Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Snickerdoodle Muffins


I have very little resistance and self-control when it comes to snickerdoodles.  Do a quick "snickerdoodle" search on this blog and you will see cupcakes, varieties of the cookie, biscotti, blondies, and now I am going to add muffin to that list.  I think that calling such a delight a "muffin" completely legitimizes the consumption of cinnamon and sugar for breakfast.  It is a breakfast of champions, in my humble opinion.

Snickerdoodle Muffins

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. cream of tartar
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cup sour cream

Rolling Sugar:
1 cup sugar
2 tbl. cinnamon
Mix together.

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners or spray each well with cooking spray.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy, 3 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add the vanilla.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cream of tartar, and nutmeg.

Starting and ending with flour mixture, alternately add flour mixture and sour cream to the butter-sugar mixture, scraping down the bowl a couple times.  Mix until all ingredients are incorporated evenly.

Using a scoop (I used a tablespoon from my everyday silverware), roll into a ball and drop into the cinnamon-sugar mixture until it is coated completely.  Place into prepared muffin pan.  Repeat with remaining batter.

Bake for 20-22 minutes until golden brown and cake tester comes out clean.  Cool slightly in pan before removing.  Transfer to wire cooling rack to cool completely, or serve warm.  Store in an airtight container.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Vanilla Latte Cupcakes


Vanilla lattes are my absolute, hands-down, "this-is-the-drink-I-always-order-anywhere-possible" favorite beverage.  I'm about 15 years running on this one.  :)  I rarely deviate from my standard vanilla latte, and the times that I have, I ended up wishing that I had just ordered my "regular."

Do you have a favorite like this?  Do tell.

When I saw this recipe, there was absolutely no question that I would make them.  And there was never any doubt in my mind that I would love them.  The question was "When would I make them?" and I wondered if I needed to plan to make them to give away or just resign myself to eating the entire batch single-handedly.

As my luck would have it, I ended up with the best of both worlds.  I made them for a gathering, and since I made them mini, there were a lot--and I mean, a lot!--left over.  Perfect.

The coffee flavor in these cupcakes really shines through and isn't distracted by any chocolate (you know me and chocolate!  I just don't require it!), the crumb is perfectly tender and soft, and the swiss meringue frosting is borderline sinful.  I've been calling the mini ones "poppers" and I figure it takes about 4 of them to equal one regular size one.  Again, perfect!  {I also like to believe that calories are non-existent in the mini ones.  Just sayin'.}

*A little sidenote on the yield:  for this recipe, which I made as written, I ended up with 48 mini cupcakes and enough batter left over to make 6 regular cupcakes.  For all regular size, you will end up with 12-18 cupcakes.  I also made the frosting as written, and ended up with some left over as well.


Vanilla Latte Cupcakes
Adapted from Pink Parsley

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee {I used espresso}
1/4 cup + 2 tbl. milk

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pans with liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed for about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a liquid measuring cup, combine the brewed coffee/espresso and milk.

Starting and ending with the flour, in a few additions alternately add the flour and milk mixture to the mixer, mixing on low speed until just incorporated.

Divide the batter between 18 cupcake liners, filling each cup about 2/3 to 3/4 full or 2 pans of mini cupcakes.

Bake 18-22 minutes (15 minutes for mini), or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Espresso Swiss Meringue Buttercream

3 large egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but cool, cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped OR 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder (or to taste) dissolved into 2 teaspoons boiling water
Pinch of salt 

Directions:
Combine the egg whites and sugar in the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer. Place over a pot of simmering water, and heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture reaches 160 degrees.

Attach the bowl to the mixer (fitted with the whisk attachment). Starting at low speed and gradually increasing to medium-high, beat the mixture until the bottom of the bowl cools to room temperature and the egg whites are thick and glossy and form soft peaks.

While mixing, add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time, until it has all been incorporated. Continue mixing until the frosting comes together. Switch to the paddle attachment and over medium speed, add in the vanilla extract, vanilla bean, coffee mixture, and salt. Beat until well combined and taste and adjust flavorings as necessary.

Frost cupcakes as desired.  I used a reusable pastry bag fitted with a mini star tip.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fruit Christmas Ornaments

I am sure that many of you will agree that there is something magical about a home that is beautifully decorated for Christmas.  The house is usually more de-cluttered than normal (a huge temptation for me to keep Christmas decorations up year-round!!  Just kidding--they are all put away before school resumes in January!), the lights twinkle, and all the extra touches that are meaningful to each person give one's home a special feeling during the Christmas season.

Several years ago, I made some of my own Christmas decorations....I'm not really even sure where the idea came from, but I went with it.  They are simple and lovely in their simplicity.

I simply placed sliced fruit in a food dehydrator and then poked a hole in the dried fruit to string a ribbon through.  I hung it lovingly on my Christmas tree, and voila!  Decorations!

I guess when I say "several years ago" it was really like 10 years ago, for the second year that my husband and I were married.  Time flies when you're living life!

This year I decided it was time to freshen up my fruit ornaments, and lucky for you, I took pictures along the way so I could share it with you.

