Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Recipe Roundup

Merry Christmas everyone! Are you trying to finish up all of the things on your to-do lists before the big day like I am? How many of you are hosting at least some of the festivities, or are going to be doing some marathon cooking over the next few days? I know I am! I think my kitchen has a permanent film of sugar and flour from the last few days and I'm sure you all can relate!

Here are some links to some of my favorite dishes, both savory and sweet, if you need some last minute inspiration.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and enjoy the time spent with family and friends!

Starters and Dips

Bacon and Cream Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

Edamame Hummus with Toasted Pita Chips

Warm Leek and Goat Cheese Dip

Hot Caramelized Onion Dip with Bacon and Gruyere

Soups and Sides:

Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup

Sweet Potato Souffle

Cheesy Mashed Potatoes with Bacon and Gouda

Lightened Sweet Potato Casserole

Asparagus and Mascarpone Gratin with Parmesan Breadcrumbs

Lobster and Shrimp Mac and Cheese

Muffins and Breads:

Eggnog Muffins

Parmesan Peppercorn Biscuits


Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Peaches

Chocolate M&M Cookies

Iced Pumpkin Cookies with Cinnamon and White Chocolate Chips


Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Whipped Cream

Coconut Cake with Lemon Curd Filling

Chocolate Pound Cake with Chocolate Fudge Icing

Red Velvet Bundt Cake

Pumpkin Spice Bundt with Cream Cheese Glaze

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip Cupcakes with Biscoff Buttercream

Pecan Pie

Raspberry Cheesecake Bars

Peppermint Cheesecake with Oreo Crust

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Frosted Brownies

Brownies always remind me of Christmas.  Growing up, my Mom made brownies dusted with powdered sugar as one of the standard Christmas treats she made each year.  Ever since, it just seems like it's not Christmas unless we make a brownie of some sort along with all of our other cookie baking.

I've flipped by this recipe for frosted brownies in my beloved Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook for some time now. The picture of the rich chocolate cream cheese frosting just called out to me, as it looked so rich and decadent.  And since the holidays are the time for indulging in recipes that are rich and decadent, I thought, why not?  I made them first for my husband's co-workers and also for some family and unfortunately didn't get to take pictures of them. But, I knew as soon as I tasted them that they would become a new favorite recipe at our house. That just gave me an excuse to make them again-- the ol' "I have to bake these for the sake of the blog excuse." The brownies were dense and fudgy with delicious chunks of semi-sweet chocolate mixed in.  Then, of course, that frosting was heavenly.  Thick and creamy and slightly tangy from the cream cheese.  It's then whipped into a deliciously light consistency and spread over the cooled brownies-- an instant hit for sure!

The brownies, while very moist and chocolaty, are more of a cake-like type (which happen to be my favorite kind). They are still too dense and fudgy to be considered a cake but do well in supporting the icing.  Finally, the slight crunch from the chopped bits of chocolate makes this extra special and a chocolate lover's dream-- so perfect for the holidays!

Frosted Brownies

5  large eggs
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup shelled walnuts, chopped (optional)
2 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped

Frosting Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
5 tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
5 oz. cream cheese, cold
pinch of salt

Line a 13x9 baking pan with parchment paper.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Put the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat with a mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the flour, salt, and cocoa and beat until all the ingredients are well mixed.  Pour in the melted butter and mix through.  Stir in the nuts, if using, and the chocolate by hand until evenly dispersed.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking pan and bake in the preheated oven for about 30-35 minutes, or until the top is firm but the center is still soft.  Let cool completely.

For the frosting:  Beat together the powdered sugar, butter, and cocoa, in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.  Add the cream cheese in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated.  Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed.  Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes.  Do not overbeat, as it can quickly become runny.

When the brownies are cold, spread the frosting over the top.

Adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Glaze

Hi! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoyed the time spent with family and friends. Whether you stuffed yourself silly, or were standing in line at a Black Friday sale, or were overdosing on leftovers and football, Thanksgiving is such a great holiday, isn't it? I'm starting to plan out my Christmas baking and looking forward to making some of my favorite Christmas recipes (and trying some new ones) but in the meantime, I think I need to make a few big salads to make up for some of the over-indulging from last week.

