Chocolate Malt Cupcakes with Vanilla Malt Buttercream

These are dangerous. Trust me when I say that you do not want these sitting in your kitchen all weekend. Make these, keep 1 (or maybe 2 or 3) for yourself and give the rest away, QUICKLY! Otherwise you will keep going back to the kitchen for more (and more and more).

The cupcake recipe is adapted from America's Test Kitchen cookbook (my new favorite!) with the addition of some malt powder and a little milk. This is a damn good cupcake. I'm not the biggest fan of chocolate usually. I'm . I'll take the lemon, berry, pumpkin, ginger, apple, or peanut butter dessert before chocolate most days. But every once in a while the chocolate craving sneaks up and this cupcake satisfied!

I had problems with the middle sinking for some reason (yes, they were cooked all the way. no, i didn't open the oven in the middle of cooking) but I didn't care too much because they tasted amazing. And besides it gave me more room to load on the icing... and trust me this is an icing that you will want every last drop of. The icing is definitely worthy of a "WOW!" It is definitely the star of this cupcake. The Vanilla Malt Buttercream is nothing short of addicting.

Chocolate Malt Cupcakes
Recipe (Adapted from America's Test Kitchen)
Makes: 24 cupcakes (I made 20 cupcakes and about 12 mini cupcakes)
  • 16 TBSP unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup dutch process cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup of malted milk powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 large eggs (room temp)
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup milk


  1. Adjust oven to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard size muffin pan (cups have 1/2 cup capacity) with baking-cup liners.
  2. Combine butter, chocolate, and cocoa in a medium heatproof bowl. Set bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water; heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth and fully combined. Set aside to cool until just warm to touch.
  3. Whisk flour, malt powder, baking soda, and baking powder in small bowl to combine.
  4. Whisk eggs in second medium bowl to combine; add sugar, vanilla, and salt and whisk until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift about one-third of the flour mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in sour cream until combined, then sift remaining flour mixture over and whisk until batter is homogenous and thick.
  5. Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake until skewer inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. (12 minutes for minis)
  6. Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before icing, about 30 minutes.

Vanilla Malt Buttercream
  • 2 sticks butter (room temperature)
  • 6 tablespoons malt powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 6 - 8 cups confectioners sugar
  1. Beat butter on low speed
  2. Add in malt powder, vanilla extract, milk, and 4 cups of sugar. Beat on low speed for 1 minute.
  3. Add in remaining sugar 1 cup at a time and beat on medium speed for a few minutes.

Chicken Kebabs

I used to live in Florida where I could grill year round. Of course I probably grilled about 3 times a year. Now that I've lived through a Pennsylvania winter, I won't be taking my grill for granted any more. The second it was warm enough to step outside and grill, I was all about it. And the best part is that grilling comes with 2 bonuses. 1. No pots and pans! 2. I can get Ross to help cook.

This is one of my favorite grilling recipes. It's colorful, easy, delicious, and healthy. This is a perfect Summer Sunday dinner. Whether you are cooking for 2 or you're cooking for 20 this recipe is a breeze. Just marinate some chicken and chop some veggies.

Skewer them. And throw them on the grill.

And voila! You're done. I've made this recipe with both chicken and steak and they both come out delicious.

Recipe for Chicken Marinade (Adapted from All Recipes)
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh parsley

  1. Combine all the ingredients and marinade for 2 - 12 hours.

Pasta with Pesto, Chicken, Sundried Tomatoes, Toasted Pinenuts, & Feta

I know the title of the recipe is extremely long but I didn't want to leave out any ingredients since they all add so much to the dish. This is, hands down, Ross' favorite meal that I make! If he had to pick one dish that I make to eat over and over and over again, this would be it. I originally got the recipe from All Recipes and have been making it about once or twice a month for years now. It's not the prettiest dish in the world, but what it lacks in color it makes up for in taste.

You start by cooking some chicken... or if you want to make it easy on yourself just shred up a rotessire chicken from the store. The sauce is fairly simple. It's a combination of chicken broth and pesto (the premade kind that you can buy in a store) that is cooked down with a little cornstarch to thicken it up. In the end it almost has the consistency of a creamy pesto sauce, but without all the fat! The sundried tomatoes and toasted pinenuts are added to the sauce, and them some feta is thrown in at the last minute. And don't foreget the fresh basil and fresh grated parmesan cheese for the perfect finishing touch. And yes, that IS basil from my garden that I grew myself! (I'm clearly very excited about this... it's a first for me)

Of course I have to do what I can to make the dish a little healthier. I always use whole wheat pasta; penne or rotini work best here. I use low sodium chicken broth because the salitness of the feta is enough. And I use the reduced-fat feta because honestly, I can't tell the difference. It would be super easy to make this dish vegetarian. Just swap out the chicken broth for vegetable broth, and add tofu instead of chicken.

Now as delicious as this dish is the night you make it, it really shines the next day. This is amazing cold! It make a great next day lunch. It also makes a great do ahead pasta salad if you're having company.

Recipe: Adapated from All Recipes


  • 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 3 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup prepared basil pesto
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 (16 ounce) package fusilli pasta
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Cook chicken in oil with garlic in a large skillet over medium heat until done.
  2. Stir cornstarch into a couple of tablespoons of chicken broth. Stir remaining chicken broth, sun dried tomatoes, pesto, pine nuts, and basil into the skillet with the chicken. Mix cornstarch mixture into the sauce, and cook until thickened. Add feta a few minutes before serving.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain. Serve sauce over pasta, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Posted by Picasa

Black Bean Sweet Potato "Burgers" & a Simple Lime Sauce

I'm not a vegetarian. I never will be. I love meat. But in the past few years I've taken quite a liking to vegetarian meals (once I realized that it didn't just have to be a plate of vegetables or pasta). You won't miss the meat at all with these "burgers". Even Ross loves these and he's as far from vegetarian as they get! The black beans and sweet potatoes are a perfect combination. The sweetness of the sweet potato balances perfectly with the earthiness of the black beans.

The recipe calls for quinoa in the burgers. Quinoa is a grain that has a similar size and texture as couscous. If you don't have any, you could just use some brown rice, a handful of oats, or double up on the breadcrumbs. The burger is pretty loose so I don't know how well it would do on an outdoor grill. We used an indoor grill and chilled the burgers for 30 minutes before cooking so they were easier to handle. If you're using an outdoor grill you may want to add more breadcrumbs to soak up the extra moisture or even throw in an egg to help bind them.

This recipe makes a lot of burgers, but they freeze really well. They make an excellent weeknight meal when you don't have time to cook. (Or when you do have time to cook, you just don't want to becaues So You Think You Can Dance is on.) Just wrap each one individually with cling wrap then toss them on in a freezer bag. (I usually let them freeze for about 10 - 15 minutes on a baking sheet before I try to put saran wrap around them. That way they're not so flimsy and they're easier to handle).

I got the inspiration for the recipe from a few places (here, here, & here), but ultimately just ended up combining ideas and making own recipe. The lime sauce that I put on top adds the perfect touch to the burgers. It's very simple to make. Just a couple ingredients. In fact, I feel silly even writing a "recipe" for it but it adds so much to the burger!

Black Bean Burger
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cans black beans, drained
  • 2 sweet potatoes, baked
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • salt & pepper to taste

  1. Saute onions and garlic untill transulcent.
  2. Combine onions and garlic with black beans and spices in a large bowl. Mash the black beans untill they're half-crushed.
  3. Add sweet potatoes, quinoa, and breadcrumbs. Stir to combine. If the mixture looks too moist, add more breadcrumbs.
  4. Grill, bake, or pan fry. (I used an indoor grill with non-stick spray and they took about 5 - 7 minutes)

Lime Sauce
  • 6 oz. greek yogurt
  • zest of 1 lime
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients and mix together.

Lemon Bars

It happened about a year ago. I made a life changing discovery. I discovered that I like lemon... no, I LOVE lemon. I have no logical explanation but for some reason I had always avoided lemon flavored desserts just assuming that I wouldn't like them. Then, I was visitng a friend in Virginia who claimed there was a bakery nearby that made "the best lemon bars". Realizing that I have never actually had a lemon bar I figured why not? I took one bite and I was hooked!

In the year to follow I couldn't get enough lemon. I had lemon ice cream, lemon cookies, lemon muffins, lemon tarts. You name it...if it was lemon, I wanted it! And I was happy to learn there are fellow bloggers out there that share the same obsession.

Since that day I, like many others, have been on a quest to find the recipe for the perfect lemon bars. And let me tell you, there are A LOT of recipes out there to try. To me, a perfect lemon bar is more tart than it is sweet. It should have a very lemony taste as soon as you bite into it, not just a hint of lemon behind all the sweetness. It should definitely have more lemon filling than it does crust; the 50:50 ratio is not for me. The crust should be buttery and have a firm bite to it. Not too soggy or not to hard. And it should be finished with a generous dusting of powdered sugar.

