Thursday, July 22, 2010

Coffee Break

I cannot make coffee. It's a sad truth. I haven't found the perfect ratio of coffee grounds and water. Personally, I prefer it when someone else makes my coffee for me, the wonderful Dunkin' Donut employees, my mom the coffee grinder master, or best of all a Starbucks Barista. Okay, from Starbucks you can't get normal coffee, but rather the Mocha Frappuccino Light with Whip... my starbucks drink of choice. I'm trying to wean myself off the "whip" since it basically doubles the fat and caloric intake (and negates the point of ordering a light frap). Yum, definitely wishing for a starbucks drive-thru right about now.

Or, one of these babies.

Mocha Cupcake with a Coffee Buttercream Whip.

Almost as good as a drink from Starbucks.

Mocha Cupcakes with a Coffee Buttercream Whip
Adapted from Cupcake Heaven

-3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
-10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
-3/4 cup granulated sugar
-2 eggs
-2 tablespoons unsweetened coca powder
-3/4 cup self-rising flour
-2 teaspoons instant coffee dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water
-1/4 cup chocolate chips or chocolate-covered coffee beans

Preheat the oven to 35o degrees.

Melt the chocolate and set aside to cool slightly.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the melted chocolate and cocoa powder. Sift the flour into the mixture and stir in, then stir in the coffee, followed by the chocolate chips.

Spoon in cupcake liners (makes about 12 cupcakes) and bake for 20 minutes.

-7 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
-1 2/3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons instant coffee, dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water.
*double if you are going to pipe the frosting.

Beat the butter, sugar and coffee together until fluffy. Frost cupcakes and sprinkle with grated chocolate to decorate.

Enjoy your coffee break!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A summer weekend

A couple of my friends from Tennessee came and visited over the weekend. It was such a fun time of eating and beaching! Sunday after church we decided to be touristy and went to the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse. Being new to Daytona Beach, I was just as excited about seeing the tallest lighthouse in Florida as they were!

At the top!

We packed a picnic. See those cupcakes? A little peak at what's to come this week. :)

We ended the weekend the only fitting way one can end a summer weekend, with homemade ice cream!
My favorite, Mint Chocolate Chip! It rivals Breyers!
Bust our your ice cream makers! This recipe is a must!

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Adapted from Tasty Kitchen

-2 cups whole milk
-4 cups heavy cream
-1 1/2 sugar
-3 teaspoons peppermint extract
-1 cup mini chocolate chips

Whisk all ingredients together (except chocolate chips), make sure the sugar is dissolved. You can add the chocolate chips to the ice cream mix at the beginning (which is what I did) or the last few minutes of the churning.

*Homemade ice cream is typically the consistency of soft serve. If you want a little harder, freeze for 15 minutes and then serve.

Happy Summer!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Lion, The Witch and a Cupcake

I have been absorbed in a world of magic that is filled with talking badgers, 4 British kids, a white witch, dwarfs and or course a roaring Lion... or I guess I should say The Roaring Lion. I have never had a desire to read the Chronicles of Narnia, mainly because I wasn't into collecting swords and for some reason I thought that fact hinged on reading and liking the books. Maybe the sword collecting thing applies more to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy...

I did see the Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe movie that came out a while back. I went, not because I was excited about the movie, but because all my friends were going which meant a late night run to Steak 'n' Shake and let's be honest, I'm a sucker for their milkshakes. However, the book turned out much better than the movie (surprise surprise). And to say I am sucked in is probably an understatement. I am almost through the Voyage of the Dawn Treader (it's going to be the next movie made, or so I've heard) which leaves only two books left (7 book series, number of perfection, way to go Lewis).

The other day Bradley and I went for a walk after dinner through our neighborhood and there was a lady walking her white fluffy dog...I guess I could say the dog was walking her (more appropriate if you have read the Horse and His Boy...little Narnia humor.) Well, this fluffy white dog comes walking right up to me and Bradley causing us to stop and stoop down to say hello. His master ("master" is a much more Narnian term than "owner") said, "Beethoven wants to talk to you." To which I practically laughed out loud and half expected and half imagined the dog to say, "Excuse me, but you are quite in my way." (imagine in a British accent, which is how one must read and hear the Narnians converse.) When I told Bradley my thoughts he said that either I've been reading way to much about Narnia or I should write fantasy. Hmm, most definitely the former. I could not write fantasy because I don't wear a cape, nor do I want to. All fantasy writers, I am most certain, wear capes.

