Blogging with the consistency of a oh look something shiny (White Chocolate Fuggy Brownie)

You take one week off and BOOM, a year flies by. Sorry world, your sweet addiction of Not So Culinary Graduate was halted for a year, an entire freaken year! Well I hope you all did something fun in that time, I know I did… I think.

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MMMM warm white chocolate brownies

I’ve progressed my running career. I’m now a running machine! I’ve ran several half marathons, a bunch of 10 milers, countless 5ks and now I am prepping for the Chicago Marathon in October, HOW COOL IS THAT!??!?!?! If you want to stay updated with my running life please follow me on Instagram @Lauren_Runs_Here.

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Look at that batter

I moved too, that’s cool right!?!?! Not far, just down the road in Pennsylvania from where I was living, but the house is so much cooler, and the kitchen! Actually the kitchen is still in the works, I only have one cookie tray that fits in the oven, but the stove is nice, brand new Viking stove.

Does moving feel weird to anyone else? You stay in one house for a while, you get used to where everything is, the smell, the squeaks, it becomes so familiar, and then you move. I am still trying to figure out where the silverware drawer is, and if my house is haunted or if it’s just the wind.

Speaking of changes, Not So Culinary Graduate might be changing a little to. While I love bringing you a different recipe twice a month, we might switch it up now and then and do a review or a rant. I’m not saying I won’t throw in a drink recipe or the cookie of the week recipe, I’m just saying be prepared for anything!

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Pre-oven

In the meantime to keep tradition alive and the drinks flowing, this week I made a Fudgy white chocolate brownie. The tops and the side were crispy and slightly crunchy while the inside was sweet, gooey, and fudgy! The white chocolate was an interesting contrast from my typical regular chocolate, throw some chocolate chips on top and you got the best white brownie ever!

Fudgy White Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients:

1/2 Cup unsalted butter

12oz or 1 bag of white chocolate chips

3/4 Cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1/2 Teaspoon of salt

1 Teaspoon vanilla

1 Cup all-purpose flour

Directions;

  1. Melt butter and cholate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Try this 30 seconds at a time to not burn the butter.
  2. Add sugar, eggs, salt and vanilla and mix until incorporated.
  3. Mix in flour till combined.
  4. Spread into a Creased 8” by 8” pan for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool before cutting.
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Confessions of a Lazy Baker (Oatmeal M&M Cookies)

4 million dollar, 4 million, that’s how big my mistake was at work this week. Needless to say I am stressed, and when I’m stressed I eat. On Monday I found myself pacing back and forth outside of a conference room because I wanted left over cookies from their lunch meeting. There were no leftovers.  I raced up and down the aisles at work to get a small bite of chocolate, no one had any. When I was stressed and needed it the most my work let me down.

Cookie dough... Reminder: do not eat all of it.

Cookie dough… Reminder: do not eat all of it.

I decided I was going to make a sweet treat for me, I mean everyone at work. I also lost a bet to one of the departments and promised them cupcakes. But the thing is, on Tuesday when I came home from the gym, I realized I did not have enough butter for a butter cream frosting. I also did not have any cream cheese for a cream cheese frosting. And on top of all of that it was 8:30 pm, I was not going out to get anything. So I settled with cookies.

What I really wanted to make was double chocolate chunk espresso cookies. Well, let me tell you, I did not have anything to make that. No espresso, no Dutch processed coco, and not enough butter. This whole baking thing was starting to stress me out almost as much as my 4 million dollar mistake.

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TO THE INTERNET! I don’t often borrow recipes from the internet but when I do I make sure the recipe is legit. I borrowed Chewy Oatmeal M&M cookies from Sally’s Baking Addiction, AND MAN DID THEY COME OUT WONDERFUL! I made two batches, one for my work fellows and one for the house. For the first batch I followed the recipe to a T. I was pleased how they came out however the cinnamon was throwing me off, something with the cinnamon and the chocolate was not working for me. However it did take me 3 cookies to decide this. For my second batch I dropped the cinnamon and added another teaspoon of vanilla. These came out much better for my liking. Chewy, soft, hearty with the oatmeal, and still sweet with M&M’s thrown in. A perfect distressing snack.

