Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Red Velvet Cake

Andy celebrated his 10th birthday (and 40th year) on today. He requested red velvet cake, which I always make as cupcakes. However he informed me that it had to be a layer cake because he doesn’t like cupcakes as much. I don’t make pretty cakes, that’s why we always have cupcakes—but he only turns 10 once! Everything came together well, but cupcakes are still my preference.:) This is his mom’s recipe and it’s the best one I’ve ever had. Enjoy!

Red Velvet Cake
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 (1-oz.) bottle red liquid food coloring
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. cocoa
1 cup buttermilk
Cream Cheese Frosting

1. Beat sugar and oil with an electric mixer until combined. Add in eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add in vinegar and next 2 ingredients.
2. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients in a bowl. Gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Pour batter into lightly greased muffin cups.
3. Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes or until a pick inserted into center of cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pans to cool completely. Spread Cream Cheese Frosting on each cupcake.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 (8-oz.) block cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1 (16-oz.) box powdered sugar

1. Beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer. Beat in vanilla. Gradually beat in powdered sugar.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sautéed Spinach

I needed a quick and easy side dish for dinner tonight. Some baby spinach in my fridge inspired me to make this recipe, which is similar to how I cook brussels sprouts. All you have to do is sauté the spinach with a little bacon (it makes everything better) and then add some lemon zest and juice. Delicious!

Sautéed Spinach
1 bacon slice, chopped
1 container baby spinach
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
Salt and pepper

1. Cook bacon in a skillet until almost done. Stir in spinach, and cook until it begins to wilt. Stir in lemon zest and juice; reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sugar Cookies

AC and LB were out of school for President’s Day, so I asked them to come over to make cookies. When we moved two years ago, I lost my cookie cutters and just found them a few weeks ago. Since then, the girls have been anxious to make and frost sugar cookies. They chose all kinds of shapes—bunnies, baby chicks, Christmas trees, stars, ice-cream cones, rocking horses, moons, etc.—for the cookies. Our frosting colors were very bright—just how they like them! (Well, except for the purple. LB said to me, “You know, Paula, this isn’t really the color I wanted. I like lavender best!” Can’t win them all, I suppose!) I experimented with a new sugar cookie dough and was very pleased. It has a good vanilla flavor and didn’t puff up when baked, which meant it held it’s shape. For the frosting, I used this yummy one. Definitely try this with the little people in your life!

Sugar Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. milk
Powdered sugar
Vanilla Frosting

1. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until soft and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla bean paste, until smooth. Combine flour and next 2 ingredients; add to butter mixture with milk, beating until blended.
2. Roll out dough on a work surface sprinkled with powdered sugar. Cut into desired shapes.
3. Bake at 350° for 7 to 9 minutes or until done. Cool on pan 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Spread cookies with tinted vanilla frosting.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Recipe Rewind: Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake

Andy is a Leap Year baby! That means he will celebrate his 10th birthday (and 40th year) on the 29th. As you can imagine, our nieces and nephews love that he is so close to their ages.:) Tonight we had supper club, and I asked our friends who were hosting if we could bring dessert to celebrate Andy’s birthday month. They kindly agreed. Andy requested this recipe. It’s very easy but looks and tastes impressive. If you haven’t tried cheesecake, this one is good for your first attempt. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Apple Crostata

Apple desserts are among my favorites! A crostata is basically a rustic pie that bakes on a cookie sheet. There’s no fussing over fitting the pastry into a pie plate; in fact, the more irregular its appearance, the better—that makes it look homemade. The pastry used here is a smaller batch of my go-to recipe. We enjoyed our pie with caramel sauce and, of course, ice cream. Enjoy!

Apple Crostata
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup shortening
2 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup ice water
3 apples, cut in half, cored, and thinly sliced
Brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. melted butter

1. Use a food processor to combine flour and next 5 ingredients. Gradually add ice water through food chute; process until mixture forms a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap, and chill 30 minutes.
2. Roll out dough into a rustic circle; place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Arrange apple slice in center of dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Sprinkle apples with brown sugar and cinnamon; dot butter over apples. Fold edges of dough up over apples, leaving the center open. Brush edges with melted butter.
3. Bake at 400° for 20 to 30 minutes or until crust is golden and apples are softened.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Roasted Potatoes

Tonight I wanted a simple potato recipe to serve with our favorite tilapia dish. For ease, everything we had for dinner—the fish, the broccoli (I omitted the macadamia nuts), and the potatoes—were all cooked in the oven. And because the pans were all lined with foil, clean-up was a breeze. Enjoy!

Roasted Potatoes
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into chunks
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Herbs de Provence
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place potatoes on a baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, and herbs de Provence.
2. Bake at 400° for 20 to 25 minutes or until potatoes are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.

Monday, February 13, 2012

How-to: Dried Beans

Confession: I’ve never cooked with dried beans; canned ones are my default. Recently I noticed how much cheaper the dried variety is than the canned ones and decided it was time to try. I bought a 2-pound bag for about $1. 50. After doing a little research, I chose to cook mine following the “quick soaking” method. In this case, “quick” means that you don’t have to soak the beans overnight, but you still have to plan ahead to make sure they are ready for dinner. With the soaked beans, we had this recipe for dinner (served with grits instead of rice), and then I was able to freeze two more meals of the mixture. Enjoy!

Dried Beans
1 lb. dried beans, rinsed and sorted (don’t skip this step—I found a pebble in mine)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

1. Place beans in a Dutch oven. Add hot water to cover, plus 2 inches. Bring mixture to a boil; boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse beans. Use as you would canned beans. (Note: You may have to add more liquid to recipes than you normally would for canned beans.)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Vanilla Cupcakes

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
Vanilla Bean Frosting

1. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add in eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add in vanilla. Combine flours; add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat until blended. Scoop into lightly greased muffin cups.
2. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until done. Cool 10 minutes in muffin pans; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Spread with frosting.

Vanilla Bean Frosting:
1 cup butter, softened
1 box powdered sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

1. Beat all ingredients with mixer until spreading consistency.

Black Bean Salad

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 yellow or red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
2 avocados, cut into chunks
Zest and juice from 1 lime
Juice from half an orange
2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine beans and next 6 ingredients. Stir in lime zest, lime and orange juice, olive oil, and cilantro; season with salt and pepper to taste.
Tip: Use the grape tomato container to
rinse and drain the beans instead
of getting a strainer dirty.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta With Chicken and Artichoke Hearts

Sun-dried tomato pesto is one of my favorite staple ingredients (you find it by the basil pesto at the grocery store). Most often, Andy and I use it instead of tomato sauce on pizza; the dried tomato flavor is more intense. Tonight I decided to toss it with pasta. Enjoy!

Sun-dried Tomato Pasta With Chicken and Artichoke Hearts
8 oz. pasta, cooked
1 cup reserved pasta cooking water
1 jar sun-dried tomato pesto
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 cups chopped grilled chicken
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Toss pasta with reserved cooking water and pesto. Stir in artichoke hearts and chicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with cheese.