“Blueberries Meet Their Match” & Faux-Berry Biscuits

“Time is on my side, yes it is” – Rolling Stones

Irony. Irony, people. As it turns out, moderation is not my jam (get it, like blueberry jam!?). Instead of easing myself back into the world of blogging I decided to cannonball right on in. Last night after getting home from work, going to the grocery store, printing the last few wedding invite envelopes, making a lovely poached salmon dinner, and watching the Hunger Games: Catching Fire, I decided to make not one, but two attempts attempts at Faux-Berry Biscuits. It was a late, late night.

I will have to do a post about all of our wedding stationary at a later date. I have been so happy with every bit of it, and I feel the need to show-off, granted most of my readers actually received their own copies in the mail, it would be nice to document them in perpetuity on the inter-webs. Also, while we are on full-on tangent mode… Hunger Games was great! It was really interesting to see how my visualization of the arena matched with the set, and how much of the book I actually remembered. Not going to lie, I read all three books in a weekend, so retention/analysis were not at the forefront. I am already looking forward to the third movie. I know it was not everyone’s favorite book, but I was actually a pretty big fan, so I am intrigued as to how it will be received.

Moving on, after all, there are much belabored blueberry muffins to talk about!

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This contest stood out right away, because I knew I wanted to try my hand at a Bojangles inspired Faux-Berry Biscut. For those uninformed, Bo-Berry biscuits are a staple of fast food breakfast here in SC. Personally, and I know I am going to ruffle a few feathers here, they aren’t my favorite. Too many times I have had hard, blue speckled hockey pucks drowning in icing, and that my friends, is not my idea of a great way to start the morning. Granted, my breakfast choices in general tend to cause consternation among those who have had the pleasure of brunching with me. Things you should know about the Cooktestant, I hate syrup, it is my least favorite food (can you call it a food?) known to man, therefore I hate pancakes, waffles, and french toast. So reflecting upon the Bo-Berry Biscuit, I am already predisposed to not be a fan due to the high sugar level content and overall stickiness of this breakfast item, which is directly attributed to my feelings on syrup.

After that diatribe, you might be wondering why I am even bothering with my own version, and that my lovely reader, is a great question! I think there is so much potential. A light, fluffy blueberry biscuit with a light drizzle of glaze…now I can get behind that, especially if you throw some balsamic into the mix.

I made two versions of the Faux-Berry biscuit, of which, only one of which is worth sharing. I was originally inspired by two different blueberry compliments, banana and balsamic. I attempted a banana and blueberry biscuit drizzled in glaze and a blueberry biscuit drizzled in a balsamic glaze. Blueberry banana felt like a really safe and tasty choice, but after an obscenely sticky batter and a timer malfunction (6 hours is not even close to 6 minutes) I don’t ever want to talk about them again. Which stinks, because having a blog basically necessitates rehashing all of my cooking exploits, including the failures.

I eat a banana every morning, however, I like them basically green so once they get freckles I am over it. Luckily, I  have discovered that I can let them get to full on brown, which is exactly what you want when baking, and then throw them in the freezer for later baking endeavors.

Brown Bananas

Brown Bananas

I followed a basic sweet potato biscuit recipe and substituted bananas for the potatoes assuming a similar wet ingredient tradeoff would go unnoticed. I also added half a bag of defrosted frozen blueberries tossed in sugar and flower (so they wouldn’t all sink to the bottom of the biscuit). Overall, the batter was workable, but super sticky! Like, had to wash my hands 11 times and might never get my oven clean again sticky. Then, after overcoming stick-a-plooza, I threw the biscuits into the oven to cook for 6 minutes before rotating and cooking for another 6 hours 6 minutes. Yeah, I failed, I failed big. Luckily, I grabbed about 12 minutes in and right before major burning occurred, and was able to salvage them.

Slightly Overcooked Blueberry and Banana Biscuits

Slightly Overcooked Blueberry and Banana Biscuits

Once they cooled, I whipped up a super simple powdered sugar and buttermilk  (any milk would do) glaze to drizzle over top.

All in all, I think they made delightful banana bread tasting biscuits. They weren’t bad, in the slightest, but just not a flavor profile that really gets me going.

