Monday, March 2, 2015

Cupcake Wars, the first salvo

I've told you how my daughter loves to watch cooking shows, right?

The current favorite has to do with cupcakes. When I watch the show, I think "No one in their right mind could call that a cupcake, let alone eat it!" 

But wait until you get a look at what Carrie gleaned from watching those shows!

I'm calling this week's post "the first salvo" because we're talking chocolate. Delicious chocolate. Next week will be vanilla - and you don't dare miss that post!

Both cupcakes have the same basic feel to them. A delicious cake with an awesome frosting.

Wait a minute - did I hear someone say they always use a cake mix? If you've never made cake from scratch, this is the time to try it. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy!


Basic Chocolate Cupcakes

Yes, Carrie cooks with a candle burning for ambiance :)
Ingredients:

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups cake flour - Wondra, Soft as Silk or Swan's Down are some brand names.
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
3/4 cup coffee
3/4 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1/3 cup melted butter


Start out by whisking the dry ingredients together. Our mixer has whisk attachments, and Kitchen Aid mixers do, too. If your mixer doesn't, you can whisk them by hand.

In another bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients: vanilla, eggs, coffee, milk and butter.

* cooking note: if you don't have buttermilk or sour milk on hand, stir 3/4 teaspoon lemon juice in 3/4 cup milk and let it sit for 5 minutes. There you go - sour milk!

Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until you have a smooth batter.

Pour into lined muffin tins and bake at 350° for about 20 minutes.


Now comes the crowning glory for these cupcakes - the frosting.

A few weeks ago, Ruthy shared her buttercream/satin icing recipe here. I think this frosting recipe might top that one. You'll have to be the judge!

Whipped Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting

Carrie found this recipe on one of her favorite blogs - http://www.ihearteating.com/

Ingredients:

7 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
a pinch of salt

In a small saucepan, whisk the flour into the milk and heat, stirring constantly until it thickens to the consistency of a thin pancake batter.


Remove from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. Stir it occasionally as it cools. Once it's cool, stir in the vanilla.

Cream the butter, sugar and salt together until creamy, about 3 minutes on medium high speed.

Now add the cooled milk/flour mixture.

Beat the frosting on medium to medium high speed for about 5 minutes, until the frosting has the consistency of whipped cream. A whisk attachment on your mixer is perfect for this task.

Now, this next step is quite dangerous. Taste the frosting - just a taste! You'll be tempted to finish off the entire batch, but don't!

When you taste it - just a little bit, remember! - if you can still feel sugar granules, keep beating until you can't.


Now it's time to frost the cupcakes. Carrie likes to use her piping bag with an open star decorating tip, but you can also use a plastic bag with the corner snipped off.

After you frost the cupcakes, decorate the top with some bits of shaved dark chocolate.


These are the best chocolate cupcakes I've ever had, and the frosting is melt-in-your-mouth fabulous.

Next week we'll have the next salvo in the cupcake wars - vanilla with cherry/almond frosting. Don't miss it!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Last minute change of plans: Lenten Salmon patties!


Hello, everybody! 
  So, originally I planned to post a recipe for home laundry soap. My friend Mindy came over and FORCED ME to confront my procrastination on learning how to make my own. 
   I just love Mindy. She's one of those friends that says, "You know you want to. You know you do. Here, let me prove it to you." And she's always right! Next, I have to start watching Dr. Who. She tells me it's amazing and since she's always right, I know it will be!
   Anyway, she came over to my house one day with all the ingredients to make laundry soap. I'd kept meaning to.... but had somehow never found the time or remembered to buy the ingredients. But I sure remembered it whenever we ran out of regular laundry soap and had to run to the store.

    But after I was done writing up this blog post, I found the tag "laundry soap" in the labels and realized that Jan had already covered this! (Whooops! Last minutes change of plans. Enter salmon patties.)
I'll leave a few pictures here so you can see what a great friend Mindy is (no, she's mine, you can't steal her away) and then we'll move on to salmon patties. I'm not looking in the tags to see if those have already been done because it's all I have right now! Ha! I shall proceed in willful ignorance. 
Another shot of the goods, which I think is very close to Jan's recipe.
And the cute little grater she brought.
She even brought two containers and I got to choose between red or teal (they both match my decor, so hard to decide) and the measuring spoon for the bucket!

Now, it's Lent so I was making a meatless meal tonight. We don;t eat that much meat, usually. We're more pie and ice cream people. (I'm just kidding. Please don't call CPS.)
So, this recipe is probably pretty standard for salmon patties but instead of cracker crumbs, I added flavored croutons. A friend of mine said she always made them that way and once I tried it, I liked it better!

