Monday, September 29, 2008

Chocolate Cupcake Cones

A few years ago a friend of mine made these cupcake cones for a Super Bowl Party. At first I didn't think anybody would eat (or even notice) them because it was an all grown-up party with Mexican food and lots of beer. Boy, was I wrong! It was a big hit! It wasn't just a cupcake, it was a fun cupcake. So last weekend our neighborhood had our annual Crab Feast. Each family brings a side or dessert. Of course I went for dessert. I made Chocolate Cupcake Cones with Cream Cheese Frosting. Yummy! The kids loved and so did the grown-ups.

Chocolate Cupcake Cones with Cream Cheese Frosting

For the cupcakes:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cup water
2/3 cup unflavored vegetable oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Adjust the rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F.
In a medium bowl sift together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla.
Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients, stirring until just smooth. Stir any longer and you will over mix the batter and end up with less-than-tender cupcakes.
Arrange ice cream cones on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Fill 2/3 of the cones with batter.
Bake for 25 minutes. Insert toothpick in the middle of a cone, toothpick should come out dry. If it's still wet, bake for an additional 2 - 3 minutes and insert toothpick again.
Let it cool for at least 30 minutes before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
One 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 stick unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar

In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and confectioners' sugar. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld mixer, beat on medium speed until well combined and fluffy, about 10 minutes or until smooth. Spread the frosting on the top of the cones and sprinkle with Sugar Sprinkles.

What's for Brunch?

We had friends over for Brunch on Sunday. We served Coconut French Toast and English Muffin Strata with Canadian Bacon and Cheese. The beauty of both dishes is that you can make the day before and refrigerate overnight. I think they even taste better if you make them ahead of time and bake right before serving. It was great. Nothing better than starting the day with great friends and great food.

Baked Coconut French Toast with Tropical Fruit Compote

1 1/2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
1 cup chopped peeled mango
1 cup chopped peeled papaya
1 cup chopped peeled kiwifruit
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

French Toast:
16 (1-inch-thick) slices diagonally cut French bread baguette (about 10 ounces)
Cooking spray
1 1/4 cups light coconut milk
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut

To prepare compote, combine first 6 ingredients. Cover and chill for 8 hours or overnight.
To prepare the French toast, arrange bread in a single layer in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Combine light coconut milk, eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 tablespoon vanilla, stirring with a whisk, and pour evenly over bread. Turn the bread over to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Remove bread mixture from refrigerator, and uncover. Turn bread slices over, and sprinkle evenly with flaked coconut. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes. Bake, uncovered, at 350º for 30 minutes or until coconut is golden. Serve warm with fruit compote.

English Muffin Strata with Ham and Cheese

6 English muffins, split
Cooking spray
3/4 cup chopped Canadian bacon (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese
2 1/2 cups unsweetened soy milk
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash of ground red pepper
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites

Cut each muffin half into 6 wedges. Arrange half of muffin wedges in bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with bacon. Sprinkle with half of cheese. Arrange remaining muffin wedges over cheese. Top with remaining cheese.
Combine milk and the remaining ingredients, stirring with a whisk until blended. Pour milk mixture over muffin mixture. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 325°.
Uncover strata and bake at 325° for 1 hour or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Brie and Asparagus Risotto

The Washington Post Food had a contest for original recipes. The winner was a pasta dish with tomato sauce and brie cheese. A light bulb went off in my head and I started making all kinds of dishes with brie. We love brie cheese - I think it's my husband's favorite cheese - but most of the time we eat brie with fig preserve or hot pepper jelly and bread. I made my own pasta with tomato sauce and brie - which was quite different from the winner recipe - and it was delicious. One of these evenings I was in the mood for risotto and I came up with this recipe. It turned out great. I served with breaded shrimp and white wine.

Brie Cheese and Asparagus Risotto

1 pound asparagus cut in 1 inch pieces (I used frozen)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, peeled, trimmed and minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 to 8 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups Arborio rice
6 ounces brie cheese, cubed

Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot and reduce to a simmer. Add frozen asparagus pieces.

Heat a large sauté pan over high heat; add the olive oil and butter. Stir in onion and shallots. Saute until it is translucent, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

Add the rice and stir until it is thoroughly heated. Add the white wine and bring everything to a boil while stirring constantly. Stir until the wine is completely absorbed by the rice.

Using a 6-ounce ladle, add the simmering stock into the rice one ladle at a time, stir the rice constantly while adding the stock. Add more stock as the rice absorbs the liquid.

The grains should be silky and slide easily over one another when a spoon is drawn through. If this is not the case, add a little more stock to loosen them up. The rice should have enough liquid so that the texture is creamy. If the rice is not cooked enough the texture will be starchy and crunchy. Add more liquid until it reaches the texture you desire. Add 2/3 of the cubed brie cheese and stir.

Garnish with the remaing brie cheese. Serve immediately.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Just Window Shopping

Just window shopping... at Williams-Sonoma. Yes, right! That's what I told myself but I couldn't resist. I saw this cute coffee and cappuccino cups and had to have them. I am not really into "cutesy stuff", I like more traditional looks, timeless pieces, white or solid colors. But when I saw this cups all I wanted was to curl up in bed on a Winter day, drink my husband's delicious cappuccino and read a good book. Then I thought of brunch with friends or homemade cake in the afternoon with a cup of coffee, yes I got carried away. I bought eight of them just in case...