Rainbow cupcakes with raspberry buttercream

A really nice coworker made me “cupcakes” for my birthday:

So of course I had to try to top her and make something even more awesome for the next person’s birthday. I went with rainbow cupcakes with raspberry buttercream.

I used version II of the white cake recipe from “The Joy of Cooking” as my cupcake recipe. I wouldn’t suggest using this recipe. You lose some of the loft from handling the batter so much for these cupcakes. Now I know.

Here’s what the plain batter looks like:

I used standard food dye to make the colors:

And you can be damn straight that I put the colored batters in the right order:

The buttercream. The person who actually had the birthday told me that she liked raspberry. So I made raspberry buttercream.

Raspberry Buttercream
1. In a small sauce pan cook down about 12 ounces of berries. I didn’t have 12 full ounces of raspberries, so I put some blueberries and blackberries in too. You want to cook this until it’s pretty thick. The directions I followed suggest down to 1/4 cup, but I lost patience and stopped before then. Let it cool.

2. Sift/filter (what word am I looking for?!?) out the seeds.

3. Cream 1 stick of butter.

4. As the mixer is going, add in batches, 2 cups powdered sugar, the sauce, and 1/2 tsp lemon juice. Blend until smooth.

5. Add another 1.5 cups powdered sugar, or to taste and desired consistency.

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Stuffed Acorn Squash

Ta da! I finally figured out how to get straight to the ‘make a new post’ box that lets me do html from the beginning. Not the BS that WP seems to think I want.

I made stuffed acorn squash last night. It was great last night. And it was great today as lunch, as I’m sure it will be tomorrow too. Even the ManBeast approved and said I can make this again. You’ll want to do this on a day when you have plenty of time. This is NOT a fast recipe.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

0. Preheat oven to 400F.

1. Split and clean out an acorn squash. In a baking dish, put the cut side down. Put water in the dish to about 1/4″ up the side of the squash. Or some estimation of that, with more being better than less.

2. Bake squash for 1 hour.

Towards the end of that time, prepare the stuffing.
3. Cook 1/2 lb ground pork sausage. With some crushed red pepper if you like spicy. Set pork aside.

4. In same pan, sautee 1/2 onion, and a few cloves of chopped garlic (I used 4 small ones).

5. When the onions are soft (or done to your liking, this recipe is pretty flexible), add a 1/2 stalk chopped celery, 5 sliced/chopped mushrooms, and a 1/2 peeled/chopped tart apple. The recipe I followed called for 1/2 c pecans, but I forgot them. I’d probably like them, but I’m not sure the ManBeast would.

6. Cook until nice and soft and everything is well cooked. Put in same bowl as pork.

7. “Deglaze” pan with 1/4 c white wine. This didn’t work so well, as our cast iron is now well seasoned, but I did it any way. Reduce wine a bit.

8. Add in pork mixture along with 1 egg, 2 T milk, and a 1/2 c “bread crumbs”. Spice/herb to taste. I added 3 fresh chopped sage leaves, a 1 tsp dried thyme, 1 tsp salt, and some pepper.

9. Hopefully in there somewhere, you took the squash out and let them cool a bit. Flip them over and be careful of any water that has sucked back up into the cavity. You might want to scoop out some of the squash, mix it with the pork mixture. Stuff the cavity with the pork mixture. It will likely mound over a bit. I put some more crushed red pepper over the top.

10. Bake at 375F for 1/2 hour. Top with parmesan cheese.

A word about the “bread crumbs”. You could use actual bread crumbs, or something else bread-ish. I made biscuits the night previous and while they tasted good, they didn’t quite get the fluff I wanted. So I hacked up 3 of those and used them as my “bread crumbs”. You could probably even do this without the bread crumbs.

A word about cost. We get ground pork sausage for $2 a pound (or maybe less, I can’t remember). The acorn squash was $1.50 at the farmers market, and the apples, I paid maybe $1 for two. The celery was a wilting stalk that normally I would have thrown out. The mushrooms were left over from another dish where we didn’t need the whole package. So really, all told, you could probably do this entire dish for well under $10. To me, the pecans would likely be the most expensive, and I’m kind of glad I left them out. I even used one of the cheapest bottles of white wine I could find. This worked out to be four meals for us.

