Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Pinterest...Wednesday! "Valentine's Day" Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes



I don't generally make New Year's resolutions.  Basically, by resolving to do something, I'm resolve to not accomplish that particular task.  Resolve to lose 20 pounds?  Let's gain 10 instead!  Resolve to get up at 5:30 every morning to do yoga?  Still hitting snooze at 6:30!

It's useless.

But one thing I can resolve for this year is that I will stop trying to plan this blog.  I say I'm going to do XYZ, and I always, always end up lying.  I have to learn that it's OK!  It's OK to intend to do a Pinterest Fridays post every week and then go two weeks without a post and do it on Wednesday instead.  It's really OK!

(Plus, with this particular one, I'm going to pretend I'm just really on the ball with Valentine's Day recipes.  They were birthday cupcakes, but let's pretend I'm prepared for V-Day, OK?)

My friend Sherry had a birthday on January 5th and I was not aware of it until January 8th.  She made an offhanded reference to "her birthday on Monday," and I was like, wait.  Wait, what?  She said she doesn't like to make a big deal out of birthdays.  

(This is from the same person who brought me like 3 different kinds of baked treats and ice cream and I want to say donuts on my birthday in October.  I call shenanigans.)

So these cupcakes were for Sherry's 25th birthday ("Valentine's Day") and they're amazing.  The original recipe came from the Curly Girl Kitchen blog.  As always, some minor adjustments were made.


"Valentine's Day" Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes
Makes 20-24
Adapted from Curly Girl Kitchen's Chocolate Covered Cherry Cupcakes


Ingredients







For the cupcakes
1 box devil's food cake mix
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 eggs
2  tsp. vanilla
1 cup full-fat sour cream
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup tart cherry juice (I actually used cherry-pomegranate juice.  It was excellent.)

For the ganache
4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream

For the frosting (Not pictured) (I don't know why.)
1 cup tart cherry (or cherry-pomegranate) juice, reduced to a little more than 1/3 cup
1 1/2 cups room temperature unsalted butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2-4 Tbsp. milk

Garnishes
Sweet cherries (You can use maraschino, but fresh is much better)
Chocolate jimmies (optional)



To prepare cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350°F and line your cupcake pan with paper cups.

Blend all cake ingredients until batter is smooth, but don't overmix.

Spoon batter into the pan and bake for 16-18 minutes.  Allow to cool completely.


To prepare ganache

Put the chocolate chips in a bowl.

Pour the cream into a small saucepan and heat over medium low heat until bubbles begin to form around the edges.  (Don't burn it!)  

Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it stand for 3 minutes before stirring the chocolate and cream together until well-blended and smooth.

Dip the top of each cupcake into the ganache and carefully shake off the excess.  Set aside and let set for 10 minutes or so before frosting the cupcakes.


To prepare frosting

Put the butter in a stand mixer.  (You can mix this all by hand if you want, but it'll just take a while.)

(Instructions always say to use the whisk attachment for frostings, but I find that the beater attachment works best for me.)

Beat the butter and your reduced juice together until well blended.

Add the powdered sugar to the mixture little by little (about 1/4 cup at a time) until blended.  Add the vanilla and 2 Tbsp. of the milk to moisten and continue to whip until it's reached your desired consistency.  Add more sugar or milk as needed to make the frosting smooth.

Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes and garnish with a cherry and sprinkles, if you'd like.  I tried to drizzle leftover ganache on some of mine as well, but it just got all gloppy and weird-looking.  But more power to you if you can make it look awesome! 




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Friday, January 2, 2015

Pinterest Friday: Smoked Sausage, Cheddar, & Beer Cheese Soup



Happy New Year!  To start off the year, here's the first post for my Pinterest Fridays series!

(I've desperately tried to think of a more catchy name, but so far, nothin'.)

Pinterest Fridays will be (as their name pretty much indicates), days when I'll make and post something I found on Pinterest.

(Are you following me on Pinterest?  If not, find my boards here!)

This recipe came from my Soups & Stews & Chowders & Chilis board and comes from The Peace + Love + Low Carb blog.  According to the pin, it's a CrockPot recipe, but I just made it in an evening.  The original recipe can be found here.

