Yay for Fat Tuesday: Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies


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Today is Fat Tuesday, so I get to eat all the cookies, cake, chocolate and ice cream I want. In fact, I’m eating a brownie as I type this. Lent begins tomorrow, and I’m giving up desserts for the second year in a row. Six weeks with zero sugary goodness.

I was raised just “semi-Catholic.” I attended Catholic mass on occasion with my mom, but I never participated in Communion, Confirmation or anything else that makes you an official member of the Catholic church. But I still feel like it’s a good practice to give up something difficult for a short period—not only for spirituality—
but for the sake of my mind and body.

Giving up dessert seems silly, but it’s a huge huuuuuuuge challenge for me. When I feel happy, I crave something sweet. When I’m depressed, I crave something sweet. When I’m stressed, angry, relaxed, excited….I crave something sweet! So giving up desserts not only detoxes my body from sugar overload, it also forces me to deal with my emotions in a different way.

Last year was difficult. I ended up eating a loooot of whole grain cinnamon-sugar cereal with strawberries after dinner to replace my usual dessert of chocolate or ice cream. But now I feel like that’s just cheating. Yes it was healthier, but I was still trying to find satisfaction by indulging in something sweet—and too much of it. That defeats the purpose.

This time around, I’d really like to replace the act of “having dessert” with something more productive. Maybe it’s going for a walk after dinner. Maybe it’s blogging. Or just learning something new. It sounds completely ridiculous, but that’s how big of a problem dessert is for me, really!

And OK. I’ll confess, I’m already going to cheat right off the bat. Lent begins three days before my highly-anticipated, Carribbean cruise vacation. I know God would be so much more proud of me if I were to stay on Lent during my cruise….lol. But I can’t. I won’t! Only because this will be my last real vacation before things get crazy at work, and I’m spending a ton of stinkin’ money for this trip. So I will eat desserts on my vacation, and will start Lent as soon as it’s over. I might even extend it past Easter to even things out. HA. WISH ME LUCK.

I’ve been obsessed with clean eating lately, so I’ve been avoiding flours, processed foods, butter and unhealthy fats as much as possible. I found this recipe for Paleo almond butter chocolate chip cookies, and I swear I may never make regular cookies again. They’re AMAZING, and you cannot tell whatsoever that they don’t have any flour, butter or oil! Plus they’re dairy free.

I adapted this recipe from Fast Paleo: http://fastpaleo.com/almond-butter-dark-chocolate-chip-cookies/

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Ingredients:

1 cup almond butter
3 T honey
4 T liquid egg whites (or 1 whole egg should do)
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
2/3 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I used dairy free chocolate chips)

In a bowl, mix together the first seven ingredients. Stir in shredded coconut and dark chocolate chips.

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Place spoonfuls (a little smaller than golf ball size) of the cookie dough about two to three inches apart on a greased baking sheet.

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Bake at 350 degrees for nine to 12 minutes.

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Serve with a generous scoop of vanilla coconut milk ice cream. Yum!

RECIPE:

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup almond butter
3 T honey
4 T liquid egg whites (or 1 whole egg should do)
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
2/3 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I used dairy free chocolate chips)

In a bowl, mix together the first seven ingredients. Stir in shredded coconut and dark chocolate chips. Place spoonfuls (a little smaller than golf ball size) of the cookie dough about two to three inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for nine to 12 minutes.

Celebrating a Full Head of Hair with: Smore Cake


Novin celebrated his 26th birthday (somewhat) recently, and he was less than thrilled. He came to the realization that time is rapidly progressing without mercy, and his number one fear of balding…can become a reality just about any time now. Thankfully he got to ring in 26 with a full head of hair.

So to celebrate, I threw him a party, bought him a bottle of Pendleton whiskey, a really really big glass (See Figures A and B), and made a delicious homemade Smore cake. Well…the cake was probably more for my own benefit than his…But how can a Smore cake NOT make you look forward to every future birthday, bald or not?

Figure A.

Figure B.

Brisket and a giant Manhattan makes one happy birthday boy.

Making this cake involved too much multitasking that I didn’t take photos of the process. But I do have lots of photos of the finished product and oozing marshmallow filling. This cake takes about 3 hours to make from start to finish, and with four layers and all its richness, it can feed a ton of people.

