Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

Miracles happen.

I’m back to blogging, and you’re going to hate me.  I made cupcakes.

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I know cupcakes are so 2008.

Since I’ve been wedding planning, (Side note: we’re 4 months away. Where did time go? We have a wedding website.  This means it’s happening) I’ve become acutely aware of wedding trends.  Cupcakes are no longer cool.  Layer cakes are in (which I’ve loved probably since 2008).

BUT cupcakes are so handy for outdoor events.  The weather up here in the Bay Area has been hit or miss recently, but today we’re heading outdoors for a bubble soccer birthday celebration.  I’m always the person who volunteers to bring a cake, but sometimes don’t you just want a dang cupcake?

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They’re cute. They’re simple. They’re delicious.

Eat a cupcake.  Feel free to listen to the Buena Vista Social Club station on Pandora while you make and eat them.  That’s what I’m doing and it’s amazing.

These cupcakes have become by go to recipe. They’re a crowdpleaser and the frosting isn’t sickeningly sweet.

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Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

cupcakes from Hershey’s, Buttercream from Me?

For cupcakes:

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup  Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk (I used almond milk and it was a-okay!)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

For Vanilla Buttercream:

3 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
3 sticks of butter (I know… seriously 3), softened
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Make your cupcakes.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla extract and beat until combined.  Lastly beat in boiling water.  The batter is really runny but trust me, it’s delicious.

Line cupcake pan with liners of choice (the cuter the better).  Fill each liner with 1/4 cup of batter.  Bake for 15-18 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test (note: 15 minutes is the perfect amount for me).  Repeat until all batter is gone.  I usually get 24-26 cupcakes out of this recipe.

Allow to cool completely.  Then make frosting.

Whisk together egg whites and sugar in your stand mixer bowl.  Place over a pot of boiling water (make sure water isn’t touching the bowl), stir it every so often until the egg whites become hot and you can no longer feel the sugar granules.  There’s probably an appropriate temperature that it needs to reach but I have no idea what that is.  I just touch it.

Transfer to the mixer and whip using the whisk attachment until they’ve formed stiff peaks.

Remove the whisk attachment and change to the paddle attachment for your mixer.  Add vanilla. Then start to beat in butter until the butter is incorporated and it’s smooth.  If you want here you can add any flavoring.

I’ve done peanut butter, dulce de leche, caramel, strawberry  jam.  They’re all magic.  Or you can just stick with vanilla and be a happy camper.

I like to chill my frosting a little bit before frosting because I find it easier to work with. Just about 10 minutes.  Give it a try.

Frost your cupcakes and decorate as you like. Sprinkles are encouraged.

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Take them to a party and feed them to your friends.

Happy Sunday! Hope you’re enjoying the day Game of Thrones returns! (<—- ok read

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Healthy and Easy Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

I love blogs with beautiful photos of ridiculous things I might not ever make.  But truth be told, sometimes I want to see recipes I’ll actually make.

So recently, while I was brainstorming ideas for Peanut Butter & Co.’s Peanut Butter/Oat extravaganza, I decided to share a recipe I make all the time.

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I have an enormous sweet tooth.  I want to eat cake every single day.

No really.  Every. Single. Day.

But I also want to be healthy.  So sometimes I make compromises and find ways to tone down my sweet tooth and still be satisfied.

Peanut Butter + Oats + Banana is the perfect way to do it.  They’re not terribly sweet, but they do the job when I want a big fat cookie without all the extra fat and sugar.

Peanut Butter and Co. teamed up with Bob’s Red Mill to do what they are calling #Oatober.  I love both oats and peanut butter, so I couldn’t help but participate.

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I seriously made these cookies every other week in some variation or another.  Today I’m sharing an oatmeal, raisin, date inspired cookie, but I’m thinking I’ll try a pumpkin version later this month.

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Healthy and Easy Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Peanut Butter
2 cups of oats, blended in a food processor
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chips
5 dates, chopped

Pre-heat oven to 350F.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  You’ll get a thick dough.  Form dough into balls and flatten slightly to form a cookie shape.

Lay cookies on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Bake 15 minutes or until golden on the bottoms.  Allow to cool and serve!

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That’s it.  They’re super easy and perfect with a cup of tea.  I really do make them all the time.  Sometimes I omit the chocolate chips.  Sometimes I do raisins.  I also tried making this with Peanut Butter and Co’s new Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter and they were all sorts of awesome!

What’s your favorite Peanut Butter/Oat Combo?

 

Cheesecake with Strawberry Balsamic Sauce

Nowadays, other people’s birthdays are far more exciting than my own.  Does that happen to you too? I think that’s what happens when you pass the age of 21.

I love other people’s birthdays, because I love getting other people gifts and I love making them birthday cakes.  Ok really, that last reason is the most important one.

