Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Coke Zero

You know when you have an entire refrigerator drawer dedicated only to your coke zero, you might have a problem. I'm thinking I might need to cut back....

Monday, March 30, 2009

All Dressed Up

I needed to make a treat today for Family Night and also for a gift to give to someone. I didn't feel like cupcakes (I know- shocker) and I tossed around the idea of banana bread, but then the box of brownie mix seemed to be calling me.

Now, normally I do like to make brownies from scratch. It's really not that hard and if more than likely you have all the ingredients you need already in your pantry. For convenience (and also because I like the outcome) I like to use this recipe that is made with cocoa powder. The brownie mix, however, is always in the pantry because it's so darn easy and the kids love to help and it's there when you need to take something in a flash. I didn't feel like plain ol' brownies today, so I decided to see what I had in my pantry and jazz them up a bit.

After a quick look, I decided to incorporate the leftover white chocolate I had from my iron cupcake this month and my chocolate jimmy sprinkles. I was tempted to add in to the mix of ingredients the fantastic pecans my neighbor brought me back from Texas, but crushing and shelling pecans was just not in the time table today.

I went ahead and preheated the oven, whipped up the brownie mix, added some mini chocolate chips for a guaranteed chocolate overload and then, PANIC! I realized my 9x13 baking pan was sitting in the fridge with premade enchiladas in it for tonight's dinner. Problem was I had already made the batter.

What's a cupcake loving girl to do? Turn them into brownie cups, of course! Now, I know this is far from rocket science and no, this isn't the first time anyone has ever done this. In fact, you probably already have. But I just thought I'd share. I lined the cupcake pan with regular liners and filled them about 3/4 full. They were baked at 350 for 25 minutes and were perfect when they came out. I think that you could probably leave them at this point and sprinkle with a little powdered sugar and they would be very sweet little cakes. I wanted a little more decadent of a topping, so I melted the white chocolate in a double boiler and then drizzled HEAVILY over the cooling cups. A little sprinkle of chocolate jimmies and you are set!!

I think I'll call them my little tuxedo cups since they are black and white. I had a little batter left over and wend ahead and tried this out in a mini cupcake pan as well. They were adorable and bite sized little morsels of chocolate delight! There are tons and tons of variations you could do. This ones a keeper.

Here's your recipe!

1 brownie mix for a 9x13 pan
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup water
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate
chocolate jimmies

Preheat oven to 350. Mix together mix, eggs, oil, water and chips until well combined. Line muffin cups with liners. Fill liners about 2/3 full and bake for about 25 minutes. Toothpick should come out with moist crumbs. Let cool. While cooling, melt white chocolate in double boiler. Transfer to a ziploc bag and snip end. Drizzle white chocolate on top of brownie cups and sprinkle with jimmies. Enjoy!!

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Hey Everyone!

The voting for the Iron Cupcake is now open and will stay open until Friday. Vote for me! To vote, click on the Iron Cupcake icon to the right --------------------------------->>>>>

On the right hand side of that blog, just scroll down to The Vanessa Contessa, select me, scroll down some more and hit submit. It'll take you less than 10 seconds.

Spread the word!


Monday, March 23, 2009

Iron Cupcake March: Nuts and Seeds

I haven't been entering the Iron Cupcake for the last few months due to time constraints and being completely uninspired from the secret ingredient. However I knew no matter what I would do this month. When the ingredient Nuts and Seeds was announced my first inclination was to go with peanut butter since it happens to be one of the most delicious substances on the face of the earth, but after thinking about it for a while I decided to take on a new challenge for myself. That challenge being coconut. You see, aside from the very exceptional coconut curry, I just don't really like it very much. I like the IDEA of it, and the different flavor combinations that can arise from mixing it with other things I like, but coconut alone just doesn't get me all a twitter. So, there was my own personal challenge. Next, I was a little worried that the Coconut wouldn't really be considered a nut or seed (even though it totally and completely is) and I thought what better to go with my coconut craze than my favorite of all nuts, the macadamia (manna from heaven, sweet nectar of life!) Finally, I had a huge crop of meyer lemons to utilize and then it hit me; like Dr. Frankenstein, I have given birth to a monster....

Macadamia Coconut Cupcakes with Meyer Lemon Filling and White Chocolate Buttercream

I first started by making a crust for the bottom of my cupcake with macadmia nuts. This year, it's all about the cupcake with a crust at my house. I wasn't going to waste this opportunity to make one with the most perfect nut on earth.

Macadamia nut crust

1 cup (4 ounces) macadamias
1/2 cup vanilla cookies
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

For starters grind your macadamias very fine with a food processor.

