Death to Cupcakes: A New Era Begins (Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes)

Last year, I called it. Just saying.

Its official Crumbs, one of the nation’s largest cupcakes chains, has closed its doors. It seems Americans are tired of this once trend. We no longer feel the need to have a portion sized, personal cake with frosting decorated to wow us. We no longer want art on a platter, we no longer feel the need to pay $3.00 for a cupcake. Americans are tired of your shit cupcakes, you’re out.

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So that leaves me wondering, what’s the next trend? Cheesecake on a stick would be awesome! But then we would have to find portable ways to keep it cool. Gourmet Brownies, that’s something I can get on board with. What about good ol’ fashion cookies? Nah, too… ordinary.

What do you think the next food trend will be? Well if you figure it out let me know… in the meantime…

Chocolate and peanut butter go together like Bonnie and Clyde, Thelma and Louise, Tom and Jerry and Beyoncé and Jay-z. It just works, the salty and sweet, sweet and salty, throw a little sea salt on top and you have an edible euphoria unlike any other.

According to The thechocolatestore.com Americans consume 2.8 billion pounds of chocolate each year, which is approximately 11.6 pounds per person.  On the other hand according to the National Peanut Board (yes this exists), Americans spend $800 million a year on peanut butter, that’s a lot of jars! Obviously this paring is not going out of style any time soon!

Courtney’s coworker requested chocolate peanut butter cupcakes for his birthday and I am always more than happy to deliver. I made a rich chocolate cupcake using both dark chocolate coco powder, and regular coco power. I also decided that this needed a peanut butter filling, so a mock Reese’s filling was pumped into the middle of these suckers, topped off with a peanut butter butter cream.

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Chocolate Peanut butter cupcakes:

If you are allergic to peanuts, these will surely kill you. But if you are a chocolate peanut butter fanatic, these are sure to melt your heart!

Makes 24 cupcakes

The cake was adapted from: Hersey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” chocolate cake recipe

2 cups sugar

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup Hersey’s Dark Chocolate Cocoa powder

1/2 cup Hersey’s cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup boiling water

 

Filling taken from a Wilton recipe:

1 1/2 Tablespoons warm melted butter

1/2 cup peanut butter room temp

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

 

Peanut-Butter, Butter Cream adapted from the wonderful Martha Stewart:

2/3 cup creamy peanut butter

1 stick of butter, softened

2 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons whipping cream

 

 

 

Directions:

Cake:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F
  2. Mix together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).
  3. Pour into cupcake liners or greased cupcake tins, fill 3/4 full.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle come out clean

Filling:

  1. Core the cupcakes using either a knife or a cupcake corer if you have one
  2. Melt the butter and mix into the peanut butter and confectioner sugar till combined
  3. Resist the urge to eat all of it
  4. Using a spoon, or a bag fill the cored cupcake with this mixture.

Frosting

  1. Mix butter and peanut butter together, add in confectioners’ sugar, and add in whipping cream.
  2. Whip till desired consistency
  3. Again resist the urge to eat it all
  4. Either pipe, or spread on cupcakes.

 

 

 

 

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Island Time… (Toasted Coconut Key Lime Pie)

Paradise to me has always been on a beach. There is something so relaxing about the crashing sound of the ocean, the heated sand under you, and all of your cares washed out to sea. Paradise for me is located in a place I’d like to call home, Hawaii. Island time is really different than Eastern Standard Time. When work calls you at three in the morning, you can roll over and hit ignore and nobody cares. When you try to contact people at 9 o’clock island time, and no one answers, it is kind of relaxing. At 12 in the afternoon if you feel like going surfing on your lunch break, it’s expected.May 21 through June 1 I was lucky enough to go to Hawaii with my parents, a graduation present for finally finishing college. From May 21 to the 26 I was in Oahu, and from May 26 to June 1 I was falling in love with Maui.

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Waikiki from the pier

Oahu was nice, if you like the city. High rise building and double digit floor hotels rose off the beach like concrete giants. Honolulu could compare to a small New York City, with bustling storefronts, and business men and women struggling to predict the latest trend in there respected markets. While the city remained busy, the mountains kept a watchful eye in the background, reminding the workers that an escape was only a short drive away.

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The Waikiki beach, so idolized in movies and TV shows, appears nonexistent in this Jersey girls eyes. On the East Coast beaches can stretch as far as a half mile, but here you had maybe 20 feet until the water’s edge, if you were lucky.  A rocky coral lined the beach, which did not affect the standard surfer, but kept the midlife beach goer out of the water. I did take a surf lesson with Gone Surfing, and let me tell you, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I am not weak by any means. I work out almost every day, and I pride myself on my toned body, but paddling the quarter mile out or whatever it may be killed me! Luckily the Gone Surfing team helps you get out, or I would never have surfed in Waikiki.

As you traveled away from the highly commercialized, somewhat polluted city the true colors of the island finally showed through. The island is beautiful! All of the beaches on the island are open to the public, and all of them have something unique to them. I would love to travel to the North Shore in the winter and see the giant wave’s crash on the beach and everything else around them. For now the lush green beauty of the mountains and the calm pristine beaches held me over.

