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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting


Have you ever seen the movie Meet Me in St. Louis with Judy Garland? It's one of my all-time favorite movies.  I just love the beautiful depictions of turn-of-the-century life in St. Louis around the time of the World's Fair.  I have been watching the movie since I was a kid and always sing along with it and wish we still wore those beautiful dresses.  I love the scene at Halloween when the younger children come in from trick-or-treating and the family gathers in the dining room to eat this massive and elaborate cake that Katie the housekeeper has prepared for Halloween.  I always drool over that cake every time I watch the movie and wonder what it is and wish I had the recipe. :)

I decided to make my own massive Halloween cake although its not quite as elaborate as Katie's.  It is, however, both chocolaty and spicy with a touch of sweet creamy orange frosting and VERY delicious.  If you  want to make a treat for your family to gather around after the Halloween festivities are over like in Meet Me in St. Louis, I'm offering up this delightful cake.

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Note:  You can also make this recipe into cupcakes if you prefer.  Line 2-12 cup muffin pans with cupcake liners instead of using cake pans.

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups + 2 tbs. all-purpose flour
1 cup + 2 tbs. good-quality cocoa
1 tbs. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 1/4 ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg (or 1/2 tsp. nutmeg)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups (firmly packed) dark brown sugar (I used light brown and it worked fine)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs

Ingredients:
1.  Prepare cake pans:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease 3 8-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with a circle of parchment paper.  Lightly grease the parchment paper.  Note: It is VERY important to use the parchment paper for this cake.  It is very moist and dense and the first time I made this cake I only used grease and flour for my pans and the cake stuck! When I used the parchment paper, the cake came out perfectly.

2.  Make the batter:  Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl and set aside.  Combine the buttermilk, pumpkin, and vanilla in a medium bowl and set aside.  Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer set on medium speed, until fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until the mixture is smooth and light.  Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, blending well after each addition.

3. Bake the cake:  Divide the batter among the pans and bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean-- about 35 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pan for 20 minutes.  Remove cakes and cool (For cupcakes: Heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Place cupcake liners in standard cupcake tins and fill each with 1/4 cup of batter.  Bake for 22 minutes.)

4. Assemble the cake: Trim each of the layers so that they are smooth.  Place one layer on a cake plate and top with one third of the frosting.  Repeat with the second and third layers.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting


Ingredients:
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 tbs. fresh orange juice
1 tsp. grated orange zest
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
orange food coloring (I used Americolor gel coloring)

Instructions:
Blend the cream cheese, butter, orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla in a large bowl, using an electric mixer at medium speed, until smooth.

Add the sugar and continue to beat until light and creamy-- about 3 more minutes.  Add the food coloring and gently stir until the color is uniform.

Chill the frosting until ready to ice the cupcakes or cake.

Recipe from Country Living



Thursday, October 27, 2011

Candy Corn M&M Peanut Cookies



Are you enjoying this time of year as much as I am? While I am not a huge Halloween fan, there are parts of the holiday that my husband and I enjoy and look forward to.  We always watch It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown every year, and I love putting out candy for all of the cute trick-or-treaters, and decorating my front stoop with pumpkins and mums.  I also couldn't resist buying our cat a little bat costume so she would be Bella the Bat Cat-- I know, I know, I'm weird. :)  And, finally, of course, I love the food-- candy corn, candy apples, spiced hot apple cider, pumpkin donuts, yum!  

I had heard people on other blogs talking about M&M's new white chocolate candy corn variety.  I was really happy to see some at Wal-Mart and so I snagged a couple of bags.  I started thinking how I could incorporate them in some fun fall baking and came up with these cookies.  Have you ever mixed a bag of candy corn with a bag of salted roasted peanuts? Its pure bliss-- the sweet and salty combo is killer!  It kind of tastes like a Baby Ruth candy bar but better. :)

I used one of my favorite sugar cookie recipes that I found last Christmas on Smells Like Home's blog.  Tate's Bake Shop makes these soft frosted sugar cookies that are just the perfect sugar cookie.  I thought they'd be a great cookie to combine with the candy corn M&M's and peanuts.  I usually make the sugar cookies with the frosting included in the recipe but since the candy corn adds so much sweetness to the cookies, I omitted the frosting for these particular cookies.

I really loved how these turned out.  Soft, pillowy, sugar cookies were great with the crunch and sweetness from the candy corn and the salted peanuts added a nice contrast to all of the sweet.  I will definitely be making these again!  If you can't find the candy corn M&M's, you could substitute them with Reese's Pieces or fall M&M's.




