Friday, December 31, 2010

Pistachio Cake

I am a big fan of Taylor Swift. In fact, her new album was one of my Christmas gifts which I was rocking to this afternoon on my way to Newton. Although this adoration of mine may seem odd for someone creeping into her late-20s, I just can't not turn up the radio when one of her songs comes on. One of her latest mega-hits (humor me, ok?) is called Mine and it definitely pulls at my heartstrings. This year, one could say, I added an item to my worldly possessions that I can call 'mine.' I added a husband.

Even with the challenges of law school, living apart, and what-will-our-future-hold discussions, we had a bright and shining moment on October 9th when we married each other. The weekend was wonderful -- filled with our closest family and friends. We are still shocked at how perfect the weekend was and can't believe we (along with everyone else involved) managed to pull it off so flawlessly. These memories will keep us going through whatever struggles we face together.

Robbie's birthday is at the beginning of December and inevitably always hits during exams. One can imagine how this makes one's birthday nonexistent when you are on your 14th straight hour of Jurisprudence studies. Last year I started the tradition of making him a homemade birthday cake to devour after his exams when we can really focus on celebrating his birthday. This year was no different. I asked him to name a cake he wanted me to make and his response? "Pistachio."

I had to do a little digging because pistachio is not your classic chocolate or vanilla option. But my mom mentioned a recipe that was very popular in the 1970s involving cake mix, pistachio flavored jell-o pudding and dream whip. Sure enough, I did a little research and discovered it. I adapted it a little because my grocery store did not have Dream Whip (although I went into three more in another city the next weekend and saw it immediately . . . I think that was a scenario in an Alanis Morrisette song . . .). I used cool whip but this cake was still very delicious. The batter was almost gummy (geletinous perhaps?) and the icing was light and perfectly complimented the super-duper-moistness of the cake. Did I mention the cake comes out this cool shade of green?

I hope that the cake added some brightness to his dismal first-of-December, and we both acknowledged that this was his last birthday to fall within an exam period (hopefully) so things are already looking up. And with a new year ahead of us, I anticipate any uncertainties turning into excitement as we finally transition into living in one location, together, and hanging out for the next forever.

Pistachio Cake
Adapted from Two Tiny Kitchens' Pistachio Cupcake recipe

1 pkg white cake mix
1 pkg instant pistachio pudding mix
1 c. oil
3 eggs
1 c. club soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients and beat at medium speed for about 5 minutes. Pour batter into greased bundt cake pan and bake according to the directions on the back of the cake mix box.


2 regular sized tubs of cool whip (I used light and it worked just fine.)
1 pkg instant pistachio pudding mix

Combine cool whip and pudding mix. Beat with whisk until thoroughly mixed. Spread on cake. Top with salted pistachio kernels for an added decoration and crunch. Refrigerate.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Waffle Cookies

Cookie Swap. Two words that your instincts tell you to run away from while your mind (and tastebuds) find intriguing enough to think to give it a chance. I understand that the thought of making six dozen cookies seems quite the herculean task while the thought of seeing sixteen beautiful gold plates with a different type of cookie on each one is too awesome to pass up. Especially when you realize you get to take a sample of each variety home with you.

I poured through websites and cookbooks to find a cookie recipe that would be different yet easy to make since I wanted to impress my fellow swappers but didn’t want to spend all day Saturday in the kitchen. The concept of these cookies was first brought to my attention via a dear friend and bridesmaid of mine (Hi, Kristen!) who made them for one of my bridal showers. I love waffles and I love cookies and it turns out, I therefore adore waffle cookies! I literally made six dozen cookies in less than an hour because with my four-waffle waffle maker, I could make eight at a time. The batches just piled up in front of me like Christmas magic!

They are super easy and super yummy but they need to be eaten pretty quickly because in my opinion, and as is typical with waffles, they are a little dry and beg for some sort of liquid (but not maple syrup -- well, maybe maple syrup, let me know how that goes). I imagine drizzled chocolate would do nothing but make these more awesome but I promise they are delish (and fun to make!) without it. I, personally, wanted to nuke a couple in the microwave, put ice cream on top and pour chocolate syrup over the entire bowl but, alas, none were left to fulfill this desire.

Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Waffle Cookies
Fine Cooking
Makes at least 24 cookies (I got 36 cookies out of a batch)

1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c plus 2 Tbs firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 c old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
1 c semisweet chocolate chips
Nonstick cooking spray

Heat the waffle iron according to the manufacturer's instructions.

In a large bowl, whisk the butter and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips.

Coat the grids of the waffle iron with nonstick cooking spray. Use a tablespoon or small ice cream scoop to portion out a cookie onto each waffle square. Close the iron and cook until set and beginning to brown, 1-1/2 to 3 minutes, depending on the heat of your waffle iron. Use a thin metal spatula (or fork) to transfer the cooked cookies to a wire rack and repeat with the remaining dough, coating the grids with spray as necessary.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"Jim"ed-up Banana Bread

Christmas is less than a week away and I am busy convincing myself that the gifts I have bought for my new family (ie, Robbie’s family) are sufficient. Sufficient enough for what, I don’t really know. I know I want to make a good impression since this is my first Christmas with Robbie’s clan but I also don’t want to set the bar too high so that I can’t meet it come next Christmas. See how I make myself crazy this time of year? If I come to the conclusion that the present bounty is not enough, time is running short so they may be getting Sheetz gift cards. Which may not be a bad idea actually . . .

Enter Holiday Baking. This is the perfect diversion to these mind games so bring on the chocolate, sugar, flour, and bourbon. That last ingredient was for the banana bread.

Robbie’s fruit bowl, bless-his-heart, is in a perpetual state of “runneth” over and rarely does he eat it all before it goes bad. Therefore, this banana bread from Smitten Kitchen (I promise, I will insert some diversity eventually into this blog – it will not be a two-year-delayed version of SK . . .) was the perfect first baking task on a snowy Saturday. My other expeditions for that bountiful day will follow but for now, enjoy what Deb calls Jacked-up Banana Bread but I will refer to it as "Jim"ed-up Banana Bread since I went with good ole Jim Beam.

"Jim"ed-up Banana Bread
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
I love this recipe because I had everything it called for except for the bourbon which is optional anyway. (Have you ever been in an ABC store at 10 am on a Saturday the minute it opens? Good news – it was empty. So maybe AA is working out well for folks!)

3 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 c melted butter
1 c brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbs bourbon (optional)
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 c of flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and bourbon, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered (I used Pam because I never have Baker’s Joy when I need it) 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Mine could have probably used 45 minutes and been fine. It was very done at 50 minutes. Cool on a rack in the pan.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Mushroom Bourguignon

Here we are on the eve of another work week after a very relaxing and wintry weekend that included an entire Saturday of snow fall, a Duke basketball win, a Panthers football loss and several trips to Starbucks for a holiday beverage. I know the Holidays are coming when Starbucks switches over to their festive cups and why is it that a Hazlenut Mocha Latte only seems appealing from Thanksgiving until New Years?

An entire season has passed since I last posted but that means there is much on which I can reflect. I am now Mary Mullinax Samuel after a wonderful wedding weekend and subsequent trip to the Social Security Office where I learned that I could not have two first names without a court order and since I did not have one of those lying around, I figured I had 100 pieces of stationary with the initials MMS (for my hope of First Name: Mary Jordan, Middle Name: Mullinax, Last Name: Samuel) so I figured legally, I could handle being Mary Mullinax Samuel on a few documents. And now the stationary will not go to waste.

I got to go to two new cities after the wedding including Paris for the honeymoon and a quick work trip to Portland. I adored both of them but felt more tied to Paris due to the fact that a) it was our first trip as husband and wife and b) it's Paris for crying out loud. Even with striking high schoolers leading to the closing of this one tower I wanted to see, it was a fantastic trip. Portland was great too but due to a missed connection and being by myself, it could have gone a little better. It was nothing that a couple donuts from Voodoo Donuts didn't take care of though.

