Applelicious Cupcakes

Applelicious Cupcakes

Channeling June Cleaver

Channeling June Cleaver

Monday, December 26, 2011

Luscious Christmas Feast



Christmas is my favorite time of the year for so many reasons especially spending time with family and friends sharing a luscious Christmas feast.  And decorating for the holidays is so much fun and wonderful to see everyday. I love all the beautiful decorations, fresh greens, paper whites, amaryllis's and so much more.
This year was another wonderful celebrations. My daughter Mandi and I cooked for days preparing a feast for all to enjoy. We like to combine old family favorites with new dishes that we find appealing. This year was a smashing success with twenty guest join us on Christmas day.  The menu is as follows:

For Appetisers
Shrimp with Cocktail sauce
Olive tapenade in pastry cups
Pigs in a blanket

Dinner
Turkey with Sausage stuffing
Prime Rib Roast
Sweet Potato Pudding
Healthy Green Bean casserole
Salad with tomatoes, cranberries, mandarin oranges and candied pecans
Tiropita
Pastitsio
Dinner Rolls

Dessert
Pumpkin Cheese Cake
Pecan Pie
Orange Scented White Chocolate Mouse Cake
Assortment of Cookies



Friday, December 23, 2011

Sinful Chocolate Truffles



So sinfully delicious, so easy!

3 cups semi-sweet chocolate pieces
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

unsweetened cocoa, chocolate or colored sprinkles, finely chopped nuts, coconut or powdered sugar for coating.

Melt chocolate and condensed milk. Remove from heat, stirring until smooth. Add vanilla. For an adult version you can add a liquor. Cool. Chill until firm 1-2 hours. Roll chocolate into a ball and roll into coating. Chill for 1 hour and store in air tight container.

Enjoy!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chocolate Peanut-Butter Thumbprints



A wonderfully different peanut butter and chocolate cookie that is a glorious blend of two favorites.

2 cups flour
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

Pre heat oven 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda.
In the bowl of an electric mixer cream butter, shortening, sugar, and one cup brown sugar on medium until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until fluffy and combined. Add vanilla betting until combined. Gradually add dry ingredients, mix at low speed until combined. Add chocolate chips mix until combined.  Cover bowl and chill about 1 hour.
In a small bowl stir together peanut butter and remaining 1/4 cup sugar.
Roll 1 tablespoon of dough into a ball.  Place on baking sheet spacing cookies about 2 inches apart. Make an indentation in center. Take teaspoon of peanut butter mixture. Roll into ball and place in center of chocolate ball.  Bake for 12 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes then transfer to wire rack and cool completely.

Enjoy

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies



The essence of Christmas in one cookie. Fragrant cookies that fill the house with the wonderful smells of baking. And these little jewels taste fabulous!

1 1/2 flour
1 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon cocoa power
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulfered molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons boiling  water
7 ounces semisweet chocolate,  in 1/4 - inch chunks
1/4 sugar

Line two baking sheets with parchment.  In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa.  In a bowl of an electric mixer beat butter on medium speed until fluffy about 4 minutes.  Add brown sugar beat until combined. Add molasses continue beating until combined.
In a small bowl dissolve baking soda in boiling water. Beat in half of flour mixture into butter mixture. Add baking soda mixture, then remaining flour. Mix in chocolate. Wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 325 F. Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls, roll into sugar, place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Flatten each ball with the base of a glass.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Snow Flake Cookies



The cookies are coming fast and furious. Just can't stop baking and baking. Christmas Snow Flake Cookies fudgie truffle like cookies rolled in confectioners' sugar and baked to perfection!

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 1/4 flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter,  room temperature
1 1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
1 cup confectioners' sugar

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Set aside to cool. In a medium bowl sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder and  salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer beat butter and brown sugar on medium until light and fluffy about 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla beat until well combined. Add melted chocolate.  Add flour mixture alternating with milk, begin and end with flour.  Mix on low speed until just combined. Shape dough into ball and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for 2 hours.
Pre heat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape a heaping teaspoon of dough into 1-inch ball. Roll in confectioners' sugar until completely coated. No chocolate showing through. Place on cookie sheets baking sheets. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until flat.

