June 30, 2013

Berries & Cream Pie- A #SundaySupper Summer BBQ

This week's #SundaySupper is hosted by my girl Jennie, The Messy Baker, and is focusing on barbecue recipes.

And I made pie. Which is not actually made on the barbecue, but can be served at barbecues. Because somebody's got to bring the dessert, and let's face it, that somebody is usually me.

When I think of barbecues, I think of my family's annual barbecue. Every year we all go to my Uncle Hugo's house in Brooklyn and we sit in the backyard patio, or swim in the pool, and the kids race the horses (not real ones. Do I really have to explain this again? Because it makes less sense every time I talk about it), and we just gorge ourselves on all the favorites: rice balls and pasta and good Italian sausage and Aunt Sophie's potato pie. There are burgers and hot dogs and steak, too, but those always feel like an afterthought. Or maybe that's just me, since I've never been a huge meat eater and why bother with a hot dog if I can have another helping of potato pie instead, y'know what I mean?
So when I think of barbecues, I think of all that good, heavy food, and sitting out all day in that blistering Brooklyn heat, with the smoke from the grill and the citronella candles. So for dessert, you really just want something simple and refreshing. And what could be more simple or more refreshing than berries and cream? I just put it in a pie crust.

Now, I've seen plenty of strawberries and cream pies out there that use cream cheese, but I've never been a huge cream-cheese-in-desserts fan. Put it on a bagel, or make a veggie dip with it, that's fine. But make it sweet and I'm more likely to pass. So for a while now, I had been playing around with this idea of using sweetened condensed milk and cream- like the 2 ingredient ice cream that you see all the time on Pinterest-, and had originally intended it to be just strawberries with an Oreo crust and a chocolate drizzle. Then I found some blueberries and refrigerated pie crusts, and ended up with an unintentionally patriotic pie. Perfect for any 4th of July barbecues.
And let me tell you, it was a good thing that I ate this slice that I photographed, because otherwise I don't think I would have gotten any. This pie was gone in the blink of an eye. It's so simple- just fresh berries, a little bit of raspberry jam, and the sweetened cream filling- but still so irresistible. Simple, classic, and delicious.

Although I would recommend going with the original plan and using a cookie crumb crust because the pastry crust got soggy a little too quickly. A cookie crumb crust would hold up better, I think. Or, you could prevent it from getting soggy by nixing the raspberry jam. You can always add fresh raspberries instead. I didn't have fresh, I didn't want to got to the store, and I had raspberry jam, so my crust got soggy. C'est la vie.
Berries & Cream Pie
Yield: 8 servings

1 9-inch pie crust, baked and cooled
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 cup diced strawberries
1 cup blueberries
1/3 cup cold water
1 packet (1 tbsp.) unflavored gelatin
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Heat the raspberry jam for a few seconds in the microwave to acheive a good, spreadable consistency and evenly spread it on the bottom of the pie crust. Add the strawberries and blueberries

In a small saucepan, add the water and gelatin and let soften for 10 minutes. After the gelatin has softened, heat on low until it has completely melted. Add the sweetened condensed milk to a large mixing bowl, and mix in the melted gelatin.

In a separate bowl with electric beaters, whip the cream on high speed until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold the whipped cream into the sweetened condensed milk. Spread the cream mixture evenly over the berries. Top with more berries, if desired, then chill minimum 2 hours before serving.

Recipe by Kim

See what everyone else is bringing to the #SundaySupper BBQ party:

Hot Off the Grill:
On the Side:
Sweet Tooth:
In the Cooler:

June 22, 2013

Dalek Cupcake Tutorial

Hey guys! I'm super excited for today's post because I made dalek cupcakes! Aaaah, lookit the cute little intergalactic mass murderer! *Squee*!

I've had this idea in my head for a while now, since daleks really are kind of cupcake shaped. Upside-down cupcake shaped. But I finally made them, and they came out even better than I had expected.
Now, you guys already know that I'm not much of a decorator, but the simple shape of the universe's most feared race surprisingly lends itself well to desserts. In fact, the first time that I ever made cake pops, despite the fact that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, you could still pretty much tell what they were supposed to be:
Please excuse the photo quality. It's from my pre-bloggy days. My very, very pre-bloggy days.

And actually, in Dining With The Doctor, there are like 12 recipes for edible daleks.

Daleks: the homicidal maniacs that are also delicious. Who'd a thunk?

