Chocolate Protein Brownies

I’m waving the white flag of defeat! After over a year of trying to resist, I finally broke down and purchased protein powder—ugh. A little background for my readers… I’ve been working with a personal trainer doing strength training for a little over a year. I always had the mindset that lifting heavy weights was taboo for women, so it’s been exciting to feel (and see) myself getting stronger. I usually try to aim for getting about 30% of my calories from protein and I recently increased the amount of calories I’m eating each day. Although eating more food is always exciting, I’ve been struggling to get enough protein each day. A girl can only eat so much baked chicken and black beans.

Back to the protein powder. I’ve always had this mental stigma that only ginormous body builders use protein powder. I also like to try and get most of my nutrients from “real” foods. Regardless, I decided that I’d give it a chance. So I did what I always do when I’m faced with purchasing something new—I headed to Amazon. After a good hour of research, I settled on what looked like a reasonably priced option that several reviewers promised tasted just like chocolate milk. I was skeptical. Two days later (thank you Amazon Prime) my protein powder arrived and I was excited to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised that it was fairly tasty when mixed with soy milk. Was it as good as chocolate milk? Not quite.

Can you see where my story is going? The next logical step for me was to try baking some desserts with my newly acquired protein powder. Over the years I’ve managed to make my desserts low-calorie, low-fat, and low-sugar. However, I’ve never been able to make them high-protein. After researching tips and tricks for baking with protein powder, I assembled my own recipe for chocolate brownies. This recipe has another secret ingredient—black beans—which I promise you can’t even taste in the final product. As always, Matthew is the brutally honest taste tester of all my baked goods. Although he doesn’t like chocolate (blasphemy in my opinion) he told me this was the best healthy dessert I’ve ever baked—which I consider a definite win.

Chocolate Protein Brownies

Servings: 12 • Calories: 124 • Fat: 4 g • Carbs: 14 g • Fiber: 4 g • Protein: 9 g • Sugar: 3 g • Sodium: 152 g

Ingredients
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup agave nectar
3 large eggs
2 scoops chocolate protein powder
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
15 ounce can black beans, drained
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup peanut butter flavored candy melts, optional

Directions
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8 baking pan with foil and grease. Set aside for later use.

In a food processor, mix together all ingredients (except candy melts) until batter is smooth. Pour batter into greased pan. If you want some peanut butter flavor, warm candy melts in microwave and drizzle over top of dessert. Use a toothpick to create swirls in the batter.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. You want the brownies to look a little underdone, as they will firm up once cool. Cool brownies on a baking rack for about 20 minutes. Slice and enjoy!

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Keep in mind that protein powders tend to toughen baked goods. That’s why it’s nice to have a very moist batter, which this recipe does. As a result, make sure you do a good job of thoroughly greasing your pan so the brownies don’t stick to the edge and are easy to remove.

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_3093

Last weekend the Sweet Precision kitchen had two special visitors from Minnesota! My mom and dad took the Amtrak train all the way to Ann Arbor and we had a lovely and relaxing weekend together. Since I love to bake, company is the perfect excuse to get out my mixing bowls and fire up the oven. Especially since I had two ready and willing helpers! My mom was my sous-chef in the kitchen and my dad was our taste tester and photography assistant. They both took their jobs very seriously.

Deciding what to bake was easily the hardest part of our baking adventure. I ended up landing on a timeless baking classic—chocolate chip cookies—because, well… who doesn’t love cookies?! The recipe that I’m sharing today had over 8,000 reviews on All Recipes and received 4.5 out of 5 stars. If you’re a fan of chewy chocolate chip cookies you’ll love this recipe. It has a special ingredient—pudding—which I think makes a subtle yet wonderful difference in the texture and taste of the cookie. The original recipe comes from Debbi Borsick.

