Melting Chocolate Cake (for two)

Melting Chocolate Cake for Two

My husband and I went on a Carnival cruise this past December. It was our first cruise together (and individually), so we really weren’t sure what to expect. We decided to go the week before Christmas, which meant our holiday prep had to be done way in advance. I have to admit, it was really bizarre coming back to New Orleans two days before Christmas. It just didn’t feel like Christmas after spending a week snorkeling, eating island food, sampling lots of Jamaican rum & battling a mean sunburn (ha!). :-) We ended up having a wonderful time, and we’re actually planning our next one!

One of the things that I was looking forward to was the food. I read reviews that the meals in the dining room were like going to a fancy restaurant every night. Oh man….and those reviews were right. Every single dish we had we loved. In fact, I loved the food so much that I gained 5 pounds in a week (whoops!). The dish I looked forward to the most (based on reviews from friends and online) was the warm melting chocolate cake. After trying my first one, I was hooked. It was such a rich, decadent dessert, and usually I can’t finish desserts like this, but I couldn’t let any of the cake go to waste. They served them in small ramekins with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The cake itself is baked along the edges, but in the middle is a warm, gooey center of chocolate. Amazing. It’s worth breaking a diet over…seriously.

When we got home, I immediately searched for this recipe. There were a couple of popular variations, but this one is apparently straight from the cruise line’s newsletter. I ended up halving it to make this a dessert for two. This recipe is so simple (you will need a food scale for this one)…the batter was done within minutes, and I only used two regular sized bowls to make the batter. It’s the perfect ending to a nice dinner (hint hint: Valentine’s Day or Anniversary). You could add fresh fruit, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on top, which I would recommend since it’s so rich.

Melting Chocolate Cake for Two
Source: mildly adapted from Carnival Cruise Lines, found on Mommy Musings

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (chopped)
  • 3/4 stick butter
  • 2 eggs (at room temperature)
  • 3 oz. granulated sugar
  • 1 oz. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • confectioners sugar, for dusting

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 390 degrees. Prepare two small ramekins (or cocottes) by spraying the inside with a baking spray. Place the two ramekins in a 9×13 inch baking pan, and fill the baking pan (not ramekins) with water until it is surrounding the ramekins halfway up the sides.
  2. In a bowl, microwave the chocolate and butter, stirring the mixture every 30 seconds, until the chocolate and butter are homogenous mixture. Allow the mixture to cool until it’s just warm.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together for about a minute, until well mixed. Add in the flour and vanilla extract and mix together.
  4. Once the chocolate/butter mixture is no longer hot, pour the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture, whisking well as you pour it in.
  5. Once everything is mixed, divide the batter into the two ramekins. Bake for 15-25 minutes (it varies this much based on the size of your ramekins/cocottes…mine took 21 minutes), until the top of the cake is crusted, the edges are baked/firm, yet the middle of the cake is still gooey.
  6. To serve, sift confectioners sugar over the cakes and enjoy warm!

 

 

One Bowl Brownies

onebowlbrownies

Ok ladies. You know how you have a craving and no matter how many times you try to shake it, you just can’t until you actually eat what you’re craving? Yeah, that was me this WHOLE week.

It was a burrito salad at this place called Izzo’s. I’ve been thinking about it all week, and while the salad that I enjoy is well within my calorie count for the day, for some reason the food there makes me bloat like crazy. Oh, TMI…whatever. You ladies who are reading this get it.

And with my latest DietBet ending today, I was able to go to that restaurant today (right after the gym, mind you) and I savored every last bite of that darn salad. I will never have the mentality of “eat to live”…but at least it wasn’t an order of nachos or something, right? I could have done worse…way worse. :-P

After Christmas, I had a similar craving for brownies. I just couldn’t shake it, and one night, I figured if the recipe was easy enough, the darn brownies were meant to be. And then I came upon this recipe. One bowl brownies.

