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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Rocky Roca Ice Cream Cupcakes

Once again, I have an entry for the 2nd Annual Ice Cream Cupcake Roundup hosted by Cupcake Project and Scoopalicious.

While I was visiting family in Eastern Washington, I got inspiration to make a cupcake in honor of my grandmother, Lula. For as long as I can remember, Grandma has been an avid lover/eater of Almond Roca. She gets at least one can of the nutty confection from family members each year for Christmas, and visitors to her home can almost always find a piece of Almond Roca somewhere in the house (on the kitchen counter, tucked in an end table drawer, sitting on her nightstand...). Also, please note that I live a mere 40 minutes away from the Almond Roca Factory. What’s great about the factory is that you can get little Roca Rejects – mis-wrapped, broken remains of Almond Roca that are still just as good and tasty as the real thing, just not as pretty (and about half the price). Love.

Anyway, I started thinking about what I could pair with Almond Roca, and remembered my mom’s husband, Tom, loves Rocky Road ice cream. It’s his favorite flavor in the entire world.

So, in honor of my Grandma Lula and Papa Tom, I give you...Rocky Roca Ice Cream Cupcakes.

I started out with a basic chocolate cake recipe. (Forgive me, I honestly can’t remember if I used a cake mix or one of my favorite chocolate cake recipes. Anything will do, as long as it’s chocolate-y.) For this batch of cupcakes, I used a large muffin tin. I didn’t have the time or patience to make 24 regular-sized cupcakes, so I went for 12 big ones. What I forgot to do, though, was only fill the cupcake tins half-way full, to leave room for the ice cream. Oops. Here’s what they looked like coming out of the oven:




Pretty big, huh?

What do to, what to do. Inspiration struck, and I sliced the cupcakes in half...reserving the tops. Here’s a nice little plate of cupcake tops:



We’ll get to those a little later.

After letting it cool on the counter for 30 minutes or so, I put the tin of cupcake bottoms in the freezer to cool and firm up, and moved on to the ice cream. I used Tillamook ice cream. Tillamook Cheese is a local dairy franchise located in Tillamook, Oregon. Every grocery store here in Seattle sells Tillamook Cheese, and it’s the cheese to get if you want the “good stuff”. In addition to selling cheeses, they also sell ice cream.

Here’s a carton of good ol’ Rocky Road:





Now here’s the important part: Ice Cream Soup! You gotta stir, stir, stir that Rocky Road until it’s a good thick milkshake-consistency. Otherwise you’ll try to spread it over your cupcake bottoms and end up tearing ‘em all to pieces. Not that I speak from experience or anything...just, you know, be careful. Ahem.



Spread a tablespoon or two of ice cream on top of each cupcake bottom, then stick the tins back in the freezer to firm up again.

Don’t forget the Almond Roca!



Unwrap 5 or 6 pieces of candy, stick ‘em in a Ziplock bag, and hammer the heck outta those puppies until they’re little shards of Roca goodness.

Meanwhile, make some chocolate ganache. My chocolate ganache is pretty simple: chocolate + cream. The key to good ganache is to use 3 parts chocolate to 1 part cream. So, I eyeballed a splash of heavy cream into a double boiler pan, then dumped about half a bag of dark chocolate Ghirardelli chocolate chips in there, and let it do its thing and get all melty.

Pull the cupcakes out of the freezer, and act FAST. Drizzle a teaspoon or two of hot ganache onto the cupcake, and top with shards of Roca goodness. Work quickly so the ice cream doesn’t get too melted (if it’s cold enough, the chocolate will harden up once it hits the ice cream). Throw the tin back in the freezer to harden up again. They should look something like this:




I had a bunch of leftover ganache. So I made chocolate-covered bing cherries, chocolate-covered grapes, and chocolate-covered pretzels (Mom’s request). Here’s a shot of the pretzels:


Once the cupcakes were entirely firmed up, I tried to get a few good shots of them, out of the tins. Unfortunately, this was all I managed to get:






Why? Because after a full afternoon of baking (don’t forget I did the Lovelight Lemon-Raspberry Cupcakes in the same day) my nieces finally arrived for some Memorial Day grilling and I was pretty much attacked, and had to give up my cupcakes to hungry kids. Observe:



I heard they were tasty...didn’t get around to actually trying one!

