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Monday, October 31, 2011

Semi-Homemade Halloween

I love baking from scratch as much as the next baking addicted girl, but sometimes time is not on my side.This year Halloween was on a Monday and I had to work all weekend so I decided to take a page out of Sandra Lee's book. I created semi-homemade versions of the holiday recipes I've been waiting all October to make. By using box dark chocolate cake mix I was able to save time and still create two delicious Halloween treats.

Black Cherry Cake 
My aunt Kathleen's Birthday is on Halloween so I wanted to make her a cake that fit the occasion. My mom heard about this cake a couple weeks ago and she's been dying for me to make it ever since. The texture and color in this cake are perfect for a spooky Halloween treat. The extra egg and cherry pie filling make this cake moist and delicious. I frosted my cake using a technique inspired by Martha. It's guaranteed to impress and the biggest treat of all... this cake is fast and easy to make!


Looks and tastes like it was made from scratch and it only took a fraction of the time... tricks and treats!

Happy Birthday Auntie Kathleen! 

Check out these cute cake plates I got at Jo-Ann Fabrics. They're perfect for a Halloween birthday.
This cake was so moist and delicious! It magically disappeared...

Happy Halloween and Best Witches to all!

Ingredients:

  • 1 box dark chocolate cake mix 
  • 1 can cherry pie filling
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chip morsels
  • 1 can chocolate frosting
  • 1 package white cookie icing
  • toothpicks 
  • plastic spiders

Directions:

  1. Prepare the cake mix per box instructions adding in one additional egg to the batter. 
  2. Mix in the cherry pie filling, coconut and chocolate morsels. 
  3. Pour the batter into two greased 9 inch round cake pans and bake per box directions. 
  4. Once the cakes have finished baking remove from oven and cool completely. 
  5. Frost cakes with chocolate frosting. Starting in the center and working your way out use the white frosting to draw circles on the cake. 
  6. Use the tooth pick to draw lines through the circles from the center out creating a web effect. Place plastic spiders on top and your spooky cake is ready to serve!

This frosting is so easy and delicious!
Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Pumpkin Buttercream 
For these cupcakes I was inspired by a recipe is saw on Baking Bites. These cupcakes had me at the phrase Pumpkin Buttercream. Oh my great pumpkin am I glad I made this! The pumpkin flavor shines through and its a light orange color. I used it to frost these cupcakes and I'm even considering making an apple cake with pumpkin buttercream frosting - doesn't that sound like a great combo?

Ingredients:

  • 1 box dark chocolate cake mix 
  • 1 C softened butter
  • 2 1/2 C powdered sugar
  • 2 T whipping cream (or milk)
  • 3 T pumpkin butter (I found this on the jam isle in my local super market. Its similar to apple butter.)
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 drops yellow food coloring (optional)
  • 1 drop red food coloring (optional
Tip: While the food coloring is optional it adds an excellent light orange color to the frosting. 


Directions:
  1. Prepare the cake mix per box directions and cook as cupcakes. While the cupcakes are cooking begin working on the frosting. 
  2. This frosting is similar to our original buttercream frosting. Begin by creaming the sugar into softened butter on low until well-incorporated.
  3. Increase speed to medium and blend about 3 minutes. 
  4. Add pumpkin butter, pumpkin pie spice,vanilla, cream and food coloring then beat an additional minute. 
  5. Once cupcakes have cooled fully frost and enjoy! 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

thinkThin



I love bars. Luna bars, Larabars, Clif bars. You name it, I've tried it. I had my eye on the thinkThin bars for awhile, and was finally swayed. 20 grams of protein? Please and thank you. I grabbed Creamy Peanut Butter for obvious reasons. The glob of pb on the front made me swoon, and I am a sucker for packaging.


I was so excited to try it, and I read good things about it from one of my favorite bloggers. Great expectations... I guess I set myself up for disappointment. It's sad to say, but I absolutely hated this bar. It was bland, and the texture was just so off. Not creamy, not chewy.. just blah. I didn't even kind of like it. I won't buy it again, and I doubt I'll try a different flavor.

Battle of the bars: thinkThin loses.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Quickie Kraft Chili Mac

I love pantry meals because it helps you to be more creative. HA! Okay, now let's be serious. I love pantry meals because it means I don't have to go to the grocery store.

