Category Archives: Kid Favorites

Chocolate Pumpkin Bark

Chocolate Pumpkin Bark

Chocolate Pumpkin Bark

Another day of student meetings, hence another day to experiment with pumpkin recipes. I love making “bark” around the holidays – it’s so easy and always well received. It occurred to me to try to create a pumpkin bark. I searched for recipes and there’s actually quite a bit of variety. Some recipes don’t use any pumpkin at all (just pumpkin pie spice), some use a candy base instead of chocolate, some look really healthy and hearty with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, and some were very festive looking for Halloween. I encourage searching the many possibilities. As is typical, I morphed two recipes and adapted a bit for my liking and or what I had. I used semi-sweet chocolate (chips) because that’s what I had on hand, but I think I would prefer this made with milk chocolate. The semi-sweet (and also dark chocolate) has a more pronounced flavor which, in my opinion, distracted a little bit from the pumpkin flavor – and I was looking to have pumpkin be the star. Another option would be to do a layer of white chocolate on the bottom – this would be pretty and very festive for Halloween, but I’m not the biggest fan of the flavor of white chocolate. Whatever chocolate you use, choose a good quality. Anyway, here’s what I made:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Cups Milk or Semi-Sweet Chocolate (chips, chunks, or block broken into pieces)
  • 1 1/2 Cups White Chocolate (chips, chunks, or block broken into pieces)
  • 1/2 Cup Pumpkin Puree (unsweetened)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice

INSTRUCTIONS:

Mix together pumpkin puree and spice mix in a small bowl – set aside.pumpkin and spice combined Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper. Melt your darker chocolate (either in a double boiler* or in the microwave). Melted chocolatePour the melted chocolate onto the baking tray and spread to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. The chocolate will not go all the way to the edges of the pan, and don’t worry about trying to make straight edges. Melt the white chocolate – if using the microwave, be careful not to overheat; white chocolate can be very sensitive. white chocolate chipsAdd the pumpkin mixture to the melted white chocolate. pumpkin and melted white chocolate combinedPour the white chocolate/pumpkin mixture over the spread chocolate on the baking sheet pour pumpkin white chocolate over bottom layerand use a knife or fork to swirl the top layer in with the bottom layer.swirled together Refrigerate until the chocolate is set. When hardened, break into pieces. break into piecesStore bark in the refrigerator to keep from melting.

*If you don’t have a double boiler, you can place a heat-proof bowl on top of a pot of water (water should just reach the bottom of the bowl).

Pumpkin Muffins (Revisited)

Frosted Pumpkin Muffin

Frosted Pumpkin Muffin

I decided to revisit my pumpkin muffin recipe-it’s not that I’ve run out of things to make with pumpkin, (gnocchi, fettucini, mousse, and many others are still on my list to try) but I had to make treats for my students today, and muffins are usually well received. I love my other pumpkin spice muffin recipe because it’s bold and has great flavor, but it yields a denser heartier muffin. Today I wanted a muffin that bordered on being a cupcake. I made a couple of adjustments (borrowing a bit from my pumpkin cake recipe) to achieve a lighter airier pumpkin muffin. (Despite achieving “lighter” muffins, I still felt it prudent to work a 5K “muffin run” into my day)!  Because pumpkin has a fairly high water content, I increased the amount of baking powder in the recipe, sifted the flour, and used baking (also called “superfine”) sugar. I did still use a fair amount of spice, but it was really the pumpkin flavor that shined through. And, of course, because these muffins were to be devoured by teenagers, I frosted them (I really frosted them!). It would be interesting to do a side-by-side taste test, but for now, I’m just happy that this batch was well received. (Makes 12-16).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3  2/3 Cups Flour (sifted)
  • 1 Tbsp. and 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. Ground Ginger (plus more for frosting – see below)
  • 1/2 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 Cup (1 stick) Unsalted Butter
  • 1 1/3 Cups Baker’s (superfine) Sugar (substitute regular if necessary)
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1  15-oz. Can Pumpkin Puree

For the Frosting:

  • 4 Oz. Cream Cheese (at room temperature)
  • 4 TBS. Unsalted Butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • 1/2 Lb. (approx.) Confectioners (Powdered) Sugar

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 Degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl – set aside.sift flour

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, add butter and sugar.cream together butter and sugar Cream together butter and sugar (if using stand mixer, use paddle attachment) until well combined.  Add eggs one at a timeAdd the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the pumpkin puree and beat again.Mix in pumpkin Add the flour mixture in 3 parts and mix until thoroughly combined.

