The Luck of the Irish (Car Bomb)

Happy belated St Patty’s Day to all those who like to pretend to be Irish every March 17th…or the weekend before March 17th…or the weekend after…

I am not Irish. I’m proudly Portuguese and Italian with a little Russian mixed in, but I do enjoy a lovely Irish beer now and then. On special occasions, like March 17th, I usually take the time to delight in a lovely Irish car bomb. If you don’t frequent the bar scene, an Irish car bomb is enjoyed by dropping a shot of Bailey’s (or any other) Irish Cream liqueur into a healthy glass of Guinness beer and drinking very, very quickly. If you’re a hearty lass who already enjoys the flavors of the beer and liqueur and you drink it quickly, it’ll taste like a carbonated chocolate milk shake. If you’re a little less Irish and you drink it too slowly, it’ll taste like chocolate milk gone sour. Eww.

If you’re not up for taking a trip to ‘ye olde pub to suck one of these down, you could instead make these cupcakes.  They’re slightly more family-friendly and cost efficient.

And probably a little easier to swallow.

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 18 Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup or one stick unsalted butter or 1 Earth Balance vegan buttery stick, softened
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature, or 2 eggs’ worth egg replacer
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup chopped semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup Guinness beer at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup Irish Cream liqueur

For the Frosting

  • 1 cup or 2 sticks unsalted butter or 2 Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks, softened
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1 tbsp meringue powder (optional, but keeps the frosting sturdy and fresh for longer)
  • 2 Tbsp Irish Cream liqueur
  • Pinch of salt
  • Icing bag fitted with a large star tip, green gel food coloring, small craft paint brush

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line two muffin pans with 18 paper liners.
  2. Place the flours, cocoa, sugar, butter, eggs, salt, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, and chocolate chips in a mixing bowl. Blend on low speed for 1 minute, just to combine.
  3. Combine the beer and the liqueur in a glass measuring cup with a spout, and pour half of the liquid into the flour mixture. Blend on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  4. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed, and add the remaining liquid. Beat on medium speed for an additional minute.
  5. Use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to scoop the cupcake batter into the prepared pans, only filling them 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when lightly pressed.
  6. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow them to cool slightly in the pan. Move to a wire rack as soon as possible to finish cooling.
  7. Prepare the frosting while the cupcakes are baking and cooling by whipping the butter, liqueur, salt, and meringue powder until creamy. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar a cup at a time, and scrape the sides as needed. Add additional confectioner’s sugar if you’re looking for a stiffer consistency for decorating.
  8. To decorate the cupcakes like the pictures below, use a small craft paint brush and green gel food coloring (it will not work with liquid food coloring). Dip the paint brush into the gel coloring, and paint a single streak inside the icing bag from the tip to half way up the bag. Repeat this process in regular intervals around the bag, spacing the stripes about 1/2″ apart. Fill the bag with frosting as usual. Pipe the frosting starting in the center of the cupcake, and move in tight, concentric circles around the center. The dye will color the edges of the frosting.

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour.

Tip: I tried making these cupcakes completely vegan without realizing that Irish Cream liqueur has real cream in it. 😦 However, if you’re looking to make these completely vegan-friendly, King Arthur Flour and some other specialty merchants offer Irish Cream flavoring similar to an extract.

Chewy Vanilla-Orange-Cranberry-Coconut (With White Chocolate) Cookies.

I know it’s Winesday, and this isn’t a post talking about Winesday or wine. It’s talking about cookies. Maybe cookies are lame compared to wine, but hey, we can’t all be perfect. Sip on a glass of wine while reading this to deal with the disappointment, and enjoy my cookies.

As I said in my last post, I’m trying to venture away from my usual chocolate and peanut butter fixation and try some new things. I found this recipe and decided it’d be a lovely springtime treat. I figured out that the combination of cranberry and orange was utterly delightful when I tried orange craisins a few years ago and then orange cranberry scones shortly thereafter. Who wouldn’t want that bitter citrus sweetness in a cookie? Throw in some toasted coconut and white chocolate chunks, and that’s one heck of a breakfast cookie.

