Cooking Outside of the Box

Happy Hump Day!!!

I know the other day I promised to post the recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes, I’ve been trying to finish a project at home and totally spaced.  For the cake part of the  cupcake I use the Highway to Heaven Cupcake recipe.  If you have time to go through all the steps of making this salty, chocolate, sweet cupcake, by all means, go for it.  I’ve heard wonderful things about the end results, but I’m just too lazy to go through all those steps.   Here’s the cake recipe:

Highway to Heaven Cupcake  (From The Sugar Cube)


3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 3/4 cups granulated sugar

1 cup dutch-process cocoa powder

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 1/2 cups warm strong-brewed coffee or french-pressed coffee

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups vegetable oil


To make the cupcakes: Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, coffee, eggs, vanilla, and vegetable oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk just until incorporated and there are no lumps. (It’s a thin batter, but it will bake up beautifully.)

Divide the batter equally among the muffin cups, leaving about 1/4 inch room at the top. Bake until the tops spring back when lightly pressed, 20 to 25 minutes.  Be sure to cool the cakes completely before frosting.

Fun Tip:  About half way through baking, put a bite sized (not mini) Reese’s Cup.  I think they call them the “Fun-Size” or something.  It’s a nice little surprise.

I top the cupcakes with peanut butter frosting and a mini Reese’s on top.  The frosting is so easy.

Peanut Butter Frosting ( From Ina Garten)


1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 cup creamy peanut butter

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (I’d say this is optional, I don’t use salt)

1/3 cup heavy cream


Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (I use a whisk attachment, I like a lighter, fluffy frosting). Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth. You can also double the recipe easily, though I tend to keep the 1/3 cup heavy cream the same and just add a bit if it’s too thick.

Verdict: Everyone at Eric’s office loved these.  I’m going to make them for my boss next week for her birthday treat.  I hope they go over just as well.

Do you remember those crazy Hamburger Helper commercials from the 90’s?  I just love that little glove character, makes me want to high-five someone when I see him.  I actually love Hamburger Helper, it’s definitely a blast from the past.  The only problem with the boxed mix, is the sodium levels and half the ingredients I can’t even pronounce.  So, I began a quest to find a homemade version, where I could control what I put in it.  This is what I’ve found (I’ll post two of my favorites)

Basic Chili Cheese Hamburger Helper ( from Homemade Mixes,Main Dishes,The Farmhouse Table) go here for more variations


1 pound ground beef (or ground chicken/turkey)
1 cup hot water
2 cups milk (any variety, I use skim Lactaid)
1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded


Brown ground beef in a large skillet; drain.

Add hot water,milk,pasta and your homemade sauce packet (corn starch, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, sugar, and paprika).

Bring to a boil.

Cover and simmer on low about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender.

In the last few minutes of cook time, stir in the cheese; cover the pot again for the final few minutes of cook time.

When the pasta is tender and the cheese is melted, turn off heat and uncover. Let mixture stand, uncovered, about five minutes. It will continue to thicken as it stands.

Variation Recipe for Cheesy Beef (or Chicken/Turkey) Taco:
Using 1 pound ground beef, 1 cups hot water and 1/2 cup milk, 1 can of Rotel, prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir in 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, near the end, then top with another 1/2 cup cheddar 5-minute standing period.

Side note: I add onions and garlic to the pan while browning the meat, I think I would just die if I didn’t add garlic to basically everything.

Awww, bummer, I thought I had a picture but I guess I didn’t save it 😦 You’ll just have to make it yourself to see how glorious it is.

Verdict: Always a favorite. Plus, if Eric doesn’t inhale more than one serving, it makes a great lunch for the next day.

Tonight is another “Fend for Yourself” dinner, I’m not sure what I feel like. My co-worker’s wife brough me some soup she wanted me to try, so I know that will be part of dinner. I can’t wait to try it, it looks awesome.


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