Today I offered to make dinner for Xavier last minute. The idea of going to the grocery store at 5 p.m. was the last thing I wanted to do. I racked my brain for a pantry meal I could make. Ziti, I thought. I'm so brilliant! The minute I got home I started pulling ingredients.. pasta sauce, noodles, ground beef (from the freezer), cheese... wait... cheese? FOILED.

One thing I certainly have in abundance is Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Xavier and I split a huge 12-pack from Sam's Club, and ever since I've been trying to come up with creative ways to use all of it. Tonight was the perfect night for that. I present to you, cheater's chili mac. Traditional chili mac is more chili with a side of mac, but this Tex-Mex creation was wonderful.

Kraft Chili Mac


Ingredients
  • 1 box Kraft macaroni and cheese (plus 2 tbsp butter and 1/4 cup milk)
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can mild Rotel, drain excess liquid
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin

Directions
  1. Prepare macaroni according to box directions. I recommend only using 2 tbsp butter instead of the recommended 4 tbsp.
  2. While macaroni is cooking, brown the ground beef. Drain excess grease.
  3. Add ground beef, black beans, rotel, chili powder, and cumin and stir.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Meatless Monday: Minestrone Potpie

Martha has done it again! This dish was inspired by a Minestrone and Parmesan Biscuit Potpie recipe I saw in the October issue of Martha Stewart Living. When the weather starts to cool its comforting to have a warm meal and this potpie fits the bill. Its easy to make and an ideal meat-free alternative to traditional potpies. The original recipe used butternut squash and kale among other seasonal vegetables. It's not available online and I don't support the re-posting of print only content. However, I will post my adaptation of minestrone potpie. I kept with the concept of Maratha's version and used ingredients I had on hand to create this hearty meal. The flavorful minestrone filling has great texture pairs perfectly with the cheese biscuit topping to create a satisfying meal.  

I was surprised about how hearty this meal turned out to be. Perfect for a cool fall evening! 
You can find the recipe that inspired it all in this month's issue of  Martha Stewart Living

Filling Ingredients:
  • 2T olive oil
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1tsp garlic
  • 1tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/4tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 medium sweet potato, diced
  • 1 small baking potato, diced
  • 1 yellow squash, peeled and diced
  • 3 stalks celery chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 can butter beans, drained
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 small package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained
  • 1T minced basil
  • 1T minced sage
  • 1C water
Biscuit Ingredients:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk 


  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium. Sauté the onion, garlic and dried spices for about a minute just to wake up the flavors. Add in the rest of the chopped vegetables and cook until tender (about 10 minutes). 

  • Mix in the spinach, butter beans, tomato paste and fresh herbs. Cook for a couple minutes more then mix in the water to loosen the filling. After the water is fully incorporated the filling should look like a thick soup. Transfer the filling to a 9 by 11 baking dish.


  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. While the oven is heating make the topping. In a medium bowl whisk together dry ingredients then cut in butter using your fingers. When the dough starts to become clumpy mix in cheese. Add buttermilk and stir until a sticky dough forms. Divide into 1/2 cup balls and place on top.


  •  Bake for about 50 minutes until the biscuits are golden and the filling is bubbly. 

  • Let cool for about 15 minutes then serve and enjoy! 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Meatless Monday: Autumn Vegetable Lasagna

I first saw this recipe in the October issue of Every Day with Rachel Ray. It caught my eye with its combination of my favorite fall flavors, butternut squash and pumpkin! The flavor of this dish is excellent, fresh sage and basil perfectly complement the earthiness of the autumn vegetables. I was a little nervous about making lasagna without red sauce, but the creamy cheese sauce was delicious. Colorful and jam-packed with flavor this is a perfect meal for a chilly fall evening its definitely deserving of a YUMO kamagra oral jelly
This dish has all the best flavors and colors of fall! 
There are so many fun fall recipes in this magazine...LOVE IT!