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Glazed Biscuits

Blueberry Banana Biscuits with Glaze

makes 18

2 1/4 cups self-rising flour

1/8 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/3 cup unsalted butter

2 brown bananas

1/4 cup buttermilk

1/8 cup sugar

5 oz defrosted blueberries

Glaze:

1/2 cup confectioners sugar

2 tbs buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Spray baking pan with nonstick spray.

Fork sift 2 cups of flour, baking powder, and cinnamon together in a wide bowl. Leave extra flower to coat blueberries and spread on cutting surface.

Sprinkle butter cut into 1/4 inch slivers on top of flour. I find using my hands to snap the butter into the flour to be the most effective method to incorporate. It should feel like you are literally snapping your fingers with the flour and butter.

With your hand make a shallow well in the middle of the flour. Place bananas, blueberries and half of buttermilk into the well make slow, broad strokes to stir in ingredients. If the batter is too dry add more additional buttermilk.

Once everything is just incorporated, place batter on to smooth floured surface. Fold batter in half, then fold again. After batter is folded pat out into 1/2 inch thick round. Make sure not to over-handle the dough to avoid toughness. Use a 2 to 3 inch diameter biscuit cutter to cut straight down into batter, cutting as close to the subsequent biscuit as possible.

Additional batter can be recombined to continue cutting biscuits, please note, continued handling will result in increasingly tough biscuits.

Place biscuits in oven for 6 minutes, rotate 180 degrees and cook for an additional 6 minutes.

While biscuits are baking, combine sugar and milk in a small bowl with spoon.

After biscuits are out of the over drizzle biscuits with glaze.

Enjoy! The balsamic glazed biscuits will follow in their own post shortly…

Learn more about cooking with blueberries at littlebluedynamos.com

Apparently I have a blog…

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
-Arthur Ashe 

Did you just get an email informing you Cooktestant was back from the dead with a brand new post on her woefully neglected blog? Well, it is true, but don’t get too excited. Deciding to start back up a cooking blog less than two months before my impending nuptials is probably the most ridiculous idea I have had in quite some time, right up there with thinking I would make a good red head… I was going to provide a picture, but lucky for you this was in the pre-Facebook era, but should I feel particularly self-loathing this evening I will share.

Blogging has been calling, well whispering is probably more accurate, to me over the past two and a half years, but embarking on the commitment to document, edit, and post everyday is daunting to say the least. Not to mention, since I last posted I have:

A) Changed Jobs – I left the crazy, hectic world of hospitality to for the different, but still crazy world of nonprofits. I love the work we do in the community, but truth be told, I love the girls I work with even more.  As you can see below there are a lot of us. Some have come and some have gone which just grows our circle more and more.

B) Bought a house! – I know I should have a picture that I didn’t steal from Google Maps, but I just got a new phone and I don’t currently have access to my old photos. We made a lot of cosmetic changes, and still have several to go. Whoever thought a tile mosaic mountain range counter top and back splash was a good idea should be forced to clean my counter every night as punishment.

Home Sweet Home

C) Got engaged!!! – I told you a lot of things happened!  As mentioned above, we are getting married in January and it is wedding crunch time. I am mildly drowning in craft projects and the stress of getting everything all together, but luckily I have amazing friends a family who help carry the load. I can’t wait to share pictures when it is over, as know it will be a beautiful event thanks to my mom and Becky (otherwise known as my design team).

Bling!

As for what you can expect from Cooktestant going forward, nothing. No, not really. My goal is to enter 4 contests a month, share what I have been making in my everyday life, my quest to make the perfect biscuit, and general life updates. I am going to give it a shot, and I would love to have you follow along as I reclaim my blog.

Contest To Be Entered This Month:

Blueberries Meet Their Match entry due 11/30

Details: Entries must include fresh or frozen blueberries and coconut, balsamic, bananas, or rosemary.

Plan of Attack: My initial thought is to make a Faux Berry Biscuit, or a play on Bojangles famous Bo-Berry Biscuit. I am thinking of changing up the normal glaze and using balsamic, or using a sweet potato biscuit recipe, but replacing the sweet potato with banana.

Your Best Brussels Sprouts Recipe presented by Whole Foods entry due 12/1

Details: Win over brussels sprout hates and turn them into true believers.

