Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween Cupcakes for Co-workers

The holidays are upon us!  And what better way to kick them off than with a treat to co-workers?!  Having baked goods around the house is always a little dangerous in our home.  We really don't need to have them lying around as snacks or food to pick at {not very healthy}.  But, what does one do when she loves to bake???  Bring the goodies to work!

Halloween is such a fun time for baked goods.  Sugar cookies, orange color frosting, snickers bars (my favorite), and to add to the list, almond-hazelnut cupcakes with dark chocolate frosting!  Yum.  


I was perusing Martha Stewart's web-site the other day (this is kind of becoming a way to pass the time for me), when I came across this cupcake recipe.  They immediately caught my attention because of their color, and I thought they would be perfect for Halloween.  I had also just purchased this great little cupcake set (see wrappers and toppers above) from Sur la Table and needed to use them before the holiday passed.

On another note - Blake and I are off the spend Halloween on the Washington coast.  He found this great little house to stay in and we're going to go mushroom foraging!!!  That is, if the weather doesn't decide to rain all weekend.  Wish us luck and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

{Recipe} Almond-Hazelnut Cupcakes (from
Yield: Makes 16

   * 1/2 cup whole unblanched almonds, toasted
   * 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
   * 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
   * 3/4 cup cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
   * 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
   * 1/4 teaspoon salt
   * 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
   * 1/4 cup granulated sugar
   * 1/2 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
   * 3/4 cup milk
   * 4 large egg whites
   * Dark Chocolate Frosting (see recipe below)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. In a food processor, pulse together almonds and hazelnuts until finely ground (do not overprocess, or the nuts will turn into a paste). Into a mixing bowl, sift together both flours, baking powder, and salt. Whisk in the ground nuts.  
  2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and both sugars until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating well after each.
  3. In another mixing bowl, with electric mixer on medium speed, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. In two additions, gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
  4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored up to 3 days at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
  5. Using an offset spatula, spread frosting over each cupcake. Cupcakes can be refrigerated up to 3 days in airtight containers; bring to room temperature and top with caramel-dipped hazelnuts just before serving.

{Recipe} Dark Chocolate Frosting
Makes about 5 cups


   *1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
   * 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon boiling water
   * 2 1/4 cups (4 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
   * 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
   * 1/4 teaspoon salt
   * 1 1/2 pounds best-quality semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  1. Combine cocoa and the boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, confectioners' sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add melted and cooled chocolate, beating until combined and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the cocoa mixture. If not using immediately, frosting can be refrigerated up to 5 days, or frozen up to 1 month, in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth again.



Friday, October 22, 2010

Pumpkin Pancakes and Halloween Flashbacks

My first adventure cooking with pumpkins.

I actually had a lot of fun making these pancakes.  I haven't carved or hollowed out a pumpkin in years, and having to do just that brought me back to when I was a little kid.  It also made me think about costumes and trick-or-treating.  Do you remember how much fun it use to be to try and decide what you were going to be for Halloween?  Am I going to be a princess?  A soccer ball? Minnie Mouse? A peacock???  (I was actually all of those, but not in the same year of course.) 

My mom was truly amazing when it came to Halloween (and everything else for that matter, especially in my eyes).   She actually hand-made almost every single costume I ever wore!  Haha.  If I can track down some pictures I will definitely post them on here.  I know I'll never be the one to make my children their costume's, but I'm sure their grandma would jump at the chance. ;)   Right mom?

Pumpkin Pancakes
(adapted from Martha Stewart's Best Buttermilk Pancakes)


