Monday, June 24, 2013

2 Bonus Cupcakes...Plus a Side of Shake!

Well, you asked for I'm gonna give it to you!

So many of you said how much you enjoyed all the cupcake recipes I shared in my last post that I'd like to share two more with you. Yep, like 31 weren't enough, here are a couple more variations for you to choose from: Graham Cupcakes with Key Lime Cream Cheese Frosting and Chocolate Cupcakes with Chambord Chocolate Frosting. Happy baking, folks!

And to go with those cupcakes, how about a nice, cold, creamy, decadent, extra-thick, chocolate milkshake? The kind you eat with a spoon. The kind like Higbee's used to sell years and years ago. The kind just like the addictive frosties they sell now at Wendy's. (In case you haven't caught on, we're talking about a copycat recipe here. But don't worry, it's all totally legit.)

Sure, you can go to Dairy Queen or Malley's or East Coast Custard or even Sweet Moses. But why go out of your way when you can easily whip up a batch at home that's just as good -- at a fraction of the price? Summer never tasted so good!

Ok, ok. Before I start getting too wordy and you start getting too antsy, here you go, everyone. In reverse order. Please enjoy!

Photo credit: Kristen Doyle

Adapted from

4 oz. Cool Whip, thawed
3 1/2 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1/2 qt. chocolate milk

  1. Add Cool Whip and sweetened condensed milk to the freezer bowl of your ice cream maker. (I use a 1.5-quart Cuisinart model.) Stir together until smooth.
  2. Pour in chocolate milk until mixture reaches the fill line of your freezer bowl (you may or may not use all of it). Stir well again.
  3. Start your ice cream maker and freeze for about 30-45 minutes or until it reaches the desired consistency. Serve frozen with a spoon.


Both cupcake photos & recipes courtesy of Ming Thompson

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Cupcake for Every Day of the Month

You gotta admit, cupcakes are really all the rage now. "But what, seriously, is the big deal?" you ask. Well...
  • They're really awfully cute. Adorable, actually.
  • They're incredibly versatile. 
  • They're individually sized (which I particularly love). 
  • They're pretty inexpensive.
  • And they're extra fun to make!
 Honestly, what more could you possibly ask for in a dessert?!

Sure, you could always go out and buy an extra-luscious cupcake at any one of our fabulous local cupcakeries (yes, that's a word!). For instance, we've got A Cookie & A Cupcake in Tremont; Colossal Cupcakes in downtown Cleveland; Main Street Cupcakes in Hudson, Rocky River, and Medina; The Cleveland Cupcake Company; and even Auts Tipse Treats (which features alcohol-infused cupcakes), to name just a few.

But when you consider how relatively easy they are to bake, I simply say, why the heck not? So take out your mixing bowl and wooden spoon right now, folks, and start baking!

To give you some wonderful ideas (and recipes) to get you started -- actually one a day for a whole month -- here you go! You're in for a real treat. Thirty-one of them.

P.S. Each recipe makes about 1 dozen cupcakes. 

All photos & recipes courtesy of Ming Thompson

Monday, June 10, 2013

Guest Blogger on Eric Williams's Steak

Guest blogger, Charlene Lyon, continues her series of adventures cooking through my book. Here is her latest installment, folks. Enjoy!

By Charlene Lyon

I used to love going to Eric Williams's restaurant, Momocho, every chance I got when I lived in the Ohio City area. He makes some of the best guacamole I've ever had in this city! Plus the rest of his menu is deliciously divine to those who love Modern Mexican.

That's why Eric's meal in Maria's book really appealed to me. I had already made his Sofrito Green Beans (read my two-part posts here and here). Now I had to finally try the rest of his meal: Guacamole Tradicional and his main entree: Grilled Steak with Honey-Chipotle Mojo. (It doesn't take much to twist my arm to make a steak dinner.)

The guacamole was so tasty and simple to prepare (see below)!

And I never knew how easy it was to make compound butter! I was almost going to skip it, but I'm glad I didn't because it did really did add that extra "touch" and flavor that made it almost as good as professional.

But it's the Honey-Chipolte Mojo Sauce that's the signature item in this meal. It is incredibly tasty...and it's super easy to make in a mini food processor or a stick blender attachment like I used.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can alter the heat and spice to suit your taste by adding a pepper one at a time. I savored each taste and was bold enough to add the maximum Eric suggested. We weren't disappointed.

If the sofrito sauce is like summer vacation, the mojo sauce is like summer at sunset. You feel the crisp tang of the day married with a sweet smoothness as the sun spends its final minutes warming your face.

My husband and I loved the mojo sauce so much that I made more the next night with chicken. If anyone's looking for a simple way to jazz up poultry, this is it!

