Mini Breakfast Cupcakes

“For I have known them all already, known them all:-

Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

I know the voices dying with a dying fall

Beneath the music from a farther room.

So how should I presume?”

-T.S. Eliot

The other day I posted a poll asking everyone to vote for what cupcake they thought I should make for the Taste of Lake Murray competition, and peanut butter and banana was the winner. Not going to lie…this was probably the one cupcake I was least confident about. Do you make a peanut butter or banana cake, or both? What kind of frosting are we working with? Bananas tend to give everything a brownish hue that I find quite unappealing, or you use an extract that taste nothing like a real banana. In my humble opinion, everything made with banana flavoring taste like banana runts.

Fakey Fakerton Flavor

After brainstorming the various banana and peanut butter combinations I ultimately decided to go with a banana cupcake and peanut butter frosting. Unfortunately, I did not have overly ripe bananas, so instead, before I made dinner I mushed up two bananas in a bowl and let them sit on the counter for several hours. I am not really sure of the science behind my endevour, but it seemed to me that this allowed the banana to develop more flavor as it sat. I thought about taking a picture to demonstrate this technique, but literally nothing in the world looks less appetizing than smushed up bananas browning in a bowl, I thought I would spare you!

Throughout the cupcake making process I repeatedly fiddled with the basic rule of baking by improvizing an adding liquid here and dry ingredients there. Luckily the end result was a delightfully light and moist cupcake rich in flavor, but in no way could you consider it a traditional cupcake, instead, I like to call it a banana bread cupcake. This recipe is on the sweeter/lighter end on the banana bread  spectrum, but one would be hard pressed to find what distinguishes it from banana bread.

Not Your Traditional Cupcake

Even the frosting was not straight forward. Once I settled on a banana cupcake with a peanut butter frosting I instantly knew I wanted a deep, pungent and unadulterated peanut butter flavor. I set out to make a peanut butter fluff frosting, and expected that those might be the only two ingredients I would need.

Fluff!

Wrong! While my peanut butter fluff icing was totally passable, I needed a gallon of milk to wash it down and it totally buried the far more delicate banana flavor of the cake. The frosting was thinned with buttermilk, reconstituted with powdered sugar a few times over.  I even, in the search for more depth of flavor, got a little excited with the cinnamon and dumped several heavy handfuls into the mixer. Ultimately, and I am not really quite sure how, I achieved a pretty awesome light but full of flavor peanut butter icing.

Glossy PB Frosting

These cupcakes will never, ever win a desert competition, but they just might win something in the breakfast category. This is a great twist on traditional banana bread and quite a crowd pleaser. I can imagine these making quite the splash at an early morning tailgate, and knowing Clemson I will have quite a few of those on the docket this year! I hope you enjoy and can brighten someone’s boring breakfast by introducing them to the patent pending “Breakfast Cupcake”, haha just kidding, but no really, these are GOOD!

World Meet the Breakfast Cupcake!!!

Banana Bread Cupcakes

1/2 cup of butter

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 smashed ripe bananas

1/4 cup butter milk

1/4 cup dark rum

2 1/4 cup pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

Banana Fluff Frosting

17 oz creamy peanut butter

7 oz marshmallow creme

1/4 cup buttermilk (as needed)

1/4 cup powdered sugar (as needed)

2 tsp cinnamon

Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and well grease mini cupcake pan.

Mash ripe bananas in a bowl with potato masher or fork. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar in mixer. Add egg, vanilla, buttermilk, rum and banana.

Combine dry ingredients; flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in separate bowl.

Slowly add in flower mixture until fully incorporated.

Fill tin 3/4 of the way full and place in oven.

Cook for 12 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Let cupcakes sit for 5 minutes, remove from pan and let cool.

Frosting

While cupcakes are cooling combine peanut butter and fluff in mixer. Beat until well incorporated.

Slowly alternate adding in buttermilk and sugar. Continue until the frosting reaches your desired consistancy.

Either pipe or spread frosting onto cupcakes and enjoy!

Birthday Zone Dinner

And when your legs give out just lie right down
And I will kiss you till your breath is found

– Sufjan Stevens

My family is a BIG believer in the birthday zone. When your birthday rolls around not only do you get to celebrate the day of, but maybe the weekend before, of course the weekend after, and quite possibly for the rest of the month. Esq. is quickly getting indoctrinated into this tradition. We started celebrating last weekend in Greenville with his family, the two of us celebrated on Monday (his actual birthday), and finally wrapped up tonight with a home cooked meal with my parents.

Dinner!

