Sausage Stuffed Peppers with Spicy Red Clam Sauce

March 18, 2013

Yet another cold and rainy Central Virginia day.  Seriously tired of this weather.  Since the weather was the same old, same old I decided that dinner needed to be something new and exciting.  I took a package of uncooked sausage stuffed banana peppers out of the storage freezer a couple of days ago and they were exactly the right thing to start with.  A little reminder of Summer as the peppers came out of my very own garden.  I needed something more interesting than marinara for these.  I decided to try them with red clam sauce, a new sauce for me as I prefer the white, which would have been awesome on these too.  You might be interested to know that “sausage stuffed peppers” is the most searched phrase on this blog.  I’m hoping you’ll like this one as much as I did!

Red Clam Sauce Stuffed Peppers and Clam Sauce

There’s nothing to the peppers except to halve them (or not); take the veins and seeds out and pack them with raw sausage.  This is a mild italian sausage from Faith Farm.  Banana peppers are so mild that you’d lose them completely with anything stronger.  I used my Food Saver to vacuum seal these and they’ve been in the freezer since August 2011.  I’ll say this for the Food Saver – it really works!  Not a  bit of freezer burn on these.

The sauce is easy too.  Since the real focus of this dish is the peppers I didn’t bother to use fresh clams.  The canned ones work just fine here.  I sliced the garlic instead of mincing it.  Bigger pieces seemed better.   I added some chopped onion, not called for in the recipe, because I don’t understand tomato sauces without onion.  If you’re like me and often burn the garlic (which then you have to throw out and start over because it’s so bitter), adding the onion helps prevent that too.  I used about four times the amount of fresh parsley.  With the salt in the clams and the sausage combined I thought some extra sweet, green-ness was in order.  Finally I added some extra crushed hot peppers because I like the heat.

So, how did it turn out?  It’s fantastic!  It’s bright and briny and green and wonderfully warm.  The flavors really balance each other nicely.  A tiny squeeze of lemon juice might be a nice addition.  I served it over a little orzo.  Nice time I might forego the pasta in favor of some crusty bread.  I also look forward to making these when I have fresh peppers on hand.  Having a little crunch left in the peppers will be a nice addition to an already yummy dish.  Bring on the Summer!

Good? So very good.  A perfect combination.
Easy? Absolutely.
Good for company? Absolutely.
Special shopping? Not at all.

Sausage Stuffed Peppers with Spicy Red Clam Sauce

Ingredients

6 large banana peppers, halved, seeds and veins removed
1/3-1/2 lb mild italian sausage

Two 10 oz cans whole clams
One 6 oz can chopped clams
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed hot peppers or more to taste
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes packed in juice, drained
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
<h3<Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Peppers:
Stuff each pepper half with enough sausage to just fill it. Place the peppers in an 8×8 glass baking dish. Set the peppers aside.

Sauce:
Drain the clams reserving 1/2 cup of their juice and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook until softened, but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add the pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the reserved clam juice and tomatoes, increase the heat and bring to a boil. Cover, and lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, cook for 15 minutes.  Stir the clams and parsley into the sauce.  Heat back to a simmer.

Pour half of the sauce over the peppers. Cover the dish lightly with foil. Bake 30-35 minutes. Serve over orzo or with crusty bread.

Freeze the remaining sauce for a future use.

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Shrimp Arrabbiata

March 14, 2013

Got a late start on dinner tonight.  Part of the late start is because I went for a run in the sunny cold that brought on the need for a hot shower to clean up and warm up.  I decided to continue the warm up with dinner.  Frozen shrimp is a protein that thaws quickly so it’s an easy go to on nights like this.  An arrabiata is just a spicy tomato sauce so I pretty much always have the ingredients for that.  Jackpot.  I had all the stuff I needed for a yummy dinner.

Shrimp Arrabbiata

Believe it or not I made no substitutions tonight except for going the long way around when the recipe called for shortcuts.  The recipe called for pre-chopped onion and bottled minced garlic, but I chopped and minced myself.  It added about 5 minutes to the process.  Other than that I used dried basil from last summer’s garden; dried and ground hot peppers from the summer before; home canned tomatoes from two summers ago; and homemade fettuccine from two months ago.  I could hardly have asked for better ingredients, especially for such a simple dish where they really count.

