Tag-Archive for ◊ wine ◊

23 Feb 2011 Champagne Cupcakes

My daughter recently catered a birthday dinner for a very bubbly, champagne loving girl.  She knew Champagne Cupcakes had to be on the menu!  The good news is that these are great cupcakes not only for a birthday dinner, but for an Oscar party, too! Aren’t we all going to an Oscar party on Sunday?? They’re also good for many other champagne worthy events:  Birthday Party, Engagement Party, Shower, Wedding, New Year’s Eve, Promotion, Retirement, Bon Voyage, Welcome Home, Mortgage Burning, Mortgage Acquisition,  Crowning of Miss America… 🙂

This recipe makes a very light and not-so-sweet cupcake.  The champagne flavor really comes through if you brush champagne on the cakes before adding the frosting. This was my daughter Hannah’s idea, it’s not in the original recipe.  She also added more champagne to the frosting (tut-tut-tut, says Mom…)!  The original recipe called for coloring, but not being a food coloring fan, Hannah omitted it.  “In retrospect”, she said, “it would have been nice to have a slightly pink colored frosting.  After all, I did use pink champagne!”

Champagne Cupcakes

For Cupcakes:

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup pink champagne, plus extra (approx ½ cup) for brushing onto baked cupcakes (I used Chandon Rose)
  • 6 egg whites
  • 4-5 drops red food coloring (optional)

For Frosting

  • 1 1lb box powdered sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • ¼ cup pink champagne
  • 3-4 drops red food coloring (optional)
  • candy pearls (I found these in the cake decorating section of the grocery store)

To Make Cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two muffin tins with cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. With an electric mixer, beat eggs whites with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. Set aside. (If you have only one bowl for your electric mixer, you will have to remove the egg whites to another bowl).
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer,  cream the 2/3 cup butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Slowly mix in 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and beat until combined.  Add in ½ of the champagne, beat until combined. Add another 1/3 of the flour mixture, mixing until fully incorporated, then add the remaining ½ cup of champagne, beating until combined. Beat in the remaining flour mixture and the food coloring, mixing until combined.
  6. Gently fold in 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the cake batter and mix until fully incorporated. Fold in remaining egg white mixture until combined.
  7. Divide the batter between the muffin tins, filling each cupcake liner 1/2 to 2/3 full of batter. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  8. Let cupcakes cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove and let cool completely on wire rack.
  9. Once cupcakes have cooled, poke 8-10 holes in each cupcake using a toothpick. Using a pastry brush, coat each cupcake with champagne.

To Make Frosting

  1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and champagne.
  2. Slowly add the powdered sugar and food coloring, mixing well until the frosting is smooth. (If too stiff add more champagne, if too runny add more powdered sugar.)
  3. Transfer frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a decorating tip (or a Ziploc bag with the corner cut off), and decorate cupcakes.
  4. Top with candy pearls.

Makes: 24 cupcakes.  Keeps well for a day or two.

Thank you for stopping by my kitchen today!  And thank you to my daughter, Hannah, for testing this recipe and sharing the cupcakes with me.  Guess what I am taking to my Oscar Night Party?  Yep!  If you’d like to take these to a special event, but don’t have time to make them, contact  Hannah, she is a fledgling caterer, you know!

15 Nov 2010 Poached Pear Salad

My friend Louise made this wonderful Poached Pear Salad for Cookbook Club last weekend.  Louise, one of the best cooks in the world,  has been making this salad, to much acclaim, for her family’s Thanksgiving dinner for the last I-don’t-know-how-many years.  I am so glad Louise shared this with us!  You have your hands on tried-and-true family recipe! The Poached Pear Salad is ideal for any fancy meal. It would also be good for a light lunch when paired (peared! now there’s a joke in the making… Hmm, no light bulbs going off here…, obviously someone more talented than I needs to come up with it 🙂 ) when paired with a bowl of soup or a sandwich. The salad looks elegant, tastes great and is dead easy to throw together at the last minute (as longs as the pears have been made and chilled ahead of time).

The green salad surrounding the poached pear can be customized as  you wish.  Louise used a bag of mixed salad greens, including some of that bitter stuff, and a sprinkling of feta cheese (some pomegranate seeds might have been a  nice addition, too).  I am going to use mixed lettuces with a sprinkling of blue cheese, some sweet and spicy pecans and some dried cranberries.  My daughter is thinking about baby spinach, macadamia nuts and goat cheese.  What will you come up with?  Arugula, walnuts and orange bits?  Bibb lettuce and almonds? Let me know!

Three cheers for Poached Pear Salad!! Easy, customizable, good looking, and great tasting! I have a feeling this salad will become a staple in my, and your, dinner party and elegant lunch repertoire.