Line a muffin tin(s) with paper liners. Fill each muffin cup at least 3/4 full (I filled nearly to the top). Ready for ovenPlace on center rack of preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes (check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of a muffin – it should come out clean). out of the ovenRemove muffins from tin and set on a cooling rack. In the meantime, prepare the frosting.

Combine butter, cream cheese, vanilla and ground ginger in a bowl and beat until creamy. Add powdered sugar until desired consistency is achieved (I prefer a soft, creamy frosting, but if you want to pipe the frosting on, you’ll want to use more sugar).Frosting

Spread or pipe frosting onto cooled muffins (I don’t mind frosting when the muffins are still a little warm, but the frosting can be a bit drippy).

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Pumpkin Ice Cream

Pumpkin Ice CreamIt’s that time of year – Halloween is less than a week away and it’s all pumpkin at my house. I recently made pumpkin scones with some of my boarding students, and there was a little pumpkin puree leftover. Of course I wasn’t going to let that go to waste; hence, a batch of pumpkin ice cream emerged. Almost all of my ice cream recipes start with the same base; my thinking: “why mess with a good thing?”. The pumpkin puree does make for a very thick (and rich) custard. If you wanted to sacrifice some calories, you could probably easily substitute milk for the 1/2 and 1/2 (or use fat free 1/2 and 1/2).  If you would like to make an ice cream that tastes more like pumpkin pie, you can add some crumbled graham cracker pieces in the final stage. I’m a bit of a purist, and like the undisturbed smooth texture of the plain pumpkin ice cream.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Cups 1/2 and 1/2
  • 2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1 Cup (packed) Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 Cup of Canned Pumpkin Puree
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. Ground Cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 6 Egg Yolks

INSTRUCTIONS:

Add 1/2 and 1/2, brown sugar, vanilla, and spices to a medium pot. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is just about to boil. pumpkin ice cream beginningWhile mixture is heating, add egg yolks to a small mixing bowl and beat for about 3 minutes until they become slightly lighter in color. add hot cream to eggsWhen cream mixture is thoroughly heated, remove cinnamon sticks and then slowly add one cup of the hot cream mixture to the egg yolks – whisking constantly. Repeat this at least one more time. (This will temper the egg yolks and keep them from scrambling.) Pour the egg mixture back into the pot, add the pumpkin puree, return to medium heat and stir until pumpkin is dissolved. pumpkin ice cream add pumpkinAdd the heavy whipping cream and heat over medium for about 2-3 more minutes, gently stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Place a wire mesh sieve over a bowl and strain the thickened cream mixture (you will probably notice some clumps in the bottom of the pan – you can use a spoon to press some of these through the sieve).  pummpkin ice cream strainedCover with plastic wrap (you can press the wrap down onto the surface of the cream mixture to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate until completely cooled – at least one hour (I always let mine sit overnight). pumpkin ice cream ready to chillWhen cooled, pour mixture into ice cream maker and follow instructions provided with machine. pumpkin ice cream in makerWhen freezing, put a layer of plastic wrap over the top of the ice cream before putting the lid on the container.

Enjoy!

Red Velvet Pancakes with Cream Cheese Glaze for Valentine’s Day Brunch

xo pancake

UPDATE: This post is from last year, but I’m reposting it because Valentines Day is tomorrow! From the looks of what I posted last year, February is just a crazy busy month- this year proves to be no exception. With one kid off at college, and another with a drivers license, I won’t be making a bit brunch, but I do plan to make a gluten free version of the pancakes for my Valentine friend Rob. 🙂

