Sunday, August 7, 2011

Summer Days CupCakes

These cupcakes remind me of summer days when I was a little girl. My friends and I would lie on the grass, our arms spread wide, and gaze up into the sky. Billowy white clouds would pass overhead and we would talk and giggle about who or what the clouds looked like.  We would lay there and daydream for hours. Not a care in the world. Sometimes there would be a little breeze, and then a cloud would cover the sun for a minute or two, giving us much needed, but brief relief from the heat of the day. I hate to admit it, but there are times even now, when I would like to just pull over and stop for the day. Lie down on the cool green grass, and stare up at the sky. Well, these cupcakes take me there without getting grass stains, or having someone call the authorities about a strange woman hugging the grass. They evoke a wonderful memory. I hope they do the same for you!
 Summer Days CupCakes
Ingredients:
CupCakes:
Duncan Hines Butter Golden Cake Mix
3 Eggs
1 stick  Butter
Water

Meringue:
6 Egg Whites
Pinch of Salt
1/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 1/2 cups Sugar

We will make the cupcake batter according to the box this time
Usually, I like to doctor it like this. Both are good.
Add your mix to a bowl.
Crack your eggs in a bowl separate from your mix.
The eggs need to be cracked like this so that no shell
can ever end up in your mix. It is near impossible to get out
and so frustrating!! Don't put yourself through it.(I speak
from experience. I am ashamed.)
Add the eggs and the water.
Don't forget the butter.
Mix your batter according to the directions on the box.
Put your batter in the cupcake liners, and bake according to 
the directions on the box.

Let's make our meringue clouds!
Put your six egg whites in the bowl. 
Beat the whites until foamy.
Add the salt, vanilla, and cream of tartar.
Keep beating.
While the mixer is still on, start adding teaspoons of sugar, 
one at a time to the egg white mix. After each addition,
wait 30 seconds for the last spoonful to incorporate 
into the mix. Then add another teaspoon. This may seem like
a lot of unnecessary work, but you don't want
your meringue to be gritty from the sugar. After all
the sugar is added, continue to beat for 6 minutes.
Your mix should be stiff, glossy, and smooth. 
I am realizing what terrible pics I took of this project.
I apologize for that. Fit a pastry bag with a Wilton #5 tip, 
and fill the bag with the meringue mix. We are making clouds,
so just free form them onto cookie sheets covered
with parchment paper.
Remember, we are putting these on cupcakes, so 
don't go to big. The best thing about this is that there 
is no way to mess up a cloud. 
Keep piping them onto the cookie sheet until your sheet 
is full. You don't need much room between them. They
don't run. Bake in the oven at 200 degrees for about 
1 1/2 hours until they are dry. Lift off parchment and store
in a plastic bag until we need them.

Let's make Buttercream Icing!

Buttercream Icing
(from Wilton)
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon Vanilla
4 cups Powdered sugar
2 tablespoons Milk
Cream together the vegetable shortening and the butter.
Add the vanilla and powdered sugar.
 When it is totally mixed, add a little of the milk, and mix 
until the icing is fluffy. Put some of the white icing in
a small bowl, Only use a small amount.

Add some green coloring to the icing.
I used Americolor Forest Green.
I have always used Wilton Icing Color, but I love
the fact that the Americolor is so easy to dispense.
It simply drops out of the bottle, making it easier to control
the amount of color you want.
Start mixing. Use a spoon or sometime I use a
skinny craft stick.
Keep mixing until you get the desired results.
The icing will dry darker than it looks wet.
Make some blue icing for the sky. I used
Americolor Electric Blue. Then make a very small amount of
yellow icing for the sun. I used Wilton Lemon Yellow.
Buttercream frosting should be covered while you are using it
to prevent it drying out.
Let's Decorate!
Spread the blue icing~our sky~ on the cupcake,
leaving a little at the bottom that we will cover with
our grass.
Using Wilton tip # 233, pipe grass on the bottom portion
of the cupcake.
Make a half circle with the yellow icing.  Use Wilton tip #2.
Set up a little cup of water, a papertowel, and a small tip
paintbrush that has never been used. This is a good thing
to have in case of any mistakes, or to smooth down pointy
ends of icing.
Fill in the sun. Use your paintbrush to smooth the icing.
Pipe the suns rays. Start at the sun, and pull towards
yourself. At the end of the rays, if your icing is not smooth,
pat it down with the paintbrush.
Attach the clouds to the still wet blue frosting. If it
has dried, dab a little frosting on the back of the cloud
to help it stick.
There you have it!
Summer Days CupCakes!

Thank you for joining me!

If you have any questions about this project,
please contact me at
thefreshmancook@hotmail.com,
or leave a comment. I will answer you.








Saturday, August 6, 2011

Rustic Bread Sticks

This bread recipe was a little on the long side when it comes to time, but easy to make. I decided when I was making it that bread sticks might be a good way to enjoy the bread.
Rustic Bread Sticks
(adapted from Perfect Party Food)
1 package Active Dry Yeast
1 teaspoon Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 teaspoon Vegetable Shortening
1 1/4 cup warm Water (105 degrees)
3 cups all purpose Flour
Put the flour in a large bowl.
In a 2 cup measuring cup stir the yeast, sugar,
salt, shortening, and water together. 
Let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
It should bubble up by this time.

Add the yeast to the bowl of flour.
Mix until well combined.
Start kneading the bread on a lightly floured surface.
Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. 
This should take about 10 minutes. Add enough flour
to keep the dough from being sticky.
Place the dough in a bowl sprayed with pan spray.
Cover the bowl with plastic that is sprayed with 
pan spray. Let it rise in a warm, dry place. If you
don't have such a place, use your oven to create
a warm box. Heat the oven to 200 degrees for 10 minutes.
Then turn the oven off, and put the bread in for about
45 minutes to double in size.
Take the bread out. To test to see if it doubled in size,
stick 2 fingers in the dough. Pull them out and if the holes 
from your fingers don't close up, it has doubled!
Punch the dough down. 
This means to put your fist in the middle, 
and then pull the sides in. Cut the dough in half.
Weigh the dough to make sure.
Place each dough ball into a sprayed pan.
Cover with plastic wrap sprayed with pan spray,
and let it rise to double the size again.
Use the oven like above. It should take about 1 1/2 hours.
Set your oven at 400 degrees. 
Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temp to 
375 degrees, and bake until bread is golden brown.
It should take about 40 minutes. Let the bread cool, and then 
cut the pan into strips.

Let the bread cool on a rack.
Cut the bread in to strips and serve with marinara.
Enjoy!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

This Weeks Entree - Shrimp Portofino!!

This recipe, Shrimp Portofino, is from a cookbook that prints the favorite recipes of American restaurants. They are not stolen or anything. They are recipes that are created as a result of a lot of work, research, testing,and sampling. I have seen quite a few of these books on the market, and I am always drawn to them. This recipe is from America's Most Wanted Recipes, written by Ron Douglas. The Shrimp Portofino is a favorite from the Macaroni Grill. Let me know what you think??!!
Shrimp Portofino
8 medium Mushrooms
1 teaspoon chopped Garlic
8 tablespoons Butter
8 large Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon Pepper
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/4 cup Lemon Juice
3 ounces Marinated Artichoke Hearts
2 slices Lemon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Parsley
Capellini 
Pour water into a pot for your pasta.
Add a little oil, so the pasta will not stick.
Bring to a boil.
Place the butter in a frying pan, and melt it. 
Sautee the mushrooms and garlic.
Cook for about 5 minutes, until tender.
Don't forget to flip mushrooms over after about 2 1/2 minutes.
Cook both sides.
Once the water comes to a boil, empty the
pasta into the water, and cook for 4 minutes.
Add the shrimp to the pan until they are cooked, 
about 3-4 minutes.
Don't overcook. The shrimp will become tough.
Add the pepper, garlic, lemon juice, and artichoke
hearts. Cook for about 5 minutes until hot.
Drain the pasta. When it is completely drained,
place the pasta on your serving plate.
With a large serving spoon, ladle mushrooms, some
artichoke pieces, shrimp, and some of the juice from the pan
on to the pasta. Sprinkle the dish with the chopped parsley,
and garnish with the lemon slices.

Enjoy!
Thank you for joining me today!
Let me know if you think
this is better than Macaroni Grill, the same, or not as good.


Please join me tomorrow when we will be
making and baking 
Rustic Homemade Bread!
It will be fun!!

See you then!

Any questions??
Please email me at thefreshmancook@hotmail.com
or leave your question in the comment section!!






Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Blue Cheese Caesar Salad

This weeks salad dish is a remake of a treasured standard. The dressing has a great flavor, and the chunks of blue cheese definitely make it look pretty.  I think I may be starting to prefer it more than the original. Let's see what you think!
Blue Cheese Caesar Salad
(adapted from Perfect Party Food)

1/2 cup Fresh Lemon Juice
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
1 cup Olive Oil
1 cup Blue Cheese, crumbled
Romaine Lettuce
Slivered Almonds
Let's make the dressing first! 
Whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, Worcestershire,
mustard, and pepper. Blend well.
Little by little, whisk in the oil and the the blue cheese.
Refrigerate the dressing for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours 
before serving.
Chop or tear the romaine lettuce.
Top with the dressing.
Sprinkle the almonds all over the salad.
When you are not having this salad as a part of a meal,
it can become the meal by adding pieces of chicken breast.
Enjoy!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Creamy Stuffed Mushrooms

These stuffed mushrooms are delicious. They are the perfect appetizer. You can keep them hot on the stove, or warm in the oven until you are ready to serve. They look and taste fancy, but they are really easy to make.

Creamy Stuffed Mushrooms
1/2 pound Button Mushroom (about 7)
3 oz Cream Cheese softened
2 tablespoons Chopped Onions
3 Pieces of Shrimp
1/2 cup Heaping Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 stalk Green Onion
 Peel the shrimp.
Cut out the back vein.
You don't have to do this. I just prefer to.

Get the shrimp cooking in a pan with about 2 teaspoons
of butter. Cook it on medium high until pink, and a
little crispy.
While the shrimp is cooking, rinse the mushrooms,
and remove the stems.
Let the shrimp continue to cook.
Dry the mushrooms.
When your shrimp are cooked, let them cool.
While the shrimp are cooling, melt about 2 tablespoons
of butter in a pan, and start the mushrooms cooking
on medium.
Put a cover on the pan.
While the mushrooms are cooking, chop the shrimp
into bite size pieces.
Combine the cream cheese, onion, shrimp,
and cheddar cheese. Mix thoroughly.
Check your mushrooms, and flip them over. They
should look brown like this.
Cover the pan again.
Open the pan and check the mushroom. Flip them over.
They should look like this. Cover with a pan again,
but only for a few minutes.
This is not a very good picture, but the mushroom should
fill up with water. When they do, dump it into the pan.
Fill the mushrooms with the stuffing.
Cover the pan for a few minutes, until the stuffing
becomes warm to the touch.
Chop up some of the green onion. Start at the nice part
of the green end.
Sprinkle the tops with green onion pieces.

Enjoy!

Thanks for joining me!

Come back later today when we
make our
Blue Cheese Caesar Salad!

See you then!


Monday, August 1, 2011

A Shopping We will Go!!

Thanks for joining me today. I have a menu, and a grocery list, so let's get going!!

This weeks menu:
Appetizer:     Creamy Stuffed Mushrooms
Soup/Salad:  Blue Cheese Caesar Salad
Entree:          Shrimp Portofino
Side Dish:     Rustic Homemade Bread
Dessert:        Summer Days Cupcakes

I hope you like the sound of everything. Here's the grocery list:

Creamy Stuffed Mushrooms
1/2 pound Button Mushrooms
Cream Cheese
Onion
3 pieces of cooked Shrimp
Shredded Cheddar

Blue Cheese Caesar Salad  
 Lemon Juice
Garlic
Worcestershire Sauce
Dijon Mustard
Black Pepper
Olive Oil
Blue Cheese Crumbles
Romaine Lettuce
Pecan Halves


Shrimp Portofino 
Button Mushrooms
Garlic
Butter
4 large Shrimp(per person)
Pepper
6 ounce Marinated Artichoke Hearts
Lemon 
Fresh Parsley

Rustic Homemade Bread
1 package Active Dried Yeast
Sugar
Salt
Vegetable Shortening
Flour

Summer Days Cupcakes
Yellow Cake Mix(Duncan Hines)
Butter
3 Eggs
6 Egg Whites
Salt
Cream of Tartar
Sugar
Meringue Powder
Confectioners Sugar
Green, Blue Coloring fo Icing


Thanks for joining me!

See you Monday for Creamy Stuffed Mushrooms!!
It's gonna be a great week!