Saturday, May 31, 2014

Cream Cheese Yogurt Glaze

This is the frosting I used for my hummingbird cake. It is more of a glaze, and that's why is perhaps looks a little soft or runny on the cake. It is definitely not meant for piping and decorating. It's got a nice, light cream cheese flavor and a silky smooth texture. It only takes a few minutes to whip up. The cream cheese flavor and smooth texture is enhanced by the addition of a little Greek yogurt - which also makes this glaze a little lighter. Be sure to use Greek yogurt, as regular yogurt is too thin. Vanilla yogurt would probably work for a slightly different flavor. 

Cream Cheese Yogurt Glaze
1/2 block (125 grams or 4 ounces) light (reduced fat) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
2-4 cups icing (confectioners') sugar

Beat the cream cheese and yogurt together until smooth. Gradually mix in the icing sugar sugar until of desired consistency. If it becomes too thick, it can be thinned out with a little more yogurt or some milk. If you want it to be thick, start off with a little less yogurt. My measurement for icing sugar is pretty vague, because I never measure, I just go by consistency. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Hummingbird Hummingbird Cake

No the title of this post is not a typo. I decorated my hummingbird cake from yesterday's post, naturally, with a hummingbird. It seemed to fit nicely, and it also worked because I made this cake as a rain-checked Mother's Day cake and my mother likes hummingbirds and flowers. The hummingbird was not difficult to pipe, I just used the same tip I would use to pipe buttercream roses for the wing and tail, then filled in a white belly, and a ruby red neck and beak. Then I used my flower drop tip to pipe pink and blue flowers around the top and bottom of the cake, to make a quick border, and of course I piped on Happy Mother's Day. The cake is glazed with a quick cream cheese glaze and I used buttercream for the piping. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hummingbird Cake

Hummingbird Cake
3/4 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch ground cloves
1 large egg, beaten
1 Tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1 can (598mL) crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour an 8-inch round cake pan.
In a medium bowl, mix together the first seven dry ingredients.
In a separate large bowl, mix together the remaining wet ingredients. Fold in the dry ingredients until combined. Bake for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

This is a southern cake recipe that I have eyed for years and never tried. So I finally decided to make it. It has the flavors of banana, pineapple, and chopped pecans and/or shredded coconut, but I just used coconut. It is typically paired with a cream cheese frosting. It is so named because the sugar, coconut, banana, and pineapple makes it really sweet - and hummingbirds like sweet things. 
This is actually a lighter version of the usual cake recipe - it contains less sugar and oil, but a little extra pineapple and banana so as not to compromise any flavor or moistness. If you use whole wheat flour and unsweetened coconut, it could be an even healthier treat. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Lobster Dinner

It is finally lobster season again! Our family typically enjoys one good feed of lobster, bought fresh from the ocean from our neighbor, who is a lobster fisherman. We don't really do a fancy lobster dinner or anything - my father cooks them all in a big batch (we borrow the cooker from our neighbor), and then spends a good amount of time cracking open the lobster, shelling it, and dividing up and separating the meat to put into bowls to enjoy for the next few days. Since lobster is such a treat on its own, we pair it with something simple - some cooked vegetables, and perhaps some potato salad or coleslaw. Lobster is a star on its own, so really doesn't require a lot of fuss with sides. Lobster can be quite filling and is actually quite a good source of protein. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Oatmeal Bites

