Thursday, May 31, 2012

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins with Cinnamon Sugar Chocolate Chip Frosting

The debate. I have yet to have it on here, so here we go.

What is the difference between a cupcake and a muffin?

Anyone wanna take a stab at it? Please do. I'll give it my best shot. Here's what I think.

A cupcake is cake and a muffin is bread. Both work well in the cup shape with liners, or not. Cupcakes always have frosting, while muffins sometimes do. I prefer my muffins without it as I want to savor the taste of the bread alone. Along those lines, I think cupcakes are lighter, while muffins are denser. (More dense? Sounds strange to you? Me too. Denser is correct though.) My guess is that the general population would say muffins are healthier. Realistically, this is not the case since they have a lot of the same ingredients as cupcakes, unless they are made specifically with certain health-conscious substitutions. Whew! Any other critical differences I'm missing?

Well, I pinned this recipe from Life's Simple Measures. Jess refers to them as a cupcakes, as the blog she found them on did. After making, baking and tasting it, I'm going with muffin. They are dense, don't rise much and seem more like bread to me, rather than cake. Plus, they have oatmeal in them, which seems like more of a muffin quality to me than cupcake-esque. Not that it really matters. Whatever you want to refer to it as, I'm sure you'll call them yummy, too.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins, 12 regular sized muffins
from Life's Simple Measures via How Sweet It Is (which by the way has 169 comments. Jeepers!)

2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup loosely packed brown sugar
4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp milk
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips (tossed in flour)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare your muffin tin as you wish. Whisk eggs and sugar until well, until there are no lumps. Add vanilla and butter, mixing until smooth. Now, add all your dry ingredients: flour, oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, mixing until smooth. Stir milk in completely. Finally, fold in chocolate chips.

Since I saw how little the muffins rise in the original recipe, I filled my liners nearly full which worked perfectly for me because I wanted fuller cups. Bake 15-17 minutes, or until muffins are set and golden. Let cool before frosting.

While the muffins are baking, you can make your frosting. I halved the original recipe because unlike Jess at Life's Simple Measures, my waistline cannot afford a 1:1 frosting:muffin ratio. Plus, since I filled the cups nearly full, I only had 12 muffins, not 24 like she did. So, if you've got 12 muffins baking, go with the recipe below, if you have more or can simply indulge in more, double what you see below.

Cinnamon Sugar Chocolate Chip Frosting 
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp milk (if needed)
1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

Beat butter until smooth. Add in powdered sugar slowly so as not to create a white mess in your kitchen. Or on yourself. Increasing the speed slowly, add brown sugar and vanilla, beating for 2-3 minutes. Add milk, until you reach desired consistency. Fold your chocolate chips in. And sprinkle some more on top if you wish.

I just love chocolate chips. All over the place in this recipe!

I have had a couple of these and every time I bite into one I am so pleasantly surprised by the muffin flavor! The people in the office kept asking what it was and how different it was from most muffins.  I think it's the cinnamon.

Oh, and what do you think? What is the difference between a muffin and a cupcake?

This post is linked up to some of the parties listed under my Show & Tell tab at the top of the page. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats

Here's the story. Grammy randomly requests I bake her things. She recently brought me a Better Homes & Garden magazine article with a recipe (some coffee cake type thing) she wanted me to make but was unsure whether I would have all ingredients, specifically buttermilk. So, she said she would buy me some, like it's a bigger inconvenience for me to pick it up at the grocery store or something. The next day, she said she bought rice krispie cereal and marshmallows for me to make rice krispie treats but left them at her house. [Typical Grammy, jumping from a berry coffee cake desire to a kiddie favorite.] The following day, she made them herself and brought me the leftover ingredients. [Fair enough.] Always loving a good rice krispie treat and not wanting to waste what Grammy gave me, I found this recipe from Smitten Kitchen and tried it out. (You all know by this point I can't turn down an opportunity to brown butter, right?)

Since rice krispies are probably one of the most straight forward recipes ever, give this method a shot because it only takes a few more patient minutes (if that) and the taste is soooooo worth it. Promise.

Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats Yield 8 inch pan, 1+ inch thick
via Smitten Kitchen

4 ounces (1/4 pound or 1 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan
1 10-ounce bag marshmallows (or 35-40 big marshmallows)
1[/4  heaping teaspoon coarse sea salt
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal (about half a 12-ounce box)

Prepare an 8 inch square pan with butter or non-stick spray.

Melt butter over medium-low heat in a large pot. Stir frequently. As it melts, it will progress as follows: foam, clear golden color and finally start to brown and smell a little nutty. Not crazy, just nut-like. :) Make sure you are scraping the sides and bottom of the pan. This is the critical moments of browning butter. Do not take your eyes off it, as I mentioned a few days ago, it will burn fast. You will smell the burnt butter; it stinks, so don't let it go there. Before it burns, as it is golden brown, remove it from the heat.

