Sunday, May 27, 2012

Chocolate Salted-Caramel Mini Cupcakes

I have been wanting to make these babies for awhile now!  Oh my goodness, so worth the work!  The recipe makes a LOT, so make sure you have a crowd.  They are filled with salted caramel and topped with a dark chocolate frosting.  Sprinkle with sea salt if you like.  I did half with sea salt sprinkled on top and half left without...and they were all gone so not sure which people liked better.  That means they must have been good, right?

Here is how you make them:


• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• ¾ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
• 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
• 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
• ¾ teaspoon baking powder
• ¾ teaspoon salt
• 2 large eggs
• ¾ cup buttermilk
• 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• ¾ cup warm water

Salted Caramel filling
• 2 ½ cups sugar
• ⅔ cup water
• 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
• ¾ cup heavy cream
• 2 ½ teaspoons sea salt

• ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
• ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon boiling water
• 2 ¼ cups unsalted butter, room temperature
• ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 ½ pounds best-quality semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

To make the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line mini muffin pans with paper liners.  Whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add eggs, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and water. Using an electric mixer on low speed, mix until smooth.  Fill muffin pans about ⅔ full. Bake about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks about 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pans and set them on wire racks to cool completely.  Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature or frozen in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

To make the caramel filling
Heat sugar, water, and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over high heat. Stir occasionally until syrup is clear. Attach a candy thermometer to side of pan. Stop stirring, and cook until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush as needed.  Boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is caramelized and temperature just reaches 360°F.  Remove pan from heat. Slowly pour in cream and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in sea salt. Use immediately. If caramel begins to harden, reheat gently until pourable.  Using a paring knife, cut a cone-shaped piece, about ½-inch deep, from the center of each cupcake. Spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons of warm filling into each cupcake. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over filling.

To make the frosting
Combine cocoa and boiling water. Stir until cocoa has dissolved.  Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add melted and cooled chocolate. Beat until combined. Beat in cocoa mixture.  Frosting can be refrigerated up to 5 days or frozen up to 1 month. Bring to room temperature and beat on low speed until smooth before using.  Fit a pastry bag with a medium open-star tip (Wilton #18). Fill pastry bag with frosting. Pipe onto cupcakes, swirling tip and releasing as you pull up to form a peak. Garnish with a pinch of sea salt.

Cupcakes are best eaten the day they are filled and frosted. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container until ready to serve.

Makes about 56 to 60 mini cupcakes.

Shrimp Salad On Cucumber Slices

One of my new favorite sites to get recipes from is  There are lots healthy recipes that actually taste delicious!  I picked a couple to try out on the bunco girls.  This was a winner!  Super easy too!  Here is the link to the recipe:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Baked Mozzarella Sticks

These were made with ingredients I had on hand from the recipe at of my new favorite places to get recipes.  I made a couple of changes...just used store bought Italian bread crumbs and used egg whites instead of wasting a whole egg, since I always have a container of egg whites in the fridge.  The thing I didn't do was freeze the mozzarella sticks long enough.  Some of the sticks melted in spots and didn't hold their shape.  Just be sure to freeze them through and you will be happy.

I used homemade marinara, but you can use whatever your family likes.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lemon Orzo Soup

I have a habit of going to the library to get the next book in a series I am reading, and walking out with a bag of books I can hardly carry.  This includes the next 4 books in the series, just in case someone comes and wants it before I finish the one I'm I the only one who does this?  Then I just renew them until I can't renew any more.  Anyone?  Okay, maybe it's just me.

What else is in the bag you ask?  Cookbooks...LOTS of cookbooks.  This past time they had a lot of NEW ones too!  In MY section!  So it is only natural for me to take all the new ones to peruse at my leisure, right?  Well, I do it.  I usually take about half back the following day after I skim the pages and know I won't cook from them, because I feel guilty for taking so many books.  I know I'm need to point it out.

So you are wondering where this is going, right?  And if it's leading to the soup?  It is.  I found this cookbook by Eva Longoria and it has a LOT of recipes that I would like to try.  One of my childhood favorites is the Lemon Rice soup.  I have always had it when dining out, and have never attempted to make it at home.  This soup is made with orzo instead of rice.  It sounded similar and an easy accompaniment to the paninis I was making for the boys for dinner.

When my  husband works late, we do easy dinners.  The boys mostly request breakfast for dinner, paninis, or homemade pizza.  We went with paninis and soup since it was a little chilly out yesterday.  I think I added to much lemon, so will be careful adding that next time, but I still loved it.  The kids decided to have extra paninis and skip the soup.  That's okay though, it was tart. 

