Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

 

I love how this pictures really makes me stop and look at every little seed on the surface of this strawberry.  So amazing, like there was some kind of divine being who created it, huh? :-)

Do you really need a recipe for this, I mean really?!  Okay, get some strawberries, get some chocolate, melt the chocolate, dip the strawberries…..voila – chocolate dipped strawberries!!

 

I love this idea I came up with on my own, promise.  I didn’t google it or anything!  I had some cupcake boxes lying around from another baking project and of course I always have cupcake liners on hand.  The size of these monstrous strawberries were perfect for the box.  So, there you go……the perfect dozen chocolate strawberries.

These were a gift for the office ladies at my kids’ elementary school.  It was staff appreciation day and they sure felt appreciated when they saw these.  I love when people ask me, “Where did you buy these?”

Whipped Cream Filled Profiteroles

For the longest time I’ve been buying those frozen cream puffs in a white tub at the mega mart.  They’re so fluffy and light and filled with the creamy cream stuff.  I know that you know what I’m talking about.  You have them at baby and bridal showers and they just seem way too difficult to ever make yourself, right?  Wrong!!!!

The fancy French name for this dough is called pate a choux, (pronounced “pat a shoe”).  It’s the same dough you use for eclairs, crullers, and beignets.  So really, I’m giving you the recipe to four wonderful pastries, not just one.  I know, I’m generous like that!

I think the French like to name their pastries so that we’re too intimidated to think we can make them ourselves. Turns out the word choux means cabbage in French.  I guess that’s not as appetizing, so I get why they kept the French name. Forgive me, I love the French! They gave us croissants and baguettes.  And, where would Julia Child have been without them?

 This post made it to #1 on Foodbuzz’s Top 9 on April 11, 2011.  Check it out!

So back to this choux dough.  Can you believe it’s only four little ingredients?  I bet you have them in your house right this second.

It’s butter, flour, eggs and water……..really?!  Raise your hand if you have these items.

I would, but then I couldn’t type at the same time, so pretend I’m raising my hand right now.

I’ve found the easiest way to make these into to pipe them out of a bag.  Notice I only have a coupler on the tip.  That’s the white plastic thing on the end there.

It gives you a good rigid round tip to pipe out of.

This is what you end up with.  They kind of look like those cartoon honeycombs, huh?!  So cute.

Make sure you push the tips down so that they don’t burn in the oven.

And besides, my mother always told me it’s not polite to point, heehee!

When you make these, you’re going to say to yourself, the same thing I did.  “Why didn’t I learn how to make these sooner?” and “I’m never going to buy those frozen ones in the tub anymore!”  So satisfying.  Okay, I’m down off my soapbox.  Go and make them already!

Here’s a variation on the profiterole filling.  Here I used a box vanilla pudding mix.

Here’s one of the reasons why I love to bake.

To see this face light up!!

Whipped Cream Filled Profiteroles

adapted from Ina Garten

Profiteroles

1 cup milk

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter

Pinch kosher salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 extra-large eggs

powdered sugar for dusting

Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat the milk, butter, and salt over medium heat until scalded. When the butter is melted, add the flour all at once and beat it with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together and forms a dough. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for 2 minutes. The flour will begin to coat the bottom of the pan. Dump the hot mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with blade. Add the eggs until they are incorporated into the dough and the mixture is thick.

Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip. Pipe in mounds 1 1/2 inches wide and 1-inch high onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You should have about 18 puffs. With a wet finger, lightly press down the swirl at the top of each puff. (You can also use 2 spoons to scoop out the mixture and shape the puffs with damp fingers.)

Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned, then turn off the oven and allow them to sit for another 10 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Make a small slit in the side of each puff to allow the steam to escape. Set aside to cool.  After they are filled, dust with powdered sugar.

Whipped Cream

In a large bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form. Make sure not to over-beat, cream will then become lumpy and butter-like.  Put into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip and squeeze them into the empty middles of the profiteroles.

Chocolate Pretzel Bark

 

I make this bark when I’m in the mood for something sweet and salty all in one bite.  And best of all, it doesn’t require the use of the oven.

You really could substitute any of the items in this recipe (besides the chocolate, you gotta have chocolate!).  If you want to add some dried fruit or left over crackers, that would be great too, no one’s gonna stop you…….. at least I won’t!

 

Chop up the walnuts.

 

I found it’s a great way to use up all your miscellaneous pretzels that are broken up at the bottom of the pretzel bag.

I mean, it’s kind of embarrassing to offer company a bunch of broken pieces of pretzels, right?

 

 

Combine with good melted chocolate.

 

Spread it evenly and refrigerate to harden.

 

Spread on the melted white chocolate and press on the walnuts quick, before the white chocolate sets.

Cut into pieces and enjoy a great salty sweet snack!