Smore Cake

Ingredients

Cake

3 cups sugar

1-1/2 cups buttermilk

1-1/2 cups brewed coffee, cooled

3 eggs

3/4 cup canola oil

3 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 cups baking cocoa

2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1-1/4 teaspoon salt

Filling

Approximately 12 oz. Marshmallow Fluff

Chocolate Ganache Frosting

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

12 ounces heavy cream

Graham Cracker Streusel

1-1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs

3/4 cup of brown sugar (loosely packed)

1 ½ tsp cinnamon

2/3 cup melted butter

Garnish

Minimarshmallows

Leftover Graham Cracker Streusel

Chocolate chips

Directions

To make cake:

In a large bowl, beat the sugar, buttermilk, coffee, eggs, oil, chocolate and vanilla until well blended. In another large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt; gradually beat into buttermilk mixture until blended.

Pour into 2 greased and floured 10-in. round baking pans. Bake at 350° for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

To make ganache:

Heat the heavy cream in a quart-sized, microwavable container and microwave for 3 to 4 minutes on high, or until it just begins to simmer; be careful not to allow cream to boil over. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand for 2 minutes. Mix together until smooth. Let it come to room temperature. Using a mixer, beat ganache on high until it becomes thick like frosting.
To make graham cracker streusel:

Mix together graham cracker crumbs, butter, cinnamon and sugar thoroughly (easiest using hands to form clumps). Spread evenly ov

er a greased baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees, or until golden and crisp (It will look a lot like granola chunks). Cool completely.

To assemble:

On a flat surface using a sharp knife, cut each cake layer in half to form four cake layers. Put first layer on large serving plate and frost the top with a thin layer of ganache. Then spread a thin layer of marshmallow fluff over ganache. (Be careful not to get carried away with the marshmallow, I did, and it started oozing out of the cake.) Generously sprinkle graham cracker streusel over marshmallow layer. Repeat with the next two cake layers. After final cake layer is added on top, frost the whole cake with remaining ganache frosting. Decorate as desired with remaining streusel, mini marshmallows and chocolate chips.

Enjoy!

Cake, cake, CAKE!


Lately I have developed a cake-making obsession, which should be no surprise to those who know me. So I’ve decided to start a new section of my blog, cakesbymisty, wholly dedicated and devoted to delicious and unique cake recipes.

I’m not quite ready to start sharing recipes, as these cakes are my own, and typing up recipes and instructions for a 4-layer cake seems to be time consuming. So for now, I just wanted to share some photos of the cake recipes to come! The photos aren’t great, but the cakes are amazing! Let me know if there is a particular recipe you’d like to see first!

Neopolitan Cake. White cake with layers of chocolate ganache, fresh strawberry whipped cream, cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut.

Inside view of the Neopolitan Cake.

Lemon cake with strawberry filling and cream cheese frosting.

Chocolate and Dulce de Leche Cake. Light chocolate cake with layers of chocolate ganache, dulce de leche filling and frosted with chocolate ganache, garnished with almond roca and salted caramel sauce.

Red velvet cake with strawberry cream cheese frosting.

Still to come…photos of my smore cake!

Screwing up in the Kitchen with: Bunny Butt Cake


I appreciate a forgiving recipe. It’s comforting to know that if you screw something up, just a little bit of this…or a little bit of that, can save it.

So when I was at my cousin’s house last weekend for an early Easter dinner and she was panicking about forgetting to add the milk to her scalloped potatoes after it had been baking an hour, I told her not to fret. “Just add the milk anyway, mix it around a little, and top it with a ton of cheese. You can’t go wrong with more cheese. Cheese can save anything!” I said. Sure enough, the potatoes were still delicious and I ate way too much of it.

When she accidentally added a whole cup of oil to the boxed carrot cake we were making for dessert–instead of the 2/3 cup the recipe called for–she frantically started spooning out the excess. I told her not to worry. “More oil can only make it taste BETTER and moist!” I proclaimed. Yes, it made the cake a little more soft and crumbly than was ideal, but it all worked out and we made the cutest little bunny butt cake ever (see below).

