Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Banana Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream


I've been craving cupcakes. I've seen so many good looking recipes online that I decided to make some myself. This was my first time making cupcakes and frosting from scratch and I think they turned out well. I found a basic vanilla cupcake recipe and vanilla butter cream recipe here and made some changes to get my banana cupcakes and nutella butter cream.

One thing that I did notice about the butter cream was that I didn't really taste the nutella in it. So next time I might just add cocoa power to it. My butter cream turned out a little more soft than I wanted. I think that next time I will leave out some of the milk if I use nutella again. If I just add the cocoa powder then I think that the texture would be better and an adjustment of the milk would be unnecessary.

Banana Cupcakes
By Amy

2 cups cake flour*
1 cup AP Flour
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter cut into 1-inch cubes, room temp
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk (I used 2%)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 ripe banana's, mashed

*To make your own cake flour simply mix one cup AP flour minus 2 tablespoons with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.

Preheat Oven to 325 degrees

Spray cupcake pans with cooking spray. (I used a large muffin pan and got 12 cupcakes. It would probably make about 24 regular sized cupcakes.)

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flours, sugars, baking powder and salt. Mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, mixing just until coated with flour. Consistency will be crumbly.

In a large glass measuring cup whisk together eggs, milk,vanilla and mashed banana's.

With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts. Scrape down sides of bowl before each addition. Beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat.

Divide batter evenly among pans, filling about 2/3 full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester comes out clean. About 17 to 20 minutes. (Mine took more than 20 minutes because I used the large cupcake pan.)

Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Nutella Butter Cream

2 sticks of softened butter
4 cups sifted confectioner sugar
1/4 cup milk or heavy cream
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/4 cup nutella
Place the butter into the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix until smooth.
With the mixer on low add the sugar and mix until evenly incorporated. (Make sure to sift the sugar BEFORE you measure it otherwise the frosting will be too sweet.)
Add remaining ingredients and let it mix for about 5 minutes.
Frost the cooled cupcakes and then enjoy!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Yummy Layered Pesto Spread


So I needed to find something to bring the Ryan's housewarming and I thought what about my yummy pesto spread. I havn't made it in a while and it has all the things that I love. Goat cheese, pesto and sundried tomatoes. It's pretty simple to make. The hardest part is getting the layers to look nice. It's hard to spread the cheese mixture on top of the sundried tomatoes and on top of the pesto. So sometimes if I'm feeling lazy I just mix everything together instead of bothering with the layer. I usually serve this with crackers or bread. I'm sure this would also be good with veggies.

On the left is everything mixed together and on the right is the layered spread

Layered Pesto Spread

1 8 ounce package of lowfat cream cheese, softened

6 ounces goat cheese, softened

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1/3 cup oil packed sundried tomatoes, drained and diced

1/3 cup pesto

Mix the cream cheese, goat cheese and crushed garlic together until evenly incorporated.

Get a clear glass bowl or in this case I used 2 mini triffle dishes. If doing it in a bowl I would divide the mixture into thirds so you have enough for each layer. If you want to do it in the mini triffle dishes like I did then divide it into sixths. Start with a layer of the cheese and smooth it out in the bottom of the bowl then sprinkle the on diced sundried tomatoes. Layer with more of the cheese mixture and spread it out smooth. Spread pesto on top of the cheese mixture and cover with the remaining cheese mixture.

Chill for at least a hour and serve with crackers or bread.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Grown Up Mac and Cheese


When I saw this recipe from Ina Garten I knew that I had to make it. I mean it has cheese, cheese and more cheese and bacon! I'm glad I decided to try it because it was so good! I only made a few changes from the original recipe. I used panko instead of the bread crumbs because that's what I had. The panko gave it a really nice crunchy texture that I'm not sure the bread crumbs would have given. I don't have a scale to measure the cheese by weight so I approximated it and decided extra is always better. I think next time I will add a little less blue cheese and maybe more cheddar and Gruyere. Also next time I will try putting the bacon on top of the pasta instead of mixing it in because it lost it's crispness and I like my bacon crispy! Overall it was quick and simple to put together.

Grown Up Mac and Cheese
Adapted from Ina Garten's "Barefoot Contessa"

3 thick-sliced bacon
2 cups elbow macaroni or other small pasta
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons AP flour
4 ounces Gruyere, grated (I used a generous 1 cup)
3 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (I used a generous 1 cup)
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (I used a generous 1/2 cup)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup panko

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Cook bacon on the stove, or in the oven, or in the microwave until crispy. I made mine in the microwave. I put the 3 slices between paper towels on a plate and microwaved it for 2 minutes then I flipped it over and microwaved it for another 2 minutes. Then I flipped it again and microwaved it for an additional minute. This is how I usually cook my bacon and I find that it always gets crispy without the mess that you usually get when cooking bacon on the stove or the oven.

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Once the pasta is done drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small sauce pan, but don't boil it. Melt the butter in a medium pot and then add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk or wooden spoon. While stirring or whisking, add the hot milk and cook for 2 minutes until thickened and smooth. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the cheeses, salt and pepper. Add the cooked pasta and crumbled bacon and stir well. Pour into 2 individual gratin dishes. (I used 5 small dishes and put them on a baking sheet.)

