Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Most Popular Posts

Here is a rundown of the most popular post every month on Starting to Simmer for 2011!

Thanks to everyone for reading this year- I've really enjoyed writing the blog, and hope that you've enjoyed following it! I'm looking forward to more cooking and blogging in 2012. In January I made a resolution to post a blog a week- and with 60 posts this year I made my goal!! The blog changed a lot this year. I started a facebook page- and now over 100 people "Like" Starting to Simmer. I discovered cupcakes, started making them for birthday and holidays, and now have been hired 6 times this year- for birthdays, baby showers, and even a wedding! I also started an etsy shop towards the end of the year, and although I am still working out the kinks and have yet to sell anything I'm looking forward to working more on the project. 2011 has had its ups and downs, but I feel like things are headed in a good direction. Happy New Years!!




(I've found that anytime I mention Trader Joe's I get a lot of hits)


thanks to my very first tastespotting submission this blog entry quickly became my most popular post!






featured on yummly!


Happy Birthday to Kevin!




Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Peppermint Swirl Cupcakes

Recipe Review: Peppermint and Chocolate are the perfect combination for a Holiday treat!

Christmas is here! I've been in total holiday melt down mode ever since Thanksgiving. I had the amazing opportunity to pick up some shifts at my old job throughout November and December. The extra cash has basically made Christmas possible this year- but boy am I worn out. I can't wait till Christmas Eve when my parents get in, (and I have four whole days off from work to relax!) I haven't really had much time to spend in the kitchen, and have been eating way too many meals at the mall food court. Yuck. I can't wait till all the craziness is over and I can get back to home cooking. Christmas will be a nice break to spend time with family, and my family loves food- so I'm sure it will be filled with lots of great meals!

I did manage (I'm still not really sure how) to whip up some treats to bring in to share at work. These are one bowl chocolate cupcakes. (Even so I seem to find a way to make a huge mess in the kitchen.) The batter is too thin to really hold up chocolate chips mixed in so I sprinkle a bunch on top. I whipped up some peppermint cream cheese butter cream frosting, and swirled in some red gel color before I piped on the frosting using a closed star tip. I also sprinkled on some crushed up candy cane bits (I got them at crate & barrel since I was short on time and didn't want to make a bigger mess in the kitchen by smashing the candy canes myself)

Double Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from Martha Stewart
yield: 18-24 cupcakes

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all purpose flower
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons safflower oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups mini semi sweet morsels

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with paper liners.

Sift together cocoa powder, flour, suga,r baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Combine milk and vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes.* Add eggs, warm water, milk & vinegar mixture, sour cream, oil and vanilla to bowl and mix well until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bottom of the bowl to ensure batter is well mixed. Sprinkle 1/2 of chocolate chips on top of batter. (They will naturally sink because this batter is so thin. Don't stir them or they will all fall to the bottom.)

Pour batter into cups, filling 2/3rds full. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of mini morsels on top. Bake until the tops spring back when pressed lightly, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting. This recipe tends to rise a lot so make sure to leave about 3/4 of an inch of room in your cupcake pan.

*Note: If you prefer you can skip this step by buying buttermilk

Peppermint Cream Cheese Butter Cream Frosting
yield: enough to frost 2 dozen cupcakes

8oz cream cheese softened (but not hot)
2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temp
8 cups of powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
peppermint extract to taste

Beat the cream cheese and butter in bowl of stand mixer until light and fluffy.

Add powdered sugar a little at a time and increase speed. If mixture becomes too thick use milk to thin. Add peppermint extract 1/2 tsp at a time until desired taste is reached.

I learned from the first time making this frosting that the peppermint extract is really strong!! When I made Kevin's birthday cupcakes the peppermint scent hit you the second you walked into the kitchen. This time I was a little more careful. Also I think the cream cheese really makes a nice flavor combination with the peppermint so that its not just straight up sugar.

