Coconut and Almond Frosted Chocolate Cupcakes (Almond Joy Cupcakes)

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As a kid, I loved the milk chocolate in an Almond Joy candy bar, but would always spit out the almond.  As an adult, I learned to like the nuts, but they weren’t my favorite part of the candy bar.  I wished for the lack of almonds in a Mounds but the milk chocolate of an Almond Joy.

I decided to play around and make my own candy bar cupcake.

I used a regular, milk chocolate, boxed cake mix then went on a search to find a buttercream that was a little nicer than just adding flavoring.

Cooking Classy had the perfect recipe and I had all the ingredients.  Yes….I keep cans of coconut milk in my pantry.  I like to have it on hand for a curry dish or turning leftover rice into rice pudding.  The coconut milk kept the frosting nice and light and after adding the extract, the frosting tasted just like the filling of a candy bar.  I was pretty conservative with the shredded coconut; I didn’t want to spend the evening picking pieces of it out of my teeth.

My daughter helped me decorate half of the tops with almond flowers which added a very classy touch.  I drizzled chocolate over the other half so that I could have my dream candy bar.  And boy, did they live up to everything I was dreaming of.

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Coconut Frosting
    • 1 cup salted butter, at room temperature
    • 1/4 cup coconut milk (canned, well shaken)
    • 1 tsp coconut extract
    • 4 cups powdered sugar
For topping
  • 3/4 cup sweetned, shredded coconut, (optionally ground in a food processor for smaller pieces)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup sliced almonds or 24 whole almonds
  • 24 milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips, optional

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together butter and coconut milk on medium-low speed until combined, then increase speed to medium-high and whip until very pale and fluffy, about 6 minutes. Blend in coconut extract. With mixer set on low speed, slowly add in powdered sugar then increase speed to medium-high and blend until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Recipe Source: Cooking Classy

Do the right thing, people.

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A friend, my daughter and I decided to eat outside for Vermont Restaurant Week. I’d been to Sweetwaters a couple other times before now and our meals were fantastic, just as I expected. The portions were generous and I was thankful to have the help enjoying it.

The pulled pork nacho appetizer was better than I expected.  The chips seemed homemade, the pork was melt in your mouth and the sauce was just the right amount of spicy and sweet. The Boyden burger was cooked to a medium rare perfection.  The only reason I didn’t finish mine was because the nachos were so filling and I needed to save room for the most amazing Maple Creme Brulee.  I’m going to have to break down and buy a torch one of these days so that I can make my own, properly.

Despite being double sat and customers seating themselves, our waiter (Chris) did a fantastic job. He was always polite even though he had 5-6 tables and was treated rudely from impatient customers.

My biggest complaint is that my friend and I watched hosts and fellow waitstaff stand off to the side without jumping in to help a server in the weeds. Only once was he helped by someone carrying food out to another of his tables. There was a misunderstanding of the food being delivered and the other server appeared rude and impolite of the situation.

I made sure to make the management aware of how pleased we were with our server and the struggle he had to endure. I just hope that the staff does a better job stepping up and helping each other out when things get busy.

Fellow patrons: Please be aware that sometimes your server gets busy and needs your patience and understanding. A kind word will go a long way (unlike the stabbing and sarcastic remarks that we overheard from neighboring tables–one was because they weren’t allowed to bring in popcorn from outside).  Also: if you’re in a rush go to McDonalds.  If you’re going to to eat at a place with outdoor seating on a sunny weekend, be patient and enjoy the company you’re with.

I’ll be back again to enjoy a meal, will definitely ask for Chris again and would definitely tip him as generously as we did this afternoon.

“Once again, you’ve outdone yourself”

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Yes, those were the words that were uttered to me after my partner took a bite full of dinner, this evening,

I will say it again, I love that I’ve been gifted with venison from a generous co-worker.  Without it, I wouldn’t be enjoying some of the cooking adventures that I have had.  Two weekends ago I found a winner with this post.  I may not have another piece of venison backstrap, but I’ll definitely try it out with a piece of beef.

I decided to open up the package labeled: “Eye of Round” and found that it was all cut into medallions.  It wasn’t what I expected to find, but I was able to work with it.

I will point out that I’m in love with honest-food’s website.  I found the most amazing stroganoff recipe and made a few, minor, changes.  I had four ingredients on my list of things to buy.  You’d think I could have remembered only four ingredients but nope, I forgot the shallots.  I ended up using onions in place.  I had to use dried dill, ground nutmeg and Old Vine Zinfandel but it was just as amazing as I had envisioned.

I’ll definitely be making this again.

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Lincoln Peak Marquette Red Velvet Cupcakes

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Vermont has seen a wonderful explosion of vineyards in the past years.  My favorite, being a local place called Lincoln Peak Vineyards.  When I say local, I mean very local.  The owners have been farming the land for years, first as a strawberry farm and now grapes and one of them still teaches art at the school my kids go to.  It’s refreshing to walk into a place and know have the owners know your first name.  It’s even more refreshing to see them out and about and have them chat you up.  They’re just fantastic people, all around.

