Sunday, September 30, 2012

Easy Peasy Mocha Donut Muffins

Awhile back, as I browsed my food blogs (as I frequently do when I'm bored), I came across a review of the new Jif Hazelnut Spreads. At the time, they were so new that I hadn't seen them in the store yet. I Then I found out about the Mocha Cappuccino flavor...and I couldn't wait to get my hands on some.

To this day, my regular grocery store still doesn't carry them, but they are conveniently located near the end of an aisle at a certain supercenter I frequent, and noticed that they had been marked down. I had to do it. Even Mom agreed with me. However, with all the other baking projects that I've been trying, working with it has been pushed towards the back burner.

Last week, one of my usual blogs posted this recipe from a few years back. Three ingredient Nutella Donuts. With the small output size, it was a perfect for one thing: I don't have a donut pan. I'm running out of room in the kitchen to store pans, even if I bought one.

But, even though I was replacing Nutella with a competitor, I'm all about recipe experimentation. So I made an adjustment and baked them in a regular muffin pan!

The first thing I noticed about the mocha spread was the smell. You can't avoid that delicious mocha smell from the second the jar gets opened. The second thing was that the look and texture are not the same as Nutella. It's kind of a cross between peanut butter and chocolate frosting.

Still, I measured out 2/3 of a cup (giving my mother the spoon I used to scoop the stuff out to lick and making sure I licked the measuring cups clean!) and mixed the ingredients. The recipe, as follows:

Easy Peasy Mocha Donut Muffins
Adapted from Lauren's Latest
Makes 6 muffins

2/3 cup nutella + more for glazing
1 egg + 1 egg yolk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray muffin pan with baker's spray and set aside.
2. In small bowl, combine nutella, egg, egg yolk and flour until smooth batter forms. Spoon evenly into pans and spread batter around to fill cavities evenly.
3. Bake 12-15 minutes or until thoroughly cooked.
4. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes before removing from pans. Cool completely on a wire rack.
The original recipe called for glazing with more Nutella and an optional sprinkling of hazelnuts. I didn't do that for a couple of reasons. For one, the texture of the mocha spread is not something that can easily be used to glaze like Nutella. For's hard to resist eating them right off the rack. They...smell...heavenly!

If you're expecting that perfect Nutella flavor, these aren't for you. You can't taste hazelnut whatsoever. The review I read had prepped me for such. But these things are absolutely divine and were ready in just about half an hour total. Two thumbs up...and I'm going to have to buy me a few cases of this stuff!

Monday, September 24, 2012

[Virtually] Carb Free Bread

It's getting to be that time of year.

Come October, the food barrage starts. There are three birthdays within nine days in my family at the end of October and beginning of November, sandwiched around Halloween and all the candy leftovers. After all the cake and candy, you have no time to recover before Thanksgiving and Christmas give everybody who watches what they eat all kinds of temptation. Not to mention that it also starts the busier season at work, meaning meals get kind of crazy as well.

I was browsing Kirbie's Cravings yet again the other day in search of nothing in particular, and came across her Carb Free Cloud bread. It intrigued me. Carbs are not my enemy, but wheat is a big source of fructans, which is a chain of fructose that my diet limits. So, I figured, why not? It looked simple enough.

I clicked through and looked at the original recipe, along with the reviews. I liked the idea of just spreading it out on a cookie sheet and cutting it later, so that's what I did.

Another change I made to the recipe (yeah, I know, I'm good at doing that) was the addition of a half teaspoon of salt. This was also based on something in the reviews, although I knew it wouldn't mask the eggy taste.

However, there was one thing that the recipe wasn't clear on. The Kirbie's Cravings version uses a gram of sugar (roughly a quarter teaspoon), while the original calls for a “1 gram packet of artificial sweetener.” I buy both sugar and artificial sweetener in bulk bags, and one gram of artificial sweetener works out to about two teaspoons of Splenda, which supposedly is equivalent in sweetness by volume, but not weight. I'm not sure which sweetener the original creator used, and I have all this Splenda I'm trying to use up. Since I have broken every food scale I've ever owned, I went ahead and used two teaspoons of Splenda.