Now, you may be wondering what happened to those cupcake tops I sliced off earlier. Well, there was a little bit of Rocky Road ice cream leftover, and 12 cupcake tops. What do to? Accidental Ice Cream Whoopie Pies, of course! Smear some ice cream in between two cupcake tops, sandwich ‘em together, and stick them in the freezer for a sweet snack.

Here’s a couple shots of them melting in the sun:





The end!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lovelight Lemon-Raspberry Sorbet Cupcakes

I was alerted this year to the 2nd Annual Ice Cream Cupcake Roundup hosted by Cupcake Project and Scoopalicious. How could I resist entering a cupcake or two?

I decided I wanted to make the ultimate “summery” cupcake – a lemon-raspberry cupcake of some sort.

Knowing full well I wouldn’t have a freezer to house said ice cream cupcakes (I live in a house with 4 roommates...you’re lucky to find a spot to squeeze a popsicle into), I waited until I went home to visit my mom, who has not one, not two, but THREE freezers in which to let the cupcakes cool and firm up.

I needed a cake recipe, so I went looking in a 50 year old cookbook. This Betty Crocker cookbook has been in our house since well before I was born – it belonged to my grandmother and is one of the few items we have of hers. I’ve used it countless times over the years, and continue to use it as needed.



I searched the index in the back of the book for a lemon cake recipe and found one. I modified the recipe to include lemon zest and raspberries, and The Lovelight Lemon-Raspberry Cupcake was born.



Sift together in a bowl:

2 1/4 cup flour
1 cup sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Add:

1/3 cup vegetable oil or butter
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp flavoring (I used lemon extract, natch)
Zest of one lemon

Beat one minute



Add:
Another 1/2 cup milk
2 egg yolks (reserve whites)
Generous ½ cup raspberries (I used frozen – bad idea! Turned the batter a dingy gray color. Next time I’ll use fresh.)



Beat one minute more

Fold in very stiff meringue of:
2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar



Bake at 350 for 22 minutes.

Let the cupcakes cool on the counter for at least 30 minutes, then transfer to the freezer for about an hour or so. I topped them with Häagen-Dazs lemon sorbet and fresh raspberries.

WARNING: Häagen-Dazs Lemon Sorbet is very refreshing, extremely tart, and HIGHLY addictive (especially if you’re a citrus lover like me). There was only one carton left at the store. It’s that good. Proceed with caution.

In a frosted pie plate, straight from the freezer:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rigatoni con Crema di Pomodoro e Pancetta Affumicata

If you know me at all, you know I love dinner parties. Last summer, I had a group of 6 people over for dinner. I had a bunch of pasta to cook with, so I made Rigatoni con Crema di Pomodoro e Pancetta Affumicata.

Rigatoni con Crema di Pomodoro e Pancetta Affumicata
(aka: Rigatoni with Creamy Tomato and Smoked Italian Pancetta)

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1/4 pound smoked pancetta, chopped
2 large ( 1 pound) tomatoes, coarsely chopped
8 leaves fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup heavy cream (may sub half and half)
1 box (16 ounces) Rigatoni
2/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese


Heat pancetta in large skillet over medium heat about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove pancetta from skillet and drain fat.

Heat oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 5 to 7 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

Add pancetta, tomatoes, basil and seasoning. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in cream and continue cooking 2 additional minutes. Pour tomato cream mixture into blender or food processor; blend until creamy.

Cook Rigatoni according to package directions; drain and return to pot. Add tomato cream sauce; toss.

Sprinkle with cheese; transfer to serving platter. Garnish with additional basil, if desired.

