Peeps Hatching Easter Cupcakes

9 Apr

I have a love-hate relationship with Peeps Marshmallow Chicks. On the one hand, I am a big fan of marshmallows. I love them chocolate-covered, in S’mores, plain, and in hot cocoa.

On the other hand, I am sort of appalled by the bright artificial colors and blank stares of the little birds. And to be honest, coating a marshmallow in sugar isn’t my favorite way to eat it.

But when it came time to make a dessert for Easter, something about the quintessential Easter treats stuck in my head. I had gone through a long list of possibilities, from mini Easter baskets, to bunny rabbit cupcakes, to an Easter egg-shaped ice cream cake. But it was when I was at See’s Candies and came across their Hollow Eggs with Novelties that I finally figured out what to do. The Peep would be the star of the show.

You can use any cupcake and frosting recipes you want. Those aren’t important. For this project I used a banana cake recipe from Moms Who Think, along with a whipped cream frosting from Tasty Kitchen. I only made half a batch of frosting, though, because this project uses very little of it. The topping, meant to look like a bird’s nest, is made from crushed banana chips. See the Lessons section below for alternatives.

The key is to freeze the hollow chocolate eggs for a couple of hours before using them so that they don’t melt in your hands. They will also shatter better. Because you’re only using shards from the egg, one chocolate egg will be enough for three cupcakes. One box of six, then, will be enough for 18 cupcakes. I haven’t figured out what to do with the novelty white chocolate chicks that come with the eggs yet.

Ingredients

Your best cupcake recipe
Your favorite frosting recipe
8-12 See’s Hollow Eggs with Novelties
1.5 cups dried banana chips (unsalted)
24 Peeps Marshmallow Chicks

Hardware

24 cupcake liners

Yields

24 cupcakes

Directions

  1. Freeze the hollow chocolate eggs for at least two hours.
  2. Bake the cupcakes, and prepare the frosting.
  3. Once the cupcakes are cooled, use a knife to cut a shallow hole in the top of the cakes.
  4. Using an icing spatula, ring the cupcakes with frosting. Also put a dab of frosting in each hole you made.
  5. Using a food processor, finely chop the banana chips. It’s OK to have a big piece here and there. They add more crunch. Spread the banana crumbs on a plate.
  6. Invert a cupcake, and roll the rim in the banana crumbs. Imagine that you’re salting the rim of a margarita glass. Repeat for the rest of the cupcakes.
  7. Take the chocolate eggs out of the freezer, and unwrap them. Twist them at the seams, and they will shatter at into several pieces. Discard (eat) the novelty white chocolate chick inside.
  8. Arrange three shards of chocolate egg around the edge of each cupcake hole, using the frosting as glue. Leave one side open.
  9. Place a marshmallow Peep in the cavity formed by the eggshell, sticking the tail out of the side you left open. Repeat for the rest of the cupcakes.
  10. Using a small amount of frosting as glue, stick small shards of chocolate eggshell on the heads or tails of the Peeps.

Lessons

This works equally as well for a generic “spring” dessert, but you’ll need to stock up on the hollow eggs, which are only sold during the weeks leading up to Easter. Buy a bunch of them during the post-Easter sale and save them in your freezer until next spring. Peeps may be difficult to find outside of Easter season, too. Graham crackers work just as well for the nest. I largely avoid artificial food dyes, though I made an exception in this case due to the theme of the project. To make grass for the topping, instead, put some shredded coconut in a zip top bag and add a few drops of liquid chlorophyll, shake it around to distribute the color, and use it to top your icing.

Chicken Stew Ole

7 Apr

“Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” -Steve Jobs

I’ve been making this stew for several years now, but I’ll be the first one to tell you that it wasn’t my idea. My friend Colin had been making a Chicken Soup Ole (similar to this) that he had learned from his mother. I think he said that she had lifted it from a Betty Crocker cookbook, or something similar. That’s a roundabout way of saying that this isn’t Mexican food in the least, but it’s still delicious and great fun at dinner parties, where you get to decorate your bowl with whatever toppings are on hand. I suggest putting all the prepared garnishes on the table and letting diners do what they please.

When I was younger, my mom would make a couple different dishes when the kids were sick. One was Alphabet Soup, another was Aguadito de Pollo, and another was Jook. Aside from the Alphabet Soup, it was pretty easy to see why I associated rice soups with “get well” food. So several years later, it is no wonder that when my roommate was sick I decided to make her Chicken Soup Ole, only thickened with rice. It must have worked because a couple years after, she agreed to marry me! She still ranks this as one of her favorite things I make.

This dish is really great for using up leftover taco toppings (the hard shell kind). The fact that most of the ingredients are canned also means you can whip it up whenever.

Ingredients

1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, and chili powder
2 cups uncooked white rice
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 14.5 oz can whole kernel corn, drained
1 4 oz can diced green chilies
2 tsp red wine vinegar

Garnish

tortilla chips
grated cheddar cheese
chopped cilantro, stems removed
green onions, diced (green and light green parts only)
salsa or pico de gallo
avocado slices or guacamole
sour cream
sliced black olives
hot sauce
anything else you want!

