Friday, September 30, 2011

Corn Chowder

This is the perfect recipe to transition into fall using the last of the summer produce to make comforting corn chowder. Yum-o! Serve with some homemade biscuits or a simple sandwich and you’ve got the makings for a perfect dinner.

Corn Chowder
Serves 6

2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 red pepper, seeds removed and diced
3 tablespoons minced poblano pepper
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, washed and diced
2 cups vegetable broth
3 ears sweet corn, kernels removed-save the empty ears to put back in the pot (or 2 cups frozen or canned corn)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 ½ cups skim milk
½ teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Shredded cheddar cheese-optional, for serving

In a large soup pot, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the celery, carrot, red pepper, poblano pepper, and potatoes. Add the vegetable broth and empty ears of corn, if using, and cook until vegetables are tender. This will take about 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and milk. Pour mixture into the soup pot. Stir. Add in the corn kernels, thyme, salt, and pepper. Let the soup simmer for 20-30 minutes on the stove.

Remove empty ears of corn, if using, and ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish with cheddar cheese, if desired.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Creamy Pumpkin Glaze

I’m kind of on a baking kick. Give it a couple more days and I’ll be sick of it. Or not. Baking is really quite comforting and it makes the house smell so good. And, quite frankly, fall and the holidays just brings out the Martha Stewart in me.

This is a really beautiful cake. Because I lack decorating skills, the bundt cake is something I can do that turns out beautifully without all the hard work. Besides, this cake is really good. There’s not much more I can say about it.

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Creamy Pumpkin Glaze

For the cake:
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup butter, softened
4 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons canned pumpkin
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan (I use Pam Baking spray).

Add sugar and butter to a large mixing bowl. Beat on low until light and fluffy.

Slowly add the eggs, one at a time, and continue mixing until well incorporated.

Add the pumpkin, sour cream and vanilla, mixing on slow speed until well blended.

While mixer is still going on slow, add the flour, one cup at a time. Next, add the cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Blend until well incorporated.

Pour cake batter into prepared Bundt cake. Bake for 60 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clear.

For the glaze:
Place powdered sugar in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk milk into the powdered sugar. Continue whisking until no lumps appear.

Continue whisking while adding vanilla, canned pumpkin, cinnamon and melted butter.

Once glaze is smooth, gently pour over the top of the Bundt cake, allowing to drizzle down the side of the cake.

Slice, serve and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Praline Upside Down Pumpkin Cake

I love fall. It’s my favorite season of the year. Not too hot. Not too cold. Just perfect. Fall means scarves, hoodies and pumpkin spiced latte. Did I mention I love fall?

I also love fall because it’s time for some of my favorite ingredients like pumpkin, nuts and everything that is awesome! It’s the perfect time to make a Praline Upside Down Pumpkin Cake with a crunchy gooey topping and warm pumpkin spices. A moist and fluffy cake with a crunchy nutty topping, how can you go wrong?

Praline Upside Down Pumpkin Cake
Ingredients 2 stick unsalted butter, melted and divided
¾ cup of brown sugar
¾ cup pecan halves
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
½ cup warm milk

Directions Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread pecan halves on a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes or until aromatic. Remove from the oven and let cool, chop the pecans into small pieces, set aside.

Melt butter in a small sauce pan. In a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan combine melted butter and brown sugar.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, salt, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, eggs, milk, vanilla extract and pumpkin puree together until well combined, about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture; stir with spoon until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool. Let cake rest 5 minutes.

Place a plate over the cake and invert to unmold cake, let cool completely.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lasagna Cupcakes

I like small desserts. Guess that’s why I have an affinity for cupcakes. They’re small parcels of deliciousness. Which is why I was so excited when I stumbled upon this recipe – it’s a delicious twist on lasagna with a dramatic presentation. Kids love the whimsical look and friends will be impressed by the arrangement. Annnnnnnnd they are super easy to customize for the pickiest eaters. The possibilities are endless!

