Archive for March, 2013

Red Velvet Cupcakes & Cream Cheese Frosting for a Special Girl

March 21st, was my niece’s fifth birthday. So, I decided against the traditional ‘birthday cake’ and went with cupcakes. I cannot explain exactly why, but red velvet was the first thing that came to mind when I started brainstorming what to bake for her birthday. Baking is something I don’t do very often so  I really wanted to have fun with it and take advantage of my mothers kitchens while I was home visiting family. Plus, red velvet is a very moist cake mix and appealing to the eye especially with sprinkled frosting!

Ingredients

(Purchased at Brigido’s Marketplace)

Red Velvet Cake Mix

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Confectioners Sugar 1 box
  • Cream cheese 1 (8oz) package
  • Vanilla extract
  • Butter 1/2 cup

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Break out the cake mix, add the ingredients and get stirring! The box tells you to stir the mix for only 2-3 minutes so naturally I took my own approach and brought out the old electric cake mix. I mixed the batter for about 10 minutes to make sure all clumps were out so the cupcakes would be light and fluffy.

2. Place the cupcake wrappers in the pan and carefully pour cake mix into each wrapper 3/4 of the way full. Let bake for 20-22 minutes.

3. While cupcakes are baking start in on the frosting. Start with softened butter, cream cheese, and vanilla extract stir till smooth. Once smooth, slowly add in the whole box of confectioners sugar a little at  a time. Then, place in the fridge to solidify.

4. Then, remove cupcakes from the oven. MAKE SURE to let them cool!

5. After, all cupcakes have cooled begin frosting and decorating to your enjoyment.

Pictures

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Comments

For not being a baker the cupcakes came out good, light, fluffy, and moist like I intended.  The only gripe I have, was with the cream cheese frosting. The recipe I used came from the back of the Domino’s box of confectioners sugar. The recipe only called for 3 oz of cream cheese and a WHOLE box of powered sugar! That’s just crazy, a whole box? Really? So, I made the frosting according to recipe and it came out as expected; way to sugary. So, sweet in fact I could feel cavities forming as I taste tested it. To drown out the overwhelming taste of sugar I added the other 5 oz of cream cheese. It did help the taste, but the frosting was still sweeter than I imagined a cream cheese frosting to be. So, next time I decide to get crazy and bake I will make sure to choose a different recipe for cream cheese frosting.

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Beer Can Chicken: A Spring Break Adventure

As an assignment over spring break the class was asked to find a recipe, cook it, write about the differences between our results, and the recipes results. So, naturally I strayed from the path; the recipe I had picked needed a little modification. Modifications for the classic beer can chicken recipe was necessary considering the full access to a real stove due to my spring vacation trip to Rhode Island to visit my family. With the notions of beer cans and chickens dancing around my head I began preparing. A whole 4 lb chicken was purchased from the local supermarket and a twelve rack of Budweiser beer. The recipe from the Food Network that inspired me gives directions to:

“Open beer can and take several gulps (make them big gulps so that the can is half full). Place beer can on a solid surface. Grabbing a chicken leg in each hand, plunk the bird cavity over the beer can. Transfer the bird-on-a-can to your grill and place in the center of the grate, balancing the bird on its 2 legs and the can like a tripod.

 Cook the chicken over medium-high, indirect heat (i.e. no coals or burners on directly under the bird), with the grill cover on, for approximately 1 1/4 hours or until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees F in the breast area and 180 degrees F in the thigh, or until the thigh juice runs clear when stabbed with a sharp knife. Remove from grill and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.”

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/the-surreal-gourmet/beer-can-chicken-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback

Since, the only access had been to an oven I decided to:

1. Rinse the chicken off with hot water inside and out. Place it in a deep dish pot for roasting. Set the oven to 425° F. Fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil and add stuffing. Finish cooking the stuffing and set aside to cool.

2. Lather the in and outside of the chicken with spices of your choice. I decided to keep it simple: Italian seasoning, garlic, olive oil, black pepper, and salt. To add flavor and keep the chicken moist small slits were cut into the breast and chunks of butter were stuffed inside.

3. Once the stuffing has cooled begin to fill the inside of the chicken. Put a small amount of stuffing in, then pour some beer in with the stuffing and repeat till the chicken is completely stuffed(You are more than welcome to use more than one beer, but since the twelve rack of Budweiser was not mine, I only used one).

4. Then, close up the bottom of the chicken. I did not have those fancy ties so I used a small shish kabob stick just like you would use the chicken ties. After, pour the remaining beer over the chicken and into the dish.

