Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cupcakes for Dad

These cupcakes were a little project the boy and I made for Father's Day....and this is the much delayed post about it! I wanted to share them with you though, because they look so pretty and they were very tasty to boot. I will say this- they are super chocolatey, almost over the top decadent. I suspect that the ganache icing is the overkill element here but try it for yourself and see. This is definitely a special occasion, must-have-chocolate-right-now kind of treat. The sprinkles you can do without- they were requested and handpicked by E, and really, how could I say no??!

Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes
Recipe from Ina Garten, Food Network site

1/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 (16-ounce) can chocolate syrup (recommended: Hershey's)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

For the ganache:
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
Candied violets, for decoration, optional

Line muffin pans with 12 paper liners. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time. Mix in the chocolate syrup and vanilla. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Don't overbeat, or the cupcakes will be tough.

Scoop the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes, or until just set in the middle. Don't overbake! Let the cupcakes cool thoroughly in the pan.

For the ganache, cook the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and instant coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. (or, melt gently in microwave)

Dip the top of each cupcake in the ganache. Decorate with candied violets, if desired. Do not refrigerate.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

BBQ Sauce

I make a big batch of this sauce and freeze it, at the beginning of the summer- usually around the time that baby back ribs go on sale, the weather turns bbq appropriate and the troops start clamouring for ribs and regular grilling. If you are going to make this, I would encourage you to go the big batch route as well. It will be well worth it because, although it is delicous and far superior to whatever you can buy in a bottle, your house will stink, your eyes will water and your sinuses will burn (but, on the upside, also be clear for days!). You really don't want to make this often!

Spicy BBQ Sauce
Makes approximately 2 cups

2 tbsp oil
4 cloves garlic, or more if you like, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp dry mustard
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp drained horseradish
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/3 cup honey
3 tbsp packed brown sugar
2 tbsp worcestshire
1 tsp tabasco sauce
crushed chili pepper (optional)

Finely chop onion and garlic, or use a food processor if you prefer your sauce less chunky (I do!).

Heat oil in pot, on medium-high heat. Saute onion and garlic until they are softened but do not let them brown.

Add mustard and oregano, stir and cook for a few seconds.

Add horseradish and vinegar, stir and cook for a few seconds. Stand back when you do this, or your eyes will tear and your sinuses burn!

Add remain ingredients, adding crushed chilies for heat, to your taste, and stir well. Lower heat and simmer uncovered for approximately 30 minutes. Stir several times to avoid 'crusting' on bottom of pot.

Taste and adjust seasonings.

Use sauce on ribs or chicken. To make falling-off-the-bone ribs or chicken, slather them in sauce and slow cook them in a crock pot (6-8hours on Low) or covered in the oven (approx. 2 hours at 325F), then finish off on the bbq, brushing with more sauce as you grill.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Grilled Vegetables

This is one of my all time favourite, versatile, impressive and most requested recipes. It never fails to please and works well for a crowd. Or, you can make a batch and have the basis of dinner for a few days! Use them on their own, tossed in a salad or with hot pasta. The possibilities are endless.

Saldly, I do not have pictures of the finished product....but they are beautiful to look at too! Trust me.

Grilled Vegetables
Serves 6-8

2 red peppers, cut into 1-2 inch chunks
2 yellow peppers, cut into 1-2 inch chunks
2 green peppers, cut into 1-2 inch chunks
1 large red onion, cut into 1-2 inch chunks
12 or more large white mushrooms


6 tbsp lemon juice
6 tbsp water
3 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp crushed garlic
6 tbsp olive oil
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Thread all vegetables onto skewers.

Mix dressing ingredients.

Brush skewers with dressing, marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Grill on high heat until tender crisp, basting with dressing and rotating often, until edges are blackened – about 15 minutes. Reserve some dressing for tossing afterwards.

Remove vegetables from skewers and place in large bowl. Add remaining dressing and toss. Serve immediately.

Use them on their own; tossed with a few handfuls of romaine, some crumbled feta, toasted pine nuts & leftover marinade for a salad; or mixed with hot pasta and some pecorino for dinner.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Mediterranean Salad with Green Beans & Feta

I threw this salad together last week, adapted from two recipes I had in my 'to try' pile. I'm making a concerted effort to actually try those recipes, instead of sticking with the tried and true whilst the pile grows to epic proportions. My current obsession, since it's pretty much me that eats these and they must last, is salads that will keep for at least a few days in the fridge. This one fits the bill.

Mediterranean Salad with Green Beans & Feta

3 cups green beans, trimmed and cut in half
2 cups grape tomatoes
1/4 large red onion, slivered
2 cups white kidney (cannellini) beans, rinsed and drained
2 oz feta cheese (I used a light one), crumbled
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar, plus more to taste
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add beans; cook for approximately 4 minutes, until crisp tender and bright green. Drain and immediately plunge into ice water to stop cooking and set color. Drain.

In large bowl, mix green beans, tomatoes, red onion, kidney beans, feta cheese and garlic.

Add oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. You may want to add more vinegar to taste. Refrigerate for a bit to allow flavours to mingle. Eat as is, garnish with scallions and/or toss with lettuce just before serving. I added some canned tuna to make it a complete meal. Enjoy!

Other ingredient possibilities: halved black olives, slivered fennel, marinated artichoke hearts, thinly slice orange or substitute dressing ingredients with pesto.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Summer slacker

I come and go, don't I? I'm trying for a more diligent posting regimen but once summer hits, and the weather's decent, I'm afraid I'm a lost cause. Which is too bad really, as I have much to share- gardens, summer grilling and accompanying recipes, mastering a mojito, biking adventures, outings and on-going home renovations. I have pictures. I have stories. But I have no time! I will endeavour to do better...

So, I will leave you with these for boy on a trampoline, at the recent family picnic, one year after tentatively giving it a go for the first time.

How can you not love this face???