Vanilla Orange Cranberry Coconut with White Chocolate Cookies

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 2 dozen medium cookies

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, or Earth Balance Buttery Stick, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1 large orange
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg, or 1 egg’s worth of egg replacer
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cup craisins
  • 1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped white chocolate or white chocolate chips
  • 2 cookie sheets, parchment paper

How To Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and line the cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the flour, craisins, white chocolate, and coconut in a small bowl, and set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together using a paddle attachment in a standmixer, or use an electric hand mixer. Add the baking powder, orange zest, and salt, and blend again.
  4. Add the egg to the butter/sugar mixture, and mix until the ingredients are blended. Gradually add the flour mixture, and mix the batter until the flour is blended and the dough is soft. Scrape the sides as needed.
  5. Use an ice cream scoop or large tablespoon to scoop out mounds of dough. Place them 1 1/2″ apart on the prepared cookie sheets, and use a flat-bottomed drinking glass to flatten the mounds so they’re approximately 1/2″ thick. Use granulated sugar or non-stick cooking spray on the bottom of the glass to prevent it from sticking to the dough.
  6. Bake the cookies for 6-7 minutes or until they’re barely set but beginning to turn a golden brown color around the edges. If they’re baked longer than this, they’ll lose the chewy quality. Leave them on the pan to cool completely.

Recipe adapted from KAF.

The last of the peanut buttery chocolatey goodness (for now)

It happens to me every now and then where I just can’t sit still at my desk because all I want to do is disappear into the kitchen with my KitchenAid and a glass of wine. This happened yesterday. I had plans to go for a nice healthy jog and watch hours of Entourage (I’m trying to catch up on the whole series…you know, six months after the series ended), but all of a sudden, I just had to bake. Since creating delicious treats is my favorite thing in the world to do, I always listen to that instinct, even if it means changing around my plans. The exercise, of course, flew out the window first, and I even found it difficult to concentrate on last-minute projects at work because I only wanted to plan what I was going to make.

This is where my dilemma comes in. I’m not even talking about skipping exercise or only half-concentrating on my work; I’m talking about what I gravitate to every single time I make last-minute baking plans: peanut butter and chocolate. I hardly ever get the sudden craving to make something vanilla or fruity or even just plain chocolate, but it’s like a biological need that I have to combine peanut butter and chocolate. Simply put, I freakin love it. But unless my website was called (which I’m thinking maybe it should have been), it gets boring to read about the same flavors in different tasty forms over and over again. So I’ve made a plan to diversify…NO PEANUT BUTTER FOR A MONTH. Well, at least no baking with peanut butter…or at least, no baking with peanut butter and chocolate. This might be harder than I thought…

Anyway, the recipe below is adapted from a Martha Stewart peanut butter chocolate chunk cookie recipe, but I wanted to fun-ify it a little more by replacing regular peanut butter with The Greatest Peanut Butter in the World, Dark Chocolate Dreams.

And I had to add Reese’s Pieces to get some color, some crunch, and some deliciousness in there with the semisweet chocolate.

I chopped pieces of semisweet baking chocolate using a chef’s knife and a cutting board because the baking chocolate tends to have better texture and a richer taste than semisweet chips.

And I had to make these guys bigger than Martha did. Her recipe said it would make 36 cookies…I hardly had the batter for 24. Who likes small cookies?!?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 24 cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter
  • 5 Tbsp unsalted butter or Earth Balance buttery spread, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs or 2 eggs’ worth egg replacer
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 oz semisweet baking chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Reese’s Pieces
  • Baking sheets, parchment paper

How to Do It

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or use nonstick baking sheets.
  • Whisk the flour and baking soda in a small mixing bowl, and set aside.
  • Beat the peanut butter, butter, and sugars in a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer.
  • Add the eggs or egg replacer and vanilla extract, and beat until the dough is soft and moist.
  • Gradually add the flour, and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat until the ingredients are just incorporated.
  • Add the chopped chocolate and Reese’s pieces, and blend with the electric mixer or stand mixer for just 30 seconds. Fold with a rubber spatula to blend the chocolate more throughly.
  • Use an ice cream scoop or tablespoon to measure chunks of the dough evenly, shape them into rounded balls, and place them on the prepared baking sheets. These have very little spread so you can flatten them out with a large spoon or your fingers.
  • Bake for 11-13 minutes, or until the edges are crisp and cracked. Remove from the oven and cool for ten minutes on the baking sheet. Move the cookies to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Recipe adapted from

