Thursday, June 26, 2014

Chocolate Malt Cupcakes

I can’t believe it has been over three months since I last posted.  I chalk this up to general busyness, distractions and denial.  I’ve had such a jam-packed three months what with travel to Florida for my work’s Annual Meeting, traveling one last time sans-child to North Carolina and Virginia for baby showers, and general anticipation as we are less than one month away from Baby Girl Samuel’s due date.  That last part is what I’m in denial about.  I am so excited to meet her yet still in awe/anxious that this little girl, who doesn’t have very far to go to come into this world, seems to be worlds away from our life now.  Yet I know she will fit into it as if she’s always been here.  The familiar mystery of her fascinates me every second of my day.

And as these weeks have passed and I’ve hit the halfway mark of my pregnancy, or finally entered the third trimester, and now move into this last month, I feel like I’m getting to know her more and more.   I’m learning that she loves it when I eat, or I anticipate eating.  A plate of food could be put in front of me and I feel the kicks of excitement immediately, before even a bite is taken.  There must be something that happens mentally in my body that transmits to her.  I hope she keeps that love of food once she is in this world.

She is also camera shy.  At doctor’s appointments, she has repeatedly turned away from the sonogram wand or the Doppler and made it difficult to read her heartbeat or get a good glimpse of her preciousness.  At the end of one sonogram session when we were trying to get all the relevant anatomy measurements (which ended up requiring a second follow-up visit the next week), we were giving up when she gave us a coy little smile that seemed to imply she knew she was being difficult.  And that she was enjoying it.  Let’s hope she doesn’t keep that tendency once she is in this world! 

So even with my absence in posting recipes, it doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking.  It just means my mind is running in many directions and it’s hard to lasso them into a cohesive post.  So I’ll share with you these Chocolate Malt Cupcakes.  These boast a classic flavor combination for a summer potluck or picnic. 

Chocolate Malt Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes
 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed light-brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 ¼ cup malted milk powder
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 recipe Vanilla Frosting
24-28 Whoppers

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line two standard muffin tins with paper liners.  Whisk together the first six dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, both sugars, baking soda, and salt).  Combine the milk and milk powder in another bowl until dissolved.  With a mixer on medium-high speed, beat flour mixture, milk mixture and oil until combined.  Add sour cream and vanilla.  Beat until combined.  Divide batter among the cups evenly (about halfway to the top).  Bake for 20 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.  About half way through the twenty minutes, rotate the pans.   Frost with Vanilla Frosting and top with Whoppers.

For the Vanilla Frosting
1 ½ cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 pound confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In an electric mixer, beat butter on medium-high speed about 2 minutes until pale and creamy. Add the confections’ sugar a half a cup at a time, beating on medium speed until incorporated.  After every two additions of sugar, raise the speed to high and beat for ten seconds to fluff the frosting.  Once all sugar has been added, add vanilla and beat until smooth.   If not frosting immediately, store in refrigerator up to 10 days in an airtight container.  Bring frosting to room temperature before frosting.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Jalapeno Popper White Bean Chili

Spring is such a tease.  I may not be very familiar with the concept of 'teasing' because I am not the most flirtatious person (unlike a certain, smiling spaghetti squash-sized baby flirting through the sonogram screen) but I can tell when I'm being teased with and spring is not being very subtle about it.  With just a couple 55+ degree days in the past month, and a high of 38 tomorrow (on March 25th), and the constant restoring/unstoring of my snow boots . . . I get it.  Spring is not to be trusted.  I only hope that in a month she will have proven me wrong and shown what a wonderful, magical season she can be before she hands the days off to the heat of summer.

Parallel these irritations with Duke's unfortunate early exit from the NCAA tournament on Friday (before 2:30 pm), and I am seeking comfort in some more hearty fare.  This chili is easy, full of fiber and protein, and incredibly filling.  I made this for a couple friends and their two-year-old son.  Everyone enjoyed it -- even the toddler.  He is a budding chef, I believe, because he took the chips and salsa I had put out as appetizers and dipped the chips in the chili.  Genius.  Future leftovers will be ladled profusely over a plate of tortilla chips, topped with crumbled bacon and sour cream -- then devoured in that manner.  

As with most slow cooker recipes, it makes a ton so hopefully, once you finish the leftovers, the temperatures outside will finally be a glimpse of the warmer months ahead.  

Jalapeno Popper White Bean Chili
Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 yellow onion, medium, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced 
1 bell pepper, diced
1 pound chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
12 ounces dry white beans, picked through to remove any bad beans/stones and rinsed (I used white kidney beans -- very important to rinse these!)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
8 ounces light cream cheese, cubed
1 cup frozen corn kernels

In a slow cooker, add all ingredients except the cream cheese and corn.  Cook on low for 7 - 9 hours (I actually ended up cooking mine for about ten - eleven hours and it was fine).  Remove the chicken and shred into pieces.  Return chicken to the slow cooker and stir in the cubed cream cheese and the corn. Cook for another 15 minutes or until the cream cheese is melted and the corn is cooked through.  Stir to make sure everything is incorporated.  Serve with desired toppings like sour cream, cheese, crumbled bacon, salsa, tortilla chips, etc.