Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes

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Back in the late 90’s early 2000s the Wrigley/Lifesavers candy company came out with this line of candy that they called Creame Savers.

You guys (at least those of you in the U.S.) remember those?

For those that don’t know about/or remember them, the Creme Saver was similar to a Life Saver in that it was a fruit based hard candy except that the fruit flavor was combined with a cream that gave it a distinctive, rich/thicker texture when you sucked/bit on it. The first flavor that they put out was Strawberries and Creame, but it didn’t take very long before they became HUGELY popular, resulting in a rapid succession of other flavors: Oranges & Creame, Raspberries & Creame, even Chocolate & Creame. There was Creame Savers hard candy, Creame Savers soft chew candy, Creame Savers jello, and even Creame Savers flavored yogurt.

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For a while, it seemed like Cream Savers were just everywhere.

Then all of a sudden…they weren’t anymore. From what I understand Wrigly has recently started selling the Strawberry flavor in a new limited release in certain locations, but the Creme Saver craze has definitely died down from what it used to be. I’m not a huge candy fan, but I did like Creme Savers. When I was making today’s recipe, I thought about them and how much the combination of strawberries and cream is just always so much win.

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It’s one that was just made for summer. In summers like this when me and my sisters were younger we used to get cans of Reddi Whip whipped cream along with a carton of strawberries from the grocery store. We would wash/hull the berries, get out forks and take turns passing around the can of whipped cream, filling the berry cavities with whipped cream and eating them raw, just like that.

(I maaaaay or may not *still* do this myself sometimes. Maybe. I couldn’t possibly confirm at this time.)

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I may have lost my taste for Strawberries  and Creame candy, but I’ll never lose my love for strawberries and cream in shortcake or just all on their own.

Also, strawberries and cream in cupcakes. I will probably nevereverever lose my taste for cupcakes.

And if I ever do, somebody give me two tight slaps and ask me if I’ve lost my mind; the answer in that case would probably be a most definite “yes”. If there are some of you who may unfortunately think you’ve lost or never really had a taste for cupcakes, then don’t worry. I’m not going to give you two tight slaps and ask if you’ve lost your minds; I mean, I could. But I think a much better, more effective solution would be to just present you with these: Strawberries and Cream cupcakes.

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These cupcakes are very simple, no-frills and little fuss… but then, good things in life oftentimes are.

I will say one thing about this recipe though, and that I found that it made slightly more batter than I think is suitable for a 12 muffin cup pan. I tried containing it to just 12 cupcakes and what ended up happening was that before baking, the liners were fuller than what I was comfortable with. As a result, I had some spillage which is why the finished cupcakes settled a little flat rather than having domed tops. While that definitely didn’t affect the taste, it is a detail I think is worth pointing out. I think maybe just using 2 or 3 extra more muffin cups would produce the best results

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So, as I said before, this a very simple recipe. You can make these from start to finish in the space of about 1.5 hours. However, don’t let you think that that means the taste is simple.

It’s not.

The secret weapon in this recipe is the use of the fresh strawberry puree. It adds that tart strawberry flavor to the vanilla based-batter while also balancing the sweetness of the frosting beautifully, somehow managing to make it taste light and airy–the texture is actually very similar to whipped cream. Plus, doesn’t it make them look so pretty-in-pink?

I’ll be at the Fiesta Friday #130 party this week with these cupcakes. You should come out and get one while I’ve still got ’em.

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Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

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Ingredients

For Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup strawberries, hulled
  • 1/2 cup milk

For Frosting

  • 1 1/2 sticks softened butter
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 cup Strawberry puree (see recipe)
  • About 6-8 Whole strawberries, sliced into quarters, optional
  • Strawberry rock candy (or sprinkles), optional

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a 12-cup muffin pan with liners.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium size bowl with a whisk or a fork and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy in a standing mixer on medium high speed. Add the eggs (one at a time) and the vanilla.

Puree the strawberries until smooth. Add all EXCEPT 1/4 cup to the cupcake batter. Set aside the 1/4 cup in small bowl.

Carefully add the flour mixture to  the batter in medium increments until fully incorporated, alternating with the 1/2 cup of milk. (It’s best to start and end with the flour) Don’t over-mix.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake until tops spring back, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to baking rack and let cool 5 minutes in the pan before removing the cupcakes and letting them cool completely.

Beat the butter, confectioner’s sugar and salt with a mixer on medium speed  until just combined. Add the vanilla and beat on medium high until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the milk and 1/4 cup of strawberry puree beat for about 1 minute more until fluffy.

