Monthly Archives: February 2010

Oh My Ganache!


I decided to do some baking and enter the Great American Baking Contest in Atlanta. This event and bake sale help to support efforts by Share Our Strength to end childhood hunger in America. This year marks the 3rd anniversary of the bake sale in Atlanta. The actual event is on Thursday, March 11th at Cooks Warehouse in Midtown Atlanta.

My hubby and I will attend so that we can get to taste all the goodies, support the effort and see who wins the best dessert in all the categories (professional, amateur (that would be me 🙂 ) and child baker.

I had been thinking about trying to create a cupcake that combined all my favorite things – dark chocolate, raspberries, mascarpone cheese and a little booze! Well, this is the winner!

I have baked a dark chocolate cupcake, filled it with a raspberry filling, glazed it with a dark chocolate ganache flavored with Chambord and topped it off with a decorative touch of mascarpone icing! There is nothing better than getting a bite of the cupcake with all the chocolate, raspberries and ever so slightly sweetened cheese. Oh, yum!

There are so many recipes for chocolate cupcakes out there. I know one of the favorites is Martha Stewarts’s One Bowl recipe. I say use whichever you prefer and then add the other goodies. I start with a recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated. I add a little espresso powder to really bring out the flavor of the 2 types of chocolate. I prefer this one since it only makes 12 cupcakes and I know I certainly do not need to have more than that number in my home!

Be sure to check these cupcakes for doneness at about 15 minutes. You want to underbake them just a bit!

Oh My Ganache!
Makes 12 Cupcakes

8 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 4 pieces
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate , chopped
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa (1 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (3 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder
3/4 cup sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup sour cream (4 ounces)

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard-sized muffin pan (cups have 1/2-cup capacity) with baking-cup liners.
2. Combine butter, chocolate, and cocoa in medium heatproof bowl. Set bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water; heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth and combined. Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch.
3. Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder in small bowl to combine.
4. Whisk eggs in second medium bowl to combine; add espresso powder, sugar, vanilla, and salt and whisk until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift about one-third of flour mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in sour cream until combined, then sift remaining flour mixture over and whisk until batter is homogenous and thick. DO NOT overbeat the batter.
5. Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake until skewer inserted into center of cupcakes comes out almost clean, 15 to 18 minutes.
6. Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before icing, about 30 minutes.

Raspberry Filling
1 10 oz. package frozen raspberries with sugar
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Thaw raspberries and drain. You should have almost 3/4 cup liquid/juice. Put liquid in a small saucepan and combine with sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Cook stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil and is very thick. Let cool. Stir in raspberries without the extra juice that drains further (you want the filling to be thick). Fill cupcakes by removing a small piece in the middle of the cupcake, fill hole with about 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons of filling. Trim the piece you have cut out and place back over the filling in the cupcake. You can also pipe filling into the cupcake, however, this is pretty thick, so it is more difficult.

Chambord Ganache
3/8 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 teaspoon Chambord

Bring cream and butter just to a boil. Pour over chocolate chips. Let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk until glossy and smooth. Add Chambord. Let mixture sit 5 minutes to set before frosting cupcakes.

Mascarpone Frosting
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
3/8 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/2 cup whipped heavy cream

Beat together mascarpone cheese and sugar until smooth. Gently fold in whipped cream until combined. Place in a decorating bag and decorate tops of cupcakes as desired.



Filed under Atlanta, Baking, Chocolate, Cupcakes, Great American Bake Sale, Mascarpone Cheese, Raspberries, Recipes, Share Our Strength

That’s Some Kinda Smokin’ Hot Thai Chicken with Basil!

I should have known better….I know, I know…6 Thai chiles (seeds and all)! I just thought that Cooks Illustrated would not have created a dish THAT hot! Yikes! Aren’t they a bit more conservative??? We are talking meatloaf and apple pie here!

I have a great recipe for Thai Chicken with Basil that I force on my hubby every now and then. It is not his favorite dish, but you know, I just get this craving…similar to the craving for Pad Thai or Tom Yum Soup. I’ve just gotta have it! But, of course, being the cooking kind of gal that I am, I had to try a new version!

So anyway, last night I just had to have this dish and I decided I would give the old Test Kitchen at Cooks Illustrated a shot at my usual recipe and do all the weird things this recipe wanted me to do (chopping chicken breast in the food processor, for one). They do not usually let me down… You never know, sometimes these quirky steps make for great tasting food. I was eying this funky version of Thai Chicken with Basil since I received the January/February issue a month or so ago, so I finally put it into play!

