Caramel Apple Cupcakes

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There is no reason for my lack of updates in the last month, except that I frequently suck at blogging. Life gets in the way sometime. And my computer died thanks to my cat and now I’m stuck using Windows 8.1 which makes me want to poke myself in the eyes.

A month ago I lamented about how AlphaBakes was meeting its end. However, luckily for me, there was a change of heart! This month, AlphaBakes and Random Recipes joined together to create a combined challenge of alpha-baking and picking random cookbooks off of my shelf.

So how does this challenge work? We were told to pick a random cookbook off of our shelves, go to the index and look under “A,” and pick one of those recipes to make.

The random number generator chose the book A Baker’s Field Guide to Cupcakes by Dede Wilson. This is a fun cupcake book, filled with seasonal cupcakes. When I made it to the index I was given the option to make these Caramel Apple Cupcakes or the April Fool’s Day “Spaghetti and Meatballs” Cupcakes. Perhaps the latter would have been appropriate, since it is April this month, but I wasn’t really in the mood for decorating cupcakes. Despite the caramel apple variety being in the Thanksgiving section, I opted to go that way!

These cupcakes are almost muffin-y. Perhaps a little sweeter than a standard muffin, but having the fruit in it felt so much more like a muffin to me than a cupcake.

Anyway, I’m glad to be blogging again. There’s more to come in the next few days!

AlphaBakes Logorandom

 

 

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Ingredients
2/3 cup peeled and diced Granny Smith apples
18 Kraft caramels
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, divided
3 cups sugar, divided
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, divided
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350. First make the streusel. Melt one stick of butter. Mix it with 2/3 cup of sugar, the cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Mix until well combined. Then stir in 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour and mix together, allowing it to clump together and form crumbs. Set aside.

2. Whisk 2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and a pinch of salt together in a small bow. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the other stick of butter until creamy. Add 3/4 cups + 2 tbsp sugar, gradually beating until light and fluffy. Beat in 2 tsp of the vanilla extract and the almond extract. Beat in the eggs one at a time and scrape the bowl after each addition. Add the flour mixture in four additions, alternating with the sour cream.

4. Fold the chopped apples into the cupcake batter.

5. Prepare a cupcake tin, allowing for this recipe to make approximately 18 cupcakes. Fill each paper liner one-quarter of the way full with batter. Top with some streusel. Fill with remaining batter and top with remaining streusel.

6. Bake for 22 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

7. Melt the caramels in a double boiler on in a microwave. Drizzle the caramel over the top of the cupcakes.

* makes 18 cupcakes
* these cupcakes are also being shared with Mix It Up Monday

Rosemary-Lemon No-Knead Bread with Baked Spinach Artichoke Yogurt Dip

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2014 has started on a busy foot. I’ve been applying to jobs and working for free. If you’re thinking about going to law school, this is something to consider. Do it because you love it. Not because you think you’re going to get rich quick. I mean, maybe you will. But you probably won’t. It’s good that wasn’t ever my plan.

I’ve been counting my calories again, because I let myself go this last year and gained far too much weight. I’ve been indulging too much and not exercising at all. So 2014 that will change. It’s not a new year’s resolution. It’s just a new life resolution.

I like to indulge though, that’s the problem. One of my favorite things to indulge in is spinach dip. I am obsessed with the spinach dip that Safeway sells. In fact, just typing that makes me start salivating. It’s that good. I decided yesterday to make a homemade, way lower calorie spinach dip. It’s definitely different than what I get at the store, much less creamy, but delicious in its own right.

This dip is my entry to this month’s AlphaBakes challenge. The letter for January 2014 is Y. This dip is made with yogurt, cheese, spinach, and artichokes. The yogurt definitely makes it meet this challenge requirement!

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Baked Spinach Artichoke Yogurt Dip
(source)

Ingredients
6 oz jar artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
5 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained
4 oz plain yogurt
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 green onions, minced
1 garlic clove, minced

Directions

1. Combine all the ingredients together in a baking dish. Mix together well. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Voila!

Anyway, you can’t have spinach dip without having some delicious bread to dip in it. So I decided to participate in Cooking with Herbs and create a lemon-rosemary loaf. Karen asked for some citrus to be included with our herb cooking. The combination of lemon and rosemary was divine!

I followed a recipe from Williams-Sonoma. Additionally, a post at Serious Eats also really helped me with this loaf. The science behind this no-knead bread is fascinating. You let the dough sit for 12-18 hours and let the yeast do its business on kneading on its own. While this bread isn’t something you can whip up in a few hours, the amount of work to create a beautiful loaf of bread is minor.

