Iron Chef Mommy

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Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

Valentine’s cupcakes – the best part of the day!

Posted by ironchefmommy on February 19, 2010

So, the fact that I’m posting my Valentine’s cupcakes about a week late, that should give you some insight as to how busy I am. We were buried in snow… no, literally. Buried. Meaning there was 2+ feet of snow in my backyard. So, actually, my child was buried. Up to her waist. I have pictures. They’re adorable. Brett even took the snowblower into the backyard (that was money VERY well spent…and yes, I say that every time it snows) and make a huge 4 ft tall slide for her to slide down. We were freezing and soaking wet, but it was so worth it. She had so much fun, and kicked and screamed when we took her in because she was so windburnt.

So, we made Valentine’s cupcakes. After they were made, I went on an all out search looking for the memory card to my camera. Those of you on Facebook know what my morning was like that day. No wonder I didn’t get anything done. I was too busy flipping over my couches looking for it. So, this picture of my Valentine cakes is a bit grainy, my blackberry definitely can’t do what my camera can. But they looked adorable. And they tasted yummy. Until Saturday, when I headed to see my darling friend Angelina for her bachelorette party at the Sands Casino. We were getting ready and she mentioned the icing tasted a bit salty… then I thought back… that’s what I get for letting the 2 year old stand in front of the mixer with my back turned. She put a touch more in after. Oops. Oh well. The Sands was great. We had a wonderful time – we ate dinner at Emeril’s Chophouse and it was beyond fantastic. I mean, amazing. I had duck, which was perfection. It melted in my mouth. I wanted to ransack the kitchen and eat everything.

So, back to Valentine’s Day. I was pleasantly surprised that my darling husband had an adorable singing card and TWO boxes of chocolates for me when I arrived home Sunday morning. He rocks. Definitely a keeper.

These cupcakes are yummy. The cakes are moist and spongy and have a great flavor. It’s actually the recipe for Amy Sedaris’ Vanilla Cupcakes. The frosting is really yummy. At least it was before my princess dumped a bit more salt into them. I added Wilton Rose Pink coloring to the icing to bring that nice pink color and they’re topped with Wilton toppers and heart sprinkles. Oh, those are Wilton heart liners too.

So, here you go:

For the cupcakes:
1 ½ sticks of unsalted butter
1 ¾ cups of sugar

Beat well, then add:

Add 2 large eggs
2 Teaspoons of pure vanilla
½ teaspoon of salt
2 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
2 ½ cups of flour
1 ¼ cups of milk

Beat well, fill cups, and bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes. You should get 24. I get 18, ’cause I’m doing something wrong.***

Those are Amy’s directions. She gets 18. I halved the recipe and got 11. Oh well.

For the frosting:
3 c. confectioners’ sugar, sift if lumpy
1/4 c. Crisco
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. milk

In bowl, combine 1 cup of the sugar, the Crisco, vanilla and salt. Alternately add milk and remaining sugar; mix until smooth and creamy. Add more sugar to thicken or milk to thin if needed for good spreading consistency. Frosts tops and sides of two 9-inch layers or one 9x13x2 inch cake.

Posted in Baking, Cupcakes, Holiday, Sweet | 1 Comment »

I admit it, I’m a snob. There, I said it.

Posted by ironchefmommy on February 12, 2010

I bet half the bitches that hate me, or read this blog just to get some info on what’s going on in my life are thinking, wow, she really is a snob. Well, sorry to crumble your cookie girls, but that’s exactly what I’m talking about. Cookies. Chocolate chip to be exact.

I like to think I’m not addicted to any sweets (lie #1). I basically ate nothing but ice cream through my whole pregnancy with Madeline and wondered why I gained so much weight. Thank goodness for genetics is all I have to say about that (and my darling mother, the personal trainer). I got to a point when I was pregnant that my mother (and husband) basically had to pry the ice cream spoon out of my hands. I was addicted. Then there’s chocolate. For a few years, I was like Kyra Sedgwick’s character in The Closer. I had chocolate everywhere. It was in my desk at work, in my car, in my purse, briefcase, in the freezer. Hell, I even kept a bag of Dove chocolates in my nightstand (because the 12 steps to the kitchen was just too far). It’s been awhile since I’ve had chocolate in my nightstand. I like to think that was the coping with the stress of my job. Now I just keep it in the freezer… and there’s way less of it.

But, I’m not actually a huge dessert person. If I’m out to eat, I can actually just have a bite or two of whatever is there and be fine. My sweet tooth is satisfied. Cheesecake, chocolate cake… just a few bites are enough for me. Ice cream is a different story… I probably could never completely give that up. Same goes for chocolate chip cookies.

