The triplets just celebrated their birthday and I made these cupcakes for one of my son’s classes. He asked for “Worms in Dirt” cupcakes. This (above) is how I frosted them prior to adding the worms (crushed chocolate wafer cookies) and dirt (gummy worms). The after picture is below. He was so happy and almost all of the children in the class loved them. I tried a new chocolate frosting and I thought it was delicious. It was nice and fluffy and did very well when piped from a pastry bag. I find it much faster to frost cupcakes using a pastry bag then it is to frost manually by hand. I think they look better too.
I used my go-to vanilla cupcake recipe for the cupcakes. Yum!
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Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
Using the wire whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice.
Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and add the vanilla, mixing until incorporated. Add the melted chocolate and whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed to incorporate all of the chocolate.
You can store any unused buttercream in the refrigerator in an airtight container; let it come to room temperature and then give it a quick whip in the mixer before using.
Yield: Enough frosting for 12 cupcakes
One year ago: Chipotle Quinoa with Corn and Black Beans
Two years ago: Oatmeal, Cranberry and Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Three years ago: Crisp Roasted Potatoes
Four years ago: Herbed Basmati Rice
Five years ago: Grandma Sachs’ Crumb Cake
This is a really interesting coconut bread that looks like it might be similar to a banana bread, but it isn’t. It has a much coarser crumb, and it’s not as sweet as a typical banana bread. I like this bread best toasted or warm with butter. It would be nice with a little confectioner’s sugar on it as well. I can see it being served as part of a bread basket at a nice restaurant. As a matter of fact, the recipe comes from a chef named Bill Granger, who owns a restaurant called Bill’s Cafe, outside Sydney.
I didn’t have any superfine sugar, so I used regular granulated sugar and the bread was still delicious. If you would like to make your own superfine sugar, you can take a little more granulated sugar than you need in your recipe and put it into a food processor. If you process the sugar for a minute or two (depending upon how much sugar you’re processing), you’ll end up with superfine sugar. I recommend putting a towel around your food processor during the process because sugar dust will be created and some may try escape onto your kitchen counter.
This would be a nice addition to a brunch table, with butter and marmalade or jam.
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Recipe, as seen on Smitten Kitchen and The New York Times
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup superfine sugar
5 ounces sweetened flaked coconut (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray for baking pan
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla.
In a medium bowl, sift together 2 1/2 cups flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Add sugar and coconut, and stir to mix. Make a well in the center, and pour in egg mixture. Gradually mix with dry ingredients, until just combined. Add melted butter, and stir until smooth. Do not overmix.
Butter and flour (or spray with oil) a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Pour batter into pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool in pan 5 minutes, remove bread from pan, and finish cooling on a rack.
To serve, cut into 8 to 10 thick slices. If desired, toast lightly, spread with butter, and dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar.
Yield: One loaf, 8 to 10 servings
One year ago: Salted Chocolate Caramel Cookie Bars
Two years ago: Spanakopita Lasagna
Three years ago: Chocolate Chip Waffles
Four years ago: Dinner Spanakopita
Five years ago: Cheddar Corn Chowder
This is my new, favorite macaroni and cheese recipe. I could eat this every day for a week without getting sick of it, and I almost have, considering I made a lot of it and the boys won’t touch it. It’s great fresh from the stove, and it’s great as a leftover as well. When you reheat it, and I’ve been reheating mine in the microwave, it doesn’t separate like some other cheesy dishes do.
There’s no need to make a roux or bechamel sauce for this recipe, the evaporated milk and cornstarch do the trick. Mixed with the melted cheese, they make a nice gooey sauce.
If you follow the recipe as written, you’ll end up with a nice, spicy dish. If you don’t like things very spicy, you can back off on the chipotle peppers, or you can remove the chipotle seeds before you chop the peppers.
I didn’t have a jalapeno or serrano pepper on hand, so I skipped it. Next time, I’ll make sure I have one on hand to use. I think it will add nicely to the dish.
