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Dirt Cupcakes

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I wanted to make one of my classes a treat for being so well-behaved.  In South Carolina, second year teachers have to go through an evaluation process to get our professional teaching license.  That means several unannounced observations throughout the year.  I had my first one recently, and my kids were so well behaved that I wanted to reward them with a treat.  (Luckily they are also well behaved all the time anyway!).  Since it was so close to Halloween, I wanted to make something appropriate for the occasion and something they would love (this is 7th grade).  I decided on dirt cupcakes.  It just came to me to make these, but since I’ve seen them before I can’t exactly take the credit- I think they’re a pretty commonly made kid treat.  They are very simple to make, and kids (and probably adults too!) will just love them!  My kids told me that I am their favorite teacher 🙂

Dirt Cupcakes

1 recipe chocolate cupcakes (I recommend these from Cook’s Illustrated or the Hershey’s one)
chocolate frosting
finely ground Oreo crumbs
gummy worms

Bake cupcakes as directed and cool.  Frost lightly with chocolate frosting.  Dip in Oreo crumbs, and then stick the gummy worm in the center of the cupcake.  Enjoy!

Broiled Shrimp with Charmoula Sauce and Couscous

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David is on Spring Break, so he decided to try a new recipe for dinner since he had plenty of time to cook. Although he doesn’t have much of a taste for desserts, I am glad that he does not feel that way about dinners. I feel very lucky to be marrying someone who can cook. That means that nearly every night we have a good home cooked dinner. He asked me what I wanted him to cook and I said that anything with shrimp will do. I love shrimp and could eat it every day, and I love being able to add new shrimp dishes to our recipe file. He turned to Cook’s Illustrated and came up with a wonderful combination: shrimp broiled on skewers with a just-spicy-enough sauce served over couscous. This was delicious and we will definitely be making it again.

Charmoula Sauce:

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced very small (about
1/2 cup)
1/2 small onion, minced (about 1/3 cup)
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 medium cloves garlic
1/8 tablespoon salt
lemon juice from 1 lemon

Put all ingredients in a medium saute pan and cook over medium heat until the onions are nearly caramelized. Place in blender and pulse a few times.

For the shrimp skewers:

1 1/2 pounds extra-large shrimp
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil for brushing skewers
salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Adjust oven rack to highest position and heat broiler. Pat shrimp dry with paper towels. Thread shrimp onto 3 skewers, alternating direction of heads and tails. Brush both sides of shrimp with oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle one side of each skewer with sugar.

Place shrimp skewers, sugared-sides up, on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. (Use tongs to push shrimp together on skewer if they have separated.) Place baking sheet under broiler and cook shrimp until lightly charred, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, flip and broil until second side is pink and slightly translucent, 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Remove shrimp from oven and, using potholder or oven mitt, carefully lift each skewer from wire rack.

For the couscous:

1 1/2 cups couscous
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste
3/4 cup chicken broth
2 cups water
4 teaspoons olive oil

Toast the couscous in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat (no oil) for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. In another pan, saute the onion with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt over medium-low heat until the onion is soft and translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, lemon zest, and desired cayenne and saute for about 30 seconds, exposing the cayenne to dry heat. Add water and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the liquid to the pot of couscous, cover, and let stand until the couscous has absorbed the liquid, about 12 minutes. Stir in the remaining oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste with a fork.

Source: Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated