Wednesday, February 29, 2012

kale chips

I have an unhealthy obsession with Pinterest. This would be a bad thing, considering it takes up more time than I'd like to admit, but it has led me to several new blogs with countless new recipe ideas. And since I've been pinning before pinning was cool, I have more recipes than I know what to do with. And yes, I totally just ended that sentence with a preposition.

I've been mildly obsessed with kale lately, partly because it's awesome and partly because it's awesomely in-season (hello, 99 cents/lb). I usually keep spinach in the fridge, and throw a little into most of my meals. Kale is a nice change of pace, as it holds up a bit more when cooked, adding a little extra texture to the dish. Green leafy vegetables for the win!

Lately I've seen a bunch of kale chip pins, and while my last attempt was less-than-successful, I figured I might as well give it a go one more time. Seeing this simple recipe had me sold, though! I think part of the issue last time was that I didn't pay enough attention to the kale towards the end of baking, and I let it overcook which makes the chips pretty bitter. This time, they came out perfectly! Light, crispy, and guiltless, these made the perfect snack while I put together the mac and cheese (I know, the mac kind of negates the kale, blah blah blah).

Kale Chips

A few kale leaves, stripped off the stems and broken into small pieces
Cooking spray
1-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (can be found in the bulk section of a natural foods store)
garlic powder
onion powder

Preheat oven to 375*. Arrange kale pieces on a baking sheet in a single layer - don't overlap pieces or they'll stick together and not crisp properly! Spray with cooking spray, and sprinkle with seasonings to your liking. I went the heaviest on the nutritional yeast, because I like the cheesy/nutty flavor. You can also sub out for your favorite seasonings, if you (for some odd reason) don't have the same tastes I do. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges just start to brown. The kale may be a little soft still when you take it out of the oven, but it should crisp after sitting for a couple minutes.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

iron skillet mac and cheese

Last week, I shamelessly invited myself to my brother's for dinner. He had called to see if he could borrow my cast iron skillet, because he and his girlfriend were planning to make fried rice and jalapeño cornbread for dinner (a nice, well-rounded meal if you ask me). Before I could stop myself (I have a slightly faulty filter), I had told him that of course he could borrow my skillet, and what time was dinner?

Between the four of us, we barely managed to eat half of the rice and maybe about a quarter of the cornbread. Apparently when you have 14" skillets at your disposal, that's what happens. Since my skillet was used for the cornbread, I ended up taking most of the leftovers home, where the bread stared at me for a couple days as I tried my hardest to avoid eating all of it in one sitting.

As I went through the fridge a couple days later, trying to figure out what to make for lunch/dinner/it's-all-the-same-on-the-weekend, I realized I had a massive quantity of cheese. I guess over the course of the last few recipes, I managed to stock up bit-by-bit (because of course, each recipe just had to use different cheeses). And what do you do with enough cheese to feed an entire city? You make super creamy, only-good-in-moderation-if-moderation-is-one-bite, macaroni and cheese.

I made the mac in my iron skillet because it's probably my most favorite baking tool as of late. I love putting together the cheese sauce on the stove, and finishing off the whole dish in the oven to get those wonderful brown, bubbly and crispy bits on the top (if you take too much of them for your dish, I will probably give you the stink eye until you tradesies). Topped with fresh parsley and buttery toasted breadcrumbs (I used the leftovers from the cornbread {and it all comes together! [can you tell I liked math as a kid?]}), this is one of the best comfort foods around. It's almost easier to make in batches, which makes it a great option for weekday lunches too! Totally a win-win-win.

Iron Skillet Mac and Cheese (serves a million)

1 box/1 lb macaroni (I used whole wheat)
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup breadcrumbs of choice
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
(1/2 jalapeño, minced - optional, if you want a kick)
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 1/2 cups milk (higher fat is better, but low-fat or skim work, too. It'll just take longer)
1 1/2 cups of your favorite meltable cheese(s)
   I used: 1/4 cup cheddar
              1/4 cup gorgonzola
              1/2 cup ricotta (I highly recommend using ricotta regardless)
              1/2 cup mozzarella
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 350*. Cook pasta according to box directions and set aside. In a large saucepan on medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add garlic and jalapeño, saute for about a minute (careful not to burn the garlic). Whisk in flour to create a roux, and constantly whisk for a couple minutes until the roux starts to darken in color. Slowly add milk and whisk until it begins to thicken, which will take anywhere from a few minutes to 10 minutes or so, depending on the fat content of the milk you chose. You can add the powders while stirring at this point. Once the sauce thickens, add cheese and allow it to melt in, stirring occasionally. Stir in sour cream, then salt and pepper to taste.