As I mentioned, I am no stranger to Thai chiles and I know just how hot they are, but there was all this chatter in the article on the dish about how the brain reacts to the combination of sweet and sour in Thai dishes. The little bit of added sugar was supposed to counteract all the heat from the chiles and since I am incredibly gullible, I said okay, sure. I will give that a whirl! Well, let me just tell you, that ain’t happening! We like stuff hot, but this was inferno! We are talking chugging water, eating bowls of rice, hunks of bread….! Woe dog! I was surprised to still have a stomach this morning! I was looking to start popping those little purple pills!

If you can get past the heat, there actually was a nice flavor (I think!?) from the very different stir fry method that Cooks Illustrated came up with. There were 2 cups of basil leaves in the dish that were mixed in at different intervals to keep the flavors fresh (who would be able to tell???). I would say 2 to 3 chiles would do the trick for heat and then you might have an eatable stir fry dish. I thought it was quite humorous (or suicidal) that they suggested you might want to pass some more hot stuff for serving as in the addition of red pepper flakes…who are we feeding?? Funny thing is, they said that this was a mild version?! I am beginning to think this was a cruel joke!

I have not had a dinner disaster in awhile, but this was certainly borderline last night. When my hubby says what else is for dinner after I spent all this time cooking and we could barely eat this dish due to the level of heat, then it is a bad night in our house!

Proceed with extreme caution in preparing this recipe (and have a fire extinguisher nearby!)! 😉

Thai-Style Chicken with Basil (from Cooks Illustrated)

* My notes are in parentheses.
2 cups fresh basil leaves , tightly packed
3 medium garlic cloves , peeled
6 green or red Thai chiles , stemmed (cut back on this by at least half!)
2 tablespoons fish sauce , plus extra for serving
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon white vinegar , plus extra for serving
1 tablespoon sugar , plus extra for serving
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast , cut into 2-inch pieces
3 medium shallots , peeled and thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Red pepper flakes , for serving (yeah, right!)

1. Process 1 cup basil leaves, garlic, and chiles in food processor until finely chopped, 6 to 10 one-second pulses, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula once during processing. Transfer 1 tablespoon basil mixture to small bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon fish sauce, oyster sauce, vinegar, and sugar; set aside. Transfer remaining basil mixture to 12-inch heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet. Do not wash food processor bowl.

2. Pulse chicken and 1 tablespoon fish sauce in food processor until meat is chopped into -approximate 1/4-inch pieces, six to eight 1-second pulses. Transfer to medium bowl and refrigerate 15 minutes.
3. Stir shallots and oil into basil mixture in skillet. Heat over medium-low heat (mixture should start to sizzle after about 11/2 minutes; if it doesn’t, adjust heat accordingly), stirring constantly, until garlic and shallots are golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes.
4. Add chicken, increase heat to medium, and cook, stirring and breaking up chicken with potato masher or rubber spatula, until only traces of pink remain, 2 to 4 minutes. Add reserved basil-fish sauce mixture and continue to cook, stirring constantly until chicken is no longer pink, about 1 minute. Stir in remaining cup basil leaves and cook, stirring constantly, until basil is wilted, 30 to 60 seconds. Serve immediately, passing extra fish sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes, and vinegar separately.

Raw chicken just ain't pretty!

By the way, if you are into food science, here is a link to the Scoville Scale and information concerning how much capsaicin is in certain types of peppers and why we feel the “heat” like we do when eating spicy dishes. Forget about all this other food chemistry stuff! If it has 6 Thai peppers, it’s gonna be HOT!


Filed under Basil, Chicken, Entrees, Hot peppers, Recipes, Thai

Cincinnati Chili – Mine finally tastes like Skyline Chili!!

I have been making chili FOREVER! I am sure most of us have and I am certain that we would all say that we make the best chili or that we have some super top secret chili recipe from Uncle Whoever that we will never give up! Well, it seemed that Skyline Chili wasn’t giving it up either for awhile because until a week ago I could not seem to get it right!

I, frankly, had never heard of this Skyline Chili stuff until I married my hubby. He lived in Kentucky many years ago and first had this type of chili in Louisville. Apparently, it is now served in its home city of Cincinnati, Ohio as well as Indiana, Kentucky and even Florida (of all places!). My chili was more of what I would consider “normal” chili. It has the beans mixed in with the usual ingredients (onions, green peppers, tomatoes, chili powder, etc.) and this Cincinnati chili is just made with meat! It is also served over spaghetti! Now who does that? I had never heard of such a thing!

