Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lemon Cupcakes with Blood Orange Lemon Curd Filling and Buttercream

Here is where I admit to being a horrible food blogger, yet again. I made some absolutely beautiful, delicious cupcakes and didn't take a single picture of them to share. We ate them all (seriously, all 12 of them - we had some help from my co-workers) shortly after they were completely assembled, and I didn't even stop to think to take a picture. I just wanted to dive in face first, because my kitchen smelled so heavenly while they were baking. And that's what we did. We ate them as soon as possible, and have been dreaming of them ever since.

While these sound fairly complicated, I promise it's all very easy. If I, a sleep deprived mother of two very small children, can make them with only a few (fortuitous, it turns out) mistakes, then anyone can make them. In fact, I'll probably make them again sometime soon (because I have quite a bit of the curd left over) (and hopefully I'll remember to take a picture this time), and if I can turn them out in an even more sleep deprived state (I blame the baby and her growth spurt followed by a head cold) then really, really anyone can make them.

(And here's where you imagine a picture of a lightly yellow cake, filled with a delicately pink citrus curd, and topped with a cream colored frosting rose.)

Lemon Cake
adapted from I Am Baker, who adapted it from Joy of Baking

2 large eggs, separated
1 3/4 c. sifted cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. room temperature butter
1 c. sugar, separated
1 tsp. vanilla extract
the zest of one lemon
1/2 c. milk
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

Separate the eggs into two separate mixing bowls and let them come to room temperature.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake tins with cupcake liners (or grease and flour tins if you'd prefer). The recipe made 12 cupcakes. (You could also use the batter to make a layer cake, using two 8- or 9-inch pans, and increasing the baking time a little.)

Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into a small bowl and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft and creamy. Add 3/4 c. of the sugar and beat until well combined. Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing until completely incorporated. Add vanilla and lemon zest and mix until combined.

Add the flour mixture and milk, alternately, starting and ending with the flour mixture; mix until just combined and do not over beat.

In a separate clean bowl with a clean whisk attachment, whip egg whites until foamy and then add the cream of tartar. Beat until soft peaks occur. Gradually add in the remaining 1/4 c. sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into the cake batter with a rubber spatula until just combined.

Put batter into prepared cupcake tins and bake for 18-20 minutes. Cakes are done when you insert a toothpick and it comes out clean or with very few crumbs.

After a couple of minutes, remove the cupcakes from the tins and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack.

When the cupcakes are cool, create a well in the middle of the top of the cupcake using a melon baller or spoon. I used the large side of my melon baller. This is where you'll put the citrus curd.

Blood Orange Lemon Curd
Adapted from Eat,Live,Run

Juice of one blood orange
Juice of one lemon
1/2 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
4 T. butter, cut into small chunks

Whisk together the blood orange juice, lemon juice, sugar, eggs and egg yolk in a large bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water to make a double boiler and add the butter. Whisk continuously until the mixture begins to thicken, about 10 minutes. Continue to gently stir the curd until it is thick, creamy, and can coat the back of a spoon completely (about 5 more minutes).

Transfer to a wide bowl or high-rimmed plate, and press a piece of plastic wrap to the surface. Place in the refrigerator to cool completely.

Buttercream Frosting
(Very Loosely) adapted from I Am Baker

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. shortening
4 c. confectioner's sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
3/4 c. heavy cream

In a large bowl, cream shortening with a mixer until fluffy. Add confectioner's sugar (2 c. at a time) until well blended. Add lemon juice and heavy cream and whip until frosting is light and fluffy.


Place 1 Tbsp. lemon curd (more or less depending on the size of the well you made) in the well you made in the cupcake. Top with a large dollop of buttercream to cover the well, or pipe on frosting in the manner of your choosing (I used a large star tip to make frosting roses). Chill until ready to serve.

Phew, that was a long one. It took almost as long to write this as it did to make the cupcakes! If you do make these, prepare to bathe in the glorious comments you receive from those who eat them. My coworkers said they felt like these came from some sort of cupcake boutique where you would pay $6 per cupcake; quite the complement!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Meal Planning 3.28.11

This week’s meal plan is abbreviated because we’re headed up north for a (hopefully) relaxing weekend. Plans involve a trip to the butterfly house and a memorial service, so it really could go either way.

