Sunday, October 30, 2011

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes With Vanilla Bean Seafoam Frosting

There is definitely something to be said for the way technology has changed our world.  Because of the internet I got back in touch with people I graduated with who actually live only a few miles away.  Without the help of Facebook, they would probably be completely off of my radar.  It's so much fun to stalk see the pictures of their beautiful children and learn what everyone else is up to.  Thanks to blogging and Facebook, I got a request to make cooked frosting from an old friend of mine from high school, who is in the same stage of life that I am (and who has two of the most adorable babies!).  I had so much fun trying something new and I loved getting to bake for someone else (my waistline is thankful that I let N and her family give my attempt a try).  The best part?  I think I'm going to be getting a guest post from her and I might even get to try some of her goodies. :)  On to dessert...

This was my first time making a cooked frosting (Martha Stewart calls it 7-minute frosting, but my family has always called it sea foam icing).  Call it what you will, it's a fluffy, ever so slighty sticky, shiny, marshmallowy frosting.  It was also my first (definitely not my last) attempt using vanilla beans.  For the cupcake part, I used the recipe (slightly adapted) from (White Wedding Cake Cupcakes).  9 out 10 tasters think this was a pretty awesome cake, especially since it's a box to start.  As far as the icing, I stuck with the classic and used Martha's recipe (definitely we're on a first-name basis--aren't you?!).  Martha Stewart Frosting

Check out the fluffy loveliness of this frosting!  I didn't have an instant read thermometer (well, I have one, but one piece of it seems to have been eaten by my kitchen elves), so I used the timing method and watched to make sure everything was evenly mixed and thickening.  It's really not as difficult as I was expecting, if I can do it, you can too!

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
(Makes ~ 36 cupcakes)

1 box white cake mix (I highly recommend Duncan Hines)
1 Cup flour
1 Cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 1/3 Cups water
2 Tbl. vegetable oil
1/2 vanilla bean guts(or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
1 Cup sour cream (I recommend using the full-fat version for this application)
4 egg whites (from large eggs)

Preheat oven to 350°.  Line cupcake pans with liners or grease and flour pans.  Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl with a whisk.  Add the remaining ingredients and beat with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes or until just combined.  Fill cupcake pans about 1/3-3/4 full and bake for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Bean Sea Foam Frosting
1 1/2 Cup sugar
2 Tbl light corn syrup
2 large egg whites
1/4 Cup water
1/2 vanilla bean guts

Combine all the ingredients in the top of a double boiler over simmering water.  Heat over medium, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 160° on an instant read thermometer (or about 2-3 minutes).  Remove from heat, and using an electric mixer, beat on high until glossy and fluffy.  Should take about 5 minutes.  Use a zip-top bag or an pastry bag to frost cupcakes or spread with a small offset spatula and create mini peaks.  

Friday, October 21, 2011

Chop-less Chicken Pot Pie

So, I'm not generally a casserole person.  I just don't really like all of my meal smooshed (apparently smooshed is not a word?!) up in one dish.  I like order and sanity in my meals.  Meat here.     Veggies waaay over here.   Starch, in the other corner.  Never shall they touch or mingle.  But, almost 5 years ago I got married and learned all about compromise.  My husband loves his food all together.  The more food groups in one pan, the happier the man gets.  So, I've learned to appreciate a few basic casseroles to keep him happy.  One of my favorite is a chicken pot pie.  It looks like you put hours and hours of work in to it, but in under an hour you can have two pies ready to eat or freeze.  My method skips the chopped carrots and celery in favor of frozen veggies, but you can use what you prefer.  I have bad luck with fresh veggies in my house.  I either have to buy it just for a certain recipe, or I find it weeks down the road, making friends with mold in the bottom of my fridge.  I have really good luck with frozen vegetables--I get variety, and they still have that fresh flavor.  I used the pie crust recipe from the Pioneer Woman's Cook Book (Recipes From an Accidental Country Girl) which I highly recommend for pot pies and other savory uses.  In my (very humble) opinion, it's too crumbly to work in a situation where you want to cut out the perfect slice of pie. Hope you give this a try--it's the perfect fall comfort food.
P.S.  I have no idea what I was going for with the 3 little circles on the pie crust.  Let's pretend it's super creative.  

 Chicken Pot Pie
(Makes 2 8-inch pies)
2 Pie Crusts (Perfect Pie Crust or Store bought, or Crust of Choice)
2 Standard bags of frozen mixed vegetables
4 Tbl butter
2 Cups shredded cooked chicken (3 roasted breasts or 1 whole roaster)
1/4 Cup flour
1 3/4  Cup chicken broth
1/4 Cup white wine (optional)
3/4 Cup heavy cream
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°.  Melt the butter in a large skillet.  Add the frozen vegetables and saute until soft.  Add the chicken and stir.  Add the flour to the pan and cook for a few minutes.  Add in the chicken broth and wine while stirring.  Pour in the cream.  Stir gently to combine and then allow to cook over low heat until thick.  Season with thyme, red pepper, salt, and pepper to taste.  Pour the mixture into one 9x13 pan or 2 pie plates.  Cover with crust(s) and slit the top.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the filling in bubbly.

