Hazelnut Cupcakes

(This is going to be a brief post, as Dave's waiting for the computer)

Oh, I had such high hopes for these. After what seemed like forever, I finally got my hands on some hazelnut extract, so of course, I had visions of these cupcakes ever since.

Finally was able to make them today. And despite adding more hazelnut extract, I still can't taste it! They just taste like chocolate cupcakes. Good cupcakes, sure, but not what I had hoped for. Hmph. Back to the drawing board.

½ cup boiling water
6 Tbsp. cocoa
¼ cup milk
½ tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. hazelnut extract
1 cup flour
½ tsp. + 1/8 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup butter, softened
10 Tbsp. brown sugar
6 Tbsp. sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a bowl, whisk water into cocoa until smooth. Whisk in milk and extract.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Alternately add flour mix and cocoa mix, starting and ending with the flour. Fill liners halfway full.

Bake at 350F for 18 minutes. Let cool on wire rack.

Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache
½ cup heavy cream
8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
2 tsp. hazelnut extract

Heat cream until boiling, then pour over chocolate, stirring until melted. Add corn syrup and extract, until well mixed.


Vanilla Berry-Swirl Cheesecake Bars

For this MB event, the main ingredient was vanilla. Which leaves a HUGE amount of options. After some talk, I settled on the idea of a vanilla bean cheesecake with some kind of berry swirl.

But of course that changed.

I knew I wanted something cheesecake-y. And I wanted to finally use the vanilla beans that Dave bought for me. Then the berry flavor... I didn't want to use jam or jelly. After some searching, I decided to use the same strawberry puree that I made last week for the Lemon Berry Bars. (I'm all about the swirling lately, aren't I?) Then... "Do I really want to make a whole cheesecake?", to which I started playing around, mentally, with different shapes. Heart-shaped cookie cutter? Nah, didn't have one big enough. Eventually, I combined a few different recipes, and came up with this.

It was my first time using vanilla beans, and I was nervous. But I think I did well. Despite how in some bites, the berry flavor overtakes everything, the vanilla bean flavor is both subtle and smooth. If that makes sense. :) My only complaint is that the strawberry swirl isn't as bold of a color as I was hoping for.

Strawberry Puree
2 cups strawberries, cut into small pieces
1-2 Tbsp. sugar

1/3 cup sugar
½ cup butter, softened
1½ cups all purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt

½ cup sugar
½ cup half & half
2 pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
3 large eggs
½ vanilla bean (or 2 tsp. vanilla)
1 Tbsp. all purpose flour

For strawberry puree: Blend the strawberries in a food processor (for a few seconds) or mash with a fork until there are no large chunks. Cook over medium heat for about 5-10 minutes until thickened. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 13x9-inch pan.

For crust: Beat sugar and butter until smooth. Gradually add flour, followed by the salt, until mixture is crumbly in texture. Press onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

For filling: Beat sugar, cream cheese, and half & half until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time. Scrape in vanilla (or add extract), then add flour. Pour onto hot crust. Drop spoonfuls of strawberry puree over filling, then swirl through with a knife or spatula.

Bake at 350F for 20-23 minutes, or until filling is set. Let cool completely before cutting and serving.


Request: Mocha Brownies

Tomorrow night into Monday morning, Amelia's working overnight, and she hinted on Thursday about some sort of baked good with caffeine in it. So hopefully she won't read this until after she gets home on Monday. ;)

So I went searching for coffee-infused brownies. Easy enough, right? Surprisingly, no. 90% of the caffeine recipes come up with either espresso, mocha, or cappuccino. I guess coffee has become passé. What's coffee milk called nowadays then?

(If this post is a bit garbled, NCIS has hooked me in and keeps distracting me! *shakes fist at the tv*)

I finally found this recipe from BakeSpace. It came together VERY easily, and it tastes like a dream. The coffee flavor isn't overpowering (thankfully, as far as this little girl is concerned), but it's there enough to know there's a bit of caffeine in there. The brownie itself is more cakey than fudgey, and also has a feeling of lightness. Good deal. Half the batch goes to work with me, and I'm giving the other half to Dave to bring into his work. :)

2/3 cup flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1½ cups sugar
1 cup melted butter
2 tsp. instant coffee crystals, disolved in 1/4 c. water
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 13x9-inch baking pan.

Mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, mix sugar, butter, and coffee until well combined. Add eggs. Gradually stir flour mixture into batter. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Let cool before cutting. Makes 24-32, depending on the size.


