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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

These are pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting rolled in orange sugar inspired by Hello Cupcake.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Crab Queso Dip

This is a great appetizer for a game day tailgate or any fall party.  You can make it on the stovetop and serve or transfer to a crockpot to keep warm.  It's great with tortilla chips or pita bread. 

This is one of those places that you can save a few calories and fat grams and use the reduced fat cream cheese and sour cream as well.  I don't think you'll notice the difference.  Add in plenty of jalapeno peppers to give this a good kick.  Using canned crab meat will also save you a few dollars or comes in handy if you can't get fresh.  Getting fresh quality seafood for an affordable price in Kentucky isn't always easy so I went with canned here.

Crab Queso Dip
Recipe inspired by Paula Deen

1 T olive oil
1/2 large or 1 whole small onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
4-6 jalapeno peppers, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 8 oz packages cream cheese, cut into 1 oz pieces (I used 1/3 less fat Neufchatel)
1 cup sour cream (I used reduced fat)
1 cup milk (I used 2%)
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated/shredded
12 oz lump crab meat (I used well-drained canned crab meat)
2 tsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt

In a dutch oven or deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat and add onion, bell pepper, jalapenos and garlic.  Cook 3-4 minutes until slightly softened.  Reduce heat to medium and add cream cheese.  Stir to distribute and melt.  When melted, add sour cream and milk and stir to incorporate.  Mixture should be relatively smooth aside from the vegetables.  Add shredded cheese and stir to melt.  Add crab meat and spices.  Stir until well mixed and simmer an additional 5-10 minutes.

Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with chips or transfer to a crockpot and set on "warm" setting to keep hot.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Fall Favorite: Pumpkin Cupcakes

As I've mentioned before pumpkin desserts are some of my favorites.  I didn't use to think so, I was never a fan of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, I always picked apple.  But in the past couple of years, I have really developed a taste for pumpkin.  I realized that maybe it was just the traditional pumpkin pie I wasn't a big fan of; pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, and pumpkin cheesecake were all delicious.  These pumpkin cupcakes are my new favorite of all of them.  In fact, I think they are my new favorite cupcake overall. 

The cupcake part of these is a light and delicious cake.  The pumpkin really makes a moist cake and the spices are perfect for fall.  Your whole house will smell like fall within minutes of putting these in the oven.  I frosted these with a classic cream cheese frosting which works perfectly with the pumpkin flavors.  Top them with sprinkles, maybe some caramel sauce or those cute little candy pumpkins they sell this time of year and they are a perfect fall dessert. 

I actually found this recipe browsing at Williams-Sonoma in the mall.  They had some seasonal recipe cards in the store and with all the fall scents that pipe through that place, this recipe quickly went on my short list of things to make.  The raisins and walnuts made it seem more muffin like than cupcake like so I left those out but added a little ground ginger to the spices.  Make sure you get pure pumpkin puree for this recipe and not the pumpkin pie filling in the can. 

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma

2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup canola oil
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners or spray pans with cooking spray. 

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices in a large bowl.  Whisk or sift to combine and set aside.  In mixing bowl, cream together pumpkin, sugars, and oil.  Mix on medium high speed about one minute until well combined.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Add flour mixture in three additions, mixing on low speed until just incorporated after each addition. 

Fill cupcakes 3/4 of way full and bake approximately twenty minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pans about five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  Frost as desired.

1 8 oz package cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 cups powdered sugar

Combine cream cheese and butter and beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add cream and vanilla and mix in until incorporated.  Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, mixing after each addition until well incorporated, to reach desired consistency to frost cupcakes.  Pipe or spread onto cooled cupcakes as desired.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Crock Pot Apple Butter

***Updated October 2010:  I added cider to the recipe per a co-worker's suggestion and added a picture of my own -- you learn a little with a little more blogging experience, like remembering to take pictures when you want to blog something.  I also increased the cinnamon and added a little nutmeg this time around.***

Such an easy treat... and a great way to use up apples - especially ones that are a little bruised or starting to get mushy.

Part 1:
About 15 apples (depends on the size of your crock pot and your apples - I used a 5 qt crock pot and had medium sized apples)
1 cup apple cider

Peel, core, and thinly slice all the apples until your crock pot is full. Turn it on high, add cider and cook for about an hour, then turn heat to low and cook about 8-10 hours.

