Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cindy's Sweet Potato Casserole

My friend Cindy gave me this recipe a few years ago and every Thanksgiving my family asks that I make it for them.  It's so damn good you can't stop eating it. The rich butter flavor in the sweet potatoes combined with the brown sugar topping is to die for.  The only catch is that it's a bit fattening but hey, you have to splurge once in awhile right?

If you need to take a dish to a potluck or family gathering and want something easy to make this is the recipe for you.  I guarantee it'll be a hit.

Cindy's Sweet Potato Casserole:

3-5 cups mashed sweet potatoes (this is about 6 medium to large sweet potatoes)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup softened cubed butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Okay, first you've got to bake the sweet potatoes.  Cindy suggests boiling them but I prefer to bake them instead.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking pan with aluminum foil.  The reason for this is because the sweet potatoes will drip and you don't want to spend the afternoon scrubbing the hardened liquid off of the pan.

Clean each potato under running water to remove any dirt.  Poke each potato with a fork approximately 6 times (some cooks instruct you to stab the potato but that sounds too violent. I'm a kinder, gentler cook/baker! lol) This allows steam to escape.

Put the potatoes on the lined baking pan.  Bake for approximately an hour.  Baking time will vary depending on size of each potato.  The smaller ones will bake faster so be sure to check them by poking them with a fork.  If the fork goes in and out easily, that means it's done.

Allow potatoes to cool until you can handle them.  Peel skin off, put them in a large bowl, and mash them.  Beat together the mashed potatoes and first 6 ingredients.  Pour into a lightly greased 9" x 12" pan (or glass casserole dish or foil tin if you're going to leave it at a potluck).

For the topping:
Cut the butter into the other ingredients (except the pecans) with 2 knives (I used my's faster)  until it's crumbly.  If it's not crumbly, add a little more flour.  Add the pecans and sprinkle over the sweet potatoes.  (You can refrigerate it overnight to bake later if you want, just make sure it's covered)

Bake uncovered in an oven for 45-50 minutes until browned and bubbly.

That's it!  It's a simple and delicious dish.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Cherry-Filled Pastry Pillows

Wow, check this out.  Two blog posts in ONE weekend! I took a break from my classes to cook and bake my heart out.  Actually, I also was practicing taking photographs too.  Right now in my photography class we're working on taking pictures of products.  I think the next few classes we will focus on food.  I'm kind of gearing myself up for that.

Anyways on to baking; I found this recipe at the check out lane where all the impulse items are located.  I briefly glanced at the chocolate candy and other sweets but my attention was immediately drawn to the magazine rack.  I love browsing through food magazines.  And yes, I have even been known to pick up a National Enquirer on occasion but invariably, the beautiful food covers catch my eye.  As I flipped through the magazine (can't remember the title), I saw the recipe for these beautiful fruit filled pastries and had to try it.  It only called for a few ingredients so it was love at first sight.  I looked it up on the internet and found this one from Better Homes and Garden.

Recipe from Better Homes and Garden Magazine 2009:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened (not melted)
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened and cut up
1 can cherry pie filling (you can also use 1/4 cup raspberry, apricot, peach, or strawberry preserves)
1/4 cup Almond paste (I didn't use this and they came out fine)
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon water
Coarse sugar or pearl sugar (I sprinkled regular sugar over the pastries)

In a small bowl, combine flour and salt; set aside.  In a medium bowl beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until combined.  Add flour mixture.  As cream cheese and butter mixture gets combined with the flour you'll find it is going to be pretty unruly.  The dough kept creeping up and I had to keep pushing it down.  When completely mixed, divide dough in half.  Cover and chill about 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  On a lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough at a time until 1/4 inch thick. Cut dough into 2 inch squares.  I used a square cookie cutter and it worked like a charm.  The recipe says to put the squares onto ungreased cookie sheets but I put mine on parchment paper and then onto the cookie sheets.  I'm not a big fan of scrubbing pots and pans after I've baked and have found that parchment paper works wonders when it comes to shortening the cleanup time.

Since I used cherry filling, I put 3 cherries & some filling on each square.  The recipe says to put a scant 1/4 tsp of preserves onto each square AND 1/4 tsp of almond paste.  I suppose I could have done that too but I'm a rebel in the kitchen.  I'm just so wild. lol (and a complete dork).  Maybe that's why my pastry puffs came out so messy? Eh, who cares? They still look good right?

