Friday, November 9, 2012

Pumpkin cupcakes with buttercream icing

It is officially Fall. Alright, it's been Fall for a while but the weather has been surprisingly warm during early Fall in DC so I wasn't feeling very Autumnal. However, that has changed now and I'm ready to bake with pumpkin, make butternut squash soup and drink hot coca!

Plus I've been seeing pumpkin recipes on Pinterest since at least July.

Pumpkin Cupcakes
adapted from Martha Stewart's pumpkin cupcakes


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly (be sure the butter mixed in well). Fill  muffin cups with paper liners and then fill 1/3 full with batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Makes 2 dozen.

Buttercream icing

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2-3 cups of powdered sugar, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract

In medium mixing bowl, beat the stick of butter, 1 cup of powdered sugar and the vanilla until well mixed. While mixing, add additional powdered sugar until it reaches the desired sweetness.

*Note: You can also add 1-2 Tb of heavy cream to get a fluffier icing

These cupcakes were amazing. I already want to make more. The biggest compliment was my boyfriend (who doesn't eat) eating 3 before 1pm. My biggest mistake was taking them to work and giving a bunch away instead of eating them all myself. Unfortunately the photos did not turn out well but trust me - they were so, so good.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane baking

Hurricane Sandy is currently dumping rain on the East Coast. Thankfully, DC is further inland than a lot of other cites and we don't (so far at least) have any high winds, just lots and lots of rain.

What to do when there is a hurricane and you can't go outside? Why bake of course! Gotta use all the eggs in case the power goes out. Plus, baked goods are already prepared and make a great high calorie food source should the need arise (hopefully, it won't).

Alright, I was planning to make banana bread anyway, I just hadn't gotten around to it yet. Since I really can't (and shouldn't try to) go anywhere, I found the time!

There are hundreds of banana bread recipes out there. Why do I like this one? It makes one loaf. Most quick bread recipes make at least two. Now, breads do freeze very well so if you want to make more, go for it.

You can find the recipe here. If you want to add chocolate chips (like I did), mix 1 cup of chocolate chips into the batter.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Make pudding with almond milk!

You may have noticed a small notice on the back of instant pudding boxes warning users that instant pudding can't be made with soy milk. The internet tells me this is because something in cow's milk it what causes the pudding to set up.

I unfortunately noticed this little moniker after coming home from the grocery store, intending to use almond milk to make pudding for dirt cake. There was no way I was going back to the store.

Enter cornstarch.

You can make instant pudding (I made butterscotch) with almond milk! This is what you need:

1 (small) package instant pudding
2 tsp corn starch
1 1/2 cups almond milk

Mix the corn starch in with the pudding mix and slowly add the almond milk while whisking all of the ingredients together. Allow the pudding to chill.

Update: this has become one of my most popular posts of all time. Tell me, what are you making with your pudding/almond milk? How is it working for you?

This post contains affiliate links, if you make a purchase from one of these links this blog will receive a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Scallops in white wine sauce

My infatuation with Asian cooking did not seem to last long, I'm back to the Mediterranean! Though, I am still planning on giving Pad See Ewe at try (even though everything I've read says you need a commercial gas oven to make it taste right) and something with peanut sauce.

Anyway I randomly bought some bay scallops (ie the little ones) a while back. In the US it seems we eat a lot more jumbo scallops, normally grilled, but in Italy they would show up in the delicious seafood medley pasta dishes with very light wine or butter sauces. Heaven? Heaven.

I thought, I could do this. I make mussels in a wine sauce, why not some scallops? Earlier that day, I was looking at my garden, specifically the rosemary and it seemed like it might just go nicely in this sauce. Plus the parsley at the grocery store was looking pretty sad that day.