There are also several brands of Cincinnati style chili with Skyline Chili perhaps being the most recognizable name. Gold Star would be the next competitor with Empress and Dixie bringing up the rear! I went online and found out that all of these brands of Cincinnati chili have their own locations, several sell their chili, spices, T-shirts and even golf balls on their websites!

All of these brands of chili are available in the can (oh, yuck!) and are primarily sold in the same states where they have their restaurants. Skyline Chili is also available in your grocer’s freezer (even here in Atlanta), so that is what my husband has been eating for years when he needed a fix!

I guess there has been some huge rivalry between these chili makers (especially the top two – Skyline and Gold Star). There are also myriads of recipes floating around and lots of discussions about what exactly goes into this chili to make it taste so different. Well, I will tell you that I have probably tried 5 recipes since this quest began and as of last week, the adventure is over! I have done it! I finally found a recipe that tastes just like the stuff my hubby had in Indiana years ago and has craved from the frozen foods department since then.

So, this is how I spent a day in the mountains with 10 degree temps, 50 mile an hour howling winds and one foot of icy snow! I made chili! This recipe I used (with great success, I might add :)) was adapted from About .com. I made some changes based on what I read in comments online and how things were progressing while it cooked.

I read many discussions about how to fix the beef prior to mixing it with the spices. One was to put the ground beef in a food processor first to chop the meat finer (I am not so sure if that worked or not, but I tried it). The other key to making this is to boil the beef first. It sounds gross and does not make for pretty pictures, so you won’t be seeing those here, but it works! You need to really work the meat to get it into the teeniest pieces possible! That is part of the difference of this chili.

I would say the real secret is in the addition of cocoa and cinnamon and the large amount of spices you add. The chili tasted really hot at first, but as it cooked, the flavors mellowed and created that just right blend of spices that makes Cincinnati chili so different!

I used an equal amount of ground round and ground chuck. That way I had good flavor from the chuck, but did not have to worry so much about the fat (since we wanted to eat it right away!). I will say, however, that as with many dishes (especially chili) it was WAY better day 2 and day 3. We could not stop eating it!

One more thing about this chili…it is talked about in a way that reminds me of eating hash browns at Waffle House! Here are the ways you can fix it!

The Cincinnati “Skyline” Chili Ordering Code:

1-way: just the chili
2-way: chili served over spaghetti
3-way: chili, spaghetti, and grated Cheddar cheese
4-way: chili, spaghetti, cheese, and onions
5-way: chili, spaghetti, cheese, onions, and beans
All “ways” are served with oyster crackers (we skipped the crackers!).

Our new personal favorite would be the cheese coney! This would include the hot dog with chili, cheese, diced onions and mustard. We left off the onions and mustard (did not want to mess up the yummy chili flavor!).

By the way, I cooked my chili for about 8 hours (low and slow!). The original recipe calls for simmering for 3 hours. Just trust me on this one and start it in the morning and let it cook ALL day. Better yet, cook it the day before and serve it the next day! No more frozen chili for us! 😉

Cincinnati Chili

* 1 quart cold water
* 2 lbs ground beef (I used 1 lb. each of ground round and ground chuck).
* 2 cups crushed tomato
* 2 yellow onions, diced
* 4 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
* 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
* 1/4 cup chili powder
* 1 tsp cayenne
* 1 tsp ground cumin
* 2 tbsp cider vinegar
* 1 whole bay leaf
* 1/4 tsp ground cloves
* 1 tsp cinnamon
* 1 1/2 tsp salt (I used Kosher)


1. Put your ground beef in a food processor and pulse several times. Add beef and water to a 4-quart pot. Bring to a simmer while stirring until the ground beef is in very small pieces. Simmer for 30 minutes and add all the rest of the ingredients.

2. Simmer on low, uncovered, for 3 hours (longer is better, all day is best!). Add water as needed if the chili becomes to thick (I did need to do this several times, especially because I cooked mine all day).

3. Refrigerated the chili overnight, and the next day remove the layer of fat from top before reheating and serving (I really did not have any major fat to skim and I served it the same day).

I so hate to say this, but it really is “Yum-O”! 😉


Filed under Beans, Beef, Cheese, Cincinnati Chili, Entrees, Hot dogs, Recipes, Spaghetti

Ten in 2010 – Week 7 Update (California, here I come!)

This is my weekly update on the Ten in 2010 Challenge, which is a group of bloggers who have committed to getting healthy in the first 10 weeks of the new year.

