• Desserts
  • Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

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    Sweet potato cupcakes? I have to say this is the time of year to indulge in these decadent treats. The cupcakes are moist and tasty with those lovely warming spices we love, and topped with some pretty amazing caramel cream cheese frosting. The original frosting recipe called for 2 cups of powdered sugar in addition to the caramel. I knew that would be WAY too sweet for my taste buds, so I took the sugar down to 3/4 cup. Trust me, with that amount of sugar and the caramel, the frosting will still be plenty sweet. I chose not to, but if you want to take these cupcakes even farther down Decadent Lane, you can top the frosting with mini marshmallows and toast them with a kitchen blowtorch. Maybe next time!

    slightly adapted from: The Back In The Day Bakery Cookbook
    makes: 24 cupcakes

    2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
    2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
    3/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon fine sea salt
    1 teaspoon ground ginger
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
    1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
    1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
    4 large eggs, at room temperature
    1 cup vegetable oil
    1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks, boiled, drained & mashed
    1 tablespoon grated orange zest
    1/2 cup whole milk
    1 recipe Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

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    Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners. This would be a good time to set out the butter and cream cheese needed for the frosting, and allow it to come to room temperature.

    Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom; set aside.

    In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl, using a handheld mixer), beat the brown sugar and eggs on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until pale and fluffy. Add the oil, mashed sweet potatoes, and orange zest, beating just until incorporated.

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    With mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

    Remove the bowl from the mixer, and using a rubber spatula, incorporate any ingredients hiding at the bottom of the bowl, making sure the batter in completely mixed. With a large spring-loaded ice cream or cookie scoop or spoon, scoop the batter into the prepared cupcake cups, filling each one about two-thirds full. Bake 1 pan at a time for 20-25 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool for at least 20 minutes.

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    Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

    for the caramel

    1 cup granulated sugar
    12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    2 tablespoons heavy cream

    for the frosting

    two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, cut into cubes, at room temperature
    4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

    To make the caramel: Combine the granulated sugar and 1/2 cup water in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, not stirring, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup becomes a medium-dark amber caramel, about 10 minutes. Don’t walk away, when it starts to turn that light tan, it won’t take long to get to brown even more. You can carefully swirl the pan to check the color.

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    Remove the pan from the heat and immediately stir in the butter and heavy cream (be careful of the hot steam). Do not worry if the butter starts to separate; it will come together once the caramel is cooled.

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    Transfer the caramel to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or use a handheld mixer) and beat on low speed until the caramel cools and starts to come together. Transfer the caramel to a small bowl and let cool to room temperature.

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    To make the frosting: Beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl with a handheld mixer on medium speed until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. With the mixture on low speed, gradually add the confectioner’s sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add the caramel and continue to beat until smooth and creamy, 4 to 5 minutes. (If the caramel was still too warm and the frosting doesn’t look firm enough to spread onto the cupcakes, refrigerate the frosting for 10 minutes or so and re-whisk.)

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    To assemble the cupcakes: Using an offset spatula or butter knife, spread the tops of the cupcakes with swirls of the frosting. The cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

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  • Main Courses
  • Roasted Vegetable Paella

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    This paella is made more like risotto than paella and it doesn’t get that nice socarrat that paella does, but nevertheless, it is absolutely delicious. It IS from Ina Garten after all… Roasting vegetable just concentrates and enhances their flavor so much that each little veggie is like a burst of happiness in your mouth. They caramelize and become sweet, and the briny olives and aged Manchego round out all of the flavors into something truly amazing. I made the full recipe for David and I because I knew we would want the leftovers. It was just as tasty leftover.

