Food, Faith, and Other Fabulous Finds

Recipes, devotional thoughts, and other cool things I come across.

Finally Back!! August 28, 2012

Wow!  I’ve had such a crazy month with so much going on; it’s so nice to finally be able to come back and tell you about some of the things that have been keeping me running around like crazy.  Though I still have some work to catch up on, I knew I couldn’t go any longer without posting about all the yummy food I’ve been making and eating.

Let’s start by discussing how I’m going to change the way I post about recipes.  I’ve received feedback from some of you saying that you’d like to see more of my own pictures of my food.  I’m going to try to comply, but I want to warn you first.  I only have a 4 year old point and shoot digital camera (read: low quality pictures), and I live in an apartment where the dining room and kitchen have no windows (read: all my pictures will have icky flash and/or bad fluorescent lighting).  While I do plan on posting pictures, these limitations mean they won’t look very good, though you can still get some sense of how my food turned out.  (That is, if I can remember to take the pictures.)  I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about posting the actual recipes along with the link to the original source.  From what I’ve seen in the food blogger community, it’s OK to post the recipe if you write the directions in your own words and link back to your original source.  I love the idea that y’all will be able to see the recipe and a picture here, but that you can also go to the original link to find a new blog that you might love and see some much better pics of the recipe.  I’m also planning to go back through my old posts to add in the recipes, but that will take a while before it’s finished.  What do you think so far?  Is this as exciting for you as it is for me?  😀

Part of the reason that I’ve been so busy is that August has a ton of family birthdays in it.  That means that I stay very busy baking, and you get lots of recipes.  One of those birthdays is the hubby’s paternal grandmother who had my carrot cake once and has requested it every year since.  You might be surprised to learn that I originally found this recipe in an issue of InStyle magazine.  As you’ll see, the recipe is meant to make cupcakes, but I tweak it for a 2-layer round cake.  This cake is very moist from all the fruits and veggies with a nice bit of spice to balance the sweet cream cheese frosting.  It comes together very quickly too.  I didn’t get pictures of this one, but here’s the recipe.

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

For the Cake

2 c. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon (ground)

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. nutmeg (ground)

4 eggs

1 1/3 c. sugar

1 c. vegetable oil

2 c. shredded carrots (I give them a good scrub, trim the tops and bottoms off, and run them through the shredding blade on my food processor.)

1 c. golden raisins

For the Frosting (I do 1 1/2 times this recipe to have enough for a layer cake.)

8 oz. room temperature cream cheese

3 tbsp. light corn syrup

2 1/4 c. confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease (or line with paper cups) 12 regular and 24 mini muffin cups.  In a large bowl, sift together the first 6 ingredients.

2. In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, beat together the eggs, sugar, and veggie oil for 2 minutes or til well blended.  Beat the flour mix into the egg mix til just blended.  Stir in the carrots and raisins.  (It will look like the carrots are lightly held together with cake batter, but don’t worry.  The cake expands to envelop the carrots entirely.)  Spoon the batter into the cups, filling about 2/3 full.

3. Bake the regular cupcakes for 20-23 minutes and the mini cupcakes for about 15 minutes or til a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out cleanly.  (Cook 2 8 in. round cakes for about 40 minutes.)  Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Remove from the pans and cool completely on the wire racks.  Repeat with any remaining batter.

4. In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese and corn syrup.  Add the 10x sugar and beat til smooth.  If necessary, add more 10x sugar to thicken.  Add the vanilla.  Frost the cooled cupcakes.

One of the hubby’s grandpas also requests the same treat each year for his birthday, but his treat of choice is a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.  Though it’s a common recipe that many of you might already have, I wanted to post the recipe I use for someone who’s looking for an easy, reliable recipe.  I don’t even know where I got this recipe, but it brings rave reviews every year. It even gets my hubby to eat warm pineapple, which is a big deal.  Unfortunately, it’s another one that escaped being photographed.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

1/4 c. butter

2/3 c. brown sugar

9 slices pineapple (You might want to pat them dry to avoid excess liquid in the cake.)

9 maraschino cherries

1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour (In a pinch, I once used half all-purpose and half whole wheat; it was surprisingly delicious.)

1 c. sugar

1/3 c. shortening

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 c. milk

1 egg

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the butter in a 9 in. square pan (I only have a 9 1/2 in. pie pan, but it works fine.) and place it in the oven til the butter is melted.  Once the butter is all melted, remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter.  (I also try to make sure that the butter/brown sugar mix is pretty evenly distributed.)  Arrange the pineapple slices over the brown sugar mix and place a cherry in the center of each slice.

