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Simple Cupcakes

This is a recipe that my daughter Miya found, and together we modified it a bit. They’re kind of a yellow cake / muffin type cupcake. I dug out one of my frosting recipes, and we topped it all off with some Wilton sparkly sugar! Have a try… they’re simple, they’re good and they sparkle! With Valentine’s Day coming up, these would be a nice quick treat.

Simple Cupcakes

Ingredients
• 1/2 cup shortening • 1 1/3 cups sugar 

• 1 teaspoon vanilla 
• 2 large eggs
 • 1 cup milk

• 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour 

• 3 teaspoons baking powder
 • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream together shortening and sugar. Mix in vanilla, eggs and milk. Add dry ingredients, mix together. It’s best to use a mixer for this step, otherwise your cupcakes will have a coarse texture. Two or 2 1/2 minutes at medium speed should do it.

Spoon batter into cupcake pan lined with cupcake paper liners. Bake for approx. 20 minutes. You can check to see if they’re done by inserting a toothpick into one of the cupcakes. If it comes out clean, they’re done!

Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack. If you don’t have a wire rack, a breadboard or even the counter works fine!  Once they’re completely cool, frost!

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 5 or 6 Tablespoons milk

Mix butter, cream cheese, vanilla, salt and powdered sugar. Add milk, using your best judgement about frosting consistency. If the frosting is too thick after 5 tablespoons, add one more. That will usually be enough!

Big Game Bash – Bobby Flay

I was just visiting over at the Food Network website when I laid eyes on this pizza. My mouth immediately started watering! (Bobby Flay has that effect on me too!) I knew that I had to share this with my readers. Perfect for Super Bowl Sunday!

Pizza with NY Strip, Blue Cheese and Balsamic Glaze

Recipe courtesy Bobby Flay

Prep Time:
55 min
Inactive Prep Time:
2 hr 20 min
Cook Time:
15 min

Level:
Intermediate

Serves:
4 servings

Ingredients
Balsamic Glaze:

2 cups balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Steak:

1 (12-ounce) NY strip steak
Canola oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pizza
1/2 recipe Pizza Dough rolled into 2 (10-inch) rounds, recipe follows or 2 store-bought pizza dough
Canola oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (recommended: Cabrales)
Grilled steak
1 bunch watercress, coarsely chopped
Balsamic Glaze
Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

For the glaze:

Bring vinegar to a boil in a small nonreactive saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1/2 cup. Stir in the honey and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

For the steak:

Heat grill to high. Brush steak on both sides with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until golden brown and slightly charred on both sides and cooked to medium-rare doneness, about 5 minutes per side. Remove from the grill to a cutting board, tent lightly with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice into 1/4-inch thick slices.

For the pizza:

Heat the grill to high.

Brush both sides of the pizzas with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the grill, divide the Monterey Jack cheese over the top of each one and then sprinkle with the blue cheese. Place back on the grill, close the cover of the grill and grill until the cheese has melted, about 1 minute. Remove to a flat surface, divide the steak between each pizza, then top with the watercress Drizzle with some of the balsamic glaze and sprinkle with some of the shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Pizza Dough:

2/3 cup lukewarm water (105 degrees F to 115 degrees F)
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for oiling bowl
1 3/4 to 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/4 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons coarse salt

In a large bowl stir together 1/3 cup water, yeast, and sugar and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/3 cup water, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 3/4 cups flour, cornmeal, and salt and blend until the mixture forms a dough. Knead dough on a floured surface, incorporating as much of remaining 1/4 cup flour, as necessary, to prevent dough from sticking, until smooth about 5 to 10 minutes. Form the dough into a ball.

Lightly oil the sides and bottom of a large bowl with oil, add the dough, turn to coat in the oil, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Gently punch the dough down and divide into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece on a lightly floured surface into a 10-inch circle that is 1/8-inch thick. Brush off excess flour and transfer the dough to a baking sheet, cover each circle of dough with plastic wrap and continue stacking rolled out pieces on top of each other. Wrap well with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to grill.

National Peanut Butter Day!

cropped portion of portrait of George Washingt...