Plan of Attack: I am a little unsure on what to do, mostly because I have never met a brussels sprout I didn’t love. I was introduced to my beloved brussels at a young age, and used them as a conveyor for “sauce” a delightful, don’t want to know how the sausage is made kind of mock hollandaise creation. Using my mom’s genius technique, I am thinking simply roasted sprout with a robust sauce, or I could put cheese on them, everyone loves cheese.

Cookoff Before Kickoff Recipe Contest entry due 12/8

Details: Create a tailgate dish inspired by your favorite team’s rivalry.

Plan of Attack: Orange. Okay, that isn’t a plan of attack, it is just a color. I could attempt a purple dish, but that just sounds bizarre, so I will stick with orange. I think it is safe to say there will be chicken involved as well as our biggest rival are the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. No concrete ideas here, so stay tuned! Hopefully I will be inspired after this weekend 😉 Speaking of inspiration, my favorite Gamecock just recommended going with more of a state theme, ala, pecans, grits, or sweet tea.

Hidden Valley Dip Envy Mix. Share. Vote. Win. Dip Contest entry due 12/21

Details: Create a dip using Hidden Valley Ranch Dip and Tabasco Sauce

Plan of Attack: With such a strong flavor profile set in place by the ranch and Tabasco this could prove to be a bit challenging. Off the top of my head I am leaning towards using the chipotle Tabasco and incorporating avocado so it is a hopefully good weird ranch/guacamole love child. Or a corn dip, because I feel like a love for ranch and a love for corn go hand-in-hand…just me? K.

 

Alrighty, I think that is all for now folks. Till we meet again, which is hopefully sooner rather than later!

 

 

Where’s The Beef – Seared Steak with Fig Caramelized Onions

Only dofstoyefsky could dream up a pair like us

-HaHa Tonka
So apparently I have started collecting all of Dogfish Head’s various special brews. Incase I have not yet mentioned it, Columbia fails! Its so sad how excited I get to go to a city that has a Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and/or sells Dogfish Head. Greenville, which is very much smaller than my fair city, not only has my beloved Dogfish Head, but a Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Sometimes life is not fair, unless you live in Columbia, and then its pretty much all the time. Of course I am kidding, absence only makes the heart grow fonder, so when I do get to relish in my oft missed delights I have a tendency to go a little crazy.
While in Greenville for Easter I managed to snag almond meal/four, unadulterated shredded coconut, and two of Dogfish head’s brews. I had to fight the urge to pick up everything they had in stock, instead I grabbed Aprihop, a lovely hoppy apricot brew, and Theobroma, a special brew based on the very first applications of cacao.

Dogfish Head's Theobroma

To be specific, Dogfish describes Theobroma as a “beer is based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras which revealed the earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink used by early civilizations to toast special occasions. The discovery of this beverage pushed back the earliest use of cocoa for human consumption more than 500 years to 1200 BC. As per the analysis, Dogfish Heads Theobroma (translated into ‘food of the gods’) is brewed with Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs (from our friends at Askinosie Chocolate), honey, chilies, and annatto (fragrant tree seeds). It’s light in color – not what you expect with your typical chocolate beer. Not that you’d be surpised that we’d do something unexpected with this beer!”

Personally, the chocolate flavor was not everything I had ever hoped for and I was very surprised by the lightness of this draft. With that being said, I found Theobroma to be far more drinkable than I ever thought it would be. I loved the subtle hint of spice that mingled with the ancient honey rich base flavor. As always, I highly recommend picking up this offering, as I do with nearly everything the geniuses at Dogfish come up with. Even if you don’t think this beer is up your alley how can you pass up the drink of the gods ?

On to dinner…

Tonight’s dinner was based around the qualifications for the 2011 National Beef Cook-Off’s Dinner Crunch category. To qualify, all you needed is “focus on easy-to-prepare beef recipes for busy weeknight meals using ingredients commonly on hand at home”.

What do I always have at home? Onions, Jam, Red Wine, Cherry Tomatoes, Spinach and Cous Cous. What can you make with all of those random ingredients…I wasn’t sure either.

Until I decided to cook the onions in the jam, and then it was on. Initially I added about 2 tablespoons to the pan, but as I began to incorporate the mixture I noticed that that amount might not be enough to fully saturate the onions with flavor. Ultimately, 1/4 cup became the perfect amount to glaze and sweeten the onions without overwhelming the dish.

