Sunday, December 30, 2012

Chocolate Peppermint Blossoms


Merry Christmas everyone! Hope you had a wonderful Christmas holiday. I got to celebrate this wonderful holiday season with family and friends, and some pretty snow to top it all off :) True that we my husband had to shovel snow multiple times in one day and driving was insane, but it was still very pretty. 
For the Christmas gathering at my mother-in-law's house, I brought these little gems for everyone to enjoy. I wanted to make some sort of cookie and my husband said his mom liked peppermint things, so when I came across these cookies, I knew I had found our winner! Now even if you are not a big fan of peppermint things, I think you'll still like these cookies, as the peppermint flavoring is subtle and not at all overpowering. Soft, melt in your mouth cookies, with lots of chocolate flavor! These cookies are very simple to make and you should go make these soon!
Chocolate Peppermint Blossoms
Makes about 3-4 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

1.5 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa1.5 tsp baking powder1/4 tsp salt1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly softened (but still cool)1-1/4 cup sugar3 eggs1/2 tsp vanilla1 tsp peppermint extractabout 1/2 cup powdered sugar for rollingHershey's Kisses (about 3-4 dozen)

Directions:1. In a small bowl, sift and whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
2. With an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium high speed until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the extracts, beating until combined and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Change speed to slow, then gradually add the flour mixture, beating on low just until combined.  The mixture will be very sticky.
3. Place the bowl in the refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
4. While cookies are chilling, line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the powdered sugar on a plate.
5. Using a teaspoon cookie scoop (or a spoon), scoop generous teaspoons of dough onto the prepared cookie sheets. Gently roll each ball of dough through the powdered sugar until coated, then place them back on the cookie sheet.
6. Bake for 12 minutes, until puffed and crinkly.  (Meanwhile, unwrap the Kisses.)
7. Remove from the oven and immediately press a Hershey's Kiss on top of each hot cookie.  Press firmly, so that it doesn't pop off.  Let the cookies sit on the sheet for 1-2 minutes, then remove to a wire cooling rack to cool completely. 

Recipe adapted from Bake at 350

Monday, December 17, 2012

Chocolate Coca Cola Cake


Have you ever had one of those days that you just feel blah? One of those draggy days? That seemed to be the case for me last week. All day at work I just had a really achy lower back, and felt like it was hard to just keep chugging along. Don't know what my deal was... but!!! I did REALLY crave something sweet. That was the one thing I was very sure of, all day long. So when I got home, and saw that my parents had brought us some dinner (thanks parents!), I was free to make what I really wanted - a cake! And to use up the left-over Coca Cola we've had since Thanksgiving (we don't really drink pop at home), I made this cake. I've made it once (or twice) before and every time it was gobbled up super fast. It is super moist and yummy! And make sure you get a slice right when you finish it (well, maybe wait about 5 minutes so it cools just enough!)
Two little notes: for the glaze, you can use some pecans or walnuts. I have used both, and I think I prefer pecans over walnuts. But they are both pretty yummy, and either nut adds a nice texture to the cake, so I would recommend it!
Second note: this most recent batch I didn't have any buttermilk, so I just used whole milk instead (what I had on hand). It turned out fine, but I do think the buttermilk adds a nice flavor to the cake, so if you are able to use it, I would do that.
Look who couldn't resist getting a piece of my "photoshoot" haha!

Chocolate Coca Cola Cake
~Makes a 9x13 in cake pan

Dry Ingredients:
-2 cups white sugar
-2 cups AP flour
-1 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients:
-1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
-1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1 cup Coca Cola
-1/2 cup buttermilk
-2 eggs
-1 tsp vanilla extract

Glaze:
-1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
-1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1/2 cup Coca Cola
-4 cups confectioner's sugar
-1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Directions: 
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 in baking pan; set aside.
2. In a large bowl, sift and whisk together all the dry ingredients; set aside.
3. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stir unsalted butter, cocoa powder, Coca Cola, and buttermilk from wet ingredients' list until it boils. Take off heat and add it to bowl of dry ingredients. Mix until well incorporated. Add eggs and vanilla, and whisk well. 
4. Put batter in greased baking pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
5. When cake is almost done (about 5 more minutes or so), get ready to make glaze. Add butter, cocoa powder and Cola into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and add confectioner's sugar, one cup at a time, stirring well until nice and smooth. Add chopped pecans and give it one final stir. When cake is out of the oven, pour glaze right over hot cake.
6. Let cake cool a little, and enjoy!

