Friday, December 30, 2011

Sparkling Champagne Cupcakes

Sparkling Champagne Cupcakes

Posted by: Maggie

Happy New Year's Eve-Eve everyone! 

I've been wanting to make these cupcakes since seeing them on Heather's blog last December. I loooove champagne, and I love an opportunity to make a holiday themed cupcake even more.

If your New Year's resolution falls into the drink less booze/eat less junk category that so many resolutions do, I recommend making these pronto, while you still have the chance.

What you're looking at here is a vanilla cupcake spiked with champagne, a champagne flavored pastry creme center, and a champagne buttercream. Festive, right?

Here's what you'll need:

For the cupcakes:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup champagne (no need to use the good stuff $4 bottle of Andre worked quite nicely)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line cupcake tins with 17 paper liners. Adjust oven rack to middle position.

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, stir together sour cream and champagne.

With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and the champagne mixture to the butter/egg mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Using level 1/4 cup measures, divide batter between prepared cupcake tins. Bake for 17-22 minutes, rotating cupcake tins halfway through baking time. Set aside to cool completely before filling and frosting.

For the pastry creme filling:

1/2 cup heavy cream, divided
1/2 cup champagne
2 tablespoons cornstarch
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup of the heavy cream and the cornstarch. Set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the remaining 1/4 cup heavy cream, the champagne, and the sugar. Stir to combine, and bring to a boil over medium heat.

While waiting for the mixture to boil, beat the egg, and yolks into the heavy cream and cornstarch mixture.

When the champagne mixture is boiling, remove from the heat, and add 1/3 of it to the egg mixture, whisking constantly so the eggs don't cook. Return the champagne mixture to a boil, and add in the egg mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly.

Continue to whisk until the mixture thickens, and remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla, and continue to stir until the butter has melted completely.

Allow the mixture to cool for 15 minutes before filling cupcakes. Using a paring knife, or one of these handy dandy cupcake corers (I got mine from Target) cut out the center of the cupcake, and fill with cooled pastry creme. I spooned mine into a large ziploc bag, and snipped off the end to make this easier.

You will have leftover pastry creme. I'm sure you can figure out what to do with it! Allow the filling to cool completely before frosting the cupcakes.

For the frosting:

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon champagne
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Add 1 cup of champagne to a small saucepan. Simmer over medium-high heat, until it has reduced to 2 tablespoons (about 7-10 minutes, but keep an eye on it!) Transfer to a small bowl to cool completely.

In a large bowl, beat together butter and powdered sugar on medium speed until fluffy. Add in reduced champagne, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of champagne and beat until smooth.

Store cupcakes in the refrigerator, and bring to room temperature 15 minutes before serving.

Source: Sprinkle Bakes

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Peanut Butter and Fleur de Sel Brownies

Posted by: Maggie

Merry Christmas Eve! I know everyone is basically done with their holiday baking at this point, but I couldn't resist squeezing in one more recipe.

I recently discovered an awesome store called Spice and Tea, which is barely a mile from where I live in Virginia. It's a tiny store with walls of spices, teas, and fancy salts, and I literally could've spent hours in there just staring. I'm still in shock that I've lived so close to it for years and had no idea it existed. I tweeted a picture from when I was there a couple weeks ago if you want to take a peek at the insane wall of spices.

Anyway, I bought a little bag of fleur de sel when I was there. I've been drooling over this recipe that Lindsay from Love and Olive Oil made last month, and decided that they'd be the first thing I baked with my fancy new salt. If you make these for someone who loves the sweet and salty combo, or the peanut butter and chocolate combo, they'll pretty much worship the ground you walk on.

I hope all of you who celebrate have a very Merry Christmas tomorrow!

Here's what you'll need:

For the brownies:

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

For the frosting:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 teaspoon Fleur de Sel (or another flaky sea salt)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Butter an 8 inch square pan, and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Butter the parchment paper.

In a microwave safe bowl, combine the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Microwave in 30 second increments on 50 percent power until the butter is just melted. Stir mixture until smooth.

Add the eggs to the cocoa mixture one at a time, stirring well after each to fully incorporate. Stir in vanilla extract. Lastly, mix in the flour, and stir about 40 times, or until just incorporated. Do not overmix! Spread the batter evenly into the pan, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool on a rack.

To make the frosting, cream the butter and peanut butter. Slowly add the powdered sugar, and beat until combined. Spread the frosting on the cooled brownies, and sprinkle with sea salt. Cut into 16 squares.

In an effort to cut these neatly, I froze them until the frosting had slightly firmed up. I wiped off the knife in between cuts, and dipped it in hot water, and shook off the excess before making each slice.

I put half of these in the fridge, and left half at room temperature. I strongly preferred the cold ones!

Source: adapted from Love and Olive Oil, originally from Not Without Salt

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Taco Dip

Taco Dip

Posted by: Maggie

I took three years of high school Spanish, spanning from my freshman through junior year. Ten years after my final class, I'd guesstimate that I have a Spanish vocabulary of roughly 150 words. I can count to 100, pronounce and accurately describe most menu items at Tex-Mex restaurants, and know a handful of Spanish curse words. Before going to Peru back in June, I brushed up on my Spanish pleasantries, learned how to order my beverages sin hielo, and reminded myself that el baño and la biblioteca are two very different places, that should not under any circumstance be confused. 

I really wish that I'd paid more attention back in high school Spanish, because as an adult I can finally understand the value of knowing a second language. As a teenager, the only thing I cared about in that class was the "fiesta" we got to have every semester. Our fiesta was really just a day off from learning, where everyone brought in junk food to pig out on for the whole 45-minute class. This dip was always my contribution to our fiesta, much to my poor mom's dismay. She got stuck making this dip for every single Spanish class party. A considerate kid would've signed their mother up for napkin duty. I volunteered her for $15 worth of dip and tortilla chips, roughly six times throughout high school. Sorry Mom!

Gone are the days of sharing this taco dip with 25 of my grody classmates. My mom doesn't make this dip for me anymore; I whip it up myself whenever Annie comes to town. She was here last weekend to go on our annual Christmas bar crawl, and we inhaled this on her first night here.

