Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting... and a little something extra

I am a summer person... I may have said this before, but I am totally all about hot weather and shorts. But, I am totally inspired by fall food! Pumpkin and spice cupcakes really hit the spot. Smothered in cream cheese frosting, and dusted with cinnamon, these didn't last long. And, like a fool, I gave away the few left overs. Shame on me!

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes - slightly adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 14 regular size cupcakes and a dozen mini-cupcakes, or about 20 regular cupcakes 

Preheat oven to 350

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
4 eggs
1 can of pumpkin puree (15 oz size)

Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices together in a large bowl.

In another bowl, cream butter and sugars, add eggs and mix till smooth. Add dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree until well blended. Don't worry about getting rid of all the lumps. The batter is pretty thick.

Fill cupcake liners until about 3/4 of the way full. I like to use an ice cream scoop to help keep cupcakes an even size. (It also keeps things cleaner. And I use this for making cookies so they are all the same size.) Bake about 20 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Let these cool completely before you frost!

Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes about 3 cups of frosting - I dolloped a ton of frosting on 14 cupcakes and had tons of left overs. This amount of frosting would easily frost a two layer cake. 

1 brick of cream cheese (8 oz size)
1 cup (2 sticks of butter)
4 cups of powdered sugar
2 teaspoons maple syrup (or vanilla)

Whip softened butter and cream cheese together until smooth and fluffy. Start with 2 cups of powdered sugar, and whisk in remaining sugar until the frosting is the consistency you want. You may need a little more, or a little less. Whisk in maple syrup. Chill for a few minutes and dollop onto cupcakes. Dust lightly with cinnamon.

So... like I sort of mentioned earlier, I make 14 regular cupcakes and 12 minis... here's what I did with the minis...

Pumpkin Spice "Doughnut Holes"
Makes 12 glorious treats

12 mini muffins
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
3 tablespoons melted butter

Melt butter in a wide bow. Mix sugar and cinnamon on a small plate. While mini-muffins are still hot, roll them in butter and then roll them in cinnamon sugar. Cool a bit and re-roll in cinnamon sugar. 


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Maple Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is officially one of my favorites.  It all started…last week when I bought a mini pecan pie from the grocery store.  It was only 6 inches and hubby and I downed it in one sitting lol.  THEN…I saw a recipe in Food Network Magazine (the Thanksgiving issue is phenomenal by the way).  It was Ina’s recipe for maple pecan pie and I knew right then and there that I would be making one for myself.


I slightly adjusted Ina’s recipe by omitting honey, replacing that with brown sugar, adding more vanilla in place of Bourbon (just because I didn’t have any), and I didn’t use her crust recipe.  Even after reading the recipe, I didn’t realize how easy it was to make a pecan pie.  After the crust, you literally just mix all of the filling ingredients together and pour it in.  That’s it.  I’m not joking! 

The pie was simply delicious and crust was buttery and flaky.  I wanted to keep eating more and more.  Note: you may want to curb your sweet-tooth before making this pie because you have to allow it to cool and trust me, you won’t want to.

Maple Pecan Pie

Crust Ingredients:
5 tbsp very cold unsalted butter
5 tbsp very cold butter-flavored shortening
½ tsp salt
1 1/3 c all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
3-4 tbsp very cold water

Filling Ingredients:
½ c light corn syrup
½ c maple syrup
¼ c brown sugar
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp grated orange zest
½ tsp kosher salt
2c whole pecan halves

Combine salt, flour, and sugar in a food processor bowl.  Pulse a few times to combine.  Cut butter and shortening into small pieces and add to bowl.  Pulse 4-5 times or until small crumbs start to form.  Slowly pour water, 1 tbsp at a time, down food processor chute while pulsing.  Repeat until dough starts to come together.

Preheat oven to 350.

Empty dough out onto floured surface and form into a small round disk.  Place in a zip-top bag and refrigerate for 30-60 mins.  Remove dough from bag and lightly flour both sides.  Roll dough out into a 10” circle and carefully move to pie pan. 

Using your fingers, create the desired pie edge.  To make the filling, whisk together all ingredients except pecans.  Once well mixed, add pecans and stir to combine.  Pour filling into piecrust.  Place pie pan on a baking sheet and place in the oven.  Cook at 350 for 45 mins or until center of pie is set.  Allow pie to cook completely before serving.

Piecrust takes no time once you get the exact measurements down - especially when using a food processor.  Therefore, it’s best to make multiple crusts and freeze them until ready to use.  My piecrust uses a combination of butter and shortening.  Butter makes it light and flaky.  Shortening holds the pie together (and makes for great fluting!). 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chicken and Herb Drop Dumplings

It has been ugly, cold, and rainy in NYC…ugh.  As much as I dislike the weather during this time of year, the food seems to make all of those feelings go away.  I guess that’s why they call it comfort food, right?  Well, supposedly my mom makes a MEAN chicken & dumplings.  I wouldn’t know because, for some reason, I’ve never had it (no hard feelings mom!).  However, after some recipe research and a half hour lesson on her recipe over the phone, I think I found a way to make it my own.

