Archive for March, 2008

The difference between cupcakes and muffins

March 19, 2008

The last time I made cupcakes, some members of my household argued with me about them.

“These aren’t cupcakes!” my roommate said. “They have fruit in them! They’re muffins!”

“Um…there is a cup of sugar in them. They have cream cheese frosting on top of them. They are cupcakes,” I responded. “Who said you can’t have fruit in cake?”

The recipe was originally for Apple Spice Cake. Yum. Note the word “cake” being present in both “Apple Spice Cake” and “cupcake.” HA! I think the real difference is the amount of sugar used. I always think of muffins as being less sweet with no frosting. Yes?

Today I decided to make Banana Blueberry Muffins, mostly because that was one of the only things I had all the ingredients for. Plus I woke up and realized I had zilch for breakfast. These muffins aren’t exceptionally sweet, which is a bonus. Also, don’t be scared of the whole wheat flour, it makes the muffins chewy and dense and lovely. They are delicious warm with butter.

Banana Blueberry Muffins

INGREDIENTS
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

DIRECTIONS
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line and lightly grease liners in a 12 cup muffin pan.
2) In a large bowl, mix the whole wheat flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, mix the bananas, egg whites, and vanilla extract.
3) Mix the banana mixture into the flour mixture until smooth. Fold in the blueberries, being careful not to break them up. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle 1/4 tsp. of brown sugar on each unbaked muffin.
4) Bake 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

I swear I can bake

March 14, 2008

My friend Heather and I decided to make dinner together last night. Heather is my favorite foodie friend and I’ve yet to find anyone else that gets as excited about shopping for pans and vanilla extract as I do.

No recipes today, but the lovely hostess put together a gorgeous strata which (I think) had prosciutto, chevre, green onions and mozzarella. The next time I try this, I’m going to add tomatoes or roasted red peppers for some acid. This SO good!

Strata in progress

The reason I’m not entirely sure what was in it was because I was wrestling with our raspberry vanilla cupcakes. Giada is right…all ingrediants should be the same temperature! The eggs wouldn’t incorporate with the butter because the butter was still cold…grr. I swear I’m a better baker of desserts than maker of dinners and this has never happened to me before! All’s well that ends well though, because they turned out great πŸ™‚

What was on the bottom of the cakes…Raspberry Jam

Before the cupcakes went in the oven

All done…mmmm.

We also had some delicious cocktails that Heather made with an infused simple syrup, orange and pomegranate juice. mmmmm.

Simple Syrup with mint, orange zest & Buddha hand (weird lemon thing)

I wish my camera hadn’t run outta juice, because there would have been cute pics of me, Heather, Nick and Roxie (the dog!), not to mention all of the fun ingrediants and tools I got to use. I really must invest in more rechargeable batteries!

Just wanted to see if I could do it

March 11, 2008

Today I randomly decided to make bread pudding. I had a semi-stale french baguette from Trader Joes, eggs, my roommate’s milk…why not? I just sort of made it up as I went along.

Also, pay no attention to my seriously grimy kitchen. I live with guys. They don’t clean and I don’t have all day to clean up after them πŸ™‚

French Bread Pudding with Lemon Sauce

1 baguette, cut into slices

3 cups whole or 2% milk

5 eggs

2 tbsp. vanilla extract

1/2 c. sugar

raisins (optional)

1) Grease either a deep pie plate or square baking dish liberally with butter. Don’t be afraid of it…butter is your friend. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2) Whisk together milk, eggs and sugar in a seperate bowl.

3) Slice the baguette into 3/4 inch thick slices (approximately, obviously) and arrange them on the bottom of the pan as closely as possible. Sprinkle with cinnamon and raisins. If you are using raisins, I have found that they tend to singe on top, so I would only put them on the first layer.

4) Pour approximately half of the milk mixture over the bread.

5) Add another layer of bread and pour the remainder of the milk mixture over top. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

6) Bake for about 45 minutes or until it doesn’t look runny anymore.

Lemon Sauce

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup boiling water

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon butter

In a saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add boiling water. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick and clear. Stir in lemon peel, lemon juice, and butter. Serve warm.

