Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mini Cake Batter Doughnuts

I love garage sales. Rummaging through other people's junk treasures and finding a bunch of stuff you don't really need, but just have to have?

It's amazing the things you can find for a pocketful of change. A friend's Mom from back home once furnished an entire apartment with garage sale finds. It was beautiful and cost her only $75!

I love them and couldn't imagine a better way to spend an early Saturday morning.

My mother-in-law is more of a fanatic than I am. If you're looking for something, she will ALWAYS find it. And I mean, A-L-W-A-Y-S. I remember when someone needed the back of a clock from a certain make, several years ago. Would you believe she found it like 2 weeks later? We're talking a needle in very big haystack.

I've had a doughnut pan on my 'to get' list for a few weeks now. I didn't say anything about it as I knew I would be going shopping stateside within the next few weeks and could most likely find one there. Guess who comes over yesterday with one - in pristine condition nonetheless? Can she read minds now? It was pretty spectacular. She grabbed it in a 'fill a bag for a dollar' at a church rummage sale. How awesome is that?

Even more awesome is that I didn't have to wait to get a pan anymore to make these lovely treats.

God bless garage sales. And those who throw away money so I don't have to.

Recipe adapted and modified from Tasty Kitchen

1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup yellow cake mix - I used Betty Crocker
¼ cup vanilla pudding mix
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons sprinkles

½ cup (4 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons mil

To make doughnuts:

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Lightly spray doughnut pan with no stick spray; set aside.

In large bowl, mix flour, cake mix, vanilla pudding, sugar, baking powder, and salt. 

Stir in milk, egg, vanilla, and butter. Mix well to combine. Stir in sprinkles. 

Scrape batter into large ziploc bag, snip corner, and squeeze batter into prepared pan, filling about ¾'s of the way. 

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until doughnuts spring back when touched. Since I have a mini doughnut pan, mine took 8 minutes exactly. 

Cool completely before adding glaze. 

To make cream cheese glaze:

Beat cream cheese until creamy. Add powdered sugar and mix until incorporated. Stir in milk and vanilla. You can add more milk if need be to get desired consistency. 

Yields: 12 large or 24 mini doughnuts.    

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Junk Food Cupcakes

This past weekend, I had a crazy idea.

Let me start by saying that many of my ideas are usually a bit harebrained. They don't always turn out as I had planned, but I still hope for the best. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

I wondered what would happen if I were to incorporate some favorite snack foods into a cupcake. I'm talking chocolate, peanut butter, pretzels, potato chips, candy, and soda. It probably doesn't sound very appetizing together as a whole and something the producers of Survivor or Big Brother would whiz in a blender and serve up to the contestants as a food challenge.

However, I gave it a go. I gave one to my MIL to try. She really enjoyed it. She told me she would swear if there weren't children around. This coming from a woman who doesn't swear. Or eat many sweets.

So sit back, nosh a cupcake, and enjoy the show.

The diet can wait until tomorrow.


1 box Devil's Food Cake Mix - I used Betty Crocker.
3 eggs
½ cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup cola - I used Coca-Cola
¼ cup buttermilk or sour cream
2 cups crushed potato chips

2 cups pretzels, chopped finely
1 cup butter, melted

1 bag of Rolos or peanut butter cups. I suggest freezing them prior to using so the candy doesn't melt into the cupcake while baking.

3 cups powdered sugar
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ - ½ cup heavy cream
4 ounces (½ cup) unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare two 12 cup muffin tins with liners. Set aside.  

Using a food processor, grind pretzels to make 2 cups. In a small bowl, combine pretzels and butter. Place a teaspoon or so (just to cover) into the bottoms of cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, eggs, and butter and beat. Slowly add in cola and buttermilk and blend to combine, ensuring everything is well incorporated.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop batter into liners on top of pretzels. Place a Rolo or peanut butter cup in the middle and cover.

 Sprinkle crushed potato chips over top.

Bake for 18-20 minutes. Mine took 18 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer onto wire racks to completely cool.

To make frosting:

In a large bowl, combine powdered sugar and peanut butter until creamy. Add vanilla, cream, and chocolate and beat until smooth.

Pipe or spread onto cooled cupcakes. I topped with a chocolate covered potato chip and very fine pretzel crumbs.

Yields: 24 Cupcakes.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Homemade Do-Si-Dos

Girl Scout cookie season is a season I look forward to most of all. 

I love when the girls come door to door selling them or a friend's daughter and family members come running to me, knowing full well that their child will make their quota on me and me alone. It's also the only time I would fork out $5 for a box of cookies.

Unfortunately in Canada, they don't have the delectable selection they do back home. USA has 12. Canada has 3. I guess that could be a good thing in my case. Cookie addicts, like myself, do not need any more reason to eat their weight in them.

I had a hankering for some of my most favorite Girl Scout Cookies. The Do-si-dos. Since they aren't available here , I took matters into my own hands and made some. 

These are a very nice substitute and just as dangerous. 

To body parts everywhere.


