It’s Friday! Woo Wooo Yeahh Yeahhh Woo Wooo Woooooo!
1) Tomorrow a WEDDING is happening!
2) I get to spend time with these clowns – a.k.a my family – a.k.a the farkles. Don’t ask.
My cousin Allison is getting married to Neil. They’re story is one of my faves. Al moved to Dublin to channel her inner Irish self a couple years after college – she met Neil, a legit Irishman who might be one the nicest guys I’ve ever met in my life – they fell in love – last year they got engaged in Budapest (NBD) and tomorrow they’re getting married! I’m picturing a lot of jigging on the dance floor and a lot of guinness consumption, but mostly, lots of laughs and fist pumps with family and friends!
I’ll be honest – there’s no correlation between Al and Neil nuptials and these Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies, but nevertheless, they were amazingly easy to make (primarily cuz’ I cheated – cheaters DID prosper in this case!) and amazingly delicious.
Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies
*Cheescake portion adapted from A Taste of Home
Your favorite boxed brownie mix, prepared according to instructions
1 package (8 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees (or whatever temperature the box says)
2) Prepare your brownie batter and set aside.
3) For cheesecake batter, in a small bowl, beat cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Beat in the sugar, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice. Add egg; beat on low speed just until combined.
4) Line a 12-muffin tin with paper baking cups. Fill the bottom about 1/3 of the way with brownie batter. Then place another 1/3 of pumpkin cheesecake batter on the top, and then top the last 1/3 with the brownie batter. Take a knife and swirl the pumpkin cheesecake and brownie batter together so they look ‘swirly’.
5) Bake for about 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean
*You could also make these as just a standard pan of brownies by again, following the instructions on the box for the different pan sizes and following the same method of brownie batter/pumpkin cheesecake layering and swirling.
My only change would be maybe alternating the pattern and doing cheesecake/brownie/cheesecake next time, as to make them a little more pumpkin flavored. But it’s totally up to you, depending on what flavor you prefer.
Next week is Halloween – BOOOOO!
Very VERY bad idea to be reliving this post from Saturday as I sit here at my desk eating my 100 calorie, whole grain VitaMuffin top.
Dave and I are very different when it comes to breakfast: he lives for it, and myself, I could probably live without it. On a Saturday morning, it’s always a struggle to decide what the first meal of the day is going to be. Dave usually wants to get up and use every pan we own to make a 5-course breakfast, whereas myself, I like to go out, get an iced coffee and a breakfast sandwich from my most favorite breakfast spot in the neighborhood – Magnificent Muffin. It’s a tiny, hole in the wall that I first was drawn to some years ago by the constant line out the door. And besides the fact that you can probably only fit about 5 average size humans in there at a time, the line is legit. Because their breakfast sandwiches are made-to-order, served hot off the griddle, and their muffins are in fact magnificent – it’s not even false advertising. And, the best part, every order comes with a side of sass from the owners – free of charge.
But this past Saturday, I was antsy to try this recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes that I found from Cozy Kitchen. Trader Joe’s has a really great Pumpkin Pancake & Waffle mix that I’ve used in the past to make PCCPcakes. But I tend to agree with the ladies at Magnificent Muffin – fresh ingredients and a side of sass make EVERYTHING taste just a little bit better.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes
*Modified from Cozy Kitchen
*yields about 8 pancakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 & 1/2 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1) In a medium bowl, sift together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.
2) In a small bowl, measure out the buttermilk then add the egg and lightly beat.
3) Mix in the pumpkin puree with the egg and buttermilk and mix until completely blended. Then add the melted butter and mix again.
4) Add half the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix lightly. Then add the other half and mix until the batter is just combined (there will be small-medium lumps). Add chocolate chips.
5) Heat your griddle over low/medium heat and spray with non-stick cooking spray or butter. Use about 1/4 cup of the batter and place in a round circle on the skillet. Cook until small bubbles form on the surface of the pancake and then flip over. Cook on opposite side for about a minute, or until golden brown.
6) Serve warm with LOTS of maple syrup.
OMG – the pumpkin – the chocolate – the syrup. I would highly recommend serving a nice, salty side with this like sausage or bacon, just to have a good balance of salty and sweetness (if that’s your thing). And, these literally took all of 10 minutes to make, so it was a GREAT Saturday morning breakfast!
Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.
The first one said, “oh my it’s getting late.”
The second one said, “there are witches in the air.”
The third one said, “but we don’t care!”
The fourth one said, “let’s run and run and run.”
The fifth one said, “I’m ready for some fun!”
OOOhh OOOhh went the wind
And out went the lights
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight….
….or into my belly
When I first saw these, I thought “OMG – these are WAY too cute to actually eat” – but I got over that real fast 🙂
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Cookies & Cups
*yields 14-18 whoopie pies
2 cups all purpose flour
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup room temp butter
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
Orange food coloring
Cream Cheese Filling
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2) Line your baking sheets with parchment paper or spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
3) In a standing mixer, cream butter and sugar together then add egg and vanilla & mix until combined.
4) Mix your dry ingredients together.
5) On low speed add 1/3 of your dry mix, then 1/3 of your buttermilk…continue adding in this order until all your dry ingredients and milk are mixed in and smooth.
6) Now add your food coloring. You can use the Orange gel type, or I just used the red and yellow from the little 4 pack you can buy at the grocery store, alternating between the 2 until I got the right color (or until I ran out of yellow haha).
7) Mix on low to combine the food coloring, scraping the sides until color is even.
8) Place about 2 tbsp. of batter onto your baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. If you want them to really look pumpkinesque, you can place the batter in a ziplock or piping bag and pipe the batter onto the sheet in a fat heart shape.
9) Bake for approx 6-8minutes until they are set and spongy to the touch. Let cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
10) In the mean time, prepare your cream cheese filling by creaming together your butter and cream cheese until smooth. On low speed, add in your vanilla and powdered sugar. Turn speed up to medium until combined, scraping sides of bowl when necessary.
11) Place about 1-2 tbsp. of filling on one side of the pie. Break off a a piece of a mini pretzel and place it in the frosting at the top to make your ‘stem’. Cover with the other half and pipe your ‘leaves’ onto the pie with green frosting.
I have a confession to make, that I actually make an oops when making these and added 2 sticks of butter vs. the 1 that was called for in the pie batter. I realized it when they came out of the oven without that puffy, cakey look that whoopie pies have. But, after several samples, I discovered that they were still pretty damn good! They took on more of a dense ‘cookie’ texture than the cake-like texture of a standard whoopie pie.
Regardless, this may be my favorite fall recipe yet! Go get your pumpkin on!
Donuts are pretty awesome. I know it takes like 7 days or something crazy like that for them to digest, but the 7 days is so worth it. A big tube of dough, fried to perfection, often covered with fun toppings like frosting, sprinkles or BUTTERCRUNCH (clearly this is my favorite) or even stuffed with creams and jellies. Even the straight up old-fashioned with no frills is like a little piece of heaven.
My friend Ash has a slight obsession with donuts. She’s done all kinds of research to find the best donut shops in the Boston area and beyond – not your ‘cookie cutter’ donut places like Dunkin or Honey Dew, but small, independently run places where the minute you walk in the door, the smell of donuts cooking away in the fryer stops you dead in your tracks. And if you’re lucky enough, the one they pick off the tray for you is still warm. (Linda’s Donuts and Ohlin’s Bakery in Belmont for all you Boston area readers – do it – go – now).
But Ash, being the teeny weeny little thing that she is, has the will power of a saint, and after hours and hours of donut research and spreadsheet compiling, instead of hunkering down on the couch in her drawstring pants with a baker’s dozen of the finest donuts the shop has to offer, she finally goes, selects the perfect donut, tears a crumb size piece of it off, eats it ever so delicately, and boom – she’s done with the donut. It’s witchcraft, I swear.
I myself also feel like a donut is a treat – it’s not a 5-day a week kind of breakfast. It’s a “Ooooh, I could really go for a donut” kind of breakfast. And Apple Cider Donuts, fresh out of the fryer, after a long day of apple picking, are one of fall’s gems. And, you can make them at home!
Apple Cider Donuts
*Modified from Sugar Crafter
For the donuts
1 cup apple cider
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
5 1/2 cups flour, divided
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Vegetable oil, for frying
For the topping:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1) In a small sauce pan, boil the apple cider down until it is reduced to 1/4 cup. Allow to cool. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs.
2) Beat in the buttermilk and reduced apple cider.
3) In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 1/2 cups of the flour, the baking powder and soda, and the cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
4) Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until combined. The dough will be very sticky.
5) Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead, adding in the additional flour (you may not need the full 2 cups – I think I used about 1.5), until the dough is no longer sticky.
6) Roll out the dough to a 1/2″ thick rectangle, cutting strips about 1/2″-1″ wide (depending on how large you want your donuts to be). Take each strip and roll it between your palms until it becomes rounded on the edges, and then form into a donut shape.
7) In an electric fryer or a deep pan, add 3″ of vegetable oil. Fry 5 or so donuts at a time, trying not to overcrowd them in the oil. Turn them several times, until they are browned and cooked through. The larger your donut, the longer it will take for the dough to cook through (I think I undercooked 2 batches until I finally got it right – I’d say at least five minutes). As long as you keep turning them in the oil from time to time, they will eventually cook through. They’ll be quite brown on the outside when they’re finally done, but don’t worry! They’re not burned! Just cooked to perfection 🙂
8) Dip them in the cinnamon/sugar mixture immediately.
9) Serve warm
As with most things, these are best fresh out of the oil, but are equally as good the next day! (Just ask Dave, who ate 2 for breakfast – but he doesn’t like sweets – riiiiiiiiight :))
Last year, I had pumpkin risotto for the first time, and man was it good! Lord Hobo is a bar in Cambridge, MA that you’d probably walk right by and not give a second thought. But their craft beer selection is beyond amazing, and their dishes are just as unique.
So I decided to make this Pumpkin Risotto, in the spirit of fall. Risotto takes a bit of time – all the stirring and adding of the chicken stock – it’s a dish that really needs to be baby sat. So when it’s ready, you can’t WAIT to dig in! Dave and I paired it with Maple Garlic Marinated Pork Tips, which were out of this world. But the risotto just didn’t taste quite as good as I remembered. I strongly believe that thing always taste just a little bit better when you don’t have to make them yourself, but this wasn’t quite the level of delish that I experienced at Lord Hobo.
There was a lot left over, and I toiled back and forth as to whether or not I wanted to photograph and blog about it. Because I wasn’t fully supportive of it. But I didn’t want to waste it either, because it did take so much effort to make. Then the invisible lightbulb turned on and shined bright – ARANCINI BALLS!
I think the first Arancini Ball I ever ate was a frozen one from Trader Joe’s – and even that was so tasty that I wondered how I had never known about this genius concoction of cheese and risotto, rolled into a ball, and fried. I’ve never made them myself, and have heard from others that they’re a lot of work, but the work was well worth it.
Pumpkin Arancini Balls
*Adapted from Epicurious & Food Network
*yields about 16-20 arancini balls
For Pumpkin Risotto
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup Arborio rice
1/3 cup grated parmesean cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
For Arancini Balls
1 cup + 1/2 cup Italian-style seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
2 eggs, at room temperature, beaten
2-3 mozzarella string cheese sticks, cut into 1/2″ pieces
Vegetable oil, for frying
To prepare the risotto:
1) Bring stock and 2 cups water to a simmer in a small saucepan and keep at a bare simmer.
2) Cook onion in oil in a 2- to 2 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes.
3) Add rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add 1 cup simmering stock and cook at a strong simmer, stirring constantly, until stock is absorbed. Continue simmering, adding stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, about 18 minutes total. (There may be broth left over.)
4) Remove from heat and stir in pumpkin, cheese, and butter, stirring until butter is melted. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside and be sure to let cool before preparing the arancini balls.
To prepare Arancini Balls:
1) Put 1 cup bread crumbs in a shallow dish and set aside.
2) In a medium bowl, combine 2 cups of pumpkin risotto, bread crumbs, parmesan, and eggs.
3) With damp hands, using about 2 tablespoons of the risotto mixture, form the mixture into 1 3/4-inch diameter balls.
4) Make a hole in the center of each ball and insert a piece of the mozzarella in the center, covering the hole to enclose the cheese.
5) Roll the balls in the breading to coat.
6) In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour in enough oil to fill the pan about 1/3 of the way. Heat over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer inserted in the oil reaches 350 degrees F. (about 5 minutes).
7) In batches, fry the risotto balls, turning occasionally, until golden, about 4 to 5 minutes.
8) Drain on paper towels and serve.
I know you’re thinking ‘WOW – that’s a LOT of steps and a lot of time!’ But I swear, they’re worth every bite, especially served hot, when the cheese is still all gooey and stretchy. The perfect combination of saltiness and sweetness from the pumpkin. And you could probably experiment with the cheese as well – I just happened to have mozzarella (I am 30 going on 5 and still LOVE string cheese!) but I bet goat cheese or feta would be equally as good. And if you didn’t want a big ball of cheese right in the center, you could use a shredded version to make the cheese distribution more uniform throughout.
These would be the perfect appetizer for Thanksgiving dinner or any Fall gathering you’re heading to – and everyone will say “AUGH, these are amazing! It must have taken you hours!” – and you lie and tell them “Nahhh – it was easy” 🙂
Sorry for the lull in posts – I really don’t have any really good excuses except:
1) The weather this weekend was like out of a story book (I know – I know – it seems like I say that about EVERY weekend! But seriously, the weather this month has been like a dream (minus the fact that it’s now pitch black at 7pm – guess ya can’t have it all, eh?)
2) I was basking in the glory of my first spot on the Daily Food Buzz top 9! It was classic – I was at work – on the phone with a customer – and I got my daily installment in my gmail inbox, which I look forward to every day. The “Fall Baking Kickoff” – now that’s my kind of top 9! And I read through them all, while on the phone, thinking “oooh – yum – ooooh yum – um – hey wait – Pumpkin Donut Holes? I just made those! Wait, ‘And they cooked happily ever after’ is the name of my blog! eeeeeeeee!!!!!” And as I’m having this inner monolouge/inner spaz attack with myself, I hear “hello? hello? are you there?” – oops. Guess I need to brush up on my customer service skills. It was just a really exciting moment 🙂
Anyhow, in the midst of this fabulous fall weather Dave and I FINALLLY got out to pick some apples! We took Hair-Bear with us – needless to say, he was a natural. And after eating about 10 apples whilst picking, and then about 4 per day since then, I wanted to put them to work. I’m not really a huge apple pie fan – I really looove the crust on the pie, and I feel like the ratio of apple pie filling to crust is just never balanced. That and the fact that I feel the crust can get a bit soggy sitting under the heavy weight of all those apples. So – I did some thinkin’ – and remembered these super cute fall cookie cutters that I bought at the Christmas Tree Shop a couple weeks ago (for those of you that don’t know what that is, it’s basically an upscale ‘junk’ store chain in New England that sells pretty much everything on the face of the planet EXCEPT Christmas Trees) I thought “How fun to make them into little Apple Pie Pockets in fun shapes that you can eat with your hands!” I wasn’t really sure how they’d come out, but, not to throw rose petals at myself or anything, they came out pretty frickin good 🙂
Apple Pie Pockets
*The very fancy ‘Back of the Pillsbury Store-Bought Pie Crust Box’ recipe
*yields about a dozen pockets
your favorite medium to large Cookie cutters
2 pillsbury pie crusts
about 4 large apples, peeled and sliced very small
(perhaps even pulsed in the food processor a couple times)
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp. all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tbsp. lemon juice
(juice of 1/2 lemon)
1 egg white
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Let pie crusts come to room temperature. Roll them out on a lightly floured surface and cut your shapes from the rolled out crusts (be sure to make 2 of each shapes). Set shapes aside.
2) In a large bowl, gently mix all of the filling ingredients together.
3) Take about 1-2 tbsps of the apple mixture and place in the center of one pie crust shape from the pairs you have set aside. Make sure you leave enough room around the edges to seal the pocket shut – I’d say about 1/8 – 1/4″. This is why it’s really important to cut the apples really small so you can fit a good portion of them in the pocket and still be able to seal it.
4) Take the matching top for each pie crust shape and place gently on top of each apple covered shape. Take a fork and seal the ends together. Once each is sealed, take a knife and make a few slits in each pocket. Brush the tops of each pocket with egg white.
5) Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, until crust turns golden brown.
I opened the oven, expecting a messy explosion of apples and burnt crust – but much to my delight, they were perfect! The crust was perfectly golden brown – the apples, a perfect texture of soft, but not too soft – and, my favorite part, the PERFECT ratio of crust to apple-pie filling. I think that if I had cut the apples even smaller or food processed them a bit, I could have fit even more inside the pocket. But the best part was that after a few minutes, I could pick it up with my hand and eat it like a sandwich vs. having to cut a messy sliver from a pie.
These are a perfect dessert for adults and kids alike, and a great way to use your ‘Apple Picking’ treasures!
When I started working at my current job 7 years ago, I was a spring chicken at the ripe old age of 23, which back then I thought was ancient. During my interview, I wore my ‘I’ll-only-be-caught-dead-in-this-at-job-interviews’ black business suit, ready to impress. And while I was pretty sure I had the job in the bag, being that my future ‘boss’ was a family friend, I still wanted to come across as very professional and ‘adult’, even though I was only a year and change out of college, and still considered Thursdays to be the start of the weekend. But all you need to be a professional adult is a business suit and a fancy leather folder for your resumes right? Right!
I met Suzanne – she was sweet and inviting, putting me at ease – I could tell that she’d much rather chat about what had happened on last night’s episode of the Bachelor than my credentials, which I loved! Then this other woman charged in the door – wide eyed and guns blazing – and she didn’t even have to utter a word for me to know that she meant business – “Hi , I’m Paula, the Exhibit Sales Manager – you’ll be working with me.” She asked me everything about myself but my blood type and social security number – and the room started to feel smaller and darker, like I was in the middle of an interrogation vs. a job interview. I left feeling good, like I nailed it, but at the same time thinking to myself “I’m kind scared to work with that Paula-woman!”.
And now, 7 years later, Paula is someone who has influenced my life in more ways than I could ever describe. She became a not only a mentor, but a friend, teaching me everything from how to count booths on a floor plan, how to make the best homemade pie crust and how in life, shit happens, and sometimes you just have to ‘let it go’. The life lessons and stories that she’s passed on and her ‘Paula-isms’ like “He’s as old as Jerusalem” or use of the word “Boink“, which still makes me blush, I now use myself, and stop myself. And every time one of them slips past my lips, I chuckle about how much she has rubbed off on me.
Today is her last day with the company – she’s pursuing her lifelong love of writing, hoping to inspire people all over the world with the ‘power of the pen’ and inspirational magnets – and if she can do for them 1/2 of what she’s done for me over the years, than the world will be a much better place.
In the midst of wisdom, she’s passed on some damn good recipes. As a self-proclaimed ‘guinea’, her cooking is beyond incredible – and her recipe for crockpot meatballs is a perfect fall dinner. Takes a little bit of time, but is well worth the wait if you can be patient – and the smell that will fill your house while they’re cooking is better than any celebrity perfume out there.
Paula’s Crockpot Meatballs
(straight from the horses mouth – or email from 2009)
FOR THE MEATBALLS:
1 lb ground beef 80/20 (more fat makes a softer better tasting meatball)
½ lb ground pork
½ cup Progresso Italian flavored bread crumbs
½ cup grated parmesan
¼ cup water
2 TBS chopped parsley
1 tsp salt
½- tsp pepper
½ tsp garlic powder
1) Mix bread crumbs, egg, water, cheese, parsley and spices together to form a soft paste like consistency.
2) Fold in ground beef and pork, turn to mix paste into meat. Do not over mix you’ll toughen the meat.
3) Shape into meatballs and place on cookie sheet bake at 350 8ish minutes both sides, remove to rack. No need to overcook as they’ll to in the crock pot.
FOR THE CROCK POT SAUCE:
2 large cans of Tomato sauce – whichever brand you prefer
1 large can of crushed tomato – I use a Whole Foods organic Marzano tomatoes
3-4 garlic cloves minced
1 onion cut in quarters
3 TBS butter
5 TBS Olive Oil
½ cup beef broth
1 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp pepper
¼ tsp cumin
2 tsp brown sugar – sugar cuts acidity and brings out the fullness of the tomato flavor
fresh basil – I use 3 leafs
1) In sauce pan melt butter and oil on medium heat, add onions and cook til translucent – do not brown.
2) Add garlic and let it flower – do not brown.
3) Add the 3 cans of sauce and all spices except basil, bring to a slow boil.
4) Add a couple spoons of sauce to crock pot bottom. Add meatballs, then more sauce and the rest of the meatballs. Make sure meatballs are covered with remaining sauce.
5) Cook on low for 5 hours. About 1 hour before done add fresh basil.
*NOTES FROM PAULA – that are totally true
PS – better to make the meatballs the night before and refrigerate this prevents them from breaking apart in the sauce.
PS – I also remove a lot of the onions during the cooking process because they have a tendency to make the sauce acidic
So thank-you Paula, not only for these fantastic crock pot meatballs that I’ve made 39843958490 times, but for everything you’ve been to me over the last 7-years. I’m sure that someday, I will be making these for my grandchildren, telling them about my “Good friend Paula who gave me the recipe.”