Saturday, February 12, 2011

VERY Strawberry cupcakes

For a friend's birthday I was asked to make the cake. He actually said he would like cupcakes and his favorite flavor was strawberry. I'm more of a chocolate or caramel kinda of person so I had to look up a strawberry cake recipe. I'm not shy about the fact I use box cake mixes. They are cheap and easy and with a few simple modifications they turn to magic. And cooking this cake made my whole house smell amazing. I hated the frosting. HATE! Too much liquid and they frosting came out runny, but flavorful. So I made some modifications to the frosting.

Gather together:


  • 1 package (18 1/4-oz.) cake mix, plain white or yellow
  • 1 package (3-oz.) strawberry Jello
  • 1 cup (mashed)Strawberries (I used strawberry pie filling)
  • 1/4 cup(s) vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs


  • 1/2 package cream cheese , at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoon(s) butter, unsalted, at room temperature
  • 3 cup(s) (up to 3 1/2 cups) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 cup(s) (fresh ) strawberries, (Used the rest of the strawberry pie filling)


  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners.
  2. Combine the cake mix, gelatin, strawberries and juice, oil and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down sides again if needed. Spoon about 1/3 cup batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it 3/4 full. (You will get between 22 and 24 cupcakes; remove empty liners, if any.) Place pans side by side in the oven.
  3. Bake until cupcakes are lightly golden and spring back when pressed gently with a finger, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven, place pans on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes, then remove cupcakes to wire racks to cool for another 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare frosting: Blend cream cheese and butter in large mixing bowl with electric mixer on low speed until combined, 30 seconds. Stop mixer and add 3 cups confectioners’ sugar and the mashed strawberries. Mix on low speed until incorporated, 1 minute. Increase speed to medium and blend until frosting is fluffy, 30 to 45 seconds longer, adding up to 1/2 cup more sugar if needed to get a spreadable consistency.
  5. Place a heaping tablespoon of frosting on each cupcake and swirl to spread it out with back of spoon. Refrigerate, uncovered, until frosting sets, 20 minutes. Decorate with sprinkles and strawberry slices, if desired.
Again, the frosting was a little too wet for my taste. The recipe called for a whole package of cream cheese. And I had to use 2lbs of powdered sugar to get it to firm up at all. Weird. So cut that in half.and just use a half of the cream cheese.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Chewy Vanilla Caramels

I took this recipe from the foodie bride's blog. SHE is amazing as is this recipe. I plan to make additional flavors with this recipe as a basic recipe.

Fleur de Sel Caramels with Vanilla Bean
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces (at Christmas, I like to use the fancy European style butter)
1/2 tsp vanilla (I use homemade Tahitian vanilla)
1 vanilla bean pod, split and scraped
1 1/4 teaspoon Fleur de se (sea salt)l, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup (can substitute light corn syrup)
1/4 cup water

Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly butter parchment.

Bring cream, butter, vanilla, vanilla beans, pods, and fleur de sel to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.

Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel.

Remove pods and carefully stir cream mixture into the caramel (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248 on thermometer.

Pour into baking pan and cool 30 minutes. Sprinkle another pinch or two of fleur de sel over the top of the caramel for a nice salty crunch and let sit until completely cooled.

Cut into 1-inch pieces. A butter knife works well--foodie bride used a buttered pizza cutter, but I didn't have very good control over the cuts so my first batch was very irregularly shaped. And then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Traditional Cranberry Relish (or cranberry goo as I like to call it)

I have never made cranberry relish in my life. In fact, I prefer the can shaped, red gel that slices super easy. However, this is also the first year that I will be hosting my entire family and it seems that some people like the real goo and not the can shaped stuff.

I got a few good ideas and decided to try to throw some thing together:

Gather together:
  • 4 c. cranberries
  • 1.5 c. water
  • 2 c. sugar
  • zest and juice from one orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp of ground cloves (or about 5 cloves--but you'll have to remove these later)
  • 1 tsp of ground ginger
Add water, sugar and orange zest and juice. Cook until sugar is dissolved. Then add cranberries, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Bring to a rapid boil then simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Remove the cinnamon stick and allow to chill completely.

