Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Chocolate Cake | amybites.com

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Chocolate Cake

Let’s all pretend that I haven’t neglected my blog for the past few months. Ok? Good. Glad we got that out of the way. Now let’s get down to it.

THIS CAKE.

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Chocolate Cake | amybites.com

My boyfriend’s birthday request every year is always some insane birthday cake. He wants the kind of cake that’s 5 desserts in one, with all his favorite flavors mashed together. The kind that’s like a foot high and weighs 10 pounds. I’m happy to deliver, considering I barely ever have an excuse to make cakes like this. I’m always psyched to practice my assembly and frosting skills. I’m improving by one cake a year!

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Chocolate Cake | amybites.com

This cake has everything:

  • Dark chocolate cake
  • Cheesecake with peanut butter cups
  • Whipped chocolate ganache frosting
  • Peanut butter buttercream in between the layers
  • Peanut butter cups on top

If you’re a chocolate and peanut butter and cheesecake lover, I think I just introduced you to your next birthday cake. This cake is crazy rich—and I actually took it down a few notches from the original recipe! But it’s oh-so-good. The chocolate cake is moist and flavorful; the cheesecake is creamy and tangy; the peanut butter buttercream is light and fluffy and nutty; and the whipped chocolate ganache is thick, rich, and puts the whole thing over the top.

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Chocolate Cake | amybites.com

Making this is a bit time consuming and dirties a lot of bowls (after all, there are two kinds of cake and two kinds of frosting), but the end product is so impressive and definitely worth it. Here’s how I split up the process, and it worked pretty well:

  • The night before, I baked the chocolate cake and the cheesecake layers. I let everything cool, then refrigerated the cakes and froze the cheesecake overnight so they’d all be really firm and easy to assemble. You could also do this well in advance and freeze everything until you’re ready to assemble (just let the cake layers thaw a bit first).
  • The following day, I made the peanut butter buttercream, then leveled and assembled the layers. I saved about 1/3 of the buttercream for decoration, then I refrigerated the whole cake so it would set up while I made the whipped ganache.
  • When the ganache was ready, I divided it in half and used half to do a thin crumb coat on the cake. Since I was in a hurry, I stuck it in the freezer for 10 minutes before doing the final coat with the other half of the ganache and decorating with peanut butter buttercream and peanut butter cups. If you’re not in a hurry, you could refrigerate the crumb-coated cake for a few hours or even overnight until you’re ready to finish it off.

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Chocolate Cake | amybites.com 

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Chocolate Cake
Heavily adapted from SprinkleBakes
Serves about 15-20, depending on how big your slices are

For the chocolate cake

  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of hot coffee

Grease two 8″ pans with baking spray (or butter + flour). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift all the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment.  In a 4 cup glass measure, mix all the wet ingredients except hot coffee!

Turn mixer on low speed and gradually add wet ingredients to dry. Stop and scrape down the bowl, making sure to scrape the bottom where dregs tend to gather. Return mixer to low speed and beat in hot coffee.  Mixture will be very thin.

Divide batter evenly between the two pans, and bake for 35-40 minutes (check at 35).  Cake is ready when toothpick tester comes out clean. Cool in pans.  Run knife around the edge of cakes and turn them out. Let them rest on a cooling rack.

Cakes can be refrigerated overnight or frozen before you’re ready to assemble. When they’re completely cool, level each layer with a serrated knife or cake leveler and refrigerate until you begin assembly.

For the peanut butter cup cheesecake

  • 15 mini peanut butter cups, each one quartered
  • 1 sticks (8 tbsp) softened butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • (2) 8 oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 of (1) 3 oz. package cook and serve vanilla pudding (measure out 1/5 oz. of powder)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease one 8″ round cake or springform pan with shortening, line the pans with parchment rounds and then grease the parchment. Lightly flour the pans and tap out excess over the sink. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment.  Add cream cheese a little at a time until smooth. Scrape bowl down and beat again on medium speed, adding eggs one at a time. Add remaining ingredients except peanut butter cups.  Mix again until smooth.

With a rubber spatula, fold in quartered peanut butter cups. Smooth batter with offset spatula and bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour. Cheesecake will puff up during baking, then deflate when taken out.

