Thursday, October 25, 2012

Muddy Buddy Cookies (★ ★ ★ ★ ☆)

I’ve been a bad blogger mommy. 
(Yes, I’m a nurturer by nature and this blog is my baby.  And no, that’s not weird.)
Yesterday, I was stricken with a terrible disease.  I caught a case of the procrastinations. 
Actually, it’s something I’ve always dealt with, but I haven’t had an episode in so long that when it flared up again yesterday, I just didn’t know how to handle it. 
Granted, I was also nursing a pretty substantial migraine, but that had subsided by 10pm with the help of some Advil and cozy pajamies.  Sure, I could’ve gotten back to work, but by then I was so exhausted that all I wanted to do was watch Parenthood and bawl my eyes out. 
So I did.
And it was gooooood.
I should really be writing these things at least by Tuesday night, but I thrive on pressure.  Every Wednesday night is like a thrilling cramming session.  Can I finish in an hour or will I be up till 2am like that one time I had absolutely nothing interesting to say? 
I know.  I know. I’m ca-RAy-Zay!
But today I let you down.  I know you just wake up every Thursday morning and think to yourselves, “Thursday’s are the worst.  It’s life’s last sick “ah ha” tease before the weekend finally comes to save me.  Well, at least I know I can read Nat’s blog.  That gets me through the day.  Makes me remember why I keep going on.”
I am a bad, bad person.  I’m devastated that I did that to any of you.
So here’s to faking myself out and pretending that my blog entries actually post on Wednesdays.

Just a side note. 
Today’s post is out-of-this-world delicious. 
Definitely worth the wait.  Promise. 

I am like a big kid. 
And frankly, I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of it.
I still get excited about going to Disneyland.  No, like, embarrassingly excited.  Like, Ride-Pirates-of-the-Caribbean-10-times excited.
I always bite the heads off of any cookie shaped like a living being before eating the rest.  If it’s a gingerbread man it’s even more methodical.  It goes: head, arm, leg, arm, leg.  Yes, I torture my holiday treats. 
I love eating way too much Kraft Mac and Cheese – from the blue box.  And now that I’m an “adult” I can eat a whole half of a box and my mom can’t stop me! 
I carry a teenybopper sized torch for Zac Efron and Justin Bieber.  Thank God, they grow older each year too so the creepiness factor doesn’t increase the older I get…it just stays the same!
I get giddy every time TSwift comes out with a new album, hanging out the dirty laundry of all of Hollywood’s hunks. Oh Jake, Jake, Jake.  She got you good this time.  Deciphering which song is about whom is to little girls what crosswords are to old people.

But you know what else floats my boat?  
Muddy Buddies.
Those peanut buttery...
                                                                        cereal-y covered goodness.
Anytime I see them, I'm instantly taken back to my childhood.  My strongest memories?  That we hardly ever made them because the adults deemed them "too messy" and that even one small morsel would instantly send me into a state of ravenous hunger.  There was never enough. 
So when I saw recipes going around for a cookie version of these...
Well, they had me at "hello."

Only, I discovered some issues:
1) People were using either peanut butter cookie mix, from a package, or a recipe that called for flour.  
    Um, if we want legitimate peanut butter flavor, we definitely have to go flourless.
2) And none, get this, none called for Chex cereal.  I'm sorry, but isn't that like the main ingredient in 
     a Muddy Buddy?  I mean if we're talking ratios, Chex is pretty vital.
So I made them.  
And I made them right.  
And guess what?  They were fantastic.
Muddy Buddy Cookies

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies with Chex Cereal
  • 1 Cup of Peanut Butter
  • 1 Cup of Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 tsp of Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 cup Rice Chex Cereal (or Wheat/Corn)
  • Pinch of Salt for sprinkling
  • 1 Cup Chocolate Chips
  • 1/4 Cup of Butter
  • Approx. 1 Cup Powdered Sugar
Preheat oven to 350F
Bake for 9 minutes
Makes approximately 32 small cookies

For the cookies:

1) In a large bowl mix together peanut butter, sugar, egg, baking soda and vanilla.  Beat until well 
    blended.  Mixture will be crumbly. 
*Tip: If you spray the measuring cup with olive oil/cooking spray before measuring anything really sticky or, just for arguments sake, say, peanut butter...then you will find that most of it slides right out and clean up is a breeze.  That's what my measuring cup looked like right after plopping the PB out of it.  No spatula, no scraping.
2) Lightly crush the Chex cereal into the PB mixture.  I just used my hand.  Using a hand beater
    blend until well combined.
3) Carefully fashion small (think teaspoon sized) peanut butter balls and place about an inch apart on a
    greased baking sheet. Dough will be very crumbly so getting a tight wad of is a little
    laborious, but doable.  Also, remember to think small.  You are going to be dipping these and
    shaking them up in a bag.  I feel like "smaller" can take more abuse.
4) Press balls of dough lightly with a fork.  Cross and press again.  Sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake for 9
    minutes in the oven until cookies are slightly golden.
5) Let cookies cool thoroughly before proceeding.
For the coating:
6) Melt chocolate chips and butter in a microwave safe bowl.  Start with 30 seconds and then stir. Heat
    in 15 second increments until smooth and melted.

