Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Margarita Cupcakes

I realize that I've been lax in making cupcakes lately. What started out as the heart and soul of this blog has been passed over recently in favor of other dessert recipes and savory dishes. I also realize that Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner. Granted, it's not an actual celebration of Mexico's Independence Day (that's September 16th), but it's still a celebration of Mexican heritage. And when I think of Mexico, I think of tequila. There are other things I can think of as well, mostly having to do with food, but tequila is obviously the most important.
I dug around in my Cupcake Bookmarks folder (yes, I have one) and found a cupcake I've been meaning to make for at least a year now: a Margarita Cupcake.

I first heard of this cupcake when I was perusing the Cupcake Project website. Unfortunately, the cupcakes were vegan and I'm so not vegan, it's not even funny. No offense to my vegan peeps. I just enjoy eggs and butter as often as possible. So I looked around on the internet and to my not-so-great surprise, I found several other margarita cupcake recipes. I ended up combining the frosting from one cupcake recipe with the cake of another cupcake recipe and I think I ended up with some pretty respectable alcoholic cupcakes on my hands.

Margarita Cupcakes
recipe from Annie's Eats
makes ~24 cupcakes
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3 limes, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
1) Preheat oven to 325˚F.

2) In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.

3) Using a mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.

4) Pour in the sugar and beat until combined with the butter.

5) Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

6) Add the lime zest, lime juice and vanilla to the batter and stir to incorporate.

7) Turn the mixer speed to low and alternately mix in the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, in 3 additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat each addition just until incorporated.
8) Fill each cupcake liner ~3/4 full of batter.

9) Bake 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
10) Let cool for 5-10 minutes before removing from the cupcake tins.
Margarita Cupcake Frosting
recipe adapted from I Heart Cuppycakes!
Note: I doubled the recipe for this frosting because it only frosts ~12 cupcakes. The doubled recipe is below:
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon tequila
  • ~5 cups powdered sugar
1) In a mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy, ~5 minutes.
2) Pour in the vanilla extract, lime juice and tequila.
3) Add the confectioners sugar, slowly, until the frosting is sweet enough and/or has the desired consistency.
I liked these cupcakes, but I wasn't 100% sold on them. Ultimately, I felt that the lime flavor shone through quite well, but the taste of the tequila was not very prominent.
Let's tackle the cake and the frosting separately. The cake was amazing. Very lime-y and soft and fluffy (even though the cake did sink slightly in the middle). And this could have been the best batter that I've ever eaten. I called my roommate into the kitchen to sample it, it was that good. And then I may have proceeded to eat the leftover batter with a spoon. Maybe.
The frosting was a bit too sweet. I understand that this was my fault because I added too much sugar, but I kept trying to "infuse" as much tequila and lime as possible in the frosting. The flavors kept getting lost, so naturally I kept adding more tequila and lime and then, consequently, more sugar! It's a downward spiral.
I think if I make these again, I would opt to brush some tequila over the cooled cupcakes to help infuse the margarita (read: tequila) flavor better. This was a suggestion from Annie's Eats, but somehow I missed that when executing the cupcake recipe.
All together, I still think the entire cupcake was pretty good. I just wish the tequila was a bit more pronounced and the frosting was stiffer (aka easier to pipe onto the cupcakes). Otherwise, this is still a cupcake I can get behind. Because why would I ever turn away a margarita in cupcake form?

Saturday, April 23, 2011


My work schedule has been a little...odd...lately. I've been working from the client site for a few days each week, then either working from home or my actual office for the rest of the week. Since I've been spending so much quality time with myself, sometimes sans work cafeteria, I've gotten the hankering to keep some healthy snacks around the apartment. Because I can't eat Giant Chocolate Toffee Cookies all day long. Not that I wouldn't give it my very best effort.

Hummus is healthy, right? Since I do still have a massive tub of tahini in the refrigerator, I decided that hummus could be the way to go. So I gave it my best shot. And came up with a savory, creamy dip that could be slathered on just about anything.

slightly adapted recipe from AllRecipes.com

Print Recipe
  • 2 cups canned garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pinch paprika
1) Combine the garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, salt and garlic in a blender or food processor.

