Monthly Archives: April 2012

Best Frosting Ever and Cupcakes

I made some cupcakes last week for the Riverfront Festival.   Some were for the Senior Center Bake Sale and some others were earmarked to go to the vendor dinner the night before the festival.    

I had a lot of fun with them, mainly because I filled the cupcakes with a frosting that is so good, and relatively easy to make.  And it’s pretty darn stable as well, at least in the sense that when it meets warm temps it doesn’t melt all over the place all that easily.  

I did use a cake mix for the cupcakes, mainly because most people expect that, and for some reason good homemade cakes are not as well received. But that’s OK. Cake mixes are quick and easy and used for a reason.

Now for the fun stuff. I made some mini cupcakes, and found out just how many you can actually make from a mix, and all I can say is WOW, I had no idea you could make so many. Luckily for me I have two mini tart pans and some mini tart molds so I was able to bake 34 at a time. I filled them with this frosting, in fact here’s the link from Pioneer Woman with some great pictures of the process. I didn’t get any pictures taken of the process, quite frankly, I was in a hurry and it was more important to get this made than to take pictures. I will take some at a later date though, cause this is so not the last time I make cupcakes this way.
This frosting does lend itself to the process of piping quite nicely, and I was pleasantly surprised. I took a pastry bag, with a pastry nozzle that had a wide opening, and pierced the top of the cupcakes with it and filled them with the frosting, pulling back on the bag as I was pumping it in. It did take me a couple of tries to get the right amount in,


and some of the mini cupcakes kind of burst with the filling, but that’s not a bad thing. Then I frosted the tops with some commercial frosting and voilà, filled cupcakes. And I have to say, they were a big hit. When I told my dear husband about them he said it sounded good, but he wanted some with a squiggly line and writing on top, so I accommodated him.

Here’s the recipe and how-to’s for the frosting. Oh and by the way, this is the original recipe for the Red Velvet Cake frosting. Just sayin…

1 cup milk
5 tablespoons flour
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla extract

Whisk together the flour and milk and heat over a medium heat, stirring constantly until it gets thick and cooks for just a minute or so. And you do have to be vigilant on this, trust me, it can get lumpy. I actually take the milk and flour with an ice-cube and shake it together for a just a few seconds or so in a sealed tumbler, it breaks up any lumps. (This is also a great hint when making gravy, shake some water and flour together with an ice-cube or two and then add the flour mixture to the sauce, keeps some of those lumps out of the gravy).
Set this aside to cool down, very important, you don’t want this to be hot when you add it to the sugar and butter.
Cream the butter and sugar together until most of the sugar crystals have dissolved. I like to add the vanilla extract at this point as the extract will also help the process. (although if you’re like me and forget to buy vanilla extract, head to the liquor cabinet and add in a some Kahlua or a sweet liqueur instead of the extract, so long as it’s not really strongly flavored, no one will be able to tell the difference.) *Note to self, remember to buy those vanilla beans soon so you can make your own extract. Sorry, got sidetracked there.
Add in the flour and milk mixture, as soon as it’s cooled all the way down and whip it together with the butter and sugar. I used my whisk attachment on my Kitchenaid, and whipped it until it was light and fluffy. Keep going, I really couldn’t tell you how long I whipped it, but it was several minutes. This will increase in volume, by a fair amount. I know I filled up a 4 cup container with the frosting and stuck it in the fridge for later on. This is not a really sweet frosting, but it is so tasty. I know cause I kept tasting it.

Taquito’s, Wontons and Tapa’s night for April

It was a wild and stormy night, well, OK it was a wild and stormy day yesterday, and I think people just wanted to stay home so we didn’t have as large a turnout as usual, but we were still able to have a few people in and visit with.   And sometimes it’s just nice to have just a few people you can have a lovely conversation with.   I got to visit a little more last night and it was wonderful.    The food wasn’t bad either.

I made some Taquito’s and Wontons,

And then there was some wonderful Smoked Salmon, some of the best I’ve had in years.   It reminded me of Gravlax, the Scandinavian style of smoked salmon.

Salmon in front, wontons and taquito’s in back

And Pizza

A relish tray with krab and olives

And some fantastic Tuna

Tuna with seaweed salad and wasabi, wonderful  (pardon the blurry picture)

All in all,  a nice gathering with great conversation and lovely people.