So even with my complete lack of decorating skills, dalek cupcakes seemed really achievable. And you know what? I was totally right.
What you will need:

  • Cupcakes: 6 jumbo, 6 standard, and 6 mini from 1 regular cake recipe. Any flavor works, although chocolate is a little more difficult to cover with frosting. I actually used a box mix (for shame, I know), and that made just enough with a little leftover.
  • 6 Oreos or similar chocolate sandwich cookies.
  • 12 mini marshmallows (or Mallow Bits might be a better size, but I can never seem to find them)
  • Frosting. I find shortening-based frostings the best for decorating- it's smoother, takes color better, and doesn't crust as much, but use your favorite if shortening skeeves you. (The recipe I used was 6 tbsp. butter, 6 tbsp. shortening, 2 cups powdered sugar, small pinch salt, and 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract. Whipped till light and fluffy)
  • Food coloring
  • Pretzel sticks (I broke them in half, so I only used about 9, but if you're using smaller ones, you may need 18)
  • 6 chocolate chips
  • 6 chocolate Cheerios (or more chocolate chips if you don't want to buy a box of cereal just for 6 pieces)
  • Chocolate candy melts
  • Candy Buttons (or mini M&M's work as well)
This is the nekkid base of our dalek, so you can see how they stack up. The first thing you want to do is level the cupcakes so that they sit flat on their tops. Just take a small serrated knife and eyeball it best as you can. It doesn't need to be perfect (I have some gaps because some of the edges got a little over baked) (I can bake gourmet scratch cupcakes perfectly, but give me a box mix and I burn the edges).

Also, the mini cupcake has a rounded top because I baked it in this brownie pop mold from Wilton. I got it from Michaels for about $8, but if you don't want to invest in another pan, regular minis work as well. Your dalek will just have a flat head.
So you're going to start off, with a layer of colored frosting on the top of the jumbo cupcake (remember, they're all inverted, so the bottom is the top and the top is the bottom). I made the daleks 3 colors: yellow, blue, and red(ish). You want to start with the colored frosting in case any squishes out the sides.
Especially if you have gaps from where you over cooked the edges. Place the standard cupcake (inverted) on top of the jumbo.
Cover both cakes with the colored frosting. As you can see, I'm not the neatest froster. You don't have to worry about it being too perfect, since it will get decorated further.
Place the Oreo on top.
Frost the mini cupcake and place (inverted) on top of the Oreo. The best way I found to do this was to hold the mini in two fingers- top and bottom- and frost what I could get at (frosting all over my fingers: added bonus). Then I plopped some frosting on top of the Oreo, and placed the mini (inverted) on top. Then I cleaned up the frosting the best I could manage.
Now that we have the body, we can add the eye stalk, arms, and the lights. Put two mini marshmallows on either side of the mini cupcake "head" for the lights. Squish them into the frosting a bit so they stick.

Each of the pretzel sticks I broke in half, because mine were a bit too long. For the eye stalk, I used melted candy melts to attach a chocolate chip to the end of a pretzel stick. I found the broken end is better for this because it has more surface area. Just place the chip flat side down on a plate, add a little melted chocolate to the end of the pretzel, then press the pretzel firmly onto the chip and hold for 30 seconds. When you let go, it should stand by itself, then just let it sit for another minute to make sure everything's solid.

For the plunger arm, I attached a chocolate Cheerio to the end of another pretzel stick (the unbroken end worked better for that). Again, if you don't want to buy a whole box, you can just use more chocolate chips, or just use a plain pretzel stick. Chocolate Cheerios is like my favorite cereal, so that wasn't really a hardship.

For the whisk arm, I couldn't think of anything good, so I just used a plain pretzel stick.

To any non-Whovian reading: the daleks have two arms. One looks like a plunger that they use to scan things. The other looks like a whisk, but is apparently a very deadly laser gun of some description. And somehow, these things manage to terrify children worldwide.
To finish off, place the candy buttons in even columns on the dalek's body (I only went halfway around. I didn't want to sit there all day placing itty bitty candies). Yellow works best, but since this dalek was already yellow, he's a tiny bit fabulous and got pink instead. I also made a snap decision to add a blue candy button to the end of the eye stalk, because daleks usually have blue eye light thingies. Just add it on with a little more melted chocolate.

