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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Ci Vediamo, America!

This will probably be my last post for a little bit, as tomorrow I'm off to New York, and the following day, I'm hopping on a plane to Italy for a months worth of on-site art history lessons. 26 days, the first two thirds in Florence, and the last few days in Rome. So I must kiss Daniel, my beautiful puppy & my beloved kitchen goodbye for a while. It will be sad to leave, and I will be very homesick I'm sure, but hopefully it will be a wonderful time. Hopefully I'll be able to use the internet cafes to make some posts with pictures and maybe even some cooking me and the girls do in our apartments, but we'll see how that pans out. For now, here is my last post before I depart...

I made another batch of those key lime stuffed cupcakes and they came out too beautiful to not post pictures of. Much prettier and softer the second time around. I know you've seen these cupcakes before, but who doesn't appreciate pretty pictures, eh?


Also, I made some homemade granola to bring to New York for my mom for mother's day. My family hardly ever gets to taste my goodies, since they're all the way in New York, and since I'm going anyway I figured I'd make her something special. She told me recently that she puts it in yogurt in the morning for breakfast.
I scaled the recipe down to only a quarter of the original, since I didn't think I needed to bring her 8 cups of the stuff. This recipe was wonderful. It seems like it would be easy to customize. It was a wonderful recipe, my only recommendation is that you start checking it earlier than the website states, I think mine was overcooked a little bit.

Mine went like this...
Homemade Granola with Vanilla, Almonds, Raisins and Cinnamon
1 C Old Fashioned Oats
1/4 C sliced almonds
1/8 C Packed Brown Sugar
Pinch of Salt
Cinnamon to Taste
4 tsp oil
1/2 Tablespoon white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 tsp honey
+ I added 1/3 small box of raisins

Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 300°F. Lightly spray large baking sheet with nonstick spray. Mix next 5 ingredients in large bowl. Combine oil, honey, and sugar in small saucepan; bring to simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Pour hot liquid over oat mixture; stir well. Using hands, toss mixture until thoroughly mixed.
Spread granola on prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Transfer sheet to rack; cool granola completely. (Can be made 2 weeks ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.)


Post-Bake... got all golden and toasty


I even included nutrition information for my health conscious mother!


FINALLY, the third baking activity as of late...
Since I'm leaving for Italy, there will be no one to bake the cupcakes for parties. I have heard often that cupcakes freeze just fine as long as it is without frosting, and they are sealed air tight. So, I made two batches & convinced Dan to make the frosting if they are needed. Unfortunately... well...

Good Cupcake

Bad Cupcake

So half of them, I tucked away in zip lock bags - careful to not let the tops touch anything. And then, double air-proofed them in tupperware...

With the other ones... well... I dumped them in a bowl and decided to make more ballies with them.
I just can't stand to see my precious time and effort thrown away! Especially since they TASTED good, they were just ugly! Its not nice to throw something away just because its ugly! I made another batch of that disaster strawberry non-frosting to go with it because it worked out so nicely this time.

I stirred it all up, rolled it into ballies and froze them

but this time I dipped them in vanilla flavored Candiquik.
Bellisima, no???

Anyway America, that is all for now. I shall see you hopefully from a cute little Italian internet cafe, and if not, I'll see you in June. Ci Vediamo, America!

Friday, May 9, 2008

My Key Lime Pie Cupcakes are STUFFED!

I wanted to give my favorite Key Lime Cupcakes recipe another go - except do more with it this time. I started with the same recipe for the cupcake itself.

After the limes were zested, the batter was made, and the cakelets were baked, I chopped their hats off again.

I took Lucky Leaf Key Lime Pie filling and put about a heaping teaspoons worth of the custardy stuff inside each cupcake.

Then, I tried a different frosting recipe this time. I want a vanilla frosting recipe that can be piped, but is stiff and keeps the piping lines. Even better, I'd like it to be cooked so its more stable. But this time I tried a different non-cooked recipe because the picture made it look so convincingly stiff. Unfortunately, I can't find the link to where I got the frosting recipe, but it is just your basic frosting, just with different proportions of the ingredients...
1/2 C butter, soft
3 C sifted confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (i used clear to keep it white)
3 Tablespoons milk

Beat butter, sugar, vanilla and 3 tablespoons of milk on low.
Add more milk if necessary to get it smooth and creamy.