For the breadcrumbs, melt the third tablespoon of butter in a pan (I used my skillet to minimize cleanup), and toss breadcrumbs in. Let them cook with the butter for a few minutes until they brown up a bit. Remove from the pan. Dump pasta into the skillet (you could use a 9x13 baking dish, too), then top with cheese and mix everything to make sure the cheese is all up in the pasta's business. Sprinkle parsley on top, then breadcrumbs on top of that. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese begins to bubble and darken. Let it sit for a few minutes to set (it'll be easier to serve), and then serve.

Once more, with feeling!

Friday, February 24, 2012

homemade tortilla chips

Did you know it's National Tortilla Chip Day? I'm not sure it's entirely necessary to make all these holidays dedicated to one particular food, but who am I to challenge? As a fine, upstanding citizen, I feel it's my duty to honor this day by sharing a recipe (if that's what you want to call it) for the easiest, most delicious tortilla chips, ever.

Homemade Tortilla Chips

corn tortillas
oil for frying (I used canola)
sea salt for sprinkling
lime juice (optional)

Heat about an inch of oil in a saucepan or cast iron skillet. If you have a thermometer, it should be around 350-365*. If you are like me and don't have one, drop a small piece of tortilla into the oil to test it. The tortilla should sizzle on contact (there will be lots of bubbles around it). Cut the corn tortillas into triangles (I cut each into 6 to get the chips pictured above) and carefully drop them into the oil. Don't crowd the pan! Let them cook on each side for a minute or two, until they start to darken. Remove chips from oil and place on a paper towel to dry, and sprinkle with salt immediately so it's more likely to stick. If you're going to use lime juice, squeeze the lime over the chips before sprinkling with salt. If you know what's good for you, serve these chips with some awesome homemade guacamole. And invite me over before you do!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

dhal makhni

Sometimes stream of consciousness thought is a weird thing.

My family went out for burgers the other night, and instead of getting the Southwestern like I typically do (hello, chipotle-infused burger), I opted for the Greek burger. One bite into the cumin and garlic lamb burger and I was instantly taken back to Borough Market, one of my favorite places on earth. When I lived in London, I had a Saturday tradition of making the 45 minute trek (yes, it's really that worth it) over to the London Bridge area for a latte and a lamb kofte sandwich, before shopping around for that week's offerings of items I wouldn't find in my local Tesco. This memory, combined with the memory of the bag of lentils in my pantry, caused a serious craving for some good Indian food. Because, you know, Indian food is really popular (and really, really good) in London.

I told you it was a weird thing.

Whatever, my weird thoughts turn into delicious lunches! When I go out for Indian, I order dhal makhni pretty much every time. Something about the buttery, tomato-based sauce just does the trick. It has a slight kick from the chillies, which is never a bad thing. The best part about making curry at home? Copious amounts of leftovers! Lentils are pretty filling, so a small portion goes a long way. Within about five hours of making this, I had already gone to the store for more ingredients so I'm ready for the next batch as soon as this one runs out. It may not be quite as good as dining out at one of the billions of stores on the Curry Mile in the East End (I'm sure they use like five times as much ghee), but 3000 miles away it's not so bad.

Dhal Makhni - Serves 6-8

For the lentils
1 cup dry black or brown lentils (they hold up better)
2 small (or 1 large) onion, finely chopped
2 cans diced tomatoes, pureed
(2 tablespoons tomato paste, optional)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2-1 jalapeno (depending on how spicy you want it), minced
3 tablespoons butter or ghee
1/4 cup whole milk or cream
fresh cilantro for garnish
salt to taste

In a large saucepan, melt butter. Toast cumin seeds in butter until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute. Add ginger, garlic and jalapeno, saute for another minute. Add onion and tomato puree, simmer about 7-10 minutes to soften onion. Stir in chili powder, then add lentils and simmer another 10 minutes or so. If after adding lentils you still want more tomato sauce, stir tomato paste into about 1/2 cup of water and add to the sauce. Mix in garam masala and cream at the very end and let them cook in for a minute or two. Garnish with fresh cilantro and a touch of cream, if desired. Serve with rice.