Enjoy!

Peanut Blossom Cookies, an old Christmas favorite!


My love affair with making Christmas Cookies started when I was a little girl helping my mother bake cookies at Christmas. We made large quantities of a my mother's favorite recipes. To this day I have continued the tradition of baking, baking and more baking of delectable cookies.  Today I made a favorite cookie of my children when they were little. Peanut Blossoms are a fun cookie topped with a chocolate kiss. Who does love a peanut butter cookie with a chocolate kiss in the center. I love the taste of peanut butter meeting chocolate. I've different  recipes finding this one to be my favorite.

1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
48 chocolate kisses, unwrapped

Pre heat oven to 325 F. In large bowl mix on low speed all the ingredients until combined and dough forms.  Shape a teaspoonful of dough into balls. Roll balls in additional sugar(1/2 cup). Place on cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes until golden. Remove cookies from oven and immediately top each cookie with a kiss, pressing down so the cookie cracks slightly around edges of kiss.  Cool for 10 minutes. Remove from baking sheet letting cool completely.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Snowball Gingerbread Cookies



Easy, fun, delicious tasting, a wonderful addition to my collection of annual Christmas cookies.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (Remember Cabot's is my favorite)
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup fine ground nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, or pecans)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground fresh nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a large electric mixer at high speed, beat the butter and 1/2 cup confectioners sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Slowly beat in the flour, nuts, cinnamon,  ginger, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and salt until well combined. Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. Or put in freezer for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, and place on prepared baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until cookies are light brown on the bottom. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Roll in confectioners sugar to coat.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Need I say luscious Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Filling decorated for Christmas


Need I say again I love to make Cupcakes, especially cupcakes with a surprise in the center. Just think Red Velvet cupcakes with a mouth watering cream cheese center as you take a bite. A wonderful addition to any Christmas dessert tray!


Red Velvet cupcake batter
3 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1-oz bottle red food coloring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon vinegar

Line two 12 cupcake or muffin pans. Pre heat oven to 350F.  In a medium bowl stir together flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Set aside. In large bowl beat butter on medium for 1 minute. Gradually add sugar, beating on medium speed until well combined.  Scape sides of bowl and beat for another 2 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, one at a time beating after each addition. Beat another 2 minutes. Beat in red food coloring and vanilla. Alternately add flour and buttermilk, beating at low speed until combined. Combine baking soda and vinegar in small bowl, fold into batter. Pour into prepared cupcake pans. Bake 20 minutes until a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Or use this fancy cake tester given to me by the DJWC. Cool thoroughly.


Use an apple corer to remove cake from the center of the cupcake. Either use a pastry bag to pipe cream cheese filling into center of the cupcake or a small spatula. Icing cup cakes with buttercream frosting and sprinkle with decorating sugar crystals.


Cream cheese Filling
Melt 1 tablespoon chopped white baking chocolate and 1 tablespoons whipping cream in a small saucepan. Cook stirring over low heat until melted. Remove from heat stir chocolate until smooth. Cool 15 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, beat together 1/4 cup cream cheese or mascarpone cheese, softened, 2 tablespoon butter, softened, with electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Slowly add white chocolate mixture beating until fluffy. Gradually beat in 1 cup powder sugar. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla until blended.

Buttercream Frosting

1 cup unsalted butter(2 sticks), softened.  I like Cabot butter from Vermont.
3-4 cups powdered sugar sifted ( I use closer to 4 cups)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract, use real vanilla not imitation
2-4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

Enjoy!




Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fabulous Cioppino, my way!



I love fish especially in a wonderful fish stew! Cioppino, Bouillabaisse, Portuguese fisherman stew, I love them all. Today I made an absolutely delicious Cioppino. What I love about fish stews is you can use a variety of fish depending what is fresh.  Living in the Boston area all our grocery stores have fantastic fish markets making getting fresh fish easy. Give this easy dish a try. I know that you'll be surprised at just how quick and easy you can make this fabulous meal. Serve with fresh baked crusty bread and a farm fresh salad, don't forget the wine!