Notes: Now, I really didn't follow the recipe to a 'T'. First off, I increased the recipe by about half. I browned the onion in the pancetta drippings, used less oil, and chopped up about 5 or 6 medium-sized tomatoes for the sauce. It didn't quite look like enough, and it was sorta runny, so I threw in one can of Italian-style stewed tomatoes, along with about half a can of tomato paste. Well, that made it too thick. So I thinned it with about a 1/4 cup of water, and then finally added the cream (I used half 'n' half). I only put about 3/4 of the sauce in the blender, and kept the rest chunky to keep the sauce meaty and robust. For the cheese, I got lazy and used a pre-shredded Italian 3 cheese mix.

Here's how the finished product looked:





Since it was such a lovely night, we dined alfresco. Here's what our table looked like before we dug in. Not pictured is the garlic bread (it had a few minutes left in the oven), and the nectarine cheesecake we had for dessert.

Banana Split Sandwich

Found this recipe in Cooking Light.

Banana Split Sandwich

Ingredients

2 (1-ounce) slices firm white sandwich bread, divided
1 teaspoon butter, softened
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon semisweet chocolate minichips
1 large strawberry, thinly sliced
1/2 small banana, cut lengthwise into 3 slices (about 2 ounces)
1 tablespoon pineapple jam

Notes: I used wheat bread instead of white. I went to two separate stores for mini chips, but they were nowhere to be found, so I used regular-sized chips. Dark chocolate, not semisweet. I also searched in vain for pineapple jam and could not find any, so I used orange marmalade instead. Grilled it up on the Foreman grill.

Directions

Spread one side of each bread slice with 1/2 teaspoon butter.



Combine peanut butter and honey; spread over plain side of 1 bread slice. Sprinkle with chocolate chips.



Top evenly with strawberry slices and banana slices. Spread pineapple jam over plain side of remaining bread slice.



Carefully assemble sandwich.

Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sandwich; cook 2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.





Yield: 1 serving (serving size: 1 sandwich)

My verdict: Yeah, it was good. But I made the mistake of eating this for breakfast. I don’t know about you, but I’m the kind of person who needs protein in the morning to jump-start my day. The problem with this sandwich is that it was just…too much. Too much sweet, too much sandwich, too much. I couldn’t finish the entire thing and actually felt a little sick afterwards.

Don’t get me wrong, it was very tasty. It would actually be a perfect dessert if it was cut into quarters and served with vanilla ice cream. ¼ of the serving size would be just about right. But a whole sandwich? For breakfast? Not so much.

Tomato Basil Bread

The other day I stopped in at Panera Bread to grab some lunch. While I was there, I grabbed a loaf of my favorite bread. Tomato Basil. How can you go wrong?

Over the weekend I used it for toast and sandwiches. On Saturday morning I made myself an egg sandwich and oh my...so good!

Toasted Tomato Basil bread with butter and fried egg served on a bed of baby spinach, topped with sliced grape tomatoes, pepper, and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Mmm!








This bread also makes heavenly grilled cheese sandwiches. Tomato Basil bread, sharp Australian aged white cheddar, fresh basil, and sliced tomatoes. Grilled to perfection and served with tomato soup and garden salad. Alas, no photos. But holy cow. You should try it. Yum.

Making some updates to Sweet & Saucy

The next few entries are going to be recycled posts from my other cooking blog. I'm trying to get most of the old posts transferred over here so I can consolidate both blogs and eventually use this one primarily. Apologies to anyone who has already seen these recipes. Thanks for your patience. I'll be back to new material soon!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Pistachio Encrusted Chicken

Pistachio Encrusted Chicken has always been a hit. Make a batch as finger food for a party, or throw a handful on top of some greens for a tasty salad!

Pistachio Encrusted Chicken

1 cup chopped pistachios
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
Salt and pepper to taste
2 large skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch strips

1. Preheat oven to 500°. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Mix together pistachios and bread crumbs in a shallow bowl. In a separate bowl, stir together Dijon mustard, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper until smooth. Dip chicken into Dijon mixture to coat, then coat with bread crumbs. Place onto prepared baking sheet.

3. Place into preheated oven and turn the oven down to 375°. Bake until the chicken is no longer pink and the pistachio coating is golden brown, about 20 minutes.