Do not turn out cheesecakes when they are finished baking.  Put them directly in the freezer, and leave until frozen solid.

Turn out frozen cheesecake layers and peel parchment from the bottoms. Cheesecake can be frozen until you’re ready to assemble. When you’re ready, remove the cheesecake from the freezer and level with a serrated knife or cake leveler.

For the peanut butter buttercream

  • 1 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 12 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • For garnish: 6 mini peanut butter cups 

Cream peanut butter and butter together in stand mixer with whisk attachment. Gradually add powdered sugar. Whip on high speed until light and fluffy.

Divider mixture in half. Transfer one half of the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a large plain or decorative piping tip. Set aside at room temperature or refrigerate until ready to garnish.

Use the other half to assemble the cake. Place a dab of buttercream on your cake stand or serving plate, then place one of your leveled cake layers, centered, on top. Spread half of the remaining frosting on top of the cake layer and push it almost to the edges. Then, place your cheesecake layer on top of that and press down slightly. Spread the remaining frosting on top of the cheesecake layer, again pushing almost to the edges. Then place your second cake layer on top and press down slightly. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or freeze for 10 minutes, until the buttercream solidifies slightly and the cake will be easier to work with.

If desired, trim and clean up your cake edges with a serrated knife.

For the whipped chocolate ganache frosting

  • 13 oz. or 1 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Put chocolate chips in a medium bowl or 4 cup measure. Heat cream in a saucepan over medium high heat until very hot but not boiling. Pour hot cream over chips and stir until smooth.

Fit stand mixer with whisk attachment. Pour chocolate ganache into the stand mixer bowl and whip on the highest speed for 5 -10 minutes until icing is light and fluffy. Icing is ready when it is thick and can be pulled into a stiff peak.

Divide ganache frosting in half. Remove cake from freezer and use half of the frosting to thinly frost top sides with chocolate ganache using an offset spatula. The whipped frosting should grab on to the frozen cakes well. Use all the ganache frosting, evening the cake’s surface as you work. Refrigerate the assembled cake for about 30 minutes to firm up the crumb coat. (At this point, the cake can also be refrigerated for several hours or overnight.) Then use the remaining frosting to do a final, even coat.

Use your piping bag filled with peanut butter buttercream to add some decoration. I did a simple dotted border all around the top and bottom edges, and then 6 large swirls around the top outside and an additional one in the center. I pressed 6 mini peanut butter cups into the 6 swirls around the outside.

Now serve! This cake slices well when cold, and tastes great cold or at room temperature. Cover & refrigerate any leftovers.

AmyBites | Whole Wheat Brown Butter Waffles

Whole Wheat Brown Butter Waffles

As I’ve mentioned in the last couple posts, a few weeks ago, we went on a road trip to Michigan. We drove up to Mackinac Island, where I used to go as a kid, and stayed for a couple days. It was a fantastic trip—perfect weather, perfect scenery, perfect getaway. On the way up and back, we made a few stops. My favorite of our little detours was Traverse City. If you’re not familiar, Traverse City is known for its cherry festival and general obsession with cherries. Also, if you don’t know…I hate cherries. Or so I thought.

AmyBites | Whole Wheat Brown Butter Waffles

But, you know, “when in Rome Traverse City”…so I sampled some sour cherry preserves on pancakes. I was immediately sold! And I promptly bought a jar. That jar inspired me to make these waffles, which are perfect for pairing with your favorite fruit topping. They’re healthier and made with whole wheat flour, but they’re not dense and heavy and overwhelming like you might expect. Because of the whipped egg whites folded into the batter, these waffles are light and fluffy with crispy edges. And the browned butter, along with the whole wheat, adds the perfect nuttiness and toasty flavor to set these waffles apart from your everyday fare. They’re the ideal base to let your favorite toppings shine.

