Pinterest Test Kitchen #97 ~ Banana Pudding Cupcakes

A while back I hosted a baby shower for my niece who loves banana pudding. Because I am all about the presentation I just did not want to put a bowl full of banana pudding on the pretty dessert table and I did not want to do individual cups either for some reason that I no longer remember. I’m sure it was a good one though.

Because Pinterest is magic it didn’t take long for me to discover banana pudding cupcakes and they were a hit at the shower! I’ve made them twice now and tweaked the recipe a little the second go round and probably have one more adjustment that I’ll make the next time I make them.

The first time I followed the recipe exactly with the exception of using banana flavored pudding. (I totally got suckered by the Minion packaging.) I wasn’t a huge fan of the cupcake itself so the next time I made them I used this recipe for the cupcake and added mashed bananas to the batter. And while no one complained of the pudding I found it to be too thick so I will probably change it to just regular banana cream pudding and not make it with the sweetened condensed milk next time.

What you’ll need:

12 to 15 cupcakes 
1 box instant vanilla pudding (or banana cream), prepared
Nilla wafers, about 1/3 cup crushed and 12 to 15 whole ones for garnish
Cool whip
What you’ll do:
Hollow out a portion of each cupcake being sure not to go all the way to the bottom.
Sprinkle the Nilla wafer crumbs into each cupcake.
Spoon the pudding into the holes with enough extra to do a layer of pudding across the top of the cupcake.
Ice the cupcakes with the cool whip.
Garnish with the Nilla wafer.

Enjoy!

Pinterest Test Kitchen # 90 ~ Chicken Rice and Black Bean Casserole

This recipe quickly became a house favorite and I make it every couple of weeks. When I find something that both Rob and the majority of the kids like I get so excited…especially when it is easy and goes far.

I didn’t realize how much I had tweaked this recipe until I typed it out but I did make some changes. The original dish didn’t call for the chicken but it is a rare meal that I serve that has no meat. I also never seem to remember the zucchini. I double the salsa and I am pretty sure I never saute the spinach. It’s barely looking like the same recipe (read that with an eye roll.)

food_Mexica_blackbeans_rice_chicken_casserole

What you’ll need:
2 cups cooked rice (I use brown rice cooked in chicken broth)
2 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1 15 oz can black beans, drained
1 bag fresh spinach, chopped
1 10 oz bag frozen corn (I’ve also used can corn, drained, since I had it on hand)
1 16 oz jar salsa of choice (I use Newman’s Own Black Bean and Corn)
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes 
2 cups grated cheese (I’ve used cheddar, Colby Jack, and a mix of all the bags in the fridge, etc.)
What you’ll do:
Mix the first seven ingredients together in a large bowl.
Stir in 1 cup of the cheese.
Spoon mixture into a 9×13 dish.
Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

blackbean_rice_chicken_casserole_mexican_food

Serve as is or with sour cream and enjoy!

You can find this recipe along with all of my other test kitchen recipes here!

We Now Have a Microwave

I understand for most people that living without a microwave seems utterly barbaric but we’ve managed it for five years without much trouble. Although I think it has caused a little hiccup here and there when family and friends have come over for some gathering or other and they couldn’t just warm something up.

We also did fine for several months when the dishwasher died. I found washing dishes to be quite therapeutic but I also found that I must be a better parent than I thought and I haven’t messed my kids up to the point that they need therapy. At least they don’t think they need dish washing therapy.

I kept a pretty stiff upper lip when the oven died figuring I could make the grill and stove top work if I needed to. But thankfully Rob found a really great deal on a set of appliances and some friends had an extra stove that we could use until our new stuff arrived.

Much to the joy of our offspring the deal Rob found included a microwave that could be installed above the stove. Losing counter space was my main reason for not having one. Rob still isn’t sure that they don’t give off gama rays that can cause bodily mutations but sense just about everyone we know seems to have one with no lingering ill affects he got it.

The kids have microwaved everything they can. Even hot dogs. I’ve never seen them move so fast to get lunch. Really, boiling a little water for a hot dog takes too long? Can you see my eyes rolling?

