Thursday, August 28, 2008

Blueberry-Coconut Pound Cake Muffins

Lately I've been making cupcakes for my co-workers. We are all working a lot of hours in preparation for our project launch on September 17th. One of the guys I work closely with prefers muffins over cupcakes. He also really loves coconut. I discovered this recipe for Individual Blueberry-Coconut Pound Cake Muffins from Sara's Secrets while looking for something he may like. The only problem is that this recipe only makes seven muffins so I have to multiply it by 6 to make enough muffins for my entire team.

These went over very well. In fact a few people told me they are the best muffins they have ever had. And I have to agree. Some team members don't like muffins (I can't imagine) but they tried them anyways and gave me a big thumbs up. Even my family liked them and they told me not to lose the recipe because they are so amazing.

I really like that they are kind of like a pound cake because they are heavier. There is alot of cocount so if you don't like coconut you might not like these muffins. But if you do like it, you'll fall in love.

Individual Blueberry-Coconut Pound Cake Muffins
Serves 7

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest
2 large eggs
5 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter and flour 7 (1/2-cup) muffin cups (just butter if nonstick).

Beat together butter, sugar, and zest until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in cream, then flour and salt, on low speed until just combined. Stir in 1/2 cup coconut and gently stir in blueberries.

Spoon batter into cups, filling the cups, and smooth tops. Sprinkle tops with remaining 3 tablespoons of coconut.

Bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean and edges are golden brown, about 25 minutes. Invert onto a rack and cool.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Black Forest Cupcakes

One of my co-workers is getting married! Today is his last day in the office before he heads back to India for the wedding. I wanted to make him something special and when I asked him about his favorite cake he said that he likes Black Forest Cake. So I found this recipe for Black Forest Stuffed Cupcakes.

I was no too excited to make these because I'm not big on the whole chocolate / cherry / cream combo. Luckily this recipe is super easy so it didn't take much time. I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. My co-workers raved about them and I thought it was really neat that the cupcakes were stuffed with yummy filling. And what can be easier that simply topping cupcakes with cool whip instead of making frosting!

Black Forest Stuffed Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes

1 pkg. (2-layer size) chocolate cake mix
1 pkg. (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
1 egg
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 can (20 oz.) cherry pie filling, divided
1-1/2 cups thawed COOL WHIP Whipped Topping

PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Prepare cake batter as directed on package; set aside. Mix cream cheese, egg and sugar until well blended.

REMOVE 3/4 cup of the pie filling for garnish; set aside. Spoon 2 Tbsp. of the cake batter into each of 24 paper-lined medium muffin cups. Top each with 1 Tbsp. each of the cream cheese mixture and remaining pie filling. Cover evenly with remaining cake batter.

BAKE 20 to 25 min. or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool 5 min.; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Top cupcakes with whipped topping and remaining pie filling just before serving.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Poached Shrimp (in a slow-cooked onion sauce)

This recipe is sick! And I mean that in the "urban dictionary" way: crazy, cool, insane. It all revolves around this amazing sauce which has the consistency of a thick pasta sauce (which is possibly why they suggest serving it over pasta) with some really creative flavors. The core come from the fried onion paste which is made from caramelized onions. Add to that a bunch of other spices and slow cook it until everything blends together and then serve it with some shrimp... heaven!

Poached Shrimp in a Slow-Cooked Onion Sauce
bhuna hua jhinga
serves 6

2 Tablespoons canola oil

4 lengthwise slices fresh ginger (each 2 inches long, 1 inch wide, and 1/8 inch thick), coarsely chopped

1 cup Fried Onion Paste

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons mango powder or fresh lime juice

2 teaspoons coriander seeds, ground

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground

1 teaspoon fine black salt

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon cayenne (ground red pepper)

1 pound large shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), peeled and deveined but tails left on

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems for garnishing

Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic, and stir-fry until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic and ginger to a blender jar. Pour in 3/4 cup water, followed by the onion paste and tomato paste. Puree, scraping the inside of the jar as needed, to form a thick, reddish-brown paste. Transfer the paste to the same saucepan. Pour 1/4 cup water into the blender jar and swish it around to wash it out. Add this to the pan.

Stir in the mango powder, coriander, cumin, black salt, turmeric, and cayenne. Cover the pan and simmer the sauce over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the oil starts to form a few shiny drops around the edges, 5 to 8 minutes.

Stir in 1/2 cup water, cover the pan, and simmer, stiffing occasionally, until there is a thin film of oil on the surface, 8 to 10 minutes.

