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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Have your cake and eat it too!

Spring brings.........babies!

My sis in law is expecting her 2nd baby, and we love parties, so we threw a co-ed baby shower!
No party is complete without cake. Period.

Can't decide on what flavor? I couldn't........so I did three!

The miniature "Unhatched Egg Cake" is a Raspberry Layer Cake with Almond Buttercream.  Everyone loves this cake!

Then come the cupcakes!

I LOVE cupcakes!! They are so fun to make! They always look great! And who doesn't like a bite sized cupcake? You can eat like 5 of them and hardly feel guilty!

The middle tier are Chocolate Cream Cheese Cupcakes with Mocha Frosting.

The bottom tier are Banana Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.




BANANA CUPCAKES

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda

Combine sugar, sour cream, softened butter, and eggs; beat 1 minute.  Add vanilla and bananas. Add dry ingredients; beat 1 minute.  Line a mini muffin pan with mini cupcake papers.  Fill papers almost to top with batter.  Bake at 350 degrees until tops have a hint of golden brown and a toothpick inserted in cupcake comes out clean.  (Approximately 15-20 minutes).

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

4 oz. cream cheese
2 1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 T. soft butter
dash of salt

In a mixing bowl beat all ingredients until very fluffy! Pipe frosting onto cupcakes with a star tip.

These cupcakes rate 5 stars in my book! Moist banana cake with a creamy delicious frosting! Mmm.......bet it will be hard to just eat one!


CHOCOLATE CREAM CHEESE CUPCAKES

Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup (6 oz.) semi sweet chocolate chips

Cake:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 T. white vinegar

For filling, in a small bowl beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Beat in egg and salt until combined.  Fold in chocolate chips; set aside.

In a bowl combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar and salt. In another bowl, whisk water, oil, and vinegar; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

Fill mini paper lined muffin cups half full with batter.  Drop filling by heaping teaspoonfuls into the center of each. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in cake comes clean.  Cool on wire racks.

If you are wondering why sugar and salt are listed twice in this recipe, here is why:  I have made these several times and each time I have had to remake them because I would forget the sugar and salt in the chocolate cake part! The original recipe was written 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided. The salt the same way. I would add it to the filling, but always forget it in the cake! So, to eliminate any more mistakes, I fixed the problem!! :)


MOCHA FROSTING

6 T. semi sweet chocolate chips
6 T. milk chocolate chips
2/3 cup butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
2-4  T. brewed coffee
chocolate sprinkles

In a microwave safe bowl, melt chips.  Stir until smooth.  Add butter; beat until blended.  Gradually beat in powdered sugar and coffee. (Start with 2 T. and add more if frosting seems to thick.)  Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes using a star tip.  Immediatly top with chocolate sprinkles.

If you have never melted chocolate chips in the microwave:  Melt them in a glass bowl--plastic is not healthy to microwave! Start with 1 minute. Stir. If chocolate is lumpy, microwave for 30 more seconds. Continue stirring and doing 30 second intervals until chocolate is smooth.

These cupcakes are also 5 star!  The frosting is fabulous!  I use this frosting on lots of cupcakes!





RASPBERRY LAYER CAKE


Raspberry Filling

12 oz. frozen raspberries
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 T. cornstarch

Combine sugar and cornstarch in saucepan.  Stir in water and raspberries.  Cook, stirring until mixture boils; boil 1 minutes until thickened and clear.  Press plastic wrap directly on top of filling and refrigerate until chilled. (If I am in a hurry I freeze the filling until set)


Cake

2 boxes white cake mix (I like Betty Crocker)

Mix cake mix according to package directions.  Sometimes I follow the box, other times I substitute melted butter for the oil and milk for the water.  I always use whole eggs.

Grease and flour 2 six inch cake pans.  Fill 3/4 full with batter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until tooth pick inserted in cake comes out clean.

If there is extra batter make a few mini cupcakes!


