Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cupcakes for Father's Day

There has been a lot of talk about cupcakes around here lately. There are two competing food trucks in the area offering cupcakes and both are a big hit. Frankly, I was a bit jealous that I didn't think of doing this - although I suspect that if I had started such a venture, it wouldn't be long before I stopped enjoying baking and it became just another chore.

Since today is Father's Day and therefore an occasion for baking, I decided to try out an idea for a cupcake that I've been thinking about for a while. As a kid, my favorite Pop Tart flavor was frosted brown sugar cinnamon (okay, I'll admit it, I still eat them occasionally now that I'm a grown up...). This seemed like the perfect combination of flavors for a cupcake. Then, yesterday, while grocery shopping I discovered that Hershey's makes cinnamon chips. It seemed like a natural thing to add to the recipe I was working on so I picked them up and figured I'd toss them in to the batter. The result turned out pretty good - although these are almost too sweet for my taste. Next time, I might substitute buttermilk for the milk in the cupcake recipe to see if that helps a bit.

Oh right, and these were a hit with Paul and the girls!

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Yield = 12 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup Hershey's cinnamon chips (optional)

Prepare cupcake tins by greasing or using paper liners. In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and then add the egg. Mix until light and fluffy. Mix the milk and vanilla together in a measuring cup. Add the flour mixture and milk alternately to the butter/egg mixture, beat 20 - 30 seconds after each addition. Once the batter is mixed, gently fold in the cinnamon chips. Divide batter evenly among cupcake tins. Bake 22 - 25 minutes. Cool on a rack while you make the frosting.

For the frosting:
(half of the Penuche Frosting recipe from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/8 cup milk
1 1/2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar

Melt the butter and brown sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring often. Let the mixture bubble for a minute or a little less. Remove from heat and mix in the milk. Add the confectioner's sugar 1/2 cup at a time and whisk well. Once it gets to spreading consistency, stop whisking and quickly frost the cupcakes - the frosting starts to set as it cools.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dinner with Friends

We had friends over for dinner tonight, so yesterday morning I was digging around in the fridge trying to figure out what I wanted to make when I came across some eggplant that needed to be cooked.

A few weeks ago I made a really tasty moussaka and I kept remembering how much I enjoyed the way the ground lamb, eggplant, tomato and seasonings worked together. I wasn't quite ready to make moussaka again, so I settled for a Greek-inspired baked pasta dish.

Moussaka Pasta Bake

2 eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2"- 1" cubes
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2" - 1" cubes
2 - 3 cloves of garlic (don't peel it!)
2 - 3 tsp olive oil
1 lb ground beef
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
26 oz container of tomato puree
salt and pepper to taste
1 box of your favorite pasta - I used small shells (they come in 14 oz boxes now, remember when it used to be a pound??)
8 oz feta cheese, crumbled

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the eggplant and onions with olive oil on a baking sheet. Roast in oven for 30 minutes, or until browned and fragrant. About halfway through the roasting time, coat the unpeeled garlic in a little olive oil and add it to the baking sheet.

Meanwhile, heat bring a big pot of water to boil for your pasta and heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. As it cooks, break up any large bits. If necessary, drain off any excess fat before you stir in the oregano, cinnamon and mint. Add the tomato puree and cook for a little while. Your pasta should be cooking at this time (follow package directions for al dente).

Once the eggplant and onions are done, turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Add the eggplant and onion to the meat/tomato mixture and cook for a little while to bring the flavors together. Peel the garlic and smash it before you add that to the beef mixture. At this point, make sure you taste the mixture to see if it needs additional seasoning.

When your pasta has finished cooking, drain it and put it in 9 x 13 baking dish. Mix in the meat/eggplant/tomato mixture and then add most of the feta cheese. Mix well and then sprinkle the rest of the feta on top.

Bake for 20 - 30 minutes, until the cheese is a little browned and the top shells are a little crispy.

Friday, February 24, 2012

My doughnut obsession

I made a double batch this morning and decided to roll half
of the doughnuts in cinnamon sugar and glaze the other half.
My kids have always loved doughnuts but I try not to indulge that particular craving too often. However, after finding this recipe for baked gingerbread doughnuts and discovering a doughnut pan at Michaels, I have been testing various recipes and feel less guilty about letting everyone stuff their faces full of doughnut. How bad can they be if they are baked, right?

