Sunday, December 22, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake with Cinnamon Eggnog Buttercream

During the holiday season, the house is filled with candies, cookies, cakes and more. While I am always a fan of the traditional desserts, I still like to mix things up, just a little, and create a new variation. This past week, my husband had his department Christmas party at work. When trying to decide what to make for the event, I considered brownies, cupcakes, and cookies, but I just wanted to expand my horizons a little. As I thought more about what to make, carrot cake came to mind.
My husband absolutely loves spiced cakes such as carrot cake, but is not a big fan of the rich cream cheese icing. I know, I know. Many of you are rubbing your eyes right now to make sure you read that last sentence correctly but it is true. He does not care for cream cheese icing. Imagine! Anyway, as I began to think about how I could change the recipe, I decided to make a pumpkin spice cake layered with a creamy eggnog buttercream that I developed last year. The result is delicious. Even if you do not like eggnog, you need to try this. Neither of us care for eggnog on it's own, but in this buttercream it is just a thick, vanilla flavored boost that makes this buttercream spectacular.

2 Cups Sugar
1 Cup Vegetable Oil
4 Large Eggs, Room Temperature
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Ground Ginger
2 Cups Pumpkin Puree
2 sticks Unsalted Butter, Room Temperature
6 Cups Powdered Sugar, Divided
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Eggnog
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream sugar, oil, and eggs until smooth. 
2. In a separate bowl, sift the dry ingredients and spices together.
3. Slowly add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, half a cup at a time, making sure to mix well during each addition.
4. Add the pureed pumpkin to the batter. 
5. Mix until combined.
6. Prepare three 9-inch cake pans with non-stick baking spray with flour. 
7. Evenly divide the batter into the three pans.
8. Place into a preheated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until lightly brown. You can use a toothpick to check for doneness, if you desire.
9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack for cooling. While the cakes cool, allow the butter to soften at room temperature.
10. Once the cakes are completely cool, approximately 1 hour, begin to make the buttercream icing.
11. In a large mixing bowl, beat 3 cups of powdered sugar with the remaining icing ingredients on high for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, slowly incorporate the remaining powdered sugar, whipping on high until fluffy.
12. Carefully assemble the cake. The layers are very tender so be careful when stacking. Smooth the buttercream between each layer. 
13. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour to allow the buttercream to set.
14. Prior to serving, allow to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
15. Slice and enjoy!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Chocolate Lover's Cheesecake

So I have this theory about cheesecake consumers. All connoisseurs of this classic dessert fall into one of two categories; either you enjoy your dessert with a cool, creamy texture  or you love your cheesecake with a dense, thick texture. I am personally of the cool, creamy texture found in my never fail recipe. However, while my husband is never one to complain about my cheesecake, his own personal preference leans to the drier, thick texture in the dessert. In honor of my husband and his cheesecake preference, this recipe was developed. Not only do you get the delicious texture of the cheesecake but you get to savor a rich cookie crust, semi-sweet chocolate chips and a decadent ganache topping. If you love this style of baked cheesecake and you love chocolate, then this is for you!

2 Cups Crushed Oreo Crumbs
6 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Melted
32 ounces Softened Cream Cheese
1 Cup Sugar
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
4 Eggs, Room Temperature
1 Cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips
1 Cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips
2 Tablespoons Light Corn Syrup
1/2 Cup Milk

Preheat Oven Temperature: 325 degrees
1. In a bowl, combine the Oreo crumbs and melted butter. Stir until all the crumbs are moistened.
2. Prepare a 9-inch springform pan by lining the exterior with a double layer of aluminum foil.
3. Gently press the crust mixture into the bottom of the pan. Apply some pressure to pack the cookies into a firm, even layer. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
4. In the bowl of a large mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Carefully fold in the chocolate chips.
5. Pour the filling into the cooled crust.
6. Place the foil-wrapped springform pan into a large baking dish or roasting pan. Fill the pan with boiling water until 1-inch in depth.
7. Carefully place in the preheated oven. Bake for 80-90 minutes until completely set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the counter for 30 minutes.
8. Using a very sharp knife, gently run round the inside perimeter of the springform pan to release it from the sides.
9. Place in your refrigerator to chill overnight.
10. After the overnight refrigeration, you are ready for the ganache. Simply heat 1/2 cup of milk in the microwave for 90 seconds. In a large mixing cup, add the chocolate chips and corn syrup. Pour the hot milk over the chips. Using a whisk, continuously stir until completely smooth and glossy. Pour over the top of the cheesecake, reserving some for use during plating. Return to the refrigerator for an additional hour.
11. Prior to serving, allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the outer ring of the pan.
12. Slice and enjoy!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Pieces Cookies

