The Luck of the Irish

Green Velvet Cupcakes

I have been keeping a long list of things I should write about but nothing has sent me back to this blog until a baking experiment this week. I watch The Great British Bake-Off the second a new season is available on Netflix. The combination of Britishness, tea and the fact that these “competitors” are willing to help their fellow contestants whenever they need help make this a refreshing, and delicious, show to dig into. It also usually inspires me to attempt baking again. But, lacking a new season, another event inspired me. I was invited to a wine & dine with a St. Patrick’s Day theme. I chose to tackle Green Velvet Cupcakes and it’s the first thing I’ve cooked or baked in a long time that really made me feel like I’d made something delicious worth sharing.

I was expecting this recipe to just be red velvet cake but green. I was happy to find myself surprised. I’m not actually a big fan of red velvet cake. The idea always appeals more than the cake itself and I usually end up just eating as much of the cream cheese frosting around the cake itself as I can. So, green velvet cake was a pleasant surprise. It is tasty; nice and springy with a hint of chocolate. Plus, it’s green. Not a vivid green; more like a spring green. Novel enough to please but not so green I thought was I eating something alien.

The frosting though…that is what I am most proud of. I think it’s a type of buttercream frosting or at least that is what I’m calling it. I think I might be most proud of the fact I managed to make it without a stand mixer or killing my arm. Standing and running a hand mixer for 12 minutes doesn’t sound like a workout but it. is. This frosting is delicious (and so pretty). Nice and light with the right hint of sugar and vanilla but not feeling like I’m getting cavities by eating it (in fact, eating it with a spoon may have been something I did…without feeling sick afterwards. More like I’d ate whipped cream with a bit more oomph).

Yum! A bowl full of frosting.

Plus, it was just so nice to make something I liked again! I’ve enjoyed the few dishes I’ve made lately but nothing I felt like bragging about or sharing. It’s all been kind of…eh. Was this complicated and difficult to make? Yes but totally worth it. It tasted better than anything I’ve made in a long time. Happy St. Pat’s Day everyone from someone who was lucky enough to find some fun in the kitchen again this weekend.

Green Velvet Cupcakes
(can also be used to make a layer cake; I did cupcakes since I didn’t have the right pans to try a layered cake – maybe next challenge!)

Cupcakes: 
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, well shaken
1 tablespoon green liquid food coloring
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs, lightly beaten

Frosting:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Pinch fine salt
Green liquid or gel food coloring, optional
Green candies and sanding sugar for decorating, optional

Directions:
1) For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. BPut cupcake liners in the pan and set. aside.
2) Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
3) Whisk the buttermilk, food coloring and vanilla in a spouted measuring cup; set aside.
4) Beat the granulated sugar and butter in a stand mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand mixer) on medium speed until very light in color and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
5) With the mixer still running, slowly add the eggs and beat until fully incorporated. Reduce the mixer speed to the lowest speed; with it running, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/2 of the buttermilk mixture, then 1/2 of the remaining flour mixture, then the remaining buttermilk mixture, then the remaining flour mixture. Scrape down the sides and beat until well mixed.
6) Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins. Bake until slightly puffed and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool entirely before frosting.

For the Frosting:
1) Put the flour in a small saucepan. Vigorously whisk in about 1/2 cup of the milk, making sure to get the whisk into the edges of the pan, until you have a smooth, thick paste. (This step keeps the flour from clumping.) Slowly whisk in the remaining milk until fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth.
2) Cook over medium heat, whisking continuously, until the mixture is very thick, about 5 minutes. (Toward the end of the process, the mixture will become a thick paste; it may seem to be forming lumps, but whisk vigorously and the lumps will disappear.)
3) Scrape the frosting into a bowl, press plastic wrap onto the surface and refrigerate until cool, about 45 minutes.
4) Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer), beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
5) Add the cooled flour mixture a tablespoon at a time and beat until smooth.
6) Switch to the whisk attachment (or continue with the hand mixer), add the vanilla, salt and 3 to 5 drops food coloring if using and whip until very light and fluffy, like thick whipped cream, up to 10 minutes with a stand mixer or 12 minutes with a hand mixer.
7) Frost and decorate the cupcakes (be generous with the frosting!)