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The pristine beaches of Maui

Maui was something entirely different, Maui was an island of dreams. As we flew in (it’s a 15 minute plane ride from Oahu) we could see sugar cane growing all over the island, and the mountains reaching into the clouds at a height of over ten thousand feet. On the ground it smelled sweet, a mix of sugar cane and plumaira filled the air. We stayed at the Honua Kai in Lahaina and trust me I would live there if I could. Golden sand beaches stretched on, with a sunset every night just over Molokai. There was a reef maybe 6 feet off the beach with the best snorkeling I have ever seen and I have snorkeled all over the world. There was turtles, parrot fish, the entire cast of Nemo, and even an eel or two, I was in fish heaven. On land the things to do greatly outnumbered my time spent there. The road to Hana highlighted my trip. 1 road, 68 miles, roughly 620 curves and 59 one lane bridges all to view the best of Maui. Scenic overlooks, arboretums, waterfalls, and a black sand beach are just a few things that made this drive so special.

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One of the many wonders of Hana

Without a doubt the most busy tourist section of the island was Front Street in Lahaina. We went there every night, may it be for entertainment, dining, or shopping, Front Street was the place to be. The Old Lahaina Luau was a wonderful interpretation of the islands rich culture through the best way they know how, dance. It was amazing to see these dancers contort their bodies, as well as tell the history of the islands all in a way that everyone could understand. I also managed to strike up a conversation with our “waiter” about snowboarding, which I found odd in Hawaii, yet loved.

The fruit in Maui is unlike anything I have ever tasted. On the road to Hana I stopped by a roadside stand and got 7 bananas for a dollar, 7!!! They were the sweetest, freshest piece of fruit I have ever tasted. I also stopped at a different road side stand and got a home grown avocado. This thing was huge!!! Nothing like the store bought avocado in Jersey this thing was the size of my face!! The pineapple drips juices like watermelon. After breakfast each morning I found myself having to wash up because I was covered in sticky juices from the pineapple I devoured. If I lived in Hawaii, the only thing I would eat would be fruit that I picked in the morning, avocado, and fresh fish, what else could I need?

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I was not leaving without a fight

I did not want to leave. In fact my father had to peel me off of a palm tree. I miss the 78 degree weather every day. I miss watching the rain shower come off the mountains in the mornings. I miss talking about surf, and the morning fishing report with the locals. I could move there for an extended amount of time and never run out of things to do. One day I will return only to make plans to live there for a year.

 

Coconut Key Lime Pie:

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One of my favorite desserts (Kona Coffee flavored ice cream aside) was Key Lime Pie that I had at Lahaina Fish Co. I normally don’t like key lime pie, but this was the epitome of island taste. It was so fluffy I thought it was cheesecake at first, but the taste cannot be denied. It had the light texture of damp clouds, and the flavor of tropical islands, definitely one of the most memorable desserts on the island.

Ingredients:

For crust:

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs

2 tablespoons of sugar

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup toasted coconut

For the filling:

1, 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk

4 large egg yolks

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh or bottled Key Lime juice

Toasted coconut to taste

Directions:

To make crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. In a large bowl combine cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter and coconut until combined.
  3. Spread with a fork in a greased 9 inch glass pie pan
  4. Bake for 10 minutes, remove and let cool.

Make filling

  1. Whisk condensed milk and yokes until combined
  2. Add juice and coconut flakes and whisk again until combined.
  3. Pour into the middle of the crust and bake for 15 minutes.
  4. Cool pie completely on a rack.
  5. Chill, covered for 8 hours.

 

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On Tradition: Or Lack there of

“Santa’s coming! Santa’s coming!” Quick pole, who do you think in my household would be more likely to shout this?

  1. Me
  2. My Mother
  3. My Cat
  4. A small child who snuck into our house at night

If you guessed anything other than, B. My Mother, you are wrong.

Thanksgiving morning every year my mother turns back time and becomes a child. She wakes everyone up at promptly 9am singing that the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade is about to start. While my father and I stumble down the stairs in our Pajamas and squirrely bed heads, whispering obscenities under our breath; my mother sits like a child on the couch watching the parade waiting for the arrival of the holiday season kickoff, Santa.

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It’s a tradition, a weird backwards tradition. The balloons go by, the marching bands, the weird singing acts that get stranger with each passing year, until finally my mother’s big moment. I watch them build, like puddles on a rainy day, her eyes slowly gloss over then overflow with tears of memories. For the past 50+ years my mother has done the same thing every Thanksgiving without skipping a beat, as a child, to young adult, to mother, to now. Thanksgiving morning has always brought her to tears knowing that the season of family, love, and Santa Clause was about to Kick off.

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Another tradition in the family is the pies. It doesn’t matter who makes the dinner, or who says they will make the desserts; my family still makes the pies. Until last year it was solely my mother; apple pie, chocolate cream pie, and pumpkin. But some traditions need to be spiced up.

