Friday, January 29, 2010

Vanilla Cupcakes with Instant Fudgy Frosting

Fudgy Frosted Cucake Solo

It's been quite awhile since I made cupcakes and that just ain't right.

Any of you who have been following this blog know of my cupcake love.

It's fierce.

Cupcakes make people happy. I dare you to offer someone one and not see a smile on their face. I just doesn't happen. People love cupcakes and that's a fact.

Since we've needed a bit of cheering up around here lately, I thought cupcakes would be the perfect treat, so I whipped up a batch for my Mom's birthday last Sunday to go along with her birthday cake.

I used one of my favorite cupcake batters Billy's Vanilla Vanilla Cupcakes. I topped it with a Smitten Kitchen recipe for Instant Fudgy Frosting. The frosting recipe makes a lot. It could frost a layer cake easily. I piled it on high for a really traditional looking cupcake. No piping bag needed.

Moist vanilla, vanilla cupcakes with rich, not too sweet frosting.

Fudgy Frosted Cucake Trio1

Instant Fudgy Frosting
recipe from Smitten Kitchen
Printable recipe
Makes 5 cups
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled.
4 ½ cups confectioners sugar
3 sticks, unsalted butter at room temp (yup I said 3)
6 tablespoons half & half or whole milk
1-tablespoon vanilla extract.

Place all ingredients in a food processor a pulse to incorporate, then process until frosting is smooth. If you need to firm it up a bit, just stick it in the fridge for 20 mins or so.

Fudgy Frosted Cucake CU Blue

Monday, January 25, 2010

Giada's Chocolate Amaretti Cake (for Mom)

Amaretti Cookies 2

It's been a rough few days for us here. The baby of the house, Moose, our beloved dog is not doing too well. I won't go into all the gory details or I will surely end up in a puddle on the floor as I type this, but to sum it up, he's having a problem with a disc in his back, which could eventually mean a very expensive surgery, but for now we are treating it medicinally and he is on complete rest, which mean he's confined to one room during the day and for a dog that had full rein of the house, I'm sure he hates it as much as I do. We are praying that his back heals and he's back to his ole self again so we can avoid the surgery.

For those of you who are dog lovers like me, I don't have to tell you how much this is breaking my heart. I've had a knot in my stomach for days and days, and I seem always to be on the verge of tears, but life goes on as they say and we had some celebrating to do cause it was my Mom's birthday Sunday, and when there's a birthday, there is cake.

Like many, many birthdays before this one, I made the cake. I guess being the only girl in the family, the responsibility of birthday cake baking falls on me. It's ok cause in case you haven't guessed, I love to bake.

Chocolate Amaretti Cake CU

Mom just turned 66. Twenty years and 2 months older than me. She looks good for 66. I pray those genes are in my blood.

Mom 66

I chose this cake cause I know my Mom loves amaretti cookies and I happen to have a big stash of them. Our local Job Lot (I'm sure you have store like it where you live) carries these amazing imported amaretti cookies made in Italy.

Amaretti Cookies

Crunch little bites of air filled almond cookies. Heaven.
I saw this recipe on one of the food message boards I frequent. I've had never made a Giada recipe before, even though I own 2 of her cookbooks. I always seem to turn to Ina when it comes to cakes, but I thought I'd give the fellow Italian a turn. I'm glad I did.

This cake was rich, but not overly heavy. A small slice was the perfect ending to a Sunday meal. I chose to sprinkle the top with confectioners sugar cause I thought it looked better, and would taste better than the cocoa Giada suggests.

Giada's Chocolate Amaretti Cake Printable recipe
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup baby amaretti cookies (about 2 ounces)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
4 large eggs
Unsweetened cocoa powder, for sifting

Oven to 350.

Spray a 9-inch springform pan the nonstick spray. Refrigerate.

Microwave the chocolate until melted and smooth, stirring every 20 seconds, for about 1 minute.
Combine the almonds and cookies in processor. Pulse until the almonds and cookies are finely ground. Transfer the nut mixture to a medium bowl.

Chocolate Amaretti Cake w fork

Add the butter and sugar to the processor and blend until creamy and smooth. Add the grated orange peel and pulse briefly, until incorporated. Add the eggs 1 at a time. Blend until the eggs are incorporated. Clean the sides of the mixing bowl and blend again. Add the nut mixture and melted chocolate. Pulse until blended. Clean the sides of the bowl. Blend again.

