Archive | October, 2010

Giant Cupcake

29 Oct

This isn’t a recipe.  I’m not even going to lie to you.  This is totally cake mix from a box, and frosting from a can.  It is Halloween weekend, and I’m a busy girl.  This is more of a review/rant.

Oh… the Giant Cupcake… So adorable.  Who doesn’t think these cakes are super cute?  My niece has been wanting a Giant Cupcake cake pan ever since she first saw the infomercial on TV.  My sister (her mother) ordered one for her, but it never came.  Lesson learned.  Don’t order anything from an infomercial… just wait a while, they’ll have it in the “As Seen On TV” aisle.  Plus, they rip you off on the shipping.  So, since my niece’s birthday is coming up (Halloween), my other sister bought her the cake pan.  She’s going to love it.  I made the mistake of suggesting to my sister last week, “You know what would be awesome?  Instead of just giving her the pan, you should bake her a cake with the pan, and surprise her with it on her birthday.”  I regretted the words the second they left my lips.  I should have known I was going to get stuck baking the cake.

Last night, I got home from work around 11:30pm.  I was done baking the cake at 2am.  Yes, you read that right.  The directions for this thing are… a nightmare.  They don’t make any sense, at all.  I consider myself to be a fairly competent person, but I was incredibly confused.  I realize the mistake I made now… I put way too much cake-mix in the pans.  I ended up having to bake the cake for an hour and a half.  After the recommended baking time (50 minutes) my cakes were SOUP.  I really didn’t think I was going to be able to salvage them, but I lowered the temperature, so the outside wouldn’t burn and crossed my fingers.

The cakes baked without burning, but I was half asleep… and that’s never a good idea when the oven is on.  So, if you’re wanting to buy one of these pans, know two things.  Fill up a tray of TWELVE cupcakes first, and then fill the top and bottom pieces of the cake pan equally with the remaining batter.  That means you’ll be using 1 1/2 boxes of cake mix for the cake, and 1/2 a box of cake mix for cupcakes.  That’s the most math you’ll ever get some me. Another tip, if you’re going to be traveling somewhere with this cake, you need to make sure you have something tall enough to cover this with.  I’m still trying to figure that out, since I’ll be taking it to my niece’s party, an hour away.

Also, I’m thinking this would be a lot cuter with yellow or white cake as the base, and you wouldn’t have to frost the base.  But, I know my niece, and she is a chocoholic.  She wouldn’t tolerate any other kind of cake.

Refried Beans

25 Oct

I am weird.  At least I can admit it.  I love refried beans… pulverized.  You couldn’t pay me to eat beans in their whole-state.  There’s something about the texture.  I don’t like the little burst of the bean coming through that skin that sticks to your tongue.  Gross.  But, to get homemade refried beans, I have to start out with a pot of pinto beans.  I probably make a pot of beans once a week.  Those who have tasted my pinto beans before they’ve been smashed to death and fried in pork fat say they’re tasty… but I wouldn’t know.  I like making beans because they’re easy and cheap.  I’m all about trying to stretch my dollar.  There’s nothing better than a bean and cheese taco when you’re broke and hungry.

Okay, let’s get down to business.

What You Need:

  • 1 pound of dried pinto beans
  • ½ of a medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 or 2 jalapeños (seeded if you don’t want the spice)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp garlic powder (I’m guessing… I just kind of sprinkle a random amount)
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 1 handful of cilantro stems and all (totally optional)
  • Water to cover

Method:

Sort the beans.  Sometimes you can find little pebbles in your bag of beans (especially if you went for the cheapest brand available).  After you’ve sorted the beans, rinse them, and put them in a pot with enough water to cover.  Bring the beans to a boil, and then remove from heat.  Let the beans soak for one hour.  Don’t skip this step.  It’s important.  This is a quick-soak method.  If you have time, you can soak them over night in water, and you don’t have to worry about the boiling step.

After the beans have been soaked, drain the water, and put the beans in the crock pot.  Add the onion, jalapeños, cilantro, ham hock, garlic, and pepper (wait at least 2 hours to add the salt, because if you add the salt within the first 2 hours of cooking, the skins will never soften).  Add enough water to cover, plus at least another 1 inch above the beans.

Set the Crock Pot on low, and cook overnight.  Usually, I cook these beans when I get off work around 11pm.  Then, they’re in the Crock Pot around midnight.  I turn them off around noon the next day.  They’re probably done before 12 hours… but I’m thinking, the longer these sit in porky goodness, the better.  The beans are done when they’re tender.  If you cook the beans on high, they will be done in 5 or 6 hours.  Take a slotted spoon, and remove the cilantro and throw it away.  That’s why it’s best to just leave the stems on, because it’s easier to scoop them off the top.  They should float.

*If you want to just make pinto beans, you’re done.  If you want refried beans, continue…*

Making Refried Beans:

Now that you have a pot of pinto beans, you can make refried beans.  I usually mash and fry the whole pot at one time, but you don’t have to do that.  If you’re going to do the whole pot at once, you need about 1 or 2 teaspoons of BACON GREASE!  Yes, bacon grease.  It is delicious.  If you’re from the South, and your parents didn’t care about your health, chances are, your mom had a can of bacon grease sitting by the stove.  It’s liquid gold.  You could use lard, but the store bought brick-o-lard is pretty tasteless.

