Mug Cakes

Since our return from vacation I have been trying to nix unnecessary snacks in an effort to be healthier. That means the pantry and cookie jar are a bit bare. But sometimes I just need an early afternoon pick-me-up. In the past, I’d just whip up a batch of cookies; however, I know my weaknesses. I’d be the one to eat most of that batch.

Enter the mug cake. I’ve seen quite a few recipes for mug cakes, mug breakfasts, and mug entrees pop up on social media and I’ve saved a few that I was particularly curious about. My craving for one-serving treat yesterday made it the perfect time to finally try one of these cakes. You can find the recipe for the first cake I tried (chocolate peanut butter!) below: 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mug Cake

I didn’t do the peanut butter mousse or the chocolate syrup; I was in the mood for something a bit more simple and I wanted to be sure to taste the cake. The flavor was good, but slightly marred by the fact that I overcooked the cake. I checked it after one minute and it looked like the middle wasn’t cooked yet, so I continued cooking it. What a mistake! If I had stopped there, I would have had a molten cake. Instead, the texture was dry and crumbly… I still ate every bite with the help of the Cool Whip I put on top, but it wasn’t as decadent as it should have been.

The fact that this didn’t work out quite like I’d hoped inspired me to search for a vanilla mug cake. I also hoped to find an option for my husband when he randomly asks for cake after dinner. The recipe for a vanilla mug cake that I tried today can be found below:

Vanilla Mug Cake

This was a great success. I stopped at one minute, then only added 15 seconds to finish cooking it. The texture was super moist and gooey. The flavor was perfectly simple. I whipped up a basic buttercream icing that I put in a dollop on top so it melted down from the top into each bite. At the bottom, there was a creamy sauce. I’m not sure if it was more molten cake batter or melted icing, but it tasted delicious. I think I can wow my hubby with this recipe.

Just a few notes: one mug cake could easily be shared by two people. Also, be careful not to overcook your cakes. After that first minute, cook more in small increments. Finally, just because these are small, don’t assume they’re less complicated than regular cakes. You don’t just dump all the ingredients in a mug and cook. You will still have multiple dishes – they’ll just be smaller dishes!

What started as a treat just for me is now a dessert that I’m pumped to share with my husband.

Pork and Beans Bread… No, Really.

I recently found a new series of cheesy mystery novels that I enjoy. In part, like them because the main character owns a cookie shop and so they include some creative recipes for sweets. Usually, I just drool as I read them, but the book that I just finished included a recipe for Pork and Beans Bread. I wasn’t convinced by the title, but as much as my family likes baked beans, we never eat an entire recipe yield or the leftovers. I figured this recipe was worth a try since it would help solve that particular problem.

For the most part, I followed the recipe as it was written. However, I used homemade baked beans from dinner the night before. Since mine are a little less saucy and sweet than store-bought baked beans, I added a tablespoon of molasses to the batter. I also only had about ¾ cup of oil in the house, so in the end I added about ¼ cup milk.

Ingredients


1 can (15 ounce) of pork and beans (2 cups of leftover homemade baked beans works, too)

4 eggs, beaten

1 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups white sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

3 cups all-purpose flour

Directions


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F., rack in the middle position.

Prepare your pans. Spray two 9-inch by 5-inch by 3-inch-deep loaf pans with Pam or another nonstick cooking spray.


Don’t drain the pork and beans. Pour them into a food processor or a blender, juice and all, and process them until they’re pureed smooth with no lumps.


Place beaten eggs in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the pureed pork and beans and mix them in well.

Add the vegetable oil and the vanilla extract. Mix well.


Add the sugar and mix it in. Then mix in the baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir until everything is incorporated.


Stir in the chopped nuts.


Add the flour in one-cup increments, stirring after each addition.


Spoon half of the batter into one loaf pan and the other half of the batter into the second loaf pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 50 to 60 minutes. […]


Cool for 20 minutes. Run the sharp blade of a knife around inside of all four sides of the pan to loosen the bread, and then tip it out onto the wire rack. Cool the bread completely.


