Traveling Foodie

We are having a fantastic time in California and are looking forward to the event on the RMS Queen Mary where my recipe will be demonstrated before a crowd by the Chef of the Queen Mary, along from a recipe from her sailing days.  This is part of a book event featuring my dear friend, Patricia V. Davis.The fun is the 6th but we are already here soaking in sunshine, delicious California produce, and unwinding a bit.

We are enjoying the hospitality of a lovely AirBNB host.  We walked to the market this morning for a few groceries and walked back.  We asked our host if it would be ok to cook in her kitchen and she readily agreed.  My Austrian cracked open a beautiful fresh coconut and we drank the refreshing juice and munched on coconut as I whipped up some yummy omlettes.  We have plenty for a few meals even though we will eat out and enjoy the local cuisine.  We had a delicious Mexican meal yesterday along with some seafood, and we haven’t been hungry enough today to budge from our comfy spot here on the porch.


We are having a lovely time!  Yum!!  Enjoy the journey!  -Carmen

Tiny House Friendly Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes

I hosted a shindig but didn’t have room to host it in our tiny house.  So I asked my Mom if she’d mind if I hosted it at her place.  I brought all the food, hosted the party, then cleaned up the mess afterwards, and left them with a fridge full of goodies.  This was a delightful realization that I gained from living tiny… I don’t have to own the kitchen to enjoy cooking in it!  And people may be more accommodating to allowing a tiny house person to use their kitchen than you think…. especially if there are some chocolate hazelnut cupcakes in it for them.  =)

Easy Chocolate Cupcakes:
3 fresh large eggs
1/2 cup of oil
1/2 cup of unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup of strong black coffee (cool)

Go ahead and mix all that until the eggs are fully incorporated… then add one Duncan Hines Devil’s Food Cake Mix.  Shhhh… that’s our little secret.  (Pay no attention to the directions on the packet!)  Nobody has to know how ridiculously quick and easy this cake comes together.  You can do this with a mixer… or you can do this with a wooden spoon.  Either will work just fine.  Stop stirring when the batter looks like this… still kind of lumpy.  And start filling those cupcake liners.

If you use an ice cream scoop, it goes quickly and it is not difficult to keep the size consistent.  Fill them between 1/2 and 2/3 of the way full, as you see here. (And if you store your liners properly, they won’t wrinkle up like these did – oops!)

Bake the cupcakes at 350 degrees for 20 minutes to start with, then keep a close eye on them.  At the point that you can touch them lightly and they spring back, they’re done.  My handsome husband prefers the clean toothpick test, and that’s also fine.  The important thing is to get them out of the oven before they start drying out.  The applesauce and oil make this recipe moist, but even that won’t be enough if they are over baked, or left out on the counter for too long – drying out.  Not to worry, these cupcakes are going to be pampered every moment of their SHORT lives!

Ok, so this next part is a little challenging to do in a tiny house kitchen if you don’t have a stand mixer or hand held mixer.  And in that case, it’s perfectly fine to look in the grocery store for a can of your favorite kind of vanilla buttercream.

While that cake is in the oven, let’s start the Ridiculously Easy Buttercream! So here goes… pull one pound of fresh sweet cream butter (salted) straight out of the fridge and cut it into chunks.

Pile that straight into the Kitchen Aid and get it going on a low speed as the chunks will want to fly out.  As soon as the butter has quit flying, turn up the speed.  And don’t worry… it really doesn’t take it long to go from this:

…to this light and fluffy cloud of butter.  Gently add one pound of powdered sugar a bit at a time, and wait for it to return to this lovely fluffy texture.  Add a teaspoon of good quality vanilla.

It really is that simple.  This buttercream it lovely, light, and airy, and not too sweet.  If you accidentally add a bit too much powdered sugar, no worries, just add a teaspoon of water at a time until it’s the consistency you like.

Now here is where it gets fun.

I have a real weakness for Nutella!  And it’s my favorite secret weapon when I want a decadent treat without a lot of fuss!  It’s delicious and all the work is already done for you!  Mmmm.

Here’s the secret: begin by cutting a little cone shape out of the top of each cupcake.

 Then fill the divot with Nutella.  I used a pastry bag to pipe it in place, it is fast and easy.

 Just like that, and done!

Then put the little cones of cake back on the tops of the cupcakes.  This makes them look like they have little pointed heads.

Here’s how I made the icing for these Ridiculously Easy Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes.  Curious?  Take out your Nutella container, spoon a big healthy dollop of Nutella right into the buttercream.  That was easy, right?  Now stir with your spatula.  Just a few stirs, you want to leave lots of yummy stripes in the buttercream so *just barely* stir together the Nutella and the buttercream.  What could be easier?

How much Nutella specifically?  (I knew you would ask.) I used half of the buttercream recipe I listed above, and stirred in about 2/3 of a cup of Nutella into that very loosely.  (Hang on to the rest of that buttercream, I’ve got other plans for that!)

Here’s the easy way to fill the pastry bag.  Find a glass that is the right size, fold the tip up at the bottom, and put it in the glass, wrapping the ends of the bag down over the side of the glass.  If you don’t have a pastry bag on hand, just use the end of a sturdy plastic bag that you do have.

Fill the bag with icing.  Then once you have the icing bowl out of your hands, pull the bag out of the glass, close the top to avoid adding air bubbles, then give it a twist to close the bag completely.  Tie it closed with a twist tie if you want to.  Trim off the tip of the bag with a scissors and you’re good to go.

Keep your thumb tight against your hand to keep icing from coming out the back of the bag.

Then carefully pipe the icing around the sides of the cone and finish with a little swirl at the top.  If the cupcakes will be sitting out for very long, then be sure to cover as much of the cake as possible to keep them from drying out.

Here they are, my Ridiculously Easy Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes!  Tada!

 Now… isn’t it about time for our party?
I’m ready.