My mom makes more of a Southern chicken & dumplings but she grew up on drop dumplings.  Southern dumplings are rolled out, cut into strips, and dropped into the boiling soup.  They tend to be more “doughy” and dense.  Drop dumplings are easier because you don’t have to roll them out, and fluffy because you drop them onto the soup and they cook on top.  I may try the Southern recipe one day but honestly, I don’t see a reason after making this.  I couldn’t get enough of these dumplings.  They were fluffy on the inside and creamy on the outside.  The addition of herbs gave them just a little hint of something extra.  I must say, for my first time making chicken & dumplings, I knocked it out of the park! 

Chicken and Herb Drop Dumplings

Stock Ingredients:
8c water
1 small bunch of sage
1 small bunch of thyme
1 small bunch of rosemary
1 rotisserie chicken carcass, chicken reserved
2 bay leaves  
1 small onion, quartered
2 large celery stalks, halved
1 large carrot, quartered
3 whole garlic cloves
1 ½ tbsp salt
2 tsp black pepper

Soup Ingredients:
Stock (from above)
1 rotisserie chicken, torn into pieces (carcass used in stock)
2 carrots, chopped
2 large celery stalks, chopped
½ large onion, chopped
3/4 c frozen peas
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

Dumpling Ingredients:
2c baking mix
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 tsp Italian seasoning
2/3 c reserved stock (from above)
Milk (if necessary)

Using your hands, tear chicken off bone and into small pieces.  Set aside.  Once all chicken is removed, place remaining carcass in a stockpot.  Fill stockpot with ~6c water or up to desired level.  Add remaining stock ingredients to pot.  Bring to a boil and cook for 30 minutes.  Once finished, add more water if necessary and return to boil.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.  Strain stock and return liquid to pot.  Discard carcass and all remaining strained ingredients.

Note: If you want to shorten time and don’t want to make your own stock, you can use store-bought stock.

Heat stock to medium-high heat.  Add torn chicken and remaining soup ingredients to the pot.  Bring to a boil.  While soup is heating, combine baking mix, baking powder, and salt.  Sift flour mixture into a mixing bowl.  Add Italian seasoning and stir until well-mixed.  Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add reserved stock to the center.  Stir dough until evenly wetted.  If mixture is too dry, add a little milk to ensure the proper consistency.  Do not over-mix. 

Tip: Sifting the dry mixture makes the dumplings lighter.

Drop spoonfuls of dough onto boiling soup mixture.  Soup should be well covered but not too much where the dumplings stick together.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 mins uncovered.  Cover and cook another 10 mins.  Serve hot.

Rotisserie chickens can be used for a multitude of recipes that call for shredded chicken and is great for soups, enchiladas, sandwiches, etc.  We seem to always have one stashed away in the fridge.  I intend to make homemade stock every time I buy a rotisserie chicken.  It’s just too easy and too good not to!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Chicken and Biscuits with Veggies

Well, it's started raining in the Pacific Northwest. 'Tis the season for taking a jacket everywhere you go - even if you leave the house and it's 72 degrees and sunny... it won't be for long! My husband and I have lived in the PNW for 8 years now and while there is a saying "Don't like the weather?? Wait 10 minutes," it's hard to get used to being so invested in what the weatherman claims the day will bring. Weather changes this dramatic brings a pretty swift change to our dinner menus. Soups, casseroles, pastas all come back with a vengeance!

I love this casserole! It's totally comfort food and it's super adaptable. I make this with cheesy biscuits, a lot of veggies and only a bit of chicken.

Chicken and Biscuits with Veggies
Heat oven to 375, this makes about 6 meal-sized servings
Cheesy Sage Biscuits 
2 cups of flour
1 stick of cold butter, cut into small pieces 
1 tablespoon baking powder 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheese - I used half cheddar and half Parmesan
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

In a food processor, combine flour, butter, baking powder, salt, cheese and sage. Pulse until well mixed and butter is in small, pea-sized bits. Pour in milk while pulsing until everything is just combined. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the meal.

Chicken and Veggie Filling
3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped (or chicken breasts, or shredded rotisserie chicken, or ground chicken, or chicken sausage... or whatever you like!)
1 cups chopped potatoes (about 3 small)
1/2 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 a large)
1 cup chopped zucchini (about 2 medium)
1 cup chopped carrots (about 3 medium)
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup chopped fresh green beans
1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 can cream of mushroom soup
3/4 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a large skillet heat half of the olive oil and cook onions, carrots, celery and potatoes until onions start to get translucent - about 5 minutes. Then add green beans, mushrooms, zucchini, thyme, salt and pepper. Turn down the heat to low and continue to cook.

In a second skillet, heat the other half of the olive oil and cook chicken. Add chicken to the veggies and add cream of mushroom soup and milk. Stir to combine and heat through.