You can make this recipe more homemade if you desire, but I just use canned refried beans and packaged guacamole. My mom has always used chopped tomatoes as a topping, but the winter tomatoes where I live taste like old cotton balls soaked in V8 juice, so I opted for Rotel instead. It was a delicious substitution that I think I'll stick with the next time I make it.

What you'll need:

1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 envelope low-sodium taco seasoning
1 16-ounce can refried beans
1 7-ounce package of guacamole (about 14 tablespoons)
1 - 1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
3-5 scallions, washed, dried, and thinly sliced
1 small can sliced black olives, drained
1 10-ounce can Rotel diced tomatoes, drained well, and squeezed of excess water between a thick layer of paper towels (I used the lime juice/cilantro variety)

In a small bowl, mix sour cream, mayonnaise, and taco seasoning. Set aside. On a large plate, spread the refried beans into an even layer. Spread the guacamole on top of the beans, and then spread on the sour cream mixture. Top with cheese, scallions, olives, and Ro-tel.

Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Source: My lovely mom, with a couple changes by me!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pear Spice Cake with Walnut Praline Topping

Posted by: Maggie

This cake would be delightful for Christmas morning brunch.

Or, for Christmas Eve dessert.

Or perhaps as a snack for Santa in lieu of cookies?

It doesn't matter what your reason is for making this delicious, moist, lightly spiced cake. Just make it soon, and enjoy it fresh from the oven with a hot cup of coffee or cocoa.

I promise you won't regret it.

Here's what you'll need:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons grated nutmeg
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cup peeled, cored, and diced pear (I used about 2 pears to get this amount, but it will depend on the size of your fruit)
1 cup walnuts, toasted, cooled, and finely chopped

Move the oven rack to the middle position, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a bundt pan.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer on medium-high to combine butter, sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add egg yolks 1 at a time and beat well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low, and add in flour mixture and buttermilk alternately in batches, and beat well after each addition. Gently fold in pears and walnuts.

Clean the mixer beaters. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Fold whites into the batter gently, but thoroughly.

Transfer batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a wooden skewer comes out clean. Cool in pan, on a rack for 10 minutes, and then invert onto rack.

I topped my cake with the praline topping while it was still warm to help the glaze spread easily, but if you prefer, you can wait for the cake to cool completely.

To make the glaze:

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped, toasted

Stir brown sugar, cream, and butter in a heavy, medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat until smooth. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the walnuts, and carefully pour over the warm cake.

P.S. Here's a photo of (almost) the whole cake. I didn't get a nice pic of the uncut cake because Jeff and I cut into it at night, and by the time I had daylight for photographing it the next day it wasn't so pretty :)

Source: Adapted from Joy the Baker, originally from Gourmet Magazine

Friday, December 16, 2011

Soft Gingersnap Cookies with White Chocolate Chunks

Posted by: Maggie

(Please read the following as if a Gingersnap Cookie is speaking in the first person. A Gingersnap Cookie with the smooth voice of Isaiah Mustafa. Yup. I promise not to post again while exhausted and/or after spending too much time on the You Tubes.) 

Hello Readers.

Look at your cookie. Now back to me.
Now back at your cookie. Now back to me.
Sadly, it isn't me.
But if you go to the grocery store and buy some molasses and white chocolate it could taste like it's me.

Look down, back up, where are you?
You're in your kitchen,
making the cookies your cookies could taste like.

What's in your hand? Back at me.
I am, I'm a warm, soft, cookie with those two Christmas flavors that you love.
Look again, the Christmas flavors are now melting in your mouth.
Anything is possible when your cookie tastes like molasses and white chocolate, and not high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils.
I'm on a diabetic horse.

What you'll need:

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for coating cookie dough balls
1/2 cup molasses
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 large eggs
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until creamy. Add in the molasses, canola oil, vanilla extract, baking soda, salt, and spices, and beat until well combined. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixer on low, gradually add in the flour. Do not overmix. Stir in the white chocolate chips.

Using a cookie scoop, form the dough into balls and coat in the extra granulated sugar. Place on the prepared cookie sheet, two inches apart. Bake for 7-9 minutes. Remove from the oven, and allow cookies to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Repeat with remaining dough. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Adapted from: Two Peas & Their Pod

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Beef and Bean Chili

Posted by: Maggie

I was browsing through our recipe index recently, and realized that Annie and I have been complete failures in providing recipes in certain food categories. There are recipes for cookies, cupcakes, and vegetarian food galore, but only FOUR beef recipes in our entire 2-year history of blogging. 

As an ex-vegetarian who now loves bacon and juicy medium-rare steaks (especially if the latter is wrapped in the former,) this realization was simply unacceptable to me. I decided that a giant, meaty pot of chili was a necessity in my life, along with a batch of my favorite cornbread recipe.

I know I've mentioned on here before that I'm not crazy about most leftovers, and this is absolutely an exception. I sent Jeff home with a large portion of leftover chili, and still had enough to eat leftovers over rice, over pasta, over a baked potato, and over Fritos. Not all in one night of course. Eating that much chili in one night would be a bad decision for even the strongest of stomachs.

Here's what you'll need for about 3 quarts of chili:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped fine
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 pounds 85-percent lean ground beef
2 (15-ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 (28-ounce) can tomato puree
Toppings: limes, cilantro, sliced jalapenos, diced avocado, shredded cheese, diced red onions, and sour cream or greek yogurt are all good choices!

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium until shimmering. Add the onions, red pepper, garlic, and spices (except salt) and cook, stirring occasionally until the veggies are soft and the spices are fragrant (about 7-10 minutes.) If the veggies and spices start to stick to the bottom of the pan add a small splash of water. Increase the heat to medium-high and add half of the ground beef, breaking up with a wooden spoon and cook until no longer pink (about 3-4 minutes.) Add the remaining beef, breaking up with a wooden spoon, and cook until no longer pink.

Add beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer with the lid on for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid, and simmer for 1 more hour, stirring occasionally. I actually ended up simmering my chili for about 3.5 hours total since I was waiting for my dinner guest to arrive. If chili starts sticking to the bottom of the pot you can add in a bit of water and continue to simmer, but you probably won't need it. My pot isn't fancy - it's a thin, stainless steel pot from Target and I had no sticking problems.

