Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Icing




Over the weekend Savannah and I worked on her Halloween costume.  There are so many ideas on Pinterest these days that anyone can get creative.  She is going to be Batman, except her version has a tutu.  Costumes have come a long way since I was a kid.  I can remember the costumes of the 70’s, with the plastic masks that had eye holes and a little slit opening at your mouth.  If you were lucky you would have two holes at the nose but either way the mask was hot and sweaty and the eye holes always slid down to your cheeks so that you could not see.
At the farm we don’t have trick-or-treaters.  Savannah and I plan to spend Halloween night at my friend Sherri’s house.  She lives in a subdivision and will have tons of trick-or-treaters.  We will be giving candy to the subdivision children however I’m making a special treat for us to have that night.  This year I’m making these yummy cupcakes.  This is my favorite chocolate cake recipe.  You can make 2 layers (8-inch or 9-inch) or 24 cupcakes with this recipe.  These chocolate cupcakes are always moist and this buttercream icing seems to be a favorite of everyone.  This year I have decided to decorate these festive cupcakes like candy corn by coloring a portion of the icing yellow and a portion orange, while leaving a small portion of icing white.  Pipe some of the yellow frosting around the outside edge of the cupcake.  Then pipe orange icing around the inside edge of the yellow.  Top with a little bit of white icing for an adorable candy corn look.  You may notice that I bought the wrong color of yellow for these candy corn cupcakes.  That’s what I get for looking at the sticker on the end of the bottle rather than reading the color.  If you buy yellow instead of gold you should be fine.

Chocolate Cupcakes
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1¾ c. all-purpose flour
  • ¾ c. cocoa
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. milk
  • ½ c. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. boiling water
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with paper liners, set aside.
  2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. With an electric mixer, beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Fill each cupcake liner with approximately ¼ c. of batter.
  3. Bake in preheated oven, 20 - 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in pan; remove to wire racks and cool completely. Frost when completely cool.

Buttercream Frosting
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 c. vegetable shortening
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. butter flavoring
  • ¼ tsp. almond extract
  • 1 lb. confectioners sugar, sifted
  • pinch salt
  • ½ tbsp. meringue powder
  • ½ tbsp. milk if needed
  1. Mix butter, shortening and salt on low speed for 5 minutes. Add vanilla, butter flavor, and almond extract, beat until well blended. Add meringue powder and ½ confectioners sugar, mixing on lowest speed of mixer until the sugar is mixed in. Add remaining sugar, mixing on lowest speed until sugar is mixed in. Turn mixer to medium speed and beat about 5 minutes, until fluffy and smooth.
  2. Spread or pipe onto cupcakes. Decorate if desired.



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Greek Salad Dressing



Sometimes the greatest treasures lie at the bottom of your purse!  That’s exactly where I found this recipe, scribbled on a tiny piece of paper, floating among lost coins, numerous pens, about 6 tubes of lipstick, cough drops, and a wadded up twenty-dollar bill.  The twenty was exciting but the recipe is a treasure.  Typically I would have assumed the piece of paper was an old grocery list but this time I decided to take a look.  It had no title and was sloppily scribbled with no instructions, but it was obviously a salad dressing recipe.  Most likely I jotted this recipe down while waiting in a dentist or doctors office.

All of the sudden the meal that I was thinking of taking my cousin and her husband was set in stone.  The doctor had my cousin, Nancy, off her feet so I wanted to help her out and take a meal.  I had already considered Spanakopita with my layered Greek salad and this new recipe would be great.  It was delicious!  Don’t be intimidated by the amount of garlic.  I was a little concerned that it would overpower the dressing but it doesn’t.

Greek Salad Dressing
  • ½ extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ c. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ c. kalamata olives, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Put all ingredients into a quart jar and shake to combine.
  2. For a Greek salad layer lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, purple onion, black olives, and feta cheese. Toss with dressing just before serving.


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Butternut Squash Enchiladas with Salsa Verde

butternut squash enchiladas


When Savannah comes home from college on the weekends I like to make something special.  Usually a favorite dish of hers and something that she can’t get in the dining hall at school.  Because she has a love affair with Mexican food, I decided to make these meatless enchiladas last weekend.  These butternut squash enchiladas with salsa verde are excellent, and are a great combination of sweet and spicy.

If you have cooked with butternut squash before,  you know how difficult it can be to peel them.  No problem, these squash are halved and roasted with the peeling on.  This makes it easy to simply scoop the pulp out for the enchiladas.

Also, if you’ve never roasted garlic before you are missing out.  Roasted garlic is completely different from raw garlic, it’s smooth and creamy and sweet, yes sweet.  It’s delicious spread on warm, toasted bread or mixed into recipes.  Squeeze the bottom of the cooled head of garlic and the cloves pop right out.  I know the recipe calls for half a head of garlic, but you might as well roast an entire head of garlic and save half for another purpose.


