Applelicious Cupcakes

Applelicious Cupcakes

Channeling June Cleaver

Channeling June Cleaver

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Mandarin Orange Pecan Wild Rice and Farro Salad that taste and looks fantastic!

Who says healthy can't taste and look fantastic!  I knew that I had a winner with my Mandarin, Orange Pecan Wild Rice and Farro Salad the first time I served this for a birthday dinner for my son.  Everyone just raved about the salad and asked for the recipe.  This salad is easy and great to do ahead.  Love the sweetness of the mandarin oranges and crunch of the pecans.


4 sprigs thyme, divided
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
Kosher salt
1 cup wild rice, or wild rice blend like Whole Foods
1 cup farro
1 can(15 oz.) Mandarin Oranges in Light Syrup, drained, reserve syrup, I used Dole
¼ cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
4 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped pecans


Bring 2 thyme sprigs, 2 cups broth, and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add a pinch of salt, then rice; reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 40–45 minutes. Remove thyme and let cool. Drain, if needed.
Meanwhile, cook farro in another medium saucepan, using remaining 2 thyme sprigs, 2 cups broth, and 1½ cups water and cooking 35–40 minutes. Remove thyme and cool.
Whisk oil into light syrup in small bowl; season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Add mandarin oranges, wild rice, farro,  scallions and pecans and toss gently to coat.

Enjoy!

Gooddinnermrsmellen.com

Friday, January 24, 2014

Red Velvet Heart cookies just in time for Valentine's Day!

Red Velvet all over lately, even Dunkin Donuts had  Red Velvet lattes and  Red Velvet Drizzle Donuts during the holidays.  I'm  still not tired of this delicious flavor.  What could be more appropriate for Valentine's Day than Red Velvet Heart cookies. These little gems are fun and easy to make just screaming Be Mine!





Red Velvet Heart Cookies

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon red food coloring
3 ounces white baking chocolate with cocoa butter, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon shortening


1. Preheat oven to 325F.  In medium bowl sift flour, cocoa and salt.  Set aside

2. Cream butter and sugar in electric mixer until fluffy.  Stir in flour mixture until combined.  Add red food coloring gently hand mixing until dough is red without any chocolate streaks.

3. Form mixture into a ball and knead until smooth.  On lightly floured surface,  roll dough until 1/2 inch thick.  Using a 1inch scalloped heart cookie cutter, cut out dough.  Place cutouts 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

4. Bake for 20 minutes.  Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.

5. In a small heavy saucepan cook and stir white chocolate and shortening over low hear until melted and smooth.  Drizzle cookies with melted white chocolate.  Let stand until white chocolate is set.  Makes about 24 cookies.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

French Macarons a special Valentine's Day treat for your Sweetheart!

I've never met a holiday that I didn't love to celebrate.  Valentine's day happens to be one of my favorites.  I love decorating; pulling out all my dishes, plates, teacups pots and more.  China, silver,  and crystal which I collect and use all the time but especially lend a nice touch to Valentine's Day.

Today I baked up some treats to share with my family.  I made French Macaron cookies and Red Velvet Heart cookies.  Perfect to say Be My Valentine!


These delectable little treats are worth the all the work.  I also like to fill with other flavored filling to change it up!

French Macarons with Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Makes 24-30 shells or 12-15 macarons

3 large egg whites, at room temperature for three hours
1 cup silvered almonds, toasted
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Red food coloring

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

1. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Using a pencil draw 1 inch or 1 1/2 inch circle. (Depending on the size you want the macarons)  Turn parchment paper over; set aside.

2. Combine almonds and 1 tablespoon of the confectioners' sugar pulsing until finely ground. (Do not over process.) Add remaining confectioners' sugar and process until combined.  Set aside.

3. Using a mixer or medium-high speed beat egg whites until frothy.  Gradually add sugar, beating at high speed until peaks form, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add vanilla extract and desired about of food coloring: mix well.

4. Add almond mixture to egg whites, folding gently until well combined. Place batter into pastry bag fitted with medium tip.  Pipe batter into drawn circles on prepared baking sheets. Tap baking sheets on counter 5-7 times to release air bubbles.  Let sit at room temperature 45 minutes to 1 hour before baking.

