January 25, 2014

Vanilla Maple Almond Butter

This is my latest variety from Edible Perspective. Although it's tasty, I'm not sure I'd recreate it again. Perhaps my nose is overly sensitive lately, but something sniffs a tiny bit odd about this butter. Maybe it was just that I made this right after the most delicious cake batter cashew butter. Maybe I'm not a fan of flax seed in my nut butter although I like flax elsewhere.

Eh, try it for yourself if you please ... I'll take one of her other varieties or this version if I'm in the mood for almond butter.

Vanilla Maple Almond Butter
2 cups raw almonds
1/3 cup flax seed
3 Tbsp. maple syrup, divided
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. almond oil

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with a silipat or parchment, and toss almonds and flax seed with 2 Tbsp. maple syrup. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through baking.

Let cool for a few minutes, and place in food processor. Process until nut butter forms, about 10 to 15 minutes with frequent scraping of the sides. Add in remaining ingredients, and process again until smooth. (Note, you may not need all the almond oil depending on the consistency of your butter.)

Store in an sealed container, in the fridge for longer storage. Makes about 3/4 pint nut butter.

January 24, 2014

Chopped Brussels Sprouts Salad

I love brussels sprouts. One of the tastiest vegetables there is ... particularly because I don't have them all that often. This recipe from Pinch of Yum inspired me to buy brussels sprouts. And I'm glad I did.

This was delicious. Warm the first day was my favorite, but the cold leftovers were tasty as well. I made a few substitutions below ... and I'll leave off the dressing recipe since that really didn't do it for me. Dress as you desire, check out the original recipe for that take or eat them naked.

Chopped Brussels Sprouts Salad
1/2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
4 cups sliced Brussels sprouts 
1 cup cooked chicken, cubed or shredded
1/4 cup crumbly cheese (I used queso fresco)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325°F. Combine butter and pecans in an oven-safe dish. Bake for 20 minutes or until pecans are toasted. Drain excess butter into a skillet. Saute brussels sprouts in the leftover butter until lightly golden.

Combine all ingredients. Serve warm or cold. Makes 4 side dishes or 2 entrees.

Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies

This was a rarity for me. I found and made this recipe all in the same day. And we ate them all without taking a pretty picture to share. (That's not a rarity these days.) Head to Bakers Royale for pretty pictures.

I modified the brownie part of this recipe using my favorite fast and easy recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

All in all, delicious. I think this pretzel crust was destined for great things.

Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies
Pretzel Crust
1/2 cup flour
1 cup crushed pretzels
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 stick unsalted butter 
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup flour 
12 caramels, melted
2 oz. chocolate chips, melted
sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9 x 9 pan with parchment or foil. Combine the dry ingredients for the crust together. Mix with melted butter, and press mixture in the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

While the crust is baking, melt the chocolate and butter for the brownies together. Add in the sugar, and mix well. Add in eggs, one at a time, and mix. Mix in vanilla. Then add salt and flour, and stir until just combined. Spread brownie mixture evenly over crust. Bake about 35 minutes or until done.

Drizzle with melted caramel and chocolate, and sprinkle with sea salt. These brownies cut much better if you let them cool completely ... not that I would have impatiently cut them warm. (What's better than a warm brownie?)

Broccoli Cheese Soup

I finally got around to trying this Cooking Light recipe this week. I'm not going to worry about trying to photograph it because it will look like a bowl of green sludge ... not that appealing since I don't have the time or means to set up a pretty photo shoot for a bowl of soup. Heck, with my two little boys, I don't have the time to eat a bowl of soup in peace.

But I did have time to make this since it requires minimal hands-on time. It's a tasty soup, worth repeating, but I almost think I'd do it as a side for a main meal as it's a fairly light meal.

Broccoli-Cheese Soup
3 cups chicken stock
1 3/4 cups broccoli florets, coarsely chopped
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup half-and-half
4 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

Combine first seven ingredients (through garlic) in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Blend using an immersion blender or regular blender until smooth. Stir in half-and-half and 2 oz. cheese. Top each serving with remaining cheese. Makes 4 servings.

January 23, 2014

Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes with Lemon Brown Butter Glaze

I found this recipe from Baker By Nature right before the weekend, which meant our normal pancakes were skipped in favor of this new recipe.

