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?

 

Prosciutto Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Smokey Cheese

There are two people in the world who I think appreciate wine and cheese as much as I do: my sister and my friend Sara.

This past week, I was visiting my sister before I start a new job tomorrow (wish me luck!).  We did wedding things and of course there was wine and cheese.  One night, while enjoying some wine with cheese and prosciutto, we had a great idea.

Let’s put it all together with dates, because dates are always a good idea (and Jesse’s mom loves to give us boxes of dates and we love it).

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Smoked cheddar. Dates. Prosciutto. 

Awesome flavor combos.

Normally, I’m all for bacon wrapped dates, but I think I actually prefer prosciutto for a few reason:

  1. It’s thinner.  Someones I feel like the bacon can be so thick that you have to bake it forever and your risk the date getting charred.  Sometimes the bacon also overpowers the dates and filling.  This is the perfect balance.
  2. Less baking time.  Prosciutto doesn’t need to be cooked.  So you put it in the oven long enough for the cheese to melt and the prosciutto to get a little bit crispy (about 10 minutes).

This is really a non-recipe.  I can’t tell you exactly how much cheese I put in each date, because each date is different but here’s roughly what you’ll need.

Trust me, you’ll want to make these for your next wine and cheese party.

Prosciutto Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Smokey Cheese

Medjool dates, washed and pitted
Smoked Cheese (such as smoked cheddar, smoked gouda, this time I used smoked cheddar with caramelized onion from Trader Joe’s)
Prosciutto or Jamon Serrano (I tried with both and both were great)

Pre-heat oven to 400F.  Pit your dates by cutting a small slit down the side, then pulling out the pit.  Where the pit was, slide in little chunks of cheese then pinch the date back together.  Next take some prosciutto and wrap it around each date.  I used about half a slice for each date.

Lay on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and prosciutto is crispy.

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Serve with wine and enjoy!

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.

 

 

Salad Spring Rolls

One of my favorite things about living in Orange County was the plethora of Vietnamese restaurants.

Fun Fact: Orange County, CA has the largest Vietnamese population in the US.  

And because of that we were blessed with delicious (and inexpensive) restaurants.

Over the last four years, I’ve become obsessed with the Vietnamese Spring Rolls.  It’s almost a rule that I must order them any time I go to a Vietnamese restaurant.

I’m sure there have to be amazing Vietnamese restaurants here in the Bay Area, and I will do my best to discover them, but in the meantime, I’m going to keep the memory alive with some spring roll inspiration.

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These aren’t really Vietnamese spring rolls.  They don’t include rice noodles or shrimp or pork.  They’re just vegetables, which is why I call them salad spring rolls.  Despite not being like the tasty ones I get at restaurants, this has become my new favorite way to eat salad.

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They pretty quick, easy and tasty.  The other wonderful thing is you can make them with whatever you have on hand.

Here are some suggestions for filling your spring rolls:

Thai Basil
Lettuce
Cucumber
Carrots
Red Bell Pepper
Bean Sprouts

For Dipping Sauce:

1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1-2 tbsp peanut butter, natural
1-2 tbsp sriracha
1-2 tbsp water

To assemble, cut your vegetables into match tickets (i.e. carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers) and wash your lettuce and thai basil.   You’ll need to get rice paper.  You can probably find it at any Asian grocery store (or on Amazon).

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Wet your rice paper by dipping it in water for about 3 seconds and you’re ready to go (do one at a time, don’t wet them all at once, because they’re very sticky).  I have a rice paper water bowl, but it’s not essential, and shallow dish to submerge the paper in will work.

Then you can start assembling your spring rolls.   Place some of the vegetables toward the bottom of the circle, like such:

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Fold the right and left sides toward the center, then the shorter side up and roll to cover.  I couldn’t take photos of this process because it requires two hands and I only have two, unfortunately (or fortunately).  But this blog has an awesome tutorial!  Check it out!  

