Sunday, August 31, 2008

Where's the Eclair?

I have no eclair to post today. I got the chocolate sauce done. But then I had a small meltdown because I was out of butter. OK, maybe it wasn't small. It wasn't really about butter. Although that's incredibly rare that I'm out of butter. I'm just doing too much this month. Don't worry, Super G talked me out of it. And her eclairs look beautiful. I should be back to normal for next month's Daring Baker Challenge. Please go look at all of their eclairs. I know I will.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Party Beans!

Seriously, that's the name of this recipe. This morning when I woke up I suddenly remembered it is Legume Wednesday. Caught off guard again. To explain, school started this week and I'm a little overwhelmed. The other donut girl took a vacation, so I worked a ton of hours this weekend. And the Brain is hurt and I'm a little preoccupied with that. So when I woke up this morning it became clear that I have been neglecting my blog. (Sorry!) And that I needed to find a legume recipe.

Maybe I'm fickle, but I really didn't feel like digging in any of my usual cookbooks to find this weeks legume recipe. I thought about making something legumey out of my favorite Indian cookbook. Something in a Dal maybe. But then I realized that whatever I made for dinner had to be eaten by me after class, and by the Brain when he got home from work. That's a 3 hour time difference. So I needed something that reheated well.

Fortunately for everyone, my mom at one point in time used to go to St. Columban Catholic Church in Birmingham, Michigan. She has since gone back to the parish I was raised in, but for a brief time she went there and really liked it. What does this have to do with anything? Well, in the brief time she went to this church, they put out a cookbook. And my mom bought and gave me a copy. SO in this cookbook is this recipe for Party Beans. Down here in Ohio, these beans are also called Calico Beans, but I've never had a recipe for them and have only eaten them at pot lucks. I have a feeling, and I would love it if you lovely readers would check and leave a comment, that these beans are like Pretzel Salad, it's a recipe that's in every church / fundraising cookbook.

So I took this recipe for Party Beans and I adjusted it a bunch. Most importantly, I substituted pork sausage for ground beef. A large portion of the pig in my freezer, we'll call him Chester, is in sausage form. I also like this recipe because I can put some of the bacon from Chester in it too. Then I altered the recipe some more because I just didn't feel like going to the store to get a can of pork and beans (which I think are fairly gross anyway) or Lima beans. I decided to just go with a variety of beans I have in the pantry. And finally, I'm no dummy. I recognized an opportunity to zing things up a bit and I used a fair amount of Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce. Yummy. So yeah making this meal cost me no additional dollars. It was made completely out of things I already had in the house. It's made in the slow cooker so it was nice and warm for the Brain and it reheated great. And it tasted good. That's a winner on every level!

Party Beans
loosely based on a recipe submitted by Pat Costigan to the St. Columban Catholic Church Cookbook (sometime around maybe 1994)

1 pound pork sausage
1/2 pound bacon, cut into small pieces
1 medium onion, diced
1 (15oz.) can black beans with liquid
1 (15oz.) can garbanzo beans with liquid
1 (15oz.) can kidney beans with liquid
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 tablespoons ketchup

Brown bacon, onion, and sausage; drain. Place in a crock pot with all the remaining ingredients. Cook on LOW setting for 5 to 6 hours.

"Makes a nice supper served with hot bread and fruit. Great for working mothers."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Life in the Country

When I agreed to move to Nowhere, Ohio, I knew things would be different. I had lived in big cities (or the suburbs of big cities) all of my life. The smallest town I'd ever lived in was Ann Arbor, Michigan and that can hardly be called a small town. I have to admit, if I didn't love my husband and agree with his reasoning, I would have never ended up here. But let me tell you, small town life has some serious advantages.
For example, I have a garden here. This year I planted seven tomato plants and I now have probably 10 more "volunteer" tomato plants. I've rediscovered my love of beets and turnips as well as the simple joy of taking a plot of land and through a little work (very little on my part this year, but I have an amazing husband) be able to produce food. Like where there was dirt in the spring, there are now zucchinis and cabbages and onions and chili peppers. I'm also able to have fresh herbs any time I want them because I'm not restricted to growing them in pots on a window sill.

