Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Spider Web Cupcakes

These cupcakes remind me so much of my childhood.  I so vividly remembered the taste of these that it makes me crave them every year at Halloween.  And they are so cute!  A lot of work, but so fun.  I literally worked on these all day.  

This recipe is from Redbook 1989 - how 'bout that?  23 years old, too funny.  

You start by using box devil's food cake mix to make cupcakes, nothing crazy, just plain old chocolate cupcakes (I think these are the most perfect cupcakes I ever made by the way).

You then make a huge batch of the icing and separate about 1/2 cup out, into which you add a few drops of green food coloring...it's supposed to be "slime" inside the cupcakes.  You cut out a small section in the middle and pipe the green icing into each one. 

Replace the "caps" and the next step is to frost all the cupcakes.

Once again, you'll separate the icing, this time in half and add cocoa powder to one part of it.  Then, from that, take out about 1/2 cup from each of those!  You'll be piping more icing on top as a decoration so you can either use a plastic bag with the tip cut off or I used these squeeze bottles from Wilton.

All iced, half plain icing and half chocolate!

And here's where the squeeze bottle really came in handy.  Draw 3 circles in the opposite color icing on each cupcake.  

Take a toothpick and pull, either from the middle or the opposite side to form the "spiderwebs"!

Pretty cool, huh? 

And now for the spiders...I used a little tube of gel icing, in black, squeezed it out to form a circle and then used a toothpick to pull the "legs" out from the body.  I thought those little plastic spider rings would look pretty cool, too (probably even cooler...my spiders ended up looking like beetles!).  In the original recipe, they suggested getting black jelly beans and thin black rope licorice (jelly beans for the spider's body and the licorice for the legs - I just didn't have time to cut like a million tiny little legs).  

Makes 18 cupcakes

Halloween Spiderweb Cupcakes

1 package devil's food cake mix
2 packages of cream cheese, 8 oz
2 cups butter, softened
2 cups confectioner's sugar
Green food coloring
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; place cupcake liners in 18 standard muffin-pan cups.  Prepare cake mix according to directions.  Spoon batter in prepared muffin cups, filling 3/4 of the way full.  Bake 20-25 minutes until a wooden toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes clean.  Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in confectioner's sugar until blended and smooth.  Remove 1/2 cup frosting to a small bowl; stir in a few drops of green food coloring to tint to a "slimy" green.  Spoon green frosting into a piping bag or squeeze bottle and set aside.  Carefully cut out center cores of each cake using an apple corer or paring knife.  Reserve cake centers.  Squeeze about a teaspoon of the green frosting into center of each cupcake.  Press reserved cores back into place. 

Spoon half of remaining frosting into second bowl; stir cocoa powder into one bowl to blend completely.  Spoon 1/2 cup each chocolate and plain frosting into 2 squeeze bottles or piping bags.  Set aside.  Using remaining frosting in bowls, frost tops of cupcakes, half with chocolate and half with plain.  Using the reserved frosting in the piping bags or squeeze bottles, pipe 3 concentric circles on top of each cupcake, using the opposite color of frosting. 

To make "spiderweb" effect on frosting, draw a wooden toothpick back and forth through the circles of frosting like spokes of a wheel.  Make your spiders with gel frosting or find some to use as decorations. 

(Source:  Adapted from Redbook Magazine)

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Creamy Tortellini Soup with Spinach

This rich and creamy soup is in a word, heavenly.  Decadent but not to heavy; creamy, flavorful and just perfect for a cool fall evening.  And it only gets better as leftovers!  I should know...I ate it for the next 2 days for lunch!  And now I wish I had more. 

So you start by chopping some pretty standard veggies for a soup.  Carrots, celery and onions.  Also you'll chop your garlic cloves if using fresh (I used the minced kind from the jar for time saving purposes).  

Saute your veggies in a mixture of olive oil and butter, add flour and make a roux.  Follow that by a lot of half and half (really, a whole quart!), tortellini, chicken broth and some fresh spinach.  The result is a creamy, luxurious, wonderfully cold weather soup.  Yes, lots of cream (I didn't say it was healthy!), but also lots of veggies - including spinach which is so good for you.  Your family will ask for this again and again...

