So every year for Mr. Pea’s birthday  I make  him a special birthday dessert. This year I decided  to make  some cupcakes for him, it turns out that it was someone’s birthday at work  so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and create a birthday treat for both.  The theme for my co-workers birthday was Halloween, so I tried to think of a dessert that Mr. Pea  would love and that  would fit the fall themed holiday as well. So I decided on these Carmel Apple Cupcakes, that seemed to fit the bill.  The only problem Mr. pea is not a fan of apples, although I have made some apple desserts for him in the past that he did like I didn’t want to chance ruining his birthday dessert, so I made them, minus the apples, but I highly recommend adding the apples to these delicious cupcakes.

 

Carmel Apple Cupcakes

For the Apple Cupcakes:

3 cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup orange juice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups grated apples**

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and sugars until creamy. Beat in the the orange juice, vanilla, and vegetable oil. Slowly add the flour mixture, mix until just combined. Stir in the grated apples. Bake 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean. Cool completely before frosting.

**Bakers Note – I prefer to use a mix of sweet and sour apples.  For my latest batch I used a mix of Granny Smith and Macintosh.

Caramel Buttercream Frosting:

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
4 large egg whites, room temperature
2 teaspoons  vanilla extract

Bring 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar and the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Wash sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until caramel is dark amber. Immediately remove from heat, and slowly add cream, salt, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth. Let cool. If  you  are not familiar  with baking , making Carmel can be tricky, so  you  can also use a 1/3 Cup of the Carmel you can buy in a jar for ice cream toppings from your local store.

Beat butter with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

Place whites and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Remove from heat, and attach bowl to a mixer. Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, and add beaten butter, cup at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in vanilla.   Switch to paddle attachment. With mixer on low speed, add caramel, and beat until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.

**Bakers Note –  When I made the caramel I doubled the recipe and used the leftover to drizzle caramel over the cupcakes.  You will still have some leftover which is great on ice cream!

 

 

Cinco de Mayo Fiesta

So I think it is no secret by now that Mr. Pea loves Mexican food.  So  do you think it was any question that we had to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the best way possible, a Mexican fiesta of course!  We have been planning this for a while, and have been really excited to share our cooking skills with our friends.  The fiesta was a blast we had so much fun and the food turned out great! I think we will definitely have to have  another fiesta next year!

The first thing I want to talk about is the tequila we had, it is called Clase Azul and is the best tequila I have ever had! Mr. Pea brought this bottle  back  from Arizona were it is the only place we have found they sell it in the US. They come in hand painted bottles  and each bottle is unique to its own.  I am surprised  that  this bottle has lasted this long, you would  think that too if  you knew  how much Mr. Pea and I love tequila.  We agreed  when we got it though that we would only drink it on special occasions.  But don’t  put this in your margaritas, this is the kind of tequila that  you sip on and enjoy on the rocks, because it is that good.  For making margaritas  make sure you use any kind of clear 100% agave tequila, we used Camarena tequila. As for shots,  I wouldn’t use  the Camarena, I would  suggest using patron or a bottle of 1800.

Tequila

So we started off  with some chips, salsa, guacamole and Ben’s signature Margaritas.  We  made two different kind of salsas, the first one was the tomatillo salsa that  I have shared the recipe for in an earlier post. The second was a  Chipolte  salsa  that was so good that I blinked and it was gone, so unfortunately have no photo of it, but no worries I  will share the recipe.

Mr.Pea’s Signature Margaritas

Ingredients:

(serves 4)
3/4 Cup(s) juice (3 large limes) lime
6 Tablespoon(s) sugar
1 Cup(s) plus 2 tbs tequila blanco
1/4 Cup(s) cointreau
1 1/2 Cup(s) small ice cube

Directions:
Make limeade
Combine the lime juice, sugar and 1 cup water in a glass or plastic pitcher. Cover and refrigerate if not using right away (but no longer than 24 hours).