I doubt that I'll get another post up before the 25th so Merry Christmas! -Love Christie

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cranberry and Sausage Cornbread Stuffing

Recipe Review: An update on traditional stuffing that still has all the classic flavors.

How come we only eat stuffing on Thanksgiving?? Stuffing is amazing and I really believe that we should eat it year round. I'm a stickler for traditional Thanksgiving food and don't often like to branch out. We made sure to have classic stuffing as well, so I was free to branch out with this Cranberry and Sausage Cornbread stuffing. This is a doctored up version that starts with Trader Joe's Cornbread stuffing mix as a base. 

Cranberry and Sausage Cornbread Stuffing
serves 8-10

1 cup dried cranberries
3 cups turkey or chicken broth
1 package Italian sausage (5 links)
1 stick butter
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 box Trader Joe's cornbread Stuffing Mix
Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cranberries with one cup of broth and set aside. In a large skillet crumble and saute sausage over moderate heat until cooked through (be sure to remove any casing).  Move sausage into a large bowl and set aside. Add butter to skillet and melt. Use butter to scrape up any brown sites of sausage. Add celery and onions and saute until soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Place bread cubes from stuffing mix in bowl with sausage. Add cooked veggies to bowl; add broth with cranberries and mix well. Add additional broth, one up at a time and continue to mix until all bread is moist. Season with pepper. Add contents of seasoning packet, (to taste) and mix until well combined. Place in a casserole dish and bake for 25 to 45 minutes. 

I got lots of positive feedback from this stuffing. I'm thinking of making it again for Christmas. I can't believe that its only 2 weeks away. I know I haven't posted in a while, every since thanksgiving things have been incredibly busy. I was lucky enough to pick up some hours at my old job, add that to the million social obligations that pop up between Thanksgiving and Christmas and I've barely had time to cook anything. In lieu of making food I've been doing a ton of crafts and Christmas decorating to get the house looking spirited. (Kevin is pretty pissed at me because there is glitter everywhere!) I think the house is sufficiently decorated for me to start cooking- hopefully I'll have some more yummy stuff up here soon!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Kevin's All Day Chili

Recipe Review: This traditional chili is great for a cold day or watching football.

Last week was a perfect fall Sunday. Kevin and I just finished a morning run and it started to rain. I have come to love rainy days in California. It gives you the perfect excuse to stay inside, wear comfy clothes, and be a little lazy. One of the great things about being home all day is slow cooked food. Kevin decided to make his dads chili, (which he refers to as his "famous" chili) which takes a good 6 hours to cook. Its a simple recipe with only a few basic ingredients, its the long cook time that really makes it special.

Kevin's Famous 6 hour chili
yield: 5-6 servings

2 white onions, diced
2 green peppers, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 lbs ground beef
2 28oz cans whole peeled tomatoes
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
3 Tbsp chili powder
3 Bay Leaves
2 8oz cans kidney beans

Saute peppers and onions in olive oil until onions become translucent and peppers are soft. Brown meat and drain fat. Combine with peppers and onions in a large pot. Crush tomatoes by pressing over a strainer. Add tomatoes, 12oz of liquid and sauce. Reserve any additional liquid. Cooked covered on medium low for 1 hour.

Add chili powder and bay leaves, continue to cook uncovered an additional 2 hours.

Rinse beans and add to chili, cook 1 hour. If at this point chili is too thick add some of the reserved tomato juice to thin. Chili is best reheated on day two.

Whole Wheat Cornbread
makes one 9x9 pan
adapted from

1 1/2 cups corn meal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
5 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2-3 diced jalapeno peppers
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a 9"x9" baking pan.

In a medium sized bowl combine dry ingredients and jalapenos (this keeps the jalapenos evenly distributed through the bread rather than having them fall to the bottom or rise to the top).

In a small bowl whisk together eggs, milk, and oil. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Pour into pan.

Bake for 20-22 minutes until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean, an the top lightly browned. Cut into squares and serve warm.

