Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Chex Mix Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

I love getting requests to bake cupcakes for a friend's birthday.  It's fun to try and figure out which kind they might like best.  This friend always gives out tins of homemade Chex Mix for the holidays, so I thought it would be fun to incorporate that into a cupcake.  And who doesn't love a salty-sweet combination?

Before I started baking, I wanted to make sure I was on track with the flavor profile so I tried a handful (or five) of Chex Mix with some chocolate chips.  Um... yes.  That ought to work just fine, but maybe I ought to try a few more handfuls, just to make sure?

Kaylee was also interested in a treat... (don't worry, she got one that was more salmon inspired than salty-sweet inspired.)

They were a huge hit at work!  Seriously, nothing makes me happier than brightening people's day with a sweet treat.

Chex Mix Cupcakes
(adapted from  Cupcake Project)
Makes 16 cupcakes

1 c. sugar
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. food-processed Chex Mix
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 c. milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a medium-sized bowl, mix sugar, flour, ground Chex Mix, baking soda, baking powder, and butter until combined.  Mix in egg.  Mix in milk, a little at a time.

Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.  Let cupcakes cool in cupcake tin for a few minutes.  Then remove to a cooling rack, and let cool completely.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (vegan)
(from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World)
Makes enough for 2 dozen cupcakes

1/4 c. margarine, softened
1/4 c. shortening
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (sifted if there are clumps)
2 1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
3 Tbsp soymilk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Cream together the margarine and the shortening until well combined.  Add the cocoa powder and incorporate well.  Add the powdered sugar in about 1/2 cup batches and beat well, adding a little splash of soymilk after each addition.  When all ingredients have been well incorporated, add the vanilla and beat until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes with a hand mixer, 7 minutes if mixing with a fork).

To finish cupcakes:
Sea salt
Mini chocolate chips
Chex Mix

Pipe frosting on top of cooled cupcakes.  Top with sea salt, mini chocolate chips, and a few Chex Mix.

To note, top off with Chex Mix no more than a few hours before serving.  More than that and the Chex Mix gets soggy, and nobody wants that!


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Zucchini Bread Overnight Crockpot Porridge

Another end of a weekend - sad.  We should focus on starting out the week right with a warm, nutritious, and tasty breakfast!

After making Carrot Cake inspired porridge in December, I was curious to try out another vegetable that often gets tossed into dessert-y situations - zucchini.

I grated the zucchini into two 'sizes,' just for fun, but that's not necessary.  Go with a smaller size if you're trying to truly sneak it in, otherwise a standard size for those not afraid of a little green in their breakfast!

Just like the raisins really finished off the Carrot Cake Porridge, craisins suited this porridge perfectly.  And of course, some chopped walnuts.  Or.... in my case, crushed walnuts.  Walnuts + Ziploc bag + jar bottom = perfectly crushed walnuts.  Seriously, it's WAY easier and tidier than chopping them with a knife and having some skitter away on the countertop or find their way onto the floor.

Another grate usage of zucchini! (Get it... grate?? Grated zucchini??)  Sorry, I'll show myself out... :-)

Zucchini Bread Overnight Crockpot Porridge
Makes 6 servings

1/2 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 cup whole oat groats (found in bulk bins in Whole Foods, otherwise just more steel-cut oats)
1/2 cup short-grain brown rice (or pearled barley or farro)
2 Tbsp wheat germ
2 Tbsp flax seeds, ground
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 medium zucchini, grated (~3 cups)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
5 1/2 cups water

For toppings:
Chopped walnuts
Brown sugar or maple syrup to taste

Before going to bed, prepare your porridge.  Place a Slow Cooker Liner in your crockpot (Reynolds makes them, by the Ziploc bags).  It's a necessary item for crockpot usage, in my opinion, particularly for overnight porridge!

In your lined crockpot, pour in your steel-cut oats, brown rice, groats, wheat germ, flax seeds, zucchini, cinnamon, salt, vanilla, brown sugar and water.  Stir.  Cover and set your crockpot to low and cook overnight.

In the morning, stir the porridge, and add in at least 1/2 cup craisins.  Top off your bowl with milk of choice (if desired), chopped nuts and sweetener.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Lazy (and Amazing) Pizza Dough

We make a lot of homemade pizza, but we've never had a good from-scratch dough for the crust.  I just don't like having to work the dough for awhile and letting it rise, etc, etc.  Ugh, too long to wait and it just doesn't appeal to me.

Well, thanks to Smitten Kitchen (love that blog), we now have the only pizza dough recipe we need!  Why is it so wonderful, you ask?  You barely have to do anything.  Mix together the ingredients.  Let it sit overnight/all day.  No kneading at all, just pat it in the pan and you've got a chewy, crispy, tasty pizza crust.  Could you ask for anything easier?

It starts simply enough, with the usual suspects: flour, yeast, salt, and water.

Cover, and let rise overnight and/or all day.

Dump it out on a floured mat/board.  It will be very soft - don't worry, that's perfect.  Dust it lightly with flour, cut it in half to create two balls.

Gently pat/stretch it into two pans.

Top with your favorites, bake as directed, and then you have an amazing pizza!

My veggie-licious vegan pizza on the left and the husband's traditional sausage, green pepper and onion on the right.  This crust works perfectly for any pizza!

If you need a topping idea, here's one for Shaved Asparagus Pizza and Balsamic Roasted Vegetable Pizza (this one is my go-to with a pesto base).

Lazy Pizza Dough
(from Smitten Kitchen)
Makes 2 medium pizza crusts

1) Overnight Dough Schedule: Begin between 8 and 9 p.m the evening before for dinner between 6 to 8 p.m. (approx. 22-hour dough)

2) All-Day Dough Schedule: Begin between 6 and 8 a.m that day for dinner between 6 to 8 p.m. (approx. 12-hour dough)

3) Part-Day Dough Schedule: Begin around noon that day for dinner between 6 to 8 p.m. (approx. 6-hour dough)

3 cups (375 grams) all-purpose flour (bread flour works too)
Slightly heaped 1/8, 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast (for Overnight, All-Day, or Part-Day Schedules respectively, above)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea or kosher salt
1 1/4 cup water, plus an additional tablespoon or two if needed (updated)

In a very large bowl, mix all ingredients with a spoon. The dough will be craggy and rough; this is fine, but if it feels excessively so, add another spoonful or even two of water.  Cover bowl with plastic and keep at room temperature for approximately 22 (for Overnight schedule), 12 (for All-Day schedule) or 6 (for Part-Day schedule) hours, or until the dough has more than doubled. This takes longer in a chilly room and less in a very warm one, but don’t fret too much over this, as the dough is generally forgiving of a loosened schedule.

Prepare pizza pan with a very light, thin coat of olive oil or a nonstick cooking spray. Heat oven to its highest temperature, usually around 500 degrees F.  I know it seems high, but I promise it's fine!

Flour your counter very well. Scrape dough out of bowl onto floured counter; in the time it has risen it should change from that craggy rough ball to something very loose, soft, sticky and stretchy. Flour the top of the dough, and divide dough in half (or more pieces, if you’re making smaller pizzas). Form them into ball-like shapes. Grab first round with floured hands and let the loose, soft dough stretch and fall away from your hands a few times before landing the dough on your prepared baking sheet/paddle. Use floured fingers to press and nudge dough into a roughly round or rectangular shape. Add desired fixings and bake pizza for 10 to 15 minutes, rotating if it’s baking unevenly, until the top is blistered and the crust is golden. Repeat with remaining dough.

Whole wheat variation: Feel free to replace up to half the flour with whole wheat without altering any other ingredients.