Category Archives: Weekly Winston

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

If you haven’t noticed, I like cupcakes. A lot. Actually, I just love cake of all kinds, and what’s more convenient that a little individual cake! Therefore, I believe, I can never try enough cupcake recipes. And since I have a huge work event tomorrow, I have a perfect excuse.

The result? AMAZING. This recipe is definitely my favorite cake to date. I don’t know if the frosting is my favorite, I think I’d prefer a cream cheese frosting, but the texture of this one is incredible.

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

From 500 Chocolate Delights

-3 eggs

-¾ cup superfine sugar

-1 ½ cups self-rising flour

-3/4 cups unsalted butter

-1 tsp. vanilla extract

-1 cup unsalted butter, softened

-1 cup powdered sugar

-3 tbsp. Dutch process cocoa powder

-1 tbsp. milk

-sprinkles to decorate

First, I combined the eggs, flour, sugar, vanilla and 3/4 cup butter in a bowl. Using a hand mixer, I beat the mix for a few minutes until the batter is nice and smooth. I then spooned batter into the cupcake liners. The recipe made 16 cupcakes, so if I wanted to make more, I would put less batter in each liner because these puppies rise!

I baked the first tray, which was more full, for 18 minutes at 350 degrees and the second tray for 15. I then cooled the cupcakes on a cooling rack.

For the frosting, I whipped together the other butter, milk, cocoa powder and powdered sugar. I then put the frosting in a bag. As you can see, Mr. Winston was quite interested in the frosting.

I cut a corner off of the bag and piped frosting on to each cupcake. I then topped the frosting with a little pile of sprinkles. I love how colorful and fun they are! I think the sprinkles totally make the cupcake.

Final product! So delicious!


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Filed under Dessert, New Recipes, Weekly Winston

Kitchen space and organization

Some of you may remember that the number one item on my wish list is a bigger kitchen. Well, that really can’t be crossed off until I move and that’s not going to happen until this summer…but until then, I’ve found and acquired a few things that have made a world of diffference.

I’m short. Very short. Especially without shoes. So the cabinet above the fridge was wasted space for me. I can’t put anything I use regularly up there or I have to live with a stepping stool in front of the fridge permanently. And what good is a fridge if it’s blocked by a stool? So for the past few months, bf has used it as his bar- stashing glassware and alcohol up there that only he uses and can reach.

 

 

Just before Christmas, however, one of my family friends gave me this little…chest? cabinet? armoire? I don’t know what you’d call it, but I’m thrilled to have it! Hand-me down furniture is awesome. I literally jumped/hopped/wiggled with excitement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right now it stores some drink-related odds and ends in the drawer, and then, as you can see, glassware on top and bottles on the bottom.

 

 

Can't you tell he's thinking "what mom? the doors are open- I'm supposed to explore"

 

 

It’s absolutely the perfect size for our bar-related stuff, and Winston loves it too.

 

 

 

 

He's right about to attack the camera in this picture....but I had to show you the mouse!

 

 

In fact, he favorite part is the bottom. He loves, to no end, to stash his little mouse underneath it and then watch us use a spatula to get it out (my arm doesn’t fit). Quite the spectacle, I must say.

 

 

 

But I have big plans for this baby (the cabinet). I want to find (which has been no easy process since the measurements are tricky) or make a shelf that goes across only the right side of the bar. Then I can have glassware on top and below the shelf and bottles to the left. Eventually, I’d also like to find a little wall-mounted wine rack that could go above the, let’s stick with cabinet, so only liquor is inside. Oh and for the record, I know I’m crazy about my Winston, but I’m actually crazy about all animals, not just cats. I’ve been known to share my Thanksgiving dinner with a stray cat I then rescued, talk to squirrels, and bury birds who have died by flying into windows. I know this doesn’t make me sound normal, but to me a crazy animal person sounds better than a crazy cat lady, right?

