Friday, April 29, 2011

Easy Cinnamon Roll Muffins

Just the thought of cinnamon rolls – warm, gooey, soft, sweet – maakes me literally swoon. I love them. As much as I love the little devils (and I hate to say this) I hate to bake them. The problem is not the sweet yeast dough or the rolling or the slicing. I simply have no patience for the waiting that is required of me during the proofing, rolling, slicing and proofing again process. I realize this is totally unreasonable, but it’s just the truth. I’d like to introduce you to Cinnamon Roll Muffins – add the yeast, subtract the long rising.

Easy Cinnamon Roll Muffins

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
4 tsp active dry or rapid rise yeast
2/3 cup warm milk (100-110F; low fat is fine)
3 tbsp vegetable oil
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg

2 tbsp butter, room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground cardamom

1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp milk or cream

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Dissolve the yeast in a measuring cup filled with the warmed milk, then stir milk mixture, vegetable oil, vanilla extract and egg into the flour mixture. Mix well, until very smooth. Pour into prepared pan and let rest for 15 minutes.

While the dough rests, mix together butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and cardamom in a small bowl using a fork until all the butter has been incorporated into the sugar and mixture is crumbly.

Divide the batter between 12 greased muffin cups. Sprinkle evenly on top of rested dough and press the mixture down into the dough with your fingertips (or swirl in with a spatula.)

Place pan into a cold oven, then set the oven temperature to 350F.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until bread is lightly browned at the edges and the center of the bread springs back when lightly pressed. Some of the sugar mixture on top may still be bubbling.
Cool for at least 30 minutes before whisking the powdered sugar and milk together to form an icing and drizzling it onto the bread.

Serve warm. Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Baked Penne Pasta with Italian Sausage

My kids love pasta. I could do without all the carbs myself but I love pasta too because it’s inexpensive, easy and the choices are endless. We had leftover Italian sausages and ricotta cheese so I decided to do a baked pasta last night. I added some onion, garlic and roasted peppers too. I topped everything off with my homemade marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. This recipe is kind of random. I just made it up as I was cooking but it came out delicious. I don’t think you can mess this up. Just mix it all up, bake and I’m sure something good will come out of the oven.

Baked Penne Pasta with Italian Sausage

Penne pasta – cook until al dente, drain and set aside
Olive oil
Onion, chopped
Fennel seed
Crushed red pepper
Basil, chopped
Roasted peppers
Italian sausage
Marinara sauce – I used my homemade sauce, but you can use store bought
Ricotta cheese
Mozzarella cheese

Spray baking dish with cooking spray. I used 2 individual dishes. You can use a big one for a large group. Spread marinara sauce on the bottom of the dishes.

In a skillet, heat olive oil. Add in onion, garlic, fennel seed, crushed red pepper, basil, and roasted peppers. Cook until tender.

Add in sausage chunks. Cook for a couple of minutes.

In a bowl, mix pasta with marinara sauce. Add in the pepper/sausage mixture.

Divide pasta evenly in dishes, or put all of it in one big dish.

Drop spoonfuls of ricotta cheese into the pasta dishes. Make sure to mix it a little bit. You want it to be in with the pasta/sauce mixture.

Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and mix a little bit.

Cover the top of the pasta with more mozzarella and fresh basil.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Vegetable Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

This spring roll recipe is good, but the peanut dipping sauce is the BEST! I can’t even describe how good it is, there are no words. I could drink it by the gallon. Peanut butter, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, hoisin sauce – all these flavors work so well together. It’s like a flavor explosion in your mouth!

Vegetable Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

1 carrot, peeled and cut into long matchsticks
1 green pepper, cut into long matchsticks
1 red pepper, cut into long matchsticks
1 cucumber, cut into long matchsticks
Romaine lettuce leaves
6 ounces Asian rice vermicelli noodles
Round rice sheets
Sprigs of cilantro and/or Thai basil, mint

Chop all of the veggies and set aside.

Boil and drain noodles per package instructions. Cool under water. Set aside.
One at a time, soak rice sheets into warm water to soften. Use a shallow dish or pie plate for this step. Lay a rice sheet on a towel covered work surface. Working quickly, place some noodles, vegetables, lettuce, and a few herb leaves on the near side of the rice round. Roll mixture forward (in egg roll fashion) one revolution then add additional vegetables. Tuck ends inward and finish the roll. Continue making rolls until ingredients are exhausted.