Adjust seasonings to taste, and serve!

Side note: The chili is super duper thick on the first day you make it, and will thicken more as leftovers. In the interest of full disclosure, I wanted to note that the photograph above was taken on day 3 of my chili's life.

Source: slightly adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monster Cookies

Posted by: Maggie

So, two weeks ago I did something kind of weird.

I baked three dozen cookies and wrapped them up all purty...

monster cookies

...and then I mailed a dozen each to three complete strangers in Illinois, Texas, and Georgia.

christmas light bokeh

Why, you ask? Well I was participating in the 1st Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap! I was assigned Lori, Lindsay, and Alison, and they each received a dozen Monster Cookies home-baked by yours truly. I received delicious cookies from Susan (who has the cutest little pug who I wish was shipped to me with my cookies!), Jill, and Michelle. Thanks ladies! 

monster cookies

Of course I kept a couple for myself. These things are too good to give them all away. Not only are they delicious, they're simple, and you can convince yourself that eating three in a row is okay because oats are healthy. 

In my experience, there are monster cookies that are crunchy, and monster cookies that are chewy. These are the chewy variety, and will stay that way for several days. Not that they'll last that long. 

Here's what you'll need: 

1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
4 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 
1 cup Christmas M&Ms, plus additional for decoration

Position oven rack to the middle. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line baking sheet with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars with an electric mixer. Add in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in vanilla extract and baking soda, and mix well. Mix in peanut butter until well blended. Dump in the oats, and mix until combined. Mix in chocolate chips and M&Ms with a rubber spatula. Chill dough in the refrigerator for at least 90 minutes before using. 

Using a large cookie scoop, drop cookies onto parchment lined baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Press a few M&Ms on top of the cookies. Bake in the preheated oven for 11-13 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 


- I do not recommend baking more than one sheet of cookies at once. It's important that these cook evenly!

- This recipe makes 19-20 very large cookies. If you need to double it (which I did) you'll probably need to do it in separate batches unless your bowls are ginormous. This makes a LOT of dough. 

Source: Adapted from Everyday Home Cook

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bourbon Truffles

Posted by: Maggie

Can we all just agree that one fabulous thing about being an adult is the ability to eat candy with booze in it? 

I assume you're all nodding your heads in consensus.

Does anyone remember those little liquor filled chocolate bottles that used to come out at Christmas parties back in the day? As a kid I remember resenting the fact that I couldn't partake. Not because I was interested in drinking at the ripe old age of ten, it was just because I really wanted the chocolate.

When I saw this recipe it reminded me of those tiny, boozy bottles, and I instantly wanted to make them.

I'll warn you that these are a little tricky to work with - prepare to be covered in chocolate up to your elbows during the rolling process. I promise that they're worth the hassle, and if you pack them up in a pretty box they'd be a perfect gift to bring along to a Christmas party instead of the typical bottle of wine!

Here's what you'll need:

For the filling:

1/4 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup bourbon
Dutch process cocoa powder for dusting

For the coating:

1 12-ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
Topping of your choosing (I used sprinkles, finely chopped nuts or melted white chocolate would also be nice!)

To make the filling, heat butter and cream over medium-low heat in a medium saucepan. Stir until the butter completely melts, and the cream simmers. Remove mixture from the heat, and stir in the milk and semi-sweet chocolate. Stir until melted and smooth (you may need to briefly return the mixture to the heat to help the melting process.) Mix in the bourbon, and transfer mixture to a bowl.

Cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for 40 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Scoop the filling by tablespoonfuls and drop onto the baking sheet. Cover and freeze for 20-30 minutes, or until the filling is firm but still moldable.

Spread the cocoa powder on a plate. Remove the filling from the freezer, roll the chocolate mounds into balls, and then coat in cocoa powder. The filling may be difficult to work with at this point - I just formed the filling into balls as best as I could, and re-rolled them again AFTER dipping in the cocoa powder to completely smooth them out.

Return the truffles to the baking sheet, and freeze them while preparing the chocolate coating. I recommend dividing the chocolate and the shortening, and making the coating in two batches, so it stays smooth. Add the shortening to the chocolate chips, and melt according to package directions.

Re-roll the truffles to remove any loose cocoa, and dip in chocolate. The best way I've found to get a neat coating is to gently remove the chocolate ball from the coating with a fork, scrape the bottom of the fork on the side of the bowl to remove excess chocolate from the bottom, and gently nudge the truffle off the fork, onto a baking sheet with a second fork or knife. Work quickly with the filling so it doesn't melt in the hot chocolate coating. Immediately sprinkle with your chosen topping after coating each truffle.

Refrigerate uncovered for 1 hour, or until firm. For best taste, allow to sit out for about an hour before serving. Makes 18 truffles.

Source: Williams-Sonoma 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie & Oreo Fudge Brownie Bar

Posted by: Annie

While I was making these brownies, I couldn't help but be reminded of the SNL skit "Taco Town." The skit is a parody of a commercial for a chain taco restaurant, and advertises the most ridiculous taco ever. The taco ultimately ends up wrapped in a blueberry pancake and deep-fried. For your viewing pleasure (and so I don't seem like I'm totally crazy) I have included a link:

As tempting as it was, I did not roll these brownies in a pancake and deep fry them. But, these brownies, like the taco town tacos, are truly three great tastes all rolled into one. When you make these brownies you can't help but relate to the taco town commercial as you are pouring a layer of brownie batter on top of an entire package of double stuffed Oreos, that are sitting on a layer of chocolate chip cookie get what I mean.

When Scott walked in and saw these brownies, he immediately had to try them - despite the fact that they had only been out of the oven for like ten minutes. Needless to say, he was floored. He may have even been speechless - maybe because his mouth was full of hot brownie, but seriously they are amazing. I also went a little "taco town" on these brownies and put additional hot fudge sauce on top - so, so, worth it!

What you will need:

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 package double stuffed Oreos
2 boxes of your favorite brownie mix - I chose Ghirardelli Double Chocolate
1/4 cup hot fudge

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 9x13 baking dish, then line with parchment paper and generously butter the paper.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed for approximately four minutes. Add in the eggs and vanilla. Lower the speed, and gradually mix in the flour, until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread the cookie dough in the bottom of the prepared dish. Top the cookie dough with a layer of Oreos.