I followed the Williams-Sonoma recipe, but I put the uncooked dough in the fridge for three days as per Serious Eats. I also determined when the loaf as done based on the temperature of the inside of the bread, which I also learned from Serious Eats.

This may have to be my go-to recipe. It’d be so easy to manipulate into many wonderful tasting breads.

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If I can lose weight and eat bread and spinach dip, I think this will be a good year/life.

IMG_9322* Besides AlphaBakes and Cooking with Herbs, this delicious duo is also being shared with #FoodieFriday & Foodie Friday

Christmas Dinner 2013

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Though my 12 days of cookies may have fallen into oblivion (though I do have some cookies to share in the next few days that I did end up making,) December always for me is a month of cooking. I made cookies for Matt’s family for Christmas, I made my doggy chicken jerky, and I made my dad homemade barbecue sauce in two different flavors.

What always becomes a cooking marathon though, is Christmas Day. Some families go BIG and invite everyone they know for Christmas. My family is the opposite. My parents moved to California from Ohio in the ’80s and because none of our extended family is around, we tend to keep it small. We go for fancy meals instead of meals that serve a lot of people. Christmas is always a time that my mom and I spend the whole day in the kitchen, making sure we make our meal perfect.

This was another year of perfection.

Rather than share the recipes, I’m linking you to the recipes we followed.

2013 Christmas Menu in Pictures

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The star of the show was a beautiful Beef Wellington. My mom’s made Beef Wellington in the past, but we followed a new recipe this year. It was my first time ever making one. This dish took all day, but it was worth every second it took making it. The beef tenderloin was so juicy and tender, having cooked with the pate, mushrooms, and proscuitto wrapped tightly around it. Though my taste buds would have enjoyed eating all 3-lbs of the tenderloin, this is so rich that one slice was all the rest of my body could handle.

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As a side dish we had Mushroom & Leek Bread Pudding from the cookbook that can do no wrong. I gave my mom Barefoot Contessa Foolproof last year for Christmas. She cooks out of the cookbook a lot and has told me everything in it is divine and flavorful and yet, easy to make. We decided to make this bread pudding and it hit the mark.

We also made Roasted Brussels Sprouts, but I did not take a picture of those. We seasoned them with salt and pepper and tossed them in some olive oil and roasted them. Though simple, this decadent meal needed a simple veggie.

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To put an end to our Christmas meal, we had Vanilla Roasted Pears with vanilla ice cream. The fruit dessert was a great end to the meal. My aunt had sent us pears for Christmas. This was a great way to use them. They were so soft and delicious.

What did you have for Christmas this year?

* This recipe is being shared with Full Plate Thursday

Sugar Plums

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My 12 Days of Cookies sort of fell apart. Baking cookies every night and going to work is hard. Even without my trial (it got continued,) I just had a severe shortage of energy. I plan this weekend though to get all those cookies baked.

Anyway, before my energy died, I made these: sugar plums.

Buddy the Elf

As you may know, this month for Food ‘n Flix, I’m the host. I picked the movie Elf, to share my love of Christmas. Entries are due on the 29th of this month, so you still have time to participate!

I have two favorite Christmas movies: The Santa Clause and Elf. Elf is the story of Buddy the elf. Or rather, Buddy the human raised as an elf. Buddy leaves the North Pole to find his biological father. An elf is New York is quite the spectacle! Buddy has some trouble adjusting, as his father has a similar problem accepting his human-sized-elf-son. Buddy’s excitement to meet his father is not matched. His father is embarrassed by what appears to be a mentally unstable adult.

I can’t wait to see my dad! We’re going to go ice skating and eat sugar plums!

Now for a moment of honesty. I never knew what a sugar plum was. I heard this quote and I was like, “Okay, sugar plums, I’m on it.” I googled and expected to find sugary plums. I never knew that sugar plums were actually no-bake cookie balls filled with nuts and dried fruit. These went over really well in my house though. When I was making them I was visiting my mom. She really enjoys dried fruits, so this was perfect.

Just for a note too – the longer they sit in your fridge, the more delicious they taste because the flavors start to meld together. Expect more cookie posts coming soon, to a blog near you!

Sugar Plums
(source)

Ingredients
1 cup whole almonds
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp grated orange zest
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup pitted dates, chopped
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350. Arrange the almonds on a baking sheet. Toast for 10 minutes. Set aside and let cool. Once cool, chop finely.