I used 2 round baking pans instead of a sheet (it was in the dishwasher). Rather than cutting the chicken into strips, I cut it into large bite-sized chunks. I couldn’t decide what to pair the chicken with. I eventually chose to put it on a bed of baby greens with sliced grape tomatoes, shredded carrot, cucumber, and avocado, and sprinkled everything with parmesan cheese. I had a slice of toasted whole wheat sourdough (with a hefty smear of homemade garlic butter) on the side. I definitely could’ve gone without the toast – I wasn’t able to finish it.

Prep:





Ready for the oven:





The finished product:





Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

In addition to the coconut lime cupcakes last night, I wanted to make pineapple upside down cupcakes (partly because they sounded good, but mostly in order to use up some of the maraschino cherries from my last batch of cupcakes. I still have 3 lbs of cherries left).

Rachel over at Coconut & Lime (fitting, considering my last post!) had a great recipe that I modified a bit and increased amounts for to make just what I wanted:

Topping:
½ cup butter
½ cup light brown sugar
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
2 20 oz cans canned pineapple rings in pineapple juice (drain and reserve juice for batter)


Cake Batter:
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup butter, at room temperature
3 cup flour
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ cup pineapple juice
4 ½ teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Grease cupcake tins. Cut a 1/2 inch chunk out of pineapple slices and place the slices individually in cupcake wells. They should lie flat in the pan and look like a "whole" ring again. Slice a maraschino cherry into quarters, and place one quarter of a cherry in the hole of each pineapple ring.
In a small saucepan, melt and stir together butter, brown sugar and corn syrup. Cook over low heat about 5 minutes or until it thickens slightly. Stir thoroughly to combine. Pour about one teaspoon of this topping into the bottom of each pineapple covered cupcake well.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Add the baking powder, mix briefly, then add the flour alternately with the pineapple juice. Pour about 1/3 cup of batter over each pineapple slice and bake for 20 minutes. Cool 20 minutes in pan then invert over a baking rack. (You may want to place parchment paper or a towel under the rack because they may drip.) Serve on a plate, pineapple side up.

Notes:

+ Rachel’s original recipe did not call for cherries. Since I had all those cherries to use up AND I can’t really imagine pineapple upside down cake without ‘em, I added them in.

+ I have some wheat/bran flour that needs to be used, so I added that in for ¼ of the flour. It gave the cupcakes a somewhat hearty, more dense flavor, but didn’t compromise the deliciousness of the cakes.

+ Pineapple rings come in cans of 10. This does not bode well for a slightly OCD baker who has 24 tins to fill. I had plenty of leftover 1 inch chunks, so I cobbled a few together in the bottom of the tins to make “rings” and called it good. They turned out fine.







Coconut Lime Cupcakes

Let it be known: I love love love lime. I’ll choose limes over lemons every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Lemon in my water? No thanks! Lime, please. I love lime candies, limeade, and yes, even chili-lime dishes. Lime is zingy, refreshing, and makes my mouth pucker up in sheer tart pleasure. At one point I think I owned a bottle of perfume with a lime base. Mmm!

Last night was the season finale of Lost, and as tradition goes, I wanted to make cupcakes for my posse of Lost fans. This season has been full of Dharma Initiative madness, and I was hard-pressed to come up with any type of food theme for my cupcakes. So, I kept it simple, and stuck to a ‘tropical’ theme.

I was debating about whether to make coconut cupcakes, key lime cupcakes, or pineapple upside down cupcakes. My friend Amie suggested combining the lime & coconut to make one tasty concoction and I couldn’t resist. (See the pineapple cakes in my next post).

I found a great recipe (Martha Stewart, natch), but had to triple the recipe to make 24 cakes instead of 6. Tripled amounts are indicated below.

Cupcakes

3 c all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 ½ c (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
2 c + 4 T sugar
½ t vanilla
1 c coconut milk
8 large egg whites
¾ c shredded sweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare muffin tins. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. With mixer on low, add flour, baking powder, salt and milk in three parts, alternating dry and wet, starting and ending with the flour. Beat until just combined. Set aside.

