The Quotable Kitchen

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes

“Cupcakes make people happy.” – Author Unknown

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The more I bake cupcakes, the more I realize how much I LOVE baking cupcakes! Even more so than cookies, brownies or cakes. Cupcakes are my favorite. There are endless flavor combinations, and they can be as simple or as fancy & decorated as you want. I have my go-to recipes all set, but I still like to try new flavors, especially when celebrating a birthday.

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For my sister’s birthday, she requested “anything with the flavors salted caramel, chocolate and sea salt.” I immediately thought of baking a cupcake incorporating all these delicious flavors and began my research to find the perfect recipe. My sister and I have very similar tastes when it comes to dessert and I knew these would be a hit.

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This recipe includes a homemade vanilla bean salted caramel sauce that is used to fill the cupcakes. I have to say hands down, it’s the best sauce I’ve ever made. I had leftover sauce and drizzled it over some fudge brownies I made for Valentine’s Day – they were delicious!

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Making caramel from scratch can seem intimidating, but it really is worth the effort. I started a blog in hopes of being more motivated to experiment in the kitchen and try new things. I myself, am still learning the process but making caramel takes patience, and of course, lots of practice. I’m sure it will probably take me a couple more tries to get the technique down but this sauce is my motivation! It’s creamy and delicious, full of vanilla flavor and just a hint of sea salt.

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I used a cupcake corer I bought from King Arthur Flour to remove the center from the cupcakes, but you can easily use a spoon. I used this technique before when I made Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino Cupcakes.

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Once you fill the cupcakes with the caramel sauce, simply pop the tops back on and then get ready to decorate with some chocolate ganache frosting. At this point, you could also just eat the tops. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t do that for a few of these cupcakes. Even though I’ve made this recipe before, I had to, you know, taste the recipe to make sure it was right…

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This chocolate ganache frosting couldn’t be easier to make – it’s only five ingredients! I’ve made this frosting before and used it as a glaze, but you can also let the frosting cool so that it can be piped on top of cupcakes. I used the Wilton 1M swirl to decorate the cupcakes.

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So just to recap: here we have a dark chocolate cupcake, filled with vanilla bean salted caramel sauce, topped with a chocolate ganache frosting AND sprinkled with sea salt. Perfection in a cupcake, if I do say so myself…

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AND just when I thought I couldn’t possibly pack any more flavor into these cupcakes…my mom came home from the grocery store with individual salted caramel chocolates. Naturally, they had to be placed on top of the cupcakes for the final “wow” factor. Happy Birthday to my awesome sister! Time to eat some cupcakes…

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes

By Chef Kel, February 26, 2014

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes

Cupcakes adapted from King Arthur Flour & She Makes and Bakes. Caramel Sauce adapted from She Makes & Bakes, Original Source: David Lebovitz

Ingredients::

Instructions:

FOR THE CUPCAKES:
  • Preheat oven to 350° and line muffin tins with paper liners.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients (through the salt).
  • Make a well in the center and add in the eggs, oil, and vanilla; beating with a hand mixer until smooth.
  • Gradually add the water into mixture, beating until smooth.
  • Pour batter evenly into prepared muffin tins (about 3/4 full).
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
  • Let the cupcakes cool in pan for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare the frosting: In a small saucepan, mix together the heavy cream, sugar and corn syrup with a whisk. Heat over medium-high heat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is hot. Place the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and pour the heavy cream mixture over the chocolate. Let it sit for about two minutes, giving the chocolate time to melt. Stir the chocolate with a whisk, add the butter and stir until melted. Let the frosting sit for about 10-20 minutes, stirring once in a while. The ganache will firm as it cools. If it hardens too much, simply reheat the mixture in the microwave until it's spreadable.
  • Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, use a cupcake corer or spoon to scoop out the inside of the cupcake. Set the tops of the cupcake aside and the cupcakes with caramel sauce. Place the tops back on (or, in all reality, you could eat them because you'll be piping the frosting over top).
  • Once the ganache frosting has cooled to desired consistency, frost the cupcakes or pipe them and sprinkle with sea salt.

Mixed Berry Blast Smoothie

“Ice is most welcome in a cold drink on a hot day. But in the heart of winter, you want a warm hot mug with your favorite soothing brew to keep the chill away.” – Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

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There is snow on the ground, icicles hanging outside my house, salt covered sidewalks, and mugs of hot chocolate being enjoyed daily: winter is most certainly upon us.  That being said – when I walk in the door covered in snow the last thing my chilled hands reach for is something cold. However, I have to remind myself of the goals I’ve set and the healthy habits I want to include in my daily life, regardless of the season.

