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Coconut Cupcakes: an Updated Classic

Some notes about this recipe.

First, the cupcakes themselves are extremely tender. For that reason, it’s important to use baking cups in the cupcake pans. You’ll be very glad you did.

Second, coconut cupcakes are supposed to be super sweet. And these are, despite using unsweetened coconut. If you haven’t used unsweetened coconut before, again, you’ll be glad you did here.

Third, the frosting is unusual — not just your basic butter & confectioners sugar. Drained coconut milk solids & sour cream are unusual twists, and are well worth trying.

Last, I recently started using double strength vanilla. It’s not necessary, you can use classic vanilla in the exact same amounts. But double strength adds a depth of flavor that really enhances baking.

You’ll Need:

For the cupcakes —

3 cups sifted cake flour

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 3/4 cups sugar

2/3 cup butter

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp double strength vanilla

1/8 tsp coconut extract

1/8 tsp almond extract

1 1/4 cups milk

Cupcake pan with 24 cupcake liners

For the frosting —

1/3 cup of the solids (approximately half the can ) from a 14 oz can of unsweetened coconut milk, drained over a fine mesh strainer for approximately 2 hours, until only the solid remains

1/3 cup sour cream

1 stick butter, softened

1 box confectioners sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp double strength vanilla

1/8 tsp lemon extract

1 1/2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut

Steps:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2.  Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

3.  Cream the sugar and butter together until light & fluffy.

5.  Add the eggs, vanilla & extracts & beat well.

6.  Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, beating well after each addition.

7.  Continue beating one additional minute.

8.  Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pans.

9.  Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean.

10. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 5 minutes.

11.  Then remove the cupcakes in their liners & cool completely on a metal rack while you make the frosting.

12.  Cream the butter & coconut milk solids.

13.  Add the sour cream & continue beating.

14.  Add the vanilla, lemon extract & salt & continue beating.

15.  Add half the confectioners sugar & beat again. Then add the rest of the confectioners sugar & beat until frosting is thick, smooth & spreadable.

16.  Put the unsweetened coconut in a shallow wide mouthed bowl.

17.  Frost each cupcake, then dip it frosting side down into the bowl of coconut, covering the frosting completely.

Makes 24 cupcakes

Goldenrod’s Midas Touch

gardeninacity

Goldenrods (Solidago sp.)  are one of the iconic flowers of fall. Because it is a common roadside weed, and because it is often inaccurately blamed for the airborne pollen that aggravates hayfever, some people have a hard time thinking of goldenrods as garden plants. That’s a shame, because they can add texture as well as glowing color to the fall garden. As with many American wildflowers, goldenrod’s ornamental possibilities were first widely perceived in Europe. Just about all Goldenrods are magnets for pollinators.

There are about 100 species of Goldenrod, mostly in North America. In this post I’m going to write about the four species growing in my garden. All are straight species, not cultivars.

Anise-Scented Goldenrod

Anise-Scented Goldenrod (Solidago odora). I highly recommend this plant. It is relatively compact – most descriptions put it at 1-2′ but in my garden it grows at least a foot…

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As Ye Self-Sow, So Shall Ye Reap

gardeninacity

As winter closes in, I find myself turning more and more to that emotional survival trick of gardeners everywhere: obsessing over what I’m going to plant next spring. As I peruse my books and catalogs, I keep running into an ominous phrase: “self-sows freely”.

Experienced gardeners know what this means. It means that you are bound to a plant in holy and implacable matrimony, no divorces or annulments allowed. It means this plant will be in your garden forever. It means you will be pulling out seedlings far and wide, or watch this plant choke out the competition.

Or perhaps not. “Self-sows freely” is perhaps a phrase that is more ambiguous than ominous, since it does not adequately describe the variety of self-sowing behaviors exhibited by garden plants. To remedy this problem, I provide the following glossary of variations in self-sowing.

