Magnolia's Vanilla Cupcakes

Stupid Snow.
Stupid Winter.
Stupid Spring.
Stupid Weather.
That feels better.  It needed to be said.
I know it could be worse my peeps, no needing to remind me.  But when you've already hauled out your bike, washed all the winter coats and snowpants etc., gotten rid of or stored snow boots, taken out jackets, cleaned your front hallway of all things salty and mucky...

this is definitely not a picture that you want to see out your window.

I was supposed to come home from work and have more students tonight.  A full night it would've been.  So, the silver lining to 10cm (ok... maybe just 8 cm) of snow at the end of March is that I got an unexpected night off.  All my students cancelled save one.

Not wanting to pass up the opportunity, I decided to make these with my time.  All of the homemade twix bars were done.  (Just and FYI here - you have to share those things when you make them... and you should make them... because even I couldn't resist those suckers)  We needed some comfort food.
What could be better and more simple and homey than vanilla cupcakes.  True confessions here.  I still don't truly know the difference between a muffin and a cupcake except that maybe the cupcake has icing.  AND I don't care if cupcake/muffins are passé.  Homemade cupcakes rock.  Little individual sized cakes with a little (or a LOT) icing to top it off.  I'm not a big fan of sprinkles so I kept Kid #1 and #2 from them until after the photos.

Magnolia Baker Vanilla Cupcakes
makes about 10 (I halved the recipe - feel free to double)

3/4 cup self raising flour (take 1 cup flour and add 1/4 tsp
3/4 cup (less 4 tbsp) unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 lg eggs (ideally at room temperature)
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Get a muffin tin ready with liners.
Combine both flours in a bowl and set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugar until they're light and fluffy ( just a few minutes)
Add in the eggs one at a time and beat well after each egg.
Add in the vanilla and mix well.
Add the flour alternately with the milk.  Mix well after each addition, beginning and ending with flour.
Divide into the muffin tins (I used about 10 for med/small cupcakes)

Bake for about 20 - 25 min. or until they are just spongy on top and a tester comes out clean.
Cool completely and ice as you would like.
I iced with chocolate mocha icing (the butter wasn't quite room temperature enough which is why you see these unsightly blotches of butter once in a while).

Butternut Squash Adventure #3: Squash and Cavalo Nero Lasagna

Ok, Ok... it's a new squash this time.  I'm really doing it though.   I'm really challenging myself to deal with this squash thing.  Yes, I could opt to get something else in the food box.  But really, what's the point of that all the time.  It's the end of Winter which means that soon the squash and cabbage and all that kind of stuff will be all gone.  I'm taking advantage of the seasons my peeps... doin' the right thing.

So, let's say that you are really pumped about finding a butternut squash recipe that sounds interesting and you are all set to get started with it.  Let's imagine that some of the chores you usually do you have pawned off on your significant other just so you had more time to devote to making this world changing recipe.  Let's say that the only thing that is holding you back from finishing said world changing, life altering dish is the squash and kale in the food box.

Let's say that over the past year or so the food box has always arrived at a reliably late afternoon/early evening time.  Let's just imagine how you would feel if that one day, when all the other components were ready and you were waiting anxiously with one eye on the door, the food box did not arrive at that late afternoon/early evening time.  Instead the food box arrived while you might be doing something else and can't even hear the doorbell... like maybe putting a kid #2 to bed... and you miss it entirely until about 8pm.
Yeah... now let's just be cranky and tired and throw everything into containers and put it away so that you can get a good nights sleep, gain a little perspective on the situation and make said dish without all the bad vibes jinxing it.
It's ok.  I'm Ok now.  I've moved on food box people, I'm not holding it against you.  I'm realizing that I might have some issues that need to be worked through.  However, I did feel better the next day and after a workout and a day at work I came home and happily tackled the dish again... no baggage attached.

Truth be told, I could've used even more butternut squash here.  My squash was on the small side.  If you have a little more than in the recipe just know it's not the end of the world.

Please note:  This recipe tastes much better the next day.  So, if you are making it for something big then I would recommend doing it the day before and heating it up the day of.
In the meant time I've got some friends coming this weekend and one of them is staying with me (one of my friends from McGill).  I'm totally stoked and I've gotta find something lush to make for them when they come... always good to have an excuse for a layer cake, right?
Enjoy the lasagna... and remember the next day thing.

