Archive for ‘Baking’

November 6, 2011

Easiest Chocolate Cake

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My internal dialogue was definitely discouraging, while making this cake. No egg, who bakes a cake without eggs – even brownies have eggs, this was certain to be a disaster. And now add lemon juice or vinegar! What was this going to taste like? And really!? I’m going to prepare this cake right in the baking pan! No mixing bowl? No creaming the butter, but melt it? Huh? Where am I!? What is going on? After all of that, the batter was thinner than pancake batter! We were surely headed for thin deflated cupcakes. Certainly, you are asking me why would I even consider this recipe after reading it? Well it comes from the Joy of Baking website, a place I trust and the photo was very enticing. New and different is what I like, new challenges!

Joy of Baking – Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup granulated white sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder(not Dutch-processed), sifted

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 cup warm water

1 tablespoon lemon juice(or vinegar)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven.

In an ungreased 8 inch square cake pan, stir together the flour, sugar, sifted cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add the melted butter, water, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. With a fork, mix all the ingredients together until well blended.

Bake in preheated oven for about 35 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

**NOTE: I made these into cupcakes rather than a cake. Fill the baking cups 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 18-22 minutes – or until a toothpick comes out clean.**

In the end, this is a very good simple recipe. It’s a heavier, moist cake. Not a light cake. The best description was somewhere between a brownie and cake. I’m more amazed by how well this cake came out and that it doesn’t have any eggs! (can’t get over that!).

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~Enjoy~

Amanda

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October 31, 2011

Ghosties Cupcakes

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We have been reading the “Three Little Ghosties” book by Pippa Goodhart, this Halloween. It has best illustrations! (by AnnaLaura Cantone"). This is where I got the name for these cute little cupcake treats.

For my daughter’s Halloween Party at school we were assigned a dozen cupcakes. For this recipe I used my Chocolate Cake recipe and Vanilla frosting recipe:

Chocolate Cake

2  cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 package of instant chocolate pudding (only the powder)
1 1/4 c. milk
2 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks room temperature butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350

Whisk together flour, baking powder, pudding powder and salt. Measure out the milk, set aside.

With an electric mixer in a large bowl combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time allowing each to incorporate well before moving on to the next ingredient.

Incorporate the dry ingredients and milk by alternating – half of the dry ingredients and half of the milk.

Use a small ice cream scoop for the cupcake batter. It makes the perfect size cupcakes. Scoop a heaping scoop of the batter into each cup. Stick one Reese’s miniature peanut butter cup in the middle of the batter in each cup.

Bake for 18-20 minutes. (The time will depend on your oven.  Since moving and changing ovens I have had to cook these for 21 minutes otherwise they deflate because they aren’t cooked thoroughly.)

 

Vanilla Buttercream

1/2 cup shortening (used the Crisco stick because it’s easier to measure)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup) – room temperature
4 cups confectioners sugar
2-4 T. whole milk
1 T. vanilla extract

In a stand mixer, beat the shortening and butter together, add the vanilla bean and extract.  Incorporate the sugar gradually – 1c. at a time. Once sugar is incorporated (it will look dry) add the milk 1 tablespoon at a time until you get the consistency you like. It will be about 2-3T for a medium consistency.

Cover with a wet cloth while not in use, or place in the fridge if you plan on using it much later.

Use a cake decorating bag or a zip lock bag and spoon in the frosting. Cut a big sized corner off the bag. Pipe on the ghosties by holding your bag straight up and down and squeeze some frosting in a spiral motion onto the cupcake. You can also squeeze the frosting out and press down a little then back up and then down again, repeating this action.  

Eyes & Mouth

Melt some of your favorite milk or dark chocolate in the microwave (at 30 second intervals stirring each interval until completely melted) or melt in a double boiler (I use a small pot with a few inches of simmering water, and a metal mixing bowl that is big enough to sit on the pot, not in it).

