Saturday, February 19, 2011

I know it's mid-winter, but I still want a S'more!

Time for cleaning out the cupboards, and I am not surprised that I have not one, not two, but THREE boxes of Betty Crocker Super Moist Chocolate Fudge cake mix.  I think I planned on making something for someone during the holidays.  Or maybe something for the teachers for Valentine's Day.  Whatever the reason, I didn't make 'em for what I had intended, but found myself this week with half a kitchen and a certain favorite elementary school Cake Walk in need of some baked goods.  And I had s'mores on my mind.  So, what does that spell?  S'mores Cupcakes, of course!
I kinda made these up this Fall, so I am not even 100% sure about all of the measurements, but here goes.  And trust me, these are insanely delicious.  Be prepared to share them with a crowd, or you will be tempted to eat them all by yourself!
S'mores Cupcakes
8- 10 graham cracker sheets, crushed and divided
3 T sugar
1/2 stick butter, melted
Crush graham crackers and put into bowl.  Set aside 2 T for sprinkling later.  Add sugar to graham crackers.  Melt butter and pour over mixture.  Mix well.  Divide equally between  30 cupcake liners, pressing into bottom to form a "crust".  Each cupcake should have about a 1/8 inch crust on the bottom.  Set aside while making your cake batter:
1 box devil's food or chocolate fudge cake mix
4 eggs
1-1/3 cup buttermilk (substitute for water)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup mini bittersweet chocolate chips
Follow package directions, mix for 30 seconds and scrape down bowl, then turn to medium -high and beat for two minutes.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Divide evenly between your 30 cupcakes.  Bake as directed on box.  Option 1:  Bake for 15 minutes, then pull from oven.  Put a large marshmallow on top of each cupcake and return to oven to bake for 2 to 3 more minutes.  When you pull the cupcakes from oven, press the marshmallows down a bit to make sure they spread over the top of the cupcake, then sprinkle each cupcake with some of the reserved graham cracker crumbs.  Option 2:  Bake as directed on box, remove from oven and allow to cool completely before frosting with Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting:
Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1- 7.5 oz jar marshmallow cream
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Beat butter on high speed until creamy.  Add in marshmallow cream and beat until fully incorporated.  Reduce speed and add vanilla and confectioner's sugar.  Increase speed to high and beat until light and fluffy.  Spread or pipe onto cupcakes and sprinkle with remaining graham cracker crumbs.

I really would have loved to have included a picture of these divine little cupcakes, but I ate 'em all!  Actually, I donated most of them to the Cake Walk, and ended up with four leftover.  Gave three away and ate the other.  I promise a picture the next time!  

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Lazy Girl and the Crock Pot

One thing I can say about January:  Great time for eating beef.  I guess with all of the New Year's diet makeovers, poor old beef gets poo-pooed in favor of lighter, leaner fare like fish and chicken.  Well, good thing I don't make New Year's resolutions, because I got some great deals on beef last month and went nuts.  Maybe a little too nuts, since I ended up with a freezer full of beef and a Lazy Girl can only eat so much Beef Stew.  So, with getting the house ready to put on the market, a gal needs something quick and easy and healthy and family-friendly if she's going to be able to put dinner on the table at all.  Since I am no longer able to luxuriate in the chopping of fresh vegetables and stirring them lovingly into a stock pot or tending to a beautiful roast beast as it slowly cooks to perfection in my oven, my crock pot came to mind:  It was time for some quick and dirty cookin' and the crock pot is PERFECT for those meals.
So, the first recipe was inspired by a friend's Facebook post.  Something about making "Flank Steak Fajitas" in the crock pot on a snow day.  Well, she sent me the recipe, and I promptly lost it, so I googled the title of the recipe and got some ideas.  BUT... you know how I am about spicy Mexican-inspired food:  I don't stick to the recipe.  First of all, I had a London Broil, not a Flank Steak and secondly, I had a bunch of those small sweet yellow, orange and red peppers and not a big old bell pepper.  And I didn't have fajita seasoning.  But I still ended up with a delicious meal:
Lazy Girl Somekindabeef Crock Pot Fajitas
1 big old London Broil
1 pack of taco seasoning (or your favorite combo of chili seasonings which should include coriander, cumin, oregano, etc.  Also, this can be low-sodium if you' like.  This had plenty of flavor)
1 large sliced sweet bell pepper 
1 medium sliced onion
1 can Rotel tomatoes with green chilis
2 cloves garlic minced
Gently lay the beef in the bottom of the crock pot.  Or throw it in.  I had blood spatter, so I tend to go easy.  Sprinkle with half the packet of taco seasoning.  Pour the can of Rotel over the beef, then add the peppers, onions and garlic.  Sprinkle with the other half of the seasoning packet.  
Cook on high for at least 5 or 6 hours or until the beef has been cooked into submission and falls apart when threatened with a fork.  
Serve with flour tortillas, sour cream, guacamole, and fresh salsa with some refried beans and Mexican rice on the side.  My family went NUTS over this.  It was sooo delicious, more like a lowbrow Carne Asada than Fajitas, but soooo deeelish.  Great as leftovers too!

So the cold weather continued and there was STILL a lot of beef left in my chest freezer.  One night, I pulled out two porterhouse steaks that I'd forgotten about and a big old chuck roast that I had intended for beef stew.   I really wasn't sure what to do, but in the morning, when the beef was mostly thawed, I started the kitchen sink approach with miraculous results:
Crazy-rich and Delicious [Crock] Pot Roast
Big old pile of beef (like I said, I used two porterhouse steaks and a chuck roast, but I really think any good beef would do)
As many sliced mushrooms as you can stand (I used a pint, but I wish I'd have used a quart)
1 sliced yellow onion
1 packet Pioneer Brown Gravy mix (or any brown gravy mix that makes 2 cups of gravy)
1 cup red wine (I used the rest of a bottle of merlot that I found in the fridge)
1/2 cup cooking sherry
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp Italian seasoning
Lay the beef in the bottom of your crock pot.  (Notice that I never brown my beef first.  I just don't.  It doesn't seem to mind not being browned and I don't have to wash a pan.)  Sprinkle the brown gravy mix over the beef.  Pile the mushrooms and onions on top.  Pour the red wine and cooking sherry over all of that.  Sprinkle with Italian seasoning.  Cover and cook on high for at least 5 or 6 hours or until the beef is super-tender.
OMG.  This was insanely delicious.  I wish I'd used a huge thing of mushrooms, as they were delightful; they took up all of the flavors and were just so indescribably good!  I served this with a thing of Uncle Ben's Original Wild Rice Pilaf and some boiled Fresh French Green Beans and it was such a rich, warming and strangely elegant meal.  I will say that for this recipe, make sure you trim fat if you're using a fattier cut of beef.  I think this would actually be perfect with a London Broil or Flank Steak because the mushrooms and gravy are so rich, the additional fat makes it super-rich.  I also think you could use or make a more simply-flavored rice pilaf or plain brown rice and this would be great.  There was almost too much flavor with the Uncle Ben's, but it was languishing in my pantry and needed to be used up.
So, both of these meals were gobbled up by my family, but what's really amazing is that both of these took about five minutes to prepare in the morning, and then I went about my business as they cooked themselves into greatness throughout the day.  As you can tell by my serving suggestions, the final meal was also very simple:  For both meals, I simply put the rice on to cook about a half-hour before dinner and then pulled everything else out (or cooked the grean beans) about five minutes before the meal.  Easy, simple, delicious!
So now we are in full-on kitchen remodel and I have no cooktop, so I need more crock pot recipes!  Send me some, Gentle Readers, and I'll report back and even give you props on the blog!