Friday, January 29, 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes

Last night was the sometimes-monthly-girl's-night and I got to bring dessert (yay!).  Of course I had to make something chocolaty, although the hubs said no matter what I made it would also be discriminatory.  He says that we're discriminating by not inviting the boys to these gatherings, especially since they always invite the girls (even to poker night!).  To retaliate, the boys ate out and went bowling while the girls had dinner in and drank wine.

Anyway, getting back to the matter at hand: chocolate.  I decided to make cupcakes (the hubs keeps saying I need to branch out from cookies, so I am trying to master the art of cupcakes) and use a new recipe since my usual one, while very yummy, results in a somewhat crumbly texture that can get a tad messy.

I picked a new recipe for the cupcakes but decided to stick with my usual buttercream frosting.  The cupcakes came out so moist and had great flavor.  They also came out less crumbly than the other recipe.  Someone commented last night was that it was one of their favorites of the desserts that I've made.  Given that I rarely bring home leftovers of my baked goods, that tells me it's a keeper!

Chocolate Cupcakes

2 cups white sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.  Mix for 2 minutes on medium speed of mixer.  Add the boiling water last, and mix it in well.  The batter will be really thin - that's okay!

Place cupcake papers into mini-muffin pan and almost fill the papers with batter.  I put my batter into a really big measuring cup that has a spout so I could pour the batter in and it worked out quite nicely.

Bake for 10 minutes.  They are done baking when a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from pan and allow to cool on wire rack.

Those indentations on the top are from flipping them onto the cooling rack.  But the frosting is going to cover them, so it's no big deal.

Makes about a million mini-cupcakes.  Okay, you caught me, it doesn't make a million.  But it makes about 70, which is still a lot!

Buttercream Frosting

1 cup butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and vanilla. Blend the sugar in one cup at a time.  You may need to stop and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times to make sure it all gets thoroughly incorporated.  Beat in the milk and continue mixing until light and fluffy.  Make sure the cupcakes are completely cool before frosting.

The final result:

Both of these recipes are very closely based on some that I found online:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hunter's Chicken

It's what's for dinner! Well, what was for dinner yesterday. And lunch today.

Can I just say that I love my pressure cooker? It was a totally unexpected wedding gift from my aunt (thanks!) as I didn't even know what a pressure cooker was at the time. Let me tell you - it's like magic. If you don't have one, go buy one. Mine is a 2.5 qt braiser from this company and HOLY WOW, AUNT NAN! That was one helluva wedding gift (she gave us 2!). But seriously, go buy one. You will go from frozen meat to super tender and perfectly cooked in under 30 minutes - hello last minute dinner!

I've been experimenting with mine a bit and this is a recipe I've been tweaking for a while based on my picky eaterness and what I've got in the fridge.

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts (frozen)
2 strips of bacon, cut up into small pieces
1/4 sweet onion cut into thin strips
1 clove garlic
1-2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 can tomato sauce
1/4 ish cup (or less) apple juice or white wine
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbs olive oil

Put the pressure cooker on the stove (lid off!) on medium/medium-low heat. Add the bacon, onion and oil and cook until the bacon starts to crisp and the onions start to caramelize (or at least get translucent). Toss the clove of garlic in there at some point, too. Now, I'm not gonna lie, this smells not-so-appetizing. That's okay, keep going. It'll be fine.

Add the juice or wine to deglaze the pan a bit. Then add the tomato sauce, salt, sugar and pepper, then stir it up a bit. Add your mushrooms and toss your frozen chicken in (I like using the prepacked stuff from Costco). Now put the lid on, increase the heat to medium/high.

Cook at the 2nd pressure ring for 24 minutes (give or take based on the thickness of your chicken and if you thawed it ahead of time). Turn off heat and use touch release method to remove the lid of your pressure cooker. At this point I like to scoop out the chicken and mushrooms and turn the heat back on to medium and reduce the liquid a little. Then I add them back in.

Last night I paired it with steamed brocolli and penne noodles. Normally I'd serve this over wavy egg noodles, but the hubs had a long day at work and penne noodles are one of his favorite foods, so I opted for those. Voila!

And look, I multi-tasked cooking the brocolli and noodles!

See that? That's my pot with a steamer basket. I've got the noodles in the bottom and the brocolli on top. That means one less pot to clean! Woohoo!

Some background

The hubs and I have been married for just over two years. We have a great little house we bought a year and a half ago that's constantly a work in progress. And who can forget about our adorable babies, Lenny and Waldo? They're our super cute kitties who were *gasp* adopted out of wed-lock and have been ruling the roost for the last three years or so.

I love animals. LOVE. Specifically, mammals are my favorite. So since I'm a big softie and like helping out, I have tricked the hubster into letting me foster dogs for a local animal rescue. When I started volunteering for them he knew it was only a matter of time before I would come home with a 4-legged friend in need of a temporary home, which I took as the green light to bring one home and we haven't stopped since!

I love baking, and according to my friends and family, I'm pretty darn good at it and I don't mind saying so! I've got a few standbys that are always a big hit, but I'm always on the lookout for the next thing to satisfy my enormous sweet tooth. I am also a big fan of cooking dinner at home and am trying to refine my skillllz and expand my culinary horizons.

And so you can put a face with the's our holiday from 2 years ago (because I was lazy and didn't do a photo card this year - deal with it!)

That's right, we photochopped our cats into our card. Because they're squirmy little buggers and we're pretty sure if they knew we were mailing out pictures of them wearing festive collars to our friends and family that they would stop speaking to us, and we don't want that now do we?