Spread frosting on top of cooled cupcakes. Top with sliced strawberries and strawberry rock candy/sprinkles if desired.

Cornflower Yeast Rolls

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Fear not: I come bearing carbs.

Plenty of carbs. Plenty of pretty carbs, at that.

For some of you that alone is enough to get your attention., amiright?

On the day that I made this particular batch of bread, I was on my own in the house and had a little bit more time than usual, so I decided I would play around a little bit with the dough. I doubled the below recipe and tested out 3 random, different shapes I’d been running through my mind lately to try out. I decided that whichever one turned out the prettiest, I would feature on the blog and tell you guys how to pull off yourselves.

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Well, the results are in. The first option was a Deep Cross Roll; I made individual balls of dough, cut deeply into them with a sharp knife with the intention that they would look like an inverted Hot Cross Bun without the white piped cross. (Fyi, it totally didn’t work, though I swear that it all made sense in my head at the time).

The second idea was for intricately woven cornmeal wreaths. These actually weren’t a complete flop. They did very strongly resemble wreaths, but I noticed that there was inconsistent proofing in the second rise so that some halves of the wreaths were bigger than the other half, which looked…weird and misshapen and not something I could manage to look pretty in a picture. Moving on.

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The third time really is the charm. My last idea was to take a technique similar to the one I’d done with the Pane di Pasqua I made for Easter, then do a little extra tucking and braiding to manipulate the individual bread rolls to resemble a kind of flower. It worked. Very well. I was a little concerned that they would go the way of their predecessors and resembled big indiscernible blobs of bread after baking, but t’was not the case.  These rolls proofed beautifully on the second rise and once they hit the hot oven, puffed up even more so that by the time they’re all finished they really DO look like complicated flowers of dough. The truth is, the technique is almost stupid easy so you get bragging rights on these without the extra drama that goes with complex baking projects.

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I tweaked the original concept for the recipe to what I think, are much better results. In the first place I kept with the new practice I’ve started of adding a single cup of whole wheat flour to my bread doughs in general. Guys, you really wouldn’t believe the difference this makes. As someone who prefers whole wheat bread, I certainly appreciate the addition of the whole wheat flour. Yet, even those who usually prefer white bread I think will STILL appreciate the subtle nutty flavor that it gives to the dough. What you get when you combine that nuttiness with the flavor of the cornmeal is something that has to be tried to be fully appreciated. The bread’s texture is soft and pillowy with just the right amount of chew.

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Don’t be intimidated by the shaping part of the dough. I know it may look fancy and complicated, but it isn’t. If you can wind two pieces of ribbon together, (loosely at that) then trust me: you can make these rolls. Seriously. Also don’t be worried if directly after you finish shaping them, they don’t look quite discernible as flowers. The second proofing and the baking in the oven will do the bulk of that work for you.

So, do these look similar to the actual blue cornflower flower? No. But I’m still going ahead and calling these Cornflower Yeast Rolls in a nod to that cornmeal flavor in the dough combined with the shape that I gave to them. KooKoo kachoo.

Taking myself and these rolls to this week’s Fiesta Friday #129, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Colleen @ Faith, Hope, Love & Luck.

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Cornflower Yeast Rolls

Recipe Adapted from FoodNetwork.com

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 tsp, divided
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 eggs, well-beaten, plus one egg, divided.
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 to 5 cups all purpose white flour, as needed

Directions

Combine the milk, cornmeal, butter or margarine, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt in medium saucepan. Warm over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon and allowing to cook until the mixture if slightly thickened. Add 1/2 cup water and mix well. Set aside to cool.

Soften active dry yeast in warm water (110 degrees F). Sprinkle the 1 tsp of sugar on top and allow to sit for 10 minutes or until yeast is frothy.

Combine cornmeal mixture, yeast, and 2 well-beaten eggs together in the bowl of a standing mixer, using the paddle attachment to combine together.

Then, using the dough hook attachment, add the cup of whole wheat  first, mixing to combine completely.  Add enough of the all purpose white flour to make a soft dough. It should be a smooth,pliable dough that no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl, but also not too dry.

Place the dough in another greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. Cover with a layer of plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel. Place in a warm place for about an hour.

When dough has doubled in size, remove from bowl and divide in half. Dive the halves in half.

Pinch off two dough balls about the size of ping pong balls and roll/shape them into logs. Pinch the top ends of both logs together, then braid them together.(This is going to take some patience. Have a small cup of water handy just in case your dough loses its moistness–it’s easier to roll out when it stays moist.Dip your fingers in the cup of water and rub a little bit of the water over the dough balls before you roll them out. Also, don’t worry about it if the ropes shrink a little bit after you roll them out; it’s not that big of a deal.)