   * 2 small cooking pumpkins
   * 1 1/2 cup sugar
   * 2 cups all-purpose flour
   * 2 tsp baking powder
   * 1 tsp baking soda
   * 1/2 t
   * 1/2 teaspoon salt
   * 3 tablespoons sugar
   * 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
   * 3 1/4 cups buttermilk
   * 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 1/2 teaspoon for griddle
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut pumpkins in half and remove insides.  Cut off skin and cube the pumpkin "meat".
  3. Put pumpkin on baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove baking sheets from over and allow pumpkin to cool.  
  4. Add pumpkin and 1 1/2 cup sugar into a food processor and blend.  Add 1/4 cup buttermilk as needed to smooth out mixture.
  5. Heat griddle to 375 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, 1 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree, and 4 tablespoons butter; whisk to combine. Batter should have small to medium lumps.
  6.  Test griddle by sprinkling a few drops of water on it. If water bounces and spatters off griddle, it is hot enough. Using a pastry brush, brush remaining 1/2 teaspoon of butter or reserved bacon fat onto griddle. Wipe off excess.
  7. Using a 4-ounce ladle, about 1/2 cup, pour pancake batter, in pools 2 inches away from one other. When pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around edges, about 2 1/2 minutes, flip over. Cook until golden on bottom, about 1 minute.
  8. Repeat with remaining batter, keeping finished pancakes on a heatproof plate in oven. Serve warm.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Nutty Granola

Breakfast parfaits may be one of my all time favorite breakfast dishes.  They are so simple, yet so delicious.  I made these over the weekend because for some unknown reason to man, Seattle has had the most beautiful Fall of any that I can remember, and parfaits to me are a sunny weather breakfast.  :)

And when I say a beautiful Fall, I mean that we have had bright blue skies almost every single day (which is very unusual for Seattle)!!!

I'm going to have to admit that I think breakfast may be my favorite weekend meal.  I love it because it's a chance to actually RELAX and ENJOY your morning.  You can lie in bed, sip coffee with your sweetie, spend time in the kitchen, and really use the time to decompress from the week.  You don't have the stress of making it out of the door on time, wondering if you'll have time to grab a coffee before your first meeting, or just generally worrying about your to-do list for the day.  I'm starting to relax just thinking about it now. :)

This recipe is extremely simple and takes hardly any time at all to make.  It also turns into a great snack to have around your house (or bring into the office).  Maybe I'll even make some and put it in a gift bag, what a great gift {idea}!!

{Recipe} Nutty Granola
   * 3 cups oats
   * 1 tsp cinnamon
   * 1 1/4 cup maple syrup
   * 1/2 cup pistachios
   * 2/3 cup macadamia nuts

1.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.) In a large mixing bowl combine oats, cinnamon and maple syrup.   Mix well to coat oats with maple syrup.

3.) Pour oats mixture onto two baking sheets and flatten out.  Place into the oven.  After 15 minutes, remove baking sheets from the oven and stir around oats so that most of the granola flips over and bake for another 10 min.

4.) Remove baking sheets from the oven and let cool.  Pour granola into a large plastic bag with pistachios and macadamia nuts and shake (well) to combine.   

You can eat this as cereal, with your yogurt, or anything else you may want to try!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Family Time, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and a Chocolate Chip Cookie in a Skillet

The last week or so has really had a lot of family time and it's been a ton of fun.  My mom came over and brought Blake and I dinner and my little niece along with her to visit.  I'm pretty sure she is the most adorable little girl I've ever seen, especially when she's walking our dogs.  :)

We went and played at the playground together that evening and it really made me think how precious the time spend with our family really is.  Watching a toddler grow up is an amazing thing, their verbal progression to their coordination exponentially grows each time you see them.  It's just such a fun and exciting thing to be a part of!!!
{I have no idea how i got a picture before the ice cream started melting 
considering this was fresh out of the oven!}

I didn't actually make this dessert that same night, but I thought nothing much goes better with a little girl than a sweet chocolate chip cookie.  Blake had been wanting chocolate chip cookies for a few days, so when he said his sister and her husband were coming over for dinner I figured it was the perfect opportunity to make him some.  Although, I did deviate from his desires and put the batter into a skillet and cooked it.  OH MY GOSH!  I've had the skillet cookies before at restaurants and they're always wonderful, but having one at home was the best!  I topped it with some homemade vanilla bean ice cream and the four of us completely polished off the dessert!  (And I'm pretty sure he was happy that I changed up his idea for chocolate chip cookies ever so slightly.)  ;)

{Recipe} Chocolate Chip Cookie
Yield: Two 9in. skillet cookies
   * 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
   * 1/2 cup sugar
   * 1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
   * 2 eggs
   * 2 tsp vanilla
   * 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
   * 1 tsp coarse sea salt (or Kosher salt)
   * 1 tsp baking soda
   * 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
   * 2 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli)

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.) Cream butter, sugar and brown sugar until it is nice and fluffy (about 5 minutes).  Do not skimp on the time here, you want the mixture to be very light in color.