I have been working 16 hour days pretty consistently for a couple of weeks; my kids (and blog) have been pretty neglected in the food department. Valentine’s Day is later this week, and I won’t be able to celebrate it with them, so I decided to celebrate it with them in the few hours I had free this past Sunday. We had a great brunch – five teenagers and me! We enjoyed red velvet pancakes with a cream cheese glaze, a huge plate of bacon and sausage, sausage and baconscrambled eggs,scrambled eggs and some beautiful bright red berries. Valentines day brunch table 2The pancakes were a total cheat because I started with my favorite pancake mix (Krusteaz Buttermilk) and just added cocoa, powdered sugar, and some red food coloring gel. The glaze was also really easy – it was essentially my cream cheese frosting made a little thinner and with a little less sugar. If you would like to make heart shaped (or any other shape) pancakes, use a cookie cutter as your form. Note: the shaped pancakes are more time consuming, so I did a combination of plain round pancakes and made a few special shaped and decorated pancakes for each person.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Favorite Pancake Batter (mix or made from scratch)
  • 1-3 TBS. Cocoa Powder (use about1 TBS. for every batch of 6-8 pancakes)
  • 1-4 TBS. Confectioner’s (powdered) Sugar (can substitute granulated sugar, but be sure to mix really well)
  • Red Food Coloring Gel (I have never tried with regular liquid food coloring, but it would probably work fine)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Prepare pancake batter in desired amount as directed on mix (or according to recipe). Add cocoa and sugar and mix well until incorporated. Add food coloring until desired color is reached – you can experiment from everything from a light pink to a deep red.pancake batter Heat a non-stick pan or griddle. Ladle batter into pan. If you want to make shaped pancakes: generously grease a cookie cutter and lay in the pan; ladle batter into cookie cutter and spread to fill out the form – but don’t make too thick.valentines pancakes 1 When top of batter begins to show signs of bubbles, flip and continue cooking until cooked through (another 30-60 seconds depending in thickness of pancake). heart shaped pancake cookingIf using a cookie cutter to shape pancake: flip the cookie cutter over and gently push (from the cooked side) the pancake through and out of the cutter into the pan – then cook on remaining side. Serve with syrup of cream cheese glaze (see recipe below). If using glaze, you can decorate as desired.stack of decorated pancakes 2

For the CREAM CHEESE GLAZE:

  • 4 Oz. Cream Cheese – softened
  • 1/4 Cup Butter- Softened
  • 1.5-2 Cups Confectioner’s (Powdered) Sugar
  • Optional: 1-3 TBS. Milk

Combine all ingredients using enough sugar to reach desired consistency. cream cheese frosting for pancakesIf you want a thinner glaze, add milk to the mix. Drizzle over pancakes or add to a squirt dispensary bottle to write a message or decorate.pancake stackvalentines pancakes 2)

 

1.5-2 cups powdered sugar

Cinnamon Ice Cream

Cinnamon Ice Cream

Cinnamon Ice Cream

I should name this Slacker Cinnamon Ice Cream…it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything to the blog. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking, baking, ice creaming (sure…that’s a word), and just generally experimenting; I just haven’t found the time to post.

Homemade ice cream is normally a summer/cottage thing for me, but this fall, I’ve made more ice cream than ever before. Maybe it’s because my new gluten free friend loves it, as do his kids. Maybe it’s because I’ve been clearing out my freezer, so now there’s always room for my ice cream canister. All that really matters is that I’ve enjoyed making some new flavors of ice cream, and they’ve been well received by my tasting crew. While ice cream is typically not a “fall dessert,” this cinnamon ice cream is the perfect accompaniment for apple pie, and that certainly qualifies as a “fall dessert.” You can adjust the amount of cinnamon you use in this ice cream recipe; I’m not a particularly huge fan of cinnamon, but I love this ice cream.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Cups 1/2 and 1/2
  • 2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1 1/3 Cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 6 Egg Yolks
  • 1.5 tsp. Cinnamon

INSTRUCTIONS:

Add 1/2 and 1/2, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon sticks to a medium pot. heavy cream sugar vanilla and cinnamon sticksHeat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is just about to boil. While mixture is heating, add egg yolks to a small mixing bowl and beat for about 3 minutes until they become slightly lighter in color. add hot cream to eggsWhen cream mixture is thoroughly heated, remove cinnamon sticks and then slowly add one cup of the hot cream mixture to the egg yolks – whisking constantly. Repeat this at least one more time. (This will temper the egg yolks and keep them from scrambling.) Pour the egg mixture into the pot with the remaining cream and heat over medium for about 2-3 more minutes, gently stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. strainPlace a wire mesh sieve over a bowl and strain the thickened cream mixture (you will probably notice some clumps in the bottom of the pan – you can use a spoon to press some of these through the sieve). Add the heavy whipping cream and the cinnamon to the mixture. cover with plastic wrapCover with plastic wrap (you can press the wrap down onto the surface of the cream mixture to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate until completely cooled – at least one hour (I always let mine sit overnight). When cooled, pour mixture into ice cream maker and follow instructions provided with machine. When freezing, put a layer of plastic wrap over the top of the ice cream before putting the lid on the container.

