Double Chocolate Mini Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream & Caramel Corn

Baking is in my genes. My dad is a ridiculous baker, and when my mom recently had to give up gluten, he became a ridiculously good gluten free baker.  He is so good that he makes gluten free goodies that nobody can tell are gluten free. Unfortunately, living in Georgia, I rarely get to taste his new products – I get pictures instead.

My dad and his amazing chocolate cream pie. 🙂 One day I hope to be that good!

After receiving a barrage of picture messages over the last few weeks of gluten free red velvet cupcakes and salted caramel cupcakes and chocolate cream pies and blueberry muffins, I was craving some baked goods. Specifically, I wanted homemade cupcakes.

We have GiGi’s and another place called Silver Lining here in Athens, and no offense to those bakeries, but they have nothing on my dad’s cupcakes or the delicious cupcakes sold at Georgetown Cupcake in Maryland & DC. Realizing that a store bought cupcake just would not satisfy my craving, I did the next best thing – I made my own using the Georgetown Cupcake chocolate recipe (with some slight modifications), added some peanut butter buttercream, mini Reese’s, and the special finishing touch that really made me feel at home – Fisher’s popcorn flown in fresh from the great Ocean City, Maryland. WOW. There are no words for this delicious combo of chocolate, peanut butter, and caramel. And even better, now I have my own yummy pictures to send up to Maryland to make my parents jealous. Hah!

The cupcake itself is made from a recipe adapted from Georgetown Cupcake (the original recipe can be found here http://projects.washingtonpost.com/recipes/2008/11/05/chocolate-squared-cupcakes/), the frosting is a mix of many recipes I found online, and the frosting technique was a failed attempt to emulate Annie Eat’s interpretation of a recipe from the Savory Sweet Life cookbook (a much better version can be seen here, I blame the difference in frosting texture http://annies-eats.com/2012/06/22/chocolate-cupcakes-with-peanut-butter-cookie-frosting-sweet-savory-life-cookbook-giveaway/).

Double Chocolate Mini Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon sat
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup skim milk (Georgetown Cupcake calls for whole – I only had skim, saved a few calories plus they tasted just fine to me!)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 cup Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line mini cupcake pans with liners. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt in one bowl. In a separate bowl, beat butter with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Add sugar; continue to beat on medium speed until incorporated. Add eggs – 1 at a time – mixing slowly after each addition. Combine milk with vanilla extract. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, mix until just incorporated, and then 1/3 of the milk mixture. Repeat until all of the flour and milk has been added. Add cocoa powder and chocolate chips; again, beat on low speed until just incorporated. Fill cupcake tins abut 1/2-2/3 of the way full (I used a heaping teaspoon of batter for each cupcake) and bake for about 11 minutes, or until a toothpick/fork inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Makes approximately 18-20 mini cupcakes, depending on how much batter you eat (oops!).

FROSTING!

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

Mix butter and peanut butter together until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and salt and mix (lower speed) until incorporated, then add milk and vanilla. Mix until incorporated and add more milk/cream or powdered sugar if too thick or thin, until it reaches your desired consistency.

The Final Product

I tried to make the frosting look like it was a peanut butter cookie – SUPER cute idea but I think I’d either need a thicker frosting or the patience to let the frosting cool for a little in the fridge before icing the cupcakes. Next best thing – frost the cupcakes like normal, and top with a mini Reese and a few caramel corn kernels. You’re welcome 🙂

I’m trying to be all about balance here. This is what I ate for dinner – I’m surprised I even had room for my tomato/cucumber/basil/mozzarella salad with all of the cupcakes/cupcake batter I ate. Oh well!

Candied Bacon Matzo Crack

In keeping with the theme of bacon (because, why not?!) I am going to introduce a recipe that is completely random given that it is July 1st, not April – lets blame it on the 108 degree heat today. While yes, this concoction was created out of necessity for Passover, the Jewish holiday where eating bread or any other leavened products is a no-no for over a week, I see no reason why it can’t be a year-round staple.