To assemble (if making a layer cake):
1) Place one layer on a cake plate, spread frosting on top and repeat with the 2 remaining layers.
3) Frost the sides and decorate with candies and sanding sugar if using.

Cook’s Note
This recipe can instead be baked in three 8-inch layers or two 9-inch layers.

[Thanks to my P.E.O. sister Sue Colombo for the recipe which I believe came from the Food Network originally!]

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Making It Work (when you didn’t buy the right stuff)

I am usually meticulous in checking the recipe I mean to make vs. what I have in my cupboards vs. what goes on my shopping list. But, every once in a while, my brain fills in the gaps in a less than perfect way. This week’s recipe is tasty though a pain to make, to be honest, and won’t go into the keep pile any time soon. However, it was a success in that I had to make the recipe work when I didn’t actually have all the right ingredients or the right amount of ingredients.

I’m a stickler for recipes. I have no instincts in the kitchen, I freely admit that. If the recipe doesn’t tell me to do something or measure something, it isn’t getting done. One of my favorite lines from a book is about this. In discussing learning to cook the character is using a beginner’s cookbook and she notes, “It was just the thing; the writer assumes you know nothing about cookery and writes useful hints – “When adding eggs, break the shells first.” I have progressed beyond that level but I’ve never gotten to a point where I can just whip something up without a recipe telling me useful things.

So, I panic when I’m in the middle of making something and realize I don’t have the thing I’m supposed to have. That happened multiple times with this recipe. One, I bought chicken breasts and not ground chicken. This mostly worked out and I would argue I probably like the recipe better because of it. I’m not the biggest ground chicken fan. Two, I thought I had more soy sauce and honey in my cupboards so I did fancy math to re-portion all the ingredients to make the sauce. Three, in my quest to never chop anything, I bought the wrong kind of peas because I wanted the peas already portioned out and didn’t get fresh ginger so I needed to do the fun math to figure out the dried to fresh ratio when it comes to herbs (is there an app for this yet? Because I do it all the time and it’s not something I think I do right at all).

All of this worked out in the end and the dish is tasty but it stressed me out while cooking. I would also argue this recipe, in its efforts to be a healthier alternative, is overly complicated. I am sure you could buy ready made sauce that would be fine to use and I’m not convinced baking the mixture after cooking it added much to the dish itself and made me turn my oven on in August in Florida. So, lesson learned. Double check the recipe, its ingredients versus what I have and what’s on the shopping list to avoid stress in the kitchen for this cook who likes to actually weigh ingredients for accuracy.

Chicken Teriyaki Bake (Original recipe: SkinnyMs)

Ingredients:

For the Sauce:
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup cold water
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch

For the Bake:
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 pound ground chicken (or as I do, 1 pound diced chicken breasts)
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced large
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced (or 1/2 tsp ground ginger)
1 cup broccoli, chopped small
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1 cup snow peas, cut in half
3 cups cooked brown rice

Directions:

For the Sauce:

  1. In a small sauce pot, combine the soy sauce, honey, 1/2 cup of the water, ginger, and garlic powder. Bring to a boil.
  2. While the sauce is boiling, combine the last 1/4 cup of water and cornstarch in a small bowl (Krystal’s note: Try and do this in a liquid measuring cup. The bowl I used got more of this on the stove than in the sauce…). Whisk well and gradually pour into the boiling sauce, stirring the sauce constantly.
  3. Reduce to a simmer, and continue to stir the sauce until thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the Bake:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9X13 inch casserole dish with non-stick spray and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the sesame oil on medium heat. Once hot add the ground chicken, breaking up into smaller pieces as it cooks.
  3. When no pink remains in the chicken, add onion, garlic, ginger, broccoli, carrot, and snow peas. Cook until onions soften.
  4. Add the rice and mix well to combine.
  5. Stir in the sauce, until all ingredients are coated well.
  6. Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

 

Tackling seafood in the kitchen

I am always apprehensive to take on seafood in my kitchen. One, because I haven’t much experience cooking with it and two, living in an apartment, the smell is a bit of a deterrent as well. But I really like a lot of seafood (I’ve successfully made crab cakes before)and it’s one of my goals this year to try to get brave and cook more seafood at home. So, this weekend I tackled shrimp.