 Creamy Tortellini and Spinach Soup

4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup celery diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup flour
1 quart of half and half
1 can of reduced sodium chicken broth (14 oz)
pinch of nutmeg
1 package of frozen tortellini 
1 1/2 cups of fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and saute until the veggies are tender about 8-10 minutes.  Add the flour and stir, forming a roux for another minute.  Slowly add the half and half and chicken broth and stir until everything is incorporated.  Add the nutmeg and allow to simmer, stirring often until the soup becomes thicker, about 5-8 minutes.  

Add the tortellini and allow it to come back up to a simmer; the tortellini will start to float when they are done (about 3-4 minutes).  Add the spinach, let wilt, and add salt and pepper to taste. 

Serve with good bread for dipping.   

(Souce:  Adapted from Pass the Sushi)

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cookies and Cream Chocolate Chip Pie

I've been obsessing over trying this recipe the moment I laid eyes on it.  A chocolate chip pie?  Yes, please!  This recipe comes from the blog Fahrenheit 350° and let me tell you, this is a must try.  It's basically a one-bowl (or pot) dessert that takes just a couple of minutes to prepare.     

Start off with a Cookies 'n Creme candy bar, sugar and a stick of butter in a saucepan.  Heat over medium-low heat until everything is melted together.  Add eggs, vanilla, flour, baking powder, and pinch of salt.  All into the same saucepan!  Whisk together, pour into a springform pan, and bake for 20 minutes.  

Immediately out the oven, you will pour the ooey, gooey goodness that is sweetened condensed milk all over this glorious cake.  Then, if you can even stand it, top THAT with mini chocolate chips!  

And, sorry, you're gonna need to wait until it cools to dig in...you have to give the chocolate chips a chance to melt a little into the layer of condensed milk.  I let mine cool a little, then stuck it right in the fridge.   

And this is what happens when I take too long to take my pictures!  Little bugger!  

Cookies and Cream Chocolate Chip Pie

6 oz Hershey's Cookies n' Creme candy bar (1 1/2 of those big candy bars)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 butter
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
7 oz sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat over to 350° and grease a 9" springform pan.  In a saucepan, combine the candy bar, sugar and butter.  Melt over medium-low heat until everything is melted together.  Add the eggs and vanilla, whisk to combine.  Add the flour, baking powder and salt and again, whisk to combine.  Pour the mixture into the springform pan and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and immediately pour the sweetened condensed milk over the cake, ensuring it is covered entirely.  Top with the mini chocolate chips and let cool.  Store in the fridge and serve cold or room temperature.

(Source:  Recipe from Fahrenheit 350°)

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Honey-Lime Chicken Skewers

One of the many things I love about Savannah is that is stays summer-like for a pretty long time.  This means that we can enjoy being outside and do outdoorsy things like grilling well into October.  The weather was exceptionally warm this weekend - like high 80's -so we finished some landscaping in our backyard, fired up the grill and hung outside with a couple of cold beers.  Ahhh....

I liked this recipe and marinade from Kitchen Meets Girl because it's simple, full of flavor and it only needs to sit for about an hour.  Easy.  I actually made double the amount of the marinade because we ended up dipping our chicken in it - it is just too good!  In fact, I served rice with this and honestly, I just poured a bunch of the sauce over my rice and mixed everything all together.  

And you know, I soaked my Bamboo skewers like they always tell you to and I still burnt the ends - happens every time...

Serves 2-4

Honey-Lime Chicken Skewers

3 tablespoons soy sauce**
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
juice of one lime
2 garlic cloves
1-2 teaspoons Siracha
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, honey, oil, lime, garlic and Siracha and mix thoroughly.  Pour into a large zip lock plastic bag and add chicken breast.  Seal bag and toss around a bit to ensure all the chicken breast pieces are fully coated.  Place bag in a bowl and allow to sit in the fridge for at least an hour.  

In the meantime, if you are using Bamboo skewers, soak your sticks in water for at least 15 minutes.  Remove your chicken pieces from the marinade and skewer.  Grill on medium high heat for 6-8 minutes per side, until juices run clear.

** This is the original recipe for the marinade.  You can make double like I did, just make it all together and divide it half - half will be used to marinade the chicken and the other half to use later on your rice or just to dip.  