2. Combine the honey, orange zest, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl. Then add the apricots, dates, and almonds. Mix together well.

3. Pinch off rounded teaspoon size balls of the mixture and roll into balls. The mixture is very sticky, so keeping your hands wet will allow easier rolling. Roll the balls in powdered sugar. Place on a baking sheet with wax paper. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator. After an hour place in airtight containers. They can last for up to a month kept refrigerated.

* makes 3 dozen
* besides Food ‘n Flix, this recipe is being shared with Weekend Cooking

Fried Tilapia with Lemon Sauce

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I’ve been trying to make this fish dish for a few days, but thins kept getting in the way. There just kept being a reason I couldn’t cook or didn’t want to cook.  But I needed to make this dish for this month’s Pantry Party: FISH!

I decided to use the container of bread crumbs I had stuffed in the back of my cabinet to make a fried fish dish. Though I initially had followed a recipe, the dish evolved into its own creation when I actually realized I didn’t have the right ingredients to follow the recipe.

My changes though were great, This is a dish I’d cook again.

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Fried Tilapia with Lemon Sauce

Ingredients
2 tilapia fillets, cut in half
3/4 cup beer
1/2 cup flour
2 tsp cornstarch, divided
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, divided
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 1/2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp water
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 1/2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
vegetable oil for frying

Ingredients

1. In a shallow dish combine the beer, flour, 1/2 tbsp cornstarch, salt, garlic powder, and 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper. ix together until you create a batter. In another shallow dish, spread with breadcrumbs.

2. Dip the fish in the batter. Once coated, dip in the breadcrumbs. Set fish aside.

3. In a cast iron skillet heat vegetable oil until hot. Add the fish and cook 4 minutes per side.

4. Remove and set on a wire rack.

5. In a small pot whisk together 1 tbsp water and the remaining cornstarch. Add the lemon, honey, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and the remaining cayenne pepper. Whisk together. Put on low heat until it begins to thicken.

6. Spoon the sauce over the fish.

* serves 2
* Though made for Pantry Party, I’m sharing this dish with Mix It Up Monday

Banana S’More Quick Bread

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Surfing the internet makes me drool sometimes. I’ll be looking from blog to blog and I’ll start feeling hungry. My mouth will start watering. I will browse my refrigerator to see if I can make the thing that made me drool. The answer is usually no. Then I bookmark it and I usually forget to actually make it.

This followed that same course, up until I actually went to the grocery store and bought what I needed to make the bread.

It’s been hot out. And despite feeling hot and sweaty, I made this in the kitchen and just got sweatier. That’s what happens when the oven’s on, obviously.

This bread was great. For as much sugary items are in it, I somehow wan’t overwhelmed by it being too sweet.

I think I’ll have a slice for breakfast.

I’m going to share this quick bread with Alpha Bake’s monthly challenge hosted by Ros and Caroline. This month’s letter is Q. I also plan on making a quiche later this month, but I figured I might as well share what I have!

AlphaBakes Logo

Banana S’More Quick Bread
(source)

Ingredients
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 bananas, mashed
1/2 cup graham crackers, crushed
3/4 cup mini marshmallows
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9×5 baking pan and set aside.

2. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and eggs. Beat together until combined.

3. In a large bowl sift together the baking soda and flour. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet mixture, beating together.

4. With a wooden spoon, stir the mashed bananas, graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate chips into the batter. Pour into the prepared baking pan.

5. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until cooked all the way through. Let cool for 20 minutes before cutting.

* serves 8
* Besides AlphaBakes I’m sharing this with Mix It Up Monday

Mocha-Honey Blueberry Loaf

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I essentially ate dessert for breakfast the last few days. My only response to your judging is, “why shouldn’t I?” And seriously, why shouldn’t you? What’s stopping you from having your dessert first thing in the morning?

This loaf is such a combination of yummy flavors. I wasn’t sure how it would come together, but I liked it a lot. I hope I like the blueberry bacon breakfast cake as much that I’m making tomorrow.

I told you there were a lot of blueberries at the market.

Mocha-Honey Blueberry Loaf

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 packet of Starbucks Via instant coffee
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan and set aside.

2. In a mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, coffee, and salt.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter until it’s soft. Add the honey and sugar to the butter, a little at a time, making sure to cream together. Add the eggs one at a time. Add half of the dry mixture, keeping the beater beating the batter. Add 1/4 cup of the milk. Add the remaining dry ingredients, followed by the other 1/4 cup of the milk. Make sure everything is combined and that there are no dry spots.