Image via Wikipedia

To celebrate National Peanut Butter day (January 24), I decided to share some facts about peanuts that I gleaned from the National Peanut Board. I would also like to point out that renowned peanut researcher, George Washington Carver, spent a good amount of time right here in Iowa! Wikipedia tells us, “In 1890, Carver started studying art and piano at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa .His art teacher, Etta Budd, recognized Carver’s talent for painting flowers and plants; she encouraged him to study botany at Iowa State Agricultural College in Ames.When he began in 1891, he was the first black student, and later taught as the first black faculty member.

When he completed his B.S., professors Joseph Budd and Louis Pammel convinced Carver to continue at Iowa State for his master’s degree. Carver did research at the Iowa Experiment Station under Pammel during the next two years. His work at the experiment station in plant pathology and mycology first gained him national recognition and respect as a botanist.”

George Washington Carver Facts

  • Dr. George Washington Carver researched and developed more than 300 uses for peanuts in the early 1900s.
  • In 1916, he published the research bulletin, “How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it For Human Consumption.”
  • Dr. Carver is considered “The Father of the Peanut Industry” because of his extensive research and selfless dedication to promoting peanut production and products.
  • Dr. Carver’s research gained him much worldwide acclaim. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison were a few of his many fans.
  • For more George Washington Carver facts click here.

Peanut Nutrition Facts

  • The peanut is not a nut, but a legume related to beans and lentils.
  • Peanuts have more protein, niacin, folate and phytosterols than any nut.
  • Peanuts have a higher antioxidant capacity over grapes, Concord grape juice, green tea, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, carrots and many more.
  • Peanuts and peanut butter contain over 30 essential nutrients and phytonutrients.
  • Peanuts are naturally cholesterol-free.

Related articles

Paula Deen Has Diabetes – So What?

“Everything in moderation… including moderation.” – Julia Child

Here’s where I weigh in (pun intended) on the firestorm that ensued after Paula Deen‘s confession that she has known she has Type II diabetes for three years. Basically… so?

A good public relations decision for Deen would have been to have come clean three years ago about her diabetes. But is she really required to disclose her medical history? Do we know the health concerns of other celebrity chefs? Because she has diabetes, does that make it forbidden for her to cook anything other than “diabetic” food? I really fail to see the logic in all the “Shame on you, Paula Deen!” mentality.

Julia Child knew what was what. In addition to her rather famous quote above about moderation, she has also said, “The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon appétit. ” Is Julia vilified because she advocated getting loaded? No. Is Keith Richards a “bad role model” because he plays the guitar with arthritic hands? Is he “promoting” an activity that may or may not bring on a physical affliction? (The answer to that is, or had better be, a resounding, “HELL NO!”)

The thing is… and this is a shocker… Paula Deen is NOT the only celebrity cook who uses ingredients that are less than healthy for you. Hell, I found a fairly decadent fettucine recipe in one of my Cooking Light magazines! Butter, half-and-half, (less fat) cream cheese and TEN strips of bacon! Cooking “light?” Indeed.

The Food Network, publishing companies, celebrity chefs… anybody who promotes cooking and food is usually doing so TO MAKE MONEY. Like it or not, we are a capitalistic society.

I’m not saying that a lot of her food isn’t bad for you. A lot of it is. She does really like butter and mayonnaise. But the bottom line is, Americans are fat because of the choices we make, and changes in our society that make physical exertion less likely than it used to be. Paula Deen cooks on television. She doesn’t come into our homes and shove pie down our… well… pieholes. We do that. WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CONSEQUENCES OF WHAT WE EAT.

Deen has expressed dismay that more chefs haven’t come forth in support of her. That too is a public relations decision, on their part. Emeril Lagasse did speak out in support of Deen. He disclosed that although he does not have Type II diabetes, it runs in his family. “We in our household have been dealing with it [diabetes] for many, many years. In the words of Julia Child, ‘it’s about moderation.'” (See? Always listen to Julia!) Take a look at Emeril on Good Morning America:
Emeril Lagasse Talks Paula Deen, Diabetes, Makes Braised Pot Roast With Vegetables.

