Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sassy Sweets: Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcakes

Peanut butter jelly time, peanut butter jelly time, peanut butter, jelly...peanut butter, jelly!  I can't stop singing this song as I think about how delicious these cupcakes were.  There are a few people that you work with, I think in every company, that you really just click with.  They are the type of people you really enjoy talking to and because of their jobs and your jobs, you experience a closeness that might not have developed otherwise.

One of my favorite women in the office had her birthday last month.  I thought it would be nice to make her some delicious cupcakes (because, who doesn't love cupcakes on their birthday?!).  But, when I asked her her favorite flavor, she replied "Peanut Butter and Jelly" as if it would be obvious to anyone that this is a fantastic cupcake flavor.

I had never even heard of this type of cupcake and was so intrigued I figured I should definitely make it myself!  The result was a really intoxicating mix of that classic lunchbox sandwich.  I held off posting about it until this week because how fun would it be to send the kids off to school with these delicious treats, right?!  Believe me, you'll be missing out if you don't make them.
Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcakes
Serves:  24 (24 cupcakes)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup skim milk*

Raspberry Jelly Filling:
1 cup raspberry jam

Peanut Butter Frosting;
4 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup peanut butter

Cupcakes:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a small bowl; set aside.  In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar, about 2 minutes until light and foamy.  Gradually pour in the butter and vanilla while mixing constantly.  Slowly add half the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  Add all of the milk, mixing until just combined.  Then, add the rest of the dry ingredients, being careful not to overmix.  Spoon the batter into greased cupcake tins (or tins lined with cupcake liners).  Bake for 20-25 minutes until the centers of the cupcakes, when poked with a toothpick, come out clean.  Let cool.

Filling:  Cut a small cone out of the middle of each cupcake and fill with raspberry jam.

Frosting:  In a large bowl, beat together cream cheese and sugar.  Beat in the peanut butter.  Meanwhile, whip the cream separately until soft peaks form.  Fold in the whipped cream.  Pipe or frost the peanut butter frosting over the tops of the cupcakes.

Store in an airtight container up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Brilliant Brunch: Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.  Give me pretty much any breakfast food and I could enjoy it breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  It's the reason to get up in the morning.  Of course, most mornings, I'm rushing out the door which makes a delicious breakfast difficult.  

John's all about the savory breakfasts.  Corned Beef Hash, Eggs, Breakfast Sandwiches.  I, on the other hand (shocking no one I am sure) are all about the sweets.  French Toast, Cinnamon Rolls, and Waffles with Whipped Cream!  These Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes fit neatly in the center of both of our likes.  The buttermilk and blueberries keep the pancakes from being overly sweet, even if you drench them with maple syrup.  And, they are light and fluffy.  

Despite the fact that I hate making pancakes because well, they take SO long, we have had these a few times this summer.  They are just that good.  And, the perfect way to start the morning!  I like to make 4 servings and save the rest in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge.  That's how my mom would make them.  Take them out, microwave them for a few minutes (or put them on the griddle) and the pancakes are ready to eat!  What a treat for a weekday morning!
Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes (adapted from Martha Stewart)
Serves:  4
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
3 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup blueberries

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.  Add eggs, buttermilk, 4 tablespoons butter.  Whisk until just combined being careful not to overmix.  Stir in blueberries.

Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet to 375 degrees (over medium-high heat).  Spray pan with cooking spray.  Pour about 3 tablespoons of batter in the pan (I can carefully fit 3 pancakes in my large skillet).  Before pouring the next pancake, leave 1-2 inches of room as they spread.

Pancakes will bubble on the top and look dry on the edges, about 2-3 minutes.  Flip and cook the other side an additional 1-2 minutes.  Repeat with all batter; if you notice the pancakes starting to stick, respray with additional cooking spray.
Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sassy Sweets: Mini Banana Pudding Sandwiches

So Tuesday I told you all about John's love for Banana Pudding.  After making that recipe the first time, I had about a cup of pudding left over.  What do you do with only one cup of pudding? Well, I decided to make some mini pudding sandwiches and bring them into the office to share.  The nice thing is only one cup of pudding makes a good amount of sandwiches.  Enough for everyone to taste the treat!

They were a resounding hit and as long as you have a helper or a John in the kitchen with you, assembly style, these move pretty quickly along.  I particularly like to slice the bananas on an angle which allows for a larger slice which fills the entire sandwich!  I don't know of any bananas that have the diameter of a vanilla wafer, if you know what I mean.