1 pouch (454g) oatmeal cookie mix
½ cup butter
½ cup peanut butter
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

¾ cup smooth peanut butter
¼ cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar

To make cookies:

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicone mats.

In a large bowl, combine peanut butter, butter, brown sugar, egg and water. Beat until all ingredients are well combined. Slowly add cookie mix and mix until incorporated.

Using an ice cream scoop with a retractable mechanism, scoop out dough and place on tray.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool for several minutes and transfer cookie onto a wire rack.

To make filling:

In a small bowl, mix peanut butter, butter, and powdered sugar until well blended. For each sandwich cookie, spread about 1 tablespoon filling on the underside of 1 cookie. Top with another. Press together lightly, twisting slightly. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

Yields: 12 sandwich cookies.

Happy Baking!

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Raw Vegan Chocolate Mousse

I find even I need a break from flour and dairy every now and again. I'm sure we all do, although my break is how Rachel from Friends sees a break. Not Ross'. 

No, never Ross'.

I first heard about this treat from my BFF, who took a Raw Foods class last year. I finally decided to give it a try when I scored a 5 pack of this-close-to-being-overripe avocados from the market. We love avocados, especially in guacamole, so they never last too long in this house.

Needless to say, my family devoured the mousse and were none the wiser. Even I was impressed. It's really good and ridiculously simple to make! Seriously, you'll be pleasantly surprised. 

Or your money back. 

Okay, not really, but it made for a good ending.

Recipe adapted from Serene Kitchen via Sheryl Crow

2 large ripe avocados
½ cup organic unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup agave nectar, plus more to taste
1½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1½ teaspoon almond extract

Cut avocado in half. Remove pit. Spoon out meat of the avocado and blend to break down a bit. Add in cocoa powder, agave nectar, vanilla and almond extracts. I use a hand mixer to ensure it is all blended, then transferred into a food processor to get the bits I couldn't break down all the way.

Please know that I doubled this recipe, so if you choose to do so, increase amounts accordingly.

Refrigerate overnight for optimum results.

Happy, er,  Baking!

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Grandma's Rhubarb Tarts

I have the world's best Grandma.

When I was growing up, every summer until I was 11, my Grandma would take my sister, brother, and me as well as 5 of our cousins during the school summer break. She had a 3 bedroom house that would nearly burst at the seams most days. We learned at a very young age what a hard day's work really was. She had us up at 6am and to bed by 9pm. We were never allowed to say a mean word to or about one another, but if you were caught, it was Hades for you. She broke every child labor law there was. She drove a Chevy Nova and SOMEHOW got everyone of us in that car to go to grocery shopping and church every Sunday.

Funny thing? These are my most memorable and favorite childhood memories.

She was awesome in the kitchen. She made some amazing meals and nothing ever went to waste. She lived in the country on some good acreage, so berries of almost every kind were quite abundant. She also had a rhubarb patch not too far from the house. She would often promise a nice treat after a long day of hard yard work. We learned all too soon not to get too excited.

Her idea of a nice treat was stewed rhubarb. With no sugar. Ick. I began to hate that patch with a passion. I didn't come around to the idea of rhubarb until I was in my 20s and she made this magnificent cobbler for a BBQ. Seriously, where was this deliciousness when we were growing up??

Grandma is now 93 years old. She's in a nursing home, living out her winter years. She sometimes forgets who I am when I visit, but I don't mind. She's given me the most wonderful memories a girl could ask for which helped mold me to the person I am today.

This post is dedicated to you Grandma. You made me eat rhubarb until it beat me into submission.

And for that, I thank you.

Recipe adapted from my beautiful Grandma

Before making the tarts, the rhubarb must be blanched.

½ cup water
½ cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
5-6 cups rhubarb, chopped into bite size pieces

You can certainly use a ready made pie crust for this recipe if you wish, but homemade dough is best. This is a favorite recipe of mine.

2¼ cups cake flour
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, COLD and cut into cubes
1 Tablespoon lemon juice

¾ cup sugar
½ cup flour
5 cups blanched rhubarb

½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup steel oats
4 Tablespoons butter, cold and cut into cubes

To blanch rhubarb: 

Combine water, lemon juice, and sugar in heavy large saucepan over low heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring sugar water to a boil. Add rhubarb and boil for a minute. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Allow rhubarb to simmer for several minutes. Remove pan from heat, keeping covered until rhubarb is tender. Uncover and cool completely.

To make crust:

Sift flour, sugar, and salt. It's important to always sift cake flour. In a stand mixer (or using a fork or pastry blender), mix flour mixture and butter together. Start on low speed, combine until flour resembles course meal. Empty dough onto floured surface and bring together until just incorporated, You don't want to work the dough too much or it will yield a tough texture. Roll into logs and cover with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator and chill for several hours.

To make filling:

Combine blanched rhubarb, sugar, and flour. Stir together.


Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare a 12-cup muffin tin and generously sprinkle with flour. To avoid over working the dough, I cut mine into small sections and work.

Roll out dough. Using a circular cookie cutter, cut out 12 circles and press to fit into hollows. Set aside.