As an aside, I am laughing at our meal plan right now, because we just had a discussion the other day about reducing the amount of meat we eat, and then we set out and planned this very carnivorous week (and I had a meat-filled lunch today). I think it’s totally comfort eating though due to various stressors happening lately. Oh, well. We’ll try better next week!

Monday: Southwestern Turkey Mac and Cheese, fruit

This one is super easy – I whip up some macaroni and cheese (either quickly from scratch or from a box if I want a really quick dinner). While that’s cooking, I also brown some ground turkey and season it up with taco seasoning. During the last couple of minutes of the macaroni cooking, I add in a cup or so of frozen peas. Then I mix the noodles and peas with the cheeses sauce and mix in the turkey. I can also see this being delicious with corn and black beans in place of the peas. Pretty much this was created on a night when we were trying to make something quick and fairly nutritious from what we had on hand, and it totally worked!

Tuesday: Chicken Chow Mein, Egg Rolls

A new recipe we’re trying out from a children’s cookbook I have on hand. The egg rolls will be the frozen variety; while I am fairly ambitious in the kitchen, I’m not quite homemade-eggrolls-on-a-random-Tuesday ambitious.

Wednesday: Taco Rice

Seriously, you should try this. It’s one of the top-requested meals in our house these days.

Thursday: Calzones

These are on the menu to use up some ingredients we have on hand that need used. Fillings will probably include salami, provolone, and mushrooms. Mmmm…calzones.

Toddler Lunch Ideas:
Monday: Mashed butternut squash w/butter and brown sugar, peas, rice, raspberries
Tuesday: Cheese quesadilla, grapes, carrots
Wednesday: Macaroni and cheese, peas, banana
Thursday: Tomato cheese dip, pita wedges, blueberries, cucumber slices
Friday: Cheese, sliced turkey, crackers, grapes, yogurt

Thursday, March 17, 2011


It doesn't happen often, but sometimes something I'm making doesn't turn out. Either I make it correctly and the flavor is totally off, or I completely mess it up and Aaron and I eat it (or don't) just because we hate to waste food. The last few weeks have seen more than their normal share of the first kind of flop, but early on in my relationship with Aaron, when I was just starting to teach myself to cook, there were quite a few big flops. Last night's flop of a dinner (a crockpot meal that ended up as dry chicken and flavorless carrots) got me thinking about a few of the biggest cooking flops I've ever had.

Shortly after we started dating, Aaron had his birthday. I decided to make him a birthday dinner and a beautiful cake. My mom helped me make the lasagna, and I used frozen garlic bread and bagged salad, so the dinner part turned out okay. The cake, however, (which tasted fine because it came out of the box) was the UGLIEST birthday cake you've ever seen. I have since learned to embrace my ugly food - as long as it tastes fantastic, it doesn't have to be the prettiest thing you've ever seen. I'm just not great at decorating cakes or making things perfectly pretty, and that's okay with me.

About a year later, I decided to make Aaron a nice roast dinner. I had a pork tenderloin, and decided to roast it and make mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans to go with it. Everything turned out pretty good, until I got to the gravy. I used a package mix and way (WAY) over-thickened it. We basically ended up with spreadable "Pork Jelly" as we called it. What I'm saying is, it was less than appetizing. Thank goodness the rest of the dinner was edible!

Around that same time, I decided to try out a recipe from a new cookbook my mom had given me. Banana cream pie sounded fantastic (still does!). However, I will admit here that patience is far from my strong suit. So, because I didn't let things cook long enough, we had a very runny banana cream pie. Aaron, still going strong in the honeymoon phase of our relationship, ate the filling through a straw. It was very sweet, and something I don't think he'd do today. Also, I've worked on my patience a little bit and have since made several successful cream-type pies, so he doesn't have to do that anymore.

My worst cooking flop, however, was one that he still regularly razzes me about to this day. (Amusingly, I saw the recipe I flubbed show up on Tastespotting a couple of weeks ago.) I don't know if it was the recipe itself or a mistake I made, but I'm pretty sure a combination of those two factors ended up making for the completely inedible Key Lime Cheesecake Bars, with pretzel crust, and pistachio topping. I made it early in the day, and, after the allotted cooling time, dug in. Thinking it was maybe just not my thing, I left the rest in the refrigerator for Aaron to try. He has an amazing sweet tooth, and will eat just about anything, so I thought he might go for it.