I’ve tried all the wines they’ve carried and the Marquette will always be my favorite.  I don’t care for dry red wines at all–never have.  If this is dry red, I’m unconvinced, but only in the most positive of ways.   Marquette is such a versatile, easy going, laid back varietal that goes well with steak, chicken, pizza, cookies and that bar piece of chocolate at the end of the day.

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I decided to stop in to the vineyard on the way home from work (I told you it was that local), and pick up a bottle of my beloved Marquette.  The owner, Chris, greeted me by name, and with a genuine smile, asked me how work was.

We chatted a bit and I told him of my newest endeavors in the blogging world.  It was at that moment that the ideas started spinning around in my head.  I was determined to use this wine for more than drinking this evening.  I assured him that I was going to use this in some sort of cupcake concoction.

As much as I enjoy chatting with the owners, I couldn’t get home fast enough.  I needed to grab this inspiration and run with it.

I finally found a recipe that looked promising but one that I could easily make into my own over at teacher-chef.com.  I didn’t have any chocolate cake mix in the house but I had just picked up a box of Red Velvet, on a whim.  Why not use that?  In my mind, it’s always been chocolate cake with a ton of red food coloring.  Red Wine, Red Velvet.  It seemed appropriate.

I recipe said to reduce “about two cups” of red wine by half.  In hindsight, I’ll do three cups next time.  The recipe said to use the reduction in place of the water in the cake recipe and my recipe called for a cup and a quarter and another quarter cup for the frosting.  Math is not my favorite subject but my “wine math” said that there wasn’t going to be enough wine.

You’re panicking, aren’t you?  It’s okay, breathe.  There’s another bottle of Marquette in my wine rack.

The recipe mentioned that I’d either have to skimp or double the batch.  Who skimps on frosting?  Not this girl.   I measured out enough reduction to make a double batch of frosting and just topped off the deficit with wine straight from the bottle.

I’ve found that my oven runs about 5-10 degrees below the controls but no matter how carefully I watch the temperature, my cupcake bottoms always burn in a metal pan.  I’ve since put it in a permanent time-out.  I have a Pampered Chef muffin pan and it’s never steered me wrong.  Downside: I only have one stone pan.  Solution: Free-standing, silicone baking cups.  We’re back in business!

Even though there was only a little over a cup of wine in the batter, it smelled right boozy.  I knew I was on to something good.

The cupcakes turned out light, fluffy and moist.  I may have tried a bite, while they were still warm.  I even talked my brother into sharing the other half.

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The frosting recipe was a simple, butter/shortening buttercream.  I much prefer using equal parts of unsalted butter and shortening in a frosting-it just holds up so much better.  You get the hold of the shortening with all the taste of butter.  The half cup of wine in the frosting turned it such a pretty shade of something between a lavender and light berry color.  The wine taste isn’t overpowering, but a nice, light hint.

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I’m doubly glad that I doubled that frosting recipe.  How else would I have filled 24 cupcakes, let alone frost them?

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Me, enjoying my delicious cupcake
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My brother, a very willing taste-tester.
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What’s better than a frosted cupcake? A filled and frosted cupcake.

 

Biting into that first miniature cake was a treat.  Fluffy, moist and the wine left such a nice taste in my mouth.  Of course, the bottle was open and I poured myself another glass.  Perfection.

I wonder how the next batch will taste with a few semi-sweet chocolate curls, perched on top…….

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Cheddar and Garlic Cream Cheese-Stuffed, Bacon-Wrapped Chicken

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Have I mentioned that I love Bacon?  I love Bacon.  I love, love, LOVE Bacon.

This week my Facebook page reached 100 likes and I decided I was going to celebrate with a really fun meal.  Something with Bacon.  The recipe over at Artsy-Fartsy Mama struck my fancy (and her blog name made me giggle).

I made a few changes to this recipe, to make it my own.

I’ve always wanted to try  my hand at a Bacon weave and really liked how well it worked.  I used eight slices of Bacon in order to make the weave cover my chicken breasts ( I think that it also kept the cheese from seeping out and melting into the pan while they cooked).

I used a generous sprinkle of garlic powder on top of the cream cheese, topped it with cheddar and then wove the Bacon over the entire piece of meat.  I secured the ends with a couple of longer toothpicks.

The recipe said to cook for 45 minutes, turning half way through.  I ended up moving the pieces to a grate, set over a pan.  It seemed to keep the chicken from getting soggy in all those Bacon drippings.  I threw it under the broiler for about 15 minutes after the 45 minutes were up and man, did they ever look amazing.

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Crisp Perfection

A side of Au Gratin (in our family, we jokingly call them “Old Rotten” potatoes), some Lincoln Peak Marquette and my meal was complete.  I usually do a nice big veggie on side of most meals but I was tired after an entire day at work, and knew that I had dessert preparations coming up.

