September 27, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Homemade granola bars are easy to make, and the ones I've tried thus far have been delicious. Since we're approaching fall, these pumpkin ones on Two Peas and Their Pod caught my eye. I pulled some pumpkin from our freezer to make room for this year's crop and whipped these together.

The flavor is OK on these, but the texture just rubs me wrong. They are not crunchy but not chewy like a traditional granola bar. They are more the texture of a bar, I guess, but that's not what I expect from a granola bar.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
3 1/4 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray an 8 by 8 baking pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk oats, spices, and salt together. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk brown sugar, pumpkin, applesauce, honey, and vanilla extract until smooth. Pour over oats, and stir well, until all of the oats are moist. Stir in chocolate chips.

Evenly press oat mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. The pumpkin keeps the bars moist, so make sure they are golden and set. Remove from oven, and let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

Using a sharp knife, cut into bars. Remove from pan and let cool completely. Makes 10 to 12 bars.

September 24, 2012

Caramel Apple Popcorn

Fall is here despite me feeling like it should still be summer, especially since my 1-year-old loves to be outdoors as much as he loves pulling off his socks. I don't think he's going to understand that more clothes are necessary as the weather cools.

My husband had a potluck at work today for Monday Night Football. In addition to Smores Cupcakes, he agreed to take this popcorn that I found on Cookies and Cups. I'm not a huge caramel apple fan, but I'm not opposed to the flavor combination. This popcorn is good, not quite as addictive as some of the others I've made like Cinnamon Roll Popcorn or Peanut Butter Popcorn, but still a nice fall snack.

Caramel Apple Popcorn
1 cup unpopped corn kernels
2 cups apple chips, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp. salt
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 250°F. In an air popper, pop your kernels into a large bowl. Pick out any unpopped kernels. 

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt. Heat until melted and the mixture begins to boil. Once boiling, pour in sweetened condensed milk, and stir continuously for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and pour directly over popcorn and apples, stirring until coated evenly.

Spread popcorn evenly onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Place in preheated oven, and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to cook evenly. Remove from oven, break into pieces and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container for about a week. Makes about 14 cups.

Smores Cupcakes

Our vacations entail camping, which means smores are a requirement. It seems like most every baker blogger has created smores cupcakes, but all their recipes seem to be lacking one essential ingredient: peanut butter. Trust me, a smore is not a smore unless it has peanut butter. I have a friend in high school and college who introduced me to this concept, and I've never looked back.

These cupcakes use the graham cracker cupcake from my Key Lime Cupcakes as the base, are filled with a peanut butter filling, topped with a chocolate ganache and frosted with a marshmallowy frosting that I borrowed from Baker's Royale.

These are smores in cupcake form ... oooey, gooey, eat with a fork and have marshmallow-on-your-face goodness. These were a favorite with my co-workers. (And if you can frost these bad boys without having two completely white hands, my hat is off to you!)

Smores Cupcakes
3 c. graham cracker crumbs (one normal size box)
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3 eggs, separated
1 1/2 c. milk
3/4 c. shortening
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Peanut Butter Filling
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
Chocolate Ganache
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
Marshmallow Frosting
10 egg whites
3 cups sugar

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 27 cupcake tins, and set aside.

Combine graham cracker crumbs with baking powder and salt. Put egg yolks, milk, shortening, sugar and vanilla into blender container, cover and process until smooth. Add to cracker crumbs, and mix well.

Beat egg whites with mixer until stiff. Fold into cracker mixture. Fill cupcake tins 3/4 full, and bake 17 to 20 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes in the pans, and then finish cooling on a wire rack.

To make the filling, combine the peanut butter, whipping cream, corn syrup, and the brown sugar in a small saucepan saucepan. Heat over low heat, stirring, until smooth and sugar is dissolved. Refrigerate to thicken until you're ready to pipe into the cupcakes. Pipe peanut butter filling into the center of each cupcake prior to coating them with ganache. (You should have peanut butter filling left over ... I drizzled mine on top of the ganache to keep from eating it all by myself.)

