Archive for July, 2012


Happy Birthday to us!

Chocolate Banana Cupcake with PB Chocolate Cream FrostingYesterday at Colahan’s Martial Arts we celebrated two birthdays – John’s and mine. It was an extra-special celebration because Susana brought her ukulele and accompanied the infamous Colahan’s Martial Arts Choir for the birthday song. I loved it!!

I baked for John and Susana baked for me, and without coordinating desserts, we both made a variation of chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. As the saying goes, Great minds think alike! We had Chocolate Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Cream Frosting for John, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes with peanut butter cups and Peanut Butter Frosting for me!!

We had lots and lots of cupcakes – and they were DELISH! Even with one of the guys eating FIVE cupcakes (an impressive feat!) and most everyone else eating two, we still had plenty of leftovers. So many, in fact, that the birthday boy was sent home with quite a few, and the rest were left on my desk for my co-workers. Neither Susana nor I trusted ourselves with a tray of cupcakes within easy reach; we know better…

Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Chocolate Banana Cupcakes (front) and Chocolate PB Cupcakes!

I don’t know exactly how Susana made hers, but I can give you the idea. Chocolate cupcakes had a small peanut butter cup dropped into the batter before baking. Then they were topped with peanut butter frosting and chopped peanut butter cups. Yum!!

I made Chocolate Banana Cupcakes from Chocolate from The Cake Mix Doctor… I’d never made cupcakes with chocolate and banana in them, and was curious to find out how strong the banana presence would be. I used very dark bananas that I had tossed in the freezer – those that had hit the point of bad for eating but good for baking. I was pleased with the texture and the subtle banana flavor of the cupcake, and waited to choose a frosting flavor after I tasted them. Click for recipe.

I considered making a marshmallow-based frosting, but opted for the lazy way because it was getting late. I wish I could tell you what I put in the frosting, but I really don’t know! I had a container of chocolate cream cheese frosting in the freezer from a recent cake, so I whipped it up with a can of cream cheese frosting and some peanut butter. The result was a creamy chocolate peanut butter frosting that worked nicely with the cupcakes! Banzai Birthday Treats!

Today, I wish I had a couple of those cupcakes. But then again, I’m really glad I worked at home today so I couldn’t get to them. The temptation would just be too much!

Advertisements

These brownies are for Tom, one of my Cohorts in Chocolate, because neither he nor I care for the fudgy goop “brownies” that are all the rage these days. Craggy-Topped Fudge Brownies

Tom is the artist who drew my “brain” that’s on the “A peek inside…” page of my blog. He and I were talking about food. We talk about food a lot. We both love good quality chocolate, and sometimes share our discoveries. Somehow we got on the subject of brownies, and Tom mentioned he thought the boxed brownie mixes had become “fudgier” than they used to be. I thought so too, and I haven’t made them lately because I’ve been disappointed by them. (Yes, I use boxed brownie mixes. Why reinvent the wheel? I usually add nuts or chips or something to the mix, but lately I don’t think they’re as good as they used to be.)

Tom and I both prefer a more cake-like brownie, something that has more of a “chew” to it that you can sink your teeth into. I like brownies when they get a bit stale, and used to attempt to let some sit in the pan and dry out a bit before I gobbled them up. I say “attempt” because most of the time I wasn’t successful!

Craggy-Topped Fudge BrowniesI’m still on a quest to find a brownie I can portion-control and freeze for craving times, and these came to mind. I liked the Chocolate Quinoa Brownies I made earlier this week, but they don’t have the texture I usually crave. It had been quite awhile since I made this recipe, but I remember them being really good. What I couldn’t remember was how fudgy or cake-like they were. That could easily be solved by whipping up a batch.

These were every bit as good as I remembered! They’ve got the perfect texture to them – a little bit of chew, without being too soft or too dry. They obviously take a little more effort than a boxed mix, but not much – and the result is definitely worth it!

Butter and sugar are melted on the stove, chocolate chips are stirred in, then a few more ingredients are added. Pour them into a pan, sprinkle on some nuts, and bake until a toothpick comes out clean. Craggy-Topped Fudge Brownies

Try these by themselves or topped with praline ice cream, warm caramel sauce and toasted pecans. Doesn’t that sound good? I think you’ll find the extra effort these require produce a much better brownie than a boxed mix, and you won’t mind mixing these up when the brownie craving hits!

Craggy-Topped Fudge Brownies

Craggy-Topped Fudge Brownies

Stuff you need:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
3 eggs
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Now what?
Heat sugar and butter in medium saucepan over low heat, stirring until butter is melted.
Remove from heat.
Add 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips and stir until melted.
Stir in eggs.
Stir in flour, vanilla and baking soda until combined.
Spread into greased 9×13 inch baking pan.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup chocolate chips and 1/3 cup chopped walnuts on top. Press down lightly.
Bake in preheated 350F oven for 18-22 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out slightly sticky.
Cool and cut into bars.