And then there's the county fair.

Growing up I thought that county fairs didn't really exist anymore. I mean they were the stuff of Judy Garland movies. Or Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Let me tell you people, county fairs not only exist, but they are a whole new world for out of place city girls like me. I love going to the fair. And not just because of the "fair food". In case you were wondering, batter dipped, deep fried cheese on a stick is a very bad idea that took me a week to digest. So what do I love about the fair if it's not the food?

It's the animals. There are cages and cages of chickens.

I love this one that looks like it's wearing a fancy hat. It reminds me of Cloris Leachman. She's hilarious! (And it's rumored she's going to be on Dancing With the Stars! Yippee!)

And prior to this year, I'd never touched a cow. Really people, when would I come close to a cow living in the Metro Detroit Area. Or Chicago? It's not like they take the El. So this beautiful bovine head was sticking out of the dairy barn and I walked right up to it and patted it's nose. I should also mention that after living in Kansas City and discovering that cows are roughly the size of Buicks that I'd been hesitant to come up to anything that big and that dumb. And I know they kick, but do cows ever bite? I have so many farm questions. Eventually we decided to go into the dairy barn and see all the enormous cows. I wish I'd taken a photo because that apparently wasn't a cow, but a bull for sale. Another myth shattered. In my head bulls are black. And have nose rings. And snort a lot. And are fairly dangerous. They're men for crying out loud. Think raging testosterone. I didn't think bulls had pretty eyelashes and look like something you want to pat and say "How Now Brown Cow!" to.

Which brings me, finally, to the main meat (hee hee) of this blog. So what was I cleaning out the freezer for? The Grand Champion Market Barrow Hog! Woot! Yep that's my hog. The one with the spots.
It's currently taking up 2/3 of our brand spanking new chest freezer. And we still don't have the feet, or the bacon, or the sausage links, or the 30 pound ham the Brain tells me we're getting. What the hell am I going to do with a 30 pound ham? Could I refreeze that? I supposed I could have some holiday meal here, except I don't think I could fit the number of people it would require to eat a 30 pound ham in our cozy little house. I wonder if I could bring it to a pot luck. Maybe I'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

But wait! There's more! Sometime this week, I think tomorrow actually, we're getting this here lamb. Yay! I will no longer have to travel to Michigan to get ground lamb! And all those delicious cuts of lamb that I hesitate to buy because they are so expensive will be sitting happily in my freezer. I have decided this must be the best way to buy lamb.

I'm not sure how exactly these county fair livestock auctions work, but it's something like this; some little kid's parents buy a baby livestock, then this little kid is in charge of feeding and taking care of the livestock. It's some program called 4-H which I think is like the farming version of scouting that also allows both boys and girls to participate. I'm fairly clueless on that one. So over the course of the year these kids take care of the livestock and help the livestock be the best it can be. The Brain had sheep and he told me you have to walk around with it on a leash enough times so that the sheep will follow you wherever you go. Then you have to be able to pose the sheep so it's showing off it's muscles the best. The Brain also had cows, but they ran away. (Cows on the lamb! How silly.) Eventually, the kids take these livestock to the fair and they get judged on how good the animals are.

Then they take these livestock to this auction. The auction is fun. They make the poor little kid stand in front of a fairly large group of people. Mostly a crowd of parents and local business owners. The parents have by this time sent out emails to all their acquaintances saying "buy our livestock! Little Joey has a goat in this year's auction!" And of course there's photos of little Joey with his goat. So people bid like crazy in this auction so little Joey feels good about raising his goat well. Meanwhile little Joey is standing up there looking like he's going to wet his pants. I really wish I had a photo of the auction. The little kids were hilarious. There are kids who are smiling ear to ear. There are kids who look like deer in headlights. There are some really scared kids. And then there are the older kids who try to stand there and look cool. Once a person, or more likely a business (if you win the grand champion, you get your photo in the paper and it's good advertising), wins the auction, that's apparently the premium price. Then the person or business has the option of buying the livestock at the predetermined market price or they can say no we don't want a freezer full of pig and they send it off to market. It's a really neat process. And why I don't need to buy meat for the rest of the year. Yahoo for small town living!

