Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What's For Dessert: Crème Brûlée Stout Pudding with Whipped Cream

I first tried Southern Tier Brewing Company's Crème Brûlée stout beer at Aqualand Ale House in Boulder Junction, WI. This was way back on New Year's Eve, and I have been dreaming about that stout ever since. I cannot put into words how happy I was when I found a bottle of it at our local grocery store. The only downside being that the bottle was ginormous -- way too much stout for me to drink in one sitting. So, sadly, the bottle languished in our fridge. 

Finally, after several months (and some gentle prodding from D), I decided that in addition to drinking a glass, I'd use the remainder in a few recipes. Given the beer's distinctive crème brûlée nose and sweet vanilla flavor, I knew it would work quite deliciously in dessert recipes. A quick Internet search led me to The Beeroness's site and her awesome recipe for chocolate stout pudding. I made a few tiny tweaks, and the resulting pudding is a delightfully rich treat with an unmistakable stout flavor. Because the flavor is so rich, I highly recommend using small serving containers; I used 4-ounce jelly jars (placing lids on top would make this pudding easily transportable and perfect for a picnic treat). If you can't find STBC's Crème Brûlée Stout, any chocolate stout or vanilla porter would likely make an excellent substitution.

Crème Brûlée Stout Pudding
makes 6 servings

For the pudding:
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup organic heavy cream
3/4 cup Crème Brûlée stout beer (or any chocolate stout)
1 large egg yolk
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the whipped cream:

1 cup organic heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a large sauce pot. Stir in the heavy cream, stout beer, and egg yolk.
2. Add the chopped chocolate and, while stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the mixture begins to boil, cook for one minute while whisking.
3. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the butter, one cube at a time. Then stir in the vanilla extract. 4. Carefully pour the pudding into six containers. (I used 4-ounce jelly jars.) Chill the pudding in the refrigerator until set, about 2 hours.
4. To make the whipped cream, chill your mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer for about 15 minutes.
5. Pour the heavy cream into the chilled mixing bowl and whip at high speed. When the cream begins to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla extract.
6. Continue to whip the cream until stiff peaks form.
7. Add a dollop of whipped cream to each container of pudding right before serving.

(lightly adapted from this recipe from The Beeroness)

Friday, October 24, 2014

What's Baking: Baked Apple Donuts with Maple-Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing

It's a grey and foggy morning up here in the Northwoods, and the only thing that pulled me out of bed this morning (well, aside from having to work, of course) was the thought of a big mug of coffee. And, if you give a mouse a cup of strong coffee, she's gonna need some donuts.

Luckily, D and I picked a peck (10 pounds) of organic liberty apples at Blue Vista Farm in Bayfield a couple of weekends ago, so I immediately knew that apple donuts would be on the breakfast menu. (Okay, fine, second breakfast menu . . .)

And of course, a donut is not a donut without icing on top. To complement the apple flavor, I made a maple-cinnamon cream cheese icing to go on top (because everything tastes better with a little cream cheese, right?).

And, just as I was about to take my first bite, the sun came out. That's my kind of happy little coincidence.

Baked Apple Donuts with Maple-Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing
makes six donuts

For the donuts:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt (non-fat, 2%, or whole)
1/4 cup organic skim milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons low-fat buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup finely grated apple (1 small apple, peeled and cored)

For the icing:
4 ounces (1/2 cup) cream cheese (or neufchatel)
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a donut pan with cooking spray and set aside.
2. Whisk together the dry ingredients.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together the yogurt, milk, egg, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until smooth. Fold in the grated apple.
4. Carefully spoon the donut batter into the prepared baking pan. Fill each cavity about 3/4 full.
5. Bake for 9-12 minutes, or until the donuts just spring back when touched.
6. Allow the donuts to cool in the pan for five minutes. Then remove the donuts from the pan and let cool completely.
7. While the donuts are cooling, make the icing: use an electric mixer to beat together the cream cheese and powdered sugar. Add in the maple syrup and cinnamon and beat on high until smooth.
8. Ice each donut just before serving. Icing can be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container; donuts can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

Monday, October 20, 2014

What's For Breakfast: Carrot Cake Granola

My new favorite granola is Nature's Path Love Crunch Carrot Cake granola. It is ridiculously delicious and I have to keep myself from eating all the super-satisfying granola chunks in one sitting. (I mean, we are all agreed that the chunks are the best part of granola, right?) One downside is that a pouch of it is fairly expensive, so I only ever buy it when it is on sale.