{There is no recipe here, so just let your creative juices flow!}


Slice your desired fruit--I used 3 oranges and 4 Macintosh apples--about 1/4 inch thick and place in a food dehydrator.  I did mine overnight which was just about the right amount of time.  The apples will be soft and the oranges will no longer be juicy.


Make sure you leave a good amount of space between your slices so they dry evenly.


Remove your fruit from your dehydrator and get them ready to string the ribbon through.  My original set of ornaments I used strips of cute fabric with frayed edges for a more primitive look.


I redecorated my living room this summer, so this time around I decided to use some ribbon that was a bit shimmery and sparkly as to catch the lights on the tree.  However, the ribbon with the silver beads was way too thick to tie in a knot nicely, so I ended up not using that one.


I used a simple process here to poke my ribbon hole.  Once the fruit was dried and removed from the dehydrator, I used a small paring knife to cut a small slit in each slice.  With the oranges, it was easier to do this between the triangles of fruit flesh where there is a natural divider.  Just string your ribbon through and tie a knot on the end!  


Here are a couple of the finished pieces, all ready to be hung!  I think sometime I would like to make a fruit garland, and of course, the process is the same except you would put two holes in each piece and string them together.  Maybe next year that will be my project!


Here is my finished tree!  I need to play around with my dSLR camera and figure out how to take a picture with the lights blurred out, but until then, this one will have to do!  My Christmas tree is my absolute favorite part of all my Christmas decorations--cranberry garland, sprays of cranberries, rusted ornaments, rustic snowmen and angels, framed pictures of my 4 kids, homemade cinnamon gingerbread ornaments, fruit ornaments, and sometimes I stick cinnamon-scented pine cones in there too!  My tree is in my main floor living room, next to my fireplace, which is my favorite place to drink coffee!

Merry Christmas!  I would love to know what your favorite Christmas decoration is and if you have any homemade ones that you love!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Triple Layer Banana Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream


I grew up eating a delicious banana cake, homemade by my mom.  It was a classic dessert for her to make, which she did often, and she often took it with her as a contribution whenever our family was invited over to someone's home for dinner.  It was always a hit.

As an adult, looking back, I realize I have two complaints about her banana cake.

First, she always made it in a metal 9x13 cake pan.

I have decided that I am not fond of metal cake pans for serving cake from.  Not fond at all.

Second, she always iced her banana cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting.

As you might already know, I am not fond of chocolate.  Not fond at all.

So, I decided to put on my big girl boots and attempt a classic banana cake for the first time in my adult life.  No metal rectangular cake pan and no chocolate.

And while I was at it, I decided to make my cake a triple-layer one.

I might have a bit of a competitive streak in me.  Maybe.


I told my mom ahead of time that I was making this cake.  She suggested I top it with chocolate cream cheese frosting.  Her salivating tastebuds felt rejection, possibly for the first time when it came to banana cake.

It simply couldn't be helped.

When all was said and done, this cake was light, moist, sweetly banana-y (that's a word, right?!), and the frosting on it was killer!

For the best results, you will want to bake this a couple days before you serve it.  The banana flavor deepens for a couple days after it is baked, resulting is a cake that is pretty perfect.

Oh, and another thing?  Embrace the frosting technique.  While a bit odd and a bit unfamiliar (at least to me), this frosting rocks the peels right off those bananas!  Know what I mean?


Triple Layer Banana Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting
Source: How to Cook Like Your Grandmother, via Pinterest

For the cake batter:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2 egg yolks
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
3 crushed bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 egg whites, beaten

Directions:
Combine the sugar and butter and beat on low speed until completely combined.

Add the egg yolks and beat on high speed until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients — flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt — and whisk thoroughly. You’ll want the baking soda to be well distributed throughout the flour before adding to the wet ingredients.

Alternate adding dry and wet ingredients (milk), beating each time until it is just incorporated. Start and end with dry.

Now mash the bananas and add them to the batter.

Add the vanilla and beat until combined.

In a separate bowl with a whisk, whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, but not so much you dry them out.

Carefully fold the egg whites into the batter, trying not to deflate them too much.

Pour the batter into three greased and floured round pans.

Bake at 350° for 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.

Remove the cakes from the pans and let them cool to room temperature, then frost with the brown sugar buttercream frosting.

To frost, place one cake on serving plate. Spread a thin layer of frosting on top and place with second cake. (You can be a bit generous on the amount of frosting in between layers--I ended up having frosting left over when I was all done).  Repeat frosting, and place third cake on top. Spread a thin crumb layer over the top and sides of cake. Let sit for about 30 minutes. Spread remaining frosting evenly over the top and sides of cake, making small decorative peaks on the top if desired.


Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting

1 cup milk
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1½ cup brown sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt (if you use unsalted butter)

Directions:
Stir the milk and flour together and mix over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, until it thickens. It changes suddenly, so don't walk away. Set aside to cool.

Combine the sugar, butter and vanilla in a mixer;  beat on medium speed for 5-10 minutes until the sugar is dissolved and you don’t taste the graininess of it any more.