As far as Passover goes, bread I can honestly do without – I am a fan of the matzo. All things matzo – matzo brie (sort of like french toast, with matzo), matzo pizza, and so on. I also love Passover – I love a good sedar and I love the challenge of trying to stay bread (and other leavened products)-free for as long as I can. However, it is the lack of sweets that always gets me. Passover sweets (fake cookies and cakes) are rarely any good. Thank GOODNESS for my friend Nicole, who introduced me to Matzo Crack – a delicious chocolate caramel covered matzo deliciousness. It doesn’t matter that I was unaware of this creation until college, nor that it was my non-Jewish friend who was never required to eat matzo that introduced it to me – all that matters is that I now am in on the “secret.” And this year, I felt that it was my responsibility to make my contribution.

This year was not the best year for my favorite holiday. It was busy busy (again, grad school, ugh); not only did my clinic schedule keep me from going home, I didn’t even attend a sedar. Womp womp. Now, don’t start feeling bad for me though. I had fun experimenting with some new types of matzo pizza (I used kale! and paired it with tortilla espanol…kosher Italian Spanish fusion time). I also made some matzo brie, some charoset, AND in exchange for some matzo crack, I even got myself some delicious homemade matzo ball soup courtesy of my awesome cooking class teacher/fantastic cook/dietician friend. Not too shabby.

Of course, Passover came and went and I was left with boxes upon boxes of matzo (I always buy too much. ALWAYS!). So, rather than wait and see if it would stay good for until next year (I bet it would have), I decided to take matzo crack to the next level. A level that was far more unhealthy and ridiculous than it had been before, not to mention completely un-kosher.

My new creation was inspired by a vendor selling candied bacon at the annual Terrapin Brewery carnival. After a few glasses of Terrapin’s super strong 10th anniversary beer, I could not resist the tempting scent of candied bacon being sold. It looked so good and I was so excited…only to be told I had to wait 15 minutes for the next batch. Fine. What wasn’t fine though? That when I returned 15 minutes later the vendor had almost sold the last of the bacon to SOMEONE ELSE. Unacceptable. I did finally get my bacon, and it was so good that I had to share. This left me with very little pork candy to myself, which led me to the obvious conclusion that I must make my very own candied bacon, which I did bright and early the following morning.

Then I got really creative – why not crumble that on top of matzo that has already been covered in caramel and chocolate?! And thus, Candied Bacon Matzo Crack was born. I do not regret creating this spectacular snack, potentially the most unhealthy and un-kosher concoction I have ever come up with; however, it will likely be awhile before I attempt it again. Not for health reasons (well maybe a little bit for health reasons…maybe this should be a once a year thing), nah, really it is because making candied bacon was a mess and a half. Messy, but delicious. So, please don’t let the mess prevent you from trying this at least once, it is worth it. And now for the recipe, inspired by Nicole and the rude vendor that almost didn’t give me bacon:

Candied Bacon Matzo Crack

Bacon

  • 4 strips of thick sliced bacon
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Cayenne pepper OR Sriracha to taste

Matzo Crack

  • 4-5 pieces of lightly salted matzo – egg or flour (enough to fully cover a cookie sheet)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 12 oz bag chocolate chips (my faves – basic Nestle or bittersweet Ghirardelli chips if you want to get fancy)

Preheat oven to 400. Place a wire cooking rack on top of a baking sheet completely lined with foil. Toss bacon strips with brown sugar and hot spice of your choice. I used a few drops of Sriracha and it was perfect (in my Sriracha-obsessed opinion). Lay bacon strips flat on the wire rack and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your bacon. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. Line another baking sheet with foil and cover completely with matzo (unfortunately, you will have to do some maneuvering with the matzo, keeping the crackers whole won’t cover a baking sheet – rather, break it up and piece it together…like a puzzle!). Meanwhile, cook butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk constantly (I find that caramel burns easily, it my easily distracted experience). Once the mixture comes to a boil, continue mixing for about 3 minutes until it foams up and the sugar seems completely dissolved in the butter. Pour the caramel over the matzo and spread into a thin layer with a spatula. Stick the caramel matzo into the oven for 10-15 minutes – the caramel will start to bubble, and I always want to take it out too early – DON’T! Or you will be left with grainy-ish caramel like I have been, and nobody wants that. Once all of the caramel is bubbling, take it out of the oven and cover with chocolate chips. Wait 5 minutes and then spread into a thin layer with a spatula (if you don’t wait long enough, it is very difficult to spread – trust me, I know). Now, crumble some of that delicious bacon on top* and stick in the fridge until the chocolate has hardened (about 45 minutes 😦 ). Break into pieces and store in a tightly sealed tupperware container (who am I kidding, it rarely lasts long enough to make it to the storage phase).