A quick tip about these delectable goodies?  The longer the wafers stay in the fridge, the softer they become.  The texture is amazing but the sandwiches fall apart pretty quickly!  Therefore, I'd recommend pre-making them no more than 1 hour before you want to serve them.
Mini Banana Pudding Sandwiches (adapted from PopSugar)
Serves:  12 (48 sandwiches)
3/4 cups water
1/3 cups instant vanilla pudding mix
7 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
96 vanilla wafers
2 bananas, thinly sliced.

In a large bowl, beat water, vanilla pudding mix, and sweetened condensed milk until well-combined.  The mixture will be slightly thick.  Cover with plastic wrap, over the top of the mixture to avoid a film from forming.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

In a large bowl, beat heavy cream until stiff peaks form.  Then, gently fold a third of the heavy cream into the pudding mixture.  Repeat a third at a time until all of the cream is incorporated and the mixture is very light and fluffy.

Now make the puddings.  Place half of the vanilla wafers with the flat side up.  Place a banana slice on each.  Top with a tablespoonful of pudding.  Close with another wafer, flat side down.  Serve immediately or cover well and refrigerate up to 1 hour.  Don't refrigerate too long or the wafers will not be able to hold the pudding!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sassy Sweets: Magnolia Bakery's Banana Pudding

This week, I'm spending a night on a corporate retreat for our company.  About 20 of us from all across the world are meeting to discuss the future of the company.  It's exciting to think of everything ahead for us!  We had to do some "homework" involving what we like, don't like, would change, etc. to give our facilitator a good idea of key themes across the divisions.

One of the things that I love is our bimonthly treats.  Every 2 weeks or so, our CEO buys a delicious treat for everyone in the company.  It's a fun way to take a 15-20 minute time-out, chat, and enjoy some fun food.  We've had everything from ice cream to popsicles, caramel apples to pumpkin pie.  A few weeks ago, we had Magnolia Bakery's Banana Pudding Pie.  This is supposedly the BEST banana pudding pie in the city and it didn't disappoint.

John's favorite dessert is banana pudding pie so he was more than happy when I showed up at home with my container for us to share!  He liked it so much that I knew I'd have to recreate it.  It isn't a traditional pudding, you can tell that right away.  It's much creamier and subtle.  The banana is the undisputed star of the dish!  With a recipe this easy, it's now impossible to say no to John's requests.
Magnolia Bakery's Banana Pudding (adapted from PopSugar)
Serves:  16 (16 parfaits)
1 1/2 cups water
2/3 cups instant vanilla pudding mix
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
3 cups heavy cream
12 ounces vanilla wafers
4 bananas, thinly sliced.

In a large bowl, beat water, vanilla pudding mix, and sweetened condensed milk until well-combined.  The mixture will be slightly thick.  Cover with plastic wrap, over the top of the mixture to avoid a film from forming.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

In a large bowl, beat heavy cream until stiff peaks form.  Then, gently fold a third of the heavy cream into the pudding mixture.  Repeat a third at a time until all of the cream is incorporated and the mixture is very light and fluffy.

Now make the puddings.  Place a small amount of pudding in the bottom of the dish, add bananas.  Top with some vanilla wafers, then pudding, bananas, wafers, and pudding again.  Repeat until the dish is fully filled.  We use small parfait glasses but use whatever glass container you would like!

Refrigerate at least 1 hour prior to serving (preferably overnight so the banana flavor is infused into the pudding).  Serve chilled.
Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Weeknight Dinner: Bulgogi Beef and Zucchini Skillet

It's hard to believe that we're already into August.  I feel like we haven't really done anything this summer, which is a bit disappointing.  On the flip side, we have a lot to look forward to at the end of August.  Spending some time with John's family at a beautiful lake house in Maine for a long weekend will be a highlight.  Another highlight will be a long weekend with my family to see Harry Potter World, something the 3 of us girls have been looking forward to since the day it opened.  

I don't remember the last 2 summers being this hot.  Of course, last summer we spent 2 weeks of heat in Alaska.  And the summer before that, we were in Maine for a while.  This summer, without anything to break up the time, we have really been suffering from the oppressive heat and humidity of the city.  

That means we are trying to stay creative in our dinners - slow cooked pulled porks, and skillet-only suppers have been on the menu lately as well as a ton of creative salads.  This Bulgogi Beef and Zucchini Skillet is one such dinner.  I absolutely love the flavors you get in this dish and the zucchini is really just because it's what I had on hand from the farmer's market but anything you have on hand will do just fine!
Bulgogi Beef and Zucchini Skillet (adapted from Blue Apron)
Serves:  2
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 pound beef
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 scallions, greens and whites sliced thinly and separated
1/2 pound zucchini, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 bunch basil, chopped (reserve some for topping)
2-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon gochujang
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
6 ounces rice noodles

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add beef and cook until the beef is no longer pink.  Add garlic, scallions, zucchini, basil, and ginger.  Cook 1-2 minutes.  Add gochujang, sesame oil, and soy sauce.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until zucchini is tender.