Chewy Oatmeal M&M cookies

Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Makes roughly 24 cookies

Ingredients

1/2 Cup unsalted butter, room temp

3/4 Cup brown sugar

1/4 Cup granulated sugar

1 Large egg

3 Teaspoons vanilla

1 and 2/3 Old Fashioned rolled oats

1 Cup all-purpose flour

½ Teaspoon baking soda

A bag of M&M added to taste (small or large does not matter, I used large because again, I did not have small)

 

With a stand mixer cream the softened butter and the sugars, add the eggs and vanilla and mix.

Beat in the oats, flour, and baking soda until combined. Stir in the M&Ms/

Preheat the oven to 350. Line pans with parchment paper and bake for 10 minutes or until golden

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These were a hit at work!

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)  

 

 

 

A Lemon Christmas (Mini Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins)

I used to wish my Christmas tree would burn down.

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Using an old grater for my zest

I hated Christmas. I hated the fact that after Halloween (my favorite holiday), Christmas music would start. I hated the fact that it got cold. I hated slushy snow. I hated speeding hours in a kitchen with my mother. I hated spending countless hours, or multiple days, decorating an 11+ foot tall Christmas tree that we would get every year.

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Lemon and sugar mix

I guess you can call the child me a Grinch. I didn’t understand it. Why bother cutting down a perfectly good tree (as if humans aren’t doing that enough already), and spending countless hours arguing about how to decorate it, only to throw it out the week after Christmas.  Sure it looked pretty for that occasional family member that wandered over to drop something off, but what was the point?

We spent evenings that felt like eternities manipulating cookies to taste just like the ones from the store. What was the point? Couldn’t you just, I don’t know, buy them?!?! During the Christmas season everyone just complains about their diet anyways.

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Someone was interested in the Sour Cream mixture.

Looking back to how much of a Grinch I was, it makes me wonder how I got to where I am today. I cannot wait until snow hits the ground, this means Santa’s coming!!! The smell of the tree, while sitting next to the fire, looms my dreams for the rest of the 11 months. Don’t get me started about cookies; I think it is obvious what happened there (if not feel free to read my post on Chocolate Chip Cookies).

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Batter

An Odd thing about me and Christmas, for some reason I always associate Lemon with the holidays. Perhaps it is because almost every Christmas morning my mother would make Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins. Or perhaps it has something to do with the lemon drop cookies that I spent hours recreating. It could just be my obsession with zesting things and the smell that lingers on my fingers afterword’s.

Anyways, last night (while dancing to Christmas music) I made mini lemon poppy seed muffins for breakfast at work. These guys love when I bring in treats for them, and it gives me an excuse to eat all day. Throughout the morning I had countless people exclaiming how I am ruining their diet, while stuffing three mini muffins in their mouth and taking two for after they swallowed.

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My mini muffins in my cookie jar, almost gone that is

Looking back at my childhood I am almost 97.2% positive that my mother never made these from scratch. I think she cheated and used a mix. Well that cheater, cheater, pumpkin pie eater; try this one next time!

Mini Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Ingredients

1 lemon, zested and juiced

2/3 Cup sugar

2 cups AP flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 Cup sour Cream

2 large eggs

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

1 Stick unsalted Butter, melted

2 Tablespoons poppy seeds

Directions:

  1. Preheat Oven to 400 degrees, grease muffin tins (or use liners, your call)
  2. In a large bowl mix the lemon zest in with the sugar. This is easiest done with your fingers. Mix until all the sugar is wet with lemon.
  3. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix this together well.
  4. In a medium size bowl whisk together sour cream, eggs, vanilla, and butter.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ones and mix until wet.
  6. Add Poppy seeds then stir to combine
  7. Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way and bake for 10 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.

Optional Icing

For icing I did not have any lemon juice, or lemons lying around. I only had 1 which I used for the muffins. I used a vanilla glaze, but a lemon glaze is what I intended on doing so I’ll give you both options.