For Peanut Dipping Sauce:
1 small piece of lemongrass, chopped
Freshly grated ginger-to taste
1 cup water
½ cup hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1½ tablespoons sugar

In a small sauce pan, simmer lemon grass in the water for 5 minutes, strain out the lemongrass and add the remaining ingredients to the water. Whisk well and simmer an additional 5 minutes. If the sauce doesn’t thicken, whisk for one minute over medium heat. Pour into individual serving cups and serve with spring rolls.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cheese Tortellini with Spinach and Slow Roasted Tomatoes

I love this cheese tortellini dish with spinach and slow roasted tomatoes. I always keep a couple bags of cheese tortellini in my freezer for emergencies. It comes in handy when I’m busy and/or feeling lazy. I love the simplicity of this dish. It’s so tasty. So, if you are looking for a meal that can be made in minutes, try this recipe.

Cheese Tortellini with Spinach and Slow Roasted Tomatoes
Serves 4 to 6

½ tablespoon salt – to add to boiling water
1 bag frozen cheese tortellini (16 oz. size)
2 cups slow roasted tomatoes
3 cups fresh spinach, washed and roughly chopped
Drizzle of olive oil
Fresh parmesan cheese-to taste

Fill a large pot ¾ full with water. Bring to a boil. Add a ½ tablespoon of salt.

Stir in frozen cheese tortellini. Cook until tortellini floats to the top and is soft. Drain and put tortellini in a medium bowl.

Stir in the slow roasted tomatoes and spinach. Drizzle with olive oil and stir again.
Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maple Candied Bacon

Ah-mazingly easy and surprisingly good this is the best. Bacon. Ever. Now your BLT’s will be the bomb and your salads will be even tastier. You will never go back to plain ol boring bacon again. Try it, you won’t be sorry! In fact, you’ll be hooked!

Maple Candied Bacon
Serves 6

1 pound thick sliced bacon, good quality
½ cup good maple syrup, preferably Grade B
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Finely ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with heavy foil. Place a baking rack over the lined sheet tray and arrange the bacon slices across the rack next to each other, not overlapping.

In a small bowl, whisk the maple syrup and mustard. Generously spoon over the top of the bacon, and bake 12 to 15 minutes. Turn the bacon over and baste with syrup mixture. Bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until the bacon has reached desired crispiness.
Carefully remove the pan from the oven. Sprinkle hot bacon with a scant pinch of finely ground black pepper. Let the bacon rest on the rack for 5 minutes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pumpkin Nutella Bread

If you like pumpkin chocolate chip bread, I have a feeling you will love pumpkin Nutella bread. After all, who doesn’t like Nutella? Sure, pumpkin typically reminds me of the fall, but quite frankly anytime’s a good time for Nutella. Right?

Pumpkin Nutella Bread
Makes 2 8×4 loaves


1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ tablespoon cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons nutmeg
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup canola oil
1/3 cup water
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon hazelnut extract
8 tablespoons Nutella (4 tablespoons per loaf)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 8×4 loaf pans with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, water, pumpkin, eggs, and extracts. Whisk until smooth and combined.

Slowly stir in the flour mixture. Mix until ingredients are combined.

Pour the batter into the loaf pans, making sure batter is evenly divided. Drop 2 heaping tablespoons of Nutella onto each loaf pan. Swirl the Nutella into the pumpkin batter with a knife. Place the loaf pans onto a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Place the loaf pans on a wire rack. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan and then carefully remove the loaves. Cool completely before slicing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chocolate Pudding Cookies with Mini Robin Eggs

I love Easter and all the candy that comes along with this fun holiday. When I was younger, it used to be about picking out the frilliest dress and matching bonnet. Now I can pass that tradition on to my children (albeit with more contemporary/trendier styles). If you are looking for a special Easter treat, try these Chocolate Pudding Cookies with Mini Robin Eggs. And if your kids receive too much Easter candy, make these cookies with the leftover candy. Everyone will love them.

Chocolate Pudding Cookies with Mini Robin Eggs
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 (3.4 oz.) package chocolate instant pudding mix
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 ¼ cups Mini Robin Eggs (colored malted milk Easter candy), chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat and set aside.

Using a mixer beat together butter and sugars until creamy. Add in chocolate pudding mix, eggs, and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and Mini Robin Eggs.

Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cookies are set. The middles will not be completely done. Remove cookies from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.

Note: If you can’t find Robin Eggs, you can use malted milk balls.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Italian Parmesan Corncakes

I’ve found that when I serve my kids anything in the form of a pancake, whether it’s sweet or savory, it’s generally quite popular with them. There’s something about letting kids eat food with their hands that, in my experience, makes mealtime more fun for them. It may not exactly be great kitchen table etiquette to eat with your hands, but once in a while it sure is fun.