Immediately, mix in the marshmallows. You might be able to stir them in smooth from the heat of the butter. However, I couldn't, so in that case, turn the burner back on to low and stir until well combined.

Remove from heat and stir in salt and cereal until evenly coated in buttery marshmallowy goo. Proceed as normal and quickly spread into your pan.

I lightly sprayed a little oil onto a piece of parchment paper to press the mixture into the pan and well into the corners. Worked like a charm.

Allow to cool before cutting or you'll wind up with a sticky mess. Not that I know or anything.

And from now on, this will by my go to rice krispie treat method for the rest of my life. You know, cause I'm always being asked to make rice krispies.

This post is linked up to some of the parties listed under my Show & Tell tab at the top of the page.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Oatmeal Apple Cinnamon Cookies

Looking to switch it up from the regular old chocolate something or other cookies? Read on. Even if you aren't, read on because you won't regret it.

I love baked apples so I just assumed I would like these. Boy, was I wrong. I absolutely loved them. Like, loved them so much, I was a 3 year old when it came to sharing. This recipe is from Lauren's Latest, who I was excited to find out is a fellow Oregonian and also believes brown butter frosting has magical powers.
Oatmeal Apple Cinnamon Cookies  Yield 24 cookies
via Lauren's Latest

1/2 cup butter, softened
6 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup all purpose flour + 1 tablespoon
1 cup quick cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup peeled, diced apple

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prep your cookie sheet.

Cream the butter and sugars together until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, mixing completely. Slowly add all dry ingredients. Finally, stir in oats and apples. Scoop Tablespoon size scoops onto cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes, until edges turn golden brown.

I punched the ingredients into a nutritional value calculator and each cookie was around 85 calories, 4 grams of fat and 1 gram of protein. Next time, I am going to try substituting applesauce with the butter. I'll update this post when I do that and let you know how it turns out. And, now to jump of the attempting to be healthier train...

The original recipe has these cookies topped with a brown butter frosting. Super hard for me to resist, I made a little batch just because I had to try it out, by using the following ingredients.

1/4 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tablespoon milk
cinnamon, for garnish if desired

Brown the butter in a saucepan, on medium heat. Be super careful because you can very easily burn the butter, which I can promise you will be nasty. For tips and photos on browning the butter, check out this post. Once your butter is amber colored, pour it into a bowl and add the powdered sugar. Add milk to get desired consistency. Frost the cookies when warm and sprinkle a little cinnamon on top if you would like.

I didn't frost most of them because I think they are so tasty as they are and I need to eat healthier, but feel free to spice them up if you wish! Oh, and try not to eat a fourth of the batter raw.

This post is linked up to some of the parties listed under my Show & Tell tab at the top of the page.

Monday, May 21, 2012

DIY Five Strand Braided Headbands

I thinned out my closet and had a number of old t-shirts I no longer wore, but thought they might work well for a project I pinned. It's super easy and fun to make use of old t-shirts I would have otherwise had to toss as they weren't even fit for a goodwill run.

If you've never done a 5 strand braid, the original post I pinned and used to make these headbands has a great photo how-to. It takes a little bit of practice, but once you get the hang of it, you might become addicted. I have made 4 headbands and am pretty sure I will be making some friendship bracelets for old time's sake using this new way to braid.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Portland Photo Tour: Skylines & Bridges at Night

So, as if I haven't gushed about my love for Portland Photo Tours enough here and here, I'm back at it for one more time.

A couple Friday nights ago, Michelle and I attended the tour focused on shooting at night, which is something I have never been able to do. I even recalled a photo of my friend and I atop the Empire State Building at night. You'd never know we were on the observation deck of the skyscraper because the flash lit us up...and that was all. Us against a black background. I bet I have taken dozens more similar shots since that one in New York City. I was using a disposable camera on that 8th grade trip, so it's not like I had much other choice in how to shoot but whatever. I was ready to learn how to take pictures at night!

Our landscape was one of my favorite parts of Portland - the bridges! Well, mostly the Hawthorne Bridge with a few of the Morrison Bridge. As usual, Jennifer made everything so easy to understand.

We started out before it became dark and focused on exposing for the skyline, not the sky. Then, we got to try out Jennifer's graduated neutral density filter to adjust the exposure of the sky. I want to get one of those. None of these photos have been altered in photoshop with the exception of adding the text.

I have never worked with such slow shutter speeds and I just loved some of the shots we were able to capture. Notice how I say we. This is because I forgot my tripod, so Michelle and I shared hers, which meant sharing the camera, too. All the photos you see here were taken by me or Michelle and are known as our Collaborated Collection. I just love love love the light reflections in the water.