(Picture via Google Images - I forgot to take one)
Part 2:
2 - 2 1/2 cups sugar
4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

When you take off the lid, the apples should be reduced to about half their volume and most of the chunks should be gone.  Add sugar and spices, stir until well mixed and cook on low for approximately 8 more hours. If its still not smooth, blend with an immersion blender or in a food processor or blender.  Spoon into jars and enjoy. Keep refrigerated for about 2 weeks or can by processing in a water bath.

Apple and Brie Melts

Last week I received this All-Clad griddle that I won over A Cozy Kitchen so naturally I had to try it out.  I knew I wanted to make a grilled cheese sandwich but I didnt want to just make a regular grilled cheese.  Then I saw a caramelized apple grilled cheese on Beantown Baker which looked awesome and I knew what I would do.  Unfortunately I had just used up the rest of the apples we had on hand to make a batch of crockpot apple butter, so I had to wait until I went to the grocery store to try these out.  So my pretty new pan stayed in the box all weekend long. 

But I picked up some crisp Fuji apples on Monday along with some brie that I found at the store to use for the cheese. 

I decided to use my homemade apple butter as a sauce for the sandwich - the recipe can be found here.  While it takes a little while to cook, it requires almost no effort for all of that time since its done in the crockpot.  The most time consuming part of the recipe is simply peeling, coring, and slicing the apples (which you can avoid if you have a food mill).

These sandwiches aren't a typical savory grilled cheese sandwich - you may want to switch out the brie for some sharp cheddar if that's more your style and even throw on some bacon per Jen's suggestion.  Use whatever type of bread you want, I used Italian bread because I had it on hand but I think this would be great with a crusty multigrain or wheat bread too.  Make it even sweeter by using a cinnamon-raisin bread.  These would be great appetizers made on a thin baguette of French bread for bite-sized sandwiches.

Apple and Brie Melts

4 slices of Italian bread, about 1/2" thick
1 large apple, thinly sliced
4 oz brie, thinly sliced
2 T apple butter
1 T butter

Spread apple butter on one side of bread slices.  Layer brie and apple slices on one side and top with remaining slice of bread.  Heat griddle over medium heat and melt half of the butter on the pan.  Add sandwiches and spread remaining butter on tops of bread.  Let cook about three minutes and then flip.  Cook an additional two to three minutes until cheese is melted and bread is toasted as desired.  Cut and serve.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Champagne Cupcakes

These champagne cupcakes make a great treat for an adult party - be it an elegant party or a bachelorette party.  You'll want to use a sweet champagne rather than dry, pink champagne would work too.  You can play with the flavors by adding fillings or different icings.  Add orange curd filling or orange-flavored buttercream for mimosa cupcakes, ice with raspberry buttercream and top with a fresh raspberry.  Top champagne cupcakes with a chocolate covered strawberry for a fancy dessert.  You could also make them mini cupcakes for a cocktail party.  The recipe below is for a classic champagne cupcake with a champagne buttercream. 

Champagne Cupcakes with Champagne Buttercream
Recipe adapted from Loves to Eat

2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup champagne
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with paper liners (recipe yields about 22 cupcakes). 

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine.  In mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes.  Add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions of champagne combined with vanilla. 

In a clean bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until they hold stiff peaks.  Fold in about 1/3 of the egg whites to lighten the batter then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.  Transfer batter to cupcake liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full.  Bake approximately twenty minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool about five minutes in the pan and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 cups powdered sugar
3 T champagne

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium high speed until smooth and fluffy, about three minutes.  Add vanilla extract and about three cups of powdered sugar.  Mix on low speed to combine.  Add in champagne and mix on low to incorporate.  Increase speed to medium and beat about one minute to whip frosting.  If frosting appears to be thin, add additional powdered sugar as necessary to reach desired consistency.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Devil's Food Cupcakes with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

I've made these devil's food cupcakes several times and they always get great reviews.  They are a great go-to cupcake when you want a rich chocolate cupcake.  They bake up nice and pretty with domed tops and the sour cream adds a bit of extra tang.  If you were curious as to what makes these different from most chocolate cakes, devil's food cake is generally made with melted butter instead of oil, according to Martha Stewart at least.  In my opinion, devil's food cake is also light and airy while many chocolate cakes are more dense. 

These cupcakes are great with a number of different frostings, this past weekend, I made them with raspberry buttercream (the recipe can be found here although I subbed milk for the lemon juice this time), cream cheese frosting and the one pictured here, a chocolate sour cream frosting. 

Devil's Food Cupcakes with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Cupcakes

3/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup water
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp coarse salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 T plus 1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin pans with cupcake liners - this recipe yields approximately 30 cupcakes.  Heat water in the microwave about 90 seconds, stir in cocoa powder, whisking until smooth and set aside to cool.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Melt butter and combine in mixing bowl with sugar.  Beat on medium low speed until mixture is cooled, about five minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add vanilla and cooled chocolate mixture and mix well.  Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, alternate with 1/2 of the sour cream and repeat, beating after each addition until just combined. 

Fill each cupcake liner approximately 3/4 of the way full and bake about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in a center cupcake comes out clean.  Let cool in pans about 5-10 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. 

1 lb powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 oz melted semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup sour cream

Sift together sugar, cocoa powder and salt.  Beat cream cheese and butter on medium high speed in a mixing bowl for 2-3 minutes until smooth and fluffy.  Gradually add in sugar mixture, beating on low speed until combined.  Add melted chocolate and sour cream and mix until combined.  Increase speed to medium high and whip until light and fluffy.  Transfer to a piping bag and frost cupcakes as desired.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pumpkin Dip

Since pumpkin has returned to store shelves finally, I'm taking full advantage.  I stocked up on half a dozen cans and have plans for lots of good stuff.  I didn't have time to bake anything (or the need to) this weekend, but I decided to make a pumpkin dip for tailgating instead.  Now this might not be your typical tailgate food as it doesnt contain any buffalo sauce, cheese, or alcohol, but it was definitely addictive.  Served with apple slices, grapes, and vanilla wafers, it was a perfect gameday (or anytime) appetizer and it's really easy to put together.  If you want to make the dip ahead of time, it will keep just fine in the refrigerator.  If you prep your apple slices ahead of time, make sure you toss them with a little lemon juice to keep from browning.

Feel free to sub fat free or reduced fat cream cheese in this recipe - I can't tell the difference and neither could anyone I served it too.  You could also sub a low fat/fat free whipped topping for the whipped cream (just leave out the powdered sugar) but I used the good stuff because I dont generally have whipped topping on hand.  The whipped cream gives this dip a really light, mousse-like texture that's perfect with the fruit and cookies.

Pumpkin Dip

1 8 oz package cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 T powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth and fluffy.  Add pumpkin and spices and mix until well blended.  Mixture will be fairly thin.

In a separate, cold bowl beat whipping cream with a whisk attachment on high speed until peaks form.  Slowly add powdered sugar, one tablespoon at a time until incorporated.  Fold whipped cream into pumpkin mixture and serve.  If not serving right away, cover and refrigerate. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

I much prefer homemade pizza to takeout or delivery - maybe I'm in the minority but to me, its much better to be able to put whatever toppings you want on the pizza and its a lot cheaper.  If you keep dough on hand in your freezer and thaw it out the night before you want to make pizza, it can also be faster than delivery.  I typically make a double batch of dough so I always have an extra crust available.  You can thaw the dough in the refrigerator and then all you have to do is roll it out and prepare your toppings.  I made this using my favorite pizza crust from The Way The Cookie Crumbles - which is awesome - but using half whole wheat flour, half bread dough to make it healthier.

So Buffalo chicken pizza was what I came up with when I thought I was all set for pizza night only to discover I had no pizza sauce.  I didn't even have any tomatoes on hand to make some pizza sauce.  But I know I've seen Buffalo chicken pizza on other food blogs with a ranch dressing type of sauce.  Of course, I didn't have ranch dressing either - that bottle got thrown away the last time I cleaned out the fridge to get rid of anything containing high fructose corn syrup.  But I had buttermilk and sour cream so making my own dressing was easy.  Adding some Frank's Red Hot, shredded chicken, onions and a combination of mozzarella and sharp cheddar completed the pizza.

It turned out to be a great improvisation and the pizza was delicious. 

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

From this recipe with 1/2 of the flour replaced with whole wheat flour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place pizza stone in oven to heat.  When oven is preheated, transfer shaped pizza dough on a pizza peel or parchment paper to hot stone dusted with cornmeal.  Cook about 15-20 minutes until crust begins to brown.  Meanwhile prepare toppings.

1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 T fresh chives, finely chopped
1/4 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 - 1 T Frank's Red Hot or other hot sauce

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together until smooth.  Top pizza crust with a thin layer of dressing.

2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
Frank's Red Hot, to taste
1/2 white onion, sliced into thin strips
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Toss chicken with one to two tablespoons of hot sauce.  Top pizza with shredded chicken, cheese, and onions and return to oven.  Bake 15-20 minutes until cheese is bubbly and golden brown. 

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