4. Using a wooden spoon, fold the blueberries and chocolate chips into the batter.

5. Pour into your loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from the loaf pan.

* makes 1 loaf
* shared with Full Plate Thursday & Showcase Your Talent Thursday

Greek Yogurt, Blueberry, and Chocolate Parfaits

IMG_9105This month upon surfing the waves of food blogs, I found a new monthly round-up that I decided to participate in. This new round-up is called Feel Good Food and it’s hosted by A Kick At The Pantry Door. Each month there will be a theme, where bloggers are challenged to make a healthy recipe holding to the theme that doesn’t lose the delicious tastes we all crave and love. This month’s theme was blueberries, which is more than perfect given the vast abundance of them right now at the farmer’s market.

I have blueberries coming out of my ears. Between the parfaits, pancakes, and a mocha-honey blueberry loaf, I still have a ton.

It’s great I’m entering this round-up so I can get some other ideas on how to use these blueberries from the other great recipes!

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Greek Yogurt, Blueberry, and Chocolate Parfaits

Ingredients
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tbsp chocolate chips
1/4 cup granola

Directions

1. Spoon 1 tbsp of blueberries on the bottom of two glasses. Spoon 1/4 cup of yogurt over the top of the blueberries. Top with 1 tbsp chocolate chips and then 1 tbsp granola. Repeat the layers.

* serves 2
* 184 calories per serving
* Besides Feel Good Food, this recipe is shared with Wednesday Whatsits & Cast Party Wednesday

 

Banana Blueberry Muffins

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I’m getting into this big breakfast thing. I have a routine on bar prep class days. I wake up at 5:30. I exercise. I shower. I make a  nice breakfast. I go to class and have a snack. I have a healthy lunch. And then I study study study until it’s time for a yummy dinner.

I’ve been having all types of breakfasts: waffles, omelets, pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, and now muffins.

My friend Andy was staying with me for a night and she told me that she had told one of her other friends that I was a “boss.” She went on to say, who studies for the bar and has time to make muffins in the morning before class? Well, one answer. I do. I do best with my schedules that keep me going going going. With all this study study study I have to go go go pretty much constantly.

Banana Blueberry Muffins
(source)

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups blueberries
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 egg
3/4 cup skim milk

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325 and grease 2 muffin trays. On the 2nd tray you only need to prepare 3 of the cups.

2. Place the flour, baking soda, salt, and blueberries together in a bowl. Mix together. In another bowl combine the honey, sugar, banana, yogurt, egg, and milk. Whisk together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix together, making sure to get rid of any dry spots.

3. Spoon the batter between the 15 cups, diving equally. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean.

* serves 15
* Shared with Weekend Potluck, #FoodieFriday, & Foodie Friday

 

Spiced Mango Chocolate Chip Muffins

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Like I said last month, for some reason, recently all these We Should Cocoa themes keep bringing me back to muffins. I went from Nigella’s chocolate chocolate muffins, to honey banana chocolate chip muffins, and now to these mango muffins. Now.. I could have made it a quick bread instead and made it into a loaf, but part of me wanted to stay in this muffin groove because I love muffins.

The downfall with muffins is I have a hard time just eating one and yesterday I ate far too many muffins for one human being. I had one for breakfast this morning too. The mango/chocolate combination is perfect.

This month’s We Should Cocoa is hosted by Allotment 2 Kitchen. You should join!
For those who don’t know, We Should Cocoa comes from the love and support of Chocolate Log Blog and Chocolate Teapot.

Speaking of mangoes, my brother has requested for his birthday that I make him a mango cake. I have several recipes pulled. Besides the “mango cake” he didn’t give any other suggestions on flavors or type of cake, so that’s free reign for me. Does anyone reading this have some ideas for recipes that might work? So far I have:

Tres Leches Cake with Mango Whipped Cream
Chunky Fresh Mango Cake
Mango Cream Cake

Any other ones you suggest I look at?

Spiced Mango Chocolate Chip Muffins
(source)

Ingredients
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1 1/2 cups mango, chopped
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, vegetable oil, and applesauce.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, sugar, brown sugar, and baking powder.

3. Once mixed together, pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture. Stir together to get rid of any dry clumps. Once well mixed, fold in the mango and the chocolate chips.

4. Spoon into a prepared muffin tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove from tin and place on a wire rack until completely cooled.

* makes a dozen muffins
* Besides We Should Cocoa, this dish is being shared with Wednesday Whatsits & Cast Party Wednesday

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