This morning, inspired by the over-abundance of carrots from our winter farm share, I decided to make carrot cake doughnuts. I found a good baked doughnut recipe on the King Arthur Flour website and figured I'd adapt it to my purposes. The results were definitely worth it!

Baked Carrot Cake Doughnuts
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

Makes 6 doughnuts and 4 - 6 mini muffins (doughnut holes!)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup finely shredded carrot (about one small carrot)
2 tablespoons buttermilk
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease the doughnut pan and mini muffin pan if you are using it.
  • Whisk together all of the dry ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
  • Stir the shredded carrot into the flour mixture, making sure it is evenly distributed.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, oil and buttermilk until foamy.
  • Pour the liquid ingredients all at once into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
  • Fill each doughnut form half full. I typically use a pastry bag to do this. Use any remaining batter to make mini muffins.
  • Bake the doughnuts for 10 to 12 minutes. When done, they'll spring back when touched lightly.
  • Remove the doughnuts from the oven, remove them from the pan. 
  • While they are still warm, roll them in cinnamon sugar or dip them in glaze. 

Yummy doughnut glaze
(from Pinch of Yum)
2 TBSP butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 - 2 TBSP milk
1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • Melt the butter and brown sugar together in a small saucepan. 
  • Bring the mixture to a boil for about 2 minutes. 
  • Remove from heat and add milk. 
  • Return to burner and stir in powdered sugar - I typically turn the heat down to it's lowest setting to do this. Add a little more milk if the glaze seems too thick. I swear it never seems to come out the same way twice.
  •  Dip the doughnuts in the warm glaze and then set on a rack. The glaze will harden almost immediately.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mysterious slow cooker dinner

Have you ever thrown together dinner in the slow cooker in the morning, come home to a great meal, and then after eating thought, "I really wish I had written down how I did that?" That's what happened to me today.
I should have taken a picture when I
plated the dish but I was too hungry!

I had taken out some great short ribs that come from my farm share. I thought they might work well in the slow cooker with lentils and root vegetables (from another farm share). This is what I ended up making.

Short Ribs with Lentils
Makes dinner for two with leftovers

2 tsp olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, halved and cut into 1/4" slices
2 cloves garlic
Beef short ribs - I had 4, bone-in ribs (maybe about 2 pounds?)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 turnips, peeled and chopped
1 cup dry lentils - I used a blend of red and brown
3 cups chicken stock
2 TBSP sherry
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a skillet. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook one minute more. Season the ribs with salt and pepper and place them in the skillet. Brown on both sides.

Put the lentils in bottom of the slow cooker. Place the ribs, onions and garlic on top. Add the carrots and turnips. Return the skillet to the stove and deglaze with 1 cup of the stock. Add the sherry, thyme, rosemary and tomato paste. Stir until paste is dissolved in the stock mixture (add more stock if you need to). Season with salt and pepper. Pour contents of skillet and remaining stock into slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for up to 8 hours. Serve with crusty bread. No need for knives - the ribs will fall apart.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


I think it was the fall weather that inspired me to make these little handpies for dinner. Crispy pastry wrapped around a tangy, vaguely Indian filling. It just seemed to fit. I have to admit that they came out pretty darned good, and I had a helper in the kitchen.

The pastry recipe is adapted from a cookbook called Biker Billy Cooks with Fire and was originally intended to be dough for samosas, which is essentially what these are, only I bake them rather than frying. (Just so you know, Biker Billy is a vegetarian who makes awesome, spicy things, like Gingerbread Bikers from Hell.) Turmeric and paprika create a golden, fragrant pastry while plain yogurt adds some tang. The filling is my own concoction - a mixture of ground turkey, onions, peas, sweet potato and spices. The recipe appears below.
Rita helps mix the dough.

The dough rests.

Making the filling.
Rita brushes with egg wash. She was really
excited about this job, despite the serious look.

All done baking...

Nina gives one a try.
They are good with salad and wine.

Now to make them...
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.

