“Rise and shine, campers, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s cooooold out there today.” (love that movie). Happy GROUNDHOG DAY folks!
Ya gotta feel for poor Punxsutawney Phil – he lives in a hole, and the one time that anyone cares what he has to say is one day a year, when 9 times out of 10, he let’s us know that there will in fact be another 6 weeks of Winter. And then everyone gets mad at him and he goes back in his hole all sad until next year.
I guess I have a weakness for furry animals with buck teeth.
Well today I’m giving Phil a shout out – these cute little Groundhog Cupcakes, adapted from an idea a co-worker sent me from Family Fun where they actually used chocolate pudding cups and Milano cookies, which is equally as fun and delicious! But I decided to up the anty a smidgen and make brownie cupcakes out of them. The groundhogs take a bit of time to assemble, but once they’ve come to life, well they’re almost too cute to eat. Almost I said. Sorry Phil 🙂
Adapted from Family Fun
*yields 12 cupcakes
1 box of your favorite brownie mix, prepared according to the instructions
12oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
12 Nutter Butter cookies
sliced almonds (not slivered)
peanut butter chips
white chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
*green sprinkles or Oreo crumbles
1) Prepare your brownie mix according to instructions. Take a 12-muffin tin, spray with non-stick cooking spray, and fill each muffin slot 2/3 way full with brownie batter. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a fork or toothpick comes out clean.
To assemble your groundhogs:
1) Start by taking 1/2 of the 12oz bag of chocolate chips (6oz) and melting them over a double boiler or in the microwave. This chocolate will be used as the ‘glue’ to paste your eyes, cheeks, teeth, etc. to the groundhog.
2) When the chocolate is melted, you can start putting his ‘face’ on. Start with the teeth – find some broken almond pieces that kind of look like teeth and if you can’t find any, just take some of the slivers and break them. They don’t have to be perfect. Take a toothpick, dip it in the melted chocolate, and dab a little bit of it on back of the almond and stick it in the center of the Nutter Butter, about half way down.
3) Then add the nose by taking another dab of chocolate and making a small circle right at the top of the teeth/almond.
4) Then add your ‘cheeks’ by cutting the tips off of 2 peanut butter chips so that they lay flat on the cookie. Take another dab of chocolate to the side of the chip that you cut off, and then place a chip on either side of the almond teeth, underneath the nose, almost making a diamond shape.
5) Add your eyes by again, cutting the tips off of two white chocolate chips, dabbing chocolate on the cut side of the chip, and then gluing the eyes to the top part of the nutter butter. Take another small dab of chocolate to make the ‘pupils’ of the eyes in the center of the white chips.
6) Lastly, take 2 sliced almonds and stick them on either side of the top of the nutter butter to make the ears. They stick really nicely in the peanut butter so you won’t even need to use the chocolate to glue them in.
To assemble the cupcakes
1) Prepare your chocolate ganache topping by combining the remaining 6oz. of chocolate chips and 1/2 cup heavy cream in a double boiler, stirring until smooth. Top each cupcake with the ganache so that it covers the entire cupcake top (it’s ok too if it spills over the sides).
2) While the ganache is still wet on the cupcake, sprinkle the green sprinkles (for grass – slightly unrealistic for Groundhog Day) or the Oreo crumbs (for dirt – I used sprinkles – trying to be optimistic about spring!).
3) Take each groundhog, cutting about 1/4 off the bottom (otherwise they’ll be a bit too tall for the cupcake) and sticking in the center of the cupcake, just so their heads are peeking out.
And the best part is that I made sure these guys did NOT see their shadow, so get your bikin’s out folks 🙂 Spring’s a comin’!
Sorry for the lull in Quinoa bite postage gang! But as with most things, I prefer saving the best for last – the DESSERT!
When I said that Quinoa is a power food, you probably assumed that all these bite recipes would be healthy and good for you. Well – all good things can go bad sometimes. And when I say bad, I mean the good kind of bad – the AMAZING kind of bad.
