Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, everyone!  Hope you all have safe and fun evening, and watch out for those trick-or-treaters if you're on the road tonight!  

Pictured above are: Yellow cupcakes with vanilla SMBC (recipe here) and Orange velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.   Just use your usual red velvet cake recipe, but swap out orange food coloring for the red.  If your recipe uses a lot of cocoa (mine uses 3 Tablespoons), you'll also need to decrease the amount of cocoa to really let the orange color shine through!

Flavor-of-the-Month: Pumpkin

It has been quite a pumpkin-filled month, which makes October's Flavor-of-the-Month theme (pumpkin) a most appropriate choice.  For this challenge I thought I'd forgo the more traditional uses for pumpkin (pies, cakes, desserts, muffins/breads, etc.) in favor of a more savory dish: macaroni & cheese.  Don't freak out on me and leave just yet! 

Why would I put pumpkin into macaroni & cheese, you ask?  Well...why not?  On its own, macaroni & cheese--while delicious and thoroughly deserving of its status as a comfort food--is no nutrition superstar. It's certainly an unexpected addition, but pumpkin can boost the color, nutrition, and flavor of the dish without being overwhelming or pumpkiny. Sneak some into your family's favorite macaroni and cheese recipe (even if it's one from a box!) and get ready for the compliments.  

Bake at 350
Head on over to our host Bridget's "Bake at 350" blog to check out the all the entries for this month!

For a kid-friendly meal, few things pair better with macaroni & cheese than sliced hot dogs.  Or better yet...OCTODOGS!  To make your own super fun mini octo-doggies, take a hot dog and cut it in half crosswise*.  Then carefully slice the cut end into eight legs, making sure not to cut all the way to the top (rounded end).  You want to make sure he has a head!  Repeat with other half of hot dog.  Cook in a deep pot of boiling water until legs curl and hot dogs are done, turning occasionally when they start to float out too far above the water.  Use toothpicks to give them eyes, if desired.  Have fun! 

*I used turkey hot dogs--regular sized, not the big fat ones.  If you prefer bigger octodoggies, use the jumbo franks and either leave them whole (for extra long legs) or cut them in half before slicing the legs.

Looks like they're holding hands!  ♥

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
8 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
8 ounces American cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)*
1 cup whole milk (I used 2%)
1 cup pumpkin puree*
½ cup sour cream

2 eggs
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish; set aside.

Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain. Return macaroni to saucepan. While macaroni is hot, add the cheeses to the pan; stir well. Spread the macaroni mixture in the prepared baking dish. In a bowl, whisk together the milk, pumpkin, sour cream, eggs, butter, and salt. Pour the milk mixture over the macaroni.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

*Recipe tips:
  • To make the American cheese easier to grate, stash it in the freezer for about 30 minutes.  I used a "Deluxe" variety of American cheese slices, which I cut and stacked into blocks for grating. 
  • Please make sure you don't pick up a can of pumpkin pie mix by mistake! That would be...not so tasty.
Hungry for more pumpkin?  Visit Bake at 350 and browse through all the Flavor-of-the-Month entries!  Or...stay a while and re-visit my other pumpkin posts from October: 

♥ Pumpkin Chip Cupcakes
Pumpkin-Bottom Cupcakes
Spicy Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce
Spinach Tortellini with Pumpkin Sauce
Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake
Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins
Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake
Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

All Through the Year Cheer: Halloween

This year's Halloween cookies are decidedly more low-key than the previous years (2008, 2007).  I noticed (and you may, too) when looking back at those and other older posts that switching over to my new layout has done freaky things to the font, sizing, and spacing.  One day-- if I have time and can remember to--I'll go back to all those posts and edit their layouts.  For now, they'll just look crazy :)

These cookies are being entered into the "All Through the Year Cheer...Cooking with Faith and Nutmeg Nanny" event.  This blogging group will celebrate various holidays throughout the year with fun holiday recipes from the hosts, Brandy of Nutmeg Nanny and Faith of Thought 4 Food, as well as any participants who want to join in on the fun.  It's a brand-new group, so Halloween is first up on the list (how excited am I to be joining a group in its first event!?!).  Faith is hosting this month, so head on over to Thought 4 Food on October 30th to check out the round-up!