(Source:  Adapted from Kitchen Meets Girl)

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Tortellini Bake

This is one of those meals that your family will have no idea it only took like 5 minutes to throw together.  It is delicious and so fast!  I always (always!) have bags of frozen tortellini or ravioli on hand because they cook in minutes and are great for nights when I just don't have the energy or time to do something more extensive for dinner.  

Last night was one of those nights...

But I made a little more effort this time and mixed 2 different types of sauce, tossed it all together with the tortellini, topped with shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and voila!  There, that's the recipe, really.

Just kidding, I have the specifics below, although I feel like I can hardly call it a recipe! 

Serves 4-6 

Tortellini Bake

1 bag of frozen cheese filled tortellini (19 or 20 oz)
1 jar of alfredo sauce (15 oz)
1/2 jar of marinara sauce 
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the tortellini according to package directions.  In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and in a medium bowl, mix the 2 sauces together.  Drain the tortellini and toss the pasta together with the sauce mixture.  Pour everything into a baking dish (Mine was oval but something like an 8x8 or 9x9 will do).  Top with mozzarella cheese, followed by Parmesan cheese.  Bake for about 15 minutes until it's all heated through again and the cheese has melted.  Turn your broiler on for the last 5 minutes if you want to get your cheese crispy in some places (that's what I did).

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Cheese Icing

I happen to think that I am incredibly spoiled when it comes to chocolate cake recipes...because I use my Great Aunt Libby's recipe.  Or my version of it anyway.  But it's pretty darn close.  It is moist and light (so light) and so good that you won't be able to keep your hands off of these cupcakes.  Coconut or no coconut (whatever your family prefers - I actually did mine half and half), the icing is also divine.

The first weekend in October, Savannah has Picnic in the Park in Forsyth Park.  It is just too much fun!  You do it up as fancy or casual as you want - I saw too little old ladies with beach chairs and a small table with a candelabra, too cute.  We took our beach chairs and a big blanket, some wine, chicken salad on croissants, corn dip and these cupcakes.  Perfect.  

As a cake or cupcake, the recipe begins the same, by creaming the butter and sugar until it becomes light and fluffy.  

Add your eggs one at a time, beating well after each until your batter becomes smooth and light yellow in color.  Add almond extract. 

Dry ingredients and sour cream are added next, followed by a prepared mixture of water and cocoa powder.  Beat well until everything is combined. 

Using an ice cream scoop, fill your cupcake cups about 2/3 of the way full.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, you'll prepare your cream cheese icing.  Frost when cooled and sprinkle with coconut. 

Makes 14-16 cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Cheese Icing

1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup salt
1/2 cup sour cream

For the icing:
4 oz butter, room temperature
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup - 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Make the cupcakes - Dissolve cocoa powder in boiling water, let stand until cool.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line your cupcake tins with paper liners.  Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add almond extract.  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to wet mixture alternately with sour cream, beating well.  Add cocoa mixture and mix until completely incorporated.  

Scoop batter into the cupcake liners using a cookie scoop, filling about 2/3 way full.  Bake for about 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.  Cool before frosting.

Make the frosting - Beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer.  With the mixer on low, slowly add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until smooth and creamy.  Beat in the almond extract.  Spread on cooled cupcakes and top with a sprinkle of coconut.  

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

No-Bake Cookies

No-bake cookies are one of those recipes that there are a million different slight variations, but most of them are almost exactly the same.  I'm sorry to tell you that this recipe is no different.  But that's not to say that they are not truly excellent.  Such a great cookie to satisfy your sweet tooth in no time at all!

Combine butter, sugar, milk and cocoa powder in a saucepan until butter melts and sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and stir in your oats, peanut butter and vanilla.  I love raisins in mine, but forgot that I didn't have any, so I omitted them this time.  If you like 1/2 cup of raisins can go in, too (you'll love it).  :)

Using a small cookie scoop, drop mixture onto sheets of wax paper and let cool until hardened.  I kept these in the fridge, which helped them keep their shape and not get all melty when eating them.  Enjoy with a nice glass of milk!