I needed a ‘dessert’ quinoa bite. So I thought of 2 of my favorite things on the planet – peanut butter and nutella – and then I went crazy – and crazy won – love when that happens!
Peanut Butter & Nutella Quinoa Bites
*yields about 2 dozen bites
1 cup cooked quinoa, warm
1 cup quick oats
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup your favorite brand of creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup Nutella
2 cups corn flakes, crushed into crumbs
(preferably in a food processor)
6 oz. Dark chocolate for drizzle
1) While your Quinoa is still warm, place it in a large mixing bowl. Add the quick oats, chocolate chips, peanut butter, nutella and corn flakes to the warm Quinoa (the heat from the Quinoa will help all the ingredients to combine together).
2) With a small spatula (or your hands!) mix all of the ingredients together until fully combined. I started doing this with a spatula but then just went right in for the kill with my hands, and it made it much easier to combine the ingredients (and I got to lick them after!)
3) Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and chill it for about 1/2 hour in the refrigerator. After the mixture has chilled, take a heaping tablespoon of the mixture, roll it between the palms of your hands to form a ball and place each ball on a wax paper lined cookie sheet.
4) Once all your balls have been formed, melt your chocolate in a double boiler and drizzle over the quinoa balls. Can be served immediately or stored in the fridge for up to a week! (but trust me, they won’t last that long)
O.M.G. When I tell you that these are amazing, I’m not lying. The Corn Flake component may seem a little strange, but I felt the mixture needed a sort of ‘glue’ to hold it together, being that there were no eggs for this recipe. The Corn Flake crumbs acted almost as bread crumbs do with meatballs, giving them some holding power and a little somethin’ more to sink your teeth into.
So there you have it folks – what’d we learn from this series?
Quinoa is DA’ BOMB!
Happy Friday everyone! Here’s a Friday present for you:
1 of the most delicious tasting and easy desserts ever. EVER.
Peanut Butter Oreo Truffles
*yields about 20 truffles
6oz of cream cheese (3/4 of an 8oz block)
1 regular sized package of Oreo cookies
1/2 cup of your favorite creamy peanut butter
12 oz. Milk Chocolate
(You could use a bag of Milk Chocolate chips, or, as I do most times when I use melted chocolate, about 3/4 of a Trader Joe’s 1lb Belgian Chocolate Bars)
*Peanut Butter Drizzle
(an optional step that can be achieved with either Wilton’s Peanut Butter Flavored Candy Melts or by melting about 1/2 cup of peanut butter over low heat in a saucepan)
1) In a food processor, pulse your Oreo cookies until they become a fine crumb texture.
2) In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese and peanut butter on low speed until fully combined and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Slowly add in the Oreo crumbs until a dough like mixture forms.
3) Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Take about 2-3 tablespoons of the dough and roll between the palms of your hands to form a ball and place on the waxed paper. Once all the dough has been shaped into balls, chill them in the freezer for 1/2 hr – 1 hr. Cream cheese based dough can soften very quickly so this step is important!
4) While the dough is chilling, melt your chocolate in a double boiler. After the balls have chilled, dip each one in the melted chocolate and place on the waxed paper to allow the chocolate to dry.
5)*Optional Step: If you’re feeling adventurous and want to add some peanut butter drizzle, you can either melt about 1/2 of a 12oz bag of Peanut Butter flavored candy melts or you can simply melt 1/2 cup of Peanut Butter over low heat in a saucepan, stirring constantly. Then just dip the fork in the melted peanut butter and drizzle it over the truffles (these chocolate squeeze bottles also create a really nice drizzle effect – you can find them at any Michaels or A.C. Moore in the Cake decorating/candy making section).
Happy 1st Friday of 2013 everyone!
