Some food porn for your Friday: special birthday cupcakes for my good friend!
Posted by culinaryneophyte on May 24, 2013
Some food porn for your Friday: special birthday cupcakes for my good friend!
Posted by culinaryneophyte on March 31, 2013
It’s pretty rare to find someone [at least in my generation] who doesn’t get the reference, “You’re killing me, Smalls.” And if they do give you a quizzical look, well then they probably deserve the Scotty Smalls comparison. The Great Bambi?!
Anyway. My point is “The Sandlot” may not have won Best Picture in 1993, but from my comedy-loving, film-novice standpoint, it’s a classic. Bunch of ragtag kids playing America’s game, trash talking crosstown rivals, talking to specter Babe Ruth and taming James Earl Jones’ scary dog. Who doesn’t get chills hearing, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die”? And what prepubescent boy didn’t dream of having cajones big enough to pull a Squints and kiss the hot lifeguard at the pool?
I’ll bet you knew about s’mores before you saw Sandlot, but it’s hard to put one together without recounting the treehouse scene in which Squints lays out the “s’more stuff” and demonstrates proper construction techniques. When it came time for me to choose a dessert to make for my fantasy baseball draft last weekend, I thought s’more cookies was an apropos (albeit, slightly contrived) offering. When the boys made the connection, I heard, “It’s nice to have a woman’s touch in this league.” They probably would have said that even if I brought some box mix cookies, but hey, whatever.
Happy MLB 2013, everyone!
Slightly adapted from Lindsey’s Kitchen
Makes about 40 cookies
♦2 c. flour
♦1/2 tsp. baking soda
♦1/2 tsp. salt
♦3/4 c. unsalted butter, melted
♦1 c. packed brown sugar
♦1/2 c. white sugar
♦1 tbs. vanilla extract
♦1 egg yolk
♦1 c. mini chocolate chips
♦1 c. graham cracker crumbs
♦1 1/2 c. mini marshmallows
♦2 bars of milk chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. In mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars until fluffy. Beat in egg, egg white and vanilla. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips and graham cracker crumbs. Drop tablespoons of dough on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes, and remove from oven. Press one small square of chocolate and a few marshmallows into each cookie. Bake for 3 more minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Transfer for wire rack to cool completely (or steal a bite of a hot, melty, delicious cookie).
Calories? 76 calories per serving (based on approx. 40 cookies made).
Total time? 30 minutes prep and bake.
Cost? $2.69 mini chocolate chips, $3 chocolate bars, $1 marshmallows, $2.50 graham crackers
Overall success relative to expectations? 10 out 10. These cookies were soft and delicious, packed with a little bit of s’more stuff in each bite. They were most delicious fresh out of the oven, which can be easily recreated by a few seconds in the microwave. My fellow fantasy baseball managers obliterated the plate of these before the sixth round, so I take it they were a success. I’m not a big sweets girl, but I absolutely loved these. I’d eat them — dare I say? — FOR. EV. ER. FOR. EV. ERRRRR.
Posted by culinaryneophyte on February 16, 2013
“Clean eating” and “Paleo” are all over the place these days, and I’m kind of intrigued. Generally speaking, the Paleo diet focuses on eating like a caveman — things that were around 10,000 years ago, like meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, healthful oils, etc. I still need to do some research, but from what I can tell, the biggest difference is that clean eaters can have grains and Paleo followers should not.
I’m in the middle of the Insanity workout, playing soccer four days a week and trying to reduce (ideally eliminate, but one step at a time) the bad-for-you things I occasionally put in my body. And we’re still in the thick of Girl Scout cookie season, so that’s not always an easy task, especially when you have a weakness for the delicious, caramely, coconuty Samoas. Fortunately, Elana’s Pantry posted a Paleo Samoa recipe that caught my eye, and I decided to try out my first caveman confection.
