Cupcake truffles… well, almost.

Today was the annual Radiology Christmas luncheon at my work. Naturally, there was way too much food and I definitely didn’t need that last brownie, but oh well.

This year, I was going to make the same red velvet cupcakes that I made for my boyfriend’s family’s Christmas party but let’s be honest, those were WAY too time consuming for the beautiful creations to sit uneaten on a plate in the Radiology lounge.

So, I searched high and wide for a recipe I could make quickly but would still be delicious. I follow a food blog named Cheeky Kitchen and her Cupcake Truffles had me at HELLO.  Unfortunately, these are slightly easier said than done. (PS – this picture came from her blog!)

First off, I didn’t use mint chips because Stop n Shop doesn’t sell em.  Plus, I prefer peanut butter chips.  I mean, hel-lo.  So I used her same measurements with the white chocolate chips she recommended and the peanut butter chips. 

Besides burning my hand on the extremely hot plastic ziplock bag while piping the chocolate into the mini cupcake cups, my only complaint about these was the end result.  While tasty, they stuck to the paper.  I didn’t even think of spraying the cups because I figured that the chocolate would harden away from the wrapper in the fridge overnight.  Wrong.  I also was unable to pipe the frosting-like look that Brooke accomplished in her photo.  The melted white chocolate and peanut butter was thin and slightly runny and I had barely enough to cover the tops of the cooled truffles.  I was happy when the topping hardened almost instantly like it is supposed to though.

Overall, everyone at work liked them even if they had have to scrape the bottom part off the wrapper with their teeth.  I think it was more like fudge.  I’ll probably try it again.  Thanks to Brooke, I do have a very easily duplicated, chocolate-ty recipe that I can whip out any time of year, not just at Christmas.

Not your average beef stew..

Boeuf Bourguignon … one of the fanciest sounding dishes in the culinary world.  But what REALLY is boeuf bourguignon?  Let’s explore, shall we?

I had to make a special shopping trip for this one, but then again, when don’t I?  I thought finding the stewing beef was going to be difficult but the moment my eyes began scanning the refrigerated beef section, there it was: LEAN STEWING BEEF.  Perfectly labeled and already cut into 2-inch cubes.  I hardly had to do anything to it at all besides dry it off a little and season it before cooking it.  The bacon was easy enough to find and the veggies were standard enough.  Throw a few can of fat-free, low sodium beef broth into my basket and I was in and out of the grocery store in 15 minutes.  (Obviously I already had the red wine at home!)

So when I got home, I decided to start on the stew right away since the longer it cooks, the better it is – oh how true that statement is.  First, I chopped and cooked the bacon in the large pot I usually boil pasta in.  When it was nice and crispy, I removed it and browned the meat on all sides in the bacon fat.  Now, usually, I HATE TO DO THIS AND THINK ITS GROSS.  Nevertheless, I stuck to the recipe and did as I was instructed.

Next, I let the onions and the garlic sweat together before simmering almost an entire bottle of red wine for 10 minutes to reduce the alcohol.  Add two and a half cans of beef broth, cubed potatoes, 6 oz of tomato paste, a bit of Italian seasoning, a bay leaf and 8 ounces of quartered button mushrooms, bring to a boil and then simmer for about 2 hours.  I then threw in some chopped celery and diced carrots and let them get nice and soft for another 30 minutes.

The true test was what my dad thought of it.  I got two of the greatest compliments I think he could give cooking-wise.
The first: “Marie, this is restaurant quality.”  Score.
The second: “Marie, I have to say, this is the favorite thing that has ever been cooked in this house that was not mine.” DOUBLE SCORE.

Overall, I will definitely be making this stew again.  It was rich and hearty and perfect for the freezing weather us Bostonians have been experiencing.  Definitely not your average beef stew and definitely a recipe I will put in my cookbook.  Oh I haven’t mentioned my cookbook yet?  Stay tuned!

Boeuf Bourguignon
Adapted from No Empty Chairs

1/2 pkg (8 oz) bacon, chopped (I use center-cut; less fat makes me feel better)
3 lb beef roast, cubed
1 pkg (8 oz) whole mushrooms, quartered
2.5 cups red wine (Use the GOOD STUFF! I love Cabernet)
2 cups beef broth
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup water
1 onion, diced
2 potatoes, peeled & diced
2 carrots, peeled & diced
2 stalks celery, chopped

Cook bacon in a large sauce pot. Remove from pan when fully cooked and crispy. Brown the beef cubes in the bacon fat. Add mushrooms (quartered if they are large) and chopped onion. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until onions and mushrooms just begin to brown.

Add the wine and let it reduce for 10-15 minutes, or until almost completely evaporated. Add bacon, beef broth, potatoes, Italian seasoning, tomato paste, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, pepper, and cornstarch mixture. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 1- 1 ½ hours. (The longer, the better!)

Stir in carrots and celery. Cook until vegetables are tender.  Serve hot with grated Peccorino-Romano or Parmesan cheese.