Diced Onions with Figgy Jam

I am a little addicted to apricots, there, I’ve said it.

My original plan called for apricot jam, but there was a lonely jar of barely sweetened fig jam just waiting to find the perfect moment for it’s day in the sun. The fig flavor is not overwhelming, is sweet, but not saccharin-ie, and goes great with savory dishes. My plan for the leftover jam is most likely to make a fig, prosciutto and goat cheese pizza. Yum!

While the onions simmered and caramelized in the jam I began to prepare the “special ingredient”. You can’t enter a beef contest without making the steak the star. In order to really show case the meat preparation was simple, just a little salt and pepper on each side.

Mmmmm, Beef!

While I focused on the star of the meal this is what was happening to the onions….

Fig Caramelized Onions

Perfection!

Once the onions were perfectly browned with figgy goodness I added one of my favorite old vine Zinfandels, Gnarly Head Zin, to deglaze the pan. Once the wine is in I added gobs of cherry tomatoes to stew and become wrinkly in the onion base. I have a deep love for slightly stewed tomatoes whose skin resembles a raisin and which provides a delightful pop of acidic flavor to any dish.

Tomatoes Stewing in Red Wine

Once the tomatoes were slightly loosened from their skin and the wine began to thicken I made room for the steak in the pan to sear in the simmering sauce.

Seared Steak Caramelized Onions and Tomatoes

As I chose a thinner cut of meat I only cooked it for about 1 1/2 minute on each side side my steak slices would be rare. Once the steak was done cooking I removed the meat from the pan and placed on the cutting board and covered with a pot lid to let it rest. While the steak rested I added an additional dash of red wine to help wilt a large heap of spinach to add some green to the meal.

Wilting Spinach

Once the spinach was wilted the sauce was removed from the heat while the steak was cut in thin strips. I topped a bed of rosemary couscous with the onion sauce and placed the steak strips over top. Once everything was plated I added a handful of goat cheese crumbles to finish it off.

All Done

When everything came together I was smitten. I am a HUGE sweet and savory fan and the combination of the sweet jam and onions with the tart tomatoes and cheese really fit the bill. All in all, the steak was treated like royalty resting upon a lovely bed of dramatic and deeply flavorful vegetables.

Who knew my pantry held such a bounty? How about you? What creative meals have you come up with the bits and pieces you can find in your kitchen?

Seared Steak with Fig Caramelized Onions

1 chopped large yellow onion

1/4 fig jam

1 cup grape tomatoes

1 cup bold red wine

Steak

2 cups baby spinach

Goat Cheese

Combine the onion and jam in a pan on med-high and cook until caramelized.

Add red wine and tomatoes and stew on medium heat until the tomatoes begin to wrinkle and the sauce begins to thicken.

Salt and pepper the steak. Make a space in the center of the pan and place the steak in the center. Sear on high heat for 1 minute and 30 seconds.

Remove the steak from the pan and cover to rest while spinach in incorporated.

Add a dash more of wine and spinach to the pan. Wilt the spinach till it is fully incorporated.

Slice the steak in to strips.

Place the sauce on top of your starch of choice. Place steak strips on top and sprinkle cheese to finish.

Enjoy!

Win the Way To Your Man’s Heart – Chicken Tetrazzini

Live for yourself and you will live in vain; 
Live for others, and you will live again.

Bob Marley

When I first heard about Susan Mallery’s Win the Way to Your Man’s Heart recipe contest I instantly knew what Esq. would pick. Despite my instantaneous conclusion I asked him anyway, and wouldn’t you know, I was right on the nose! What is this magical dish that is a guaranteed man slayer? Well if you read the title, you would know, but if you don’t feel like scrolling up or breaking your saccadic rhythm this delicious dish could be nothing other than Chicken Tetrazzini.

Esq. is a big fan of casseroles, as I think many men, nay, everyone is. Who doesn’t love lasagna, shepherd’s  pie,  or Santa Fe chicken casserole. It is my best approximation that casseroles derive their high yumminess quotient from the multilayered soup like flavor from the ingredients baking together in a sauce, textural superiority from the crunchy baked top bits and creamy middle, and finally their sheer nurturing made with love essence. I might be reading way too much into casseroles, but as the meal that you bring to loved ones and friends in times of need, is a staple of holiday dinners, and are often a beloved childhood favorite casseroles seem to be one of the best ways to let someone know you care. Ponder on that the next time you sit down to a lovingly prepared squash and zucchini casserole!