Cut to several hours later, when he got home from work. I was upstairs when whe walked in the door and headed straight for the refrigerator to dig in. I hadn't told him I didn't like it, and he had been looking forward to it all day (the man loves him some key lime anything). I came downstairs just as he bit down for the first time, and then he completely froze.

"Mmmm..." he said, with a look of terror on his face.

"You're allowed to spit it out." I said.

"Oh thank God," he responded after depositing the bite and the remains of the piece he had cut directly into the trash. He then proceeded to go wash his mouth out at the sink, stating, "that is the worst thing I have ever eaten." I wasn't too offended since I hadn't liked it either, but I also don't know that it was bad enough to warrant the (approximately 8) years of teasing I've endured ever since.

At least I know how to torture him back. All I have to do is say the words, "Tomato Pie" and he completely loses his appetite. It's a fun game!

Now that I've shared I want to hear about cooking flops. It will make me feel much, much better about last night's nearly inedible dinner.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sourdough Starter

I have serious love for the website Serious Eats, but I don't visit it very often. The main reason is because my husband has requested that I not, because every time I do, I get ambitious, and he sometimes grows weary of my kitchen experiments (and the accompanying messes).

Take the Sourdough Starter-Along that started on my birthday last year. I really wanted to do it, but given that I was 9 months pregnant and it was the holiday season, I decided to wait until later. I stumbled upon it again a couple of weeks ago and decided that right when I was going to start back to work was obviously the perfect time to get a starter going. Of course.

So I started at day one, with my clean jar, kitchen scale, flour, water, and spoon. I measured carefully, stirred it together, covered the jar, and waited. Two days later I started seeing bubbles!

I know it doesn't look like much, but it's pretty exciting (to me at least) that just flour and water and some magical little beasties (bacteria and yeast from the flour, water, and air) can come together, and with minimal effort and just over a week, be strong enough to make a loaf of bread rise!

Here's where I admit to being a horrible food blogger and not taking a picture of the bread I made. It was a nice looking loaf, but it also smelled delicious and came out of the oven while I was in the middle of making dinner, and then by the time that was over we were all starving and so, well, it disappeared before I could take a picture. The result was just slightly sour (I didn't leave my dough rising long enough for it to really develop that sour flavor), but I ended up with a nice, light loaf of bread.

Since you have to feed your starter every day, I had enough again on Sunday night to start some pizza dough for the pizza we'll eat tomorrow. And I had enough this morning to make more dough should I want to, but alas, I was out of time, so I put it in the refrigerator to sleep for a few days, until I have time to bake again.

With all the craziness in my life right now, it probably was not the best time for me to start this, but I have to admit, it's kind of fun to have this little project that doesn't take much active time but that also yields some pretty fun and tasty results.

(Even if you don't make the starter, it's pretty fun to read the Starter Along posts. I used the bread and pizza dough recipes from that series for my first starter experiments, but I can't wait to branch out!)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Meal Planning - 3.14.11

I was planning for this, my first week back to work full-time, to be a crazy week, but it's already proving to be more crazy than I had planned. To say this morning was hectic would be a drastic understatement. I was actually relieved to get to work this morning so I could relax, as weird as that sounds.

Our meal plan has already been revised due to the hectic morning (no time to even throw dinner in the slow cooker), but it should still be a delicious week!

Monday: Brinner

We bought farm fresh eggs on Saturday, plus we have some local, thick cut bacon, and fresh homemade sourdough bread (I can't wait to post about my starter). You can't really have a bad meal with those items at your disposal! Add in some hash browns and fruit salad, and I'm already ready for dinnertime.

Tuesday: Pearl Couscous "Risotto" with Butternut Squash, Salad

I bought a really big butternut squash, apparently, because we have enough left over from last week to make another vegetarian dish this week.

Wednesday: Italian Chicken Sausage and Mushroom Pizza

I have a pizza dough started, using my starter, and I can't wait to see how this crust turns out! We also usually use this recipe for sauce, and definitely will use it this week. Typing out our meal plan is making me HUNGRY!

