Wilton Course II – check

Last week, I finished Wilton Course II.  I really liked this course.  I liked working with royal icing and learning all of the flowers.  I also adore the basketweave technique.  Here’s the grand finale cake…

I’m really looking forward to Course III!

Strawberry Cupcakes

Here’s to the unofficial start of summer.  I’ve been wanting to try these cupcakes I saw at Good Things Catered.  I figured a Memorial Day BBQ would be the perfect opportunity.  They were a hit at my friend’s party!

Angie’s Famous Strawberry Cupcakes

Ingredients:
2 1/2 c. cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. unsalted butter
1 1/2 c. sugar (or a little less)
2 eggs
1/3 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 c. chopped strawberries

1/4 c. strawberries
1 Tbsp. strawberry liquor
1/2 tsp lemon juice
8 oz. cream cheese, room temp
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1 3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 Tbsp vanilla

Directions:
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare 2 cupcake pans.
-Sift flour, salt, and baking soda in medium bowl.
-In bowl of mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
-Add eggs one at a time until combined.
-Add buttermilk, oil and vanilla until combined.
-Add flour mixture and stir until just combined.
-Fold in berries.
-Fill cupcake pans 3/4 way.
-Bake for 20 minutes.
-For frosting, put berries, liquor, and juice in saucepan.
-Bring to a boil over medium heat and then reduce to a simmer for 5 mins.
-Let cool then blend until smooth.
-In bowl of mixer mix cream cheese and butter until creamy.
-Add sugar, then vanilla.
-Add berry puree until smooth.
-Frost cupcakes when they are completely cooled.

NOTE:  I used vanilla buttercream instead of the strawberry icing.  I made the stars out of Wilton colorflow icing. 

Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake

I knew as soon as I found out I was hosting my family for Mother’s Day, that I had to make my mom’s favorite – chocolate cake with vanilla frosting.  Chocolate cake is something I usually don’t like.  However, this recipe was different.  The cake is just chocolatey – not sweet.  The flavor was delicious and the cake was so moist!  I had to get rid of the rest after two consecutive days of coming home from work and having a slice of the left-overs!  I will DEFINITELY make this one again!

Old Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake
America’s Test Kitchen

Ingredients:

Cake
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), very soft, plus extra for greasing pans
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces), plus extra for dusting pans
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate , coarsely chopped
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa (3/4 ounce)
1/2 cup hot water 
1 3/4 cups sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 
1 teaspoon table salt 
1 cup buttermilk 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
4 large eggs 
2 large egg yolks

Frosting
I used vanilla buttercream instead of ATK’s chocolate (recipe below)

Directions

1. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch-round by 2-inch-high cake pans with softened butter; dust pans with flour and knock out excess. Combine chocolate, cocoa powder, and hot water in medium heatproof bowl; set bowl over saucepan containing 1 inch of simmering water and stir with rubber spatula until chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup sugar to chocolate mixture and stir until thick and glossy, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and set aside to cool.

2. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Combine buttermilk and vanilla in small bowl. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whisk eggs and yolks on medium-low speed until combined, about 10 seconds. Add remaining 1 1/4 cups sugar, increase speed to high, and whisk until fluffy and lightened in color, 2 to 3 minutes. Replace whisk with paddle attachment. Add cooled chocolate mixture to egg/sugar mixture and mix on medium speed until thoroughly incorporated, 30 to 45 seconds, pausing to scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time, mixing about 10 seconds after each addition. Add about one-third of flour mixture followed by half of buttermilk mixture, mixing until incorporated after each addition (about 15 seconds). Repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining buttermilk mixture (batter may appear separated). Scrape down sides of bowl and add remaining flour mixture; mix at medium-low speed until batter is thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer and fold batter once or twice with rubber spatula to incorporate any remaining flour. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans; smooth batter to edges of pan with spatula.

3. Bake cakes until toothpick inserted into center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes, then invert onto wire rack. Cool cakes to room temperature before frosting, 45 to 60 minutes.

TO FROST CAKE: Place one cake layer on serving platter or cardboard round. Spread 1 1/2 cups frosting evenly across top of cake with spatula. Place second cake layer on top, then spread remaining frosting evenly over top and sides of cake. Cut into slices and serve.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 cups powdered sugar

Directions:
1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy.
2. Add the milk, vanilla extract, and 2 cups of powdered sugar and beat at low speed, occasionally stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, until light and fluffy. Add more powdered sugar to arrive at the consistency and sweetness you like.

Grilled Shrimp over Orzo Salad

We got a new grill this year.  My fater-in-law borders on legendary when it comes to grilling, so he insisted that we get a charcoal grill.  I did not argue as I love his grilled food and the flavor that charcoal gives.  Gas grills are easy and convenient, but nothing beats the smell and taste of good ole fashion charcoal.  We gave it our first test run with something quick and super easy – shrimp.  This meal was so quick and delicious, I’ll definitely make it again.