Add the milk mixture to the butter mixture and beat until smooth. Keep at room temperature until ready to frost on cooled cakes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese


I would love to see a show of hands of all the moms out there who have almost completely depended on mac-n-cheese to nourish their thriving little ones!  I'm in the same boat with you!  While there is something ridiculously classic about that blue box with the yellow powder that masquerades as cheese (I mean, really?!), I really would like my kids to adore a homemade {read: real} version.

This version is pretty doggone close!  I love that it is a one-skillet dish--separate pots for water, cheese sauce, and then a casserole dish to bake in is not necessary!  Just haul out your biggest skillet and go to town!  In about 15 minutes, you will have a yummy, creamy bowl of mac-n-cheese to delight even your pickiest little munchkin!

For those of you who have the luxury of indulging in a bowl of creamy, cheesy mac-n-cheese sans the impatient demands, messes, and spills of little people under the age of 5, this is the perfect comfort food for the cold winter days ahead!  

Enjoy!

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese in a Skillet
Source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

3 1/2 cups water, plus extra if needed
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
12 ounces (about 3 cups) elbow macaroni
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
6 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
6 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small chunks
Ground black pepper to taste

Directions:
Bring 3 1/2 cups water, 1 cup of the evaporated milk, the macaroni, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a simmer in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat. Cook at a vigorous simmer, stirring often, until the macaroni is tender and the liquid has thickened, 9 to 12 minutes.

Whisk the remaining 1/2 cup evaporated milk, the cornstarch, mustard and hot sauce together in a small bowl, then stir into the skillet. Continue to simmer slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

Off the heat, stir in the cheddar and Monterey Jack, one handful at a time, adding water as needed to adjust the consistency of the sauce. Stir in the butter and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cranberry Upside Down Cake



Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and every year, I try to make myself like the traditional cranberry sauce.


I try really hard.


I usually don't succeed at changing my tastebuds.


That makes me a bit sad.


Cranberries are so festive and even though slightly obligatory, they hold a novelty to me.


Enter this cake.


Chock full of cranberries.  Sweetly delicious.


Surprisingly simple.


In the rush of the rest of Thanksgiving Dinner prep, this cake gracefully and easily makes a wonderful addition to any spread.


Happy Thanksgiving!  I am thankful for all of you who take the time to stop by this little site, make a recipe, and leave a comment!  Have a wonderful holiday!


~Karla :)


Cranberry Upside Down Cake
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 3/4 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

Rub the bottom and sides of an 8-inch cake pan with 2 tablespoons of the unsalted butter (it will be a really thick layer of butter). In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar with the cinnamon and allspice. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Arrange the cranberries in a single layer on top of the sugar mixture.

Using an electric mixer, cream together the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, until well combined.

Spoon the batter over the cranberries in the pan, and smooth the top. Bake until a thin knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake; invert onto a rimmed platter. Store any leftovers at room temperature.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Caramel Apple Pie


I'm about to make a grandiose statement and I am giving you fair warning so you will be prepared.

This pie is epic.

Award-winning, even.

(Seriously.  I won 2nd place in a pie baking contest.  Why not 1st place, you might wonder.  Well, let's just say that the first place prize went to a pie that contained Oreos.  I think that tastebuds are a bit misguided when they prefer chocolate over caramel, but that is just my humble opinion!)

This pie is a bit over the top, I will admit, but sometimes it is fun to do a little indulging.  It's even a bit time-consuming, but well worth it!  Let's consider the components, shall we?

Graham cracker crust.  Caramel.  Pecans.  Apples cooked in butter and brown sugar.  Cheesecake filling oozing between the slices of apple.  Fresh sweetened whipped cream.  More caramel.


Yeah....

Indulgent.  Award-winning.  Perfect.


Caramel Apple Pie
Adapted from Doughmesstic

Double Batch of Homemade Caramel Sauce

Crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (take it up a notch and use cinnamon graham crackers!)
3 tbl. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, melted

3/4 cup caramel sauce
1 cup chopped pecans

Apple Filling:
5 crisp apples (I used Gala), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
5 tbl. unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

Cheesecake Topping:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 tbl. lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

Whipped Cream:
3/4 cup heavy cream, whipped until stiff peaks form
2 tbl. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup homemade caramel sauce
1/4 cup chopped pecans, optional

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In the bowl of a food processor, process 1 package of graham crackers until finely ground.  In a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter.  In that same bowl, add graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon to the melted butter and mix well.  Press into a 10-inch pie plate and up the sides.  Bake for 6-8 minutes until golden in color.  Remove from oven and cool completely.  Pour caramel sauce into pie shell and sprinkle with chopped pecans.  Refrigerate pie shell while making apple filling.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter and add brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon.  Stir with a wooden spoon.  Add apples and cook until apples are soft and tender (but not mushy--you don't want applesauce!!) about 15 minutes, stirring often.  Cool for 10 minutes before pouring into pie shell.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer (or any other mixing bowl), combine softened cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Add egg, lemon juice, and vanilla extract and beat until thoroughly combined.  Pour over apple filling.

Bake for 30 minutes until a cake tester (or toothpick) comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Refrigerate for about 4 hours or overnight.

In mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla together until stiff peaks form.  Using a spatula or a spreader, spread the whipped cream over the top of the chilled pie.  Generously drizzle top of whipped cream with caramel sauce and top the edges of the pie with additional chopped pecans if desired.  Refrigerate again until ready to serve.

