Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cranberry Panna Cotta (★ ★ ★ ★ ☆)

Sometimes when you go to Italy you don't lounge around Lake Como sipping an endless supply of cappuccinos.  

It's true!

And sometimes you don't even get to enjoy the gorgeous villa you are staying in.  
Instead, when you go to Italy, a store clerk might give you dirty looks because you buy up their entire supply of milk chocolate Novi bars.  Yep, all. thirty.

Or you may offend a Pizzeria owner when someone thinks drugs are an appropriate dinner topic. Oh, yes, they do understand English.  They all understand English. 

You may find that a member of your family is contaminating the crisp Mediterranean air with his "their" incessant coughing.

And if those aren't surprising enough, Italian vacations sometimes involve getting lost in Milan.  Because your dad may shove half of your group in a cab, tell the driver "Duomo," and let them whisk you away. Wait! Du o mo, wha??  Is that a painting?  A piazza?  A deep fried sandwich?  
But guess what?

Italian vacations don't have to be filled with villas and cappuccinos and blissful relaxation.

I mean, that doesn't sound terrible...  but...

maybe if I was basking in the lake-side air, I wouldn't've been forced to order an entire dinner in Italian by one very flirtatious waiter.  Blush much? 

I could have missed out on the adventure that led us to knocking on doors and tracking down the house my great-grandma grew up in.

And I probably wouldn't have been enticed by the little home-based pizzeria tucked away in the hills of Tremezzo,

where I ate an Apple and Gorgonzola Pizza.  
and Panna Cotta,
made by a little Italian lady. Italian lady who inspired this post. 

Panna Cotta is basically the Italian version of Flan and Creme Brûlée.

A little less luxurious than the French,
And a little less "jello-y" than the Spanish,
Panna Cotta is a perfect medium between the two.

A balance of rich creaminess and refreshing texture, Panna Cotta is ridiculously easy to make anytime of year.

Smear it with some cranberry compote...and you're ready to ring in the holidays!
Cranberry Panna Cotta
recipes from David Lebovitz and Martha Stewart

Panna Cotta:
  • 4 Cups (1 Quart) of Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar 
  • 2 tsp of Vanilla  
  • 2 Envelopes of Unflavored Gelatin 
  • 6 Tbsp of Cold Water

Cranberry Compote:
  • 1 - 12 oz Bag of Whole Cranberries
  • 1 Cup of Water
  • 2 Cups of Sugar

**Requires 4-6 hours of refrigeration.  Preferably overnight.**
Makes 8 Servings/Ramekins/Glasses
For Panna Cotta
1) Heat heavy whipping cream and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.
2) Once cream and sugar are warmed and mixed together add vanilla.
3) In a separate, large, heat-resistant bowl, mix packets of gelatin along with the cold water. Let mixture
    set for about 5 minutes.  The gelatin will absorb the water and become like a thick paste.

4) Pour warm panna cotta mixture over thickened gelatin, and stir until gelatin is completely dissolved. 
5) Grease 8 ramekins/glasses/cups.
6) Divide panna cotta mixture evenly amongst the dishes. Chill the individual panna cotta's in the 
    refrigerator for 4-6 hours until firm (best if chilled overnight).
7) If you want to remove the panna cotta for serving, take a small sharp knife and run it along the edge 
    of the dish.  Place dish upside down on your serving plate and let it slide out.
For Cranberry Compote:
8) Rinse cranberries in cold water.
9) In a large saucepan, bring water and sugar to a slow boil.  Stir until sugar is dissolved
10) Add cranberries to the sugar mixture and bring to a boil.  Once cranberries reach a boil, reduce heat
      slightly and allow berries to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. The cranberries should "pop"
      and be soft to the touch.
11) Remove mixture from heat and allow to cool before serving.  Store in the refrigerator for up to two
      weeks in an air-tight container.
Sometimes trips to Italy are different than you expect,
But if they lead you to Panna Cotta then it's probably for the best.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dipped Chai Cookies (★ ★ ★ ★ ☆)

If this comes off as a love letter, then I apologize.

I'm going to try really, really hard to contain my enthusiasm.

"Once Upon A Time" is back!

Ahem, correction:

My weekly dose of Regina is back!!!

How I love thee, oh, tortured character.

I. am. obsessed.

Let me count the ways...

The fourteen hundred times you snarl, "Miss Swan."
Being forced to obey Mr. Gold's every whim. 
That fateful poisonous apple turnover.
Seeking "magic" therapy.

How can someone be so sinister, so sexy, and so sympathetic at the same time?!  
Oh,  and add smart, sharp, and witty as heck:

Sure she's killed a few people - ripped out a few hearts.

Cursed the purest, truest lovers from ever finding each other.

She may have even kicked a dog. 