Chocolate Amaretti Cake fork CU

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the center puffs and a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes.Transfer the cake to a platter. Sift the cocoa powder over and serve.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Simple Spinach Salad and a little dose of gratefulness.

One of things that I love best about blogging is the people that I have met on this crazy 'ole contraption we call the Internet.

I think it's my favorite thing about the blogging community. The friendships, the camaraderie, the fellowship. It's a lot like when you were a kid growing up and you had your best friends, and you thought no one, no other living soul on the face of this earth understood you like those friends did. I have that same kind of feeling about some of my favorite bloggers. I'll read something they write and out loud, I'll say "yes!" or I'll giggle or nod my head in agreement, or think "I wish I would have written that" or "OMG, she is so _______ smart, inventive, beautiful, insightful, talented, etc." I fill in the blank as I go along. I'll see a picture they took and I can actually feel what they wanted to express the moment the shutter clicked. I'm so enamoured. I gasp at the beauty of it all. Such talent.

They share a little bit of their lives with me, and always seem to enrich mine somehow, whether it be their recipes, their wit, humor, or a comment that says "hey you're ok" or a message on Facebook that says "I'm right there with ya". They get me. They have also given me so much inspiration in so many, many ways.

We might not have sat over a cup of tea, or gone shopping together, or even talked on the phone, but I really do consider them friends.

So I wanted to do a little shout out to these fantastic women (and one man. Don't hate on me men, there may be a part deux for you). Here's part of my roll call. I'm sure I'm forgetting someone! I just know it and I'm going to feel awful when I realize it.

No, they are not all recipe blogs, although most of them will throw a recipe or two in from time to time, and I love that. It's quite a bunch of extraordinary folks and it would be well worth your time to stop and visit and check them out, so you can see for yourself why I'm so lucky to have them in my world.

You'll find that no two are quite alike, and I love that.

Take a moment to visit:
Jen, Krysta, Katie, Joan-Marie, Melissa, Dana, Kim, Todd & Diane and June.

Thanks to all of you for making my life a little sweeter.

OK - BACK TO THE FOOD! On to my Simple (very simple) Spinach Salad.

Spinach Salad CU

As most readers know, I have two sons, but you might notice that there always seems to be one young lady in a lot of my photos. That would be Sara, my best friends daughter. No, she was not spawned from my loins, but she is the daughter I will never have. My sweet, sweet Sara who lives at my house almost every other weekend, who I treat as my own child and who my boys treat just like a sister.

This child will eat just about anything that you will put down in front of her except - salad. She's not a traditional salad kinda kid. Tati told me the only salad she will eat is Spinach Salad. Her very simple spinach salad. So I gave it shot. Get ready, here's the mind-blowing recipe.

1 big bowl baby spinach (please wash and dry it before consumption)
oil & vinegar
salt & pepper
crushed garlic
hard boiled egg (optional)

Throw the spinach in a big bowl. Combine the oil, vinegar, salt & pepper, and crushed garlic. I used 2 cloves for one salad. Pour over salad and toss.

I threw in some hard boiled eggs cause I like them.

That's it. Can't get any easier than that. It's simplicity at it's best. No muss, no fuss, eat. I served this with dinner the other night and the kids loved it. Jesse proclaimed it "the best spinach salad ever". It does help that both my kids love spinach, if yours don't, well then this is definitely not the salad for you.

Oh I forgot one last thing......Popeye approved - it'll grow some musclies on ya.

Spinach Salad

Sunday, January 17, 2010


I sat down and prepared to write about the food I prepared today.

I just couldn't do it.

As we sat down to eat a simple meal all I could think of was the millions who have no food, no place to sit, no home.

I can't watch the news anymore. It's tearing me up inside.

Faces are haunting me.

Thoughts of mothers without babies, children without families, husbands without wives....gone....buried under rubble.

If you can, please help. Here's a link to the organizations that can use your donations.



Be back in a few days.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Grapenut Pudding - made in the blender!

Grape Nut Pudding CU

During part of my lazy vacation I went through some really old recipe binders I've had since I was a teenager.

I was about 18 when I started to collect recipes, and I put them in the old fashioned photo albums with that piece of static cling paper that you peeled back to slide the pictures into. Remember those? I have 3 of them filled with recipes I collected back in the 80's.