Zingaro 515

If you haven’t heard about Zingaro 515 yet, you need to! After hearing much buzz on Twitter and in the Des Moines Register about Zingaro opening in Sherman Hills, I decided that I needed to investigate, and inform my readers about this new dining experience.

Zingaro 515 opened on Dec. 2, and is located in the Scheuerman House in Sherman Hills, at 1605 Woodland Ave. Zingaro is self-described as, “A chef-driven restaurant in the heart of Sherman Hill. With an approach unseen with in the Des Moines culinary world.”

The sight of the house brought back an immediate childhood memory for me. I lived in the Sherman Hills district during most of my childhood. My family would go on walks, sometimes “downtown”  and we always walked right past the Scheuerman House, which is directly across the street to the west of Hoyt Sherman Place. Rumor has it that I was a stubborn child, and disliked walking anything but SLOW. About the point at which I would get tired and start to lag just happened to be right in the vicinity of the Scheuerman house! I can still remember it.

Anyway, after further research I discovered that Zingaro 515 is a “pop-up” restaurant. Local chef/blogger Sam Auen gives a superb explanation in his blog, Locally Grown.

“Pop-ups are popping up in larger cities (shocker) and play on a chef’s creativity.  It’s a way for those chefs without big money backing to expose the world to the product of their obsessive culinary nature.  The goal of these places is not to become a fixture, but to burn brightly then move on to something new.  Sometimes these ventures are a testing ground for the viability of a concept or to showcase an intended static restaurant concept to the public and especially to people who may want to invest in the particular chef’s future.  Did you catch that one?  This is awesome semi-guerilla dining at its rawest.”

I contacted York Taenzer, owner of the Schuerman House, to ask about featuring the house and Zingaro 515 on my blog. I was lucky enough to be invited to view the house and chat with both Taenzer and Chef Hal Jasa. Chef Jasa is well known in the Des Moines area. He was also a chef at 25th St. Cafe and Phat Chefs, and more recently did underground dinners with the Des Moines Social Club. Jasa also had the honor of being featured as “100 Tastes to Try in 2007” in Food & Wine magazine. He’s number 51 – “Clandestine Dinners” if you want to go take a look.

Chef Jasa chatted with me about his passion for food. His specialties are charcuterie, and sauces.  According to Wikipedia, charcuterie is “the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, pâtés, and confit, primarily from pork.[1] Charcuterie is part of the garde manger chef‘s repertoire. Originally intended as a way to preserve meats before the advent of refrigeration, they are prepared today for their flavors derived from the preservation processes.[2]

Jasa also experiments with scents that he says opens up the palate. He recently featured orange creme brulee on the menu, which included “pine.” Jasa showed me how he used one dish to place a bed of rock salt, and an actual sprig of pine, then placed the creme brulee in a dish nestled in the rock salt. He is also using liquid nitrogen to make ice cream at the tables – something that excited one of my readers greatly when I shared that fact with her.

The Scheuerman House itself is a grand old Victorian home with ornate Golden oak woodwork, a fitting showcase for Chef Jasa’s culinary genius.

Authentic Victorian furnishings

A grand piano

and an elegant dining room

Zingaro will be open Thursday and Friday evenings from 5:30 to close. Diners can enjoy three courses for $30 in the dining room, or dine on five courses at the six-person chef’s table for $60. Zingaro is a BYOB restaurant, with a $5 stemware charge per table. For more information go to http://www.zingarocuisine.com. Reservations are recommended.

The Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Rolls

The Pioneer Woman aka pDub

Image by Brad Trump Photography via Flickr

The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, is one of my favorite food bloggers. Recently I was searching for a great cinnamon roll recipe and ran across hers in a Google search. So, I thought… “I’ll bite.”  (haha… it’s funny because you bite cinnamon rolls!)

The intro to her blogpost about cinnamon rolls says that this is a treasured recipe of hers… her mom’s recipe. She claims that people will swoon, drool, even propose marriage to you after eating these cinnamon rolls!

I don’t know about that… yet… but the first words out of daughter #1’s mouth after eating one of these cinnamon rolls was, “Good God these are decadent!”

I’m only going to include the recipe here… I strongly suggest that you go over to the Pioneer Woman’s website and use her step-by-step instructions.