Before removing cake from pan, I cut off the top using a long knife resting on the top of the pan.  Turn cakes out onto a wire rack and cool completely.  When cool, place 1 round on cake plate with cut side up.  Spread on lots of raspberry filling.  Top with other round, cut side to filling.  Frost with almond buttercream and decorate however your heart desires!


ALMOND BUTTERCREAM

2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup crisco
(I am not a fan of crisco, but for this frosting it works best!)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. almond extract
2 dashes salt
1/4 cup milk
7 1/2 - 8 cups powdered sugar

Beat all ingredients together in Kitchen Aid mixer until very fluffy!


"Unhatched Egg Cake"

If you want to make your cake look like mine:

Toast 1/2 cup coconut in a 350 degree oven, shaking pan occasionally until golden brown.  Let cool.

Divide frosting into 4 parts.  Three smaller bowls (about 1/4 cup each), and 1 larger bowl with remaining frosting.  Tint large bowl with a gel tint--Ivory (I like Wilton Brand Icing Colors).  Tint remaining three bowls with Leaf Green, Sky Blue, and Brown. 

Out of the large bowl of frosting, take out a few tablespoons to shape nest...set aside.  Frost entire cake with Ivory frosting.  Let icing set for 15 minutes.  With a piping bag and a #12 round tip, pipe a nest on top of cake.  Press on toasted coconut shaping into a nest. 

With the Sky Blue frosting and a #12 round tip, form eggs in nest.

With the Brown frosting and a #5 round tip, pipe branches onto sides of cake.

With the Leaf Green frosting and a #3 round tip, pipe little leaves onto branches.

And there you have a cake perfect for Spring!

This cake is excellent! I have never heard a complaint! I never liked cake frosting until I tried this one!
5 stars all the way baby!





Friday, February 26, 2010

Breakfast for Dinner!--Stuffed French Toast

When I really don't know what I want to make for dinner, often I will turn to breakfast foods! We hardly ever have a hot cooked breakfast in the morning, so it works out good for us to have it in the evening!!

My favorite bread to use for french toast is Cinnamon Chip Bread from Great Harvest Bread Co.  I don't know if there is a store in your area, but if there is, try this bread....it is scrumptious!




I tried my stuffed french toast two different ways....

First try:


I cut the bread into a 2 inch slice.  Then I sliced that in half only 3/4 of the way. I stuffed it with a cream cheese mixture and a thin slice of ham from the deli.  I dipped the whole thing (it was huge!) in an egg batter and cooked each side.  It was pretty good, but a little soft for my liking.

So then I tried it this way to eliminate the super soft middle......

Second try:



This time I cut the bread into one inch slices and dipped in egg batter.  I cooked up both slices on each side. Then I used the same cream cheese mixture, except added pecans to it.  I also layered sliced bananas and strawberries on top of cream cheese.  This was sandwiched between the slices of cooked french toast.

I preferred the 2nd try much better!  I like how the french toast was cooked perfectly and not too soft.  As for fillings......I like both equally!


I served my french toast with some yummy potatoes!



I love these Hash Brown Potatoes! They always turn out wonderful! Usually I add red or green peppers, but I didn't have any on hand.




STUFFED FRENCH TOAST

8 oz. cream cheese, slightly softened
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp. vanilla
1 loaf cinnamon chip bread or other bread
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 T. cinnamon
sprinkle salt
splash of vanilla
strawberries, sliced thinly
bananas, sliced thinly
powdered sugar for dusting
real maple syrup

Mix together cream cheese, vanilla, and pecans.  Beat eggs and milk; add cinnamon, salt, and vanilla.  Cut  bread into 1 inch slices.  Prepare pan to medium heat or griddle to 325 degrees.  Lightly brush with oil or butter.  Dip bread into egg batter.  Grill on both sides until golden brown.  Place one slice on plate. Spread with cream cheese mixture, sliced bananas, and sliced berries.  Top with second sliced of grilled french toast.  Dust with powdered sugar and garnish with sliced strawberries and bananas. Serve with real maple syrup. And if you have some whipped cream in your frig, put some of that on top too!