All in all, a great children series and one that I will read to my kids one day.

Oh, speaking of babies...It's a baby cupcake. Actually, it's a babycake!
The perfect new mommy gift. These mini cakes are really yummy with a white chocolate topping that sets and makes for easy transport.

Vanilla and White Chocolate Babycakes
From Cupcake Heaven

-4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
-5 tablespoons granulated sugar
-1 egg, beaten
-1/2 cup self-rising flour
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
-1 tablespoon milk

To Decorate

-1/4 cup white chocolate morsels
-food coloring
-pastel candies or white chocolate chips
-a 12-cup mini-cupcake pan, or a baking sheet with mini cupcake liners.
*if you are not using a mini-cupcake pan, make sure you double up the cupcake liners so the cupcake will hold it's shape.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat the butter and sugar together. Beat in the egg a little at a time. Sift the flour into the mixture and fold in, then stir in the vanilla and milk.

Bake for about 15 minutes.

To decorate melt white chocolate slowly in microwave, in three separate bowls. Add a drop of desired food color to each bowl. Top with a candy. Serve while the chocolate is still soft, or let set and package up as a gift.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cupcake Weekend

I made two batches of cupcakes this weekend and we painted our second bedroom. We had a very busy and productive weekend! I'm trying to decide which cupcake batch I'm going to show you...The first batch was cute and mini...the second batch resembled the style of a 70 year old woman and tasted like cardboard...We'll save the cute cupcakes for another day. Here are the horrid cupcakes.
To make an already terrible cupcake worse is this picture. It was storming like crazy up in here and was too dark to get a good picture. Besides that I need to start saving for a new camera. Mine has been dropped one too many times...
The purpose of these cupcakes were to attempt to work with fondant. hmmm...
The only upside to these cupcakes are the cute little wrappers. Cute! Oh, and the delicious butter cream. I'm not even going to give you the recipe for the cake because it's disgusting. I tried it because it was suppose to make cute domed cupcakes, which it did, but I like dessert to taste good! I'd rather something be ugly and tasty than cute and gross. That's just personal preference. Of course, the ideal is cute and tasty.

*Sigh* Epic FAIL.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Leave the gun, Take the Cannolis

So, I'm Italian, you probably guessed from my name alone. With a name like Francesca, some people expect me to have just arrived off the boat ("off the boat" refers to immigration). My great-grandparents arrived in New York (off the boat you could say) quite some time ago, I guess that would be three generations ago. That is long enough for my Italian-ness to be watered down some.

But not too watered down. One year, my family watched all three of the Godfather's on Christmas day. That's how us Italian's celebrate.

Point of the story is, I have enough Italian in me to make some great Italian food! And by make, I mean actually MAKE, not just pick up Olive Garden. Which, side note, is my favorite Italian restaurant and I'd probably rather pick it up than cook...but then I'd have nothing to blog about so here we are.

Spinach Meatballs
Adapted from Gina's Recipes (not my sister)

Because this is actually a "healthy" version of meatballs, don't judge all my Italian cooking on this recipe. I usually use an unearthly amount of cheese...ricotta and mozzarella makes everything taste so good...I don't want to get the reputation of only cooking healthy, that would be detrimental to my cupcakes.
  • 1 lb 93% lean ground beef
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained of all liquid
  • 2 slices whole wheat bread
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese (or your favorite Parmesan Cheese)
  • salt and pepper
  • Oregano
Sauce *
  • 1 tsp Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves mashed garlic
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • half an onion (don't chop)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Basil
  • Oregano
Wet bread and mash it with your hands. In a large bowl combine it with meat, spinach, egg, garlic, parsley, cheese, salt and pepper and oregano. Mix ingredients well. Roll into balls.

In a large pot heat *sauce of your choice* or add olive oil and garlic, until garlic is golden brown. Add Tomatoes, onion, salt and pepper, basil and oregano. Season to taste. Cover and reduce heat to low.

In a large skillet add olive oil in low heat. Add as many meatballs and cook in low. Rotate meatballs so all sides are golden brown. When meatballs are golden brown drop them in the sauce and cook for another 20-30 minutes. Discard onion before serving.

