Like any self-respecting home cook (especially one who keeps a blog!), I watch the The Food Network and The Cooking Channel when I can. You always need new inspiration. That’s in addition, of course, to the half-dozen magazines I get, the 100 + cookbooks that grace my shelves, the myriad clippings I collect (some quite yellowed), the yet-to-be-organized print-outs from the internet, as well as the 50-odd food blogs and websites I try to visit regularly. That’s a lot of inspiration!
Trouble is, I have trouble working in some kind of routine exercise into that food absorption. Often, I will watch food shows while I hula hoop. A half-hour show is perfect for this kind of multi-tasking: I do my hula hoop for twenty minutes and then concentrate on the show for ten minutes (or maybe fold laundry).
The irony of exercising while slobbering over food possibilities is not lost on me.
A couple weeks ago I was going doing my hula hoop while watching Giada De Laurentiis. Can’t remember which show. (Which made finding the recipe just a little bit of a search.) But she made these chocolate chip cupcakes look so irresistible, I was drooling over my hula hoop.
And I had a couple of real good excuses: my friend’s birthday was coming up, the grandsons were camping with their parents nearby, and my college girlfriends were coming for a visit, too! So . . . I made them. Twice. And they were doubly delicious.
When Giada said the recipe started with a brownie mix from a box, she only half-apologized and said they were that good. I believed her. And it's true. I only made a couple changes from her original recipe:
- I subbed coffee for the water she used.
- I used regular sized chocolate chips instead of the mini-chips she recommended.
- And I added peanut butter to the mascarpone-cream cheese frosting.
A word on the hula hoop: It really works. It’s a weighted hula hoop – 4 pounds.
This is not me.
When I first used it, I had a tough time keeping it going for more than a minute at a time, but I do 20 minutes at a time and although I’m don’t do it all the time, I sure notice when I don’t! Makes a big difference and really works whittling away my midriff. Which is a very good thing if you like to eat brownie cupcakes like these. And I do.
Chocolate Chip Walnut Cupcakes
only slightly adapted from Giada Di Laurentiis
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, plus ¼ cup for garnish
1 (21 ounce) box brownie mix (Giada recommended Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge)
2 eggs, room temperature
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup brewed coffee
4 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Place than oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
In small bowl, combine the walnuts, 1 cup chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon of the brownie mix. Toss until the nuts and chips are well coated and set aside. (Doing this helps keep the chips and nuts from sinking to the bottom.)
In large, bowl, mix together the remaining brownie mix, eggs, vegetable oil and coffee. Stir for 30 seconds until blended. Fold in the nuts and chips. Spoon the mixture into the prepare pan. (Cupcakes will be full.)
Bake for 22 to 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist fudgy crumbs. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting, about 30 minutes.
For the frosting, using an electric hand mixer, beat the two cheese together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Then gradually beat in the powdered sugar until smooth and spreadable. Then mix in 2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter. Refrigerate frosting until ready to use. Spread the frosting on top of the cupcakes and garnish with chocolate chips. Refrigerate until ready to serve, but serve at room temperature.