It is always good to have a goal when trying to stick with a diet. My last real goal was to get slim and trim for a big trip to Europe last October. I did what I needed to do, reached my goal and even stayed the same weight while I was gone (probably because we walked so much). The next goal I had was to squeeze into this awesome dress that I purchased for a wedding. I did it and the dress looked great! I am sure that would be a bit of a challenge right now to get into that dress, so I am glad that is not the current goal! 😉

My new goal is to loose a few pounds and get in better shape for a trip to California! Going on a trip is always great inspiration to get moving and eat healthier foods, so this should work! I am actually going to Camp Blogaway in Southern California in May! Sunny California, here I come!

I do not know how things have been going with your eating habits, but mine have been out of control this week. Valentine’s Day seemed to turn into Valentine’s week and it was really ugly! Dinner out, cooking in…it just did not matter. It was all bad! The snow and cold weather sure did not help with trying to stay on track. All I wanted to do was cook and eat and sip wine and stay warm…so I did! My hubby even said yesterday that we have to give all the food a rest! He went backwards with his diet plans this week as well.

The good news is that yesterday was 60 degrees and the weekend is supposed to be just as warm. Yeah! We will be able to get out and walk and get moving. No more slugs sitting around inside the house!

I am excited to go to Camp Blogaway and meet new friends and learn how to do this blogging stuff better. It should be great fun and very informative. It will definitely inspire me to do what I need to do to get back into some Summer duds and get where I need to be with my weight and exercise situation.

I have a little over 2 months and I am determined. I am going back to my original commitment to eat healthier foods EVERY DAY and exercise at least 5 days a week. If I can stick with the plan, I should be where I need to be by May and ready to head to California!

I hope you are having success with your own Ten in 2010 Challenge and that there is a trip or event in your future that keeps you inspired to keep on going with your lifestyle change.


Filed under Camp Blogaway, Diet, Exercise, Healthy, Ten in 2010

C and S Seafood and Oyster Bar – Vinings, GA

My hubby and I went to C and S Seafood for an early Valentine’s Day dinner last Saturday evening. I have to say that we used to go to C and S all the time when they first opened and we actually had not been there in a while.

We were so excited when C and S first opened (about 3 years ago). It was close to home, had a nice atmosphere and felt and looked more like a seafood restaurant in Boston that we know and love rather than some place located in Vinings, GA! We thought the food was awesome and we thoroughly enjoyed sitting at the bar and chatting it up with the bartenders.

Well, here we were once again at the bar (we could not get a reservation for a table) and we were chatting with the same bartenders that have been there since day one. I know that it a good sign that business must be okay. Obviously, these guys are happy. They were part of the original group that opened C and S.

When we arrived at 6:45 pm we were still able to grab 2 seats at the bar, however, by 7 pm, the bar and the restaurant were packed. Granted, it was the day before Valentine’s Day , but C and S must be doing well to have that kind of crowd. The food is definitely at a higher price point and I had been wondering how they were doing with the current economic situation.

We, quite frankly, stopped going because our little nibbles at the bar were becoming quite extravagant. There are definitely restaurants that are close by that offer a similar bar dining experience (South City Kitchen), that are far less pricey. However, it was Valentine’s Day, so we splurged a bit.

I did notice that there have been some additions to the menu since we were in last. They now offer a bar menu with small plates, appetizers and sides that range from $7 to $16. They also have added a few entrees that are between $18 to $21. Other than those options, you can count on mid to upper $20’s for seafood entrees and between $28 and $48 for steaks. There are also pretty hefty prices for salads, soups and appetizers ($8 to $18).

I ordered a shrimp cocktail that had 4 colossal shrimp. It seemed a bit overpriced at $16, but considering the quality of the shrimp, it was appropriate. My husband ordered 9 Blue Point Oysters ($3 each). He said they were excellent and very fresh. We both had salads. I chose the chopped salad. I do have to say that they really should step up the salad at $10. It was a very small portion and almost seemed like an afterthought. It barely had any of the “chopped” ingredients. It was primarily field greens. It was better and more generous in the past. I really was disappointed. My husband had the same situation with the house salad at $8. I used to make a dinner of the salad and an appetizer. I could not do that now.

We both ordered the Chilean sea bass ($28). It was a generous piece and cooked perfectly. The tomato basil vinaigrette sauce was recommended to us to accompany the fish. It was nice with the sea bass, however, I wish I had asked to put the sauce on the side. I thought the kitchen put too much of the sauce on an already rich and buttery fish. The accompanying vegetables were parsley new potatoes and squash.

Overall, we had a very enjoyable dinner. The food is good, but not outstanding. We have had some mixed experiences over the years, but we do continue to return partly because it is convenient and partly because of the atmosphere. The overall value to us is that we do enjoy sitting and the bar and having a glass of wine and a bite to eat. We enjoy chatting with the bartenders and appreciate the short drive home.