If you freeze the second pie, bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes directly from the freezer.

This post is linked to A Little Nosh's Tastetastic Thursday, check out all of the great recipes there.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cinnamon Roll Coffee Cake + Social Networking Update

So, my husband and I are pretty with the times.  We've upgraded the TVs in our house with flat-screens.  We have a laptop and smart phones.   I use Facebook (I was in college when it was invented-for college students) and Pinterest and I maintain hubby's Facebook page.  We try not to whine about technology, but we had a recent realization.  Neither one of us Tweet.  Which, seems like nothing to most people.  But, we have a baby girl.  Who some day is going to grow up and know 1 million times more about the current technology than we do.  We made the decision that we have to at least learn about new tech trends (like Twitter) or the slippery slope into calling our daughter in the future and asking her program our VCR will begin.  So, Mike signed up for Twitter and follows 3 local news stations and his cousin who is a kind-of celebrity.  I signed up for Twitter and follow a few blogs I like.  Between the two of us, we have made (tweeted, twote?) 2 tweets-both of them re-tweeting an giveaway in order to recieve $5 in credit.  I'll give you one guess as to who did that Tweeting.  Are we experts?  Um, definitely not.  Trending still blows my silly little mind.  But, we've at least got a grip on current technology, and we're going to keep pushing ourselves to try things new so that someday, when my little girl wants to try this new "forehead implanted cell phone,"  I'll know enough to tell her "no" intelligently.  In this same vein, I created a Facebook Page for this blog.  What's Cooking With Kacey  Please follow me there to get updates (while you're at it, I'd love a Google follow too!), I'll be having my first giveaway when I reach 100 Facebook or Google followers!  On a completely unrelated note, I had a craving for something cinnamon.  This Cinnamon Roll Coffee Cake hit the spot and I was able to whip it up in under and hour.  I recommend eating it warm, and sharing the leftovers because it's dangerous.  

Cinnamon Roll Coffee Cake
(adapted very slightly from Cooking up North)
3 Cups flour
1/4 tsp.salt
1 Cup sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 Cups milk
2 eggs (room temperature preferred)
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 Cup salted butter, melted and let cool slightl

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Mix all of the ingredients together except the butter until combined.  Slowly fold in the melted butter.  Spread into a greased 9in round or 9x9 pan.

1 c. butter, softened
1 c. brown sugar
2 Tbl. flour
1 Tbl. cinnamon

Combine all ingredients and drop by the spoonful onto the batter.  Use a butter knife to swirl through.  
Bake cake for 30-35 minutes.

2 Cups powdered sugar (sifted or whisked)
5 Tbl. evaporated milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix ingredients and pour over cake while warm.  Serve and enjoy!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Smore's Parfait

Tomorrow is my baby's first birthday party.  I know it is totally cliche, but I have no idea what happened to a year.  We still have a week to go until her actual first birthday-a week that, I'm sure will go nice and slow so that we can relish all the time we have with her.  We're having a party at our house tomorrow to celebrate this milestone, so things have been a little crazy around here.  Mike and I got it into our crazy brains that late summer was the perfect time to tear out some walls and replace flooring.  Needless to say, if you read the above statement about time, summer turned into fall and we're spent the last few weeks scrambling to finish to the point that we can have company.  Thankfully we're almost done and the dust is gone from the house (well, except for the 1/2 inch currently coating our dining room floor--no one will notice that, right?!).  Today because my life is crazy and because I'm sure yours is too, I bring you Smore's Parfaits.  I actually made these on vacation so they are simple and yummy and perfect for kids.  Just layer Crunched graham crackers (or Cars crackers that performed double duty for me), chocolate pudding (I used a box), grahams, chocolate pudding, toasted marshmallows.  To toast the marshmallows, I sprayed foil with nonstick spray, laid the 'mallows in a single layer on a toaster oven baking sheet, and broiled (WATCH carefully).  Then use a spoon to lower into the glass.  Disclaimer:  These are not a gourmet treat.  Simple, yes. Satisfying, yes.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Something A Little Serious

If you've read my blog at all over the last few months, you know that I never post anything besides silly anecdotes with a spider-web of relevancy to my recipes.  I hate conflict so I don't post political opinions and I'm certain you don't know which toilet paper I prefer (though, it's universally the best, so I'm sure you can guess).  I don't post charities to which I donate, and I don't ask you to give to any causes.  Today, I'm not going to ask you to do anything above and beyond thinking about something.  Tomorrow is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day and this is something very close to my heart.  Miscarriage effects twenty percent of pregnancies.  Yes, that's 1 in every 5 pregnancies.  This means that chances are good you know someone who has lost a child during pregnancy.  This is still (in 2011) a taboo topic.  Something we don't want to talk about or share.  Often women and men who have lost a child during pregnancy or shortly after birth feel very alone.  A lot of people don't know that Mike and I had two miscarriages before having our little one.  It's something we don't talk about often.  The moral of the story is that if you've lost a child, or know someone who has, you are not alone.

