butter top bar

butter top bar

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

Oh no no no. 
I hate to start off a post on a such bad note, but I must.
 Good old Maryland. Oh yes. Where we get an earthquake and a hurricane in one tiny week.

One of the best things about Maryland is we (are supposed to) avoid the crazy weather! That is why I would never want to move to California. Because, I'm a baby, and if I'm being honest, I'm terrified. 
The problem is, when us good ol' Marylanders get such crazy weather, we panic. 
We decide we need to buy 15 gallons of water, granola bars to last a month, and 80 cans of soup.
 I went to the grocery store yesterday morning, just to buy my usual groceries. Big mistake. BIG mistake.

Has anyone ever told you craziness is contagious?
 "Oh, what's that? Everyone has 15 gallons of water in their carts? Is it the apocalypse?"
"Maybe I need 10 gallons of water also. Maybe I need to buy a ton of sports drinks and everything possible".
 The winds are picking up right now. Everyone is panicked. I am going on vacation tomorrow. I just hope no trees come crashing through our house tonight.

If we survive, I'm pretty sure we are eating at Cracker Barrel tomorrow morning, which is one of my favorite places to go. Yum, biscuits and corn bread.

Also, if we make it to our lovely vacation, I'll be making some more of these delicious cupcakes with the creamiest, dreamiest, chocolate frosting in existence.
Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together milk, vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds.  Set aside.
In a stand mixer, fit with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  This may take 3 to 5 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is well incorporated.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition.  If the batter begins to looks a bit curdled, that’s alright.
with the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the vanilla milk mixture in three batches, starting and ending with the flour.  When the batter is almost combined, stop the mixer and finish mixing the batter with a spatula, making sure that any flour bits at the bottom of the bowl are well incorporated.
Divide into the lined cupcake pan and bake for 25 minutes or until golden and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely before frosting.

The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup Ovaltine

Cream together butter, cocoa powder and salt. Butter mixture will be very thick. Turn off the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add powdered sugar. Turn mixer on low and mix in powdered sugar while adding milk and vanilla extract. As the sugar incorporates, raise the speed of the mixer to beat the frosting. Beat until smooth. In a 1-cup measuring glass, stir together heavy cream and Ovaltine. Turn mixer speed to medium and pour cream mixture into frosting in a slow, steady stream, until you’ve reached your desired consistency.  You may not need the full amount of Ovaltine and cream.  Spread or pipe onto cupcakes.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Plum Cake

I have a problem. Big uh oh.

I lost about thirteen pounds. 
I did this, and for the past two weeks, I haven't lost any more weight. 

It's my own fault. I'm still exercising during the week. Hard, intense workouts. Good for my heart.
I'm still not stuffing my face, but I haven't been consistently cutting my calories enough to lose. 
I'm eating enough calories to maintain my weight, but not lose anymore. Boo.
I'll have one perfect day, and then I'll go to a Japanese steak house and over-eat.

This eating more than I should ends tomorrow.

In two weeks we are going on a vacation to Virginia in the mountains, where I plan on indulging quite a bit. So I need two good weeks before I go!

It is time to snap back into cutting calories the right way! 

I'm not totally unhappy with myself, but I have a ways to go before I hit my "goal".
 I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.
 I realize this is a bit personal to be sharing on my food blog, but I feel like we're definitely on that level. If I haven't lost you yet as a reader, I feel confident that we're friends. Friends share things.
 Back to eating right. 

I'll share what I plan on eating all day tomorrow. This will work for me.

Workout 5:30am
Breakfast - Greek yogurt with blueberries
Snack - 5 egg whites
Lunch - Turkey on whole grain bread with spicy mustard and tomatoes
Snack - Two clementine oranges & a small plum
Dinner - Panko breaded boneless skinless chicken breast, garden salad with oil and vinegar, squash & red potatoes.
Snack - Cottage cheese.
 Speaking of good things to eat. I found the most amazing grapes at the farmers' market this weekend. They were tender and had such a distinctive flavor. The plums I got were flavorful without being mushy.

I just had to put them in this cake. This cake was amazing.  The batter is good enough that you could theoretically leave the fruit out.
I saw was, because it was devoured by my family almost instantly.