Boys sandwiches are always with the same ingredients per their request, sun dried tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.  I add basil to mine.  YUM.

Here is the recipe:

Lemon Orzo Soup

4 to 5 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth (home made or store bought)
1 cup dried orzo pasta
Juice from 1 to 2 small lemons (2 to 4 tablespoons juice)
2 large egg yolks 
Pinch of kosher salt
In a small saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Stir in the orzo and cook until al dente, 8 to 9 minutes. The soup should be very brothy. Add more hot stock if necessary. Stir in the lemon juice.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks. Stir the hot broth into the egg yolks 1 tablespoon at a time, up to 6 tablespoons. This tempers the yolks and prevents them from cooking too fast and curdling. Stir the yolks into the soup. Add a pinch of salt, or to taste. Ladle the soup into 2 to 4 soup bowls and serve at once.

Strawberry Stuffed French Toast

These were so delicious!  And very easy to make!  Here is what you do:
  1. Beat a few eggs and added some milk to them and set that aside.  
  2. Hull your strawberries and use an egg slicer to slice them into thin pieces.  
  3. Using a paring knife, cut a pocket into a thick slice of texas toast.  Add as many strawberries as you can to fill the pocket.  Be careful not to poke a hole through the bread.  
  4. Dip the bread into the egg/milk mixture and cook on a griddle as you would with regular french toast.  Do these in batches and put cooked ones in a 200 degree oven to keep warm.  
  5. Top with freshly sliced strawberries and maple syrup!
I served these with scrambled eggs and bacon.  Don't forget the coffee!!!!  Enjoy.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mini Potato Pancakes with Smoked Salmon, Sour Cream & Chives

These are amazingly delicious and look very elegant on the table.  If someone in your house isn't a fan of smoked salmon, skip it.  I had an extra small plate ready for anyone who may not want the salmon, but everyone ate them.  That includes my 7 and 11 year old boys, so try it...don't be a wimp!

I got this recipe from Gale Gand's "Brunch!" cookbook.  Can you tell yet that I love it?  My last few posts have been from this amazing book.  Go get it!

To make these delicious bites (which can be served warm or at room temperature) you need to wash and quarter 4 large russet potatoes, and peel and quarter 1 1/2 medium yellow onions.  Put through a food processor with the grater attachment.  Then drain the liquid out.  Put 1/3 back into the food processor and puree.  Add it all together and continue to drain out the excess water.

In a separate bowl mix 2 eggs, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper.  Pour this over the potato mixture.  Sprinkle 1 cup of flour over the entire mixture and incorporate completely.  

Pour enough canola oil into a medium high heat pan to coat the bottom.  Form one inch potato balls and flatten them out with a spoon.  Let them cook until golden brown (about 5 minutes) and flip.  

Top these with sour cream, smoked salmon pieces and fresh chives.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Baked Eggs in Ham Cups

These are very easy to make, delicious and they look fancy!  At least that is what my 7 year old said.  Then the boys went on to say how I should be on Top Chef.  Yep, they know how to get what they want out of me...compliment my cooking!  lol.  

Gale Gland has an amazing cookbook called "Brunch!" and it is out of this world fantastic.  You will want to cook your way through this one!

To make these you line your muffin tin with ham, add an egg (or two if you use large, I had extra large so only one would fit), 2 cubes of fresh mozzarella cheese, 1/4 tsp basil pesto, sliced cherry tomato on top.  That's it!  Bake it in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Here is the online link to the recipe:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Baked Cinnamon-Apple French Toast

This recipe is from Gale Gand's "Brunch!" cookbook.  It is delicious!  Here are the step by step pictures of what to do.  Easy peasy!

Butter casserole dish and cut toasted bread.  Line in the dish.  Beat liquid ingredients.

 Add egg mixture to bread.  Saute apples, butter and brown sugar.

Place apples on top.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Take it out in the morning, preheat your oven and bake.


6 medium apples (use an assortment)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut up into small cubes, plus more for the baking dish
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 slices Texas toast (thick presliced white bread)
8 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
Honey butter (1 stick unsalted room temperature butter with a pinch salt and 1 tablespoon honey beaten in)

Peel, core and cut apples into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Heat butter in saute pan over medium heat until it starts to foam. Add apples and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.Lightly toast bread. Cut toast slices in half to make triangles. Butter 9x13-inch baking dish and arrange bread in two rows, overlapping in dish.

