Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Red Velvet Cupcakes with White Chocolate Frosting

I made these cupcakes for a good friend's baby shower a couple of weeks ago, and I have to say, they were so good!  I used beet puree for the red color in the cake batter instead of using artificial food dye, and the white chocolate frosting was to die for!  I also got to use my new cake decorating kit, there is definitely a learning curve to using the tips....usually by the last five or six cupcakes I finally have it figured out.  Guess I'll just have to keep baking in order to keep up my cake decorating skills :).

Red Velvet Cupcakes (makes 24)
recipe adapted from Food Network - Paula Deen

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons red beet puree (or red food coloring)
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, beet puree, vinegar, and vanilla. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes.  Test the cupcakes with a toothpick, if it comes out clean they are done.  Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

White Chocolate Frosting:

1 stick of butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces of good white chocolate (melted)
1-2 tablespoons milk or half and half

Cream butter in an electric mixer until fluffy, then add vanilla. Slowly add in powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time with the mixer on low speed. Add in melted white chocolate and beat until incorporated. To reach desired consistency, add in milk 1 teaspoon at a time with mixer on low speed.  I've learned if you are piping the frosting on the cake, thicker is better, if you add too much milk, just add a little more powdered sugar.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chicken Pesto Bake

I am starting to realize that I may have an addiction to pesto sauce, but I can't help it, I LOVE it!  It's so versatile, it can be plain, creamy, mixed with pasta, used as a pizza sauce, in a sandwich, so why not in a casserole?  I had some bell peppers that needed to be used up and my pesto sauce in the freezer, so I went for it!

Chicken Pesto Bake

3 cooked chicken breasts (chopped or shredded)
2 bell peppers (chopped)
1/2 onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 cup pesto sauce (homemade or prepared)
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
3 cups milk
1 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese
salt and pepper
1 lb pasta

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook pasta according to directions (if I'm baking the pasta in a casserole, I usually cook it one minute less than the directions call for to avoid soggy pasta), drain, but don't rinse.   While the pasta is cooking, saute bell peppers and onion in olive for about five minutes, then add the garlic in for about a minute, remove from heat.  In a sauce pan melt butter and add flour, cook for about one minute and then slowly whisk in the milk.  Cook until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon, then add the cheese, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Add the pesto sauce, chicken and veggies, stir and pour over pasta.  Pour mixture into a large baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Black Bean Soup

I made some fantastic black bean soup a while back and thought I'd share the tasty recipe.  I adapted this recipe to suit our family's needs (mainly I left out the chiles, because spicy food makes my two year old cry). 

Black Bean Soup:

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 red onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 teaspoons ground cumin
1 16-ounce package dried black beans
1 tablespoon chopped canned chipotle chiles (optional, leave them out if you don't want spicy)
7 cups hot water
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons  salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and both bell peppers and sauté for about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cumin; stir 1 minute. Transfer mixture to 6-quart slow cooker. Add beans and chipotles, then 7 cups hot water. Cover and cook on high until beans are very tender, about 6 hours. Transfer 2 cups bean mixture to blender; puree until smooth. Return puree to remaining soup in slow cooker. Stir in lime juice, salt, and pepper.  Top with a dollop of sour cream and serve with tortilla chips.  Enjoy!