Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Red Velvet Cupcakes

Today was my friend Anne's birthday! Birthdays are a lovely excuse to make cupcakes, so I decided to make Anne red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.  This recipe comes from Jamie Oliver's cookbook "Jamie's America" (another recipe of his that I tested is here).  His recipe was inspired by the cupcakeries of Manhattan.  While the cupcakes were good, I thought they could have been better. In fact, I remember watching a Food Network special on a bakery in Los Angeles that claims that the best red velvet cupcakes are made with oil instead of butter, so next time, I may try a different recipe. The icing, however, was to die for... I did not include lemon juice though since I didn't have any lemons.

Velvet Cupcakes
From "Jamie's America"

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 large egg, preferably free-range or organic
Sea salt
1 tsp. good-quality vanilla extract
Optional: 3 tbsp. natural red food colouring
2 heaping tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. white wine vinegar

3/4 x 8-oz. cream cheese (I used light)
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temp.
1 cup + confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
(zest and juice of 1 lemon)-- just as good without it

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a 12-hole muffin pan with paper liners

Using an electric mixer, or by hand, cream your butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Gently beat in the egg, a pinch of salt, the vanilla extract, and red food colouring.  in a separate bowl, whisk together the cocoa and flour and fold half of it into your butter mix, followed by half the buttermilk.  Repeat with the remaining flour and buttermilk until you have a gorgeous smooth texture.

In a small bowl, mix your baking soda and white wine vinegar together so it fizzes up, and stir this into your cake mix. 

Divide the mixture between your paper liners and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.  To check they're cooked through, insert a skewer into the center of a cake -- if it comes out clean, they're perfect, if not, just pop them back into the oven for another couple of minutes.  Let them cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely while you make your frosting. 

Put all your frosting ingredients into a bowl and mix together until smooth and creamy.  (Jamie says spoon the frosting onto the cupcakes, I used a piping bag to make them prettier...)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

When I was little, I used to read Martha Stewart Living magazine and my mom (the other K!) had a few Martha Stewart cookbooks.  Everything in the magazine and cookbooks looked so beautiful and delicious. All the pastel colours and yummy food was a huge inspiration to me. This recipe actually comes from Everyday Food, a Martha Stewart mini-magazine that I picked up a while ago when I was in line at the grocery store. The tiny magazine is chock-full of easy, healthy, and fast recipes. (I also made Chicken with Dijon-White Wine sauce from it.)  This quinoa salad is scrumptious and will be great for lunch this week!

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
From Everyday Food

1 cup quinoa
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup basil, chopped (Martha used parsley, I prefer basil)
1/2 small shallot, minced
1 tablespoon vinegar (either red wine or balsamic)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ounce fresh goat cheese, crumbled

- In a small pot, simmer 1 cup quinoa with 1 1/2 cups water. Cook 10-15 minutes or until water evaporates.
- Let quinoa cool slightly, then in a bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients. Top with cheese and serve.

Chedder Crackers

Chedder crackers are one of my major snacking weaknesses... Goldfish or Cheez-its... delicious! When I saw on the Kitchn that it was possible to make chedder crackers at home, I knew that I would have to try to make my own... though I'm sure Pepperidge Farms won't be happy with my discovery! The recipe comes from Home Cooking in Montana. My crackers weren't as cheesy as they could be, since I used a mozzerella-chedder blend of cheeses (cheese in Canada is so expensive, and this was on sale). Some of the crackers weren't rolled out as thinly so weren't as crunchy, but in general they were really good and very easy to make.

Chedder Crackers
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper (optional)
4 TBSP cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
8 ounces grated cheddar cheese
3-4 TBSP water

Pulse the flour, salt and pepper, then add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add grated cheese a little at a time until the mixture again resembles coarse meal.

Pulse in 3 to 4 tablespoons of water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough forms into a ball. It will probably take a minute or so.

Remove, wrap in plastic, and chill for 20 minutes or up to 24 hours. I left mine overnight. This way the butter has time to solidify and I think makes for puffier crackers.

Roll the dough out to 1/8th-inch thickness directly onto a baking sheet. You don't want to roll them paper thin, neither do you want to roll them too thick. If they are too thin, they will not puff up as much. If they are too thick, they will not be as crispy.

Cut the dough into 1-inch strips, then cut into triangles. 

Bake at 350° F for 15-20 minutes or until crackers are golden brown. Watch them after the 10 minute mark.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Here is my guacamole recipe.  It's a sure fire hit.  As evidenced by the fact that I could probably eat the entire batch by myself.  Avocado is good fat right?!


4 ripe avocados
Juice of one lime
4 small tomatoes, diced
1 jalapeño, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt to taste

Peel and pit avocados, then mash them.  Squeeze the juice of one lime over the mashed avocados.  Add salt, garlic, jalapeño, and tomatoes. Serve with tortilla chips!

Strawberry Peach Sangria

Today I'm going to my first pool party/bbq of the summer!! Though the weather today isn't ideal, I thought I'd bring some delicious summery sangria to remind everyone of the season. I'd seen a few recipes for strawberry peach sangria lately, so thought I'd try to make my own version by combining a few recipes.  This sangria is perfect to sip on a hot day out on the patio or sitting by a pool.

Strawberry Peach Sangria

1 bottle (750 ml) Rosé wine
1/2 cup Peach Schnapps
Splash of orange juice
3 peaches, cubed or in slices
1 container strawberries, quartered
1 orange, sliced thinly
1 lemon, sliced thinly
1 individual size can or bottle, sparkling lemonade

The night before: 
Combine fruit, wine, peach schnapps, and orange juice in a container. When putting the citrus fruit in the container, squeeze slightly to release some of the juice. Let chill in the refrigerator over night. 

When ready to serve: 
Add the sparkling lemonade.  Serve. 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Blueberry-Yogurt Muffins

I am not usually a huge fan of blueberry muffins, because they are often too sweet when store bought.  However, this recipe from "The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook" sounded better than the average blueberry muffin recipe. As it turns out, the muffins are not very sweet at all. They are good, but not the best muffins ever (I also forgot the salt, oops!). These muffins are much lower in fat and calories than regular muffins though, which I suppose is a good thing.

Blueberry-Yogurt Muffins
From "The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook"
Prep: 12 minutes
Cook: 18 minutes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (8-oz) carton vanilla low-fat yogurt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
Cooking spray
1 tbsp. sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400 F
2. Lightly spoon 2 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with knife. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture.  Combine orange juice, oil, vanilla, yogurt, and egg; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moist.  Gently fold in blueberries.
3. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray; sprinkle 1 tbsp. sugar evenly over muffins.  Bake muffins at 400 F for 18 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove muffins from pans immediately, and place muffins on a wire rack to cool.  Yield: 1 dozen.
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