Blog - biscuits and such
southern food blog
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Lavender Fairy Cupcakes


I have to tell you that I adore cupcakes.  I think that they are precious, such fun to eat and make, and liven things up.  If we were having a smaller wedding, say with only about 40 people, I’d have cupcakes in a heartbeat.  Its been a while since I made cupcakes, but on Monday I made these for a friend’s birthday, and that got me in a cupcake mood.  I opened up a book of cake recipes and tried to find one that would be fun and festive.


I spend my days with an almost three year old named Marin.  She’s delightful and I enjoy our time together.  She is also very, very into princesses and fairies.  So when I noticed a recipe whose title included the word fairy, I figured she’d be hooked.  She’s also gotten a lot more interested in cooking/baking recently, so I figured it would be a good day activity for us.


The recipe called for fresh lavender, which for the life of me I could not find.  I actually went to two grocery stores and a florist and could not find fresh or dried lavender.  I was about to give up when I stopped into one of the higher end food markets on my way home, and they had both.  However, a fresh lavender plant two days before Valentine’s Day runs $50 at Balducci’s, so I settled for dry lavender.  The recipe also called for drugees, but since they’re not FDA approved for eating and I was making these with a child, I opted for purple sugar crystals instead.


The cupcakes turned out miserably.  They were salty (they had no salt in them), and tasted more like biscuits.  So, because I can’t stand to disappoint a two year old, I put Marin down for a nap and made different cupcakes.  I used my go to vanilla cupcake recipe, which is Amy Sedaris’.  There wasn’t any vanilla in the house though, so I used maple syrup.  Thankfully the lavender overthrows any other flavor, so you can’t really tell.  Still, the whole process of having to throw out a dozen cupcakes is frustrating.  This is also the third recipe from that book that has failed, so it will also be the last that I try.  Hello, recycling.


Even after I made a new batch of cupcakes, the flavor was still… well off.  After Dan ate a couple we decided that they’re good, they’re just not what you’d expect.  The flavor is very strong, and, frankly, herbal.  They taste a little more like muffins than they do cupcakes.  They’re tasty, and the flavor is unique, they just don’t taste like you’d expect.  If I made them again I think I’d leave the lavender out of the icing, so that the sweet icing could balance the cupcake more evenly.


Lavender Fairy Cupcakes
Source: Adapted from Amy Sedaris and inspired by Cakes and Bakes

For the cupcake:

1 1/2 sticks butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 tbsp maple syrup

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 1/2 cup flour

1 1/4 cup milk

Sparkle sugar

2 tsp lavender, dried or fresh

For the Frosting:

1 stick butter, softened

2 cups confectioners sugar

1/2 cup milk

1 tsp sparkle sugar

1 tsp lavender, dried or fresh

Preheat oven to 375*.  Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners.

Cream butter.  Add in sugar and beat until well incorporated and fluffy.  Beat in eggs.  Beat in remaining ingredients and mix until creamy.  Fill cupcake liners 2/3 the way and bake for 20 minutes.

To begin the icing, cream butter.  Add in confectioners sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until it’s thick and well creamy.  Add in milk, sugar, and lavender.  Scoop into your icing bag and pop in the fridge.  There’s a delicate balance between too warm buttercream and too cold buttercream, so watch out.  If it starts getting runny, it needs to be cooled.  But at the same time you don’t want it to be rock solid, so check it every 5 minutes or so.

When the cupcakes are done, allow to cool on the rack.  They must be room temperature before you put on the icing.  If you’re in a hurry you can pop them in the freezer, but that can make them stale.  When they’re cool, ice, and top with sparkle sugar.  Serve to the very excited children who helped you make them!

Makes 18-22 cupcakes, depending on how you distribute your batter.

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Roasted Red Pepper Hummus


Dan and I are always looking for things that we would usually spend a lot of money at the store on that we could make at home for a lot less money (soon I’ll share the  Irish Cream recipe).  Things like pesto, spiced and flavored olive oil, and as of today, hummus.  Last weekend Food Network aired two back to back episodes of Unwrapped  about dips, and after an hour of watching giant machines make hummus, I decided I could do it at home.


I spent a few days looking at recipe books and blogs, trying to get a good idea of the approximate proportions ratio- how much tahini to use with a certain amount of chickpeas, etc.  I decided to start with roasted red pepper hummus, because, frankly, that’s my favorite flavor to buy.  The only tricky part in the recipe was locating tahini, the grocery store didn’t have it, so I ended up going to the local co-op.  There I had the option to buy it in a can or scoop out my desired amount from big vats.  The scoop-your-own-nut-butters area was very crowded (Sunday afternoon food shopping hazard), so I bought it in a jar.


