Sunday, January 29, 2012

2 minute chocolate and salted caramel mug cakes

I had Martin Luther King, Jr. Day off of work, and of course I was itching to bake.  I pondered making some cinnamon rolls but didn't think it would make sense if there were just two of us to enjoy these at home. 

This 2-minute chocolate and salted caramel mug cake recipe has been on my "to bake" list for some time.  I was going to head off to the (skating) rink and decided to make these on a whim.  My husband could enjoy it after I left and after our daughter went down for her nap.

This mug cake literally took about 5 minutes to put together, from start to finish.  I was initially worried about the size of my coffee mug, but it worked out perfectly.  Instead of adding a salted caramel, I added just one homemade caramel that I had in our refrigerator. I didn't get to try any of the cake until after I got home, so it was about 2 hours old at that point. The top of the cake had dried out, but the middle was good.  My suggestion is to make this when you are ready to eat it so the cake doesn't lose any moisture.

I'm glad I tried this recipe - it is a nice quick dessert that you can make almost instantly.  If you have any last-minute company coming over, this could be something you serve and impress them with!

  • 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used dark cocoa powder)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg – beaten
  • 3 tablespoons skim milk (I used soy milk)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 salted caramels (I used one homemade caramel)
Into a small bowl mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, salt, egg, milk, and vegetable oil.

Pour mixture into a regular sized coffee mug. Drop caramels into center of mixture one at a time.

Microwave on high for one minute and 30 seconds. If needed {if cake batter is still gooey}, microwave on high for up to an additional 30 seconds.

Source: slightly adapted from The Family Kitchen

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Key Lime Pie from Joe's Stone Crab

You'll have to excuse the crumbs - we just couldn't wait to dig in!

Remember this post from earlier when I talked about the key lime pie from Joe's Stone Crab? Well, after a bit of digging, I found the recipe that Joe's uses! **cue heavenly choir**

Needless to say, as soon as I found this recipe, I wanted to make it right away. I searched high and low for real key limes but didn't see them in any of our grocery stores. Trader Joe's and Whole Foods didn't have them either. One glorious day during our regular grocery store visit, I saw them! I was even more ecstatic when the entire bag of key limes cost me less than $3. Yes!

This key lime pie does not disappoint. It seemed to be a bit more tart than the version we tried in Miami, but it is still really good. I'm not a big fan of whipped cream so I left that out. I imagine that the whipped cream will cut down on the tartness from the pie.

Now that I have Joe's recipe, I can bring us a little bit of Miami whenever we need a bit of sunshine during these cold, wintry months.

  • 1 wax paper-wrapped package graham crackers (1/3 of a pound box) OR 1 cup and
    2 1/2 tbsp
    graham cracker crumbs
  • 5 tbsp melted unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 tsp grated key lime zest (from about 2 key limes)
  • 1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice
Topping (I did not make this part)
  • 1 cup heavy or whipped cream, chilled
  • 1 TBSP powdered sugar
For the graham cracker crust:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch pie pan. Break up the graham crackers; place in a food processor and process to crumbs. (If you don't have a food processor, place the crackers in a large plastic bag; seal and then crush the crackers with a rolling pin.) Add the melted butter and sugar and pulse or stir until combined. Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of the pie pan, forming a neat border around the edge. Bake the crust until set and golden, 8 minutes. Set aside on a wire rack; leave the oven on. 

For the filing:
Meanwhile, in an electric mixer with the wire whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and lime zest at high speed until very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to beat until thick, 3 or 4 minutes longer. Lower the mixer speed and slowly add the lime juice, mixing just until combined, no longer. Pour the mixture into the crust. Bake for 10 minutes or until the filling has just set. Cool on a wire rack, then refrigerate. Freeze for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

For the topping:
Whip the cream and the confectioners' sugar until nearly stiff. Cut the pie in wedges and serve very cold, topping each wedge with a large dollop of whipped cream.

