Friday, February 25, 2011

Easy Treats

If you are like me, you need a treat more than just every once in a while.

I always remember being this way. I don't know if this desire originated from growing up with Type 1 juvenile diabetes and having to sit out every school class birthday party, every elementary Valentine's day exchange, or any special occasion which included sugar of any kind, waiting for the festivities to end, by myself, in the gym, staring at the ugly tile floors and ugly white walls - alone. It could be the trauma from leaving the hospital after being just diagnosed, to spend one hour of Thanksgiving dinner with my family at my Grandmother's house, as my mother cried through the whole meal while using measuring cups to limit what I could eat. Or... it could be that innately I simply enjoy giving into the sweet surrender of a delicious and satisfying confection.

I am fortunate enough to work from home save but one day a week. Truth be told, my favorite day is that one day that I get to go into the center to work, although you can't beat waking up minutes before your start time and throwing on a pair of sweats. That one Tuesday, the day I work my shift in the center, my team generally exchanges treats.

The day I brought these popcorn balls was out of desperation. You know me, I'm a show off, so when I found Tuesday looming around the corner, and my energy was non-existent, I slapped together these treats so I didn't show up empty handed. While I crave these popcorn balls on a frequent basis, I was thrilled to find them become a raging hit amongst my coworkers as well.

Popcorn Balls

The next time you are in a pinch, this is the easiest, tastiest, best, go to recipe!
Pop 2-3 bags of butter microwave popcorn
Melt over medium heat:
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup Karo syrup
1 cup butter

Bring to boil for 3 minutes. Watch closely because you don't want to cook it any longer.
Remove from heat.
3 cups mini marshmallows
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Stir in pan until marshmallows are melted. Pour over popcorn, until evenly coated. Spread over wax paper to cool.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Break From Tradition

I had to break from tradition this year for Valentine's Day. Frankly, I'm too tired and I can't stand in one place for more than 5 minutes. For that reason, I was almost tempted to buy Gabriel chocolates, but it broke my heart to think of totally eliminating this tradition.

So, instead of cream filled chocolates I opted for Cookie Truffles.
Cookie Truffles

You've no doubt seen many mentions of Oreo Truffles floating around the web:
Here: Bakerella

I thought, why not take this one step further? The grocery store aisle for cookies is immense. It is filled with Chocolate Chip cookies, Milano cookies, Keebler Mint cookies, and my favorite, Nutter Butter cookies..., so why stop at Oreo?

I purchased all of the above and started planning.

Gabriel was so nosy though. Once he found the cookies in the pantry he wouldn't stop asking where they came from. I kept answering, "That's weird!" or "I don't know!!" and "Don't eat them!!!"
Oreo Truffles
8oz Double Stuffed Oreo Cookies crushed and pulverized in blender
4 oz. cream cheese
Stir together until smooth and mixture comes together into a ball
Orange Milano Truffles
7oz Orange Milano Cookies crushed and pulverized in blender
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed orange juice
4 oz. chocolate ganache frosting (*see below)
Stir together until smooth and mixture comes together into a ball

Keebler Mint Truffles
8oz Keebler Mint Cookies crushed and pulverized in blender
2 oz. chocolate ganache frosting
2 oz. cream cheese
1 teaspoon mint extract
Stir together until smooth and mixture comes together into a ball
Chocolate Chip Truffles
8oz Mother's Chocolate Chip Cookies crushed and pulverized in blender
4 oz. nutella
Add a handful of mini chocolate chips
Stir together until smooth and mixture comes together into a ball

Nutter Butter Truffles
8oz Nutter Butter Cookies crushed and pulverized in blender
4 oz. creamy peanut butter
Stir together until smooth and mixture comes together into a ball
Roll dough into individual sized balls
Dip in melted chocolate, transfer to flat surface lined with wax paper
Garnish with Valentine's sprinkles
If you have loved ones with nut allergies, be sure to distinguish those apart from the rest
Yields 12-14 truffles per type

*Ganache Frosting for Cookie Truffles
4 oz. chopped chocolate
4 oz. whipping cream
Melt in saucepan over medium heat until melted
Allow to cool to room temperature, then whip with beaters

What special things did you do for your sweetheart(s) this year?

