Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I hope everyone had a great St. Patrick's Day weekend and is out there wearing green today! I celebrated by going to a potluck brunch with friends and then heading downtown to see the Chicago River in all of its green glory. The river is really as neon green as it appears in the photos (check out this nifty time lapse of the river being dyed green if you don't believe me).

I went a little nuts with the St. Patty's Day baked goods this weekend, but I think my favorite recipe out of all of them was this one for Bailey's Chocolate Chip Cookies. Unlike some recipes that say they contain an ingredient but don't actually taste anything like said ingredient, these cookies are chock full o' Irish creamy goodness. The smell of Bailey's will absolutely permeate your house while the cookies are baking. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!


Bailey's Chocolate Chip Cookies

From Gimme Some Oven

Makes about 6 dozen cookies


Ingredients

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups flour (I used 2 cups all purpose and 2/3 cup whole wheat)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
8 Tbsp. Bailey's Irish Cream
1 cup white chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt until well combined.
3. Using an electric mixer, cream together butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until fluffy. Add in the Bailey's one tablespoon at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl to be sure that everything is well combined.
4. Gradually add the dry ingredient mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, and continue mixing until well-mixed. Fold in white chocolate chips.
5. Drop the dough by the tablespoon onto a greased baking sheet, spacing the cookies 2 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes (center will still be slightly soft but will set as the cookies cool). Let sit 3 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to a cooling rack.

I enjoyed them so much that I could barely keep it together for the photo shoot.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Two Year Blogging Anniversary!

I just wanted to take a moment to celebrate something that almost went completely unnoticed.

Today is the two year anniversary of the Science & Cupcakes blog!

I can't believe it has been that long already. Two years ago, I was still taking classes, Andy and I were living in Evanston, and I was in a frenzy getting ready for my summer away in New Mexico/California to work at Sandia National Laboratories. Now, the end of grad school is coming into view, we've moved into a great apartment in Lakeview, and Andy and I are in the midst of planning our wedding. So much has happened in these past few years!

Thank you to everyone who follows my posts. I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures in baking and grad school as much as I enjoy writing about them. Nothing makes me feel more warm and fuzzy than hearing that people make and enjoy the recipes I post here and that my words can make their day a little brighter.

Here's to many more posts in the years to come!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Black Forest Cupcakes

Happy Thursday, everyone!

I can tell it's going to be one of those days that just sort of drags on. I basically started counting down to my department's weekly 4 PM coffee hour as soon as I got to my desk this morning. Usually, I can tell what kind of day it will be by how early in the day I realize that it's Thursday and therefore, coffee hour day. On a good day, I make it to 3:45 and then remember "oh man! Thursday! Awesome!." On the less-than-great days, I realize that it is Thursday immediately and begin the 6 hour countdown. Ooof.

In honor of coffee hour, I'm bringing out another recipe that I made for one of our department functions - in this case, the MatSci holiday party. As much as I like making complicated, homemade recipes, sometimes I really just want to make things from a box. There's no better way to handle dessert if you're cooking for a crowd, especially a not-very-discerning crowd (aka a department of people who will eat just about anything) than dumping a bag of mix into a bowl and throwing in some eggs and water. There is no shame in this, as boxed cakes and brownies are almost as good as the real thing with a fraction of the effort. Fancied up cake mixes (e.g. adding pudding, chocolate chips, and the like) are one of the easiest ways to take something simple and give it a little bit of oomph.

This black forest cupcake recipe comes from my first foray into making filled cupcakes. I really wanted to make a simple, cherry-filled cupcake. Most every recipe on the interwebs seemed to have a compote component, unnecessary chopping, or nonsense like this involved. That sort of defeats the whole purpose of making something easy, no?