Allow the chocolate to cool enough to handle.  Pour your chocolate into a zip lock baggie, cut a super small tip off the corner of the bag and pipe on the eyes and mouth. Using dots for the eyes and different shapes for the mouths – oval, sad, circular – filled in solid with chocolate.

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September 7, 2011

Cinnamon Bun Popcorn

(recipe from Just Get off Your Butt and Bake)

This recipe is a fantastic idea for teacher gifts. My daughter and I made this for her teacher on the first day of Kindergarten. Crispy, sweet, cinnamon-spiced popcorn with a creamy chocolatey swirl is such a perfect snack. Seriously, it almost did not make it to the teacher. Actually I’m pretty glad that we were giving it away because my daughter and I would have eaten it all in minutes. My mom took some home and instead of sharing with my dad and brother, she saved it for herself. Really it is that good.

This would work really well as a Halloween treat for a costume party, or to give away as Fall treats! However, I would eat this at any time of the year and it would make me smile. What will make you smile is that this is very easy to make.

Cinnamon Bun Caramel Corn

12 cups of Popped Popcorn (1 cup of kernels)

1 cup nuts (optional) – cashews, almonds, peanuts, pecans

1 Cup Brown Sugar

1/2 Cup Karo Syrup

a pinch of salt

1 stick or cube of Real Butter

1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)

1 teaspoon Vanilla

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Almond bark, vanilla chips or white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 250 degrees

Pop your popcorn – I use my air popper so that there isn’t the added oil from popping in a pan and it cuts down on the hard kernels too. You could even use microwave popcorn, but I’m not sure how buttered microwave popcorn would taste. Remove any kernels.

You will need about 12 cups of popcorn.

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Once melted add your brown sugar, Karo Syrup and salt.

Over medium heat melt the butter and sugar (You can do this part in a microwave by cooking in 2 minute intervals and stirring until completely melted).

While the butter and sugar are cooking get the vanilla, cinnamon and baking soda ready. Once the sugar and butter are melted, remove from heat and add these last three ingredients. The caramel will lighten in color and sort of poof up…this is good!

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Pour the caramel over the popcorn in a very large bowl (or a few big bowls if you don’t have one large). Toss the caramel and popcorn until completely coated (oh and you can add nuts at this point too).

Place your pan or pans in a preheated 250 degree oven.

Stir every 5 minutes and rotate pans. The recipe I used said to cook for 20 minutes for crunchy corn, I think it was more like 30-35 minutes.

Remove the popcorn from the oven and lay out on wax paper on the counter to cool. It will get crunchier as it cools.

Now you can melt the white chocolate and drizzle over all the popcorn – as little or as much as you’d like.

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~Enjoy~

Amanda

August 30, 2011

School Snack Time

 

My daughter started Kindergarten this year! Yes, I am very excited about her being in school, probably as excited as my daughter. As a child, I loved school, especially the beginning of the year! Meeting new friends, teachers, organizing your new backpack and wearing those new clothes that you picked out weeks ago but only got to admire on hangers. A fresh start to a new year was exciting.

My daughter’s first day of kindergarten went smoothly, without emotional breakdown (not that I suspected my daughter would have any problems). She got to go to the “big kid” school, ride the “big van” at daycare and made a new friend. What an accomplished week for my little Kindergartener.  This year she goes to daycare before lunchtime at school so I do not have to make lunches, daycare provides lunch.  However, we do have to send a healthy snack for the morning at school.  So, my daughter and I sat down and made a list of healthy foods she likes and we made a quick reference guide when preparing snacks (I’m a list kind of person, I cannot live without them, they make sense of my world): carrots, apples with peanut butter, whole wheat saltines with peanut butter and jelly, cheese crackers, raisins, air-popped popcorn, fruit cups (homemade), and homemade granola bars.

You know me, if you read my blog, and I like to make everything from scratch. That is the only way to know, really, what is in my daughter’s food. So instead of store bought granola bars, I make homemade bars and send them to school with her. I pack them with high energy ingredients (do little kids really need more energy? yes, yes they do) and less sugar than in the store-bought bars. I use Alton Brown’s recipe – really anything he makes I trust, he’s the science guy of food.

