Single Serving Chocolate Chip Muffin

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It’s no secret that I love to bake, but one of the problems with constant baking is the vast amount of baked goods that threaten to take over my kitchen. I do have the ingestive help of a dad, teenage brother, and brother’s friends, but sometimes it seems like there are cookies, bars, and muffins coming out of my ears! Of course I could always halve my recipes, yielding two dozen cookies rather than four dozen and six muffins rather than twelve, but that involves a great deal of math, thinking, and remembering not to forget that I’m halving all the ingredients halfway through the recipe! (Been there, done that.) Something about the combination of doing math while trying to calmly bake is just too contradictory, which is where wonderful little recipes like this one come in.

This recipe does not make a dozen muffins. It does not make 6 muffins. It makes one beautiful, delicious, sweet little muffin. Actually a medium muffin, if we’re being literal here. This Single Serving Chocolate Chip Muffin is the perfect solution for those times when you’re craving something special for breakfast, brunch, a snack, or dessert and don’t feel like baking an entire batch of something. It can easily be adapted into a blueberry muffin, cinnamon-raisin muffin, lemon-poppyseed muffin, whatever! Simply add in 1-2 Tbs of your desired add-in and 1/8-1/4 tsp of spices/extracts. Just be sure to eat your muffin up quickly, or put it in a safe place, because if your spouse/brother/mother/dog finds it before you do, it’s game over!

Single Serving Chocolate Chip Muffin

3 Tbs all-purpose flour

1 Tbs granulated sugar

1/4 tsp baking powder

sprinkle of salt

1 1/2 Tbs chocolate chips

1 Tbs + 1 tsp milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 Tbs vegetable oil (or applesauce)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 330 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with 1 liner.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Mix in chocolate chips. In another small bowl, whisk together the milk, vanilla, and oil (or applesauce). Stir the wet ingredients into the dry JUST until combined. Scoop batter into prepared muffin tin.*

Bake for 16-18 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Eat!

*Alternatively, you can use a silicon baking cup and place the cup on a cookie sheet to bake.

(Recipe adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie)

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Oatmeal Butterscotch Bars

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A few days ago I discovered two new bags of chips in my baking cupboard, chocolate and butterscotch. They were a sweet surprise from my dad, who had been grocery shopping and thought I might like to have them around. While thinking of what to make for my next blog post, my mind went straight to that unopened bag of butterscotch chips and then to the ever-so-popular cookie, Oatmeal Scotchies. Scotchies, oatmeal cookies studded with butterscotch chips, have always been a favorite of mine and I realized that I hadn’t had one in years! However, I had just made cookies a few days before and decided to make Oatmeal Scotchie bars instead. I decided that these bars were going to be packed with all-out butterscotch flavor; there would be no holding back on creating the chewiest, richest, butterscotchiest (yes, that is a word because I say so) bars known to man. It was a tall order, but I knew deep down that I was ready.

Originally, I figured I would just create my own recipe by adapting a simple Oatmeal Scotchie recipe. I knew I wanted to use dark brown sugar rather than light, rolled oats rather than quick-cooking, and melted butter rather than creamed. All of this would make the bars extra chewy and rich, which was what I was aiming for. It suddenly hit me that if I wanted to get an even richer flavor I should use browned butter, which is a magical, magical substance. I was so surprised when I came across this recipe for Oatmeal Butterscotch Bars which was almost exactly what I had been imagining! It did call for quick-cooking oats, which you can totally use if you prefer a denser, more compact bar, but I went with the old-fashioned because I like the texture of individual oats. The recipe also included a butterscotch glaze, which sounded like the perfect finishing touch! You’d think that these might have a sweetness-overload but there’s actually less sugar in this recipe than your average cookie-bar recipe…the flavors from the butterscotch chips and browned butter more than make up for it!

In short, if you are a butterscotch fan, definitely give this recipe a shot! I can’t promise with 100% accuracy that they are the chewiest, richest, butterscotchiest bars known to man, but I can say that they are by the far the chewiest, richest, butterscotchiest bars known to me!

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Oatmeal Butterscotch Bars

Bars:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups old-fashioned oats

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup butterscotch chips

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla extract

Glaze:

1/4 cup butterscotch chips

2 Tbs dark brown sugar

1 Tbs water

pinch of salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9″x13″ glass baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang. Lightly spray the pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Pour the 3/4 cup butterscotch chips into a large bowl.

Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until butter is golden-brown and flecks begin to appear, about 10 minutes. Butter can go from browned to burned in a matter of seconds, so keep a close eye on it! Pour the hot butter over the butterscotch chips and whisk until smooth and combined. Whisk in the brown sugar until smooth, then whisk in the egg and vanilla. (Mixture will be thick and sticky.)