In a clean bowl beat the egg whites on high until stiff glossy peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter until combined. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites and coconut.

Fill muffin tins half full. Bake for 20 -25 minutes until golden or a tester comes clean. Allow to cool completely.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Lime Glaze
(The best part of the cupcake, in my opinion!)

2 c powdered sugar
3 t lime (about 1 ½ limes)
zest from 1 lime
milk

Mix sugar, lime juice, and zest together. Add milk 1 t at a time until desired consistency. Glaze cupcakes. Let sit until glaze has set.





Confessions of a Serial Baker

I have recently been baffled by a puzzling phenomenon: my cupboards are overflowing, and yet there’s nothing to eat. I live with roommates, and we each have a designated ‘food cupboard’ in the kitchen, along with communal cupboards for pots, pans, dishes, etc. Every time I opened my food cupboard, I couldn’t find anything with which to make a meal. So I’d wander out to the dining area, where I have a small pantry-like cupboard in addition to the one in the kitchen, and still…nothing.

Since I had a bit of down time while sick, I decided to do a little cleaning and organizing of both cupboards. The kitchen cupboard would be designated for mostly baking/cooking stuffs only: flour, sugar, spices, oils, etc, and the pantry cupboard would be actual food: canned goods, rice, beans, etc.

It took me a good hour or so to dig everything out, wipe down the shelves, and reorganize, but in the end I discovered why there’s never anything to eat. Behold, my baking cupboard:



You can head over to Flickr to check out specific notes for each item, or get a larger view.

The pantry didn’t warrant a photo, because all that’s in there is a sack of split peas, some pasta, tomato sauce, and a can or two of black beans.

I think I have a problem. Somebody stage an intervention.

Mini Apple Pizzas with Vintage White Aged Tillamook Cheddar & Caramelized Brown Sugar

This past week, I’ve been down with a nasty cold. I’ve barely had the energy to roll out of bed for a shower, let alone keep food in my stomach or otherwise take care of myself. Over the weekend, I started to feel much better and my appetite slowly returned. I was still a bit sniffly and miserable, though, and only wanted ‘comfort food’.

I’d had my fair share of chicken soup for the week, and wanted some solid food for a change. I finally decided on the ultimate comfort food, a favorite after-school snack from my childhood: Mini Apple Pizzas.

We lived about a mile and a half away from our Elementary school, just far enough to make it quite the hike for our little legs, and just close enough that the school bus didn’t have a route in our neighborhood. My brother and I would make the trek everyday (Uphill. Both ways. In horrific weather conditions, Sonny.) and come home tired and hungry. Mom almost always had a snack ready for us, and if we were lucky, it was apple pizzas.

Mom most often made ‘em in the fall when apples were in season and a warm, filling nibble was perfect after a walk home in the cold (Uphill. In sleet. With holes in our shoes and wearing nothing but thin jackets, Sonny.) She generally used Granny Smiths with medium cheddar (a yummy combo indeed), but for my post-sickness snack, I opted for something a bit less traditional.

Pacific Rose apples (a product of New Zealand & Washington state, depending on the time of year) were on sale at my local supermarket. I like their sweet, mild flavor and grabbed a few. Here’s one all washed and ready:



Fortunately for me, my all-time favorite cheese was also on sale, so I grabbed a brick:



Tillamook Vintage White Extra Sharp Cheddar. Aged for over two years and oh so good! I also picked up a bag of English muffins. Grocery List: Check!

Apple Pizzas are simple: slice open an English muffin. Very lightly butter it.
Place thinly sliced apples on the open muffin, and top with sliced cheese. Bake in the oven at 350 for about 15 minutes, and enjoy.



If desired, you can broil the pizza for a minute or two at the end to make the cheese brown and bubbly. I went a different route this time. I figured a light dusting of brown sugar would pair nicely with the ultra sharp cheddar, and what better way to consume brown sugar than caramelized? Out comes the torch!



In the end, they were all I’d hoped for and more: a perfect ‘comfort food’ snack, sweet and savory, filling but not overly so, and tasty to the max. Yum!