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By learning about basic ingredients and how to use them, you can create simple, quick and delicious meals your family will love!!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Brats with Mustard Potatoes and Candied Red Cabbage

Wow, it's been a busy and cold month to start off this new year.  For those of us living in Florida, with temperatures down into the 20's and 30's, we can't wait for the spring thaw.  I miss grilling, and sitting outside on the patio, and just seeing the sun at this point!  Come on Spring, we're ready any time. :-)

This past weekend we took a quick trip to one of our favorite Florida spots, St Augustine Beach.  It did actually warm up to the middle 60's and we even got a full day of sunshine, so we were very happy with the weather and for the much needed getaway.

On our return trip we stopped at a roadside farmers market and found lots of fresh goodies, including red and green cabbage that had just been harvested from the farm next door.  I never even knew cabbage grew in Florida so I was kind of excited.  Other local crops included grape tomatoes, tiny yellow tomatoes, fresh carrots and kale and even Brussels sprouts still on the stalk, which was really cool.

So we brought home a bushel of farm fresh veggies and it was time to make something yummy.  The red cabbage was the first thing on my mind and I knew what I wanted to make.  A totally German meal of red cabbage, candied with a bit of brown sugar and red wine, gold potatoes with a mustard vinaigrette and some German brats.  This is a great meal to serve family style for guests and I guarantee you won't have many leftovers.  If you do have leftovers, they are even better the next day. This is comfort food at its best.

There are 3 components to this meal, the braised cabbage, the mustard potatoes and the brats, so depending how much space you have on your stove, you can prepare this meal a couple different ways.  I simmered the brats in a few cups of water and then kept them warm until ready to serve, but if you have access to a grill, that would make this dish even easier.

8 - 10 Brats - cooked to your liking and ready to serve

Braised Red Cabbage
4  Strips of Bacon, diced
1 large  Yellow Onion, peeled and sliced
2 lbs  Red Cabbage, cored and sliced
3 TB  Brown Sugar
1/2 cup  Chicken Stock
1/2 cup  Dry Red Wine

Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add the bacon and cook until softened but not crispy.  Add the onion and saute until tender, about 6 minutes.

Add the cabbage, brown sugar, stock and wine and stir.  Cover and cook over medium heat until the cabbage softens, about 5 minutes.  Remove the lid and cook until the liquid reduces slightly, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Try not to overcook the cabbage, it should be just tender when served.

Mustard Potatoes
2 lbs  Yukon Gold Potatoes
1/4 cup  Red Wine Vinegar
1/4 cup  Whole Grain Mustard
1/4 cup  Dijon Mustard
3/4 cup  Olive Oil
1/2 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
2 TB  Olive Oil
1/2 tsp  Dried Thyme

In a large pot boil the whole potatoes in salted water and cook until tender, about 30 minutes.  Drain the potatoes and cool for 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle.  Peel off the skin and cut the potatoes into 2-inch chunks.  Set aside.

In a small bowl combine the vinegar and both mustards, salt and pepper.  Whisk to combine and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the potatoes and thyme to the skillet and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 8 minutes, turning several times, until the potatoes are golden and crispy on the edges.

When potatoes are golden, remove the pan from the heat and drizzle the potatoes with a 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette and stir gently to coat.  Serve the remaining vinaigrette at the table so each person can add more as desired.

Plating the Meal 

Place the red cabbage onto a platter, line the edges with the mustard potatoes and place the brats down the center with a little extra cabbage over the brats.  Serve immediately with the extra vinaigrette.  Serves about 8 people.  Enjoy!!

It's Almost Spring!!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Filling

My last baking project for the year turned out the be one of the best tasting desserts I've ever made.  I wanted to make something special for New Year's Eve and I have always liked serving cupcakes, so these Reese's PB Cup-inspired cupcakes were perfect.

These little gems do require a bit more time to prepare, but the final result is worth it.  Making the cupcakes can be done a few hours ahead, then the filling and icing can be finished in about an hour.


I have always loved the idea of filled cupcakes.  You can use a simple pastry cream or a fruit-based filling, or something like this peanut butter filling which is a super easy mixture of peanut butter, butter and powdered sugar.  These cupcakes would also be delicious with an Irish cream or coffee-flavored pastry cream.  Oh, the yummy combinations are endless!

The tops of the cupcakes were finished with a rich chocolate ganache icing, which is a combination of semi-sweet chocolate chips and cream.  This was my first experience making this icing and it was a little tricky to work with, but I loved the way the tops were nice and shiny after they hardened.  But this step does require patience!  The trick here was to allow the icing to cool completely before adding the second layer of icing.  To help the hardening process along, I chilled the cupcakes for just a few minutes after the first layer of icing, then again after the second layer, and it worked out great.

You might notice the cupcake in the top picture is not quite as shiny as the others.  Ah, yes, patience!  Just in case you panic, like I did, and you're afraid the icing is not going to harden, adding a little sifted powdered sugar to the icing works well, also.  This will help the icing harden quicker, but the icing is a bit less shiny.  Be patient with the icing and it will work, I promise!  These cupcakes are incredibly good and well worth the extra time involved. Enjoy and Happy New Year!!

3/4 cup + 2 Tb  Cocoa Powder
1/2 cup  Boiling Water
1 cup  Buttermilk
1-3/4 cups  Flour
1-1/4 tsp  Baking Soda
1/4 tsp  Baking Powder
1/4 tsp  Salt
1-1/2 sticks  Unsalted Butter, softened
1-1/2 cups  Granulated Sugar
2  Eggs
1 tsp  Pure Vanilla Extract
1 cup  Creamy Natural Peanut Butter
3 TB  Unsalted Butter
2/3 cup  Confectioners Sugar
1 cup  Heavy Cream
8 oz  Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Line 24 muffin cups with foil or paper liners.

In a medium heatproof bowl combine the cocoa powder with boiling water and whisk until a smooth paste forms.  Whisk in the buttermilk, stirring until combined.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, use a mixer to combine the the 1-1/2 stick of butter with the granulated sugar, blending until fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla, then beat in the dry ingredients and the cocoa mixture, alternating the flour mixture with the cocoa mixture.

Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling about 2/3 full.  Bake for 22 - 24 minutes or until the cupcakes are springy when touched on top.  Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

In a medium bowl, beat the peanut butter with the 3 tablespoons of butter.  Sift the confectioners sugar into the mixture and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Spoon all but 3 tablespoons of the peanut butter mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch star tip.  Push the tip of the pastry bag into the top center of a cupcake, and gently squeeze the peanut butter filling into the cupcake.  You will feel the cupcake expand just a bit, as you do this.  Repeat until all of the cupcakes are filled.

In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer, then remove the pan from the heat.  Add the chocolate chips to the cream and let stand for 5 minutes.  Whisk the chocolate into the cream until smooth.  Let the icing stand for 15 minutes so it will cool slightly.

Dip the top of each cupcake into the icing, letting the excess drip back into the pan.  Transfer the cupcakes to a rack and chill for about 10 minutes or until the icing has hardened.  Dip the tops of the cupcakes into the icing a second time, then place the cupcakes on racks and chill until the icing has set.

Spoon the remaining peanut butter filling into the pastry bag and pipe a small rose in the center of each cupcake.