And when I accidentally drowned the Baked Spinach Dip Mini Bread Bowl appetizers with so much spinach dip that you couldn’t find the bread part…well. OK. We just decided not to bake that batch.

The point is, we made the cutest bunny butt cake ever, and you should make it too. (It’s made using boxed cake, shhhh) It’s fun, easy, and the kids love it.

Until you tell them it’s a butt…

Aiden's reaction when he found out it was a "butt"

Bunny Butt Cake

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker: http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/bunny-butt-cake/09cd82c8-ada0-4de7-bd85-2cd60ef67b7f

Ingredients

1 box cake mix of your choice (we used carrot cake)

(Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box)

1 container white frosting  (cream cheese frosting is great)

Red food coloring

Green food coloring

1 jumbo marshmallow, cut off two ¼-inch slices (for bunny feet)

3 cups shredded coconut

10 pieces small round candies for bunny toes (I’m not entirely sure what kind of candy we used)

Jelly beans to decorate “grass” (optional)

A couple toothpicks

Construction paper

Heat oven to 325°F. Grease 1 1/2-quart oven-safe bowl (8 inches across top) with shortening; coat with flour (do not use cooking spray). Lightly grease 3 muffin cups in regular-size muffin pan. Make cake batter as directed on box. Pour cake batter in 3 muffin cups, filling two-thirds full.

Pour remaining batter into 1 1/2-quart bowl.

Bake cupcakes 17 to 21 minutes, bowl 47 to 53 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove cakes from muffin cups and bowl; place rounded sides up on cooling racks. Cool completely, about 1 hour. If necessary, cut off rounded tops of cakes. Place cake on a large plate or tray.

Spoon frosting into large bowl. Add red food color to make desired pink color.

Spread 1/3 cup frosting over cake.

Use toothpicks to adhere cupcakes to bowl cake for feet and bunny tail.

Spread remaining frosting over cake.

Sprinkle cake with 2 cups of the coconut, making sure every part of the “bunny” is nicely covered; press gently to adhere.

Clearly we weren't done here...

Using toothpicks, adhere marshmallow slices to bunny feet. Press on round candies for toes.

Tee hee. I think I gave the bunny too many toes...

Shake 1 cup coconut and 3 drops green food color in tightly covered jar until evenly tinted (or just carefully mix in a bowl).  Surround bunny with tinted coconut.

Cut ears from construction paper.  They don’t have to be perfect. We made one ear that was longer than the other, oops.

Wrap ends that will be inserted into cake with plastic food wrap or aluminum foil. Insert into cake, or place underneath cake.

Yay!

The kids were amused...

Enjoy!

Valentine’s Day Gluttony: Brownies with Salted Caramel Sauce


Today a friend asked me how my weekend went, and I was excited to tell her about it–until I realized how gluttonous and shameful it was.

I told her how great date night was at Benihana and how it was so good I scarfed every last bite on my plate, including the fried rice with extra globs of garlic butter…I told her how cool the Valentine’s Day weekend wine tasting was, each of the 13 wines paired with a different chocolate dessert, sometimes two…I rambled about how we went to happy hour at McMenamin’s afterwards, the burger and Cajun tots hitting the spot after all that wine…but I left out the part about having a second dinner a few hours later of brown rice, chicken pot stickers and broccoli to “balance everything out.” I also told her we celebrated my mom’s birthday at The Old Spaghetti Factory for lunch on Sunday, but left out the part about devouring a whole plate of spaghetti and meatballs, a loaf of french sourdough and spumoni ice cream.

I also failed to mention that–as if to mock me–after all the damage was done, my mom gave me my souvenir gift from her recent trip to Panama…a frilly teensy weensy bikini…in a size or two too small.

I drowned my sorrows on the couch Sunday night with Chinese takeout, season 4 episodes of Breaking Bad and…Brownies with Salted Caramel.

To continue my shame, after I finished baking I stood at the stove dipping pieces of brownie that fell off the cookie cutters directly into the salted caramel pot and popped them in my mouth like potato chips.

When I went to bed I had to lay on my back like a beached whale because laying on my side made it impossible to breathe. While running 30 miles a week does increase my appetite, I need to figure out where to draw the line. But that will have to wait until after Valentine’s Day, because I’ve still got these brownies to eat, and a jar full of salted caramel in the fridge.