Finish and serve margaritas
Add the tequila and orange liqueur to the pitcher of limeade. Rub the rims of 6 martini glasses with a lime wedge, then dip them in a dish of coarse salt. In a large shaker, combine the half of the margarita mixture with half of the ice and shake 10 to 15 seconds, then strain into the prepared glasses. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.

Chipolte Salsa

Ingredients:

1 Can(s) 14oz with juices diced tomatoes

3 Clove(s) peeled, halved garlic

3 chipotle chiles en adobo

1/2 Teaspoon(s) mexican oregano

2 Tablespoon(s) apple cider vinegar

1 rehydrated Gaujillo chile (rehydrate in water for 30 minutes), stem and seed

1 rehydrated Ancho chile  (rehydrate in water for 30 minutes), stem and seed

* * Note: You can also  use the water used to rehydrate the chiles  to stir into the salsa  to reach the desired consistency.

Directions:

In a food processor or blender, combine, the tomatoes, garlic, chiles, oregano and vinegar. Process until smooth. Pour into a small (2-quart) saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer 15 minutes, remove from the heat and stir in enough water to reach desired consistency. Taste and season highly with salt, usually 1 1/2 teaspoons. Cool, pour into a bottle and refrigerate until needed.

 ** Note: This recipe  can also be thinned out to use as a steak marinade or steak sauce. If used for this,  adding water more water is necessary, to give the sauce the consistency of steak sauce and/or marinade.

Guacamole

Ingredients:

-Frontera Guacamole Starter mix

-1 red onion

-lime juice (this is what keeps it green, not  the pit which most people think)

-cilantro

-4-5  ripe avacados ( The way  to tell if an avacado is ripe is to push with your thumb and if it is soft but not too soft then it it is perfect for making guacamole)

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together and mash with a potato masher  and enjoy!

We then  decided  to make two different tacos, we each decided to make one. I  decided to make a New Mexican Chicken Taco with Black Beans and a Pineapple Orange Jalapeno Salsa. While Mr. Pea made a Chile Braised Pork Shoulder Taco with Pickled Red Onions.

New Mexican Chicken Taco with Black Beans and a Pineapple Orange Jalapeno Salsa

Ingredients:

(serves 12)

-2 Packets of Rick Bayless’s Frontera  New Mexico Taco Skillet Sauce  (with roasted tomato and mild red chile)

– 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

– 2 teaspoons of chipolte seasoning ( I used Penzeys chipolte seasoning)

-1 cup of water

Put all the ingredients into a crockpot, give it a little stir to blend the seasoning with the skillet sauce and water. Cook on high for 4 to 6 hours or on low for 6 to 8 hours ( I think low and slow is always the better choice). When done, the chicken should shred easily when stirred with a fork and/or tongs. When done , to assemble taco heat taco shell in a cast iron skillet, spread a little bit of black beans , place the chicken on top of the beans and then top it off with the Pineapple Orange Jalapeno Salsa.

Pineapple Orange Jalapeno Salsa

2  oranges, segmented and chopped

1/2 cup of pineapple

2 tablespoons chopped red onion

1/2 jalapeno, chopped

2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro

pinch of salt

**Note:  I usually make this salsa  with blood oranges instead of regular oranges, but they are no longer in season :(.  I usually  use this with fish tacos or even some grilled fish that we make, it makes a good topping for seafood!

Chile Braised Pork Shoulder with Pickled Red Onions

Ingredients:

(makes 20 tacos)

•    2 medium dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
•    4 medium dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
•    1/3 cup Lime Juice
•    1/3 cup Orange Juice
•    1/3 cup Olive Oil
•    1 chipotle chile en adobo
•    1 jalepeno, stemmed, seeded and chopped
•    2 bay leaves
•    2 tablespoons cider vinegar
•    1/2 small white onion, roughly chopped (plus a few thinly sliced rings for garnish)
•    3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
•    1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
•    1 teaspoon dried thyme
•    1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
•    Pinch of ground cloves
•    1 1/2 tablespoon pork lard or bacon drippings
•    1/2 teaspoon table salt (plus more to taste)
•    3 pounds, boneless pork shoulder
•    Warm corn tortillas
•    Sour cream, hot sauce, pickled red onions, thinly sliced radishes and cilantro, for garnish

