Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Strawberry & Dark Chocolate Pocket Pies

Happy national strawberry day everyone! Bet you didn't' know there was a national day for the strawberry, now did you? Now that you know, what better way to celebrate this berry delicious day than with a pie you can hold in your hand! Pie on the go? Now that's what I'm talking about!

I first made these cute little pies back on Valentine's day. Back in January I found this irresistible heart pie contraption at Target and had to get it. Dang you Target! To be honest, I forgot I even bought it until a day before the day of loooove. That's what I get for buying things ahead of time and then forgetting where I put them. Ya, I do that a lot. Even though I forgot about my little heart pocket mold, that didn't stop me from running to the store to get my ingredients and making a little something extra special for my colleagues at work as well as the captain. I am really not that into valentine's day, but a little something sweet is never a bad thing, right? Especially when it's strawberries and chocolate. And pie. Pie, pie, pie, pie.

To make these pies, you don't even need a heart mold or any mold for that fact. You can just use your knife to cut out rectangles, or you can even do circles and make half moon pies. Or triangles. Ooh, triangles would be fun. No matter what shape you use to make your pies, they will still taste fabulous. These pies are a piece of cake to put together. Wait, a piece of pie. That just sounds weird, but you know what I mean. All you need is pie crust, berries, a little sugar, dark chocolate, cream, cornstarch and an egg. Nothing too crazy, right? Plus, you probably already have many of these ingredients in your pantry and fridge! You can use store bought crust if you are in a pinch, but if you have the time, homemade is the best and I have the best pie crust recipe for you to use. It's so easy and to delicious. A little salty, a little sweet. It's perfect. Check it out here. It's seriously fool poof and you can make them ahead of time and keep in the freezer for tons of recipes. I always have some on stock ready to go!

Once you have the shape you want cut and ready, you will fill the pie with the berry/sugar/cornstarch mixture and then top with a little dark chocolate. I used dark chocolate chips here for the ease of things, but you can always just chop up your favorite dark chocolate bar too. Once the pie is filled (don't fill it too too much or it may explode!), rim both the edges on the top and bottom with a little cream and seal the pie - either with your mold or a fork. Just make sure to seal the pies really well! You don't want all that goodness oozing out do you? Brush with the egg mixture for a little shine, use a fork to prick a few holes to let the steam out and then sprinkle with coarse sugar. These little pockets of joy bake up in just about 15 minutes and make your house smell amazing while they are in the oven. Who doesn't love the smell of fresh pie?! Serve these little pies by themselves or take them to the next level and serve them with a scoop of ice cream. No matter what way you enjoy them, I am willing to bet that you will fall in love with this fun sweet treat!



pie pocket making station!


filling the pie mold




for some reason, I put the cream on before the filling. Guess it really doesn't matter when you do it as long as you do it!
crimp and don't forget to prick!
eggy wash and sugar to make them look pretty
ready to bake
fresh out of the oven and smelling amazing. don't worry if they ooze a little.

Strawberry & Dark Chocolate Pocket Pies (slightly adapted from Two Peas and their Pod)

For the Pie Dough:
Store bought or my perfect pie crust recipe

For the Filling:
2 cups chopped strawberries
1 tablespoon granulated sugar (or more depending on sweetness of berries)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup chopped dark chocolate
2 tablespoons heavy cream 


Finishing Touches:
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon water
Coarse sugar, for sprinkling on pies


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat. In medium bowl, combine the strawberries, sugar, and cornstarch. Stir until strawberries are well coated. 

Remove the pie dough from the refrigerator. Place one of the disks on a lightly floured work surface. Roll into a square about 1/8-inch thick. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces, about 5x5 squares. If you are not cutting your pies and using a press, use the mold from the press to make your pieces (this may make more or less depending on the size of your mold). Spoon about 2 tablespoons of strawberries into the center of each square, then top with about 1 tablespoon of chopped dark chocolate. Brush the edges of the pie with the heavy cream. Bring opposite corners together and press the edges together. Use a fork or pocket pie press to crimp the edges of the pie.

In a small bowl, combine the egg and water with a fork. Brush the top of the pie with the egg wash and sprinkle generously with coarse sugar. Repeat with the remaining squares of dough. Roll out the second disk of pie dough and do the same. Transfer the hand pies to the prepared baking sheets. Using a form, prick a small vent or two in the top of each pie. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the pies are golden brown. The filling may bubble out a bit and that's ok. Transfer to a wire rack and allow the pies to cool completely.



You can never go wrong with chocolate and strawberries!

Monday, February 25, 2013

200th Post - The Best Bran Muffins EVER!