Stir the flour mixture into the butterscotch mixture until incorporated. Evenly scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until edges are golden and an inserted toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs attached. While the bars are cooking, make the glaze.

For the glaze, combine 1/4 cup butterscotch chips, 2 Tbs dark brown sugar, water, and a pinch of salt in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second intervals on 50% power for about 2 minutes, or until chips are melted. Stir until smooth.

When bars are done, drizzle on the glaze immediately. Allow the bars to cool completely before cutting into squares.

(Recipe adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)

Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

IMG_0951mint chipWe all do shameful things sometimes. It’s just part of life. Whether it’s watching two seasons of Desperate Housewives in a week (in my defense, I was home sick at the time), telling our mother that dinner is in two minutes even though it’s actually in 20 just so she’ll get off the phone (guilty again), or snatching a PB&J off the table and scarfing it down, baggie and all, in 6 seconds flat (okay, that one was my dog) shameful things just…happen. Especially on Friday nights when you’ve had a long week, have only gotten 6 hours of sleep the night before, have already been to the grocery store twice that week, but have promised to make 2 dozen cupcakes. All that combined might possibly be enough to make a person bake said cupcakes from…a…cake mix! *gasp*

Yes, I’m talking about me! And baking with a cake mix. On a food blog. Shame, shame, shame. But it’s hard to be too shameful when the end result was so delicious. I couldn’t just follow the instructions on the back of the box, so I did doctor the cake mix up with the additions of Greek yogurt (which is like sour cream but better), milk, and a splash of vanilla. Just like homemade, only not. And the frosting…oh, the frosting. If you’re a mint chocolate chip ice cream fan, beware, because this frosting just begs to be eaten by the spoonful! Try to restrain yourself though, or you’ll get a killer headache from the mounds of sugar. Not that I know from experience. However, this frosting truly does taste just like the ice cream. And you’d never know that the cake was made from a mix! Unless you have super-sonic-artificial-flavor-detecting tastebuds or something, which I’m guessing 90% off the population does not. Moist chocolate cake topped with mint-chocolate chip frosting…shameful? I think not.

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Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Chocolate Cake:

1 box chocolate or Devil’s Food cake mix

3 large eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream

1 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Mint Chip Frosting:

1 cup softened butter

2 tsp peppermint extract

3-4 cups powdered sugar

5-10 drops green food coloring, if desired

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 24 muffin tins with paper liners. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, oil, yogurt, milk, and vanilla until smooth, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cake mix until well-combined. Divide the batter between the muffin cups and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and the tops bounce back when lightly touched. Cool cupcakes completely before frosting.

For the frosting, beat the softened butter for 2 minutes. Add in the peppermint extract. Slowly add in the powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. (It may seem like the frosting isn’t coming together but just be patient, it will eventually change texture and become creamy.) If the frosting gets too thick, add in a little milk. If desired, tint with green food coloring. Using a spatula, fold in the mini chocolate chips.

Using a knife or offset spatula, slather frosting onto the top of each cupcake or pipe on frosting with a pastry bag and tip.

(Recipe adapted from Your Cup of Cake)

Deep-Dish Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust

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For Christmas, my dad received a homemade coupon in his stocking good for one pie of your choice. It didn’t take any guessing to know that it was from me! Being the pie-lover that he is, he put a lot of thought into his choice. Originally my dad asked if I would make him a blackberry pie with the wild blackberries we had stashed in the freezer, leftover from late summer pickings, but unfortunately there weren’t quite enough. And it’s not like store-bought frozen blackberries would do, since after tasting a pie made with wild ones there is no. going. back. Back to the drawing board it was. One of my Christmas presents was a copy of the 75th edition The Joy of Cooking, and upon leafing through it I spied a recipe for Deep-Dish Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust.

The savory-sweet combination was intriguing, especially since I LOVE the combo of cheddar cheese on apple slices. I’d never made a deep-dish pie before, which is essentially a pie without the bottom crust. I was a little worried that it would be too runny, more cobbler-esque, but it ended up slicing beautifully. When I suggested this pie to my dad he immediately consented, which is no surprise considering the fact that apple pie and extra-sharp cheddar cheese are two of his favorite things. After a quick trip to the store I was ready to go.

I baked the pie on a Saturday afternoon, then went off to babysit that evening. When I got home later that night I found the pie, half-eaten, with this sticky-note attached:

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(FYI, Sam is my brother and Victor is his good friend)

I think that pretty much says it all! This pie is perfect for apple-lovers, cheddar-lovers, and pie-lovers alike. I know for a fact that this won’t be the last time an Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust appears at our house!