Next, prepare brownie mixes according to package directions. Mix in hot fudge sauce. Pour brownie batter over the cookie dough and Oreos, and spread evenly. Bake for 45 minutes. Let brownies cool completely before cutting. Serve with additional hot fudge topping if desired.

Source: Brown Eyed Baker

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Spicy Penne alla Vodka

Spicy Penne alla Vodka

Posted by: Maggie

Congrats to Nicole/comment #2 for winning our Anthropologie apron giveaway! Nicole has been contacted and will receive her prize shortly. Thanks to all who entered!

Annie makes amazing penne alla vodka. I've been asking her to blog about it ever since we started A Bitchin' Kitchen, but she's oddly protective of the recipe and refuses. Generally I despise food that is not at its intended temperature - for example, I'd rather eat boogers than cold pizza or cold fried chicken, but I actually ate a bowl of cold penne alla vodka while visiting her in Philly last fall. It's just that stinkin' good. 

Anyway, since Annie is keeping her recipe on lockdown, I was forced to find another version to satisfy me. I turned to The Curvy Carrot, since I enjoyed the Pasta Puttanesca recipe that I got from her site earlier this year so much. Fortunately, her penne alla vodka recipe was also perfect, and I loved that it contained a generous portion of red pepper flakes. The added spice just made one of my favorite pasta dishes even better!

Here's what you'll need:

1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/3 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 pound penne pasta (I recommend making the whole box if you like your pasta less saucy)
Fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded

Set up a large pot of water to boil while you start the sauce.

Divide your can of tomatoes into two halves. Place one half in a food processor, and puree until smooth. Chop the remaining tomatoes into small pieces, and set aside. Combine your pureed tomatoes, and chopped tomatoes to equal 2 cups. Add the reserved juice to get to a full 2 cups if necessary.

In a large, deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and tomato paste and cook for about 3 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Add in minced garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and salt.

Remove pan from heat, and add vodka. Return the pan to the heat, and simmer for 8-10 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, cook your pasta. At this point your water should be boiling. Add in pasta, and cook according to package directions.

After sauce has cooked for 8-10 minutes and reduced slightly, stir in the cream, and cook until heated through. Add the cooked and drained penne to the sauce, and stir to combine. Add additional salt to taste, and top with fresh basil.

Source: The Curvy Carrot / Cooks Illustrated

Monday, November 28, 2011

Apple Pie Cupcakes

Posted by: Annie

I made these delicious cupcakes for my best friend's birthday. Thanksgiving often falls on or around her birthday, and I know that many of her birthday celebrations have involved a slice or two of apple pie. Two years ago I made her these filled Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes. This year I chose to stick with the Thanksgiving theme and fill vanilla cupcakes with apple pie filling, and then top them with a delicious buttercream. 

These cupcakes were actually part of a much larger gift. Back in October, one of my best friends, Dana, made me the most thoughtful birthday gift. She titled it "Annie's Favorite Things" and compiled a bunch of items that were specific to what I appreciate and love in life. Dana filled a colander with a vanilla cupcake candle, a cookbook, cocktail mix, Keurig pumpkin spice coffee, Diet Coke, and more. It was such a thoughtful gift that I totally ripped it off and reused the idea (thanks Dana!)

The birthday girl was thrilled with the cupcakes and her other "favorite things," and even though Thanksgiving has passed, these cupcakes still make a fabulous addition to any dessert table during the holiday season.

Lastly, don't forget to enter our blogiversary giveaway! It closes at 11:59 p.m. tonight!

What you will need:

For the cupcakes:

3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk

For the apple pie filling:

2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 tablespoons sugar
3 large granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced

For the vanilla buttercream:

2 1/2 sticks butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.

To make the cupcakes, combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy (approximately 2 minutes.) Next, beat in eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in vanilla extract. Alternate beating in the dry ingredients and milk, in small increments, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Divide the batter evenly among cupcake tins. Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Place cupcakes on a cooling rack.

To make the apple pie filling, melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add cinnamon and sugar and heat until bubbly. Lower the heat and stir in apples. Coat thoroughly with cinnamon sugar mixture. Cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes, until apples are tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before filling the cupcakes.

To make the frosting, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until creamy. Stir in sugar and salt and beat on medium-low speed until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add vanilla and heavy cream. Mix on medium-low speed for approximately four minutes, until frosting appears light and fluffy.

To assemble, use a paring knife to cut out the center of each cupcake. Fill each cupcake with apple pie filling, and frost with buttercream.

Source: Adapted from Annie's Eats, originally from Fatty Fat Fats

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

Posted by: Maggie

Things have been kind of cupcake heavy around here lately. Last month we had Annie's homemade funfetti, and my pumpkin spice cupcakes for two. A couple weeks ago, Annie shared some deeeelicious looking peanut butter cupcakes that had me wishing I lived up in NJ, just so I could try one. 

Hopefully you guys are cool with the cupcake excess. I figure as long as we're bombarding you with sweets, and not like...liver, or haggis you'll keep coming back.

I made these cupcakes earlier this month for my dad's birthday, and we were both in agreement that they're mighty tasty! They're a dark chocolate cake, filled with a bittersweet chocolate ganache, and topped with a chocolate sour cream frosting. They're intensely rich, but not excessively sweet thanks to the use of bittersweet chocolate, and dark, dutch-processed cocoa powder.

I hope all of our U.S. readers have a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow with your friends and families! Don't forget to enter our Anthropologie apron giveaway if you haven't already. The winner will be randomly selected next week!

For the cupcakes (yields 13-14)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream

For the ganache filling:

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

For the frosting:

(if you don't like a 1:1 cupcake to frosting ratio like me, cut this recipe in half!)

14 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted after measuring
6 tablespoons dutch-processed cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons full-fat sour cream

To make the cupcakes, adjust the oven rack to the lower middle position, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees if using a non-stick cupcake tin.) Line 14 cupcake wells with paper liners. Important note: obviously this recipe makes too much batter for one cupcake pan. I do not recommend baking the extra cupcake pan containing two liners at the same time as the full pan. The cupcakes will bake unevenly.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine butter, chocolate, and cocoa. Microwave on 50% power for 30-second increments, stirring every 30 seconds until completely melted. Set aside to cool until slightly warm to the touch.