This brownie recipe is amazing! It’s as easy as making boxed brownies, and just as tasty! I adapted this recipe from the blog Ingredients Inc. To get the original recipe visit: http://www.ingredientsinc.net/2011/01/easy-valentines-day-brownies/

Easy Valentine’s Brownies

 

Ingredients

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup butter
1 cup raw cane sugar (you can use regular too)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in the flour mixture, sugar, eggs and vanilla.


Spoon batter into a greased and floured 8 x 8-inch baking pan and bake for 25 minutes.

Cool in the pan on a wire racks. Cut into heart shapes with cookie cutters if desired. Drizzle with salted caramel (recipe below).

Salted Caramel Sauce

Recipe adapted from: http://lickmyspoon.com/recipes/salted-caramel-sauce/

Ingredients

1 cup sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup water

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (In honor of my heritage I used Philippine fleur de sel)

Heat sugar and water in a 2-quart or 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir to help the sugar dissolve, but stop stirring when the sugar comes to a boil. You can swirl the pan a bit if you want. PAY CLOSE ATTENTION THE WHOLE TIME. I turned my head a minute to cut the brownies and before I knew it the whole thing burned, my house was filled with smoke and I had to start over. 😦

When the liquid sugar hits a dark amber color, add all the butter to the pan. The mixture will foam up and thicken. Whisk until the butter has melted. Once the butter has melted, take the pan off the heat.

Add the cream to the pan (the mixture will foam up again) and continue to whisk to incorporate.

Add the sea salt and whisk until caramel sauce is smooth.

Let cool in the pan for a couple minutes, then pour into a glass jar and let cool to room temperature. Don’t worry if the sauce seems a bit too thin at first, it will thicken as it cools. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Warm before serving to loosen it up again.

Enjoy!

Modeling the frilly, teensy weensy bikini top after a gut busting lunch.

No One Should Suffer Through Life Eating Bad Dessert: Eggnog Tiramisu Trifle


Right now I’m feeling pretty ambitious. I have volunteered to make a fancy schmancy Christmas Eve brunch for 10 friends, and I’m convinced I can squeeze in a 6-mile run before the praline french toast casserole needs to come out of the oven. My mom has requested my homemade baklava for Christmas dessert, but I offered to throw in an eggnog tiramisu trifle too–just for good measure.

Every year at Christmas I also put together a gift basket of home-baked goods for Novin’s family, because their idea of gourmet dessert is a red velvet cake from WALMART. One time they bought a cake from a budget grocery store, and I literally had to spit the cake out–into the garbage–because it tasted like dirt. Yes, dirt. From the ground. Don’t tell me that “earthy” taste was from the cocoa beans…I won’t buy it. How could one go through life like that? Dessert is supposed to be an indulgence, and Christmas is not the time to suffer through a bad dessert. Another time, I baked a beautiful carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, gloriously displayed on my grandmother’s glass cake stand…and Novin’s mom asked what store I bought it from. Bless her heart.

Because I want them to enjoy a variety of ‘actual’ desserts, I decided to make them cardamom pistachio dark chocolate bark, apricot cookie bars, upside-down pear cake and mini pecan pie tarts. Ummmm? Can there be 30 hours in a day please? I’m making stuffed portabellas for dinner for a friend tonight, so maybe I can put her to work.

I’ll let you know how this ambition plays out…but for now, here’s the recipe for my eggnog tiramisu trifle. It’s suuuper easy but is so beautiful it looks complicated. No baking required. It’s sure to impress your Christmas guests!

Wish me luck!

Ingredients

This recipe makes enough to feed a party (20-30), so if you want to feed a smaller crowd, cut the ingredients in half.
2 boxes of vanilla wafers

2 packages cream cheese, softened (I used light cream cheese so it wasn’t too rich)

2 8 oz. containers of cool whip (use light or fat free if you’d like)

1 to 1 1/2 cups prepared coffee (I used instant)

4 boxes vanilla pudding (3.4 oz each box)

6 cups eggnog (I used low fat)

about 1/2 to 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup toffee candy or almond roca, broken up into crumbles (optional but strongly recommended)

Instructions:

Using a blender or food processor, grind up chocolate chips into almost a powder.

