Pink Champagne Cupcakes

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Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a fun and safe New Year. We went to my in-laws for a small party, where we had ribs and they were delicious! I made dessert, and thought it would be appropriate to make these pink champagne cupcakes. I used Barefoot Pink Moscato Champagne and they turned out great! Perfect addition for a celebration. These would be great for a bridal shower, valentine’s day, or any party you go to. Or if you just need a cupcake, I would suggest these. The cupcakes are light, and moist, with a wonderful pink champagne buttercream frosting to compliment the cake. Sometimes you just need a little treat, and these are totally worth it!

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Batter before adding the egg whites

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Folding in the egg whites

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To make the cupcakes, start by creaming together some butter and sugar. Then sift together the remaining dry ingredients, including the flour, baking powder, and salt. Begin adding the flour mixture and champagne by alternating each one until just combined. Then in a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks have formed. Then gently fold about 1/3 of the egg whites into the cake batter to soften it, then fold in remaining egg whites. If you want to add a few drops of red coloring to make them pink, you could do that now, by folding the color in gently, but not too much as you don’t want to deflate the egg whites. Pour batter into prepared liners in a cupcake tin, about 2/3 of the way full. Then bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.

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To make the frosting, start by creaming together softened butter and powdered sugar. Add a few tablespoons of pink champagne and a teaspoon of vanilla. Once the ingredients are combined, add a few drops of red food coloring. When the cupcakes are done baking and have cooled spread frosting on top, or you can get fancy by piping the frosting then, please do so! I was being lazy, so I just spread a generous helping on each cupcake. You could top each cupcake with sprinkles, or with a raspberry or a strawberry, to make them even prettier. Enjoy!

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Pink Champagne Cupcakes with Champagne Buttercream Frosting
Recipe adapted from AllRecipes

Makes 20 cupcakes

Ingredients
For the cupcakes
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup champagne (the sweeter the better – go for at least a brut; extra-dry, sec, or even doux is best)
6 egg whites
4-5 drops red food coloring

For the champagne buttercream frosting*
3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons champagne, at room temperature
4-5 drops red food coloring

Cupcake Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare a cupcake pan with liners.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Alternate adding flour mixture and champagne into the creamed butter and sugar mixture.

In another large bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold 1/3 of the whites into batter to lighten it, then fold in remaining egg whites.  Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out with just a few crumbs on it.

Frosting Directions:

In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together powdered sugar and butter. Mix on low until well blended, and then on medium for another 2 minutes.  Add vanilla and champagne, beating on medium for another minute. Spread on cupcake, or put in bag to decorate with a tip. Enjoy!

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Ham & Noodle Casserole

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Sadly Christmas is over. We prepare for a month or more for this holiday, and in the blink of an eye it’s over. We had a great Christmas spending time with our families. It was so nice seeing everyone. Today I thought I would share this family favorite recipe that would be great for using any leftover ham that you may have from all the Christmas festivities. This is a simple recipe to put together for a family dinner.

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The casserole is a quick and easy recipe, perfect for a weeknight dinner. Start by boiling some water, and cooking egg noodles according to the package direction. Meanwhile, dice some ham and put in a large mixing bowl. Add some sour cream, a can of cream of mushroom soup, some spicy brown mustard, and a little pepper, and stir together. I don’t add any salt, since the ham is already pretty salty. Once the noodles are done cooking, drain and add to ham and soup mixture, stir to combine. Pour the casserole into a baking pan and bake in the oven at 350 for 20-25 minutes until bubbly. When there is about 8-6 minutes left, take casserole out and sprinkle with french fried onions, like you would put on green bean casserole. Continue baking the casserole for remaining time, until casserole is bubbly and the onions are crispy. Enjoy!

