homemade peanut butter cups

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A couple weekends ago, my amazing mom surprised me with the cutest little gift from Le Creuset.  It was these mini heart-shaped silicone baking cups.  I knew I had to use them immediately, and for some reason, I instantly thought of using them to make peanut butter cups.  I thought the size would be perfect, not to mention I knew the silicone material would lend perfectly to removing them from the cups once they were completed and ready to be eaten.  Plus, I’ve always loved the store-bought peanut butter cups, but I couldn’t help but think that I could recreate them on my own, and with a lot less (bad) ingredients than what the store-bought kind has.

So this weekend, I played around with a few different ingredients and in no time, I ended up with the perfect peanut butter cups.  In a few simple steps and with a little patience, I had a giant batch of these ready to be eaten.  Complete with a smooth creamy peanut butter center that melts in your mouth.  Coated in a hard milk chocolate outer shell that sweetens it all up.  And so itty bitty that there’s zero shame in popping these like they’re M&Ms.   I couldn’t help and sneak one as dessert after every. single. meal.

Peanut Butter Cups
(Makes 24 candy cups)

2 cups milk chocolate chips
1 1/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

In a double boiler (my personal preference), or in the microwave in 30-second increments, melt the chocolate.  Using a small pastry brush, brush a thin even coating on the inside of each candy cup, being sure not to leave any paper exposed on the inside.  Freeze for 10 minutes.

While the cups are in the freezer, prepare the filling; in the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the confectioners sugar, peanut butter, and butter until smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Transfer the mixture to a piping bag with a large opening (about 1/2″ diameter).  Pipe the mixture into the frozen cups to about 1/8″ from the top.  Smooth with an icing spatula.

Transfer the remaining melted chocolate to another piping bag with a small opening (about 1/4″ diameter).  Pipe the chocolate onto the tops of the cups to the rim.  Smooth with another icing spatula and return to the freezer for another 10 minutes.

Once completely frozen, remove the paper cups from each peanut butter cup.  The colder the cups are, the easier (and less messy!) it will be to remove the paper.  Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator.

– chocolate on,
Sharon

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slow cooker garlic chicken thighs

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I jumped on the slow cooker train way too late.  Even when I actually had one in my small kitchen, I kept it in the box because there just wasn’t any room for it.  So this year, when K and I moved into our new townhouse, which had a kitchen about double the size of our old kitchen, I couldn’t wait to give the slow cooker a try.

Since then, the slow cooker gets used about once a week.  Our regulars are pulled pork, chili, and of course, these garlic chicken thighs.  I love this chicken dish (and generally any slow cooker dish) because I can put everything in the slow cooker (even if the chicken is still frozen) and voila! 8 hours later, I have a stunning, juicy yet crispy chicken dish.

Slow Cooker Garlic Chicken Thighs
(Makes 2 servings)

4 chicken thighs, skin on and patted dry
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup white wine such as Chardonnay
1/3 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, whisk together the wine and flour until no lumps remain.  Set aside.

Add the onion and garlic to the slow cooker and season with salt and pepper.  Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the slow cooker, skin side up.  Pour the wine mixture on top of the chicken.

Cover and cook for 4 hours on high, or 8 hours on low.

Transfer 2 cups of the sauce from the slow cooker to a small saucepan over medium heat.  Allow to simmer and reduce to about half the volume.  Set aside.

Serve the chicken thighs over couscous with some of the reduced sauce.

slow cook on,
Sharon

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st. patrick’s day: Guinness and Bailey’s chocolate cupcakes

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I’m not Irish, and I’m not a huge fan of Guinness beer, but when I woke up this morning and saw that it was st. patrick’s day, I knew that it was time to put together these boozy cupcakes.  As you’ve seen in the past with my boozy bailey’s milkshakes, I am a lover of anything bailey’s.  So I did not hold back with this recipe.  Because the only thing better than homemade ganache, is homemade ganache with bailey’s mixed in.

All things aside, I made this recipe because I love chocolate, I love bailey’s, and I love an excuse to make a cupcake for friends and family.  So to all those celebrating the holiday and having an extra drink (or two!), I hope you enjoy the day and don’t be afraid to give this recipe a try!

Guinness and Bailey’s Chocolate Cupcakes
(Makes 12 cupcakes)


For the Guinness chocolate cupcakes:

1/2 cup Guinness beer
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/8 cup cocoa powder
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup sour cream

For the Bailey’s chocolate ganache:

1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup (about 6 oz) milk chocolate chips
2 tsp Bailey’s Irish Cream

For the Bailey’s buttercream frosting:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners sugar
2 tbsp Bailey’s Irish Cream

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line your cupcake pan with liners.

Prepare the batter; in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the beer and butter.  Stir in the cocoa powder and mix until smooth.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg, sugar, and sour cream.  Add the beer mixture to the wet ingredients and mix.  Slowly mix in the dry ingredients until incorporated.

Next, prepare the ganache;  in a small saucepan on medium heat, bring the heavy cream to a simmer.  Pour the hot cream over a medium bowl containing the chocolate.  Whisk together for 2-3 minutes, or until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated with the cream.  Add the Bailey’s and mix until uniform again.

Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full and bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool slightly and using a cupcake corer or teaspoon, remove a small amount of cake from the center of each cupcake.  Fill each hole with ganache to the rim, about 2 tsp worth.

While the cupcakes are in the oven, prepare the frosting; in the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the butter until smooth and creamy.  Slowly add the confectioners sugar and mix until incorporated.  Add the Bailey’s and mix until smooth.  If consistency appears to be too thick, add more Bailey’s 1 tsp at a time.  If consistency appears to be too thin, add more confectioners sugar.  Frost the cupcakes however you’d like, and drizzle with any remaining chocolate ganache!

cupcake on,
Sharon

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back to basics: strawberry sauce

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I know it’s not strawberry season, but for some reason when I walked through Whole Foods this weekend and saw the cartons of strawberries, I couldn’t help but grab one right away.  It’s probably the fact that the weather has been so spectacular lately.  Today is March 1st, a time of the year when it is often still frigid and snowing, yet for the past couple weeks, the northeast has been blessed with beautiful sunny days in the 50s and up.  I even turned my A/C on in the car this weekend!  And walked outside with a long sleeve shirt on!  So when I saw those bright red strawberries, I immediately started thinking about what I could do with them.  I knew that I had to bake a cake during the weekend, so a lightbulb went off instantly – I would make a vanilla cake with cream cheese frosting and fresh strawberry filling.

I love being able to make a basic sauce like this strawberry sauce because the possibilities with it are endless.  And we all know how much I love a versatile ingredient.  Sure, I used this sauce as a cake filling.  But this sauce also works great as a filling in a cupcake, as a sauce to incorporate into (or top) your vanilla ice cream, or even as a filling in doughnuts!  Mmmmmm.  Now excuse me while I go wipe the drool off my face!

Give this recipe a try and let me know what you use it for in the comments below.

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Strawberry Sauce
(Makes 2 cups)

2 1/2 cups cubed fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch

In a small saucepan, combine the strawberries and sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Add the cornstarch and continue to stir.  Let boil for 2 minutes and remove from heat.  The sauce will thicken and go from translucent to opaque.  Allow to cool completely before using.

– sauce on,
Sharon

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girl scout cookies as a cupcake: samoas

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Next up on my girl scout cookie series is samoas!  I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of coconut, so this cupcake was 100% for K.  He’s a big fan of coconut, and was very excited when I came home from Whole Foods and told him there was shredded coconut in the pantry and coconut milk in the fridge.  Unfortunately for him, those ingredients are rarely found in our house!

If you are not familiar with samoas (or caramel deLites, as they’re called in some areas), they are vanilla cookies topped with caramel, toasted coconut, and chocolate.  In cookie form, all the flavors come together beautifully, so I knew this would taste just as nice in cupcake form.  These cupcakes have a vanilla cake, coconut frosting, a toasted coconut topping, plus a drizzling of caramel and chocolate sauce.  The coconut frosting was a huge hit – I literally had to fight K for the bowl of frosting when I was trying to fill my piping bag with it!

Coconut Cupcakes with Caramel & Chocolate Drizzle
(Makes 12 cupcakes)

For the vanilla cupcakes:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup milk

For the coconut frosting:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp coconut extract
1 tsp vanilla coconut milk
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

For the toppings:

1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup (1.5 oz) milk chocolate chips, melted
1/4 cup caramel sauce

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line your cupcake pan with liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the eggs and vanilla extract and stir until uniform.

In another large bowl, combine the flour and baking powder.  Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix.  Add all the milk and mix.  Finally, add the remaining dry ingredients and mix.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix, ensuring everything is incorporated.

Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely and reduce oven temp to 325F (you will need the oven to toast the coconut).

While the cupcakes are in the oven, prepare the frosting;  in the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the butter until smooth and creamy.  Add 1 cup of confectioners sugar and mix until incorporated.  Add the vanilla extract, coconut extract, and coconut milk, and mix.  Add the remaining 1-2 cups of confectioners sugar until your desired consistency is reached.  If too thin, add more confectioners sugar.  If too thick, add coconut milk 1 tsp at a time.  With a spatula, fold in the shredded coconut.  Frost the cupcakes however you’d like.

With the remaining 1/2 cup shredded coconut, spread the coconut on a lined baking sheet.  Bake for 5 minutes, or until the coconut is a golden brown.  Dip each frosted cupcake in the toasted coconut, and drizzle with the melted chocolate and caramel.

cupcake on,
Sharon

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girl scout cookies as a cupcake: s’mores

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It’s winter time, and you know what that means!  Well here in the east coast, of course that means snow, and lots of it.  But it also means girl scout cookies are available!  It’s hard to say no to those cookies – so far I’ve grabbed them at the grocery store, the bank, and even at the drive thru at Dunkin’ Donuts (what?!) – am I the only one that thinks they’re everywhere this year?!  Oh well, I’m happy about it!

So when Shirley texted me the other day saying, “could you turn our favorite girl scout cookies into cupcakes?”, I immediately responded with, “YES!  You’re a genius!”  How fun to combine my love of baking with my love of these cookies.

I’ll start today with the NEW, but oh so delicious s’mores cookies.  These cupcakes have it all – a graham cracker crust, chocolate cupcakes, marshmallow frosting, and the s’mores cookie to top it off.

Check back all week for more cupcakes inspired by the girl scout cookies!

S’mores Cupcakes
(Makes 12-15 cupcakes)

For the graham cracker crust:

1 cup (about 3 sheets) graham crackers, crushed
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

For the chocolate cupcakes:

1 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water

For the marshmallow frosting:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups marshmallow fluff, either store-bought or homemade
2 cups confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line your cupcake pan with liners.

Prepare the graham cracker crust; add the graham crackers to a ziploc bag and seal.  Using your fist or the flat side of a meat tenderizer, crush the crackers until it is a coarse mixture.  Add to the melted butter and stir until incorporated.  Press about 1 tbsp into the bottom of each cupcake liner. Bake for 3 minutes and remove from the oven.

Prepare the batter; combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar, eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla extract.  In a couple batches, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix.  With the mixer at a low speed, add the boiling water.  Be patient – it will take about a minute for everything to incorporate.

Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting.

While the cupcakes are in the oven, prepare the frosting; beat the butter until creamy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the marshmallow fluff and beat for 2-3 more minutes.  Add the vanilla extract and mix.  Working 1 cup at a time, add the confectioners sugar and mix until combined and at your desired consistency.  If too thin, add more confectioners sugar.  If too thick, add milk 1 tsp at a time.  Frost the cupcakes however you’d like!

– cupcake on,
Sharon

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valentine’s day: chocolate cupcakes for two

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The best (or worst?) thing about this recipe is that it only makes enough batter for exactly 2 cupcakes.  So if you’re sharing Valentine’s day with a special someone, you’ve each got a cupcake for dessert.  And if you’re single and just as special, you’ve got two cupcakes to eat for dessert.  Honestly, I think the single ladies and gents have the advantage here.  Because 2 cupcakes is ALWAYS better than 1.  Whether you’re single or taken on this made up holiday, take a break and indulge yourself with some sweets!

Chocolate Cupcakes for Two
(Makes 2 cupcakes)

For the cupcakes:

3 tbsp flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/16 tsp salt
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp mini chocolate chips

For the frosting:

3 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
4 tbsp confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350F and prepare 2 cups of a cupcake pan with liners.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the water, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract and combine with a hand mixer.  Add the batter to the two cupcake liners and top each cupcake with a 1/2 tbsp of mini chocolate chips.  Bake for 17-18 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.

While the cupcakes are in the oven, prepare the frosting.  In a small bowl, combine the softened butter and cocoa powder with a hand mixer.  Add the confectioners sugar 1 tbsp at a time until your desired consistency is achieved.  Once the cupcakes have cooled, frost and decorate however you’d like!

cupcake on,
Sharon

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