I couldn't really taste the jalapenos in the corn bread (which was both confusing and disappointing) but with that aside, the bread had great flavor and tasted delish crumbled over the chili.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pink Velvet

Recipie Review: same great taste as red velvet but with a fun pink color

I was sorta over red velvet- I've baked them about a million times this year (Including the 6 dozen a made for a wedding- phew!) But it was requested for a friends birthday. I double checked that she liked pink- and used it as a chance experiment with gel colors. (I also got to play with fire... you'll see that pic a little later) The cupcakes weren't quite as hot pink as I would have liked, so I guess I'll keep experimenting, but they still tasted great. The red velvet recipe was a new one for me too, and I liked it much more than the one I was using before. This recipe seems a little less dense, and cake rose really nicely.

The baking supply store that I go to had some new fabulous edible glitter that I snagged. Its a little expensive but I really think that it makes the cupcakes look amazing.

Pink Velvet
adapted from
yield: 24 cupcakes

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tbsp liquid food coloring
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt 1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon white vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare muffin pan with paper liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, mixing well after each addition. In a small condiment cup, stir together liquid food coloring and cocoa powder until smooth and then add to the butter mixture.**

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour to butter mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Begin and end with flour.

In a small cup, combine baking soda and vinegar. Mixture will bubble and foam. Pour into the cake batter and mix until well incorporated.

** if you are using gel food coloring add it after the flour, a little at a time until desired color is achieved

printable recipe

How awesome is that picture? Lighting sparklers indoors is probably not one of the smartest things  I've ever done but I love the photo!!

I updated my cream cheese frosting recipe- before I was using a 2:1 cream cheese to butter ratio- I've upped the butter and it at 1:1 ratio. It has a very very mellow flavor- but the cream cheese really cuts the sticky sweetness of the powdered sugar in plain buttercream.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8oz cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter at room temperature
6-8 cups of powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk

Combine cream cheese and butter and cream until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar a little at a time until you reach your desired consistency. If frosting is too thick add milk to thin.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chocolate Mousse

Recipie Review: Light and airy chocolate mousse, I used it to fill cupcakes, but its great on its own.

I was hired by a friend to do cupcakes for a babyshower they were having at her work. Horay! Cupcake jobs make me happy. I found some awesome liners at Bake it Pretty (I have such a crush on that website, their stuff is the best), matched them with some blue non pareils, and we were in business! I did a home made funfetti by putting blue sprinkles into my vanilla cake, I filled the cupcakes with chocolate mousse, and topped with dark chocolate frosting. Yummmmmm! You can make your own custom funfetti by adding 1/4 cup of sprinkles to any vanilla cake recipe. You need to use the traditional sprinkles, rather than the non pareils for it to work right. It really dosen't effect the taste of your cake- just adds a fun pop of color.

Chocolate Mousse
yield: 8 servings
from: Ghiradelli

2 cups Heavy Whipping cream
12 oz bag semi sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup coffee, hot
4 eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar

Whip the cream until it forms light peaks, set aside in fridge.

Melt the chips a double boiler, over barely simmering water. Meanwhile whip the eggs and sugar until they are very light and fluffy, about 10 minutes.

Stir the coffee into the chocolate chips, the mixture will start to thicken. Quickly stir in the egg mixture, then fold in the whipped cream. Pour into cups and chill until firm, about two hours.

printable recipe

I had never made chocolate mousse before. It was pretty easy, especially if you have a kitchen aid mixer because it does most of the work for you. I was pretty pleased by how the cupcakes turned out! You can get the basic vanilla cake recipe that I used here, and the chocolate frosting recipe here.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

Recipe Review- If you like pumpkin this is the cupcake for you.

Optional game: Take a drink for every time I say "Pumpkin" in this post. (Disclaimer: you really probably shouldn't do this. Drinking that much would be hazardous to the safety of any baked goods. Do not operate an oven while under the influence of alcohol)

Oh yea its pumpkin time. I literally just can't get enough of everything pumpkin so it wasn't good enough to make just pumpkin cupcakes- I made pumpkin cupcakes, with pumpkin pie filling, and pumpkin cream cheese frosting. That's a whole lotta pumpkin- and that's the way I like it.