Popcorn? They are blowing through the bags like they’ve been endlessly deprived of nourishment.

I’m pretty sure Emily has pinned a gazillion cake in a mug recipes and it won’t be long before that gets tested. Hmm, maybe a pinterest test kitchen blog post on the best ones?

I did enjoy being able to heat up Rob’s dinner the other night when he was out late with a board meeting.

And reheating that cup of tea I forgot about has been pretty nice as well.

It’s kind of nice joining the microwave club. But it’s not nearly as fun as seeing the looks on people’s faces whenever I told them we didn’t have one.

Barbaric, indeed.

(The dishwasher works fantastic, by the way. Unfortunately, the oven had a huge dent in the top at

delivery so we declined it. A new one should be delivered in a couple of weeks.)

Any tips and tricks for keeping stainless steel appliances clean and shiny is appreciated!

Test Kitchen 85 ~ Penne a la Vodka

My birthday was last week and we had an impromptu dinner party. It was quite the international affair with an Italian pasta dish made with Russian vodka paired with a delicious Spanish wine sangria.

In our house normal celebration procedure is the birthday person chooses the meal. But Sarah is, I’m learning, quite the adventurous cook and is willing to try any recipe that catches her eye so she asked if she could make my birthday dinner.  The pasta recipe came from her Audrey Hepburn cookbook and is really good. Really, really good.

What you’ll need:
1 small onion, finely chopped
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
5 1/2 TBS unsalted butter
1 cup tomato puree
1/2 cup good quality Russian vodka
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
course sea salt
1 pound penne pasta, cooked al dente
1 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano*, grated
What you’ll do:
Saute the onion and red pepper flakes in the butter over medium heat.
Add the tomato puree and reduce heat to low, cooking for a few minutes.
Stir in vodka.
Cook down for 15 minutes and pour in the cream.
Add in the pasta and turn the heat to high.
Pan fry for one minute, making sure to toss pasta so it is evenly covered by sauce.
Sprinkle with the parmigiano-reggiano and serve.

I had never heard of this type of parmesan and was a little concerned that it was some kind of specialty hard to find cheese. Turns out that it is normal parmesan cheese only better. Shaped like a stick of butter, it is a little pricey but so worth it…dry and very flavorful and nothing like the powdery stuff sold no where near the dairy aisle. I am learning that while one may need to be economical one must also occasionally splurge on the good stuff. And surely a birthday feast is just such an occasion!

All Cracked Up and Other Randomness

I am forty-five years old and until just a couple of months ago I did not know how to properly boil and peel eggs. I am blaming my lack of knowledge and skill on the fact that I like neither boiled or deviled eggs. My sister makes deviled eggs that are, from all accounts, quite tasty which means that family functions and gatherings were covered so I really haven’t seen much need to change my status on the whole issue.

I mean, I’ve boiled eggs before but since I don’t eat them I didn’t really care if the dyed Easter eggs were cooked all the way and didn’t give a thought to how easy they would be to peel.

But Rob recently mentioned that he would like some to take to the church to have on hand for a quick and healthy snack and, it turns out, Sam likes boiled eggs. Not the cooked yolk but the egg white. Anything that boy is willing to eat I am willing to make.

So I  asked my mother about this whole egg business and she shared the secret that her aunt taught her about making the perfect hard boiled egg. No more guessing if it is cooked all the way…no more boiling them for too long and having them crack and burst out of the edges…and easy to peel shells.

(Psssst…I know I am probably about the only person on the planet who has waited almost half a century to learn how to boil an egg but the truth of the matter is that we have friends that we buy fresh yard eggs from and they are just so pretty that I love taking pictures of them and if I just randomly posted pictures of eggs like I did some kind of portrait sessions with them people would quite possibly think I am weird. I am going to ignore the fact that I run the risk of people still thinking I’m weird because I over thought the process of boiling eggs to the point that I just chose to not boil eggs. I am hoping you will be distracted by the prettiness of the eggs to be overly concerned about my egg crush. And who knows? Maybe someone will find these tips helpful.)