 

 

Chocolate Pretzel Bark

2 C dark chocolate, finely chopped

1 C broken pretzel pieces, divided

1 C chopped walnuts, divided

1 C white chocolate, finely chopped

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

In a double boiler or in a microwave on low power, melt the dark chocolate, stirring until the chocolate is smooth. Remove from the heat, and stir in all of the pretzel pieces and ½ cup of the toffee pieces. Spread the mixture on the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Melt the white chocolate in the same manner as you did the dark chocolate, stirring until completely smooth. Remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator and wait 15 minutes for mixture to warm up and spread the white chocolate on top of the hardened dark chocolate layer. Sprinkle with the remaining toffee, using your palm to lightly press them into the white chocolate. Return the pan to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Use a sharp knife to cut the bark into pieces. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Makes about 1½ lbs. of bark.

 

Angel Lush Trifle

 

If there is one serving bowl that I would recommend you buy, it would definitely be a trifle bowl.  And no, you don’t need to be British to have one, at least I don’t think so!

Everything just looks so much better in this bowl.  Maybe that’s because it’s on a pedestal.  That makes so much sense! My legs look a lot better in high heeled shoes.  I guess that little bit of lift really makes a difference.

Anyway, back to the trifle.  Some other things you could do with it are make layered salads, a 7-layered bean dip, and of course trifle desserts.  This recipe is so easy and makes for a great presentation.  I love bringing this to potlucks because it looks like it took forever to make.  So not the case!

 

Angel Lush Trifle

adapted from kfraftfoods.com

1 can (20 oz.) DOLE Crushed Pineapple, with juice

1 pkg.  (1.5 oz.) JELL-O Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding

4 cups homemade  whipped cream

1 pkg.  (10 oz.) angel food cake cut into bite-sized pieces (can substitute with pound cake like I did here)

fresh berries (sliced strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)

Mix pineapple and dry pudding mix in medium bowl with whisk until well blended. Stir in whipped cream.

Layer pudding filling on bottom of trifle dish, top with cake pieces, then berries.  Repeat until finished and top with fresh berries for garnish.

Refrigerate 1 hour and serve.

 

Homemade Samoa Cookies

I’m calling a spade a spade.  These cookies took SOOOOOOO long to make!  The taste was worth the time and effort, but let me just say this…..I haven’t made them a second time, so enjoy this picture.  It will probably be the last one of its kind coming from me.

Have I scared you enough?  I’m sorry.  I’m just trying to be a good friend and warn you to carve out a chunk of time from your schedule to take these bad boys on.

The only redeeming thing about this recipe is that there is a cheater way to make these cookies and they taste the same. They are in the form of a cookie bar.  Obviously, I didn’t read closely enough before I started my saga of baking the day I made these.

So, learn from me.  Take the easy way out.  No one will blame you.  They’ll taste just as great!

 

Roll out your dough and use your cookie cutter to make the cookie shapes.

Or, you can be like me and use a shot glass and a straw.  Seriously, that’s what I used.

Don’t ask me why we have a shot glass in the house.  I’m not even sure how it got here.  That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!

The best part was blowing the cookie holes out of the straw.  See the straw on the the top right corner of the picture?  I told you!

 

 

Lay them on parchment and bake away.

 

 

Take them out and let them cool.  Meanwhile, work on your topping.

 

 

Toast the sweetened coconut flakes, making sure to toss them around a bit for even toasting.

 

 

Melt the caramel squares.

 

 

Throw in the coconut and mix it all together.  You may want to keep the pot on a very very low heat to keep this warm.  Once the topping hardens, it’s almost impossible to get it on the cookie.

 

 

Now the chocolate application.  Dip the bottoms into the melted chocolate first, then go to town on the drizzling!

Yes, like I said it was  a lot of work, but if you are a coconut or chocolate lover OR a coconut and chocolate lover, then it will be all worth it for you!!

 

Homemade Samoas

from bakingbites.com


Cookies
1 cup butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
up to 2 tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.

Mix in flour, baking powder and salt at a low speed, followed by the vanilla and milk, adding in the milk as needed to make the dough come together without being sticky (it’s possible you might not need to add milk at all).

The dough should come together into a soft, not-too-sticky ball. Add in a bit of extra flour if your dough is very sticky.
Roll the dough (working in two or three batches) out between pieces of wax paper to about 1/4-inch thickness (or slightly less) and use a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter to make rounds.

Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and use a knife, or the end of a wide straw, to cut a smaller center hole.

Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until bottoms are lightly browned and cookies are set.

Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Topping
3 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
12-oz good-quality chewy caramels
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp milk
8 oz. dark or semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips are ok)

Preheat oven to 300. Spread coconut evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet (preferably one with sides) and toast 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden. Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Unwrap the caramels and place in a large microwave-safe bowl with milk and salt. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir a few times to help the caramel melt. When smooth, fold in toasted coconut with a spatula.
Using the spatula or a small offset spatula, spread topping on cooled cookies, using about 2-3 tsp per cookie. Reheat caramel for a few seconds in the microwave if it gets too firm to work with.

