Posts Tagged 'Make Ahead'



Southwestern Two-Bean Salad

As promised, here’s the recipe for Southwestern Two-Bean Salad that completes my grilling menu from the other weekend.  I chose this salad to go with the Cilantro Honey-Lime Grilled Chicken and the Hill Country Coleslaw because it’s hearty, generally crowd-pleasing, and it contained the one ingredient that tied all three dishes together: cilantro.  Its fresh summer flavor would make it right at home on just about any picnic or barbecue buffet, though; I’ve served it with pulled pork sandwiches and burgers as well.

Southwestern Two-Bean Salad
Serves 12

Dressing ingredients:
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Salad ingredients:
2 cans (15 ounces each) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 1/4 ounces) whole kernel corn, drained
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped (1/4 – 1/3 cup)
1/4 cup snipped fresh cilantro

Method:
For the dressing, whisk together vinegar, oil, sugar, cumin, oregano, salt and black pepper in a small bowl.  Set aside.

For the salad, drain and rinse beans.  Place beans in a large bowl.  Drain corn. Chop bell pepper and add corn and bell pepper to beans.

Chop onion and jalapeno peppers.  Snip cilantro using kitchen shears (or chop it). Add onion, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, and dressing to bean mixture.  Mix gently. Cover and refrigerate 2 – 3 hours to allow flavors to blend.

Source: Pampered Chef’s Casual Cooking

Southwestern Two-Bean Salad

I just love this salad.  It’s light and fresh, and I like the way the tender texture of the beans contrasts with the crunch of the peppers and the corn.  Plus, it’s inexpensive to make, it keeps wonderfully, and it adapts well for a variety of menus. Give it a try!

TIPS:  Since it’s summer and fresh corn is readily available, I substituted fresh corn for the canned.  I cut the kernels off of two cobs, placed the corn in a colander, poured boiling water over it, and drained it before adding it to the salad.

Also, since my mom recently fell victim to “jalapeno eyes,” a note about working with jalapenos: After handling jalapenos, always (!) make sure you wash your hands (or wear gloves).  If you have jalapeno oil on your hands and you touch your skin (or heaven forbid, your eyes), it will burn.  I accidentally touched the corner of my mouth recently with jalapeno hands, and while it wasn’t excruciating, I could definitely feel the heat.  If you’re generally cautious about spicy food, though, don’t let this scare you out of using jalapenos in the salad.  Removing the seeds and membranes tones them down considerably.  I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to spicy food, and I could barely taste them.

Curried Chicken Salad

Dr. O and I finally had our first picnic of the summer last week.  He loves – and I mean loves – ’80s music, so I thought it would be fun for us to check out That Eighties Band (music will play when the window opens – beware! 🙂 ) when they played a free outdoor concert at the Streets of Southglenn.  An outdoor concert definitely equals a picnic event, so I set to planning the perfect menu.

I decided to plan the meal around a recipe I’ve wanted to try for a long time: Ina Garten’s Curried Chicken Salad.  For sides, I went with extremely easy, portable treats: grapes, pepper strips with hummus, and homemade chocolate chip cookies. It was picnic perfection.  I enjoyed the chicken salad so much that I made it again on Monday, but this time I took pictures.  Here’s Ina’s recipe if you’d like to give it a try:

Curried Chicken Salad
Serves 6

Ingredients:
3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good mayonnaise (recommended: Hellman’s)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup chutney (recommended: Major Grey’s)
3 tablespoons curry powder
1 cup medium-diced celery (2 large stalks)
1/4 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts (2 scallions)
1/4 cup raisins
1 cup whole roasted, salted cashews

Method:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub the skin with olive oil.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked.  Set aside until cool enough to handle.  Remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin, and dice the chicken into large bite-size pieces.

For the dressing, combine the mayonnaise, wine, chutney, curry powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Process until smooth.

Combine the chicken with enough dressing to moisten well.  Add the celery, scallions, and raisins, and mix well.  Refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend.  Add the cashews and serve at room temperature.

