Mocha Cupcakes with Cappuccino Cream Cheese Frosting

Diva Entertains Mocha Cupcakes

After spending way too much time on my last cupcake venture, Cupcake Pops, I decided to pursue a more sophisticated, adult cupcake.  This time I went for a homemade mocha cupcake that I topped with, not one, but two luscious frostings: a chocolate ganache and a cappuccino cream cheese frosting.  If you want to save time and only make one frosting – go for the cappuccino; it’s amazing!

Diva Entertains Mocha Cupcakes Open

The cupcake recipe is easy and straightforward.  The sour cream, extra egg yolk and a bit of oil keep the cupcake moist.  For the chocolate flavor I used Hershey’s Extra Dark Cocoa but you can use regular – the cupcake will simply be lighter in color (and taste) than the one shown.  If you’ve never made chocolate ganache before – you are in for quite a treat.  After making it you can cool it in the fridge until it is thickens somewhat and it is spreadable (don’t let it harden, though) and use it as is or you can instead whip it into a lighter, fluffier frosting.

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    Baked Gnocchi Recipe

    Just in time for family gatherings.  This decadent gnocchi ‘pasta’ is really the gnocchi equivalent of mac ‘n cheese.  But this is so much more sophisticated (and better tasting)!

    This gnocchi sauce recipe combines Fontina, Gruyere and Parmesan cheese; it’s a delicious combination.  And the gnocchi cheese sauce quickly comes together by first creating a roux and then adding the grated cheese (fontina and Gruyere) to it.  Before the dish goes into the oven it is topped with the grated Parmesan.  In the words of my dear mother, “Yum Yum”!

    One word of advice:  if you use a heavy hand with the cheeses like I did, you may need to blot off a little liquid from the top of the gnocchi before serving (similar to cheesy pizza).  Simply blot excess with a paper towel.

    * Typically found in the Italian aisle of your supermarket.

    ** You’ll want to use a metal skillet so that you don’t ruin a nonstick finish with the whisk (unless you have a nonstick whisk).

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    Chicken Francaise – A Must Have Recipe

    Diva Entertains' Chicken Francaise

    I had been making lemon chicken breasts for years; a dish that my husband and I love and that we eat frequently.  Then I came across this recipe by David Rosengarten and it was a bit different than the one that I had been using.  His called for making a batter of egg, Romano or Parmesan cheese and freshly chopped parsley.  Once the chicken breasts had been dipped in the batter, they are then lightly coated with flour prior to sauteing.  And, instead of adding lemon juice to the sauce that is made after the chicken pieces are cooked, he calls for boiling lemon slices in wine and chicken stock.  Now I’m not really sure why this proved to create a much more flavorful sauce than my original recipe, but I think it may have to do with the oils in the lemon rind.  Whatever caused it – the result is a luscious sauce.

    Because the sauce is easy to make, the only real key to success here is to cook the chicken enough to develop crisp, browned sides but not to overcook it.  How to accomplish that?  First, pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness (1/4″ thick).  Then, once the oil in the pan is good and hot, let the chicken cook until a white-ish border about 1/4″ thick has developed around the edges.  This will probably take 2 – 5 minutes and should allow the chicken pieces to create a golden crust and wonderful flavor.  Turn the pieces over and cook for another 2 minutes or so. (Timing depends on how thin you’ve pounded the breasts.  You know the chicken is ready to turn when the white-ish border occurs and the second side will not take as long to cook as the first.)

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    Sophisticated Chocolate Nut Cookies

    I couldn’t decide what to call these.  Where they chocolate nut cookies?  Almond paste cookies? Chocolate pistachio cookies?  Well, whatever you call them, they are sure to be a hit!  Perfect for the holidays.  They look fancy-schmancy, don’t they?  It’s all looks, tho – they are surprisingly easy to make.


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    Sesame Chicken Recipe

    Diva Entertains Sesame Stir Fry Up Close

    This recipe is an all around winner.  It’s adapted from a recipe by dietitian Ellie Krieger, so its healthful.  Add to that it’s easy to make, beautiful on a plate, and the leftovers are absolutely scrumptious!  Unlike the dish you would purchase for Chinese take-out, this chicken stir-fry recipe isn’t fried.  Instead the chicken gets its great flavor via a marinade.  And it only needs to marinate for 20 minutes.

    The recipe calls for ‘toasted sesame oil’ but if all you have on hand is regular sesame oil, by all means, use that.  It will still be delicious!  And, like all stir-fries, have your ingredients prepped and at-hand when ready to cook.

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    Chocolate Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Bars – No Bake!

    Diva Entertains Rice Krispie

    I didn’t grow up with Rice Krispie Bars – it’s a rather new experience for me.  But now that I’ve had it I can understand why it has a large following (some have served them at their wedding!).

    This version is a tad more sophisticated and includes peanut butter, roasted peanuts and chocolate in the recipe.  My tasting panel (family, friends and associates) gave these a big thumbs up!  And they are really easy to make.  The oven doesn’t come into play.  The only tricky part of the recipe is that the ‘krispy’ portion of the recipe is a tad hard to work with because it is so sticky.  But follow the  directions below and you’ll have the recipe completed within 30 minutes!

