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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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Pineapple & Mango Salad

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I’m ba-ack!  My husband, sister, and I had a fabulous time with our friends in Texas and I put together a slideshow if you are interested, which you can view here.

I had planned to share my favorite basic cheesecake recipe with you upon my return, but you will have to wait until Monday for that one because I’m on a deadline to get a mango recipe posted for BSI (Blogger Secret Ingredient). Trust me, I’m doing you a favor! This salad is so delicious and you don’t risk gaining ten pounds if you go wild and eat the entire recipe.  Which you might be tempted to do with the cheesecake.

OK, so I’m a mango purist.  Mangoes are my absolute favorite fruit and I find them so delicious as they are, with nothing added, that it’s hard for me to make a recipe with them.  There is, however, a lovely salad that I make with them from time to time (usually when I have a mango surplus, because using my only mango for anything other than eating plain would be sacrilege) that is so simple and pure in itself, I don’t feel like I’m adulterating the fruit by including it in the salad.

There are only three ingredients and they marry so well together that in the past I have been inspired to give the salad names that would usually be associated with cocktails, like Hawaiian Sunrise and Tropical Paradise.  To keep things simple and pure, in keeping with the recipe itself, I decided to just go with Pineapple & Mango Salad for it’s official title.

I’ve made this salad with parsley, mint and cilantro and I usually prefer the parsley, though any of them will work.  If you think another sounds better, go with that.  I think it is a matter of personal taste, or perhaps even occasion, as when I’m serving it as dessert after a Mexican meal, the cilantro seems best.  And if you want to give it a little more tropical feel, add in some sweetened coconut.  I did that this morning on my second bowl and thought it was nice, though being a mango purist I can’t exactly condone the behavior. ;)

Pineapple & Mango Salad

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 ripe pineapple
4 ripe mangoes
1/2 cup fresh parsley, mint, or cilantro, chopped fine

Cut a slice off the bottom of the pineapple and cut the top off as well.  Sit the pineapple up on on its now-flat end and slice down around the sides to remove the outside.  Keep cutting until you have no pits remaining in the flesh.  Cut the pineapple into quarters, then slice the middle off of each to remove the pit.  Lay each quarter on its back, cut into thirds length-wise, then chop into chunks.  Place the pineapple chunks in a large bowl.  Peel the mangoes and cut the flesh away from the seed.  Chop the flesh into chunks and add to the bowl.  Add the parsley and stir until combined.  Cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least until well chilled, before serving.

Veronica’s notes: this salad is perfectly delicious when the fruit is ripe, but if yours is a little under-ripe, you can add in some agave nectar or other sweetener of your choice.  If you don’t feel like cutting up a pineapple, you can usually find fresh cut pineapple at salad bars at supermarkets, or even in the refrigerated produce section.  There is a simpler way to cut the flesh from a mango, which is depicted here (I don’t use this method because I feel like I can’t cut the cubes close enough to the skin and I waste too much of the mango), and to see a tutorial on cutting pineapple, click here.

Recipe source: CW (that’s my Mom.  Dad calls her CW, which stands for Crazed Woman, and she calls him “crazy man.”  Gotta love my dysfunctional family! :) )

This is linked with Nutmeg Nanny for BSI: mangoes.

Questions of the day: 1) Is there anything you love so much in its natural state you can’t alter it?  2) What is your favorite fruit?  3) Do you know anyone that has mean/teasing pet names for their significant other?

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