These Italian Parmesan Corncakes have a crunchy texture from the cornmeal and a savory flavor from the Parmesan. Dipping them in a side of marinara sauce just brings it all together and really makes them hit the spot. These corncakes are just plain ol’ delicious!

Italian Parmesan Corncakes
Serves 4

1 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp dried italian herbs
½ tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 large egg
¾ cup milk
2 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
Additional oil for cooking

In a bowl, combine the first six ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, milk and oil. Slowly combine the dry ingredients with the wet and allow the batter to rest for 10 minutes.

After resting, pour 1 tbsp of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place 1 tbsp of the cornmeal batter in the skillet (making as many corncakes as possible) and cook for 2 minutes on each side or until golden.

Serve with marinara sauce on the side for dipping.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Crispy Tofu Triangles with Asian Dipping Sauce

It’s Friday. That means no meat. I am by no means a meat and potatoes lover but when I am deprived of something, I only want it more. And so when Friday comes and I know I can’t eat meat, I totally crave it. Luckily, I have a go-to tofu recipe with a great dipping sauce that will keep me satisfied… for now.

Crispy Tofu Triangles with Asian Dipping Sauce
Serves 4 to 6

2 packages of extra firm tofu
3 tablespoons canola oil

Asian Dipping Sauce:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon honey, agave nectar, or brown sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 garlic clove
Fresh chives, to taste
Chile oil, optional

Open and drain the packages of tofu and cut into slices approximately 1/3" thick. Cut the slices diagonally into triangles. Place onto towel in a single layer. Place another towel over the top of tofu slices and top with another baking sheet. Put something heavy on top to it press the liquid out of the tofu. Allow to rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat and add the canola oil. When it starts to shimmer, carefully place the tofu triangles into the pan. Cook 2 1/2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crisp. Remove from skillet and drain on a plate lined with a dish towel or paper towels. Pat the tops to absorb the oil as well.

To make the sauce, pour soy sauce, sesame oil, honey and rice vinegar into a small bowl. Stir. Peel the paper off the garlic. Use a garlic press to mash the garlic, and add it to the sauce. Use clean scissors to snip some chives into the sauce, for color and a wonderful mild onion flavor.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Zuppa Toscana Soup

We don’t eat out very often. But when we do, somehow our out-of-town guests always want to eat at “the best Italian restaurant” in town. And no, we’re not talking about the now-closed Mama Jo’s. We’re talking about Olive Garden. I’d hardly call it the best Italian restaurant in town but I guess because there isn’t one where they live, they always want to go there when they visit.

Although the Olive Garden may not have the best pasta in town, it does have one of my favorite soups – Zuppa Toscana. This is a copycat version with spicy Italian sausage, bacon, cream and kale. What’s not to love? You’ll love the robust flavors and the big meat chunks. Serve with good, crusty bread (dunking is part of the fun!) and you’ll realize this may even be better than the real deal. Bon appétit!

Zuppa Toscana Soup
Serves 8

1 pound Italian sausage
1 ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 large white onion, diced
4 slices bacon chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chicken broth
2 cups Water
1 cup Heavy cream
3 large Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 cups Kale, washed and roughly chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium skillet, sauté the Italian sausage with the red pepper flakes. Drain excess fat, set aside.

In a large soup pot, sauté the bacon. When the bacon is halfway cooked, add the onions and garlic. Sauté until the onions are tender-about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until soft, about 30 minutes. Add in the heavy cream and sausage and cook until the soup is heated. Stir in the chopped kale. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Red Lentil Soup

Not sure where to start when it comes to cooking Indian food? Truth be told – me either. But I just discovered lentils. They’re kind of like curry … but not. That didn’t make any sense. I guess you’ll just have to try it yourself. But I do know that this recipe is so flavorful and packed with spices you’ll wonder why you didn’t discover lentils before. And the fact that it’s a healthy dish is a bonus!

Red Lentil Soup
Serves 4

1 cup red lentils, washed and soaked for 1 hour, drained
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 large tomato, diced
1 green Serrano chile, split and seeded
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon paprika
Kosher salt
Honey, to taste
Chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish

In medium saucepan, over medium heat, combine the drained lentils, onion, tomato, chile, ginger, garlic and enough water to cover. Bring to boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30 to 45 minutes. Whisk the cooked lentils to release some of their starch and break them down further.