 

 

Nothing says Happy Birthday like steak, risotto and fresh brussel sprouts. Actually, Esq.’s precise dinner request was steak, risotto and something green, I got to pick the brussels!

Fresh is best!

 

 

I feel like I have been missing out for most of my life. I only just recently discovered the joys of fresh brussel sprouts, who knew they were so stinkin’ good (kinda literally). Not only are they good, but they are easy. Before I started on the way labor intensive risotto, I cut the stems off and halved two bags of the sprouts. When I had two cups of liquid left to add in the risotto, the lovely Esq. threw the halved and washed sprouts in a large pan with olive oil, salt and pepper and put them in a 400 degree oven until the risotto was done. Perfection! The sprouts were soft with a cabbage like crunch. The best part, I think, are the leaves that fall off and bake until they are nearly black. My love for the charred leaves is half texture and half flavor, pungent and unique.

Green and Black Have Never Looked so Appetizing!

I put Esq. to work on the steak marinade and veggie dicing (just because you are in the birthday bubble doesn’t mean you can escape kitchen duties, plus he has killer knife skills). While he was busy I got to brush, slice, and cook the mushrooms for the risotto. Cooking the mushrooms in the risotto cast iron pan imparts a richer and earthier flavor to the rice, of course tons of garlic, onion, mushrooms, chicken broth, white wine, and cheese doesn’t hurt!

Never Stop Stiring, Not Even for a Picture!

 

 

A risotto word to the wise is to always add another cup of liquid to the recipe. You pretty much can’t go wrong with adding more, especially if your last cup is a bright, crisp white wine. Cooking wine should always be something you would drink willingly, but there is no need to spend your hard earned money on a bottle that cost more than $10.00. I listened to a great Freakonomics podcast about how knowing the price of wine determines its enjoyment level. Now I have a really hard time justifying the extra expenditure. With the wine I added the mushrooms back into the risotto and stirred until all liquid was absorbed, once it reached the desired consistency I removed from heat and added cheese, my personal favorite part. In this scenario I added Romano and Parmesan.

Plate Full of Yummy!

Once the risotto was pulled, we quickly threw the steaks into a pan and cooked briefly on each side. Esq. really did a wonderful job on the marinade. The steaks were oh so flavorful and juicy.

Birthday Meat

I truly hope he had a wonderful birthday zone, I am sorry to see it come to a close, as I love a good celebration and an excuse to cook yummy food, but I am sure I can come up with another excuse!

Tomorrow I will share my adventure in breakfast cupcakes. On a related note, I will not be serving peanut butter banana cupcakes next week. 🙂

 

Mushroom Risotto

1 cup arborio rice

1 yellow onion chopped

3 garlic cloves diced

1 package baby bella mushrooms

1 package button mushrooms

4 tbs butter

2 tbs olive oil

Salt

Pepper

3 cups chicken broth

1 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup grated romano cheese

1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

In large cast iron skillet cook 2 tbs of butter, salt, pepper and mushrooms until just tender. Take mushrooms out of the pan and place on the side. Drain any excess liquid, but do not wipe down the pan.

Add remaining butter, olive oil, garlic, and onion to pan over med/high heat for a few minutes or until just translucent.

Add arborio rice, continuously stir until pan becomes very dry and rice just starts to stick. Add one cup of broth, continuously stir until all liquid is absorbed, repeat twice.

It will begin taking longer and longer for the liquid to absorb each time. The final cup should be of wine, at the same add in cooked mushrooms.

Once all liquid is absorbed, remove from heat and add cheese. Stir till incorporated. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately.

Mini Cornbread

The air was crisp
Like sunny late winter days
A springtime yawning high in the haze
And I felt like I belonged
Come with me
– Wilco

Day two of operation chili cook off is well underway. Not only did I find out I am an official entrant into the Palladium Society’s Chili Cook off, but I also baked all of my cornbread, all 128 mini muffins of it, to be exact.

128 Bits of Spicy Cornbread Wonderfulness

It is kind of amazing how insignificant 128 mini cornbreads seem to be. I have enough ingredients to probably make an additional 10 batches, except for corn. I might go back and make another 2 batches just so I have enough. Lesson learned when making spicy upside-down cornbread (as outlined in a previous post), only add the chili flakes every other go round. Not all of the pepper was absorbed into the mini breads, but with each batch they got spicier and spicier. Personally, I don’t mind the extra heat, but I will make mention of the cornbread’s spicy nature at the competition.

In order to miniaturize my original recipe, I basically followed it to a tee, only I put a little bit of butter and red pepper flakes into the muffin tins and put them in the oven for 5 minutes while I whipped up the batter.