A few notes: I don’t think budget is an excuse for eating poorly; if you plan it right, you can buy a week’s worth of healthy foods for the same amount as two meals at Wendy’s. That being said, clean eating is expensive. More than likely, you will have to hit a more specialized supermarket like Wegmans, Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods to find what you’re looking for, and you’re going to pay significantly more. It’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons.
Also, I botched two steps in this recipe, so these cookies are like, the Samoa’s cousin — a reverse Samoa if you will. (I stupidly dipped the tops of the cookies in the chocolate instead of the bases, and then I put the toasted coconut in the chocolate instead of the caramel.) There are a lot of steps in this recipe, but nothing too challenging. They are coated with dark chocolate and drizzled with a vegan caramel. The end result is a tasty organic cookie that serves as a healthier bit of indulgence at the end of your meal (or in the middle of the day when you’re craving something sweet…which happened to me three times today — eek!).
Paleo Samoas – Makes about 30 cookies
♦2 c. almond meal
♦1/2 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
♦1/2 tsp. baking soda
♦1/4 c. honey
♦1 tbs. vanilla extract
♦3 tbs. coconut oil, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor (recommended — I admittedly used my Kitchen Aid mixer), combine almond meal, coconut and baking soda. Pulse in honey, vanilla, egg and melted coconut oil until dough forms. Put the dough in the freezer for 30 minutes or until firm. Roll dough between two pieces of parchment paper until 1/4 inch thick. Use a 2-inch round cookie cutter to cut out cookies. You may also cut out holes in the middle for a more authentic-looking Samoa. Bake on parchment paper for 6-8 minutes. Allow cookies to cool completely before dipping.
♦1/2 c. unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted
♦1 c. dark chocolate chunks
♦1 c. coconut sugar
♦1/4 c. coconut nectar
♦1/2 c. coconut milk
In a double boiler, melt dark chocolate. Meanwhile, toast coconut in toaster oven until just browned. In a separate saucepan, combine sugar, nectar and milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Once cookies are cooled, dip the base of each cookie in the chocolate mixture and place on parchment paper to set. Remove caramel from heat and mix in toasted coconut. Drizzle a small amount of caramel over each cookie. If desired, top with additional chocolate and/or toasted coconut. Allow to set in the fridge.
Calories? About 95 calories per cookie.
Total time? 8 minutes baking, 10 minutes for caramel, 10 minutes prep.
Cost? $8.57 almond meal, $8.49 coconut oil, $2.50 dark chocolate chunks, $7.49 coconut nectar, $1.99 coconut milk, $5.49 shredded coconut
Overall success relative to expectations? 8 out 10. These cookies have certainly opened my eyes to how great a “clean” dessert can taste. They’re not necessarily low-calorie, but I felt less guilty about dessert knowing that all the ingredients are organic. As I mentioned, I didn’t follow the directions exactly and these don’t look much like Samoas (nor are they very pretty in general), but they sure were tasty. I docked points only because I felt they were a little light on coconut. It’s best to keep these in the fridge (and I prefer to eat them on the colder side). One other thing worth mentioning is that the caramel is very sticky and you may end up with a little in your teeth after the cookie is gone. Small price to pay, though, amIright?
Posted by culinaryneophyte on March 11, 2012
I am drowning in Girl Scout Cookies. (#firstworldproblem, I know.) As a result, I am forcing Girl Scout Cookies onto and into every meal in every possible way. First up? Thin Mint oatmeal.
I’m not a huge fan of super sweet things, but if you are, you might want to double the syrup and cookies, and maybe throw in some chocolate syrup or something. I wanted to keep this as healthy as a bowl of oatmeal with cookies in it could possible be.
makes one serving
♦1/2 c. old fashioned oats
♦1/2 c. water
♦1/2 c. milk
♦1/8 tsp. salt
♦1 tbs. creme de menthe syrup
♦1/4 ripe banana (overly ripe is even better)
♦3 Thin Mint cookies, crushed into some pieces and some crumbs
Heat oats, milk, water and salt over medium heat. After two minutes, add creme de menthe syrup and half Thin Mint mashup. Heat until bubbling. Add banana and mash up completely. (This will thicken the mixture but not affect the flavor.) Spoon into bowl and add remainder of Thin Mint crumbs.