Poached Pear Salad

  • 6-8 Bosch Pears, with stems left on, peeled (Bosch pears are the ugly brown skinned pears.  I’d suggest using smaller pears so your guests aren’t too full after the salad to enjoy the main meal)
  • 2 cups Port, Shriaz or Zinfandel (The choice of wine will affect the taste of your pears.  Louise prefers a good port.  I liked the pears poached in Zinfandel)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 slices orange
  • 4 star anise
  • 1 bag of salad greens
  • Cheese of choice, about 1 T. per plate (feta, blue, goat)
  • Extra toppings of choice, if desired: chopped nuts, candied nuts, dried cranberries, pomegranate seeds…
  • In a large pan with a lid, combine wine, sugar, water, and star anise.  Turn heat to high and bring mixture just to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.

    Add peeled whole pears-with stem intact-to hot liquid turning to coat well.

    Stir in orange slices

    Cover pan and simmer pears on low for 10 to 15 minutes, turning pears occasionally, until pears are tender, but still hold their shape.

    Discard star anise.  Remove pears to a bowl and set aside to cool.

    Turn up heat under the wine mixture, heat to boiling, and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.  Liquid should thicken and reduce to 1 ½ cups. (Pour liquid into measuring cup every once in awhile to measure progress).  When pears are cool, cut in half lengthwise, and carefully remove core.

    Pour reduced wine and the orange slices over halved pears.  Cover and chill for at least 4-6 hours, and up to two days.

    When ready to serve, cut pear into a fan and the bottom(see picture above), and keeping intact at the narrow top end.  Place pear in the middle of a salad plate and carefully spread out the fanned bottom part.

    Discard the orange slices. Reserve the wine syrup and pour into a serving bowl to pass at the table (will be extra dressing).

    Circle the fanned pear with a desired amount of salad greens.  Sprinkle greens and/or pear with approximately 1T. of the crumbled cheese of your choice and any desired “gilding the lily” toppings.

    Pass the reserved wine syrup at the table as a dressing (or serve with a light champagne vinaigrette).

    Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today…, and I am so glad you were able to meet my good friend Louise.  Maybe one of these days she will share some more of her recipes with us!

    24 Sep 2010 Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

    Who eats jarred spaghetti sauce?  I hope no one.  I don’t. Not ever.  Well, I’ve had a spoonful here and there, so I do know how bad it is.  Too much vinegar.  I like wine, tomatoes, onions, fresh mushrooms and fresh meat in my spaghetti sauce.  I’ve never used a recipe.  I learned from watching my Dad, who learned from watching the Galloping Gourmet (I think he also got permission to drink during the day from the Galloping Gourmet, but that’s a whole other story.)

    My daughter, Abby, has asked me to write down my “recipe” for Spaghetti Sauce.  I put the word recipe in quotes because when I make spaghetti sauce, I just go for it.  It’s never really the same twice, but it always works out  (I’m not Italian, so I make no claims to an authentic Italian sauce).   Last week, when I made a big batch of spaghetti sauce, I carefully wrote down what I did so Abby can make her own spaghetti sauce while she is away at college.

    If you haven’t made spaghetti sauce before, perhaps this “recipe” can be your starting point. Use this as a guide to add and subtract ingredients to suit your tastes. Over the years the amount of meat in my sauce has decreased.  I’d like to cut it my 1/3 more, but my son would get upset.  We all like mushrooms, so I use a good amount.  I don’t like green or red peppers, so I leave them out completely.  One thing I wouldn’t change is the “Super Six”, the must-haves for seasoning spaghetti sauce:  sautéed onions, garlic, celery, parsley, basil and oregano.

    After the sauce is made, I let is sit overnight and then we usually have it for dinner. And, if I give in to the pleading of my older daughter, I’ll make a tray of lasagna, too, and then we’ll eat that for the next few days.  The remaining sauce I freeze in 3 or 4 cup batches.  This recipe will makes 10-12 cups of sauce.

    I hope you never buy jarred sauce again.  Nasty stuff.  Too many preservatives.  Not enough flavor. This is so much better, so much better.