Bay scallops, 8 oz
linguini, 6oz (~1/2 box)
2 cups white wine
5 Tb of butter, separated
3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary (remove leaves from stem)
1 tomato, diced
Garlic, to taste
Salt to taste

Heat 1 Tb of butter in a large sauce pan on med-high to high heat. When the pan is hot and the butter melted add the scallops and sear for 1-2 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

In the same pan, add the remaining butter and the wine. Stir occasionally until the butter is melted and add the tomatoes, rosemary leaves, garlic and salt. Simmer on med-high heat and reduce the sauce for about 20-25 minutes or until it reaches desired thickness (should reduce by about half).

When the sauce has been reducing for approximately 10 minutes, begin preparing pasta according to the package directions (ie start boiling water around this time or the sauce won't be reduced enough). When the pasta is al dente, drain it and put in the sauce pan with the wine sauce and add the scallops. Toss the pasta and scallops in the sauce and allow to simmer for 1-3 minutes (this will give the pasta a nice flavor and heat up the scallops a bit). Serve immediately. Makes two adult-sized servings.

In the photo you will notice I had a bunch of scallops, I actually made this with a 16 oz package and the ratio was just too much, so I scaled it back.

Also, you don't want leftovers from this dish - it just won't be that great the second time around, mostly because re-heating will over cook your scallops and make them chewy. They cook very quickly - don't over do it, really a minute or maximum two is plenty.

One final note, this sauce is a basic wine-butter sauce and almost exactly like this one for mussels - try it on both pasta and mussels and expand your repertoire!


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Working on Thai food

I'm working on learning more about Asian cooking. About six months ago, I had Pad See Ewe for the first time and I'm a little obsessed. I started this week by making an impromptu rice noodle stir fry, my first time cooking with rice noodles. Be on the lookout for some Asian cooking recipes!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Grandma's Apple Pie

Making a pie from scratch has been a goal of mine for a long time and I've finally done it!

I started out by looking at apple pie recipes online and they looked very said I needed to refrigerate the crust dough for 4 hours or ideally overnight! I called my grandma and she set me on the right track. Grandma says that refrigerating the dough is completely unnecessary and her pie crust had 4 ingredients and one of them is water. The one I was looking at online had at least 8 - yeah, Grandma's won.


Pie crust
2 cup flour
4 Tb butter or crisco (grandma says a "good Tb" so you might toss in a little extra)
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp cinnamon *I added this because I'm making apple pie
water, as needed (approx 2 Tb)

6 apples, cored, sliced
1/2 cup of sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
Additional 2 Tb of sugar

Pie plate, 10"
Aluminum foil
Rolling pin

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix salt, cinnamon and flour together, cut in butter. Add enough water to moisten the crust as you work it into dough. Kneed for 5-10 minutes. Take half of the dough and roll it out (using a little flour) until it's about 1/4 in thick and place it in the bottom of a greased pie plate. The bottom crust should go up the sides of the plate, trim any excess away.

Place sliced apples in a medium sized pot with 2 Tb of sugar and enough water to cover the apples. Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Drain any excess liquid and allow to cool. Mix the 1/2 cup of sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg with the apples and place them in the pie plate.

Roll the second half dough out until it's a 1/4 in thick. Place on top of the pie plate and press around the edges to seal with the bottom crust. cover the edges of the pie with foil (or a pie shield if you have one) Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, removing the foil for the last 15 minutes.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Beef Stir Fry

My cooking style tends toward the Mediterranean but we all need to branch out. So tonight was Asian night. Recently, I was at the grocery store and bought a steak. It was on sale, beautifully marbled and I had nothing to do with it but I bought it anyway and put it in the freezer.

Now it's coming out - to make steak stir fry.

Apparently stir fry is hard to mess up, because I had no idea what I was doing but the results were delicious. I started here but I had no idea what I was supposed to do with the sauce?!? The directions are horribly unclear but I had already bought ingredients planning to cook this I winged it.