After shooting the skyline, we learned how to take portraits at night so that the background isn't black and the person has a bright white light flashed upon her. No more night time photos of people against a black background.

Finally, we learned and practiced using slow shutter speeds on the bridge as traffic drove by, blurring the red tail lights. I'm ready to take pictures of taxis flying by in Times Square, or any other city really.

I was so giddy after this tour and had to show off our pictures to multiple people. Michelle and I already have plans to take more bridgescapes at night and practice. I feel like I have been informed on an entirely new world of what my camera can do.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Portland Photo Tour: Fundamentals of Photojournalism

For my birthday last September, my mom gave me the gift of a Portland Photo Safari. Not only did she give me one, but Michelle too! The safari was created and lead by Jennifer Costello, a seasoned professional photographer. I absolutely loved it. I learned a lot and Jennifer is awesome. She is really good at explaining things in a way you will remember, plus we were learning and doing at the same time. We took the general F-Stops & Shutter Speeds class. You can learn more and see some of my photos from that class here.

A few months ago, we saw her photo tour come up on Groupon again, so we jumped at the chance to get another one of her classes under our belts. In fact, I love her tours so much, I bought two because I couldn't decide between the newer tours she has to offer. She has changed the name of her classes from safaris to tours and added a load of new topics her tours revolve around.

A few Sundays ago, Michelle and I took her Fundamentals of Photojournalism tour that takes place at Portland Saturday Market. I am very interested in improving my photojournalism skills and love Portland's Saturday Market, so it was a no-brainer.

Jennifer did a quick review of the basics and talked about how people think of photojournalism being that one epic TIME magazine cover shot of the year, however, that isn't even necessarily realistic, even for professional photographers. She talked about capturing 3 elements of your environment to tell the story through photos: big picture or macro level, portrait and detail or micro shots. My favorite and ones I find most interesting, as well as easier to capture are the detail shots. Here's my attempt (without any photoshop correction) using the balloon maker street artist man.

I don't feel like I capture people very well. But I'm trying. Here's one another series of a hula hooper street performer.

Finally, here is a man at his booth, shaping clay into personalized gnomes. Wouldn't you like to be made into a garden gnome?

I feel that I need to work on the big picture shots, capturing the environment of what is going on. I need to work on making sure I have a distinct subject, as well as making sure the shot isn't too busy. Here are a couple last photos I liked from booths at Portland Saturday Market.

You can see all of Michelle's shots here, here and here. Next, I will post my sweet shots from the Night Photography - Skyline & Bridges tour. I am giddy about how much I learned on that tour!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Peanut Buttery Chocolatey Goodness Bars

A few Sundays ago was one of those days where I needed to bake something. After being in Hawaii for a week (which was fabulous) and pinning to my heart's content at the beach, I was itching to bake something I had drooled over. While scrapbooking and watching Friends in sweats for a large part of my Sunday, I was not up to drive into town for any ingredients I did not have on hand - hence, deciding on this recipe for Peanut Buttery Chocolatey Goodness Bars.

I originally found these on pinterest, however the link lead me to where else, but my favorite food blogger, Christy aka The Girl Who Ate Everything. I shamelessly and repeatedly share the recipes she posts because she seriously only posts the best of the best.
Here we go.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars
by Greta White via The Girl Who Ate Everything

1 (18.25oz) package plain yellow cake mix
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 eggs
1 (12 oz) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup coconut (optional - I sprinkled some onto half of the pan)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Add the cake mix, melted butter, peanut butter and eggs into a bowl and mix together. It will be more cookie dough like than cake batter. 
Reserve about 1 1/2 cups of the mixture for crumbling on the top. Press the remaining mixture into a 9x13 pan.

Melt the chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk and butter together. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and coconut (if you choose). Pour this mixture across the top of the peanut butter mixture in your pan, spreading it around evenly. 

Crumble the 1 1/2 cups of reserved peanut butter mixture across the top of the chocolate.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool completely (30+ minutes, longer is better) before cutting into bars.

These are super duper rich and super duper not considered a health food. You have been warned.

This post was originally a guest post for The Crafty Scientist. If you haven't, go check out Mel's awesome blog. Thanks a million for having me, Mel! Congrats on rocking your dissertation. I don't know how you do it all!

This post is linked up to some of the parties listed under my Show & Tell tab at the top of the page.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Crafty Scientist Guest Post

Hi! So happy you stopped by. Want a bite? Better go check it out.

Today, I am guest posting over at The Crafty Scientist and sharing the recipe for the rich Peanut Buttery Chocolatey Goodness Bars you are drooling over from the picture above. So, the only logical thing to do right now would be to head over to the lab for the details. Oh, and yesterday, Mel posted my crafty interview, if you're interested in learning a thing or two about moi.

Big thanks to Mel for having me as a guest blogger!