In a mixer, blend together the cream cheese, cool whip, pudding and eggnog.

Layer the bottom of a trifle dish or large glass bowl with vanilla wafers.

Sprinkle with some of the coffee (just enough so each cookie is moistened but not drowning). Top with a layer (roughly 1-2 inches thick) of the pudding mixture.

Sprinkle some chocolate chip powder over pudding. Sprinkle broken up pieces of toffee candy on top of chocolate chip powder.

Repeat layers until your bowl is full, or you run out of ingredients. Make sure the top layer is the pudding mixture, sprinkled with a bunch of chocolate chip powder and toffee candy, for presentation. There is not an exact science to this. The pudding layer can really be as thick or as thin as you want. It all ends up creaming together in the end. Cover the trifle bowl with plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge overnight. The cookies will need to soften into a cake-like texture. Once it sits overnight it is ready to serve!

This is the amount 1/2 of this recipe made. The recipe as-written would fill the whole bowl.

Enjoy!

Caramel Apple Pie for our Thanksgiving in December


Novin and I decided to skip Thanksgiving this year to travel to warmer weather in the Dominican Republic. Novin hates turkey anyway, and I thought a healthier Thanksgiving dinner of rice and beans and plantains sounded like a good change. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy and green bean casserole, but every year we have 2 or 3 family dinners to attend and by the end of the night I’m like a beached whale, bloated and banished to stretchy pants the rest of the weekend.

Turns out, rice and beans are a fabulous alternative to a traditional turkey dinner! The only thing missing from our Dominican Thanksgiving…was pie. When we were in the town of La Romana I discovered these amazing little passion fruit empanadas at a local grocery store bakery. Unfortunately, I made the tragic mistake of buying just one. We spent Thanksgiving in the city of Santo Domingo, and after dinner we walked the streets in search of these fruit empanadas, with no such luck.

Turns out, we didn’t get to skip the holiday as we planned…my mom just decided to celebrate Thanksgiving on December 11 instead. I volunteered to make dessert, as I usually do. I thought about making empanadas, but without the passion fruit filling it just wouldn’t be the same.  So for our Thanksgiving in December I decided to get my belated pie fix with a Caramel Apple Pie. It’s like an apple crisp and apple pie rolled into one, and will not disappoint!

I adapted this recipe from “Yummy Crunchy Caramel Apple Pie” from food.com. If you want to follow the original recipe go to: http://www.food.com/recipe/yummy-crunchy-caramel-apple-pie-31128

Instead of a single pie crust I made a double pie crust so I could make a larger pie in a rectangular baking dish. I also doubled the recipe for the crumb topping because I like a lot of it.

Makes one 8×11″ pie. Serves 10-12.

Pie Crust

(For a “2 crust” pie if you want to make an extra big pie like I did. Follow a recipe for a one-crust pie if you want something smaller)

2 1/2 cups flour

2 sticks COLD butter (1 pound)

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

6-8 T ice water

In a large bowl, mix flour, salt and sugar. Cut cold butter into chunks, and add to flour mixture. Using hands, mix butter into dough, until it begins to clump. Make sure to leave small chunks of butter in the dough, so the dough will become flaky. Begin adding water tablespoon by tablespoon, mixing by hand as you go, just until you can pinch some of the dough together and it sticks. You may or may not have to use all of the water. Form dough into a ball (it should still feel a bit crumbly, not super sticky or smooth) and refrigerate in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for 30 minutes to an hour. You want the butter chunks in the dough to be nice and cold when you roll it out later, again– for that flaky crust! Roll out on a floured surface for a 8×11″ rectangular pie. Trim edges after placing into pan.

For Pie Filling

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

6-8 cups thinly sliced peeled Granny Smith Apples (or about 5-6 apples)

2 tablespoons lemon juice (to prevent browning)

Crumb Topping

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup flour

1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats

3/4 cup butter

Final Topping

1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Directions:

To Make Filling: In a large mixing bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. Sprinkle lemon juice on apple slices. Add apple slices to sugar/flour mixture and gently toss until they are coated well. Transfer mixture to pie crust.

To Make Crumb Topping: Stir together brown sugar, flour, and oats. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until topping resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over apple mixture in pie.