Original recipe from May Flaum

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sweet Potato Casserole


This is a recipe I tweaked for my own liking, after searching through MANY sweet potato casserole recipes... My goal was to make a casserole that was not too sweet nor runny (I wanted this to be a side to our meal rather than a dessert!). I used the original recipe as a guide, and then made changes based on the end result I wanted. Everyone who had it liked it, so I think it's a keeper!!

Sweet Potato Casserole
Makes one 9x13 casserole dish

Ingredients:
3 lb sweet potatoes
2 eggs
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 light brown sugar
4 Tbsp butter (half stick), softened
1/2 cup heavy cream (or milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp all spice (or cinnamon)
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Topping:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup AP flour
3 Tbsp butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Mini marshmallows (optional)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven at 400 degrees F. Scrub and wash sweet potatoes; poke holes all over each potato with a fork. Place them on a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil (for easy cleaning afterwards). Bake potatoes for about 1 hour, or until a knife goes through the potato very easily (what's called "fork tender"). 
2. While you wait for the potatoes bake, gather all other ingredients: take out the butter (for both the potatoes and topping) and eggs from refrigerator and let them come to room temperature. Go ahead and make the topping too: in a medium bowl, mix the brown sugar and flour. Cut in the butter (with a pastry cutter if you have one) until mixture is coarse. Stir in pecans; set aside.
3. Once potatoes are done, scoop out the meat of each potato and place in a large bowl of a stand-up mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Reduce temperature of oven to 325 degrees F. Add all other ingredients with the sweet potato in the bowl and mix on medium speed until well incorporated. Transfer mixture into an oven-safe baking dish. Place topping onto potatoes. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until topping is lightly brown.

*Note: For a prettier finish, I alternated the pecan topping with marshmallows to look like stripes. This recipe makes enough pecan topping to cover the whole casserole with just pecans, so marshmallows are not a must!

Recipe adapted from All Recipes.com

Monday, November 26, 2012

Butterfinger Cupcakes


This is a special post for Karen! 
Karen is the awesome lady who takes care of my children while I work. So what do I call her: nanny, babysitter? Those words just don't fit all that she does. She has taken care of my daughter since she was about 3 months old (she is 3 now!), and my son since he was 2 months old. She watches them from the moment I drop them off before work until after all the patients and charts are done (which is sometimes a lot later than I would want). Rain or shine, healthy or sick (either her or the kids!), she is there for us. She has even taken care of me when I smashed my finger on my car door, or fed me when I didn't have time to grab lunch... She is so much more than just a babysitter because she is an integral part in my children's life. She has taught them so much, so many good life values like patience, kindness, prayer and friendship... 
I think that any mother would understand this (and fathers too): it is a very stressful thing to choose who/where should take care of your children. There are so many different options around, so which one best fits your family needs? We met Karen through one of the gals I work with (Karen takes care of her son too), and she was exactly what we needed. From day one, I felt comfortable in leaving my first born in the hands of a "stranger". Having her there for us gives me the peace of mind that my children are in good hands while I work. It's a good sign when you pick up your children and they don't want to leave (either that or I'm just a boring parent...)!
Anyways, thanks for everything Karen, and happy birthday!!! :)
PS: a little birdie named Sarah told me your like Butterfingers!
About the cupcakes: the base is my favorite chocolate cake recipe, and the frosting is a mixture of butter, peanut butter, and... wait for it... melted candy corn!!! Weird? Yes! But amazing flavor, totally tastes like the inside of a Butterfinger. I got the recipe from The Baking Robot.  They did have an additional step, which I didn't do for lack of time, but would have totally made it since it sounds so good! You can freeze the cupcakes and coat the outside of the frosting with chocolate to really mimic a Butterfinger candy bar. Yum!! Head on over to her blog to see that part of the recipe and also a tutorial link.
Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes ~2 dozen cupcakes