Baked and Wired

March 9, 2008
Strawberry Cupcake with Strawberry Icing

Today marks a day to be remembered…my first foray into the cupcake bakeries of D.C.! To be honest, my two friends and I ended up at Baked & Wired by accident. We originally wanted to go to Georgetown Cupcake, but when we got there, two things prevented us from eating there:
1) The line was out the door. By a lot. About halfway down the block. We asked one guy how long he’d been there, and he said about 15 minutes and it wasn’t moving. Oy.
2) This helpful man in line also informed us that the bakery was out of everything.
Welll ok. Not to be foiled, we decided to go shopping for a few minutes in Anthropologie, where a lovely sales girl turned out to be a cupcake-o-phile just like Heather and I. She told us about Baked & Wired, which was right down the street. We went, we saw, we conquered. Although they only had a few kinds of cupcakes (strawberry, red velvet, vanilla with vanilla, and yellow with chocolate buttercream), they were pretty good. I loved how they were presented in the paper they were baked in, WAY cuter than regular liners.

Red Velvet Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting

To be fair, I heard the girl working at Baked and Wired say that they had been in Georgetown for about 7 years, while I believe Georgetown Cupcake just opened. Maybe it was just the “new” factor that was pullin in the people. Either way, it sounded to me like they had comparable menus. The one thing that I would say is that I do prefer not to be overwhelmed with sugar (or salt) no matter what I’m eating, and I would have liked to taste less sugar and more actual flavors both in the frosting and the cake. But the cake was moist and I didn’t feel like the frosting overwhelmed it.

Strawberry and Red Velvet

I’m going to give you a recipe for Apple Raisin Spice Cupcakes, which i just tried and loved. I tweaked a recipe that I found….somewhere (i can’t remember, honestly) and came out with this. I like a less sweet cupcake so that I don’t feel like my teeth are going to fall out while eating it.

Apple Raisin Spice Cupcakes — yields about 24 medium sized cupcakes.

1 stick butter or margarine, melted and cooled

1 1/2 c. white sugar

3 eggs, beaten

2 tsp. vanilla

3 c. flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

2 1/2 c. granny smith apples, peeled and chopped

1 c. raisins

1) Preheat the oven to 325 F.

2) Mix sugar, eggs, butter and vanilla on low speed until incorporated. Make sure the butter is cool so it doesn’t scramble your eggs πŸ™‚

3) Add the baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour and mix until incorporated. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to make sure all the flour is mixed in.

4) Add the apples and raisins and gently mix only until they are covered in batter. You don’t want to break these up in to little pieces!

5) Stick these puppies in liners/muffin pan. Bake for approximately 20 minutes. My oven sucks, so it’s entirely possible yours could bake faster or slower.

6) Turn out onto racks and let cool. Then frost with…..

One Step Cream Cheese Frosting

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1) In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use

Baby, it’s cold outside

March 9, 2008

Now look…I was hesitant to even venture into the food blogging world. Everyone out there has such amazing recipes and photographs (someday I’ll upgrade to a nice camera, for now you’ll have to look at food that only my lovely little PowerShot can capture) and I’m nervous that maybe my recipes won’t stack up.

Oh whatever. That isn’t true. The truth is that I’m excited to do this. I’m such a wannabe chef, I love Food Network and I just spent 3 hours in William Sonoma today drooling over immersion blenders. I might not have gone to culinary school, but I can cook. πŸ™‚

It’s cold and rainy up in Northern Virginia this evening. Perfect night for sweats, my college sweatshirt, and a batch of “what-i-had-in-the-pantry chili.” Woohoo. I’ll give you the recipe that I put together tonight because, if I do say so, this came out GREAT. A side note: I have never and will never like meat in my chili. Don’t judge me. This is a great recipe and super healthy. I eat a bowl and pretend like I just did 100 sit ups. That’s how healthy it is.

Veggie Chili

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

2 stalks celery, sliced

1/2 large onion, chopped

2 large cans of chopped tomatoes, with juice

1 can butter beans

1 can black beans

1 can kidney beans

2 handfuls of TVP*

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tbsp. chili powder

seasoned salt and pepper to taste

*TVP is Textured Vegetable Protein. You can find it anywhere these days, but you might have more luck at places like Whole Foods. I get mine at a bulk food store where my parents live, in the midst of Mennonites, who sell EVERYTHING in bulk. If you can’t find it, just throw in some tofu (or meat, if you actually want to do those 100 sit ups I mentioned).

I’m not even going to do numbered steps on this one. Throw everything in a big soup pot. Cook it covered on medium for a while. Taste it. Does it taste good? Need salt? More chili powder? Add it. πŸ™‚ I think the main thing is to let this cook until the texture looks about right. I would cook it for a few hours on low and then cook it uncovered on medium/high to get rid of any excess liquid. If you like the consistency, leave it alone!

Top this baby with some shredded cheddar. YUM.