Tag Archives: brown sugar

Carmel Popcorn

Like Garrett’s popcorn, I went for a salty sweet mix with my popcorn, combining the cheese and carmel. Carmel corn turned out to be a bit more of a challenge than the cheese, but much tastier.

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup popping corn
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp. real maple syrup (optional)

Start by melting the coconut oil in a medium-sized pan at medium-high heat. When the solid becomes a liquid, toss in the popcorn kernels.

Again, a non-stick pan works best for making popcorn.

 

When the popping sound start to fade to approximately 5-10 seconds apart, pour the popcorn in a large paper bag and shake the bag around a bit to release any excess oil. I used the bags they give you at the grocery store.

Spread the popped popcorn out on either a roasting pan or 13″ x 9″ baking pan, basically something that has sides to hold everything in.  Set this aside.

In a medium-sized saucepan (you’ll want a larger pan because the carmel foams up when it cooks) begin melting the butter.  Stir in the salt, brown sugar, corn syrup, baking soda and maple syrup (use only real maple sugar, not Aunt Jemima’s). Keep stirring until everything is thoroughly combined, then place the candy thermometer on the side of the pan. 

You want it sitting in the liquid without allowing it to touch the bottom.  Let this heat, without stirring, until the thermometer reads 235 degrees Farenheit or the soft ball stage. 

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 250 degrees Farenheit.

Immediately pour your carmel sauce over the popcorn, attempting to cover it all (you will have a chance to cover everything as it cooks in the oven). 

Place the popcorn in the oven for an hour, intermittently flipping over the popcorn with a spatula every 10-15 minutes until all of the remaining carmel sauce on the bottom of the pan is coating the popcorn.  I took my spatula, scraped the bottom, then flipped the sticky mess of carmel back over the popcorn.

When the popcorn seems complete, immediately set the popcorn onto a cookie cooling rack, separating the large clumps as you go. If you wait too long, the carmel will start to harden, causing the popcorn to stick fast to your pan.  If this happens, just toss the pan back into the oven for 5 minutes and try again.

If you are combining the cheese and carmel popcorn, toss them together in a large container or another paper bag and shake until they disperse evenly. 

The carmel popcorn will last in your household for a week or two.  It has a sticky quality, but melts in your mouth unlike the store-bought kind.  The more carmel sauce the better, in my opinion, coat the pieces until they’re dripping.  The best part of making it from scratch is, if you aren’t like me, and like your carmel sauce lightly sprinkled on top of the popcorn, you can create it to your preference. 

Mixing both the carmel and cheese popcorn allowed for a salty sweet mix most people enjoy (think pretzel M & M’s or trail mix). The added cayenne really spiced up the mix, and was almost impossible to stop eating without having someone else pull the treat right out from your hands.  I chose to mix the two together in the bag I mixed the cheese popcorn in, then some of the remaining seasoning stuck to the carmel. Delicious. It was also a great substitute to passing out cookies or chocolate for Christmas.

 

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Filed under Food, Gluten-Free, Snacks

Spice Cake Drenched in Cream Cheese Frosting

I obtained this recipe, after suffering its wonderous, moist, frosted phenomenon, from old family friends.  They deserve credit for this amazing cake I continue to make at least once a year. It’s perfect for that rich, Christmas or Thanksgiving dessert you were assigned to bring to the party.

For the cake:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream (cream cheese substitution is okay)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 heaping tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 heaping tsp. cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 heaping tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 eggs

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 1 package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 Tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 cups powdered sugar

Start by preheating the oven to 300 degrees Farenheit.  Grease and flour either a 13″ x 9″, 2 round cake pans, or a bundt cake pan (these would also make excellent cupcakes). 

Beat all ingredients with a hand mixer on low for 30 seconds.image  Beat for a remaining 3 minutes on high.image

Pour batter into your pan.  imageBake for approximately 40-45 minutes for a rectangular pan or 30-35 minutes for the round pans or bundt cake.  When a toothpick comes out of the center clean, the cake is finished cooking.

While the cake is cooling, whip up the frosting.image In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, milk and vanilla together on low-speed with a hand mixer until smooth. image In doses of about one cup, add in the powdered sugar. image Cream together until frosting is smooth and spreadable. image

Spread cream cheese frosting over cake. Enjoy.image

I doubted the fridge’s holding of unexpired sour cream, and used cream cheese in the cake instead only to find out the next day we had not one, but TWO fresh cartons of sour cream. Whoops. The only difference I noticed was the dense cake was less moist than its sour cream compromised counter-part.  It was still enticing, then again, what, covered in cream cheese frosting, wouldn’t be?