Source: Ina Garten/FoodNetwork.com

Curried Chicken Salad

If you like curry, this chicken salad is simply the best.  It’s creamy (mayo), crunchy (celery and cashews), sweet (raisins), and spicy (curry and scallions).  I could happily eat it at least once a week for the rest of my life, and it’s my new go-to summer recipe.  Yum, yum, yum!

In the interest of full disclosure, I did modify the recipe a bit the second time around since it has three small issues: One, the full-fat mayo and the olive oil are heavy on calories; two, you end up with far more dressing than you need if you make the recipe as written; three, there’s absolutely no need to dirty the food processor in order to make the dressing.  Here’s my lightened, easier version, which is still incredibly delicious:

Lighter Curried Chicken Salad
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Curried Chicken Salad
Makes four 1-cup servings

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
Kosher salt
3/4 cup light mayonnaise (recommended: Hellman’s Light)
3 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons chutney (recommended: Major Grey’s)
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 cup medium-diced celery
2 tablespoons chopped scallions, white and green parts (1 large scallion)
2 tablespoons raisins
1/4 cup whole roasted, salted cashews

Method:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the chicken breast and boil for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside until cool enough to handle.  Chop the chicken into bite-size pieces.

For the dressing, combine the mayonnaise, wine, chutney, curry powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.  Whisk to combine.

Combine the chicken and the dressing.  (You’ll use most, if not all of it.)  Add the celery, scallions, and raisins, and mix well.  Refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend.  Top each serving with 1 tablespoon of cashews and serve at room temperature.

Flourless Peanut-Chocolate Cookies

Hooray!

I always get really excited when one of my favorite baking recipes from Dallas works here in Denver without any high-altitude modifications.  Today’s recipe – Flourless Peanut-Chocolate Cookies from the March 2005 issue of Everyday Food – is one of those recipes.  I loved these cookies so much when we were in Dallas and got so many compliments on them…  I’m just thrilled I can share them here as well.

And let me tell you something, folks: These cookies are not only delicious, they’re ridiculously easy.  Like, you-don’t-even-need-a-mixer easy.  Here’s how I made them.

In a large bowl, I stirred together 1 cup of creamy peanut butter, 3/4 cup of granulated sugar, 1 large egg (lightly beaten), 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon of table salt until well combined.  Next, I stirred in 3/4 cup of semisweet chocolate chips and 1/2 cup of roasted salted peanuts.

From here, I deviated a bit.  The recipe says to use moistened hands to roll heaping tablespoons of dough into balls.  I used my 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop for the first batch (with the dough leveled instead of heaping) and my hands for the second batch so I could see which method gave me the best cookie shape.  (The scoop won by a mile!)  The recipe also said to bake all the cookies at once with one rack in the top third of the oven and one in the bottom third.  I feel like I get more consistent results when I bake my cookies in the middle of the oven, so I decided to do separate batches.  With that said, I placed the dough balls about 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.  (I ended up with 21 cookies.)  I baked each batch at 350°F until they were golden and puffed (13 minutes in my oven).  I cooled them on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Flourless Peanut-Chocolate Cookies

Oh, heavens.  They were just as I had remembered, except maybe ever so slightly less puffed than they were in Dallas.  No matter…  The Queen of Portion Control (me, as often as I can stand it) has already eaten two of these and it isn’t even 5 p.m. yet.

The cookies are very peanut butter-y, and I love the chunky texture created by the whole peanuts in the dough.  They aren’t soft and chewy but they certainly aren’t crisp either…  They’re somewhere in between.  They’re a little bit crumbly like a good shortbread, which is another thing I can hardly resist.

So anyway, if you like peanuts and chocolate, make these!  You’ll enjoy them.  And my fellow high-altitude bakers can rest easy knowing this won’t be yet another batch of cookies that spread into sad, crispy discs.

Recipe link: Flourless Peanut-Chocolate Cookies

Spinach and Berries Salad with Dill

I’m pretty particular about my grocery shopping.  I usually plan a menu for the week, write a store list (divided by areas of the grocery store since I’m a bit crazy like that), and stick to it.  It’s good for the budget, and it I rarely throw anything away since I only buy what I plan to use.  During my last trip to Costco, though, I noticed a killer deal on blueberries and just couldn’t pass ’em up.  So this time I had to work backwards and figure out what to make from what I’d bought.