Before serving, let pie stand for about 30 minutes, coming close to room temperature.  Slice and serve.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Homemade Caramel Sauce


I think that caramel--especially homemade caramel--is absolutely the most luscious thing in the whole world.  Sweet and buttery, smooth and creamy, it is the perfect add-on to just about anything!  Ice cream? Yep.  Apples?  Yep.  Whipped cream?  Yep.  Popcorn?  Yep.  Pizza?  Well....maybe if it is an apple pizza, but sure!  Add it on!!  Pie?  Absolutely!  Stay tuned to see what kind of pie I made with this caramel sauce....

I personally think it is a good idea to make up a batch just to keep in the fridge.  A staple, that you keep on hand at all times.  Because you know that there will be emergency situations that will require a generous drizzle of this lusciousness.  Caramel just makes the world a better place.

Making caramel is easy, but it will require constant supervision on your part.  Watch your temperature closely as you are cooking the sugar--for me the sugar started to burn way before it reached the "required" temperature.  You need to get the sugar dark enough for the intense caramel flavor to come through, so don't undercook it.  Whisking in the warm cream will cause the sugar to bubble furiously, so keep your face away and whisk quickly and continuously while you stream the cream in slowly.  If any of the sugar seizes up and hardens, just place your saucepan back over the heat to melt it again, still whisking away!  Also, make sure you use heatproof utensils, like a wooden spoon or a heatproof silicon whisk.  We're talking about lava-like temperatures of melted sugar!  Let it cool a bit before you serve it, so it thickens up.


Homemade Caramel Sauce
Adapted from My Baking Addiction

1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/4 liquid cup water
1/2 liquid cup heavy cream, heated until warm
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:
In a heavy saucepan (at least 5 cup capacity), stir together the sugar, syrup, and water until the sugar is completely moistened. Place your candy thermometer into the pot, making sure that the tip in immersed into the sugar mixture.

Heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is bubbling. Stop stirring completely and allow it to boil undisturbed until it turns a deep amber (380°F.) *See my note above:  my sugar started to burn before I got to this temperature, so use your best judgement to determine when the sugar is dark enough and hot enough. Immediately remove it from the heat and slowly and carefully pour the hot cream slowly into the caramel, whisking constantly. It will bubble up furiously.
Use a high-temperature heat-resistant rubber spatula or whisk or wooden spoon to stir the mixture until smooth, scraping up the thicker part that settles on the bottom. If any lumps develop, return the pan to the heat and stir until they dissolve. Stir in the butter. The mixture will be streaky but become uniform after cooling slightly and stirring.

Allow the sauce to cool for 3 minutes. Gently stir in the vanilla extract.

Keep at room temperature for up to 3 days; refrigerated, about 3 months. I stored mine in a Mason canning jar.  To reheat, simply place in a microwave safe container and heat for about 45-60 seconds. Stir well.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins


If you are new to this site, welcome!  If you are wondering which recipe to try first--this is it!!

Seriously.

When you make these, people are going to dub you the "Official Muffin-Maker" of your group...trust me.  It will happen, because it happened to me.  I was officially "volunteered" to make these for each and every meeting for the rest of my life.

And you know what is amazing about these muffins?

Even if you do make them for the next million weeks in a row, they are impossible to get tired of!  Yep.  'Tis true.  In fact, I think I am going to go snag one right now and then come back and type the recipe.  These cream cheese-filled pumpkin muffins are just a good idea every time!

Enjoy!


Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
Source:  Annie's Eats

For the filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

For the muffins:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
1¼ cups canola oil

For the topping:
½ cup sugar
5 tbsp. flour
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Directions:
To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl and mix well until blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1½-inches in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log, and reinforce with a piece of foil. Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours.

To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line 2 muffin pans with paper liners.  

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil. Mix on medium-low speed until blended. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.

To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.

To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom of the liner (1-2 tablespoons). Slice the log of cream cheese filling into 24 equal pieces. Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely. Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffin wells.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nutella Mousse


My husband works second shift.  It's a love-hate relationship with that shift.  As with all police work, there are pros and cons of each shift and each part of the job.  One of the cons for us is that we can't have dinner as a family every night of the week.  However, when El Hub is home for dinner, I think I subconsciously go into "celebrate" mode for dinner, even if it is the middle of the week.  He was teasing me (in a serious way) the other week that I needed to cut back on my grocery spending and start serving PB&J for dinner a couple times a week.

Of course, I looked at him like he was nuts.  I know that he seriously does NOT want to eat PB&J for dinner on his nights off!!  He eats less-than-wonderful meals in between calls and tires quickly of fast food on the go, so I feel I have a duty to him to place something wonderful and deliciously homemade in front of him when he has the chance to sit at our table.

This dessert ended up being the perfect balance between simply and celebratory.  It was so extremely easy to make and looked tasted so elegant when served (I will highly consider updating this photo when I make this again--soon!).   As perfect as this was for a weeknight dessert, I also think that this would be a wonderful holiday dessert served in martini glasses or something "fancy."


