Mini Lime Margarita Cupcakes

So typically I would NEVER use boxed cake. NEVER. But when it comes down to basic chemistry, the reaction of adding alcohol to my flour, baking soda and baking powder mixture, would end up with my batter looking really good, until after I’m done baking. This is when the middle of the cupcake sinks.

Now the only way to avoid that dilemma is to make a very strong flavored margarita cupcake, use Silver cake batter with non-alcoholic margarita mix to make cupcakes, once baked and cooled, brush with tequila. This is a long process, and you must use extremely good tequila since that’s the flavor that will stand out the most.

Mini Lime Margarita Cupcakes – 48 mini cupcakes
Cupcake batter:
1 cup liquid Margarita mix
1/4 cup good tequila
1 box white cake mix (about 1 lb and 2.25 ounces)
3 large egg whites
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon freshly grated lime zest

Lime Buttercream:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
5 to 6 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbs fresh lime juice
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp grated lime zest
Green gel paste
Small lime slices for garnish or green sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray mini muffin pan with baking spray.

To prepare the cupcakes:
Whisk together margarita mix and tequila in a measuring cup.

Using a hand mixer, or whisk, in a large bowl, blend cake mix, egg whites, vegetable oil, lime zest and margarita mix, continue to blend for two additional minutes. Batter should be smooth.

Spoon the batter into cupcake pan, about 2/3 full. Bake for 15 minutes, or until toothpick is inserted in the center and it comes out clean. Allow cupcakes cool for about 10 minutes in the pan, remove and place on cooling rack to cool completely.

To prepare the buttercream:
Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, prepare the buttercream. Place butter in a large bowl and beat with electric mixer until butter is fluffy.

Add 5 cups of powdered sugar, salt, lime juice, and lime zest. Mix until thick and creamy. Keep adding more powdered sugar until the frosting is a good piping consistency. Mix in a tiny amount of green gel paste if you’d like the frosting to have a green tint. If you prefer just spread buttercream, or prepare pastry bag with a large star tip.

Dip lime slices in green sugar or plain sugar. Garnish the mini cupcakes with lime wedges, sprinkle with green sugar.

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If you are making these a day ahead, place them in a tightly sealed container.


Risotto for 6! …maybe 8.

So the lovely thing about this recipe is that you could buy turkey breast and prepare it with salt, pepper, white wine and butter in the oven, or you can use the same ingredient on a whole roasted turkey. Either way it’s prepared it tastes delicious!

If you are preparing this for guests and are on schedule, cooking the actual risotto will only take about 20-25 minutes, but to be honest I’ve never had a guest complain about watching me cook while they sip on wine and munch on apps.

I should also mention, John and I prepare a large turkey because we love fresh turkey sandwiches for days to follow, you may want to do the same.

Roasted Turkey Risotto with Grilled Red Onions and Chard – 6 to 8 servings
2 pounds roasted turkey, sliced into into 1/4 inch thick pieces
1 large red onion, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups low-sodium turkey stock
4 ounces red chard leaves, chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

In a large pot, bring the stock to a simmer. Once the turkey is fully cooked, finely chop the meat and add it to the stock. Simmer for 20 minutes and prepare red onions for grill.

Prepare a grill. Toss red onions rings with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill them on a hot fire for 3-5 minutes, on each side, or until they are softened and have grill marks. Remove the onions and allow to cool. Chop coarsely and set aside.

(Don’t worry if you don’t have grill, or find it’s too much work prepare the onions as instructed and bake at 350 degrees F, until browned.)

In a large sautepan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, over medium heat. Add the chard to the pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often, chard will wilt – remove from pan. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the arborio rice. Stir to cover the rice in oil. Begin by adding a stock, a little at a time. Usually a soup laddle or two at a time is perfect – the stock should be just above the rice. Gently simmer and add more stock as the current stock gets absorbed. Stir the rice before and after each addition of stock, but make sure not to “squish” the rice by playing around with it too much. Stir in the onion and chard. Right before it’s complete, add the butter and balsamic vinegar, stir well, taste, and season with salt and pepper if need be. The rice will appear pourable, which is the right/perfect consistency. Stir in the thyme.