Yesterday  was Jesse’s birthday.  In the past I’ve written an embarrassing post in his honor, but this year I’ll mostly spare him.  I made him an epic cheesecake, because while I love layer cakes, I know he’s a fan of cheesecake.

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On someone’s birthday, you should probably make what they like, not what you like.  Remember, it’s the time to be giving.

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Cheesecake with Strawberry Balsamic Sauce

cake adapted from All Recipes (strawberry sauce my own)

9 graham crackers, crushed
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 (8oz) packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup flour

For Topping:

1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whipped cream (sweetened with a few tbsp sugar), optional

For Sauce:

1lb fresh strawberries
1/2-3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 325F.  Grease 9inch springform pan and wrap in aluminum foil (this is to keep water from getting in when you bake in a water bath). In a bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs and melted butter.  Press into bottom of springform pan.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Using a mixer, beat together cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in milk and eggs, one at a time until just combined.  Add in sour cream, vanilla and flour and beat until just combined.  Pour batter into prepared pan.

Place pan in a larger baking dish, a roasting pan if you have one (I used a jelly roll pan because that’s all I had), and fill baking dish with hot water.  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  After that time, turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in the oven for another hour, then crack the oven door and let it sit for another hour or two.  The goal is to make sure the temperature doesn’t drop too quickly.  That way you’ll get a smooth cheesecake with no cracks.

While you’re waiting for the cake to cool, is the perfect time to make the topping.  Dice strawberries and place in a sauce pan with sugar and balsamic vinegar.  With regards to the amount of sugar, start with half a cup, after it’s been cooking for a while, taste the sauce and add more if you’d like.  I didn’t, but I could see where some would want it sweeter.  Cook on medium heat about 10 minutes.  Allow to cool.  At this point, you can leave it with chunks of fruit or you can blend to get a smooth sauce.  I blended it, but whole chunks of fruit could also be delicious and beautiful.

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The topping can be made in advance and refrigerated.  Feel free to serve it warm or cold.

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Now back to the cake… Once the cake has cooled, refrigerate a few hours or overnight.  A few hours before you’re ready to serve, prepare topping.  Mix together sour cream, sugar and vanilla.  Spread over top of cake.  Pipe whipped cream around edges (this is optional, just for decoration).  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Serve with strawberry balsamic sauce and enjoy!

I hope Jesse enjoyed it!  His birthday was pretty low key.  We had sushi, ate cheesecake and then proceeded to spend the rest of the night in a food coma.

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That might be one of the most awesome ways to spend a birthday.

Happy Birthday, Jesse!

I know I said my other people’s birthdays are more exciting than my own, but next week is my birthday and let’s be honest, making a birthday cake for yourself is always exciting.

I have many ideas in mind and it involves lots of fresh fruit.

What’s more exciting: your birthday or someone else’s?

BBQ Chicken Cauliflower Pizza

Jesse and I have been together for nearly 4 years.  In that time, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I eat more than he does.  When you can admit this is when you know you’re comfortable with someone.

Some ladies are dainty eaters.  I’m not judging them.  If you can eat a piece of salmon and some zucchini and be done for the night, then more power to you.  I wish I wasn’t a hangry beast.  I’d probably save a ton of money.  I know the expectation that the woman in the relationship eats about half as much as the man, but that certainly isn’t the case for us.

I think early on in our dating, I probably ate less (at least in front of him), so he wouldn’t think I was the Cookie Monster (I am).  I distinctly remember having a conversation about this with my sister.  I’m 100% positive that at one point she said, “yeah, he doesn’t eat very much. Like pio pio” (FYI, pio pio is the sound little chicks make in Spanish).  This isn’t meant to criticize Jesse’s eating habit; him and his habits are perfectly fine.  I admire his ability to say no to certain foods, yet be able to eat half a wheel of brie.

Now that the new-ness ship has sailed, I can eat three tacos and be a happy camper (while lusting over gelato after dinner); he can eat sunflower seeds with beer and call it a night.  After all, it’s just food.  How much I eat in relation to him doesn’t define our relationship.  It’s just a funny quirk about us.

But some days, we’re equals on the eating front.  Last night, we both ate half a pizza.  Not a regular pizza.  This cauliflower pizza.

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It was delightful.  I bring this all up, because I was thinking about serving size for this recipe.

How many does this serve?  2 hungry people who went to crossfit earlier that day? 4 not so hungry folks? 4 normal people if complemented with a side salad? 6 children?  It’s not clear.

Make it and let me know how much you eat in one sitting.  Like I said, I ate half the pizza in one sitting.  It sounds obscene, but I promise you’ll want to eat at least half too.