And by the way, I’m scheduled as the guest chef next month at the Crooked River Grill.    Here’s a sneak peak at the projected Menu;
Chips and Salsa on the tables along with Escabeche of Jalapeno’s and Carrots
Albondigas Soup for a starter
Carnita’s with Refried Bean and Lime Cilantro Rice and flour tortillas
and Pico de Gallo

I’ll be demonstrating how to make your own Refried Beans, as well as making Pico de Gallo and Carnita’s.  So stay tuned and I’ll keep you updated.

Peanut Butter Cookies and Boat Club.

This month has been busy.   Everytime I turn around, I’ve got another place to go or another commitment to meet.   But I did make it to Boat Club last Monday.     And as usual I’m glad I did.    We always have good food there, and this week was no exception.     From a wonderful smoked Brisket to smoked Pompano dip, from Chicken Enchilada’s to Oatmeal cake.    And in no particular order,

Potato Salad


Chicken Enchilada’s and Mac and Cheese (my contribution)


Deviled Eggs


Smoked Brisket


Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies


Oatmeal Cake


Lemon Cakes


Chicken and Broccoli Lasagna Rollups


More Deviled Eggs


Chips and Salsa


Fish Dip

And I can’t leave you without a recipe.    The Peanut Butter cookies were brought by someone else, but I knew the recipe, giggle.    I think these are without a doubt the absolute best ever, Peanut Butter Cookies, oh and they’re gluten free.     So that’s what we’ll call them,

Best Ever Peanut Butter Cookies     10 minutes    375 degree Oven

1 cup Peanut Butter (smooth or chunky, your choice)
1 cup Sugar
1 Egg

Mix sugar and egg together, until smooth.  Then stir in the Peanut Butter.   Form dough into small balls, walnut size and place on a greased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.   Then you get fancy if you like.   Use a fork to flatten and make a pattern with the tines of the fork.   Or you can flatten the cookie a little with your hand and press a Hershey Kiss in the middle.   Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees or until the cookie is done.    Let stand about a minute or so and then put them on a cooling rack.

Skidne æg (Hard cooked eggs in Mustard Sauce)

Looking for a new idea for something to do with some of those leftover hard cooked eggs?    How about trying something a little different?   Skidne æg was one of my favorite lunches growing up, which translated means Dirty Eggs, not the greatest name, but the flavour, well, let me just say it’s yummy.     Ideally, you want eggs that are just barely hard cooked, most recipes call for a 7 minute egg.    However, this recipe does yield itself very nicely to hard cooked eggs as well.    Which is why I’m posting it today.

If you have kids, they wanted to decorate hard-cooked eggs, and you probably have a few left over since you know your kids didn’t really want to eat all those eggs, just decorate them.   I know you can always make egg salad sandwiches, or potato salad or sliced eggs on bread.   However, why not try this with some of the eggs.  And by now you’re probably sick of the hard-cooked eggs anyway.

Peel your hard-cooked eggs and set aside.   I made some eggs up for this, because I didn’t decorate any eggs this year, but as I said before, this is also a great light lunch so go ahead and boil a couple of eggs if you don’t have any handy.   I’ll wait.

Ready? Good, so am I.

To start with, make a white sauce, simple right?   But try using this trick, heating your milk in the microwave while you are making a roux.   Which is just your basic flour and butter or oil, in a pan.   Then whisk in the hot milk with the roux and cook for a minute or so until thickened.   Add a couple of tablespoons Dijon Mustard and whisk that in.  Some salt and pepper to taste and then you are ready for the eggs.

You can warm your peeled hard-cooked eggs, or barely cooked eggs in some hot water for just about a minute or two, if they’re cold.   Or my mom used to just stick the peeled cold eggs into the sauce and spoon the sauce over them for a couple of minutes to warm the eggs up again.   Just keep the pot on low while you’re doing that.    And serve the eggs with a side of rye bread or in my case white toast since I didn’t have any Rye-bread.   I know it’s time to make a few loaves.   But I’ve been in a time crunch the last little while and every time I plan on a baking day, my plans get changed.

There you have it, a simple, different way to serve those pesky leftover hard-cooked eggs or just a nice light lunch.

White Sauce
1 1/2 cup hot milk or half and half
1-2 tablespoons flour
1-2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste.
Heat milk in a small saucepan or in the microwave until hot.   Make a roux of the flour and butter in a saucepan and cook until it bubbles for minute or so, stirring
constantly.   Then whisk in the hot milk, and cook until thickened.   Stir in the  mustard and taste.   Add some salt and pepper at this point, to taste.     Add your eggs to the pan to heat up or if using freshly cooked eggs, place your peeled eggs onto a plate and pour the sauce over them.   Serve with some lovely rye bread or toast.

