Friday, February 16, 2007

Baking for Days.

I began baking for Valentines Day on Monday afternoon, I started with Ina's chocolate/peanut butter cupcakes (not pictured above). Review: I liked the cake part, you can't really go wrong when the cake has both buttermilk and sour cream, it was extremely moist and flavorful. However, the cake itself has very little sugar, and plenty of cocoa powder, it's slightly bitter. Therefore, I think the frosting should compensate. I do enjoy cupcakes that aren't super sweet but I think another part of the cake needs to make up for it with something sweeter, and the peanut butter frosting isn't very sweet either. I would probably do a cream cheese/peanut butter/cream mixture with powdered sugar to up the flavor and balance of this cupcake. But overall, it was good. I will definately make the cake again, it's the best chocolate cupcake recipe I've used in the last year. I tend to be critical of anything I bake, so in my opinion there's usually room for improvement. Recipe follows:


12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup good cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Kathleen's Peanut Butter Icing, recipe follows
Chopped salted peanuts, to decorate, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes.
3. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee.
5. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
6. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it's completely blended.
7. Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount).
8. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.
9. Frost each cupcake with Peanut Butter Icing and sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if desired.

Kathleen's Peanut Butter Icing:

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream


1. Place the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work.
2. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Sorry, I didn't take any pictures. I did not decorate them with peanuts, since it was Valentines I piped frosting onto the top, smoothed it out, mad a heart stencil and stenciled on a mix of powdered sugar and cocoa powder. They were very cute. Perfect for V-day.

Next up, Cheesecake Cookies! These were amazing, there's nothing I could critisize although I did alter the original recipe a bit. I found this recipe on the food blog search engine, it was over at The Baking Sheet. These cookies are extremely easy, and extremely delish. I gave my mother a basket full of cupcakes, and cookies, and in one night she devoured all the cookies, which is fairly unlike her to do (okay, so she had a little help from her boyfriend).


Cheesecake Cookies

½ cup cream cheese, soft
½ cup butter, soft
1 cup sugar
1 egg
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder
1 cup ap flour


1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, beat together butter and cream cheese.
3. Gradually beat in sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and salt.
4. Whisk together baking powder and flour in a small bowl and, mixing by hand or at low speed, add to cream cheese mixture.
5. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet.
6. Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes, until the bottom edge just barely turns brown.
7. The dough is too soft to cut shapes out of before baking, so I cut them when they came out of the oven with different cookie cutters, in this case lips and hearts.
8. Cool for a few hours. After cooling make a white chocolate ganache and brush the tops of each cookie, lay out on parchment/wax paper. Let the ganache harden (a few hours, white chocolate takes a while to set). Put into a container and refrigerate overnight/or for a few hours.
9. Decorate with red and pink cream cheese frosting.
10. Makes about 3 dozen. (This recipe only made about 2 dozen for me, but I made them quite a bit larger).

Here are a few pictures of the Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Tulip Petals.

Friday, February 09, 2007


I know I need to do some editing. I just haven't had the time. Sorry. But I will. Promise. I'm not an idiot, I just type extremely fast and get caught up in all my thoughts and then fail on the editing. But it WILL happen.

p.s. for some reason the caramelized onion lasagna photos aren't loading when I look at the site. and I'm not sure how to fix it. I'll try to work on it .

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Caramelized Onions and Make Believe

Well not make believe, but I did make this recipe up. Presenting Caramelized Onion, Spinach, Feta, Shitake, Chicken Lasagne:


2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 Medium Sweet Onions
I cup fresh Spinach
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts - cubed
10 small shitakes
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup feta
1/2 cup italian cheese (asiago, parmesan etc.)
1/2 cup sharp cheddar
1/2 bottle spaghetti/tomato sauce
10 lasagna noodles - al dente


1. Heat oil and butter in a saute pan. Cut onions in half, and then slice them about 1/8 inch thick. Saute them for 10 minutes on a medium/high heat until they begin to soften. Reduce heat to low, add salt, and saute for 45 minutes to an hour stirring occasionally.

2. Right before you take the onions off the heat, throw in the spinach. Let it just cook a bit in all the good caramelized onion oil, let it wilt a little bit, not too much, since you'll be baking it too. Transfer this mixture to a bowl and set aside.

3. Grill chicken in same pan as the onions, it'll pick up all the good crunchy onion bits and flavor.

4. Cover the bottom of a large baking pan with tomato sauce, and begin your layering. You can do this however you want but for the record, this is how I layered it:

Layer One:

-Sprinkle of Feta
-Onion/Spinach Mixture
- a few shitakes
-Italian Cheese

Layer Two:

- Noodles
- Tomato Sauce
- Cottage Cheese
- O/S mixture
- Shitakes
- Italian Cheese

The 3rd (and Final) Layer:

- Noodles
- Tomato Sauce
- Feta
- Italian Cheese
- Cheddar Cheese


Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20-30 mintues, until bubbly and golden.
I love caramelized onions. I would eat them on anything and everything. They give a wonderful flavor to just about everything. When I was a child my grandmother made grilled onions with everything, and I hated it! But I've grown into them, and now I can't get enough.

The finished product.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Petit Dogs and One Very Large Pug

And for my second post of the evening. Just a few pictures taken this weekend of a few small loves of ours. The pugs are mine. Ollie (Bubbie) and Cozette (Cozy). The Griffon and Chin are my mothers Finn and Ted (Doodie). Ollie is the big un. Enjoy. They're truly a joy.

