Monthly Archives: January 2012

This S*** is Bananas!

So my last post was dedicated to my grandma that just passed away….thought it would all kind of be in the past once the wake and funeral were over but forgot about aftermath post-funeral; going through her belongings, recipes, seeing her name in my recent calls, etc. No fun but on the bright side, at least she’s got some good stuff to have shared with us now to remember her by! On another sad note, my other gram, the one I talked about in the beginning of starting this blog, the big baker/chef I have learned just about everything about food from just suffered from a stroke this past Sunday and scared us all to no end! She is home and doing much better, things are looking great for her, a full recovery is expected with the help of some speech therapy! So needless to say, things haven’t exactly been going well here in 2012 but they are on the up and up, that’s for sure!

In light all of this negative stuff, I have been baking like no other! Just Tuesday, I baked 3 banana bread loaves alone! And with gram’s stoke being partially due to high blood pressure and cholesterol, I wanted to show the family that you can bake healthier stuff that still tastes good! It must have been good since my brother and mom requested a loaf each for themselves! Here is the recipe I used:

Healthy Banana Bread

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • dash of salt (optional)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk (I made my own by adding 1/4 t lemon juice to 1/4 cup skim milk and letting it stand for about 10 minutes)
  • 2-3 bananas, mashed

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. This bread comes out very moist and not super dense like a lot of things baked with applesauce. As a general rule of thumb, I’ve found that applesauce or yogurt (especially Greek yogurt) can replace butter or oil in most baked good recipes, except for cookies. The texture is just nowhere near a normal cookie when the fats are replaced…my husband kindly refers to these as ‘mookies,’ a muffin in the form of a cookie!

Off of the lower fat/healthier side for a few moments: as mentioned in previous blogs, I am obsessed with peanut butter and was craving the amazing combination of peanut butter and chocolate (my peanut butter and jelly if you will)! So I decided to make chocolate peanut butter cookies with chopped up Reese’s peanut butter cups as chocolate chips. (yes, as I warned, not exactly ‘healthy’)! They turned out sooo good, very light and fluffy but surprisingly could have used a little more sugar in the dough but I was hesitant, thinking the peanut butter cups would be too rich…next time I’d increase the sugar by 1/4 cup at least. And I would even consider decreasing the butter to 3/4 cup since they were a little greasy and flattened out a bit.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 10 peanut butter cups, chopped up

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Enjoy and try not to eat 6 of them right out of the oven as I did…more power to you if you are able to stop though!

Baking = My Therapy

I not only bake because I love it, but it is my zen time, my time for me, all to myself, to just do what I want to do and clear my head. Also, baking is much cheaper than a therapist! I use baking as a tool to overcome obstacles and challenges in life, and to get through the hard times.

My grandma passed away last Wednesday and we had the wake and funeral Sunday and Monday. Needless to say, I’ve been a baking machine. My poor husband has been surrounded by delicious baked goods for the past few days…which resulted in him and I eating an entire cake in less than two days…it’s fine! (Not only does the actual act of baking help, but devouring any form of chocolate surely never hurts)! I tried new recipes in an effort to have to concentrate and take my  mind off of things, instead of making things I have already baked that don’t require much focus. Here are a few of the ones I tested out:

Chocolate Oatmeal Cake:

  • 1 3/4 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups flour, sifted
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • chopped chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  I tossed my oatmeal into a food processor for a few pulses to make smaller, finer flakes but that is up to you and how prominent you want the oatmeal to be in your cake! Put oatmeal into mixing bowl and pour boiling water over top (I used a tea kettle to boil the water), let stand 10 minutes or until oatmeal is softened and most of the liquid is absorbed. Add in sugars, applesauce and eggs. Mixing well with each addition. Sift together flour, soda, cocoa and salt. Add dry to wet ingredients, mix just until incorporated. Pour into greased pan (I used a 8×12 brownie pan). Top with chopped chocolate or chocolate chips if desired. Bake 20 minutes.

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This cake came out to be the perfect combination of a cake and a brownie! The oatmeal gives it this super chewy texture similar to a brownie.  Very moist, soft and tasty! Next time, I might add the chocolate chips into the batter and/or top it with some Nutella!

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins:

  • 1 stick butter, softened at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 t almond extract
  • 1 1/3 cups flour, sifted
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 2 1/2 T poppy seeds
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar together until smooth. Add in egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add in almond extract, lemon zest and lemon juice. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, soda, powder, poppy seeds and salt. Add flour mixture, alternating with sour cream doing two of each, and ending with flour. In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold into batter. I used a jumbo muffin pan and baked them for 25 minutes.

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I think this was a hair too long and probably would should have pulled them a few minutes earlier, so I’d say to check them at 20 minutes. Also, I didn’t get too much lemon flavor so would probably suggest adding in the zest and juice of another lemon but that is up to you and your personal tastes!