2. While the butter is melting, you can make the cake batter.  In a medium bowl, beat  the last 7 ingredients together on low for 30 seconds; scraping the bowl constantly.  Beat on high for 3 minutes, scraping occasionally.  Pour the batter over the pineapples and cherries.  (I try to make sure that I cover all the “juices” so that the cake cooks evenly through.)

3. Bake 50-55 minutes, checking partway through to make sure that the top doesn’t over brown, or til a toothpick inserted in the center removes cleanly.  Immediately place a heatproof plate upside down over the pan and turn the pan and plate over.  Leave the pan over the cake for a few minutes to let the brown sugar mix drizzle over the cake.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake Pineapple Upside Down Cake 2

One of the my BILs is a huge fan of Boston Cream Pie.  He’s been hinting about wanting some for months, so when I saw this pin, I knew that’s what I’d make for his birthday.  I will tell you straight off that this recipe is involved, but it is definitely worth it.  As you might have figured out, I’m not a huge pan of pudding-y, custard-y foods, but this pastry cream was a revelation to me.  It had a delicately sweet taste and a very nice consistency that wasn’t what I had expected.  (I’m thinking of giving pate a choux another go so that I can make my own eclairs stuffed with this cream.)  I was somewhat scared about making the pastry cream, but the recipe worked like a charm.  Though I tasted the cake batter and pastry cream individually, I didn’t get to have one of the cupcakes, so I can’t tell you how wonderfully they worked together.  However, both my hubby and BIL assured me -with cheeks full of cake- that they were completely delicious and a home run.  You can see the original pictures here at America’s Test Kitchen Feed, but you’ll have to register to see the recipe.  (They just ask for your basic info; you don’t have to pay.)  Their technique for the cake batter was new to me, but it worked out just fine.

Boston Cream Cupcakes

For the pastry cream

1 1/3 c. heavy cream

3 egg yolks

1/3 c. sugar

4 tsp. cornstarch

2 tbsp. cubed butter

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

For the cake

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. sugar

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. salt

12 tbsp. cubed, softened butter

3 eggs

3/4 c. milk

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

For the glaze

8 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips since they’re cheaper.)

2/3 c. heavy cream

1/4 c. light corn syrup

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1. To make the pastry cream: bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Meanwhile, whisk together a pinch of salt, the egg yolks, and sugar in a medium bowl.  Then whisk in the cornstarch til the mix becomes pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.

2. Once the cream has come to a simmer, slowly whisk it into the egg mix (to temper the yolks), then return the whole mix to the saucepan set over medium heat and whisk constantly til the mix becomes thick and glossy, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Remove the saucepan from heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla.  Transfer the pastry cream to a small bowl and press plastic wrap directly on the surface (to avoid a skin forming); chill the cream til set, about 2 hours.

3. For the cake:  Adjust an oven rack to be in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 12 cup muffin tin.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  On medium-low, beat the butter into the flour one piece at a time, about 30 seconds.  Continue to beat til the mix resembles moist crumbs, about 1-3 minutes.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, til combined, about 30 seconds.  Beat in the milk and vanilla, then increase the mixer to medium and beat the batter til it’s smooth, light, and fluffy, about 1-3 minutes.

4. Using a greased 1/3 c. measuring cup, spoon a portion of the batter into each cup til about 3/4 full.  (Personally, I had enough batter to make -I think- 18 cupcakes.  Because I followed the directions that said it would yield only 12 cupcakes, I ended up with 12 over-flowing cupcakes and a small heart-shaped cake.  I ended up having to trim the excess off the sides of the cupcakes before I could use them.  Next time, I’ll just make more cupcakes than it says, and, hopefully, they’ll be a little more uniform in size.)  Bake til a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, 18-20 minutes, rotating halfway through.  Cool in the pan 10 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.

5. Cut around the inside edge of each cupcake and remove a cone-shaped piece.  (See the ATK pictures for a great tutorial. Because mine were so misshapen, I cut a shallow cone, and then scraped out some more of the cupcake.)  Fill the hole with 2 tbsp. of pastry cream.  (1 1/2 tbsp. was often too much for my cupcakes, which means you’ll have more than enough pastry cream for 18 cupcakes.)  Trim the top off of the cone and replace the top on the cupcake.

