Friday, December 31, 2010

Say "Happy New Year!" with a cupcake!

As we approach another new year and new decade, I'd like to end 2010 with a post about my favorite cupcake place.  You may have heard about them or even seen them on TV (their show is DC Cupcakes).  As my hubby would say, we liked them when they were underground.  In other words, before they were super famous.  But we still love them.  These are among the best cupcakes I have ever eaten.
Here's the line waiting for them to open

Georgetown Cupcake; located right in the heart of Georgetown DC, on M Street. 

I've tried many flavors and they are all magnificent.  My faves are probably the Chocolate 2 and the PB Fudge. I have even been known to lick extra frosting off my napkin in public without shame, its that delectable.

Here are a few pics of ones we've tried...
Snowball (coconut), Chocolate 2, Chocolate Eggnog, Pb Fudge

PB Fudge, Chocolate 2, Salted Caramel, Cherry Cheesecake

Chocolate 3, Chocolate 2, Salted Caramel

PB Fudge and Mint Cookies N Cream
They are beautiful and oh so yummy.  Make a New Year's resolution to get out and try them if you're in DC in 2011.  It will be worth it!

PS...thank you to all of those who have been reading my blog over the last couple months! Looking forward to what kind of foodie goodness 2011 brings!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chicama Run Farm

Ok, I'm interupting my whole Christmas feast recipe list to tell you about the little adventure hubby and I took today out to the country.  Chicama Run Farm is located out in Purcellville, VA and you may have noticed their name listed in my "Shop local and organic" section of my site.  They frequent the Leesburg farmers market and we have bought things from them numerous times and my hubby likes to chat with the lady who owns the farm.  Sometimes they open their farm for visitors to come and see it and to buy their products directly there at the farm when they can't get to the farmers market.  So we just happened to notice that today was one of those days.  Having the day off, we decided to venture out there.

It was so beautiful out there in the country and yet its not really that far from home.  So peaceful and serene.

When we pull up to the house we were greeted by a friendly dog coming to say hello and a fenced in area full of chickens grazing in the grass.  A few of the chickens were actually out of the enclosure roaming around the front yard and no one seemed bothered at all.

Then walking across the yard, we see a big brown llama and a bunch of goats and more chickens. Apparently there were some pigs in the barn but they didn't want any visitors today.  Too cold for them I guess.  But the llama and the goats came near the fence for a quick pose for the camera.

And then there were more chickens down a little hill with a small flock of ducks.  Again no enclosures, totally free range.  As we walked down to get a closer look at the ducks, however, the ducks began running the other direction and instead a huge herd of chickens came chasing after us, thinking we had food for them.  It was hilarious!! And slightly unnerving, seeing all these chickens, and a few very large and burly roosters come running towards you and not sure what they'll do when they discover you don't have the food they were hoping for!

One rooster even let out a very loud and surprising "cock-a-doodle-doo" while standing right next to us!!  Some of the birds feathers were really quite beautiful.

Also in the barn, which we couldn't see into, were some mama goats, soon to give birth.  The farm owner was telling us that the llama was the protector of the goats.  Especially over the mama goats.  When the mama goat gives birth, the llama stands guard right next to her to protect the mama and the baby from any possible nearby predators. God's creations are so amazing!

ducks in the distance

even a kitty cat

Its so important to know where your food comes from and to support your local farms!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chocolate Bark Treats

Chocolate bark makes a nice treat to have as a quick snack or to give as gifts.  Its very easy to make and there are so many options for flavors and add-ins.  You can even make healthy versions!

I found this basic recipe in the December issue of Health magazine.  The ingredients they had listed are as follows:  3/4 cups dried cherries, 1/2 up unsalted pistachios, 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger, 7 oz dark chocolate (60-70% cocoa solids) chopped into chunks.

