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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS


I don't normally blog about one dessert, BUT I make cupcakes for my husband's company each month to celebrate that month's employee birthdays (I've made A LOT of cupcakes over the years), but THIS month I made THE most outstanding cupcakes, so I had to share.

SALTED CARAMEL CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES



These are the most delicious cupcakes I think I've ever made!  I have a "thing" for salted caramel, so clearly I had to try these, AND, they were a homerun!!! Seriously, that combination between rich dense devil's food cake with mini chocolate chips topped with a salty/sweet salted caramel buttercream = TO DIE FOR!

I doubled the recipe easily to feed the 50 or so staff, and it made over 60 cupcakes.

(Recipe adapted from tablefortwoblog.com)

CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES:

1 box devil's food cake mix
1 package of Jello instant chocolate pudding
1 cup sour cream (I used light)
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk (I used low fat with no problem)
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips





SALTED CARAMEL BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:

20 caramel candies, unwrapped
4 TBSP heavy cream (plus another 1-2 TBSP, if needed, to get the right consistency for piping)
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
4 cups powdered sugar, divided
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Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and line muffin tins with baking cups. In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, mix together cake mix, instant pudding, sour cream, vegetable oil, eggs, milk, and vanilla.
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Mix well. Then, gently stir in the chocolate chips with a spatula.

Equally divide the batter into the baking cups, filling 2/3 of the way full. I use an ice cream scoop for this step - it's the PERFECT amount and yields pretty rounded cupcakes.



Bake for 18-22 minutes (mine took 20-21 minutes), let cool for 5 minutes in pan, then remove and place them on wire cooling racks to cool completely.


In the meantime, make your buttercream by first melting the caramel candies and heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally so the cream doesn't boil.  This step takes a few minutes.

Once the caramel is all melted, stir in 1/2 tsp. of salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add in the remaining 1 tsp of salt.



Gently add half of the powdered sugar to the butter and beat until light and fluffy. Then drizzle in the caramel while the mixer is on low. If the caramel has hardened so you can't pour it easily, just heat it up so you can pour it into the mixer. Then add the remaining 2 cups of powdered sugar, and beat until combined.  Add more cream if needed to get the desired consistency.

***Note: this salted caramel buttercream is just the bomb!  It was all I could do not to put it in a bowl and have it for dinner! SO YUMMY!


Put the frosting in a piping bag fitted with a pastry tip of your choice. Pipe the frosting on top of the cooled cupcakes.

***Note: my good friend Sheila came over to give me a tutorial on piping frosting - who knew it was SO EASY!  THANK YOU SHEILA!!!! My life has changed for the better!


Store cupcakes in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

I found this awesome cupcake holder on Amazon last year - easily stores 24 cupcakes so they stay fresh and intact on the journey to my husband's office.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ALL THOSE FEBRUARY BABIES OUT THERE!!!




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Sunday, February 4, 2018

SUPER BOWL FOOD 2018

SUPER BOWL 2018

coed.com

It's the final game of the 2017-18 football season, and this is the one game that is ALL ABOUT THE FOOD!  We're having neighbors over to watch the game, and since we've got a goal to try and eat healthier at each meal, I've chosen some delicious dishes to prepare that have been tweaked to be lower in fat, but they are still fabulous.

MENU

8 LAYER DIP WITH CHIPS
SWEET POTATO SKINS
SPICY GRILLED SHRIMP
QUINOA WHITE CHICKEN CHILI

BUTTERSCOTCH BARS

8 LAYER DIP (a healthier version of the classic)
(Adapted from Martha Stewart)

1 can (16 oz) low fat refried black beans
2 tsp lime juice
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 cup sour cream (I use light)
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 can (4.5 ounces) chopped green chiles
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and diced small
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup shredded romaine lettuce
2-3 scallions, chopped

Tortilla chips, for serving (Ideally use baked tortilla chips here)


In a medium bowl, combine beans, lime juice, and 2 tablespoons water; season with salt and pepper.


Transfer to a serving dish. Top with sour cream, cheese, chiles, tomatoes, avocado (adding a bit of salt and pepper on the tomatoes as well as the avocados, and sprinkle lemon juice on the avocado after the S&P), shredded lettuce, and scallions. 



