Cupcakes

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Hey Cupcake! mini-cupcakes

I have wanted to go to Hey Cupcake! since I first saw that adorable darn cupcake beacon spinning atop a shiny vintage RV.

At Hey Cupcake!, I had the “special.”  Yes, cupcake trailers have specials.  This was a cherry sublime cupcake.  And it was sublime in all the ways a $3.00 cupcake should be: the icing was super rich and there was a lot of it, the cake was moist and super rich, and there was a wonderful little sour candy cherry placed perfectly in the middle of the really thick icing.  It was delicious.  I ate ¾ and then stopped.  My husband, despite having this conversation for many years, tried to coax me to finish the cupcake.  “Oh, just eat the rest,” he said (I would, of course, rather him say this than tell me I probably should throw the rest out; not fair of me, I know).

Cherry Sublime cupcake and me

“No, I’m full.”

“Oh, c’mon,” and so forth until I finally just threw it away.  Which really, he was fine with because food trailers only have outside seating and it was 103 degrees in Texas that day, so he was ready to move on over to the air-conditioned bookstore.  Of course, before we left, being the kind husband he is, he decided we should buy the mini-sampler of cupcakes with six adorable cupcakes of probably 800 hundred calories each.

“We should get the mini-cupcake sampler,” he said.

“Ohh, I don’t think so,” I said, hating that he put the thought in my head but knowing it was a gesture intended to make me happy.  Photos of icy, gooey cupcakes might really increase my blog traffic, and, of course, they would taste wonderful.  “No, no,” I said pushing the tempting thoughts away.

“Are you sure?  There’s a red velvet cupcake in there,” he said, knowing my weaknesses.

“Yeah, okay, maybe” I said , but then raising a finger very seriously at him said, “but you have to hide the cupcakes from me.”

“Fine, Irene, I’ll hide the cupcakes,” he said and rolled his eyes.  To some, this might sound like a strange demand, but there is a long history of me demanding that Ben hide sweets from me.  It’s caused a few arguments.

“Just don’t eat the sweets,” he says.  Of course, he is right, but the problem is Ben won’t eat the sweets.  He’ll bring them home, and I’ll finish a box of cookies in  a week.  A week and a half later, B will walk in the kitchen and innocently ask me, “Where are all the cookies?”

We got home and put the cupcakes in the fridge (B must have forgotten he agreed to hide them).   I took some photos of them and didn’t eat any that night.  In fact, I actually forgot about them (there are first times for everything) until two nights ago when B took a bite of one.  Now, this morning, only about twenty-four hours later, there is only half a carrot cupcake left.  I know B likes carrot cake, so I was being nice.  Relationships with food are complicated.

This blog was first published in August, but I did some edit so I reposted.

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Bacon and Rosemary Yukon Potatoes

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B bought these adorable little pots at the grocery store the other day.  It was a horrible experience for him.  As soon as he lay them on the counter to pay, the girl checking him out started ohhing and ahhing over them.  B hates public attention, but what does this girl do?   Well, she turns and calls across the isle to her checkout friend, “So and so, come look at these adorable pots this man is buying!”  I wasn’t there, but I can just see my husband simultaneously broadening his shoulders and avoiding all eye contact with anybody.

Cute pots with shirred eggs and bacon and rosemary potatoes.

Pretty soon, there were three checkout girls admiring B’s pots.  Right then, B vowed to never do anything nice for me again (jk).  He bought the pots because he thought I would think they were adorable (update: B does not walk around grocery stores thinking things are “adorable.” He just thought I would like them) and want to use them on the blog, which of course is true.  He didn’t want the women to ohh and ahh anymore, so he didn’t tell the women he bought them for his wife.  Instead, he said that he was going to make individual deserts in them, which is funny because B doesn’t make deserts.  Well, I really wanted some photos with the pots, so B made shirred eggs again; however, he also made bacon and rosemary potatoes.  I don’t know if the popularity of all things bacon has started to turn people off from bacon, but I would recommend these potatoes even if you might be tired of hearing about bacon (’cause people may tire of hearing about bacon but not eating it, right?).

