Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pumpkin Pecan Minis

Pumpkin pie!  Pecan pie!  Both!

Two of my favorite fall desserts wrapped into one delicious bite.  Flaky crust, crunchy pecan top, and a gooey pumpkin center. Yum!

With something so easy, there's no need to wait until Thanksgiving!  

This recipe makes a 9" inch pie, but I chose to go with minis.  They're just way easier for a 2 year old to handle.  And since the kids are usually happy with one, that's less pie that I "have to" finish.

Pumpkin Pecan Pie
3 eggs
1 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) melted butter
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
1 9-inch unbaked pie crust 
Whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350°F.
With a hand beater, beat eggs well. Beat in corn syrup, sugar, butter, pumpkin and vanilla until well-blended. Arrange pecans in bottom of pie shell. Slowly pour egg mixture over them. Bake for 1 hour or until knife inserted 1 inch from edge comes out clean. Let cool completely before serving to allow the filling to set up.  Top with whipped cream.

Mini Modification:
Spray mini muffin pan with cooking spray.  Press 2"x 2" squares of pie crust dough into each cup.  Place 1 teaspoon of chopped pecans in bottom of each cup, fill with egg mixture.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Time to Vote...Again!

Challenge #2

All submissions are in and only 200 will advance.
Just follow the link, read my post (or not) and click on the heart to vote.  It takes a couple of seconds and a couple of clicks, that's all...

What's next?

Challenge #3: A luxury dinner party.  Where will I go with that?  Not sure yet, but I'll be sure to share lots of pics.  Vote for me so I can show you what I got!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Next Food Blog Star....still in it!!!

What??  Wow!  Really??  Well OK, here goes...

Project Food Blog Challenge #2

A bit surprised is an understatement.  While looking through the submissions for Challenge #1, I just kept thinking 'Wow, I really need to step it up a notch'.  I am clearly up against some of the best!

Tackle a classic dish from another culture that takes me outside of my comfort zone. Hmmm?

Greek?  Japanese?  Mexican?  Indian? 

Sauerbraten!  Sauer what??  Sauerbraten!  Yep, this here Portuguese girl went German.  Sauerbraten (sour roast) is considered by many to be Germany's National dish.  Beef, onions, carrots, potatoes, sour cream, and ginger snaps?! 

Now let's not forget, I bake.  I DON'T COOK!  Well of course I cook, I do have a family of 6 to feed.  I just don't "cook" cook.  I make tacos from a kit, steaks on the grill, an occasional pasta dish, and if I may say so myself, I make a mean corn flake chicken. So when it comes to comfort zones, trust me, I'm stepping out (as are a couple of the picky eaters I feed).  And c'mon, there are crumbled ginger snaps in this dish! Gingersnaps and beef?  That in your comfort zone?  Not mine.   

I love a challenge, but I still had to make it work with my schedule.  Between my twin 7 yr old nieces visiting from Georgia, my son’s football game, homecoming for my daughter (which involved a nail appointment, hair, make-up, giant photo session, and a lot of taxiing around) my time was limited this weekend.  But I did it!  I found a way to make it work.  A shortcut recipe for Sauerbraten that got rave reviews…thank god for the crockpot!!  Having never made (or eaten) Sauerbraten before, I really had no reference point.  But let me say this…it tasted fantastic!  A nice blend of sweet and sour.

How did it look?

We're being judged on our blogging, not the result of our dish, right?!

The meat completely fell apart, and I was left with what I guess you can call a stew, minus the cubes of meat.  It doesn’t look like any of the pictures I found on the internet, that’s for sure.  I guess I could have dressed it up with some clever garnish, but what for?  Like I said, it tasted fantastic.  The recipe suggested serving it over egg noodles, which would have made perfect sense.  I chose, however, to forgo the noodles (honestly, I just forgot to buy them).  All in all, it’s a keeper, just needs a little fine tuning.  A quick and easy way to enjoy an ethnic dish...works for me!

How did I arrive at my decision regarding what to make?

There’s no story of a trip to Germany, or some distant German ancestry that has always fascinated me.  To be frank, I based it on dessert.  That’s right, dessert.  I’ve always wanted to try a German Apple Kuchen, and what better excuse than to follow up a traditional German meal with a traditional German dessert.  Typically I bake from scratch, but I’ve set a precedent with this challenge, so here it is...

another shortcut...and it's delicious!!!

