Friday, December 30, 2011

Maple Bacon Cupcakes for New Year's Day!

Hi guys!  Happy New Year’s Eve Eve!  I have a fabulous recipe for you today.  I think this recipe would be amazing on New Year’s Day…..as breakfast.  I am going to show you how to make Maple Bacon Cupcakes.  Yep, you read that right….Maple Bacon Cupcakes.  The cake is a sweet, cakey corn bread.  The frosting is a maple buttercream.  And the cakes are topped off with crumbled bacon.  So crazy good.

Why should you eat these on New Year’s Day, you ask?  Good question.  Some believe that eating pork on New Year’s Day will help you to have good luck all year long.  Pigs root forward in the dirt, which signifies forward progress.  I don’t know how much of this is true, but out of all the “good luck” foods for New Year’s….bacon was the one I could get on board with.  Bacon is a popular “good luck” choice because it is rich and fatty, which signifies wealth and prosperity.  I like all of those things;)

Let’s start with the cupcakes…..

I used corn meal, flour, sugar, milk, cream, eggs, baking powder, salt, vanilla extract and butter.  Have you ever made cornbread?  It is ridiculously easy.  You don’t need a hand mixer or any crazy tools.  You pretty much just dump it all in a bowl and mix.

I whisked together all the dry ingredients first…..the flour, corn meal, sugar, baking powder and salt.

In a separate bowl, I mixed together the melted butter, eggs, milk, cream and vanilla.

I poured the wet ingredients into the dry, and I mixed this all together with a rubber spatula.  This batter will be thin, and it may have lumps.  The lumps are totally Ok.

I poured the batter into baking cups and popped these in the oven.  See?  I told you this was super easy.  As long as you have all the ingredients….these are a piece of cake to make.  Get it?  A piece of cake? Ha. 

There is a strong chance I may give this all up and focus on my comedy career.

These are a pretty quick bake.  Wow-I made quite the mess on the tray to the right.  Messy chefs are good chefs.  That is what they always say.  Well, that is what I always say.

While the cupcakes are cooling, I popped some bacon in the oven to get crispy.  I always cook my bacon in the oven.  I put it on a rack that is placed over a baking sheet.  I cook the bacon on 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.  Perfect every time, and it doesn’t splatter all over your kitchen.

Once the cupcakes are cool, you can make the frosting.  I used butter (softened), maple syrup and powdered sugar.

I beat together, with a hand mixer, the butter and maple syrup.  Once that was smooth, I slowly beat in the sugar.  If your frosting gets too thick, add a smidge of milk.

I frosted all of my cupcakes with a butter knife.  I didn’t pipe this on because the bacon will stick better to spread frosting.  Plus, I am super lazy.

I topped each cupcake with crumbled bacon.  When I say these where the “best thing ever”, I really mean it.  I know I throw that out a lot….but I mean it this time!  The cakes are sweet and moist, the frosting is sweet, and the bacon is salty and cuts through all the sweetness.  These are perfection in a cupcake wrapper.  And if they bring good luck….all the better.

Maple Bacon Cupcakes

½ cup cornmeal

1 cup sugar

1 ½ cup flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ cup heavy cream

1 cup milk

2 eggs

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted


1 stick butter, softened

½ cup maple syrup

About 1 lb. powdered sugar


5 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder.  In a separate bowl, whisk together cream, milk, vanilla, eggs and melted butter.  Pour mixed wet ingredients into bowl containing mixed dry ingredients.  Mix thoroughly.

Pour batter into muffin tins lines with wrappers.  Fill about ¾ full.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Set cupcakes aside to cool.


In a large bowl, beat maple syrup and softened butter together with a hand mixer.  Slowly beat in powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached.  If frosting gets too thick, add a bit of milk to thin it out.

Top cooled cupcakes with frosting and crumbled bacon.