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Ham & Noodle Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 package egg noodles
  • 1 1/2 cups ham, diced
  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1-2 tsp. spicy brown mustard
  • French Fried Onions

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook egg noodles according to package directions. Dice ham and put in a large mixing bowl. Add soup, sour cream and mustard, stir to combine. Add pepper to taste. When noodles are done, drain and pour into mixing bowl. Stir into the ham mixture. Pour casserole in a baking dish and bake for 15 minutes. Take casserole out of oven and sprinkle with french fried onions. Put casserole back in oven and continue baking for 6-8 minutes or until the casserole is bubbly and onions are crispy.

White Chocolate Mix

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Christmas is almost here! We had a big family Christmas party last night, and it was a great time! It was so nice to see everyone. There was so much food, and delicious treats. My mom and I have been baking all weekend. One of the treats that we made is this white chocolate mix that my dad and my husband absolutely love. It’s a very easy recipe, and it’s a hit! If you need a simple last minute treat, this is it.

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To make the white chocolate mix, combine some pretzels, peanuts, Cripix (or chex), cheerios, and M&Ms. My mom and I used Honey Nut Cheerios, but you may use plain or whatever flavor you like. Then melt some white chocolate, and pour over your cereal mixture. Stir the white chocolate so it is covering everything. Then pour it all out on to wax paper in a single layer, and let in dry. I have to warn you, this is very hard to stop eating! Enjoy!

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White Chocolate Mix

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups pretzels
  • 12 oz bag M&Ms
  • 1 can peanuts
  • 4 cups Cripix, or Chex
  • 2 cups Cheerios
  • 20-24 oz white chocolate

Directions:

Combine all ingredients, except white chocolate, in a large bowl. Then melt the white chocolate and pour over the cereal mixture. Stir the white chocolate to coat everything in the bowl. Dump the white chocolate mix onto wax paper, in a single layer, and let it dry.

 

Risotto

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Last night I went to another cooking place called The Learning Kitchen to take the risotto workshop. It was a really great class! Chef Jamie was very knowledgeable and very helpful. We started by making a basic risotto, and then divided it in half and made two different recipes. To the first one we added bacon, sautéed mushrooms, herbs, and a little parmesan. For the second recipe we added some roasted butternut squash and nutmeg. I also added just a small sprinkle of parmesan cheese to this as well because Chef Jamie said it would a nice nutty flavor to the dish. Plus, who doesn’t like a little cheese? It was just a little sprinkle, so you could leave this out if you want.

 

I really enjoy taking these classes. I get to learn new techniques, like how to chop an onion, how to properly hold a large knife, and why you should taste fresh herbs before putting them in a dish. In case you’re wondering, it’s so you know what you’re putting in your meal. That way you know that you’re putting parsley in instead of cilantro, which looks very much alike, but tastes very different! If you get a chance to take a cooking class, I highly recommend it. They are a lot of fun!

 

Making risotto isn’t as hard as it seems – it just takes some TLC. For a basic risotto, you start by adding some olive oil or butter to a pan over medium heat, add some diced onion, and cook until tender. You want to make sure not to give the onions any color, you just want them soft. Once the onions are done, add rice and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, until the grain is translucent around the edges. Remember to make sure the rice and the onion do not brown. After the 3-5 minutes, turn the heat down to medium-low and add enough chicken stock to cover the top of the rice. Stir the mixture often, until the liquid is completely absorbed. Then add more chicken stock to cover the rice again, continuing to stir. After the third addition of liquid (about 20 minutes), the rice should be cooked through. Test the rice to make sure it is tender. Season the risotto with salt and pepper, and add a dab of butter to give it an extra creaminess. This is your basic risotto, and now you can begin adding whatever flavors you like.

 

For the bacon, mushroom, and herb risotto, add cooked, diced bacon, sautéed mushrooms, fresh herbs like parsley, thyme, or chives, a little parmesan cheese, and some lemon zest. You can dice the bacon and cook it in a skillet while the risotto is cooking. Once it is done, take the bacon out and cook the mushrooms in the same pan. When the mushrooms are finished, mix all the ingredients together, and combine with the risotto.