Yields

10-12 servings

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, and chili powder, tossing to cover. Place in the heated oven and bake for about 45 minutes, flipping halfway through. Don’t worry if the chicken isn’t completely cooked through, but it must be cooked enough to be shredded.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large pot or Dutch oven add the rice, onion, chicken broth, and water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally to minimize the rice sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  4. Shred the chicken and add to the rice, along with the tomatoes, corn, chilies, and vinegar. Taste for seasoning.
  5. Continue cooking until the consistency of the rice is like chunky porridge, about an hour from start to finish. You definitely shouldn’t have individual grains of rice, but if it’s too thick you can add more water or chicken broth.
  6. Ladle about a cup of stew into each serving bowl.
  7. Now comes the fun part! Add whatever garnishes you want, and mix the stew to create a personalized meal.

Lessons

This dish lends itself to a couple variations, mostly of the seasonal variety. I have made it with fresh corn, and the  crunch of the fresh corn is wonderful, but you have to wait until almost the end of cooking to add it. I have also replaced the canned tomatoes with tomatillos to give it a wonderful green color.

Reconstructed “Oreo” sandwich cookies

2 Apr

For April Fool’s Day yesterday we had our good friends over for dinner, and I knew I wanted to make something “disguised” for dessert. I had been contemplating making ice cream cupcakes for a while, so armed with a recipe for Brownie Bottom Ice Cream Cupcakes from Joy the Baker, I tried to see what I could do to make some fun filling with cake and ice cream.

While I normally don’t make box cake, the reality is that when you freeze ice cream cake, the texture and flavor of scratch cake gets lost. Unless you specifically need to avoid certain ingredients, save yourself the trouble and just use a box cake mix.

I was going to go with Oreo double stuffed cookies, but while I was at the grocery store, I spotted Who Nu? cookies, which are packed with extra nutrition. If I’m going to serve these to kids, I might as well try to make myself feel less guilty, right?

Ingredients

36 chocolate sandwich cookies
1 box white cake mix
1 gallon vanilla ice cream or any flavor that is white (not French vanilla)
Hot water

Hardware

36 foil cupcake liners
9″ icing spatula
wax paper
aluminum foil

Yields

36 ice cream cake sandwich cookies

Directions

  1. Drop the foil cupcake liners into cupcake pans.
  2. Unscrew the chocolate sandwich cookies, trying as hard as you can to keep all of the cream filling to one side. Drop the uncreamy sides, decorated face down, into the liners, one into each. Save the other cookie halves.
  3. Prepare the cake mix according to directions.
  4. Drop one generous tablespoon of batter on top of each cookie, taking care not to fill each well any more than 1/4 full.
  5. Pick the pans up and drop onto the counter from an inch or two to eliminate as much air as you can. Do this a couple times.
  6. Bake according to cake directions, but pull them out a few minutes early, as you’re only making half a cupcake. Test with a toothpick or cake tester to make sure it’s done.
  7. Let the cupcakes rest in the trays for 10 minutes.
  8. Place the trays with the cupcakes in the freezer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, let the ice cream thaw so that it is malleable but not liquid.
  9. Fill the cupcakes to the top of the liners with the ice cream, using the spatula to pack it in and smooth the top. Dip the spatula in hot water to help cut through the ice cream. Try to work out as much air as you can, but take care not to squish the cupcake.
  10. Place the reserved cookie halves in the center of the cupcakes, decorated face up.
  11. Place the cupcakes back in their trays. Cover with wax paper, and then wrap the whole thing in aluminum foil.
  12. Freeze for at least two hours, preferably four.
  13. Remove the cupcakes from their trays. Using a sharp thin knife, cut straight down, tracing the outline of the cookie to trim the excess ice cream and cake away.
  14. Remove the foil wrappers and excess material. Use a spatula to smooth the edges.

Lessons

Like any ice cream cake, this takes a long time and a lot of patience. Also, make sure the ice cream is pretty solid before you serve, as the concoction will be easily crushed. I’m second-guessing using a premium ice cream, as the higher fat content keeps it softer. I might (gulp) even think about using light ice cream to keep the fat content down.

This is not a cooking blog

2 Apr

Nope, this isn’t going to be a cooking blog. I don’t think I can write regularly enough or take fantastic enough photographs to make scheduled posts. This will be, however, a place to actually write down some recipes I’ve been working on. Someplace better than the random scraps of paper that accidentally get tossed in the recycling bin or chewed up by the cats. It’s an online world now, and by golly, it’s time I put my recipes where I can find them.

Most will be works in progress and thus be rather unpolished. That’s OK, though, because it’s a recipe lab, not a cookbook. I may make several posts about the same dish, changing it each time I make it and hopefully ending up with a better product. Perhaps some of you will cook along with me and offer suggestions for improvement. It’s not just an online world now, but a social one, as well.

Alright, let’s get experimenting!

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