Monday, January 27, 2014

Copy Cat: Candy Cane Bamboozled Milk Shake

Whoops, I've been gone for a long time!  Last week was the first week of the semester and it got a little crazy!  But, I do have an final 'copy cat' recipe, and this one might even be my favorite.  I made this fantastic milkshake over the holidays, and now I just need to find some clear creme de menthe in California to make some it again.  The recipe is based on a shake from Holsteins Shakes and Buns at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, where Tim and I had an awesome Oreo shake a year or two ago (clearly awesome, since we still remember it).  This shake is pretty rich, and pretty alcoholic, although you can't taste it -- it would be very easy to go overboard! I definitely recommend splitting this into 2-3 mini shakes, so you get the creamy peppermint flavor without making yourself sick.  :)

Candy Cane Bamboozled Milk Shake (adapted from Holsteins Shakes and Buns, via Honest Cooking)
Serves 1 (or split into 2-3 mini milkshakes)

3 scoops vanilla ice cream
3 T peppermint schnapps
2 T whole milk
1-1/2 T clear creme de menthe
3-4 drops red food coloring (if desired)
Whipped cream, to garnish, optional

1. Combine the ice cream, peppermint schnapps, whole milk, creme de menthe, and food coloring in a blender.  Blend until smooth.
2. Pour into a glass and enjoy!  Serve with whipped cream if you like (I found it plenty rich without!)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Copy Cat: Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars with Macadamia Nuts and Chocolate Chips

This is copy cat week on Cupcake Muffin, and here's another copy cat recipe that tastes just like the original!  I got my sister the cookbook Power Hungry for Christmas, and it has a bunch of different copy cat recipes of popular granola and power bars (plus lots of originals).  I wanted to make her some bars to go with the book, so my Mom and I put together these near-perfect replicas of Nature Valley crunchy granola bars.  The fun part of making your own bars rather than buying those at the store is that you can come up with your own flavor combinations -- we went with macadamia nuts and mini chocolate chips (yum!).  The bars are easy to put together, and get great crunch from brown rice cereal (think Rice Krispies made with brown rice), nuts, and a quick honey-brown sugar syrup that holds everything together and hardens as the bars cool.

Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars with Macadamia Nuts and Chocolate Chips (adapted from Power Hungry: The Ultimate Energy Bar Cookbook)
Makes 16 bars

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1-1/4 cup crisp brown rice cereal
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, chopped
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
3 T water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt
Handful of mini chocolate chips, for topping

1. Line a 9x13 pan with parchment and spray with oil.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Spread the oats on a large rimmed baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the oats are toasted and fragrant.  Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the brown rice cereal and nuts.
3. Turn down the oven to 325 degrees.
4. Combine the brown sugar, honey, water, oil, and salt in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium-low heat, stirring often, for 5-6 minutes, until the mixture begins to bubble vigorously.  Remove from the heat and immediately pour over oat mixture, mixing with a spatula until everything is evenly coated.
5. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan.  Place a large piece of parchment or wax paper over the bars and use it to spread, flatten, and compact the mixture firmly and evenly.  Discard the paper.
6. Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips (as many as you like!).
7. Bake 22-25 minutes, until deeply golden brown.
8. While the bars are still warm, score with a sharp knife so they will be easier to cut later -- cut into 16 bars.  When the bars are completely cool, cut them apart completely and store in an airtight container for 5 days at room temperature, 2 weeks in the fridge, or 3 months in the freezer (thaw 30 minutes before eating).

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Copy Cat: Cranberry Bliss Bars

This is copy cat week on Cupcake Muffin! I have a few recipes I made over the holidays that are homemade versions of treats I love from restaurants or the grocery store.  First up is Cranberry Bliss Bars from Starbucks.  Although I really like the new menu at Starbucks, these bars were one of my favorites from their old menu and I'm glad they've kept them in the holiday rotation.  With this recipe, you can make them year-round!  The base is a moist, sweet blondie full of white chocolate chips and dried cranberries.  The blondies are topped with a simple white chocolate-cream cheese frosting and more dried cranberries.  Cut the bars into triangles to imitate the Starbucks look, if you like -- a little goes a long way as they are very rich.  These bars really do taste like the 'real deal,' and it is pretty dangerous to have an entire pan around!  We added these to the Christmas cookie plates we gave away (very festive!) and also ate lots and lots.  Yum!

Some other 'copy cat' recipes I've tried: Classic Mac from Homeroom, Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Fudge Ripple from Bi-Rite Creamery, Salty Caramel Ice Cream and Roasted Sour Cherry-Goat Cheese Ice Cream from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, Bouchons from Bouchon Bakery, and Roasted Eggplant-Tomato-Lemon Pizza and Nectarine-Arugula Pizza from Cheeseboard Pizza.