Makes about 18 cupcakes.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year's Eve Dinner

 Hi everyone!  I hope you all had a fabulous Christmas, or Hanukah, or Kwanzaa…..whatever you celebrate.  We had a wonderful Christmas.  We were back in California with my mom, sisters, and their families.  I got to see a lot of friends, including a brand new lil baby that my friend Becky had the week before Christmas. 
I am super sad that Christmas is over.  Mainly because now I have to take all the Christmas decorations down;)

So the next thing to look forward to is New Year’s Eve!  Are you going out?  We aren’t.  It really is just too difficult to find a babysitter.  Plus, everything is so expensive.  There are tons of parties here in Reno, especially downtown, but they all cost an arm and a leg.  I like my appendages, so I’m not willing to give them up for a party.

We will be ringing in the New Year with some good friends that live down the road.  They have a little boy who is Paisley’s age, so we will be toting the kids with us.  So yes, it will be a tame, low-key NYE.

If you plan on staying home too…..why not cook a super fancy and fabulous meal?  Today I am going to show you a great meal that would be perfect for a NYE at home.  I said “fancy”, but keep in mind, that doesn’t mean hard.  This is an easy meal that is sure to impress your family and friends.  I will show you how to make a delicious crab appetizer, blue cheese and bacon twice baked potatoes, and steak with a brandy mushroom cream sauce.  Doesn’t that sound amazing?  It is.

Let’s start with the appetizer…..

This appetizer is a yummy crab salad that is served in crispy wonton cups.  I made the salad with lump crabmeat, mayonnaise, diced bell pepper, diced cucumber, and green onions….all topped with sriracha hot sauce.

You can always ask your fishmonger for lump crab meat that has been picked through, looking for cartilage and shells.  What’s that?  You don’t have a fishmonger?  Don’t worry….nor do I.  I just like to say it because all the Food Network Chefs love to talk about “fishmongers”.  I bought the lump crab meat that is in the seafood section by the fresh fish.

I mixed the crab, mayo, bell pepper, cucumber and green onion in a bowl.  I also salted and peppered the mixture.  If you are highly opposed to mayo, you could use coconut milk and lime juice.  That is a favorite of mine, but my kids prefer mayo.  It really depends what your tastes are.

I popped this in the fridge while I made my wonton cups.  You are going to be so excited when you see how I made these wonton cups.  They are so easy to make….and the filling possibilities are endless.

I sprayed a mini muffin tin with cooking spray and stuck a wonton wrapper into each hole.  They will wrinkle and fold over, but that is fine.  That actually makes them look fancier.  I sprayed the wrappers with more cooking spray and baked these at 400 degrees for 5 minutes.  They come out crispy and perfect each time.

I filled each cup with the crab salad and then topped them with hot sauce.  You can go heavy or light on the hot sauce, depending on who you are serving.

Don’t these look yummy?  They also appear to be super fancy, but as you saw…they were easy to make.

As for the potatoes….

For the twice baked potatoes, I used 4 potatoes that I had already baked, cream cheese, blue cheese, a splash of cream, bacon that I cooked and crumbled and more green onions.

I love twice baked potatoes.  Actually, I love anything that has cream, cream cheese, bacon and blue cheese in it….but especially potatoes.  If you aren’t a fan of blue cheese, use whatever you like best.

I started by making little potato “boats”.  I took the baked potatoes, and I scooped out the “meat” of the potato, leaving a rim of flesh and the skin.  You don’t want to scoop out too much.  You need the shells to hold up to the filling.

You also have to wait till the potatoes are cooled a bit before you do this.  Duh.

With a potato masher, I mashed the potato guts with some cream cheese and a splash of cream.  I mashed until smooth.  I also hit this mix with pepper and a smidge of salt.  Blue cheese and bacon are salty, so go easy on the salt.

I stirred in the blue cheese, bacon and green onions.

Then, I scooped the potato mixture back into the shells.  The cheeses and bacon add more volume to the potato mixture so you will really be able to pile on the filling.  You can have it mounded up and super full.

I baked these at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until the tops were starting to brown.

These were seriously amazing.  You must try these.

The star of the show was definitely the steak……

I started with two New York steaks.  Keep in mind, I was feeding myself, Chris and two kids.  Depending on who you are feeding, you will probably need more.

Due to the fact that it is late December in Northern Nevada, there wasn’t a chance in H@#$ that I was going outside to grill these bad boys.  I cooked my steaks on the stovetop….in a cast iron pan.  I cooked them in butter and a bit of oil.

