Archive for January, 2011

I have these pretty little cupcake papers that I’ve been wanting to do something with, so I figured what better occasion than birthday cupcakes!  My friend and co-worker, Shannon, has a birthday coming up and I was also stopping by the house of a friend who is sick today.  Perfect!  This gives me people to give the cupcakes to, so they are not sitting around the house for my husband and I to eat.  🙂  I decided to create my own version of “Hi Hat Cupcakes“, although they didn’t turn out quite as pretty as I would have liked – they still tasted delicious.  I didn’t want to use the marshmallowey like frosting, so I decided to try Italian Meringue Buttercream.  Well, it was a bit more difficult than I thought it would be.  I almost scrapped the whole batch, but was able to salvage it with some extra whipping and powdered sugar.  Here is a link to the original recipe I used, from Martha Stewart’s website.  I added some strawberry puree and a few drops of food coloring to the frosting, but it turned out a runny mess.  After A LOT of whipping and re-whipping, it did finally turn out tasty, but the yield was much smaller than the recipe stated.  I will have to find another frosting-worthy occasion soon to try the Italian Meringue Buttercream again.  The strawberry frosting is perfect for this time of year, as these would make great Valentine’s Day treats!

Devil’s Food Cupcakes, Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home

makes approximately 24 cupcakes

1 1/3 cups cake flour

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup buttermilk (or 1 tablespoon lemon juice + 1 cup milk)

1 cups sour cream

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners.

Sift the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Stir in the salt.  Place the bowl on the mixer stand and fit the mixer with the paddle attachment.

Combine the buttermilk and sour cream in a large measuring cup or a bowl.  Stir the eggs and melted butter together in a bowl.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the buttermilk and egg mixtures alternately, scraping down the sides often to prevent any lumps in the mixture.

Divide the batter among the lined cupcake cups.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Rotate the pan and bake for another 10 minutes, or until a cake tester or a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.  Remove the cupcakes from the tins and let cool to room temperature on a cooling rack.

I piped the frosting with a large round tip, but I think next time I’ll just use the coupler.  This way it give the frosting more of a “DQ cone” appearance.  Make sure the cupcakes are cooled before frosting, then put them in the freezer for 30 minutes before dipping.  To dip, heat 2 cups of chocolate chips (I used the Ghiradelli 65% cocoa chips) and 3 tablespoons of canola oil (to keep it thin enough to dip).  Transfer melted chocolate to a small cup, but deep enough to dip your hi hats.  Feel free to play around with the frosting and cake flavors.  The combinations are endless!


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The husband and I are on a healthy kick like everyone else in January, so my options for baking feel kind of limited at the moment.  With that being said, I still need to satisfy my sweet tooth.  I found this recipe for granola bars on www.allrecipes.com, and I modified it a bit with the ingredients I had on hand.  I also wanted to make this recipe a bit healthier, so I cut down on the sugar and used canola oil instead of vegetable oil.  You can use this recipe and make a number of modifications to suit your taste buds or what you have in your pantry.

Cranberry Almond Granola Bars, yields 20 bars


  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Generously grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, flour, cranberries, almonds and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the honey, egg, oil and vanilla. Mix well using your hands. Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges. Cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm. Do not allow the bars to cool completely before cutting, or they will be too hard to cut.

You can wrap these up individually in plastic wrap, or keep in a plastic bag so they will stay chewy.  They make a great snack or even breakfast.  Enjoy!

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Nothing is better than coming home from work to the smell of a dinner that is done!  This dish was pretty easy, and tasty enough that I will probably add it to my permenant crock-pot repertoire.  I used a mixture of chicken breast and thigh meat to give it a little more flavor.  You could use all breast meat to cut down on the fat though.  I found this recipe from www.myrecipes.com, which is a great website if you want the nutritional information for the recipe!  This is also the website where you can find all of the Cooking Light recipes.