3.) Add eggs and vanilla to sugar mixture and beat for an additional 3 minutes.

4.) Add baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour (slowly) until all ingredients except for chocolate chips are fully mixed together.

5.) Fold in chocolate chips and stir until evenly distributed.

6.) Add half of batter into a greased (with butter, Pam, or Crisco) 9 inch skillet and place in the oven for 13 min.  Stick a toothpick into the center, if it comes out clean the cookie is done.  (I left mine the tiniest bit gooey on the inside so the cookie didn't have a chance to dry out, plus it is just more fun to eat it that way).  :)

{Recipe} Vanilla-Bean Ice Cream (recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse courtesy of
Yield: About 1 quart ice cream
   * 4 cups half & half (I substituted non-fat half & half to make it a little healthier)
   * 1 cup sugar
   * 1/2 vanilla bean, split in half and scraped
   * 6 egg yolks

1.) In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the hand & half, sugar, and vanilla bean with pulp.  Bring to simmer.

2.) In a small mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth.   Add 1 cup of the hot liquid to the egg yolks and whisk until smooth.

3.) Add the yolk mixture to the saucepan of liquid and whisk until incorporated.  Bring the liquid back to a simmer and continue to cook for 4 to 6 minutes or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.

4.) Pour the mixture into a glass bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the mixture to prevent a skin from forming while cooling.  Cool the mixture completely.

5.) Process the mixture according to your ice cream machines instructions.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

For a Good Friend: Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

A good friend of ours recently had his birthday.  I have heard him say on multiple occasions that he hates cake, but I still wanted to make him something for his birthday.  Over football Sunday (one of the many) he told me that his favorite dessert is Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie.  Well, that wasn’t too hard to figure out!  And strawberry rhubarb pie is was he got. 

Blake and I went down to the Pike Place Market the day before his birthday to pick up some fresh local strawberries and make a run through Sur-la-Table.  I was not going to skimp on this pie.  The market was a fun little trip and we were able to pick up some of the last fresh flowers of the season (you really can’t beat the flowers that are available at our market).

This was my first attempt at pie crust..  After reading horror stories on-line about so many failed attempts and {literally} tears shed over ruined crusts, I was a little intimidated to try one myself.  Lucky for me I knew our friend wouldn’t give me too hard of a time if I screwed up (which I did, on the filling).

All was going well, the crust rolled out nicely and fit into the pan almost perfectly, our kitchen wasn’t a total disaster and the pie was starting to fill our house with the beautiful smell of baked goods.  Then it hit me.  OH MY GOSH – I FORGOT TO ADD THE SUGAR TO THE FILLING!  I FORGOT TO ADD SUGAR TO A FRUIT PIE FILLING AND THE PIE HARD ALREADY BEEN BAKING FOR 35 MIN!!!

So I came up with an excuse when I brought the pie out to everyone. . . . since I was serving a Lemon Curd Tart as well, I didn’t want people to be on sugar overload.  And due to the fact that it was a bunch of guys eating the tart, they didn’t even mind that it wasn’t very sweet, they preferred more savory food.   AND THEN, the birthday boy told me loved it and ate almost a third of the pie!!  Hahaha, I was off the hook and they didn’t even know I had messed up!  Lucky me!

So here is the recipe for the Strawberry Rhubarb pie.  I found it on and it had been submitted by Valerie Enters.  I followed is almost exactly (see story above for the embarrassing details) and it still turned out great.  I even liked it and I have an ENORMOUS sweet tooth.

{RECIPE} Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
Yields: 9” pie
   * 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional flour as needed
   * ½ cup cake flour (recommended: Soft as Silk)
   * 3 tsp. sifted powdered sugar
   * ½ cup butter flavored shortening (recommended: Crisco)
   * 1/4 cup salted butter
   * Pinch of salt
   * 1 egg
   * 2 tblsp vinegar
   * ¼ cup ice cold water

   * 2 ½ cups chopped red rhubarb, fresh
   * 2 ½ cups de-stemmed and cut strawberries (large pieces)
   * 1 ½ cup sugar
   * 2 tblsp minute tapioca
   * 1 tblsp all-purpose flour
   * ½ tsp lemon zest
   * ½ tsp lemon juice
   * 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
   * 2 tblsp butter, cubed small
   * 1 egg white beaten with 1 tsp water

Crust Preparation
1.)  Using a pastry blender (or kitchen aid/ mixture), blend the flours, sugar, shortening, butter, and salt.  Blend until the mixture becomes chunky.