Part of this competition required that the recipe be easy to recreate and not overly involved. Well, my normal Chicken Tetrazzini recipe is based around an involved homemade béchamel sauce that is to die for, but has gobs of ingredients and becomes all consuming. To me it is totally worth it to spend the extra bucks and time for this wonderful creamy white wine sauce, but on a Thursday I really don’t have that kind of time and I was nearly positive that the sauce would immediately eliminate me from the competition. Instead of this wonderful fresh, rich, and flavorful sauce I used Cream of Mushroom. Send me to the Gulag!

Well on second thought, please don’t, because the dish actually turned out quite wonderfully, with the difference only abundantly apparent to only the most experienced tetrazzini connoisseurs.

For a chicken tetrazzini of your very own may I recommend starting by thawing frozen peas. How can you not love produce that comes wrapped like a present?

Unboxed and Unwrapped Peas

While the peas are defrosting break your spaghetti noodles in half so that you will have more manageable bites when it comes time to enjoy this wonderful man trapping meal.

Noodles and a Puppy

In another pan, as the noodles cook, I sauteed mushrooms and onions that would help to make up for the flavor that would be missing by using cream of mushroom soup instead of making my own sauce.

Caramelized Goodness

Once the mushrooms and onions had caramelized to a lovely brown I removed them from the pan and threw in some chicken to cook with several traditional  italian spices.

Sizzling Chicken

Once all of the ingredients are cooked and ready to be combined in the the casserole dish it is time to get that crunchy, buttery, herby topping ready. My personal preference is to use panko as opposed to breadcrumbs, because they stay crunchier longer and the chunks are a little bigger. To the panko I added torn parsley, shredded asiago, and butter to the topping mix.

Topping in the Making

Once everything is combined and topped with the panko mixture it is into the oven until the top beings to brown and the sauce beings to bubble…if you can wait that long!

Bake Till Crunchy

This chicken tetrazinni does not come out in the usual casserole square block form when it comes time to plate. Instead we ended up with lovely bowls full of absolutely fabulous pasta delight. Be still my heart.

Make Your Man Swoon Tetrazzini

Enjoy!

Chicken Tetrazzini

1 box spaghetti noodles, broken in half

2 cans cream of mushroom soup

3 medium sized boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tbs oregano

1/2 tbs parsley

1/2 tbs rosemary

10 oz frozen peas

1 medium videllia onion

8 oz sliced mushrooms

Topping

1 cup panko

3 tablespoons hand torn parsley

3/4 cup shredded asiago

3 tablespoons melted butter

Set frozen peas out to thaw.

Preheat oven to 400º.

Boil halved noodles in salted water until al dente. Drain water and set aside noodles.

Saute chopped onion and mushrooms with salt and pepper in a little bit of olive oil until browned. Once browned, set aside in bowl with cream of mushroom soup.

Combine chicken and spices in the sautee pan and cook chicken until lightly browned. Add chicken to the bowl with soup.

Add defrosted peas to the soup mixture and stir until combined.

Mix the soup mixture with with the noodles in bowl or in a greased casserole dish. Spread contents evenly in a the baking dish.

Combine all topping ingredients in a small bowl. Evenly sprinkle mixture across the top of the casserole.

Place the casserole in oven for approximately 35 minutes, or until top browns and the casserole is bubbly.

Enjoy!

My Return to the Blogosphere

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” 
Albert Einstein

And I’m back!

It has been really sad this past week not being able to summon the energy to put a post together. I though it best to give myself a week to recuperate, as I was beginning to have trouble stinging together a coherent sentence. As a natural born introvert, being effervescent and charming all day with strangers really beings to take its toll on me. At the end of the day pretty much all I am good for is a yummy meal, the conversation is up to you. Not to mention now people are trying to make me deal with numbers. If you know anything about me, know this, I don’t do numbers. I can figure out how to leave a tip, deal with cooking related conversion matters, and pay my credit card bill, anything more than that and expect my eyes to glaze over and my mind to wander.

All of this being said, I survived my hell week(s) and I am back. Numbers be damned! I will blog!

