Monday, June 29, 2009

Orange Cupcakes Two Ways!

Mmmm! These cupcakes are my favorite! I'm so excited to finally share them with you. Just looking at the picture makes me wish I had one here to eat. Pictured are cupcakes I made for my sister's baby shower. I made fresh orange cupcakes, two ways. One being my favorite Orange Chiffon Cupcakes - they taste just like Sprinkles cupcakes to me. Nice and dense, not too sweet. Then I made an Orange Chocolate cupcake for all the chocolate lovers.

Orange Frosting

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoon butter, softened (1/2 stick)
  • 2 tablespoon orange juice
  • Zest from 1 orange
  • 1 tablespoon milk or cream
Beat all ingredients with a mixer until smooth. Spread on cooled cupcakes with a table knife. Frosting may also be refrigerated and used the next day. To re-soften frosting, set out at room temperature for one hour. Then beat with mixer adding one tablespoon of milk at a time until frosting is smooth.

Glaze Option: Add more milk to frosting to thin down to a glaze type consistency.
Lemon: For lemon frosting, use lemon juice and zest instead of orange.

Orange Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 1 box chocolate cake mix
  • Eggs, according to package
  • Oil, according to package
  • Orange juice, instead of water according to package
  • 1 tablespoon orange liquor
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven according to cake mix package. Line 24 cupcake tins with paper liners. Set aside. Mix the chocolate cake mix according to the directions on the package. Substitute orange juice for water. Add orange liquor. Fold in chocolate chips. Fill cupcake tins 2/3 full. Bake according to package directions for cupcakes. Let cupcakes cool in pan for about 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Let cupcakes cool completely before frosting.

Orange Chiffon Cupcakes

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons orange liquor
  • 1 cup half and half
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoon orange zest
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 cupcake tins with liners. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks with a mixer. Slowly add 1/3 cup of sugar and beat to stiff peaks. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the cake flour, sugars, baking powder and salt with a whisk (to sift ingredients together). Add remaining ingredients and beat with mixer (using same beaters) until combined. Carefully fold egg whites into the batter. Fill cupcake tins til 2/3 full. Bake for approximately 18 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool in pan for about 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Let cupcakes cool completely before frosting.

: I like to use a ½ cup measuring cup to fill cupcake tins. That way I only have to scoop the batter once rather than spooning it in.

Lemon Cupcakes:
Use lemon zest and limoncello instead of orange zest and orange liquor.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pollo al Diavolo

This past weekend we were treated to an excellent homemade dinner by my brother-in-law. He made Mario Batali's roast chicken recipe listed below. Along with the chicken he roasted potatoes in the same pan and served them with a green salad and fresh sliced french bread. This is the kind of straight-forward, simple meal that you want to keep eating and eating.

The chicken was moist and very flavorful. The spicy oil gave it just enough spiciness to make it addicting, I wanted to keep eating it just to savor that oil flavor. He plated the chicken on top of the parsley salad listed in the recipe along with the chicken. The spicy oil from the chicken dripped onto the parsley salad giving it a little kick of it's own. The parsley salad was a little intense, but I really liked the freshness it added to the meal and it helped balance the spiciness as well. The spicy oil was a perfect condiment to roasted potatoes as well. I can't wait to try making this dish myself.

The Devil's Chicken by Mario Batali

Pollo al Diavolo

Makes 4 servings
The peppery seasoning of crushed black peppercorns and crumbled dried hot red chile peppers makes this dish SPICY. The Olio piccante or spicy oil really adds the bulk of the heat to this dish. Use the spicy oil to add zest to any dish!

One 2½- to 3-pound chicken, rinsed and patted dry
¼ cup freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 cup roughly chopped italian parsley
1 red onion, thinly sliced
12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
spicy oil for drizzling

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
2. Season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper. Truss it and brush with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and roast until browned but only about half-cooked, about 40 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the ¼ cup black pepper, a pinch of salt, and the mustard and stir well. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, whisking until blended.
4. Remove the browned chicken from the oven and brush with the black pepper and mustard mixture. Return to the oven and continue roasting until the juices run clear when a thigh is pricked, about another 30 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes.
5. While the chicken rests, in a medium bowl, combine the parsley, onion, tomatoes, the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, the vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste and toss well.
6. Carve the chicken and arrange on serving plates. Drizzle with the pan juices and the spicy oil, top with the parsley salad, and serve immediately.

