April 30, 2014

Peanut Butter and Cocoa Pebbles Whoopie Pies

I... am not moving today.

Ugh, that's so not how I expected today's post to go. I thought I'd be all bubbling with excitement after closing at my attorney's office yesterday, doing the final walkthrough with my realtor, waiting for the seller's closing so I could finally have my house, promising you a virtual tour on Friday's Stuff and Things post.

Nope. I have to wait two more weeks. Silver lining? I had planned to take a week off so I could move and paint and do all the things I have to do while it's still empty. Now I'm taking off the week before Memorial Day, so I get an extra day on my vacation for free. Woohoo. -.-

I've decided I will bring some form of baked good to the closing, since apparently my house buying experience has not been typical (why am I not surprised?) and all my various peoples have been super helpful and patient with me, and I've yet to meet most of them in person. So yeah, that calls for cupcakes.
Or maybe whoopie pies, since whoopie pies are one of my favorite desserts of all time, and many New Jerseyans don't really know what a whoopie pie is. (Every time someone slaps some frosting between too cookies and calls it a whoopie pie, a little piece of me dies).

This is a pretty standard whoopie pie recipe: fluffy, dark chocolate cakes; marshmallow fluff filling. Add some Cocoa Pebbles and some peanut butter and I'm sold.
The cakes themselves are a little flat in the flavor department-- not bad by any means, but I don't usually go all shortening in my whoopie pies, and I could really taste that difference. But when combined with the filling, it's not something you really notice. And I took the filling up a notch by using White Chocolate Wonderful instead of regular peanut butter. It adds that extra note of flavor that I was missing in the cakes, and the light sweetness of the white chocolate contrasts really well with the dark chocolate cakes without taking over.

This is most definitely a solid whoopie pie recipe, great for introducing to people who think 2 cookies and some frosting are a real whoopie pie. Plus, Cocoa Pebbles and peanut butter? That totally makes it breakfast food.
Peanut Butter and Cocoa Pebbles Whoopie Pies
Yield: 18 whoopie pies

For the cakes:
2 cups all purpose flour
⅔ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup ground Cocoa Pebbles cereal
½ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
⅛ tsp. salt
1¼ buttermilk
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the filling:
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup creamy peanut butter (I used White Chocolate Wonderful)
½ cup Fluff (or other marshmallow creme)
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, and ground Cocoa Pebbles. In a separate bowl with an electric mixer, beat the shortening at medium speed for about 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking soda, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla. On low speed, gradually beat in the flour mixture.

Using a tablespoon or cookie scoop, drop tablespoons of the batter on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, about 2½ inches apart. Bake about 10 minutes, or until the edges are firm. Cool completely on wire racks.

For the filling: beat the butter, peanut butter, and marshmallow Fluff together until smooth. Gradually add in the powdered sugar and beat until well combined. Sandwich generously between two cooled cakes.

Recipe by Kristina Vanni
*Disclaimer: I was provided with free samples of Post Cocoa Pebbles Cereal so that I could feature this recipe. I received no other compensation for this post. All opinions are, as always, my own.*

April 23, 2014

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cocoa Pebbles Crunch Snickerdoodles

The closing date has changed. Agaaaaaaaaaaainnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.

*Cue banging of head on desk. Repeatedly.*

This time is because one of the sellers is in the hospital. Sooooo, I guess it's kind of selfish to be like totally frustrated and upset right now? So I'm kind of even more frustrated and upset than I would be normally? It's just the fifth time the closing date has changed, and I just don't want to be an adult anymore, okay? Being an adult is too hard. So if you need me, I'm just gonna take my cookie and juice box, curl up with my stuffed puppy, and watch Disney movies and superhero cartoons, okay?
Actually, make it a plate of cookies. These cookies. These Mexican Hot Chocolate Cocoa Pebbles Crunch Snickerdoodles. The name might seem unwieldy, but these suckers have the flavor to carry it. They can carry it from here to China if they had to.

When I was contacted about Post Foods' new line of Pebbles recipes by Kristina Vanni, this recipe was one of the first I knew I had to try, and I was not disappointed. Not at all. Because seriously, these are some of the best cookies I've ever made.