HASH BROWN POTATOES

4 medium baking potatoes
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 medium red or green pepper, diced
2 T. flour
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
Lawry's All Seasoning to taste
1/4 cup butter (I usually use less)

Pierce potatoes; microwave, uncovered, on high for 12-14 minutes or until tender, turning once.  Cool slightly. (If I am in a rush I stick them in the freezer to cool). Peel and cube. Place potatoes in bowl with onion and bell pepper. In another bowl, combine flour, milk, salt, pepper, and Lawry's until smooth.  Pour over potato mixture and toss.  In a large skillet, melt butter. Add potato mixture and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes or until golden brown. 

Don't use red potatoes for this recipe...they are way to mushy!  You will end up with mashed hash brown potatoes, and they just aren't as tasty!

I rate both of these recipes 5 stars!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chicken Parmesan

One day I was watching Paula Dean on Food Network.  She made a recipe called Oven Fried Chicken.  I have made it several times, and it is great on its own!  One day I decided to convert it into a chicken parmesan recipe! I was pleased with the outcome :)



Chicken Parmesan over Linguine



First make the sauce.....this sauce gets even more delicious as the flavors blend, so it can be made several days in advance! 

Marinara Sauce

1 T. olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced green pepper
6 garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup dry red or white wine
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsely
1 T. sugar
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
2 bay leaves
1 (28oz.) can whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped
I like Muir Glen organic tomatoes...they are so fresh tasting!
1 (6oz.) can tomato paste

Directions

Heat oil in dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic; saute 5 minutes or until tender.  Add the remaining ingredients; bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 



Next do the chicken.....Here is the recipe: 


Oven Fried Chicken


Recipe courtesy Paula Deen


2 cups Panko bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons freshly minced thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons water
2 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4 -inch thickness

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place a cooling rack over pan and spray rack with nonstick cooking spray.

In a shallow dish, combine bread crumbs, cheese, 2 tablespoons olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper, to taste. In a separate shallow dish, combine mustard, water, salt and pepper, to taste, and remaining olive oil. Coat each chicken breast with mustard mixture; dredge each in bread crumb mixture. Place on prepared rack in pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until chicken is golden brown. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes:  I use 1 lb. of chicken tenders to 1/2 of the crumb recipe, but the whole amount of sauce.  I also add some dried oregano, basil, and italian seasoning to the crumb part....just sprinkle it in...no need to measure!  (I love chicken tenders! They cook so quickly and are never tough!) If using tenders you can reduce baking time to around 18-20 minutes.  If you have any leftovers that don't get covered in marinara sauce, use them in sandwiches the next day with some honey mustard! Delicious!




Once you have the sauce made and the chicken baked....
Boil up some pasta...whatever you have on hand will work! I used whole wheat linguine.

Grab a baking dish and ladle in some marinara sauce.  Place the cooked chicken on top.  Then cover the chicken with sauce.  Grate up some mozzarella cheese and sprinkle over the sauce.  Bake for a few minutes at 350 degrees just until the cheese is melted. 

Mix any remaining sauce into the pasta, and serve Chicken Parmesan on top of pasta!

If you do the 1 lb. of chicken, this would feed around 4 people.

What I like to do with leftovers, is put them in plastic freezer containers (individual serving size) and pop them in the freezer.  Then when I need a quick and easy lunch I put into a glass dish, add a little water, and microwave until hot! I have found most pasta dishes freeze fabulously!



For a complete meal, add a salad!

Here is what I made:



Side Salad

romaine
carrots
red onion
parmesan cheese

tossed together in this dressing:

Favorite Balsamic Dressing:

1 cup olive oil
3 T. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 T. chopped shallots
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Mix all ingredients together except olive oil. Whisk vigorously, while pouring oil in a steady stream.
Makes around 1 cup. Stores well in the refrigerator for several weeks.