So, to ensure that I always have some carrot cake granola on hand, I decided my best option would be to try to make a batch of my own. This granola features classic carrot cake flavors -- cinnamon, pecans, raisins, pineapple, and of course, grated carrots. The one thing my recipe is missing is yogurt chips to give it a little cream-cheese flavor; I wasn't able to source any in my small town -- but if you can find them where you live, I'd recommend tossing in a handful after the granola has cooled.

Carrot Cake Granola
makes about 12-15 servings

1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/4 cup filtered water
4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
dash ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon Maldon sea salt
1/3 cup walnut oil [or use a neutral oil such as canola]
2 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups finely grated carrot (about 3 medium)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped dried pineapple

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Set aside.
2. In a medium sauce pot, combine together the brown sugar and filtered water. While stirring constantly, cook over medium-high heat until the mixture begins to boil. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
3. In a large bowl, add together the oats, sliced almonds, pecans, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and sea salt.
4. Stir the walnut oil and vanilla extract into the cooled brown sugar mixture. Then pour the sugar mixture over the oat mixture. Use a wooden spoon to combine the ingredients together. Stir in the grated carrot.
5. Spread the granola evenly onto the prepared baking sheet.
6. Bake for one hour and 15 minutes. Remove the granola from the oven and stir/flip the granola over to ensure even browning.
7. Bake for an additional 60 minutes, or until the granola is dry.
8. Remove the granola from the oven and stir in the raisins and pineapple. Allow the granola to cool completely. Store the granola in an airtight container for up to three weeks.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What I'm Drinking: Black & White Italian Cocktail

I definitely have a soft spot for cocktails that contain Kahlua or Irish cream. There may have been a phase during my senior year of college in which my roommates and I would toast many an evening with mudslide milkshakes. Later, during my bar-going phase, one of my favorite go-to cocktail orders was Bailey's on the rocks. (Wild and crazy, I know.) So when I saw a recent episode of Giada at Home that featured this Black & White Italian cocktail, I was immediately hooked. (Plus the name brings to mind my favorite black & white cookies of New York City fame, which gave the recipe an extra warm and fuzzy connotation to me.)

The black & white name comes from the drink's layered appearance that occurs due to the different densities of the alcohols and the cream (science!). You'll want to mix together the cocktail before serving (or encourage your guests to stir their cocktails just before drinking to maintain the "Ooh! Aah!" factor). Key to this cocktail's flavor is the use of a coffee ice cube (and a dramatically-sized ice cube adds an extra something special) . . . so you'll want to make those ahead. (Pour that extra coffee into an ice cube tray instead of down the drain the next time you have some leftover in the pot.) If you're super-senstive to caffeine, use decaf instead to prevent any late-night jitters.

Black & White Italian Cocktail
makes 1 drink

1 coffee ice cube (I like to use these large square ice molds)
1/2 ounce amaretto
1 ounce vodka
1 ounce coffee liqueur (e.g., Kahlua)
1 ounce organic half-and-half

1. Place the coffee ice cube in the bottom of an old-fashioned or rocks glass. Top with 1/2 ounce amaretto, 1 ounce vodka, and 1 ounce Kahlua. Stir to combine.
2. Top off with 1 ounce half-and-half; you will get a lovely layered look as the cream will sit atop the liqueur layer. Stir to combine before drinking.

(from this Giada De Laurentiis recipe)

Note: This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

What's (Not) Baking: No-Bake Cookie Balls, Two Ways {Vegan and Gluten-Free!}

I am officially obsessed with this recipe for no-bake chocolate chip peanut butter cookie balls. So obsessed, in fact, that I've made these balls three times in the past two weeks. This recipe, originally called "peanut butter cookie dough bites" is from The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon, the writer behind the blog Oh She Glows.