Cioppino
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 small fennel bulb, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grown pepper
1 28-oz can ground tomatoes,  (I use kitchen ready Pastene)
1 1/2 cup dry white wine
1 8-oz bottle clam juice
1 lb. cod fillets or other white fish
1 lb. mussels, scrubed, debearded
1 lb. large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb. sea scallops or cleaned squid, thawed if frozen, cut into 1/2 in rings, leave tentacles whole

Heat olive in a large pot over medium heat. Add shallots, fennel, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
Stir in fennel seeds, ground tomatoes, wine, clam juice. Cover bring to a boil, reduce to low heat, simmer, stirring often for about 15 minutes. Stir in fish, mussels, and shrimp simmer for about 2 minutes. Add scallops or squid cover and cook until mussels open about 5 minutes.  Serves 6-8

Enjoy

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chocolate Cream Cheese Cupcakes



A double chocolate cupcake with a cream cheese center,  a heavenly treat. I use this recipe often changing the frosting according to the occasion. I used the recipe for my falling leaves cupcakes with a orange tinted butter cream frosting. I promised I'd share the recipe so here it is!

Cupcake

2 cups brown sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted ( I like Ghirardelli)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup strong coffee, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs

Cheesecake Filling
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

Butter cream Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter(2 sticks), softened.  I like Cabot butter from Vermont.
3-4 cups powdered sugar sifted ( I use closer to 4 cups)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract, use real vanilla not imitation
2-4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

Cupcakes: Pre heat oven to 350 F. Line cupcake pans with liners. Whisk sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in  large bowl to blend. Add buttermilk, coffee, oil and eggs, whisking until smooth. Divide half the batter between prepared cupcakes.

Cheesecake Filling: Beat cream cheese and sugar in medium bowl to blend. Beat inn egg, then flour. Spoon filling over cupcakes. Sprinkle mini chips over cheesecake filling. Cover with remaining cupcake batter.  Bake for 12 large cupcakes 30-25 minutes, 24 regular cup cakes 20 minutes and 48 mini cupcakes 15 minutes or until tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes and decorate with butter cream frosting. I decorated these cupcakes with colored leaves and mini leaf sugar cookies.

Frosting: Beat butter in mixer at high speed until creamy. Add three cups of powdered sugar, mix at low speed until sugar is combined. Add vanilla and 2 tablespoon milk, mix at medium speed for three minutes. Add remaining sugar until you reach your desired constancy, follow the same with the milk. The more sugar makes the frosting stiffer and the more milk the more creamier. It depends on how you use your frosting. Thicker if you are spreading and creamier if you are piping. It very easy to adjust the constancy using more sugar or milk.
Tint to desired color.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Spices of life, Shout out to Penzeys Spices

Nothing add zing to a dish that wonderful spices. Today I stopped by Penzeys Spices on Mass Avenue in Arlington Ma. You can find them on the net www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/shophome.html. What I love about Penzeys is not only the freshness of the spices but the variety of spices and blends. You can find all different kinds of pepper, curry, cinnamon plus so many other spices. I especially love their blends like Tuscan Sunset, Mural of Flavors and for fish I just love Northwoods seasoning. And all the spices come in different quantities so you can buy a little or a lot. So convenient. Spices don't last forever be sure to clean out you spices regularly and buy spice quantities based on your usage.

So live large, use interesting spices to "spice' up your meals.

Enjoy

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Apple-Cream Cheese Bundt Cake




I made this cake from Southern Living Magazine for friends last night with wonderful results.  The cake tastes as delicious as it looks. A wonderful combination of apples, pecans, applesauce, cream cheese center  and spices with all the scents and taste of fall in one glorious bite. Your friends will enjoy this cake I promise!



 www.myrecipes.com/recipe/apple-cream-cheese-bundt-cake-50400000115369/

Check out the recipe and Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Falling Leaves Chocolate Cream Cupcakes



I made this arrangement of cupcakes for the GFWC JR's cup cake contest. I won most unique combination of flavors.   Recipe to follow!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Tasty and Easy Olive Tapenade Tarts



Olives are like food for the gods!  Sun-kissed then cured in a rainbow of inviting colors.  Green, black, brown all temping to even the most sophisticated pallet.  I love a good olive tapenade so delicious, so easy to make. I like to make my own tapenade to serve on an antipasti plate or for a little different treatment, fill phyllo cups with the tapenade, baking for a hot mouth watering appetizer.