Meant to be, I guess. :-) I only had one out of the pan (coworkers had the rest), and oh man, these brownies were so rich and fudgy. I was pleasantly surprised since the recipe was so simple! I ended up throwing some leftover Christmas Hershey kisses in there as well, just to get rid of the candy. The brownies are a great, basic recipe…they would probably be amazing with peanut butter or caramel sauce mixed in as well.

One Bowl Brownies
Source: Kraft

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. Baker’s unsweetened chocolate
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 13×9 inch cake pan by lining it with foil and spraying the inside with cooking spray.
  2. Microwave the chocolate and butter in a large bowl for two minutes, or until the butter is melted. Stir the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted, and stir in the sugar. Wait for the mixture to be cool to the touch, and whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract. Add in the flour and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake the brownies for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few fudgy crumbs (making sure not to overbake). Allow the brownies to fully cool in the pan before serving.

 

Monster Cookies

Monster Cookies

In the 13 months that I’ve been on my weight loss journey, I’ve never found myself as challenged as I am this month. Last January, when I started counting calories, I was on a weight loss high. I was dropping weight left and right, and it was completely motivating to stay on track. This January, however, my weight isn’t coming off as quickly as it did (of course), and for some reason, I keep having a raging craving for all things sweet. I usually have some awesome willpower to say “no”, but I’m finding that I can’t trust myself lately.

Example: I bought a king cake for the first time this season. That same day, I ate THREE slices. The scale went up 2 lbs. ::sad:: Must.find.willpower.ASAP!

Now, I find that I’m improving a bit since Christmas. Y’all….the holidays had a ton of food. It all started with a cruise that my husband and I went on. Unlimited food that was already included? Well, let’s just say five pounds later I found myself standing on the scale in awe. You would think my mind would say GET BACK ON TRACK, but no…my mind said WHERE’S THE CHOCOLATE? Ugh.

So, all of the candy had to go. All of it. The best way I’ve discovered to get rid of a bunch of random candy? Add oatmeal and peanut butter and make some monster cookies! This was my first time making these cookies, and y’all….I think these were a worse temptation than the darn candy! I had to revert back to the days when I couldn’t resist baked goods, and immediately wrap the cookies in saran wrap, and ask my husband to just take them to his office. I know…I really need my willpower back, y’all. My husband told me some people took 5-6 of these cookies with them, so I know they were a hit in the office!

Monster Cookies
Source: adapted from Paula Deen

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 12 oz. creamy peanut butter
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup M&Ms
  • 1/2 cup assorted chocolate candy (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 4 1/2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal

Directions:

    1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
    2. In a mixing bowl, mix the eggs and sugars for about a minute on medium, or until mixed well. Scrape down the bowl and add the salt, vanilla extract, peanut butter and butter. Mix everything on medium high for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and using a silicone spatula or spoon, stir in the M&Ms, chocolate candy, chocolate chips, raisins, baking soda and oatmeal.
    3. Scoop the cookies out with a medium sized scoop, allowing 2 inches between each cookie, onto the already prepared baking sheets.
    4. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, making sure not to over-bake the cookies. Allow the cookies to cool for about 3-5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring the cookies to wire racks to finish cooling. Enjoy!

 

 

Top 10 Recipes of 2012

Man, what a year it has been! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season with their friends and family. :-)

Most years, I feel like time has flown by, but for some reason, it feels like last January was truly a year ago. So many great things have happened to us this year (as well as some really crappy events).  

Some highlights and not so highlights:

  • It was our first full year in our new house, which has been such a blessing. It’s just awesome to finally have friendly neighbors, who don’t throw their trash in our backyard or play loud music at 2am (side-eye to the neighbors at the old house).
  • My husband and I have both decided to live healthier. Between us, we’ve lost over 150 lbs. this year. (I’m sure my husband is rolling his eyes at me sharing this, but seriously..I’m gonna brag here!) That’s just amazing to me. I’m so proud of us.
  • Another weight loss highlight. I fit into a clothes size that I haven’t been able to wear since 10th grade. That was 12 years ago. OMG!
  • A not so highlight. Hurricane Isaac…don’t want to go into too much detail with that one, but yeah, hurricanes suck. Oh, and for the record, labradors don’t care if the winds are 50 mph outside. If there’s rain/water, it’s playtime! (ugh)
  • I think I’m making some good progress on my 101 Goals in 1001 Days list.