Seriously Good Mac and Cheese

After making Mac and Cheese for the senior lunch a couple of weeks ago I received a lot of  comments on how good the dish was, and I posted the recipe that I used for that.  But that one made a whole lotta Mac and Cheese and would probably be more than you really need to make for a gathering.   So when I was asked to bring Mac and Cheese for Easter I decided to make a smaller amount.  And still ended up with more than we needed, but that’s OK, I like leftovers.

To start with, get a big old pot of water boiling.   You need to add a little salt and I like to add some olive oil to the water as well.    Cook the macaroni to your preferred level of done-ness.   Personally, I like mine cooked all the way, about 11 or 12 minutes.

While the macaroni is cooking, grate the cheese.   I used a pound of Colby Jack cheese, but you can use a mixture of Monterey Jack Cheese and Cheddar Cheese.   If you have some sharp cheddar handy, throw some of that in there.     Sprinkle the grated cheese with about a tablespoon of cornstarch and toss.   Set this aside while you make a white sauce.

Heat up 4 cups of half and half or whole milk, until almost boiling.  Then in a separate pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter and stir in 2 tablespoons flour, then add the hot milk and whisk together and cook until thickened.   Your sauce won’t be real thick, don’t worry about that.   As soon as it’s cooked a little to get rid of the raw flour taste, dump in the grated cheese and stir together.   The cheese will melt at this point and that bit of cornstarch on the cheese will help to keep the cheese from separating.   Add about 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder, 1/8th teaspoon hot mustard powder or two tablespoons prepared yellow mustard and 1/8th teaspoon cayenne pepper to the sauce at this point.   Taste, and adjust the seasonings, you can always add more, but taking out that cayenne pepper, well, let me just say this, it ain’t possible.  (I know this from experience).

Let it stand a couple of minutes while you cube up some Velveeta cheese.   I used the new Queso Blanco.   Just about a cup or so, again to your taste.   Mix the cubed velveeta into the hot macaroni and stir, then pour the cheese sauce over, mix it all together gently.

Top with some panko bread crumbs that you’ve mixed with a little butter, and sprinkle over the top.   I melt some butter in a little pan and then add the Panko to it and stir it around, and brown it just a little teensy bit.

This time round I also added about a half cup of shredded cheese to it as well.    Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Take out of oven and let stand for 10 minutes, then serve.    And at this point, stand well back from the pan, you’re going to have people elbowing into the line.     This is some seriously good Mac and Cheese.

Sauce Recipe for Mac and Cheese

4 cups half and half, heated almost to boiling.
2 tablespoons flour mixed with 2 tablespoons butter to form a roux
1 pound grated Colby Jack cheese, or,
1/2 pound Monterey Jack cheese grated and
1/2 pound Cheddar Cheese, grated
1 cup Sharp Cheddar cheese grated (optional)
1 tablespoon cornstarch, sprinkled over the cheese
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon hot mustard powder or
2 tablespoons yellow mustard,
1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Heat milk almost to boiling and set aside.   Melt butter in a saucepan, add flour and stir together to make a roux.    Add the hot half and half and whisk together until it has thickened.   Add the spices, whisk together and then add the cheese.   Stir together until melted and the sauce has thickened a little.   Pour over the cooked macaroni and Velveeta Cheese cubes.   Mix together gently and sprinkle some buttered Panko bread crumbs on top.   Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until nice and bubbly and hot.  Take out and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.   This stuff is HOT when it comes out of the oven, and needs to rest, besides which, you’ll just burn your tongue if you try to eat it fresh out of the oven.   I know this because, well, let me just say my tongue is just fine now.

Chicken Fricassee

While my first meat love is pork, chicken comes in as a close second.    I like love chicken.   There are so many things you can do with it, fry it, boil it, bake it, grill it, sauté it, stew it, or fricassee it.  Which is a combination of frying and stewing,    I just love saying Fricassee, it makes it sound so exotic, and good.    Every so often I get a hankering for a good old fashioned meal of Chicken Fricassee.    It’s a nice comfort food, and you can serve it with noodles or rice or mashed potatoes or, whatever you like.    I think it’s a great combination of several veggies, in the past I’ve made it with celery and green peppers along with the mushrooms, but yesterday I just used half a green pepper, a pound of mushrooms and some green onions for the sauce.   And it was good.   Very good.   And best of all I have leftovers, giggle.  Or at least enough left over for another meal.  So, I’m putting it in the freezer so the next time I don’t feel like cooking, TA DA, my dinner is ready, well almost, I’ll still have to defrost it.

