Fun with Polenta

Last night I tried to prepare a simple side dish of grilled polenta with mozzarella and pasta sauce.  Unfortunately, I don’t think I grilled them very well. I let the slices cook for about 4 minutes on each side on fairly high heat (I was using an indoor grill pan) with some olive oil, but they didn’t turn out quite brown. Regardless, I took them off the grill and placed them in the broiling pan, topped each slice with a dollop of marinara sauce and some shredded mozzarella, and popped them in the broiler for 2 minutes.

They turned out OK, but I think they could be better.

Tonight I think I’ll try another batch, but maybe this time fry the suckers with butter in my trusty cast-iron pan.

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August 13, 2007 at 7:21 pm Leave a comment

Nacho Supper

This recipe came to me by email not too long ago. Quick and easy when you’ve got a hankering for Mexican. Careful though … I think this packs a whopping 460 calories per serving, as well as 24g of fat and 26g of carbs. On the plus side, you get 34g of protein. A healthier option would be to turn this into a vegetarian dish by substituting the ground beef with soy crumbles like Boca’s Ground Burger.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 lb ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 (16-oz) can refried beans
1 package taco seasoning
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 can green chilies, chopped
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup picante sauce
Tortilla chips, for serving

Brown the beef and onion in a large skillet over medium heat; drain. Add the seasoned salt and cumin and stir to combine. Set aside.

Combine the beans, taco seasoning and Monterey Jack cheese in a medium mixing bowl.

Spread the bean and cheese mixture in a 9-by-13-inch pan. Cover with the beef and onions. Follow with the green chilies, cheddar cheese and picante sauce. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips. Serves 4-6.

August 11, 2007 at 10:01 am Leave a comment

Candy Bars

Here’s a recipe from The Cake Mix Doctor (which I think is one of those books no wanna-be baker should be without) that I like to use. I love the versatility–use any sort of candy you have about the house! (Er, obviously, use only candy that’s actually still good to eat, and not a bar you might find under the couch.)

1 package plain yellow cake mix
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons of butter, melted (I use salted)
2 large eggs
1 cup chopped candy bar pieces, such as Snicker’s, Butterfinger, etc.

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Set aside an ungreased 13×9 inch baking pan.

Place the cake mix, brown sugar, melted butter, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Blend again on low speed for 1 minute. Fold in the candy bar pieces until well distributed. Pour the batter into the an, smoothing it out with the rubber spatula so that it reaches all sides. Place the pan in the oven.

Bake the cake until it is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.

Cut the cake into 24 bars. Remove the bars from the pan with a metal spatula and serve. Store bars, covered in plastic wrap, at room temperature for up to 1 week. Or, freeze them, wrapped in aluminum foil, for up to 6 months. Thaw the bars overnight on the counter before serving.

August 10, 2007 at 8:45 am Leave a comment

Diary Entry Number 4,713

Dear Diary,

This morning I fell in the bathroom tub, and now my elbows and knees are bruised. (I suppose I should be quite thankful I didn’t smash my head.)

After work I was busy looking for hotels for Dublin and London that I didn’t have time to work out or make dinner. D brought home take-out: chili cheese fries for him and a Gardenburger for me. I ate the whole damn thing. Then I felt guilty so at 11pm I decided to do my strength training workout. I think I’m mildly obsessed.

My workout schedule is … M/W/F: cardio (lately I’m hooked on this cardio core workout with Petra Kolber), then strength training on Tu/Th/Sun. Saturdays are my rest days, though I do get some activity in by walking at the farmers’ market. My weight’s been hovering around 117lbs lately, but at least the Tanita scale is saying the body fat is getting lower. I suppose the only TRUE test is when I go back to the doctor’s next March. If my triglycerides and cholesterol are still high (assuming I maintain all this activity for another 10 months), well … I dunno.

I’m off to bed, or at least try to doze off.

May 25, 2007 at 7:36 am Leave a comment

No Cupcakes

Sadly, I wasn’t able to make cupcakes this weekend. Farmers’ market, bookstore, groceries, and some much-needed down time. The down time didn’t even last too long since I thought it would be “fun” to give NS a face lift and move the entire thing to our main hosts.

Wow. That was kinda painful.

So I had been working on the finishing touches until dinner tonight, after which I had another bright idea. I hadn’t exercised today (Saturday being my day off), so I thought, “I’ll just get my cardio strength training in.” While I managed to stay alive for pretty much the entire workout, I was close to blacking out by cool-down. Seriously. Breathing deep, stretching … and oh look, my vision’s kinda going black! Needless to say, soon I found myself crumpled in a pathetic heap on the bathroom floor, trying to control my breathing and to not throw up.

Lesson learned. Wait MORE than 20 minutes after eating before doing any sort of exercise.

May 21, 2007 at 6:29 am Leave a comment

Cookie Dough Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

One of our members on the NS message boards just posted this cupcake recipe. I think I started salivating as soon as I read “chocolate buttercream” … I’d eat a whole bowl if I didn’t know any better.

125 Best Cupcake RecipesMakes 22 to 24 cupcakes (2½ inches each)
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 23 to 27 minutes
Assembly time: 10 minutes
24 paper liners for cupcake pans (2½-inch size)

Ingredients:
1 package (18.25 ounces) plain yellow cake mix
1 package (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding mix
1 cup whole milk
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 package (1 pound) frozen cookie dough (see “The Cupcake Doctor Says” below)
Directions:
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners. Set the pans aside.

Place the cake mix, pudding mix, milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. The batter should look well blended. Spoon or scoop a heaping 1/4 cup batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it two-thirds of the way full. (You will get between 22 and 24 cupcakes; remove the empty liners, if any.)

Cut the frozen dough pieces in half to make 24 pieces. Place a frozen cookie dough piece on top of each cupcake. Place the pans in the oven.

Bake the cupcakes until they are golden and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 23 to 27 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for five minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edges of the cupcake liners, lift the cupcakes up from the bottoms of the cups using the end of the knife, and pick them out of the cups carefully with your fingertips. Place them on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before frosting. They may sink a bit in the center.

Meanwhile, prepare the Chocolate Buttercream.

If you use the 18-ounce logs of refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough (instead of the one-pound packages of frozen dough), cut them into 24 equal pieces and freeze them before using them in this recipe. It’s important to use frozen dough, because you don’t want it to bake completely and become a cookie. You want the center to be gooey when you bite into it.

Chocolate Buttercream
Makes 3 cups, enough to frost 24 cupcakes (2½-inch size) generously
Preparation time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3 to 5 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:
Place the butter and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until the mixture is soft and well combined, 30 seconds.
Stop the machine and add the confectioners’ sugar, three tablespoons of the milk, and the vanilla. Blend with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, one minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, one minute more. Add one to two tablespoons more milk if the frosting is too stiff.

Place a heaping tablespoon of frosting on each cupcake and swirl to spread it out with a short metal spatula or a spoon, taking care to cover the tops completely. The cupcakes are ready to serve.

Five Tips for Making Buttercream Frosting
About three cups of confectioners’ sugar produces the right amount of buttercream frosting for a batch of 24 cupcakes.
Use one tablespoon liquid to one cup sugar to two tablespoons plus two teaspoons butter.

Sift the confectioners’ sugar to prevent lumps in the frosting.

Begin with soft butter. If needed, soften the butter in the microwave.

For a white buttercream frosting, begin with unsalted butter. Beat it on medium-high with an electric mixer to lighten the color. Use milk as the liquid.

To store:
Store these cupcakes, in a cake saver or under a glass dome, at room temperature for up to three days or in the refrigerator for up to one week. Or freeze them, wrapped in aluminum foil or in a cake saver, for up to six months. Thaw the cupcakes overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

May 17, 2007 at 1:37 am Leave a comment

Starting Over

Usually, when people move blogs, it’s to their own hosted sites. Here I’m doing the opposite. I’m going to be closing down the original cupcake diaries and moving into WordPress.com. I think in my efforts to simplify my life and reduce clutter, I’m also reducing the number of sites and domains I play with.

Anywhoo, now the problem is that the old site is on an older version of WordPress; it doesn’t have an export feature, so I can’t quite easily import my old posts in here. Oh well. I’ll be manually reposting some entries, mostly recipes and stuff that I’d like to keep. The rest can go the way of the Dodo.

While this new blog will still be mostly about food, I will probably talk about some other stuff as well. Some may be related to food (diet), some may be totally unrelated (I’m out of clean underwear). A big part of my life is about food; I love to cook and eat, BUT I’m also a health freak, so I’ll go on about healthy eating, treats (I don’t believe in deprivation), exercise, weight, and general well-being.

It’s about finding balance.

May 16, 2007 at 5:11 am Leave a comment

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