Bye bye peanut butter chocolatey goodness

A Final Winter Winesday

Well hello there. Happy Winesday. It appears that it’s finally spring in Connecticut, so yay! The menu below is for a final winter Winesday that had a nice, hearty selection, but now that the weather is (finally) getting warmer, I can only assume we’ll be indulging in slightly lighter fare…maybe.

The Wine

  • Erath Quail Run Pinot Blanc. This 2010 Oregon wine is a combination of bright, fruity flavors like cantaloupe, pineapple, and citrus with subtle spicy vanilla notes. The lingering finish has more of an apricot and toasted almond taste. The grapes are fermented in new French oak, but there is very little oak taste to the wine. It’s a unique white wine that pairs well with bold, spicy foods or creamy pastas.

The Entrée

  • Butternut squash stuffed shells. It may sound odd to combine squash with pasta that’s traditionally stuffed with cheeses and tomato sauce, but once you alter the main ingredients, the result is heavenly. Butternut squash has a strangely comforting quality to it, and when it’s served inside pasta with a creamy bechamel sauce, “comforting” doesn’t begin to describe its effect. Below is the recipe for a less-than-traditional delight, but be warned: you’ll definitely go back for seconds…and thirds.

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 4 servings

For the Shells

  • 20 jumbo shells
  • 2 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 Tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 10 oz bag of fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
  • 10-15 fresh sage leaves, or 1 tsp dried sage

For the Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt & pepper to taste

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the butternut squash in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet, and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Roast for 20 minutes, remove from oven, and flip the pieces of squash. Place back in the oven, and roast another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and use a food processor or large spoon to mash the pieces.
  2. Cook the shells according to package directions. Drain, and set aside. Meanwhile, saute the spinach in a little olive oil, and set aside.
  3. Saute the garlic and shallots in a large separate pan with two tablespoons of unsalted butter. Continue to whisk until small bits of brown appear in the butter, and then add the pureed butternut squash, cream cheese, and a tablespoon of parmesan cheese to the pan. Remove from heat, and mix in the spinach.
  4. Spray an 8″ x 8″ pan with nonstick cooking spray. Fill each shell with 1-2 tablespoons of the butternut squash mixture, and line the pan with the filled shells.
  5. Make the bechamel sauce by heating two tablespoons of unsalted butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. When it begins to sizzle, whisk in flour, and cook until the mixture is golden brown with a slightly nutty aroma. Whisk continuously, and add the milk and parmesan cheese. Let the mixture come to a simmer, and once it begins to thicken, stir in nutmeg, salt, and pepper. It should be similar in texture to alfredo sauce when you remove it from the heat.
  6. Pour the mixture over the stuffed shells, and top with additional parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and sage. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is.

The Dessert

  • Milk chocolate strawberry cream cheese cake with chocolate ganache frosting. Wow, that’s a mouth full, literally.  I don’t normally make cakes for Winesday because they take so much time and I’m often trying to get the Winesday dessert done on Tuesday night, but I was seriously craving chocolate cake for this. It was a pretty sweet ending to the final Winesday of winter to have warm, comforting pasta followed by layers of rich, creamy chocolate. If only the approaching swimsuit season could be so sweet…

Citrus Cake Truffles

So there’s this trend that’s become popular known as “cake pops”, which sounds a little funky and odd to me. I just picture cake-flavored lollipops or pieces of cake on sticks, which, not surprisingly, is exactly what cake pops are, but people do some insanely creative things with them. I’ve never tried these cake pop things before, but I’m always up for trying something new. I decided to try these little biddies when I was home sick for a few days (don’t worry, I didn’t serve them to anyone…not really anyway), and I got the idea of a citrus combination from another blog.The sun is shining more here in New England so it’s about time to start using fun ingredients that brighten the day, like lemons, oranges, and strawberries anyway. I start to crave these juicy fruits more often as the weather gets warmer so I figured I might as well start playing with some new ideas.