Buttery Goodness

I used my newly acquired, for the Taste of Lake Murray competition, nonstick mini cupcake pans to make itty bitty baby cornbreads.

Minature = Cute

I filled the tray 3/4 of the way full with my yummy, corny cornbread mixture . Which is of course made from both a wet batter composed of egg, buttermilk (from SC), and corn…

The Wet

and the wild, I mean dry ingredients. I used Adluh corn meal and flour which has been icon in my youth, mostly because there is a giant neon sign in the middle of downtown that alerts everyone to our local milling excellence.

The Dry

And there you have the yummiest little cornbreads the world will ever know. Hopefully, yummy cornbread will make up for the years of experience I lack going into this competition. I did manage to ease my nerves with Dogfish Head’s Sah’tea beer.

 

Dog Fish Head rocks my world!

I first started falling in love with their beer when I watched Beer Wars, a great documentary about the interworkings of the beer industry on Netflix. If you haven’t seen this movie please do, you will never, ever, ever want to drink a Bud again, and I actually don’t think I have since. Unfortunately, we don’t get Dogfish Head in Columbia, but lucky for me Greenville does. This weekend I picked up a special brew  that has chai and juniper, so delish! I can’t wait to go back to G’vegas and snag another, or actually, I can’t wait until they distribute here, but I won’t hold my breath.

Have a wonderful Humpday everyone. Please don’t hesitate to post a comment, I have changed the comment guidelines and you no longer have to log in, so please take advantage of my lax rules and let me know what you think. Thanks!

Also please take the time to vote so I know what cupcake to make next Thursday and test run tomorrow!

 

Birthday Dinner and Day one of Preparation

The soul needs beauty for a soul mate. When the soul wants…the soul waits – U2

Well they had to grease the doors and roll me out, but it was totally worth it.  Awhile back I purchased a Groupon for Solstice Kitchen and Wine Bar knowing it would be perfect for celebrating a certain someone’s birthday. Celebrate we did! Solstice runs an amazing special on Mondays and Tuesdays. They offer a three course menu for a mere $25 and half price wines. Luckily this year Esq.’s birthday fell on a Monday and we took full advantage of all of the great deals. I felt a little guilty, like I stole from them or something, when I got such a tiny bill but felt so extraordinarily full. As promised I took pictures, but they don’t do justice.

Every meal, as far as I am aware, starts with a tasty treat from the chef, I love this idea! It is usually something I would never order on my own but is always super tasty. Tonight we were served Cream of Asparagus or Asparagus Bisque, I didn’t quite catch the name. Either way, it was a delightful little bowl of asparagus awesomeness with goat cheese lurking just beneath the surface. Very scrumptious and even better when I used my fresh multigrain bread to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Compliments of the Chef

Next on the docket was our yummy appetizers. I ordered Pork and Pistachio Pate with a cherry/raspberry mustard sauce and City Roots Micro Greens, Sunflower Seeds, and Egg on the side. Oh man, so good! I have recently discovered my deep and unabiding love for micro-greens, when you pair that with a lovely seared pate that would I have to describe as tasting most similarly to a very light sausage with a bright and tart mustard sauce I am in heaven!

So good I had to take a bite first!

Esq. went with the Oysters Solisticefeller. They looked to die for, and I will have to take his word that they were. They consisted of oysters with spinach-parmesan cream sauce, prosciutto, and herb breadcrumbs. I wanted to, and was offered, a bite, but I knew I had plenty of food left waiting to come my way.

Oysters Solsticefeller

Now for the best part, main courses! I ordered the Mahi Mahi with a miso and ginger glaze/sauce topped with pineapple and calamari slaw, served with jasmine rice and soy stewed baby carrots. I have never had anything that so elegantly tipped toed the line of over salted without crossing it. In my adult life I have never been a fan of cooked carrots, but I am a total convert. The depth of flavor and perfect, not mushy consistency cause me to scarf, yes, literally scarf, them down first. So good!

Mahi Mahi

Esq. ordered Brown Sugar-BBQ Grilled Pork Tenderloin with apple cider bbq sauce, green tomato relish, smoked gouda-bacon mac & cheese, and sautéed green beans. While I don’t think either of us are going to ditch our much beloved golden bbq sauce, the smoked gouda-bacon mac & cheese was worth the imminent heart attack. I believe my description was along the lines of “there is so much rich cheese that it is coating the inside of my mouth that I think if someone got a cracker and scraped the inside of my cheek they would have cheese and crackers”. Lovely dinner time conversation, I know. He sure knows how to pick a winner!

