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.