Divide the risotto among six warm dishes (bowls or plates) and top with freshly grated parmigiana. Serve immediately.

Boeuf Bourguignon

John loves to have a meal that will last him a few days, and only gets better over time.   Especially when it includes veggies and a carb all in one!  He just has to slide it into the oven to reheat it.

Prepare the pearl onions and mushrooms while the bourguignon is in the oven.

Boeuf Bourguignon – 4 servings
8 ounces lardons
2 lbs rump roast, cut into 2-inch cubes
Olive oil
2 carrots, sliced
1 onion, sliced
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups low sodium beef stock
3 cups dry red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dry thyme
1 bay leaf

Place a rack on the lower part of the oven, to have enough space for the pot. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees oven.

In a large enameled pot, combine lardons and water to cover, bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the lardons, add olive oil to the pot, add lardons and cook until browned. Remove lardons, leave fat in the pot, and brown the meat. Once the meat is browned add it to the bacon that was set aside. Add the carrots and onions to the pot, cook until sofened.

Once the carrots and onions soften, add the bacon and beef back to the pot, stir well, and add the red wine and beef broth. Mix in thyme, bay leaf, and tomato paste. Bring to simmer, cover, and place in the oven for 3 hours.

Continue to prepare pearl onions, and mushrooms. It’s fine if they are done ahead of time because they easily reheat.  Instructions for serving will be below the following recipes.

Glazed Pearl Onions – 4 servings
24 pearl onions
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup low sodium beef stock
1 bay leaf

You have to peel the pearl onions, and to do that you need to bring about 2 cups of water to a boil, add the pearl onions, let boil for about 1 minute -remove from heat. Strain the pearl onions. To peel the pearl onions trim off the root and peel.

In a small sautepan over medium low heat, combine butter and oil. Once bubbling, add the pearl onions, and keep an eye out on the onions. You will need to rotate the pan a bit so that the onions brown evenly. Once they are evenly browned – which take about 8 minutes – add the beef stock. Lower the heat so that stock is simmering. The stock will become a glaze for the onions, remove the bay leaf, once the stock is practically cooked off, turn off the heat. Set pan aside so that you can easily reheat pearl onions.

Glazed Mushrooms – 4 servings
1 pound baby bella mushrooms, washed, trimmed, quartered
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup low sodium beef stock

This is almost the same preparation as the onions, except mushrooms have water that needs to be cooked off.

In a large sautepan, over medium low heat combine butter and oil. Once bubbling add the mushrooms, cook until browned and they are no longer letting out water. Add the beef stock, lower heat so that the stock is simmering. The stock will become a glaze for the mushrooms also, once stock is cooked off, turn off the heat. Set pan aisde so that you can easily reheat mushrooms over low heat when it’s time to serve.

Prepare 4 servings of rice or egg noodles to serve bourguignon over.

To serve:Divide rice and bourguignon onto four warm dishes, top with mushrooms and pearl onions. Or get a large serving platter, spread noodles or rice all over, top with bourguignon, and garnish surrounding bourguignon with pearl onions and mushrooms. Serve immediately.

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Black Tie Cookies

I love these black tie cookies, they are cake-y, moist, and delicious. Technically they are black and white cookies, but sometimes I cheat, I love the chocolate icing, and I just put the chocolate icing. John only uses the white icing – it works great for us.

Now for these batch of cookies I used half and half…SO when you make the frosting you will need to decide whether you want black tie cookies, or black & white cookies.

Black Tie Cookies – 18 cookies

Prepare Cookie Batter
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 2 baking sheets with silpats.

In a large bowl combine, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Scare down the bowl, add the eggs and yolk, one at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again, add the flour and buttermilk in three parts. Scrape down the bowl again, add the vanilla and lemon zest, mix on low speed to combine, turn off mixer.

Using a 1/4 cup ice cream scoop, drop cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 3 inches space from each cookie, because they will spread out.