As you may or may not know, I am a school counselor at a high school about an hour away from my home. This weekend, I was preparing for the first annual Staff Bake Off. The money raised from this friendly competition is going towards my fund for needy children. This year alone we are sponsoring five children in need of a little Christmas cheer. While the students will never know that we purchased the gifts for them, their parents know that we are there to not only support their child's education but also make sure they have time to enjoy the magic of Christmas, no matter what their situation. Because of the wonderful people I work with, this event is definitely going to be a success.
When I was thinking about what to make, I considered making a decadent cheesecake with a chocolate cookie crust and a thick ganache. Now that will win it, I thought. However, the weather on Sunday was not very good and I was worried that we might end up not having school so I wanted to make something simple yet delicious that, if school were cancelled, I knew would get devoured right here at home. What to do? What to do? The answer, tender chocolate chip cookies with a crisp bottom and tender center complemented with miniature peanut butter pieces candies. Oh yeah! Not only are these cookies amazingly delicious, they are super simple. This basic dough recipe is my go to for any chip cookie I make. It is a never-fail. These would be perfect for Santa!!!

1/2 Cup Softened Butter
1/2 Cup Shortening
3/4 Cup Sugar
3/4 Cup Packed Light Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla
2 1/4 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Chocolate Chips
1 Cup Miniature Peanut Butter Pieces Candies
Yield: 36 cookies
1. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, shortening and sugars until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, whipping well between each. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
2. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet.
3. Add the chocolate chips and candies. Mix for 30 seconds, until combined.
4. Drop heaping tablespoon size scoops of dough onto and ungreased cookie sheet, placing at least 2 inches apart.
5. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 3-5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Spiced Pumpkin Butter Spread

So a few Christmases ago, my cousin from Georgia brought my husband and me some pumpkin butter from a local boutique. I had never eaten pumpkin butter but have grown up loving apple butter, so this could not be much different. But, pumpkin??? I waited for a while before getting around to the jar but once I did, I was hooked.
Pumpkin butter is a delicious, thick pumpkin puree cooked down with spices. Imagine spreading a homemade pumpkin pie on your biscuits or toast in the morning. Who wouldn't like that??? I have also used the pumpkin butter to make homemade oatmeal breakfast bars. DELICIOUS!
I think one of the greatest things about this recipe is that not only does it use up the pumpkins harvested during the fall, but it also could not be easier. Additionally, this simple recipe makes more than enough to put in small jars for holiday gift giving.
I hope you will give this recipe a try. You will be amazed!
10 Cups Pureed Cooked Pumpkin
2 Tablespoons Cinnamon
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Nutmeg
1 teaspoon Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 Pound Light Brown Sugar
1. Place all ingredients into a large slow cooker. Stir to combine.
2. Cover with the lid and cook on LOW for 3 hours. Stir every 30 minutes.
3. Remove the lid and continue cooking on LOW for 1 hour or until thick.
4. Allow to cool.
5. Place in airtight containers and store in the refrigerator.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pumpkin Waffles

So today we wake up to a glorious Thanksgiving morning. The sun is beginning to rise over the distant hills and surrounding tree tops. There is a heavy frost on the ground and a wonderful day awaits of feasting and being with family. Ahhh, what a day!
In preparation for today's festivities, I roasted some fresh pumpkins yesterday for delicious puree; can you say pumpkin pie???? The great thing about making your own puree is that you get so much more bang for your buck and you know that there is only one ingredient, pumpkin! In honor of the fresh pumpkin puree and the indulgence of the holiday, this morning was the perfect time for pumpkin waffles.
These waffles are a variation on my popular Lighter-Than-Air Waffles. The pumpkin replaces the melted butter, reducing the fat even more. The addition of nutmeg and ginger increases the warmth of the recipe. Although I made these for Thanksgiving morning, they are perfect for anytime.
1 1/3 Cups All-Purpose Flour
4 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
4 teaspoons Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/4 Cup Pumpkin Puree
1 3/4 Cup Whole Milk
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
2 Eggs, Separated into Yolks and Whites

