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Feb 10, 2016

Black Bottom Cupcakes | Valentine's Day Recipes

Did you know there is an official day designated for cream cheese brownies? It's true! February 10th marks the day of the cream cheese brownie - so I only thought it appropriate to my my personal favorite version of the cream cheese brownie: black bottoms!

While probably more of a muffin than a brownie, I still wanted to fancy up my black bottoms so I baked them in an assortment of different things, including some miniature mason jars I had laying around. 

I grew up with black bottoms cooked in aluminum muffin tins, but feel free to spread it out in a cake pan if you are trying to really make brownies, and not individual cupcakes. However you decide to bake your black bottoms, they are still guaranteed to be delicious.

There's a secret ingredient in these black bottoms: white vinegar. Vinegar adds a sweet tang that's so indicative of black bottoms. The rest of the ingredients are pretty straight forward for baking: flour, oil, eggs, white sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, chocolate chips, and of course cream cheese.

In one bowl mix the cream cheese, sugar, egg and chocolate chips. In another, larger bowl, stir together the other ingredients until a smooth batter forms.

Fill up lined muffin tins, or mini mason jars, about two thirds of the way full. Spoon about a tablespoon of the chocolate chips and cream cheese into the center of each muffin.

Bake until the batter has risen around the cream cheese and springs back when pressed upon.

Black bottoms are a great way to tell someone you think they are sweet - so serve them to your sweetie and have a wonderful Valentine's Day!

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15-20 minutes

Makes ~ 2 dozen black bottom cupcakes



  • 1 ½ cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup cocoa
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • ⅓ C sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ⅛ t salt
  • 1 C chocolate chips

Here's How:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, stir together the cream cheese, egg, sugar, chocolate chips and salt until completely combined.
  2. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, vegetable oil, water, vinegar, vanilla and salt.
  3. Line a muffin tin with paper or aluminum cups. Fill each cup about 2/3 full with the chocolate batter. Add about one tablespoon of the cream cheese mix into the center of each cupcake.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the chocolate batter has risen around the cream cheese filling. Let the cupcakes cool for best results. Serve room temperature or chilled, and enjoy with your sweetheart <3.


Feb 9, 2016

Brûléed Oranges | Valentine's Day Recipes

I'd like to think that the old saying "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach" is actually somewhat true. I'm pretty certain that my boyfriend fell in love with me because of my cooking, so I'm here to show you how to win over the heart of your significant other with some simple recipes that will blow them away.

First, show you are brave by busting out a blow torch on your very first date. That way they know you really mean you are "burning with passionate love." 

Dip each half of the orange in the sugar, then use the torch to caramelize the sugar on top of the orange until it's melted and golden brown.

Let the caramelized sugar cool for a moment or two to really achieve that perfect caramel shatter that we've come to know and love. And that's really all there is to this simple dessert! Your date will certainly think you are not only super sweet, but also might give you some props for not burning down your house. Love is in the air!

Prep time: 30 seconds
"Cook" time: 1-3 mintues

Makes 4 caramelized oranges halves


  • 2 oranges
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • Brûlée torch

Here's How:

  1. Cut each orange in half. Use a sharp knife to cut around the orange's insides to separate them from the rind. Cut diagonally along the internal lines that separate the orange slices to loosen them. Let any excess orange juice drip off.
  2. Place the orange face down in a bowl of sugar to make a thick sugar coating on the top of the fruit. Use the brûlée torch to caramelize the sugar, but not burn it. Keep the torch about a half inch away from the sugar and move in a continuous circular motion.
  3. Let the topping cool for a minute before cracking into it with a spoon. Serve right away and enjoy!


Feb 8, 2016

Choux à la Crème | Valentine's Day Recipes

Has anyone else been binging on the Great British Bake Off now that it's steaming on Netflix? Well if you aren't, then you should start like, right now. It combines my favorite past times: baking and British things! Basically if I could cook all the time and sound like Hermione while doing it, I would just be the happiest person alive. 

I made these choux a la creme just in time for Valentine's Day - Nick was quite impressed by these cream puffs!

Being inspired by the GBBO, I decided to endeavor on some of the baking techniques I saw the competitors doing and tried making choux pastry for the first time ever. It did take me two attempts to get right, but once I had it figured out, it worked extremely well.

Once the butter and flour have been combined on the stovetop and have formed a shiny dough, through it quickly into a stand mixer and begin stirring in the eggs one at a time.

When the dough has thickened up, spoon it into a piping bag - then pipe golf-ball sized circular mounds onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Use a wet finger to press down any points.

Bake the choux pastry until it's puffed up and golden brown. This is a difficult step because the pastry can go from perfectly golden to unsavory brown in just a matter of seconds, so keep a close eye on it towards the end of it's baking time.

As soon as the choux are cooked, pierce each one with a sharp knife or tooth pick to release any stem that might have built up inside. 

