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Monday, October 31, 2011

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Havarti Croutons

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When the temperature drops and the seasons shift, I find myself craving certain foods. Foods like Guinness Beef Stew and Baked Pasta with Chicken Sausage. Foods that are warm, cheesy, and heavy. Comfort food, if you will.

As much as I'm not one to turn down comfort food, I'm also still trying to fit in my skinny jeans...a task made more difficult with the constant stream of sweets emerging from my kitchen! To compensate, I try to enjoy 'lighter' comfort foods while still indulging every once in a while.

This cauliflower soup is the perfect comfort food compromise. It's thick and creamy without a hint of milk or cream actually in it. Topped with cheesy baked croutons, it feels richer and more indulgent than it actually is...meaning I can slurp down a big bowl without feeling guilty when I grab that second (okay, third) cookie!

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Granola Bars
Two Years Ago: Stuffed Acorn Squash

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Havarti Croutons
soup adapted from Annie's Eats, croutons by The Sweets Life

-2 tbsp unsalted butter
-1 medium onion, chopped
-kosher salt
-1 medium russet potato, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch pieces
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-3 cups vegetable broth
-3/4 head cauliflower, chopped into small pieces
-2/3 cup shredded havarti cheese

for the croutons-
-1/4 whole wheat baguette, cut into 1-inch pieces
-thin slices of havarti cheese

1. Melt the butter in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent (4-5 minutes). Season with salt and add potato pieces, garlic, and broth. Cover the pot and bring to a boil.
2. Reduce heat to a simmer, keep pot covered, and cook for 8-10 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Add cauliflower and cook, covered, for an additional 5-6 minutes, until tender. Stir in the cheese.
3. While soup is cooking, place bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes, until browned and hard. Remove from oven, top with slices of cheese and return to oven for 3-5 more minutes, until cheese is melted.
4. Once soup is finished, use an immersion blender to puree soup until creamy. Add additional broth if soup is too thick. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm topped with cheesy croutons.

This soup with cheesy croutons was done in honor of Kelly Ripa and Electrolux who are on the hunt for America's Favorite Comfort Food. Check it out, share your favorite comfort foods, and vote for your favorite here. For every entry, Kelly & Electrolux will donate $1 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund and you'll be entered to win an Electrolux Induction Cooktop!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache Filling and Buttercream Frosting

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Sometimes you don't even know what you're looking for until it falls into your lap. Take, for instance, August 31st, 2006 when a lanky, dark-haired guy took a seat beside me in my Development of the Book class at Truman State University. I wasn't looking for a homework partner. I wasn't looking for a boyfriend. I certainly wasn't looking for a husband. Despite that, I soon found myself with all three! (In all fairness, the husband thing took awhile. The homework partner thing was pretty immediate, and the boyfriend thing followed shortly thereafter!)
I don't mean to liken Ryan to a chocolate cupcake, but in much the same way, I wasn't looking for a go-to chocolate cupcake recipe. As I explained yesterday, chocolate cupcakes were included in the cupcake order, and I happened upon this one from Cook's Illustrated. As I whisked and mixed and filled cupcake liners, I suspected I had something good on my hands. My suspicions were confirmed twenty-four hours later.
These are deeply, darkly chocolatey. The ganache center (dropped into the batter, not piped in...making it particularly easy!) is a heavenly surprise, adding a richness and a depth to what was already a near-perfect cupcake. I didn't know I needed a go-to chocolate cupcake. Though I'm not anti-cupcake, it is rarely my first choice when it comes to desserts.

I did need a homework partner, boyfriend, and husband. I also needed a go-to chocolate cupcake recipe. Now I have both! Look no further, I'm quite convinced this is the chocolate cupcake recipe YOU needed too!

(Note--I decorated these in line with the Halloween theme requested, using vanilla buttercream that I could color and then create the spiderwebs on. These would be just as good with a chocolate buttercream or ganache frosting!)

Two Years Ago: Mountain Dew Apple Dumplings (crazy sounding but one of the best-received desserts I've ever made!)

Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache Filling and Buttercream Frosting
cupcake recipe as seen on First Look, Then Cook (Originally from Cook's Illustrated)
frosting recipe from Baked Bree
*Makes 12 cupcakes
for the ganache-
-2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Ghirardelli bittersweet chips)
-1/4 cup heavy cream
-1 tbsp confectioners' sugar

for the cupcakes-
-3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Ghirardelli bittersweet chips)
-1/3 cup dark chocolate cocoa (I used Hershey's)
-3/4 cup hot coffee
-3/4 cup bread flour
-3/4 cup granulated sugar
-1/2 tsp table salt
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-6 tbsp vegetable oil
-2 large eggs
-2 tsp white vinegar
-1 tsp vanilla extract

for the frosting-
-2 sticks butter, at room temperature
-3 cups confectioners' sugar
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-2-3 tbsp heavy cream

1. To make the ganache filling, place the chocolate, cream, and confectioners' sugar in a medium-microwave safe bowl. Heat on high until mixture is warm to the touch (20-30 seconds). Whisk until smooth before placing bowl in refrigerator to stand just until chilled (no longer than 30 minutes).
2. To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350F and line a standard-sized muffin pan with baking-cup liners. Place chocolate and cocoa in a medium-sized bowl. Pour hot coffee over the mixture and whisk until smooth.
3. Set in refrigerator for 20 minutes to cool completely. Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a separate bowl and set aside.
4. Add the oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla to the cooled chocolate-cocoa mixture, whisking until smooth. Add the flour mixture and whisk until smooth.
5. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Drop one slightly rounded tsp of ganache filling on top of each filled cupcake. Bake 17-19 minutes, until cupcakes are set and just firm to the touch.
6. Cool cupcakes in a muffin pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from pan and placing directly on wire rack to cool completely. Allow to cool for 1 hour before frosting.
7. To make the frosting,  Cream butter in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, at least 3 minutes.
8. Add confectioners' sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in vanilla and 2 tbsp of heavy cream. If the frosting is too thick, add a little more cream until it is the desired consistency. Use food coloring to tint accordingly.
9. Pipe or spread buttercream on cupcakes. To make spider web cupcakes, spread buttercream evenly on top of cupcakes. Use gel icing to pipe circles on top of each cupcake. Using a toothpick, drag lines from center of cupcake out to the edge, creating spiderweb effect.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Candy Corn Sugar Cookie Cupcakes

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I know I said that maybe 2012 would be the year of the cupcake, the year I finally conquered the miniature cakes that have taken the world by storm. As it turned out, however, there was still some cupcake left in The Sweets Life 2011. A manager in Ryan’s group has been enjoying the treats I’ve sent into work with him (most recently pumpkin snickerdoodles and a pie that you do NOT want to miss…to be posted soon!) and asked if I’d be willing to make 3 dozen cupcakes for him to take to a Halloween party.

At first I balked. Cupcakes? Me? I even mentioned that Ryan might want to convince him to bring something else, like pumpkin whoopie pies. According to Ryan, Rex was set on cupcakes and so I crossed my fingers and accepted the job!
He asked for 1 ½ dozen white cupcakes and 1 ½ dozen chocolate cupcakes. I settled on a chocolate cupcake recipe pretty easily, which you’ll be privy to tomorrow (dare I say the best cupcake to come from my kitchen?). When it came to white cupcakes I was stuck. I debated for awhile between fellow STL blogger Stef’s Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake and Baked Perfection’s Sugar Cookie Cupcakes, two totally different recipes. I went with the Sugar Cookie Cupcakes because I was so intrigued by the description, having never heard of or tried a sugar cookie cupcake. That being said, I have big plans to make the ultimate vanilla cupcake sometime soon, as I have no doubt the Cupcake Queen’s creation is indeed ultimate!
To be honest, I think people would have been perfectly happen eating little cupfuls of the batter…I’ve tasted a LOT of batter (and consequently raw eggs, I realize) and this was by far one of the best! The finished product was equally successful. The cupcakes were a little denser than you might anticipate in a cupcake, but the flavor was spot-on in capturing both “sugar cookie” and “cupcake”. To up the Halloween factor on these cupcakes, I divided the batter in three and layered orange, yellow, and white batters to make CANDY CORN cupcakes. Topped with creamy buttercream and a few pieces of candy corn, these are particularly festive. Halloween is still two days away—you have more than enough time to whip up a batch!
Thank you Rex for forcing me to continually work on my cupcake skills and thank you Grandma for the perfect dish to photograph these on!

One Year Ago: Cranberry Bliss Bars (Just like Starbucks!)

Candy Corn Sugar Cookie Cupcakes
cupcake recipe from Baked Perfection, candy corn tutorial from Treats

-1 cup butter, softened
-2 cups sugar
-3 eggs
-2 tsp vanilla extract
-3 cups all-purpose flour
-1 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-2 cups sour cream
-buttercream frosting (recipe below)

1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
2. in a mixing bowl, cream the butter and the sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in the vanilla.
3. Add the dry mixtures to the creamed mixture alternately with sour cream (batter will be thick).
4. Divide the batter evenly into 3 mixing bowls. With food coloring, make one bowl orange and another bowl yellow. Leave the last bowl white.
5. Beginning with the yellow batter, divide it evenly among paper lined muffin pans (recipe makes ~30 cupcakes). Continue with the orange batter and finish with the white batter.
6. Bake cupcakes at 350F for 25-30 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
7. Once cupcakes have cooled completely, frost with buttercream and top with candy corn.