This cookbook, which provides gorgeous full-page photographs for each recipe, contains over 100 vegan recipes in categories ranging from breakfast to dessert. Back in my vegetarian days, I had a short-lived vegan phase. And by "short-lived," I mean it lasted like two days before I realized that my love for all things dairy (read ice cream and cheese) is a beast that cannot be caged. Even if I'm not a card-carrying vegan, I still appreciate recipes that are animal-product free. And this cookbook proves that vegan foods can be just as delicious, if not more so, than their non-vegan counterparts.

This recipe comes from the "Power Snacks" section. And it has become one of my favorite go-to pre- or post-workout snacks. (Or, okay, really, any-time-of-the-day snacks.) I have to admit I was a little worried at first that I'd just snarf down an entire batch of cookie balls in one sitting, but I have found that eating just one is totally satisfying. (Seriously!) And the fact that the ingredients are relatively wholesome means I don't feel all that bad when I consume more than one at a time. :)

The first couple of times I made these chocolate chip peanut butter cookie balls I opted to be a little extra-decadent and dipped the balls in a dark chocolate coating followed by a topping of chopped peanuts. And that is a totally satisfying option. However, the cookie balls are just as tasty without any embellishment.

These cookie balls are vegan (so long as you use dark chocolate) and gluten-free (just make sure your oats are specifically marked gluten-free; not all brands are processed separately from wheat products).

No-Bake Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookie Balls
makes 14 balls

1 1/2 cups oatmeal, blended or processed to a fine flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons smooth natural peanut butter (i.e., ingredients = peanuts and maybe salt)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips, chopped (or use miniature chips)

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the oatmeal flour, almond flour, and salt. Set aside.
2. Use an electric mixer to beat together the coconut oil and peanut butter. Add the maple syrup and vanilla extract and beat to thoroughly combine.
3. Add in the flour mixture and beat until a dough forms. Stir in the chopped chocolate chips by hand.
4. Use a tablespoon cookie scoop or two spoons to form tablespoon-sized balls.
5. Set the balls on a cutting board or other flat surface and place into the freezer for 10-15 minutes, or until firm.
6. Store the cookie balls in a freezer-safe container.

(from a recipe in The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon)

After I made (several) batches of the chocolate chip peanut butter cookie balls, I figured it was about time I experimented with my own cookie ball creation. I opted to start with the super-wholesome (and yet still quite delicious) oatmeal raisin cookie. These little cookie balls are full of oatmeal raisin cookie flavor, but are ready to pop into your mouth in a fraction of the time it would take to bake a batch of cookies. That's my kind of easy snack!

No-Bake Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Balls
makes 14 balls

1 1/2 cups oatmeal, blended or processed to a fine flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons whole oatmeal
3 tablespoons raisins, chopped (into halves or quarters)

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the oatmeal flour, almond flour, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
2. Use an electric mixer to beat together the coconut oil and maple syrup. Add vanilla extract and beat to thoroughly combine. 
3. Add in the flour mixture and beat until a dough forms. Stir in the whole oatmeal and chopped raisins by hand.
4. Use a tablespoon cookie scoop or two spoons to form tablespoon-sized balls. 
5. Set the balls on a cutting board or other flat surface and place into the freezer for 10-15 minutes, or until firm.
6. Store the cookie balls in a freezer-safe container. 

Note: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What's For Dinner: Slow Cooker Broccoli-Cheese Soup

On a blustery fall day, there is nothing better than a warm bowl of soup for dinner. I've made broccoli-cheese soup on the stovetop before, but I wanted to up the lazy factor, so I decided to make a slow cooker version. To make this soup gluten-free, I used potato starch as a thickening agent; if consuming wheat isn't a problem for you, go ahead and substitute in all-purpose flour. If using all-purpose flour, stir it into the onion-garlic mixture and cook for a minute or two until just slightly browned before adding in the evaporated milk.

