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17 February 2012

Almond Joy and Mounds Cupcakes



So this weekend, I am so excited because my sister is coming to town! And what better way to celebrate than with our favorite thing: CHOCOLATE! I saw this recipe on pinterest for Mounds Brownies and I thought to myself, my sister would LOVE them and so would my fiance! Sadly, I thought I had a brownie mix, but I did not :( I began to panic, and think...what can I make my sister while she is here, that she would like just as much...but then I realized, I can still stick with the Almond Joy/Mounds theme, and make them cupcake style!

I think they came out adorable. I dont get to take these to school to see how yummy they are becuase Ill be out of town with my sister, but my fiance gave them a thumbs up (though he pretty much likes everything that I make, so I am not sure how much that counts). I hope my sister likes them when she tries them tomorrow!

So for those of you who do not know, Mounds and Almond Joy are pretty much the same thing (chocolate with coconut but almond joy has...duh...almonds). So I made them with and without almonds, hence the Almond Joy/Mounds title. Super easy to make (bc of the semi-homemade ingredients). Total time to make was like an hour.

Almond Joy Cupcake

Mounds Cupcake

ALMOND JOY AND MOUNDS CUPCAKES
Adapted from In Katrina's Kitchen

INGREDIENTS

1 box of devil's food cake mix
3 cups of coconut (and a few Tbls for garnish)
14oz can of condensed milk
1 c. powdered sugar
1 can of chocolate icing (or homemade chocolate buttercream frosting)
Almonds Slivers

DIRECTIONS

Bake the cupcakes according to package. I use an ice cream scoop to have each cupcake be about the same size (make sure each cup is filled no more than 3/4 of the way full).Let cook for several hours or overnight. Use cupcake corer to make a hole in the middle of cupcake, to be filled with filling. In a bowl mix together coconut, condensed milk and powdered sugar- should have a nice creamy texture. If to watery, add either more coconut or powdered sugar. I liked to make my filling more creamy and condensed milk like (if you like a more solid texture- I would add more coconut). Place filling in piping back with wide open tip (otherwise the coconut will clump and not pipe out). Fill each cupcake hole with filling.  Frost each cupcake with tip of choice. Garnish with coconut (stop here, if you just want Mounds cupcakes) and top with almonds (for Almond Joy cupcakes).

Enjoy and Happy "almost" Mardi Gras,
Chika

Mardi Gras ended up being a BLAST!

12 February 2012

Chocoalte Turtle Cookies



So in the spirit of Valentine's Day- I decided I had to make something chocolate. Valentine's without chocolate isn't really Valentine's Day. So my favorite is chocolate turtle anything, and so I searched the web for some really good chocolate turtle recipes and I found Turtle Cookies. They looked absolutely delicious and so I figured why not try them for the Day of Love? They are not semi-homemade but they definitely are not difficult...messy...yes...difficult...no.

This is definitely a dessert for chocolate lovers :) My sister would LOVE this recipe.




CHOCOLATE TURTLE COOKIES
Adapted from Rock Recipes

INGREDIENTS

Preheat Oven to 350F degrees.

2 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. of cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. butter or 2 sticks softened
1 c. of granulated sugar
1 c. of light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
12 oz. chocolate chips (1 bag)
1 c. of pecans
carmel candies (I cut them in 1/4th sizes)

DIRECTIONS

Mix dry ingredients separately (again sift first to avoid lumps). Set aside. Mix together butter, both sugars, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Slowly add in dry ingredients, but do not over mix (as it will make dough very soft and sticky). Fold in chocolate chips. The dough will be sticky and soft. So I froze for 30 minutes and then covered my hands with crisco to reduce the stickyness. Roll into 3/4 inch balls (I found 1 inch round balls to be too big). Dip half the ball into pecans and place onto cookie sheet. Press down on cookie ball to slightly flatten. In the middle of cookie ball, place a small piece of carmel candy.

Bake 10-12 minutes (10 minutes if you like gooey, 12 minutes if you like more crispy/crunchy). Press down on the slightly melted carmel to spread out. Let cool. Once cookies are cooled- drizzle chocolate across cookies. I use a wilton squeeze bottle to have more control over the drizzle.