Even after cooking them for an hour, the chicken was so moist and tender.  The Bacon seemed to keep everything wrapped in tightly.  As time consuming as they seemed, I will definitely be making these again.

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Cheddar and Garlic Cream Cheese-Stuffed, Bacon-Wrapped Chicken with Lincoln Peak Marquette

Time to make the doughnuts…..

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Maple Glazed Goodness

I loved Fred the Baker and I still giggle when I hear that phrase.  I remember growing up and watching the Dunkin Donuts commercials.  “Time to make the doughnuts.  I made the doughnuts……”

In my younger days, I worked at a grocery store that had an in-house bakery.  The biggest part of my job was making the doughnuts.  Having to start work at 3:30 am often found me muttering, “It’s time to make the doughnuts…..”  Even though they were early hours, making doughnuts was a fun job.  After I got the hang of it, turning doughnuts with sticks was a blast.  It was not unlike playing drums with food–at least that’s how my imagination played out for me.

My baking adventure this weekend was actually deep fried but who’s keeping track?  It’s still a pastry, and you can bake them, but where’s the fun in that?

I’ve never understood the fascination with Krispy Kremes.  Sure, I tried them once, fresh off the conveyor, but I just don’t think they’re “all that”.  With that as my disclaimer, I found this recipe on Instructables and decided to use it for the actual doughnut dough.

This recipe was really simple to follow and everything went according to plan until I pulled the formed doughnuts out to fry them.  I should have dusted the pans more liberally than I did because they stuck and flattened when I tried to pick them up.  Oh well.  Live and learn, right?

I had already decided that I was going to maple glaze these babies and this is the recipe that I came up with:

Maple Glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/8 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/8 cup maple cream
  • 1/4-1/2 cup maple syrup
  • pinch of salt
Mix sugar, corn syrup, maple cream, 1/4 cup maple syrup and salt into mixer. Mix well, 15 to 20 minutes. Add more maple syrup as needed to get desired consistency.  It works well to be able to spread this frosting on the doughnut, rather than dip into.
I did cook off a pound of Bacon but didn’t think fast enough to put the crumbs on immediately upon frosting the doughnuts.  The glaze dried quick and the Bacon wouldn’t stick.
Solution: Doughnuts with a Bacon chaser.  Everybody wins!
The Rising of the Dough
The Rising of the Dough
Turned out and ready to roll.
Turned out and ready to roll.
Nesting Cutters
Nesting Cutters
They are Risen!
They are Risen!
Gone for a swim in the bubbly oil.
Gone for a swim in the bubbly oil.
Maple Glazed Goodness

Maple Glazed Goodness

Maple Glazed Goodness

PSA: Jaeger doesn’t always mean alcohol

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JaegerSchnitzel

When I hear Jaeger, I automatically think of Red-Headed Sluts and Jaeger Bombs.  I’ve never had the latter, and probably won’t ever, thanks to the former.  I have a love-hate relationship with the Sluts.  Word to the Wise: A fifth of Jaeger in one evening will do that to a person.  Hey, You’re only young once, right?  Even if that was when you were thirty-two years old, right?  I’m so glad that I didn’t have to work on renewing my JaegerMeister relationship this weekend.

I happen to have a generous co-worker that supplied me with my first opportunity to experience venison sometime in the fall.  I used up the first round that he shared with me, a couple months ago, and mentioned to him that I wouldn’t be opposed to more.  He was more than happy to share with me again.  Even my kids were excited with the news (I have to say that I’m thankful for kids that trying new things, more than the average).

I researched some new recipes and found an amazing site that catered to wild game recipes.  Thanks to Hank Shaw, I found an amazing recipe: Classic Jaeger Schnitzel.

As a child, I remember hating mushrooms and onions and I’m really glad that I grew up (well, only grew up partially).  This recipe called for 1-1 1/2 pounds of mushrooms.  I used a pound of white mushrooms because that’s what I have the most of, on hand.  I was a bit skeptical about throwing them in a hot pan without any sort of grease but the recipe told me to and who’s to argue with a recipe?  I won’t argue that the smell was so amazingly, intoxicating–even more so when I added the Bacon grease and a whole, chopped onion.

As soon as those were browned, I transferred them to a bowl and added more Bacon grease to the pan (no…..this isn’t a heart attack waiting to happen….at all!). I then dredged a pound of backstrap strip cutlets  in flour and seared them for about ninety seconds on each side.

The best part: The part where I make a gravy with stock, heavy cream and more Bacon grease.  I threw the mushrooms and onions back into this amazing, creamy concoction and served it aside some light garlic mashed potatoes.  The first time I made venison strip cutlets, I literally gagged.  I don’t like the “gamey” taste as much as my partner does but this recipe left me in absolute culinary bliss.

And in complete opposition to the author’s description of this mean being “a manly meal, and the only green thing allowed is, occasionally, parsley”, I made a green salad to go along with it.  I received no complaints.