I literally could eat a box of chocolate chip cookies in a sitting, no question. Luckily, I’ve stopped myself before doing so, but I’ve definitely sat my ass down and gobbled up 10 or 12. Sometimes it’s while I watch the Biggest Loser. Sometimes I feel bad while doing it, but then I remember that once I feel my pants get tight, everything gets cut out for 3 weeks and suddenly, I’m even lighter than before I started (thanks again Mom, for the rocking metabolism). Anyway, they are my guiltiest pleasure ever. I appreciate them even more now, and here’s why-

After Madeline was born, before I even left the hospital, my mom and I agreed (well, she said she was going to help me so I had no choice basically!) that I would listen to her nutrition plan for 6 weeks to drop most of the weight I had gained and keep the nutrients I needed since I was nursing and needed extra calories. I agreed and figured I could do anything for 6 weeks. Besides, I’d just eaten probably a ton of ice cream in the last 6 months or so (the first 3 was nothing but Chinese food… gross, I know. don’t ask. I rarely go near it now). I was all set… then we walked in my door. My mom’s oldest sister sent me a box of cookies from Chip ‘N Dipped. Well, these darling things were the last thing I needed. But now there were 2 dozen of them in front of me. Giant chocolate chip cookies, half dipped in chocolate. Holy shit. Well, she packed up half of them right away. Then she told me everytime I lost 10 pounds I could have a cookie. That was it. I asked her right away if I could have 2 since I dropped almost 20 pounds just at the hospital. No dice. So I had no choice but to listen. I wanted those cookies. So I lost the weight and those cookies were every bit worth the wait. I would dream about them. I could give up a lot of things… never chocolate chip cookies.

Since then I have been trying to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I will be the first to admit I never had a lot of luck with baking cookies. Either my pan wasn’t right or the oven was too hot or the rack was too low, take your pick. When those things weren’t an issue, it was the recipe itself. I never got that “whoa” taste from cookies I’d baked at home. I’m very picky about my cookies. I like them to have a bit of crispiness around the edges with a softer middle that leave you craving a huge glass of milk. Well, I found them. Finally. Not only did I find the perfect recipe, but my oven decided to work wonderfully, my racks were way at the top, and the cookies were literally perfection. I ate one right out of the oven and two more once they cooled. I’m ready to polish off about 10 more, but it’s almost midnight so I’m thinking that’s not the smartest idea. So, if you’re a cookie person, these are definitely for you.

World’s best chocolate chip cookies

You’ll need:

2 eggs
1 (12 oz bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon water
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

You’ll have to:

First, mix together flour and baking soda and set aside.
Cream butter, white and brown sugar, vanilla and water in electric mixer until creamy. Beat in the eggs. Add the flour mixture a little at a time. Mix well until creamy. (You’ll want to make sure there are no lumps, but don’t overbeat… overbeating releases glutens in the flour and makes everything starchy and glumpy and weird). Stir in chocolate chips by hand.
Make little round balls, about 1 tsp apiece, and place onto well greased cookie sheet (I use Pam for Baking). Place on top rack in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove immediately from pans and cool on wire racks.

This recipe makes 36 cookies. Now, there’s nothing wrong with 36 cookies, except that I’d eat every single one of them. I halved the recipe and got 20 cookies.

They’re delicious– Even Madeline thought so when she tried to taste the cookie batter…..(or as she would say, “mmm….a-wishous!”)

Posted in Baking, Cookies, Miscellaneous, Musings, Quick, Sweet | Leave a Comment »

Superbowl (of food) Sunday…

Posted by ironchefmommy on February 10, 2010

Well, I’m a bit behind, of course. As noted in my last post, things are going to be changing around here in the next few weeks, so I’d ask those of you that do read to hang in there until they’re all finished. Posting is probably going to be slightly limited, only because I am one person and only have so many hours in a day to get shit done. I’ll do my best to have things go smoothly, but that’s never a sure thing with me. Ha.

So, Superbowl Sunday. My take on it? I usually don’t watch football during the season. I did in college because I would probably have been thrown out of my house if I wasn’t cheering for the resident team, our NY Giants (or Cattie’s Steelers). So, my Sunday’s in college consisted of beer and food, and whatever game happened to be on tv. We’re pretty much a baseball house. But, if an NY team happens to make it to the playoffs, will I watch? Maybe. Brett’s stepdad is a Giants fan as well, so if we’re up there on a Sunday, chances are that game is on.