Candy Corn M&M Peanut Cookies

Ingredients:
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup salted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 large egg
1 cup sour cream
1 bag M&M's white chocolate candy corn
1 cup chopped roasted peanuts

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or line with a Silpat.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and egg.  Mix and scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again.  Add the sour cream and mix until combined.   Add the flour mixture and mix until combined.  Stir in the M&M's and crushed peanuts.

Drop the cookies onto the prepared cookie sheets 3 inches apart as cookies will spread.  Bake the cookies for 15 minutes or until they are light brown.  Cool them on cookie sheets for 5 minutes, and remove them to wire racks to cool completely.

Adapted from Smells Like Home via Tate's Bake Shop



Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Iced Pumpkin Cookies with Cinnamon and White Chocolate Chips



Yes, I am addicted to pumpkin.  Yes, I will freely admit that.  I really feel this picture sums up my feelings on the matter:

Pinned Image


I made these soft iced pumpkin cookies and I have to say they are one of my all-time favorite cookies now.  While the original recipe called for semi-sweet chocolate chips, I decided to switch it up a bit and instead added cinnamon chips and white chocolate chips.  I was thrilled with the results and think this really is the perfect fall cookie.  The pumpkin cookie is soft and cakey, with the cinnamon and white chocolate adding bursts of flavor that blend so well with the pumpkin.  Finally, the vanilla glaze drizzled over the top adds just a touch more sweetness without making these cookies too sweet-- I'm all about iced cookies, aren't you? Cookies should always have icing if at all possible! :)

You can always substitute the cinnamon and white chocolate chips with 2 cups of semi-sweet chips instead, as pumpkin and chocolate really go wonderfully together.  If you missed my pumpkin and chocolate chip cupcakes, you can see one of my favorite recipes with this combo here.

Finally, the original recipe calls for pumpkin pie spice which is a pre-made blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. I prefer to mix my own, instead of using a pre-blended spice and I usually swap the allspice with cloves, but you can use either one.  This way, I can control the measurements and make the blend to my liking (e.g. more cinnamon, less nutmeg).  I've included my substitute for pumpkin pie spice in the recipe in case you want to do the same, or if you don't have pumpkin pie spice on hand.




Iced Pumpkin Cookies with Cinnamon and White Chocolate Chips

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or use 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp. cloves)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup cinnamon chips
1 cup white chocolate chips

For the Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 1 1/2 tbs. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease baking sheets.

Combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.  Beat butter and sugar in large mixer bowl until creamy.  Beat in pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in cinnamon and white chocolate chips.  Drop by rounded tablespoon onto greased cookie sheets.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.  Drizzle with Vanilla Glaze.

For the Vanilla Glaze:
Combine 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons milk, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract in small bowl; mix well.  Drizzle on cookies after they've cooled.

Adapted from verybestbaking.com



Thursday, October 13, 2011

Creamy Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup


Right now I am craving good hearty soups.  I know a lot of you are too as the weather cools off.  There is nothing like a steaming bowl of soup for cozy dinners in the fall and winter.  I was in search of some good recipes that were hearty yet healthy to make for dinner (with leftovers for lunches) so I turned to my back issues of Cooking Light to find some good ideas.  I saw this recipe for Creamy Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup and the ingredients and the gorgeous golden orange color immediately caught my attention.  I liked that it contained both sweet potatoes and carrots.  Not only is it full of beta-carotene but sweet potatoes and carrots are inexpensive and readily available in the fall/winter.  Good, healthy, cheap= major win-- am I right?? :)

 I made a batch of this soup last weekend and both my husband and I loved it. This soup is creamy with just a hint of spice and a little sweet from the sweet potatoes, carrots, and Vidalia onions.  While you can use regular onions, I thought the mild Vidalias worked really well in this soup.  The recipe calls for a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of parsley for a garnish which added a nice tang and was a good contrast with the sweetness from the soup.  I think creme fraiche would also be great option. Instead of using parsley (because I didn't have any fresh at home) I added an additional sprinkle of cinnamon-- I think I actually preferred it to the parsley so I'll probably just use that instead for the future.

This soup was so easy to make, especially if you have an immersion blender so that everything can be mixed in one pot.  It makes 8 1-cup servings so it made enough for several meals for my husband and me.  It's also low in fat and calories and high in fiber which makes it a great Weight Watcher's option.  I included the points value below.


