FUNFETTI CUPCAKES




Who doesn’t like funfetti cupcakes?  They are Lauren’s favorite so I went to the Brown Eyed Baker’s blog, and these were listed in her top ten favorite cupcakes.  I knew I had a winner and as usual her cupcakes are flavorful and moist.  For the first time though I wasn’t blown away by her buttercream frosting, so I have instead listed a more flavorful frosting.  These were taken to a crawfish boil at Zeke and Kenzie’s, and I swear I don’t remember seeing so many children 3 years old and younger in one place in a very long time!  I did hear one Dad say to his young daughter “Look me in the eye and say I agree not to have another cupcake.”  He actually made her stand there until she said I agree! – Awww Dad :-(

1-3/4 c. cake flour
1-1/4 c. all purpose flour
1-3/4 c. sugar
2-1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. kosher salt
1 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into ½” cubes
4 eggs
1 c. whole milk
2 t. vanilla extract
½ c. rainbow sprinkles (approximately 1 bottle)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt and mix together on low speed for one minute.  With the mixer on low, add the butter a few cubes at a time, continuing until all the butter has been added and the mixture resembles coarse sand.  Keeping the mixer on low speed, add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions.  Slowly pour in the milk and vanilla and mix until combined.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, until the batter is smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.  Using a rubber spatula, gently stir in the sprinkles.

Fill the liners two-thirds full (about ¼ c. of batter) and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the centers are set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  (My oven took 15 minutes so be sure and don’t overbake them.)  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Frosting:

1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
4 c. powdered sugar, SIFTED
¼ t. table salt
1 TB vanilla extract
Up to 4 TB whole milk or heavy cream
Rainbow sprinkles, for decorating

Beat the butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed.  Turn the mixer speed to the lowest setting and slowly add the powdered sugar until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and add the vanilla extract, salt, and 2 TB of milk or cream and beat for 3 minutes.  If you want a thinner frosting add more milk/cream 1 TB at a time.

Either spread the frosting on the cupcakes or pipe it on and garnish with additional sprinkles.  Store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

BEAN AND CORN SALAD WITH CILANTRO VINAIGRETTE

 As usual I went to Pati’s Mexican Table when I was looking for a new side dish to be served with fish tacos.  Not only did Justin comment (even 3 days later as he was eating leftovers) that he really liked the dish, but Lauren (or as the family fondly refers to her, The Hell No Girl) even liked it!  The next time I make it I will change the garbanzo beans to a softer bean, like maybe Navy beans because the garbanzo beans are tough and don’t really take on the flavor of the vinaigrette.  Don’t get me wrong, it is still good with them in it, but I think we will like it even better with a softer bean.  (Don’t tell Pati though – she’s my idol when it comes to Mexican cuisine!)

1 – 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 – 15 oz. can garbanzo or navy beans, drained and rinsed
1 – 15 oz. can whole kernel corn, drained
1 – 14 oz. can hearts of palm, drained and cut into ¼” rounds
1 c. finely diced red bell pepper
2 Tb. finely diced red onion

Vinaigrette:

½ c. cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
¼ c. olive oil
¼ c. canola oil
¼ c. red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. kosher or sea salt, or more to taste

Place all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a blender and puree until smooth.  It may be made up to a week ahead and store covered in the refrigerator.  If made ahead, whisk it or shake it in the covered container to re-emulsify prior to using.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except the hearts of palm.  Pour in the vinaigrette* and stir to combine well.  Add the hearts of palm and gently toss.

*This was a lot of vinaigrette for the amount of salad.  You want enough to really flavor and almost marinate the ingredients, but you might prefer to save a little of the dressing for another salad and go a little lighter on the dressing.