I decided to go semi-homemade here, and the resulting recipe is as easy as it gets. Cake mix. Pie filling. A little mixing to make a super simple whipped cream frosting. The results are amazing for how easy it is. You can say you made it from scratch. I won't tell. :)



Black Forest Cupcakes

Cupcake recipe/filling: S&C original
Frosting from Hoosier Homemade


Cupcakes
1 package devil's food cake mix (preferably with pudding in the mix or if not, add a small box (~3.4 oz) of chocolate pudding yourself)
20 oz can of cherry pie filling

Frosting
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
6 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Red sprinkles and cocoa powder (optional, but awesome)

Instructions

Cupcakes

1. Line a regular-sized cupcake tin with baking cups. Prepare cake mix as recommended on the box. Pour into cupcake liners, and bake as directed. Let cool completely.
2. Using a knife or a cupcake corer, remove the center of each cupcake. (See my tutorial if you need help) KEEP THE REMOVED CUPCAKE CENTERS. You will put them on top of the cherries to prevent the filling and frosting from mixing and turning pink.
3. Fill each cupcake with about 1 tablespoon of cherry pie filling (2-3 cherries worth of filling). Gently press down on the filling to get it further into the cupcake.
4. Place the cupcake center removed in step 2 on top of the filling, and press it gently into place. It is okay if it sticks up a little bit.


Frosting

1. Pour whipping cream into a large mixing bowl, and beat on medium until it starts to thicken.
2. With the mixer running, add powdered sugar 1 tbsp at a time. Once all the powdered sugar has been added, beat on high until stiff peaks form, being careful not to overbeat the mixture.
3. Fold in vanilla extract.
4. Using a piping bag with a large tip (2A or 1A) or a gallon-sized ziploc bag with the corner cut off, pipe the frosting into a swirl on top of each cupcake. Top with red sprinkles and cocoa powder. Keep cold until ready to use to maintain integrity of the frosting.

Note: I would recommend making these at most one day prior to their consumption, as the cake will absorb some of the cherry filling overnight. You don't want them to get soggy!


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Kale Alfredo?!

No amount of punctuation can really express how excited I am about this recipe. This creamy, delicious alfredo sauce features an unlikely vegetable hero instead of the usual suspects of butter and cream: cauliflower!

I've got veggies for days

I was skeptical of the glowing reviews when I first read this recipe, but the cauliflower really makes a velvety sauce that satisfied my craving for creamy, buttery pasta. I would say this recipe was infinitely more successful than my attempt at cauliflower pizza, which is all the rage on Pinterest, that basically turned out like eating a weird potato-like pancake with some marinara sauce and cheese on top.

When I looked at the pictures of this dish online, it seemed a little...boring. Where is the color? The excitement? The vitamins? Since I love spinach alfredo, and we had a bunch (literally, an entire bunch) of kale left over from making my favorite pasta dish earlier in the week, I was inspired to modify the dish and add a pop of green. Behold, kale alfredo was born!


This recipe makes three generous dinner-sized servings. When I reheated the pasta, I added a little bit of water to reconstitute the sauce, as it dried out a bit upon cooling and refrigerating. You can also use a bit of milk if you prefer.


Kale Alfredo

Sauce based on Healthy Fettuccine Alfredo from Pinch of Yum
Addition of kale by necessity

Ingredients

6 oz uncooked pasta (I used Barilla Veggie Pasta)
1 small head cauliflower
2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 large handfuls of kale, torn into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon butter
1/3 teaspoon salt
dash of nutmeg
dash of black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoon heavy cream
1/3 cup starchy boiling water from pasta pot (reserve more for thinning sauce)