Nutella Mousse
Adapted from Sweet Tooth, via Pinterest

1/2 cup Nutella spread
2 tbsp hot water (not boiling)
2 tsp instant espresso
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Chocolate and chopped hazelnuts (optional) for topping

Directions:
Dissolve instant espresso in hot water in a medium sized bowl.

Add the Nutella, beating until smooth.

In a mixer, whip the whipping cream and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form.

Gently fold the nutella mixture into the whipped cream until the color is uniform.

Divide mousse into serving glasses.  Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Chicken Marsala


I've noticed something as I have looked back over my blog....there are very few dinner posts in the most recent history!  Oops.  While cupcakes and muffins and sweets are beyond wonderful, sometimes a body needs a good, savory meal!

Quite honestly, for me this is more of a photography problem than a cooking problem.  I cook dinner most every night.  However, you see, I live in the woods.  While beautiful, woods are not nice for streams of natural lighting.  So, by the time dinner comes around, the light outside (if there is any this late in the year!) is a very cool blue.  Not cool for food.

Enter El Hub.  He built me a DIY lightbox.  It was very simple really, and the completion of this project (it took all of like 15 minutes to put together!) coincided perfectly with a wonderful, savory meal--chicken marsala!

I think that might still need to make some tweaks to my lighting, but overall, it worked like a charm and I am excited to have it for the upcoming days when it gets dark at like 3 pm (ok, so I exaggerate just a little!!).

And the chicken marsala?  Absolutely yummy!  After all, what's not to love about chicken and mushrooms, Italian-style?!  It took me about an hour from start to finish, but that time also included prepping a salad and making a side dish.  Even on a weeknight, the meal was well worth the time invested!

Chicken Marsala
Adapted from The New Best Recipe, by America's Test Kitchen

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half across to make cutlets
1 cup flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbl. olive oil
2 1/2 ounces (about 3 slices) pancetta, diced (*I used some Genoa salami, since it was what I had on hand--pancetta is way better!)
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced (I used Baby Bella mushrooms)
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 tsp. tomato paste
1 1/2 cups sweet Marsala wine
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
4 tbl. unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 tbl. fresh parsley, minced

Directions:
Heat oven to 200 degrees and place a large, heatproof dinner plate (or baking dish) on rack.

Pat chicken breasts dry.  Place the flour in a shallow pie plate.  Season both sides of each chicken cutlet with salt and pepper.  One at a time, coat both sides of each chicken piece with flour.  Shake to remove excess flour and place on a plate; set aside.  Repeat with remaining chicken.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet until shimmering.  Place the floured cutlets in a single layer in the skillet and cook until golden brown, turning once.  Transfer the chicken to the heated plate or baking dish in the oven.  Repeat a second time if necessary.

Return the skillet to low heat and add the pancetta.  Saute, stirring occasionally and scraping the pan bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits, until the pancetta is crisp and browned, about 4 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to paper towels to drain.

Add the mushrooms to the pan and increase heat to medium-high.  Saute, stirring occasionally, until the liquid released by the mushrooms evaporates and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes.

Add the garlic, tomato paste, and cooked pancetta and cook, stirring constantly until the tomato paste begins to brown, about 1 minute.

Off heat and add the Marsala wine.  Return to high heat, simmer vigorously, scraping the browned bits  front he pan bottom, until the sauce is slightly syrupy and reduced to about 1 1/4 cups, about 5 minutes.

Off the heat, add the lemon juice and whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated.  Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Pour mushroom sauce over the chicken.  Serve immediately.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles


What a fun, fall twist on the classic snickerdoodle--which just happens to be my favorite cookie!!  I loved the addition of the pumpkin, giving the cookie a nice orange tint, perfect for adding to a fall harvest party dessert spread.  While softer than the classic version, adding ginger and allspice to the coating sugar gave the cookies a nice component of spice and flavor.  Since I was taking these cookies to a party, I made them a couple days ahead, and put them in the freezer until the day of the party.  They froze and thawed very well, maintaing their "just baked" freshness.  All around, win-win!!


Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
Source:  RecipeGirl

1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup pure unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Coating Sugar:
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice

Directions:
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter until fluffy. Add sugars and pumpkin puree and beat well. Mix in egg and vanilla, scraping down sides of the bowl to incorporate all of the ingredients.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and ground cinnamon. Beat flour mixture into liquid mixture a little at a time just until incorporated.

Cover dough with plastic and chill at least an hour, or until dough becomes slightly firm.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix rolling sugar ingredients in a small bowl.

Remove cookie dough from refrigerator. Use a medium cookie scoop (1 1/2 Tablespoons) or a large spoon to scoop out dough and roll into balls. Use your hands to roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar and make sure they're coated really well. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Use a glass with a nice, flat bottom to dip in sugar and flatten the balls.

Bake at 350°F. for 10 to 14 minutes, or until they are slightly firm to the touch. Let cool on baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Nutella Fruit Dip


Not being a huge chocolate lover myself, I am not yet completely on the Nutella bandwagon.  However,  I realize that my lack of chocolate passion is unusual and rare, and many of you are already head over heads with Nutella.

This one's for you!