In a small bowl beat together egg and water.  Brush edges of squares with egg mixture. Top each with a second dough square. Using a fork, gently press edges to seal.  Brush tops of pillows with egg mixture.  Sprinkle lightly with sugar.  Bake for 10 to 13 minutes or until golden brown.  I highly recommend baking them until they are golden brown.  If you do that they'll hold their shape better and not shrink and get wrinkly.

Transfer to wire racks to cool.  If you follow the directions exactly how the magazine says you should, you'll end up with about 52 cookies.  I ended up with about 24 because I made them a little larger.

To store: Layer pillows between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container.  Store in the refrigerator.

The pastry puffs tasted really good but I think the next time I make them I'm going to use an icing to top them instead of sugar.  Since the dough has no sugar in it and I just think that icing would be a nice complement to pastries.  If you want to try my suggestion, here is a recipe for pop tart icing.  Let me know how it goes!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Chili con Turkey

Wow, it's been four months since I've blogged and miss you guys.  I've missed baking, cooking, and just goofing off on Twitter too.  First I had knee surgery and that kept me from pretty much being able to do much.  Then later, it wasn't that I couldn't be on my feet, I just had no time because I was working 40 hours a week and going to physical therapy 3 times a week.   Then I got a wild hair and decided to sign up for two college courses; Photoshop CS5 and Commercial Photography.  What the heck was I thinking???  I always seem to bite off more than I can chew.  This is the drawback to having the type of personality that I have have (Orange). I jump into the fire with both feet and then pay the price later.  But it's not like it's all bad.  I mean I'm learning A LOT.  It's just not easy because both of my teachers give TONS of homework and it leaves very little time to do much of anything else.  But hey, that's ok.  It'll help improve my photography skills and when I screw up, I've got Photoshop to clean up my mistakes right?  Don't let tell my photography teacher that though, he'll just give me more homework for being a smart ass.

Well, it's finally getting chilly here in Arizona.  Cold for us is 60 degrees.  I know those of you on the East coast are snickering about right now but hey, we're used to it being over 100 degrees most of the year here.

This weekend was a cloudy, windy and rainy one so of course what better way to warm up than to make some delicious chili.  I scoured the internet for recipes that wouldn't require a whole lot of work and ingredients.  As I've said before, I'm all about easy.  Some recipes called for the use of beer and even vodka.  I like beer but I don't like it in my food and vodka? Umm...yuck.  Also, my family doesn't like cumin or coriander.  I, on the other hand, LOVE cumin.  I also love fresh cilantro so that makes me the lone ranger in our household because nobody likes it.  I read in the New York Times that to most, cilantro tastes like soap.  So, in this chili recipe, you'll find no beer, vodka, cumin, or coriander or cilantro as a garnish.  I adapted it to suit my family's tastes and also decided to use ground turkey instead of the meat suggested in the recipe to cut down on the calories.  But you know what?  It tastes pretty darn good anyway! And even better yet, it's simple!

Chili con Turkey recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated recipe:

1 ea 14.5 oz can of chicken broth
1 ea 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes, with juice
1 ea 29 oz. can of pureed tomatoes
2 ea 16. oz can of kidney beans, drained
1 ea 7 oz. can of diced green chilies
1 ea 7-3/4 oz can of El Pato brand sauce (Salsa de chile fresco)(if this isn't available in your area, you can substitute some salsa instead)
1/2 of 4 oz can of diced jalapeƱos (use the whole can if you like your chili HOT)
1 large onion, chopped
6 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1 green bell pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup chili powder
Salt & pepper to taste

Chop up onions and garlic.  Cut up bell pepper into 1/2 inch pieces and remove seeds.

In a large skillet pan, add oil, ground turkey, bell pepper, garlic, onion, El Pato sauce, and chili powder.  I also used garlic salt and black pepper (Use however much to suit your taste).  Cook it all together until the turkey is browned.  For those of you who don't know what El Pato Sauce is, click here for a picture of the can.  You'll find it either in the tomato sauce area or the ethnic foods (mexican) area of the grocery store.