Vanilla Buttercream
from Baked Bree

-2 sticks butter, at room temperature
-3 cups confectioners' sugar
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-2-3 tbsp heavy cream

1. Cream butter in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, at least 3 minutes.
2. Add confectioners' sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in vanilla and 2 tbsp of heavy cream. If the frosting is too thick, add a little more cream until it is the desired consistency.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Snickerdoodle Ice Cream

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Given Ryan's adamant refusal to eat foods beyond their stated expiration date, you'd think he had a traumatic experience with spoiled food as a child. Nope, not the case at all. He just appears to have an irrational fear of consuming any food beyond the date listed on the package.

Okay, okay, I understand that there is some danger/risk involved here. Can you tell this is a source of contention between us? :) The fact of the matter is, I grew up with a dad who had no fear when it came to expired foods...even when it did come back to haunt him from time to time (chunky milk. need I say more?!). So, given my childhood experiences and my stringent desire not to waste food, I get a little frustrated when a food is one day expired and Ryan won't touch it.

This ice cream was the result of milk that was two days expired. It looked and tasted fine, but Ryan would have nothing to do with it. Since I prefer my dairy in ice cream form, I opted to use this for snickerdoodle ice cream. Though the ice cream was a little icier than we prefer (the consequence of using 2% milk as opposed to half and half), the flavor was everything you'd expect...rich with vanilla and cinnamon flavors. This is the perfect fall ice cream--it was meant to be served with apple pie or topped with sauteed apples. If you don't have expired milk to use up, go for the half and half...I have an inkling that it is even more incredible!

Ryan, I love you dearly, expired food aversion and all! :)

P.S. It's only appropriate that I post this ice cream today, on the 28th of October, which happens to be my brother Quinn's 20th birthday. Quinn is the ultimate Dairy King, or so he calls himself. No amount of ice cream is too much for this guy (with the exception of one unfortunate milkshake incident in Michigan one summer!). I love you Quinn and I wish I could make you some ice cream today!

Looking for other snickerdoodle recipes? Try pumpkin snickerdoodlessnickerdoodle scones, classic snickerdoodles, snickerdoodle blondies, or snickerdoodle muffins!

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Pancakes
Two Years Ago: Pumpkin Bran Date Bread

Snickerdoodle Ice Cream
from Land O Lakes

-1/2 cup sugar
-1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
-1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
-2 cups heavy whipping cream
-1 1/2 cups half and half (here's where I used 2% milk)
-1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Whisk all ingredients together in a large bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves.
2. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer instructions. Store in an airtight container and freezer overnight to harden completely.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Apple Ricotta Coffee Cake

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I often find myself with leftover ricotta on hand. The same goes for buttermilk. I've since found uses for leftover buttermilk, such as chocolate fudge drops and gorgonzola smashed potatoes, which takes care of my obsessive need to use up ingredients before they spoil in my fridge. Ricotta, however, has left me stumped. After buying some ricotta for a recipe I'll share with you in the next few days, I wasn't sure how to use up the remainder of the container...until I stumbled upon this coffee cake recipe.

This apple ricotta coffee cake reminded me a lot of this cinnamon apple cake which uses cream cheese in the batter. I can't choose a favorite between the two, but I can tell you that this cake reminded me more of a apple crumb pie than a coffee cake. I reduced the sugar by half from the original recipe and used some whole wheat pastry flour so the cake itself isn't too sweet, but the gooey apple filling and the streusel topping will easily convince you you're eating dessert for breakfast.

Save your oatmeal and egg whites for Monday through Friday and break this out on the weekends and holidays! You deserve it ;)
How do you use up your leftover ricotta? I need ideas!

One Year Ago: Chicken, Black Bean, and Goat Cheese Tostados
Two Years Ago: Creamy Sweet Potato and Kale Soup (to be rephotographed soon because we make this frequently, a favorite in our household!) 