OMG! THIS STUFF IS AMAZING! However, I have to wait a few days until I get to add this very festive and delicious goo to my overloaded plate of turkey, mash potatoes and all the fixin's.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Homemade (Starbucks) mocha biscotti

Starbucks is giving out free samples of the new starbucks via instant coffee. So I wanted to make something with it. As it turns out, biscotti was up on the list. I have always heard that making biscotti is a two day event and it super hard to make. As it turns out, it's not hard and I made it in less than 2 hours--including the baking time. I found this recipe here. I made changes as I saw fit.

Gather together:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules (Starbucks Mocha Via works amazingly well)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 egg yolk (to be brushed on the top of the huge biscuit before baking)
  • 1 tablespoon water (added to egg yolk)


  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the flour, salt, cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon, and coffee granules in a bowl. Set aside. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer in a large bowl until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to blend into the butter mixture before adding the next. Beat in the vanilla with the last egg. Mix in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts; mixing just enough to evenly combine. Roll out on to baking sheet with a dusted rolling pin in to a rectangle that is about 1 inch high. Beat egg yolk with water in a small bowl. Brush over the top loaf. (feel free to cut in half if you want shorter biscuits--leave room between them so they can bake propperly.)
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until firm, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 to 12 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Cut loaf diagonally into 3/4 inch slices. Place each slice, cut-side up onto the baking sheet. Return to the oven and bake until the biscotti are dry, 10 to 15 minutes on each side. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

These worked out pretty well. I was surprised. These things are going on the christmas cookie list.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

One bird in the Bush-One Bird in the City

While we haven't talked about changing the name of our blog, I thought I might want to point out that one of the birds has left the bush to have cooking adventures in the land of bourbon and horse racing. I think we have every intention of continuing to blog...Assuming Erin still decides to bake and I keep cooking.

And on another note, we got 2nd place again in the Beaver Round up bake off with our mini pumpkin cheesecakes. They were tasty and fun. We lost first to a cookie pizza :( Oh well. Erin always has next year.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Caramel Sauce

I've started to experimenting with caramel and caramel sauces. Occasionally, I will find pints of heavy cream for half price since they are about to expired or is expired. This brings the price down to 3.50 instead of $7 for a pint. But when I find them on sale I try to buy a couple and use ASAP. By far, the best thing to make is caramel sauce. It goes great on ice cream, pancakes, cake topping, and I've been told it goes great on baked salmon. (I haven't tried that, but I was told it was the best salmon ever.)

This is by far the easiest and best recipe. I ALWAYS double this recipe, but when I do , I cut the butter down from 12 Tbsp to 8Tbsp.

Gather together:
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
First, before you begin, make sure you have everything ready to go - the cream and the butter next to the pan, ready to put in. Making caramel is a fast process that cannot wait for hunting around for ingredients. If you don't work fast, the sugar will burn. the caramelized sugar will be much hotter than boiling water.

Heat sugar on moderately high heat in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart or 3-quart saucepan. As the sugar begins to melt, stir vigorously with a whisk or wooden spoon. As soon as the sugar comes to a boil, stop stirring. You can swirl the pan a bit if you want, from this point on.

As soon as all of the sugar crystals have melted (the liquid sugar should be dark amber in color), immediately add the butter to the pan. Whisk until the butter has melted.

Once the butter has melted, take the pan off the heat. Count to three, then slowly add the cream to the pan and continue to whisk to incorporate. Note than when you add the butter and the cream, the mixture will foam up a bit. This is why you must use a pan that is at least 2-quarts (preferably 3-quarts) big.

Whisk until caramel sauce is smooth. Let cool in the pan for a couple minutes, then pour into a glass mason jar and let sit to cool to room temperature. Finish with some of your favorite salt (I used pink Himalayan Salt.

(Remember to use pot holders when handling the jar filled with hot caramel sauce.) Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Warm before serving.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Soft Pretzels

Due to the lack of sunlight and things to do, I watch tv...a lot of tv. Which translates in to a lot of food network. And one of my favorite shows to watch is Good Eats with Alton Brown. Once again, I was watching Alton (yea, we're on a first name basis) and he was making soft pretzels. He makes everything look so easy. And truth be told, it was. Aaron would have liked them to be skinner, but I thought they were pretty good. It was a fun way to ring in the new year.


  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • oil, for pan
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt


Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

I served it with 3 types of mustard--cheap yellow, stone ground, sweet hot mustard.