Pour the turkey and vegetable mixture into a large pot.  Add beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, green chilies, chicken broth, and jalapeƱos.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for an hour.  Remove cover and continue to simmer for an hour longer, stirring occasionally until chili is a dark, rich, and slightly thickened.  Add more salt if needed.  Serve in a bowl with lime, cilantro (yay!) and/or a dollop of sour cream.  I baked sweet corn bread to accompany this meal.

You can find the recipe for the cornbread here on my blog.  So there you have it.  Easy turkey chili in less than 3 hours.  You'll have plenty of leftovers for later too. Yum, I'm going to have mine for lunch tomorrow!


Monday, July 30, 2012

Ouch! Knee Surgery For The Butch in the Kitchen

You're probably thinking..WHAT IS THIS?? A picture of a knee in bandages on a food blog??? Uh, yeah, that's MY knee, to be specific.  I had knee surgery on July 16th  to fix a torn meniscus.  Don't ask me how I tore it because I have no idea.  The only thing I can think of is that my body is starting to pay me back for all those years I played tennis.  The punishment from playing on asphalt may be taking it's toll now that I'm older.

Needless to say, I haven't been able to bake or cook and this has made me both sad and anxious.  The most I'd been able to do is lay on the couch and tweet recipes that I found using Pulse and Zite on my iPad.

Tweeting about food is about as close to baking that I did the first week after surgery. This is week two now in recovery and with the help of some sweet (and not to mention pretty) physical therapists, I'm feeling more like myself.  I ditched the crutches today and can almost walk normal!! Woohoo!!

Since I haven't been baking, my family is feeling the absence of baked goods in the house.  I have to admit that I've missed it too.  My daughter couldn't take it any longer and, as I type this blog post, is in the kitchen baking Nutella Filled Sugar cookies.  In this household, everyone, including the pit bull, has a sweet tooth.  What better way to take care of that craving than baking these!  You can find the recipe here on my blog.

If my blog post seems a little disjointed it's because my daughter keeps calling me to help guide her as she makes the cookies.

As you can see from my half eaten cookie, it's delicious.  Take a look at all that sweet Nutella nestled deep inside. Mmmmmm Gawd, it tastes soooooo good!! I tell you, there's nothing like freshly baked goodies.

Anyways, time to finish this blog and go have another cookie.  I'll start posting again soon.  I have a great recipe for my mother's Shrimp Patties that I'd like to share with you.

See you soon!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Strawberry Upside Down Cake

It's summer and lots of my favorite berries are in season...strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, & raspberries. What better way to take advantage of these delicious fruits than by baking with them?

I found a photograph of this cake on Pinterest, which then took me to a site called  When I saw that it only called for four ingredients, baby, I HAD to try it!  The simplicity of the recipe reminded me of the kinds of desserts you'd find at a family picnic. You know what I mean.  There's always some aunt or relative that shows up with something she baked that looks like it's made from scratch and then you find out it's a super simple recipe full of short cuts. But hey, who cares as long as it tastes good!  If ever you're in a hurry to throw something together for a picnic or family gathering and you want it to be a hit, try baking this.

2 cups crushed fresh strawberries
1 (6 ounce) package strawberry flavored gelatin mix
3 cups miniature marshmellows
1 (18 ounce) yellow cake mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Spread crushed strawberries on the bottom of a 9" x 13" baking pan.

Evenly sprinkle strawberries with dry gelatin powder.

Top with miniature marshmellows.

Prepare cake mix according to directions on the package.  Spread batter evenly over marshmellows.

Bake for approximately 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Allow cake to cool then run a knife around the pan to loosen cake from the sides. Turn cake out onto a serving tray.  Store cake in the refrigerator.

I took these photographs while the cake was still warm.  As you can see, the juices from the strawberry drip beautifully over the cake like glaze.  Once you refrigerate it though, the gelatin sets and it's a tiny bit firm. So, if you're going to bake it for a party or a picnic, bake it the same day so it'll be pretty like this.  If you decide to bake it the day before and refrigerate it, don't worry, it'll still taste good but just won't be as pretty.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Easy Banana Bread

I love simple.
I love sweets.
I love a recipe makes me smile down to my feets.

I bet you didn't know that I wrote poetry huh? Well, I don't really. Can you tell? I mean, what poet uses the word, feets? And what kind of baker puts a photo of their feet on a food blog???? One that can and does! It's MY blog after all. 

