Saturday, November 28, 2009

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

A few weeks ago I asked my almost-3 year old, Rebecca, what kind of cupcakes she wanted for her birthday party. She looked thoughtful for a moment then said "Keira [her friend at daycare] had white cake at her birthday party. I think I want chocolate peanut butter cupcakes". I love this child. I'm raising a foodie.

I decided that before I made a huge batch of these for a birthday party I should probably give them a test run. Oh darn. I'll have to eat a cupcake for no reason. Woe is me.

I must say, Rebecca has excellent taste! I realized a few hours after I finished frosting every cupcake that I'd left out the cool whip in the frosting. And it was still delicious. I might have even squirted some of the frosting into my mouth. Maybe. But I'll never confess.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake with Peanut Butter Frosting
makes 24 cupcakes
print this recipe

For the filling:
2/3 C confectioners' sugar
1/2 C creamy peanut butter
2 T. butter, softened
1/4 t. vanilla extract
For the cake:
1 2/3 C all-purpose flour
3/4 C unsweetened cocoa
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 C sour cream
2 T. milk
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 C granulated sugar
8 T. butter
2 large eggs
For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
4 T. butter, softened
1/2 C peanut butter
3 1/4 C powdered sugar
1 C cool whip

To make the filling
In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the confectioners sugar, peanut butter, 1/4 t. of vanilla and 2 T. butter until combined.
Shape them into 24 equal sized balls. They will be very sticky. Place the balls onto wax paper on a cookie sheet and set aside.
To make the cupcakes

Pre-heat the oven to 350. Prepare 2 muffin pans with paper cupcake liners and set pans aside.
Place a sheet of wax paper on a work surface. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and 1/2 t of salt on the wax paper.
In a small bowl mix together the sour cream, milk and 1t. vanilla, then set aside.
Fit the electric mixer with the paddle attachment. In the mixing bowl beat the granulated sugar and 8 T. butter together on low speed. Increase the speed to high and beat for 1 minute.
Reduce the mixer speed back to low and beat for an additional 1-2 minutes, or until the mixture is fluffy. Add in the eggs and mix until combined.

Start adding in a bit of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar bowl, then add in the sour cream mix. Alternate back and forth, ending with the flour mixture, until the ingredients are just blended.
Occasionally scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Do not over-mix.
Scoop 1 spoonful of batter into each pan cup. Place 1 peanut butter ball into each of the muffin pan cups, then top with another spoonful of batter.
Bake for 25-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. (Check them at 20 minutes to make sure they don't over-bake)

Remove the cupcakes from the pan immediately and transfer to a wire cooling rack. Let cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese and peanut butter together until mixture is smooth and well combined.
Mix in the powdered sugar gradually, mixing fully before adding in more.
Add in the cool whip and mix until smooth and well combined.
Frost the cupcakes and garnish with chocolate shavings, if desired.

Source: Proceed With Caution

Wednesday, November 11, 2009



As much as I love to cook, its sometimes nice when Brian takes over the cooking for the evening. Even better, when he makes some as fantastic as this chili! I love finding great crockpot and freezer-friendly recipes. This is also one of those foods that gets even better after freezing- something about all those peppers and spices sitting mixed with everything else. It's so flavorful! Because this freezes so well we make a huge double batch of this every time.  The recipe below reflects the double batch.

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2 lbs ground beef or venison
2 red peppers, diced into larger chunks
2 yellow peppers, diced into larger chunks
2 1/2 C frozen corn
1 28 oz. can tomato sauce
1 30 oz. can chili beans
1 medium onion, chopped
2 C canned black beans
3 T. chili powder
Tabasco  to taste
sour cream and cheese to top, if desired

In a large skillet, brown and drain the beef. Chop the peppers and onion. Add these into the crockpot. Add in the rest of the ingredients, aside from the sour cream and cheese, and mix well.

Simmer for 8-10 hours on low. Garnish with sour cream and cheese, serve.

Source: A Brian original

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sloppy joes


Brian and I are often in need of fast but tasty dinner options. What with 2 kids, jobs, and long commutes each day we unfortunately don't often have time in the evenings to make the time-consuming but awesome dinners I'd like to prepare. Thankfully these sloppy joes are both delicious and quick and easy. It's a standard dinner option in our house.

The recipe below is for a double batch. We always make a double, if not triple, batch of this since the sloppy joe beef freezes and re-heats so well. The measurements for the ingredients are an approximation since we tend to add them to-taste instead of by measurements.

Sloppy Joes
print this recipe

2 lbs ground beef
2 1/2 c catsup
2 T brown sugar
1/4 C vinegar
1 medium onion, diced
olive oil or butter for sauteing

In a large skillet, saute the onion in a bit of olive oil or butter until softened. Add in the ground beef to the pan and brown the beef, then drain any excess grease.

Add in the catsup, vinegar, and brown sugar. Simmer until completely heated. Serve on a bun.

