Posts tagged holidays

Coconut milk chocolate cupcakes

I needed some chocolate therapy this weekend so when a friend of mine passed along a recipe for chocolate cake with the subject line “OMG best cake ever” I had to give it a try. Thanks Jessie!

This recipe for Double-Deep-Chocolate Hanukkah Layer Cake from Gourmet makes for tasty cupcakes. The batter came together fast and filled 28+ cupcakes. (I did 20 then a small-sized loaf for a neighbor.) These are the moistest chocolate cupcakes you’ll ever eat! Even if you’re not a coconut fan, don’t worry, the flavor is slight.

I upped the flavor of the coconut in the frosting with coconut extract.

Recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes + baking

Servings: 28 cupcakes

Ingredients:

Cupcakes

3/4 cup vegetable oil plus more for greasing pans
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process) plus more for dusting pans + 2 tsps. dark cocoa powder (you can also use Espresso powder or my favorite, Black onyx powder)
1 cup water
3/4 cup well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk (I use the 14-oz. Light Coconut Milk can from Trader Joe’s)
3 large eggs, warmed in shell in warm water 5 minutes
1 1/2 tsps. pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tsps. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda

3/4 tsp. salt

Frosting

Remaining canned coconut milk (about 1 cup)

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. coconut extract (opt.)

4 tbsps. butter

Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the oil, water, eggs, coconut milk, and vanilla.
  3. In another bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Blend the wet ingredients into the dry until smooth.
  5. Fill cupcake holders 2/3 of the way full.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.

Frosting

  1. Microwave all of the frosting ingredients except the vanilla in a glass measuring cup for 1 minute on high.
  2. Stir and continue microwaving at 30-second intervals until the chocolate is smooth; stir in the vanilla.
  3. The frosting will be thin; cool it in the refrigerator until it gets thick enough to spread on the cupcakes.

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10 Minute Holiday Cookie Recipe

A few weeks ago I was able to visit with Jenny Harper, the Chief Cookie Officer for Nestle Kitchens for a story I was working on. Does that sound like a dream job or what? Jenny is the one who comes up with the recipes on the back of Nestle Toll House morsels and other Nestle baking products.

So when I needed to make a quick treat for an event I was going to I thought of Jenny and turned to the back of a bag of Nestle’s Dark Chocolate & Mint Morsels for inspiration. The recipe for “Magic Mint Chocolate Bark” was simple and fun to make with my kids. I doubled the recipe to make sure we had extras. (Use a 11 x 9″ brownie pan and half of the morsels to make the standard batch.)

Mint Chocolate Bark

Prep time: 5 minutes

Servings: 18

Ingredients

2 10-ounce bags Dark Chocolate & Mint Morsels (I did one bag of the mint morsels and another bag of dark chocolate)

3/4 cup chopped roasted almonds

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Line a 9×13″ cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper.
  3. Dump the chocolate chips onto the lined pan. Spread out the chips so they fill the pan.
  4. Bake the chips for 4 minutes; they’ll be shiny when you remove them from the oven and won’t appear to be melted.
  5. Use a kitchen knife to swirl the chocolate together (you won’t see any more of the green color).
  6. Top with chopped almonds, or pretzels, potato chip pieces, or dried fruit.
  7. Here’s the fun part: to help the toppings sink into the chocolate hold that pan about 3 inches above the counter (I put a large cutting board down for this) and then drop the pan.
  8. Place the pan in the refrigerator for an hour and then break apart the pieces.

Hanging out with Nestle's Chief Cookie Officer

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Cowboy Thanksgiving

Photo credit: TheBlaze.com

This year’s Thanksgiving theme–cowboy style!

While we’re keeping our meal fairly low-key, each year we try to do a little bit of a twist on traditional recipes. So this year we’re trying to infuse each dish with some Southwest flavor.

Here’s what’s on the list so far:

Grilled turkey–We’re marinating a boneless turkey breast in chipolte mojo sauce (courtesy of Goya) and then grilling it outside.

Yummy potatoes–Also called “funeral potatoes,” I’m mixing in sliced jalapenos and sharp cheddar cheese

Smokin’ gravy–As long as the we’re turning up the heat on the barbecue and the smoker, the plan is to make the gravy and then put it in the smoker to infuse it with hickory

Bacon green beans–Instead of fried onions, I’m topping my green beans with chopped up bacon (and a dash of cayenne pepper)

Chorizo cornbread stuffing–Spicy sausage called chorizo melds perfectly with cornbread

Your turn–are you making any new recipes for Thanksgiving this year or tweaking traditional favorites?

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Spider cupcakes and more Halloween goodies

Our house was full of princesses, fairies, and a vampire this weekend. My youngest planned out her own Halloween party, from sending out the invitations to planning games and setting up a spook alley. My assignment was to take care of food (yes!). I had planned a dramatic spread of various creepy crawies. But after failing in my original cupcake idea I took my daughter’s lead and kept things simple.

The key: labeling your food with gross names and letting the kids take it from there. They were adding mustard to their mummy dogs, saying, “What should we call this?” “Ghost boogers,” said one (probably my daughter). “Or Goblin drool?”

Here are a few ideas if you’re planning your own monster bash:

The alien cupcakes were way too sticky

Spider cupcakes. I tried making the awesome alien cupcakes from Betty Crocker, but I just couldn’t manage to get the Kix cereal-marshmallow mix right. My “aliens” ended up instead as “alien brains” on our Halloween buffet. (See directions below for the cupcakes.)

Spider parts. Cooked mini spaghetti noodles topped with poppy seeds.

Eyeballs. Whole black olives.

Mummy brains. Cheddar cheese rice cakes.

Mummy dogs. Hotdogs wrapped in crescent roll dough, then baked. The recipe calls for you to make mustard “eyes” but I ran out of time–I noticed the kids didn’t even notice.

To make your spider cupcakes:

  • Bake one cake mix using the directions for cupcakes. (I ended up with 24.)
  • Top each cupcake with frosting of your choice.
  • Melt 3/4 cups chocolate chips in the microwave.
  • Use a spoon to place the melted chocolate in the corner of a thick, Ziploc bag. Make a small cut in the corner of the bag.
  • Create chocolate spiders: on the frosted cupcakes make a dot on the center. Then draw with the chocolate four legs on each side of the dot.
  • Place a mini, orange Nilla Wafer on the top of each dot (this is a great job for kiddos), then add two, small chocolate dots for eyes on each.

One more idea: You can also create spider webs to add to your cupcake display. I had extra melted chocolate left over so I made the webs on waxed paper (looking at images on my iPhone of spider webs as a guide), let them harden and then carefully peeled them away from the paper.

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Holiday sweets round-up

From simple cookies to rich cakes, here are some ideas to make your holidays a little sweeter.

Cookies

Viennese cookie

Viennese Cookies

For all of the flavor of Linzer cookies without the work, try check out this version I came up with for Wandering Educators.

10-minute Fancy Cookies

Make these beautiful cookies in minutes to give away to neighbors–or to eat with your kids.

Chocolate Nutella cookies

Loaded with hazelnut flavor, Nutella is one of my favorite holiday ingredients (okay, I use it all year, but around Christmas I buy it in bulk.)

Pretzel S’mores

Last minute school party that you need to take treats to? These whip up in minutes and kids love ‘em.

Brownies and Bars

Mudgie's Brownie Waffle

Mudgie’s Deli Brownie Waffles

These dessert waffles are great with berry sauce or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Chocolate Raspberry Cream Cheese Bars

Make a pan of these sweets to serve at your next holiday party.

Mini Cheesecakes

These little treats pack big, creamy flavor!


Cakes

Mmmm...cheesecake

Raspberry Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

This is a Christmas tradition around our house.

Chocolate Upside Down Cake

You literally throw the ingredients together for this dessert that tastes like German Chocolate cake.

Easy Chocolate Cake

Add mint chips to the batter to make this cake even tastier.

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Mexican Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving. Around here I happily spent very little time in the kitchen. Mr. Squid took over and made a Mexican feast. I wanted to pass along a few pictures, but I’m saving the recipes for 2012–after all, it’s time to start baking holiday cookies!

Our meal–Mole is a complex, hearty sauce that melds dozens of spices with chiles, chocolate, and nuts. The red mole (mole poblano) we make is traditionally made with turkey. Mr. Squid seared a bone-in turkey breast and then cooked it all day in a mole sauce in the crockpot. After cooking for hours the meat literally fell off the bone–no worries on how to carve the bird! To finish off the meal, he served it with whipped mashed potatoes (my job), fried white and blue corn tortilla strips, ranchero beans and garnished the dish with Mexican crema and fresh cilantro. I wish there were still leftovers!