Birthday Boy!

Our meal was concluded by totally unneeded but throughly enjoyed desserts. When ordering our three course meal Pecan Caramel Fudge Cake sounded like a great idea. A few bites into my entree, however, I quickly realized I could have gone for a much, much, lighter dessert. Its a good thing I ordered at the beginning though, because it was soooo good. I am glad I was full so I couldn’t polish it off as there were probably more calories than one would ever want to know. The cake was dense with a moist layer of almost a ganache like topping. The garnish consisted of broken heath bar, pecans and caramel drizzle. I want to have this again, or maybe try my hand at a cupcake spinoff in the near future.

Pecan Caramel Fudge Cake

Esq. decided, by process of eliminating all things with nuts, to have the creme brulee cheesecake, which I heard was very good. At this point in the evening I was so full I don’t think you could have fit one more bit of food down my gullet. I didn’t think cheesecake would be worth the rest of the evening spent in agony.

Birthday Cake

Overall, we had a truly wonderful time celebrating his birthday and indulging in great food and wine. If you live in Columbia I highly recommend checking out Solstice, especially on a Monday or Tuesday!

In non-birthday related news…

I had quite the scare this afternoon when I went to turn in my chili cook off entry form. I had planned to leave work early to drop of the form only a couple blocks away. As I sat down to write the entry fee check at 4:05 and flipped the pages looking for who to make it out to, I noticed in large letters “Due by 4pm on Monday 2/21/11”. After sending a frantic email with all of my information I got the wonderful news that the entry deadline was extended until tomorrow, phew! So I am now officially a Palladium Society Chili Cook Off competitor.

 

Chili Cook Off Plan of Attack!

Home, where my thoughts escape, at home, where my music’s playin’
Home, where my love lies waitin’ silently for me – Paul Simon

Before I go over my plan of attack let me start out by saying HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Esq.!!! We spent this gorgeous weekend celebrating with his family in one of my favorite cities in the world, Greenville. Tomorrow/today, depending on when I actually get this posted, is his actual birthday, and we are celebrating at Solstice, one of Columbia’s yummiest dining locationss. I will try to take pictures and document our meal to share!

Solstice Kitchen and Wine Bar

Preparation week!

We are getting down to the wire in terms of the cook off, and I need to write out my plan of attack so I don’t have a major freak out on Friday when I realize nothing is done and all the stores are closed. The plan is as follows:

Monday: Celebrate Esq.’s birthday, figure out the exact recipe and write a shopping list, and submit my entry form

Shopping List!

Tuesday: Make and freeze cornbread bites for 100. Outside of cornbread, hopefully I will be able to try my hand at a cupcake recipe or two in preparation for the Taste of Lake Murray competition.

Cornbread

Wednesday: This will be the day that I figure out what I can buy where. The only farmers market going on that I am aware of is the All Locals farmers market at 701 Whaley, but it is on Saturday, there by preventing me from being able to get ingredients. I am going to check out Rosewood Market, Piggly Wiggly, Fresh Market, Ole Timey Meat Market and other local butchers. Hopefully, I will be able to find everything I need and at a good price, considering I am going to be cooking for 100.

Rosewood Market

Thursday: Decorations! Time to get my arts and farts on, I couldn’t resist a good ole’ camp joke. I need to make a sign for the table, hopefully I can print up some business cards, and I want to find a way to credit all of the local retailers I used. I also need to make sure I have all of my supplies ready to go; enough crock pots, thermometer, utensils, and the like.

Decorations

Friday: Do or die time. There has been talk of a chili party by some wonderful friends who have volunteered their time and knifemanship in support of  endeavor, and I can not thank them enough!

Pot 1

Pot 2

Pot 3

I am ready to get this ball rolling!

Once again, HAPPY BIRTHDAY Esq.!!!!

Cupcake Competitors

I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle! – Alice in Wonderland

What a great night! This blogging endeavor has been one of the the greatest personal leaps of faith to date. Granted this is only my 9th entry, but I don’t think I could stop now if you made me. When I started I assumed I would be met with flat out rejection and disinterest, but slowly but surely I am being proven wrong and it is rocking my world!

 

The World of Blogging

 

I always knew there were cooking competitions out there; Pilsbury, The South Carolina State Fair (oh yeah!), and the like, but I never really realized how many there were. My coworker approached me yesterday to see if I was interested in entering an item into the Taste of Lake Murray competition, suggesting that my red velvet cupcake might be a good contender. I have turned into a cooking competition yes man, if you give me the details I will be there!

Cupcakes!