I already knew I would be making pumpkin cupcakes with pumpkin frosting (super easy, you just sub some canned pumpkin for some of the wet ingredients in your recipes. I will share mine at the end of the post) but gee that just wasn't enough. I briefly debated filling them with pumpkin mousse since I had good results from the chocolate mousse filled cupcakes that I made the week before. I don't know that just didn't seem special enough. I took a page from who used pumpkin pie filling as frosting, but instead I used it to fill the cupcakes. I had limited time to make these so I used a store bought pie and scooped the filling out. A quick turn in the mixer and my pumpkin pie filling was ready!

Pumpkin Cupcakes
adapted from "I like You: Hospitality Under the Influence" by Amy Sedaris 
yield: 24 cupcakes

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease or line a cupcake pan with paper liners.

In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla, salt, and baking powder. Add flour in three batches, alternating with the milk. Add pumpkin and mix until batter is smooth with no lumps, but do not over beat. 

Divide batter evenly among cups, and bake for 18- 20 minutes or until tops are just golden and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on rack to room temperature before frosting.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting
yield: frosts 24 cupcakes and then some

8oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
6 cups powdered sugar

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in pumpkin and vanilla.

Mix in powdered sugar a little at a time, gradually increasing speed until desired consistency is reached.

printable recipe 

I brought these to a pumpkin carving party that a friend hosted and they were quickly gobbled up! We carved pumpkins and then toasted the seeds and ate all sorts of pumpkin treats. Here are our jack-o-lanterns!

Happy Halloween Everyone!

PS-Just in case you were playing- you should have drank 22 times. I hope you weren't doing shots. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Brownie Stuffed Cookies

Recipe Review: woah. 

When I saw these on Bakerella I seriously had a small heart attack. How simple and genius and I had never seen it before. Why on earth haven't people been stuffing cookies all along?

Bakerella called these "pillow cookies" and made them jumbo sized. I did this at first, and while they tasted AMAZING I didn't like that they were oversized, and they didn't look aesthetically pleasing. I played around with different batches and different ways to combine the brownies and cookie dough before coming up with something that I liked.

Eventually I devised a way to make the cookies just about normal sized, with a bite of brownie in the middle. In person the cookies have noticable bump in the middle so you can tell that there is something in them- for whatever reason the photo doesn't relaly represent that, so I just wanted to warn you ahead of time that it's normal!

How to make brownie stuffed cookies

1. Bake some brownies.
  • I used fudge brownie mix- not really sure what kind, whatever was on sale. Use your favorite! You don't want the brownies to be too thick so be sure to bake them in an 13x9 pan. Be sure not to overbake them- they're gonna go in the oven again with the cookies, so if they are on the slightly underdone side its ok.
2. Make your cookie dough.
  • I've been baking chocolate chip cookies using the recipie on the back of the Nestle chocolate chip morsels bag since I was a kid. I never change it. My tips however are to let your butter soften to room temperature rather than microwaving it. The butter's temperature and consistancy makes a big difference in how the cookies turn out. Also bake the cookies on parchment paper, and always start with a cool baking pan or the cookies will spread too much and turn out thin.

3. Assemble cookie/brownie stacks.
  • Use a 1inch circle cookie cutter to cut out brownie circles. Scoop cookie dough into balls using a dough scoop.  Pinch a little bit of dough into a pea sized ball. Squish the brownie down a little to compress, but don't flatten completely. Stack ball of cookie dough directly on top, smoosh the cookie dough down on to brownie to get it to stick. You'll want the cookie to be directly on top because if it is off center the ball of dough will fall off in the oven. Flatten the pea sized dough and use it to stick the brownie to the sheet. 