I made a mini sampler size for taste testing, just in case the cake didn’t turn out using cream cheese inside the cake. Andrew refused to touch it, so I gave it to my mom and Dave first. They all agreed it was well-prepared and delectable, despite my impatience for both the trip to the store to buy sour cream and to allow the oven to fully heat up to 300 degrees Farenheit.

The spices remind me of sipping on a gingerbread latte from Starbucks, or slurping up some Pumpkin Black Bean Soup (minus the cayenne), not to mention it makes the whole house smell like a lit Yankee Candle.  Each bite is dribbled in luscious cream-colored gobs of icing.

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Filed under Dessert, Food

Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

This is a great treat to wake up to or snack on at lunch.  It can get your kids and husbands to eat their vegetables without even knowing it.  I decided to make this when my boss gave us all club sized zucchini’s from her garden.  I didn’t even use half of the zucchini with two batches of this bread.  That’s some healthy soil right there.image

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1/2 cup Diet Coke
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded zucchini (not packed)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Farenheit.

In a bowl, mix together your dry ingredients: flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate chips.  The whole wheat flour is an acquired taste, so if you prefer, use white. I used mini semi-sweet chocolate chips to accentuate the mini bread loaves I ended up with.image

In another bowl, whisk together the egg, vanilla extract, butter, Diet Coke, milk and zucchini.  The recipe I found on skinnytaste.com reccommended apple sauce, which would make this bread much sweeter and super moist, but we didn’t have any in the cabinet or fridge.  I took Caroline’s earlier suggestion of Diet Coke in cake batter in place of the wet ingredients.  I minimized the wet ingredients, but added milk for a thicker, heartier dough.  You can also grate the zucchini directly into the dry ingredients bowl, as it will sit directly on top instead of sinking to the bottom of the wet ingredient bowl so you can see how much you have grated.  I used a simple hand cheese grater, which was perfect for the huge size of the zucchini.
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Combine your wet ingredient bowl into the dry ingredient bowl and stir until just mixed.  You will see the beautiful green of the zucchini radiating against the dark chocolate chips.  Scrumptious.

Crisco/butter either a 9″ x 5″  bread loaf pan or for my second batch I used 4 mini aluminum loaf pans for an individual touch I could give away at work.  These come with cute plastic covers, but will need a lot of attention with the Crisco/butter in each crease. 
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Pour the batter in your pan.

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Bake for 50-60 minutes at 325 degrees Farenheit. image
If you are using the mini pans, cook for approximately 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
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The zucchini adds a nice texture to the bread, but the taste really comes from the chocolate chips, wheat flour and brown sugar.  I personally didn’t notice a difference in taste when using Diet Coke in place of the “wet ingredients” but in the future will use apple sauce for bread as it will add more moisture.  The Diet Coke would be great in a box cake mix in place of the eggs, oil and water. The wheat flour adds a healthy flavor and slight grain texture that may or may not put you off, so as mentioned, white flour will suffice.   Like my boss did, your husband and kids may ask you if there is really zucchini in the bread.

Add a little butter to your warm slice of bread for moisture, or eat directly from the pan. Either way this chocolatey, thick and flavorful bread is quite appetizing.

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Filed under Breakfast, Food

Blueberry Streusel Cake

This easy to make recipe will have your co-workers begging for more.

For the cake you will need:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 cup blueberries or blackberries or any other berry

For the topping you will need:

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon

Start by preheating the oven to 375 degrees Farenheit and grease an 8×8 baking pan.  It only takes about 10-15 minutes to throw the ingredients to be cooked together, just enough time to get the oven nice and hot.
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In a mixing bowl, combine your dry ingredients for the cake: flour, baking powder and salt.  In a separate bowl combine the wet ingredients: oil, egg, milk and brown sugar (okay this isn’t a wet ingredient, but it is heavy and when combined with the egg and oil will diffuse into a liquid).

Gradually combine the dry ingredients in with the wet ingredients adding in a tablespoon of cinnamon.  I used a fork to get a gentle whipped texture keeping the cake nice and light.  The cinnamon will incorporate with the sugar creating a sweet spice.  Stir until everything is blended.

Carefully fold in the berries to you mix.  If you are too rough, the berries will break open staining your cake.  My mom likes to freeze berries when they are cheap and in season in individual sized glad freezer wrap.  These turned out excellent for the cake because they are solid enough to not break open, but still fresh.  Pour your mixture into the 8 x 8 pan making sure it evens out and set aside. image

In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients: flour, sugar and cinnamon.  Add in the softened butter and mix until they are equally incorporated and form into small crumbles.  You really want softened butter and not melted to get the correct form and texture of the topping.  Sprinkle the sugary morsels onto the top of your cake mix in the 8 x 8-inch baking pan and place in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour.  The cake will stop jiggling when lightly shaken from side to side when it’s ready. Stick a toothpick into the center. If it comes out clean, your cake is ready.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before cutting into the sweet morning treat.