Source: a Laura original

Mocha sherbert


I have fond sherbert memories from childhood. What? Most people don't have food memories? Oh honey, I do. I've always loved food (perhaps a bit too much? Hello, gym membership!) But the sherbert from my childhood was always that stuff that came for $2 in the little plastic container and was so orange in color that it most certainly did not come that way in nature. Granted, this fantastically fake orange sherbert made one of my still-all-time-favorite things, sherbert punch. Every year on New Years Eve my mom would make a batch of this sherbert punch. It's still one of my favorite New Years Eve rituals.

This sherbert is more like Sherbert for grown-ups. Espresso and chocolate! Heck yeah! Not to mention, it's milk instead of heavy cream so you can eat half the batch without feeling guilty. Or at least I did. Perhaps that gym membership is coming just in time....

Mocha Sherbert
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2 1/4 C brewed espresso or coffee (I did espresso beans in the coffee maker for a really strong coffee)
3/4 C sugar
6 T. dutch-process cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
pinch of salt
3/4 C whole milk


Combine the coffee, sugar, cocoa and salt in a large sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Whisk constantly while the mixture boils for 3o seconds.

Remove the pan from heat and stir in the milk. Let the mixture cool, then chill completely in the refrigerator. Once cooled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacture directions, then place in the freezer. Or eat half of the batch. Whichever works for you.

Source: The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Friday, November 6, 2009

Taco seasoning


Tacos are one of the few things our family could eat once a week, every single week and never get tired of. In fact, we do eat them pretty much every week. All this time I've been buying those little seasoning packets, and using double the seasoning amounts because they were good, but just not spicy or flavorful enough for us.

Then one day a few weeks ago I was looking at the packet and the ingredients list had only 3-4 ingredients. One of the ingredients was "spices". Um, a bit ambiguous, don't you think? I for one like to know what is in my food. Along came this fabulous recipe. I'd made taco seasoning from home once before and it was good, but missing a little something. This was perfect. I added in a bit of red pepper flakes to give it a bit more oomph and I was pleased with the results. This taco seasoned beef made the absolute best taco salads the next day that I've ever had. It would make an absolute killer batch of wet burritos or cheesy taco pasta bake, too. I am never going back to those little packets again!

Taco Seasoning
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for the seasoning mix
1 T. chili powder
½ t. paprika
¼ t.cayenne pepper
2 t. dried ground cumin
½ t. oregano
¼ t. garlic powder
¼ t. onion powder
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
¼-½ t. red pepper flakes

to make taco seasoned beef (or chicken-  I use this for both)

1 t. corn starch

1 C. water


Mix together the seasonings. Brown the beef (or saute the chicken) and drain any grease

Mix together the seasoning and corn starch, then add to the pan with the water and stir together. Simmer until the liquid is reduced and the sauce is thickened.  Serve!

Source: seen on Closet Cooking here and here

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Green Monster Smoothie


Every morning I wake up thinking "Boy, do I need my coffee and spinach". What? You don't? That's ok, neither do I. You don't normally equate spinach with breakfast, right? Well NOW I do! I've been reading about these "Green Monster" smoothies for a few months now and my reaction was, well, probably what a lot of you are thinking now too: GROSS!

Then, slowly but surely, I started seeing them more and more of them around the blogiverse. Finally I decided to be all bold and daring and courageous and just try it. I couldn't believe it! It was great! Ok, I'll take my Green Monster with a side of crow, please.

The first time making this I didn't have the equation quite right. I left out the ice and used only frozen banana which left the consistency a bit weird- and the smoothie a bit warm. Bleh.

There are multiple variations you could make including adding berries or any kind of fruit, adding vegetable juices, add nut butters (which I have done and it's YUM). Make it your own. The best part is that the banana kind of overrides the spinach flavor so you're not left feeling like you're eating frozen spinach.

Green Monster Smoothie
print this recipe
made one gigantic smoothie- the glass shown above is a pint sized glass and I still had about 1/2 C left in the blender

2 C spinach
1 banana
1/2 C milk (or almond milk, or soy milk, or yogurt or whatever else you can come up with. make it your own)
1/2 tray of ice cubes
1/2 C raw rolled oats

Place the spinach in a blender- it's important to put the spinach first so that it's closest to the blades. The banana and ice will hold it down and make sure the spinach gets finely chopped so you're not drinking leaves of spinach.

Pour in the milk and add banana to the blender and puree until smooth and leaf-chunk-free. Add the ice and any other add-ins you'd like. Puree again until the ice is crushed and everything is blended together. Enjoy!

Source: Seen all over the blog world, but the Original Green Monster is from Angela from Oh She Glows  and the Green Monster Movement

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Garlic Parmesan Risotto

Hi there, friends! Just a quite note for you. You might notice if you are coming here via http://laurasrecipecollection.wordpress that I've been redirected! I'm officially on my own domain:! You should still be able to reach me via the old address, but just in case, you can update your google readers/rss feeds to show the new domain. Thanks for reading, and onto this fabulous recipe!