I love cinnamon cookies. I love chocolate cookies. I love Mexican hot chocolate. When you put it all together and roll it in some crunchy Cocoa Pebbles, some freaking fairy godmother stuff happens in your oven, and these cookies come out magical. They're the perfect snickerdoodle texture too: soft, but not cakey; firm, but not crispy. I didn't even screw around with the recipe much, which, as you guys know, is totally not normal for me. I just put some of the cinnamon and chili powder in the cookie dough itself, rather than just in the coating. And I'm totally happy with the results.
In the words of my little cousin CC, "This is a yummy cookie!" He also said it with a mouth full of cookie. He's two and a half.

But seriously, you guys, seriously, make these cookies. I'm in love with these cookies. I'm drooling just thinking about these cookies. Oh and also, make sure the Cocoa Pebbles are roughly crushed for rolling the cookies in, because that's the best.

Do it! Doitdoitdoitdoitdoitdoitdoitdoitdoitdoitdoit!
I'm gonna go home now and make more, okay? Since I don't have to move anytime soon or anything.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cocoa Pebbles Crunch Snickerdoodles
Yield: Approx. 3 dozen cookies*

For the cookies
2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup finely ground Cocoa Pebbles
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. chili powder
1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the coating
cup roughly ground Cocoa Pebbles
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
Small pinch chili powder

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, Cocoa Pebbles, cream of tartar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl with electric beaters, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until fluffy. Add the eggs and the vanilla one at a time, beating well between each addition. On low speed, gradually mix in the dry ingredients. Cover and chill 1-2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, mix together the coating ingredients. Roll the cookie dough into tablespoon-sized balls (a spring-loaded cookie scoop works well), and roll them in the coating mixture. Place the cookie dough balls minimum 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Use the bottom of a glass (dip in flour to prevent sticking) to flatten them slightly. Bake 10-12 minutes, until the edges are set. Allow to cool completely on wire racks.

*The original recipe has the yield at 52 cookies. My cookie scoop is larger than a tablespoon, so I get fewer cookies. But larger, so there is that.

Recipe adapted slightly from Kristina Vanni
*Disclaimer: I received free samples of Post Cocoa Pebbles Cereal so that I could feature this recipe. I receive no other compensation for this post. All opinions are always my own*

April 18, 2014

Stuff and Things 4/18/14

Life as I Know it
Did you guys know I'm really bad at helping with wedding planning? I mostly suggest ways to work storm troopers into the ceremony, and how the ring bearers should be dressed up as little secret service dudes, and that a dalek should be the officiant so he can go "OFFICIATE. OFFICIATE," and how zombies should totally attack mid-ceremony.

...I'm not helpful. I'm just trying to give them the awesomest wedding in the history of awesome, but nooooo.

Did you know the bestie's fiance nixed a video game themed wedding? He writes a video game blog. I was like, I could totally make that elegant. An orchestral version of the Mario theme playing as the wedding party walks down the aisle, some power-up cufflinks, and the centerpieces would be so much fun to design. But nooooo. He doesn't even want a theme. He wants a "wedding themed wedding." I told the bestie she should could totally do some meta-theming with that. She didn't find that helpful.

Other than that, not much to report. Closing date has been moved up a day (for me, anyway. The sellers are still closing on the 30th). The date has been moved around so many times, that my attorney already has that date booked solid. So I'm closing the day before I actually close. It never goes smooth.

I just want it to be over at this point. Honestly, if I could close tomorrow, I would. I just don't like this lingering stuff. Plus, I have to pick out paint colors. Like, that's been eating at me, because I want to paint before I move in. I know the color scheme I want in the kitchen (purple and gray, with brass accents), and the bathroom has blue tile, so I'll probably just paint it white, but the living room feeds into the hallway, which is really long and goes down to the bedroom, so the color in the living room will effect the color of the entire house, and how do people make decisions like this? What color is your living room? How did you decide on that color? How did you not completely stress yourself out picking that color?

No, I am not getting overly crazy about paint colors. I'm normally this way.
This is my color inspiration for the kitchen

I found this on Pinterest, and I can't stop laughing:
Start with Homemade Cake Mix, you must

Also, Peter Capaldi's not even really the doctor yet, and he's already melted my heart. Why is there water on my face it must be raining I'm not crying.