In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder to combine.

In a medium bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer on low speed. Add in sugar, vanilla, and salt, and beat until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture, and beat until combined. Pour about one-third of the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. Beat until just combined, and then mix in the sour cream. Add in the remaining flour mixture, and beat on low speed until just combined. The batter will be thick and mousse-like.

Divide the batter evenly among cupcake tins. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake!

Cool cupcakes completely before filling with ganache and frosting.

To make the ganache, combine the chocolate and heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on full power in the microwave for 30-45 seconds. Stir, and continue heating at 15 second increments until fully melted. Remove from the microwave, and transfer to freezer. Allow the mixture to chill for 30 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes to promote even cooling. When the mixture has cooled and thickened, and is no longer runny, fill the cupcakes.

To fill the cupcakes, remove the core using one of the many handy cupcake coring doodads on the market these days (I got one at Target for about $6,) or just use a knife. Or an apple corer, whatever strikes your fancy. Fill the hole in the cooled cupcakes with the ganache, and set aside while you make the frosting.

To make the frosting, add the chocolate to a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave on 50% power for 30 second increments, stirring after each increment until chocolate is completely melted. Set aside to cool until barely warm. (This is important - if you add it to the other ingredients when it's too warm it will melt the butter and ruin your frosting!)

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese for 3 minutes, until pale and fluffy. Slowly mix in the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Beat in the cooled, melted chocolate, and lastly, the sour cream. Continue beating on medium speed until the mixture is smooth and thoroughly combined. Use immediately, and refrigerate any leftover.

Recipes adapted from: Cupcakes - Cooks Illustrated, Ganache - Post Gazette, Frosting - Annie's Eats

Monday, November 21, 2011

Baked Potato Soup

Posted by: Annie

The quest for the perfect potato soup began almost two years this embarrassing blog post where I was still at the mercy of my point and shoot camera. Since that post, I never made homemade potato soup again, but did sample potato soup from practically every chain restaurant on the East Coast (thanks boyfriend.)

I decided that with the crisp weather and my somewhat improved photography skills, this weekend would be a perfect time to try a different potato soup recipe. I browsed the internet for so many potato soup recipes, and was struggling between a copy-cat chain restaurant recipe, and Paula Deen's southern potato soup recipe, and ultimately sided with the Queen of Southern Cooking. I am so glad I did. The soup was better than any restaurant's I've had, and was full of bacon AND cheese...what more could a girl ask for?

P.S. Don't forget that we're giving away an Anthropologie apron! Click here if you'd like to enter!

What you'll need:

For the soup...

1 1/2 sticks butter
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup flour
3 14.5 ounce cans chicken broth
5 potatoes (baked, peeled, and diced into bite-sized pieces)
8 strips cooked bacon
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
8 ounces sour cream
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

For the garnish...

6 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 bunch scallions, diced
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese

In a large pot, melt butter over low heat, taking care not to burn. Add in onions, and cook until tender. Add in flour, and stir constantly for one minute. Gradually add the chicken broth, continue to stir. Heat until the mixture has thickened and is bubbling. Next, add in potatoes, bacon, parsley, and heavy cream. Continue to cook for ten minutes. Stir in sour cream and cheese. Before serving, garnish with bacon, scallions, and more cheese if desired.

Source: Paula Deen for Smithfield

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Two-year Blogiversary Giveaway!!!

Posted by: Maggie 

Today marks the two year blogiversary of A Bitchin' Kitchen!!!

Annie and I are so tremendously appreciative of each and every one of our readers, and we want to thank you all for your visits, comments, and support by doing a celebratory giveaway today!

We bought the above apron from Anthropologie a few months ago in anticipation of our blogiversary. It is so cute that I have been tempted to take it for myself numerous times, but I have managed to resist! It is even more adorable in person than the picture depicts. Annie and I both love fun aprons, and actually gave each other aprons for gifts back at Christmas 2009:

The Rules and Other Important Things:

- There are two ways to enter, both listed below. You must leave a separate comment for each entry, and you may only enter each way once.

- The contest is over at 11:59 p.m. EST on Monday, November 28, 2011. The comment section will be closed at that time, and the winner will be notified Tuesday morning.

- I will be using to determine the winner. I will contact the winner, and they must respond within 72 hours or they will forfeit the prize and I will draw an alternate winner. After contact with the winner has been made, we will formally announce it here.

- We love our readers from all over the world, but we can only ship to the United States and Canada.

- This contest is sponsored by A Bitchin' Kitchen. Much to our dismay, Anthropologie does not know who we are.

- Last, and most importantly: I cannot see what your email address is when you comment, even if you're using a Blogger account. Please be sure to include an email address in the body of your comment, or a link to your blog (if you have one) if contact information is easily accessible on there.

How to Enter:

Required Entry: 

- Leave a comment on this post telling me your plans for Thanksgiving, or what you did for Thanksgiving if you're entering after the holiday. If you don't celebrate, just say hello, or say I like turtles, or tell me a fun fact about yourself!

Optional Bonus Entry:

- "Like" us on Facebook, and come back and leave a comment letting us know that you did. If you already like us, just let us know!

Thanks in advance for entering, and if any of these rules are unclear please shoot us an email and we'll clear things up!

*Image via

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Cake

Posted by: Maggie

I made this pumpkin pie cake two Friday nights ago. Jeff was over, and we decided to stay in instead of going to a late movie as planned. He was exhausted, and I was having flashbacks to the two previous, very, very bad times Jeff and I saw a movie together.

Back in April, Jeff and I went to see Scream 4 in Chinatown. You'd think that a rated R movie at dinnertime would be full of other adults, right? Well, you'd be wrong. The theater was full of loud teenagers, and every other seat was illuminated by a cell phone screen. Worst of all, during the pivotal scene of the movie, two young girls "snuck" in (I use quotation marks because the word "snuck" inaccurately implies that they were quiet) and one of them proceeds to call up a friend, and asks the friend to catch her up on the first hour of the movie that she missed.

