Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

I didn't know what to call these cupcakes for the longest time.  Mexican Vanilla Cinnamon cupcakes is too long; cinnamon sugar cupcakes is too boring.  Then, I took these to work and left them in the break room and one of my coworkers walked around the office asking who made the snickerdoodle cupcakes.  And thus, a name was born.  These cupcakes are a cinch to make.  They have a slightly more muffin-like texture compared to most cupcakes.  I like them with a simple chocolate cream cheese frosting (because I love chocolate and cinnamon together), but these would be equally as delicious with a standard cream cheese frosting, or even a buttercream icing (although personally, I am not a fan of the buttercream really).  The real secret to these cupcakes is the Mexican vanilla.  I really have no idea what the difference between Mexican vanilla and regular vanilla is, but I can tell you that Mexican vanilla is approximately 94897374 times better than regular vanilla.  But that's just one girl's opinion.  You can use regular vanilla if you don't have Mexican vanilla and the cupcakes will still be delicious.

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

What you need:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp Salt
2-3 tsp cinnamon (or more, depending on your preference)
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp Mexican Vanilla (feel free to use regular vanilla)
1/4 cup milk

What you do:
Beat the butter and sugar together until it's fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add in the vanilla and milk.  Then add in the dry ingredients slowly until fully incorporated.  Bake in a 350* oven for 18-20 minutes until the cupcakes are golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when you poke into the center of a cupcake.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

What you need:
8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 butter
4 cups powdered sugar 
1/2 cup cocoa powder

What you do:
Mix cream cheese and butter until it's smooth and creamy.  Mix in the powdered sugar one cup at a time.  I actually needed more than 4 cups powdered sugar to make the icing stiff enough.  That's probably because it was really hot and humid the day I was making these cupcakes.  Slowly mix in the cocoa powder.  Be careful or you will have cocoa powder everywhere.

So, now you just need to let the cupcakes cool, frost them, and enjoy the deliciousness.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tex Mex Enchiladas

Tex Mex enchiladas are not to be confused with authentic Mexican enchiladas.  Tex Mex enchiladas have a chili gravy sauce instead of the traditional red sauce.  Cole happens to love Tex Mex enchiladas, and I had never made homemade enchiladas prior to making these, (and then I proceeded to make them twice within something ridiculous like 4 days) so I decided to try it out.  For some reason I thought that these would be difficult to make.  I guess because you have to roll them up?  I don't know, I'm weird.  Risotto doesn't intimidate me but rolling cheese up in a tortilla does.  Some things you just can't explain.  Anyway, these Tex Mex enchiladas are super easy to make and come together really quickly.  I made them on a weeknight and we were eating by 7:30 (and I don't get home until 6:45 usually).

Tex Mex Enchiladas

What you need:

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 flour
2 cups liquid (water, beef stock, chicken stock, etc.)
1 medium onion
1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
1 teaspoon powdered garlic 
2 teaspoon ground cumin 
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons chili power
8 corn tortillas
Shredded cheddar cheese

What you do:

Heat oil over medium-high heat and whisk in flour

Let flour/oil mixture cook until it turns light brown 

Mix in all the spices 

Add the liquid (I used chicken stock).  Let the sauce thicken up a bit.  

Put some of the chili gravy on the bottom of a greased glass baking dish.  Meanwhile, heat up the tortillas to make them

Put some cheese and onion in the middle of each tortilla.  

Roll them up and place them seam side down in the baking dish. 

Top with remaining gravy, onion and cheese.  Bake at 450* for 10 minutes, until the cheese is nice and melty.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thai Curry Chicken

I love Thai food.  It makes me happy.  It makes me even happier that I can make Thai food at home in, like, 30 minutes.  This dinner is perfect for those nights that I want to be lazy, but still eat something delicious and fairly healthy.  
Thai Curry Chicken

What you need:
2 chicken boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 medium bell peppers (whatever color you prefer)
Leek (thinly sliced)
5 cloves garlic
1 T curry powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 T dried basil
Salt and Pepper
1 T Olive oil
1 can coconut milk (I used light)
Fresh basil

What you do:
Cut the chicken into 1 inch cubes.  Sprinkle curry, salt and pepper, and chili powder on the chicken.  Toss to coat and let sit for 1-2 hours.  

 In a large nonstick pan heat up olive oil.  Cook the chicken for 5-6 minutes until it is no longer pink. 

Add in the vegetables and dried basil and cook until vegetables are at the desired tenderness (I prefer mine a little on the crunch side).