(From Plum Pudding Murder by Joanne Fluke, Kensington Publishing Corporation, 2009)

Now for the interesting part: how did it taste? Pretty good, actually. The flavor mellows as it cools and you don’t really taste the baked bean flavor. Instead, the molasses and cinnamon come through nicely. The texture is thick and soft like banana bread, but lighter and not as dense. The only thing I didn’t like was how tough the bacon from my homemade baked beans became. It was like finding bits of plastic in some of the bites. Therefore, if you have bacon in your beans, consider picking it out or going with vegetarian beans.

My husband hasn’t ventured a taste, but since Vincent helped me prepare it, he tried some spread with a little peanut butter with his breakfast. One taste and he giggled with glee. That reaction alone means I’ll make this again. 

Cuban Marinated Pork Chops

We just got back from a family vacation, so after a week of not-so-healthy eating, I’m ready for some lighter, fresher meals. Therefore, this week’s Try It Tuesday recipe is for a new marinade for grilled boneless pork chops. I based my version of this on a recipe I found online and adjusted slightly. Here’s what I came up with:

Ingredients 

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

The juice from 1 lime

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 teaspoon dried oregano

3/4 teaspoon cumin

Freshly ground pepper (I used 10 turns of the grinder)

3 small, boneless pork chops (mine were about 1/2 an inch thick)

Directions

Mix all ingredients except the pork in a bowl. 
Spoon 1 layer of marinade into a quart-sized zipper bag. Add 1 pork chop and top with more marinade. Add another pork chop. Continue until all pork chops and marinade mixture are used. Seal and let sit in the fridge overnight, turning occasionally.
Remove from marinade, brushing onion slices off the pork. Grill at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 5-6 minutes per side.

Wow! These were tasty. My husband dubbed this marinade “taco marinade” and said it was “super good.” My two-year-old cried when his dad said he might eat his pork chop for him. I never get reactions like this from these guys, no matter how much I like something. In other words, try these pork chops as soon as you can!

Eggless Banana Oatmeal Muffins

I wanted to make muffins today. Since I wasn’t going to the store, I had two criteria for the recipe ingredients: 

    1. It had to use the one over-ripe banana sitting on my counter and
    2. It had to be eggless. 

    I also had some vanilla chai instant oatmeal whose flavor I found over-the-top on its own, so I decided to add it to the combination of recipes I used. In the end, this is what I came up with (for six muffins):

    Ingredients

    3/4 cup flour

    1/2 teaspoon baking soda

    1/2 teaspoon baking powder

    2 tablespoons brown sugar

    2 packets instant oatmeal, flavor of your choice

    1 large banana, mashed

    1 tablespoon butter, softened

    1/2 tablespoon oil

    1/2 teaspoon vanilla

    3 tablespoons milk

    Directions

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line 6 muffin tins.

    Whisk together dry ingredients. Set the bowl aside.

    Stir together remaining ingredients, ensuring that the butter is well incorporated. Then, stir the dry ingredients into the wet. Keep mixing until just combined.

    Fill muffin tins 2/3 of the way to the top. Place into oven and bake for 15-18 minutes.

    I was more impressed by this recipe than I expected to be. The muffins were moist and had a fluffy texture. I also loved the interplay of the strong flavor of the vanilla chai oatmeal with the subtle banana taste. I think it would be fun to experiment with other oatmeal flavors. Strawberry-banana muffins anyone? Peach? Blueberry? I can’t wait to try it again!

    Shrimp Boil Foil Packets

    Our grilling adventures continued this week with shrimp boil foil packets. I checked with both my sister (who was visiting) and my husband to be sure they’d be willing to try it. As per my preference, I just threw the ingredients together, tossed them in the foil packets, and my husband grilled them. The only major change I made was to decrease the Old Bay Seasoning from three tablespoons to two. Otherwise, I used canned corn and potatoes. It made the meal a bit quicker and easier. 