My version of the recipe:

[Virtually] Carb Free Bread
Adapted From Kirbie's Cravings, who adapted it from
Serves 4-12, depending on how you like your sandwiches
3 eggs, separated
3 tblsp cream cheese (about 2oz)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Separate the eggs into mixing bowls. Use a large bowl for whites.
3. Mix together the egg yolks, cream cheese, Splenda and salt until smooth.
4. Add 1/4 teaspoon of Cream of Tartar to the whites and beat the whites on high speed until they form stiff peaks.(You should be able to turn the bowl upside down without the egg whites falling out.
5. Very carefully fold the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites by stirring clockwise with a spatula until mixed and no egg white streaks remain.
6. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
7. Pour mixture onto parchment and very gently spread with a spatula.
8. Bake on the middle rack about 25 minutes or until a golden brown.
9. Carefully remove by the parchment paper and cool on a rack or cutting board
10. Once completely cool, slice into bread-sized slices (about 8) and store in a tightly sealed storage bag or container over night.

I was a very bad food blogger and didn't take any pictures of this while it was still whole. I tasted a corner of it before I sliced it up and packed it away – it pretty much tasted like scrambled eggs. Still, I packed it up and put it in the fridge.

I used it for my lunchbox chicken salad sandwich for lunch. Perhaps (and you might be able to discern this from the photo) chicken salad wasn't the best choice, as it fell apart a little. The whole breast wouldn't fit in my reusable container, though. Anyway, I forked half of the chicken salad onto each slice and ate it open face.

As far as the taste goes, the chicken salad overpowered the egg taste. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it tasted. I haven't tried it yet with peanut butter and jelly, but I think it would still work. As an added plus, it was done quickly. And, at about 50 calories for an eighth of the recipe (and about half a gram of carbs), it actually works out to be slightly less than the sliced bread I normally buy. I'm very tempted to try this with Neufch√Ętel or part-skim ricotta cheese to lower the calorie count even more.

Even using full fat cream cheese, it's still one to keep in the arsenal. Even if I can't stop playing with it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sourdough Surprises: English Muffins

Florida has its benefits – but baking real bread and related goodies over the hot, humid summer is not one of them. You have to add so much flour that, at least I believe, affects the results. Still, I discovered an online baking group: Sourdough Surprises. This month's project was English muffins. I've never before attempted baking English muffins, let alone while the humidity is still above 90%. But with my aunt in town for the weekend and some Philadelphia Indulgence Dark ChocolateCream Cheese in the refrigerator, this was just a little added incentive to try.

I followed the recommended recipe, sans cornmeal – although it took about a cup and a half more flour with the weather we've been having. The cornmeal was both a convenience choice (none on hand and its a small amount to use, and when is the next time I'm going to make cornbread?) as well as personal (I hate it when things start to flake off of my breakfast, be it sprinkles, poppy seeds or cornmeal). I didn't do it all myself. I actually worked last Thursday and needed to do this on Friday, so I fed the starter before I left and my mother helped me by doing the first step for me Thursday night, so it would be ready Friday morning.

I couldn't resist testing one out Friday, eating a post-workout egg sandwich on one. But Saturday morning was special. They were good – really good – and that dark chocolate only made it better.

So good, the only thing that could make it even better was peanut butter:

Problem solved. Yum.

Check out the other Sourdough Surprises English Muffins here:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Cleaning Out The Pantry: Blueberry Muffins

Life can most certainly get in the way of baking sometimes. Don't worry about the starter – I made pancakes last Saturday. But preparations to get the not-done-being-remodeled upstairs liveable for my aunt (who's in town for the weekend) coupled with work made for a rough week. So to make up for it (and keep my aunt happy), I had two culinary projects yesterday. One will be posted next week for an online project, but in case that didn't turn out, I had a Plan B: Krusteaz One StepBlueberry Muffins.

