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Mango-Banana Gelato

08/09/2011 2 comments

First and foremost, let me confess…

The sinfully rich looking creaminess you see above is not really gelato, and it’s not ice cream either.

Guys and Dolls…This is BETTER!

This is a virtually sugar-free, dairy free, healthy dessert that can be made within five minutes and will have your taste buds (and the little voice inside your head…or is that…just me? ;-)) convinced that you are sinning BIG TIME.

As you know from my juicing adventure, Sam and I have committed to eating healthier, which means getting creative and producing alternatives to typical desserts.  After dinner we either skip dessert entirely or have some fresh fruit plain, or with some vanilla yogurt.  Nevertheless, that doesn’t always satiate the craving for a sweet, creamy gelato/ice cream.

I guarantee that if you love gelato and ice cream the way I do, you will L-O-V-E this Mango-Banana (pseudo) Gelato.

It’s basically a mango and banana (already pre-cut and frozen) with just a little vanilla yogurt (I used soy yogurt) and a handful of walnuts pureed in a food processor.

I tell you, the mango and banana combination totally works! As Sam and I indulged last night, we kept commenting on how delicious our “gelato” was and how it easily competes with the real thing (like the one we had not too long ago), without all the extra fat and sugar.  I don’t know about you, but for us, it doesn’t get any better than that.

In the past I’ve pureed frozen bananas (I got the idea from here), which is really good on its own.  But of course, I had to take it to another level and added either mangos or (fresh, not frozen) strawberries to the frozen bananas with a little agave nectar, a few semi-sweet chocolate chips or sprinkled with cocoa powder.  However, this one is by far the best.  I can’t wait to continue experimenting with other fruits and nuts, nut butters, etc. (using the frozen bananas as a base for the “cream” factor).

You owe it to yourself, regardless if you’re trying to eat healthy or not (you can even have it for breakfast), to give this a try, and if you do, please feel free to share your thoughts.

My only concern now is, will my ice-cream maker feel lonely??

Thanks and have a great day!

“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.”  – La Rochefoucauld

Mango-Banana Gelato

Yields two servings

1 pre-cut frozen mango (skin removed)

1 pre-cut frozen large ripe banana (skin removed)

1/4 cup vanilla soy or greek yogurt

small handful of walnuts (or any nut)

To prepare:

Place first three ingredients into your food processor (or blender) and pulse continuously (scraping down sides as needed) until you start to get a lovely creamy texture, then add nuts and pulse for about 20 seconds.  By the way, the frozen pieces of fruit may clump up, and it’ll feel like it’s not going anywhere, but don’t lose faith.  Just continue to pulse.  I sometimes pulse in 10-20 second increments a few times and then as if by magic, it all comes together beautifully.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Malt Frosted Cupcakes

06/24/2011 4 comments

Last night as we were preparing dinner, the conversation went a little something like this…

Hmm, I’m in the mood  to bake something, but I don’t know what.

Yeah babe…But something simple.

How about, vanilla cupcakes with a chocolate frosting? Wait no…How about I make the frosting with chocolate malt powder?

YEAH…that sounds good!

So at close to 9:00pm Sam and I were in the kitchen washing dishes, listening to some tunes, exchanging a few kisses and preparing/anticipating the Chocolate Malt Frosted Cupcakes.

Because it was kinda late and I was wanting to be done quickly, I just popped open a box of white cake mix (I keep them in stock for quickies), into which I added two teaspoons of vanilla extract.  The chocolate malt frosting was tweaked from a recipe for a milk chocolate cookie malt cream filling that I had saved from the Food and Wine website to make sometime in the near future.

By the time all was said and done, it was about 10:40ish pm and past our bedtime (we’re early birds).  So, being the classy individuals that we are, we devoured one cupcake each over the sink and prepped for bed.

They were pretty yummy and worth the wait.  The frosting had that lovely chocolate malt shake taste that I remember having as a kid.  However, we would have liked the flavor to have been a bit more prominent, so next time I think I’ll add more chocolate malt powder and a little less sugar.