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Deep-Dish Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust

Crust:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 stick cold butter, cut into chunks

2 Tbs chilled vegetable shortening

3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

3 Tbs ice water

Filling:

2 lbs apples (about 4 medium-large) peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4″ slices

6 Tbs butter

1 cup dark raisins (optional)

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup apple cider

Zest and juice from 1 large lemon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

For the crust, whisk together the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut half the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add in the cheddar cheese and the rest of the butter and shortening and cut in until it is pea-sized. Sprinkle in the water, one tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork until the dough sticks together. If necessary, add in an additional 1 tsp to 1 Tbs water.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured sheet of waxed paper, plastic wrap, or a silicon mat. Lightly flour the top of the dough, place another sheet on top and roll into a 10-inch round. Slide the dough onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

For the pie, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  In a wide skillet, heat the 6 Tbs butter over medium-high heat until sizzling and fragrant. Add the apple slices and cook until tender, 5-7 minutes. Then stir in the raisins, pecans, sugar, apple cider, lemon zest, lemon juice, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the juices thicken to the consistency of maple syrup.

Pour the mixture into a 9- or 10-inch pie pan (a shallower pan works best in this recipe so the crust:filling ratio is more even). Peel the top sheet of waxed paper off the pie dough, then place the dough onto the filling and peel off the bottom sheet. Let the dough soften for a minute or two, then tuck the edges inside the rim of the pan. Cut 4 steam vents into the top crust.

Place the pie on a baking sheet in the center rack of the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. Serve warm.

(Recipe from 75th Anniversary Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker)

Lemony Chickpea and Kale Saute

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On a cold November night in 8th grade, I went to the first showing of Twilight at our local movie theater. I had heard of the books years before, but despite my friends’ claims that they were amazing, they always sounded too dark and creepy to read. I mean, a 100-year-old vampire who falls in love/simultaneously yearns to suck the blood of a high school girl? No thank you. When the movie came out, however, my best friend (a recent Twilight convert herself) convinced me to come along. Not counting Harry Potter (which is lightyears above and beyond any other story I’ve read or movie I’ve watched in my entire life) it was one of the best movies I’d ever seen. I now cringe to admit this, but it’s true. I don’t know what it is about middle-school girls, an actor with big hair and a bad American accent, and vampires, but it was honestly a swoon-worthy movie for all my friends and me (and probably every other girl in the theater). I may or may not have gone to it three nights in a row!

I then proceeded to read through the four books in the series, loving them all. The following year, I read them all once more and counted down the days until the release of movies New Moon and Eclipse. It wasn’t until my second time reading the last book, Breaking Dawn, that I started to realize how weakly written they actually were. My mom had always had an issue with Edward, wondering what exactly his redeeming qualities were, and while I had unwaveringly vouched for him in the past I began to see that she was on to something. Even Bella started to bug me, with her weirdly deep, dark depression in New Moon to her annoying habit of washing all the dishes and doing way too much laundry. She just didn’t seem realistic, even though the author worked extremely hard to make readers think she was. By the time the two final movies came out, my Twilight-mania had ceased for the most part. I still enjoy the stories and characters, and would go as far as calling myself a Twilight fan, but I don’t love them anymore. This series is strictly in the friend zone. Note: all these opinions are strictly my own. I mean no offense to Twilight lovers, Twilight haters, or those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about. 🙂

Even though I have mixed feelings about the books I could never go as far as missing the final movie, which I saw back in November. Two friends and I went to dinner beforehand at one of my favorite restaurants. I ordered the Chickpea and Kale Sauté, and I may have enjoyed that dish just as much as Breaking Dawn Part II later that night! Crisp chickpeas, tender kale, garlic cloves and olive oil all topped with crispy shallots and tomato coulis made up this fabulous little meal. For some reason it crossed my mind when I was thinking about what to make for dinner the other night, and I immediately knew that I wanted to recreate this healthy and delicious dish. The version I came up with is a little different than the original, but equally as good. It literally took about 20 minutes, start to finish, and was the perfect accompaniment to our roasted chicken. Filled with vitamin- and fiber-rich kale, protein-packed chickpeas, tender shallots, flavorful garlic, and zesty lemon, this dish is a keeper for sure.

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Lemony Chickpea and Kale Saute 

Serves 4

1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium shallots, diced

6 cloves garlic, roughly minced

1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

1 head of kale

Zest from half a large lemon

Juice from half a large lemon

Directions:

Wash and dry the kale. Tear the leaves away from the tough stems and coarsely chop the leaves. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large nonstick pan. Add in the shallots and garlic and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chickpeas and salt and sauté until chickpeas are golden and crispy, about 8-10 minutes. Add the kale and pepper flakes (if you like spice) and cook for 2-3 minutes or until kale is wilted. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice. Serve warm.