To make the spiders for these cookies (or to adorn any of your Halloween goodies!), you'll need to seek out some big ole' chocolate chips.  I found that Ghiradelli's 60% Cocoa Bittersweet Chocolate Chips worked especially well, since they are both larger and flatter than a standard "yellow bag" chocolate chip.  You know which ones.  For the legs, I used Betty Crocker Parlor Perfect Chocolate Sprinkles.  They're longer and skinnier than other chocolate sprinkles I've seen in the markets, but you can use whatever you have on hand.  Chunky leg spiders would be uber-cute!

Ready to start?  Place about 6 chocolate chips on a piece of waxed paper that's been set on an overturned paper plate (it's a flatter surface, so you won't have to deal with the plate rim getting in your way later).   Microwave for 20-30 seconds, depending on your microwave's wattage.  For my 1300W oven, I did about 25 seconds.  The chips won't look melted, but the very bottom portions should soften.  With your fingers (if you're dainty!) or a pair of dedicated kitchen tweezers, insert 8 sprinkles into the chocolate chip.  Let cool, then carefully peel off waxed paper.  Easy peasy!  Use as desired. 

 The recipe for the cookies may be found here at Wilton's site.  It's the basic recipe you'll find on the back of their cookie cutter packages, only chocolate.  Roll ¼" thick and cut out with 2" round cutters.  I decorated with a basic royal icing.  Want a more festive look?  Or wanna use up that Halloween decorator sugar you bought last year at the 75% off post-Halloween clearance?  Sprinkle still-wet royal icing with color-coordinating sugars.

Monday, October 26, 2009

My Girl, Paula: Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

Pumpkin.  Gooey.  Butter.  Cake.  Could there be a more perfect set of four words?  If you have even the slightest weakness for gooey butter cakes, Paula Deen recipes, butter, pumpkin, and/or cream cheese, head on over to the Food Network's site and print out a copy of Paula Deen's Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes.  I had a white cake mix in the pantry, so I used that instead of yellow and added 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice to the crust.

Visit the My Girl, Paula blog to check out what goodies the other members whipped up for this week's entry.  With an "anything goes" theme, there ought to be plenty of new Paula Deen recipes to drool over and try out!

Friday, October 23, 2009

"I'll Fix You My Pretty, and Your Little Blog Too!"

Like the new look?  Possibly still a work in progress, so you may see a few changers every now and then.  Would you believe I did most of this myself? (Armed with a digital scrapbooking kit and TONS of very helpful tutorials, of course.  I am not, and probably never will be, what you would call "computer savvy.")  

Very special thanks to:

Amanda of kevin & amanda {blog}, whose immensely helpful tutorials gave me the courage to even consider fooling with the "Edit HTML" section of the Blogger Layout.  With her guidance, I was able to:
  • Use cute fonts for my post titles and labels (tutorial)
  • Add a signature to the end of my post (tutorial)
Tips for New Bloggers for showing me how to convert my template to a three-column layout and eliminate the header outline

Megan of Shabby Blogs for the tutorial on adding post dividers

Amy Stoffel (LCC by Amy Stoffel) for creating the sweetest digital scrapbooking kit ever!  I was browsing Scrap Orchard and came across her  "Lovin From the Oven" was instant love.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Muffins: Ready in 3...2...1...

Chances are, you've already got all three ingredients to make these scrumptious chocolate chip muffins in your pantry.  That's right.  Three.  I kid you not.  Filling in for the roles of oil and eggs is our old pal Pumpkin, proving yet again that even the most die-hard pumpkin haters can be converted with the right recipe.  More brownie than muffin, these babies can give those "other" muffins a serious run for their money.  You know which ones--starts with "O" and ends with "tis Spunkmeyer?"  Have you ever looked at the nutrition info on one of those bad boys?  Yeesh.  While this 3-ingredient version is by no means diet food, it certainly packs more of a nutritional punch from the addition of pumpkin.  Does it taste pumpkiny?  Not by a long shot.  The secret ingredient is only betrayed by the yellow-orange staining on the cupcake papers. 

Did I mention how fast these muffins come together?  You'll have them mixed up and ready to go before your oven is finished preheating!  This recipe is a great starting point and lends itself well to variations.  Duncan Hines® is the recommended brand of cake mix for this recipe, but a pudding-in-the-mix variety like Betty Crocker®(what I used) or Pillsbury® can also be used (and will give denser, brownie-like results).  Change out the flavor of cake mix, swap out the chocolate chips, and you've got yourself a whole new muffin to fall in love with.  I'm thinking spice cake with raisins or apple bits next...