Before I even begin to tell you about how amazing these bran muffins are, I first must tell you that this is my 200th blog post. I can't believe it! Have I really blogged 200 times? Whoa! When I hit my 100th post, I dedicated it to my amazing mom. Without her, I wouldn't know what the heck to do in the kitchen. No joke. There are still some things that she makes that I can make as well, but they just taste better when she makes them. I don't know what it is, but I am guessing it's just mom love. Ya, that must be it. For this 200th post, I dedicate it to my health. Since my 100th post, I have changed my eating and workout habits for the better. I'm down 35 pounds (and still going!) and I now have learned to enjoy working out and getting into running and kickboxing. Me, running? Ya, right. But in all seriousness, although it's tough, I do enjoy it. Never did I think those words would come out my mouth. Nevertheless, with my working out and adapting recipes, I have come to learn that healthy does not have to mean flavorless or tastes bad. Now, don't get me wrong, I still love to bake and cook the not so good for you stuff, but it's all about moderation. The captain keeps telling me that and I think it's starting to finally stick. He's pretty smart.

Okay, back to the muffins. THESE MUFFINS ARE AMAZING. I know when you think bran muffin, you think dry and gross, but these are totally the opposite. These muffins are loaded with dried fruit, honey, coconut, nuts, applesauce and bran. Lots of bran. Tons of fiber, tons of flavor and so delicious. The best part, is that they are under 145 calories each! Since I started making these, I have been eating one for breakfast and one for a snack in the afternoon. Oh, and I forgot to tell you- there are no processed sugars and no dairy in these muffins! How many other muffins can say that? You can always use any milk of your choice, but to keep the calories down and to keep it dairy free, I use unsweetened almond milk. You don't even know it's there, promise! These muffins bake up quick and are so moist from the honey and applesauce that you won't even miss the oil that is usually in muffins. Darn those 500 calorie muffins that look healthy, but are loaded with oil and sugar.

These muffins so good that I usually make a double batch and freeze half of them for the next week. They freeze great in a big ziploc bag. But, to make sure you don't get bored with them (there is no way you could!), I have tried out several variations on this muffin recipe. The original recipe called for fresh blueberries, but since the captain is anti-blueberry, that was a no no. So, I decided to go with dried cherries. You can always do fresh blueberries, but I love cherries and after doing the calorie count of 12oz of blueberries, I was able to determine that a heaping 1/2 cup of chopped dried fruit was about the same! Here are some of the combinations I have done so far and some that I can't wait to try:
  1. Dried cherries and walnuts - this one is my favorite!
  2. Dried apricots and pecans - this is my mom's favorite. The chewy apricots give it a little something something.
  3. Chopped apples, walnuts and cinnamon - this one reminds me of apple pie and the apples keep the muffins extra extra moist.
  4. Carrots, raisins, cinnamon and walnuts - I can't wait to try this one. Hello carrot cake!
  5. Zucchini, cinnamon and walnuts - I can't wait to try this one either. It reminds me of zucchini bread.
As you can see, the list of combinations is endless! Use whatever nuts and dried fruit you like. Or leave the nuts or fruit out if you want, but trust me, it's better with them. Unless you are allergic - that wouldn't be such a good idea to eat them then. Experiment and find out what you love and get addicted to these muffins! If I did, I know you will too. You won't ever say no to bran muffins again.

yummy ingredients

if you spray non-stick spray on your measuring cup, the honey will slide right out!

pouring in the milk and vanilla

this is wheat bran. you can find it in the cereal section or the baking section. I usually find it in the cereal section next to the oatmeal.

mmm, dried cherries. the first time I left them whole, but they are better chopped a bit.

exactly 16 muffins - that rarely happens!

bran bran bran muffinssss

The Best Bran Muffin Ever (adapted from SkinnyTaste)

1 cup wheat bran
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour (white or regular whole wheat will be just fine)
1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or skim is fine)
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tbsp coconut oil (or canola)
2 large eggs, beaten
12 oz fresh fruit or a heaping cup of your favorite dried fruit, chopped



Preheat oven to 400°F.  Line a muffin tin with 16 liners.

Combine the wheat bran, wheat flour, baking soda and baking powder. Stir in nuts and coconut.
In a separate bowl, blend applesauce, almond milk, honey, coconut oil, vanilla and egg.  Add to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Fold in fruit. Scoop the batter into paper-lined muffin cups and bake for 13-14 minutes (may take up to 18-20 based on your oven), or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Bran muffins usually get a bad wrap, but not anymore!