Shrimp was on sale at Publix which is why it was the one I decided to try this weekend. The guy at the seafood counter enjoyed trying to help me figure out what I needed (he was very patient with me since I didn’t have a clue what I needed really). I bought it deveined but not peeled so I did have to take the tails off and peel them all before cooking. It was my favorite task I’ve done in the kitchen but it wasn’t awful and went better than I expected actually.

What actually failed is I tried to use frozen zucchini noodles for this recipe and I didn’t have them thawed enough which caused some issues. In the future, I’ll cook the noodles as the package notes and then integrate into the recipe. I think that would work fine and still saves me from the spiralizer (which isn’t hard to use but is a pain in the butt to clean afterward). This recipe had a bit more of a kick than I expected but it’s still tasty and the shrimp cooked up so easily. I was impressed by how quickly they turn that shrimp pink! While I don’t think I’ll be hanging onto this recipe, I have got over the fear of shrimp in the kitchen so I have some other recipes I hope to try this year!

[no picture this week as 1) I forgot to take one and 2) Mine did not look as good as the site I got the recipe at so go there and see their pretty dish!]

Zucchini Pasta with Shrimp & Tomatoes (original recipe here)
Servings: 6 (which…I disagree with. Mine came out to more like 4)

Ingredients
3 medium zucchini, remove most of the peeling (or zucchini noodles already made)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice (I used the kind in a bottle – it was fine)
1 cup halved grape tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 pound raw shrimp (thawed if frozen), peeled and deveined

Directions

  1. To make pasta, attach zucchini, one at a time, to a vegetable spiralizer. Use the smaller holes for spaghetti.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook until opaque and pink, 2-3 minutes. Place shrimp on a plate and cover.
  3. Add the garlic to the pan and sauté 1 minute. Add remaining olive oil, zucchini pasta, salt, black pepper, red pepper, and lemon juice, and tomatoes, toss to combine. Continue cooking until pasta is tender, about 5 – 7 minutes.
  4. Place shrimp on top of pasta, cover skillet and remove from heat. Allow to set for 1 minute, ensuring shrimp is hot.

Getting a healthy(ish) Cheeseburger Fix

I adore cheeseburgers. It’s one of those dishes that I am always in the mood for, no matter what. I will never say no to getting a cheeseburger. It may be a bit of a downfall though when trying to eat healthier. So, I have collected LOTS of “healthy” cheeseburger recipes over the years. Most are just deconstructed salads than never really satisfy a craving for a big old burger. But, I tried a new recipe out last week that did a pretty good job finally!

First of all, I love a dish that comes portion controlled out of the gate. I am hit or miss about measuring out portions as well as I should be these days. I am trying to get back into my good habits but it’s not going well. So, this recipe immediately wins because it uses a handy muffin tin to portion out the correct amounts for me! I also like that the serving for this is two “muffins” so basically you get two cheeseburger sliders for dinner. I also liked the meat mixture to create the “burgers” – adding the mustard into the meat mixture really adds a nice little kick and then the ketchup and pickle on top make this an excellent cheeseburger substitute. It also comes together really easily with a fairly small amount of chopping for once. This one went onto the keeper pile for sure!

Cheeseburger Mini Loaves

Mine aren’t very neat but they were tasty!

Cheeseburger Mini Loaves (original recipe here)
Makes 6 servings (2 loaves per serving)

Ingredients
1 lb. raw extra-lean ground beef (4% fat or less)
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup whole-wheat panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup (about 2 large) egg whites or fat-free liquid egg substitute
3 tbsp. ketchup
2 tsp. yellow mustard
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray (use a paper towel to make sure the spray is spread all over the inside of the cups).
  2. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix all ingredients except cheese. Evenly fill muffin pan, and smooth out the tops.
  3. Bake until firm with lightly browned edges, about 35 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake until melted, about 3 minutes.
  5. Optional: Serve with a dollop of ketchup or mustard and a dill pickle chip on top

Not hitting the spot (but it’s me, not the recipe)

There is nothing wrong with this recipe really. Other than it really should have told me to “half-moon” cut all the vegetables, and not just the zucchini, it’s very cool looking and easy to make. Lots of chopping but let’s face it, all recipes have lots of chopping. But, it’s just not hitting the spot for me this week. Also, and I find this very rarely, it’s a recipe that is not holding up as leftovers. I may make this again when I have company and it will all get eaten at one sitting as it was really best right out of the oven. I will also serve it with a side of spaghetti and sauce. It is a dish that needs some sauce to really make it sing.