5 Preheat oven to 275F.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until firm to the touch. Cool cool completely on baking sheets until ready to fill.

6. Place Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream in pastry bag fitted small round tip. Pipe mixture onto flat side of macaron, and top with another macaron, flat sides together, pushing gently down and twisting slightly so that filling will spread to edges.  Repeat with remaining macarons and filling.

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

3 egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. In medium bowl combine egg whites and sugar.  Using a mixture at medium speed, whisk together.  Set pan over over pan of simmering water.  Whisk constantly until mixture registers 140 on a instant-read candy thermometer. Remove from heat and beat at high speed with whip attachment for 10 minutes.  Meringue should be tripled in volume.

2. Reduce mixture speed to low.  Add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla extract and beat to combine.  Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes until light and fluffy.

Enjoy!


Monday, January 20, 2014

Brined Cornish Hens

Cornish hens like any whole poultry benefit if you brine before cooking.  The overnight brining makes them tender and juicy.  Just look at these golden, browned succulent little birds!





 Roasted Lemon Game Hens

1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. freshly ground peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoon rosemary
2 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoon fennel
1 qt. ice water
4 (1 1/2-ib) Cornish hens
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 teaspoon rubbed sage
2 teaspoon freshly ground peppercorns



Bring 1 cup of water and next eight ingredients to a boil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Stir in 1 qt. ice water.  Rinse hens; pat dry and add to brine.  Cover and chill for 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 425F.  Remove hens from brine; pat dry.  Tuck wing tips under. Tie legs together with string.  Brush hens with olive oil.  Mix sage and peppercorns together and rub on all sides of the hens.  Arrange hens on rack in roasting pan.  Bake for 50 minutes or until hens are done.  Cover and let sand 15 minutes before serving. 

I served these on a bed of Israel couscous.

Enjoy!






Thursday, January 16, 2014

French Bistro Chicken Pot Pie



I love bistro French cooking.  I'm reminded of aged french farmhouses with the wind gently ruffling fields of lavender on a warm summer day.  The draw of french cooking to me has always been the style of Provence or elegantly simple bistro cooking.  That's the taste that I wanted to capture with my French Bistro chicken Pot Pie.  Elegant but with simple ingredients that speak to my love of casual french cooking.  Serve with a salad of interesting fresh greens dressed, petite tomatoes and blue cheese dressed with a french vinaigrette and a glass of crisp Chablis, simply delicious!  A meal that transports me to the french country side.

French Bistro Chicken Pot Pie pour deux

2 whole boneless chicken breast
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped leeks, white only
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoon heavy cream
2 teaspoon herbs de provence
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated pepper
1 cup sliced baby carrots
1 cup haricot verts, cut into 2 inch pieces

Crust:
1/2 package puff pastry, 1 sheet
1 egg, beaten


Preheat oven to 350F

Place the chicken breast on a baking sheet and rub with olive oil.  Generously sprinkle breast with salt and pepper. Roast for 40-45 minutes or until cooked thoroughly.  Set aside to cool.  Cut chicken to 1 inch diced cubed when cool enough to handle.

In a small saucepan heat chicken stock just to boiling. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute leeks and shallots over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes until translucent.  Do not brown.  Add the flour and cook over low heat stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.  Add hot chicken  stock to the sauce.  Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring until thick.  Add wine bring to just to boil then reduce heat to a simmer.  Add cream, herbs, salt, and pepper. Add carrots and haricot verts. Mix well.

Preheat oven to 425F

Place a 1 1/2 cup ovenproof dish on pastry on a floured surface.  Cut circle from pastry. 1/2 inch larger than dish; cut vents. Refrigerate on parchment-lined baking sheet.

Divide chicken mixture between dishes.  top with pastry, press edges to seal, and brush with egg.  Bake on a baking sheet until golden, 25-30 minutes. 









Friday, January 10, 2014

Spicy Mexican Turkey Meatloaf on a Cold Winter day!



I don't know about you but when the temperature gets cold and the nights are long, I become famished.  Give me hearty, filling fare to make me nice and toasty!  No cold salad, or undressed veggies, I need substance!  I'm a throw back to my neanderthal ancestors, give me that extra layer of fat my body is telling me, eat up.  Unfortunately I work very hard to eat healthy and stay thin.  So I like to plan great hearty meals that satisfy my needs but are slimmed down in the calorie count.  A win win!