I know people think of pumpkin desserts more for fall and Thanksgiving, but I love them all through the holiday season.  I've made this bundt cake several times this year and felt like I couldn't let the season go by without posting this recipe since it's been one of my favorite desserts to make this year. As you've probably guessed from my blog, I do love bundt cakes and even more so during the holidays.  They're easy, festive, and so adaptable to your favorite cake recipe, and, I just find them nostalgic and beautiful.

This pumpkin spice bundt cake has such a moist tender crumb--thanks in part to the pumpkin which is always so good in baked goods.  I played around with the spices until I found a mix that brings out those delicious fall flavors we love-- cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves, but did not overpower the cake.  Finally, how can you go wrong with a sweet cream cheese glaze to offset the spicy cake? Pure fall goodness!

I know I plan on making this at least one more time over the holidays. It's a great cake to make for a brunch, an office holiday potluck, or wrapped on a beautiful plate to take to a neighbor or friend.

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake

2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 can (15 oz) solid-pack pumpkin
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 10-in. fluted tube pan.

2. In a large bowl combine sugar and oil until blended.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, ginger and cloves; add to egg mixture, alternatively with pumpkin, beating well after each addition.

3.  Transfer to the greased fluted tube pan.  Bake at 350 for 60-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean (I always set my oven time for about 10 minutes less than the estimated time in order to allow for differences in oven temperatures-- my oven runs tends to run hot, so it usually needs less time than what is called for-- so set the timer for 50 minutes and then check the cake and adjust the time accordingly).

4. Cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack.  Remove pan and cool completely.  Drizzle with cream cheese glaze.

Adapted from Taste of Home

Cream Cheese Glaze

4 oz. cream cheese, cubed and softened
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 to 2 Tbsp. milk
pinch of salt

1. Process cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, pinch of salt, and 1 Tbsp. milk in a food processor until well blended.  Add remaining 1 Tbsp. milk, 1 tsp. at a time, processing until smooth.  Immediately pour glaze over cooled cake, and sprinkle toasted pecans on top, if using.

Adapted from Southern Living

Serves 12-16

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sweet Potato Souffle

It just wouldn't be Thanksgiving at our house without my Grandmother's Sweet Potato Souffle. As long as I can remember, this dish of whipped sweet potatoes topped with a brown sugar pecan streusel was always on our Thanksgiving table.  If my Grandmother wasn't having dinner with us one year, than my Mother always made it in her place. I've always loved sweet potato souffle even when, as a child, I didn't like sweet potatoes in any other form. I guess when you pretty much dress this vegetable up as dessert I was definitely not going to complain. I know a lot of people like their sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows but, I really love the delicious crunchy streusel topping that is so good with the creamy sweet potatoes.

 I thought it would be the perfect recipe to share as we are about a week away from Thanksgiving. The sight of it bubbling in the oven and that delicious caramel smell from the brown sugar and the sweet potatoes baking together has such a nostalgic effect on me.  What are the dishes you are most looking forward to this Thanksgiving?

This dish serves about 6-8 so I would plan to double this if you are having a lot of people over, or if you want leftovers. I would say this dish makes a nice normal dinner sized portion but definitely plan to double if you want Thanksgiving-sized portions! :) I like to use my handheld or stand mixer to really make sure the sweet potatoes are nice and whipped before I sprinkle on the streusel topping.

Sweet Potato Souffle

For the sweet potatoes:
3 cups mashed cooked sweet potato
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

Instructions:  Peel and slice sweet potatoes into even sized pieces.  Put in a stock pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil and then simmer until fork tender, about 20-25 minutes.  Drain potatoes and mash with a potato masher.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly butter a casserole dish.

Mix the mashed potatoes with the sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, and butter.  Mix thoroughly until the ingredients are well-combined and the sweet potatoes are very smooth with no lumps.  I like to use my handheld mixer for this so the sweet potatoes get a nice whipped consistency.  Pour sweet potatoes into prepared casserole dish.  Prepare the topping and sprinkle over sweet potatoes.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until topping is golden and sweet potatoes are bubbly.