Lemon

1 Cup Confectioners’ sugar

2-3 Tablespoons lemon juice (preferably fresh)

Mix till combined, drizzle over cooled muffins.

Vanilla

1 Cup confectioners’ sugar

2 Tablespoons milk

1/2 Teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix till combined, drizzle over cooled muffins

Makes 4 dozen mini muffins, almost 1 dozen normal sized muffins (amount ranges on size of the tins)

Cheaters Coffee Cake

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The Journey of the Crumb Cake

                I was never one for cheating, but I like to win. Family monopoly games turned into battles to the death, unless I was the dealer. If I was the dealer, it was always a landslide victory in one direction. I’m not saying I cheated; I just helped out my cause a little.

                Cheating in sports is another thing, I never cheated, but cheaters always made the game more interesting. There was always that one team at the softball field that counted too many runs, or sent someone up to bat to early. This was always resolved with at least one coach being ejected from the game, parents screaming obscenities, and at least one girl crying. It’s not a game unless someone cries.

In baking I can proudly say my cheating is minimal. I prefer homemade everything, to premade anything. Cookies in the bag don’t cut it, box cakes can suck it, and store bought can remain in the store. There is an adventure involved in cooking from scratch, a sense of accomplishments, and pride.

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Don’t cheat and use a stand mixer, DONT DO IT! Do what I say not what I do.

Today, I confess, I cheated. Today I made coffee cake and used (gulp) Bisquick. I could have made homemade Bisquick, but I’ll save that for another story. This was one of the easiest recipes I could have ever followed, and at 7:00am easy is what I need. I even accomplished this recipe without my morning cup of coffee.

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                Apparently, this Bisquick coffee cake is a classic. My mother commented how her mom used to make it, and on mother’s day, tradition is the only thing that mattered. The cake part is light and fluffy, sweet and moist, comparable to a slice of cloud from the heavens. The crumbs, if you are a coffee cake fiend, like myself, I recommend doubling or tripling the crumb topping. I doubled it, and still could have used a little more. But the small balls of sugar will forever satisfy my early morning sweet tooth.

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The crumbly finished product

Without further ado, here is my slice of early morning goodness. Remember, cheaters never win, but at first they do succeed.

Cheaters Coffee Cake:

Ingredients:

Cinnamon streusel

1/3 Cup Original Bisquick mix

1/3 Cup packed brown sugar

1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 Tablespoons firm margarine

Coffee Cake:

2 Cups Original Bisquick mix

2/3 Cup milk

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 Egg

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 375*F. Grease a 9 inch round pan.
  2. In a small bowl, stir streusel ingredients until crumbly. If you like big crumbs try using your hands. For smaller finer crumbs use a whisk.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix coffee cake ingredients until blended, then spread evenly in pan.
  4. Sprinkle the streusel on top of the cake batter.
  5. Bake 18 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Taking on the controversies: Chocolate or Vanilla

Vanilla with choclate frostingIt is the ultimate culinary showdown, the battle of all battles, the controversies of all controversies. Which would win: chocolate or vanilla?
Oddly enough, chocolate and vanilla were introduced to the modern world at the same time. Hernán Cortés in 1520 brought the chocolate and vanilla spices back from the Aztecs to Spain, almost spontaneously the controversy started. Well, not quite.
Before discovered by Cortés, Aztecs used coco beans as a form of currency, 100 beans could buy a good sized turkey. The Aztecs even believed that coco beans had divine properties, similar to many women’s feelings about chocolate once a month. When good ‘ol Cortés first tried chocolate he described it as “a bitter drink for pigs”, but after it was mixed with cane sugar it spread like wildfire across Spain.
While chocolate blossomed and spread over Spain, vanilla remained centralized in Central America. Why you may ask? Because that was the only place it could be successfully grown. When vanilla grows it produces a flower and only if that flower is pollinated by a certain type of bee will it produce beans. It wasn’t until 1841, when a French slave girl discovered that vanilla could be hand pollinated, therefore produced globally and used in abundance. Today we have vanilla everything: vanilla cupcake, vanilla ice cream, vanilla candles, vanilla body spray, vanilla soaps.
In a way, vanilla won. Vanilla has psychological effects that can calm you down and can prevent you from getting over anxious, it is the number one ice cream flavor in the world, and it is my mom’s favorite cupcake flavor.