I thought serving 100 people at the chili cook off was intimidating, well it is looking like at the Taste of Lake Murray I am going to be aiming for roughly 200 cupcakes. That is 200 scooped, baked, cooled, ganached, cooled, frosted, and decorated cupcakes. Cue the minor heart attack. I don’t think I have ever made a batch of anything that large in my life. EEEeeekkk!

Cupcake War Zone

As a way to combat boredom and frustration during the baking process I struck upon the idea of have three different kinds of cupcakes available. Red Velvet is a lock. I am fairly certain I have a lemon cupcake that could knock the pants off of the competition, and that is where I am stuck. Other cupcakes on the docket include:

  • Mocha/Cappuccino (topped with a chocolate covered coffee bean)
  • Chocolate Coconut
  • Carrot Cake
  • Almond/Marzipan
  • Apple Caramel Streusel
  • Peanut Butter Banana

I haven’t ever made some of the cupcakes listed above so I might have to do a little trial and error. I am not really sure. Let me know what you think. What flavors compel you to stop and have to have a taste. What would keep you coming back for more.

 

Courtesy of IStockPhoto

My only goals when I started this blog was to have an outlet for my creativity and to get my butt in to the kitchen and try new things. I think I am well on my way, and I have already gained so much more. Thank you so much for all of your support! Tell your friends! Subscribe! Follow me on twitter!

THANK YOU!

The Nitty Gritty…

Hold your own

Know your own name

And go your own way

And everything will be fine

-Jason Mraz

This blog is being brought to you live from The Thirsty Fellow.

The Thirsty Fellow

That’s right. That makes me the girl at the bar, or in this case the booth, who is typing away and staring in an overly concerned manner at her computer screen. This is dedication! While I sip on my Allagash White I am going to go over the details of what is involved in entering the Chili Competition and what I will be working on in the next few days.

Allagash White

I have decided the chili I am going to make is….LOCOvore Chili. Incase you are not yet hip to my super witty puns, that would be a chili sourcing local ingredients. The most important thing I need to do in the next few days is find which local ingredients I am going to use. The Certified SC website is a great place for South Carolinians to go and find where and what they can buy locally.

Certified SC

 

 

The keys to my chili will be ground beef, beans, tomatoes , peppers and corn. The only thing that I am nearly 100% sure I can’t find locally is the beans. Otherwise, I am going to check the various local farmers markets and Piggly Wiggly for what I can use in my LocoVore chili. I love Piggly Wiggly because when work and other commitments cause me to miss out on farmers markets I can always go to the Pig who I know will always have a great variety of locally grown products. In the summer you can always count on them to have the best peaches, outside of a roadside stand that is.

The Pig!

 

 

Probably the scariest aspect about this whole venture is that not only do I have to feed 100 people, but I have to keep it warm. Looks like someone will be taking a trip to Wally World soon to buy a few new crock-pots, and that someone’s name starts with a C and ends with an ooktestant.

On the fun end of logistics, I have decisions to make regarding condiments and table decor. Now that I have shared with everyone my favorite cornbread I just don’t think its fair to not have cornbread to serve with the chili. As I recall pretty much every booth had crackers for use in their chili, some had cheese, and some had gold fish (which is brilliant, btw). I feel like a good cornbread (obviously in crouton size portions) would set me apart from the crowd. Additionally, I want to continue the local theme in my hot sauce by using Palmetto Pepper Potions Trenholm Venom.

Trenhom Venom

 

 

Decorations will just have to wait to be decided, but I am thinking a large LocoVore sign, and descriptions of all of the farms that the ingredients are from. If you have any stellar ideas, please do not hesitate to share, I can use al the help I can get.

Alright, its time to put the computer away and be social, but before I do I just wanted to share with everyone the most awesome sounding recipe I have ever found! While checking all of my personal favorite food related blogs today I stumbled upon Avacado Fries over at A Cozy Kitchen. You can thank me later.

Am I really doing this…

I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog-gone it, people like me. – Stuart Smalley

I just printed off my Chili Cook Off entry form and now I am hella nervous. I don’t think it helps that I just went through pictures of last years contestants who all look like seasoned professionals. All of the sudden last year’s chilies are seeming far from subpar and like daunted, fearsome warriors ready for battle but, there is no turning back now, I just have to reframe the competition. Instead of feeling like the total novice that I am, I am taking faith not in my knife skills or obscure flavor pairings, but instead in my passion.

Okay, enough of the soliloquy.

You know what makes me happy? Baked goods. And the only better than baked goods? Miniaturized baked goods!  Cue the mini cupcakes.