AmyBites | Whole Wheat Brown Butter Waffles

Whole Wheat Brown Butter Waffles

Serves 6 (amount of waffles varies)

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, browned*
  • 1 3/4 cups low fat buttermilk**
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Pinch cream of tartar
  • Cooking spray
  1. Heat the waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Whisk the flours, cornmeal, salt, and baking soda together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and browned butter together, then whisk in the buttermilk and brown sugar until uniform.
  2. In a large bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer on medium low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-high and whip the whites to stiff peaks, 3 to 7 minutes.
  3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour the buttermilk mixture into the well and whisk very gently until the buttermilk mixture is just incorporated (a few lumps should remain). Toward the end of mixing, fold the whipped egg whites into the batter with a rubber spatula.
  4. Spray the hot waffle iron with cooking spray, then spread the appropriate amount of batter onto the waffle iron, following the manufacturer’s instructions, and cook until golden brown, about 3 1/2 minutes. Remove the waffles from the waffle iron and serve. Repeat with the remaining batter, spraying the waffle iron with cooking spray as needed between batches.

*To brown butter, melt the butter in a small light-colored saucepan over medium-high heat. Once melted, continue cooking while swirling the pan until butter has turned a golden-brown color (about 3 to 5 minutes). Immediately remove from the heat.

**If you don’t have buttermilk, you can mix 2 tablespoons of white vinegar or lemon juice with low fat milk. Let it sit for a couple minutes until it’s slightly curdled.

Nutrition per serving (1/2 cup batter): 300 calories, 10.5g fat, 6g sat fat, 96mg cholesterol, 42g carb, 10g protein, 3g fiber, 600mg sodium

AmyBites | Herbed Turkey Burgers

Herbed Turkey Burgers with Cranberry Mustard, Caramelized Onions, and Goat Cheese

Ohhhh man. I’m so excited about this post. It features what might be one of my favorite meals in a long time. In fact, my burger-loving boyfriend said these are the best burgers I’ve ever made. And they’re turkey burgers. Holy moly, high praise indeed! These were inspired by some cranberry mustard I bought while vacationing in Michigan the other week and some oh-crap-we’d-better-use-this ground turkey in the freezer. With those two ingredients in mind, this burger built itself in my mind: a soft pretzel bun piled high with a savory turkey patty, sweet caramelized onions, creamy goat cheese, and tangy cranberry mustard…plus some spinach for freshness and crispness. I mean, how could it go wrong?!

AmyBites | Herbed Turkey Burgers

Obviously, it didn’t go wrong. It was super right. All the flavors and textures go together perfectly, and they keep every bite interesting. With the turkey, herbs, caramelized onions, and cranberry, it’s a little taste of Thanksgiving—but on a grilled burger with tangy goat cheese and fresh spinach, it’s still so very summery. Basically, it’s a great meal for this weird in-between season coming up where it’s not quite summer and not quite fall. Or anytime, really. Deliciousness doesn’t have to be seasonal.

AmyBites | Herbed Turkey Burgers

Herbed Turkey Burgers with Cranberry Mustard, Caramelized Onions, and Goat Cheese

Serves 4

For burger patties:

  • 1 lb. lean ground turkey
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • Canola oil cooking spray

For burger assembly:

  • 4 pretzel buns (or buns of choice)
  • ½ cup caramelized onions*
  • ¼ cup spreadable goat cheese
  • ¼ cup cranberry mustard**
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  1. Preheat grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Combine turkey, herbs, salt, dijon mustard, and panko in a mixing bowl. Mix gently with clean hands or a spatula until well-combined. Divide meat mixture into 4 equal portions and form each portion into a bun-sized patty.
  3. Spray grill or grill pan with cooking spray. Place patties on grill and cook for 5 minutes per side, or until cooked through.
  4. To assemble burgers, spread 1 tablespoon cranberry mustard on the bottom of each bun. Then, spread 1 tablespoon goat cheese on the top of each bun. Place the burger patty on top of the mustard, and layer on ½ cup baby spinach and 2 tablespoons caramelized onions. Press bun halves together and serve.

*You can use your preferred method to make the caramelized onions. Mine is: Slice 2 onions into thin half-moons. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for about 3 to 5 minutes or until onions are beginning to soften. Then, cover the pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir every 5 minutes, adding a few tablespoons of water as needed, for the next 30 to 40 minutes or until onions are deep brown and caramelized.

**I used this great cranberry mustard I picked up from American Spoon. To make your own, try mixing 1 tablespoon dijon mustard with 3 tablespoons cranberry sauce and a squirt of lemon juice.