I have Colorado Colore (a Junior League cookbook) on loan from my local library and the cover recipe is this gorgeous salad that incorporates – drumroll, please – blueberries!  I knew it would be perfect with the leftover burgers I had in my freezer, so I put it on the menu.  Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it:

Spinach and Berries Salad with Dill
Serves 8 to 10

Red Wine Vinaigrette Ingredients:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Salad Ingredients:
1 cup slivered almonds
1 pound baby spinach leaves
1 pound baby butterhead lettuce
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1/2 pint fresh strawberries, sliced
1/2 pint fresh raspberries
1/2 pint fresh blueberries
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill weed

Method:
For the vinaigrette, combine the olive oil, vinegar, sugar, garlic, salt, pepper, dry mustard and onion powder in a jar (or airtight container) with a tight-fitting lid. Shake to mix.  Chill until serving time.

For the salad, spread the almonds on a baking sheet.  Toast at 350°F for 5 to 7 minutes or until golden brown, stirring after 3 to 4 minutes.  Let stand until cool. Toss the almonds, spinach, lettuce, green onions, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and dill weed in a large salad bowl.  Add the vinaigrette just before serving and toss to coat.

Source: Colorado Colore

Spinach and Berries Salad with Dill

(Those of you who are really paying attention might notice that my salad is missing raspberries.  I accidentally used all of my stash on some trifles earlier in the day, but I’ll be sure to include them next time.)

This salad is incredibly delicious!  There are so many different flavors, but they really work together: sweetness from the berries, a hint of heat from the scallions, smokiness from the almonds, the herbaceous quality of the dill.  I really loved the texture of the toasted almonds and the berries with the lettuce, and the dressing was pure tangy, garlicky goodness.  Mmmmm.  Add the fact that it’s visually stunning, and we have a winner.  I’m not ready to rank it above my favorite summer salad of all time, but it’s definitely going into summer recipe rotation.

A word of warning: This recipe makes a HUGE salad.  (Gigantic!  Enormous!)  I made a quarter recipe, and I swear we had enough salad for four people.  Good thing it was fantastic!

Peanut Dip with Fruit

I love getting comments on my posts, and I always check out the visitor’s Web site if they enter the information.  Last week, Sara from Saucy Dipper (also saucy, also based in Denver) left a note on my Breakfast Casserole post, so I thought I would see what was going on with her site.  It turns out that she’s hosting a fun blog event this week called Dipstock.  She’s encouraging all dip lovers to submit photos and recipes, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to participate.  Initially, I planned to make something savory.  When I saw today’s recipe – Peanut Dip with Fruit – in my Colorado Classique cookbook, though, I knew it was The One.

It doesn’t get much easier than this, folks.  Here’s the recipe:

Peanut Dip with Fruit
Serves: 6 portions

Ingredients:
8 ounces light cream cheese
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 1/4 ounces salted peanuts (3 small packages), finely chopped in food processor
4 Granny Smith or Braeburn apples, cut into wedges

Method:
Mix cream cheese, brown sugar, vanilla, and peanuts and refrigerate until chilled. Serve chilled dip in a bowl surrounded by apple wedges.

Peanut Dip with Fruit

Oh. Mah. Gawd.

If you ever wished for chunky peanut butter cream cheese, this is it.  I love, love, love snacking on apples and peanut butter; this recipe turns that simple concept into an absolutely divine dessert.  Now I just need to figure out how to avoid eating the entire recipe straight from the bowl before my husband gets home from work to “help” me with it…

TIPS:  At first, I thought I would need a hand mixer to blend the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla.  My beaters were in the (running) dishwasher, though, so I just mashed everything together with a fork and then used a spatula to stir in the peanuts.  Perfection!