GRANOLA BARS

(adapted from Alton Brown’s Granola Bars)

8 ounces old-fashioned rolled oats, approximately 2 cups

1 1/2 ounces raw sunflower seeds, approximately 1/2 cup

3 ounces sliced almonds, approximately 1 cup

1 1/2 ounces wheat germ, approximately 1/2 cup

6 ounces honey, approximately 1/2 cup

1 3/4 ounces dark brown sugar, approximately 1/4 cup packed

1-ounce unsalted butter, plus extra for pan

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 1/2 ounces chopped dried fruit, any combination of apricots, cherries or blueberries.

Other Add-ins: chocolate chips, marshmallows, peanut butter, cinnamon chips any combination your heart desires.

Nonstick cooking spray

Butter a 9 by 9-inch glass baking dish and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In place of the first four ingredients, I used about 3-4 cups of my own homemade granola that was already made. If you are not using granola, spread the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, and wheat germ onto a half-sheet pan. Place in the oven and toast for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, combine the honey, brown sugar, butter, extract and salt in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until the brown sugar has completely dissolved.

Once the oat mixture is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees F. Immediately add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture, add the dried fruit, and stir to combine. Turn mixture out into the prepared baking dish and press down, evenly distributing the mixture in the dish and place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Hope all of you out there enjoy this healthy snack!

August 18, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup—Cupcakes

This, my friends, will make you weak in the knees if you like chocolate, peanut butter, especially the two combined. Funny enough I know a guy, he doesn’t like peanut butter and chocolate – I think someone needs to check his frontal lobe for injury or maybe his medulla oblongata needs adjusting!

Moving on…this was a fun cupcake to make. I was inspired by Amanda Cupcake (it must be in the name!) who made milky way cupcakes and melted milky way candy bars and added it to her frosting—so many ideas went fleeting through my head, but first this one…Reese’s PB Cups!

 

Chocolate Cake

(makes about 30 cupcakes)

2  cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 package of instant chocolate pudding (only the powder)
1 1/4 c. milk
2 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks room temperature butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs

1 bag Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups miniatures

1 bag Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups minis (the smallest of them all)

Preheat oven to 350

Whisk together flour, baking powder, pudding powder and salt. Measure out the milk and add the vanilla to the milk, set aside.

With an electric mixer in a large bowl combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time allowing each to incorporate well before moving on to the next ingredient.

Incorporate the dry ingredients and milk by alternating – 1/3 of the dry ingredients and 1/3 of the milk. Once all the milk and dry ingredients are mixed beat the batter for a minute or two.

Use a small ice cream scoop for the cupcake batter. It makes the perfect size cupcakes. Scoop a heaping scoop of the batter into each cup. Stick one Reese’s miniature peanut butter cup in the middle of the batter in each cup.

Bake for 18 minutes.

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Peanut Butter Ribbon

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Mix ingredients together in a sauce pan. Heat over low heat stirring constantly until peanut butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.  Set and aside and cool, while making the frosting.

Melted PB Cups for Frosting

Melt 1/2 cup of peanut butter cups with a little heavy cream over low heat until completely melted. Set aside and cool while making the frosting.

Peanut Butter Buttercream

1/2 cup shortening (used the Crisco stick because it’s easier to measure)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup) – room temperature
4 cups confectioners sugar
2-4 T. whole milk
1 T. vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter ribbon (recipe below)

In a stand mixer, beat the shortening and butter together, add the vanilla bean and extract.  Incorporate the sugar gradually – 1c. at a time. Once sugar is incorporated (it will look dry) add the peanut butter ribbon and milk 1 T. at a time until you get the consistency you like. It will be about 2-3T for a medium consistency.

At this point you may cover with a wet cloth while not in use, or place the frosting in the fridge if you plan on using it much later.

