February 20, 2012

Chocolate Spice Cupcakes

     A long time ago, when Natalie and I lived together in a big blue house on 39th Ave, we were baking and eating cupcakes--something we did on a fairly regular basis. Natalie had the idea of a square cupcake, because she said, "Squares/cubes are a better shape than circles/cylinders. (She is a designer, so you know, these things occur to her.) Additionally, you can fit them together to build a cake with individual portions ready. Most importantly, in my mind anyway, you get more cupcake. Win.

     The dream of squapcakes, as they were named, remained just that--a dream--for many, many years. But the dream did not die. A few months ago I found a baking pan with squares, but alas, it was too shallow to qualify as a cupcake pan. It was not until a few days ago that I inadvertently stumbled upon another square pan and immediately knew that THIS WAS IT

      After years of anticipation, I present you with squapcakes: square cupcakes. These chocolate spice squapcakes with chocolate ganache are lightly adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes. They were universally loved and admired at their world debut. The end.

Chocolate Spice Cupcakes
Squapcake pan
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for tin
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 1/4 cups flour, plus more for chocolate chips
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or more to taste)
For the topping
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet best quality chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • Candied ginger, finely chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a cupcake or squapcake tin with butter, then dust with cocoa powder, tapping out excess. Stir baking soda into the boiling water. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Add molasses and baking-soda mixture. Beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture and beat until well combined. (The batter will be pretty thin.)
  3. In a small bowl, lightly coat chocolate chips with flour. Fold chocolate chips into the batter. Divide batter evenly among prepared cups, filling each about halfway. Bake, rotating tin halfway through, until a cake tester inserted into the centers comes out clean--about 20 minutes.
  4. Stirring the cream and chocolate for the glaze
  5. Transfer to a wire rack to cool 15 minutes. Remove from tin and let cool completely. While cupcakes are cooling, finely chop chocolate for the glaze and place in a heat-proof bowl. Place wire rack cooling rack over a baking sheet covered with tin foil.
  6. Bring cream and corn syrup just to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour mixture over chocolate and let stand, without stirring, until the chocolate begins to melt. Gently stir chocolate and cream until totally combined. Begin near the center of the bowl and gradually work your way toward the edge, pulling in as much chocolate as possible, until the mixture is smooth and glossy.
  7. Drizzle the chocolate over the cupcakes, letting it run down the sides. Let the glaze set a little, then top with candied ginger.
Makes 12 cupcakes

February 17, 2012

*Vegan* Cocoa-Coconut Chili

Personally, I am not a fan of chili. At all. It always seems to be over cooked or over stirred or over oily or too beanie or something. But part of what I love about cooking is tackling the obstacles of foods you don't love. This chili recipe has helped me over my anti-chili hurdle in a beautiful way. The mix of ingredients creates a very balanced yet decidedly different chili. The coconut milk and cocoa balances the beans in the recipe, and the hot sauce adds the perfect amount of kick. The icing on the cake was cooking the chili in my slow cooker, and having it come out perfectly. Not over cooked or mushy or anything. I love the fact you can look at your bowl and identify every single ingredient, and relish in its simplicity. Plus, did I mention the cocoa? How can you resist...

*no vegans were harmed in the making of this chili.

What's in it
1 14oz can light coconut milk (unsweetened)
2 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp agave nectar
1 tsp sea salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbl mild chili powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
3 Tbl Dutch process cocoa powder (or regular if that is what you have)
2 28oz cans diced tomatoes
1 14oz can black beans, rinsed
1 14oz can kidney beans, rinsed
1 14oz can pinto beans, rinsed
1 14oz can canellini (white) beans, rinsed
1 14oz can corn, drained
1 or 2 carrots diced (size them the same as your beans)
1 onion diced (size them the same as your beans)
1 1/2 C celery diced (size them the same as your beans)
1/2 C diced bell peppers - optional (size them the same as your beans)

How it's made
Grab your large slow-cooker. Whisk together first 9 ingredients in slow cooker until blended (coconut milk through cocoa powder). Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until combined. Turn your slow-cooker on low for 8 hours. Go away (to work, school...) and come home to delicious chili. If you have time or inclination, buy a box of corn bread mix from TJ's and make it up, or make some honey cornbread from scratch. Enjoy chili for dinner, then lunch the next day, then freeze the rest for another day. Or just invite over all your friends!

February 13, 2012

*Vegan* Chocolate Chunk Spice Cookies

Need a last minute valentine treat for a loved one, who happens to be vegan or dairy-free? These festive cookies are quick and easy to make, and you will surely find most of the ingredients in your pantry already. Their spiciness also lend themselves to other winter holidays, such and Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you need a bunch of cookies, double or triple the batch, as they only make a dozen large or 20 small cookies.

What's in it
1/3 C sugar (turbinado or unrefined sugar recommended)
1/2 C dark chocolate chunks (be sure to check they are dairy-free, Nestle typically has milk products in their morsels)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1/16 tsp ground allspice
1-2 pinches ground cloves
1 C barley flour (or 1 C minus 2 Tbl all-purpose flour)
3 Tbl cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 C maple syrup
1/4 C + 1 tsp canola oil

How it's made
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat.
In a small bowl, combine maple syrup and oil. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the rest of the dry ingredients, except the chocolate chunks. Whisk or sift together until well combined and not very clumpy. Add in the chocolate chunks - you can save out some chocolate chunks if you would like to press them on top before baking. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Scoop out rounded tablespoons of batter onto your baking sheet. Press reserved chocolate chunks on top of each cookie. Bake 11 minutes (no more, or else they will get dry!). Cool on pan 1 minute, then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

February 9, 2012

Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup

Three years ago Alexis posted a delicious recipe for Tortilla Soup, which I was inspired to make after having made enchiladas resulting in leftover chicken broth. It is hard to believe three years have already flown by. Well, tortilla soup is still very much in our repertoire of go-to comfort food, and the discovery of this slow cooker version has rocked our world. We recently received a brand new fancy slow cooker with a timer from our wedding registry (thanks von!), so I was inspired to find new and simple slow cooker recipes. I highly recommend you try this slow cooker version (with a new kick of enchilada sauce) in that slow cooker you could probably dust off and give another chance. You will not be disappointed in the magic of coming home to a house full of delicious smells, and dinner already made.

What's in it
1 box (or can) chicken broth
2 C water (or more broth)
1 or 2 14oz cans diced tomatoes (I recommend the fire-roasted kind)
1 14oz can red enchilada sauce
2 small cans diced fire-roasted green chiles, drained
1 small onion chopped
1-2 lb chicken breast or tenders (I started with frozen), rinsed
1 package frozen corn (could add a can of hominy or beans as well)
1 tsp each: chile, cumin, salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 bay leaf
garnish: chopped cilantro, wedge of lime, avocado, shredded cheese, chopped cabbage, tortilla chips (homemade if you like)

How it's made
In a large slow cooker (if using small, reduce ingredient amounts) add all ingredients except for garnish. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. Towards the end of cook time, shred chicken into smaller pieces.

If you would like to make your own chips, spray tortillas with cooking spray and cut into strips. Bake on a sheet in a 450 degree (pre-heated) oven for 10-15 min until crisp. Season as you like.

Serve soup in bowls with all garnish (yes, use lots of the garnish options!). Enjoy!