Monday, August 29, 2011

Ferrero Rocher and Nutella Buttercream Cupcakes

Happy Birthday! Wait, it's not your birthday? Are you sure? Don't you want an excuse to make these cupcakes? I needed one once I saw a version of them on Pinterest and my boyfriend's 21st birthday was the perfect occasion. He loves anything and everything chocolate, so I got busy baking these the weekend before he went back to Atlanta for the start of the semester.
These cupcakes are deliciously sinful (thankfully I have managed to eat just one!). I started with a chocolate fudge cupcake from my great grandmother's cookbook, scooped out a little of the top, filled that with Nutella buttercream, and unwrapped two dozen Ferrero Rocher candies for the best cupcake topper I can imagine.

Fudge Cupcakes
From my great grandmother's Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/3 cup shortening [I used unsalted butter]
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda [Fun fact, the cookbook just says soda. I didn't think it meant Sprite.]
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit. Combine 2/3 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup milk, and chocolate in saucepan; heat and stir over very low heat until chocolate melts; cool. Stir shortening/butter to soften. Gradually add 2/3 cup brown sugar; cream together until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

Sift flour with soda and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with 1/2 cup milk, a little at a time; beat after each addition. Add chocolate mixture.Place paper bake cups in muffin pans; fill 1/2 full. Bake in moderate oven [This phrase cracked me up] about 20 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen. I indeed ended up with only 23. I think I just fill my liners too full no matter what recipe I am making. Oh well.

After they cooled I cut a little recess at the top of them, to hold more frosting and so the Ferrero Rocher candy could have more of a little hole to stay in. Then I frosted them with a divine Nutella buttercream.

Nutella Buttercream
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup of Nutella (or more to taste)
In your stand mixer with flat beater, cream butter. Add 3 cups of the confectioners sugar, then milk and vanilla and beat until the mixture is smooth, about 3-4 minutes. Add the remaining confectioners sugar, beating about 1-2 minutes. In a microwave safe bowl, soften the Nutella until it has a spreadable consistency, about 15-20 seconds. Add the softened Nutella to your buttercream and fold into the frosting until well blended. I followed the recipe exactly and ended up with two very full decorating bags. Excellent.
I used a Wilton 1M tip (it changed my life. How did I decorate anything before I had real tips??) and squeeze out a big swirl on each cupcake. This was the first real buttercream I've ever made that was thick and actually crusted. Hallelujah I quickly added the Ferrero Rocher so it would be nice and stuck in the frosting before it completely hardened.
I served a dozen to my boyfriend and his family the night we celebrated his birthday. They were well received I think and quite delicious. I sent the other dozen back with him so he could share them with his roommates on his actual birthday but somehow they got left in a car. Sad. At least there are happy memories from the first dozen!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Puffy Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cookies

The very moment I opened my Google Reader and saw Jessica's Puffy Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chips, I knew I had to make them. My favorite candy is Reeses Cups and I much prefer a fluffy, soft cookie to a hard, thin one. What a match made in heaven.
They worked out so well that I'm just going to post her recipe directly from her original post, with my annotations and comments in italics and brackets.

Puffy Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chips
Recipe from How Sweet Eats
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 8 tablespoons of salted butter, melted and cooled [I only had unsalted, so I added in about 1/2 teaspoon salt to the dry ingredients. I have no idea if that's the right ratio of salt, to be honest.]
  • 6 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips [I used about half milk chocolate chips and half bittersweet chunks]
Preheat oven to 325F. Add butter and peanut butter to a microwave safe bowl, and heat in 30 second increments until melted. Let cool completely. [This will take longer than you think. I'm sure when I finally mixed it all together the mixture was still a little warm. I've never been one to be patient.]
Mix the flour and baking soda in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, mix the cooled butter/peanut butter and sugars until they are combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and stir until mixed.
 Gradually add flour and mix until a dough forms – it will look crumbly at first, but it will come together. I even used my hands to bring it all together. [Me too.] If necessary, add 1-2 teaspoons of milk, but I did not need this. [I did. Just a little smidgen more of milk.] Fold in chocolate chips.
Shape the dough into a ball the size of a golfball. Place on a baking sheet two inches apart and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are slightly brown. The centers should be soft and puffy. Do not over bake. Let cool completely then dig in!
So, that's the flawless recipe. They stayed SO puffy that I kept getting concerned that they weren't getting cooked through - they looked the exact same as when they went in the oven! And they were perfect for a quick breakfast before work. Yum.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Whole Wheat Peach Muffins

This past Saturday morning I had a short amount of time to cook something and the last of my Georgia peaches to use up. Despite it being approximately 115 degrees outside by 10 a.m., I decided to find a muffin recipe and settled on Jenny's Peach Whole Wheat Muffins, with a few adaptations.