 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

How To: The Perfect Hard Boiled Egg

Happy Saturday morning everyone! I'll try to keep this short and sweet, but you never know what may happen. Sometimes I just get carried away and before you know it, I've written an essay. How come wiring never came this easy while I was in college? But I digress. Now, who loves hard boiled eggs? Now, who doesn't love hard boiled eggs because they always seem to come out over cooked with that green and grey ring around the yolk? I do! I do! Fear the hard boiled egg no more because I have a technique that will give you the perfect hard boiled eggs just about every single time. No joke. Wait, no yolk. I thought it was funny.

Let me first start off with the eggs. You can use whatever eggs you like, organic, brown, extra large, free range. Whatever you have and whatever you like will work just fine. Personally, I have to come to love love love fresh from the farm eggs. One of my coworkers raises chickens and brings in eggs a couple of times a month for free! If he offers them to me, of course I always say yes because there is just something about those fresh eggs. They truly taste like eggs. If that makes any sense at all. The yolks are so rich and so so orangy yellow. I can't even really describe them other than they are delicious. If you ever get your hands on some fresh from the farm eggs, pretty please try them out. You won't regret it.

Okay, back to the perfect hard boiled egg. I get on these kicks of having hard boiled eggs for breakfast or for a snack when I get home from work. They are tasty with a little salt and pepper and pack a punch of protein that I need to keep my tummy full and happy. I've always just put the eggs in a pot and let them simmer for 25 minutes or so. They typically turn out fine, but there is always one that seems to be under or over cooked. Why that is, I don't know. It just is. So, I began researching how to cook the perfect hard boiled egg. Book after book and website after website all said the same darn thing. I couldn't believe it. Want to know how to do it? Here you go:

Put put the eggs in an even later in the bottom of your pot. Then cover with water giving your eggs an extra inch or two of water. Add a teaspoon of salt as this will help prevent cracking and make your eggs easier to peel (bonus!). Turn on the heat and bring the eggs to a simmer. Once they are simmering, remove the pot from the heat, cover and turn off the stove. Let the eggs sit, covered, for 10-12 minutes. At the 10 minute mark you can check and egg to make sure it's done. If it's not, let the remaining eggs sit in the hot water, covered, for the rest of the time. Once the eggs are ready, remove them from the water and place in an ice bath to cool. Once they are cooled slightly you can peel and enjoy or store them in the fridge for up to five days or so. Just be careful, the eggs will release their eggy smell, so make sure to put them in a container with a lid. Stinky!

See, how easy was that? Super easy. Here are a few pictures of the process to get your taste buds going!


start with eggs in the pan

bring to a simmer
cover with lid and turn off the heat

after 10-12 minutes, cool in an ice bath

perfectly cooked hard boiled egg!


Now what are you waiting for. Go boil some eggs!

 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Chocolate Lovers Cheesecake

Let me just get this out there and out in the open. 

I have never made a cheesecake before. Like never ever ever.

Scary, right? Well, let me kinda take that previous statement back. I made a cheesecake couple of years ago, but left it out on the counter overnight and never got to try it because cheese left out overnight is never a good idea to eat the next day. So, I don't really say that time counted. Do you agree? I hope so. The idea for making this cheesecake for the captain's true birthday comes from a long time. Long long time ago. When I first met the captain many moons ago, he was making cheesecake. Yes, cheesecake. A turtle cheesecake to be exact. I couldn't believe it. For one, not many men I know make cheesecake and second, I don't know a single man that owns a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I should have known right then and there that it would be true love. Awwwww.

Let's just say, the captain makes one of the best cheesecakes I've ever had. And no, I am not just saying that. It's really that good! The crust is so buttery delicious and the filling, no matter what it is, is always so light and creamy. I don't know how it does it or what he does (maybe it's just made with lots of love), but they are down right amazing. I am such a lucky girl that I usually get one every year for my birthday. I don't remember the first few flavors, but last year I got a cheesecake that was scented with orange and lemon zest and the year before that was a white chocolate cheesecake. Both were so amazing and when I brought the extras to work (of course I froze a few pieces for those late night cravings), they though it was pretty dang good too. I think I am going to leave the captain to do the cheesecakes and I can just stick to regular cakes. Ya, that sounds good. I'm thinking a lactose intolerant girl should not be allowed to make cheesecakes. What do you think?

Because I wanted to surprise the captain with something different and something extra special, I wanted to tackle the infamous cheesecake. But just not any cheesecake. A chocolate lovers cheesecake! Right up his alley. Cheesy and chocolatey. Now say that three times fast! That wasn't has hard as I though. Never mind. I am not going to lie here, I did a lot of cheesecake research and making one is not an easy feat. Water bath or no water bath. Crust up the sides or no crust up the sides. Cream cheese or marscapone cheese. And it goes on and on and on. Not to mention the wide ranges of temperatures and baking times. I was a little intimidated, but jumped into this  cheesecake making session with full force. I was determine to make this a success for my main squeeze. The cheesecake definitely wasn't as hard to make as I though, but I did learn some lessons. Here is what I learned and some tips for my fellow cheesecake lovers out there:

1. The crust recipe may always need more butter. Not necessarily a bad thing, right? Even though I followed the recipe, it was not moist enough to have the crust stick to the springform pan.

2. Make sure to put your cheesecake on baking sheet while baking the crust and the cheesecake because the butter may drip and cause the oven to smoke. Like fill up your whole kitchen with smoke. Not such a good thing.

3. Your cream cheese MUST be at room temperature before you make the filling. If you don't, it will be lumpy and no one likes a lumpy cheesecake.

4. Don't overcook your cheesecake. This is the hardest part because as a baker, if it jiggles, to me, that means it needs more time. Not cheesecakes though. If it lightly jiggles in the middle it's done. Strange I know, but it's true. This was probably the hardest part for me because I was both scared of it being underdone or overdone.

5. You must must must cool your cheesecake at least eight hours or overnight in the fridge. The more it chills, the better it is. Just trust me. 

My first cheesecake making experience wasn't as scary as I though it would be.  The cheesecake turned out okay, but I know I can do better. I am a baking perfectionist. The crust was a little overcooked, but perhaps that's because I used chocolate Teddy Grahams instead of the chocolate wafers (who want's to spend $6 for wafers when the teddies were only $3!) or I just cooked it too long. So, keep an eye out for timing in baking the crust. Maybe try a minute or two less in your oven. Every oven is different.  I thought the filling part would really make me nervous, but I think you just sort of know when it's done. If it's like soup, it's probably not done. If it seems firm, but the center wiggles, it's probably just about right. Don't let the jiggling of the cheesecake worry you. The cheesecake will finish cooking in the pan while it's cooling and then firm up and develop more flavors as it cools in the fridge.  The filling was definitely cooked (hooray!) and the topping of chocolate ganache just put it over the top.  This chocolate lovers cheesecake was was definitely cheesy and chocolatey. Just what I was going for to surprise the captain for his birthday!

in my opinion, the crust is the best part of the cheesecake

dont' worry, you can't taste the espresso powder. it just gives the chocolate a little deeper flavor.

adding in the cooled chocolate to the sugar and cream cheese mixture

add each egg one at a time making sure not to over mix

smooth out that filling!

getting ready to add the ganache. not sure why the cheesecake kinda sunk, but oh well.

pool of ganache. mmm!

Chocolate Lovers Cheesecake (slightly adapted from Annie's Eats)

For the crust:
 
1½ cups finely ground chocolate cookie crumbs (I used chocolate Teddy Grahams, but if you can find chocolate wafers or want to use Oreos without the filling, that works too)

3 tbsp. sugar
4 -8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted (start with four and then work your way up to a moister crust)


For the cheesecake: 
½ cup sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. espresso powder or instant coffee granules
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
¼ tsp. salt
1¼ cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature


For the glaze: 
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 tbsp. heavy cream
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature


To make the crust, preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with a round of parchment paper.  In a medium bowl combine the cookie crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Start with 4 tablespoons butter and then work your way up if you need a more moistened crust. Stir with a fork until all the crumbs are moistened.  Add the crumb mixture to the springform pan and gently press about 1 inch up the sides of the pan.  Press the rest of the crumbs into an even layer over the bottom of the pan.  Bake for 10 minutes (check at 8 to make sure it's not burning!), then transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Reduce the oven temperature to 300˚ F.

To make the filling, combine the sour cream, vanilla, and espresso powder in a small bowl.  Whisk to blend and set aside.  Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave (in short intervals, stirring frequently) until completely smooth.  Set aside and let cool slightly.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese, cocoa powder, and salt.  Beat on medium-high speed until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the sugar and continue mixing about 2-3 minutes more, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Add the cooled chocolate to the bowl and mix on medium-low speed.  Beat in the sour cream mixture just until evenly blended.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing each just until incorporated.  Don’t over-beat once the eggs are added or the cheesecake will puff too much.

Pour the filling into the cooled crust.  Bake until the center jiggles very slightly when nudged, about 50-60 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 1-2 hours.  Then cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 8 hours or overnight.

To make the glaze, place the chopped chocolate in a small heatproof bowl.  Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan or in the microwave.  Pour over the chocolate and let stand briefly, 1-2 minutes.  Whisk just until a smooth ganache has formed.  Whisk in the butter until completely incorporated.  Pour the glaze in an even layer over the chilled cheesecake.  Chill thoroughly.