5. Finally, place your chicken in the oven, covered, at 425 degrees F for thirty minutes. Then, reduce heat to 375 degrees F for 50-60 minutes. Once the juices run clear from all parts of the chicken it is done. If desired, place the oven on high broil for ten minutes to brown the skin. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes or so then slice and serve.

photo

For never making beer chicken before, it was delicious! The meat was juicy and full of flavor. It exceeded the expectations I always seem to have with chicken: dry, not much flavor, hard to chew and swallow. those negative expectation of chicken came from my childhood. My mother, afraid to under cook chicken in fear of salmonella, over cooked it every time. My uncle and cousin agreed too: The chicken was good! Do not even get me start on how good the stuffing was, that is a whole other blog post by itself!

Fried Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprout are among the many hidden delicacies within the produce section of the supermarket. Children weep in their presences and parents shrug in the slight ignorance of not knowing how to cook them. Do not fear any longer! After reading this post I can expect all parents to be running to their local food store and Brussels flying off the shelves! Before I go on I have to apologize my camera’s battery died last night so there will be no pictures this time around. Without further ado this recipe is simple, cheap, and delicious!

Ingredients & Costs

(From Hannaford’s in Belfast)

 

1 lb of Brussels Sprouts -$3.49

2 Sticks of Butter – $ 1.99

1 Bulb of Garlic – $0.49

 

Total – $5.97

 

Directions

1. First prep the Brussels by pealing back damaged and gross leaves. Then, cut off the remaining part of the stem at the bottom of the Brussels. Finally,with the same knife press and ‘x’ into the bottom where the stem was cut off. Chop as much garlic as necessary into small chunks and put aside.

2. Because prep for Brussels is very time-consuming do not heat pan on stove till about half way through prep. Place pan on stove top at medium heat add butter let the pan heat.

3. Add Brussels to the heated pan with butter, cover and let cook for about 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper (optional).

4. About half way through cooking (10 Minutes) add garlic. Stir occasionally to cook Brussels evenly and prevent garlic from burning.

5. Once finished let Brussels cool down for 5-10 minutes and serve.

 

Comments

The reason for the ‘x’ in the bottom of the Brussels allows each one to cook thoroughly. Brussels are much tastier when cooked all the way through. This one of the many reason I feel Brussels are not a common dinner food many people either burn the outside and under cook the middle or just under cook the entire sprout. So, next time you decide to not pick up Brussels sprouts for dinner remember pressing an ‘x’ into the bottom with a knife is a fool-proof way of cooking each one evenly and to perfection. Also, have you ever stuffed Brussels sprouts before? That’s right I said ‘stuffed’. It is possible and oh man they are delicious. Cut each Brussels in half and fry them in butter for about 10-15 minutes. After you let them cool down use a melon baller to gently scoop out the middle. Save the excess taken from the middle to add into the filling later. Leave enough outside leaves so the sprout will still be sturdy. Then, make a mix of cream cheese and sour cream, like you would for crab Rangoon, and put  in whatever you like. I put in mushrooms, garlic, the excess from the middle, and additional spices. Once the filling is whipped to a smooth consistency, use a teaspoon or a baby’s spoon to place the filling in each empty Brussels. This is the most time-consuming part of the recipe. Once all Brussels are filled, place them on a cookie sheet. Set the oven to around 420 degrees. While oven is heating sprinkle bread crumbs then Parmesan cheese over each Brussels and place in the oven till the cheese has melted and the tops are golden brown. This is a recipe that was created ‘off a whim’ last Christmas when I was trying to decide what I would cook and bring over to our holiday party.

 

Tomato, Artichoke, Feta, & Pesto Bruschettas

Delicious! This time around I wanted to recreate  an authentic Italian recipe. Recreating bruschetta was the right idea. I found this recipe on the Delallo website among many other delicious looking recipes. Bruchetta is an Italian dish usually served as an appetizer, to learn more check out Culture Discovery. I put a twist of my own on this recipe by using a french baguette instead of an Italian loaf.

Ingredients & Prices

(From Belfast Co op)

French Baguette – $3.19

Basil Pesto – $4.39

1 Large tomato $0.79

1 Jar of Artichokes – $3.89

Feta Cheese – $2.90

Total – $15.16

Directions

1. Heat skillet to medium heat, add olive oil. While pan is heating cut slice of bread 1 inch thick and chop garlic.

2. Once pan is hot add slices of bread. Add chopped garlic too, but keep a close eye on the garlic so it doesn’t burn.

3. Flip slices of bread until both sides are golden brown.

4. Once fully cooked, remove from stove top.

5. While the bread is cooling add fixings, chopped garlic goes first, than add a thin slice of tomato, artichoke, crumbles of feta, and a splash of pesto.