This is so easy.  If you use shrimp that’s already peeled and deveined you’ll really cut down the prep time.  Next time I made this I’ll probably skip the step where you saute the shrimp first.  Since you boil this sauce until it thickens it seems to me that you could cook the shrimp in the boiling sauce.  It would add some nice flavor to the shrimp and save you a step.  Other than that your only adjustment is likely to be the amount of crushed hot peppers you add.  I added a little extra to continue my warming, but feel free to be conservative if you’re bothered by too much heat.

The next time you have guests unexpectedly or just want to have a few folks over on a week night keep this recipe handy.  It easy and so good and impressive enough to serve to company.  Enjoy!

Good?  Very good.
Easy? So, so easy.
Good for company? Absolutely.
Special shopping? Nope. Just start with good ingredients.

Shrimp Arrabbiata

Ingredients

6 ounces linguine
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
10 oz large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cupcchopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

Directions

Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and keep warm.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shrimp with salt; add shrimp to pan. Cook 2 minutes on each side or until shrimp are done. Transfer shrimp to a bowl. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan. Add onion, minced garlic, basil, and crushed red pepper to pan; sauté 1 minute. Add tomato paste and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cook 3 minutes or just until sauce begins to thicken. Return shrimp to pan; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Serve over pasta.

Greek-Style Pork Chops

March 12, 2013

Busy day.  Not much time for cooking.  You know what that’s like.  I’m pretty proud of the fact that I remembered to take a couple of pork chops out of the freezer this morning so they’d be thawed in time for dinner.  Sadly I made no other plan for them.  Of course by the time I got home and walked the dog I was starving.  No patience for anything long or complicated.  This recipe seemed to fit the bill nicely.  A twenty minute marinade then five minutes on each side.  Heat up some collards from the freezer.  Dinner done.

Greek Pork Chops

This marinade is just oil, vinegar, garlic and herbs and not a lot of any of it.  It would have benefited from a little lemon juice.  Or maybe more than twenty minutes would have made a difference.  In any case I didn’t notice that this marinade added much flavor to the pork chops.    The garlic burned a little bit when I seared the pork so there was a touch of bitterness, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what they were going for.  Still, I started with really good pork chops so I enjoyed them very much.

Kudos to Ault’s Family Farm for the wonderful pork.  Let me stop here for a minute and bid the fondest of farewells to Ault’s Family Farm.  Those of you who shop at the South of the James Farmers’ market in Richmond, VA will know the Aults.  They’re wonderful, friendly people who tried to make a go of it as a small, chemical free, ecologically responsible farm.  I am sad to report that they were unable to make ends meet and have ceased their commercial farming.  I couldn’t have been more surprised to hear the news.  More than once I happily stood in line 15-20 minutes at the market to buy a few pork chops or a Boston butt from the Aults.  And my purchase always came with some lovely conversation and a smile.  So, thank you and best of luck to you Ault family!  I truly hope to see you at the market again.

Back to the recipe.  The recipe also includes a tomato, cucumber and onion salad as a side/garnish and a yogurt sauce.  I did make the yogurt sauce, but skipped the chopped salad in favor of the collards.  Not much to the yogurt sauce:  dill, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper.  make this first so the flavors can blend while you marinate and cook the pork.  It’s yummy on the pork, but would be just as good on veggies, pita, crackers, etc.

In the end I had a lovely dinner.  I could probably have come up with this without a recipe, but on a busy day when reading is easier than thinking this will do just fine.

Good? Yes.
Easy? Definitely.
Good for company? Not so much.
Special shopping? Not at all.

Greek-Style Pork Chops

Ingredients

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 (6-ounce) bone-in center-cut loin pork chops
1/4 cup plain fat-free Greek-style yogurt
1 teaspoon dill
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided

Directions

Combine 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, oregano, 1 teaspoon olive oil, and garlic in a zip-top plastic bag. Add pork to bag, and seal. Marinate for 20 minutes at room temperature, turning after 10 minutes. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar, remaining 1 teaspoon oil, yogurt, 1 tablespoon dill, and 1/2 of the salt, stirring well with a whisk. Cover and chill.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Remove pork from bag, and discard marinade. Sprinkle both sides of pork evenly with remaining salt. Add pork to pan, and cook for 5 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove pork from pan, and let stand for 2 minutes. Serve with yogurt.