This is a quick snack idea I came up with that is super easy to whip up. The idea likely came from no bake oat cookies and energy bites that are popular snack or healthy dessert ideas today. This recipe takes a shortcut though. This idea came to be one day when I made a batch of one of my overnight oatmeal recipes (type that into the search bar of this blog for the recipes). I happened to make a big batch the night before, which was too much for me to eat. I couldn't save the oatmeal for the next day, since this was right before I was going for my tooth surgery, and I knew I wouldn't not be able to eat the oatmeal after that (not that oatmeal is hard, but I had added many nuts to it for some crunch). So I put the oatmeal back in the refrigerator for a little while. Once it was cooled and firm, I rolled the oatmeal into small balls and stuck them in the freezer to keep longer, so I would be able to eat them once I could chew again. 
This concept should work for a variety of oatmeal recipes, especially overnight oats. So if you have some leftover oatmeal on hand or if you want to make a super quick small batch of cookies without baking, whip up some oatmeal first and then make these. It is best to use oatmeal that is firmer rather than thinned with milk, and it is easier to roll into balls when cold. The balls can then be stored in the refrigerator, or the freezer for longer storage. So many flavor ideas are possible with this recipe idea - use any type of oatmeal, even instant oatmeal if you wish. The bites could be chocolate, fruit, nut, maple, spice flavored and more! For an extra special treat, dip the cooled balls in melted chocolate and for an even further touch, roll them in crushed nuts or coconut afterwards. Decadent, healthy and delicious! 

For this recipe above, I used a batch of Very Nutty Overnight Oatmeal. You can find that recipe {here}.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Flax Machine Bread

This recipe makes one large, light and fluffy loaf of bread with the addition of a little flavor, texture, and nutrition from some flaxseed. 

Flax Machine Bread
1 1/3 cups water
2 Tablespoons oil
3 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
2 1/2 + 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon yeast

Place all ingredients in bread machine pan in order given, or according to manufacturer's instructions for whole wheat cycle. This makes one large loaf, although size setting will depend on machine. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Lobster Season Cake

What to do with cake pieces cut out of a rectangular cake in order to make it cross shaped? Especially when you made several cuts and didn't just cut four simple rectangles? Well, the first option would be to frost the cake whole, and then cut out pieces to make it cross shaped. I know my parents did that for my first birthday cake, where they cut out pieces so the cake would resemble the number "1" then served those pieces and still had a one-shaped cake as a center piece. The only problem with this idea, is if you are presenting only the cut cake, the sides will not be frosted and decorated. So I cut the cake pieces first, decorated the cross cake, then decided to somehow place the individual pieces together and then decorate those with the leftover frosting.

I didn't have any white buttercream left, so I piped on pink to one piece (piping is easier than trying to spread on individual pieces) and blue on the other piece. I liked how the blue piping resembled waves, which gave me inspiration to make it into some kind of ocean theme. Realizing lobster season had just started, I decided to use this idea. Some simple green letter and piped fish, and I was finished. Can't wait to enjoy some fresh lobster! 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Grilled Zucchini

Finally it is barbecue season! Typically we tend to stick to the same types of foods when we barbecue - our standard salmon, burgers, chicken, steak - mostly meat. But once in a while we do try something a little different. This time it was grilled zucchini. Unless you have one of those special vegetable grilling baskets, vegetables must be large or cut into large pieces, or strung onto kabob sticks in order to avoid falling through the grates of the grill. That definitely happened with a few of our zucchini pieces here. The next time we tried this we did cut them a bit thicker. If cooked properly and rotated they will cook despite being very thick, and are tender, juicy and flavorful. They do have a little more crunch then boiled zucchini, but that's fine with me. All these need is a brushing of olive oil and perhaps a dash of cracked black pepper. A very quick accompaniment to any meal! 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Basic Vanilla Cake

For my confirmation cake from yesterday's post, a white cake was requested, which was a little different for me because my standard go-to is my no-fail chocolate cake recipe. I do not have a perfected trusty white cake recipe, though I have tried many and several have succeeded. This time I used a base of a white cinnamon cake and transformed it into a vanilla "half pound" cake. I call it half pound because it is a bit lighter than pound cake, but not as light as regular cake. Despite the name and texture, it does not contain large quantities of butter, sugar, and eggs, but yet the ends I tasted were sweet, flavorful, and fairly moist. Not incredibly moist, but that's better for frosting anyway. It is an incredibly quick and easy one bowl cake recipe though! 