For the dough:
2 cups all purpose flour (I substitute at least 1/2 cup whole wheat flour for the same amount of white)
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp paprika
4 TBSP unsalted butter, softened and cut into 4-5 pieces
1/2 cup plain yogurt
4 TBSP cold water
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the butter and cut in with two knives or a pastry cutter until mixture looks like small peas. Add the yogurt and stir. You can use a spoon to do this but I usually just reach in and mix it with my hands. Add the water 1 TBSP at a time until the dough is mixed and soft. It shouldn't stick to the bowl. Cover and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes while you make the filling.

For the filling:
1 TBSP olive oil
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
1 lb ground turkey
1 cup frozen peas
2 small sweet potatoes, cooked and diced (probably 1 1/2 cups total)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground cloves
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 - 1 cup chicken stock
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the ground turkey and season with salt and pepper. Break up any large bits of turkey so that the filling doesn't have big chunks in it. Add the peas, the sweet potatoes and the seasonings. As the mixture comes together, turn down the flame to low-medium and mash the sweet potato so that the filling begins to come together. If it seems to be getting too dry, add chicken stock until is has a good consistency that will hold together if you press it gently.

Once the filling is done and the dough has rested, it's time to roll out the dough. First, divide the dough into two pieces so that you don't try to roll too much at once. Lightly flour the rolling surface and roll out one piece of dough to about 1/8" thick. Cut 3" circles using a cookie cutter or a glass. Add enough filling to each circle to cover about half the area. Fold in half and seal - you could use a fork to crimp the edges if you want to.

Put completed pies on the prepared baking sheet. Mix an egg with 1 - 2 TBSP of water. Brush the eggwash over each handpie before baking. Bake 15 minutes.

These are a definitely labor intensive but they are really worth it. This recipe made 15 little pies and I have leftover filling to eat later...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Salsa Verde

This is the freshest salsa you can imagine. It's chock full of lime and cilantro. It's so easy to make and you'll probably keep eating it even after you run out of tortilla chips. It's great on chicken tacos with a little sour cream.

As always, measurements are not exact:
1 medium yellow onion (you could also use a Vidalia)
1 green bell pepper, seeded
10 - 12 tomatillos, outer husks removed, cut in half
1 jalapeño, seeded
1/4 - 1/2 cup cilantro
Juice of 2 limes
salt, pepper and cumin to suit your taste

Put onion, pepper, tomatillos, jalapeño and cilantro into food processor and pulse until well-combined but still chunky. Juice the limes over the mixture, add seasonings and pulse again. Now taste it to see if you need to add more of something.

We brought this to dinner with friends and they were instant converts.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A little Asian-inspired side

My sister-in-law joined us for dinner last night and I had picked up a bunch of assorted sausages to grill - kielbasa, chicken and apple sausage, and store-made chicken curry sausage (yum!) from the local co-op. As I surveyed the contents of the fridge yesterday morning trying to decide what to serve with it, I was thinking about the cilantro-lime dressing I had made for a salad the night before. I had another lime and more cilantro, plus half a green cabbage and some red cabbage too... I always like slaw when it's had a chance to marinate in the dressing for several hours and I had just enough time to put something together that could sit in the fridge all day. Here's what I came up with.

Ginger Lime Miso Coleslaw

for the slaw
1/2 head green cabbage, julienned
1/4 - 1/2 cup red cabbage, julienned
1 carrot, grated
1/4 cup red onion, yup, you guessed it, sliced very thin
1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
(if I had a red bell pepper on hand, I would have given it a fine dice and tossed it in also - maybe 2 TBSP or so)

for the dressing
1" piece of fresh ginger
juice and zest from one lime
2-3 TBSP honey
2 TBSP miso paste (I had white miso paste on hand)
2-3 TBSP canola oil
1 garlic clove
1 tsp sesame oil
1-2 TBSP Rose's lime juice (which I used because I didn't have another fresh lime)
Sriracha hot chili sauce to your taste

Toss slaw ingredients in a big bowl. Put all dressing ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. If it's too chunky, add a little more canola oil or lime juice. Pour the dressing over the slaw and toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

A little reminder here that these measurements are approximate since I don't actually measure stuff unless I'm baking. Don't yell at me if your slaw goes awry...