In small sauté pan, warm the canola oil over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook until they are sizzling and spluttering. Stir in the turmeric and paprika. Pour the seasoned oil into the lentils (be prepared for a big sizzle). Stir to combine, add salt, to taste, and a small drizzle of honey. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with cilantro.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Eggs

I am getting so excited for Easter when my kids and I will whip up some Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Eggs. They’re almost as good as a Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg (nothing can beat the real thing after all) but infinitely so much fun when you get the kids involved. And you won’t believe how incredibly easy it is to make… What are you waiting for? Hop to it!

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Eggs
Makes 20-25 eggs

2 ½ ups creamy peanut butter
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
Wilton Candy Melts in yellow, pink, green and white
Non-parils for sprinkling on top

Place peanut butter and sugar into a large bowl, mix until combined. Dough will be pretty firm. With a cookie scoop or spoon, scoop 3-4 tablespoons of dough into your hands and shape into eggs. Freeze for 30 minutes to an hour until hardened. Start with one color of candy melts at a time. Coat 4-5 peanut butter eggs with chocolate and place onto parchment or wax paper.

Sprinkle with non-parils quickly as chocolate hardens fast. It’s important to work in batches so your chocolate doesn’t harden on you. Continue coating all of your eggs until they’ve all been coated and sprinkled. Let chocolate harden and serve. Enjoy room temperature or chilled.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tandoori Tofu

The Meatless Monday movement is growing in popularity across the country. Here’s a yummy recipe to improve your health. Your mouth will water with this tandoori-inspired spice rub. The smokiness from the grill flavors these tofu “steaks.” I’ll admit, tofu is not for everyone, but if you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone and expand your palate, you will enjoy this Indian-inspired recipe.

Tandoori Tofu
Serves 6

2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt, divided
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 14-ounce packages extra-firm or firm water-packed tofu, drained
2/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
6 tablespoons sliced scallions or chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Combine paprika, ½ teaspoon salt, cumin, coriander and turmeric in a small bowl.
Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, lime juice and the spice mixture; cook, stirring, until sizzling and fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Slice each tofu block crosswise into 6 slices; pat dry. Use about 3 tablespoons of the spiced oil to brush both sides of the tofu slices; sprinkle with the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. (Reserve the remaining spiced oil.)

Oil the grill rack. Grill the tofu until it has grill marks and is heated through, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Combine yogurt with the reserved spiced oil in a small bowl. Serve the grilled tofu with the yogurt sauce, garnished with scallions (or cilantro), if desired.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Pepperoni Lasagna

This recipe combines pizza and pasta – two of my kids’ favorite things! Amazingly easy and wickedly tasty this recipe will easily become part of your weekly dinner rotations.

Pepperoni Lasagna
Serves 4 to 6

1 pounds lasagna sheets
2 cups hand cut 1/8-inch slices pepperoni
4 cups tomato sauce, recipe follows
1 pound ricotta
16 ounces shredded mozzarella
2 pounds bulk Italian sausage, cooked
3/4 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Boil 6 quarts of water, add pinch of salt, and cook pasta to almost done. Remove from water and shock in ice bath.

In medium saucepan add pepperoni and saute over medium heat until crispy. Remove from heat and drain on a paper towel.

In a 10-by-14-by-3-inch baking pan or dish, pour 1 cup of tomato sauce in bottom and around sides. Layer lasagna sheets on the bottom of the pan, overlapping by 1/2-inch. Add 1/3 amount of ricotta, 1/3 amount of mozzarella, 1/3 amount of sausage, then sprinkle generously with the Parmesan, add 1/2 cup tomato sauce, and 1/4 cup of pepperoni. Repeat this 2 more times.

On the very top sheet, top with remaining ricotta, tomato sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, and dust with Parmesan. Bake for approximately 45 minutes. Remove from oven; let sit for 15 minutes. Cut and serve immediately.

Tomato Sauce:
3 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, minced
5 medium-sized garlic cloves, crushed
6 cups skinned and diced Roma tomatoes
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil. Add onion and cook over medium to low heat until transparent. Add garlic and cook until almost brown. Then add tomatoes and cook for ½ hour over low to medium heat. Add the basil and oregano and continue to cook for another ½ hour. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper, cool and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Easter Bunny Cake

Remember old-fashioned cutout cakes? This cute bunny is easily made from carrot cake mix frosted and covered with mouthwatering coconut. This is a favorite of kids and kids at heart.

Easter Bunny Cake

1 box Betty Crocker’s Super Moist carrot cake mix
1 container white frosting
1 cup shredded white coconut
Construction Paper
Jelly beans or gum drops

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Make and cool cake as directed for two 8-inch or 9-inch round pans.