Now, one of my closest, dearest, best friends is a New Orleans native. We have gone back and forth over the 10 years we’re friends, I should move south, she should move north… neither is likely, especially now that we have 2 feet of snow dumped on us and she’s what you would call a “tropical people.” I was glued to the tv during Katrina and the storms that have hit since, worrying about her and her family – since we’re friends we’ve been through quite a bit, husbands, children, and a whole lotta crap. I love her dearly. Anyway, her Saints made (and have since won, in case you’ve been living under a rock) the Superbowl. Of course I was happy for her – and my dad, who lived in NO for quite a few years, was beyond thrilled. Plus, I’m an Emeril fan. So we set out to cheer on the Saints and watch the game. Brett’s friend moved back into PA about a week or so ago from AZ, and it was an understatement that Brett was happy to have him back. So he came up for dinner (I made my Shepherd’s Pie at Brett’s request) and we enjoyed some snacks. I didn’t go overboard since Brett’s trying to eat a little healthier since we’ve started working out together. I made my famous 7 layer taco dip (more healthy than the other option, buffalo chicken dip) and I made wings. Baked, not fried, so slightly better, but I left the skin on. Yum. So, if you’re throwing a party, these are easy and yummy. Enjoy!

7 layer taco dip

You need:

9″ or 10″ pie plate
taco sauce or salsa 2-3 tablespoons
refried beans (1 can)
3 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
taco seasoning envelope
chopped tomatoes
chopped scallions
sliced olives
cheddar/jack cheeses

Mix one can refried beans with 2-3 tablespoons of salsa or taco sauce and spread into bottom of pie plate. In a seperate dish, stir together sour cream and mayo. Spread on top of bean mixture. Layer 1/2 envelope of taco seasoning. Cover dish with shredded cheddar/jack cheese and top with chopped scallions, tomatoes, and olives. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour before serving.

Homemade buffalo wings

First get:
30 chicken wings
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup hot sauce (like RedHot)

Then:
Take flour, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and salt and mix in large ziploc bag. Drop wings into bag and shake to coat. Remove wings. On large baking sheet, place tinfoil then spray with cooking spray. Place wings on cooking sheet and refrigerate for one hour.

Remove wings from fridge. In small saucepan, combine butter and hot sauce. Add tabasco if needed. I added some honey and 2 tbs brown sugar because I thought it needed a little zing. Coat wings in sauce and place on baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, turning wings halfway through.

Posted in Appetizer, Baking, Chicken, Dinner, Holiday, Meat, Miscellaneous, Quick, Vegetables | 1 Comment »

Cinna-who?

Posted by ironchefmommy on February 4, 2010

So, last week I attempted to make a coffee cake. It was delicious, although not very aesthetically pleasing. It looked really funny. I put the crumb topping on before I put it into the oven. When I took the cake out, it had disappeared! It sank into the cake. Now don’t get me wrong, it was really yummy. The crumbs were scattered throughout the cake so when you took a bite, it was a pleasant surprise. Next time (and after next time I’ll post the recipe) I’d probably let it bake and put the topping 10 minutes or so before it was done. Live and learn. Anyway, I got to thinking about things I’d like to try and make. Everytime I go to the mall, I walk past Cinnabon and my mouth waters. But- 4 bucks for a cinnamon roll? Come on. So I thought, I could do these. I found a recipe and went to work. I was surprised at how easy it was to do, considering I am not super experienced with working with yeast.

Now, a few things first. I halved the recipe. This is for the FULL recipe. I didn’t need that many because, well, I didn’t know how they were going to turn out, but mostly, I didn’t have that much flour left in the house. I am running VERY low. If you’re going to half the recipe, make sure you use a baking calculator like this one. Anyway, here’s the original recipe:

You will need:

2 cups of warm water
1/2 cup sugar
4 teaspoons dry yeast (or two packages of dry yeast)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup Canola oil (I use Canola, but you can use any kind of cooking oil) (you can also use shortening, if you prefer)
6 to 7 cups of flour

Then you:

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Let sit for a minute or two. Add the sugar and salt. Mix. Add the cooking oil (or shortening), 2 eggs, 2 cups of flour and beat until smooth.
Stir in 3 more cups of flour. Begin kneading the dough, adding the final cup of flour. If the dough seems too sticky, knead in more flour, a quarter to a half cup at a time.
Let the dough “rest” for 15 to 20 minutes.

Roll the dough into a rectangle that’s 24 to 30 inches long by about 16 inches wide. Spread with soft butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Starting at the wide end, roll into a log.
Cut the cinnamon rolls into equal sized slices (approximately one inch wide each or slightly more) and place into two greased 9×13 pans. Put in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes (or until the cinnamon rolls are golden brown).
Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then turn out of the pans.
This recipes makes two dozen cinnamon rolls. If you want REALLY BIG cinnamon rolls, cut into 12 equal pieces 2 inches wide.
Total amount of time needed from start to finish (including time to bake) is about 2 hours.

