dessert · kid-friendly · Recipes

Semi-Molten Chocolate Mini Cakes

So my 35th birthday was this past Sunday, and Mark gave me a relaxing agenda: spa mani-pedi, dinner, and general relaxation including (but not limited to) showering uninterrupted. Georgia, being three, had other plans. She did let me bathe alone for a grand total of 20 minutes, but upon realizing we weren’t having a kid-style party at our house to mark the occasion, she demanded — as only a preschooler can do — that we make a chocolate cake together, and stat. I neither enjoy chocolate cake nor had many staples handy, so we got creative and raided the pantry for whatever we could cobble together. Considering the constraints and the last minute nature of her request, the results were nothing short of amazing!

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Inspired by a recipe I’d filed away from Smitten Kitchen, these mini chocolate cakes were just the thing to satisfy Georgia’s desire to make a birthday treat with little notice and very few ingredients on hand. They are heavy on butter, chopped chocolate and a critically important dash of salt, and I simply love the personal-pan sized dessert that results. These offer the perfect mix of gooey middle and crusty top, collapsing just a bit on themselves right after coming out of the oven. You mix it all by hand in one bowl and then let the batter sit on the counter for half an hour while you relax play Magna-tiles, and when they come out of the oven after just 25 minutes, they have a crisp shell that provides exactly the right amount of resistance to your bite. Don’t resist completely! Give in to this semi-sweet indulgence.

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We enjoyed them outside in the yard as a mini-picnic, because why not?

Semi-Molten Chocolate Mini Cakes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 heaping cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, or bittersweet chocolate rough-chopped
  • 14 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of kosher or sea salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon whole wheat flour (all purpose is fine too)

DIRECTIONS

Place the chopped chocolate and chopped butter together into a large microwave-safe bowl. In 15-30 second intervals, heat then stir the two together until fully melted and blended.

Place on a cool surface and whisk in the sugar. Then whisk in the salt and each egg, adding them one at a time and mixing fully into the batter before adding the next one. Stir in the flour and mix gently until blended into a smooth batter.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place on the counter to stand and thicken at room temperature for half an hour.

Heat the oven to 325°F and coat a 12-cup muffin tin with baking spray (or use cupcake papers).

Fill each cup halfway with batter, then bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow the mini cakes to cool on a rack for up to 10 minutes before unmolding from the tin. The puffed-up tops will fall a bit as they cool, and this is normal! The cakes should be very fudge-y on the inside. Don’t leave them in the cupcake tin too long like I did the first time I made this, or it’ll be very hard to get them out. If you let them cool for 5-10 minutes and immediately pop them out of the tin, they should come right out.

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As noted in the original recipe, these can also be made with about 2 tablespoons less sugar if desired, to produce a more noticeably bittersweet cake. That is another great option. How else to embellish these? Some fresh whipped cream, maybe, or some raspberries. To craft a more nuanced flavor, I used a mixture of chocolate — some semi-sweet baking chips, as well as some stone-ground Taza Mexican chocolate — and it was really delicious. I like to keep some Taza discs on hand for use in various recipes. I’m not a chocolate freak by any means, but I love their slightly gritty texture and flavor selections like cinnamon, salted almond, coffee, guajillo chili and more.

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Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

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dessert · kid-friendly · Recipes

Strawberry Peach Nice Cream

You guys, it’s finally WARM IN BOSTON today! In the spirit of spring, Georgia and I broke out the blender this weekend to whip up some sweet-tart nice cream. All we needed was a bag of frozen berries and some yogurt to make this healthy, homemade treat. We had frozen peaches and strawberry yogurt on hand, so that’s what we used. We are pretty careful about the sugar content of the yogurt we buy, since Georgia eats most of it; if you do the same, you can keep the guilt factor in check here. At its most basic, “nice cream” consists of frozen bananas blended until smooth, but there are tons of variations and this one was perfect for solving our craving for rich strawberry ice cream on the cusp of summer.

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I got zero elegant pictures of this, mostly because we ate it all. But that’s a good thing, right? It was so delicious I didn’t even have time to photo style it? Yes??

Strawberry Peach ‘Nice Cream’

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of yogurt (I used organic strawberry yogurt from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 pound of frozen fruit (I used sliced peaches from Trader Joe’s)

Directions

In a high-speed blender like a Vitamix, add the yogurt then the berries. Turn the machine on and slowly increase the speed to high. Use the tamper to press the ingredients into the blades. In about one minute, the sound of the motor will change and four mounds of ice cream will form. Stop! If you over-mix the machine could overheat and cause the ice cream to melt.

This can be eaten immediately topped with fresh berries, or frozen in a plastic container for a couple of months. Enjoy!

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Want to try more flavors of nice cream? Try…

frozen bananas + peanut butter

frozen bananas + coconut milk

frozen pineapples or mangoes + banana + almond milk

acai berries (buy frozen packets @ Trader Joe’s) + almond milk + chocolate chips

frozen cherry + banana + vanilla almond milk

frozen banana + almond butter + almond milktopped with raspberries

frozen blueberries + vanilla Greek yogurt + graham cracker crumbled on top

…the combinations are endless!