This.  Soup.  Is.  Amazing.  There's really no other way to say it.  I know I have my own recipe for Beer Cheese Soup, but this one kind of blows that one out of the water.  I think it's the addition of sausage.

Dennis and I ate this in complete silence, because we were too busy shoveling it into our mouths to say much of anything.  It also makes killer leftovers.

My one mishap with this one is that I tried to taste it while it was cooking, and I'm pretty sure I gave myself 2nd degree tongue burns.  I burned my tongue on a Thursday, and it didn't stop hurting until the next Tuesday.  So...don't do that.

I would say that you absolutely have to use the Trader Joe's sausage I used, because it's so good, and it made the soup so good, but really, any kind of hot sausage will do.  (Or mild sausage, if that's what you're into!)

This is perfect for a chilly evening (Which, as it turns out, we DO have in Southern California!).  Give it a try, and I promise you won't be sorry you did.

(Incidentally, if anyone has anything better than Pinterest Friday to call these posts, I'd love to hear any suggestions!)


Smoked Sausage, Cheddar, & Beer Cheese Soup
Serves 6-8
From The Peace + Love + Low Carb blog


Ingredients




1 package (14 oz. or more) hot Italian sausage (Trader Joe's brand if you have it), sliced
32 oz. beef broth
1 12 oz.bottle of beer, any kind 
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 cup heavy cream
6 oz. cream cheese
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp. olive oil


Add the olive oil to a large pot and heat over medium-high heat.  Cook the sausage through, then add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes, until the veggies lose their bite.

Add the broth, beer, red pepper, salt, and pepper, and turn the heat up to high.  Stir, and then bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to medium-high and allow to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the cream, cream cheese, and cheese.  Stir until there are no longer clumps of cream cheese.  (You may need to use an immersion blender to break the cream cheese down.)

Taste (carefully!!) to see if any more salt or pepper is needed, and add as desired.  Simmer for another 10 minutes.  

Serve with breadsticks.




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Friday, December 19, 2014

The Get 'Em Girls Guide to the Power of Cuisine: Herb-Crusted Sirloin



I don't often cook steaks.  I have nothing against steak, but I feel like whenever I cook them, I cook them for too long, and I can never quite achieve the medium-rare-ness I'm going for. 

When I saw (I thought) that this recipe was done under the broiler, I got excited.  Yay!  It's telling me exactly how to cook these, and it's all done under the broiler with little effort on my part!  Yay!

(You know how you always hear that you need to, for one, make sure you have all the ingredients needed for a recipe, and two, read through the entirety of the recipe carefully before beginning?  That's true.  Very, very true.)

(You know how I've also mentioned that sometimes I have kitchen mishaps, and I like to share them, because of the perceived perfection in the kitchen so many food bloggers portray?  This is one of those instances.) 

So I was preparing to cook these steaks under the broiler, and Dennis happened into the kitchen and noticed the broiler was on. 

"How are you cooking those steaks?" he asked.

I indicated the broiler that was on, in kind of a duh sort of way.  "Broiler."

"You're cooking the steaks under a broiler?"

"Yeah."

"What's going on them?"

I showed him the herb crust mixture.  

"Under the broiler?"

"Yes."

"At 400°?"

"Yes."

"Sarah, if you put those steaks under the broiler until they're cooked, your breadcrumbs are going to burst into flames."

He ended up cooking the steaks, and it wasn't until the next day that I realized my mistake.  (If you wonder, the first step of the recipe is to preheat the broiler to 400°F.  For whatever reason, when I saw that, I assumed that meant that that's how the steak was to be cooked.  Needless to say, that was incorrect.)

All that to say, read the recipes thoroughly, lest your breadcrumbs burst into flames, and make these steaks, because when all was said and done, this and Wednesday's cheddar garlic biscuits (along with a salad) made a fantastic meal!


Herb-crusted Sirloin
Serves 2


Ingredients





Sirloin

2 sirloin steaks
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced finely
1/4 cup vegetable oil


Herb Crust
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
2 tsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper


Preheat your broiler to 400°F.  (THIS IS FOR AFTER COOKING THE STEAKS!)