Whole Wheat Peach Muffins
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup white flour
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup fresh ripe (Georgia only!) peaches, diced
Preheat oven to 425F. Grease or line 12 muffin cups. I used Martha Stewart cupcake liners in a Fourth of July-type pattern in honor of the Braves.
In a small bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and oil. Stir in the dry ingredients until fully incorporated. Batter will be lumpy. I added about a tablespoon of milk just to wet it a little.
Stand back for a minute and admire how pretty and expensive looking your $2 whisk is. Carry on and mix in the peaches. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full (if you go over a little you will end up with eleven muffins. Oops).
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool. Eat quickly (with butter, mmm) or store in an airtight container. Makes 12, or 11 if you're not careful like me.

Monday, August 1, 2011

How to bake pizza... right

After the Great Pizza Grilling Disaster of '11, I was still craving a delicious, homemade pizza. But working 40 hours a week did not give me the freedom to make dough that needs to be delicately taken care of all day with several bouts of punching down and kneading. So in a quick trip to Publix after I went to the gym Tuesday, I discovered fresh, refrigerated pizza dough in their bakery department. What a perfect way to enjoy a "homemade" pizza.

I rolled out my dough and topped it with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, a big smear of minced garlic, globs of L E Roselli's pizza sauce, chopped up chunks of bell peppers and vidalia onions, and a handful of low fat shredded mozzarella. If I'd had fresh pineapple I would've added chunks of that too. That combination is seriously delicious. Try it.

I tried to roll the dough out as thinly as I possibly could but still the crust puffed up nice and big. So can it still count as a healthy thin crust if the dough just happened to end up really tall? Yes? Excellent.

Pizza is apparently best paired with Rainier cherries. Everything is best paired with Rainier cherries, honestly. I ate two cartons of them in 3 days. Thank you Publix for a BOGO Free sale.

Best of all, a lightly browned and crunchy yet edible pizza bottom! Pizza butt maybe? Either way, I was able to actually eat my dinner. Hooray.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Baked Buffalo "Chicken" Bites

I know what you're thinking. "Why is there chicken on this vegetarian blog?" "What a scary, big knife she has. Looks dangerous." "Has she lost it and finally eaten some Chick-fil-a?" Because believe me, I miss Chick-fil-a. But no, I adapted Pennies on a Platter's Buffalo Chicken Bites to be vegetarian!

Baked Buffalo "Chicken" Bites
  • 2 1/2 cups fake chicken product, finely chopped (I used a bag of MorningStar Farms Meal Starters Chik'n Strips. And by all means use real chicken if you want. I guess.)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup buffalo sauce (Texas Pete is better than Frank's)
  • 3 ounces low fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups low fat shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 cups crushed Corn Flakes

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix the chicken, cream cheese and hot sauce until combined. Stir in the cheddar cheese and green onions.

Use an ice cream scooper to plop balls of the chicken mixture on a separate baking sheet or plate. I covered and refrigerated mine for an hour or so as I ran errands to ensure they'd be solid enough to dip.

In three separate bowls, set out the flour, eggs and Corn Flakes like an assembly line. This is actually pretty similar to my zucchini chips. Dip each chicken ball first into the flour, then the egg and ending with the Corn Flakes. Again, this will get pretty messy and I even stepped back to photograph it to prove I'm not exaggerating. Tip: do not assemble in the smallest corner of your kitchen counter.

Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm with ranch or blue cheese dressing. Yields 18-20 large bites.

I think these are delicious on their own, but I heated up two and put them on my Subway Veggie Delite sandwich and oh man was it good. I think you could fool a meat eater into thinking these were made with real chicken.