To prevent over-browning while baking, cover edge of pie with foil. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake 25 to 30 minutes more, or until top is golden. Remove from oven. Drizzle top with caramel topping; sprinkle with pecans.





Cool on wire rack and serve!

Attempt at family photo for Christmas card, Take 1

Attempt at family photo for Christmas card, Take 2

There we go!

Surviving Friday Night Bingo with Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes and Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting


I love to do dorky things. My dorky Friday night activity was playing Bingo with friends at our local Bingo hall, drinking coffee in styrofoam cups and cheap boxed wine. And yes, the majority of the people there were no younger than 75. Now this isn’t your usual, fun, light-hearted bingo. This is serious bingo. If Bingo could be on crack, this would be it. The caller spews out numbers so fast that if you miss one–it’s all over–you lost your chance. The dedicated regulars who gamble hundreds of dollars use an automated computer that allows them to sit pretty until the computer tells them when they win. I swear they only call out three numbers and someone already yells out “BINGO!” Meanwhile, I’m three numbers behind, trying to catch up by hand with my ink marker, sweating on my $6 bingo cards made of thin, recycled paper. I swear the game is rigged.

I knew this intense activity would require lots of energizing snacks to keep us going through the stressful three-hour Bingo session. I’ve been having intense cravings for pumpkin desserts and thought spiced pumpkin cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting would be a perfect treat to keep us going–if we had a quick break to take a bite, that is.

With the Portland Marathon in just TWO DAYS, I didn’t even bother trying to lighten up the recipe. I’ll be needing the extra calories for 26.2 miles. Bring it on!

Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Allrecipes.com recipe: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/pumpkin-spice-cupcakes/detail.aspx

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup rice milk (just because I am allergic to milk protein, but any type of milk you choose will work great)
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 24 muffin cups, or line with paper muffin liners (I just used wax paper and made 12 bigger cupcakes). Sift together the flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove, allspice, salt, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.
  2. Beat 1/2 cup of butter, the white sugar, and brown sugar with an electric mixer in a large bowl until light and fluffy. The mixture should be noticeably lighter in color. Add the room-temperature eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to blend into the butter mixture before adding the next. Stir in the milk and pumpkin puree after the last egg. Stir in the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin cups.

4. Bake in the preheated oven until golden and no longer wet in the middle, about 25-35 minutes. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

5. While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting by beating the cream cheese and 1/4 cup butter with an electric mixer in a bowl until smooth. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar a little at a time until incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon; beat until fluffy. Once the cupcakes are cool, frost with the cream cheese icing.

6. Share with friends and family, and enjoy! (If you omit the frosting, add some chopped nuts or flax seeds and replace 1/2 cup of the white flour with whole wheat flour, you’ve got a great breakfast muffin!)

BJ putting on a show for me to express her enjoyment of the cupcakes.

Cupcakes+bingo=perfect combo.

PJ doesn't like cupcakes, so he stuck with the gummy worms...

Novin likes my cupcakes.

Cheers to a fun night!

Birthday Treats for Mr. Boss Man: Fresh Raspberry Bars


Today is my boss’ 40th birthday, so I decided to be thoughtful and bake some birthday treats. I know he loves raspberry, lemon and cheesecake, so immediately I thought to make these raspberry bars, a recipe from Better Home and Gardens Magazine that is absolutely amazing. I know they’re amazing, because when I entered them in my county fair this summer, they won a 1st place ribbon! And, my boss didn’t make it past 10 a.m. before he had to try one. And, he texted me on his drive to the Duck’s game to tell me his buddy was “eating one right now,” and “he said it was incredible.”

I wish I could take the credit, but props goes to Scott Peacock, the chef who created this recipe for BHG Magazine.

 

Ingredients for Fresh Raspberry Bars from Better Homes & Gardens (May 2011)

1 c. unsalted butter cut into 1″ chunks (2 sticks)

1/4 c. packed light brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 c. all-purpose flour

softened butter, for brushing side of foil

3/4 c. seedless raspberry jam or preserves

1 pint (2 cups) of fresh raspberries (I used frozen because I had no choice, and it worked fine)

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

4 oz. goat cheese, or another 4 oz. cream cheese, softened (I used cream cheese because goat cheese was freaking $5.99 at Fred Meyer)

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

2 Tbsp lemon zest

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 tsp vanilla

powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with a sheet of aluminum foil, leaving extra foil extending over the ends which will later be used to lift the bars from the pan.