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Once your spring rolls are rolled and ready, make your quick dipping sauce.   Combine hoisin, peanut butter, sriracha in a bowl.  Start with 1 tbsp of each, taste it and adjust to your liking.

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You don’t have to use this dipping sauce, you can also mix fish sauce with water, a bit of sugar and chili garlic sauce and dip!  Or since these are salad rolls, feel free to dip in your favorite salad dressing.  We’re not being authentic here, so anything goes.

But seriously, this hand-held salad options is awesome.  I served it with some mustard rubbed chicken and it was a hit (to Jesse and me, that is, but I think we have ok taste).  I think this is my new favorite summer meal.

What’s your favorite salad or summer meal?

Hatch Chile Spaghetti Squash and Cheese

You know how everyone has certain staples that they keep in their pantries?  I feel like for most people that’s things like canned tomatoes, pasta sauce, pasta. Basics that you can use to throw together a meal pretty quickly.

For me, it’s canned beans and tuna.  Classy. I know.

I rarely ever buy pasta.  It’s one of those things I just don’t even think to buy.  But I’m human and I love mac and cheese.  Sometimes I want that cheesy goodness, but I don’t feel like going to the store to buy pasta.

So I’ll be honest.  This is one of those things I threw together because I haven’t been to the grocery store in almost two weeks (I know, how am I surviving right?).  Spaghetti squash will last a good while on the counter, and I roasted some hatch chiles that Melissa’s Produce sent me a week ago, so we’re good to go.  But don’t worry, just because I threw this together with ingredients on hand, doesn’t mean it’s not delicious.  I’ve been eager to use those hatch chiles and this was seriously delicious.

I think you’ll love it!

hatchspaghettisquashandcheesetextHatch Chile Spaghetti Squash and Cheese

1 spaghetti squash
1 tbsp olive oil
2 fully cooked sausages, diced (optional)
2 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
2 cups cheese
2 hatch chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Poke holes in your spaghetti squash with a sharp knife and microwave for 5-10 minutes.  The cook time will vary depending on the size of your spaghetti squash.  You’ll know it’s ready when you can run your knife through it fairly easily.

While your spaghetti squash is cooking, heat oil in a large pot.  Once oil is hot, add sausage and brown until crispy on medium/high heat.  Once the sausage is browned, turn the heat down to low and add flour.  Toss with sausage and let it brown a minute or two.  Slowly stream in milk while whisking, breaking up any clumps in the process.  Once the milk is incoporated, add cheese and hatch chiles.  Stir until cheese is melted, taste and season with salt and pepper to your desired amount (I only added a few pinches because I don’t like things too salty).  Turn off heat and set aside.

Now go back to your spaghetti squash.  By now it should be cooked and cool enough to handle.  Slice in half, then spoon out the seeds.  Using a fork, fluff and pull out the strands of the squash.  Add the spaghetti squash to cheese sauce and stir until well combined.  Garnish with extra cheese and hatch chiles if you’d like then serve and enjoy!

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The spaghetti squash I used was enormous.  I’ll be eating this for a few days, but no complaints there.  This has an awesome kick from the hatch chiles, but it’s cooled by the creamy, cheesy sauce.  You can also easily make this vegetarian by omitting the sausage (or using vegetarian sausage).

What I also love about spaghetti squash dishes (oh hey, remember the Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash I made a while back?), is that it doesn’t feel too heavy. While I’m not claiming that this is healthy, I feel a little bit better about eating it than a full plate of pasta.  I think you could make this a bit healthier by reducing the amount of cheese and adding some greens in there.  We all need a little more kale in our life.  I’ll try throwing some in there next time.

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I’ll definitely make this again!

What are some of your pantry staples?

The Best Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

I pretty much always wish I had a reason to make a cake.  The more I think about it, it’s one of the reasons I love weddings, because I think wedding cakes are amazing.  Tonight I had a conversation with some ladies about wedding media.  Wedding sites, blogs, shows magazines are all geared at woman.  The wedding is portrayed as entirely about the woman, which to me seems a little unfair, given that the woman is only one half of the equation.

