2008-02-29

Cream Puffs

Yes, lovies, we've made it thru yet another week and the weekend is upon us! I don't know about the weather where you are but here in SoCal it's been gorgeous this week!!! I think it's Mother Nature's way of apologizing for the craptastic rain-fest she heaped upon us all of last week and especially last weekend... grrrr!!! But this week the weather has been in the high 70's and low 80's with more of the same forecasted for this weekend =)


This weekend is the LA Marathon!! I've picked up my bib, official t-shirt, goodie bag and just as sure as you can say Yes Siree Ricky Bobby I'll be joining the pack this weekend. Now, before you start thinkin "daaaaaaang, that RPC is not just a repressed pastry chef but she's an athlete too" let me assure you that is definitely not the case. I'm not a runner... no way... no how... nuh uhn! The only thing I run toward is the pastry cart and the only thing I run from is responsibility! heehee =) In case you missed that part... I am not a runner. But I am a cyclist! I absolutely love being on my bike. I've previously blogged about the love fest I have for my bike and for cycling so I won't bore you again. But yes indeed to I love to cycle. One of the "events" within the LA Marathon is the Acura LA Bike Tour - 22 miles through the streets of Los Angeles on the route of the LA Marathon - and that my friends is the event that I'm doing!!! {insert cheering crowd sounds here} Woohoo!!! Yippee!!! All Right!!! Bravo!!! {insert more applause sounds here} Oh yeah, and DJ's doing it too :)

I am so incredibly excited I just can't stand it!!!!!!!!




So today I discover there are "rules" to this bike challenge thang. Okay, I'll be honest and tell you I'm not big on "rules"... I'm rather rebellious that way. Oh nothing serious mind you but if the speed limit sign says 45, I'm usually going 50. Oh yes siree, I'm a rebel alright ;-) But I suppose in order to soften things and sound a bit better they don't come straight out and call it "the rules" they call it "The Basics". Yeah, okay whatever. Same thing in my book. Rules like "All riders will be required to wear helmets"... sounds reasonable; "Do not mail entries after Feb 10, 2008"... reasonable too; "All riders must complete the Acura LA Bike Tour at a minimum nine miles per hour pace. Riders who cannot maintain the nine mph pace will be directed to bail out routes." {insert screetching tire sound here} WHAT?!?!?!?!?! Okay now I assure you, if you're a somewhat decent cyclist who regularly rides a road or hybrid bike, 9mph is not a tremendously challenging pace. On the flats, I'm comfy going around 16-17mph. But but but buuuuuuuttttttttt when it comes to climbing hills, holy smokes 9mph is a challenge for me. I think. I mean, that's the only thing that worries me. I don't wanna be all wussy or stuff and have to use a bail out route... I'll be mortified if that happens. And I surely don't wanna be kicked off the course for not being able to complete it by 8am. OMG!!! Just the thought of that happening is enough to motivate my butt to ride strong cuz ya know what, The Repressed Pastry Chef ain't no cream puff!!! hahahahaha


And speaking of cream puffs... I love em. Love em! Love em! Love em! When I was a little girl my dad had some friends who would come to visit about once a month or so. On their way over, they always stopped by the bakery and bought a box of cream puffs. Heaven. That's the only word to describe those delectable goodies. A nice bread-like puff filled with sweetened bavarian cream and dusted with powdered sugar. M'mmmmm.... soooooo goooood. When eating cream puffs the most appropriate happy noise is "nom nom nom" followed by "nom nom nom" and then with a chaser of "nom nom nom" bringing up the rear!!. I could eat them one after another after another. Yes, I love cream puffs... and I'm not ashamed to say it. Say it loud "I love cream puffs... and I'm proud" hahaha.

One Friday last month I decided to attempt making cream puffs. The concept seemed challenging... daunting even... but it was a Friday night, I was home and I let out a whoop! whoop! and decided to go for it =) And boy oh boy was I ever glad I did. The cream was so good I could eat it by the spoonful... but I didn't... only because I needed it for the puff filling! LOL! Making cream puffs really wasn't as difficult as had envisioned it to be. Truth be told the difficult part was not eating all of them myself! Okay Okay... I lie... I pretty much did eat them all myself... DJ had one or two, pronounced them "good" and that was it. "Good???" I asked. "Good???". The guy has no real appreciation for these little pieces of heaven. But that's okay, just means more for me :) And for me it was more... and more... and more... and before I knew it, Monday rolled around there were no cream puffs left to take to work. So, lesson learned... I do not make cream puffs on a Friday night!!! LOL
Have a great weekend...
and think of me on Sunday morning as I'm doing the Acura LA Marathon Bike Tour!!!!




Bavarian Cream
INGREDIENTS
2 cups milk
1/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bavarian Cream
DIRECTIONS
Combine the milk and 1/4 cup of sugar in a saucepan and over medium heat bring to a boil. Whisk the egg in a separate bowl. Combine the cornstarch and the rest of the sugar then stir this mixture into the egg until smooth. When the milk/sugar mixture comes to a boil, very slowly pour it in a thin stream into the bowl containing the cornstarch/sugar/egg mixture... be sure you continue stirring to prevent the eggs from cooking. Return the combined mixture to the saucepan, and slowly bring to a boil... be sure you stir this constantly so the eggs don' t curdle or scorch on the bottom. When this comes to a boil and thickens, remove from heat. Stir in the butter and vanilla, mixing until the butter is completely blended in. Pour into a heat-proof container and refrigerate. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream before storing in the fridge... this will prevent a "skin" from forming on the surface. But then again, if you eat it right away there's no chance for the skin to develop... oh... but wait... you can't eat it right away since if you do you'll have nothing for the cream puff filling! hahahaha

Pastry Puffs
INGREDIENTS
1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into pats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
4 eggs

Pastry Puff
DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the water, butter, and salt in a medium-sized saucepan, heat until the butter has melted then bring to a rolling boil. Add the flour all at once, stirring rapidly until the mixture is smooth and follows the spoon around the pan; this should take less than 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat, and let the mixture cool for 5 to 10 minutes. It’ll still feel hot, but you should be able to hold a finger in it for a few seconds. Transfer the dough to a mixer. Beat in the eggs one at a time - the mixture will look curdled at first, but when you add the last egg it will become smooth. Beat for 1 minute after adding the last egg. The batter will be stiff and smooth. Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls onto the prepared sheets and smooth any peaks with a wet finger. Keep them about 1 ½" to 2" apart since they’re going to expand to about the size of a golf ball. Bake for about 20 minutes, till they’re medium golden brown, puffy and look dry. Remove from the oven and use a sharp knife to cut a slit into the side of each puff to let steam escape (keeps them from getting soggy). Put the puffs back in the oven for 5 minutes and then take them out and transfer to a cooling rack.