*Obviously, this could be made without the candied bacon, but why?!

 

Garlic & Herb White Bean Dip

This white bean dip – slightly adapted from a Giada De Laurentis recipe – has been my go to dip for when I need to bring something to party that isn’t a baked good or when I have people over. It is always a big hit, but for some reason when it comes to just normal weeks with no food parties, I would just go to the grocery store and buy packaged hummus or some other dip (I am a bit of a dip fiend). Even though the grocery store stuff was nowhere near as satisfying as Giada’s white bean dip, I never thought to whip up a batch of the dip JUST FOR ME. What was I thinking?! Luckily, I recently came to the realization that I was being silly and started making it almost every other week. This dip is way easy to make, pretty inexpensive, and generally healthier than most of the pre-packaged products at the store. And it is TASTY!

Giada might as well have called it garlic dip – the taste of garlic is super strong, but it works well with the smoothness of the white beans plus the herbs and lemon. Now I like the extreme garlicky-ness, but if garlic breath isn’t your thing – I recommend roasting the garlic before adding it, or only adding 1 clove.

I recently made this dip to eat for lunch paired with some carrots, broccoli, and sliced up zucchini (trying to be somewhat healthy to make up for the fact that I have been sitting in the clinic for 12+ hours a day). Also for the sake of being healthy, I cut down the amount of olive oil from 1/3 cup to about 3 tablespoons – and guess what?! It still tasted great and had that smooth, creamy texture. I added some basil leftover from the farmers market, a welcome addition to the dip in my opinion. My only wish was that I had some Marti’s at Midday pita chips to dip in it along with the veggies…but oh yeah, that whole healthy thing. For the original recipe – see White Bean Dip with Pita Chips Recipe : Giada De Laurentiis : Recipes : Food Network.

Garlic & Herb White Bean Dip

  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed*
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3-5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves**
  • salt + freshly ground pepper

Add beans, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and parsley (or other herbs of your choice) into a food processor and pulse until mixture is smooth (or more coarsely chopped depending on preference). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Voila – easiest. dip. ever.

*I don’t know if this is just me – but I always seem to have a hard time finding cannellini beans at the store. They are also known as white kidney beans. I did not realize this, but since making that realization, finding them has been much easier!

**I used 1/2 parsley and 1/2 basil. I have also made the dip with dried oregano, which turned out good as well. The fresh herbs are definitely better, but it seems to work with a variety of fresh and dried – so experiment!

 

Farmers Market Inspired Berry Lime Salsa

This week blueberries were the stars of the Athens Farmers Market. Looks like it is peak blueberry season here y’all! On Saturday, that meant cooking demonstrations at the market featuring blueberry-centric foods. While I was there, volunteers from P.L.A.C.E. (a non-profit organization in Athens dedicated to promoting the local food culture – for more info see www.localplace.org) were whipping up some Blueberry Lime Salsa. Initially, I was hesitant – I LOVE peach mango salsa (especially the kind my dad makes!) but I couldn’t picture blueberries in salsa.

Oh how wrong I was! That stuff was addictive – I could probably eat it until I turned violet like Violet in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. So of course, that went on the list of things I needed to make ASAP. Lucky for me, I had leftovers from my moderately successful attempt at Blueberry Raspberry Boy Bait. It was now time for them to redeem themselves in a new form, and they were definitely up for the challenge.

