Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Boston Cream cupcakes

This has become of my most requested treats. Rich and decadent but in a neat and tidy little package - I don't complain when someone asks me to make these because they are totally worth it (I try not to complain too much anyway - but if I do it usually follows a cupcake request)
The recipe is from America's Test Kitchen Best Ever Recipes December 2010 edition. 
And if you haven't noticed already, I am a huge fan of ATK.

okay...back to the cupcakes.

Usually I avoid making cupcakes. I hate cleaning the muffin tin. Really - I do - and that really is the only reason I avoid cupcakes - but my husband wanted Boston Cream Pie for his birthday and of course - I couldn't just make the normal cake. I remembered seeing this in the magazine and decided I needed to reacquaint myself with my old muffin tin and give it a go.

The result? (Besides a very happy husband?) was one perfect little serving of moist cake, luscious cream and rich dark chocolate.

Some tips I have gathered over the last few months :

Bake the cupcakes without liners in a greased and floured muffin tin - it really works and gives you a lovely presentation.
Use a hand held mixer - it really does make a difference in the texture of the cakes.

The pastry cream and the chocolate ganache can be made a day in advance.
I pull everything out of the fridge the morning of my event and let it all come to room temperature before trying to fill and dress the cupcakes. 

Do not glaze the cupcakes with the chocolate ganache until right before serving. 
About the glaze - I put a couple tablespoons in a small bowl and microwave it for a few seconds to ensure I get the "run down the side of the cupcake" effect.

Save the little cake pieces - I usually put them in a bowl and after serving the cupcakes I place the bowl of leftover pieces and any leftover cream and chocolate and just let everybody have at it!  Great fun to watch! Have some wipees ready nearby.


Pastry Cream
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
3 lg egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
pinch salt
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Bring the cream to a simmer - stirring occasionally.
In a separate bowl whisk the yolks, sugar and salt together - add the cornstarch and whisk until the mixture is pale yellow.
When the cream reaches a full simmer slowly whisk the cream into the egg mixture.
Return all of it to the pan and cook over medium heat until all is thick and glossy - about 2 more minutes.
Off the heat whisk in the butter and vanilla.
Transfer to a small bowl - cover with plastic wrap pressed lightly against the top of the cream - refrigerate until needed.

1 3/4 cups flour - plus more to flour the muffin tin
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter - cut into 12 pieces
3 lg eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Oven to 350.
Rack in middle.
Generously grease and flour the muffin tin.
Using a hand held mixer combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar on low speed.
Add the butter 1 piece at a time.
Add the eggs 1 at a time.
Mix until all combined.
Add milk and vanilla - increase speed and mix until light and fluffy.
Fill muffin cups
(Not the prettiest pan but I've had it FOREVER)
Bake about 18 minutes - or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool in the pan about 5 minutes - then remove each cake from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Chocolate Glaze
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
about 2 cups bittersweet chocolate
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Cook the cream, corn syrup, chocolate and vanilla over medium heat - stirring constantly until smooth.
Set aside until ready to use.


Cut out centers of each cake
(It always amazes me how all the cupcakes can cook in the same pan for the same amount of time and every one is a different color)
I also think the first time I did this, out of the dozen cakes I made I was able to serve maybe half (maybe)
Save the little pieces you cut off the top part in a separate bowl- you should now have almost a flat disk of cake that becomes the lid (how's that for a seriously scientific explanation?)

Fill each hollowed cake with pastry cream.
Replace all lids.
Cover the knife marks with the chocolate glaze and serve (with a fork)

Friday, September 16, 2011


Traditionally it's a delicious, rustic Italian side dish of sweet peppers, garlic and onions - maybe some potatoes or tomatoes as well (maybe)

I really wanted to make this since I had just purchased some beautiful produce from the mornings visit to my local Farmers Market - but I needed it to be the main course, not a side dish (thus the addition of potatoes and meatball things)
 It is also still a 'little' warm here in the Sacramento Valley so I am taking a big gamble that the family is going to want stew for dinner.

But of course, here I go, gambling!


A trip to your local Farmers Market! Not really....unless you can....then I strongly urge you go and make it a habit. It's totally worth it for all the fresh produce and the support of your local growers.