Primavera Stuffed Chicken (original recipe on Delish.com)
4 servings

Primavera Stuffed Chicken

There is chicken there among the giant pieces of veggies (fixed the recipe to deal with that next time around!)

Ingredients:

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
salt
ground black pepper
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 zucchini, halved and thinly sliced into half moons
3 medium tomatoes, halved and thinly sliced into half moons
1 yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced and halved
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced into half moons
1 c. shredded mozzarella

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400º. Place chicken on a cutting board and make 5 slits in each breast, being careful not to cut through completely. Place on sheet pan.
  2. Drizzle oil over chicken and season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.
  3. Stuff each chicken breast with zucchini, tomato, bell pepper, and red onion.
  4. Sprinkle each chicken breast with mozzarella.
  5. Bake until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink, 25 minutes.
  6. Serve with a side of pasta and sauce.

I keep trying lettuce wraps…

Sigh. I love bread. I really do. In every form they have figured out how to make bread, I adore it. But it does not adore me so well so I try to be wary of eating bread with every meal. So, lettuce wraps. Everyone…I keep trying. I think there is some secret to using lettuce as a bread substitute I have not cracked yet. I think part of it is Publix fails in having the kind of lettuce everyone suggests to use (Bibb) so I usually am trying to make iceberg lettuce work and let’s be honest…it never works for much of anything. So, I’ll keep trying!

This recipe is tasty and if anyone has Philly cheesesteak cravings, this should satisfy it! The recipe lightens the recipe a lot and it was super simple, always a bonus. I also always enjoy when I get to have steak at home (with cheese!).

Philly Cheesesteak Lettuce Wrap

Requires a fork since I fail at lettuce wrapping

Philly Cheesesteak Lettuce Wraps (original recipe on SkinnyMs.)
Serves 4 (with two wraps a piece)

Ingredients
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound lean steak (I used the kind they sell for stir-frys as it’s already cut!)
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dry oregano leaves
1 yellow onion, sliced into strips
1 green bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 red bell pepper sliced into strips
8 large lettuce leaves (I used iceberg – it fails. Try for the original recipe recommendation: bibb lettuce)
1/2 cup shredded provolone cheese (I have some Italian mix as Publix didn’t have a straight provolone option to buy)

Directions

  1. In a large skillet over high heat, add the olive oil. Once hot, add the steak and season with salt and pepper. The oil will splatter so be on guard for that!
  2. Add the oregano, onion, and the green and red bell peppers. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until the beef is cooked through and the peppers and onions are soft.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the lettuce cups and sprinkle cheese on top. Serve hot so the cheese melts for you.

Curry Away

I have been reading. And cooking. And not sharing so I’m sorry. I am lining up a bunch of posts this evening to get me into June and hopefully, I can keep up on top of things better this summer (hope springs eternal).

I was ready to try another curry. This one is a bit more traditional than my first curry attempt but I liked it better. What I feel I might have done wrong though is this was a bit soupy (and didn’t match the picture on the blog where the recipe) but I found I liked the added bonus of the “soup” with the rice I served it with. This is still quite mild (because I am a wimp) so it was a nice step up from my first curry. It also made a ton! So 6 servings easily.

Coconut Curried Chicken over Brown Rice

A nice big portion is always a bonus in my book!

One-Pot Curried Coconut Chicken (original recipe on SkinnyMs.)
6 servings (1/6 of the recipe and served with 1 cup brown rice)

Ingredients
1.5 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized cubes
2 tablespoons curry powder (I used yellow curry powder, a red would make it spicier)
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 white onion, cut into strips
1 can lite coconut milk
1 red bell pepper, seeded, stemmed and cut into strips
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1.5 tablespoons honey

Directions

  1. In a large pan over medium-low heat, sauté the onion and bell pepper in olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring every so often until onions are softened and translucent, for about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the rest of the spices, garlic and chicken pieces, and cook for about 3 minutes, until spices are fragrant and the chicken is a bit golden on the outside.
  3. Add the coconut milk and sweetener, stir, increase heat to high and bring almost to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
  4. Serve over brown rice.