Combine the herb crust ingredients (garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs, butter, salt, and pepper).  Blend well and set aside.

Season the steaks with the remaining salt and pepper.  In a small bowl, combine the remaining garlic and the vegetable oil and rub this mixture onto each side of both steaks.

Cook your steaks in a pan over medium high heat until they reach your desired temperature.  (For medium-well, cook for 8 minutes or so.)  Make sure to flip halfway through your desired cooking time.

Remove the pan from heat and spoon the herb crust mixture on one side of each steak.  Press mixture into steak.

Place the pan under the broiler and broil for 2-3 minutes, until the crust turns golden brown, and before your breadcrumbs burst into flames. 

Allow steaks to sit for 3 minutes or so before serving.




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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Get 'Em Girls Guide to the Power of Cuisine: Cheddar Garlic Biscuits



This recipe is stupidly easy.  Like...I can't even convey to you guys how stupidly easy it is.

But, if your house is anything like mine, what's going to happen is people will eat them and say, "Hey, these taste exactly like those Red Lobster biscuits."

Because they do.

I made these to go with the steak that will be posted on Wednesday, and the meal was a huge success.

This cookbook is one I got from the library book sale back in North Carolina, and I've meant to make things out of it several times, but I never quite got around to it.  You can tell by all of the dog-eared pages in the book that my intentions were good.

It's funny, because it's something of a "cooking for single gals" kind of cookbook, and I am clearly not in that demographic, but it's one of my favorite cookbooks I've read.  (I read cookbooks.  Is that weird?  That might be weird.)  I like the recipes, as well as the fact that there's quasi-dating advice in it, and also tips for having a put-together kitchen.

Even if you just read food blogs to see what you could make if you ever set foot in your kitchen, make these.  Trust me.


Cheddar Garlic Biscuits
Makes 24-36
From The Get 'Em Girls Guide to the Power of Cuisine


Ingredients



For the baking of the biscuits:

2 cups baking or biscuit mix (like Bisquick)
2/3 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

For brushing on top:

8 Tbsp. melted unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. garlic powder


Preheat oven to 450°F.

Combine the baking mix, milk, and cheese in a medium bowl until you get a soft dough.  Drop the dough in large tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Mix the garlic powder and butter in a small bowl and brush the mixture over the hot biscuits.

Serve immediately and accept compliments and Red Lobster comparisons.



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Monday, December 15, 2014

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap: Mrs. Fields Cookie Book Double Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies



This year, I participated the in Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, which sends cookies made by food bloggers all over the place to other food bloggers.

The gist of the whole thing is that each blogger is assigned to three other bloggers, and they make a dozen cookies for each of the people they're assigned to.  (What an awkward sentence.)

I received the names of three bloggers to send my cookies to, and three other bloggers received my name, basically. 

It was really fun getting cookies in the mail, and everyone that sent them to me went all out!

Allison of Sushi Day sent me FOUR varieties of cookies: 


Pistachio cookies, chocolate peanut butter cup cookies, date nut bars, and refrigerator cookies.  I was so surprised to get so many, and they were awesome!

Sara at Sara Ran Away with the Spoon sent me some ridiculously good citrus butter cookies that were in an adorable box AND individually wrapped!



And last, but most assuredly not least, Brett at Green Thumb White Apron sent me ridiculous, RIDICULOUS shortbread chocolate chip cookies and these savory shortbread cheese cookies.  Dennis and I nearly came to blows over the cheese ones -- they were some of the best things I've ever had.  I can't wait for Brett to post the recipe for these.


As for me, I took a recipe out of the Mrs. Fields Cookie Book.  These Double Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies were pretty good.  (They were no cheese biscuits, though!)  Instead of using chopped chocolate, I used chips, and these would for sure be a nice addition to any holiday cookie exchange!


Double Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 3 dozen cookies


Ingredients



2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda 
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 300°F.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  Mix well and set aside.

Blend the sugars in a large bowl using a mixer.  (I used my KitchenAid.)  Add butter and mix until well combined.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat at medium speed until the batter is smooth.

Add the flour mixture and the two chocolates to the sugar mixture and blend at a low speed until just combined.

Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.  Bake 23-25 minutes.  

