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Halloween Boo Brownies

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By Cat Viglienzoni — November 4, 2012

Halloween was in the middle of the work week this week… which doesn’t usually mean I can’t make cute desserts to bring to work to celebrate, but with Superstorm Sandy coverage and my volunteer job the day before Halloween, I just didn’t have time to make anything for that day.

Fortunately, a coworker had his Halloween party yesterday, so I was able to test out an idea I’d been wanting to try: Boo Brownies.

Boo Brownies — all finished on a platter.

They’re little ghosts atop the mini-muffin brownies, not the Scrubbing Bubbles mascots. And if the meringue had set the way it was supposed to, that would be a bit more obvious.

Next year, I’m using white frosting instead — I think it will taste better and take all of 5 minutes to get ready to decorate… as opposed to the meringue, which took a good couple hours because I made such a large batch.

My inspiration came from a cake on this blog, and I used the meringue recipe from there. I’ve copied it here for you.

Meringue Ghost Ingredients:
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
In a large bowl or double boiler, whisk together the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar until well combined.  In the bottom part of the double boiler,  bring a small amount of water to a rolling simmer, and place the bowl over (but not touching) the boiling water.  While whisking frequently, heat the egg white/sugar mixture until the sugar has dissolved.  (Test by running a small amount between your fingers until you can’t feel the grit of the sugar.)  Take care to whisk frequently so you don’t cook the eggs!
Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or use your hand mixer to beat the mixture until stiff white peaks form and the mixture has cooled to nearly room temperature.  This could take 10-15 minutes.  You want to make sure the meringue will hold stiff peaks so your ghosts stand without drooping.
Using a piping bag, swirl meringue into the shape of a ghost.  Use a small amount of black food coloring on the end of a toothpick to draw the eyes.
Allow meringue to dry before serving, about two hours.
Like I said… next year I’m just using white frosting because I think it will hold its shape better and go better with the texture and flavor of the brownies. Plus, clearly mine didn’t turn out as cute as hers, even though I was at it with a hand mixer for probably a good half hour-plus to try to get the meringue stiff enough to stand up.

Kind-of flat, sad, droopy ghosts.

Also, meringue makes a BIG mess when you’re trying to transport it from bowl to piping bag or clean it up. Do NOT wait to clean up after this, and use lots of hot water to melt the sticky sugar.
Still, I’m glad I tried it, and now I know how I’ll go about making them the next time around!

Written by Cat Viglienzoni

November 4, 2012 at 8:38 AM

WCAX Blue Bandana Chocolates PKG 10/20/12

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By Cat Viglienzoni — October 23, 2012

Serious throwback to senior year of college this weekend… I was back on my (second-favorite) beat — the chocolate beat! I reported on a new venture within a popular Vermont chocolate company. (For those of you just tuning in… I did my entire senior thesis on chocolate. Looking back on that after working in the professional industry for more than a year… slightly embarrassing, but it was fun.)

Lake Champlain Chocolates launched their Blue Bandana Chocolate line — currently a single-man operation (run by the owner’s son Eric Lampman) focused on bringing out the flavors of the beans themselves, which differ depending on where the beans come from. So yes, cacao beans from Guatemala and Madagascar DO taste different.

I thought the piece turned out well — it was visually appealing (but when isn’t chocolate visually-appealing?), and I was very comfortable with the subject matter. I think my photographer Mark had fun with it too, and he certainly made the piece look great!

I tried the three flavors they had there (they said more are on the way in the coming months) and I think my favorites were the Guatemala and the Madagascar sans pepper. I tend to prefer a bit more of a cayenne flavor with my dark chocolate if I’m going to add pepper. But that said, it was still very good.

Also, and I didn’t really get to this in my piece due to time constraints, but to really enjoy chocolate you have to appreciate the aroma as well as the straight-up taste, because the two senses are quite connected. This explains why when you have a cold and your nose is stuffy, things taste bland.


Written by Cat Viglienzoni

October 23, 2012 at 10:24 AM

Homemade Ravioli on WCAX The :30 12-21-11

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By Cat Viglienzoni — December 22, 2011

It’s that time of the year again — the time when our family makes our traditional Christmas Day dinner of homemade ravioli. I know I’ve already blogged about them before, but this time I have a better documentation of the process, courtesy of the TV station I work for.

The :30, our longer-format news half hour, did a series around Christmas where different members of the station made their favorite recipes on air, often bringing in family members to help. Since my family is all thousands of miles away, that wasn’t going to happen for me. So, with a small camcorder in tow, I returned home to document our Christmas tradition… all 1,300+ ravioli!

The best comment (so far) has come from one of my aunt’s friends, saying: “you don’t by any chance have any sisters/nieces that are available? … say in their early to mid 30’s? I totally need to marry into this family!!!!”

Since our non-20s family is rather short on single members, I’d say people already figured that out. 🙂


Written by Cat Viglienzoni

December 22, 2011 at 1:16 PM

Peanut Butter Brownies: or, nullifying the decision between brownie & Reese’s

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Some sort of heaven.