For the Topping:
1 cup brown sugar (light or dark is fine, but I prefer dark for this)
1/3 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

Mix all of the ingredients together.  Using a pastry blender or fork, cut in the butter until the mixture is the texture of course crumbs.  Sprinkle over sweet potatoes and bake.

Serves 6-8

Monday, November 5, 2012

Cheesy Mashed Potatoes with Gouda and Bacon

Who's ready for Thanksgiving?? Woohoo! I am! I know, I know, it's still a few weeks away but if you're like me, you are probably thinking, at least with in some corner of your brain, "hmmm, what should I make this year?" Maybe it's not just a corner of your brain, maybe it's your whole brain, or maybe you're already waking up in a cold sweat because you agreed to host your entire extended family for dinner this year when you got cornered by your Aunt Mildred.

So, never fear! For the next few weeks, I'm going to be posting some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes- some old, some new, some family favorites, all very fattening! I decided to start today with a recipe for mashed potatoes.  These are dressed up Thanksgiving mashed potatoes with bacon and Gouda cheese and are oh-so-good yet very simple.  The salty smoky flavor from the bacon is delicious with the mild creamy flavor of the Gouda and the green onions add a nice hint of flavor without being overpowering.  The original recipe calls for either pancetta or center cut bacon.  I decided to use bacon as I had that on hand and didn't feel like running back to the store for pancetta but I listed both on the ingredient list in case you'd like to use pancetta instead.  The center cut bacon will be slightly smokier than the pancetta, but I thought it was delicious. If you've ever topped your baked potato with cheese and bacon, you know what a great combo that is!

The recipe says this makes 8-10 servings and I would just say that if you are truly planning a meal for 8-10 people for Thanksgiving, I would double this recipe.  This dish makes 8-10 normal sized servings but if you are like most of us on Thanksgiving and want to go back for that 2nd helping or look forward to those leftovers late Thursday night, you may be out of luck.  And, I warn you, these are really good, like eat them cold out of the fridge good, so if you didn't double the recipe, you may be sad or worse, upset that I didn't warn you to make more!

Cheesy Mashed Potatoes with Gouda and Bacon

1 pound red-skin potatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 green onions
 1 cup uncooked center cooked bacon, snipped into small pieces or 1 cup 1/4-inch cubes pancetta (about 5 ounces)
3/4 cup half-and-half, light cream, or whipping cream
2 cups finely shredded Gouda cheese (8 oz.)

1. In a Dutch oven, cook potatoes, covered in enough boiling lightly salted water to cover for 20 to  25 minutes or until tender; drain.  Return potatoes to Dutch oven.

2. Meanwhile, thinly slice green onions, keeping the white portions separate from the green tops.  Set green tops aside.  In a medium skillet, add bacon.  After the bacon has begun to start crisping, add the white portions of the onions (if you add these too early they will burn).  Continue cooking bacon and onions, until the bacon is crisp and the onions are softened.  Drain off fat.

3.  Add half-and-half to cooked potatoes.  Mash with a potato masher, a ricer, or an electric mixer on low speed until smooth.  Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the cheese and the bacon mixture.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Transfer mashed potatoes to a serving dish.  Sprinkle with green tops of onions and the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.

Serves 8 to 10 (If you are making this for Thanksgiving, and are serving 8-10, and want large portions or leftovers, I would double this recipe)

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Candy Corn Drink

Well, I am just getting my Halloween post in under the wire.  I am very thankful that this got written at all, as I wasn't sure if the power was going to hold out with Sandy making her unwelcome and extremely LONG presence felt.  She's just like the annoying house guest that won't leave, even when you drop some not-so-subtle hints.  But, nope, as I write this she's still swirling overhead.  I really have nothing to complain about, since so far what we've experienced has been minor compared to the poor people in the northeast.  My prayers go out to them- for peace, safety, and a quick recovery.