Combine cherries, pistachios, and ginger in a medium bowl.  Line baking sheet with heavy-duty foil, chill pan.  Melt chocolate in double boiler or the microwave, stirring frequently.  Stir in half of fruit mixture and spread into prepared pan.  Using a rubber spatula, spread chocolate evenly onto baking sheet.  Immediately sprinkle remaining fruit mixture evenly over top of chocolate.  Chill about 10 minutes.  Break into pieces and serve.

Now there are definitely a ton of modifications you can make to this.  First of all, you can certainly leave out the ginger.  It can be hard to find and also it can have a strong flavor that you may not want.  No big deal to leave it out.  I made this version minus the ginger and it was great. And when I couldn't find pistachios, I substituted chopped walnuts instead.

I also wanted to make another version that didn't involve nuts, as I've mentioned there are several people in my family with nut allergies.  So I came up with the idea of using coconut (which is a fruit, not a nut) and pretzel sticks to give it a sweet/salty flavor like nuts would have done.

You can also use any kind of chocolate...milk, semi-sweet, even white chocolate.  As long as it melts, you're good.  As for toppings, the possibilities are endless.  Using unsalted nuts of any kind with dried fruit of any kind will help keep it on the healthier end.  You could also probably melt in some peanut butter into the chocolate for a more decadent version.  For other mix-ins, you can use peppermint (great for Christmas), granola or any kind of cereal (hmm, I wonder what fruit loops would be like?), marshmallows and graham crackers for a smores effect...I could go on and on. 

And in 10-15 minutes you have a great home-made treat to share with friends or eat for yourself!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hot Crab Dip

Here's another winning recipe from Pampered Chef.  And as usual I modified it slightly though the original one is nice too. Its very yummy, easy to make, and is a very warm comforting addition to any holiday feast.  Or even just for yourself :)

The original recipe is actually Hot Artichoke Crabmeat Dip but I didn't want to use the artichokes this particular time. The ingredient list is as follows:

*1 package (8 oz) cream cheese softened
*1 cup mayonnaise
*1 garlic clove, pressed (or chopped)
*1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts in water, drained and chopped ( if you don't want to use these you can just add more crabmeat or another similar veggie of your choice)
*1 package (8 oz) imitation crabmeat, chopped  (I usually used canned crabmeat; its real crab already chopped and slightly shredded=less work but better texture and quality than imitation...I used 3 small cans to cover the lack of artichokes)
*3/4 cup (3oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese (though you can use any cheese, I used shredded mozzarella)
*1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
*1 lemon (optional)
*1/8 tsp black pepper
*1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper (which I also didn't use)
*additional green onion slices for garnish

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine cream cheese and mayo; mix well.  Press garlic into cream cheese mixture and stir.  Drain artichokes and chop crabmeat if necessary.  Grate Parmesan cheese, slice onions, zest lemon.  Add artichokes, crabmeat, cheese, green onions, lemon zest, and black pepper to cream cheese mixture.  Mix well.

Spoon mixture into baking dish such as a large deep dish pie plate.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.  Sprinkle with remaining green onions and red bell pepper if desired.  Serve with pita chips, crackers, or hearty chips or even veggies.  Makes about 4 cups/16 servings.

This dip is quick and easy to make up to a day in advance except for the baking part.  Wait to do the baking until you're ready to serve.

Bacon Fork

Here's an interesting Christmas brother-in-law, Matt, using a large piece of bacon as a fork for his hash brown casserole.

Love it!  Happy Holidays!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Peppermint Brownie Cups

I'm not a huge fan of peppermint but when its in a dessert paired with chocolate, I can easily make an exception.  I've made these for a couple holiday events this season and they are so easy to do.  And very yummy, especially if you like chocolate and peppermint.

This recipe is originally from a Pampered Chef cookbook called Celebrate and they are originally called Tuxedo Brownie cups.  But I made just a couple changes to make them a little more festive for Christmas.