Meanwhile, cook rice noodles according to package directions.  Place noodles into the skillet, tossing to combine ingredients.

Serve immediately, splitting evenly among both bowls and topping with reserved scallions and basil.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sassy Sweets: Gluten-Free Chocolate M&M Cookies

Sister K is now gluten-free and dairy-free which to be honest, puts a bit of a cramp in my dessert style.  It's easy to find things that are gluten-free or dairy-free but both?  Some might consider it a nightmare scenario but I enjoy the challenge of finding recipes that Sister K and everyone else can enjoy.  Take these cookies for example.

They are so deep, dark, chocolatey chocolate that you can't stop eating them.  Well maybe you could.  I can't.  Neither can John.  Which means if I make these for "Sister K" I have to make a double some actually get to her.  You know what I mean, right?

I love the addition of the M&Ms.  They make the cookies look so colorful and delicious, just like Sister K.
Gluten-Free Chocolate M&M Cookies
Serves:  12 (36 cookies)
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups cocoa powder
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup M&Ms

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Beat together the butter and sugars in a large bowl until the mixture is fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla.  Mix until well-combined.  Add the baking soda and cocoa powder, mixing until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips and M&Ms.  Drop tablespoons of cookie mixture onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 6-8 minutes, until the edges just look dry.  Let cool for 2-3 minutes on the cookie sheet before removing.  Let the cookies cool to room temperature and store them in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Brilliant Brunch: Strawberry Shortcake Stuffed French Toast

As you guys all know, I love a good recipe contest.  But lately due to work and overall craziness in life, I haven't been able to make any time for it.  You could imagine, then, the pleasure I received when I got an email about Arnold Bread's "America's Better Sandwich Recipe Contest" where a recipe maker extraordinaire could win $25,000!  The contest ends August 23rd so get cooking now!

At first, I couldn't stop thinking about ways to enter, and then an even better email crossed my inbox - did I want to work with Arnold's to develop my own recipe and talk about the recipe contest?  To me, the 5 free coupons was way easier than finding the time to develop a $25,000 recipe winner!  Especially with friends like mine...who are truly taste masters.

So, John and I happily took our free coupons to the grocery store and I even let John pick a bread he liked. John, of course had to try their "Everything" sandwich thins, while I chose "Honey Wheat" sandwich thins and then I got to work.  We don't eat a lot of cold cuts so we primarily eat bread in the mornings.  With such luscious berries in season right now and staring us in the face at the Farmer's Market, this was an easy win.  The best part of all?  The sandwich thins and berries totally make this good for you right?!

Strawberry Shortcake Stuffed French Toast
Serves:  4 (4 sandwiches)
2 eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons milk, divided (I use skim)
3 tablespoons cinnamon, divided
8 ounces Neufchatel cream cheese
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
8 ounces strawberries, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon butter
Arnold Bread Honey Wheat Sandwich Thins*

In a small shallow bowl, combine eggs and 1/2 cup milk with a small whisk or fork.  Add 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and mix well.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and 1/4 cup sugar together.  Slowly fold in the strawberries until they are evenly distributed.  Using an ice cream scoop (or large spoon), evenly spoon strawberry mixture onto one cut side of the Arnold Bread Honey Wheat Sandwich Thins, leaving a 1/2 inch space from the edge along all sides.

Heat a heavy-bottomed non-stick pan over medium heat.  Melt the butter in the pan and swirl to coat all the edges.  Turn the heat to medium-low.

Wet the edges slightly with the egg and milk mixture and press the top down around the edges to form a pocket.  Then, dunk the sandwich into the milk mixture on both sides.  Immediately place into the non-stick pan and repeat with all sandwiches.  Let cook 3-4 minutes, until golden brown, and then flip, cooking the other side 3-4 minutes before removing from heat.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine remaining cinnamon and sugar.  Evenly dust the tops of each Strawberry Shortcake Stuffed French Toast with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Serve immediately.

*Note - I received 5 coupons for free Arnold products of our choice.  We are putting them to good use but everything written here is, as always, my honest opinions.  Now go win that $25,000 people!
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Welcome! I'm Dani (aka the Growing Foodie), just a girl balancing her career and passion for all things edible in NYC. I hope you'll join me in my adventures in life, through food. (Click for More)
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