So here is the sure fire way to get perfectly boiled eggs according to my *grandaunt.

After adding eggs to a pot, completely cover them with water.
Bring to a full roiling boil and then turn off the heat.
Cover the pot with a lid and let them sit for twenty minutes.
Carefully drain the hot water and then run cold water over the eggs until cool.

As for peeling them I have observed a few things that might be helpful. In my experience the green and brown eggs peel easier than the white eggs. Not sure if there is an scientific reason for this or not but that has been the case for me.

I also discovered that if I crack either end of the egg and not the side I can get an easier peel. Turns out the ends have these little gaps between the egg itself and the shell that helps make sure you are peeling off the thin almost invisible membrane that separates the shell from the egg white.

*Now, as if I haven’t flown my freak flag high enough in this post with odd confessions and weird random stuff, I am going to confess that yes, I did indeed look up the proper way to address various relatives on the family tree because actually having to state a relationship with my mother’s aunt seemed a good excuse to look it up. It also helps that I now know how to properly cite the children of my nieces and nephews. (Please tell me other people have wondered about this because I don’t have any pretty pictures to distract you with on this one 😉

So is it great or grand? I think I have always referred to my parents’ aunts or uncles as my great aunt or uncle but after researching for a minute it turns out that while that is the more commonly used term, the correct term is actually “grand”. Which totally makes since if your mother’s father is your grandfather then his sibling would also be your grand aunt or uncle, right? The term “great” is supposed to be reserved for relationships that are more than one generation away.

So there you have it. The proper way to boil eggs and address your ancestors.

Oh look, it’s another pretty picture of eggs!

Playing With My Food

In the beginning, when I wanted to learn about light, I practiced with flowers. I wanted to learn how to reveal their delicate strength without blowing the high lights and how to create airy yet vibrant images. How to use light is a handy tool for a photographer, especially one that favored a clean and classical look.

Lately, I’ve been drawn to work that is less wide open light wise. Images that have a darker tone, still vibrant in color but warmer, deeper.  I’m looking for texture and low lights now. I’m finding that food seems to be my model of choice. I think it’s going to be a fun and tasty schooling.

The recipe for the pot pie can be found here. Just swap out the chicken and chicken broth for beef.

Pinterest Test Kitchen #82 ~ S’more Pie

I have a weird relationship with s’mores.

I love the idea of them. How could I not?

I like the crisp crunch of graham crackers.

Melted chocolate? Love some, thanks!

Ooey gooey marshmallow? Absolutely!

But the three come together and I am just…sorta…kinda…underwhelmed maybe?

I think, for me at least, the three good things come together and cancel each other out.

Shocking, I know. And my camping enthusiast friends are probably second guessing their relationship with a crazy person but there you have it.

The truly funny thing is that I am fascinated by them. And apparently a lot of people are because if you type in “s’more” on Pinterest a lot of pins come up. And I mean a lot. And also a lot of categories…in a jar, gourmet, treat, camping, buffet, kit and, I kid you not, one labeled healthy.

Since Rob and I are the only ones to have this weird indifference to s’mores I decided to give this s’more pie a try one Sunday for our fellowship meal. The pie plate came home empty so I guess it was a success.

s'more_pie_recipe_Hershey_candy_bars

The only complaint I have is that it didn’t cut into nice slices…we ended up doing more of a scooping thing. This could totally be my fault though so who knows? If you try it let me know how your’s slices up.

What you’ll need:
1 stick butter, softened 
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup Graham Cracker crumbs
1 tsp baking powder
7 oz marshmallow cream
2 Hershey bars, unwrapped and separated*
1 cup mini marshmallows
1/4 cup chocolate chips
Hershy_candy_bar_s'more_pie_recipe

*The original recipe calls for way more candy bars than I needed…a tragic event that left me with a surplus of chocolate to hide share with the kids another day 😉

What you’ll do:
In a large mixing bowl beat the butter and sugar together.
Add in the egg and vanilla.
Stir in the flour, graham cracker crumbs, and baking powder.
Divide the dough in half, pressing one half of the dough along the bottom and sides of a lightly greased  9 inch pie plate.
Spread the marshmallow cream evenly on the bottom crust.
Place the separated chocolate squares on top of the marshmallow cream.
Sprinkle the marshmallows on next.
Pat sections of the remaining dough on top of  and all around the marshmallows.
Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until a nice golden brown.
Allow to cool completely before cutting.
Enjoy!