2 large red peppers (or 3 if they are small)
1/2 green pepper (or a whole one if it's small)
1 medium sized red onion
5 garlic cloves
4 or 5 red potatoes
4 cups beef broth ( I used 4 cups because I added potatoes and the meat - if you are not using either then only do 2 cups of broth - unless you like a lot of sauce)
2 pinches red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
olive oil
salt pepper
and a plate of what I call "meatball dumplings"
(recipe at end)

fresh basil for garnish

some really yummy bread to serve alongside


Farmers Market trip photo - only about a 1/4 of the spoils

Chop all this up - except the little red pepper - I didn't use that but Tate thought it was "SO cute" and that it needed to be in the photo.

note about chopping vegetables for any type of soup or stew: try to keep all the pieces pretty close to the same size. This will really help with the overall texture of your dish (i.e...some bites taste mushy but some bites are crispy) And the smaller the pieces the faster they cook so if my times here seem too long try cutting everything smaller and see if that get's your dinner done faster - I did a pretty big chop on all the vegetables here.

Fry all the meatball dumplings - probably in batches.Only flipping each dumpling 1 time. 
Remove and let rest on paper towels.
If there is a lot of grease you will need to strain some of that out - otherwise cook whatever residue is in the pot on medium high heat for another 2 minutes or so.
Add onions - cook about 5 minutes.

Add potatoes - cook 5 minutes - stir constantly to help the 'no stick' process and to make sure each potato is coated.

Stir then add all the herbs and a little salt and pepper. 
Cook for about 10 minutes or so then add the beef broth.
Bring to a boil then turn the heat down to medium - cover ALMOST all the way and let cook for about a half hour - or until the potatoes are almost done. 
Stir occasionally.

Add the meatball dumplings
Cover ALMOST all the way again and cook for another 10 minutes.

Garnish with some fresh basil and serve

Meatball Dumplings:
Almost 1 pound of ground beef (cause that's what I had)
2 eggs
1/3 cup of milk
teaspoon oregano
half teaspoon thyme 
teaspoon basil

Mix well.
It is going to seem rather soupy and odd looking.
Make sure to mix all the ingredients in really well then use a spoon to drop each dumpling in the pot. Only flip one time otherwise they might fall apart on you.

Not a very pretty picture but I hope this gives you an idea of what they look like before adding to the stew.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fresh Tomato Tart

Immediately following the over abundance of zucchini from the garden, was the onslaught of tomatoes. So many sizes and shapes and colors and varying degrees of sweetness and tartness - it was quite fun (and delicious) to pick and taste and decide which ones were our favorites.
I did make several jars of tomato sauce that I stored for future use. And, of course, there was one more than one night of BLT's for dinner - no complaints from anyone in this house.

These little tarts are one of my most favorite things to make with any sort of combination of toppings. Quick, delicious and I can pretty much use whatever I have in the refrigerator or whatever is currently overtaking the garden.

They're fun to make...and tasty so I hope you try it.

Fresh Tomato Tart


1 sheet puff pastry (one of these days I will make my own puff pastry...soon)
6 or 7 small tomatoes
1/2 sweet white onion - very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 garlic cloves - minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 cup Feta cheese 
(also delicious with Goat cheese so whichever you prefer)


oven to 400

Line a sheet tray with parchment paper and dust with flour - lay the unrolled sheet of puff pastry on top - dust the top of the puff pastry with flour and poke holes all over with a fork

Into the oven for 30 minutes. Both sides will come out brown and crisp.
(I saw a cooking show chef do this little trick and I love it - have used it ever since)

While pastry is cooking saute the onions and garlic with the olive oil, butter and sugar until the edges are brown and crispy.


Turn off the heat and let cool.

Begin slicing your tomatoes. As thin as possible is best.

re: slicing tomatoes - I have found my bread knife is the kitchen favorite for this little task.

When the puff pastry is ready remove from the oven - turn the oven down to 375 and set to Broil - move the top sheet tray to the bottom of the whole pile.

reason: the pastry has to go back in the oven - this helps keep the bottom from over cooking or burning

Cover the top with the onion and garlic mixture - make sure to also use all the drippings of olive oil and butter.
Start laying your slices of tomato all over the top of the onions.
Sprinkle the herbs over the tomatoes.
Salt and pepper all over the top.
Cover this with about a 1/4 cup Feta cheese

Back into the oven until cheese is mostly melted and edges darken.

Out of the oven sprinkle the rest of the cheese and some fresh basil if you have it

Cut into squares and serve.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Chicken Croquettes

I'm a little Croquette obsessed right now. Pretty much if it can be shaped and fried I'm all over it. The jeans aren't real happy but the family is!

