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November 30, 2008

Red Velvet Cupcakes - Take 1

I wasn't about to test all four recipes at once.... this is test #1.

Recipe from “The Confetti Cakes Cookbook” by Elisa Strauss

3 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (not Dutch process)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups canola oil
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) red food coloring dissolved in 6 tablespoons of water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar

This recipe will make 24 cupcakes. I halved the recipe.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with paper liners.

2. Sift the flour, cocoa, salt & sugar into a large bowl. Set aside.

3. Place oil in a bowl of an electric mixer and beat in eggs, one at a time, at medium speed until well-blended. With machine on low, very slowly add red food coloring. (Take care: it may splash AND it WILL STAIN.) Add vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.

4. Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to mixer with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.

5. I spooned 3 tablespoons of batter in each paper liner and came up with exactly 1 dozen cupcakes. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans for 20 minutes. Then remove from pans and cool completely before frosting.

THE VERDICT: The cupcakes came out very light, fluffy & moist. BUT they weren't very tasty. Eaten without the frosting, they tasted like plain cakes to me. Nothing spectacular about them but the texture of the cake was great. If I make these again, next time I will add in more sugar and cocoa.

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November 28, 2008

Martha's Mac-and-Cheese

From Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! For the Holidays, I usually provide the dessert... but I couldn't resist making this as a side dish.

This is my all-time favorite comfort food. I've read the reviews and people said this is a great recipe cause after its prepared and eaten, I can freeze the rest and reheat whenever. I halved the original recipe because the full recipe yields 12 servings.

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole
3 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to l/2-inch pieces
2 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for water
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 1/4 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese
3/4 cup grated Gruyère or 3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 pound elbow macaroni (usually 1/2 box)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 2-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place the bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Pour the melted butter into the bowl with the bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside. I didnt have bread so i just used some butter & breadcrumbs. Next time i will try it with the bread.

2. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt the remaining tablespoons of butter in a high-sided skillet (dont have one so i used a larger than medium sauce pan) over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

3. While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8 to 12 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 1.5 cups cheddar cheese, and 1/2 cup Gruyère (or 1/8 cup Pecorino Romano); set the cheese sauce aside.

5. Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook the macaroni until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir the macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.
6. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle all the remaining cheese, and the breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer the dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.

It came out pretty good. I think it could have used more milk & cheese... because i felt that it dried up rather quickly when we reheated it.

Other items you can add, if you like:
- canned tuna
- frozen peas or veggies
- diced ham

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November 26, 2008

The Hunt is On

M's godmommy made Red Velvet Cupcakes for her First Birthday Party and they were totally awesome. It's my turn! For the past year (maybe even longer than that), I have been collecting recipes from a variety of sources. I have FOUR recipes to try out and I'll let you know which I like best. So..... who's going to help me eat them all???
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November 25, 2008

Banana Muffins with Mascarpone Cream

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis of FoodTV.

Love this recipe. Very easy & very yummy. Its not too sweet either (i think i used less sugar). I made it without the frosting... cause I dont need the frosting. Stores in an air-tight container for up to 4-5 days.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 ripe bananas, peeled and coarsely mashed

3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl to blend. Beat the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the banana. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended.

Bake the muffins on the middle rack until the tops are golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out with no crumbs attached, about 25 minutes. Transfer the muffins to a rack and cool slightly. The muffins may be eaten warm or cooled completely and frosted.

To frost the cupcakes: Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the mascarpone cheese and then beat in the honey. Spread the frosting over the muffins. Sprinkle with the walnuts.

Here they are in the oven:

And here they are, out of the oven:
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November 24, 2008

Sweet Potato Pie

Just in time for Thanksgiving! My family requests.... or should I say they demand that I make this every year; and when I do, my mother always wants an additional pie.

If you're a stickler for homemade pie crust... go for it! I have tried to make pie crusts many, many times and, for me, it NEVER comes out right. I just stick to the frozen ones cause they're always on sale... but don't tell my family this -- they think I make the crust from scratch!

This is another one of those recipes where there are so many variations.... i've tried a few and this one is my favorite:

2-3 medium sweet potatoes
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
4 ounces butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1/2 cup canned sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutneg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust

(Some like to boil the sweet potatoes.... i prefer them baked.)

Pierce sweet potatoes with a fork & wrap in tin foil. Bake until soft (about 45 minutes) at 425 degrees. When cool enough to handle, peel them (skin comes off very easily once their cooled) and slice crosswise to prevent strings. Reduce oven to 375 degrees.

Mash potatoes, then stir in all ingredients. Pour into pie shell. Bake in the middle rack until brown and center of pie is set, about 50-60 minutes.

What I love about making this pie is that it can be made well in advance (like 3-4 days) and kept in the fridge.... wrapped in foil and stored in a gallon-sized ziploc bag!