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2008-02-28

Pineapple Upside Down Cake


I don't have many pleasant memories of my father. We never really got along mostly because his way of parenting was to instill fear. I was always afraid of him and it's hard to really like someone that you're truly afraid of. One thing I do have memories of is making Pineapple Upside Down Cake for my father when I was very young... like in grade school. Back then I think this was his absolute favorite cake - and I can't count the number of times my mom and I made this for him. In February 2005 he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Prostate Cancer and started chemotherapy and radiation treatments. His taste buds changed dramatically. Foods he used to love suddenly no longer appealed to him... foods he never cared for became sources of great pleasure to him.



After he was diagnosed, I became his primary care-giver. He stayed at my house... I took him to his myriad doctor appointments and clinic visits... the whole shebang. Our relationship completely transformed probably because HE was transformed. I never really questioned it because I was just so fricken grateful to have a good relationship with him at that point. I took care of my father until the day he died, putting many things in my life on-hold so that I could be there for him. I was by his side and holding his hand when he took his last breath. It was a great honor for me and even now when I write about it I cry. I still miss my dad every... single... day. When he was so very sick and going thru chemo he rarely wanted to eat. My mother couldn't get him to eat. My sister couldn't get him to eat. He simply just didn't want to eat. But it always seemed like I could find something, make something, create something... something that appealed to him and surprisingly enough he'd eat!!! That made me pretty ding-dang happy I'll have you know =)

I'd forgotten all about Pineapple Upside Down Cake since I hadn't made one in over 25 years. And when he was sick, my dad never mentioned it either. All of a sudden he was into chocolate cake... defnitely not my cup of tea, that's for sure. I won't say I dislike chocolate, but it just doesn't hold much appeal to me. I'll eat it but it won't be my first choice if other options are available. Chocolate cake... chocolate pudding... chocolate milk... chocolate eclairs... chocolate mousse... these were things I never saw my dad get all googly-eyed over until he was nearing the end of his life. But let me tell you, googly-eyed he'd definitely get over something chocolate. Go figure :)

Earlier this month I suddenly got a mega-huge-enormous-mongo craving for Pineapple Upside Down Cake. No idea why since I hadn't even thought about it in years upon years upon years (yes, RPC is not quite a youngun anymore! LOL). But once that craving hit, well, it would not be silenced. Actually, now that I think about it, it was rather reminiscent of the line uttered by Alex Forrest (played by Glenn Close) in Fatal Attraction when she said to Michael Douglas' character "I'm not going to be ignored Dan". Uhhh.... yup.... that's pretty much what it was like. The craving for Pineapple Upside Down Cake was not going to be ignored.

Having given up on box cake mix quite a long time ago, I decided to make the cake from scratch. While I'm partial to white cake and after much trial-n-error came across what I consider to be the best white cake recipe on the planet, I don't have a recipe for yellow cake mix... and Pineapple Upside Down Cake simply must be made with yellow cake. Okay so I search the net (AllRecipes.com is my favorite site) and come up with what I think sounds like a winning yellow cake recipe. I whip it up, and OMG was it awful. In all fairness the taste was not all that bad but it did not rise whatsoever. It stayed as a layer of lump on top of that gorgeous pineapple/butter/brownsugar "bottom". Here's a pic of my "Pineapple Upside Down Flop". Did I mention this craving hit me around 7pm at night? Cravings seem to scream loudest late at night for some reason but usually I'm too dang tired and too dang lazy to do anything about them =) But this night, as I said, the craving sounded like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction... it was not going to be ignored. After the made-from-scratch flop that I created, I caved in to the craving, got dressed, went to the grocery store and bought a box of yellow cake mix. Heck, I had used all the pineapple in my flop so I had to get that as well. I came home and melted the butter in the cake pan, added the brown sugar, delicately placed the pineapple rings, laid the maraschino cherries in the ring-centers, whipped up that box mix, poured it on top and baked that bad-boy in my 350F preheated oven for 45 minutes and waited exceedingly impatiently for the 5 minute cooling period. I found a nice platter and grabbed the cake to invert it and daaaaaaaaang the cake pan was still hot. Of course I didn't discover this until I was smack-dab in the middle of inverting the cake and as a result the cake was not centered on the platter. Eh, small aesthetic price to pay while avoiding some nasty burns on my wee-widdle-fingaws. But no worries, it's the eatin that counts and boy was this cake good. I gotta hand it to Betty (Crocker, that is) that box yellow cake was awfully tasty when paired with my homemade butter/brownsugar/pineapple/maraschino-cherry combo (hey, gotta get my props in somehow! LOL). This cake was so good that I had not one slice but probably 2-3 slices (yes siree Ricky Bobby, I was a biggie piggie that night!). Oh, DJ had a piece too so I didn't eat it ALL thankyouverymuch! hahahahahah

The next day I packaged up the leftovers and took it to work. They loved it... especially my coworker R. She raved and raved and raved about it. In fact, she asked me to make a whole one just for her on her birthday :)

I started thinking about the Pineapple Upside Down Cake craving that I had. Trying to figure out why I felt compelled to make that cake... that night. Usually once I'm all set for the evening and in my jammies I am not getting dressed and going out for anything... nuh uhn... no way... no how. But that night was different. After a little thinking I figured out that it had been six months since my father died. Yes... six months... and Pineapple Upside Down Cake had been his favorite for so many years. Funny how the subconscious mind can work a number on ya! LOL.

So tomorrow is my coworker R's birthday - she's a leap-day baby =) I won't be in the office tomorrow so I brought in the Pineapple Upside Down cake today... and while I was writing this entry, I was eating a piece of the cake she graciously cut and shared with everyone. And daaaaaaaaaaaang... this cake IS goooooood =)

Happy Birthday, R!!!
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2008-02-26

Microwave Peanut Brittle



Yes indeed, happy days ARE here again!!! The sun has re-appeared in Southern California... and not a moment too soon. After four days at the NASCAR races where it was very cold and very rainy, I'll gladly welcome this week's forecast of sun, sun and more sun. While at the speedway I was introduced to a new (to me) dessert called a Wild Berry Buckle. It's kinda like a pie... and it's kinda like a cobbler... but it's also kinda different. I've been searching the net and checking out various buckle recipes but if you've got one you'd like to share, well by all means please do! I'm going to make one and post about it at some point in the future because the Wild Berry Buckle that I had this past weekend was goooood =)


I've always been a huge fan of dessert. Whether it be pie (pumpkin, thankyou!) or cookies (peanut butter, yum!) or cake (white w/buttercream icing, please!) or pudding (tapioca for me!) or bars (lemon-lemon-lemon!!!) or frou-frou (creme brulee'? yes!) or what have you... I am a fan of dessert. I like desserts that are hard and crunchy or soft and chewy... but I especially love desserts that are warm and gooey... like bread pudding. OMG - one of my all time fave desserts and one day I'll have to share my recipe with you. But that "one day" is not today... for today is dedicated to Peanut Brittle.