These cook pretty fast, about 5 minutes per side.  I like my steaks rare.  Remember, these steaks need to rest for at least 15 minutes when they come out of the pan.  All that cooking made them tired;)

Once the steaks came out of the pan, it was time to make the sauce.  This sauce was so good, I could have eaten it as soup.

I used a shallot, garlic, mushrooms, butter, cream and brandy.  Yum.

I put my sliced mushrooms, diced shallot and garlic in the same pan that I had cooked the steaks in.  The meat juice will give the mushrooms great flavor.  I cooked the veggies for about 5 minutes, over medium heat, until they were starting to get sweaty and translucent.  I didn’t brown the veg…..don’t do that;)

Once the mushrooms were soft, I added the brandy.  I let this boil and reduce for about 5 minutes.

Then, in goes the cream and butter!  And lots of salt and pepper.  Holy crap-this sauce was good!!  And in case you are wondering....no, my kids wouldn't eat the sauce.

I poured the sauce over the steaks and then mentally thanked whoever realized that cow’s milk could be turned into butter and cream.

I think this meal is a New Year’s Eve winner, for sure.  It is restaurant quality, but you get to eat it in your own home…..which means it is cheaper, and you don’t have to be out on the road with the NYE crazies;)  Good Lord, I totally sound like my mom.

I will see you all on Friday with a New Year’s Day breakfast treat!

Crab Salad in Crispy Cups

2 cups crabmeat, picked through for shells

½ cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup cucumber, diced

1/3 cup red bell pepper, diced

1/3 cup green onion, diced

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Wonton wrappers

Sriracha Hot Sauce, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray a mini muffin tin with cooking spray.  Place a wonton wrapper into each little cup.  Press down in center to form cup.  Spray wrappers with more cooking spray.  Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes. 

For crab salad:

Mix together crab, mayo, cucumber, bell pepper, green onion and salt & pepper.  Fill each wonton cup with salad.  Top with hot sauce.

Makes 48 cups.

Blue Cheese and Bacon Twice Baked Potatoes

4 baking potatoes, baked and cooled

1/3 cup cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons cream

2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

4 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled

2 tablespoons green onion, diced

2 teaspoons salt

1 ½ teaspoons black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut potatoes in half, lengthwise.  Scoop out inside of potatoes, leaving a 1/8 of an inch rim. 

Mash together scooped out potato flesh, softened cream cheese, cream and salt and pepper.  Once this is smooth, stir in bacon, blue cheese and green onion.

Scoop mixture back into potato “shells”.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until tops are starting to brown.

Serves 4

Steak with a Mushroom and Brandy Cream Sauce

2 New York Steaks, any size

2 tablespoons butter, divided

1 tablespoon oil

1 small shallot, diced

4 ounces white mushrooms, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/3 cup Brandy

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Add oil and 1 tablespoon butter to a cast iron pan, set over medium heat.  Cook steaks in pan, about 5 minutes per side for medium rare. 

Add mushrooms, garlic and shallot to the same pan the steaks were cooked in.  Sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until mushrooms are softened.  Add brandy and let sauce simmer for another five minutes.  Brandy should reduce by about 1/3.  Once reduced, add cream, remaining butter and salt and pepper.  Let sauce thicken and reduce a bit more. 

Pour over rested steaks.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Last Minute Holiday Recipes

Good morning!  I am going to make this super quick today, as I still have tons of Christmas preparations to take care of, AKA....I still have a lot of eggnog shakes to drink, cookies to eat and candy to devour.  And I am sure you do too.  Today’s post fits that theme.  I have two really speedy, last minute, holiday recipes.  They are both perfect if you need to bring something to a holiday party and you have no idea what to bring, or how you will you will find the time.  Don’t just buy something, make something!  You can do it!  You can squeeze it in!  We will work together.

My first recipe is for a fast holiday crudité spread.  We have been over this before….crudité just means raw veggies.  If you want to sound fancy, say crudité instead;) 

This is a recipe for a cheese spread.  Basically, it is cream cheese, any kind of fancy stinky cheese you want, and lots of black pepper.  I used Cambozola cheese.  It is a cow’s milk cheese that is across between blue cheese and brie cheese.  This is, by far, my favorite cheese in the world.  I could live on this stuff.  If I had to choose one food that I could take with me to a deserted island….it’s this cheese. 