But deep down I see the girl with crushed dreams:

The one who watched as her mother killed her true love.
The one who realized her only ally had been the cause of her greatest pain.
The one who adopted a son so she could "feel something."
The one willing to die to save a town so she could be remembered as a person, not a villain.

Gah! Sniff
Cue the waaaaahhhmbulance! And strike up those violins! 
That's a tragic tale if I ever heard one.  

I forgive you, Regina!
You made me lasagna, Regina?
Of course, I'll eat it, Regina!
Why is no one else eating the lasagna, Regina?

Did anyone else feel a tinge when her peace offering was scorned?
Sure it's awkward that the Evil Queen who was hell bent on making everyone miserable is now bringing food to a potluck,
        ...why that even came up in the writer's room will never make sense to me...

But come on! Forgive and forget!
Stop harping on the past, fairy tale people! Seriously
I guess they are just blinded to her awesomeness.  
Or their past experiences are too traumatic to move on from.

But I, for one, can't get enough.

Give me Regina.  I want Regina!

What petty argument is going to tip her new found resolve to be good?  
What incident is going to trigger another devastating memory from her past?

This is good TV, ya'll!
What better motivation is there to keep tuning in, week after week?
It's not the "high-budget" CGI - I can tell you that much. 

It's the "will she"/"won't she" suspense.  
Am I watching good Regina or bad Regina?
Poisoned apple/peace-offering apple?
Chocolate or spicy chai?

Oh wait...those are my cookies.  
While I definitely did not intend to bake in honor of a television character, after this weeks episode I knew where this post was headed.

Using my absurdly addicting dough from the Dirty Chai Cookies I made last year, I just broke it down to the basics.

The spicy tanginess of chai mixed with the comforting richness of chocolate.   

A cookie with an identity disorder.  

And a delicious one at that. 

Dipped Chai Cookies
  • 1 Cup (2 Sticks) Butter, Room Temperature
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Packets Instant Chai Latte Powder (1/3 cup) (I found mine at Whole Foods)
  • 2 tsp Chai Tea
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 tsp Vanilla
  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat Oven to 375F
Bake for 9-11 Minutes
Makes Approx. 30 Cookies
1) Preheat oven to 375F. 
2) In a medium sized bowl, beat butter, sugar, chai latte powder, and chai tea (Just cut

    open the bag and measure) until fluffy.  For this recipe I didn't have enough chai latte powder so I 

    just added a bit more tea and sugar to compensate. 

3) Add vanilla and egg.  Beat until well mixed.

4) In a small bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt together.

5) Add flour mixture to sugar mixture a little bit at a time until thoroughly combined. 
6) Place rounded teaspoons of dough onto a greased baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

7) Bake for 9-11 minutes or until dry to the touch.  

8) After cookies have cooled, melt cup of chocolate chips in the microwave in 30 sec increments.  Stir 

    in-between to avoid over heating.

9) Dip each cookie halfway into the melted chocolate and place on parchment paper to set or store in 

    the refrigerator until chocolate is thoroughly hardened again (30 min to 1 hour).  Enjoy!

Because sometimes the answer is "both."

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Orange Upside Down Cupcakes (★ ★ ★ ★ ☆)

But sadly, there were car fuzzies everywhere.

The End


Uh... ya....

This story is sort of a tragedy.  

So instead of just ending on a sad note, I thought I'd put the ending out there so you can brace yourself and not cry hysterically or anything like I did at the end of "500 Days of Summer."  

Yes, I know there was a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie!  That's what I get for blogging and movie-ing at the same time.  It took me 20 minutes to realize that the Bachelorette actually ended up with someone this season - I have a problem.

But not all was lost. I learned a lesson.

Remember that goody - "Pride cometh beforeth the falleth?"

Oh ya, we're going there.
And it's about to get good. 

As with many things in life - it all started with a "spark."

You see there was this cake - an orange cake.  It was getting ALL kinds of online love.  Features, comments, pins - you name it.  

It seemed like everywhere I went on the blogosphere that week - I was haunted by this orange cake.

The Cake From Where It All Began:

Now don't get me wrong - I'm a fan of orange and an even bigger fan of "easy," but I was dumbfounded to realize that what everybody was raving about was just so normal... so simple.

And that's the moment the dark seed took root.

"I can do that."

It became my presumptuous mission to become the toast of the blogs, the bees knees.  If an easy orange cake can do it...then I most definitely could.  

You guys like orange, right?  Obviously.  
And something that doesn't require frosting?  Boom - frosting on the ground!
Since I can't be a total copycat, instead of "simple" why don't we go with "classic?"  Upside down cake.
Then make it totes unique?  Mini-size 'em.

The stage was set.

The ingredients prepped. 

And honestly, I worked my magic.
These were good.  Like Martha Stewart Living, Better Homes and Garden, sophisticatedly-rustic-delicious good.   Even on Day 1, 2, and 3.