My brother had a successful Election Day for which we are all very, very grateful and appreciate all the friends who supported him during this Election time. And it was my first Thanksgiving as a married woman and Robbie's first Thanksgiving in Newton where, unfortunately, law school kept him rather preoccupied and he was not able to enjoy the turkey and pie as much as the rest of us.

That being said, we are now into December and I am getting accustomed to taking advantage of my weekends in Winston-Salem. I only get a mere 36 hours a week with my husband so we have learned to make the most of it. Even with exam time around the corner, I was able to make Robbie a home-cooked meal of Mushroom Bourguinon which was much fancier than our usual Mexican or Chinese trip. It was appropriate that I snagged this recipe from Deb, of Smitten Kitchen which always has me smitten, and it was a rather successful meal. I bought two pounds of portobello mushroom caps but realized that was too much so only used half of them (four large caps) and found the cooking time and instructions were fairly spot on. The most difficult thing was waiting for the water to boil to cook the egg noodles at the very end.

I even was able to host Robbie's brother and use him as a guinea pig to prove to myself that I can cook and that it isn't just that Robbie will eat anything I put in front of him. He enjoyed the meal as well so my confidence continues to grow -- which will hopefully create more posts here on the blog!

Mushroom Bourguignon

2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs butter
1 lb portobello mushroom caps (4 large caps), in 1/4 inch slices
1/2 carrot, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely dinced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c full-bodied red wine
2 c beef broth (you can use veggie if you would like)
2 tbs tomato paste
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 1/2 tbs flour
1 c pear onions, peeled (I did this by putting them in boiling water for three minutes then running cool water over them and the outer layer came right off.)
Egg noodles, for serving
Sour Cream and Parsley if you would like. I did not like either on mine.

Heat 1 tbs of the olive oil and 1 tbs of the butter in a heavy sauce pan over high heat. Sear the mushrooms until they begin to darken but before any liquid is released. This took me only a few minutes. Remove them from the pan and place them aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the second tbs of the olive oil. Toss the carrots, onions, thyme, salt and pepper into the pan and cook for 10 minutes until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for just another minute more. Stir the veggies periodically throughout these 11 or so minutes.

Add the wine to the pan and scrape off any bits that stuck to the bottom. Turn the heat all the way up and reduce the liquid by half. Stir in the tomato paste and broth. Add the mushrooms and any liquid that has collected from them back to the pan. Once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers. Keep it simmering for about 20 minutes or until mushrooms are very tender. Add the pearl onions and simmer for five minutes more.

Combine remaining butter and the flour with a fork until combined. (I did not do this before I threw it in the pan and therefore had to work a little harder to get the flour fully incorporated.) Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce it to the right consistency.

Serve over a bowl of egg noodles with a dollop of sour cream, chives and/or parsley.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cold Oven Cake

Things my friends know about me -- I love reality tv, I love food, I equally love New York City and Newton, NC, and I do not like the heat yet I'm always cold. Also, Cold Oven Cake is the perfect cake for me -- light (in taste and texture, not in weight) and airy and almondish and vanilla-ey and it even has a gimmick. You put the cake in a cold oven first -- no pre-heating the oven. Even more perfect for a summer's day when you don't want to stand around a warming stove. You can exit the kitchen before it even gets to that point . . . but be sure to check back after an hour and 45 minutes since that will be when it starts to test done. Hence, the only caveat for this cake is that it takes quite awhile to bake. And you will have a hard time eating just one slice.

Two sticks of butter. You know this will be good.

