Red Velvet Cupcakes

Memorial Day weekend was approaching and I was having another family get together. I wanted to make a dessert to bring and figured this would be the best time to make red velvet cupcakes. I know most of my family have never tried them before and I have been dying to make them again...perfect timing!

One of the things that I do when baking with flour, probably obvious to some, is to sift it; it makes everything smoother and gets rid of those nasty flour clumps.

My favorite thing about making red velvet cupcakes is that the are such a vibrant color. They are always something people just love to look at and eventually eat.

Another important thing I always think about when making cupcakes is what kind of baking cup I will bake the cupcakes in. The finished presentation of the cupcakes is about 1/3 of the overall cupcake eating experience.

Ingredients & Directions:

Red Velvet Cupcakes

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ tsp salt
3 large eggs
¾ cup softened butter
2¼ cups granulated sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp red food coloring
1½ cups buttermilk
1½ tsp baking soda
1½ tsp vinegar

Frost the cupcakes. I use a piping bag with a large circular tip, but I have used a sandwich bag before with a small hole cut out of the corner. Then sprinkle with some chocolate sprinkles, or jimmies if your from the North. One thing I do when adding sprinkles to cupcakes is to put the cupcakes on a wire rack over the sink. This way sprinkles that fall off the cupcakes can be simply washed away.


Grilled Pizza

Barbecues are one of my favorite things about the summer. I love getting together with family and friends, cooking food on the grill, and eating too much. This past weekend I went to a bbq with a group of friends that enjoy cooking and eating as much as I do. Everyone took a different part of the meal to prepare and cook; I prepared the appetizers.

As with most barbecues there is a lot to get done before hand. I prepared everything to bring to the barbecue and put it in plastic containers. The potatoes were boiled and baked, scallions chopped, onions caramelized, and bacon fried.

Once at the barbecue location, I grilled the pizza dough for a about 5 minutes on each side on a low flame. You need to watch the dough to make sure it doesn't burn (there's nothing worse than burnt pizza dough). I usually pop the bubbles too, which makes the dough a little flatter and easier to use. For this barbecue I made two kinds of grilled pizza: a potato skin pizza and caramelized onion & feta pizza.

I prepared both pizzas and then put them both back on the grill until the cheese melted. Again, cooking them on a low heat so the crust would not burn.

Ingredients & Directions:

Grilled Potato Skin Pizza
  • Pizza Dough
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Scallions
  • 3-4 Small Red Bliss Potatoes
  • 1/2 package Bacon
  • Monterey Jack Cheese
  • Ranch Dressing

Prepare before cooking pizza dough. Since I was going to a barbecue not hosted at my place I put everything in to plastic containers once cooled down or ready. Chop Scallions. Boil potatoes, let cool a few minutes, and then slice with skin still on. Bake the sliced potatoes for about 10 minutes or until they start to turn golden on the outside (do not over cook! you do not want potato chips). While all that is happening you should fry the bacon and then chop and cool. Now that your pizza dough has been grilled you should rub a little olive oil all over its surface. Place potatoes first, bacon, scallions, monterey jack cheese, use a little salt and pepper, and then drizzle ranch dressing over the whole pizza. Cook on grill over low heat until cheese melts. I never said this was exactly healthy, just delicious.

Grilled Caramelized Onion & Feta Pizza
  • Pizza Dough
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Onions
  • 2 Tsp Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • Mixed Greens
  • Feta Cheese
  • Mozzarella Cheese

Prepare before cooking pizza dough. Caramelize onions: in a large skillet, melt the butter in the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and cook, stirring constantly, until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the sugar and cook, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan frequently, until the onions are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Now that your pizza dough has been grilled you should rub a little olive oil all over its surface. Toss a little mixed greens on the dough, followed by feta cheese, caramelized onions, and then a sprinkle of mozzarella. Cook on grill over low heat until cheese melts.


Grilled Chicken with Cucumber & Onion Salad

Summer will be here shortly and with that comes even more outdoor grilling. Grilled chicken is one of my favorite go-to foods. You can pair a good grilled chicken with almost anything. I looked in my refrigerator and didn’t have too much in there (time to go shopping), but what I did find made this meal.