Add coconut milk and cook until it thickens up a bit and is slightly bubbly.  Go ahead and taste it and see if it needs any more seasoning.  I almost always add a little extra curry powder.  

Serve over rice, and with some naan (or pita bread) if you want.  Homemade pita bread recipe is forthcoming.

If you try this let me know what you think! 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Baked Jalapeno Poppers

Jalapeno poppers are the perfect summer bbq appetizer, or game day snack.  They are also ridiculously quick and easy to make.  Traditional jalapeno poppers are breaded and fried, but these are baked so they're somewhat healthy (or eat least healthier than the traditional ones).  Now you can feel less guilty about stuffing your face.  These jalapenos really aren't that spicy because you have to take out the seeds and most of the membranes in order to stuff each half.  I left as much membrane as I could and left the seed stragglers in because we love spicy food.  If you don't like really spicy food then just make sure you clean out the peppers really well (all of the heat lives in the seeds and membrane).  I also went a little wild and made some stuffed habanero peppers.  Now  these really are spicy.  Be careful when handling habaneros, the first time I made these I didn't use any gloves and my hands felt like they were on FIRE for the next two days even though I washed my hands immediately after touching them.  

Baked Jalapeno Poppers
What you need:
10 fresh jalapenos, sliced in half lengthwise (also slice the habaneros in half lengthwise, if you're using them)
10 oz cream cheese, softened (I used fat free cream cheese)
7-8 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Panko bread crumbs

What you do:

First, cook up some bacon.  Let it cool a bit, then cut it up into small pieces.  

Mmmm.  Bacon.

Mix together the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and bacon.  Put that mixture into a ziploc bag, and cut off the corner.  Or put it into a pastry bag if you have one.  I don't have such fancy things.  

Pipe the cream cheese mixture into each pepper half.  Don't fill them too much.  You need the perfect ratio of cream cheese to pepper.  Top each pepper with panko bread crumbs.  Bake for 20-25 minutes in a 375* oven.  You can cook them on a cookie sheet covered with foil.  I cooked these in a glass baking dish because we were taking this to our friend's house for a pool party and I needed to put them in something that would transfer easily.  If the panko isn't golden brown after 25 minutes, turn the oven on broil and let those babies brown up for a couple minutes.

I failed to take an after picture because I made Cole take them out of the oven (I was too busy laying out by the pool).  They were a big hit, and the guys had fun challenging each other to see who could eat the most habaneros.  Boys are crazy.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

Homemade Pizza

Fact: Pizza is delicious.  Homemade pizza is EVEN MORE delicious, because you can customize it however you want and add tons and tons of toppings.  Pizza places are SO stingy when it comes to toppings.  Am I right?  For a while Cole and I were making our homemade pizzas with the Jiffy crust mix, and for a box mix it's actually really good.  But, it's really easy to make 100% homemade.  You can even make a double (or triple) batch and store the extra dough in the freezer.  Then you just pull it out in the morning, and *bam* you have homemade pizza in 30 minutes or less at night!

Pizza Dough
(adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

What you need:

1 tsp yeast
3/4 warm water (not boiling, not lukewarm)
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
3 T olive oil
Various seasonings of your choice (I use garlic, oregano and Italian seasoning)

What you do:
Sprinkle yeast over warm water.  Let stand for a few minutes and do it's thing.  Meanwhile, in a mixer combine the flour and salt.  With the mixer on low slowly drizzle in the olive oil.  Then pour the yeast/water mixture and mix until just combined.  The dough will be sticky. 

 Coat a separate bowl with a little bit of olive oil.  Form the dough into a ball and toss it in the olive oil.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let it rise for a 1-2 hours.  

*Note- According to the Pioneer Woman, you can store the dough in the fridge and until you need it and it's best to make the dough at least 24 hours in advance.  I'll be honest, I never think about it early enough.  I usually decide that afternoon I want pizza, so I make the dough then.  Or I'll pull the pre-made dough out of the freezer in the morning before I go to work.

Now it's time for the toppings.  You can go crazy and use whatever your little heart desires.  Our pizzas are always insane, giant monstrosities.  Every time we make one we are like "Next time we're going to cool it on the toppings a little."  And you know what, we never do.  This time, we went with fresh mozzarella cheese (in the very back), bell peppers, tomatoes, and jalapenos.  We cooked up some ground breakfast sausage too to throw on there.  So good.  For sauce, I just take canned tomato sauce and mix in some fresh chopped garlic, a little bit of garlic powder, oregano, and Italian seasoning.  

