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Monday, August 30, 2010

Chocolate Marshmallow Cupcakes

These chocolate marshmallow cupcakes are adapted from the S'mores cupcakes I made a while back - which just so happen to be the most popular recipe I've ever posted.  These don't have the graham cracker base and don't require a kitchen torch or incredible timing with the broiler.  They do however require a lot of egg whites to make the frosting, so I recommend a nice custard style ice cream to go along with them.  With a few less steps involved, these are an easier version.

I love this marshmallow frosting.  It does take a little more time than a traditional American buttercream but its so light and glossy.  I've used it on several things lately - stay tuned for some more recipes coming up shortly.  Drizzle a chocolate ganache over the top to add a little something extra. 

Chocolate Marshmallow Cupcakes

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line pans with cupcake liners. Recipe yields about 30 cupcakes. Combine sugar through salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla and beat on low until just incorporated. Increase speed to medium and beat two minutes. Stir in boiling water, the batter will be thin. Transfer batter to prepared pans, filling each liner about 2/3 of the way full, approximately 1/4 cup of batter. Bake approximately 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans about five minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Set a clean stainless steel or other heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water to create a double boiler.  (I just use my KitchenAid bowl for my stand mixer to avoid having to transfer.)  Add all ingredients except vanilla and whisk to combine.  Heat, whisking almost constantly, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl frequently until the mixture reaches 160 degrees.  Transfer to mixer/mixing bowl fitted with the whisk attachment and continue mixing, increasing speed slowly to high speed until the frosting holds stiff peaks.  Add vanilla extract and beat until just incorporated.

Fill a piping bag fitted with desired tip (I used a large closed star tip for these) and pipe as desired onto cooled cupcakes. 

Note: You don't want to make this frosting until you are ready to use it as it will harden so wait until your cupcakes are cooled.

2 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream

Heat heavy cream until simmering in a small saucepan (you can also microwave but do it in 30 second intervals and watch it closely).  Cut chocolate into chunks and put in a small bowl.  Pour cream over chocolate and let sit for one minute.  Stir until chocolate is melted.  Let stand about 5 minutes and transfer to a squeeze bottle.  Drizzle over the top of cupcakes.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Oatmeal Peach Scones

Not to sound bossy, but you need to go grab some peaches while they are on sale now at your local farmer's market or grocery store and make these scones.  These are really easy to put together and work great for a quick breakfast.  You can even make the dough and portion it out onto a baking sheet and freeze them.  Then just bake as many as you need when you want them.  

If you like these scones and are looking for other ideas, try out these strawberry oatmeal scones (based on the same recipe) or these blueberry scones (one of my very first blog posts).

Oatmeal Peach Scones

1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
1 2/3 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of nutmeg
10 T unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
3 ripe peaches, peeled and chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.

Whisk together the egg and buttermilk and set aside. Combine the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a mixing bowl. Add the cold butter pieces and cut in with a pastry blender or your hands, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour in the buttermilk mixture and stir with a stiff wooden spoon until just incorporated. Gently mix in the chopped peaches. The mixture will be very sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly flour surface and gently knead and press the dough into a disk about 1 1/2 inches thick. Portion the dough into about 12 wedges or balls and transfer to the baking sheet. Bake for approximately 25 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool about 10 minutes before serving.  If you are freezing, bake straight from the freezer, increasing baking time by about 5 minutes.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

I remember making pineapple upside down cake a long time ago when I was a kid and thinking it was so cool - back then anything that you baked and then flipped out of the pan was pretty impressive.  It still makes me pretty happy and impressed when I can flip something and everything comes out right without sticking or falling apart.  These little cupcakes are no exception - you layer the butter and brown sugar in the bottom of a well-greased muffin tin.  Add in the pineapple and a maraschino cherry and then top with yellow cake batter.  Bake them up and then its time for the reveal.  Flip the pan over onto a platter or a parchment lined cooling rack and take off the pan.  The cupcakes should be adorable little stacks of goodness, the brown sugar and butter melt into a sticky glaze and caramelize the pineapple. 

These aren't as convenient as traditional cupcakes because if you bake them up in cupcake liners, you don't get the effect of the pineapple and syrup and it just looks like an unfrosted yellow cake.  They don't really dome up like most cupcakes either (which is good when you want to flip them).  To make them portable, I set them upside down on a cupcake liner.  You could also put them in small boxes if you were doing them as a favor.  These are definitely best served the day you bake them or the next day at the latest since there is no frosting to keep the cakes from drying out. 