Supernatural- I was SO EXCITED when I saw Gabriel was back,and then it wasn't Gabriel, and NOW I REALLY WANT GABRIEL BACK WHY DID THEY DO THIS TO ME I WAS FINE BEFORE.

(Funny story, I watched this ep. with my mom, and I was explaining who Gadreel was, and then I said, "Well, he's not technically evil, he's just really super gullible," and that was right when he walked into the Winchesters' trap)

But I think I kind of hate Metatron more than any other baddie on the show. Dick Roman killed Bobby, and I still hate Metatron more. I don't know why. I just do. Maybe it's because he burned a book. That makes me angry.

Also, Mark of Cain. Not loving this. What's it doing to my Dean? (Also Cas, srsly, you are not married Dean. And stop doing exactly what Metatron told you he wanted you to do. You should not do what the psychopath told you to do.)

Arrow- First of all, Ollie, you need to go to Star Labs and get that gun that the lab techs used against Slade. Because, dude it totally worked really well.

Second of all, Thea, I know it sucks that your dad wasn't your biological dad, and that your mom and your brother kept it from you, and your boyfriend broke up with you for no reason you can see. You've had a sh***y couple of days, I get it, I do, but trust me, you don't want to go from billionaire to broke, so just sign the papers, okay? Pretty please?

Thirdly, Starling City doctors apparently don't believe in doctor-patient confidentiality. When a patient's sister comes to see her in the hospital, it's fine to tell her about the current injuries, especially since they're minor, but don't follow that up with, "Oh that's nothing compared to her old injuries." WTF. And Laurel, if you haven't figured out that Black Canary is Sarah yet, especially now that you know Ollie is the Arrow, and that crappy doctor told you all about her old injuries, you are too dumb to live.


Posts from this week

April 16, 2014

Homemade Strawberry Cake Mix

Warning: This post contains words that are not actually bad, but that you might not enjoy explaining to your kidlets. Continue at your own peril. I don't have a choice; this is my life
Did you guys know that I apparently have a really sexy phone voice? I always thought I sounded like a small child, but apparently that's not the case. Practically the first time G and I met, she informed me I had a "porn" voice. Just recently, an exec she's friends with was in her office when I called him to tell him his visitors were in the lobby. He hung up with me, turned to G and said, "You know, she could make a lot of money as one of those phone sex operators."

I told G she should ask him what his basis for comparison was.

But these are both people I know and work with and attempt to embarrass me on a regular basis. I take what they say with a grain of salt, you know? It's the random strangers that have finally convinced me. This one time, I had a guy call in to ask for the company's website (because he didn't know how to Google?), and he told me I had a "pleasant accent" and then lingered on the phone telling me all about his exciting job as a Macy's buyer in upstate New York, then followed that up with, "Are you about medium height? 5'3", 5'4"?"

W.T.F. Also, no. (He even tried calling back, but the phone was really busy at the time, and I had an excuse to keep him on hold until he hung up)

And the other day, I had this caller that I was getting annoyed with, because he would not accept the fact that the person he was looking for was not listed. He asked for my name, and I thought he was going to ask to speak to my manager (they do that sometimes, because I'm obviously lying to them for my own nefarious purposes), and said, "Kim, your voice is so sweet."

Umm, thanks?

He then asked for my cell phone number. I tried to let him down gently, I did, but he kept pushing, telling me how "sweet" my voice was, and about how he's an account manager, "Your voice is just so sweet, I would really like your cell phone number, please, or your email address."

I finally told him that I had a call on the other line and I had to go (lie, but if Bossman has a problem with that, he can deal with it), and the guy laughed and started to say something else, and I just hung up. SO CREEPY.

PRO-TIP: Trying to pick up the phone operator makes you seem kind of pervy.
What does this have to do with cake mix? Absolutely nothing. I just thought you'd be amused.

Anyway, strawberry cake mix: whaaaaaaaaaaat. I think I've outdone myself this time.

This cake mix utilizes powdered strawberries. Not strawberry flavored powder. Not strawberry drink mix. Real, actual, organic strawberries that were freeze-dried, and then ground up. Now this is a real specialty item, but you can totally make it yourself using this tutorial from the Cupcake Project, or this method from I Run For Wine. I haven't tried either since stores near me don't really carry that much in the way of dried fruit, and leaving the oven on overnight to dry my own kind of freaks me out, but you've got options if you can't find the powder.