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds yellow (Yukon) potatoes peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3 pieces of bacon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Boil potatoes in pot of salted water.  Simmer until tender.  Drain.
  2. While potatoes are boiling, cook 3 pieces of bacon until crispy.  Drain on paper towels.  Crumble bacon.  Mixed in when he added rosemary.  *Note: Bacon grease was not used to keep it lower in fat.
  3. After bacon is cooked and potatoes are boiled, heat oil in skillet over medium heat for three or four minutes. Add potatoes and cook, occasionally stirring, until brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Add rosemary, garlic, and bacon and cook for about 7 more minutes while stirring.

Shirred Eggs with Hawaiian salt and ground pepper and bacon and rosemary potatoes.

Grilled Ham and Cheese with a Twist

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Sharp cheddar cheese and cherry preserves

This is definitely on of my new favorites. Earlier this week,  I asked B to please make me the best ham and cheese sandwich money could buy. Well, he thought about it for a few days and then he did just that; he’s a great man.

B made this like a regular toasted (I think it would be good grilled also) ham and cheese except that we used sharp cheddar cheese and cherry preserves that my mother brought me back from Traverse City, Michigan.

Ingredients

  • Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • Ham
  • Cherry Preserves
  • Sour dough bread

Preparation

  1. Spread cherry preserves on both sides of bread
  2. Add as much ham and cheese as you like
  3. Toast in the oven at 350 for about ten minutes or grill

Puree of Potato Leek Soup

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Leeks and Potatoes

I try to watch what I eat, especially since starting this blog, so B tries to make low-fat recipes for me.  This is one of my favorites.  It’s great on a winter or fall day.

 

Puree of Potato and Leek Soup

Ingredients

  • 4 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces
  • 4 large leeks, use white and light-green parts, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 cups reduced sodium chicken stock
  • ground pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Combine all ingredients into a large pot and boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about twenty minutes.
  2. Pour soup, as much as you can, into blender and puree. *For things like this, B uses a hand blender that he got for about twenty dollars.  Using the hand blender, he didn’t have to pour hot soup out into a blender multiple times.  Either way, puree all soup.
  3. Return soup into pot and simmer until heated.

Shrimp and Navy Bean Salad

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Shrimp and White Bean Salad

This is one of my favorite recipes.  We got this recipe from B’s mom and have been making it every since.  I have to admit that I like it with a little less shrimp than it calls for in the recipe, but that decision should be based on your fondness or not so fondness of shrimp. We often have this in the summer, but in my imagination, I host fun little get togethers, and this is always served as an appetizer, whatever time of year.  It’s easy to make, and it’s really good.

Shrimp and White Bean Salad

Ingredients

  • 14 oz canned navy beans
  • 10 1/2 oz large peeled and cooked shrimp (*we used small shrimp in the photos above, but we usually use large shrimp and it works out better.  So, you might use larger bread than pictured).
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stock, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic glove, finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp flat parsley
  • loaf of French bread
  • 6 baby plum tomatoes, chopped
  • salt and pepper

Preparation

  1. Mix beans, onion, celery, shrimp, tomatoes, and garlic into large shallow bowl.
  2. Add the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of oil, and chopped parsley.
  3. Add a little salt and pepper to taste
  4. Use the rest of the olive oil to brush the slices of bread.
  5. Toast bread
  6. Serve on bread and  drizzle any extra oil. Enjoy!

Caramel Apples with Ginger and or Chocolate Salt

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Prepping to make caramel apples. There are cinnamon sticks here, but we didn’t end up using them.

B is prepping for a test, but I really didn’t want to miss a Sunday post so I decided to make caramel apples by myself.  Well, whenever I decide to cook by myself, I realize how much more familiar B is with the kitchen than me.  My workspace didn’t look anything like his clean and orderly workspace, and I felt completely overwhelmed just making caramel apples.  I’m not trying to be too disparaging of myself; I can do a lot of things, but I know that the cooking is not one of my strengths. So, just as I was about to burn the caramel, B stepped in and helped out.  Sigh of relief.

Prepping for caramel apple.

I was inspired by Martha Stewart’s Living cover this week, but we didn’t use any of the recipes from there.  We wanted to try caramel apples with ginger and a chocolate salt from The Spice and Tea Exchange that B received for his birthday.  I loved the ginger.  The chocolate salt was good, too, but we used too much salt.  If you happen to try these recipes, I would recommend using both sparingly.  The amount of ginger in the photo seemed perfect, but the amount of salt seen in the photos below was too much.  Use just a little.