AmyBites | Turkey Burgers Nutrition

 

AmyBites | Pumped Up Puppy Chow

Pumped Up Puppy Chow

It’s been a crazy summer. Since May, it’s seemed like a nonstop rush of travel, house guests, and outings. Don’t get me wrong—it’s been so much fun and anything but boring. But now with our last planned trip of the summer over and no out of town visitors scheduled for a while, it feels kinda nice to just settle in and enjoy the rest of the season at a more leisurely pace. I’m also excited to really get back in the kitchen for reals. It feels like we’ve been eating like we’re on vacation for the past three months, and I’m so ready to eat consistently home-cooked, healthful meals.

…But to start, I’m sharing something that is neither a meal nor healthful. Oops! I thought I’d post this super simple, yet totally, deliciously indulgent and addictive recipe to get back in the blogging routine. Puppy chow, Muddy Buddies…whatever you grew up calling it, we’ve all had it or made it and know how insanely good it is. That recipe on the back of the Chex box is simply a childhood snack classic. But surprisingly, it can be made even more delicious. Seriously.

AmyBites | Pumped Up Puppy Chow

When we were getting ready to go on a road trip last week, I decided to whip up a batch of this to sustain us on the long drive. But since I can’t leave well enough alone, I had to give it a little AmyBites twist. The peanut butter + chocolate combo is unbeatable. You know how much I love it. It’s the salty-sweet thing—I can’t get enough of it. So I added some popcorn and pretzels to it. Totally ridiculous, totally perfect. The extra crunch and savory notes they provide absolutely amplifies this snack. GET ON IT. Share with your office, your kid’s soccer team, your cat sitter…just share it with someone because you’ll definitely inhale it all yourself otherwise. Enjoy!

Pumped Up Puppy Chow

Makes about 10 cups
Adapted from General Mills

  • 3½ cups Corn Chex
  • 3½ cups Rice Chex
  • 1 single-serve bag popcorn (I use Orville Redenbacher’s Smart Pop)
  • 1½ cups pretzels (mini-twists work best)*
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • About 2 cups powdered sugar
  1. Combine cereal, popcorn, and pretzels in a large bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla.
  3. Pour peanut butter mixture over cereal mixture and stir gently with a spatula until evenly coated.
  4. About ½ cup at a time, sprinkle powdered sugar over mixture and toss until evenly coated. After 2 cups of powdered sugar have been added, let the mixture sit and cool for about 15 minutes and then add more powdered sugar if necessary (if the pieces are still sticky to the touch, more powdered sugar is needed). You can also do this in a large Ziploc bag and shake to coat.
  5. Let cool completely and store in an airtight container or sealed bag at room temperature.

*Note: If you leave out the pretzels or use a gluten-free version, this recipe can be gluten-free!

AmyBites | Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

I’m so into this summer. There have been a few stretches where the weather has just been perfect. Unbelievably so! I’m just in love with the mid-70s, breezy, sunny days that keep happening around here. Those are the days when walking the almost 3 miles home instead of taking the train is downright delightful, and when eating dinner on the deck is compulsory. I can’t get enough!

Photo 2

In fact, I’m so into this summer that a lot of other things have fallen by the wayside. Between enjoying the gorgeous summer evenings and hosting out of town guests and traveling, I told you I’d post the recipe for these buns and then I totally didn’t. But here it is! And it’s perfect for all your remaining summer BBQ (and veggie burger) needs. Let your bread machine do the work while you sip something fruity and refreshing and soak up some sun.

AmyBites | Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns
The dough comes together easily in the bread machine, but you can also do it by hand—just click over to the original recipe at Handle the Heat for the instructions. These buns are fluffy, nutty, slightly sweet, and tender—just as any whole wheat bun should be. There’s nothing better than a juicy burger or homemade veggie burger surrounded by a fresh, warm, handmade bun. Summer eating at its finest. Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

Makes 8 buns
Adapted from Handle the Heat

  • 3 tablespoons warm milk
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

For topping:

  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Sesame seeds

Place all dough ingredients in the bread machine in the order specified (or in the order dictated by your bread machine’s manual). Run the machine on the dough cycle.