Short version: pancakes good, lemon brown butter glaze amazing.

Long version: These pancakes are both fluffy and chewy. I was surprised by how much they spread, considering how thick the batter was (a.k.a. I had almost one giant pancake on my griddle instead of eight separate ones). The glaze, though, is incredible. The leftover glaze sits in my fridge taunting me.

Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes with Lemon Brown Butter Glaze
1 cup flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. lemon zest
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 cup Greek yogurt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted until browned
1 – 2 Tbsp. lemon juice (this depends on how thick you want the glaze)
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup powdered sugar

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate small bowl, combine the lemon zest with the sugar until the lemon zest is fragrant and incorporated in the sugar.

Place Greek yogurt in a large bowl. Add dry ingredients, and using a rubber spatula stir until barely  combined. Add eggs, vanilla and lemon juice. Whisk until combined. Stir in poppy seeds.

Heat a griddle over medium-low heat, and grease with butter. Drop batter by 1/3 cup servings onto the warmed griddle, and cook until bubbles start to form on the surface and the edges start to brown, about 2 minutes. Flip to the other side, and cook for another minute.

To make the glaze, melt butter in a small saucepan until just browned. Remove pan from heat, and whisk in the lemon juice, vanilla and powdered sugar. Add more sugar if the glaze is too thin or a little more lemon juice if the glaze is too thick. Pour over warm pancakes and serve at once.

Makes about 10 pancakes.

January 22, 2014

Billionaire Bars

Although I'm determined to shed all the pounds (and then some) that I gained during my second pregnancy, I still can't give up my dessert blogs. And I received The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook for Christmas. The first recipe from there is these bars, which I plan to take to work after we sample them tonight.

Good thing half-marathon training officially starts tomorrow for me!

Billionaire Bars
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
25 caramels
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
Cookie Dough
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
4 oz. chocolate
1 Tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line an 8-inch pan with foil. Prepare shortbread first by beating the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add in the vanilla, and beat until combined. Mix in the flour. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until the edges are golden. Set aside to cool on a wire rack.

To prepare the caramel layer, melt caramels and cream together over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Spread caramel onto the shortbread layer, and set in the refrigerator to become firm (about 30 to 60 minutes).

Once caramel layer is chilled, prepare the cookie dough layer by beating together the butter and sugars. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla. Gradually add flour until combined, and stir in chocolate chips. Spread this mixture evenly over the caramel layer, and place back in the refrigerator while preparing the glaze.

For the glaze, melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring until combined. Spread evenly over the cookie dough layer. Chill for at least 30 minutes to set.

To slice bars, remove the foil from the pan and cut into 16 squares. Keep bars refrigerated until 30 to 60 minutes before serving them. Makes 16 bars.

January 15, 2014

Baked Blueberry Oatmeal

This is a slight adaptation from Two Peas & Their Pod. Baked oatmeal is such an easy breakfast that lasts most of the week for me, as leftovers reheat well. I rarely get to eat an entire serving as my toddler is sampling mine as I eat it. Never a bad thing, though, when he likes the healthier foods like this.

Baked Blueberry Oatmeal
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 heaping tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cardamom
2 cups almond milk
1 large egg
3 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 1/2 cups blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease an 8x8 square baking dish, and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

In another medium bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, coconut oil, vanilla and almond extract.

Arrange two-thirds of the blueberries on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Pour the oat mixture evenly over the berries. Pour the milk mixture over the oats. Gently shake the baking dish to make sure the milk covers the oats evenly. Sprinkle the remaining blueberries on top of the oats.

Bake for 40 minutes, until the top is golden and oatmeal is set. Let cool for 5 minutes, and serve warm. Serves 6.

Peanut Butter Bacon Banana Bread

One of my hopes for 2014 is to work my way through more of my bookmarked recipes, which is why I decided to turn some mushy overripe bananas into this creation from How Sweet It Is. I think I've had this bad boy flagged since she posted this recipe, so it's about time I recreate it.

I think this is my first recipe combining bacon and peanut butter. Sweet. Salty. Savory, especially since I used pepper-crusted bacon. This won't replace my favorite banana bread recipe, but I sure am glad I made it. The moist, soft interior is surrounded by a perfectly crunchy crust.

