Saturday, 27 March 2010

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

Anyone notice a trend in the desserts I make?? That's right - chocolate. This recipe was brought to my attention when the Food Network tweeted about it on Twitter. It's nice to know that site is actually good for something! I haven't made a lot of cupcakes from scratch, but these are by far the best tasting cupcakes I have ever made! They were also simple, which I always appreciate! I'm usually not a huge fan of alcohol-flavored cakes and candies, but the flavor is really subtle in this recipe. They were incredibly moist and not too sweet. The icing is sweet, but since the cake isn't overly sweet it works well. Also, the cream cheese compliments the chocolate nicely. I usually make cream cheese icing with butter, but this recipe uses heavy (double) cream instead. I preferred this over the butter recipe and I'll be using it again.

For best results, if you're making them for a special occasion then make them the day before. They'll taste even better the next day.

Here is the original recipe from the Food Network and I've also typed it out for you below.

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

¾ c unsweetened cocoa (I used Green and Blacks), plus more for dusting the finished cupcakes
2 c sugar
2 c all-purpose flour (plain or cream if in the UK/Ireland)
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 bottle (12 oz or ¾ of a pint) stout beer*
1 stick (½ c) butter, melted
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs (medium if in the UK/Ireland)
¾ c sour cream or crème fraiche
8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened to room temperature
¾ c heavy cream (double if in the UK/Ireland)
1 lb (450g) confectioners' sugar (icing sugar if in the UK/Ireland)

Preheat the oven to 350°F/170°C (fan assisted).

In a large bowl whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the stout, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the sour cream until thoroughly combined and smooth. Gradually mix the dry ingredients in with the wet ones.

Lightly grease 24 muffin tins or use idiot-proof muffin cups like I did! Divide the batter equally, filling each tin ¾ full. Bake for about 12 minutes, rotate the pan, then bake for an additional 12-13 minutes until risen, nicely domed, and set in the middle but still soft and tender. Cool before turning out, or if in a muffin cup pop them out and cool on a rack. Cool completely before icing.

To make the icing: In a medium bowl with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the heavy cream. On low speed slowly incorporate the confectioners' sugar until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Icing can be made several hours ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Dust frosted cupcakes with cocoa powder.

The icing recipe makes MUCH more icing than you'll need and I'm pretty liberal with mine. Next time I'll halve the recipe. If you need to make a boat load of cupcakes and decide to make two batches, you could definitely just make one batch of the icing and it will be enough for all of the cupcakes.

Also, I covered my un-iced cupcakes with plastic wrap and stored them on the counter. I frosted them as I needed them.

*The recipe suggests you use Guinness, but my Corkonian husband isn't a fan of Liffey water, so I used Beamish in ours!


Friday, 19 March 2010

Pork and Rosemary Lasagne

For the record, I spell it 'lasagna', but the BBC prefers to spell it with an 'e' and it's their recipe that I've based this one off of, so we'll go with it. I never really thought of putting any other type of meat into a lasagna other than beef, so I was a bit wary of this recipe. It turned out delicious! It's low fat AND filling, which is the best combo! As I said, I first used the recipe in the BBC GoodFood Cookbook, but I tweaked it a bit to my own taste.

Pork and Rosemary Lasagne

1 tsp olive oil
400g/14oz lean minced pork
1 onion, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 tsp dried rosemary
150ml/¼ pint white wine
425ml/¾ pint chicken stock
2 tbsp tomato puree
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tsp cornflour, mixed to a paste with a little cold water
450g low fat cottage cheese
Generous splash of skimmed milk
1 tsp dried parsley
½ tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper
10 dried lasagne sheets (no pre-cooking required type)
20g freshly grated parmesan + a bit to sprinkle over the top

Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and fry the pork until brown and crumbly. Add the onion, celery, rosemary and wine. Simmer for 10 minutes, then stir in the stock, puree, and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the cornflour paste until slightly thickened, then remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 170°C/350°F. Spray a 9inx13in baking dish with cooking spray. Mix together the cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, milk, parsley, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Wet the bottom of the baking dish with a generous spoon of meat mixture. Cover with 3 lasagna sheets. Top with a third of the cheese mixture then a third of the meat sauce. Repeat the steps, so you finish with meat sauce on top. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Allow the lasagne to sit for at least 5 minutes before you cut it.


Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The easiest meatloaf recipe ever!

I love meatloaf. I love meatloaf so much that I told the meatloaf that I loved it while it was cooking. Then I felt guilty and had to tell my husband that I love him too. Fortunately he shares my love of meatloaf. He never had it before he met me and he proclaimed, 'it's like a giant meatball'. Yes, yes, it is.

The kicker is that I only like my mom's meatloaf. I don't ever order it in restaurants because it could have green peppers baked inside or ketchup smeared on top. These are two things that can instantly ruin a meatloaf for me. That's okay though, because meatloaf is simple to make. My mom has two recipes, one that requires chopping and eyeballing. Maybe one day I'll make that one. Instead I make the super simple recipe that requires ripping open packets and opening a can. Now, I have no idea where she got this recipe. She certainly didn't make it up, but we've been making it for years. If I were REALLY good I'd serve this with scalloped potatoes. Alas...I cop out and make it with mashed potatoes.

Super Easy Meatloaf

2 lb ground beef
1 egg
1/2 c dry bread crumbs
1 packet dry Lipton Onion Soup mix
1/2 can condensed Cream of Mushroom soup* (reserve other half for sauce)

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Mix all of the ingredients together well and form into a loaf in a 2-qt baking dish. Bake for 1 1/4 hour. For the sauce, in a small saucepan heat up the remainder of the soup, 1/4 c water, and some of the fat drained from the meatloaf.

*Don't like mushrooms? Use cream of celery or cream of potato soup instead.


Friday, 5 March 2010

Brownie Love!

Remember when I said I don't really like to bake? Well, I baked! I baked! My friend posted this Nigel Slater recipe on her food blog and I've been wanting to try it ever since. These brownies are really easy to make and so quick. I kept true to my baking skills when cracking the eggs in the bowl. The recipe calls for 3 large eggs and 1 egg yolk. Well, I'm so used to making scrambled eggs that I did 3 large eggs and 1 egg white. So I had to fish out what I thought was the equivalent to one large egg white. Folks, this is why I don't bake. Regardless of my snafu, the brownies were delicious and we gave them two thumbs up! And of course because I'm American I served them with ice cream on the side, not double cream poured on top. Blech.

I have two excellent brownie recipes now (one US and this UK one) and I have to say, I'll never go back to using a pre-made mix. It's so easy to make them from scratch and they're soooo much better!

Here is the recipe for Nigel Slater's Very Good Brownies:

300g golden caster sugar
250g butter, slightly softened
250g chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
3 large* eggs + 1 extra egg yolk
60g flour
60g finest quality cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder

You'll want to use a square baking tin, about 23cm x 23cm. I used my square roasting dish.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4/350°F. Line the bottom of the tin with baking parchment (or spray it with non-stick cooking spray, which is what I did). Break up the chocolate and set 50g aside. You're going to melt 200g and the 50g you have set aside should be broken up into gravel-sized pieces. Melt the chocolate in a heat-safe bowl that is suspended over a pot of boiling water. The bowl should not touch the water.

At the same time that the chocolate is a mixing bowl, combine sugar and butter and beat for several minute until white and fluffy. Count yourself lucky if you have a stand up mixer. This will cause your hand to cramp if you're using a hand mixer. Keep an eye on your melting chocolate and remove it from the heat as soon as it's completely melted.

Break the eggs into a small  bowl and lightly beat them. Sift together the cocoa, flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt. While the mixer is running, slowly incorporate the eggs into the butter/sugar mixture. Increase the speed of the mixture after each addition of the egg (I forgot to do this and mine turned out fine). Once this is incorporated, take the bowl off the mixer (or put your hand mixer down and stretch out the cramps in your hand) and mix in the melted and chopped chocolate. Lastly, fold in the flour/cocoa mixture, trying to keep the air in the mixture.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and smooth over the top. Bake for 30 minutes. The cake will rise and may look more done around the edges than it does in the middle. Stick a fork in the middle and it should come out sticky, but not with any of the mixture on it. If it's not done enough, put it back in the oven for 3 minutes. The brownies will solidify a bit as they cool, so don't worry if they look a little wet. Allow them to cool before serving.

