Fudgy Brownie Muffins

If you ever have the need for a delicious and simple muffin recipe, this is one to keep on hand.  I have been making (and playing with) this recipe for years and it is one of my absolute favorites.  This version seems a little more sophisticated, but it’s truly one that I make to give to anyone, especially when I have people doing work on my house.

We’re getting a new HVAC system installed in our home today.  We’re not exactly thrilled with the timing, but the original system was installed in 1998, so we knew we were due. Since I knew the workers would be here for much of the day, I thought I would make some muffins to show my appreciation for all the work they’re doing.  I made this recipe in mini-muffin tins so they would be “pop-able”… nothing worse than having to worry about muffin wrappers or holding food between bites if you’re working hard.  I just love the ease of this treat!

fudgybrowniemuffinsNote:  If you saw my post about “chocolate jury gems”, this is a version of the same recipe.

Ingredients:

  • One box chocolate brownie mix (I like to use dark chocolate mix)
  • One can solid pack pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon dark chili powder
  • 1/4 cup (2 Tablespoons) red wine.  I used a pinot noir, but any dry red wine works well

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Empty brownie mix into a large bowl and add remaining ingredients.
  • Blend everything together thoroughly until it resembles the photo in the lower left corner of the collage above.
  • Using a small cookie scoop, divide batter into mini muffin tins that have been sprayed with cooking spray.  Note:  this recipe will make about 40 mini-muffins, so you’ll go through two sets of mini muffin pans twice
  • Bake in pre-heated oven for 18 minutes, remove promptly and allow to cool while you scoop the remaining batter into the muffin tins for the second round of cooking.
  • These muffins are delicious warm, room temp, or cool.  They are fabulous for kids (the pumpkin packs a great punch of fiber) and have been a favorite in my family for years.
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White Cranberry Bread

I’m really not sure when I got this basic recipe from my sister, but it was the perfect one to use when making a quick bread to give to the guys who are out plowing our neighborhood in today’s snow storm.  I, of course, added a little white wine, but you can certainly omit that if you prefer.  Here’s how to make this delicious quick bread:WhiteCranberryBread (1)

Ingredients:

  • 2 c flour
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2/3 c orange juice
  • 2 T white wine
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3 T melted butter
  • 1/2 c coconut
  • 1 cup craisins (or chopped fresh cranberries)
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 T chia seeds
  • 2 t orange rind, freshly ground is preferred
    • NOTE: original recipe called for 1/3 c pecans and NO chips or seeds)
  • 1/2 confectioners sugar
  • 1 t margarine
  • 1 t almond milk (more, if needed)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350*.  Grease a loaf pan and lightly coat with sugar (I used cinnamon sugar)
  2. In large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  In a microwave-safe bowl, melt butter and then mix in orange juice and wine.  In separate bowl mix coconut, craisins, chips, and seeds – toss together with a spoon of flour to prevent clumping.
  3. Make a well in the center of flour mixture and pour in the liquids  Mix well.  Add coconut/craisin mixture and blend everything together until just combined.
  4. Pour mixture into prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  5. Blend confectioners sugar, margarine, and milk to make a thin glaze.  Use your best judgement and feel free to use orange juice or wine instead of milk for a different taste, if desired.
  6. Pour glaze over the entire bread while still warm.  Remove from pan when slightly cooled and slice as desired to serve.  Great when warm but equally good cold.

This recipe is quick to put together and looks amazing when cut.  You can leave it as a whole loaf if giving as a gift (we used to do this for teachers) but it’s moist and full of flavor.  Best part, in my opinion, is that it makes the kitchen smell heavenly!

Enjoy this recipe and please, stay safe in this blizzard we’re experiencing on the East Coast!

Recipe: Simple Wine Scones

I played with a recipe today… and ended up with the yummiest (and most simple) scones I’ve ever tasted.  A friend had posted this 3-ingredient scone recipe from TheMiniatureMoose.com on Facebook and I couldn’t help myself… I *had* to try it!  Of course, I just can’t make a plain scone, so I picked up some mini chocolate chips and decided to use some of the Chardonnay that I had in my fridge… it was a HIT!  I took most of the scones downstairs to the Leasing office and treated the ladies to an afternoon snack and they agreed with me.  Yummy & easy… wine & chocolate… two of my favorite combinations.