Saltines get a bad wrap – they’re square with little holes in them, hard to swallow if you eat too many at once, kind of an ugly color, and for some reason I always associate them with having a stomach ache (that and flat ginger ale). For a while I thought all you could do to spice them up was slap peanut butter on them – until one fateful December when I discovered that they are the base for one of the easiest and most delicious sweet treats I’ve ever had in my life.
It was Sophomore year of college, right before Christmas break when Ash’s mom invited us gals out to the ‘burbs’ from Providence to have dinner with her family – a delicious pork dish with all the fixings was on the menu, a welcome change to the slop du jor we were used to at school. And then after dinner she put dessert on the table – I saw chocolate – YES. But then what in the…saltines? Are those saltine crackers under that chocolate? I was skeptical, but went in head first thinking “How bad can they be?”.
Since then, this ‘brittle’ as Ash’s mom called it has been a staple for every occasion imaginable – at bachelorette parties, we hover over the ziplock bag of it after a night out thinking “who needs pizza when you have brittle!” During the holidays, it’s perfect for wrapping up on a plate with pretty cellophane and ribbon and giving to co-workers, family members, or neighbors. And the best part is that it doesn’t take a lot of time or money to make – 5 basic ingredients – you can top it with pretty much anything imaginable, or just leave it plain and simple.
Saltine Toffee Brittle
(about 2 sleeves)
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 bag semi-sweet (or milk) chocolate chips
*chopped pecans, M&M’s, holiday sprinkles, etc. etc. for topping are optional
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet (preferably with sides) with aluminum foil. Spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray and line the tray with the saltine crackers.
3) In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, brown sugar and vanilla together. Let them come to a rolling boil for about 3 minutes.
4) Pour butter/sugar/vanilla mixture over the saltine crackers and place in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes, until the sugar/butter mixture starts to bubble.
5) Pour the chocolate chips over the saltines. Throw back in the oven for another minute, just to melt the chocolate chips a little more so they become more spreadable. Remove from the oven and spread the chocolate to cover the saltines entirely.
6) Place in the fridge to let cool and then break into pieces once completely cooled.
When I say this stuff is addicting, that is a total understatement. I couldn’t even wait for the stuff to cool last night and boom, 1 row of brittle, in my belly.
It can be served at room temperature, but it tastes really good cold/frozen as well. It freezes fantastically too, so break it up, toss it in the freezer, have a piece (or 2 or 3) every night for dessert, or you can save it for that holiday party you’re hosting. While no ones looking, take it out of the freezer, arrange it on a pretty Christmas plate, and say “Ohhh I just whipped this up! Enjoy!”.
Even puppies want in on it 🙂
I’m not afraid to admit when perfectly laid out recipes go astray.
Last Thanksgiving, we had some friends over for a makeshift ‘Thanksgiving Dinner” and our friend Alissa brought this pumpkin dip with various treats to dip in it, and OMG – it was beyond good. And the best part was that it was served in a hollowed out pumpkin! Major points for presentation!
So this past Sunday, Dave, Hairy and I had plans to meet up with my cousin Catherine and Buddy and my Aunt Jane at Buddy’s fab apt. in the north end (recess lighting and all). Pizza from the ORIGINAL Pizzeria Regina, which is right around the corner from his apartment (I swear I’d be well over 300 lbs if I lived there) was on the menu, so I decided I was going to make this pumpkin dip as a nice ‘lighter’ option for dessert.
I literally stood over the bowl with the electric mixer for a good 10 minutes, just waiting for all these little lumps of cream cheese to disintegrate. But it didn’t happen. And while it tasted pretty good, I am a firm believer that you taste with your eyes just as much as your mouth, and the sight of this mess of a dip even made me, someone who never passes on dessert, want to say “Ahhh ya know what? I am just SO full I think I’ll pass on dessert!” I was so ashamed of it, I frustratedly tossed it in the dumpster outside of Buddy’s apartment as we were walking to our car – $1 leaf bowl from Target and all.