And the winners of my prize giveaway are Mrs. White and Amanda! Email me your addresses at marylonz at

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Red Beans and Rice

It's Legume Wednesday! Believe it or not, I really look forward to my weekly legume meal. The majority of Legume Wednesdays have been vegetarian or easily adaptable to vegetarian (use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth sort of thing), but this week there's meat in it. In continuing to clear space in the freezer, I found a package of frozen ham shanks. And still no one has guessed correctly why I'm clearing space out. One guess per comment please. And there will be a cool prize. I promise.

So not knowing what to do with ham shanks, except knowing vaguely that they can be used to flavor beans, I turned to The Joy of Cooking. Whoooey I'm glad I did! In leafing through the vegetable section I came across a recipe for Red Beans and Rice. Red Beans and Rice, or my bastardized version of it got me through that poor decade of college. Of course back then Red Beans and Rice meant some cooked rice mixed with salsa and a can of kidney beans. It was fairly tasty and fairly cheap. I wish I knew then what I know now.

These Red Beans and Rice would have easily lasted me a week. The ingredients (minus the cost of the spices) come to a little less than $11. It's definitely a tasty meal and not some of the college "cheap" food that needed to be choked down (ahem, yes, I mean Ramen noodles). It's chock full of proteins and carbohydrates. And it's a stick to your ribs kind of meal that's perfect before a night of hitting the bars. Please, that's definitely a requirement for college food. I spent a decade in college. I'm pretty much an expert here.

Besides all that, these beans are really really good. They make a simple yet hearty meal. I'm sure the Brain and I will gobble up the leftovers. The Brain lived for a little bit in New Orleans and I'm hoping these beans bring back some happy memories for him. He's been a little swamped at work and I'm hoping these humble, yet delicious beans cheer him up.

Red Beans and Rice

1 pound dried light red kidney beans
8 cups water
2 pounds smoked ham shanks
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1 cup finely chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, crushed through garlic press
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
1 pound smoked sausage cut into 1/2 inch slices
cooked white rice

Soak the beans overnight.
Bring the water, ham, celery, onion, green pepper, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, black pepper, and red pepper to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Remove the ham shanks and let them cool.

Drain the beans and add them to the pot. Return the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat and continue simmering until the beans are tender, about 1 hour. Add water if necessary to keep beans covered.

Remove the meat from the ham shanks and add it to the pot with the smoked sausage. Bring to a boil to warm the meat through. Serve over rice.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Jerked Chicken Drumsticks

I have a small confession to make. I've never had real Jamaican Jerk. My wonderful sister Super G has. She's even had curried goat. Or at least she knows where to get it. If I wanted to try curried goat I'd be out of luck. Well unless I felt like hopping a fence and butchering one of Dad L's goats. But I think they're pretty old (the goats, not my in-laws) and the urge has really never struck.

So why did I make Jerked Chicken Drumsticks? Well for 2 reasons. One is very exciting and is getting here tomorrow night and requires a large amount of freezer space. (The first person who leaves a comment correctly guessing what is coming will receives a prize! And no you can't win if you are family.) The other is that I have had this bag of drumsticks sitting in the freezer for a while now and they needed to be eaten. So because I'm pretty lazy lately, I pulled out my frozen drumsticks and my Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Two and threw this dish together. And I let it cook. For a long long time while I went to physical therapy (and I've finally graduated from physical therapy yay!) and then I went to the doctor's office (we can all exhale- it's definitely just a sprain!) and then I came home and took a nap.

