Category: carrots

Some stout pie shenanigans.

The Irish (and English, for that matter) love their pies. And I don’t mean fruit pies, I mean meat pies. Hot, cold, warm or room temperature, they love them some meat pies. It’s a famous pub dish; a flaky pie crust or puff pastry topping over a beef-stew like filling. You can make them in individual pie plates or as one big pie. Similar concept to Shepherd’s pie, except this pie actually has a crust on top, whereas the former has mashed potatoes.

meat pie is a pie with a filling of meat and/or other savoury ingredients. Principally popular in EuropeAustraliaNew ZealandCanada, and South Africa, meat pies differ from a pasty in the sense that a pasty is typically a more portable, on-the-go item, as opposed to a more conventional pie.

-Wikipedia

A few weeks ago, I went to a pub that Jay’s friend opened in Brooklyn, and somewhere around the third or fourth Guinness we decided to have a beef & stout pie. It was just a simple little pub with no kitchen, so the pie was an instant microwaveable one. But it gave me an idea: make your own, Marilla!  And at some point, in between then and now, I picked up this book, which conveniently had a recipe listed on the cover for beef & stout pies. SCORE.


How perfect is that?

Anyway, I decided I’d give ‘em a try this week, and they turned out pretty amazing.

And quite easy, actually. In the opinion of the Irish (according to the book), the only stout suitable for cooking with beef is Guinness. If you have another stout you want to use, then so be it. I stick with Guinness for this kinda stuff though- it’s sweet, but not too sweet. Perfect for a stew.

IRISH BEEF & STOUT PIES

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. boneless chuck steak or eye of round steak, cut into 1″-inch pieces
  •  1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups meat stock
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 or 5 large carrots, peeled & sliced into “coins”
  • 4 or 5 medium/large potatoes, peeled and cut into roughly 1/2″ chunks
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1 cup Guinness stout
  • 1 pound store-bought puff pastry or store-bought pie crust
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • vegetable oil, for frying

Directions:

  1. Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a medium bowl, then toss the (patted dry) beef in the mix until evenly coated.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the beef, in batches, and transfer to a flameproof casserole dish or dutch oven. Deglaze the skillet with 1/4 cup of the stock, and add the liquid to the casserole dish.
  3. Heat another 1-2 tablespoons of oil in the skillet and cook the onion and carrots for 6-7 minutes or until onions are soft.  Add to the casserole dish with the tomato paste, thyme, stout, potatoes and remaining stock. Heat the casserole dish or oven over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then simmer gently with the lid slightly askew for around 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Check the seasoning, and add salt or pepper as needed. Drain the meat mixture in a strainer set over a large bowl. Reserve the liquid, letting rest until cool. Preheat the oven to 425° F and put a baking sheet in the oven to preheat.
  5. Divide the meat mixture among four individual pie plates or 5 -5 1/2″ ramekins. Pour in enough liquid to not quite cover the filling. Dampen the rims of the plates or ramekins with water.
  6. Cut your pastry into four pieces, each one large enough to cover the tops of the pies including a 1″ hangover.  Make holes in it or two or three slashes to allow air our and place them on top of the filling, pressing the edges down. I used a fork to push the dough onto the rim. Brush with egg yolk.
  7. Places the pies on a the preheated baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 400° F and bake for 5 more minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving so no one burns a tongue!

It isn’t the most attractive looking meal, but trust me. It’s way better than it looks! Potatoes, beer, beef, carrots… how can that be bad!?

If you wish, you can lessen the amount of carrots & potatoes, but add in some cremini mushrooms (just the caps, quartered- no stems). I’m not a big mushroom lover. I left them out. If you do choose to add mushrooms, add them with the onions and carrots in step 3. Also, I used frozen pie crust for the tops. Puff pastry will be puffier, obviously. You can also use homemade, if you’ve got a great recipe you like. For the sake of time I went with frozen. Sue me. 

I also made four ramekins, each one measures about 5″ across and 3 1/2″ high. I actually bought them at Pier 1 Imports, so here they are, the larger size. Vintage embroidered Irish linen napkins not included.

And that, my friends, is that. Serve with a hearty bread, or a bit of Irish soda bread, and a pint of Guinness! Or Harp. Or whatever. It doesn’t really matter what you pair it with, just so long as you enjoy yourself.

I hope you all have a happy & delicious St. Patrick’s Day!