My evil plan was working.  Assuredly, my cupcakes would be the buzz of the week.

My friends and family drooled over them.  My brother who only eats my desserts if they are chocolate, begged for more.

Oh, I done good.

And that's when it happened...

I had carefully pack several away to bring to work.
Because the praises of family and friends can't be trusted.  They love me, you know?
But co-workers.  Co-workers have no obligation to boost my ego.  They can just as easily grab a cupcake, take a bite, and toss it in the trash.  No harm, no foul.

It was there that I would finally reign.  And my induction into the "Lauded Bakers of the Blogosphere" would be imminent.
That was before I was running late.

Before I couldn't find a container with a lid,

Before I had to slam on my brakes,

Before the treats I had so lovingly crafted, pummeled one by one to the floor...

...of my car.

My dreams crushed.
Replaced by smooshed cupcakes coated in car fuzzies.


I learned a valuable lesson that day.

Baking isn't about winning praise.
It's about enjoying the process.

It isn't about sugar and butter.
Baking is about sharing and bringing people closer.

Oh, who am I kidding?  It totally is!

But I also know that giving way to the cockiness within -- always ends badly.  I'm just lucky this time my penance was pieces of carpet.
Orange Upside Down Cupcakes
used Sallys Baking Addiction as my starting point
  • 3 1/2 Cup Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Baking soda
  • 1 Cup (2 Sticks) of Butter, melted
  • 2 Cups Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt (Or Sour Cream)
  • 3/4 Cup Milk
  • 1 Cup Orange Juice
  • 4 tsp Vanilla
  • 2/3 Cups Butter [for cupcake tops]
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar [for cupcake tops]
  • 3-4 Small Oranges, cut into 24 thin slices and peeled
  • 24 Cupcake Liners
Makes 24 Cupcakes
Preheat Oven to 375F after baking for 7min lower to 350F
Bake for 15-20 minutes
1) In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and baking powder.
2) In a small microwave safe bowl, microwave 1 Cup (2 sticks) butter in 30 sec increments until melted. 
    Stirring in-between each heating.
3) Transfer melted butter into a medium sized bowl.  Add 2 Cups brown sugar and beat until combined.
4) Add eggs, yogurt, milk, orange juice, and vanilla.  Beat until combined.
5) Slowly add flour mixture to batter.  Once combined batter will be very thick.  Which makes it super
    easy to spoon into the cupcake tin. Yeah!
6) Because I needed the tops to slide out very easily, but I didn't want to have to eat these out of a 
    cupcake liner, I totally stole this idea from Glorious Treats.  Fold the liners in half and cut a small half 
    moon out of the bottom.  This will be just enough to cover the bottom of each of the muffin slots. 
7) Butter or spray the heck out off the muffin tin and then line with the cut cupcake liners.
8) In a small microwave bowl, melt 2/3 cups of butter and stir in 1 Cup brown sugar.
9) Drop in 1/2 Tbsp of this mixture into each liner.
10) Cut oranges into very thin slices - you need 24 total. 
11) I found that slicing the orange and then carefully peeling each one worked for me.  However, if
      you'd like to peel the whole orange first and then slice it that might work as long as you have a very
      sharp knife.
12) Next slit an opening in the slice, so you can easily wrap it into the bottom of a cupcake slot.  If you
      have more time cutting the slice into little "pie" pieces and placing them into the cupcake liner
      individually will make it easier to eat.
13) Press orange slice down so it gets immersed in the brown sugar and butter.
14) Spoon batter over orange slices and place into oven at 375F.  After 7 mins, lower the oven
      temperature to 350F.  Bake for another 8-13 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes
      out clean.
15) Let cupcakes cool on a rack for a few minutes, then flip upside down and let cupcakes slide out.  If
      some seem stuck, carefully tap the tops of the cupcake tin to get them to fall out.
Vanilla Whipped Cream
makes enough for 24 cupcakes
  • 2 Cups of Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 2/3 Cup of Powdered Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp of Vanilla Bean Paste (or Vanilla Extract)
  • 2 tsp Unflavored Gelatin
1) Tip: But medium sized bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes beforehand.  It helps the cream to 
    whip up faster. Side Note: the gelatin helps the whipped cream to keep it's form and not to become
    a runny, puddly mess. 
2) Beat whipped cream until stiff peaks form.  Add powdered sugar (more or less to taste), vanilla, and 
    gelatin.  Beat until combined.  
3) Store in fridge if not using immediately.

*Disclaimer* - While the events in this post are true, they may have been exaggerated for story telling purposes only.  I happen to really like orange in desserts and I get inspired by other blogs like twenty times a day! 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fluffernutter Cupcakes (★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆)

Well, well, well.  Long time no see.

Guess what?!

I'm guest posting over at Not Your Ordinary Recipes today!