Three Ingredient Muffins
(Original recipe at Our Best Bites)
Makes 10-12 jumbo muffins or 20-24 regular sized

18.25 oz box cake mix (I used Betty Crocker® devil's food)
15 oz. can pumpkin puree
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line jumbo muffin tins with 10-12 paper liners.  In a medium bowl, mix cake mix, pumpkin, and chocolate chips until combined.  Batter will be quite thick and sticky.  Use an ice cream scoop to portion batter into cups (for a jumbo muffin tin, it takes two scoops per well).  Wet your fingers a bit, and use them to smooth out the tops.  The muffins don't rise much and their appearance doesn't change much when baked, so if there are huge gaps or divots they will still be there once baked. 

Bake jumbo muffins for about 25-28 minutes, or until muffins don't retain a dent when you press them lightly.  With so much chocolate going on, a toothpick test doesn't really work here.  For regular muffins, decrease time a bit, maybe 22-25 minutes depending on your oven.  Cool on a wire rack before serving.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oh Goody!

This carrot cake is chock full of "goodies": carrots, walnuts, golden raisins, coconut, AND pineapple!  Is cramming so much tastiness into one Bundt theoretically possible?  Folks, I think Gale Gand actually rewrote the laws of physics when she created this carrot cake recipe--it's that good.  Please take a moment of silence to marvel at her genius.

Done?  Good.  When you're finished here be sure to check out The Food Librarian's blog for more tasty Bundt cake recipes.  In honor of National Bundt Day (November 15th--who knew??), she is running a series called "I Like Big Bundts" (Sir Mix-a-Lot, anyone?): 30 Days of Bundt Cakes.  Neat!

Recipe: Spiced Walnut Carrot Cake with Pineapple by Gale Gand, courtesy of the Food Network.

I read online reviews of this recipe before making it, and here is a (paraphrased) sampling of what I've seen. (And my response):

"Ohmygosh this cake totally tastes like walnuts! There's like a walnut in every bite.  I can't eat it!"  (Um...not only is "walnut" in the recipe title, it's also the SECOND word.  Of course the cake will be full of walnuts, what didya expect?)

"I hate pineapple (or coconut or raisins).  So gross!  I rate this recipe 0 out of 5 stars."  (Again, pineapple is in the name.  Read the recipe first, and if you don't like an ingredient, swap it out.  Or make something else.  Simple.)

"I made this, but used X instead of Y, Z instead of B, decreased C, increased A, and left out D.  It was terrible!  What a waste of ingredients.  Would not recommend this recipe to anyone."  (Sounds like you've made so many changes, you've got yourself a whole new recipe. No wonder it didn't work out so well.  Don't blame Gale Gand, because you didn't actually make her recipe now, did you?)

My take?  This cake is wonderful--moist, spicy but not overwhelming, and full of the sweet, good things I happen to like.  Frosting not required.  Which is a good thing because now we can have it for breakfast.  Win!

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Girl, Paula: Crispy Rice Candy Corn Treats

This week's My Girl, Paula! dish is Crispy Rice Candy Corn Treats, which takes your standard cereal treat to the next level with the addition of chopped candy corn.  It's a fun idea, but I don't know of many candy corn fans (besides me, in my pre-braces days) at my workplace.  Instead, I layered different colors of cereal treats to resemble candy corn stripes.  Each layer is a different flavor too, for added fun!  To get the tall cubes, you'll have to make 2 batches...but there are 3 layers so each batch will need to be your normal batch.  Don't worry, I did the math for you! 

Candy Corn Layered Cereal Treats
Makes about 60 cubes, depending on size

6 Tbl. butter, divided
21 oz. (two 10.5 oz bags) miniature marshmallows, divided
12 cups crisp rice cereal, divided
¾ tsp. salt, divided
½ tsp. lemon extract
½ tsp. orange extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
yellow gel food color
orange gel food color

Line a 9x13-inch pan with a parchment or waxed paper sling, leaving some overhang.  Spray lightly with non-stick spray.

Yellow layer: In a large pan over low heat, melt 2 Tbl. butter.  Add 7 oz. (about 4cups) marshmallows and stir to melt.  Once marshmallows have melted, add ¼ tsp. salt, lemon extract, and yellow food coloring.  (You will need more coloring than you think, because once the cereal is added the color will be muted slightly.)  Add 4 cups rice cereal to the colored/flavored marshmallow mixture and stir well to combine.  Press evenly into bottom of prepared pan. 