By Cat Viglienzoni — November 5, 2011

Unless you have an unfortunate allergy, there is no reason not to like either Reese’s peanut butter cups or brownies.

But what if there were a moment where you would have to choose between the two? Egad!

Fortunately, this recipe now makes such a horrifying moment much more unlikely. Peanut Butter Cup Brownies… a combination of two great things in one.

It’s a genius idea I came across on this blog from a fellow food lover (who in turn got it from another food source… and the goodness keeps getting passed around!).

Here’s the recipe, that way you can share it with all the fellow chocolate-and-peanut-butter combination lovers out there in the world (and judging by the Facebook response from these after I posted the pictures, there are many of us)…

Peanut Butter Cup Brownies:

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 TBSP water

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, plus 1/3 cup extra for garnish

1 large egg (or 2 egg whites if you absolutely feel the need to be healthier with this)

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp baking soda

3/4 cup milk chocolate chips, plus 1/3 cup extra for garnish

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (no seriously, don’t use crunchy, I promise)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat cupcake pan with cooking spray.

2. In a bowl, microwave the butter, sugar, and water combination (about 45-60 seconds or until the butter is melted). Stir in 3/4 cup semisweet chips until melted. Add egg, vanilla, and mix. Add flour and baking soda and mix. Let cool at room temperature. Then stir in 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips and the remaining 1/4 cup semisweet chips.

3. Spoon batter into cups and bake for about 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out slightly wet. Remove from oven and let the centers fall (mine were about half and half, so you’re going to need to help the ones that don’t cave in make room for the peanut butter with the back of a spoon).

4. Microwave peanut butter for about 45 seconds and stir. Put about 1 TBSP into each brownie center. Garnish with the remaining chocolate chips (milk & semisweet). Let the brownies cool completely in the pan. Store in the fridge. Makes a dozen brownies.

This is an excellent life choice.

Some notes…

I would not recommend using the “natural” creamy peanut butter unless you really want the stronger peanut taste. I found it overwhelmed the chocolate in some respects. So that’s a personal preference. I also would probably use more semisweet chocolate next time because I like stronger chocolate tastes. Lastly, remember that these will harden a bit after you take them out of the oven, so if they look a bit gooey don’t over-bake them.

These are excellent when accompanied by a glass of milk. Enjoy!


Written by Cat Viglienzoni

November 5, 2011 at 7:12 PM

Posted in Food & Drink

Owl Cupcakes: or, Happy Halloween!

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By Cat Viglienzoni — October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween! I got too old for trick-or-treating a long time ago (and let’s face it, with my new work schedule that’s not exactly an option anyway), but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to celebrate and eat and excessive amount of sugar on All Hallows Eve.

Happily, Halloween this year coincided with a Monday, the day I usually bake lots of goodies for work anyway. And when I saw this adorable recipe for owl cupcakes, I just couldn’t resist.

A Sunday afternoon's worth of owl cupcakes.

I decided to make the ones as shown with both yellow and chocolate mix, but then I got the idea to make a double batch of snowy owls as well… and suddenly I had 48 cupcakes to make. And if you’ve never had to halve 96 Oreos without disturbing the stuffing before, let me tell you… the decorating takes HOURS.

Starting the decorating processs. I ended up needing 2 more packs of Oreos and part of another can of frosting.

But I think the results were well worth it.

For all the owls, I used halved Oreos with dark chocolate Hershey pieces for the eyes and candy corn for the beaks.

And since I’m a bit of a dork who’s into science and nature and animals, I ended up making three “types” of owls based on coloration.

First… the screech owls.

Screech owls: Devil's Food cupcake, dark chocolate frosting.

Then the tawny owls:

Tawny owls: Yellow cupcake, dark chocolate frosting.

It occurred to me after the fact that the tawny owls would have been nicely distinguished by being dipped in toasted coconut flakes. Next time I plan to try that.

Finally, my favorites (decorating-wise, at least) because I thought up the decorations for these ones, the snowy owls:

Snowy owls: white cupcake, vanilla frosting, coconut flakes.

A tip for the snowy owls: the Oreos aren’t going to stick to the frosting once you dip the cupcake in the coconut flakes, so you’ll need to spread a bit of extra frosting on the back of the Oreos to make them stick. I know… extra frosting… what a shame…

They’re pretty easy to make. The hardest part is not breaking the Oreos when you pull them apart (not to mention having to re-distribute the Oreo stuffing when half of it inevitably ends up on the other side of the cookie).

Anyway… give it a try today (or another day if you happen to have an owl-themed gathering in the future), or sometime just for fun! People will probably be impressed. And they’re really, really cute.


Written by Cat Viglienzoni

October 31, 2011 at 12:30 PM

Posted in Food & Drink

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Dark Chocolate Macaroon Brownies

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I was too excited to wait and get my camera, so I did a taste-test on the corner.