I started by preheating my oven to 425 degrees.  There were very specific (yet simple) directions in the original recipe, but my version ended up being totally tasty as well.  In a large bowl, I mixed 2 cups of self-rising flour with two Tablespoons of sugar and two palmsful of mini chocolate chips.  I then added 1 1/2 cups of canned coconut milk and stirred to combine.  NOTE: Canned coconut milk separates into two layers… a thin “milky” layer and a thick “greasy” layer.  You need to stir these two layers together to create the creamy coconut milk you want to use.  FYI… don’t poke the harder white layer on top too energetically or you’ll get spritzed with the milk that comes sporting up out of the can.  Trust me… I learned the hard (and messy) way on this one!  😉SimpleWineScones

My version differs at this point with most recipes for scones.  Everyone else will say to be gentle with your dough and to kneed the dough and do all sorts of lovely things to form your scones.  I was simply lazy and wanted to see if this recipe would still work, so  I stirred in some Chardonnay (a bright stainless-steel Chardonnay is great in this recipe, especially if you choose to add any citrus to the mixture) and made sure that everything was well-combined.  I then spooned the scone dough (it was definitely not something that could be cut into forms at this point) onto a pan sprayed with cooking spray and sprinkled the dough with sugar.  I knew I was going to want to cut the dough into pie-shaped wedges, so I tried to make slight indentations into the top of the dough so I’d know where to cut.  Much more than this wouldn’t have worked with this version of the recipe.

baked the scone dough at 425 degrees for 17-20 minutes until the top started to look lightly browned and didn’t look like it was going to be gooey when it cooled.  Ok, this isn’t a very “scientific” way to describe it, but it’s the most honest way I can explain it.  I shook the pan and nothing moved… then I pressed the top of the dough and it felt pretty solid.  I figured it was good to go at this point.

I removed the large cooked scone to a cutting board and allowed it to cool for a few minutes.  I then took a knife and cut the dough, following the pie-shaped wedge marks that I’d originally made.  They came out nicely puffed and light – not dense or dry at all.  I might just bake them in small rounds next time…. they would be lovely as a dessert, broken open and drizzled with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

See… even a diversion from a tried-and-true recipe can turn into something totally different and fun!  Let me know if you come up with a new way to play with this recipe… and I’ll be sure to add other versions as I play with this recipe on my own!

Wishing a Happy Summer to you all!

Recipe: Brownie-Wine Brittle

I saw a yummy-looking bag of Brownie Brittle at the store recently… and it just seemed to cry out for a wine-makeover.  Since today was a “cook/bake/blog/errand” kind of day, this recipe just called out to me.  I hope you’ll enjoy it!

BrownieBrittle

I started with one box of brownie mix, one egg, red wine, canned pumpkin, creamy peanut butter, and mini chocolate chips.   Using the directions on the back of the brownie mix box as a guideline, I added equal amounts of canned pumpkin and creamy peanut butter along with the egg, then poured in red wine to thin out the entire mix.  I also added a handful of mini chocolate chips, so there would be little nuggets of chocolate throughout the final product.  I was playing with this recipe, so I did a lot of “guestimating” as I mixed this together.

Feel free to mix this in whatever way you’d like – my plan was to make the mixture thin enough to bake and become crispy as it cooled.  Success!  NOTE: I used the pumpkin in place of the oil because it was in my fridge… and I used the small amount of creamy peanut butter to add a hint of nuttiness to the flavor.  Either one could be substituted with applesauce or you could certainly follow the directions and add more wine/water to thin out the mixture.  It’s entirely up to you!

I used the largest baking sheet (with an edge) that I had in my cupboard and lined it with parchment paper so the final product would lift off fairly easily.  I added enough red wine to thin out the mixture (I would have used James River Cellars’ Rad Red if I’d had some open… the bottle I had open was a South African Shiraz Viognier blend, so I used that in this recipe), poured it onto the baking sheet and spread the mixture as thinly as possible, reaching all four corners.

Because I wanted the brownies to end up dry and crispy, I cooked the entire recipe at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.  Once the cooking was finished, I turned off the heat in the oven, opened the oven door and let the brownies dry for about an hour.   I decided to wait until the brownie-wine brittle was cool before I broke it apart into pieces.  It broke up nicely and will be fun to play with when I need a small, fun snack or if I want to do a fancier presentation with a small cookie scoop of frosting with brittle around it, like flower petals.

I’ll probably play with this recipe again and adjust the amounts of ingredients, but feel free to try this at home for your own family.  Being able to re-create something you see in the store is actually fun… and making a treat for your family is the best-ever kind of treat.

Wishing you lots of homemade treats as the holidays draw near…

Creating a Recipe for a contest… Divine Triple Chocolate Port Wine Cookies

The people who make Fonseca Bin #27 offered up a challenge and I just couldn’t resist.  After all, I’ve been using red wine (alternating between a dry red from James River Cellars Winery OR Fonseca Bin #27 Port wine) in my “standard” chocolate chip cookie recipe for the past 15 years or so… why not write the actual directions down and see if people like it, right?TripleChocolatePortWineCookies

I decided to call the recipe:  Divine Triple Chocolate Port Wine Cookies.  I use chocolate chips in three different sizes and degrees of sweetness, then included Port Wine and a few other “choice” ingredients.  I am deviating from my traditional way of using The Force when I cook and have provided actual directions for this recipe.  It was tough, but I just had to try it.  While my recipe may seem a bit unorthodox, my family and friends seem to find them absolutely divine.  I hope you enjoy them as well.