Caramel Cake with Chocolate Ganache:

Cake:

  • Duncan Hines Caramel Cake Mix
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup coca cola
  • 1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 3 eggs

Ganache:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 9 ounces chocolate (I used chocolate almond World Famous Chocolate Bars)!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine buttermilk, cola, and oil. Add eggs in one at a time. Add in cake mix and stir just until blended. Pour into greased pan (I used two 9 inch round pans). Bake 25-28 minutes. While the cake is baking, heat whipping cream over medium-low until almost boiling. Pour over broken up chocolate, let sit 5 minutes, stir until smooth. Let cool and harden until ready to frost cake.

I know it sounds crazy to have soda in a cake but it is my secret ingredient when using store-bought mixes…it adds a nice moistness to the cake and you can’t taste it, I promise!

After this baking frenzy, I am feeling much better and am coping just fine…I miss my gram, but I know she is in a better place, one without pain and suffering and is finally reunited with my grandpa after 17 years! I know she is resting in peace and is finally happy! Love you ‘Frankster,’ always in my heart!

Schwedy Balls!

I’m not talking about the new Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream here but just about some cake balls I made over the weekend! We were out of town for our 14th and final wedding of 2011 this weekend while my best friend was getting proposed to! Not gonna lie…I’m relieved it’s finally over, the secret meetings and all the sneaking around has finally come to an end! Her fiance (love that I can call him that now) planned a little engagement get together last night and I decided to try a new recipe…inspired by the wedding we attended Saturday night where they served these amazingly delicious pecan peanut butter cake balls coated in chocolate! They were so good, it made me want to try and make my own! Having only gotten back into town a few hours before the party was supposed to take place, I may have ‘cheated’ a smidge and used a boxed cake mix for the cake portion. To my surprise, this did not cut down on the prep work much at all!

After doing some research on cake balls, I learned that most are just cake, combined with some sort of frosting or wet ingredient, rolled into a ball and coated with a hard coating. Seemed simple enough….so I decided to make three different types of balls: salted caramel, pumpkin pie caramel, and double dark chocolate caramel.  I first made the caramel cake according to the box directions, let it cool completely and then crumbled the cake into three separate bowls.

For the salted caramel balls: I heated up 2 T butter, 2 T heavy cream and 1/3 cup brown sugar in a saucepan until boiling and bubbly. Let it boil for a few minutes, removed it from the heat and added in 2/3 cup powdered sugar and a dash of vanilla.

For the pumpkin pie balls: I made a basic cream cheese frosting (4 oz. cream cheese, 2 T butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1 T heavy cream, and a dash of vanilla) and added about 1/3 cup of pumpkin puree and dash of pumpkin pie spice to that.

For the double dark chocolate balls: I heated 1/3 cup of heavy cream and 2 T butter to a simmer then poured the hot cream over a bowl filled with chopped dark chocolate (I used Ghiradelli because it’s my favorite).

I combined the each bowl of crumbled cake with one of the frostings and mixed them until incorporated but still somewhat crumbly. I stuck them in the fridge for a about an hour and half so they can harden up a bit. (I may have overdone the pumpkin pie ball, leaving it a little more ‘wet’ than desired…I am going to throw these in the freezer though and see what happens…I will keep you all updated! Once chilled enough so they wouldn’t break, I rolled the balls in the same recipe I used for the double dark chocolate ball frosting recipe and stuck them all back in the fridge. The outside coating didn’t harden as much as I hoped it would, so next time I would probably use a different recipe, probably just melted chocolate all by itself!

This is just the beginning of my relationship with cake balls…there are so many different things you can do with them, I am itching to try some more!

Is it a Cake or is it a Cookie?

We had our company holiday party last night and I usually bring with a tray of Christmas cookies but it was held so late this year that all the cookies have already been eaten or aren’t too fresh anymore! I didn’t have time to prepare ahead as we did not get home Wednesday night until after 11…so I had to do something that would be fairly quick, yet still awesome! I settled on a cookie cake, because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a cookie cake!?

I’ve only made a few cookie cakes in my day but they’ve always turned out and tasted just like a cookie, except giant! So I took the tried and true ‘bake shop cookies” (https://valuptuousvittles.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/bake-shop-cookies/ ) recipe I posted previously and made one giant cookie instead of a batch of cookies. To my surprise, it turned out to have somewhat of a cake-like consistency rather than a soft, chewy cookie. The taste was all there, but the texture was different! This got me thinking, is it something in this recipe in particular that made it turn out this way or perhaps was it the cooking time? (Sidenote: Josh was kind enough to volunteer to watch the cake for me so I threw it in the oven and headed to bed! He said he took it out when the timer went off but it looked too gooey in the middle so he threw it back in for 5 minutes and then took it out)! It didn’t look overly browned and was still soft to the touch in the center but this could possibly be part of the reason for the cake-like consistency…I usually take cookies out when they almost still look raw, as they continue to cook in the pan for a little while.

All in all though, this was not a bad mistake! It turned out to be, literally a cookie cake; a cake that tasted like a chocolate chip cookie, a winner in my book! And I even remembered to take a pic of this one…ignore the decorating, that’s not my strong suit…yet! But I plan on getting plenty of practice with all my new gadgets from the wedding so I have confidence that I will only go up from here!