Spring in a jar.

It sounds cheesy & cliched, but to me, that’s what Giardiniere (or Giardiniera, or Jardinière) looks like. Not only does the name translate to “garden” for the most part, it’s a jar of pickled brightly-colored vegetables such as cauliflower, carrots, peppers & zucchini and it just looks like a jar full of spring. And spring is upon us now, so that means I can start opening my windows & getting fresh air as well as look forward to fresh veggies. And I got a big surprise when I took inventory of my pots & found that some of my herbs came back full force! And by full force I mean INSANELY HUGE for this time of year. Gee, thanks, super-crazy-abnormally-warm New York winter. I’ve got chives & two types of oregano in the game already and it’s only the second week in April.

So that all makes me excited, but I wanted to start pickling again. As you can see, my chives (above left) are starting to get little buds, so I might make some chive blossom vinegar this year. But that’s not what this post is about. So let’s get to the point. Giardiniera.

Italian giardiniera is also called “sotto aceti”, which means “under vinegar”, a common term for pickled foods. It is typically eaten as an antipasto or with salads.[2]

In the United States, giardiniera is commonly available in traditional or spicy varieties, and the latter is sometimes referred to as “Hot Mix.”

In the Midwest region of the U.S., giardiniera is used as a condiment, typically as a topping on Italian beef sandwiches.[3]

A milder variety of giardiniera is used for the olive salad in the Muffuletta sandwich.

The Italian version includes onions, celery, zucchini, carrots, and cauliflower. The pickled vegetables are in red- or white-wine vinegar.

American giardiniera is commonly made with serrano peppers along with a combination of assorted vegetables, including bell peppers, olives, celery, pimentos, carrots, and cauliflower, and sometimes crushed red pepper flakes, all marinated in vegetable oil, olive oil, soybean oil, or any combination of the three. It is also common to see it pickled in vinegar.

Jardinière is a French culinary term, meaning a dish that is cooked or served with a mixture of spring vegetables, such as peas, carrots, and green beans.

I know there are a million variations & recipes for this, but this one is just a basic one that I came up with by combining two recipes; one from the Better Homes & Gardens book, You Can Can & another from the Ball Complete Book of Preserving. This was really a canning request from my mother, who loves Giardiniera. She had requested it a while back but I was in such winter mode, I couldn’t even think of it until we got hit with a stretch of 70+ degree days back in March. Then all of a sudden, I was ready to start making springy foods & pickles again. I made some Bourbon pickles but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to jar up some more fresh veggies. And what better way to do that than this? IT’S LIKE A GARDEN… IN A JAR!

I adapted it a bit seeing as she’s not a fan of zucchini & that seems to be prevalent in a lot of recipes. But I’m including the zucchini in the recipe below. This looked so beautiful in the jar from start to finish I couldn’t believe it. I could hardly stop taking pictures of it!

The point is, basically you can add whatever you want or take away whatever you want. That’s the beauty of it. You can use all of it: zucchini, carrots, cauliflower and the three colors of peppers, or you can use a hot pepper instead, or you can omit the zucchini or omit the carrots (but really who doesn’t like carrots!?) or even add pimentos. Heck- add green beans if you want. It’s just that simple. Honestly. Have I ever lied to you?

It smelled insane while cooking. INSANE.

SMALL-BATCH GIARDINIERA

Makes about 3 pints

Ingredients:

  • One smallish head of cauliflower (preferably organic/pesticide free), cut into florets
  • One each of a large red/green & yellow Bell pepper (again, preferably organic/pesticide free), cut into strips
  • Three large whole carrots (yet again… preferably organic/pesticide free), peeled and cut into slices
  • One half of a large white onion, cut into rings and then each ring cut into quarters
  • 1 small celery (you know the drill), cut into ¼” thick slices
  • 1 small zucchini (ditto), cut into ¼” thick slices
  • 3 cups white vinegar (5%)
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • 1 tablespoon pickling or canning salt
  • 1 ¼ cups white sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 fresh garlic cloves, finely minced

Directions:

  1. Prep, wash & cut all your vegetables & keep them in separate bowls. Mince garlic. Prepare water bath canner, and sterilize jars and lids. Keep jars warm. Set aside.
  2. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine water, vinegar, sugar, pepper, garlic and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently for 5 minutes, until the spices have infused the liquid.
  3. Add the cauliflower, onions, zucchini, celery and carrots and return to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in peppers.
  4. Pack vegetables into jars with a slotted spoon within to a generous ½” of the top of jar. Ladle the hot pickling liquid in to cover vegetables, leaving ½” headspace. remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if necessary, by adding more liquid (you may not use all the liquid). Wipe rims, center lids and screw bands on until resistance is met. Then adjust to fingertip-tight.
  5. Place jars in canner, ensuring they’re covered by at least 1-2″ of water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid and wait 5 minutes. Then carefully remove jars, cool, and store. Enjoy!

