Cookies and Cream Cupcakes for Super Bowl

6 Feb

Super Bowl is one game that brings everyone in America together.  Whether your’re a football fan or not you’ve most likely watched a Super Bowl in the past, if not making an annual tradition with friends and family.  While I’m more of a hockey or baseball girl I do enjoy watching football games with friends and family, especially the Super Bowl!  In fact, one of the most memorable football watching experiences in my life was Super Bowl XLI (2007) – Colts v. Bears.  I have no allegiance to either of those teams (though I do love Peyton Manning so I was rooting for Indianapolis!) I will always remember watching the game in Riviera Maya, Mexico with my then new husband on our Honeymoon!  It was such a great experience to watch with complete strangers and see how the resort outdoor auditorium was segregated in to Bears fans and Colts fans.

One of the things about Super Bowl that brings everyone together, regardless if you’re rooting for opposing teams, is the food!  There is something about game day food that makes everyone happy!  Chili, Wings, Pizza, Potato Skins, Nachos, Salsa, etc.  The list goes on and on, but I always ensure that I bring a dessert every year for Super Bowl, regardless of where I’m going.  This is one night of the year that there is never too much food!

After reviewing my list of cupcakes I need to try I decided on Cookies & Cream cupcakes. I love Oreos, and my friends love Oreo Truffles so I thought this way I could do both!  I sampled one a little bit ago, and let me tell you that these cupcakes will definitely please my friends.  Not to mention, these may be my new favorite cupcakes, tied only to the Snickerdoodle cupcakes.  Not only are these everything you expect in Cookies & Cream, how do you not love an Oreo Truffle as garnish?!

I decorated the cupcakes to support both teams, and though I don’t have an allegiance to either team this year – ever since high school I’ve been a Green Bay fan thanks to pre-scandal Brett Favre.  So, this year I’m letting it known that I am team Green Bay.  Go Pack :)!

Cookies & Cream Cupcakes
Ingredients:
For the cupcakes:
24 Oreo halves, with cream filling attached
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cup sugar
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup milk
20 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped (I quarter them)

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. heavy cream

For garnish:
Oreo cookie crumbs
24 Oreo Truffles, or Oreo Cookie halves

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line the wells of two cupcake pans with 24 paper liners.  Place an Oreo halve in the bottom of each liner, cream side up.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir together with a fork to blend and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Blend in the egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla extract.  With the mixer on low speed, beat in half of the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Add the milk and beat just until combined, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients.  Gently fold in the chopped Oreos with a rubber spatula until evenly incorporated, being careful not to over-mix.

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Blend in the vanilla extract.  Beat in the confectioners’ sugar until incorporated and smooth, 1-2 minutes.  Add the heavy cream to the bowl and beat on medium-low speed just until incorporated, then increase the speed to medium-high and whip for 4 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Frost the cooled cupcakes as desired.  Sprinkle with Oreo crumbs and garnish with Oreo halves or truffles.

Source: Annie’s Eats and Beantown Baker

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Homemade Taco Seasoning

21 Jan

I previously posted about how every year I try to take better advantage of time, store sales, etc. to prepare some meals in advance to either stock the freezer or make the rest of the week easier, however why stop with the perishables?!  One of my favorite pantry staples is definitely taco seasoning, and I finally got rid of all the prepackaged taco seasoning in our pantry and made my own.  It takes less than 5 minutes to make up a big batch of homemade taco seasoning so I don’t know why it took me so long, but now that I have I’ll never buy another packet again!

Sometimes I’m a little nervous to try something homemade when it’s always delicious from a box, packet, etc. because the flavor just isn’t the same, however there was no need to be nervous about this!  Not only is it not full of preservatives, it’s still full of flavor!  Seriously, make a batch of this and you won’t regret it!  Keep it in the pantry and you’ll be one step closer to having a quick meal ready to go!

Homemade Taco Seasoning
Ingredients:
4 tbsp. chili powder
3 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. paprika
3 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix well to blend.  Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

To prepare taco meat, use about 3 – 3 1/2 heaping tablespoons in place of a package of taco seasoning (cook approximately 1 lb. of beef or chicken, add 1 cup of water with the seasoning, and simmer until the liquid is almost completely gone.)

Source: seen on Annie’s Eats

(edited March 2011 to reflect more accurate measurements for seasoning per 1 lb. of cooked meat)

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup

19 Jan

At the start of every year I resolve to start utilizing my weekends to prepare foods for the week, or to stock the freezer, and this year is no exception, especially with baby on board.  However, this year I have more realistic expectations for myself – I know I won’t spend 1 day a weekend, or even every weekend doing this, so why set myself up to break my resolution in 2 weeks?!  Basically I just want to be less lazy on the weekends and actually think ahead and prep when I get home from the store, take advantage of crappy weather to make a few freezer meals, etc.