Well, I was not about to let that happen. I didn't wait 11 years to find out Sidney Prescott's ultimate fate to have it ruined by a cell phone conversation. The girl on the cell phone was probably not even eating solid food when the first Scream movie came out. After politely asking her to hang up the phone twice, a scene similar to this ensued, with me being Dr. Evil, and rude cell phone girl being Scott Evil.

Of course, this was nearly as disruptive as her cell phone conversation. In hindsight, I kind of wish I'd had the cojones to pry her cell phone away and hurl it at the wall.

Nearly six months went by without Jeff and I seeing another movie together. He was probably afraid I'd go ballistic on another rude movie patron.

Last month we decided to see Paranormal Activity 3. We both loved the first two, and were unwilling to wait for the DVD. This time we ventured out to a theater in the 'burbs, where I fully expected a more adult clientele.

I was wrong. There was a group of about 15 teenagers in the front row of the theater, who were talking, texting, and only paying attention to the movie for the purpose of providing loud, inane, commentary throughout the entire thing. It was awful, and it completely ruined the movie. People near them were shushing them the entire time which didn't help. No one seemed to want to go get a theater employee and risk missing part of the movie.

Anyway, as I mentioned before I went on my rambling tangent about rude movie theater patrons, I made this pumpkin pie cake last Friday, in lieu of going to a movie with Jeff. After our lazy night in on Friday, we decided to risk it and head to the movie on Saturday instead. We both wanted to see the Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas movie. I am now sensing that our immature taste in movies may be part of the problem. was glorious. We were two of about 20 people in the entire theater - 20 people who remained silent throughout the entire movie except for laughter.

As happy as I am that our terrible movie going streak is over, I'm even happier that we stayed in Friday night and got to eat this. This is super quick to throw together, thanks to the inclusion of a cake mix, and is extremely delicious warm from the oven, or chilled. To compensate for using a cake mix as the base, I made the whipped cream from scratch. If you want to do the same, just use an electric mixer to beat 1 cup of whipping cream with 2 1/2 tablespoons of granulated sugar for about 3 minutes on medium high, or until stiff peaks form. Easy peasy, and better than Cool Whip!

This recipe is a great Thanksgiving dessert if you want to deviate from the traditional pumpkin pie. It also makes a yummy breakfast. Don't judge, you know you want this for breakfast too.

Unrelated announcement: To celebrate A Bitchin' Kitchen's 2-year blogiversary, we're having our first giveaway here on Thursday! Make sure to come back and enter!

Here's what you'll need:

1 box yellow cake mix
3/4 cup softened butter, divided
4 large eggs
2 15-ounce cans pumpkin
1 1/2 cup sugar, divided
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Remove 1 cup of the cake mix from the box, and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat remaining cake mix, 1/2 cup of the butter, and 1 egg. Evenly press into the prepared pan. In the same bowl, beat the pumpkin, the 3 remaining eggs, 1 cup of the sugar, the evaporated milk, and cinnamon. Pour mixture over crust. Using the same bowl (wipe it out first if necessary) combine the reserved cake mix, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup butter with a pastry blender until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the pumpkin filling. Sprinkle the pecans on top. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until filling is set. If you want to eat it warm, cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting into it. Serve with whipped cream!

Source: Mom!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Chicken-Shiitake and Wild Rice Soup

Posted by: Annie

Confession: I love casseroles. For some reason, I feel like this is an embarrassing confession. Casseroles seem like one of those foods that are eaten but not spoken about - like EZ Cheese, ramen noodles, and those awesome snowball cupcakes that are seasonally dyed. We all know we eat them, but we would never advertise it. :)

Growing up, my mom made an amazing chicken and rice casserole. I believe I was the only child in the family who liked it. I also loved my mom's chicken divan casserole, and basically any dish that had a can of cream of chicken soup in it, was smothered with cheese, and then baked.

This soup reminds me exactly of my mom's chicken and rice casserole. While it was simmering on the stove, it smelled exactly like it, and I had to stop myself from dumping the soup contents into a casserole dish and baking it. However, once I tasted it I realized it was just as good (if not better than, sorry Ma!) the childhood casserole I was craving. I almost topped it with a little cheese, but decided to try it without and it was delicious. This soup will definitely become a fall staple!

What you will need:

1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, diced
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup water
64 ounces low sodium, low fat chicken broth
1 cup pre-cut matchstick carrots (or if you can't find them, 2 chopped carrots)
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4.5 ounce long grain rice and wild rice combo (I used Rice-a-Roni)
1/2 cup white long grain rice
4 ounces sliced shiitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons light sour cream
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and saute 3-4 minutes until tender. Stir in flour, and saute an additional minute. Pour in water, chicken broth, carrots, celery, garlic, and chicken. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add both types of rice and mushrooms. Cook for an additional 25 minutes. Remove chicken from the broth and cut into bite-sized pieces. Return chicken to the soup. Stir in sour cream, salt and pepper. If too thick, stir in water as needed.

Adapted from Skinny Taste

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Spicy Macaroni and Cheese

Spicy Macaroni and Cheese

Posted by: Maggie

Ok, let me start by saying that this macaroni and cheese isn't really spicy at all, unless you're a total sissy. 

I don't use my own sense of taste to determine if something is spicy or not, because I have recently taken to eating sriracha on just about everything, and have burned off most of my taste buds. I'm pretty sure I'd eat a dirty shoe if I could eat it with sriracha. Jeff however, does not enjoy spicy food, and agreed that while very tasty, this macaroni and cheese does not qualify as spicy.

Now that I've made that disclaimer, I'll tell you that this macaroni and cheese is extremely flavorful, cheesy, and delicious, and absolutely worth making. Just be sure to leave in the jalapeño seeds if you want more of a spicy kick! 

Here's what you'll need:

4 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
1/3 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup jarred roasted red pepper, finely chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, finely minced, seeds optional (wear gloves when cutting these!) 
4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
6 cups of shredded cheese - I used a combo of about 2 parts colby jack, to 1 part pepper jack and 1 part sharp cheddar
Plain breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. When the water is boiling, add the macaroni and cook until al dente (the pasta will cook a bit more in the oven.)

