Orange Marmalade Ricotta Cupcakes

I’ve been wanting to try these cupcakes for a while, but wasn’t sure if they were a summer cupcake or a winter one.  The fresh orange ingredients made them seem rather summery, but the ricotta made them seem a bit wintery.  In the end, I think the combination makes a great fall cupcake.  The ricotta turns them into little pound cakes, but orange ingredients give them a fresh, light taste.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

Cupcakes:
1 package (18.25 ounces) plain yellow cake mix
1 cup orange juice
⅔ cup ricotta cheese
⅓ cup plus 3 tablespoons orange marmalade, divided
⅓ cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs

Marmalade Buttercream:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 heaping tablespoons orange marmalade
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons orange juice

orange zest for garnish, if desired

Directions:

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cupcake cups with paper liners. Set the pans aside.

Place the cake mix, orange juice, ricotta, ⅓ cup marmalade, oil, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed.  Spoon or scoop batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it almost full. (You will get between 22 and 24 cupcakes; remove the empty liners, if any.) Place the pans in the oven.

Bake the cupcakes until they are golden and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 15 to 20 min­utes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes.

Place the remaining 3 tablespoons of marmalade in a small saucepan over low heat.  Stir until it thins out, 3 to 4 minutes.  Alternatively, microwave maramalade in 10-second increments until it thins out.  Brush it over the tops of the warm cupcakes.  Lift the cupcakes up from the bottoms of the cups using the end of the knife, and pick them out of the cups carefully with your fingertips.  Place them on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. Place the butter and orange marmalade in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until creamy, about 30 seconds.  Add 2 cups of the sugar and 2 tablespoons of the orange juice and beat on low until the mixture is combined, about 30 seconds.  then increase the mixer speed to high and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute longer.  Frost cooled cupcakes with buttercream and garnish with orange zest, if desired. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Source: Cupcakes: from the Cake Mix Doctor.

White Russian Cupcakes

This cupcake brings back such a nice memory of when BK and I were dating.  On one of our first nights out, we went to a hotel bar and he downed white russian after white russian after white russian.  It secretly cracked me up…he is such a guy’s guy, and there he was, downing a sweet creamy drink like it was the best thing he’d ever tasted! It made me smile then, and still.  Later on, he discovered that Pierogi Mom also loves white russians, and they have shared a many.

This cupcake is extremely light and delicious, both in texture and because of the simple whipped cream topping.  I happened to have some coffee flavored sugar a friend made for us and it added a nice crunch when sprinkled on top, but regular or sanding sugar would likely be nice as well.  Finally, you might be tempted to skip the brush of Kahlua on the tops after baking, but don’t…it adds a nice concentrated flavor burst.

Ingredients:

Cupcakes:
1 package (18.25 ounces) plain yellow cake mix
1 package (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding mix
1 cup vegetable oil
¾ cup whole milk
4 large eggs
¼ cup vodka
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons Kahlua, divided
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
finishing, sanding, or regular sugar, and/or coffee bean for garnish, if desired.

Kahlua Whipped Cream:
1 cup (8 ounces) heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon Kahlua

Directions:

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line cupcake cups with paper liners.  Set the pans aside.

Place the cake mix, pudding mix, oil, milk, eggs, vodka, ¼ cup Kahlua, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.  Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds.  Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed.  Spoon or scoop ⅓ cup batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it three quarters of the way full.  (You will get between 22 and 26 cupcakes; remove the empty liners, if any.)  Place the pans in the oven.  Bake the cupcakes until they are golden and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 17 to 20 min­utes.

Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes.  Brush the tops of the cupcakes with the remaining 2 tablespoons Kahlua.  Run a dinner knife around the edges of the cupcake liners.  Lift the cupcakes up from the bottoms of the cups using the end of the knife, and pick them out of the cups carefully with your fingertips.  Place them on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Meanwhile, prepare the frosting.  Place a large, clean mixing bowl and electric mixer beaters in the freezer to chill for 1 minute.  Remove the bowl and beaters from the freezer.  Pour the cream into the bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until the cream has thickened.  Stop the machine, and add the sugar and Kahlua.  Beat the cream on high speed until stiff peaks form.

Frost cooled cupcakes with whipped cream.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Source: Cupcakes: from the Cake Mix Doctor.

Spicy Meatball Subs

These spicy meatball subs are quite the man pleaser in our house…meat, cheese, and very few dishes to wash.  They are a perfect, quick, weeknight meal.  I usually make them from ground turkey, but ground beef would work great also.  I’d suggest using at least 93% lean though…otherwise your sauce will likely get a bit greasy.

