Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Malibu Strawberry Lemon Cupcakes

I decided to prepare all the food for my friend’s bachelorette/lingerie shower. When I asked her what flavor of cupcakes she wanted she just shrugged and said “I don’t know, whatever you want to make will be good.” Yes, this is the same friend from my recent brownie-making. Well, you see folks, I’m often incapable of making decisions, and I wanted to be sure and make something she liked. So I began to read from a list of the cupcake/cake combos I had bookmarked. When I got to “Malibu Strawberry-Lemon Cupcakes”, as in MALIBU RUM, she instantly said “Yeah, make that, that sounds good!” Whew! Decision made!

I was a bit intimidated by the cupcakes because they called for an italian meringue buttercream. I’d heard scary things about this type of frosting curdling and not turning out, but I’m happy to report I had no such problems! The frosting was smooth and creamy, and delicious! Because of all the other food I was prepping, my crazy crazy work schedule, and the fact that the shower was being held 1.5 hours away, I wanted to make the frosting 2 days ahead of time. I chilled it in the fridge, but once it came time to frost the cupcakes I didn’t give the frosting enough time to chill. It was hard, and wouldn’t squeeze through my decorator tip. I ended up having to zap it in the microwave at a low temperature, and I was scared death I would melt it and lose the wonderful fluffy creaminess that I got after originally making it. It still turned out ok, but not AS beautiful as when I first made the frosting! *sigh*

And as for the cupcakes, I’m not sure I’ve ever made cupcakes with buttermilk before. These cooked up in an interesting way. It’s like the top became golden, and then the inside bubbled up. They all turned out lopsided. So I ended up shaving them off to make them even. Which is fine with me, I got to test taste them! They were yummy, but I think if I made these again, I would use a different lemon cake recipe. One that might bake up more evenly.

Either way, this was a decadent combo, and everyone at the shower loved the cupcakes! The strawberry drizzle is a great addition, and I’m glad I didn’t leave it out.

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Malibu Strawberry Lemon Cupcakes

Ingredients:

Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt (I increased this to around 1/4 because I used unsalted butter)
3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) salted butter, softened (I used unsalted)
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Malibu Italian Meringue Buttercream:
2 egg whites at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
12 tbsp (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
1-2 tablespoons Malibu Caribbean Rum, coconut flavor, to taste (I used 2 of course!)

Strawberry Puree:
5 ounces frozen strawberries, thawed (I used fresh strawberries)
1 teaspoons sugar, more or less (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, more or less (to taste)

Directions:

CUPCAKES:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line pan with cupcake liners.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and stir to combine. In the bowl of your mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat until well-blended on medium speed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the lemon zest and juice.

Fill each cupcake cup about two-thirds full and bake for about 17-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centrer of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

FROSTING:
Beat the egg whites in the bowl of your mixer with the whisk attachment until frothy, then add the cream of tartar and beat just before stiff peaks form.

Meanwhile, stir together the sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over moderately high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved and washing down side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. When syrup reaches a boil, put your candy thermometer into it and continue boiling, without stirring, until it reaches about 238-242 degrees Fahrenheit.

Immediately remove from heat, turn your mixer back on (if you had it off like me) and slowly pour the hot syrup in a thin stream into the egg whites, beating constantly at high speed and making sure to not pour directly on the side of the bowl. Beat meringue until the bowl is cool to the touch.

Change out your whisk for your paddle attachment and scrapes down the sides of the bowl. On medium speed, gradually add butter about two pieces at a time, beating well after each addition until incorporated. Continue beating until buttercream is smooth. (Mixture may look curdled before all butter is added, but will come back together before beating is finished. If that doesn’t work, try chilling it a bit in case your meringue was too hot.) Finally, add the Malibu and mix thoroughly.

PUREE:
Place the strawberries and their juice into your blender. Pulse a few times until pureed. Stir in the sugar and lemon juice until it’s the taste you want.

Cupcake assembly:
Pipe or spread on IMBC frosting. Drizzle some strawberry puree on top. Garnish with a strawberry.

Sorry I don’t have more/better pictures. I was running around like a crazy woman trying to get everything together before everyone started showing up!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Quinoa Soup, Miracle Food?

If you know me, and know my blog, I do love my sweet stuff, but I’m also a bit of a health stickler. I love a meal full of color that packs a healthy punch. I found this soup recipe that seemed simple and healthy. After looking at too many combinations of sugar, flour, & butter lately (preparing for a bridal shower), I wanted to look at and taste FOOD, glorious food!

Before I share the recipe with you, let me tell you all the wonders of quinoa. Pronounced KEEN-WAH, quinoa is natively South American and often compared to grains, as it is similar to them, but it’s actually a seed closely related to spinach & swiss chard. When cooked it becomes fluffy with a soft crunch. It’s a “supergrain” because it’s high in protein; and is a complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids (the building blocks for muscles). Besides providing all nine amino acids, it also provides enzymes, vitamins and minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, making it one of the most complete foods in nature. It’s gluten-free; acts as a prebiotic that feeds the microflora (good bacteria) in your intestines; a great source of fiber and is easily digested for optimal absorption of nutrients. Also, if you are prone to migraines, try adding quinoa to your diet. Quinoa is a good source of magnesium, a mineral that helps relax blood vessels, preventing the constriction and rebound dilation characteristic of migraines. Increased intake of magnesium has been shown to be related to a reduced frequency of headache episodes reported by migraine sufferers. Quinoa is also a good source of riboflavin, which is necessary for proper energy production within cells. Riboflavin (also called vitamin B2) has been shown to help reduce the frequency of attacks in migraine sufferers, most likely by improving the energy metabolism within their brain and muscle cells. (Sources: WHFoods, BodyEcology)