Olive Tapenade Tarts

1 cup pitted kalamata olives (you can use any vary of olives)
1 clove chopped garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon capers
1 teaspoon herbs de provence

1 package Athenos phyllo cup,  thawed in refrigerator

6 sliced green pimento filled olives(for garnish)
curried red peper, sliced(for garnish)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. In mini food processor, combine olives garlic and process until olives are from a spread. Add oil, capers and herbs de Provence. Process until blended. Fill each cup with olive spread, decorate with olive and red pepper if you like. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes until hot.  Cool slightly and serve.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Red Velvet Cup Cakes with Cream Cheese Frosting




Deep Red Velvet Cup Cakes taste delicious and look wonderful. I love Red Velvet Cake and Cup cakes. I have tired to use beet juice instead of red food coloring but could not obtain the deep red color that is the signature of Red Velvet. I am going to keep searching for a substitute to the food coloring that will make the cup cakes red!.
I made these cup cakes for the Dedham Junior Woman's Club Mother's Day Tea. Not one was left at the end of the tea!  I like Cream Cheese Frosting for red velvet finding the combination irresistible.

Cake
2 1/4 cup sifted cake flour (I like King Arthur)
2 tablespoon natural unsweetened cocoa powder ( I like Ghirardelli)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 oz  liquid red food coloring
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter,  room temperature
1 large eggs


Frosting
1 8-ounce package cream cheese,  room temperature
1/4 cup butter,  room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup powder sugar

red sugar crystals
raspberries

Cake

Preheat over to 350. Sift flour, cocoa, baking  powder, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Whisk buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla in a small bowl to blend. Beat sugar and butter with electric mixer until well blended. Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down after each addition. Beat in dry ingredients in fourths alternately with buttermilk in thirds. Divide into cup cake pan lined with cup cake liners.
Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool, and frost. Makes about 15 cup cakes.

Frosting
With electric mixture, beat cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Add sugar beating until smooth.  Frost cup cakes. Decorate with red sugar crystals and top each cup cake with a fresh raspberries.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chocolate Filled Pumpkin Spice Pound Cake



Ah, fall all the wonderful smells and taste of the season come to my mind thinking about fall baking. I love this Pumpkin spice pound cake mixed with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves, filled with a wonderful delectable chocolate center a fantastic dessert for any season. As soon as you remove these loafs from the oven a wonderful spicy smells permeates the whole kitchen. Slicing releases even more wonderful aromas.  Then the taste is even more amazing then the aromas. Sensory over load at it's best!
Eat one loaf now and freeze the other to enjoy later.

3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger

1 cup butter, softened
3 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 16 ounce can pumpkin

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9x5 inch loaf pans

Combine first nine ingredients in a large bowl,  whisk and set aside.  Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Gradually add flour mixture.  Mix in pumpkin until well combined.  Take 1 1/2 cup batter and combine with melted chocolate.
Fill eaach loaf pan with 1/4  pumpkin batter.  Divide chocolate batter in half and place on top of pumpkin batter in each loaf pan.  Divide remaining pumpkin batter in half and place on top of chocolate batter.

Bake for 45 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

French Apple and Cranberry Pie


I think that I've said it before but I love to make pies! Something about taking a fragrant pie out of the oven, serving it warm is just so irresistible. Pies are fun to make, fun to eat. I made this wonderful fall pie to celebrate the season with my friends at the DJWC board meeting.

 Fresh cranberries add  a tart tang to the apples( I used Granny Smith apples which tend to be tart also) .  Perfect  with vanilla ice cream or a slice of Harmon's Cheddar Cheese( I love Harmon's Cheddar Cheese from Sugar Hill, New Hampshire).  Any way you like your pie this one is just delicious!

Pastry
1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter
2-3 tablespoon apple cider or water
1 egg, beaten


Filling
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6 cups thinly sliced pared apples (about 5 medium)
1 cup fresh cranberries

Crumb Topping
Mix one cup flour, 1/2 cup firm butter, and 1/2 cup brown packed sugar with a fork or pastry blender until crumbly.