Ingredients:
-2 cups white sugar
-1 3/4 cups AP flour
-3/4 cup cocoa powder
-1 1/2 tsp baking powder
-1 1/2 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp salt
-2 eggs
-1 cup milk
-1/2 cup canola oil
-1 cup boiling water (yes boiling!)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line two 12-count muffin tins with paper liners.
2. In a large bowl, sift together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
3. In a large bowl of a stand up mixer set with the paddle attachment, beat eggs, milk, and canola oil until well combined. Add the dry ingredients in 3 increments, mixing well after each addition. Carefully stir in boiling water, mixing until combined and batter has thinned.
4. Fill paper liners 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
"Butterfinger" Frosting
Ingredients:
-1/2 cup milk
-1 1/2 cups candy corn
-1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
-1/2 cup peanut butter, smooth
-3-4 cups powdered sugar

Directions:
1. In a saucepan over low heat, combine candy corn and milk. Melt the candy corn, stirring occasionally, until it is completely dissolved and the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Let cool to room temperature. This will yield 1 cup.
2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and peanut butter. Add 2-3 cups of powdered sugar. Gradually add candy corn mixture until desired consistency is achieved. Add more powdered sugar if necessary. If too thick, add some milk or heavy cream and beat well.
3. Frost cupcake as you desire. I added a baking version of Butterfingers to the top for garnish :)

Recipe adapted from The Baking Robot

Sunday, November 25, 2012

White Chocolate Mousse Cherry Pie


Happy Thanksgiving everyone! November has been a very busy month at our household, let me tell ya! Between birthdays and Thanksgiving, most weekends had something special planned with family and friends. I am not complaining though! It's a wonderful thing to celebrate special events with those you love. :)
One of them is my dear husband's birthday! I had been asking for a while what he wanted on his birthday... he will eat anything dessert-y that I make, but when it comes to that special treat, he had to think for a bit. Then I brought this magazine home:
And he was sold by the cover picture! White Chocolate Mousse Cherry Pie. Wow! Just the title made my mouth water (not to mention the picture itself). 
So here is the recipe for this bad boy, because I know I'll have to make it again someday. Birthday boy enjoyed it!!!
Ingredients:
CRUST:
-16 cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (aka Oreos)
-3/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts
-2 Tbsp butter, melted
FILLING:
-1 Tbsp cornstarch
-2 Tbsp water
-1 can (21oz) cherry pie filling
-1/2 tsp almond extract
WHITE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE:
-1 cup cold milk
-1 package (3.3oz) instant white chocolate pudding mix
-1 envelope unflavored gelatin
-3 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
-1/4 cup sugar
-1/4 tsp almond extract
GARNISH:
-chocolate curls and drizzle, optional
Directions:
CRUST: 
1. Preheat oven to 350F.  In a food processor, combine the cookies and nuts; cover and process until cookies are finely chopped. Add butter; cover and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
2. Press onto bottom and up the sides of ungreased 9-in deep dish pie plate. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes or until set. Cool completely on wire rack.
FILLING:
1. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small saucepan until smooth. Stir in pie filling. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for one minute or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in the extract. Cool completely.
MOUSSE:
1. In a large bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes. let stand for 2 minutes or until soft-set; set aside. In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cream; let stand for one minute. Heat over low heat; stirring until gelatin is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat.
2. In a large bowl, beat remaining cream until it begins to thicken. Add sugar and extract; beat until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in gelatin mixture. Fold into pudding. Refrigerate until slightly firm, about 30 minutes.
ASSEMBLY:
Spread cooled filling onto crust; top with mousse. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. Garnish with chocolate curls and drizzle if desired.
Recipe from Taste of Home (Special Editions) - Cooking School Cookbook, Fall 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcake and Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting



This post is dedicated to my dear friend Rachel, who is expecting her first baby (a boy!) in January. 
Rachel and I met in dental school, first person I really interacted with since we were in the same small group together. We hit it off pretty easily, having common grounds on a lot of things (including our love for The Amazing Race!). We hung out a lot during dental school, with our many weekend nights playing Euchre against our husbands. Since we both graduated dental school, we've moved to different places (although still within the same state) so we don't see each other as often as before... makes me miss her a lot.
When we (and by we I mean our small group of dental school friends) found out that she was pregnant, we offered to throw her a baby shower. Her mom was gracious enough to host the shower at her house. I jumped at the opportunity to bake the cupcakes for the party. I thought and thought of a cupcake flavor for her, and since the shower and baby room have a monkey theme, I thought banana would go well. I just had to make sure that she didn't have an aversion to bananas (she didn't), and it was all set. This "concoction" was a combination of different recipes I found and meshed together. The final product seemed to please everyone who tried it! Hope you enjoy it!!!
Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Yield: 30+ cupcakes

Ingredients:
-2½ cups all-purpose flour
-1 Tbsp baking powder
-½ tsp salt
-12 Tbsp (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
-2½ cups sugar
-6 eggs
-1 cup plus 2 Tbsp buttermilk
-1 1/3 cups mashed ripe banana
-1 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk together and set aside.  
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Reduce the mixer speed to medium low and add in eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Mix in mashed banana until well combined.  With the mixer on low speed alternately add the dry ingredients and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing only until just incorporated.
3. Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about 3/4 full.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes.  Allow to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:
-8oz cream cheese, room temperature
-1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
-1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-3-4 cups confectioners' sugar
-Garnish - banana chips

Directions:
1. In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, cream together the butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy.
2. Add in cocoa powder and mix very well. Then add the confectioners' sugar, one cup at a time, until desired consistency. 
3. Pipe frosting onto cupcakes. Garnish the top with a whole banana chip (and eat the small chips!)

Cupcake recipe adapted from Annie's Eats
Frosting recipe adapted from Cupcake Project
Congratulations Rachel!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Roasted Banana Cupcake with Honey-Cinnamon Frosting


My, how time flies... it has been such a long time since I posted last in this blog. Here is a little update with my life in general: 
Daughter - she is an energetic three year old who owns every bit of the word "terrible threes"! Ok, that makes her sound bad... she is actually a sweetheart (most of the time), but when she wants something and doesn't get her way, watch out! She is slowly learning how to cope with the environment around her and not be so fiery at times. She is a wonderful big sister to her "new" little brother, always watching out for him and entertaining him when he is crying.
Son - he is about to turn 7 months this weekend. He is such a calm, laid back little guy. As long as you keep his tummy nice and full, he is all fun and smiles. He is rolling around very well, and we can see him wanting to crawl soon. I think that he will start to crawl just in time for Christmas decorations and tree :P
As for me? I went back to work at the end of June (coincidentally right around the time I stopped posting anything), but think we have finally settled into a new routine and things are not as crazy as before. Still very busy, but I think we can tread water better and not feel like we could drown at any minute!
So enough chit-chatting, here is a recipe I made during the summer, took pictures, but just didn't post: the banana is roasted prior to being mashed and added to the rest of the ingredients, so it has a sweeter, earthier taste. Now this frosting - it is just plain AWESOME! Sweet, but not too sweet. It compliments the cupcake super well!

Roasted Banana Cupcakes
Makes ~16 cupcakes
Ingredients:
-3 ripe bananas, plus 1-2 more for garnish
-2 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-3/4 tsp salt
-1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
-3/4 cup sugar
-3 large eggs
-1/2 cup sour cream
-1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:
1. To roast the bananas: preheat oven to 400F. Place 3 whole unpeeled bananas on a baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes (the peels will turn a very dark brown, that's ok!). While the bananas are roasting, line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Also, sift together the cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Once bananas are done, remove from oven and let cool before peeling. Reduce oven temperature to 350F.
2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla. Add roasted bananas, and beat to combine. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with 2 additions of sour cream, and beating until just combined after each. 
3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester (toothpick!) inserted in centers come out clean, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely. 
*Cupcakes can be stored up to 3 days at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