But I was determined to make this better somehow. So I tried it again last night, using essentially the same recipe, but using a different process to combine them together, and BINGO!!!! We have a winner!
Pumpkin Cheesecake Dip
*Adapted from Allrecipes & Very Best Baking
*makes about 1.5 cups – perfect amount for a small pumpkin!
1 – 8oz block of cream cheese, softened (room temp is ideal)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1) In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and pumpkin puree with an electric mixer on low until both are fully combined and smooth.
2) Gradually add the powdered sugar to the pumpkin/cream cheese mixture (I did about 1/3 at a time) mixing well in between.
3) Add the pumpkin pie spice and mix well until all ingredients are combined and smooth.
4) Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour (up to overnight). Serve with whatever you see fit to dip! Personally I think that chocolate goes really nice with this, so I used chocolate animal crackers, graham crackers and bite sized oreos, but the options are endless!
So what was the difference between the two?
In version 1, the directions said to mix the softened cream cheese and the powdered sugar together until smooth – without sifting the sugar first, causing big sugary lumps of cream cheese to form before the pumpkin even went into the mixture. After that, there was no going back, no matter how much you mixed.
The second version though, I mixed the pumpkin and cream cheese together first, until smooth, and then gradually add the sifted confectioners sugar, which honestly makes perfect sense now that I look back, but at the time I just followed the instructions without giving it any thought.
Finally, after 2 tries, it was what I had always envisioned it being – a deliciously smooth combination of pumpkin and cream cheese that’s fun to eat and ridiculously easy to make. Feel free to tweak the measurements of pumpkin too, adding more or less depending on your pumpkin tastes. And, putting it in a cute hollowed out little pumpkin = genius. Perfect for a pre-dinner dessert for people to graze on, or a nice, lighter alternative for people after the big meal is over, as you can dip as much or as little as you like – it’s commitment free!
So go now and dip it. Dip it good 🙂
I’m stuffed – wanna know why?
I was stressed last night – what a nail biter the election was! And I don’t know about you guys, but I am a stress eater. Instead of knitting, chewing gum or taking a brisk walk when I’m feeling anxious about something, I stuff my face with whatever is in arm’s length of me and not nailed to the table.
So, all in all, not the best night to make these Pumpkin Oreo Cheesecake bites – we’ll leave it at that.
Lucky enough for you, I spared some to actually take pictures of so you could see:
1) how cute they are
2) how delicious they are
3) how ridiculously easy they are to make
A similar flavor to those Pumpkin Oreo Truffles from a couple months ago, but much more rich and dessert-like. And the best part is there’s no fork needed – you can pick them up with your hands and in 2 (maybe 3 for most normal humans) bites, down the hatch they go!
Pumpkin Oreo Cheesecake Bites
*Adapted from Inside Bru Crew Life (clearly I tried to make them ‘healthier’ to justify eating a dozen of them)
*yields 24 cheesecakes
2-8 oz pkgs. reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. fat-free sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. canned pumpkin
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
48 Reduced-Fat Oreos
light whipped cream
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Spray a 12-muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray and line the bottoms with 1 Oreo cookie per slot.
3) Beat the cream cheese until creamy. Add the sugar and cream again. Add the eggs one at a time beating after each one. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat again.
4) Fill each muffin tin 3/4 full with the cheesecake batter (on top of the oreo at the bottom), then push another whole Oreo into the top of the batter.
5) Bake for 20-22 minutes. Cool in pan for 15-20 minutes and then take a knife around the edge of each cheesecake to loosen them from the pan. At this point, they should pop out easily. You can then place them on a wire rack to finish cooling.
6) Keep refrigerated. Top with whipped cream and crushed oreos before serving.
These would be a great addition to any Thanksgiving dessert table! Easy to make and to eat 🙂
In the mean time, I’ll be doing 2 hours of cardio tonight to work off last night’s (and um, this mornings?) Pumpkin Oreo binge – in the middle of the nor’ easter we’re getting – DOH.