Herbed Lamb Meatballs

March 10, 2013

The first day of Daylight Savings Time.  As much as I love having light a little later in the day I can’t get used to this happening in early March instead of in April.  I’m just not ready to lose an hour yet.  Seeing as how I’ve started the week an hour behind I’m trying to get ahead on the cooking for the week.  I’ve still got a freezer full of food in the basement so I started there and planned my meals for the week around the pound of ground lamb that I found.  I have 16 meatballs that will be popping up in various dishes this week.  Oddly enough I had leftover salad for dinner so I still don’t know whether or not these are good.  Stay tuned for the salads, pita sandwiches and pasta dishes to come.

Herbed Lamb Meatballs

I made a couple of adjustments to this recipe.  I added an egg, just because that’s what  do when I make meatballs.  The best part is that there was enough mint in the garden to use fresh instead of dried.  I have the most amazing spearmint in the herb garden.  People come from all over the neighborhood to pick it during the Summer.  There were jut a few springs big enough to clip, but that was enough.  One reminder, if a recipe calls for dried herbs and you use fresh you’ll need 2-3 times as much as the recipe calls for.  I made 2/3 of a recipe because I only had a pound of lamb and then I made the meatballs a touch larger than the recipe prescribes.  It was just easier.

For cooking the use of a broiler pan is good advice.  It’s nice to cook them so that the fat drips off.  I don’t have a broiler pan that fits in my countertop oven.  I’ve found that using a small roasting pan  or jellyroll pan with a cookie cooling rack in it works just great. 

I’ll reserve further evaluation of these until I’ve actually eaten a few.

Herbed Lamb Meatballs

Ingredients

1 pound lean ground lamb
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°.
Combine all ingredients except cooking spray in a large bowl, and stir well. Shape mixture into 16 meatballs. Place meatballs on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until meatballs are done.

Zesty Honey-Lemon Dressing

March 10, 2013

March potluck this weekend.  Since potluck was Friday night and I had a feeling that work might get a little hairy I signed up to make salad.  I made it as easy as possible without completely bailing on making something.  I make most of my salad dressings from scratch and I decided that counted as “making something.”

The main dish for potluck this month was a pasta dish so I did a green salad with tomatoes, artichoke hearts and olives.  That’s a lot of briny goodness so I needed a dressing with something sweet to balance it out.  This is a good one.  The honey and lemon come out really nicely.  The zesty is a little more subtle.  If you want more zest just add more dijon.  I left out the fresh parsley because I didn’t have any.  Probably a nice addition, but not critical.  I made it with the immersion blender because I’m too lazy to whisk enough to get a good emulsion.  Most of the time when I whisk by hand the dressing separates and has to be shaken before serving.  If I use the stick blender I don’t have that issue.  A regular blender will do too.

Not much else to say about this one.  It’s a keeper.  I’ll be using it throughout the Spring on early vegetables and greens.  Yum!

Good? Good.
Easy? Easy.
Good for company? Sure.
Special shopping? Nope.

Zesty Honey-Lemon Dressing

Ingredients

3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

Directions

Blend all ingredients until completely combined. Keeps up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Shrimp with Peppers

March 4, 2013

Happy Monday everyone.  It’s our last sunny day for a while so I wanted to make a dinner that seemed a little sunny.  Quick and easy seemed important too.  Cooking Light to the rescue – specifically the Quick & Easy section.  This wasn’t quite as quick and easy as I had anticipated,  but that’s my fault.  I’ll explain a little further down.  Suffice it to say that this is a sweet and sunny little dish.  A nice beginning to the evening.