I know a lot of people on the east coast are postponing their Halloween plans until this weekend. Our neighborhood is still debating on what to do, and I'm trying to not eat all of the candy I bought for the trick-or-treaters. I saw this recipe for candy corn punch in a magazine and thought it seemed so festive and fun for Halloween or a fall party.  In case you are curious at this point, this drink tastes like an orange mango punch and nothing like a drinkable version of candy corn (which I think is a good thing).  My favorite part was the  topping which was whipped cream flavored with honey (a homage to the candy corn) and was really delicious.  That's the first time I've combined whipping cream and honey and it was so good, I can't wait to try it in future recipes.

This punch is very simple and makes enough for about 8-8 oz. servings.  I think it actually makes more than that, as the punch is sweet and very rich so a little goes a long way.  You have to allow about 2 hours for the yellow layer to set slightly before you can finish making the drink so make to allow enough time for this layer to chill before you are going to serve the drink.

Candy Corn Drink

1 4-serving-size package lemon-flavor gelatin
1 cup boiling water
2 cups mango nectar
3 1/2 cups orange carbonated beverage, chilled
1 cup whipping cream
2 tbs. honey
candy corn for garnish (optional)

1. In a large bowl, combine gelatin and the boiling water, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.  Stir in the mango nectar.  Pour mixture into a tall, clear 2-quart pitcher. Cover and chill about 2 hours or until thickened but not set.  Gently pour* carbonated beverage over gelatin layer in pitcher.

2. In a large bowl combine whipping cream and honey.  Beat with an electric mixer or large whisk just until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Spoon or pipe over carbonated beverage layer in pitcher.  If desired, add candy corn.  Before serving, stir to mix layers.

Serves 8 (8-oz. servings)

*To ensure that the carbonated beverage stays on top of the gelatin mixture, hold a wooden spoon above the gelatin layer and pour the carbonated beverage over the back of the wooden spoon.

Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens "Fall Baking 2012"

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pumpkin Latte Coffee Cake

Sigh, pumpkin, how I love you.  What is it about this orange stuff that makes so many of us go nuts in the fall? When you think about it-- pumpkin really is an odd substance--  in color, in smell, as an addition to baked goods.  I mean, we're not talking about chocolate here! Yet I love it, and just tell me you've slipped some pumpkin in a dish-- whether it's cake, bread, lattes, pasta, or soup and I'll show up. Judging from the amount of pumpkin products I'm seeing displayed all over the place right now I can see I am not alone in my obsession.

In all seriousness, pumpkin, when not mixed with copious amounts of butter and sugar, is extremely healthy.  Low in fat, high in fiber and brimming with vitamin A (which aids vision) pumpkin is a handy as well as tasty vegetable to have around.  Also, as a side note, I've noticed that baked goods always turn out moist and fluffy whenever I use pumpkin puree in a recipe.. so I got that goin' for me, which is nice--name that movie!

Anyway, if you like pumpkin, and if you like pumpkin lattes, and if you like cinnamon streusel, you will love this coffee cake.  It's all of those yummy things rolled into one cake with a latte cream cheese swirl.  (So, this is not one of those healthy pumpkin dishes). As I said above, the pumpkin makes the cake deliciously moist and tender, not dried out like so many coffee cakes.  The cinnamon streusel was great, as how can you not love streusel? And, the coffee drizzle had just the right hint of coffee flavor to complement the pumpkin and spices without overpowering the whole cake.  I made this for my family a few weeks ago and they declared it one of the best things I had ever made for them.

The recipe calls for pumpkin pie spice in both the cake and the streusel but I just use a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger.  I've included the amounts I used in the ingredients in case you'd rather use that or, like me, don't have pumpkin pie spice.  I prefer to make my own because then I can mix it to my liking-- which is always heavier on the cinnamon and lighter on the nutmeg.  And you'll see that my measurements add up to slightly more than the called for amount of pumpkin pie spice, but that is on purpose-- I always add more cinnamon than the recipe calls for. If you aren't a cinnamon fiend like me, than you can adjust accordingly.  Finally, instant espresso powder can be tricky to find depending on where you live.  I found mine at Whole Foods, but did some searching with no luck before finding it there.  You may also be able to find it in the international foods section of your well-stocked grocery store.