Well, I didn't need to add any additional milk, yet mine was still very very smooth. Probably too much so. This actually resulted in a less stiff frosting than I usually use. For now, until I discover that perfect vanilla frosting recipe, I suppose I'll go back to my trusted CIA recipe.

I sprinkled some graham cracker crumbs on top, to get that little bit of crust taste you normally have in a key lime pie.

And finally, put some little candy jelly lime slices on top.


Overall, the key lime flavor in the cupcake itself was a bit subtle, but it was there. Combine that with the creamy vanilla buttercream, a few graham cracker crumbs, and the teaspoon of tart key lime custard, and it was a winning combination.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Chocolate Covered Cupcake and Frosting Bites

When I made the Abstract Expressionist cupcakes I mentioned that I kept some of the mini cupcakes that didn't come out so good with the intention of using them for something else. When I saw this amazing idea, I was inspired. I took the deformed cakelettes out of their wrappers and dumped them into a bowl, plopped some of the strawberry jam disaster frosting on top, and stirred it all together into a mushy mess with a spoon. I grabbed chunks of this concoction, threw them on a cookie sheet and popped them into the freezer until yesterday.

Photobucket Photobucket

After rolling them into circles and melting down some almond bark, we were in business. I put them on a toothpick, dipped them into the melted chocolate, and put them back in the frig to chill until the chocolate was set. I suppose I'll have to work on my dipping skills, these don't look particularly attractive, do they?

Photobucket Photobucket

When you bite into it...
...the taste certainly makes up for the lumpy-looking chocolate coating. The inside was moist - not quite cupcake-ish. More like a petit-four, or a heavier moister Popem. As I've said a million times, Dan doesn't like chocolate, yet for some reason he ate a whole row of Chocolate ballies. If you ever need a quick, different, snack-sized dessert, I suggest doing something like this. Perhaps in a future attempt, I might pour melted chocolate on top for a smoother look. But either way, once people eat them, they won't care what they look like. I think it would work well with any frosting/cake combo.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Whole Wheat Carrot No-Raisin Muffins

I hate seeing food thrown out. I just feel wasteful when I have to throw something away because it has gone bad. Rather than let that happen with my left over ricotta cheese, I decided to use it in a recipe that Daniel could eat for breakfast. I searched for a muffin recipe that used ricotta, but couldn't find anything that didn't require lemon juice or zest. When I came across a recipe for Whole Wheat Carrot raisin muffins, I remembered the long-ignored whole wheat flour in the pantry, and the left over carrots from the soup I made two days ago. Perfect! Except this recipe didn't call for ricotta... nor did I have a few other things on the list of ingredients. Instead of hopping in the car and driving the .2 miles from here to the grocery store, I decided to manipulate the original recipe to fit what I had on hand. Daniel doesn't love raisins, I left them out. I substituted my ricotta where the recipe called for yogurt (and since I only had half of the amount they called for, I halved the recipe). I had no honey, no lemon juice. So basically... here is what I did instead... something rather different.


Whole Wheat Carrot No-Raisin Muffins
1 C Whole Wheat Flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 C Light Maple Syrup (instead of honey...I looked this one up, apparently this is a normal susbtitute)
1/2 C Ricotta cheese (instead of Yogurt)
1/4 C olive oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp Key lime juice (hey, it was all I had)
5/8 C shredded carrots, lightly packed
Plus, I added 1/4 C sugar because 1 reviewer said it needed more

Sift together the dry ingredients in one bowl.
In another bowl, mix the egg, syrup, ricotta cheese, oil, lime juice & vanilla.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients - don't over mix. Fold in carrots.
Fill paper-lined or greased cupcake tins to 2/3 full and bake at 350 for ~ 17-18 minutes, or until toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs on it. Cool 5 minutes before removing from pans, and finish cooling on wire rack.
If desired, spread a little melted butter on the tops and sprinkle a bit of cinnamon sugar on the tops.

They came out super moist, and not too sweet - definitely a good breakfast treat.



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