I don’t really have the desire to make cake lollipops, but I kinda like the idea of cake truffles (the pop without the stick). Who needs the stick anyway? These are simple enough to create without them though they may be a little easier to handle in some of the steps with a sturdy toothpick or lollipop stick.

Through my research of cake pops, I found that you need just a few simple ingredients:

  • Cake mix & the ingredients to make it
  • Frosting (canned or your own…I always prefer my own because I dislike large amounts of sugary goo…unless it’s the chocolate stuff)
  • Candy melts or baking chocolate

Easy. I have most of those ingredients on hand anyway, but I went a little further than the basic requirements. I used a lemon cake mix, but I added the zest of two lemons and a very large orange (using my new favorite kitchen tool-the zester I got for my birthday). I also replaced some of the water in the recipe for fresh-squeezed lemon and orange juice.

For the frosting, which is mixed in with the cake pieces to form the cake balls, I made my favorite cream cheese frosting and added orange extract instead of vanilla. I made a full batch, but I only used a cup of it for the cake truffles. I used the rest for some leftover pumpkin cupcakes 🙂

Finally, instead of candy melts or baking chocolate, I went with white chocolate chips. I desperately wanted to use white chocolate to coat these, but finding white chocolate candy melts or baking chocolate at your local grocery store isn’t the easiest feat. If you have a craft store or a specialty cake store nearby though, I highly recommend picking up a decent supply of candy melts if you want to make cake pops. White chocolate, while theoretically fabulous for dying different colors, has horrible melting properties. It doesn’t have the fats and properties that chocolate does so it won’t melt the same. It will often burn before it will melt enough to coat anything smoothly.  I managed to frost the tops of approximately 10 cake truffles off of a whole bag of chips…so I’ll need to remember that for next time…

Citrus Cake Truffles

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 30 cake truffles

For the Cake

  • Lemon cake mix & ingredients to make the mix
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 orange
  • 1-2 cups cream cheese icing (canned or home-made)
  • White chocolate chips or candy melts
  • Zester, 9″ x 13″ pan, parchment paper, baking sheet

For the Frosting

  • 12 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp orange extract
  • 5 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line and lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ cake pan with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the ingredients for the cake mix, but omit 1/3 cup of water that’s required for the recipe. Zest two lemons and one orange, and juice one lemon and one half of the orange directly into the mixing bowl. Whisk the ingredients until smooth, and pour the batter into the prepared pan. Follow package directions for baking time.
  3. While the cake is baking, prepare the cream cheese frosting (or open your can if you haven’t already). Cream the butter and cream cheese until soft and completely smooth using a paddle attachment. Add the salt and orange extract, and whip for another 30 seconds. If you’re using a stand mixer, change from the paddle to the whip attachment, and begin adding the confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time. Whip between each addition of the sugar, and continuously scrape the sides of the bowl. When the frosting is done, set aside.
  4. Remove the cake from the oven, and let it cool completely in the pan.
  5. When the cake is cool, break it into large pieces to put into a mixing bowl. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be manageable. Mix the pieces with a heavy spoon to break them into crumbs.
  6. Add 1 cup of cream cheese icing to the cake crumbs, and throughly blend it in. If the texture still appears dry, add another half cup of cream cheese icing. The texture should be soft and moist but not sticky and wet. The cake crumbs need enough icing to stick together but not so wet that they’ll melt quickly. Quite frankly, they should be stiff enough to form balls easily.
  7. Use a large spoon or ice cream scoop to measure hunks of the mixture, and form them into rounded balls. Place them on a baking sheet. If you’re using tooth picks or lollipop sticks, now is the time to insert them into the truffles. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  8. Before removing the truffles from the freezer, melt the baking chocolate or candy melts according to package directions. Either dip each truffle individually into the melted candy, or use a pastry bag with a round tip to ice the top. Refrigerate the truffles for 30 minutes, or until the candy sets.

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