Spicy Chicken Stew, adapted from myrecipes.com

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Yield: 6 Servings
Cost per Serving: $2.22


  • 2  baking potatoes (about 1 1/2 lb.), peeled and cut into chunks (3 1/3 cups)
  • 1  (10 oz.) package frozen sweet corn
  • 2  stalks celery, chopped
  • 2  carrots, peeled and cut into chunks (1 cup)
  • 1  onion, thickly sliced
  • 2  cloves garlic, minced
  • 1  (12.5 oz.) jar salsa
  • 2  teaspoons  kosher salt
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  ground cumin
  • 1  teaspoon  chile powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon  black pepper
  • 1  skinless, boneless chicken breast, halved (about 1 lb.)
  • 4  skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 10.5 oz.)
  • 2 1/2  cups  chicken broth
  • 4  (6 inch) fresh corn tortillas, cut into strips


Place potatoes, corn, celery, carrots, onion and garlic in slow cooker. Stir in salsa, salt, cumin, chile powder and pepper. Distribute chicken evenly on top of vegetables and pour chicken broth over chicken. Cover slow cooker and cook stew on high for 4 hours.

Transfer chicken to a plate and shred with two forks into bite-size chunks; return to slow cooker. Mix tortilla strips into stew. Serve warm.  *Optional:  top with chopped cilantros and shredded cheese.

Nutritional Information

Calories:  355
Fat:  6g (sat 1g)
Protein:  34g
Carbohydrate:  42g
Fiber:  6g
Cholesterol:  85mg
Sodium:  1101mg

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This salad is pretty enough to serve for a special occasion, but easy enough to make on a weeknight.  I adapted this salad from Thomas Keller’s “Little Gem Lettuce Salad” from Ad Hoc at Home.  I brought this over to my parents’ house on Christmas Day since I was in charge of the salad.  It seemed to get a good response, and I think it’s delicious!  It is definitely a nice way to incorporate citrus fruits now while they’re in season.

Winter Citrus Salad, serves 6

1 10 ounce container of mixed greens

Seeds from ½ of a pomegranate*

1 ruby-red grapefruit (Texas are the best!)

2 blood oranges

2 clementines

¾ cup walnuts, toasted

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Flat-leaf parsley leaves

Honey Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Cut off the tops and bottoms from the grapefruit, oranges and clementines.  Stand each one up and use a very sharp knife to cut away the peel and pith in wide strips, working from top to bottom of the fruit.  Separate fruit segments.

Spread the walnuts out on the baking sheet and toast in the oven, turning the pan around after 5 minutes, for 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted.  Remove from the oven, transfer the nuts to a plate, sprinkle with salt, and let cool.

Put the lettuce on a large platter and top with fruit segments, pomegranate seeds, and walnuts.  Drizzle with honey vinaigrette.

*Note:  To remove the seeds from a pomegranate, cut the pomegranate in half through the equator.  Hold one half over a bowl and hit the back of the pomegranate to release the seeds.  Add the cold water.  The membranes will float to the top.  Remove any membranes from the water and drain the seeds.

Honey Vinaigrette

½ cup canola oil

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup champagne vinegar

3 tablespoons honey

Combine the canola and olive oil in a measuring cup.  Put the vinegar and honey in a blender or food processor to combine.  With the machine running on low-speed, stream in the oil.  Refrigerate in a covered container for up to 1 month.

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The smell of baking bread in the house is nothing short of amazing.  The taste and smell is even more amazing though when you’ve prepared this treat with your own two hands, and not just popped open that Pillsbury can.  This treat can be made a day ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator too, so you don’t have to get up at 4am to enjoy these as a breakfast treat!  They do require a bit of time and effort, so it is definitely a recipe worthy of a special occasion or company.  I made them for company with the thought that I would want something easy to pop in the oven that morning.

This recipe is from the cookbook, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart.  It uses the SAF instant yeast, which I have found that I prefer to the dry active yeast because there is less room for error.  It is fermented with sugar, so there is no need to dissolve into warm water.  I store mine in an airtight container in the freezer, and it should last at least a year.