Bacon Sun Dried Tomato Grilled Cheese

I love love love loooooove sandwiches, especially grilled sandwiches, so when the Mom's Crazy Cooking Challenge for May was announced: grilled cheese sandwiches, I was so excited. I can't wait to see all the recipes linked up and try some out myself. I found this recipe from Galley Kitchen and knew I had to try it out for two reasons.

1. Bacon - We have had a long standing affair since I was little.My dad introduced us. Bacon always wins and makes everything better. Try and convince me otherwise.

2. Sun Dried Tomatoes - Similar to bacon, when looking at a menu, as soon as I read something has sun dried tomatoes in it, I'm sold. Done. Costco sized jar love.

So, here we go.

Before I share the simple ingredients (I'm sure you can guess) needed for this tasty sandwich, I have to share the hilarious description Suzzana (of Galley Kitchen) used to describe her sandwich:
It tasted like a bright, fresh caprese salad got loaded on tequila and cheese fries, and woke up in a strange apartment, unsure of just who was posting true confessions on her Facebook wall all night long. It was delicious, and a little embarrassing.
 How could you not try this out?

2 slices bread, your choice
cheese, however much your little heart desires
sun dried tomatoes, again, to your preference
1/2 teaspoon garlic, roasted
1 Tablespoon butter

Now you're ready to rock and roll. It's quick and easy.

Cook your bacon to preferred crispy-ness. Butter two slices of bread on the outside.

Roast garlic on your stove top, or in your oven like Suzzana did. Then, spread across one slice (opposite the butter side) of your bread. [As I'm writing this, I just thought how yummy it would be to mash up a little avocado onto the bread, too. Next time!]

Add your cheese, layering your slices of bacon and sun dried tomatoes, as desired.

Grill it up til cheese melts and the bread is a nice golden color on the outside.

I love the cheese oozing out the side. Mmmmm.

Serve warm with a cup of soup always seems to be such a good combination. Or a side of extra bacon, as was my case.

Scroll down for all the rest of the Crazy Cooking Challenge participants' grilled cheese sandwiches!

This post is linked up to some of the parties listed under my Show & Tell tab at the top of the page.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Salted Caramel Banana Muffins

Salted caramel anything, I'll eat it. My favorite drink at Starbucks is a salted caramel hot chocolate. I love salted caramel chocolate. I would try salted caramel cockroaches. Okay, maybe not quite cockroaches. But, salted caramel gets me almost every time, which is why I just had to make these salted caramel banana muffins I pinned after my Grammy gave me some bananas gone brown.

I'll cut to the chase.

Salted Caramel Banana Muffins 12 muffins
from Add A Pinch
2 cups flour (I used all-purpose)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 bananas, overly ripe
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup walnuts (optional)
5 ounces caramel candies
1 Tablespoon heavy cream
sea salt, sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 and prep muffin tin with liners or lightly buttered.

Sift dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt) into a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, cream bananas and sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time until creamy. Then, add melted butter, mixing until well combined. Finally, add vanilla.

Add dry ingredients in slowly, until just combined. Add walnuts if desired. Be very careful not to over mix or your muffins will be dry.

Divide batter among muffin cups. I filled my muffins cups nearly full because that was how much batter there was, which worked out perfectly because when you add the caramel on top, they do not rise very much.

Prepare the caramel by melting the caramels and heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl, until caramels just begin to melt. Remove from microwave and stir until smooth. Add sprinkling of sea salt and stir.

Spoon 1 teaspoon or a little more onto the top center of each cup. It's okay if it doesn't stay perfectly in the middle. The original recipe says to make a little indentation with the back of the spoon in the center of each cup to fill with caramel. I think my batter was a little thinner than hers because it wouldn't hold the indentations. Turns out, it doesn't matter because it works just fine to make a blob on top of the batter.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven  and allow to cool for at least 3 minutes before removing from pan. Make sure you wait longer than you think before biting into one of these as the caramel in the middle can burn your tongue. Or lip. Or roof of mouth. Not that I have had that experience or anything like that.

The caramel glazes over the top as you can see above, and then forms this wonderful little pocket in the middle of the muffin. Mmmmm mmm.

Oh salted caramel, you are so right. My super talented friend Michelle shares my affinity for salted caramel. In fact, neither of us being coffee people - gasp! I know - she is the one who turned me on to the salted caramel hot chocolates from Starbucks. She has a couple delicious salted caramel recipes on her blog you'll want to try if you love salted caramel like us: Salted Caramel Popcorn or Salted Caramel Chocolate Pie or Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies. Those recipes are probably more reliable than my silly attempt at Salted Caramel Fudge this past winter. Oye.

I sure hope it's not too long until we meet again salted caramel...

This post is linked up to some of the parties listed under my Show & Tell tab at the top of the page.
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