You do have to admit that feets does sound kind of cute right? Couldn't you see a big ole' butch telling her femme, "Aw, look at your cute little feets?" *Stops writing to crack up laughing* 

Did you know that the word actually exists? It does. Just look it up in the Urban dictionary. The definition of feets is:  "things at the end of your legs." Good enough.  

Time to stop goofing off with this nonsensical chatter about silly stuff. You didn't stop by this blog to see poetry or what my feet look like in socks. What irony though; did you notice in the picture that my socks say "No Nonsense?" lol.  

I had some really ripe bananas that were destined for the garbage if I didn't do something with them soon. Not wanting them to go to waste, I searched and searched online for a recipe that didn't call for a ton of ingredients because I wasn't in the mood to go to the grocery store. I also wanted a recipe that was easy.  We all know I'm all about easy. I also didn't want to have to use a whole lot of butter either.  I'm still trying to lose weight but still want to have my cake and eat it too...literally. Hey, I've managed to lose 10 lbs so far despite sweets being part of my daily diet. Moderation is the key. I'll admit that sometimes the call of the cookie gets a bit much and I do indulge but the pounds are coming off slowly but surely.

Here is the recipe that I used and will give a big thumbs up! It's easy, calls for only 9 ingredients (I added walnuts), and tastes really good.  The bread is moist, flavorful, and will get gobbled up quickly.  It's also great with coffee.

1/2 cup salted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
4 ripe bananas, finely crushed
1-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1.  Cream together butter and sugar.

2.  Add eggs and bananas.

3.  Sift together flour, soda, and salt.  Add to creamed mixture.  Add vanilla.

4.  Pour into greased and floured loaf or bundt pan.

5.  Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Nutella Filled Sugar Cookies

A few weeks ago a friend sent me an invite to join Pinterest. Not knowing much about it, I joined and wow!  I didn't realize there were so many recipes to be found.  They're not listed but rather you find them via photographs that people have "pinned" on their boards.  It's like a foodie paradise but so much more.  Pinterest is pretty cool in that it's a creative way to express yourself via repinning other images that people have on their boards. Here is a screenshot of a few of mine. As you can see, I have food oriented things and other themed ones like photography, butch-femme plus many others that aren't visible in the screenshot.  So you're probably wondering why I'm talking about Pinterest, well, the reason is because I've found some really cool recipes there and think you might enjoy it too.

Follow me on Pinterest.

I've also found recipes using PULSE, the graphical news application for Iphones, Ipads, and Android devices. If you follow me on Twitter, you've seen many of the recipes that I tweet using this application. The cool thing about it is that you can follow other people's blogs or news sources and get immediate updates as soon as they get posted.  I love the app and use it everyday in my search for new recipes.

Add me to Pulse.
Another reason for all this talk about apps and social media (Pinterest, Twitter, & Pulse) is first, to remind you to add me (Pulse), follow me (Twitter), and pin me (Pinterest) to get updates when I post, and second, if it weren't for these Social Networking tools, I'd never have found this wonderful recipe for Nutella filled sugar cookies to share. If you're a foodie like I am, these apps are definitely a way to keep up with your food porn habit. You can thank me later. lol

Now on to the main event!  For those of you who have never tried the yummy hazelnut and chocolate spread called Nutella, you've been missing out.  You are also referred to as a Nutella virgin. Yep, there's a name for you. If you don't believe me, Google "Nutella Virgin." To be honest, I hadn't tried it either until I found the recipe and decided to bake the cookies.  I'd heard people rave and go on about Nutella but never understood why until I tasted it.  It's creamy, chocolaty, very, very sweet and has a flavor to die for.  I'm going to conveniently skip over the number of calories in each tablespoon because we don't want to think about big numbers and sad things. We want to bake and be happy!

Nutella-filled Sugar Cookies Recipe from Buns In My Oven blog:

1/2 cup Nutella
2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
14 tablespoons (1-3/4 sticks) salted butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

I'll do my slightly different version of the instructions, especially since I made a mistake in measuring the Nutella which caused me have to make huge cookies.  I'd like to add that no one in my family complained about this.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a teaspoon, measure and scoop dollops of Nutella onto the parchment paper NOT a tablespoon like I did. Also, the process of making these cookies is a little messy. The Nutella is creamy and will probably get all over your fingers.  But not to worry, just lick it off!