Creamy Cheese Sauce 
Adapted from Every Day with Rachel Ray's White Cream Sauce.
Ingredients: 
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 T grated gouda cheese
  • 1tsp fresh sage
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste


Directions:
  • Melt butter in sauce pan over medium heat then add onion and cook until tender.
  • Once onions are cooked stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Slowly whisk in warmed milk then bring to boil. Cook the mixture for 2 minutes while whisking constantly. 
  • Remove the pan from heat and stir in parmesan, gouda, nutmeg, sage, salt and pepper.
  • Let cool and set aside. 
Autumn Vegetable Lasagna
Adapted from Every Day with Rachel Ray's Autumn Golden Vegetable Lasagna.
 Ingredients:
  • 2T unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 cups peeled, and cubed butternut squash
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 cups creamy cheese sauce (recipe above)
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pure pumpkin puree
  • 5 fresh 8 by 11 sheet lasagna noodles
  • 1 3/4 cups freshly shredded aged gouda cheese 
  • 8 large basil leaves
  • 10 sage leaves

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease an 8 by 11.Then melt the butter in a large pan. Add the squash, garlic, salt, pepper and water then simmer over medium heat until the water is fully evaporated and the squash is golden and tender. Set aside to cool.
  • I used fresh lasagna noodles from, Mazzaro's, my favorite local Italian market. Because these noodles were fresh they were soft and didn't need to be boiled. If you can't find fresh noodles you can use lasagna noodles prepared according to package directions or egg roll wraps as the original recipe suggests. 

  • To begin constructing your lasagna spread a generous 1/3 cup of creamy cheese sauce, 1/4 cup of cooked butternut squash, 1/2 cup pumpkin. Top with torn basil and sage leaves and sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese. Repeat the layering. Top with the final lasagna noodle then spread with the remaining white sauce and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the foil from the dish and sprinkle the top with remaining 3/4 cup cheese and chopped sage. Bake until golden and bubbling then remove from heat and let cool.
  • Once the dish has cooled for about 15 minutes its ready to cut and serve. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Buffalo Chicken Dip

I have decided that Kevin of Closet Cooking is the dip king. I've tried three now, and they were all amazing. I've made his Pizza Dip, Taco Dip, and now the Buffalo Chicken Dip. Instead of using regular hot sauce, I used Texas Pete Buffalo Wing Sauce. Also, I used low fat mayo and reduced fat sour cream.. you know.. to negate those cheese calories. (Shh.. just let me pretend that made it healthier!)

Note that the recipe only makes enough for a 16 oz dish, so if you're making this for a crowd, you should double it. Sarah and I nearly devoured this on our own! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pumpkin - Apple Muffins

Fall is officially in the air and you know what that means, it's PUMPKIN season! Last fall I was on a quest to find good recipe that combined my two favorite fall flavors, pumpkin and apple. My cousin Jaclyn is from Pennsylvania and she jokingly recommended a dessert that originated in her hometown, pumpple cake. I had no idea what she was talking about, but after a little research I found out that a pumpple cake is basically a trducken of cakes. This culinary colossus consists of a pumpkin pie and an apple pie baked into round cakes then layered and frosted to pack a high calorie punch. I ultimately decided to take similar flavors and create a healthier fall flavored treat.
Jaclyn and I spent a whole morning experimenting with different variations of this recipe and while all were tasty this was our favorite. These pumpkin-apple muffins have all the apple and pumpkin goodness of pumpple cake without the high calorie count. The apple and pumpkin flavors complement each other perfectly and the crisp apple chunks and tart cranberry raisins provide great texture. The topping takes these muffins over the top! The crunchy and sweetness on top of the moist muffin makes these a favorite for cool fall mornings. Now that fall is finally here again I couldn't wait to share this with you all, enjoy! 
Muffin Ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons wheat germ (Optional: It adds a nutty flavor and beneficial vitamins)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 2 cup apples, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cranberry raisins
Topping Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Yield: 18 muffins
Directions:
  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, wheat germ, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt.
  2. In a small bowl mix eggs, pumpkin, and apple sauce.
  3. Stir pumpkin mixture into dry ingredients just until moistened.
  4. Fold in apples and cranberry raisins.
  5. Fill paper-lined muffin cups 3/4 of the way with batter.
  6. For topping, combine brown sugar, oats and cinnamon. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon over each muffin.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

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