Cooking Connections

I’m co-hosting an upcoming class in the Web’s first-ever virtual cooking school, Cooking Connections, and I would love for all of you to participate!

Here’s what you need to know:

When: Wednesday, March 16, at 8 p.m. ET

Where: TheMotherhood

What: The class I’m co-hosting is called “Cooking with Dad”, and it is hosted by the awesome Jim Lin, aka BusyDad, and the equally awesome Shannon, aka Mr Lady. Join us for a fun and hilarious class – we are going to have a blast!  Jim and Shannon will be chatting via live video feed, and the rest of us will be sharing anecdotes and tips for having fun in the kitchen with Dad (and/or the other non-cooks of the family) in the text-based comments below the video!  Don’t miss out on the party!

The class is sponsored by ConAgra and hosted by TheMotherhood.

I hope to see you there!

Here’s a video preview of Cooking Connections:


My other fabulous co-hosts are:

Mishelle Lane, Secret Agent Mama
Ashley Evans, Schadenfreudette
Tanis Miller, Attack of the Redneck Mommy
Dan Deguia, Deguia.net
Lotus Carroll, Sarcastic Mom
Melanie Sheridan, Mel, a Dramatic Mommy
PJ Mullen, Real Men Drive Minivans
Diane, Momo Fali
Robin Sue Joss, Big Red Kitchen
Eddie Carroll, Life, One Pixel at a Time

Making Rainbow Cupcakes

After cupcake wrapper removed

I think I shocked my family and friends last night when I posted pictures of the cupcakes last night on my Facebook account.  There was quite some shock and awe going.  I can pretty much follow a recipe, if I like it. As a toddler would say, “I just don’t want to.” But really, my friend Ruth summed it up best, “The cupcake looks so good. Kudos to you Jules…who knew?? All of these years you have been playing the “I can’t cook or bake” card.  What you really should have been saying was, “I DON’T WANT to cook or bake.”

I’ve seen many people bake these rainbow cupcakes online.  I thought, “why not” and wanted to give it a try.  I rarely bake, maybe once a month. So I had to do some supply shopping before I even started.  I headed straight towards my local Sur La Table, which is way too convenient.  I also asked my friend, Kristin for some help.  Kristin has been a big help in this project.  She basically provided me with supplies, recipes, and advice.  Without Kristin, I would have nothing.  I would have had plain ole’ cake mix with frosting from a jar.

Prepping to make cake mix

Perfect Cake-Mix Cupcakes from Hello Cupcake

Yield: 24 standard cupcakes

18.25-ounce box cake mix (French vanilla, devil’s food or yellow)
1 cup buttermilk, in place of the water called for on the box (the box will call for more water than the buttermilk you are using)
Vegetable oil (the amount on the box)
4 large eggs (in place of the number called for on the box)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

Using substitutions above, follow the box instructions to mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer at low to medium speed until moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and beat until thick, 2 minutes longer.

Spoon half of the batter into a zip-top bag. Snip a ¼-inch corner from the bag and fill the paper liners 2/3 full. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from baking pans, place on a wire rack . Cool completely.

I used Duncan Hines White Cake Mix for my cupcakes.  Kristin said that I need to use white cake mix as the color stands out better. I also adapted parts of this recipe to make rainbow cupcakes.

Placing the cake batter in different bowls for colors

After mixing the batter, I separated it into four different bowls.  I used four bowls, because I was going to use four different colors for my “rainbow effect”.

After the colors were mixed in

I used Wilton’s Icing Colors to get the desired effect. The colors that I used were Leaf Green, Violet, Pink, and Lemon Yellow. I was going for a more muted effect, but obviously they are quite bright. You just need to use a teeny tiny bit of the icing color for the batter. It was my first time so I got carried away.  Like I said, it was my first time. I had no clue on what I was doing.

Getting ready to go in oven

I didn’t take a picture of the filing the cupcakes phase. It was a complete mess and I had colored batter everywhere. My kitchen is small and there are only so many places to put stuff.  I pretty much layered the batter and it sloshed around.  I started by putting it into bags and trying to drip it into the baking cups. Yea, that was an epic fail.  I gave up and used a spoon. My theory is, “as long as it looks somewhat rainbow layered, it’s good enough.” Kristin told me that when you do rainbow cupcakes, you need to use a little less batter in your cups. She said that the layered colored batter rises differently.  I didn’t know how far to fill them up.  I filled them up someway between 1/2 and 3/4 full.