Cupcakes on Parade

My biffles, yes the most annoying term of endearment ever, over at http://aheartofsteel.wordpress.com/ taught me pretty much everything I ever needed to know about the fine art of cupcakery. For example, when a recipe calls for milk, why not use chocolate milk? GENIUS.

Also, when living in central Florida, leaving a bag of chocolate chips in the car all day is probably not advisable. Unless, that is you would like to take red velvet cupcakes to the very pinnacle of perfection. What to do melted chocolate chips and red velvet cupcakes have in common you may ask? Let me break it down for you. Nothing beats red velvet cupcakes, with their hint of cocoa, topped by a layer of ganache-like chocolate, hidden under delectable cream cheese frosting. Nothing! Oh that is, unless they are minature and wearing a chocolate chip hat as decoration, because the cake, chocolate, and frosting aren’t enough.

Who knew vinegar could be so tasty?

There is a surprisingly large amount of vinegar in this recipe. Partly due to the vinegar that is normally required in red velvet to keep it light and fluffy, but also because they don’t make chocolate buttermilk. I am a big fan of buttermilk in all baking applications, but I am an even bigger fan of being able to make my own chocolate buttermilk. In order to make the conversion, all you need to do is add a tablespoon of white distilled vinegar to your milk and let it sit for 10 minutes.

While my milk was busy curdling I got to work combining my dry ingredients. Normally, I like to sift my flour to keep a smooth batter, but it was already approaching midnight so I used a whisk instead. No harm, no foul.

Mount Cocaflour

My beloved Kitchenaid and I got to work on the wet ingredients. This is about the point where when I reached into the cabinet, the olive oil decided to make its get away, and in the process shot me in the eye. At first I thought, olive oil, good for your skin, probably not the most painful thing to haven in one’s eye. Nope, I was wrong. Olive oil hurts, please refrain from angering it, because if it gets angry it knows how to attack. I ended up seeking my revenge when I discovered I was low on vegetable oil and substituted a 1/4 cup of it for olive oil. Muahahaha!

Wet Ingredients

I discovered a while back the joys of gel food coloring, it is to “die” for. It requires far less dye to develop a deep and rich color that will withstand the baking, and it has no discernible taste. One pitfall is that it is so strong it will tattoo your hand for days. The red dye looks a bit concerning before it is incorporated into the batter. As you will see below on the spatula.

Red Gel Dye

Next time I will use far less dye, as I didn’t think it through that each time I added chocolate powder and chocolate milk, in an alternating pattern, it would deepen the color to a very, very deep red.

I refuse to call this color garnet!

Quite possibly the most exciting part of making these cupcakes is making a mini volcano with baking soda and vinegar in my kitchen. I might be a 7 year old boy. Once you get some sweet bubbly chemical reaction going on its time to gently fold into the batter and get it ready to poor into cupcake liners.

Ready for the oven!

Unfortunately, my mini ice cream/cookie scoop broke and I am a shaky sally when it comes to filling these itty bitty liners. The joy of mini cupcakes is that they take about half the time of the regular sized variety. Once they were out of the oven and cooled it was time to add a layer of chocolaty goodness. No need to over complicate this step with utensils, I prefer to melt the chocolate in a deep dish and dip and swirl my cupcakes, scraping excess on the side of the plate.

Yum!

In order to expedite the frosting process I threw the cupcakes into the freezer to cool and harden. While waiting, I whipped up what is quite possibly my favorite frosting ever. So simple; cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon.

Together = Magic

With the frosting done I could see the finish line on the horizon. I grabbed my pipping bag and got to work. Knowing I had a limited supply of frosting and a multitude of cupcakes I did a small swirl of frosting in the middle of the cupcake leaving the chocolaty edges exposed. To finish off the cupcake, and hide my piping errors each cupcake was topped with a chocolate morsel.

There is no such thing as too cute to eat!

To say these were a hit at work today would be an understatement! The great thing about minis is the guilt factor goes down while the ease to eat factor goes up. I probably had close to 50 cupcakes at the beginning of the day. They are now no more. Something things are worth the effort, and in my humble opinion, these were worth every minute. Perfect to give to those you love on Valentine’s Day, or at least in the Valentine’s Day realm.

Tomorrow its time to get serious about chili!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

2 1/2 cups cake flour

2 tablespoons dark chocolate cocoa powder

1 teaspoon of salt

1 1/2 cups of sugar

1 1/4 cups of vegetable oil

1/4 cup of olive oil

2 large eggs, room temperature

2/3 teaspoon red gel food covering

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chocolate milk

1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soada

2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

1 bag of semi sweet chocolate chips, divided

For Cinammon Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

3 cups powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line with paper liners or well grease muffin pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, and salt. Set aside

Stir 1 tablespoon of vinegar into chocolate milk. Let sit for 10 minutes.