1 can of salmon (or fresh salmon, which I had, so I used that)
1/3 cup minced onion
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp Old Bay seasoning or other Cajun seasoning (or, seasoned salt, which I used this time because one of my kids asked for "plain" salmon patties)
1 TBS fresh parsley
1/4 tsp fresh lemon juice (my friend uses zest but I never have)
1 cup of crushed crackers (about 20) or a cup of crushed croutons
1 egg
3 TBS of water or chicken broth

 I boiled the salmon instead of roasting it in foil with lemon and garlic like we do sometimes. reserve a half cup of the salted water if you don't use a can of salmon.
 Break into smaller chunks.
 Add onion.
 And croutons and spices and eggs.
 Form into patties. And this is where I left the kitchen since I hate hot grease. My husband took over and look what a great job he did!
 Obviously, this is his plate since it has a big serrano pepper. And beets. I'm not a fan of beets. I had plain salad, some sliced tomatoes and a few slices of fresh lemon..
I had trouble taking this picture because it was steaming up my camera lens.

Wishing you a prayerful Lenten season, everyone!



Friday, February 27, 2015

More Fun with the Keurig!

Missy, here. Schools were out part of yesterday and again today for weather, and it's thrown me off a day this week. I almost forgot to post! 

Soooo…I wanted to share something quick and simple. Something I discovered a couple of weeks ago at the grocery store.

Oatmeal K-Cups!


The pack includes the oatmeal, the K-cup with the flavorings, and a bag of mix-ins like dried cranberries and nuts. I bought the Brown Sugar Pecan. They also make Apple Cinnamon Almond.


First, put the oats in the mug.



Then add the pack of fruits and nuts.



Then put the K-cup in the machine and use it on the 6 oz. setting. (Please note the company says these are not compatible with the newer Keurig 2.0.)

Okay, so I forgot to take a photo of the finished product! I was busy eating my breakfast, which was delicious! (I think next time I'll add a little extra brown sugar.)

If you have a Keurig and can find these at your grocery store, you may want to try it for a quick, filling breakfast!


www.missytippens.com

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Shameless Plug and Giveaway!!!

Yes, I admit it.

I am doing a SHAMELESS PLUG this week and I'll own it 100%

I blame Bridal Hall, my friends and Zondervan.

I worked at Bridal Hall for 8 years. I worked full-time days at school, then went to the bridal store.

I loved the bridal store. I loved working with brides and their mothers, their friends, their families, their mean cousins, their wicked stepsisters and I realized that if a bride was a jerk... most of her friends fit that category.

Now if that seems harsh, let me put it this way: Birds of a feather, blah, blah, blah.

Same thing, just nicer and not as directed! But those bridezillas were rare, rare, rare! Most of my customers were of the race that knows Joseph, fun, normal, hard-working people looking for advice... and you know how much I love giving advice!

Bridal Hall was a great store. It was started by the Hall family, and by the time I came on board, Mrs. Hall had gone home to heaven and Mr. Hall ran the store with his son and daughter.

It was like working with family. We had so much fun, it should have been outlawed. I saw and learned so much, and I'll tell you honestly, I've never worked another job where I had to study so much to learn the ins and outs of every corner of the business. We carried over 60 designers, out-of-stock gowns, prom gowns a full tuxedo department and jewelry.

The Halls gave my daughter Beth a job in tuxedos while she was at the University of Rochester. And when she graduated, they passed the job on to my son Luke while he was an undergrad at Rochester. That's the kind of people they were. Kind. Good. Generous.

Last year I was offered two opportunities: One to write this amazing and sweet novella for "The Year of Weddings" collection from Zondervan...


Ruthy's long-awaited "Year of Weddings Novella" is on sale now! TNZ Fiction > A Year of Weddings is just the bounce-into-spring story we've all been waiting for! When high-stakes Philadelphia lawyer Greg Elizondo inherits his mother's vintage bridal salon, he has to face the store's possible demise... until third-year law student Tara Simonetti walks in the door, ready to work. And work she does, leaving her mark on Elena's Bridal... and Greg's heart! 

And a six-book contract from Love Inspired, including a wedding series.

Hallelujah chorus! How perfect is this, pass the wedding cake and strike up the band!

You know how I told you I haven't had a lot of time to cook... Well I'll eat a lot of sandwiches for the chance to write after the day job, but this week I wanted to share the joy of this fun novella with all of you!

I dedicated this sweet story to the Hall family and my friends at Bridal Hall. I will forever be grateful for their kindness, their patience and their enduring spirit.

I'm raising a slice of wedding cake in their honor!