How to grill pizza... wrong

This pizza looks delicious, yes? So flavorful and healthy and crispy from the grill. What an exciting endeavor, spending a Saturday making whole wheat pizza dough and then cooking on my little grill for the first time! Well... not so much.

Once my charcoal was nice and hot I rolled out my dough, slathered it in olive oil, and flipped it onto the grill. Once the dough was bubbly and seemed to be actually baking I put my toppings on top.

I used LE Roselli's Pizza Sauce (My absolute favorite. BUY IT. Or make your own. Whichev.), hunks of mozzarella, shaved parmesan, a handful of arugula and a few basil leaves from my windowsill garden.

Once the cheese got a little melty I slid it onto my handy dandy pizza board. I love this thing. You can slice directly on it and not damage it. But you'll notice some strange black marks to the right of the board that were not there before I put the pizza on it. Hmm.

I know what you're thinking. "Wow, Jane, that pizza looks delicious! What could've gone wrong? I would be happy to eat that amazing pizza." WELL.

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED. I completely BURNT the entire bottom. The dang pizza was only on the grill for probably 6 or 7 minutes. So awful. I will never recover.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Spicy Baked Zucchini Chips

One of the best things about my conversion to being vegetarian is I'm forced to try vegetables I avoided before. Zucchini is one of the ones that I always picked out of pasta, casserole, or what have you. But when I stumbled upon this easy, simple recipe via my Pinterest from Natalie's Killer Cuisine, I knew I had to try it (with slight modifications, naturally).
Spicy Baked Zucchini Chips
  • 2 zucchinis, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup parmesan, shredded
  • 2/3 cup crushed Corn Flakes
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 egg whites
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Slice zucchini as thinly and uniform as possible. My parents have a mandolin but I was too lazy to go borrow it. Place the slices for at least 10 minutes to let excess moisture drain. Mix together all the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until frothy. Lay these out like an assembly line because it will be quite a production.

Slice by slice, place the zucchini in the egg mixture, then coat in the Corn Flake mixture. I know this sounds relatively easy and quick, but my hands were coated in egg whites and cheese within minutes. I couldn't even document the assembly process. So messy.

Place each slice on a baking sheet and when the baking sheet is full, bake for 5-6 minutes. Pull out the baking sheet and flip over the zucchini chips (again, not as easy as it seems. Or maybe I need better spatulas.) Return to the oven for another 7-8 minutes.
Serve warm with bleu cheese dressing (I love Marzetti's Simply Dressed Blue Cheese) to tame the unexpected amount of spice. Why did I think adding a lot of red pepper was a good idea? I mean, just look at them. They LOOK spicy. Very, very tasty though.

Whole Wheat Oat & Peach Pancakes

Saturday mornings are the only time I get to actually cook and enjoy a breakfast. Monday through Friday I get up at the crack of dawn to work 8:30-5 (I am clearly enjoying my summer to the fullest extent possible) and Sunday is the only day I sleep in past 9 and lounge around in bed with my cat. But Saturdays I get up, cook breakfast, and work in the yard before it's 97 degrees by 10 a.m.

One of the best things about living in Georgia is our peaches. I can buy pounds of them for mere pennies (okay, not really, but almost) at the local farmers' market. This year they're small, sweet, and juicy.

I adapted these pancakes from Jessica's Whole Wheat Chocolate Peanut Butter Pancakes to make my own sans peanut butter and chocolate BUT plus peaches and rolled oats!

Whole Wheat Oat & Peach Pancakes
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup plain rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 1 cup milk, plus 1/2 cup or so
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 Georgia (from nowhere else!!) peaches, thinly sliced
Stir together dry ingredients. Add eggs, milk, vanilla and oil. Stir until dry ingredients are moistened. But to be honest with y'all, I just dump everything in the bowl together and stir it when my eyes are glued shut still at 8 a.m. Oh and add more milk as needed because the oats will absorb a lot. I like my pancakes pretty thick but I think most prefer them thinner.

Cook on preheated pan until bubbles form and edges start to dry. Place peaches on top. Be sure to slice yours thinner than mine because flipping becomes difficult when you have huge hunks of peach to contend with. Flip and cook until lightly browned. Makes 9-10 small pancakes.

Drown in butter and syrup and enjoy! Happy Saturday. Or Tuesday. Whatever.