You may be wondering what sort of style my apartment is from this piece of furniture. I’m not usually one to favor flowers painted on the front of wooden pieces. However, due to a recent blog finding that I’m absolutely obsessed with (younghouselove.com), I’m on a bit of a do-it-yourself kick. For years I’ve planned to sand down and stain my light pine dinning set. I’d love to do the same to this piece as well. So once the weather gets a bit warmer and staining outside won’t result in my fingers being permanently stained blue, keep an eye out for a before and after picture!

Anyway, back to the kitchen aspect of this post- after all this blog does concern food or food related items. With the glassware and bottles gone, I can now store items up in the cabinet that I only use once in a blue moon (my knife sharpener, blender, some extra jars that I’ve saved from pasta sauce, an immersion blender, etc.). As a result, what we like to call the “gadget cabinet” is now so much pretty, accesible and results in much less blender falling on my toes- induced swearing.

Second project: Our pan, pot, lid, skillet cabinet. It is a mess. Partly because we have too many pans (bf- if you are reading, I will deny this statement and there is no such thing as too many pans). Perhaps I should clarify. I think each pan has it’s purpose and all are used regularly. However, they really shouldn’t all be stashed in one tiny cabinet with a 1/3 shelf that doesn’t really serve much purpose. So we found a shelf from the Container Store that fits great.

Ok, I admit, still slightly chaotic, but sooooo much better than it was.

 

 

As you can see we’ve put our lids and a few small sauce pans on the top shelf, all sorts of skillets on the new shelf, and then the large pots, a huge new skillet (Christmas present, yay!) and my pancake pan on the bottom. Does it look great or what?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third, and final, project: The pantry. I know everything that is in there, except for some of the extras in the very back of the top shelf. But as I already mentioned, my height limitations make it very difficult to ever see the back of the shelf. Blame my mom. She gave me the height, or lack there of. But anyway, for anyone else that plans to venture into the center section of the pantry, I would fully expect them to close the doors quickly in fear that an assortment of grains, pastas and cans would be able to cascade onto the floor. Part of the problem is that there are about 1,001 bags of different kinds of rice, couscous, barley, quinoa (did you know there are such things as black and red quinoa?), and risotto. I like having options, so I have a lot of grains in stock.

 

For some of the smaller bags, I was able to use some recycled pasta jars. With the help of some sticky labels, these crazy bags quickly began to shape up.

 

 

 

Aren't they wonderful! Is it weird I'm so excited about jars?

 

But for some of the larger bags, a small jar wasn’t cutting it. What to do? I didn’t like the idea of buying a bunch of new storage containers, cause let’s be honest, I’m on a budget and new storage containers can really be a slippery slope. Well, yesterday I dropped some stuff of at Goodwill and decided to take a peak inside, just for kicks. I found these two awesome antique-looking mason jars for $1.96 a pop. That’s right, one dollar and ninety six cents. I couldn’t beat that if I tried. If they had had more than two, they would have been mine too. A quick soak and wash once I got home, and they are now the proud holders of risotto and quinoa!

Yay for organization! Do you guys have any good kitchen storage ideas? Please share!

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Filed under Gadgets and Things, Life Stuff, Weekly Winston

Christmas Ham

Even though it’s not yet Christmas, I am very much in the holiday spirit. In addition to my beautiful tree, there are twinkly lights adding sparkle to the apartment, garland draped everywhere and Christmas treats for all.

My little family, me, bf and Winston, love the holidays. Unfortunately, Winston’s love manifests itself in punching at the ornaments, wrestling with the tree skirt, and trying to pull down the garland.

My Christmas spirit is shown through cooking (what else!). One of my favorite holiday meals is ham. We don’t make it every year and for some reason I never think of it during the other 11 months. Well, this year, I’m changing that.