– You might have noticed that you will be left with a good-ish amount of cake innards.  Rather than waste them, I turned mine into cake balls.  I gathered all the trimmings of the cake in a small bowl and crumbled them into small-ish crumbs.  Then I put in the leftover pastry cream and some extra cream cheese frosting that I had from the carrot cake (If you don’t have enough pastry cream to get the right texture, you could also add in some pudding, frosting, or even a little milk, sour cream, or yogurt.); then I mixed them together til they were a moist, scoopable consistency.  I supplemented the leftover glaze with a little more of the chocolate and some veggie oil to thin it out into a coating.  Then  I just scooped them out with my cookie scoop, popped them in the freezer a few minutes to harden, and dipped them in the glaze.  I got a baker’s dozen and a tester one (that looks pretty ugly) which I split with the hubby – it was amazing!

6. Microwave together the glaze ingredients, whisking often, til melted and smooth, about 1-2 minutes.  (I nearly always melt chocolate over low heat on the stove.  I just don’t trust the microwave that much.)  Let the glaze cool, uncovered, til thick but pourable, about 20 minutes.

7. Pour the glaze over the cupcakes, making sure that it runs down the sides.  Refrigerate til set, about 10 min.

The last birthday cake that I made was my favorite of the lot, Cream Soda-Toffee Cupcakes with a Brown Butter Frosting.  These are absolutely easy to make and so incredibly delicious, especially the icing.   At the party where I served these, they were devoured amid loud groans and exclamations of deliciousness.

Cream Soda-Toffee Cupcakes with Brown Butter Frosting (from Better Homes & Gardens)

For the cake

2 c. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 c. softened butter

3/4 c. sugar

1/4 c. brown sugar

3 eggs

1 tbsp. molasses

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 c. buttermilk

1/2 c. cream soda (not diet!)

1/2 c. toffee pieces

For the frosting

1/4 c. softened butter

1/4 c. butter

2 c. 10x sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1 dash salt

1-2 tbsp. buttermilk

1/4 c. toffee pieces

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners (I decided to be lazy and do 12 cupcakes and 1 small bundt.)  In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/4 tsp.  salt.  Set aside for later.

2. In a large bowl, beat the butter on medium-high for 30 seconds.  Add the sugars and beat til well combined.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, on low til combined.  Beat in the molasses and vanilla.

3. Alternate adding the flour mix, buttermilk, and cream soda to the butter mix, beating on low after each addition til combined.  Stir in the toffee.  Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full.  Bake about 18 min. or til the tops spring back when lightly touched.  Cool in the pan 5 min., then remove and cool completely on wire racks.

4. In a saucepan, heat the 1/4 c. of not softened butter over medium low heat til lightly browned, about 8 min; let cool.  In a bowl, beat the softened 1/4 c. butter on medium for 30 seconds.  Add the cooled brown butter and beat til combined.  Add sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt.  Beat in the buttermilk, a little at a time, until a spreadable consistency is reached.  Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining toffee.

Cream Soda-Toffee Cupcakes 3Cream Soda-Toffee Cupcakes 2 (2/12/13 – I added recent pictures where I made a small cake out of 2 cupcakes.)

– An aside on browned butter: I’ve been doing it SO wrong.  In a dark, nonstick pan, it’s very hard to tell when the butter is really brown.  As near as I can tell, I’ve just been tanning the butter, which does nothing really for the taste.  You’ve got to really let it go for a while until it smells similar to the smell when you mix melted butter with graham cracker crumbs for a crust.  It takes some time, but it is INCREDIBLY worth it.  The smell is just intoxicating, and it imparts a really addictive flavor.  Don’t be surprised if you see a lot more recipes including brown butter pop up here.  Also, I’m strongly considering always browning the butter when a recipe calls for it to be melted.  The flavor is just too good to pass up for a few minutes more time.

For the same party as the cream soda-toffee cupcakes, one of my best friends and I made an incredibly delicious salted caramel ice cream.  Once we got the hang of the caramel (we may or may not have burned the first batch), this was actually pretty simple to make.  Since we’ve made it once, it would be even easier to make another time.  The whole process was a treat because the smell while it cooked was heady; unfortunately it made a really small amount of ice cream, but we enjoyed what we had.  I’m actually not going to reproduce the recipe here, because I think you really need to read her notes on it.  Caramel can be tricky to work with, so read the recipe through several times before you start making it.  By the way, she includes vanilla in the ingredient list, but never tells you when to add it.  We just left it out, and the taste was still amazing.