Apparently when you throw frozen drumsticks into the slow cooker it takes a bit longer than the 6 or 7 hours the recipe says it will take. So I rummaged around in the freezer and found an already cooked pork tenderloin and we ate that instead. Then I went grocery shopping and watched some Olympics. Then the Brain went to bed because he had had a long day. Then I remembered that the slow cooker was still on. Ooops. The drumsticks then became lunch for today. Over cooking them on low in the slow cooker made them super tender. They were falling off the bone. The peppers were super sweet and tasty. And overall it had such a delicious sweet taste that finished with some heat. I think I will have to figure out how to get some real Jerk food. That may require some travel. For now the goats remain safe.

Jerked Chicken Drumsticks

1 Jalapeno chile stemmed and cut in half
6 green onions ends trimmed and cut in pieces
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rum
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp Caribbean Jerk Seasoning
3/4 tsp salt
4 chicken drumsticks
1 medium sized orange pepper sliced thin

Place the chile, green onions, vinegar, brown sugar, oil, soy sauce, rum, lime juice, jerk seasoning, and salt in a food processor; puree until smooth.

Spray the inside of the crock with nonstick cooking spray. Place the drumsticks in the slow cooker. Pour the jalapeno mixture over chicken and try to make sure all the drumsticks are covered. Lay the bell pepper strips on top. Cover and cook on low until the chicken reaches a temperature of 180 degrees. This could be 6 to 7 hours or many more. Serve hot.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Le Glorieux

Yesterday would have been the 96th birthday of Julia Child. To celebrate I made a cake from her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 2, called Le Glorieux. Its a light and delicious chocolate cake flavored with a hint of orange. The filling is a decadent chocolate orange ganache. I then frosted the whole thing with an Italian Buttercream. It was super delicious. I served it on Super G's birthday because Super G is also great cook and is over 6 foot tall. The cake wasn't very hard although I did feel like I was doing a rogue Daring Bakers exercise.

So if I prepared ahead, and made this fabulous cake, why didn't I post yesterday in honor of Julia's birthday? Well, see, the Brain and I decided to go for my first bike ride post Wilma. And because I'm me. Something similar to this happened.
How? I have clipless pedals. That means my special bike shoes snap in to these little knobs instead of pedals. SO in order to stop I have to unhook a foot to be able to set it down. This only gets to be a problem if you unhook you right foot, for example, and lean left. That left foot would still be hooked to the bike and over you go. This in itself isn't too bad, although it's how I sprained my wrist. It gets a little more fun if your husband happens to be following along behind you when you go over.

The Brain is a terrific husband because although he wasn't going fast enough to swerve around me, and wasn't going slow enough to stop, he ran me over in the least damaging way possible. He's terrific because he managed to miss me with the wheel, so there's no tire tracks on my head. And he managed to get his foot up so he didn't literally kick me when I was down. Unfortunately his pedal whacked me smack in the back and I now have a strained dorsal (that's what the ER discharge papers say). I also have a nice pedal imprint going on.

I think that's a good reason for not posting. This cake is delicious. Please make and enjoy. And don't worry, we're putting my racing bike, with the clipless pedals and aerodynamic posture, away for a while. I will now try to ride, without further injury, the Brain's hybrid bike. It's like trading in a Ferarri for a family sedan.
Oh yeah, and I'm submitting this as my entry to the Layers of Cake Event over at Quirky Cupcake.

Le Glorieux
verbatim from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 2

1) Preliminaries:
7 ounces semisweet baking chocolate
2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
1/4 cup orange liqueur
The grated rind of 1 orange
2 four cup cake pans (such as round ones 8 by 1 1/2 inches), bottom lined with waxed paper, pans buttered and floured
2 sticks butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in middle level. Break up chocolate and melt with orange liqueur and orange rind over hot water; it must be perfectly smooth and creamy. Cut the butter into 1/4-inch slices and beat piece by piece into the chocolate, again making sure mixture is perfectly smooth and creamy. (A hand-held electric mixer is useful here.) If consistency is too liquid- it should be like a heavy mayonnaise- beat over iced water. Set aside.