But in the conversation, one of the things I pointed out is that part of my fascination with wedding media is the aesthetic.  I think weddings are beautiful.  I think cakes are beautiful.  That’s probably why I love food blogs too, because I think the photography is pretty.

Most of the time when I see a beautiful cake my first thought is I want to make that, then second, I want to eat that.  For me, making cakes is fun.  I love making them look beautiful, but I also love making them taste good.

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Because really, isn’t a layer cake just one of the prettiest things out there?

While I always want to make cakes, there isn’t always an occasion to make a cake.  I originally made this cake for a birthday/going away party for friends.  But it was so popular and pretty that I wanted to make it again and photograph it.  

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.  I think it just means I appreciate aesthetics. So if you want to make a cake for a special ocassion or no reason at all other than to please yourself… please do! ChocolatePBCake3

And as a bonus, it’s amazingly delicious and the perfect 6-inch cake.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

For Cake (adapted from Hershey’s Chocolate Cake):

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp flour
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water

For Filling:

2 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
7 oz sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup whipping cream

For Frosting:

2 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 big pinch of cream of tartar*
1 pinch of salt

For Chocolate Ganache:

3 oz bitter sweet chocolate chips
1/4 heavy cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Make Cake.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and line with parchment paper 2 (6-inch) cake pans, set aside.  In a stand mixer bowl, combine all dry ingredients.  Add eggs, oil, milk and vanilla.  Beat together.   Add boiling water and beat until combined.  Pour batter evenly between both 6-inch cake pans.  Bake 25-30 minutes (this might vary based on your oven so start checking for readiness after 20 minutes, especially if using a convection oven) or until cooked through (i.e. do the toothpick test: insert toothpick, once it comes out clean, it’s ready).

Allow to cool completely.

In the meantime, make the filling.  Beat together cream cheese, condensed milk and peanut butter.  In a separate bowl, whip heavy cream into firm peaks.  Fold whipped cream into peanut butter mixture, refrigerate until ready to use.

Next make your frosting.

Place a glass bowl over a sauce pan that has about 1 inch of water in it, make sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl (aka build a double boiler).  Add egg whites, sugar, vanilla extract, cream of tartar and salt.  Mix together.  Heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and the egg whites are warm when you touch them.

Transfer egg white mixture to a stand mixer and attach whisk attachment.  Stir on low and turn up the speed every 15 seconds or so until it’s on high speed.  Beat 5-7 minutes or until glossy, stiff peaks form.

Now assemble the cake.  Level your layers and slice in half, so you have 4 layers (you’ll notice in my photo I only had 3 layers, you can accidentally drop one on the floor and have 3 layers as well… that’s allowed, but not advised).  Place your first layer on your cake circle or cake dish of choice. Lay some filling on top of the first layer and spread evenly, press on second layer, it’s ok if it overflows a bit.  Repeat until all layers are complete.

Next, frost with a generous layer of frosting.

Place in the fridge while you make your ganache.  Place chocolate chips in a bowl and set aside.  In a small sauce pan, heat heavy cream and vanilla stirring constantly until it comes to a light boil.  Pour cream over chocolate chips.  Let sit for a minute, then stir until smooth.  Pour over cake and smooth the top with an offset spatula.  Allow to cool completely, then slice and serve.

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I had hopes and dreams of making a beautiful vide to go along with this blog post, but I’m still working on perfect my video making skills… but in case you’re curious… here’s my first attempt:

 

Not the prettiest video, but I’ll take it for a first try!  We can’t expect to make gorgeous creations the first time around, and I’m cool with that.

 

So tell me, are you a fan of layer cakes, weddings and pretty things?  Are you overloaded with wedding stuff? Don’t even see it?  Is a cake just a cake for you?