The brownie cups themselves are just a packaged fudge brownie mix plus the ingredients to make cakelike brownies (usually 1/4 water, 2/3 cup vegetable oil, 2 eggs).  Mix the brownie batter like you normally would for brownies.  Then using a mini muffin pan, put a small scoop of brownie batter in each cup, filling about 2/3 full.  Bake for 14 minutes, until edges are set.  Remove from oven to a cooling rack.  Immediately press tops of brownies with a mini tart shaper (or the back of a small spoon or even your thumb) to make indentations.  Let brownies cool completely.

For the topping, melt 2 ounces of white chocolate with 2 TBSP milk for about 1 minute in the microwave.  In a separate bowl, combine 1-8oz package of softened cream cheese and 1/4 cup powdered sugar. Mix well, then gradually stir in the melted white chocolate mixture until smooth.  Fold in 1 cup whipped topping like Cool Whip. For the peppermint version, I also added about a teaspoon of peppermint extract.

If you have a Pampered Chef Easy Accent Decorator with a star decorating tip, it makes life so much easier for things like this.  If you don't, you'll want something like a icing/decorating bag and a decorating star tip that you attach to it.  Otherwise, you could just use a spoon too but it may not look as pretty.
easy accent decorator from Pampered Chef

So fill your decorator or icing bag or whatever with the topping and pipe out a small dollop on top of each brownie cup.  The original version decorated each cup with a slice of strawberry and a mint leaf.  For my peppermint version I sprinkled crushed peppermint candies.  You could also drizzle with melted chocolate for either version! Then they suggest refrigerating them 1-3 hours before serving.

This recipe makes about 4 dozen and it can easily be halved or doubled for however many you need.  The brownie cups can be made up to 1 day ahead but the topping should not be made until you're ready to pipe it as it will become too hard to decorate with after being in the refrigerator. And a little side note: make sure you grease and flour the muffin pan before putting the batter in.  They can get a little sticky!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas Charlie Brown!

I hope everyone has had a wonderful Christmas.  Its evening, the presents have all been opened and so much food was eaten, everyone's relaxing into their comfy pj's and getting ready for bed.  I have so much I want to blog about so I'm hoping to have lots of blogging time over this next week off. But one post at a time...

For today, here's a run down of how our day went.  First hubby and I wake up around 8am, and spend a little time just the 2 of us before the craziness begins.  We opened a couple gifts for each other.  He got me a nice electric tea kettle, which I can't wait to use. And I got him a starter sushi-making kit.  We stop to notice a few snow flurries outside! So pretty! Then we gather up gifts to take to my in-laws house a few streets away.
can you see the tiny snowflakes??

When we arrive, kids are running everywhere, the TV's playing Charlie Brown's New Years, and the kitchen is bustling with activity.  We start by digging in to our traditional Christmas treat...monkey bread!!  We can't have Christmas without it!  So much ooey gooey goodness wrapped in sweet bread and sugar and cinnamon and, of course, tons of melted butter!!
luscious monkey bread

Then we do but total chaos!  This year is my youngest niece's 1st Christmas.  Boy, did she make out with the presents!  After presents, more eating, with cheese and ham quiches and cheesy hash brown casserole.

Now its time to run home to grab gifts and food for my family, who live an hour away.  Over the river (almost) and through the woods on top of a mountain (literally), we arrive at my parents house, greeted by their 2 big golden retrievers.  Here again, we feast.  There's only 5 of us but between my mom and I we make enough food for about 20 people. 

Here's what our dinner consisted of...(some of these menu items will be posted with recipes in subsequent blogs to come)...
*cheesy crab bisque
*vegetable beef soup
*cheese and sausage/venison bites
*fancy cheese plate
*garlic and old bay shrimp
*hot crab dip
*venison meatballs
*peppermint brownie cups
*pineapple rum spice cake
*hot wassail

Needless to say, we won't be lacking any leftovers for a couple days. 

After stuffing our faces, we opened a few small gifts and then chatted by the fire, while sipping our wassails and enjoying one another's company.  Now we're back home and the day is done. Another Christmas come and gone.  And we are so abundantly blessed that the Lord has given us such a wonderful family and nice gifts to enjoy!!