Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ice Cream Kind of Day

Today was an ice cream kind of day.  Today I also had the chance to see friends I have not seen for weeks!  And when you combine friends with dessert it is hard to find something wrong with the day.  These wonderful friends are, in fact, part of the reason I love to bake; whenever we are together we seem to end up at my house with a batch of cupcakes in the oven.  However, today it was hot- much too hot to bake.  So we decided on ice cream.  Ice cream cones really, since we didn't have the time to make ice cream.

These ice cream cones are made on the panini press, which I thought to be ingenious.  I found the recipe here a few days ago and realized that I needed to try these.  They were a bit trickier than I imagined they would be, but we got a few good cones out of our efforts!

My panini maker does not have an adjustable heat setting, so we had trouble keeping the right temperature (it got too hot after it had been plugged in for awhile).  The timing was also tricky to get just right.  Just over a minute seemed to be about right.

Overall though I'd say it was a successful attempt- we got two delicious ice cream cones!  I wish I had put something in the bottom of the cone, such as a bit of chocolate, to prevent the ice cream from dripping down though!

Not only did I have a wonderful time seeing my friends, our dogs got a chance to say hello too!  "Mr. Darcy" and "Gatsby" bonded over their literary names with wagging tails.

Enjoy another wonderful summer weekend!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Blue Velvet

I have not made cupcakes in ages.  (Well perhaps a few weeks- but that seems like ages for me.)  It rained this afternoon and finally cooled down below the 100 degree weather we have been having all weekend, so I jumped on this opportunity to light the oven and do a bit of baking. 

It seems that blueberries are my most baked-with fruit- and for good reason.  Blueberries, in my opinion, taste much more exciting and flavorful when cooked as opposed to fruit like strawberries, which looses it's flavor and texture.  I was going to make blueberry muffins, but since we have not had cupcakes in the house for a bit I settled on Blue Velvet Cupcakes from Chocolate Covered Katie.

I followed her recipe for the cupcakes exactly, although I mashed my blueberries rather than pureeing them (which I think would've been the better option).  For the frosting I used my basic cream cheese frosting recipe.


Cream Cheese Frosting

4 tablespoons butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat cream cheese and butter for 2-3 minutes on high in electric mixer.  Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating well in between each addition.  Add salt and vanilla and beat well.  Refrigerate before using.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Marvelous Muffins

Baking for breakfast is my absolute favorite.  It always makes for a happier day when you can start out at breakfast with a delicious home-baked pastry.  I have already gone through blueberry scones and blueberry pancakes, so the next move had to be blueberry muffins!

I have made blueberry muffins numerous times, but often they end up more like a cupcake with no frosting.  (Think butter, sugar, eggs, flour, milk.... basically exactly the same as a cupcake recipe.)  So this time I was looking for a recipe that would give me that cherished rustic muffin top.  This recipe did just the trick.  I found one from Canadian Living that used yogurt and had an option for whole wheat flour.

These muffins made a delicious AND healthy breakfast!  I would love to try these again with white flour and lemon (instead of the orange used in the recipe), and I think this recipe would also make delicious chocolate chip muffins (I might add a bit of extra oil in this case since you wouldn't have the juice from the berries).


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Wonderful Weekend

This weekend has been undoubtedly the hottest of the summer- triple digits every day with an equally and unbearably high humidity range.  Even so, and perhaps maybe because of the heat, it has been filled with those quintessential summer moments.  Dance, pizza, movies, popsicles, friends, and family have lead to quite a wonderful weekend.

Friday was an absolutely beautiful day, save the scorching heat.  For my job, I teach young girls to sing and dance at a fairy tale ballet studio, and on Fridays (at the end of the week-long camp) we put on a show for the parents.  This past week I was teaching a "Lili at Ballet" themed ballet camp for 3-4 year olds and a "Mary Poppins" themed Broadway camp for 3-5 year olds.  The shows were magical, and the girls performed with bubbling excitement for equally excited parents.  These girls were the absolute sweetest, as the little ballerinas usually are, and several even brought me flowers or little presents they had made themselves.  The love that these little girls are capable of is overwhelming and never fails to put a smile on my face and in my heart.  They are so open with their emotions- temper tantrums therefore can happen, but more often the emotion they share is a loud "I love you."

After work, I had the pleasure of meeting one of my best friends for a girls night out.  We got delicious pizza at a new restaurant in Bethesda- Vapiano.  It was one of the most unique places I have been to eat. The restaurant was set up more as a lounge than a traditional restaurant, with a modern but still thoroughly Italian decor.  We ordered directly from the chefs at the pizza station and were given a buzzer to indicate when our pizza was done.  When we were done eating we took a card, which held the information for the food we had ordered, to the hostess at the front and paid there.  There were so many delicious options, but we were saving ourselves for popcorn at a movie later.

Since baking in the 100 degree weather is not the most pleasant experience, I decided to make popsicles instead.  Greek yogurt, honey, and a teaspoon of brown sugar combine splendidly, especially when frozen, for a summer treat.

Finally, to round off the summer food was a delicious peach salad I made for lunch today.  It was inspired by Sweet Green's "July Salad" which was composed of mixed greens, basil, sunflower seeds, and peaches.  For my July Salad, I used spinach, pine nuts, and (of course) fresh peaches.  Delicious, refreshing, and oh-so-summery!

 Happy Summer!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Much Too Hot

It is hot.  It is worse than that, actually.  It is hot AND sticky outside.  When the thermometer reaches triple digits it's never a good thing.  It is much too hot to do nearly any outdoor activity.  And, regrettably, it is much to hot to bake.  There have been no baked breakfast goodies to munch on in the morning and no cupcakes for after dinner.  It is quite unfortunate.