Total time? 8 minutes total — nice and quick.
Cost? $3.50 Girl Scout Cookies, $2 mint syrup, $2.49 quick oats, 20¢ banana.
Overall success relative to expectations? 8 out of 10. This was pretty much what I expected — a healthy oatmeal breakfast with a little treat added in. I didn’t think the mint came through enough, but I didn’t want to add more syrup and thus more sugar. I’m not sure I’ll make this often because I’m more of a savory breakfast girl, so expect some more Girl Scout Cookie-related recipes because I’ve gotta get rid of these things.
Posted by culinaryneophyte on February 4, 2012
Because I don’t often cook for more than two people, I go a little overboard when I’m attending potlucks, which is the case for this Sunday’s Super Bowl gathering. Officially, I’m bringing chipotle guacamole and chocolate chip cookie-bottom vanilla cupcakes, but I went on a bookmarking binge, and now I’m unofficially bringing, like, seven dishes.
These Giants-themed sugar cookies might get some jeers because I’ll be the lone Big Blue fan at the party, but I’m hoping my friends will at least appreciate the effort because, honestly, this was a lot harder than I thought it would be! I actually had never made a sugar cookie until this week, and the last time I decorated a cookie was probably 20 years ago. I had no idea how much prep goes into making cute cutout cookies with moderate aesthetic value. Thankfully, I came across brown eyed baker’s fantastic, step-by-step guide to decorating with royal icing. Mine are nowhere near as pretty as hers, but I don’t think it was too bad for a first go.
♦2 c. flour
♦1/2 tsp. baking powder
♦1/2 tsp. salt
♦2 sticks butter, room temperature
♦1 c. sugar
♦1 tbs. brown sugar
♦1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in bowl, and set aside. In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugars on medium until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and beat on medium for 30 seconds. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix on low until combined. Shape dough into a disk and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Place in fridge for at least an hour. (NOTE: I refrigerated my dough for 24 hours, and it was so hard that I thought I did something wrong. Really, I was just impatient and it needed 10 minutes to slightly thaw, but I instead repeatedly hit it with a rolling pin. Hope my neighbors didn’t mind that racket…)
You can either flour the counter or roll dough between sheets of parchment paper to avoid sticking. Dip cookie cutter in flour before each press. Place shapes on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until edges turn slightly brown. Remember, these cookies look uncooked, but you can easily burn the bottoms if you don’t pay close attention. Place on rack and let cool completely before frosting. (I waited two hours.)
FOR ROYAL ICING
♦3 egg whites, room temperature
♦4 c. powdered sugar
♦1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
♦food coloring/gel coloring
Attach wire whisk to stand mixer. Beat egg whites, powdered sugar and cream of tartar on low until combined. Stop and scrape down ingredients. Beat on medium for 7-10 minutes until royal icing is shiny and thick. If it needs to be thicker, add more powdered sugar.
Again, I would recommend using brown eyed baker’s tutorial on the best tools and techniques for decorating (plus step-by-step photographs). I used a little bit of makeshifting in a panic (plastic bags, tape, cupcake icing, sprinkles [I'll explain later]), but you should probably take a more composed approach.
This frosting recipe yielded way more than I needed. I divided it into three bowls, proportionate to the colors needed, i.e. blue 80%, red and white 10% each. I then added all the coloring gel and liquid food coloring I had and the blue still wasn’t royal enough. (Good thing the Giants aren’t playing Carolina or some other baby blue team.)
I slopped some blue icing into my handy dandy piper and outlined each helmet and jersey with what turned out to be a bit-too-thick stroke. I then filled a squirt bottle — which you can find at any craft store — with some blue icing and added a few teaspoons of water. This mixture is used for “flooding,” a technique that makes the icing easier to spread and produces a smooth look atop your cookie. (And it’s really fun.) Squirt some of the runny mixture inside your lining and spread with a toothpick until completely coated.