Enjoy and Happy Valentine's Day!
Chika



11 February 2012

Crave Cupcakes Review

Location: Houston, Texas
Price: $3.25 per cupcake
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



Crave has several locations within the Houston area- however I go to the Cupcakery near Rice Village. I have had the pleasure of visitng this cupcakery several times because it's Houston. It's actually about a three minute drive from the fiance's apartment which makes it very accessible. Lucky thing, because I LOVE their cupcakes. However, it's clear that I am not the only one who greatly enjoys their cupcakes because although they close at 8pm during the weekday- they often run out of most of their cupcakes well before. So word of the wise: if you do plan to visit, go by 5pm-6pm so you can have some choices. They have about 15 choices daily, but usually in the evening they are down to five. 


They have a cute "mascot" in the mixer. And they usually adorn their cupcakes with a nice little edible circle with the mixer depicted. The service is quick and the staff is friendly. As for the cupcakes- they are wonderfully moist (except for one experience which I will talk about later). They have the perfect ratio of cupcake to frosting, and depending on the cupcake they are tastefully delivious. As for overall look- they are simple in appearance with no fancy icing decor. Sadly (which is why my sister is not a big fan of Crave)- they do not have any filled cupcakes, just plain frosting on the top, which I do not mind at all, but I know many people are filled cupcake fans.

Front (left to right): Candy Bar, Crave Chocolate
Back (left to right): German Chocolate, Red Velvet, Nutella
  
Front (left to right): Red Velvet, Coconut, Chocolate on Vanilla
Back (left to right): Crave Chocolate, German Chocolate, Hummingbird
My favorite cupcakes include (and please be aware that I have no tried every cupcake and so this list may be chanaged): Crave Chocolate, German Chocolate, Nutella, and Red Velvet. It shoul dbe noted that the Nutella does not taste as much Nutella as it does Hazelnut Coffee-ish (not strong coffee). My in between choices go to Candy Bar, Chocolate on Vanilla and Hummingbird (which to those of you who are not familiar taste like banana bread mated with carrot cake, topped with cream cheese frosting). My least favorite by far is the Vanilla on Chocolate. I do not know why, but it does not taste right. I want to try Dulce de Leche, Peanut Butter and Mint Chocolate.

Italian Creme

So why a four star rating for a cupacke place I clearly love? Well (1) I had the Italian Creme cupcake this past March and it was overcooked and dry- so they do not score perfectly on moistness because maybe this happens more often than I've experiences, (2) they do not have filled cupcakes, so the variety is limited (though they do have mini-cupcakes for those health conscious, need a sweet bite people), and (3) although the mixer is cute and the presentation speaks to simplicity, the overall look is not spectacular. So with those cons in mind, I decided to give them a four. Though according to Yelp, the average review is 3.5 stars- so I guess I enjoy them more than the average person :)

Butterfinger Blondies



So, I made these while we were hosting applicants as well for our graduate student dinner potluck. Its similar to the faculty potluck, but this dinner gives a time for applicants to only mingle with graduate students. I saw these on Pinterest and decided I had to make them. Though my fiance told me that if you do not like butterfingers, you may not be fond of them. Though I was never a fan of butterfingers but thought they were delicious!

Also, if you are a big chocolate person, you will still love this becuase of all the crushed butterfingers (including their outer chocolate layer ;) ). I personally also thought they had too much icing (as I followed the recipe) but others loved it, so depending on how much of an icing person you are, I would adjust the recipe. This is definitely not a semi-homemade receipe but it was not to hard to make and definitely worth it.




BUTTERFINGER BLONDIES
Adapted from Six Sisters

INGREDIENTS

Preheat oven to 350F degrees

BLONDIE BAR
1 c. butter of 2 sticks butter softened
1 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
16 crushed "fun size" butterfinger bars

BUTTERFINGER TOPPING
1/2 c. butter of 1 stick softened
1/2 c. vegetable shortening (aka. Crisco)
2 1/2 c. powerdered sugar
4 crushed "fun size" butterfingers

DIRECTIONS

Combine butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients-- all purpose flour, baking soda, and salt (which I like to combine all together and sift first to avoid lumps). Add crushed butter fingers (i used a clean small hammer to crush them).  Spread in 9x13 baking dish and bake for 25 minutes. Remove and cool completely. After they cooled, I pushed them down using a papertowl to place my hands on and then gently pushed down, to compress the crust a bit.

Cream butter and shortening until smooth. Add powdered sugar, slowly. Add butterfingers. Spread across blondies. Top with 4 crushed fun size butter fingers as "garnish."