Notice I have no Weight Watcher's points for these. They would be off the charts!



*'Large eggs' in the UK/Ireland are the same size as 'extra large' eggs in the US. Any time I use a US recipe that calls for 'large eggs' or even just 'eggs' I always use the 'medium eggs' here in Ireland. Believe it or not, this actually makes a difference in how your baked goods turn out!

Chicken Ropa Vieja, Cilantro Lime Rice, and Southwestern Black Bean Salad

Another night of dishes from Gina's Weight Watcher's Recipes. I was just going to make the chicken and rice, but then I realized I had all the ingredients for the salad, so I just made all three. I'm a big fan of recipes where the ingredients compliment each other, allowing you to do all of the chopping in one go. Then you just throw them all together in the end. Often times I feel rushed at the last minute to have it all come together, but that wasn't the case with this meal at all.

If you're working you could cook the chicken (either in the crock pot or on the stove) the night before, refrigerate it overnight, then shred it and cook with the peppers the next evening, making it a quick workday meal. The salad can also be made ahead, just adding the avocado right before you serve.

Here are the recipes:

Chicken Ropa Vieja

3 chicken breast halves, on the bone with the skin removed
1 small onion, quartered
1 tomato, quartered
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 green pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
1 red pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4 c dry white wine
1/2 c tomato sauce (it's passata if you're in the UK or Ireland)
Reserved broth*
1 tsp cumin, or more to taste (I used a heaping tablespoon)
Garlic powder (I didn't have any, so I left it out)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Place chicken, tomato, carrots, onion, and two cloves of garlic in a crock pot or large sauce pan. Cover with water. If using the crock pot, cook for 4 hours on high until the chicken is tender. If using the sauce pan, bring to a boil, then turn it down to medium allowing it to simmer for 30-40 minutes. Remove the chicken and shred it using a fork. Reserve the liquid.

In a large, lidded skillet heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the peppers, onions and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the chicken, tomato sauce, white wine, and about 3/4 c of the reserve liquid. Season with cumin, garlic powder, and salt and pepper. Cover and simmer on low for about 10 minutes, until the peppers are soft, adding more liquid and seasoning as needed. Makes 4 cups.

Makes 4 servings at 4 ww points each. 

* I didn't do this, but in hindsight I would have strained out the vegetables and used the remainder of the reserved liquid for soup. It had a delicious flavor and would have made a great chicken soup! Next time!

Cilantro Lime Rice  - Start cooking the rice when the chicken is simmering.

1 c extra long grain or basmati rice
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 c water
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp fresh, chopped cilantro
4 tsp vegetable oil

Everyone makes rice differently. My mother uses the evaporation method which is what this recipe suggests. She includes one tsp of the vegetable oil while the rice is cooking. I stink at making rice, so I prefer the 'cook in large quantities of water and drain' method. Regardless of how you make your rice, once it's finished cooking (and drained if that's how you do it), add the lime juice, cilantro, and 3 tsp vegetable oil. Stir everything together and serve.

Makes 4 servings at 4 ww points each. 


Southwestern Black Bean Salad - I am a sucker for anything with avocado, but you can leave this out if you're not a fan. It would still be delicious!

1 15.5 oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
9 oz frozen corn, thawed
1 tomato, chopped
1 small avocado, diced
1/4 c red onion, chopped (I didn't have one, so I just used a white onion)
1 scallion, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp cilantro
Salt and black pepper

Combine the beans, corn, tomato, onion, scallion, and cilantro. Mix in the olive oil and lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Stir in the avocado right before serving.

Makes 12 servings (if you eat small servings) at 2.5 ww points each.