Wednesday, July 11, 2007

daddy's girl...

my dad is the best cook i have ever known. watching him cook my whole life, it has always seemed effortless. the way they say motzart was with the piano. i know that's a trite comparison, but it's very appropriate. when i was little, he invented some kind of chicken that i believe was stuffed with swiss cheese and some other combination of positively delectable things. i loved it so much, he named it "chicken rachel". pasta primavera, homemade chicken soup, filet mignon and lobster, chateau briand in puff pastry with little tiny , handmade, leaf shaped puff pastry accents on top and roasted baby root vegetables, roast beef and yorkshire pudding, vanilla bean creme brulee...and trumping them all, his mom's apple pie. one of my most frightening childhood memories was when i got caught one night, about 11 years old, crouching down in front of the refrigerator in the dark, fork in one hand, guilty look on my face, cheeks packed full of the apples i had so expertly and evenly (so as not to leave a trace) gobbled up, leaving a rim of empty pie shell. my daddy came around the corner and found me. it got ugly.

when my brothers are hungry (they're teenagers. they are always hungry), instead of asking "do you want to call domino's pizza?" he says things like "do you want me to fix you a chicken ceasar wrap?". bless his heart. this is my favorite of his impromptu snacks...the pictures i have taken don't do it justice.

my daddy's bbq chicken quesadillas

grilled chicken breasts, cutlets or tenders, chopped and cooled
burrito size flour tortillas
monterey jack cheese, shredded
jalepeno jack cheese, shredded
red onion, sliced thin
cilantro, chopped
honey bbq sauce (bottled is more than fine)

homemade guacamole is optional, but i always serve it with these because that's what my dad does. he makes his guac with chipotle tabasco, lime juice, cilantro, red onion, tomato and a tiny squirt of mayo. gives it a great, creamy consistency.

place a tortilla in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. sprinkle with a combo of both cheeses and wait for it to start melting a little. then sprinkle half of the tortilla with the grilled chicken, cilantro and red onion. drizzle with bbq sauce, but not TOO much sauce, because these can get messy if you're too generous with the filling. once the tortilla is good and toasty and the cheese has fully melted, take a spatula and flip the side that only has cheese on it over on top of the filled side and press down like this:

remove, repeat untill you have as many as you want and cut each half circle into pieces and serve with guacamole and sour cream...these can also be kept warm in a 200 degree oven while you are working on the rest of them if you like. enjoy!!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

back with a vengeance.....

i've been away for longer than i expected to be and as predicted, have been suffering from cooking depression. it's cyclical...but nothing brings you back in the spirit quite like a batch of the world's most perfect cupcakes. i made these for my good friend michele's birthday and with the very first lick of the frosting covered beater, all was right with the world...i halved this recipe because i only own one muffin tin and because we weren't expecting an entire football team. the golden rule with these is: when you think you are done whipping the frosting, keep whipping. and i mean whip till your mixer is blue in the face. even after the 2nd time you think you must CERTAINLY be done for sure this time, still whip more. i'm talking at least 10 minutes of straight whipping. you'll thank me later...

From The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

for the cakes:

traditional vanilla birthday cake

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 cups self rising flour
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (do NOT use "imitation")(i subbed Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste from Williams Sonoma and it rocked my world in this recipe...)

preheat oven to 350 degrees

line two 12 cup muffin tins with cupcake papers.

in a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter untill smooth (they say to do this for longer than you think necessary). add the sugar gradually and beat untill fluffy, about 3 minutes. add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. combine the flours and add in four parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla extract, beating well after each addition.

spoon the batter into the cups about three-quarters full. bake untill the tops spring back when lightly touched, about 20-22 minutes. remove cupcakes from pans and cool completely on a rack before icing.

makes 24 cupcakes

for the icing:

traditional vanilla buttercream

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very soft.
8 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (do NOT se "imitation")(Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste here as well)

place the butter in a large mixing bowl. add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and the vanilla extract. beat untill smooth and creamy. gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time untill icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency (you may very wellnot need all the sugar). whip even longer to make it extra creamy. the longer you whip, the creamier it gets. if desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. use and store icing at room temperature, as icing will set if chilled. can store in an airtight container up to three days.