I added orange zest, but you could play around with it and add lemon zest, lime, or even grapefruit zest. Play around with it!
Plum Cake
Adapted, barely, from Baking: From My Home to Yours

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/3 cup flavorless oil, such as canola
Grated zest of 1 orange

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

8 purple or red plums (or even peaches, nectarines or apricots), halved and pitted

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan, dust the inside with flour, tap out the excess and put the pan on a baking sheet.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together.
Working with a mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until it’s soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. 
Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes, then add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a minute after each egg goes in. Still working on medium speed, beat in the oil, zest and vanilla; the batter will look smooth and creamy, almost satiny. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.
Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter, just to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums cut side up in the batter. This should make four rows of four plum halves. Wiggle the plums a tad just so they settle comfortably into the batter.
Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the plums and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. 
Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 15 minutes during which time the plums juices will seep back into the cake then run a knife around the sides of the pan and unmold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.
Once cool, I dusted mine with powdered sugar. It soaks into the plums, but keeps the cake a speckly white.
You can wrap the cake and keep it at room temperature for up to 2 days, during which time it will get softer and moister.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Apple Cobbler For Two

Have you ever seen the show Baggage? It goes a little something like this.

Jerry Springer is the host. There's a person trying to find a date. Three women/men are on the show with a small, medium, and large piece of "baggage" trying to win the person over. First they reveal their smallest baggage, next their medium, then one is eliminated, and finally one is left standing.
 My baggage would go something like this:

-I'm obsessed with knowing what I'll be eating for my next meal hours ahead of time.

-I have a severe peanut allergy and am scared for my life eating at Chinese restaurants.

-I love licking the bowl. Literally licking the bowl.
-I have two tattoos, one of which I'm embarrassed by. I was young. I'm over it. Oh well.

-I sing and dance in my car, and if someone sees me, I make eye contact to make it equally as awkward for them.

-I'm a little bit obsessive with making plans.

-I love the way my dog's ears smell.
- I love the way my dog's feet smell. It's almost like popcorn.

-I turn beet red in the face after working out. I mean as red as red can be. It's not pretty.

-I paint my nails and toes all colors of the rainbow. I'm like 10 years old.

-I wear earplugs to sleep.

-I check my alarm chock 2 times because I'm nervous that it won't go off in the morning.
 Today I made apples with a crumble-like topping. They are easy to make. Whipped up in about 5 minutes and baked for 30 minutes. Easy easy easy. These apples are baggage free (just in case you didn't know).
Apple Cobbler For Two

1 apple
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon shredded coconut
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed

Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Slice an apple in half and remove the core. 

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, coconut, and almonds.  Add butter and, with your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients.  Quickly break up the butter until it is well combined.  Some of the butter bits will be the size of oat flakes, others will be the size of small peas.
Place apple halves, cut side up, in a small, oven-safe dish.  Top each peach half with a large portion of crumble topping. 
Bake for 30 minutes, until topping is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and serve warm with vanilla ice cream or cold milk.  Apples are best served warm from the oven.
You could use peaches or plums as well for this recipe. If you use peaches, reduce baking time to 20 minutes.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Peach Scones

Um, butter chunks. Yeah, totally yummy. I almost ate this butter before actually making the scones. I say almost, because I resisted. My girlish figure really doesn't need to be eating sticks of butter. Don't tell anyone though. I totally need my butter-eating reputation to hold up.
There's something magical that happens when I'm in the kitchen. 
I get so excited knowing that I can mix ingredients and come up with something so delicious. I become a different, scientific version of myself. I actually call myself Katie the Science Lady.

Okay, I'm lying. I don't call myself that (or maybe I do). It would be quite funny if I did.
I have routines, daily routines. They make me happy and annoyed at the same time.

For example, I wake up every morning at 5:30, get dressed, defrost a bagel, wrap it up and stick it in my purse, grab a bottle of water, and head to the gym.
After the gym, I head to work. Bagel in one hand, steering wheel in the other. I get to work and park outside. I quickly do my makeup in the car, then scurry into work. For a snack I have 5 egg whites, boiled, and usually a piece of fruit (whatever is in season).
Right now peaches are in season, and I am totally in love with them. Their flavor is so mild and yet distinctive. I love a peach that is ripe enough that you need a few napkins to eat it. I usually eat them standing over a sink to avoid the mess.
If I were to eat oatmeal instead of a bagel for breakfast, it might make me happy to be veering off from my daily bagel routine. 
It's all about balance. I like a routine, but I also like to mix it up from time to time.