And of course, it’s been another fun year blogging. I really appreciate all of y’all taking the time to read my tiny corner of the Internet. Thank you for your sweet comments, emails and tweets. In January, it’s gonna be this blog’s 5th anniversary, and I’m just amazed by all of the friends I’ve made and people I’ve “met”  through this blog. You guys are the best!

Just to round up the year, I wanted to share with y’all your top 10 most read posts from 2012.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies w/ Salted Caramel Buttercream

10. Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Salted Caramel Buttercream – These whoopie pies were made for a work fundraiser, and they were a huge success. Great pumpkin/spicy flavor, and the salted caramel buttercream just makes them super indulgent. Pumpkin + caramel is a wonderful combination!

Red Velvet Bundt Cake

9. Red Velvet Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting – I love anything red velvet. This bundt cake is a fun change from a regular cake, and it was pretty easy to throw together and bake!

Baked Oatmeal

8. Baked Oatmeal – My breakfast has been forever changed by this. This oatmeal is not soggy at all (which I hate about cooked oats), and it’s very sweet with the addition of bananas.

Peanut Butter Cookies

7. Peanut Butter Cookies – Just simple, classic peanut butter cookies. :-) Very good!

Candy Corn Oreo Truffles

6. Candy Corn Oreo Truffles – Oreo truffles are insanely good, and it was fun to make these with seasonal flavors. Always a favorite when I bring these truffles to work!

Fresh Strawberry Pie

5. Fresh Strawberry Pie – I’m SO glad strawberry season is back. I need to make this pie again…it’s not rich at all, and since it involves no cooking (except for the crust), it tastes so fresh!

Snickers Cupcakes

4. Snickers Cupcakes – Oh, I totally need to make these again. If you love Snickers, you will LOVE these!

Homemade Strawberry Lemonade

3. Homemade Strawberry Lemonade – Meyer lemon season + strawberry season? Um…guess I need to make this too and ASAP!

Red Velvet Swirl Brownies

2. Red Velvet Swirl Brownies – These were just delicious, and so pretty too! Perfect for Valentine’s Day!

Spinach Strawberry Salad with Feta

1. Spinach, Strawberry, Pecan and Feta Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette – This is a huge favorite of y’alls. I think Pinterest made this a popular one, and it is VERY easy to throw together! This is a salad you want to make for your next party…it’s an awesome combination!

Thanks so much for reading this blog, and I hope everyone has a Happy New Year! Time to get used to writing/typing “2013”. :-)

Peppermint Bark Chess Pie

Peppermint Bark Chess Pie

The past couple of months have been a whirlwind for me. I love to check the local news sites for random giveaways, because hey, you never know, right? While checking one of the station’s websites, I saw that they were accepting applications for a baking competition. I didn’t hesitate at all to apply, because it sounded pretty fun! A couple of weeks later, I got a call from someone at the station informing me that I was a finalist.

I was floored.

As one of the finalists, I had to bring cupcakes for tasting and an interview. Since it was just before Thanksgiving, I thought…why not pumpkin? So I brought these to the interview. Since my interview was one of the last interviews of the day, I think the interviewers were “cupcake-ed” out. I couldn’t really tell if they liked what I brought, so I left the interview feeling a bit unsure. However, a few days later, I got the call saying I would be one of the competitors! WHOA…

The person from the show told me that we had to bake a pie. Any pie, as long as it had some sort of holiday theme. When I heard pie, I have to admit that I cringed a little. I’ve mentioned this before, but pie is something I just haven’t worked with a lot. Cakes? Cookies? Cupcakes? I’m good. Pie? Ehhh…

First thing was first. I had to have a pie idea. I didn’t want to do anything too common, so sweet potato, pumpkin and pecan pie were all out. I brainstormed with eggnog and gingerbread, but nothing in particular really came to mind. Then I thought about chocolate. Everyone loves chocolate, but what could I do to make it more a holiday-ish. Then, it hit me….peppermint bark. Who doesn’t love the infamous chocolate/white chocolate/candy cane combination?

