Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Checkered Flag Racing Cupcakes

I have always wondered how people made dual-flavored swirled frosting, and now that I know, I've been sharing the info with everyone! You can use any two flavors of frosting for your swirls, but since we're just a few days out from the Indianapolis 500, I wanted to use the technique to make checkered flag racing cupcakes.

I started by making a basic vanilla buttercream frosting. I then took half of that frosting and made it chocolate buttercream just by adding cocoa powder and a little more heavy cream.

I then laid out a sheet of plastic wrap and used a spatula to spread the two frostings side by side. I folded one side over the other and stuck the whole thing into a pastry bag fitted with a 1M swirl piping tip. And that's it! To achieve the iconic swirl look, hold your piping bag upright and over the center of the cupcake. Apply pressure and begin circling the outside edge. Continue squeezing and add another layer of frosting working toward the center. Finish the spiral in the very center just by releasing pressure and lifting up!

You can use this frosting technique on any flavor of cupcake or with any flavors of frosting. In fact, you can even use more than two frosting flavors! I recommend piping the frosting onto a plate first though to make sure the flavors are coming out evenly before you put it on a cupcake.

Checkered Flag Racing Cupcakes
Yield: Makes about 12 cupcakes
For the vanilla cupcakes
  • 1 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (200 grams)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (198 grams)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted Challenge butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup yogurt (57 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites
For the swirl frosting
  • 1 cup unsalted Challenge butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (454 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 Tablespoons heavy cream, divided
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (42 grams)
For the vanilla cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl and set aside.
  3. Mix sugar and melted butter in large bowl. Whisk in milk, yogurt, and vanilla extract making sure the butter is not to hot beforehand otherwise the dairy will curdle.
  4. Slowly add flour mixture to wet ingredients and mix just until no lumps remain.
  5. Beat egg whites using whisk or mixer until frothy (about 1 minute of fast whisking by hand or 30 seconds with mixer).
  6. Add egg whites to mixture and slowly mix in.
  7. Divide batter amongst 12 cupcake liners and bake for about 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool.
For the swirl frosting
  1. In large bowl, beat butter at medium speed until smooth.
  2. Add powdered sugar, vanilla extract, salt, and 2 Tablespoons of heavy cream. Beat at low speed until combined, and then beat at high speed for an additional minute.
  3. Scrape away half of vanilla frosting and set aside.
  4. Add remaining 2 Tablespoons heavy cream and cocoa powder to bowl and beat until combined.
  5. Lay sheet of plastic wrap about a foot long onto work surface.
  6. Use spatula to spread chocolate frosting into 3-inch strip in center of plastic wrap. Spread vanilla frosting in 3-inch strip alongside chocolate frosting being careful not to mix the two.
  7. Fold chocolate frosting over vanilla frosting and place into piping bag fitted with 1M swirl piping tip.
  8. Pipe onto cupcakes and serve.
Recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction and Delish

Monday, May 15, 2017

Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie

What could possibly be better than a chocolate chip cookie? A GIANT chocolate chip cookie that’s thick and crisp around the edges with a soft center. Oh, and with a scoop of ice cream on top. There is nothing more beautiful than an ice cream river running through the center of a warm cookie.

I’ve already gone into extensive detail about how to make the perfect chocolate chip cookies.

But you can also use the exact same recipe to make a skillet cookie!

Skillet cookies are not only cool looking (anything in a cast iron skillet looks “rustic”), but they are also a lot quicker to make than regular cookies because you don’t have to chill the dough or roll them out.

I used a 9-inch cast iron skillet for this recipe, and it was just the right size because the cookie was nice and thick – just the way I like it! You can use any size skillet from 7” to 12” but just keep in mind there is an indirect relationship between cooking time and skillet size (throwing out math terms to impress you all, let me know if it works). For example, a 12-inch skillet may cook up to 5 minutes less than a 9-inck skillet because the dough won’t be as thick and will cook faster.

It’s important to not overbake the cookie. Keep it in the oven just until the edges start to turn golden brown. The center may be slightly underbaked, but that’s what makes it so delicious!

You can either cut up the cookie and serve it, or you can just give everyone a spoon and let them dig in! I prefer option 2!

Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie
Yield: Makes 1 large skillet cookie

  • 2 and 1/4 cups flour (281.25 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup Challenge salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar (207 grams)
  • 1 (3.4 oz) package instant vanilla pudding
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit; prepare cast iron skillet and set aside
  2. Combine flour and baking soda in medium bowl and set aside.
  3. In large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together until light and fuffy.
  4. Add instant vanilla pudding package and beat until well blended.
  5. Mix in eggs and vanilla.
  6. Slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture until just incorporated.
  7. Fold in chocolate chips with a spatula.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and cool about 10 minutes before serving with scoop of ice cream.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Blueberry Lemon Monkey Bread

Every year on Mother’s Day I’m stumped. I have the hardest time trying to find a gift for my mother.