Is it sad that oatmeal would be "mixing it up" for me?
If I were to make oatmeal for breakfast instead of my usual bagel, I might add peach at this time of year. That would be delicious. Are you with me on this?

Peach Scones
Makes 8 Scones

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

4 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup diced, peeled peaches
4 tablespoons heavy cream, for brushing the tops of the scones

2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling on top

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Drop the cubes of butter over the flour mixture. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender, or your hands. Work until the mixture resembles course meal.
In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the heavy cream, egg, vanilla, and almond extract. Pour over the flour and butter mixture. Mix with a spatula or wooden smooth just until the dough comes together. Do not over mix. Carefully fold in the chopped peaches. Dough will be very sticky.
Transfer the dough to a floured 8 inch round cake pan and cut into 8 triangle shaped scones. Place on a baking sheet.
Lightly brush scones with heavy cream and sprinkle generously with cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Let scones cool on a wire rack before serving.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lucille's Buttery Blueberry Muffins

Today is Lucille Ball's 100th birthday. So sad that she's not around anymore. I grew up watching I Love Lucy every night.  She was hysterical and I think...beautiful. Her goofy comedy and bubbly personality remain timeless. I think there is no one like her. I used to watch I Love Lucy until the wee hours of the morning.
In 1929, Lucy landed work as a model (we can see why) and later began her performing career on Broadway using the stage name Dianne Belmont. 
She appeared in many small movie roles in the 1930s. 
1951 is when she helped create I love Lucy. 
The show ended in 1957 after 180 episodes.
I've probably seen about 150 out of 180.
Happy birthday Lucy! I love you!
Blueberry muffins are really easy to make. They taste better than Dunkin' Donuts' muffins, and if you know me, you'll know I love their muffins.

While making the butter-crumble topping, there are two ways of dealing with the butter. 
First, you can make it almost room temperature, so a fork can just go through it, but so it's not melted at all. When you mix in the cinnamon and brown sugar, it will be pretty thick. If you bake them with this topping, it won't spread out much in the oven.

Second, you can make it a little more melted than room temperature. Not totally, just a little bit more. If you do it this way, you will mix in the cinnamon and brown sugar, and it will be a melted sugary topping. While baking, you'll want to put foil under the muffin pan to catch the melted butter. It will spread out and evenly cover the muffins.

Both ways are good. Sorry if I'm confusing you. In my head, it makes sense.

I'll give you a couple of pictures of what I mean.
Below is the first topping option. Not too melted. More crumbly.
Now, here is the more melted topping option.

Both look yummy, right?!

Lucille's Buttery Blueberry Muffins
Makes 8 normal sized muffins
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.
Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.
To Make Crumb Topping: Mix together 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix with fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking. Place foil under pan in the oven.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Porridge with Cream, Honey and Brown Sugar

Camping trip number two. This time, it was 95 degrees, not 68. Oh well. It was breezy under the trees at our camp site, and night time was a bit odd. Very humid, yet cool. I was cold and sweating at the same time. 
Being on a camping trip makes me realize how much I love my husband. He knows I'm scared of bugs, and kills them for me. I also surprised myself a bit on this trip. I wasn't as scared of bugs this time as I normally am. Perhaps because I was expecting them.
"Oh look, a bug is on my leg, let me flick it off" came out of my mouth rather than my usual "ahhhhhh!!!".
Unfortunately, I burned the hell out of my feet. Jon put up bug sticks. They stick out of the ground and burn slowly (with no visible flame). I walked into one of them (I didn't see it). I thought I got stung by ten bees. Nope, just hot ash. Very, very hot ash. 

My foot doesn't look too pretty as of now.
This breakfast was delicious. The steel cut oatmeal we made with milk instead of water, and added honey, cream and brown sugar. I love camping because I get to take little bottles of condiments.
Sausage is delicious. We used the grease from the sausage to cook our eggs. We made use of everything and ate the eggs right out of the pan. We're cool like that.

Steel cut oatmeal takes time to make, but it well worth it. If you smothered it with with butter, I wouldn't object, in fact, I might love you more.

Porridge with Cream, Honey and Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Irish Oatmeal
two cups low-fat milk
brown sugar
half & half of butter

Into two cups of briskly boiling milk sprinkle 1/2 cup of oatmeal, stirring well. When the porridge is smooth and beginning to thicken, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes stirring regularly. Serve with half and half, brown sugar and honey.