While the pasta is cooking, melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add in onion, red pepper, and jalapeño, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

At this point your pasta should be done - drain it and set aside.

In a large, deep skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. When the butter is completely melted, whisk in the flour, and cook for two minutes, whisking constantly, until it turns light brown and starts foaming. Be careful not to burn it. Whisk in the milk until well blended. Cook mixture, whisking frequently for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture thickens slightly and begins to bubble. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the spices.

Gradually add the cheese to the mixture, one handful at a time, stirring constantly until well blended. About four cups in you'll think the sauce can't handle more cheese, but just add it gradually and it will all melt! Remove the mixture from heat.

Add the cooked pasta back into the pot, and add in cheese sauce, and the vegetables. Stir to combine thoroughly. Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray, and transfer the macaroni and cheese to the dish. Top with breadcrumbs, and bake for 25 minutes.

Source: Adapted from Annie's Eats

Monday, November 7, 2011

Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Cheesecake Frosting

Posted by: Annie

Usually when I bake, I have a motivation for doing so - such as I promised my students baked goods, or it's someone's birthday, or it is a certain holiday. However, with these cupcakes I simply was just craving a delicious peanut butter dessert. 

My peanut butter craving all started last week. Lately, I have been in an oatmeal rut. I eat oatmeal almost every single morning, and at the urging of Maggie I started eating my oatmeal with a spoonful of peanut butter mixed in (heaven!)

When I ran out of peanut butter I attempted to be healthier, and purchased natural peanut butter. For years, I had looked at this peanut butter, warily examining the liquid that sat on top, and always concluded that natural peanut butter just wasn't for me. Well, all those years I was right - I still don't like natural peanut butter. The texture and the watery liquid brought out my inner picky child and I promptly chucked the peanut butter in the trash.

As a result, the next few mornings consisted of oatmeal without my delicious peanut butter mixed in, because day after day I would forget to pick up peanut butter after work. Finally, by the end of the week not only did I need the biggest container of Jif I could find, but I needed a dessert that gave me my peanut butter fix. Enter, peanut butter cupcakes with chocolate cheesecake frosting. Ahhhh-mazing.

What you will need:

1 stick of butter (softened)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup skim milk
3/4 cup peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cupcake tins with 12 liners.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together butter and peanut butter until smooth and creamy. Add in sugar and eggs and beat until fluffy. Stir in vanilla extract.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Add half of the dry mixture to the peanut butter mixture, and beat on medium speed until combined. Add the milk, and beat until combined. Beat in the remaining dry ingredients. Stir in the peanut butter chips.

Fill each cupcake tin 2/3 of the way full with batter. Bake 15-18 minutes. Cool completely, and decorate.

Chocolate Cheesecake Frosting:

1 stick butter (softened)
8 ounces cream cheese, one block (softened)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup dark cocoa powder
1-2 tablespoons milk, as needed

Using a mixer on medium speed, cream together butter and cream cheese until well combined. Stir in vanilla. Continue mixing, and add in 1/2 cup powdered sugar at a time. Mix in cocoa powder. Add milk 1 teaspoon at a time if frosting is too thick.

Source: How Sweet It Is

Friday, November 4, 2011

1st Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap - Go Sign Up!!!

Posted by: Maggie

Hey everyone - no new recipe today, just a quick update. As I'm sure many of you know, Lindsay from Love and Olive Oil and Julie from The Little Kitchen are hosting the 1st Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.

I just signed up, and if you're a food blogger you should too! All the details are on the link above, but the basic idea is that you get the names of 3 other bloggers, send them cookies, and get cookies in return. The more people who participate the better, so go sign up now!

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos with Chipotle Crema

Posted by: Maggie

These tacos are super healthy, super delicious, and super cheap. They're also super full of flavor, and I made a super mess of my kitchen sink when I ate four of them while standing over it. Super duper. 

I'm at a super duper loss for words for words today. I have had a terrible cold since last Monday, and I think the amount of Nyquil I've consumed over the past eight days has turned my brain into mush. I have stared at this screen for about 20 minutes trying to think of what to talk about to accompany these tacos and am coming up empty.

Oh wait, here's a kind of funny story. When I bought the ingredients for these tacos on Monday (beans and cabbage...) the coupon that printed out at the register was for Beano. That simply cannot be a coincidence given the ingredients I was purchasing.

Have I ruined your appetite by discussing gas medicine? I hope not.

These tacos have four fillings that you'll need to make - the potatoes, the beans, the cabbage, and the sauce.  If it seems like a strange combination, just trust me and try it. I promise you'll love it.

For the potatoes:

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Juice of 1 lime

For the cabbage:

2 cups shredded purple cabbage (I used my food processor to finely shred it)
1/4 cup yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
Juice of 2 limes
Kosher salt, to taste
Red pepper flakes, to taste

For the beans:

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
Juice of 1 lime

For the sauce:

6 ounces non-fat Greek yogurt
3-5 tablespoons pureed chipotles in adobo (I pureed them myself in my food processor)
Kosher salt, cumin, and cayenne to taste

For serving: 

12 small corn tortillas

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with foil. In a medium bowl, toss sweet potato chunks, olive oil, lime juice, salt, and red pepper flakes until evenly coated. Spread potatoes in a single layer onto the baking sheet, and roast in pre-heated oven for 40 minutes or until soft, stirring once or twice to ensure even cooking.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the cabbage. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, and toss to combine. Set aside.

Now it's time to make the sauce. Combine your pureed chipotles, Greek yogurt, and seasonings in a small bowl, and stir well. This sauce has quite a kick to it, so gradually add the chipotle if your heat tolerance is low. Set aside.

To prepare the beans, heat olive oil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Saute the onions until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the cumin and stir until fragrant - about 30 seconds. Lastly, add in the beans and lime juice. Cook for about 5 minutes until beans have softened and the mixture is heated through.

Heat corn tortillas according to package directions (I just nuke mine for about 30 seconds between damp paper towels) and assemble tacos. Enjoy!

Recipe source: Joy the Baker and the sauce is inspired by Emeril.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Fall Funfetti Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

Posted by: Annie

I am officially in a very fall festive mood! This past weekend, Scott and I went out for Halloween dressed as Spartan cheerleaders from the 1990s Saturday Night Live skits that featured Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri.  It was actually the first time Scott and I ever dressed up for Halloween together (and this was our FIFTH Halloween as a couple!) 