Honey-Cinnamon Frosting
Ingredients:
-2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
-1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
-2 Tbsp honey
-1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions:
With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat all ingredients until smooth. Use immediately, or refrigerate up to 5 days in an airtight container; before using, bring to room temperature and beat until smooth.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Triple Lime Cupcakes


Hello everyone! Today's sweet treat was planned for a very special occasion: six years ago today, I married my best friend. It has been a very busy six years, with so many changes in our lives. Six years ago I had no idea that we would be where we are today... I feel so truly blessed to have my amazing husband by my side through thick and thin. 
Us on our wedding day - first dance!
To celebrate this occasion, I knew I wanted to make cupcakes, but I just had to figure out the flavor. He has been asking for something citrus-y for a little while, so I gave him the option of either lemon or lime. He chose lime! I think he would have preferred key lime, but in good ol' Indiana I haven't found a reliable fresh key lime source yet (if you know of any, please let me know!)
So I came across this recipe from She Makes and Bakes for a key lime cupcake, so I just adapted for regular limes. The cupcake itself though I used my recipe from Lime Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting recipe since I love it so much! The lime curd came out very creamy and with the right amount of tangy-ness. Since I didn't want a regular cream cheese frosting, I added 1 Tbsp of the curd that I made to it to give it just a hint of lime too. All in all, a very successful recipe, if I may say so myself!
 Look who I had eyeing my cupcake while I took pictures!


Now the recipe below made 24 cupcakes, plus an 8-inch cake (just a little on the thin side). I doubled the original recipe for the curd, and I still wish there was a little more. I may increase it a little more next time, and if I have extra I can always save it for some yummy toast! I also wish I had more frosting... so therefore the little cake I made especially for my husband and I to share is not covered completely in frosting (like I would want it to be). I filled it with half curd and half frosting.
Triple Lime Cupcakes
~makes 2-3 dozen cupcakes~


Ingredients:
For the cupcakes:
Same cupcakes from my Lime Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting recipe

For the lime Curd:
1/2 cup lime juice (about 2-3 limes)
1 Tbsp lime zest
2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened and cut into 4 pieces

For the cream cheese frosting:1 package cream cheese (8 ounces)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 Tbsp of lime curd
3 cups powdered sugar
Directions:
Bake the cupcakes according to the directions in my  Lime Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting recipe. Let cupcakes cool completely to room temperature before cupcake assembly.

To make the curd, whisk together the lime juice, zest, eggs, and sugar in a mixing bowl set on top of a saucepan with simmering water (this is the double boiler method). Add butter and whisk until thickened and smooth (a thermometer would read 160-170 degrees). Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap to chill. It will pipe into your cupcakes much easier if it's chilled. Once chilled, set aside 1 Tbsp of the curd for the frosting.

To make the cream cheese frosting, in your mixing bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the lime curd and salt and mix until incorporated. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time and mix until smooth.

To assemble the cupcakes, use an apple corer or a knife to cut a hole in the center of your cupcakes (cone method - 
for directions, check out this link). Fill the hole with the chilled lime curd. You can do this with a spoon, a pastry bag, or a sandwich bag with the corner snipped off. You don't need to place cake over the hole as the frosting will cover it (I'm sure you can find plenty of mouths to eat those cones!). Pipe frosting on top of the cupcake. 


Lime curd and frosting recipes adapted froShe Makes and Bakes

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lemon Meringue Pie


Ingredients:
Crust:
-1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, finely ground
-1/3 cup sugar
-1/4 tsp salt
-6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
-2 Tbsp lemon zest (~ zest of 1 lemon)
-1/2 cup lemon juice (~1.5 lemons)
-2 whole egg yolks
-1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk

Meringue topping:
-3 egg whites
-1/4 tsp cream of tartar
-1/4 cup sugar

Directions: 
For the crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and salt. Add the melted butter and mix well together until mixture resembles course sand. 
Transfer mixture to a 9-inch pie dish and, using your fingers, press into the sides and bottom of dish. Bake crust in preheated oven for 5-7 minutes. Let crust cool slightly before adding the filling.