Hershey_candy_bar_s'more_pie_recipe

Test Kitchen #81 ~ A Quick and Easy Cabbage Stir Fry

I don’t know what is more shocking:

A.) I am actually posting a recipe or

B.) It’s a recipe with cabbage as a main ingredient.

Because I think this is delicious I am going to go with A.

Last month while I was visiting my little sister she made this stuff and it was so quick and tasty that it has become a favorite. We actually played around with it and had it a second time the week we were there. And get this…even my beloved and kids like it.

cabbage_stir_fry_beef_John Soules

Cabbage kind of gets a bad rap I think and it is definitely one of those foods that you either love or hate. The key for me to really enjoy it is to not over cook it. I like it with a little crunch to it.

When my sis made it she used a recipe she found on Facebook. (Don’t you wish we could pin from fb? So frustrating that we can’t.) This may not be the exact one she used but it is pretty similar.

Because I got the bright idea to make some major life style dietary changes right before our trip to see her I needed some adjustments made and because she is a fantastic little sister she obliged. I am going to share what I do but you can check out that pin I mentioned if you want the original. Mainly I use water instead of oil and steam rather than saute and use the bags of beef or chicken that are preseasoned and ready to eat. Simple enough to use chicken breast though and just brown them up ahead of time.

What you’ll need:
8 oz bag of either John Soules chicken or beef fajita (I like the fajita one because of the extra flavor.)
8 oz fresh mushrooms
Half a head of green cabbage, chopped
Half a head of purple cabbage, chopped
Soy Sauce

mushrooms_chopped_stir_fry_John_Soules
What you’ll do:
Add all the ingredients to a large skillet.
Add enough water, about 2/3 cup, to skillet.
Season with whatever you like. I usually do a little garlic powder or maybe some greek seasoning.
Cover pan with a lid and steam on medium heat until meat is heated through and cabbage is at desired stage of tenderness.
Splash on a little soy sauce and enjoy!

I love it and it’s super healthy. For someone who isn’t being quite as careful with carbs as (ahem) others, it would probably be very good over rice. My family just eats it as is though.

cabbage_stir_fry_John_Soules_

It’s quite a colorful dish, isn’t it?

You could jazz it up with some sweet peppers too.  I think I am going to try it with some shrimp soon too. I’ll let you know how it turns out 🙂

Pintrest Test Kitchen # 77 ~ White Sour Cream Cake with Butter Cream Icing

So, I knew it had been a while since I shared a recipe but I had no idea it had been since December.

I mean it’s March already! Can you believe that? Where does the time go?

(Totally unrelated to the recipe but last week we took our oldest daughter to visit MSU and I had the most surreal experience on the drive over. Sarah was sitting in the back seat and said something and Rob turned his head to answer her and I had the craziest flashback. Seriously, it was like something out of the movies…I could see her as a little girl on our first road trip, little curls all over her head and feet swinging and bouncing. The echo of her laughter was as clear as day. I cried a little.)

While we may not be able to stop time from flying by and our children from growing up too fast we can slow it down a little and enjoy a piece of cake every now and then with a cup of coffee.

That was a really smooth transition to the recipe wasn’t it? Yep, that’s why everybody reads my blog 🙂

This cake is kind of a mash up of box and homemade. You begin with a cake mix but jazz it up a bit for a nice dense cake. Also, I am not normally a huge fan of butter cream icing but I made this the morning and kept it refrigerated until after lunch and it was quite tasty all nice and chilled. Here is a link to the original pin but I changed a few things. Mainly because you need two cake mixes to get the amounts required and I didn’t so I added an extra cup of flour. I also reduce the amount of sugar added.

For the cake ~ What you’ll need:
1 box white cake mix
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 TBS oil (I use canola) 
1 1/3 cup water
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
What you’ll do:
Mix together all dry ingredients with a whisk.
Add liquid ingredients and beat on low until well combined.
Pour into prepared cake pans. 
Bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes. (Time will depend on size of pans so check after 30 minutes.)

The cake is pretty dense and heavy and pairs well with the butter cream frosting. This is the strangest icing recipe to me. Other than the Hershey icing I’ve never made one that required cooking.

For the icing ~ What you’ll need:
5 TBS flour
1 cup of milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 sticks of butter, at room temperature  
1 cup granulated sugar
confectioner’s sugar to taste*
What you’ll do:
Whisk together the flour and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. 
Stir constantly until it thickens being careful not to burn it.
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Allow it to completely cool before finishing or it will not work.
(I emptied mine out of the hot saucepan and into a small bowl to help it cool quicker.)
Cream together the butter and sugar until well blended and fluffy.
Add in the cooled flour mixture.
Keep beating it until it has the consistency of whipped cream.

white_cake, butter cream_frosting_dessert

*I mentioned that I am not a fan of butter cream frosting. The taste is a little sharp to me so I added just a wee bit of confectioners sugar until I liked the flavor. You may be fine without it so suit yourself.

The cake iced well although it was a little plain looking so I covered the top with some lovely gold sprinkles. In my opinion taste is only part of it…pretty counts for something.

Would I make it again? Yes and no. It tasted good and everyone seemed to enjoy it but I am solidly a cream cheese icing gal. But I don’t think I will ever make a cake any differently other than to tweak the amount of flour depending on how stout I want the cake. It has a great texture and flavor and it seems rather versatile. I’ve made it using a cup less flour and a yellow cake mix with almond extract and it went together nicely with some strawberries and whipped topping. I’m trying to figure out some kind of chocolate and mint combination now…maybe in time to celebrate the luck o’ the Irish!

I’d love to know if you try it as is or if you tweak it.

dessert_recipe_food_cake

Titus 2 Tuesday

Pinterest Test Kitchen # 75 ~ Snickerdoodle Caramel Apple Something

Catchy title, isn’t it?

It came about like this. I saw the recipe and pinned it of course. Then last week while I was making my grocery list I wrote down the ingredients, knowing I was changing out oatmeal raisin cookie for snickerdoodle, and then while at the store decided to swap out the regular boring caramels for the cute little round ones. The point being that I was thinking through the recipe several times.

I felt comfortable with the recipe. Felt like I understood it…like I got the essence of it.

Turns out I missed a few key parts to actually making this recipe. Like you are supposed to use the giant cookie squares but that really wouldn’t have made much difference since I only eat raisins in trail mix. But the biggie I missed was that I should have melted the caramel and drizzled it over the cooked cookie bar.

Still, I came home with an empty dish and everyone delighted in the snickerdoodle caramel apple something I made…not cake like at all but not really a bar either. (I still cut it in squares but you definitely had to eat it with a fork.)

What you’ll need:
2 packs Snickerdoodle break apart cookies
1 can apple pie filling (I used my scissors to cut the apples up into smaller pieces)
1 bag of caramel bits (These are the sole reason I was drawn to this recipe…not gonna lie.)

What you’ll do:
Take one package of break apart cookies plus three rows of the other pack and press into the bottom of a 9×13 pan.
Top with the pie filling.
Break apart the remaining cookies and tear into little pieces, scattering them over the pie filling.
Sprinkle with caramel bits.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes or until the cookie is a golden brown and the edges are bubbly.
Allow to cool completely before cutting.

As I said, this was well received but I will probably give the original recipe another shot. You know…actually follow it. Except for the snickerdoodle cookie part. Because frankly, snickerdoodle is much more fun to say that oatmeal raisin.

cookie bar, snickerdoodle, caramel apple