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Thursday, January 20, 2011

DIY cupcake wrappers!

Along with cooking and baking, paper crafting is one of my favorite hobbies.  I was able to combine these hobbies for these gameday treats I made for last Sunday's Patriots/Jets game.  I am a die hard Pats fan and the game did not turn out as I had hoped it would, but the cupcakes were really yummy!  :)

I made red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.  I posted the recipe here.  I love cupcake wrappers but they are so darned expensive to buy so I thought I'd design my own.  I was working on some projects for the paint company that I design for, Shimmerz Paints and thought I'd make some of my own cupcake wrappers and use their new paints to decorate them!  I drew some templates (3 to a page), printed them out on 8 1/2 x 11 white cardstock and cut them out.  I used some decorative scissors on the top curve.  I then used some paper adhesive to stick the ends together.   I sprayed some Anchors Away Coloringz paint from Shimmerz Paints on the wrapper and then gave them a little sparkle with Baby's Breath Shimmeringz.




For the picks, I printed out a sheet of the Patriots logo and used an scalloped oval paper punch to cut them out.  I then adhered them with a little tape to some red toothpicks and voila! 

For the finishing touch, I sprayed just a little bit of Anchors Away and My Bleeding Heart Coloringz on the frosting for a little color.  The paints are totally NON-TOXIC so no worries! To purchase Shimmerz Paints, go to their website here.

Here is a copy of the templates I drew to make these.  Just right click on the template, save and then print, cut out and decorate!



Have fun creating!


 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mac and Cheese

It's January and it's cold here in Idaho.  Warm, cheesy comfort food is pretty popular around here in the winter.  There are a million different recipes out there for mac and cheese and I say just use any of them as a base and add what you LIKE!  I love dried mustard and nutmeg in mine.  I love sharp cheddar cheddar cheese and some gruyere too. 

Here is how I throw my mac and cheese down...

Mac and Cheese
Ingredients:
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 stick plus 2 TBSP butter (divided)
  • 1/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 C whole milk
  • 1 TBSP dried mustard powder (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 pound sharp cheddar cheese (grated)
  • 1/2 pound gruyere cheese  (grated)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 C panko bread crumbs
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. 

Boil macaroni for about 7 minutes in salted water until it is cooked but still firm and drain.  Set aside

Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a large pot.  Add flour and whisk constantly over medium-low heat for about five minutes. 

Add the milk and whisk together. 

Add the dried mustard, nutmeg and onion powder.  Cook for about five more minutes, whisking constantly. 

Add the cheese and stir until fully melted.  Add the salt and pepper (to taste). 

Add in the cooked macaroni and stir well.

Transfer to a 9x13 baking dish.

Melt the remaining 2 TBSP butter in a microwave safe bowl (in the microwave, hee hee).  Mix in the panko bread crumbs to the butter then sprinkle all over the top of the mac and cheese.

Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes uncovered until golden and bubbly.



Enjoy!


P.S. Oh, by the way... if you are a bacon lover (my family is not - I know, the horror!) then add a little bacon fat into your butter and flour roux and add some diced bacon before baking.  You will thank me (but your arteries won't!)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

I must admit that this cake is the most time-consuming, complex cake I have ever made but well worth it if you have the time!  My dear sweet friend, Wendy, requested that I make this for her birthday.  She is allergic to wheat and this cake contains no flour!  Perfect!  I first made this for my Bunco gals back in December and to say it was a hit is an understatement!  I am still not able to perfect the perfectly whipped smoothness of the chocolate mousse in the middle layer (hence the visible flakes of chocolate) but practice makes perfect!



This recipe is from the genuiuses at Cook's Illustrated magazine.  It appeared in the November/December issue of 2009.  Try it!  I dare ya!  :)


Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Ingredients:
For the bottom layer:
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces (plus extra for greasing the pan)
  • 7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • ¾ tsp. instant espresso powder
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
For the middle layer:
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
  • 5 tbsp. hot water
  • 7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
For the top layer:
  • ¾ tsp. powdered gelatin
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 6 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
For garnish:
  • Chocolate curls
Directions:

To make the bottom layer, butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan.  Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 325˚ F.  Combine the butter, chocolate, and espresso powder in a large heatproof bowl set over simmering water.  Stir occasionally until the mixture is smooth.  Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in the vanilla and egg yolks.  Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt on medium speed until foamy, about 30 seconds.  Crumble half of the brown sugar into the mixing bowl with your fingers to remove any lumps.  Beat until incorporated, about 15 seconds.  Add the remaining brown sugar and continue to beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute more.  Using a whisk, mix one-third of the beaten egg whites to the chocolate mixture to lighten it.  Fold in the remaining egg whites gently with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain.  Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake until the cake has risen, is firm around the edges and the center has just set but is still soft (should spring back after pressing gently with a finger), about 14-18 minutes.  Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely, at least 1 hour.  Do not remove the cake from the pan.  (If not making the second layer right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to proceed.)

To make the second layer, whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water in a small bowl; set aside.  Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.  Once melted, remove from the heat and let cool slightly, 2-5 minutes.

In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream, sugar and salt on medium speed until the mixture begins to thicken, about 30 seconds.  Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 30-60 seconds.  Whisk in the cocoa powder mixture until smooth.  Using a whisk, mix one-third of the whipped cream to the chocolate mixture to lighten it.  Fold in the remaining whipped cream gently with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain.  Pour the mousse into the springform pan over the cooled cake and tap gently on the counter 3 times to remove air bubbles.  Gently smooth the top with a spatula.  Wipe the inside edge of the pan to remove any drips.  Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes while preparing the top layer.

To make the top layer, sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small bowl and let stand at least 5 minutes to soften.  Place the white chocolate in a medium bowl.  Bring ½ cup of the cream to a boil in a small saucepan.  Remove the pan from the heat, add the gelatin mixture and stir until dissolved.  Pour the hot cream mixture over the white chocolate and let stand about 1 minute.  Whisk until the mixture is smooth.  Cool to room temperature, about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the remaining 1 cup of cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken.  Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 30-60 seconds.  Using a whisk, mix one-third of the whipped cream to the white chocolate mixture to lighten it.  Fold in the remaining whipped cream gently with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain.  Spoon the white chocolate mousse into the pan over the middle layer.  Smooth the top with an offset spatula.  Return the cake to the refrigerator and chill until set, at least 2½ hours.

Enjoy!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hearty Minestrone Soup


This hearty soup is my favorite to make in the winter.  It is healthy, full of vegetables and full of fiber yet has tons of flavor!



Hearty Minestrone Soup

Ingredients:
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 3 ounces pancetta, finely diced (italian non-smoked bacon)
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 3 stalks of celery, finely diced
  • 4 carrot sticks, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 pound swiss chard (red or green, just leaves) coarsely chopped
  • 2 Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 stems fresh thyme, finely minced
  • 2 stems fresh rosemary, finely minced
  • 1 15 oz can canellini beans (white kidney beans)
  • 1 32 oz box broth (beef, chicken or vegetable - whatever you like!)
  • 1/2 oz block fresh parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 C fresh italian flat leaf parsley (chopped)
Directions:

In a large, heavy stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the pancetta and saute until brown, about 4 minutes.  Add onion, celery, carrots and garlic.  Stir very frequently for about 10 minutes until soft and the onions are translucent.  Add the potato and swiss chard.  Season with about a teaspoon each of Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Cook for about 3 minutes.  Stir in the fresh rosemary and thyme and the can of crushed tomatoes.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add the can of beans and 1/4 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Simmer for about 20 minutes.  Add the fresh parsley.  Stir and season with more salt and pepper to taste.  Ladel the soup into bowls and serve with curls of parmesan cheese.

This is a gluten free recipe but you may want to make it a little more hearty by adding orzo pasta, ditalini pasta or my favorite tortellini!

White Chocolate Chip Cookies (with pistachios and dried cranberries)

 
I'm sure these cookies are not going to please the masses.  I'm going to hear things, especially from my family like "I don't like white chocolate", "I'm allergic to pistachios", "Craisins?  Yech!".  Well, these cookies are simply a selfish pleasure for ME!  I made a white chocolate bark this past Christmas with pistachios and dried cranberries and I loved it.  I thought, "I ought to make a cookie out of these ingredients!"  So today, I did.  Here's what I came up with...
White Chocolate Chip Cookies (with pistachios and dried cranberries)
Ingredients:
  • 2 C unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 C unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 2 eggs (room temperature)
  • 3/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 C white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 C pistachio nuts
  • 1/2 C dried cranberries
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter and sugars together until fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add eggs and vanilla.  Mix for another 2 minutes.

In a seperate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.

Mix dry ingredients into butter/sugar mixture slowly just until incorporated.

Fold in chips, nuts and dried cranberries.

Scoop out heaping tablespoon sized cookies (about 8 or 9 to a sheet).

Bake on baking stones or parchment paper lined baking sheets for about 13 to 14 minutes.

Cool for about 2 minutes and then transfer to cooling racks.

Recipe yields about 2 dozen cookies (but I doubled it because I like them a lot!)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snickerdoodles!

Cookie week continues here at My Wicked Whisk! Today's recipe is for...

Big, Soft, Chewy Snickerdoodles

Ingredients:
  • 1 C (2 sticks) room temperature unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 2 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup Hershey's cinnamon chips (these are hard to find but worth the search!) 
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Beat together (with hand mixer or paddle attatchment on stand mixer) butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Crack the two eggs into a small bowl and beat.  Then add to butter and sugar and mix well.

Whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.

Mix dry ingredients into butter mixture just until incorporated.

Fold in cinnamon chips.

Chill dough for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix 3 tablespoons sugar, and 3 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl.

Scoop tablespoon size globs of dough and roll into balls. 