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The cake holds the perfect amount of moisture so every bite holds together and melds into your taste buds.  The best part is the topping, so make sure to get some with every forkful.  It brings more of that sweet spice from the sugar and cinnamon into the cake and when you get some with a berry, your taste palate is complete.

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Filed under Breakfast, Food

Spicy Soba Noodles with Shiitakes and Cabbage

Add a little asian to your cuisine this week.  I actually followed this recipe almost to the exact, and wow, was it good.  It is another Epicurious find courtesy of my cooking buddy, Tobi, who did all the prep work and some stirring.

To prepare the sauce combine 1/3 cup of water, 1/3 cup of soy sauce, 2 to 3 tsp. of Korean hot-pepper paste a.k.a. gochujang (or if you can’t find this like us, we added chili-garlic paste.  Similar to Sriracha and next to it in the aisle but chunkier and less sugar in the ingredients.) and 1 Tbsp. of packed brown sugar.  Stir until the sugar dissolves and set aside for later.

Next, in a dry heavy skillet (not non-stick) brown 3 Tbsp. of sesame seeds and set aside. Be wary. They will brown quickly if you preheat the pan.

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In a large skillet or, even better, a wok heat a 1/4 cup vegetable oil until it’s thoroughly hot and shimmers a little. Toss in 2 Tbsp. finely chopped and peeled ginger and 1 Tbsp. of finely chopped ginger.  When the spices start to become fragrant (30 seconds) add in 10 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced.  Cook these, stirring often, for 6 minutes, or until the shiitakes are tender and browned.  Then incorporate 1 1/4 pounds of Napa cabbage, thinly sliced, about 8 cups.  This will cook down a lot, so if it seems like a lot of cabbage, you have the right amount.  Also add in 6 scallions thinly sliced, reserving about a tablespoon for garnish.  Stirring to keep the vegetables from burning to the bottom, cook until the cabbage is moderately crispy, again about 6 minutes.  When the vegetables are completely cooked, add in the sauce you stirred together in the beginning and set aside.  For a little extra heat add in another tablespoon or two of the chili-garlic paste. Simmer for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

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While you are preparing the mushrooms and cabbage, in a pot boil together salted water and 8 to 9 ounces of soba (buckwheat) noodles (found in the international aisle) with 1 cup of frozen shelled edamame (easier as they are already shelled) or a cup of shelled sugar snap peas with a few of the pods thrown in for extra crunch in each bite.  Simmer until the noodles are tender and stick to the wall if tossed.  Drain in a colander and rinse under cool water to stop the noodles from overcooking and remove any excess starch.

Transfer the noodle mixture to a large bowl and toss with the vegetable mixture and most of the sesame seeds.  In individual bowls serve spattered with sesame seeds and scallions.

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The salty detail of the soy sauce mixed with the spicy chili-garlic, ginger, garlic, and a little sweet from the brown sugar authenticates this typical asian dish. The shiitake mushrooms add a little slime and are great for your cardiovascular health. The soba noodles alone look and taste a little like a rubber band, but mixed with the right seasoning these are a great even carb.  Another route would be whole wheat angel hair pasta.  If you choose sugar snap peas, they will add an additional sweet and crunch, but the edamame is less sweet and more like a lima bean. You can’t add the pods to these, but they are plumper and have a fuller crunch then a small pea.  As an overall course, this one will definitely excite your pallet.

 

 

 

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Filed under Food, Lunch/Dinner

Fruit Dip

This is my mom’s recipe, but for a non-fruit eater, it is pretty darn good.  For Easter she had me whip this up and we put it out with fresh strawberries and purple grapes.  To make this sweet treat, combine 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup of sour cream,  an 8 oz package of cream cheese, and 1-2 Tablespoons of real maple syrup (this perfects the dip).  Stir and chill until you are ready to eat.  I noticed that if I whip it up with the hand mixer it actually whips and gets all the lumps out as opposed to stirring with a spoon, but they are both efficient in getting the dip fabbed up.

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Any fruit thrown around a bowl full of this maple infused cream will have your foodies gobbling this up before you can even get a taste.  My mom occasionally improves her dish by having me cut white and cheddar cheeses up into little squares and washing grapes, strawberries, melon, pineapple or whatever else she finds in season and spearing these onto 6-inch skewers with the cheese sandwiched between two kinds of fruit.  Then people can just dip and plop the 3-pronged covered fresh fruit onto a plate and not feel guilty about double and triple dipping each piece back into the communal bowl (Major foul!).

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Filed under Appetizers, Breakfast, Food