As you can see, I'm already making a mess, but look, once they're on the paper they're so pretty!

Once you've filled your tray with dollops of the Nutella, place in the freezer for 15 minutes.  On the day I baked, it was already pretty warm in the kitchen so I left the Nutella in the freezer and scooped each one out as I made the cookie dough balls. It was a bit tedious though.  You can pull the whole tray out and if they get too soft, return the tray back to the freezer.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In large bowl and using a mixer, beat together the butter and 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar until light and fluffy, approximately 3 to 5 minutes.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and add vanilla.

Turn the mixer to low and gradually beat in the flour mixture until combined, scraping the bowl to make sure everything is mixed.

Place 1/3 cup sugar into a small bowl.

Because the dough was so sticky, probably due to the warmth in my kitchen, I couldn't follow the original instructions exactly. So the following is what I did:

Dust the top of a cutting board with flour and pat a ball of approximately 2 tablespoons of dough on it until it is flat. Using the thinnest metal spatula you have in the kitchen, lift a mound of chilled Nutella from the baking sheet in the freezer and put it on top of your dough.  Wrap the dough around the Nutella and form into a ball (I probably could have dusted my hands and achieved the same results as the original instructions but I didn't think of until now (duh). See, this is why I'm not a chef...but it's what makes me adorable right?).

Seal the edges.  Place the dough ball in the sugar and coat it.  Place the cookie onto the prepared baking sheet. Space the cookies about 2 inches apart because they will spread as they bake.  Repeat.

Bake the cookies 10 to 13 minutes, one sheet at a time, rotating from front to back halfway through baking. The edges and bottom will start to turn brown when they are done.  The centers will be soft and puffy.

Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack.   Tip: I slid the parchment paper with the whole batch of cookies right onto a wire cooling rack and let them cool rather than move them individually with a spatula.

My giant sized cookie dough balls! lol

Mmmmmm, right out of the oven!!! 

Because my cookies were meal size, they served as my breakfast on my way to work with some coffee...sooo delicious! What a sweet way to start the day!!


Friday, April 6, 2012

Easy Shrimp and Pea Risotto

I felt like titling this blog post, "Fear and loathing in the kitchen," because there are just some foods I'm afraid to cook and some equipment *cough, cough* (last year's xmas bread machine gift that's still in the box) that I'm afraid to use.  Risotto is..err..was one of those foods.  The first time that I tried it was a few years ago at a  teeny tiny restaurant called Risotteria in Greenwich Village in New York City.

It's located on Bleecker Street and as you can see from the photo, it's a busy, busy place.  The gluten-free food is delicious and the risotto is out of this world. Yes, it's that damned good. My mouth is watering just thinking of it!  If you're ever in the city be sure to stop by.  If you see a butch sitting in the restaurant with a platinum blonde mohawk and a blissful look on her face, that'll be moi.  Every time I'm in New York City this place is where you can be sure to find me.

As much as I love risotto; it's one of those foods that's always intimidated me, just like tomatillos did until I used them in the turkey chili.  Maybe it's the commitment (Yikes, the "C" word) you have to make to stand in front of the stove and constantly.  And then there's the fact that it's rice and cooking rice has never been my forte. Remember, I use a rice cooker now. So yeah, I have a fear of foods and various kitchen equipment.  I used to be afraid to use my crock pot too until at a work party someone brought in theirs and convinced me that it was easy to use.  Since then I've used it to cook pork for BBQ sandwiches, green chili pork, and a yummy green chili chicken casserole. 

I'm not afraid to admit that I can be irrational and my fears might be goofy but I KNOW that I'm not alone! Let's go for a walk down memory lane.  Remember as a kid being afraid of the monster under the bed?  You know, that fear that a creepy hand will reach out and grab your foot once the lights go out? Well, here I am, a full grown adult BUTCH, and I still won't dangle my foot over the edge of the bed. Uh huh, I can already hear some of you butches laughing under your breath but c'mon, admit it, I bet you'd scream like a girl if someone grabbed YOUR ankle as you stumbled your way to the bathroom at the witching hour! Alright, enough snickering at my expense. Let's get onto cooking.