Beat eggs in medium bowl; then whisk in granulated sugar, milk and vanilla to make a custard. Pour custard over bread triangles and spoon apples over top. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.The next day, heat oven to 350 degrees F. Uncover baking dish. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until custard is set and doesn't shimmy when you shake pan. It will puff up and brown slightly. Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving. Serve in squares or large spoonfuls, with honey butter. Makes 8 servings.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Chicken Parmesan Burgers

Do you watch "The Chew?"  I love that show!  It cracks me up.  Nothing like watching people having a good time sharing recipes and laughing...lots of laughing.  LOVE IT.  I dvr it daily and catch up when I can. Sometimes my husband watches with me.  That was the case when this came on the show.  It was actually a viewer recipe!  We were both ooo-ing and ahh-ing over it, so I made it that same week!

The recipe can be found here:  Chicken Parm Burger

Here is how I made them:

Mix the chicken and seasonings together, then dip into breadcrumb and Parmesan cheese mixture (I used regular instead of panko).  Put them in the fridge for about 30 minutes to firm up. 

Cook about 5 minutes per side in a large skillet.

Cook in batches.  Place them on a sheet pan as you go.

Top with marinara (I use homemade), then freshly grated mozzarella cheese.

Place under the broiler until golden brown.

Put it on a bun and eat!

Inside shot of my chicken sandwich.  YUM!  I did double the recipe so we could have it for leftovers.  Cut it up and put it on pasta, eat it on an open face sandwich, or have another burger!

Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake Muffins

I just love a breakfast food that has chocolate in it!  I will admit it.  These muffins are light and so yummy.  I got the recipe from Gale Gand's "Brunch!" cookbook.  I actually got my entire Mother's Day brunch menu from this book!  It was hard to narrow it down too!  

This muffin is supper easy and a delicious treat later in the day.  I through one in each of my boys lunch boxes the other day and you'd think they hit the lotto!  lol.  They were a winner in our house and I'm sure your family and friends will love them too.  Here is the recipe:

1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick of butter
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup sour cream

Heat oven to 375.  Line muffin pans with liners (24).  For the topping, use a mixer and combine the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Mix low.  Add butter and mix until crumbly.  Add chocolate chips.

For the muffins, sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside.  In mixer bowl, beat the butter on medium until fluffy.  Add sugar and mix well.  Add eggs, vanilla and 1/3 of the sour cream and 1/3 of the dry ingredients.  Repeat until all ingredients are mixed.  Scoop into muffin cups.  Spoon topping on top and bake for 20-25 minutes. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Overnight, No-Cook Refrigerator Oatmeal

I eat oatmeal every day.  I love it.  I always put fresh fruit in it when it's available.  Those of you who live in seasonal climate know how hard it can be to find fresh fruit in the winter!  When I can't find fresh fruit, I defrost frozen and it serves it's purpose.  

I saw this new way to make oatmeal (well, new to me) in canning jars, and I figured I'd give it a whirl.  I like all of the ingredients and had them on hand, except for Chia seeds, which I had only heard of from those old chia pet commercials...."cha-cha-cha-chia!"  You know you know it.  (And now it's stuck in your head, right?  Me too.)  I'm not going to go into all of the health benefits of Chia seeds, you can google it.  Or omit it, if you like.  What's in the jar, you ask?
1/4 c old fashioned oats (I used Quaker)
1/4 c plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage Nonfat Greek Yogart)
1/3 c skim milk
1 1/2 tsp Chia seeds
1 tsp sweetener (depends on your recipe, but you can use jam, honey, agave nector)
1/4 c fruit or other mix-in you choose (whatever fits to the top of the jar)

I found lots of recipes on The Yummy Life blog, where I found this delicious idea.  (Click the link to see detailed steps and pics.)  There are many variations for it too!  So far I have made the blueberry, apple cinnamon, strawberry (adapted the raspberry one), and the chocolate banana.  They were very easy to make and I found the Chia Seeds at a local health food store.  I made these variations last night and put them in the refrigerator for them to work their magic.

May 9, 2012
This morning I tried the blueberry one....YUMMY!  I didn't think I would go for it cold,, but I like it a lot!  To take to go anywhere would be great.  I will add my daily "taste tests" of the various types to this as I try, but I couldn't wait to post so that you can start trying for yourself. 

Stay tuned to see what I try next. 

May 10, 2012
This morning I went with the strawberry!  OMG, delicious!  If you are thinking about trying this...try it!!!  And yes, I just ate it out of the jar.  Next time I do this I may just use my prep bowls with lids.

May 11, 2012
Went for the chocolate banana.  Either I did something wrong or it's not my cup of tea...which is weird because I love all things chocolate and banana.  How bad was it?  I threw it out.

Took out the last one (the applesauce one) and threw it out too.  NOT tasty at all to me.  I think I would have liked it if I made it like the blueberry and strawberry and put in fresh fruit instead of the sauce.

