May 21, 2016

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes



What's great about these cupcakes is this decadent chocolate frosting piled high on top of the dark chocolate cupcake.  


I love chocolate, and I always used to think I had to have a bite of chocolate every day.   I would keep a bag of chocolate kisses in the cabinet to grab one or two a day.
And I made brownies and chocolate chips cookies a lot, and chocolate chip cookies and chocolate cream pie are my top two favorite desserts.


My love for chocolate goes all the way back to the Hostess Ding Dong and the Little Debbie Swiss Cake.


But . . . I do have a confession to make:  chocolate cake with chocolate frosting is not my favorite.  If I'm standing in front of a case of cupcakes, I prefer chocolate with peanut butter frosting or yellow cake with chocolate frosting or white cake with chocolate frosting.



These are for all you truly wonderful chocolate lovers out there.  They are intensely chocolate.  I made it simple by using a mix for the cake.  Because I piled the frosting on so high, there was only enough frosting for nine cupcakes; so nine is how many I made.

If you would like to make these pretty little cupcakes, here's how I did it:

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

(Please read recipe all the way through before making cupcakes)

1 dark chocolate cake mix

To prepare the cupcakes, follow the directions on the back of the box to prepare cupcakes.  (I substituted milk for the water, and I only made nine cupcakes).

Dark Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup of butter, room temperature
1/2 cup of shortening
4 cups of powdered sugar 
1/3 cup of cocoa powder
1/4 cup of hot water
1/4 cup of sour cream
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
2 ounces of unsweetened Baker's Chocolate
Sprinkles

1.  Cream butter and shortening in a stand mixture for five minutes until whipped and light.

2.  Sift together powdered sugar and cocoa powder.  Add into butter and shortening mixture in batches.  Add in hot water, sour cream, vanilla extract, melted chocolate, and salt.

After the cupcakes have cooled, pipe frosting on top of cupcakes and sprinkle with sprinkles of your choice.

I piped the frosting on the cupcakes using a large plain, round pastry tip.

This frosting is very soft.  I refrigerated it for awhile before I piped it on the cupcakes.  I then placed the cupcakes back in the refrigerator before serving.  If you have leftover cupcakes, I suggest that you keep them refrigerated.

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May 20, 2016

BAKED ZITI


This Baked Ziti is off the hook.  I mean it.  Now first let me apologize for the dark picture.  We have had several days of rain and dreary skies and cool temperatures, and it is late May; so, that's sort of insult to injury, and it makes it really difficult to get my favorite light and airy photographs


But I wanted to share this recipe because it is so good.


And you may also notice that this isn't ziti pasta because Kroger didn't have ziti so I used penne instead.  I've looked for ziti there before, and they didn't have it then.  I guess I should ask if they could stock some.

My favorite recipes are often from Southern Living.  I have lots of cookbooks, and 
I often read cookbooks and mark the pages with a small post-it of the recipes I would like to try.

This dish is adapted from a Southern Living recipe.

This made a lot of leftovers for us - since I was just cooking for two; so, if you like leftovers, you're set.  If you don't, and you're only cooking for two, you could certainly cut it in half.

It would be a great dish to serve for a family gathering or to serve to friends at a dinner party.  How about starting with your favorite salad and bread or rolls?

Baked Ziti

(8-ounces) ziti pasta (I substituted with penne and used 1/2 of a 16-ounce box)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon of jarred minced garlic
1 lb. of ground chuck
1 jar of traditional pasta sauce (I used Kroger Traditional)
Salt and Pepper

2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
1 cup of milk
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 8-ounce package of shredded mozzarella cheese

1.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain, rinse, and place pasta in a baking dish.
2.  While cooking pasta, brown together ground chuck, onion and garlic, salt and pepper ( to taste) until ground chuck is crumbled and no longer pink.
3.  Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Whisk in flour until butter and flour are smooth.  Whisk in milk and whisk continuously until thickened.  Stir in Parmesan cheese.  Salt and pepper to taste.
4.  Pour cheese sauce over the pasta and stir together.  Top with beef mixture and stir together with pasta.  Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top.
5.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Let stand for 10 minutes and serve to family and friends!!