Lasagna Cupcakes
Makes 12 “cupcakes”

Meat Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound mild Italian chicken sausage, casing removed
¼ cup tomato paste
1 (28-ounce can) crushed tomatoes
¼ cup chopped fresh basil, plus 12 whole small leaves

Ricotta Filling:
¾ cup part-skim ricotta
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for topping
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella, plus more for topping
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 package wonton wrappers (at least 48)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For the meat sauce: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until it shimmers. Add the onion, sprinkle with a little salt and sauté until softened but not browned. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute longer.

Add the sausage, breaking up the clumps with your spoon. Cook until the sausage is no longer pink, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, ¼ cup chopped basil, as well as some salt and pepper. Stir to combine and simmer uncovered, for about 15 minutes, stirring every now and then. Allow the meat sauce to cool, about 15 minutes before building lasagna cupcakes. As the meat sauce is cooking, prepare the ricotta filling.

For the ricotta filling: Stir together the ricotta, ¾ cup Parmesan and ¾ cup mozzarella. Season with lots of pepper, about a teaspoon and set aside.

To assemble the cupcakes:
Pull out your favorite cupcake pan. If your pan is not nonstick, spray the cups with cooking spray. Place a wonton wrapper in each cup. Don't worry if you're using square ones.

Drop about 1 tablespoon of meat sauce into the bottom of each cup. Then add 1 teaspoon of ricotta filling. Then cover with another wonton wrapper, rotating it about 90 degrees so that the corners of the first wrapper and the second wrapper aren't right on top of each other. Repeat this until you've built 3 layers total. Top each with a small basil leaf, then another wonton wrapper. Finish each cupcake with a spoonful of meat sauce, a little shredded mozzarella and pinch of grated Parmesan.

Pop them into the oven and bake for 20 minutes. When time's up, resist the temptation to eat them right away or else you'll burn your mouth! Let them rest on the counter for about 10 minutes, and they should slip out of the muffin tin easily. Top with more shredded basil if you like.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cajun Chicken Pasta

This is an exceedingly yummy, decadent pasta dish with chicken, vegetables, and lots and lots of scrumptious carbs.

It’s a cinch to throw together, and if you don’t have prepared Cajun spice in your cabinet, you can just throw a few spices together to make your own combination. Different Cajun spice mixtures use different combinations of ingredients, but if you stick to basics like cayenne pepper (important!), paprika, white pepper (plenty, to help the spice factor), and garlic or onion powder, you’re doing just fine. And you can add Cajun extras to this dish such as Andouille sausage, crawfish, or shrimp. Play with it…have fun!

Just remember: part of the deliciousness of this pasta dish is the spicy kick. So, don’t be a wimp!

Cajun Chicken Pasta
Serves 6

3 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
3 teaspoons Cajun spice mix,
1 pound fettuccine
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 whole green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 whole red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
½ whole large red onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 whole roma tomatoes, diced
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
½ cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
Cayenne pepper to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Salt to taste
Chopped fresh parsley, to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain when pasta is still al dente; do not overcook!

Sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons Cajun spice over chicken pieces. Toss around to coat. Heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy skillet over high heat. Add half the chicken in a single layer; do not stir. Allow chicken to brown on one side, about 1 minute. Flip to the other side and cook an additional minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a clean plate.

Repeat with remaining chicken. Remove chicken, leaving pan on high heat.

Add remaining olive oil and butter. When heated, add peppers, onions, and garlic.

Sprinkle on remaining Cajun spice, and add salt if needed. Cook over very high heat for 1 minute, stirring gently and trying to get the vegetables as dark/black as possible. Add tomatoes and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Remove all vegetables from the pan.

With the pan over high heat, pour in the wine and chicken broth. Cook on high for 3 to 5 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Reduce heat to medium-low and pour in cream, stirring/whisking constantly. Cook sauce over medium-low heat for a few minutes, until cream starts to thicken the mixture. Taste and add freshly ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, and/or salt to taste. Sauce should be spicy!

Finally, add chicken and vegetables to sauce, making sure to include all the juices that have drained onto the plate. Stir and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until mixture is bubbly and hot. Add drained fettuccine and toss to combine.