Place both sheets in the oven, bake for 8 minutes, rotate the sheet and bake for 7 more minutes. The cookies with have a golden brown edge. Remove from the oven, cool for 5 minutes, transfer cookies to cooling rack, so that they can cool completely.

Prepare Frosting
3 3/4 cups confectioners sugar
5 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

In a large bowl, whisk together confectioners sugar, milk, heavy cream and vanilla. Now this is where you decide whether you want to make them black tie cookies or black & white cookies.

So if you are making white and chocolate icing, you need to divide the icing you have made so far into two bowls, one is finished, it’s your white icing. For the chocolate frosting add the cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon of milk.

To spread frosting and make it prettier, place some white frosting in a squeeze bottle. Flip the cookies so that the flat side is facing up, trace half the cookie with white icing, continue to do this to all the cookies. Using an offset spatula spread white frosting onto the inside of the tracing you did – continue to do so until all the cookies are filled. Then using an offset spatula spread chocolate onto other half.

The cookies will fully set in about an hour. They can be stored for about 3 days in an airtight container.

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Smoked Salmon Mousse & String Bean Salad

I made these recipes for our friends, when we were all together celebrating Valentine’s day!  Or course, you don’t have to make this for a specific celebration, but you could make it for a special dinner party with friends or family.

The main course was a Turkey Risotto with Chard and Roasted Onions, that recipe will be posted shortly, for dessert I made a dark chocolate mousse, and we served a variety of cheeses, apples in calvados and plenty of wine.

Smoked Salmon Mousse Cornets – 12 appetizers
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
3/8 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon minced red onion
1/2 tablespoon drained horseradish
1/2 pound sliced smoked salmon
1/8 cup minced chives

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat together mascarpone and sour cream until combined well. Add red onion, horseradish and lemon juice stir well.

Mince salmon finely, and fold in mascarpone mixture along with chives. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours minimum. Meanwhile make cornets.

Cornets – The best recipe for cornets that I have found is in Thomas Keller’s French Laundry cookbook, and I have no doubt that if you google…French Laundry Cornets, you will find hundreds of blogs, with the recipe provided.  Also, I prefer to drizzle poppy seeds instead of sesame.

Salad of String Beans, Tomatoes and Prosciutto – serves 6
4 ounce red onion, minced
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small clove garlic, smashed to paste
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 pounds haricots vert
2 small roma tomatoes, peeled, diced
1 large yellow tomato, peeled, diced
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto

In a small bowl combine, onion, vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, anchovy paste and olive oil. Mix well and set vinaigrette aside.

Prepare an ice bath and blanch the haricots vert in salted boiling water, about 2 minutes. Quickly place the haricots vert in an ice bath. Drain, and place in a large bowl. Top with the tomatoes, parsley and vinaigrette. Mix well and set aside for an hour.

In a saute pan over medium heat, cook prosciutto for 30 or so seconds. Remove from pan and fold in a floral shape, let cool. On a large platter, arrange the beans and tomatoes mix, spread about evenly, then decorate with floral prosciutto and serve.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream

I love to make ice cream…and I have a lovely machine that does it in under 50 minutes. For this sweet and salty treat, I use fleur de sel for the type of salt. I also prefer to use half and half because it makes the ice cream creamier and rich.

You must have an ice cream machine to make this yummy treat.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream – about 1 quart
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
3 1/4 cups half and half, divided
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs

Heat 1 cup sugar in a dry 10-inch saute pan over medium heat, stirring with a fork to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt, then stop stirring and cook, swirl pan occasionally so sugar melts evenly, until it is dark amber.

Carefully add 1 1/4 cups half and half and cook, stirring, until all of caramel has dissolved. Transfer to a bowl and stir in sea salt and vanilla and cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, bring remaining half and half, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar just to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally.

Whisk eggs in a medium bowl, then add some half and half mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard coats back of spoon and do not let boil. Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, then stir in cooled caramel.

Chill custard, for 2 or 3 hours. Then freeze the custard in an ice cream maker according to directions, then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to firm up.

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