To serve, carefully unmold the sides of the springform.  Run a sharp knife under hot water to warm the blade, and wipe dry with a towel.  Slice cleanly, wiping the blade between slices and reheating as necessary.  Serve chilled. Enjoy!




Even though everything turned out, I have still asked the captain for an official cheesecake lesson. He is the man when it comes to that and I need a tutoring session to get my next cheesecake just right. Stay tuned! PS. Don't forget that if you have extra cheesecake, you can wrap up the slices and freeze them. Just take out and let defrost in the fridge or on the counter until you are ready to enjoy. If you really can't wait that long, just pop in the microwave on low until it comes to temperature. Just don't cook it too long or you'll get cheesecake soup. Although yummy, not what you were going for.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

Nothing says happy birthday like boozy cupcakes! Well, boozy chocolate cupcakes that is. These fabulous cupcakes were made for a very special person's birthday - the captain! But these cupcakes have more of a story to them then just being boozy delicious. These cupcakes were for a BIG birthday surprise. BIG BIG BIG. If I could say BIG 34 times, I would, but you might get a little mad at me.

The captain has been so supportive over the past six months of GMAT studying and grad school applications (I'm pretty sure he wanted to pull his hair out as much as I wanted to pull out mine!), so I wanted to do something extra special for him. He totally deserved it and I just can't thank him enough for being there for me. Awwww. It definitely wasn't easy and I was pretty much a crazy lady during the past six months - I'll just leave it at that. So, what better thing to do for him than throw him a surprise birthday celebration! I started planning this celebration right after the holidays to ensure that everyone could come and so that I could also get this on his calendar. Sneakily of course. Knowing him he would have planned to be out of town that weekend! I hated having to fib to him, but a girl has to do what a girl has to do. It was all out of love though, so that makes it okay. Or so I hope. The captain thought that he and I would be going on a double date with my co-worker and her hubby. Little did he know that 25 of his friends would be there too! You should have seen the look on his face - it was priceless! I thought that the surprise had been blown by one of his friends just a few days before the event (when the captain asked me about what I had planned I freaked out. Like majorly freaked out!), but luckily I was able to convince him there was nothing going on because everyone was out of town for the holiday weekend. He bought it. Phew! The party was a success, everyone had a great time and I think the birthday boy was very happy. At least I'm pretty sure he was based on the smile on his face and the Guinness in his hand. Success!

Since no birthday party is complete with out a sweet treat and the celebration was held at a local Irish pub, I thought it would be perfect to make these Irish car bomb cupcakes - Guinness chocolate cupcake filled with a Jameson ganache and topped with a Baileys Irish Cream butter cream. I think my entire mouth just filled up with saliva. Did yours? The captain loves chocolate and loves Guinness, so I new this would be just perfect for him. The perfect cupcakes for the best boyfriend a girl could ask for! These cupcakes are named after the very popular Irish Car bomb drink - a shot of Baileys and Jameson dropped in Guinness. Once it's has been dropped, you have to drink it fast. It sounds gross, but trust me, it's really good. Just drink it quick or it will curdle. Ya, that's gross, but just don't let that happen. Okay? Not to worry though, these cupcakes won't curdle. Promise. Boozy woozy promise.

These cupcakes have just the right hint of Baileys in the frosting, the cupcake itself is light and chocolaty with just the right hint of malty goodness from the Guinness and then the surprising center is ooberly chocolaty with that Irish whiskey kick. This cupcake is not for the faint of the heart. It's loaded with flavor and totally delicious. Whether it's that special someones birthday or you just want to do some boozy baking, these cupcakes are for you.  Everyone gobbled them up and the birthday boy gave these cupcakes two thumbs up. Perhaps I should have swooped another one from the platter to save for him. Oops. That just means I may have to make these again soon. Especially since I now have a whole bottle of Jameson sitting around. Just don't drink too much whiskey while you are making them. And no, I did not do that. I am just telling you to be careful. You don't believe me do you?

boozy line up

there is Guinness in there, I swear!

scooping station

scoopy scoopy

Bailey's marry go round

cupcakes ready for filling

this is how fancy I get when I fill my cupcakes

cupcakes filled (sorry, there were a little messy)

frosted and topped with grated chocolate!