I really think it’s the prettiest thing I ever canned up. Truly. Everything around here has been all pastel & pink & pretty lately, and then this was like a technicolor shock to the system. Seriously, have you seen prettier Giardiniera, ever? No. No you have not. Testimonial time:

If you’re thinking of making this, and you have no previous canning experience, please take a peek at this post and read my (very basic) summary of what you’ll need to start. Then move on to the USDA’s directions (much clearer & informative, I admit). It’s not difficult, but you have a lot of reading to do to make sure you’re doing it right/have the proper materials, etc. The last thing you need is to give someone botulism. So yeah, be responsible & do your homework first. Then you can go ahead & make Giardiniera all damn day long.

Anyway, that’s that. Put it in a salad, put it on a sandwich, mix it with cooked chilled pasta for a quick pasta salad, pop it on a pizza, or eat it right out of the jar. Whatever. The liquid can be used as salad dressing too, once the vegetables are gone. Just mix it with a little oil. And again, like I said… it’s SO EASY. Literally the longest part of the process is the cutting of the veggies. Once that’s done, it’s 1-2-3. Just don’t cheat & buy a bag of frozen mixed vegetables. That’s awful. And lazy. Use top notch fresh ingredients and you’ll see how amazing it really is. I prefer to buy organic for things like this, just because of the lack of pesticides and since I’m using the entire thing (as opposed to just the pulp of an orange, etc), it freaks me out not to. But really, any good, fresh vegetables will do. Far be it from me to tell you how much to spend or what to buy. Buy what you’re comfortable with & what you can afford. Most of all… enjoy it. Enjoy the shopping for ingredients, enjoy the cutting & chopping, enjoy the process, enjoy the eating. Shopping for fresh vegetables & fruit at this time of year is all the fun! But of course, I can’t discount the ingesting of ‘em either.

Happy Spring!

Spring has sprung.

Not 100% of course, but for the most part anyway.

I’ve done one of these little compilation posts for Halloween, Thanksgiving & Christmas, Valentine’s Day & St. Patrick’s Day, so here’s my springtime/Easter version. I don’t really do “Easter”, I like bunnies, baby chicks, lilies & chocolate… so I celebrate those things & call it Easter. I’m not one of those Wiccans or “Pagans” either. I’m Agnostic, but I do love me some holidays. I can’t help it. I love to decorate and bake and cook and that’s the best part of life, in my opinion. So why not celebrate everything!?

The real meaning of Easter:

Easter (Old English: Ēostre; Greek: Πάσχα, Paskha; Hebrew: פֶּסַח‎, Pesakh, “Passover“) is the central religious feast in the Christian liturgical year.[1] According to Christian scripture, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. Some Christians celebrate this resurrection on Easter Day or Easter Sunday[2] (also Resurrection Day or Resurrection Sunday), two days after Good Friday and three days after Maundy Thursday. The chronology of his death and resurrection is variously interpreted to be between AD 26 and 36, traditionally 33. Easter also refers to the season of the church year called Eastertide or the Easter Season. Traditionally the Easter Season lasted for the forty days from Easter Day until Ascension Day. The first week of the Easter Season is known as Easter Week or the Octave of Easter. Easter also marks the end of Lent, a season of fasting, prayer, and penance.

Easter is a moveable feast, meaning it is not fixed in relation to the civil calendar. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) following the northern hemisphere’s vernal equinox.[3] Ecclesiastically, the equinox is reckoned to be on March 21 (even though the equinox occurs, astronomically speaking, on March 20 in most years), and the “Full Moon” is not necessarily the astronomically correct date. The date of Easter therefore varies between March 22 and April 25. Eastern Christianity bases its calculations on the Julian Calendar whose March 21 corresponds, during the 21st century, to April 3 in the Gregorian Calendar, in which calendar their celebration of Easter therefore varies between April 4 and May 8.

Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover by much of its symbolism, as well as by its position in the calendar. In most European languages the feast called Easter in English is termed by the words for passover in those languages and in the older English versions of the Bible the term Easter was the term used to translate passover.[4][5]

Relatively newer[citation needed] elements such as the Easter Bunny and Easter egg hunts have become part of the holiday’s modern celebrations, and those aspects are often celebrated by many Christians and non-Christians alike. There are also some Christian denominations who do not celebrate Easter.

Yeah so that last part applies to me. Delicious chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs filled with creamy fondant? Yes please. I guess, though, I more celebrate just the coming of spring itself, which is more like Ostara:

Old English Ēostre (also Ēastre) and Old High German Ôstarâ are the names of a putative Germanic goddess whose Anglo-Saxon month, Ēostur-monath, has given its name to the festival of Easter. Eostre is attested only by Bede, in his 8th century work De temporum ratione, where he states that Ēostur-monath was the equivalent to the month of April, and that feasts held in her honour during Ēostur-monath had died out by the time of his writing, replaced by the “Paschal month“. The possibility of a Common Germanic goddess called *Austrōn- was examined in detail in 19th century Germanic philology, by Jacob Grimm and others, without coming to a definite conclusion.

Linguists have identified the goddess as a Germanic form of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn, *Hausos, some scholars have debated whether or not Eostre is an invention of Bede’s, and theories connecting Eostre with records of Germanic Easter customs (including hares and eggs) have been proposed.

Notice the spelling similarities between Eostre and Easter? Hmm. Food for thought. I’ll let ya chew on that one.

So in short, I like to eat and make stuff, and that’s what holidays are all about, really. I don’t think you have to believe in a God to celebrate the coming of spring, especially after a winter where here in New York we got a whopping 60.9″ of snow total. At any rate… here are some delectable cupcake confections that celebrate this time of year, and can be adapted/used whether your celebrations are referred to as Ostara, Easter, Passover or just plain spring.

One of my favorite Easter cupcakes; lemon-vanilla cakes with a lemon-vanilla buttercream, topped with toasted coconut “nests” and Cadbury mini-eggs. Super cute and so easy! These were a humongous hit with everyone who ate them, I highly recommend trying them. Recipe here: Nest Eggs.

I grouped these two together because they’re in the same post from last Easter. The top ones are Creamsicle mini-cupcakes topped with a thick marshmallow Fluff buttercream, and the bottom ones are carrot cupcakes topped with a lavender-tinted cream cheese frosting. Check both recipes out here: Easter?
I didn’t actually make these for Easter, I made them for my grandmother’s 92nd birthday… however they’re a perfect springtime cupcake idea. A light chocolate cake topped with an Earl Grey/lemon icing and candied lemon peel garnish (which is deceptively easy). Very sophisticated & delicious. Find the recipes for the cake, icing and lemon peel here: Earl Grey with lemon “tea party” cupcakes.
Another one I didn’t make for Easter, I made them for Cupcake Rehab’s 1st birthday, but yet they would be totally appropriate for spring. Neapolitan cupcakes- vanilla cake, strawberry Kool-Aid frosting and chocolate sauce drizzled on top. Extremely delicious. Recipes: Neapolitan “happy 1st birthday Cupcake Rehab” cupcakes.
These I definitely didn’t make for Easter. But being that they’re almond cupcakes with a white chocolate buttercream, they’d be so cute with marzipan fruits or hand-rolled marzipan Easter eggs on top for Easter, wouldn’t they? This is one of my favorite cupcakes ever. Try them yourself: Frau Marilla’s Alpenblume Weiße Schokolade Kleine Kuchen!


So that’s that. If you’re not drooling by now, there’s something wrong with you. Also, I also have a recipe for chocolate hi-hat cupcakes that I made for Easter a few years back that I didn’t include above. So knock yourself out!  And If you’re looking for something more Passover-y, I have a recipe for sweet noodle kugel. I also have TONS of other cupcake and cookie recipes that can be adapted or used for this time of year, with just a little creativity.

As usual, I’ll be posting more spring-y things in the weeks to come so stay tuned... and tomorrow I’ll be guest posting over at Frosting 4 the Cause, so please come and check that out. I promise you’ll like it.

Happy Birthday to Indy!

Thanks to everyone who bought something from TOPSTITCH today. I appreciate it! The money is going to a great cause. Keep buying! You have until midnight West Coast time.