Now it’s time to get to business.  Mash the beans to death (in a skillet) with a handy-dandy potato masher.  This is a great work-out.  You can really take out your frustration on those beans.  Got screaming kids running around all day?  Have an idiot boss?  Work in customer service?  Fighting with your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/pet?  Mash those frustrations away… whoa, don’t get carried away.  Next thing you know, you’re walking out of the kitchen covered in bean splatter.  I usually mash a couple of ladle-fulls at a time.  You want some of the liquid from the beans.  My boyfriend likes really thick beans, but I like them a little thinner, so I compromise… our beans are somewhere in the middle.  You can always add more liquid if the beans are looking too thick for your taste.  Add your bacon grease to the beans, and stir it up.  You’ll want to cook this on medium-high until the beans start to bubble… then a few minutes after that.  Stir them constantly once they start bubbling, because you don’t want to waste all of your hard work by letting them burn.   Once they’re heated thoroughly, and you’ve got the consistency you like, you’re done.

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

14 Oct

My boyfriend was throwing out ideas on goodies I could bake, and one idea was “yellow cake, but in a bar form.”  Interesting… but how?  I was just glad to see him coming out of his comfort zone.  You see, his favorite dessert is Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting.  Yeah, that’s right… cake mix from a box, and frosting from a can.  So, I got right on finding a recipe for his yellow cake bar idea.  I did a Google search for yellow cake bars, and I didn’t find anything special.  Then, I remembered seeing an episode of Paula’s Home Cooking where she made a Gooey Butter Cake.  I had never had it before, but it sounded good.  Maybe that would do.  I found the recipe on FoodNetwork.com, and not only does it use a boxed yellow cake mix, she has a pumpkin variation.  SOLD!  My boyfriend, a man of few words (especially if I’m fishing for compliments), said “It’s good.  I wasn’t expecting it to be good.”  Not really what I was looking for… but I thought these were delicious.  I mean, c’mon… two sticks of butter.  Did you think it wouldn’t be good?

I got this recipe straight from the Food Network website, and if any part of this recipe confuses you, they also have a video.  I did change one thing from the original recipe, but it isn’t a big deal.  Her recipe calls for 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp nutmeg, but I just used 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice.

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
  • 1 egg
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling:

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

To make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter, and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar and pumpkin pie spice, and mix well. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to overbake as the center should be a little gooey.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

14 Oct

When I think about Ina Garten, I don’t think Mexican food.  I think… gourmet dinners in The Hamptons.  In fact, I used to not watch her show, because I didn’t think she was relevant to me.  I’m not rich, I don’t live in The Hamptons, and I certainly don’t throw fabulous dinner parties with elaborate table settings.  However, I happened to catch an episode of Barefoot Contessa that completely changed my opinion of her.  She was making what she referred to as “Mexican Chicken Soup,” but I know it as, Chicken Tortilla Soup.  As much as I didn’t want to admit it, the soup looked amazing, and I couldn’t wait to try the recipe.  Unfortunately, that was in the middle of summer, and it was probably 99 degrees outside.  When the weather cooled down, I decided to try her recipe out… but I’m from Texas, and I couldn’t follow this New Yorker’s recipe without changing some things, and adding a little extra spice.  I cut the amount of tomatoes in half, I eliminated the carrots, celery and coriander, and added more tortillas and jalapeños.  You can find Ina’s unchanged recipe here.

Chicken Tortilla Soup (Recipe Adapted from Ina Garten)

  • 2 Whole Chicken Breasts (cooked and cubed or shredded)
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced (I left the seeds in one)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 10 (6-inch) white corn tortillas, cut into strips

Directions:

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro. Cut the tortillas in 1/2, then cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste.

Pumpkin Cookies with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

9 Oct

Pumpkin Cookies

I love fall, and once I have my first Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season, I become pumpkin obsessed.  No, I really have a problem.  I just bought a Yankee Candle brand Spiced Pumpkin reed diffuser for my living room, so the heavenly aroma of pumpkin and cinnamon slap you in the face when you walk in the front door.  These cookies recreate that scent in the kitchen.  The only problem with these cookies is they are really more like tiny little cakes than cookies.  But they are delicious, nonetheless.  Other than this cookie, and the sugar cookies with frosting from the grocery store, I usually like my cookies nice and crisp!

I adapted this recipe to suit my personal taste.  These cookies are moist and cakey, and the cream cheese frosting is your basic recipe with the added bonus of cinnamon.  I’ve seen (and drooled over) a pre-packaged version of these cookies in the grocery store, but I wasn’t drooling over the price.  This recipe makes more than double the amount of those cookies, for about half the price.  I love a bargain!  I could use the extra money I saved for a gym membership… but naaaahhhhhhh.

Pumpkin Cookies with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks!)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup of pure pumpkin (15 oz)
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • A pinch of salt makes all the difference

Frosting:

  • 1 eight ounce package of cream cheese
  • 1 stick of butter (room temp)
  • 2 cups sifted powdered sugar (add more for a stiffer icing)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Method:

Cream together the sugar and butter.  Add the egg and pumpkin; mix well.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add dry ingredients in batches to the pumpkin mixture and mix well.

Drop teaspoon sized cookie dough balls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for about 9 to 10 minutes.

While the cookies are cooling, prepare the cream cheese frosting.

Mix the cream cheese and butter in your stand mixer until they’re incorporated.  Add the vanilla and mix well.  In the mixer, add the powdered sugar one cup at a time.  Then, add your cinnamon, mix well. Viola!  Cinnamon-Cream Cheese deliciousness!

Frost cooled cookies and ENJOY!

Also… I thought you might enjoy a picture of my cat trying to get in on some milk and cookies while I was taking the pictures.