Crockpot Sauerbraten
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 9 hours
Total Time: 9 hours, 20 minutes

2 lbs. top round beef steak, cut into 2" cubes
2 onions, chopped
1-1/2 cups beef broth
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 bay leaves
16-oz. pkg. baby carrots
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3/4 cup crushed gingersnaps (about 15 cookies)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 cup sour cream
2-3 Tbsp. flour

In 4 to 5-quart slow cooker, combine beef, onions, broth, vinegar, bay leaves, carrots, and potatoes. Mix well, then cover crockpot and cook on low for 8-9 hours. Then remove cover and turn heat to high. Remove bay leaves. Add gingersnaps and brown sugar to the mixture. Stir well and taste for seasoning (you may want to add more gingersnaps or brown sugar for the perfect sweet/sour balance). Then stir together sour cream and flour and add that to the crockpot, stirring well to combine. Cover and cook for 30 minutes until thickened and heated. Serve with hot cooked egg noodles or spatzele. Serves 6-8

German Apple Kuchen
1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
1/4 cup margarine, softened
1/2 cup flaked coconut
4 large Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup sour cream
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan. Peel, core, and cut each apple into 8 wedges. Set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the cake mix, coconut and margarine until crumbly. Pat mixture lightly into prepared pan, building up the edges slightly to form a crust. Arrange the apple wedges on top. Mix together the cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over the apples and the cake mixture. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and sour cream. Drizzle over the top of the cake. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until the edges of the cake are golden and the apples are tender.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Vanilla Cupcake

Moist.  Fluffy.  And best of all, simple.

Nothing better then your basic vanilla cupcake.  Sure, some love a cupcake with all the bells and whistles and the textbook chocoholic may pass this one by, but find me one person that will actually take a bite and say "ewww".  If they're out there, I haven't met them yet.

The trick, of course, is not over-baking.  Don't count on the time specified in the recipe, count on your own watchful eye.  Just a few seconds too long will dry out these yummy treats.  Trust me, I lost my first batch this way (darn computer, distracts me every time).  No worries, they won't be wasted.  Cake Ball post...coming soon!

Vanilla Cupcakes
1 3/4 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside.
Combine both flours, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Mix on low speed until combined for about 3 minutes.  Add in cubed butter, mixing until just coated with flour.  Add eggs 1 at a time until combined.  Slowly add milk and vanilla to batter until completely mixed scraping down the bowl as you mix.  Scoop batter into baking cups filling about 2/3 full.  Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes.

Vanilla Buttercream
2 sticks unsalted butter (can substitute 1/2 cup shortening for 1 stick butter, I do when decorating)
1-2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk
1 lb (approximately 4 cups) confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon meringue powder

Cream butter, add vanilla and milk.  Slowly add dry ingredients, mix until creamy. May need to increase sugar amount if stiffer consistency is desired.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Puppy Cake - Sneak Peek

I know, I know, I have another blog for this...

But c'mon, he's cute!  Too cute not to share!

Check it out on Crumb Coat Cakes!

Oh, and don't forget, last day to VOTE on first challenge of Project Food Blog!!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

It's Time to Vote!

It's time!  In addition to the judges, there is a reader's choice.  I need your vote! Only 400 bloggers advance.  Oh, and if I haven't mentioned it yet, there's a $10,000 prize plus a one year feature on Foodbuzz.

Just follow the link, read my post (or not) and click on the heart to vote.  It takes a couple of seconds and a couple of clicks, that's all...

Vote Now!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Next Food Blog Star....could it be me???????

Wow, quite a whirlwind!  I start a blog, I start a second blog, I join Foodbuzz (an online food blog community), and suddenly, I'm a contestant in Project Food Blog. The next food blog star, could it be me?  Sure it can!

Crumb Coat Cakes          Apron Strings Baking          Foodbuzz          Project Food Blog

12 weeks of challenges, a panel of 3 judges, and the reader's choice vote.  That's what I'm up against....piece of cake! (thought that might be the proper cliche to use in a baking blog)  So here we go!

Challenge #1

What defines me as a food blogger?

Let's see...

I am a mother of four.  3 girls: McKennan, Josie, and Sophia (pray for me) and 1 boy: Aiden (pray a little harder).  Once number 4 came along, I swapped a career of 15 years for 15 extra pounds.  What can I say?  I have a wicked sweet tooth, and more time in the kitchen = more bowls to lick.