For the filling:
Mix lemon zest, lemon juice, and egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Add in condensed milk and mix on high until smooth and thick. Pour mixture into cooled crust and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool slightly before adding the topping.

For the topping:
Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread over filling; seal all edges of crust. Bake for 10 minutes or until meringue is golden brown. Remove from oven, allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour; more if possible. 

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Graham-Cracker-Crust-I/Detail.aspx

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Meringue Cookies aka Suspiros


Hello there! I can't believe my maternity leave is almost over... which means my little one is almost 2 months old! Time has just flown by, more so than with my first child it seems. Time just keeps going by faster as you get older huh?
Well, so I'm approaching this last week of being at home as a great time to do things I may not get around to as often once work comes along. One of those things for me is baking, sadly... Although I hope that's not much the case. We'll see... 
Anyways, I want to share this recipe I found for these little heaven-on-earth bite-sized cookies. I had some egg whites sitting in the fridge that I was going to use in a pie as a meringue topping. Then I thought "maybe I can find a recipe for suspiros!" What are suspiros? These are one of my favorite childhood treats from Brasil.  They are crunchy on the outside, but gooey on the inside and it just melts in your mouth. You can get these in treat bags in Brasil, and let's just say that you had to take those bags away from me before I finished it all myself. It is just oh-so addicting!
So I first looked for recipes in Portuguese thinking that I would be lucky there. Not so much... the recipes just didn't look very promising... so then I don't know how but I saw English versions called "meringue cookies". Now why didn't I think of searching by that name? I looked around, and the FoodNetwork had some good-looking recipes by Giada, although hers has espresso and chocolate chips in it. Maybe I will attempt to make those one day, but I wanted my simple/plain version. I finally came across a recipe at Joy of Baking that fit the bill! I mean, the true suspiros that I remember only took 2 ingredients: egg whites and sugar. This recipe also adds in cream of tartar, but that is wonderful since it stabilizes the egg whites to tolerate the heat better when baking. So I made these little gems and let me tell ya that it was everything I had hoped for and more! Taking bites of these truly sent me back to my childhood... I had to really control myself to not eat the whole batch!
Now you could make these big and even top it with some fruit or ice cream (unnecessary in my opinion), but I opted to make them bite sized so that, you know, you can eat more of them! 
Try these today and tell me what you think :)  Enjoy!


Suspiros
~makes about 3 dozen bite-sized cookies


Ingredients:
4 large egg whites
1 cup of superfine or caster sugar*
1/4 tsp cream of tartar


Directions:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. 
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on low-medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Now add the sugar, about a Tbsp at a time, and keep beating the egg whites on medium-high speed until they can hold very stiff peaks (this can be checked by flipping the mixing bowl upside down and nothing would move!!!)
Transfer the mixture into a pastry bag with the big star tip (you can use any other tip you would like, or not even a pastry bag and just 2 spoons) and pipe it onto the parchment paper. Leave a little bit of room between the cookies, but since these don't expand, you don't need to leave a lot of room in between. 
Bake the cookies for about 1.5-2 hours (note: if you have a convection bake option in your oven, I would use that for this instead of normal bake because the fan removes the moisture better from inside the oven). The cookies are done when the outside is solid and the cookies are just a tad golden (just a tad!!!). Turn off the oven and leave the cookies in the oven until room temperature. To store them (if you have any left!), place them in a air tight container, and they will last for several days.


*Sidenote: I recommend having superfine sugar for this as it allows the sugar to be completely dissolved into the egg whites so that you have a smooth cookie rather than a grainy one. To make this sugar, I simply took regular white sugar and processed it in a food processor for about a minute.