Serve over your favorite pasta. I used Whole Wheat pasta.

*The meatballs were delicious! But I wasn't a huge fan of the sauce. The simple crushed tomatoes cuts down on the calories if you are really watching what you are eating. If you aren't counting every calorie use your own sauce!

The next day I made a meatball sandwich with Provolone cheese that was amazing! Healthy and delicious (it hides the spinach well).

Now that's an offer you can't refuse!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cupcake or Pie?

So I heard...or rather, I read somewhere that cupcakes were going out. Going out?! What does that even mean?! The faze is coming to an end, evidently. And what is projected to take over the cupcake frenzy? Pies. HUH? Yeah, I don't get it. Pies are not cute. Pies do not contain delicious buttercream or cream cheese or even runny sour cream icing. Besides, I've been making cupcakes since before I could walk! Well, not really, but I grew up on cupcakes.Don't you remember birthday parties with lots of cupcakes and roller blading? Maybe these gourmet cupcakes that are served in place of a wedding cake are fazing out but cute individual size cakes cannot! Can you imagine wedding PIE? No, no, that is just too painful. Let's save pie for Thanksgiving. I'm keeping the cupcake.
Well lookie here! Who is this cute little guy? It's a grown-up cupcake!

The great things about these Apple and Cinnamon Cupcakes, is that they are almost like a muffin. Meaning, you could definitely get away with eating them for breakfast! Except, the only muffin-y part is the apple-cinnamon combo, which is delicious, but this is a cupcake.

Apple and Cinnamon Cupcakes
Adapted from Cupcake Heaven

-6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-1 egg, beaten
-1/2 cup sour cream
-1 tsp vanilla
-1 1/4 cups self-rising flour
-1/4 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1 granny smith apple, peeled cored and diced.

Makes 12

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl, gradually beat in the egg. Stir in sour cream and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and cinnamon and sift into mixture. Fold in the apple.

Sour Cream Icing

-1/3 cup sour cream
-about 1 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
-1/2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

-blackberries to decorate.

Adjust the amount of sugar to reach your desired consistency. Ice your cupcakes right before serving them. If the icing sits on the cupcake for a long period of time (overnight) the cupcake will start to get soggy.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Stay Extraordinary

Stay Extraordinary. That's the slogan for Diet Coke. Regular Coke's slogan is "Open Happiness." Diet Coke got the tag line "Stay Extraordinary." I like it. I like Coke. It dominates Pepsi. For me, diet coke can really pull everything together. If I'm sitting by the beach, my feet in the water and a good book in one hand, I'm feeling pretty good. If I'm sitting on the beach, my feet in the water, a good book in one hand and a diet coke in the other, all my cares are washed away.

Can you spell addiction? No, it's not what you think. I don't even drink a diet coke a day. I can go weeks without drinking diet coke. But the real question is, why would I want to? When it just tastes sooo good.

This is a picture from our honeymoon, thus the Coca-cola light (or as I like to say CoCa Light, with a heavy accent). Coca Light is not as good as diet coke, but it's not too shabby either. The soda is strategically posed next to my favorite snack. :) I'm a real health nut.

Here's a close up. I can't believe I couldn't find any other pictures of coke in my photo stash. I found way to many pictures of chocolate cake though...

This post has a point. The point is this: Diet Coke is my drink of choice. I have to drink diet coke with certain foods. PIZZA is a certain food that must be eaten with diet coke.

Pizza and diet coke go together like rama lama lama ke ding a de dinga a dong remembered forever like shoo bop shoo wadda wadda yipitty boom de boo. Grease? Anyone? Okay, you have to sing it, not read it, for it to make any sense.

Anyway, all that just to introduce the Pita Pizza! It's Pizza, on a pita! Thus HEALTHY. Told you I was a health nut. It was so good I made it two days in a row. All you need is a pita, sauce, and your toppings (e.g. onions, green peppers, mushrooms, olives, meat etc). But I think the secret to the deliciousness was in the fresh mozzerella. I'm sold! I also sprinkled the top with salt, pepper and oregano. Oregano makes anything taste fresh. I put it on my veggie sandwiches. I heart oregano. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

Oh, the only thing that makes diet coke better is a lime wedge. Yes, that's lime wedge, way cooler than lime slice. That's how I roll.