While topping sets up, melt chocolate in a small bowl. Heat on high in the microwave in 45 second intervals. Dip the base of each cookie into the chocolate and place on a clean piece of parchment paper. Transfer all remaining chocolate (or melt a bit of additional chocolate, if necessary) into a piping bag or a ziplock bag with the corner snipped off and drizzle finished cookies with chocolate.
Let chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

 

Red Velvet Cupcakes

If you always thought that a red velvet cupcake was just a chocolate cupcake with red food coloring, I’m right there with you. I just learned the difference this year.  It took me a while to understand that red velvet really does have a distinct taste of its own. There is some cocoa powder in here, but not enough to call it a chocolate cupcake.

I think the flavor really comes from the smooth cream cheese frosting.  The sour tang from the cheese combined with the sweet cake is just to die for!  The name Sprinknolia pays homage to both Sprinkles of Beverly Hills and Magnolia Bakery of New York and their famed cupcakes.  Now, it’s famous in my house!

Sprinknolia’s Red Velvet Cupcakes

from sporkandfoon.com

3½ cups flour
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 ½ cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
6 tbsp (3 oz) red food coloring
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa

1½ tsp vanilla extract
1½ tsp salt
1½ cups buttermilk
1½ tsp cider vinegar
1½ tsp baking soda

Frosting:
12 ounces cold cream cheese
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, firm but not cold
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds (6 cups) powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour 2 cupcake pans (24 cupcakes).

To make the batter: In a small bowl, sift the cake flour and set aside. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a small bowl, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla. Add to the batter and beat well.

In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat. In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and bake the cupcakes, switching positions of the pans halfway through baking, until a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pan 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a rack before icing. To ice, mound about ¼ cup of frosting on top of each cupcake and use an icing spatula to make a swirl on top. If desired, decorate with colored sprinkles.

Frosting:
Combine butter, salt, and cream cheese in mixer and beat on medium speed 2-3 minutes.
Add sugar until just incorporated. Don’t over mix. It should be thick but not fluffy.
Add vanilla. If necessary, add milk to thin.

Spicy Tofu and Edamame Beans

You gotta love the Chinese!  Well, I am one, so I guess I’m not totally impartial.  They sure know how to stretch one ingredient!

This whole dish is basically one ingredient, in three forms.  The almighty soy bean is the basis of lots of Chinese cooking. So the actual bean in its original form is used, then there’s the tofu and the soy sauce……..genius!  And not one item tastes like the other.

Also, I’m not sure why these soy beans, which are of Chinese origin got a Japanese name.  It’s okay, I love the Japanese too.  They gave us sushi!!

 

Spicy Tofu and Edamame Beans

from Ching-He Huang

Bean Curd Stir-Fry

2 tablespoons groundnut oil (peanut)

14 ounces firm fresh bean curd (firm tofu), drained and cut into 1/2-inch thick rectangles

3 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

1 tablespoon black rice vinegar (recommended: Chinkiang) or balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon dried chile flakes

Edamame Beans

1 tablespoon groundnut oil (peanut)

1 red chile, seeded and finely chopped

Water, as needed

3 ounces fresh or frozen edamame beans, thawed

1 teaspoon light soy sauce

1 teaspoon black rice vinegar (recommended: Chinkiang) or balsamic vinegar

Handful fresh cilantro leaves and stalks, finely chopped

To make the bean curd: Heat the groundnut oil in a large flat-bottomed pan over a medium heat. Add the bean curd, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the light soy sauce and cook until the sauce has reduced and the bean curd is browned on one side. Using a small palette knife or fork, lift and turn each piece, careful not to break the bean curd. Cook just to color the second side.

Add the dark soy sauce, and vinegar, and cook until the liquid has reduced by half. Season the dish with the dried chile flakes. Transfer the bean curd to a serving plate and set aside.

To make the edamame: Reheat the pan and add the groundnut oil. Stir-fry the chile for a few seconds, and then add the edamame beans. Add a sprinkle of water to help create steam, and cook for less than 1 minute. Season the edamame with the light soy sauce, and vinegar, then stir in the chopped cilantro.

To serve, pour the edamame beans over the bean curd and serve immediately. For a fuller meal, serve with steamed rice.

Watermelon Salad

 

The first time I read this recipe, I thought it was a joke.  Seriously…….watermelon with olives, onion and feta?  You too will be amazed when you muster up the courage to try this one yourself.  If you’re a little scared, you can do like me and make it for the first time for friends at a dinner party.  At least there’s be safety in numbers, right?