Okay, now my edits. These were good, but a few things. Nowhere does it say how much butter you should use. I melted 1/2 stick and painted the dough with it. Eh. I would probably use more, and just let it get soft and spread it to get a thicker coat. I would say 3/4 stick for a 1/2 recipe to give you an idea of how much. Now, the consistency of these were great. They looked good, they were a great size. My only issue was the dough wasn’t really sweet. It needed something else – icing. Now, I was running late to bring these to a playdate so I did the only thing I know how to do – improvise. I grabbed the other half of the stick of butter, threw it in a small saucepan to melt. I added maybe a capful or so of vanilla and some confectioner’s sugar (roughly 1/2 cup or so) and whisked it together. It tasted pretty good… a little thick so I just put a few drops of milk in to loosen it up and poured it over the rolls. PERFECT. They were delicious. I’ve been picking at them for the last couple of days here and there.. throwing them in the microwave and then eating them. Faboosh!

Normally, this is where I would post a picture of these delicious creatures. However, my daughter has managed to break pieces off of each one and it’s now one big cinnamon cakey-thing in the tupperware. I should have snapped a pic before I dashed out of the house, but, live and learn. Next time, I promise. If it’s any consolation to any of you, they looked amazing.

This is a recipe that even the most novice can do. The most important part is to be patient and let the yeast rise as needed or they will come out tasting like bricks. Good luck!!

Posted in Baking, Breakfast, Dessert, Sweet | Leave a Comment »

See that girl…watch that scene…she is a ziti queen!

Posted by ironchefmommy on January 24, 2010

Well, I do apologize. Things over this way have been slightly left of crazy the past week or so. Madeline’s birthday was wonderful! She enjoyed everything! We had a small family get together on Saturday the 16th for her. Unfortunately, I was battling a slight cold earlier in the week, and Brett somehow caught it and it turned into something quite nasty. So he spent her birthday party in bed asleep, half whacked on cold medicine. Poor guy. She had a wonderful time though, and we took LOTS of pictures 🙂

So, since she’s only 2, we didn’t do anything big for her party-wise. I ordered a tray of sandwiches and a Dora cake and made a tray of my (now famous) baked ziti. I love ziti. It really is the best dish – so easy to throw together in a short amount of time, but perfect for a get together and it’s a dish that makes people think you really slaved for hours. In reality, it takes about 15 minutes to put together and about a half hour in the oven. Amazing. I made a tray for her party, then two days later, I made another tray. I guess I should elaborate a bit.

I am a part of a wonderful group of women – we have a playgroup called Tri County Tots. Our kiddos get together to socialize and do fun stuff… and we get mommy time that is usually much-needed. It’s great. Well, we do our best to organize meals when moms bring a new baby home – it’s hard enough getting adjusted so we try to help out. On January 10, my dear friend Kristin gave birth to a beautiful little girl named Genevieve Grace. She’s soo teeny – just a little peanut! So Monday was my day to bring her a dinner. I had made sauce that Friday in anticipation of Madeline’s party, so I made a bit extra and made a tray for Kristin with some delicious Italian bread. She was more than grateful, and I got to hold baby Genevieve, which was a high point in my day – she was smaller at a week old than Madeline was when she was born – I couldn’t believe it (she was over 9 pounds though lol).

Anyway, since my ziti is always a hit when I make it, I’m sure whoever you make it for will love it too!
Enjoy!

Baked Ziti

First you should have:

16 ounces red sauce (see my sauce recipe HERE)
1 pound ziti
12-16 oz shredded mozzarella, divided (use the whole milk stuff for this recipe. The part skim just doesn’t cut it)
15 oz Ricotta cheese (again, whole milk)
1 egg
1 teaspoon parsley
1/2 tbs parmesean cheese (more to taste)

Then you should:
Boil pasta – about 5 minutes in boiling water. Pasta should be almost hard. Don’t overcook it, otherwise once it’s baked it will taste like mush. Not fun.

In a large bowl – add the ricotta, egg, 8 ounces of mozzarella, parsley and parmesean. Stir together until creamy. Line the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish with some of the sauce. When the pasta is finished, drain it, then run pasta in colander under COLD water. This will slow the pasta from continuing to cook while you prep it. Plus, it’s easier to handle, since it won’t burn your fingertips off. Toss about 1/4 of the pasta into the bottom of the dish, on top of the sauce. Throw the rest of the pasta in the bowl with your ricotta mixture. Toss it around, then add roughly 6-8 ounces of sauce and stir until mixed. Pour the whole mixture into the baking dish. Add a few more spoonfuls of sauce (not a lot – you can always add sauce to the dish after it comes out of the oven) and top with remaining shredded mozzarella.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes – until cheese is bubbling at top.

