Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pesto Deviled Eggs Recipe

This morning while I was peering into my refrigerator on a search for pickles to make my regular deviled eggs I got inspired by the container of Buitoni Pesto that was blocking my view to make Pesto Deviled Eggs.  Yes, I know from past experience that no matter how delicious any of my fancy deviled eggs turn out, people still clammer for the traditional ones.  This year, however, I decided to do a combination.  In fact, I recommend that if you ever do attempt to get 'all gourmet' with your deviled eggs by adding creme fresh, pickled beets, or even caviar make sure that you have at least as many normal ones.

Keeping all of this in mind and watching the clock to make sure that my family wasn't going to be late for church, I whipped up a batch of my family's favorite Old Bay Deviled Eggs in addition to a few Pesto Deviled Eggs.  I kept the basic ingredients like mayonnaise, mustard, and pickle juice the same, but then placed a fourth of the mixture into a separate bowl and added a few tablespoons of my prepared pesto to it.

The pesto turned the yolk mixture a pleasant shade of green that contrasted nicely with the whites while at the same time adding a nice tangy flavor to the creamy filling.  At our Easter dinner today, none of the kids chose to brave the Pesto Deviled Eggs ("not in a house, not with a mouse, I will not eat them Sam I am, I will not eat green deviled eggs and ham"), but the adults who tried them seemed pleasantly surprised.

I was thrilled with my Pesto Deviled Eggs! It was nice to be inspired by a random ingredient this morning.  The taste of the basil added a Springy touch to my Easter meal.  I loved the contrast that it brought to my not-green ham, Baked Macaroni and Cheese, Strawberry Pretzel Salad, and grilled asparagus.  Change is good once in a while, even with deviled eggs. Happy Easter!

Pesto Deviled Eggs

(makes 12 deviled eggs)

6 eggs, room temperature

1/4 - 1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
1-2 Tablespoons dill pickle juice

2 Tablespoons Pesto (fresh or prepared, add more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

  1. Place room temperature eggs in a saucepan; add enough cold water to come at least 1 inch above the eggs. Heat water and eggs to rapidly boiling. Turn off heat. Cover saucepan and let stand for 15 minutes. Immediately cool eggs in cold ice water to prevent further cooking.
  2. Peel eggs. Tap egg to crack shell. Roll egg on counter to loosen shell, then peel. Hold egg under running cold water to help ease off shell (add your egg shells to your garden or compost pile).
  3. Cut peeled eggs lengthwise into halves with a sharp knife wiping egg yolk off knife blade as needed. Slip yolks into a bowl. Mash yolks with a fork or a pastry blender. Use a fork to mix in mayonnaise (start with 1/4 cup), mustard, pickle juice (start with 2 Tablespoons), pesto, salt and pepper. Taste mixture for flavor and texture and adjust mayonaise and seasonings to your preference.
  4. Place yolk mixture into a large zip-lock bag. Snip a small part of one bottom corner off of the filled zip-lock.
  5. Arrange egg whites on a large platter or deviled egg plate. Squeeze yolk mixture into each egg white. Sprinkle the top of each egg with a tiny bit of Paprika or Old Bay Seasoning.
  6. Cover and chill eggs for at least one hour. Can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting Recipe

Recipes are a part of my legacy.  Whether I found them in a magazine, copied them from a friend, or inherited them from a relative, my recipes are something that I am passing down to my children.  A few weeks ago when my daughter and her friend set up a fabulous cupcake stand in our front yard during our community yard sale, I was able to offer a kitchen full of baking supplies, lots of dish washing expertise, and my favorite cupcake and frosting recipes.  The girls planned their cupcake selections and wanted to include a moist and yummy yellow cupcake that would appeal to many customers.  I was able to pass onto them my tried-and-true Yellow Cupcake with Chocolate Frosting Recipe.

This vanilla cupcakes starts with a plain yellow cake mix.  The recipe comes from the cookbook The Cake Mix Doctor Returns.  Anne Byrn, the author, calls it Birthday Cake For a Crowd and recommended that it be baked as a sheet cake.  I have found, however, that it works beautifully as cupcakes especially when topped with a decadent chocolate frosting.  The addition of pure vanilla extract and a packet of vanilla instant pudding to the batter heightens the vanilla flavor and adds to the moistness of the cake.  The cupcakes can be baked a day before they are needed and still remain moist.