Before last December, I'd never even considered making Peanut Brittle. I mean, I had visions of extreme effort and endless time spent at the stove stirring and stirring and stirring. Sure, I love to eat Peanut Brittle but just as surely recall that the RPC is rather lazy. Okay Okay Okay... I lie... I'm not just "rather" lazy... I'm extremely lazy =) LOL!! When I came across some recipes for Microwave Peanut Brittle, the mere concept was too intriguing to pass up!

The ingredient list is actually pretty simple: peanuts, sugar, corn syrup, salt, butter, vanilla and baking soda. You can either use dry roasted peanuts or "raw" peanuts... though I've always used the "raw" kind I know others who use dry roasted. Play around and see which you prefer.


My one area of caution would be use a very sturdy dish that can withstand high heat (plastic will melt) ... and soak it in soapy water immediately otherwise you'll never be able to clean it (not that I speak from experience or anything! LOL)

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups peanuts
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda

DIRECTIONS:

Note: my microwave is 1100w and these directions apply to this wattage. You may need to modify the cooking times accordingly if your microwave is significantly lower or higher wattage.

Coat a baking sheet with a generous amount of cooking spray. In a glass bowl combine the peanuts, sugar, corn syrup and salt. Stir this all up as best you can. Microwave this for 4 minutes and 45 seconds on HIGH. Carefully remove from microwave and stir in butter and vanilla. Stir this up as best you can... it will be kinda thick and gooey. Microwave again for 1 minute and 45 seconds on HIGH. Carefully remove from microwave and stir in the baking soda just until the mixture is foamy. Immediately pour onto the cookie sheet... use a spatula to spread it out into something resembling a single layer. It doesn't need to look perfect, that's for sure, but definitely work quickly because as the mixture cools it becomes a lot harder to work with. In about 20 minutes it will cool completely and set. You can then break it apart with your hands, pop a piece in your mouth and make all sorts of happy noises (my personal favorite is "nom nom nom") cuz you just made some deeeelicious peanut brittle :)
Note: if you use dry-roasted peanuts, do not add them at the beginning... instead, add them in with the butter and vanilla.

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2008-02-20

Ziploc Omelettes


While, admittedly, I'm a repressed pastry chef... and my passion strongly lies with all things sweet ... I do love to cook in general. What can I say? I love to know the meal being enjoyed was created by me. Not Betty Crocker, not Chef Boyardee, not even Mrs. Paul's. It was created by me!!!! I love to create food! It just thrills me to take various ingredients that on their own don't always amount to much and combine them together to turn out a specific dish or an entire meal =)


My husband DJ is a huge NASCAR fan. Living in Southern California we go to both NASCAR races held at California Speedway each year (Feb and Sept). This means we pack up the motorhome on a Wednesday and early early early Thursday morning ("early" like 3:30am early) we leave for the speedway where we have a front-row infield spot... and that's where we stay for the whole weekend until all the practices and races are over we pack up to return home. I honestly believe those two trips mean more to DJ than anything else we do all year. Personally, I don't get it... but him? He lives, eat, sleeps, breathes the stuff. He loves NASCAR... he could tell ya everything you never wanted to know about the sport. We usually have a big race-viewing party at our house for both the first race of the season (Daytona 500) and the last race as well. Last weekend was the Daytona 500... and that means we had our annual Daytona 500 race-viewing party.

Sure we had all the normal chips, dips, finger foods, etc that any "man party" should have cuz let's be honest, it is a man-party (as the sole female in attendance I was only there basically because it's my house! LOL). DJ's children requested both Oreo Truffles and Nutter Butter Truffles so being the fantabulous step-mommy I am, I made a big batch of each =) The kids loved em and surprisingly enough, the guys loved em even more! And you know I just love it when people love what I make. Brings a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. Yes indeedy the way to my heart is to appreciate my cooking =)

After a while I got a bit bored watching the cars driving around the track and
decided to make a couple of pizzas for the guys... cuz well, I was yanno bored and guys like to, yanno eat! LOL! Now I'll be honest and tell you, anything involving yeast makes me anxious. I'm comfortable with making just about anything else but ding-dang y'all... working with yeast makes me downright nervous! If the water temperature isn't juuuuuuust right the yeast simply won't do it's thang. But last Sunday I was victorious... not just once but twice! Both of my pizza dough balls rose like champs and I was able to roll them out and make two gorgeous lookin pizzas (wheat crust, turkey pepperoni, turkey sausage and fat free cheese... hey, gotta balance out the sweets somehow, right? LOL). And based on the way the guys responded, they thought those pizzas were good!!! {sniffle} you know that just warmed my heart and brought a tear to my eye... I was all choked up inside. It was absolutely a beautimous thing :)

This weekend is the "California 500" NASCAR race at California Speedway in Fontana, CA. That means it's time for us to pack up the motorhome and go. We leave tonight and I've already got most of our "provisions" (read: food-stuff) set. One thing I hate about this weekend is how it completely takes me out of the kitchen for 4 whole days in a row. Sure, I could try cooking in the motorhome but trust me when I say it's just so not worth it. First off I'd have to bring all my "stuff".... pots, pans, utensils, ingredients. That's a lot of stuff since I'd pretty much hafta bring, like, yanno, everything... cuz I most assuredly couldn't, like, yanno {gasp} plan ahead... heavens no! The RPC is very subject to whims... what I make is completely dependent on my mood... and how I feel... and what I've been thinking about... and pretty much what I just flat out feel like making at the particular time. And second off being in a motorhome on the infield of a motorsports race track, on dead grass, in row one of turn three is just plain dirty. It's dirty, it's dusty and the mere thought of cooking under such conditions just is completely unappealing to me. So scratch the idea of my doing any actual cooking this weekend. But I also won't go the route of eating four days of cold cereal, cold sandwiches, chips and soda either. Instead, we'll pack up our travel bbq and our fire pit so as easily as you can say Yes Siree Ricky Bobby we'll be grillin fo sho!!!! {insert Snoopy Dance here} Okay who am I kidding with "we"... the RPC does not "grill". But the good Lord saw fit to balancing out my pastry skills by blessing me with a husband who most definitely is The Grill Master and Fire God himself - woohoo :)