Pineapple Upside Down Cakes
Recipe adapted from

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
12 pineapple rings
12 maraschino cherries

1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup pineapple juice, reserved from can
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with baking spray or grease with butter.  Drain the pineapple, reserving the juice for the cake batter.  Combine brown sugar and melted butter in a small bowl.  Evenly divide among each of the muffin wells, about one teaspoon per well.  Cut about 1/3 out of each pineapple ring and arrange rings over the brown sugar mixture.  Add a cherry in the center of each ring. 

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar and baking powder.  Add butter, pineapple juice and vanilla and beat on low until just combined.  Increase speed to medium and beat two minutes.  Add the egg and beat in until well incorporated.  Evenly divide the batter among the muffin wells, filling each about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake approximately 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool the cupcakes five minutes in the pan and then flip onto a platter or covered rack.  Cool and serve.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Stove-Top Mac and Cheese

Normally I'm a baked macaroni and cheese fan - the crunchy breadcrumb topping with gooey, cheesy insides almost always wins.  However, Alton Brown just gave me another option.  Stove-top mac and cheese is quick and easy but the boxed stuff isn't good (unless you're my husband who loves the blue box stuff for some unknown reason) and its full of chemicals.  You can make this recipe just as fast but you'll be oh so much happier. 

The evaporated milk makes it super creamy and using sharp cheddar gives you a better than the box taste.  It also reheats well for a leftover lunch.  I modified the original recipe a little bit by using fat free evaporated milk, reducing the butter slightly, using whole wheat noodles and adding some thyme.  I used rotini because I had it on hand, use elbows or shells or whatever you prefer or keep in the pantry.

Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese
Recipe adapted from Alton Brown via Food Network

14 oz whole wheat short cut pasta
3 T butter
2 eggs
9 oz evaporated milk
1/2 - 1 tsp hot sauce
3/4 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat a large pot of water to boiling, salt liberally and add pasta.  Cook to al dente per package directions and drain.  Reduce heat to medium low, return to pan and add butter.  Melt and stir to coat pasta.  Whisk together eggs, milk, hot sauce, mustard, thyme, salt and pepper and pour over pasta.  Stir and cook about one minute.  Add cheese and stir to melt and incorporate, cook about two minutes, add additional salt and pepper if desired and serve.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Peach Blueberry Cobbler

There are fresh peaches everywhere lately and it makes me so happy.  Inevitably, I buy too many though which then forces me to make desserts like this one.  I mean I couldn't let the peaches go to waste - and I had some blueberries to use up too.  I had to do it.  And I'm so glad that I did... it was absolutely delicious.  I love fruit desserts - cobblers, crisps, pie a la mode, etc - warm fruit and sugar topped with some form of whipped cream or ice cream is perfection for me.

Generally I made fruit crisps because I've never been a big fan of the biscuit-style cobblers.  However, this one may have converted me.  Cobbler may have just moved one step ahead of crisp in my book.  And it is incredibly easy to put together and requires just a few ingredients that you most likely have on hand.  (Which in the interest of full disclosure is what led me to this recipe to begin with, I didn't have any oatmeal to make a crisp.)

The really cool part about this recipe is watching it bake, when you assemble the cobbler, the batter goes in the bottom of the pan and you spoon the fruit over the top but as it bakes, the batter rises to the top and the fruit forms delicious rivers of syrupy goodness over the top. 

Peach Blueberry Cobbler

3-4 large ripe peaches, peeled and chopped into large chunks
1/2 cup blueberries
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 T water
1 T vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups milk

In a saucepan, combine peaches, blueberries, water, vanilla extract, and 1 cup sugar.  Stir gently to combine and bring to a boil, simmer for approximately 10 minutes and remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Add butter to a 9x13 pan or 3 qt baking dish and place in the oven until melted.  Meanwhile, combine remaining sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and milk in a small mixing bowl and whisk until well combined and mostly smooth.  Pour batter over the melted butter but do not stir.  Gently spoon fruit over the batter and pour in any syrup. 

Bake 30-45 minutes until golden brown.  The batter will rise to the top during baking forming the traditional cobbler crust over the fruit.  Top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream if desired when serving.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Creme Brulee French Toast Casserole

Well I'm back from the beach and back to real life as we were greeted by a falling down fence due to some storm damage, a lot of weeds and a giant spider.  Fun stuff.  Today was spent cleaning up the messes and doing vacation laundry so since that isn't too fun, I'll tell you about the French toast casserole that I made one morning while we were on vacation.