Following the advice I read at My Baking Addiction (a wonderful blog!), who followed the advice she got at The Repressed Pastry Chef (another amazing blog!), I decided to try the America's Test Kitchen recipe for the crust with Ina Garten's recipe for the filling. I can definitively say that my search is half over. The crust is perfect! It has the perfect bite to it. The filling is another story. I thought the flavor was great (although I decreased the sugar from 3 c. to 2 c.). It has the perfect amount of lemon flavor and sweetness, and I will not change the amount of lemon juice or sugar that I used. However, the texture was a little stiff to me. Perhaps next time (and yes, there will be a next time) I will try it with a little less flour or one less egg.

Recipe: Crust from America's Test Kicthen & Filling from Ina Garten


The Crust
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter -- (1 1/2 sticks) at
  • very cool room temperature, cut into
  • 1-inch pieces, plus extra for greasing pan

The Filling*
  • 6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 3 cups granulated sugar**
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup flour
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
  1. For the crust: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and line with one sheet parchment or wax paper. Dot paper with butter, then lay second sheet crosswise over it.

  2. Pulse flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, and salt in food processor workbowl fitted with steel blade. Add butter and process to blend, 8 to 10 seconds, then pulse until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal, about three 1-second bursts. Sprinkle mixture into lined pan and press firmly with fingers into even, 1/4-inch layer over entire pan bottom and about 1/2 inch up sides. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  3. For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

    Cut into squares and dust with confectioners' sugar.

* According the America's Test Kitchen the filling needs to be poured onto a warm crust so the filling cooks evenly. There should be plenty of time to make filling while the crust chills and cooks, but be sure to plan ahead.

** I only used 2 c. of sugar and this was plenty sweet for me. I cannot imagine using the whole 3 cups!

Pecan Apple Chicken Salad

Ever wonder what to do with leftover chicken? This has officially become my go to recipe for the single leftover chicken breast that always seems to be hanging around in my fridge. You see, the chicken I buy comes in a package of 3 boneless, skinless breast and I only cook for 2. Yes, I know, I could freeze the extra piece and save it for another day... but where's the fun in that?

Let me preface this recipe by saying that chicken salad usually leaves a lot to be desired in my book. Most chicken salads are mushy and squishy and all you can taste is mayo. Yuck! Not this chicken salad. This salad has a very fresh quality about it, you can actually taste the chicken, and the apples and pecans give it texture! If you think you don't like chicken salad, please do yourself a favor and make this.

This is the perfect recipe to use up leftover chicken. The apples and the pecans give the salad a great texture. I chose to use Granny Smith apples because I like the tartness, and it paired perfectly with the pecans, but I'm sure any apple and any type of nut would be great. It doesn't even have to be apple. You could throw in grapes, raisins, or cranberries instead. This is incredibly adaptable, delicious, healthy, and quick... what more could you ask for?

  • 1 cooked chicken breast, chopped*
  • 1/2 c. chopped Granny Smith Apple
  • 1/4 c. chopped pecans
  • 1 1/2 T. mayonaise
  • Salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste
  1. Put all the ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Mix together.

*When I cooked the chicken originally I used Lemon & dried Thyme which complimented the chicken salad really well. Throw in a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or a pinch of dried thyme to add a little extra flavor!

Smores Bars

Cookies, good. S'mores, good. S'mores cookies, GENIUS! The concept is simple, but the results are outstanding! They taste better than smores in my opinion. For those of you who prefer the chewy cookie to the crispy cookie, this is for you. Imagine eating a smore, but instead of having a hard, crispy graham cracker on the bottom you have a chewy graham cracker flavored cookie! The bottom and top layers are basically a cookie dough with the addition of graham cracker crumbs. Hershey's bars and marshmallow creme/fluff (the kind you buy in a jar, NOT actual marshmallows) are sandwiched in between.

And while we're on the subject, lets talk about marshmallow fluff. What a mess! I had the hardest time getting the marshmallow creme to spread. I ended up with marshmallow webs extending from the spatula, to my fingers, to the sink. (If you have any tips, please send them my way). In the end I worked it out. And the verdict? Well worth it! These s'mores bars are sure to impress!

One more thing, these are best right out of the oven when the chocolate is still melty and gooey. They also reheat great in the microwave. Just zap 'em for about 10 - 15 seconds! Enjoy.

Recipe from: Lovin' From the Oven

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 king-sized milk chocolate bars (e.g. Hershey’s)
  • 1 1/2 cups marshmallow creme/fluff (not melted marshmallows)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix at a low speed until combined.
  3. Divide dough in half and press half of dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Place chocolate bars over dough. 2 king-sized Hershey’s bars should fit perfectly side by side, but break the chocolate (if necessary) to get it to fit in a single layer no more than 1/4 inch thick. Spread chocolate with marshmallow creme or fluff. Place remaining dough in a single layer on top of the fluff (most easily achieved by flattening the dough into small shingles and laying them together).
  4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Makes 16 cookie bars.