Now, do you see why I said it’s a miracle food? With all these health benefits, one might assume something so good for you won’t taste good. But quite the opposite! I really enjoy the taste & texture of quinoa. I look forward to cooking with it more often. For some reason my “soup” was not very soupy. Almost every bit of the liquid got absorbed! Also, I adapted this recipe a bit. I saw that it called for corn, but I wanted to sub hominy. I really like the taste & texture of hominy in soups, and I also added in some black beans, because I had them on hand and thought they would taste good in it. Also I used 2/3 cup salsa, instead of 1/3. This recipe came from quite a chain of sources. I believe in giving credit where credit is due, so here goes:

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Quinoa Soup with Avocado & Hominy

adapted from It's All Happening, as seen on Cheap Healthy Good, as seen on The Seattle Times, originally from the cookbook Whole Grains for Busy People

Ingredients:

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup quinoa
1 cup hominy (or corn)
2/3 cup chunky salsa, to taste
1 ripe but firm Hass avocado, diced
Salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (not a fan, omitted)
Lime wedges, for serving (optional)

Directions:

In a large saucepan over high heat, bring the broth to a boil. Stir in the quinoa, reduce heat to medium-high, and continue boiling, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

Stir in the corn and salsa, then return to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the avocado. Season with salt and stir in the cilantro. Ladle into large bowls, accompanied with lime wedges.

You can easily reheat the leftovers, but I also enjoyed it cold one night/morning when leaving work at 2:30am.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cocoa Brownies with Peanut Butter Chips

As I mentioned in my meatloaf post, one of my good friends was coming down to visit me. One thing I love about this girl is SHE EATS. Calories schmalories. First thing she did when she walked in my apartment was grab some Peeps and chow down. Not long after she got there we opened some wine and started to prepare dinner. We ate dinner and settled in to watch some NCAA basketball. After watching our Hilltoppers lose to Gonzaga in the last seconds of the game, we needed chocolate to recover. I asked her what she wanted for dessert, and she gave her “typical” response, a shrug of her shoulders and said “I don’t know, whatever you think is good.” I had some peanut butter chips in my cabinet that had been calling my name for a while, so I googled “Brownies & Peanut Butter Chips”. I think there’s a reason this was the second link that came up. These were gooooood. Mmmm… fudgy & gooey, rich & delicious. Wow. I definitely recommend these. It’s hard to eat just one. They were the perfect accompaniment to the girly movie we watched when the games were over.

Now, I know I’ve just subjected you to food porn at it’s finest, if you’re watching your calories, or trying to eat healthier, consider trying these Fantastic Fudgy Brownies from Cooking Light I’ve made in the past. They will DEFINITELY hit your chocolate spot without breaking the calorie bank. But if you are in the mood to indulge (and I was, I had a good workout that morning!), then go ahead and make these!

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Cocoa Brownies with Peanut Butter Chips

Ingredients:

1 1/4 sticks of unsalted butter
1 1/3 cup of white sugar
3/4 cup PLUS 2 tbsp of cocoa powder (I used about 1/2 Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa, and 1/2 regular cocoa, to intensify the chocolate flavor)
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
1 cup of peanut butter chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and make sure rack is in the lower third of the oven. Coat an 8 inch baking pan with cooking spray or line it with parchment paper.

In a large heat proof bowl, combine the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt. Set the bowl in a large skillet of water and simmer over medium low heat. Stir occasionally until the butter is melted and mixture is hot to the touch. The mixture will look slightly grainy. Remove from heat and cool until warm. Add vanilla and stir with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time mixing thoroughly after each one. When the batter looks well blended, smooth and shiny, slowly add the flour and stir until it's combined thoroughly, then stir vigorously for 30 strokes. Stir in the peanut butter chips. Pour into the baking pan and place a few more peanut butter chips on top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely then lift up ends of the parchment paper (if used) and transfer brownies to a cutting board where you cut into bite sized pieces. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Turkey Meatloaf


One of my good friends was coming over for a visit, and I knew I needed to make something for dinner that would serve more than two people (I often make things with 2 fish filets or 2 chicken breasts). I still had 1lb of ground turkey in the freezer from when I caught a sale. I wanted to do something different with it, and I had never made a meatloaf completely from scratch (I always use a seasoning packet). I found this recipe on Cooking Light’s website and was happy to discover I had all the ingredients, except the fresh parsley, for which I just subbed dried. I served it with roasted sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli, because that’s what I had on hand. I halved the recipe for the three of us. It came together really fast, and once cooked, was VERY tasty! No more seasoning packets for this girl!

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Turkey Meatloaf

Ingredients:

2 pounds ground turkey breast
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Cooking spray
1/4 cup ketchup

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Combine the first 10 ingredients in a large bowl.

Place the turkey mixture in a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Top with 1/4 cup ketchup. Bake at 400° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until done. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

Nutritional Information
Calories: 272; Fat: 3.5g; Protein: 39.1g; Carbohydrate: 20.4g; Fiber: 2.1g; Cholesterol: 97mg; Iron: 3.3mg; Sodium: 728mg; Calcium: 114mg