Chocolate Malt Frosted Cupcakes

(Yielded 12 cupcakes and one 6×2 cake)

Frosting inspired by Mathew Rice

Ingredients 

  • Box of white or yellow cake mix 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (for cake)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup chocolate malt powder, such as Ovaltine
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (my addition)
  • About 1 teaspoon cocoa powder to dust on frosted cupcakes (my addition)

To Prepare

Preheat oven to 350° and line cupcake pan with buttered and floured baking cups, also butter and flour cake pan. Prepare cake mix according to instructions, be sure to add the vanilla extract to the mix.

For frosting: In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter with the chocolate malt powder at medium speed until light, about 3 minutes. Scrape sides as needed and add the vanilla and confectioners’ sugar and beat at low speed just until combined, gradually add whipping cream and increase to med-high speed for about 1 minute.

Decorate your cupcakes/cake (once cooled) as your heart desires, dust with cocoa powder and enjoy :-).

“All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt!”  ~ Charles Schulz

Cherry Chocolate Love Cake

06/20/2011 7 comments

This weekend Sam and I celebrated our two-year Wedding Anniversary 🙂

As I look back to that magical night we met (at a party, which I almost did not attend), up until now, I can’t help but smile (from ear to ear) and thank God for answering my prayers and blessing me with such a devoted, loving, hard-working husband, friend and lover.  The past couple of years have been filled with lots of love, laughter and joy.  We have our good days and sometimes not so good days, but all in all, we love each other very much and as each day goes by, we keep learning and growing as a couple and appreciating one another more and more.

So on this special occasion, I was inspired to make what I’d like to refer to as, the Cherry Chocolate Love Cake…reason being, despite the obvious cherries on top, cherry filling and dark chocolate…

It was made out of love, for the love of my life and his love of cherries.

Now that cherries are in season and considered the new antioxidant “super fruit”, I have the opportunity to make all kinds of goodies for my husband, like pies, cakes, smoothies, ice-cream, etc.

I tried my hand at decorating this cake with swiss meringue buttercream (a first for me) and further practice my decorating skills.

I think I did okay for a newbie…don’t you think?

Well, at least my husband was impressed, which automatically makes it a success in my book.

This cake is dense (without being heavy) with a delightfully, rich chocolate taste, that matches perfectly with the fresh cherry filling and silky, smooth buttercream. 

Needless to say, we both thoroughly enjoyed the “love” cake and look forward to sharing it with family and friends.

Here’s to love, joy, patience, kindness, health, happiness and many, many more anniversaries.

You can find the recipe for the dark chocolate cake and swiss meringue buttercream from Rosie at Sweetapolita.  I just happened to stumble across her site one day and really like the beautiful pictures she posts of not only her confections, but of her family too.

As for the cherry filling, I roasted about a cup (next time I’ll use two cups) of pitted and chopped cherries mixed with a tablespoon of sugar and a tablespoon of melted butter in the oven set at 400° for about 10 minutes.  Allowed the cherries to cool, strained out most of the juice (there was a bit too much liquid) and then added (by mistake) a capful of orange extract, in lieu of vanilla extract.  Luckily orange and chocolate goes well together ;-).

“Life is just a bowl of cherries, don’t take it serious, its mysterious. Life is just a bowl of cherries, so live and laugh and laugh at love, love a laugh, laugh and love”.  – Bob Fosse

Burnt Caramel & Apple Walnut Gelato

05/03/2011 5 comments

 

This past weekend was all about “saving” the foods that would soon expire if I continued to use them as props in my fridge and counter.

Part of the inventory of edibles were some leftover Fuji apples from last week’s delicious Waldorf Salad.  Whereas I could have cooked the apples to accompany the dynamic rosemary-garlic pork tenderloin I made (I’ll have to share this one at a later date).  

Instead…I followed my heart’s true desire and made gelato. 

But first, let me ask you…

Do you like caramel?

I do!