Peanut Butter Bacon Banana Bread
6 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 large egg
2/3 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup bacon drippings resulting from cooking bacon
4 bananas, mashed (about 2 1/4 cups mashed)
1/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add bacon, cooking until crisp and fat is rendered. Remove bacon, and let drain on a paper towel until ready to use. Reserve 1/4 cup of bacon drippings, which was all my drippings.

Grease a large loaf pan. In a bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, whisk egg and sugar together until smooth. Whisk in vanilla extract, peanut butter, bacon drippings and butter, then add bananas and milk and mix until combined. Add in dry ingredients slowly, mixing with a spoon until batter comes together. Fold in bacon until it’s equally distributed.

Pour batter into loaf pan. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until center is set and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove bread from oven and let cool completely before cutting. Makes one large loaf.

January 8, 2014

Mushroom & Bacon Casserole

I was pleasantly surprised when my 2-year-old son really liked this Cooking Light recipe. It's a hearty recipe a bit different from our usual meals that will be a repeat for our family.

Mushroom & Bacon Casserole
4 cups beef broth
3 cups water
8 slices bacon, chopped
1 cup chopped onion
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
6 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
8 oz. shitake mushroom caps, sliced
2 cups uncooked bulgar
1/3 cup Madeira wine
4 oz. havarti
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. pepper
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry 

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Bring broth and water to a simmer in a large pot. In a Dutch oven, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon, but leave drippings. Cook onion, thyme and garlic until tender. Add mushrooms and salt. Cook 10 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally.

Stir in bulgar, and cook for one minute. Add Madeira, and cook 1 minute or until absorbed. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in 2 cups broth, and cook for 4 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed. Add remaining broth, 1 or 2 cups at a time, cooking until nearly absorbed before adding more liquid.

Stir in half the cheese and the tomatoes, soy sauce, pepper and spinach. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 10 minutes or until cheese melts. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Serves 8.

January 6, 2014

Pancake Mix

Pancakes are a weekend staple in our household, chocolate chip to be specific. Like everyone else, we're trying to be a bit healthier in the new year. (Heck, we were trying to be a bit healthier at the end of last year, but that's nearly impossible with the holidays.) I had wanted to make this mix from Food in Jars for years and finally made it as a few Christmas gifts. We samples the leftovers that didn't fit in the jars and were pleased with the results.

We made another double batch for us. I've included the mix recipe as well as the instructions for making the pancakes themselves. I actually make 1/3 of the recipe as that serves enough for our smaller family. These pancakes do freeze well, though, and reheat for an super-quick breakfast.

Pancake Mix
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
2 cups toasted wheat germ
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup cane sugar
2 Tbsp. salt
3 Tbsp. baking powder
2/3 cup millet, toasted

Preheat oven to  350ºF. Toast millet about 8 minutes, stirring at least once. Combine all ingredients together once anything toasted has cooled to room temperature. Keep mix refrigerated or frozen to maintain freshness.

To prepare pancakes, whisk together 3 eggs, 1 cup milk and 2 Tbsp. canola oil. Fold in 2 cups of pancake mix. Cook pancakes on a hot griddle, flipping once.  Makes about 18 small pancakes.

Snowmen Cookies

So mine didn't turn out nearly as well as their inspiration from Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle, but they're still too cute not to share:

Butter Pecan Cupcakes

My sister-in-law said butter pecan is among her favorite flavors, so I accepted that as a challenge to create butter pecan cupcakes for her baby shower. Unfortunately, she didn't get to attend her own baby shower due to bed rest complications, but at least she got plenty of these cupcakes delivered to her in the hospital.

These cupcakes are good. Seriously good. The cupcake recipe comes from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen. I almost prefer them to the chocolate ones I made, which says a lot for me. I think it's the browned butter frosting from I Am Baker. So freaking delicious. That and actual roasted butter pecans are amazing.

Butter Pecan Cupcakes
2 cups chopped pecans
1 1/4 cups butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 Tbsp. butter vanilla emulsion
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup whole milk
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
3 to 6 Tbsp. milk

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 29 cupcake tins with liners. Set aside. Place 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter and pecans on a baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until toasted. Remove from oven, and let cool.

In a large bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Combine milk and emulsion in a measuring glass. Set aside.

