Scotti’s Favorite Cupcake Recipe

Can you spot the *secret* ingredient? If you want to check out the book you can go here.

Have a great weekend. 😀

Quick and Easy Summer Dessert Recipes

Summer has hit my town with a vengeance and I’m always in the market for something cool and tasty on a summer day. Following are a couple of easy desserts you can make when you’re in the mood for something sweet, light and cold:

Quick Blueberry Ice Cream

Ingredients:

2 cups frozen blue erries
¼ cup Splenda granular (or sugar)
½ cup milk or ½ cup cream
½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Pulse frozen berries in a food processor until chopped fine. Add sugar or Splenda while the fruits are processing. Add milk or cream and vanilla (toward the end). Process until mixture is of ice cream consistency. Serve immediately.

You can use other fruit, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, blackberries and so on. Be creative.

Blueberry Fruit Ice

Ingredients:

16 ounces frozen whole unsweetened blueberries
1 orange, juice and zest of
1 lemon, juice and zest of
1 cup Splenda granular (or sugar)

Thaw the blueberries slightly by letting them sit in a bowl at room temp for about 20 minutes.

Remove wide strips of zest from the orange and lemon with a vegetable peeler or zester. Combine the Splenda with ½ cup water in a small saucepan and add the citrus zests and juices. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Allow the syrup to cool a bit, (for faster cooling, put the pan in a bowl of ice, it should cool off in about five minutes) and then strain the mixture, discarding the peels.

Put the semi-thawed blueberries in the food processor and pulse for a few seconds, then add ½ cup of the citrus syrup, and pulse until a nearly smooth. Add more syrup as needed to get the consistency you like. Then transfer the puree to a bowl or individual serving cups and freeze 2-3 hours, until firm. To serve, let stand at room temperature 15-20 minutes to soften slightly, scrape across the fruit ice with a large spoon, and place into serving dishes.

Again, you can change up the fruit and if you have Popsicle molds this might be a real hit on a stick.

Enjoy!

Writer Chick

The Mashed Potato Diaries – #TaterRage #iluvtaters

mashed potatoes

Creamy, dreamy fluffy mashed potatoes – there is no better comfort food in the world. Seriously, starch and fat all folded into a billowy mountain of goodness just can’t be beat.

In fact, about a week ago, one of my Twitter friends bragged about being awesome at making smashed spuds. I couldn’t take that lying down and mentioned I was pretty damned awesome at making them too. Then another mashed potato fan joined the fray. It was probably the most animated conversation I’ve had on Twitter. Not sure what that says about me, but I do love me some mashed taters, so who cares?

We mused about having a contest but got stuck on how to compete in the virtual world. So, for those who are interested here’s my best recipe:

2 pounds whole Yukon gold potatoes
1 stick of butter
2 cloves of diced and lightly sauteed garlic
½ cup warmed half & half
½ cup sour cream
2 TBSP of mayo
Salt & pepper to taste
Paprika

Peel and quarter potatoes and steam in steamer for approx 20 minutes until just tender.

In a saute pan, saute the garlic until golden, not brown or it will be bitter.

In a large bowl, add potatoes, sauteed garlic, butter, salt & pepper. Work the butter into the potatoes with a masher. Slowly fold in sour cream and mayo. A little more mashing to blend. Pour in warmed half & half, as you blend with hand mixer on low. Mix only long enough to create a fluffy mound. Don’t over mix or you’ll end up with a gelatinous mess. Sprinkle with paprika and serve hot.

Variations:

For a mashed potato meal, add a ladle of chili for chili-mash

For a California flair, add shredded jack cheese and ripe avocado slices

For a classic American kick, add shredded sharp cheddar and real bacon bits – heat under broiler for a couple of minutes for a nice crusty top.

For Midwestern mashed potatoes, instead of gravy top them with creamed corn.

For dirty mashed potatoes leave the skins on.

If that isn’t enough for you, here are 50 mashed potatoes recipes to check out.

What’s your favorite smashed tater recipe? Feel free to share below in the comments.