There are meals to be discussed from last week, i.e. chicken tetrazzini, that deserve their own post.

Chicken Tetrazzini

But today is a holiday, so I am keeping it brief. I had a wonderful weekend of rest and relaxation spent with the lovely Esq. and family.

First we started in Clemson, SC, probably the best place on earth. We drove up on Friday evening for a baseball game, and despite the cold and overcast weather Clemson couldn’t have been lovelier and there was no place on earth I would rather be.

Where the Blue Ridge Yawns It's Greatness, Where the Tigers Play

I expected nothing less and was rewarded with a Tiger Baseball victory over Wake Forest. While the game was a little slow, with the final score of 2-0, Esq. and I were luckily fortified with the yummy offerings from The Esso, which we hit up before the game.

THE ESSO

The Esso has become legendary as a favorite of Sports Illustrated, ESPN, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, and  Brent Musberger, who makes it a point to stop by anytime he is in town. Esq. and I began to plot our trip and the fried pickles that would inevitably be ordered as we were pulling off the highway, and per usual they did not dissapoint!

The rest of the weekend was joyful spent hanging out with Esq.’s old high school friends and family in Greenville. Funnily enough, the quote at the top of today’s post comes from a surprise easter egg hunt in downtown Greenville. As we were walking down the street from our car to the restaurant I kept noticing little plastic eggs conspicuously place just out of reach in store windows, on top of bushes, and on the sidewalk. After egg number 5, yes, I counted, I couldn’t resist any longer and I plucked my little green egg up from a window cil. I accepted my fate, ether this was going to be a wonderful little surprise or a horribly nasty joke that would explode or disgust me upon opening. Much to my delight inside was a wonderful quote, innocuous, and wonderful that really got my mind in focus. There is a blog to write…and I know how to start it!

Surprise!

The rest of the weekend was spent having scrumptious meals with family and feeling the love of the Esq. clan. I swear, each time I visit Greenville it gets harder and harder to come back to Columbia.

Happy Easter!

Until tomorrow…

Sunday Dinner – The Italian Farmer’s Market Edition

“That’s the scary part. I didn’t know if I should smile, crack up, scream or run.”

– The Wizard of Oz

Sunday made my 7th straight day at work. After yet another long day that left my feet wailing in pain all I wanted was a nice nap on the hammock and to make a lovely, sumptuous Sunday dinner.

This Also Helped

Luckily, Nanner must have been reading my mind, because she returned home from her errands with bags full of fresh produce from a roadside farmer’s market.

Farmer's Market Loot

I had squash, zucchini, onion, corn, and tomatoes to work with. In my sleepy state basic was best. Esquire helped me chop the squash and zucchini to stir-fry with the onion.

Esq.'s Exquisite Chopping

The fruits and veggies were super fresh, as one would expect from the farmer’s market.

Fresh Onion

The onion was most notably so. Part of what I love about fresh, organic ingredients is that they aren’t classically beautiful. The above onion would probably not be the first to go at the grocery store, but it is perfectly lovely, fresh and flavorful. When I cut into it its inner beauty came shining through, literally, I mean have you seen a prettier onion?

Pretty Onion

Next up was the corn.

1st Corn of the Season

Maybe it is just because I haven’t had fresh corn in a good long while, or maybe because it was just so stinkin’ good, but this corn was awesome! No butter, no salt. Just a quick dip in boiling water and the corn was so amazing. LOVE! Love, love love love.

The window cill full of wonderfully ripe tomatoes began to taunt me from across the room I was preparing the rest of dinner.

Killer Tomatoes

With a giant mountain of basil growing in the back yard  I couldn’t help but make a Caprese salad. The bright flavors of tomato, and basil balanced with the mild creaminess of mozzarella, couldn’t be easier and couldn’t be tastier.

Caprese Salad

Last, but not least, the protein. I think I have been in the mood for beef a lot recently, because yet again, beef is what’s for dinner! This time I decided to marinate the steaks in a decidedly Italian fashion with rosemary, balsamic, garlic, and just a dash of worcestershire.

Soakin' It All Up

While everything else was being prepared I let the meat sit, and right before we were ready to sit down they were thrown on to a pan for two minutes on each side. Devine!

My eyes are starting to shut, otherwise I would elaborate,but I will just say this was a dang good Sunday night supper!