Don't judge my portion size

Cold Oven Pound Cake
From Beth Eden Lutheran Church Cookbook (2000 edition)

2 sticks margarine (I used butter)
3 c sugar
3 c flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 c Crisco
5 eggs
1 c milk
1 tsp. almond extract

Grease and flour tube pan (This is super important. I made two of these cakes within one week because I was giving one away to a salad and dessert luncheon and, well, I wanted one for myself. Having not done this step adequately enough in the first one (see the picture above), I can officially say the second one came out looking picture perfect because of this step. And guess who didn't have a camera available for that one?) Cream margarine, Crisco and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Add flour, milk, vanilla, almond and baking powder. Put in cold oven. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 3/4 hours.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Creamy Spinach and Tofu Spaghetti

Three years ago I would have balked at tofu (and if I'm honest, three months ago, I would have balked at tofu) but here I am sharing a recipe of which the main ingredient is tofu. I have very little knowledge of tofu except that it is a healthy alternative to meat and a good source of protein. I had no idea where to find tofu in the store and had to ask two employees before I found it. The first told me it was in the bakery (which I should have known was an odd choice but I took him as an expert) and then the kindly woman baker told me to go to the produce section. I still thought that was an odd choice considering the last time I checked, tofu doesn't grow from a plant, but I did find it tucked in its little corner next to the fresh herbs and baby carrots.

So I made this easy enough pasta dish that makes me feel like I am actually being healthy considering every time I take a bite the flavor of the fresh spinach, heart-healthy olive oil, and protein-packed tofu perfectly complements the hearty bite of the whole wheat spaghetti. So eat up! And then grab that ice cream in the refrigerator. Because I sincerely feel that you have earned that sweet luxury if you can claim you had tofu for dinner.

Creamy Spinach and Tofu Spaghetti
from Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2007 or here

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
Cooking Spray
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 cups tightly packed fresh baby spinach
1 1/2 cups cubed reduced-fat silken tofu (about 6 ounces)
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup grated fresh pecorino Romano cheese
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups hot cooked whole wheat spaghetti (about 8 ounces uncooked)
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (I tried to toast these on the stove and almost, well, did, burn them. Just thought I would share.)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Place tomatoes, cu sides up, on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Drizzle tomatoes with 2 teaspoons oil and sprinkle evenly with 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bake at 450 degree for 7 minutes or until tender.
Place 2 teaspoons oil, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, spinach, and next six ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth.
Combine spinach mixture and pasta in a large skillet; cook over low heat two minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Gently stir in tomatoes and pine nuts. Serve immediately. Yields 4 servings (about 1 1/4 cups a serving).

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Honey Roasted Peanut Thumbprint Cookies

My friends and family often laugh at my obsession with routine. Every morning I have pretty much the same sequence of events – I eat my breakfast at the same point during my getting-ready routine and I use the number of times the local news has their spot during the Today Show to indicate whether or not I am on schedule. This Sunday morning was a little different in that instead of our usual church service, followed by lunch, followed by a few errands, followed by time with John, followed by dinner, and culminating with my return drive to Charlotte – we played hooky. Mom cooked up some waffles for breakfast and I cooked up some of these cookies for a post-breakfast ‘dessert.’

One can imagine how dessert after breakfast would completely appall one widely devoted to normalcy yet this fit for some reason. Maybe it was the longer-than-usual week or the rather emotional weekend, but either way, it seemed like the right thing to do.

The ingredients for these cookies were easy enough to find laying around the house and, although the steps were a little more complicated than the ‘common’ drop cookie (no offense, I am a fan of those too), they were the prettiest cookies I’ve ever made (without the hassle of icing) and would be perfect for a shower, luncheon, or just a playing-hooky-from-church-kind-of-Sunday-morning.

Honey Roasted Peanut Thumbprint Cookies

From Joy the Baker

1 3/4 cups finely ground honey roasted peanuts (I used the food processor and used about 2 cups of peanuts to make the 1 3/4 cups of finely ground nuts)

1 3/4 cups flour

2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Powdered sugar for dusting

About 1 cup of quality jam of your choice (I chose Apricot but thought about how a red jam would be great for Christmas or how a Grape Jam would be pretty against the beige-ness of the cookies)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the upper third of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment or foil and set aside.

Whisk together ground peanuts and flour. Using a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment (or a stand mixer), beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy – about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the extract and beat to blend. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and gradually add the nut-flour mixture, mixing only until just incorporated. Use a spatula to hand mix any flour or nuts that have not been mixed in thoroughly.