LAUREN’S MEXICAN CORN




If you love corn, this is a dish you definitely will want to make – we all love it!  It is a wonderful side dish for a Mexican themed meal, but we also love it with grilled meats.  Every time I want to make this I can never remember how to do it exactly so when  Lauren made it for our Easter Sunday meal I tried to watch her as best I could while running back and forth from the grill.  I am blogging it so I remember the ingredients, but as usual I forgot to take a picture and that would have helped so much since of course she doesn’t measure her ingredients.  The amounts are my best guess estimates.   I will try and make it myself sometime soon and take a picture and hopefully get better amount estimates.   We had bought 5 ears of corn because we were originally thinking of just grilling it, so the estimates are based on that.  Lauren says when she makes it she usually considers 1-1/2 ears per person.  Once the corn is charred and cut off the cob, the cooking time is only about 3 minutes, so definitely do this dish at the last minute.

5 ears fresh corn on the cob
Butter
Salt and pepper
About ¼-1/3 c. Mexican Crema, table cream*
About ¼-1/3 c. chopped cilantro
Juice of ½ -1 whole lime, depending on how juicy the lime is
About ¼-1/3 c. Cotija cheese, grated
Tajin**

Shuck the corn and rub it with softened butter; season with salt and pepper.  Put it on a hot grill, watching it carefully, and turn it when some of the kernels are charred.  Once there are charred kernels on all sides remove it from the grill and let it cool enough to handle.  Cut all the kernels off the cob and set aside.

In a nonstick skillet heat the crema and cilantro until it is bubbling.  Stir in the corn and cotija cheese and leave it just long enough to heat through.   At the last minute add the lime juice and lightly sprinkle Tajin all over it and stir.  The total cook time should only be 3-5 minutes.

*The Crema is usually located with the Mexican cheeses.  There is also a Mexican Crema, sour cream.  Be sure and get the table cream.

**Tajin is usually found in the produce area near fruit, since Mexicans like to sprinkle it on their fruit.

TIPS:  To keep the corn from getting mushy don’t use too much crema or leave the corn on the stove top too long.







MAMA DINGES CARROT CUPCAKES

I was looking for a carrot cake recipe that didn't include pineapple, raisins or other added flavors.  Lauren likes carrot cupcakes with just carrots, and so of course I went on a quest to find one that would come close to the ones sold at Upper Crust Bakery which are our very favorites!  I knew I couldn't go wrong with this recipe from Kim's Mom.  After all, her recipe of the Blueberry Kouga has us all moaning every time we have it!  This recipe definitely didn't disappoint either and is very moist and delightful.  The cream cheese frosting is different than other recipes I have made, calling for 2 pkg. of cream cheese and less powdered sugar.  We liked it a lot, but it is strong with cream cheese, so if you want a milder frosting you might consider making the one that calls for less cream cheese but also butter.  Since it was Easter I found these cute gummy carrots to put on top, but normally I would do chopped nuts.

2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
2 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 t. salt
4 eggs
1-1/2 t. vanilla
1-1/2 c. canola oil
3 c. finely grated carrots
1-1/2 c. chopped nuts, if desired

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour three 9" cake pans or put paper liners in cupcake tins.

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and set aside.  In a mixer beat eggs, oil and vanilla.  Slowly add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined.  Beating too much will make the cake heavy.  Fold in the carrots and if desired, nuts.  Bake about 45 minutes for cakes or 25 minutes for cupcakes, until toothpick comes out clean.

Frosting:

16 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
2 c. or more powdered sugar
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
1/2 t. salt
Nuts, if desired

Beat cream cheese and powdered sugar on high for one minute.  Add salt and whipping cream and beat until combined.  Sprinkle nuts on top, if desired.  Keep refrigerated.

COCONUT CUPCAKES

It has become a tradition that I bring cupcakes to our Travis family Easter crawfish boil, and coconut cupcakes are always requested.  I finally remembered to have Lauren take a picture for me -- obviously she does a much better job than I do of taking them too!  Justin thinks these are moaners, but of course he loves all things coconut.  They are pretty yummy if I do say so myself.  The recipe came from browneyedbaker.com, and I have made several of her cupcakes and been pleased with them.  The coconut isn't over-powering, but you know it's there.  If you also love all things coconut, you will definitely be happy making these.