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November 21, 2008

Ingredient Equivalents

Here are some helpful tips i found.
Courtesy of SmittenKitchen

1 stick = 4 ounces = 8 tablespoons = 1/2 cup
4 sticks = 16 ounces = 32 tablespoons = 2 cups

1 ounce = 1/4 cup grated
6 ounces chips = 1 cup chips
1 pound cocoa = 4 cups cocoa

Half and half = 1/2 milk + 1/2 cream = 10.5 to 18 percent butterfat
Light cream = 18 percent butterfat
Light whipping cream = 30 to 26 percent butterfat
Heavy cream = whipping cream = 36 percent or more butterfat
Double cream = extra-thick double cream = clotted or Devonshire cream = 42 percent butterfat

1 large egg (approximately) = 1 tablespoon yolk + 2 tablespoons white
1 cup = 4 jumbo = 4 to 5 extra-large = 5 large = 5 to 6 medium = 7 small

1 pound = 4 cups all-purpose or bread flours = 4 3/4 cups cake flour
1 cup sifted cake flour = 7/8 cup sifted all-purpose
1 cup self-rising flour = 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pound white = 2 cups white = 454 grams
1 pound packed brown = 2 1/4 cups packed brown
1 cup packed brown = 1 cup white
1 pound superfine sugar = 1 cup white sugar = 190 grams
1 pound powdered sugar = 3 1/2 to 4 cups
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar = 1 cup white sugar
1 cup powdered sugar = 80 grams
100 grams white sugar = 1/2 cup
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November 20, 2008

Super Easy Spinach Dip

Very easy to make and a hit at parties. I bring this to PotLucks all the time.
  • 2 tablespoons mayo
  • 1 pint of sour cream
  • 1 packet of Lipton's Vegetable Dip Mix
  • 1 package of frozen spinach

*dont use fat free stuff -- it will come out too runny

Defrost and squeeze out all the water from the spinach.
Combine all ingredients.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes (even overnight) before serving.

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November 19, 2008

The $250 Cookie Recipe

Here is a "true story" almost everyone has heard by now — the infamous "$250 Cookie Recipe," most recently associated with the Neiman Marcus company, but previously (during the 1980s) the bane of Mrs. Fields. The story, by the way, is not true. It's a classic urban legend, a variant of a popular tale that Jan Brunvand has traced as far back as 1948, when the overpriced recipe yielded a "red velvet" fudge cake and the amount allegedly charged was $25. The current adjusted-for-inflation version (reproduced below) is still making the email rounds and shows no signs of waning, even though it has been debunked again and again over the past two decades. A good tale of revenge never dies...

What is written below is not written by me --- it's part of the myth.

THE $250 COOKIE RECIPE Okay, everyone....a true story of justice in the good old U.S. of A. Thought y'all might enjoy this; if nothing else, it shows internet justice, if it can be called that. My daughter & I had just finished a salad at Neiman-Marcus Cafe in Dallas & decided to have a small dessert. Because our family are such cookie lovers, we decided to try the "Neiman-Marcus Cookie." It was so excellent that I asked if they would give me the recipe and they said with a small frown, "I'm afraid not." Well, I said, would you let me buy the recipe? With a cute smile, she said, "Yes." I asked how much, and she responded, "Two fifty." I said with approval, just add it to my tab. Thirty days later, I received my VISA statement from Neiman-Marcus and it was $285.00. I looked again and I remembered I had only spent $9.95 for two salads and about $20.00 for a scarf. As I glanced at the bottom of the statement, it said, "Cookie Recipe - $250.00." Boy, was I upset!! I called Neiman's Accounting Dept. and told them the waitress said it was "two fifty," and I did not realize she meant $250.00 for a cookie recipe. I asked them to take back the recipe and reduce my bill and they said they were sorry, but because all the recipes were this expensive so not just everyone could duplicate any of our bakery recipes....the bill would stand. I waited, thinking of how I could get even or even try and get any of my money back. I just said, "Okay, you folks got my $250.00 and now I'm going to have $250.00 worth of fun." I told her that I was going to see to it that every cookie lover will have a $250.00 cookie recipe from Neiman-Marcus for nothing. She replied, "I wish you wouldn't do this." I said, "I'm sorry but this is the only way I feel I could get even," and I will. So, here it is, and please pass it to someone else or run a few copies....I paid for it; now you can have it for free.

(Recipe may be halved.):
2 cups butter
2 tsp. baking soda
5 cups blended oatmeal**
2 cups brown sugar
1 8-oz. Hershey Bar (grated)
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
24 oz. chocolate chips
1 tsp. salt
4 eggs
3 cups chopped nuts (your choice)

** measure 5 cups of oatmeal and blend in a blender to a fine powder.

Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla; mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and soda. Add chocolate chips, Hershey Bar and nuts. Roll into balls and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 112 cookies.
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November 18, 2008

Baking Tip: measurements

Below is an at-a-glance list of common conversions when measuring ingredients:
1 cup16 tablespoons
3/4 cup12 tablespoons
2/3 cup10 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons
1/2 cup8 tablespoons
1/3 cup5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon
1/4 cup4 tablespoons
1 tablespoon3 teaspoons
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November 17, 2008

Carrot Cake Recipe

As promised in this post, here is the recipe for Carrot Cake.