    This recipe easily doubles (make it in a 9″ x 13″ pan) and leftovers (if there are any) can be frozen for future use.

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    Pork Tenderloin with Prunes, Olives and Capers

    Diva Entertains Pork with Prunes

    Please tell me I haven’t lost you because of the word “Prunes” in the title.  Because this is one fabulous recipe you’ll want in your repertoire.   It’s easy to make, cooks really quickly, and just explodes with flavor.  My husband, who normally wouldn’t touch a prune with a 10 foot pole, *loves* this dish.  In fact, he darn near swoons over it.  You will too:)

    The key to success here is cutting the pork tenderloin into thin slices (1/4″ thick) and cooking quickly in a very hot skillet.  The way to tell that the pork slices are ready to be turned is that the outer edges of each piece will turn much paler than the middle of the pork.  When you have a nice ring around the slice of pork tenderloin it is ready to be turned.  The second side will not take as long to cook as the first side.

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    Cupcake Pops

    Diva Entertains Cupcake Pops

    If you’ve never heard of cupcake pops, I’m here to spread the word!  These became wildly popular a few years ago when Angie Dudley, who authors the “Bakerella” blog, sampled a cake pop at an event, loved them, and then proceeded to come up with her own versions.  Her cupcake pops were an instant internet sensation and soon Martha Stewart came calling to have Angie on her shown  Recently Angie came out with her cook book, Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irristible Mini Treats. (if you scroll down on the link there’s a great little video by Angie explaining what she does).

    Diva Entertains Cupcake Pops Up Close

    Instead of me writing out out the out to do these I am going to link you directly to Bakerella’s Cupcake Pops Recipe because she has wonderful step-by-step pictures.  But what I would like to offer are these tips and ‘lessons learned’ from my afternoon of making cake pops.

    First of all – let me say for the record: “I am not a crafty person”  I don’t do a lot of crafts because my failures are far greater than my successes.  And although mine certainly do not look as great as Angies – they still worked out and were LOVED by family and friends.  If I can do it you can do it!

    1. Set a side a few hours to do these.  You will definitely need it.  But your hard work will be repaid with nearly 50 miniature desserts that will stay fresh for several days and that can also be frozen for future enjoyment
    2. If you don’t have the cute little flower shaped cutter that Angie uses, that’s okay.  Shape them with your hands like I did (I had actually bought some round cutters but they all ended up being too small or too large.).  I took the round cake balls and started to make a round cupcake liner of the lower half of the ball by shaping it with my fingers (basically pushing in and turning the cake ball to make the liner).
    3. I purchased candy melts (these can be purchased at most craft or baking supply stores) for the cupcake liner and frosting; I didn’t use bark.
    4. Make sure you follow the instructions for the melts and/or bark.  Otherwise they can burn or seize (yep – happened to me; I hadn’t followed the directions).
    5. No matter how I tried I could not successfully dip the ‘top’ of the cupcake in the candy melts.  It either wouldn’t coat properly or the whole cake pop fell into the melts.  Instead I just used a knife and ‘frosted’ them like you would an ordinary cupcake.  Sometimes I would have to frost over the first thin layer to fully cover up the cake pop.

    And finally……

    Diva Entertains Cupcake Pops - Whoops

    Don’t be disheartened if you have a few flops along the way…they taste just as good as the others!

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    Roasted Butternet Squash

    If you’ve been following my posts you’ll know that I love to roast vegetables in a very hot oven.  It brings out the natural sugars in them and those caramelized edges are just packed with flavor.  Roasting is an easy way to cook too – these are hands-off aside from a quick flip about midway through cooking.

    You would never know it by looking at it but butternut squash is actually relatively easy to cut through.  The way I cut it is I first chop of both ends, the cut the remaining piece in half.  I stand up each piece on one end and trim off the skin (I use a knife, some prefer a peeler).   I then cut each piece into 1/2″ slices and from there cut them into 1/2″ pieces.  (You’ll need to remove the seeds from the round end of the squash.)

    I often add a teaspoon of maple syrup when tossing the squash with the olive oil for a little twist on the dish.  Just check the pan a few minutes earlier than the recipe below calls for because the sugar in the maple syrup will speed up the caramelization process, causing the pieces to brown faster.

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    Delicious Apple Cake Recipe

    Diva Entertains Apple Cake Slice

    Presenting a family favorite!  This easy apple cake is super moist and is rich with apples and cinnamon.  Aside from the slicing of the apples, it just takes minutes to pull together.

    I add more apples than the original recipe calls for.  And I always use Granny Smith because I like that they aren’t overly sweet. When mixed with sugar the apple taste is still strong and pure.  And although it’s only a small amount, the 1/3 cup of orange juice that the recipe calls for really brightens the flavors.

    Diva Entertains Apple Cake

    Although our apple cake recipe needs no frosting, a sprinkle of powdered sugar would be pretty and delicious.  However, for me, I like nice layer of powdered sugar glaze:)

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