The cream cheese in this recipe mellows out the stinky cheese flavor and gives this spread more mass appeal.  It also makes it spreadable.  It gives it a really great consistency.  The black pepper gives it a really nice kick…..obviously.

You could use a blue cheese or a goat cheese here too.  Either would be fabulous.  Just follow the ratio of 1 parts cream cheese to 3 parts stinky cheese.

I threw the cheeses into the food processor.  If your cheeses are at room temperature, you will be good to go.  You could also use a hand mixer.

Since this is a thick spread, it won’t work for dipping.  You could put it in a bowl with a spreader or butter knife, but I prefer to put it on the veggies before I serve it.  I lined up some tomatoes, cucumbers and celery on a platter.  I cut the bottoms of the tomatoes off so that they stand up.  I also hollowed out the cucumbers with a teaspoon.

The celery is already ready to be filled….it didn’t need any help. 

I used a piping bag.  You could always use a re-sealable bag with the corner cut off.

Super cute.

The tomatoes kind of look like Santa hats;)

Super easy, super cute….and so much better than just buying a crudité tray from the store that comes with wilted veggies and generic ranch dip.

You can make as much or as little as you want, just remember the 1 to 3 ratio.

My second recipe is for Eggnog Cupcakes.  I use a store bought mix, which makes this recipe a snap.  I do make my own frosting, but that honestly only takes a couple of minutes.  I promise.  And what says “Christmas” like eggnog?

Like I said, I used a boxed cake mix.  I used a white cake mix.  Because it was .98 cents.  You can use yellow or white.  I also used oil, eggs, rum extract and eggnog. 

Mix the cake mix as directed, but substitute eggnog for the water the box calls for.  I also added 2 teaspoons of rum extract.

Bake as directed.

For the frosting, I used butter, powdered sugar, eggnog and more rum extract.  Specifically, 1 stick of softened butter, 1/3 cup eggnog, 2 teaspoons rum extract and about 2 cups powdered sugar.  I beat this all together with a hand mixer.  See how easy homemade frosting is?  And sooooooo much better than canned frosting.  That is probably due to the large amount of butter.

To make these extra eggnoggy, I sprinkled the tops with nutmeg.  Adding the eggnog to the batter makes the cupcakes extra moist and delicious.  And you will want to take a bath in the frosting.


Before I finished taking the pictures, Chris got to the cupcakes.  They are that good.  He couldn’t wait.  I can’t blame him.  Eggnog cupcakes rock.  These would be a great Christmas dessert, or even gift!

Have a great Christmas! I will see you all next weekJ

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Pork Roast

Hi everyone! It is getting so close to Christmas!  And Happy Hanukah to everyone that celebrates!  Today I want to show you a really yummy recipe for a holiday dinner.  It is pork, so it obviously isn’t for Hanukah.  But it would make a fabulous Christmas dinner.  I practiced it on my family last night.  They loved it. 

Christmas dinner needs to be kind of a production, right?  People usually make turkeys, prime rib, tamales, etc.  I like to think this pork recipe is perfect for the holidays.  It is a show stopper, but it really isn’t much of a production.  But people will think it was;)

This recipe that I am going to show you is for a pork roast.  I used a boneless pork tenderloin.  I roasted it and covered it in a sauce of port wine, Gourmet Rooster County Fair Peach spread and various dried fruits.  Even if you think you don’t like dried fruit, you still need to try this recipe.  I always thought I didn’t like dried fruit that much, but I love this.  I used golden raisins, dried apricots and prunes.  You can use any combination of dried fruit you want.  Dried figs would be amazing in this recipe.  Let’s get to it.

Like I said, I used a boneless pork loin.  Mine was a little bit more than 2 pounds.  This would easily feed 6.

I started by browning my pork loin on all sides.  I used a cast iron skillet.  I also used a smidge of oil, and I sprinkled the loin with salt and pepper.  This takes tongs and patience.  Plus, there is a strong chance you will have to clean your floor after.  This will splatter.