Ingredients:
1 ¼ pounds ground turkey
¾ cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped, divided
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, divided
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
4 sub rolls

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the turkey, ½ cup parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, egg, 1 tablespoon parsley, oregano, fennel seeds, garlic powder, onion powder, ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.  Roll into 12 meatballs, about 1½ to 2 inches wide, and flatten each a little so that it’s more oval shaped (this helps it fit in the sub better).

Bring the tomato sauce, chicken stock, and ¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes to a medium boil in a deep saucepan.  Add meatballs and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 13 minutes, or until they are cooked through.  Meatballs should be mostly covered while they are cooking; add additional chicken stock if your saucepan is a bit wider and this is not the case.

Meanwhile, lightly toast sub rolls.  Top each with 3 meatballs, the remaining parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, and garnish with remaining parsley.

Source: the little kimchi pierogi.

Pasta e Fagoli Soup

This soup is really good.  It is so good that BK, in fact, calls it “Crack Soup” because I can’t stop eating it.   Left to my own devices if BK is not home to give me a stern look, I will eat it until my stomach is killing me.

The funny thing is that I didn’t used to think this soup was so good.  When I was young and single and ate onions, I used to carefully spoon the bacon drippings out of the soup pot so it would be healthier.  Then BK and I got married and I figured I’d be splitting the bacon drippings with someone else, so I’d just leave them in.  Well, let me tell you: it makes *all* the difference!!  Leave the bacon drippings in, in the name of all that is good in the world!!

Many times, “soup for dinner” meals are disappointing because the soup just isn’t hearty enough to make a meal.  This one is though…the beans and pasta will fill you up.  It’s also very good as leftovers, but the pasta soaks up a ton of the broth, so I like to add more water when I’m reheating.

Visit Taste and Tell’s Saturdays with Rachael Ray for more delicious recipes!

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
⅛ pound (3 slices) pancetta or bacon, chopped
2 (4- to 6-inch) sprigs rosemary, left intact
1 (4 to 6-inch) sprig thyme with several sprigs on it, left intact, or 1½ teaspoons dried thyme
1 large fresh bay leaf or 2 dried bay leaves
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
coarse salt and pepper
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini or great northern beans
1 cup canned tomato sauce or canned crushed tomatoes
2 cups water
1 quart chicken stock
1½ cups ditalini
grated Parmigiano or Romano, for the table
crusty bread, for mopping

Directions:

Heat a deep pot over medium high heat and add oil and pancetta or bacon.  Brown the pancetta or bacon bits lightly, and add herb stems, bay leaf, chopped vegetables, and garlic.  Season vegetables with salt and pepper.  Add beans, tomato sauce, water, and stock to pot and raise heat to high.  Bring soup to a rapid boil and add pasta.  Reduce heat to medium and cook soup, stirring occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes or until pasta is cooked al dente.  Rosemary and thyme leaves may separate from stems as soup cooks; remove stems and bay leaves.  Let soup rest and begin to cool for a few minutes.  Ladle soup into bowls and top with grated cheese.  Pass crusty bread for bowl mopping.

Slightly adapted from The Food Network, Rachael Ray.

Easy Peasy Salsa

As I mentioned last week, I don’t usually make things from scratch that I can easily buy at the store.  I just don’t have the time.  But this salsa is an exception.  First, it’s a copycat of the salsa from Chili’s and is really delicious.  Second, I actually find it more convenient to keep the basic ingredients on hand and make the salsa whenever I need it…that way I don’t have to remember to put it on my grocery list.  And finally, I find store-bought salsa to be kind of overpriced…this is much less expensive (BK is rolling his eyes right now that I find $3.99 for a jar of salsa to be overpriced…but I do).

Making the salsa is super fast….it takes only about 5 minutes and you can easily tailor it to your preferred level of spiciness, saltiness, and seasoning.  It can be doubled, tripled, etc., and lasts forever.  Try it and let me know what you think!

Note: We use “mild” Rotel, which makes a slightly spicy salsa.  “Original” Rotel is spicier…maybe a medium.  If you want legit hot salsa, go ahead and add in some fresh or canned jalapenos when you add the onion to the food processor. 

Ingredients:

¼ cup white onion, diced
1 10-ounce can Rotel
1 14-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
¼ teaspoon sugar
¾ teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon cumin

Directions:

Place the onion in a food processor or magic bullet.  Process for just a few seconds.  Add the Rotel, all of the whole peeled tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of juice from the whole peeled tomatoes, sugar, garlic salt, and cumin.  Process all ingredients until well blended but do not puree (usually I pulse it 3-5 times, but you could do more or less depending on how chunky you want it) .  Place in covered container and chill.