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BBQ Chicken Cauliflower Pizza

10-12oz cauliflower (about 1/2 a large head), grated
1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp italian seasoning
1/2 tbsp butter
1/4 onion, sliced
1 chicken breast
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp paprika
few pinches of salt
1/2 cup BBQ Sauce
2-3 oz sharp cheddar, shredded (or more if you’d like)

There are three main components of this pizza.

1. Make the crust. 2. Cook the chicken and onions. 3. Assemble the pizza and bake.

I suggest doing it in that order but if you want to do 2 before 1, that’s cool too.  Let’s be flexible.

To make the crust:

Pre-heat oven to 425F. Grate your cauliflower.  I did this in the vitamix by cutting the cauliflower into pieces then pulsing it in batches until it looked somewhat like cauliflower rice.  Once it’s all grated, combine cauliflower, eggs, pecorino romano cheese, salt and italian seasoning.   Mix it all together.  Then press the mixture into a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Try to get it as thin as you can so it will be crispy and not soggy.

Once you’ve got it as thin as you can, bake for 15 minutes, take out of oven until ready to assemble.

While the crust is baking cook your onions and chicken.  First, add butter to a skillet, then add the onions. Let those cook until soft (about 10 minutes or longer, let them hang out, they’ll get tastier), put onions into a small bowl or plate.  Cut the chicken into small pieces, then add chicken to the same pan where you cooked the onions.  Season with salt, pepper, paprika and chili powder.  Toss occasionally until cooked through, set aside.

Now that your crust is cooked, assemble the pizza.  Spread 1/2 cup BBQ sauce on pizza, top with onions and chicken, then put cheese on top.  I like to put the cheese on top of the toppings to keep the chicken and onions from burning.  Feel free to add a little extra pecorino on top if you’d like.

Bake 10-12 more minutes, until the crust is browned and crispy and the cheese is melty.  Allow to cool a few minutes, then slice and serve.

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Like I said, serving size? I’m not sure.  This pizza probably feeds 2-4.  If you’re like me and you eat a lot, you might want to double this and make two pizzas.  I did.

If you want to make two pizzas just so you have leftovers, that’s also a great idea.

Who eats more, you or your partner? or what’s your favorite pizza topping?

 

 

Flourless Peanut Butter Brownies

I’ve generally been of the opinion that if you want dessert, just eat dessert.  But recently, I’ve been interested in trying out healthier dessert options, because it sounds sort of fun.  So to get started on that track I turned to Pinterest.

I can’t really take credit for this recipe.  I made a few changes to the original but for the most part, I need to give credit where credit is due (aka thanks Skinny Taste).  I’m still learning the ropes of healthy baking (which I used to do all the time, but apparently have completely forgotten), so I’m relying on some awesome recipes out there.

Now that I’ve tried a few successful ones, I can start experimenting with my own concoctions.

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Sometimes when I look at healthy recipes, I worry the finished product is going to be gross.  Don’t lie. I know you worry about this too.

The reality is we need to adjust our expectations.  Most of the time, a recipe that includes no butter and sugar and calls itself dessert will NOT be the same as a traditional dessert recipe.  So if you’re looking to make these brownies and expecting the gooey, chewy deliciousness of Ghiradelli Box Mix, you will be disappointed.

(Side note: These Caramel Pretzel Brownies will not disappoint)

These Flourless Peanut Butter Brownies are tasty, but let’s be real.  They’re not like those awesome and chewy box mix brownies.  The texture is more spongey. That said, they’re pretty great considering they are completely flourless and low in sugar.   If you’re wondering about the nutrition for 1 piece (and I cut this into 12 pieces), each serving is under 100 calories and has 5g of protein and 9g of sugar.

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I found this idea of using powdered peanut butter instead of flour and thought it was perfect since Peanut Butter & Co. sent me some of their new Mighty Nut Powdered Peanut Butter to try.   Why hadn’t I thought of that before?  I’ll definitely be giving this a try again and making new recipes with powdered peanut butter.

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Flourless Peanut Butter Brownies

adapted from Skinny Taste

1 egg
1 egg white
1 cup chocolate powdered peanut butter (I used Chocolate Mighty Nut)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp coffee (or water)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 325F.  Grease and line a 9×9 inch square pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat together egg and egg white.  Add powdered peanut butter, cocoa powder, baking and start to mix in.  Add water, maple syrup and vanilla extract and mix until combined.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Spread batter into prepared pan.  The batter will be thick, mine didn’t actually fill the whole 9×9 inch pan, but it worked.

Bake 25 minutes.  Allow to cool completely and cut into 12 squares.  Serve and enjoy!