4. Bake according to your cookie recipe, cool, and enjoy!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

BBQ Pulled Seitan with Maple Slaw

Recipe Review: Saucy and Tangy and full of flavor and protein, I didn't miss the meat!

This past weekend my good friend from high school visited San Diego to compete in a Triathlon. She chose to do the SheRox triathlon and raise money for ovarian cancer research in honor of her mother who is a survivor. Erica's mom and I went to the triathlon to cheer her on- and she did awesome! The Tri was an all women's race, and there were participants from ages 9 to 70. It was incredibly inspirational to see all the women out there racing for this cause, and all the people there supporting them.  Its actually not too late to donate! If you are interested in making a donation or want to know more check out Erica's fundraising page here.

Once the race was over she stayed with me for a few days and we got some serious eating of yummy things done. Erica is a vegetarian and opts for vegan whenever possible. I was stressed about finding vegan options for her, but turns out some of my favorite restaurants had some really great vegan options. We had breakfast (and mimosas) at The Naked Cafe, some awesome eggplant enchiladas at Ranchos Cocina, and the most incredible Ethiopian food from Muzita Abyssinian Bistro that we ate entirely with our hands.

For a long time (7 years!) I didn't eat any meat, but I ate fish so I had never learned to cook things like tofu, or veggie proteins. (I was also in high school/college so mom or the dining hall was the one doing the cooking anyways.) I fell off the wagon at the end of my spring semester freshmen year. I was sick all the time and started getting nosebleeds. Probably because I was eating a steady diet of grilled cheese, tuna sandwiches, beer, and not much else. I never went back to being veggie, but I'm totally open to meatless meals, and prefer fish over meat.

We cooked at home one night and made BBQ pulled seitan sandwiches with maple broccoli slaw. I had never tried a meat substitute other than tofu (which I don't like the texture of) so I was a little dubious. The seitan was packed in water, and once drained looked a lot like chicken. Plain and uncooked it tasted like bread, but with a more meat like texture. Also the seitan was more dense than tofu, which I liked. The meal was easy to make and really tasty. We bought most of the ingredients at Trader Joe's, with a quick side trip to Henry's Sprouts for the Seitan.

BBQ Pulled Seitan
serves 4

2 packages chicken style seitan
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red bell pepper
1 small orange bell pepper
1 medium onion, diced
18oz bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce
4 onion buns

12 oz package of your choice:
Broccoli or Cabbage Slaw
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1.4 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp celery seed
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste

Prepare the slaw first so it has some time for the flavors to soak in. In a medium bowl combine all Slaw ingredients. Toss well and refrigerate. 

Dice bell peppers, and onion and sauté in olive oil over medium heat 10 minutes until soft and fragrant.
Drain seitan and chop coarsely into strips. Add seitan and barbecue sauce to pan. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the sauce has absorbed.

Toast buns and top with seitan and slaw. Serve immediately.

printable recipe

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chicken Stew

Recipe Review: Home cooking- just like mom made. This is my comfort food. 

A bunch of times I've blogged about making recipes that we had when I was a kid. We had our staples, chicken and rice casserole, pumpkin cookies, my dads chili, but nothing is a more quintessential childhood food for me than chicken stew with parsley dumplings. It screams cold weather, home cooking, hearty comfort food. When I was a kid we never added potatoes and instead served this over rice. I skipped the dumplings this time because I was feeling lazy but they are super yum, and absorb all the rich flavors of the stew.

Chicken Stew with Dumplings
yield: 8 servings

6 cups chicken stock
5 chicken breasts, cubed
salt & pepper
3 cups carrots, sliced
3 cups celery, sliced
1 1/2 cups onion, diced
3 red potatoes, cubed
2/3 c flour
1 cup cold water

1 1/3 cups milk
4 cups bisquick
2 tablespoons parsley

Put chicken, stock, onion, salt and pepper in a large pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 30 minutes.

Add carrots and potatoes, simmer 10 minutes.

