Saturday, August 25, 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Mousse Frosting

In other news...younger daughter is leaving to go back to the University of Delaware tomorrow and she asked me to make Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Mousse Frosting.  This frosting recipe is a compilation of a few recipes courtesy of Ina Garten, Martha Stewart and

The cupcakes are from a box...sorry, dear readers, I was running short on time.

Peanut Butter Mousse Frosting

1/3 cup heavy cream
½ cup peanut butter
1 to 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, depending on how stiff you like your frosting. 
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp milk

Beat heavy cream with hand mixer until soft peaks form. Set aside. Place remaining ingredients in a bowl and beat on medium-low speed until creamy.  Fold whipped cream mixture into the peanut butter mixture with a wooden spoon until combined.  Pipe the frosting onto prepared chocolate cupcakes (I used Arrowhead Mills Organic Chocolate Cake MixTraderJoe’s  Chocolate Cake Mix is good too) or use between the layers of a cake.  Top each cupcake with half a peanut butter cup.

To add some yummy crunchiness, throw some chopped peanuts into the cake mix or use crunchy peanut butter for the frosting.

Kind of fancy and so good!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Lemonade Muffins

At times, I scour eBay for interesting but affordable chintzware to add to my collection.  One day, these little beauties appeared: 

It’s a rare and fanciful pattern from Grimwades Royal Winton (c. 1930-1934) called "Pebbles."  The plates, so pretty with the different shade of yellow and black trim, were just begging me to make something lemony to serve on them.

Just days later, I saw this recipe on “JUST A PINCH” from a user in Illinois who said that these were her daughter’s favorite muffins as a little girl:

And, just days after that, I made these:

I had walnuts, but I decided not to use them.  The muffins are good, but the recipe needed a little something else, so the next time, I will add lemon thyme from my garden.   I may make a cupcake version with a buttery lemon frosting.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer Bounty Tart

My cooking garden is limited to herbs, mainly because I don’t have the requisite sunshine (due to some lovely trees) to grow much of anything else.  But many of you are growing little lovelies such as squash, zucchini, tomatoes and peppers.  To constantly and creatively use your bounty can pose a challenge and let’s be honest, there’s only so much sautéing and canning one can tolerate.

As I have told my dear readers several times before, I subscribe to many blogs that write about varying topics such as cooking, baking, knitting, DIY projects, well as Pinterest.  Not only do I get ideas that I can credit and share, I learn from their very different, always informative and sometimes amusing writing styles (I especially like the sassy posts).  Anyway, one such blog I subscribe to is called “Proud Italian Cook” and one day, this post appeared in my feed:

Which prompted this email to my dinner club pals (remember, we are on a summer hiatus):

To:       Dinner Club Pals
From:   Me
Sent:    August 12, 2012                    
I am more than HAPPY to make this one night this week if you guys want to have an impromptu dinner......all you'll need to do is show up, I will take care of, salad and dessert! 


I received prompt and happy responses, and after a few negotiating exchanges, we settled on Thursday evening and that we would all bring something. 

Proud’s version includes zucchini blossoms, which I’m sure are delectable.  Since I don’t have zucchini growing in my garden and the local whole foods store did not have any, my tart is sans the blossoms, but I added mushrooms.

So here’s what you need:

1 Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheet

Ricotta spread
- 2 cups of ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- Freshly snipped basil
- ¼ cup each of three different cheeses, I used Parmesan, mozzarella and cheddar.
You should have enough ricotta mixture to make another tart.

- 1 squash and 1 zucchini, sliced very thinly or cut into ribbons. 
I used my Pampered Chef mandolin
- 8 oz of pre-sliced mushrooms
-  Olive oil to lightly coat the pan
- 1 tablespoons of fresh garlic, crushed
- Salt and pepper to taste
-  Red pepper flakes

Pre-heat the oven to 350°.  

Defrost the puff pastry.  Unfold the still somewhat cold puff pastry sheet onto to a pizza stone or cookie pan and lightly roll the seams out.  Also make sure the edges look even all around. With a small knife, make a 1/2 inch border all the way around the perimeter being careful not to cut through the pasty. Take a fork and prick the pastry within the border so air can get through. Pre-bake the pastry shell for 8 minutes or until slightly brown (otherwise, your prepared tart will have a soggy bottom).  The unpunctured pastry will puff up.

Mix together the ricotta, egg, basil and cheeses. 
Coat a pan with the olive oil and when heated, quickly sauté the garlic and red pepper, about 1 minute.  Add mushrooms and cook until they reduce.  Add the zucchini and yellow squash ribbons and sauté until they are slightly wilted.

Spread the ricotta mixture within the border of the pre-cooked pastry and then spread the squash and zucchini mixture on top and dot with a few sliced cherry tomatoes and a little drizzle of olive oil. Brush edges with olive oil and sprinkle on some more Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350° until edges are dark golden and crispy, at least 35 minutes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy Birthday, Julia Child

Today is Julia Child’s 100th birthday.   I still chuckle when I watch her antics on TV…she was both respectful and irreverent.  Respectful to the food she prepared and to the viewers who faithfully watched her and irreverent to the idea that a cook had to be perfect…after all, “when you’re alone in your kitchen, who’s to know?”

She was sassy and smart….just the way a good cook ought to be.  I wish I had the opportunity to meet her, but, since I didn’t, I will happily settle for watching reruns of The French Chef and “Julie and Julia.”

 Anyway, enjoy this remix of this trailblazing icon to who taught us more (especially woman) than simply to cook!