On top of all these birthday goodies, I recently got to provide muffins for my hubby’s Sunday school class.  With his help, I picked a couple of new recipes to try.  Sadly, I didn’t get pictures of either type of muffin.

The first one is a moist, fluffy, delicious Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chunk Muffins.  Out of the dozen muffins that I sent to the class, only a couple made it back for me to taste.  These were definitely a big hit.  I would’ve liked more peanut butter flavor, but otherwise they were just great.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chunk Muffins

2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

2/3 c. brown sugar

6 tbsp. melted, cooled butter

1/2 c. peanut butter

2 eggs

1 c. milk

3/4 c. dark chocolate chunks (I used what I had on hand, semi-sweet mini chocolate chips.  Instead of having wonderful pockets of chocolate, you had it evenly distributed throughout the muffins.  I’m sure both ways are equally delicious.)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees; grease 12 muffin cups.  Whisk together the 1st 4 ingredients in a large bowl.  In another bowl, mix together the butter, peanut butter, eggs, and milk til smooth.  Pour the peanut butter mix into the flour mix and stir til just combined.  Stir in the chocolate.

2. Fill each muffin tin to the top.  Bake 20 min. or til a tester inserted in the center removes cleanly.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

The other type I made were Lemon Muffins with Lemon Glaze.  I’m not sure where the recipe originally came from, but they were definitely created by someone who loved a good pucker.  These are VERY tart.  If you’re not a huge fan of the tartness (like my hubby), you can substitute a little water for some of the lemon juice.  Another way to tame the tartness would be to skip the lemon glaze and top them with a confectioner’s sugar glaze instead.  Still, I liked them just as they were.

Lemon Muffins with Lemon Glaze

For the muffins

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 c. sugar

2 tsp. lemon zest

2 lightly beaten eggs

2/3 c. lemon juice (For me, it was the juice of 6 lemons.)

1/2 c. melted butter

1 tsp. lemon extract

For the glaze

1/4 c. sugar

1/4 c. lemon juice (The juice of about 2 lemons.)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl; make a well in the center.

2. In a separate bowl, combine the next 4 ingredients.  Add the wet mix to the dry, and stir just til moistened.  Spoon the batter into 8 muffin cups (I was able to do 12).  Bake for 20-25 minutes or til a toothpick inserted in the center removes cleanly.

3.  Toward the end of the cooking time, combine the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, til the sugar dissolves.

4. When they’re done, remove the muffins from the oven and poke holes in the tops.  Drizzle with the warm glaze.  Cool in the pan 5 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.

– Do you save your citrus zest?  If you don’t, you should really consider doing so.  I hate the thought of wasting the zest of a citrus fruit when a recipe only calls for the juice.  I don’t know if you’ve seen it in your area, but some stores sell jars of citrus zest for exorbitant prices.  When I only need the juice for a recipe, I’ll zest the fruit first over a shallow bowl.  Then I let the zest dry out overnight (that’s usually all it takes) and transfer the still fragrant, dried zest to a small, air tight container.  Then when I want to pep something up with a little zest, but I’m out of fruit, I still have the dried zest as an option.  Just another way to get your money’s worth out of your produce.  (BTW, I have a LOT of dried lemon zest thanks to these muffins.)

Now, believe it or not, I don’t only bake sweets.  I’ve tried a couple new savory recipes recently that I do want to share with you as well.  The first one that I wanted to share is a fun brunch or breakfast recipe called Eggs in Clouds.  They were a little tricky to make, but tasty.   These come together very quickly, but you need to fold the flavoring very carefully, so as not to deflate the whites.  The first time I tried making these, the fat from the bacon combined with my too-fast folding deflated the whites irrevocably.  I did try them again though, with better results.

Eggs in Clouds

4 eggs

1/4 c. grated Pecorino-Romano

1/4 c. chopped chives

1/4 c. crumbled bacon

1. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in one large bowl and the yolks in 4 lightly greased ramekins.  (I suggest greasing the ramekins because my yolks stuck to the side of the bowl and then broke when I tried to transfer them to the clouds.  As you’ll see, the results, though edible, weren’t pretty.)  Whip the whites until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold in the cheese, chives, and bacon.

2. Spoon the whites into 4 mounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet; make a deep well in the center of each mound.  Bake at 450 degrees for 3 minutes, then add 1 yolk to each mound and season with salt and pepper.  Bake til the yolks are just set, about 2-3 min.