Instructions

1. Remove outer green leaves and woody portions, and chop the cauliflower (florets and stems) into bite-sized pieces. In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a boil over medium high heat, and add cauliflower. Cover and cook until cauliflower is soft, about 15 minutes. (The longer you cook it, the easier it will be to blend, and the smoother the sauce will be.)
2. Spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray. Heat to medium, and add kale. Add about a 1/4 cup of water to the pan to prevent burning and to aid in cooking/steaming the kale. Saute until bright green and limp, about 5 minutes, adding additional water if necessary. Remove kale to plate, and set aside.
3. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, and saute for 3-4 minutes or until soft and fragrant (but not brown).
4. As the garlic and cauliflower are cooking, bring a large pot of water to boil, and cook the pasta according to directions on package, reserving some of the starchy water to add to the sauce later.
5. Transfer cauliflower to a blender with about 1/2 cup of the broth. Add the sauteed garlic, salt, nutmeg, and black pepper and puree until very smooth, about 3 minutes, adding additional broth if needed (I used almost all of the broth I had to get it to blend smoothly). Once the mixture is moving, stream the olive oil into the blender. Add more broth or water if the mixture is too thick to move through the blender easily.
6. Wipe out the butter/garlic skillet to remove any burnt bits, but leave a bit of browned butter on the bottom of the pan to add a nutty flavor to the sauce. Transfer cauliflower puree back to the butter/garlic skillet.
7. Stir in the heavy cream, and cook over low heat. Add the starchy pasta water and the kale, and cook until warmed through. Add more pasta water, if needed, to get the consistency you prefer. Drain noodles and add them to the skillet, stirring to coat the pasta evenly. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Pick an Apple, Bake an Apple

I meant to post this recipe back in the fall, but since I'm a bit backed up in my posting and it is currently winter (albeit rainy and almost 50 degrees in Chicago?!), I thought I'd share it with you because it is awesome. And who doesn't like some warm baked apples on a chilly day?

Andy and I went apple picking twice in the fall on back-to-back(!) weekends, which yielded an abundance of apples. I still have no concept of what exactly a "peck" of apples means, but I qualitatively know that it means eating an apple at every meal for about two months. Also, pies.

Om nom nom.

Now, I like pies, I really do, and while they are delicious, they are admittedly quite a bit of work. And then you have to WAIT while they cool, or it gets all soggy and weird. The solution? Apple crisps that come together in a fraction of the time!

The original recipe from Spoon Fork Bacon is made for four, but I halved the recipe since it is just the two of us. This recipe is quick and tasty, and if you squeeze as many apples into the ramekin as you can, it's almost like eating an apple cake or dumpling. Remember to cover it liberally in whipped cream or ice cream for the ultimate apple experience.

Individual Apple Crisps

Slightly Modified from Spoon Fork Bacon
Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:
Streusel topping:
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup flour (I use half whole wheat and half AP flour)
3 tbsp light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into tiny cubes

Filling:
2 apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (I use 1 granny smith or other tart apple and 1 sweeter apple like a gala)
2 tbsp light brown sugar
3/8 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1/4 tsp cinnamon + 1/8 tsp nutmeg)

ice cream or whipped cream for topping (optional, but let's be serious here, it's not really optional)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease 2 individual sized ramekins with cooking spray or butter. Set aside.
2. For streusel: Place oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, and brown sugar in a mixing bowl, and stir together.
3. Cut in butter until a coarse meal forms.
4. For filling: Combine all filling ingredients into a large mixing bowl, and toss together until apples are evenly coated. Divide filling mixture into prepared ramekins, compacting the mixture into the ramekins if necessary. It is okay of the filling is a little taller than the ramekin because it will shrink as it cooks down. Set aside.
5. Divide streusel between the ramekins, pushing down on the filling if necessary.
6. Place crisps onto a baking sheet, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Allow crisps to cool for 7 to 10 minutes before serving each with a dollop of whipped cream or scoop of ice cream on top.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Cold Weather Dinner

If you are a human living in the United States, I don't have to tell you that it has been cold. Really cold. Hurts-to-breathe-and-go-outside cold. Even though I am from Pennsylvania, which is pretty into winter, I have never seen days like the ones I have experienced in Chicago this year. Highs of -12 F? What. I didn't even know that was a thing.

On days like these, in addition to staying indoors under a pile of blankets for as long as I can, I like to make dishes of hearty, warming comfort foods. Because what is better on a frigid day than a huge slice of lasagna or a vat of mac and cheese? Nothing. The answer is nothing.