Photo of Julia from google images.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sausage and Peppers

A few weeks ago I bought a little container of sausage and peppers at 320 Produce Market anticipating that it would be my dinner the next evening when younger daughter worked the closing shift at the pool. 

Growing up, food could not be left unattended in the refrigerator.  If you wanted to save something for later and did not have an armed guard or padlock handy, a note warning of a certain and grisly fate was necessary to keep predators (usually an impish brother or wisecracking father) away from your treasure.  The bounty was usually something really good like Tastykake Chocolate Cupcakes, homemade egg salad, or the second half of a meatloaf, American cheese and mustard sandwich.  It didn’t occur to me that younger daughter would sabotage my sausage and peppers encounter so no such warning was affixed.

Silly me.

I’ve been thinking about those sausage and peppers ever since.  So, I picked up some Italian chicken sausage links, peppers, onions, and garlic and whipped myself up a homemade surrogate.

Sausage and Peppers

2 sweet Italian sausage links (I used chicken sausage), sliced diagonally.   I popped the sausage links in the freezer for about an hour to make them easier to slice.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion sliced
1 each of red, yellow, green pepper, seeded and sliced
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
A splash of wine to deglaze the pan (red or white)

Heat the oil in a large pan, over medium heat. Add the sausages and cook, giving them a occasional twirl…I like them to be nicely browned and if you stir too frequently, this won’t happen. Add the onions, peppers, garlic, and seasonings incorporating the browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Simmer for another 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the sausages are cooked through.  Deglaze with the wine.

This recipe is great served over spaghetti, rice or spooned into a fresh Italian hoagie roll.  Perfect with a glass of red wine.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Blue Cat = Happy Kitty

So I had to have one of those lovely tests suggested for the 50+ crowd.  You know the one…a 24-hour liquid diet then a regimen of Gatorade mixed with the dreadful white powder that works its intended but miserable magic.  Those of you who endured this test know what I mean.

Anyway, before my 24-hour moratorium from real food, I went out to dinner with younger daughter, sister and mother to a place called “Blue Cat”, a restaurant featuring Latin inspired dishes. The inspiration for the name of this delightful restaurant is the owner’s very own Kitty, a domestic grey foundling who thinks he is a Russian Blue cat.

One of the many in the collection of fantastic Philly neighborhood restaurants, this charming little BYOB is tucked nicely on the corner of Fairmount and Uber Streets in the Fairmount Section of Philadelphia.  The chef, Guy Shapiro, serves up daily fish specials along with a wide selection of Latin appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches and dinners. The desserts are to-die-for and include tarts, flans, cakes and puddings.  There are wonderful little paintings of cats scattered about the place and one entire wall is adorned by the most beautiful fresco of a blue cat.  I now know for sure that the steady stream of diners throughout the evening were not there to merely admire the fun and flirty art work!   The food is delicious and creatively prepared and presented.  No worries if you forget your favorite spirit…a wine and liquor store is just steps away!

The main courses are listed on the menu as “Cat’s Meow.”  How cute. 

Mother and I had the Cubano, a warm pressed sandwich of roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese and pickle on Cuban roll. 

Younger daughter had Cubanelle Peppers stuffed with quinoa, mushrooms and almonds, braised in smoky tomato sauce.

Sister had Gustavo’s Cod Fish Tacos, batter-dipped fillets topped with avocado, pico de gallo, shredded cabbage and chipotle mayo on soft blue corn tortillas

Following dinner, we enjoyed a selection from“Cat Tails” or desserts.  We all shared a lime tart, banana cake, cherry apricot flan and rice pudding.  We walked away totally stuffed but completely satisfied.

A delicious meal, reasonably priced, made even more memorable by the wonderful vibe and friendly service.    Blue Cat, 1921 Fairmount Avenue. Philadelphia, PA 19130, 267.519.2911. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Scarborough Fair Herbed Butter

I have a cornucopia of herbs growing in my garden.  They are all doing well, except for the parsley and, for some strange reason, the mint.  Mint usually grows out of control – without any regard for its compatriots --  which is why I decided to pot-plant it

Maybe it doesn’t like being in solitary.

Anyway, besides the usual suspects of pesto, salad fixings, marinades and garnishes, I wanted to make something different using the herbs.  I already made shortbread cookies using rosemary and ice cream using thyme, and, of course, fresh mint gussies up any drink – alcoholic or virgin.  Rosemary, is another go to for roasted meats, potatoes, and biscuits, so what next?


So I clipped some parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme and I decided to make Scarborough Fair Butter….those who grew up in the 70’s will get this reference.  This is a perfect spread for biscuits or rolls, tossed with vegetables or melted on a perfectly grilled piece of steak or pork.  

Herbed butter also makes a great gift….place the softened butter in a mold of choice, refrigerate, wrap in some fancy cellophane and you have a lovely and thoughtful homemade gift!

Scarborough Fair Herbed Butter

2 cups of butter, softened (I used one salted and one unsalted stick)
¼ cup of mixed minced fresh herbs – parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (I used lemon thyme)
1 tablespoon of minced garlic

Finely chop the herbs…I used my handy-dandy mini chopper.  Add the chopped garlic and give the mixture another whirl.  

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and incorporate until nicely blended. 

Place a ½ cup in two sheets of cling wrap and roll up tightly and refrigerate at least two hours then use as you’d like!  

I slathered on a homemade biscuit…just perfect with a cup of afternoon tea!