Do I have any culinary training?  No.
Did I grow up baking with my mother?  No.
Do I have a background in writing?  No.

So who am I?

Just a gal.  A gal that loves to be in the kitchen.  A gal with a laptop, cheap camera, and absolutely no free time.


But mostly, a gal with a voice.  I love sharing a little of me with a lot of you. Or maybe it's the other way around, I share a lot of me with a little of you.  Either way, I love it! Whether I have 1 reader, or thousands, I get to share something I enjoy.  Unless I burn it.  Then really, no one will get to enjoy it. The story, however, could be fun to hear!  That's what it's about, fun.  Fun for me and hopefully fun for you.

Why should I be the next food blog star?

This is where I should go on and on about what makes me better than the other 1800 interesting and talented contestants.  The thing is, a blog is basically a public journal to share your own personal interests and views.  So is one better than the next?  That's a matter of opinion formed by each individual reader.

I have a passion for food, especially the sweet stuff!  Actually some people may classify it as an addiction.  Passion?  Addiction?  One thing is certain, I can't live without it! And you never know, we just might share the same "passion".  So stop by every now and then, you might like what you see!

Why should I be the next food blog star?  Why not?!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Freakin' Fabulous Cream Puffs: The Sequel

Pecan mousse filled cream puffs with a maple glaze.  I gave these a PG-13 rating due to the constant pestering of a certain 13 year old.  "Mom, can I taste the mousse?", "Mom, did you fill a shell for me yet?", "Mom, Mom, MOM!!!!!!!  Kids can be very persuasive.  I was originally thinking of something for adults only (it involved Kahlua!).  Oh well, maybe next time.

The flavor combo of this mousse is a fall favorite of mine.  You might recognize some of these ingredients from an earlier post, Cream Cheese Bars.  Cream cheese, brown sugar, pecans, and maple...feels like fall, wouldn't you say?!

A simple cream puff with so many possibilities.  So once again...
Thank you Clinton Kelly! <3 You're my fave!  (Smitten, remember?!)

Freakin' Fabulous Cream Puffs

Use pastry bag to pipe mousse into center of cooled cream puffs and drizzle with maple glaze.

Pecan Mousse
3/4 cup pecan pieces
1 tbsp butter, melted
16 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whipping cream, whipped

Combine pecans and butter, stirring well. Then spread on baking sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, then finely chop nuts and set aside.
Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.
Add sugars and vanilla beating well, then stir in ¾ cup toasted pecans.
Gently fold whipped cream into pecan mixture and spoon (or pipe) into serving dishes. Garnish with additional nuts, if desired.

Maple Glaze
1/4 maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup confectioners sugar

Whisk until smooth.

Short and sweet 'cause I gotta run.  Wouldn't feel like fall without some youth football! Go Raiders!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Freakin' Fabulous Cream Puffs - Rated G

Homemade cream puffs.  Why G Rated?  General Audience - Suitable for all ages? They're kid friendly!  You see, these are filled with vanilla instant pudding, the only way my kids will eat them.
The cream puff - so versatile, so simple!

This recipe comes from Clinton Kelly.  Yes, Clinton Kelly, TLC star/author of Freakin' Fabulous.

So much fun!  A must read!

If there's anyone that can make me freakin' fabulous, it's Clinton Kelly!
Oh Clinton, do you believe that I actually used to hold my wine glass by the bowl? And making my bed was low on the list.  But don't you worry!  Thanks to you, I've changed my ways.

Do you sense it?  Can you tell?  I'm smitten!!
Ok...sorry...where was I?  Aah yes, the cream puff recipe.

Cream Puffs
1 cup water
1 stick butter
1 cup flour
4 eggs

In a medium saucepan, boil water and butter.  Bring to a simmer, stir in flour 1/4 cup at a time.  The mixture will become a big ball/blob.  Let blob cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Transfer blob to large mixing bowl.  Mix on low, adding one egg at a time.  Fully incorporate each before adding the next.  Beat until smooth and velvety.

Lightly coat cookie sheet with nonstick spray.  Drop batter in 12 spoonfuls onto cookie sheet for approx. 35 mins or until medium golden brown and dry on the outside.  Let cool.  Fill and dust with powdered sugar.