7) Place cookies lightly, one at a time, into the bowl of chocolate. Using spoons to maneuver the cookie
    flip it over and coat any exposed areas.
8) Scrape as much excess chocolate off as you can. It's a messy process so don't freak out if it's not  
9) In a ziploc bag (quart or gallon size) add about a 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.  Start loading up the
    bag with the chocolate coated cookies.  Fill the bag with as many cookies as will fit comfortably, but
    still have some room to move around.  Close bag and shake. Make sure each cookie is thoroughly
    coated in powdered sugar.  They will be easily manageable and not sticky if coated properly.  Add
    more powdered sugar to bag as needed.  Repeat until all cookies are finished.
10) Store any uneaten cookies (if there are any) in the fridge.
The Bestie begged me to make these again for her birthday.

Ya, that's not till next June.  Can we say clingy
That's how good they are. 
And I've been meaning to post a picture of my super cool photo set up.  
So I present to you my homemade lightbox:
Bringing you awesome pictures from my counter.

This was featured here:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Honey Beer Cake (★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆)

I love crazy coincidences.

Like that one baby who fell from a high window and was caught by a man who not only saved his life then, but also a year later when he fell out the same window and was caught by the same man.


Like that Edgar Allan Poe book about four survivors of a shipwreck who after many days out at sea decided to eat the cabin boy, Richard Parker - 45 years later there was an actual shipwreck, with four survivors and an unfortunate cabin boy, named Richard Parker. 

I'll let you put the pieces together on that one. 


I've even found a few of these "occurrences" in my own life.  Now, granted, no man has saved me twice from falling into the hands of cannibalistic sea men, but they make for good stories nonetheless...

There was that one time when our family bused it across the country and bumped into the same friends in Washington D.C. at the Spy Museum and in line to see the Liberty Bell in Pennsylvania before our purposely planned meeting with them for dinner in New York City.


There was that one time I finally sat and had a real conversation with a coworker I had been working with for almost two years and we discovered we had the same taste in shows, same addiction to coffee, we had similar childhood experiences and personalities, we had even dated the same guy.  

I've come to the conclusion that some things fit together too perfectly to be merely coincidence.  
Like this post.

I know what you're thinking.

Beer bread? 
You're going to claim life-alterting non-coincidences involving cake?
You hittin' the bottle a little hard there?

1) Yes, to the non-coincidence part.  And I'll explain.
2) No, to the snide alcoholism reference.  There's only one cup of beer in here and a good chunk of the
     alcohol content gets cooked out during baking.  No, duh!  In your face!

And now, the proof...

Non-coincidence #1: I took a wine class my last semester of college.
Result: I no longer found alcohol disgusting.

Non-coincidence #2: I tasted a beer cupcake at work.
Result: The idea that beer and dessert do not mix was firmly implanted in my mind.

Non-coincident #3: My first baking blog request: beer cupcakes.
Result: First, the obvious: I wondered why the heck people like beer cupcakes so much.  Second, my brain started developing strategies as to how to make a tolerable beer dessert.

Non-coincidence #4: While searching for a good recipe that would travel well to my uncle who is the reason this particular post exists, I stumbled upon this recipe that expressed what I was feeling EXACTLY.
     -Girl makes cake out of devotion to relative.
     -Girl cringes at thought of destroying beautiful cake with football belch juice.
     -Girl puts devotion above personal feelings.
     -Girl tastes cake before serving as all bakers must.
     -Girl realizes cake it good.
     -Girl is a baking goddess.
Result: Feelings of excitement and frankly a strong kinship with this girl fueled my resolve.  Beer cake, it's on!  

Non-coincidence #5: Having absolutely no experience in picking out beer, I went with the one that caught my eye at the supermarket.  Gold star + "premium beer" promise = I took home a Sapporo. When my friend came over to help take pictures for this post he mentioned that not only was this his dads favorite beer, BUT his mom was once a hand model for this brand.
Result:  Are you kidding me?!  This is too good to be true.  I bought a brand that my friend's mom was a hand model for?! Love it.