Beat 1 cup butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. With the mixer on medium low, add flour and milk mixtures alternately, starting and ending with flour. Fold in 1 1/2 cups toasted pecans.

Fill cupcake tins 2/3 full, and bake for about 15 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched in the center. Remove to cooling rack to cool.

To prepare frosting, melt 1/2 cup butter over medium heat. Gently stir occasionally. Cook until the butter is browned and smells nutty (about 5 to 10 minutes). Remove the butter from heat, and cool. Once butter is room temperature, pour into a small bowl lined with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until solid.

Remove from refrigerator, and allow it to come to room temperature. Combine browned butter with remaining butter using an electric mixer. Slowly add in sugar and vanilla. Slowly add milk until desired consistency is reached. Whip on high until fluffy. Frost cupcakes as desired. Top with remaining roasted pecans. Makes about 29 cupcakes.

January 5, 2014

Biscoff Bark

I'm sure this has been created somewhere with the holiday season of barks and the current trend of biscoff, but this idea popped into my head when I was contemplating the fact that our white chocolate probably tasted like cinnamon due to being stored in a giant tote with a bag of cinnamon since we moved. (I was right ... it does.)

I figured that hint of cinnamon would pair well with biscoff, and this became an addition to our stash of Christmas goodies.

Biscoff Bark
2 cups white chocolate
1/2 cup biscoff
1/3 cup dark chocolate

Melt the white chocolate and biscoff together in a heatproof cup in the microwave on medium heat, stirring every minute or 30 seconds. Spread onto a piece of parchment paper to desired thickness.

Melt dark chocolate in the same manner, and drizzle throughout the biscoff white chocolate mixture. Chill to harden, and then break into pieces.

Homemade Instant Oatmeal

Why buy it when you can make it? Instant oatmeal doesn't require any special ingredients, just whole oats, which I use in many of my baking projects already.

I found a base recipe from In Sock Monkey Slippers and adapted it to suit our family's tastes.

Homemade Instant Oatmeal
3 cups whole oats
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 heaping Tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted*

Combine all ingredients together in a bowl. Divide into 6 individual baggies or just measure out 3/4 cup when you prepare each bowl of oatmeal.

To make oatmeal, add 1 1/4 cups of water (or milk if you prefer). Microwave 2 minutes. Let cool to an edible temperature, and enjoy!

*To toast almonds, spread them on a baking sheet. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes at 350ºF, checking every few minutes to see if they are lightly golden.

Roasted Butter Pecans

Butter pecan has never been my flavor. However, when my sister-in-law requested that flavor for her baby shower cupcakes, I discovered something. Fake butter pecan isn't my flavor. Real buttered pecans, on the other hand, are amazing!

When I wanted to lick the cookie sheet, I knew I was onto something. So I decided to make a batch of roasted butter pecans to enjoy in their own glory.

Roasted Butter Pecans
4 cups whole pecan halves
1 stick butter

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spread pecans evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Add a stick of butter. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes, until golden.

Drain pecans, reserving butter. Enjoy pecans. Use the reserved roasted pecan butter for something wonderful (like frosting, roasted vegetables, etc.) Makes 4 cups of pecans.

Gingerbread Cookie Dough Fudge

I'm a traditionalist when it comes to holiday baking, but I always manage to squeeze in a few new recipes each year. This fudge from Lauren's Latest caught my eye, and I had all the ingredients on hand.

This is incredibly easy to make, requires no special equipment and is a tasty non-traditional fudge. It's less decadent than it's traditional fudge counterpart, so you can enjoy more.

Gingerbread Cookie Dough Fudge
1 can sweetened condensed milk
4 oz. white chocolate
2 Tbsp. molasses
1 cup powdered sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves

In a large bowl, place sweetened condensed milk, white chocolate and molasses. Microwave on high for about 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, to melt chocolate into milk. Measure and pour dry ingredients into warm molasses mixture. Stir until smooth and incorporated. Pour into parchment-lined 8x8 baking dish. Refrigerate 30 minutes or until set. Cut into squares and serve.

Vanilla Almond Sun Butter

I've been slowly working my way through Edible Perspective's collection of homemade nut butters. I have yet to find one I didn't like among her recipes.