One thing I did test out a few weeks ago was the concept of making a Ziploc Omelette. Now hold on... before ya start thinking The Repressed Pastry Chef is now completely off her rocker let me assure you that omelettes are a big deal across the land. If you've ever been on a cruise ship or to a Sunday brunch buffet you know the longest lines are always at the omelette station. So popular are these items that often they'll have two stations dedicated solely to making omelettes. Now I like omelettes as much as the next person but dang if I'm standing my lazy self not just in a line but in a long line in order to have them. And truth be told, as much as I like them, I'm a bit too lazy to cook an omelette at home. {yawn}. But I came across a "recipe" for making an omelette in a ziploc bag and thought this would be a great thing to do when we go to the NASCAR races. I tried it out on DJ's daughter who is willing to get up extra early and stand herself in a long ol line at the omelette station. Her response? "This is GOOD... it's as good as any omelette I've ever had on a cruise ship OR at IHOP". Imagine that! She liked it... she really liked it!!! (whoops, sorry for channeling Sally Field for a moment there! hahahahaha!). Warmed my heart and brought a momentary tear to my eye as this child, who is definitely not one to throw around compliments haphazardly, waxed poetic about her meal. The Ziploc Omelette is very easy to make and being able to quickly and easily fix a hot breakfast when you're out camping is a good thing :)




Ziploc Omelette
INGREDIENTS
1 ziploc bag (quart-sized, freezer bags work best)
2 eggs
whatever add-ins ya like (cheese, onions, ham, green peppers, etc)
whatever seasonings ya like (salt, pepper, etc)

DIRECTIONS: Crack two eggs into the ziploc bag. Shake the bag and squeeze it a few times to break up the eggs (so the egg and yolk are all mixed up, scrambled-like). Toss in your add-ins and your seasonings and shake it up so everything's mixed. Squeeze out the air then seal the bag. Place the bag in a pot of boiling water and boil for 13 minutes (not 12, not 14 but 13 minutes... and yes, set a timer so you know when 13 minutes is up). Remove the bag from the boiling water - and use caution because the bag will be hot and the contents will be hot as well. Open the bag and your omelette will slide right on outta the bag (and preferably onto a plate! LOL!).

Ding-dang y'all, as quick as you can say Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy you got your very own, customized omelette that you didn't have to wake up early, get all presentable and stand in a big ol long line for. If you want to see the step-by-step instructions that include pictures, check out the ChowTimes link above.

Early, early, early tomorrow morning (like 3am "early") I'll be takin off for 4 days at the NASCAR races so have yourselves a great weekend... and try the Ziploc Omelette... it's good =)

As that Good Ol Boy, Darryl Waltrip likes to say....

Boogity, boogity, boogity.... let's go racin, boys!!!






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2008-02-15

Double Chocolate Yummies


HAPPY FRIDAY!!!



Yes lovies, having made it thru the week we're ready to embark on another weekend. WOOHOO!!!


Sometimes I think it's looking forward to the weekend that keeps me sane during the weekdays... especially those crazy weekdays I spend at work. Speaking of work, I took the truffles that I posted about yesterday to the ol job-site and they were a major hit. I bake a lot of stuff and take it to work... usually 2-3x/wk... and although my co-workers unfailingly devour whatever I bring them, never once have I gotten the kind of response that I got from the truffles. People thanked me... people hugged me... people told me those lil babies were downright orgasmic (I kid you not - someone actually told me this! LOL)... and people asked if I had more. {wiping away tear} How ding-dang beautiful is that?!?!?! {sniffle} I'm tellin ya, if you wanna impress people, make those truffles. You've seen the recipe... you know they're SUPER easy and I'm about to share with you the "magic"... the "finishing touch"... the (insert French accent here) "piece de resistance" to makin' 'em look all uber-professional. Once they've set, just drizzle a tiny bit of melted chocolate on em... and when you're all done put each one on a pretty lil cupcake wrapper... makes folks think you are the cat's meow... the bee's knees... the... the... okay I'm all outta these now but I know ya feel me here... folks will think you're the most awesome-est person evah!! :)


I hope you all had a great Valentine's Day. As mentioned, DJ's kids were with us last night. His son is sick with a pretty bad cold and it's the first bad one since they went back to school last Fall.

Last month I saw this heart shaped cupcake pan on the William Sonoma website. So fabulous it was that I had to buy it. I had visions of making beautiful cupcakes and impressing the heck outta everyone, delighting in all the oooooh's and aaaaaah's that I knew I'd be hearing. Well let's just say it didn't work out that way. The RPC was busy making truffles the night before Valentine's Day and didn't get around to making the heart shaped cupcakes until the night of Valentine's Day. I attempted to follow the directions on the pan but to say these didn't work out would be the supreme understatement of the year. Just to show that not everything the RPC makes is rave-worthy, here is a picture of the best looking cupcake I produced. Now I ask you, does that look like a heart shape? Uhm... that'd be a "NO"... But hey, I slapped some frosting and decorations on it in an attempt to make it better but sometimes the best you can say is "well... uhmmm.... errrr.... uhh.... hmmmm... at least it tastes good" LOL!!!


So okay lovies, now that I've shown you my dismal failure let's just move on :) I mean, really, what point is there in dwelling on all that you suck at when there's so much more in life (in my case, gawd I can only hope there's so much more) that you don't suck at =)







But before we move too far I have to share with you a picture that I hope regular readers will be able to appreciate. Take a look at this and leave a comment telling me what makes this picture so worthy of a mention in my blog? (okay, if you're shy, just email me... contact info is at the very bottom of the page and I love love love to hear from everyone!!)
I'll give you a hint and say that it has nothing to do with the hearts. I have to give a shout out to my dear friend S who made that picture possible. Her generosity and daring spirit in doing what she had to in order to make that picture a reality just brings a tear to the RPC's eye.
THANK YOU S =)


And I need to give an honorable mention to my friend B who wanted more than anything to make that picture possible. She tried... she really did... she went above and beyond to help me out and for that I say
THANK YOU B =)


I'm starting to feel like I've won an award and I'm giving my acceptance speech! LOL! Someday... someday =)


.... after all that... are ya ready to hear about the Double Chocolate Yummies? I warn you... these things are addictive. OMG they're not only delicious but like the old Lay's Potato Chip ad said "you can't eat just one" (please tell me I'm not the only one who remembers that ad). I'm not a fan of chocolate... it's okay but doesn't rock my world like it does for some folks... but even I think these are fantastic! I adapted this from Paula Deen's recipe for Pine Bark (yeah, if you don't get the title don't feel too bad cuz I didn't either so that's why I changed it for my version! LOL!!). I've also seen a version of the same thing and it was called "Ghetto Toffee" (another title I didn't much care for since nothing this good could be considered ghetto in any way, shape or form!). I tend to buy ingredients when I see them... as opposed to when I need them. I came across a bag of Hershey's Marshmallow Kisses in the store and thought "hmmm... dunno what I'll use 'em for but oh what the heck let's buy 'em and find out later" =) Yes lovies... this is why the RPC always spends more and buys more than planned whenever she goes to the grocery store =) =) =)





To make Double Chocolate Yummies all you need is a few simple things such as butter, sugar, Ritz Crackers, some crushed nuts and two kinds of chocolate (I used semi sweet chips and Hershey's Marshmallow Kisses but use your imagination if you can't find these since now Hershey's makes alllll different varieties of kisses). Now don't get all high-falutin' thinkin' Ritz Crackers have no place in the world of chocolate delights. Suspend all such thoughts until after you've made these and had your very own first taste. I can guarantee you will love these... in fact, I'll even give you your money back if you don't (heh heh heh... seein' as how readin' my blog is free, I'm pretty safe on my end of this bargain! LOL LOL LOL!!!)