Heat oven to 425 F. Prepare pastry.
Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in large bowl. With pastry blender cut in butter to the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle apple cider over top one tablespoon at a time, mix until pastry holds together. Shape pastry into ball.
On lightly floured surface, roll out pastry into 11-inch round,  fit into 9-inch pie plate. Turn extra dough at edge into rim and flute or crimp a raised edge.
Stir together sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt; mix lightly with the apples and cranberries. Pour into the pastry-lined pie plate and sprinkle with Crumb Topping

Cover the edge with a 2- to 3-inch strip of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning; remove the foil for the last 15 minutes of baking. Bake 40 to 50 minutes.  If the topping is browning too quickly, cover with foil for the last 15 minutes of baking.

Enjoy!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Applelicious Cupcakes






Ah, fall is in the air!  Time for wonderful apple desserts to herald the beginning of fall.  Fall is my favorite time of year when the leaves start to change with the crisp Autumn air.  And fall clothes, need I say more to soft cashmere sweaters, light wool pants, and boots! But I can't forget about fresh picked apples right off the tree. Perfect for just taking a big juicy bite or using for outrageous apple desserts like the  recipe that I am sharing today which is half cupcake, half muffin, but totally delicious.

Applelicious Cupcakes

Cream Cheese Filling
1 8 ounce package cream cheese
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon vanilla

Apple batter
1 cup finely chopped pecans
3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup apple sauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups peeled Gala apples, finely chopped

Praline Frosting
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoon milk
1teaspoon vanilla
1 cup powered sugar

Prepare Filling: Beat first three ingredients at medium speed with electric mixer until blended and smooth. Add egg, flour and vanilla, beat until blended

Prepare Batter: Preheat oven to 350. Bake finely chopped pecans in a shallow pan 8-10 minutes until toasted. Stir together flour and next seven ingredients in a large bowl; stir in eggs and next three ingredients, just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Stir in apples and pecans.
Spoon batter into cupcake lined pans, filling half. Then spoon about 1/8 cup of cream cheese filling using all the filling. Top with remaining batter.
Bake 20-25 minutes until wooden tester comes out clean.
Makes 24 cup cakes

Prepare Praline Frosting:  Bring brown sugar, butter, milk to a boil in 2-qt sauce pan over medium heat, whisking constantly. Boil one minute. Remove from heat, add vanilla, stir. Gradually whisk powder sugar until smooth.  Stir for 3-5 minutes until frosting slightly thickens. Before the frosting is cool icing cupcakes. Top with chopped pecans and one dried apple chip.

Enjoy!
www.gooddinermrsmellen.com

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Obsessed with Mussels!


One more mussel receipt to enjoy on a wonderful late summer evening! Mussels are so delicious and easy to make.  I changed the recipe today for a light wine sauce that was just outstanding

Two pounds mussels scrubbed and de-bearded,  I love P.E.I mussels, so sweet!
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 coves garlic, minced
1 shallot, chopped
12 rainbow heirloom cherry tomatoes
1tablespoon chopped fresh thyme.
1tabelspoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/4 cup dry white wine

Saute olive oil, garlic and shallot for 5 minutes, don't brown. Add tomatoes and fresh herbs continuing to saute for another five minutes. Add wine,  cook on low for another five minutes.  Add mussels, stir, cover, continue cooking on low for ten minutes until until mussels open.

So easy and so good!

Enjoy!

Luscious Grilled Vegetables!


Wonderful easy summer grilled vegetables are so delicious and easy to make.  Clean and slice an assortment of farm fresh vegetables. I used purple, red, and yellow peppers, heirloom grape tomatoes, mini eggplant, onions, garlic and Brussels sprouts.  Put the vegetables in a wire grill pan, drizzle with olive oil, season with fresh basil, thyme and ground pepper. All you have to do is grill for about 20 minutes, shaking the wire grill pan to rotate the vegetables and then just serve.