2 c. flour
2-1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2/3 c. sweetened shredded coconut
1 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 egg whites, room temperature
2 t. vanilla extract
1 c. unsweetened coconut milk (well-stirred)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin tins with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Pulse the shredded coconut in a food processor until finely ground and whisk into the flour mixture; set aside.  With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, egg whites and vanilla and beat until completely combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Reduce the mixer speed to low.  Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of coconut milk, and beating until combined after each.  Divide the better evenly between the lined cups.  Bake just until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 18-20 minutes (18 minutes was perfect for my oven).  Remove from the oven, let cool in the pan for 10 minutes then remove to a wire tack to cool completely.

Frosting:

2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 c. powdered sugar
4 t. vanilla extract
2 t. coconut extract
2 c. toasted coconut

Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice.  Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar.  Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated increase the speed to medium-high and add the vanilla and coconut extracts until fully incorporated.  Whip at medium-high speed until light anf fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed.  Either pipe or spread the frosting over the cupcakes and sprinkle with the toasted coconut.  The cupcakes should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

CORN DIP




Always a lover of corn I saw several recipes and combined them to come up with this dip.  It’s not necessarily very healthy, but it is tasty and a great treat when you want something a little different and are willing to splurge on calories.  Fritoes Scoops or tortilla chips are the best choice for it so of course you have to be in the splurge mode to have it.  Everyone who tried it sure did enjoy it though!

3 – 11 oz. cans Mexican corn
1 – 4 oz. can diced green chiles, drained
5 green onions, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (or more if you like things spicy)
1 c. sour cream
¾ c. mayonnaise
10 oz. shredded cheese (I used half Cotija and half sharp cheddar)

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

GRILLED BONELESS PORK CHOPS




Throwing a pork chop on the grill is such a quick meal, but sometimes they can get a bit dry.  I found this recipe in Cook’s Illustrated that suggests brining it to help it hold on to its juices during cooking.  To get a nice brown crust before the chop overcooks, they suggest smearing an anchovy-based paste on it.  The anchovy paired with the honey kick-starts the browning to give the chop a crisp, burnished crust in record time.  They also listed an onion and olive relish to top it with which I also made.  We enjoyed the relish, but even if I am not making the relish I will do my pork chops this way when I am grilling them.

3 (6-8 oz) boneless pork chops, ¾ to 1” thick, trimmed
3 TB salt
1 TB olive oil
1-1/2 t. honey
1 t. anchovy paste (comes in a tube)
½ t. freshly ground black pepper
Onion-Olive Relish*, optional

Cut 2 slits about 1” apart through outer layer of fat and connective tissue on each chop to prevent buckling.  Dissolve salt in 1-1/2 qts cold water in large container.  Submerge chops in brine and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat your gas grill on high for about 15 minutes.  Leave the primary burner on high and turn off other burners.

Whisk oil, honey, anchovy paste, and pepper together to form smooth paste.  Remove pork from brine and pat dry with paper towels.  Using spoon, spread half of oil mixture evenly over 1 side of each chop (about ¼ t. per side).

Oil cooking grate.  Place chops, oiled side down, voer hotter side of grill and cook, uncovered, until well browned on first side, 4-6 minutes.  While chops are grilling, spread remaining oil mixture evenly over second side of chops.  Flip chops and continue to cook until chops register 140 degrees, 4-6 minutes longer.  (If chops are well browned but register less than 140 degrees, move to cooler side of grill to finish cooking.)  Transfer chops to plate and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

*ONION-OLIVE RELISH:
2 TB olive oil
1 onion, diced
¼ c. pitted kalamata olives, chopped coarsely
2 TB rinsed capers, optional
1-1/2 TB balsamic vinegar
1 TB minced fresh parsley
½ t. sugar
¼ t. anchovy paste
¼ t. freshly ground black pepper
Dash salt

Heat 1 TB oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Transfer onion mixture to a small bowl; stir in olives, capers if using, vinegar, parsley, sugar, anchovy paste, pepper, salt and remaining 1TB oil.  Serve warm or at room temperature.