Margarita Cupcakes

Every week on Tuesdays, we have a cookout at work.  Everyone signs up to bring either a side, appetizer, or dessert, and the firm supplies the main dish.  Last week I signed up for dessert and knew exactly what to make…Margarita Cupcakes!  There is a Mexican restaurant right up the street from where we work, and we go there for lunch probably once a week or so.  Every time we go, we all wish we could have a margarita, especially during tax season!  I figured if  we couldn’t drink margaritas for lunch, at least we could eat these delicious cupcakes.  Everyone loved these!  They really did taste like a margarita, and the icing was unbelievable.  I had to give everyone the recipe!  Of course the most exciting part to everyone…the fact that these also have tequila in them!  Hey, what can I say, we LOVE our margaritas!

Margarita Cupcakes

1 box white cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)
7 1/2 ounces margarita mix
2 ounces tequila
1/2 ounce orange juice
3 large egg whites
2 T vegetable oil
Zest of 1 lime

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 24 muffin tins with paper liners or spray with baking spray. Mix together margarita mix, tequila and orange juice in a large measuring cup. Add cake mix to mixing bowl and add egge whites, oil, lime zest and tequila mix. Beat on low speed for about 30 seconds until dry ingredients are incorporated and then beat on medium high speed for 2 minutes. Spoon batter evenly into muffin cups, filling about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center cupcake comes out clean. Cool about 5 minutes in the pan and then cool completely on wire racks.

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2-3 T lime juice
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp lime zest
3-4 drops green food coloring

Beat cream cheese and butter on medium high speed until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add 2 T lime juice and lime zest and beat until combined. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, beating on low speed until incorporated. Add more lime juice if necessary. Add food coloring a couple drops at a time and beat on medium high speed until desired color is reached and icing is smooth. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes as desired.

Lime wedges, straws, and sprinkles all make festive garnishes. Refrigerate cupcakes in an airtight container if not serving immediately and bring to room temperature a couple hours prior to serving.

Source:  Homemade by Holman, who adapted it from Confections of a Foodie Bride


Chicken with Balsamic BBQ Sauce

In watching the new Cooking Channel, I got to watch an older episode of Everyday Italian, one of my favorite Food Network shows.  Giada was making Chicken with Balsamic BBQ Sauce, and I knew I had to make this, and soon!  I made it for dinner tonight, and I was not disappointed.  The hardest part of this recipe was waiting for the sauce to reduce because it smelled so good I wanted to eat it right away!  Everything came together so easily, and cleanup was a breeze.  I cooked the chicken on my cast iron grill pan (which I got for $15 at TJ Maxx…score!), but you can also do this on the grill, and even in the oven.  I highly recommend trying this recipe…you won’t be disappointed!


Chicken with Balsamic BBQ Sauce

For the Balsamic BBQ sauce:

1 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and stir until all the ingredients are incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Simmer over medium heat until reduced by 1/3, about 15 to 20 minutes.

For the chicken:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Place a grill pan over medium heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Lightly coat with some of the BBQ sauce using a pastry brush. Place the chicken on the grill. Place the remaining BBQ sauce, still in the small saucepan, over low heat or on the edge of a gas or charcoal grill and allow to gently simmer while the chicken cooks.

Cook the chicken about 8 minutes per side.  Continually brush the chicken with BBQ sauce every few minutes. Remove the chicken from the grill and let rest for at least 5 minutes. Serve with the heated BBQ sauce alongside.

Source:  Food Network Website

SMS: Toasted Almond Lemon Bars

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe for Toasted Almond Lemon Bars was chosen by Rebecca of the Indecisive Baker.  Check out her blog for the recipe, as well as some other great photos and recipes!  You can also find the recipe on pages 78-79 of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book.

If I had to choose my favorite flavor, I would definitely choose lemon.  It works great in savory and sweet dishes, and I try to use it as often as I can.  Lemon bars are a big favorite here in The Rookie Baker house, so I was so excited about this week’s recipe!  I actually made lemon bars once before, and they turned out awful!  It was the very first recipe I ever made from scratch, not long after I graduated from college.  I remember being so excited to make these out of the very first cookbook I ever bought.  Not sure what I did wrong, but they were inedible!  I am glad to say that this recipe turned out much, much better!  These are probably the best lemon bars I’ve ever tasted.  The crust is really unbelievable…the toasted almonds really take it over the edge.  I will most definitely make these again, and again, and again, whenever I have a lemon bar craving!  Thanks for choosing such a great recipe that allowed me to redeem myself in the lemon bar department, Rebecca!!

You can check out how the other bakers did this week here.  Up next week…Chocolate Peppermint Meringues…one of my favorite flavor combinations!

CEiMB: Chicken with Warm Tomato-Corn Salad

This week’s Craving Ellie in My Belly recipe for Chicken with Warm Tomato-Corn Salad was chosen by Danica of Danica’s Daily. Check out her blog for some great recipes and healthy eating tips.