This is going to be added to our regular dinner rotation. It’s really delicious! If you like macaroni and cheese, make this tonight!
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Macaroni and Cheese with Black Beans and Chipotle
Recipe from Serious Eats
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 whole chipotle chilis packed in adobo sauce, minced, plus 2 tablespoons adobo sauce from the can
1 serrano chili or jalapeño chili, finely minced
6 ounces block American cheese, roughly grated or diced
6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, roughly grated or diced
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
4 finely sliced scallions
Combine cornstarch, evaporated milk, and eggs in a medium bowl and whisk until homogenous. Set aside.
Cook pasta in a large stock pot in salted water according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking water. Return to stock pot and add cooking water, beans, chipotle chilies, serrano or jalapeño, evaporated milk mixture, and cheeses. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted and sauce is creamy and smooth. Stir in cilantro and scallions, reserving some for garnish. Transfer to serving bowl, top with remaining cilantro and scallions, and serve immediately.
One year ago: Oreo Rice Krispie Treats
Two years ago: Homemade Cheez-It Crackers
Three years ago: Breakfast Tart with Pancetta and Green Onions
Four years ago: Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Five years ago: Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies
I don’t know if I’ve ever been to an Olive Garden, but based on this recipe, I can bet that their soft bread sticks are delicious. I’ve made this recipe a number of times now as the boys are always asking me to make bread, rolls or biscuits. The boys are carb hounds. They each have an incredibly limited, yet different diet, but they all love bread.
Several years ago, I was scared to death to bake with yeast, after trying several times with lousy results. I persevered and now yeast and I are great friends. As long as the yeast is fresh, it’s not as difficult to use as I once thought. It took me a bit of practice to get the hang of it, but now it’s not intimidating at all to me.
Each time I make this, I vary the amount of garlic powder that I use. For our family 1/8 teaspoon is ideal, although one of my sons would prefer that I leave out the garlic powder entirely. I leave out the oregano because the boys still hate green stuff on their food.
You need to start to make these about an hour and 15 minutes before you want to serve them. They’re best served warm.
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Olive Garden Bread Sticks
Recipe from Food.com
1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon fine salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pinch dried oregano
Make the dough: Place 1/4 cup warm water in the bowl of a mixer; sprinkle in the yeast and set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the flour, butter, sugar, fine salt and 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons warm water; mix with the paddle attachment until a slightly sticky dough forms, 5 minutes.
Knead the dough by hand on a floured surface until very smooth and soft, 3 minutes. Roll into a 2-foot-long log; cut into 16 1 1/2-inch pieces. Knead each piece slightly and shape into a 7-inch long bread stick; arrange 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with a cloth; let rise in a warm spot until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Make the topping: Brush the bread sticks with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt.
Bake until slightly golden, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt with the garlic powder and oregano.
Brush the warm bread sticks with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle with the garlic salt.
Yield: 16 breadsticks
It’s almost Easter, and one of our boys’ favorite treats at this time of year is Marshmallow Peeps. The boys like to eat them, and they also like to have Peep wars in the microwave. The other day we decided to try to make some peeps from scratch. There are lots of recipes out there, but we decided to try Martha Stewart’s.
The recipe is very easy to make if you have a candy thermometer, a stand mixer and a pastry bag/tip.
Our boys LOVED these. They would have been happy to eat the whole batch in one sitting. I enjoyed them, but they are a little too sweet for me. The next time I make these, I’m going to try to add a quarter teaspoon of vanilla.
If you want to learn how to pipe the marshmallow into peep shapes, I recommend this site. We made some bunny shapes as well, but our peeps were cuter. One of my sons actually piped most of the peeps in the photo. He had a great time making them. It was a really fun Easter activity.
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Homemade Marshmallow Peeps
Recipe adapted slightly from Martha Stewart
1 unflavored gelatin (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1/3 cup cold water, for gelatin, plus 1/4 cup for syrup
1 cup sugar
colored sugars for covering Peeps
edible markers for eyes on Peeps/bunnies
In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/3 cup cold water. Allow gelatin to soften, about 5 minutes.