What do you get the most important woman in your world? What do you get the woman who gave you life… the woman who selflessly serves the needs of your family… the woman who compromises her sleep to ensure your well-being… the woman who loves you unconditionally?

If you have the answer, let me know. In the meantime, my mom’s getting a plant, ha!

But seriously, my mother is the hardest person to shop for. She’s definitely not a “material girl,” and she doesn’t care for perfumes or jewelry or purses. So if you’re in a similar situation, I recommend making your mom something to eat! The way to any woman’s heart is through her stomach. That saying is typically reserved for men, but trust me, it applies to women too!

This year for Mother’s Day I really wanted to make something unique. One of my favorite spring flavor combinations is blueberry-lemon, and somehow I got the idea that it would work well as a monkey bread. I always have monkey bread on my mind. And although it took a few tries to perfect, I love the way it turned out. I think it’s the most beautiful brunch recipe I’ve ever made.

I’m going to walk you through the process of how I made it so you don’t make the same mistakes I initially did.

The first step is to macerate your blueberries, and it’s important to note that you should allow plenty of time for this. If you don’t know, macerating draws out the natural juices in fruit so it develops a thin syrup. You do this by adding sugar to the bowl of berries. That’s really all it takes. Because blueberries have skin, the maceration process takes a bit longer. I recommend doing this step up at least several hours in advance. If you didn't prep that far ahead, don’t worry about! But try to at least let them macerate for a half hour.

Secondly, don't forget to add butter to the dough mixture! If you skip this step, the dough is more likely to stick to the pan. I always use Challenge butter because they use 100% real cream without any hormones, additives, or fillers, and I think it makes a big difference in the taste.

Next, when you add the blueberries to the bundt pan, add half of the biscuit dough first, then add all of the blueberries, and finish with the remaining biscuit dough. It’s important that the blueberry layer goes in the middle. I tried adding the blueberries a couple of different ways, and this looks the best by far!

Lastly, don’t wait too long to flip the monkey bread out of the bundt pan after you bake it! I like to invert the monkey bread onto a plate about 20 minutes after removing it from the oven. If you wait too long, it will stick to the pan and fall out in pieces. I’ve had that happen before, and it’s the worst!

Let me know if you make Blueberry Lemon Monkey Bread for your mom for Mother’s Day, and thank you to all of the strong, gracious mothers out there! You don’t hear it enough, but we appreciate you!

Blueberry Lemon Monkey Bread
Macerate the blueberries
  • 1/2 pint blueberries
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
For the monkey bread
  • 2 (16 ounce) cans refrigerated biscuit dough
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon zest
  • 4 Tablespoons Challenge butter, melted
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Macerate the blueberries
  1. Combine blueberries, sugar, and lemon juice; set aside until ready to use. You can make this up to a day in advance.
For the monkey bread
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit; prepare bundt pan with non-stick spray and set aside.
  2. Cut each biscuit into quarters, and add dough to large bowl.
  3. Add sugar and lemon zest to bowl, and mix until all of the sugar sticks to the dough.
  4. Add melted butter to bowl, and mix until dough is coated.
  5. Evenly spread half of dough along bottom of bundt pan; add all of the blueberries.
  6. Finish by layering the remaining dough on top of the blueberries.
  7. Bake monkey bread for 30 to 35 minutes, or until dough looks golden brown.
  8. Let monkey bread cool for 15 to 20 minutes before inverting it onto a plate.
For the icing
  1. Whisk together powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth. The icing should be thick, but it should flow enough that you can still drizzle it. If it is too thin, add more powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached.
  2. Drizzle icing over monkey bread and serve.
Recipe adapted from Mind Over Batter

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Breakfast Pigs in a Blanket

This time of year I'm always looking for new brunch and breakfast ideas with Mother's Day and Father's Day coming up. I look for easy recipes that can be prepped in just a few minutes and made ahead of time, ad this recipe for Breakfast Pigs in a Blanket definitely fits the bill.

All you need is one can of refrigerated cinnamon rolls and sausage links. You ca use regular sausage or turkey sausage. Personally, I prefer the sausage that's already cooked because it makes the prep even easier. Then you just take a cinnamon roll, unravel it, and cut it into 3 or 4 equal parts. (Obviously you can get a higher yield if you cut it into 4 parts, but if you don't have many sausage links, you can just cut it into 3 parts.) And then just wrap the cinnamon roll around the sausage.