Basic Vanilla Cake
3 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
3/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (skim) milk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons (pure) vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, not margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line a 9x13 inch rectangular baking pan.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add milk, eggs, and vanilla, mix well. Slowly pour the butter over, then stir to combine. Spread evenly in prepared pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the batter comes out clean.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Confirmation Cross Cake

This is a cake order I made for two people celebrating their confirmation. I appropriately made a cross-shaped cake. To do this, I simply baked the cake in a 9x13 inch rectangular pan, then cut some rectangles out to make it into the shape of a cross. 

To decorate this cake, I frosted it completely with my signature white vanilla buttercream. I used an open round tip for the top border and an open star tip for the bottom border. Then I tinted the remaining buttercream green, blue, and pink. I wanted to use blue and pink because the cake is a shared cake for a brother and sister, and I used green as an accent color. I piped on "God Bless David & Breanna" using all three colors. I made some buttercream roses and other flowers in pink and blue, then added some green leaves and accent petals. 
I wanted to keep the decorations relatively simply, as the cross shape already gives the cake some depth. I also used white for the borders, though I usually use colors, to keep it simpler and not too hectic. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ultimate M&M Cookies

This shows some of the giant M&M cookies which I overbaked. It takes some experimenting to discover the perfect timing, so even though the cookies may not look quite done, they will firm up upon cooling. There was absolutely nothing wrong with these cookies though - if you happen to like really crispy cookies, then go ahead and bake them longer. However, most jumbo cookies are known to be soft and chewy, so they are usually slightly underbaked.
Here are some perfectly baked jumbo M&M cookies. To dress them up even more, I decided to decorate them. I just made a quick batch of buttercream frosting and used red and green colors. Then I piped on each cookie, and since the cookies were large, they made the perfect canvas for some decoration. The piping, along with the specks of candy-coated chocoaltes, make these cookies quite colorful. I made these cookies as a gift for someone, so I decorated them with items to represent that person. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Miniature M&M Cookies

If yesterday's giant M&M cookies - soft, chewy and delicious - are not quite your cup of tea, try these miniature M&M cookies. Yes, it basically is the same recipe just a different technique. For these cookies, use only a teaspoon of dough. Bake them for only about 10-12 minutes. These cookies can be baked longer if you would like to make them crisp cookies. This batch will also make a lot more cookies and you can fit many more on a cookie sheet to bake. Also, it is not necessary to let them cool on a cookie sheet first before transferring them to cool, so go ahead and dive in right away! 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Jumbo M&M Cookies

Giant M&M Cookies
1 1/2 cups butter or hard margarine, softened
1 1/3 cups granulated (white) sugar
1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
2 cups candy coated chocolates 

Preheat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, then beat in the vanilla.
Stir in the baking soda and salt, then gradually add the flour. Stir in the candy, batter will be stiff.

Drop by 1/4 cup balls of dough onto prepared cookie sheets and flatten slightly. Bake for about 14-17 minutes until just set and not doughy, but not brown and overbaked. Let cool on the cookies sheet for a few minutes before transferring to cool. Makes about 15 cookies.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mom's No-Fail Cheesecake

This is the cheesecake recipe my mother has been making for years. Now that warmer weather is here and berry season is beginning, maybe she will make it again soon since it is always so much better topped with fresh strawberries and their juices. Blueberries and cherries are nice as well. This cheesecake recipe is a basic plain one. It is baked, and I find baked and no-bake cheesecakes do differ a slightly in texture, though both are good. This is a plain cheesecake - no added vanilla flavoring, sour cream, or anything fancy. Just a heavy dose of cream cheese. That's what makes it so good and easy. Like most baked cheesecakes, this one always risks the danger of cracking, though it usually doesn't and it can easily be masked with topping if necessary. My mother always bakes this cheesecake on a simple graham cracker crumb crust, which I think is really the go-to for cheesecakes. This basic cheesecake recipe could easily be vamped up into many different flavor combinations. For example, a chocolate crumb crust with chocolate sauce, a shortbread crust with whipped cream topping, or an oatmeal crust with a caramel apple topping. The possibilities are endless! 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Apple Almond Oatmeal