My favorite icing for these Vanilla Cupcakes is a cooked Chocolate Frosting.  It is both classy and old-fashioned which, when paired with these moist vanilla cupcakes, helps conjure up images of birthday parties and elementary school celebrations.  I am always surprised that these four ingredients (butter, granulated sugar, evaporated milk, and chocolate chips) can produce a frosting that is both fudgey and spreadable.

Once again I have found that the recipes which become part of my cooking legacy are simple and delicious.  These Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting are just that.  Whether they are baked in brightly  colored paper liners and topped with a few colorful sprinkles or they are dressed up with piped frosting and adorned with fondant flowers, these treats are made from a recipe that is worth passing down.

Vanilla Cupcake Recipe
     adapted from The Cake Mix Doctor Returns by Anne Byrn

1 package (18.25 ounces) plain yellow or vanilla cake mix
1 package (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding mix
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 dozen cupcake liners
1 batch Chocolate Frosting (recipe follows)
sprinkles, fondant shapes, or other decorations

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place 2 dozen paper liners in cupcake pan.
  3. Place cake mix, pudding mix, milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until the ingredients are incorporated, 30 seconds.  Stop the machine and scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes longer, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  
  4. Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until muffins are slightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted in the center of one cupcake comes out clean.
  6. Cool cupcakes on a wire rack in pan for 15 minutes.  Remove from pan and sit on wire rack until completely cooled.  Frost.

Chocolate Frosting

1 stick butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 can (5 ounce) evaporated milk
1 package (12 ounce) semisweet chocolate chips

  1. Place butter, granulated, and evaporated milk in a heavy bottomed sauce pan.
  2. Bring to a full boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly.  Boil while stirring for 4 to 6 minutes.
  3. Remove pan from heat.  Add chocolate chips.  Cool (about 30 minutes).
  4. Whip with an electric mixer.  If frosting is too thick whip in milk, one tablespoon at a time, until frosting reaches spreadable consistency
  5. Use to frost 2 dozen cupcakes.
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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Stir-Fried Turkey in Lettuce Wraps

In my quest for new healthy and tasty foods to prepare for my family, I am turning less to my beloved recipe box and my cherished community cookbook collection and instead I am looking more toward  glossy hardcover books that I tentatively check out from the library, professional blogs, and modern magazines that impress me with their slick photos and exotic ingredient lists.  I am pausing at recipes that I would have formerly passed by on the basis of that little voice in my mind that would sling negative comments such as "too lettucey", "too labor intensive for a weeknight,"  or the all inclusive excuse "nobody's going to eat that."

Silencing those negative comments in my head and opening my mind to new foods and cooking techniques has allowed me to discover some scrumptious and healthy dishes.  Yes, sometimes my children say, "Thanks for trying new things, Mom, but can I have a bowl of cereal now?", but other times I find a winner.

I recently found a winner when I attempted Stir-Fried Turkey in Lettuce Wraps for a week night dinner.  Four out of six of us loved it, and that's enough for me to add it to my file of potential suppers.  The recipe comes from Martha Stewart's magazine Everyday Food, January/February 2010.  I am a charter subscriber to Everyday Food and have gathered lots of delicious recipes from it.  Last year, however, when I received "The Light Issue" of Everyday Food, I dismissed these wraps because once my husband and I had the unpleasant experience of being served gritty lettuce wraps at a restaurant. It is definitely time for us to let that go.  

This year when I revisited my "light issue" of Everyday Food, I paused at page 92 and marked Stir-Fried Turkey in Lettuce Wraps with a post-it flag.  I decided to cook this for my family and the only ingredient that I had to hunt down in my grocery store was fish sauce.  All the others were things that I already had in my pantry or could easily find in my favorite grocery store, HEB.