Once the loin was browned, I placed it on a roasting rack.  A roasting rack isn’t totally necessary.  If you have one, use it.  If you don’t, don’t sweat it. 

I put this in an oven that had been set, and pre-heated, to 325.  It is going to cook naked right now.  No aromatics in the pan, no sauce, nothing yet. 

As for the sauce….

Like I said, I used port wine, Gourmet Rooster County Fair Peach Spread, Dijon mustard, garlic, shallots, chicken stock, rosemary, golden raisins, dried apricots and prunes.

Port wine is a Portuguese fortified wine.  It is pretty sweet.  People like to drink it as a dessert wine.  I don’t.  But I hear people do.

As for chicken stock, I used a concentrated stock with some water.  You can use that combo, or you can use regular stock.

As for the fruit, I’m going to be honest….I thought I was buying figs, but somehow prunes ended up in my cart.  The fact that I can’t read aside, the prunes worked fine.  They turned out great, actually.  I chopped up the prunes and apricots to make them closer in size to the raisins.

It feels nice to tell the truth.

In a small pot, I brought the wine, stock and water to a simmer.  I added the dried fruit to this pot and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.  This will make the port a bit syrupy, and it also plumps the fruit back up.  Win/win.

Meanwhile, in a separate pot….

I let the shallot and garlic sweat out a bit in some olive oil.  I am not trying to brown the veggies, just get them sweaty.  This will take, maybe, 5 minutes over medium heat,

Then I added the mustard.

Annnnd, then I added the peach spread.  My peach spread is super thick and syrupy.  It gives the sauce a great consistency that you can’t find with anything else.  That being said, I won’t cry if you use some other peach jam.  I will pout though.

Once this is blended, and heated through, I pour the pot of port and fruit into the peach/mustard mixture. 

I let this sauce boil and reduce for about 5 more minutes.  It will smell amazing!

Right before I am ready to pour this sauce over the pork, I add some chopped rosemary. 

FYI-Please don’t think more is better with rosemary.  If you add too much, it will taste like soap, or perfume, or lotion.  You get the picture.

When the pork had about 20 minutes left to cook, I took it out of the oven and poured the sauce all over it.  I popped it back in the oven and let it finish cooking.  The sauce will reduce even more, and it will get nice and thick and sticky.

Oh yeeeeaaaah.  This is so good.  Pork is great with sweet flavors and this sauce is perfectly sweet and savory.  The spices in the peach spread make it extra Christmasy too.  The spread has cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, etc.  I can’t reveal too much more;)

I served my pork roast with couscous that had toasted sliced almonds and goat cheese added.  The sauce gets all in the couscous and it is super yummy.  I poured the sauce over my whole plate.  I love sauce, in case you haven’t noticed.

I hope you try this recipe for your Christmas dinner!  Check my website to find out where you can buy Gourmet Rooster County Fair Peach spread.  See you on ThursdayJ

Peach and Port Pork Roast

2 to 3 pound boneless pork loin

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 teaspoons salt, divided

1 teaspoon pepper, divided

¾ cup port wine

¾ cup chicken stock

½ cup golden raisins

½ cup dried apricots, chopped

½ cup dried prunes, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large shallot, minced

¼ cup Dijon mustard

1 jar Gourmet Rooster County Fair Peach Spread

1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a skillet, brown pork loin in 2 tablespoons of olive oil on all sides.  Sprinkle loin with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.

Place browned pork loin on a roasting rack.  Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.  Take loin out of oven, cover with sauce and bake loin an additional 20 minutes, or until pork is cooked through.  Let pork rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting.

For sauce:

In a small pot, bring port and chicken stock to a simmer.  Add chopped dried fruit and simmer until liquid is slightly reduced and fruit is plumped, about 10 minutes.

In a medium sized pot, sauté shallot and garlic in remaining olive oil.  Sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper.  Sauté over medium heat until veggies are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add mustard and peach spread to shallot mixture, heat through.  Stir in port mixture and simmer over medium heat, until thickened and reduced, about 5 minutes.  Stir in rosemary.