When the dough cycle is done, turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide dough into 8 equal portions (use a scale to make this easier—each portion should weigh approximately 4 ounces). Shape each portion into a ball and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper with about 3 to 4 inches of space between each ball. Spray the balls with cooking spray and lightly cover with plastic wrap. Rest in a warm place and allow to rise for about an hour, or until the dough balls have doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 400º F. Brush the tops of the buns lightly with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake the buns about 15 minutes, rotating halfway through baking, until the tops are golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Serve or store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to one month.

AmyBites | Mushroom Barley Lentil Veggie Burgers

Mushroom Barley Lentil Veggie Burgers

You guys, I think I’ve found my perfect homemade veggie burger recipe. This is a huge deal! I’ve posted a few recipes for veggie burgers here in the past, and they’re all good, but they didn’t quite capture some of the characteristics that I really love about some of my favorite restaurant vegetarian burgers: the heartiness, the chew, the texture. After making mental notes about what it was I liked about my favorite veggie burgers, I tried to figure out how I could achieve those results. The answer was ultimately this: a base comprised of a mixture of mushrooms for meatiness, whole grain barley for structure and chew, and lentils for their texture and binding qualities.

AmyBites | Mushroom Barley Lentil Veggie Burgers

The other secret was to leave half of each the barley and lentils whole to keep the whole thing from being a flat, boring, globby mess. I really love pops of texture in a veggie burger, and the whole grains and lentils do not disappoint. But the flavors here aren’t limited to grains, legumes, and mushrooms. Along with onions and garlic, I added some herbs to add some bright, fresh flavor into the mix: thyme, rosemary, and parsley. There’s also some dijon mustard for a little tang and kick as well as to help bind the mixture together.

AmyBites | Mushroom Barley Lentil Veggie Burgers

Speaking of binding agents, I used eggs—but you can certainly try a flax egg to make these vegan. The egg, combined with panko bread crumbs, ensures that these patties really hold together. There’s nothing worse than a mushy black bean patty that falls apart before you even get it to the skillet. These babies are sturdy! And they hold up on the bun, too—in this case, these beautiful homemade whole wheat sesame buns (recipe coming soon!). They’re not only hardy, they’re hearty too—even my bottomless pit of a boyfriend made me promise to tell you all that these are seriously filling. Such a healthy meatless meal, packed with protein and fiber and deliciousness. Enjoy!

Mushroom Barley Lentil Veggie Burgers

Recipe by AmyBites
Makes 8 patties*

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 8 ounces pre-cooked lentils (such as Trader Joe’s), divided
  • 8 ounces cooked barley, divided
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • To serve: 8 whole wheat hamburger buns, toppings of choice (lettuce, tomato, cheese, etc.)
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil, swirling to coat. Add onion, sauté for 3 minutes or until beginning to soften. Add garlic and sauté for an additional minute; remove from heat. Transfer onion mixture to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Place mushrooms in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse a few times until mushrooms are chopped. Add half of the lentils (4 oz.) and half of the barley (4 oz.) to the food processor; place the remaining lentils and barley in the mixing bowl with the onion mixture.
  3. In food processor, pulse the mushrooms, barley, and lentils together until well-combined. Transfer to the mixing bowl with the onion mixture.
  4. To the mushroom, barley, lentil, and onion mixture, add the thyme, rosemary, parsley, pepper, salt, and eggs. Mix with a spatula or clean hands until well-combined. Add the panko 1/2 cup at a time, gently mixing in until the mixture is still moist but no longer sticky. You may need slightly less or more than 2 cups.
  5. Form mixture into 8 patties, the diameter of your buns or approximately 1/2″ thick. Refrigerate until ready to cook, or freeze to use later.*
  6. To cook the patties, heat remaining oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Place patties in skillet and cook for about 4 to 6 minutes per side, or until both sides are nicely browned and crisp, and patty is heated through. Serve on whole wheat buns with desired toppings.

*This quantity is easily halved or doubled. Extras freeze really well! To freeze, form patties on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper. Place in freezer for 30 minutes to an hour or until frozen. Then stack patties in a freezer bag between squares of parchment paper and store in freezer until ready to use. Defrost before cooking.