    My Mom Polly’s Spaghetti Sauce

    Olive oil, as needed for sauteing
    2 large onions, coarsely chopped
    2 cups diced celery
    1 tablespoon minced garlic
    ¼ cup minced parsley
    2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes (recently I have use the “Muir Glen” brand, but for years I used whatever was on sale at the grocery store.  If you have them, use blanched, chopped tomatoes from your garden.  If you don’t like  chunky spaghetti sauce, then substitute the same amount of tomato sauce.)
    2 16-oz cans tomato sauce
    2 cups water
    1 tablespoon dried basil
    1 ½ tablespoons dried oregano
    1 tablespoon brown sugar
    1 teaspoon salt (add more later if needed)
    1 teaspoon pepper
    1 ½ lbs to 2 lbs of ground beef (or a mixture of your choice of ground beef, sausage, pork, veal.  Use at least 50% ground beef.  I have used ground turkey before, and don’t recommend it. I found the flavor to be too mild for this robust sauce)
    1 lb sliced mushrooms
    2 cups red wine (any robust red wine), optional, of course

    Heat about 2 T. olive oil in a large skillet.  Stir in chopped onions and sauté for 6-8 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and starting to caramelize. Stir in chopped celery and sauté for another 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and parsley and sauté for another minute.  Do not let the garlic brown or burn.  Pour mixture into a large stock pot, and turn on heat to medium.  Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, basil, oregano, brown sugar, salt and pepper.  Simmer for 30 -60 minutes, stirring occasionally (the longer the simmer, the richer the sauce). Meanwhile, in the skillet, add another tablespoon or two of olive oil and sauté the sliced mushrooms.  Add the mushrooms to the tomato sauce after the sauce has simmered at least 30 minutes.  In the same skillet that browned the onions and the mushrooms, add the ground meat.  Brown the meat, and then drain the fat off (to drain put the cooked meat in a colander over a bowl).  Stir drained, cooked meat into the tomato sauce, along with 2 cups of red wine, and simmer for an additional 30 minutes.  Taste, and more salt, pepper and brown sugar if needed. Serve immediately over hot noodles and topped with grated Parmesan cheese, or let cool, refrigerate, and chill overnight. Warm up only as much sauce as needed for your next meal.

    Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today, I always like it when you stop by!  Leave a comment and say HI!

    13 Sep 2010 Drunken Pear Crisp with Cherries

    Everyone who tried this last night (last night refers to one night in the fall of 2009) loved it…, except for me.  I didn’t fall in love with it until about an hour ago, when I had a bite of the leftovers.  Soooo GOOD!  What was I thinking earlier?  I had to scrape the bottom of the serving dish to get a leftover helping for myself.

    This crisp is made with almost a full bottle of Zinfandel. I’ve served the crisp  with small scoops of homemade vanilla ice-cream, and with whipped cream.  I am going to have to make another batch to figure out which option I like better! Besides that, the picture above is horrible and I definitely need a new picture… (if you make this, can you send me a picture to use in place of this one?)

    I made one change to the “Pear Crisp with Dried Sour Cherries”  recipe from “The Top 150 American Recipes” cookbook (aside from renaming the recipe), I thought the filling needed a thickening agent, it did.  I’ve added it into the recipe below.

    Start this one day before you plan to serve it—the cherries need time to get drunk.  Kids probably won’t like this…. Let them eat the ice-cream!

    Drunken Pear Crisp with Cherries

    1 cup dried SOUR cherries (I bought mine at Trader Joe’s)
    Approx ¾ bottle of Zinfandel
    5 cups thickly sliced pears (about 2 ½ lbs, 8 medium)
    1 T. tapioca or cornstarch
    ½ cup sugar (divided use)
    1 ¼ c. flour
    1/3 cup toasted sliced almonds
    1 T. finely chopped toasted sliced almonds
    ¼ c. firmly packed dark brown sugar
    1/8  t. ground nutmeg
    ¼ t. cinnamon
    8 T. (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled

    In a small saucepan over medium heat combine cherries with enough Zinfandel to cover by 2 inches.  Bring the mixture to a simmer, then remove from heat and let cool.  Place cherries in the refrigerator and let soak overnight (or, at least 8 hours).  Drain the cherries, but reserve the wine.  In a large bowl combine the sliced pears, drained cherries,  ¼ cup white sugar, and cornstarch or tapioca.  Toss well.  Add ½ cup of the cherry-Zinfandel liquid and then let stand for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In another bowl combine flour, remaining ¼ c. sugar, 1/3 cup toasted almonds, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Slowly drizzle in the melted butter.  Stir with a fork until mixture comes together in crumbles. (Do not over-mix and get a big ball of dough-break up any clumps bigger than one inch).  Spoon fruit mixture into a 2 qt. baking dish (8 x 8).  Evenly sprinkle crumbs on top of the fruit mixture. Sprinkle 1 T. finely chopped almonds over the crumbled topping. Bake until mixture is bubbling and topping is browned, about 50 minutes.  Serve hot or warm, with or without ice-cream or whipped cream. Guard the leftovers with your life!

    Inviting friends over this fall?  Serve this for dessert.  Trust me.

    Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!