Pumpkin Latte Coffee Cake

5 eggs
2 tsp. instant espresso coffee powder or instant coffee granules
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbs. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or use 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. ginger, and 1/4 tsp. cloves)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup buttermilk
1 recipe Streusel (see below)
1 recipe Coffee Drizzle (see below)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 13x9x2 inch baking pan; set aside. In a small bowl stir together
2 of the eggs and the espresso powder; set aside. In a medium bowl beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in the 2/3 cup sugar, the 2 tbs. flour, the 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, and the vanilla until smooth.  Beat in egg-espresso mixture; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl stir together the 3 cups flour, the baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside

3. In a large bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds; gradually add the 11/2 cups sugar, beating until fluffy.  Add the remaining 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in pumpkin.  Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to pumpkin mixture, beating after each addition until combined.  Spread half of the batter in prepared baking pan.  Spoon half of the cream cheese mixture by small spoonfuls on top of the batter.  Add remaining batter in spoonfuls; carefully spread over the cream cheese mixture.  Top with spoonfuls of remaining cream cheese mixture.  With a knife, swirl batter to marble.  Sprinkle with Streusel.

4.  Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean..  Cool in pan on a wire rack for 45 minutes.  Spoon Coffee Drizzle over coffee cake in lacy pattern.  Cool completely on wire rack.  Makes 12 servings.

Streusel Recipe:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. nutmeg (scant), 1/8 tsp, ginger, and 1/8 tsp. cloves)
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter cut into cubes,
Pinch of salt

Combine all of the ingredients.  Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the cold butter until crumbly.

Coffee Drizzle Recipe:
In a small bowl stir together 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar and 1 tsp. light-color corn syrup.  Stir in enough cooled espresso or strong brewed coffee (1-3 Tbs.) to make a spreading consistency.  Start by adding 1 Tbs. and then slowly add coffee while whisking, teaspoon by teaspoon, until you reach the desired consistency.  Drizzle over cooled coffee cake.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens "Fall Baking 2012"

Monday, October 15, 2012

Parmesan-Peppercorn Biscuits

I promised last week when I posted the Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup to share the recipe for these incredible Parmesan-Peppercorn Biscuits. Oh my, are these good-- and easy.  The Parmesan and pepper add so much flavor, you really don't need any other accompaniment, although I think adding something with a sweet element like fig or apricot jam would probably taste really good with these.

I came across the recipe for these this summer and have made them numerous times since.  The whipping cream makes these biscuits so nice and flaky and I love a recipe like this with only a few ingredients-- is self-rising flour the greatest, or what? This is a great recipe to serve with soup and salad-- such a nice variation from just regular biscuits (not that I'm knocking regular biscuits, goodness knows they're taken very seriously down here).  They're also good if you're having people over and want to make homemade bread but don't have time to make a yeast bread and deal with all of rising, etc.  I always have good intentions when I have people over of making homemade rolls or bread and have all of these recipes flagged to try when I have company, but then when we do actually have company, I usually don't have my act together enough to have hours to make homemade rolls-- except maybe at the holidays. Biscuits seem to be a good alternative. Thankfully, these can be whipped up in a snap and smell delicious while they're baking.  They would be wonderful served alongside a baked ham, roast chicken, or pot roast.  Comfort cooking at its best!

Parmesan-Peppercorn Biscuits

2 cups self-rising flour
3/4 cup plus 3 tbs. grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 tsp. ground black pepper
6 tbs. butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup, plus 1 tbs. heavy whipping cream, divided

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, 3/4 cup cheese, and pepper.  Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles course crumbs.  Add 3/4 cup cream to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.

3.  On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/2-inch thickness.  Using a 2-inch round cutter, cut biscuits without twisting cutter, and place on prepared baking sheet.  Brush biscuits with remaining 1 tablespoon cream, and sprinkle with remaining 3 tablespoons cheese.

4. Bake until lightly browned, approximately 12 minutes.

Yield: 1- 1 1/2 dozen

Recipe from Taste of the South, "The South's Best Dishes" edition

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