Top with chopped fresh parsley and chow down!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cheddar Jalapeño Cornbread Muffins

Are you like me and waiting for the weather to turn cooler to enjoy those cozy comfort foods? I jumped the gun earlier this week and made a big pot of soup, White Bean Chicken Chili, one of our favorites. And just so the soup wouldn’t be lonely, I also made a batch of Cheddar Jalapeño Cornbread Muffins. Yum. This is a delicious savory bite that is the perfect complement to soup, chili or stew.

Cheddar Jalapeño Cornbread Muffins
Makes 16 standard size muffins

1 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup oil
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1-2 jalapeño, finely diced (adjust for spice preference)
1/2 cup onion, finely diced (optional)
1/2 cup black beans, drained (optional)


Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease muffin cups or use paper liners.

In a large bowl, lightly whisk together all dry ingredients: cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Beat the eggs, buttermilk and oil together in a small bowl, then stir into dry ingredients. Mix well, but be careful to not over mix.

Add in cheese, jalapeño, onion and black beans, stir until combined.

Fill muffin cups half full.

Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Creamed Spinach

Spinach. Despite Popeye’s best efforts, it’s gotten a bad rap over the years. Most people either love it or hate it. Me? I love it. Not that canned stuff Popeye carried but real, fresh spinach, usually served up in a salad or lightly sautéed in a little olive oil. Healthy stuff that tastes good.

But sometimes it’s worth a splurge and healthy goes out the window. Like this recipe. It’s not heart-healthy at all, but it sure does taste good! I used fresh spinach and sautéed it myself. You can thaw out a bunch of frozen stuff if you like.

Creamed Spinach

Spinach, 2 10-ounce bags
Butter, 5 tablespoons, divided
Flour, 1/3 cup
Milk, 1 cup
Nutmeg, a dash or two
Green Onion (or white), about 1/4 cup chopped
Parmesan, 1/2 cup, grated
Sour Cream, 1/2 cup

Preheat oven to 350. Slice the green onions (or dice the white onion) and grate the cheese.

Then, in a small saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Once it begins to bubble add the flour and stir it until it’s a smooth paste.
Add the milk, reduce the heat and cook until it’s smooth and thick. Stir in a little nutmeg, remove from the heat and set the sauce aside for now.

In a large skillet, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they soften and just begin to brown.

Add the spinach and let it cook down until it’s wilted. You’ll have to add a handful or two at a time so it’ll fit in the pan but it’ll cook down quickly.

Drain off any excess water and add the sauce to the spinach.

Add the cheese and sour cream. Stir it all together and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour the mixture into a small casserole dish and bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes, or until it’s all bubbly, thickened and lightly browned.

Serve it up and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Eggplant “Bruschetta”

My husband loathes eggplant. I’ve tried a variety of recipes in the hopes that one day he’ll fall in love with this vegetable like I have, but to no avail. I things it’s really a textural thing. Anyhow, that hasn’t stopped me from trying out even more recipes with this ingredient.

This recipe is like eggplant bruschetta, topped with a Mediterranean summer salsa of a salad. It’s totally addictive and not-so-heavy.

Eggplant “Bruschetta”
Serves 4

1 to 2 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds eggplant (about 2 medium), in 3/4- to 1-inch slices
2 ounces (1/2 cup) chopped or crumbled ricotta salata
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/3 cup finely diced red onion
3 seeded, diced medium tomatoes (1 1/2 cups)
3 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves
2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet generously with olive oil, about 1 to 2 tablespoons. Arrange eggplant rounds in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast, without disturbing, for 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully flip each piece: the undersides should be blistery, dark and a bit puffy and should release from the pan with no effort. If they’re not, let it cook longer. Once flipped, sprinkle them with additional salt and freshly ground black pepper and return the pan to the oven for another 10 to 12 minutes or so, until the undersides match the tops.