Today I'm giving away copies of this sweet novella but you have to pop in and leave a comment for us! No lurking allowed. Stop in, I'll make youse coffee and I'll cut the cake!

Because we love weddings!


Multi-published author Ruthy Logan Herne loves God, chocolate, country, family, dogs, weddings, coffee, and chocolate again! She's living her dream of writing and publishing the kind of books she likes to read and when she's not fixing something in her 160-year-old farm house, it's because she's not home! :) You can find her on facebook or at her website here!




Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My Freezing Bones: Bone Broth, the perfect Winter Beverage?

It's snowing again.

It's snowing....again. I posted the above picture to make Ruthy laugh. We are worried about a small storm today and one tomorrow that will add 3-6 inches. Yes, we are worried about inches. After last week's record cold and a cabin fever epidemic, this wasn't really what we wanted.

Snow is bad news for some but it is plain dangerous for others, including ManO and me. ManO, due to the type of stroke he had, is banned from shoveling forever. That means I get to do the heavy lifting, including making an igloo because the snow and ice could only be removed in blocks.
Of course I forgot to get a picture of the completed igloo. But you get the picture.

But I have to be careful in slick spots. I have early onset osteoporosis which means my bones can break easily. Not fun.

Which leads me to the latest craze in healthy eating, "bone broth." I wondered what bone broth different from the stock I've made for years. On my own. I knew my stock was healthier, great for bone building and the immune system. No preservatives either. But why the craze now?

Well, we can only eat so much kale. We have diet ADD. We are always looking for the next thing that will help us live longer, smarter.  Maybe it's the love of time travel. Now we're going back to days when Grandma always made her own broth, shoved it down throats when the flu struck, and made use of everything when an animal was butchered! The more broth we drink surely the healthier we'll be.

In reality, the truth is somewhere in between. In addition to a homemade broth being full of minerals, amino acids, and gelatin that are good for the body, a number of bloggers talk about drinking broth as a substitute for other bad-for-you beverages or foods you shouldn't be eating. Some folks are drinking one cup a day. Others, five and getting sick of it pretty quickly. Too much of a good thing is just too much. Fasting with broth may be a great cleanse once in a while but isn't a well-rounded diet.

If you want to take the broth plunge, don't overdo but make your own. Don't go to broth bars springing up like Starbucks. You will be healthier and your frugal side will thank you.  

Homemade Bone Broth 

I've figured out the difference between my stock recipe and the new ones out now. Two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to break down the bones more efficiently. The cooking times vary as well. I've seen recipes that say to simmer beef bones for 24 hours or just six. If I'm lucky, I'm able to cook my chicken bones down for 6-8 hours.And believe me I have bones. Instead of a serial killer, I'm a serial cook. If I've cooked a chicken or turkey or bone-in beef roast, I hide the evidence.

I cut off all the meat, wait for the bones to cool, stick them in a freezer bag and hide them in the freezer.

How do I  make my poultry stock? It's sort of a mish mash. I've not changed anything from all my reading on the elixir of bones but I'm adding those two tablespoons of vinegar. I'm also trying to make time to cook my stock on days when I can watch it simmer longer!

1) Using a large stock pot, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil, brown an onion if you have one, celery if you have that. Or both.

2)  Add your chicken or turkey carcass and cover with water, approximately four quarts.

3) Add a quarter cup sea salt (or very little if you prefer to add salt to taste), a teaspoon of ground celery seed if you didn't have celery, and whatever herbs or other veggies like carrots you like and two tablespoons apple cider vinegar.

4) Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to low for minimum of three hours. I like to cook mine six to eight hours. Always check your pot regularly to make sure you haven't boiled the bones dry. Consider adding a bit more water as you go along. You will still have the concentrated broth at the end. You can also google recipes that use a crockpot but ours is broken.
 
5)  Cool the broth. Use either a gravy/fat separator or put the broth in the refrigerator overnight and skim off the fat the next day.  I tend to use my glass separator (don't get me started on heated plastic) because I like to make this a one day process. 

6) I also store my broth in glass freezer-friendly containers. I can microwave them (lid off) straight from the freezer. Easy to use and less chance of bacteria growing while you wait for it to thaw.  One to two cups in the small containers, four in the larger ones.

My chicken/turkey broth stored in different size glass containers, some with a cup of meat included.
 7) To use: Just take out of the freezer, take off the lid and microwave for three minutes on high to thaw enough to pour out of the container. My concentrated broth, if I go the full eight hours, is strong enough to be diluted 1:1 with water in recipes. The perfect amount for my soup. If I want to make gravy or make a "cream of chicken soup" for use in casseroles, I leave it full strength, adding a bit of cream or milk.   