Once the logs are braided, take the bottom end and roll it up (like a spring or a wheel), pinching the bottom end into the top one and tucking it under. Repeat with the remaining dough, placing the finished ‘flowers’ on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Cover the finished flowers with plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel. Let rise in warm place or until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Take the remaining egg and beat it in a small bowl with about a tablespoon of water. Brush the beaten egg over the proofed rolls and sprinkled with cornmeal.

 Bake rolls for 12 to 15 minutes.

Tex-Mex Meatballs

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Last night I fell asleep while putting this post together and watching a bizarre movie on Netflix. I first dozed off at around two a.m., then woke up at five to my bedroom lights still being on and the bubble screen saver on my computer screen in my lap looking back at me. I meant to put it away, turn out the lights, then actually get underneath the covers and catch some REAL zzzs.

But then I blinked, and suddenly it was six thirty a.m.. By then I just figured, never mind. I’d settle for the “Half-sleep” and just wake up early, which is why I probably feel groggy right now. But oh well.

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I remember some time back in the December before last when I went to the surplus store and bought a huge bag of frozen meatballs, grape jelly, ketchup and chili sauce to throw in my slow cooker.

(What? Why are you looking at me like that? Yes. Sometimes, even EYE buy/cook with frozen food. Not often. But meatballs are the exception)

I got everything together,lined the slow cooker, poured the meatballs in with the grape jelly. Next was the chili sauce which typically comes in a glass bottle. For some reason, I had some trouble pouring it out. No matter how many times I shook it and banged on the bottom with my hand, that chili sauce just would not come out.

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So I got a silver mixing spoon to bang on the bottom of it, thinking maybe the impact would succeed in loosening the sauce in the bottle. Well, turns out I thought wrong. I banged on the bottom of the bottle with the flat end of the wide spoon…

And the bottle shattered. I’m talking large and tiny shards of glass that almost completely all landed into the slow cooker on top of the meatballs.

Guys. I was do disappointed I could’ve cried.

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I had to throw out EVERYTHING. The entire jumbo 5 lb. bag of meatballs.

You would have to know me, to know how being forced to do something like that would absolutely devastate/piss me ALL the way off. But I shook it off and binned the glassy food….

After which I promptly went back out to Gordon’s to buy another 5 lb bag of meatballs. Because I had planned on having meatballs for dinner and darn it if I wasn’t going to have meatballs for dinner.

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This time around, there was fortunately no broken glass and also no do overs. It’s a very simple, quick dish that can easily be made for a weeknight dinner. I actually prefer using ground turkey for my meatballs, so that’s what I did; if you prefer ground beef then by all means, have it. The red sauce I thought needed some further dimension, so I went ahead and added red chile sauce to the red enchilada sauce. It gave the dish that ‘tanginess’ that I love to have in my sauce whenever I’m eating meatballs. The flavor of the crushed corn chips provide a pleasant savory complement to the sweet tangy sauce. I like these, guys. I have a feeling you would too. So give ’em a try.

I’ll be taking my dish to this week’s Fiesta Friday #128 as well. Cheers!

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Tex Mex Meatballs

Recipe Adapted from Southern Living

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Ingredients

  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 1 small white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed fresh cilantro leaves with tender stems
  • 1/2 cup finely crushed yellow tortilla corn chips
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 2 (10-oz.) cans red chile enchilada sauce
  • 1 (12-oz.) bottle of red chile sauce
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 -2 1/2 Tbsp. light sugar, divided

Directions

Preheat broiler with oven rack 5 inches from heat. Broil poblano pepper on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet 6 to 8 minutes or until blistered, turning occasionally. Place poblano in a zip-top plastic freezer bag; seal and let stand 10 minutes to loosen skin. Peel poblano; remove and discard stem and seeds. Pulse poblano, onion, garlic, and cilantro in a food processor until finely chopped.

Stir together corn chips and milk in a large bowl; let stand about 5 minutes or until chips soften. Stir in eggs, salt, pepper, and poblano mixture. Fold in ground turkey. Shape into meatballs (about 2 tablespoonfuls each). Place 1 1/2 inches apart on a lightly greased (with cooking spray) rack in an aluminum foil-lined jelly-roll pan.

Preheat oven to 400°. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until browned. Transfer meatballs to a large Dutch oven; add enchilada sauce, chile sauce chicken broth, and 1 Tbsp. light sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through and sauce is slightly thickened, turning meatballs halfway through.

