Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cupcakes For Dinner? April Fools!!

Would you like a yummy Cupcake with Pink Frosting for dinner? April Fools! This is one way to get your kids to eat the meatloaf and mashed potatoes or to get your husband to eat a cupcake. It's also better than short sheeting their bed, like my kids have done to me on past April Fools Day. Or serving wooden olives, or waking them up saying there is a freak snowstorm....well, one year we actually did have a freak snow storm on April 1st. It's nice to have a day that a practical joke is accepted and hopefully met with a smile.

Enjoy your cupcakes or whatever surprise comes your way!

Meatloaf Cupcakes with Mashed Potato Frosting

1 pound
95% lean ground beef
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large clove garlic, chopped fine
2/3 cup chopped mixed red and green peppers
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon Herb de Provence or mixed Italian herbs
1/2 cup breadcrumbs, toasted
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 egg, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 6 cup muffin tin with foil cups, if desired.

In a large skillet over medium heat, saute peppers, onions and garlic in oil until soft. Stir in herbs and let cool to room temperature. Put the ground beef in a large bowl and add the onion and pepper mixture, breadcrumbs, soy sauce, ketchup, salt, pepper and egg.
Thoroughly mix together with clean hands. Divide mixture into 6 equal parts and put into the muffin tins, mounding slightly at the top to resemble a baked cupcake. Put in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, until done. Drain off extra grease and if the liners became greasy from overflowing, replace with fresh foil liners. Top with tinted mashed potato "frosting" and serve with delight and mischief!

Pink Mashed Potatoes

3 large white potatoes
3 tablespoons butter
about 1/4 cup half and half
salt to taste
beet juice from small can of canned beets or few drops red food coloring

Peel and dice potatoes into 1 inch cubes. Cover well with cold water and bring to boil. Boil for about 20-25 minutes or until done. Drain and put into a medium bowl. Add butter and beat with an electric beater until smooth. Add half and half until the potatoes have a creamy consistency. Add beet juice
or coloring until they reach desired color. The potatoes are now ready to spread or pipe onto meatloaf "cupcakes".Serves 6.

A few notes and observations: Cupcake liners are optional for the initial baking, but make for easier cleanup. Replacing liners is a must for a tidy appearance and to disguise what is really inside. The meatloaf can be made in advance and heated in the microwave (without the foil liners!) and frosted just before serving. I made and frosted
them in advance and heated in the microwave just before serving. You just have to put them into the foil liners very carefully. They can be a little fussy, but are so much fun to trick unsuspecting diners! Have fun, and put a little ketchup on your cupcake!

Written and photographed by Diane.

Download Meatloaf and Mashed Potato recipe (pdf)

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Chocolate Filled Eggs, Now That's My Kind Of Chicken

In Paris at Easter time, you can find real eggs filled with chocolate in the specialty stores. Now that is my kind of chicken, especially since boiled eggs are a throwaway for me. It is always fun to put an element of surprise in food. Also, they can be custom filled with milk, dark or flavored chocolate to suit your fancy. I chose my favorite dark chocolate in the smallest egg I could get. It seems egg sizes have gone the way of clothing sizes and Starbucks....large is the new small. So I "blew" the eggs out by poking a hole in them at both ends with a pushpin. I gently enlarged the hole to make it easier to get the egg out and to rinse thoroughly. Then I colored them, let them dry for a few days and finally piped in the glossy dark chocolate. If you like, you can disguise the holes with stickers, royal icing or anything of your choice. Then sit back and delight in the surprised faces as they crack open the prize from the chicken that laid the chocolate egg!
Chocolate Filled Eggs

Per egg:
1 large white egg
2 ounces chocolate of choice
egg dye
rubber gloves
pushpin
pastry bag fitted with a #5 tip
masking tape
Make a hole with a pushpin at both ends of a large white egg. Gently enlarge it by rotating the pin to make a hole 3/16-1/4 inch round. From the smaller top end, blow the egg contents out through the larger end into a bowl. Rinse the inside out well by running water into it at one end, giving a gentle shake, and letting it run out the other end.