In your pastry/frosting bag (or Ziploc with the corner cut off) drizzle a little peanut butter ribbon down one side of the bag and a little of the melted peanut butter cups down the other side, just enough coat the side of the bag. Don’t let the two pool at the bottom of the bag or you’ll have a giant glop of the candy without frosting. You want the candy to swirl in the frosting…this is fun!

Pipe on the frosting with your favorite tip (or if using a Ziploc cut the tip as big as you prefer for decorating).

Use the new Peanut Butter Cup minis (in the candy isle) to top.

~Enjoy

Amanda

May 16, 2011

Ratatouille Pizza

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We (my daughter and I) call this pizza the sunshine pizza. It’s so bright and happy and with the roasted marinated peppers as rays of a sun.  This recipe for pizza dough, though, is the bomb. Definitely the best I found. This weekend I got a great opportunity to help out with a catering event. It was a lot of fun and I learned so much in such a short amount of time.  Thanks Anne, it was awesome! (visit her site@ http://annewilesgourmet.com/). There was so much great food! In particular, Anne had set up a grilled pizza station for guests to top their own pizzas. We finished them off on the grill. Such a yummy, fun idea!

So now my inspiration kicked in for this fantastic ratatouille pizza.  I originally saw this idea on www.morethanamouthfull.com. I must say I am not a big fan of eggplant, as much as I want to be, it’s just on the “ok” list for me. But on this pizza it is pretty fantastic mixed with the squash, red onion, peppers and fresh mozz and basil! Perfecto!

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Dough (by Marcy Goldman)

1 1/2 cup warm water

2 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast

2 tsp sugar (or honey or agave)

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

2-3 cups bread flour

Olive oil for brushing the pans and dough.

In a stand mixer. Mix the water and yeast and let it sit for 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the sugar, salt, oil, cornmeal, all-purpose flour and 2 cups of bread flour and mix to make a soft mass.  Knead with the dough hook on the slowest speed of the mixer, dusting in additional flour as required to form a soft, elastic dough, about 5 to 8 minutes.  Form dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until almost doubled, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Gently deflate the dough, cover and allow to rest an additional 15 minutes.

Gently deflate the dough.  Press or roll out dough to fit prepared pizza pans.

If dough resists or otherwise retracts, let it rest for a few minutes, then gently coax it to fit pan.  Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on top of dough.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

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Thinly slice a yellow squash, Japanese eggplant (it’s closer in size to the yellow squash) and red onion. Slice roasted peppers into thin strips and dice some sun dried tomatoes (you can use fresh thin sliced tomato and layer it with the eggplant and squash.

Brush the crust with olive oil and sprinkle some fresh oregano, or brush with a garlicky cream sauce.  Leaving about an inch from the edge of the crust alternate the eggplant and squash (tomato too if you are using fresh) once around. This is where my daughter got excited saying “hey, it’s a pattern!” Next layer some onion slices. Now alternate another layer of eggplant and squash until the pizza is completely covered. Lay the slices of peppers, we liked the sun pattern, you can do whatever way you’d like. Sprinkle a mixture of your favorite cheeses or mix and top with fresh mozzarella, basil and salt and pepper.

Bake 15 minutes, and then reduce heat to 400 F.  Bake another 15 – 20 minutes until cheese is melted and lightly brown.

Or cook your pizza on the grill – 450-500 degrees and cook the pizza on both sides just a little. Dress your pizza with toppings and then finish it off on the grill until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden.

February 1, 2011

Frozen Herbs and Citrus

Few more freezer ideas for everyone!

Recently a few tips were shared with me, that I wanted to share with all of you. Thanks to my friend Linda (who once owned a restaurant and has a bunch of helpful tips like these. Lucky for me I can pick her brain – lucky for you, I can share them, here, with you!).  I am not sure about you, but it seems whenever I go to the fridge in need of chopped off up parsley to finish off my dish or when I need the zest of a lemon for my salad dressing I find wilted herbs and moldy lemons.  While I was helping Linda to organize her culinary life on the computer, I was mentioning some of the new ideas I had for my blog. She shared some great ideas with me for herbs and citrus. Most herbs freeze well for purposes of using them in cooking. Parsley will wilted upon thawing, but if you chop the parsley and then freeze it, it is ready to be added to soups, pastas, casseroles or whatever else directly out of the freezer. The flavor remains unchanged and parsley keeps its bright green color.