Update (7/1/10): Now that I’ve eaten (entirely too much of) this dip when chilled, I disagree with the serving suggestion.  I would serve it either right after you make it, or let it come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving if you’ve chilled it.  It’s still beyond delicious, but it gets pretty firm in the refrigerator.

Update: Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins

Forgive me for another update and another breakfast post.  I’ve been entertaining so much for the past two months that I’ve been returning to my “tried and true” recipes…  It seems I learn something new each time, though.

Today’s recipe – Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins – is one I first tried back in October of 2008.  It’s written for sea level but works beautifully at high altitude, probably because the muffins are made with buttermilk.  (I’ve had a lot of success here in Denver with baked goods that incorporate buttermilk; buttermilk’s high acidity helps batters set more quickly, which can eliminate the “flat tire” phenomenon that occurs so often with high-altitude baking.)  Anyway, they were a big hit the first time around because they’re easy, delicious, and a great make-ahead option for company.

Back in 2008, I placed the batter directly in a greased muffin pan and had just enough for 12 muffins.  This time, I decided to try paper liners.  I couldn’t fit as much batter into the paper liners as I could with the bare muffin cups; each muffin was a scant 1/4 cup instead of a heaping 1/4 cup, so the baking time was reduced from 28 minutes to 22 minutes.

Since the smaller muffins resulted in leftover batter, I decided to make some mini muffins as well.  Each one was made up of 2 tablespoons of batter (one scoop using my cookie scoop) and the muffins baked for 15 minutes.

Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins

They tasted as fantastic as ever, and now I have three different “formats” for the muffins depending on how I plan to serve them.  Here’s the recipe in case you’d like to try them:

Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins
Makes 12 muffins without liners, 18 muffins with liners, or 36 mini muffins

Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder (use 2 1/4 teaspoons at high altitude)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt (can up this to 1/2 teaspoon if you use unsalted butter)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 large eggs (I bring them to room temperature)
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup thinly sliced scallions (about 1 bunch)
1 cup diced ham (6 ounces)
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper

Method:
Heat the oven to 400°F.  Coat a 12-cup muffin pan or 12- or 24-cup mini muffin pan with cooking spray or line it with muffin cups.  (The mini muffins will require multiple batches.)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pepper, salt, and cayenne pepper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and butter.  Stir in the scallions, ham, cheese, and bell pepper.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and use a rubber spatula to mix until just moistened.  Scoop the batter into the prepared pan (heaping 1/4 cup each for unlined 12-cup muffin pan, scant 1/4 cup each for lined 12-cup muffin pan, 2 tablespoons each for mini muffin pan).

Bake the muffins until the tops are browned (at high altitude, about 28 minutes for unlined 12-cup muffin pan, 22 minutes for lined 12-cup muffin pan, 15 minutes for mini muffin pan).  Let the muffins cool in the pan for 15 minutes then loosen the edges with a knife (if necessary) and transfer the muffins to a cooling rack. Serve warm.

To store, individually wrap the muffins in plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to a month.  To reheat, remove the plastic wrap, cover the muffin in a paper towel, and microwave on high for 30 to 60 seconds (15 – 20 seconds for mini muffins).

Source: Jim Romanoff, The Associated Press

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.
______________________________________________________________

I actually finished this challenge early (for once!), but I got so wrapped up in having houseguests this weekend that I completely forgot to post.  Oopsie!

Making pavlovas is one of those projects that has been on my baking to-do list for years, so there was no way I was going to sit this one out.  I didn’t get the results I wanted, but I know I’ll be that much more prepared for my next attempt.

I was really, really hoping for the perfect meringue shell – crisp on the outside, marshmallow-y in the center – but mine ended up crisp all the way through.  My shells weren’t unusually small (I ended up with 8 from a full recipe of meringue) and I only baked them for 2 hours (the low end of the recommended baking time), so I’m not sure what went wrong.  Also, my mousse went from zero to sixty in about half a second; as we were warned, the mascarpone did indeed separate. Chunky mousse isn’t a beautiful thing, but it still tasted good.

The unexpected shining star for me was the anglaise sauce…  It was amazing.  I actually would have rather drizzled that over the pavlovas without any modifications; it seemed like the mascarpone and cream just diluted the flavor.