I find that spices especially a little spiciness goes a long way in tricking your palate into feeling very satisfied without adding needless fat or salt.  I created my spicy Mexican Turkey Meatloaf to be filling, tasting, and most importantly healthy.  It's like a Taco with out all the fat. 

1 lb ground lean turkey
1 egg
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 red pepper, chopped
1 bunch of scallions, chopped, white only
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 cloves crushed garlic
1/4 cup Franks Red Hot Sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely minced
1 cup fresh salsa, medium
1/2 cup shredded four cheese Mexican blend

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl combine all the ingredients except the salsa and cheese. Shape into loaf.  Place in baking pan and bake for 40 minutes.  Remove from over top with salsa and cheese; continue baking for 5 minutes more.

I like to serve with guacamole, sour cream, and warmed soft corn taco shells.

Enjoy!



Saturday, January 4, 2014

Minus 15 degrees this morning sends me dreaming of long days spent in my garden!


I am a transplant to Boston and New England, living here for over twenty five years, born and raised in Pennsylvania.  For some inexplicable reason I felt at home, as if I returned to where I belong, to my roots the very first time I visited Boston so long ago.  Funny I just found out recently, when my husband was doing genealogy research on my grandparents, that my paternal grandmother, who we were always told was born in Pennsylvania, turns out to be born in Rhoda Island.  That's another blog!  Getting back to my love for my adopted area, this morning was challenging my resolve to stay a Bostonian.  When I woke up and look my weather app the temperature was -15, yes -15!  It's colder in Boston than my lake house deep in the white mountains of New Hampshire!

Immediately as I looked at the temperature my mind started dreaming of warm weather with the long days that I love to spend working in my garden.  My fingers started clinking on all my favorite gardening site with visions of planting and redesigning my garden areas floated in front of my eyes.  I have many passions in my life, sometimes I think too many, family, cooking, gardening, yoga, running, shopping, decorating, I'll stop for now: Gardening is right at the top.  Gardening like yoga transport me to a peaceful zen like state that stays with me for a long time.  I am taken to another place were I am just one with nature and the plants that I love to grow and cultivate.  Part of the allure of gardening for me is that nature is unpredictable and always changing, just like me!  I love to redesign my garden, changing up my plants, moving, adding, discarding with each new season.  I love a new beginning, and in New England each spring is a new beginning, a new fresh start, a time to change and grow.  The endless possibilities that what I find in my garden fill my soul with joy and happiness.  Deep, profound, that's what gardening is to me.

My, my I have digressed.  Getting back on track as to why I started to write this post.  With the temperature -15 I am escaping  this fridge weather to planning and ordering for spring planting. I have three sources that I go to each year; White Flower Farms, Dutch Gardens and David Austin Roses.  Each of these growers have never disappointed me with the plants and bulbs that I have purchased over the years. I highly recommend their  quality and service.   And to treat myself since I am surviving this arctic weather I am finally going to buy the beautiful white Wisteria tree from White Flower Farms.  If you don't know about this wonderful grower in Northwestern Connecticut you don't know what you are missing.  I've ordered from their catalogue for years with all my plants a resounding success.   Dutch Gardens is a grower in Holland that has high quality bulbs and plants at a reasonable price.  What I especially like is that for the beginner gardener they have collections of bulbs selected to help you get started with your garden.  Many years and a few houses ago I started my gardens with Dutch Gardens already selected planting collections. And finally I can't say enough about David Austin Roses!  I am especially fond of old English roses with their fragrant beauty and non temperamental nature(no prima donnas in this group!)  They bloom for me every year with minimal care.  I just prune, water and fertilize!


I know I am obsessed with my garden and my plants, but it is a good healthy obsession that gives me with such joy and happiness.  I received so much more from my gardens than I have given. Enough support to get me through the coldest temperatures that I have experienced!

Enjoy!  Happy planning!


Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Trio of Heart Warming Soups for a Snowy Day!