In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until it just begins to blend and soften, about 30 seconds.

Add brown sugar and salt, beat on low speed until just incorporated, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add 2 cups of flour. Beat on low until the flour is incorporated then increase the speed to medium and mix until the ingredients form an even, cohesive dough. (Don’t worry about over mixing; this is a shortbread which is difficult to over mix with the large amount of butter being used.)

Break the dough into small chunks and press into the bottom of the prepared pan in an even layer. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

Ew, time to call my 10-year-old sister for a manicure...

 Lightly brush the exposed foil with softened butter. Spread the jam evenly over the crust. Sprinkle evenly with the fresh raspberries.

In a large bowl beat the cream cheese and goat cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Mix in the granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon of flour until blended. With the mixer running, add the egg, egg yolk, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

Pour the custard batter evenly over the berries. Tilt the pan back and forth to evenly distribute.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the custard is barely set.

Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour and then transfer to the refrigerator. Chill for 2 hours.

Use the foil to lift the bars from the pan. Gently peel the foil down and away from the bars. Cut into long bars, peel the foil from the bottom and transfer to a cutting board. Next, cut the bars into smaller squares.

Sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar.

Perfect Housewarming Dessert: Oatmeal Carmelitas


PBJ

Friday night we celebrated the housewarming of our dear friend PJ. He just purchased a great house for entertaining and invited about 15 people over for dinner. He and his girlfriend BJ had an eclectic menu planned: boneless buffalo wings, steak and chicken fajitas, Spanish rice, eggrolls, salad, and oatmeal carmelitas. So I decided to show up 2 hours early, take notes and photos while they cooked, and feature them as guest chefs for my blog. Now I know that is a lot of dishes, and I lost sleep at night thinking about how to organize this blog post with so many dishes to cover. So I decided to cover my three or four-ish favorites: the boneless wings, the steak fajitas with Spanish rice and the oatmeal carmelitas–starting with dessert, of course.

(Disclaimer: This menu is not recommended for marathon runners in training the night before a long run. I barely made it to the port-o-potty before finishing mile 7)

Oatmeal Carmelitas

Oatmeal carmelitas are basically the best invention ever, combining melted chocolate, gooey caramel and a buttery, oatmeal nut crust. I’m not sure if it’s accurate to say that carmelitas are the best thing ever or is the best thing ever. I think carmelitas are meant to be cut into individual-sized bars, which would mean that they are the best thing ever, in plural form. But when I eat them the whole thing remains intact…in a fork-direct-to-pan fashion. So I think for me it’s more accurate to use the singular form and say that oatmeal carmelita is the best thing ever, even if it sounds funny.

But ANYWAY, back to the point. I love oatmeal carmelita. I love it warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on top. The problem is I love it too much that I eat it until I feel sick. And then there’s regret…

So my advice is: Give them/it a try. But if you’re like me and inherited the Sweet Tooth Disease from your dad, make sure to actually cut them into small bars and just eat one or two. Not out of the pan. Put it on a plate, then leave the room. Maybe the building. And yes, I think STD (as in “Sweet Tooth Disease,” not the sexually transmitted kind) is a real disease. Lol.

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 cup quick cooking oats

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup melted butter

6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (I really like them with dark chocolate too)

1/2 cup chopped almonds (walnuts or pecans would work great too)

3/4 cup caramel ice cream topping (BJ is pretty liberal with this)

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one 9×9-inch square pan. Combine the 1 cup flour, baking soda, oats, brown sugar, and melted butter. Mix to combine, mixture will be very crumbly. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 10 minutes.Let cool slightly then sprinkle over the crust the chocolate chips and chopped nuts.

Mix the caramel ice cream topping with the 3 tablespoons of flour and drizzle over the chocolate chips. Top with the remaining oatmeal mixture. You will need to break it into small pieces to cover. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Let bars cool before cutting (or eat warm directly from pan with ice cream on top if you don’t have to go running or leave the house the next day). Enjoy!