In my quest to get in wedding shape, I've been working hard to find healthy recipes that still fulfill the giant-bowl-of-cheesy-goodness comfort craving. Behold! Lasagna that doesn't make your arteries harden just by looking at it!

This recipe from Emily Bites is awesome AND healthy, and as a bonus, the serving is HUGE. One serving of this lasagna is 1/9 of the pan. So much goodness!

I couldn't even wait to take a picture before diving in. It really is that good.

I was a little bit skeptical when I perused the ingredients list, as the recipe omits one thing that is usually vital to a successful lasagna: ricotta cheese. However, the combination of reduced fat cream cheese and low fat cottage cheese yields a texture that is very much like ricotta with a bit of that frozen lasagna cheese nugget texture that I happen to really enjoy (for an example, see Stouffer's lasagna). Keep warm, friends!

The Best Lasagna Ever

Modified slightly from Emily Bites

Ingredients:
3/4 lb 95% (or greater) lean ground beef
3/4 lb (about three links) hot (or mild, if you prefer) Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 jar (about 24 oz) tomato & basil pasta sauce
8 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese, cubed (I only use Philadelphia brand)
1 cup 1% cottage cheese (mix it up in the container before you measure so that it isn't watery)
1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
6 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained
1 cup shredded 2 % reduced-fat mozzarella or Italian cheese blend
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. In a large skillet, cook the sausage, beef, onion, and green pepper over medium heat, breaking up with a spoon until browned. Set aside 1 cup of pasta sauce, and combine the remaining sauce into the meat mixture. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat, simmering uncovered for 8-10 minutes.
3. In a small saucepan, melt the cream cheese over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once melted, remove from heat, and stir in cottage cheese and parsley.
4. Spray a 9"x13" baking dish with cooking spray, and spread about 1/4 of the meat sauce evenly across the bottom. Top with 3 lasagna noodles, followed by another 1/4 of the meat sauce. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the sauce, and add another 1/4 of the meat sauce. Lay the 3 remaining lasagna noodles over the top, and cover with the rest of the meat sauce plus the reserved pasta sauce. Sprinkle the top with the shredded cheese, followed by the Italian seasoning.
5. Cover dish with aluminum foil, and bake for 35 minutes. Remove foil, and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until browned (you can also broil it a bit if necessary). Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Exciting News!

It has been a while S&C-ers, but I promise that I have the best news to share with you. Something awesome happened in these last few months...

This!

On our way back to Pennsylvania for the holidays on December 20th, Andy proposed to me on the steps of Old Main on Penn State's campus. He got me to State College under the ruse that we were going to see our college friend Jake the next day, so he had surprised me with an overnight stay and stop at the campus. This was actually just part of the plan to get me to State College using a believable excuse. Penn State is such a special place for us, and I was so excited to have a chance to see it again! We decided to check out the campus and parked the car in the HUB parking deck. We walked by Atherton Hall, the dorm where we both lived, and across the HUB lawn (including a little offroading in the snow because the lawn is under construction). We walked along College Ave, and then as the chimes on the Old Main clock struck 8 PM, he lead me to the top of the stairs of Old Main and proposed. I said yes. :)

Next, Andy lead me through the HUB where we rounded the fishtanks to find my mom and dad and Andy's parents and their dog Sunny waiting for us. Seeing them may have been more surprising than the proposal itself, or maybe I was still a little bit in shock. After meeting up, everyone went out to Otto's Pub & Brewery for a late dinner (I even got my favorite apricot wheat beer!). It all felt like a dream.

The next day, we went around and took some pictures on campus because I was determined to commemorate the occasion. It was raining, but we still got some nice photos.

The next day on the steps of Old Main.

We're already in the midst of wedding planning, which is exciting and a little overwhelming, because apparently you need to act fast in the wedding biz or everything is booked. This past weekend, I went to look at venues in Philadelphia with my parents and Carmeline, my good friend from home. Now comes the decision! Ahhhh!

I will update with new recipes soon (I have some good ones on deck, I promise!), but I wanted to share this joyful time with all of you. :)