The Story behind the Cake:
When I was a kid, my dad and I came upon this recipe that we found in our local newspaper. Originally it was for Carrot Cake. We made it, ate it and loved it. I made it weekly when i was a kid... just to bake and eat! I made it as a layer cake and as a loaf cake. I made it so much, I memorized the recipe. I would say I baked this every week for say, 6 months to a year. Then, I stopped. I realized years later that I missed it. I searched & searched but couldn’t find it. I asked my dad if he remembered the recipe and of course, he didn't. One day, I decided to take a stab at it, hoping that I could recreate my childhood favorite. After weeks of baking and experimenting, I did it! I think it's as close to the original as I can get. I know it sure tastes that way.

The recipe:
3 cups grated carrots
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 to 1.5 cups white sugar (depending on your taste, but for me 1.5 cups was perfect)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan or 2 8" cake pans or 1 loaf pan or muffin pan(s).

In a large bowl, combine grated carrots, flour, white sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in eggs, oil, vanilla, and nuts. Spoon batter into prepared pan.

For cake: bake for 30 to 40 minutes
For loaf: bake for 45-60 minutes
For cupcakes: bake for 20-30 minutes
~ or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

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November 14, 2008

My Cake Pan Collection

Angel Food Cake Pan

Wilton 8 Inch Cake Pan - have 3

SpringForm Pans - I have 6", 8", 9"

Mini SpringForm Pans

Pyrex 8" Square Pan

Muffin/Cupcake - have 3 of these

Mini Loaves

9" Loaf Pan

Cookie Sheets by Williams-Sonoma - have 9

My Newest Finds:
The Giant Cupcake

Multi mini cupcakes

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November 13, 2008

Baking for the Holidays

Two years ago, I baked for 11 hours on a Saturday and made cookies to give as gifts to my family.

I made:

This year I plan to repeat the Chewy Molasses & Oatmeal Toffee Cookies, as well as Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Now.... for 2-3 additional cookies... any suggestions?
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Oatmeal Toffee Cookies

Morsels of goodness
  • 1 cup of butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups quick oats
  • 1 3/4 cups Heath Toffee bits
Prehat oven 375 F. Lightly grease cookie sheet. Beat butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla until well blended. Add in flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Then stir in oats & toffee. Drop dough by rounded teaspoon about 2 inches apart onto cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes.

Makes about 3-4 dozen cookies, depending on size.

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November 12, 2008

The Giant Cupcake

When I was planning Baby M's 1st birthday party, i thought hard about what i wanted to do for her First Birthday Cake. My original plan was to just get an ice cream cake. I went to Cold Stone & Baskin Robbins -- those cakes are EXPENSIVE. So then.... i thought, i'm a baker... so why not bake for her birthday. But with the time I spend taking care of her -- baking was just not one of my priorities.

I got Baby M's godmom to contribute and she said she would be more than happy to bake cupcakes. What a great idea! My mother said that wasnt enough for the Birthday Girl because she needed her own cake for the candles. So i fell victim to the Giant Cupcake Craze... albeit, a few months late, but better late than never, right? At first I was going to get the Wilton Cupcake Pan.

After extensive research and reading reviews about the pan, the recipe, the bake time, etc., I almost didnt want to get bake the cake. A dear friend recommended the Nordic Pan which is sold exclusively at Williams-Sonoma. What a great idea, since i had a giftcard anyway. So that was it, i got the "other" Giant Cupcake Pan.

For the Birthday Cake, I baked a Classic Vanilla Bundt Cake and used my Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting. I think it turned out pretty nice for my first Giant Cupcake Project. More Giant Cupcakes to come. I'm definitely happy i got the pan and plan to use it often.

Happy Birthday, Baby Doll!

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November 11, 2008

Chewy Molasses-Spice Cookies

What a chewy cookie!

2 cups all purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
(Because nutmeg is a strong spice, for my taste, i would make this a 1/4 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar, set aside
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsulfared molasses
(easy to find in the maple syrup aisle)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in the center. In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, spices & salt. Set aside.

With electric mixer, beat the butter and 1 cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and then molasses. Reduce speed to low and gradually add in dry ingredients, beating just until a dough forms.

Using 1 level tablespoon per cookie, roll dough into balls and then roll the balls in sugar.

Place dough on baking sheet, about 3 inches apart. Bake, one sheet at a time, until edges are just firm, 10-12 minutes. Cool and enjoy!
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November 10, 2008

Carrot Cupcakes w/Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

A Classic & One of My Family's Favorites

WHIPPED Cream Cheese Frosting is much lighter than the usual Cream Cheese Frosting. The usual stuff is cream cheese, powdered sugar and butter beaten together.

1.5 cups heavy (whipping) cream
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese
3/4 to 1 cup of white sugar

For the whipped frosting, the #1 step is to chill the bowl and the beater for 30 minutes. Then take the heavy cream and whip it until firm peaks are formed. Chill for 15 minutes, while you take on the next step. In a separate bowl mix one package of room temperature cream cheese with 3/4 cup white sugar (i used less; the standard recipe usually calls for 1 cup). When that's done, FOLD the whipped cream into the cream cheese. And chill for about 20 minutes.

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