Orange layer: Repeat as for yellow layer, but using orange extract and orange food coloring.  Press evenly on top of yellow layer, pressing carefully to even out.

White layer: Repeat as for yellow layer, but add vanilla extract and leaving marshmallows white.  Press evenly on top of orange layer. 

When cool, remove cereal treats from pan by lifting up the paper sling.  Place on cutting board.  Carefully peel paper away from sides.  Slice through cereal treats with a large, sharp knife (I used a chef's knife), trying to keep the shape small and cube-like.  Serve and enjoy! ♥

Visit the My Girl, Paula! blog and check out the other members.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Make Mine PINK, Please

A big pumpkin cake certainly has a way of grabbing your attention.  When said cake is also PINK, the effect is greatly amplified.  People wonder why in the world you'd make pink pumpkin--did you run out of orange?  Was there a baby shower?  And then you tell them.  And their expression changes from one of confusion to one of love and understanding as they think about their mother, sister, friend, or daughter...for there are few among us whose lives have not been touched in some way by breast cancer.

As we all know by now, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  What better way to spread awareness and honor those who've been affected by breast cancer than to host a baking challenge?   The lovely and talented Jen over at Beantown Baker is hosting "The Power of Pink Challenge" with the challenge to make something pink.  Simple, but powerful.  With so many wonderful sites having high readership out there in the 'blogosphere,' there's no doubt this challenge will promote awareness to many, many people.

I've been wanting to make a pumpkin-shaped cake for some time now, and this challenge provided me the perfect opportunity (excuse?) to make a colossal cake.  Two birds, one stone, right?  Sized to feed a crowd, this pumpkin shaped pumpkin spice cake is a snap to put together.  It's the perfect centerpiece for your next autumn, Halloween, or Thanksgiving party.  Or make it pink and throw an awareness party!  If you're lucky enough to be the owner of two Bundt pans (or are able to borrow one from a fellow baker, like I did), preparation is even quicker!  Let's gather our ingredients:

I used a spice cake mix for the base, but since I like my spicy things extra spicy I added some additional cinnamon and ginger.  The recipe can be found at the end of this post.  You can use a yellow or chocolate cake mix (leave out the spices) as well.  When you use a chocolate base, you can't even tell the pumpkin is in there.  Stealthy way to get your kids (or people who think they hate pumpkin because all they've ever had was really bad pumpkin pie) to eat more pumpkin! 

Here's the batter, ready to go into the oven:

And fresh out of the oven:

When the cakes have cooled, gather ingredients and make the cream cheese frosting (recipe at bottom of post).

Turn one cake upside down (flat-side up) and place on serving plate.  If your flat side is in need of leveling, do so now.  Check the other one too, since they will be lying on top of each other.  Flat + flat = sturdy cake.  Dome + dome = sliding disaster waiting to happen.

(Notice that I've changed serving plates and switched out which cake will serve as the bottom because of size differences.) Top with frosting (about ½ cup), then the second cake, flat side down.  See that big hole on top? 

Plug it with a cupcake!  Then frost the outside of the cake.  Don't worry about getting it too smooth at first.  Just get it all on the cake first (yes, use all the frosting!), then you can pretty it up.

Place a brown or green ice cream cone on top of the cupcake to serve as a stem.  Done! 

Don't have a colored ice cream cone?  Cover a regular one with colored icing.  Or use a swiss roll.  Or a Twinkie®.  Have fun!

Pumpkin Spice Cake (adapted from Chocolate from the Cake Mix Doctor)
Makes 2 Bundt cakes, which will assembled into 1 large cake

2 boxes spice cake mix
4 tsp. baking soda**
4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
two 15 oz. cans (1 ¾ cups each) pumpkin
½ cup water
4 eggs

**The baking soda is supposed to keep it light and help with rising.  I ate one of the cupcakes the same night I baked the cakes and could totally taste the baking soda!  There was definitely something funky going on.  BUT...the next day, when I leveled the cake and munched on the scraps, the weird taste was totally gone!  Maybe it was my imagination...