(Adapted slightly from Southern Living - 40 Years of Best Recipes)







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May 17, 2016

CLASSIC GUMBO



The weather has not been cooperating around here.  We've gone from the mid 80's last week to the mid 50's the last couple of days. Oh, and did I mention all the rain and overcast skies?  I love summer and cannot wait for those mid 80's to come back.  I like flip flop weather, the smell of freshly-mown grass, and playing lots of golf.  However, it is great weather for this Classic Gumbo.


I love soup.  I like to make it, eat it, and it can be a dieter's best friend!  


This gumbo is made with easily accessible ingredients and can be ready to eat in a flash.  And is even better left over!




I hadn't made Gumbo in a very long time.  Recently, I've gotten stuck in a rut and not been fixing anything particularly interesting.  Everything just sort of ho-hum!!



But this wonderful dish is anything but ho-hum.  It is full of great flavor and very satisfying.

This is a chicken and sausage gumbo.  I don't like seafood; so absolutely no seafood gumbo for me, and it is not at all spicy.  I don't like extremely spicy foods either.  All I can taste is the heat, and I feel like the true flavors of the dish are lost.

If you want to make this wonderful gumbo, here's how I did it:

Classic Gumbo

1 pound of Polska Kielbasa, cut into slices
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon of Butter
2 bone-in chicken breasts
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 celery ribs, sliced
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1 box of chicken broth
Hot cooked rice

1.  Boil chicken in chicken broth in a Dutch oven over medium/high heat until chicken is done for approximately 1 hour.   Remove chicken and let cool.  Remove skin and pull chicken from the bone into pieces.

2.  In the meantime, heat olive oil and butter in a skillet.  Cook the sausage in the skillet over medium heat until browned.  Towards the end of cooking the sausage, add onion and celery into the skillet and continue cooking until sausage is browned and onion and celery are translucent.  Remove to paper-towel lined plate.

3.  Add 2 tablespoons butter to drippings in skillet and whisk together.  Add 2 tablespoons of flour and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until roux is chocolate colored.  
  
4.  Add chicken back into chicken broth, add sausage, celery, onion,  garlic, and dried thyme into dutch oven.

5.  Let simmer for 30 minutes.

6.  Serve over hot cooked rice.


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May 10, 2016

JOHN Y. BROWN PIE


I made this pie on Derby Day.  The recipe for this delicious pie is very similar to a Kentucky Derby Pie.

It is named after a governor from Kentucky.

When my oldest son was two-years old, I joined a playgroup, and we would meet every Wednesday morning.  The kids would play, and the mothers would visit.

We took turns hosting playgroup in our homes, and always provided snacks for the kids and some sort of breakfast food for the mothers.

As an outing for the mothers, one Saturday, we drove down to Grand Rivers, Kentucky, at Kentucky Lake to have lunch at Patti's.


This was the first time that I had been to Patti's, and as long ago as it's been, I remember I had a Kentucky Hot Brown, homemade potato chips, and they served bread in a clay pot with strawberry butter.  

For dessert I had Aunt Catfish's Boatsinker Pie, which was fabulous!


As we were leaving, someone was handing out recipes for two of their pies at the door, one was for their coconut pie, and the other one was for this John Y. Brown pie.


I have made this recipe many, many times through the years.  It is best right out of the oven while the chocolate is still gooey.  After it has set and is room temperature, I just pop my piece in the microwave oven for 10 seconds, and it is just like it is right out of the oven again!

John Y. Brown Pie

(Adapted from Patti's 1880s Settlment's recipe)

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup melted butter, cooled to room temperature
2 eggs (room temperature)
6-ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 9-inch unbaked pie shell

1.  Whisk sugar and flour together.

2.  Melt butter in the microwave oven, and then let it cool to room temperature.

3.  Stir in eggs, chips, nuts, and vanilla.

4.  Pour mixture into the unbaked pie shell.

5.  Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for one hour or until golden brown.

6.  The pie will wiggle when done. It sets as it cools.  

Serve to family and friends!!





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May 7, 2016

HOW TO MAKE THE BEST STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE


This is the very best way to make Strawberry Shortcake, and my  favorite way to eat strawberries period.  


 I mashed my strawberries and added sugar and spooned the berries over pie crust and topped them with a dollop (or two) of Cool Whip.


Now you can totally make your pie crust from scratch and your whipping cream from heavy whipping cream, but if you want the easier, quicker, and still delicious route, then do what I did and use the pie crusts bought in the refrigerator section of your grocery store and top with Cool Whip.