It turns out that Stir-Fried Turkey in Lettuce Wraps is tasty and healthy.  I can easily prepare it on a weeknight and the majority of my family is thrilled to see it on our monthly menu plan.  In addition to large grit-free lettuce leaves, I also offer warm crusty rolls in which to enjoy the stir-fried turkey.  One serving (without the bread) only has 246 calories and includes over 25 grams of protein.  The shredded carrots add crunch and color and my younger children think its fancy to squeeze fresh lime wedges over their sandwich.  I package any leftovers we have in containers for a much anticipated lunch.  It is exciting to find a new recipe that is good for us and delicious too.  I will continue on my quest for more recipes like Stir-Fried Turkey in Lettuce Wraps.

Stir-Fried Turkey in Lettuce Wraps
     from Everyday Food January/February 2010

1/4 cup soy sauce
4 teaspoons fish sauce
4 teaspoons sugar
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic clove, minced
1 small jalapeƱo or Serrano chili, seeded and finely chopped
1 pound ground turkey (93% lean)
2 large heads Bibb, Boston, or iceberg lettuce, leaves separated, washed, and dried
shredded carrots
thinly sliced carrots
lime wedges
optional:  warm crusty rolls or baguette
  1. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, fish sauce, and sugar and stir until sugar dissolves.  Set sauce aside.
  2. Heat a large skillet or wok over hight until hot.  Add oil and swirl to coat.  Add shallot, ginger, garlic, and chile and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add turkey and cook, breaking up meat with a woooden spoon, until almost cooked through, 5 minutes.  
  4. Add half the sauce to skillet and stir until meat is cooked through, about 2 minutes.
  5. Serve in lettuce leaves or rolls with carrots, scallions, lime wedges, and remaining sauce.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cupcake Stand

I just had one of those stand-back-and-admire-your-kid moments.  Today my daughter and her friend set up a cupcake boutique, "Cutie Pie Cupcakes", during our community yard sale.  My slightly biased opinion is that it was FABULOUS!

It all started a few weeks ago when someone asked my 14 year old daughter what she wants to be when she grows up.  She answered, with all seriousness, "I want to open a cupcake shop." Although I know she has a natural gift for marketing, can be seriously persuasive, and loves to bake, until that moment I had no idea that she aspired to own and operate her own cupcake bakery.  I'm sure our slight obsession with the shows Ace of Cakes, DC Cupcakes, and Cupcake Wars might have a bit to do with her current desire for her future. 

Attempting to encourage my daughter's dream no matter how many times it might change in the future, I suggested that she and her friend, who is also a talented baker and a cake decorator, set up cupcake stand on the day of our community yard sale.  Now just as shocking as the fact that these two girls actually pulled off an amazing and successful cupcake business in our front yard on a muggy Saturday morning, is the fact that my teenager said to me, "Mom, thanks for telling us about selling cupcakes at the community yard sale.  That was a great idea."  Seriously?  I'll take that!

Resisting all most urges to control my daughter as she planned this event, I purchased the supplies that she requested, relinquished my kitchen, and shared my favorite recipes.  Other than that I kept my mouth shut even when my daughter and her new business partner spent thee hours bedazzling the money box and over an hour decorating the table before nary a crumb of cupcake had been baked.  As I'm learning is often the case, teenagers work best when following their own agenda. 

Most impressive to me about this cupcake endeavor were the details.  The girls decorated water bottles with zebra print duct tape, bedazzled their money box, and decorated the table with a zebra striped tablecloth and hot pink boa. In addition they baked three batches of cupcakes (Red Velvet, Very Vanilla, and Chocolate Fudge), whipped up three batches of frosting (Cream Cheese Frosting tinted light pink, Vanilla Buttercream colored chartreuse, and Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate icing), and hand cut three types of fondant details (Easter eggs, pink daises, and zebra striped hearts).  They even hired the ever lurking little brothers to carry things out from the kitchen and drag down the hot pink chairs from the bedroom.  When all was set up and the customers began to arrive my daughter and her friend were kind and courteous using their best manners to serve every one of them.  It was beautiful, really beautiful!   

Now I realize that not all parenting moments are this satisfying, but, for now, I'm going to focus on this day which was as sweet as a cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
          recipe from Betty Crocker's Cookbook 

1 package cream cheese (8 ounces), softened
1 Tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
  1. Beat cream cheese, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl on low speed until smooth.
  2. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until smooth and frosting is a spreadable consistency.
  3. Use to frost 24 cupcakes, one 9x13 sheet cake, or one two layer cake.