Vanilla Cupcakes and Whipped Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

Serves 24

These are the best vanilla cupcakes and the frosting is truly delicious.  Together, they make a yummy and absolutely fantastic combination.  The cupcakes are soft and crumby, yet very satisfying.  The whipped vanilla bean frosting is not just fluffy and smooth, but so flavourful because of the vanilla bean paste.  Together, they might just stop you from complaining that vanilla cupcakes are plain and boring!  Let’s get started.

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Vanilla Cupcakes and Whipped Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting – Recipe

Ingredients

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 3 cups cake flour, sifted
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ Tbsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 4 eggs
  • ¾ cup canola oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla bean paste

Whipped Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla bean paste
  • 2 ½ cups icing sugar, sifted (more as necessary depending on how stiff you want your icing)
  • 2 Tbsp. milk (optional)

Instructions

Vanilla Cupcakes

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F and line two cupcake pans with cupcake liners and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large bowl if using a hand mixer) add all the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until well combined.
  3. Add the eggs and mix until just incorporated and add the rest of the ingredients and mix on low speed until combined. Turn speed to medium and beat for 2 – 4 minutes until light and smooth.
  4. Spoon mixture into each cupcake liner until about half full and bake for 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and leave in the pan for 5 minutes and then take out and let cool.

Vanilla Cupcakes and Whipped Vanilla Bean Buttercream FrostingVanilla Cupcakes and Whipped Vanilla Bean Buttercream FrostingVanilla Cupcakes and Whipped Vanilla Bean Buttercream FrostingVanilla Cupcakes and Whipped Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

Whipped Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

  1. Add butter and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or large bowl if using a hand mixer) and whisk on medium low until pale and fluffy, 2 minutes.
  2. Add vanilla bean paste and continue to whisk for another minute.
  3. Sift in icing sugar half a cup at a time and whisk on low speed until incorporated. Turn up speed to medium and whip until smooth, fluffy and light.
  4. Add milk (if using) or more sugar as necessary to achieved desired consistency and whip on medium-high speed for another minute. I like to add a little bit of milk because I find that it makes everything even creamier and this is a medium consistency frosting which is great for cupcakes so I don`t add extra sugar.

Vanilla Cupcakes and Whipped Vanilla Bean Buttercream FrostingVanilla Cupcakes and Whipped Vanilla Bean Buttercream FrostingVanilla Cupcakes and Whipped Vanilla Bean Buttercream FrostingVanilla Cupcakes and Whipped Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

Pipe onto cooled cupcakes and enjoy.  If you like cupcakes you’ll also like Falooda Cupcakes and for vegetarians try the Eggless Chocolate Malt (Milo) Cupcakes.

Mexican Rice

Serves 4 – 8

Mexican Rice is a staple in Mexican cuisine that it’s served as a side with many main dishes.  This version can be personalized with the vegetables of your choice.  I’m using corn and tomatoes to achieve an authentic Mexican taste, but you can also add fresh or frozen carrots, peas, peppers and mushrooms to serve as a complete meal.   The turmeric and tomato sauce combined add a great, rich colour, which is a visual treat that will whet the appetite.  This makes a great addition to tacos and burritos or even rolled up in a taquito alongside cooked chicken.  This Mexican Rice isn’t just for accompanying Mexican dishes, but can be used to jazz up basic baked chicken and steamed broccoli or an already flavourful roast!  Let’s get started.

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Mexican Rice – Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup kernel corn (canned is fine, thoroughly rinse in cold water prior to cooking)
  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice, rinsed in cold water a few times to remove starch
  • ½ cup tomato sauce
  • 6 – 8 slices of pickled jalapeno, drained and chopped (optional)
  • 2 cups chicken broth, hot (substitute 2 cups water, hot, and 1 bouillon cube or 1 tsp. chicken broth powder)
  • ½ tsp. ground dry red chili
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 pinch turmeric
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 green onion, green part sliced thin
  • 1 Tbsp. coriander, chopped fine

Instructions

  1. Heat butter in a large, heavy bottom, non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion and sauté until onions are soft, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Stir in rice and sauté until toasted, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add corn, pickled jalapenos, ground dry red chili, ground cumin and turmeric.
  4. Add tomato sauce and chicken broth (or water and 1 bouillon cube or 1 tsp. chicken broth powder).
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste, stir until well combined, and cook covered over medium heat for 15 -20 minutes or until liquids are evaporated and rice is fluffy. Turn off stove.
  6. Add tomato and green onion, stir through, and let rice rest for about 5 minutes prior to serving.

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Serve garnished with finely chopped coriander.  This Mexican Rice can be served as a side or even as a main dish for the family.  It’s so flavorful and delicious that they won’t miss the meat.

Naan – Leavened Indian Flat Bread – How to Make Naan Pictorial Guide Included

Serves 4

Most of us would not consider a visit to an Indian restaurant complete without mopping up our curries with warm, soft, fragrant, utterly delicious naan.  Naan has been a restaurant dish (as opposed to home-cooked) almost since its introduction into India from Persia.  In recent years, many home cooks have started to make naan at home, mainly to stave off the cost associated with naan breads at restaurants.  It’s much more economical – and most importantly, just as delicious – to make naan at home!  All you require are a few basic ingredients that can be found in most well-stocked kitchens.  Naan can be eaten plain, brushed with melted butter or garnished with a variety of toppings.  Traditionally these toppings include grated garlic, chopped coriander, sesame seeds and onion seeds.  I’m going to be using melted butter, grated garlic and chopped coriander, but you can use whatever toppings you usually enjoy or leave as is.

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The yeast is a very important component when it comes to making naan at home.  While you can make flat breads without yeast, you won’t be able to achieve that soft and melt-in-your-mouth restaurant taste without it.  The milk and yogurt are also very important in making your naan stand out by making it soft and delicate.  Without these three things you won’t be able to achieve the same results.  The other trick to making restaurant style naan is to let your dough rest once you’ve divided it.  This gives the dough a chance to expand a little more and incorporate more air and ensures that your naan won’t rise as you roll it out.  You can use melted butter or ghee in place of the oil, but plain cooking oil will yield a good quality naan so go ahead and use that without worry.  I don’t like to add coriander while the naan is cooking so I add it prior to serving to keep it fresh.  You can add it in with the grated garlic if you prefer.  This recipe makes really soft and tasty restaurant style naan that goes great with most saucy curries.  Let’s get started.

Naan – Leavened Indian Flat Bread - How to Make NaanNaan – Leavened Indian Flat Bread - How to Make NaanNaan – Leavened Indian Flat Bread - How to Make Naan

Naan – Leavened Indian Flat Bread

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 ½ tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • ¾ cup yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • ½ – 1 cup warm milk
  • Melted butter, for brushing
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic, grated (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. coriander, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, add warm water, active dry yeast and sugar and stir until combined. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes or until the mixture begins to froth.
  2. In the meantime, sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment or into a large bowl. Stir until well combined.
  3. Add the yogurt, oil, yeast mixture and half of the warm milk and combine on low speed until everything comes together. If kneading by hand, knead for 5 minutes until a soft, sticky dough forms. If using stand mixture, knead on medium-low for 2 minutes.  Add more milk as required as you knead to achieve soft, wet, pliable dough.
  4. Drizzle a little bit of oil on top of the dough ball and spread around until dough is evenly covered. Cover the bowl with cling wrap or aluminum foil and a towel on top and let sit in a warm place for 2 hours.
  5. When ready to cook, knead dough on a floured surface for a few seconds until all the air is dispersed and then divide into 4 equal balls. Cover them with a clean towel and let them rest for 5 – 10 minutes.
  6. Heat a skillet or tawa over medium heat and let it warm up for about 2 minutes. Using a rolling pin, roll each piece of dough into an oblong shape that’s wider at the bottom than at the top.  If using garlic, smear a quarter of it onto one side and roll into dough.  Roll out until dough is about 1/8th of an inch thick.   The dough will shrink onto itself so do not roll out too thick.
  7. Wet your hand with water and rub water onto the side that does not have any toppings such as the grated garlic and place this side down on the skillet or tawa. Cook for about 1 – 2 minutes (or until large bubbles start to form) and then flip over and cook for about 30 seconds – 1 minute until slightly scorched in places (if you’re unsure flip a corner to see).  Remove to a covered plate and brush with melted butter on one side (the side with the toppings such as the grated garlic) and sprinkle with chopped coriander on top if using.  Continue this process until all the naans are rolled out and cooked.