So, are you a serial cook? Do you hide your bones for later use? Could you drink broth on a regular basis or only when you have a cold or flu? Are you battling osteoporosis and finding other ways to get minerals into your diet?  




      

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Breakfast...It's What's for Dinner

So after a quick jaunt to the ranch this weekend, the last thing I wanted to do Sunday night was fix a big dinner. I wanted quick and easy, but still yummy and satisfying. 

Sounds like a good time for breakfast.

I quickly thawed a pound of breakfast sausage in the microwave, then browned it in a skillet.

Next, I cracked 8 eggs into a bowl and whisked in a half cup of whipping cream. Then I added 2 cups of shredded cheese (I had some leftover smoked Gruyere, so I used  that then rounded it out with some sharp cheddar, but you can use whatever you like), some sliced mushrooms (yes, these are optional) and then the drained sausage, along with some salt and pepper. Stir it all together.

Pour the mixture into a greased pie plate.

And bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

While that baked, I contemplated our impending sleet/winter weather event. It wasn't much, but it was our first of the season. And enough to call off school. Let's face it, an inch of ice and school buses are not a good mix. 

Remove casserole from the oven and let cool 10 minutes before cutting.

However, if you turn your back for too long, this might happen.
Teenage boys wait for no one when their stomachs are rumbling. The heathens.

This was so yummy. And not a carb in sight. Love that!

And as we readied for our winter weather, I couldn't help remembering the beautiful sunset at the ranch the night before.
Don't you just love it when God puts on a show? 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Lasagna for a Busy (or Lazy) Day

My family loves lasagna. Cheesy, gooey, tomatoey lasagna with multiple layers.

This is a recipe I've made for years. It looks nothing like the original recipe someone gave me almost thirty years ago, but a good recipe grows and changes with time and use.

A gratuitous view of the Badlands from Mt. Rushmore never gets old :)

One thing I love about this recipe is that you don't have to pre-cook the lasagna noodles! And this recipe is from back in the days before no-cook lasagna noodles were invented :)

Another thing I love about it is that you can put it together and bake it right away, or you can refrigerate it or freeze it until you're ready to bake it. Perfect for Seekerville's upcoming Speedbo (their own version of NaNoWriMo - you can read about it here) or for any time when there's too much to do in a day.

You can even split it into two, put half the recipe in each of two 9 x 9 baking dishes, freeze one and have the other one tonight.

And if you don't have the right ingredients on hand? Use what you have! Once you have the basics - lasagna noodles, cheese, tomato sauce - you're good to go.

Lazy Day Lasagna

ingredients:

Layer one:
1 pound mild or sweet Italian sausage, browned and drained
36 oz. (give or take) jarred spaghetti sauce (about 1 1/2 - 24 oz. jars)

Layer two:
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups cottage cheese - not low fat
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese - not the powdered stuff
1/3 c. chopped parsley or 3 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
2 teaspoons dried minced onion

Layer three:
16 oz. block mozzarella cheese, sliced

Layer four:
12 uncooked lasagna noodles

Final touch:
1/4 cup water


For the first layer, reserve 1/3 cup sauce, and then mix the cooked sausage and the rest of the spaghetti sauce in a medium bowl. Set it aside.

For the second layer, lightly beat 2 eggs, then mix in the rest of the layer two ingredients.



Set that one aside, too.


Your cheese is sliced and your box of lasagna noodles is open, right? We're ready to assemble the lasagna.

First, spread the 1/3 cup reserved sauce on the bottom of a greased 9" x 13" baking dish.


Layer three uncooked lasagna noodles, then 1/4 of the meat sauce, then 1/4 of the cheese mixture, then 1/2 of the sliced cheese.


Repeat these four layers - noodles, meat sauce, cheese mixture, sliced cheese.

Add another layer of noodles and cheese mixture, then noodles and meat mixture. Top with an additional 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.



Pour the final touch - 1/4 cup water - around the edges of the baking dish.

Cover tightly with foil.

At this point, you can refrigerate or freeze the lasagna, or you can bake it right away.

Bake, covered, at 375° for one hour. Remove the foil and bake an additional 20 minutes, or until the top is starting to brown. Remove the lasagna from the oven and let it rest at least 10 minutes - while you make a salad and toast some garlic bread.

Alas, I don't have a picture after it came out of the oven. We had a carry-in dinner at church last night, and the lasagna disappeared before I remembered to snap a picture.

This time of year, when the snow and cold linger and spring seems far away, comfort food like lasagna seems to be a necessity. What is your favorite comfort food?