Roasting vegetables, for those who have never done it, is very easy.  Just drizzle some olive oil over the pepper and throw it in a 400* oven for twenty to thirty minutes.  The benefit is that the olive oil is flavored after the vegetables are roasted, and you can use that in your hummus.  When roasting tomatoes and peppers, the way to tell that it is done is if the skin starts to bubble off the core of the vegetable.  Also, it smells heavenly.


My only other advice for hummus making is that after you’ve finished blending it, you let it cool in the refrigerator for a few hours.  This not only brings the temperature down, it also allows it to flatten down a little.  The blending really fluffs it up, so settling in the fridge makes it better dipping.


Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

15 ounces of canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

2 garlic cloves, diced

1 red pepper, roasted

2 tbsp tahini

6 tbsp olive oil

Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes

Core your red pepper.  Place in a baking pan and drizzle with 4 tbsps of oil.  Roast in a 400* oven for thirty minutes, or until the skin has bubbled off the pulp of the pepper.

Dice your garlic and combine it in a food processor with garbanzo beans, tahini, spices, and the remaining olive oil.  When the peppers are done, dice them and add them to the processor, along with the oil left over in the pan.

Grind  in the processor for about three minutes, or until it’s smooth.  Taste it to make sure you have enough pepper, and then cover and refrigerate for an hour.  Serve with pita chips.

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Roasted Pork Rib with Garlic Tomato Sauce


A craving for saffron rice this week led to a quest to find the perfect meal to accompany it.  While I was thinking and brainstorming about what relatively healthy, adequately flavored accompaniment I could make, I started thinking about one of my father’s favorite dishes to cook.  And whether or not I could remember it well enough to adapt it without him correcting me.  It’s bad enough when he takes over for me when I’m cooking something “wrong” (like frying an egg), I didn’t want to get corrected publicly on my food blog.


The dish he always made is a pork chop simmered in tomatoes and garlic.  But, over Christmas, the conversation with my future sister-in-law turned a few times to how bad for you pork chops are, so I opted for boneless pork tenderloin short ribs.  Plus, they looked a lot more appealing in the grocery store.


I decided to sear them, roast them, and then simmer them in my sauce.  I wanted the crispy edge of searing the pork, plus it set up a flavor profile with my garlic and oil that I could bring the tomatoes into.  I also wanted them to be roasted, so after I seared them, I roasted them for about half an hour.  That left me plenty of time to simmer my tomatoes and by the time I added the pork and its drippings back into the sauce, the flavors were all there, and delicious.


Saffron rice is great with this dish because the flavors are really complimentary.  And the sauce is liquid enough that you want a bread or rice to soak it up, and the rice does a wonderful job.  Usually I hate it when my food touches, but there are certain exceptions (like drippy eggs), and this is definitely one of them.


Roasted Pork Rib with Garlic Tomato Sauce

1 lb pork tenderloin boneless short rib

4 cloves garlic

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp fresh rosemary

1 tsp herbs from provence

Salt and pepper

1 can diced tomatoes (fire roasted if you can find them)

1 can whole peeled tomatoes

1 cup saffron rice

The night before you plan on  making this, rub your pork with fresh rosemary, salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Place in a bag and marinate overnight.

When you’re ready to cook, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet.  Sautee your pork for about a minute on each side, it should still be uncooked in the middle.  Transfer the pork and it’s juices into a roasting pan.  Top with the canned diced tomatoes, and roast for 30  minutes at 400*F.

While your meat is roasting, heat an additional 2 tbsp of olive oil in the skillet.  Add garlic and rosemary.  Saute for a few minutes.  Strain your whole peeled tomatoes, but keep the juice because you’re going to use some of it with the rice.  Add the tomatoes to the pan, and quarter them- in the pan so the juices get mixed in with the rest.  Simmer while the pork is roasting.

In a separate pot, bring 1 1/2 cups of water, 1 tsp butter, and 1/4 cup of the tomato juices to a boil.  As soon as it boils, add in your rice.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for twenty minutes.

When the pork is done roasting, add the pork, the tomatoes, and the juices to your skillet.  Simmer while your rice is cooking.

When the rice has absorbed all the liquid, plate it, topping it with tomatoes and pork.

Serves 2-4.

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