And I’m Back…Dairy Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

So apparently the gauntlet has been thrown. I too apologize that I’ve been MIA for so long. Life got in the way and well, I got a little lazy. I promise I have lots of holiday baking in the works, so you can expect some good posts throughout the next few months. And while Jen’s hat was nice and all, it won’t fill your belly with happiness now will it?

A couple of months ago my middle sister was having a rough go of it. She’d just moved to a new city and was dealing with a deadbeat landlord and all the change a move can bring. I decided I was going to make a care package for her since I always love getting mail and love it even more when said mail is in present form. I figured it would make a crappy day or week seem a little bit better. The only problem is that due to my precious little niece’s milk allergy, my sister isn’t able to eat any dairy. This threw a wrench into my plan to bake something tasty for the care package.

After a few searches online I settled on some chocolate peanut butter brownies. I was a little apprehensive since the ingredient deck seemed a little odd, but they turned out great! You can’t really tell that there is no butter or flour…there’s just chocolately goodness.  And since there is no flour, these are gluten free as well. So go ahead, make some brownies and while you are at it, send a care package to someone to let them know you are thinking of them 🙂

Dairy Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies


For the Brownie Base:

  • 1 16-ounce jar smooth almond butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 T. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup pure unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 cup dark dairy-free chocolate chips (try Whole Foods)

For the Peanut Butter Filling:

  • 4 T. dairy-free gluten-free soy margarine, such as Earth Balance
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract


1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Lightly grease a 9″x13″ baking dish and line with parchment paper

2.  In a large bowl, beat the almond butter until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating in each egg. Add the maple syrup and vanilla, beating until all ingredients are incorporated  In another small bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. Slowly add this mixture to the almond butter mixture, beating until just combined and smooth. Fold in the dairy-free chocolate chips using a spatula.

3. In another large mixing bowl, mix together the  soy margarine, powdered sugar, smooth peanut butter, salt, and vanilla extract until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour  brownie batter into the prepared pan. Drop dollops of the peanut butter filling onto the batter. With a knife, very carefully swirl the peanut butter filling into the brownie filling. This can be done by starting at one corner and slowly going down in a row and then over and up again.  Imagine making a big squiggly line across the pan. Don’t mix, just make a decorative swirl.

5. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow for the brownies to cool completely before trying to cut them.

My swirls weren’t so great!


Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes

My friend Julia celebrated her birthday recently and I took the opportunity to bake some cupcakes for the occasion. She told me she liked anything chocolate. When I went to the grocery store the strawberries were 2 for $4 so I decided to incorporate a strawberry filling into the cupcakes I was planning.

For those of you who know me, you know it’s my dream to open my own bakery one day.  I love everything about baking. The preciseness, the artistry, and the tasty finished products. A couple of my new friends in Minneapolis upon tasting these cupcakes told me they’d be seed investors in my bakery. I’d have to agree, they turned out pretty damn tasty. Anyone else out there looking to invest in a bakery? 🙂

Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

(makes 24-27 standard sized cupcakes)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup skim milk (you could use whole of 2% too)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
1. Line muffin tin with paper liners.  Heat oven to 350*F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.  Beat on medium speed for one minute.
4. Stir in boiling water (the batter will be thin, don’t worry, this is right).
5. Fill liners 2/3 full with batter.  (I usually put the batter into a large measuring cup with a pour spout, and then pour the batter into the liners.)
6. Bake cupcakes for approximately 22-24 minutes.
7. Cool completely on wire rack before frosting.
Strawberry Whipped Cream Filling
    • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 7 tablespoons chopped/processed strawberries
    1. Chop strawberries in food processor just until they look thick and saucelike. I used really large strawberries and it took 7 to make 7 Tablespoons.
    2. Beat whipping cream, and vanilla until it starts to thicken.
    3. Mix in sugar.
    4. Fold in strawberries.
Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
  • ½ cup butter, at room temperature
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 4 cups powdered confectioners sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  1. Place butter in a large mixing bowl and blend slightly. Add cream cheese and blend until combined, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the cocoa powder and mix for another 30 seconds.
  3. Add vanilla extract and powdered sugar and blend on low speed until combined. Increase to medium speed and beat until it begins to get fluffy.
  4. Slowly add the heavy cream, a little bit at a time until desired consistency is met. I used 3 tablespoons, but you can add more if needed.
  5. Beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.
  6. Use at once or keep refrigerated. (This frosting will keep well in the refrigerator for several days, but you may need to re-beat it for the best texture.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

14 medium/small  strawberries

Melt your chocolate chips over a double boiler. Dip your strawberries in the chocolate to cover 3/4ths of the berry. Place on parchment paper and allow chocolate to harden for at least 15 minutes.

To assemble the cupcakes:

1. Once your cupcakes are cooled, cut a small portion out of the top of each cupcake (you’ll want to save this extra cake).