Warm rainbow cupcakes

These are how the cupcakes looked after popping them out of the muffin tin. They are on the cooling rack.  They were not as big on top as I would have liked.  I was a bit apprehensive when filing the baking cups.  Next time, I will fill them up a little more.

I let the cupcakes cool for about 30-45 minutes before I started working on the icing/frosting.  I’m using a recipe that Kristin gave me for icing.

Making cream cheese frosting

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

Depending on how many cupcakes you are making, you might want to double or reduce by half.

10 oz cream cheese softened
10 oz butter unsalted room temp
1.5 lbs of powdered sugar
1 tbsp of lemon juice
2 tbsp of cream (heavy or whipping)
1.5 tsp of vanilla

Beat cream cheese and butter on med until fluffy, about 3 mins. Add powdered sugar, then liquids. Beat on med-high/high for about 3 more minutes. Taste. If it still tastes sugary, beat for another minute.

This makes about… 1.5 qts so I can usually frost about 2-3 dozen cupcakes depending on how much I pipe.

I split this recipe in half because I was just doing a test batch.  I would have brought out my bigger mixer if I was making the whole recipe. It got quite fluffy when I added in the powdered sugar. I also used whipping cream for my recipe.  I added the Wilton pink icing color once again, to color my icing/frosting.  I could have done several colors, but I was only making a dozen.  I added the icing color into the bowl and used the hand mixer on low for about a minute to make sure it was thoroughly mixed.

I did not get a picture of myself icing the cupcakes because well it’s pretty hard to ice cupcakes and take photographs at the same time. Plus, Angry Husband went to the store while I was doing this.

I purchased a Wilton 12-Piece Cupcake Decorating Set to pipe on the icing.  I used the 1M Star Tip on my cupcakes. Seriously, it was so easy. I just tossed some icing into the bag with the tip and swirled it around on the cupcake.  I swear, I have never ever done this before.

Iced Cupcakes 2

Not bad for a first timer, right? I’m pretty impressed with myself.  I even let Angry Kid help me out.  He thought that it was the coolest thing ever.  He kept wanting to eat the cupcakes also. I told him that he had to wait.  Angry Husband came home from the store after I had finished icing them. He was rather impressed.

But you know I’m not finished, right? I had to add some sugar to the tops of my cupcakes.  I used a pink sugar the Kristin bought for me, at a baking supply store.

Sugaring the cupcakes

Here’s a close-up of a cupcake after being sugar-dusted.

Cupcake Close-up

By the time I finished everything, it was almost 11pm. I’m such a night owl.  But Angry Husband wanted to see the center, so I cut one open.  I let Angry Kid eat the actual cake, and no frosting. I have no clue why he was up that late. Probably because he wanted to see the middle of the cupcakes also. Like I’ve always said, “I’m mother of the year!”

Center of rainbow cupcakes

I tasted one this morning. It was yummy.  This was my practice run for Easter.  I’m going to try to make the colors a little lighter for this weekend.

I want to thank Kristin for all of her hand holding and especially the recipes.  I think my text messaging probably drive her crazy, but she is rather helpful with the baking handicapped people like me. She also picked up some supplies for me too. Kristin lives in Orange County, CA and has a cupcake business. She makes some beautiful cupcakes, and they are tasty too.

Also, big cyber hugs to Rachel for her support of me even attempting this recipe!

Also check out i heart faces for Week 14: My story in photos: Dessert Recipe Edition”.

1, 2, 3 Puff! Recipe Contest

Creating an original recipe is a culinary challenge that, when
successful, can raise one’s status from skillful chef to dining diva!
But what if that original recipe could win you and a guest an
all-expense paid trip to New York City? Better Homes and Gardens, in
partnership with the Pepperidge Farm(r) Puff Pastry brand, is
encouraging home chefs everywhere to enter the 1,2,3 Puff! Recipe
Contest for a chance to win a trip to The Big Apple!

From savory appetizers to seasonal entrees and sweet, flaky desserts,
Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry has long been a staple in creating simple
yet impressive dishes. Contestants may submit up to three entries, one
for each category: appetizer, main dish, and dessert. To enter,
contestants must create an original recipe with Pepperidge Farm Puff
Pastry Sheets or Shells and upload a photograph of the finished recipe
to www.123puffcontest.com.
Entries must be received by December 31, 2009.