NOTE: Everything I’ve read about royal icing recommends placing a dampened towel over what’s not in use because it dries very quickly. I didn’t want to take the chance of losing any icing, but I got it in my head that I needed to race through everything. Yes, you do need to cover the icing with damp towels, and that will earn you at least seven hours of usable icing, so take your time! (I tested it overnight, and it was still usable in the morning.)
Here’s the part where you should let everything dry completely before adding more details, but it was 11:30 p.m. by the time I got to this step, and I was getting cranky. This resulted in some questionable design work on my part, so next time, I’ll be a bit more careful. At one point, I was handpicking red sprinkles out of a tub of rainbow to make my more-pink-than-red icing the appropriate color, so I think you get where my frustration was coming from.
In the end, though, I was pretty proud of my work and I can’t wait to give this another try — maybe something that’s yellow and/or green, because that’s the only food coloring I have left.
Posted by culinaryneophyte on January 12, 2012
One of my friends always jokes about the “$100 Target tax,” meaning many of us have a hard time going into Target and not hitting triple digits at the register. Without fail, I paid the “Target tax” on my pre-Christmas shopping trip, throwing all sorts of unnecessary things into my cart and sorting it all out when I got home. Buried beneath the Hello Kitty nail polish kit (gift for my toddler niece) and Archer Farms pumpkin lattes (gift for myself) was a bag of Cinnamon M&Ms. Damn you, end caps!
I opened the bag that night and investigated. The M&Ms were about twice as large as original and came in brown and varying shades of red. I bit one in half. The cinnamon flavor was subtle, but present. I ate the second half, and decided I wasn’t crazy about them. One of the best parts of M&Ms is eating them by the handfuls, and these just don’t work like that. They’re too… plump.
I left the opened bag on the table, and there it sat — untouched — for the next few weeks until I had some friends over and wanted to make them a snackable dessert. I was dying to get rid of these M&Ms, and thought they’d be great in some cookies. I took to the Web, and not surprisingly, Picky Palate already had an oatmeal cookie recipe using these things, and she had a similar story with her blogging friend Maria of Two Peas and Their Pod. These cookies are taking over!
adapted slightly from Picky Palate
♦2 sticks of butter, softened
♦3/4 c. sugar
♦3/4 c. brown sugar
♦2 large eggs
♦1 tbs. vanilla
♦3 c. flour
♦1 tsp. baking soda
♦3/4 tsp. salt
♦1 tbs. cinnamon
♦3/4 c. oats
♦1/2 c. mini chocolate chips
♦1 bag of Cinnamon M&Ms
Beat butter and sugars in stand mixer until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, and continue mixing. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add to wet ingredients in small increments with mixer on low. Add cinnamon, oats, chocolate chips and M&Ms, reserving a handful to place on top of cookies before baking (for aesthetic flair). Line baking sheet with parchment paper and scoop dough. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes.
Total time? 15 minutes prep, 12 minutes per batch.
Cost? $2.69 M&Ms, $2 oats (and the remainder of your “Target tax”).
Overall success relative to expectations? 8 out of 10. My only complaint was that these cookies dried out a little fast, despite being kept in a sealed container. (I may have made them a little too thick.) Again, the cinnamon flavor is subtle, but good. They’re not teeming with oats, so you can easily sell picky eaters on these by leaving out that whole “full of fiber and kind of good for you” thing. (Some of my friends said they never would have known they were oatmeal cookies if I hadn’t mentioned it.) They weren’t overly chocolatey, so the non-sweets people will get in on the action, too. Hopefully, you passed these M&Ms during the holidays and your curiosity got the best of you because I’m not sure if they sell these Cinnamon M&Ms after Christmas. If you can’t find them in stores now, bookmark this recipe for next year’s cookie exchange.
(Oh, and good news: Between the doughnut disaster and the time I made these cookies, I was gifted two brand-new cooling racks!)