Reserve 1 layer for another use to make a second bunny. Cut 1 layer in half as shown in diagram. Put halves together with frosting to form body. Place cake upright on cut edge of tray. Cut out a notch about one-third of the way up one end of the body to form head (small end) as shown in diagram. Attach half of cutout piece from tail with toothpicks. Frost with remaining frosting, rounding body on sides. Sprinkle with 1 cup coconut. Cuts ears from construction paper, press into notch on top. Use jelly beans for eyes and nose.

Shake 1 cup coconut and 3 drops of food color in tightly covered jar until evenly tinted. Surround bunny with tinted coconut. Add additional jelly beans if desired. Store loosely covered.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

Stroganoff, a once only weekend special, can now be served weeknights thanks to slow cooking. I love the fact that I can throw everything in a pot and come home to the wonderful smell of dinner when I get home. Now I can concentrate on my kids’ homework assignments and read them a story before dinner.

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff
Serves 8

2 pounds beef stew meat
2 cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 package fresh sliced mushrooms
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 container (8 ounces) sour cream
6 cups hot cooked noodles or rice

In 3 ½ to 4 ½ quart slow cooker, mix beef, seasonings, soups and mushrooms.

Cover and cook on low heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or until beef is very tender.

Stir sour cream into beef mixture until melted. Serve over noodles or rice.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes

When I am in a baking mood, I am in a baking mood. And this recipe is incredible. There’s something very whimsical and nostalgic about these cupcakes that take me back to being a kid and noshing on PB&J sandwiches and Fruit Roll-Ups. Not to mention that these have gone over really well with my kids as well. Hooray!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes
Makes approximately 24 cupcakes

For the Cake:
2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ¼ cups buttermilk, room temperature
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Peanut Butter Buttercream:
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 pounds confectioners’ sugar, sifted
6-8 tablespoons heavy cream (if using milk, amount will be less)

For the Filling:
Jelly or Jam in your favorite flavor(s)

Center a rack in the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line cupcake tins with paper liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk and egg whites. Place the sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer and beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the vanilla, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the buttermilk-egg mixture, and then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Using a large scoop (about 3 tablespoons); distribute the batter between 24 muffin wells, filling each well 2/3 full.

Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the cupcakes are springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the centers come out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Once cupcakes have cooled, hollow out a small circle in the center of each cupcake; I use an apple corer because I am anal and obsessed with symmetry. Fill the center of each cupcake with a dollop of jelly or jam in your favorite flavor.

For the Peanut Butter Buttercream:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, cream butter and peanut butter on medium speed until fluffy. Turn your mixer down to low speed and slowly add in the confectioner’s sugar, and continue mixing until well blended.

Add vanilla and 4 tablespoons of heavy cream. Blend on low speed until moistened. Add an additional 1 to 4 tablespoons of heavy cream until you reach the desired consistency. Beat at high speed until frosting is smooth and fluffy.

Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes and finish with a dollop of jelly or jam.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Portobello Pasta Bowls

This grilled, meaty-tasting, stuffed Portobello mushroom dish will have your guests' eyes popping! They will be expecting the usual grilled hamburgers or hot dogs, so imagine their surprise when you serve this elegant entree that looks and tastes like you fussed. The pasta is topped with a healthy, fresh tomato sauce flavored with Italian spices.

Portobello Pasta Bowls
Serves 6

6 4-inch diameter fresh Portobello mushrooms (about 1 ¼ lbs.), stems removed
2 medium yellow or red tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces dried spinach fettuccine or spaghetti
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon snipped fresh oregano
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons snipped fresh oregano or ¼ cup snipped fresh basil

Using a teaspoon gently scrape gills out of the bottom of the mushroom caps. Lightly rinse mushroom caps. Pat dry with paper towels.

Cut tomatoes in half; remove seeds and stem. Brush top and underside of the mushrooms and all sides of tomatoes with the 3 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle the mushrooms and tomatoes lightly with salt and pepper.

Grill mushroom caps and tomato halves, cut sides up, on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 6 to 8 minutes or until tender, turning once halfway through grilling. Remove from grill.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; return to pot.

For dressing, coarsely chop the grilled tomatoes. In a blender or food processor combine the tomatoes, the ¼ cup olive oil, lemon juice, the 1 teaspoon oregano, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Drizzle pasta with 2 tablespoons of the dressing. Keep warm.

To serve, place mushroom caps on serving plates. Divide pasta among mushrooms. Drizzle with remaining dressing. Sprinkle with additional snipped fresh herbs.