Saturday, March 17, 2012

Green Velvet Cupcakes with Rum Spiked Frosting

Continuing with the Irish spirit, I decided to make some GREEN velvet cupcakes for Saint Patty's Day. Since half of the fun (or maybe 99% of the fun) on Saint Patrick's Day is the drinking, I spiked some cream cheese frosting with a little bit of rum. You only need a touch of imitation rum to get the right flavor, so if you're looking to recreate these don't go overboard or you'll end up feeling like you're eating a shot... not always so delicious. Enjoy!

Green Velvet Cupcakes with Rum Spiked Frosting
Makes: 18 cupcakes  Prep: 20 minutes Total: 40 minutes

1 1/4 cup cake flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbs green food coloring
12 ounces cream cheese
3/4 cup butter
3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp imitation rum

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients and mix well until lumps are gone. Pour into paper-lined cupcake tins and bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out dry. Let cool before icing.
To make frosting, combine softened butter and cream cheese in a mixer and beat on high for 2 minutes. Add powdered sugar, vanilla and rum and beat for another minute or until smooth.

Irish Bacon and a Traditional Irish Breakfast

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! I came home for the weekend to celebrate with my whole family this year, so we woke up early to make a big traditional Irish breakfast. My brother used to work at a great Irish pub in Chicago, so he gets credit for most of this meal. He put together a menu of Irish bacon, Irish sausage, fried eggs, British-style baked beans in tomato sauce, sauteed tomatoes, and Guinness brown bread with Kerrygold butter.

Oh, and don't forget the Irish coffee - made the real way with some good whiskey! Yesterday, my brother Conor and I brined a pork shoulder overnight in preparation for boiling this morning. I rarely eat red meat, so this was a big treat. After boiling the pork shoulder for three hours we sliced and seared it for a nice golden crust and that great greasy flavor.

Conor also baked up Guinness brown bread last night which we ate with some Irish butter. I had never had Kerrygold butter before, but my brother explained the difference is a higher fat content. How are Europeans skinner than us again? If I ate this kind of breakfast each morning I would be doing a lot less baking, that's for sure. Now I need to prepare myself for tonight's dinner of corn beef, cabbage, potatoes, soda bread, grasshopper pie and green velvet cupcakes. (Spoiler alert! I'll be posting this later today...)

Irish Bacon
Makes: 10 servings  Prep: 40 minutes  Total: 24 hours

1 6-pound pork shoulder
3 cups kosher salt
3 heads fresh garlic
1 tbs ground pepper
1/2 tbs butter

Fill a dutch oven with water 5-6 inches below the rim. Pour in kosher salt and stir for several minutes until fully dissolved. Rinse pork shoulder, place in dutch oven, cover and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to cook, boil pork in salt water for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, dump out salt water and replace with warm water. Bring to boil again for 1 minute, add pepper and garlic, and simmer on low heat for 3 hours.
Pour out water and place pork shoulder on a large cutting board. Slice pork across its natural break into thin strips. Melt 1/2 tbs butter in a large skillet and fry sliced pork one minute each side on medium-high heat. Let drain on paper towels before serving.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Whipped Spring Berry Pie

Happy Pi Day everyone! It's been an unseasonably warm March here and since I needed an excuse to make something sweet, what better reason to make a pie? (For those who don't know, March 14 - 3.14 - is Pi Day.) I am not a math person by any means, but I AM a pie person.

My roommates and I discovered an indoor year-round farmers market in our little town and I probably make 2 or 3 trips each week for fresh produce. I can't wait until the summer months roll around and there is an even better selection to choose from! Luckily my roommates share the same passion for local produce, so I'm sure we will be making lots of trips.

Anyway, the pie. That is why you're reading this, isn't it? I challenged a coworker yesterday to a pie-off at lunch after he announced that today was Pi Day. I don't think he knew quite how seriously I was going to commit to the idea, but hopefully since it's sunny and 70 here there will plenty to go around at lunch outside today. Hope you're all enjoy the weather! And maybe some pie, too. :)

Whipped Spring Berry Pie
Makes: 1 pie  Prep: 30 minutes  Total: 4-24 hours

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 tbs butter
1/2 tbs orange zest
1 1/2 tsp vanilla, divided
3 cups strawberries
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1 1/2 cups blackberries
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tbs white sugar

In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, butter, orange zest and 1 tsp vanilla. Press into a 9x9 inch pie pan and bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes. Remove and let cool.
In a large pot, combine 2 cups strawberries, 1 cup blueberries, 1 cup blackberries, brown sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch and water. Place on high heat, stirring and mashing fruit, and bring to a boil. Boil for 30 seconds, then simmer on low for five minutes. Add remaining berries into the mix and pour mixture into pie crust. Cool in the fridge for 4-24 hours.
To make whipped cream, beat heavy cream, white sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla until firm (but not too firm or else you'll make butter). Spread on top of pie and garnish with berries. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Popcorn Balls

My roommates and I watch a lot of movies here in Jersey, so I thought whipping up these sweet popcorn balls would make for a nice midweek snack. I'm a big fan of the sweet and salty combo, so I added some crushed pretzels to them. (Not gonna lie, I might have dumped a little of that bottom-of-the-bag salt into the mix....)

Even if you're not a baker, these have got to be the easiest treats to throw together. They do have to sit and cool for a few hours, but the final product is totally worth the wait. However, if you're impatient like me, eating the warm stuff out of the bowl is prettyyy awesome. Store these in an airtight container for up to a week and if you want that gooey, fresh taste days later, zap them in the microwave for a few seconds to get that just-made melty goodness!

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Popcorn Balls
Makes: 24 popcorn balls  Prep: 20 minutes  Total: 4 hour

One bag popped popcorn
8-ounces white chocolate chips
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3 cups pretzels, crushed

Melt white chocolate in a microwaveable bowl in 30-second increments. Once the white chocolate is almost completely melted, add peanut butter and microwave one more time. Stir until fully incorporated.
Combine popped popcorn and crushed pretzels in a large bowl. Pour white chocolate peanut butter mixture over the corn and toss until covered. Let mixture cool for 20-30 minutes. With a large spoon or cup (I used 1/4 measuring cup) form mixture into balls and drop on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let cool for another 2-3 hours until completely hard and store in an airtight container.
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