2.) Whisk the egg, vinegar and water in a 2-cup measure and pour over the dry ingredients, incorporating all of the ingredients without overworking the dough.  Toss a tiny but of additional flour over the ball of dough and wrap and chill, if possible.  Divide the dough into 2 disks.  Roll out 1 piece of dough to a a bottom crust.  Place into pie dish and let refrigerate (preferably overnight).

3.) When ready to cook, preheat oven to 375 degrees.  You can use the other round disk to make a solid top for the pie, or checkerboard strips like I did.

Filling Preparation
1.)  Mix the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, tapioca, flour, zest and juice from lemon, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Once all ingredients are well mixed, pour into chilled crust.  Dot the top of the filling with little pieces of the butter.  Brush edges of pie crust with egg white wash.  

2.) Roll out the other pie crust (or roll and cut it) and place over filling.  Crimp to seal edges.  Brush the egg white wash over the top of the pie crust.  Collar tin with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 45 – 50 minutes, or until the filling starts bubbling.  Let cool before serving.

**I topped my pie with sifted powdered sugar (to try and make up for the lack of sugar) which you can do as well for decoration**

For A Good Friend: Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie on Foodista

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lemon Curd Tart with Raspberries and Fresh Picked Huckleberry Sauce

 {The Last Few Days of Summer}

I’m sitting on a plane right now on my way to San Jose for work.  I actually really enjoy flying, and this is a great time for me to catch up on some blog posts.  I think this is actually the first time I’ve had a chance to really be relaxed while writing a post (usually work is calling my name or I’m about to fall asleep in my bed).  

 {One man's trash can make a beautiful picture}

Last weekend Blake and I spent Saturday with his family.  We all drove up to Snoqualmie Pass (pronounced snow-qwall-me for those of you not from Washington State) to go huckleberry picking together.  The drive up to the mountains was beautiful – the trees were just starting to change colors for Fall.  We took a turn off of the highway and then followed a dirt road for about 3 miles up to the top of the mountain.   We got out (I put my rain boots on), let the Yorkies out of the car and set out to find some huckleberries.
Well, unfortunately for us we were about 2 ½ to 3 weeks too late for the berries.  The season had JUST ended.  L  There were 5 of us hunting and we ended up with only a cup and a half of huckleberries!!!  We finally threw in the towel and decided to have some lunch.

{Our "hidden" lake}

Blake’s dad suggested we go to a nearby lake for lunch which was absolutely gorgeous.  The camping area had already closed down for the season so we had to walk a little ways to get to the lake.  We sat down and had some baguette sandwiches and truffle deviled eggs and let the dogs run free and swim in the lake.  If you’ve never seen a wet Yorkie it’s pretty hilarious – they end up looking like little rat dogs.  
Somehow I was the lucky one who ended up with our cup and a half of huckleberries (which I wasn’t expecting since Blake’s sister and dad both love to cook).  It wasn’t too hard to figure out what I wanted to make.  I remembered seeing an image of a lemon curd tart with a berry swirl on top and I knew I was going to do the same.

Our day up in the mountains and at the lake was one of the most relaxing days I’ve had in a long time.  It was so nice to get out of the city and up into the fresh air while it was still warm out, and also be able to enjoy the beautiful Pacific Northwest.   I can’t wait for huckleberry season to come again next year, but this time I’ll make sure to put it on everyone’s calendars for the end of August not September.

{RECIPE} Lemon Curd Tart with Huckleberry Sauce
Yield: 6”in pie (3-4 people)
   * 1 tblsp fresh lemon zest
   * 1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
   * 1 1/3 cup sugar
   * 4 large eggs
   * 3/4 cup plus 2 tblsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2” pieces 
   *1/3 cup sugar
   * 1/3 cup water
   * 3/4 cup huckleberries
   * 1 tblsp corn starch

Lemon Curd
1.)  In a medium size sauce pan over medium-low heat, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and eggs. 