IMG_3090

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes approximately 36 cookies

Ingredients
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Sift together the flour and baking soda, set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. Beat in the instant pudding mix until blended. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Blend in the flour mixture. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Edges should be golden brown.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Chocolate chip cookies freeze best if you portion out the dough beforehand. Shape the cookie dough into balls as you would if you were preparing to bake them. Place them on a cookie sheet and freeze for 1-2 hours. Once frozen, the little balls of dough get sealed up inside a plastic freezer bag. When you’re ready to bake them, just grab a couple out of the freezer and pop them in the oven!

IMG_3092

Quick and Easy Dog Treats

It’s been a little over two years ago that Matthew and I took the plunge and became puppy parents. Looking back, we had absolutely NO idea what we were getting ourselves into. We imagined relaxing snuggles on the sofa, off-leash playing in the park, and a mild tempered dog. We quickly realized that our reality as puppy parents would be something completely different.

I’ll never forget the day that Maya peed on my lap, while I was sitting on the sofa. The puppy months were rough for everyone in our household. There were the 3am potty breaks, that Maya seemed to assume were playtime. There were the accidents in the house, which usually occurred right after a long walk around the block. There was the destruction of the laminate tile in our kitchen. There was puppy training class number one… and number two. The list could go on for quite a while.

Fast forward to two years later and the landscape of dog ownership has changed drastically for both of us. I remember reading that dog training is more about training humans than the dog. I couldn’t agree with this statement more. Matthew and I have been fully trained and as a result, Maya is doing quite well. I now get those relaxing snuggles on the sofa and Matthew gets his off-leash playtime in the park. As for a mild-tempered dog? Well you can’t get everything you wish for, right?!

Baking doggie treats is literally the easiest thing you can do in the kitchen. I like this recipe because it only takes three ingredients and you can customize it however you’d like. This recipe is perfect for your own doggie, or as a gift for a dog lover in your life. I got the dog shaped cookie cutters at a fun boutique store with my parents when they were in town last fall. I even found some cute ones on Amazon when I was perusing for baking items.


Quick and Easy Dog Treats
Makes approximately 48 small sized treats 

Ingredients
2 cups of whole wheat flour
2 four ounce jars of baby food
1/2 cup chopped meat

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the middle of your oven.

Combine flour, baby food, and chopped meat together in a bowl and mix until the dough becomes stiff. You may need a little extra flour or water depending on the consistency of your dough—this recipe isn’t an exact science.

On a rolling mat or floured surface, roll out your dough until it’s 1/4 inch thick. Use your cookie cutters to cut into your desired doggie treat shape. As an alternative, you can also use a sharp knife to cut the dough into squares.

Line a cookie sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper and place treats 1/2 inch apart. Bake the treats for approximately 20 minutes or until you see the edges begin to brown slightly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before removing from cookie sheet. Once completely cooled, you should store your treats in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
When adding food to your dog treats, remember that there are some foods which are off limits to our furry friends as they are toxic. Be sure to keep onions, grapes, raisins, and of course chocolate far from your doggie treats!

Strawberry Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

IMG_2543

I’m turning 32 today. Thirty-two. Am I feeling like 32? Probably… yes, I do. For instance, I now embrace a 10:30 bedtime which allows me to get plenty of sleep and renders me fully functional when I wake-up in the morning. I also adore my memory foam pillow, which has become a necessary requirement for a good night’s sleep.

I often write a blog post when it’s my birthday. On this particular one, I find myself on vacation in Washington DC visiting my friend Kristelle. It’s been almost three years (four years for Matthew) since we moved away from DC and this is our first time back visiting. It is pretty difficult to put into words the various things that make me absolutely love DC. It’s a diverse city where people come from various backgrounds, making the District vibrant, dynamic, and ever changing. Each neighborhood has a distinct feel and I miss the ability to walk or use public transportation to get everywhere. In one day of vacation alone, I walked 10 miles in the city. 

