Monday, August 30, 2010

German Chocolate Cupcakes

Sorry for my unintentional blogging hiatus! I cooked all through the month of August, but mostly it was old favorites and there was nothing new to post. As far as this recipe goes, let me confess that I don't like coconut, so I can't confirm if these are good cupcakes or not. Andy really liked them. A friend told me that this is his favorite cake, so I made it for his birthday. Layer cakes aren't my things, so we had cupcakes instead. The cake is actually this yummy recipe, baked in muffin pans. The topping is a traditional German chocolate cake filling. Normally I don’t use cupcake liners; however, the topping is so gooey, you’ll need them for this. Enjoy!

German Chocolate Cupcakes
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 (16-oz.) can chocolate syrup
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 (11.5-oz.) bag semisweet chocolate chips
Coconut-Pecan Topping

1. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until creamy. Add in eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in chocolate syrup and vanilla. Gradually add in flour, beating just until blended. Stir in chocolate morsels. Pour into lined muffin pan.
2. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or just until set (do not overcook).

Coconut-Pecan Topping:
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup butter
2 1/2 cups flaked coconut
2 cups chopped toasted pecans

1. Combine the evaporated milk, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and butter in a saucepan over low heat. When the butter melts, raise the heat to medium, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (about 10 minutes). Remove from the heat; stir in coconut and pecans. Cool completely before spooning over tops of cupcakes.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bolognese Lasagna

Saturday morning on the Food Network, Tyler Florence made "the ultimate lasagna," and I decided to try it. Andy loves Italian food. Usually I make his mom's recipe, but I love to try new approaches. The first change I made was to half most of the ingredients (four pounds of meat seemed a bit much). According to the original recipe, this dish serves eight, but I beg to differ. Even after halving the ingredients, I was still able to make two 13- x 9-inch pans. In a word—plenty! I gave one pan to a friend and baked the second for Andy, his dad, and I to eat tonight. Then I froze the rest (enough for three more meals). The base for the lasagna is bolognese sauce, a meat sauce that starts with a base of pureed vegetables. Also, bolognese isn't very tomato-y. I found this dish to be not as heavy as traditional lasagna. The secret ingredient is cinnamon—you can't taste it per se, but it adds a nice flavor note. Enjoy!

Bolognese Lasagna
1 (16-oz.) box lasagna noodles
1 onion, cut into quarters
2 garlic cloves
3 carrots, cut into pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into pieces
Leaves from 1 stem of fresh basil
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
Olive oil
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup red wine
1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 Tbsp. half-and-half
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 (15-oz.) containers ricotta cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 (8-oz.) package finely shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling salted water until pliable but not cooked through; drain and set aside.
2. Place onions and next 6 ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a knife blade. Pulse to finely chop vegetable mixture.
3. Heat olive oil in a large pan. Add ground beef, sausage, and vegetable mixture to pan; add salt and pepper. Sauté until meat is browned and crumbly and vegetables are tender. Stir in flour, red wine, and next 3 ingredients; cook until mixture thickens. Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper to taste.
4. Combine ricotta, Parmesan, and eggs in a bowl; stir in salt and pepper to taste.
5. Place a small amount of sauce in bottom of two 13- x 9-inch pans. Top with four noodles in each pan; spread some of ricotta mixture over noodles. Top with some of the sauce, and then add four more noodles to each. Add additional ricotta and sauce. Top with a third layer of noodles. Spread with remaining sauce, and top with shredded cheese.
6. Bake at 350° for 1 hour.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Coffee-Toffee Bars

This recipe is based on one from The Pioneer Woman. It may be my new favorite cookie! Unlike most cookie recipes, there are no eggs, but the texture is still fluffy. Almond extract and coffee pair beautifully! The batter is very stiff, so it's best to spread it in the pan with clean hands. Definitely try this!

Coffee-Toffee Bars
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. almond extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. instant espresso powder or instant coffee granules
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 bag (2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips

1. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add in almond extract.
2. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread batter in a lightly greased aluminum foil-lined 13- x 9-inch baking pan.
4. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. Allow to cool completely; cut into squares.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chicken Piccata, take 2

This is one of the easiest dishes ever! I've made several variations of it over the years, but this may be my favorite. The simple sauce is a combination butter, lemon juice, and white wine—yum! I served the chicken with Creamy Grits and steamed broccoli. Andy and I practically licked our plates—enjoy!