Dinner

Moist Carrot Cake Cupcakes & The Cupcake Pen Review

Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.
Charles Dickens

Here it is…the long awaited Carrot Cake Cupcake and Cupcake Pen Review.

TaDa!

I recently spent wayyyyyyy too much time browsing Amazon’s cooking tool’s section. I eventually decided there were two items I could not let pass me by. The Cupcake Pen and a Gnocchi Board. I had every intention of trying out the gnocchi board tonight, but my sweet potato gnocchi turned into, well, just sweet potatoes. I will, at some point, get around to trying out my other new found cannot live with out cooking utensil.

Back to the cupcake pen. While this might be the very definition of a faddy one use item, if you are trying to bake of 200+ cupcakes for competition, I am here to say you can’t live without the cupcake pen. The pen, as it shall be referred to from here on out, is most useful for avoiding drips on the pans from spooning out each individual cup by hand. I have use mini ice cream scoops in the past, but have had a lot of trouble with the spring coming loose and becoming unusable, this time I decided to go another route. In order to really put the pen through its paces I use the chunkiest batter I know, Carrot Cake, to test its batter distribution capabilities.

Personally, if I am eating carrot cake I need it to be moist, full of texture, and have great multi-dimensional flavor profiles. When it came time for me to create my carrot cake recipe my secret weapon was mixed fruit bits rehydrated with rum. If one is in need of a secret weapon, may I recommend alcoholic fruit in tiny cubed form.

Rehydration

Once the fruit plumped up full of flavor I drained off the rum and tossed the bits into a food chopper with the pre-shredded carrots to ensure that everything is brought down to about the same size for consistency purposes.

Chop Chop!

Once you pulse and scrape down the sides several times you should end up with a lovely concoction of tiny fruit and veggie bits.

Chopped Carrots and Fruit

In the mean time, I mixed my wet ingredients on a med-high speed until well mixed and creamy.

The Good, The Bad, and The Wet

Off to the side I combined the dry ingredients in a bowl. The dry ingredients include the flour, baking powder, and multitudinous spices

The Dry Goods

Slowly the dry ingredients were combined with the wet until the batter became a lovely off white color with flecks of brown spices.

Mmmmm Batter!

Once the batter is well mixed and free of clumps its time to add the tasty bits of fruit, carrots and toasted walnuts to the mix.

Crunchy Bits

With the filling fully mixed it was time to pour into the pen. Surprisingly, only a little bit dribbled over the side, as you can see below.

Spillage

For the most part the pen worked great and filled the cups up evenly. I did have a bit of an issue when large chunks of walnut would block the filling from getting out, but it never clogged. All in all I think it stood up to the test, and I am looking forward to using it with a normal, less chunky batter.

The Work of the Cupcake Pen

Once the batter was distributed I threw them into the oven and let bake for just around 10, or until they turned a delightful brown.

Carroty Goodness

While the cupcakes were cooking I whipped up what I was hoping to be a nice light and fluffy pineapple cream cheese frosting. Instead, what I got was a equally delightful pineapple cream cheese glaze that let the wonderful flavors and sweetness of the shine through.

Finished Product!

Once these cupcakes were done I was so thrilled with the results! These are now the best, by far, carrot cupcakes I have ever eaten. I might stick to a traditional frosting in the future, but the pineapple undertones of the glaze really made the cupcakes remain nice and light. I hope you enjoy!

Moist Carrot Cake Cupcakes

2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 tbs ground cinnamon

1 1/2 tsps ground ginger

1 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

4 eggs

1 1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 cups white sugar

2 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 cups diced carrots

1 cup chopped dried mixed fruit

3/4 cup dark rum

1 cup toasted chopped walnuts

Pineapple Cream Cheese Glaze

1/4 cup shredded pineapple

2 cups powdered sugar

1 cup cream cheese

Preheat oven to 325º

Soak mixed fruit bits in dark rum until pieces have plumped, at least 30 minutes.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Set aside.

In a mixer beat together the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla.

Add the flour mixture in 1/4 cup at a time.

In a food processor chop the carrots and mixed fruit until they are well diced.

Fold in the toasted walnuts and diced fruit and carrots until fully incorporated.

Pour into a lined mini cupcake pan and bake for 10 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick can be inserted and removed cleanly.