Friday, April 22, 2011

Flock of cupcakes!

So in honor of Easter, I made some cupcakes last week.  These weren't just any kind of cupcakes mind you, no they were cupcakes decorated to look like sheep!  They were adorable and yummy and actually quite easy.  A little time consuming, but if you have a few trusted responsible young little helpers at home you could probably get all the marshmallows cup pretty quick!  I got the recipe for the cupcakes and the decoration idea from Martha Stewart's Cupcake cookbook, which I suggest all of you cupcakes lovers out there should really buy.  I love it and there are so many fun and yummy ideas.  In fact someday, when I am all grown up, lol and once again have a kitchen of my own to trash, I want to bake my way through the whole cookbook.  Sigh, how I cannot wait for those days...anyway here is your recipe!

Our ingredients..

After adding all the looks like this!

Look at them all!!!!

Vanilla Buttermilk Cupcakes
From Martha Stewart's Cupcake book
Makes "24" according to Martha...I got 40...

3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (2 1/4 sticks), room temperature
2 1/4 cups sugar
5 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks, room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, room temp
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line muffin tins with cupcake liners.  In a medium bowl, mix together the flours, baking soda and powder and salt.  Set aside until later.

With a mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add whole eggs, one at a time, then the yolks and beat until fully incorporated.  Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk.  Mix completely after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla extract.

Pour batter into liners, about 1/4 cup in each, or until 2/3 to 3/4 full.  Bake about 20-22 minutes, rotating pan halfway through if you don't have a convection oven to avoid hot spots.  When a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, you will know they are done.  Cool cupcakes in the pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before removing.

Vanilla Butercream Frosting
From Martha Stewart's Cupcake book

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted to remove clumps
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Beat butter on medium-high until softened.  Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until fully incorporated.  Add vanilla flavor and spread or pipe onto cupcakes.

Add the heads by piping on a "pear" shape with just a coupler.

Naked sheep!!

Beginning at the bottom, layer on marshmallow halves all over the cupcakes.

Fully dressed sheep.

Using a #352 leaf tip, add ears on each side.

Next pipe on the face using a #1 fine tip and push chocolate sprinkles in the long way to make little eyes.

Decorating Instructions!
To decorate the cupcakes to look like sheep, start by cutting a bag of mini marshmallows in half to form a bunch of tiny circles with one sticky side.  Trust me, this will help with putting them on the cupcakes later.  Take a small amount of the frosting, maybe 1/3 to 1/2 a cup and lightly tint it pink, this will be used to make the faces later.  Lightly frost all of the cupcakes using a frosting spatula.  It doesn't have to be perfect since you are going to be covering it with marshamallows so don't stress about it.  Using a piping bag with just a coupler in it, pipe on a "head" making a pear shape with plain vanilla frosting.  Then cover the cupcake with the marshmallows, sticky side down (this really helps them stay on) until you've covered it entirely.  Then stick two of the sprinkles (or jimmies) into the head so that they look like eyes and finish them off by piping on a mouth and nose with the pink frosting.

Have a Happy Easter everyone!  Enjoy!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs and Tomato Basil Sauce

So while I was making these for dinner a while back I was making little comments to know stuff to remember for next time...stuff to be sure to tell you all about in case you decide to make these little meatballs from heaven...needless to say I said "balls" a lot...and my husband felt the need to share some of these comments on Facebook.  You see the things I put up with?!  Now you understand why I am frustrated!  Lol, no worries though, they got made, the family loved them and I tuned my silly hubby out long enough to write down what I need to tell you all about these "balls"!

I read about these on Picky Palate's site a few weeks ago and have been desperate to try them ever since.  It took a few tries, but I was so glad when I finally found a grocery store around here that had the marinated mozzarella balls...yes honey...I said balls.  Sigh.  Anyway...I used my normal meatball recipe and enclosed these yummy little bites of fresh mozzarella inside.  I then topped them off with my absolute favorite tomato basil sauce, a recipe I adapted from a Rachael Ray magazine a few years ago and paired them with spaghetti noodles and some buttered herb bread.  It was a great meal...ah, how I love pasta...and bread...and meatballs.  Yes honey, I know, I know...I said it again.

You will probably notice that I have much larger quantities shown in these picture than my recipes call for...I was cooking for 8 people...who are partly Italian...and who LOVE pasta

Our Meatball ingredients

Mix all the meatball ingredients together well 

Super yummy marinated mozzarella BFF introduced me to these a few years ago...thanks Sarah!!!!! : D

Place one mozzarella ball into a divot made in each meatball

Bake for half an hour and then try not to eat them before dinner!

Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs
idea borrowed from Picky Palate

1  1/2 lbs. ground beef
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup diced onions (or dried minced onions if you are out of onions like me...)
salt and pepper to taste
1 pkg. marinated fresh mozzarella balls

*measurements are approximate...I usually don't measure mine out

Mix all of the ingredients together except for the mozzarella balls.  Roll into whatever size meatballs you prefer, mine were about and inch and half in diameter.  Drain the mozzarella balls, being sure to get as much oil out as possible without losing any of them because it makes it a lot easier to seal them in if they are not all slimy with oil.  Place one mozzarella ball into each meatball and completely enclose the cheese, being sure to seal the ground beef mixture well around it so that it doesn't all melt out.  Bake in the oven at 350 F for 30 minutes or so.