Coat by gently rolling the balls of dough in the sugar/cinnamon mixture and bake for about 13 or 14 minutes on a baking stone or a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  The cookies may look like they are not baked inside but they are.  This will ensure a soft chewy cookie once cooled.
 
Let cookies rest for 2 minutes and then transfer to cooling racks.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Enjoy!




Monday, January 10, 2011

I'm declaring this week Cookie Week!

I'm doing this simply because I CAN, and also because I really like baking cookies!  And most people I know really like eating them.  Seriously...  the sweet smell while they are baking and the warm chewy texture can put a smile on anyone's face! 

The general favorite around here is chocolate chip, thick and chewy chocolate chip.



I've tried dozens, probably hundreds of different recipes for chocolate chip cookies in my lifetime.  A couple of years ago I read an article in Cooks Illustrated (my favorite cooking magazine), the May/June 2009 issue to be exact, for The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie.  The perfect chocolate chip cookie is certainly a matter of opinion and taste and this one was pretty close for me.  I made a few changes such as doubling the recipe, making them smaller and changing the amounts of a few ingredients and this is what I came up with...

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups nuts (optional) 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda. 

In a skillet, melt 3 sticks of unsalted butter over high heat.  Simmer until the butter turns an amber brown color, about 4 minutes.  It will smell like caramel.  Pour into a large bowl and then add the remaining half stick of butter.  Stir until melted.

Browning the butter gives these cookies a deep caramel flavor.  If you like a lighter flavor and a fluffier cookie, beat room temperature butter with the sugar instead of using brown butter

Add sugars, salt and vanilla extract.  Whisk vigorously (with a strong metal whisk) for about a minute. 

Crack the 3 eggs into a seperate small bowl and lightly beat.  Add to the butter mixture and whisk vigorously for 1 minute.  Let stand for 3 minutes and then whisk for 1 more minute.  Repeat this one more time.  The batter should be glossy and smooth. 

Stir in flour/baking soda mixture with a rubber spatula, just until incorporated.   Do not overmix.  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using). 

Scoop heaping tablespoons onto baking stones (my preference) or parchment paper covered baking sheets.  You should fit about 9 cookies per sheet.

Bake for 12 - 14 minutes until slightly golden.  Do not overbake! (unless you like your cookies crunchy, not chewy)  Let sit for 2 minutes and then transfer with a thin metal spatula onto cooling racks.

I'd love to tell you what this recipe yields, as in how many cookies, but my kids are always stealing the dough so I may never know for sure!  If you happen to make these cookies where you have no cookie dough theives around, let me know how many it makes for you!  :)

Enjoy!


Friday, January 7, 2011

Welcome to My Wicked Whisk!

I am so excited to launch my new "foodie" blog today!  Before I tell you a little about me, I want to send out huge hugs and thanks to Divian Conner who designed my blog header!  I know Divian from the scrapbooking world.  She is so very talented as a scrapbooker, photographer and now a logo designer!  Check out her website here.

I've had my personal blog for several years.  I've used it primarily to showcase my paper crafts and personal photos and I plan on keeping it going.  Lately there have been more posts about food than anything so I decided to start "My Wicked Whisk" to share my passion for food with you.  The "wicked" in the title is meant as "wicked good" (a common adjective for Bostonians!).  I adore cooking and baking and I'm often asked to share recipes.  I am always happy to share, whether they are my own or from one of the fabulous foodie blogs that I follow.

I'm pretty much a homebody so cooking and baking are perfect hobbies for me.  While my craft studio used to be my favorite room in the house, I now spend more time in my kitchen.  Cooking is my new main creative outlet, much to the delight of my husband who we lovingly call "Special K" and my three hungry, growing boys.  My husband is in sales and just guess what he sells?  CHOCOLATE!  The chocolate salesman and the chocoholic.  Sounds like a romance novel, doesn't it?  A match made in heaven, I tell ya!

My specialty to cook is Italian which I learned by cooking along side my mom as a little girl.  Some of my best memories are those shared with my mom while rolling meatballs and watching our beloved Boston sports teams.  She passed away in 2005 but I often feel her presence with me when I'm cooking.  Cooking for people was my mom's way of showing people she loved them and I have definitely inherited that trait from her.  To me, food equals LOVE!

My favorite food to eat out is seafood, hands down!  Living in Idaho, I don't get a lot of fresh seafood to experiment with in my kitchen so I make sure I order it whenever I'm dining out if it's on the menu!  We often visit my husband's hometown of Seattle where we eat lots of fresh seafood.

Baking is also a passion of mine, especially cookies and cupcakes.  Piping a delicious buttercream frosting on a cupcake is close to euphoric for me!  I could spend a whole day making batch after batch of cookies, enjoying every minute.

I hope to share lots of photos, recipes, tips and reviews on this blog.   I also hope that it will be very interactive which means I'd love to hear from YOU!  I want to know what recipes you'd like me to share, what recipes you saw here that you've tried and I'd love to answer any questions you might have.

I hope you will become a follower and/or subscriber so that you will not miss one tasty bite! 

Cheers and Bon Appetit!