Mix flour and water in a small bowl. Stir flour mixture and celery into chicken mixture. Cook, stirring constantly until thickened.

In a medium bowl mix bisquick, milk and parsley until a soft dough forms. drop by spoonfuls onto boiling stew. Lower head and cook uncovered for 10-15 minutes. Cover and cook on low heat 10-15 minutes longer.

printable recipe

This always tastes about a hundred times better the second day, so don't judge it too harshly at first. Actually if you're ambitious make this a day ahead, but quit before the dumplings. Reheat the next day and cook the dumplings.

So I'm finally caught up with blogging! Much less idle time with the new job (which is a really good thing.) I can't believe that October is already half way over. This year has completely flown by.  I got a new issue of Fine Cooking recently and the cover story was Thanksgiving! I realized that by blogging almost every single thing that I cooked for thanksgiving last year I was setting myself up to not have anything to blog this year! I'm pretty strict with what goes on my plate at thanksgiving and don't really like to change it up. The traditional dishes are what I really love. I'll have to try some inventive desserts or appetizers this year so that I have something to write about!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Getting Crafty

Last month I did some cupcakes for a nautical themed baby shower. My friend Deana was organizing and she commissioned the cupcakes, and informed me that she had found the cutest cupcake toppers on Etsy. Sure enough the toppers were adorable, but the first thought that came to my mind was "I could make those" 

So without further ado- I'm delighted to introduce my Etsy shop:
stop in and get some cupcake toppers! I just finished a bunch of halloween designs:

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sicilian Seafood Stew

Recipe Review: Savory Seafood Stew with classic Italian flavors

It's Fall. I know this not from the calendar, or the weather (It was around 75 last weekend) but because I'm craving soups and stews. I haven't had this in years but suddenly I had a really intense craving for the seafood stew my mom used to make. It has the most amazing flavor, the oregano and the peppers give it a really unique taste that's hard for me to describe. (I know I know that was really helpful) Its not "fishy" at all, rather it's savory. I get really nervous putting clam juice into things because it smells so fishy out of the bottle, but don't be scared! I know this isn't the best photo- but this stuff is so good! (you try photographing seafood stew and making it look yummy- no easy task) Its pretty hearty on its own, but a side of french bread is nice so you have something to soak up the extra liquid with.
Sicilian Seafood Stew
yield: 4-6 servings
source: my mom

1 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup celery, chopped
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
large pinch of crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons fresh marjoram of 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
16 oz bottled clam juice
1 29 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup red wine
1/3 lb scallops, rinsed
1/3 lb shelled raw shrimp
1/3 lb white fish, cubed
2 teaspoons lemon juice
ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon capers

In a large soup over medium high heat pot saute onions in olive oil for 2 minutes.

Add celery, red and green peppers and saute for 2 minutes

Stir in garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, basil and marjoram. Lower the heat, over and cook for 2 minutes.

Add clam juice, tomatoes, and wine. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add seafood and cook for about 4 minutes until scallops are no longer opaque and the shrimp are just pink.

Stir in lemon juice and season with black pepper to taste

Top each serving with capers and serve.

printable recipe

This is a classic family recipe that I grew up eating. My mom got the recipe from a coworker- so the original source is unknown. I added some white fish which is something my mom didn't do but its a bit more economical than shrimp and scallops. Next time Kevin wants to try throwing in some mussels and making it more of a cioppino. Happy Fall! soups and stews, hot tea, PUMPKIN (!!!!) ahh I love this seaon.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Buffalo Wing Dip

Recipe Review: crack in the form of an appetizer.

Warning. This dip is dangerously addictive. I'm serious. Proceed with caution because once you make this you are going to want to make it again, and again and again. A friend used to make this dip at parties and people would go crazy for it. I bugged her for the recipe but she was always really vague and would never give it to me. Eventually a roommate discovered that identical results could reproduced by following the recipe from the Franks RedHot website. 