If you take 1 through 5 and add them together you get a pretty legit story.
Enter:  The Honey Beer Cake

Honey Beer Cake
adapted from Tastespotting

3/4 Cup butter, room temperature
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1 Tbsp milk
7 oz. Sapporo Beer (or beer of choice)
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 Cup honey
2 2/3 Cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg

Approximately 10 Servings
Cooking Time: About 45 Minutes
Preheat Oven to 350F
1) Preheat oven to 350F.  Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla together.

2) Add eggs one at a time.  Beating well after each addition.

3) Mix in milk, beer, and lemon zest.  Add honey.
    (I knew there was a reason I started taking step-by-step pictures.)  The batter will look almost
    curdled.  It's from the carbonation.  Don't worry, this is normal and will settle after adding dry

4) In a sifter combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Sift over wet ingredients, beating
    occasionally between additions.

5) After ingredients are well combined, spoon batter into well greased loaf pan.  Cook for
     approximately 50 minutes.  Start with 45 min and work your way up.  I left it in for almost an hour
     and it was slightly overcooked on the edges.

6) Test for doneness by inserting toothpick two inches from edge of pan.  It's done when the pick
    comes out clean.  Let cake cook on rack for 10 minutes before removing.
    Tip: To get the cake out, I ran a knife along the edges and flipped it upside down on a cookie sheet.

The Legend of the Beer Cake shall live on for generations!

My poor children.  


Man/Dad Approved!  This was featured here:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Salted Dark Chocolate Oat Cookies (★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆)

Salt fixes everything.

No, does.

Think about it.

Whenever you cook something, or bake something, or "blah blah blah" [insert brûlée, flambé, etc] anything edible what's the one thing that is always missing?  The thing that item needs more of?  The one thing that just sets it over the edge?

Unanimously, the answer is salt.

The godsend.  
The cherry on top.

My mom is famous for making salsa and I've been her ever present taste-tester throughout the years...
but the scenario never fails.

"Can you taste this and tell me if it needs anything?"
"Um, I think it needs more salt."
"I already put in salt."
"I still think it needs some."
"I put in A-Lot of salt."
"Okay, but..."  [Skipping the argument and adding salt.]
"I'm telling you, I added a tuh... Oh.  That's good."

I mean what else gives pasta that pop?
Sautéed chicken that zip?
Fire roasted bell peppers that tang?

It's the most essential ingredient in play dough...a staple during our most fragile and pliable years.
And it's the best snail repellant I know of.  Oh, look at the fizz!
But salt just isn't for the obvious.

It's also for the dollop of whipped cream on your morning coffee.
For the slice of watermelon you packed in your lunch.
For the Dark Chocolate Oat cookies I baked you.

...Wait whaa?...

For whipped cream?  Fruit?  Cookies? 

Yup.  Especially for cookies.

A couple years ago, I decided to test what has been hailed as the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever: New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies.  

The secret?  
Well, lots of nuances...but mostly it was the sprinkling of salt on each piece before it entered the oven. 

They were good.
And the salt?  Heavenly.

The cookies had a slight savory taste and the salt helps to bring out the other flavors already present in the cookie.

I have now become a salt-believer.
Every cookie should be kissed with this stuff.

Let me convert you.
It's for your own good. 
Salted Dark Chocolate Oat Cookies
adapted from Jens Favorite Cookies and Stresscake
  • 1/2 Cup Butter (softened)
  • 1 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Tbsp Vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 Cup Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Cup Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 Cup Oatmeal
  • 1/2 Cup 70% Dark Chocolate Chunks
  • *Coarse salt for sprinkling 
Bakes approximately 30 cookies
Preheat oven to 325F
Cook for about 12 minutes. 

1) Preheat oven to 325F.  Cream together butter, sugar, brown sugar
    *Tip:  If you haven't left the butter out long enough you can pop it in the microwave to speed up the
      "softening" process.  Be careful though.  You want softened not melted butter.  Start with 5 to 10
      seconds and go from there.  Flipping the cube and checking after every time.
     *Tip 2:  My intention was to use only brown sugar, but I found that the cookies were a little too
       bitter.  I added the white sugar later because I ran out of the brown.  If you want you can substitute
       either of the two for each other.  I just really like brown sugar.

2) Add eggs and vanilla.  Beat until thoroughly mixed.
    *Tip: 1 Tbsp might be a little overzealous.  I love vanilla in just about anything so I increased the
      amount.  In hindsight though, I couldn't really tell the difference so the standard 1 tsp would have

Just me at work. 
Wet ingredients
3) In a smaller bowl, mix dry ingredients together with a spoon.  Flour, oats, cocoa powder, salt, and
    baking soda.
4) Gradually add dry ingredients to butter/sugar mixture, beating well between each addition.

5) Add or chop up 70% dark chocolate chunks (chips) to cookie dough.

Dark chocolatey goodness
 6) Place rounded tablespoonfuls of dough on greased cookie sheet about two inches apart.