I made some modifications from the P.L.A.C.E recipe (mainly adding extra onion and cilantro), but otherwise the credit goes to them for this seasonal, refreshing, delicious salsa. I chose to take the healthy, antioxidant filled delicacy and pair it with some tasty (although not entirely healthy) lime Tostitos – heaven! I could also see this salsa paired with a nice piece of grilled fish or chicken and some veggies if you wanted to make a meal out of it. Or if you have any other suggestions for ways to incorporate this into just about anything – please let me know, because I have made enough to last a longgggg time and I fear the entire bag of chips will be gone in the next day or two if I don’t find alternatives. Now, I think I have gone on enough about this salsa – here is the recipe (after some more mouth-watering pictures):

Farmers Market Inspired Berry Lime Salsa

  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1/4 red onion, roughly chopped (I used more like 1/3-1/2 of the onion)
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves (I added a bit more)
  • salt to taste

Combine blueberries, raspberries, onions, lime zest + juice, and cilantro in a food processor or blender. Pulse until you reach your desired consistency (I made mine really smooth because I had never made salsa in a food processor before and I was excited – but I also added some larger onion chunks post-processing). Taste and season with salt if desired (I probably added about 1/8 tsp of salt). The original recipe called for pepper as well, which I regretted adding but if pepper is your thing, don’t let me stop you from giving it a try! Finally, I thought that the salsa tasted even better the next day once the flavors had a chance to get all cozy with each other – so keep that in mind (and make extra if you are like me and cannot stop eating it!).

Chickpeas – it is finally time to eat you! Plus – 15 More Ways to Flavor Roasted Chickpeas | The Kitchn

Cluster analysis chapter read! Complete understanding of cluster analysis and how I will successfully use it in my thesis study…not so much (All in good time…I hope). However, that doesn’t matter right now – my goal was to finish the chapter and that goal was met!

Here is my update – the chickpeas were good! Cruncy, salty, and savory – a worthy alternative to potato chips in my opinion, and healthier. Next time, I think I will use a little more olive oil and cook for a few minutes longer (I found a few uncrispy chickpeas in the mix). I also want to switch up the spice blend next time – I liked mine a lot, but this soy sauce/sesame oil/chili powder variation from thekitchn.com sounds AMAZING!

15 More Ways to Flavor Roasted Chickpeas | The Kitchn.

(Not so) Lazy Sunday

It’s Sunday – I have nowhere to be, the house all to myself, and a proposal about my research study just waiting to be written. Seems like the perfect situation to get some work done. Yeah, that lasted MAYBE an hour. It is beautiful outside, so I of course feel guilty spending time indoors. Commence trip to the grocery store with the windows down in the mini followed by a walk to the coffee shop. Still not really feeling the whole study proposal, especially since I have questions that I need answered before I make any more progress (excuses). So, obviously it is time to blast some records and cook some food! My dad kindly gave me his old record player and I don’t take advantage of it nearly as much as I should.

 

With Lucero as my background music (kinda in an obsessive Lucero phase…this phase has lasted upwards of 2 years so I don’t know if it is fair to call it a phase anymore…), I finally made some Crispy Roasted Chickpeas, which I have read about on numerous blogs (For more recipes and ideas, please see http://steamykitchen.com/10725-crispy-roasted-chickpeas-garbanzo-beans.html).

I will admit that the process of peeling the skin from the chickpea was tedious and annoying to me, but I am not the most patient person. I think it would have gone better if I did a better job of drying the chickpeas with the paper towels…next time. Everything else about this was super simple though!

Crispy Roasted Chickpeas (adapted from http://www.steamykitchen.com using my fave spices)

  • 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 1.5 tbs olive oil (or a few spritzes from the Misto)
  • Goya Adobo w/ Pepper
  • cumin
  • coriander
  • cayenne pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Empty can of chickpeas in a strainer and rinse with water for a few seconds. Once all of the chickpea goop is successfully washed away, lay chickpeas out on a paper towel. Use another paper towel to dry the chickpeas (preferably more thoroughly than I did!) and remove the skins from the beans. Drizzle or spray the chickpeas with olive oil and roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes (or until the beans are golden in color and crispy). While the chickpeas are cooking, create spice blend. I didn’t really measure, just threw a few dashes of the Goya, cumin, coriander, and a smaller pinch of cayenne in a bowl and mixed.

Once the chickpeas are done, sprinkle with the seasoning blend and eat.

Although in my case, things went a little differently: I made a deal with myself – I won’t try one of these tasty little guys until I finish reading about cluster analysis for my thesis. How’s that for some contingent reinforcement?! So, unfortunately I cannot speak to how delicious or awful these crispy chickpeas turned out – but keep posted – my house smells amazing so I am motivated to read quickly!

sad face because stats are not my forte and I am ready to chow down on some chickpeas!