Duck and Lamb Cookies!

Regular Pink Apron readers know that there have been a number of babies born in the Pink Apron extended family recently.   This weekend one of my honorary nephews was baptized.  Mom (one of my oldest friends) didn't want cross cookies, but something appropriate for a baptism.
I wasn't sure what cookies to make at first.  I didn't want to do a onesie cookies and I didn't want to do a cookie that was more fun than formal.   When I received the invitation to the baptism in the mail, I found my inspiration: on the invitation was a lamb and duck!  I knew I found my cookies!
I love the way the yellow duck stands our with the white lambs. I added just a a little sparkling sugar for texture.   
I was undecided whether to do the fun, cartoony lamb with just the face or a full body traditional sheep.  In the end I decided to make both!   The scroll on the follow bodied lambs was a last minute addition.  I think I gives those cookies a bit more detail than just a plain white body.   

The royal icing and sugar cookie recipe can be found here

Same Pink Apron, Whole New Look!

I'm so excited that the new blog has been installed.  I have been wanting to upgrade the Pink Apron and make the blog more visually appealing for a while.  I found a wonderful web designer named Jessica who designed the new blog.  You can check out her site here.  There are still some minor things being adjusted, but mostly everything is done.  I have a new tab for categories which I hope to have ready soon!

I know it's been a week since my last post, but I have been busy in the kitchen while the new blog was being installed so I have lots to share!  

St. Patrick's Day Shamrock Cookies

It's St. Patrick's Day and I don't let a holiday go by without making some sugar cookies.  In Boston, St. Patrick's Day is no minor celebration.  In addition to being able to find corned beef and cabbage at almost every restaurant there is a huge parade in South Boston and major political roast.  If you are in the Boston area you need to experience the St. Patrick's Day parade at least once.   It's a rite of passage.  
I decided to go simple for these cookies and do different patterns in the same shape.  I bought the green food coloring a while ago, to make sure I didn't have a repeat of looking for red coloring at every store in the Boston area, like on the 4th of July. Mr. Apron appreciates this since he's usually the one I send out to the store.  

Happy St. Patrick's Day.  I hope you are drinking a pint of Guinness or a glass of Bailey's on the rocks while your reading this. 

The sugar cookie and royal icing recipe I use can be found here

My Goodness My Guinness Stew

After making Guinness cupcakes this weekend I had several extra bottles of stout to experiment with.  Mr. Apron loves beef cooked with Guinness so I decided to make Guinness Stew.  I've made beef stew plenty of times, but never with Guinness, so I was excited to try it.  This was easily the best beef stew I've had.  This stew is hearty and full of flavor.  I don't know what it is about Guinness but it adds so much flavor to whatever its added to for cooking. The best part is that its super easy.

This stew only takes about 15 minutes to prep and then it sits in the slow cooker until you are ready to eat.  I prefer making stew in a slow cooker.  It involves much less hands on time and I think it tastes better since the beef slowly cooks all day.  The meat will come out super tender.This stew makes plenty for leftovers and it tastes even better the next day. (Beef also freezes really well). It is great served with a piece of bread for dipping.   Have a Guinness Cupcake for dessert!

Guinness Stew
3 lb boneless beef chuck (stew beef), cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup flour
1 ½  teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 onions roughly chopped
1 lb red potatoes, cut into one inch pieces
¾ cup chopped carrots
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 ½ tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups beef broth
3 cups Guinness Stout
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves

Pat the beef dry.  Stir together the flour, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Add the beef, turning to coat all the pieces.  Transfer to slow cooker.  Distribute tomato paste, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and Guinness over beef.  Add onions, potatoes, carrots, garlic and bay leaves.  Pour in beef broth.  Cover slow cooker.  Cook for 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high.

Adapted from Gourmet

Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey's Irish Cream Frosting

It's almost St. Patrick's Day and nothing says St. Patrick's Day to me like Guinness! I visited a friend in Dublin in college and a required part of that trip was a visit to the Guinness Factory.   When I found a recipe for Guinness Cupcakes a few years ago, I knew I had to make them. Now they are a St. Patrick's Day tradition in the Pink Apron House.  I think Mr. Apron starts asking me about them just after New Years.  He even requests other chocolate cakes to be made with Guinness he likes it so much. 

The Guinness add a nice tang to these chocolaty cupcakes and they are topped off with Bailey's Irish Cream Frosting.  The combination of the Guinness and Bailey's make these cupcakes the perfect St. Patrick's day treat!  And if you like the shamrock cookies in the photo, stay tuned, I'll be posting about those soon! 