    My husband and I really enjoyed the rich, buttery taste of this dinner. The Old Bay Seasoning, which I’ve never used before, added some freshness. However, my sister isn’t a big seafood person, so she was unconvinced. The kids (ages almost 3 and almost 4), ate without complaining, but weren’t wild about the dish. I’d make this again for a get-together, but with an alternate meal for kids.

    No-Churn Ice Cream

    It’s been a busy week. On top of that, no one in my family has slept well, and I’m working on starting to do freelance proofreading. With so much going on, my brain is struggling to keep up (and I’m looking forward to a quiet schedule in August). In other words, sorry for the missed post on Tuesday. What better way to say, “I’m sorry,” than with ice cream? 

    This no-churn ice cream was ridiculously easy and perfect for personalizing. In fact, I poured the basic mixture into two containers and made one birthday cake ice cream and one honey swirl (!!!). Just swirl in honey instead of icing and you’ll have my favorite of the two flavors. My husband preferred the birthday cake – not surprising since I can bribe him to do just about anything for cake. Try your own flavors: peanut butter swirl with peanut butter cups, maple crisp, cherry chocolate… The possibilities are endless! 

    Smashed Potatoes on the Grill

    Now that we have a grill, for the first time ever my husband is not only on board with trying new recipes, he actually makes suggestions and requests! We’ve already tried different marinades for steak and pork, but tonight was all about the potatoes. It’s been HOT, so turning on the oven didn’t appeal to me; however, I’d planned on trying these smashed potatoes as a side tonight. Since our grill has a thermometer on the outside, I asked my husband to put the cookie sheet of potatoes on the grill. They were delicious! My potato-hating preschooler even tried and loved them. I was so pleased with how these turned out that I wanted to share – even though it’s not Tuesday. The only thing I did differently (other than using the grill) was to leave out the thyme, but that was only because it wouldn’t have gone well with the rest of the flavors in our meal. Seriously, try these soon!

    Fourth of July Barbeque Fare

    In honor of the Fourth of July, the Try It Tuesday recipes (yes, I’m doing two!) are both great options to bring to a potluck picnic.

    We got our first grill and invited friends over to help us break it in. I made these quick baked beans in a slow cooker for our inaugural barbeque. They tasted sweet and rich and the sauce was just thick enough. It was a last-minute get-together so I didn’t have time to soak dried beans. Instead, I used two cans of white beans (any variety works) that I drained then put in a slow cooker- I needed the oven for the second recipe I’ll be sharing. I made the bacon in the microwave and chopped it into pieces. After making the bacon, I used the grease to saute the onions. Finally, I used 1 teaspoon brown mustard instead of 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard. I’d also suggest reducing the molasses from three tablespoons to two because the flavor of molasses overtook everything else. In the slow cooker, two hours on high was the required cooking time, but you can also follow the original recipe and use your oven.
    The second recipe is for pretzle-crusted brownies, and yes, they are as addictive as they sound! The sugar and butter in the pretzle crust melted together around the pretzels to form a crunchy, salted caramel flavor that complimented the gooey chocolate brownies perfectly. The recipe didn’t make a lot of icing; in fact, it was almost more of a thick glaze. Trust the recipe though. It’s just the right amount for this fun dessert. The only caveat I have is to grease the pan. I had a really hard time getting the brownies out. Other than that, just bring this to a gathering with a crowd so you don’t eat the whole pan yourself!

    Oatmeal Two Ways

    Usually, I share my experiences making other people’s recipes, but this week I’m using my own recipes for my two favorite kinds of oatmeal. Most people eat oatmeal for breakfast, but I love savory apple, cheddar, and rosemary oatmeal for lunch. This is actually a copycat recipe. Quaker included this flavor in their Best Bowl Competition boxes, but I’ve never seen it (or the other flavors in the running) in stores since the end of the voting. Therefore, I decided to make my own, less artificial-tasting version. I top it with eggs over easy to add some protein and a creamy “sauce” thanks to the yolks. There’s also some great texture from the chunks of real apple. All in all, this dish satisfies without being heavy.  The second way I prepare oatmeal is with peanut butter and cocoa powder for an indulgent but not overly sweet bedtime snack. I’m nursing a hungry infant, so my body appreciates the slow-digesting protein and fiber at night. The combination of chocolate and peanut butter also helps curb my tendency to snack more than I need to before bed.  

