At the End of the Rainbow

At the End of the Rainbow

Pot o’ Gold (Candice Whiting)

I have a bit of Irish somewhere in my bloodline, but it has never been a particularly dominant cultural force in my life. The only “Irish” thing I can remember from my childhood came from my second grade class on St. Patrick’s Day. When we arrived at school that day, we found little green boot prints running across the walls and into the air ducts. Our teacher told us Leprechauns had come to visit in the night to leave us St. Patty’s surprises. We had so much fun following the footprint trails to find our little pots filled with gold-wrapped chocolates and popcorn! So much fun, in fact, I made one for my son to surprise him! (The rainbow is made from eyeshadow!)

Now that I am no longer a wee one, however, my St. Patrick’s Day tastes have matured a bit, and I’d rather have a green beer and an Irish car bomb cupcake! I have been making this recipe from Smitten Kitchen for about three years now, and it never disappoints! Cocoa and stout in the cake, whiskey in the ganache, and Irish cream in the butter cream! How could you go wrong?!

I make them so often, I even bought a special tool to hollow out my cupcakes (which is totally unnecessary, but it does make hollowing out two dozen cupcakes quite a bit quicker)! I usually don’t add the ganache, as they are sinfully rich enough without it – just switch the filling to butter cream. If you don’t want the booze in yours, you can use Irish Cream flavoring instead, but only add a bit at a time – that stuff is potent! For St. Patrick’s Day, you obviously have to add green food coloring to the icing to make them festive! I have a sneaking suspicion these Irish car bomb cupcakes would be delicious with crème de menthe instead of Irish cream…I might have to give that a try!

I have made this as a cake, too, and it works out beautifully.

Without further ado, here’s what’s at the end of my rainbow:

Recipe here: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2009/01/car-bomb-cupcakes/

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes (Candice Whiting)

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes (Candice Whiting)

Does your family have a St. Patrick’s Day tradition? Is it more Irish than mine? I would love to hear how you celebrate!

Kitchen Fitness: Use it or Lose it!

Kitchen Fitness: Use it or Lose it!

Having grown up in a gourmet kitchen store, I have a fabulous collection of kitchen essentials. Unfortunately, I have a mass of non-essentials, too! I need to focus on my kitchen fitness!! Honestly, who really needs six whisks of the same style?

The new year brought a new home with a smaller kitchen and, let me tell you, this kitchenware collector did not adjust well! For a solid month we lived with pans literally stacked on the floor, utensils pouring out of boxes, and a butcher block table so overloaded with stuff I couldn’t even use it! After stubbing my toe on a cast iron skillet for the 27th time, I’d had enough. I painstakingly went through every piece of cookware, bakeware, gadgetry, and appliance and whittled my way down to a manageably fit kitchen.

A few of the more ridiculous things I ousted:

  • Five whisks (kept four!)
  • Three 8” fry pans. THREE!!
  • Two nasty 12” skillets
  • Two garlic presses
  • A brand new ravioli rolling pin (why??)
  • Two identical carrot ribboning tools (why I even had one is beyond me)

A few things I can’t live without:

  • Counter-space-hogging espresso machine
  • Super quality cookware and knives
  • Silicone spatulas (colorful AND functional!)
  • My KitchenAid mixer
  • Quality cutting boards
  • Cake pans (endless uses!)
  • Cheese graters (yes, plural – don’t judge.)

And a few things I WON’T live without:

  • Vita-Mix blender – Don’t use this enough to justify the hefty price tag, but it’s magic!
  • All 22 of my wonderful German knives (seven are steak knives – it’s not that excessive!) –I use about four of them regularly, but they’re all in one block, so getting rid of some won’t save me any space!
  • My 23-year-old gigantic Scanpan “witch’s cauldron.” I have used it exactly two times, but it’s the bee’s knees and holds 9.5 quarts of stew AND 23 years worth of family memories.
  • Absurd (someone said that!) amounts of cookware. After getting rid of about a dozen pans, I still have a full pot rack (excellent addition to a small kitchen, by the way) and then some.

Clearly I have a hard time letting go of things I might possibly-some-day-in-the-distant-future use (looking at you, pasta machine). Getting rid of some of my unnecessities, however, made me appreciate the value behind the pieces I kept. I can do just as much with a simple set of tongs, spatulas, and bamboo spoons as I could with the multiple boxes of utensils I chucked (donated, don’t worry).

before & after

Moral of this story is that investing in quality multi-tasking pieces not only makes sense financially, but will improve your kitchen fitness. Plus you end up with space to keep the occasional frivolous purchase (*cough* individual instant popsicle makers).

You know that feeling when you clean out your closet and it’s like you have a whole new wardrobe with room for new boots? It’s like that. So next time you throw a spatula in frustration because its fat rubber handle won’t fit into your utensil crock, do yourself a favor and get your kitchen fit!

What are your must-haves for the kitchen?