I, on the other hand, have a homemade mix obsession, and therefore if I see a powdered ingredient, I snatch it up, no questions asked.
Now, don't go thinking this mix is going to be like Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker strawberry cake mix. It neither tastes not looks the same (I did add a little powdered red food coloring that I had leftover from the Red Velvet Cake Mixes, but you can see that it still leans more towards brown than the hot pink of the boxed mixes). This is a strawberry-flavored buttermilk cake, moist and light, and not too sweet. I adapted it from my Strawberry Cupcakes to make it a little more mix friendly, and it's good.

The strawberry flavor isn't huge, but you can't miss it, and it's a lot deeper and more real than from the boxed mixes. If you want a real strawberry punch, I'd suggest mixing in about a cup of diced fresh strawberries.
Strawberry Cake Mix
Yield: Approx. 6 cups dry mix

2½ cups flour
2 cups sugar
⅓ cup powdered strawberries
2½ tbsp. dry buttermilk powder
1 tsp. red food coloring powder (optional)
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup butter-flavored shortening*

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients except the shortening. Using a pastry cutter (or pulse in a food processor) cut in the shortening until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place up to 3 months. (To extend the shelf life, store in the refrigerator or freezer).

To bake: Combine the mix with 1⅓ cups water, 2 eggs, and ½ tsp. vanilla extract. Bake at 350 degrees F 20 minutes for cupcakes, 30 minutes for 2 9-inch round cakes. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting and serving.

*If you'd prefer, cold butter can be used in place of shortening. Just store the mix in the freezer.

Recipe by Kim

April 2, 2014

Homemade Fudge Brownie Mix

No need to by a boxed mix at the store. Save time and money by making your own brownie mix right at home
April's here! And you know what that means: it's time for Camp NaNoWriMo! With all new adjustable word count goals. I'm taking it easy on myself this session with a 30k goal (trust me, 1000 words a day is a lot easier than 1556) and a couple of fanfic ideas that have been rattling around in my head for a while.

You know what else that means? The closing date for my new condo is at the end of this month. Add into all this the fact that a key bridge in my area has been closed for repairs, doubling my normal commute time. And another bridge flooded out this weekend, so now my commute time has tripled until that's cleared up. So my free time has been streeeeeeeetched a bit thin.
So you know what I decided I needed on hand? Some more homemade mixes. But not just any old mixes. When I don't feel good, or I've had a bad day, there is nothing I want more than a good, fudgy brownie. You know I'm not usually a fan of box mixes, but brownies are one of the things that I will actually go for a mix for because I hate chopping and melting unsweetened chocolate-- which is a step many of the best and fudgiest recipes calls for-- and Ghiradelli makes some awesome brownie mixes.

But I can't help but feel like a complete and total fake using a box mix, so I decided to make my own.
Something I've learned in the course of my homemade mix obsession is that you can substitute 1 square (1 oz.) of unsweetened baking chocolate with 3 tbsp. of unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil. Who knew, right? Once you've got that information, all the rest is easy.

All that remained was to find a good, properly fudgy, brownie recipe to mixify. Well, where else would I go but to Old Reliable?
This fudge brownie recipe is intense. Rich, chocolatey, so fudgy it's like candy, and even with the chopping and the melting of the chocolate, it's one of the simplest brownie recipes that I've ever made. But that didn't mean I couldn't simplify it further. Now I can have the batter mixed and in the oven in minutes the next time I want them. It might be the perfect first dessert to bake in my brand new oven.

Homemade Fudge Brownie Mix
Yield: Approx. 3¾ cups dry mix

2 cups sugar
1 cup flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp. salt
Optional: up to 2 cups mix-ins (the original recipe recommends chopped nuts, I went with a mixture of peanut butter and chocolate chips)

Sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Make sure it's evenly mixed. Add to a jar or airtight container. If adding mix-ins, layer them on top, using plastic wrap to keep them separate. Store in a cool dry place up to 1 year.

To bake, add 1 cup melted butter (or vegetable oil), 4 eggs, ¼ cup vegetable oil, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract to the dry mix. Mix well. Stir in mix-ins, if using. Add the batter to a greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-33 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired, before serving.

Based on the Fudgy Brownie recipe from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook