Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes

I had planned to make vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting for this post, but the flour sifter I just bought was broken.  Ugh!  So I searched through all my cupcake recipes to find one that sounded good and that I had all the ingredients for since I had already been to the store once to buy the ingredients for my vanilla cupcakes.  This recipe won out, mostly because I remember seeing a picture of it and it looked delicious.  And they are!  My husband thought these were the best cupcakes I've made so far!  They go great with a cup of coffee and are super handy because unlike a regular cinnamon roll, you can eat them without a fork!

Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes
Makes about 24 cupcakes

2 1/4 tsp or 1 package dry active yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 cup warm milk (approx. 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened

Dissolve the yeast and 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar in the warm milk in a large bowl and let stand for about 10 minutes until foamy.
Mix in the eggs, butter, salt, and other 1/4 cup of granulated sugar.  Stir together.  Add flour and mix until well blended and the dough forms a ball.  Put in a bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1 hour).
After the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes.  In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.
Roll dough into a 12x22 inch rectangle.  Spread dough with 1/2 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with cinnamon/sugar mixture.  Roll up dough and cut into 24 rolls. 
Fill two cupcake pans with doubled up cupcake liners and lightly spray with cooking spray.  Place each roll in a cupcake liner.  Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.  Let rolls cool completely before frosting (frosting will melt off otherwise). 

1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
3+ cups sifted confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
pinch of salt

Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add in the powdered sugar (add more sugar for stiffer frosting if piping).  Add vanilla, lemon juice, and salt and mix well. 

Amy's Notes:
These are very good and will definitely make them again!  Definitely use two cupcake liners because they will leak through just one.  I didn't roll the dough out thin enough or long enough, so my rolls were very hard to fit into the cupcake liners, but I re-rolled many of my rolls to fit.  And beware, these are not a quick cupcake.  There is about 2 hours total of rising time involved.  But they are worth the wait and especially good right after they have been frosted!
Good enough to eat without frosting.

A much too big cupcake with not so perfect frosting!

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Creamy Taco Mac

When my brother and I were growing up, my mom used to make a skillet meal with beef and macaroni.  I was never very fond of it.  Until I got married and began running out of easy, cheap dinner options.  And then I gave my mom's beef-mac-skillet another try and found it was pretty good.  It makes a ton and is super easy.  Pretty much everyone has a their own version of beef-mac-skillet but the following recipe is a different take on the skillet meal.  It's easy, cheap (my two favorite things in a recipe) and very tasty! 

Creamy Taco Mac
Adapted from:
1 lbs. ground beef
8 oz. dry pasta shapes
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
4 tbsp. taco seasoning
3 oz. cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain, reserving ½ cup of pasta water. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook the ground beef over medium-high heat until no longer pink. A few minutes before the beef is cooked through, add the chopped onion to the skillet. Once the meat is cooked through, mix in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Mix in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir in the cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream and reserved pasta water, and continue stirring until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit. Remove from the heat and top with shredded cheddar cheese, if desired.

Amy's Notes:
Be careful to use either a large enough skillet or a large enough pot for the noodles.  My skillet wasn't big enough (mine was 8in) so I dumped the meat mixture into the pot I used for the noodles, which worked but I made a bit of a mess in the process.  The original recipe calls for ground turkey but I only had ground beef in my freezer.  Either would work.  I used petite diced tomatoes, only because I don't like big chunks of cooked tomatoes (weird, I know).  Also, I didn't use a whole onion because I had a half of one already cut, but added a little dried onion.  My husband and I both like this dish and I will definately make it again.
The meat combo before the noodles were added
Mix it all together good.
With a little cheese added on top!

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gigi's Cupcakes

Over the past few months, I've been thinking it would be fun to own/operate a cupcake shop.  I am guessing that in reality, being a small business owner and baker might not be as much fun as baking when I feel like it in my little kitchen.  But I could be wrong.  Maybe I can just run a baking business out of my kitchen.... hm.... ideas....

Anyway, I had never been to a REAL cupcake shop, just the one I think about in my head.  So I figured it was about time to try one out.  Last Friday, Matt and I checked out Gigi's Cupcakes here in Murfreesboro.  Gigi's is a franchise started here in Nashville.  They have 19 locations in 9 states, mostly states in the South.  Check them out here:

Overall, my first cupcake shop was amazing.  Look at these:
I love how pretty they look!  The person working gave us a special deal, so we went ahead and got four cupcakes.  We tried wedding cake, triple chocolate, carrot cake, and key lime. 

The wedding cake cupcake was delicious.  Seriously, almost perfect.  I need to learn to make a cupcake this good and I need to learn soon!
The triple chocolate was also very good, but the frosting could have been better.  All the other cupcakes my husband and I split, but I ate all of this one! 
The carrot cake was the most disappointing.  I'm not a fan of chunks in cake, even carrot cake, and this cake was CHUNKY.  Plus, the frosting wasn't very good.  I expected cream cheese frosting but it was more of a buttercream frosting.  So disappointing. 
And the key lime was pretty good.  I liked the cake a lot, but again, the frosting wasn't my favorite.  My husband loves all things lime, so this cupcake was right up his alley, but not so much mine.  Still, it's a good looking cupcake.
Overall, a very exciting first cupcake shop experience, with many more to come!

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Beginnings of (Cup)Cake Decorating

I've been wanting to learn how to decorate cakes the past few years.  I looked into taking a class but either my schedule didn't fit with the class schedule or don't have the money to do it.  So, why not just teach myself?  I began by buying a decorating bag and a few random decorating tips.  I made some frosting and practiced 'decorating' on some wax paper.  It was bad.  Embarrassingly bad. 

My next step was to buy a Wilton decorating set with practice sheets and a practice board.  It went better, but I still need lots of practice!

Not pretty, but it was good practice.

My focus right now is accumulating good cupcake recipes and learning how to decorate the cupcakes.  I bought some buttercream frosting from the store to use on a few old cupcakes I was about to throw out.  Here are a few pictures of that first attempt:

Haha!  Not too good, right?!
These are a little better
Quickly improving!
It didn't help that I only had enough frosting to cover six cupcakes!  From those six practice cupcakes, I hoped I learned enough to attempt a whole batch.

I decided I would make cupcakes for my husband's graduation.  He loves anything lime flavored so I decided on margarita graduation cupcakes.  I had found several recipes online but the one I decided on turned out horribly!  I don't know what went wrong but the cupcakes didn't rise like they should have and turned out very doughy.  I've never had a recipe turn out so bad (well, one that I was following!).  Needless to say, I ran to the store to get what I needed and made a different recipe for my margarita cupcakes the next morning.  I made lime buttercream frosting, prepared my 16in decorating bag with a 1M decorating tip, and frosted the cupcakes successfully! 

Aren't they pretty?

And delicious too!

I still need practice with consistency, but I was pleased with how they turned out.  I am planning on making more cupcakes here soon, (I'm thinking vanilla with chocolate frosting) and will be sure to keep you updated on my baking and decorating progress. 

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Lemon Blueberry Cream Scones

My parents were just here visiting for my husband's graduation and brought me blueberries from their backyard.  I had to figure out how I was going to use all the blueberries.  One container is already in my freezer because I knew I wouldn't use them before they went bad.  These scones are delicious, I might just make another batch to use the rest of my not-yet-frozen blueberries!

Lemon Blueberry Cream Scones
Recipe from: The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

2 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup blueberries

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees.  Pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a food processor to combine, about 6 pulses.  Add lemon zest.  Scatter the butter evenly over the top and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal with a few slightly larger butter lumps, about 12 pulses.

Add blueberries and quickly pulse once to combine.  Transfer the dough to a large bowl.  Stir in the cream with a rubber spatula until the dough begins to form, about 30 seconds. 

Turn the dough and any floury bits out onto a floured counter and knead until it forms a rough, slightly sticky ball, 5-10 seconds.  Press the dough into a 9-in cake pan.  Unmold the dough and cut into 8 wedges.  Place wedges on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake until the scone tops are light brown, 12-15 mins.  Cool on a wire rack for at least 10 mins.

Delicious Scones!

Amy's Notes:
I don't have a food processor, so I used a spatula to mix all the ingredients together and a pastry blender to mix in the butter.  When I make these again, I will probably cut them into smaller wedges, maybe about 12, because then I could have more than one at a sitting!

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Crock Pot Salsa Chicken and Cilantro Lime Rice

I've been thinking, how do I keep my recipes and cooking notes straight without having to print it all out?  I'd been wanting to keep sort of a 'cooking journal' but, again, didn't know how I could do that without spending a lot of time and money printing.  Thus, this blog will be my cooking journal.  Hopefully, it will also be a great way to share some of my favorite recipes as well as my cooking/baking triumphs and failures.  I hope you enjoy!

I love a delicious, easy, and cheap recipe and this is no exception!  It's super easy--dump it all in and let it cook all day.  Plus, the ingredients are all things I keep around anyway. 

Crock Pot Salsa Chicken
adapted from :

1 can chicken
1 can corn
1 can black beans, drained
1 jar salsa

Combine all ingredients in crock pot and cook on low about 6 hours.  Shred chicken with fork.  Serve over rice or in torillas as soft tacos.  Makes 4-6 servings. 

Amy's Notes: I used our small crock pot to cook this dish.  It barely fit in the crock pot and overflowed a bit, so I would reccommend a normal size crock pot.  I also took the lid off for about an hour or two so the chicken would thicken up a bit. 

Crock Pot Salsa Chicken

Cilantro Lime Rice
adapted from:

1 cups white rice
2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove chopped garlic

Combine the rice and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan. Set over medium-high heat.  Bring to boil, stir briefly, cover and reduce heat to low.  Let cook, covered, until water is absorbed and rice if fluffy and tender, 16-18 mins. 

While rice is cooking, combine cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, and garlic in blender or food processor.  Blend until smooth.  Stif the mixture into cooked rice and fluff with fork. 

Amy's Notes:
I must admit, I have no idea how to cook rice over the stove.  I always cook my rice in a rice cooker, so I have no advice for cooking rice.  Sorry. 
I used cilantro I had leftover from another meal that I froze.  Also, I am not a fan of my blender, so I chopped the cilantro by hand and mixed it all up with a fork in a bowl. 

Cilantro Mixture

Cilantro Lime Rice

The finished product:
And it was delicious.

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