Cupcakes—those cute little cakes

Have you noticed? Cupcakes are all the rage.  So many flavors, so many frostings, so many toppings, and so many sizes!  Cupcakes have become a whimsical replacement for traditional desserts. I remember when they were just a simple treat to send to school for kids’ birthdays—now they pop up all over, even at wedding receptions!

For those in the Connecticut area, I have started a cupcake venture, Cupcakes for a Cause.  Part of the proceeds are donated to a local animal shelter.  Visit my website and see my limited holiday flavors!!  www.cupcakecause.com

Showcased in the above photo is one of my offerings – Cup o’ Joe (developed in honor of my A LA CARTE partner, Joe, who makes the best coffee in town!)  It is a rich Espresso Cupcake topped with Mocha Buttercream, then sprinkled with chopped candied coffee beans & ground cinnamon.

Cathy

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Filed under Cake, Chocolate, Cupcakes, Dessert, Sweets

Please Pass the Sangria!

Is there anything quite as refreshing as a cool glass of Sangria on a hot summer evening? Try this white wine version I recently concocted for a studio party. It’s delicious!

Sangria is not an exact science. Try experimenting on your own with various fruits and sweeteners….the combinations are endless. And let us know if you come up with your own signature Sangria!

Sparkling White Sangria
Makes 8 servings

1 bottle white wine (such as Chardonnay, Reisling, or Chablis)
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/4 cup orange brandy (such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
2 plums, pitted and sliced
1 peach, pitted and sliced
1 mango, peeled and sliced
2 cans (12 ounces each) club soda or seltzer
fresh mint

• In large pitcher, stir together wine, sugar and brandy until sugar is dissolved. Add fruit. Cover and chill for at least an hour (the longer the better!)

• Just before serving, stir in club soda. Serve over ice with mint. Sip!

Cathy

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Filed under Drinks, Entertaining, Foodies, Fruit, Holidays, Vegetarian

Wait. What? Watermelon!

Take a close look at this picture. You’re right, that’s not chopped tomato; it’s fresh watermelon!

Last week Cathy was looking for a quick and easy summer appetizer that would take advantage of the season’s fresh produce. We think she scored a home run with this sweet ‘n tangy watermelon bruschetta. You’re gonna love it!

Watermelon Bruschetta

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

2 cups diced watermelon, drained on paper towel
1/3 cup diced yellow bell pepper
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon diced red onion
1 teaspoon lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon snipped chives
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 baguette, thinly sliced

• Combine all ingredients except for the bread.

• Cover and chill at least 30 minutes. Serve with bread slices.

Tips

• Do not prepare more than an hour before serving or mixture will become too soft.

• Try the watermelon over grilled chicken or salmon. Yum!

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Filed under Appetizer, Breads, Cheese, Entertaining, Foodies, Fruit, Snacks, Vegetarian

Guilt-free Chocolate Shake!

and now, a little quiz from A LA CARTE…..

The mouth-watering chocolate milkshake in the photo:
A. is both non-dairy & cholesterol-free
B. is vegan
C. contains only 200 calories
D. tastes as good as it looks
E. All of the above

If you answered “E”, give yourself a star, and have a sip!

The secret to this tasty, healthful shake is Silk brand’s Dark Chocolate Almond Milk. It’s  available at large grocery stores and I even found it at my Target. Silk’s website has a store locator; just enter your zip code. If your store does not carry it, pester the manager to order it!  It’s quite tasty straight, but extra fab in shakes and dessert recipes. Try it!

Dark Chocolate & Banana Milkshake

1 cup (8 ounces) dark chocolate almond milk
1/2 banana
1/2 cup crushed ice

– Place all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth.

– Serve immediately.

Heather

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Filed under Chocolate, Drinks, Healthy, Shakes & Smoothies, Vegetarian

Classic Macaroni and Cheese

Here at A LA CARTE we are passionate about our Mac ‘n Cheese.

In fact, we have rules.

#1 Mac ’n Cheese must not be from a box. EVER.

#2 Mac ’n Cheese must be made with a quality aged cheddar.