Thursday: Corned Beef Brisket with Veggies, Irish Soda Bread

I'm curing my own corned beef (using this recipe from Foodmomiac), but adapting it to cook in the crockpot along with the veggies, and adding in a can of Guinness stout to the cooking liquid. I wanted to make this for St. Patty's Day last year, but for some reason I wasn't feeling up to handling raw meat, and the spices sounded horrible to me. A year, and one 3 month old baby later, I now know why!

Friday: Take Out

We're heading to my parents' house for the weekend (Sophie is being baptised at my parents' church), so we'll probably have pizza or Chinese, as is my parents' Friday night tradition.

Saturday: My Dad is making ribs!

Sunday: Brunch

Our big meal on Sunday will be a post-baptism brunch. I'm thinking some sort of egg casserole , cinnamon rolls, and fruit salad. Possibly also a cake, we'll see. Although I love my recipe for cinnamon rolls, I equally love the Pioneer Woman's recipe, and due to transportation issues with my dough I'll probably make her's instead (half the recipe though; we don't need quite as many as the whole recipe makes).

Toddler Lunch Ideas

We're being more organized when it comes to Gabbie's lunches lately (getting two kids ready and out the door in the morning is quite the undertaking!), so I'll start posting these here again.

Monday: Chips and salsa, cheese cubes, mandarin oranges
Tuesday: Waffle, strawberries, yogurt
Wednesday: Pretzels, sliced ham, sliced cheese, mango
Thursday: Quesadilla, peas, strawberries
Friday: Leftover Corned Beef, carrots, yogurt

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Monday Meal Planning - 3.7.11 (Okay, so really 3.9.11)

I should probably change the title of these posts to “Weekly Meal Planning,” since Mondays aren’t happening. But, I want to post meal plans all the same. We’ll just pretend today is Monday for this one, right?

It’s my first week back to work, but I’m only working half days, so it’s kind of a mixed bag of quick and complex meals this week.

Monday: Chicken Strips, French Fries, Salad (cut up veggies for the kiddo who won’t eat lettuce)

These chicken strips are FANTASTIC, and super easy. My husband and daughter are huge fans. HUGE. I made the mistake of making them once and now they’re on frequent rotation in our house.

Tuesday: Hot sub sandwiches, chips, fruit salad

For the subs, I took a loaf of Italian bread from the supermarket, cut it in half and hollowed it out, leaving about a ¼ to ½ inch shell (and then the toddler and I ate the entire inside of the loaf of bread – delicious! Also dinner-ruining, but worth it). Then I layered on the deli meat and sliced cheeses of choice; this week that included deli ham, turkey, and salami, as well as muenster and Colby jack slices. I wrapped the whole thing in foil, and baked it at 400 degrees F for about 10 minutes (it could have used another five if I wanted the cheese to be really melty, but 10 minutes was fine). After it came out of the oven, I sliced it into three parts, and topped each sandwich with chopped lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and Italian dressing. Delicious!

Wednesday: Spaghetti with meat sauce, Salad

I had about a ¼ pound each of ground beef and pork, so I sautéed that up with some mushrooms, garlic, salt and pepper, and added in a jar of marinara. Served over buccatini, this was a delicious meal.

Thursday: Slow Cooker Spiced Chicken Stew with Carrots, Orzo

Aside from using chicken breasts instead of thighs (Aaron has a weird thing about thigh meat. I don’t know.) we’re staying pretty true to this one. Looks easy enough and absolutely delicious! Also, it doesn’t use onions, which I still can’t eat because it makes the baby spit up a lot, so that makes it a winner in our book!

Friday: Clean out the freezer vegetable bean soup, bread

I made this once before, and Aaron loved it. Basically, I use a box of stock, a quart sized bag of the tomatoes I processed and froze last summer, a bag of beans (also processed and frozen last summer), and whatever vegetables I have in the fridge or freezer. I also added slices of chicken sausage last time, which I think clinched it with Aaron. I think I’m out this time, though, so he may have to suffer without it.

My sourdough starter should be ready to use to make bread by Friday (another post forthcoming), so we’ll probably have a fresh loaf of bread on the side. Mmmm….

Saturday: Some sort of curry using up a butternut squash, Naan
 I typically make this dish, but Aaron wanted to try something else, so I’m not sure yet what dish I’m making. (This from the man who recently complained that I try too many new recipes, and he can never remember what he’s eaten. Poor guy.)
 Sunday: Leftovers (or possibly the meal from Saturday night if I don’t feel like cooking on Saturday)


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