Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Healthy Cupcake! Fruit Added!! (Ignore the chocolate - move along)

We had a very strawberry themed weekend - strawberry cookies and strawberry buttercream stuffed chocolate cupcakes. Wait - what? YES. I think the recipe title was Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes - I think that title works.
We were planning to go to our friends' home where we hadn't gotten together for a long time. I figured I'd try a new recipe - that's how I roll... get together with friends? Try a new recipe! I made my standard chocolate cupcakes - which means a boxed mix from Aldi with an added box of dry pudding. That makes the best cupcakes. Hands down. The filling is a strawberry buttercream made with freeze-dried strawberries. That really does make the best strawberry frosting. You don't have the moisture issue from fresh strawberries but you get the flavor. I went to Aldi in search of those freeze dried strawberries and the box where they normally are? Missing. Gone! Must have been restock night. I looked all over - no sign. I ended up near the baby food - yes Aldi has baby food - and found little snack size packages. They were perfect! When I put them in the chopper to pulverize them I scared the entire family - dogs included. Then a magical pink strawberry dust emerged. :) Kind of like kool-aid but better.
The cupcakes turned out well. The buttercream and the ganache together was a lot... a lot of ... heaviness. I ate another one the next day and eaten in little amounts - VERY good. Not sure it's the type of cupcake you cut in half, sandwich and eat all at once. it's a bit sweet and heavy for that. But get your dainty fork out and eat in small bites - yum.
Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes
1 box of chocolate cake mix + ingredients on the box
1 box of chocolate pudding mix
Strawberry Frosting
1/2 cup freeze-dried strawberries
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
salt, to taste
Chocolate Ganache
1/2 cup heavy cream
one 4-ounce (113g) semi-sweet chocolate bar, coarsely chopped (or chocolate chips)

Bake the chocolate cupcakes. As the cupcakes cool, make the chocolate ganache in step 2. This way the ganache can cool down and thicken as the cupcakes cool down. Saves you time!
Make the ganache as the cupcakes cool: Place chopped chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it begins to gently simmer. (Do not let it come to a rapid boil-- that's too hot!) Pour over chocolate and let it sit for 2-3 minutes to gently soften the chocolate. Then stir until completely combined and chocolate has melted. Cover and refrigerate until it's thick and a spreadable consistency, about 1-2 hours. You don't want it runny. The longer it's chilled, the thicker it will be.
Make the frosting: Using a blender or food processor, process the freeze-dried strawberries into a powdery crumb. You should have around 1/4 cup. Set aside. In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners' sugar, strawberry powder, heavy cream, and vanilla. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. Taste. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. Set aside.
Fill the cupcakes: Using a sharp knife, cut a circle/hole into the center of the cooled cupcakes to create a little pocket about 1 inch deep. The piece you removed will be the shape of a cone. Spoon or pipe frosting inside each carved out cupcake-- use however much frosting will fit. (I use Wilton piping tip #12 to fill cupcakes.) Slice off the pointy end of the "cone" piece of cupcake you removed so that it can fit on top of the filling. Place on top of the filling.
Frost each cupcake with thickened chocolate ganache. I use my small icing spatula. If you'd rather pipe the ganache on top, let the ganache chill in the refrigerator for several more hours, so it will be the thicker consistency to pipe.
Store leftover cupcakes in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

If soggy pink cookies are your thing... Yum!

Baking cookies with a cake mix is awesome. Even easier for a 5-year-old to do it. Way less ingredients to toss together. I had found a site that had 9 different recipes for cake mixes and asked Bronwyn which one she wanted to do. I suggested S'Mores - YES she wanted to do that one!! I told her they would be chocolate - oh no... not that one. She wanted to try Strawberry Cream Cookies probably because they are pink. OK. Let's do it!
The recipe was really easy and we had everything in the house for it. She mixed it all up - I dished them out and baked them.
They were OK. The fake strawberry cake mix taste, along with the wet fresh strawberries and swirls of cream cheese made for a wet soggy cookie. Probably should have seen that coming. Probably... Kids? Didn't really like them. Bah! Should have done the S'mores version - another day perhaps. We have 8 more varieties to try and see if we like them. Andy has been munching on the cookies so they can't be that bad I guess.

Strawberries ‘n’ Cream Cake Mix Cookies
1 package strawberry cake mix
½ cup (75 g) strawberry, chopped
½ cup (115 g) cream cheese
⅓ cup (80 mL) oil
2 eggs

Combine cake mix, strawberries, oil, and eggs in a mixing bowl.
Add in cream cheese and lightly mix allowing the cream cheese to still be visible and not all the way mixed in.
Using an ice cream scoop or your hand, form golf ball-sized balls of cookie dough and transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Bake at 350°F/180°C for 10-12 minutes.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Kurty Russel Brussel Sprout