My son commented that he thought this fruit dip tasted like chocolate pudding, and to my daughter's tastebuds, anything with "pudding" or "sugar" added to the recipe is a solid score for her.  And I will admit, a red, juicy, sweet strawberry plunked into this dip was pretty tasty!

With the holidays looming coming up, sometimes its the simple things that make a spread.  This dip certainly qualifies!  It sounds somewhat fancy and exotic, yet is so simple!

Nutella Fruit Dip

8 oz. Greek yogurt
1/4 cup Nutella

Directions:
Mix together until smooth and combined.  Serve with your favorite fresh fruit, pretzels, graham crackers, etc.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Meatball Subs


I recently posted a mind-blowing homemade meatball recipe....I mean, really mind-blowing.  :)  Even though my family is a huge pasta-loving one, sometimes it is fun to get a bit creative in ways to eat meatballs.

Enter meatball subs.

Next to pasta, truly the best way to eat Italian meatballs.  If you happened to make a double batch of meatballs and kept the remainder in the freezer, this meal comes together in the time it takes to thaw the meatballs (which of course, can be done during the day!) and assemble the sandwiches.

A simple meal, which the kids devoured, and left very little mess for me clean up afterward.

Win-Win.

Meatball Subs
A Karla Recipe

1 loaf of fresh French bread (I made homemade bread shaped into a French loaf)
olive oil
Homemade meatballs in sauce, in a single layer (How full you stuff your sub will determine how many meatballs you use)
1 1/2  cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
handful of fresh basil leaves, cut chiffonade style

Directions:
Preheat broiler.

To assemble the subs, slice loaf of bread in half lengthwise.  Place open loaf on a baking sheet. Lightly drizzle olive oil over the open bread. Layer meatballs in a single layer on bottom half of the loaf, using only enough sauce to keep the meatballs moist.  Top with shredded mozzarella and basil.  Also, sprinkle cheese over the top half of the loaf.

Place baking sheet in oven and broil, about 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted and slightly golden, and meatballs are heated through.  Remove from oven, place top of bread on the meatballs, and slice to serve.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Glazed Donut Muffins


There are boundless recipes swirling around the internet of homemade donuts.  Have any of you tried your hand at them?  For some reason, I feel a bit intimidated by the thought of making my own donuts.  Maybe my lack of extra "play time" these days in the kitchen is cutting in on my adventurous spirit.

But then, I see this recipe for donut muffins.  I can totally do muffins.  My kids called them cupcakes.  I can totally do cupcakes and anything cupcake-like.

These were yummy.  And pretty.  And easy.  Yep--totally doable!!


Glazed Donut Muffins
Adapted from Sweet Pea's Kitchen (via Pinterest)

4 tbl. unsalted butter
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
For the Glaze
3 tablespoons butter; melted
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons hot water
Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line 12 muffin cups with muffin liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter, canola oil, and sugars till smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time. With the mixer on low speed, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and vanilla until just combined. Stir the flour into the butter mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour until batter is thoroughly combined.

Spoon batter into cups, filling the cups, and smooth tops. Divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups.

Bake until muffin tops are a pale golden and springy to the touch, 15 to 17 minutes, rotating halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 10 minutes before glazing.

To make the glaze, In a medium bowl mix together the melted butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and water. Whisk until smooth.

When muffins have cooled slightly, dip the muffin crown into the glaze and allow the glaze to harden. Once hardened, dip a second time and allow to harden.



Thursday, October 27, 2011

Peach Freezer Jam


I realize that I am posting this recipe long after peach season is over....in fact, this year, it seemed like it came and went before I even had the chance to take in peach season.  A fact I mourn, actually.  I think that I got so busy getting the kid back to school and the fall activities launched that I failed to stop and smell the peaches.  Sad.


However, I did take the time to buy several pounds of fresh peaches, most of which ended up in this freezer jam.  Now I guess I will enjoy peach season into the winter.


So, I will share it with you and you can pin it, saving it until next year when peaches come back on the scene in all their beauty and juiciness.  Ohhh, I can't wait!!  However, if you are extremely anxious to bring back the flavors of summer to the doldrums of winter, you can use frozen peaches--just thaw them before making the jam.


Peach Freezer Jam {No Cook}
Recipe adapted from Mrs. Wages

*You will need freezer containers, found in the canning section of most grocery stores

4 cups diced peaches (about 4-5 large peaches), peeled, and 1 cup of them crushed
1 cup sugar
1 packet of Mrs. Wages No Cook Freezer Jam Pectin
3 tbl. lemon juice

Directions:
In a large mixing bowl, stir 4 cups peeled peaches, 1 cup sugar and 3 tbsp lemon juice until well blended.  To crush the peaches, I removed about 1 cup from the large bowl and processed it until smooth in my food processor (you could also use a potato masher) and then added the puree back in.  Let stand 10 minutes.


Gradually stir contents of Mrs. Wages Freezer Jam Fruit Pectin into the peach mixture. Stir 3 minutes longer.  Ladle and store as directed on package.
   


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Vanilla Almond Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream


Two years ago, I gave birth to my last little baby, my little manny, Brecken.  I love how he completes our family and how he keeps us all hoppin'.  He is so different from the other two, much ornerier and sillier.  (Ok, is it just me, or do those two words just look weird when typed out??)