After the Pigs in a Blanket finish cooking, I like to add a maple glaze on top. It's just a few ingredients (butter, maple syrup, powdered sugar), but it makes a huge difference in taste!

And that's it! The result is a portable treat that's the perfect combination of a little salty and a little sweet. The yield is pretty large, so these would also be great for a tailgate or bridal shower or other brunch function with a big group of people.

Breakfast Pigs in a Blanket
Yield: Makes between 15 and 20 Pigs in a Blanket
  • 1 can Grands Cinnamon Rolls (you can use another cinnamon roll brand as long as it unravels)
  • 15 to 20 sausage links
  • 4 Tablespoons Challenge butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit; line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside
  2. Unravel each of the 5 cinnamon rolls and cut into 3 or 4 equal pieces
  3. Wrap one piece of dough around each sausage link and place on baking sheet
  4. Bake between 20 to 25 minutes, or until cinnamon roll starts to turn golden brown
  5. Mix together butter and maple syrup; slowly add powdered sugar and mix until combined and there are no lumps
  6. Drizzle glaze over pigs in a blanket and serve

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Using food pantry staples to make filling meals

Food is a big part of my life. For me, it’s almost like art. I love looking at it, learning about it, and of course consuming it. I follow a lot of food blogs and restaurants because I love looking at everyone’s creations.

That being said, it can be so easy for me to forget that food is a painful topic for some people because it’s not always available and they have to worry about when they’ll get their next meal.

The amount of people that suffer from food insecurity in Indiana alone is heartbreaking. According to Midwest and Gleaners Food Banks, more than 1 million people in Indiana suffer from food insecurity, and one out of every six Hoosiers don’t know where their next meal will come from.

When I was in elementary school, my mom would pack me big lunches everyday. I remember in the fifth grade, one of my classmates would ask me for my leftovers. I never thought anything of it, and I gave them to her. One day when we were at computer class, she left to “go to the bathroom.” But in actuality she went back to the classroom to get in my lunchbox, and my teacher caught her eating my food.

We had a private meeting with the teacher about it. Our teacher asked her why she stole my food. She said she stole it because she was hungry. It made me so so sad for her. 

That’s why the recipes in this blog post are a little different. This week FOX59 teamed up with Midwest and Gleaners Food Banks to raise money to fight hunger. They asked me to create a few recipes using items at the food pantry to give patrons an idea of what they can make. So I visited Old Bethel & Partners Food Pantry, and these are the recipes I came up with! I really wanted to focus on filling recipes that can be stretched out to feed a lot of people.

When I visited the food pantry, I learned that yogurt and frozen fruit are most always available for patrons. There's also usually a fresh fruit option and granola. That's what inspired me to makes these yogurt parfaits. Use any frozen or fresh fruit you want, and if granola isn't available, use dry cereal!

Fruit & Yogurt Parfaits
  • 1/4 cup granola, plus 1 Tablespoon for sprinkling on top*
  • 1/4 cup frozen blueberries, plus 1 Tablespoon for sprinkling on top*
  • 1 cup yogurt, any flavor
  • 1 strawberry*
  1. Add 1/4 cup granola to bowl or mason jar. Layer 1/4 cup frozen blueberries and yogurt on top.
  2. Finish off by adding another Tablespoon of granola and frozen blueberries. Finish with a strawberry on top.
  3. Can be made up to three days in advance.
*You can substitute dry cereal for granola, and you can use any frozen or fresh fruit.

Eggs are obviously a good breakfast choice and a good source of protein, and they're available at the food pantry. However, patrons are generally limited to only taking one dozen. On the other hand, they had an abundance of English muffins, in fact, you could take as many as you needed. That's why I decided to make Egg "McMuffin" Style Sandwiches. It's more filling than just one egg, and you can make your egg supply last longer.

Egg Breakfast Sandwich
  • 1 English muffin
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tablespoon cheese, if available
  1. Split your English muffin with a fork and toast it by laying both sides face down on a skillet for about 1.5 minutes. Add cheese to 1 muffin half and set aside.
  2. Lay the ring of a mason jar lid onto the skillet crack an egg, and pour it into the ring. Use a fork to break the yolk so it flows into the white but it's not completely scrambled. Cook the egg for about 2.5 minutes or until the white firms up.
  3. Remove the mason jar ring and carefully flip the egg. Cook for an additional minute and remove from skillet. Place egg on the muffin half with the cheese.
  4. Eat immediately or make ahead up to 3 days in advance.