2 cups water
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 cup soy sauce (you can use reduced sodium if you want)
6 oz steak (I don't actually know what cut I used)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Sesame oil (optional)
2 cups frozen pepper strips
10 baby carrots

Slice steak into strips, cutting across the grain. Boil water and mix in corn starch thoroughly, add soy sauce and allow the sauce to reduce while cooking the rest of the ingredients. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large frying pan. Sear the steak with garlic and sesame oil and remove it from the pan. Cook frozen peppers in the pan with additional garlic and sesame oil, about 3 minutes before they are fully cooked add the carrots and return the steak back to the pan. The sauce should now be reduced (not thick, but thicker than is started out); add it to the pan with the steak and vegetables. Serve with white rice.

You'll notice my sauce diverges from my starting recipe, I tried making what I thought they wanted me to do and it was a disaster and I had to start over. This sauce had a great taste! I might try it again with some beef bouillon to see if it improves but I was pretty happy with the results. I served mine with the steamable frozen rice which makes for a quick evening meal.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Goat cheese + bacon = love

I found out something rather shocking recently - not everyone loves goat cheese! Who knew? I made these goat cheese bacon appetizers for a party and I was really surprised to have leftovers! I had to use serious self restraint to not eat all of them before my party guests arrived.

You can find the recipe here. Unlike most recipes from thekitchn, it's not needlessly complicated and though it requires a few more dishes than I usually like, in a party food, that is acceptable. I made a batch and a half because goat cheese came in a 6 oz package, that might be why I had some leftovers. I also served them with some herbed crackers and crostini.

You'll notice mine aren't "pops." While I thought it was a super cute touch, I could not find the little sticks at my local grocery store, I'm sure you'd need to be a larger "suburban" grocery store or maybe a craft shop to find them. Anyway, I did not feel like nor have the time to go all over town looking for sticks.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bierocks - the food of my people!

In Kansas, everyone eats bierocks. Bierocks are a bread pocket filled with meat & cabbage. Yes, I said cabbage! They are a delicious Volga-German food (most people in Kansas are part of this ethnic group somewhere along the line) and so far as I'm aware, they don't eat them anywhere else. Though they are clearly (to me at least) a cross between German and Russian food.

Everyone's grandma makes them better than anyone else's but few people under the age of 40 know how to make them, which is both sad and adds to their allure - if you only eat them a few times a year they taste darn good!  Most people make a whole bunch in one day and put them in the freezer, this can be a whole day project and aside from making the house smell vaguely of cabbage, a fun way to spend a long afternoon.

Shortly before Christmas, I went out to my Grandma's house for a visit, dinner and board games (I lost sequence a lot and won rummikub a lot). What was for dinner? Bierocks. I was in heaven. The problem with living so far away from everyone who knows how to make bierocks, is I never get to eat them.

So I needed to learn to make them. I had a consultation with Mom, with Grandma and I dove in. Now, keep in mind this is not a recipe but more like "orally communicated guidelines." Mom and Grandma (paternal) don't make them exactly the same way, so I pieced it together from what they said to figure out what would work for me.

Bierock guidelines


bread dough
ground beef
green cabbage, shredded
garlic, onion are optional 

-Make a non-sweet bread dough (Mom recommended using Pillsbury hot roll mix, Grandma uses some frozen dough for making dinner rolls, or you can go make some dough from scratch. I used the roll mix.)

-While your dough rises, brown ground beef in a large pan with  shredded cabbage, seasoning as desired. Allow meat mixture to cool somewhat.

- When dough is almost ready, grease a larger cookie sheet and preheat oven to 370.

- After dough has risen, take a small ball (bit smaller than a tennis ball) and roll the dough out into a circle. Place about 1/2 cup of meat mixture in the center and pull the corners of the dough up and join them together in the center. Pull the new corners up and join them together, until the dough is sealed and circular (so much as you can, it takes practice to get them a nice shape).

- Flip prepared bierock over onto a greased cookie sheet. Repeat until cookie sheet is full and bake for 20 minutes at 370 or until nicely brown.

- After removing from the oven, baste tops lightly with butter. Repeat until ingredients are depleted.

- Allow to cool and enjoy!