Source: Joe's Stone Crab

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chinese almond cookies (Happy Chinese New Year!)

Happy Chinese New Year!  I normally don't make a big deal out of Chinese New Year at home but wanted to bake up something sweet this year to help celebrate.  In case you're wondering, I am planning on making chicken lo mein (the noodles representing a long life).  Chicken is another traditional dish to serve during the Chinese New Year, but I am taking a shortcut instead by incorporating it into the noodles.

I wanted to create a Chinese dessert to add to our menu and wanted it to be "normal" enough that any leftovers could be given away to friends and coworkers. I came across these Chinese almond cookies on House of Annie and wanted to try them out.

The resulting cookies are a tad oily but have a beautiful texture. The outsides are slightly crisp, while the inside of the cookie is light and fluffy.  I used a good quality almond extract and added a bit extra so make the almond flavor come through, and it definitely did. Next time I might cut down on the oil a bit.


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  •  1/2 cup Crisco shortening (Crisco really is the best brand for this but if you cannot find it, just any shortening will do, and don’t substitute with butter or you will not get the texture right)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (I use canola but any vegetable oil will do)
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp almond extract
Preheat oven to 350 F.

Sift flour, salt and baking soda (I don't usually sift dry ingredients but Annie recommends it so the texture turns out right. I sifted my ingredients this time.).

Combine all the ingredients and mix till it forms a dough. (I used a stand mixer to mix it all together. I started by creaming the shortening with the sugar, and then I added the oil, egg, almond extract and dry ingredients).

Roll the dough into balls about the size of large marbles. (I used a medium cookie scoop to keep everything uniform)

Place them on cookie sheets about one and a half inches apart.

Indent the center of the cookie using the back of a chopstick that has been dipped into red food coloring. 

Press down about halfway through the thickness of the cookie. Alternately, you can put a half slice of almond in the center in place of the red food coloring. (I did not add almond slices to mine)

Bake 10-15 minutes till the cookies are just lightly golden brown around the edges. (Mine baked for 10 minutes)

Transfer to wire rack and cool.

Yield: Annie says the recipe makes 5 dozen cookies, but when I used a medium cookie scoop, I got about 30-31 cookies.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Apple pie cupcakes

Is there anything more American than apple pie? I don't think so. Since pies are a bit hard to bring into the office (those without ovens, that is), I opted to make these apple pie cupcakes instead.  I have a few coworkers celebrating birthdays this month and decided to make these cupcakes for them.

I've learned from this experience that I'm not as good at reading directions as I think I am.  Although I'll read recipes multiple times before actually baking (or cooking), I often miss a step. Enter these cupcakes.

I misread the instructions on the apple pie filling and forgot to add butter the first time.  The cinnamon-y sugar clumps that resulted went straight into the trash.  The next batch, I mistook 2 tsp of cinnamon for 2 TBSP of cinnamon.  Oops.  Good thing it still turned out well.  (Note: The filling makes plenty to have some leftover to eat on its own.  Not that I would do such a thing! Ahem.)

Then when it came to the buttercream, I didn't see the part where it said that the recipe would be enough to frost only 12 cupcakes.  I was happily piping the frosting when all of a sudden, I ran out!  And I still had 4 sad cupcakes with no frosting.  Don't worry, those went into the "eat at home" stash so they never made it out of the kitchen.  If you want a nicely frosted cupcake, please double the recipe.

Despite the comedy of errors, these cupcakes (and frosting) turned out amazing.  They really do taste like apple pie in a cupcake form.  And I've learned that the next time I make a recipe, I need to read it one more time, just in case.