Do you like apples cooked in cinnamon and sugar?

Yes!

What about caramelized toasted walnuts?

That’s a double yes! 

Well then ladies and gentlemen…..

You will L-O-V-E this!!!

Although I had never caramelized anything in my life…I let myself loose and the results were just divine!

The inspiration came from this recipe, and in typical SamCyn fashion, I changed things up a bit and ended up with a Burnt Caramel & Apple Walnut Gelato.

Sam and I were immediately seduced by the creamy, subtly sweet, nutty, smokey flavors of this gelato.  We both agreed, this was a sophisticated flavored gelato…Definitely not one for the “kiddies”. 

HAH!

I gave some to my six-year old niece to try and she loved it. 

Which proves one of two things:

1. My niece has got sophisticated taste buds.

or

2. We just don’t know what we’re talking about :-).

Life is uncertain.  Eat dessert first. ~Ernestine Ulmer

Burnt Caramel & Apple Walnut Gelato

Serves 1 1/2 pints

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 medium-sized apples, peeled and diced 
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1 capful of dark rum (optional, makes the gelato easier to scoop right out of the freezer).

To prepare:

  1. Heat ¼ cup of sugar in a deep pot over medium heat until it begins to melt and turn golden. Add apples, walnuts and cinnamon and saute until well coated and caramelized. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. Heat the remaining sugar in the same pot over medium heat until it melts and turns dark brown, about 2 to 4 minutes (do not stir sugar during this process, except to evenly melt the sugar).  Slowly whisk in cream until well combined. Whisk in milk, add vanilla bean and salt; cook until very hot, about 2 more minutes.
  3. Beat eggs yolks in a medium, heat-proof bowl. Slowly whisk ½ cup of cream mixture into the yolks. While constantly whisking, slowly pour egg-cream mixture back into pot with milk-cream mixture. Reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. 
  4. Transfer to a container, stir in the rum (if using) and cool completely in the refrigerator or by using an ice bath. Using a sharp paring knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean pod into the gelato mixture and discard pod. Churn according to the directions on your ice cream maker, during the last five minutes or so of churning, stir in the caramelized apples and walnuts. then store in a tightly sealed container and freeze until firm. 

Enjoy!

SamCyn’s Return to Dessert: Chocolate Orange Curd Bundt

04/25/2011 2 comments

As many of you may already know, when I posted about the Lemon-Berry Corn Muffins I baked.  Sam and I made a committment during Lent, not to indulge in cake (amongst other types of dessert).

It was a difficult and challenging journey, especially when we baked cakes, cookies, etc. for family and friends.  Nonetheless, God gave us the strength to refrain from our temptation, as we patiently (felt like an eternity) counted the days to Easter.

Though I had no clue what the first dessert would be, I did know it would involve my beloved chocolate.  Therefore, I got a little creative and baked a Chocolate Orange Curd Bundt cake for Easter Sunday dinner at my In-laws.

Similar to the Waldorf Salad, this was really easy because I was lazy  it is a semi-home made dessert.

Dare I say, the chocolate cake is from a box. H-O-W-E-V-E-R, I did make the Orange Curd from scratch with lots of love :-).

All I can say is, it was TOTALLY worth the wait.  The citrusy, buttery flavor of the orange curd soaked into the chocolate cake was truly divine!  My darling husband ate two pieces and asked that we bring home a piece.  

Everyone else really enjoyed it as well, which means my contributions to Easter dinner were a success.  For me (and Sam) that’s what it’s all about…making and sharing good food with the ones you love.