If you’ve followed Sweet Precision for a while you might remember my Strawberry Birthday Cake tradition. This year I decided to switch things up a little bit and made birthday cupcakes instead! Let’s talk a little bit about these cupcakes. Are you one of those people who feel like buttercream is too rich and heavy? If so, you’ll love the Swiss-style meringue buttercream that I used for this recipe which is light and delicate. Swiss meringue is prepared by cooking egg whites and sugar together in a bowl placed over a pot of boiling water. The mixture is then removed from the heat and whipped at high speed until it forms stiff peaks and has cooled. After this, room-temperature butter is slowly added into the mixture. Meringue-based buttercreams are light and creamy in texture, which I love. They also don’t ‘crust-over’ as with simple buttercream.

STRAWBERRY

Strawberry Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Makes approximately 24 cupcakes 

Cupcake Ingredients
1 box white cake mix
1 (6 oz) box strawberry jello
4 eggs
3 tablespoons flour
2/3 cup oil
3/4 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup water

Frosting Ingredients
5 large egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
red food coloring, optional

Directions
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two cupcake pans and set aside.

Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix wet ingredients together, including strawberries. Slowly stir wet ingredients in with the dry being careful not to over mix the batter. Pour batter into cupcake tins and bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool in the pan and then remove to a baking rack to cool completely before frosting.

For frosting, combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).

Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, whisk until stiff peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes.

With mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, whisk in vanilla. Switch to the paddle attachment, and continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula, and continue beating until the frosting is completely smooth. Pipe or spread frosting onto cupcakes.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Working with meringue buttercream frosting can be tricky. If your frosting is “broken” the fat and liquid won’t emulsify, and you’ll be left with a bowl of fat globules that look like cottage cheese. If this happens to you, first try mixing the frosting a little longer to see if it comes together on its own. If it doesn’t come together with additional mixing, scoop out a cup of curdled mixture and microwave 5 to 10 seconds, until melted but not hot. Pour the melted buttercream into the mixer while on medium speed and whip until combined. This works every time!

FullSizeRender

 

Almond Snowflake Cake

FullSizeRender

Let it snow, let it snow, let it SNOW! This snowflake cake is a perfect representation of our Ann Arbor weather today. It’s like a winter wonderland outside with delicate snowflakes tumbling from the sky. I’ll be the first to admit that although I love a fresh snowfall, I really dislike driving in the snow. I often try to plan my weekly errands so that I don’t get stuck on snowy roads. The perfect place to be when the weather is bad is tucked inside watching the snow fall outside the window. Even better yet, I love to spend a snowy afternoon in the kitchen baking.

I am actually more excited about the bundt pan I used for this cake than the recipe itself. I acquired this bundt pan at the Nordic Ware outlet when Matthew and I were back in Minnesota around Christmas. Nordic Ware is a Minneapolis-based company that makes AH-mazing kitchenware products. I love their products and have several of their baking trays and pans in my kitchen. I felt like a kid in a candy store during our trip to the outlet. This beautiful snowflake pan was one of several purchases that we made for our kitchen.

I’ve always been a fan of fun-shaped bundt pans because it’s an easy way to make a basic recipe look really special. The recipe for this almond cake couldn’t be easier and all the ingredients are combined in a single bowl. The design of the pan is what really puts this cake over the top. Just adding a little powdered sugar on the top adds the final touch to the presentation. The same snowflake pan can be found on Amazon for $20.

FullSizeRender_1

Almond Snowflake Cake 
Original recipe from Nordic Ware 

Ingredients
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup ground almonds
3/4 cup milk
powdered sugar for dusting

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour pan and set aside. In a large bowl beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time; stir in almond and vanilla extracts.

In a small bowl, stir together, flour, baking powder, salt and ground almonds. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with milk, mixing just until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 40 – 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan, then invert cake onto a wire rack. Cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired. Enjoy!

Heather’s Helpful Hints 
Perhaps the most challenging part of baking any bundt cake is the delicate process of removing your cake from the pan. Nordic Ware pans often have intricate designs which make this process even more challenging. The following video offers some great tips for preparing your pans for easy cake removal.

IMG_1470