2) The cake batter

5 "large" eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
An electric mixer and 3- to 4- quart bowl (be sure mixer blades and bowl are clean and dry)
1 cup (4 ounces) cornstarch measured by scooping dry-measure cup into starch and leveling off
A sieve or sifter set over waxed paper
The chocolate-butter mixture
A rubber spatula
Beat the eggs and sugar for a moment at low speed to blend, then increase speed to high, add vanilla, and beat several minutes (7 to 8 with a hand-held machine) until mixture is pale, fluffy, doubled in volume, and holds soft peaks.

Just as you are ready to blend the various batter elements together, sift the cornstarch onto the paper, check on the chocolate-butter to be sure it is a smooth, thick cream, and give the eggs and sugar a few turns of the beater if they have lost their body.

At slow mixing speed, gradually sprinkle the cornstarch into the egg mixture, taking 15 to 20 seconds to incorporate it but not trying for a perfect blend; you must not deflate the beaten eggs. Remove bowl from stand, if you have that kind of mixer. Fold a large gob of egg mixture into chocolate-butter to lighten it. Then, a large gob at a time, start folding chocolate-butter into eggs, rapidly cutting down through batter and out to side with rubber spatula, rotating bowl, and repeating movement 2 or 3 times. When almost incorporated, add another gob, and continue until all is used. Immediately turn the batter into the prepared pans. Rapidly push batter up sides of pans all around and bang lightly on table to deflate possible bubbles. Pans should be about 2/3 filled. Place at once in middle level of preheated oven, leaving at least 2 inches of space between pans as well as walls and door of oven.

3) Baking, filling, and frosting

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cakes should remain slightly moist, in the French manner, and are done when a skewer or toothpick plunged into center comes out looking oily, with a few speckles of chocolate clinging to it. Cake will usually rise 1/4 to 1/2 inch above rim of pans. Cool for 10 minutes. Top of cakes will crack and flake slightly, which is normal. Make the following filling while cakes are cooling.

the chocolate filling:

3 ounces semisweet baking chocolate
1/2 ounce unsweetened baking chocolate
3 Tbsp orange liqueur
4 to 5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch slices

Melt the chocolate in the liqueur over hot water. When perfectly smooth and creamy, beat in the butter piece by piece. If mixture is too soft for easy spreading, beat over iced water until the consistency of mayonnaise.

filling the cake:

A cake rack
A cookie sheet

When cakes have cooled for 10 minutes, ran a knife around edge of one to loosen it from the pan and unmold onto cake rack. Peel off waxed paper.

Spread top with filling. Immediately unmold second cake onto one end of cookie sheet. Line up cake on sheet exactly with cake on rack, then slide the one upon the other. Peel paper off top of second cake. If sides are uneven, trim with a knife.

(*) AHEAD-OF-TIME NOTE: If not to be iced or served immediately, cover airtight as soon as cake is cool or it will dry out. Cake may be frozen at this point; thaw for several hours at room temperature.

4) Frosting and serving

WHIPPED CREAM. To serve the cake as a dessert or with tea, spread lightly whipped cream, sweetened and flavored with vanilla or orange liqueur, around and over the cake. Decor ate with shaved or grated chocolate.

MERINGUE ICING. Or use the plain Italian meringue (hot sugar syrup whipped into stiffly beaten egg whites, Volume 2, page 426) or the meringue butter cream in Volume 2, on page 489. (I'll be posting this next time.)

CHOCOLATE ICING. Or while the cake is still warm, spread on the same chocolate and butter mixture that you used for the filling, or use one of the chocolate butter creams listed in Volume 1, pages 680-4.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Chickpea Salad with Parsley, Lemon and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

OK, so Legume Wednesday is happening on Thursday this week. I have a good excuse for being late though. I got two days off and realized that if I didn't zip up to Michigan to visit some friends and family, then I wouldn't get to see them until after the school semester ended. I'll be in school Monday through Friday and I rarely get a weekend off from frying donuts.

