Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lemon Lime Sprite Cupcakes


When we first moved into our current house, we found seven lemon trees on the property. (Have I already told this story?) SEVEN. What does one do with that many lemon trees?! We'll never know. We took most of them out. There is, however, a remaining tree smiling cheerfully to me right outside my kitchen window. It starts to bloom in the winter, which I did not know until I lived here, and offers that cheery splash of yellow and fresh scent of lemon every time I walk by. Thank you, lemon tree. Someone suggested that I make a lot of homemade cleaners with my surplus lemons, which I admit is a great idea, but that would suggest that I would then have to clean...and...well...instead I dream of little lemon treats. This one uses lemon flavoring instead of real lemon juice, but as I sit here and think of it, it would probably be quite tasty and little zestier if it did. Stay tuned for an update. In the meantime, spring is in the air, citrus is always in style, and why not add Sprite for a little extra zing? These cupcakes are scrumptious, so dig in!

Lemon Lime Sprite Cupcakes

Note: I used store-bought frosting. Three cheers for easy. They would probably be great with any lemon or lime frosting recipe you may have, or just add a teaspoon of lemon flavoring to vanilla frosting.

Ingredients:

1 & 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup Sprite
3 eggs
2 teaspoons lemon extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
Key-Lime frosting (store-bought from Pillsbury)

Recipe:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream together sugar and butter. 
3. Add Sprite, eggs, and lemon extract and mix thoroughly.
4. Mix in dry ingredients just until combined. Do not overmix.
5. Scoop into muffin tins until about 3/4 full (I use a large ice cream scoop). Bake for 18-20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out dry.
6. Remove from tins and allow to cool completely.
7. Frost those babies.



Thursday, March 6, 2014

Easy Andes Mint Brownies


Whenever I watch food TV shows I frequently hear chefs say that they have made an elevated version of a classic dish. I find this pretentious and wonderful at the same time. For example, to say that you can "elevate" an already perfect dish such as mac n' cheese may seems ludicrous. Who do you think you are? But when you add bacon and breading or have the audacity to deep fry it (yum) then you're absolutely right in saying it has been elevated. Perfection has been perfected.

Where does the brownie fit in in all of this? Ladies and gentelemen, the box brownie has been elevated. Actually, elevated may be taking it a bit too far. Stepped up? Mildly improved upon? Anyhow, it's been varied and it's absolutely delicious. I have never been one to look down upon a box dessert (because they're great) but this is a refreshing change and quite tasty. One of my college roommates used to do this in the BYU days and I thought she was genius. (She actually was a genius, but not just because of the brownies.)

So next time you're snatching that boxed brownie mix at the store, grab some Andes mints too. They're just the ticket to elevating an already delicious classic. 

Easy Andes Mint Brownies

Note: Although this recipe is extremely simple to make, it does take a good amount of time for the chocolate to harden on top. So don't attempt to make them last minute if you are in need of a quick dessert! They require an hour or so of refrigeration.

Ingredients:

Favorite brownie mix (and ingredients required on the box)
Andes mints - about 20-25

Recipe:

1. Make brownies according to directions on package.
2. As soon as brownies come out of the oven, immediately place mints on top of the hot brownies as shown below and let melt for about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Spread the chocolate while still soft and melty to form a nice even layer on top of the brownies. Place in fridge to cool for an hour or until set.

That's it! It's that easy! And soooo tasty.


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Friday, February 28, 2014

Funfetti Pudding Cookies


I have a lot of things in common with kids. The lives of kids involve a lot of "treats and snoozin', snoozin' and treats" as my sister likes to say. I also aspire to snoozin' and treats (and I bet you do too). We are one.

This particular treat is extremely kid friendly. Besides that it's easy to make, it tastes like something a kid (and a honest human) would love. Key ingredients are pudding and sprinkles. Need I say more?

Make them, eat them, be a kid and take a nap. Goodnight!

Recipe source: barely adapted from Crazy for Crust

Funfetti Pudding Cookies

Ingredients:

1 stick butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 small box (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix
1 & 1/2 cups flour
Sprinkles

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Beat together butter and sugar until nice and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat in.
3. Combine dry ingredients (I actually rarely do this, but I know it's a good idea :) Slowly add to wet ingredients and mix in until fully incorporated.
4. Stir in whatever sprinkles your heart desires.
5. Roll into small 1" balls or use a mini ice cream scoop and place dough on trays.
6. Bake for 7-8 minutes. Allow to cool on cookie sheets.
7. Share with your favorite little.  



Friday, February 21, 2014

Cinnamon-Log Slices


The thing about science is - it's amazing. Three cheers for science! Remember when you used to have science lessons about nature in school and you would go outside and count the rings on trees? That was so awesome! Well, it's about time that tree with all its magnificent rings signifying it's age and wisdom was turned into a cookie. And so it's been done. Thank you, science.

These cookies are tasty and a nice variation from the usual. Although they take a good amount of time owing to frequent chilling and rolling, they are nice and chewy in the middle and crispy on the outer edges. I think my favorite taste in the these cookies was the milk, though. There was milk in the batter and you could taste that milky goodness coming through in each little bite. They have those great cinnamon and cocoa elements as well, that no one can resist. And the best part - they look like little log slices! If you have small kids, you can count the rings with them and compare them to trees and branches. If you don't have small kids, even better - more for you!

Cinnamon-Log Slices

Note: This recipe makes a nice huge batch. I made half of it and froze the other half for later.

Ingredients:
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light-brown sugar
2 large eggs  plus 1 large egg white
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
2/3 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup turbinado sugar

Recipe:
1. Beat together butter, white and brown sugars until creamy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time (reserve egg whites for later). Beat in salt and 1 teaspoon cinnamon until combined, then milk and vanilla until also combined. Add flour 1 cup at a time until completely incorporated.

2. Divide dough into 4 balls (they don't have to be perfect spheres at all, just rough shapes will do). Wrap 3 of the balls in parchment or saran wrap and place in fridge. Take the final ball of dough and roll into a 12" log. Wrap and refrigerate along with other balls of dough about 1 hour or until firm.

3. When dough is firm remove from fridge. Combine cocoa powder and remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle on surface. Roll out 1 ball of dough into a rectangle, roughly 6-by-12 inches (again, it does not have to be perfect). Flip rectangle over onto a lightly floured surface. Brush off excess cocoa. Place 12" log of dough in the center of the rectangle and wrap the rectangle around the log so that it is completely covered. Squeeze it together tightly until it is a single log of dough. Repeat with the other 2 balls of dough, each time adding to the log until you have a large log of dough. Wrap and refrigerate log until firm, or up to a day.

4. Remove log from fridge. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly beat egg white and brush it on outside of log. Next, roll the log in turbinado sugar, lightly patting it to help adhere. Refrigerate the log until the sugar is set, about 10 minutes. Slice log into 1/4" thick rounds and place on baking sheet. Bake 18-20 minutes. Immediately remove from baking sheets and cool on racks. Rings may slightly separate. Cool and enjoy!

Recipe Source: Martha Stewart Living

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Edible Valentines


Love should always be sweet. And edible. Yes, definitely edible. This is why Valentine's day is one of the greatest days of the year. It is a regular love fest for all! 

It is an unwritten rule that one must decorate sugar cookies for Valentine's Day. Being law abiding folk, I dutifully made my sugar cookies and invited small people over to decorate them. The only thing I failed to foresee is that these little edible Valentines wouldn't actually make it to any recipient other than the decorators, themselves. All of the boys decorated their cookies and then promptly devoured them in about four minutes flat. So I guess they won't have anything to give their parents and teachers. But hey - when you're this cute, you can get away with just about anything.


Aren't these guys adorable?!

Oh, where are my own children, you ask? My camera battery died before I got to that side of the table. Parenting fail.

If you haven't made your Valentine's sugar cookies yet, it's never too late. It's never too late for a cookie.(I should stitch that on a pillow, or something.) 

Sugar Cookies
Ingredients:
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsps. almond extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt

1. Cream together butter and sugar. 
2. Add eggs, vanilla, and almond extract and mix well. 
3. Gradually add flour and salt until completely mixed in.
4. Cover dough and chill for about 2 hours. 
5. When ready to roll dough, remove from fridge and briefly knead to make it workable again. 
6. Roll and cut in desired shapes. If desired, press popsicle stick into the toe about 1/3 of the up from the bottom. 
7. Bake at 375 for for 10-12 minutes


Royal Icing

Ingredients:
4 Tblsp. meringue powder 
1/2 cup water
6-7 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbls. shortening
2 Tbls. corn syrup

Supplies:
Frosting Bags (Disposable always preferable)
Frosting Tips 

1. Whip meringue powder and water on high speed for several minutes until soft peaks form.
2. Gradually add the rest of ingredients until frosting is firm and falls slowly off an upside down spoon. 
3. If not frosting immediately, frosting can be stored in a sealed container for up to four weeks at room temperature.
4. Divide frosting into thirds. The first third will remain white and go into a piping bag. The second third will remain white and be thinned out for flooding the cookies. The last third is to dye red or other various colors.  I was going mostly for red, but I find that you need a whole barrel full of red food coloring to make it actually RED. I always end up with some sort of hot pink. 
5. Outline the cookies with white frosting using a 3 or 4 tip. Allow frosting to dry for at least 15 minutes.
6. Thin the white frosting left in the bowl using 1 tsp. water at a time until you reach desired consistency. The icing should be thin and able to spread easily but not too watery. Spoon it onto the outlined cookies and let the frosting fill the cookie, pushing the frosting to the edges. Allow to dry at least 15 minutes.
7. Dye the remaining frosting and place in piping bags. Pipe words or designs onto cookies.

OR

Just let the kids have at 'em. They're more creative, anyway!


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Red Velvet Pancakes with Cream Cheese Glaze


If red velvet ever goes out of style, please no one tell me. I will persist in my little world where this most versatile of flavors lends itself to all manner of baked goods - cupcakes, brownies, macaroons, and pancakes, to name a few. And the great thing about it being a red velvet is that red is prominent at so many major holidays! Christmas, Valentine's and Fourth of July are all BEGGING you to make red velvet goodies. Who am I to say no? 

I first made these pancakes for a Fourth of July breakfast and they were a hit with adults and kids alike. I owe this popularity to the cream cheese glaze. As if everyone didn't already love a pancake, throw some cream cheese glaze on top and you're basically a hero. The pancakes are light and fluffy with just a touch of cocoa. I would be lying if I said I only ate one.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Red Velvet Pancakes

Cream Cheese Glaze:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract (or paste for a little extra something)
1-3 TBLS milk

Pancakes:
1&1/2 cups flour
2 TBLS white sugar
2 tsps baking powder
1 TBLS unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp white vinegar
2 tsps red food coloring
1/4 cup melted butter

1. Make glaze by beating together cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach desired consistency. Set aside.
2. To make pancakes, whisk together dry ingredients. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl until smooth. Whisk in milk, buttermilk, vanilla extract, vinegar, and food coloring. Stir together with dry ingredients until moistened, but not smooth. There may be some lumps, which is okay. Drizzle in the melted butter and stir until completely incorporated.
3. Drop 1/4 cup batter onto lightly oiled griddle over medium-high heat and cook until bubbles form. Flip and cook until browned on the other side. Drizzle with cream cheese glaze to serve.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Delicious Blueberry Muffins and a Completely Make-Ahead Brunch


I know everyone out there thinks about brunch from time to time. How do I know this? Because it's brunch. It's delicious. I'd probably eat it every day if my conscious would let me (but my conscious is obnoxious like that.)

Let's talk about planning a brunch. The optimal time for brunching is probably mid-morning, around 10:00am. But if one were to be completely prepared with a meal by that time they would probably have to start much earlier. Much earlier than 10:00am is too early to be slaving in the kitchen and preparing to host; hence the problem. The solution? Make a brunch completely before hand. Oh ho ho ho, yes. It can be done.

Menu: 
Delicious Blueberry Muffins
Quiche Lorraine
Yogurt Bar
Orange Juice



I made this brunch for a reception after my son's baby blessing. The blessing was at 9:00am and we ate brunch at 10:30am. I made the quiche and the muffins the day before, as well as sliced the fruit for the yogurt bar and set the table. All I basically had to do was put the yogurt in individual cups and reheat the quiche. Voila! Brunch. Make it. Invite some friends. Make 10:00am the best hour of your day.

Delicious Blueberry Muffins

Topping:
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of one lemon

Muffins:
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 1/8 cups plus 1 tsp. sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
4 TBLS butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsps. vanilla extract

1. Make the topping by stirring together 1/3 cup sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray standard 12-muffin tin with cooking spray. (For this recipe I prefer to spray the the tin instead of using cupcake liners because the muffins come out nice and gooey and tend to stick to the liners.)
3. Rinse one cup blueberries under cold water and spread on paper towels to dry. Bring remaining one cup berries and 1 tsp. sugar to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for several minutes, stirring frequently and mashing berries as you go with a spoon until the berries are broken down and the mixture is thickened. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside to cool.
3. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Toss the dried berries from the paper towels into the flour mixture.
4. Beat together remaining 1 1/8 cups sugar and eggs until thick. Slowly mix in the butter, oil, buttermillk and vanilla until combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold egg mixture into flour mixture until just moistened. It's okay if there are a few lumpy spots or dry streaks of flour. The key to moist muffins is to not over mix.
5. Spoon or scoop muffin batter into tins until they are about 3/4 spool. Spoon about a tsp. of cooked berry mixture into the center of each muffin and gently swirl in using a toothpick or fork. Sprinkle lemon-sugar mixture evenly over muffins.
6. Bake 17-18 minutes or until the top of the muffins are just firm. Cool muffins in the tin for five minutes, then transfer to wire rack to continue cooling.
7. Everybody loves a muffin. 

Recipe source: www.melskitchencafe.com
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