Ham is one of those things that seems way more daunting than it actually is. It’s a little pricey (not compared to other meats, but when you are a newly-graduated-still-in-the-college-mentality, $28 seems like a lot of money). But when you break it down, it’s going to provide or contribute major parts to at least three dinners for me and my bf. That’s a lot of food! It’s also ridiculously simple.

First, I put down two layers of tin foil, crossing over each other inside a pyrex. Then I put the ham, still in it’s wrappings, in the pan. I removed the wrappings and poured all of the juices over the ham. I cooked the ham with the bone sticking up in the air because I wanted the meat to cook in the juice, so I flipped over the ham. Then I wrapped up the tin foil nice and tight and baked for about 85 minutes on 325. You are supposed to cook 10-12 minutes for each pound, or until the ham is evenly heated. My ham was 9 pounds, but 90 minutes or more seemed like an awful lot and I didn’t want it to be dry, so I went with 85.

 

While the ham was cooking, I boiled little red potatoes for about 20 minutes. Hard potatoes are the worst, so make sure you can easily stick a fork into the center. I also trimmed and boiled brussel sprouts for about 7 minutes. Then I put the sprouts in a skillet, added some chopped garlic and margarine and cooked for a few minutes.

 

This is what the ham looked like when it was done. It pulled off the bone pretty easily and the entire apartment smelled amazing! It may take a while to bake, but seriously, easiest dinner ever.

 

We had the brussels and the potatoes on the side, so the dinner was nice and nutritious!

 

 

 

We had the potatoes with a little margarine, salt, and pepper and they were scrumptious!

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Filed under Meat, Poultry, Etc., Weekly Winston

Proper English scones with clotted cream and jam

I got this recipe out of the New York Times dining section recently and it immediately appealed to my old-fashioned nature. I immediately wanted to try these while sipping tea and reading Jane Austen…but I imagine anyone would enjoy them with or without the British literature. Here is the recipe: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/13/dining/13minirex.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

I started by mixing all of the dry ingredients in a bowl: cake flour, salt, baking powder and a little sugar.

Since I only have a baby food processor, I had to be a little creative with my next step. I put have the dry ingredients in the food processor with half of the cut up butter. Then I chopped that up until it resembled course cornmeal. Next, I repeated with the other half of the dry ingredients and the butter.

Next, I combined both halves of the mix in a big bowl, added the egg, and slowly added the cream. I mixed together, adding a little more cream until I had the right consistency. The dough should stick a little to your hands but not be gooey.

Then I floured the biggest wood cutting board we have in order to pat out the dough.

As you can see, I kept a little extra pile of flour on the side which came in very handy for covering my hands and adding extra to the board. Biscuit dough like this kind can’t be rolled out with a rolling pin, so you have to use your hands to gently push out the dough. As you cut out the dough with a round cut out, you also may need to add a little extra flour here and there so it doesn’t stick to the food.

One of the things I really need to add to my kitchen wish list is a round cookie cutter. I don’t have one, so I need to be creative. I ended up using a round glass that was approximately 2 inches across. I cut out about four scones in the dough above, then re-balled the dough, flattened it and cut a few more out. I repeated this process until the dough was gone.

Then I brushed a little extra cream on top of each scone and sprinkled a little sugar on top too. I put the scones in the oven and cooked for 8 1/2 minutes at 450 I think.

Meanwhile, I started the clotted cream. Real clotted cream is made with unpasteurized milk, but that’s near impossible to find in the US, so I made a modern version. I put heavy cream, marscapone cheese, a little vanilla and some sugar in a big bowl.

Then I whipped the stuff together for like 5 minutes on high until the cream was stiff.

When the scones came out of the oven they looked like this:

We had them with a dollop of cream and a smear of jam and they incredible. They could also be eaten plain or with butter like biscuits.

A word of warning, however, if you have cats. The old wives tale that cats like cream is not false. If I so much as bring out the bowl of clotted cream, Winston will follow me around, then climb on whatever furniture he needs to in order to get close to the cream. Out of curiosity, I let him try it, and I swear, he likes it better than meat. So just be careful not to turn your back on a cat and cream.