Shrimp with Peppers

You wouldn’t think I could work in many substitutions to a ‘quick and easy’ recipe, but you’d be wrong.  I intended to buy a lime at the store yesterday, but they looked dreadful so I didn’t (completely forgetting that I needed one for this).  For Christmas last year some friends gave me a jar of lime powder.  It’s intended for use in baking, frostings, marinades, etc. so I figured I could use it in this sauce.  It worked fine, though honestly I could have used more.  I didn’t have fresh basil so I used some that I dried last summer.  The basil I dry from the garden has a better flavor than any I’ve bought at the store so it’s a better substitute for fresh in a recipe like this.  Finally, I was pretty far into making this when I went to the fridge for the hoisin sauce and realized I didn’t have any.  Yikes.  Thank the mighty interwebs for supplying a recipe to make my own.  Now you see why this wasn’t so quick and easy.  I had to stop in the middle to make hoisin sauce.  Kinda cool that you can do that though.  The recipe is absolutely easy though.  Chop, saute, mix, simmer, eat.  I used frozen, thawed shrimp because I despise peeling and deveining the fresh ones.  I’ll do it if I’m going to serve the shrimp in a salad or a ceviche, but if I’m just going to cover them in sauce I find that the frozen ones work just fine. 

The textures in this are nice.  The peppers and onions maintain a little crispness to balance the tender shrimp.  The flavors are good, not spectacular, but definitely good.  I used brown rice so there was a little nuttiness added.  I used pepper jelly I made and canned summer before last. I almost never get a chance to do that, so that was fun. The sauce is pretty darn sweet.  A touch too sweet for me, but that’s not too hard to fix.  The recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of hoisin sauce.  That might be exactly right if you have a commercial jar (which I recommend), but not even close if you make your own.  I added 3 teaspoons to the pot and one more to my individual bowl.  It’s also possible that fresh lime juice would have cut the sweetness a little more.

I enjoyed my dinner and I’ll definitely eat the leftovers, but I don’t know that I’ll make the recipe again.  If you do, and you follow the instructions more closely than I did let me know what you think of it!

Good? Yep.  Good.
Easy? Yep.
Good for company? Not so much.
Special shopping? Nope.

Shrimp with Peppers

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 1/2 cups red bell pepper strips
1 cup vertically sliced sweet onion
2/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or 1 1/2 T dried)
2 tablespoons jalapeño jelly
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (or 1 teaspoon lime powder)
1/2 teaspoon hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 C cooked brown rice

Directions

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp; sauté 3 minutes or until shrimp are done. Remove shrimp from pan with a slotted spoon; keep warm.

Add bell pepper and onion to pan, and sauté for 2 minutes over medium-high heat. Add the orange juice; reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes. Combine water and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add cornstarch mixture, basil, jelly, and lime juice to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add hoisin sauce; cook 1 minute. Stir in shrimp, salt, and black pepper.

Serve over rice.

Chickpeas in Curried Coconut Broth

February 25, 2013

Well folks, it’s been a while!  I’ve been traveling for work for most of the last two weeks and trying to empty the fridge in the days leading up to the travel-thon.  I’ve eaten some very nice meals in the last couple of weeks, but you know how it is when you travel – too much food and too much booze.  I’m awfully glad to be home and in control of my meals again.  I’m trying to shock my system back into healthy eating so I’ve been on a vegetarian kick.  Two days of lentil soup and now this chickpea dish.

Chickpeas

I have to confess that I’m not a big fan of the chickpea in its non-hummus form.  I picked this dish from a list of Cooking Light slow cooker recipes because it fit the easy and cheap criteria and because I love pretty much anything with coconut milk in it.  It far exceeded my expectations.  You have to love crockpot recipes.  Dump everything in and walk away.  This recipe suggests that you saute the onions and garlic first, but I bet it would be really fine to dump them in raw.  The recipe also calls for chopped fresh cilantro.  I’m sure that would be great, but I was too tired and too lazy to chop it.  I did manage a dollop of plain Greek yogurt though.  Yum.

Not much to add in terms of cooking tips.  I used one of my last remaining jars of home canned tomatoes.  With so few ingredients I believe they make a difference here.  I also used homemade curry powder.  I’d give you the recipe, but I have no idea what it is or where I got it.  Curry powder is just a combination of spices so making your own is easy and absolutely worth it if you use it a lot.  If you don’t make curries often just buy a good quality commercial curry powder.  Otherwise you’ll spend a ridiculous amount of money on the individual spices and not get a lot of use out of them.

I always think that things made with coconut milk will be a little bit sweet.  Not so.  This is tomato-ey and a touch briny with a little heat.  The chickpeas provide a nice neutral balance and the yogurt adds a little creamy and a little tangy.  Yum.  Remember that this is a broth and not a sauce or a stew.  It’s thin, but not weak.  The rice soaks up a lot of the extra and stretches the chickpeas even further.  You could serve it like soup and serve it with naan I suppose, but I recommend the rice.