So for all of you who did not know this wonderful tip – Thank Linda!

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I am sure this will work with other herbs, but I haven’t tried any to test the color and flavor – let me know what your experience has been!

Freezing citrus zest and juice is another tip. First zest the citrus (lemons and limes are what I use most)  and separate your zest so you have one type in its own bag, label the bags and freeze.

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Now juice the lemons and limes and put the juice in ice cube trays to freeze. Once the juice is frozen you can put them all in one big bag and pull out cubes as you need them. 1 cube = about a Tablespoon of juice! Conveniently premeasured too!

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Those are a few quick tips for you…remember to label and date items you put in the freezer!

One last thing, a useful tip for keeping organized, I like to keep a list by the freezer with a list of the items in my freezer. This way I am reminded of all the great things I put in there so things do not go to waste. This is also my quick reference to what’s for dinner!

January 23, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies (w/Browned Butter)

While watching the Famous Amos cookie story on Food Network (awhile back) it became apparent to me that you can use brown sugar in place of granulated sugar in cookies. There may have been more interesting useful tips but since it’s been months, and I didn’t write anything down, all I remember was the use of brown sugar. Since then I have been trying recipes substituting brown sugar for some or all of the granulated sugar. Brown sugar makes a softer cookie and adds a nutty, caramel flavor and that is what we all want out of a cookie – soft chewy and flavorful. Next time I will try this recipe with all brown sugar (just to see what happens). And, really, who doesn’t like brown sugar! My daughter calls it “chocolate sugar” and I thought that was just about right – I love brown sugar just about as much as I love chocolate! Any recipe with brown sugar in the title sells it to me. Speaking of, a friend of mine gave me her extra copy of The Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham and this is such a great book – so much inspiration for breakfast! Anyway, there is a Chewy Brown Sugar Muffins recipe in that book – they are on the “to make” list. I drool just thinking of “chewy brown sugar.” 

Also in this recipe, I used what is called Fiori di Sicilia in place of vanilla and the orange zest. Fiori di sicilia is a mixture of citrus and vanilla.  You can get fiori di sicilia from King Arthur flour or google it. Of course if you want classic chocolate chip cookies use only vanilla and the recipe won’t be affect except for flavor.

(adapted from Bon Appetit Desserts book, classic chocolate chip cookie recipe)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ tsp grated orange zest (I used ½ teaspoon of fiori di sicilia)
2 large eggs
2 cups of milk chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375° F.

1. In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

2. Beat butter, sugars and extract in large bowl until creamy.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. Gradually stir in the flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips.

5. I use my small ice cream scoop and scoop dough onto an ungreased baking sheet.

6. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.

7. Cool on wire racks.

Brown Butter:

Brown butter seems to be a new trend for desserts; my recent Bon Appetit magazine has a browned butter brownie recipe.  I have been seeing brown butter in lots of recipes lately. Brown butter smells so good and tastes just as good. You know “color adds flavor” and that is definitely true with brown butter. I usually brown my butter and then fry my eggs in it – Mmmm. You can use it in sweet and savory dishes – pasta, eggs, meat, fish, cookies, brownies, cakes – and more!

Technique: Brown the butter until the butter is foamy and starts to brown. You will see little brown bits in the butter and it will smell so heavenly!  Cool in the freezer or fridge until the butter until it is the consistency of softened butter so you can cream it with the sugar.  (see Chow’s how to brown butter)

(sorry for the lack of photos – I didn’t actually intend on posting this recipe when I made it – don’t ask me why)

January 16, 2011

Doughnut Muffins

(www.kingarthurflour.com)

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Batter

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg, to taste (I reduced this from 1 1/4 KAF says to use)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 2/3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup milk (I substituted half ‘n half I was out of milk!)