Spicy Oil
Olio Piccante

2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
8 jalapeños, seeded and cut into 1/8-inch dice
2 tablespoons hot red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sweet pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the oil, jalapeños, red pepper flakes, and pimentón and heat over medium heat until the oil reaches 175°F. Remove from the heat, and allow to stand overnight.
2. Strain out the solids from the oil. The oil will keep for 3 weeks in a cool, dark place.

Recipe Source:

2005 Mario Batali from Molto Italiano
Photograph © Beatriz Da Costa

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Taste of Maui

We just got back from a wonderful family trip to Maui and I wanted to share some of our highlights with you in case you are planning a trip there as well. First and foremost, the food!

My husband and I love to enjoy vacation through food. Hawaii of course is filled with delicious fresh fish, pork tacos and exotic fruit. I also ate more than my fair share of cheeseburgers. Since we were on a tight budget we mostly ate at casual restuarants, but we still found some really tasty food.

Our favorites:

The Hula Grill - the Hula Grill will always remain our all time favorite restuarant. Since our honeymoon in Maui, we've often dreamed of going back just to eat at Hula Grill. The food is great, the service is excellent, but above all it's a beautiful plantation style restuarant on the beach in Kaanapali at Whaler's Village. There are two dining areas at the Hula Grill, the Barefoot Bar is an outdoor, cafe style menu that is more affordable. Here you can sink your toes into the sand underneath your table and enjoy live music from local bands each evening as you watch the sun set over the ocean and sip a Lava Flow. The Dining Room offers a traditional steak and seafood menu in a more formal dining atmosphere. Dinner at the Hula Grill is my idea of a perfect, relaxing evening in Hawaii.

Cheeseburgerland - this trip we discovered Cheeseburger Restuarants at the Shops in Wailea. I didn't think we were going to be able to afford a sit down lunch in this upscale shopping center, but low and behold the most fun looking restuarant was a cheeseburger joint! It's a little pricey for the menu items, but the food was great and the beachy, rock and roll atmosphere made it a really fun dining experience. They offer much more than cheeseburgers and fries so don't be turned off if you don't feel like a burger. I had an excellent chicken salad for lunch. The french fries are a must, I think they had the best fries I've ever had. Big potato wedges that were crispy on the outside and seasoned - yummy! There is also a location in downtown Lahiana that is on the water, but the restaurant itself isn't nearly as nice as the Wailea location. This is a great place to take the family or a large group.

Genki Sushi - for lunch one day we tried Genki Sushi and it was amazing! We enjoyed some of the best sushi we've ever eaten and the prices are very low. The two of us ate and ate: miso, edemame, teriyaki chicken, veggie roll, sushi roll and drinks for just over $20!

Local Food - don't overlook the fun local roadside food! One of our most fun meals was a roadside stop along the Hana Highway (before reaching the town of Hana). A little outdoor food marketplace was serving up homemade tacos. We had the slow wood fire roasted pork tacos topped with black beans, homemade salsa, cabbage and the local favorite sweet chili sauce. They also offered chicken and fish tacos. Other vendors were offering kabobs, hot dogs and roasted corn.

Grocery - be sure to check out the local favorites in the grocery stores. From the sweet chili sauce found in dishes island-wide to the coconut syrup served with your pancakes you'll find unique food discoveries at the grocery store too. My favorite, the Hawaiian Sun drinks. Local exotic fruit juices such as Passion Fruit are combined with pure cane sugar for the best canned drinks ever!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Shopping Tip for your Spice Rack

Growing up, it used to drive me crazy trying to find the right spice jar in our kitchen drawer that was filled with random jars and tins of spices. The one I needed was always way in the back. Now I keep a rotating spice rack, like this one at Target, on my kitchen counter. All the spices I use regularly are right at my finger tips when I cook and I can easily see when I am running low on something. I have also found that it is much cheaper to buy in bulk or loose form and fill these (gloriously matching!) jars myself.

For example, yesterday I bought a bulk container of Paprika at Smart & Final for under $4 and it will fill my spice jar at least 5 times. If I had just bought the brand name spice jar at the grocery store, I would have paid at least $4 to fill it once.

Where to buy:
  • Bulk contatiners of spices you use most often (garlic powder, parsley, bay leaves, paprika) at Costco or Smart & Final

  • Loose spices at Henry's market cost just cents on the dollar versus grocery store jars (you bag and weigh your own spices)

  • Cello bags of spices found in the International section of your grocery store or at Cost Plus
Tip: Use a funnel to get your spices into the jar
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