Brownie Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I was asked to make pink frosted cupcakes for a shower and when I came across this brownie cupcake recipe I KNEW they would be just perfect for a group of gals!  Who doesn’t love chewy brownie goodness?!  And paired with cream cheese, I found these little treats 100% delectable!

Brownie Cupcakes:

  • 2/3 cup (4 oz.) unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 and 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 F. Insert cupcake liners into pan.  In a saucepan, melt the chocolate and butter together until smooth.  Transfer to a larger bowl.  (This is important–if you mix your ingredients in the saucepan, the mini chips will melt!)  Add the sugar, flour, and vanilla and mix to combine.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat for about one minute after each.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Fill cup cake liners 3/4 full with batter and bake for about 20-25 minutes.  Cool completely before frosting with cream cheese frosting.  (See recipe below.)

Look at the chewy brownie goodness!

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • One 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

 Using an electric mixer, cream together cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Slowly sift the confectioners’ sugar into the bowl.  Continue beating until all lumps are gone.  Add the vanilla (and a few drops of food coloring, if you’d like–I added red to make pink frosting!) and mix until fully incorporated.  If mixture becomes too drippy, sift in additional confectioners’ sugar and continue to beat until you reach a spreadable texture.

 

Recipe adapted from Crazy About Cupcakes by Krystina Castella available for purchase here.

Pumpkin Banana Bread

 Frozen ripe bananas are taking over my freezer and I finally decided to do something about it!  I decided on this pumpkin banana bread (as opposed to plain old banana bread) and I must say it was good–very moist and smooth.  However, that said, there is neither a strong banana nor strong pumpkin flavor.  It is almost like the pumpkin diminished the banana flavor but without adding a whole lot of pumpkin flavor.   Does that make sense?  The flavors are subtle and smooth, and the texture just perfect (due to the yogurt, pumpkin, and banana).  I just wish the flavor were one notch higher.  Though I must say, the aroma of this baking was divine.  (I know now how they create all of those “fall” scented candles!)

 Pumpkin Banana Bread:

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin
  • 1 1 /2 cups mashed ripe bananas
  • 1 1/2 cups vanilla yogurt
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine oil, sugars, eggs, banana, pumpkin, and yogurt in a large mixing bowl.  Beat until smooth.  In a second bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.  Stir the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until blended.  Pour batter into two greased and floured loaf pans. Bake for about 45-55 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Original recipe found here on fabulousfoods.com.

Caramel Apple Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

I love autumn! 

I love how the weight of the thick summer air lifts to reveal the cool crisp dark breeze of fall.  The sun sets earlier, beckoning me to my kitchen and dinner table where the foods of the season can be savored.  Pumpkins, squash, and gourds paired with nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves.  Warm red wines nudge the cool white bottles off the shopping list.  Walking home after work I’m reminded of those first few weeks of school as a kid.  The excitement.  The newness of a new grade, new class, new teacher.  I wish I could bottle the hours between 3:00pm and 6:00pm and call on them during the humidity of summer and the frigidness of winter.  Fall is so short, such a small transitional season, I feel it my responsibility to take full advantage.  

And so I present my official first step into fall cooking/baking!

These cupcakes were somewhat “muffiny” in texture.  The pieces of apple were plump and juicy–a nice surprise!  I could have chopped the apples smaller, but I liked the nice chunks in each bite.  These cupcakes almost reminded me of coffee cake, they pair nicely with a warm cup of tea, and the frosting is a delicious treat!   Overall, I found these very enjoyable–a great way to kick off the season!

Caramel Apple Cupcakes:

  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium granny smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Insert liners into cupcake pans.  In a large bowl, beat the brown sugar with the oil, cinnamon, and vanilla using an electric mixer.  Once combined, add the eggs one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition.

In a separate bowl sift together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt).  Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture.  Beat until blended and then stir in the apple pieces until they are evenly distributed through the batter.

Fill the cupcake liners about 3/4 of the way.  Bake for about 22-25 minutes.  Cool on cooling rack and frost with maple cream cheese frosting (recipe below).

 

Look at the beautiful chunks of apple!

Recipe notes: The original recipe does not specify how many cupcakes to expect the recipe to yield–my batter turned out about 18 “normal” sized cupcakes. 

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • One 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup

Using an electric mixer, cream together cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Slowly sift the confectioners’ sugar into the bowl.  Continue beating until all lumps are gone.  Add the vanilla and maple syrup and mix until fully incorporated.  If mixture becomes too drippy, sift in addtional confectioners’ sugar and continue to beat until you reach a spreadable texture.

 

Recipes adapted from “Crazy About Cupcakes” by Krystina Castella available for purchase here.

Savory Cream Puffs filled with Caponata

 Recipe to come…

 

Sweet Potato Ice Cream

I have never made ice cream until this recipe and now I see what I have been missing!  It will be hard (okay, well not that hard, but kind of hard)  to eat store bought ice cream again!  The consistency of this ice cream was unparalleled to any ice cream out of a container.  The flavors were  rich  (somewhat complex) and wonderful!  I urge you to try it!  All I can say to sum it up is these three words: smooth, creamy, and creamy.  Did I say creamy?  Perhaps because this is new to me it makes me very excited!

