Sunday, October 24, 2010

Slimmed Down Red Velvet Cupcakes with Homemade Cream Cheese Frosting

I love having an actual purpose when I’m in the kitchen. Yesterday, it was Mission: Birthday Cupcakes, Kelly O-Style. What did that mean? Well, I wasn’t sure when I started, but I knew I wanted to create a pint-sized sweet treat that we could enjoy with little guilt. What did that mean? It was Operation Healthy Baking.

Because I’m kind of lazy, and my pantry is not nearly as well-stocked as one might assume, I chose to start with a boxed cake mix. Simple changes to the added ingredients helped shave off quite a bit of fat grams while still offering up a moist, flavorful cake for my lovely lady friend!

Though you will see that I used cupcake liners, I would advise against doing so, as these mini cakes are very low fat, so they have a tendency to really stick to the paper baking cups. As much as it is a pain to clean my cupcake tin, I would prefer an easier time unwrapping this sweet cake!

You’ll also see that I made my own, somewhat eclectic cream cheese frosting fabricated from my randomly stocked pantry and finds at the 7-11 down the street. The result was well received; it’s not too sweet and clearly not as thick as the typical, butter-containing frosting, but it pairs well with the sweet cupcakes because it doesn’t make you feel like you’re going into sugar-overload. Of course, you could substitute vanilla extract for the coconut, and the creamer could be replaced by some half-and-half, mile, or completely omitted.
Red Velvet Cake... The Edibles:
  • 1 box red velvet cake mix
  • 1 c. Coke Zero (or Diet Coke)
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 egg
Red Velvet Cake... The Making:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your baking pan of choice by spraying with non-stick cooking spray and flouring lightly.
  2. In a large mixing bowl gently blend all of the ingredients until moistened (about 30 seconds). Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.
  3. Pour batter in pans and bake immediately according to the time instructions on the cake box.
  4. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting, The Edibles:
  • 8 oz. light cream cheese
  • 1/4 c. plain yogurt
  • 3/4 c. powdered sugar
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. coconut extract
  • 2 T. vanilla-flavored coffee creamer
Cream Cheese Frosting, The Making:
  1. In a medium bowl, blend together the cream cheese, yogurt and creamer until smooth. (Note: I used my food processor, which worked wonderfully.)
  2. Mix in the coconut extract then gradually stir in the powdered sugar and cinnamon.
  3. Store in the refrigerator in a air-tight container after use.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Teriyaki Tofu

I feel like everyone has their own favorite way to cook tofu. I know tofu may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I'm a big advocate of trying everything three times, perhaps in various forms. Whether it's a vegetarian protein, yoga class, sushi roll, or tv show, I've found that by the third try I'll have a good idea of whether or not something's for me. (Side note: I both love and hate the fact that Jay avoids all things tofu... love because it means that there's more for me... and hate because I want him to enjoy its deliciousness and health benefits with me. For me it has become a challenge to try cooking tofu various ways in hopes that one way will tickle his taste buds! I rarely cook it the same way twice!)

Enough rambling. Let's get down to business.
The Stuff:
  • cutting board
  • clean cloth towels or a stack of paper towels
  • several large heavy books
  • shallow baking dish
  • medium to large sauté pan
  • olive oil non-stick cooking spray
  • 1 package firm or extra-firm water, drained
  • 1/4 c. teriyaki sauce (and more to taste)
The Making:
  1. Place the block on a cutting board and cut the tofu into 4 even rectangles. (See diagram below.)
  2. Take the blocks and lay them out on an absorbent towel or a few layers of paper towels. Cover with another clean cloth towel or more paper towels. Place a heavy book or two atop the tofu and allow the weight to press the water out of the tofu for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. Once pressed, place on a baking tray lined with wax or parchment paper. Place in the freezer for about 1 hour.
  4. Remove tofu from the freezer. Pour about 2 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce in the bottom of a shallow bowl or baking pan that is large enough to allow for a single layer of tofu blocks. Lay frozen tofu atop the sauce and drizzle an additional 2 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce over the tofu. Depending on the amount of time you have, you can refrigerate the marinating blocks while you go to work (up to 8 hours) or leave out on the counter for 1 hour. Flip tofu blocks carefully if you are available to do so.
  5. After marinating, tofu is ready to sauté. Place a medium to large saute pan over medium heat. Generously spritz your pan with olive oil non-stick cooking spray. If desired, cut tofu into smaller pieces. Place tofu onto hot pan and do not touch, check, or move for at least 5 minutes. The key to a good crust is not to fiddle with your 'fu! Once at least 5 minutes have passed, check for a dark crust and flip each peice if it's ready.
Serve with stir fry vegetables, noodles (or spaghetti squash for a vitamin-punch) and a drizzle of more teryiaki sauce.

Pumpkin Scones stolen from Starbucks

Despite the doom and gloom that may be around the corner as we move into fall and prepare for another frigid winter in Chicago, fall may be one of the top four seasons in my book (see what I did there...? Ha!). From cozy fleeces to crunchy leaves, vibrant trees and pumpkin pie spices, autumn is like a warm blanket that I just want to lounge around in for a while.

Among the many joys of this time of year, Starbucks caters to our love for pumpkin with its lattes and scones. Though I am averse to the lattes (I know, I was suprised as well), the scones... well, I just can't get enough! Luckily, I am not alone in my love for these semi-sweet, perfectly spiced treats. A quick Google search provided me with the following recipe. I followed it (mostly) and wowee! These are moist and DELICIOUS. You'll see that I didn't glaze them (my cupboards failed to magically produce powdered sugar), but I think these scones hold their own without any added glaze!

I'll admit that I didn't measure the amount of pumpkin I added, and I think I may have added too much, because my dough was a little thin and not very dough-like. I also used skim milk in lieu of half-and-half (it's all I had), but yes, I did use an ENTIRE stick of butter. I knew that this scone would not be truly my Starbucks clone if I didn't pump it up Paula Deen style!

The recipe says it makes 6 scones. I made 11, half tennis ball-sized scones. They were perfect.
The Scones... The Edibles:
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour (I replaced 1/2 c. flour with whole wheat flour)
  • 7 T. sugar
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 6 T. cold butter
  • 1/2 c. canned pumpkin
  • 3 T. half-and-half
  • 1 large egg
The Scones... The Making:
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Using a pastry knife, fork, or food processor, cut butter into the dry ingredients until mixture is crumbly and no chunks of butter are obvious. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together pumpkin, half and half, and egg. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
  4. Form the dough into a ball.
  5. Pat out dough onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a 1-inch thick rectangle (about 9 inches long and 3 inches wide). Use a large knife or a pizza cutter to slice the dough twice through the width, making three equal portions. Cut those three slices diagonally so that you have 6 triangular slices of dough.
  6. Place on prepared baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 14-16 minutes. Scones should begin to turn light brown. Place on wire rack to cool.
Plain Glaze... The Edibles:
  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 T. powdered sugar
  • 2 T. whole milk
Spiced Glaze... The Edibles:
  • 1 T. powdered sugar
  • 2 T.s whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ginger
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
Plain Glaze... The Making:
  1. Mix the powdered sugar and 2 tbsp milk together until smooth.
  2. When scones are cool, use a brush to paint plain glaze over the top of each scone.
  3. As the plain glaze firms up, prepare the Spiced Glaze.
Spiced Glaze... The Making:
  1. Combine the ingredient for the spiced icing together. Drizzle this thicker icing over each scone and allow the icing to dry before serving (at least 1 hour). A squirt bottle works great for this, or you can drizzle with a whisk.