Directions:
•    Place the dried chiles in a small bowl, cover with very warm water and let stand for 30 minutes.  Drain, reserving 2/3 cup of the soaking liquid, then transfer the rehydrated chiles and the reserved liquid to a blender.
•    Pulverize the bay leaves in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and add them to the blender along with the vinegar, onion, garlic, oregano, thyme, orange juice, lime juice, olive oil, jalepeno, allspice and cloves.  Process to a smooth puree, adding water if needed to keep the mixture moving through the blades.  Press through a medium mesh strainer into a bowl.
•    Set a large, 6-quart pot with a lid over medium-high heat and add the pork lard.  When very hot and almost smoking, pour in the puree and stir constantly until it sears, concentrates and darkens into a spicy-smelling paste, about 5 minutes.  Remove the pot from heat and season the sauce with salt.
•    Preheat the oven to 325°.  Cut the pork shoulder into slabs about 3-inches thick.  Lay the meat into the pot with the chile paste, then flip it over to cover evenly, spooning on more sauce over the top to coat the pork well.  Pour 1/2 cup water around the meat, cover tightly and place in the oven.  Roast for 2 1/2 hours, basting the meat every 30 minutes with the liquid and rendered fat that accumulates.  If all of the moisture evaporates, feel free to add more water to the plan to allow you to continue basting. Let the pork rest for 20-30 minutes before serving.
•    Shred or pull the meat apart into-bite size pieces using two forks.  Toss the meat to incorporate any of the leftover chile braising liquid, check for seasoning and add more salt to taste.
•    Place the chile pork in a warm bowl and serve alongside the warm corn tortillas.  Have your guests assemble their own tacos, adding their own garnishes to taste.

Pickled Red Onions
•    1 Red Onion, thinly sliced
•    ¼ tsp Pepper
•    ¼ tsp Cumin
•    ¼ tsp Mexican dried oregano
•    ¼ tsp Garlic Powder
•    ¼ tsp Salt
•    1/3 cup Cider vinegar
•    2 tbs Lime Juice

•    Blanch the onion slices in salted, boiling water for 45 seconds, then drain and place in a medium container.

•    Combine Lime juice, vinegar and remaining spices then pour over the onions. Add enough water to cover the onions, stir well.

•    Let stand for several hours until onions are bright pink. Covered and refrigerated, these onions will last several weeks.

We also made two side dishes Green Poblano Rice (Arroz Verde al Poblano) and Refried Black Beans.

Green Poblano Rice (Arroz Verde al Poblano)

Ingredients:

(makes 4 servings)

1 2/3 cups chicken broth or water

2 fresh poblano chiles, stems and seeds removed, and roughly chopped

12 sprigs cilantro, plus extra for garnish

Salt, about 1/2 teaspoon if using salted broth, 1 teaspoon if using unsalted or water

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil

1 cup rice, preferably medium grain

1 small white onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice

5 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

 Directions:

-In a 2-quart saucepan, combine the broth and chiles, bring to a boil, then partially cover and simmer gently over medium to medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the chiles are very soft. Pour the chile mixture into a food processor, add the cilantro (stems and all), and process to a smooth puree. Press through a medium-mesh strainer into a bowl and stir in the salt.

-The rice: Wipe the pan clean, add the oil and heat over medium. Add the rice and onion, and cook, stirring regularly, until the rice is chalky looking and the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook a minute longer.

-Add the warm (or reheated) chile liquid to the hot rice pan, stir once, scrape down any rice kernels clinging to the side of the pan, cover, and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Uncover and check a grain of rice: It should be nearly cooked through. If the rice is just about ready, turn off the heat, re-cover and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes longer to complete the cooking. If the rice seems far from done, continue cooking for 5 minutes or so, retest, then turn off the heat and let stand a few minutes longer. Fluff with a fork, scoop into a warm serving dish, decorate with cilantro sprigs and it’s ready to serve.