FlourlessPBBrownies1I was pretty surprised at how tasty these were.  I’m not sure if it’s because it was the first dessert I had in about a week or if they really were good.  I’m going to give some to some friends later to see if they think they’re awesome too.  Remember, it’s all about expectations right?

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The other expectation is that you enjoy these while binge-watching House of Cards on Netflix.  I finally got around to season 3 and destroyed it this weekend while Jesse was away backpacking.

How was your weekend? Do you love healthy desserts or prefer to stick to regular ones in moderation?

 

 

 

 

Healthier Banana Coffee Cake with Maple Oat Topping

A quick cake for when you need something a little bit on the healthier side.

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I had a rough morning a few days ago.  Then I gave myself a pep talk and remembered that being healthy is something I have to consciously do everyday. For me, being normal means eating three meals a day, focusing on eating a lot of vegetables and protein and NOT eating 3 slices of cake after lunch.   Pretty simple right?

The reality is I’m always going to want dessert, and eating dessert is ok in moderation. Eating a donut, chips and ice cream all in the same day (aka this past Sunday) is a little too much for me .  There is definitely a balance.

Somedays I want to embrace it and make real, delicious desserts, because I love baking.  But then other days, I want to make healthier alternatives with a little more consideration for the ingredients, like this cake:

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It’s lower in sugar than traditional cake and gluten-free (if that matters to you).  It only uses whole oats so you don’t have to worry about processed flours.

Healthier Banana Coffee Cake with Maple Oat Topping

1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup rolled oats, ground*
1/2 cup almond flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 medium ripe  bananas, mashed
1/2 tbsp powdered sugar (optional, for dusting)

For Topping:

1/4 oats
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp maple syrup

Pre-heat oven to 350F.  Grease 6 inch baking pan (I used a springform pan).

In a bowl, mix together oil, maple syrup, egg and vanilla.  Set aside.

If you haven’t done so already, grind your oats in the food processor (or blender like a vitamix). *use gluten-free oats if you’re gluten intolerant

Add dry ingredients to oil mixture.  Stir to combine.  Lastly, fold in the mashed banana.

In a small bowl combine ingredients for topping.

Pour batter into baking pan, sprinkle oat topping on top and bake for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through (I think might took about 40 minutes).

Allow to cool.  Dust with powdered sugar if you’d like (optional).

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This turned out great, but doesn’t any type of banana cake/bread always turn out amazing? I think next time I’d try reducing the maple syrup some more.

If you’re curious about the nutrition information on this, here it is:

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This does not include the topping and each serving is 1/8th of the cake (a small ish piece).

Not the best and not the worst.  I guess that’s what it’s about overall, right?  Balance.

 

 

Peanut Butter Goji Soda Bread

I missed the boat on St. Patrick’s Day.  There was no green beer or corned beef and cabbage, but I did get a little inspiration from the Irish yesterday… Soda Bread.

I’ve never actually had soda bread, but a lot of people seem to like it.  So given the Irish inspiration and some jars of peanut butter and a bag of goji berries sitting around, a great idea came.  Let’s put the two together.

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The good news is my experiment was a success!  Again, I’ve never had soda bread so I’m not entirely sure what’s it’s supposed to taste like but this one was good.  Faintly sweet and with a hint of peanut butter.

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I kind of think you could make an amazing PB&J with this soda bread, but it would be all sorts of dense and intense.

Feel free to give that a try.

Peanut Butter Goji Soda Bread

3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp butter, cold
1/2 cup The Bee’s Knees Peanut Butter
1/2 cup dried goji berries, rehydrated, liquid reserved
1/4 cup plain yogurt mixed with
3/4 cup water (1 cup total) or 1 cup buttermilk if you have it
1 tbsp melted butter

Take some hot water and pour it on the goji berries to rehydrate, set aside until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add butter and use your fingers to work it into small pieces.  Add peanut butter and do the same.  It’s ok if there are chunks of PB, you’ll work it in more later.
Strain goji berries and reserve the steeping water.  You’ll need about 1-2 tbsp of it.  Add yogurt mixture and goji berries to the flour mixture.  Work into a ball.  Add goji berry liquid as needed (I used about 2 tbsp).

Once you’ve got it into a ball.  Transfer it onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and form into a round thick disc shape.  Score the top in an X shape with a knife.   Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with additional sugar.

Bake 45-50 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test.  Allow to cool completely, serve and enjoy!

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This recipe makes one pretty big loaf.  It’s a lot of soda bread, but worth it.

Anyone ever tried making bread pudding with soda bread?  I think that could be amazing!

GIVEAWAY! Don’t forget to enter the Peanut Butter & Co Giveaway.  It ends this Friday!  To enter, go back to the Chocolate Peanut Butter Goji Berry Pie Post and leave a comment!  Entering is easy, winning is awesome.  Tell your friends!