Sunday, January 30, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I procrastinated for a very long time before breaking down and making red velvet cupcakes. I really didn't get the attraction. Red food coloring? Wth? But, I kept hearing how good they were. Seriously, everytime I brought up the subject, my sister went on and on about how good red velvet cake was. So, today I decided I was going to give it a try.

The very first thing that I had to do was find a good recipe. Naturally, I googled. Holy cow---there are a slew of red velvet cake recipes out there! I found out a few things about the history of the cake, as well. Back in the day, beets used to provide the color. I kind of get that-- like how carrots or zucchini can make baked goods moist. Now, almost all of the recipes use red food coloring. Really, that's the part that gave me some misgivings. A few drops I can understand, but a bottle? Some of those recipes used a 1/4 cup of food coloring! Yikes! I ended up making up my own recipe by picking out the things that sounded good in several recipes:

Red Velvet Cupcakes


2 ½ cups cake flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 oz (1 bottle) red food coloring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.; line cupcake pans with liners.

All of the recipes I found used some cocoa powder, but they varied alot....from 1 teaspoon (really?) to 1/2 cup. Most specified a tablespoon or two, so I decided to use just one tablespoon. I was going for the red color.

You can sift it if it makes you feel better. I like to whisk.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa and soda in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, buttermilk and oil and blend well. Stir in the vinegar, vanilla, and almond extract. Add the food coloring, making sure to blend in completely.

Now that is red.

Fill the cupcake liners ¾ full. Bake cupcakes for 15-18 minutes or until the tops spring back when lightly touched.

Frost with buttercream or cream cheese frosting.

I almost decided not to frost them, but I couldn't disappoint. I chose a buttercream frosting this time, but a nice cream cheese frosting is probably classic for a red velvet cake.

The verdict? Yum! Next time I will make them with the cream cheese frosting just to compare.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Year's Resolutions....and some revelations...

Poached eggs...a tasty lo-cal breakfast.

So, I haven't posted much lately. You could say I'm a little conflicted. I love playing with my food  inventing new recipes and baking treats. It's what I do, after all. A number of things are going on, though. First, it's Pillsbury Bake-Off® time! That's right, I really haven't stopped inventing things--I just can't talk about them. Second, my pictures haven't been turning out very nice, lately. It's lighting--always dark when I get home from work. Perhaps, I need to buy a new camera? I procrastinate about a lot of things. Which brings me to to number three: I've had to cut back on what I've been eating. Oxymoron, no? Inventing for the BakeOff and trying to lose weight? Kind of...ha, ha. Believe me, I'm taking a taste and passing it all on for "further evaluation". Pity my poor guinea pigs co-workers.

I'm not going to diet. Really, don't you hate that word? Unfortunately, after about 4 years of mindless eating (call it stress eating, if you will), I need to make a change. A fifty pound change. I've done this before, with great success, so I know it can be done. Now that I've announced it to the world, it better happen. :)

Not to worry...this isn't and will never be a blog about dieting. I'll leave that to the experts. Have you ever checked out Hungry Girl? I don't go for all of her tips, but she does have great ideas! I found out about Vitatops from her. Yummy chocolate muffin tops that only have 100 calories.

I hope you don't mind my sharing a few things I might learn along the way, but for the most part what I want to do is cut back. Everything in moderation, right? Besides, if I give up all treats, I'll just go on a big binge and it would all be for naught.

I rue the day that my daughter introduced me to the gourmet coffee scene. I've never been a coffee drinker, but that skinny vanilla latte is really tasty...and pricey. So now I make my own. It beats the Diet Coke I used to have for breakfast.


Coffee, 25 calorie hot chocolate mix and own gourmet coffee.

Huh...I always thought it was spelled "ReddiWhip". Where did the "h" go?

Adding some spices really helps make things taste good. And those Bagel Thins only have 110 calories.....

One of the first things that I have learned how to make for myself is a poached egg. This video tells you how it's done.  In the future, I'll figure out a great lo-cal sauce.

In the mean time, I've taken all of my sweaters off of the elliptical and I'm slowly adding exercise to my day. Eventually, it will all become a habit....

Cheese makes a good snack. These Mini Babybels have only 50 calories apiece.

My goal is to look good on television when I win the million. A girl can dream, right?

As soon as it all becomes a habit, I'll post something a little more interesting. Promise.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Meat Pie

I hear that cupcakes are on the "out" list this year, being replaced by pie. This wouldn't surprise me, considering all of the pie, sweet and savory, I've seen seen lately. Why, in my house alone, we had two pies (both totally consumed) on New Year's Day.

