Salted Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

When thinking about flavor profiles that go well together, I don’t know any I don’t automatically go to sweet + salty, . Sweet, yes. Salty, yes. Together? Oh yes. Throw some buttery smooth caramel sauce into the mix and you have one decadent little cupcake. I’ve found several salted chocolate caramel cupcake recipes and they almost always use a caramel buttercream. While I’m sure it’s delicious, I wanted to stick with a chocolate-caramel ganache (inspired by the Flying Cupcake, of course). Have a tall glass of milk or a cup of coffee on hand because ooooo-whee are they rich!

Ingredients:
For the caramel sauce:
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
ΒΌ tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
For the ganache:
1 lb semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups heavy cream, room temperature
For the cupcakes:
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsps cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup plus 3 tbsps vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Sea salt, for sprinkling

Directions:
Start by making the caramel sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar, cooking until it foams and turns an amber color.
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Off the heat, stir in the heavy cream, vanilla, and salt. Set aside to cool. Now the ganache! I know, I know, this all seems backwards. But you have to give the caramel time to cool and the ganache time to set up… Trust me, I’m doing you a solid here. πŸ˜‰ Add your chocolate to a microwave safe bowl and heat in 30 second intervals, stirring between. When completely melted and smooth, add your warmed heavy cream and blend well.
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Add some of the caramel sauce (I’d guesstimate about 1/4 cup, more if you’d like more caramel flavor) and blend. Set aside until thick and spreadable. *Note: this can take up to 4 hours…do NOT put in the fridge to speed this up. You’ll end up with lumpy ganache!*
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Now that those are done, let’s make some cuppy cakes! Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare cupcake pans with 24 liners. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder. Add the water, oil, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla and mix until smooth. Fill 2/3 full of batter and bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Transfer to wire rack and let cool. Once cool, put some of your caramel sauce into a pastry bag with a small round tip or a squirt bottle and inject a fair amount into each cupcake. This can get messy!
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Once you’ve got your cupcakes injected with caramel, pipe thickened ganache onto cupcakes. Sprinkle each with sea salt and serve!
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Caramel sauce recipe from Annie’s Eats, ganache recipe from Real Simple, cake recipe from Rachael Ray magazine.

Banana Cupcakes with Cookie Butter Frosting

So I don’t think I’ve made it any secret that I loooooove Trader Joe’s. My obsession, to some, could be deemed unhealthy. Every time I go, I feel like I find something new to add to our ever-growing list of standards/must-haves. One day, I happened upon something near the peanut/almond/cashew/whatever you can think of butters… Cookie butter. Cookie butter? Yes, my friends. A thousand times YES.
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I tried the original creamy style and a new love was born. The cocoa and cookie swirl, just… Stop it. Smear some of that goodness on graham crackers and I’d live off of it. It’s basic flavor profile is like a Bischoff cookie, notes of cinnamon and ginger with just the right amount of sweetness. So it got me thinking… Something this delicious would be A-MAH-ZING as frosting. Right? Right. I’ve made this now with both banana and mocha cupcakes, the banana being the majority winner. I’m far too lazy to rewrite the whole banana cupcake recipe 😜, so click here for my go-to.

Ingredients:
1 cup original cookie butter (I’ve used crunchy and creamy, use whichever texture you like better!)
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsps milk

Directions:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and cookie butter on medium speed until completely smooth.
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With mixer on low speed, add the confectioner’s sugar til well combined. It gets pretty thick, don’t worry! Now add the milk and increase speed. Mix until smooth and dreamy. Mmmm.
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Pipe onto cupcakes of your choosing and ENJOY! Make sure you make enough to share. πŸ˜‰
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Recipe by yours truly!

Restaurant Review: The Local Eatery & Pub

Trying to Google “The Local” is a bit frustrating unless you type the WHOLE name of the restaurant, as well as Carmel, Indiana. Otherwise, you get a list of local restaurants (go figure!). This is my biggest (well, only really) complaint about the place, however. They take reservations. They’re kid friendly. They offer gastropub type fare, but using local ingredients as much as possible. The hipster waiters are attentive, but not hovering. I’ll be going back here, for sure. This was a girls’ night out with my best lady frands, Allison and Ali. We started, naturally, with wine. 😊 See how the menus are unfussy and printed on paper?
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I like that. It means they change it often enough not to warrant laminating, using fresh, seasonal ingredients. Me likey a lot! So anyway, wine is ordered. Ali had beaten us there and ordered up a basket of Cajun tater tots at the suggestion of our waiter. Salty, a little sweet, crunchy, not at all greasy. I could go on for days about these tots.
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The hard part was choosing entrees. The Local has a good mixture of salads, pastas, sandwiches, and burgers to choose from, as well as featured specials that change weekly. I went with Isiah’s farm burger, a traditional beef patty with goat cheese, bacon, a sunny side up egg, and house made sauce.
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Juicy, delicious, and a little messy thanks to the egg yolk and sauce… YUMMO! Poor Mark, the king of the cheeseburger, is still mad I didn’t bring him home anything. We’ll just have to go ourselves. 😜 Allison chose the bison burger and upgraded her side, swapping fries for Mac n cheese. The bison burger here was recently voted the best in Indy! I had a small taste and could see why that decision was made.
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Ali ordered my runner up choice, a big ol’ bowl of mac n cheese.
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Ooooh, mama. Ooey, gooey cheesy amazingness with BACON. Little lardons dancing among the hills of cavatappi covered in white cheddar sauce. I just… I can’t. So good. Somehow, we saved room for dessert. I’ve had a thing for beignets lately.
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Whee, and arranged like a starfish! Light little pastries fried and then dusted with powdered sugar, beignets are kind of having a culinary moment. I’ve seen them pop up on many a menu here in town recently. And OMG, the sauce. Guys, hands down, this is the best dipping sauce I’ve ever had. Coming from a diehard chocoholic, this is saying something! A creamy vanilla anglaise, I’m pretty certain I said I wanted to drink it. I was a tad upset when the waiter cleared the plate before the sauce was gone. One of my very favorite things about The Local was their prices. I expect to pay a decent amount for fresh, locally sourced food that’s also well executed. You could easily have a date night here for less than $40… We’ve paid more for terrible food and shoddy service, neither of which you’ll find at The Local. Next time you’re in the northern part of our fair Indianapolis, I highly recommend giving them a try. Oh and hey… They cater too! πŸ˜„

Check out The Local Eatery & Pub’s menu here.

Herbed Pork Tenderloin

This is one of those dinners that, plated right, can look super fancy with minimal effort. Plus pork tenderloin is pretty lean, so you don’t have to feel guilty about devouring it. The herbs de Provence lend just enough savory flavor without being overwhelming. Put this on the menu for your next dinner party!

Ingredients:
1 pork tenderloin
3-4 tbsps herbs de Provence
Salt
Pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking dish or sheet with foil. Lay pork tenderloin out in foil and season with salt and pepper.
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Then take your herbs de Provence and rub aaaaall over your tenderloin. Mmmm mmmm good!
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Bake for about 18-20, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
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The easiest, prettiest pork dinner you ever did see!
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Recipe from Pioneer Woman.