Makes 3 dozen

No-Bake Cookies 

1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 cups quick-cooking oats
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, milk, butter and cocoa powder.  Bring to a boil and cook for 1 1/2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter, oats, vanilla and raisins (if using).  Use a small cookie scoop to drop mixture onto wax paper.  Let cool until hardened.

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Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing

These cinnamon rolls were definitely a labor of love...I certainly do not spend as much time as I did on these on other desserts or even full meals for that matter!  But let me tell you, these are absolutely worth the amount of time they take to make.  I made these over the weekend, where I thought I would at least have my husband home to help keep the kids entertained, but even then, it literally took me all day.  I woke up craving Cinnabon and knew I had to have cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  Well, we ended up having them for dessert...and for breakfast the next day. 

I combined 2 different recipes - actually, the dough is from Martha Stewart and the filling and icing are adapted from Lauren's Latest.  I mean, she literally calls her recipe "My Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls", so how could I go wrong?  You'll start by making a dough, which you need to let rise for a hour until it doubles in size.   

Once it has doubled like this, you punch down the dough and divide into 2 equal pieces.  Roll out each to about 14x22 or close (I know that's an odd measurement, but that's how both ended up without even trying to get them the same).  Then you get to slather the dough with butter and an incredible brown sugar/cinnamon mixture and roll 'em up.  

Roll up the dough as tight as you can and cut off the uneven ends and where it seems thinner.  Score the log every two inches and cut through - I ended up with 12 rolls to put into one pan and an extra 9 that I put into another.  Line the pans with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray before placing the rolls into them.

Then cover them with a kitchen towel and keep in a warm place for another hour or two and they will rise and be perfect!  Once they are out of the oven, slather (don't hold back!) the prepared cream cheese icing.  And enjoy...whether it's dessert or breakfast or anytime in between...

Makes approximately 20-22 rolls

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing

For the dough:
2 tablespoons fast rise yeast
1/3 cup warm water
1 cup of milk, room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into small pieces
3 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6-7 cups flour, plus more for work surface

For the filling:
1/2 cup softened butter (I used spreadable butter from a tub, but you can let a stick of butter sit to room temperature)
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons cornstarch

For the icing:
2 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon corn syrup
1 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix yeast, water, milk, butter, eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla on low speed until eggs are incorporated, about 2 minutes (the butter might seem not quite mixed in yet - this is ok).  Add 4 cups of flour and mix until smooth.  

Switch to the dough hook, continue mixing and add more flour, 1/2 cup at at time, just until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl (I ended up with a total of 7 cups).  Beat dough on medium-high speed for 10 minutes.  

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until very smooth, about 2 minutes.  Transfer dough to a large bowl sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Cover dough with a clean kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in size, about an hour.  

Punch down the dough and transfer to a lightly floured work surface.  Divide dough into 2 equal pieces.  Roll out each piece of dough to approximately 14x22 inches.  Spread butter onto dough (about a 1/4 cup on each rolled out piece), leaving a 1-inch border on one of the long sides.  

Make the filling:  combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch in a bowl and sprinkle evenly over the butter on each piece of rolled out dough, making sure to leave that 1-inch border untouched.  Lightly press the sugar mixture into the butter with your rolling pin.  

Roll the dough into a log, ending with the untouched dough on the bottom to seal the whole thing together.  Cut off the uneven ends, score your dough every 2 inches and then cut through using those marks.  Place parchment paper in the pans you are using (I used those throw away foil pans - 12 in one and 9 in another) and then spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Cover with a dish towel and let them rise again, about 1-2 hours.  

Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown.

While they are baking, make the icing.  In a food processor, whip the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add vanilla and corn syrup and mix again.  Scrape down the sides and add the confectioner's sugar.  Mix for a couple of minutes until smooth and frosting starts to lighten in color.  Scrape down sides and mix again briefly.  

Once you pull the cinnamon rolls out the oven, frost with half of the amount of icing made (it will melt down into the rolls).  Then once they have cooled, frost again with the remaining icing (it will stay on top of the rolls).

(Source:  recipe adapted from Lauren's Latest and Martha Stewart)

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I'm a super busy mom of 3 and a Beachbody coach. Follow along as I try to find a balance between eating good food and keeping my family healthy and happy! We eat mostly clean with a few fun treats thrown in every once in awhile. Thanks for stopping by!

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