The other new savory recipe that I tried was Chicken Vindaloo.  Though I’m more of a curry fan, my hubby really loved this flavorful, tangy Indian dish.  Of course, we both enjoyed the excuse to make more naan.

Chicken Vindaloo

1 tbsp. turmeric

2 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. coriander

2 tsp. hot paprika

1 tsp. mustard powder

1/4 tsp. cardamom

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

2 lb. cubed, boneless, skinless, chicken thighs

2 cloves finely chopped garlic

Juice of 2 limes

2 tbsp. veggie oil

1 chopped onion

2 in. minced ginger

4 finely chopped cloves (I just used a couple dashes of ground cloves)

2 bay leaves

1/4 tsp. cardamom

1 seeded, finely chopped fresno pepper (I still can’t find these where I live, so I used a jalapeno.)

1 14 1/2 oz. can of diced tomatoes

1 c. chicken stock

1. Combine the 1st 7 ingredients in a small bowl.  Place the chicken in a shallow dish and mix it with 1/2 the spice blend, 1/2 the garlic, salt and pepper to taste, and the lime juice.  Cover and let stand 45-60 minutes.

2. When the chicken is done marinating, heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, ginger, the other 1/2 of the garlic, bay leaves, and fresno pepper to the pan; season with salt and the remaining spice blend.  Cook, stirring frequently, 7-8 minutes to soften.  Add in the stock and tomatoes; bring to a boil.  Slide in the chicken and partially cover it.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and poach for 20 minutes.  Serve over rice or with naan (or both!).

You’ve waited a very long time, but I am going to finally return to our movie and recipe series.  Since I’ve shared so many recipes today, you can pick whichever one you feel would suit your royal tastes.  But here’s the info on the movie, The Princess Diaries 2.  Like the first installment, this movie is hilarious and just plain fun to watch.  Don’t believe me, check out this trailer.  In the first movie, Mia (Anne Hathaway) found out that she was destined for the throne of Genovia.  In this sequel, she is tasked to find a husband in 30 days or lose her throne to the usurper, Lord Devereaux (Chris Pine).  As with the first movie, this one is packed with lovely tidbits, hilarious lines, and awkwardly funny situations.  I particularly love Mia’s drool-worthy suite in the palace (that includes a closet filled with fabulous clothes and jewels), the mellower but enjoyable sound track, the mattress surfing arrangement (who wouldn’t want to mattress surf in their grand hallway – or anywhere?), the more sophisticated wardrobe for Mia, and especially her wedding dress which was very similar to mine.  I enjoy so much of this movie and had a really hard time narrowing down my favorites scenes.  I finally decided to just tell you all of them (you don’t mind, do you?).  I love Mia’s official 1st meeting with Lord Nicholas, the husband shopping scene, the Genovian Independence Day parade, Mia’s many hilarious attempts at archery, the wedding, and the wrap up at the end of the movie.  Because I love so many scenes, there are less individual lines that I need to share, but I couldn’t leave you without these: “A queen is never late. Everyone else is simply early.”, “Should I shoo him? Should I shoo him? Just tell me who I should shoo and I’ll shoo.” (Now that’s a great bff.), “I look like a moose.” “Yes, but a very cute moose. Make all the boy moose go ‘hwaa’.”, and “Do you have a chicken for my table?”.

The last thing I wanted to discuss today was a book that I think everyone should take some time to read.  A few months ago I told you about a book that told the story of the 5 missionaries who were killed while reaching out to the Auca Indians.  That book was written many years ago by one of the wives of the missionaries.  This book, called End of the Spear, is written much more recently by one of the sons of the missionaries, Steve Saint.  In this book, Steve Saint talks about his relationship with the Waodani Indians (formerly known as the Aucas) and his work to help them find their place in a rapidly changing world.  Though the entire book was interesting and informative, I was especially touched by the last few chapters.  The situations encountered and the responses were just so moving, that I could hardly read for the tears that were pouring down my face.  I hope that, if you read it, you will be as touched as I was.

Well, this is probably the longest post I’ve ever done.  I hope you enjoy it, and I’ll talk to you again soon.


2 Responses to “Finally Back!!”

  1. […] I’ve had leftover buttermilk from the Cream Soda-Toffee Cupcakes, I’ve been wanting to find a yummy way to use it up.  I’ve wanted to make this chicken […]

  2. […] you can check out: Cream Cheese Cranberry Muffins, S’mores Muffins, sausage brunch muffins, peanut butter and chocolate chunk muffins, lemon muffins with lemon glaze, cherry pie muffins, and gingerbread […]

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