After the cookies are baked, transfer them to a cool, flat surface.





The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cooking with the Diabetic Chef: Red (Bliss) Potato Salad



I think I've run into one of the editing issues that had one Amazon reviewer giving this cookbook one star.  The actual name of this recipe on the page is Red Potato Salad.  However, after I made it, I had to look it up again in the index, and it was called Red Bliss Potato Salad.

I guess bliss is subjective.

It was weird to me that there was a recipe for potato salad in this book, because potatoes are notorious for giving diabetics fits with their blood sugar levels.  But obviously, that didn't deter me much.

Even Dennis, who isn't the biggest fan of potato (bliss) salad, said this one was really good.

I realize in other parts of the country, now is the time to be making hot stews and baking bread and sipping cider, and you're not necessarily thinking about potato salads, but I'm in Southern California, so you have to give me a little bit of a break.  I didn't even think about it until I was writing this post (last month, actually), and thinking about how it was 90°F outside.

It occurred to me mid-post that most people were probably wearing mittens right now.  Sorry!  I'll try to be more timely.  (But if you're in SoCal, give me a call.  We'll make some potato salad and go on a picnic!)


Red (Bliss) Potato Salad
Serves 4-6
From Cooking with the Diabetic Chef


Ingredients




1.5 lbs. red potatoes
1/2 cup celery, diced
4-5 Tbsp. mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 green onions, chopped


Fill a large pot with 2 qt. water and bring to a boil.  Poke several holes in your (clean) potatoes with a fork and add them to the pot.  Bring the water to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the potatoes are done.

Remove the potatoes from the water and let them cool.

Once cooled, cut the potatoes into quarters and place them in a large bowl.  Add the celery, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and pepper and mix gently. 

At this point, you can refrigerate this overnight, but you don't have to.  We ate it right away.  Refrigerating it helps the flavors blend, though.

Regardless, garnish with the green onions prior to serving...maybe in June.



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Monday, December 8, 2014

Cooking with the Diabetic Chef: Chicken Minute Steak Philly


I'm a Type 1 diabetic, which I'm pretty sure I've mentioned a time or two.  I even attempted one of those ubiquitous Diabetic Cookbooks (with sad results.)  I just got my "25 years of diabetes" medal in October...


...so you might say I'm well-versed in all things diabetes.  (I like to refer to this as my "congratulations on not dying" medal, but Dennis doesn't find that nearly as funny as I do.)

What this means for this blog is that I don't trust diabetic cookbooks.  (I also don't trust sugar free candy, but that's another story entirely.)  I do not trust them, because they always, always let me down.  

That is, until now.  I have found a diabetic cookbook that I'm willing to let continue taking up space on my shelf.

Cooking with the Diabetic Chef had some really good food in it.  I was a little hesitant, because I had gone to the negative Amazon reviews for this book before trying it out (I only read negative reviews of things, probably because I don't need a hundred people telling me why they love something, but I do need three people telling me what to watch out for.)  These were the negative reviews:


The first one thought the editing was bad, and was mad about a typo.  (Note:  The editing IS pretty bad, and as an editor, you'd think I'd care about that more, but I'm just here for the food.)

The second one was also mad about the layout.  The third one was mad that it wasn't a book about nutrition.  (It's a cookbook.  If you want nutrition, get a book about nutrition.)

I decided to give it a go anyway, and I'm so glad I did.  These sandwiches were simple, but really, amazingly good.  Dennis loved them, I loved them...Zelda didn't get any, but that's because of the peppers and onions.  Had I given her some, I'm sure she would have loved it.

The recipe calls for hoagie buns, but I used regular hamburger buns.  Use whichever -- it'll be awesome either way.


Chicken Minute Steak Philly
Serves 2


Ingredients




3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or comparable chicken parts)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 green pepper, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 rolls (or buns)
2-4 slices mozzarella cheese


Cut the chicken breasts into 3-4 strips.  Season with salt and pepper.  

Heat 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add the peppers and onion and saute for 3 minutes.

Add the rest of the oil and the chicken to the pan.  Cook until the chicken is cooked through, 165°F.

Place the chicken, onions, and peppers into your bun or on your roll.  Place cheese on top and serve immediately.



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