Yield: 6 Large Waffles
1. Preheat your waffle iron to the setting you prefer. I like a darker, crisp waffle so I go on the darker setting. Lightly spray with non-stick cooking oil.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and spices.
3. In large measuring cup, combing pumpkin, milk, vanilla, and egg yolks.
4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until fluffy and stiff. This step is crucial for getting a light waffle!
5. Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and slowly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry. Stir to remove lumps.
 6. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the flour mixture. Make sure to FOLD into the waffle batter in order to not deflate the air from the egg whites.
7. Fill your waffle iron and cook according to manufacturer's instructions.
8. Serve hot with your choice of toppings---syrup, butter, whipped cream, fruit.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Turtle Corn

When I think about this time of year, I think about making caramel corn as a young girl. We made caramel corn at least once a year and it was always around the holidays. So, to me, caramel corn is a holiday tradition.
However, the inspiration for this recipe goes one step further. I was at work a few weeks ago and suddenly craved a candy bar, and not just any candy bar, but the one that is supposed to satisfy. You know what I mean? Well, I never got the candy bar so I wanted to make something at home to satisfy the craving. On the way home, I picked up some popcorn and cashews, knowing I had everything else at home, in order to make this delicious treat.
This recipe takes the classic caramel corn a few steps further. Not only do you have the sweet homemade caramel covering the tender popcorn, but I added salty cashews with decadent chocolate. AMAZING! So now when I have a craving, all I have to do is go to the pantry and grab a handful of this Turtle Corn to calm my salty, sweet desires. Enjoy!
2 Sticks Butter
2 Cups Light Brown Sugar, Packed
1/2 Cup Light Corn Syrup
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
6 Cups Popped Corn
3 Ounces (weight) Cashew Halves
1/3 Cup Milk Chocolate Chips

1. Melt butter, sugar, corn syrup and sea salt in a large pot over medium heat. Allow the sugar mixture to come to a gentle boil. Once the syrup begins to boil. set the kitchen timer for 5 minutes. During this time, do not stir the pot. Allow it to boil and foam on itself.
2. While the caramel is boiling, line a roasting pan or cookie sheet with wax paper. Place the popped corn on the pan. Sprinkle with cashews.
3. After 5 minutes, remove the caramel from the heat and carefully stir the baking soda into the pot.
4. Immediately pour over the popcorn and cashews. Stir to coat.
5. Place in a 200 degree preheated oven and bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
***NOTE: If you want a crisper finished product, add an additional 15 minute interval to the baking for a total of 75 minutes.***
6. After 45 minutes, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the caramel corn. Return to the oven for the final 15 minutes.
7. Remove from the oven and gently stir.
8. Pour onto another wax paper lined pan and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes.
9. Store any leftover turtle corn in an airtight container at room temperature.

Note: I made this using old fashioned popping corn on the stovetop, popping 1 cup of kernels in 1/4 cup oil. You can make it with plain microwave corn or air-popped corn as well. All that matters is that the popcorn is fresh and plain.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Game Day Chicken Skewers

So this week we continue with our theme of easy game day recipes. In an effort to continue our streak of a "No Repeat Recipe Season," this recipe was developed out of the need for something quick, easy, and, perhaps best of all, inexpensive. The great thing about this recipe is that you probably already have all of the marinade ingredients in your kitchen and the boneless chicken thighs are a very economical selection at your local grocery store. This recipe can also be doubled or even tripled for a large gathering.
4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs
1/4 Cup Low Sodium Soy Sauce
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Lime, Juiced
1/2 teaspoon Ground Ginger
4 Tablespoons Light Brown Sugar
12 Wooden Skewers

1. Place the wooden skewered in a shallow dish and cover with water. Allow to sit while preparing the remaining ingredients.
2. Lay the chicken thighs on a large cutting board. Unroll each thigh and slice lengthwise to make 3 strips.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the soy sauce, garlic, lime juice, ginger and brown sugar. Stir well.
4. Carefully thread a strip of chicken onto each soaked skewer and place in a shallow dish. Cover the chicken with the marinade. Allow to marinade for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
5. When ready to cook, place on a the skewers grill pan or hot grill over medium heat, making sure to completely coat the chicken in the marinade as it is transferred from the marinade pan. Turn frequently to prevent burning of the sugars. Cook for 10 minutes, or until cooked throughout, and deeply browned.
6. Remove from the heat and enjoy.