What other ways do you like to use mojo sauce?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Cooking at the CIA

Last year on Mother's Day, my kids presented me with something truly and utterly amazing: a gift certificate for a cooking class at the venerable Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. I was dumbfounded, speechless, and absolutely overwhelmed to say the least. (Wouldn't you be?!) A dream come true. Truly. All I had left to do was sign up.

But with my cookbook coming out last fall and all the hoopla surrounding it, it took me a full year to finally register for my class. Of course, choosing just one class from their dizzyingly wide array of options for food enthusiasts was a whole lot harder than I thought it would be. (For their current list of classes, click here.)

Sidenote: You do NOT have to be a whiz in the kitchen to take these classes. They encourage people of ALL skill levels to attend...which put my mind at ease. Whew!

I finally settled on "CIA Favorites," which I was told is a popular choice and gets sold out quickly year-round.

So I circled June 1 on my calendar...and anxiously counted down the days.

I flew to New York and stayed with my oldest daughter and her husband. My son and his girlfriend, who both also live in New York, met up with us. We all drove together upstate. They dropped me off at the school (which is located on the Hudson River and used to be a Jesuit seminary). Between you and me, I felt like a little girl on her first day of kindergarten.

Everyone was led to the main meeting room (see below), which was once the seminary's chapel. Beautiful, right? We all waited patiently until our class was called...and then we filed into line (again, just like in kindergarten!).

 Below is my classroom kitchen. Everything you'd ever need for cooking is there, believe you me!

We were randomly divided into four teams. Below is my team. The husband-wife couple to the left, Todd and Roseanne, were two super nice folks from the Bronx. And my lovely partner, Joan (in pink shirt), was from Cazenovia, a small village in Central New York near Syracuse. I'm standing next to our instructor, Chef Sergio Remolina.

The menus for all the teams were as follows:

TEAM 1 - French Lentil Salad, Beef in Mussaman Curry Sauce, Coconut Rice
TEAM 2 - Fresh Corn Chowder with Green Chiles and Monterey Jack, Grilled Chicken Bulgogi-Style, Scallion Salad
TEAM 3 - Lamb Meatballs Stewed with Hot Tomatoes, Zucchini Pancakes, Tzatziki Sauce
TEAM 4 - Panzanella, Swordfish with Tomato-Olive Ragu, Red Pepper Orzo

Chef demonstrating the tiramisu

I was on team 3. Roseanne and Todd made the meatballs, and Joan and I made the zucchini pancakes and tzatziki sauce. Here I am below with our finished dish!

And let me tell you...THEY. WERE. DELICIOUS!

So, as a special treat to all my readers, I am sharing this recipe with you. Bon appetit, everyone!

P.S. If you ever get a chance to be in the New York area in the future, I highly recommend you take a class at the CIA. You'll simply love it!

Adapted from The CIA Cookbook
Makes 8 servings

3 c. coarsely grated zucchini
Salt and pepper as needed
2 c. chopped scallions
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c. flour
1/3 c. chopped dill
1/3 c. chopped parsley
2 T. chopped tarragon
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
2/3 c. chopped walnuts
Olive oil for pan frying
1 c. Tzatziki Sauce (recipe follows)

  1. Place the grated zucchini in a colander. Sprinkle with salt and let stand for 30 minutes. Squeeze the zucchini to remove as much liquid as possible. Dry the zucchini by pressing it between several layers of paper towels.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the zucchini, scallions, eggs, flour, dill, parsley, tarragon, salt, and pepper until evenly blended. Fold in the feta cheese. (The pancake mixture can be prepared to this point up to 3 hours ahead. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Stir to blend before continuing.) Fold the walnuts into the zucchini mixture.
  3. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees to keep the pancakes warm as you work. Place a baking sheet in the oven.
  4. Add enough oil to a skillet to come to a depth of about 1/8 inch, and heat the oil over medium-high heat until the surface of the oil shimmers. Working in batches, drop heaping tablespoons of the zucchini mixture into the hot oil, leaving enough room for the pancakes to spread as they cook. Fry until the pancakes are golden brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer each batch of pancakes to the baking sheet in the oven to keep warm.
  5. Serve immediately with the tzatziki sauce.

Makes 1 1/2 cups

1/2 c. plain yogurt
1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 c. grated cucumber, squeezed dry
1 t. minced garlic
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 T. minced fresh mint or dill
1 t. lemon juice, or as needed
1/2 t. grated lemon zest
Salt and pepper as needed
  1.  Combine the yogurt, sour cream, cucumber, and garlic in a food processor and puree until smooth.
  2. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the olive oil, mint or dill, lemon juice, and zest. Stir until combined and season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.