Adapted from copykat.com.

Tangy Lime Delicious

Hi, my name is the little kimchi pierogi and I’m a key lime pie lover.

  • I grew up in Florida and we had a key lime tree in our backyard.  I mean, I never really stood a chance.
  • One summer day long ago, Pierogi Mom and I baked key lime pies from each of her three different recipes.  We had a taste test, picked our favorite, and threw out the other recipes.  They are forever dead to us.  (And yes, it was a glorious day.)
  • I convinced BK we needed key lime pie at both our rehearsal dinner AND our wedding.

So now you understand.

Before I thoroughly confuse you, this recipe is NOT for key lime pie.   But the relationship to it is what caught my eye.  I’m never motivated to make an entire rich, sweet pie for just BK and I.  It’s a lot of work that will only lead to us eating too much and getting sick.  That is the beauty of this recipe though: it’s a quick fix that yields a little ramekin of lime pudding that is similar to key lime pie filling.

I was on high alert for these to be too sweet…such is the downfall of many a similar dessert.  But with every bite, I decided that it was firmly in the “just right” camp.  If you are someone that neeeeeeeeeeds that meringue or whipped cream on top of your key lime pie though, I would suggest adding some whipped cream on top of these after cooling.  You could also try cutting down on the sugar a bit or adding a pinch of salt.

One caution: Don’t be like me and decide (without checking) that your all-purpose flour is self-rising.  It is not.  Take 10 seconds, check what kind of flour you have, and make the substitution if necessary.  It will be a well-used 10 seconds of your life.  Really.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
shortening for greasing baking cups
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated lime zest (from 2 limes)
⅓ cup self-rising flour*
⅔ cup low-fat milk
½ cup lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes or a bottle)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease four 1-cup ramekins (or ovenproof coffee cups) with a little shortening.

Separate the egg yolks from the whites; beat the whites in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer on medium-high speed (or use a whisk) until soft peaks form.

Combine the 2 tablespoons of butter, the sugar, egg yolks and lime zest in a separate mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed for about 4 minutes, until creamy and light.

Use a wooden spoon or spatula to fold the flour, milk and lime juice into the sugar-egg yolk mixture until well combined. Gently fold in about a third of the beaten egg whites to lighten the mixture, then fold in the remaining egg whites.

Divide the batter among the ramekins; bake for 25 to 40 minutes or until the tops are golden and the pudding has just set. Serve warm.

*Can substitue ⅓ cup all-purpose flour, ½ teaspoon baking powder, and ⅙ teaspoon salt, mixed well.

Slightly adapted from “Ready, Steady, Spaghetti: Cooking for Kids and With Kids,” by Lucy Broadhurst, via The Washington Post.

Homemade Refried Beans

Continuing on this week’s Mexican food theme, I am going to urge and implore you to make these homemade refried beans.   Such a dish had previously resided on my “How Nice That You Have the Time to Make This From Scratch, But I Will Be Sticking to Store-Bought” list.  This list includes things like pie crust (no, Lil Sis, it is not “so easy”), pizza crust, tortilla chips, and bread (I clearly have a fear of homemade bread products, thank you very much).  But the list doesn’t include refried beans…not anymore.

These beans don’t really take much extra time.  In isolation, maybe, but I always make them as a side dish, meaning they can be prepared simultaneously with other items.  Also, they are really, really good.   Why?  Well, because of the bacon drippings.  It gives the beans this creamy taste that I recognize from my favorite soup that also has bacon drippings in it (nicknamed “Crack Soup” by BK because I cannot stay away from the leftovers) .  Just go with it…while bacon drippings are not healthy, neither are all the preservatives in canned refried beans.  The tradeoff is easily justified.

If you don’t have any bacon drippings sitting around, go ahead and cut up a couple slices of bacon and cook them for the first step below.  Then saute the onion with the drippings and bacon and proceed along!

Make it a meal with some chicken fajitas and margaritas!

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons bacon drippings
½ medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
⅔ cup chicken broth
½ teaspoon cumin
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 green onion, thinly sliced

Directions:

Heat bacon drippings in a medium skillet set over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking for an additional minute until fragrant.  Add the broth, cumin and beans and bring to a light boil.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.  Use a fork or potato masher to mash beans to desired consistency, adding more chicken broth as needed and salt and pepper to taste.  Once plated, top with cheese and green onion and serve.

Makes 1½ cups.

Adapted from Elly Says Opa via Cook Like a Champion.

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