Working with a scant tablespoon of dough at a time, roll the dough between your palms to form small balls and place the balls two inches apart on the cookie sheet. Steadying each cookie with one hand, use the pinky of your other hand to press an indentation in the center of each cookie.

Bake for 15 – 18 minutes (mine took just 15). The cookies will only be slightly colored – don’t overbake them. When the cookies are done, remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the cookies rest for 2 minutes before transferring them to cooling racks with a metal spatula. Bring the jam to a boil in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat. Sprinkle the cookies with powdered sugar and then fill the indentations with the jam of your choice. Don’t worry if the indentations disappeared during baking – you can carefully make them more prominent using your fingers or just put less jam on the cookie. Either way they will look and taste delicious!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spicy Cucumber Noodle Salad with Edamame

When I first moved back to North Carolina from Washington, DC, I originally moved to Winston-Salem. I could not find a job there -- hence how I ended up in Charlotte -- but my four months there were spent trying to make the best of a somewhat stressful situation (Robbie and I had not lived in the same town since college and then to be living with each other while I was unemployed and he was going through his first semester in law school was not as "Becky-home-ecky as I had imagined). We created our routine and lived happily (most of the time) within the confines of that routine. Part of our Saturday ritual was to eat lunch at the Carving Board. This delightful restaurant that specializes in special salads and sandwich combinations became a favorite -- especially its Spicy Asian Noodle Salad. As Robbie enters the exam period for his second semester of his second year, I figured it would be great to relive those first few months of living together by trying to recreate that favorite dish of his.
The original did not have edamame or cucumber but I thought it added a nice nutritional mix to the salad. The green onions were left out of his batch but you can guarantee I put them in mine.
This recipe also required me to explore my current hometown even more by visiting an Asian Market. Who knew there were such Manhattan-like places in the QC? I picked up most of the ingredients there although I imagine they are available at your local Harris Teeter. Albeit for twice as much and without the excitement of looking through dozens of jars to find the one whose Chinese characters were most likely to mean the same thing as the ingredients on the recipe list.

adapted from

8 ounces uncooked soba (buckwheat noodles)
1 cup frozen shelled edamame
1 cup diced English cucumber
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons white miso (soybean paste) -- Note, I got soybean paste but it was not white. I have no idea what that means or if that affects anything.
1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon chile paste with garlic (such as sambal oelek)
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

Cook soba in boiling water 2 minutes; add edamame. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes. Drain; rinse with cold water. Drain; cool. Place soba mixture in a bowl. Add cucumber and onions. Combined mayonnaise with the remainder of ingredients; stir with a whisk. Pour over the soba mixture; toss well.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Shrimp and Orzo Skillet

I have been looking at this recipe for the past six months it seems and finally got a chance to make it Friday night . . . at 10 pm . . . to be put immediately in the refrigerator so that it could be eaten for dinner this week. So I don't now how it tastes hot off the stove -- but reheated in the microwave it is delicious! It was super-easy to make and although there was an issue with splattering oil the second the shrimp hit the hot skillet, it was quickly controlled and the recipe progressed flawlessly.

I got this recipe from a Pampered Chef cookbook. Those folks know what they are doing! Beyond handy kitchen gadgets that make the home cook feel like they've grown a second set of arms to do difficult prep work like buttering corn and cutting an apple in different pieces while getting rid of the core (I should note that both of these tasks can be done simply with one of these . . . but I digress) . . . they also make great recipes.

The lemon flavor is more powerful than the mint and the only moderation I made upon reheating the dish was to add a little salt. But let's be honest, I add salt to almost anything. My grandmother always told me that "A Mullinax can have as much salt as he or she would like." Ironically, she was not born a Mullinax but I never questioned her logic -- Mimi knew best.

Shrimp and Orzo Skillet

8 oz. large uncooked shrimp (21-25 per pound)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon sugar
8 oz. orzo pasta
1 garlic clove, pressed
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup clam juice
1 lemon
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh mint
1 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon butter

For shrimp, peel and devein shrimp. Add oil to skillet and heat over medium-high heat 1-3 minutes or until shimmering. As skillet heats, combine salt, black pepper and sugar; add shrimp and toss to coat.