Re-fried Black Beans

Ingredients:

-2-3 can of black beans

-1 tablespoon pork lard

-1 tablespoon Penzeys Arizona Dreming seasoning

Directions:

Heat on medium heat and mash with potato masher,  when beans are mashed  and  heated through, stir  and they are ready to serve.

And  we couldn’t leave dessert off the menu, it’s my favorite part (well the baking and decorating part!)

Strawberry Margarita Cupcakes

Cupcakes-makes 24

 1 box Betty Crocker white cake mix 1 cup bottled strawberry margarita or daiquiri mix1/3 cup vegetable oil1/4 cup tequila3 egg whites or whole eggs Frosting1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 box (1 lb) powdered sugar (4 cups)

2 teaspoons of heavy whipping cream

2 to 3 tablespoons bottled strawberry margarita or daiquiri mix

 Garnish

12 slices lime, each cut in half

 HAPPY CINCO DE MAYO EVERYONE! 🙂

Lemon Meringue Pie Cupcakes

My favorite thing about the holidays, besides  spending time with family and friends is cooking.  If you can’t tell by now Mr. Pea and I love to cook! But, my favorite part of cooking for the holidays, is making dessert.  I think it is because, I am the baker of the household.  I can’t remember a time that Mr. Pea  even has made a dessert, I don’t think he has the patience for desserts though. That is fine by me,  that gives me the opportunity to try out new recipes and be creative in the kitchen.  Not that my creative juices don’t flow when I am cooking, but baking has a more creative aesthetic to it that I really enjoy.

Take for example these lemon meringue pie cupcakes I made this past weekend for Easter.  They actually looked like little lemon meringue pies in the form of a cupcake. They were so cute! Plus, I got to use my pastry torch, and we all know how excited I get when I get to bust out my beloved pastry torch!  There was only one problem, I lost the recipe.

Yep, somewhere between here and the grocery store I lost the recipe I was going to use. And for some reason I couldn’t remember for the life of me where I got it, I forgot to bookmark it, I didn’t pin it on Pinterest, and it  had literally disappeared! Luckily I had already bought all the ingredients, so I decided to just wing it! To my surprise they turned out great and were a huge hit with all our family and friends. Check them out, if you like lemon meringue pie these are on a whole other level!

Lemon Meringue Pie Cupcakes

Ingredients:

Lemon cake mix (I used good old Betty Crocker, their lemon cake mix is the best!)
lemon instant pudding mix (4 serving size)
4 eggs
1 cup water
1/3 cup veggetable oil

* Add zest and juice of two lemons (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients, mix for 2 minutes on medium. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

 Lemon Curd Filling:

(May substitute with lemon Instant Pudding with zest of 1 lemon)

Ingredients:

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1 stick butter, cut into pats and chilled

Directions:

Add enough water to a medium saucepan to come about 1-inch up the side. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, combine egg yolks and sugar in a medium size metal bowl and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Measure citrus juice and if needed, add enough cold water to reach 1/3 cup. Add juice and zest to egg mixture and whisk smooth. Once water reaches a simmer, reduce heat to low and place bowl on top of saucepan. (Bowl should be large enough to fit on top of saucepan without touching the water.) Whisk until thickened, approximately 8 minutes, or until mixture is light yellow and coats the back of a spoon. Remove promptly from heat and stir in butter a piece at a time, allowing each addition to melt before adding the next. When done, fill cupcakes with curd and place cupcake in the refrigerator to chill.

Seven-Minute Frosting:

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 6 large egg whites, room temperature

Directions:

  1. Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar with the water and corn syrup in a small saucepan; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Continue boiling, without stirring, until syrup reaches 230 degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer running, add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, beating to combine.
  3. As soon as sugar syrup reaches 230 degrees, remove from heat. With mixer on medium-low speed, pour syrup down side of bowl in a slow, steady stream. Raise speed to medium-high; whisk until mixture is completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl) and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 7 minutes. Use immediately, Place in piping bag and pipe frosting on top of cupcakes, then take pastry torch and lightly passover the frosting giving it a caramelized look and taste.