Until two years ago I never made a pie, any kind of pie. You name it, I’ve never made it. But that was the year of the great apple picking. My mother and I went apple picking and bought our weight in apples. We don’t know why we did this, but for the next few weeks there were apple everything. Meals, sides, sauces, turnovers, pancakes, if you are what you eat, I was a big fat juicy apple. My favorite way to eat an apple is on a stick, covered in M&M’s and caramel, that’s when I found the recipe for a caramel apple pie.  

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It sounded perfect. What is not to love about caramel, apples, and brown sugar? There is something about this combination that is warm and inviting. It is like the pie is wrapping you with a warm brown sugar blanket saying, “sit down and stay awhile”.  I made this for the first time at home; it was a bonding experience for my mother and me, my first pie. It came out perfect. Warm, crispy, and with the home made love that you just taste. For the beginning pie maker this is one of the easiest pies you can ever make. We spent hours on the crust (as you can see in the recipe I am joking), after a few ingredients thrown together and an hour in the oven, this masterpiece is complete.

From my tradition to yours, I hope you enjoy your caramel apple pie, don’t forget the ice cream!!!

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Caramel Apple Pie

Ingredients:

1 Box premade pie crust (I recommend Pillsbury)

½ Cup caramel topping (try butterscotch caramel!!)

2 Tablespoons AP flower

8 Cups of apples that are peeled, cored, and sliced (this should be 6-8 medium apples, I always use 7)

½ Cup brown Sugar

2 Tablespoons AP flower

1 Teaspoon milk

1 Teaspoon Sugar

 

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Prepare crust as directed for a two crust pie.
  3. Combine caramel topping, and flour in a small bowl and spread it on the bottom of the pie crust.
  4. In a large bowl combine apples, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Pour over the caramel mixture and shape with the highest pile of apples in the middle.
  5. Place crust on top of apples, pinch edges all the way around, and cut air holes in the top.
  6. Brush milk over the top of the crust and lightly dust the sugar.
  7. Place in over for 50-60 minutes (Cover crust after 30 minutes of cooking to prevent browning)  

 

 

 

Cup O’ Cake with a Side O’ Science

Chemical compounds (or actually chemistry in general) were never my strong point. I never understood why certain things could not go together, what made elements positive or negative or why it was frowned upon to spell things from the periodic table of elements. Science and I are not cut out for each other.

Baking and I however, we go hand in hand. In a way baking is like science: specific measurements, following directions to a T, and adding things in a specific order so you don’t cause an explosion because apparently that (while amusing) is frowned upon also.

Science at work

Science at work

My first revelation that science and baking are similar was when I was in third grade, the stereotypical volcano experiment. Red food coloring + vinegar + Baking soda = one pretty sweet volcano. Even at the cute little age of nine I realized that baking soda and vinegar were two ingredients that we cook with on a pretty regular basis, and I was convinced that I would blow up if I ever ate the two together.  When I was teaching this experiment to my younger cousin a few years ago I was trying to explain what ingredients we had to use, but he had a different idea.  Instead of the standard vinegar and baking soda we used Mentos and Coke; it had the same (yet stickier) result.

Today I am going to teach you a miracle of science: Chocolate Peanut Butter Mug Cake. It is the perfect treat for when you are banging your head against the table trying to remember those annoying chemical formulas and you wish you could just make up your own.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mug Cake

MMMMMMM.

MMMMMMM.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons flour

½ teaspoon of sugar

2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon oil

Some chocolate chips

1 tablespoon of peanut butter

Directions:

Mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt until mixed and all the clumps are out. Stir in the milk and oil until smooth. Throw in the chocolate chips and mix them around a bit. Finally put the peanut butter in but make sure you get it under some of the wet mixture.  Put it in the microwave for about a minute, let cool for a few seconds and eat as fast as possible.

Science is pretty cool isn’t it? You can turn a list of several ingredients into a masterpiece of edible art. Now if only my professors would accept my homework in the form of mug cakes.

Look at that melted peanut butter.

Look at that melted peanut butter.

Graduate vs. The world

It was a cold and windy night, the windows were shaking in there frames and the ghosts of the graduate wing was lurking in the kitchen. Oh never mind that was just the ghost of my wasted psychology degree. My name is Lauren, I am a psychology student who realized to late in the game that I’d rather eat my problems than listen  to other peoples.

Culinary arts became my passion after finding out that making cannolis cream was sort of like mixing chemicals in freshman biology, and it was all up in smoke from there. I pride myself to be one of the finest dorm kitchen cookers in all the land, or my school. I make it my goal to show you that a psychology major can cook just as well as a culinary arts major without the fancy training, and maybe ill share a psych lesson along the way as well.

I may not have gone to school for this, but trust me what I lack in training I learn in my failures. In the words of the father of psychology, Sigmund Freud, “When inspiration does not come to me, I go halfway to meet it.” Lets do this.

A day is not complete without breakfast.

A day is not complete without breakfast.

Def. one of my favorite things to make in the croc pot is chili of all shapes and sizes.

Def. one of my favorite things to make in the croc pot is chili of all shapes and sizes.