Butternut Squash Enchiladas with Salsa Verde
Serves: 6
  • 2 to 2½ lb. butternut squash
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ c. chopped onion
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin, optional
  • ½ head garlic
  • ½ c. frozen corn kernels
  • 3 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 dozen corn tortillas
  • 2 c. salsa verde
  • sour cream, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place squash cut side up in roasting pan. Add enough water to pan to come up sides of squash ½-inch.
  3. Cut ½-inch off the top of the garlic. Drizzle the cut size with about ½ tsp. olive oil and wrap completely with aluminum foil.
  4. Place the pan with the squash and the foil wrapped garlic in the oven at the same time. Bake until tender, adding more water as necessary, about 1 hour. Cool completely.
  5. Heat oil in a Dutch oven and add chopped onion. Sauté until tender; add corn and continue sautéing for 3 to 5 minutes. Scoop cooled squash from the skin and add to Dutch oven. Squeeze roasted garlic cloves into the mixture, mash with the back of a fork and mix well. You can mash the mixture with a potato masher if desired, or use a hand held electric mixer. Season with salt and pepper and add cumin if desired.
  6. Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with cooking spray.
  7. To assemble, wrap 6 corn tortillas in a damp paper towels. Microwave just a few seconds to warm. Place about 2 heaping tbsp. squash mixture down the center of a tortilla. Roll up and arrange, seam side down, in the casserole dish. Pour the salsa verde over the top and spread evenly. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake in 350°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until heated through. Serve with sour cream, if desired.


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Heirloom Tomato Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette


140609_3607 beefsteak tomato salad 001


I usually pack my camera and take it on all road trips with me.  I was at my mother’s over the weekend with my trusty camera was by my side.  Often, it never comes out of the case, but I have it…just in case.  I depend on my camera just about everyday.  I am cooking for NJSD or the newspaper and photographing food most days.  If not food, I have spotted something that has caught my attention on the farm and my camera is the first thing I reach for.

I woke up early this morning at my mom’s house.  I got ready, made multiple trips to the car loading my luggage, my cooler, and the treasures that I found at Goodwill (cookbooks and photo props), and now I’m home.  And…guess what?  My camera at my mom’s house!  My camera!!!  I can’t believe that I forgot it!  What am I to do?  I’m feeling quite lost without my Nikon.  So much for my big “photo retake project”!  I suppose I’ll HAVE to use my phone for a couple of weeks now.  I tried a few editing apps when I first started blogging but never really liked the results.  If you have any suggestions or recommendations for apps please let me know!

This Heirloom Tomato Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette is a great salad.  I first had this salad on my birthday, in May.  Greg and our friends, Michelle and Jimmy, had taken me to Savannah, Ga. to celebrate at one of my favorite restaurants on the river.  It was love at first bite and I knew that I was going to try recreating this.  The big, fresh tomatoes are perfect with the bacon and blue cheese and the lemon vinaigrette is simple but adds a perfect punch of flavor.  The salad is certainly big enough to share.  Beefsteak tomatoes or any other large tomato, that you like, can be used.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
  • 2 lg. heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • blue cheese crumbles
  • 2 c. spring mix salad greens
  • ½ balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ c. water
  • ½ c. olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. minced shallot
  • 1½ tsp. Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp. lemon zest
  • ½ tsp. sugar
  1. Combine balsamic vinegar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until reduced and thickened, set aside to cool completely.
  2. In a jar, with a lid, add olive oil, lemon juice, shallots, mustard, lemon zest, and sugar. Place the lid on the jar and shake to combine.
  3. In a bowl, toss the salad greens with enough dressing to lightly coat, toss. Place salad greens on serving plate.
  4. Top greens with sliced tomatoes. Drizzle tomatoes with balsamic reduction. Sprinkle crumbled bacon and blue cheese over tomatoes.

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Southwestern Corn Pudding

southwest corn pudding 2


This Southwest Corn Pudding is my new favorite comfort food!  I just can’t get enough of the buttery, cheesy, savory goodness.  Since I found the recipe a few weeks ago we have had it numerous times.  Serve this corn pudding as a substitute for potatoes or rice.  It is great with grilled pork, chicken or beef.  If you want to go meatless you could even serve this as your main dish with a salad on the side.  The taste reminds me of a Mexican cornbread but much moister.  I would encourage you to make this Southwest Corn Pudding as soon as possible, you will love it!


Southwestern Corn Pudding
Serves: 10
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 med. onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1½ c. fresh corn kernels, or thawed frozen whole kernel corn
  • ½ c. chopped red sweet pepper
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ c. cornmeal
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 (14½-oz.) can cream-style corn
  • 4 lg. eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 (4-oz.) can diced green chiles, undrained
  • 1 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Heat oil and 1 tbsp. butter in a 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When butter is melted and begins to bubble, add onion. Cook for 5 minutes or until onion is soft and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally. Add corn kernels, sweet pepper and cumin. Cook and stir for 3 minutes more. Remove skillet from heat to cool slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, and salt. Add cream-style corn, eggs, undrained chiles and cheese; stir just until combined.
  4. Fold onion mixture into cornmeal mixture. Return skillet to medium heat and add 1 tbsp. butter. When butter is melted, tilt skillet to coat bottom with butter. Pour batter into skillet.
  5. Transfer skillet to a 350°F oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve warm.


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