I’m guessing this will be one of those dishes that’s even better leftover.  Tomorrow is supposed to be cold and rainy so this will make a perfect lunch!

Good? Really good.
Easy? Crockpots make everything easy.
Good for company? Eh. Better for a weeknight dinner after a busy day.
Special shopping? Nope. Curry powder is everywhere and you can find pickled jalapenos in the pickle section of any decent sized grocery store.

Chickpeas in Curried Coconut Broth

Ingredients

2 teaspoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 (19-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 quart whole peeled tomatoes (or 1 28oz can, undrained)
1 (13.5-ounce) can light coconut milk
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeño pepper
1 teaspoon salt
hot cooked basmati rice
plain Greek yogurt for garnish

Directions

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Place onion mixture, chickpeas, and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a 3 1/2-quart electric slow cooker; stir well. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours. Serve over rice. Top with yogurt.

Sweet and Tangy Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes

February 10, 2013

Ok, I know this sounds kind of weird.  Maybe it is. I’m getting down to the end of items in my fridge and that always breeds some unique combinations.  This one really worked out though.  If you struggle a little with brussels sprouts you might find that adding the sweet potatoes will get you over the hump.  That said, I’m not a proponent of wasting your time, energy and calories eating things you hate.  (I’ve given up making salmon at home for this very reason).  Feel free to use just the sweet potatoes or just the sprouts.  Your call.  I like the mix.

Sweet and Tangy Sprouts and Potatoes

There’s not really a recipe for this.  I steamed some sprouts on the stove top while I roasted some diced sweet potato in the oven.  I threw everything in a cast iron skillet with some bacon grease.  Often you’ll see recipes that include one or the other of these vegetables with bacon or pancetta or some such so that’s where the bacon grease thing came from.  Feel free to use olive or canola oil or butter if you prefer.  Stir them around in the hot oil until you get a little browning on everything then turn the heat off.  Cast iron will hold heat a long time so don’t worry about things getting cold.

The sauce is a combination of maple syrup, stone ground mustard, dijon mustard, Worchestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar.  Sweet and tangy.  Just stir it together and add a little more of this or that until it tastes good to you.

Enjoy!

Vanilla Cupcakes with Whipped Chocolate Buttercream and Thai Ginger Salt

February 10, 2013

It’s potluck night!  We had a potluck birthday this week so I volunteered to bring dessert.  Cupcakes are easy to serve and easy to pawn off leftovers.  I had elaborate plans for the frosting so I opted for a vanilla cupcake.  Be aware that my elaborate frosting plans were all foiled by my lack of ability to read a recipe all the way through and see how much time it takes to make said frostings.  Stay tuned. At some point in the future you’ll see a Dulce de Leche frosting and a Salted Caramel frosting.  Hard to complain too much about chocolate though!

P1010063Vanilla Cupcakes 

I love cupcakes.  Love them, but I’m picky about them.  Finding a vanilla cupcake that’s worth eating all by itself is likely to be a lifelong quest for me, but this is as close as I’ve found in a while.  These are light, but not crumbly and they taste like vanilla instead of like nothing.  A good start.  Another nice thing about these is that the tops are flat so they’re easy to decorate if you’re so inclined.  The tops also have something of a crust on them so they can hold up weighty frostings and other decorations.  This may be the perfect party cupcake.

I also love buttercream frosting.  Who doesn’t really?  Again, I’m picky.  Frosting that’s all butter and powdered sugar doesn’t quite cut it any more.  This has plenty of both, but also chocolate, milk, liqueur and vanilla.  I substituted milk for the cream in the recipe and used Bailey’s instead of Kahlua.  I used what I had.  Worked fine.  I have to give credit here to Homestead Creamery.  They made the butter and it’s the best butter on the planet.  I don’t normally use it for baking, but I should always use it in frosting.  Such creamy yumminess. 

Baking is a science to be sure, but frosting is more of an art. For the baking part – be sure you put your eggs and butter out early so they come to room temperature before you use them.  For the frosting – I rarely follow measurements or directions when I make frosting.  Start with the right amount of butter and then add everything else to match your favorite taste and texture.  I tend to go lighter on the sugar than most recipes call for and a little heavier on the real flavorings  – chocolate, peanut butter, what have you.  The most important thing is that you can’t take liquid out so be sparing with it.

