Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cinnamon Cocoa Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

I don't think that I've ever posted two recipes in a row, but these cupcakes are just too wonderful not to share right now.  The frosting is very distinct and not overly sweet.  It makes a nice, thick, bakery quality buttercream that perfectly compliments the texture of the cake.  I did luck into a few specialty ingredients, but they aren't difficult to substitute for easier to find versions.  This recipe was originally vegan, and is incredibly easy to change back if you'd prefer it that way.

For the cupcakes you need:

1 cup milk (or soy/rice/almond milk)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter (or vegetable oil)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder- minus 1 Tbsp
1 Tbsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 350° F, and line muffin pan with 12 liners.  Whisk together the milk and vinegar, and let sit for a few minutes while you melt your butter.  Add melted butter, sugar, and vanilla extract to milk mixture, and beat until frothy.  In a separate bowl sift together flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Slowly add to liquid mixture, beating until well incorporated, but with a few lumps remaining.

Fill liners 3/4 full, and bake for 18-20 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.  Makes 12 cupcakes.

For the frosting you need:

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature (Earth Balance or vegetable shortening for vegan version)
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp milk (soy/rice/almond)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp vanilla powder, or the scrapings from one whole vanilla bean

Using a stand mixer, electric beaters, or one hell of a strong arm- beat all ingredients until well incorporated and fluffy.  Double checking to make sure that cupcakes are fully cooled- frost liberally using a butter knife or pastry bag.

Keep away from chubby kitties.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Crunchy, Clustery Granola with Honey Buttermilk Pralines

A few years ago I went through a short and not-so-sweet phase of trying to make my own granola.  I was so focused on it being healthy that it was never sweet enough or really all that enjoyable otherwise.  No clumps or clusters, and almost always over-baked and lackluster.  I gave up for quite a while, but recently decided to give it another go- this time allowing myself a little sweetness.

This recipe is hands-down, without argument the best granola that I've ever made.  It's also dramatically different than any other recipe that I've tried.  It's best if you make it the night before you plan to eat it- as it needs a little bit of time to really crunch up and do what it needs to do.

For the pralines you need:

1 1/4 cup organic sugar
3 Tbsp honey (or maple syrup)
1/4 cup buttermilk (regular milk is also fine)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp sea salt
2 1/2 cups assorted chopped nuts and coconut (I used pumpkin seeds, almonds, pecans, and large flake coconut)

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until a candy thermometer reaches 235° F.  Remove from heat, and stir in nuts until well coated.  Pour nut mixture onto a sheet of parchment paper and spread out thinly and evenly.  Let this sit to cool while you prepare the rest of your granola mixture.

Note that this praline recipe makes about double what I ended up using in my granola. We put the rest on ice cream.

For the granola you need:

1 lb oatmeal (whatever you have on hand is fine- I used a 5 grain rolled cereal mixture, and the original recipe uses quick oats- do NOT use instant oatmeal!)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 scant cup sugar
1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 egg whites (optional, but they really help to form your clusters!)

Preheat oven to 300° F.  Using a food processor or blender- grind about half of your oats into a fine meal (not quite a powder, but significantly smaller than what you started with).  Add ground oats to a large bowl with whole oats, cinnamon, and ginger.  In a medium saucepan combine sugar, honey or syrup, butter, water, and salt.  Heat over medium-high heat, just until butter has melted and the mixture starts to bubble.  Pour over oat mixture, and mix well, until the entire mixture is the same consistency and moistness.  Beat your egg whites just until frothy, then pour over your oat mixture and once again mix until combined. 

Divide the mixture onto two baking sheets, spreading with your fingers and allowing to sit in clumps.  Bake in 20-25 minute increments- gently stirring the granola on only one pan, leaving the other in one in its original large clumps.  It should take about an hour to an hour and a half for it to be sufficiently dried out and toasty.  The un-stirred pan may be done before the other- just keep an eye on it! 

From here you're going to do two different things with each pan.  For the pan that you haven't stirred at all while baking- let it sit until completely cooled (overnight if possible), then break into large clumps.  These will be your big oatlicious clusters.  For the pan that you stirred during baking- pour the granola into a large bowl while still slightly warm.  Break your cooled praline into small chunks with your hands, and add about half (or however much you want) to the bowl with granola.  Using your hands work the pralines into the granola.  They'll get really soft since the granola is still warm and try to stick together in big clumps.  Just keep working with it, breaking the pralines into small chunks as you go.  Once it's your desired consistency allow it to sit until completely cooled- again overnight is best.

Mix your two batches together, and add any other additions that you want.  Now is the perfect time to add any dried fruit, candied ginger, or other goodies that you like in your granola.

Makes one giant lovely batch.

Recipe adapted from here, here, and here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

New Goals for the New Year: 2011

I recently went back over my goals for 2010 and wanted to give myself a little bit of time to come up with some goals for 2011.  I prefer goals over resolutions, as they give me some direction and focus without being so dramatic.  It's no big deal if I sway in another direction halfway through the year, or if I focus on one more than any other.  The New Year coincides with my birthday, and so it really is the perfect time for me to plot out a little structure and direction.