 7) Sprinkle a dusting of salt over each ball.  Bake for 11-13 minutes or until middle springs
      back when touched.

These are good.

Ooey.  Gooey.

A little bit of chewy.
A ton of chocolately.
A hearty texture.

And the zinger?

The one that puts even all of Charlie Sheen's outrageous catchphrases to shame?

Salt of course.  

And you know what else fixes things?
My new Canon EOS Rebel T3.
Feast your eyes.

Dark Chocolate is yummy.

Deep Dark Chocolate Cupcakes
Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dirty Chai Cupcakes (★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆)

I've always had a thing against leftovers.

I just couldn't get my head around
1) Having any food left over to have for "leftovers,"
2) Day old reheated food. How is that enticing?

None of those options sounded very good, so leftovers found themselves on my "You're Dead To Me" list. 

Now, maybe you think I'm being "overly" dramatic.
You swear by leftovers and think I should give them another try.

Am I right?  ...Ya  ....Thought so.
I've got you pegged.  ...And it annoys the heck out of you. 
                                  ...And so do all my ellipsis
But what is so great about microwaved pizza?

Don't shoot me, but I don't like it cold.  Why would you consume all that wonderful fattening grease in solid form? Shiver.  Ew, I just got the heebie jeebies.

Microwaved pizza [or insert favorite leftover of choice here] is chewier, limp-ier, soggier...sad-ier than fresh from the oven pizza.   The crust gets tough, the cheese requires 10x the amount of chewing, and that pepperoni scalds the top of your mouth because it didn't need to get warmed up for 50 secs like the rest of the slice.

What about that sounds good?

In all honesty, pizza is a bad example.  Because I actually will eat a day old slice.  But I'm not happy about it!  And all I can think about is how good that piece must've tasted yesterday.

Crust crispy, but soft in all the right places.
Melt in your mouth cheese, with just the right amount of grease.
The aroma of the pepperoni mixed with the spices in the sauce, tantalizing.

Leftovers?  Blasphemy!
But that was then and this is now.

What?!  A thrilling twist!
Didn't see that one coming, huh?
Well, those of you who pay close attention to grammar may have noticed my use of the past tense earlier.

You're going up to check now, aren't you?

It's cool.  I can wait.



Oh good, you're back.

Anyway, now back to me.

Then I didn't have a full time job.  Then I didn't have any real bills.  Then I was going on four hours of sleep every night, skipping breakfast, and eating a bowl of oatmeal for lunch.  Ah, to be a college student again.

Now, my schedule is tighter.  And I'm trying to take better care of myself.
Leftovers suddenly take on a new appeal when that means you don't have to pre-pack your food for the next day.

"I'm so hungry, I could finish this whole filet mignon right now! ...Or I could save half and not have to worry about packing a lunch for work.  Hello halvsies!"

Shocking, I know.
But this is what it's come down to.

Purposely eating only half my meals.
Butchering filet mignon in the microwave.
Freezing the leftover espresso ganache from my Dirty Chai Cookies, and using it to bake "leftover cupcakes."

Yup, that's what I made you today.

But not just any leftovers.... Dirty Chai Cupcake leftovers.

And if I do say so myself, those are the best kind!
Dirty Chai Cupcakes

Chai Cupcakes:
  • 1 Box Vanilla Cake Mix
  • 2/3-1 Cup Chai Tea Latte Concentrate (Substitute for water)
  • 1-2 Tbsp Chai Tea (ground loose leaf or from tea bag)
  • 1 Small Package of Vanilla Pudding
Whipped Espresso Ganache:
  • 10oz semi sweet chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tsp instant espresso

1) Prepare mix according to box, substituting an equal amount of Chai Tea Concentrate for the amount 
    of water called for.  
2) Add 1-2 Tbsp of Chai Tea.  I used Tazo tea and just cut the bag open and scooped some out.  I like 
    my tea strong and spicy so 2 Tbsp worked for me, but I would start with 1 Tbsp and test the batter.
3) Add vanilla pudding.  Mix well.
4) Bake according to directions on box.  

A) Set aside chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
B) In small saucepan, heat cream just until boiling.
C) Add espresso powder to cream and stir until dissolved. 
D) Pour cream over chocolate chips and stir until melted and thoroughly combined.
E) Let ganache cool to room temperature.  With a hand mixer beat until slightly fluffy.  Be careful not   
     to over beat.  Mixture will become like chocolate butter and be very difficult to spread.  (Tip: if
     needed to help with the whipping process place bowl in the refrigerator for a few minutes. Be 
     careful as ganache gets very firm once chilled and will be extremely difficult to spread.)

If you revamp a leftover you can't really call it such anymore, can you?
That's using the ol' noggin.