Buffalo Chicken Dip

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Franks Red Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce
1/2 cup ranch or blue cheese dressing
2 cups shredded chicken

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Start by adding softened cream cheese to a deep baking dish. Stir until smooth. Mix in cheese, hot sauce, and dressing. Stir in chicken. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes until hot and bubbly. 

I usually shred the chicken a day before. Just boil the chicken for about 30 minutes until cooked through,  and then use two forks to shred while still warm. The dip can also be made in advance, and refrigerated overnight, but will need double baking time. This is the perfect football party food. It has all the great tastes of wings rolled together. The flavors work well with tortilla chips, but it's also good on crackers, toast, or with veggies. I try to only make this when there will be other people around, because if I was alone I would probably eat the entire thing. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Nautical Cupcakes

It's A Boy!

Last weekend I made some baby shower cupcakes for a friend of a friend. It had a nautical theme, and she found the cutest little cupcake toppers on etsy. I used my go to vanilla cupcake recipe- along with a two toned vanilla butter cream and a strawberry filling. I tinted the frosting with Wilton Cornflower Blue Icing color. The baking cups I ordered off Bake it Pretty- my guilty pleasure baking supply website. 

Vanilla Cupcakes
adapted from "I like You: Hospitality Under the Influence" by Amy Sedaris
Makes 24 cupcakes

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease or line a cupcake pan with paper liners

in a large bowl cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla, salt, and baking powder.

Add flour in three batches, alternating with the milk. Add sour cream with last milk addition. Mix until batter is smooth with no lumps, but do not over beat.

Divide batter evenly among cups, and bake for 18- 20 minutes or until tops are just golden and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on rack to room temperature before frosting.

I just started a new job and now I have weekends free!! Basically I will have less time for blogging (which I used to do from the old job in my downtime) but more time for weekend cooking projects and cupcake jobs. I'm excited to be trying something new and hope that it'll work out to be more of a career. I wish my career was cupcakes and crafts all day long. (But hey at least that can be my weekends!)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Frosting

Recipe Review: Rich dark chocolate cupcakes with peppermint buttercream frosting.

About a month ago Kevin woke me up in the middle of the night (not exaggerating- this happened somewhere between 1am and 3am). Obviously this must have been for something really important right? No... It was to tell me that he wanted me to make dark chocolate cupcakes with peppermint frosting "Like a peppermint patty- but a cupcake." Awesomeeee- Can I go back to sleep now? He has mentioned these dream cupcakes multiple times since then, so I knew I had to make them for his birthday.

Last year I made Kevin birthday cupcakes themed for the Hartford Whalers- his favorite hockey team (that now is no longer). It was one of my early attempts at artful cupcakes, and they were cute... but not really professional looking. This year I knew I wanted to do a better job, so I made Whalers themed  cupcake toppers.


A note on cupcake toppers- I wish I could tell you that I have crafting superpowers, and that's why these turned out so well, but- Holy crap these were easy to make! And I even impressed myself with how well they turned out. People thought that they were store bought. Loveeee when that happens, its an awesome compliment. I followed these instructions from a tutorial on A couple lolly pop sticks, paper punches and a little glue gunning and I had custom Whalers cupcake toppers!

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from
yeild: about 30-32 cupcakes

2 cups boiling water
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 3/4 cups all purpose flower
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter at room temperature
2 1/4 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups dark chocolate morsels
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In small saucepan on stove boil water. Remove from heat and add cocoa, whisking until smooth. Set aside to cool.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, one at at time, mixing well after each addition. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the cocoa mixture, beating on medium low until batter is fully combined. Fold in chocolate morsels.

Bake for 18-20 minutes in cupcake pan lined with baking cups. Allow to cool before frosting.

printable recipe

For the buttercream icing I just subbed peppermint extract instead of vanilla, adding it a little bit at a time till I got the right taste. Make sure you buy peppermint extract, not just mint extract which is a mix of peppermint and spearmint so it basically tastes like toothpaste.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies

Recipe Review- make ordinary brownies extrodinary with rapsberry cheesecake topping!