2. Put about 2 tablespoons of your strawberry filling in the top of the cupcakes and replace with the cake you cut out.

3. Using a pasty bag, pipe your frosting onto each cupcake.

4. Top with sliced strawberry or chocolate covered strawberry.

Cupcakes pre-frosting


I ran out of the cream cheese frosting (probably because I like a lot of frosting), so I frosted some of the cupcakes with the strawberry whipped cream  mixture and drizzled the extra chocolate from the chocolate covered strawberries on top.

Strawberry Rhubarb Buckwheat Crumble

My apologies, readers, for slacking on posts other than food as of late.  Now that “school’s out for summer,” I hope to pick up the slack.  The last few weeks of school are really hard.  The kids, after taking their SOL tests, think that they are done.  However, our administration feels otherwise and expects us to teach every minute of those last three weeks.  Thus, the last two weeks of school results in an emotional standoff between teachers and students. It’s a psyche-draining, hair-graying, tooth-pulling, emotional suck.  One of the things that gets me through this period, is sweet treats.  What can I say, I’m a bit of an emotional eater.  Pair my need for a sugary pacifier with fresh strawberries and rhubarb from my garden and you have a psyche, hair, and teeth saving recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Buckwheat Crumble.

Unfortunately, I have been waging a war this year against the slugs/snails for my big, juicy strawberries.  (Beer traps?  Check.)  So, I only had enough strawberries for 1/2 my usual recipe.  Stupid, slimy mollusks….you will die!  You’ll probably be drunk when you do (you’re welcome), but you will die.  Anyhow, some strawberries is better than no strawberries.  Let’s get started.  Here’s what you’ll need:

For the filling:

  • 2 medium stalks of rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 2 cups of strawberries, halved (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of  salt

For the Crumble Topping:

  • 1/4 cup of buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 cup of old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup of packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into bits
  • Turbinado sugar to sprinkle on top

First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Then, cut up the rhubarb and strawberries into a medium sized bowl.

Strawberries & Rhubarb

Add in the sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt.

The delicious mix!

Nest, mix up the ingredients, and then distribute the filling between four ramekins.  Don’t worry if it looks soupy — the cornstarch will thicken it right up!

Distribute the filling amongst ramekins.

Next, in a separate bowl, mix the crumble ingredients — buckwheat, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter.

Crumble topping

Then, distribute this yummy topping onto the ramekins.  Make sure you breathe in that yummy, sugary smell as you spoon!

Ready for the oven!

Place the ramekins in the oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes on 375.  Resist the urge to pull it out of the oven when you start to smell the cooking strawberries and rhubarb — it will be hard.  When, your timer goes off, pull them out of the oven, let them cool briefly or you’ll melt your tongue off, and then enjoy!  Even better with vanilla bean ice cream!

Let them cool for a bit before digging in.

Dig in and enjoy!



Crazy Half-Marathon Carrot Cake

A few weeks ago, my friend, Gwen, and I headed to the outer banks to run a 1/2 marathon.  We were so excited to have found the race.  It was at the beach.  It would be warm and beautiful and flat.  What more could two girls ask for?  Let’s just say that none of those things turned out to be true in the Flying Pirate 2012 1/2 marathon.  It was not warm.  It was, in fact, very cold and windy.  It was not beautiful.  It was, in fact, driving rain.  And, it was not flat.  It was, in fact, hilly — and of course, those hills began at mile 9.  Who knew there could be so many dang hills on the Outer Banks?  Just to prove to you how bad it was, let me show you two pictures.  The first is what I imagined I would look like, except female.

How happy is this guy?

On the day of, with wind, rain, and pits of mud (and despair)….this is what I actually looked like.

Look away. I’m hideous.

As you can see, I was not a happy camper.  I still think that it was my rage that actually got me through the race.  I was SO angry.  So angry, in fact, that my time was actually not that far off my best 1/2 marathon time.  Nothing like a little cold rain and rage to motivate you to run your personal best.  So after checking the weather on Friday afternoon, I knew that we were going to need a delicious treat to come home to after the race.  What could fit the bill better than a carrot cake?  I mean it has vegetables in it.

Thankfully, my Grangi’s recipe box had just such a recipe!

The recipe.

Unfortunately, I think this recipe used to have another card with it because this one doesn’t list the steps.  So, I’ll be listing those as I go.  I also decided not to do the whipped cream frosting, in lieu of a traditional cream cream cheese frosting.  Here is my recipe for the cream cheese frosting:

8 oz. of cream cheese

1 c. of confectioner’s sugar

2 T of maple syrup

1 stick of butter

Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

Carrot cake ingredients

So first things first, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees.  Next, I greased a 9-inch springform pan.  I only used spring form because it was the only thing I could find in the beach house.  (Normally, you would use two 9-inch pans so that you can cook both layers at one time – oh beach house!)  Then, I lined the bottom with wax paper and coated the bottom with flour, making sure to tap out any extra.