Apple Almond Oatmeal
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 medium apple, diced (peeled if desired)
2 Tablespoons whole natural almonds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
1-2 teaspoons ground flaxseed
brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup, to taste
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and microwave on HIGH (100%) power for 90 seconds until liquid is absorbed. Allow to set and enjoy!

Apples and almonds - what a classic combination! This bowl of oatmeal provides plenty of crunch, but the apple bakes up and becomes soft and sweet. It smells sort of like apple pie baking. A hearty balanced breakfast when served with a glass or milk or some yogurt. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Chocolate Square Splat

Sometimes, things don't always work out as anticipated, baking and cooking included. I do publish mistakes on my blog, because I believe both I and my readers learn from them and benefit from reading about them. Also, most of my mistakes have still been perfectly edible - just maybe not perfectly presentable or exactly what I had in mind. I won't say when this mistake is from, who it was intended for, or whose fault it really was, because there is no point in laying blame. But I will briefly explain what happened.

This is a standard chocolate square recipe that has been made before. It consists of a chocolate crust par-baked and then topped with a coconut filling and a chocolate frosting once cool. In lieu of a chocolate frosting, this version contains semisweet chocolate chips in the coconut filling. The crust seemed to work out fine. But for some reason, the filling rose up really high when baked and began to spill over the sides of the pan. Even though it was that high and had been in the oven for its required amount of time, the filling was still very liquidy and the squares didn't seem set at all. They were taken out of the oven however, because the edges seemed very dark and the crust would become overcooked. At first I thought the addition of (perhaps too many) chocolate chips had made the filling more liquidiy and set off the balance or affected how it baked. It was later discovered that one teaspoon of baking soda was used accidentally instead of one teaspoon of baking powder.

When hot, the squares were a mess and difficult to judge. But once they cooled, they did set up and there was nothing wrong with the taste of them. They were still a little messy and quite difficult to cut, but the taste was absolutely fine. The soda for powder switch didn't affect that, and the squares were extra chocolaty and delicious. Just not the prettiest to look at. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Raspberry Topped Pancake

You all know by now how much I love my breakfasts. Here is one of my latest creations - it is a pancake I have made before, a fluffy banana pancake topped with Greek yogurt and fresh raspberries. I like making individual pancakes because they are big and soft and fluffy, and you can have it all to yourself. Greek yogurt is a good pancake topping, high protein and a much better alternative than sugary syrups. And with some warmer weather finally here, fresh fruits such as berries are beginning to appear. I thought this was a colorful and hearty plate, though it would be even more colorful if I had used a few different types of fruit. Breakfast definitely is the most important meal of the day, and the tastiest too! It is vital to begin your day with a healthy breakfast, and this is a well-balanced easy to make warm breakfast that won't take too long. If you're looking to save time in the morning, the pancake could even be made the night before and reheated. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Banana Nut Overnight Oatmeal

It's been awhile since I have posted any overnight oatmeal recipes. That's because my breakfasts have been a little boring lately since I had my dental surgery - there is no point in posting "recipes" for mashed banana and oat bran, now is there? I am happy to saw I am back to eating "normal" foods, and here is my latest breakfast creation. Nutritious and delicious with the yummy flavors of banana and nuts. Add a dash of honey too if you'd like. 
Banana Nut Overnight Oatmeal
1/2 banana, mashed
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed
3 Tablespoons chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup almond milk

As with all my overnight oatmeal recipes, place all ingredients in a bowl or a jar, mix well, and let sit in the refrigerator overnight to thicken. In the morning, heat in the microwave or enjoy cold.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Jam Squares