I do have to say that there are many dining options in Atlanta when you are willing to spend this much for dinner. Unfortunately, I would have to say that the food is better at many of those other restaurants. I think C and S really needs to focus on keeping their prices down and perhaps be a bit more creative and generous with some of the other items (such as their salads).

I look forward to trying some of the lower priced options. It is nice to offer something lighter and less expensive so that customers like us will be more inclined to go more often and enjoy the atmosphere and conversation at the bar. We hope that C and S continues to thrive. It is great to have so many nice restaurants close to home. We do try to support the local spots whenever possible. Hopefully, the new menu will also bring in new patrons that might not have gone in the past.

C&S Seafood And Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Atlanta, C and S Seafood, Restaurant Reviews, Seafood, Vinings

Chicken Chasseur (Hunter-style Chicken)

My Chicken Chasseur was supposed to be served for our Valentine’s dinner, however, that did not happen. I did, however, prepare this amazing dish the next evening along with my favorite smashed potato recipe, steamed asparagus and the cute little heart-shaped creme brulees for dessert!

I had been cooking SO much prior to Valentine’s Day because it had been so cold and snowy that I just could not drag myself back into the kitchen. (What else does someone like me do when the weather outside is frightful??) And besides that, we had been eating and drinking and drinking and eating, so it was rather difficult to get motivated once again to get in the kitchen. Some days this girl needs a break! 😉

Instead of terrorizing my kitchen yet again and wearing myself out to the point of total exhaustion, I heated up some Boeuf Bourguignon that was in the freezer and we had creme brulee for dessert on Valentine’s evening. Not too bad, for a last minute Valentine’s Day dinner!

With Boeuf Bourguignon one evening and creme brulee for dessert, followed by Chicken Chasseur, I am beginning feel like I am on a gluttonous French gastronomical tour! Where did my so-called diet go??? I am waiting for temperatures above 40 degrees on a consistent basis and then I will get back to more reasonable cooking. But of course, that reasonable cooking will have to wait until after my dinner party this week. Wait until you see what dishes I am preparing for that! I need to be running laps just thinking about it! 😉

So back to the chicken, Chicken Chasseur is one of my hubby’s favorites that I make. That is why it was intended for Valentine’s Day! I saw Bobby Flay preparing this dish on a Saturday morning several years back. He did a show on French classics (just my kind of stuff!). I, of course, made this dish that evening. It has since become a favorite in our home.

The ingredients are easy enough to find. There are a few steps in preparing the dish, so it is best to have everything chopped and ready to go! You will need a couple of tablespoons of clarified butter to saute the chicken. The recipe also calls for enriched chicken stock. If you do not have your own stock, you can reduce the packaged stuff by half to make enriched stock (I like Swanson’s organic chicken broth when I do not use homemade).

The recipe says to cut the chicken in quarters, however, when I watched this show, the chicken was cut into more pieces (I do not remember how many precisely). We usually cut a chicken into 8 or 10 pieces (10 pieces if the breast is very large). I do serve the chicken on the bone (this recipe says to remove the breast meat from the bone).

The sauce is incredible with the chicken, so be sure to take the time to reduce it properly. Just keep your chicken warm until your sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. It does take some time. You then finish it with a knob of butter and some fresh herbs! Voila!

Here is the recipe from Bobby Flay Chicken Chasseur

We served the chicken with a lovely bottle of 1999 Crognolo. Crognolo is a Super Tuscan wine made with the Sangiovese grape. With ten years of aging it struck just the right note. It was phenomenal! This was definitely a bottle that was ready to drink! The cork was fine, but the wine had the potential to not be so good in an other year or two. My hubby took a picture of the cork. Note how far up the cork the wine had penetrated. Had the wine reached the top of the cork, the wine in the bottle would be exposed to air and begin to oxidize. This is just one way a bottle of wine can go bad. On that note, I say, drink up and Bon Appetit!

Chicken Chasseur on Foodista

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Filed under Chicken, Entrees, French, Recipes, Wine

Bunkycooks is on John Kessler’s AJC Food and More Blogroll!

While the snow was falling in Atlanta the other day and I was on the internet (big surprise there!), I went to the Access Atlanta site and saw that Bunkycooks is now mentioned on John Kessler’s Food and More Blogroll. Access Atlanta is the site for all things social and food in Atlanta and is an online extension of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

John Kessler has been with the Atlanta Journal Constitution since 1997. He started writing as a restaurant critic and now blogs about all sorts of food related topics.

Thank you John for including Bunkycooks on your blogroll!

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Filed under Atlanta Blogs, Food and More Blog, John Kessler