Saturday, February 13, 2016

Southern Coconut Cupcakes...Perfect for Your Valentine!

These "Southern Coconut Cupcakes" are made with the exact same recipe my mother uses for her coconut cake that everyone loves.  As good as it is in a layered cake, for some reason, when you make it in cupcakes it tastes even better.  I know that is silly, but isn't there just something about a cupcake that tastes better than a slice of cake?  I guess it's a kid thing or it might be that the ratio of frosting to cake is almost    These cupcakes are so gorgeous that they will rival any old designer cupcake shop and you can make 18 of them for less than $10.00.  Try buying 18 of those designer cupcakes and they will break the bank.  These will taste better also!  Here is what you need:

1   15.25 butter cake mix (Be sure to get the full size cake mix and not the reduced size some companies are now marketing)
3 large eggs
1 cup Sprite or 7 Up
1 stick of butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white corn syrup
3 egg whites
1 tsp. baking powder
2 cups shredded coconut
red food coloring

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Baking at a little higher temperature makes them rise higher to get that big cupcake look.

Mix all of the cake ingredients together with a wire whisk until well blended. Don't use an electric mixer for this.  Mama says it makes a the cupcakes dry when you beat the batter up too long. 
Place 18 of your cupcake cups in a muffin tin.  Fill each one about 3/4 full.  Place in the preheated 375 degree oven for 18 - 20 minutes. 

While the cupcakes cool, make the icing.

Place the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a sauce pan on medium heat.  Using a candy thermometer cook to the soft ball stage or 240 degrees, stirring constantly.  The mixture should become almost clear.   You can also do this in the microwave to make this step easier.  Cook on high for 4 minutes, remove and stir well and then cook for about 3 more minutes on high.  This could vary by a minute or two depending on the power of your microwave. It still needs to reach the soft ball stage.

  With an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the baking powder until it reaches the soft peak stage. 

 Slowly pour in the syrup and keep mixing until the icing stands in peaks.  This takes some time to accomplish so don't give up on it. Just keep beating it and eventually the peaks will form.

To tint your coconut place 1/2 of it in a Ziploc bag and put a few drops of red food coloring in it.  Mix it around until the coconut is red.   Frost the cooled cupcakes generously with the frosting.  Sprinkle 1 cup of plain white coconut on them and then go back over them all with the 1 cup of red coconut.   You can dye all of the coconut red also if you prefer.  This variegated look is just really pretty and doesn't look overdone.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Veggie Lover Lasagna!

If you have followed this site or read many of my posts and recipes for long, you know I am not a vegetarian.    However, I do love vegetables and eat tons of them. I can't even think of a vegetable I don't like.  Well, maybe brussel sprouts which I am not crazy about, but my sister showed me a way to cook them that made me actually like them. 

 I did try to give up eating meat once, for some reason that I cannot now imagine, and it was not pretty.  By the end of a week, I was meaner than a junkyard dog.  Everyone around me, who had to put up with me, begged me to just eat a pork chop!  I was just not designed to be an herbivore.  Bunny rabbits are cute, but it isn't me! 

  I do get requests for vegetarian dishes quite a bit, but I also get requests for low fat and sugar free ones and when I post them, no one pays much attention to them.  I always wondered why there weren't more food blogs dedicated to vegetarian, vegan, fat free, sugar free, gluten free, I know!  Nobody reads them!  

I do love this vegetable lasagna though and I promise you, you will not even miss the meat.  I promise!  I think Italian food can get away with not using meat easier than most, because of all of the flavor you put in it and of course, the cheese.   This is a great recipe for summer when zucchini and yellow squash are so abundant.   Here is what you will need for this:

9 lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1/2 cup green or red bell pepper, diced
1 Tbs. garlic, minced
2 cups zucchini, diced
2 cups yellow squash, diced
1 cup shredded carrot or cut in very small matchsticks
2 cups fresh mushrooms diced
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (6oz.) can tomato paste
1 cup water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbs. dried parsley
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. sugar
32 oz. carton of ricotta cheese
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
3 cups Mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided

In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and add the onion and green or red pepper.  Saute until just soft.  Add the zucchini, yellow squash, garlic and carrots.  I like to cut the zucchini and yellow squash in thin circles and then diced.  I don't think they work as well if left in big hunks or huge slices. This should all cook down somewhat into sort of a vegetable ragout.  Add the mushrooms right at the end, because the will cook fast and does not need to be cooked too much.  You want the veggies soft but still with a little bite to them, not mushy.

Once all of the veggie are just soft, but still have some body to them, add the tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste.  If the tomatoes are in big hunks, take your kitchen shears and cut them up some.  I hate big hunks of tomato in my lasagna sauce.  That's just me, if you like hunks, leave them in! 

 Add all of the seasonings, sugar and water to the sauce.   Bring up just to a bubble and then lower heat to low, cover and simmer while you assemble the other ingredients.

Mix the ricotta with the beaten eggs until smooth.  Add 3/4 of the Parmesan cheese, and 2 cups of the Mozzarella cheese and mix until well combined.  This mixture should be fairly thick.

Spread a layer of the sauce in a deep 9"x13" baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. 

Lay three of the lasagna noodles on top of the sauce.  Dollop the cheese mixture over the noodles.

Continue to repeat the layers.

Finish with the sauce and the other 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.

Finish the top with the last cup of Mozzarella and bake uncovered for about 40 minutes.

It will be bubbly around the edges!