My uncle Kurt has a nickname all through life... Kurty Russel Brussel Sprout.  He LOVES Brussel Sprouts!  Why?  I have no idea.  Little stinky soggy balls of sulfur.  Ok ok... I'm giving them a bad rap.  They aren't my favorite and I have no reason why.  I don't think before making this dish I've ever eaten them before.  I only know other people who talk about them.
Andy declared brussel sprouts one of three foods he doesn't like but wanted to see if he could like them.  We had heard that if you carmelized them they tasted better.  I saw on a food network show where you could shave them and add some balsamic and bam they were awesome!  Well... a planned fancy dinner meant a fancy side dish (along with green beans for the less adventurous).  I got out my mandoline and started shaving away.  I was careful not to shave any fingers.  I've heard of WAY too many people cutting themselves to not give that slicing death machine some respect.  I fried them up in my fancy butterfly skillet and they were really good!  Andy liked them more than I did - no shock there.  So we did it!!  We turned around one of his dislike foods!  Maybe we'll tackle another next... no... not sure how we could make beets better... Blech.  Sorry Mom.
Oh and PS - My Uncle Kurt's middle name really is Russel and it's true... he likes brussel sprouts... so... yeah. 

Sauteed Shredded Brussels Sprouts
2 (12-ounce) packages fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon syrupy aged balsamic vinegar
Place the Brussels sprouts in the feed tube of the food processor fitted with a large slicing disk. (You don't need to core them.) Process until they're all sliced.
Heat the butter and olive oil in a very large (12- to 14-inch) sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper and saute, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, until crisp-tender and still bright green. Off the heat, stir in the balsamic vinegar, season to taste and serve hot.
Make ahead: Prep the Brussels sprouts and place in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel for up to a day. Saute before serving.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Potato Perfection Found!

Remember a few weeks ago I told you about some crockpot mashed potatoes we made? They were grey and weird tasting? Mmmm hope you made those and realized my recipes aren't always awesome. Yuck.
Well... Here's what happened. I was on a mission to do better. I still wanted those silky garlicky smashed potatoes! One night Andy and I watched a show on Food Network and they made a steak, shaved brussel sprouts, and smashed garlic potatoes. When I say we watched, let's say that loosely. I am pretty sure Andy was trying to fall asleep and I had the TV on. The show was one that had a funny chef on there and I could hear Andy laughing from time to time - so I guess we'll still say we.
These potatoes are really good - granted I used a tad too much milk, but at least they weren't lumpy! Here's my trick - boil the garlic with the potatoes. What the what? Oh and the other? Dump the hot potatoes and garlic in a stand mixer and with the paddle attachment, beat the crap out of those suckers. Make sure to have a towel covering the bowl or you WILL be playing hot potato with those boiled red potatoes! Youch!
So - silky delicious mashed potato success. What next shall I try to master? Beets that actually taste good? Liver that doesn't make your stomach church? How about making blue food taste OK... Yeah... doubt any of that will happen. Just glad I figured one out that was actually pretty easy and tasted awesome. Oh and the steaks Andy made to go with? Also amazing. I forget how good steak is since I just so rarely buy it. Maybe I should put it on the list again...

Smashed Garlic Potatoes
3 pounds red potatoes, unpeeled
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon kosher salt plus 2 teaspoons
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the potatoes, garlic, and 1 tablespoon of salt in a 4-quart saucepan with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer covered for 25 to 35 minutes, until the potatoes are completely tender. Drain.
In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter (or heat up in microwave). Transfer the potatoes to an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix them for a few seconds on low speed to break them up. Slowly add the hot milk and butter to the potatoes, mixing on the lowest speed. Fold in the sour cream, the remaining salt, and pepper; season, to taste, and serve immediately. If the potatoes are too thick, add more hot milk and butter.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Searching my gene pool for non-cereal breakfast eaters.

For those keeping track - you know my family is a bunch of boring breakfast eaters. Cereal... that's all they want. I decided to make a coffee cake this past weekend and knew I didn't need to make it for Sunday morning - no one but me would eat it. (In other news, try to explain coffee cake to a 5 1/2 year old that thinks you have to add coffee to the cake.)
I decided Sunday after lunch would work - and it did. This coffee cake has all the goodness a coffee cake needs, sour cream, cinnamon, and cream cheese. Oh, also the other baking goods too. (thankfully no coffee)
Oh did it ever make the house smell so wonderful! I even snagged a piece early while it was still warm from the oven - heaven. SO good. Andy even had a few pieces for dinner! Sure... delicious goodness is OK for dinner but not for breakfast? What is wrong with these people? Did these little people get any of my genes?
My tip for the coffee cake - spread or pipe your cream cheese layer evenly over the top of the cake batter. Sure a pocket of it's good, but I think a little in each bit would be better. I'm looking forward to having this for breakfast this week unless Andy snarfs it up for a bedtime snack. Hey... at least he eats what I bake - I'm glad for that!

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch salt
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 & 1/4 cups sour cream
Combine all the crumb ingredients in a small bowl.
Mix with a fork until the mixture resembles crumbs.
Beat the cream cheese and brown sugar until fluffy.
Mix in the vanilla and cinnamon.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9” x 13” x 2″ baking pan.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until combined after each addition. Mix in the vanilla.
Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until combined. Stir in the sour cream and mix just until combined.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Top the batter with spoonfuls of the cream cheese swirl. Use an up and down motion with a knife to swirl. Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the top of the cake.
Bake 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
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