Go and check these Fluffernutter Cupcakes out!



These cupcakes were featured:

Sunday, July 7, 2013

"Independence Day" Ice Cream Cupcakes (★ ★ ★ ★ ☆)

Alright, let's just get the fact that it's no longer the 4th of July out of the way.

It's still July and I celebrate birthdays all month long.  So as far as I'm concerned, Happy 7th Day of your 237th Birthday, America!

I made these for you!  Because I love you!

But also,

...Because I love me.

I mean, you can't really eat.
I don't want to be "that" girl.  You know, the one who bakes for her country, and then sits all sad at home while these ice cream cupcakes melt and go to waste because you never showed up.

I knew going into this that I'd have to eat them myself.

Rest assured, though, I made you something worthy.
I took time to stretch my non-decorating skills.
And savored every bite in your honor.

Then, in my honor, I made sure they were super simple and stinkin' good.
But I have something to confess to you.

It's kind of serious.

I broke a self-imposed baking rule for these.  

Probably the second most sacred self-imposed baking rule of all...right after:
"Rule #1: All Artificial Sweeteners Must Be Exorcised From Nat's Presence When Baking Is To Occur."

I don't even know how to tell you, so I'm just going to spit it out...

ppphaaaa ahhhhh hhhhoooo kkkaaaayyy

I'm about to suggest that you use Cool Whip.
Gasp!       Shock!       Awe!

Yes.  It's true.

For this recipe...      Just this once...

I am officially a Cool Whip promoter.

A promoter of chemically, fake, wannabe whipped cream.

I am actually suggesting you abandon the fatty, fluffy, smooth, delicious treat from God Himself, in favor of this man made garbage.

Effectively breaking, "Rule #2: Imitation Whipped Cream Shall Never Cross Thine Lips."
I know!

What is the world coming to?
What is this blog coming to?!!??
You all know I love whipped cream.

Whipped cream is my hommie.  My love.  My main baking squeeze.

But for these delicious morsels, Cool Whip is your guy.

You see, I make ice cream with whipped cream all the time.  And I know two things to be true:
1) It freezes rock solid.
2) It's extremely rich.

Two things you definitely want to avoid for these ice cream cupcakes.

1) You aren't eating these with a spoon.  They need to have "bite-worthy" texture.  I don't need anyone
    chipping a tooth.
2) Mixing ice cream with whipped cream seems like an unnecessary health burden. Heart attack, much?

I double-dog, triple pinky promise that I would never suggest this to you if I didn't think it tasted amazing.

And, oh, it does.

It's like mousse.  Ice cream mousse.
So light and creamy and refreshing from this soul crushing heat wave we've been having.

These are pretty much a summer must.

So please forgive me.
My goal is to give you the best.
And if the best involves Cool Whip, then so be it.
Ice Cream Cupcakes
recipe slightly adapted from The Domestic Rebel, and introduced to me by Aimee.  That one bite changed my life.

  • 1 - 1.5 Quart Tub of Ice Cream (I used Cake Batter to get the color I wanted)
  • 1 - 8oz Tub of Cool Whip (thawed)**
  • 20 Oreos (or small round cookie of choice)
  • 20 Cupcake Liners
  • (Optional) Sprinkles

Makes 20 Ice Cream Cupcakes
Requires freezing time (2-6hrs)
**Addendum: Apparently Trader Joe's has their own non-hydrogenated oil House Whip.  Wish I knew that before I made these.**
1) Set ice cream out for about 20 minutes before starting.  Cool whip must be thawed from the freezer
    (this can be done overnight in the fridge).
2) Line two muffin tins with 20 cupcake liners.  Place cookie at the bottom of each one and set off to
    the side.
3) In a large bowl, scoop in softened ice cream.  Add tub of cool whip and fold until combined.
4) (Optional) If adding topping/decorations sprinkle a small handle into the mixture for added color and
5) Using a kitchen spoon, scoop ice cream mixture into cupcake liners.  Keep adding until the mixture 
     just reaches the top of the liner.  Smooth with the back of the spoon to help level out the tops.
6) At this point, my mixture was very melted so I put in the freezer for about 30 minutes before I added 
    the decorations.  If your mixture is holding its texture go ahead and decorate now, otherwise, pop in 
    the in the freezer for a little bit (just to set) then decorate.  These things thaw out very, very, very 
7) Once decorated, freeze for at least 2 hours before eating.  6 hours to overnight is preferable, but I 
    ate one at 2 hours and it was fine, just not as firm as it could've been.  
8) A side note: these thaw within minutes so they need to be in the freezer until immediately before 
    serving.  The cool whip mixed in prevents these from getting very hard.  
Sure I missed America's Birthday and I endorsed Cool Whip, 
But I just drooled because of my own photo...  
And that's plain embarrassing. 


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