Lime-Margarita Cupcakes

Yes, I am skipping Tuesdays with Dorie this week. No, this is not a Weight Watchers recipe. Yes, these are very tasty and extremely addictive. These will defintely be making a Cinco De Mayo appearance. I changed the recipe a bit. It asked for a sprinkling of colored sugar on the top, but I loved the taste from the margarita salt and used that instead.

Lime-Margarita Cupcakes
adapted from Crushcakes Cupcakery
Makes 2 dozen

3 sticks (12 ounces) butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature, plus 1 large egg white
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 3/4 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
Grated peel of 4 limes, plus 1/4 cup lime juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons gold tequila
1 drop green food coloring
margarita salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 cupcake pans with baking liners. Using an electric mixer, beat 2 sticks butter and the granulated sugar until creamy. Gradually beat in the eggs, egg white and oil. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt. In a large glass measuring cup, stir together the milk, 2 tablespoons lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. On low speed, mix in one-third of the wet mixture, then one-third of the dry mixture. Repeat twice, ending with the dry mixture. Mix in half of the grated lime peel.

3. Fill each baking liner about three-quarters full with batter. Bake until the cupcakes spring back when gently touched, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely, about 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, using the electric mixer, beat the remaining 1 stick butter until creamy. Beat in 1 cup confectioners' sugar. Beat in the tequila, and the remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, lime peel, 1 teaspoon salt and the food coloring until smooth and creamy. Beat in the remaining 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar one-third at a time, until just soft enough to spread.

5. Spread the frosting on the cooled cupcakes. Sprinkle with margarita salt and enjoy!


Double Chocolate Pudding

One of the most important things of any diet is not to deprive yourself. At least that's what I believe. So, when I came across this lighter version of pudding in Rachael's new magazine (yes, we are on a first name basis now), I made it immediately. Seriously, I finished the magazine and went straight to the kitchen. The ingredients are so simple, every baker should have them. And, it took like 5 minutes to make. Sweet!

Recipe courtesy of Rachel Ray
Serves 6

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 pinch salt
3 cups 2 percent milk (I used 1%)
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, (about 1/4 cup)
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil, stirring, over medium-high heat. Lower heat to medium and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 5 min.

2. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the chocolate and vanilla until smooth. Serve warm or chilled.


Cilantro-Garlic Shrimp

Just like everyone else out there, the cooks here at Vanilla Bean are trying to trim a few inches from their waistlines. Honestly, I don't care where the inches come from, I just want them gone. When I stick to it, I've found that Weight Watchers works for me and helps keep me on track. One of the most difficult things is finding something that is healthy, good AND that Jeff will eat. This recipe in WW's latest magazine/cookbook Five Ingredient 15 Minute Recipes immediately jumped out at me. It was light and fresh. Jeff loved it. And, what is even better, it was so simple and fast to make. We made it in under 15 minutes!

Cilantro-Garlic Shrimp
Weight Watchers Five Ingredient 15 Minute Recipe Magazine
7 points

1 tbls. olive oil
1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup coarsley chopped fresh cilantro

1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and garlic, saute 5 minutes or until shrimp are done.

2. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat, add cilantro and serve atop 3/4 cup angel hair pasta.


TWD: Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

A few months ago, something happened in the Vanilla Bean kitchen that wasn't reported here. I felt, because of the parties involved, it was best I put the whole episode to rest. But, after making this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins, I feel compelled to tell the story...

Back in Oct. my mom and dad visited from Minnesota. This year, I decided to add a little twist. One afternoon we invited my in-laws over and my mom's brother and sister and their family. And, thus commenced the First Annual Goodhart Chili Cookoff. My aunt and mother-in-law were innocent competitors. They didn't realize what they were up against. I teamed up with my mother and Jeff was on his own. My dad wisely stayed out of it. All morning, there were many secretive whispers in the kitchen as we each prepared our chili. Threats were made. There was talk of sabotage. We chose an unbiased judge to choose a winner, my sister's boyfriend. We also created a People's Choice award, to ensure each chili was judged fairly. The judge said there was a clear winner...it was my mom & me!! And, when the people voted, it was us again. After that, there was much tension in the air. Jeff was noticeably upset. He avoided eye contact with the judge and accused me of stuffing the ballot box. To this day, I don't mention the cook off. His wounds are still healing.

There was also cornbread. I have a feeling if we'd had a cornbread competition and I made Dorie's Savory and Corn Pepper Muffins, they would have won. These are spicy and sweet and have bits of jalapeno, red pepper and corn inside. I opted to leave out the cilantro. I halved the recipe and got 8 muffins. Also, I put in an extra tbls. of sugar, just to sweeten things up. Thanks to Rebecca from Ezra Poundcake for selecting this week's TWD recipe. You can find the recipe on her blog.


Bookbinder Soup

One of the things I was told we had to try while in Chicago was the Bookbinder Soup at The Drake Hotel. They have been serving it since they opened in 1933, with a shot of sherry. I found this recipe at recipezaar.com. The Drake also had a recipe online, but it told you to add things not in the ingredient list, so I didn't trust it. This recipe still tasted like the real thing.

The Drake's Bookbinder Soup
Recipe from Recipezaar.com


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
12 white peppercorns or black peppercorns, crushed
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons chopped cilantro
8 cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 small onions, chopped fine
3 celery ribs, chopped fine
1-2 red snapper fillets (10 oz.) (We used Westcoast Snapper from Whole Foods Market)
1/4 cup sherry wine (optional)

1. To make soup base, heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat; add carrots, celery, garlic, onion, red bell pepper, and green bell pepper; cook, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes.

2. Stir in peppercorns, bay leaf, tomato paste, thyme, rosemary, and cilantro; cook 2 minutes and add 7 cups of the vegetable broth; heat to boil.

3. Melt butter in a small saucepan; add flour and cornstarch, cook, stirring constantly, 4 to 5 minutes.

4. Slowly whisk in remaining 1 cup broth until mixture is smooth; add mixture to soup base; cover and simmer over medium-low heat 20 minutes.

5. Taste and adjust seasonings.

6. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth; discard solids and return broth to pot.

7. To make snapper, heat water to boil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat; add onions and celery; blanch until soft, about 3 minutes.

8. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to broth.

9. Boil fish in the same water until cooked through.

10. Remove fish from water; flake very finely with a fork.

11. Stir snapper and sherry, if desired, into soup base; heat through.