Meanwhile, mix your ricotta, capers, onion, tomatoes, mint, vinegar and remaining 4 teaspoons olive oil in a small bowl. Taste for seasoning; ricotta salata tends to be quite salty so I don’t find that this dish needs more than a pinch of salt, if that. Add more vinegar, if desired. Add freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

When the eggplant discs are done, arrange them on a serving platter. Scoop a spoonful of the salad over each round. Eat immediately.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Crock Pot Veggie Lasagna

One of my most frequent dinnertime complaints is lack of time. It’s tough trying to get a balanced, nutritious meal on the dinner table when you only have a limited amount of time in which to make it. That is why whenever I need an easy-to-prepare meal I can be sure the whole family will love, I get out my crock pot. From prep to clean up, it is the biggest time saving appliance I own. I’d actually marry it if my husband wasn’t already in the picture.

This Veggie Lasagna is one of my biggest recent crock pot success stories and it only took me a few minutes to put the whole thing together. No sautéing or stove-watching required. Just chop your veggies, mix the cheeses and layer everything into the pot. By the time you get home from picking up the kids at school and an afternoon of errands, this delicious dinner will be waiting for you — just take the lid off and serve.

You may not want to marry your crock pot, but you might consider it after tasting this lasagna.

Crock Pot Veggie Lasagna
Serves 6 to 8

2 cups zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms and/or spinach
1 15 oz. container ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tbsp. dried Italian herbs
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 large egg
1 25 oz. jar pasta sauce
1 box lasagna noodles (uncooked)
2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated

Place the vegetables in a food processor and pulse to roughly chop.

Place the ricotta, parmesan cheese, herbs, garlic powder, salt and egg in a bowl and stir to combine.

Pour half of the pasta sauce in the bottom of a crock pot.

Place a layer of noodles on top of the sauce, covering the entire surface, breaking the noodles to fit the pot.

Layer half of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles, followed by 1 cup of the chopped vegetables and then one cup of mozzarella cheese.

Repeat with another layer of noodles, followed by the remaining ricotta mixture and the chopped vegetables.

Pour the remaining pasta sauce on top of the lasagna and top with the remaining cup of the grated cheese.

Cook on low for 4 hours. Serve.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bacon-Wrapped Bratwursts

I was first introduced to brats during college. Mind you, I don’t like hot dogs but I do love me a good grilled brat. And this recipe is perfect for tailgating or just throwing on the grill for a day of football. But what makes this recipe even more perfect is the addition of bacon. After all, everything tastes better with bacon. Yum!

Bacon-Wrapped Bratwursts
Serves 6

6 bratwursts
6 pieces of bacon
2 onions, sliced
2 green peppers, cut into strips
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 bratwurst buns

Wrap a piece or bacon around each bratwurst. Use 2-3 toothpicks to hold bacon in place. Place a soaked skewer through each bratwurst. This keeps the brat from curling up when cooking.

Cook bacon wrapped brats on the grill over medium-high heat. Rotate the brats a couple of times while cooking. Grill for about 7-10 minutes or until brats and bacon are cooked all the way through.

While the brats are cooking, add onion and green pepper in a medium skillet that has been coated with olive oil. Sauté until tender over medium high heat.
Serve bacon wrapped brats in buns with onions and peppers. Serve warm.

Friday, September 16, 2011

French Toast Pancakes

Once upon a time French toast met pancakes and it was love at first bite. Seriously. What makes this recipe so unusual and delicious is how the French toast is coated in a very thin pancake batter, creating an ah-mazing crust around the bread. Its breakfast craziness yet the results are pure heaven!
French Toast Pancakes

4 whole large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1-½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
½ teaspoons cinnamon, optional
12 slices bread (you'll want something thick and hearty to stand up to the heavier batter)

Beat eggs until fluffy. Beat in remaining ingredients (except bread).

Heat a griddle over medium high heat until a drop of water skitters across the pan.
Dip one slice of bread at a time in the batter until it is completely covered. Place on the griddle and cook until brown on one side. Then, flip and brown the other side. You will know the bread is ready to flip in the same way you know pancakes are ready: the edges look dry and bubbles have formed in the batter along the crust.
Slather with butter and drizzle on some maple syrup. These also freeze well for breakfast later in the week.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Meatball Sandwiches

There’s something about meatball sandwiches that’s hearty and comforting. Every now and then I just want a sandwich that’s truly satisfying. This sandwich does that. Homemade meatballs snuggled in a chewy Italian roll and doused with just the right amount of sauce…. It’s as close to Nirvana as you’re going to get, at least until you read “Siddhartha.”

