Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Baking is Good for the Soul

With the holidays and a random busy stretch at work I haven't been able to post but I'm back! So much has happened in a month! I'm signed up for 2 half marathons early next year, I've begun to foster puppies from a local animal shelter, and started a Bible study with a group of girlfriends!

Our first Bible study was last night and, in true Southern fashion, I started by planning the menu first. I made Chicken Salad, a fruit tray with creamy fruit dip, and, la piece de resistance, Chocolate Cherry Port Wine cupcakes. Yea, you read that right. A sweet friend turned me on to the website Ming Makes Cupcakes. I was hooked as soon as the website loaded. I decided to make Cupcake #26 because I have a bottle of Port that I use for a special chicken dish I make but haven't used for anything else. It was the right decision.

Chocolate Cherry Port Wine cupcakes

3/4 cup Port wine
3/4 cup canned cherries (I used frozen and they worked great!)
1 stick butter
3 T & 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup chocolate chips (I used semisweet)
1/4 cup cocoa
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/4 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350. Simmer Port and drained cherries in a saucepan for 10 minutes. Reserve 1/8 cup of the liquid. Add butter, 3T sugar, chocolate, and cocoa and whisk until melted. Remove from heat and let cool. Mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in another bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together egg and sour cream. Add Port mixture and beat briefly. Add flour mixture and beat briefly. Pour into a lined cupcake pan and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Spoon remaining Port liquid on the cupcakes before frosting (this is important, added a lot of flavor).   

Mascarpone Frosting
8 oz mascarpone
1/2 cup heavy wipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
cherries or chocolate shavings for garnish

Beat ingredients together at high speed for 2-3 minutes. Spread on cupcakes and top with cherries or chocolate shavings. 

These cupcakes are ridiculous. The only thing I will do differently next time is use more cherries to ensure that each cupcake has AT LEAST one! Make these cupcakes for a holiday gathering and you'll be the belle of the ball, guaranteed!

love always,

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Slimmed Down Shrimp and Grits

Tonight felt like a comfort food night. It's been very cold here in the city, work has been busy, and with Thanksgiving right around the corner I've been missing home like crazy. One of my favorite dishes that mama makes every time I go home is Shrimp and Grits. Classic. Southern.

Traditional Shrimp and Grits is loaded with butter, cheese, and oil. I'm sticking to a healthy diet and workout plan so I don't want to go off track, especially this close to the holidays where staying healthy inevitably becomes a challenge anyway. So I found this lightened version of my favorite Southern staple on Southern Living. Let me tell you, it turned out so much better than I expected! I may even like it better than mama's...but shh, don't tell!  Made with spinach, Parmesan, and olive oil instead of butter, bacon, and cheddar, it was light, flavorful, and filling. At only 235 calories a serving and 30 minutes prep and cook time, it really is a great alternative when you have fitness goals to achieve but need a little taste of that down home cooking.

Slimmed Down Shrimp and Grits
Makes 6 servings

Parmesan Grits
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup uncooked quick cook grits
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp ground pepper

Creamy Shrimp Sauce
1 pound unpeeled, medium-size raw shrimp
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/8 tsp salt
cooking spray
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp flour
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp hot sauce
2 cups firmly packed spinach

Parmesan Grits: Bring 1/2 tsp. salt and 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually whisk in grits. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes or until thickened. Whisk in cheese and pepper. Keep warm.

Creamy Shrimp Sauce: Peel shrimp; devein, if desired. Sprinkle shrimp with pepper and 1/8 tsp. salt. Cook in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat 1 to 2 minutes on each side or just until shrimp turn pink. Remove from skillet. Reduce heat to medium. Add oil; heat 30 seconds. Whisk in flour; cook 30 seconds to 1 minute. Whisk in broth and next 5 ingredients; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until thickened. Stir in shrimp and spinach; cook 1 minute or until spinach is slightly wilted. Serve immediately over grits.

Paired with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, I felt like I was back at my kitchen table with my parents and my brother. What's your favorite comfort food and why?
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