Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

What better way to decide what flavor cupcakes that you wish to have for your birthday party than to pick from your favorite ice cream choices.  That is how my, just turned 6 daughter, Paige Leigh, chose hers.  It was a toss-up between mint chocolate chip and cookie dough.  And with the deal breaker of salmonella poisoning that I explained to her with the cookie dough, she went with the first one.  Thank goodness, because I was not about to experiment with non-egg cookie dough.  Mommy has to draw the line somewhere.

1 box of chocolate Devil's Food cake mix (prepared as directed- I used Pillsbury)
1 standard-sized box of Instant chocolate pudding mix
1 container of regular white cake frosting (I used Pillsbury)
1/4-1/2 tsp. of peppermint extract (taste as you add it)
1/4 tsp. of green food coloring
1/2 cup of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (I only buy Nestle)

-Preheat your oven to 350*.  Place your paper/ foil cupcake liners in your 12-count muffin pan; set aside.  Add the chocolate pudding mix right into your already prepared cake batter and stir well.  Using a gravy ladle (like I do-works perfect) or a large spoon, fill your lined muffin pan cups about 3/4's of the way up with batter.  Bake for 18-22 minutes at 350*.  Once done, remove cupcakes and place on a wire cookie rack (or a jerky drying rack like I use- works just a well), then  repeat the process again for the last batch.  Meanwhile, for the frosting, using a hand held mixer and working in a large mixing bowl, mix the cake frosting, 1/4 tsp. of the peppermint extract (adding more in if you prefer) and the green food coloring until thoroughly combined.  Once the cupcakes are done and have completely cooled, go ahead and spread it on nice and thick.  Then, last but not least, sprinkle the frosted tops with the mini chocolate chips.  Makes 24 cupcakes.  Enjoy!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Angel Hair Pasta Salad with Balsamic Tomatoes

I never find myself stopping to think of what to try out next, food-wise that is, it always seems to come to me.  It usually starts with seeing something that I like and that I must have.  So, then I will research different recipes of it and ask as many people as I know if they make it and how.  Then I will most of the time just wing it and go with it.  And then, I will be stuck on it, not in the actual same thing that I made, but stuck with the thing, the key ingredient or ingredients that made me want it to begin with.  This recipe here came all the way from talking about some salmon with a new friend.  She is a 'non' salmon-lover.  That is how I see it, people either are on the salmon boat or not.  It's an either or kinda fish.  I, of course am on the boat and steering it straight up stream after those ugly things.  But, back to the point at hand here, she stated that she did not care for salmon.  I then, in respect to the salmon, felt the need to convince her that she maybe just had it prepared wrong or at least not to her liking.  That salmon can be done a million different ways, bringing out a different flavor each time.  Take BBQing it I told her, it is amazing and it brings out a candied-style sweetness to the fish.  Completely changing the game I told her.  Then, I got to the ringer, try a balsamic glaze with it.  Again amazing.  And that is where it began.  My week-long, maybe more, love affair with balsamic vinegar.  And that is what lead me here, to this little cookout gem.  It was the first impromptu idea that I had when she invited us back to the campground the next day to enjoy a holiday picnic with them.  I stood in front of my pantry, desperately racking my brains on what I could make to bring with what I already had.  And the first place my eyes went was to the gleaming dark rounded bottle of balsamic vinegar on the top shelf.  And let me tell you, it was delicious.  Absolutely delicious.

3-4 large Roma tomatoes (diced)
3 T. of balsamic vinegar
1 large clove of garlic (minced)
sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
1 T. of extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. of sugar
1 lb. of angel hair pasta (uncooked)
1 bunch of green onions (diced)

-Go ahead and get a large stockpot of water set for a boil for your pasta.  Place your diced tomatoes in a medium sized non-reactive bowl (use a ceramic/ glass or wooden bowl) along with the balsamic vinegar and give it a good stir; set aside to soak, stirring often.  In a large deep saucepan, over medium heat, saute your garlic in the e.v.o. sea salt and pepper.  Once you have heated it up good (don't let it brown), remove it from the heat.  Once your stockpot of water reaches a rapid bowl, stir in a slight pour of e.v.o. (flavors your pasta and also keeps it from sticking together) and add your pasta.  Boil for no longer than 3 minutes (in cold salads, especially, you don't want to over cook it), transfer it to a colander in your sink and rinse with cold water until you are ready for it.  Ok, back to the tomatoes, return your saucepan with your sauteed garlic back to a medium heat on the stove top.  Add in the tomatoes and the balsamic vinegar that they are soaking in, the sugar and the green onions.  Let this all get nice and hot, then remove from heat (you are just warming everything together- not boiling it to cook it).  Place your rinsed and drained pasta in a large mixing bowl and toss with the tomatoes and sauce.  Cover and refrigerate at least an hour prior to serving cold.  Serves 6.  Enjoy!