Enjoy!

Vegetable Enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas out of the ovenThese enchiladas evolved recently from a batch of leftover grilled corn and some great summer squash that I had on hand. I offered to bring a batch of roasted corn salsa to a friend’s gathering, and when I learned he was also in need of a main dish, I thought to make the enchiladas. My chicken enchiladas are always well received- I recently served them as an accompaniment to chicken tortilla soup (that was the star because Hannah had requested it for her birthday dinner) and was reminded of how great they are to make for a relatively large group. Although my friend is not a vegetarian, he is a healthy eater who is drawn to a diet heavy in veggies. His cousin, who was actually the real host, is a vegetarian, so I figured she would appreciate the gesture. I was tempted to make homemade enchilada sauce this time around, but settled for the jar variety in the end. While I still love my “standby” chicken enchiladas, these are a great vegetarian alternative. I love grilled or roasted vegetables, but you could substitute steamed vegetables for the filling. You could also use frozen or canned corn, or add beans…really, the possibilities are almost limitless when it comes to dishes like this.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Large Red or Sweet Onion – cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 Medium Yellow Squash – cut into 1/4″ rings
  • 2 Medium Zuchinni- – cut into 1/4″ rings
  • 2 Red Bell Peppers (can substitute another color) – seeded and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2-3 Ears of Fresh Sweet Corn
  • 3 Cloves Garlic – finely chopped
  • 1 Medium Jalapeno Pepper – seeds and membrane removed and finely chopped
  • 3-4 TBS. Corn Oil
  • 2 TBS. Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 TBS. Ground Cumin
  • 1 TBS. Chili Powder (adjust to taste)
  • Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
  • 10 – 12 Fresh Corn Tortillas
  • 1 28 Oz. Can of Enchilada Sauce (mild)
  • 10-12 Oz. Queso Chihuahua – grated (can substitute Monterey Jack or Mexican blend – just make sure cheese does not contain spices)
  • 1 TBS. Fresh Cilantro – chopped

INSTRUCTIONS:

Combine all of the cut vegetables (except corn), garlic, corn oil, balsamic vinegar and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper in a medium sized mixing bowl. vegetables ready to roastAllow to marinate for at least 20 minutes (as long as overnight).  In the meantime, preheat grill to medium (or oven to 375 Degrees if oven roasting). Peel the corn and remove all of the silk. Brush corn with additional corn oil and season generously with Kosher salt and Pepper. Place vegetables in a grilling basket or grilling tray. (If oven roasting, lay in a single layer on a baking dish) Add vegetables and corn to the grill or the oven. Grill, tossing (turning, in the case of the corn) occasionally, until vegetables are tender.  When corn is cool enough to handle, cut kernels off of cobs.Thru March 20 131 In a bowl, combine corn and other grilled vegetables with 1-1.5 cups of shredded cheese.enchilada roasted vegetables Preheat oven to 375 Degrees. Pour a thin layer of enchilada sauce into a  9×12 baking dish and set aside. Pour a thin layer of enchilada sauce into a pie plate or onto a plate. Heat 3-4 tortillas in the microwave for 10-20 seconds just to soften so they don;t crack apart when rolling. Add a tortilla to the enchilada sauce (in pie plate) and soak on both sides. Add about 2-3 TBS. of vegetable filling to the tortilla, roll up tightly and place seam side down into the 9×12 baking dish. Repeat this until you have used up all of the filling – you should end up with 10-12 enchiladas depending on how fat you make your enchiladas. Pour a layer of enchilada sauce over the enchiladas Cover with a layer of sauceand top with remaining cheese (you can add more if you like). Place in oven and bake until cheese is melted and enchiladas are heated through (about 20-30 minutes).  Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake

My friend who recently visited me at the cottage requested strawberry shortcake. I was only staying at the cottage for a week, and had limited baking supplies on hand. I had brought some buttermilk pancake mix (Krusteaz is my favorite brand), so I thought we could use that (I figured it wasn’t that different from Bisquick or Jiffy Baking mix). With some brief searching on the internet and a few modifications (based on ingredients we had on hand), we came up with a great recipe which resulted in great shortcake. This shortcake recipe will definitely be my new go-to for a quick, easy, summertime dessert.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4-5 Cups Fresh Strawberries- sliced
  • 2/3 Cup Sugar – divided
  • No-Stick Cooking Spray
  • 2 1/4 Cups Buttermilk Pancake Mix
  • 4 TBS. Cold Butter- cut up into small pieces
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • Whipped Cream

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 Degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine sliced strawberries and 1/3 Cup of sugar. Allow to sit at room temperature. In the meantime, prepare the dough. Combine pancake mix and remaining 1/3 cup of sugar. Add cut-up butter to mix and work in with a fork or fingers. Add vanilla and milk, and mix thoroughly – batter will be very stiff. Coat a 9″ pie or cake pan (eoither round or square) with non-stick cooking spray and spread batter in pan.  Bake shortcake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven and all to cool slightly – cut into individual servings, top with strawberries (and accumulated juice), and whipped cream.

Fresh Peach Cobbler

Fresh Peach Cobbler a la mode.

Fresh Peach Cobbler a la mode.

On Saturday I returned from a 16 day trip to China. I had high hopes of catching up on my blog and adding a lot of posts while I was traveling, but I discovered that my blog is blocked in China- not for any reason specific to my blog, but, apparently, all WordPress blogs (and many other blogs where people can freely express opinions) are blocked. My neighbors were initially surprised that I wanted to host our regular Sunday dinner so soon after my return, but then they thought about it and came to the realization that cooking was probably near the top of my list of things that I missed while away from home for so long – they were right. We enjoyed a great meal of grilled chicken, grilled vegetables, pasta with basil and lemon cream sauce, grilled bread, and fresh peach cobbler with a la mode. To me, grilling is like a true celebration of summer, however it’s not popular (at all!) in China, so it was what I craved upon my return. I believe I’ve posted most of the recipes for everything except the cobbler. Watermelon, berries,  and peaches are the fruits that come to mind when I think of summer. Since I ate an abundance of watermelon in China, that was off my list; so I settled on a dessert with peaches. The obvious choice… cobbler. I toyed with the idea of a pie, but cobblers, crisps, and buckles are just so easy, and seem so much more casual and homey. This cobbler was no exception. We enjoyed it still warm from the oven, but it’s great at room temperature, or reheated in the microwave. As with many desserts, it’s even better topped with ice cream or whipped cream. You could make a ginger flavored whipped cream or homemade ice cream which would be delightful, but I settled on store bought vanilla (the kind with the vanilla bean flecks).  You can adjust the spices a bit, I like a bit of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger, but cardamom is a popular pairing with peaches as well (I didn’t have any ground cardamom on hand, and didn’t feel like grinding any). Serves 8-10 (with leftovers).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8-10 Peaches, peeled and sliced (1/4 inch)
  • 1 tsp. Lemon Juice
  • 1 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 4 TBS. Corn Starch
  • 1/4 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
  • 14 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 2 Cups Flour (I use 1 Cup of cake flour and 1 cup all-purpose, but can use just all-purpose)
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Cold Unsalted Butter (cut into small cubes)
  • 3/4 Cup Buttermilk or Heavy Cream

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. In a medium bowl, combine sliced peaches, lemon juice, spices, corn starch and all but a few tablespoons of the sugar (reserve for sprinkling on topping). Gently mix until all ingredients are incorporated and allow mixture to sit for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the topping. peaches coatedIn a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk together until well mixed. Add butter cubeswork butter into dry ingredient mixture and, using your fingers, incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the buttermilk or cream and use a fork to combine to make a dough – but do not overmix. The dough should be the consistency of a biscuit dough; it should hold together and be able to clump, without being too wet. If necessary, add a little more buttermilk or cream. Pour the peaches into a casserole dish or 9×13 baking dish.layer peaches in pan Top the peaches with the dough (drop clumps over the top until covered) and sprinkle with remaining sugar. peach cobbler ready for ovenBake at 350 Degrees for 50-60 minutes until crust is browned and filling is bubbly.peach cobbler out of oven

Serve warm or at room temperature. Top with ice cream or whipped cream if desired.