Apple Ricotta Coffee Cake
from about.com

-2 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or another 3/4 cup all-purpose flour)
-3/4 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-1 tsp vanilla
-2 eggs
-1 cup ricotta cheese

for the streusel-
-2/3 cup packed brown sugar
-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
-1/2 cup oats
-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
-1/4 tsp salt
-4 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
-1/2 cup pecans, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter and dust with flour (or use the cooking spray that comes with flour in it).
2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine all streusel ingredients (not the butter or the pecans). Add butter and pulse for 5-10 seconds at a time until no large lumps of butter remain. Set aside.
3. Peel and chop apples and set aside.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 1/2 cup butter for about 30 seconds. Beat in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture and ricotta to batter alternately. Mix on low speed after each addition until combined (note: batter will be thick).
6. Spread half of the batter into the bottom of the pan, spreading to cover the pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the streusel and then the diced apples. Spoon remaining batter over apples, using your fingers or a spatula to carefully spread (it does not need to be perfect, just try to cover most of it). Top with remaining streusel and nuts.
7. Bake 45-50 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool at least one hour on a wire rack before serving. Wrap well and keep at room temperature for 3 days.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Autumn Snack Mix

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When we arrived at Paige and Zach's apartment in Connecticut a few weeks ago, she had a big container of this autumn snack mix sitting out. Having been up since 4:30 am to catch our flight, we were more than due for a snack. At the risk of spoiling our lunchtime seafood feast, we dug in. Ten handfuls later, I told myself I really better stop. After all, I needed room in my stomach for clam chowder and a lobster roll! Five handfuls after that, I finally managed to tear myself away from the stuff.

We still managed to find room for all of that seafood, but if there was ever a snack to spoil your meal on, this is it! The snack mix is the perfect combination of textures and flavors. It manages to be both crunchy and chewy, my favorite bites being those with chunks of life cereal and oats stuck together! If you're really feeling wild, throw some chocolate chips in there too!

Despite its title, this is one snack mix I could see myself making year round. Less than a week after returning home from our trip, I had already whipped up a batch in my own kitchen and I have enough of the ingredients left over to make another batch soon. Bring it to a Halloween party this weekend or whip some up to eat during the football games!

One Year Ago: Vanilla Spiced Butternut Squash Ice Cream with Salted Ginger Caramel Sauce
Two Years Ago: Crockpot Pork Chops

Autumn Snack Mix
recipe from squidoo.com
-1/2 cup butter
-1/3 cup honey
-1/4 cup packed brown sugar
-1 tsp ground cinnamon
-1/2 tsp salt
-3 cups square oat cereal (Life)
-1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
-1 cup chopped walnuts
-1/2 cup dried cranberries
-1/2 cup yogurt covered raisins

1. In a small saucepan over medium low heat, add butter, honey, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Stir until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.
2. In a large bowl, combine cereal, oats, and walnuts. Pour butter mixture over the cereal and toss with a spoon to evenly coat.
3. Pour mixture out on a greased 15 x 10 inch rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 275F for 45 minutes, stirring after every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Place mixture in an airtight container along with dried cranberries and yogurt covered raisins, stirring to combine.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Greek Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

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Three years ago, I woke up on a drizzly Saturday and went for a run. Though most of my Saturdays start that way, this one was different. My run was rather short because I had a wedding to get ready for. Not just any wedding, but my own! The details of that day stand out sharply in my mind. 1,095 days later, I still recall exact conversations, the Jimmy Johns sandwiches the bridesmaids and I wolfed down in the Excursion on the way to church, and the way I felt in the moments before I took my dad’s arm and we walked down the aisle.

October 25, 2008 remains the best day of my life. Of course saying that makes it sound like every day since then hasn’t measured up…and that isn’t the case at all! I can’t speak a more truthful statement than to say how much I love being married to Ryan. Marriage is both more challenging and more rewarding than I ever anticipated or even truly realized when we said our vows and were pronounced husband and wife. After three years of marriage, I couldn’t be more thankful to be where we are.

Ryan, my true love and my best friend, we are in a good place. I cannot imagine taking this journey with anyone else and my love and admiration for you grows daily. You are, in so many ways, the strengths to balance my weaknesses. I am forever grateful for your patience, your commitment, your encouragement, and your unconditional love…no matter how unloving I can sometimes be! Year three was pretty special, here’s to year four!

Blog posts are 2011’s Hallmark cards, right? For those of you NOT Ryan, who are here for the recipe, I hope my mushiness didn’t make you lose your appetite…because this one’s a good one! Whipped together on a Friday evening—a night I rarely cook because I am so stinking exhausted—this dinner ended up being much better than the takeout or grilled cheese we could’ve resorted to. Eaten on the couch, out of our spaghetti squash bowls, over an episode of Modern Family, my adorable husband and I gave our meal two thumbs up. Healthy, packed with flavor, and easy to throw together, it was definitely a win!

Two Years Ago: Apple Puff Pancake

You can find a few wedding pics in this post!

Greek Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
-1 spaghetti squash
-1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
-1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
-1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
-1/2 cup artichokes, chopped
-1/4 cup feta cheese
-salt, pepper, and olive oil

1. Cut spaghetti squash in half, vertically. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place cut down side in a baking sheet. Roast for 30-40 minutes at 375F until you can poke the inside of the squash easily with a fork.
2. When squash is tender, use a fork to scrape inside of spaghetti squash into strands. Set aside half of the scraped squash and save for another use. Place the other half in a large bowl. Add chickpeas, artichokes, olives, and roasted red peppers. Stir to combine ingredients.
3. Fill the two empty spaghetti squash halves with spaghetti squash mixture. Top with feta and return to oven for 10 minutes to heat through. Remove and serve.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pumpkin Roll

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This had disaster written all over it. Though I've seen pumpkin rolls popping up all over the place every fall, the actual physics of it seemed impossible to me. Roll a cake? Without it breaking or cracking? Impossible! Still, I was intrigued, so I put it on my fall to-bake list and approached it with the attitude that if I failed, it wasn't that big of a deal. I like to think I've learned to cut myself some slack when it comes to kitchen adventures...trying not to repeat the whole white chocolate amaretto cake tantrum :)

I decided to make this for Ryan's work group food day even although his immediate group was responsible for breakfast foods. People eat pumpkin bread for breakfast. People eat cream cheese on bagels for breakfast. Therefore, I justified this pumpkin roll as a breakfast food (I don't think anyone minded!). Still convinced I would be facing a disastrous mess of a pumpkin roll, I set out to make this two days before his food day, ensuring I'd have plenty of time to make something else in the case of failure.

As it turns out, Plan B was never needed! Rolling the cake didn't turn out to be nearly as difficult as I anticipated. I made sure to grease my pan well, add lots of powdered sugar to my towel, and let the cake fully cool before unrolling it. As you can see from the pictures--100% success! Who knew something that looked so pretty wasn't all that difficult?!

Though I didn't get to sneak a piece before sending it with Ryan, he made sure to shoot me an instant message praising both the taste of the cake and the fact that it was perfectly rolled. The boy knows the way to my heart is with praise for my kitchen successes! Now that I've mastered the technique, I can't wait to try out a few other rolled cakes I've seen recipes for, such as banana with cream cheese frosting and chocolate with buttercream!

Any kitchen techniques or recipes that terrify you? Any surprising successes?

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Cheesecake Dip

Pumpkin Roll
from allrecipes.com

-1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel)
-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
-1/4 tsp salt
-3 large eggs
-1 cup granulated sugar
-2/3 cup pumpkin puree
-1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened (I used 1/3 less fat)
-1 cup powdered sugar
-4 tbsp butter, softened
-1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 15 x 10 inch jelly roll pan. Top greased pan with wax or parchment paper. Grease and flour paper (I used baking spray with flour in it that I got from Target...worked great!). Sprinkle a kitchen towel laid out on the counter with powdered sugar.
2. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a small bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar until thick. Add pumpkin and beat. Stir in flour mixture. Pour mixture into prepared pan, spreading evenly with a spatula.
3. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until top of cake lightly springs back when touched. Remove cake from oven and immediately turn cake onto prepared towel (I placed the towel, powdered sugar side down, on top of the cake and then flipped). Peel off wax paper. Roll up cake and towel together, beginning with one of the narrow ends. Place rolled cake on wire rack to cool, about 45 minutes.
4. Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla extract in a small mixing bowl until smooth. Carefully unroll cake and remove towel. Spread cream cheese frosting over cake evenly. Reroll cake (without towel). Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. Unwrap cake and sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pepperoni Polenta Pizza

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This is not pizza. At least, not pizza in the sense that it might appear from the pictures. Like most (all?) of you, I love a good pizza crust. Thick, thin, crispy, chewy, I'll take any of them! However, if you go into this polenta pizza expecting a crust-like bottom, you might be disappointed. Based on my experiences with polenta/cornmeal, I knew I wasn't going to get a crispy texture...but when I served this to Ryan and Nate, my sister's boyfriend, I was a little bit worried about their reaction. After all, it looked like pizza. It smelled like pizza. But would it taste like pizza?

The pizza flavor is actually dead on. The polenta is, as expected, a little mushy...making this more of a pizza casserole than an actual pizza. We didn't mind though, not one bit! Mixed in with the cheese, sauce, and vegetables, the polenta wasn't at all flavorless, like I worried. If you have issues with the texture of polenta, this might not be your dish. If not, give this a try! It came together quickly, leftovers reheated well, and it's a good pizza alternative for those who need gluten-free alternatives!
One Year Ago: Amaretto Chunk Cookies (one of my favorites!)
Two Years Ago: Tropical Bran Bread

Pepperoni Polenta Pizza
adapted from the allrecipes.com iphone app

-1/2 cup dry polenta (I used cornmeal)
-2 1/4 cups water
-1/2 tsp salt
-2 tsp olive oil
-1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
-1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
-3 cups spinach
-1/2 cup marinara sauce
-1/4 tsp dried oregano
-1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Place cornmeal, water, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3-5 minutes, until thick. Pour into a greased pie plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled.
2. Preheat oven to 450F. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring until onion is soft. Add spinach and stir occasionally until wilted.
3. Remove pie plate from fridge and spread marinara sauce over the chilled 'crust'. Top with the vegetable mixture, pepperoni, and oregano.
4. Bake for 10 minutes. Sprinkle cheese over the top and bake for an additional 2-3 minutes, until cheese is melted. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Salty Caramel Ice Cream

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You know a book is well loved when you see dog-eared pages, a worn cover, and a softness that books fresh from Barnes and Noble lack. My copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn fits this definition. An avid reader, I rarely reread books, mostly because there are still so many books left out there for me to read. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is different though. It’s one of the few books I return to again and again, whenever I’ve seeking a familiar story or an escape into Brooklyn in the 1940s.

My cookbook collection remains rather intact. I try to keep them neat and clean which isn’t difficult because, much as I hate to admit it, I don’t pull them out as often as I like. With an endless supply of recipes on the internet and the pages of my many magazines delivered each month, I sometimes forget about the cookbook collection I’ve started to grow. However, I can already tell that Jeni’s Homemade Ice Creams has a different future in store. I’m even hesitant to place this cookbook on my shelf because I am so frequently pulling it out and paging through it in search of my next ice cream recipe. I recently shared my Coconut Rum Ice Cream with you, and this Salty Caramel ice cream was the next masterpiece to come from Jeni’s book.
This was my first attempt at burning sugar to make caramel and though slightly terrifying, Jeni’s instructions were clear and to the point. I followed them exactly and had no issues, save for my caramel starting to crystallize a bit when I added the dairy (it later melted again as I continued through the steps!). I’m loving that Jeni’s ice cream method produces a rich ice cream base despite the lack of eggs in the ingredient list.

The ice cream was undoubtedly salted, though I think I had a heavier hand with the salt than called for. I just can’t seem to get enough of the salty-sweet combination (see: sweet and salty brownies!). Both Ryan and my friend Kacey immediately commented on the strong toffee flavor—think Heath bar, but without the chocolate. Much like the Coconut Rum Ice Cream, this didn’t last long in our freezer! Though we finished it off by itself, I think it would pair nicely with a warm brownie! 

One Year Ago: Shaksuka (weird name, good meal!)
Two Years Ago: Cereal Dessert Bars (ugly picture, yummy treat!)

Salty Caramel Ice Cream
from Jeni's Homemade Ice Creams
-2 cups whole milk
-1 tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch
-3 tbsp (1 1/2 oz) cream cheese, softened
-1/2 tsp fine sea salt
-1 1/4 cups heavy cream
-2 tbsp light corn syrup
-2/3 cup sugar
-2 tsp vanilla extract

1. In a small bowl, mix 2 tbsp milk with cornstarch to make a smooth slurry. Set aside. In a separate (medium) bowl, whisk cream cheese and salt until smooth. In a measuring cup with a spout, mix the cream with the corn syrup. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
2. Heat the sugar in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat until melted and golden amber in color (to do this effectively, add the sugar and then don't touch with a spatula until there is a full layer of melted and browning liquid sugar on the bottom with a small layer of unmelted white sugar on top. When the melted sugar edges start to darken, use the spatula to push the edges to the center to help everything finish melting. When little bubbles begin to explode with dark smoke and it is the color of an old penny, wait one moment and then remove from heat.)
3. Once caramel is removed from heat, stir constantly and add a bit of the cream/corn syrup mixture to the caramel (beware--it will fizzle and pop!).  Keep adding the cream a little bit at a time until it is all incorporated.
4. Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the milk. Bring mixture to a rolling boil and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the cornstarch slurry.
5. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high and cook for 1 minute until slightly thickened, stirring with a heatproof spatula. Remove from heat.
6. Pour the mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Pour the hot mixture into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag and seal before submerging in the bowl of ice and water. Allow to stand, adding more ice if necessary, for 30 minutes or until cold.
7. Pour liquid into ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer instructions. Pack ice cream into storage container, press a piece of parchment paper directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Capers, Walnuts, and Anchovies

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When Ryan saw these green little cabbages hanging out in our fridge, he mentioned his excitement over the return of brussels sprouts. I couldn't agree more, I'd been waiting for them to come back in season and now that they're here, you can count on them popping up in a few more recipes in the near future!

As soon as I saw this recipe from acclaimed chef Michael Symon in my most recent Food and Wine issue, I picked up the ingredients the very next day and set out to make this. It was my first time cooking with anchovies and I opted for anchovy paste instead of picking up a tin of the fishies. Maybe next time...
Although this wasn't my favorite brussels sprouts dish I've made, I really liked it. This was on the savory side, whereas others I've made have been sweeter (no surprise that I preferred those, ha!). Those with less of a sweet tooth (or rather, a mouth of sweet teeth) would probably love this version. Add it to your Thanksgiving dinner list, brussels sprouts belong on the table!

Looking for other brussels sprouts recipes? Check out Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts and Bacon, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Apples, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash (with maple syrup, my favorite of the bunch!)

One Year Ago: M&M Cookies
Two Years Ago: Black Bean Burgers

Today my brother-in-law Justin (from my tiramisu story) is getting married to a rather wonderful woman who I am proud to call my newest sister! I'm off toasting to their new life together and rocking the dance floor ;) Congrats you two!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Capers, Walnuts, and Anchovies
from Food & Wine November 2011

-3 lbs brussels sprouts, quartered
-3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
-salt & freshly ground pepper
-1 cup walnuts
-1/4 cup red wine vinegar
-1 tbsp grainy mustard
-2 tbsp honey
-3 tbsp capers, rinsed and chopped
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-2 shallots, minced
-1 (2 oz) tin of anchovies, drained and minced (or anchovy paste)

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Toss the brussels sprouts with 1/4 cup olive oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper before spreading on two rimmed baking sheets. Roast for 45 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender and charred in spots. (Note: Mine were done after 20-25 minutes!)
2. Spread walnuts in a pie plate and place in the oven, toasting for about 8 minutes, until golden. Once cooled, coarsely chop the nuts.
3. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar with the mustard and honey. Whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil until emulsified. Add the capers, garlic, shallots and anchovies. Season with salt and pepper. Add the brussels sprouts and walnuts. Toss well and serve immediately.
*Note--the brussels sprouts and dressing can be made up to 4 hours ahead of time and kept (separately) at room temperature. Rewarm the brussels sprouts before serving.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

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Ryan has a really fun group of coworkers, or so it seems from the stories he comes home with. A few months ago, I was invited to join he and his group at happy hour. I was excited for the chance to witness some of the characters I'd heard about in person...that is, until I got to work that day...and ended up having an incredibly frustrating day at work. The type of day that even a stiff drink during happy hour can't fix. The type of day that warrants a sob session once you get into your car. In most cases, I can 'make it til I make it', but this particular day that just wasn't happening. Needless to say, I don't think Ryan's coworkers were too impressed with his wife.

Since then, I've felt bad about their false impression of me. I think his group needs to have another happy hour so I can show them the real me! Until then, I've worked on winning them over with my baking.
I've made them treats several times before but it had been awhile, so I asked Ryan to take requests from a few of his coworkers who recently had birthdays. The dessert of choice? My snickerdoodles. Instead of making the same cookie again, I asked if I could change it up a bit and thankfully, they agreed!

Pumpkin snickerdoodles aren't all that different from the usual recipe. The pumpkin flavor is lightly noticeable and the texture is slightly different, but Ryan's coworkers went just as crazy for these as they did for the others! You know when people, Ryan included, are eating more than 8 cookies in a day that it's one irresistible cookie!
So, until another happy hour is scheduled, I plan to keep wooing his coworkers with sugar and butter ;)

****Today I'm guest posting over on my friend's blog: The Edible Perspective. This is one guest post you DON'T want to miss (it involves popcorn, coconut, chocolate, and caramel! Sneak peek below!)

One Year Ago: Easy Turkey Chili
Two Years Ago: Pumpkin Cake (I recently remade this and it was just as good as I remembered!)

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
from Recipe Girl

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

for the rolling sugar-
-1/2 cup granulated white sugar
-1 tsp ground cinnamon
-1/2 tsp ground ginger
-1/2 tsp allspice

1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add sugar and pumpkin puree, beating well. Mix in egg and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
2. In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and ground cinnamon. Beat flour mixture into liquid mixture a little at a time, just until incorporated.
3. Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
4. Remove dough from fridge and preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with nonstick spray (I did both and parchment worked better!). In a small bowl combine rolling sugar ingredients.
5. Use a medium cookie scoop (1 1/2 tbsp) or a large spoon to scoop out dough and roll into balls. Roll balls in cinnamon sugar mixture and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Flatten cookies by dipping a flat-bottomed glass first in the sugar and then on the dough balls.
6. Bake for 8-12 minutes at 350F, until cookies are slightly firm to the touch (mine were good at about 9 minutes). Allow to cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.
*Store cookies in an airtight container

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Spiced Pear Bundt Cake

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Recently I left the grocery store with 8 pears in my cart. Not an obscene number, but more than Ryan and I could eat before they got mushy and overripe, especially since we were getting ready to leave town. In an attempt to use them up, I started searching online for a baked good that used fresh pears. Although I love pears in salads, savory cheesecakes, and bruschetta, I don't know that I've ever baked with them before. Now that I have, I think I'll be stocking up on pears more often!

The flavor they added to this bundt cake was mild, but I loved the texture of them. The original recipe from allrecipes.com called for pecans, but I had used mine up earlier that day and the cake was fine without. I made a few other changes to the original, cutting the sugar in half, adjusting the amounts of the spices, and adding some whole wheat pastry flour. The cake wasn't super sweet, so you may want to add an additional half cup of sugar if you want it on the sweeter side. Be careful not to overbake, I took mine out a few minutes late because I was vacuuming and didn't hear the timer go off (but at least our floors are clean..right?!).

If you find yourself with an abundance of pears, or want to try a new coffee cake, this one is perfect for this time of year!

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Butterscotch Cookies
Two Years Ago: Sweet Potato Shepherds Pie 

Spiced Pear Bundt Cake
adapted from allrecipes.com

-4 cups peeled, cored, and chopped pears (I used 4 pears and didn't measure...next time I would maybe use a fifth)
-1 cup white sugar
-1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
-1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (could use only all-purpose flour)
-1 tsp salt
-1 1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
-1 tsp ground cinnamon
-1/4 tsp ground cloves
-2 eggs
-2/3 cup canola oil

1. Place pears and sugar in a large bowl, tossing to combine, and allow to stand for one hour (I was short on time and let them sit for 20 minutes or so).
2. Preheat oven to 325F and spray a 10-cup bundt pan with cooking spray.
3. Slightly beat the eggs and add them to the pear mixture along with the oil.
4. In a separate bowl, combine the flours, salt, baking soda, and spices. Add the pear mixture and mix until combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
5. Bake for 45-55 minutes, removing when cake is browned and an inserted toothpick comes out with only a few crumbs. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Curried Cashew, Apple, and Grape Salad

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I don't know that I've ever had grapes in a salad before. Sure, I've had them in fruit salads that contain nothing but fruit and I know they're frequently found in chicken or tuna salad, but to my recollection, I've never had them in a green salad. The grapes, while good, actually weren't my favorite part of this salad. My favorite? The curried cashews! Spiked with curry powder, cayenne, and rosemary, these take the cashews, and consequently the salad, to a whole new level!

The original recipe called for a pear, but mine weren't ripe enough to dice yet so I used an apple instead. Either (or even both!) would be good. This is a great accompaniment to just about any meal; it might even make a unique addition to your Thanksgiving table!
One Year Ago: Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal
Two Years Ago: Amish Baked Oatmeal

Curried Cashew, Apple, and Grape Salad
slightly adapted from the allrecipes.com iphone app
-3/4 cup cashew halves
-4 slices bacon
-1 tbsp melted butter
-1 tsp dried rosemary
-1 tsp curry powder
-1 tbsp brown sugar
-1/2 tsp kosher salt
-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

for the dressing-
-1/4 cup olive oil
-1 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
-1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
-1 tbsp honey
-salt & pepper, to taste

for the salad-
-1 (10 oz) package mixed salad greens (I just used a combo of romaine and spinach)
-1 medium apple, chopped
-1/2 cup halved seedless red grapes

1. In a large dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast cashews until golden brown (about 5 minutes). Remove cashews and set aside in a bowl to cool.
2. Return skillet to medium-high heat and cook bacon until crisp (about 7 minutes). Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and soak up excess grease from bacon with a paper towel, if necessary. Coarsely chop and set aside.
3. In a medium-sized bowl, stir together butter, rosemary, curry powder, brown sugar, salt, cayenne pepper, and toasted cashews. Stir until well-coated and set aside.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together white wine vinegar, mustard, and honey. Slowly whisk in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Toss dressing and prepared cashews with greens, apple chunks, grapes, and bacon. Serve immediately.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.