Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mint Brownie Cupcakes

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I made these cupcakes over the weekend to bring to the in-laws' family game night and annual corned beef and cabbage dinner. This recipe is from Taste of Home - I first made these for St. Patrick's Day last year and my mother-in-law loved them, so I think it's going to become a tradition!

As you might have guessed from the name, these treats look like cupcakes, but the texture is more like a brownie. The topping is very light, with marshmallow and whipped cream as the main ingredients. In my opinion you can't go wrong with mint and chocolate at any time of year, but I thought these would make for a fun and festive post for the holiday.

Mint Brownie Cupcakes

1 cup mint chocolate chips (I couldn't find these at our store so I chopped up a couple of Lindt bars)
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

4 cups miniature marshmallows
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
Green or red food coloring, optional
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped
Additional chocolate chips, optional

In a heavy saucepan, melt chips and butter; stir until smooth. Remove from the heat.
Stir in sugar and eggs. Combine flour and baking powder; gradually stir into chocolate mixture until smooth.
Fill paper-lined muffin cups half full. (The recipe says it makes 16, but I only came out with 14 this time.) Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (cupcakes may fall in center). Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool.
In a large saucepan, cook and stir marshmallows and milk over low heat until smooth. Remove from the heat; stir in extract and food coloring if desired.
Cover and refrigerate for about 15 minutes or until cooled. (Make sure you cool long enough - last year I was rushing and my topping came out a bit soupy.) Fold in whipped cream. Spread over cupcakes or top each with a dollop of topping. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Sprinkle with additional chocolate chips if desired. Store in the refrigerator.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

North Woods Wild Rice Soup

In honor of the last full week of winter (yay!), I decided to make one of our favorite soups. It's yet another recipe I got from my mom years ago, and I couldn't find any exactly like it online, so I'm not sure of the original source. It's simple and yummy, and it incorporates the state grain of my home state, Minnesota.

Not the prettiest picture in the world, but how do you make soup look pretty?

North Woods Wild Rice Soup

1/4 cup butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups chicken broth
1 12-ounce can evaporated fat-free milk
1 cup cooked wild rice (I took a short cut and used one of those 90-second microwave packets)
1 cup chopped cooked chicken
1/2 of an 8-ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese, cubed

In a 4-qt. pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and carrot. Cook and stir over medium heat until carrot is tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Add broth all at once. Cook and stir until bubbly. Stir in evaporated milk, wild rice, chicken and cream cheese; cook and stir over medium-low heat until cheese is melted. (We got about 4 servings out of this.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Weekend Trip to Philly

Yes, it's Thursday, and I'm finally getting around to posting about our weekend. We took a quick trip to Philadelphia, and I thought it was a funny coincidence that Megan beat me by a couple days with a post reminiscing about her trip there a few years ago! I'd only been to Philly briefly on a family trip when I was 9, and Shaun had never been there, so we were happy about the chance to travel there together. We drove down with our friend Rich and stayed with his college friends (whom we have also become friends with over the last couple years), Matt and Jess, in the townhouse they just bought. A couple of Bens (also Rich's college friends) came and met us, and our ND drumline buddy John (who grew up here with Shaun and Rich) drove up from DC with his girlfriend Sarah. Got all that? There will be a quiz at the end. Seriously though, it was a great group and a fun weekend.

I unfortunately didn't get very many pictures with people in them, because I don't like being "that guy" stopping the action for everyone to pose or asking a stranger to take a group picture. Figures that afterward I usually wish I'd taken some anyway. But I do have a few pics to share (all taken by Shaun), as we were lucky enough to have absolutely beautiful weather for sightseeing - about 70 degrees on Saturday. So ready for spring!

Independence Hall, far and close

My dad lived in Philly for a little while as a kid and used to tell me when I was young that he was the one who cracked the Liberty Bell.

The Assembly Room in Independence Hall...even standing there, it was so difficult to comprehend all the history that happened in this very room.

Senate Room next door in Congress Hall

Hey, there are some people! Jess ducked behind us for the previous self-portrait, but Shaun was determined to get her in the next one.

We had real Philly cheesesteaks at Pat's...yeah, those disappeared too quickly to get a picture. The efficiency there is amazing. Can you see the line starting in the back left corner, wrapping around the building? It took us maybe 15 minutes to get through. Geno's, the competitor on the opposite corner, also had a crazy long line. It was quite the sight!

Our last stop on the way out of the city was the art museum and Rocky statue...no running up the steps on our full stomachs though.

So that was the touristy part of our weekend. Other than that, we spent our time just hanging out, playing some Wii and some board games. I have to say, after playing it only three times, that The Game of Things might be the most fun game I've ever played. I got it for Christmas after randomly discovering it online, and three of our friends decided to buy it after playing just once. It allows you to use some creativity, and if you're with the right crowd, it can get pretty interesting. For example...our answer of choice the first time we played, if we couldn't think of anything else, was a classic quote from a classic Christmas movie..."Bend over and I'll show you." Yep, just slightly ashamed to admit that that was our jumping off point. On that note, I think it's time to wrap it up for today. Happy almost-weekend!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Marjorie Johnson's Chocolate Cupcakes

If you've watched the Tonight Show within the last several years, you may be familiar with Marjorie Johnson. She's a baker from Minnesota who has won tons of awards, especially at the state fair. In addition to other local and national shows she's been on, she became an occasional correspondent for Leno after having several baking segments on his show. She always wears red and always talks a mile a minute.

Marjorie came out with a cookbook, and a couple Christmases ago my dad got signed copies for my mom, my sister and me:

I've only tried a few recipes, just because I have SO many recipes bookmarked from all sorts of sources, but these cupcakes have become a favorite. In fact, our friend Rich (a fellow chocolate lover), was quoted as saying, "If I could die for anything, it would be one of these." I guess that means he likes them! They're very soft and crumbly - I tried to show the inside, which resulted in a mess of crumbs surrounding the cupcake, so I apologize for the ugly picture. But just trust me...they're tasty.

Chocolate Cupcakes

2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup Crisco
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all ingredients in a large electric mixer bowl. Blend together on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. Pour into 24 paper-lined muffin cups, filling half full, and bake for about 20 minutes.

1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
6 ounce package chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In a microwaveable bowl, place milk, butter, and chocolate chips. Microwave for 1 minute, stir; if chocolate and butter are not melted, microwave for another minute. Stir until smooth. Add vanilla and powdered sugar and beat to a spreading consistency. Frost cupcakes.

On another chocolate note: I made Pioneer Woman's Chocolate Sheet Cake recently and served it warm...wow. She was right in saying that it causes moans and groans when you take a bite. Even Shaun, who is not nearly the chocolate freak that I am, thought it was really good!