My mother made these jam squares for the first time the other day. The recipe was given to her by my father's mother, who often used to make these. This is definitely a comforting, old-fashioned recipe. It is one of those classics that could be modernized, but really shouldn't. It has a nice sweet base, jam filling, and crumble topping, but yet they are fairly quick and easy to make. I'm sure any type of jam would do, but the ones pictured here have strawberry jam. 
Jam Squares
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter or hard margarine
1 1/3 cups coconut, flaked or shredded
1/2 cup crushed walnuts
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
jam (strawberry is pictured above)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line a 9-inch square pan.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Mix in the butter, then the coconut and walnuts. Add the egg and vanilla until crumbly.
Press 3/4 of the mixture into prepared pan. Spread with jam and sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over top. Bake for about 40 minutes until lightly golden around the edges.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Rotisserie Duck

Not too long ago, my father and brother came up with this great idea to try barbecuing a duck. Interesting enough. However, it did take much longer to cook than they had expected - much longer than a chicken. They used some type of rotisserie contraption but had trouble attaching the duck to it without having proper food safe string. The duck was basted in barbecue sauce. I personally did not try the duck myself, but I must admit it did smell quite good coming in the house. It seemed to be moist and tender and juicy, which makes sense as duck is quite a fatty meat. 
Note: duck takes awhile to cook this way so start early. I suppose some good accompaniments would be cooked vegetables, stuffing, or potatoes.  

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Light & Lovely Cream Cheese Frosting

I realized I forgot to share the recipe for my lighter cream cheese frosting I used to frost my Easter cupcakes (see {Easter Cupcakes}). Here it is, a slightly healthier alternative recipe I created myself. I promise, it does not sacrifice any cream cheese flavor. 

Light & Lovely Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 package (125 grams / 4 ounces) light cream cheese (reduced-fat)
1/4 cup soft tub margarine
1/4 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3+ cups icing (confectioners') sugar

Make sure the cream cheese and margarine are softened, then beat together. Beat in yogurt and vanilla. Gradually beat in the sugar until icing is thickened and of desired consistency (it can always be thinned out with a little milk or water later, if needed). Use to frost cakes as desired. Cream cheese icing is often a little softer, so it is not as good for piping, but may be used for some basic piping.

Alternative: soft tofu can be used as a base and thickener in this, and other, fro stings, instead of or in addition to the yogurt. It contributes to the "cream cheese" flavor just as the yogurt does. Tofu may require the use of a food processor to ensure the frosting is completely smooth. If using yogurt, be sure to use Greek as regular is too thin. On a similar note, soft tofu also works well to add protein to smoothies and thicken them.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Put A Smile On Cake

Here's a quick example of what can be done with some leftover cake pieces and a little imagination!

Step One: Stick the cake pieces together into some sort of shape.
Step Two: Frost the cake. I simply used milk chocolate for this.
Step Three: Decorate as desired. Candy is quick and works well - no piping involved. Smiley faces are always welcome. Some extra garnish around the plate never hurt either.
Step Four: Stand back and admire. Take a picture if you'd like.
Step Five: Enjoy, or give to somebody else to brighten their day! 

Why buy a cake when it is this w\quick and easy to decorate one yourself? Well, I suppose that's assuming you have some leftover cake you baked on hand in the first place ;) 

Friday, May 09, 2014

Trail Mix Oatmeal

Trail Mix Oatmeal
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup milk or water
1-2 Tablespoons (a rough handful) each: whole almonds, chopped walnuts, shredded coconut, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax, raisins, and dates
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together in a small microwaveable bowl and heat for 60-90 seconds on HIGH (100%) power until almost set. Let stand for a minute or so to settle.
Note: Use any types of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit you wish!
Here is a healthy, hearty, high-protein breakfast to enjoy before hitting the trail! It's got all the standard "trail mix" flavors, but mix and match to match your own personal preferences. This oatmeal is anything but boring - it is crunchy and  full of texture. The dates caramelize in the microwave providing some sweetness. 