Chocolate Salt Caramel Apple is in the front. Use less chocolate salt than in this photo; it was too much. Ginger Caramel Apple is in the back.

Caramel Apples with Ginger (my favorite) and or Chocolate Salt

Ginger Caramel Apple with the perfect amount of ginger.

Things you will need

  • Sticks for the apples
  • Parchment paper to put the apples on when finished
  • 14 oz bag of caramels
  • Water
  • Ginger
  • Chocolate salt

Preparation

  1. Unwrap the caramels and wash the apples
  2. Pull stems out of apples and insert stick into apples
  3. Put the apples and the spices by the stove so they are easily available when the caramel has melted.
  4. Cover a plate or baking sheet with parchment paper for the finished apples.
  5. Put the caramel in a saucepan and add 2 tablespoons of water.
  6. Cook on low heat (this will take a bit) until there are no more lumps in the caramel.
  7. Dip the apples in the caramel.
  8. Over the parchment paper, sprinkle the ginger or the chocolate salt over the caramel apple

Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitary

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Both my photos for the weekly photo challenge were taken while I was living in Italy quite a few years ago.  The first one of the man at the Spanish Steps has always been one of my favorites although I realize the lighting is not great and, ideally, it would have been taken at a closer range and it’s too blurry.  Still. . .it’s always been one of my favorites because I took the photo on a drizzly night right before Christmas when I was feeling quite homesick myself.  I loved being in Italy, but I also often missed my family, my boyfriend at the time (now husband:), and friends.  I also missed too much about Texas and the States to name: a language that I knew, Taco Cabana, stores that were open 24 hours, driving on highways late at night with the windows open, bookstores.  So, despite Italy being one of the best experiences of my life, I related very much to the man in this photo.

Man with camera at Spanish Steps

The second photo was taken while I was living in Italy, but it was taken in Brussels.  A friend and I were waiting for another friend, and so I was killing time by taken photos. I took this of myself using the mirror behind the bar.

Me at the bar

Birthdays and Jalapeno Poppers

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Cupcakes for my sister’s birthday

My younger sister’s birthday passed recently.  It’s in the middle of September, right as the leaves are starting to turn rich colors.  Oh wait, I live in Texas.  I meant right as the weather is starting to cool off to a brisk 90˚. Yes, as a Texan, I like to cash in my hot weather bragging privileges as often as possible.

Lately, we’ve been celebrating birthdays the way we used to celebrate birthdays.  By that, I mean that we buy a cake, we cook food, we open presents, and we buy a cupcake piñata (okay, this year was the first year for the piñata).

cupcake pinata

In the past few years, as we, and by “we” I mean my sisters, my brother-in-law, and I (my brother, lucky man, is not thirty yet), turned thirty it seemed we began to shy away from our birthdays.  Our father would call and tell us our birth story (my favorite part about my younger sister’s is that she was born during MASH, great show), and we’d listen happily until the end when he would say something along the lines of, “Can’t believe it’s been thirty-three years.”

Then somehow the fact that we were not published authors (I may as well confess  that except for one of my siblings writing for a living is all of our dream jobs. Yup, my poor parents) or even doing what we imagined ourselves to be doing after thirty would cause a bit of gut wrenching regret.  That is the part about birthdays that gets me down as I get older.  I tend to do better with age, but birthdays do also now remind me that it would be more difficult to accomplish certain things now than when I was twenty. As a child, I really never could comprehend what adults meant when they said, “Ugh, another birthday.”  Really?  Don’t you mean, “Heck yeah, another birthday with cake and ice cream!”  If you’re lucky, maybe you even got the princess shaped cakes like my mom made.  Anyway, my niece has, with her mere presence, encouraged us to move past our vanities and celebrate birthdays the right way again.  So, my dad and mom got my sister an amazing lemon cake with fondant icing molded into the shape of a book because she has finished a book (better than me) but not started sending it out yet.

My older sister and her husband did what they do amazingly: fed us fajitas, bought cupcakes, provided a place for the party, and served one of my favorite appetizers, jalapeno poppers (see end of post for recipe).

And, at my younger sister’s insistence, my older sister bought a piñata.  The piñata spectacle was a sight to see.  All the men just watched, kinda tilting their head in bemusement (we hope it was bemusement and not horror, jk), as my sisters, my niece, my mother, and I blindfolded each other with a sweater, loudly cheered one another on, and dangerously swung blindly at the piñata.  All in all, it was a very successful over thirty birthday party (I have to say it: forty is the new thirty anyway, right?).

Leftover cake and cupcakes the next day

 Jalapeno Poppers

Ingredients

  • Jalapenos
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Cream Cheese
  • Egg
  • Flour
  • Corn meal
  • Oil
  • Ranch for dipping

Preparing Poppers

Preparation

  1. Cut open and remove seeds from jalapenos
  2. Stuff jalapenos with cheddar cheese and cream cheese
  3. Prepare your fry station by the stove by doing the following: crack 2 eggs in a dish that you will be able to roll the jalapenos in.  Next to this, put a cup of flour and a cup of corn meal on a plate. On the stove, heat up about a cup of oil.
  4. Roll the jalapenos in the egg, then flour and corn meal mixture, and then fry in the pan of oil.
  5. Serve with Ranch or other dressing and enjoy!

Carbonnade

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How B preps before cooking

Recently B spent some time in the kitchen making a recipe from The Good Cook by Anne Willan.  This is a perfect fall recipe, in my humble opinion.

Beef with Beer and Onions

Ingredients

Herbs, beer, flour, and sugar

  • 2 pounds beef chuck
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 large white onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups dark beer
  • 1 cup beef or veal stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons herbs de Provence

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Trim beef and cut into 2 inch cubes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Hate 1 tablespoon of oil with butter in covered casserole dish that can be used on stove top and in oven (dutch oven), add the beef cubes and fry until brown on both sides.
  4. Add the onions to the dutch oven with salt, pepper, and remaining oil and cook over low heat until the onions are very soft.  Turn heat up, add sugar, and continue frying until onions are caramelized.
  5. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute.
  6. Add beer and bring to a boil while continuously stirring.
  7. Stir in stock, nutmeg, and herbs de Provence.
  8. Cover the dish and cook in oven, stirring occasionally, until beef is very tender, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.  Add more stock if the pan gets dry.
  9. After cooking, the sauce should be dark and concentrated.  If it is thin, boil on top of stove.
  10. Adjust seasoning as needed.

Fall is here; it’s below 100 degrees in Texas

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This is an old post, but I took some new photos to add to it.

Thursdays are my day; they are my Fridays, and I’m in charge of dinner for Ben and myself. This week I went to Central Market.  As I drove into the parking lot, my car started making a funny noise, so, being who I am, I decided to ignore it until after my afternoon gelato and coffee.  Instead of investigating the problem, I parked the car and smiled as I walked past a woman with purple flowers and a long loaf of bread sticking out from her shopping bag.  How very French and fallish and wonderful, I thought.  Another man stood sipping coffee and looking at the large display of bright orange pumpkins and yellow gourds.  It seemed that fall had arrived in Texas.

When I finished my shopping and spending entirely too much money, I walked out to my car, put the groceries away, and crawled on the ground in my nice work pants for a bit while inspecting underneath the car.  I saw nothing, so I started to drive.  My car started to make that noise again, but I was not going to let this get in the way of my Thursday, despite the kind looking elderly gentleman I could see in my review mirror who was watching me drive away and looking as though he really wanted to tell me something.  The car can walk it off, I thought, thinking of the wonderful pre-prepared dinner I was going to make for Ben.  But then, another kind gentleman waved me down and saved me from worse damage than I had already done.

“You have a really bad flat tire,” he said after I found the automatic window button.

“Oh,” I said.  I hadn’t even looked at the tires!

“Yeah, I wouldn’t have even noticed except I heard it from over there,” he said and pointed to a distant point in the parking lot.

“Oh, dear,” was all I could manage.

“Do you need help?”

“No, no,” I said getting my voice back and letting my purple flowered, lovely fall Thursday move to the back of my priorities.  “I’ll call my husband.”  The nice man, who was an employee of Central Market and they are lucky to have him (!), made sure I was okay and walked back toward that distant point in the parking lot.

I called Ben and he gave me the Allstate number (Allstate has been wonderful to us this year.  They are like my new best friends.  I ran over something and ripped half the underside of my car off early this summer.  We only paid $100.00.  Yeah, I really like them lately).  Allstate sent a man who changed my tire for free and also led me to a Discount Tire because, apparently, my tires were so bad that I was sending off sparks when I drove.  Well, Ben had mentioned that I needed to have them checked out, but, like everyone else, I feel like I have such little spare time, and when I do have spare time, I would much rather eat gelato and write blogs.  Anyway,  tire problem is now solved and my car feels like I am driving a new car.  Ben and I still had our Thursday night dinner, and it was lovely.  But thank goodness the rest of the week Ben is in charge of dinner.

During the week, there are some nights that I don’t get home until nine o’clock, but I usually have a nice meal waiting for me.  This week Ben made two recipes.  One is a simpler recipe that takes about forty-five minutes and is one of our old stand bys.  I love it not only because it is really good, but also because it is good for me.  The second recipe requires a little more time and effort but is worth it.

One of Ben’s favorite cookbooks is How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman (http://www.amazon.com/How-Cook-Everything-Simple-Recipes). That is where Ben found this wonderful lentils and rice recipe that I love so much.

First Recipe: Lentils and Rice with Asparagus

 I.  Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onion

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped, and two medium or large onions, halved and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups lentils
  • 1 cup rice
  • 6 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock
  • Minced parsley for garnish

Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil in a deep saucepan and cook on medium heat for one minute.  Add  chopped onion and cook until tender (about 4 minutes).  Add garlic, cumin, salt and pepper and cook for about 3 three minutes.  Add lentils and stir, add four cups of water or stock.

Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add enough stock or water so that there the lentils are covered with an inch of liquid.  Stir in rice.  Cover and turn the heat to low.

Pour two tablespoons in a skillet and turn heat to medium high.  Add the onion slices and stir them occasionally.  Cook until they are brown (about 10 to 15 minutes).  Remove from heat.

II. Asparagus

I really like asparagus and had never had it this way before I met Ben.  Maybe it is more common than I know, but regardless, it’s fast and tastes so good.

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lay asparagus on cooking sheet with tinfoil. Pour two tablespoons olive oil over asparagus. Evenly distribute one tablespoon minced garlic over asparagus. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until asparagus is tender. Remove from oven and salt and pepper to taste.

Second Recipe: A rather Fancy Spaghetti and a Salad with Oranges, Red Onions, and Blue Cheese

Ben gets a quite a few food magazines each month, and even though, I don’t usually cook, I love to read them.  This recipe was inspired by a recipe in the 2011 October issue of Cuisine at Home.  Ben made it on Tuesday, and so I was home in time to take some photos of the prep.  It’s a great date dinner.  We changed the recipe a bit from the magazine.  I like it with quite a bit less vinaigrette than the magazine suggests and with a bit of blue cheese.  The almonds are great, so add plenty to your salad.

I. Salad with Oranges, Red Onion, and Blue Cheese

  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • Juice from half an orange
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 navel orange sliced into rounds
  • 1/4 cup sliced red onion
  • 1 tsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • 2 cups spinach lettuce
  • Minced chives
  • Crumbled Blue Cheese

Whisk together the vinegar, honey, Dijon, oil, and orange juice.  Season with salt and black pepper.

Toast almonds in butter over  medium heat.  Add sugar,  salt, and cayenne pepper. Continue cooking and stirring until almonds are brown.  Put spinach lettuce onto plates  and add oranges, onions, and vinaigrette (it needs only a bit of the vinaigrette or it will overpower the salad).  Top with generous amount of almonds and a very small amount of crumbled blue cheese.

II. Spaghetti

Garlic Bread Crumbs for Spaghetti

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • Salt

Mince garlic in a food processor.  Add bread and process until coarse.  Heat oil over medium.  Add bread crumbs and toast until golden (about 3 minutes).  Season with salt and pepper.

III. Spaghetti

  • 3 strips bacon, chopped
  • 2 cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 cup sliced leeks
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 4 oz. dry spaghetti
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves

Bring pot of water to boil for the pasta.  Cook bacon over medium heat. Save 2 Tbsp. of drippings. Remove from heat and put aside.  Cook tomatoes and sugar in drippings in a skillet over medium heat for about five minutes.  Add leeks: cook for about 4 minutes, until wilted.  Pour wine into skillet with tomatoes. Simmer until liquid is almost evaporated.  Add broth and vinegar.  Simmer for about five minutes. Cook pasta in boiling water.  Add spinach and cooked bacon to the tomato mixture. Move cooked pasta into skillet with tomato mixture. Stir and season to salt.  Serve and add bread crumbs.