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Smoothies help me maintain a healthy lifestyle and are a great grab-and-go option for breakfast. I’m still drinking smoothies, but not as often as I used to when the weather was warm. Lately I’ve been drinking smoothies after I work out at home because my body is already warm and smoothies are a healthy way to re-fuel. This smoothie is very high in vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin B6. Translation? This smoothie is full of antioxidants and contains vitamins that support brain health, vision, and a healthy immune system. All of those health benefits in one glass? That’s definitely enough motivation for me to drink up!

Mixed Berry Blast Smoothie

By Chef Kel, February 17, 2014

Mixed Berry Blast Smoothie

Adapted from, Nutribullet Recipe Book

Ingredients::

Instructions:

  •  Pour all ingredients into a blender and mix until combined, adding more water to reach desired consistency.
NUTRITION FACTS (from myfitnesspal): CALORIES 225, FAT 1g (SAT. 0.1g, POLY. 0.1g), PROTEIN 2.1g, CHOLESTEROL 0mg, SODIUM 1.4mg, CARBOHYDRATES 55.1g, FIBER 8.6g, SUGARS 36.5g.

Valentine’s Day Hearts (Soft Sugar Cookie Tutorial)

“Cookies are made of butter and love.”  -Norwegian Proverb

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There are some recipes that I try once and instantly know that they will be in my “go-to” recipe book for quite some time. This was definitely the case with this sugar cookie recipe. I made it once and fell in love with it! I remember when I first baked these cookies I was so happy to find such a great recipe that produces soft and buttery sugar cookies. When I shared the cookies with my family, they all felt the same way and I knew I’d be making these more than once.

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I’ve made this sugar cookie recipe enough times that I thought it would be appropriate (and fun!) to do a quick tutorial on my method for making perfect soft sugar cookies. For starters – it’s always a good idea to line up the ingredients ahead of time. I can’t count how many times I’ve been in the middle of preparing a recipe only to discover that I’m completely out of eggs, vanilla, sugar etc…so it’s just a quick tip to make the process as simple as possible.

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To start: in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt until combined, then set aside. Next, with a hand mixer on medium speed, beat together the butter, powdered sugar and granulated sugar for about 30 seconds until mixture is light and fluffy. The powdered sugar is the secret to making these cookies so soft – probably my favorite kitchen trick I’ve learned so far.

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Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined. Then slowly add the flour mixture, and beat just until the dough comes together – it will be sticky.

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Divide the cookie dough in half, and shape/pat the dough down into disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least 2 hours).

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Preheat oven to 325°F and once the dough is firm, remove from the refrigerator. Prepare a flat surface for rolling out the dough and cutting with cookie cutters. Sprinkle flour over a clean work surface (I’m obsessed with my new rolling mat from KAF!) Alternatively, I’ve also used silicone baking mats.

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Roll dough to about 1/4 inch thick and cut into desired shapes with cutters. You want to work quickly enough so the dough remains chilled. If the dough gets too soft you can put it back into the refrigerator to firm up but this usually isn’t necessary.

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There’s a few different ways to ensure perfectly shaped cookies. I don’t necessarily use the same method each time – it just depends on what I’m working with on that particular day.

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The method I use most often is to cut the dough into shapes, and then lift the dough away from the cut out cookies. This dough is thick enough so that you can pull it up after cutting shapes with the cookies.

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I recently started using silicone baking mats (again, obsessed!) and it makes this process easier. All you have to do is place a silicone mat on a baking sheet, then you can roll out & cut cookies on the mat, lift up the excess dough, and pop the cookies in the oven right then & there.

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  The last step is to bake the cookies in a preheated oven for about 12 minutes. You want to bake the cookies only just until they begin to brown on the bottom. I never bake the cookies for more than 12 minutes and if I’m using a smaller cookie cutter the baking time is usually 8-10 minutes, depending on size. Remove the cookies from the baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool completely, then decorate! I always use this royal icing recipe for my cookies.

Note: Whenever I use a medium sized cookie cutter (like one of the hearts pictured above) I’m usually able to bake about 50 cookies, but it all depends on the size and shape of the cookie cutter being used.

Valentine’s Day Hearts (Soft Sugar Cookie Tutorial)

By Chef Kel, February 13, 2014

Valentine’s Day Hearts (Soft Sugar Cookie Tutorial)

Adapted from, The Food Network

Ingredients::

Instructions:

  • Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Beat butter and both sugars in another medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 30 seconds. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Slowly add flour mixture, and beat just until dough comes together. Divide dough in half, pat into disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least 2 hours).
  • Preheat oven to 325°F and sprinkle flour over a clean work surface. Roll dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes with cutters, working quickly enough so dough remains chilled. If the dough gets too soft you can put it back into the refrigerator.
  • Bake cookies in oven until bottoms are golden, approximately 12 to 14 minutes depending on the shape of cookies. Cool until firm enough to transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Decorate as desired!