I rolled out one pie crust onto a cookie sheet and using a pizza cutter or a knife, I cut the pie crust into strips.   I brushed a bit of 2% milk on top and sprinkled sugar on top.  I baked the pie crust following the instructions on the back of the box.  (Oh, how I "lurve" pie crust.)

Break up the pie crust in the bottom of a bowl, add the mashed and sweetened strawberries and a couple of dollops of Cool Whip on top.


This is truly the best way to make strawberry shortcake!!

I'm not a fan of pound cake or shortcakes or even biscuits.  I like that the pie crust doesn't get soggy.


If you would like to make Strawberry Shortcake for Mother's Day, here's how I did it:

Strawberry Shortcake

2 quarts of strawberries
Sugar, to taste
1 pie crust, room temperature
2% milk - enough to brush on top of one pie crust
Sugar to sprinkle on top of pie crust
And one husband to help you cap and mash the berries!

1.  Cut pie crust into strips on a cookie sheet.
2.  Brush milk on top of strips and sprinkle with sugar.
3.  Bake pie crust according to directions on box.
4.  Cap and wash two quarts of fresh strawberries.
5.  Mash the strawberries and add in sugar to sweeten to taste.
6.  Place pie crust in the bottom of a bowl, spoon sweetened berries, and top with two dollops of whipped cream.

Serve to family and friends!!

As an aside, I love to knit as much as I love to bake.  I have started a new log cabin blanket.  I made one in February and March with left-over wool that I had stashed away, and I had enough wool to make another one.  I think I'm going to be able to get even another one out of my left-over wool yarn.  I am very happy with my first one.  That is what is on my knitting needles in the background of my strawberry shortcake pictures.  If you are a knitter like me, this is a garter stitch blanket.   It is so much fun to see it come together!!


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May 1, 2016

STRAWBERRY CAKE



Oh. My. Gosh.  This case is wonderful!  And here's my sweet little secret.  It's made from a cake mix; so, it makes it a bit easier and quicker.  You won't get any apologies from me for using a mix.  I like the taste of them, the cakes come out perfectly every, single time; and in today's fast-paced world, that matters.


It's strawberry season in southern Illinois, and the berries are beautiful.  So red, juicy, and sweet!

Cudjoe's family raised strawberries for approximately 10 years.  They cultivated an acre and a half of strawberries.   He had to help his dad plant, cultivate, fertilize, pick and pack.

What weren't sold locally were shipped to Chicago, Illinois.
During the latter years of raising strawberries, they turned the acre and a half into a U-Pick and didn't pack and ship any longer.

An interesting tidbit about strawberries is the plants have to be planted two years before they will bear fruit.


I love strawberries.  They are my favorite fruit!   


 Strawberry season is short -- about three weeks -- but that probably makes us enjoy them that much more.  


I was inspired to make this cake by the photograph on the front of this month's Southern Living Magazine.  


 The texture of this cake was truly perfect.  I frosted the outside of the cake with a buttercream frosting and with a strawberry buttercream between the layers.

Cakes:

1 white boxed cake mix

1.  Follow the directions on the back of the cake mix box to make two nine-inch cakes.  (I substituted 1 cup of milk for the water and three whole eggs instead of just egg whites.)

2.  After cakes have cooled completely, remove them from the cake pans, wrap them in plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator.  I placed mine in the refrigerator overnight.

Buttercream:

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
4 cups of powdered sugar, sifted
7 to 8 teaspoons of milk or water
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of Meringue Powder (I used Wilton's)
Strawberries, mashed and with sugar added to stir into just enough of the white buttercream to frost between layers

1.  Cream shortening and butter together.  Continue to cream together on medium speed for five minutes.

2.  Add in powdered sugar approximately one cup at a time, alternating with milk (or water).   Add in merigune powder, salt, and vanilla.

3.  Continue to whip frosting on medium to high speed for another five minutes.

4.  Remove enough frosting to frost between the layers and add strawberries that have been mashed and sugar added.  I added in enough to make the frosting a nice, pink color and so that I could taste the strawberry flavor.

5.  Remove cakes from the refrigerator and cut off any dome that is on the cake to make it flat.  Place one cake on a cardboard cake circle, and frost the top of this cake with strawberry frosting.  Place second cake on top of the bottom layer.  

6.  Frost the entire cake with white buttercream.

Decorate with fresh strawberries.

Serve to family and friends!!






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