Arrange shrimp in a single layer over bottom of skillet and cook about 1 minute or until one side is browned and edges are pink. Remove skillet from heat and turn shrimp over. Let stand an additional 30 seconds or until centers are opaque and shrimp is cooked through. Remove shrimp from skillet and set aside.

For orzo, in same skillet, combine orzo, pressed garlic, broth and clam juice. Bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 10-12 minutes or until orzo is cooked through. As orzo cooks, zest lemon to measure 1 tablespoon zest; juice lemon to measure 1 tablespoon juice. Thinly slice mint.

Remove skillet from heat and stir in peas, butter and lemon juice. Arrange shrimp over orzo and cover. Let stand 3-5 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with lemon zest and mint before serving.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Blue Velvet Cupcakes

Final Four weekend is full of promise -- coincidentally, it is also Easter weekend which, if you are of the Christian variety, is also full of hope and expectation. What parallelism! They should sing "One Shining Moment" in church tomorrow . . . Anyway, I digress. As you saw here, my beloved Dukies are in the Final Four for the third time in the past ten years and this occasion calls for cupcakes. This week, I made these Blue Velvet beauties that are the perfect shade of blue -- as if they were made to be enjoyed by Duke fans.

Now, a word of warning, I had never used gel food coloring. As I write this, my fingers are still blue from where the food coloring touched my skin. And I may or may not have ruined a pair of pajama pants . . . And my tongue may or may not be blue from when I licked the bowl after this:

Anyway, be careful, be very careful. This stuff was potent. But not as dangerous as the delicious, rich flavor of red velvet cake in a smaller, bluer version. Yumm-o and Go Devils!

Blue Velvet Cupcakes

Makes 26 cupcakes.

2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon Wilton royal blue gel food coloring
1 small dot of violet gel food coloring
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vinegar

For the Frosting

1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pans. Cream sugar and butter in mixing bowl till light and fluffy, then add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg. Mix cocoa and food coloring together to make a paste. Add this paste to sugar mixture and mix well again. Sift flour and salt, and add to mixture in thirds, alternating with buttermilk, then mix in vanilla. Combine baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl and add to cake batter. Mix just to combine. Scoop into liners until 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of a cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool before icing.

For the frosting -- Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla until nice and smooth. Add sugar gradually and beat on low till combined, then on high until very light and fluffy.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I am paranoid with jinxing things -- sports games, a stroke of good luck, a big commission check at work, even the weather. That's why, when we had that freak 65 degree day in February, I kept my mouth shut and still wore my heavy wool coat. Even last week, with its 70 degree days and Masters commercials featuring a picture of Amen Corner abloom with azaleas, I still refused to believe Spring was here.

However, after a beautiful day today and with the Easter weekend looming before me, I can conceivably see that the cold, 33-degree rainy Winter just may be a thing of the past. Therefore, I found these bright green veggies a perfect welcome to the warmer weather.

Something you should know about me -- I do not necessarily enjoy my fruits and veggies. But I'm learning. Starting with these roasted yummies. Yes, they are Brussels sprouts -- a veggie my mother never even attempted to ask me to eat, and here I am in my mid-twenties thoroughly enjoying a bowl of them. Who knew?

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut off the hard bottom and any leaves that look wilted. Cut larger sprouts in half to speed up the cooking time and ensure all pieces are relatively the same size.

Blanch the Brussels sprouts (boil water, add veggies without making water lose its boil, let veggies boil about 4 minutes until almost done, submerge in bowl of ice water -- sorry if this seems obvious but I had to look up how to do this).

Toss the sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper until well coated. Add a bit more salt than you would normally add for other vegetables. Roast for about 20 minutes. Once they are nicely brown and tender, remove and enjoy!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Blueberries & Cream Cupcakes

D-U-K-E! It's Sunday evening of Final Four weekend and it is the first time since 2004 I am going to bed still seeing that lovely shade of Royal Blue when I close my eyes. The Blue Devils are back in the Final Four. In honor of their journey so far in March Madness, I decided to treat myself, my friends, my coworkers, and my family to a little blue-ness with these cute cupcakes.

