A Southern Grace: March 2012

March 28, 2012

ave avocado


I've really been enjoying avocados lately. Sure, I'll occasionally get one that's a MAJOR dud and fills my mouth with the flavor of moldy cheese smeared on a rotting deer carcass, but usually, they make for a fantastic dining experience.

I feel like I should add in some tomatoes or roasted red peppers for a little color, no?
Presentation FAIL.

When you get a good one, the flavor is subtly pleasant and the texture is creamy but a bit firm. When I find one like that, I like to eat it as simply as it comes, with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper. I also like them atop southwestern-themed salads and shmushed into guacamole. One of my favorite creations of late is a breakfast burrito involving cheese, eggs, avocados, and pesto. It's a salty, nutty extravaganza.

What's your favorite way to eat these green gems? Do they make a paint the color of avocados? If so, are any of your walls adorned with it? Finally, have you ever purchased a large and seemingly meaty avocado only to find upon opening it that it's 85% pit?

CAPE Burrito
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 eggs
1/2 avocado, diced
2-4 slices of pepper jack cheese
1 large tortilla

First, make your pesto: Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese.

Next, fire up a small saucepan and melt some butter in it. Add the eggs, then season and scramble them to your preferred degree of doneness. Add the cheese and stir it around until it melts. Remove from heat. Slather the pesto down the middle of the tortilla and then top that with the diced avocado. Dump on your cheesy egg mixture, and then roll it up tightly. Set the burrito, seam side down onto the hopefully still-hot saucepan to seal it up. Cut it in half and devour!

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March 17, 2012

i love the irish...


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I'm sure I'd love the Irish people, too, if I knew any personally, but alas, I do not. Happy St. Patrick's Day, folks (and happy birthday to my sweet cousin Mallorie!). If you're desiring some Irish coffee but want a cupcake too, I have the solution.

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March 12, 2012

do the splits


I thought more of you would be excited by my rainbow cupcakes, but apparently the majority of folks aren't as distracted by pretty colors as I.

Perhaps you'll be more enamored of these, or perhaps you're so sick of my cupcakes that nothing I do will float your boat. Regardless, this is my next best shot: Banana split cupcakes.

The base is a banana cupcake which I've done several times before and never disappoints. The filling is a rich and luscious chocolate mousse and the frosting is a buttercream flavored with strawberry jam. The finishing touch, of course, is a sparkling cherry on top.

If you enjoy the flavors involved in that calorie bomb known as the banana split, you'll love these cupcakes. They're much easier on the waistline (assuming you eat them in moderation...) and super fun, to boot!

Banana Split Cupcakes
(makes 28 cupcakes)

Banana cupcakes:
3 cups cake flour, sifted
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 cups brown sugar, tightly packed
3 large eggs
4 very ripe large bananas, mashed (about 2 cups)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate mousse filling:
6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar

Strawberry buttercream:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup strawberry jam
28 cherries, to garnish

To make the cupcakes, first preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla.
Cream the butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the banana mixture and ending with dry, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake until testers inserted into centers come out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks.

To prepare the mousse, carefully melt the chocolate and set it aside. Place the heavy cream and sugar in the well-chilled bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the chilled whisk attachment. Whisk on high-speed until stiff peaks form. Remove the bowl from the mixer. By hand, whisk to combine 1/4 of the whipped cream into the melted chocolate until smooth and completely incorporated. Add the combined whipped cream and chocolate to the remaining whipped cream and use a rubber spatula to fold together.

To make the frosting, with an electric mixer, beat butter on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Add the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed; after every two additions, raise speed to high and beat 10 seconds to aerate frosting, then return to medium-high. This process should take about 5 minutes. Frosting will be very pale and fluffy. Add vanilla and jam, and beat until frosting is smooth.

To fill the cupcakes, carve out a cone-shaped hole (and immediately eat the cone)(after adding frosting to it, of course) and carefully squirt the mousse inside. Apply frosting generously to cupcakes, top each with a cherry, and devour.

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March 4, 2012

lying leprechauns


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So where's my pot of gold?

I'm so excited about these cupcakes, folks. Don't get me wrong--I'm always excited and a little bit surprised when anything I make turns out well, but these are in a league of their own. If you haven't planned your St. Patty's Day goodies yet, I would definitely recommend these pretty little cupcakes. They don't take that much time and effort to make, and look how lovely they turn out to be!

I just used a regular yellow buttermilk cake recipe, divided the resulting batter into six bowls, and dyed each batch of batter with a different color of gel. Then, I scraped a little bit of each hue into my cookie scoop and then, when it got full, I deposited the rainbow batter into one of the molds in the cupcake tin. Easy peasy!

*The cake recipe I linked makes 36 cupcakes, so be forewarned!
*After about six scoopings, I cleaned out my scoop so the layers would continue to be defined and not just a hot brown mess.
*Start with a different color and use a different order every time to make each cupcake super unique!
*I went with a regular vanilla buttercream frosting, but lemon would be tasty and bright, as well. Heck, anything would work!
*Be prepared to get messy. I'm as diligent about cooking as neatly as possible as they come, but I still ended up with stained fingers and splotches here and there on my countertop. It's okay--it'll clean off eventually!

Just don't expect any pots of gold to appear after you make or eat these beauts. I can attest--it doesn't happen. Fortunately, even though gold is a hot commodity these days, a tasty cupcake (or 3) is enough of a reward for this gal.

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