To start with, I used some chicken breasts that I’d boned and skinned.   But you can use cut up chicken for this as well, if you like drums and thighs, they go wonderfully here.

Chicken Fricassee
4 chicken breasts, boned and skinned or
1 whole chicken cut up, and skinned
2 tbsp. Flour
Salt and Pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil (just enough to sauté the chicken and brown it a little)
1 whole green pepper, cut into chunks
8 oz.  mushrooms sliced
4 sliced green onions
2 cups chicken stock  (home-made is best here if you can)
1 teaspoon Marjoram or (Basil or Oregano or Sage)
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup milk or cream

Dredge the chicken in a little flour you’ve seasoned with some salt and pepper.   No need to go exotic here, unless of course you want to.   And in that case if you want to season it with some other herbs, feel free.  This is your dish, you can do whatever you want.    Saute the chicken until it’s browned a little and then remove it from the pan.

Place the chicken aside, then sauté the green onions, mushrooms and green pepper for a few minutes until the green pepper softens a little and the mushrooms start to cook.

Put the chicken back in the pan, add the chicken stock and let it cook for 30 minutes or until the chicken is done.

Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.   Make a slurry of the flour and milk and add to the pan juices to make a gravy. Cook until it is thickened and then add the chicken back to the pan and let heat through.   Serve with noodles or rice or mashed potatoes.

Another view, giggle.   I do have to say, this is an easy dish, and I think it tastes great too.

Senior’s Lunch 3/29 and Mac and Cheese for a crowd.

I think I left you with the fact that as I was trying to make a chocolate sauce last week, I managed to scorch it, sigh, which meant I had to start all over again.  But I made it.  I got another sauce done and on the cake and it was good.   We also did our usual crazy last-minute stuff and managed to get the food ready and waiting for our people to come and eat.   The menu this week was:

Fried Tilapia
Mac and Cheese
Chicken and Rice Casserole
Sliced Red and Yellow Tomatoes
Sliced Bread and Fresh Home Made Butter
Deviled Eggs

Fried Tilapia
Mac and Cheese


Chicken and Rice Casserole




Sliced tomatoes


Home Made Butter and Bread


Hush Puppies


Deviled Eggs

And I have to say that the Mac and Cheese was really good, and just to give you an idea of how much I made, here’s the recipe, but please remember I eyeballed a lot of this, and added until it tasted right.

3- 3 pound boxes of Elbow Macaroni, cooked.  (this really makes a lot, each box serves 24)
1 lb. grated Monterey Jack Cheese
1 lb. grated Cheddar Cheese
1/2 lb. grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Toss the grated cheese with a couple tablespoons of cornstarch, keeps it from sticking to itself and, very important, keeps it from separating while cooking.
2 lbs. Velveeta Queso Cheese, cut into cubes

2 quarts Half and Half
4-6 tbsp.  Cornstarch
1/2 cup yellow mustard,   (could have been a little more, I was eyeballing it).
3 tsp.  onion powder
1 tsp Cayenne powder.

1 1/2 packages of Panko Bread Crumbs
1 cup butter (approx).

Grease two large baking pans, I’ll have to measure them next week and let you know just how big they were, but anyway, then divide the cooked macaroni into the dishes, half into each one.
Divide the grated cheese into two portions, and add half to each pan of macaroni, give it a little stir, you don’t want it clumping up into one big cheesy clump.    Then chunk up each one pound package of Velveeta and add the cubes to the hot macaroni, stir.   Set aside while you make a white sauce out of the half and half and cornstarch.   Then pour half of the white sauce over each pan of macaroni, give it a stir and top with the buttered Panko Bread crumbs.   Bake until heated through, about 45 minutes or so, and the crumbs are browned a little.     This made a lot, and it was very good.    I’m actually going to be making this again, and taking it to a friends house for part of Easter dinner, so I’ll post the more reasonable proportions for a family size recipe later.     However, if you’re making Mac and Cheese for a large group of people, this recipe is spot on.