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Darker Chocolate = Higher Specific Heat Capacity

Not surprisingly, I discovered that the darker the chocolate (high percentage of cocoa), the higher the specific heat capacity. This means it takes more time and more energy to melt the same quantity of chocolate if it is 90% cocoa versus if it is 50% cocoa.

Average temperature change of 50% chocolate:  = 42.7°C
Specific Heat Capacity = 4.15J/g°C
Average temperature change of 70% chocolate:  = 40.3°C
Specific Heat Capacity = 4.39J/g°C
Average temperature change of 85% chocolate:  = 38.6°C
Specific Heat Capacity = 4.59J/g°C
Average temperature change of 90% chocolate:  = 33.5°C
Specific Heat Capacity = 5.28J/g°C

As you can see from the data I collected, darker chocolate increases less in temperature, hence it has a higher specific heat capacity. 

I don't know if this information is particularly useful for home bakers, but maybe some professionals use it, especially in commercial chocolate-making and similar goodies. It is not common knowledge (I tried an internet search and found no solid answers). However, it may be helpful to know that "lighter" chocolate takes less heat and less time to melt - so watch it carefully, and expect to wait a bit longer for your dark chocolate to melt. This may be most helpful in making ganache, fondue, and candies. It would be interesting to see if other factors come into play. For example, what about milk chocolate and white chocolate? How high are those specific heat capacities? That'll be another experiment for another time...
A big thanks to my father for all of his help with this experiment!

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Specific Heat Capacity of Chocolate

Good ol' physics. So many people questioned why I would take physics when all of my interest lies in cooking and baking. "What are you going to calculate? The velocity of your cake as it hits the floor? Will you have enough time to rescue it?" First of all, I don't plan on dropping any cakes. Second of all, whether physics is used in baking or not (it actually is, just not extensively), I can take physics if I would like to, it doesn't have to apply to my field of interest, as long as it interests me personally. 

I recently did a physics-related experiment in thermodynamics, though I suppose it could also be argued as more of a chemistry experiment in thermochemistry. Anyways, I was attempting to find the specific heat capacities of different types of chocolate. My prediction was that the darker the chocolate, the higher the specific heat capacity would be, and therefore it would take more time or energy to melt darker chocolate. 

The specific heat capacity of a substance is the quantity of energy (in joules) required to change the temperature of one gram of a substance by 1°C. I tested the specific heat capacity of four different types of chocolate in three trials each: 50% cocoa, 70% cocoa, 85% cocoa, and 90% cocoa (90% is my favorite). I found the specific heat capacity by recording the temperature change of 10.0 grams of each type of chocolate using a digital instant-read thermometer as it melted in a double boiler with the water below held at a constant 91.0°C over a period of three minutes. Then I used the formula q = cmΔT, where q is the heat provided by the double broiler, c is the specific heat capacity of the chocolate (the unknown), m is the mass of the chocolate, and ΔT is the temperature change of the chocolate.

The result? Why don't I wait and share that tomorrow....

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

73.75% Cocoa Fudge Brownies

73.75% Cocoa Fudge Brownies
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated (white) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup butter or hard margarine, melted
3 squares (10 grams each - not the baking squares which are 28g each): 50%, 70%, 85%, and 90% cocoa chocolate, melted together
*alternatively, 1 baking square (28g) of each type of chocolate could be used instead

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8x8 inch square pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Beat in the sugar, then the vanilla and salt. Stir in the flour until well combined. Stir in the butter, then fold in the chocolate gently until mixed. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes - no longer, brownies should still be moist. Do not overbake.
Frost if desired. I like {Glossy Chocolate Frosting}.
There is of course, a little story behind these brownies. I don't just go naming them "73.75% cocoa fudge brownies" for no reason. I am sure you realized the types/amounts of chocolate called for in this recipe are a little odd. I'll explain tomorrow. 