Top with panko and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the pasta is browned on the top. (Mine only took about 30 minutes.)


Update: So I made the mac and cheese again and it turned out better. I put the bacon on top instead of mixing it in and I think that it I like the extra crunch that it adds. This time I made the bacon on the stove and it turned out much more crispy. So I will do it this way from now on. All I did was cut the bacon into small pieces and cooked it in a pan until it was brown and crispy. I also made more of the cheese sauce so that after it bakes it's still pretty moist. What can I say I like cheese! One suggestion from B was to add more bacon next time. He wants some mixed in a more on top. He loves bacon so this doesn't really surprise me. I like bacon too so I'm not really opposed to extra. Next time I will try it with his "suggestion."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Amy's Pesto Pasta Salad



So I decided that I wanted to make a pasta salad but didn't know what kind. That got me thinking about what I had that I wanted to use up in my fridge. At first I thought about a pesto pasta with peas but I didn't have any peas so I ruled that idea out. Then I was thinking well what about pasta with pesto and some kind of cheese. That got me to thinking about my favorite sandwich and how good it would be in pasta salad form with an alteration or two of course. That's how this recipe came about and I think it turned out well. It was good right after I had made it and it was also good chilled. Not only is it super simple but it's also quick to put together.

For the lunch meat I used honey smoked turkey but you could use whatever you have. I used goat cheese and liked the contrast it gave with the sweet cranberries but you could use any kind of cheese that you like. I put a lot of the dried cranberries because I love them but you could probably cut it down to 1/4 of a cup if you don't like so many. The pesto mayonnaise mixture that I was was about 2:1. Next time I would probably use a little more pesto but it's totally up to your taste so I would recommend trying it and adding more if needed.



Amy's Pesto Pasta Salad

1 cup small pasta shells
3 slices turkey lunch meat cubed
1 inch round goat cheese crumbled
generous 1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 spoonful mayonnaise
2 spoonfuls pesto

Cook pasta according to directions on the box. Drain and run under cold water until cool.

Mix everything together and serve.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Double Chocolate Chunk Brownies


I was craving something with chocolate in it and I thought what about brownies. I haven't made them in a while so I thought it was about time for some. I found a basic recipe here and made a few changes. I mean extra chocolate can't be bad can it? I decided that it needed some chocolate chips and I had some white chocolate chunks so I thought why not throw some of those in too. These brownies are SO good! I like how the chocolate sank to the bottom and gives it a little crunchy texture when you take a bite. If you don't want your chips and chunks to sink then coat them in a little flour before mixing them in and they shouldn't sink to the bottom. I put in less sugar than called for because figured the extra chocolate would compensate for the missing sugar. I'm glad I did use less sugar because I think it would have been too sweet for my liking.

Brownies before going into the oven


Fresh brownies right out of the oven




Double Chocolate Chunk Brownies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2/3 cup unbleached AP flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large room temperature eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 salt
generous 1/2 cup chocolate chips
generous 1/2 cup white chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Butter and flour a 9" square pan. (A tip I learned a long time ago is to use the butter wrappers to butter the pan because it has plenty of butter on it still. I also used some cocoa power instead of the flour.)

Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Once melted remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Then mix in eggs one at a time until completely incorporated. Then add the vanilla.

Stir in flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. (I sifted them all together into the sauce pan because I was worried about the lumps in the cocoa powder.) Slowly stir together until smooth and you can no longer see the flour. Stir in chocolate chips and chunks. I reserved some of each to sprinkle on top.

Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with reserved chocolate if you saved some.

Bake for 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool brownies and then enjoy!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fauxcaccia


Fauxcaccia is like focaccia except not really. Generally the dough contains yeast and you need to let it rise. But Fauxcaccia has no yeast and it super simple. This is the second time that I've made it. The first time was good, but not great so I decided to try it again with a few changes. This time was better but I think it still might need a few little changes to make it great. Like I said though it's super simple and takes about 5 mins to mix together.

If you don't have bread flour you can use all AP flour. The first time I made this I used all AP flour but I think I prefer the combination of the flours. I also topped it with some oil packed sundried tomatoes. I would recommend draining the tomatoes well if you plan on using them otherwise it will be too oily.

Before baking: Sundried tomato on the left and plain cheese and herb on the right.

After baking: sundried tomato

After baking: cheese and herb



Fauxcaccia

2 cups AP flour
1 cup bread flour
1 1/2 cups water
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons + a pinch of salt.
1 teaspoons dried italian herbs plus 1/2 teaspoon for sprinkling
2 tablespoons parm cheese plus extra for sprinkling
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together except for extra herbs and cheese for sprinkling and oil.

Lightly oil a silpat lined baking sheet or just a sheet pan if you don't have silpat. Pour mixture onto pan and spread dough into 1/2 inch thickness. Drizzle oil over top and sprinkle with herbs and cheese.

Bake in oven for 20-25 mins or until golden brown.

Cool slightly and cut into strips or squares.

First One!

I've finally started my own blog! YAY! After looking at all the cool cooking blogs out there it inspired me to make my own. I've been trying new recipes and can't wait to start sharing with you. You will have to excuse my lame pictures though because I don't really get much natural lighting in my house and have a crappy camera! :( But hopefully you will all enjoy what you see here. My first real post will come soon!