One of my favorite things about living in New England is snow days!  Mother Nature visits our part of the earth all winter long with the gift of beautiful fresh snow which means for most of us an imprompe to snow day.  Ah, safe in my warm home looking out on the majestic brilliant white snow falling in my back yard starts me thinking that it's time to restock my freezer with home made soups to warm us all on the snowy winter days ahead! 

I've spotlight a trio of my family favorites heart warming soups for a snowy day or any day in fact!

Garlicky Baby Bela Mushroom Soup with Brown Rice



Making soup is so much fun on a cold wintry day especially when I use mushrooms. I make many different soups but I like this soup so much that I make it over and over changing a little here and a little there. Today I wanted the soup very flavorful add four cloves of garlic!  Garlic sauteing filled my kitchen, so delightful.


Baby Bela Garlic Mushroom Soup with Brown Rice

2 tablespoon olive oil with Myer lemon
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz baby Bela mushrooms, chopped
32 oz organic vegetable broth
2 teaspoons Herbs de Provence
1/4 cup brown rice,  I used Trader Joe's Brown Rice Melody

Rinse mushrooms well and pat dry.  Heat olive oil in medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Add garlic sauteing for 5 minutes on low heat. Don't let garlic brown. Add mushrooms; continue sauteing for 10 minutes. Pour in  broth bring to a boil.  Add herbs and rice; cover and simmer on low for 30 minutes.

Spinach, cheese and egg Chichen Soup - Stracciatella




This recipe for Stracciatella is an old family recipe that my grandmother passed down to my mother and my mother to me. Every Italian family has their own way of making Stracciatella, some families use eggs, cheese and pasta, some families use only eggs and cheese, our family uses spinach, eggs, cheese and chicken. I love this wonderful soup that is a meal  with a salad and a beautiful loaf of bread. I have included my mothers recipe for Chicken stock or you can substitute low fat chicken broth.(chicken stock isn't that hard to make!) If you use chicken broth use 4 quarts. And I love chicken in the soup so just add 3 cups of cooked chicken.


Stracciatella

Chicken Stock
1  4 1/2 lb 5 lb whole chicken
2 celery ribs, cut into 2-inch lengths
2 carrots, quartered
2 medium onions, halved
6 fresh parsley stems(without leaves)
1 Turkish bay leaf
8 black peppercorns
3-4 qt cold water, enough to cover the chicken
1 1/2 tsp salt

Wash chicken well. My mother always put a tablespoon of sea salt in the chicken cavity for a few minutes and then rinses the chicken well. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a large 10-qt pot. Skim the frothy fat off until there is no more sudsy fat. Simmer for 3 hours, covered. Remove chicken to a large bowl and set aside. The chicken will be very tender and fall apart. Let cool and then remove meat from the chicken. set aside The white meat is what I like to use in my soup. Pour stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl and discard the remains in the sieve. If using stock right away, skim off and discard any reminding fat. If not cool stock completely, skim fat and then chill covered. If you make the stock a day ahead and chill over night the fat will form on the top and is very easy to remove making the stock lower in fat. Stock will keep chilled for 3 days or can be frozen for 1 month.

Soup
1 box 10 oz frozen chopped spinach
5 eggs
1 cup Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
Cooked chicken about 3 cups cut into bit size pieces

Cook spinach according to package instructions, I like to microwave. Beat eggs well in large bowl adding  spinach and 1 cup cheese. Bring  stock to boil, add spinach mixture. Don't stir for a minute or two. Stir and reduce heat immediately to low. Continue stirring for 4 to 5 more minutes. Add cooked chicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot, topped with additional grated cheese.


Tortellini and Escarole Soup
3 Tablespoon olive oil
3 clovers garlic crushed
2 shallots, chopped
1 head of escarole, thoroughly washed and cut into bit size pieces
1 box(32 oz.)  organic low salt chicken broth, I love Trader Joe's
1 package cheese tortellini(9 oz) fresh or frozen
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cook garlic and shallots in olive oil on low for 5 just until shallots  are translucent. Don't brown garlic (it taste bitter if you do). Add escarole, stir, coating escarole with olive and cook for another 5 minutes just until the escarole is wilted. Add chicken broth, tortellini, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over individual servings if you want.   Serve with fresh Italian bread and a salad for a wonderful fall meal.

Enjoy