I've been a bit hesitant to try risotto for a while. Partly because I've been told that it's complicated, that you have to watch it constantly or it will ruin. Partially because Brian, with his food-texture issues, swears he doesn't like it.  Finally, when we made venison filet with gorgonzola sauce I decided to try it. I figured that if he liked it, great. But if he didn't he could eat all the venison he could ever want and not miss having a side dish. After smelling the garlic simmering with the wine and butter, he agreed to at least taste it. Then he took another taste. Then another. Then a heaping spoonful on his plate. Finally, he agreed that not only was it good, it was fantastic! I knew he would! I so love when I'm right :)

I really enjoyed the flavor of this risotto. It paired really nicely with the venison, too. The flavor combination was quite similar to this creamy parmesan orzo recipe, but the texture was, obviously, that of risotto rather than a pasta. I am already starting to come up with risotto variations that I can try. Especially now that The Husband will eat it :)

Risotto is a bit time-consuming since you have to watch it pretty carefully, so it worked well with the venison, since the venison was maintenance free after it was placed in the oven. I'm really glad I didn't let the "Risotto is complicated" warnings I'd heard deter me from making this!

Garlic Parmesan Risottoprint this recipe

1 shallot, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T. of butter or 2 tbsp olive oil or 1 tbsp each
4-5 C of chicken or vegetable broth (I used the whole 5)
¼ cup dry white wine
1 C arborio rice
¼ C freshly grated parmesan cheese (estimated amount. I didn't measure, I just threw some in)
3 T. freshly chopped parsley

In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken broth and continue on low heat to keep it warm.

Chop the shallot and garlic. Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat, then add the shallot and garlic. Saute until softened. Add the rice and toss to coat.

Pour the wine into the pan and simmer, stirring continuously until the liquid is absorbed.

Add in one cup of chicken broth and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Continue this process until all but 1 C of the broth has been used. This took me about 20 minutes.

With the last cup of broth also mix in the parsley. Simmer until about half of the broth has been absorbed, then add in the cheese and stir until melted and combined.


Source: adapted from Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Filet of Venison (or Beef) with Gorgonzola Sauce

While flipping through yet another of my library copies of Ina Garten's cookbooks, I came across this recipe for beef filet and gorgonzola sauce and thought "wow, that looks good". But we very rarely buy beef steaks. Rarely as in never. I don't think I've ever once made a steak at home that wasn't venison.

Then it occured to me! Make it with venison! Oh my word. I'm so glad we did. The way we prepared the meat left it so unbelievably tender and juicy. You could, quite literally, cut it with a fork or butter knife.

The gorgonzola sauce just was the icing on the cake. What a perfect combination! Better still, it was AMAZING left over the next day.

Venison Filet
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4-5 lbs beef or venison filet (we used 1.5 lb back strap filets of venison)
2 T. unsalted butter at room temperature
1 T. kosher salt
1 T. coarsely ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 500° (since we were using smaller, thinner steaks, and a lesser amount we only did 450°).

Pat the meat dry with a paper towel, then spread the butter onto the meat with your hands. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast for 22 minutes (or in our case 20 minutes). We used a meat thermometer and roasted until it reached medium-well temps, about 160° in the center.

Remove from the oven and cover with aluminum foil and set aside to rest for about 20 minutes.

Gorgonzola Sauce
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4 C heavy cream
3-4 oz crumbly Gorgonzola
3 T. freshly grated parmesan cheese (I was a bit more heavy-handed and didn't measure it out perfectly)
¾ t. kosher salt
¾ t. freshly ground black pepper
3 T. minced fresh parsley

In a medium sauce pan, bring the heavy cream to a boil over medium heat. Watch it carefully as it tends to want to boil over and go everywhere. Trust me on this. Keep at a rapid boil for 45-50 minutes until it's thickened considerably. It should be similar to the consistency of alfredo sauce.

Remove the cream from the heat and mix in the remaining ingredients, whisking everything together until the cheese has melted.

Slice the meat and spoon the sauce over the meat. Serve.

Both recipe sources: Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten

Monday, November 2, 2009

Creamy potato soup


9 medium potatoes, cut into chunks
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
4 stalks of celery, diced
1 t. salt
½ C (1 stick) butter
milk, to taste (for thickness)
pepper, to taste
sour cream and cheese for garnish, if desired

Cut the potato into chunks, dice the celery and the onion. Place everything in a large stock pot and cover with water. Boil until the potatoes are tender, then drain the water.

Pour the contents of the pan into a blender or large food processor and puree until smooth. (I had to do this in batches). Pour the potato mix back into the pan and add in a bit of milk very gradually, stirring, until you get your desired soup thickness. Add in the butter and heat until melted in and the soup is fully heated.

Add some additional salt and pepper, to taste, garnish with sour cream and cheese, and serve.

Source: My mother in law. Original recipe source unknown.