The first pie of the day was actually a "tourtière", or a French/Canadian meat pie. My mother-in-law's grandmother was French/Canadian, so tradition in my husband's family is to have Meat Pie every New Year's Day for good luck. I have to tell you, though, that her family has enough "good luck" food traditions, we should be swimming in lottery money by now....pork and sauerkraut, fish that swim forward (?), black-eyed peas (those I've never had)....Meat Pie is the one that I don't mind having.

The recipe for these is pretty easy.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F., and line an 8" cake pan (I use the foil ones) with pie dough. I used a Pillsbury crust, although my MIL swears by homemade. Then, just peel and dice 2 large baking potatoes and put them in a large saucepan. Cover them with water, bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes, or until just tender. Leave them in the water and mush them up a little with a potato masher, then add 3/4 pound ground beef, 3/4 pound ground pork, 1 chopped onion, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil and let it cook until the meat is no longer pink. Drain the water, adjust the seasoning, and spoon the meat into the 8" cake pan. Top the filling with the remaining pie crust, cut some holes in it to vent, and pinch the pastry together. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, placing foil around the edges of the pie if it starts to brown too much.

Serve the pie wedges with dill pickles (I often use a little ketchup, but don't tell that to anyone of true French/Canadian descent).

We finished the day with my Lemon Angel Pie. Both of these pies could give the cupcake a run for it's money.

What do you think---is pie the new cupcake?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Oliebollen--A New Year's Eve Tradition

To be honest, I'm not much into deep frying my food. Don't get me wrong--I like to eat deep fried foods (well, most of them anyway--I saw Paula Deen do a deep fried cupcake once...that's just wrong), I just don't like to deep fry at home. It's the smell in the house I'm not fond of. Some things, however, are worth digging out the deep fryer. Take, for instance, our new New Year's tradition: Oliebollen.

Oliebollen, the Dutch version of doughnuts, is literally translated as "oily balls". Not the most appetizing name, to be sure, but there is a history to these delectable pieces of fried dough. They are said to have been first eaten by Germanic tribes in the Netherlands during the Yule, the period between December 26 and January 6. The Germanic goddess Perchta, together with evil spirits, would fly through the mid-winter sky. To appease these spirits, food was offered, much of which contained deep-fried dough. It was said Perchta would try to cut open the bellies of all she came across, but because of the fat in the oliebollen, her sword would slide off the body of whoever ate them.[1]

Whatever the background, I couldn't wait to figure out how to make them. I searched the Internet for a recipe and settled on one that I found on You can click on this link to find it: Oliebollen (Dutch Doughnuts)

I mostly followed the recipe, not knowing quite how to change it up. That will come with the next batch. :)

Oliebollen are generally made with bits of apple, raisins or currants added to the dough. I decided to use an apple for the first batch, since there was at least one raisin hater in the house.

Start by chopping up a Granny Smith apple. The first change I'll make the next time is to chop it up a little more. My daughter liked the bigger chunks, however.

Next, warm a cup of milk until it is about 110 degrees---bathwater warm---and sprinkle an envelope of yeast over it. While the yeast is proofing,  put 2 1/2 cups of flour in a large bowl and whisk in a teaspoon of salt (the recipe calls for 2). Make a little well in the middle of the flour, and add a slightly beaten egg and the yeast/milk mixture. Beat it all together with a wooden spoon (it makes a pretty wet dough) and add the apple chunks and/or raisins. Once the apples are mixed in, cover the bowl with a towel and put it in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until it doubled.

Heat up the oil (I used a bottle of vegetable oil) to 390 degrees, then grab 2 ordinary spoons, dip them in oil, and scoop up some of the dough, using the spoons to shape the dough, and drop it into the hot oil. I put about 4 of them in the oil at a time. The oliebollen should turn by themselves, but use your spoon to turn them over, if needed. Let them fry until they are golden brown, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the oliebollen from the oil and put them on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Sprinkle them with some powdered sugar and enjoy them warm.....although they are good the next day, split open, with a little jam. ;)

I decided I wanted to try them with raisins, so I did add some to the dough after I made a few apple-only ones. I liked them.

These had the raisins.

I wish the lighting in my kitchen was better. The picture makes them look like they have warts. Those would be the raisins....

While everyone loved these (my mother-in-law got a little misty-eyed, remembering something similar her grandmother used to make), there are some changes I will make the next time. Initially, I thought to add sugar to the dough, but that is totally unnecessary---the fruit and the powdered sugar make these sweet enough. Aside from chopping the apple a little smaller, I would add a teaspoon or so of lemon zest. I also might switch to bread flour or use the stand mixer to beat the dough for a few minutes, as these seemed a little dense. Last, I might add a couple of tablespoons melted butter to the dough...I've seen this in a few recipes and it may add to the flavor. 

They say that the whole country of Holland smells of oliebollen on New Year's Eve. I'm not sure how true that is, but our house will be smelling of them again next year.