Now I know!

Smokey Applewood Beer Can Chicken on the Grill

Here's my bird.  He almost didn't make it!  At one point I looked out at the grill and it was smoking an awful lot.  I lifted up the lid and he was on fire!  I put the fire out early enough that our dinner was spared thankfully.

Super easy to make (just keep an eye out for flames!).  I used my new beer can chicken pan from Pampered Chef.  Although I didn't use beer since those of you who know us know we are beer snobs and most of the beer we drink comes in a bottle.  So I suppose I should have titled this Ginger Ale Can Chicken, but you get the idea.  The pan has a removable can holder so that you can use it for other things too, bonus!  

So you combine your canola oil and seasoning (I used Smokey Applewood), separate the skin from the meat with your fingers, and use a basting brush to brush all of that delicious flavor under the skin.  Then you season the chicken on the outside with more rub.  (This is where I think I made a mistake because I put more oil and seasoning and brushed it on the outside.  This may have caused the flames to flare.)  Put your can in the can holder, put your chicken on top, and place it on the grill.

You use indirect heating to cook the chicken.  Preheat the grill on high, then turn it down to medium on either side, but turn off the middle burner.  Watch that it stays around 400 degrees.  Keep the lid closed...I know that seems logical to most, but someone always asks. Turn it half way through so that it cooks evenly.  Keep a spray bottle handy for flare ups!

The bird was cooked perfectly and so juicy in about 1 hour and 15 minutes (5 lb bird).  I cut it up and served it with a fresh salad, roasted brussel spouts, rice and beans, and bakery sliced bread.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Chicken Cordon Bleu with Roasted Brusssel Sprouts and Oven Fries

I love that you can make chicken breast 3 times in a week and it can taste totally different each time.  Tonight I went with an old favorite:  Chicken Cordon Bleu.  That is just fancy talk for chicken with ham and cheese rolled inside, you know.  It's supper easy too.

Pound out the chicken with a meat tenderizer, add seasoning (I used salt, pepper, and paprika), one large slice of ham, freshly grated cheese of your choice (I used smoked provolone), roll it up, dip it in egg whites, and roll in breadcrumbs.  Bake in a 425 degree oven for about 35 minutes.

Oh, and I sprayed them with olive oil to make them brown a little in the oven.  Yummy.

I also roasted brussel sprouts and oven fries the last 15-20 minutes.  Just drizzle with olive oil and then add salt and pepper.  When they come out grate fresh Parmesan cheese over the top!

Serve with a side salad and enjoy!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mexican Pork Carnitas, Cuban Style Black Beans, and Cilantro Lime Rice

I will admit, I have a Chipotle problem.  I know I should get the tacos and the burrito bowl is to much food for me to eat, but I get it anyway sometimes...and feel stuffed the rest of the day.  Especially since you can't eat there and NOT get the chips and guacamole.  Am I right?  

Even if I'm not going there for lunch, when I pass by it I'm secretly wishing I had someone to meet there for lunch.  (I know, sad.  lol)  Needless to say when I saw this recipe there was no doubt I would make it!

There are actually three recipes that I got from  Mexican Slow Cooked Pork Carnitas, Chipotle's Cilantro Lime Rice, and Quick and Delicioso Cuban Style Black Beans.  All were winners with my family.  You can use the leftovers for LOTS of things!

The pork cooks over 8 hours, and you need to prep it by seasoning, browning it on all sides, and inserting whole gloves of garlic into the roast.  Then it goes into the crockpot with some chicken broth and bay leaves.  Your house is going to smell amazing!

For the rice I'm going to let you in on a secret of mine.  It's no secret that I love to cook and bake.  I have made lots of complicated recipes with great success.  HOWEVER, I cannot cook rice to save my life.  With a Dominican husband, this is not cool.  So here is my secret weapon to perfect rice EVERY TIME.  

You put the water and rice into this rice cooker and pop it in the microwave!  Yes, I said microwave.  Trust's delicious.  I use Trader Joe's Jasmine brown rice which can be tricky sometimes, but I follow the Uncle Ben's microwave times for long grain brown rice and bingo...perfect rice.  If you can make rice just fine already, more power to you, but if you need a little help get a Rice Cooker.  All you do once you make the rice is add chopped cilantro and lime juice. 

To make the beans you start with all the veggies and then add beans.  Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Easy peasy.

When the pork is done you will easily be able to pull it with two forks and it is so juicy and delicious!  Don't forget to take out the bay leaves as they are inedible. 

Here is my homemade burrito bowl....YUM!