Note: I wrote this recipe for easy transport to the tailgating site. The skewers do get a little sticky from the marinade. If you are cooking these at home, I would marinade the strips and then place on the skewers right before cooking. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Tailgate Chili

This past weekend we had yet another tailgating opportunity with some amazing friends. Since we were going to be feeding a crowd, I needed to make something that would feed a lot of people, was easily transported, and was nice and warm for the cool autumn day. Tailgate chili was the perfect solution!
This chili recipe is very easy. You can adapt the heat level to your spiciness preference. This version is just slightly spiced, since I was feeding a lot of different people. Whether you are cooking this on the stove or in the slow cooker, this recipe is perfect.

2 Pounds 80/20 Ground Beef
1 Cup Yellow Onion, Finely Chopped
1/4 Cup Green Pepper, Finely Chopped
6 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
2 teaspoons Oregano
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
2 teaspoons Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 Tablespoon Salt
2 Cans (15.5 ounces each) Dark Kidney Beans
2 Cans (15.5 ounces each) Light Kidney Beans
1 Can (28 ounces) Diced Tomatoes

1. In a large pot, brown the beef over medium heat. Use a spatula to break the meat into small pieces as it cooks. When the meat begins to brown, add the onion, green pepper, and garlic. Continue to cook until the meat is complete brown.
2. Add the chili powder, oregano, cumin, peppers, and salt. Stir. Allow to cook for 2 minutes.
3. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir to completely combine.
4. Allow to gently simmer, slightly covered, for 1 hour, stirring often.
5. Serve with your choice of toppings.

Note: If you are making this in the slow cooker, after step 1, add all ingredients to the cooker. Place on LOW and cook for 6-8 hours. This method will be a little "soupier" than the stovetop method.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Philly Steak Wraps

For our last tailgate, we wanted something different. Everyone does wings, ribs, hamburgers, but what could we make that would be unique and delicious? While looking over the meat counter at our local grocery store, we saw some beautiful thin sirloin steaks. Knowing that my husband loves a good steak sandwich, I decided to put a little spin on it and do some easy to carry steak wraps. To my relief, he was all in!
On the day of the game, we broke out our tailgating grill with an interchangeable griddle top. As the food began to cook, people flocked to our tent. Several said that it "smells just like the fair" as the peppers and onions grilled to perfection. As the dish was served, the people went crazy! Some ate them simple and plain while others turned them into more of a fajita and added sour cream and toppings. No matter how you dress them, this quick and easy recipe will become a weeknight favorite for you too!

1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 teaspoon Garlic Salt
1 teaspoon Black Pepper
1 Pound Thin Sirloin Strip Steak
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 Green Pepper, Thinly Sliced
1 Yellow Onion, Thinly Sliced
10 Button Mushrooms, Thinly Sliced
1 teaspoon Steak Sauce
6 Slices Swiss Cheese
8 Small Flour Tortillas

1. Combine the seasoning blend ingredients. Set aside.
2. Place the steak on a cutting board and cut into very thin strips. Move the sliced steak into a shallow dish. Cover with Worcestershire sauce; stir. Allow to sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Ten minutes prior to cooking, remove from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature.
3. Heat a large skillet over Medium High heat until hot. Add the butter to the pan. Once melted, add the steak, shaking excess sauce off the meat as it is added to the pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the seasoning blend. Allow the steak to quickly sear, forming a slight crust, before tossing. Cook for 3 minutes.
4. Add the peppers, onions, and mushrooms to the pan. Sprinkle with an additional 1/2 teaspoon of the seasoning blend. Stir often, allowing the vegetables to soften slightly. Cook for 3 minutes.
5. Add the steak sauce to the pan. Stir. Cook for 1 minute.
6. Place the cheese slices on top of the meat mixture. Allow to melt.
7. Remove from the pan and serve in a warm flour tortilla.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Apple Cider BBQ Sauce

Apples, apples, apples. 'Tis the season for a bounty of apples and warm mugs of cider. Since it is the time of year for celebrating this delicious fruit, I am in the mood for experimenting with different recipes using apples. I have already created an Apple Cider Donut recipe, but now it was time to push the boundaries even further and expand to a barbecue sauce.

This sauce is nice and sweet with a subtle heat at the end. We used this to baste chicken as it was grilling, but it would be great with some thick cut pork chops or slathered on a slab of ribs. If you have any leftover, just allow it to cool and then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
1 Tablespoon Butter
1/4 Cup Minced Yellow Onion
1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic
2 Cups Apple Cider
1/2 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 Cup Ketchup
1 teaspoon Ground Mustard
1 teaspoon Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
4 Tablespoons Packed Light Brown Sugar
1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add the minced onion and garlic. Cook over Medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
2. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir well to combine. Bring back to a simmer then reduce the heat to Medium-Low.
3. Allow to gently simmer for 45 minutes, until reduced by half and thickened. If you want a thicker sauce, allow to simmer even longer.
4. Remove from the heat. Cool slightly before carefully blending to a smooth consistency.
5. Use immediately.