In large bowl, combine sugar and flour and mix until incorporated. Add to rhubarb and mix well. Fill cups to top.

In small bowl, mix brown sugar, flour, almonds, and oats. With pastry blender or fork, add butter and mix until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle on top of rhubarb mixture.

Bake 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is set in center. Cool completely.

Yields: 12 Rhubarb Tarts

Happy Baking!

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Chocolate Eclairs with Baileys Custard Cream


I was watching the reality show, Four Weddings, over the weekend and I ended up throwing a shoe at the TV. 

Well, it was actually a slipper, but still.

Why on earth would a bride subject herself to such scrutiny on one of the most important days of her life....on purpose?? Is a honeymoon that important to win? Some of these girls are really mean and catty. I can't even imagine what thoughts would be running through my mind if I were a contestant and the episode finally aired. Actually, I would probably be pretty devastated. I wouldn't like someone criticizing my choices. Thankfully I'll never have to find out.

The upside to watching was one of the girls had this amazing dessert table. She had all sorts of candy, cupcakes, cookies, tarts. And chocolate eclairs. 

Oh My Yum.

Naturally, I was on it. 

I'm certainly not a pastry chef by any means of the word, but I do have an incredible eclair recipe from a family friend I attempted once years ago and it was a major flop. Literally. My puffs deflated 4 seconds after they were removed from the oven.

This time, I figured it out. It's all about the air.

Which is probably the main content in the brains of those that choose to go on reality shows.

Lots of air and a smidge of insanity.

Recipe adapted from family friend, Marie McKinnon

Choux Pastry:
¾ cups milk
½ cup butter
1 cup flour
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons sugar
pinch salt

Baileys Custard Filling:
Please see my Boston Cream Cupcakes for cooking instructions

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups whole milk**
½ cup Baileys Irish Cream Liqueur**
6 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

**You can add more or less Baileys to your liking, just be sure the milk/Baileys creates 4½ cups in total. I would strongly recommend you do not add more than 1 cup of Baileys as the flavor will yield a very strong liqueur flavor. I would imagine Baileys Creme Caramel or Coffee versions would be spectacular in this treat.

Chocolate Ganache:
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup good quality chocolate

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicone mats. 
In a large saucepan, combine milk, butter, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil. Once butter has completely melted, remove from heat and and slowly add flour, stirring constantly.

Put saucepan back on heat and continue to work with a wooden spoon. Continue to vigorously stir until dough forms a ball. 

Remove from heat and add eggs, one at a time, stirring as fast as you can! It is important that you do this. You will end up with scrambled egg dough if you do not work quickly. I prefer and recommend that you use a stand mixer if you have one. Place dough in mixer and add eggs one at a time. I did the hand method to show it can be done this way while getting an upper body workout!

Fill a piping bag with dough. Squeeze out 4 inch lines onto baking sheet, keeping them spaced apart about 2-3 inches. 

Bake for 10 minutes. Turn oven down to 375°F and bake another 12 minutes with the oven door open. Remove from tray and allow to rest on a wire rack. It's important to keep them well ventilated so they don't go soggy.

Using a knife, cut slit at top of eclair and pipe custard into it until it's filled. Set aside to rest.

To make Chocolate Ganache:

Place cream in saucepan and bring to a good simmer. Place chocolate into a heatproof dish. I use a glass measuring cup. Pour hot cream over chocolate and stir until melted. Let cool. Transfer into a piping bag. I used a star tip for decoration, but you can use any tip (or none) if you wish.

Yield: About 18 eclairs.

Happy Baking!

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Vanilla Chai Shortbread Cookies

There is nothing like a good cup of tea.

Since the benefits of tea are pretty remarkable, I have experimented with it in some unorthodox methods - in a bath, in soap, as a mask on my face, even incorporated it into some recipes. Unfortunately, I don't look any younger, my laugh lines are still intact, and it didn't save me money on my car insurance. I'll just stick to what I know and pray it's doing something other than requiring me to use a whitening toothpaste daily.

To appease my neglected cookie jar, I made her some treats. Because Chai is my most favorite tea blend of all, I made some Vanilla Chai Shortbread cookies. These are major and the flavor is incredible.

My cookie jar is speaking to me again and my stomach is one happy organ. It's a win-win all around. Except for my thighs. Yeah. Not so much for them.

But you can't please everyone.


2½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of cardamom
4-6 Tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom together; set aside.

In another bowl, combine butter and sugar together and beat until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat until smooth. Add vanilla. Add in flour mixture slowly, blending until fully incorporated. You'll want the dough to come to a ball form.

Using an ice cream scoop with a retractable mechanism, drop onto cookie sheets 2 inches apart. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned around edges. Transfer to racks to cool.

For glaze:

Combine sugar and spices into a small bowl. Slowly add one tablespoon of water to mixture and stir. You may need to add more or less water than specified to yield the proper consistency. You're looking for an almost runny texture.

Line the counter with foil under racks. Using back of spoon, drizzle over warm cookies. Allow to set.

Yields: About 3 dozen.

Happy Baking!

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