Oh, and the fact that all of the ingredients are fresh (except for the ginger–I used dried but you could easily use fresh and bump this off the flavor chart) I felt like it was even maybe a little bit healthy, as in, not too bad for you.  (Just ignore the whole cream thing!)  It is fresh! And it contains vegetables!  It is win, win, win.

Sweet Potato Ice Cream:

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1large sweet potato, washed and peeled
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • approx. 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup dark rum
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • confectioner’s sugar to taste (about 1 tablespoon)

Cut the peeled sweet potato into chunks.  Place chunks in food processor for a few seconds so that the chunks are chopped into bite-size pieces.  Place bite-size pieces of sweet potato in a saucepan and cover with about 3/4 cup water.  Add ginger.  Simmer for several minutes until potato is very tender.  This could take as long as 30-45 minutes.  Remove from heat and use an immersion blender to puree potato until it is a silky smooth (baby food-like) consistency.  Set aside.

Scorch the cream in a sauce pan. 

Fill one large mixing bowl with ice then set another mixing bowl on top of it (to create an ice bath).  Set a strainer onto the top bowl.  Set aside.

In a separate saucepan mix the egg yolks with the brown sugar and salt.  Add the egg/sugar mixture to the cream and mix with a wooden spoon constantly over medium-low heat until it thickens.  Be sure to constantly scrape the bottom of the pan as you stir.  Add the rum and vanilla.  Once this mixture has thickened substantially, pour through the strainer.  Stir stained mixture until cool. 

Slowly incorporate pureed sweet potato into cream mixture.  Add confectioner’s sugar to taste.

Pour into ice cream machine and freeze according to the type of machine you have.  Mine stayed in the ice cream machine mixing and freezing for about 40 minutes.  I then removed it from the machine into a plastic storage container and placed in the freezer for about 30 minutes. 

Garnish with mint and serve!

Recipe adapted from recipe by Chef Stephan Viau.

Easy Jambalaya

New Orleans has been all over the news lately and I think that’s why I have had Jambalaya on the brain.  I decided to try this recipe from the Boston Globe and it was really great!  This is an easy and tasty week night supper and it allows for modifications to suit your family.  The original recipe calls for shrimp, which I excluded because I wanted to make this dish “re-heating friendly.”  Also, instead of using diced ham, as the recipe suggests, I used sliced grilled turkey kielbasa, which my husband and I love. I used the brand of turkey kielbasa called Healthy Ones and I am so glad I did.  Regular kielbasa is delicious but has so much fat, and really, I would not have known the difference.  I will certainly use this product again.

This meal was delicious served with freshly grated cheese on top and a nice slice of crusty French bread for dipping.  There is a nice punch of flavor but it is certainly not too spicy.  (Though go ahead and add some Tabasco if that’s your style!  I did!)  I wish the photo did it justice!  I had trouble capturing the lovely colors of this dish.  For some reason they are blurred together in the picture. 

The only pieces missing from this meal were a mint julep and a beignet! 

(One other recipe note, I doubled the below recipe without a problem.)

Easy Jambalaya:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large red pepper, chopped
  • 2 gloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme (I didn’t have any thyme so I omitted it and I didn’t notice it missing.)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 14 ounces kielbasa, grilled and sliced diagonally into bite-size pieces
  • 2.5 cups chicken broth
  • 1  14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled deveined (optional, I omitted it)
  •  1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Over medium heat, in a large pot (I used a Le Creuset) heat the oil and add the onion, red pepper, and garlic. Cook until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the paprika, cayenne, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and tomato paste and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Stir in the kielbasa, chicken broth, tomatoes, and rice, then cover the pot and cook over medium low heat for 15 minutes. Do not lift the lid and do not stir during this time.

If you decide to use shrimp, stir it into the rice mixture, and cook uncovered over low heat for about 5 minutes or until shrimp cooked. Remove the bay leaf, season with salt and pepper (and Tabasco if you’re daring!).  Stir in most of the parsley (saving some for garnish).   Let it sit until the rice absorbs the liquid.  Serve in individual bowls garnished with parsley and freshly grated cheese.

Original recipe available here.

Turtle Bars

 I really enjoyed these bars and I think others did too!  They were very sweet–very much candy bars–and nice and portable and resilient, unlike many other desserts.  I would advise against leaving them in the fridge to cool overnight like I did, as I had a very difficult time cutting them. (I actually bent a knife!) 

Turtle Bars:

 Crust

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup almonds, crushed

Caramel Layer

  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Chocolate Topping

  • 1 cup milk chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Crust

Using a fork combine butter, brown sugar and flour until the mixture forms crumbs.  Press this mixture firmly into an un-greased 9 x 13 glass dish.  Sprinkle with nuts.

Caramel Layer

Combine butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir constantly.  Allow mixture to boil for one minute then pour over crust.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips.  Let stand 5 minutes and then use a rubber spatula coated in cooking spray to spread evenly over the crust.  Let the bars cool then cut. 

Recipe adapted from recipe found here.