Writer Chick

Copyright 2014

Is it soup yet? Writing and eating a winning weekend combination

soup

While I’ve been busy banging out the third book in my series, I haven’t paid much attention to anything else. I am actually starting to name the dust bunnies, that magically appear under the bed, in the corners of my room, the kitchen…I may have even seen one in the car (that reminds, must take car to car wash).

However, no matter how single-mindedly focused I am on finishing this dang book, I still have to eat. And since the weather in sunny California has gone from brain cell destruction hot to lovely fall weather I started hankering for soup.

Soup is good. Soup is fun. Soup is a meal in a pot. Plus you can eat it with one hand, while typing with the other. So between chapters I whipped up a giant pot of my Roast Beef Veggie Soup. Technically I used the crock pot because the oven is on the fritz but it came out great.

In case you’re hungry for soup, or just hungry, below is the recipe. I like to let it sit for 24 hours so that the flavors marry nicely, but last night I didn’t wait. It’s good no matter when you eat it.

Roast Beef Veggie Soup

Ingredients:
1 – 3-5 lb roast (any type will do, although one with marbling, like chuck roast gives it more flavor)
1 – large bell pepper, chopped
1 – large yellow onion, chopped
3 – cloves of garlic minced
½ lb of sliced fresh mushrooms
3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary (or 2 tbsp dry)
3-4 sprigs fresh oregano (or 2 tbsp dry)
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper
1- large can of tomato sauce (29 ounces)
4- cups of water
1- small can of tomato paste (5 ounces)
1- bottle of cheap red wine (Trader Joe’s “2 Buck Chuck” works great)
1 can of beef broth (16 ounces) or 4 bullion cubes in 2 cups of hot water, dissolved
1- 2 lb bag of mixed vegetables
2 lbs of chopped seasonal vegetables of your choice (no potatoes)

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
Remove roast from wrapper, rinse and pat dry. Tear fresh oregano into small pieces, pull leaves of rosemary from stems and put in small bowl with garlic, olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper, mix well. Use this mixture as a rub and rub into roast thoroughly. Place roast in shallow roasting pan, top with chopped pepper, onion, mushrooms and any remaining rub mixture. Pour ½ to 3/4 of the bottle of red wine over roast and vegetables. Seal with aluminum foil and place on center rack. Roast in slow oven for 4-6 hours until fork tender. Note: do not check roast frequently, if at all as it will dry the roast out if you do. Once the aroma of the roast beef has filled the kitchen, it’s probably ready. Check with fork, if it cuts easily, it is ready, if not, reseal and cook for another 45 minutes and continue until roast reaches fork tender stage. (Note: you can also do this step using a crock pot but you won’t get the same caramelization on the roast and veggies.)

Once roast is done, remove from oven and remove aluminum foil. Let roast sit for 15-20 minutes. With a fork, shred beef and allow drippings and marinade to be absorbed by meat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove beef from refrigerator, and set aside. In a large stock pot combine the remaining red wine, tomato sauce, tomato paste, beef broth and water. Bring to a simmer. Slowly add in roast, including all drippings, and savory vegetables it was prepared with. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Add frozen vegetables to broth, stir well and bring to a simmer. Add fresh vegetables to broth and bring to a simmer, stirring well. Adjust seasonings to your preferences, if broth is too thick, add water or more red wine to your consistency preference. Cook soup on very low heat for 4-5 hours. Once soup is done, I suggest you let it sit for at least 45 minutes so that the flavors marry. Ideally, you should let the soup sit for 24 hours (in the refrigerator), for the most flavorful results.
This soup is very hearty and needs only a good crusty bread or crisp green salad to make it a meal. I promise it is the best beef vegetable soup you’ve ever had.

Writer Chick

copyright 2014

Yummy Christmas Food

 

If you’ve ever celebrated Christmas you know how good food can taste.  Here’s a little bit of a different recipe (for me anyway) to consider for Christmas dinner or a holiday bash.