They were also appropriate for the coming of Spring -- very light and slightly sweet. I even made the whipped cream by actually whipping some cream (gasp!) and was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was and how long the cream kept its whippedness (spellcheck says that isn't a word but I'm going with it). I had this vision of runny, soggy cupcakes after they had been iced for more than 12 hours but they lasted fully iced a complete 24 hours in the fridge. I wouldn't know how long they would have lasted beyond that since they were all consumed by that point. Now, I look ahead to a short week and what I hope is a successful next weekend for my Blue Devils!

Blueberries & Cream Cupcakes
from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes, makes 30 regular sized cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk, room temperature
2 cups fresh blueberries, plus more for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together both flours, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraped down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until combined after each. Fold in blueberries by hand. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until pale golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. To finish dollop cupcakes with whipped cream, and garnish with berries. Serve immediately or put in refrigerator for 24 hours. If keeping longer, do not ice until right before serving.

Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

Whisk heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add confectioners' sugar, and whisk until combined. If not using immediately, whipped cream can be refrigerated, covered tightly, for up to 36 hours. I had to rewhisk mine for a bit to rewhip.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce

I know it's been a few days since I last posted but cooking for one makes the frequency of new recipes lessen because of how gosh darn long it takes to eat one's way through an entire meal and its leftovers by oneself. For instance, the quiche I mentioned over two weeks ago? Finished it just a few days ago. And, for those haters that think any food over a week old should be thrown out? It was actually still delicious on day 12.

Another glitch is that it is Lent. As you may know, I gave up microwaves. So my choice in recipes is limited because it has to reheat easily without a microwave. Being of the generation that is spoiled by entrees being reheated in two minutes, I have yet to reheat a meal completely. Again, the quiche I mentioned over two weeks ago? Except for the first night, it was never really completely warm when I ate it. And, for those haters that think any food not completely hot should be sent back -- you try waiting twenty minutes for a leftover piece of quiche only to find it is still tepid in the middle . . . you'll settle for the lukewarm slice as well.

Thus, when I found this Pork Tenderloin recipe from the folks at Martha Stewart's Everyday Food cookbook, I was immediately impressed with its sophisticated appearance (I'll do anything to perk up a Wednesday evening) and the fact that I could eat it cold on a sandwich with the same mustard sauce. Yummy!

Preparation was remarkably easy. All on the stove top and in one pan! A little salt, pepper, EVOO followed by a few minutes of browning the outsides finished with 25 minutes of covered cooking. The mustard sauce is made from the juices of the meat. And it is one of those recipes that isn't mind-blowingly fantastic when the pieces are tasted separately but when put together, the two complement each other perfectly.

Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pork tenderloins (1 pound each)
Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup whole-grain mustard (not to be confused with mustard seeds seeds -- which I bought at first)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream

Heat the olive oil in a large straight-sided skillet over high heat. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Cook until browned on all sides, 5 to 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover; cook, turning the pork occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the centers registers 150 degrees, 20 to 25 minutes. (I never got to this point because I let it sit on there for 40 minutes and it was still reading at 140 so I just went for it. And I'm still alive at this point.) Transfer the pork to a plate, reserving the skillet with juices. Cover with foil and let rest 10 minutes. To the skillet, add both mustards, the sour cream, and any accumulated pork juices from the plate; whisk over medium heat until heated through (do not boil). Add water if the sauce is too thick. Slice the pork; serve with the pan sauce.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Night Brownies

At the end of a long week (a week where Monday seems like a year ago yet I also find myself wondering what happened to Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday), Friday evening arrives on a giant exhale of adrenaline. I am at the same time exhausted yet giddy at the anticipation of the weekend. This weekend especially since we are on the brink of March Madness and I am in possession of two ACC Tournament tickets for tomorrow's games. I am also in possession of one set of toy pots and pans for the little man in my life -- my nephew, John, who turns 2 on Monday (don't worry, he will still be surprised because, although a genius at age 1 year and 362 days, he doesn't type well enough to get to this blog -- but he could read it if he managed to get to it). And, I am taking Monday off to go to the Raleigh/Durham area for some wedding planning. So, with those exciting events facing me and the week behind me, I figured I would need something to both reward myself for a solid week at work while giving me a treat to celebrate the next few days of fun. Thus, Friday Night Brownies (renamed from this Southern Living cookbook).