Mix desired egg coloring, and color the eggs your choice of colors.
I tried coloring the eggs before blowing them out and found most of the coloring washed off, so coloring them afterward is best. Since the eggs are hollow, you'll need to hold them under the colored water until the desired color is reached, or keep rotating them to color evenly. Using rubber gloves keeps your fingers from getting colored. Shake out excess colored water and use a cotton swab to absorb any remaining liquid inside the egg. Let dry fully, inside and out; this can take a day or so.After eggs are completely dry, place a small piece of masking tape securely over the bottom hole of egg before filling with melted chocolate. Melt 2 ounces chocolate per egg. Put broken chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a saucepan, boil water and turn off heat. Set bowl of chocolate over hot water, making sure water doesn't touch the bowl. Allow chocolate to melt without having the water boil or simmer, as any moisture that gets into the chocolate will cause it to seize or harden. After melting, cool slightly.Place a pastry bag fitted with a #5 tip into a glass with the bag folded over the edge and the tip bent upwards. This will prevent any leaking and allow you to fill the bag easier. Put tip into the top hole of egg and carefully pipe melted chocolate into the egg until filled. Gently shake a little to get rid of any air holes. Setting the eggs upright, let harden at room temperature for a day. If desired, disguise the holes. They are now ready to serve to any unsuspecting chocoholic!
Written and photographed by Diane.

Download recipe Chocolate Filled Egg (pdf)


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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Danish Ebelskiver Filled Pancakes

Recently I had lunch with my friend Debbie and made a side trip to Williams-Sonoma. That's a dangerous trip for a foodie. It's kind of like being a drunk in a liquor store! Especially since while I was there I got a call from my tax preparer and was feeling flush. I was intrigued by an odd looking pan with circular wells. The label showed filled pancakes that had been made in it. The light and round filled pancakes are Danish Ebelskivers. Wow, the possibilities it presented. I hemmed and hawed and rationalized and finally turned over my plastic to take this home. It had a recipe on the packaging that looked really good. The next morning I thought I'd give it a try even though I didn't have a lot of time. I looked at my watch and then at the recipe and thought, "WWSLD?".......What Would Sandra Lee Do? So I pulled Aunt Jemima out of the cupboard and added buttermilk instead of water, thinking it would give it some lightness. Well, they were good, but not light. Actually they were a little heavy, but some maple syrup cured all ills. The next time I decided to try the recipe on the pan's package. It definitely was better and the lighter way to go. I dropped a giant blackberry into the middle of each one, and served with some powdered sugar and berries. A drizzle of real maple syrup sweetened the deal. They make breakfast or brunch fun as you add whatever fillings suit your taste. They are easier to make than it looks. I envisioned them sticking to the pan or not getting done inside and a few other scenarios. Don't throw in the towel......none of that happened.....give it a try. This recipe makes about 40. That may seem like a lot, but I had no trouble polishing off seven.

Ebelskiver Filled Pancakes
(Adapted from a Williams-Sonoma recipe)

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
4 eggs, separated
2 cups milk (I used buttermilk)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and at room temperature
unsalted butter for buttering the pan

Fillings, such as jam, peanut butter, chocolate ganache, chocolate chips or fruit

Syrup or whipped cream for serving


In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks, then whisk in the milk and the 4 tablespoons of melted butter (cooled to room temperature). Whisk the yolk mixture into the flour mixture until well combined; the batter will be lumpy.

In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff but not dry peaks form, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir the whites into the batter in two additions.

Put 1/4 teaspoon butter in each well of the Filled Pancake Pan. Set over medium heat and heat until the butter begins to bubble. Pour 1 tablespoon of batter into each well.
Put 1 teaspoon of the filling of choice in the center of each pancake and top with 1 more tablespoon batter. Cook until the bottoms are golden brown and crispy; 3 to 5 minutes. Using 2 wooden skewers, flip the pancakes over and cook until golden and crispy, about 3 minutes more. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter and filling. Serve immediately with syrup or whipped cream.Makes about 40.

Written and photographed by Diane.