By Cat Viglienzoni — August 21, 2011

I love brownies. Pretty much any type, but in general, the more dark chocolate, the better. And Sundays are my baking days (my co-workers on Mondays get to start the week with treats!).

I also love brownies that have toppings. Frosting, cheesecake, whatever. So when I came across this recipe in a cookbook I was given, I couldn’t resist trying them out.

I also learned something: you don’t have to buy every single ingredient listed. Substitutions are excellent for less-common ingredients.

Like cake flour, for example. The recipe calls for 3 TBSP of it. Well, I didn’t have cake flour, and I didn’t want to buy an entire thing of cake flour to use 3 TBSP of it and then have it sit around on the shelf.

So I did a search for cake flour substitutes, and I found this one, which (when scaled down) said 1/4 cup flour and 1 TBSP cornstarch would create a decent cake flour substitute. Take 3 TBSP of that and you’re good to go.

So anyway, here’s the recipe. Yes, it uses boxed mix, don’t criticize me. If you have a good brownie recipe you can make from scratch, I’m sure it’ll work, since these are basically regular brownies with a topping.

Dark Chocolate Macaroon Brownies:

1 box dark chocolate brownie mix (I’m partial to Betty Crocker, but any standard size brand will do.)

2 eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup chocolate milk (used instead of traditional water in the brownie mix… which I thought was a clever way to sneak more chocolate into the brownies)

Chocolate chips (I’m not going to limit you here – if you’re like me, go to town. The original recipe said 1/3 cup of mini chocolate chips.)

Mix all those together, put into a greased baking pan (I use a 13×9 so that I can give more people brownies, but the original said to use 9×9), and bake at 350F for about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, then turn the oven up to 375F.

Then, in a saucepan, put:

3 cups sweetened shredded baking coconut

3/4 cup cream of coconut (look in the international foods aisle for this… I didn’t even know it existed)

4 egg whites

3 TBSP cake flour (or substitute – see above)

Pinch salt

Mix those for about 5 minutes over medium heat (be sure to continue mixing, or you’ll be like me and cleaning a layer of coconut off the bottom of the pan), then spread over the warm brownies. Put the brownies back in the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until the edges are lightly toasted. I did 15 minutes and mine came out a little too done, I think.

Let the pan cool on a wire rack, if you have one. (I don’t have one, so I left it on the stove and nothing terrible happened.)

And then consume to your heart’s content… preferably with a glass of milk.

My verdict: They’re good brownies, but I need to find a way to cook them less throughout this whole process so they stay chewier. I’m a fan of the combination of the coconut and the brownie though… two things I love! I think next time I’m going to dress them up a bit more by drizzling melted chocolate over the top when I’m done too. Then they will truly resemble macaroons!


Written by Cat Viglienzoni

August 21, 2011 at 6:03 PM

Sports Nutrition Show Live Shot – Winter 2011

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By Cat Viglienzoni — June 1, 2011

I’m going to assume that most of you have not had the … ah… pleasure of going live before. But you have definitely seen the reporters on TV doing just that, and many of them make it look VERY easy.

It’s not.

First off, we were in a terrible location. It’s great that our school can even DO live shots, because it requires special equipment and setup, but the location is not ideal. It’s in a sketchy and poorly-lit alley across from our school (the one with the two strip clubs farther down the block), on the corner of a busy downtown road, in one of the windiest parts of the city. It’s an ugly backdrop any way you turn.

That’s also why it’s an excellent location to begin in, because you’ll encounter many of the challenges a reporter going live faces – uncooperative weather (hair flying everywhere), passerby who get too curious, loud street noise that can drown you out, etc.

So here’s my attempt. It was for a classmate’s show on sports health, and my piece was on nutrition for athletes. I was assigned as a live reporter for the show.

Okay, so I don’t look great in the live shot. It was super windy, super-freezing (you hopefully can’t tell, but I actually couldn’t feel any of my limbs – including my hands – by the end of it), and we’d been standing out in that weather waiting for the show to set correctly for about an hour. By the time it was my turn to go, I wanted to get inside, so I think I spoke too quickly and rushed my delivery. The piece was long, but that was the length I was told to do. I also didn’t get a chance to get different b-roll for the piece – ideally, I would have been able to go to a grocery store or a cafeteria and get shots of different foods or people eating. You see my mouth moving at the beginning (a no-no) – that was me getting the cue – slightly late – that I was live. (Normally, a reporter has an earpiece that allows him or her to hear what’s going on at the station. We did not, so my photographer had to cue me in.)

I had help setting up and shooting from my producer, Lynn Herman. I did most of the interview and the tracking and editing. The lovely Meghan Lamontagne was the anchor who led into my live shot.

Still, I didn’t flub the words too much, and I was more comfortable the next time I got to go live, so I think it was a great experience to have.


Written by Cat Viglienzoni

June 1, 2011 at 6:53 PM