Fortunately, however, a cool drink can do wonders for clearing your head from these troubles.  I suggest a blackberry daiquiri mocktail.  For an extra kick of cold, put your glass in the freezer before serving your drink!


Blackberry Daiquiri Mocktail
Makes 1

5-6 large, plump blackberries
juice of 1 lime
1 oz cranberry juice
1 oz simple syrup

Muddle blackberries in a cocktail shaker.  Add rest of ingredients and shake thoroughly.  Strain to remove blackberry seeds and serve immediately.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Another Blueberry Breakfast

As I have mentioned before, breakfast is probably my favorite meal of the day.  Since the scones are long gone and it was a beautiful Saturday morning, I decided to make a batch of blueberry pancakes.  It was a really lovely start to the day.  My sister woke up just in time to grab a plateful as they were coming off the stove, and we dug in right away.

I used this mix and threw a couple handfuls of blueberries in, so there is really no special recipe to post.  Enjoy the pictures though, and happy weekend!


Friday, July 15, 2011

Fresh Squeezed Cheesecakes

Remember that mini mountain of limes from yesterday?  Well today I attempted to use some more of it up.  Well that was not entirely successful, as the mountain is still there.  But what was successful was the fact that I ended up making the Mini Lime Cheesecakes that I have been dying to try.  So overall today was rather successful.

The idea for these came from Martha Stewart's Mini Oreo Cheesecake recipe, which is a favorite in my house.  They use an oreo for the bottom of the cheesecake as well as crumbled up inside the cake.  It is by far my favorite recipe from her cupcake book!  So about a week ago my sister and I had the idea of making it with golden oreos instead, and adding fruit to the cheesecake.  We decided lime sounded good, and with all of the limes I had in the house (and a trip to the grocery store for the oreos this morning) it seemed like the perfect day for Mini Golden Oreo Lime Cheesecakes to be born.


Mini Golden Oreo Lime Cheesecakes
(Makes 15)

21 oreos (15 left whole, 6 coarsely chopped)
1 lb cream cheese
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
2 limes, zested and juiced

Beat cream cheese in electric mixer on high for several minutes until cream cheese is smooth.  Gradually add sugar, beating until completely combined.  Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  Add sour cream, beat until combined.  Add lime zest and juice slowly to batter.  Stir in chopped oreos.  (I actually forgot to add mine in until after they were already in the cups, but you should really add them in here!)

Divide batter evenly among cups and bake at 275° for 22 minutes, or until tops of cheesecakes are set.  Remove from oven and place on wire racks to cool completely.  Once the cheesecakes are room temperature move them, still in tins, to fridge to set for at least 4 hours.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer Strawberry Limeade

This morning I went with mom out to Costco and came back with, among other things, a 5 lb bag of limes. We had a mini mountain of limes in our kitchen.  Tragic?  Not nearly.  We did need to figure out something to do with at least a few of them though- they didn't all fit in their bowl.  So mom suggested strawberry limeade, to which I wholeheartedly agreed.  I found this recipe, which looked excellent, tweaked it a bit, and voila! strawberry limeade.  It goes excellently with a light lunch and some summer sun.

Oh, and we still had a mini mountain of limes left over afterwards.


Summer Strawberry Limeade

1 1/2 cups strawberries, quartered
1 cup lime juice
5 cups water
3/4 cups sugar

Blend strawberries and lime juice together in a blender.  Pour into pitcher with 4 cups cold water and ice.  Heat 1 cup water with the sugar in microwave or stovetop, stirring often, until sugar has dissolved.  Add to pitcher.  Add extra lime or strawberry slices if desired.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Peanut Butter Bliss

Chocolate and peanut butter is by no means my invention.  It is one of the most wonderful combinations of rich, sweet flavors and has probably been around long before the first Reese's Peanut Butter Cup in the 1920s.  But I think this beats the peanut butter cup out.  Well maybe not entirely, but it is a darn good cupcake.  The frosting is light and fluffy- reminiscent of peanut butter cookie dough- and the chocolate cupcake is rich and flavorful.

The cupcake recipe has been a favorite of my family's for awhile, and I can't take credit for writing (or even finding) it.  It is one of my mom's old ones, nicknamed "Black Magic Cupcakes."  The name suits it quite well.  These are the darkest and most moist chocolate cupcakes I have tried, and we always come back to these when we are unsure of what to bake.  That being said, they have tried quite a range of frostings, from fruit to cinnamon sugar.  It is really hard to find a flavor that doesn't go well with dark chocolate.  I am quite partial to this peanut butter combination though; it is rather addictive.

Black Magic Chocolate Cupcakes
(Makes 18-24 cupcakes)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 3/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup strong coffee
1 cup buttermilk

Stir together flour, sugars, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt with a whisk.

Stir in the vanilla, eggs, oil, coffee, and buttermilk until blended and then beat with an electric mixer on medium for 2 minutes.  Batter will be soupy.  Pour into cupcake cups.

Bake 20-24 minutes at 350 degrees- or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Peanut Butter Frosting

8 oz cream cheese
8 tablespoons butter, room temp
pinch of salt
3/4 cup peanut butter
2 cups powdered sugar

Cream butter and cream cheese with electric mixer on high for a full 2 minutes.  Add peanut butter and salt and beat for an additional 1-2 minutes on high.  Add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition.  Refrigerate prior to use if too soft.


Picture-Book Sauce