I've made risotto once before and the thing is that it's not that hard to make but once you begin you're committed (There's that "C" word again). You need to have everything ready because you're going to be constantly stirring.  It takes roughly about 18-20 minutes to cook.  Once you're done it will be so worth it so hey, if I can do it, so can you, so let's start. 

Recipe adapted from Epicurious:
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 lb shrimp, frozen, cooked (medium or large-deveined)
5-7 cups chicken stock (roughly 32 oz)
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1-1/3 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup heavy cream (or half and half)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste

I don't care much for liquor in my food so I left out the white wine.  I also omitted the chives, lemon zest and used cooked shrimp instead of raw.

Chop up your onion and saute it in a 2 quart sauce pan until the onions are soft, about 2 minutes.

Next, add the arborio rice and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes. You don't want your onions to get brown so keep stirring and start to add 1/2 cup chicken broth if that begins to happen.

Did I mention that you're going to be stirring? lol.  You  might as well put some music on in the kitchen and enjoy yourself. There is seldom a time when I don't have something going in the background.  Maybe I should write a playlist on my next post!

What you're going to do now is add 1/2 cup of the chicken broth. Stir the mixture until the liquid is absorbed into the rice and then add another 1/2 cup, stirring constantly.  Keep this up for about 15 minutes (adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time and stirring until absorbed into rice) then add 1/2 cup heavy cream.  Once the rice is al dente (firm to the bite but not brittle or hard), add the shrimp and peas (at around 17 minutes in).  I used frozen shrimp because I usually make this dish after work and I'm in a hurry to get dinner on the table.

I tend to like my risotto a little on the creamy side so I add a little more broth towards the end.

Your risotto should be done at around 18 minutes or until the rice is tender.   In the photo above, the risotto is a little too "runny" so I let the rice absorb the liquid just a little more and kept stirring before I took it off of the stove.

Top your cooked risotto with grated Parmesan cheese and serve with Italian bread.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Red Velvet Cupcakes's the color of life, love, and passion.  It's sexy. It's hot. It's dangerous and exciting. It's me, baby. I'm all that and a bag of chips. I'm totally kidding.  

Really now, there's only one dessert that I can think of that fits the bill for being sexy and hot. It's the sultry Red Velvet Cake (cupcake). What could sexier than a red velvet cupcake draped in an oh-so-flimsy and practically see-through wrapper? Well, maybe a beautiful woman in a red dress holding a red velvet cupcake right? I couldn't find a sexy model to hold my cupcake so you'll just have to settle for it sitting pretty by on a plate all by itself.

Since Valentine's Day was so close, I got a wild hair to bake something red.  I'd never made red velvet cake or cupcakes before and told myself that I was up for the challenge.  The whole cake idea seemed a bit too daunting to me so I opted to make cupcakes instead.  I searched and searched and finally decided to try the recipe on  The photographs are gorgeous and her recipe produced the red and delectable beauties I had been craving.  My cupcakes don't look as dark as hers because I kinda' ran out of red dye.  I used a little less than her recipe called for but the cupcakes were delicious.

Here is her recipe:
2-1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp cocoa powder (unsweetened)
2 oz red food coloring (4 tbsp)*
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp baking soda

* I followed her recipe exactly except for the amount of red food dye. As I mentioned earlier, I ran out of red food dye. I probably used about 3-1/2 tablespoons plus I could only find gel instead of the more liquid type dye.  This caused a problem when it came to mixing the dye with the cocoa powder.  If you're going to use a gel food coloring, you'll need to add a few water drops or maybe even some of the buttermilk to water it down so that the paste isn't too thick.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 muffin pans (12-cup) with cupcake papers.  I used the paper and foil type.

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside. In a small bowl, mix food coloring and cocoa powder to form a THIN paste without lumps. Set aside.  Remember, if you're using the gel type food dye, you're going to need to add a few drops of water, otherwise the mixture will be too dry and difficult to work with.  Rather than copy ALL of her directions, I'll give credit where credit is due, so please visit her website for the rest of the instructions okay? Click here.

Cream cheese frosting consists of sugar, cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract, a pinch of salt and a Pitbull.  In my kitchen, I'm constantly supervised by Cali, who is a complete micro-manager. She's always hovering, and making sure that I mix all the ingredients properly. What a furry pain in the butt! 