Butternut Squash and Cavalo Negro (Black Kale) Lasagna
serves 8 - 10

14 cooked lasagna noodles
4 cups (or so) butternut squash, cubed
1 med bunch Cavalo Negro (about 3 cups chopped)
1 lg onion, diced
2 lg cloves of garlic, minced
1 rib celery, chopped
oil for sauteeing
salt to taste
dash of Worcestershire Sauce

4 1/3 cups warm milk
6 tbsp unsalted butter
6 tbsp plain flour
2 tsp nutmeg
1 veggie bouillion cube
salt to taste
1/2 tsp mustard powder
dash of pepper sauce (optional)

1 cup mozzarella, shredded
1 cup old cheddar (or other sharp cheese), shredded
1 cup parmesan

Heat a large, heavy bottomed pot (or a very large caste iron skillet - my choice).  Add in some oil and saute the onion, squash and celery.  Turn the veggies gently, letting the squash get browned - kinda like squash hash browns.  After about 7 minutes add in the garlic and the black kale.  Continue to turn gently until the kale is wilted and the squash is browned but soft inside.  Add a splash of Worcestershire sauce and salt to taste.  Set aside.
Heat a heavy bottomed saucepan to medium heat.  Have the warm milk ready.
Add the butter to the saucepan and stir until it melts - it will probably bubble a little bit.
Once the butter is melted completely add in the flour and mix well.  Once the mixture is smooth gradually add in the warm milk.  Stir continuously while adding.
Turn the heat down to just below medium.
Once all the milk is added continue to whisk until it begins to thicken a bit.
Add in the bouillion, nutmeg, mustard powder, salt and pepper sauce (optional).
Once the mixture has thickened (not too much though - if it gets too thick then add a little more milk) remove from heat and set aside.
To assemble:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Get a lasagna pan ready by putting a little bit of liquid on the very bottom (I watered mine down a little with some extra milk).
Line the bottom with a layer of cooked noodles.
Next, spoon about 1/4 of the bechamel mixture on top of that.
Next, sprinkle about 1/4 of the veggies on top of that.
Next, sprinkle about 1/4 of each of the cheeses on top of that.
Continue to alternate each layer until you've got about 4 layers.
Bake for about 40 minutes or until bubbling and golden on top.
Remove from oven and set aside for about 20 minutes before cutting.

Cheese and Dill Rolls and a Community Kitchen beginnings

About a month or so ago my friend called me and asked me about starting a community kitchen with her.  This friend and I seem to have much in common.  For example, our husband work together (her's has a company called HOZA - in fact check out the link and you'll see both of them right away), we have kids around the same age, we are both into things like education, sustainable eating and community.  In short, when she called, even though I didn't have much idea about what a community kitchen was, I said 'Yeah, Count me in'.
So my friend J has joined an organic home delivery group as well.  She contacted her delivery organisation about the community kitchen idea and we ended up getting together with the administrator.  We didn't exactly know what would happen with that but the administrator ended up being very interested in the whole idea and wanted to get in on the action too.
We ended up meeting up, the 3 of us, and decided to try it out.
We just had our first get together.  We used some leftovers from the home delivery (the stuff that they can't sell because it's not perfect) which was great.  We had a glut of cauliflower and some potato.  I added some onion and cannellini beans, J added some stock and N provided the cauliflower, her place and some of her own onion.  We made my Cauliflower, Potato and Cannellini Bean soup, jarred it up

and brought it home.  A success for our first try and I'm kinda bummed that I forgot the camera.  For our next adventure I will definitely take pics and get you all in on the fun.
Once I got home I decided to make some bread to go with the soup 'cause I'll be damned if I'm gonna start cooking again.
P.S.  I'm starting to truly lose my fear of yeast.  As long as you proof it first and it gets foamy then you're good to go.  The time is honestly just waiting around time - you just have to be there... not hard at all.

Cheese and Dill Rolls (adapted from King Arthur Flour)
makes 9 rolls (you can double the recipe easily though)

1 cup warm water
1 pkg of yeast
1 tsp sugar
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour (plus extra for kneading)
1/4 cup skim milk powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp dill
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup cheddar, shredded

Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the warm water.  Let it stand for 10 minutes so that the yeast can proof.  It should have expanded and be foamy after 10 min.
Meanwhile, combine the flour, skim milk powder, salt and dill together in a bowl.
Butter a separate bowl and set aside.
Once the yeast has proofed add the honey to the yeast mixture and mix.  Add the yeast mixture to the flour and stir to combine.
Put the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead (adding flour as needed) for about 5 min.  Until the dough gets silky and smooth and easily forms a ball.
Place the dough ball into the buttered bowl.  Cover with a damp cloth and set aside in draft free spot for about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled.

Butter a Square baking pan (8x8)
Punch the dough down and remove to a lightly flour surface.  Knead the shredded cheese into the dough.  Once the cheese is mixed in then roll out the dough into a long log.  Cut into 9 equal parts.  Place each part into the baking pan.  Cover with damp cloth and let it rise for about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Bake for 15 - 20 minutes.

P.S.S.  I sprinkles extra cheese on the top just before baking... Yum.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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