Pour the chicken and veggie mixture into a 9x13 glass pan, or other large casserole dish and top with biscuit dough. No need to spread the biscuit dough around - it will spread to cover most of the veggies as it cooks. Cover with foil (I spray the inside of the foil with cooking spray to make sure the biscuits don't stick.) Cook covered at 375 for 20 minutes, uncover and turn up the heat to 400 and bake another 10-15 minutes, or until the biscuits are well browned on the top and the filling is bubbling. 

A few things about this recipe...
Like I said, this is a really adaptable recipe. I find this a great way to clean half used bags of veggies out the freezer, or use up fresh veggies when I've gone nuts at the farmers market. 
Hate green beans? Leave them out. 
Love butternut squash? Add it in. 
Have 3 half used bags of frozen corn? Throw one in. 
Hate mushrooms? Leave them out and try cream of celery soup.
Vegetarian? Don't use chicken at all. 
Want to make this even easier? Don't make biscuits from scratch - make Bisquick biscuits and add cheese and herbs (though they are barely easier than from scratch!)
Leftovers reheat really well.

Happy comfort eating!

And... if you haven't had a chance, join our email list!  To join, send your name and email address to nopressurecookercontact@gmail.com. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Browned Butter and Crispy Sage

My boss thinks I'm just working from home for a few days, but really I'm packing our favorite things and we are moving to France to move into this woman's life. She doesn't know it yet, but she seems so nice and they are already used to 14 dogs and 4 kids, so one more of each shouldn't even be noticed! Really though, this is a beautiful blog and I'm in love. Her blog inspired me and I made pumpkin gnocchi with browned butter and crispy sage. To say this was an easy dinner is a huge understatement. I was ready to commit to a really involved dinner. I thought we would eat about 6:45pm. We were finishing seconds at 6:15. EASY DINNER. REALLY. Delicious too - warm, fall-flavored, delicious!

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Browned Butter and Crispy Sage - adapted from Manger

1 15oz can pumpkin puree - no spices added, 100% pumpkin
1 3/4 cup flour - plus more for dusting
1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of salt

Browned Butter and Crispy Sage
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon butter

In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, egg, spices and flour until just combined. I used my hands. Dough will be very sticky and it will feel like it will not roll out, but fear not, it will!

Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll the first piece into a log and cut off 1/2 inch sections. Roll the cut gnocchi in flour and press with a fork to make ridges and set aside. 

In a medium sized sauce pan, simmer water at a near boil and start the butter in a large saute pan. Add sage and brown the butter over medium heat stirring occasionally. 

Put about 6 gnocchi in the simmering water - they float when they are done. Skim off with a slotted spoon and put immediately in the browning butter. Saute for a few minutes until crisped on one side. Cook gnocchi and saute in batches. Place in warmed serving bowls and top with a Parmesan cheese. 

A few things about this recipe... 

This went SO fast. Start to finish 15 minutes. That's it. 
The amount of dough makes enough for 4 good sized portions. 
We ate this with a mixed salad and it was nicely satisfying. 
The rest of the dough kept in the fridge for 2 whole days and cooked up just fine after resting for that long. 
This would be good made with sweet potato puree if you're not keen on pumpkin.

Happy Eating! 
(Future posts maybe slow as I'll be writing from an internet cafe in France. And having a latte. And a croissant.)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Pork Chops with Roasted Apples and Onions

As you know by now, we love Cooking Light magazine.  Many of our recipes are modified versions of their great dishes.  The best thing about this magazine is that they don’t provide only healthy recipes, but they take dishes that are typically full of fat, carbs, salt, etc. and make them healthier. 

Many of our Facebook fans have requested fall recipes and we intend to meet those requests!  This dish is full of fall flavors with pork, apples, and thyme.  My house was full of fall aromas and it just made me think of the holiday season.  Apples and onions go really well together because they both get sweeter as they cook.  When you eat this, I encourage you to include pork, apple, and onion in every bite :)

Pork Chops with Roasted Apples and Onions

2 ½ tsp canola oil, divided
1 ½ c pearl onions
2c Gala apple wedges
1 tbsp butter or margarine, divided
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
¾ tsp kosher salt, divided
¾ tsp ground black pepper, divided
4 bone-in center-cut pork loin chops
½ c low-sodium chicken broth
½ tsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp cider vinegar

Slightly modified from Cooking Light

Preheat oven to 400F.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 1 tsp oil to pan; swirl to coat.  Add onions to pan; cook 1 min or until lightly browned, stirring once.  Add apple to pan; cook 2 mins or until lightly browned.  Place pan in oven and bake at 400F for 10 mins or until onions and apples are tender.  Stir in 2 tsp butter or margarine, thyme, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle pork with remaining ½ tsp salt and pepper.  Add remaining oil to pan; swirl to coat.  Add pork to pan; cook 3 mins on each side or until desired degree of doneness.  Remove pork from pan; keep warm. 

Combine broth and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Add broth mixture to pan; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.  Cook 1 min or until reduced to ¼ c.  Stir in vinegar and remaining 1 tsp butter.  Serve sauce over pork and apple mixture.

I served this with asparagus spears and mashed potatoes.  Yum!