- If you use 1 box of Pillsbury hot roll mix, 1 lb of ground beef and 2-3 cups of cabbage you will get about 7 bierocks.
- Mom shreds the cabbage in a food processor to make it smaller, very few people make their bierocks this way but Mom always receives accolades for "less cabbagey" nature of hers and this is the secret.
- I said the directions to roll the bierocks out, my mom makes them in her hand, but how she does it is completely beyond me, feel free to try that if you're an over achiever!
- Most people like these with ketchup (including me) and some also with mustard, though this isn't strictly speaking traditional. 
- They also freeze very well but I don't think they are as good after being in the freezer.

Does anyone else's family eat these? If so, I want to know about it!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Date & walnut "icebox cookies"

My aunt made the best cookies when I was home for Christmas! Well, truthfully, she made lots that were so-so and one kind that was fantastic! It came from a Taste of Home cookbook/pamphlet that looked like it was circa late 80s.

1 cup butter/margarine/shortening
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 3 cups flour

1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup chopped dates*
3/4 cup chopped walnuts*

 Mix ingredients thoroughly and then shape dough into a log (or two),wrap in plastic. Chill logs for 2hrs or up to 1 week, unwrap and cut into 1/2in slices. Place on  un-greased baking sheets and bake 350 for 10 minutes. Yield 2 1/2 dozen.
*The original recipe says 1 1/2 cups of "extras" and suggests different types of raisins, chips, nuts or various other things. The dates & walnuts are what my aunt used and what made this yummy.
I changed the recipe to call for more flour because I don't know what happened but this was the stickiest cookie dough I have ever encountered. It stuck to me, the mixer, the spatula - everything. I added almost a whole cup of additional flour. It might be because I did not have enough stick butter and used some spreadable margarine to get up to the needed 1 cup, but I would plan on having some extra around if I were you. I could not fathom how I was to form this sticky, gooey dough into a log, so I added flour until it was workable and used more to coat my hands when I made the logs.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Broccoli & sausage stuffed shells

Sometimes, I don't want to make lasagna because I don't feel like eating lasagna for, you know 9 meals. While it does freeze very well for a quick, take-to-work lunch option, I'm just not feeling like eating it so often! Or I make lasagna and have just a little bit of ricotta left over. What does one do with just a little bit of ricotta? (I recently tried a ricotta pasta sauce that was a icky, so not that...)

Enter suggestion from my friend Kim: stuffed shells. Alright, so this isn't so different from lasagna but it does scale a little better and it's at least arranged a little differently! I made a tad much this first time so I've scaled it down for you below.

Broccoli & Sausage stuffed shells
1/2 head broccoli, (or about 1 cup chopped)
1 Italian sweet or spicy sausage, cooked (I used turkey sausage and boiled it in advance while I was making breakfast one Sunday)
1 cup of ricotta
15-20 Jumbo pasta shells (or you could use manicotti)
1 small jar of marinara sauce (or half a large jar that might be left over)
1/4 tb of pepper
1/2 tb of garlic salt
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese

cooking equipment: small food processor (you might be able to get away with using a blender)

Broccoli, sausage and ricotta mixture
Cook pasta shells according to package directions, rinse and allow to cool slightly. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (I used my new toaster oven!). Grease 11 x 7 in baking pan and spoon small amount of marinara sauce in the bottom, just enough to coat the entire bottom. Place broccoli and sausage in food processor and chop until almost a paste (you can also do them individually). Mix broccoli and sausage with ricotta and using a spatuala or spoon fill each shell and place in pan. Filled shells can touch each other but should not be layered on top of each other. Cover with remaining marinara sauce and bake for 20 minutes. After removing from the oven, top with cheese and serve.
2-3 servings

Note: if you double the recipe you can use a 9 1/2 x 13 in pan

Before going in the oven, you might want to put on a little more sauce than this.
These were pretty good. As I said, my friend Kim makes this with broccoli, I added the sausage (Kim doesn't eat much meat).