Finalist entries will be displayed on
www.123PuffPastry.com and visitors may
vote for their favorite entries from January 15 through February 1,
2010. The Finalist with the overall highest number of votes will be
revealed in March 2010, will win the Grand Prize of an exciting trip
to New York City and may have their recipe featured in an upcoming
issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

Additionally, there will be three First Prize Category Winners, each
of whom will receive a prize package of professional baking supplies
and the Better Homes and Gardens Complete Book of Baking cookbook.

Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets and Shells are available in the
freezer section at major supermarkets, grocery stores and mass
merchandisers nationwide for a suggested retail price of $3.59 and
$4.39, respectively. For more information, recipe ideas and official
contest rules, visit
www.123PuffPastry.com.

Disclosure: This information was provided to me in the form of a press release. I received no compensation to post this.

Guest Post: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

My friend, Kristin from Meringue Bake Shop wanted to share a recipe with my readers. She thought it would be fun and easy since Halloween is coming up this weekend. It’s something that you can do with your kiddos Saturday morning, or you can take these to a Halloween Party, Saturday night!

“Halloween is my second favorite holiday (Christmas holds the #1 spot). It jump-starts the holiday season, gives us our first feelings of fall and there is pumpkin everywhere! I love baking with squash, pumpkin, zucchini, and butternut. Mmmm… Those flavors always feel right this time of the year.

As you may, or may not know I bake cupcakes. Lots of cupcakes. So when I have a chance to bake for coworkers, friends, family, or myself, I like to try different things. So I search the web, check out some of my favorite foodie blogs, and collect ideas and recipes to try. I noticed some buzz around Whoopie Pies so I thought I’d give them a try again. According to Wikipedia, Whoopie Pies got their start in the Amish community and their name came about when the husbands would shout “Whoopie!” when they received one of these treats in their lunch boxes. I had made some Banana Whoopie Pies during the Spring this year but since it’s fall and I’m craving pumpkin and spices, I decided to bake some Pumpkin Whoopie Pies.

These are really fun to make, very easy and kid-friendly. And might I say, VERY tasty! Only a few ingredients are needed. And the bake time is short. Perfect for when you have only a little time available or have little helpers with short attention spans.

I tried a few recipes and this one is my favorite with a few modifications. I found this recipe on Bakespace. Bakespace is a recipe exchange and social network site for people who love food, cooking and baking.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
(Adapted from this recipe)

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Pinch of black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/4 cup buttermilk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper together in a medium bowl.

Using electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, molasses and vanilla in large bowl to blend.
Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add pumpkin puree. Mixture will look curdled but that’s ok. Mix in dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk, beating until just combined.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheets, spacing 2 inches apart, leaving enough room for dough to spread. I use a cookie scoop that holds 1 tbsp. It’s a lot less messy to use when having kitchen help from small hands.

Bake for 9-12 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center. Cool completely on wire racks before filling.

Maple Syrup Cream Cheese Filling:
3 cups powdered sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 TBSP maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1/2-1 tsp of maple extract (opt, to taste)

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth with no visible lumps. Add the cream cheese and beat until combined and fluffy.
Add the powdered sugar, maple syrup, vanilla and maple extract (if using) and beat until smooth.

To assemble:
Take a cooled cookie and using a butter knife, spread a thick amount of filling to the flat side. Grab another cookie and with flat side sandwich together. Press ever so slightly to get some of the filling to pop out the sides. You should be able to see the filling when looking down at the pie. If you want to get fancy, you can also put the filling into a plastic zipper bag, cut a 1/2” hole in one corner and pipe a big glob onto the flat side of the cookie.

Once all the pies are assembled, take a plate and pour out some Halloween sprinkles, sugars, non-pareils, quins, etc. Holding the pie vertically, roll the edges on the plate picking up the sprinkles along the way. Viola!

Yum!

If you don’t like pumpkin or are allergic, you can make the original version. I used this recipe. To make them more “Halloweenie”, add some orange food coloring to the filling.

Have fun and Happy Halloween!

Orange County Fare: Pumpkin Muffins

I’m a member of the Junior League of Orange County, CA. We had a new cookbook come out last month, Orange County Fare. I was finally able to get my hands on a hardbound copy of it, a few weeks ago at a general meeting. This is the second recipe that I’ve made from the cookbook. I made the Raspberry Oatmeal Bars last year, when I received the recipe as a preview.