Topping

  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon and sugar (1/4 cup sugar 1T cinnamon)

1) Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a standard muffin tin. Or line with 12 paper or silicone muffin cups, and grease the cups with non-stick vegetable oil spray; this will ensure that they peel off the muffins nicely.

2) In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream together the butter, vegetable oil, and sugars till smooth.

3) Add the eggs, beating to combine.

4) Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla.

5) Stir the flour into the butter mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour and making sure everything is thoroughly combined.

6) Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared pan, filling the cups nearly full.

7) Bake the muffins for 15 to 17 minutes, or until they’re a pale golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the middle of one of the center muffins comes out clean.

8) Remove them from the oven, and let them cool for a couple of minutes, or until you can handle them. While they’re cooling, melt the butter for the topping (this is easily done in the microwave).

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9) Use a pastry brush to paint the top of each muffin with the butter, then sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar. Or simply dip the tops of muffins into the melted butter, then roll in the cinnamon-sugar.

10) Serve warm, or cool on a rack and wrap airtight. Store for a day or so at room temperature.

Yield: 12 muffins.

January 1, 2011

Brownies

Ah, New Years Day! Another year begins and another fresh start. Seems this year is getting off to a great start for me – although it could just be that last year is ending on a good note. One day, I know, doesn’t make all the difference, but I think that it really gets everyone motivated – I hope you all keep your motivations! There will be lots of change this year for my daughter and I – all good of course. We will be moving and she will start Kindergarten. Last year was a bit bipolar with some terrible things happening in my family, but personally some really great things ending the last part of my year. So I hope for a better year with less of the bad stuff and more of the good stuff. I hope that all you reading and following my blog have terrific years as well, and I hope you continue following me here – and putting in your suggestions!

To start the year off with some inspiration I finally watched Julie and Julia (this I will add to my personal DVD collection). This is such a foodie movie! I can’t believe I waited so long to watch this movie. Everyone has suggested it to me and I don’t know why I didn’t watch it sooner. It’s probably that pre-Wii and Netflix I rarely paid $5 for a pay-per-view and I suck at returning Redbox movies. Either way I am glad I finally watched this movie, because I am more inspired now. I can relate to both of these ladies so much. There is a point in the movie when Julie received her first comment on her blog (granted it was from her mother) she was elated – I felt that same way when the first person (that I didn’t know) commented on my blog. Something interesting happened, right after watching the movie this morning, I received my FIRST pingback! I was SUPER excited – a little silly I know, it’s ONE pingback (link to one of my posts), but that is where it all starts. I have worked hard this past year on my blog and I have been published and now have a regular spot in the food column in the local paper. I must be doing something right! Now I am vowing to spend more time on my blog (one of the #1 blogger rules – blog often!) and more time on my other food writing goals – I am going to be fearless and step out of my comfort zone!

The other part of my new year inspiration came from Tyler Florence’s book Stirring the Pot. After reading it I have become very inspired to ORGANIZE my kitchen (If you know me, you know organization excites me and that I am a little obsessed with it). TF has some great ideas for organizing your kitchen and fridge/freezer by having dinners you can just pull out of the freezer for quick instant meals.  So as I journey through this year organizing, moving and beginning new chapters in my life I hope to share it all with you and hopefully we’ll suck in a few others along the way. So thank you for being a friend and following my blog. The brownie recipe below is the dessert that I finally mastered and my daughter and I rang in the new year with (along with Beef Bourguignon, which I will also be blogging).

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL! Welcome to 2011!

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adaptation from Epicurious.com

  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup espresso powder (optional)
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cold large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips/chunks
  • 2/2 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Line a 9×13 square baking pan with parchment paper overhanging two sides.

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a pot of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth.  Remove the bowl from the pot and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Stir in the vanilla with a whisk. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with a little batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

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You can make many variations of brownies I have put caramel on them, white chocolate chunks, dark chocolate chips, walnuts, pecans, dried fruit. We topped these with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream, while they were still warm …. MMMMM!