My half-birthday presents! Wisk, Bowl scraper and heat resistant mat. Thanks Mom!

My half-birthday presents! Wisk, Bowl scraper and heat resistant mat. Thanks Mom!

Today I decided to test out a few things. My half birthday was April 18, and my mom sent me some cool baking supplies that she found. I got a rubber coated whisk, a bowl scraper and a heat resistant mat, all in pink, my favorite color. Also on my half birthday, my homemade vanilla extract was done sitting!!! After two months of waiting what a better way to try out some vanilla cupcakes than use homemade vanilla!!!
Making homemade vanilla extract is pretty simple, and can be cost effective. Vanilla extract is two beans per every 4 ounces of vodka, that’s it, nothing fancy just beans and vodka. Vanilla beans in quantities greater than 2 can be found online at Amazon. Twenty-four beans can set you back as little as sixteen dollars, and 4 ounce jars can also be found online for as little as nine dollars for a 12 count. Cheap vodka can be used for this, the cheaper the better! McCormick vanilla extract can cost up to ten dollars for a 3 ounces bottle. When made at home each bottle comes to costing around four dollars per 4 ounce bottle.
To make your vanilla extract take two vanilla beans and split them long ways, and then cut them in half. Next submerge the four pieces of vanilla beans into vodka in a four ounce glass container. Place your vodka and bean mixture in a dark cool place for about 2 months. Once a week shake the containers for a few seconds and then put them back. That’s it, in two months you did it! You created your very own homemade vanilla.

Homemade Vanilla

Homemade Vanilla

Anyways back to the cupcakes. These cupcakes are basic beginner style cupcakes, nothing fancy, anyone can do it. I decided to pair them with a chocolate frosting so the whole chocolate vs. vanilla controversy could come to life in my cupcake.
This chocolate frosting was probably the best tasting chocolate frosting ever, but one problem, its heavy. It was extremely hard to pipe this frosting out. I would use this frosting again, but I would use it for a cupcake filling, not a frosting. If anyone has a fabulous light chocolate frosting and they are willing to share, please, I am accepting donations.

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This vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting is the reason that there is a controversy over which flavor is better. The cupcake itself is air. The vanilla flavoring comes through very well, it is sweet but not candy land gone suicidal sweet, with undertones of the cake my mom made for my eight birthday party. The frosting on the other hand, it might as well be chocolate fudge. This is a chocolate lovers dream! With just cocoa powder, confectioners’ sugar and butter, the chocolate comes to life. It is sweet, rich and smooth. I was going to drizzle the cupcake with white chocolate but an incident with a plastic bag and the microwave said that milk chocolate would have to suffice.
For a beginners vanilla cupcake, or a cupcake to show off your homemade vanilla skills I highly recommend using this fool proof vanilla cupcake recipe.

Cooling Cupcakes

Cooling Cupcakes

-Cheers!

Recipie:
Fool proof Vanilla Cupcakes: Makes 12
Ingredients:
1/2 Cup softened butter
1 Cup sugar
2 Eggs
2 Teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 Teaspoon baking powder
1/4 Teaspoon salt
2/3 Cup cold milk
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 *F
2. Cream together butter and sugar.
3. Add in eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.
4. Mix in vanilla.
5. In a separate bowl, stir together all dry ingredients.
6. Mix wet ingredients to dry.
7. Add butter and milk, Mix until combined.
8. Bake 18-20 minutes or until the tops are slightly golden.
Chocolate Frosting: NOTE comes out heavy, see warning in paragraphs above
Ingredients:
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Directions:
1. Sift sugar and cocoa together in larger bowl
2. In another bowl mix together 4 tablespoons heavy cream, vanilla and butter, beating till smooth.
3. Add sugar and cocoa mixture 1 cup at a time until all combined.

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