I had a mini trip down memory lane as I looked over recipes from friends and co-workers that I hadn't thought of in a long while.

This recipe was from a friend named Susan that I worked with over 25 years ago. As I looked at her handwriting, a flood of memories came back. I was 19 and had just saved up for my first "real" camera, a Canon AE1 Program. Sue asked me if I would take some pictures for her upcoming wedding. Young and enthusatic about my new camera, I happily said yes. I remember shooting 12 rolls of film at her wedding. Film. Remember that?? When I presented the photos to her, she was near tears. She told me they were better than the ones the professional photographer took. She framed my photos and hung them on her walls. I was beyond thrilled. In a way, she was the one that encouraged me to really pursue my passion for photography.

I went through thousands of rolls of film in the past 25 years, and now I've moved on to the digital age of photography. Back when I was shooting with film I never in a million years thought that there would be another way to take pictures. Funny how things change.

One thing that hasn't good this grape nut pudding is and how easy it is to make. I've been making it for over 25 years now and I still love scooping it into my little custard cups and topping it with whipped cream and a sprinkling of nutmeg.

This pudding needs to bake in a water bath. So grab a casserole pan that will fit inside a larger pan. Put the smaller pan inside the larger pan, and just before baking, fill the larger pan 3/4 of the way full with water. Capish? Ok now let's make some pudding.

Grape Nut Pudding pre-bake

Grapenut Pudding (in the blender)

Printable recipe

Oven to 350.
In a blender mix:
4 cups of milk (I used 2%, you can use whatever you like)
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 to 1 cup of sugar
(depending on how sweet you like it, I use just a tad over 1/2 cup and it's plenty sweet for my taste)

Blend until well combined and pour into a casserole dish. Pour 1 cup of grape nuts in a measuring cup and sprinkle it on top of the custard mixture. Note: They will float! I also grated on some nutmeg before it went in the oven, but that's optional.

Grape Nut Pudding in cup

Bake for 1 hour. Test for doness. Mine needed another 8 minutes back in the oven. Yours may not. The pudding should still be a bit giggly like cheesecake, but not soupy and you should be able to slide a knife near the center and have it come up clean.

Some people like to eat their pudding hot. Not me. I like it chilled (with whipped cream and another sprinkling of nutmeg).

Grape Nut Pudding CU TS

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Talkative Tuesday

Why? Just to give you all the heads up that I’ve decided to participate in Wordless Wednesday, and since I won’t be using any words on Wednesdays (cept for the title of the post) I thought I better let you know before hand.

What? You don’t know what Wordless Wednesday is? WW is a simple blog post featuring a photo, which conveys a message that speaks for itself.

How hard is it going to be for me to not elaborate?? Oh my gosh, so hard, but I’m gonna try dammit.

So fair warning…Wednesday’s are going to be my quiet day.

I just envisioned my husbands laugh as he read that last line.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Simple Baby Bok Choy

Baby Bok Choy 1


I've been craving it since the holidays ended.

Big bowls of fresh greens mixed with a light vinaigrette, or heaps of stir fried veggies over rice. My body needs greens.

One of my favorite greens is bok choy. Baby bok choy to be exact. I buy mine at an Asian market.

If you have a local Asian market in your town and haven't checked it out.....why not??? I love the two near me. Yes some of the items don't have an English labels, but I've found that the folks who own the stores are always more than willing to help me out and direct me to the item I'm looking for, or tell me just what it is I'm holding in my hand, lol. I visit so often now that they recognize me when I walk it. It's kinda nice.

I go about once every 3 weeks to stock up on noodles, sauce, Chinese sausage for stir friend rice and fresh veggies. Lots and lots of fresh veggies.

On my last visit I bought a big ole bunch of my fave.

Baby Bok Choy

It's so easy to make. Just wash the bok choy really well and drain.

Heat a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of canola oil. Add in 2 cloves of chopped garlic. Let it cook for 30 seconds or so and then throw in the bok choy, stir, slap the lid on and let it steam for about 4 - 5 minutes.

Baby Bok Choy 2

I give it a splash of soy sauce just before serving and those babies are ready to eat. Oh one more note, please try and buy your soy at an Asian market. The difference from the soy you can pick up at the mega centers is very noticeable. I won't buy mine anyway else, and another added bonus, it's so cheap!! Your taste buds will thank you!