 “If not for chocolate, there would be no need for control top pantyhose.  An entire garment industry would be devastated”.  ~Author Unknown

Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake

  • Follow box instructions for cake

Orange Curd Recipe Adapted by Flo Braker

Ingredients

  1. 3 large eggs
  2. 2 large egg yolks
  3. 1/2 cup sugar  (I used agave nectar)
  4. 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  5. 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  6. 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  7. 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  8. 1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

Directions

  1. In a small heavy saucepan, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks. Whisk in the sugar, then whisk in the citrus juices and zests. Add the butter and whisk constantly over moderately low heat until the mixture thickens, about 8 minutes; do not let it boil. Immediately strain the curd into a bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd and cut 6 small steam vents in the plastic. Refrigerate the curd overnight; it can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Once completely cooled, I cut out a “ditch” in the circumference of the cake and filled it with the orange curd.  Because my curd didn’t turn out too thick (maybe because I used agave nectar??) I crumbled up the cake pieces that were cut out and spread them over the curd for absorption. 

Lastly, I sifted some confectioner’s sugar and orange metallic dust over the cake. 

Because of the curd, this cake should be stored in the refrigerator.

I Cheated!…w/Lemon-Berry Corn Muffins

03/12/2011 3 comments

I’ve got to tell you, I’m a bit  very ashamed and disappointed in myself :-(. 

In addition, I’ve learned that I can play a really mean game of DENIAL.

On my third day of Lent, I cheated with the Lemon-Berry Corn Muffins that I made yesterday…and like Eve, I brought my husband down with me.

As you may or may not know, Lent in the Christian tradition, is the period of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Lent is a time of sacrifice for Jesus. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer — through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial — for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

My husband Sam and I, both agreed to deny ourselves the following foods, for the 40-day period of Lent:

  1. Pizza (OUCH!)
  2. Gelato, Ice Cream (DOUBLE OUCH!)
  3. Cakes, Cookies
  4. Candy bars
  5. Bread (I’m alone on this one)

I knew this would be challenging (not to mention good for the waistline) and feel truly sacrificial, considering how the above mentioned are staples in our home, that are consumed at least 5-7x a week.

No, not the pizza… that’s just once a week…okay, maybe two if there are leftovers ;-).

Before I even started Lent, I asked myself, “Can I still bake muffins???”

Are they synonymous with cupcakes or bread???

This is what I learned, AFTER I baked the muffins. 

A muffin is an American English name for a type of bread that is baked in small portions. Many forms are somewhat like small cakes or cupcakes in shape, although they usually are not as sweet as cupcakes and generally lack frosting. Savory varieties, such as cornbread muffins, also exist.

Ah, Ha!

See the part about cornbread muffins being considered savory? That means muffins fall into the savory category, not sweet, like a cupcake. 

Therefore, I should be in the clear right??? 

WRONG!

It’s in the bread family…Hence, I totally lost this game of denial.

However, for those of you not denying yourselves bread, cakes or muffins.

I’ve got a new addiction for you!

The original recipe (for Lemon Cornmeal Breakfast Cake) I got from Joy The Baker.  You may want to read her story, it’s hysterical.

I made a few of my own adjustments (see below in red) and made muffins, not cake.

Yes, I know…I was completely blind to the word “cake” in the recipe’s name, all I saw was cornmeal and breakfast (I told you I was in denial).

Without a doubt, the citrusy, buttery aroma that perfumes your home will get your attention.

Then…your first to last bite will be met with a lovely…moist…slightly sweet…warm, nutty butter flavor, that is sure to make you fall in love.

You won’t know if you want it for breakfast or dessert.

I shamefully ate two and prayed for strength not to eat the rest (which I’ve given half to my mother-in-law and the rest go to my mom and sister).

The best part of it all, is that it is so simple to make!

Try it, you won’t be disappointed.

“Two old Bachelors were living in one house; One caught a Muffin, the other caught a Mouse.” – Edward Lear

Lemon-Berry Corn Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (whole wheat pastry flour) 
  • 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal (I added another 1/3 due to the addition of fresh fruit)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I used light plain soymilk)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus one tablespoons unsalted butter, melted until browned then cooled slightly
  • 1/2 cup of strawberries cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup of blueberries cut into small pieces

Lemon Glaze

  • 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Instructions

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

In a 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet, melt butter over medium heat until browned and fragrant.  Use a potholder to grab onto the cast iron and carefully tilt back and forth so the melted butter greases the sides of the pan.  Remove browned butter from the cast iron to cool, and set the buttery cast iron aside.  That’s what we’re going to bake the cake in!