Whattt??? A baked goods post that isn't about cupcakes?? Yep- I actually make other desserts too! I hadn't planned this as a blog, but I made some brownies that got rave reviews so I thought I'd share. I think I need to be up front and say that this is not a from scratch recipe. (gasp!) I needed to make gluten free brownies, and if you've even seen gluten free reciepes they are incredibly intimidating. I've never done any gluten free baking so I decided to play it safe and go with a mix- but I doctored it up a bit.

I chose the Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Brownie mix from Henry's. (I guess is going to be called Sprout's soon, but the sign still says Henry's for now.) After searching online I subbed the melted butter for vegetable oil, and the water for milk. The instructions suggested adding in mini chocolate chips, so I threw in some of those too. I also made a cheesecake topping with raspberry swirls. This could be added on top of any brownie recipe to change it up a little. I loved it! 

Raspberry Cheesecake Topping for Brownies
yield: enough topping for an 8x8 inch pan

8oz of cream cheese at room temperature
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup raspberry preserves

In a medium bowl beat cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Pour on top of uncooked brownies and smooth with a spatula for even distribution.  Drop dollops of raspberry preserves onto cheesecake mixture and swirl with a knife. Bake according to brownie recipe. 

How to make pretty swirly patterns: Drop dollops of raspberry jam onto the surface of the cheesecake. Using a rubber spatula or knife draw parallel lines across the surface of the cheesecake. Next cross those lines, alternating the direction each time to make pretty swirls. Don't mess with it too much or it will all blend together.

I used a round cookie cutter to cut the brownies, which made them look super cute, but wasted a bunch of brownie. Obviously I couldn't let something that yummy go to waste- so I had to eat the scraps!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

Recipe Review- The perfect summer cupcake- tastes just like a glass of pink lemonade.

I've taken a break from cupcakes lately. It's summer and with that comes a million social obligations and the calendar fills up fast. Also its the busiest season for my job so I've been putting in some extra hours. To top it all off we don't have air conditioning- its usually not too bad, but turn the oven on and it gets HOT. Well it had been about a month and I got the cupcake itch again. My good friend Liz was leaving her job to go back to school, so I decided to make some cupcakes to help her celebrate. I needed a summer-ey cupcake, that was refreshing and bright. Whats more summer than Lemonade! Specifically Pink Lemondae, just so I could make the cupcakes super pretty and girly for Liz.

After referencing various blogs online I deciding on adding powdered lemonade mix to my go to vanilla cupcake recipe. The result? Cupcakes that tasted exactly like lemondae! They were sweet with a little sour zing at the end. Really refreshing.

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes
adapted from Vanilla Cupcakes by Amy Sedaris
yield: 24 cupcakes

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup milk 
2 packets of Pink Lemonade flavor "On The Go" Crystal Light

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease or line a cupcake pan with paper liners.

In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add salt, and baking powder.

Add Crystal Light to the milk and stir until combined. Add flour in three batches, alternating with the milk mixture. Mix until batter is smooth with no lumps, but do not over beat.

Divide batter evenly among cups, and bake for 18- 20 minutes or until tops are just golden and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on rack to room temperature before frosting.
printable recipe

I frosted with a basic butter cream, and added another packet of crystal light to it. The frosting really absorbed the lemonade flavor so be careful and add it a little at a time. The cake batter tasted too sour before baking, but it mellowed a bunch so don't worry about that. I added a little bit of pink Wilton Gel Color to both the frosting and the batter, to give it a better pink color. I piped the frosting on with a closed star tip,  and then topped with some gummy candy that I got a local candy store.

So pretty! Love it :-)

P.S. feeling lazy? A bunch of the recipes that I referenced online were adding the crystal light to a boxed vanilla cake mix. I made them from scratch but I thought that I'd throw the info out there.