Cranberry Bliss Bars (adapted from Taste of Home, via Recipe Girl)
Makes a 9x13 pan of bars

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed
1-1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2-1/4 cups all purpose lour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
6 ounces white chocolate, chopped

For the topping:
8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
3 ounces white chocolate, melted
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13 baking pan with oil.
2. In a medium bowl, melt the butter for one minute in the microwave (it won't be totally melted, but should be very, very soft).  Stir in the brown sugar.  Beat with an electric mixer for a minute or two, and then beat in the eggs and vanilla.
3. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Stir into the butter mixture, and then stir in the cranberries and white chocolate.
4. Spread into the prepared pan as evenly as possible (the batter will be thick).  Bake 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.
5. When the blondies are cool, make the topping.  Beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar together until well blended.  Gradually add the white chocolate, and continue beating until everything is very well blended.  Frost the blondies.  Sprinkle with the dried cranberries.  Cut into bars and then store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Thai Red Curry Chicken Soup

This soup ticks a lot of boxes -- it's easy, healthy, and also lots of fun! I love dishes where you get to build your own plate or bowl.  Each person can add more or less noodles, chicken, and toppings as they like, which just makes the whole meal more fun.  The components come together quickly.  Start with chicken broth spiked with red curry, lime juice, and fish sauce.  Chicken breasts get simmered in the broth, and then combined with noodles or rice.  We used thin maifun rice noodles that are simply softened in hot water, but you can use thicker rice noodles, white or brown rice, or even thin spaghetti if you prefer -- just get the water boiling to cook them before you start on the soup.  Toppings are not optional here; this soup definitely needs the hit of freshness and texture that it gets from herbs and scallions.  You can mix up the herbs here: any combination of mint, cilantro, and/or basil will be tasty, so this is a great recipe for using up the end of bunches that are left from other recipes.

Thai Red Curry Chicken Soup (adapted from Serious Eats)
Serves 4

2 tsp vegetable oil
2 T Thai red curry paste
6 cups chicken broth (more as needed)
2 T fish sauce (more as needed)
2 T sugar (more as needed)
2 T fresh lime juice (more as needed)
10 ounces chicken breast, cut into 3-4 pieces
Cooked rice noodles, rice, or thin spaghetti, to serve
Chopped basil, cilantro, and/or mint, to serve
Sliced scallions, to serve

1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat, until hot,  Add the curry paste and cook, pressing it into the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, until fragrant and sizzling, about 1 minute.  Whisk in the broth, fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice.  Add the chicken.
2. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
3. Remove the chicken to a cutting board, using tongs.  Carefully cut into small chunks (using a fork or tongs to hold down the chicken so you don't burn yourself).
4. Taste the broth, and add more borth, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, or salt as needed.
5. Build your soup bowls.  In the bottom of each bowl, layer noodles or rice and chicken.  Pour over some of the broth.  Then top with chopped herbs and sliced scallions and enjoy right away!
6. If you have leftovers, store the noodles or rice in one container, the broth and chicken in another, and the herbs and scallions in a third -- reheat and then combine when ready to eat.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

I really ought to have posted these cupcakes back before Christmas, because that's when I made them and the mint-chocolate flavor is perfect for the holidays.  But they will still be delicious in January, I promise! I made these for Tim's and my pre-Christmas dinner...we each went to visit our parents for the holidays, so we celebrated early with a fancy dinner and opening presents by the tree.  Tim cooked a fantastic meal of extra-thick pork chops and smashed potatoes, and I contributed dessert.  These cupcakes have a light texture and they're delicious even without any frosting (we were too full for frosting after all the pork chops!).  I love the mint flavor -- it pairs really well with the chocolate and makes the cupcakes taste even more festive!

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes (adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes: 175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone's Favorite Treat)
Makes 15-18 cupcakes

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup warm water
2 large eggs
3 T oil (I used extra light tasting olive oil, but vegetable or canola oil should work well)
1 tsp peppermint extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 and line muffin tins with paper liners.
2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
3. In a large glass measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, water, eggs, oil, and peppermint extract.  Stir gently with a fork to break up the egg and mix the ingredients.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Beat with an electric mixer until very smooth and well mixed, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
5. Fill the muffin tins about 2/3 of the way full.  Bake about 20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.

And here's the amazing dinner Tim prepared -- pork chops with mustard-sage pan sauce, smashed potatoes, and salad.