those scoopable Fritos, and even better a little warm.  I used to sit in front of a movie with a blanket and eat a whole bowl. 

The Tartar Sauce is a little different then most, but you can make this ahead and keep it in your fridge.  It's great for a summertime fish fry...very light. 

Last, but not least, this pesto is super easy and great on anything!  Store this in the fridge and mix it in your favorite pasta, or grill with some shrimp, or even chicken.  This is definitely a staple in my house. 

Wind-Down Dip
  • 5 c fresh spinach, (you can substitute 10 oz frozen, but do not use canned...yuck!)
  • 1-15 oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained; liquid reserved
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
1.  Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan along with 2 Tbsp of the liquid from the can of beans.  Cook over medium heat for minutes, or until the spinach is wilted. 

2.  Cool.  Blend this up in a blender, or a food processer until smooth.  ENJOY!!

Tartar Sauce
  • 1/2 c mayonaise
  • 1 Tbsp celery leaves, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp pickle relish
  • 1 Tbsp capers
  • 1 Tbsp green onions, chop the white ends only
1.  Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Chill before use.  ENJOY!!

Garden Pesto
  • 2 c fresh basil leaves
  • 4 tsp garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp pine nuts
  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp grated parmesan
  • Kosher salt and pepper
1.  Chop the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor, or blender.

2.  With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil.

3. Blend in the cheese and add the salt and pepper to taste.

4.  Refirgerate, covered, for up to a week.  ENJOY!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tuna Tampico

This recipe has been in my family for a very long time.  It's great for almost any night of the week because you can make it early and just pop it in the oven.  The story I remember (which may be wrong) is that my brother thought this gem up because he didn't like the tuna casserole my mother was serving.  (Nothing is wrong with her tuna casserole, by the way.  I think he just didn't like it.)  At my house, I love to serve this when a night of tv watching is involved...usually a football game or a great kiddie movie.  Try it, you will love it!

  • 1 large bag of tortilla chips
  • 15 slices of cheddar cheese
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup (you can also use cream of celery, or chicken)
  • 4 small cans of tuna
  • 1 jar Pace Picante (we use medium, but you can use whatever level of spice you want)
  • 4 oz shredded cheddar cheese

1.  Layer the bottom of a 9x13 in glass casserole dish with sliced cheese; about 7 slices.  Crush 1/3 of the tortilla chips and add to cover the cheese.  Keep going with each layer as follows; 2 cans of tuna, 1 can of soup, the half the Pace. 

2.  Start over with the rest of the sliced cheese and top the finished product with more tortilla chips.  Sprinkle the top with the shredded cheese.  *At this point you can cover the entire casserole dish and refrigerate it until the time you want to put it in the oven.  Add about 10 minutes to the cook time if you remove it straight out of the fridge.

3.  Bake in a 350 degree oven until the cheese is melted and the chips turn golden brown; about 15-20 minutes.  Slice into small squares and serve next to a nice salad.  ENJOY!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Fresh Seafood Pasta

This is not a recipe that I make very often because of the expensive ingredients, but it does make a lot of pasta so, if there are people coming over for dinner, or it's a special occasion, it's a good choice.  This is also a really easy way to look like you know how to cook fancy.  Feel free to mix up the seafood choices if you can't find some of these items in your supermarket.  This would even be good with some cooked salmon.

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 c shallot, minced
  • 2 tsp garlic, chopped
  • kosher salt/pepper
  • 2 c tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 lbs fresh mussels, scrubbed (you can buy canned if you don't want the hassle)
  • 1 lbs medium shrimp
  • 2 c dry white wine
  • 1 lbs lump crab meat, cleaned
  • 1/2 c chopped green onion
  • 1 lbs penne pasta, cooked
  • 4 oz grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 c chiffonade fresh basil
  • white truffle oil

1 In a large saute pan eat the oil.  Add the shallots and garlic and saute about 2 minute on low heat.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the tomatoes and saute for 1 minute.  Add the mussels and shrimp and season again with salt and pepper.  Let this saute for 2 minutes.

2.  Add the wine and scrape all the bits ff the bottom of the pan.  Bring this to a simmer and cover; cook until shells open, about 4 to 6 minutes.  Add the crab meat and green onions and saute for 1 minute.  Add the pasta, toss and combine cooking until the pasta is heated through, about 7 minutes. 

3.  Toss the pasta with the cheese and basil.  Spoon onto a large serving plate and drizzle with just a little truffle oil.  ENJOY!!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Easy Chicken and Pasta Dinner

This is one of my all time favorite recipes.  I pretty much lived on this in college because it was so easy and quick.  I still make this as a quick lunch or even dinner for the kids with some roasted broccoli.  I have even substituted broccoli for the pasta if I didn't want to eat any carbs that day.  YUM!!

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp lemon pepper
  • 2 chicken breasts, boneless (you can also use a white fish, pork, or chicken tenders)
  • 4 oz. spiral pasta, cooked (I like the multi-colored ones, but any short pasta here would work)

1.  Melt about half the butter in a medium skillet.  Season the chicken with the cumin and lemon pepper.  When the butter gets hot, add the chicken to the pan and cook through, flipping once.  This should take about 5 minutes per side. 

*Remember to make sure the finished temperature is above 165 degrees.

2.  Remove the chicken from the pan and let it rest on a plate.  Melt the remaining butter in the same pan and add any remaining cumin and lemon pepper you might have.  Toss the pasta into the butter mixture and cook until hot and even a little brown on the edges.  (This gives your pasta a little texture.)  This should take 4-5 minutes. 

3.  Serve along side the chicken and add a green vegetable for a full meal.  ENJOY!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tuna Steaks with White Bean Salad

I need to post a few without pictures to get back in the swing of things.  I have, over the years, written down some of my favorite recipes in a journal.  I normally use recipes for my cooking, but I tend to make notes and change things according to my family's likes and dislikes.  Over the next week I am going to just throw some of these recipes up so you guys can see.  Sorry about not having any pictures right now.  I tend to forget to take them about half way through cooking.

  • 3 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 3Tbs. Olive oil
  • 3 Tbs. minced scallions
  • 1 Tbs. chopped sage (if using dried here double it)
  • 2-15 1/2 oz. cans cannellini beans, drained
  • 4-5 oz. tuna steaks
1. Whisk together lemon juice and olive oil in a medium-size bowl; add scallions, sage, 1/4 tsp kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper.  Combine 3 Tbs of this mixture with beans.  Reserve remaining mixture for later.

2.  Season tuna steaks with salt and pepper.  Heat 2 Tbs olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet.  Sear the tuna steaks on each side about 2 min each for medium rare, or leave on longer for desired degree of doneness.

3.  Place bean salad on serving plate, top with tuna steaks, and drizzle with reserved lemon mixture.  ENJOY!!

*Also great served over white rice*