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Mini Blackberry Cobblers for Two

Last week was the first day of spring! Not that you would notice here in Boston where the lows sank into the 20’s this week. It’s okay, us New Englanders don’t expect much out of spring. Everyone says that unlike some other parts of the country New England experiences all four seasons and that is true, but not how you imagine it. We get all four seasons except sometimes we can go from fall to summer to winter… in one week. And usually the year feels like a really long winter, a decent summer, with the teeniest smallest amount of spring and fall in between. But, as the song goes, “Boston, you’re my home,” and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

To get through the seemingly forever winter I like to treat myself to some summer and spring flavors, especially berries. Even though berries may not be in season just yet, frozen berries are a great substitute, especially if you’re baking with them. A few weeks ago I wanted to use some berries and make a small and quick dessert. A dessert that would actually be for two, a little unlike my experiment with the vanilla blackberry-mascarpone cake for two, and would be ready without extensive preparation and cooking time. These mini berry cobblers for two are the perfect treat. They are like little light cakes with a juicy berry center that will make you think it’s summer and not actually still 40 degrees.

Some cobblers have a texture more similar to biscuits, but I like this recipe for the cake-like result it yields. The ingredient amounts are a bit odd because I was scaling down a full-sized treat, but the end result is satisfying deliciousness. Cutting into the soft cake with your spoon to discover the moist berry inside is almost as exciting as scraping that last bit of the cobbler into your mouth. Almost. So treat yourself and your lucky friend, significant other, child or second-cousin twice removed to these delightful mini berry cobblers. Or treat yourself twice, you know by now I certainly won’t judge you.

Mini Blackberry Cobblers for Two
 
Yield: 2 cobblers
Ingredients
  • 1.5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons milk, plus 1 teaspoon
  • ½ cup blackberries
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Divide the butter equally and melt each half in two 8-ounce ramekins. Set aside.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a small bowl.
  4. Add the milk to the flour mixture and whisk until just combined, being sure not to over-mix.
  5. Divide the batter and pour half into each of the prepared ramekins. Do not stir, just pour over the melted butter. Pour ¼ cup blackberries into the center of the batter and again, do not stir.
  6. Bake the cobblers for 25 minutes or until the top of the cake is golden.
  7. Serve warm with fresh berries and whipped cream, if desired.
Notes
Instead of blackberries try substituting raspberries, blueberries or a combination of all three.

Recipe adapted from Circle B Kitchen.

Orange Pancakes with Toasted Coconut Butter

I’m not sure why I love pancakes so much. Maybe it’s because you just mix everything in a big bowl, ladle it in a hot pan and next thing you know you’re chomping away on breakfast. Maybe it’s because the flavor combinations are endless and I love the possibilities they present.

But I have a strong feeling it’s because they are basically dessert and there is certainly no question I would eat dessert every meal if I could afford to buy new clothes each month. Think about the word pancakes. See it? Cakes made in a pan. Covered in maple syrup. Also known as sugar. And it’s acceptable to eat these for breakfast! The world is good!

I have several different lemon pancake recipes I enjoy so my love for citrus prompted me to try substituting orange. These orange buttermilk pancakes are light and fluffy with a bright orange flavor from the orange zest and juice.

I wanted a little something extra to complement the pancakes and came up with this toasted coconut butter. So yummy! The orange and coconut together is a tropical explosion of flavor that is so good on it’s own you don’t even need syrup. But go ahead and put some on anyways because when else can you pour sugar on a cake and eat it for breakfast?