Chicken Piccata
4 chicken cutlets (or 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded flat)
Salt and pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. water
1 1/2 cups Homemade Breadcrumbs or seasoned breadcrumbs
Olive oil
3 Tbsp. butter
2 lemons, cut in half
1/2 cup white wine
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Creamy Grits
Garnish: thin lemon slices

1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lightly beat eggs and water in another shallow dish; place breadcrumbs in a third shallow dish. Heat olive oil in a large skillet.
2. Dredge chicken in flour, egg mixture, and then breadcrumbs. Place in hot skillet, and cook 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Place chicken on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Place chicken in 350° oven for 5 to 10 minutes or until chicken is done.
3. Meanwhile, melt 1 Tbsp. butter in large skillet. Squeeze juice from lemon halves into skillet, and add the lemon halves. Pour in white wine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is reduced by half. Remove from heat, and stir in 2 Tbsp. butter and parsley.
4. Spoon grits onto place, and top with chicken. Drizzle sauce over chicken, and garnish, if desired.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I saw chef Anne Burrell prepare this dish on the Food Network this past Saturday morning. Because of the abundance of summer veggies in the ingredients list, I knew this would be a terrific way to use the abundance from my market basket. I made a few changes to the original recipe (for example, no golden raisins) and was pleased with the results. Caponata is delicious by itself or when served with pasta or grilled steak. And like most tomato-based dishes, it tastes even better the second day. Don't be intimidated by the number of ingredients—it comes together with minimal fuss. Enjoy!

1 eggplant, cut into cubes
Olive oil
Crushed red pepper flakes
1 onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 or 2 zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup water
1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste
Black pepper
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint (yes, mint!)
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

1. Place eggplant on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and crushed red pepper. Bake at 400° for 15 to 20 minutes.
2. Sauté onion, fennel, and celery in hot oil until vegetables begin to soften. Add in garlic and next 3 ingredients. Cook, stirring often, 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in water and tomato paste; cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in roasted eggplant. Dissolve sugar in vinegar, and add to vegetable mixture, and cook 5 more minutes or until liquid is dissolved. Stir in Parmesan cheese and mint, and remove from heat. Stir in pine nuts just before serving.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Blueberry Crumb Cake

This easy cake is from Barefoot Contessa at Home. We enjoyed it for dessert last night after our vegetables-from-the-market-basket supper, and then Andy and his dad had it with ice cream for breakfast this morning. I doubled the recipe and baked it in three (8-inch) cake pans to share with our neighbors. It would also freeze well. Enjoy!

Blueberry Crumb Cake
6 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup sour cream
1 cup blueberries
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup butter, melted

1. Beat 6 Tbsp. butter and 3/4 cup granulated sugar at medium speed until fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until blended after each addition. Add in vanilla and lemon zest.
2. Combine flour and next 2 ingredients. Gradually beat into butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in blueberries. Pour mixture into a lightly greased 9-inch cake pan.
3. Combine remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, and next 3 ingredients. Stir in melted butter. Sprinkle mixture over top of batter in cake pan.
4. Bake at 350° for 45 to 50 minutes.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tomato-Goat Cheese Tarts

It is hot in Alabama—absolutely too hot for a heavy supper! Tonight I made these appetizer tarts from Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics and served them with our favorite Apple-Blue Cheese Chopped Salad. Delicious! The tarts are super-easy but look fancy (the best kind of recipe). I'll definitely serve them at our next dinner party. If you have an abundance of summer tomatoes, plan to make this dish. You can use any fresh herbs you have on hand—the original recipe calls for thyme and basil, but I used parsley and basil. Enjoy!

Tomato-Goat Cheese Tarts
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Olive oil
1 sheet puff pastry (1/2 package), thawed
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 small log garlic-and-herb goat cheese

1. Place tomato slices on paper towels, and sprinkle with salt. Allow to stand for at least 1 hour to remove excess moisture.
2. Sauté onion and garlic in hot oil in a skillet for 15 minutes or until onions begin to soften and caramelize.
3. Cut puff pastry using a round cookie cutter. Place pastry circles on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and use excess dough to create a rim around each circle.
4. Divide caramelized onion mixture evenly among circles. Sprinkle evenly with basil and parsley. Top with tomato slices (I used 2 per tart). Sprinkle tomato with salt and pepper. Crumble goat cheese evenly over tomatoes. Drizzle with additional olive oil, if desired.
5. Bake at 425° for 25 minutes or until done.