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Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter cookies were probably   the first thing I baked as a child. My mother used to make them all the time,  they were  comfort food from my childhood. I remember making them when I was little and my mom teaching me how to make the crosshatches with a fork. I love making food that makes me feel like a kid again.

  If there is one thing I know about Mr. Pea it is how much he loves peanut butter.  Every day he brings to work  a PB&J  and not because he has to  because he loves them!   Also, his favorite flavor combination is peanut butter and chocolate, go figure peanut butter would be one of them. The man even drinks peanut butter shakes! Peanut butter shakes are not my favorite, unless I get a strawberry shake and he gives me a sip of his, it is totally a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in your mouth! Try it, you’ll see.

So Mr. Pea and I have been really good about eating healthy and working out and I thought Mr. Pea deserved a little treat.

So check it out!

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Peanut Butter Cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed granulated light brown sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter (I use natural peanut butter, it tastes more peanutty! chuky is good too!)
1 large egg, at room temperature

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, granulated and brown sugars, and peanut butter on medium speed just until smooth. Beat in the egg. Add the flour mixture and mix just until the dough comes together. If necessary, knead the dough with your hands until smooth.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Pinch off pieces of dough and roll them into 1-inch balls Roll the balls in the granulated sugar and place them 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. When you’ve filled the baking sheets, flatten and make a crosshatch pattern on each cookie by pressing down on the ball with the back of the tines
of a fork.

Bake, rotating the baking sheets midway through baking, until the cookies begin to brown around the edges but the centers still look somewhat uncooked, 9-10 minutes. Remove them from the oven before they look done so they’ll stay chewy once cooled. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets until firm enough to handle, then use a spatula to transfer them to a wire rack.

Enjoy!

Creme Brulee

Creme brulee is one of my favorite desserts!  For my birthday two years ago, Mr. Pea got me a pastry torch and a creme brulee set, I was so excited to test it out that I ran right to the store to buy all the ingredients. The first time I made it (needless to say) it didn’t turn out, but the second time, after I figured out a few techniques, it was perfect and  I was in heaven!

So this past weekend  we had Mr. Pea’s mom over for  a mexican fiesta to celebrate her birthday.  So I thought  about what we were going to have  and we decided on chips and homemade salsa (a Tomatillo Salsa and a  Spicy Chipolte salsa-recipes to follow, promise!) as an appetizer, Skirt Steak tacos with a Chimichurri sauce  and Tilapia tacos with a Blood Orange Salsa (again recipes to follow I promise), Green Rice and Black Beans. I couldn’t think of something to make for a dessert. Then Mr. Pea told me that he remembered that  she loves creme brulee. I got so excited, let’s just say I was as excited to make it as much as the first day  Mr. Pea gave me my beloved pastry torch.

My favorite way to eat creme brulee, is  to make a vanilla bean creme brulee with fresh raspberries on the side. A lot of people like to flavor their creme brulee with lots of different ingredients,  but I think that  the vanilla bean is a  beautiful flavor and pairs very well  with fresh berries.

Let’s just say Mr Pea’s mom  had a wonderful celebration and she deserves it!

Check out my Creme Brulee recipe!

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Creme Brulee:
1 Cup heavy cream
1 Cup milk
1/4 vanilla bean
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1/4 Cup sugar
Brown Sugar
Cup of Fruit of Berries

Combine heavy cream, milk and vanilla bean. Heat to boil. Remove from heat and steep 10 minutes with vanilla bean. Scrape bean seeds into milk mixture.

With electric mixture, combine eggs and sugar. Add the milk mixture in a steady stream through a fine strainer. Skim foam.

Divide into 4 small ramekins set in baking dish and pour hot water around ramekins to come 1/2 way up the sides. Place in 325 º oven for approximately 25-30 minutes, until just set (trembles slightly).

Cover with saran wrap and  place in fridge until  you are ready to eat   when ready cover top with brown sugar and caramelize with torch.

Enjoy!