*Note: Store extras in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pumpkin Parfait

When entertaining guests, I am always looking for a new way to enjoy a classic dish. Everyone expects a pumpkin pie to be served at Thanksgiving gatherings, but what if you could surprise your guests with a pumpkin parfait? This dish is so easy to make and, in comparison to its traditional cousin, can be made as low fat as you desire (using fat free cool whip and sugar free pudding mix). The molasses cookies add a spiciness not often found in a traditional pie crust. If you don't like the flavor of molasses, you could always substitute ginger snaps, but the soft molasses cookies are a delicious addition.
12 ounces Evaporated Milk
5.1 ounces Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix
15 ounces Canned Pure Pumpkin Puree
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
10 Molasses Cookies
8 ounces Cool Whip
1. In a mixing bowl, combine milk and pudding mix. Whip for 30 minutes.
2. Add the pumpkin and spices. Whip for an additional 1 minute.
3. Cover with plastic wrap, placing directly on the pudding, and refrigerate.
4. Allow to set in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
5. When ready to assemble, crumble half a cookie in the bottom of the glass, followed by 2 tablespoons of pumpkin pudding, and 1 tablespoon cool whip. Repeat layering., finishing with a garnish of cookie crumbles.
6. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note: Although simple, this is a rich dessert, because of the molasses flavor. The directions make a parfait large enough for one person with a large sweet tooth. You could make smaller versions in a champagne flute or large shot glass. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Loaded Skillet Potatoes

Sometimes there is nothing better than the taste of loaded cheese fries or potato skins. When we recently had some friends over for dinner, I couldn't decide what to make for a side dish. Should I go with humble baked potatoes? Or did the occasion call for creamy whipped potatoes? Better yet, should I make some crisp homemade chips? Finally, after much deliberation, and a longing for the smell of bacon, I decided to take all of my favorite flavors of cheese fries and turn them into a one pot side with my oven potatoes. By using the bacon drippings, the flavor is throughout the dish and adds that extra little "umph" that makes this dish so great. Don't be fooled by the simplicity of this dish. It is perfect for company or just a night alone.
4 Strips Thick Cut Bacon
2 Tablespoons Butter/Margarine
4 Idaho Potatoes, Peeled and Cubed
1 pinch Black Pepper
1/2 Cup Shredded Cheddar
3 Green Onions, Sliced

1. Heat a large, cast iron skillet over medium heat. Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut the bacon into chunks directly into the skillet. Cook over medium heat to render the fat and crisp the bacon; this takes about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan, leaving the drippings behind, and place on a paper towel. Set aside.
2. Carefully place the butter/margarine into the pan with the bacon grease. Melt.
3. Gently add the cubed potatoes to the hot butter. Sprinkle with pepper. Stir to completely coat each potato chunk in butter and bacon grease.
4. Cover with aluminum foil.
5. Place in a preheated 375 degree oven. Allow to bake for 20 minutes.
6. Remove the foil and stir. Place back in the oven, uncovered, for another 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
7. Top with cheese, reserved bacon, and onions. Cover with foil.
8. Return the pan to the oven for 5 minutes.
9. Serve immediately with ketchup, ranch dressing, or sour cream.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Baked Pumpkin Donuts

I believe when I figured out the magic combination for donuts, I may have created a monster. Tonight the monster wanted pumpkin. So this recipe not only satisfied the monster's craving, but also took advantage of the healthy benefits of pumpkin.
This recipe gives you a soft, tender cake donut with a spiced pumpkin aroma. The glaze on top is reminiscent of the classic powdered donut with a hint of cinnamon. These are perfect with a nice hot cup of coffee or warm apple cider.
4 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
4 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
15 ounces (weight) Pure Pumpkin Puree
1/2 Cup Milk
2 teaspoons Vanilla
4 Eggs, Lightly Beaten
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla
2 teaspoons Milk

Yield: 2 dozen
1. Combine all dry ingredients in the bowl of a large mixer.
2. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients.
3. Slowly stream the wet ingredients into the dry with the mixer on LOW.
4. Turn the mixer to MEDIUM speed and beat for 30 seconds.
5. Thoroughly grease a donut pan.
6. Spoon 2 Tablespoons of batter into each form.
7. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes.
8. Carefully remove from the pan and allow to cool on a wire rack.
9. In a small bowl, combine the glaze ingredients.
10. Invert the slightly cooled donuts and dip into the glaze. Place back on the rack and allow to cool.