Divine Tripe Chocolate Port Wine Cookies:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and assemble all ingredients in recipe before you begin.

Start with the following ingredients in your mixing bowl:
1 cup butter crisco
1/2 c white sugar + 1 c brown sugar
1 t salt + 1 t baking soda
2 T Fonseca Bin #27 Port Wine
1 t blood orange balsamic vinegar
1 t dark chili powder
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t ground ginger
1 t vanilla extract + 1/2 t almond extract
2 eggs (at room temperature)
Cream all ingredients together until well incorporated
Slowly add 2 1/4 c flour and mix well.

Add 1 cup each: mini chocolate chips, regular semi-sweet chocolate chips, and bittersweet chocolate chips.

Using a small cookie scoop, place batter, teaspoon by teaspoon, onto a baking stone. Bake cookies at 375 degrees for 11 minutes (you may need to adjust for your own oven temperature). Allow cookies to sit for a minute on the baking stone before removing to a wire rack to cool.

I like to keep this cookie dough recipe in my fridge so I can make fresh cookies at a moment’s notice, as my boys’ friends can attest. These are wonderfully divine!

If you feel so inclined, please consider voting for my recipe, using this link.  I hope you try this recipe and enjoy making it and sharing it with the ones you love… after all, isn’t that why we cook in the first place?

Recipe: Doctored Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yup… you’re reading it correctly… I make Doctored Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Oh, and I doctor them with WINE.  Don’t believe it?  Try this recipe and let me know what you think after trying this yourself.   They’re amazing.

I’ve mentioned before that I cook using The Force, right?  This recipe I created started with the basic Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe that is wonderfully simple but fun to alter.  I’ve been making this recipe for decades now and am going to share this recipe with you.  I will warn you that I tend to tweak this recipe from time to time, so feel free to add your own special touch to create your own version.

It started innocently enough… at our second duty station (USNA), M had just been assigned as the O-Rep (Officer Representative) for the Varsity men’s soccer team.  M came up with the great idea of making a large bag of cookies for each of the guys on the team for their birthday.  I’d make up a batch of homemade cookies, put them into a gallon freezer bag, and he’d drop them off at Main Office for the boys to pick up.  So many times, parents weren’t able to get treats to their kids in time for a birthday, so this was our way of stepping in to make the boys feel special.

I started making cookie dough whenever I had time and then would freeze balls of dough so I could bake cookies anytime there was a birthday.  As I got better at cooking, my freezer became an inconvenient place to store balls of frozen cookie dough and I ended up making cookie dough and keeping it in the fridge, scooping out dough as needed.  With two boys and their friends always around our house, a batch (or even a double batch) didn’t sit around for long…. and it still doesn’t.

I also found that I have a definite preference in using Butter flavored Crisco instead of butter or margarine… as the cookies bake, they don’t seem to flatten as quickly as those made with butter/margarine and the chocolate chips seem to stay softer for a longer time.  I think they rock… maybe it’s worth a try if you’re feeling so inclined.  Note:  On the Crisco package, there is specific information on “how to substitute Crisco shortening for butter or margarine in your favorite recipes”… says to add 2Tablespoons of water to 1 cup of Crisco to mimic 1 cup of Butter or Margarine.  This is why I started adding liquid to my cookie recipe.

Doctored Chocolate Chip Cookies

4 1/2 c flour

2 t baking soda

2 t salt

2 c butter-flavored Crisco

1 c white sugar

2 c brown sugar

4 eggs (room temperature)

2 t chili powder

2 t cinnamon

1/2 t ground ginger

1 t almond extract

2 t vanilla extract

1 t espresso powder

1/4 c red wine (I like James River Cellars’ Rad Red or Meritage)

1 1/2 cup EACH semi-sweet, mini, and bittersweet chocolate chips (4 1/2 cups overall)

In a small bowl, mix the flour, soda, and salt together and set aside.  In a small measuring cup,  blend together eggs, spices, extracts, espresso powder, and wine.  In large mixer bowl, whip together the Crisco and sugars until light.  Slowly add in the egg mixture and beat until well incorporated.  Gradually add flour mixture and blend until dough is mixed thoroughly.   Gently blend in all three types of chocolate chips.  If preferred, put all cookie dough into an airtight container and allow to sit in the fridge until you want to bake a tray of cookies.

When cooking, drop by teaspoon (or small cookie scoop) onto a baking sheet.  Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  In my oven, I bake for 11 minutes and then remove and allow baked cookies to set for a few minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cook completely.
Oh, and I believe that I also added 2 teaspoons of blood orange balsamic vinegar to this most recent batch… it added a nice touch of acid against the heavy sweetness of chocolate and sugar.   I’ll be incorporating this into my recipe as long as I can continue to find that special vinegar… it’s totally worth the search!

These are amazing chocolate chip cookies… I hope you’ll consider trying this recipe out for yourself.  Maybe you’ll come up with a favorite ingredient to add that creates your own special chocolate chip cookies.  Have fun out there!