Friday, January 29, 2010

Day 24: Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I read somewhere that the difference between a muffin and a cupcake, is that cupcakes have fancier clothes and better accessories.

I'm not sure why it took me so long to make cupcakes with my pumpkin puree... since cupcakes are sort of what got me into the blogging world. I suppose I didn't wanna come off as predictable. Because I assure you, I am anything but predictable. Aside from the fact that I get up every morning at 6:15 (except Sunday's when it's 5:15 -- see, you didn't see that comin'...I'm unpredictable), pop out of bed, take a shower, go downstairs, start the coffee, go back up stairs, pull out the lotion and the hair gel, put on my (previously chosen) underpants, black dress pants (sometimes I mix it up with grey), shirt, socks and shoes (in that order, thank you very much), walk to the bathroom, set out the same five pieces of makeup, have a morning po...

You know what, TMI...I'll stop right there.

What I'm getting at is this... predictability is underrated. There's something to be said about knowing how your day is going to end. Why do we celebrate those risk takers... those folks that live by the seat of their pants... those youngin's that don't know and don't care, what tomorrow brings?

Probably because, at the end of the day, they wear cuter clothes and better accessories.


So, here's the predictable Pumpkin Cupcake (but check out her accessories!):

2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Teaspoon baking powder
1 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon 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 Cup pumpkin puree
1/2 Cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350* and line your cupcake pan. In the new mixer you got for Christmas... (yep, still rubbing that in!) mix together brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and mix until smooth. Add and mix on low, the pumpkin puree and sour cream. Fill your liners about 3/4 full (they will mushroom a bit, but I like that look... if you don't, reduce the amount in each liner to 1/2, and you should get a pretty even cake). Bake about 18-20 minutes or until your tester comes out clean.

While they're cooking, make your cream cheese frosting. You'll need:

1/2 Cup (1 stick) butter, room temp
1 Package cream cheese, room temp (a helpful hint: if the butter or the cream cheese is too cold, your cream cheese won't cream properly and will be "lumpy")
1 and 1/2 Teaspoon vanilla
1 Lb. powered sugar

Mix all this together... and mix it good.

While that's mixing, chop some walnuts. They're good for your heart... Omega 3's and all that.

And this is what you'll get:

Not bad (we'd both give them an A-) for predictability. Don't knock it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day 23: Pumpkin Pup Treats

I'm a sucker for my dogs.

I'm not a dog-in-the-purse sort of dog girl (though if you were to meet me, I so closely resemble Paris Hilton, you'd be confused... I trust, much like Paris Hilton is, most of the time)... but I am a go-ahead-and-run-amuck-in-my-house-cause-I-love-you-so-much kind of dog girl. And so these dogs, do just that.

Meet Wyatt and Abby.

Wyatt -- that one on the right -- LOVES produce. Carrots, broccoli (oh how that boy loves broccoli... oddly enough though, not a huge fan of the Bush family?), bananas, apples, celery, and PUMPKIN. Many weeks ago, when I was cooking and gutting thousands of pumpkins... he was my trusty sidekick. Pacing by the oven as batch after batch after batch was cooked perfectly in it's water bath, sitting on my feet as I scraped away (*starry eyes*), licking up spills before they even hit the floor...

This is the life of a dog. Taxing.

So, given their lot in life, I decided to make some dog treats for the kid-o's... and they are eaaaaasy peeeeeasy!

What you'll need:

2 1/2 Cups whole wheat flour (some dogs have allergies to wheat products; consider this a disclaimer)
1/4 Cup Corn meal
2 Eggs
1 Cup pumpkin puree
2 Tablespoons peanut butter (doesn't need to be exact)
1/4 Teaspoon salt (leave this out if you're using a peanut butter that's high in salt, which most pre-packaged jars, are)
1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pre heat your oven to 350* and lightly flour your counter (for easy rolling purposes later). Throw all the ingredients into your mixer and let it do all the work. When it has the consistency of pie crust dough, roll it out on your counter top to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes and bake for about 30-40 minutes depending on the size and thickness or until they've hardened on the edges.

Wyatt's eye-view.

Abby's eye-view!

It appears Abby and Wyatt would give these an A+! To be fair though, my girl dog also eats (what we call) poopcicles* with winter-regularity, and the boy dog has his morning hankering for (used) kleenex. Please keep this in mind, when trying to understand the result of my very scientific and complicated, grading system.

Regardless, hug a dogs neck today... it's proven to reduce blood pressure. You'll feel better for it!

* I don't know why some people think dogs are gross? Weird.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Day 22: Pumpkin Brownies with White Chocolate Frosting

I'm in love with my Kitchen Aid mixer.

I stare at it longingly. Make eyes at it, over my morning coffee. Think about it when I'm at work and wonder if it misses me... as much as I miss it, when we're not together.

I knew I had a problem, when a few days ago, I watched a video about the factory from which it came -- you know the informational kind, detailing how it's made, painted, boxed, and shipped to your door... and I cried. Seriously... I CRIED! I had been on the verge of tears throughout the video, but at the very end, they show a big, burly factory guy, lovingly wiping this mixer down with a soft, fluffy towel... and I just lost it. Everybody needs a good cry every now and then, right?

To be fair, it's been a long time comin' (the mixer, not the tears). Like seven-years-of-dropping-daily-hints, kind of long time.

And this Christmas, Santa (aka. husband), put one under my tree.

BIIIIIIIIIG mistake. On his part.

He hasn't seen me for weeks.

And just so we can all appropriately, give homage to said Kitchen Aid... a picture. (Listen closely, and you can actually hear the angels singing in the background.)