What I didn't mention earlier is that I'm trying to lose weight.  When I first decided to make cupcakes, I searched specifically for low calorie recipes. Finally, I found one online that didn't look too complicated. After toiling away in the kitchen for hours (okay, I'm being a bit melodramatic) my baking adventure came to a disappointing end.  The cupcakes from the to-be-unnamed website I used were bland.  I couldn't even taste the chocolate flavor and if it weren't for the frosting, I could have used the cupcake as a sponge to clean the counter. lol  They were so incredibly bland that I literally threw them in the garbage. In twitter lingo I would refer to that baking adventure as an #EpicFail.

I knew that after all the work that it took to make them that I was not going to compromise on flavor so I hunted for a new recipe, just not one that was low calorie, and found the one I used here. I figured if I was going to spend lots of time baking something, it'd better taste good. I would just need to manage my calorie intake throughout the day so that I could indulge in a regular cupcake.

And you know what? It was worth it.  Once the cupcakes cooled off and I topped each one with cream cheese frosting, I wasn't disappointed.  They were chocolaty, moist, and just how I imagined a Red Velvet Cupcake would taste. Yum.

So, hey, what are you waiting for? Go bake some! 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Low Calorie Crock Pot Turkey Chili With Tomatillos

Ever notice that some low calorie foods are just kind of "eh?" That's pretty much been my experience.  The foods look good in the pictures but once you put a fork/spoon full of said low calorie food into your mouth, your taste buds question your sanity and your lips zip shut.  I have good news. This recipe is low calorie (approximately 250 calories per 1-1/3 cup) but TASTE and SPICINESS are not compromised.  As a matter of fact this chili has a bit of a kick to it due to the Pato sauce (shown below), which I love using when making salsa, taco meat, and sopa (Mexican soup).
You can find Pato sauce in the ethnic foods area of most grocery stores.


2 lbs ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
6 tomatillos, diced (remove husks & rinse before dicing)
1 can chicken broth (12-14 oz) 
2 (14-1/2 oz) can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1 (15 oz) can pinto beans, drained
1 can of Pato sauce (mexican hot sauce)
3 tbsp chili pepper (powder)
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
3/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder (or garlic salt) (or to taste)
1-1/2 tbsp sugar

Garnish with:
cilantro, finely chopped
green onions, chopped'
cheddar cheese

Coat a large nonstick frying pan with cooking spray.  Brown turkey, along with onions.  Add garlic salt and black pepper.  

Dice tomatillos.

Add cooked meat to crock pot (including juices), along with all the other ingredients.  Stir.  Cook on "high" for 4 hrs.

The chili is best served the same day but keeps well and is great to take to work for lunch!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

Delicious Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

I love when berries are in season.  Since I live in Arizona, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries can still be bought in grocery stores for a pretty decent price even now.  My family LOVES the rustic berry pie that I posted a few months ago so I baked one for them (It's great served with vanilla ice cream) last week.  Let me tell you, it doesn't last long. They consumed the whole pie in less than 24 hours! 

I had leftover strawberries and thought it would be cool to use them  in a cookie.  I scoured the internet to see if such a beast existed and lo and behold, found several recipes.  I decided to adapt my own version of what I found.  Here it is:

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter (cold) cut into small pieces
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1-1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup heavy cream
1-2/4 cups strawberries cut into very small pieces
Raw cane sugar (to sprinkle on cookies before baking)(optional).

Aren't these lovely? Strawberries are my absolute favorite fruit.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Combine and whisk together flour, baking powder, and sugar in the same bowl.

Cut up your strawberries into small pieces like shown below. If the pieces are too big, the strawberries will dominate the flavor of the cookie. I like a nice balance of flavors but if you LOVE LOVE LOVE strawberries then cut them into bigger pieces.

In another bowl, combine strawberry pieces, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and lemon juice. 

Add butter to the flour mixture and use hands to work it into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs. You can also use a pastry cutter to do this. Stir in cream until dough starts to form.  Fold in strawberry mixture and gently stir until thoroughly combined.

Drop dough (about 2 tablespoons) onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Sprinkle with cane sugar if desired.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  

The cookies will be soft and oh so delicious.  I resisted the temptation to add a dollop of ice cream on the top of each cookie and drizzling homemade strawberry filling over it but you can if you like!