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Andes Mint Cupcakes

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Guess what???  It’s Monday and I have the day off with my husband.  I’m SO excited!  Before I became permanent and my schedule changed, we had the weekends off together, but now we only get one day off together once every five weeks so it’s cause for celebration.  I’m going to relish it.

Speaking of my husband and celebrations, I made these cupcakes for his birthday in December, and everyone at the party fell in loveMel calls these “over-the-top” and I’d have to agree.  It starts with a moist, deep chocolate cupcake.  Then there’s the cool & creamy mint frosting.  Garnished with peppermint ganache and an Andes mint.  But there’s more to these cupcakes than what meets the eye, and my only regret is that I did not have the chance to snap a photo of the inside to show you they are also filled with the same peppermint ganache that is drizzled over the top.  Making them, you might say, over the top. :)

These would be great for your St. Patrick’s Day festivities!

Andes Mint Cupcakes

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 recipe of your favorite chocolate cake*, baked into 24 cupcakes and cooled completely

Chocolate Mint Filling:
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
2/3 cup powdered sugar

Mint Buttercream:
1 cup (2 sticks, 16 tablespoons) butter, softened to room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 lbs. powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
Green food coloring

24 Andes mints for garnish

For the mint filling, place the chocolate chips and heavy cream in a small microwave-safe bowl and heat for 1 minute at 50% power. Stir. Repeat the process until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the peppermint extract and powdered sugar, whisking until smooth. Let the mixture cool to room temperature (but don’t let it get too stiff) and pour it into a disposable pastry bag fitted with a small round tip, or a squeeze bottle with a tip.

Insert the decorating tip or tip of the squeeze bottle into the center of the cupcake and press gently to fill the middle of the cupcake with the mint ganache.  You can be pretty generous, squeezing until you see the top of the cupcake start to rise a little. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes.

For the frosting, in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add the heavy cream and peppermint and vanilla extracts. Beat until light and fluffy. Add green food coloring until the color you like is achieved.

Frost the cooled, filled cupcakes with frosting (using a large star tip, I used Wilton # 1M) or simply spread the frosting in a large dollop (again, you can be generous-there is plenty) with a butter knife or flat spatula. Garnish with a drizzle of leftover ganache (make sure the ganache is completely cool or it will melt the frosting when you drizzle it on top of the cupcake), and an unwrapped Andes mint.  Serve at room temperature.

*I used a devil’s food cake mix, but this is my favorite from-scratch chocolate cake recipe.

Recipe source: adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

***

I had to share a few more photos from his party, which was actually only half for his birthday (our preacher and his wife had a holiday dinner/birthday party combo).  One of the games we played was holding paper plates on top of our heads and trying to draw a picture of Dennis playing his guitar without looking.  You have no idea how difficult this is until you try to do it!  This is what I ended up with:

http://sphotos.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/s720x720/375983_10150501251206480_541706479_10934912_410175853_n.jpg

However, this is what his best friend, Jack, came up with:

http://sphotos.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/s720x720/386399_10150501252261480_541706479_10934919_836445075_n.jpg

Highly suspicious.

Here’s Dennis and Jack trying to look natural after I urged them to try embracing each other for a photo.  I don’t think this is natural for most men, but they pulled it off better than I expected. :)

http://sphotos.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-snc7/s720x720/384593_10150501252876480_541706479_10934928_1748743330_n.jpg

And here’s Dennis practicing his Kung Fu moves with our preacher’s bat’leth (a Klingon weapon…as in something a Trekkie would totally recognize but me, not so much) shortly before we left (and yes, this thing is super sharp and dangerous! Yet he was swinging it like the pro he is.):

http://sphotos.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/s720x720/382966_10150501256611480_541706479_10934943_332731381_n.jpg

Your Klingon Kung Fu is strong, honey.

***

Reminder: this is the last week to get your postcards out to Beverly! You can get the deets here if you missed the announcement: Operation Postcard for Beverly.

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Green Rice

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I do not really like Spanish rice, but I do love Mexican food, so I’m always looking for alternative side dishes to complement my Mexican meals (let me know if you have some!). I started making this green rice about four years ago and every one that has tried it raves about it and immediately tries to figure out what’s in it b/c they’re always expecting broccoli when they look at it and are surprised by the slightly spicy, garlicky & cilantro taste. It is a very nice complement to any Mexican dinner, but I really like to serve it with my creamy chicken enchiladas along with a salad. It does take a while to make, so I usually save it for special occasions or days when I have an extra hour to prepare dinner.


Green Rice pictured with Fish Tacos

GREEN RICE

3 cups fat-free chicken broth or water
2 poblano peppers, stems & seeds removed
1 jalapeno pepper, stem & seeds removed (use latex gloves so your skin doesn’t get burned during handling)
1 bunch (at least 1 cup) chopped fresh cilantro leaves, divided in half
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, finely diced
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup brown rice
½ tsp. salt

Combine the broth and peppers in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, and then partially cover and simmer gently over medium to medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Pour the mixture into a food processor or blender*, add 1/2 of the cilantro and process to a smooth puree. Set aside.

Wipe the pan clean, add the oil, and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the rice and cook for 1 minute.

Stir in the warm broth mixture & the salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Start checking on it about 30 minutes to make sure there is still enough liquid. There should be enough, but add more broth as needed. Also, the rice will start sticking to the bottom toward the end of cooking so when most of the liquid is absorbed, you’ll have to stir it every few minutes to keep the bottom from scorching. This makes the rice creamy–almost like a risotto in texture. Once the rice is tender, remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes, covered. Stir in remaining cilantro and serve.

*Remove the center part of your blender lid before turning it on so that the steam has somewhere to escape once the internal pressure increases. If you don’t do this, your blender lid will blow off & you could be badly burned (as I have on two separate occasions). It works best to start the blender on low and slowly increase the speed, that way nothing sloshes out through the open hole at the top.

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