Candy buttons are those tiny little candies that come on paper sheets that we used to eat as kids, and end up eating half the paper as well. I don't know why we ever tried, because they weren't especially good, and a pain in the butt to eat. But they are the perfect size and shape for the dalek's little balls, or eggs, or whatever they're called. If you can't find them, or don't feel like picking paper off of them, mini M&M's are a good substitute.
I like that one in the front that's all "Praise the lawd!"
So these ended up being a lot simpler and a lot better than I had originally envisioned. There's absolutely no mistaking what they're supposed to be, and I'm completely in love with them.
And really, anyone could make them. The only "special" tools I used were a small off-set spatula for the frosting, and a small squirt bottle for the candy melts. Those could easily be replaced with a butter knife and a zip-top bag.
Oh no, cupcake daleks have the Tardis cookie jar!
There's just one thing I wasn't completely happy about: I'm a bit disappointed that I couldn't get a good, vibrant red for the daleks. I used Wilton icing colors, and I even added some brown, but it just stubbornly remained pink. I think the Wilton colors dry out to quickly, because I don't really use them that often, and it had gotten kind of overly thick. I might make the switch over to the Americolor gel colors. Any opinions?
So these are kind of baby shower daleks. Blue, pink, and yellow. And really, a Doctor Who-themed baby shower sounds like the world's best baby shower. You'd better invite me if you have one, because it was my idea and all. I'll even bring the cupcakes.

That blue one's my favorite. He came out the best.
Extermi-nom nom nom
Mmmm, yes. Definitely my favorite.

And don't forget, next Doctor Who Saturday will be on July 20th. Although I have no idea how I'll top this one. XD

*Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links*

June 19, 2013

Cheddar Cornmeal Popper Cookies

Hey guys! I'm so excited to finally be able to share this recipe with you. It's a very special recipe. Not only are they really good cookies, but they won 3rd place in Cookie Wars!

Aaah, it's so exciting! When I originally entered, it was because it sounded like a fun way to challenge myself. I never dreamed I'd get in the top 3.

Cookie Wars is a challenge hosted by Baker Bettie to create an original cookie recipe using two challenge ingredients. When I was reading the list of challenge ingredients, I immediately zeroed in on cornmeal, in love with the idea of a cornmeal cookie. Then I chose the sharp cheddar cheese because it would pair well with the cornmeal, and it would be a good challenge to have the strong cheddar flavor while still keeping the cookies from venturing too far into savory.
Of course, the very moment I chose cheddar and cornmeal, these cookies took shape in my head, and I immediately started thinking of jalapeno poppers. I decided they had to have a popper-style filling made with cream cheese and pepper jelly. So I made the cookies shortbread-style, crumbly and crunchy, not overly sweet by themselves, but rolled in some raw sugar to give an extra sweet crunch. The cookies are good by themselves, but the filling takes them to a whole new level.

Or you can just smear them with pepper jelly. That's good too. I know, I tested it. For science.
My brother and sister-in-law were my guinea pigs in the initial testing phases, and my SIL fell head over heels for these cookies. She said they're probably her favorite that I've made. In fact, when I told my family that they got third place, she and my brother both wanted to know who beat me and how to take them out of the running.
I don't know what you're talking about. My family is completely normal and healthy and sane and stuff.
So thanks again to Kristin of Baker Bettie for hosting. Check out the winner here!

And don't forget, this weekend is Doctor Who Saturday! And I've got something really super special planned for you. I'm probably more excited about it than you are.

Cheddar Cornmeal Popper Cookies
Yield: About 2 dozen sandwich cookies (4-5 dozen individual)

For the cookies:
¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/8 tsp. almond extract
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
½ tsp. salt
About ½ cup raw or decorating sugar

For the filling
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tbsp. pepper jelly
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup whipping cream

For the cookies: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy. Add the egg and almond extract and beat until well combined. Fold in the shredded cheddar.

In a separate bowl, mix together the cornmeal,salt, and flour. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Continue to beat on low until the flour is completely incorporated. Be careful not to overmix.

Divide the dough in three equal parts. Roll each part into a log about 1½ inches in diameter. Wrap each log in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least one hour until firm.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Working with one cookie dough log at a time, roll the log in the raw sugar so that it is well coated. Slice into even rounds about ¼ inch thick, and place them at least 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat mat. Sprinkle with more of the cheddar cheese, and bake 7-10 minutes, until the edges are set and just begin to brown. Let the cookies cool on the pan 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the filling: With electric beaters, beat the cream cheese, butter, and jelly at medium speed until smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar. Add the cream and beat on medium until just combined. Increase speed to high and whip until thickened and smooth. Sandwich a thin layer of filling between two cooled cookies.