(Recipe adapted from Live to Eat)

Everything-but-the-Kitchen-Sink Blondies

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Hi, my name is Emma (Hi, Emma!), and I have somewhat of an addiction to baking aisles. I’m like a kid in a candy store. Whether it’s in my own tiny grocery store or in a Super Target on the mainland, a trip down the baking aisle means distraction, desire, and inevitable additions to my shopping cart. Limited edition Andes Mint baking pieces? How could I possibly pass them by? Cute little heart-shaped Valentine marshmallows? Into the cart they go. En route for a single box of pudding mix to make some of my favorite Pudding CookiesSomehow 4 different flavors make their way onto my receipt. Like I said, it’s a problem.

Naturally, when I decided to do a little de-cluttering of my baking cupboard after Christmas, I ended up with a multitude of half-full bags on my counter. Shredded coconut, miniature chocolate chips, pecan halves, chocolate chunks, white chocolate chips, cinnamon chips, butterscotch chips, semisweet chocolate chips, crushed peppermint candies, dried cranberries, stale dates, rancid walnuts, and golden raisins. Whew!

After throwing out the dates and walnuts (left over from the date-nut bread I made back on July) I stood there wondering how to use up all these space-stealing ingredients. Then it came to me! Blondies! Blondies, the often over-looked cousin of brownies, are essentially cookie-bars only better. They have the usual cookie base (butter, brown sugar, flour, vanilla, eggs…) but as they bake the brown sugar and butter do a magical thing and you end up with a chewy, gooey, almost caramelized concoction. They’re delicious as-is but are also the perfect blank slate to fill up with any type of add-ins you like. In this case I chose sweetened shredded coconut, chopped pecans, semisweet chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and white chocolate chips. I could have gone the whole nine yards and thrown in the crushed peppermints, dried cranberries, and raisins, but somehow that combination sounded substantially less appealing. And possibly inedible unless you’re, like, an 18-year-old brother. Those ones will eat anything!

Moral of the story: when you find yourself with way too much baking junk (I’m not the only one, right?!), just make blondies! They’re pretttty hard to resist, if I do say so myself. The good news is that now my baking cupboard is nice and de-cluttered…until my next trip to the store, that is!

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Everything-but-the-Kitchen Sink Blondies

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened to room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup butterscotch chips

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

1 cup chopped nuts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9″x13″ pan and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer until creamy. Add in the sugars and beat until well-combined. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in the vanilla.

Gradually add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated. Stir in the chips, coconut, and nuts. Spread the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until edges pull away from the pan and the top is golden-brown. Cool completely before slicing into bars.

(Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)

Raisin-and-Nut Bran Muffins

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Here comes the first recipe of the new year! I can’t believe it’s already 2013…the year I graduate from high school! Lots to look forward to, lots to do.

It’s no secret that many people’s new year’s resolutions revolve around eating healthier, exercising regularly, losing weight, etc. So to help start your year off right, regardless of what your resolution was, I have a special treat for you all today…a special healthy treat, that is! During the holiday season it’s hard to resist the platters of cookies, tins of fudge, seasonal Starbucks drinks and other not-so-waistline-friendly treats that seem to be everywhere, and I’m sure I didn’t help much by providing tantalizing recipes for cookie dough fudge, chocolate candy cane swirl cookies, and other naughty treats. (That said, I still stand by the idea of everything in moderation, and if eating too much chocolate on Christmas morning is wrong then I don’t want to be right!)

Luckily, with these Raisin-and-Nut Bran Muffins that I created you can enjoy a delicious snack while still feeling good about what you’re eating! They’re full of fiber, whole grains and a small dose of healthy fats, resulting in a moist and hearty muffin. These have very little sugar compared to most muffins, but you won’t miss it! The fresh orange zest, vanilla, and plump raisins give these plenty of flavor and sweetness.

Here’s to a new year filled with health, happiness, and success! Try new things, make new goals, and remember to pause now and then and be glad for the little things in life. After all, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.” (Name that movie!)

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Raisin-and-Nut Bran Muffins

1 cup oat bran (or wheat bran)

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 cup packed brown sugar or coconut sugar

1 cup milk

2 Tbs vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 tsp orange zest

1 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup chopped pecans

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners (or lightly grease). Set aside.

Place the raisins in a bowl and cover with very hot water. Allow the raisins to soak while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the bran, flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, vanilla, eggs, and orange zest. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir just until incorporated. Drain the raisins and fold them in.

Scoop the batter evenly into prepared muffin tins. Sprinkle with the chopped pecans and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until tops bounce back when lightly touched and a toothpick comes out clean.