Preheat the oven to 475*, and make sure your rack is in the bottom half of the oven.  Roll out your pizza dough and put it on a pizza pan (or cookie sheet, or pizza stone, whatever you have).  I fold over the edges a big to make a crust, but that's mostly because my pan is a little too small for the amount of dough this recipe makes.  A big pizza pan is on my "to get" list. Spread the sauce on the dough.  When I'm using fresh mozzarella slices I like to put the cheese underneath the toppings.  I don't know why that is, but I just like it better that way.  If I'm using grated mozzarella I put the cheese on top of the toppings.  I'm weird, I know.  Anyway, I digress.  Add the rest of your toppings (or in my case, pile the rest of your toppings on top of the pizza).  

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.  My oven is kind of weird and lame (a new oven is also on my list of wants, but I don't think that's happening anytime soon) so my crust really isn't golden brown, but it still tastes good.  Let the pizza cool for a few minutes when you pull it out of the oven, slice and enjoy.  

Really, it's so easy to make your own dough.  And if you make a lot at one time you can freeze the extras and if you remember to pull it out of the freezer in the morning you can have delicious homemade pizza that night in less time than it would take you to order a delivery.  To me, the key to this is adding seasoning to the dough.  It really pushes it over the top.  

Mini Mondays: Mini Bundt Cakes

There are very few things in this world that get me more excited than anything in miniature form.  Seriously, please try to find something mini that is not adorable.  It's not possible.  So in honor of my love of all things miniature, I have decided that the first Monday of every month shall henceforth be known as Mini Mondays.  At least in my world it will be.  Without further adieu I give you....

Miniature Bundt Cakes

What you need:
1 pkg white cake mix (no pudding added)
2 tsp cinnamon (or more)
6 oz white chocolate squares, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract

1 (8 oz) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/4 butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

What you do:
Preheat oven to 350*.  Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, or microwave.  If you use the microwave, be careful not to burn it (stop and stir often).  In a large bowl combine the cake mix, milk, butter, eggs, vanilla and almond extract, and melted white chocolate.  Beat with an electric mixer until smooth.  Pour batter into mini bundt pan.  Cook for about 12 minutes (may be more or less depending on your oven, so I'd check it at 10 minutes to be safe).  Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes.  Take the mini cakes out of the pan and let them finish cooling on a wire rack.  While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting.

Cream the butter and cream cheese together until creamy.  Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the powdered sugar.  You may need a little more (or less) powdered sugar to get the desired consistency.  

Once the cakes have cooled enough you can go ahead and frost them.  

Sidenote: You can make this cake in a traditional bundt cake pan, just bake it for 45-50 minutes.  Still delicious, but not nearly as adorable.  Just sayin'

I made these for my coworker's birthday.  Everyone in the office loved them, and no one could guess they were made from a cake mix.  I think the almond extract adds a really great, unexpected flavor to the cake.  Try to eat just one, I dare you.    

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cheesecake? Yes, please.

Cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts.  It's so rich and decadent.  For a long time, pretty much the only time I would have cheesecake is on Thanksgiving when my dad and I would make chocolate cheesecake together.  Then Cole and I started dating and I think I made 5 different cheesecakes within the first 2 or 3 months of our relationship.  He says that's why he decided to keep me around.  Well, that and my charming personality.

Although, I love experimenting with cheesecakes and coming up with different flavors (such as a mint cheesecake with a brownie crust) I always go back to the traditional cheesecake.  I actually attempted to make this one semi healthy by using fat free cream cheese and light sour cream.


What you need: 

For the crust:
2 cups finely crushed nilla wafers
4 T butter, melted

1 1/2 lbs cream cheese
1 1/3 cups sugar
5 eggs
16 oz sour cream
1/4 cup flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp lemon juice

What you do:

Mix together the crushed nilla wafers and melted butter.  Press into buttered springform pan.  Try to line the sides as much as possible.  I love the crust, so my recipe actually doubles the crust from the original recipe.  Trust me on this.  Double crust is where it's at.

Preheat oven to 325*  Beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy.  Add the sugar a little at a time and continue beating until creamy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Next add the flour, vanilla and lemon juice and mix well.  Add the sour cream last and beat well.  Pour the cream cheese into the springform pan.  Place on the top rack of the oven and cook for 1 hour 15 min.  When time is up, pop open the oven door and leave the cheesecake in the oven for 1 hour.  After 1 hour remove from oven and let the cheesecake cool to room temperature, then cover and put in the fridge to chill for at least 24 hours.  

I'm totally lame and forgot to take any other pictures of this cheesecake.  It turned out great though, only one little crack on the top.  Next time I make this I'll take a picture of the final product and update this post.  I have to make a cheesecake at least every couple of months to keep the boy around ;-)