They were amazingly easy to make and although the cookbook recommends about thirty variations with different frostings, add-ins, glazes, etc.; I went with the basic. No nuts, no toppings, no crunchies. Just a solid, cake-like brownie.

Looks like a pretty good Friday night.

Friday Night Brownies
or Basic Brownies from here.
1 cup butter
4 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate baking squares
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Microwave butter and chocolate squares in a 1-quart microwave safe bowl at high for 2 minutes or until both are melted, stirring mixture once. Beat eggs at medium speed with an electric mixer; gradually add sugar, beat well. Add flour, salt, and vanilla, beating well. Stir in chocolate mixture. Pour batter into a lightly greased 13 x 9 inch pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Yield: 2 1/2 dozen.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Golden Chicken Quiche

Golden Chicken Quiche. Why does that sound like an Asian dish to me? I can confirm that it is not though and this quiche actually takes on a more Southern spin -- from the celery sauteed in butter to the addition of two fairly large tablespoons of powdered mustard, to the meat being good 'ole, simple chicken. And the fact that it came from my church's cookbook. Sometimes the most enjoyable cooking experiences come from one's local cookbooks. I made this thinking of the woman who submitted this recipe -- knowing she made this recipe for her family. It adds a sense of camaraderie in the kitchen. Even though I am cooking alone, I feel that she and her entire family are with me. And it's always nice to feel a little closer to home.

Not surprisingly, celery is manageable when it is sauteed in butter.

Cheddar Cheese + Paprika = Golden Outcome

Just call me "Cafe du MJ."

Golden Chicken Quiche
From A Patchwork of Recipes - Celebrating 150 Years at Beth Eden Lutheran Church
9-inch frozen deep-dish pie shell
1 c. celery, chopped
1 Tbsp. butter
1 c. chicken, diced (can also be made with turkey but then you have to call it Golden Turkey Quiche)
2 Tbsp. powdered mustard
1 c. Cheddar cheese, shredded
3 eggs
1 c. milk
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat an empty cookie sheet in 375 degree oven. Add pie shell in pie plate to hot cookie sheet (pierce with fork). Bake 10 minutes. Cook celery in butter until tender. Mix other ingredients except cheese and paprika; pour into pie shell with celery. Sprinkle with cheese and paprika. Bake at 375 degree for 25 to 35 minutes, or until knife inserted into center comes out clean.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Classic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I arrived to work on Monday and there was a mysterious note left in each of our mailboxes signed by "The Cookie Monster." Yes, that big, blue lovable Sesame Street character was the alias of choice for a certain practical joker in our office. It left us all quite puzzled -- especially since in my office, if you mention sweets and then don't have any, people will look at you funny. And by funny I mean glare at you. So we still don't know who the particular jokester is . . . all I know is that it has had me thinking about cookies since 8:30 Monday morning.

Knowing I had leftover raisins and walnuts from the chicken salad made last week, the heavens shined down on me when I found this recipe. A semi-healthy (it doesn't have chocolate or that much sugar -- therefore it is semi-healthy) cookie that involves ingredients for which I do not need to go to the store? Sign me up! I cheated a little in the ingredient department -- using dark brown sugar instead of light and using quick oats instead of rolled. Nevertheless, they were delicious and filling and now I can serve as the real cookie monster tomorrow morning at work when I tote these puppies in! You are welcome colleagues.
Even the dough looks delicious.

This may or may not be my breakfast in the morning . . .

Classic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Adapted from - Who Else
1 stick butter, softened
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups quick oats
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, raisins and walnuts, if using them. Chill the dough for at least one hour.

Spoon cookies two inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes, taking them out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked looking on top. Let them cool on the sheets for five minutes before transferring them.