In a stand mixer beat sugar and oil on a med-high speed with paddle attachment. Add eggs, one at a time, until each is incorporated. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl after adding each ingredient. Mix in food coloring and vanilla.

Reduce speed to low. Alternate adding flour and chocolate buttermilk. Mix until just combined.

In another bowl stir baking soda and vinegar until just combine. Fold mixture into batter until just combined.

Fill liners 3/4 of the way full. Cook for 10 – 12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Transfer cupcakes to rack to cool.

While cooling melt chocolate in a deep dish at %50 in the microwave. Dip cooled cupcakes in chocolate and swirl to evenly cover. Scrape excess of on side of the dish. Reheat chocolate as needed for ease of coating.

Cool chocolate until hard, if necessary place in freezer until chocolate is no longer glossy.

While waiting for chocolate to harden mix cream cheese and powdered sugar on low, moving up to med-high as the sugar is incorporated. Once mixed add cinnamon and vanilla. Mix till blended. Fit pastry bag with desired tip and fill. Pipe the frosting onto the middle of the cupcake starting on the outer edge and swirling in. Once frosted add a chocolate chip from those reserved and push in slightly to make sure it stays put and to spread out frosting a touch so it will cover any mistakes.


Bakingpalooza

Love it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you, It will set you free – Mumford & Sons

Firstly, Happy Valentines Day! As I write this I am 29 minutes late, but the point still remains. To all those reading this, I love you! Even if it is just for reading my blog.

Secondly, Mumford & Sons performance on the Grammys last night is haunting me, hence today’s quote. I really could have done without what is left of Bob Dylan. Where did Jacob Dylan go, can’t he just sub in for his dad now? Truth be told though, I would take Dylan over Bieber time and time again for the following reasons: a)substance b)instruments c) puberty.

Courtesy of Mumford & Sons

Today was a busy day in the world of the Cooktestant, being showered in love is truly exhausting…haha. Actually, After a long day of meetings, attempting to parallel park the Escalade in a wee bitty spot, and overreaching my job discription I had the genius idea to come home and make cornbread and the world’s most involved cupcakes. I will save the cupcakes for tomorrow’s post as they are still one step from complete and I have to be back into work at 8 tomorrow. I am already working with 6hrs of forecasted sleep, ugh! On to the good stuff.

Being a southerner I feel obligated to have a cornbread stance, sweet or salty. If we are talking coleslaw it would be a no brainer. Salty all the way, and if we are being specific Rosewood Dairy Bar has slaw I would “slaw”ghter for. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

The one, the only.

When it comes to cornbread, however, I will take sweet and spicy. Imagine pineapple upside down cake, except instead of pineapples you have chili flakes, and instead of cake there is cornbread. I just blew your mind…right? The key to this delicious confection is to put butter an cast iron skillet and melt it at a medium high temperature. Once it is hot throw in the pepper flakes, while I list a measurement below I usually just do it by feel or by how spicy the accompanying meal will be. Because the white chili I made yesterday was relatively tame I was more liberal with my seasoning.

Ingredients

Once the butter and chili have had a few seconds to meld in the pan dump in your cornbread batter and spread evenly. The great part of this technique is that you can adapt nearly any recipe and it will work like a charm.

Batter in the pan.

I used a different recipe than normal tonight and the end result was more like a cornbread shortbread, tasty none the less. It was great accompanying the white chili, but I think it might have ultimately been a better used as Grilled Cornbread Shortbread Cheese Sandwich.  When the chili ran out, just shredded Monterey Jack cheese and a slice of cornbread were left and genius struck! This verbose, but tasty, sandwich will be sweeping the nation any second now. Just you wait!

Shortbread Cornbread

Peppered Cornbread

3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)

1 cup pastry flour

1 cup instant cornmeal

3 tablespoons of honey (or to taste)

1 tbs baking powder

2 tsp sea salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

2 1/2 cups of corn

or

2 cups of creamed corn (depending on if you would like a smoother or crunchier texture)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place butter in skillet over med-high heat to melt. Add red pepper flakes. Cook while stirring occasionally for five minutes.

In medium bowl whisk flower, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. In a seperate bowl whisk buttermilk, egg, honey, and corn. Combine the wet ingredients and stir ntil just combined. Do not over mix!

Pour batter into skillet. Make sure the batter is equally distributed. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the edges are golden and the and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and serve with butter and/or honey.