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On the menu this week

Tonight I’m cooking a recipe I’ve discussed before, so I thought that I would post my intended menu for the upcoming week as well as a video from my dinner tonight. I will, of course, post about the recipes as I make them.

Sunday: Chinese Chicken Salad

Monday: Kale with pan-fried walnuts and Penn Yan Chicken

Tuesday: Pork tenderloin with sage and roasted grapes, corn on the side

Wednesday: Chicken with veggies and quinoa

Thursday: Tagliattelle with peas, asparagus, bacon and a light cream sauce

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday: Turkey meatballs

This video is of Winston waiting for his chicken treat from tonight’s dinner.

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Linguine with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Chicken

You know what they say about the best laid plans…..well tonight was supposed to be my cheese tortellini soup night, but one of the major ingredients some how escaped the shopping cart, so it was linguine instead!

Here is the recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Linguine-with-Chicken-and-Sun-Dried-Tomatoes-102868

This dish was really pretty tasty and very easy, although I think the cooking times were a bit off.

First you make the sauce. A food processor is incredibly helpful to chop the red onion and the basil.

Next I put salt and pepper on each side of the chicken and then cooked both sides for about 3 minutes, or until browned.

At this point, I took the stinky trash can (the trash that we put most of the perishables or nasty trash) out from under the sink to dispose of the chicken containers. Like any respectable cat, Winston popped right in.

Anyway, back to the cooking! When both sides of the chicken breasts were browned, I added the broth, some of the sauce and more basil.

Here s where I think the recipe could use a bit of adjusting. The recipe calls for the chicken to simmer for a few minutes uncovered. Well chicken breasts of any reasonable size do not cook through in only a few uncovered minutes. By the time they were even close to cooked, most of the sauce shown above had evaporated. Next time, I would slice the chicken into one inch thick medallions and cook them that way. I ended up resorting to this trick anyway. Since you have to cut the chicken to eat it and put it in the pasta anyway, no harm is done.

Here again is where I’d make a change. The recipe calls for 9 ounces of pasta. But there is a ton of extra sauce that you are supposed to serve on the side and who wants only 9 ounces of pasta? I am all for making the entire box and having lunch leftovers tomorrow! So I mixed the pasta, the chicken and the extra sauce and it was very very tasty.

My bf really liked it as well, especially with a little Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

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World’s Easiest Steak and Sir Winston

This recipe is by far the easiest thing I have ever made. It takes a bit of thinking ahead, but as long as you plan, you will be successful. The steak marinade is one cup soy sauce (I use low sodium), one bottle of beer (anything that’s not light) and six cloves of garlic. Throw them all in a bag along with some steaks (pretty much any kind is good, I particularly like tri-tip or flank) and marinate for 24 hours. If you are cooking the steak on the grill, take them out of the marinade and throw them directly on the fire. If you are using a frying pan, I would suggest patting the steak down to remove any excess marinade- otherwise the flavor is just a tad bit too strong.

This is what the steaks look like after marinating, but before cooking. They darken a bit because of the dark marinade.

Now, Sir Winston likes most kinds of food. He will gladly nibble on pancakes, pudding, yogurt, bread, pretty much anything. But he LOVES meat, fish and chicken- no surprise there, he is, after all a cat even if he acts like a dog 99.9% of the time. And of course, being totally spoiled and self-important, he feels the need to express his thoughts…clearly and LOUDLY. I’ve decided to post a quick video to display he vocal talents.

This ruckus was only when he wanted a snack! He had already eaten his dinner. When Winston is expected a meal, he meows incessantly until he gets his food. Unfortunately, because the steak was marinated, he didn’t get any because I was worried about his little belly, but I did give him some special kitty treats.

My bf and I, on the other hand, quite enjoyed the steak, featured here with the pesto from yesterday’s post….

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