Place colored sugars into shallow bowls and set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup water and sugar, and stir over medium-high heat until sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring, and place a candy thermometer into sugar water; wipe sides of pan with a wet brush if sugar crystals have splattered up. Boil sugar until temperature reaches the soft-ball stage (238 degrees). Remove syrup from heat; add to softened gelatin. Using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer, beat slowly at first, to allow the mixture to cool a bit, then beat on medium high until soft peaks form and the marshmallow mixture holds shape, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Transfer marshmallow mixture to a large (14-inch) pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch (No. 11 Ateco) tip, and use immediately. Pipe shapes into bowls of sugar, one at a time. Once piped, use a spoon to cover the Peep completely. Once covered in sugar, remove carefully with a spoon or spatula, and place on a piece of parchment paper to set. Use an edible marker to make eyes on the Peeps.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups of marshmallow
This is a great side-dish to make on a weeknight. It’s quick and it’s tasty. I really enjoyed it when I made it the first night, and it was even terrific for lunch the next day. The consistency wasn’t perfect the next day, but I actually enjoyed the flavor a little more. I used the microwave to heat it up for lunch. If you’re going to do this, add a little water or broth to the orzo to keep it moist while it’s heating.
Next time I make this I might squeeze some fresh lemon juice into the orzo. I think it will give it an extra little punch! This photo is of lunchtime, reheated orzo. It’s creamier when it’s first made.
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Orzo with Herbs
Recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine
2 cups orzo
splash of olive oil
2 cups chicken broth
handful of chopped dill
handful of chopped parsley
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and more for serving
Cook 2 cups orzo in salted boiling water until al dente, about 8 minutes; drain. Chop 6 scallions; cook just the white parts in a skillet with olive oil until tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in the orzo, 2 cups chicken broth, the scallion greens and a handful each of chopped parsley and dill; season with salt and pepper. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Serve with extra Parmesan on top, if desired.
Yield: 4 servings
Two years ago: Weeknight White Chicken Chili
If you like cheesecake and you like chocolate, this recipe is a winner. It’s absolutely delicious. I’d be happy eating a slice after dinner every night. It’s rich though, so I’d want a small slice.
I made this to serve as dessert for my St. Patrick’s Day dinner. I made it because both my mom and dad enjoy cheesecake, as does my husband and two of my boys. Since it was an Irish dinner, I decided to top the cake with some fresh whipped cream flavored with Bailey’s Irish Cream. I whipped some heavy cream, dumped in a teaspoon of vanilla, some confectioners sugar to taste and 2-3 tablespoons of Baileys. It was decadent, especially served on top of the rich cheesecake, but it was incredible. The whipped cream in the photo is straight from a can. We inhaled the Baileys whipped cream at dinner, leaving not a drop in the bowl, so I didn’t have any to photograph.
The cookie base was ever so slightly flavored with cinnamon. If you’re not a cinnamon and chocolate fan, you can leave the cinnamon out. It will be equally as good without it. I recommend buying decent bittersweet chocolate for this recipe, since the flavor is so prominent in the cake.
This cheesecake is supposed to freeze well, I can’t personally attest to that because we polished it off in no time. That said, cheesecakes made with sour cream are known for freezing well. This is now my go-to chocolate cheesecake recipe.
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Triple Chocolate Cheesecake
Recipe from Fine Cooking
For the crust:
1-1/2 cups very finely crushed chocolate cookie crumbs (I use about 30 Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers)
3 Tbs. granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. instant coffee granules or espresso powder
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, at room temperature
3 Tbs. natural, unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
1/4 tsp. table salt
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
Make the crust: Heat the oven to 400°F. In a medium bowl, stir together the cookie crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon (if using) until blended. Drizzle with the melted butter and mix until well blended and the crumbs are evenly moist. Dump the mixture into a 9-inch springform pan and press evenly onto the bottom and about 1 inch up the sides of the pan (to press, use plastic wrap, a straight-sided, flat-based coffee mug, or a tart tamper). Bake for 10 minutes and set on a wire rack to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.