Girls Night In

This Saturday I had the great pleasure of spending the evening with my mother at her beautiful house in the county. Spending time out there is like being at some lovely little (correction, large) bed and breakfast. Her boyfriend built it for her a few years ago. Well, it was finished a few years ago, it took about 3-4 years to complete. But now (although not thoroughly finished yet) it's quite amazing. Surprisingly, I haven't spent one evening out there alone with her. Most of the time both men are around. We spend plenty of time alone, garage sale-ing, driving around antiquing etc. but not once have we had a night to eat deliciously sinful food, drink cocktails, and lay in bed watching home decorating or style shows. So this Saturday was a first, and it was quite lovely. I bought a nice bottle of Sofia champagne, I made Ina Gartens Croque Monsieur's (recipe can be found on and I prepared two different desserts. Lemon Raspberry Cream Cupcakes with Lemon Glaze and Raspberry Whip Cream and a very simple Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee.
The cupcakes are the same as my first post. Just add a handful of raspberries. Yum.
I'll post the Creme Brulee recipe at a later date. I make it often enough. It's perfect, the perfect creme brulee, truly.

The staples.

Before I begin with this post, let me apologize. I know this picture is lack luster. Let me explain (it won't take more than a second). I've been exercising daily after work, I run seven miles on an incline and then I do weights and close to 200 sit ups a day. Usually after this routine (and eating mostly fruits, veggies and whole grains all morning) I'm seriously hungry. This recipe took quite a while to cook, it'd been an exceptionally hard day at work, and whenever that's the case I seem to exercise harder. So the combination of having to sit around smelling this exceptionally aromatic dinner simmering on the stove top and my body's recent serious physical exertion I was S-T-A-R-V-I-N-G by the time these jewels were done baking. Therefore I had no patience for photographs. But I was hoping to post this great recipe. So here goes.
For the first 18 years of my life I had the amazing pleasure to have what I believe to be the greatest woman to ever live on this earth, as my grandmother. She was the most kind, loving, gracious, and caring individual. Everyone who knew her was simply amazed by her. She was extremely patient (unlike myself), warm, and sincere, she was a friend to everyone. I have inherited (although not her patience) many things from her, my flair for cooking, my adoration for baking, and very importantly, my hostess-ness. I really don't know what word to use there, I do realize hostess-ness is not a word. Let me try to explain, when my grandmother was younger she would throw small luncheons in the backyard for all the other ladies, whenever someone would drop by or come over for a visit she always had something on hand to feed them and there was always a pot of coffe perolating on the stove, she was always the one friends of friends would come to to request a kransekake (norwegian wedding cake) or other delights for parties or weddings. This is what I'm talking about. She was a true hostess. From parties, to large events, to unexpected visits she was always prepared and always friendly. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother as a child/teenager/young woman. I began baking at an age too young for my memory to recall. I was always around it. I like to think of my grandmother as a baker, yes she did cook, but she was always baking on the weekends. Bread, cookies, cakes, pastries, you name it. When she did cook a meal, it was either something traditionally norwegian or meat and potatoes. The staples. This recipe is a little more radical perhaps than anything my grandmother would've attempted. She was happy to try anything, but when she cooked for herself she stuck to her staples for the most part (except for the occasional nachos).
I love this recipe. I got it over at Exclusively Food. I tweaked it a bit, but the filling is the same. Thomas loves it, ever since the the first time I made it back in December he begs me for it on a routine basis. Last week I gave in. We don't eat a lot of red meat so it's a real treat for him. If you head over to Exclusively Food you can get the original recipe. It's Beef and Red Wine Pie (I believe that's the title), their recipe has an accompanying potato pastry crust, I simply top it with mashed potatoes and cheese, like a shepards pie. I suggest checking out the original as well. It's a great simple recipe, with uncomplicated ingredients and comes out tasting like a complex home cooked meal. Fabulous. Here it is:

Beef and Red Wine Pie:

Beef Filling:
1-2 lbs beef, diced (nice cut, I usually have the butcher help, since we don't eat red meat)
1-2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups red wine
2 cups beef stock
1 bay leaf
Salt & Pepper

1. Heat oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat.
2. Brown about one third of the beef at a time so as not to overcrowd the pan. Set browned meat aside. (I've done this part a day ahead of time to cut back on time).
3. Add onion to the saucepan and saute until softened.
4. Add garlic and flour and cook for a minute, stirring and scraping any brown bits off the bottom of the saucepan.
5. Add remaining ingredients and return beef (and any juices) to pan.
6. Cover saucepan and reduce heat. Simmer for about 1 ½ hours until beef is tender, stirring occasionally. If the filling mixture is too liquid toward the end of the cooking time, uncover the saucepan to reduce the sauce.
7. Remove bay leaf and transfer filling to a ramekins. You can transfer to pie dish as well, but I just make individual pies based on the number of people here for dinner.

Mashed Potato Topping

As opposed to telling you how to make mashed potatoes, go ahead and use your favorite recipe.


Top your filled ramekins with mashed potatoes and a sprinkle of your favorite cheese (completely optional). Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or so untill cheese is bubbly and browning, and potatoes are getting a bit crispy around the edges. Serve with your favorite green, like peas or brocolini.

I adore this recipe. And I suggest you try it. It's easy enough for people who don't like a lot of fuss in the kitchen, but has that great home cooked, slow cooked, whole food quality about it. I just love it. Enjoy!