DOUBLE CHOCOLATE YUMMIES
(adapted from Paula Deen's Pine Bark)


INGREDIENTS
35 Ritz Crackers
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
20 oz semi-sweet chocolate morsels
35 unwrapped Hershey's Marshmallow Kisses
crushed nuts



DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 400F


Line a cookie sheet w/aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray


Use a food processor, Magic Bullet, rolling pin, mallet, whatever, to crush up the Hershey's kisses ... set aside.


Place crackers, salty side up, on the prepared pan... use additional crushed up crackers to fill in the gaps between the round crackers


In a sauce pan combine butter and brown sugar... bring to a boil, reduce heat and let it simmer about 3 minutes stirring constantly


Remove from heat and pour mixture over the crackers.


Bake for 6-10 minutes and remove from the oven (if your crackers have moved around, just nudge them back into shape using a spatula)


Turn the oven off


Evenly spread the semi sweet chocolate chips over the crackers coated w/butter & brown sugar


Put the pan back in the oven for about 1 minute or so until the chips start to melt


Remove from oven and gently spread the melting chips... if the chips are melted enough this will be like putting frosting on a cake, if they're not melted enough put the pan back in the oven for another 1 minute or so


After the semi-sweet chocolate chip layer has been evenly spread, sprinkle the crushed up Hershey's Marshmallow kisses over the top as evenly as possible... doesn't need to be perfect since it'll be yummy regardless :)


Sprinkle the crushed nuts on top and let this whole thing cool (being the impatient RPC that I am, I stuck mine in the freezer!)


Once it's hardened, break off a piece, pop it in yer mouth and savor the incredible delight you just made. Go on, admit it... it's like you got a party goin on in there with all those flavors... YUMM YUMM! Try not to eat it all... yourself... in one sitting... but I tell ya, this stuff is addictive!





Have a great weekend!!


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2008-02-14

Valentine's Day




Happy Valentine's Day!

Since DJ's kids are with us tonight... and all weekend (don't get me started)... we decided to celebrate Valentine's Day last night. I aked him to cook for me as he is most certainly the Master of the Grill. What a fantastic meal :) He found heart-shaped rib-eye steaks (the preferred cut of the Repressed Pastry Chef!), made baked potatoes, veggies, salad and roasted elephant garlic. If you're a garlic-lover and you've never had elephant garlic you simply must try it. Each clove is basically the same size as a whole head of regular garlic. If any of you have roasted Elephant Garlic and can clue me in as to why it turns green, that'd be great cuz I most certainly do not know! LOL Thank goodness the green color in no way impacts the flavor because as a rule the RPC is not a huge fan of green food (that means me no likey avocados... nuh unh!!!).


It was really nice to have dinner cooked for me last night. And yes-siree-ricky-bobby that was one goooooood meal. The steaks were so big we immediately had to divide them up for left overs to enjoy this weekend.

I didn't really want any big deal of a gift... I just asked for a small carry-pack to fit on my bike. I always forget to bring Advil or my Dr. Haushka's Lip Care Stick or something else I deem to be essential when we go out on a ride. I'm better off just leaving it in the carry-pack on my bike so that way I'll have it with me :) Oh and speaking of my bike, yes indeed I did register for the Los Angeles Marathon Acura Bike Tour - - - yay!!! DJ is registered as well - awesome! We'll be starting off right around 6am on Sunday March 2nd.... think of me as you're snuggled in your jammies, send up some prayers, good vibes, positive thoughts or whatever you believe it cuz I could use all the support I can get! LOL.


Well, my lovies, I hope each of you has a great Valentine's Day... whatever may be in your plans! And in honor of it being, well, ya know, Valentine's Day, of course I have to share some recipes for chocolate goodies :) ENJOY


Oreo Truffles
Ingredients
1 full package of Oreo cookies
1 80z package of softened cream cheese
12oz dipping chocolate
(I use Chocolate Bark thinned with 1/2 tsp Crisco)

Directions
Crush up the cookies using a food processor, Magic Bullet, rolling pin, etc. Combine with the cream cheese and make sure it's mixed really well. Using your hands, roll into approx 36 1" balls. Melt the chocolate (I like the Bark because it melts easily in the microwave and stays pliable for quite a while) and roll each ball in the melted chocolate until fully coated. Place each coated ball on waxed paper until fully set.



Nutter Butter Truffles

Ingredients

Same as Oreo Truffles except use a full package of Nutter Butter cookies... everything else, including the directions, are the same :)

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2008-02-12

White Chocolate Cranberry Granola Bars




Recall last Friday I was all gung-ho and had grand plans for a Gung Hay Fat Choi weekend of Asian-inspired menu items. Things started off great on Friday... full of vim and vigor (no clue what "vim" is but vim-and-vigor is a catchy lil phrase so I'm goin with it). I made the awesome Sesame Chicken that worked out great. I was off to a running start!!!


On the weekends that DJ's kids aren't with us, he and I like to get up early and go for a long (sometimes very long) bike ride. Saturday was no exception although we didn't leave particularly early. We biked about a total of 21 miles. Not too shabby. In fact, I was downright proud of myself especially since I just got into biking in November and got my first "real" bike as a Christmas gift from DJ :) I love my bike I truly do!!

Now, to appreciate this you need to realize the repressed pastry chef (RPC) is downright lazy and likes to avoid exertion at all costs. My sister got me started in cycling based on two key factors.... 1) she is into it and 2) she's the younger sister so anything she can do, well, hell's bells I most certainly can do too (yeah, the RPC is a bit competitive that way). Thinking back on it, that's how she got me to do my first 5k last November and also how she got me into Weight Watchers that same month. She tells me what she's involved in, how well it's going for her and then my hell-if-DM-can-do-it-I-can-too mentality kicks in and in the words of Forrest Gump that's all I have to say about that.

But... I digress. So Saturday we rode for 21 miles and I was rather proud-o-me :) I've been considering riding the bike course for the Los Angeles Marathon on March 2nd but I wasn't sure if I could last that long on a single bike ride. Doing 21 miles on Saturday helped me think I can do that 26.2 mile marathon course next month!