    Each recipe works at any time of day and yields 1 serving. Enjoy!

    Apple, Cheddar, and Rosemary Oatmeal

    Ingredients

    1 packet plain oatmeal

    1/3 cup apple juice (depending on the consistency you want for your oatmeal, you may need more liquid; I like some thickness)

    ½ small apple, chopped

    1 large pinch dried rosemary

    Salt, pepper, and shredded sharp cheddar cheese to taste

    Directions

    Put the oatmeal in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

    Combine the juice, apples, and rosemary in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil 2 minutes. Use a spoon to keep the apple chunks in the saucepan while pouring the liquid into the oatmeal. Let sit for 1 minute, then add the apples and shredded cheddar. Top with eggs cooked to your preference if you’d like to add some protein.

    Chocolate-Peanut Butter Oatmeal

    Ingredients

    1 packet plain oatmeal

    1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

    2 teaspoon brown sugar

    1 to 1 ½ tablespoons peanut butter

    ½ tablespoon semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

    Directions

    Boil 1/3 cup water (or a little more or less depending on the consistency you prefer for your oatmeal). Meanwhile, pour the oatmeal, cocoa powder, and brown sugar into a bowl. Stir in the boiling water and let sit for 1 minute. Add the peanut butter and stir to incorporate. Top with chocolate chips if you’re using them.

    Tuna Pesto Pasta

    The Try It Tuesday recipes have been rather sweet lately, so I decided to indulge in pasta that doesn’t have red sauce for lunch since my husband wouldn’t be home to complain and my son always eats peanut butter toast with gusto. Not only was I ready for something different from my usual lunch time fare, but I also have canned tuna that only I will eat. I flipped through some magazines and researched pesto recipes online, then I combined a few recipes to come up with this Tuna Pesto Pasta. This yields 2 servings. 

    Ingredients

    1 ½ cups farfalle pasta

    1 can (5 ounce) tuna in water (you can drain it or not; if not, you just add a little less pasta water to toss)

    1 bouquet fresh basil (cannot substitute dry)

    ½ teaspoon salt

    ¼ teaspoon black pepper

    1 clove garlic

    ½ cup sliced almonds

    3 tablespoons olive oil

    2 tablespoons water

    ¾ cup to 1 cup of cooking water reserved from the pasta

    Directions

    Boil the pasta according to package directions or according to your preference (I generally only cook my pasta 8-9 minutes). Meanwhile, drain the tuna and put it in a medium bowl. Set aside.

    Put the basil, salt, pepper, garlic, and almonds into food processor. Process until finely chopped then add the olive oil and two tablespoons of water while the processor is on. Pour the mixture into the bowl with the tuna.

    Drain the cooked pasta, reserving some of the cooking water. Fold the pasta into the tuna and pesto; add cooking water a little at a time, stirring gently between additions until the sauce coats the pasta to your liking. I tend to use a little less water than recipes suggested.

    I really enjoyed the freshness of the pesto and between the almonds and tuna I felt like this packs a protein punch. I also love the ease of prep: no time-consuming chopping and I think this was ready in under 15 minutes. I may have to try other versions of pesto and replace the tuna with canned chicken or turkey to see if I can’t get my boys (a.k.a the hubby and preschooler) to try it. As I was eating, the only thing I’d consider changing for my own taste buds would be to add some quartered cherry or grape tomatoes. I am not a tomato person, but every now and then, the sweetness and acidity of the smaller varieties are a welcome shot of flavor and color in a dish.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this recipe since this is the first time I’ve made pesto. Otherwise bon appetit!