Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cinnamon Sugar and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

After carving some cute pumpkins with my husband and brothers, I carefully scooped out the pulpy insides and dug through the "gross mushy stuff," as my brother John calls it. He used "gloves" made of ziploc bags and masking tape to remove it from his pumpkin. It took quite while to separate the seeds from the pulpy flesh, but the that's the only time consuming part of this recipe. The rest is so simple, that my little brother could even handle it.

Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

This recipe is for my Dad who can never get enough of hot, spicy food. He only likes something spicy if it makes his face is red like a tomato and his eyes are watering.

Fresh Pumpkin Seeds
1/8 cup of Butter, half of stick
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp of ground pepperoncino flakes
1/2 tsp of paprika

1. First step, you need to wash your seeds very well. I rinsed them in a colander for a few minutes.

2. Pat the seeds dry with paper towels. Place in a bowl to toss.

3. Melt butter, pour in bowl and toss seeds.

4. Pour seeds on a cookie sheets and sprinkle with seasonings. Stir around to mix well.

5. Bake on 300 f0r 30-40 minutes, stirring occasional through out baking process.

Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Fresh Pumpkin Seeds
1/8 cup of butter, half a stick
2 tsp of sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

1. Follow same process as above, wash and dry seeds well.

2. Melt butter and stir in vanilla. Toss seeds with butter mixture,

3. Spread out on cookie sheets and cover with sugar and cinnamon. Stir to mix well and then bake at 300 for 30-40, stirring occasionally.

Also featured on Monday Mania @ The Healthy Home Economist

Monday, October 25, 2010

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

I love everything about the fall! The trees on the mountain changing colors, the cool breeze signaling that winter is around the corner, and of course, the scrumptious flavors of fall; apples, pumpkins, and cinnamon! Apples are very big around here! There is a popular Apple Festival where the town and orchards get flooded with tourists letting us know that fall is in full swing ! I returned with tons of apples waiting to be eaten! I love to eat apples on their own, but apples are a fantastic addition to so many dishes!

Carrie from Carrie's Sweet Life decided to head up a group of baking lovers, where we try a new baking challenge each month. This month's challenge was a fall themed cupcake and since I was the proud owner of a large bushel of apples, I knew it had be something with apples. I asked myself, what goes better with apples than caramel? And what could be more heavenly than a caramel apple cupcake? The apple cider brings out an extra blast of flavor to make these cupcakes even more irrestible. The homemade super thick caramel on top gives it a striking resemblance to a traditional caramel apple.

Caramel Apple Cupcakes
adapted from Chockylit

3 apples, Macintosh
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp brown sugar
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup oil
1 cup apple cider
1 tsp vanilla

1. Rinse the apples and core them. Place in a baking dish. Mix 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Fill the cavities of the apples with sugar mixture. Bake for 20 minutes on 350 degrees. Remove from oven and spoon 1/4 cup apple cider into the cavities of the apples. Bake another 20 minutes.

2. Let the apples cool slightly, then peel off the skin. Mush the apples and reduced apple cider with the back of a fork or potato masher. Measure out 1 cup of apple mush and set aside.

3. Combine flour, cake flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt in a medium sized bowl. Whisk to combine.

4. In a separate mixing bowl, beat eggs. Add in oil, apple cider, vanilla, and apple mush. Beat until combined.

5. Slowly add dry ingredients while beating. Spoon into cupcake liners at least 3/4 of the way full, almost to the top. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, rotating halfway.

Super Thick Caramel

1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
6 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Bring the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk to a boil over medium-high heat stirring to combine.

2. With a wooden spoon, stir all ingredients together and then slowly add the heavy cream.

3. Continue to stir for about 20 minutes until the caramel reached 248 degrees. It is important to continuously stir the mixture and to allow it to reach temperature.

4. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Transfer to a bowl and continue to stir for 2-3 minutes allowing the caramel to cool slightly.

5. Using a small offset spatula, frost each cupcake with the caramel. If desired sprinkle warm caramel with any number of toppings, like coconut or crushed nuts.

6. Transfer the cupcake into the freezer to allow the caramel to set without dripping over the edge of the cupcake paper.

7. Continue frosting and topping the cupcakes and try to work fast. As the caramel cools, it becomes less spreadable. It is so yummy, but you must work very quickly, because it hardens very fast. If possible work in pairs and let your helper top the cupcakes and transfer them to the freezer. By the time you reach the last few cupcakes, you will not longer need to freeze them and you can take all the cupcakes out and transfer them to the counter. If you have any leftovers, spread some on regular apples!