Guinness Cupcakes
1 cup of Guinness Stout
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2/3 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly. 

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Bailey's Irish Cream Frosting
3 to 4 cups confections sugar

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys

Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, for several minutes, until light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.  Add in Bailey’s to desired thickness. 

Adapted from  Smells Like Home

What to Do With Leftover Chicken: Italian Baked Chicken and Penne

When I started this blog in June,  my original intention was to strictly post about baking and other desserts.  However, since this fall I have toyed with the idea of expanding topics to include other food items, but have yet to do so.  After months of thinking, I have finally decided to go ahead with the expansion: so welcome to the first non-dessert Pink Apron Post.  

As I post non-desserts my goal is to incorporate reccurring topics. I would like to focus on tips and shortcuts for preparing meals.  I love baking and cooking meals from scratch, but let's face it, most of us do not have the time to make a time consuming dinner every night during the week. 

Since Mr. Apron and I moved in together I have become skilled in planning meals, planning ahead and using ingredients from one dinner in another.   I am by no means, an expert, but I have learned alot about how to have well rounded meals on weeknights, while working a fulltime job, and not spending an hour in the kitchen after getting home.

My first topic is What to Do with Leftover Chicken and this installment is Italian Baked chicken and Penne.

This weekend I decided to make a roast chicken.   Mr. Apron and I did not have any dinner guests so, the 8 pound chicken produced a lot of left over meat.   One of my favorite recipes to use leftover chicken is Italian Baked Chicken and Penne.  Mr. Apron and I love this dish. For a pasta dish it is light but it also has a lot of flavors.

I adapted this recipe from Giada on the Food Network.  Her original recipe used chicken breasts. When I first tried Giada's recipe's  I made it according to her instructions.  But the dish seemed like it could be easier and didn't need freshly cooked chicken.

Leftover chicken is not hard to come by, and I am also looking for creative ways to use it.  I eventually started using  leftover roasted chicken rather than cooking chicken breasts.  I also doubled the recipe, so that I would have two meals made and Mr. Apron would have some lunches.  This not only made the recipe easier, but I think it tastes better with roasted chicken.

If you decide to make this, you do not want to over cook pasta.  The pasta will absorb the tomato juice while cooking, and if the pasta is overcook, it will come out watery. I made this dish with penne, but you really could use almost any pasta you have on hand.  I've used elbows, cellentani, and ziti.  All produce great results, and the shape of your pasta shouldn't cause any additional stress on weeknight.

This is also a great make ahead dish.  My normal practice is to put this dish together the night before I plan on cooking it.   I cover it, put in the refrigerator, then bake it the next night. If you do this, add about 5 minutes extra cooking time.  

Italian Baked Chicken and Penne
1 lb box of penne
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup cooked chicken breast cut into one inch cubes
1 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
8 oz shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoon butter, plus more for buttering the baking dish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Drain pasta into a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, stirring to combine, and cook until the onions are soft add the chicken and cook for two more minutes. Put the chicken mixture into the bowl with the cooked pasta. Add the canned tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Place the mixture in a buttered 9x13 inch dish. In a small bowl mix together the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta mixture. Dot the top with small bits of butter. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

Chocolate Swirl Cake Bars

I am likely moving sometime in the two months (more on that later), so I am try to use up items in my kitchen.  Yesterday, I found a box of white cake mix and I figured it was time to put it to use.  I would never just make a plain white cake or cupcakes. I like to make cakes from scratch.  But cake mix can be used to all sorts of other baked goods, and even though I would much rather make something on my own, sometimes when you are short on time, it is useful to have on hand.  So, I googled white cake mix recipes, found this recipe and thought I would give it a try!

I must admit, these do not taste semi-homemade.  These bars can totally be passed off as something made from scratch.  (Not that I would ever do that!)  And they took ten minutes to put together.  No mixer, no special ingredients.  These are defintitely a good option to have handy if you suddenly find out your child signed you up for a bake sale and you need a baked good quickly.  I would definitely make these again.

1 package (18-1/4 ounces) white cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter, cubed

In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs and oil. Press two-thirds of the mixture into a greased 13x9 inch baking pan. Set remaining cake mixture aside. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the milk, chocolate chips and butter. Microwave, uncovered, until chips and butter are melted; stir until smooth. Pour over crust.  Drop teaspoonfuls of remaining cake mixture over top. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool before cutting.