    slightly adapted from: Cooking For Jeffrey
    serves: 6

    2 pounds bell peppers (red, yellow, and orange), cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch-wide strips
    2 pounds fennel bulbs, tops and cores removed, sliced 1/4 inch thick
    1 pound baby eggplants, unpeeled, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
    1 large red onion, 3/4 inch-diced
    good olive oil
    kosher salt + freshly ground pepper
    2 cups (3/4 inch diced) yellow onions (2 onions)
    2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
    1 pinch to 1 teaspoon saffron threads
    1 1/2 cups Spanish paella rice (I like Matiz Valenciano Bomba Rice)
    1 (12 ounce jar) roasted red peppers, undrained, such as Mancini or Delallo
    1 teaspoon smoked paprika (not regular! smoked paprika is essential here. I like Penzey’s Smoked Spanish Paprika)
    5-6 cups simmering chicken (or vegetable) stock
    3 ounces freshly grated aged Manchego cheese
    1/2 cup pitted Manzanilla or Cerignola olives, halved
    1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts

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    Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Position two racks evenly spaced in the oven.

    Put the bell peppers, fennel, eggplants, and red onion in a large bowl, add 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper, and toss. Divide the vegetables between two baking sheets and spread in one layer. Roast for 45 minutes or so, tossing occasionally and switching the pans on the racks once.

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    Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a 14- to 16- inch paella pan or large (11 inch) Dutch oven. Add the yellow onions and sauté for 6 to 8 minutes, until tender. Add the garlic and saffron and cook for one minute. Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes, stirring to coat the rice with oil. Place the jarred peppers (including their liquid) and smoked paprika in the bowl of a food processor and process until pureed (it’s such a pretty red color!). Pour the mixture into the paella pan, stirring to combine, and bring to a boil. Add 1 cup of the hot stock (a large ladle comes in handy here) and 2 teaspoons salt and cook uncovered over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is mostly absorbed, as you would cook risotto. Continue to cook the rice over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring in 1 cup of the hot stock at a time whenever the liquid is absorbed, until the rice is al dente.

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    Add the vegetables to the paella, add one more cup of stock, and stir carefully. If the paella is dry, add more hot stock. Off the heat, stir in the Manchego cheese, olives, and scallions. Taste for seasonings and serve hot. With wine.

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  • Drinks
  • Jack Rose

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    It’s almost Thanksgiving! I love the day before Thanksgiving. David and I are usually packing bags and getting ready to drive to Ohio and spend time with family. The anticipation of seeing everyone, eating and drinking together, playing games while it’s cold outside and Christmas being just around the corner-it all fills me with a warm, happy glow. As Thanksgiving Eve is the biggest drinking night of the year, I thought I’d post a tasty apple cocktail we made earlier this month. It’s Autumn flavors would please most everyone, and on top of its easy drinkability, it is pretty to look at. Whatever you may be doing for Thanksgiving, I wish you a lovely day tomorrow with much merry-making. ♥

    adapted from: Death & Co
    makes: 1 drink

    1 ounce St. George California Reserve Apple Brandy
    1 ounce calvados, like Busnel VSOP Calvados*
    1/2 ounce lemon juice
    1/2 ounce lime juice
    3/4 ounce Grenadine
    garnish: 1 apple fan*

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    Shake all the ingredients with ice, then strain into a coupe. Garnish with the apple fan.

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    My apple fan is not one to aspire to, I am still learning how to make these look effortless. The idea is to cut the apple into quarters, then cut away enough of the straight edge to remove the core. Slice the apples lengthwise into 1/8 inch crescents and rub them with a lemon to prevent browning. To make the fan, stack 4 or 5 thin apple slices and skewer them through one end with a cocktail pick.

    * If you don’t have Calvados, and extra ounce of apply brandy will suffice.

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  • Desserts
  • Pumpkin Flan with Maple Caramel

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    I ♥ Flan. I remember the first time I made it when we lived in California (recipe at bottom). It was utterly satisfying to see it turned out perfectly, with that beautiful brown caramel providing a heavenly moat. As far as Ina Garten recipes go, the woman can do no wrong. I have been loving her new book, Cooking For Jeffrey, and I was excited to see this pumpkin flan recipe just in time for Thanksgiving!  It’s hard to go wrong with the flan from The New Best Recipe, it’s still my go-to, but I love the maple caramel with this one, and the pumpkin flavor of the custard is perfect for this time of year. It definitely is a taller flan than usual (about cheesecake size), but that just means more for me!