Balsamic Strawberries

Last year's Cooking to Combat Cancer was my very first blog event, and I'm really glad that I'm able to take part in this one as well. I worked with berries last year... after all, they are my favorite fruit and they're just so loaded with antioxidants and vitamins and good stuff. Plus, they're versatile.

A few weeks ago, I discovered the joy that is Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar. It's made and sold by a local farmers market, Sigona's, and it's just delicious. They have a whole room just for sampling vinegars, and when this one hit my tongue, it was as if the flavors were dancing. Sweet and tart at the same time, I splurged and bought a bottle. And then had no idea what to do with it.

Hey, how 'bout that? The Mayo Clinic website has a recipe for Berries in Balsamic! I did mine very differently, very simply. Even my dad could put this one together, and he's the connoisseur of cheese sandwiches. ;)

As an added 'healthiness', I used vanilla soy ice cream. Because I know soy is good for you. :)

1 cup strawberries, chopped
¼ cup balsamic vinegar (whichever flavor you prefer)
Ice cream or frozen yogurt of choice (again, your flavor)

Combine strawberries and vinegar in a bowl. Let marinate in fridge for a few hours. Pour over ice cream/frozen yogurt. And enjoy. Makes two servings.

Strawberry Lemon Bars : A Taste of Yellow

Last year, when I had heard of Winos and Foodie's A Taste of Yellow in honor of LiveStrong day, I missed the deadline. I'm happy to say that I made it in the nick of time for this years. :)

Like most people, cancer has affected my life. My grandmother died of breast cancer in 1994. My childhood best friend's mom, Sue, who was my "second mom", died of breast cancer during my junior year of high school. My dad has now gone through three separate rounds of chemo for various spots of cancer. That's the hard one for me, as I'm absolutely Daddy's little girl.

Being in CA for all three rounds, I've been somewhat "removed", for lack of a better word. I've taken on the stubborn cheerleader role. Because my dad's still young, he just turned 63 this year. Because he survived a stroke when he was 42 years old. On his last doctor's visit, in March, he got the "mostly-all-clear"... there's one spot on the base of his lung that they're pretty sure is just scar tissue, but they want him back in June for another scan. No matter what, he WILL get through it, because I said so. He has entirely way too much to do still. And now I need to post the recipe or talk about something else, because I'm getting teary.

I started out last night looking for "yellow"... pineapple, mango, etc. Then I gave up. And then I found Nook & Pantry's Strawberry Lemon Bars. I was a bit hesitant at first, but I persevered, and am SO very glad that I did.

They taste just like strawberry lemonade. Summer time. Ocean breezes. Green grass. Everything you associate with summer. All in one bar. And I'm so happy that the crust came out decently, too. :D

7/8 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
Pinch of salt
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Lemon Filling:
2 large eggs
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1½ Tbsp. flour
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest, from 2 lemons
2 Tbsp milk
Pinch of salt

Strawberry Puree:
1 cup chopped strawberries
1–2 Tbsp. granulated sugar, depending on how sweet the berries are

Mix the chopped strawberries with sugar and set aside to macerate for about 30 minutes.

Mix flour, confectioners' sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a bowl. Add the pieces of butter and, using a pastry blender or your hands, mix until it's a pale yellow and looks like coarse cornmeal. Line an 8x8 baking pan with a sheet of parchment. Press crust mixture into an even ¼-inch thick layer and about ½-inch up the sides. Chill in fridge for 30 minutes.

Blend the strawberries in a food processor (for a few seconds) or mash with a fork until there are no large chunks. Cook over medium heat for about 5-10 minutes until thickened. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350F and bake crust for 20 minutes, until golden brown.

For filling: Whisk the eggs, sugar, flour and salt in a bowl until the sugar dissolves. Then whisk in the lemon juice, zest, and milk.

Reduce the oven temp to 325F.

Pour the filling into the crust. Drop spoonfuls of the strawberry mixture on the surface. Use spoon or knife to swirl the strawberries through the filling.

Bake at 325F for about 20-22 minutes, or until the filling feels firm when touched lightly. Cool to room temperature, and dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired.


Margarita Cupcakes

Well, afer the success of the Lime cupcakes on Friday, I thought I'd get myself some tequila and try the Margarita Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. Maybe I should preface this by saying that while I love a good margarita, I need flavoring to it. I don't like stuff that's too alcohol-y. Which is good on one hand, but bad on the other, when it sneaks up on you. :)

I love the cupcake part. It's more lime than Friday's, and there are no complaints about that. The icing? Even though I used just under a tablespoon of tequila, it tastes way too strong. Dave disagrees, but whatever. He did the whole college drinking thing when he was 19. LOL But put together, I can deal with the icing taste. It firms up quite nicely, too. Oh, and despite where the recipe's from, they aren't vegan. lol

Maybe somehow I could do a strawberry margarita cupcake. :D

1-1/3 cups flour
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ cup lime juice
1½ tsp. lime zest
1 cup milk
¼ cup oil
2 Tbsp. tequila
½ tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat lime juice, zest, milk, oil, tequila, vanilla, and sugar, until well-combined. Add flour mixture, beating until smooth. Fill cupcake liners three-quarters full.

Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cool completely on wire rack before frosting.

¼ cup butter, softened
1 Tbsp. milk
3 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. tequila
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

Mix butter, milk, lime juice, and tequila. Add sugar, one cup at a time, until smooth. If icing is too thin, add 1 Tbsp of sugar at a time until desired consistancy is reached.


Lime Cupcakes

I feel like ever since I had the key lime pie a few weeks ago, a monster has been let loose. One that squees over the very thought of something being lime flavored. A monster that dances happily while eating lime icing out of the mixing bowl. And the monster also bought some lime yogurt to try this week, too. Even now, there's a bottle of raspberry lime rickey by my the monster's side. ;)

It's not surprising. Even as a kid, if I liked something, I'd want to eat it all the time. You wouldn't believe how many times I ate Chef Boyardee's mini ravioli or the tortellini. And then I'd get tired of it and never eat it again. It even happened to my chai tea for a while. I didn't drink it for nearly two years, then got back into it, and now get it everytime I go to Starbucks or a restaurant that serves it. Is there an Obsessers Anonymous out there?

Even after last week's disatrous lime bars, when I saw these babies over at Coconut and Lime, I knew I had to make them. After tasting the batter, I was smitten. After the icing? Oh, it was full on love.

The cupcake alone doesn't have the strong lime taste, but when combined with the icing, it's perfect. Dave wants tequila in it. I may be making margarita cupcakes tomorrow. :)

1½ cups flour
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
Zest of one lime
2 eggs
2 tsp. lime juice
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Cream butter, sugar, and lime zest until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Stir in juice. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour. Fill muffin liners two-thirds full.

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Let cool completely on wire rack.

Lime Icing:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
3 Tbsp. butter
Zest of one lime
2 Tbsp. buttermilk
1 Tbsp. lime juice

Combine sugar, butter, and zest. Add buttermilk and lime juice. Mix until well combined. Spread over cooled cupcake.


Zucchini Muffins...

It's 10:57pm as I'm beginning this post. Why so late? Because Martha Stewart doesn't like me.

I don't have the link anymore (deleted in frustration), but I was attempting to make her Key Lime Bars. Specifically bought everything that I didn't already have, followed the recipe exactly, and it's been in the fridge now for... nearly 8 hours. Yet when I try to pick up a piece, it's like soft pudding on the top. Yummy, zesty lime pudding that does taste good, but it's definitely nothing like the reviews or the pictures imply it should be. Grr. This is second Mahtha recipe in a row that winds up being very far from it's intentions.

Onto a happier note, a few months ago Never Bashful With Butter had posted a fabulous story about her grandmother's zucchini bread. Not only is it zucchini bread, but it also contains gumdrops. (See the post) It was such a great story and so interesting sounding, that I've had it saved in my 'maybe trying' folder since first reading. I bought some zucchini last week and decided, around 9pm, since the lime bars weren't working, I had to make something I could post about today. :D

Admittedly, this is my first time working with zucchini. In fact, up until the past few years, it had always been on my "foods that I say I don't like even though I haven't tried them" list. Shredding and then somewhat dicing zucchini was not fun. It sticks to itself. As I'm sure many of you already know this, but bear with me.

The gumdrops, in NBWB's post, she mentions slicing them and rolling them in sugar. Do this. The center of gumdrops is superduper sticky. What I did was put some sugar on a plate, then cut the gumdrop lengthwise in the sugar. Rolled it a bit, then cut the slice in half, again rolling. Maybe not the best way, but it worked well enough.

I'll warn you now, these aren't the prettiest muffins in the world. Seriously, the pictures make them look better than they do in real life. But they taste surprisingly good. I had mine when it was about twenty minutes out of the oven and it was just so warm and moist, it made me happy. :)

3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. baking powder
3 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup quartered gumdrops (see note above)
3 eggs
1 cup applesauce
2 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
3 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. (I wound up making 20)

Mix together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and quarter gumdrops in a bowl; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, applesauce, and sugar. Add in zucchini and vanilla. Gradually add in flour mix. Fill muffin cups about 2/3s full.

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes. Let cool on wire rack.