Breakfast burritos

So, what have I been up to?  Quite a bit.  What, with getting engaged, going to Copenhagen for a conference, canning probably close to 50 pounds of tomatoes (and other things), and trying to get science done?  I’ve been a little busy.  Today, I give you breakfast burritos.  Hopefully later this week I’ll talk about rainbow cupcakes and my canning adventures (not canning rainbow cupcakes though).

Breakfast burritos

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As always, I’m a fan of mis en place (mess in place).  This recipe includes:

1/2 diced onion
4 garlic cloves minced
2 peeled and “diced” baking potatoes
1 diced red bell pepper
1 package frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3-4 chipotle peppers in adobe, chopped
~7 extra large eggs*
1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
1/2 pound maple breakfast sausage
Oh, and my cooking fat was bacon fat

With about 3-4T bacon fat in a large skillet, brown your onions, add the garlic, then the potatoes.  The potatoes will take longer than you think to cook if you haven’t pre-boiled them (which is an option).  You might want to do something while they cook.  I scrubbed the cabinet doors:

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(I consider the left one clean enough, the right one will get done another day).

This is about what your potatoes should look like when you’re getting close to done:

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Once they are done, set them aside and briefly saute the red bell pepper in the same pan.  More if you like them cooked more, or less if you aren’t as fond of overcooked bell peppers as I am.  Set them aside in the same bowl as the potatoes.

Now cook your sausage.  You could probably use a number of different meats here.  The recipes I used for inspiration included chorizo, poached pulled chicken, other types of ground meat.  Pick what works for you.

Once the meat was cooked through, I added the potatoes and red peppers back to the pain and topped that with the egg/cheese mixture along with some salt, pepper, and a 1/2T of ancho pepper powder.  You want to stir gently here as the Pioneer Woman reminds us (which was one of the sites I used for inspiration).

Once everything was cooked, I let it cool for a bit.  I used basic flour tortillas as my wraps, putting 1/3 cup of mix in each wrap.  My 10 pack of wraps actually had 11, and I had enough left over mix for 7 more wraps.

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Each wrap was wrapped in plastic wrap and then loaded into a freezer bag.  That and the left over mix went into the freezer.  Tomorrow I’ll pull out one (or maybe two) wraps and reheat them in the microwave. Suggestions I’ve seen are to wrap in a paper towel and reheat for anywhere from 45 seconds to 3 minutes.  I’ll see what my microwave takes.

*I say 7 eggs because I actually had 4 yolks and 1 egg white to use up from other recipes, and then added 6 actual extra large eggs.

Sweet Potato Salad

I’m not sure where the ManBeast found this recipe, but it’s been a favorite all summer.  We were making it every week for a while, and now we’ve settled in to about every two weeks.

Sweet Potato Salad

1.  Peel 3 sweet potatoes, cut them up into chunks, and boil them until they are JUST tender.  You don’t want mush here, but you don’t want them crunchy either.
2.  Add in:
2-3 diced celery stalks
1 medium diced onion
1/2 c mayo
1/4 c diced pickles
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
a touch of prepared mustard (we usually just put in about 1 tsp yellow mustard)
3. Mix well!

Sesame chicken

Why are so many websites these days changing to be less and less usable?  I haven’t (obviously) done much here lately, but I hate the changes wordpress has rolled out.

This recipe can easily be made gluten free, or gluten full.  The amounts are also flexible.  You could easily do more chicken in the batter (I think the most we’ve done is a pound an a half), half or double the sauce.  Depends on how you like your food.

Sesame chicken

1.  Chop about a pound to a pound and a half of chicken into bite size pieces.

2.  Marinate in the following for about 20 minutes:

2 T soy sauce (gluten free if you need it)

1 T sherry

1 T sesame oil

2 T flour (random mixtures of gluten free flours have worked for us)

2 T corn starch

2 T water

0.5 t baking powder

0.5 t baking soda

1 t vinegar

3. While that is marinating, combine the following in a sauce pan:

1/2 c water

1 c chicken broth

1/4 – 1/3 c vinegar

1/4 c corn starch

1/4 – 1/3 c sugar

2 T soy sauce

2 T sesame oil

2 T plus (or to taste really) siracha

4.  Put a cooling rack over a cookie sheet.  Deep fry the chicken at 375F.  Do it in small batches.  Fry until nice and golden brown.  When each batch is done, put it onto the cooling rack.  Letting it cool this way will let it maintain it’s crispiness better (this is a trick I learned from userealbutter, and it’s always worked great for us).