Self-sows charmingly. Pops up with endearing randomness around the…

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Easy Summer Berry Cake

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This is a simple, light, not too sweet little cake that can handle any berry you might have on hand. I used blackberries & raspberries, because they were on sale this week. If you use strawberries, you’ll want to halve or quarter them.

You’ll Need

2 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 stick butter, melted
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
Zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
12 oz berries

Mixer
10 inch tart pan, buttered & floured
Rubber spatula

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 400.

2. Mix the eggs & sugar on high until light yellow and frothy.

3. Add melted butter, milk, lemon zest, almond extract & vanilla & blend well.

4. Add flour, baking powder & salt, and mix just until blended.

5. Fold berries into the batter with the spatula.

6. Pour batter into prepared tart pan, smoothing top with the spatula.

7. Bake for 30 minutes, until cake is well browned.

8. Cool on the counter, then remove ring of tart pan, and serve.

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Sinful No-Churn Espresso Ice Cream

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I recently found a recipe by Nigella Lawson that sounded too good to be true. A no-churn ice cream made with just four ingredients. I changed it up a little, and here is my version.

It’s really far too easy to make, amazingly creamy and flavorful, and totally decadent.

The recipe makes enough for a crowd. So halving it my be the more sensible choice. Otherwise, your waistline may pay the price…

You’ll Need:

1 quart cold heavy cream
2 14 oz cans sweetened condensed milk
6 – 8 heaping tbs instant espresso powder
6 tbs Amaretto

A mixer or blender
Storage containers with lids for the freezer

Steps:

1. Blend all the ingredients together in a mixer or blender just until well combined.

2. Pour into containers, cover with lids.

3. Freeze overnight.

Spicy Chicken & Sausage Meatballs

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A few months ago, I was having a party and searching for appetizers I could prepare & cook ahead, stash in the freezer, and pop quickly in the oven on party day.

I found a recipe for spicy chicken meatballs, and as is my way, changed it up. (Full disclosure: some of my other appetizer experiments were not so successful and didn’t get served … such is life in my kitchen.)

But these were really outstanding.

Make them bite sized for appetizers, or slightly larger to serve as a main course. They need no sauce, and as an entree, work perfectly atop a fresh undressed salad.

You’ll Need:

1 lb ground chicken
1 lb pork sausage, out of casings (fresh chorizo or Italian sausage work best)
2 large eggs
2 tsps salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs or panko
1/2 tsp garlic powder

EVOO

Large mixing bowl
Large frying pan
Baking rack over a roasting pan or plate lined with paper towels

Steps:

1. Pour a good quantity of EVOO in the frying pan, enough to pan fry the meatballs.

2. Set up a draining station for the meatballs after you fry them, either a rack over a roasting pan, or a large plate or platter lined with paper towels.

3. With clean hands combine the ground chicken, sausage, eggs, crumbs and seasonings.

4. Form the mixture into meatballs; the recipe yields approximately 40 bite sized appetizers or 20 medium sized meatballs for use as an entree.

5. Heat the oil in the fry pan until it shimmies.

6. Fry the meatballs over medium heat, in batches so as not to crowd the pan, and don’t turn until each side is well browned, about 3 – 5 minutes per side. Be sure every side is well browned, so the chicken & pork are fully cooked.

7. Drain on the rack or lined platter.

8. Serve immediately or freeze to reheat later (defrosted, 400 degrees, approximately 8 – 10 minutes.)

Canneloni Dip

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This is so easy, rustic and fabulously good. Just serve with some crusty Italian bread.

You’ll Need:

19 oz can of cannelloni beans, rinsed & drained

3/8 cup best quality olive oil

1 tbs minced garlic

Handful Italian parsley, very roughly chopped

Juice of 1 large lemon

Salt & pepper

A food processor

Steps:

1. Put everything but the salt & pepper in the food processor & pulse a few times, until it’s a very coarse purée.

2. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

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