What makes these cupcakes extra special is the Thai Ginger salt.  Sweet creamy chocolatey goodness with just a hint of salt and a touch of gingery bite.  The salt was a Christmas gift from a friend.  Very cool.  I love getting unique kitchen stuff!  Kudos to Drizzles in Cape Charles, VA for putting some very cool stuff out there!

Good? Got raves from the potluck girls!
Easy? Not bad at all.
Good for company? Cupcakes are for sharing – mostly
Special shopping? If you can’t find ginger salt use kosher.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Whipped Chocolate Buttercream and Thai Ginger Salt

Ingredients

Cupcakes:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cups sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line 1 muffin tin with cupcake papers.

In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Whipped Chocolate Buttercream

Ingredients

1 cup good quality dark chocolate
1/2 cup (1 stick) room temperature salted butter
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon liqueur (I used Bailey’s)
1-2 C sifted confectioners’ sugar (to taste)

Directions

Put the chocolate in a large microwave safe bowl. Heat in the microwave 20 seconds at a time. Stir thoroughly after each interval until the chocolate is melted. Cool for five minutes. Add the butter, cream, vanilla, liqueur, and mix on medium speed until the mixture thickens. Finally add the confectioners’ sugar in small batches until the mixture holds a medium peak. Slather the icing over the cupcakes with an offset palette knife.
Sprinkle with salt before serving.

Cuban Chicken and Hominy Stew

February 5, 2013

Today was not a good day.  On top of some significant challenges at the office, I came home to a house where one dog had a stomach issue and another decided that a boot box was his enemy and needed to be destroyed.  Lots of cleanup to manage.  The last thing I felt like doing was cooking.  Truly.  But I stopped at the store on the way home to pick up a pepper and an onion so I could make this dish so I forged ahead.  Glad I did.  A little comfort food was exactly what I needed.

Cuban Chicken and Hominy Stew

Let me start by saying this was supposed to have plantains instead of hominy.  The store I stopped at for the pepper and onion is a scary store that offered no chance of picking up plantains so I decided the hominy, which I already had at home, was an acceptable substitute.  It’s possible that the plantains would have thickened this into a more stew like consistency, but probably not so much.  I also used a pint of home canned tomatoes instead of fresh.  February is not a time to buy fresh tomatoes in Virginia.  I didn’t have a whole cup of sherry so I used 2/3 sherry and 1/3 marsala.  If I’d had port I would have used that instead.  Nothing else in the way of ingredient subsitutions.  I even measured the spices.

This can reasonably be described as a 30 minute meal.  I roasted and pulled some chicken breast on Sunday so I didn’t have to deal with chopping chicken tonight.  And clearly draining a can of hominy and a jar of tomatoes is less cumbersome than peeling and chopping plantains and tomatoes.  Even having to deal with those things, though, you’d be pretty close to the 30 minute mark.  And it’s all in one pot too so that’s always good.

Speaking of good.  This stuff is good.  It’s soup-like, not stew-like, but the flavors are terrific.  The sherry/marsala adds a wonderful sweetness to balance the salty broth and tomatoes.  The hominy gives it a starchy richness.  I added a squeeze of fresh lime juice to my bowl to add a little bright citrus as well.  Without it, the sweet was almost too much.  Next time I’ll add a little chopped avocado garnish too.  That would put this over the top.

I almost made only a half recipe thinking that I might feel inclined to cook later in the week.  I may, in which case I’ll freeze some of this, but for now I’m really looking forward to the leftovers!

Good? So good.
Easy? Yep.
Good for company? A terrific weeknight dinner with friends.
Special shopping? Nope. Even in Virginia you can get cooking sherry in the grocery store.

Cuban Chicken and Hominy Stew

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1 pint chopped, peeled tomatoes
1 cup dry sherry or port
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 C chicken broth
2 C roasted, shredded chicken breast
1 can white homniy, drained
Limes, cut into wedges

Directions

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, and bell pepper; sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in tomato and next 9 ingredients (tomato through broth). Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in hominy and chicken; cook 10 minutes or until tender.
Serve with lime wedges.