Indy turns two years old today. Time flies when you’ve got a four-legged child. It seems just like yesterday he was 35 lbs, chewing on people’s shoelaces & peeing in the dining room. Now he’s a 100 lbs of lean, not-so-mean pupcake-eating machinery, who enjoys sleeping on “his couch”, running around with his girlfriend Miley, Bully Sticks, Greenies and of course… hanging out on the deck (or romping in the snow).

Indy & Miley!

Since we’re not really sure when he was born exactly, we decided September 2nd would be his birthday. I’ve made Indy many, many homemade treats before. He adores them. Inhales them, in fact. I like doing it, besides knowing exactly what goes in them, it beats paying $4.50 a piece for a mass-produced, hard as a rock “pupcake” from a pet shop. Same reason why I make my own baked goods & food, and why I grew my own vegetables & herbs. Just makes more sense to me, you know? I like knowing exactly what’s going into my food, and my body. And my family’s body… and my pets’ too! Even if it is cream cheese, honey, and peanut butter-based *wink*

..

Luigi (left) & Mario!Luigi (left) & Mario!

Indy was kind enough to share these with his friends Mario & Luigi (above) who also had birthdays recently. Okay, actually, Indy’s mom & dad shared them, Indy would’ve eaten them all if given the chance. What can I say, he’s an only child. Oh! And Mario & Luigi’s mom & dad got married a week ago- congrats to them!

PUPCAKES WITH PEANUT BUTTER, CARROTS & OATS

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • ½ cup organic peanut butter
  • ½ cup greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ cup shredded carrots
  • ¾ cup LOW FAT milk
  • 16 ounces low fat cream cheese (or Neufchâtel)
  • another ¼ cup honey

Directions:

  1. Mix dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix the egg, honey, peanut butter, yogurt and oil. Mix the milk in with the dry ingredients, blending well. At this point mix your carrots into the honey mixture, then mix the honey mixture into the flour/milk batter.
  2. Put in muffin tins and bake for 15 – 20 minutes. These pupcakes freeze well. Frost if you like using a mix of the cream cheese and ¼ cup honey. Beat those two ingredients until well combined, then cover the tops of the pupcakes with it.

I used ground cinnamon to make little paw prints on the frosting using my thumb and pinky. Cinnamon is excellent for dogs (& humans!). It improves memory, prevents infections (anti-fungal/anti-bacterial), it’s an anti-inflammatory and it also regulates blood sugar, so if you were concerned when reading that I used it- don’t be! You could also just frost them with peanut butter. But you don’t even have to frost these, if you don’t want to. You could just leave ‘em plain and make ‘em doggie muffins. You could even substitute shredded zucchini for the carrots, or use mashed potatoes, pumpkin, applesauce or diced apples in them instead. Or maybe throw in some blueberries!

I’d store them in the fridge because of the cream cheese frosting & the yogurt, but they probably won’t last very long. They never do around here. Indy eats ‘em in two bites, if he isn’t licking off all the frosting first, that is. As always; if your dog is under 6 mos. old, elderly, sick, on medication or pregnant… please ask a vet before feeding it anything new/homemade/you’re unsure about. And do your research- if you can’t call a vet, Google is your best friend sometimes at 12 a.m. when you’re baking something & not sure of what to do.

*Insert long sigh here* They grow up so fast. Happy birthday, Indy, and many more. You’re a good boy, and we love you.

Easter?

That was basically my reaction to baking for this holiday this year. I don’t celebrate Easter for the religious aspect, not at all. I celebrate the chocolate bunny aspect, the dying eggs aspect, and the beautiful spring flower aspect (lilies are my favorite flower). I celebrate spring, I guess you could say, more than “Easter.” Except  I don’t like saying that because it makes people think of Wiccans and movies like The Craft or TV shows like Charmed & that just annoys me, because you can celebrate nature without  being stereotyped (and I am far from being Wiccan, just for the record). As a matter of fact, more religions should be open to celebrating how beautiful nature is, regardless of your view on how it came to be. So yeah, I don’t celebrate Easter, perse. However, there are a plethora of adorable liners and cupcake supplies around this time of year with cute little bunnies and eggs printed on them, and since I am not against bunnies or eggs- actually I quite like them (and they don’t have a religious connotation), I use them. Another one of my absolute favorite things about this time of year are Cadbury Creme Eggs. I’m obsessed with them and that’s not an exaggeration.