Note: I used finely minced onion, so the final dish had texture. Next time I'll probably take an immersion blender to the sauce before adding the lentils to make it smooth.

Tip: to get your onion finely chopped, slice off one end and peel off the skin. Slice as far down as you can without slicing all the way through to create a grid (see the picture). Lay the onion down on the cutting board and slice through the grid to get really small pieces of onion. Ta da!

For the rice
1 cup dry white rice (basmati would be best but I used regular rice and it was fine)
1-2 tablespoons butter
2 cups water
pinch of salt

Rinse the rice with water to wash out some of the starch (what makes the water cloudy). Add all ingredients to a pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook (covered) for 15 minutes.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

strawberry cheesecake brownies

I think I need a sticker that says "this blog is bad for my waistline."

Seriously though, I probably should be spending an hour in the gym for every recipe I make. That would at least counteract all the time I spend eating batter out of the bowl with a spoon taste-testing to make sure what I'm about to share actually tastes good. Quality control and what not.

Let me tell you about these brownies. I have been in love with this particular recipe for over a decade (I feel old), thanks to my dear friend Katherine (she's older). These are the brownies that got her extensions on papers in high school, out of trouble for missing class, and extra meetings with advisers. These brownies are what taught me that a cup of butter is, in fact, two sticks not one. They were pretty much the only chocolate I ate when I was a chocolate-hating teen. These brownies are the best you can get, short of lacing them with something (and even then I'm pretty sure they're better). Crusty edges, dense, gooey center, eat-straight-out-of-the-pan-with-a-fork-but-probably-just-with-your-fingers goodness. Especially at 3am, which is prime baking time where Katherine comes from. We had a lot of late nights with these brownies.

This version of the brownies has a cheesecake layer swirled in, which cuts nicely into the richness of the chocolate. Katherine's are plain cheesecake, and I added some strawberries for a little extra flavor (I mean, who doesn't love strawberries and chocolate?). It's subtle, but it's there. Since I've been known to eat large numbers of brownies in one sitting (see above), I made them in the mini cupcake tin in an attempt to lessen the damage. The result is a perfectly bite-sized treat for those times you just need a little chocolate in your life. Because we all need a little chocolate in our lives.

Cheesecake Brownies (Makes 24 mini brownies or one 9x9 pan)

Cream Cheese Layer
1/2 cup cream cheese (soft)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (soft)
1/4 cup sugar
1-2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg
1/2 cup strawberries (optional)

Beat cream cheese, butter and sugar together.  Beat in vanilla, strawberries and eggs. I just threw everything into my food processor and blended to a smooth consistency.

Brownie Layer
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs (room temperature)
1/2 generous cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350*. Stir cocoa and sugar together, stir in melted butter.  Add vanilla and eggs (one at a time if not at room temp), then mix in flour and salt. If you're using a stand mixer, set the speed to medium for the vanilla and eggs, then reduce to low when you add the flour.

Pour about 2/3 brownie mixture into greased (or parchment papered) pan and spread evenly, then pour in cream cheese mixture. Spoon the rest of brownie mixture over cream cheese in dollops.  Use a fork to spread out top brownie layer and marbleize the cream cheese with the top brownie batter. For mini brownies, bake for 16-18 minutes, and for a 9x9 pan bake about 25-30 minutes until toothpick comes out mostly-to-entirely clean (depends on how fudgy you want them, but definitely make sure it's at least mostly clean). Try not to eat all of them in one go.

Monday, February 20, 2012

mini whole wheat pizzas

Saturday was a very, very busy day. Up at 7:30am, bed at some ungodly hour, kind of busy. As all we had planned for Sunday was the second installment of a Harry Potter marathon with the Boyfriend's mother, I figured I'd capitalise on what we like to call couch-ass-melding and make something to eat that was simple but delicious (duh, why would I make something that wasn't delicious?).

Enter: leftover pizza dough

I  don't know about you, but when I'm watching a movie (or two, or three) I like to have bite-sized food available. None of this fork and knife nonsense. If it's not as easy to eat as popcorn (perhaps my first love; more on that later), I probably won't bother. Hence, mini pizzas!

Things in miniature are just so much fun, aren't they?

These were perfect for an afternoon of comparing the movies (and all the details they invariably left out) and the books (far superior, I don't care who you are). They were so good, in fact, I forgot how much I hated the 6th movie. This may also be due to the fact that I didn't reread the 6th book right before watching the movie. But that's neither here nor there.