Grilled Shrimp over Orzo Salad
I would really love to tell you how I made this, but I was lazy and didn’t update my blog in a timely manner and forgot.  The next time I make it I’ll be a good little food blogger and write everything down.  Here’s the jist:

Shrimp marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, basil, salt and pepper then grilled to perfection.

Orzo tossed with a dressing mimicing the above marinade with sliced grape tomatoes and topped with fresh grated parmesan cheese.

 

Cinco de Mayo

In honor of our neighbor to the south’s Independence, I decided to make a little Mexican meal for dinner.  I was really craving some burritos, so I came up with these.  They were super good.  Ole!

Chicken and Black Bean Burritos

Ingredients:
4 chicken breasts sliced into strips
1 1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 medium onion sliced
1/2 cup salsa
2 tbs. cilantro chopped
1 recipe salsa rice and beans (recipe follows)

Directions:
-heat a non-stick skillet with cooking spray over medium-high
-season the chicken with the garlic salt and pepper and add to hot skillet
-saute the chicken, adding the salsa halfway through cooking time (after about 4 minutes)
-continue sauteing chicken until cooked through
-Add chicken to prepared rice and beans and mix
-Add cilantro and stir to combine
-spoon mixture into bottom third of burrito wrap.  Fold the bottom up and the sides in and roll up to close.  Serve with salsa, sour cream and or guacamole.

Salsa Rice and Beans

Ingredients
1 cup quick cooking brown rice
2 cups chicken broth (low sodium)
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 cup salsa

 Directions
-in a saucepan over high heat, stir together the rice and cumin
-add the chicken broth and salsa – bring to a boil
-reduce heat to low/medium-low and simmer for 10-12 minutes
-after 5 minutes, add in the black beans and stir to heat through

My New Toy

It’s no secret that I’m a HUGE fan of America’s Test Kitchen.  For some reason, Christopher Kimball’s bowtie just makes me think everything he preaches is gospel.  Anyway, at ATK they are big fans of the Zyliss garlic press.  Though they recently revisited their testing and found another one they liked better because the coating didn’t come off (?), they still use the Zyliss one when prepping their food.  For the life of me, I could NOT find this press anywhere.  I’m a big fan of mincing my garlic.  I find chopping and the like to be quite therapeutic after a day of teaching.  I even like the smell.  However, sometimes you just need a press. 

Well…on my most recent trip to visit my in-laws in West Palm Beach, Florida my MIL and I went to buy some ice cream here…

…and what is the FIRST thing I see upon entering this store (quite foreign to me as a New Yorker)?  A ZYLISS STAND!!!!   I picked up my press for $16.99 and couldn’t wait to use it.

Isn’t it cute?  It works well, too.


Just pop in the whole clove, wrapper and all.  Why do my hands look 90 years old?


And out comes  shoots your garlic goodness.  (Notice the garlic residue on my crock over there and my nails in need of a mani).

It’s easy to clean and my garlic melted right into the olive oil I cooked it in.  Yay for Publix and yay for Florida and yay for inlaws and for ATK!

Margarita Cupcakes

Hubs and I went up to a friends’ house over the weekend for a little barbeque.  When I asked my friend what I could bring, she said she had everything covered for appetizers, drinks and dinner.  So I figured I would bring dessert.  Obviously, my choice was cupcakes.  I have been wanting to make Margarita cupcakes for quite some time now, but all of the recipes I come across use white cake mix.  I feel like I’m cheating when I use those and like I don’t deserve the compliments when people like them.  Annie of Annie’s Eats recommended these and promised that they would be worth it.  They certainly were.  They were delish and everyone loved them.  Next time when I have more time, I’ll figure out a way to make them from scratch!

Margarita Cupcakes
Confections of a Foodie Bride by Shawnda

Ingredients:
9 oz. margarita mix
3 oz. tequila
¾ oz. Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
white cake mix
3 egg whites
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. lime zest
1 recipe lime buttercream frosting (recipe below)

Directions:
Mix together the margarita mix, tequila and Grand Marnier in a large glass or spouted bowl. Reserve 1 ¼ cups of this for the cupcake batter and drink the rest as a treat while you are baking.

In a stand mixer, add the margarita mixture (1 ¼ cups), cake mix, egg whites, vegetable oil, and lime zest. Mix on low for about 30 seconds and then increase to medium speed for 2 minutes (the batter will still be a bit lumpy).

Spoon the batter into a prepared muffin pan and fill cups 2/3 to ¾ full. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Place the cupcakes on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Once the cupcakes have cooled, make the frosting for the cupcakes.

Lime Buttercream Frosting
Ingredients:
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/8 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. lime juice
green food coloring (optional)

Directions:
Add all ingredients to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low until combined. Turn the speed to medium-high until the icing is light and fluffy. Use water to thin the frosting if necessary (I used about 2 tbsp). Add the icing to a pastry bag or use a spatula/knife to frost the cupcakes.



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