To prepare the ganache, melt the chocolate chips and cream together over low heat, stirring often. Spread warm ganache onto the tops of the cupcakes, and let the ganache set.

To prepare frosting, combine egg whites and sugar in a bowl placed over simmering water. Bring mixture to 160ºF while whisking constantly. Transfer mixture to stand mixer bowl, fitted with a whisk attachment, and beat on medium high speed (speed 8 on a KitchenAid stand mixer) until mixture cools and doubles in volume and forms stiff peaks; about 10-12 minutes.

Pipe frosting onto cupcakes generously. Carefully brown the frosting using a kitchen torch, blowing out all the paper wrappers you might happen to light on fire. Makes 27 cupcakes. 

AJ's First Birthday Cake

I couldn't have been happier with my son's first birthday cake. Here's a few photos of his camping-inspired cake, including his own tent cake to eat, smash and destroy by himself.

Pizza Bread

I think a few weeks out of the kitchen while on vacation didn't crimp my style ... wait, I'd have to have style to crimp it. I modified this recipe from How Sweet It Is to become supper for my husband, kiddo and me. I think this has to make the repeat list ... so delicious and only one rising, which makes it feasible for even a worknight supper if you're not starving when you get home.

The best is yet to come with this bread in my opinion, though. I'm thinking grilled cheese made with this bread, stuffed with pepperoni and mozzarella cheese.

Pizza Bread
3 Tbsp. butter, divided
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup warm water
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 large egg
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup Italian-flavored cream cheese spread
1/2 cup pizza sauce
3/4 cup shredded Colby cheese
50 slices pepperoni (or as much as desired)
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning

In a small saucepan, combine milk and 2 tablespoons butter over low heat. Heat until bubbles appear on the sides, then turn off heat and set aside.

Combine water with yeast and sugar. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, until foamy. Lightly butter an 81/2 x 4 x 2 loaf pan.

Gently whisk the egg with the milk/butter mixture. In the bowl of an electric mixer (using dough hook attachment), combined flour and salt, and lightly mix to combine. With the mixer on low speed, add in milk/butter mixture and then yeast mixture. Mix on medium speed until dough comes together, about 5 to 6 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover the bowl and set in a warm place to double in size for about one hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. After dough has risen, roll it into an 8 x 12 inch rectangle. Spread on cheese spread, and then tomato sauce. Layer with minced garlic, then Colby and then pepperoni and finish with the Italian seasoning. Starting at one of the short ends, tightly roll dough into a loaf. Place in loaf pan with the seam side down.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Melt remaining 1 Tbsp. butter onto the top of the loaf as soon as it comes out of the oven. Let cool for 30 minutes, and then remove from pan. Devour while still warm or make into delicious grilled cheese. Best kept in the refrigerator to maintain freshness, but serve warm!!!

Crockpot Cheddar Beer Chicken Tacos

We are back from vacation, which was wonderful. It might not have been our usual adventures, but there's something daring about taking a 1-year-old on a 4,400-mile road trip. During our driving miles, I managed to bookmark another couple dozen recipes to try including this entree from How Sweet It Is.

This is insanely easy and fantastically delicious. I wish I would have made a larger batch. Perfect for the ripe tomatoes in our garden and wonderful with homemade tortillas.

Crockpot Cheddar Beer Chicken Tacos
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup beer
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3/4 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese
Taco shells
Taco toppings as desired

In a bowl, mix together chili powder, cumin, garlic, onion, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper. Measure out 3/4 cup of beer, and whisk 1 1/2 tablespoons of the taco seasoning into the beer. Place chicken in the crockpot, and dump in beer with seasoning. Cook on low for 7 to 8 hours or high for 4 hours.

Remove the lid, take two forks or kitchen tongs and shred the chicken until it all comes together. Taste, and season with additional taco seasoning if desired. Then let sit in the crockpot for another 15 minutes or so. Turn the crockpot completely off, and right before serving toss in cheddar cheese. Once combined, immediately transfer the chicken to a large bowl, so the cheese does not stick to the crockpot. Make into delicious tacos. Serves 4.