After the Saturday ride I made the almond cookies, I tried my hand at making fortune cookies (that's something I won't be trying again any time soon... way too much effort!) and made a fabulous Szechuan Shrimp dish for dinner. I went to bed feelin pretty darn happy Saturday night.

Sunday morning we got up and went for another ride. This time a longer one. In fact it was much, much longer... about 50% longer. We rode for 31 miles!!! And OMG after doing 21 on Saturday, attempting 31 on Sunday was probably not the smartest decision I've ever made. But... I survived!!! I did!!! Though I have to admit about 3 miles before we got back to where we'd parked, my thighs started cramping. Okay, I'm used to some butt pain and fatigued muscles but I've never had my muscles cramp like that. It hurt to walk... it hurt to stand still... it hurt to sit... and it sure as hell hurt to pedal my bike. But I was 3 miles from the car. had to make it back somehow and the vision of me trying to crawl AND push the bike just didn't seem feasible! hahahaha So I toughed it out and made it back to the car. Key emphasis on I made it!!!
That was 52 miles in two days. The equivalent of not one but two marathon course rides. Will I be signing up for the Los Angeles Marathon bike course on March 2nd? Hell's bells yes sir-ee Ricky Bobby I will be =)

Needless to say that I was completely wiped out on Sunday afternoon... and never attempted the Pad Thai or Thai Chicken Pizza I had planned. But I did make some Sweet-n-Sour Chicken that rocked DJ's world and made me smile :) I'll try my hand at the Pad Thai another weekend... and I'm sure the Thai Chicken Pizza will happen at some point too.

On Sunday's ride I was all out of PowerBars... I had to manage 32 miles on one six ounce cup of yogurt w/granola ahead of time and 24 ounces of G2 (new Gatorade that is awesome!) during the ride. I should have taken some of these tasty treats along with me...


White Chocolate Cranberry Granola Bars

INGREDIENTS

1 cup Quaker Oats
1 1/4 cup unsweetened puffed rice
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

Combine the oats, puffed rice and cranberries in a large bowl... set aside. In a saucepan, combine corn syrup and brown sugar. Heat until boiling then remove from heat, add vanilla and stir. Pour over the oat/rice/cranberry mixture. Mix well... add white chocolate chips last so they don't melt. Press into a greased 9x11 baking dish. Let cool, cut and ENJOY :)

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2008-02-09

Gung Hay Fat Choi!!

I probably spelled that wrong, didn't I? Well, what I'm trying to say is Happy New Year!!! in phonetic Chinese. I have a hard enough time getting things right in English so forgive me if my phonetic Chinese royally sucks... but hey, I tried =)



I read a lot of blogs... primarily food blogs. If you're a food blogger, that makes sense. I sometimes think I'm obsessed with food. I know I'm obsessed with making it... and I know I just looooooove to eat it! LOL. Seems the past week has been full of food blogs relating to the Chinese New Year.

On Wednesday I felt terribly uninspired - almost ready to ask DJ if he wanted me to cook anything in particular this weekend. Luckily I didn't resort to that... I let the lack of inspiration pass and Thursday ideas started marinating about making asian-inspired dishes this weekend.


Now, I'll be honest. I love Asian cuisine - - - but I completely suck at making fancy things and to me, Asiain cuisine qualifies as "fancy". So many steps - so many ingredients I'm unfamiliar with - and let's not talk about how completely uncomfortable I am using a wok. Sure, I have one but it intimidates the crap outta me. But I was reading something on the Steamy Kitchen blog and she referenced a Pad Thai For Beginners recipe on the Chez Pim blog. I started reading it and (rightly or wrongly) thought "Hey, I can do this!!". It had ingredients I'd never even heard of before (palm sugar? tamarind pulp? dried shrimp?) but she was so straight forward about presenting things in a step-by-step format (totally important to the Repressed Pastry Chef's ol engineering brain) that it really got me to thinking I could make it.
And then in the pantry I came across a jar of sesame seeds. DJ love sesame seeds. I thought "ooooh, I could make sesame chicken". I checked AllRecipes.com (my fave!!) and found a recipe that looked good and was reviewed extremely highly.

Then I found a recipe for szechuan shrimp - - - whoa nelly do I love me some szechuan shrimp {swoon}. I added that to the weekend menu folder too. Recall that DJ doesn't go near shrimp and the poor dear literally sweats eating anything spicier than ketchup (sad, huh? LOL) so he won't be gettin any of my szechaun shrimp - - - it's mine! mine! mine! mwuaaaahahahahah!!

But I digress ;-) Somewhere along the line I came across a recipe for Thai Chicken Pizza which is something DJ and I always order at California Pizza Kitchen. We're quite good at making our own homemade pizza... so another addition to the weekend menu folder was made.

While all of those dishes sounded great, being a repressed pastry chef, I knew I needed something on the sweet side of things and came up with the idea of making fortune cookies and almond cookies too. Hey, what's the point of a meal if dessert isn't right around the bend =)

In the end, the contents of the weekend menu folder turned out to be Pad Thai, Sesame Chicken, Szechuan Shrimp, Thai Chicken Pizza, Fortune Cookies and Almond Cookies.



Almond Cookies
(adapted from About.com)

INGREDIENTS
2 c flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/8 t salt
1/2 c butter
1/2 c shortening
3/4 c + 1 T granulated sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 t almond extract
4 T slivered almonds
40 whole almonds (1 for each cookie)
1 egg slightly beaten (for brushing tops before baking)


DIRECTIONS
In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a medium bowl cream butter, shortening and sugar (I use a KitchenAid stand mixer). Add the egg and almond extract and beat until well blended.
Add the flour mixture and combine well (if the dough is still crumbly, that's fine).
Add the slivered almond and combine well (this changed my dough from crumbly to holding together nicely).
Flour your worksurface and your hands... turn out the dough and fashion it into somewhat of a ball. Roll this out into two logs each about 10-12" in length.
Wrap each log in aluminum foil and freeze for 2hrs.
Go read a good book... watch some tv... play a few games of Scrabble (whoa do I love to whop DJ's butt at Scrabble! hahahah) do whatever, but leave your almond logs alone!
After 2hrs remove the logs from the freezer and preheat the oven to 325F
Cut each log into approximately 20 slices.
Roll each slice into a ball and place on a lightly greased cookie tray, about 1 1/2" apart.
Place a whole almond into the center of each cookie and press down lightly.
Brush each cookie with beaten egg.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown (be sure to watch the bottoms - they might turn quite brown before the tops get to a true "golden" shade).
Cool for 5 minutes then grab one of those babies, pop it in your mouth, savor the almondy goodness and say out loud (yes, it's important to say this aloud) Gung Hay Fat Choi because you just made some pretty darn fabulous almond cookies!