Add the rest of the sauce as needed and serve!

See? I told you it was easy 🙂

Posted in Baking, Birthday, Cheese, Meal, Meat, Pasta, Quick, Sauce | 1 Comment »

Two years ago a princess was born

Posted by ironchefmommy on January 14, 2010

Well, my first order of business….

Happy Birthday Madeline!
Yup, my precious little girl is 2 today! I can’t believe it. I can’t believe I’m the mommy of a 2 year old – more so, I can’t believe I’m so lucky that she’s mine. She’s still (I think) too young to understand her birthday, but we had fun today none the less. It started at 3am when she ventured into our bed… so she did get a happy birthday from Brett before he left for work around 6. We got up and headed out this morning – we had a nice day together. We headed to get her 2 year pictures taken… much easier said than done. We did get some nice ones, but it was tiring! We did a bit of shopping, had some lunch, and I took her to Build A Bear where we built a dog for her birthday (against my better judgment because we have MORE than enough stuffed animals here), but she’s the birthday girl!

So what to make the birthday girl for dinner? Well, I had a request from a friend (Thanks Allison!) to please try to duplicate Panera’s $8 a bowl mac and cheese. I love it, so I thought that would be something great that I could try to make. I know that their mac and cheese is a mix of Vermont White Cheddar with a “hint of American” as noted on their menu, but that’s about all I knew. So I figured I had my work cut out for me. I tried to think of what went into my own mac and cheese, and here’s what I came up with:

First you need:

12oz pasta shells
4 tablespoons of butter
8 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk*
8-10 oz grated Sharp White Cheddar Cheese
2-3 oz grated American Cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Then you should:

Cook pasta about 2-3 minutes shorter than package directions and drain. They should still be a little harder than al dente.

In a saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter over med low heat. Slowly whisk in the flour, then slowly add milk a little at a time, whisking all the way. Bring to a boil for a minute or so, then turn heat down and add grated cheese, whisking in as the cheese melts. Add salt and pepper.

Pour pasta and cheese into oven safe pot or 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

**Now, for my edits. This was a really good first attempt, at least in my book, for not having any recipe to go off of, other than what cheeses were in it. I used 1% milk, but I bet whole milk would be better. You might want to either add another 1/2 cup of milk, or maybe beat an egg into the mixture to make it a little creamier.

The taste of it was pretty much there, but it wasn’t as creamy as I’d hoped. This could be either because of too little milk/butter, or the fact that when I pulled it out of the oven, I kept it covered and on the table for roughly 15 minutes to cool a bit before I started scooping it out. I wonder if I had dug into it right away if that would have made a difference. Well, I tried! If anyone makes this, feel free to add any edits/suggestions, because I plan on making this again soon. It was yummy!

Then came dessert for my baby girl. I had cupcakes from yesterday, but thought I should make fresh ones. It turns out it didn’t really matter, because she was so tired, she blew out the candle on a funfetti cupcake from yesterday and ate the frosting, then decided she was ready for bed. But since I didn’t know that was going to happen, I decided it was time for me to tackle something I’ve been dying to try to make – Red Velvet Cupcakes.

A note to all of you out there – be sure to read the WHOLE recipe when deciding to tackle it. I had the dry ingredients sifted before reading that I needed buttermilk. Shit. Shit. Luckily, I remembered someone on the food network saying you could actually whisk your own if you really really had to.

So who’s recipe did I make? One of my favorite chef’s – and yours – Bobby Flay!

Bobby Flay’s Red Velvet Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

* 15 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour
* 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
* 1 1/4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
* 13 ounces granulated sugar
* 1 1/4 cups buttermilk***
* 3 eggs
*2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons red food coloring
* 1 1/4 teaspoons vinegar (white or apple cider can both work)
* 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 1/8 cup water

For the cream cheese frosting:

* 1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
* 1 pound butter, room temperature
* 2 pounds powdered sugar, sifted
* 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the cupcakes:

Preheat oven 350 degrees F.

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder into a bowl and set aside.

In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix oil, sugar, and buttermilk until combined. Add eggs, food coloring, vinegar, vanilla and water and mix well. Add the dry ingredients a little bit at a time and mix on low, scraping down sides occasionally, and mix until just combined. Be sure not to over mix, or the batter will come out tough.