That said… they don’t translate well to cupcake-baking. I’ve seen people try and bake cupcakes with the creme eggs in them; they just looked like a mess. I’ve thought about using the flavors: chocolate and creamy fondant; but that’s not really anything new. I scrapped that idea long ago. And I’ve already used Cadbury Mini-Eggs on cupcakes a few years back, so I didn’t want to repeat that. Last year I made a delicious chocolate cupcake with banana-flavored Italian meringue covered in a chocolate “shell”, so I didn’t want to do a marshmallow-coated frosting type deal, no matter how much that reminds me of Easter candy. I could’ve done a fruity cupcake like a lemon one, or a lime one or a creamsicle one (which I ended up doing as well, you’ll see it further down in this post). But I wanted to do something different. I was at a complete loss. So was anyone I asked for input (thanks, guys). So what’s a girl to do!?



I had no idea.

Seriously. Not a freakin’ clue. I was about to just forget about it and make something else, despite having 100 mini-cupcake liners, and 25 regular ones just sitting here waiting for me.

And then… it sorta dawned on me, randomly, while surfing the web, that I never made carrot cupcakes. DUH. Carrot cupcakes! For Easter! Bunnies eat carrots! I enjoy carrots, quite a lot. Carrot cake? Not really. But I figured, why not. I never made it before and this recipe is a Martha recipe that comes highly recommended so… here we are.

CARROT CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 ½ cups shredded carrots
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup shredded coconut

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a standard 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper liners. In a bowl, combine sugar, vegetable oil, orange juice, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, and eggs.
  2. Stir in baking powder, baking soda, allspice, and salt. Add flour; mix. Stir in carrots, walnuts, and coconut.
  3. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, 25 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.

I omitted the coconut, I just didn’t think it was needed. If you don’t frost them, they’re basically muffins. I got 15, but that’s because I did a test run and the batter rose so much I only filled these  halfway. And then they ended  up not rising all that much at all… go figure. I’d guess somewhere in between 1/2 and  3/4 would be the right idea. I frosted them with cream cheese frosting  (recipe here, sans lemon) and tinted it lavender (to match the liners). Another good option for frosting these are white chocolate buttercream (that you can find here) or plain vanilla buttercream. In case anyone is curious- I frosted ‘em once, then frosted on top of that to give it a swirlier taller more flowery look.

These were okay. Not great, not bad, just okay. The flavor just wasn’t quite what I had expected, they were really really moist too and didn’t feel “done” even after they were. Combine that with the very watery batter, and with the rising problems… I’d give it a 5.5 or 6 out of 10. I think I’ll be on the lookout for a better carrot cupcake recipe. If you have a tried & true one, feel free to e·mail it to me! That said… everyone ELSE who ate them said they were terrific. Maybe I’m just a perfectionist. Or maybe Martha just sabotages every recipe she posts so that they never come out right. I know I’ve mentioned this theory before.

Both sets of liners as well as the bunny/egg toppers are by Wilton.

My second batch were really simple, they were orange creamsicle mini- cupcakes with marshmallow fluff frosting. I already have the recipes on here so if you click here you’ll be taken to the cupcake recipe, and if you click here you’ll be taken to the recipe for the marshmallow fluff frosting.  However, I know most of you are probably lazy like me, so I’ll put the recipes here. You’re welcome.

I colored the cupcakes an orange-y color this time. I also halved both recipes, and I got 24 mini-cupcakes and more than enough frosting for them. Luckily, this frosting is delicious eaten right out of the bowl. I think marshmallow Fluff frosting is my favorite, I sort of forgot about it for awhile, but now I remember and boy, is it fucking delicious. Anyway here are the visuals…

Check out my new vintage Jadeite bunny bowl!

CREAMSICLE (ORANGE-VANILLA) CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. orange extract
  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly butter or line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and orange extract.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  5. Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost.

MARSHMALLOW FROSTING

First you get:

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 (7½ ounce) jar Fluff, or similar marshmallow cream
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Then you’re gonna:

  1. Beat butter in a large bowl with mixer on high speed until creamy. Beat in marshmallow cream. Reduce speed to low, and beat in confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Increase speed to high; beat until fluffy.
  2. Frost cooled cupcakes.

I’ll tell you this: these little creamsicle cupcakes with marshmallow frosting were WAY better than the carrot. But maybe that’s because I’m a bit biased. The danger in mini-cupcakes, however, is the fact that you pop ‘em in your mouth and eat them like candy. So you probably end up eating twice as many as you would regular cupcakes. Oh well.

BEFORE YOU GO: PLEASE READ MY ENTRY FROM TUESDAY (click here, scroll down or click  the previous entry title at the bottom of this page). It’s about Yoyo‘s donation pick for April, and it’s a very worthy cause, LBEH.org. Today, April 2nd, is the day she’ll be donating 100% of the proceeds from her store to that charity. So please read the entry for details and go to her webstore and BUY STUFF!

Happy Easter, Happy Passover, Happy Spring to all.

Shepherd’s pie for the alky’s.

Everyone is familiar with Shepherd’s Pie. If you’re Irish, then you definitely know Shepherd’s Pie. It’s classic pub food. The original name is “Cottage Pie.”

Cottage pie refers to an English meat pie made with beef mince and with a crust made from mashed potato. A variation on this dish using Lamb mince is known as Shepherd’s pie. The term cottage pie is known to have been in use in 1791,[1][2] when potato was being introduced as an edible crop affordable for the poor (cf. “cottage” meaning a modest dwelling for rural workers). In early cookery books, the dish was a means of using leftover roasted meat of any kind, and the pie dish was lined with mashed potato as well as having a mashed potato crust on top.[3][4]

The term “shepherd’s pie” did not appear until the 1870s,[2] and since then it has been used synonymously with “cottage pie”, regardless of whether the principal ingredient was beef or mutton.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8] There is now a popular tendency for “shepherd’s pie” to be used when the meat is mutton or lamb,[9][10] and not cattle,[11][12] with the suggested origin being that shepherds are concerned with sheep, however this may be an example of folk etymology.

Therefore, the recipe I’m presenting to you here today is really a cottage pie. Although nobody would know what the hell that was if I called it that. So anyway, basically what a Shepherd’s Pie/Cottage Pie is is a “casserole” of sorts, made of meat, vegetables, and topped with a mashed potato “crust.” It can be made lousy, I’m sure, like a sort of mystery meat pie (which reminds me of Sweeney Todd, with Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett with her meatpies… *cringe*) but it can also be made in a super flavorful, delicious and not-mush-like way. And would I make it any other way than that?

There’s been a lot of talk about Shepherd’s Pie lately, Brianne made it a few weeks ago, and recently Jay’s mom was talking about it as well. It gave me a hankering for it,  I haven’t eaten any red meat (or cooked any) in a long time, so I thought this was a good way to reintroduce myself to it. I had a really awesome recipe for Shepherd’s Pie with Guinness that I found somewhere on the web years ago, and of course I couldn’t find it, so I did a Google. And luckily I did, because I couldn’t find that recipe again, but I found the Hungry Housewife’s version instead and it was fantabulous. Seriously. I added a few things and made some changes, and have some recommendations but it’s essentially her recipe.

It would be awesome if you made this, served Guinness stout with it, and then made Guinness cupcakes for dessert. A whole night’s meal made with Guinness! Perfect for St. Patrick’s Day. And remember, you can use any kind of ground meat for this: turkey, lamb, a mixture, etc.

THE DRUNKEN SHEPHERD’S MEAT & POTATO PIE (SHEPHERD’S PIE WITH GUINNESS)

Get thee the following materials:

  • 1 ½ pounds organic ground beef 80/20
  • 1 (1lb) bag frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
  • 2 packets of dry Brown Gravy Mix
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 medium onion
  • olive oil
  • 2 bottles Guinness (or other dark stout- just NOT a chocolate stout or cream stout)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups sharp Irish cheddar cheese (i.e. Dubliner)
  • 3 pounds baking potatoes
  • ¼- ½ cup milk
  • 1 stick butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Then ye do as follows:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Peel the potatoes, then boil them in salted water until fork tender, about 40-45 minutes. Drain completely and place back in pot so all of the water evaporates. In a medium mixing bowl add butter and potatoes. Mash until smooth, while adding the milk for a medium consistency. Add salt and pepper.
  3. Cook and drain ground beef. Place drained beef back in skillet and add Worcestershire sauce and 1 bottle of Guinness*. Cook until beer has almost cooked out.
  4. Add tomato paste to meat. In a medium sauce pan, prepare the brown gravy according to package directions, however, use beer for half the liquid called for (1 cup water, 1 cup beer)**. Pour gravy into meat mixture. And cook all together until you get a nice thick gravy.
  5. Rough chop the onion. In medium skillet with olive oil,*** sauté onion until soft and translucent. Add mixed vegetables to the onion and cook until warm throughout.
  6. In a 2 quart baking dish, add meat as bottom layer, the add vegetables, and then add the mashed potatoes. Top with shredded cheddar cheese. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes or until cheese gets nice and bubbly.
*I used Guinness in cans. It doesn’t really matter, the bottles have a little bit more in them, that’s all. We’re talking the difference of an ounce or two.
**I used Knorr, and it called for 1 ½ cups water per pouch, so I used 1 ½ cups of each. However, the gravy was a bit much so next time I’d do either 1 straight cup each or maybe even less.
***I used the same skillet I used to cook the beef, so the flavors absorbed into the veggies too. I also suggest not cooking the vegetables too much, or else they’ll be mushy in the pie. I left mine somewhat cold, just barely heated (I circled them a few times in the skillet with the onions), and they were nice and crisp in the pie.

I used over a pound of the mixed vegetables. I bought a 2 lb bag and just kinda eyeballed it, and it turned out to be more than half the bag. But that’s up to you.  You could buy fresh veggies if you really wanted. And If you can, I recommend using an Irish cheddar, like Dubliner or another Irish cheese, and shredding it yourself.  If you can’t, then it’s quite alright to stick with a regular sharp cheddar. And organic beef is my preference, if I’m going to eat red meat, but again… that’s totally up to you. Nobody’s going to shoot you if you buy the ground beef that’s on sale this week instead. Also, if you don’t have the time to mash your own potatoes, I suggest using 2 bags of Ore-Ida’s Steam & Mash in the classic cut russet flavor. It’s the closest thing to homemade mashed potatoes you can buy. Box mixes just really don’t cut it.

The Guinness flavor in this is amazing. It really comes through perfectly. If you’re a Guinness fan, I highly endorse you making this dish.

Shrimp Stir-fry.

One of my favorite foods is Asian. I love Chinese food, be it greasy take-out Chinese or fancy sit down Chinese, and I love Japanese stir-fry & Teriyaki. Not too big on Thai or Korean, but I digress. Stir-fry is also the easiest thing to make at home. As long as you have soy sauce, ginger (either powdered, candied or gingerroot that you grate yourself could be used), garlic and some rice and veggies- you have a meal.

Fresh veggies!


The original recipe that I used for this particular meal is for beef stir-fry, but I wanted to use shrimp (which is again one of my favorites), so I amended it a bit (if you decide to use chicken or beef, cook it in the skillet with some oil before you make the veggies, then put it in a bowl and cover it to keep it warm… shrimp cooks really fast so the directions are different). But like I’ve said before, you can use anything: chicken, beef, shrimp or even tofu I suppose. Its totally open to interpretation. You can use any rice you like also. Brown rice, jasmine rice, white rice… whatever! Any vegetables you have can be used, I used carrots, onion and broccoli but you can throw in peas, snap peas, water chestnuts, anything you like. You see how versatile it is? It’s the perfect meal for nights when you have tons of stuff in the house but no clue what to make.

SHRIMP STIR-FRY

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled & deveined and preferably tail-off
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium heads broccoli, or one frozen 16 oz. bag broccoli cuts or florets
  • 2 tbsp. grated gingerroot, or 2 tsp. ground ginger

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, lemon juice, cornstarch, dark brown sugar, garlic and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add onion and stir fry for 5 minutes then add carrots and broccoli (cut into florets, or just cuts if using fresh) along with ½ cup water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes.
  3. Add shrimp to skillet along with ginger and soy sauce mixture. Bring to a boil,  and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Make sure shrimp is opaque and pink, if so, then its  done. Serve hot over rice or noodles.

And there ya go. A quick, filling and delicious meal you can make with everything and the kitchen sink! Those shrimp look amazing, don’t they? Don’t you want to reach into your monitor and grab one? Yeah. I know. If only Willy Wonka’s attempt at sending food through the TV was feasible. Then you could indeed grab some of this yummy stir-fry. But thats okay, I’m sure the Big Mac you’re eating is really good, too.

Yeah, messy plating job in exhibit A, but dude, seriously- this ain’t Bon Appetit.

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