2) Blend until the hummus is smooth.

3) Transfer hummus to a serving bowl and d
rizzle olive oil over it.

4) Sprinkle with paprika.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Creamy Dijon Chicken

Let me preface this post with the fact that I am not a mustard lover. In fact, I don't think I've even blogged about mustard in the 2 years of this blog's existence. Really, the only condiments I like are ketchup, BBQ sauce, and any form of hot sauce. I have limits, ya know.

But when I saw how easy and beautiful this chicken dish looked on the Simply Delicious blog, I completely forgot about my aversion to mustard. What can I say? I'm a sucker for a pretty picture.

Conveniently enough, my mom is a huge mustard lover, and is therefore quite ready to recreate this recipe as soon as it's posted. And I need to be on her good side right about now, so I can get lots of home-cooked food when I head back to the Bahamas later this month. Life's a trade off sometimes.

Creamy Dijon Chicken
slightly adapted from the Simply Delicious blog

Print Recipe
  • 4 large skinless & de-boned chicken breasts
  • olive oil
  • 3 small-medium leeks or 2 large leeks, finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cup cream
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • dash of chili flakes (optional)
1) Drizzle a few teaspoons of olive oil to a pan over medium heat.

2) Once the oil is heated through, add the chicken to the pan and saute until mostly cooked through.

3) Remove chicken from pan and set aside to rest while you create the sauce. Do not throw out the oil in the pan!

4) Add the leeks and garlic to the pan and saute for about 5 minutes or until the leeks are softened.

5) Add the cream, mustards, and lemon juice to the pan. Stir so the cream doesn't develop a skin.

6) Allow the sauce to reduce for a few minutes.

7) Meanwhile, cut the chicken into cubes. (Note: This step is not necessary. I just preferred cutting up the chicken so it cooks evenly, but you can leave the chicken as-is if you like.)

8) Place the chicken back into the reduced sauce. Stir to coat the chicken with the sauce. This will also finish the cooking process for the chicken.

9) Season with salt, pepper, and chili flakes to taste. Serve warm.

I think my favorite part of the dish is the leeks. The leeks were softened during the cooking process, but there's still a little crunch there that I like. The sauce was tangy and creamy but not overly heavy. Maybe because of the lemon juice? I'm not a real chef so I have no idea. But I know it tastes good! I served my chicken up with a side of rice and the two went really well together, but you could also try serving it over some pasta.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Giant Chocolate Toffee Cookies

Who am I kidding? The real reason I blogged about roasted tomatoes is to make up for this post.

Giant. Chocolate. Toffee. Cookies.

Remember that dance reunion I was talking about a while ago? Well, I also brought these along with me. My favorite comment was that these cookies should be called "brookies" because they seem to be a cross between brownies and cookies. I thought that was innovative. And quite true since the cookies did have a dense, brownie-like consistency.

And chocolate. Lots of melted chocolate was harmed in the making of these brownies. And here comes the kicker. Heath bar toffee pieces. Can you believe that? I need a moment.

I love Heath bars. To be honest, it's really what pushed me to make these cookies. Toffee just makes everything better. Ever.

Giant Chocolate Toffee Cookies
recipe from Epicurious.com
makes 16-18 cookies

Print Recipe
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 16 oz bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used 4 oz bittersweet & 12 oz semisweet chocolate)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups (packed) brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 5 1.4-ounce chocolate-covered Heath bars (or a similar toffee candy bar), coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped (optional)

1) Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.

2) Stir the chocolate and butter in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water (this would be a double boiler). Stir until the mixture is melted and smooth.

3) Remove from over the water and allow the mixture to cool until it is lukewarm.
4) Using a mixer, beat the sugar and eggs together for about 5 minutes, or until thick.
5) Add the melted chocolate mixture and the vanilla.
6) Stir in the dry ingredients, then the toffee and nuts. (I chose not to use nuts in my cookies.)
7) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes.
8) Preheat the oven to 350°F.
9) Line baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper. Drop 1/4 of the batter onto the sheets, spacing each cookie about 2 1/2 inches apart. (Yes, these cookies are massive! This recipe writer was not messing around!)
10) Bake just until tops are dry and cracked but cookies are still soft to touch, about 15 minutes.
11) Cool the cookies on the baking sheets. These cookies can be made a day or two ahead. If you need to store them, make sure to place them in an airtight container at room temperature.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Roasted Tomatoes: Two Ways

Can you feel it getting warmer? Yep, it's almost summertime!