We will start with some tips for chopping fresh basil.  Stack up all of the leaves

Roll them all up together...

Slice them finely...

Turn the knife or your cutting board and while rocking your chef's knife back and forth, finely chop the basil or whatever other herb you are using for your particular recipe.


Saute the onions and garlic

Add the tomato sauce, basil and Parmesan cheese

Simmer until your pasta and meatballs are done!

Basil Tomato Sauce
adapted from a Rachael Ray magazine a few years ago...not sure which one

1 Tbsp. Olive oil
30 oz. canned tomato sauce
7 basil leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup diced onions (again use dried if you have to like I did this time)

First, start a large pan of water to boil for the pasta. In a sauce pan over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic in about a Tbsp. of olive oil until onions are transparent or the garlic is lightly browned.  Add the tomato sauce, basil and parmesan.  Simmer for about 15 minutes, add salt and pepper to taste and let simmer on super low heat until the meatballs and pasta are done.

For the bread, I just sliced up a loaf I bought at the store and spread a little bit of butter I had mixed with basil on it and broiled it for about 2 minutes in the oven.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Raisinet Cookies!

Yup, you read that right.  Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies with Raisinets in them.  They are delicious, they are divine, they are quite literally the best cookie idea I have ever had.  Seriously, best one EVER!

My husband, in his wonderful kindness bought me one of those big bags of Raisinets the other day because he knows I love them.  My first instinct of course was to hide in a dark room by myself and devour the whole bag in one sitting.  Don't worry though, saner heads prevailed and I resisted but I was not sure what to do with them.  I thought it over for a few days and had a couple of different ideas, but I kept coming back to these cookies.  It just seemed perfect to put chocolate covered raisins in an oatmeal chocolate chip recipe.  I used my favorite oatmeal chocolate chip recipe that I received in an email years ago.  One of those chain mail things about Neiman Marcus of the ones that is totally untrue but had a perfectly wonderful recipe included.  I tweaked it a bit to make it work for this idea but I'll link to the original recipe for you guys in case you want to check it out.

Here are all of our ingredients...

Your oatmeal will look like this after you blend it...

After all of your other ingredients are added, stir in the chocolate chips and Raisinets!

Enjoy!  Yummy!!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Raisinet Cookies
adapted from this recipe

2 cups butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
4 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
5 cups oatmeal, blended until a fine powder
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
11 oz. package Raisinets

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a stand mixer, blend together butter and sugars until fluffy.  Add eggs and blend until they are completely mixed in.  Add flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder gradually, being sure it is all incorporated.  Using a blender of food processor, grind the oatmeal into a fine powder and then add to the batter.  Mix in the chocolate chips and Raisinets.  Drop in 1 Tbsp. balls onto a silicone lined baking sheet, or a cookie sheet with nonstick spray and bake for 9-11 minutes.  Remove when the edges are set and the cookies are slightly browned.  Allow to cool for about 2 minutes on the baking sheets before moving to a cooling rack.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Popcorn and a movie!

For the last few days I have been debating on what to make today.  At first I planned on making some sort of fake out dinner or dessert, you know cause it is April Fool's Day...but I decided I didn't feel like going through all of the effort this year.  I wanted to make something quick and simple, I wanted something sweet and salty, I wanted something crunchy that you could eat with your hands.  That's it! Popcorn...but not just any popcorn.  I based this popcorn on a recipe on Picky Palate's site for Snicker Doodle Popcorn with White Chocolate Drizzle.  It looked delicious and was the perfect snack for our "Girl Party" today.  It was just us girls today at home and Tangled just came out on we just had to watch it...and make some popcorn, apparently this makes it a party, or so my daughter says.

Note the cream...I left mine out because I felt the white chocolate chips didn't need it with how thin the caramel sauce was...

After your popcorn is popped and properly buttered, sprinkle on some sugar and salt!

Drizzle on the melted white chocolate and caramel.

Top with a little bit more sea salt and let sit until the white chocolate caramel sauce is hardened.

White Chocolate Salted Caramel Popcorn
based on Picky Palate's recipe

3 Tbsp. canola oil
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
4 Tbsp. melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. sea salt, divided
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup caramel sauce
2-3 Tbsp. heavy cream

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat.  When hot, add one popcorn kernel to test if it is hot enough yet or not.  When it pops, you are ready, add all the other kernels and place the lid on the pot.  Cook with the lid on until the popping slows or stops, same as you would with the microwave popcorn.  It takes a couple of minutes max, so don't wander away!!  When it is done, pour the popped corn into a big bowl and pour melted butter over the top.  Mix, then add the sugar and 1 Tbsp. of the sea salt.  Mix again.  Pour out onto a silicone lined baking sheet.  In a double broiler or in the microwave, melt the white chocolate chips and then mix in the caramel sauce.  Drizzle over the popcorn, sprinkle on the last Tbsp. of sea salt and let sit until solidified.  It took a while for mine, like an hour so make this popcorn well ahead of time!

Place in a giant bowl to be shared among the group and Enjoy!