Meatball Sandwiches
Makes 8 sandwiches (3 meatballs per sandwich)

Tomato Sauce:
2 teaspoons olive oil

2 shallots, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons salt
¼ cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

½ pound ground beef
½ pound ground pork
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 cup olive oil

1/8 cup canola oil

24 cooked meatballs (below)
8 crusty Italian rolls, split lengthwise
16 slices (about 1 pound) mozzarella or sharp provolone cheese

Warm oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic sauté 2 to 3 minutes or until translucent. Stir in tomatoes, crushed red pepper flakes, and salt. Reduce heat to medium-low. Let sauce lightly bubble for 15 to 17 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Turn off heat. Stir in the fresh herbs.

Place meats in a large bowl with breadcrumbs, cheese and parsley. In a small bowl, beat the egg with salt and pepper; add to the meat mixture. Mix the ingredients with your hands until everything is moist and the meat holds together. If it's too dry, add a bit of water or another beaten egg. If it's too moist, add more breadcrumbs. Once the consistency is right, use your hands to roll mixture into 1-1/2-inch balls.

Place oils in a large skillet over medium heat. Fit as many meatballs in the skillet as possible without overcrowding. Cook about 2 to 3 minutes until browned; turn and cook another 2 to 3 minutes, until all sides are evenly browned. Place on a paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil. Repeat with remaining meatballs.

Add meatballs to sauce and warm over medium heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat broiler. One at a time, add 3 meatballs to a roll. Top with sauce and 2 cheese slices. Place on a large baking sheet and repeat with remaining sandwiches. Broil 2 to 3 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly and bread is golden. Eat them while they're hot.

Note: Meatballs can also be baked. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Shape as above and place them on a tinfoil-lined baking sheet (for easy clean up). Cook for 20 minutes, or until browned.

Variations: Substitute cooked Italian sausage for the meatballs to create a sausage sub. If you can’t decide, then add sausage to the meatballs for meatball and sausage sub.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

You know fall is upon us when Starbucks is offering their pumpkin spiced latte. Okay, I know it’s still too hot for sweaters, sweatshirts and scarfs; but I found this fabulous recipe that replicates this flavor.

It starts with a basic pumpkin cupcake recipe (dialing down the spices a bit and adding in some espresso powder), brushing it with some coffee to enhance the flavor and then finishing it off with some sweetened whipped cream, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a drizzling of caramel a la the fancy barista-constructed drinks we know and love. Try them, enjoy them and welcome fall with open arms.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes
Makes about 2 dozen cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. espresso powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. salt
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
4 large eggs
½ cup coffee or espresso, for brushing

For the whipped cream:
2¼ cups heavy cream, chilled
¼ cup confectioners' sugar

For garnish:
Ground cinnamon
Caramel sauce

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Stir together and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixture on low speed, add the flour mixture in two additions, mixing just until incorporated.

Fill the cupcake liners about three-quarters full. Bake until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pans. While the cupcakes are still warm, brush them two or three times with the coffee or espresso, allowing the first coat to soak in before repeating. Let cool completely.

To make the frosting, place the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-low speed at first, gradually increasing to high speed. Blend in the confectioners' sugar gradually. Whip until stiff peaks form, being careful not to over-beat. Use a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip to frost the cooled cupcakes. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and drizzle with caramel sauce. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Baked Zucchini Fries

My kids love fries. So one day I tried to fool them and tried this recipe for baked zucchini fries. Now let me tell you, I wasn’t fooling them. They knew by the look alone, these weren’t your McDonald’s golden French fries. In fact, when I asked them if they wanted some, they turned up their nose. But, lo and behold, after giving them one to try, they asked for another and another.

If you are looking for a healthy alternative to fries, give these a try. We dipped them in marinara sauce. These fries make a great side to any meal or a fun snack.