I figure that you don't want to hear about the 6 loaves of bread I brought back from Zingerman's, or how much fun I had sampling cheeses at Morgan and York. How the Queen Geek and I hung out together, or how delicious lunch at Sweet Lorraine's was with my best friend T and her son. And really, did you want a play by play of my stay at my mom's house? I've seen their new vegetable garden they're putting in next year and it looks pretty big. And their cats are crazy as always.

But I'm totally off subject. Let me tell you about tonight's legume dish, Chickpea Salad with Parsley, Lemon, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. I have to admit, when I woke up today it was with a little bit of dread because I had no idea what I was going to post on today. The day started to wear on and my mind kept running because I just was drawing a complete blank on bean dishes. Finally, I sat down with my Bon Appetit cookbook. I knew I wanted a salad. I knew it couldn't involve dried beans because it was already noon. And I wanted something different and tasty. Yowza did I get it! This chickpea salad has the strong sun-dried tomato flavor balanced by some pungent cumin oil and mellowed by the coolness of the cucumber and zing of the lemon juice. It's served at room temperature and with no mayonnaise it would be perfect for a barbecue or a picnic. I think this salad makes a lovely lunch all by itself.

Chickpea Salad with Parsley, Lemon, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
2 15oz. cans garbanzo beans rinsed and drained
1 cucumber, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed in a garlic press
1/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper

Combine oil and cumin seeds in heavy small saucepan. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes to blend flavors, stirring occasionally. Cool completely.

Combine remaining ingredients in large bowl. Add cumin oil and toss to blend. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Happy Birthday Super G!

29 years ago today I came downstairs in my pajamas for breakfast only to find my Uncle Tom sitting there in the family room. Mom and Dad were no where to be found. That's because Mom went into labor in the early morning and lo and behold produced my sister Super G. And thus began a great big sister, little sister relationship. Super G is brilliant, like seriously a genius and as a kid I may have convinced her all sorts of horrible things just to mess with her. But now I cherish our relationship. We talk almost every day and we laugh, we cry, we fume, and we bake together. I'm really happy that she came into my life.

And she came over for dinner yesterday. See Her and her husband, the Tummy, had to return her stepson, Medium Dude, to his mother in Michigan. So they stopped here and spent the night. Which provided an excellent opportunity for us to celebrate her birthday.

Special occasions call for lamb chops. Medium Dude, who I've heard is a selective eater, even tried one and liked it. This is my favorite lamb chop recipe. It's from the Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook. This cookbook has a surprising number of tasty recipes that just happen to be a little healthier than might otherwise be if they were to be found in some of those other cookbooks. And these Lamb Chops with Yogurt-Mint Sauce are not only healthy, but they're quick too. And I used a cucumber from my garden too.

I did alter this a teensy bit from the original recipe so I am not going to include the points value. Mostly the thing I changed is that the original recipe calls for 4 (5oz) bone in lamb chops, but I prefer the smaller ones. I think they're more tender.

Lamb Chops with Yogurt-Mint Sauce

8 (3oz) bone in loin lamb chops, about 1 inch thick
3/4 cup plain fat free yogurt
1/2 cucumber, seeded and chopped roughly
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
3 scallions sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

Remove the lamb chops from the refrigerator about 1 hour before cooking. Preheat the broiler.

In a blender or food processor, combine the yogurt, cucumber, mint, scallions, and garlic and puree. Season with the crushed red pepper and 1/4 tsp of salt. Let stand at room temperature for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

Meanwhile, season the lamb with the remaining 1/4 tsp salt and the black pepper. Place on the broiler rack and broil 3-4 inches from the heat until done to taste, about 5 minutes per side for medium rare. Serve topped with the cucumber mint sauce.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Spicy Spice Cupcakes

Yes. It's time for Cupcake Hero again. Laurie over at Quirky Cupcake is still taking a break from hosting the Hero, so this month's guest hostesses are Rachel of Tangerine Tart and Teri of the 90/10 rule. And oh boy, they did pick a challenging theme. Jalapeno. Yes. Those green hot peppers.