Have a wonderful week and enjoy the nice weather.

dessert · Holidays · Recipes

Cinnamon Roll Apple Cake

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I’ve never been a big Valentine’s Day person, and Mark definitely isn’t into it. We went through the motions while we were dating, and I famously mailed him almost $100 worth of candy when we were in college and seeing each other long distance — only to discover he really doesn’t have a sweet tooth! Let’s just say I didn’t have much extra money back then, and nowadays it seems silly to buy gifts so soon after Christmas when what we really crave is more quality time together (and to stay on track with our college savings / home improvement goals!)  So, now we focus on having a festive time with Georgia, and my crafty side loves making valentines for her classmates and baking up some special treats for us to share as a family. I first made this dessert for a family party Thanksgiving weekend, and it travels well and feeds kids and adults alike. It’s very friendly for toddler/preschool aged assistants to help you with, too! Tiara not required but helpful.

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Cinnamon Apple Roll Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 packs of cinnamon roll dough with icing
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 granny smith apples, diced
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • Optional: Vanilla ice cream, for serving

DIRECTIONS

Preheat your oven to 375.

Cut the cinnamon roll dough into three even strips, then cut those strips into three pieces, making nine total per cinnamon roll. Set aside the icing.

In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla extract, stirring until smooth. Set aside.

In a pan over medium heat, combine the butter, apples, and brown sugar, cooking until the sugar starts to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Sprinkle the cinnamon roll dough pieces evenly in a 9×9 baking tray. Pour the egg mixture on top, followed by the apples. Drizzle the reserved icing on top.

Bake for 25–30 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with ice cream!

Our whole family has been battling the flu for a couple weeks now, and BOY am I sick of being sick. I haven’t been able to taste or smell anything for days and my head is so congested that my ears have been ringing non-stop. Is anyone else facing this where you live?? I can’t for the life of me figure out where we picked this up (maybe the plane?) but it just won’t go away, and it’s excruciating to write about food when I have no appetite or taste buds! In any case, I hope all of you are healthier than us, and staying warm if you’re in the path of today’s Nor’Easter. It’s just picking up where we live and definitely looks like a day to cuddle up on the couch with a movie and some treats. Happy Snow Day and have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

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dessert · Grow Your Own Way · Holidays · kid-friendly · Recipes

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Rhubarb is suddenly abundantly in season, and it’s just begging to be put into a pie or a berry crumble. But why fuss with a pie when you can make something so much easier and, in my opinion, more delicious? Crumble is fast, easy and lets you use that other bountiful fruit: strawberries. I got this recipe from a coworker a couple years ago, and it’s been a hit at every gathering I bring it to.

7a33792314df2ffe00b357f596735753I love how quirky, tart and yet versatile rhubarb is. We didn’t grow any in our garden this year, but a friend told me it’s actually pretty easy to cultivate, so we are going to plant some next year. Do you remember a few months back when I wrote that Mark didn’t want to plant any vegetables? Look how far we’ve come — not only do we have peppers, herbs, tomatoes and zucchini bursting right now, we’re planning on adding rhubarb next year! I’m so proud of him. Maybe I can convince him to do strawberries next year, too?

To make this crumble, start by rinsing and chopping 3 cups of strawberries and 3 cups of rhubarb. This is about one pound of rhubarb, or 4-5 stalks, and about 12 oz. of strawberries (the standard container size). If you’ve never bought rhubarb before — as Mark hadn’t when I sent him to the store for these ingredients — I always say they look like pink celery.

Once you’ve chopped the strawberries and rhubarb into bite-sized pieces, add the 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour and 1 cup of (white) sugar. Combine in a bowl and let them sit for half an hour so the juices draw out and blend.

In the meantime, you can make the topping. I like to do it over low heat on the stove, so the butter can melt in the pan and then you can add the oats and brown sugar and flour.

Once the mixture has come together, set aside off the burner and get ready to assemble your crumble. Preheat the oven to 375 and get out a 9×13 baking dish.

Top with the crumble mixture, spreading out evenly.

Bake for 45 minutes; it will be browned and bubbling. You can serve it warm or cool. I like to serve it warm with a bit of vanilla ice cream on the side!

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups each of strawberries and rhubarb
  • ½ C flour
  • 1 C Sugar

I let those sit together for 30 minutes after mixing. Meanwhile, make the topping.

Crumble topping:

  • 1 C each of butter (yes, that’s two sticks), brown sugar & rolled oats
  • 1 ½ C flour

DIRECTIONS

Spread the berry mixture in a glass 9×13 baking dish and top with the crumble. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Let cool and serve either warm or cool. I love it with ice cream! I have also used this recipe filling in a pie.

PS: Do you know the difference between cobbler, crumble and crisp?