Chocolate Pavlova with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse

I may be imperfect, but I'm still tasty.

Thank you, Dawn, for lighting the fire that led to my first pavlova attempt… Hopefully, the second time will be a success!

Recipe link: Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

You know those weeks where it seems like no one’s eating the bananas and you end up with a whole pile of ’em destined for (a) the trash or (b) the oven?  That was the situation at my house on Saturday when I realized I had six (!) totally overripe bananas.  I had some extra time, so I thought I’d look for a project in the high-altitude baking book I inherited from a friend.  I was originally thinking banana bread, but I came across a recipe for banana cake that sounded really fantastic.  I had all of the ingredients (except for buttermilk, which is super easy to make at home), so I got to work.

Here’s the recipe from Patricia Kendall’s High-Altitude Baking:

Banana Cake
Makes two 9-inch layer cakes or one 9×13-inch cake

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon almond extract (I recommend cutting this to 1/2 teaspoon)
2/3 cup buttermilk, divided
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
2 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup walnuts (optional)

Method:
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans or one 9×13-inch baking pan.  Mix and sift cake flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl.  Add oil, almond extract, 1/3 cup buttermilk and mashed bananas.  Beat for 1 minute with a mixer at low speed.  Add eggs and the remaining 1/3 cup of buttermilk; beat for 2 minutes at medium speed.  Fold in chopped nuts, if desired.  Pour batter into pan(s).

Bake for 35 – 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove cake(s) from oven and cool in pans for 10 – 12 minutes.  Remove cake(s) from pan(s) and finish cooling on a wire rack.

Here’s the frosting I used (from FoodNetwork.com):

Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes enough for two 9-inch round cakes

Ingredients:
8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method:
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar one cup at a time until smooth and creamy.  Beat in the vanilla extract.

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Here’s the deal.  I was initially a bit disappointed with this cake recipe.  I took the cakes out after 35 minutes and my toothpick came out clean; I was worried that I had overbaked them, though, because they had pulled away from the sides of the pans.  The cakes came out of their pans nicely after the initial cooling time, and I waited until they had cooled completely before assembling and frosting them.  (I really should have leveled them better, I know, but I didn’t want to waste any cake!)

Dr. O was anxious for a slice, so I cut one as soon as I finished with the frosting. The cake was moist and it definitely tasted like cake (not banana bread, which I was half expecting), but the texture was borderline sponge-y.  Also, the edges that had pulled away from the pan were too firm.

It was looking like the classic “boohoo, all that effort for nothing” situation UNTIL something magical happened.

As the cake sat overnight, the moisture from the cream cheese frosting seeped in and fixed everything.  On that second day, the cake was extra moist and not at all sponge-y; the edges were softened as well.  Final result: Knock-your-socks off banana cake with to-die-for cream cheese frosting.  I just wish it had tasted this way from the very beginning.  I’m going to shave three minutes off of the baking time next time to see if the cake improves; I’ll post updates as I get this one figured out.

TIPS:  I mentioned that it’s easy to make your own buttermilk at home.  All you have to do is put 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a 1-cup measuring cup and fill the rest of the cup with milk.  Let the mixture stand for at least 5 minutes and then use it in the recipe as you would packaged buttermilk.  (I usually use 1% with white vinegar, but I’ve heard you get the best results with whole milk.)

BLT Bites

Hey there, strangers!  Between a trip to the Kentucky Derby, a milestone birthday, two sets of house guests, and a trip back home, May has been a crazy busy month. As much as I love the adventure and the company, I’m hoping to bring in June with some semblance of a routine (and lots of cooking, of course!).

I made today’s recipe – BLT Bites – for last month’s gourmet club meeting.  We each made recipes from our respective Junior League cookbooks: Louisville, Denver, and Omaha (mine!).  Of the three appetizers I made, this one was definitely my favorite…  Each piece was a little taste of heaven.

BLT Bites

Creamy mayo, smoky bacon, juicy tomatoes - heaven!