  • 3 cups sifted cake flour (I do not have any and used 3 cups All Purpose flour and replaced 6 TBSP of the flour with 6 TBSP of corn starch)
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (I read this incorrectly and added 2 TBSP... it still tasted good!)
  • 2-3 TBSP sugar
  • 3 large apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • vanilla buttercream 
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and mix well to combine. Add in the dry ingredients alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners, filling them about 2/3-3/4 full. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 to 22 minutes (I baked for 18 minutes). Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pans. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

To make the apple filling, heat the butter a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cinnamon and sugar and cook for a minute, until the mixture begins to bubble. Lower the heat to medium and stir in the apples. Mix well. Cook until the apples are somewhat tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

While the apple mixture is cooling, use the cone method to remove a chunk from the center of each cupcake (I used a cupcake corer tool), making sure to leave a rim around the top of the cupcake. Fill the holes with the cooled apple mixture. To decorate, top each cupcake with a swirl of vanilla buttercream.

Yield: About 24 cupcakes

Buttercream Ingredients
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Splash of milk
Using a mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice.

Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and add the vanilla, mixing until incorporated. Whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed.  I added a splash of milk to the buttercream so it wasn't as thick.

You can store any unused buttercream in the refrigerator in an airtight container; let it come to room temperature and then give it a quick whip in the mixer before using.

Yield: Enough to generously frost 12 cupcakes or barely frost 20 (I'd recommend doubling the recipe)
    Source: Cupcakes and filling from Annie's Eats; buttercream frosting adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    Chocolate pudding

    I met my friend Katie twelve and a half years ago when I first started working for my company.  She was one of my first friends in Richmond, and we quickly found out that both of us shared a love of food.  Katie is a phenomenal cook and often shared recipes with me throughout the years.

    Katie brought in some homemade pudding to work one day, and I was amazed that one could make this from scratch.  The only pudding I knew came from the store in the refrigerated section.  I tried some of Katie's pudding and was hooked.  Luckily for me, she was willing to share her recipe so I could recreate it at home.

    This pudding comes together so quickly and is so much better than the prepared ones at the grocery store. It is rich, thick and chocolately.  And you get the satisfaction of knowing that you made this yourself!  I used chocolate chips for my pudding, but you could definitely use finely chopped chocolate bars if you want.  I bet this might work with white chocolate too, but you'd have to watch the mixture closely so the white chocolate doesn't seize and clump up.

    Thank you, Katie, for being such a wonderful friend and for sharing all your amazing recipes!

    • 3/4 to 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (can use regular chocolate if you don't have chips)
    • 2 to 3 Tablespoons light brown sugar
    • 2 cups milk (lowfat, soy or whole; if using soy, use only vanilla or plain)
    • a pinch of salt
    • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    Combine the  chocolate, sugar and milk in a medium-sized, heavy saucepan.  Heat gently, whisking constantly, until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is uniform.  Remove from heat.

    Place the salt and cornstarch in a medium-sized bowl.  Pour in about half the hot mixture, whisking vigorously until all the cornstarch is dissolved. Then whisk the solution back into the saucepan.

    Keep stirring as you cook the pudding over very low heat for about 8 to 10 minutes more, or until thick and glossy.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

    Transfer the hot pudding to a serving bowl or individual cups.  To avoid a skin forming on top, lay a sheet of waxed paper over the surface.  Chill completely before serving.

    Source: My friend Katie; original recipe from The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    Hot apple crumble bars

    This past fall, my team at work went apple picking. We went on a perfect day - it was a nice, cool autumn day with a slight breeze.  Definitely an apple-picking kind of day.

    Since we went so late in the season, there were only two kinds of apples that were available for us to pick - Fuji and Pink Lady.  I think I harvested about 8 pounds of apples to take home, and the Fuji apples got eaten very quickly.  I had never had a Pink Lady before and thought that the tartness in the fruit would be better suited for baking rather than eating.

    I opted to use the Pink Lady in this recipe that I found on Chocolate-Covered Katie.  Katie subs a lot of the ingredients to make it dairy- or gluten-free, but I opted for the full fat regular version.

    These yummy appie-pie-like bars are best served while they are still warm, but I wouldn't complain about eating some of these if they were chilled in the fridge or at room temperature. You can always heat a piece up in the microwave and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you want. You may consider making a double batch since these will be gobbled up quickly!