Baked Zucchini Fries

3 medium zucchini, sliced into skinny sticks
2 large egg whites, beaten
½ cup whole wheat bread crumbs (we make our own)
2 T grated Parmesan cheese
¼ tsp. dried basil
Pinch of dried oregano
¼ tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425°. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a small bowl, beat egg whites with a fork until frothy.

Put the breadcrumbs, basil, oregano, garlic powder and cheese on a plate-I used a pie tin. Mix well.

Dip the zucchini sticks in the egg whites and then into the bread crumb mixture, make sure all sides get coated well. Place the sticks on the prepared baking sheet. I did the sticks one by one.

Bake at 425° for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and a little crispy. I turned over the fries half way through. Serve warm. We like to dip ours in marinara sauce.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pizza Pretzel Bites

One of my kids’ favorite foods is pizza. They could eat it every day and never get tired of it. This is a fun pizza snack by making pizza into pretzel bites. Or is it making pretzel bites into pizza? Anyhow, pepperoni is one of their favorite toppings so each bite is stuffed with pepperoni pieces and mozzarella cheese.

The bites will puff up in the oven and form a golden brown pretzel “pizza crust.” Each bite is buttery, salty and filled with pepperoni and melted cheese. Serve with warm pizza sauce and you have the perfect snack or party appetizer.

Pizza Pretzel Bites
Makes about 6 dozen

1 ½ cups warm water
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
4 ½ to 5 cups all-purpose flour
Canola oil
Pepperoni slices, cut into small pieces
Shredded mozzarella cheese
5 quarts water
¾ cup baking soda
1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
Coarse sea salt
Pizza sauce-for serving

Combine the water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the dough hook until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Add the salt and flour and mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough appears too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a flat surface and knead into a ball with your hands.

Oil a bowl with canola oil, add the dough and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot over high heat and carefully add the baking soda.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, about 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 ounces each. Roll each piece into a long rope measuring 22 inches and shape. Cut the dough into one inch pieces to make the pretzel bites. Roll each bite flat with a rolling pin. Stuff each bite with pepperoni and cheese. Fold over the dough and pinch the ends. Set bites on a baking sheet and continue until all pretzel bites are stuffed.

Boil the pretzel bites in the water solution in batches. We did about 15 bites at a time. Boil for about 30 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon. Place pretzel bites on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. Make sure they are not touching. Brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with the salt. Place into the oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown.

Remove from oven and let cool for five minutes. Serve warm with pizza sauce.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies

I must be on some kind of blondie kick because this is my second recipe in a week about blondies. If you swoon over peanut butter and chocolate desserts like I do, you have to make these Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies. I can’t wait to make them again. They are easy to make – soft, chewy, with the perfect peanut butter and chocolate balance. I find it incredibly hard to share these.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups light brown sugar
½ cup creamy peanut butter
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch by 13-inch pan and set aside.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and brown sugar, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from the heat, and stir in the peanut butter, until creamy and combined. Set mixture aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Add the eggs, one at a time, to the peanut butter mixture, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared dry ingredients, and stir until batter is smooth. Fold in 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips, reserving the rest for sprinkling on top.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, spreading the batter evenly to the edges of the pan. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips and lightly press them into the batter.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden and the edges are slightly browned. Remove blondes from oven and place them on a wire rack to cool. Once cooled, cut into squares and serve.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cuban Pork Burgers

Okay, we’re probably on our last legs of summer. Time to fire up the barbecue for one last fling with these Cuban Pork Burgers. Juicy pork patties smothered with a slew of sensational salty, savory toppings including melty Swiss cheese, crispy bacon and a spicy mojo sauce. Is your mouth watering yet? It should be because these burgers are staggeringly delicious.

Cuban Pork Burgers
Serves 6

For the patties:
2 pounds ground pork
2 ½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon sage
1 ¼ teaspoons onion powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ teaspoons lime juice

For the Mojo:
1/3 cup sour orange juice*
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ¼ teaspoons oregano
1 ¼ teaspoons cumin
1 ¼ teaspoons coriander
1 teaspoons parsley
1 ½ teaspoons cilantro
2 teaspoons xanthan gum*

For the patties: In a mixing bowl combine all ingredients and mix until everything is thoroughly incorporated. Separate the meat into six 5 oz. balls. Flatten the balls into a patty shape.