Note: Make sure to grease the pan well between each batch.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Baked Apple Cider Donuts with Cinnamon Sugar

After several failed attempts and tons of research, I have finally developed a recipe for tender, delicious donuts. This recipe takes advantage of the fall apple harvest by utilizing locally pressed apple cider from here in my home town. Apple harvesting is a big deal around here with several local orchards, dating back several generations. In fact, this weekend is the annual Apple Festival!
This basic recipe holds tons of possibilities. Whether baking with the kids, making a weekend brunch, or just satisfying your late night craving for a warm donut, this recipe is sure to please!
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
3/4 Cup Sugar
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Apple Cider
1/4 Cup Milk
2 Eggs, Lightly Beaten
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 Tablespoon Butter, Melted

1 Cup Sugar
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon

Yield:15 donuts
1. In a small saucepan, pour 1 cup of apple cider. Over medium heat, simmer the cider until reduced to 1/2 a cup. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
3. Combine the reduced cider, milk, eggs, vanilla and butter. Slowly pour into the dry ingredients. Beat until well combined and it forms a smooth batter.
4. Thoroughly grease a donut pan.
5. Spoon 2 Tablespoons of batter into each donut ring. (Your measurements may vary depending on your pan. You want to fill the rings until half full.)
6. Bake the donuts in a 325 degree oven for 13 minutes.
7. Combine the coating sugar and cinnamon in a zip close bag. Set aside.
8. Remove donuts from the oven. Carefully lift from the pans. While still warm, place in the bag with the cinnamon sugar. Gently toss to coat.
9. Enjoy while warm or allow to cool and store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Spicy Smoking Rub

This is not a recipe but a seasoning blend formula. I use this blend for everything from baby back ribs, beef ribs, and pork butts. Basically, any beef or pork we are throwing on the smoker that we want to have a little zing. I have even used it on venison roasts with excellent results. The intense heat comes out more in the beef ribs versus the pork, which I find to be counterintuitive, but it is how it is. I am thinking it is because there is more surface area with less unseasoned meat in the middle. No matter what the reason, this is a spice blend that is good to just have in the cabinet for a quick go-to flavor addition.

3 Tablespoons Salt
1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
2 teaspoons Cayenne Pepper
1 teaspoon Black Pepper
2 teaspoons Paprika
1/4 Cup Packed Light Brown Sugar
2 teaspoons Ground Mustard Powder
1 Tablespoons Red Pepper Flakes

1. Place all spices in a bowl.
2. Whisk until thoroughly combined.
3. To use, simply sprinkle over all sides. Use your hands to massage the spice into the meat.
4. Store leftover seasoning in an airtight container.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Vegetable Beef Soup

Even though fall does not officially arrive until 4:44 this evening, I have already started to enjoy warm soup on cool evenings. This past Wednesday, the air was cool, the gentle breeze was blowing across the creek as it meandered through the back yard, and it was the perfect time for some comfort food. I knew people would think I was crazy for already eating soup and grilled cheese, but I didn't care. It was time! And oh, am I so glad that I did. The great thing about this version is that you can cook it in a little over a hour and enjoy it or you can allow it to simmer for a few hours, covered, and deepen the flavors even more. The leftovers are great. They definitely do not taste like a reheated meal. So put this recipe in your files and be ready to enjoy it on a cool fall or winter evening.
1 pound Ground Beef
1 Large Yellow Onion, chopped
2 teaspoons Salt
1 1/2 teaspoons Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Dried Parsley
14.5 ounces Canned Diced Tomatoes, Unsalted
1 Cup Tomato Puree, Unsalted
15 ounces Canned White Potatoes, Drained and Sliced
14.5 ounces Canned Green Beans
1/2 Cup Carrots, Peeled and Thinly Sliced

1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Brown the ground beef and onions, using a spatula to break the meat into small pieces as it cooks. Season with salt, pepper, and parsley.
2. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot. Stir well to combine.
3. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium.
4. Allow to simmer for at least 1 hour.
5. Add more salt and pepper to taste.