Actually, this Cupcake Hero was a learning experience for me. It turns out that all along I'd been using Serrano peppers instead of jalapeno peppers when cooking. I just didn't know the difference. Now I know that Serrano peppers are skinnier and hotter and jalapeno peppers are fatter and still pretty hot.

This Cupcake Hero was hard because I kept coming up with different sweet tastes that go well with jalapenos, but couldn't come up with how to put them into a cupcake and make it taste great. I finally started thinking about Indian food and how some sweet curries have raisins and cinnamon along with the curry powder. That's when it occurred to me that a spice cake may be the way to go. And frankly I just love molasses.

I also decided to mince the jalapenos so that they're tiny little morsels in the finished cupcake. I felt sort of like I was being an Iron Chef at this point because I felt like I wanted to keep the integrity of the jalapenos rather than hide them as a single hot (spicy) element in the cupcake. I really think the jalapeno flavor comes out here. I seeded mine and cut out the ribs, but I think they'd be even better if the ribs were left in, but they were still seeded. Oh and the creamy frosting with it's twangs of buttermilk and molasses is the perfect complement to the Spicy Spice Cupcakes, but if it's too creamy for you add some more powdered sugar or chill it to thicken.

Spicy Spice Cupcakes
an original Shazam recipe

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup pumpkin butter
3/4 cup applesauce
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup olive oil
3 large eggs
2 Tbsp unsulfured molasses
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dark raisins
1 jalapeno pepper finely minced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine pumpkin butter, applesauce, buttermilk, olive oil, eggs, molasses, raisins, and jalapeno. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Divide batter among muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes or until tops bounce back when gently pressed.

8 oz cream cheese
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp unsulfured molasses
1 Tbsp buttermilk

Blend cream cheese and butter together. Add powdered sugar, molasses and buttermilk. Whip until fluffy.

to assemble:
Once cupcakes have cooled completely, frost with frosting and keep in a cool, dry place.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Black Bean, Corn and Cabbage Salad

I know you were probably shocked last Wednesday that I had posted about a cake. Well, okay, you probably weren't shocked when you realized that 70 billion other people posted very similar versions of the same cake. It was Daring Baker Day and thus Legume Wednesday was on hiatus. But never fear, Legume Wednesday is still going strong. I haven't managed to tire of legumes yet and I'm still finding interesting recipes to post about.
Tonight's recipe is for a common summer salad of corn and black beans. I've been making and eating this salad for years. And when I saw that Grace over at A Southern Grace was having a Beat the Heat Event (deadline is the 9th so you still have a little bit of time), I knew it was time to post this lovely and delicious salad. Mine does have a little twist in that there's some shredded red cabbage in it. I find it soaks up the lime juice nicely and provides some good crunch. The red cabbage twist actually was inspired by this recipe over at Eating Well.

This salad is high in fiber and potassium and it's fairly calorie dense, so it's really good for you. It's also slightly addictive, so you may want to go into another room and do something else while you're waiting for the flavors to blend. Like grill a pork chop or something. Although that shouldn't take an hour.

Black Bean, Corn, and Cabbage Salad
inspired by Eating Well

2 cups frozen corn kernels
2 (15oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups shredded red cabbage
1 cup diced tomatoes
3 large scallions sliced
Juice of 2 limes
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Let stand for 1 hour so that corn thaws and flavors meld. Serve cold.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Triple Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I'm sure I'm not alone on this, but I have a glut of zucchini going on. For example, before I went on vacation I had 9, yes nine, zucchini to do something with. I couldn't bear the thought of leaving them and having them go bad. I made some zucchini bread that was a combination of my mom's and my stepmother's recipes. I grated a bunch and put them in 2 cup packages in the freezer. I grilled and sauteed a bunch. And I made cake. Yep, when life hands you zucchini, make cake.

