Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cannoli Cupcakes

I don't want to brag, but I recently came into a large sum of money. Namely, $40. I had been eagerly contemplating what to do with this small fortune (cookbooks? a vacation? a boat?), Josh having decided to spend his share by splurging on extra gas for his truck. (GAS, people. I tried not to fall of my chair in excitement.) I was considering my options when I came upon this recipe from the blog I will tell you I am a GIANT fan of cannoli. The last time I had some was in March at an italian restaurant near Disneyland (Mama Cozza's) that was featured on Diners Drive-In's and Dives on the Food Network, and it was the best I'd ever had. I have since thought about cannoli on a semi-weekly basis, and as soon as I saw the recipe I knew it was fate. Even though I had already spent the grocery budget, I was out the door within 10 minutes of viewing the blog. And after buying the ingredients I didn't have on hand, I still have enough money left over for a night on the town for me and Josh. A ride in the truck to In & Out, perhaps?
This recipe is a little more involved than a traditional cupcake, but if you're a fan of cannoli it's completely worth it!

Cannoli Cupcakes
Makes 24

1 box yellow cake mix
4 eggs
1 small box instant vanilla pudding
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water

For the ganache:
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (or 1 cup chocolate chips)
2 tsp. butter
1/2 cup cream

For the Cannoli Filling/Frosting:
32 oz. ricotta cheese (I used low fat, since I'm on a diet)
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
Grated zest of 1 orange

Mini chocolate chips for decorating

Several hours before you are ready to bake the cake, prepare this contraption for the ricotta to drain the excess liquid:

Wrap the cheese in cheesecloth (it can be found in the kitchen gadgets area of the grocery store), then place the bundle in a strainer that has been set over a bowl. Place something heavy, such as a can, on top of the cheese. Let sit several hours (or overnight) in the fridge.

To make the cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees, and prepare cupcake wrappers in pan. Mix together the cake ingredients and divide batter among cups. Bake 20 minutes, and cool completely.

To make the filling/frosting plop the ricotta in a large bowl, and beat with mixer until smooth and creamy. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Place in the refrigerator until cool and firm (I only left mine in the fridge for 15 minutes, and it was a little soft for piping. But I had an important appointment and didn't have time to wait. An appointment to eat these cupcakes immediately.)

For the ganache, heat the cream and butter in a saucepan until boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate chips. Mix until smooth, and let rest 5 minutes.

When the cupcakes are cool, cut a cone shape out of the top of each to allow for extra filling.

Dip the tops of the cupcakes in the ganache. 

Pipe the filling on top of the ganache.

Decorate with mini chocolate chips.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sugar Cookie Bars

These bars were making the rounds on food blogs a little over a year ago when I discovered there was such a thing as food blogs. It was a highly productive discovery-one that occurred when I was a new mom-to-three with 50 pounds of "baby" weight to lose.  Of which I have only lost half to date, despite the fact that after my other children I had lost all the weight by the time they were 6 months old. Mysterious. No matter-moving right along with these bars: if you love sugar cookies (me), but don't have the patience for the rolling, the baking, and the decorating (also me-I can spend 24 hours on a wedding cake, but I get burned out by the decorating of cookies)-you'll really like these. They're super quick and easy, and make a ton (I cut out pretty big squares to get 20 servings, but you could easily get twice as many).

Sugar Cookie Bars

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. almond extract (optional-but they will taste like they came from the bakery!)
1 tsp. vanilla
5 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 13 x 18 jelly roll pan.
Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time until combined. Mix in the almond and vanilla. Add the flour, salt and baking soda, and mix those in.
Drop the dough into the pan by placing large spoonfuls all over the pan. Press and spread the dough with your fingers to edges. 
Bake 10-15 minutes, or until barely golden brown.

Buttercream Frosting (Cream Cheese Frosting would also be great)

3 sticks butter, softened
6 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla 
Milk as needed

Cream the butter and powdered sugar on low speed until combined and smooth. Add the almond and vanilla and mix. If needed, add the milk by tablespoons until desired consistency is reached.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Concerning Eating Habits of Little Carson David

A few of the things Carson consistently refuses to eat:

  • Strawberries
  • Quesadillas (tragically including those of Cafe Rio)
  • Cheeseburgers
  • Sandwiches
  • Anything I make for dinner

A few of the things Carson will gladly eat, if the opportunity happens to arise:
  • Toilet Paper
  • Firecrackers
  • Crayons
  • Dirt/Rocks/Leaves
  • Chalk
  • Dog/Cat/Bird food by the handful
  • Moldy chili from the garbage
  • Really-anything from the garbage (unless of course, it is listed above)
Please do not inform the Child Protective Services.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Panna Cotta

Last year for my 24th birthday (I should note that I am 25 in my own mind. Technically, this took place 7 years ago), Josh surprised me with a cooking class at the Sur La Table kitchen store. A class regarding Italian Desserts. It was a life-changing evening. We were served 6 desserts and it was perfectly acceptable (and pretty much required) to eat them all. And a smart move on Josh's part, because I learned to make a dessert that has become his favorite. 
Panna Cotta is italian for "cooked cream", and you would never guess something so simple would taste so good. 