Steam will make the choux soft and not very crisp. I actually turned off my oven, poked a hole in each one, and then returned the choux back to the oven as the oven cooled to really help bring out the moisture. A proper choux pastry should be mostly hollow on the inside - perfect for filling full of cream!

When the pastries have completely cooled, make a batch of whipped cream. Then use a piping bag with a pointed tip and insert it into the side or bottom of each pastry.

Fill the pastries to capacity with whipped cream! If you aren't going to be serving the choux right wait to fill the puffs until just prior to serving, so the dough doesn't get soggy. Then dip the cream puffs in melted chocolate and chill until the chocolate has hardened again. Serve to your lovely family, friends, and significant others this Valentine's Day!

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

Makes ~ 2 dozen cream puffs


Choux pastry:
  • 1 stick butter, cut into 1/2 slices
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • pinch salt
For whipped cream filling:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
For chocolate topping:
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Here's How:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Melt the butter in the water in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the flour and sugar all at once and stir quickly until a thick dough forms. Remove from heat.
  2. Add the dough to a stand mixer and stir on low, while adding the eggs, one at a time, until completely incorporated. The dough should be smooth but not runny. 
  3. Spoon the dough into piping bag. Pipe golf ball sized mounds of dough on a parchment lined baking sheet. Use a wet finger to smooth off the tops of each mound.
  4. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the choux pastry is puffed up and golden brown. Turn off the oven.
  5. Release the steam in each puff by poking a small hole in the top or side. Place the pastries back into the oven to continue to dry out as the oven cools.
  6. When the pastries are completely cooled, whip together the heavy cream, vanilla and sugar until thick. Spoon the whipped cream into a piping bag with pointed tip. Insert the tip into the side or bottom of each pastry and fill with cream until full.
  7. Melt together the butter and chocolate and stir until smooth. Dip the tops of each pastry in the chocolate. Chill until the chocolate has hardened - about 5 minutes.
  8. Serve right away to your sweeties and enjoy!


Crazy Easy Gumbo | Mardi Gras Recipes

My boyfriend and I are pretty much obsessed with gumbo. Anytime we see it on a menu, we get it. With Mardi Gras coming up, our cravings intensified for the spicy, rice-y, bowl of deliciousness. I've been practicing my Southern cooking in preparation for Mardi Gras - I even made some super simple shrimp po'boys for us to really get us in the Fat Tuesday Spirit.

Gumbo is traditionally made with andouille sausage, chicken, and shrimp in a medley of vegetables that include tomatoes, peppers, onions, and okra. I accidentally forgot to pick up okra for my gumbo, so it won't be mentioned in this recipe, but definitely feel free to pick some up and add it to your own if you are determined to be extra authentic.

Gumbo is so packed with flavor and is pretty easy to adjust to your own tastes. We like our gumbo extra spicy, so I opted to add some extra Cajun spice mix into mine. A great gumbo needs a great broth, so I made mine with chicken and a variety of fresh vegetables.

We'll start with the vegetables by first dicing them up into pieces. I started with the heartier vegetables like the red onion and celery and added the peppers, tomatoes, and other seasonings in as I went. 

The next step is to add the flour to the vegetables and coat them all before adding the chicken broth. The broth should be just barely a simmer.

Cook the chicken and andouille sausage in a separate pan or use pre-cooked varieties. The shrimp can be tossed in raw, but be sure to add those last so they don't turn rubbery.

Let the gumbo simmer on a medium low for fifteen to twenty minutes. I used this time to steam the rice and let the gumbo sauce thicken up.

Serve the gumbo with a large serving of rice - be careful, this gumbo is extra spicy!

We dipped French bread in our gumbo, but corn bread or any other crusty bread will work instead of (or in addition to) white rice. Have a safe and happy Mardi Gras and let the good times roll!

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

Makes ~ 5 bowls of gumbo


  • 1/2 lb chicken breast, cooked and chopped
  • 1/2 lb andouille sausage, cooked and chopped
  • 1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined, left raw
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 green onions, chopped to whites
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil 
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 1 tablespoon cajun spice blend
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 5 cups rice, steamed
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Here's How:

  1. Cook the chicken and andouille sausage. Peel and devein the shrimp, but leave raw.
  2. In a large pot over medium high heat, add the vegetable oil followed by the red onions, celery, red and green peppers, tomatoes and garlic. Saute until tender and fragrant. Add the parsley, cayenne pepper, cajun spice blend, and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add the flour to the pan and stir until the vegetables are coated. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Add the cooked chicken and andouille sausage. Toss in the shrimp. Reduce the heat to a medium low temperature and let simmer for twenty minutes.
  4. Steam the rice while the gumbo thickens. Serve each bowl of gumbo with one cup of the cooked rice, top with green onions, and enjoy!