6. Leave the bruchetta to finish cooling down for about 5 minutes or so then serve and enjoy!

Pictures

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Comments

To all who read this: You must make these bruchettas! They are like small bites of heaven. The only problem I ran into while preparing the bruchettas is trying to find the right mix of tomato, artichoke, pesto, and feta. What is the proper mix that everyone will enjoy? Luckily, my roommates are not picky when it comes to food. I’m not saying they are garbage disposals, but they are definitely not your traditional snobby food critic either. The wonderful benefit of cooking for this blog and having roommates is the so politely offered constructive criticism upon request. Upon that request I found any mix of tomato, artichoke, feta, and pesto is delicious. Unless, of course, you have a preference in which case that should be discussed before hand. Besides the ‘perfect mix’ dilemma the bruschettas went well. Preparation was easy, grill each slice of baguette and add your fixings! Oh! Don’t forget the garlic! Remember: There is never too much garlic!

Pasta Topped with a Tuna Cabernet Marinara Sauce

This recipe comes from my former landlord who is Italian and oh man does she know how to cook! The sauce is the main focus of this dish and is incredibly simple to make. Dishes with cooked tuna typically originate from the Mediterranean region. This week I wanted to try something new; shopping in a different grocery store. Last week, I received what should be called the best gift of all; a membership to the Belfast Co op Store. What a store, what a gift. I really could not ask for more! Thank you! So, with this membership in mind I set out with the goal of purchasing good food at a fair price. Well, I was successful, $23 dollars and two meals later, I impressed myself. Sometimes I get the feeling that most people have the perception that only ‘rich’ or ‘well off’ people can afford to shop at places like this that supply nothing but real food. When I say ‘real food’ I’m referring to the fact that when you go into the Belfast Co op you can pick up any item and easily trace back the ingredients to a species of plant or animal. In a regular grocery store such as Hannaford’s there are some 45,000 products with ingredients that you cannot even pronounce let alone trace back to a living thing. If you so desire to further your knowledge in our current American food system the number of 45,000 products comes from a wonderful book called The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Micheal Pollan. Reading this book will cause you to run to a local natural food store faster than it takes a cop to eat a doughnut. This book is incredibly insightful and makes a strong point about our current food system. I encourage everyone to take some time out of their day to merely open this book and read. Anyway, now that my rant is over, back to the point! Never assume those ‘natural food’ stores are for people who have money, it’s not true. All it come down to is looking at what’s on sale and planning your meal accordingly. Spending the extra dollar for healthy food is win-win. A Co op is a store owned by its customer so when items are purchased that money goes back into the store, not to large companies. Even if all items are not purchased at the Co op it’s still a win-win is my eyes.

 

 

Ingredients & Prices

(From Belfast Co op)

 

Fusilli Pasta – $1.87

Muir Glen Organic Pasta Sauce (Cabernet marinara) – $2.79

1 can of Tuna – Previously purchased at Wal-Mart – $0.87

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 small bulb of local garlic – $0.48

 

Total – $ 6.01

 

Directions

1. Bring water to a boil, add pasta.

2. While pasta is boiling  chop garlic, drain can of tuna.

3. Once pasta is finished drain water, lower heat and add sauce, tuna, garlic and spices.

4. Let this simmer for 20 – 30 minutes.

5. Serve and enjoy!

 

Pictures

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Comments

The first time I made this sauce I had a real stove with four burners and it came out incredible! This time around it was difficult. First off, in order to get the sauce to reach perfection it needs to simmer all day long. This allows the flavors from the garlic, tuna, and spices to really get into the sauce. The white wine marinara was a good choice, this compliments the tuna well. I would also recommend adding lemon juice, this will also compliment the tuna. Cooking the sauce for only ten minutes or so on the Tiki man did not do enough justice for how this sauce actually tastes. If you have the modern conveniences of a four-burner stove and a refrigerator I would suggest cooking the sauce all day. Then, store it in the refrigerator for the following nights dinner. This will increase the taste of the sauce giving it plenty of time to absorb all the flavor from its ingredients. Leftovers always taste better the next day and so will this sauce!