Tuesday, September 27, 2011

All About Apples Part 3: Apple Streusel Muffins

I hope everyone has enjoyed the apple recipes I've posted this last week. This will be the final recipe (at least for now) using the homemade applesauce. 

I love muffins, and in my opinion, if a "cake" doesn't have frosting on it, it's a muffin. Philosophy of life. I usually use the Betty Crocker mixes to make muffins since it's so easy and quick. But Betty is steppin' aside, cuz these wonderful Struesel Muffins put those to shame! I ate one, could have eaten the whole dozen. True.

I got this recipe from Lynn's Kitchen Adventures and I'm officially a HUGE fan of her blog. So many great recipes! :) She has lots of baking recipes (my fav!) and lots of dinners/entrees. As usual, I altered this recipe a bit since I was using a homemade and chunky applesauce. I only used one cup of chopped apples and increased the applesauce by 1/4 cup. It worked, no problem! Delicious! 

I hope you all enjoy! I'll be posting a fall cookie recipe later this week (as well as a couple dinners), so stay tuned!

These are the required ingredients: flour, sugar, salt butter, cinnamon, eggs, baking powder, milk, vanilla extract, apples, and applesauce.

First, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy.

Beat in eggs one at a time:

Stir in the applesauce. (If you need to mix everything, now's the time! Once you add the flour mixture, you can't over-mix the batter!)

Mix dry ingredients together.

Add in alternately with the milk. Stir only until combined.

Fill cups 2/3 full:

Mix together the crumble mixture. Best way is to soften butter and mix with two butter knives:

Top the muffins with the crumble/streusel topping. Pat down so the topping sticks to the batter.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack.

Serve and enjoy your delicious apple treat...er, breakfast!!

Apple Streusel Muffins - originally from Lynn's Kitchen Adventures
Makes about 1 1/2 dozen muffins

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup applesauce
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
2 cups peeled, cored, and sliced apples

Crumble topping:
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbls butter, cubed
3 tbls flour

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin pan or line with paper liners. In a large bowl cream together butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt until light and fluffy. Beat eggs in one at a time. Stir in applesauce. Set aside.

Mix together flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Stir this into batter alternately with milk. (Make sure to begin  and end with the milk. The best way is to pour in 1/3 of the milk, 1/2 dry ingredients, 1/3 milk, other 1/2 dry ingredients, and the last third of milk.)

Fold in the apples. Make sure once the dry ingredients have been added you don't over-mix the batter.
Fill cups 2/3 way full and top with crumble.

Cinnamon crumble:
In a small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, flour and softened butter. Mix together using a pastry blender, or two butter knives.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. If the tops begin to brown too fast, cover with foil.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

All About Apples Part 2: Baked Oatmeal

What pairs wonderfully with homemade applesauce??? Answer? Baked Oatmeal! Now, I'm not usually a fan of oatmeal, but this stuff tastes more like dessert than breakfast! Nom nom, I will never go back to the instant oatmeal again! And, as with the applesauce, this is a great alternative to more processed oatmeals that you find in stores.  This is a recipe also given to me by Nikki. I'm tellin' ya, she never fails me in the kitchen department. :) For those of you who have rushed mornings and always forget to eat breakfast or run out of time (*I'm raising my hand*), this is the perfect alternative for YOU. This is a very fast recipe! In fact, I made this the other morning as I was getting ready for work. It  was done by the time I left, hot and delish! 

Try it out and let me know what you think! :)

Ingredients needed: oats, brown sugar, milk, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, unsalted butter, applesauce, eggs, and vanilla. (I added nutmeg...cuz I can!)

Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients separate. Once that is complete, combine the two in a bowl and mix together.

Butter an 8x8 dish and pour in mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Baked Oatmeal

2 cups uncooked old fashioned oats
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon (I like a lot!)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup each of raisins and dried cranberries (I left these out)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ cups milk
½ cup applesauce
1 ½ tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preaheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl an combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir well.

Pour the whole thing into an 8 inch square baking dish and bake 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. 

Serve and enjoy!

Note: I added some nutmeg. I didn't measure exactly but I would guess it was about 1/4 tsp. I also poured some extra applesauce over the top and heated it up, and it was the best brekkie I've ever had! No joke. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

All About Apples Part 1: Homemade Applesauce

Happy first day of fall everyone! I don't know about you, but I LOVE fall! It's tied with winter for my favorite season. Mmmm, leaves, hot chocolate, cozy fires, pumpkins, let's not forget the cute clothes....and of course, delicious apples! I eat apples year round, but they are the best in the fall; so crisp and sweet! :)

This is going to be a three-part post on apples, because I think they are a great representation of fall cooking. The first is a Homemade Applesauce recipe I received from my friend and fellow baker, Nikki. 
She is a fabulous cook, so I always trust her recommends in the recipe department. And she's done it again! This is a wonderful treat! And for those of you with little ones, it's a great alternative to the "preservative-filled" store bought kind.

I'll be posting two more recipes in the next couple days that pair VERY well with the applesauce, so please come visit me again!

Hope everyone enjoys! If you have any apple recipes you'd like to share, please comment below:

Homemade Applesauce:
Gather up your ingredients: cinnamon, sugar, lemons, water, and apples. (could this be any easier??)

Peel, core and chop all apples. Do you like my super duper apple peeler?? Changed my life.

Put them in your crock pot and add the lemon juice. Toss until the apples are coated and add the sugar and cinnamon:

Pour your water in the crock pot and mix it all together. Turn on the crock pot and cook on either high for 5 hours or low for eight hours.

Oh, and did I mention that this will make your house smell like a spicy fall wonderland??? Love!

Homemade Crockpot Applesauce:

5 medium Gala apples, peeled, cored, quartered, and chopped
2 medium Granny Smith apples peeled, cored, quartered, and chopped
2 medium Honey Crisp apples peeled, cored, quartered, and chopped
Fresh Lemon Juice – I juiced two lemons
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup water.

Peel, slice, and chop all apples. When that’s done, place all of the apple pieces in the crock pot, pour the fresh lemon juice over them and toss them until they are coated.

Add in the sugar and cinnamon. Pour water in the crock pot, and mix together.

Turn on the crock pot and cook: either on low for 8 hours or high for 5 hours.
Enjoy your applesauce!!

Note: They don't sell Honey Crisp apples at my grocery store, so I used Fuji (my favorite!!) instead. And since I don't like tart apples much, I substituted one of the Granny Smith for a Fuji as well. So I ended up with 5 Gala, 1 Granny Smith, and 3 Fuji. Also, this applesauce does taste a little tart if you follow the recipe exactly, so I added a little extra sugar. Worked like a charm!! :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes and Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Do I need an excuse to make cupcakes? Um, NO. But I suppose if I do, a birthday is the perfect excuse. Yay for birthdays! These cupcakes are actually the first cake recipe I've ever made without the help of a cake mix...yeeahhh, no lie. I'm a cheater usually. But I thought, time to try!

I found this lovely recipe on the Smells Like Home blog (if you haven't checked it out, I highly recommend it). It's pretty much a-mazing!

Of course, the second they were finished, I HAD to taste test...one for the team, ya know? They turned out to have more of a semi-sweet vs. a milk chocolate taste. I was actually worried about taking them to work since they weren't overly sweet (Huh. What does that say about my coworkers?? hehe...like I'm any different). What can I say, we love our sweets at work!

I had Matt and his friend try one, just to make sure...and what do ya know? Both said they were the best I've ever made! Woot woot! They were also a big hit at work! So, anyway, HIGHLY recommend the recipe, both the cupcake and frosting. Happy baking!!

Get your ingredients together: see? Not too many, pretty simple recipe!

You have to make the chocolate sauce/mixture pre-batter. Boil water and add cocoa powder to it. Stir until smooth.

Oh and p.s. do NOT try to taste this sauce....it's gross!! But that's cocoa powder and water for ya! And no, I'm (ahem..) not speaking from experience here.
Set the chocolate sauce aside and mix your dry ingredients together: 1 1/3 cup flour, 2 tsp baking soda, and 1/2 tsp salt.

Remember: always sift those dry ingredients! Makes all the difference!

In a stand mixer bowl (or bowl with a hand mixer) beat 1/2 cup butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. 

Add two eggs one at a time until smooth. Then add 2 tsp vanilla.

Add dry ingredients and beat ONLY until mixed together. DO NOT overbeat the batter!

By this time, the cocoa mixture should be cooled to room temperature. Add this to the batter and stir until smooth.

Pour batter into muffin cups (this makes enough for about 16) filling about 2/3 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Da-da-da-DA! Bea-U-tiful cuppie cakes!

Ingredients to make the frosting. On the blog, this cake recipe was paired with a Vanilla Bean Buttercream. It. was. devine! Soooo good!

Beat 2 1/2 sticks of butter until smooth. 

If using a vanilla bean slice in half lengthwise and scrape seeds out. Add them to the butter.

Add 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar and a pinch of salt. Beat until most of the sugar is moistened.

Beat at medium speed until mixed together. Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tbls heavy cream. Once incorporated, beat on med-high for about 4 minutes. It's magic!! The frosting goes from heavy and wet to light and fluffy!

Frost those cupcakes! I used a closed star tip for these...


Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes about 16 cupcakes

1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup boiling hot water
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter or line 16 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a small bowl, stir until smooth the boiling hot water and cocoa powder. Let cool to room temperature.

In another bowl, whisk/sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Then, in the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Add the flour mixture and beat only until incorporated. Then add the cooled cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.

Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full with batter and bake for about 18-20 minutes or until risen, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost with icing. You can either spread the frosting on the cupcakes with a small spatula or if pip, use a large Wilton 1M open star tip to make lovely swirls.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream
Makes 3 cups (enough to frost 24 cupcakes)

2 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
1 vanilla bean halved lengthwise, or 1 tbls vanilla bean paste
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbls heavy whipping cream

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. If using a vanilla bean, using a paring knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean into butter. If using vanilla paste, add instead. Beat mixture at medium-high speed to combine, about 15 seconds.

Add confectioners' sugar and salt; beat at med-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully incoporated, about 30 seconds; scrape bowl, add vanilla and cream. Beat at medium speed until mixed, about 20 seconds. Then, increase speed to med-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.

Frost cupcakes or cakes.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Brownies and Flowers

Last week, I was getting ready for bed around 11:30. Matt lays down on the bed and says, "You know? I could really go for some brownies right now." Me, jokingly: "I could always go for some brownies." Well, he got up to take out contacts, brush teeth, etc. I settled in, thinking I was going to be sleeping soon. Not. so. much.
Next thing I know, I hear pots being banged around (it's 11:45). Really?? So I get up, go to the kitchen, and Iron Chef is out here throwin' some Betty Crocker brownies together. 

Me: "Sooooo.........whatcha doin?"
Matt: "Oh, I'm making some brownies."
Me: "Wow, look at that clock!"
Matt: "Yeah, but they don't take very long to bake."
Me: "Noooo, pretty sure they do."
Matt: "No, see? the box says....er....45-55 minutes... ohhh..."

He'd already made up the batter, sooooo, yes, we (he) made brownies at midnight. And did I stay up RIDICULOUSLY late to eat some? Sure did! I ate two in bed. Matt cracks me up, he's wayyy more impulsive than I am, and it keeps me on my toes! :)
So, next time you're up late and can't sleep? Meh, make some brownies!!

A couple days later after the late night baking class, I received a special delivery at work. Matt brought me some flowers...aren't they pretty?? I love, LOVE them! The best part is he brings me flowers "just because"...and after almost five years together! I'm definitely not one of those girls who thinks flowers are a waste of money. They always make me smile every time I see them, which is the whole point! Love love love! I feel so spoiled lately, love my guy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Asian Night! Noodles and Chicken, YUM!

I've made the executive decision that I MUST must MUST start saving some money...and that means the eating out thing, must GO. Gone. Which means meal planning is IN. This is the first week I've really tried it, and so far so good. Tonight was Asian, mmmm! I made two separate dishes: a noodle dish and a chicken dish. In retrospect, had I realized how much rice was involved with the chicken dish I would have just made the noodles and added a little chicken. Needless to say, I got my share of carbs tonight. But, still delicious! Just A LOT of food! Recipes are below for everyone, enjoy!

Veggie Noodle Side Dish
1 small sweet red pepper, julienned
3/4 cup cut fresh green beans
3/4 cup thinly sliced fresh carrots
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 package (3 oz) ramen noodles (noodles only, no seasoning)
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon fajita seasoning mix

In a large skillet or wok, stir-fry the pepper, green beans, carrots and onion in oil for 4 minutes. 

Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions. 
(discard seasoning packet or save for another use).
Add the remaining ingredients to the vegetable mixture; 
cook and stir until vegetable are crisp-tender. Drain noodles.

Add noodles to vegetables and stir until blended. Enjoy!!

I changed a couple of the vegetables in this recipe for convenience's sake. I used a red pepper and sliced carrots, but used broccoli instead of beans and zucchini and omitted the squash. I also used a yellow onion instead of a red. I had some left over from the other recipe; it was easier. :) It turned out delicious, so experiment with veggies if you want...still tastes awesome!

The next dish is a chicken and rice bowl. As I said earlier, each dish is enough on their own. They would both work well as separate entrees.

Chicken Rice Bowl
1 cup uncooked instant rice
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped frozen green peppers, thawed
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 package (9 oz) ready-to-use grilled chicken breast strips
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Cook rice in broth according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute the green pepper and onion in oil for 2-3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Stir in the chicken, basil, and sage. Cook, uncovered, for 4-5 minutes over medium heat or until heated through. 

Stir in the rice, salt, and pepper. Enjoy!!

I also changed a couple things on this one. I didn't thaw any of the ingredients (lack of planning on my part, oops!), and I also didn't use ready to eat grilled chicken strips. I bought frozen chicken tenders and those worked just fine. I just cooked the chicken with the onion and pepper for about 5 minutes before adding any veggies. Done and done! De-LISH!