AmyBites | Mushroom Barley Lentil Veggie Burgers

AmyBites | Esquites Mexican Corn Salad

Esquites (Mexican Corn Salad)

Ever since I made this Southwestern Corn Salad, I’ve had a total thing for summer corn salads. I’m obsessed with sweet corn, and we have cobs upon cobs of it as a side dish during its peak season. As delicious as crunchy, sweet corn is by itself, it’s also a beautiful base flavor and texture for salads and salsas. This particular “salad” is called esquites, which is based off elote. If you’ve never had elote you’re missing out—it’s a Mexican street dish that’s basically corn on the cob smothered in mayonnaise, cotija cheese, and spices, and it’s insanely delicious.

AmyBites | Esquites Mexican Corn Salad

Sweet, creamy, tangy, crunchy, spicy—all the best things in life, all on a cob. This version has all of that goodness, but it’s a bit easier to eat and a heck of a lot healthier. I replaced most of the mayonnaise with nonfat Greek yogurt and the cotija cheese with fat-free feta. The sweet corn is charred a bit before going into the salad, and along with a little lime juice and garlic, topped with green onions and cilantro, this simple side dish packs a huge flavor punch. It can be served cold or at room temperature, so it’s a perfect contribution to summer potlucks, picnics and BBQs. Enjoy!

AmyBites | Esquites Mexican Corn Salad

 

Esquites (Mexican Corn Salad)

Serves 4
Adapted from Closet Cooking

  • 3 cups corn (about 4 ears), cut from the cob
  • ½ jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil/canola mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 handful cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons fat-free feta cheese
  • Chili powder to taste
  1. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add corn and let sit for 5 to 6 minutes or until beginning to char. Stir and let sit for an additional 5 to 6 minutes to char further. Add jalapeño and sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then remove corn mixture from heat.
  2. In a serving bowl, mix remaining ingredients together. Add corn and toss until well-mixed. If desired, top with additional cilantro, green onions, cheese, and chili powder. Serve cold or at room temperature.

AmyBites | Esquites Mexican Corn Salad

 

 

Red Velvet Brownies | amybites.com

Red Velvet Brownies with Cheesecake Swirl

I’m sure you’re inundated with posts from all your favorite food bloggers about what you can make for the 4th of July. Red, white, and blue Jell-O parfaits, flag cookies, cupcakes that look like fireworks…the works. But I’m not really a blogger that plans ahead. In fact, I’m usually way behind, which is why I’m posting these brownies that I made in like, March. But they’re red and white-ish, so they’re kinda patriotic, right? And I promise they’d be totally welcome at any Independence Day BBQ or potluck.

Red Velvet Brownies | amybites.com

These brownies are packed with everything delicious. A soft, fudgy, cocoa-y, red velvet brownie base topped with a decadent swirl of tangy, vanilla-bean-flecked cheesecake deliciousness. Honestly, if you’re not salivating right now, there’s no hope for you. These are pretty dang easy to throw together too, besides the fact that you have to dirty two bowls. But in this case, the extra bowl is totally worth it. The key here is not to overbake these; they’re definitely way better when there’s a little gooeyness involved. Otherwise, there’s really no trick to it—these squares of glorious decadence speak for themselves.

Red Velvet Brownies | amybites.com

Note: Mine aren’t quite as bright and vibrant as they could be because I used a darker cocoa and didn’t have quite enough food coloring, but if you follow the recipe as written, yours should be a brighter red.

Red Velvet Brownies with Cheesecake Swirl

Slightly adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Yield: 9 large or 16 small brownies (8×8″ pan)

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons red food coloring
  • 3/4 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350º F. Spray 8×8″ baking pan with baking spray or line with parchment, leaving a 2″ overhang. Set aside.
  2. Make the brownie layer first. In a small bowl, beat the 2 eggs together. Set aside. Melt the butter in a large microwave safe bowl in 30 second increments until melted. Stir in 1 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, cocoa powder, salt, food coloring, and vinegar. Mix each of those ingredients into the batter in that order. Whisk in the eggs, then fold in the flour until completely incorporated. Do not overmix. Pour the brownie batter into prepared baking pan, leaving about 3-4 Tablespoons for the top.
  3. Make the cheesecake swirl. With a hand-held mixer on medium speed, beat the softened cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, egg yolk, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in a medium bowl until completely smooth – about 1 minute. Dollop spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture on top of the prepared brownie batter. Cover with the last few Tablespoons of brownie batter. Glide a knife through the layers, creating a swirl pattern.
  4. Bake the brownies for 28-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the brownies to cool completely before cutting into squares. Store brownies at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

 

Taco Seasoning | amybites.com

Taco Seasoning

There’s a weekly ritual that many people celebrate these days. Much like its alliterative friend Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday is apparently a thing. I’m not sure when it started or why it has permeated culture like it has, but sure enough, every Tuesday, I see pictures of tacos all over Instagram. We like to flaunt the rules in our house, so we had Taco Monday this week. And we’ll often have Taco Wednesday or—gasp!—Taco Thursday. Any day is a good day for tacos, am I right?