Pictorial Guide

Cover the bowl with cling wrap or aluminum foil and a towel on top and let sit in a warm place for 2 hours.  Dough should be soft, sticky and pliable.

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Knead dough on a floured surface for a few seconds until all the air is dispersed and then divide into 4 equal balls. Cover them with a clean towel and let them rest for 5 – 10 minutes.

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Using a rolling pin, roll each piece of dough into an oblong shape that’s wider at the bottom than at the top.  If using garlic, smear a quarter of it onto one side and roll into dough.  Roll out until dough is about 1/8th of an inch thick.   The dough will shrink onto itself so do not roll out too thick.

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Wet your hand with water and rub water onto the side that does not have any toppings such as the grated garlic and place this side down on the skillet or tawa. Cook for about 1 – 2 minutes (or until large bubbles start to form) and then flip over and cook for about 30 seconds – 1 minute until slightly scorched in places (if you’re unsure flip a corner to see).

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Serve hot with Paneer Tikka Masala or Butter Chicken or any other thick saucy curry.  If you don’t have a large skillet or tawa, divide the dough into 6 or 8 balls and make smaller naan.  I like to make larger naan because it saves on cooking time and I’m just kind of lazy like that.  They’ll both taste delicious so either is fine.  This is a basic naan recipe that can be customized to your taste.  I like this basic version the best as I can add different toppings to create variety through a wide range of different flavours without a lot of additional work.  One of the benefits of making naan at home is that it allows you to control the fat content, which can cut calories and that’s something most of us can avoid if we can.  You can do this by using a healthier oil or oil substitute and brushing on margarine instead of butter or leaving it out altogether.  You can also use a lower fat milk or skim milk or low fat yogurt to cut more calories.  You can also add more nutrition by substituting whole wheat pastry flour for half of the all-purpose flour.  This is such a delicious dish that you may not go back to buying naan again.

Mango Milkshake

Serves 2

Most concoctions involving mangoes are delicious, but this mango milkshake is not only absolutely yummy, but quick and easy to make as well.  Just a few ingredients will yield a smooth, rich drink that’s perfect for the hot summer!  Fresh mangoes make this mango milkshake even tastier, but if you can’t find fresh mangoes then mango pulp will be fine as well.  You can even try making this with mango ice cream.  Let’s get started.

Mango MilkshakeMango Milkshake

Ingredients

  • 3 small non-fibrous sweet mangoes, chopped and pit discarded
  • 1 – 2 cups milk, cold (depending on how thick you want your milkshake)
  • 1 scoop vanilla ice cream
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. condensed milk (optional)

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients into a blender and blend until completely smooth.

Mango Milkshake

This should be served immediately.  Also try the Mango Lassi for another refreshing mango drink.

Chicken Nachos

Serves 2

This restaurant favourite is definitely delicious and caters to all my comfort food craving taste buds.  There’s only one trick to making nachos at home:  keeping the chips crispy!  The best way to achieve this is to not add anything liquid or comprising a high water content while baking the nachos.  Those can be added fresh prior to serving.  Let’s get started.

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Ingredients

  • 1 bag of good quality, thick corn chips
  • ¼ red onion, diced
  • ½ cup kernel corn, cooked (or use equivalent amount from the can)
  • 1/3 cup pickled jalapenos, drained (if you want it really spicy use fresh sliced jalapenos)
  • 1 cup cooked shredded or diced chicken breast
  • 2 – 2 ½ cups of Tex-Mex cheese, shredded
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 2 green onions, sliced thin

To serve:

  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Salsa (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a large baking tray with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  2. Arrange the chips on the baking tray in a single layer.  Top with onions, corn, pickled or fresh sliced jalapenos and chicken.
  3. Sprinkle the cheese on top evenly until well covered.  Bake for 10 – 15 minutes or until cheese starts to bubble.
  4. Turn off oven, remove the nachos and sprinkle with the tomatoes and green onions.

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Serve right away with a side of sour cream or salsa if desired.  You can serve right off the baking tray or if you want you can carefully remove the nachos to a serving plate prior to serving.  For a complete Mexican meal, try the White Chicken Enchiladas.