Mini Whole Wheat Pizzas (Makes about 16)

1/3 batch whole wheat pizza dough
toppings of choice (I used pesto and cheese on half, and pureed canned diced tomatoes with cheese on the other half)
cornmeal for dusting

Preheat oven to 400*. If you have a pizza stone, put the stone in the oven while it preheats to bring the stone up to temperature. Cut the dough into pieces about 1/2oz each. Roll each into a ball and then flatten to form the base. Top with a small amount of sauce (think less than a teaspoon - you'll be surprised at how much it spreads!), then a sprinkle of cheese. Place the mini pizzas on the pizza stone (or a baking sheet if that's what you have - maybe put some parchment paper down first), and bake for about 8-10 minutes. The pizzas were done at 8, but I left them in a couple more minutes to get them a little extra crispier.

Sidenote: I wanted to test out how successfully this recipe froze and thawed, and am happy to report success! I pulled the dough out of the freezer on Saturday morning and let it thaw in the fridge all day, then took it out of the fridge and let it warm up for about an hour on Sunday before using. I couldn't even tell it had been frozen!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

whole wheat pizza dough

I love pizza.

Like, I could probably eat it every day. 

Which might be a problem. Do you have any idea what that would do to my waistline??

As a kid, my family would occasionally buy pre-made pizza dough (along with the fixin's) from the little Italian takeout place in town. Everything there was fantastic, and we always had a great time making the pizzas (and an even greater time eating them!). When the Boyfriend and I were trying to figure out what to do for Valentine's day, we decided making pizza would be a fun thing to do together. Someday, when we have a bigger kitchen, maybe we'll achieve more of a cooking together result, instead of me reading directions and him executing them. That's neither nor there, though.

I've never made pizza dough from scratch, and really wanted to give it a whirl. The first step to finding a good recipe is checking Pinterest. I mean really, what did we do before that? (Sidenote: I actually do have a whole collection of cookbooks and love them dearly, but this is a fantastically simple and quick way to find a recipe that other people have tried) 

Other than holding onto my stand mixer for dear life while the dough kneaded (I love it like a baby, I know I have issues), the process went smoothly. According to readers of the blog I found this on, the finished product freezes well, too! We're trying that out with 1/3 of the dough right now. I'll report back later, if anyone cares. In the future I might put some wax paper or flour down on the bottom of the bowl because the dough stuck a little (very little, though. I'm just a perfectionist). 

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (adapted from Cooking for Seven)

1/2 cup warm water (too warm to drink, but not quite hot)
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/4 cup room temperature water
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups (20oz by weight) white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
olive oil for coating bowl
flour or cornmeal for dusting

Pour warm water into a small bowl and stir in yeast. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, until the yeast begins to foam. In a separate bowl (I used a Pyrex measuring cup because it has a spout) combine the room temp water and olive oil. Stir the yeast/warm water into the room temp water/olive oil. Measure flour and salt into the mixer bowl (or a medium bowl if you're doing this by hand I suppose). When the liquid mix is ready, pour it slowly into the mixer bowl with the mixer on low (use the paddle attachment for this step). Mix until just incorporated. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Change out the paddle with the dough hook and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 5-10 minutes (we mixed for 8). If your mixer bowl moves a little during the process, don't freak out like I did! It will all be ok. While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 400* (you know, if you plan on making pizza with the dough you're making). If you have a pizza stone, put it in the oven before it preheats so it can heat slowly with the oven.

Once the dough is done, transfer it to a greased medium-sized bowl, cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place (I set it on top of my oven with the oven on) until it's doubled in size, about an hour to an hour and half (closer to an hour and a half). If you're making dough to freeze for later, this is where we part ways. Congrats! You have pizza dough. If you're making pizza, keep reading...

 We split the dough into 3 pieces, but you could definitely make more. With 3 we got large thin crust pizzas. Roll out each piece of dough (or hand toss it like a bad-ass like I did. That restaurant experience came in handy! Can I put that on my resume?) on a floured (we actually used cornmeal - it doesn't burn as much in the oven and I like to think the grainy texture helps the dough not stick to surfaces even better) surface to whatever thickness you desire. If you have a large cutting board or a pizza peel, use that for your surface -it'll really help for the next step. Before adding toppings, wiggle the dough a little to make sure it's not sticking. 