Panna Cotta
Serves 8 

4 cups whipping cream
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, or 2 tsp. vanilla extract (I bought some vanilla beans from the website for a reasonable price-7 beans for $10 and they shipped really quick)

2 packets gelatin
6 Tablespoons cold water

Fruit of your choice, for serving (I really like berries with this)

In a large saucepan, pour the whipping cream. Add the vanilla (if using a bean, scrape out the seeds and add them with the pod into the pot) and the sugar. Heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. 
Meanwhile, pour the water into a small saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a thin layer, and let sit 5-10 minutes to soften. When the cream is ready (hot and sugar is dissolved), remove from the heat, and start heating the small saucepan with the gelatin on very low heat. Stir with a spoon as gelatin melts into a smooth consistency. Don't let it boil-as soon as you have a smooth mixture, pour the gelatin into the cream. (If you have any lumps, just pour it over a strainer)
Pour the cream into your serving dishes (the smaller your dish, the quicker it sets up-if you pour the entire batch into one big serving dish, it might take as long as overnight to fully set up)
Cover the dishes with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 3-4 hours. *When we had this at the class, there wasn't time to allow them to fully set up-they were a soft pudding consistency, and tasted just as good.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Toasted Coconut Cashew Ice Cream

 My three children and I recently paid a visit to the Williams Sonoma store. I was due for a new cookbook, and ended up looking them over for an hour (I have to be very careful about my selection now that I am only allowing myself one once in a great while) while repeatedly whisper yelling to my children to, "stop touching", "get down from there", and "for heaven's sake put the knives back". But it was all worth it because I found a great ice cream cookbook, "Sweet Scoops" by Shelly Kaldunski. I immediately wanted to make half of the recipes, but I knew I had to try the Coconut Cashew first. Lovers of coconut will rejoice. Lovers of coconut and sweet/salty treats should sit down before tasting.

Toasted Coconut Cashew Ice Cream

3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 can (14 oz.) unsweetened coconut milk
3/4 cup cream of coconut (if you have never bought this, it is near the alcoholic drink mixes at the grocery store-I like Coco Lopez)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup salted roasted cashews, coarsely chopped
*The original recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon dark rum, but since I'm mormon and do not partake, I didn't include it. If you are of the Gentile variety, then by all means add. I won't judge. I will instead pray for you. And request your address so I can send the missionaries to your house.

In a bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, cream of coconut, heavy cream, sugar, rum (if using), and salt. Cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 2 hours or up to 1 day.

Meanwhile, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Spread the shredded coconut on a baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, about 8 minutes, rotating the sheet and stirring the coconut halfway through the baking time. Let the coconut cool completely before using.

Pour the cold coconut-cream mixture into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions. Add the cashews and toasted shredded coconut during the last minute of churning. 

Spoon the ice cream into a freezer-safe container and place parchment or waxed paper directly on the surface. Cover tightly and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Blackberry White Chocolate Streusel Bars

Did you know that blackberries are one of the top ten best antioxidant containing fruits? They help to prevent cancer and heart disease, and are rich in fiber. To fully benefit from these highly nutritious gems with a full serving, you will be needing to eat 6 of these bars. It's a win-win situation, friends.

I had some blackberries in my fridge, and was envisioning using them in a bar treat with some white chocolate. Since I'm not very good at completely inventing recipes, I adapted the one I found on this blog: to include a white chocolate drizzle.

Blackberry White Chocolate Streusel Bars

For the bars:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon zest (about 1 medium-sized lemon)
1 teaspoon baking Powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, Cold and cut into pieces
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the filling:
2 cups fresh blackberries
1 cup of blackberry jam 
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3 teaspoons cornstarch

For the drizzle:
2 oz. white chocolate, broken into pieces (or 1/3 cup chips)
2 Tablespoons cream

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a 9x13 inch pan with foil and butter/spray the foil.

In a large bowl, combine the lemon zest and 1 cup sugar. Using your fingertips, rub the zest into the sugar until it becomes moist and fragrant.

Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter. *You can use your fingers for this part, just be sure to work quickly to not melt the butter.

Stir in the egg. Dough will be crumbly and coarse, like thick wet sand. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.

In a separate, large bowl, stir together the 2 Tablespoons of sugar and cornstarch. Gently mix in the blackberries and jam. Carefully sprinkle/spread the blackberry mixture evenly over the crust (leave about a 1/4-inch border around the edges of the pan so the berries won't burn.) Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until top is slightly brown.  *I cooked mine for 30, and they ended up being on the messy side-I will probably leave them in a little longer next time.