I came across this recipe on Josie's blog, Pink Parsley, a couple weeks ago for a Project Pastry Queen challenge and was intrigued since I love French toast and I had just received The Pastry Queen cookbook in the mail a couple of days earlier.  I decided that due to the coincidence, I definitely needed to try the recipe. 

My recipe is a little different since I didn't want to take too many different ingredients so I used milk instead of heavy cream or half and half as the recipe calls for and French bread instead of Challah, because they didn't have any at the supermarket when I went.  I used whole eggs instead of yolks because I didn't want to waste the egg whites since I wouldn't use them for anything else on vacation.  I also didn't bake it like a custard as the recipe suggests because I didn't have a second pan big enough.  I also added a little orange juice to my custard mixture just for a little something extra and tossed the bread cubes with cinnamon and sugar before soaking.

I would also recommend watching the broiler like a hawk if you do the creme brulee finish under the broiler.  Our oven on vacation was a little quicker than my broiler at home and I ended up with a topping that was a little crispy.  Whether you use a broiler or a kitchen torch for more control, this casserole ended up delicious.  It makes for a fantastic breakfast or brunch treat, especially because all the prep work is done the night before and you just have to pop it in the oven in the morning.

Creme Brulee French Toast Casserole
Adapted from The Pastry Queen

1 large loaf of French bread
8 large eggs
2 1/4 cups milk
1 cup plus 4-5 T sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 T vanilla extract
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tsp cinnamon
3 T unsalted butter

Combine eggs, milk, 1 cup sugar, salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, vanilla, orange juice, and 2 T melted butter in a large bowl.  Whisk together until well incorporated.  Use remaining butter to heavily butter a 9x13 baking pan.  Slice bread into 1/2" thick slices and then cut slices into cubes.  Combine remaining cinnamon and 1 T sugar.  Add bread cubes to pan and toss with cinnamon sugar mixture.  Pour custard mixture over bread cubes, pressing cubes down with a spoon to thoroughly soak bread.  Cover with foil and refrigerate at least one hour or overnight. 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Bake approximately 40-50 minutes until golden brown and set.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle remaining 3-4 T of sugar over the top of the casserole in an even, heavy layer.  Set broiler on high and return to oven or use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar.  The sugar will turn brown and liquefy and then harden as it cools.  Serve warm with maple syrup if desired.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pink Lemonade Pie

I'm on vacation right now at the beach - we are in Corolla, North Carolina with some friends from college having a great time enjoying the beach.  We rented a house and have been making lots of simple BBQ meals and such.  I decided we needed dessert as well, after all we are on vacation, but wanted to make something easy that didn't have a million ingredients.  The perfect recipe - pink lemonade pie.  You can easily make this recipe in five minutes with just a few ingredients and its fantastic after a hot summer day, at the beach or not.  It has a really light, refreshing taste.  Ice cream at the beach is always a great treat.

I really don't remember where I originally got this recipe - I've been making this for several years now and haven't looked at a recipe for a long long time so I'm not sure of the original source.

Pink Lemonade Pie

1 pint vanilla ice cream
2 cups whipping cream (you can substitute Cool Whip or similar)
1/4 cup pink lemonade powder mix (such as Country Time)
1/4 cup water
1 graham cracker crust

Set out ice cream to thaw for a few minutes or pop into a microwave for about 30 seconds to soften slightly.  Beat cream until stiff peaks form.  Combine lemonade powder and water in the bottom of a mixing bowl.  Add ice cream and beat on low speed until smooth - you can use a wooden spoon to do this as well, it will just take a little extra effort to make it smooth.  Gently fold in whipped cream.  Pour mixture into prepared pie crust.  Freeze at least 4 hours until set.  Remove from freezer about 5 minutes before slicing. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Asian Coleslaw

My friend Michelle first made this recipe for us in college and it tends to make an appearance at most barbeques and cookouts that we have now.  Its a great light side dish that's a different alternative to pasta salad or potato salad.  The salad comes together really easy with just a few simple ingredients and its a great budget dish.

One note of caution on this salad, add the dressing just before you serve it so it doesnt get soggy.  It also doesnt keep super well because the cabbage tends to wilt after its dressed so don't plan on having a lot of leftovers.  You can garnish with sunflower seeds or toasted almonds or both, whichever you prefer.

Asian Coleslaw

1 head of cabbage, shredded or 1 package of coleslaw mix
1 package oriental-flavor ramen noodles
1 package chicken-flavor ramen noodles
3-4 green onions, chopped
4 oz slivered almonds
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar

Fill a large bowl with water, add ramen noodles and soak until soft, about 5-10 minutes, drain and pull apart with your hands.  In a clean, dry bowl, add noodles and cabbage mix.  Toast almonds in a small dry skillet.  Add green onions and almonds to cabbage mix. 