It's a snow day for me and the Mister, and it's colder than what one can reasonably imagine, so... I've holed myself up in the house for the next couple of days. One cannot live holed up, without brownies, right?

So here's to Pumpkin Brownies with a White Chocolate Frosting, as found in the 90th Anniversary Kitchen Aid "Best Loved Recipes" Cookbook.

What you'll need:

For the brownies...
3/4 Cup packed brown sugar
1 Stick unsalted butter, softened
1 Teaspoon vanilla
1 Egg
1 1/3 Cups all-purpose flour
1 Cup pumpkin puree
2 Teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 Teaspoon baking powder
1/4 Teaspoon salt (I generally omit salt)
1/4 Cup toffee baking bits

For the frosting...
2 Tablespoons whipping cream
4 Squares white chocolate (1 oz each) chopped
6 Ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 Cup sifted powered sugar

Preheat oven to 350*. Grease an 8x8 pan and set aside. In your mixer throw brown sugar, butter, and vanilla on medium and beat until smooth. Add egg and beat until fluffy. Stir in flour, pumpkin, spice, and baking powder. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in toffee bits. Spread evening in that pan you set aside. Bake 40-45 minutes and let it cool completely. I usually get impatient and don't let things cool... but I really encourage you to do this. Otherwise, you're left with a cream cheese mess. I mean... not that I know from experience... I've just heard...

In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat cream until almost boiling. Remove from heat and add your chocolate, stirring until completely melted. While you let that cool slightly, beat cream cheese and sugar in mixer bowl at medium, for about a minute. When that looks good and fluffy, sample a bit on your pinkie finger. If you're satisfied with that taste, add your chocolate and beat until smooth. Frost your brownies.

I'm still dealing with a broken camera. And to make matters worse, last night, I dropped it. Which actually got the flash working again... but now there seems to be other issues. Regardless, here they are with copious amounts of the good stuff (frosting, as if that needed explaining):

It was okay... not exactly what I have in mind when I think "brownie." There's almost a saltyness from the toffee, that I didn't love, but overall... I (and the Mister's) give it a B. And on this day of Epiphany, as I sit by the fire with my Kitchen Aid in my lap... that's good enough.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Day 21: Rigatoni with Pumpkin and Bacon

I do love me some bacon. Anytime I eat it, I wanna take Bacon away for a long weekend in the country.

We don't eat it much though. Occasionally, you'll find the pre-cooked stuff in our fridge, but overall, it's not a staple in our household. And really, I have no idea why.

I figure you can put bacon in, on, or wrapped around just about anything... and it's gonna be yummy. Bacon cupcakes are testament to this fact.

This recipie has 8 slices of bacon in it (much gratitude, dear Martha Stewart) and I thought... well, if 8 slices of bacon will be good... surely 12 slices of bacon would make it even better. And how right I was. Ooooooh, how right I was.

What you'll need:

8 slices bacon, coarsely chopped (you do what you want... I used 12... it's still technically the holidays... 12 days of Christmas and all... go crazy and promise to work it off in February!)
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 (3 pound) sugar pumpkin, peeled and halved, seeds removed, and flesh cut into 3/4-inch cubes (I of course, have pureed every pumpkin in the state of Missouri, so instead of using chuncks, I used the puree -- about 2 cups. Made for a very creamy texture.)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage (powder worked just fine)
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Freshly ground pepper
1 pound rigatoni
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Put bacon into a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring until bacon is almost crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels; let drain. Add onion to skillet with bacon grease.

Now. Let's stop a moment and discuss why and when it became uncool to cook with bacon grease? Honestly, I recall many-a-naked soup can sitting by the stove, housing what we called drippings. No one thought twice about scooping out a spatula-full to plop into their pan, for frying ease. Once, I think I even saw my Grandma eat a spoonful straight outta the can... kind of like peanut butter, only smoother. And if you'd like to use the argument, that it clogs your artieries and is "bad for your heart," I'd like everyone to know that my Grandmother turns 95 this March. She coined the phrase "I've fallen and can't get up," weighs under a hundred pounds, can't find her teeth, her glasses, or her room most days, and hasn't remembered my name since Bush Jr. was President... for the FIRST term (don't get me started down that road)... but her heart? That's PERFECT. The only thing I ever saw my grandmother eat (and this is not a joke!) was strawberry ice cream, bacon, and coffee. Seriously. So some arguments... can be put to bed.

Cook those onions in the bacon grease, stirring until soft. Add pumpkin, sage, and the allspice. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Add stock and cream; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until pumpkin is soft and/or sauce has thickened slightly, about 25 minutes. Season with pepper. Meanwhile, add pasta to boiling water, and cook until al dente or whatever your preference might be (like any true American, I can't stand al dente pasta... in fact, instead of full body scans that produce long lines at the airport, they should just start asking folks how they take thier pasta... weed out the bad guys in a heartbeat). Drain pasta, and add to your pot of pumpkin sauce. Add the bacon and Parmesan, and toss to combine. If you used the puree, your mixture will be a little runny at this point... I threw mine in an oven safe dish, and baked it for another 20 minutes.

That fuzzy, out of focus blob you see in that picture... yeah. That's the dish (and so help me, if anyone out there starts to judge me for having my Christmas decorations up still...).

I apologize for the poor photo... it doesn't look terribly appetizing, and makes your eyes hurt it you stare at it long enough. My camera's flash decided to bug out on me. But looks are decieving and I can say, it really was quite good. We both give this dish a B+.