Recipe by Kim

June 16, 2013

Tamale Pie Ring- A Father's Day #SundaySupper

Hi guys! I'm very excited to share this week's post with you, because I joined a thing called #SundaySupper.

I'm not usually a thing-joiner, because I tend to be that weird kid in the corner that never speaks up and nobody remembers is actually a part of the thing. But today I broke my routine to join #SundaySupper.
Sunday Supper Movement 
The #SundaySupper movement was started by Isabel of Family Foodie in order to bring Sunday Supper back around the family table. As someone who comes from a large Italian family, food and family have always gone hand-in-hand, so this particular thing-joining seemed a bit like a no-brainer.

So when I was lurking around the #SundaySupper group (weird kid that sits in the corner, remember that), and I saw that this week's theme was Father's Day, the first thing that came to mind was the most vivid memory I have of my father cooking: the time he made tamale pie and scarred my brother and I for life.

If you're not familiar with tamale pie, it's basically a chili and cornbread casserole. It has absolutely nothing to do with tamales. Or pie, for that matter. It's closer to a shepherd's pie or pot pie in terms of construction, with a chili-style filling and a crusty, cornbread-style crust. I read on the interwebz that tamale pie is supposed to be an American-ized version of the tamale, with the cornmeal to replace the mesa, but I'm not really seeing a whole lot of similarity beyond that.
The tamale pie incident happened when I was really young, but I remember my dad being really excited about it. He loves tamale pie and had decided to make it, and nothing was going to stop him. Now, my brother and I were young, and kids can be picky (although my mom said I was always willing to try something at least once). Tamale pie is not usually something you feed small children, especially since neither of us liked chili at the time. Or beans.

Suffice it to say, we both absolutely hated the tamale pie. So much that it became a joke in our house. We would get threatened with tamale pie. My dad would tease that he was making it for dinner, much to our shared horror. For years afterward, we wouldn't even have to think twice when someone asked what the worst thing we ever ate was; it was tamale pie.

So when I told my dad I was making tamale pie, the very first thing out of his mouth was, "But you don't like tamale pie!" Keep in mind, the tamale pie incident happened close to 20 years ago. It has not been forgotten. By anyone.
I had pinned a sloppy joe ring made in a bundt pan from Betty Crocker, in love with the idea of it, not as in love with the ingredients (chopped meat, Manwich sauce, and Bisquick). It seemed the perfect way to remake that traumatizing childhood meal in a way that wouldn't cause flashbacks.

I used a cornbread recipe from Old Reliable, but the filling I made myself, and let me tell you, this recipe won't traumatize you in the least. There was a wonderful smokiness from the chipotle, a hint of sweetness from the onions, the lovely buttery cornbread, just a touch of spice, and the veggies still managed to keep their crunch. The filling to cornbread ratio could have been a little bit better (I was being a little overly cautious), and I forgot to add the cheese to the cornbread, but other than that, this recipe is most definitely a keeper. Now, it makes way more filling than you actually need-- enough for about 2 rings, actually-- but you can always freeze the extra. Or, my dad suggests using it to make nachos.

Tamale Pie Ring
Yield: 6-8 servings

For the filling:
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup diced sweet onion (I used vidalia)
1/2 cup diced bell pepper
1 (15 oz.) can red kidney beans, rinsed and well drained
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes with chipotle chilies*
6 oz. tomato paste
1 tbsp. Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime Seasoning Blend (or your favorite chili/taco seasoning blend)
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the cornbread:
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
2 tbsp. baking powder
2/3 cup shredded cheese (optional)
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup melted unsalted butter
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Season the meat with salt and pepper, and then cook with onions and diced peppers in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat until the meat is browned. Drain off the fat and mix with all remaining filling ingredients. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together all the cornbread ingredients, until a batter forms. Be careful not to over mix.

Generously grease and flour one regular bundt pan. Spoon in about 2/3 of the cornbread batter. Using the back of a spoon, smooth the batter a few inches up the sides and middle of the pan, creating a "moat" for the filling. (You only need a thin layer) Add about half of the filling, then top with the remaining batter, smoothing it out as much as possible. Bake 20 minutes, until the cornbread is browned and firmed. Allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before inverting it onto a serving dish.

Tip: This recipe works best with a relatively plain bundt pan. Keep the extra filling in the freezer, then whip up the cornbread for an easy week night meal.

*Or use regular diced tomatoes and add some chipotle peppers in adobo sauce to taste.

Cornbread recipe adapted slightly from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. Filling recipe by Kim

Check out the rest of the #SundaySupper group celebrating the dads in their lives:
Dad’s Favorite Main Dishes:
Dad’s Favorite Appetizers and Sides:
Dad’s Favorite Desserts

June 9, 2013

Banana Nutella Bundt Cake

You guys, Mel Brooks is my hero.

If you don't like Mel Brooks, you should know: we can never be friends. That's a deal breaker right there.

If you don't know who Mel Brooks is... you've been living a very sheltered life. Go watch Young Frankenstein. Or Silent Movie. Or Space Balls. Or High Anxiety. Or Robin Hood: Men in Tights (do yourself a favor and watch Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves first. Trust me. It makes Men in Tights 12 times funnier. Plus, despite how terrible Prince of Thieves is, it's worth it just to see Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham. He's phenomenal.) Or you can watch the bestie's and mine go-to date night movie: Blazing Saddles.

She's Sheriff Bart, and I'm the Waco Kid.
See this hand?
Steady as a rock.
Yeah, but this is the hand I shoot with.

Don't get us started quoting. We'll quote the entire movie.

You see, I have very discerning tastes when it comes to comedy. I love funny, but there's actually very little out there that I find funny. Bridesmaids? I was cringing in second hand embarrassment the entire movie. The Hangover movies? I can barely find the comedy in the premise, let alone in 3 different movies. Adam Sandler movies? Yeah, no.

I'm not trying to be snooty or anything. I'm not even saying I need my comedy to be intelligent. My sense of humor is just different, meaning there is a very small window of things I find funny. Mel Brooks movies always fit into that small window.
Yeah, that scene is never not funny.

And Mel himself, the man is in his eighties, but he's still got that perfect comedic timing. I watch an interview with him and I'm crying I'm laughing so hard (especially if Carl Reiner is there with him). So Hollywood? If you could just get Mel to make some more movies, I'd be a-okay with that. I'll even bribe him with some of this cake, if that would help move things along.
It's very yummy cake, too. It was originally s'mores-inspired (hence the mounds of fluffy, toasted 7-minute frosting on the top), but it doesn't actually taste s'mores-y, and it's better without the frosting. Heh. Still, the frosting is super pretty, right?
But I'm not giving you the recipe for the the frosting. Because making 7-minute frosting is like being in one of those stress positions used in non-verbal interrogations. 7 minutes doesn't sound like long, but it's a long time to use a hand mixer in a circular motion on the top of a double boiler. And sometimes, it can take longer than 7 minutes. Dudes, I was ready to cry by the time the 7 minutes were up. My shoulder's twinging in remembrance as I write this. Take my advice: the frosting is pretty, but not worth it. Because you know what's even prettier than the frosting?
The freaking inside of this cake. Do you see that perfect swirl of chocolatey hazelnutty goodness there? Do you see how perfect that is?

I have absolutely no idea how that happened. My intention was for the chocolate batter to just run through the middle of the bundt. I wanted it to be like a tunnel, but I was expecting it to be more like a layer in the middle. And then I sliced the cake, and I nearly died from how awesome it actually was.
And this cake, it's moist and rich and sweet and flavorful, with that perfect swirl giving you just a touch of chocolate and a hint of hazelnut. This cake is the ultimate banana cake. Even without frosting flavored with my tears.

Banana Nutella Bundt Cake
Yield: 12 servings

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 medium bananas, mashed
2 eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread)
1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder*

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generally grease and flour 1 regular bundt pan.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Set aside. Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars at medium speed until fluffy. Add the bananas, eggs, and vanilla, beating well after each addition. Add about half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Add the buttermilk and remaining flour, and beat on low until fully incorporated.

Reserve about 1/3 of the batter in a separate bowl. To this, add the Nutella and cocoa powder, and mix well. Spread half of the remaining batter evenly into the prepared bundt pan. Add the Nutella batter, then spread the remaining batter on top. Bake 45-50 minutes until browned and firm to the touch. Allow to cool in the pan about 10-20 minutes before attempting to remove.

*I used Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder

Recipe by Kim