In a separate bowl or jar, mix oil, vinegar, sugar and spice packets from ramen noodles.  Just before serving, add dressing to the cabbage mix and toss together.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Lasagna Roll-ups

Lasagna is a pretty classic comfort food, but not one that I would normally make for a weeknight dinner.  With just the two of us eating, an entire pan of lasagna is enough food to eat for a week so unless we're expecting company, lasagna is a rare treat.  If you are like me, lasagna roll-ups are the solution.  You can make as many servings as you need and you can do it in less time. 

The process starts out the same, boil the noodles, brown the meat and make a sauce.  Make a ricotta mixture and then you just roll it up.  Depending on how many you are making you can bake them in a loaf pan, an 8x8 pan or whatever you need.  To assemble, you just drain the noodles, spread a little of the ricotta mixture on top, add meat sauce and roll them up.  Top with a little more sauce, some mozzarella cheese and bake.  Voila - lasagna the easy way.

I generally swap whole wheat pasta for regular pasta and use ground turkey instead of ground beef to lighten up the recipe. 

Lasagna Roll-ups

8 lasagna noodles
1/2 pound lean ground turkey
1 T olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/2 onion
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 egg
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 T fresh basil, chopped
1 1/2 T fresh oregano, chopped
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat a large pot of water to boiling over high heat.  When it reaches a boil, salt liberally and drop noodles.  Stir occasionally and cook to just al dente.  You want to leave them slightly more firm since you'll be baking the pasta.  Drain noodles and set aside.

Meanwhile in a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and onion and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Add turkey and brown.  When almost cooked through, add tomatoes and reduce heat to medium low.  Simmer for about 15 minutes.  Add 1/2 the basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper flakes and stir to combine.

In a small bowl, lightly beat egg.  Add ricotta, Parmesan and remaining basil and oregano and stir together.  Spray pan lightly with cooking spray.  Add enough sauce to lightly cover the bottom of the pan.  To assemble, on a drained noodle, add a spoonful of ricotta mixture.  Top with a spoonful of meat sauce and roll up.  Place seam side down in pan.  Continue until you've used all the noodles.  Top each with a little more meat sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella and remaining crushed red pepper flakes.  Bake approximately 20 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Snickers Cupcakes

While walking through the candy aisle at the grocery store the other day, I got an idea to make Snickers cupcakes.  I picked up some mini candy bars as well as caramels and caramel sauce.  I knew I wanted to do a chocolate cupcake base with a caramel filling but wasn't sure if I wanted to use a caramel candy or caramel sauce for the filling.  For frosting, I went with a caramel buttercream and then topped the cupcakes with chopped Snickers pieces for garnish. 

For the cake, I used my go-to chocolate cake recipe - the Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake recipe.  I love this recipe because it mixes up extremely fast and always turns out a rich, moist cake.  To experiment with the caramel filling, first I baked the cupcakes and added a caramel candy to the center for the last three minutes of baking time.  I wasn't a fan of these though because although the caramel softens in the oven, it quickly hardens back up and makes a very difficult to eat, hard center to the cupcakes.

On to plan B, the caramel sauce.  I hollowed out a cone shape in the center of the cupcake using a paring knife and filled them with a little caramel sauce.  I much preferred this method for the caramel filling.  You can make your own caramel sauce or just buy the caramel sauce found in the grocery store, like ice cream topping. 

Snickers Cupcakes

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line pans with cupcake liners.  Recipe yields about 30 cupcakes.  Combine sugar through salt in a large bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla and beat on low until just incorporated.  Increase speed to medium and beat two minutes.  Stir in boiling water, the batter will be thin.  Transfer batter to prepared pans, filling each liner about 2/3 of the way full, approximately 1/4 cup of batter.  Bake approximately 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pans about five minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

When cool, use a paring knife to cut a small cone shape out of the top of each cupcake.  Add caramel sauce as desired.  You can cut the point off the cone and add it back to the cupcake if desired. 

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup caramel sauce
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb powdered sugar
8 mini Snickers bar for garnish

Beat butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about two minutes.  Add caramel sauce, heavy cream and vanilla and mix to incorporate.  Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating on low speed until incorporated to reach the right consistency.  Increase speed to medium-high and whip about one minute until light and fluffy.  Fill a piping bag and pipe onto cupcakes or frost as desired.

Coarsely chop candy bars and sprinkle over the top of cupcakes.

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