I made a complete mess in our kitchen as usual. I could not locate any of the proper tools. We do have some cooking utensils. I had to improvise, but they turned out AWESOME! I made Angry Husband try the first one. He’s my test dummy…I mean victim…I mean taster. He said they were very good, but sweet.

Makes 18 to 24

Ingredients for muffins:
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups canned pumpkin
3 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

Ingredients for Orange Glaze:
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons grated orange zest

Muffins
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl. Combine the pumpkin, sugar, eggs, and oil in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and mix well. Bake for 20 to 23 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the muffins pans for 15 minutes and remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Glaze
Combine the confectioners’ sugar, orange juice, and orange zest in a small bowl, stir to mix well. Place waxed paper under the muffins on the wire rack. Spoon the glaze over the cooled muffins, letting the excess run down the sides. Garnish with additional walnuts before the glaze becomes firm.

Disclosure: This recipe is from the Junior League of Orange County’s Cookbook, Orange County Fare. I’m a member of the JLOCC. My opinions and rants have nothing to do with the JLOCC, but they have a pretty swell cookbook that I paid for, with my very own checkbook. Oh yea, that’s right, I wrote a check.

The Muffin Man

On Monday night, Angry Husband went on a rampage in the kitchen. I think he was looking for something in the pantry. Our pantry is poorly designed. It’s deep and things go lost. Yea, perhaps he found some expired bread and rolls. Sorry, but sometimes it gets lost.

He removed everything and went through it all. You should see our trash can, gross. After all was said and done, he pulled out a bunch of bread and muffin mixes. He said, “make these”. That was on the top of my list at 7pm, after working all day. So what does he do? He starts making chocolate chip muffins. I was laughing. He’s usually the cook, so this is nothing new. But I almost wanted to put an apron on him.

Angry Toddler was very excited about the pantry clean-up. He immediately started digging in.

Potato Chip Chicken Nuggets

I’m attempting to learn how to cook. Yes, if you live in my house that’s a funny thing. I have a family recipe book, so I’m going to start pulling recipes from there. I thought I would share some of these recipes with my readers. I saw this recipe and thought about how easy it would be to make. The ingredients are pretty simple too.

Ingredients:
2 Cups of Crushed Sour Cream and Onion Flavored Potato Chips.
6 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts Cut Into 1 1/2 Inch Pieces.
1/3 Cup Melted Butter.
1 Egg.
2 Tablespoons of Milk.

Option Ingredients:
Ketchup, Ranch Dressing, Honey Mustard Dressing, Sweet N Sour Sauce, BBQ Sauce.

Instructions:
Preheat over to 350 degrees. Crush potato chips fine to make 2 cups and set aside in a large dish. Melt butter to make 1/3 cup and set aside. Rinse off chicken in cold water and pat dry with paper towel. With kitchen scissors, cut chicken into 1 1/2 inch pieces and put into bowl. In another bowl beat together 1 egg and 2 tablespoons of milk. Dip chicken pieces into egg mix then into potato crumbs. Place on a cookie sheet. When all pieces are on the cookie sheet, drizzle with melted butter. Bake 15 to 18 minutes at 350 degrees, the nuggets should be golden brown. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

I had Angry Husband help me with some of the prep for this. Instead of cutting the chicken into strips, he kinda cubed it. I think it can be cut either way and it will be fine. After all was said and done, Angry Husband said that the potato chips could have been crushed a little finer. He also said that you could probably use any type of potato chip.

We served the nuggets with french fries, the frozen kind. I’m not bold enough to make french fries quite yet.

Happy October…A Few Days Late

Today is the 6th of October. It is finally starting to cool down here in Southern California. For the past two days, Angry Toddler has worn jeans. That’s a big jump for Mr. OCD. He transitioned easy. Now that the fall leaves are starting to change and a certain chill is in the air, I’m thinking about some fall decorations. I have a tote of stuff in my garage, that I’m going to have to pull out. That is, if Angry Husband has our tall ladder available.

I’m going to attempt something new in the next few weeks. I have a cookbook put together by my crazy aunt with family recipes. I’m going to try to go through them and pick some out. I will make the recipe at home, and umm test it on my family first. Then I will do a little post about it.

Meanwhile, check out these goodies I found online. They are all about Halloween.

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