When menu planning for the week I had to think of where to start with my resolution.  Well, I am sick of leftovers for lunch and have been wanting Chicken Noodle Soup so why not start there?  I like the recipe I’ve used in the past, but it’s just been missing something.  When searching on foodgawker I saw a fantastic looking picture from Smells Like Home that turned out to be a Barefoot Contessa recipe so I knew I couldn’t go wrong.

This recipe was everything I love about Chicken Noodle Soup, except it was homemade!  I love lots of celery and carrots in my soup, and by using all white meat chicken and whole grain noodles I made it even healthier!  The best part though was that it was quick and it freezes well!  The soup makes a great workday lunch, or companion to a grilled sandwich.

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup
Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 1/2 cup medium-diced celery (3 stalks)
1 1/2 cup medium-diced carrots (4-5 carrots)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 Quarts chicken stock
3 cups wide egg noodles
3 cups cooked chicken, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions:
Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the celery, carrots, salt and pepper and cook for 10-12 minutes until softened.

Pour in the stock, bring to a boil over high heat, and add the noodles.  Cook the noodles for 10 minutes, then add the chicken and parsley.  Allow the chicken to heat through.  Serve hot.

Source: Smells like Home, originally adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Family Style

Homemade Chocolate Pudding & a Special Craving!

18 Jan

I know, I know – I’ve been slacking!  But, I assure you, it’s for a very good cause.   Rob and I are having a baby!  Our first child is due June 27, 2011 and we couldn’t be more excited!  I’ve been feeling great, in relation to how I expected to feel, however I’ve just been exhausted.  I haven’t stopped cooking and baking, though admittedly I have slowed down a bit.  However, the lack of blogging lately is just due to pure laziness.  As I mentioned, I’ve been exhausted, so I either didn’t feel like taking pictures of my food, or if I did take pictures they still need to be loaded and/or edited before I can post.

Though we don’t know the sex yet, this baby definitely takes after daddy, or is all girl, because I’ve been having some major chocolate cravings.  Chocolate has never been my go-to flavor choice, though I don’t dislike it, but the last few months I’ve been wanting it all.the.time.  However, not just any chocolate – I want soft and creamy chocolate – pudding, ice cream, hot chocolate, chocolate milk, “leftover” cake and cupcake frosting, etc.

In honor of Baby S., I want to share with you this amazing homemade chocolate pudding recipe I stumbled across while enjoying a breakfast drink (chocolate flavor, of course!)  as a snack at work and poking around the inter-webs.  To be honest, pudding has never been something I’ve thought of making on my own until I started craving it – but believe me, this recipe will definitely get some good use when this baby starts begging for pudding when it’s older!  I saw numerous recipes that were more like custards and mousses (many of which I bookmarked for later!) but I just wanted a basic, aka quick, chocolate pudding.  This recipe did not disappoint.  Silky, creamy, rich but not heavy, and, of course – chocolaty!!

Silky Chocolate Pudding

Ingredients:
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk (I used 1% milk for a lighter version and it was still a-maz-ing!)
6 ounces 62% semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:
Combine the cornstarch, sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler. Slowly whisk in the milk, scraping the bottom and sides with a heatproof spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients. Place over gently simmering water and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary should lumps begin to form. After 15 to 20 minutes, when the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon, add the chocolate. Continue stirring for about 2 to 4 minutes, or until the pudding is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a serving bowl or into individual serving dishes.

Place plastic wrap on top of the pudding and smooth it gently against the surface before refrigerating. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days.

Source:  adapted from Smitten Kitchen, as found on The Wednesday Chef, originally from The Essence of Chocolate, by John Scharffenberger

Sugar Cookie Place Cards

4 Jan

In my opinion, holiday baking is not complete without some sugar cookies.  However, in the past, one of my least favorite cookies was the sugar cookie – that is, until I tried this cookie!  I’ve made some sugar cookies that I’ve liked, but never one that completely wowed me.  This year along with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law we made Sugar Cookie Place Cards for Christmas dinner and so I wanted a recipe that would bring the W-O-W factor, plus the decorations that would produce the cute factor!  Not needing to look far, I decided to try Annie’s favorite sugar cookie recipe.  She has a few variations, but considering it was Christmas I decided to go with the original almond flavoring.

With the exception of trying out the other flavor variations, I intend on this recipe being my standby sugar cookie recipe.  I love the flavor the powdered sugar provided and the hint of almond was fantastic!  Not to mention the fact the my husband kept raving about them, insisting I eat mine immediately after dinner despite the fact that I was stuffed and “saving it for later”.  Plus, the bonus is that the cookies held their shape perfectly which makes it easier to decorate.