#3 Mac ’n Cheese must not have unnecessary add-ins. No broccoli, no tuna, no bacon, no chicken, no lobster. No exceptions.

Classic Macaroni & Cheese
Makes about 8 servings

1 pkg. (16 oz.)  cavatappi pasta ( elbows, gemelli, or penne)
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
2 cups milk
8 ounces aged cheddar, shredded

– Preheat oven to 375°.

– Grease bottom and sides of 2-quart casserole.

– Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to cooking pot.

– Meanwhile, in medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Using whisk, stir in flour, dry mustard, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until well blended.

– Slowly add milk to flour mixture, whisking constantly. When sauce begins to thicken, remove from heat. Let mixture cool for about five minutes.

– Stir in cheese until melted.

– Pour cheese sauce over cooked pasta in pot. Mix well. Transfer to casserole.

– Bake uncovered at 375° for 30 minutes until bubbly and lightly browned.

In the photo above, we’ve used cavatappi (corkscrew) pasta and a 3 year old extra-aged artisanal cheddar from Grafton Village Cheese Company, called Grafton Gold.

We’d offer to share, but it’s all gone!

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Filed under Cheese, Main Dishes, Pasta, Side Dishes

Little, Luscious and Easy-as-Pie!

SO simple.

SO cute.

SO luscious!

During some food-styling downtime at a recent location shoot, Cathy concocted this elegant little tart. Of course, we thought it was beautiful, so we raced to put it on the set, and voilà!  Do you love it??

Cathy started with a small, good quality shortbread cookie for the base. She used LU, a readily available shortbread cookie with an adorable crimped edge. She topped the cookie with a tablespoon of prepared lemon curd, then garnished with a tiny dollop of whipped cream, a blueberry, and some lemon zest.

This is the perfect no-cook, no-bake recipe for those last-minute get-togethers when you’re short of time,  but still looking for a dessert with some “wow” power. Just keep the ingredients on hand, and you can be turning out tarts at a moment’s notice.

Here are some other sweet tarts to consider:

Chocolate Tart:  shortbread cookie, a tablespoon of prepared chocolate pudding, a dab of whipped cream, a raspberry, & chocolate shavings
Butterscotch Tart:  shortbread cookie, a tablespoon of prepared butterscotch pudding, a dab of whipped cream, & chopped toasted pecans
Key Lime Tart: shortbread cookie, a tablespoon of prepared lime curd, a dab of whipped cream, & lime zest

Heather

4 Comments

Filed under Cookies, Dessert, Entertaining, Lemon, Sweets

Easy Easter Cookies

Looking to channel your inner Martha and whip up some professional looking Easter cookies? It’s easy!

• Pick up a few cookie cutters at your local kitchen shop, or order from our favorite source, The Cookie Cutter Shop.

• Place one package refrigerated sugar cookie dough (such as Pillsbury) in a large mixing bowl. Mix in about 1/4 cup of flour to make a stiff dough. (The extra flour will help the cut-out cookies hold their shape while baking.) Now, just roll dough to 1/4-inch thick, cut out shapes, and bake according to package directions.

• To decorate, use your favorite frosting, icing or melted chocolate to cover cookie.  Royal icing is the best choice if you want a very smooth surface, and it colors beautifully. Royal icing typically uses raw egg whites.  To eliminate the risk of salmonella when using raw egg whites, meringue powder is recommended.

Royal Icing with Meringue Powder:  In large bowl, stir together  4 cups confectioners’ sugar and 3 tablespoons meringue powder.  Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup water and beat on high until a ribbon of icing falls back into the bowl and remains on the surface of the icing for a few seconds before disappearing.  This is the best consistency to cover or “flood” the entire surface of the cookie. Tint icing with a tiny bit of food color or paste. Place cookies on cooling rack over a cookie sheet, and “flood” by gently spooning the icing over them. If icing is not thin enough, add water, a teaspoon at a time, until it spreads easily.

Before cookie dries, sprinkle with your favorite sugars and sprinkles.  Check out Wilton Decorating for more creative decorating ideas & tips.

Note: You can purchase meringue powder at large party stores, kitchenware shops and some supermarkets.

 

7 Comments

Filed under Cookies, Dessert, Easter