Chocolate Quinoa Brownies!I have no idea how I came across this recipe, but I guess it doesn’t really matter! I bookmarked this recipe a while ago, and ran across it yesterday when I was looking for something to bake today. Who wouldn’t want to bake on the 4th of July? It’s only 99 degrees here, and cooler than it’s supposed to be the rest of the week. Perfect time to turn on the oven, right? My concession to the heat was to bake this morning, before it was too hot outside.

I cook with quinoa frequently and like its versatility. I can use it for sweet or savory dishes, and it goes with most anything. In this case, quinoa replaces flour to give substance to the brownies. I wasn’t sure how these would turn out, but the reviews were good so I thought they were worth the try. I’m glad I made them – they’re really quite good!! Click for recipe.

These are very moist, more similar to the texture of a flourless chocolate torte than a brownie. The rich, chocolate goodness satisfied my chocolate craving, and so far I’ve managed not to eat the whole pan. (I’m so proud!) With proper blending, the quinoa isn’t noticeable, so if you’re looking for a healthy sneak or need something flourless, this is a good choice. The only change I made to the recipe was to add ¼ cup of walnuts to the top before baking. I think nuts accent the chocolate flavor and I like the crunch factor. If you don’t like nuts, leave them off and sprinkle powdered sugar on top after they cool.Mixing up Chocolate Quinoa Brownies

If these were cut into squares, I think they’d be OK to handle and transport, but they’re very soft and will need some support. For some weird reason I don’t own square pans, so I used a 9” round pan. (My birthday’s coming up, so there’s a gift idea for someone!) Anyway, the wedges would be great for plating up with some fresh whipped cream and berries!

Chocolate Quinoa Brownies are really easy to make – you put everything in a food processor and turn it on until your mixture is smooth, then bake! But I think I burned out the motor in my processor making Nutter Butter Truffles awhile back, and even if I didn’t, it’s boxed up in the garage and I was too lazy to get it out. Instead, I tried to use my stick blender. That didn’t work well; I think the mixture might have been too thick/dry. So it was on to my blender, which is quite sturdy and has a “Puree” function. That worked splendidly, and after a couple of minutes of whirling blades, the brownies were ready to go into the oven.

I wrapped a brownie and threw it into the freezer to see how they hold up. Hopefully, they’ll freeze well and I’ll have a stash ready for one of those times when I “need” a brownie!

 Chocolate Quinoa Brownies - Out of the blender, into the oven!Note: The quinoa used in this recipe is cooked with more water than normal for a smoother texture. If you’re making a larger batch of quinoa and measuring out some to make the brownies, mine measured about 2 1/3 cups of cooked quinoa, but you might want to use a little less. If you’re using quinoa cooked with the normal amount of water, yours may be a bit crunchier. That’s probably OK – just something to be aware of!

Have you tried chia seeds? Yes, those things we smear on clay figures then water and watch sprout. If you haven’t, you should. Blueberry Chia Coconut Pudding

Not only are they fun for entertaining us, but they’re good for eating, too! They pack a pretty good nutritional wallop for just a small amount of seeds. Chia seeds were an important part in ancient Aztec and Mayan diets because of their richness in omega-3 fatty acids and anti-oxidants, high fiber content, and benefits of several other nutrients. They can be eaten as-is, no processing or cooking required. I put them in yogurt and smoothies and sneak them into muffins, oatmeal cookies, and most anything that doesn’t require a silky texture.

I found this recipe online at a site called skinnytaste. The original recipe uses mango, but I don’t like mango so I substituted frozen blueberries. Use whatever fruit you like, but be cautious about using something that browns when exposed to air, like apples or bananas. You’d need to toss those in a bit of citrus juice before stirring them in. Click for recipe.

Blueberry Chia Coconut Pudding - ready to mix up!It takes no time to mix this up, but it needs to sit in the frig for 5-6 hours or overnight, so plan ahead. The finished pudding is light and refreshing, and I really liked it! The chia seeds mimic tapioca, absorbing about 4 times their volume in liquid, so if you like tapioca you’ll probably like this. Mine didn’t set up as thick as a regular pudding or tapioca, but that might be from all the moisture the frozen blueberries added. Overall I’d say it’s fairly healthy if you keep the sugar down or don’t add it at all (I didn’t use any).

Give it a try and see what you think. It’ll make a nice snack by itself or be a good component in a healthy breakfast. I’ll definitely be making this again, and stirring in whatever fruit I have handy!