Add toppings (don't make it too heavy or the middle of the dough won't cook properly) and transfer to the pizza stone in the oven. This is the trickiest part. I kind of shimmied the pizza off the cutting board with a spatula (this is where a well-floured surface really comes in handy). If you're nervous about this step it might be easier to take the pizza stone out of the oven. Bake the pizza for 10-12 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly. Slice it up and enjoy! But try not to burn your mouth (as I inevitably do).

Need some topping suggestions? 

My pizza (shown above) had a pesto base, topped with a four cheese blend, pieces of cambemzola (a camembert-gorgonzola blend), slices of marinated fresh mozzarella, and prosciutto (all from Trader Joe's). I added the prosciutto to the pizza in the last two minutes of baking, so it didn't overcook. 

The Boyfriend's pizza had red sauce (we just pureed a can of diced canned tomatoes), the four cheese blend and slices of salami.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

valentine's day mini cupcakes

I've come to realize that desserts in miniature are a really, really good thing. I mean, it's like illegal or something (or should be) to not taste what you're baking, right? 

That's what I thought.

This cupcake recipe was borrowed from the lovely Andie, one of my most favoritest bloggers. I'll have to admit I had never tried a white cake recipe until tonight, and I'm definitely a fan! The main difference, if you'll notice, is that the batter is devoid of egg yolks. The result is a lighter cake, both in color and consistency. The reason I went with the white cake (aside from the fact that they're her favorite) was because I planned to dye the batter pink for Valentine's day! I figured white would lend itself better to color than yellow. The result is a super fun batch of cupcakes (which I made mini - easier to share that way!) that make perfect little valentines. I'm not usually a huge fan of this holiday, but the fact that it gives me an excuse to bake definitely ups the awesome factor by about a million percent.

The frosting is a vanilla buttercream because vanilla is the best ever, duh it keeps the cupcake nice and light. I may have given myself a sugar rush from finishing off the icing in the pastry bag once I was done frosting the cupcakes. Don't judge.

Mini Vanilla Cupcakes

1 cup cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 egg whites
1/2 cup whole milk
5 tablespoons butter, softened but still cold
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350* and line a muffin tin with paper liners (it may help to spray with non-stick cooking spray, as well). Whisk together egg whites, milk and vanilla in a small bowl or glass measuring cup. Mix dry ingredients in a larger bowl (or stand mixer bowl). Mix in butter until you have a crumb consistency. Pour 3/4 of the liquid mix into the bowl and beat together on medium speed for about a minute and a half. Add the rest and mix for another minute or so on low, scraping down the sides halfway through. If making plain cupcakes, portion batter into the tin so each cup is about 3/4 filled. If making multi-colored cupcakes, divide batter evenly into several bowls (however many colors you want) and color with a few drops of food coloring or gel. Layer colored batters into cups. Swirl the different colors with a toothpick (use a new toothpick for each cupcake), if desired. Bake 20-22 minutes (15-17 minutes for mini-cupcakes), or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. When the cupcakes are done, move them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Vanilla Buttercream

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 stick butter, softened
2.5 tablespoons (2T + 1-2t) flour
1/2 cup milk (I used whole)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat milk and flour in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens to a cake batter-like consistency. Stir in vanilla and set aside to cool completely. Meanwhile, cream sugar and butter with your mixer until butter is completely incorporated. Once the flour/milk mixture is cool, add to the butter/sugar and beat on high for about a minute, until the frosting is smooth. To color the frosting, I added dye to the milk/flour while it was cooling. I'm sure you could add it later, too.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

navy bean and kale soup

When you're out of food and it's the coldest day of the season (Winter? What's that?), there's a strong internal battle going on between your stomach and your extremities. Stomach says "go grocery shopping, or eat that whole bag of chips. Whichever, really" but extremities say "are you crazy? Do not, under any circumstances, go outside. Have you heard the wind lately? kthanks." It's super hard to make a decision under these circumstances, but I'm fairly certain I made the right one.

Grocery shopping is an interesting experience for anyone who dares go with me. I make a list beforehand, which is typically small enough to qualify me for the express aisle at checkout. When I get to the store, I grab a basket instead of a cart because my list is so tiny, I just need a few things! They'll all fit in one basket and one very large reusable bag. I'd like to say I've learned from my mistakes, but that would be a blatant lie. Pretty much every time, I end up awkwardly carrying enough food to fit in a cart, and I curse myself for not bringing five reusable bags. What can I say? I get sidetracked easily. For this, I'd like to thank my dad, who would go to Price Club for peanut butter or batteries and come back with a carload that made us question whether the store had anything left for anyone else. Those were the good ol' days...