I started searching for chocolate pies online, and came across this idea for a chocolate chess pie. So, I adapted the recipe to make two pie fillings: one being chocolate, the other being white chocolate candy cane. Since the competition asked for the competitors to bake two pies, I simply put half of each filling into each pie crust (which is an amazing, flaky all butter crust…seriously, make this crust someday), and swirled them together. Then, I baked the pie up, tried a piece (hoping and praying I got the mint amount just right), and whew! I did. I brought to pies to my husband and I’s work asking for some tough love, and there really weren’t any complaints. Everyone seemed to love it!

I can’t wait to share the links to the show with you all (the show aired locally last night), but for now, here’s the recipe to my competition pie.

Peppermint Bark Chess Pie
Source: pie crust from Smitten Kitchen, filling adapted from Ezra’s Pound Cake

**makes two 9″ pies**

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. table salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cubed and very cold
  • 1/2 cup ice cold water

For the fillings:

  • 3 cups sugar, divided
  • 3 heaping tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 2 oz. of white chocolate, melted and slightly cooled (I used Baker’s squares)
  • 4 candy canes, grinded in a food processor until it’s a dust
  • 2 pinches of salt, divided
  • 10 oz. evaporated milk, divided
  • 1 stick butter, divided in half and melted (cooled)
  • 4 eggs, divided
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, sugar and table salt. Mix for about 30 seconds, and then add the cold, cubed butter on top and mix everything until the butter clumps are about pea sized. Drizzle in the ice water while the mixer is on low, a little at a time, until the pie dough is just wet enough to hold together in a dough ball.
  2. Divide into two 5″ wide disks, wrap in plastic wrap and allow to chill in the fridge for about an hour or two (or overnight).
  3. While the dough is chilling, you can make the fillings. Take out two large bowls, and add 1 1/2 cups of sugar to each, as well as a pinch of salt to each. To one of the bowls, add the cocoa powder. To the other, add the candy cane dust. Whisk the dry ingredients in each bowl.
  4. In the bowl with the cocoa powder mixture, add in 1/2 stick of melted butter, 5 oz. of evaporated milk, 2 eggs and a tsp. of vanilla extract. Whisk the mixture well and set aside. In the bowl with the candy cane mixture, add in the other 1/2 stick of melted butter, the last 5 oz. of evaporated milk, melted white chocolate, the other 2 eggs and the last tsp. of vanilla extract. Whisk the mixture well.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Take the pie dough disks out and roll them until they are about 1/8″ thick. Add each dough to a buttered pie dish (this is a fantastic tutorial), and then add half of the chocolate pie filling to each pie dish. After that, add half of the white chocolate candy cane filling to each pie dish. Then with a butter knife, gently swirl the two fillings (being mindful not to hit the crust).
  7. Place the pie dishes in a baking sheet, and bake the pies for 45-50 minutes. Allow the pies to cool for a couple of hours before serving (if you’d prefer to serve it warm) or after they cool, refrigerate overnight and serve cold. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Chewy Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies

Chocolate Peppermint Chip Cookies

Last Christmas, my in-laws got me this awesome cookbook as a gift. I’m a big fan of Cook’s Illustrated’s recipes, and so I was so thrilled to unwrap this book last year. I immediately skimmed through it while we still had family at the house…I just couldn’t wait! While the cookbook doesn’t have pictures throughout, I have to say it’s a VERY comprehensive cookbook, full of tips and recipes that are well-tested. Whenever I think of a recipe I want to make in the kitchen, this is the first book I look to for a recipe, and it hasn’t let me down yet!

I wanted to try a new cookie this year for food gifts, so of course I had to flip to the index to find a chocolate cookie.  The original recipe calls for chopped semi-sweet chocolate, but I just had to use up the Andes chips that I had in the pantry. (I used both the creme de menthe and peppermint crunch varieties since I made a ::gulp:: triple batch of this dough..)