Prepped spring form pan, complete with floured wax paper

Next, I combined all the dry ingredients in one bowl and mixed them well with a fork.

Mix dry ingredients together

Then, beat the sugar, oil and eggs in a large bowl until well blended.

Beat the sugar, oil and eggs together.

I, then, added the flour mixture bit by bit and stirred until evenly blended.  Then, I added the grated carrot.

Add the flour and blend until smooth

I poured half of the batter into the pan and put it in the oven and baked it for roughly 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle came out smooth.  I repeated the process with the second layer.

Then, I was ready to make the icing.  I just combined all of the ingredients for the frosting and used a hand blender to mix them to the correct consistency.  Make sure you test it along the way for the appropriate amount of maple flavoring – delicious!

After my cake layers had sufficiently cooled, I did a crumb layer.

I stuck it in the fridge to let it firm up for about 15 minutes, and then finished icing it.  The last touch, was to sprinkle chopped pecans on the top.

Sprinkled chopped pecans on the top

I have a feeling that in the next five years, someone is going to release a study showing that carrot cake it the perfect post-race recovery food.  One slice of this baby and I was feeling better already!

A little slice of heaven!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Filling and Buttercream

There are days (ok most days) where I daydream about  opening my own bakery. I hope one day in the future this dream becomes a reality. Two of my friend’s birthdays were last week so they had a joint celebration on Saturday night. I jump at any chance I can to bake and then give the delicious results away because I don’t need 20 cupcakes sitting in my house taunting me to eat them.  And that’s exactly what those sneaky cupcake bastards do. They taunt me to eat them.

I asked my friends what kind of cake they’d want and my friend Ramzi said chocolate and caramel and my friend Adam said he’d never met a kind of cake he didn’t like. My mind immediately went to chocolate salted caramel. I found a great blog, 20 Something Cupakes, that had a recipe that was adapted from Martha Stewart that sounded perfect. Side note: I’m not the biggest Martha fan after she came to speak at my company a few months ago and came across very stuck-up, but they looked delicious so why not?!

Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (made by taking 1 cup of milk and adding 1T of lemon juice)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • Salted Caramel Filling, recipe below

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with paper liners. Whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add eggs, buttermilk, oil, extract, and the water; beat until smooth and combined. The batter will appear a little runny, this is ok.

Using a 1/4 cup measure, spoon the batter into liners about two-thirds full. Bake approximately 15-17 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer cupcakes to wire racks and allow to cool completely.

Use a paring knife to cut a cone-shaped piece (about 1/2 inch deep) from the center of each cupcake. Eat these extra pieces 🙂 or throw them away. Make the salted caramel.

Salted Caramel

  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons flaked sea salt

Heat sugar with the water and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until syrup is clear. Clip a candy thermometer to side of pan and stop stirring.

Cook until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush as needed. Boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is caramelized and just reaches 360°F. This process can take upwards of 10 minutes, so be patient. Remove from heat and slowly pour in cream; stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in sea salt.

Let cool for about 15 minutes; if caramel begins to harden reheat gently until pourable. Spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons warm caramel into each hollowed-out cupcake. The caramel will slightly sink into the cupcake – just add a bit more.

Use the leftover caramel for the frosting and reserve a little bit to drizzle over the top of the cupcakes.

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon  sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3  1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • About 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons leftover caramel sauce from above

Caramel should now be cool enough to use for the frosting. Make sure it’s slightly warm to the touch, and still pourable. If it’s hardened too much, gently reheat until pourable.

In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and salt together until lightened and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the caramel. Beat on medium-high speed for a few minutes until light and airy, and completely mixed. If the frosting looks like it needs to set up a bit, refrigerate it for 15 – 20 minutes. The caramel walks a fine line between being either too warm, or too thick and not pourable if it gets too cool, so this affects the temperature of the frosting and you may need to compensate for that by refrigerating if the caramel warmed the frosting too much. Taste the frosting if it’s too salty, you can add a little more powdered sugar.

Use a pastry bag with an open-star tip and pipe frosting onto each cupcake, swirling tip and releasing as you pull up to form a peak. Garnish each by drizzling leftover caramel over the cupcake. I also garnished with a piece of salted caramel.   Store at room temperature in airtight containers.

Makes approximately 20 cupcakes.

The cupcakes turned out awesome.  Since the recipe calls for cocoa powder, the cake was just chocolatey enough without being overpowering. The salted caramel was deliciously salty and sweet and just oozes out of the cupcake when you bite into it. It’s a nice surprise for those not knowing it’s in the middle. The buttercream was also just the right combo of salty and sweet. I got a lot of rave reviews, which always make me know when a recipe is a keeper.