Sweet Paprika Chicken Tacos

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I finally got around to going to see “Captain America: Civil War” two weeks ago. I figured it wasn’t going to stay in theaters for very much longer and my twin sister (who had already went with her husband to see it) had been nagging at me for weeks to see it because she, like practically everyone else, thought it was one of the best movies thus far  in the Marvel universe line-up.

For being a Captain America movie, the script actually manages to cram quite a few of the Avengers into the storyline, with the addition/introduction of several other new characters. I was aware of this before going to the movie and was concerned that it would make the film a little too busy and crowded. “Age of Ultron” was kinda lackluster in my opinion, and  several of the other latest Marvel movies I thought were overall decent, but nowhere near as good as the first Avengers movie.

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Well long story short, the hype over “Civil War” is completely justified. It’s a great movie, really second only to “The Avengers”movie in my opinion. The writers did a good job of making the plotline flow with enough finesse to where you don’t feel like it’s busy or convoluted. We knew that a showdown between Captain America and Iron Man was coming sooner or later, and it was interesting to me how that came about, the positions the two heroes took, and the sides that the others ended up taking. This just viewed like an overall “smarter” superhero film. It’s even good to the point where the absence of Hulk and Thor from the film didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.

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My favorite part of the movie was the introduction of Chadwick Boseman’s character Prince T’Challa  aka, Black Panther. He’s a real scene-stealer, his costume is badass, and the way that “Civil War” ends (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it) makes me VERY excited for the Black Panther film that’s currently in production.

Besides Black Panther, my other favorite character of the film was Paul Bettany’s character Vision. There’s a scene in the movie where he’s in the apartment Tony Stark set aside for him and Scarlet Witch at the compound, reading through a recipe. It’s pretty hilarious watching this A.I. superhero who doesn’t even eat attempt to cook; he makes a dish that incorporates paprika. Being the cooking enthusiast I am, my mind instantly thought, “Hmm. I wonder what KIND of paprika he’s using; regular paprika (pointless, it pretty much tastes like nothing), Hungarian sweet paprika (not too shabby if balanced with other spices), or smoked paprika (darn good stuff).”

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They never clarified what kind of paprika Vision used when making his dish, but shortly after going to see the movie I decided to go ahead and make one myself that would use up a good portion of Hungarian sweet paprika I had sitting around the spice cabinet and needed to use up before it started to lost its potency. I’d also been craving tacos for weeks and wanted an easy but still tasty way of getting some in my belly.

Enter this dish, stage left.

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Originally, this is supposed to be made in a slow cooker with chicken thighs. But not only was I too impatient and hangry for that, I also don’t like chicken thighs and prefer the cut of the chicken boob. So, I first adapted this recipe to be cooked in a Dutch oven rather than a crock pot, swapped out chicken breasts for the thighs, and finally I added some modifications to the spices that suited my own tastes.

What else can I say, you guys? I love what I do. Don’t believe what the haters tell you: making moist and flavorful chicken breast really is TOTALLY doable. Even quickly on a weeknight, which I think this dish would be wonderful to make for a relatively quick and delicious Taco Tuesday night dinner.

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It’s been a REALLY long time, but I’m glad to be back co-hosting this week’s Fiesta Friday #127   with my co-host and longtime blogging buddy Suzanne@aPugintheKitchen. We’d love for you to come and join in on the fun so,  please do click the link, read the rules and share your tasty posts/recipes with us all.

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Sweet Paprika Chicken Tacos

Recipe Adapted from Food & Wine

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic Power
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion (about 1 1/2 cups), finely diced
  • 6 large garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/3 cup sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons of light brown sugar (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime-juice
  • 12 warm 6-inch flour tortillas

Directions

In a large Dutch oven, heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt, black pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Add the chicken to the pot, making sure to not overcrowd the pan. Cook until richly golden brown and seared, about 4 minutes per side. Pour in the white wine and deglaze the pan. Transfer the chicken and the juices to a separate plate or container and cover with aluminum foil.

Set the pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, paprika, and chili powder and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the spiced onion mixture to the Dutch oven. Pour in the chicken broth and crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. Taste and adjust the mixture for seasoning. This is where you can add the light brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce if you like. Place the seared chicken breast back into the pot. Lower the heat down to medium-low, cover and cook until chicken is fall apart fork- tender, probably about 20-35 minutes..

Remove the chicken from the sauce and transfer to a work surface. Using two forks, shred the meat. Stir the shredded chicken back into the sauce and add the lime juice . Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Using a slotted spoon, spoon the pulled chicken into the warm tortillas and top with desired condiments. Serve right away.