This cookie is insanely rich and fudgey…I could barely finish one without gulping down water! The addition of the mint chips makes it so festive, not just flavor wise, but color wise, since the two chips are green and red. :-)

Chewy Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies
adapted from: The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup + 1/3 cup granulated sugar (separated)
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. + 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 12 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup mint chips (like Andes)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and prepare two baking sheets by lining them with parchment or a silicone sheet.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and remaining 1/3 cup of granulated sugar for 2-3 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Place the 1/2 cup of granulated sugar in a small, shallow baking dish or pie plate and set aside. Whisk the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt together in a medium-sized bowl, and in a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the corn syrup, egg white and vanilla.

Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium-low, and add in the corn syrup mixture. Beat the mixture for about 20 seconds, until everything is fully incorporated, being sure to scrape down the bowl as needed.

Turn the mixer to a low speed, and add in the flour mixture, as well as the mint chips. Mix everything together until the dough is just incorporated (do not overmix), making sure to scrape down the bowl as needed. This should take about 30 seconds to mix. With a spatula, turn the dough a couple of times to make sure there are no pockets of flour in the dough. Chill the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow it to firm a little.

Roll the dough into tbsp. sized balls, and then roll the top half of the dough balls into the sugar (in the baking dish or pie plate) to just coat them. Place the dough balls about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet (with sprinkled sugar halves facing up), and bake the cookies until they are puffed and cracked, about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway into baking. The edges of the cookies will have begun to set, but the middle of the cookies will still be soft. Be mindful not to over-bake these.

Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, and then place them on a cooling rack to remain cooling. Enjoy!

 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bundt Cake

Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bundt

This time of the year is just crazy. Sunday’s weather was well into the 80s and then Monday evening, the low was in the 30s. We had a party to go to on Saturday that I bought a sweater dress for, and of course, it was 70s/80s outside. I still wore the dress, but it was a little odd wearing a sweater dress with tights and boots, considering mosquitoes were biting like crazy outside. Thankfully, we’re in for a freeze warning, so that should get rid of the darn bugs. :-)

Since it finally feels like December again, it definitely feels more natural to bake up a storm. This past weekend was the big holiday bake-palooza, and after baking up dozens of cookies, I just feel like I should be baking something every day. This cake is one of those things…I love baking bundt cake. They’re so pretty right out of the pan, which makes decorating them super easy. You can easily decorate bundt cakes with a thinned icing type of glaze or sifted powdered sugar. I’m loving the powdered sugar topping lately, since it looks like a layer of snow. So festive, right?

This cake is a recipe that I had bookmarked for a while (story of my life), and I thought it sounded interesting…pumpkin with oatmeal in a cake. I decided to add mini chocolate chips to give it a little boost, and it came out amazing. I had some doubts since this batter was SUPER thick, but the cake came out beautifully.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake
Source: adapted from Erin’s Food Files, originally on Dine and Dish

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar

  • 1 cup quick cooking oatmeal

  • 1/4 cup boiling water

  • 1 cup butter, softened

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin

  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 tsp. cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg

  • pinch of cloves

  • 2 tsp. baking soda

  • 1 tsp. salt

  • 2 cups mini chocolate chips

  • powdered sugar

 Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. To prep the bundt pan, either spray it with non-stick baking spray (they usually include flour in them) or just butter/flour the pan.
  2. Place the oatmeal in a small bowl, pour in the boiling water over the oatmeal and stir the mixture together. Allow the oatmeal/water mixture to stand for 10 minutes.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the butter and sugar and beat the mixture for about 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time, and mix until everything is well incorporated.
  4. Add the pumpkin, oatmeal/water mixture and vanilla to the wet mixture, mixing on low until everything is well mixed.
  5. With the mixer still on low, add the flour one cup at a time, and then add the spices, baking soda and salt to the mixture. Mix everything until it’s well incorporated.
  6. Pour the cake batter into the bundt cake pan, and bake the cake for 60 minutes, or until a cake tested inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool the cake in the bundt pan for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto a cooling rack to finish cooling. Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!