Cinnamon Buns, makes about 12 large rolls

15 minutes mixing, 3 ½ hours fermentation, shaping and proofing; 15-20 minutes baking

6 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

5 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 large egg, slightly beaten

1 teaspoon lemon extract

3 ½ cups bread or all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons instant yeast

1 1/8 to 1 ¼ cups buttermilk or whole milk

½ cup cinnamon sugar (6 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar plus 1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon)

  1.  Cream together the sugar, salt, and shortening on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a large metal spoon and mixing bowl and do it by hand).  Whip in the egg and lemon extract until smooth.  Then add the flour, yeast, and milk.  Mix on low speed (or stir by hand) until the dough forms a ball.  Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes (or knead by hand for 12 to 15 minutes ), or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky.  You may have to add a little flour or water while mixing to achieve this texture.  Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  2. Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
  3. Mist the counter with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter.  Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top of the dough with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin.  Roll it into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick and 14 inches wide by 12 inches long for larger buns, or 18 inches wide by 9 inches long for smaller buns.  Don’t roll out the dough too thin, or the finished buns will be tough and chewy rather than soft and plump.
  4. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough and roll the dough up into a cigar-shaped log, creating a cinnamon-sugar spiral as you roll.  With the seam side down, cut the dough into 8 to 12 even pieces each about 1 ¾ inches thick for larger buns; or 12 to 16 pieces each 1 ¼ inch thick for smaller buns.

     5.  Line 1 or more sheet pans with baking parchment.  Place the buns approximately ½ inch apart so that they aren’t touching but are close to one another.

     6.Proof at room temperature for 75 to 90 minutes, or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly doubled in size.  After this proofing, you can place the buns in the refrigerator for up to two days before baking.

     7.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

      8.  Bake the cinnamon buns for 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.  Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes and then streak white fondant glaze across the tops while the buns are warm but not too hot. 

White Fondant Glaze

Sift 4 cups of powdered sugar into a large bowl.  Add 1 teaspoon of lemon or orange extract and between 6 tablespoons to ½ cup of warm milk, briskly whisking until all the sugar is dissolved.  Add the milk slowly and only as much as is needed to make a thick, smooth paste.  When the buns have cooled, but are still warm, streak the glaze over them by dipping the tines of a fork or a whisk into the glaze and waving the fork or whisk over the tops.

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A quick thank you to everyone who has read my blog over the past year.  I am so glad that I started writing, and cannot wait to put in a full year of posts in 2011!  Looking forward to sharing more recipes and pictures that you will enjoy.  Below is a brief summary courtesy of WordPress!

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2010. That’s about 3 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 31 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 135 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 248mb. That’s about 3 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was November 9th with 79 views. The most popular post that day was Keep Austin Weird.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, theculinaryenthusiast.com, twitter.com, en.wordpress.com, and foodpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for best apple pie recipe, best apples for apple pie, giada delaurentis turkey pot pie, the best apple pie, and sandra bullock austin.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Keep Austin Weird November 2010


THE BEST apple pie October 2010


About Me May 2010


Meals on Wheels with Panna Dolce October 2010


Homemade Pop Tarts October 2010

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I always feel that New Year’s Day calls for something special to eat, something that you wouldn’t normally indulge in on a normal day.  Growing up, we ALWAYS had shrimp cocktail.  I still love shrimp cocktail, but was feeling like I should try something new.  I was browsing through the seafood section at Whole Foods the other day, looking for inspiration, and came across some fresh crab meat.  Crab cakes!  Done.  Something I’ve never made before, and the perfect occasion.  These actually turned out really nice.  My husband is still raving about them this morning – good thing we have some leftovers to enjoy!

Crab Cakes, makes 12 3-ounce cakes

(adapted from the Cuisinart recipe booklet that came with my food processor)

1 lb lump crab meat

1 garlic clove

1 red bell pepper, cut into 2-inch pieces

3 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces

½ cup parsley

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

¼ tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp freshly ground pepper

2 large eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup bread crumbs

½ cup mayonnaise

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 ½ tsp Old Bay seasoning

2 tsp Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray, or a silicon mat.

Drop the garlic into the bowl of a food processor, while running, to chop.  Add the peppers, green onion and parsley and pulse to coarsely chop, about 10 to 12 pulses.

Put the oil into a large skillet placed over medium heat.  Cook chopped vegetables with salt and pepper until soft, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Remove and reserve in a large mixing bowl.

Once vegetables have cooled slightly, add the crab, eggs, breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, Worcestershire, Old Bay, and Dijon.  Mix thoroughly but carefully, so not to break up the crab too much.  Form mixture into 2-inch round cakes.

Place on prepared baking sheet and bake until crabcakes are evenly golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve with hot sauce and lemon wedges.

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