Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pumpkin Ginger Cupcakes with a Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Ginger Cupcakes with a Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

WOW!  It has been horribly hot in Southern California for a few weeks now and I have been hesitant to turn my oven on for anything beyond dinners.  I was finding myself seriously aching to bake- SO, I put aside the 100+ degree weather and allowed myself to enjoy my kitchen.  Can you tell I am really looking forward to Fall??  If not, the mere fact that I made something pumpkin should give it away!

As usual, I always enjoy baking when I can be around my boys.  I began prepping the ingredients and by the time I pulled out my mixing bowls I had multiple step stools surrounding me with helping hands, love it!

To begin, preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

In a bowl, mix together 3 c flour, 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder and baking soda, a dash of salt, 2 tsp of cinnamon and 2 tsp of ginger.  Once sifted, set aside.

During the holidays I stock up on Trader Joe's Organic Pumpkin ... it preserves for about 2 years when canned which is perfect for using this year round when it is only stocked seasonally!

In a large bowl, beat together 1 c melted butter, 2 c sugar, and 1 15 ounce can of canned pumpkin- be sure that it isn't pumpkin pie filling!!  A common mis-step is also assuming a can is a cup- it isn't!! This can I used is 15 ounces, as opposed to a cup that measures 8 ounces.  
As you can see, I had a pretty cute helper who had a great hold on that mixer!!

Once blended, add 6 large eggs- beating until smooth.

Mix in your flour mixture until it is incorporated.  In our house we have to take turns which means this process takes much longer, but it keeps the peace!  The boys rotated turns mixing away until our batter was smooth and thick.

All ready to prepare our muffin tins!

Again, my little helpers filled our muffin pans with liners ...

... fill the liners about half full with batter so there is room for the muffins to rise.

Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes.

While Braydon primarily helped me with the cupcakes, Cole helped me make our frosting.  While our cupcakes were cooling we combined 2 sticks of butter at room temperature with 6 ounces of cream cheese and 2 tsp of vanilla in a bowl.

Using a mixer, beat on low speed until smooth and thoroughly blended.

I know I am biased, but is he cute or what?!  Waiting so patiently for his next instructions!

Once the ingredients have blended, add 4 c of powdered sugar and continue mixing until smooth.

Separate about 1 1/2 c of your frosting from your bowl and add 2 tsp of cinnamon.  

Mix the cinnamon into the frosting- feel free to add more cinnamon if you like until a light brown color is achieved.

When your 2 frostings have been made, top your cupcakes.  I put a dollop of cream cheese frosting on top each cupcake.

I then added a smaller, second dollop of cinnamon cream cheese frosting as well.

You can either leave the cupcakes with dual frostings to serve and enjoy or you can take a spoon to swirl the two together.

Be sure you top your cupcakes with their frosting ONLY once they have completely cooled as the frosting will slide right off the cupcakes if too warm.  

Once cooled, refrigerate these cupcakes to preserve the cream cheese frosting and enjoy!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Onion Rings, Funnel Cakes, French Fries & Tortilla Chips

Onion Rings, Funnel Cakes, French Fries & Tortilla Chips

A few weeks back, my sister came over for the evening and we thought we would have a 'fry party' ... we would skip out on a healthy dinner and opt for all things yummy and fried.  

A deep fryer is necessary to make these items how we made them.  A deep fryer is a novelty item, but so fun when you have one.  We went simple, but the foods are endless to create- deep fried chicken, churros, donuts, battered fish and SO much more.

Onion Rings

To begin making onion rings, take a yellow onion and slice into 1- 1 1/2 inch slices.

A batter is required to dip the onions into- In a bowl, combine 1/2 c flour, 3/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper and 1/2 tsp baking powder.  In a measuring cup, whisk together 1 egg and 1/2 c milk.  Add the milk to the dry ingredients, blending well.  

Dip onion rings into the batter.

Place the onions into the deep fryer at 365 degrees.  

Fry until golden brown, turning to brown both sides.

Remove to drain and cool.  I LOVE onion rings, and I have to say that these homemade ones were the BEST I have had!!

Tortilla Chips

To make tortilla chips, we used corn tortillas.  We sliced a stack into 8 triangles.

Place them into the fryer at 350 degrees.

Periodically check to be sure they are crispy.  If removed too quickly, the chips will be soft and a bit chewy towards the center, rather than crispy.

Take the chips out from the oil and let cool.  Lightly salt them for more flavor.

Again, remove to let cool and enjoy!

French Fries

Ideally when making french fries, using Russet potatoes is best.  We didn't have any on hand, so we used smaller yellow potatoes from a medley mix.  These potatoes are sweeter and softer, so they didn't fry as firm as we would have liked, but they were SUPER tasty!!

Wash your potatoes and slice.  Place them in your frying basket, with the fryer set between 350 and 365 degrees.

The french fries will cook in about 8 minutes, so occasionally lift the basket to toss the fries for an even cook.

When golden brown and firm, remove to drain and lightly season to your liking.

Funnel Cakes

Funnel cakes have a way of reminding us of our childhood- especially our times in amusement parks.  Making these funnel cakes is SO easy and way cheaper than buying them while at the fair or Disneyland!!

The batter used is as follows:
Combine 1 1/3 c flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 2 tbsp sugar and 3/4 tbsp baking powder.  Mix 1 egg and 2/3 c milk until smooth.  

Pour your batter into a funnel.  Hold a finger over the bottom of the funnel to be sure the batter stays in the funnel before you are ready. Let the batter drop in spiral motion into the pan filled with the hot oil (about 350 degrees).  After having used the funnel, I realized that Williams-Sonoma's pancake pen would have worked even better. 

Fry until golden brown, turning once.  Drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  

Needless to say, we ate tasty foods- ALL homemade and the company was great too!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Spicy and Tangy Tomato Sauce

Spicy and Tangy Tomato Sauce

I haven't blogged a recipe in a while.  Summer evenings have our family at the pool, out with friends and enjoying nights in our backyard while our boys play around us.  We obviously still eat dinner every night, but they typically aren't new recipes that I haven't already shared.  I am also guilty of making what is familiar, rather than venturing out to be creative in the kitchen.  Let's be honest, summer days in California are HOT and don't really cause for an invitation to have your oven on ALL day long.  My Mom shared a recipe with me the other day that looked yummy, but it was for the crock pot.  I didn't want to be stuck in the house with a crock pot on all day cooking us and the food, SO I altered it a bit and it was super yummy.

If you are up for using the crock pot follow the same instructions, but leave to cook for 10-15 hours on low.  Ideally, the longer the sauce simmers, the more flavorful the sauce will be.

As I mentioned, I opted to cook on top of the stove in my dutch oven- a large pot will also work.  

To begin, pour about 1/4 c olive oil in your pot with 1 c chopped onions.  Add 1 tsp minced garlic, and season with 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp cayenne pepper, a dash of salt, 1 tsp pepper and 1 tsp cinnamon.  Stir together and let it all simmer together for about 15 minutes.  

In your pot, place 10 roma plum tomatoes- peeled, seeded and crushed.  If you don't have fresh tomatoes you can use 2 cans of tomato sauce.  Stir the tomatoes into your seasoning and lower your heat.  I added a few bay leaves to the sauce as well for additional flavor.  Allow the sauce to simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  

Boil noodles to pour your sauce over and serve.  If you plate your sauce with the bay leaves, be sure to enjoy them for their visual appearance, but do NOT eat them!

Our family loved this spicy and tangy take on a classic marinara sauce- the cayenne pepper gives it a kick and the cinnamon adds a tangy sweetness.