My latest? Chicken croquettes made with leftover chicken. I always seem to have quite a bit leftover after roasting a whole chicken so I started making these. Even Tate - the self proclaimed 'vegetarian' loves them!

Now I have tried several recipes but there always seemed to be something not quite right. Through this process I did learn that I do not like poultry seasoning - at all. So I leave that out. Tate does not like onions (even though I told her that as a 'vegetarian' she should eat onions - "NO WAY!")       so I substitute onion powder and just don't tell her. Then after a few other changes here and there I am left with a very crispy outside, tender and moist inside, great chicken flavor and a fairly quick dinner.

Hope you try it.


around 3 cups cooked chicken
about 1/2 cup celery - chopped tiny
2 eggs
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 or 3 tablespoons Cambells Cream of Chicken soup 
Crisco for frying

Yes, I realize many readers are gasping for air after reading those last two ingredients. I will apologize now. 
"Cambells soup??? A canned not made from scratch item???" Yes - and I strongly recommend this.
"Crisco???" Again - yes - and again - I strongly recommend the use of Crisco here.
In case someone thinks I'm a little confused here are a couple photos.

I have fried these with olive oil and canola oil and the other oil...I always go back to using the Crisco. Whatever the science behind this product is, my croquettes come out beautifully browned and crispy with almost no greasy residue. Sorry.....


Chop all the chicken and celery then throw all that in a bowl.
Add the onion powder, garlic powder, bread crumbs, a little salt and pepper then mix the whole thing up. Add 2 tablespoons of the soup and mix well. If your mixture seems to still be too flaky add another tablespoon but no more than 3 (for 3 cups of chicken)

Add the eggs and get your hands in there to make sure everything is mixed very well. 
Shape into patties.
Roll each patty in the Panko.
Lay all these out on a sheet tray.

Then into the refrigerator they go for at least an hour.
(this is another of those great 'prep early in the day' recipes)

When ready, melt about a 1/4 cup of Crisco in your skillet.

When the Crisco is melted add the patties (in batches if necessary)

I usually do 2 or 3 at a time because I figure that's a perfectly healthy serving (even after I just fried them all in Crisco)

Cook until kind of a dark golden brown, then flip and cook the second side.

While the patties are cooking, warm the rest of the soup with a little milk - about a 1/4 cup. Taste for seasoning then keep warm.

I usually serve the soup in a little bowl on the side, and I usually make orzo pilaf and a salad to complete the dinner.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mushroom Bruschetta

Tate had her first day of first grade yesterday.
Rather than sit in the parking lot and cry all morning like I did when she started kindergarten I came home looking for something to do.....pretty much anything to distract my little breaking heart.
(yes...I really did cry all morning that first day of kindergarten)

My baby is growing up too fast.

Okay...back to why I'm here.

Mushroom Bruschetta is another one of those dishes I saw on some crazy cooking show and decided I needed to make it. Of course I can't remember the name of the show nor could I find the recipe on-line but how hard could it be?
Let's use a little imagination.
I can do this.

This was quick and easy to pull together and perfect for a day that I did not have the mental dynamic to follow a complicated recipe. 
It was also surprisingly filling for what I thought was just going to be a little appetizer.


1 baguette
good extra virgin olive oil
1 portobello mushroom
10 oz of some other types of mushrooms  
(I used a mix of button and cremini)
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
(more if you want more heat)

fresh thyme for garnish
fresh parsley for garnish
freshly grated parmesan cheese for garnish


By the way...that 10 oz of mushrooms came out to around 4 cups - chopped.

Finely chop all the mushrooms - portobello included.
Finely chop the garlic cloves.
Slice the baguette in a diagonal pattern about a half inch thick.

Warm a couple turns of olive oil in a large skillet.
Add the chopped garlic.

Cook the garlic until just beginning to brown on the edges.

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan then add all the chopped mushrooms.

Add all the dried herbs and the pepper flakes. Cook on medium high for ten, fifteen minutes. There will be quite a bit of liquid in the pan now. You want to keep cooking at a fairly high temp (without burning the mushrooms - you might have to turn the stove down a bit) so all this liquid can evaporate quickly.

No liquid. Mushrooms still tender and some are even a little crispy around the edges. Taste for salt and pepper and add as needed.

Transfer the mushroom mixture to a bowl.

In the same pan toast the slices of baguette.


Remove slices.
Top with mushroom mixture.
Grate some good parmesan cheese on top.
Sprinkle with fresh thyme and parsley.

Serve and enjoy.