This particular mix had several reasons for sitting in my pantry so long. Like I've said before, my dad hates fruit, other than apples and bananas. Plus it's made with “imitation blueberries.” Unbaked, they're these little nugget things that taste like blueberries but look more like the carbon pellets I put in the filter for my turtle tank.

Having said that, I had a multitude of reasons for baking it today. One, my aunt loves my baked goods and I wasn't sure how my other project would turn out. For two, I think she's the one who gave it to us in the first place. Plus my dad is out of town and it quickly makes just a half dozen – meaning I could devote some time to Plan A and if it did work, not have a whole lot of extra baked goods.

They're also both hard to modify (there's only so much extra that will fit into the bottle) and hard to mess up. I did consider baking it in a mini loaf tin, but I wasn't sure how high it would end up baking up. So I made it exactly. It doesn't happen often.

Like most mixes, it tastes okay. I think the regular blueberry muffin mixes do taste better, though still not as good as homemade. It's not bad either though – I've certainly tasted worse things in my life.

Plus, that's one more thing out of the pantry. Until next time...

Friday, September 7, 2012

Easy Weeknight Chicken: Baked Mango Chipotle Chicken Tenders With Avocado Tomato Rice

I love to cook. My mother doesn't. Her mantra on cooking is “I like meals with three ingredients that I already have.” Which is one reason why if I'm not the one cooking, a homemade dinner is almost always either spaghetti and meat sauce, pancakes with bacon or sausage, or baked chicken with a boxed starch and a can of veggies.

Having learned from her, I do make baked chicken, but I put my own spin on it. After finding a bottle of 
Mango Chipotle Vinaigrette from Kraft (it's so new that there's not even a link to it on their website yet)
at the grocery store this week, I had to try it with something. And with the Shine Supper Club doing “Weeknight Chicken Dinners” this month, it was a perfect time to put a new spine on Mom's classic. I've used this technique with bottled mojo marinade as well, so you can use just about any marinade that you want.

So, here is my recipe:
Baked Mango Chipotle Chicken Tenders
1lb Chicken Tenders
~1/4 Cup Kraft Mango Chipotle Vinaigrette

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and spray a 9x13” glass baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Trim fat off of chicken tenders. Arrange in a single layer in baking dish. Drizzle with vinaigrette and brush with a silicone basting brush
  3. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until done.

Avocado Tomato Rice
1 medium green skin avocado (or 1 large hass avocado)
1-8-oz can tomato sauce
2 cups cooked white rice.
Salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste

  1. Prepare rice
  2. While rice is preparing, roughly dice avocado. Immediately toss with tomato sauce and salt, pepper and hot sauce, adjusting seasoning as necessary.
  3. Serve over rice

I have to say I wish that the dressing lived up to the “Chipotle” in its name. It was good, just not very spicy, so if you're looking for that, you might want to sprinkle your tenders with a little chili powder as well. But hey, even my fruit-hating father enjoyed this one. It was quite good, it's healthy, and, on the table in under 30 minutes, is definitely one to keep in the arsenal as a change of pace.

As an added benefit, it might just be simple enough to make Mom proud.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Avocado Chocolate Cake

This week, I have time to relax from last week's chaos. However, it's not stopping me from having my days. And yesterday was one of them.

I have become a huge fan of using applesauce as a fat replacement in cakes. While it's fabulous, it has its limitations. Recently, I've been seeing more and more recipes that call for avocado as a fat replacer. Avocados are one of my favorite foods and I don't get them often (unless my plants ever grow and go on to produce fruit, but my research tells me that could still be a few years).

Normally, my instincts say you don't cook avocados. They turn bitter. On the other hand, these recipes seem to becoming more and more commonplace. With Kirbie's Craving's (one of my favorite food blogs) started posting all kinds of recipes, I knew I'd have to try a few, and I started with the non-original one: Avocado Chocolate Cake. You can view the recipe here.

And here's where things get crazy. Mom decided on a whim last week to rearrange the pantry and the spice cabinet. So things weren't where I expected. I had the baking soda out and was digging for baking powder when my phone rang. Telemarketer, but enough to distract me.

I had every intent of actually following this recipe to a tee. I realized, however, with about 10 minutes left in the baking time (as I was cleaning up and putting all of my ingredients away) that I didn't remember adding either the baking soda or baking powder. Too late now. That was mistake number 1.

Mistake number 2 was in frosting it. I still had half a can of frosting from the mocha cake, so I decided to try the microwave-and-pour trick. Yes, it works. Except, with the cake on a dinner plate and too much frosting, it spills over and makes a royal mess. Hence the lack of an iced photo. I was cleaning it up.

Still, the cake itself tasted good, but with the lack of the baking soda and/or baking powder, it was dense and the texture But hey, isn't that how brownies were invented?

So the lessons learned:
  1. Turn off the phone.
  2. I need a cake plate (or maybe I should have just done it on a cooling rack)
  3. As the Mythbusters would say...Failure is always an option (and, on that note, it can still taste sweet!)

Will I have another go at this cake? Absolutely. Avocados are good for you, and the chocolate does indeed overpower the taste of them (if you're not into sweet avocados. Personally, I like them both ways).

And hopefully someday, this tree I planted last year (and at least some of the seeds I'm currently trying to sprout) will give me a glut of avocados to use for cakes like this.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sourdough Mocha Cake

Oh, gosh, has it been a stressful week. The kind of stuff you can anticipate (for the most part) but can't stop. With it only getting worse and a need to use the sourdough starter, it was time to visit an old friend: The Mocha Cake.

The original recipe came from an Old Hickory Farms booklet (copyright date: 1972), that I also got my sourdough pancakes recipe from. It's also probably the recipe I learned to experiment on. The original calls for a half cup of butter, and it comes out dry and crumbly. I started making it with oil and the problem all but went away. Then I ran out of instant coffee and started subbing instant cappuccino, which diluted the taste so I upped it (and the cocoa) from a teaspoon to a tablespoon. Somewhere along the line, the nuts the recipe called for disappeared as well.

The original also says to serve with “hard sauce” and a recipe for a brandy or rum – based glazed follows. I have always just used frosting. So, I think this one is coming dangerously close to my own original recipe.

Now I had a new plan: Applesauce in place of oil. I'm looking to reduce as many calories as possible in as many recipes as possible. With the Amish Friendship Breadexperiment making me a little gun-shy about using Splenda again just yet, and this recipe calling for exactly half a cup of fat, this was how.

The recipe, as follows:
Sourdough Mocha Cake
Adapted from Old Hickory Farms

1/2 Cup Applesauce
1-1/2 Cups Sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 Cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tblsp instant cappuccino
1 tblsp cocoa powder
1 cup ripe sourdough starter
1/4 cup milk

  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix applesauce and sugar together until well combined. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing well.
  2. In one separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In another, combine milk and sourdough starter (or just use a liquid measuring cup. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
  3. Spray an 8” square pan (or 9” or bundt pan) with baker's spray. Pour batter into pan, tapping the pan on the counter several times to release air bubbles.
  4. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes for the 8” pan, 50-55 minutes for the bundt pan and 35-40 minutes for the 9” pan. Cool on rack before frosting.

I noticed it came out darker than usual. I have to say normally it almost looks like a dense white cake and just has the hint of the mocha taste to it. I so wanted to taste it, but I wanted to test out some of my new decorator tools.

The frosting (and I just used a spare can from the pantry) goes on a lot smoother with an angled spatula...

And this Wilton Decorator Triangle was an Amazon add-on well spent!

All in all, the cake wasn't that moist, but it was still pretty good. I think I could even taste more chocolate than I did in the oil-based versions. So, while I might play around with it some, I still have to give it two thumbs up.

Speaking of playing, I've got quite a few more toys that still need to be played with and a certain ingredient I love but don't get often from the grocery store. Stay tuned...