Cupcake Bouquet with Strawberry Basil Cupcakes

Cupcake Bouquet

Cupcake Bouquet with Strawberry Basil Cupcakes

I have developed a bit of a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. It is a great resource for ideas and inspiration, but sometimes I become a little too inspired and ambitious. I love the way this “project” turned out, but I am going to be perfectly honest – it was a ton of work! The recipients were well worth the effort (I made these for a couple of special Moms on Mother’s Day), but I caution you to enter into this project naively. It can be challenging to find the supplies; I got very lucky to not only find the perfect parts, but to get a super great deal on the pots (Michael’s marked down to $2.99 plus I had a 25% off coupon). I found the water tubes at a local garden center/florist (English Gardens for those of you who are local to metro Detroit), but I had to ask the florist if they had them and if I could buy them (.25 each – a bargain). You can buy the tubes on-line, but you need to order a box of 100 – I will not be making 100 of these gifts! You can use any type of cupcake for this, but I went with my strawberry basil cupcakes because I wanted to use fresh basil as part of the bouquet. Some great alternatives would be lemon leaves (available at most florists), mint leaves, or any other herb or green (edible) leaf. I would recommend using a fairly sturdy stemmed green. The original project on Pinterest did not use any fresh greens (just tissue paper), but why settle for that when I could further enhance it?

When it comes to frosting cupcakes, my skills are lacking (or non-existent). There are a lot of resources on-line that show cool frosting techniques. You can choose any style that mimics a flower for these. I was going to try to do the rose pattern as shown on the original Pinterest post, but that was above my pay grade. I just kind of experimented (on a paper towel) first and ended up with a design that looked a bit like a chrysanthemum or a dahlia (notice I said “bit”). I used my the frosting recipe that for my strawberry basil cupcakes which is a variation of a buttercream/cream cheese frosting, but it contains strawberry puree (great color) and some basil infused milk). The problem was that the frosting was not stiff enough to achieve the petal design and because the cupcakes are kind of tipped when placed in the flower pot, you really need a stiff frosting that won’t drip. The solution for me was to just keep adding powdered sugar, but this took away from the strawberry flavor, so there was no point. I am including a recipe for a traditional stiff buttercream frosting which will pipe well and hold up. You can use a bit of food coloring if you want to achieve a particular color (the gel food coloring – available at specialty food stores like Sur le Table or Williams Sonoma- are great because they don’t dilute the frosting).

Recipe for Strawberry Basil Cupcakes

Basil Buttercream Frosting:

  • 1 Cup Unsalted Butter -softened (but not melted)
  • 3-4 Cups Confectioners (powdered) Sugar- sifted
  • ¼ tsp. Salt
  • 1 TBS. Vanilla Extract (or any other flavored extract you want)
  • 1/4 Cup Milk
  • 4 Large Basil Leaves
INSTRUCTIONS:
Add milk and bail to a small saucepan and heat over medium to just below boiling. Cook for 20-30 minutes. Through October 9 004Allow to cool to room temperature (put in the refrigerator to speed up process) Transfer milk and basil to a food processor and puree. Add the butter to a large bowl (or the bowl of a mixer) and, using an electric miser, beat until smooth. Add about 3 cups of sugar and beat on low. Add salt, vanilla extract and a few tablespoons of the basil infused milk and mix until well combined. Check consistency and add more powdered sugar or milk to achieve desired consistency – should be stiff if you want to pipe flowers. Add food coloring (if using) and mix thoroughly.
Strawberry Basil Cupcakes:
INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 1/2 Cups Flour
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 10-12 Medium Fresh Strawberries (should measure 2/3 cup after pureed)
  • 8 -10 Large Basil Leaves
  • 1/4 Cup Milk (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extracr
  • 1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter (softened)
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Egg (room temperature)
  • 2 Egg whites (room temperature)

INSTRUCTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners (double up on liners to maintain the cute color or decoration of liners). In a medium sized bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. In a blender or food processor, puree strawberries and basil leaves.Through October 9 005 Add milk and vanilla extract to blender or food processor bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, (or bowl of a mixer) cream together butter and sugar. Beat in egg and egg whites. Add half of the flour mixture and mix until blended. Add the strawberry, basil, milk mixture and mix again.Through October 9 009 Add remaining flour mixture and mix until well blended, scraping down sides as you go. Pour batter (evenly divided) into cupcake liners. Through October 9 010Bake 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then remove cupcakes from pan and transfer to cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting. Frost with desired flowered pattern.cupcake bouquet4

To make the cupcake bouquet:

SUPPLIES:

  • 1 Cute Flower Pot
  • 1 Styrofoam Ball (should fit inside flower pot – diameter of ball should be about the same as diameter of top of pot)
  • Tin Foil or Newspaper (may not be necessary)
  • Toothpicks
  • 3-6 Water Tubes with Pointed Tips and Rubber Tops
  • Fresh Leaves (edible or food safe – basil, mint, lemon)
  • Tissue Paper (coordinating color)

Prepare pot by placing the foam ball in the pot. Use crumpled tin foil or newspaper in the bottom if you need to raise up the ball to desired height (roughly 1/2 of the ball should be above the top of the pot. Fill water tubes with water, place plastic top on each one and set aside. Plan out how many cupcakes will comfortably fit, and determine where the cupcakes will go. Insert toothpicks (two per cupcake) where you will place cupcakes. The toothpicks are easily moved, so you can adjust later if necessary. Insert the water tubes where you want to place leaves (you may want to temporarily place the cupcakes where they will go to determine the best placement and angles). If it is particularly difficult to insert the water tubes, use the tip of a knife or scissors to sort of pre-drill your slot. Add the cupcakes and adjust accordingly. cupcake bouquet5Add the leaves to the water tubes. Finally, fill blank areas with crumpled tissue paper.

Cupcake bouquet2

Popovers

Popovers

Popovers

Popovers are the new favorite roll in our host. They are featured at every Sunday Family Dinner. I usually serve two varieties of rolls, biscuits or bread – the popovers always go first! I’ve also been making some flavored butters to accompany the popovers. Both are super easy and the great thing about popovers, as opposed to most other rolls, is that you don’t need to wait for dough to rise. I’m not exactly sure of the science of the popover, but I do know that the pan has to be preheated, and you should not open the oven during the cooking process. I have a popover pan, but I also use my regular muffin tin and, quite frankly, the muffin pan works just as well if not better. I never have enough leftover to serve for breakfast, but these would be great for breakfast, brunch or lunch as well as for a dinner roll.  Makes 12 popovers.

INGREDIENTS:

3 TBS. Unsalted Butter- melted
2 Eggs – room temperature
1 Cup Lukewarm Milk (heat for 30-40 seconds in the microwave)
1 Cup Flour
1.5 tsp.  Kosher Salt (substitute 1 tsp. regular salt)

INSTRUCTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place a muffin pan or popover pan in the preheated oven and heat for at least 5 minutes. Meanwhile, break the  eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk vigorously . Add the warmed milk and whisk again. Add the flour, salt and 2 TBS. of melted butter, and whisk until smooth. Remove the muffin or popover pan from the oven and brush each compartment with remaining melted butter. Pour the batter into the warmed muffin tin (fill each compartment 1/2 – 3/4) and return it to the oven to bake until golden, about 35 minutes- avoid opening the oven during the cooking process. Remove the muffin/popover pan from the oven and remove popovers from the pan immediately. If possible, serve warm.
* The popover batter can be made in a blender – follow the instructions above, but blend in blender instead of whisking.
Light and Airy Popovers

Light and Airy Popovers

Honey Almond Butter:

1/2 Cup (1 Stick) Unsalted Butter – softened
1 TBS. Honey
1/2 tsp. Almond Extract
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until all ingredients are well incorporated. Taste and add more honey or almond extract if desired. Transfer butter to a small bowl or ramekin and refrigerate until butter reaches desired firmness (I usually serve it a little soft).