Monday, March 21, 2011

Coconut Cupcakes

My father-in-law’s 76th birthday is at the end of this week. Almost every week, he spends Monday night with us because he works with Andy on Monday and Tuesday. So a birthday celebration was in order! His favorite dessert is coconut cake, so I decided to try my hand at making coconut cupcakes. I’m not a fan of coconut, but everyone else really liked this recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. The batter is very airy, so don’t overfill the muffin cups or it will overflow. I made half the amount of frosting (but I used the called-for amounts of vanilla and almond extracts) the recipe calls for and had plenty. Enjoy!

Coconut Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups sugar
5 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 (14-oz.) bag sweetened shredded coconut, divided
Cream Cheese Frosting

1. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, just until blended after each addition. Add in extracts.
2. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in half of coconut. Spoon batter into lightly greased muffin cups.
3. Bake at 325° for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove from pans to cool completely. Spread tops of cupcakes with frosting; sprinkle with remaining coconut.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 (8-oz.) block cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
1 (16-oz.) box powdered sugar

1. Beat cream cheese and butter with a mixer until fluffy. Gradually add in extracts and powdered sugar, beating until spreading consistency.

Weeknight Bolognese

This recipe is from Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That?, but I made a couple of changes (surprise, surprise!). I added part of an onion and some bell pepper to the meat as it was sautéing. Traditional bolognese takes a long time to cook. This recipe is ready in about 30 minutes. It gets its rich flavor from red wine and tomato paste, which intensify the crushed tomatoes. My in-laws and Andy gave it two thumbs up. Enjoy!

Weeknight Bolognese
Half of a small onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper, chopped
1 lb. ground sirloin
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cup red wine
1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup cream
3/4 lb. medium shell pasta, cooked

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Cook onion and next 2 ingredients in hot oil until meat is browned and crumbles. Add in garlic, oregano, and next 4 ingredients. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Add in nutmeg and next 2 ingredients. Cook until thoroughly heated. Stir in 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and hot cooked pasta.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chicken Saltimbocca

Chicken for dinner can be so predictable. Tonight I wanted to make something different but had to use on-hand ingredients. This is what I came up with—flattened chicken breasts (you could substitute chicken cutlets) stuffed with provolone and bacon. Brown the chicken on the stovetop and finish it in the oven. The citrus-y sauce is just right with the chicken. Andy gave this dish his seal of approval! I served the chicken with Potato Latkes and steamed broccoli. Enjoy!

Chicken Saltimbocca
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breats
Salt and pepper
2 provolone slices, cut in half
2 thick-cut bacon slices, cut in half
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
Herbs de provence
Olive oil
1/2 cup white wine (chicken broth may be substituted)
1/2 cup orange juice

1. Cut chicken into four pieces; place between sheets of plastic wrap. Pound chicken flat with a meat mallet. Remove plastic wrap, and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.
2. Layer provolone, bacon, thyme, and rosemary on each chicken piece. Roll up chicken carefully over stuffing. Seal end with a wooden pick. Sprinkle chicken with herbs de provence.
3. Cook chicken in an oven-proof skillet in hot oil until browned on all sides. Remove from heat, and add in white wine and orange juice.
4. Bake at 400° for 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken is done. Serve with pan sauce.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Berry Cobbler

We lived in Central Florida—just down the road from Plant City, home of the Strawberry Festival—during part of my childhood. So when ripe Florida strawberries start hitting the grocery stores in mid-February, I know that spring is on the way. Today at the store, I found beautiful strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries and decided to make a cobbler. To balance the sweetness of the berries, I added a little balsamic vinegar and lemon zest. You don’t taste either—they just enhance the flavor of the berries. Enjoy!

Berry Cobbler
1 qt. strawberries, cut into quarters
1 pint blueberries
1 pint raspberries
2 to 4 Tbsp. (adjust this amount depending on the sweetness of the fruit)
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Zest of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted

1. Combine strawberries and next 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Allow to set for 30 minutes. Pour fruit mixture into a lightly greased baking dish.
2. Combine oatmeal and next 3 ingredients. Sprinkle oatmeal mixture over top of fruit mixture. Place baking dish on a baking sheet in case fruit mixture bubbles over.
3. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until done. (Andy recommends serving the cobbler with ice cream.)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cherry-Almond Muffins

This is my latest creation in the quest to create new muffin flavor combinations. Cherries and almonds are a classic combination and almond extract is a personal favorite. The muffins have a cakelike texture and would be great for breakfast or as a not-too-sweet dessert. Enjoy!

Cherry-Almond Muffins
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (8-oz.) block cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 (6-oz.) package dried cherries
1 cup sliced almonds

1. Beat butter and next 2 ingredients with mixer until fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, just until blended after each addition. Add in almond extract. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Add in cherries and almonds. Scoop into lightly greased mini muffin pans.
2. Bake at 350° for 12 to 15 minutes or until done.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Vegetable-Beef Stew

Tonight we took dinner to a sick friend and her family. They have received a lot of chicken dishes, so I decided to make beef stew because it was different. This isn’t a very spring-like meal, but the weather was cool and dreary all day. I’m always trying new ways to make old favorites and think the one I came up with today is a keeper. (Shh—the secret is bacon.) Enjoy!

Vegetable-Beef Stew
3 to 4 slices bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, thinly sliced
3 celery ribs, thinly sliced
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 lb. trimmed stew meat
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper
Leaves from 3 fresh thyme sprigs
Leaves from 3 fresh rosemary sprigs, chopped
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (32-oz.) carton beef broth
1 cup water (optional)
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into cubes

1. Cook bacon in a Dutch oven for 10 minutes. Add in onion and next 2 ingredients; cook, stirring occasionally 10 more minutes or until vegetables begin to soften. Add in olive oil, if needed. Stir in garlic, and cook 1 minute.
2. Stir in stew meat, and cook until meat is browned on all sides. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and herbs; cook for 1 minute. Add in tomatoes, beef broth, and, if needed, water. Add in potatoes. Bring mixture to a boil, and reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until meat is done, potatoes are tender, and mixture is slightly thickened.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bacon-Veggie Salad

My favorite salad in the whole world is this one because it seems to hit all the tastebuds. However, this new salad is probably my second favorite. The combo of fresh veggies, smoky bacon, creamy feta, and versatile balsamic vinaigrette works beautifully. It was delicious paired with Lemon Chicken Pasta tonight. Enjoy!

Bacon-Veggie Salad
4 bacon slices, chopped and cooked
1 head green leaf lettuce, cut into thin strips
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 cup toasted pecan halves
Crumbled feta cheese

1. Place lettuce in a large bowl. Top with bacon and next 3 ingredients. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette just before serving, and toss. Sprinkle with feta.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Recipe Rewind: Creamy Chicken and Noodles

I had actually forgotten about this dish until searching on the blog for a simple recipe to make for a friend. In the original post, the method calls for baking the casserole to thoroughly heat it. However, it works very well to just heat the mixture through on the stovetop and you’ll only mess up one pan. Enjoy!

Creamy Chicken and Noodles
1 (16-oz.) package egg noodles
4 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 (0.7-oz.) envelope Italian dressing mix
3 cups whipping cream
1 (10-oz.) bag frozen broccoli florets
Salt and pepper to tasteFreshly grated Parmesan cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese, or Italian cheese blend

1. Cook egg noodles according to package directions. Drain and return to pot. Stir in chicken, next 4 ingredients, salt and pepper to taste, and desired amount of cheese (I use 1/2 to 1 cup, depending on the type of cheese.) Cook over low heat until thoroughly heated.