    from: Cooking For Jeffrey
    serves: 8 to 10

    for the caramel

    3/4 cup sugar
    1/3 cup pure maple syrup
    1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel

    for the pumpkin flan

    1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
    1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
    1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
    1/2 cup Italian mascarpone
    4 extra-large eggs
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1/2 teaspoon pure maple extract
    2 teaspoons grated orange zest (2 oranges)
    1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

    For the caramel, combine the sugar, maple syrup, and 1/3 cup water in a small, deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil, swirling the pan (don’t stir) to dissolve the sugar. Cook at a low boil without stirring for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture turns a golden brown and registers 230 degrees on a candy thermometer. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn. Off the heat, swirl in the fleur de sel, and immediately pour it into an 8 x 2-inch round cake pan (NOT a springform). Set aside to cool for 30 minutes.

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    Meanwhile, place the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, canned pumpkin, and mascarpone in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium-low speed until smooth. Whisk in the eggs, vanilla , maple extract, orange zest, cinnamon and nutmeg. Gently pour the pumpkin mixture into the pan with the caramel so they don’t combine.

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    Place the pan in a roasting pan large enough to hold the cake pan flat (I usually put a silpat mat in the bottom) and fill the roasting pan with enough of the hottest tap water to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan, being careful not to splash water in the flan. Bake in the center of the oven for 70 to 75 minutes, until the custard is just set. It will be firm but still jiggle slightly in the middle; a knife inserted into the center of the flan will come out clean. Remove the flan from the water bath, place on a cooling rack, and cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (I feel it’s best when refrigerated overnight.) Don’t tilt the pan or the caramel will run out!

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    Run a small knife around the edge of the flan. Turn a large, flat serving plate with a slight lip over the cake pan and flip them, turning the flan out onto the plate. The caramel should run out over the flan. Cut into wedges and serve with the caramel spooned over each slice.

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    My first flan:

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  • Main Courses
  • Peanut Noodle Kale Bowls

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    I love an easy noodle recipe, and especially one that is tasty, pretty, and has sriracha in it. This noodle bowl is so versatile, you could really toss in any veggies you want. Julienned red bell peppers, baby bok choy, scallions, or thinly sliced carrots would be great substitutes or additions. I personally loved the trio of kale, radishes and edamame. Since soba noodles are delicious cold, the leftovers would make a great lunch.

    from: The Love & Lemons Cookbook
    serves: 2 very hungry people or 4 not-so-hungry people

    sauce

    3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
    1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
    1 1/2 teaspoons tamari, plus more for serving
    1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
    1 garlic clove, minced
    1 teaspoon sriracha, plus more for serving
    3 tablespoons water

    noodles

    6 ounces soba noodles
    6 cups loosely packed chopped kale
    3 sliced watermelon radishes or 6 sliced small red radishes
    1/2 cup frozen edamame, thawed
    2 tablespoons black or white sesame seeds, toasted if desired

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    In a bowl with room enough to whisk heartily, whisk together the peanut butter, sesame oil, tamari, ginger, garlic, sriracha, and water until smooth. Add a bit more water if necessary to reach desired consistency.

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    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare the noodles according to the package directions, cooking until al dente. When the noodles are cooked, transfer them to a large sieve set over a bowl, keeping your soba cooking water on the stove. Using the same water, blanch the kale for 30 seconds or so, until wilted but still bright green. Drain, and add the kale to the bowl with the soba noodles.

    Add the sauce to the noodles and kale (or you can add kale on top with the other toppings) and toss to incorporate.

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    Garnish with the sliced radishes and edamame and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Serve with additional tamari, and sriracha if desired.