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For the roasted butternut squash risotto, peel, dice, and roast some butternut squash in the oven with a little salt, pepper, and olive oil for about 20 minutes. The butternut squash should be diced fairly small. Once that is done, set it aside until risotto is finished. Mix the roasted squash with the finished risotto, and add some grated nutmeg. If you’d like you can also add a small amount of parmesan and stir to combine. Enjoy!!

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Basic Risotto (serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp, butter or olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup arborio rice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a pot or saute pan over medium heat, melt butter or olive oil. Add the onion cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until the grains are translucent around the edges. Be careful not allow the rice or onion brown. Reduce heat to low and add enough chicken stock just to cover the top of the rice. Stir often, until the liquid is completely absorbed into the rice. Once absorbed, add more liquid just to cover the rice and continue stirring. It should take approximately 20 minutes or three additions for all of the liquid to be absorbed and the rice cooked through. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add a tablespoon of butter for creaminess.

 

Bacon Mushroom and Herb:

  • 1 slice of bacon, chopped, and cooked
  • 1 oz mushrooms, sauteed and coursely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme or chives
  • 2 oz grated parmesan
  • 1 tsp grates lemon zest

Mix ingredients together and add to finished risotto

Butternut Squash:

  • 1/2 cup butternut squash, cubed and roasted in the oven with salt, pepper, and olive oil
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of parmesan cheese

Mix roasted butternut squash, nutmeg and Parmesan with finished risotto

Homemade Marshmallows

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Christmas season is the best time for hot chocolate, and what goes better with hot chocolate than a really great marshmallow! We had a Christmas party this past weekend and I made some really great hot chocolate with homemade marshmallow. My mom had started making homemade marshmallow several years ago and they are fantastic! It’s the perfect compliment to hot chocolate, and it melts perfectly into the drink. Now I’m a firm believer in making hot chocolate with milk. It makes it super creamy, and really brings out the chocolate flavor. By adding marshmallow to your drink, you have a really cozy and chocolatey treat! Perfect for the holidays!

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To make the marshmallow, start by adding 3 ounces of unflavored gelatin to some cold water in a metal bowl, and let sit. Meanwhile in a sauce pan, combine more cold water with sugar and corn syrup. Bring the mixture to a boil until it reaches 240° F, or soft ball stage, on your candy thermometer. Once it hits 240°, begin to gradually pour the sugar mixture into the gelatin, as you continually beat them together. Keep pouring in sugar mixture gradually, and then continue to beat for about 15 minutes, as the mixture gets thick and doubles in volume. Beat in vanilla at the end. Then pour into a greased 9×13 pan. You let the marshmallow sit for at least 6 hours, or overnight. When you go to cut the marshmallow, make sure to grease your knife or pizza cutter to prevent all of the marshmallow from sticking to it. Cut a piece that will fit into your mug, and top your hot chocolate with a wonderful slice of marshmallow! Enjoy!

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You could also sift powdered sugar onto the marshmallow to make it less sticky.  Or cut it into squares and put powdered sugar on them.

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Ingredients:

  • 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup Light Corn Syrup Corn Syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

Grease a 13-in. x 9-in. pan with cooking spray and then lightly coat with powdered sugar, so the entire bottom and sides of pan are covered and set aside. In a large metal bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup of cold water and set aside. In a large heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt and remaining water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer reads 240° (soft-ball stage). Remove from the heat and gradually add to gelatin while beating on high speed until mixture is thick and the volume is doubled, about 15 minutes. Then beat in vanilla. Spread into prepared pan. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 6 hours or overnight. Spray a knife with cooking spray and cut into 1 inch squares.

Caramelized Butternut Squash with Pecans

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I am so excited for Christmas! Baking cookies with my mom, drinking cozy warm drinks, and spending the whole week with family, it’s going to be awesome! My mom and I have already been planning all the cookies and treats we will be making this year, and we have a good list. I enjoy planning things out like this, especially when it comes to food. I usually have most of my meals for the week planned by Monday afternoon, and since Christmas is such a big holiday with so many great options, I usually start thinking about Christmas food right after Thanksgiving. If you are like me, then this side dish is something you should plan for your Christmas dinner. Or just any day of the week, because it was that good!