Creamy Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup


Ingredients:
3 tbs. butter, divided
1 cup chopped onion (I used Vidalia onions)
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
4 3/4 cups cubed peeled sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 1/2 cups water
3 cups fat-free, less sodium chicken broth
3 cups chopped carrot (about 1 pound)
1/4 cup half and half
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Instructions:
1. Melt 1 tbs. butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onion to pan; cook 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.  Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Move onion mixture to side of pan; add remaining 2 tbs. butter to open space in pan.  Increase heat to medium-high; cook 1 minute or until butter begins to brown.  Add sweet potatoes, carrots, 3 1/2 cups water, and broth; bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer 35-50 minutes or until vegetables are tender ( I found I needed to simmer mine about 50 minutes in order for the carrots to soften).

2. Use an immersion blender to blend soup until completely smooth.  Or if you don't have an immersion blender, place half of soup mixture in a regular blender.  Remove center piece of blender lid to allow steam to escape.  Secure blender lid.  Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid to prevent splatters.  Blend until smooth.  Pour into a large bowl.  Repeat procedure with remaining soup mixture.

3.  Stir in 1/2 and 1/2, salt, and pepper and serve.

*Note:  You can make this soup several days in advance and reheat over medium-low heat.

Serving size= 1 cup.

Weight Watcher's Points Plus:  1 cup= 4 points (3.6 grams Protein, 25.7 grams Carbs, 6.7 grams Fat, 5 grams Fiber)

Recipe from Cooking Light



Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting



October means its pumpkin time!  I've stockpiled my cans of pumpkin to gear up for the next few months of intense pumpkin baking.  I absolutely love all things pumpkin and hope to share many more of my favorite pumpkin recipes with you all in the coming weeks.  Have you all had a hard time finding pumpkin recently? I guess the canned pumpkin industry is still rebounding from the shortage of 2009 and 2010 but according to this article they are in good shape and pumpkin should be hitting the shelves in full force soon! Woohoo! While pumpkin has been a little hard to come by, I did find an ample supply at Trader Joes and Wal-Mart.  Between the two, I think I have enough to get me through until after Christmas. :)  If you have not been able to find pumpkin in your stores, check the organic section, as many stores carry organic canned pumpkin on that aisle and you may have luck there even if the cans of Libby are sold out.

I found this recipe for Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting on Gimme Some Oven a couple of years ago and it has since become my go-to recipe for pumpkin cupcakes.  I especially like it with a 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips thrown in.  Pumpkin with a hint of chocolate is such a great combo-- the spicy flavor of the cupcake and the rich bits of chocolate go great together.  If, however, you want to omit them, these cupcakes are still wonderful.  You can also add in your other favorite ingredients-- nuts, craisins, white chocolate, etc.  would all be excellent as well.  Also, I have to say, the frosting in this recipe just makes these cupcakes-- cinnamon cream cheese frosting? Um, yes!  It is the perfect ending to these already great cupcakes.  Try them and you'll see why I look forward to these every fall!



Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:
For the Cupcakes:
2 cups canned pumpkin (its slightly more than a 15 oz. can)
2/3 cup oil
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. each- ground cloves, nutmeg, and ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

For the Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 tbs. butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon


Instructions:


For the Cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 2 muffin pans with 24 cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, stir together pumpkin, oil, sugar, milk, and vanilla.  Sift in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.  Gently whisk by hand until just combined, being careful not to overmix as the texture will become gummy. Stir in mini chocolate chips by hand.

Fill liners with 1/4 cup batter (cups should be about 2/3 full).  Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting.

For the Frosting:
In a bowl mix together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla.  Gradually add powdered sugar and cinnamon, mixing until it's all incorporated.  Use immediately or refrigerate.  The frosting will harden in the refrigerator so plan to bring back to room temperature if you need to refrigerate the icing before frosting the cupcakes.

Adapted from Gimme Some Oven via Love and Olive Oil



Saturday, October 8, 2011

Scarecrow Crunch


I have come across so many great fall ideas on Pinterest.  Its really hard to not go crazy pinning all of the cute ideas and yummy recipes I've seen! I'm trying to make as many as I can, but I know I won't make a dent in all of the recipes I've pinned. When I came across this recipe for Scarecrow Crunch, I just knew I had to try it out-- recipes like this are so much fun and such an easy snack to make for a party or for gifts.  Its a great blend of salty and sweet, chewy and crunchy which means a perfect snack in my book. Basically, you just combine all of the ingredients in a huge bowl and then TRY to not eat endless handfuls of this goodness.  When I say you need a big bowl, I mean a big bowl.  This started to overflow the biggest bowl I had so I ended up having to mix this in my large stock pot.