I prefer a thick broccoli soup, so I only blended it slightly. For a smoother soup, blend it for longer; or, if you prefer a chunkier soup, go ahead and skip the blending step altogether. I used a mixture of monterey jack and sharp cheddar cheeses; you could also just use one or the other rather than a blend. When served alongside a few slices of crusty bread or a handful of saltine crackers, you've got yourself a comforting (and filling!) meal on a cold autumn night.

Slow Cooker Broccoli-Cheese Soup
makes 6-8 servings

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped white onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons potato starch (or all-purpose flour)
1 can (12 ounces) nonfat evaporated milk
4 cups (32 ounces) low-sodium vegetable broth
4-5 cups broccoli florets
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
pinch of red pepper flakes
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup organic half-and-half
1 cup shredded cheese (I used a mixture of monterey jack and sharp white cheddar)

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and saute until softened and golden, 5-7 minutes. Add in the garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the potato starch and evaporated milk, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, 1-2 minutes.
2. Pour the thickened onion mixture into the slow cooker. Stir in the vegetable broth, broccoli florets, dried basil, and pinch of red pepper flakes. Cover with the lid and cook on low 4-5 hours or high 2-3 hours.
3. If desired, use an immersion blender (or blend in batches with a regular blender) to puree the soup to your desired thickness. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Turn the slow cooker to warm or off, then stir in the half-and-half. (If your soup doesn't look thick enough, stir a tablespoon of potato starch or flour into the half-and-half before adding to the soup.)
5. Stir in the shredded cheese. Season with additional salt and pepper if necessary and serve immediately.

Monday, October 6, 2014

What's For Dessert: Pumpkin Spice Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream Cheese Filling

Oh, look! A pumpkin recipe -- how prosaic. I know, I know. But I can't help it -- it's October and I am officially jumping on the pumpkin bandwagon. And, okay, full disclosure, I was beyond excited when my favorite local coffeehouse put their pumpkin pie latte back on the menu a couple weeks ago. I mean, I must get some points for choosing a local cafe for my pumpkin latte fix rather than Starbucks, right? (Truth be told, I think the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte is kind of revolting; give me an Oprah chai any day.)

I was gifted a whoopie pie pan awhile back, but somehow I've only ever made whoopie pies once or twice, and always of the chocolate variety. So, this past weekend I dusted off the pan and set to work on a pumpkin spice whoopie pie. I worked from a recipe by Wilton (manufacturer of said whoopie pie pan) and played around with the sugar content and a few of the other ingredients. I also amped up the standard cream cheese filling by adding in a little maple syrup. The result? Autumn flavors in whoopie pie form.

Now, if only I can get the Fall season to stick around a little bit longer. I was not a fan of having to wipe snow off my car's windows on Saturday morning before heading to the gym. (Pardon the humble brag.) It's only been autumn for less than three weeks, Mother Nature! Could you let me enjoy sweater weather for just a few weeks longer before I have to break out my down coat and fuzzy winter hat?

Pumpkin Spice Whoopie Pies
makes ~10 whoopie pies

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (you could also use unbleached all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup organic skim milk mixed with 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt (or use 1/2 cup buttermilk)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a whoopie pie pan with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger.
3. Add the butter and sugar to an electric mixer bowl and cream together until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating between additions.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternately with the yogurt/milk mixture (or buttermilk) and pumpkin. Stir thoroughly between additions.
5. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, filling each cavity to no more than 1/2 full. (The fuller the cavity, the taller the cake will be.)
6. Bake 9-12 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when touched and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing and placing on a wire rack to cool completely.

Maple Cream Cheese Filling
1 package (8 ounces) plain cream cheese, softened (I used Neufchâtel)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1. Use an electric mixer to beat together the cream cheese and butter. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and maple syrup and beat until thoroughly combined.
2. To assemble the cakes, add a healthy dollop of filling (1 to 2 tablespoons or more) onto the flat side of one cake and sandwich together with another.

(adapted from this Wilton recipe)


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