Monday, May 19, 2014

Sunday Dinner - Salad and Cupcakes

This was not your "traditional" Sunday dinner.. Tonight's dinner was my family's twist on tradition. Celebrating the end of finals (for both my brother and myself), Mother's Day (missed because of finals), and my grandmother's return to NH for the summer, we had the family gathered around a smoked beef brisket, smoked beans, grilled vegetables, warm rolls, summer salad, and ice cream filled cupcakes. These latter two were my department - I mean, what better way to kick off the summer (and summer break!) than fresh greens topped with berries and treats, and finish with a cool, indulgent dessert? Allow me to share...

Let's start with the salad!
While Daddy was tending to the smoker and the juicy, tender brisket being gently cooked by maple infused smoke, I was in the kitchen with Mom, beginning to create..
This salad is very basic, and has many variations! I was introduced to the 'simple salad' concept at my grandmother's house when she tossed lettuce, pears, and some nuts together as a side with dinner. The fruit made it wonderful and to a vinaigrette-lover like myself, it needed none! The fresh pears gave it the perfect amount of sweetness and juice. Ever since then, I have been creating simple side salads with seasonal fruits, arranged atop beds of freshly torn lettuce. For this salad, below, if you still like a little bit of extra 'tang' and dressing, I recommend Ken's Light Option Raspberry Walnut vinaigrette - it pairs very well!

Now for the cupcakes... A few extra steps are totally worth this decadent kick on the average ice cream & cake!

Straight from my book
First, let's begin with the chocolate cupcake part. I'm sure you could use a box mix.. but something about homemade chocolate cupcakes (made with real buttermilk) is so much more fun! I used a Taste of Home recipe from my "Bakeshop Favorites" cookbook (I LOVE Taste of Home - and I highly recommend their recipes, website, books, cooking shows, everything! You'll be seeing many more of their recipes here....) I made this recipe through the first step, and rather than heat up the oven and wait 12-15 minutes per batch, I used my Babycakes Cupcake maker. It makes a dozen regular sized cupcakes (and muffins) right on your counter top in about 10 minutes!  

I just plugged it in while I was making the batter - and it was ready to go!This recipe made 19 cupcakes (all with nice, puffed up tops - no wimpy flat cakes here). Of course, another fun part of this recipe is tasting the batter... 

Me: (takes beaters out, dripping with cake batter) Mom, I have a very important question for you...
Mom: YES! YES! Please!
Me: Is that your answer!? I didn't even ask!
Mom: (takes beater) Yumm...

Is it me or have the roles been reversed here..? Mom gets the beater (and the bowl) now!?
Even so, I can't blame her! This batter is delicious! Within 10 minutes, after putting the first dozen in the cupcake maker, the house smelled like a chocolate-infused dream! 



Once cooled, it was time to core them (using the little green thingy in the center of the picture below) and fill them with ice cream. I used plain vanilla ice cream (what we had in the freezer - feel free to use whatever flavor you'd like! I think a vanilla with chocolate swirl or small brownie bits would be awesome, too) I microwaved the carton for about 30 seconds, then whipped it up with a spoon so it'd be easier to scoop into the cupcakes. (Note: Once you start to fill them, be sure to act fast so the ice cream doesn't melt everywhere!)
*I left a couple cupcakes whole and saved the insides to use for mini chocolate cake trifles later this week.* Next, I stuck them in the freezer and waited until dessert...and waited... and I kept waiting....And after a great meal, it was time! This is where true 'posh' arrives. I started by chopping up two squares of dark chocolate and sliced a few leftover strawberries from the salad earlier as my 'decoration.' After arranging the frozen solid cupcakes on a cake platter, I went a little crazy with the whipped cream... and then gently sprinkled the chocolate bits all over them! As a final touch, I wedged a strawberry slice into the whipped cream on each one - and served! 
Let's just say, they were a huge hit and a great finish to our Sunday Dinner! (My brother was still talking about them the next day..) I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as my family and I did! And add your own creative twists! Find fruits you like for the salad, or use our favorite ice cream and cupcake flavors in the dessert! Also, whereas this is my first 'food' post, comment and let me know what you think, any ideas/changes you may have, or anything! I'd love to hear from you! 

With love (for food),
Ellen
--A dash of posh can make all the difference in your next dish!--