Recipe adapted from Joy of Baking

Monday, June 4, 2012

S'mores Cookies


A couple years ago for my parents' anniversary, we got them a fire pit. They have absolutely loved using it and it comes out many many times throughout the year. Also, because of this fire pit, my parents finally got to experience S'mores. You may be thinking: "What?!?!?!?!" Yes, sadly enough they had never had the pleasure of having a S'mores until then. Being foreign parents, they are getting to experience more American things through us children (and also now grandchildren). This is proof that you are never too old to have S'mores :)
Needless to say, they loved S'mores and always try to have the supplies handy at their house for when we visit.  So when I saw this recipe for S'mores cookies by Kevin and Amanda on Pinterest, I knew I had to make them and share them with my parents. And like these cookies they did!
You can taste the graham cracker in the cookie dough, and the combination of chocolate chips and mini marshmallows makes the cookie so irresistible! I modified the recipe slightly, mainly by adding more graham cracker crumbs and decreasing the flour, and using regular chocolate chips and mini marshmallows (because that's what I had on hand...). Hope you enjoy these cookies!!!

Look at that gooey-ness!
S'mores Cookies
~makes about 2 dozen cookies


Ingredients:
-1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

-1/2 cup white sugar
-1/4 cup brown sugar
-1 egg
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 cup AP flour
-1 cup graham cracker crumbs
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 cup chocolate chips/chunks
-1 cup mini marshmallows


Directions:


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for an additional 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, use a food processor or blender to crush the graham cracker sheets into 1 cup of the fine crumbs. In a separate bowl, whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together. Add the chocolate and marshmallows and stir to combine.
Using a small ice cream scoop, place dough onto the prepared cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

Recipe adapted from Kevin and Amanda

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Awesome Chocolate Chip Cookies


Hi everyone! Oh my goodness, I'm going to get straight to the point: these cookies are AWESOME!!! There is just no other description... I had pinned this recipe from The Girl Who Ate Everything and have been dying to make it! And the wait was totally worth it; these cookies were soooooo chewy, with the right amount of chocolate (which is a whole bunch!). I've tried many different chocolate chip cookie recipes, but this one takes the crown! I just can't rave enough about them, you'll just have to make these and try for yourself. Enjoy! :)
Oh, and I am tempted to tweak the recipe a little bit next time and add some coconut flakes to it.
Update note: I DID make the cookies with coconut (by switching the 2 cups of chocolate chips to 1.5 cups of chocolate chips plus 1 cup coconut flakes), but I didn't really think it made it much better (it was already awesome to begin with...). So would I make these again with coconut? Probably not since I really liked these cookies just as they were. :) If you play around with the chocolate chip/coconut flake ratio and come up with a great combo, let me know by posting below!

Chocolate Chip Cookies 
Makes ~2-3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
2 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. 
Using a small ice cream scoop, measure out the cookie dough onto the lined cookie sheets (one cookie = one scoop). Bake, reversing position of cookie sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy (approximately 11-14 minutes). Do not overbake.
Cool cookies on sheets until able to lift without breaking. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.


Recipe adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Banana and Applesauce Muffin


Hello everyone! Here in our town summer break is officially upon us! School is finally over... I can't believe that my daughter's first (pre?) pre-school year has come and gone! Last August she started school as a very shy two-year old, but now she talks non-stop, chases her little friends around the playground, and can do so much more! It is absolutely amazing to see your children develop so much in such a short amount of time. 
My daughter and my husband at the entrance to the school on her first day.

Now look at her! (and ignore me...) This is on the last day of her school. They have a picnic day for the students and parents to come and play in the playground area during their normal school time. I made the muffins below as one of the treats for the picnic, and brought it along with pretzels sticks and cherry tomatoes. Simple, but it worked well for us :) It was a special mommy-daughter only day too as the babysitter watched our baby boy. 
A little note about these muffins: they were very moist due to the combination of applesauce and oil, and not too overly sweet. I also didn't feel horrible having multiple muffins at once since I used wheat flour (which practically makes it non-caloric, right?) Ha!
Anyways, enjoy your summer with one of these muffins!