Make the filling and bake: Mix the sour cream, vanilla, and coffee granules in a small bowl. Set aside and stir occasionally until the coffee dissolves.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat (or in a microwave). Stir until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, cocoa powder, and salt until very smooth and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl and paddle frequently (and with each subsequent addition). Add the sugar and continue beating until well blended and smooth. Scrape the cooled chocolate into the bowl; beat until blended. Beat in the sour cream mixture until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until just blended. (Don’t overbeat the filling once the eggs have been added or the cheesecake will puff too much.) Pour the filling over the cooled crust, spread evenly, and smooth the top. Bake at 300°F until the center barely jiggles when nudged, 50 to 60 minutes. The cake will be slightly puffed, with a few little cracks around the edge. Let cool to room temperature on a rack and then refrigerate until well chilled, at least a few hours, or overnight for the best texture and flavor. (This cake freezes well, too: Put the unmolded cake in the freezer, uncovered, until the top is cold and firm, and then wrap it in two layers of plastic and one layer of foil.)
To serve: Unclasp the pan’s ring, remove it, and run a long, thin metal spatula under the bottom crust. Carefully slide the cake onto a flat serving plate. Run a thin knife under hot water, wipe it dry, and cut the cake into slices, heating and wiping the knife as needed.
Yield: ~10 servings (the recipe said 16, but they’d be pretty thin slices)
Two years ago: Chocolate Frosting
Every St. Patrick’s Day, I make a traditional Irish dinner of corned beef and boiled cabbage, carrots and potatoes. This year I followed a Sandra Lee recipe which called for cooking everything in the crock pot in a mixture of water and apple juice. Actually, I cooked everything but the potatoes in the crock pot. I boiled the potatoes separately. The dinner was really delicious and it was incredibly convenient because I was out for most of the day when I made it. I love crock pot dishes that you can leave cooking when you leave the house. When you get home, the dinner is basically done!
In addition to the traditional boiled dinner, I decided to make another traditional Irish dish, Colcannon. It’s a mixture of mashed potatoes, cabbage or kale, scallions, butter (and lots of it!) and in this variation, bacon! I thought this was absolutely delicious, and I could have eaten just Colcannon for my whole meal. It was that good. You load anything with bacon and butter and you can’t go wrong.
The original recipe called for steaming the potatoes, then peeling them. Yukon gold potatoes have such thin skin, that I decided to mash the potatoes with the skin on. It didn’t hurt the dish one bit.
My parents and some friends came in for our St. Patrick’s Day meal. My father HATES mashed potatoes and he also HATES when food is all mixed together, like in this dish. (Think that’s where my kids get their picky eating habits from?) Well, guess what? He really liked this dish and it’s a big combination of things that he dislikes! He had seconds! If that’s not an endorsement for this dish, I don’t know what is.
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Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence
3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed
2 sticks butter
1 1/4 cups hot milk
Freshly ground black pepper
1 head Napa cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1-pound bacon, cooked and cut into small pieces or crumbled
4 scallions, finely chopped
Chopped parsley leaves, for garnish
Steam the potatoes in their skins for 30 minutes. Chop with a knife before mashing. Mash thoroughly to remove all the lumps. Add 1 stick of butter in pieces. Gradually add hot milk, stirring all the time. Season with a few grinds of black pepper.
Boil the cabbage in unsalted water until it turns a darker color. Add 2 tablespoons butter to tenderize it. Cover with lid for 2 minutes. Drain thoroughly before returning it to the pan. Chop into small pieces.
Add cabbage, scallions, and bacon to mashed potatoes, stirring them in gently.
Serve in individual soup plates. Make an indentation on the top by swirling a wooden spoon. Put 1 tablespoon of butter into each indentation. Sprinkle with parsley.
Yield: 6 servings as a side dish
Two years ago: Whole Wheat Biscuits
I know that I have said this before, but sometimes the best recipes are the ones with the most basic ingredients. This is one of those recipes.
Before I got married, my wonderful mother-in-law (whom I really miss) gave me a number of cookbooks, and The Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan was one of them. At the time, I didn’t realize what a treasure I had been given. It took me a number of years and a visit to an acquaintance’s house to figure it out. When the boys were younger, I was active in group for twin moms. At the time, I wasn’t aware of a group for triplet moms, never mind triplets plus one, so I attended all of the twin mom meetings. We shared stories, swapped ideas, laughed and cried together. One night we met at a big, beautiful apartment uptown with a kitchen the size of the kitchen I grew up with (which is huge by NYC-standards.) There was a wonderful smell coming from the kitchen, so when the evening was over, I was the first to volunteer to help clear the table and bring the dishes into the kitchen. I had to see what was cooking. I found the husband of the hostess standing over several big pots on the stove, with The Essentials of Italian Cooking, dog-eared and well-worn, right next to him. After listening him to extoll the virtues of the book, I looked forward to going home and cracking the binding on my own copy. It was that night that I learned what a treasure I had waiting for me in my own kitchen. It’s not like the cookbooks published today that include mouth-watering pictures of every dish, but each recipe is simple, calling for very basic ingredients, but the combinations of flavors are wonderful and the recipe directions are very clear.
This soup is best eaten as soon as it is made. It’s not the kind of soup you want to let sit around, or reheat as a leftover. I did, and it was fine, but it wasn’t the same soup that I had originally made. As my leftover soup sat in the refrigerator, the pasta absorbed every last drop of moisture and became quite bloated. The soup then looked like a bowl of leftover green pasta with broccoli. It took the addition of quite a bit of broth to return it to it’s soup state.
Despite the fact that it’s not ideal as a leftover, I highly recommend this soup and if you don’t own The Essentials of Italian Cooking, you should definitely check it out.
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Broccoli and Pasta Soup
Recipe from The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan as seen on The Wednesday Chef
1 medium bunch of broccoli
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped garlic (or two whole cloves)
2 cups beef or chicken broth
1/2 cup small, coarse soup pasta (I used Tubettini, but any tiny pasta will do)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Detach the broccoli florets from the stalks. Trim away about 1/2 inch from the tough end of the stalks. With a sharp paring knife, peel away the dark green skin on the stalks. Split very thick stems in quarters lengthwise. Wash and set aside.
Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt, and add the stalks. When the water returns to a boil, wait 2 minutes, then add the florets. When the water returns to a boil again, wait 1 minute, then remove all the broccoli with a slotted spoon. Do not discard the water in the pot.
Choose a sauté pan that can accommodate all the stalks and florets without overlapping. Put in the oil and garlic, and turn the heat to medium. Sauté the garlic until it turns pale gold. Add all the broccoli, some salt, and turn the heat up to high. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli florets to a plate and set aside. Do not discard the oil from the pan.
Put the broccoli stalks into a food processor, pulse for a moment, then add all the oil from the pan plus 1 tablespoon of the broccoli water. Finish processing to a smooth purée.
Put the purée into a soup pot, add the broth, and bring to a moderate boil. Add the pasta. Cook at a steady, gentle boil until the pasta is tender, but firm. Depending on the thickness and freshness of the pasta, it should take about 10 minutes. You will probably need to dilute the soup as it cooks, because it tends to become too dense. To thin it out, use some of the reserved broccoli water. Take care not to make the soup too runny.
While the pasta is cooking, separate the broccoli florets into bite-size pieces. As soon as the pasta is done, put the florets in the soup and continue cooking for 1 more minute. Taste and correct for salt, and serve the soup promptly with the grated Parmesan on top.
Yield: 3 – 4 servings
Two years ago: Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili with Sweet Potatoes
Three years ago: Nonna’s Lemon Ricotta Biscuits
Four years ago: Cinnamon Sugar Rattle Snacks
Five years ago: Braised Pork Chops