Serve with tortilla chips.


LOADED SWEET POTATO SKINS
(Adapted from Martha Stewart)

4 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds total), scrubbed and patted dry
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 tsp sweet paprika, plus more for garnish
4 slices bacon (Substitute turkey bacon for a delicious and healthier alternative)
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 scallion, sliced, for garnish

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. On a rimmed baking sheet, rub sweet potatoes with oil; season with salt and pepper.

Bake until tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool on sheet (keep oven on).

Halve sweet potatoes lengthwise; scoop out 1/3 cup flesh from each half into a medium bowl. Then cut the potato skins in half or into thirds (depending on the size of your potato).

Add buttermilk and paprika to the bowl of sweet potato filling. Mash until smooth; season with salt and pepper. Stuff sweet-potato skins with filling. (To store, refrigerate, up to 2 days.)





Stuff sweet-potato skins with filling. (At this point you can store them, covered, refrigerated, up to 2 days.)

When you're ready to eat the potato skins, arrange filled sweet potato skins on a cookie sheet and bake in a pre-heated oven at 425 degrees F (or until lightly browned around edges), ~ 15 minutes.

While the skins bake, in a skillet, cook bacon over medium until crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain on a papertowel-lined plate; crumble. Stir together sour cream and 2 tablespoons water; drizzle over sweet-potato skins. Garnish with bacon, paprika, and scallions.





SPICY GRILLED SHRIMP

Sauce 
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 3 to 4 limes)
1 TBSP Asian chili paste
1 TBSP Asian fish sauce
Coarse salt

For the Shrimp
Canola or safflower oil, for brushing
36 large shrimp (about 3 pounds), peeled and deveined (tails left intact; optional)
Coarse salt
Wooden or metal skewers for grilling


Soak 12 wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes to prevent charring (OR use metal skewers).

To make the sauce: 
Bring sugar and lime juice to a simmer in a small saucepan.

Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in chili paste, and fish sauce. Season with salt.

To make the shrimp: Heat grill to high. Brush grates with oil. Thread shrimp onto each skewer; season with salt.

Divide sauce in half; reserve half for serving. Grill shrimp for 1 minute; brush with sauce. Flip, and grill for 1 minute more; brush with sauce again. Flip, and grill, brushing occasionally with sauce, until opaque, 1 to 3 minutes more. Serve with reserved sauce.




QUINOA WHITE CHICKEN CHILI
(Adapted from Closet Cooking)

It's a gloomy Super Bowl Sunday in Atlanta, so I've added this chili at the last minute to satisfy the soul.  It's a healthier version of my chicken chili, and with the addition of quinoa, it's packed with goodness.  Plus, it's a snap to make and you can be done in under 30 minutes from start to finish. And the addition of lime juice really gives this chili a zesty fresh taste that I love!

1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
1-2 jalapeno peppers, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp cumin, toasted and ground
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup salsa verde
1 pound boneless and skinless chicken breasts or thighs
1 (15 ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1/2 tsp oregano
1 TBSP lime juice (~1/2 lime)
2 TBSP cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 avocados (for topping the bowl when serving)


Heat the oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat, add the onion and jalapeno peppers and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about a minute.

Add the broth, salsa verde, chicken, beans, quinoa and oregano, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked and the quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes or so (depending on how large your chicken pieces are).

Remove the chicken, shred in a food processor.

Then return the chicken to the soup along with the lime juice and cilantro, season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.



BUTTERSCOTCH BARS

OK - so these are NOT healthy!  But I'm entertaining and want to share a dessert with our friends that is wonderful.  Leftovers will be frozen and brought out at another gathering and they'll still be delicious. I've been making these butterscotch bars for over 30 years - and they get rave reviews each and every time!

2 1/4 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, at room temp
1 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 TBSP vanilla
2 eggs
1 lg pkg butterscotch morsels (DIVIDED)
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Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl and set aside.
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Beat the butter, brown sugar and vanilla together in another bowl.
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Beat eggs into the mixture, and then gradually add the flour mixture.
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Stir in about half of the morsels. Spread into an ungreased 9x13 baking pan, and sprinkle with remaining morsels.
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Bake 25-30 minutes until toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center.

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***All photos are mine unless otherwise noted.





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