Personalized Baked Oatmeal Cups

“Never work before breakfast; if you have to work before breakfast, eat your breakfast first.” – Josh Billings

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I’m not the type of person to skip breakfast – ever. Regardless of the occasion, if I’m late or just in a hurry I always make sure to grab something before heading out the door. Part of the reason I don’t skip breakfast is habit and also because  I know myself well enough to recognize that I am not at my best when I haven’t eaten, especially in the morning.

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I’m definitely a creature of habit when it comes to what I eat for breakfast, but once in a while I get tired of eating the same things, especially during the week when more often than not I grab a piece of fruit and granola bar and head out the door. That being said – I’m always on the lookout for new breakfast recipes to try that are fast, filling, and easy to take with me to work.

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When I saw this recipe I was instantly drawn to it for a number of reasons. Oatmeal is a great healthy option for breakfast. It fills you up and keeps you full because it contains a high fiber content. That being said – I don’t eat it as often as I want to because I never thought of it as a quick breakfast option. I have purchased oatmeal to-go cups from the grocery store but I tried them once and they just didn’t do it for me.

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This recipe is completely customizable and you can change around the toppings to please all members of your family. I created four flavors: blueberry coconut, dark chocolate & walnut, apricot cashew and maple raisin. There’s something for everyone and you can really get creative thinking up new flavors.

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I’m a fan of any recipe that contains dark chocolate. Let’s be honest – that was really the selling point for me. Dark chocolate for breakfast? Sold.

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This recipe comes together so quickly. It requires minimal effort and it’s ideal to make Sunday night so that you can have a healthy breakfast option to eat throughout the week. Another great aspect of this recipe is that you can freeze these ahead of time to eat later. To reheat: either thaw in the refrigerator overnight or pop them in the microwave for 30 seconds in the morning.

Personalized Baked Oatmeal Cups

By Chef Kel, February 4, 2014

Personalized Baked Oatmeal Cups

Adapted from, Cooking With Trader Joe's

Ingredients::

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350° and line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Spray the liners with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a small bowl, combine the mashed banana, applesauce, egg, honey, milk and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the baking powder, cinnamon, flaxseed, salt, and rolled oats.
  • Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until combined.
  • Pour batter into prepared muffin cups and top with desired toppings (the batter will be thin but you can fill to the top of each muffin cup). Top with 1 teaspoon chopped walnuts and 1 teaspoon dark chocolate chunks. One teaspoon each of unsweetened shredded coconut and blueberries (fresh or frozen). One tablespoon of chopped dried apricots and 1 teaspoon chopped cashews. Or 1 teaspoon maple syrup and one teaspoon dried raisins.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let rest for five minutes before removing from pan. Cool on wire rack and enjoy hot or cold.
NUTRITION FACTS:
  1. Plain baked oatmeal cups: CALORIES 110, FAT 2.2g (SAT 0.7g, POLY 0.3g, MONO 0.1g), PROTEIN 4.1g, CARBOHYDRATES 19.8g, FIBER 2.1g, SUGARS 9g, CHOLESTEROL 21mg, SODIUM 239.7mg.
  2. Dark Chocolate & Walnut: CALORIES 150, FAT 5.9g (SAT 2.2g, POLY 0.3, MONO o.3), PROTEIN 4.8g, CARBOHYDRATES 22.8g, FIBER 2.9g, SUGARS 10.7g, CHOLESTEROL 21mg, SODIUM 239.7 mg.
  3. Blueberry Coconut: CALORIES 123, FAT 3.3g (SAT 1.7g, POLY 0.3g, MONO 0.1g), PROTEIN 4.2g, CARBOHYDRATES 20.7g, FIBER 2.4g, SUGARS 9.4g, CHOLESTEROL 21mg, SODIUM 240.3mg.
  4. Apricot Cashew: CALORIES 141, FAT 3.4g (SAT 1g, POLY 0.3g, MONO 0.1g), PROTEIN 4.8g, CARBOHYDRATES 24.8g, FIBER 2.7g, SUGARS 12.8g, CHOLESTEROL 21mg, SODIUM 246.4mg.
  5. Maple Raisin: CALORIES 136, FAT 2.2g (SAT 0.7, POLY 0.3, MONO 0.1), PROTEIN 4.2g, CARBOHYDRATES 26.8g, FIBER 2.2g, SUGARS 15.4g, CHOLESTEROL 21mg, SODIUM 239.7mg.