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes (slightly adapted from Brown Eyed Baker and Smitten Kitchen) Makes 24 cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:
1 cup Guinness stout
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoons salt
2 eggs
2/3 cup sour cream


For the Whiskey Ganache Filling:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons Irish whiskey


For the Baileys Frosting:
2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups powdered sugar
6-10 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream (based on your liking)

Directions:

1. To Make the Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring the Guinness and butter to a simmer in a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

2. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl to combine. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sour cream on medium speed until combined. Add the Guinness-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat just to combine. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and beat briefly. Using a rubber spatula, fold the batter until completely combined. Divide the batter among the cupcake liners. Bake until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on a rack.

3. To Make the Whiskey Ganache Filling: Finely chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then, using a rubber spatula, stir it from the center outward until smooth. Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined. Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped.

4. To Fill the Cupcakes: Using a 1-inch round cookie cutter (or the bottom of a large decorating tip), cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes, going about two-thirds of the way down. Transfer the ganache to a piping back with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

5. To Make the Baileys Frosting: Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the powdered sugar until all of it is incorporated. Add the Baileys, increase the speed to medium-high and whip for another 2 to 3 minutes, until it is light and fluffy.

6. Using your favorite decorating tip, or an offset spatula, frost the cupcakes and decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Store the cupcakes in an airtight container.


Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes aren't just for St. Patty's Day anymore!

 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Cabernet Chocolate Truffles


Happy Valentine's Day everyone! I'm not a super big valentine's person because I strongly feel that it's such a commercial holiday and forces people to buy flowers and chocolate just because everyone else is. Plus, all that stuff is just so expensive- $80+ for flowers that die. Seriously? What happened to just spending time with the one you love without all the bells and whistles. Shouldn't you just do that everyday anyways? Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now, but do you see what I mean? Hopefully I am not the only one that feels this way. Whether it's valentine's day or not, a little chocolate always makes everyone feel better. Just saying.

This year I wanted to try out some new recipes for my valentine. I have been so busy recently and now that grad school applications are done and my life is back to normal (as normal as it can be), I wanted to be extra lovey dovey and make some special sweet treats. One of my favorite food bloggers, Jessica, from How Sweet Eats posted this amazing truffle recipe earlier this week and as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to make them. I've made truffles before, but never with wine. How had I not thought to do this before? I have a red wine chocolate cupcake on my "must try" list, but how did not I not have a truffle? Oh well. I just wish I though of this first! Next time.

Let me just say, truffles are so much easier to make at home then you think. No really, they are super easy. You really only need two, maybe three ingredients - chocolate, heavy cream (not whipping cream!) and flavoring (coffee, wine, liqueurs). That's seriously it. Bring your cream to a simmer on the stove and then pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate. Don't stir and don't mess with the mixture. Just let sit and do it's thing for about three minutes. Once the time has passed, you'll be able to mix the melted chocolate and cream into a smooth and beautiful mixture. Don't be digging your spoon into it just yet! Here comes the hardest part - you must let the chocolate mixutre cool and firm up. The first time I made these, I accidently used whipping cream instead of heavy cream (the fat content is important for the right consistency!) and the poor truffles just didn't set up. It was absolutely delicious, but it was more of a frosting like consistency than firm and rollable for truffles. I thought that maybe it just needed more time in the fridge, but that didn't work. Darn. The good news is that I didn't have a kitchen tantrum. Progress! 

I didn't let this first attempt bring me down. I decided to try the recipe again, this time with heavy cream. I am not sure why I even bought whipping cream in the first place. I had been a long day at work and I must have grabbed the wrong container at the store. Oops. I also eliminated the wine thinking that this may have provided too much liquid. Who knows what was the issue, but, I redid the truffles and they finally turned out! These truffles do have a soft texture,  but at least this time they could be rolled and shaped. Hallelujah!  Now, you can get all fancy and dip your truffles in chocolate, but the easiest thing is to roll them in cocoa powder. Rolling them gives your truffles that little something something extra. That something special. Plus, it kinda helps them from softening all over when they sit out for a bit. Additionally, you can also roll them in chopped nuts or even better sprinkles! Because this recipe was valentine's day inspired, I went with pink and red sprinkles. They were just too cute to resist. Don't let me influence your decision though. Well, that is for the coatings. I will tell you that you need to make these. If it's not for valentine's day, maybe for a birthday, or just because. Let's be honest, who doesn't love a truffle anytime of the year. Especially when it's made with wine (the flavor on the first batch was amazing!).

 I don't know why I thought I needed butter. Oops!
hot cream over the chocolate

melted chocolate and cream is such a beautiful thing
adding in the vino on the first try.

ready to go in the fridge to chill

rolled and ready for sprinkles -second attempt = success!
close up of the sprinkles. just because.

homemade truffles. such a beautiful thing.