Pour in 1/2 cup water and repeat one last time: cover the pan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until there is a thin film of oil on the surface, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the shrimp and stir once or twice. Cover the pan and poach, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are salmon-orange, curled, and tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tea and Ginger Simmered Chickpeas

The best thing about this recipe was all the new and neat things I got to try. I was first attracted to it because it use TEA in the cooking. I'm a huge tea fan and I have all sorts of loose-leaf tea around. I usually drink it but using it to cook with sounded to good to be true. Another thing about this recipe is that it is for chickpeas and I always try to find new things to do with legumes. I'd like to eat more vegetarian and tasty recipes are always keepers. And chickpeas are much more "approachable" to the rest of my family than some other legumes like lentils and beans.

So in addition to all the reasons I wanted to try the recipe in the first place, I had a bunch of fun when preparing it because there are some unique ingredients I have not been exposed to before. Like the use of mustard oil. It says you can use canola oil but I grabbed a bottle while I was at the Indian grocer. After I added the cumin seeds I bent my head over the pan to take a whiff and I almost choked! I thought I was smelling for the toasting of the cumin seeds but I inhaled a whole bunch of horseradish smell! Definitely can open up the sinuses.

When I took my first bite of these chickpeas I thought they were bland. So I took a second and scooped up some of the sauce and it was much better. By the third bite the flavors were coming through and after that I couldn't stop until I polished off my whole bowl. I will say that I think this is a bit salty, but I'm not sure if Indian food is supposed to be this way or not. It does call for 1 1/2 tsp. of salt which is quite a lot!

Tea and Ginger Simmered Chickpeas
chai patte waali chana
serves 6

2 tablespoons black tea leaves, preferably Darjeeling

2 tablespoons mustard oil or canola oil

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

2 to 4 fresh green Thai, cayenne, or serrano chiles, to taste, stems removed, thinly sliced crosswise (do not remove the seeds)

3 cups cooked chickpeas

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

Juice of 1 medium-size lime

Bring 2 cups water to a rolling boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in the tea leaves, remove the pan from the heat, and allow the tea to steep for about 5 minutes; it will turn the water a deep reddish brown. Strain the infusion, discarding the swollen leaves.

Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the cumin sees and cook until they sizzle, turn reddish brown, and smell fragrant, 5 to 10 seconds. Then add the ginger, garlic and chiles, and stir-fry until the ginger and garlic are light brown and the chiles smell pungent, 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir in the chickpeas, cilantro, salt, and turmeric. Cook, making sure every chickpea gets well coated with the seasonings, until the turmeric is cooked, about 1 minute. Pour in the brewed tea, stir once or twice, and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, until the sauce has thickened slightly, 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the lime juice and serve.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Dal with Unripe Mango and Pigeon Peas

Okay, just the title of this recipe alone has my curiosity peeked. What are pigeon peas and why would anyone want to cook anything with an unripe mango? So I set out to make Unripe Mango with Pigeon Peas (khatte aam toor ki dal) from 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer.

Well, I still don't really know why pigeon peas are named the way they are, but I can tell you they they are kind of like lentils. They are yellow and usually come dried so you need to rinse them and cook them with water to hydrate them similar to other legumes. As for the unripe mango, it's not as unappealing as I first thought it might be. The mango adds some tangy flavoring which is really unique.

The recipe is long but it is actually very easy to make. It can all be thrown together once you get the mango, onions, chiles and ginger slices. Everything kind of stews and the way the flavors meld together is amazing. I used 10 chiles as suggested and it was hot! I wish I had prepared some raita (cucumber yogurt) to calm the flavors a bit, but when you eat it with rice, the rice counters some of the heat. But people who don't like things spicy may want to tone it down a bit. I think the heat in this balances well with the tart mango and the spices.

I will admit that when I took my first bite I was super proud of myself because I made something that tasted just like what I'd get at an Indian restaurant. And it was really easy! So I am excited to make a few more things from 660 Curries to see what else I can create on my own.

The book suggests serving with Basmati rice but I didn't have any so I used long grain brown rice instead. Not as authentic, but tasty and healthy all the same.

Unripe Mango with Pigeon Peas
khatte aam toor ki dal
makes 4 cups

1 cup oily or unoily skinned split yellow pigeon peas (toovar dal), picked over for stones

1 medium-size rock-firm unripe mango, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons Ghee or canola oil

2 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon left whole, 1 teaspoon ground

6 green or white cardamom pods

1 small red onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced

8 to 10 fresh green Thai, cayenne, or serrano chiles, to taste, stems removed, cut in half lengthwise, each half cut into long, thin strips (do no remove the seeds)

3 lengthwise slices fresh ginger (each 2 1/2 inches long, 1 inch wide, and 1/8 inch thick), cut into matchstick-thin strips (julienne)