Dried Bean Fail…

There was a dream
One day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage a broke in and demanded that somebody free it – Avett Brothers

My first attempt at a contest worthy chili was a mild disaster and a qualified win. Actually that is kinda how this whole weekend felt. For example, took the dogs to the river to play on this the first gorgeous day of the new year.

Three Rivers Greenway

Had a great time with the pups soaking up some much needed Vitamin D until my shin made contact with a jagged rogue stump protruding into the path. Now I look totally rough and tumble with a giant gash in my leg and occasionally leg spasms. That being said my creation is good, really good actually, but it took twice as long as expected and I don’t think I could call it chili. At the end of the day the minor inconveniences were worth it.

After putting sleep before local veggies and missing the All Local Farmers Market, I determined White Chili would be my first Chili Competition test run. The white chili was probably what I was looking forward to most as I was the most unfamiliar and had being hearing its praises sung all week.

After perusing recipes and asking opinions I endeavored to make my own version for dinner tonight. I failed. I had reduced fat Oreos and a Dos Equis for dinner and white chili for dessert. Feeling the need to appease my inner snob that says dried beans are immanently better than using canned I unwittingly signed myself up for a five hour chili epic adventure.

Cast of Characters

The journey began like so many culinary adventures do…at the grocery store. I rounded up my cast of characters, all except for my new found friend cilantro, who was no where in sight. Cilantro and I have had our run-ins, but only recently I have I begun to truly appreciate the bright, clean freshness it can bring to my favorite spicy dishes. Instead of using fresh cilantro I found Goya’s Recaito which can be used as a sort of cilantro paste in stews, chilies, or rice, among others. So far I am a fan.

Goya's Recaito

The chili began in two different pots that would merge in the slow cooker. In one pot I had chicken thighs simmering in water, Dos Equis, bay leaves, black peppercorns, and a halved lime.

Pot o' Chicken

In another pot garlic and and onion quickly sauteed to which recaito, jalapeno, green chillies and the dastardly dried great northern beans were added.

Chilies, beans, garlic and onions OH MY!

Add the broth and seasonings and there you have your white chili base.

There is red in my white chili!

Once the chicken cooked and cooled I pulled it from the bones and threw into the slow cooker with the corn at what I thought was the half way point. FALSE! The chicken actually simmered with the chili for three hours, I was a little scared I was going to end up with overcooked chicken, but that was not the case, it was quite tender and tasty.

I checked in an hour after the chicken was added and when the chili “should” be done, it was not. I checked in an additional hour later, still rock soup. Thirty minutes later I was beginning to think it was going to take an overnight stewing. At almost exactly the four hour mark I experienced a chili miracle. The beans were DONE!!! I added a cup of milk and some cornmeal and let thicken for a few minutes and we were in business.

Tender Beans

At this point I was full of oreos and beer and no longer hungry, but for the sake of an honest chili assessment I fixed a bowl topped with pepper jack cheese.

Dessert

It was good, really good. The spice was right on point, present but not overly challenging. The chicken and beans were tender and the corn added a nice toothsome crunch. But, ultimately, to me this is not chili, and I am not sure if creativity is going to win a chili championship. When I think chili I crave tomatoes. I had to re-categorize the white chicken chili as a mexican chicken stew and then I was a big fan. Part of my lack of enthusiasm could probably be credited to my frustration and exhaustion. If my opinion changes during lunch tomorrow you will be the first to know!

White Chicken Chili

5 Chicken Thighs

1 Dos Equis

1 tbs Whole Pepercorns

2 Bay Leaves

1 Lime, halved

1 Onion

5 Cloves of Garlic

2 Cans of Green Chilies

1lb Dried Great Northern Beans

8 Cups Chicken Broth

1 tbs Recaito

1 Whole Jalapeno

1 tbs Cumin

1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika

1/2 tsp Chipotle Powder

Salt

Pepper

1 Can Corn

1 cup Whole Milk

2 tbs Cornmeal

Grated Pepper Jack Cheese

Cover chicken with beer and water. Add halved lime, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Cook on med-high for 20-30 minutes, or until just done. Let chicken cool. Remove meat from bones and set aside.

Saute garlic in onion in oil  with salt and pepper until it just becomes translucent. Transfer to slow cooker. Add chilies, jalapenos, reciato and beans. Pour in broth. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, and chipotle.

Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, checking every hour for bean doneness.

Halfway through cooking add chicken and corn.

When beans are tender add milk and cornmeal. Simmer for 15 minutes to thicken.

Serve with grated Pepper Jack cheese.

Enjoy!