Stay tuned for Freakin' Fabulous Cream Puffs: The Sequel - Not Yet Rated.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Red Velvet

A Southern classic!  A Northern favorite!  As exclaimed by me (a Northerner).  But really, would anyone care to differ?  A tender, moist cake with just the right hint of cocoa, paired with a whipped cream cheese icing...YUM!

Not my traditional cream cheese icing, but something a bit lighter.  All the cream cheese flavor in a whipped topping.  Perfect!  I stumbled upon this recipe some time ago, and so glad I did.  Top of the list, it's a keeper!  As for the red velvet recipe, I strayed from my usual and substituted apple cider vinegar for white vinegar.  A little tip I picked up from an episode of DC Cupcakes.  The jury is still out.  Didn't notice a difference, so if it ain't broke don't fix it!

Love, love, love the liners!  I found these a few weeks ago during a bout of impulse buying.  What a good excuse to bake.  Don't these liners just scream red velvet? What's black, white and red all over...ok, ok, no dumb jokes.  I promise.  

Simple, yet elegant.  Who says cupcakes can't be formal!

They didn't last long, but I did stash some in the freezer for later...shhhh!


Red Velvet Cupcakes
2 1/2 cups AP flour (additional 5 tbsp if using cake flour)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 heaping tablespoon cocoa (sometimes, depending on my mood, I add a bit more)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons red food coloring

In medium bowl, sift together dry ingredients.  In large bowl, beat eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla, and food coloring.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until smooth.  Fill cupcake liners approx. 2/3 of the way.  Bake at 350 degrees until toothpick comes out clean (ovens vary, 18-20 min range).  Makes about 2 dozen cupcakes (plus a few extra for the chef)

Whipped Cream Cheese Icing
1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened 
1 cup white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup heavy cream

In large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, salt, and vanilla until smooth.  In small bowl, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold into cream cheese mixture.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Apple & Oat Squares

Apple & oat squares drizzled with...you guessed it, salted caramel sauce.  

More flavors of fall!  Thankfully it's right around the corner.  I need some relief, it's been in the 90's all week.  And as I've said before, the fall is my very favorite time of year!  Beautiful weather, rich colors, holiday cheer, and pumpkin spice coffee, what's not to like?!  

I combined my favorite apple filling with a brown sugar/oat crust, added a little salted caramel and ended up with what tasted like the perfect bite of an apple crumb pie. Why not just go for the whole pie?  Well, the squares are just so much easier for little fingers to handle, and I have a bunch of those around here.  They were delicious right from the fridge, but I can just imagine a warm apple square with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, mmmmm!                                                                                                                                                         
I toyed with the thought of baking the crust for a few minutes before adding the filling. Since the apples are partially cooked on the stove top and wouldn't need as long in the oven, this might have worked, resulting in a crispier crust.  But, in fear of drying it out (the original recipe for this particular crust doesn't include double baking like some of the others I use) I opted to forgo the pre-baking.  I am thrilled with the result, but I have to admit, I'm still a bit curious.

Timesaving Tips: Peel and slice the apples ahead of time, spritz them with some lemon juice, and refrigerate in an airtight container.  Having some Salted Caramel Sauce on hand doesn't hurt either.  With so many uses, why shouldn't it be a household staple?

Just a quick note...while having seconds (take this into account while reading on), my dad got a bite that was heavily drizzled with caramel and thought it was a bit sweet (I hear that a lot when I bake, hmmm?).  So drizzle to taste, go heavy, go light, or skip it all together.  When it comes to baking, don't be afraid to mix it up a little. Part of the fun is making it your own!

Apple & Oat Squares

3 or 4 Granny Smith apples (approx 6 cups) thinly sliced
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purposeflour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter

Peel and slice apples.  Sprinkle with lemon juice.  Combine dry ingredients in large bowl and add apples. Toss to mix.  Add vanilla and cream.  Melt butter in heavy skillet.  Add apple mixture and cook approximately 8-10 minutes, to soften apples. 

Crust and Topping:
1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cup oats
3/4 cup unsalted butter

Combine dry ingredients.  Cut in butter, combine with pastry cutter or fork until crumbly.  Reserve 1 1/2 cups of mixture for crumb topping.  Press remaining mixture into greased 9 x 12 pan.  Spread with apple mixture and top with remaining crumb mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 mins or until crumb topping is golden.  Drizzle with Salted Caramel Sauce to taste.