1. Do things that terrify, embarrass, startle, and otherwise freak me out.  I can be both terribly shy and terribly calculated at times, and it doesn't really seem to do me any favors.  I'd like to get past this and be able to feel more free in my actions.  I told my entire yoga class on Wednesday night that I call myself "baby girl" in my head when I'm running as to be nicer to myself (rather than cussing myself out).  I then turned bright red and promptly shoved my water bottle in my face after I blurted it out.  It was tiny and silly, but kind of awesome.  I need more of that in my life.

2. Learn more about the joys of yeast and fermentation.  The end of 2010 had me falling in love with kimchee, falling off the kombucha homebrewing wagon, getting tired of store bought yogurt, acquiring a stand mixer with a bread hook attachment, and becoming fascinated with yeast as carbonation.  I'd also love to try my hand at making vinegar and working with sourdough, and I really think it might be time to dust off our homebrew kit and get down to making beer.

3. Go places, take classes, and make things.  Now that I'm equipped with a tiny car, a bright pink fishing pole, and a membership with the Puget Sound Mycological Society- I am unstoppable!  Well, getting there.  I've also signed up to take a gyotaku class next month in Portland, I just started a 6 week ashtanga yoga series, I'm starting swim lessons in March, and I'm really excited about the classes offered at ASUW Experimental College.  Non-stop!

4. Run a full marathon and start training for a triathlon.  I ran my first half marathon in November, and my second one is coming up in March.  I've really fallen in love with running, and the fact that running a full marathon sounds insane and impossible just makes me want to do it more.  The tri training will be dependent on how well my swim lessons go!

5. Go somewhere I've never been before.  This is a bit like #3, and I'm kind of sort of cheating on this one- as I already know that I'll be spending Thanksgiving in Mexico this year (hi Mom!), but ideally I'd like to make this a semi-regular thing.  I like the idea of trying restaurants in towns I've never been to.  Adventures in the name of food!

Have you made any goals or resolutions for 2011?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Finnriver Cidery & Point No Point

Last weekend, as my final birthday request- I wrangled up two of my favorite people and we hopped the ferry to Kingston.  From there we had a bit of an eventful drive, full of sugary coffee drinks and bizarre fender benders (not us).  Our intended destination was Finnriver Cidery & Farm in Chimacum, on the Olympic Peninsula.  I sort of offhandedly decided that 2011 is going to be a year full of ciders.  So far- I've done pretty alright for myself.  There seems to be an uprising of local cideries in Washington, and I'm totally in love.

"Come quickly, I am tasting stars!" - Don Perignon

Crystie humored us for over an hour- letting us taste every cider that they had available, as well as a pear cider that they're still experimenting with.  We brought home a bottle of their Sprited Apple Wine- which is an apple wine that's been combined with apple brandy.  I'm drinking a glass right now.  We also brought home their Farmstead Cider, made with heirloom apples.  It's very dry and not very sweet- quite different than what I'm used to.  I love it.

We had a few hours to kill before we needed to catch the ferry back- and so we made a bit of a detour to check out Point No Point.

We also made a quick pitstop at CB's Nuts to pick up some of their Oregon pumpkin seeds, and peanuts.  It's a tiny little space, but worth checking out- mostly for the free samples.

If you're in the Seattle area, but aren't able to make it out to Chimacum just for cider- Bottleworks in Wallingford carries a few of their varieties, and from what it sounds like- Finnriver is working on getting some of their ciders into some local bars as well. 

All in all- a pretty fantastic day.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Link Love!

I never find it surprising that so many people are looking to change their eating once December wraps up.  I have an early January birthday and so the rich foods and sugar binges still carry on a bit further.  All I've wanted to eat the past few days have been light, simple foods that are lovely and quick to make.

- Earlier this week I made a soup that was a combination of Chicken Soup with Jasmine Rice and Ginger from Serious Eats, and Miso Soup with Rice & A Poached Egg from The Kitchn.  Mine was a miso broth with garlic and ginger, served over rice and topped with a poached egg and some leftover sockeye salmon.  Served with a huge salad- it was perfect.

- When I did a cleanse last year- almond butter was one of my staples.  To be honest- I really don't like the stuff available commercaially- but this simple recipe for Homemade Maple Almond Butter from Food In Jars is another beast entirely.

- Perfect Little Ginger Cakes from Tales of a Food Forager are just that.  Perfect.  While theirs is a recipe made for the summer months- the lightness of them makes it ideal for simplified eating.  I love ginger sweets, but right now the last thing I want is a dense molasses cake.  These are made with honey and fresh ginger and would serve up beautifully with frozen summer berries or jam.  Scroll down about halfway for the recipe.

- While these Individual Buttermilk Spoonbreads from Herbivoracious sound quite rich on their own- I can't imagine a more perfect compliment to a pot of simple vegetarian chili. 

- If you're still craving homebaked sweets, but don't have the energy to venture into the kitchen (it also helps if you live in Seattle)- There is always The Piecycle.  Via Go Means Go:

"It’s simple.  You text your order to 425.923.6655 and it gets delivered to your door Friday and Saturday from 6pm-3am.  It doesn’t cost much, especially when you consider that these are homemade pies.  $3 gets you a slice or $20 buys you a whole pie."

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