One year ago: My Alarm Clock, Banana Coffee Cake
Two years ago: Jour de Valentine's Français, French Tour of Portland

Friday, February 11, 2011

Love and Adoration

At the risk of sounding like I'm complaining, I'm a little sad that for the second year in a row Gabriel will be punching the clock on Valentine's Day. Valentine's has always been Gabriel's holiday, inducted the first year we were together when he planned an indoor picnic complete with chocolate dipped strawberries.

Over the past 8 years he's planned celebrations which include a weekend trip to New York City, a day trip snowboarding on Mt. Hood, and a French tour of Portland, to name a few. I always look forward to Valentine's Day; the flowers, the chocolate, the romance, and every other aspect of the holiday's once a year trite, rewarding and clichè festivities.

With that said, for me, Valentine's Day isn't just about celebrating the love you have for your partner. It's about sharing the love you have for everyone in your life. Inspired by this sweet upcoming holiday I paired cheesecake and cupcakes to create a delicious treat for my coworkers who I adore and love immensely.
Tart Cheesecakes
Cheesecake Batter
8oz cream cheese
1 cup sugar
½ cup whipping cream
1 egg
Whip together until thick, smooth and creamy
Set aside
Cupcake Batter
¾ cup butter
½ cup canola oil
2 cups sugar
Mix until well incorporated and mixture turns lighter shade
3 egg yolks
½ cup lemon juice
Zest from two large lemons
Mix together
1 ¾ cup white flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Mix alternately with
½ cup buttermilk
Spoon batter into baking cups until ¾ full, (2 spoonfuls of cupcake batter to 1 spoonful of cheesecake batter)
Bake at F350°, 25-30 minutes until fluffy and set, cake will fall once cooled
Allow to cool completely before transferring to wire rack
Alternatively layer bottom of baking cup with cheesecake layer - bake for 5-10 minutes, then add cupcake batter until ¾ full and continue baking
16 oz. cream cheese
2-3 cups powdered sugar
½ cup softened butter
¼ cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Beat together with handheld mixer until smooth
Pipe frosting onto top of cupcakes
Adorn with sugared hearts

One year ago: Sundae Crêpes, Raspberry Orange
Two years ago: Happy Birthday Melinda, Chocolate Almond Cake with alternating Walnut Buttercream and Vanilla Mousse

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Only Two Rules Apply

February is such a fun month for desserts, wherein only two rules apply:

#1: Add Chocolate

#2: Create Heart Shapes

When did anyone ever go wrong by combining these two? I know it, See's Candies knows it, and any man who ever wanted to do right by his lady knows it.

This easy little dessert combines both of these rules, plus the best combo known to the dessert world, PB&C - Peanut Butter and Chocolate. These brownies were inspired by Emily, of Is This Really My Life? Last week she posted her favorite brownie recipe: Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies - at Fahrenheit 350° we call these delectable treasures Twisted Treats.

Being that I am still in search of the elusive lunch lady peanut butter bar recipe from high school, I was inspired to tweak Emily's recipe by stacking these two unique and delicious flavors. The result is mouth watering, delicious, and... magical.

Stacked Brownies
Chocolate Brownies
From a box - they are delicious... what can I say?
Pour into a greased 8x8 cake pan
Peanut Butter Brownies
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
½ cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup water
2 eggs
1 cup flour
Thoroughly mix together until smooth
Pour into a greased 8x8 cake pan

Bake both pans of brownies side by side at 325°F 20-25 minutes
Run knife along sides of pan and invert onto wire rack

*Allow chocolate brownies to cool for 30 minutes in pan - then loosen with rubber scraper along bottom, prior to inverting, to keep brownies in tact
Melt 8 oz. chocolate with ¼ cup milk
Stir until combined and let rest until room temp and incorporated

½ cup peanut butter
¼ cup butter
1-2 cups powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached
Whip until smooth
Layer Peanut Butter Brownies evenly with frosting, spread to edges
Stack Chocolate Brownies over frosting and lightly press until attached
Cut into squares, or darling little heart shapes with cookie cutters

One year ago: Layer on the Love, Layered Sugar Cookies (very apropos)
Two years ago: Warm Buns Part Deux, Cinnamon Sweet Roses

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