Enjoy your butterfinger overload,
Chika

Cake Batter Bars



So this was one of the first recipes I made on my path of starting to bake again and try new things. Its semi-homemade, which I love! And its pretty simple to make and quick! Besides, who doesn't love cake batter! I mean when I saw this, the name got me excited. I took this to school as well, and just like the red velvet cookies, they went pretty fast.
I do have to say this is definitely a recipe that is for those that do not like something super sweet. If you do, you may not like this, unless you top it with icing (which I thought of trying but did not). Also if you are a big chocolate fan, your craving will not be fulfilled. 

There are two pictures, because I made them two ways (1) more gooey and fluffy and (2) more thin and less gooey. My fiance liked the more gooey but I chose the less gooey to take to school so people would not have to worry if they are cooked (either one was cooked though).
Gooey and Thick Cake Batter Bars
Less Gooey and Thin Cake Batter Bars
CAKE BATTER BARS
Adapted from Lovin the Oven

INGREDIENTS

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

Grease an 9x13 pan (I use the wrapping the butter came in)
1 1/4 c. funfetti cake mix
3/4 c. all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup butter or 1 1/4 sticks (softened)
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
3 tbsp of sprinkles
DIRECTIONS

Mix egg, egg yolk, vanilla, sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. Then mix cake mix, all purpose flour, and baking soda separately (again, I use a sifter to make sure there are no lumps). Gradually mix in dry ingredients until well blended. Add sprinkles. Spread batter evenly in greased pan and bake for 30-35 minutes until top is lightly browned but middle is a bit jiggly (stick a tooth pick inside and some "batter" should come out on the tooth pick still). Again, if you want it more gooey-- cook it less, if you want it more cooked-- cook it for longer. Cool completely and then cut!

Enjoy,
Chika


09 February 2012

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes



Every year our program hosts potential graduate students who applied and were then invited to interview. Its a two day event, and on the second evening we have a potluck dinner- to give applicants time to mingle with faculty and graduate students. Since, it was a busy time, I wanted a super easy, super quick recipe that would be a hit. And this is what I made (and everyone seemed to love them):


BOSTON CREAM PIE CUPCAKES
Adpated from Sandra Lee

INGREDIENTS

1 box of Yellow Cake Mix
1 box of Jello Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix
(2) Duncan Hines Chocolate Frosting
  
DIRECTIONS

Bake the cupcakes according to package. I use an ice cream scoop to have each cupcake be about the same size (make sure each cup is filled no more than 3/4 of the way full). Let cook for several hours or overnight. Make pudding according to package. Fill a piping bag  with vanilla pudding. Take the cooled cupcakes and using a wilton 230 tip, fill each cupcake with vanilla pudding until excess leaks out of top (wipe off excess with paper towel). Use 2 containers of chocolate frosting (I used Duncan Hines but I also like Pillsbury). I used milk chocoalte icing, but it would have looked more "boston cream" like if you used classic chocolate or dark chocolate frosting. Frost cupcakes with chocolate icing-- with any design you like-- I used the Wilton 21 tip to ice the cupcakes. Top each cupcake with a sour cherry candy (you can use real cherries or sundae cherries) and finish with some red sprinkles.

Enjoy,
Chika

Red Velvet Cookies



These cookies are as yummy as they sound. I mean who doesn't love a little red velvet with cream cheese in their life? I take them to school with me to see how "yummy" they taste, and these went pretty fast. They are easy to make (if you follow my semi-homemade way) and delicious!

Red Velvet Cookies

I searched a bit to find cookies that you could make from scratch and ones that had more of a cakey soft texture than crunchy.

RED VELVET COOKIES
Adapted From Kitchen meets Girl

INGREDIENTS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2 3/4 c. all purpose flour
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 sticks of butter or 1c of butter (softened)
1 1/4 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. red food coloring
2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. buttermilk
Betty Crocker Cream Cheese Frosting

DIRECTIONS

Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa, salt) separately. I like to use a sifter so that there are no lumps in my mixture. Set aside. Then mix butter, sugar, and eggs together. Once smooth, mix in food coloring and vanilla. Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk- slowly (I add 1c. of dry and then 1/4 of of butter milk at a at a time). Put spoonfuls on a cookie tray (I use an ice cream scoop. I fill it half full and then dump onto tray). Bake for 10-15 minutes. My cookies came out best at 12 minutes :) let them cool until not warm to the touch. They usually came out in non-perfect circles, which drove me crazy. So I used circle cookie cutters to get the perfect cookie shape. I used a wilton 21 (open star tip) to ice the cookies. I moved from inside out. And then topped with some red sprinkles!

Enjoy,
Chika