Taco Seasoning | amybites.com

One thing I don’t like about taco night is the taco seasoning. Don’t get me wrong: it’s delicious. But it also tends to be pretty high in sodium and unnecessary ingredients, and thus, not so great for you. Plus, it’s so easy to make that it’s really more of a hassle to remember to add a taco seasoning packet to your grocery list than to whip up a batch of it at home. I developed this recipe for Spry Magazine a few months ago but forgot to post it here amongst all my website issues. I thought today would be the perfect time to share it so you can celebrate a homemade Taco Tuesday tonight. ¡Olé!

Taco Seasoning | amybites.com

Taco Seasoning

Makes about 2 ounces, approx. equal to 2 store-bought taco seasoning packets

  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more to taste
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes, optional

Mix all spices together until well combined. Store in an airtight container.

To use, simply use about half of the yield (~1 oz. or around 2 tablespoons) in place of your regular taco seasoning. Adjust any of the spices in the recipe to suit your tastes.

Cream Cheese Muffins | amybites.com

Cream Cheese Muffins

Yeesh. The site is still a mess, I know. There’s still a chunk of posts I have to restore manually, one-by-one, and then of course the look of the site. Please try to ignore that and focus on these muffins. They’re my new favorites and I’ve been itching to share them.

Cream Cheese Muffins | amybites.com

These muffins are so simple, but so wonderful. One morning I was running late for work (story of my life) and totally forgot to eat breakfast, so I stopped by the deli to pick up a muffin. I saw cream cheese muffins, which is something I was totally unfamiliar with up to that point. My first reaction was, “Boring.” But something made me take a second look. I ended up trying it, and I was instantly obsessed. I knew I needed to make them at home. They’re super moist and slightly tangy from the cream cheese with a bright lemon zing, flecked with beautiful vanilla bean. Sweet but not too sweet, with a crunchy raw sugar topping. They’re the perfect breakfast or snacking muffin—so simple and delicious on their own, but easily enhanced with a spread of your favorite jam.

Cream Cheese Muffins | amybites.com

You can even put the jam in the muffins. I was intrigued by some blueberry-chocolate jam at the farmer’s market a couple weeks ago, so I bought it with the sole purpose of baking it into these muffins. And it was fab. Simply fill the muffin cups halfway with the batter, add a teaspoon of your favorite jam, and cover with the remaining batter. You can even stir fresh fruit into the batter! These muffins are simply the perfect base for your favorite fruit flavors. You must try them this summer.

Cream Cheese Muffins

Adapted from A Family Feast
Makes 12 muffins

  • 3 cups flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup low fat milk
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • ½ cup butter, melted and cooled
  • ¼ cup of turbinado sugar
  • Optional: ¼ cup of your favorite jam or preserves
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a muffin liner inside each opening of a muffin pan. Spray each liner lightly with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Add flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl and whisk together.
  3. In a small bowl, combine sugar and lemon zest. Rub together with your fingers until well-combined. Add to flour mixture and whisk together.
  4. In a measuring cup, combine the milk and lemon juice and stir. Let sit for several minutes until slightly curdled.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the room temperature cream cheese until light and creamy. Add eggs and beat until smooth. Add milk mixture, vanilla bean paste and melted butter and mix thoroughly.
  6. In 3 batches, add the flour mixture to the cream cheese mixture, mixing after each addition until just incorporated.
  7. Using an ice cream scoop, spoon the batter evenly into the 12 prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops generously with the turbinado sugar. If using jam, fill each cup halfway and add about a teaspoon of jam, then top with the remaining batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the muffins are firm and just beginning to brown.