Line a 16-cup cupcake pan with paper liners, scoop the batter into the liners and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean. Let cool.
For the cream cheese frosting:

Whip the butter and cream cheese together in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until creamed. Gradually add powdered sugar to the mixture and scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and mix until combined.

The frosting can be used right away, or stored in the refrigerator up to a week.

Frost cooled cupcakes with the cream cheese frosting.

***okay. So, a few things. I had no buttermilk. So I took 1 cup of milk and whisked about 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar into it. I think it worked well enough. I’ve also read that you could use milk and then substitute baking powder for baking soda. Good luck.
Also, you need a shitload of food coloring. I used all that I had and they weren’t quite dark red enough. But I have to say, they tasted awesome. And they look pretty good too, don’t you think?

Now that the birthday is over, kitchen is cleaned, I’m sitting down with yet another cupcake and watching Project Runway, while my poor husband, exhausted from a long day, is passed out on the couch. We’re having a family party for Madeline on Saturday so he’ll get that whole day with his baby girl.

Posted in Baking, Birthday, Cheese, Cooking, Cupcakes, Dessert, Dinner, Meal, Miscellaneous, Musings, Pasta, Savory, Stove-top | 1 Comment »

cupcakes and more…cupcakes

Posted by ironchefmommy on January 13, 2010

Well I can’t believe it! My little girl, my princess, my angel is turning 2 tomorrow! How fast these last two years have flown by. I wish I could stop time, or slow it down. I love the little girl she is turning into, but I miss her as a little baby. She is smart, fun, and makes every day worth living. We are so lucky to have such a wonderful daughter. I sit and reflect how I felt two years ago today… LARGE…uncomfortable, but savoring what I knew to be my last few hours carrying my daughter, feeling her first flutters, then later kicks that I swore bruised me from the inside they were so strong. She’s awesome, and she’s ours. I’m sure I’ll be doing more reflecting tomorrow as we celebrate her special day… but for now, a bit of fun!

So, we did a semi-party last year for her first birthday (since that’s really about the parents anyway). We had some of her close friends from Tri-County Tots, our playgroup that we’re in and some close family just have a cake for her. This year, we did a small cake/party at my mom’s last week when I was visiting on LI. Saturday we’ll do a cake at my in-laws for Madeline, my dad will be visiting and joining in the fun as well. Nothing over the top. She’s only 2. So, I thought it would be fun to have some of her friends come over for a playdate and cupcakes today. Needless to say, take 5 toddlers and cram them full of sugar at noon and watch the craziness ensue. You would have thought these kids never had treats before. It was so much fun to watch them and enjoy the cupcakes. I was up at 6am and had the first batch of cupcakes in the oven by 7:30, ran out at 9 for more milk and butter and by the time her friends got here, we had two different batches of cupcakes, each with their own icing and my coffee pot was brewing its second pot of the day. It was all worth it though to see Madeline’s face as her friends sang happy birthday and she blew out her purple candle shaped like a star.

Now, cupcakes. What kind? Where else would I go to find a yummy cupcake? Cupcake Rehab, of course. Marilla has some faboosh recipes up on there that I have always wanted to try. She posted a recipe for chocolate chip cupcakes a while back and I’ve been dying to make them. I figured this was my perfect excuse to!

Here’s her recipe:

First you take:

* 1 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons cake flour
* 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 7 tablespoons butter
* 7/8 cup sugar (or 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons)
* ½ cup milk
* 1 tablespoon milk
* 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
* 3 large egg whites
* 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Then you:

1. Preheat oven to 350° degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Mix milk and vanilla in a separate small bowl.
2. Reduce speed to low. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with wet ingredients and ending with dry. Scrape sides of bowl.
3. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks, and fold into batter. Fold in chocolate chips.
4. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full.
5. Bake cupcakes about 22 minutes or until testers inserted into centers come out clean. Let cool in tins on wire racks. Cupcakes will keep, covered, for up to 3 days, unless otherwise noted.

Now, the icing. Chocolate chip buttercream. Can we say yum? It’s beyond delicious. Here’s her recipe, word for word.

Ingredients:

* 12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
* 1 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted
* ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Beat butter with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.
2. Reduce speed to medium. Add sugar, ½ cup at a time, beating after each addition, about 5 minutes. (After every 2 additions, increase speed to high, and beat for 10 seconds, then reduce speed to medium-high). Add vanilla, and beat until buttercream is smooth.
3. Fold chocolate chips into buttercream. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. (Bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth before using.)

The icing was delicious, and like her, I ate a little bit out of the bowl.