Speaking of decorating – I didn’t get pictures of the process like I intended to so I was unable to do a tutorial on decorating with royal icing.  Check out Annie’s fantastic tutorial here.

Sugar Cookies
Ingredients:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cup flour, sifted

Directions:
Cream butter and add powdered sugar.

Blend in egg, almond extract, vanilla, salt and sifted flour.  Chill dough until firm (a few hours).

Roll to 1/4″ thickness on well-floured surface.  Cut with cookies to desired shapes.  Place on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  Cookies should not brown.  Allow to cool completely before decorating.

Source: Annie’s Eats

Gooey Butter Cookies

17 Dec

For those of us in St. Louis, Gooey Butter Cake and Cookies are everywhere; especially this time of year around the holidays.  However, thanks to the genius of the interwebs, Gooey Butter Cake and Gooey Butter Cookies are becoming more well known.  The very first post I did on this site was dedicated to a Holiday Baking day with the women in my family (which is an annual tradition that I look forward to every year!).

One of the recipes I included was Gooey Butter Cookies, but I have decided to repost the recipe.  First of all, I highly doubt anyone will go far enough in to the depth of this blog to find this fantastic recipe, and secondly, I have since starting making these cookies on my own, with different flavor variations that I wanted to share.  Third, when reposting I noticed that I missed an ingredient in the original posting, plus it was very bulleted and non conversational.

Gooey Butter Cookies
Ingredients:
1 egg
1 box yellow cake mix
1 (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 stick softened butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Powdered sugar for rolling and dusting

Directions:
In a large bowl with a mixer, cream together butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Beat in the egg, then beat in the extract.  Beat in the cake mix.  Cover and refrigerate until firm enough to roll (2 hours to overnight if preparing in advance).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place powdered sugar in a bowl set to the side.  Roll chilled dough in to tablespoon size balls and then in the powdered sugar.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart and bake 12 minutes.  The cookies will remain soft and gooey.  Cool completely and sprinkle with extra powdered sugar if desired.


Variations:
I have made these cookies in the traditional butter flavor, but have started making them in different varieties.


Mint Chocolate:
Use chocolate fudge cake mix and swap out the vanilla extract for mint extract


Red Velvet:
Use Red Velvet cake mix


Snickerdoodle
Use a Cinnamon Swirl cake mix and roll in cinnamon sugar instead.  Or, use a butter cake mix and mix in 2 teaspoons cinnamon and roll in cinnamon sugar


Green Bean and Corn Casserole

17 Dec

I have discussed my love for comfort food numerous times on here, and this recipe is just another example of a food that is pure comfort in a casserole dish.  A tweaked version of a classic Green Bean Casserole that I have no idea of the original source, but I do remember the first time my mom made it when I was in high school or college.  She made it for Thanksgiving dinner in lieu of a traditional Green Bean Casserole – just for something a little different.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first because I could take or leave corn, but I’ve been hooked since the first bite.

Green Beans, corn, sour cream, cheese… all the makings of a delicious casserole-style side dish, that admittedly I often made as dinner in college.  When I lived by myself I would make this and live off it for a few days.  My mom hasn’t made it in awhile, but she makes hers a little differently than I make mine.  Her’s is even more of a traditional Green Bean Casserole using French Fried Onions on top, whereas I pull out my ever present box of Reduced Fat Cheez-Its from the pantry and crush those bad boys on top!  Not the healthiest meal in the world but what comfort food really is all that healthy (besides some soups)?!

Eventually I will probably try making this without the cream soup, but for now I’m sticking with the recipe I know by heart, which includes Cream of Celery Soup.  I try not to use it that often, but I do always have a can in the pantry in case I’m ever craving a casserole type dish and don’t have the ingredients on hand to make it with a cheese sauce instead.

This recipe is freezer friendly.  I like to make 2 small batches at a time.  One in a smaller baking dish, the other in an 8×8 disposable foil pan.  I prepare just until baking and put in the foil pan.  Cover with two layers of foil, label and place in the freezer.  Just thaw in the fridge during the day, or the night before, you plan on baking it.  Bake as directed in the original recipe.
Green Bean and Corn Casserole
Ingredients:
1 can French Style Green Beans, well drained
1 can White Corn, well drained
1 can Cream of Celery Soup
8 oz. sour cream
~ 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
S&P to taste
1 cup crushed French Fried Onions, Cheez Its, Cornflakes, etc. based on your preference
3 tablespoons melted butter
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a 2 qt. baking dish with cooking spray.
Mix drained green beans and corn in a large bowl with soup, sour cream, cheese and S&P.  Evenly spread in prepared baking dish.  
Combine melted butter and crushed topping and then evenly sprinkle over casserole mixture.  
Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly.  Remove and allow to set for a few minutes before serving.
** Note, works really well to prepare a few hours to 1 night in advance before baking.
Source: unknown