Cabernet Chocolate Truffles (How Sweet Eats)

3/4 cup heavy cream
5 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons of your favorite cabernet sauvignon
sprinkles or cocoa powder for rolling

 
 
Add chopped chocolate to a large bowl. Heat heavy cream in a saucepan over medium heat. The minute it starts boiling, remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Add wine. Let sit for 3 minutes, then whisk continuously until smooth. Press a piece of plastic wrap over top of the bowl and press down so it adheres to the chocolate. Refrigerate for at least two hours (I did so overnight - perfect!), then using a small melon baller or spoon, scoop chocolate out and roll them into balls, placing on a sheet of wax paper or non-stick foil. Roll the truffles in cocoa or sprinkles, then refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving. I definitely like these best cold, but they can sit out at room temperature for a few hours too. I do keep them refrigerated when not serving. Makes about 20-30 truffles depending on size.


Wine + chocolate = love. Enough said.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What Will You Give Up?

It's that time of the year again - lent! Now, let me just say, I am not Catholic, but for the past couple of years, I have decided that I would participate in lent for myself. To see that I could actually give something up and stick with it for six weeks (give or take). Now, some people say that on Sundays, you can do whatever you gave up, but I don't do that. I tried to do some research to find out if this was true and to be honest, it could go either way. For me, I am hardcore and stick with it the whole time. Lent starts today, Wednesday, February 13th and goes all the way though Saturday, March 30th. I know this seems like fooooorver, but once you get past the first week, it's really not all that bad. Seriously. Would I kid? I don't think so. Okay, maybe a little, but not about this.

Last year was a biggie - I decided to give up chocolate. I am not going to lie, giving up chocolate was not easy. 1. Because it's so delicious and 2. It's all over the office! My sister definitely didn't think I could do it. That was probably because she tried it once and couldn't make it more than a few weeks. I was determined to be chocolateless (is this even a word?) for the entire time and I did it! It was hard, especially considering I have a piece of dark chocolate just about every night before bed as my little sweet treat, but I stuck with it and did not cave. Not even one little bit. This year, I thought about doing the chocolate thing again, but decided I needed to go a whole other route. Something different and something a little harder.

Before I tell you what I decided to give up for lent this year. Here is a list of things I thought about giving up and the reasons why I didn't:

  1. Texting - ya, right. Do you know how much I text? Yes, this would be hard and I could do it, but I honestly don't think I would make it. I text more than I talk. Plus with having an iPhone work and one for personal business, it's near impossible.
  2. Television - I really don't watch all that much to begin with (there are a few of my favorite guilty pleasures), so this didn't seem like that much of a stretch.
  3. Using the oven - my sister suggested this one and almost went this route, but with all my baking orders coming in, that would be near impossible. Although, I have decided to give up using the oven for month this summer and see how I do. I think this will be a fun challenge for my blog. Plus, who wants to heat up the house in the summer when it's 100 degrees? Not me!
  4. Baking sweets - again, suggested by my sister and with the orders I need to fill within the next couple of months, it's not going to work.
  5. No booze - this would be fine, but would this really be hard enough? I do enjoy wine, but I don't have it that much. And since I am trying to cut back on the booze for my weight loss, I didn't think this would be too much of a stretch.
I had a few more too, but my brain is not working and I can't remember what they were. Nevertheless, are you ready to find out what I decided to give up this year? Wait for it. Wait for it....

This year I will be giving up anything with artificial sweeteners, taking candy for people's candy bowls at work as well as giving up the claw machine. I know what you are thinking. Three things? Yes, three things! I told you I wanted to do something different and harder. I wasn't kidding. Let me do a little explaining here.