Well, it’s a good thing I did.  My friend, who doesn’t even like watermelon loved it and asked for the recipe when she left. She told me she’s made it several time for friends since.  I’m so glad to be able to pass on the torch of odd, but wonderful recipes to others.

There’s still a couple of watermelons out there in the grocery store, although the pumpkins are taking their place rather quickly.  Here’s your chance to buy the last watermelon of the season and try this one out.  You won’t regret it.

And, if you really don’t like it, maybe you can carve the watermelon for Halloween instead of a pumpkin……….haha!  If you do this, please send me a picture.

 

Watermelon Salad with Feta

from Melissa Clark

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon harissa or other hot sauce (I used Tabasco)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 pounds seedless watermelon, rind removed, fruit sliced 1/4 inch thick

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup pitted Moroccan or other oil-cured black olives, coarsely chopped

2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)

In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil with the lemon juice and harissa and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the watermelon slices on a platter and sprinkle with the onion, parsley, olives and feta. Drizzle the dressing on top and serve.

Outrageous Brownies

Ina Garten of the Foodnetwork is right when she calls these brownies outrageous.  I was a bit timid to add 4 sticks of butter to this recipe………..call me a wimp.  So, I cut the butter in half and even took some of the extra chocolate chips out.  Believe me, this recipe is rich enough without it.

I’m also not a coffee-drinker, so I cut the coffee granules down by a third too.  For you java nuts out there, feel free to use the original recipe of 3 tablespoons of coffee.

 

Outrageous Brownies

adapted from Ina Garten

½ pound (2 sticks) butter

1 pound (16 oz) semisweet chocolate chips

6 extra-large eggs

1 tablespoon instant coffee granules

2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease and flour a 18 x 13 x 1-inch baking sheet.

Melt together the butter and chocolate chips in a medium bowl in the microwave at 20 second intervals. Allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow it to cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour into the baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for another 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake!

Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into 20 large squares.

 

Coconut Cupcake with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

My husband: “This is the best cupcake I’ve ever eaten!”

Me: “Good, because you know I don’t like coconut and I made them for you anyway.”

Aren’t I a good wife to go through the trouble to make these time-intensive cupcakes, all the while knowing I probably wasn’t even going to eat one?!  I think so…………

Well, as you may have guessed, I didn’t eat one.  I think I ate two or three.

Wow, they had an intense coconut flavor, both from the cake, frosting and of course all those crunchy toasted flakes on top.  It was an amazing contrast of texture and flavor in my mouth, from just one bite.

If you are a coconut lover, you will L-O-V-E this recipe!

Yes, I spelled out love.  You know that means it’s gotta be good!

 

 

Mix together the butter, sugar and eggs until light and fluffy.

 

 

Coconut milk and vanilla.  This is where the flavor’s at!

 

 

Fold in the coconut flakes gently and by golly please don’t overdo it either.  Overbeating will give you tough cupcakes.

 

 

Nice silky coconut cream cheese frosting.  Resist the urge to eat this straight with a spoon.

Okay, just one spoonful!

 

 

Here they are, some unassuming yellow cupcakes………until

 

 

BAM!!

The frosting and toasted coconut flakes take this cupcake to the next level!

I’m not sure what the next level is, but I’m assuming it’s waaaaay better than this level.

 

Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

adapted from simplyrecipes.com

Cupcake Ingredients

3/4 cup of butter, room temperature

1 1/4 cup of sugar

3 eggs, room temperature

1 cup of canned coconut milk

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups of flour

1 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 cup of sweetened coconut flakes

Frosting Ingredients

1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature

8 oz of Philly cream cheese (1 package), room temperature

1 ½ cup of powdered sugar

2 cups of sweetened coconut flakes, toasted to golden brown

2 T coconut milk

Cupcake

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar and cream until light and fluffy again, scraping down the sides halfway through to ensure even mixing.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 30 seconds each to ensure mixing. Be sure to scrape down the sides after each egg to ensure even mixing.

Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in one bowl. In another add 1 cup of a well shaken can of coconut milk and a teaspoon of vanilla. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix, then add 1/2 of the wet ingredients. Continue alternating with the wet and dry mixtures, ending with the dry. Stop mixing once just as the ingredients become incorporated; do not overbeat.

Fold in the coconut. Scoop into cupcake papers about one half to three-quarters of the way full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, rotating the pan after the first 15 to ensure even baking. Be sure to check with a toothpick to see if the cupcakes are done. If the toothpick comes out of the cupcake clean, then they’re ready. Allow the cupcakes to cool for a minute or two in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Frosting

Cream the butter and cream cheese together, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom.

Slowly add the coconut milk and powdered sugar, taste as you go adding more sugar until you have reached the desired sweetness.  Spread onto cooled cupcakes.  Sprinkle toasted coconut on top and serve.

Makes 20 cupcakes.