8. Top off each cupcake with a popsicle or craft stick to finish off the look. They look so cute, like little caramel apples! The only challenging part to these cupcakes was the caramel, but it was well worth it! Just ask my husband who is currently licking the bowl! :)

Sit down, relax, and enjoy a fall festive treat!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Seafood Sauce

My Dad's birthday was coming up, and my Mom and I were on the hunt for a dinner to make Dad with LOTS of fish. We came across this recipe from Dom DeLouise's cookbook, Eat This, It'll Make You Feel Better called Mama's Seafood Sauce. Perfect! A tomato based sauce with three types of fish! Well, it wasn't quite enough.. So we added calamari too, because we wanted LOTS of fish. The end result was precisely that, lots of fish and yummy sauce!

4 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry white wine
4 28oz can of peeled tomatoes
4 tsp fresh basil
1 tbsp oregano
4 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
3 lbs littleneck clams (be sure to rinse them a few times in the shell so there is no excess grit or sand on them)
2 lbs scallops, cut in half
2 lbs calamari rings (not included in original recipe)
2 lbs shrimp, deveined
black pepper to season

1. Heat the olive oil on medium-high heat and saute onions and garlic until golden brown. Pour in wine and cook for 2 about minutes.

2. Add tomatoes, basil, oregano, and parsley, and continue to cook over medium-high heat for another few minutes, then reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 30-40 minutes, until slightly thickened.

3. Add fresh clams, cover and cook until shells open(about 5 minutes).

4. Add scallops, calamari, and shrimp. Cover and cook until barely firm, about 3 minutes. Add some fresh ground black pepper to season. Remove from heat and serve immediately over pasta (I used perciatelli).

Also featured on Tidy Mom!
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Mushrooms Parmigiana

This is an easy stuffed mushroom recipe that my mom has used for years. It's got lots of flavor and is a perfect appetizer for dinner or a party!

1 lb mushroom caps
4 tbsp olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
1/4 cup onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup bread crumbs
4 tbsp Pecorino Romano cheese
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
2 tsp pepperoncino flakes
1/2 tsp oregano

1. Clean the mushrooms and remove the stems. Roughly chop the stems and set aside. Drizzle a little olive oil into a baking dish and place the mushroom caps in the dish with the cavity facing upwards.

2. Heat 4 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Place the mushroom stems, onion, and garlic in the pan and cook until slightly browned. Remove from heat.

3. Mix bread crumbs, cheese, parsley, salt, pepperoncino flakes, and oregano in a separate bowl.
4. Stir in the onion, garlic and stems into the dry mixture. Fill the cavity of the mushroom caps with breading.

5. Drizzle olive oil over the tops of the mushroom (if you have some extra cheese, you could sprinkle some on now as well) and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes (slightly browned).

Also featured on: Bassgiraffe's Thoughts Thursday Blog Hopmoonangelnay thursday blogspot link party blog

Fig Newtons

Here we are! Fig newtons, homemade! Not that I have anything against Nabisco :) I wanted to try out this awesome recipe I spotted at Beantown Baker and while I was not a lover of a fig newtons, my wonderful Aunt Nancy is a big fan. So for her birthday, I gave them a try!

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon or orange zest
1 large egg white
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 lbs fresh figs
1/4 cup sugar
Juice of half a lemon

1. Cream the butter, sugar and zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, for 2-3 minutes on medium speed. Scrape the sides of the bowl.

2. Beat in the egg white and vanilla.

3. Next, add the flour and beat on low speed until the dough comes together.

4. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight (the longer the better). I took mine out after about an hour and a half and it was way too soft.

5. While the dough is chilling, cut the figs in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp with a spoon. In a medium sauce pan, combine figs, sugar, and lemon juice. Mash mixture a few times with a potato masher or fork.

6. Cook mixture over medium-high heat until bubbling and sugar has dissolved; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, until it has reduced by about one-third and is beginning to gel. Set aside until completely cool.

7. Place racks in middle and lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

8. Here's the tricky part, at least, it was for me. On a floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12 x 16 rectangle. Cut into 4 equal strips, each 12 x 4 inches. Spoon a line of filling down the center of each strip. I had a little too much dough for the amount of filling and since I'd rather have super stuffed fig newtons, I threw some jam in the excess dough. Fold the dough over the filling and pinch the edges together. Using a serrated knife, slice each log on the diagonal into 10 cookies. Place each cookie on the parchment-lined baking sheets, seam side down.

9. Bake, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through, for 12-15 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack.

They turned out great and I will definitely make these again!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Eggplant Parmigiana Stack-Ups

My family is a big fan of the traditional eggplant parmigiana, but I was looking for a way to make it different. So I looked for some kind of eggplant parmigiana "stacks" and found a recipe from Chef Fabrizio Carro on Martha Stewart's website and ended up with a very yummy dinner.