  1. Artificial Sweeteners - now, I try to stay away from most of them, but there are a couple of things I have been addicted to lately that have the sweeteners in them. I love my Poweraid Zeros. Especially the Fruit Punch flavor. I could drink these all day if I really wanted to, but the sweeteners and the coloring are not good for me. Also, I thoroughly enjoy a cup of fat free hot cocoa when I get to work in the morning as well as a cup before bed. Since I don't drink coffee anymore (this year marks two years without a cup of joe!), this warm cup of joy hits the spot. Again, it has tons of stuff in it, one being artificial sweeteners. Also, I don't drink that much soda, but I do enjoy the occasional diet root beer. No more of those either. During lent, I will be replacing these items with water and tea (with no Splenda of course).
  2. Dipping Into Candy Bowls - candy and treats are all over at work. Most of the time I can avoid them, but there are some days where I am just craving a little sweet treat. Not a piece of cake or a cookie, but a little nibbly - ie. Hershey kiss or a mini Reese's peanut butter cup. I always track these on my calorie counter, but they add up if you go back more than once. I don't always do that, but if it's a bad day, you know I go back at least one more time. Plus, it seems like better and better candy is being placed around the office these days. Are they trying to make me eat it?! Can't they put something like black licorice or hard candies in the bowls? Because I have a habit of grabbing one or two, especially after lunch, I am giving this up too. Not only will this be an additional challenge, but this will also help me be strong and help me get towards my next weight loss goal (like I said, those calories add up!).
  3. Claw Machine - please tell me you know what I am talking about? You know, the machine filled with stuffed animals (and sometimes toys too) that you move around a big claw that drops and picks up the prize? Well, let me just say, I am addicted. Way addicted. One of our local stores has a claw machine and pretty much every time I go to get groceries, I play. It's 50 cents per game, and I always seems to have at least that in my wallet. Although, let's be real. I usually put in a dollar (hello two tries!). The thing is, it's not like I lose most of the time. I am usually winning! If I had to put a percentage on it, I probably win 80% of the time. In fact, I put in my last dollar into the machine the other day and I won two! Yes, you heard me, two prizes! It's going to be hard to walk by it and not play, but I can do it. Maybe I just need to stop shopping there so I am not tempted when they fill it up with all the good stuff!

Here's to surviving until March 30th!


What would you give up for lent?
  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Running - Take Two

Last fall I thought it would be a good goal to turn myself into a runner. I must have been crazy because when I first started, I really couldn't go that far without running out of breath or being so sore the next day I could barely sit down to go to the bathroom. Yes, the latter is embarrassing, but it's so true and awful when it happens. I know all of you know what I am talking about. Ouch! After months of pushing, sweating and almost giving up, I completed my first 5K on Thanksgiving with my sister and was feeling great! Running was getting easier every day and I was feeling strong. Really strong. Even better, the weight started flying off (in combination of using My Fitness Pal for tracking my daily food intake) and I was able to reach my first goal of losing 30 pounds. I still have 15 more or so to go, but so far so good. As long as it keeps coming off, I'll be a happy girl. 15 more pounds to go before my sister's wedding and then if I could go 25 more after that, I would be at my lowest weight ever. EVER. If I meet that goal, I will have lost over 150 pounds since I was my heaviest during college. That day may just make me cry. Happy tears of course. I'm warning you now.  For more on my running adventures, check out this post.

As I was feeling great and getting into the running rhythm, I slowly fell out of my groove with the holidays, the last month of intense GMAT studying, a cold and the more GMAT studying. The studying really took over my life and with work, I really had no time for running. I know that is a bad excuse. Okay a really bad excuse, but after working a nine hour day and studying until the wee hours of the night, I had no time for running. In all honesty, I barely had time to sleep and felt like a zombie for a good couple of months. If I did get a burst of energy and decide to go running, I would be so drained after that I just wouldn't want to study. Catch 22 if you ask me. Needless to say, running took a back burner for a little while. Now that my grad school application process is over and I am done with that evil GMAT studying, I have time for myself again! I am back to getting a full night of sleep, blogging and the best part, getting back into running!

I've had to take a couple of steps back in my program, but that's okay. Since I took a month and half off I did not expect to tie up my shoes and instantly run three miles like I used to. I wish I could, but I knew I wouldn't be able to. Come to find out, I did lose a bit of my mojo, but being able to run just over 1.75 miles in one shot with a month and a half off didn't seem too shabby. Yes, I am a little sore after the first week of getting back in to it, but I am determined to keep it up and get back to running those three miles - or more! Who wants to join me on my next 5K? The captain is in, are you?

On another note, I've decided that every couple of weeks I will share my top favorite tunes on my running playlist.  I figured if I shared what I was listening to that you may want to share what keeps you going during your workout too. I like a little bit of everything, but having tunes that really pump me up and keep me going are a must. It's always a bad run when you get a few good songs in a row and then some sad sappy song comes along and makes you want to stop. That's the worst. Here's what is keeping me running this week:



  1. Thrift Shop - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  2. Scream & Shout (feat. Britney Spears) - will.i.am
  3. Prrrrum (Remix) - Cosculleula & Wisin y Yandel
  4. Breakin' a Sweat - Skrillex & The Doors
  5. Alligator Pie - Dave Matthews Band
  6. Banjo - Rascal Flatts
  7. Sweet Sacrifice - Evanescence
  8. Let There Be Love - Christina Aguilera 

And when I really feel like giving up, this song always give me that burst of energy. I am not sure how. I am not sure why, but it just does. So it's always on my playlist: Let's Go (feat. Ne-Yo) - Calvin Harris. I think you should put it on yours too. Just trust me on this one. You'll be happy you did. 



Now, let's get running!