There are some awfully similar recipes floating around online, but I couldn’t find the exact recipe I used anywhere else.  Here it is:

BLT Bites
Makes about 14 appetizers

Ingredients:
14 large cherry tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 cup romaine lettuce, shredded
2 tablespoons green onions, sliced
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs

Method:
Cut an 1/8-inch slice from the bottom of each tomato with a serrated knife.  Gently scoop out pulp and seeds from the cut end with a melon baller cutter or a grapefruit spoon; discard.  Sprinkle tomato shells with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and invert on paper towels to drain.  In a small bowl, combine bacon, lettuce, green onions, mayonnaise, salt and pepper.  Spoon mixture evenly into tomato shells and sprinkle with breadcrumbs.

Source: Toast to Omaha

Notes:

  • I could not for the life of me figure out why the recipe wanted me to scoop out the pulp and seeds from the bottom of the tomatoes.  I ended up cutting a thin sliver from the bottom of the tomatoes to help keep them upright, then I sliced off the tops and scooped out the pulp and seeds from there.
  • I had five slices of bacon and couldn’t see throwing one lonely slice back into the refrigerator, so I used it all.  How can more bacon be a bad thing?
  • I used light mayonnaise, coarse salt, and plain dried breadcrumbs.  (I bet homemade breadcrumbs would be especially fabulous.)
  • Despite having two other appetizers on the table, I don’t think the 14 pieces this recipe made were enough for six people.  We were calling dibs and wanting more.

Make these!  You’ll love ’em.  They’ve definitely earned a permanent spot in my summer buffet rotation.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

My Mexican-themed party is rapidly approaching, so I tried a second dessert recipe yesterday.  After last week’s disappointment with Everyday Food’s Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies (they’re just not made for high-altitude baking!), I was so excited to discover that my Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes were a-ma-zing.  I feel like I cheated a bit because I used box cake mix as a base again (like with the Margarita Cupcakes), but I did add spices and I made my own icing.  I was inspired by The Perfect Pantry’s “Diablo” Cupcakes and Billy Reece’s Chocolate Buttercream; here’s my final recipe for the cake and the icing.

(Note: This recipe has been adjusted for high altitude.  If you want to make it at a lower elevation, just add the spices to the cake mix and follow the instructions on the box.  No adjustments are necessary for the icing.)

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes about 3 dozen regular cupcakes or 6 dozen minis

Cake ingredients:
1 box (18.25 oz.) Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Devil’s Food cake mix
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon New Mexico red chile powder
Pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon water
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 large eggs (room temperature)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a light-colored metal muffin pan (regular size or mini) with cupcake liners.

Pour the dry cake mix into a large mixing bowl.  Whisk in the cinnamon, chile powder, salt, pepper, and flour.  Add the water, oil, and eggs and mix with an electric mixer at low speed until moistened.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.  (Use a cookie scoop to make this easier.) Bake full-size cupcakes for 17 minutes or mini cupcakes for 11 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean).  Cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes.  Remove cupcakes from pan and cool completely before icing.

Icing ingredients:
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled but still liquid (chocolate chips are OK)
3 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons New Mexico red chile powder, plus a pinch for sprinkling
5 cups powdered sugar

Method:

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth and creamy (about 3 minutes).  With mixer on low speed, add chocolate until just combined.  Add milk, vanilla, cinnamon, chile powder, and powdered sugar; mix on medium until well combined, being careful not to overmix.  Ice cooled cupcakes and sprinkle a pinch of chile powder on top.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

These cupcakes are absolutely heavenly!  I know it seems strange to put chile powder and pepper into baked goods, but the flavor combination really works.  I felt like I could really taste the cinnamon, but the chile powder came through more as a bit of heat in the aftertaste.  The cake was moist, light, and fluffy; the icing was smooth, creamy, and had a rich chocolate flavor.  As much as I enjoyed the Margarita Cupcakes, I think these will be the star of the party.

TIPS:  Technically, you could probably use any boxed cake mix, but I really feel Duncan Hines makes a superior product.  The cupcakes crowned beautifully and the cake texture was fantastic.




The Daring Kitchen

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