Next, you'll want to grind your vanilla cookies. Now, when I go to this point I realized I didn't have any regular old 'nilla wafers in the house and I didn't want to use graham crackers because, well, they woul just be too grahamy (yes, totally word.) The next best substitutes I had was these... WARNING... piglet and 100 acre wood lovers beware, these little cuties are going in the food processor... sorry Pooh Bear.

Finally, add 2 TBS of melted butter and mix all together. Spoon about 1 TBS of the mixture into the bottom of each paper liner and press down using the bottom of a thin glass. Bake in the oven at 350 for 10 minutes. Remove and cool.

Next, make your Lemon Filling, this needs time to chill, so make it now and it can be cooling off while your making the batter and buttercream.

Meyer Lemon Filling

1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter

Mix all ingredients in saucepan. Bring to boil; boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and chill before using. I chill it in the fridge.

Now it's time for the cupcakes. Now, for these bad boys you need coconut milk and DESCICATED coconut. This took me for FOREVER to find. I finally found it at a little natural foods shop here under the name of macaroon coconut. Basically you are looking for coconut that is unsweetened and very dry and ground very fine. Now, since my real issue with coconut is it's texture, I ground it even finer and it eliminated any feeling of the coconut in the cupcake and just left the mellow sweet taste. Perfect.

Coconut cupcake

3/4 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup of sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup of canned coconut milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 cup of desiccated coconut, ground to a powder

Combine butter and sugar together. Add eggs, milk and vanilla. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder and add to the wet mixture. Add coconut and stir just enough to combine. Fill the crust filled paper liners about 2/3 full and bake at 350 for an additional 20-22 minutes. Cool completely.

Now it's the time to make the frosting.

Now, I need to digress here just a moment and express my love and devotion for the one true cupcake topping: Buttercream. Sure, there are a lot of other toppings out there. Some are lame and gross and have no business topping a treat with the word 'cake' in the title (like anything made with yogurt, soy or jam, sorry people, this ain't no muffin!) Some are extra delicious and fancy and use cool culinary words like ganache or meringue, and I have tried these out and used them myself. But I'm hear to tell you now I'm a buttercream girl through and through and, with the very slim execption of cream cheese frosting (that's totally better when it's also made with butter) I just really think it's buttercream or bust. One of my absolute favorite buttercream's is below:

White Chocolate Buttercream

1 cup butter, softened (no subs)
4 cups confectioners' sugar
6 ounces white chocolate or white baking bar, melted and cooled
3-5 tablespoons milk

Whip butter til very smooth. Add the white chocolate. Slowly start adding powdered sugar and milk alternating. Once all incorporated, turn mixer on high and whip for about 5 minutes. Set aside for piping.

We're ready for assembly. In order to fill these cupcakes I used a highly sophisticated and very very exclusive kitchen tool. The ownership of said tool requires a bit of a price, that being the proper care of feeding of another human being for the next 18 years. You might have seen one of these before, in fact you might own one...

Yep, it's a baby spoon. Now, use the baby spoon to cut a small round piece out of the top of the cupcake and hollow out. Use ANOTHER baby spoon (yeah, I know your impressed that I've got not one, but TWO of these puppies) to fill the hollow space with your lemon filling. Use the piece you've hollowed out to retop the cupcakes and create a surface to frost, like the picture below:

Now, frost your cupcakes with the white chocolate buttercream and top with shredded coconut and salted chopped macadamia nuts (salted is the key here-- YUMMY!)

Overall, these cupcakes turned out better than I expected. Like I said before, I'm not really a coconut girl and I still found these very yummy. I think the key is the ground coconut and the coconut milk. They add the flavor without any of the awkward texture. My hubby referred to them as culinary dynamite and I have a few friends who love coconut and couldn't get enough. I also think the lemon filling creates a really nice refreshing bite to the other mellow flavors. And I mean, come on, there's a crust made out of freakin' macadamia nuts... seriously how could it be bad?

Here's the final shot and an inside look:

Now, what I really need are your votes!!! The voting will open March 29th and I will post the link here!!! Tell everyone you know to vote for me! My cupcake this moth really does rock and if I win, here's all the super cool stuff I'll get (not to mention the most awesomest bragging rights EVER.)

Exclusively for the month of March, the prized selected are:

Plus every month, the winner receives:

HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS, http://www.fiestaproducts.com,
HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, http://blog.hellocupcakebook.com, JESSIE STEELE APRONS http://www.jessiesteele.com; (I want one of these SO BAD!!)
TASTE OF HOME books, http://www.tasteofhome.com;
a t-shirt from UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM http://www.upwithcupcakes.com/.
Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers, http://www.1800flowers.com .

I'm BaAck!

That's right people. Let the awesome blogginess flow. I never finished my two projects, in fact I think I might have started two extra, but hey, I needed a place to put my Iron cupcake entry for this month, so we begin again.

Tomorrow, Iron Cupcake.