Rich Chocolate Cupcakes with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting

 Frosted and decorated two ways: Pumpkins/jack-o-lanterns (above) and plainly piped (below). 

Happy Halloween!

 

 Rich Chocolate Cupcakes with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped (or just use morsels)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs whites at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

In a bowl, place butter and chocolate.  Pour water over them and let stand until melted.  Stir to combine.

Add sugar and vanilla and stir again to combine.

Add the sour cream.  Use an electric mixer to beat until fully combined.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet.  Mix until smooth.

In another metal bowl, use a whisk to whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  (Note, it is very important that you use a metal non-reactive bowl.  Adding a pinch of cream of tartar or a teaspoon of vinegar will help thicken your egg whites.  This takes some time and your arm might ache a bit!  You’ll know you’re done when you pull the whisk from the whites and a little peak forms and remains upright.)

Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Fill the cupcake papers 3/4 full.  (I like to use an ice cream scooper to do this.)

Bake for 20-27 minutes, depending on your oven.

Let cakes cool completely in pan.

Recipe adapted from Crazy About Cupcakes by Krystina Castella, available for purchase here.

Honey Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 2   8oz. packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Beat all ingredients until light and fluffy.  Hold in the fridge until stiff enough to pipe.

Recipe adapted from RedBook.

Orange White Chip Cookies

I first saw the recipe for these cookies last week and I have been thinking about them ever since.  There isn’t anything fancy about them, but for some reason, the combination of flavors spoke to me.  I rarely bake with white chocolate or citrus flavors and the idea of two together sounded really appealing–it sounded so refreshing and light.  And once I baked them, I discovered that to be true.  The soft sweetness of the white chips balanced by the orange is really delicious.  There is a pleasant and surprising burst of flavor with each bite. 

(And the fine little orange strands of zest running through these cookies work quite nicely with a Halloween color palette!)

Orange White Chip Cookies:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • the zest of one orange

Preheat oven to 350 F. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.  Beat butter and sugar together until smooth.  Add oil and egg.  Mix well.  Gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture.   Combine until dough feels like the consistency of a sugar cookie dough.   Stir in white chocolate chips and orange zest until evenly distributed. Drop by the teaspoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 10-14 minutes.  Cool on baking sheet for about 2 minutes and then finish cooling on wire rack.

Adapted from recipe found in a Toll House print advertisement.

Salmon Burgers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These salmon burgers were really delicious and so easy!  I served these burgers on soft fresh wheat rolls along side a bowl of gyoza (dumpling) soup. I really love fresh, quick dinners like this.  Most of the time,  I prefer meals like this over takeout.  The fresh factor is always in question with takeout–and you never really know what you are getting.  A meal like this takes very little time to prepare and the fresh, delicious-ness is worth it! 

Salmon Burgers:

  • 1 pound wild salmon (no skin)
  • 2 tablespoons scallion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped (optional–I omitted it)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce or teriaki sauce
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • olive oil or cooking spray for the grill pan
  • 2 tablespoons guacamole

Use a large knife to chop fresh salmon into 1/4 inch long strips. Be careful not to squish the salmon.  Try to use quick short knife strokes.  Pile the salmon strips into a bowl and gently add the scallion, cilantro (if you are using it), ginger, soy sauce, salt, and pepper.  Mix together using your hands.  Do not over mix and again, be careful not to squish the salmon.  Make 3-4 patties, about 1-inch thick.  Place on a plate and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes (or up to 2 hours). 

Spray the grill pan (or skillet) with cooking spray or drizzle with olive oil.  Add the burgers and cook until brown on both sides.  Spread guacamole on each roll and place burger on top.

Adapted from recipe found here on eatingwell.com.

Buffalo Chicken Salad

There’s something about Buffalo Chicken that makes it feel like junk food.  Maybe it’s because of the frequency of buffalo tenders on bar menus.  But the truth is, it doesn’t have to be bad for you.  You can enjoy the delicious flavor without lots of fat and calories!

I know many of my readers love Buffalo chicken, as do my husband and I.  When my husband handed me his Men’s Fitness magazine and showed me this recipe, I decided to make it immediatley.  What a great, easy, tasty, and healthful weeknight supper!  (And who would have guessed I’d be getting recipes from men mags!  Though, it was Ellie Krieger who submitted this to the magazine!)

(This recipe made me think of Tina from Carrots ‘n’ Cake because I know how much she loves Buffalo chicken!  Low and behold–she and her husband had Buffalo Chicken Lasagna last night!  Maybe the onslaught of cold weather created a widespread yearning for all things hot & spicy!)

Buffalo Chicken Salad:

  • 2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 small bunch scallions, finely chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
  • 3 carrots, grated
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 4 tablespoons (or more!) Franks Red Hot Buffalo sauce
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts sliced (or even easier–“stir fry chicken strips”)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small handfuls mozzarella cheese, grated
  • blue cheese crumbles*
  • low fat blue cheese dressing*

In a large bowl combine oil and buffalo sauce.  (Use as much or as little sauce as you’d like!)  Add the chicken tenders (either breasts sliced up or use the “stir fry chicken strips” as I did) and using your hands to mix, fully coat chicken with sauce.

Spray a hot grill pan with cooking spray.  Cook the chicken on the pan until done.

While chicken is cooking, portion your lettuce and veggies into two large salad bowls.  Top with cooked chicken, a sprinkle of crumbled cheese, a handful of grated cheese, and dressing.  Garnish with additional chopped scallions.

*Note: I know I am the minority here, but I don’t eat blue cheese.  For our salads, I replaced blue cheese crumbles with goat cheese crumbles, and blue cheese dressing with ranch dressing.

Also note, this recipe is gluten free.  Be aware, however, that some brands of blue cheese contain gluten.  Read the package label carefully when making your purchase.

Adapted from recipes found in Men’s Fitness Magazine November 2008 issue.

Chicken, Ziti, and Broccoli

 

 

Strangely, after cooking for so many years, I think this was the first time I have ever made chicken, ziti, and broccoli.  I think I have put it off because every time I have eaten it (usually at a catered event, not by choice) I have found it extremely oily and bland.  However, because so many people seem to love it, I figured it deserved a shot.  After all, it is an easy hearty dish that is perfect for reheating individual portions.  And it contains broccoli.  And chicken.  And pasta.  Bing, bang, boom–all virtues in my book.

So I gave this a chance, and it is delicious.  I hardly ever cook with butter*, but I abided as it is only 2 tablespoons across the entire dish. The sauce is flavorful and a slightly creamy, though not rich.  The chicken pieces were tender, moist, and tasty.  The dish was by no means oily.  I am so happy I tried it out.  I think this is a great weeknight and crowd pleasing supper!

*Notice I said cook with butter–I bake with it all of the time!

Chicken, Ziti, and Broccoli:

  • 1 pound of ziti or rigatoni
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 skinless boneless chicken breasts, sliced into bite-size pieces and seasoned on all sides with salt and pepper
  • 4-8 cloves of garlic, minced (Note–I always use way more garlic than a recipe suggests.  Use what is right for your taste.)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 4 tablespoons (or up to 3/4 cup) grated cheese (a combination of romano + mozzarella works well)
  • 2 cups of broccoli florets
  • 2 sprigs parsley, finely chopped

Boil the ziti.

In a large saute pan or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil.  Add the chicken pieces and saute until brown on all sides.  Add the garlic and saute lightly.  Add the white wine and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer.

In a separate small saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and mix until a sandy consistency. (This is a roux.)   Add this flour mixture to the chicken/garlic/liquid. Stir well to avoid lumps. Add the grated cheese and broccoli.  Let it cook until the broccoli is tender (not mushy).

Sprinkle with fresh parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drain ziti and pour into a 9×13 dish. Pour chicken/broccoli on top and mix carefully.

Adapted from Assaggio’s Recipe found here.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies (with or without mini chocolate chips)

I am loving all things pumpkin these days–I just can’t get enough.  Pumpkin candy, pumpkin cake, actual pumpkins in the natural state.  Nothing says October like bright beautiful orange pumpkins and all of the spices that go along with them.  Cloves. Nutmeg. Cinnamon.  So delicious! And the smell in the house is incomparable!

These cookies are very chewy and delicious.  They are so chewy I almost thought I under-cooked them.  The currants add a very nice texture, and because they are smaller than raisins they are subtle.  I added mini-chocolate chips to the second portion of the batter for a little melty surprise. 

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated (white) sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree, canned or fresh
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dried currants
  • 1 cup mini-chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. 

Beat the butter and two sugars together until fluffy.  Add the egg, vanilla, and pumpkin puree and beat for about three minutes. In a separate mixing bowl, combine flour, oats, baking soda, salt, cloves and cinnamon.  Stir together dry ingredients together and then slowly add to the wet ingredients until just combined.

Fold currants (and chocolate chips if you are using them) into the batter.  Use a tablespoon to drop the batter onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake about 13-15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on racks.

Adapted from recipe found here on Simply Recipes.

Bittersweet Molten Chocolate Cupcakes

It happens sometimes.  OK–I’ll be honest.  It happens a lot.  It doesn’t matter what time it is, how tired I am, whether we have to be somewhere or I have all the time in the world.  Sometimes I get an urge to bake–an urge that won’t be ignored.  I have to succumb!  I don’t have a choice!  And that is why tonight, at an odd and late hour, I made these molten cupcakes.

The recipe doesn’t indicate an approximate time for how long they should be baked.  It simply says “Bake at 350 degrees until the sides of the cupcakes look firm and the centers are still soft.”  I think I missed this by about 3 minutes.  I put them in for 11 minutes.  I should have taken them out but I thought they could use a little bit longer so I added an additional 2 minutes.  (13 minutes total.)  Next time I would keep a closer eye and take them out after about 10 minutes (total).  I think that is the best way to ensure a nice drippy middle.

I think these are a perfect dinner party dessert.  Serve warm out of the oven, individually plated with some ice cream and fresh berries.  And maybe a sprig of mint. Yum!  That is what I will do next time.  But because there were no dinner party guests, there was no ice cream, no fresh berries, no mint, no frosting.  Nope.  Just me and my husband. We ate these tasty simple little cakes as you see them in the photo above–naked!  (The cakes!!!)

Bittersweet Molten Chocolate Cupcakes:

  • 1 and 1/4 sticks butter
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Carefully melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan.  (Use a double boiler if you wish, or just be very careful not to burn the chocolate.)  Cool for five minutes.

In a large bowl beat the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar with an electric mixer until thick and creamy. (About five minutes.)

Fold the egg mixture into the chocolate until fully incorporated.  Fold in the sifted flour.

Fill the cupcake liners two-thirds full.  Bake until the sides of the cupcakes look firm but their centers are still soft.  (About 10 minutes.  Keep an eye on them!)

Remove from the oven.  Cool for a few minutes then gently remove the liners.  Serve warm with ice cream (or whipped cream) and fresh berries.

Adapted from recipe found in Crazy about Cupcakes by Krystina Castella available for purchase here.