Banana and Applesauce Muffin
~makes about 18 muffins


Muffin ingredients:
-1 1/2 cup quick oats
-1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1 tsp baking powder
-3/4 tsp baking soda
-1/4 tsp nutmeg
-1 cup applesauce
-1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 whole bananas)
-1/2 cup whole milk
-3 Tbsp canola oil
-1 egg
-1/2 cup brown sugar


Topping ingredients:
-1/2 cup quick oats
-2 Tbsp brown sugar
-1/4 tsp cinnamon
-1/4 tsp cloves
-2 Tbsp butter, melted
-1/3 cup chopped pecans


Directions:
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 18 muffin cups in a muffin pan.
In a large bowl, combine oats, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg. Set aside.
In a large measuring cup, mix together applesauce, banana, milk, brown sugar, oil, and egg. 
For the topping, in a small bowl, melt the butter, and add the other ingredients for the toppings. Set aside.
Returning to the muffin batter, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mix until combined.
Fill each muffin cup 3/4 of the way full. Sprinkle topping over muffins (about 1 tsp over each muffin). Bake in preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.


Recipe adapted from Cooks.com

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chocolate cupcake with an AMAZING vanilla frosting!


Hello everyone! We are finally in May, the month of graduations and celebrations! My wonderful nanny/babysitter's son is graduating from college today! She mentions how time has absolutely flown by... I probably will blink and be going to my own children's graduations soon (I don't know if I am ready for that yet...) 
To mark such a special occasion, I thought I'd make him a cupcake treat. I asked his mom what he would like, and she said: vanilla or chocolate (he is not an adventurous eater!). Well, I had been dying to have an excuse to make this intriguing frosting recipe I saw on Pinterest. Why is it intriguing, you ask? You use FLOUR in the frosting! AND you cook it! I was skeptical at first, and I had a backup plan just in case it didn't turn out well. But, I did follow through with it since the source of the recipe I saw is none other than Ree Drummond! Oh, for step-by-step picture directions on how to make the frosting (if you like that sort of thing like me...), go to this link
Now, I did already have a favorite chocolate cake recipe, but figured I'd also try Ree's chocolate cake recipe that I keep seeing pop up around the internet. Plus, when I saw her make this cake on her FoodNetwork show, I had to borrow one of my children's bibs for all my drooling! If you are a visual learner like me, I recommend you check out the link for the chocolate cake to see all her amazing pictures.
And, for my "garnish": a graduation cap idea from Skip To My Lou made of miniature Reese's cups, upside-down Ghirardelli chocolate squares, brown miniature M&M's, and melted white chocolate for the tassel. Also saw this idea on Pinterest (can you tell I'm on there a lot???)
Hope you enjoy these Jacob! Congratulations on all your accomplishments!


Ree's Chocolate Cupcakes
~makes 24 cupcakes~
Cupcake ingredients:
-2 cups AP flour
-2 cups sugar
-1/4 tsp salt
-4 Tbsp (heaping) cocoa powder
-1 cup (2 sticks) butter
-1 cup boiling water
-1/2 cup buttermilk
-2 large eggs
-1 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp vanilla extract



Cupcake directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare muffin pans with 24 cupcake liners; set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt; set aside. In a small saucepan, melt butter. Once melted, add cocoa powder and stir well together. Add boiling water, then allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds; turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture and stir lightly to cool.
In a measuring cup (I used a 2-cup measuring cup), add the buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Using a fork mix all ingredients well. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into each cupcake liner about 2/3 of the way full and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Once baked, allow cupcakes to cool on wire racks before adding the frosting.




Awesome Frosting


Frosting ingredients:
-5 Tbsp AP flour
-1 cup milk
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 cup butter (2 sticks), lightly softened
-1 cup granulated white sugar (not powdered sugar)



Frosting directions:
In a small saucepan, whisk flour into milk and heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. Be careful not to burn it. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. You can place the saucepan over ice in the sink for about 10 minutes or so until the mixture cools if you are in a hurry. Stir in vanilla. This mixture must be completely cooled in order for the frosting to work.
While the mixture is cooling, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Then add the cooled milk/flour/vanilla mixture and beat until it all combines and resembles whipped cream. Make sure you scrape down the sides every so often so that it all gets incorporated and whipped. If it's not looking like whipped cream, keep on whipping. This frosting is great for piping. Best served the same day.


-Chocolate Cupcake recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
-Frosting recipe from The Girl Who Ate Everything, originally from Tasty Kitchen
-Graduation cap decoration idea from Skip To My Lou