5.  While the chicken is frying, bring the sauce to a gentle boil and stir.  Simmer until thickened.

6.  We serve this one of two ways.  Either put chicken over rice and top with sauce.  Or just combine the chicken and sauce in a dish and serve.  We almost always have steamed broccoli as our veggie for this dish.

Peach Salsa

I went a salsa canning kick earlier this week. Unlike the 10 lbs of tomatoes I bought 2 weeks ago for $2.50, these 10 lbs (this time for $5) actually got almost all used BEFORE I had to cut off large chunks due to stupid fungus.

I’m going to make these recipes VERY bare bones. If you know how to can, these are all canning safe recipes. If you like fresh salsa, these all work fresh. If you’d like to learn to can, I suggest reading something like this pdf from the University of Wisconsin Extension office. Canning is doable, with patience and the right equipment, but you really need to be prepared. I don’t want anyone blaming me for a case of botulism because they tried canning these recipes and didn’t know what they were doing.

There are three recipes. I’ll post them in order of what I liked best. I also halved all the original recipes, as I wanted variety more than volume. If we weren’t leaving Tuesday, I’d contemplate getting more tomatoes to make of the first of these two salsas.

Peach Apple Salsa
This recipe is also from that pdf I linked above. It’s *almost* like Trader Joe’s peach salsa, which is by far my favorite store bought salsa.

1. You’ll want to make sure your apples and peaches don’t brown. You want to end up with
5 c peeled diced unripe peaches
1 c chopped granny smith apple
Into 8 cups of water, add 1500 mg of vitamin C (ascorbic acid). If you don’t have vitamin C tablets like I don’t, you might be able to find this in pure powder form at your local health foods store (Willy St Coop had it). In that case you’ll use about 1/2 tsp of the powder to the 8 cups of water. Wash and peel your apple(s) (1 large) and peaches (4 for me). Chop them in half and add to the vitamin C water. Soak for 10 minutes.

2. Combine in a large pan:
3 cups of peeled diced tomatoes (they suggest roma, that isn’t what I had)
1.25 c diced yellow onion
1 c chopped green bell pepper
2T pickling spice (tie into a reusable tea bag, mesh bag, cheese clothe, whatever works for you)
1.5t canning salt
2 t crushed red pepper flakes
1.875 c (so 1.5 c + 1/4 c + 1/8 c) packed light brown sugar
1 1/8 c cider vinegar (must be 5%)
5 c peeled diced unripe peaches (from step 1)
1 c chopped granny smith apple (from step 1)

3. Bring to a boil, stirring, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Remove spice bag.

5. At this point it is edible. But if you want to can it:
you’ll need to put the solids in first to 1.25 inch headspace, then stop with cooking liquid to 1/2 headspace. Do your canning clean up and process cans for 15 minutes at sea level.

If you really want to can this, and want all the more nitty gritty directions, read the pdf link. Seriously. But if you have experience canning, I don’t imagine this will be difficult at all for you. It’s quite tasty.

Chicken/pork rub

Oh look, two recipes in one day! (you might even see a third if I am up for it)

This recipe is by far the one I’ve used the most in the past two weeks. I got the base somewhere off allrecipes and then mangled it to be ours. And honestly, I haven’t made it the same way twice. Every time I use it, I change something. Every version has been stellar. All the spices here are dried.

Chicken/Pork rub
Combine in a small bowl:
1/8-1/4 c brown sugar (the original was 1/4, 1/8 works too, more is better if you have more meat)
1 tsp basil
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil

Mash around with a fork and then rub onto your meat of choice. Cook as desired.

More specifically how I’ve used it:
-Two large pork steaks, slathered on both sides, cooked under the broiler for 7 min a side (a bit too long in our opinion)
-4 chicken quarters, baked at 350-400F for 45 or so minutes, until the chicken was done, or with 6 quarters.
-I’ve also put rosemary in. And sage. I forget the cayenne last time. You could do the garlic and salt separate. The original had 1.5 tsp of basil.
Etc.