    • 1.5 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (or white flour, spelt, or oat flour)
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/2 cup, plus 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
    • 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 cup plus 3 T butter
    • 2 T milk
    • 2 cups peeled, chopped apple (8oz - I used two medium Pink Lady apples)
    • 2 tsp cornstarch
    • 3 T maple syrup (or agave)
    • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
    Preheat oven to 350 F.  Butter or grease a 4x7 pan or glass dish (or any small pan).

    Stir together the first eight ingredients, making sure to break the butter up really well so that little crumbs form. 

    Scoop 2/3 of the dough into the buttered dish, and press down firmly. 

    In a separate bowl, stir together the other ingredients. Layer them into the pan, then top with the rest of the dough from the first pan and press down a bit. 

    Bake for 45 minutes at 350 F, then cool at least 30 minutes before cutting into bars. 

    Source: adapted from Chocolate-Covered Katie

    Sunday, January 8, 2012

    Chocolate chip cookie dough truffles

    Cookie dough truffles.  How could three little words make me drool so much? Let me say it again. Cookie dough truffles. Do you need a napkin to wipe your face now?

    Seriously though--these truffles are amazing and would be a great way to kick off the new year. I made them for a project launch at work and used candy melts in the colors of the partner's logo. Everyone agreed that these truffles were rich and decadent. The beauty of this recipe is that there are no raw eggs, so you don't have to worry about salmonella and other funky amoeba names that I can't pronounce.

    A funny thing about this recipe is that once you start dipping the truffles into the candy coating/chocolate, some of the truffle mixture might squirt out--it's pretty funny but also frustrating if you want to cover the entire truffle.  

    • 1/2 cup butter, softened
    • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
    • 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
    • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I did not use)
    • 1-1/2 pounds dark chocolate candy coating, coarsely chopped
    In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add flour, alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts, if using.

    Shape into 1-inch balls (I used my medium cookie scoop so the were uniform in size); place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Loosely cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until firm (I like freezing mine for about 30 minutes).

    In a microwave or double boiler, melt candy coating and stir until smooth. Dip balls in coating and allow excess to drip off. Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. If desired, remelt remaining candy coating and drizzle over candies. Store in the refrigerator.

    Yield: 5 1/2 dozen.

    Source: Slightly adapted from Taste of Home

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012

    Peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

    I was invited to participate in an online recipe swap around the holidays and jumped at the chance. I liked the idea of being assigned a blog and getting the opportunity to pick something to make and write about it. The blog that I received was Cathy's Kitchen Journey.  There were so many yummy things that I had a hard time deciding what to try!

    After a lot of thought (trust me on this--I literally took like an hour to decide!), I decided to bake the peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  Although I am not a peanut butter fan, I wanted to make these for my peanut butter-loving husband and my coworkers. This won't ruin your diet, people. I mean, don't the nutritious peanut butter and healthy oats totally cancel out the rest of the ingredients?

    These cookies came together very quickly and were a cinch to make. My husband noted that the peanut butter flavor really comes through. They were popular with the coworkers too, so it sounds like another successful recipe. Thanks, Cathy!

    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
    • 1/2 cup white sugar
    • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 egg
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup rolled oats
    • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

    Preheat oven to 350° F.

    In a medium bowl, cream the butter, white and brown sugars until smooth. Stir in the peanut butter, vanilla and egg until well blended. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into the batter just until moistened. Mix in the oats and chocolate chips until evenly distributed. Drop by tablespoonfuls on to lightly greased cookie sheets. Flatten the cookies with the back of your spatula since they won't spread.

    Bake for 10 to 12 minutes your preheated oven, until the edges start to brown (Mine baked for 12 minutes). Cool on cookie sheets for about 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

    Yield: about 33 cookies (I got 33 cookies exactly, and I used a medium sized cookie scoop to ensure uniformity)

    Cathy's Kitchen Journey; originally adapted from

    This recipe is featured on


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