The latest was her Vanilla Almond Sun Butter. This is delicious, perhaps not as addictive as the Cake Batter Cashew Butter, but I think that's a good thing ...

Vanilla Almond Sun Butter
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons raw sugar
2 vanilla beans, scraped for seeds
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat your oven to 300°F. Roast almonds on a pan for about 20 minutes, turning once or twice, until lightly golden brown. Let cool about 15 minutes, and pour into your food processor along with the sunflower seeds, sugar, vanilla and salt.

Process until the butter is smooth, scraping down the bowl a few times. It should be smooth within 8 to 12 minutes.

Store in refrigerator. (Don't worry, it will still be very spreadable.) Makes slightly more than a half pint.

Gingerbread Caramel Corn

I've said before that caramel corn is completely addictive to me as an adult. This holiday version from Piece of Cake is no different. Well, it is different because it's Gingerbread Caramel Corn, but I still can't stop munching on it.

This is perfect for gifts, movie night or munching while wrangling two little boys all day.

Gingerbread Caramel Corn
8 to 9 cups popped popcorn
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup corn syrup
2 heaping Tbsp. molasses
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 Tbsp. butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
A few pinches of finely ground black pepper
Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with a silicone baking sheet. Pour the popcorn into a large bowl, and set aside.

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the brown sugar, water, corn syrup, molasses and salt. Stir gently to combine. Bring the syrup to a boil over high heat—once the syrup is boiling, stop stirring. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of a pan and reduce the heat to medium. Cook the syrup until the temperature reaches 200°F.

When the syrup is up to temperature, pull the pan from the heat, and remove the thermometer. Stir in the baking soda and vanilla—the syrup will foam up a bit. Stir in the butter until smooth and then the spices. Quickly pour the syrup over the popcorn in a thin, steady stream. Use a heatproof spatula to toss the popcorn to coat.

Spread the coated popcorn into an even layer on the baking sheet, and bake for about 60 to 70 minutes, stirring well every 15 minutes or so. At the end of the baking time, the caramel corn will still be a bit tacky, but will crisp and dry as it cools. Let cool completely on the baking sheet, and store in an airtight container. Makes about 9 cups caramel corn.

Karamel Sutra Cupcakes

Homemade caramel is one of those things that is hit or miss for me. When I miss, it makes me hesitant to try again. Still, I keep trying because perfectly made homemade caramel is simply put ... perfect.

I gave these cupcakes from Cookies and Cups a whirl for my sister-in-law's baby shower. They turned out well, but my inside caramel filling wasn't quite there. Perhaps I need a better thermometer. Or perhaps I just need more practice.

Note: I used one of my standard chocolate cupcakes since I didn't have all the original ingredients on hand. Below is the recipe as I created it.

Karamel Sutra Cupcakes
2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup hot water
2/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
3/4 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
Caramel Filling
1 cup butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1 cup whipping cream
Caramel Frosting
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Chocolate Frosting
2 cups chocolate chips
2 cups butter

To prepare cupcakes, preheat oven to 350ºF. Place paper baking cups in each of 24 regular-size cupcake tins.

In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder. In a small bowl, combine water and cocoa.

In a large bowl, beat shortening on electric mixer on medium speed 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. On low speed, alternately add flour and cocoa, starting and ending with flour. Beat just until blended.

Divide batter evenly among cupcake tins, filling each 2/3 full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in tins 5 minutes, and then remove cupcakes to cool completely on wire racks.

To prepare caramel filling, melt butter in heavy saucepan over medium low. Add sugar and corn syrup, and cook 6 to 8 minutes until mixture is a deep caramel color, stirring constantly. Add cream slowly while stirring, and cook 2 minutes more until smooth. Remove from heat, and allow to cool completely (about 2 hours).

To prepare caramel frosting, melt butter and sugar together. Bring to a boil, and then add milk, stirring until smooth. Allow mixture to come back to a rolling boil, and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and allow to cool. When caramel is cool, beat in powdered sugar and vanilla.

To prepare chocolate frosting, melt butter and chocolate together. Stir until smooth. Chill until hardened. Beat, using an electric mixer, until light and fluffy.

To assemble cupcakes, core cupcakes to insert caramel filling. Fill a piping bag with half chocolate frosting and half caramel frosting to pipe mixed frosting swirls on cupcakes. Makes 24 cupcakes.