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

Place the pigeon peas in a medium-size saucepan. Fill the pan halfway with water and rinse the peas by rubbing them between your fingertips. The water will become cloudy. Drain this water. Repeat three or four times, until the water remains relatively clear, drain. Now add 3 cups water and bring to a boil, uncovered, over medium-high heat. Skim off and discard any foam that forms on the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the peas are partially tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the mango and 1 cup water to the partially cooked dal. Stir once or twice, cover the pan, and continue to cook stirring occasionally, until the pigeon peas and mango are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

While the peas and mango are simmering, heat the ghee in a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat. Add the whole cumin seeds and the cardamom pods, and cook until the seeds turn reddish brown and the pods smell fragrant, 5 to 10 seconds. Then add the onion, chiles, and ginger, and stir-fry until the onion is lightly browned and the chiles are pungent, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the cilantro, salt, the ground cumin, coriander and turmeric. Stir-fry until the ground spices are cooked, about 1 minute. Set aside.

Transfer half the cooked pigeon peas, mango, and cooking water to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour this creamy blend into a bowl. Repeat with the remaining peas, mango, and water. Return all the puree to the saucepan. (If you have an immersion blender, you can puree all the peas, mango, and water right in the saucepan.)

Scrape the contents of the skillet into the dal, and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the dal absorbs the flavors, 5 to 8 minutes. Then serve.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Fried Onion Paste

I made this batch of Fried Onion Paste because caramelized onions are the bomb. It is a key ingredient in many curries and since I'm on an Indian kick it shows up in a few recipes I want to make. You can probably buy this at the Indian grocer, but the thought of slowly cooking onions until they was just too much. I LOVE the smell while it's cooking.

This recipe turned out just fine for me, but it didn't go exactly as written. Maybe I didn't have the burner turned up high enough, but it took closer to an hour for my onions to caramelize than the suggested 25 to 30 minutes. Also, it yielded only about a cup and a half instead of 3 cups. 2 pounds of onions really aren't all that much so next time I'll double the batch.

Fried Onion Paste
pyaaz ka lep
Makes 3 cups

1/4 cup canola oil

2 pounds red onions, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced

Preheat a wok or a large, deep frying pan over medium heat. Pour in the oil and swish it around gently to coat the bottom of the pan. the oil will immediately get hot and appear to shimmer. Add the onions and cook them, stirring occasionally, until they are caramel-brown with a deep purple hue, 25 to 30 minutes. Initially they will stew in the oil, but once they start to cook down in volume, you will need to stir them more often as they start to stick to the bottom. Transfer the onions to a place to cool.

Pour 1 cup water into a blender jar. Add the caramelized onions and puree, scraping the inside of the jar as needed, to make a smooth, reddish-brown paste. (If you wont' be using all of the onion paste, divide it into smaller batches and freeze them for up to 2 months. Leftover onion paste, stored in a tightly sealed container, will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I've made this version of Red Velvet Cupcakes from Cupcakes from the Cake Mix Doctor a few times and I always marvel at it's simplicity. Using the cake mix, pudding mix and sour cream seems so random! And adding the semi-sweet chocolate chips is a hidden surprise. Anyways, it was "Red Shirt Day" today at work (something made up for the hell of it) and I decided to make cupcakes to make it more festive.

These are CRAZY sweet! I like the touch of homemade frosting but personally I am not a big fan of mint. If you feel the same way, you can just omit the peppermint extract and you'll get a more traditional topping for red velvet cake.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
24 paper liners for cupcake pans (2 1/2-inch size)
1 package (18.25 ounce) plain German chocolate cake mix
1 package (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 bottle (1 ounce) red food coloring
3 large eggs
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
White Chocolate Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting

1. Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners. Set the pans aside.

2. Place the cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, water, oil, food coloring, 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. The batter should look thick and well combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. Spoon or scoop 1/3 cup batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it three quarters of the way full. (You will get between 22 and 24 cupcakes; remove the empty liners, if any.) Place the pans in the oven.

3. Bake the cupcakes until they spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes. 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 for 15 minutes before frosting.

4. Meanhwile, prepare the White Chocolate Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting.

White Chocolate Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting
6 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped (i used white chocolate chips so I didn't have to bother chopping chocolate)
4 ounces (half an 8-ounce package) reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 to 2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

1. Place the white chocoalte in a small glass bowl in the microwave oven on high power for 1 minute. Remove the bowl from the oven and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until it is smooth. Set the chocoalte aside to cool.

2. Place the cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until well combined, 30 seconds. Stop the machine. Add the melted white chocolate and blend on low speed until just combined, 30 seconds. Add the peppermint extract and 2 cups of the confectioners' sugar and blend on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, 30 seconds more. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the frosting is fluffy, 1 minute more, adding up to 1/2 cup more sugar if needed to make a spreadable consistency.