One night, three hits…

The other night I decided to make 3 completely new recipes, ones I had found in some internet searching but never tried.  It was a three-course dinner the other night with recipes from three different places – an appetizer from a fellow blogger, the entree if a mere 4 points from Weight Watchers (and worth each delicious point) and the dessert, from Miss Giada di Laurentis herself. 

I must say though, of the three, I was the most disappointed in Giada’s recipe.  I wish I had taken pictures, but I forgot, of course.  More details about this in a bit.

I decided to make “Spinach Brownies” as the appetizer for a few reasons.  One, they are from a blogger whose website I visit frequently.  Jamie, the lovely young lady who writes My Baking Addiction is, to me, a culinary genius.  (Not to mention one of the most creative cupcake makers I’ve come across.)  I know the name seems a little off-putting but don’t be fooled – these things are incredible.  I decided to make them because even though my original appetizer recipe for spinach balls was a hit with my family, this recipe is much less time consuming (and definitely more delicious).  I made a few changes – her original recipe calls for bell peppers and bacon, but I think they were just as yummy.

Spinach Brownies (adapted from My Baking Addiction)
(10 ounce) frozen package spinach
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 onion; chopped
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (more like a cup if you’re like me)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a 8×8 inch baking dish.
2. Place spinach in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook until spinach cooked, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, drain thoroughly and set aside.
3. Sautee onions and garlic in a pan over medium heat until vegetables are slightly softened.
4. In a large bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder. Stir in egg, milk and butter. Mix in spinach, onion mixture and mozzarella cheese.
5. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Bake in the preheated oven 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool before serving.

Next up, the entree.  While browsing my account on Weight Watchers, I was looking up healthy dinner recipes featuring ground turkey for the sole reason that I had some in my freezer and I’ve been dying to experiment with it.  Plus, I had to find some way to “hide” it well enough in flavor that my dad (who prefers fatty ground beef, obviously) would love it.  When I found this recipe, a mere 4 points a serving, I knew it was the one. 

It features some of my favorite things – the turkey, spaghetti squash (note to self, use more often!), and two types of cheese!  I was a little weary at first but as my dad took a bite and complimented me on it, I was elated.  Call it a new staple in my kitchen.  (By the way, we did tell him it was ground turkey.  Didn’t stop him from eating 2 helpings!)

Weight Watchers Italian Turkey & Spaghetti Squash Pie

  1 medium raw spaghetti squash   
  1/2 pound(s) uncooked ground turkey breast (or 1 whole pound if you’ve got it)
  2 tsp olive oil (I just use cooking spray to saute veggies)
  1 small onion, chopped   
  1 clove (medium) garlic cloveminced   
  28 oz canned diced tomatoes, undrained   
  1 tsp italian seasoning, or more to taste   
  6 oz fat-free ricotta cheese (I used low fat)
  1 large egg
  1 spray cooking spray, nonstick (more if you are using it to saute)
  1/2 cup(s) shredded fat-free mozzarella cheese (yeah right – definitely


  • Preheat oven to 350ºF. Halve squash lengthwise; scoop out seeds. Place squash, cut sides down, in a large baking dish and prick skin all over with a fork. Bake until tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook turkey, stirring occasionally, in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Drain, remove from skillet and set aside.
  • In a same skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; saute until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and Italian seasoning; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; add cooked turkey and simmer, stirring often, until desired consistency, about 5 minutes.
  • Place ricotta and egg in a food processor or blender; puree until smooth (or forget the gadgets and blend it with a whisk by hand)
  • Coat a 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray. Remove squash from oven and increase oven temperature to 375ºF.  LET COOL OR YOU WILL BURN YOURSELF.
  • Using a fork, carefully rake stringy squash pulp from shell, separating it into strands that look like spaghetti. Arrange spaghetti squash strands in bottom and up sides of pie plate to form a crust.
  • Add ricotta cheese mixture and gently spread over squash. Pour tomato-turkey sauce over cheese mixture and sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before slicing into 6 pieces. Yields 1 piece per serving.

And of course, my favorite part of any meal – dessert.  More specifically, Giada’s Lemon-Ricotta cookies.  Originally, I made these for a colleague at work because she requested them a while ago.  I made a half batch because really, who needs 45 cookies? 

Well, these things are awesome in theory – and the batter was pretty tasty too.  I mean, who can go wrong when you put 1/2 a container of ricotta in cookie batter?  Unfortunately, these were more like lemon-ricotta pancakes when they came out of the oven.  Even though I added the correct amount of each ingredient, I’m sad to say that the execution was a little elusive to what I was trying to achieve.  Nonetheless, I’ll save the recipe and try them again for experiment’s sake.  For Giada’s recipe, check out one of my favorite websites (that of course, doesn’t load while I am at work):

Overall, my three course experiment was very successful.  Next up?  Christmas – let the Season of Joy & Sweet Treats begin!