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  • Lunch
  • Mixed Bean & Orange Salad with Microgreens

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    Hello Readers! Sorry you haven’t seen anything from me in a while. I’ve been having behind the scenes technical trouble that now seems to be resolved (finger’s crossed). I now have to cram weeks worth of recipes on here before Christmas! Let’s start with this simple and yummy bean and citrus salad which is lovely for lunch or a light dinner.

    adapted from: Bon Appetit Magazine

    1 Thai chile (or other small hot red chile), thinly sliced
    1/4 cup good olive oil
    2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, or red wine vinegar
    salt + pepper
    2 cups mixed, cooked beans (I used black-eyed peas and adzuki beans, but giant white lima and/or gigante beans work as well)
    3 navel or blood oranges, pith removed and cut crosswise into 1/4″ thick rounds
    2 celery stalks, thinly sliced on the diagonal
    1/2 cup microgreens or sprouts of your choice
    1/4 cup cilantro leaves

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    In a medium bowl, combine the chile, olive oil, lime juice, and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the beans and toss gently to coat. Let sit 10 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Add orange rounds, celery, microgreens and cilantro to beans. Season with salt and pepper; toss once. Serve topped with additional microgreens and cilantro if desired.

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  • Desserts
  • Hazelnut-Brown-Butter Brownies

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    People. These are the fudgiest brownies that I’ve ever had. Delicious, chocolatey, fudgy, nutty, rich brownies. This may seem crazy to some, but ever since I was a kid I haven’t liked brownies with nuts in them. As these are made with hazelnut flour (ground up hazelnuts) they impart a nice nutty flavor without chunks of nuts. This is nice for another reason as well. Nut flour is gluten-free, so I can gladly eat them up with no resulting unhappy digestive issues. Everyone who tried these brownies raved about them and especially loved how rich & fudgy they were. I’m not sure if I can convey how happy I am to have found this recipe, these will be MY brownies from now on. Next time I make them I will be sure to serve them with ice cream. Hmm. I think I’m going to go eat one right now…

    slightly adapted from: Food + Wine
    makes: a 9-x-13 pan of brownies

    7 ounces hazelnuts (I used chopped hazelnuts)
    1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli)
    1 teaspoon salt
    3 cups sugar
    1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter
    12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), chopped
    6 large eggs
    1 tablespoon instant espresso dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water

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    Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment (foil stuck to the brownies for me, even with the spray), pressing it into the corners and leaving overhang on the 2 short sides.

    Spread the hazelnuts in a pie plate and toast for 15 minutes, until fragrant and the skins blister; transfer to a kitchen towel to cool slightly, then rub off the skins (if the skins haven’t already been removed). Let cool completely.

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    Transfer the nuts to a food processor and add the cocoa, salt and 1/2 cup of the sugar and pulse until finely ground.

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    In a large saucepan, cook the butter over moderate heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until nutty smelling and golden and the foam subsides, about 5 minutes (the butter will bubble quite a bit, so make sure the heat is not too high, adjust as necessary). Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate; let stand until melted, about 2 minutes. Whisk the butter and chocolate until smooth, scraping up any browned butter solids from the bottom of the pan. Let cool slightly.

    In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the remaining 2 1/2 cups of sugar and the espresso until tripled in volume, about 5 minutes. Beat in the chocolate-butter mixture. Add the cocoa-hazelnut mixture and beat to combine, scraping down the bowl. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, until the top is glossy and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let the brownies cool completely on a rack, then refrigerate until chilled.

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    Lift the brownies out of the pan and peel off the parchment. Cut into pieces and serve.

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  • Drinks
  • Elder Fashioned

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    This drink was created by Phil Ward around the time St-Germain was introduced (circa 2007). This elderflower liqueur took the bartending world by storm and added a new flavor into mixologists palettes everywhere. I personally love it. The Old-Fashioned is my “desert island” drink, and I love to taste as well as make new variations of it. This gin version is floral, fresh, and sophisticatedly fruity. It is light and summery while still packing the sneaky alcoholic punch the Old-Fashioned is known for. This is easy to make as well, since you just stir everything together right in the glass.

    drink by: Phil Ward of Death & Co, Manhattan via The Old Fashioned
    makes: 1 cocktail

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    2 ounces Plymouth gin
    1/2 ounce St-Germain elderflower liqueur
    2 dashes orange bitters
    grapefruit twist

    Combine all the ingredients except the grapefruit twist in an Old-Fashioned glass. Add one large chunk of ice and stir until chilled. Twist a piece of grapefruit zest over the drink and drop into the glass.

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