Eggplant Parmigiana

3 medium eggplants (not more than 4-inches in diameter), sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1 cup flour
4 cups canola oil
1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped
6 ounces grated Pecorni Romano cheese (Original recipe called for Grana Padano, but this is what I had on hand)
3 oz grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup packed basil leaves
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups Tomato Sauce Recipe (below)

1. Lay eggplant slices in a single even layer on a rack set over rimmed baking sheets; generously season with salt. Let stand 15 minutes to release excess moisture; pat dry with paper towels.

2. Place flour in a shallow dish; dredge eggplant slices in flour, shaking off excess. In a large pot, heat canola oil to 300 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer. Working in batches, add eggplant slices to hot oil and cook, turning once, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain; repeat process with remaining eggplant.

3. Place mozzarella, Pecorino Romano, and Parmesan cheeses in the bowl of a food processor; process until just combined. Add basil leaves and olive oil; process until well combined. Season with fine sea salt and pepper and transfer to a disposable pastry bag.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set six 4-by-3-inch round ring molds in a large shallow baking dish. Place a dollop of tomato sauce at the bottom of each ring mold. Top with a slice of eggplant. Cut a small hole from the bottom of the pastry bag and pipe a layer of cheese mixture on top of eggplant. Top with another dollop of sauce, followed by another slice of eggplant. Repeat process until you have reached the top of the ring mold or have created four layers, ending with a slice of eggplant. Top with a little tomato sauce.

5. Transfer to oven and bake until cheese is melted and eggplant is warmed through, about 15 minutes. Using a spatula, carefully transfer filled ring molds to individual serving plates. Carefully remove ring mold before serving.

Tomato Sauce

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, sliced
2 (28-ounce) cans San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
1 cup fresh basil leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until soft and translucent, 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Add tomatoes and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally and taking care not to let sauce stick to the bottom of the pot, about 2 1/2 hours.

3. Remove from heat and, using an immersion blender, blend until smooth, adding basil leaves as you blend. Alternatively, working in batches, you can transfer tomato sauce to the jar of a conventional blender, adding basil leaves as you blend.

4. Season with salt and pepper and reheat to use immediately or let cool completely before transferring to an airtight container. Refrigerate until ready to use, 3 to 5 days.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe taken from Stephanie Cooks
I saw these cookies on another wonderful food blog recently and, with just seeing the title, all I could think of was, "Boy would my husband LOVE these cookies!" (Truth be told, there are many recipes that get that reaction from my mind. I actually have a favorites tab dedicated to a list of foods Robert would get excited to eat.) These cookies have chocolate, peanut butter, and well it's a cookie so what's not to love!

1 stick butter (softened)
1/2 cup peanut butter ( I used smooth, but chunky would be great too)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (I didn't have any brown sugar on hand so I mixed 1/2 cup white sugar with 2 tbsp molasses)
1 egg
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (I used min kisses!)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Cream butter, peanut butter, sugar, and brown sugar in a mixing bowl.

3. Add the egg and continue to beat until fluffy.

4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

5. Slowly add dry mix to peanut butter mix while beating.

6. Stir in chocolate chips.

7. Drop dough by teaspoon onto lightly greased cookie sheets and bake 10- 12 minutes. Cool on baking racks.

This was Robert's special cookie. He made the last one triple the size!

Friday, October 1, 2010


My grandpa requested that my Mom and I make bracciole for him like my Grandma used to. I don't know if ours was as good as hers, but everyone ate it so fast I'm thinking we did ok!


1 1/2 lb flank steak (usually labeled bracciole meat)
6 tbsp Parsley leaves (roughly chopped)
8 garlic cloves (minced)
4 tbsp of olive oil
salt and pepper to season
4 tbsp grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Tomato Sauce

1. Lay out the bracciole on wax or parchment paper. Pound with a meat mallet.

2. Season both sides generously with sea salt and pepper. Sprinkle with olive oil.

3. Spread garlic on top of the bracciole evenly across the entire piece. Scatter grated cheese on top of garlic.

4. Pile on the parsley! Be sure to cover the whole steak!

5. Now the tricky part, roll it up tight enough not flop over and fall apart, but loose enough to let the sauce and flavors mix well.

6. Secure with baker's twine. My Mom and I had a good time making different designs/knots with the twine!

7. Heat dutch oven on stove top to medium-high heat. Place your braccioles in carefully and continue turning to brown on all sides. The inside does not need to be fully cooked, because it will continue to cook in the sauce. Add water if necessary to keep the meat moist.

8. When fully browned, cover with tomato sauce and reduce to medium-low heat and let cook slowly for 2- 2 1/2 hours. This slow cooking will keep the bracciole tender. I used a tomato sauce similar to this one from an earlier post, except I used whole peeled tomatoes and pureed them in a blender and added onions and red wine.

9. Serve braccoile and sauce over pasta!