The pantry always has a meat option available. Sometimes it's canned chicken, sometimes it's beef. But lately the pantry has been getting in whole frozen chickens. Some patrons may be overwhelmed by a whole chicken, but they're very easy to cook. 

Also, canned vegetables and rice are generally available, and this is a good way to use them up! I even added eggs for added protein to make it more filling. 

And they most always have lettuce which can be used with the chicken fried rice to make chicken lettuce wraps. This is great for leftovers. It's also a good idea because anytime you add a leafy vegetable it's going to be more filling.

Chicken Fried Rice
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 cups rice
  • 1 pound chicken, cooked
  • 1 can mixed vegetables
  • 5 Tablespoons soy sauce
  1. Prepare rice according to package instructions and cook chicken ahead of time.*
  2. Heat oil in large skillet on low and add green onions and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring intermittently.
  3. Push onion and garlic to one side of pan with spatula, and add eggs to empty side. Scramble eggs and cook until no longer runny. Stir everything back together so it's evenly distributed throughout pan.
  4. Add rice, chicken, and mixed vegetables, and drizzle soy sauce evenly on top. Stir until everything is combined and heated through, about 2 minutes.
  5. Serve immediately or keep in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  6. *If using a whole, frozen chicken let thaw before cooking and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 1.5 to 2 hours. Remove chicken meat from bones and dice into bite-size pieces.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Deluxe Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I’m a sucker for a good sandwich. In my opinion, texture, flavor and color are key. And even though grilled cheese sandwiches can be as basic as you want them to be (think Kraft Singles and Wonder Bread), I think they deserve the same love that every other sandwich receives.

So let’s first discuss the bread. It should be thick enough to securely hold all of your toppings, but it shouldn’t taste like you’re just eating a mouthful of bread.

My favorite bread to use for grilled cheese is sourdough. It’s just the right thickness and it doesn’t have a very strong taste, which is great because we want the flavor of the cheese to stand out.

Butter or Mayonnaise?
In the past week I’ve learned that some people prefer to spread mayonnaise instead of butter on the outside of the bread before cooking it in the pan. Apparently, it’s supposed to make the outside of the bread crispier.

I tried it, and I don’t like it. I say butter all the way! I always use Challenge butter in the pan beforehand in addition to spreading it on the bread. Challenge butter is 100% real cream butter without any hormones, additives, or fillers, and I think it makes a big difference in the taste.

Cheese is obviously the most important part of the grilled cheese sandwich. I don’t recommend using more than two types of cheese at once because you don’t want the flavors to overpower one another. If you do use more than one type of cheese, make sure they complement each other and pair well before you stick them on a sandwich.

If you’re stuck in a rut and you’re looking to try something new, Kareen Stephens, Brand Manager at Schuman Cheese, shared some advice on her favorite cheeses for grilled cheese sandwiches.

She says soft cheeses work really well and offer a fabulous melt.

“Our Cello Fontal has a smooth, creamy texture with a mild flavor that offers an amazingly gooey melt. Asiago is also great for melting and has a nice sweet and balanced flavor. One cheese that is sure to upgrade any grilled cheese recipe is Tallegio, which has a strong pungent exterior that reveals a delicious buttery soft cheese inside,” Stephens said.

Since a lot of the soft cheeses have a mild flavor, she recommends pairing them with cheese that has a sharper flavor like Copper Kettle Parmesan and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

I don’t think you should go “over-the-top” with toppings because like I said earlier, you want the cheese to be the main focus.

Bacon and prosciutto are always good choices. I also love adding fried egg with a nice runny yolk to dip it in. And I love the texture of avocado on a sandwich.

Deluxe Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Yield: 1 sandwich
  • 4 Tablespoons Challenge butter, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 2 slices sourdough bread
  • 2 slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • 2 slices gouda cheese
  1. Add 1 Tablespoon butter to a skillet on medium heat. Once melted, add an egg and cook for two minutes on one side before flipping it to cook on the other side. Cook one minute longer, and remove from pan and set aside.
  2. Add another Tablespoon of butter to skillet and let melt. Use 1 Tablespoon to butter one side of a single slice of bread and stick butter side down in skillet.
  3. Add 2 slices of cheddar cheese, bacon, avocado, fried egg, and 2 slices of gouda cheese.
  4. Spread 1 Tablespoon of butter on second slice of bread and add it to top of sandwich, butter side up.
  5. Cook sandwich for about 4 minutes on medium heat and then use a spatula to flip it to the other side. Cook an additional 3 minutes on the other side and serve immediately. 

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