Now, a few things. The recipe is halved, so you get 12 cupcakes (at least I did). She had an issue with them not rising enough to clear her cups, I did not. I filled them about 3/4 and they rose enough to clear the tops a little bit, so if you’re using regular muffin tins, 2/3 to 3/4 of the way is probably fine. I love a recipe for 12 cupcakes. That way they all get eaten. When there’s 24, I end up eating the last 9 or so and feeling like a big fat cow. So kudos there. Yay!

Then, I thought I’d make a funfetti cupcake. Two of Madeline’s friends (who, ironically both could not make it, for different reasons – one is now a big brother and the other is sick) have peanut allergies. So, Nestle chips that are made in a plant with peanuts were out. I thought I’d do funfetti, because it’s basically a plain cake mix with a little fun. I’m not a boxed cake mix person. I keep one in the cabinet for “holy shit” reasons but that’s as an absolute LAST resort. Since we weren’t snowed in, I stole another one of Marilla’s recipes. She made her own, which she found at iheartcuppycakes and I had to try them out. I mean, who doesn’t like funfetti? Come on now.

So, if you want to try your hand at them, here’s what you need:

* 1 ¼ cups flour
* 1 ½ tsp baking powder
* ¼ tsp salt
* ¾ cup sugar
* 6 tbsp butter, room temperature
* 1 large egg + 1 egg white, room temperature
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
* ½ cup milk
* 2 tbsp rainbow sprinkles

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Line cupcake pan with paper liners.
3. In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a stand mixer, fitted with flat beater, beat the sugar and butter until well combined, about 2-3 minutes.
4. Add egg and egg white, one at a time, beating on low. Then add vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk in 2 additions, ending with the flour mixture.
5. Fold in rainbow sprinkles.Fill cupcake liners about 1/2-2/3 full.
6. Bake for about 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire cooling rack before frosting.

Now, they were just fantastic. Amazeballs, faboosh, beyond delicious. First of all, the batter was amazing before it was baked (yeah, I licked the spatula after they were in the oven. So what?) They were fluffy and moist and delicious.

Also, yes, I know. My pastry bag skills need some work. Don’t judge. How well would you frost 2 dozen cupcakes at 10am with a toddler underfoot trying to stick her fingers in the cupcakes? That’s what I thought. Besides, they tasted awesome. I should know. I ate 3 of them while watching the Biggest Loser. I know, I know. But, it was all worth it. I mean, look how happy she was!

Posted in Baking, Birthday, Cupcakes, Dessert, Musings, Sweet | 1 Comment »

Mac and cheese…a la… me?

Posted by ironchefmommy on January 8, 2010

Mac and cheese… one of my favorite foods.  I grew up on Velveeta, from my mom, and yes, ate my way through my fair share of Easy Mac when I was just a broke student at the University of Scranton, but I’m way past that. I’ve tried a few different recipes for homemade macaroni and cheese, and none of them really spoke to me like a real comfort food can. After thinking of which parts made each dish yummy, I tried my hand at my own original recipe. It’s simple enough for even the most novice of cooks, but it can be doctored with different types of cheeses depending on your taste or preference. Also, I find that sometimes, recipes can be geared towards a larger amount (4, 6, or 8 people) and I either have a ton left over that doesn’t taste the same when it’s reheated, or it ends up getting lost in a Tupperware in the back of the fridge. This is the perfect amount for the 3 of us – there’s usually just enough left for Madeline for lunch the next day, with whatever vegetable we had with it the night before.

My own Macaroni and cheese

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
5 tablespoons butter, divided
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (use 3/4 to 1 tsp if using unsalted butter)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 2/3 cups milk
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2 ounces Velveeta cheese, cubed
3 tablespoons dry bread crumbs

Directions:

Elbow macaroni cooks in about 8 minutes to tender, 6 minutes to al dente. I usually cook it about 5 – otherwise once you bake it, it’s all a little mushy. Always undercook it a bit when you’re going to bake the pasta.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the salt and pepper, and whisk in one tablespoon of flour at a time until smooth. Continue to whisk as you slowly add the milk. Bring to a boil for about a minute or so, then slowly add the cheese – the shredded first, then the cubed, whisking the whole time.

Grease a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Pour in pasta, then add cheese sauce. Mix together. Melt the last tablespoon of butter, add the breadcrumbs to form a crumbly mixture and sprinkle over the top. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.

Posted in Baking, Cheese, Cooking, Dinner, Meal, Pasta, Stove-top | 1 Comment »

Shepherd’s Pie that sticks to you

Posted by ironchefmommy on January 6, 2010

As much as I love the warmer weather, I have to say there really is no bigger food comfort than a warm dish that makes you feel cozy on a freezing day. You know, those foods that feel like they stick to your insides and make you feel wonderful and satisfied and afterwards, all you want to do is curl up in front of a fire and not move…ever. Winter makes me think of yummy stews, chili, homemade mac and cheese, thick soups. One of Brett’s favorite winter foods happens to be Shepherd’s Pie. It’s an old British traditional dish, usually made with lamb mince.