Feb 7, 2016

Crab Rangoon Dip & Wonton Chips

We order Chinese food pretty regularly in our house - with a Chinese drive thru only a few blocks away, it's hard not to eat it almost every day. One thing that you can bet will always be in my order is crab rangoon. I frequently crave that crispy cream cheese and crab filled goodness, so I decided to recreate it for myself so I could snack on it whenever I pleased.

I used imitation crab in my dip, mostly because it was on a super sale and lump crab was super expensive in comparison, but whichever you can afford will work. The most important ingredients to get right are the wonton wrappers and panko bread crumbs - since those are the crunchy bits! I also made mine extra spicy by topping the dip with sriracha sauce.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Makes ~ 4 cups dip


  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 cups sharp white cheddar cheese cubes
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 cups imitation crab meat (OR real lump crab meat)
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 10 wonton wrappers, cut diagonally
  • dash pepper
  • coarse sea salt, for wonton chips
  • sriracha, optional
  • oil, for frying

Here's How:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. In a skillet over medium heat, melt one tablespoon of butter then add the softened cream cheese and cheddar cubes. Stir until melted.
  2. Add three tablespoons of soy sauce to the cheese mixture and still until completely incorporated. 
  3. Shred the crab meat then add it to the cheese mixture. Stir well to combine, then add a dash of pepper and one of the chopped green onions. Remove the pan from the heat.
  4. In a small bowl, melt the remaining butter. Stir the melted butter into the panko bread crumbs along with the quarter cup of Parmesan cheese.
  5. Spoon the crab and cheese mixture into a oven safe bowl or pan (I used two ramekins). Top the crab and cheese with panko, then bake for 20 minutes or until the panko crust is golden brown.
  6. While the dip is baking, fill a large pot with a few inches or oil, or use a deep fryer, and heat to 325 F. Cut the wonton wrappers in half diagonally to make triangles, then fry in batches until golden brown. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to dry. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
  7. Let the dip cool for a few minutes after removing it from the oven. Top the tip with sriracha for a spicy flair and garnish with the remaining chopped green onion. Serve alongside the wonton chips and enjoy!


Shrimp Po'Boy with Rémoulade Sauce | Mardi Gras Recipes

I sure do love me some Southern cooking - and with Mardi Gras right around the corner, I've been practicing the classics like po'boys and gumbo. While I've never had the opportunity to celebrate Mardi Gras in the South, we here in Ohio sure know how to rock a fish fry.

For Fat Tuesday this year, I'm definitely planning on stuffing my face with as much fried seafood as I possibly can - including making these crazy easy corn breaded shrimp po'boys with a spicy rémoulade sauce and pickles on top.

I used some corn bread mix for the shrimp's breading and then whipped together some mayo, spicy mustard, horseradish sauce, and cajun spices for a quick rémoulade.

Instead of using flour to bread my shrimp, I dipped each shrimp in the dry corn bread mix before dipping them in eggs, back into the corn bread, eggs again, and then finally rolled in panko bread crumbs for some crunch.

I deep fried my shrimp using my fry daddy deep fryer, but if you don't have one, a few inches of vegetable oil in a large pan will do the trick. Just make sure the temperature reaches at least 350°F for the ideal cooking temperature. The shrimp will be ready when they've turned a golden brown color.

Whisk together the ingredients for the rémoulade while the shrimp is cooking. It's optional to chill it, though I've found letting the rémoulade sit for a while helps develop the flavors some more.

Finally, assemble the fried shrimp on some French bread with pickles and lettuce. Top with the rémoulade and celebrate Mardi Gras!

Let the good times roll!

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 1-2 minutes per batch of shrimp

Makes ~ 3 shirmp po'boy sandwiches


  • 1 lb shrimp, peels & deveined
  • 1 cup corn muffin mix
  • 4 eggs, whisked
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon horseradish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sweet hot mustard
  • 1 tablespoon cajun spice blend
  • 1 tsp hot sauce (optional)
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • long loaf of French bread, big enough for three 5 inch buns to be cut from
  • dill pickle chips, for topping
  • lettuce, for topping

Here's How:

  1. Heat oil in a deep fryer or large pot until it reaches 350°F.
  2. Peel and devein the shrimp. Roll the shrimp in the corn flour mix, then dunk in the eggs, roll once more in the corn flour, then dunk in the eggs again. Let the excess drip off then roll the breaded shrimp in panko. Repeat with all the shrimp.
  3. In batches of four to five, add the shrimp to the hot oil and deep fry until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes.
  4. Cut the French bread into thirds and slice each third in half lengthwise. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, garlic, horseradish sauce, hot mustard, cajun spice blend, and hot sauce. Chill until ready to serve.
  5. Arrange the shrimp on the sliced French bread. Add lettuce and pickle chips. Top with the rémoulade sauce, serve right away and enjoy!


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