Today I made another unsuccessful attempt at keeping things minimal. I actually did fairly well with my list (I only bought two items not on the list, and one of them was just accidentally left off - I swear), but I must have been smoking something when I left the apartment with just one bag. I don't know why I keep doing this to myself. 

But I digress.

This soup reminds me of one served at a restaurant where I used to work. It's perfect for a cold day like the ones we've been having lately, it's a super healthy (and filling) grab-and-go lunch option, and a large batch of it comes together in just a few minutes (not counting cook time, of course. I'm not that good). Win-win, right?

Navy Bean and Kale Soup (8 servings/ 2c each)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
4 pieces celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-15oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
2 cups (one 16oz bag) dry navy beans
4 leaves kale, de-stemmed and broken into small pieces
2 cups beef broth (chicken or veggie would work, this what I had on hand)
6 cups water
1 teaspoon dry oregano
1 teaspoon dry basil
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a stockpot (4-quart or larger). Sautee onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add carrots, celery and garlic, and sautee for another 8-10 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients except the kale and stir a bit to mix everything in. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for at least an hour, until beans have cooked fully and softened. Add kale and cook for another 20 minutes or so. I actually left this on the stove for about two hours to reduce a bit. If you like your soup thicker, mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with a small amount of water, then add to the soup. You could also mix in milk or cream (I prefer a clear broth) and simmer to reduce.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

banana cupcakes with avocado buttercream

How Sweet It Is wasn't kidding when she said you really had to trust her on this one.

Avocado in frosting? Are you crazy?

Yeah, probably. But seriously guys, these were some of the best cupcakes I've ever made. The banana cupcake was perfectly light and fluffy, and not too sweet. Don't fret, the buttercream made up for it! And I promise, you could barely taste the avocado. It made for a really creamy frosting, though. I know I made these barely 12 hours ago, but I'm seriously considering making them again before the weekend is over. 

 Since I can't be trusted around cupcakes wanted to do a nice thing, I brought half of the cupcakes down to the front desk in my building. They're always super nice and helpful!

 Now if you'll excuse me, I have leftover frosting I need to go eat straight out of the bowl with a spoon.

Brown Sugar Banana Cupcakes with Avocado Buttercream (from How Sweet It Is)

1 1/3 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1 egg
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large ripe bananas, mashed*
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
Combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg and set aside. In a bowl (I had my stand mixer on medium), whisk egg and add brown sugar, mixing until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract. Add sour cream and melted butter and mix. Stir in dry ingredients, then add mashed bananas and mix until batter comes together. Don't worry, it really should be that thick! Using an ice cream scoop (or ya know, a large spoon), scoop batter into liners. Bake for 15-18 minutes. I set the timer for 15 and toothpick-checked then, but they needed the full 18 minutes. **Let them cool completely before even thinking about adding the frosting! Otherwise you may get a slightly runny finish (see above).

Avocado Buttercream
2 ripe avocados
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt

Cream avocado and butter together until smooth. Stir in salt and vanilla. Whisk in one cup of powdered sugar at a time (if using a mixer, make sure it's on low). If you still want the icing thicker after all of the sugar is added, just add more until it reaches the desired thickness.

*For the bananas, I had a few over-ripe ones hanging out in the freezer that I thawed before starting. They were perfectly mushy and mixed in really well with very little effort.

a fresh start.

Welcome! Whether you've found me through my other blog or were looking for something else and stumbled upon this site, I invite you to stay a while. I've had a fantastic time with all of the above, but I was ready for a change (don't worry, I'm sure you'll still get plenty of random details into my life over here! It's what I do best). I've always loved cooking/baking, but since moving into my own place with my own kitchen (with terrible lighting, might I add. Don't these people know who I am??), I've spent more time honing my skills and making guinea pigs out of friends and family. If I could throw food through my computer (think Willy Wonka's microwave-looking device), I would totally share with you. However, I'm just not that awesome (I know, try not to be too disappointed). This is the next best thing, though. Unless of course you wanted to pay me to make something for you and personally deliver it. That might win for next best thing. But I digress.

My goal is to share a few recipes each week, and try not to spill too much crazy on you in the process. I can't make any promises, though.