The zucchini really isn't noticeable in this cake. It's dark. It's rich. It's chocolaty. It doesn't scream, "Eat me! I'm a healthy vegetable!" Oh but they're in there. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of the inside because I took it on family vacation and simply forgot. I did have three pieces and numerous opportunities, but by the time I remembered, the cake had gone moldy. Take this lesson away with you. Zucchini cake left on the counter and not eaten will go moldy. In about 5 days. The irony here is that after my third piece, I decided that I better slow down so that other people could have some when they wanted it.

Triple Chocolate Zucchini Cake

2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cups dark chocolate cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups lightly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup coffee
3 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter and flour a 10 inch fluted bundt pan.

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon into a medium bowl.

Beat together the brown sugar and butter. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the melted chocolate and vanilla. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the coffee, and beat until smooth. Fold in the zucchini. Fold in the chocolate chips. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Cool the entire cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Invert the cake, remove the pan, and let cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar right before serving.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Lady Wasn't There

In case you were wondering where I've been.... Yes, I've been on the annual family vacation in Hilton Head, South Carolina. With all of my in-laws. In one house. Yep. That's 11 children, and 10 adults. Before you break into a cold sweat. It's a very lovely, very BIG house. And the children are all great kids. It's a nice chance every year for the Brain to spend time with his brothers and sisters and their spouses and for everyone to take a little time out of otherwise very busy lives. But we're back now. And it was back to frying donuts this morning.

Besides being relaxing, there were some exciting points to the trip too. We got to stop in Columbia, South Carolina and spend some time with the Brain's aunt and uncle who are really great people. We stopped by on the way back because we had such a good time on the way down. We also got to meet two of the Brain's cousins and their families, that I've never met before. It really was a fun time. We also got to spend a week with my newest little nephew. He's such a cutie!
The other exciting thing the Brain and I did was to spend the day in Savannah. We took a "trolley" bus tour which was hugely informative and a lot of fun. We saw beautiful old houses and landmarks like the home of Juliet Gordon Lowe (founder of the Girl Scouts). And we went to see Savannah's great lady. You know who I'm talking about. I'm talking about Paula Deen. The woman who I watch and drool over. The woman who's cookbook I so desperately want to buy, but I don't because I would be hippo sized if I ate food like that. Her food is for naturally bone thin people who have a light speed metabolism, and my metabolism is more like molasses in January. I may never cook her food, but I figured just once I could go eat at her restaurant.

Oh Lordy it was good. It was SPECTACULAR. I had these lovely fried green tomatoes. Yes, the food of the South. It was an appetizer. The Brain had ordered the buffet and went to wait in line behind about 100 people and I really had to restrain myself when these deliciously tart tomatoes arrived. I had to sit on my hands after tasting the spicy red pepper sauce and Vidalia Onion relish. Otherwise, by the time the Brain finally returned from the buffet, there would be none left. I did manage to be fairly dainty and not lick the plate when I finished.

I also have to say Paula makes it glaringly obvious that I can't make a biscuit. Well, I make biscuits like a Yankee of German/Irish descent. Hard little white lumps. Paula's biscuits were crispy almost on the outside and yet so fluffy and steaming on the inside. Unbelievable. I wonder how many sticks of butter there were in there.

For lunch I indulged in the pulled pork sandwich. When I lived in Kansas, I would drive past a barbecue joint every single morning. You have no idea how enticing the smell of pork in the morning can be. When I moved to Kansas I had no real idea what barbecue even was. But after living in Kansas, I craved pulled pork. Just so you know there is no real pulled pork in Ann Arbor or Indianapolis. But there was in Savannah. Of course, I knew that South Carolina barbecue was different than Kansas City barbecue. Fortunately I discovered, thanks to Paula Deen, that I like them both. My pulled pork sandwich was so delicious that although I was way full, I ate it all. I licked my fingers. My pulled pork cravings have been satisfied for the next couple of months.

Paula and the boys weren't there, and I don't think I was the only person who was asking for her. After eating there, don't be surprised if I try to cook Southern food. But I'll probably try to do it without a stick of butter, some bread crumbs, and mayonnaise.