Monday, May 05, 2014

Chewy Chip Squares

Chewy Chip Squares
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 butter or hard margarine, softened
2 large eggs, beaten until frothy
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter or hard margarine, melted
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line a 9x9 inch square pan.
CRUST: Mix all ingredients together well and press into prepared pan.
TOPPING: Beat eggs, sugar, and flour together. Add remaining ingredients. Pour over crust. Bake for 30-35 minutes until just set, do not overbake.

These are some tasty squares my mother made. The base is chewy and enriched with oats and coconut, and the top is a bit sticky, chocolaty and satisfying. The recipe comes from a Company's Coming series cookbook. 

Paré, Jean. "Nutty Chip Squares." Recipe. Jean Paré's Favorites, Volume One, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1988. 208.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Six Bean Veggie Sloppy Joes

Six Bean Veggie Sloppy Joes
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 can five bean mix (no other ingredients added), half of a 540mL can, save the liquid
1/4 cup halved green beans
1/2 cup canned pumpkin purée
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
salt, pepper, paprika, as desired

In a small frying pan over medium heat, sautée the onion in a little oil until softened but not browned. Add the beans and stir-fry for a few minutes until softened. Add the remaining ingredients, including bean liquid, and bring to a boil until thickened. Then simmer, stirring occasionally, until cooked and soft. Mixture can be puréed for a smoother texture if desired. Makes enough for two large servings or four appetizer servings. Recipe may easily be multiplied.
This is another vegetarian sloppy joe recipe, however this one was never meant to be burgers in the first place (see: {Vegetarian Sloppy Joes}). It is soft with plenty of flavor from the pumpkin and plenty of protein from six different types of beans. Add herbs and spices as desired. This mixture may be served on bread or a bun, on baguette, as a pasta sauce, on a pizza crust, or just as is.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Carrot Cake Bars

Carrot Cake Bars
3/4 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated (white) sugar, divided
3 large eggs, divided
2 large carrots, shredded (about one cup)
1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose (plain) flour, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 package (250g/8 ounces) cream cheese

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line a 9x13 inch rectangular baking pan.
In a large bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in 2 eggs and carrots. Gradually beat in 1 1/4 cups flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Spread in prepared pan.
In a small bowl, beat together the cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, one egg, and two Tablespoons flour. Drop by spoonfuls over batter in pan and swirl gently with a knife.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool then chill. Store in the refrigerator. 

These bars are reminiscent of carrot cake, without all the work of making cakes, frosting, and assembling. The are quick and easy and remind of Easter, but would also be nice in the fall or anytime. It is almost like a cheesecake on a cake-like crust! 

Friday, May 02, 2014

Mini Flower Cake

This is a quick "cupcake" I made using some leftover cake pieces from another cake. It was really quick and simple to put together, but looks quite pretty and I am sure it brightened someone's day. To make this, I attached two triangular pieces of cake with some chocolate ganache, then spread the outside with chocolate ganahce. After chilling the cake and scraping the excess ganache from the (colorful) paper plate, I piped on a simple flower using a swirl tip and blue buttercream. I added a green center, some green polka dots, and a simple blue border. I also piped Happy Birthday on the plate. This just goes to show that you should never throw out any "scrap" cake pieces or a little extra frosting, and how a little cake and a little imagination can go a long way!

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Multigrain Wheat Machine Bread

Multigrain Wheat Machine Bread
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons honey
1/4 cup each ground flaxseed, natural wheat bran, oat bran, and wheat germ, mixed together
4 cups whole wheat flour
5 1/2 teaspoons wheat gluten (optional)
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast

Place all ingredients in bread machine pan in order given, or according to manufacturer's instructions for whole wheat cycle. This makes one large loaf, although size setting will depend on machine.