Cool completely, then prepare the glaze:
Combine the cream and chocolate in a bowl and microwave 30 seconds. Stir until smooth. Use the spoon to drizzle over the bars. *If your glaze is thinner than you like, put the bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes and it will thicken up.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hootenanny Pancakes

Have you ever eaten a 1/2 stick of butter in one sitting? I have. This recipe is from one of my besties who is an excellent cook, Jill. The first time she made them for me I ate half the pan, while she shared the other half with the children. 

You may have heard of this recipe more commonly being called German Pancakes. But since Jill's family calls them Hootenanny, and I wish to be cool, we are going with Hootenanny. (This also happens to be the word Josh's Grandpa Child uses for an ATV 4-wheeler. Also cool.) 

If you are not the type of family to regularly eat a stick of butter for breakfast, perhaps you should save it for a special occasion. Such as: Saturdays. The occasion on the particular day I first tried this was that I had recently acquired some Bear Lake raspberry syrup. I have since decided that this will be our traditional breakfast for the 1st day of summer vacation. This year, a day that began the countdown (73 days now) to my impending breakdown when this person:

leaves me to spend more waking hours with her teacher than with me.

Hootenanny Pancakes

Makes 2-6 servings, depending on your pig level (Mine: very high. And as I have with this recipe discovered with my Dylan: also very high)

1 stick butter (salted butter is really good in this)
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
6 eggs

Ideas for serving: 
Syrup (I used berry syrup, but Jill usually uses maple)
Powdered sugar
Fresh fruit
*Not recommended: more butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the butter in the pan and let it melt in the oven while it preheats (you do want to be careful with this-if you don't take it out as soon as the oven is preheated, you risk browning the butter too much). Combine remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl. When the oven is preheated and the butter is melted, pour the batter into the pan. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until set. The pancake will be HUGELY poofy, but will deflate as it cools.

What I discovered my children doing while I was preparing this post:
Just hangin out. On the roof of the garage.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Quick and Easy BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Coleslaw

During the dark and disgusting month of February, I thought it would be a fabulous idea to sign up my two older kids for 3 sports. I pictured four of us happily watching and cheering in pleasant spring weather as our child had a great time developing a skill they would benefit from for the rest of their school days and beyond. This was very delusional thinking.  

Dylan has played soccer since she was 3  and is improving with every season. She finds it very enjoyable, although she is just now seeing it as a game and not just as a social outing where I keep nagging her to run around. 

We signed Owen up for Soccer and T-ball, both of which he absolutely detests. A typical game (of either sport) for Owen would involve: laying down on the field; wandering away from the game; chasing other players to throw grass at them; running around with his face in his shirt while the players run him down because he can't see anything; and speaking to his coach in a highly disrespectful manner. Owen is not technically taking Soccer or T-ball. He is taking "Listen to and Obey Authority Lessons".

He actually kicked the ball quite a ways down the field with his face in his shirt. I was entertained.

So, 4 nights a week (plus 2 games on Saturdays) we could be found at some field or other during dinner time. And after yelling at my child in a public setting (much of the time this season, in the rain) for an hour, I'm not in the mood to cook dinner at 7 o'clock in the evening. With this recipe, I can pick up a rotisserie chicken while I'm out during the day, quickly mix up the coleslaw in the afternoon before heading out (it doesn't get soggy-I've had it as leftovers the next day, and it's just as good), and it takes 5 minutes to assemble the sandwiches when we get home. Also, I am typically a Coleslaw Hater because I've always thought the dressing tasted like glue. Not that I have eaten glue, but what I'm 90% sure glue tastes like. (I am not willing to confirm the other 10%)  The yogurt in this recipe really makes it tangy and delish, and the creamy and crunchy coleslaw goes perfectly with the tender barbecue chicken.

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

Makes 5-8 sandwiches, depending on the size of your buns. In more ways than one.

1 rotisserie chicken
1 cup your favorite bbq sauce

5 large, or 8 small buns

Pull the meat off the chicken, mix with bbq sauce in a medium bowl.

Tangy Coleslaw

1/2 green cabbage, chopped into shreds
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup plain yogurt
2 green onions, white and green parts, sliced
3 Tablespoons vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper until creamy and smooth. Fold in the cabbage and green onions. Top the chicken on the sandwiches.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mud Party 2011 or A Model of Responsible Parenting

Don't worry-it's only a rock.

We have a medium-sized permanent puddle at the beginning of our driveway that we occasionally allow the children to play in. This has caused, on occasion, strangers to pull over in their car, park, bring the child to the door and inform me they were playing IN MUD. IN THE STREET. (In reality, a car would have to veer completely off the road and into our driveway to hit anybody.) When this happened, I replied to the stranger, "Oh, he's okay-Owen! Don't forget your lighter!" (Not really the second part. That was said in my own mind.)

I happen to be a firm believer in Mud Party memories.

Tiff and Jeff-Mud Party 1985

Even if it takes you an hour to clean up, causing you to push back your trip to the grocery store, causing you to run into a boy from high school who has witnessed you fail your driving test in a number of humiliating ways, only to then witness you drop a glass jar of marinara sauce over your sandaled feet. Even then it's worth it. Practically.