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2008-02-08

Happy Friday!!!


BRING ON THE WEEKEND :)

Yes, my dears... it is Friday. We made it thru another work-week. WOOHOO!!!

This afternoon I decided to whip out an unfrosted mini cupcake, slap some buttercream frosting on it and have myself a lil "Woohoo It's Friday" treat. That's an easy thing to do in the repressed pastry chef kitchen since I usually bake a batch of mini cupcakes, leave em nekkid, store in an airtight container and toss em in the fridge. I make buttercream frosting by the batch (yeah, okay, by the BIG batch! LOL) and keep it in the fridge too. That way I can assemble and treat myself any time I want :) I know just how many Weight Watchers points I'm consuming for each one too... so I figure it in to my daily points total and as fast as you can say yippy-skippy I'm enjoying a lil treat :)

So today, I thought my lil cupcake looked a bit... well... "under-dressed", shall we say. I mean, it's pretty and all just having beautiful white buttercream on a cupcake but I felt since this is Friday, I'd jazz it up a bit. I took my lovely cupcake, rolled it in same pink sanding sugar and just like any proud mamma, proclaimed out loud "awwww she looks just like a pink cloud".

But could I stop there? Whoa-no! I always have some decorations on hand just-in-case the repressed pastry chef in me decides it's time to come out of hiding :) I wish I had some silver dragees on hand (ya know... the lil silver decorating balls that are the size of teeny tiny bb's) but living in California, those are illegal. Yes, lovies, you heard me right... silver dragees are illegal in the great state of California. They can't sell them here... sellers in other states won't ship them here. Not even ebay sellers (who are notorious for looking the other way on most things) will ship them to a California address (oh, not that I'd, like, ya know, know or anything! heh heh heh!).

Seems the lawyers felt it was a good use of their time to file lawsuits and what not to make the sale of silver dragees illegal in California because of the hazard the minute amount of silver they contain. I guess the FDA warning about them being "for decorative purposes only, not for human consumption" (or however the heck it's worded) was good enough for other states but not for good ol California.

In a word... WHATEVER!

Okay, illegal for sale in California... illegal for a seller to ship them to California... but... what if you live in California and a friend out of state just happened to send them to you for being a wonderful person. What if you were visiting another state, found them in a store and brought them back with you when you returned to California. Nothing unlawful about that.... right???? (gears spinning in motion)

So, as an alternative I found some silver coated chocolate candies. Definitely not the same thing but eh, they'll do in a pinch. But... but... but they're awfully big and no where near as delicate as my precious silver dragees. Back when the repressed pastry chef lived in Washington DC (I miss it soooooo much) and had a home-based part-time business doing custom cakes, I used them all the time. They're just so beautiful, so elegant, so (dare I say it) so Martha Stewart!!!

{insert big ol sigh, here} One day... I'll be able to decorate with my precious little silver dragees... but until then, this lil silver coated chocolate candy will have to do.


Have a great weekend :)
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2008-02-07

Shirley Temple Cupcakes

I like this picture. It makes me happy. It brings a smile to my face. As Martha says "It's a good thing".


Growing up, it was a big deal for my father to take us out to a "fancy" restaurant. Oh wait, correct that, it was a huge deal. A big-deal was The Sizzler... a huge-deal was a place that had booths (high backed leather ones), a dessert -cart-, and most impressively a lounge (just a fancy name for a bar, if you ask me!). My dad was a tee-totaler... always. On those huge-deal occasions when we'd go to a fancy restaurant he'd order a Shirley Temple. I thought it was a real honest-to-goodness cocktail and had no clue about it's mild-mannered reality. My dad ordered it so it must have been a very grown up thing, right? Eventually I was grown-up enough in his eyes that I was allowed to order one too.

What a let-down to discover it was just a lemon-lime soda with grenadine and a maraschino cherry. But hell, it tasted good and that was enough for me :)

A couple/three weeks ago I came across a post for Shirley Temple cupcakes on the Cupcake Project blog. The idea rolled around in my head as I mulled over ways to morph it into something that really rocked my world. Lemon-lime flavored cake... grenadine cream filling... maraschino cherry icing. Mr. DeMille, I think she's ready for her closeup!


Shirley Temple Cupcakes
For the cake...
1 c Sprite Zero
3/4 c sugar
1/3 c vegetable oil
1 1/3 c flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder

Combine dry ingredients and set aside
Combine sugar oil and soda... whisk vigorously
Add dry ingredients into the liquid ingredients and combine well, being careful not to overbeat.
Pour into muffin pans lined with cupcake papers... fill only 1/2 way as these will rise!!
Bake at 350 for 10 minutes and check for doneness


For the filling just combine a small amount of grenadine syrup to my favorite Buttercream Dream frosting. You don't want it too thin so add the grenadine in small amounts... you can always add more, right? =)

For the frosting, take a few maraschino cherries and dry them in the oven (I put them in an aluminum pie plate, set the oven for 350 and just "baked" them until dry). Put them into a small food grinder (I used our Magic Bullet) and pulse them into a coarse grind. Combine this with Buttercream Dream frosting and use it to frost your cakes.

Top with a maraschino cherry... and proudly take pictures of your handiwork =)
And speaking of pictures of my handiwork - yes, that is another picture of my Shirley Temple cupcakes being used as a background of my blog title. These lil cupcakes just rock my world... aw hell... let's be honest... pretty much any cupcake rocks my world. What can I say, I'm easy!

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2008-02-06

Tropical Cupcakes

Brrrrrr! We're somewhere smack dab in the middle of winter. Christmas and New Year's have come and gone. We've said "sayonara" to Superbowl Sunday and "ta-ta" to Super Tuesday. Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow so we're in for six more weeks of winter.

I don't know about you but I'm ready for a tropical vacation. Somewhere nice and warm with endless miles of beach and palm trees all around.

SOUNDS GREAT!!

Blessedly I've got one coming up! In one month, one week and 4 days (but who's counting! hahahaha) DJ and I are taking off on a 2-wk cruise to Hawaii.
OH
MY
GAWD
I simply cannot wait! Cruise 4 days from Los Angeles to Hawaii... spend 5 days cruising around the Hawaiian islands... cruise 5 days back to Los Angeles (via Ensenada Mexico). Can't wait - can't wait - can't wait.

I've been going thru my closet trying on my dresses that I plan to take and WOOHOO they're fittin quite nicely thankyouverymuch! I started Weight Watchers two days before Thanksgiving and so far I've lost 14.8 pounds. Another 8 before we leave and I'll be pretty darn thrilled, if I must say :)

I love Weight Watchers... really I do! And ya know why? Because it works for me.