Anyway.


What a blessing my little Brecken is to me....he will be IS the child that will test me and try me in ways that the other two would never think of, yet he is as charming as a cupcake.  Charming, I'm telling you.  Those big blue eyes and silly grin melt my heart every time.


So, Happy Birthday, little Brecken!  I hope that you enjoy your cupcake birthday!  These cupcakes were perfectly moist and the flavor combination was amazing!


{Sharing the Birthday Love over at This Chick Cooks!}


Vanilla Almond Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream
Cupcakes from The New Best Recipe from America's Test Kitchen
Frosting from Gimme Some Oven

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
½ cup sour cream
1 large egg , room temperature
2 large egg yolks , room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

1/2 tsp. almond extract
Directions:
Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard muffin/cupcake tin with paper or foil liners.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add butter, sour cream, egg and egg yolks, vanilla, and almond; beat at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and mix by hand until smooth and no flour pockets remain.

Divide batter evenly among cups of prepared tin. Bake until cupcake tops are pale gold and toothpick or skewer inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 24 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from tin and transfer to wire rack; cool cupcakes to room temperature before frosting.

Caramel Buttercream


1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) salted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
Directions:
Briefly stir together granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture turns dark amber in color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla (just start with a tablespoon or two), stirring with a whisk until completely smooth.  The mixture will bubble up and splatter a bit as you add in the cream.  Set aside until cool to the touch, about 25 minutes.
Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add powdered sugar, and mix until completely incorporated.  Turn off the mixer, and then add caramel. Beat frosting on low to combine, and then increase to medium-high and beat until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes. Refrigerate if not using immediately (or to harden the frosting a bit).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lemon Blueberry Ricotta Bread Pudding


This recipe comes to you courtesy of the "bug" that my mother-in-law put in my ear.

That, and the container of fresh, homemade ricotta cheese that sat in my refrigerator that I couldn't seem to use fast enough.  It was literally waiting for a burst of inspiration to hit me.

When she mentioned to me that she had the best blueberry bread pudding recently, the inspiration hit me like a crashing wave.  It seemed like a good idea to marry the two.  Soft bread, fresh ricotta, a splash of lemon, bursting blueberries, sugar.

Sounded good to me!  I could barely wait until the next day to whip this up!

This bread pudding is soft and sweet, moist and warm.  Delicious!

Lemon Blueberry Ricotta Bread Pudding
Adapted from:  Food for My Family

1 loaf french or vienna bread, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup ricotta cheese
zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen


Directions:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 2-1/2 quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. 

In a large bowl beat the eggs. Mix in sugar and ricotta cheese. Add the lemon zest and juice, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom and beat until evenly combined. Stir in the melted butter.

Add the bread cubes to the milk and egg mixture and stir until all pieces of bread are completely covered. Let sit for 20 minutes. Stir in blueberries and pour into prepared baking dish.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until top is evenly browned. Remove from oven and let rest 15-20 minutes before serving. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mocha Scones


Sometimes, you must keep trying after a fail.

The end result, which tantalizes your taste buds and promises to be amazing, keeps you going.

Such was the case for me with these scones.

I knew that they would be amazing.

I knew that my intended audience would think them amazing.

I learned that following the recipe's instructions as written and not going off on a culinary adventure of my own making often holds a significant amount of value.  {Who knew??!}

So, I scrapped my first batch.  It was just too ooey-gooey to bake.

But, I was set on these and highly motivated by the promise of their deliciousness.

"If at first you fail, try again."  That's a good motto where coffee-infused baked goods are concerned.


I did a bit better the second time around on following the directions.

And, as expected, these were wonderful.  I knew they would be.




Mocha Scones
Source:  My Baking Addiction

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup strong coffee, room temperature or cooler
1 large egg

Directions:
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Use the large holes of a box grater to grate the butter into the flour mixture. Use your fingers to work in butter (mixture should resemble coarse meal), then stir in chocolate chips.

Stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until the dough comes together.  Then use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. The dough will be sticky, but it will come together.

Place on a lightly floured work surface.  Either pat the dough into an 8-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick and use a sharp knife to cut it into 8 triangles. Or pat it into a rectangle, then use a sharp knife to cut 10 even squares. Then cut 10 even squares in half to create 20 smaller triangles.

Place scones on prepared baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, about 15 for smaller triangles and 18-22 minutes for larger triangles.

Cool on wire rack. Once scones are cool, prepare the glaze.

Mocha Glaze

1/4 cup strong coffee, room temperature
1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted

Directions:
In a small bowl, combine coffee and confectioners’ sugar and whisk until smooth. In a glass, heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering hot water, melt chocolate until liquid.  Whisk melted chocolate into the powdered sugar until thoroughly combined.

Lay a large piece of parchment paper on your work surface, place a wire rack over the parchment paper. Place scones on wire rack. Place chocolate glaze in a small zip top bag, use scissors to snip a small piece of the bag off the corner of the bag.

Drizzle chocolate glaze over the scones. Allow glaze to set for about an hour.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Homemade Meatballs and Sauce


Meatballs and sauce and pasta are classic comfort food.