Orange Pancakes with Toasted Coconut Butter
 
Yield: 8-10 pancakes
Ingredients
for the toasted coconut butter
  • 3 tablespoons shredded coconut
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
for the pancakes
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
Directions
for the toasted coconut butter
  1. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the shredded coconut in a single layer and stir in the skillet until the coconut is mostly browned. Remove from the heat and set aside.
for the pancakes
  1. Rub the orange zest into the tablespoon of sugar in a small bowl until the sugar has turned a pale orange. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt until combined.
  3. Whisk together the egg, buttermilk and melted butter in a large bowl. Add the flour mixture and orange sugar to the liquid mixture and stir until just combined. The batter is supposed to be lumpy so make sure you don't over-mix it.
  4. Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat. Melt some butter in the pan to coat it. When the butter is hot in the pan add ¼ cup of batter for however many pancakes will fit on your griddle or pan at one time.
  5. When the top of the batter has started to bubble all over carefully flip the pancakes and for about 2-3 minutes or until cooked through. Continue until all the batter has been used up.
  6. Serve the pancakes with coconut butter and maple syrup, if desired.
Notes
The amount of pancakes will vary based on the size you make them.

Pancakes slightly adapted from Becky Bakes.

Ultimate Oreo Cupcakes

The first buttercream frosting I ever made was an Oreo buttercream. Armed with a mini food processor I chopped the Oreos down to mere crumbs and whipped them into Martha Stewart’s vanilla buttercream recipe. After one taste (and a second and third and fourth) I knew I would never buy store-bought frosting again. Well, unless it’s rainbow chip as I have yet to find a good substitute.

This Oreo buttercream had my head spinning and it wasn’t just the sugar rush. Something this smooth, decadent and bursting with Oreo flavor only takes a matter of mere minutes and a few simple ingredients? That was a dangerous fact to stumble upon.

I have since made many buttercreams, whipped frostings, cream cheese frostings and glazes, but I always find myself coming back to that original Oreo buttercream. When I was visiting my family last summer for our annual beach week I wanted to bring them the best of the best. So I decided to combine all my favorites, including these perfect chocolate cupcakes, this amazing chocolate ganache and the above mentioned Oreo buttercream, into an ultimate super cupcake.

Topped, of course, with a chocolate-covered Oreo, these cupcakes are guaranteed to make your family, friends, coworkers and strangers want to hug you. Or imprison you in their kitchen so you can forever make them these cupcakes, it could really go either way. So enjoy these treats, but proceed with caution.

Ultimate Oreo Cupcakes
 
Yield: 24 cupcakes
Ingredients
for the Oreo buttercream
  • 15 Oreo cookies
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
for the Oreo garnish
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 12 Oreo cookies
  • ⅓ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
for the cupcakes
Directions
for the Oreo buttercream
  1. Chop the Oreo cookies in a food processor until they are fine crumbs, or crush in a thick plastic baggie with a heavy object.
  2. Whip the butter for 2-3 minutes, or until smooth, with an electric mixer.
  3. On low speed carefully add the sugar, milk and vanilla and mix until fluffy. If the frosting looks too thin slowly add some more powdered sugar. Add the Oreo crumbs and mix until well combined.
  4. Fit a pastry bag with the Wilton Bismarck tip #230. Fill the pastry bag with the filling. Insert the tip halfway into the center of the cupcake and squeeze in some filling. Slowly start pulling out the tip while still squeezing. Remove and stop squeezing in some filling when the top of the cupcake starts to bulge and is just about to crack. Place in the fridge to chill.
for the Oreo garnish
  1. Cover a plate or cutting board that will fit in your fridge with wax paper and set aside.
  2. Melt the white chocolate chips over a double boiler over medium-low heat. When completely melted stir in the vegetable oil then remove from the heat.
  3. Carefully submerge an Oreo so that it's completely coated in white chocolate before resting it on the wax paper. I used a spoon and a fork to complete this task. Repeat for the rest of the Oreos.
  4. Place the Oreos in the fridge until the chocolate has set.
  5. When the chocolate is almost set melt the semi-sweet chocolate chips using the double boiler. Set aside to cool slightly. Remove the Oreos from the fridge and place near your workstation.
  6. Pour the melted semi-sweet chocolate into a pastry bag fitting with a skinny round tip or a plastic baggie with a very small corner snipped off. Pour zigzag lines over the Oreos then return to the fridge to set.
  7. Once the Oreos have set carefully cut in half with a sharp knife.
for the cupcakes
  1. Once the cupcakes have been filled and chilled it's time to top them with the chocolate ganache. If the ganache isn't already warm carefully heat it in a double boiler or in the microwave on low heat.
  2. Carefully dip the top of each cupcake in the warm chocolate ganache, letting the excess drip off. After dipping the cupcakes carefully press a chocolate-covered Oreo half into the center of each cupcake before the ganache has time to completely harden. You may have to slightly insert the Oreo into the cupcake so that it stays upright.
  3. Return to the fridge to let the chocolate ganache set. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Oreo buttercream slightly adapted from Martha Stewart.

