Saturday, March 29, 2014

Black Bottom Cupcakes

This has been a favorites for years -- from my aunt Judy, who has since passed away.
They always remind me of her. :)

Cupcake Ingredients:
1½ C flour
1 C sugar
1 tsp soda
¼ C cocoa powder
1 C water
1/3 C oil
1 Tbls vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

Filling Ingredients:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1/3 C sugar
1/8  tsp salt
6 oz chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°.

Prepare Filling: Place cream cheese, egg, sugar and salt in a bowl; beat until creamy. Stir in chips. Set aside.

Prepare cake batter: Combine dry ingredients. Stir in water, oil, vinegar and vanilla until well blended. Fill 18 cupcake liners equally with batter -- about ½ full. (Do NOT overfill...with the filling, these cupcakes won't 'crown' above the liner, they'll spill out over the muffin tins when baking.) :( Top each with a heaping teaspoon of cream cheese filling mixture. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Frost if desired, but with the filling these cupcakes are moist and delicious on their own...or dusted with powdered sugar just for a more 'finished' presentation.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sauce Tomate (Tomato Sauce)

Sauce Tomate (Tomato Sauce) is one of the five French "mother sauces" that are the foundation of hundreds of other sauces. As is, it's pretty basic; but it can be seasoned to make an Italian marinara sauce, Spanish tomato sauce, a Creole sauce, and many other tomato based sauces.

2-3 oz salt pork (like bacon, but not smoked; the fattier the better!)
2 T butter
1 C mirepoix (½ C chopped onion, ¼ C each chopped carrot and celery)
6 T flour
5 lbs (about 10 C) tomatoes, chopped*
1 qt white veal (or vegetable) stock
1 clove garlic, crushed or minced
1 T sugar
salt and pepper to taste

* Fresh is always ideal, but using canned tomatoes works too

Render salt pork.  (How to “render” the salt pork: Place salt pork in a sauté pan with a tablespoon of water, cover with a lid over medium heat for 3-6 minutes, watch closely – don’t let it burn. The salt pork should nearly melt away…leaving the fat/grease. Water keeps it from browning or burning.)

Add butter, carrots and onions; sweat over medium heat for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally until vegetables are tender and fragrant.

Sprinkle flour over vegetables, and cook an additional few minutes, stirring continually. (This is a blond roux.) 

Combine roux and tomatoes in a stock pot; continue to cook until tomatoes are soft and have released liquid. (If using canned tomatoes, all you really need to do is bring the mixture to a simmer.) Add stock and garlic clove. Cover pot with lid and simmer 1½ to 2 hours.

Add sugar (to balance the acidity of the tomatoes; not to make it sweet), salt and pepper.

Variations: If a smooth tomato sauce is desired, purée with an immersion blender. If a cream sauce tomate is desired, 1-2 cups of heavy cream can be added.

Cheddar Cheese Sauce

1 C grated cheddar cheese
½ tsp mustard powder
1 T Worcestershire sauce
½ C whole milk, hot


In medium saucepan over medium-low heat, bring béchamel to a simmer.

Add cheddar cheese and stir until cheese has melted. Stir in Worcestershire sauce.

Add some or all of the milk to achieve the desired consistency. Serve immediately.

 Serve over pasta (macaroni & cheese), vegetables, with fries, corn chips, etc.

Mornay (Gruyère & Parmesan cheese) Sauce

2 oz grated Gruyère cheese
2 oz grated Parmesan cheese
1 T butter
¼ C whole milk, hot


In medium saucepan over medium-low heat, heat béchamel to a simmer.

 Add Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses and stir until cheese has melted.

Remove from heat, stir in butter.

 Add some or all of the milk to achieve the desired consistency.

Serve over pasta, fish, poultry, vegetables, etc.


Béchamel sauce is one of the five French "mother sauces" that are the foundation of hundreds of other sauces. Béchamel is the base for Mornay and other cheese sauces, crème sauce, Soubise (onion sauce), and many others. It's used in lasagnas and moussaka and lots of other fish, seafood and poultry dishes.

5 T butter
¼ C sifted flour
4 C milk
1 t salt
pinch white pepper
Optional: ¼ t ground (or freshly grated) nutmeg

In medium saucepan, heat butter over medium-low heat until just melted. Don’t let butter brown as that will affect the flavor.

Add the flour and stir or whisk until smooth; continue cooking and stirring for 3 - 4 minutes until the mixture is a very light, golden, sandy color. This is the roux.

In separate saucepan, heat milk just to a simmer, be careful not to boil or scald the milk. Add the hot milk to the roux, one cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth.

Bring the sauce to a slow boil; cook an additional 8-10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat.

Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, if desired. Cover until ready to use.

* Nutmeg is great for flavor, but does spoil the pure 'white' appearance/presentation of the sauce.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Beef & Vegetable Stew with Red Wine & Thyme

There's a lot of flexibility with this and any soup or stew recipe. I just kind of put in what I had available...trying to use up the end of a bottle of red wine, and half a green pepper. Add and adjust to suit your taste...or whatever you have on hand! These amounts made enough to feed about six.

1 sweet onion, large diced
1 tsp thyme 
¼+ C butter
32 oz beef stock
1 lb beef stew meat
1½ C red wine (cabernet, or any red wine)
1 lb potatoes, large diced 
½ lb carrots, large diced 
½ green pepper, large diced 
¼ C heavy cream
salt & pepper to taste

After dicing the vegetables, sauté and caramelize the onions in a couple tablespoons of butter. (I actually had the grease from bacon fried the previous day, but any fat would work.) Meanwhile, heat beef stock in a stock pot. When the onions are nearly ready, add the thyme and continue to sauté until fragrant; then add to stock pot. If you like (and I do!), brown the potatoes and carrots first; if not, add them directly to the stock pot.

Pat the beef dry with a paper towel; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown in a hot pan with  a couple tablespoons of butter (or bacon fat...); add to the stock pot. Use the red wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits left in the pan, then add to the stock pot.

If you like a thicker stew, melt some additional butter (or bacon fat) in the sauté pan, and use roughly an equal amount of flour to make a roux; add some of the beef stock and whisk to make a smooth gravy...then add it all to the stock pot to thicken the broth. I had about ¼ cup of heavy cream leftover from another I added that too.

Simmer until potatoes and carrots are thoroughly cooked. Salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Bacon-Chocolate Cupcakes

Homemade Chocolate Cake cupcakes (made with DARK chocolate cocoa powder), frosted with Italian Meringue Vanilla Frosting (made with 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/2 tsp maple extract), garnished with crumbled bacon and a 1/2 slice of bacon dipped in chocolate. Served with maple ice cream. Mmmmmmmmmm...