I stubbornly decided that I was not going to pay an absurd amount for a polyester costume that I could easily make, so not only did Scott and I have our first costumed Halloween, but I made our first Halloween costumes! (And by made I mean carefully ironing on pictures to black sweatshirts without setting the house on fire.) We were very successful cheerleaders and took our roles very seriously, as made apparent by the seventy-one pictures I found on my camera the next day. I will spare you all and only share this gem:

In addition to Halloween, the weather is amazing and fall seems to be officially here. To celebrate this awesome weather and fall season, I made homemade funfetti cupcakes using autumn colored sprinkles and topped them with even more sprinkles and a chocolate buttercream. I am so pumped to make these for every possible holiday that stores sell sprinkles for. (President's Day Funfetti cupcakes anyone?)

What you will need: 

For the cupcakes: 

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract 
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup sprinkles (any color you like) 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cupcake tins with 12 liners. 

In a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, for approximately 3 minutes. Next, mix in eggs and vanilla until combined. 

In a medium bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Add half of the dry mixture to your sugar mixture and beat to combine. Beat in milk. Beat in the remaining dry ingredients. Lastly, stir in sprinkles. 

Fill each cupcake tin 2/3 of the way full with batter. Bake 18-20 minutes. Cool completely, and decorate. 

For the frosting:

8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 cups confectioners sugar
2 sticks butter
6 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat chocolate in microwave at 30-second intervals until melted. Set aside and allow to cool completely. 

In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Using a mixer at low speed, beat well, frequently scraping the sides of the bowl. After one minute, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat an additional two minutes. Mix in the cooled chocolate and continue to beat at medium speed for an additional minute. If the frosting appears dry, add more milk, one teaspoon at a time. 

Makes 4 1/2 cups. 

Source: How Sweet It Is (cupcakes) and Williams-Sonoma (frosting) 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mini Halloween Oreo Cheesecakes, and The Awkward Tale of Halloween '96

Mini Halloween Oreo Cheesecakes

Posted by: Maggie

I feel like a major buzz-kill by admitting this, but I don't really love Halloween. More accurately, I don't love dressing up for Halloween. I love haunted hayrides, corn mazes, pumpkin carving, and cute kids in costumes just fine. I don't love that 99% of costumes available in stores for grown ladies like myself are either trampy or matronly, with practically no middle ground.

The last time I really dressed up for Halloween was in 7th grade. Incidentally, it was also the last year I ever went trick-or-treating, but more on that in a minute. My mom had an old gypsy costume that I borrowed, and I piled on the makeup, crazy gold coin earrings, loads of dangly bracelets, and a headscarf. I was past the age of dressing up for school at that point, mainly due to my desire to invisibly walk the halls of Ocean Township Intermediate School without being taunted by the girls who had already figured out mascara, flat irons, and padded bras. Meanwhile, I still looked like the bastard love child of Art Garfunkel and Jan Brady. I'm ok now. May God bless Lancome Definicils, the Chi, and late teenage growth spurts.

Anyway, I got home from school that afternoon, and prepared to go trick-or-treating with one of my equally awkward friends. I have no recollection of what she dressed as for Halloween, but I do remember that she affected a British accent for the whole evening, not breaking character once, even though I'm fairly certain it had nothing to do with her costume. Birds of an awkward feather...

We traipsed through the neighborhood collecting candy, and finally arrived at one of the last houses on our route, which just so happened to be the home of my unrequited middle-school crush. He was blonde, all of his clothes came from Structure, and he was a bit of a troublemaker. Be still, my 12-year old heart. We walked up the pathway, rang the doorbell, and there stood my crush holding a bowl of candy and looking annoyed. I will always remember the eleven words he said to us next: "Aren't you girls a little old to be trick-or-treating?" His response didn't seem to faze my friend, but as I defeatedly walked home that evening, my heartbroken 12-year old self vowed never to trick-or-treat again.

When I went off to college, I tried to get in the Halloween spirit, once by dressing up in angel wings, a halo, and normal clothes, and once by wearing a helmet and carrying a sword. Although, in retrospect I think I may have stolen the sword from someone else's costume.

Those pictures were taken in 2004 and 2005, respectively, and I haven't dressed up since - not even in a half-assed construction worker with a sword kind of way. 

Things are changing this Halloween. Who remembers Salute Your Shorts? If you were born in the early to mid-80s like Jeff and myself, and live in the United States, there is a strong chance it was one of your favorite childhood shows. Jeff is going as camp counselor Kevin "Ug" Lee, and I will be going as camper Z.Z. Ziff. My costume consists of a Camp Anawanna tee shirt, a whistle, peace sign/earth earrings (Z.Z. was a hippie, remember?) and a syrup bottle for administering awful waffles (link NSFW thanks to some perverted and inaccurate descriptions of an awful waffle, but it's the only site I can find with a definition. Sorry.) Fun, nostalgic, not trampy, and inexpensive? That is the kind of Halloween costume I can get on board with.

I may be wary of the dressing up side of Halloween, but I can easily get on board with the desserts. I found the recipe for these Halloween cheesecakes over on Gingerbread Bagels. Lindsey's Halloween spirit is infectious, and it's enough to even warm up a Halloween Grinch like myself to the holiday! These are super good, and since they're miniature and portion-controlled it means you'll have more room for Halloween candy!

Here's what you'll need:

15 Halloween Oreos, whole
6 Halloween Oreos, pulverized in the food processor
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Orange gel food coloring

Preheat oven to 275 degrees, and line 2 muffin tins with 15 foil liners. Place one whole Oreo in each liner.

Place cream cheese in a large bowl, and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add in the sugar and beat throughly to combine. Add in vanilla extract and eggs, and beat until combined. Finally, gently mix in the sour cream.

Add in orange gel food coloring until the batter is your desired shade. Stir in Oreo crumbs.

Divide batter evenly among the muffin tins. You can fill these almost to the top since they don't really rise. Bake for 22 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Chill overnight if you can wait that long!

Source: Gingerbread Bagels
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