Looks fancy, looks hard, but in the end, you have a belly full of happiness and the conclusion that making homemade meatballs wasn't as hard as you thought it was going to be.

I have made these meatballs a couple of times now, and I can confidently assure you that these are the best meatballs ever.  Ever.

This time around, I decided to make a double batch (the recipe below reflects a single recipe served over pasta) and get at least a couple meals out of them.  I also opted to not serve them over pasta right away (I will share with you what I did do with them soon!)  The remaining meatballs went partially-cooked into the freezer for a quick and easy future meal!

You're gonna wanna make these....soon.  You will be glad you did.

*I don't usually take step-by-step photos...something about messy hands and expensive camera that just doesn't enhance the cooking process for me, but I was feeling a bit adventurous on this particular day....so here ya go!  And of course, my finished photo isn't exactly staged in a beautiful way...but sometimes the yumminess trumps the presentation...so, boom.

Assemble your ingredients.  And totally make these meatballs in your mixer if you have one.  Just don't overmix, or you will end up with weird-looking mush.  Trust me on this one.  It has happened.  And it's not pretty.

Cute little meatballs....I love the fresh parsley in them!

Getting all browned up in the olive oil....seriously love olive oil.

Mostly cooked, draining slightly on a soft bed of paper towels, awaiting the final submersion in the glorious, garlicky tomato sauce, where they will finish cooking though as they simmer.  A perfect blend of wonderful flavors.....

Homemade Meatballs and Sauce
Adapted from Pioneer Woman

Meatballs:
3/4 pounds ground beef
3/4 pounds Italian sausage
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup bread crumbs
2 whole eggs
3/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
splash of milk
1/2 cup olive oil

Sauce:
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup white or red wine (optional, but totally worth it!)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, minced
8 whole fresh basil leaves, cut chiffonade style
2 pounds spaghetti, cooked to al dente

Directions:
To make the meatballs, combine meat, garlic, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, eggs, salt, pepper, parsley, and a splash of milk in a mixing bowl.  Mix together well with hands.  Using a tablespoon, roll into 25 1 1/2-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet. Place cookie sheet into the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes to firm up.

To brown the meatballs, heat olive oil in a heavy pot or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs 8 at a time, turning to brown. Remove and drain on a paper towel after each batch. Set meatballs aside.

In the same pot, add the onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes, or until translucent. Pour in diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and wine, if using. Add salt, pepper, and parsley. Stir to combine and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes.

Add meatballs to pot of sauce and stir in gently. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring very gently a couple of times during the simmer.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.  Add a generous amount of salt right before adding the dry pasta.  Cook according to package directions, 9-11 minutes, until al dente.  Drain in a large colander and return to pot.

Just before serving, stir in basil into the tomato sauce.

Serve over cooked spaghetti. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Vanilla Chai Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting


The cupcake lovin' continues over here at The Culinary Enthusiast.

As my husband says, "Since you're into cupcakes now." Because, there was a time when I wasn't.  Really.

I rarely hear him complain though, as he delights in one.

Men.


But seriously.  Once you get in a cupcake groove, it's hard to get out.  They're just so stinkin' cute, and they're so versatile, and they're so easy to whip together!  The only way to deal with the addiction is to feed it.  Usually bad advice to offer to addicts, except in the case of cupcakes.

The weather turned cool this past weekend; a perfect Labor Day weekend, in my humble opinion.  You know how I feel about fall.  The "summer is just the gateway to fall" kind of feeling.  As I sat at my kitchen table, door open and crisp breeze blowing in, I suddenly needed to pair that with the smell of cinnamon.


And since I have had these cupcakes pinned for a while now, it was the perfect opportunity in the perfect setting to bake them.  I already love chai in hot beverage form, so this variety was just begging me to bake it.


Hubs was impressed with how fast I got them in the oven.

I'll do just about anything for the smell of cinnamon.  Just sayin'.  And, just for the record, the taste didn't disappoint either.


{These are too yummy not to share!  Linking up to Sweets for a Saturday and A Well Seasoned Life.}

Vanilla Chai Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from Gimme Some Oven

Chai Spice Mix
1 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Cupcake Batter
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)
2 eggs
2 tsp. chai spice mix
1 1/4 cups plain flour, sifted
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

Buttercream
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)
2 cups powdered sugar
remainder of the chai spice mix
1 Tbsp. cold milk, if needed to thin out the buttercream

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a cupcake pan with liners.  This made about 16-18 cupcakes for me.

In a small bowl or plastic bag, combine the chai spice mix ingredients. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla bean paste and beat in one egg at a time. Stir in 2 teaspoons of the chai spice mix. Fold in the flour and buttermilk alternately and stir until combined. Mix together the baking soda and vinegar in a separate bowl, then add it to the batter and mix until combined.

Spoon into prepared cupcake tins until 3/4 full and bake 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Buttercream Directions:
In a stand mixer, beat the butter until it is creamy. On low, mix in the vanilla bean paste and the rest of the chai spice mix. Carefully beat in the powdered sugar about ½ cup at a time. If the buttercream is too thick add 1-2 tbs of cold milk until the desired consistency is reached. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes with your favorite frosting tip (I used the closed star tip).