Gingerbread Blossom Cookies

Gingerbread Blossom Cookies

Since Halloween is officially over, I usually just eat all of the candy leftover from trick or treaters like it’s no big deal. Heck, that’s why I’d get chocolate…always. However, with this diet thing going on, I felt like I could totally do the whole portion control thing. That lasted one night…when I caught myself eating 3 Reeses cups the next afternoon, I decided ALL of the candy had to go.

Even the pumpkin spice kisses in the freezer. :-(

So, I decided to make blossom cookies with them, but I didn’t want to do plain sugar cookies. I wanted to do something a little different and more festive. I know it’s not the holiday season yet (to the majority, that is…I’m so ready to decorate for Christmas…judge away). However, gingerbread is fall spice-ish, so I figured it would probably work. Um…yeah…this totally worked. TOTALLY. These cookies are a soft, chewy gingerbread and with the pumpkin spice kisses in the middle?? Y’all…I can’t even. These cookies had to get out of our house! Thankfully, my coworkers didn’t mind polishing these off. :-)

Now, I know these kisses are a Halloween candy, but you may luck out at your store. I saw them at my local Target a couple of days ago, and right now, the Halloween candy is SUPER cheap, so if you love these kisses, stock up! I really wish Hersheys would make this a year-round candy, but I guess it’s better for my thighs this way. :-P

Gingerbread Blossom Cookies
Source: cookie recipe from Taste of Home

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Additional sugar for rolling
  • Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kisses, unwrapped

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a mixer, mix the butter and sugar for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add in the egg and molasses.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and mix until everything is well-combined.
  3. Using a small cookie scoop, scoop out cookies and roll the dough into granulated sugar. Place the dough balls 2 inches apart on a parchment or silicone mat lined cookie sheet. Bake the cookies for 8-11 minutes, until puffy and lightly browned along the edge.
  4. Immediately after taking the cookies out, press a kiss candy into the center of each cookie. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely. Since these kisses are a softer chocolate, you may want to place them in the refrigerator for about 10-20 minutes, to allow the kiss candy to set before serving.

 

Golden Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

Golden Vanilla Cupcakes

I can’t believe that the weather is no longer in the 90s. I have been so used to leaving work, getting in my car and immediately rolling down the windows to escape the sauna. It’s so nice to wear long sleeve shirts, and burn spicy candles when the weather is actually cool. The highest the weather has been lately is the mid 80s. I’m so spoiled by this weather right now…I wish Louisiana was like this for more than a few weeks a year!! :-)

In fact, it was the most perfect night for trick or treating a couple of nights ago. We like to give out candy outside, because just one doorbell will make Millie go batty. It’s just not worth giving her the anxiety, so we dress her up (ha…she’s fine with it as long as it’s not a full sweater or something) and sit outside with the candy. The families in our neighborhood just love Millie, and she loves the attention (unless someone wore a mask…we found out this year that she’s scared of those).

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If you follow me on Instagram (username: niftyfoodie), you probably saw this last night. :-) The little hat eventually came off, since she kept trying to eat the string, but she was pretty much the cutest pumpkin in the neighborhood (in my HIGHLY unbiased opinion).

For our coworkers, I usually bake something festive for the day. These cupcakes were what I chose to make: a simple vanilla cake with chocolate buttercream. I had to make a double batch, so I wanted to keep things simple. I ended up throwing some sprinkles in the batter to give it a festive feel, and they were definitely well-received. :-) This cake leans towards the denser side, but the flavor was definitely there. This chocolate buttercream is pretty addictive, too and it couldn’t be simple to make. It comes together in minutes, which could be trouble…I had trouble resisting after having a spoonful, but I promise I did!