The International Wave of Light invites participants from around the world to light a candle in honor of PAILRD, starting at 1900 hours on October 15 in their respective time zones, and to leave the candle burning for at least an hour. The result is a continuous chain of light spanning the globe for a 24 hour period in honor and remembrance of the children who die during pregnancy or shortly after birth.  

"Women & Elephants Never Forget."

*Sugar Cookies made from Bake @ 350's wonderful recipe.  Check it out here:  Cut Out Sugar Cookies

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hermes (aka Chicken Caesar Wraps)

For my second half of college my (now) husband and I lived in the same town while attending two different colleges.  I had a tiny efficiency apartment that had roaches crickets for one year, and a teeny-tiny bedroom in a house with two girls the other year.  He, however, lived in a large house with 4 other people for the last two years of school.  I loved being close to him (the first two years of college are a long, depressing, and boring story), but we had really different schedules.  He was an engineering student who spent about 30 hours a day studying, and worked at the library here and there between classes.  My classes had a lot of homework and not a ton of studying, but I did work at a hospital from 5:30am until I went to class at 9:00am.  Then I'd go back to work for an hour or so after class.  It worked out really well for me, but I was always surprised by how much I didn't see my boyfriend who only lived two blocks away.  Even when he and his roommates took a break from studying and threw a party, I generally was asleep before the guests even showed up!  One of my favorite things his house-mates all did together was to cook dinner before a party (yup, they were even nice enough to include me).  This gave me an excuse to eat, enjoy other people, and socialize before my normal bedtime of 10:00 (yes, this is the start time of most college parties.  Yes, I'm lame.  Yes, I'm even lamer now).  Anyway, the usual dinner of choice was either tacos or Hermes.  (pronounced Her-me's--not all fancy-like).  Apparently Mike's friend W spent his childhood between several countries as a military child and this is a lunch he got in Italy very often.  I can't vouch for the story, and I definitely can't make them as well as his Mom!  I'm not going to give definitive measurements in the recipe because it's a taste as you go kind of meal.  I'm not a huge Mayo fan, so I use a little less of that than the Caesar dressing, but you can switch things up however you like.  Also, feel free to mix things up--avocado, roasted tomatoes, toasted pecans are all great in the mix.  Serve it in warm pitas, flour tortillas, or just scoop it into a bowl.

It can't get any simpler.  Toss the ingredients in a bowl and then serve!  

Hermes (aka Chicken Caesar Wraps)
2 hearts of romaine (or 1 iceberg head), chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/2# bacon, cooked until crispy and then crumbled (use more/less if desired)
2 small chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces, then cook in 1 Tbl bacon fat 
shredded cheddar cheese (~1 Cup)
mayo (~1/4 Cup)
Caesar Dressing (~1/4 Cup)
Pepper (~2 tsp)

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and make sure to taste as you go-adjust measurements as needed for your taste.  Serve on tortillas, pitas, or as a salad.  

I'm linking up to A Little Nosh's Tastetastic Thursday.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Easiest Ever Seafood Dip

Growing up, we spent our Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter running between different grandparents' houses.  We had wonderful, albeit crazy days.  Christmas eve, though, we spent at home.  We'd go to church and then my mom would make snacks and we'd relax.  Sometimes we'd have company, sometimes it would be just our little family.  Inevitably, there would be seafood dip.  I'm not sure why I've been thinking about this dip so much, maybe it's the Christmas decorations that are popping up in stores next to Halloween and Turkey Day displays, or maybe it's just the cooler weather that is starting to creep in.  For some reason, this easy, delicious spread only made an appearance on Christmas Eve (and then on New Years Eve).  My mom was way smarter than me and split the dip onto two small plates, I make the entire serving in a pie plate and have to exert inhuman self-control to stop my self from grabbing a cracker-ful every time I walk past the refrigerator!  Give this dip a try for football games, or the holidays, or an afternoon by yourself.  *Note that I use a small can of crab meat, my mom always used a small can of clams, and I have an aunt who always used these minuscule shrimp.  What I'm saying is use what ever you like--but make sure it's cooked and ready to eat (not raw).

Seafood Cream Cheese Dip
1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
1 6oz can cooked crab meat (or shell-fish of choice)
1 12oz bottle cocktail sauce
1 Tbl horseradish (optional, to taste)
1 dash hot sauce

Spread the cream cheese on the bottom of a pie plate (or 9x9 dish).  In a bowl, mix all of the other ingredients.  Spread mixture on top of the cream cheese.  Serve with crackers or toasted bread rounds.

This post is linked to A Little Nosh's Tastetastic Thursday.  Check out all the great recipes there:  Tastetastic Thursday