French Canadian Trifle

FOR THE CUSTARD:
4 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
2 egg yolks
2 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

FOR THE TRIFLE:
1  8” x  4” pound cake or sponge cake
2-4 tbsp. marsala, rum, or brandy
1 cup strawberry jam
2 cups fresh raspberries
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tbsp. sugar

1. For the custard: Mix together sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan. Add egg yolks, and whisk to combine; then gradually whisk in milk. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until custard thickens to the consistency of thick cream, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, and add vanilla. Cover surface of custard with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming, and refrigerate until completely chilled, about 2 hours.

2. For the trifle: Cut cake into 2” X 1” pieces. Arrange a layer of cake pieces in the bottom of a large trifle or glass bowl. Sprinkle cake with some of the marsala; then spread a layer of strawberry jam over the cake; then scatter some of the raspberries over the jam. Pour some of the custard over the berries.
Repeat layering, ending with custard. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Remove trifle from refrigerator about 1 hour before serving.

3. Just before serving, put heavy cream and sugar into a large, well-chilled mixing bowl. Beat cream with a whisk or an electric mixer fitted with whisks until cream holds soft peaks. Do not overbeat. Decorate trifle with large dollops of whipped cream.

 

Wow, I think I gained 5 pounds just reading the recipe.

WC

 

Christmas Recipes, Tips & Tricks…

xmas table

I know everybody has their favorite recipes for Christmas and here are two of mine. The first one is for pumpkin bread – not to dis pumpkin pie but I’ve been hooked on this stuff since I was a kid and it’s super easy to make and tastes great hot, cold, a la mode or au naturelle. Try it, you’ll love it. And my favorite dressing for roast turkey. The sweet and savory blends quite nicely, especially if you have something like garlic mashed potatoes to go along with. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread – (from Fanny Farmer’s cookbook)

1.5 cups flour (1/2 white 1/2whole wheat)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar (1/2 white 1/2 brown)
1 tsp baking soda
1cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vegetable oil (1/2 veg oil 1/2 applesauce)
2 eggs
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350. Sift together flour, salt, sugar and baking soda. Mix pumpkin, oil, eggs, water and spices. Then combine with the dry ingredients but do not mix too thoroughly. Stir in the nuts and raisins. Pour into a well-buttered loaf pan (9x5x3). Bake 50-60 minutes until straw comes out clean. Turn out of pan and let cool on rack. For muffins, baking time is about 40-45 minutes. You can easily double this recipe and give the extra one away as a gift.

Apple & Raisin Cornbread Stuffing

1 Box (12 ounce) of Mrs. Cubbison’s Cornbread Stuffin’ (I always use this brand but you can use another if you prefer it)
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tart green apples, cored, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup raisins
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup melted butter

Melt butter in heavy bottomed fry pan over medium heat, add onions, celery, garlic and apples – cook until slightly soft, add chicken stock, bring to a boil.

Pour dry stuffing mix into large bowl, add chicken stock mixture to and toss – moisten with orange juice as needed and desired – making it as moist or dry a dressing as you prefer. Stuff your bird and truss her up. If there is any leftover stuffing, turn into buttered loaf pan or casserole dish, moisten with orange juice and bake in over for last 40 minutes of turkey roast time. When removing dressing from turkey cavities mix with baked stuffing to get a nice not too wet, not too dry dressing. Trust me.

Tips and tricks:

First of all, for those of you making your first turkey this year or for those of you who have always had a hard time turning out a good turkey, I highly recommend following the instructions in the Fanny Farmer cookbook. The book is a goldmine of good solid American recipes with very clear and easy to understand instructions.

If on the other hand you are an old hand at roasting turkeys – try this for the juiciest turkey you’ve ever had. For the first 1/2 hour of cook time, set oven at 500 degrees (or highest temp on dial) this quick sears the skin and seals in all the juices as well as evenly browning the turkey. You will have the prettiest turkey in town, I promise. After 1/2 hour turn the temp down to normal cooking instructions and cook based on weight which is generally 15-20 minutes per pound.

My own special basting sauce recipe:

1 cup chicken stock
1 cup white wine
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup melted butter

Melt butter in heavy bottomed sauce pan, add white wine, chicken stock and orange juice and cook until heated through. Baste turkey every 45 minutes, keeping basting sauce warm on stove top on low temp.

