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!