Golden Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream
Source: cupcakes from King Arthur Flour, buttercream from Savory Sweet Life

Ingredients for the cupcakes:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs

Ingredients for the frosting:

  • 2 sticks  unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners  sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp. heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and prepare your cupcake tins by placing a lining in each well.
  2. In a large bowl, add the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt and then whisk everything together. To that, add the softened butter and beat on low speed in a mixer, until the mixture resembles sand.
  3. Mix the milk and vanilla in a small bowl and add that to the butter mixture. Mix everything together on low speed for 30 seconds, and then mix on medium speed for another 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl down.
  4. Put the mixer back on low speed and add one egg. Once the egg is added, beat on medium for 30 seconds. Repeat this with the second, third and fourth egg, scraping the bowl down after each addition.
  5. After the last egg is added, beat the mixture on medium for another 30 seconds.
  6. Scoop the batter into the cupcake liners (about 3/4 of the way full), and then bake the cupcakes for 22-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  7. Once the cupcakes are done, place them on a cooling rack.
  8. While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare your buttercream by placing your 2 sticks of butter in the bowl of a mixer and beat the butter for about 2 minutes until fluffy and light.
  9. With the mixer on low, add in the confectioners sugar, as well as the cocoa powder and mix well. Add in the salt, extract and cream, and increase the speed to medium. Mix the frosting, scraping the bowl down a couple of times, until the frosting is light and fluffy.
  10. When the cupcakes are cool, frost with the buttercream (and add sprinkles, if you’d like). Enjoy!

 

 

Pumpkin Nutella Bread

Pumpkin Nutella Bread

Counting calories has definitely changed things around the house. It was definitely strange to come home to bake this recipe, only to find out that I had almost 3/4 of a container of Nutella in the pantry. In the past, I used to seriously sneak spoonfuls of this stuff before bed, which isn’t really a bad thing, but the guilt of admitting to MyFitnessPal that I went over in calories because of Nutella kept me from grabbing for a spoon.

My love for Nutella started in high school French class. We had some sort of group project, where each group brought some sort of snack that the French enjoy. One of the stand-outs was definitely Nutella, which I had never tried (or even heard of) before. I remember going to work that afternoon, (at a grocery store) and searching our database to see if we sold Nutella. Sure enough, the store did. Whew! From then on, I was hooked!

However, now that I’m counting calories, I feel like I’m neglecting some of my old favorite snacks. :- I try to plan ahead with my meals and snacks. Sometimes, my calorie count is so close, that there’s no room for an impromptu snack. There are times where I think…”Heck, why not? Not like I’m going to gain ALL of this weight back from this snack”, but most of the time, I have to remind myself that while a certain snack is delicious, I don’t want to end up where I was 50 lbs. ago. If you’ve ever dieted, I’m sure you can relate.

Back to the recipe…when I saw this pumpkin bread with a Nutella swirl, I thought it would definitely be a fun twist to the classic pumpkin bread that I always enjoy in the fall season. :-) I ended up making this in mini loaves, as the recipe stated, and brought them to coworkers. I did try a slice (or two), and the Nutella definitely gave this bread a little extra indulgence. It was a fantastic combination, actually, and the swirls on the loaves look so pretty. If you love classic pumpkin bread, you should definitely give this a try.

Pumpkin Nutella Bread
Source: mildly adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 8 tbsp. Nutella (2 tablespoons per mini loaf)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare 4 mini loaf pans by spraying with baking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, add the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and whisk the dry ingredients well.
  3. In another larger bowl, add the sugar, applesauce, water, pumpkin, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix/whisk the wet ingredients well, until the mixture is smooth.
  4. Add in the dry ingredients, a little at a time, mixing until the ingredients are just combined.
  5. Divide the batter evenly into the mini loaf pans. Then, in each pan, drop 2 tbsp. of nutella, and swirl the nutella into the batter using a butter knife.
  6. To avoid leaks in the oven, place the loaf pans onto a baking sheet and then place the sheet with the pans in the oven. Bake the loaves for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool the loaf pans on a wire racks for about 15 minutes, and then remove the loaves from the pans. Allow the loaves to cool completely before eating.