Making gravy is practically effortless, just add water, thickening agent of your choice, a dash of coffee and about 1/2 cup of milk or cream to drippings and scrapings from roasting pan – best if made in the roasting pan itself – whisk until thickened – salt and pepper to taste.

Personally, with this meal I don’t really bother with salads or veggies, since it’s really about the starches and meats for me. So I usually bake both white and sweet potatoes, rather than bother with mashed or casseroles, get some great cranberry sauce at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods and we’re good to go.

Those are my favorites, what are yours?

 

A Day to Remember

Memorial Day is that first big picnic and three day outting holiday of the year in the states. And I have many fond memories of the family gatherings at local parks, the smell of burgers and hot dogs on the grill – juicy watermelon dripping down my chin, mom’s macaroni salad and of course the waiting for nightfall so we could light our sprinklers. It’s all part and parcel of this holiday.

Though, I would ask, that we all take a moment of silence to thank God for those who have spilled blood and given their lives so we can celebrate this holiday. And to say a prayer of thanks and Godspeed to all our troops worldwide – who carry on the tradition of standing the watch.

It’s days like these that I wish I had the wherewithall to send a home made bbq to Iraq and Afghanistan – with vat’s of mom’s special macaroni salad on ice. Unfortunately, I haven’t so…I offer the recipe instead. I suppose it is possible that one or two of our troops might find the recipe and be able to convince somebody to make it for them???

Okay –

2lbs of large elbow macaroni

1/2 small brown onion, minced fine

3 stalks minced celery

1 very small jar of pimentos

2 large dill pickles, minced fine (are you sensing a trend here?)

3 large hard cooked eggs minced fine

1/4 cup of dill pickle juice

3 TBS yellow mustard

paprika

1 can of tuna (optional)

1-2 cups of whole egg mayo (depending on how dry or wet you like your mac salad)

Cook elbow macaroni and drain and rinse. Place in large bowl in fridge and let completely cool. Once mac is cooled pull out of fridge and set aside (it works well if you make the mac the night before and leave in fridge over night – cooled mac does not absorb the liquids as much and keep the salad much more moist). Take mayo, mustard, pickle juice and mix in separate bowl, set aside.

To the mac, add the celery, onion, egg, pimentos, pickles and tuna (if you are using) and toss thoroughly. Then again, put in fridge for about an hour. This lets the flavors marry and seep into the mac first.

Then pull out of fridge and add ‘sauce’, again tossing thoroughly. Sprinkle with paprika on top, cover with plastic wrap and keep cool until ready to serve. If you find that the mac has absorbed the liquid too much and is a little dry, just add a little water to bring it back up. Quite yummy.

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day.

WC

The Accidental Meatloaf

It all started because there was a big sale on hamburger last week at the local grocery store. At $0.99 a pound I stocked up – since I’m a starving freelance writer and all… Anywhoo – I get it home and man, did I buy a lot and I started wondering what the heck I was going to do with all of it. A person can only eat so many lettuce wrapped hamburgers after all.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought I’d do some meatloaf. I’d make a lot and give some to Zelda who couldn’t cook her way out of a water boiling contest and maybe even roomie if he wasn’t a shit for a few days. So..it all settled nicely in my mind and I forgot about it.

Then one day the urge for meatloaf rang through my head on a particularly overcast and gloomy day. Love to cook when the weather is sad. So I pulled out a good chunk of hamburger to thaw in the morning. Well, bite me and slap me on the fanny when I was ready to make the darn stuff, I didn’t have the usual accroutements that I throw in there. In fact, I had precious little to make the meatloaf and I was in no mood to go to the store. So, I improvised – worst case scenario the dog would get some yummy treats and I’d have a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter for dinner.

To my utter shock and amazement, it turned out to be the best meatloaf I ever made and I make some awesome meatloaf. So… I share the recipe with you. Try it, you’ll love it.

1 big old hunk of ground beef

1 large egg

3 tablespoons of chopped cilantro

8 ounces of tomato sauce

4 tablespoons of 1/2 & 1/2 or blue cheese dressing if you’re out of cream

1 tablespoon of minced garlic

2 stalks finely minced celery

1/2 small minced brown onion

salt & pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, using your hands – making sure all ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Form into a loaf and bake in a loaf pan (or whatever you normally use) in a 400 degree oven for 1.25 – 1.5 hours. Let rest for ten minutes before slicing.

