Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Speaking of letting the kids create their own recipe.....

It's funny that my last entry was about my mom letting me take the reins in the kitchen, since yesterday my kids took charge of the cupcakes.

My oldest came across a cake mix in the pantry yesterday and wanted to make cupcakes. So as I was pouring the dry mix into the bowl, my just-turned-3-year-old picks up the box and counts the eggs in the picture. Then says, "One egg for Zach, one for Gabe, and one for me!" Now, I've never been one to let my kids crack eggs very often (those organic eggs get expensive!), but I figured in the spirit of making cupcakes together on a snowy day......sure why not.

So I helped her crack hers, then let the boys do their own. It was about the time Gabe dumped his egg in the bowl that he announced he wanted strawberry cupcakes. Almost instantaneously, Zach said he wanted cream cheese frosting. Well, no matter how I stretched my imagination, I just couldn't come up with a way to make strawberry cupcakes from ingredients in the house. So I offered the compromise of making chocolate-cream cheese frosting since the cupcakes were going to be boring old yellow (well, butter-recipe yellow, but still just yellow to my little dessert lovers.)

Gabe suddenly changed gears and asked for orange juice, just as I was measuring the 2/3 cup water to put into the cake batter. So I stopped to get him some oj, and he said, "Orange juice has water in it, can we put it in the cupcakes?" And I thought that sounded like a brilliant idea.

So after all the kids chiming in, our butter cupcakes turned into orange vanilla cupcakes. And I figured since our cupcakes were turning into an experiment, I would do the unthinkable and use the whipped "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" that I had on hand. This was technically my daughter's suggestion who grabbed the tub when I said I needed butter, and refused to accept that hers wasn't what I needed.

Yes, like all bakers, I have REAL unsalted butter on hand. But to be honest I've used enough real, unsalted butter in my cooking recently that my cholesterol level has probably gone from "very healthy" to "one foot in the grave" just since Thanksgiving. So I figured why not play around and see what happens. After all, I'm still learning to bake at an altitude of over 6500 feet, now is the time to play around.

So in went the orange juice, vanilla extract (dangit - I just remembered I have actual vanilla beans I should have used!) and tub butter. (OK, sidebar, are any of my Grey's Anatomy friends now envisioning Izzie eating an entire tub of butter right now?? LOL) And the 4 of us took turns whipping them up as I fully expected a disaster to come out of the oven. I even took the advice of a friend who told me to never, EVER bother with high altitude directions. That part certainly makes life easier.

Much to my surprise, we created the absolute moistest cupcakes I have ever put in my mouth. Granted it was probably a fluke -- some strange combination of the altitude, sub-freezing temps and massive fluffy snowflakes saturating the air around the house that attributed to this experiment actually turning into something heavenly. But hey, I'll take it.

And it just goes to show that you can always doctor up a cake mix to make something your own. It's easy to feel like you've made something homemade just by changing one ingredient.

Orange Vanilla Cupcakes

1 box Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Yellow Cake Mix
2/3 cup orange juice
1/2 cup tub margarine (please, feel free to use the REAL stuff!!!)
3 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Mix & bake according to package directions.

And if you desire......

Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting
(I usually double this recipe)

1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick REAL unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup dutch cocoa powder

Whip together til fluffy

Monday, February 8, 2010

My Very First Actual Recipe

Years ago, when I was like 8 or 9 (maybe 10), I was helping my mom make dinner for my dad for his birthday. She had bought some chicken leg quarters. She pulled down ALL the spices from her spice cabinet. She let me sit there smelling them & tasting them til I created my own recipe for the chicken. I'm not really sure how long it took me, but I do vividly remember standing there at the counter intently deciding what spices made the best combination for my dad's special meal. After much consideration, I decided on "Rosemary Coriander Chicken".

My mom and I then covered each piece of chicken in salt, pepper, rosemary & coriander. Then she pan fried them in a little oil & butter. The chicken was incredible and my dad LOVED it. It quickly became a staple in our house after that.

The funny thing about my recipe is it never got referred to as just "chicken". I never asked "What's for dinner?" and had my mom reply "Chicken" or "chicken quarters". It was always called "Rosemary Coriander Chicken".

I have made it several times for my family, especially at our last house in Texas where we grew a rosemary bush in the front yard. But I didn't realize til this week that I had gotten out of the habit of calling it by it's full name.

In fact, I hadn't even decided on how I was going to cook the leg quarters until I opened my spice cabinet and saw the brand new bottle of coriander that I bought a couple weeks ago and I suddenly craved it. Eating it always gives me the chance to think about my childhood and remember my dad. I knew I'd have to tell the kids we were having "Rosemary Coriander Chicken" for dinner. Zach especially got a kick out of the fact that I wasn't much older than him when I created the recipe all by myself.

Now, I don't dare google it. I'm sure somebody out there somewhere has come up with the same idea. I'm sure somebody has coined it as their recipe. So my apologies to whoever if this comes out sounding like I straight plagiarized it. But I do know I created this from my heart. So if someone else has created the same exact recipe, well that just means they have really good tastes. :)

Rosemary Coriander Chicken

4 chicken leg quarters (chicken/thigh combos)
salt, pepper, rosemary & coriander to taste (enough to sprinkle & cover both sides)
2 Tbsp of olive oil
2 Tbsp of butter
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
additional pat of butter (optional)

Remove skin from chicken quarters (you can leave them on, but I remove them in an effort to be a little healthier). Rinse chicken in warm salt water, then rinse again in clean water. Pat the chicken dry. Evenly sprinkle the chicken with coriander. Sprinkle rosemary on the chicken and salt & pepper to taste. Heat the oil & butter over the stove in an oven safe pan.

Place chicken in the pan. Cook til the bottom side is nicely browned. Then flip to brown the other side (5-6 minutes each side). Once both sides are browned, put a lid on the pan. You can either turn down the heat and continue to cook it on the stove, or transfer the pan to a 350 degree oven. Cook for an additional 30-40 minutes. Chicken can be served as is or with the following pan sauce.

Deglaze the pan with a 1/2 cup of white wine. Scrape up all the 'bits' off the bottom of the pan. Allow wine to simmer til it cooks down by about half. Turn off heat. Stir in a small pat of butter. Sauce goes great over roasted potatoes if you desire!