I am not a vegetable eater. I pretty much stick to corn, broccoli, and salad stuff (romaine lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes), so when I saw this week’s recipe, I was a bit skeptical. However, we are trying to eat more healthy so I gave it a shot. Wow, this was fantastic! The husband ate almost the entire pan of the tomato corn salad, and the toddler kept asking for more tomatoes (music to a mother’s ears). This dish was very light and flavorful, perfect for a warm summer evening.  The only thing I would change next time (because there WILL be a next time!) is to add more seasoning to the salad mixture for an extra flavor boost.  The best part…I had dinner ready in less than 15 minutes! 

Chicken with Warm Tomato-Corn Salad

1 1/4 pounds thin-cut skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/2 tsp Penzeys Northwoods Seasoning, plus more to taste
4 tsp olive oil
4 scallions, whites and greens separated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
2 cups frozen corn kernels
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice

Season the chicken with the Northwoods seasoning.  Heat 2 tsp of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken to the pan and cook until the chicken is browned and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.  Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the remaining 2 tsp of oil to the pan and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the scallion whites and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds more.  Add the tomatoes and corn to the pan and cook until they are softened but still retain their shape, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the scallion greens and season with Northwoods seasoning to taste. 

Place about a cup of the vegetable mixture on each plate.  Top with a piece of chicken breast.  Sprinkle with lime juice and serve.

Source:  Adapted from  So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week by Ellie Kreiger, pg 144

Beef Noodles

I have had this recipe for Beef Noodles bookmarked for quite some time.  Since I had ground beef defrosted and the husband is out of town, I thought this would be a great dinner for the toddler and I tonight.  I absolutely loved this!  It reminds me of Hamburger Helper, but oh so much better tasting, and much better for you.  The best part about this recipe is that it came together before Elmo’s World was over, thus buying me some peaceful cooking time!  The toddler did not eat this, but I am blaming the 2-year molars he’s cutting.  I will be so happy when we are through teething…only 2 more teeth to go!!  Anyway, this made a good amount of food, so I’ll be enjoying the leftovers tomorrow night for dinner, and probably for lunch on Wednesday as well. 

Beef Noodles

1 pound ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pkg wide egg noodles
1 can cream of mushroom soup (I used Campbell’s Healthy Request)
4 oz Velveeta cheese
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt

Brown ground beef with garlic. Meanwhile heat water for egg noodles, salt the water and cook noodles approx 6 minutes until al dente. When beef is browned, turn heat to low and add cream of mushroom soup, velveeta, and milk. Add onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper and the drained egg noodles. Stir to combine. Add shredded cheese and stir until melted. Let it simmer a few minutes to thicken the sauce if necessary.

Source:  Adapted from Homemade By Holman

BWD: Creamiest Lime (No Meringue) Pie

This week’s Baking with Dorie recipe for Creamiest Lime Meringue Pie was selected by Elizabeth from Gluten-Free Baking 101.  You can check out her site for a gluten-free version of this recipe and a fabulous picture tutorial.  For the original recipe, check out our founder Grapefruit’s blog, or pages 337-339 of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Considering I wasn’t going to have my favorite taste tester here to help me eat this pie (the husband is in Phoenix…), I halved the lime filling and used mini graham cracker pie crusts (from the store…shameful I know…).  I did not make the meringue because, well, I’m not a meringue kind of girl.  However, after looking at Elizabeth’s pictures of the Swiss meringue, I may be tempted to try that!  I thought overall the pie was pretty good, but not so good that I would go to the effort of making it again.  I found the filling way too buttery for my taste (2 1/2 sticks!!!); however, this did not stop me from eating a whole mini pie!

Check out the BWD site to see how the other bakers did this week, and to get information on how to join our fabulous group.  For August 2nd, we will be making a Blueberry Crumb Cake.  I am VERY much looking forward to this one!

Stovetop Mac and Cheese

Since the husband is out of town, and the toddler and I are big mac and cheese fans, I decided to give this recipe from Cooking Light a shot as a main course dinner for the two of us. I had a block of Champagne cheddar cheese that I bought while up in the Finger Lakes that I thought would be perfect for this. Boy was I wrong. This had virtually no flavor; even my mac and cheese-aholic wouldn’t eat it! I think the cheese was far too mild to really flavor the sauce. I will give this a try again with an extra-sharp cheddar and a bit more ground mustard.

Stovetop Mac and Cheese

1  1/4  cups  uncooked elbow macaroni (about 6 ounces)
1  cup  2% low-fat milk
2  tablespoons  all-purpose flour
1  1/4  cups  (5 ounces) shredded Champagne cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2  teaspoon  salt
1/8  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.

Combine milk and flour in a medium saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Cook over medium heat 2 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add cheese, salt, and pepper, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add pasta; toss to coat. Let stand 4 minutes.

Source:  Adapted from Cooking Light