I’m telling you folks, this is super yummy and I really regretted giving any of it away. In fact, I’m making another one right now.

Oooh and while we’re on the topic – I have great recipe for beet greens. Yup, that’s right beet greens. While it may be no suprise to some of you – I had no idea you could eat beet greens. I had grown some beets in my garden which I had pulled and made but had all the tops left. I happened to check to see if there was a recipe to make them and found a really super one.

Mess of beet greens, double cleaned, dried and torn into bite size pieces (including stems)

8 slices of bacon – the smokier the better

1/4 onion – chopped fine

1 tsp butter

2 TBS apple cider vinegar

2 TBS sugar (or splenda if you can’t have sugar)

Cook the bacon until it is 2/3 cooked, toss in chopped onion, if not enough bacon fat, add a little bit of butter, cook until onions are soft, slowly add in the greens, turning to wilt them – keep doing this until you’ve gotten all the greens in there and sauteed to a nice wilt with the leaves still a pretty bright green. Remove to a bowl. Add vinegar and sugar to the pan (turn off heat) and stir mixture into remaining juices in pan, once mixed, return the greens to pan and turn and toss until coated with the vinegar/sugar mixture. Serve immediately. Delish! Try it. BTW, the stems should be included as well, when cooked they have a wonderful beety flavor.

Okay, so this concludes our cooking class for today. 😉 WC

Twinkies, Anyone?

When I was a kid, I loved Twinkies. In fact, I still do. There is no other highly processed, prepackaged lump of sugar and starch that I love more. In fact, as processed, prepackaged lumps of sugar and starch go, Hostess just can’t be beaten. They are the king of the heap in this department.

Now as time wore on, after my childhood Twinkies became evil things – things that would make you kill another human being, for example. Hence the Twinkie Defense. Of course it could only have happened in California and San Francisco, as the rest of the world just isn’t that stupid.

Also the word Twinkie is sometimes used as a term to objectify women who are overly sexual and not too bright. Like we need another one of those.

But despite all the abuse the poor Twinkie has gotten over the years, it is still one of America’s favorite junk foods. So imagine my awe and surprise when I discovered that there are many things one can do with a Twinkie to make really cool deserts. There is actually a twinkie desert recipe page. Can you believe it? Below is my favorite recipe – but you can find many more here .

So enjoy your weekend and make a delicious Twinkie desert for your family which you can enjoy while watching a Sunday night video. Cheers!

Twinkie-misu
By Larry Coons

Items Needed:

Box Hostess Twinkies
1/2 cup strong coffee, cooled & sweetened
1/4 cup Kahlua (optional)
1/2 gallon coffee or coffee & chocolate ice cream
Chocolate shavings or sprinkles

DIRECTIONS: Slice Twinkies in half lengthwise. Spray 9 x 5 loaf pan with cooking spray. Put five Twinkie halves, cream side up, side by side in pan. Mix coffee and Kahlua (optional); with pastry brush, apply liberally to cut side of Twinkies. Spoon about a 1/2 inch layer of softened ice cream over Twinkies. Repeat until you have used enough Twinkies & ice cream to fill the loaf pan. Cover tightly with foil and freeze several hours or overnight. This can be served from the pan in slices or unmolded, garnished with the chocolate and served. Serves about 10.

Ole! Soup, Anyone?

(HT to Gerry for this recipe – rumor has it that it is yummy and comes from his sister. WC )


TACO SOUP
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 package ranch-style dressing mix
1 package taco seasoning mix
1 cup water
2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes with green chilies
2 15-ounce cans pinto beans
1 15-ounce can black beans
1 15-ounce can cream-style corn
Brown beef with onions in a medium-size soup pot.  Drain excess grease.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes before serving.
Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.
I’d add that you could serve it with fresh taco chips or TJ’s blue corn tortilla chips, a crisp green salad and a nice cold Dos Equis. Oh yeah!