2.) Once sugar has dissolved, reduce heat to low and add the butter.  Whisk continuously until all butter has dissolved (10-15 minutes).  Curd will become thick while you’re whisking and you will know it is done once you can see traces of your whisk in the curd.

3.) Remove curd from heat and pour through a fine sieve into a bowl.  Curd can be used immediately or covered and stored in the fridge for about a week.

Huckleberry Sauce

1.) In a shallow pan, add water and sugar over medium heat.  Stir mixture until sugar has dissolved (thus creating a simple syrup). 

2.) Add huckleberries to the simple syrup, stirring occasionally.  Once berries start to burst, use a potato masher to mash the rest of the berries to get all of the juice out..

3.) Once the berries have been mashed, pour sauce through a fine sieve (to get rid of the skin and seeds).  Mix corn starch with 1/4 tblsp warm water and mix until corn starch is dissolved.  Add sauce back into sauce pan along with the corn starch to thicken.  Stir until sauce is combined and thick enough to spread (about 5 minutes). 

4.)  Pour sauce slowly over lemon curd.  Using a butter knife, swirl sauce.

Huckleberry sauce can also be stored for up to 3 days.

Lemon Curd Tart With Raspberries and Fresh Picked Huckleberry Sa on Foodista

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rice Pudding with Candied Butternut Squash and Toasted Walnuts

After making apple-butternut squash soup this week, I had about half of a squash left over.  I had already made roasted squash and squash soup, so I decided it was time for a little dessert.  I have actually never had rice pudding before, so I have absolutely no idea how I decided that's what I was going to make.  Poor Blake was my taste tester for this one, but luckily he said the flavors turned out great (with the exception of slightly overcooking the pudding - luckily we found an easy fix).  

Rice pudding is something that I will be making again soon.  The richness of the cream and rice and sweetness of the candied butternut squash made me want to try this with all sorts of different kinds of fruit (caramelized apples anyone?). 

So now for the reason why I overcooked the rice pudding . . . {TOO MUCH VINO}.  Time flies when you're having fun - and especially so when you're drinking good wine.  Next time I need to make sure I set a timer instead of trusting myself to look at the clock.  Once we realized the rice pudding was overcooked we just added a tiny bit of whole milk to the pudding and all was well. :)


Rice Pudding Ingredients:
   * 1 cup arborio rice
   * 5 cups whole milk
   * 1 cup fat free half and half (may also substitute heavy cream)
   * 1/2 cup sugar
   * 4 large egg yolks
   * 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice (optional)
   * 1/4 cup toasted walnuts

Candied Butternut Squash Ingredients: (adapted from Martha Stewart)
   * 1/4 cup orange marmalade
   * 1/3 cup sugar
   * 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced, peeled
   * Pinch of ground cloves
   * 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice 
   * 1 small butternut squash, (about 1 3/4 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)

Candied Butternut Squash
1.) Combine marmalade, sugar, ginger, cloves, and lemon juice in a large pot.  Add 2 1/2 cups water and bring to boil.  Stir until the marmalade and sugar has dissolved. 

2.) Add the butternut squash to the pot and stir to combine.  Bring the mixture to simmer (NOT a boil) and partially cover with a lid.  Stir occasionally, until squash is soft when pierced with a fork (About 35 minutes).  Remove lid and continue to cook until the liquid becomes like a syrup.  Remove from heat and serve warm over the rice pudding. 

Rice Pudding:
1.) In a large pot, combine rice and whole milk and bring to a boil.  Once milk is boiling, reduce heat to medium so that the mixture is simmering.  Stir the rice occasionally so that it is all cooked evenly and does not stick to the side of the pot and burn.

2.) In a separate bowl, whisk together cream, sugar, egg yolks and pumpkin spice.  Slowly add the cream mixture to the rice mixture while stirring constantly. 

3.) Continue to stir rice occasionally for the next 15 to 20 minutes until liquid is fully absorbed by the rice.

4.) Once rice is done, ladle into ramekins and top with toasted walnuts and candied butternut squash