I have been dying to try a red onion & cucumber salad and since I had the ingredients it just made sense to pair it with my grilled chicken. Usually onion & cucumber salads use a white vinegar, but I love balsamic vinegar so I opted for that instead. I think it was a great choice. I let the salad marinate for about fifteen minutes, but it would probably be better if marinated overnight.

I marinated the chicken in an orange ginger soy sauce, grilled it, and set it aside to cool for a minute.

  • 2 Chicken Breast
Orange Ginger Soy Marinade
  • ½ Cup Orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp. Ginger
  • ½ Cup Soy sauce (I use a low sodium soy sauce)
  • ¼ Cup Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Mix all ingredients and chill for an hour. Place meat in container and pour marinade over chicken and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Cucumber & Onion Salad
  • 1 English Cucumber
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 3 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. Water
  • Dash Salt
  • Dash Pepper
Dice cucumber and onion. Combine remaining ingredients in bowl and mix. Add cucumbers and onions to bowl. Let chill for at least fifteen minutes (or longer).

Once the chicken was ready I plated it and tossed the red onion & cucumber salad over the chicken for a delicious and really healthy summer-inspired meal.

Lime Infused Sugar Cookies

I was reading pinch my salt and came across the recipe for lime infused sugar cookies and knew instantly I had to eat these. I was going to just copy their recipe, but unfortunately I didn't have cream of tartar. No big deal. I went to my recipe book, also know as google, and found something that I could modify for my needs.

I was making these cookies at my mother's house, she likes to bring extra dessert to work and tell people I made it (I know you're reading this Mom...hi), but she doesn't have a juicer or a zester, so I improvised. A fork makes a decent zester in a pinch; it's not as pretty, but the zest just gets mixed in with the dough anyway.

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice
  • zest of one lime
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg, vanilla, lime juice, and lime zest. Mix in the dry ingredients in to the wet in thirds. Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls, and place onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden. Let stand on cookie sheet two minutes before removing to cool on wire racks.


Red Chard, Feta, & Filet Strip Pinwheels

One of my favorite things to make for dinner are pinwheels; in one bite you get the meat, cheese, and in this case greens. I started experimenting with pinwheels after I made chicken cordon bleu for the first time in high school. Typically, I use either steak or chicken and on the occasion I will throw a turkey breast in there too. Tonight for dinner I made red chard, feta, & filet strip pinwheels.

I started out by quickly steaming the red chard and putting it off to the side. I like trying different types of greens when making pinwheels. When I'm at the grocery store I usually grab whatever looks the freshest and go from there.

Depending on the green I choose and my mood, the cheese varies. Tonight I decided to go with feta.

I love cooking on the grill, but when I can't do that I use my Circulon Grill Pan (love Circulon!). Season the pinwheels with your favorite spices, I used salt, pepper, & a little garlic salt. After browning the steak all over, remove it from the pan, and set aside. In a separate pan I melted a little butter or olive oil & garlic, browned that, and then added some wine (use whatever you like) and scallions.

I put the steak in the wine reduction for two minutes, flipped the pinwheels, and then left them in for two more minutes. Remove and plate it immediately.

  • feta cheese
  • red chard
  • filet strip
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic salt
  • fresh garlic
  • wine
  • butter/olive oil
  • scallions
I paired the meal with freshly steamed broccoli and a garlic risotto.


Cramped Kitchen.

Welcome to my kitchen; it's cramped! It's not a surplus of kitchen stuff or too much food, but it's the square footage in which I have to cook. I believe I make the best of the space and hope that you will join me as I cook in my cramped kitchen. I have no formal training in cooking (I did almost go to cooking school instead of going into education), but I have experience and great culinary role models. My mother always cooked dinner for me when I was young, and eventually I started experimenting on my own as well. She worked in a local store preparing food (deli sandwiches and Irish food) when I was in elementary school, and that has been forever ingrained in my head. My aunt, another strong influence, joined my family and introduced my family to a whole new range of cooking: specifically Italian and desserts. The years I spent watching her cook and then cooking with her have been invaluable. There are, of course, other influences; Martha Stewart is my biggest outside influence in addition to a variety of celebrity chefs and friends. Here begins the journey, albeit in close quarters, of my simply chic & tasty modern brand of cooking.