If you are having a fall or Halloween party, just mix this up and serve it in a festive bowl.  I also like the idea of making these for gifts so I bought some cellophane treat bags at Michael's and found some cute Halloween ribbon on sale!  I put about 2 cups of the mix in each bag and tied it with the ribbon.  Easy peasy!


Scarecrow Crunch
*Makes about 15 cups

Ingredients:
4 cups crunchy oatmeal cereal squares (such as Life cereal)
4 cups tiny twist pretzels
1 (24 oz.) bag autumn mix candy corn
2 cups Reese's Pieces
2 (6 oz.) boxes caramel popcorn with nuts
1 7 oz. bag chocolate graham snacks (I used Pepperidge Farms chocolate goldfish)

Mix all ingredients together in a very large bowl. Serve as desired.

*Note:  For those concerned with peanut allergies, I would use regular caramel corn without the peanuts and swap out the Reese's Pieces for regular M&M's.  The fall color M&M's they have out now would look really cute in this mix.

Recipe from noragriffin.typepad.com



Thursday, October 6, 2011

Vidalia Onion Dip- With Only 3 Ingredients!



So, like I mentioned recently, I can't get enough of dips and appetizer recipes right now.  This one, for Hot Vidalia Onion Dip, is a good old standby recipe that you see in many Southern cookbooks and is SO easy.  Its creamy and cheesy and has just a tinge of sweetness from the Vidalia onions.  After writing this post and editing my pictures, I really wish I had some more right now-- I really can't be trusted with this dip and some crusty bread.  Its a good thing I almost always have the ingredients on hand!  I mean, really, 3 ingredients?? This kind of recipe is right up my alley, and a good one to have in your back pocket if you find you need to whip up an appetizer for unexpected guests, or when hungry people descend on your house. :)

You definitely want to use a mild sweet onion for this recipe as I think regular onions would overpower.  Its very easy to get Vidalia onions here and I try to keep a bag on hand for most of my cooking.  I grew up on these babies and just love to cook with them. If you can't find Vidalias, I think Maui or Walla Walla onions would also be fine, although I have not used them in this dip.  I do, however, buy Maui onions when I can't find Vidalias at the store and they have a similar mild sweet taste so I think they would do fine.

This dip is great served with crackers, apple slices, pita chips, or french bread.  Enjoy!

Hot Vidalia Onion Dip


Ingredients:
1 cup Vidalia onions, or other type of sweet onion, finely chopped
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
optional: Paprika to sprinkle on top

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix all of the ingredients together and pour into a small casserole dish.  Sprinkle the top with Paprika.  Bake until bubbly.  (I forgot to write down how long this takes to cook and the recipe doesn't give an exact time but I think it was about 20 minutes).

Adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, Delightfully Southern



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Monster Cereals: It only Happens Once a Year!



I admit, I have a total weakness for good ol' Franken Berry, Boo Berry, and Count Chocula.  I was in the grocery store this weekend and saw these pop up and I was instantly a child in the 80's again!  Its so sad that they only come out once a year now and even then they're hard to find.  I was thrilled to see all 3 varieties (Franken Berry has always been my favorite though) and snatched a few boxes because they'll be gone before I know it, sigh. Nothing like sugar-filled cereal with mini marshmallows that turns your milk a pepto bismol pink to make your day! :)


Amex@6 Giveaway WINNER!


Thanks to all who entered my giveaway for the $100.00 American Express gift card!  There were so many great 6 (or less) recipes entered.  I now have a treasure trove of easy meals and desserts that I can't wait to try!  I used the  Random.org integer generator to choose a winner for me.

And the winner is... drum roll please...

Its Lindsay from DelightfulTreats!!! I'll be emailing you shortly about claiming your prize. Congrats Lindsay!

Here is Lindsay's tasty 6-ingredient dish:

"As a single gal, my go-to meal is a healthy and tasty omelet: eggbeaters (or eggs), cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, mozzarella, and salt/pepper. I usually use butter-flavored Pam to keep the eggs from sticking, and to help me keep my girlish figure. : ) Not only did I make one for myself for dinner last night, but I made it for a friend I had over. Big hit!"

If you missed my 6-Ingredient dinner, you can see my Breaded Chicken with Fontina and Peppadews here. Its so easy and a favorite at our house!

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