In preparation for the summer and my long-awaited return to the Union Square Green Market, I picked up some grape tomatoes for some pre-summer roasting in the kitchen. Because I could.

The inspiration for this snack is the roasted tomatoes in the salad that comes with the Warm Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Tart at Balthazar Restaurant in NYC. Are you still with me after that explanation?

I wasn't exactly sure how to roast tomatoes since I'd never done it before, but really, how hard could it be?

Apparently there are two ways you can do this. The slow-roasted way, or the quick and dirty way. (There's no real methodology called "quick and dirty", but you get the idea.)

Since I wasn't sure which roasting method I would prefer, I picked up two pints of grape tomatoes and resolved to try both roasting methodologies.

Print Recipes

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes
slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Slow-Roasted Tomatoes
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
1) Preheat oven to 225 degrees F.

2) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the tomato halves on the sheet.

3) Drizzle with a thin layer of olive oil. You can also toss the tomatoes lightly in the olive oil if desired.

4) Sprinkle salt and pepper over the tomatoes.

5) Roast the tomatoes for 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours. (If you choose to use larger tomatoes, you will probably need to keep them in the oven longer.) The tomatoes will be shriveled when they are done, but you don't want them to be too dry and rubbery.

6) Eat right away or let cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

"Quick and Dirty" Oven Roasted Tomatoes
slightly adapted from marthastewart.com
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

2) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the tomato halves on the sheet.

3) Drizzle with a thin layer of olive oil. You can also toss the tomatoes lightly in the olive oil if desired.

4) Sprinkle salt and pepper over the tomatoes.

5) Roast the tomatoes for about 15 minutes or until they begin to brown on the bottom. (If you choose to use larger tomatoes, you will probably need to keep them in the oven longer.)

6) Eat right away or let cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Tip1: You can add herbs to the tomatoes before they go in the oven as well. I've really gotten into rosemary lately, but I chose to go au natural with these tomatoes.

Tip2: I like to roast the tomatoes cut-side up so the juices will marinate in the cup while the tomatoes are roasting. But you can roast them any way you prefer.

And here are the results -- The slow roasted tomatoes were firmer and chewier. They reminded me of the texture of dried cranberries. On the other hand, the quick and dirty tomatoes were softer and juicier. They were closer to actual tomatoes than the slow roasted version.

So which one did I like better? I prefer the Slow Roasted Tomatoes. Primarily because they're chewier and I like that texture. They were also pretty close to the roasted tomatoes I had at Balthazar. Win!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mini Pretzel Turtles

My dance friends and I have been threatening to get together for a while and watch old dance videos of ourselves from 10 years ago. Some of these videos may have been on VHS back then. Crazy!

Of course we would need to have snacks to munch on in between our video-watching and our spastic recreations of our smoking hot dance moves of yesteryear. I found a recipe that was so simple I just couldn't leave it alone. I didn't even have to change the recipe at all. It was already everything I could ever want in a one-bite dessert: salty, sweet, crunchy.

Although I was already making a batch of bad ass cookies (more on those in a future blog post), I still had to add these to the mix.

Mini Pretzel Turtles
recipe from Jane Deere's Mini Pretzel Turtles

Print Recipe
  • 1 bag mini pretzels
  • 1 bag Rolo candies
  • 1 bag pecan halves

1) Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

2) Line a baking sheet with foil and spread the pretzels over the baking sheet in a single layer.

3) Place a single Rolo on top of each pretzel.

4) Bake in the oven for 4 minutes.

5) Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Immediately press a pecan half into the Rolo.

6) Let cool before eating. You can pop the tray into the fridge or freezer to help this process along. (Make sure to let the turtles come to room temperature before serving, otherwise the caramel will be hard.)