Preheat oven to 325°F.  Grease and flour two 12-cup Bundt pans (and two wells of a muffin pan, optional.  I reserved two scoops of batter to make a cupcake that can be used to plug the hole on the top cake when assembling.  This will allow the ice cream cone "stem" to stand a little taller.  The other cupcake is a treat for the cook!)

Place all ingredients in a large mixer bowl and blend on low speed for 30 seconds.  Stop mixer and scrape down sides of bowl.  Increase speed to medium and continue beating for 2 minutes.  The batter will be very thick.  Spoon some batter into two muffin cups (if using), and divide the rest into the prepared Bundt pans.  Smooth surface with spatula. 

Bake at 325°F for 42-45 minutes, or until cakes test done (cupcakes will need only about 18 minutes or so).  Cool for 15 minutes in pan, then invert onto a foil-lined wire rack to finish cooling before assembly and frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 cup butter, softened
6 cups powdered sugar, sifted if lumpy
2 tsp. vanilla extract
seeds from 1 vanilla bean (optional-adds flavor and fun specks)
pink gel food coloring
2 Tbl. milk
8 oz. cream cheese, cold

In a mixer bowl, beat butter until creamy.  Add two cups of powdered sugar and beat until combined.  Add vanilla extract, vanilla bean seeds, and food coloring.  Stir briefly to combine, then continue adding powdered sugar, one cup at a time.  Beat well after each addition of powdered sugar to incorporate, and scrape down bowl as needed.  Add 2 Tbl. milk and stir to combine.  Cut cream cheese into 8 cubes and add to frosting.  Beat until cream cheese is incorporated and icing is fluffy. 

Monday, October 12, 2009

My Girl, Paula: Mini Mummies

Pigs in a Blanket are pretty high on my list of all-time favorite school lunches.  No matter which school I've eaten them in (there have been four), they always seem to taste oh so good.  So much better than regular ol' hot dogs in buns, right?  It goes without saying that I eagerly awaited making this week's My Girl, Paula! recipe:  Mini Mummies.  Their smaller size makes them perfect for your Halloween party spread, and the universal appeal of pigs in a blanket guarantees they'll be a hit!

As much as I liked these pie crust-encrusted mini mummies, I think I still prefer a traditional soft bread covering or even a cresent roll wrap.  I didn't think 10 minutes in a 350°F oven was hot enough/long enough to cook the pie crust, so I put them back in the oven for 10 more minutes.  Try them and see what you think!  Find the recipe here, then visit the My Girl, Paula! blog to check out the other members.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Feeling (and Sharing!) the Love!

I could hardly believe my eyes.  A few days ago I received my very first blog award, from Xiaolu of 6 Bittersweets!  She is also the winner of September's Cupcake Hero event, and not by popular vote might I add.  She won through TASTE, which is ultimately more impressive than merely a picture and a blurb.  I am honored ♥ Here it is, my "One Lovely Blog Award"  :)

Of course, one cannot receive the "One Lovely Blog Award" and tuck it away for safekeeping.  Oh no sir, you've got to pass it on. 

Here are the rules of the "One Lovely Blog Award":
Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his or her blog link. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered (I chose some new, some I've been reading for a while). Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