Ingredients

  • 1 quart Whole Milk
  • 1 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 packages Active Dry Yeast
  • 8 cups (Plus 1 Cup Extra, Separated) All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda
  • 1 Tablespoon (heaping) Salt
  • Plenty Of Melted Butter
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • Generous Sprinkling Of Cinnamon
  • _____
  • MAPLE FROSTING:
  • 1 bag Powdered Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Maple Flavoring
  • ½ cups Milk
  • ¼ cups Melted Butter
  • ¼ cups Brewed Coffee
  • ⅛ teaspoons Salt

Preparation Instructions

Mix the milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a pan. Scald the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and leave to cool 45 minutes to 1 hour. When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot, sprinkle in both packages of Active Dry Yeast. Let this sit for a minute. Then add 8 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir mixture together. Cover and let rise for at least an hour.

After rising for at least an hour, add 1 more cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together. (At this point, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it – overnight or even a day or two, if necessary. Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to overflow out of the pan, just punch it down).

When ready to prepare rolls: Sprinkle rolling surface generously with flour. Take half the dough and form a rough rectangle. Then roll the dough thin, maintaining a general rectangular shape. Drizzle 1/2 to 1 cup melted butter over the dough. Now sprinkle 1 cup of sugar over the butter followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon.

Now, starting at the opposite end, begin rolling the dough in a neat line toward you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Next, pinch the seam of the roll to seal it.

Spread 1 tablespoon of melted butter in a seven inch round foil cake or pie pan. Then begin cutting the rolls approximately ¾ to 1 inch thick and laying them in the buttered pans.

Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Let the rolls rise for 20 to 30 minutes, then bake at 400 degrees (see note below) until light golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes.

For the frosting, mix together all ingredients listed and stir well until smooth. It should be thick but pourable. Taste and adjust as needed. Generously drizzle over the warm rolls. Go crazy and don’t skimp on the frosting.

Note: My rolls don’t work for me at 400 degrees anymore. I now bake them at 375 degrees.

Deliver some as holiday gifts, and prepare for professions of love and marriage proposals!

Younkers Famous Rarebit Burger

When I got home from the most awesome Thanksgiving dinner, it came to my attention that one of my readers was searching for the recipe for “hamburgers with cheese sauce poured over like younkers in des moines.” I immediately knew that this was the rarebit burger. The burger we drooled for, but only got if we’d been good enough to warrant a shopping trip “downtown” (Des Moines) at Younkers.
My stepmother was the first person to introduce me to Younkers’ rarebit burger. She had two sons, and loved doing things with me… wanting to get out of that house full of testosterone! I remember her looking at me with eager anticipation. I felt somewhat pressured… what if I didn’t like it? I’d dash all her hopes and dreams of doing “girl things” with me! But one bite and I was hooked. So here it is, reader…. whoever you are. The not-secret-anymore recipe for the Younkers rarebit burger, gleaned directly out of my Younkers cookbook.
To make Younkers popular rarebit burgers, cook 8 hamburger patties to 170 deg. until no pink remains. Place each burger in a toasted hamburger bun.  Spoon about 1/4 cup of rarebit sauce over each bun. Serve immediately.

Tea Room Rarebit Sauce

Younkers Cookbook

1/3 cup cooking oil

1/3 cup flour

1 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. dry mustard

2 cups whole milk

1 tsp. Worcestershire  sauce

1/4 tsp. bottled hot pepper sauce (I used McIlhenny Tabasco)

1 cup shredded process sharp American cheese (4 oz) (I used Kraft “Old English” sharp pasteurized process cheese food. It is found in 5 oz. jars… I only used one jar because each jar is 5 oz and they call for 4 oz. of shredded cheese. I like the flavor this cheese gave the sauce.)

Place oil in a medium saucepan. Stir together flour, paprika, salt and dry

mustard.  Add flour mixture to oil; cook and stir for 1 minute. Stir in milk all at

once.  Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook

and stir 1 minute more. Remove from heat; stir in Worcestershire sauce and

hot pepper sauce.  Add cheese and stir until melted. Makes 2 cups.

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