OMG! The smell of the browned butter (a first for me) was intoxicating!!!

If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, simply butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.  Set aside.  Brown the butter in a skillet over the stove top and incorporate into the recipe just the same.  I lined a 12-muffin pan with baking cups and used baking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugars, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a small bowl, carefully whisk together eggs, buttermilk, lemon zest and butter. Add the wet ingredients, all at once, to the dry ingredients and fold together, (along with berries) with a spatula.  Fold until very few lumps remain.  Pour batter into the prepared buttered pan and place in the oven.

While the cake bakes, whisk together powdered sugar and lemon juice for the glaze.  Set aside.

Bake for 30 minutes (20 minutes for muffins) or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.  Use a skewer or the tines of a fork to poke holes in the bake.  Sporadic holes here and there will do.  Pour over the glaze, spread evenly and let rest for about 30 minutes before serving. This cake will last for up to 4 days, well wrapped, at room temperature.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Brownie Cupcakes

03/09/2011 11 comments

I can’t tell you how long I’ve been wanting to try my hand at frosting either a cake or cupcakes via a pastry bag. 

I know some of you “experts” out there can probably pipe frosting with your eyes closed…but this technique is foreign to me and one that I look forward to mastering to create pretty desserts. 

It is a colleague’s birthday this week and I recalled her mentioning she likes brownies, so I decided to use that as a reason/motivation to make brownie cupcakes and try my hand at piping.

Strawberries are in season and soooo cheap, that I thought to myself, why not add some visual and flavorful contrast to these babies.  Therefore, before frosting I stuffed the cupcakes with a strawberry cream cheese filling.

This was labor intensive (but fun :-))to say the least…

Just imagine the process I went through in making the filling, the cupcakes and frosting from scratch…then assembling all three components by “coring” the cupcakes, filling them (I purposely let it spill out), topping with the chocolate frosting, then I followed up with some more filling on top, before adding the final touch of a strawberry.

Whew!

I was doing this at night (hence, the lack of pictures of the steps mentioned above) and by the time I was done, I was T-I-R-E-D.

However…

When we tasted the fresh strawberry creamy sweetness…

Alongside the rich, moist (yet slightly dense) chocolatey brownie cupcake…

MMMM….MMMM…MMMM…MMMM! 🙂

Sam and I found it very difficult to eat just one, and this was after we had already eaten a bowl of the leftover filling with the “cores” of the cupcakes.

Strawberries are the angels of the earth, innocent and sweet with green leafy wings reaching heavenward.  ~Terri Guillemets

I want to have a good body, but not as much as I want dessert. – Jason Love

Brownie Cupcakes

Adapted by JoyofBaking

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces (120 grams) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 1/4 cup (250 grams) granulated white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup (95 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line 12 muffin tins with paper or foil baking cups.  Melt the chopped chocolate and butter in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Then stir (can also use a hand mixer) in the sugar. Add the vanilla and then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the flour and salt until well blended.  Evenly divide the batter between the muffin cups. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake has moist crumbs. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost with icing. You can either spread the frosting on the cupcakes with a small spatula or if piping, using a large Wilton plain, open or closed star tip.

Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces (120 grams) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 cup (150 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups (160 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until it is light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the chocolate and beat on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until frosting is smooth and glossy (about 2 -3 minutes).

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Filling

Adapted by Martha Stewart

Ingredients

Makes about 3 cups

  • 24 ounces (3 packages) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar (I added an extra cup)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups strawberries (about 12 ounces), hulled

Directions

Put cream cheese, butter, and sugar into mixer bowl; mix until creamy. Mix in vanilla. Puree strawberries in a food processor; strain. Mix 3/4 cup puree into cream cheese mixture (reserve remaining puree for Swiss-Meringue Buttercream. Use immediately or refrigerate airtight up to 3 days; stir before using.