Mr. Squid used the mole sauce as gravy for the potatoes--yummy

The sauce-soaked meat fell off the bone

Pinto beans roasting with epazote, onions, bacon, tomatoes, and cilantro

For dessert I made a streusel apple pie

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Pretty mini-quiches

A few weeks ago I tried out crustless quiche on a whim and it was a big hit at my house. I became a fan too–the recipe was so versatile and fast that I could make a meal in under 10 minutes (well, baking time took longer, of course). Serve a slice of quiche with a generous salad and dinner is done.

But then I wanted to get a little creative, try out spinach in the quiche, or maybe roasted veggies, breakfast sausage in some and ham in another. I wondered if I could use ramekins in place of a pie plate so that each person could have their own quiche and choose what ingredients they wanted. It was kind of like make-your-own pizza, but with quiche.

Putting the ramekins together takes a little more work than a single quiche, but not much. You’ll need to lightly coat each ramekin with baking spray. Put about 1/8 cut of ingredients into the bottom of the ramekin and then pour the egg mixture on top.

I filled a pan with various ramekin sizes (4 and 7 ounces) and quiche flavors–spinach and gruyere, cheddar and sausage, ham and potatoes. And yes, you can make these a day ahead and reheat them. Plus they slide right out of the ramekin so if you want to serve them out of the dish, you can.

So if you’re looking for something fun for New Year’s Day to serve to your crew, try out these mini-quiches. (And then next week when you need a quick dinner–yup, you can try these out again just with different fixins.)

Here’s a few tweaks to the crustless quiche recipe to make the mini version.

  • Instead of greasing a pie plate, use 6, 7-oz ramekins or 8, 4-oz ramekins (or a combination)
  • Fill each ramekin with about 1/8-1/4 cup fixins of your choice (sausage, spinach, roasted veggies, diced ham)
  • Pour the egg mixture on top of the fixins.

For more fun brunch ideas perfect for New Year’s Day (or breakfast for dinner)–like french toast fondue, check out these Come To Brunch ideas. I’ve been looking through the site as part of the Motherboard team. Once a week, I’ll be posting about the exciting things not to miss on the their site, and their affiliates.

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Holiday Wassail

Christmas past: My kids with Santa

I’d always wondered what the holiday song meant, “Here we come a-wasailling/ among the leaves so green.” That is, until my mother-in-law offered me a mug of wassail years ago. The spicy, tart drink reminded me of a punchier apple cider. And the simmering wassail on the stovetop made the whole house smell like Christmas (no wonder, it has a full tablespoon of allspice in the mix).

When I tried to hunt down a recipe for wassail online I was surprised by all the entries. Wassail has some history! Apparently, wassail dates back to Medieval times. (Possibly even farther. Scratching your head at just when ‘Medieval‘ would be? Try 5th to the 15th century. Still scratching? Me too. Think: Monty Python and the Holy Grail :) . The word ‘wassail’ comes from a combination of ‘was hail’ which is how the Saxons would greet each other–and say good-bye. I guess a modern day equilvalent might be, “Whassup?”

But it seems there’s even more to the story. I’m no historian, but doing a little Google digging led me to entries about how wassailing, which is now also a term for ‘caroling’, may date back to a feudal custom practiced during the winter solstice. There was a tradition for the feudal lords (think: land owners) to offer food and drink in exchange to blessings from the pheasants who lived on their land. The whole idea in “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” of “Now bring me some figgy pudding” makes more sense when you have this in mind (I’d always wondered about that line).

While I find the history of wassail intriguing, what I like is the whole idea of inviting over friends to go Christmas caroling, then coming back for mugs of warm citrusy cider. I think I’ll try that this year, but as far as the figgy pudding, I’ll pass.

Have you ever tried wassail? Did you like it? What about going a-wassailing?

Here’s Mama G’s recipe for Wassail

Recipe

Servings: 10+

Prep time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 quarts water

1 c. sugar

6 sticks cinnamon

10 cloves

1 T. Whole allspice

2, 12 oz. cans frozen orange juice

1, 12 oz can frozen lemonade

1 gallon apple cider

Directions

  1. In a large cooking pot bring the water, sugar, and spices to a boil (the mixture will become syrupy). Boil for 10 minutes and then lower the temperature to a simmer for half an hour.
  2. Remove the cloves and cinnamon.
  3. Add the concentrated juices and cider into the spiced syrup.
  4. Heat together. Serve warm.
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3 Easy candy cane-inspired treats

Did you forget someone? If you’re like me you thought you had made a list of all the people to give treats to, intended to get it done the first week of December. Then, it didn’t happen. Second week of December, still didn’t happen. And now, it’s almost Christmas and you’re starting to think, maybe Valentine’s Day treats instead.