Peanut Butter Pupcakes

“The journey of life is sweeter when traveled with a dog.” – Author Unknown

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There are many things I do for my dog Marley that may seem out of the ordinary or a little silly…but being a dog owner I think it comes with the territory. I’ve always treated my pets as though they were part of the family, because they are. With a dog like Marley, who has his own unique personality, who has been with me through good times and bad, I think it’s only expected that he become part of our family traditions – including the celebrating of birthdays!

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I enjoy spending time in the kitchen baking Marley homemade dog treats, so naturally for his birthday I wanted to bake him something extra special. It wasn’t challenging to find some flavors he would like. As my mom so blatantly pointed out he occasionally eats from the trash so he’s clearly not a picky eater. Nonetheless…I wanted to bake something with his favorite flavors and peanut butter was at the top of the list. These peanut butter & banana pupcakes fit the bill. I  decorated them with peanut butter for the frosting and placed a homemade beef-flavored dog treat on top.

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I didn’t make much of an attempt to take a picture of him enjoying his pupcake. I know Marley well enough to know that he would gobble his treat down in less than 5 seconds, which is exactly what he did. That being the case – I think it’s safe to say he enjoyed it.    

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After polishing off a second pupcake, Marley finished the night by opening presents. This was probably my favorite part of the evening because he actually opens them with his paws – it’s hilarious!

Peanut Butter Pupcakes

By Chef Kel, January 24, 2014

Peanut Butter Pupcakes

Adapted from, Pet Coupon Savings

Ingredients::

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350° and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  • Combine all the ingredients and mix together with a hand mixer until smooth.
  • Scoop the batter into the prepared liners and bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Frost cupcakes with peanut butter (if desired).

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

 “We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.” -Ellen Goodman

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I’ve never been extremely excited about the idea of making New Years Resolutions…until I actually started following through on them. Last year on New Years Eve, while out to dinner with my family, we all discussed our resolutions. We wrote them down and vowed to make progress. I committed to running a consistent 10 minute mile, which I completed by February.

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I remember feeling surprised and confused. I remember saying to myself “it’s only February…now what?” So with that resolution reached, I decided it was on to the next -  because there is no rule that states you can only make resolutions on December 31st.  In April I came up with another goal for my boyfriend I to run five 5k races before the year was up (and we crossed our last finish line, sweating and smiling, in October). I think it’s just as important to set year-round goals as it is to set goals on New Year’s Eve. Writing down goals and sharing them with others is another way to be held accountable.

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This year I have a few ideas in mind, but overall I want to focus on improving a few aspects of my blog, de-cluttering my life in general, and running a faster mile time. But I’ll save the details for another post. Now it’s time to celebrate the last day of 2013, and in my opinion, there’s no better way to celebrate than with some delicious cupcakes.

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I’ve definitely had my fill of Christmas cookies and homemade apple pie slices the past week or so. However, I’m not entirely ready to say goodbye to desserts, thus the idea to bake cupcakes came to mind. Since it’s New Years Eve, instead of relying on my classic yellow cupcake recipe I wanted to break out the fancy vanilla bean flavor.

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It actually took me a little while to find a vanilla bean cupcake recipe that I was happy with. Some were too dry, too crumbly, not even flavorful….I was surprised it took me this long to find a perfect one that resulted in moist crumbs and a light and airy texture. These cupcakes taste delicious and have the added visual delight of vanilla beans swirled in both the cupcake and the frosting. Perfect for celebrating any occasion!

 

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

By Chef Kel, December 31, 2013

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

Adapted from, Buttercream Bakehouse. Original Source: Glorious Treats

Ingredients::

Instructions:

FOR THE CUPCAKES:
  • Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin tin with liners.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the eggs for 10-20 seconds. Add the sugar and continue to beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds.
  • Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise into two halves and scrape the pod halves to get the seeds. Add the seeds and oil to the bowl and mix until smooth.
  • Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add half of the flour mixture. Once combined, add the buttermilk and then the remaining half of the flour mixture. Scrap down sides of bowl as needed but do not overbeat, just mix until flour is combined. The batter will be thin.
  • Pour batter in muffin liners, filling each about 1/2 of the way full.
  • Bake cupcakes at 350°F  for 12-14 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and cupcakes are golden.
  • Cool in pan for 1 minutes, then remove cupcakes to a wire rack to finish cooling.
FOR THE FROSTING:
  • Beat the butter with a hand mixer on medium speed for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Beat in the sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until combined. Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise into two halves and scrape the pod halves to get the seeds. Add the seeds and mix until smooth. Add the half and half, one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached, adding more confectioners' sugar if necessary.
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