 

Weeknight Minestrone Soup

I’ve been really into soups lately. Not that I previously disliked soups, they just weren’t in my weekly routine mostly due to the fact that I always end up burning my tongue. Probably the same reason I don’t like hot coffee and let my hot chocolate come to almost room temperature so I can gulp it down, tongue intact. I guess I could also just try being patient, but that’s not really my thing when it comes to food.

Lately though, I’ve been putting aside my fears of burnt tongues and really digging soups. It all started with this cauliflower soup. The next week I made a broccoli version and the week after I made it with roast mushrooms. By the fourth week Matt and I decided I needed to expand my soup-making horizons. Enter this weeknight minestrone soup. Yum.

Now this soup was so quick to make that I had serious doubts about the level of deliciousness that it would reach. Doubts be damned, this soup is tasty! A perfectly well-balanced minestrone soup with a light tomato base full of perfectly seasoned and softened vegetables, beans and pasta.

I kept mine pretty traditional, other than the addition of kale, but you could customize this in any way that suits you. The next time I make it I might include some zucchini for extra greenery. And some mushrooms because I have a mushroom addiction. But that’s just me.

Weeknight Minestrone Soup
 
Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 3 cups chopped kale or baby spinach, hard stems removed
  • 6 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 14 ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup small-shaped whole wheat or brown rice pasta
  • Fresh grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley for topping
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the celery and carrot and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add the dried oregano, parsley flakes, and paprika, then season with salt and pepper. Add the kale or spinach and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the vegetable broth, crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the pasta and beans. Cook for 10 more minutes, or until the pasta and vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve hot topped with fresh grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

Recipe slightly adapted from the Food Network.

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream

I have loved ice cream as long as I can remember. Whether it was a simple scoop of vanilla at home, a soft-serve cone from the local lunch spot or a bowl of freeze-dried ice cream bits from the Dippin’ Dots fad, I have loved it, craved it and eaten it all. My love for creating ice cream, however, is a much more recent hobby.

Years ago my stepmom purchased an ice cream maker for the family for Christmas. We made one batch of super rich chocolate ice cream Christmas morning and then that was the end of it. So this past summer I pulled it out of my parents’ basement, brought it to my apartment, dusted it off and got to work.

If you have been intimidated at the prospect of making homemade ice cream then this peanut butter cup ice cream recipe is a fantastic starting point. It is easy, simple, only requires a few ingredients and the end result is snarfworthy. The peanut butter flavor is strong and bold with the mini peanut butter cups providing a surprise treat in every spoonful. A smooth and creamy texture will leave you wanting just one more bite, especially since the ice cream isn’t overly rich. You will wonder why you’ve waiting so long to make something tasty and the ice cream maker will become a regular fixture on your countertop. So make this peanut butter cup ice cream and treat yourself to a big scoop… followed by just one more bite.

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream
 
Yield: 1 quart
Ingredients
  • 2⅔ cups half and half
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¾ cup smooth peanut butter
  • ⅛ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1½ cups mini peanut butter cups or chopped peanut butter cups
Directions
  1. Using a blender or food processor puree the half and half, sugar, peanut butter, vanilla and salt until smooth.
  2. Chill the mixture in the fridge until cold then freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. During the last couple minutes of churning add the peanut butter cups.
  3. Store in the freezer until firm enough to scoop.

Recipe from The Perfect Scoop.