Now this isn't my first diet. 18 years ago I did Jenny Craig. Sure I lost weight but I couldn't eat the Jenny Craig meals forever and of course the weight came right back on once I tried cooking for myself. 8 years ago I did Atkins and Low-Carb. I lost a lot of weight... around 40 pounds... but giving up an entire food group just wasn't practical for me long term. Again, the weight came right back on. But Weight Watchers works for me! It's real food... it's portion control... it's something I can actually do. I can go pretty much anywhere and find something there that I can eat. I can have anything I want... I just can't have everything I want. I have to make smart choices about food and especially about exercise. And I don't feel deprived one bit since I'm not "dieting"... I'm just watching my weight :)

So I'm down 14.8 pounds and aiming for 8 more... before my 2 week cruise to Hawaii. Hey... Hawaii's tropical, right? Guess we need to make some Tropical Cupcakes to get us in the mood!! The idea for these cupcakes has been ruminating around in my head for several weeks now. Coconut cake w/shredded coconut... Kiwi-creme filling... Lime flavored buttercreme icing... topped with shredded coconut...(oh and the lil umbrella's optional! LOL)

Now I like to make mini cupcakes but hey, you can make full size or even jumbo if the mood strikes ya!


Tropical Cupcakes
adapted from Magnolia Bakery

Ingredients
3/4 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 stick unsalted butter - softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs - room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Directions
Preheat oven to 350
Line 12 regular-sized (or 24 mini-sized) muffin tins with cupcake papers
Combine and sift the flours and set aside
Cream butter until smooth
Add sugar gradually and beat until fluffy... about 2-3 minutes
Add the eggs... one at a time, beating well after each one
Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts... alternating the milk and vanilla
Be sure to beat well but take care not to over-beat as this produces a "tougher" cake
Also, be sure to scrape down the batter in the bowl with a rubber spatula to incorporate everything
Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners filling about 1/2-2/3 full (don't over-fill... these will rise)

Bake about 20-25 minutes for regular sized cupcakes... about 12-15 minutes for mini cupcakes... or until a cake tester inserted into center comes out cleanly.

Cool in the tins for about 15 minutes then remove to wire rack and cool completely before icing.

For the kiwi-creme filling... peel and slice/dice one kiwi fruit and combine with 3/4 cup butter creme icing.

My favorite buttercreme icing is Buttercream Dream which is not cloyingly sweet but definitely sweet enough!! I chose to add a few drops of Lime Oil for flavor and a smidge of Wilton green icing color.

Top with a bit of shredded coconut... insert a cocktail umbrella... and you've got yourself Tropical Cupcakes!!

Now all ya need is that tropical vacation =) But hey, can't help ya there! LOL
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2008-02-05

Cinnamon Apple Baked French Toast





So the New England Patriots lost the Superbowl. I’m disappointed. It seemed like it was their destiny to win. Eli Manning? A “Superbowl-winning quarterback”? Hardly. I can see Peyton… hey, he comes across as a real leader… but Eli? Come-on! The dude surely does not convey qualities I like to see in a Superbowl-winning quarterback… but I suppose forever he’ll have that title. Almost as bad a “Academy Award Nominated Actress Melanie Griffith.” GROAN

Someone asked if I was going to bake anything special in celebration of the New York Giants winning the Superbowl. My response? “I’m considering baking New England Patriots Consolation Cookies”. Hey, I bake for any reason… and quite often for no reason at all. This weekend I cooked and I baked - as usual - but for an incredibly unappreciative family. DJ (hubs) will pretty much eat anything I put in front of him (with the big exception being shellfish… and the only steak he likes is Filet Mignon) but his kids (previous marriage) love to dine on junk food, fast food and frozen-prepared. Why, you ask? Because that’s basically all their mother and their grandmother ever fix for them. It’s not like I’m serving up haute-cusine consisting of foie gras, escargot and caviar… I’m making chicken, pork chops, french toast… normal fare for a 10 and 14 year old. Stuff I know they eat - I've seen them eat!

When I was growing up, I'd wish my mother would cook for me... something that I'd like... something that I'd ask for. Not a chance. She cooked for my father... meals that he liked and if it wasn't to our liking she’d give us $5 to go to McDonalds. I can’t remember a time when she made us breakfast - we usually resorted to cereal or toast. Maybe she did on special occasions but I don't have memories of it. We also didn't sit down as a family to eat. The kids would eat while my mother was doing something else and when my dad came home he'd eat in front of the tv sitting in his favorite easy chair. I wanted to give DJ’s kids some good memories of growing up having family meals that were home cooked. Ya know… sitting down… at the table… together… devouring a home cooked meal. Kinda like the Norman Rockwell moment I was never fortunate enough to have. I love to cook… and even more I love to bake. But cooking and baking for unappreciative people is disheartening for me. Isn’t it disheartening for you, too? I work full time… yes, I’m an Engineer… I get up at 4:30am… I commute over an hour to work… I’m there from 6:30 - 3:30… I commute over an hour home… and while I don’t cook every weeknight, I surely do cook on the weekends.

I enjoy cooking. I like the satisfaction of knowing the delicious meal being savoured was prepared by ME… not Betty Crocker… not Chef Boyardee… but me. My time, my effort, my care and love that went into it. I have a strong desire to share good food.

Eh… whatever. I’ll just cook for myself. Let DJ fix hot dogs, hamburgers, frozen pizza, frozen taquitos and fast-food tacos for his kids. I’ll make what I want… for me… and I’ll include lots of shelfish! LOL!!!

Today is Super Tuesday. John McCain… or a reasonble facsimile via recording… called me many times this weekend asking for my support. Fat chance buddy - that’s all I can say. Mitt Romney called a couple of times too. But Hillary and Barak ignored us. No matter who wins, I won’t be baking anything to “celebrate”.

Here's the recipe for the Cinnamon Apple Baked French Toast. Maybe you can make it for your brood and they’ll appreciate it. It’s good - real good. I’ll definitely make this again!

Cinnamon Apple Baked French Toast


4 apples - cored, peeled, sliced and cut up
3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons Splenda
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon nutmeg
4 slices french-toast-cut bread
powdered sugar


Directions
In a 9x11 baking dish melt 1 tablespoon of butter and brush it around all sides - generously. Set aside
In a saucepan combine 2 tablespoons of butter, the splenda, brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon. Add the apples and cook over medium heat until soft.
Pour the apple mixture into the baking dish and distribute evenly.
In a mixing bowl combine eggs, milk, vanilla and nutmeg.
Individually soak 4 pieces of bread in the mixture then lay each in the baking dish on top of the apples. Brush remaining mixture on top of the bread and then generously sprinkle remaining cinnamon.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning bake at 350 for about 45-60 minutes until the bread is cooked and not soggy (test w/knife).
Cool pan on wire rack for 10 minutes
Invert onto a serving platter so the apples are on the top
Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

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