Ultimate Double Chocolate Cookies

These are for DARK chocolate lovers!!

Thanks to my mom who showed me this recipe...she found it on a magazine advertisement for Ghiradelli chocolate chips.
They really are fabulous when that chocolate craving hits! (I store them in my freezer so I am ready when it does!)

I have to confess as I am writing this I had to go to my freezer and seek out one of these cookies!
It was the last one....oh dear! My emergency chocolate stash is gone!


Milk and cookies anyone?


Ultimate Double Chocolate Cookies




12 ounce(s) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
11 1/2 ounce(s) 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
6 tablespoon(s) unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 cup(s) sugar
1/3 cup(s) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon(s) baking powder
1 cup(s) chopped walnuts

 
Directions

In double boiler over hot water, melt bittersweet chocolate chips and butter. In large bowl with electric mixer or whisk, beat eggs and sugar until thick; stir into chocolate mixture. In small bowl, stir together flour and baking powder; stir into chocolate mixture. Gently mix in semi-sweet chocolate chips and walnuts. Using a sheet of plastic wrap, form dough into two logs, each 2 inches in diameter and about 12 inches long. As dough will be quite soft, use plastic wrap to hold dough in log shape. Wrap tightly; refrigerate at least 1 hour or until firm. Heat oven to 375°F. Unwrap dough; with sharp knife, cut into 3/4-inch slices. Place slices 1 1/2 inches apart on greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet.



Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until shiny crust forms on top but interior is still soft. Cool on baking sheet; store in airtight tin up to 1 week.

Yield: 24 cookies



After refrigerating, you slice the log into cookies.




Before baking.......mmm! Can't wait til they are done!




This is what they look like fresh out of the oven...a little underbaked with a shiny top.



 
The finished product!
Just gaze at that chocolatey nutty goodness!

I rate this recipe 5 out of 5 stars!

Happy Baking!








Cranberry Chicken

I had a busy day planned and decided the crockpot would be the way to go!  I went on http://www.tasteofhome.com/ and found this recipe.  It's great because its super fast and easy!! I got it in the crockpot in under 30 minutes and that included thawing out some frozen chicken AND a trip to the grocery store! (I needed OJ and egg noodles!)  One downfall is if you didn't happen to freeze any cranberries from the holidays you might have a tough time finding them!


Chicken cooking in the crockpot

I used chicken breasts because that is all I had in my freezer, and they came out
amazingly tender! They just fell apart when I touched a fork to them!


I served the Cranberry Chicken over whole wheat noodles

I rate this recipe 3 out of 5 stars.  It is a mild, comforting dish that would be great on a
cold week day!  Try it...you might like it, you might not.  My husband wasn't so fond of it,
but then again he told me he really doesn't like the flavor of cranberries!

CRANBERRY CHICKEN

4-6 Servings Prep: 20 min. Cook: 5 hours 20 min.


Ingredients

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 broiler/fryer chicken (about 3-1/2 pounds), quartered and skin removed
( I used 3 large chicken breasts)
1 cup orange juice (I freshly squeezed it)
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 to 3 tablespoons brown sugar
Hot cooked noodles

Directions

In a 3-qt. slow cooker, combine the first five ingredients; top with chicken. Pour orange juice over chicken and sprinkle with orange peel. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or until meat juices run clear.

Remove chicken. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones; discard bones. Cut meat into bite-size pieces; set aside and keep warm. Combine butter and flour until smooth; add to slow cooker. Cook on high until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in chicken and brown sugar; heat through. Serve with noodles. Yield: 4-6 servings.


Nutrition Facts: 1 serving (1 each) equals 403 calories, 22 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 117 mg cholesterol, 345 mg sodium, 16 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 33 g protein.



I served my Cranberry Chicken with a side salad



Side Salad

romaine
carrots
cheddar cheese
sunflower seeds


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