Download Ebelskiver Filled Pancake recipe (pdf)



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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Girl Scout Cookies All Grown Up In A Thin Mint Cheesecake Parfait

My daughter, lives and teaches in Seoul, South Korea. She loves being there and has bonded with her students and the culture. Six months have passed since her departure, and I'm ready to send her another Care package. Since the shipping half way around the world is fairly dear, I wanted to make sure what I sent was something she really wanted versus a surprise. It is a little like the question of what familiar items you'd take to a deserted island (Seoul is far from a deserted island, but you know what I mean). Well, Girl Scout cookies were at the top of her list! She chose her favorite cookies along with a box of Cheese-its and some other treasures. I guess a girl can only eat so much kimchi and raw fish and count it as comfort food. I gave a call to my neighbor who has two Girl Scout daughters and was lucky enough to get the three boxes I wanted. Three boxes.....do the math at $4 a box plus shipping to Seoul (don't forget the other treats)......what a mother won't do! Inspired by the possibilities of the cookies, I bought an extra box of Thin Mints. In 1-2-3, I turned it into a Thin Mint Cheesecake Parfait that I'll have to make for my daughter when she comes back stateside.

This couldn't be easier to make in 3 steps. No baking involved!
Thin Mint Cheesecake Parfait

18 Thin Mint cookies or Keebler Grasshopper cookies
16 ounces low fat cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 ounce plain powdered gelatine (1 packet)
2 tablespoons hot water
1 cup heavy cream

1. Prepare 6-1cup containers by coarsely breaking 1 cookie into the bottom.
2. Put cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl and using a mixer, whip until light. Add powdered sugar, vanilla and lemon juice and continue beating until mixture is smooth and light. In a small bowl mix gelatine and hot water. Stir until it has fully dissolved and has no lumps. Add this to the cream cheese mixture and beat until incorporated. Add the heavy cream and beat on high until the mixture is light and fluffy.3. Scoop mixture into prepared cups, filling half way. Coarsely break one more cookie on top of mixture and then scoop more filling on top. Refrigerate for about 3 hours. Just before serving, crush one cookie on top, and garnish with a strawberry and fresh mint leaf.

Makes 6-2/3 cup servings.


Written and photographed by Diane.

Download recipe Thin Mint Cheesecake Parfait (pdf)



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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Welcome Spring Salad

Sipping on my cappuccino this morning, I decided I am ready for spring, and the good news is that it is here....on the calendar anyway. Sunny temperate days are starting to become common as they coax the buds from their deep winters sleep. Bicyclers are everywhere, as well as families with baby carriages. The beach has joggers and kids with kites. Before we know it, the roar of lawnmowers will fill the air....(moan).....Instead of craving heavy food, I want light and sunny salads. I made a salad of arugula and basil with grilled chicken, and topped it with a cherry orange vinaigrette. Toss on a few toasted pine nuts and you have Spring on a plate. The garnish of bright orange and star fruit let my mind drift to the warmer climate to come.

Arugula Basil Salad With Chicken and Cherry Orange Vinaigrette

6 ounces arugula, rinsed
1/2 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
1 boneless chicken breast, grilled and sliced into strips
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
For the garnish, you'll need 1/2 orange, sliced and star fruit slices.

Place arugula
and thinly sliced basil in a salad bowl.Divide salad onto four plates and top with the grilled chicken and toasted pine nuts. Arrange star fruit and orange slices along the side of salad. Top with Cherry Orange Vinaigrette salad dressing and serve.
Makes 4 servings.


Cherry Orange Vinaigrette

1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 cup dried cherries
zest of 1/2 orange
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
pinch of sugar to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper to taste
sea salt to taste

Peel the zest from 1/2 orange using a vegetable peeler, avoiding any white pith. Cut the zest into very thin strips and set aside.
Put orange juice and dried cherries in a small saucepan. Gently simmer on medium heat until the orange juice has reduced to 1/8 cup. Add sliced orange zest, sugar, salt and cayenne and then let cool to room temperature. Stir in the vinegar and then whisk in the olive oil to emulsify.
Makes 1/2 cup vinaigrette.


Written and photographed by Diane.

Download Recipe Arugula Basil Salad With Chicken and Cherry Orange Vinaigrette (pdf)

Download Recipe Cherry Orange Vinaigrette (pdf)

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