Here's to a greener 2010!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole

We love big hearty weekend breakfasts.

Pancakes loaded with bluberries we picked over the summer.

Waffles topped with bananas and real maple syrup.

Eggs prepared just about any way you can make 'em.

We are a breakfast lovin' family.

We even have breakfast suppers some nights.

I saw this recipe over at
Or so she says and I knew that it would be a hit for my hungry men.

Breakfast Casserole bb

Breakfast Casserole eggs

Breakfast Casserole ready for fridge

This is Lindsay's husbands Grandma Pat's recipe. If it's a Grandma recipe, it's got to be good. You can check out Lindsay's blog
Our Family Treat.

I love that you can use up whatever leftovers you have in the fridge and that you can make it the night before. I used whole wheat bread and some of the leftover Chritmas ham, but the combinations of what you can use are endless.

Next time I'm thinking, bacon, onions and Monterey jack, or maybe spinach, sausage and Swiss?

Breakfast Casserole
12 slices of bread
18 oz of shredded cheese
(I didn't measure my cheese, I just sprinkled it on generously)
1 pound of your favorite meat
(Again I didn't measure, I just layered it on)
Cooked vegetable of your choice (none this time for us, for shame)
8-10 Eggs (I used 10)
Salt and Pepper

Butter one side of all the bread slices. Place 6 slices of bread, buttered side down in a 9x13 inch pan. Top your choice of meat, veggies and cheese.

Place the other 6 slices of bread, buttered side up, on the top. Beat 8-10 eggs in a bowl. Add salt and pepper. Pour the eggs into the casserole dish, making sure to cover all the bread with th beaten eggs. Cover the pan in foil and refrigerate over night.

Keep the foil on and bake at 350 for 1 hour. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 1/2 hour, or until the bread is nicely browned. Let sit for 5 minutes, cut and serve.

The whole house smelled like breakfast while this was cooking. The bread browned up and got nice and toasty. It was like eating a thick grilled cheese.

Breakfast Casserole coll
*printable recipes is on the blink, so cut and paste this time, sorry!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Baked Breaded Chicken

baked chicken

It's been snowing for days here.

Small squalls, then some heavy bursts, a little rain, more snow, wind, etc. It's been a plethora of weather I tell ya. I used the word plethora cause my friend Mitch thinks it's such a cool word. Hope ya enjoyed that Mitchell.

So we've been indoors a lot. Cozied up on the couch in mountains of blankets, playing board games, listening to our favorite music, doing a little crafting, and eating leftovers. Lots of leftovers. The leftovers from Christmas are long gone. We then moved on to the New Years Eve leftovers. Those are just about finished too. Thank goodness.

I'm fooded out.

The holiday food fest is officially over, and I have to admit, I am a little relieved.

I love cooking and baking, and the seeing everyone enjoy what I've made, but in the days that follow Christmas & New Years, all I'm craving is a big salad and lots of veggies.

I really needed to stop eating out of Rubbermaid containers and be done with all it all.

We haven't had chicken in weeks, which is really unusual in this house, so I thought it was time to bake some up.

This is a recipe that I use when I want to quickly cook up some chicken to use as a meal and yes, as leftovers. Cold chicken sandwiches, diced into salads, or thrown into a quick soup.

Maybe my days of eating out of Rubbermaid aren't really over yet? *sigh*

baked chicken spices

Baked Breaded Chicken
Printable recipe
1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs (I use Panko)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons cornmeal
1 tablespoon Lawrys Seasoning Salt
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon paprika
3 eggs, beaten
olive oil for drizzling

I used 4 large leg quarters and 2 whole breasts when I made this. You can use whatever chicken part you like, but I find the leg is always more flavorful than the breasts and are the first pieces gobbled up.

Mix all the ingredients except the eggs into a large bowl and lightly stir to combine.

Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl. Dip the chicken in the egg mixture and then into the breadcrumb mixture.

baked chicken 1

Once all the pieces are coated well, put them into the fridge for at least an hour. I find this helps the coating to stay on a bit better when baking.

Preheat the oven to 350 and bake on a sprayed, foiled lined baking sheet, 45 minutes or until the juices run clear.

I also drizzle a little olive oil over the chicken just before baking to make sure the coating doesn't dry out.