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Butternut squash is a favorite of mine, especially roasted, so when I found this recipe, I jumped all over it. The squash is cut up into bite size pieces and drizzled with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and little butter, then roasted in the oven for 40 minutes. Near the end stir in some pecans, and ten minutes later you have heaven. It’s almost like candy, except it’s squash, so you are getting some vitamin A.

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To make the dish, start by peeling and dicing the butternut squash into 1 inch cubes. Then place into a casserole dish in a single layer. Mix together melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Then pour over butternut squash and mix around so all the squash is coated. Place in a 400° oven for 45 minutes. When there is only ten minutes left of roasting, stir in some pecans, then continue roasting for remaining 10 minutes. ENJOY!

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Caramelized Butternut Squash with Pecans

Ingredients
  • 3 cups butternut squash, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup pecans, chopped
Directions:
Cut both ends of the squash. Halve the squash, and peel the skin. Halve each halves again and remove seeds. Cut the squash into small cubes. Place them on a large baking sheet in one layer. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients, except for walnuts. Pour over the squash and mix everything together so that the squash is evenly coated. Roast in 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Add pecans last 10 minutes.

Chocolate Lovers Desserts to Die For!

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Last night I went to a cooking class. It was my first one, so I was a little nervous going in. The class was titled “Chocolate Lovers Desserts to Die For!”. So how could it be bad? You could already smell the chocolate walking down the hall to the classroom. It was in a big professional kitchen used at a local university for students majoring in culinary arts. They had 5 or 6 double broilers going with melted chocolate in them, it was a heavenly smell. The chef introduced herself, and briefly explained everything we would be making. And it was a lot! We made all sorts of candies, including cherry cordials, peanut butter cups, different kinds of barks, and truffles, which I think were my favorite. There was a table full of different goodies to put in the chocolate candies, such as toasted coconut, different nuts, dried figs and cherries, and pretty gold dragees (bite-sized, colorful form of sugar with a hard outer shell). She also showed us a flourless chocolate cake. It was so rich and chocolatey that I could only eat a few bites when I got home (but that could also be because I had had quite a bit of chocolate already). There were about 16 of us in the class, all running around making a bunch of chocolate cake and candies. It was pure bliss!

 

My favorite thing I made would have to be the truffles. It was basically ganache that was thrown the freezer for a while to get firm.  When the chocolate was set we rolled it into balls, and then rolled them in whatever we wanted. I preferred rolling them in the Dutch cocoa. They were fantastic! To make the truffles chop up 8 ounces of good dark or semi-sweet chocolate and place in a mixing bowl. Heat some heavy whipping cream on the stove just until simmering, then pour that over the chocolate and let it sit for 3-4 minutes. Whisk cream and milk together until smooth. Then whisk in some butter that has been cut into small pieces. Pour onto a foil lined baking sheet. Place in the refrigerator for an hour or so until firm.  Using a spoon, gather a spoonful and roll into a ball. Continue with remaining chocolate. If chocolate starts to get to soft and melted return to refrigerator for 15 minutes and then continue. Once all the balls are formed you can roll in whatever coating you like. Then Enjoy!!!

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Chocolate Truffles:

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. semisweet or dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces

Coatings:

  • Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder
  • Melted Chocolate
  • Confectioners Sugar
  • Toasted/Chopped Nuts
  • Toasted Coconut
  • Shaved Chocolate

Directions:

Chop 8 ounces of good dark or semi-sweet chocolate and place in a mixing bowl. Heat some heavy whipping cream on the stove just until simmering, then pour that over the chocolate and let it sit for 3-4 minutes. Whisk cream and milk together until smooth. Then whisk in the butter that has been cut into small pieces. Pour onto a foil lined baking sheet. Place in the refrigerator for an hour or so until firm.  Using a spoon, gather a spoonful and roll into a ball. Continue with remaining chocolate. If chocolate starts to get to soft and melted return to refrigerator for 15 minutes and then continue. Once all the balls are formed you can roll in whatever coating you like.