I like to look on the bright side: A little desperation feeds creativity (yup, bad pun intended).

Looking around the kitchen for ideas, first I considered what we had on hand–oodles of candy canes. My thought? Crush ‘em and use ‘em. Of course, my kids were all in favor of taking a mallet to the candy canes.

Here are three easy holiday treats to make in a hurry.

Brownies + peppermint = yum!

Fast: Candy cane brownie truffles

How to: Make your own or use store-bought brownies. Take a spoon to dole out 1-inch sized pieces. Mold the pieces into balls in your hands. Melt white candy coating or semi-sweet chocolate chips. Roll the brownie balls in the melted chocolate and then in crushed candy cane pieces. Place on a sheet of waxed paper to set. (These are a little easier if you refrigerate or freeze the brownie balls before dipping, but you don’t have to.)

Faster: Candy cane cookies

How to: I used Nilla wafers, but you could use pretty much any cookie. Oreos are a good match too. Follow the same procedure as above, dipping the cookie half way into the chocolate and then into the candy cane pieces.

Someone likes being the official taste tester.

Fastest: Chocolate-dipped candy canes

How to: Melt white candy coating or semi-sweet chocolate chips (you have that part down, right?). Dip one end of the candy cane into the chocolate and then into Christmas sprinkles. Place the candy canes on waxed paper to set.

This is just one of many yummy recipes you can find at Delectable Christmas Candies & Treats. I’ve been looking through the site as part of the Motherboard team. Once a week, I’ll be posting about the exciting things not to miss on the their site, and their affiliates. Click through for plenty of last-minute recipes, including this one for Date-Orange bars.

How about you–are you still busy making holiday sweets to give away?

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Coconut Snowman Cookies–in 3D!

Snowmen cookies

Three different snowman frosting styles

Sure, you could make flat, sugar cookie snowmen, but why not enlist your kids in sculpting some three-dimensional ones? That’s what I did with this coconut snowball recipe. I let my kids roll the dough into 3 sizes of balls figuring we’d make a whole family of snow people.

Once the cookies had cooled slightly, we added a quick powdered sugar glaze and then more coconut. After the glaze had set, we added mini-chocolate chips for eyes and cut up fruit leathers for the “carrot” noses and scarves. Melted white chocolate made for perfect snowman glue.

I would love to claim this idea as my own, but really my kids insisted on doing something fun with the recipe. Seeing as in the last week we’ve had nonstop snow and 2–yes 2!–school snow days, I guess I’m not surprised. Plus the temperature is still so chilly that we can’t play outside. No wonder then that my kids were driven to make snowmen inside!

I wanted to try a few different ways to frost the snowmen–my older kids were patient enough to use the original recipe technique above, but younger kids might not be. 

So here are 3 frosting techniques I used, along with some notes.

Powdered sugar coated snowman

Frosting #1 Powdered Sugar

Good: Simple. You just roll the cookie balls in powdered sugar while they’re still warm.

Bad: This makes sticking on the mini-chocolate chip eyes much tougher.

Frosting #2 Powdered sugar glaze

Powdered sugar glaze snowman

Good: Add 2-4 teaspoons of milk to a cup of powdered sugar and stir. Place the cookie balls onto a wire tray with a cookie pan underneath. Pour the glaze over each ball. This is the LEAST messy technique.

Bad: The white chocolate glue is the most visible with this glaze. (Kids don’t seem to mind though.)

Glaze + coconut

Glaze + coconut snowman

Frosting #3 Glaze + ground coconut

Good: After you’ve glazed the snowman balls–and before the frosting sets–roll each one in coconut that has been pulsed in a food processor so that it’s nearly ground. This frosting turned out the prettiest snowmen and it masked any little errors (like too much white chocolate glue).

Bad: Messy. This is the recipe recommended version and these snowmen were the best of the batch. But you need to have patience to put these together.

*A batch of cookies will make for 5, 3-layered snowmen and 1 snow snake;)

This is just one of many cookie recipes you can find at Our Most Gorgeous Holiday Cookies Ever. I’ve been looking through the site as part of the Motherboard team. Once a week, I’ll be posting about the exciting things not to miss on the their site, and their affiliates. (If I have time this week, I really want to make the chocolate pinwheel cookie recipe. We’ll see:)

Are you making cookies for the holidays? What are some of your favorites?


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