It was unbelieveably difficult to narrow the field down to ONLY 15!  I read so many on a daily basis, and there are so many to choose from.  It took me a few days, but I think I've got my list down.  Most of them are baking related, others focus on family-style meals, and I even threw in two non-food related blogs for good measure.  Please take a while (you might need a few hours!) to visit these talented and creative ladies:
  1. A Great Full Day - Beautiful, inspiring, sweet, and feminine.  Looking for something pretty and uplifting to brighten your day? Come here to get your fix.
  2. Alwayz Bakin' - Host of the "My Girl, Paula!" group, this lady is a true Paula Deen fan and can really cook.  And she sews, too!
  3. Bake at 350 - Gorgeous cookies with instructions on how she did them.  Tutorials too. How awesome is that? Bridget also hosts the "Flavor-of-the-Month" group.
  4. Big Red Kitchen - I've been reading this one for a while now.  Family-friendly recipes, entertaining ideas, and occasionally her mom posts too!  Gotta love that!
  5. Cookies and Cups - Come here to browse cookies and/or place an order.  Custom sugar cookies and cupcakes, sent to your door--what more could you want?
  6. Culinary Concoctions by Peabody - The tagline says it all: "Gaining weight, one pastry at a time."  Come for the stories, stay for the recipes.  Prepare to drool.
  7. Fahrenheit 350° - Currently running the "Sisters that Spook" Halloween series, but there are plenty of great photos and recipes throughout the year!
  8. Kevin & Amanda - Fonts galore!  A true scrapbooker's heaven and handwriting font lover's paradise.  Free downloads--how generous!  Also has a recipe section.
  9. Konichiwa Kupcakes and Tasty Tidbits - I discovered this blog through the "Cupcake Hero" event, when her use of pandan flavoring caught my eye.  If you're looking to try new and exciting flavors, this is your place.
  10. Mommy's Kitchen - Any busy moms out there?  Singles? Newlyweds? Empty-nesters? Everyone will love this site. Come here for fantastic, family-friendly recipes.  She's also a "Velveeta Kitchenista."
  11. Our Best Bites - Run by two friends, this visually appealing blog is full of recipes, tips, and tutorials.  Sometimes I come just to look at the pictures!
  12. Southern Plate - This lady makes me proud to live in the South.  The stories are heartwarming, and the recipes are easy and delicious.  She cooks like we all do here in the South--no fancy-pants ingredients or hard to pronounce recipe names here, just honest-to-goodness down-home cooking. She's another "Velveeta Kitchenista."
  13. Stirring the Pot - I discovered this blog through the "My Girl, Paula!" group.  Her blog title comes from Stirring the Pot by Tyler Florence, which she is currently cooking her way through.
  14. Sweetopia - Adorable blog full of sugar cookies, tutorials, and more sweetness than you can handle.  Brace yourself for the cuteness.
  15. The Busty Baker - Recipes and great stories with tons of personality.  I'd like to think that the two of us are quite alike...well except for the "busty" part!  :D

Pumpkin for Dinner? Why Not!

Good news, folks!  Pumpkin can now be found on more and more store shelves.  While I haven't seen it yet in two of the stores I frequent most often, mega giant Wal-Mart now has plenty in stock.  Let's celebrate with another pumpkin meal, k?  It took a while to find a recipe online that didn't utilize sweet spices (cinnamon, ginger, cloves, etc.) alongside the pumpkin in a savory sauce.  Don't get me wrong, I love pumpkin & spice...just not in my dinner.  This is another one of those sneaky dishes you can feed to your unsuspecting pumpkin or veggie haters.  It's a creamy, savory meatless meal with a touch of warmth--and not at all pumpkin pie-like.

(Flour, oil, and spices not pictured)

Spinach Tortellini with Mushrooms & Pumpkin Sauce
Serves 6.  Original recipe here.

12 oz. package dried spinach tortellini
1 Tbl. extra virgin olive oil
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
4 green onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbl. flour
12 oz. can evaporated milk
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
cayenne pepper, to taste
1 cup pumpkin

Cook tortellini in boiling salted water according to package directions.  While tortellini is cooking, prepare pumpkin sauce.

In a skillet, heat olive oil and sautee mushrooms until golden, about 5 minutes.  When mushrooms have finished releasing their liquid, add green onions and garlic to pan.  Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. 

Combine flour, evaporated milk, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a measuring cup, stirring until smooth.  Add to saucepan and stir.  Bring to a boil, and cook until thickened, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to low and stir in pumpkin, allowing it to heat through.  Toss finished sauce with cooked tortellini and serve.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Spicy Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce

Oh, Martha.  You've really done it this time.  Or maybe your legions of staff members are to blame.  Whatever the case, these enchiladas are ah-maz-ing.  Swapping out the traditional red sauce with a savory pumpkin sauce is both unexpected and delicious.  And nutritious.  If you ignore all the cheese.  Behold:

(fun with Photoshop®)

The recipe was originally published in Everyday Food, but may now be found on Martha's site here.  I cut the recipe in half, using a leftover rotisserie chicken and monterey jack cheese instead of white cheddar.  Next time I might use either more jalapeno or pepper jack cheese (or both), since the enchiladas weren't as spicy as I had hoped.  A look inside:

My enchiladas lost all structural integrity once baked, making it especially difficult to serve in one piece.  The corn tortillas I purchased were rather thin, and I ignored my initial idea to double up on the tortillas while rolling them up.  They "became one" with the pumpkin sauce, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing--just unlike the solid restaurant enchiladas I'm used to.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cupcake Hero::October [Pumpkin/Halloween]

When both Cupcake Hero and Flavor-of-the-Month announced the theme of "Pumpkin" for October, I promptly headed to the store so I could begin experimenting.  Despite reports of a canned pumpkin shortage, I was able to procure hoard a nice stock for my pantry. (A cold, rainy growing season produced smaller crop yields, making it difficult for consumers in some parts of the country to find canned pumpkin on store shelves. Believe me, it wasn't easy to find those few precious cans!)  It's hard to believe, but until 2005 I can't remember liking or even eating anything pumpkin!  Now?  I've got two pumpkin-stained silicone spatulas to prove otherwise.

My Cupcake Hero entry for this month is: 

Peeptastic Pumpkin-Bottom Cupcakes with Cinnamon Chip Glaze

Like their more famous Black-Bottom Cupcake cousins, these pumpkin cupcakes hold a sweet surprise:  a cheesecakey center!  The pumpkin cupcake base comes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World--the same one I used for Pumpkin Chip Cupcakes, minus the chips.  A bit of pumpkin pie spice added to the cake served as a perfect foil for the cream cheese filling, kept ethereally light by using only the whites of the egg.  It's finished off with a cinnamon chip glaze and Halloween candy decorations. Pumpkin, cream cheese, cinnamon, and marshmallow--how can that possibly be anything but delicious?!?! Here's a peek inside:

Ready to make some of your own?  The Halloween Peeps® can be found pretty much everywhere, but the cinnamon chips and puffy candy corn might be a little harder to find.  I got everything at Super Target.

Peeptastic Pumpkin-Bottom Cupcakes with Cinnamon Chip Glaze
Makes 12.  Adapted from VCTOTW (cake part)

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 Tbl. sugar
1 egg white

1 cup canned pumpkin
 cup oil
1 cup sugar
¼ cup soy milk (I used 2% milk)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
¼ tsp. salt

⅔ cup cinnamon chips
1 ½ tsp. shortening

Prepare filling:  In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, 2 Tbl. sugar, and egg white until smooth.  Place large piece of plastic wrap on counter.  Pour filling onto plastic wrap, and form a log by wrapping up the filling in the plastic wrap and twisting the ends.  Place on a plate and freeze for approx. 30 minutes or until firm enough to slice.  (The log might flatten out to a rectangular shape, that's okay.)

When 30 minutes are almost up, preheat oven to 350°F.  Place paper baking cups in 12-cup muffin pan.  In a medium bowl, whisk pumpkin, oil, sugar, milk, and vanilla together by hand.  Sift in flour, baking soda, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, and salt.  Stir to combine with a spatula, taking care not to overwork the batter.  Batter will be quite thick.  Portion into 12 muffin cups using an ice cream scoop.

Remove cheese filling from freezer and unwrap.  Cut into 12 blocks.  Place one filling block in the center of each cup, pressing down until the top of the block is even with the top of the batter.  Don't press them all the way down; there should still be white peeking through.  Bake in preheated oven for 23-26 minutes.  Transefer to rack and let cool before glazing and decorating.

While cupcakes are cooling, prepare for decorating:  As much as I know you want to, don't pull the Peeps® apart by hand!  The edges will be raggedy and it might distort the shape somewhat so separate them with a sharp knife.  You will also need to trim the bottoms of the cats and ghosts to give them a flat surface to stand on.

For the glaze, place cinnamon chips and shortening in a microwave-safe bowl.  Heat on HIGH for 30 seconds.  Stir well.  If chips have not melted, microwave for another 5 to 10 seconds and stir again.  Apply glaze using an offset spatula, and press a Peep® and puffy candy corn on immediately.  The glaze sets quite quickly, so if it starts to harden in the bowl before ou're finished decorating all the cupcakes, throw it back in the microwave for a few seconds.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Because a Cupcake Without Frosting is Just a Muffin

Let's just call these 'muffins' so no one will point and stare when we have them for breakfast, shall we?  Tender, sweet, and oh-so-moist, you'd never guess the beautifully orange cupcake base is made from a vegan recipe.  Mine weren't 100% vegan though, because I used regular mini chocolate chips instead of vegan chips.  (I am not a vegan, but I sometimes choose vegan cupcake recipes for their ease of preparation.)  Find the recipe for these cupcakes in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

Pumpkin fan?  Stay tuned all this month for more recipes featuring fall's favorite flavor!