Heat up a grill or large skillet with about a 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in the bottom of the pan, and cook burgers about five minutes on each side until cooked through.

For the mojo: In a blender combine all ingredients and blend on medium speed. Add xanthan gum slowly until the liquid begins to thicken. Refrigerate until needed.

Building the Burger:
2 teaspoons Dijon
1 teaspoon mayo
1 sliced cornichon
1 1/2 tablespoon sliced pickles
1 slice Swiss cheese
1 slice cooked bacon, cut in half
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 hamburger bun
2 tablespoons mojo sauce (from above)
1 Cuban patty

Assembling the burger: Slice the bun in half and toast. On the bottom spread Dijon mustard and mayo.

Melt the Swiss cheese over the top of the burger and top with bacon. Place burger with cheese and bacon on top of bottom bun with mayo and Dijon.

In a mixing bowl place pickles and cornichons and toss with mojo sauce. Place on top of burger. Top the burger with the chopped cilantro and orange zest. Serve.

Shopping note: Sour orange juice can be found in specialty Mexican markets. I didn’t have any, so I used regular orange juice and added a couple of squirts of lime juice to it. Xantham gum is a food thickener. Many online food store sell it. I didn’t have any, so I dissolved about 1 teaspoon of cornstarch in some water, and added it to the mojo sauce.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Grown-Up S’mores

Time for my summer blowout recipes – before you know it summer will be gone. In fact, it’s now getting darker at 7:15 p.m. I remember just a few weeks ago when the sun wouldn’t set until an hour later. Anyhow, you are going to love this recipe. I call them grown up s’mores since ginger snaps replace the typical graham cookie. So, the next time you go camping or start the fire pit outside, try this simple recipe for desert. Kids, and kids at heart, will no doubt love these.

Grown-Up S’mores

1 box ginger snaps
4 bars dark chocolate
1-2 bags marshmallow

Top a ginger cookie with a piece of dark chocolate. Place near fire (this allows the chocolate to soften and slightly melt while you roast the marshmallow).

Roast marshmallow. Once marshmallows are openly toasted, grab another ginger cookie and sandwich it all together. Enjoy!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Creole Chicken Wraps

I have one word for these wraps: de-lish! This is a great dish to get the kids involved once all the initial ”prep” work is done. Call the kiddies in the kitchen and get an assembly line forming and voila! Chicken wraps in a snap! Tasty, spicy and delicious!

Creole Chicken Wraps
Makes 4 wraps

For the Rub:
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Wraps:
1 cup mayonnaise
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Vegetable oil, for the grill
4 pieces flatbread (use store-bought)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
4 plum tomatoes, sliced
8 romaine lettuce leaves

Make the rub: Mix all of the ingredients in a small bowl with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper.

Prepare the wraps: Whisk the mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon of the rub in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium high. Toss the chicken with 3 tablespoons rub. Oil the grill; grill the chicken until marked, about 6 minutes. Turn and grill until cooked through, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board.
Wipe the grill clean and brush with more oil. Lay the bread on the grill, then brush with the spiced mayonnaise and top with mozzarella. Grill until the bottom is marked, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board.
Cube the chicken and arrange down the center of each piece of bread. Top with the tomatoes, and lettuce. Roll up and wrap with parchment paper or foil to seal.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Chinese Chews

These are called Chinese Chews. They’re like a Blondie but with a crunchy shell and a chewy inside. Not really sure where the name comes from because, as far as I know, there isn’t anything inherently Chinese about them. If you know otherwise, please fill me in.

Chinese Chews

1 pound brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened (salted or unsalted – remember it’s foolproof y’all)
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups chopped pecans
Optional: powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add chopped nuts.

Spread evenly in a 9×13″ baking pan and bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes, until crust begins to brown.

Cool slightly, cut and serve.

Dust with powdered sugar if desired.