In early cookery books, the dish was a means of using leftover roasted meat of any kind, and the pie dish was lined with mashed potato as well as having a mashed potato crust on top.

The term “shepherd’s pie” did not appear until the 1870s, and since then it has been used synonymously with “cottage pie”, regardless of whether the principal ingredient was beef or mutton. There is now a popular tendency for “shepherd’s pie” to be used when the meat is mutton or lamb, with the suggested origin being that shepherds are concerned with sheep and not cattle, however this may be an example of folk etymology.

This a delicious, filling dish that is surprisingly healthy. There is butter (or course), but when eating it, the dish doesn’t feel heavy – I didn’t feel left with that “brick in my stomach” feeling.

Easy Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients
1 1/2 lbs ground round beef
1 onion chopped
1-2 cups vegetables – chopped carrots, corn, peas
1 1/2 – 2 lbs potatoes (3 big ones)
8 tablespoons butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup beef broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt, pepper, other seasonings of choice

Directions:
Peel and quarter potatoes, boil in salted water until tender (about 20 minutes).

While the potatoes are cooking, melt 4 Tablespoons butter (1/2 a stick) in large frying pan.

Sauté onions in butter until tender over medium heat (10 mins). If you are adding vegetables, add them according to cooking time. Put any carrots in with the onions. Add corn or peas either at the end of the cooking of the onions, or after the meat has initially cooked.


Add ground beef and sauté until no longer pink. Add salt and pepper. Add worcesterchire sauce. Add half a cup of beef broth and cook, uncovered, over low heat for 10 minutes, adding more beef broth as necessary to keep moist.

Mash potatoes in bowl with remainder of butter, season to taste.

Place beef and onions in baking dish. Distribute mashed potatoes on top. Rough up with a fork so that there are peaks that will brown nicely. You can use the fork to make some designs in the potatoes as well.

Cook in 400 degree oven until bubbling and brown (about 30 minutes). Broil for last few minutes if necessary to brown.

Serves four.

This came out pretty good. I made some more mashed potatoes that didn’t go in the oven and we just added to our plates because I used 2 pounds of ground beef. I halved the beef broth and put a full tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce in and it was delicious.

Posted in Baking, Cooking, Dinner, Meal, Meat, Stove-top, Vegetables | 3 Comments »

Chocolate keeps you warm

Posted by ironchefmommy on January 4, 2010

It is beyond frigid here. It’s so cold I can’t stand it. I opened the front door to get the mail and couldn’t believe it. Yesterday brought us 15 degrees with a wind chill of -1. Not cool at all. We were planning a nice relaxing day staying warm on the couch in sweats until we got a phone call around noon. Brett’s great-grandmother (she’s 85, mind you) decided she was going to WALK to church and came home to realize she locked herself out of her house. Oh – and she had a minor stroke 2 weeks ago so you can imagine how angry we were that she went out by herself in this weather. Her neighbors are friends of ours so they called us to say she was there. So, the good guy my husband is, got all bundled up and headed down there.

In the meantime, I decided to make some yummy cookies, chock full of chocolate, because I love nothing more than warm, sweet food on a cold day. They are delicious!

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups chocolate chips, 2 Hershey’s chocolate bars, chopped or M&M’S
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

I left the walnuts out since I knew Madeline would want some. I used dark brown sugar and I also used 1 cup milk chocolate chips & 1/2 cup semisweet mini chips. They tasted great that way.

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl stir together flour, salt, and baking soda. In another large bowl stir together butter, both sugars, eggs, vanilla and cocoa. Gradually stir flour mixture into butter mixture and mix until combined. Stir chocolate chips and walnuts, if using, and stir to distribute evenly.

For cookies: Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto greased baking sheets and bake about 10 minutes. Cool on a baking rack.

For bars: Pat dough into a greased 9 inch square baking pan and bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cut into squares when cooled

*my first pan in the oven came out with the bottoms slightly darker than I would have liked. I moved the rest to the top rack and baked them at 350 for about 14-16 minutes and they came out perfect.

All in all, this was a great recipe. They’re VERY chocolatey, so for those of you who love your chocolate as much as I do, they’re perfect. Also, while I could sit down and eat about 35 chocolate chip cookies in one sitting, I could really only eat one or two of these and they hit the spot perfectly. Beware that this recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies though!

Posted in Baking, Cookies, Sweet | Leave a Comment »