Enjoy

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday Cooking Marathon

Fall must be in the air I woke up wanting to just cook and cook. First I made Curried Chick Pea salad and Oriental Cabbage Salad to eat today and the rest of the week as healthy side dishes.  Then on to large batches of Pasta Fagioli(or Pasta Fazool, our pronunciation), Lentil Chili and homemade chicken stock to use later in the week.
Finally I finished up with a wonderful Sunday dinner of grilled swordfish, mussels in wine, the last of local corn, salads from this morning and I just had to make a Caprese salad with my heirloom tomatoes. I know way to much food but my Italian heritage is showing.  All the recipes can be found in my blog.

Sneak peak I am working on my Mother's Gnocchi receipt. She sent me the ingredients list and now I am going to make her Gnocchi's with her walking me through her little tricks over the phone. That's what I love most about my mother's style of cooking, her unique additions to all the standard Italian recipes make her meals so delicious.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Farmer's Market Ratatouille



September means end of summer, back to school, warm days, cool nights and harvesting summer vegetables putting my garden to bed for the winter and more.  Especially wonderful is the farmer's market harvest of wonderful fresh vegetables.  So fresh, delicious and easy to prepare for a relaxing summer meal.
With all the wonderful bounty from local farm markets I've been enjoying tasty vegan meals that are flavorful, delicious and satisfying. Oh did I mention so heathy! Last night I prepared very quickly one of these beautiful meals. I served a ratatouille, portabella mushroom pita bread sandwich with fresh heirloom tomatoes, so beautiful to see and taste. A wonderful late summer meal for two.

Farmer's Market Ratatouille

1 large zucchini
1 Thai eggplant (loved my new find at Dedham Food Market)
two tomatoes, cut into cubes
cup of fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 kalamata olives, sliced in half
1 teaspoon capers
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Sauté garlic and shallots until translucent in olive oil. Add zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant,  cook on low for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes cook another five minutes, then add olives, capers, basil, thyme and pepper.  Cook for another five minutes and serve. This is a wonderful side dish to any meal.

I grilled a large portabella mushroom, brushed with olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs just until cooked through and made a wonderful sandwich in pita bread.  I brushed the pita bread lightly with olive oil, filled sandwich with sliced tomato, mushroom and fresh basil. Absolutely wonderful.

A delicious vegan summer meal.

Enjoy!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Love these beautiful Heirloom Tomatoes!



My first year planting heirloom tomatoes is a wonderful success.  Not very pretty on the outside but delicious to taste.  I was unaware that they don't produce copious amounts of tomatoes like the hybrids varieties but quality beats quantity when comparing to a the hybrids. So flavorful that all I did was slice the tomatoes layer with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and drizzle with a rich balsamic vinegar or Our Favorite Salad dressing(one of my favorites)!  Ready to serve in no time!

Enjoy!


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Crazy about Summertime Peach Pie




I love to make pies especially Summertime peach pie.  Serve plain or with the best vanilla ice cream just warm from the oven simply a fantastic end to a summer meal.

Crust

3 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar, optional
3 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon ice water

Pie Filling

8 peaches slice thin
3/4 cup light brown sugar
juice of one lemon
3 tablespoon of quick-cooking tapioca
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoon butter

Pie Crust:  Pulse flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. Add 1 diced stick cold butter, process until combined. Add 2 more diced sticks cold butter. Add 2 more diced sticks cold butter, pulse 10 seconds or until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add one tablespoon vinegar. Gradually pour in 1/3 cup water pulsing 10 seconds until combined. Turn out onto a clean surface and form into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and press into a 1-inch-thick disk.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour before using.

Pie Filling: Combine peaches with sugar, lemon, tapioca, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside until you roll out pie crust.

Pie: Divide the chilled dough in half, roll  1 piece into a 12-inch, 1/8-inch-thick circle on a lightly floured surface. Refrigerate remaining dough.
Roll the dough onto a rolling pin, then unroll into a 9-inch pie plate, letting excess dough hand over the edge.  Add peach filling and dot with butter.
Roll out the other piece of dough and place over the filling. Press the crust edges together and trim, leaving 1-inch overhang. Roll up and pinch the overhang to seal.
Preheat oven 450 degrees. Cut slits into the top of crust. Chill pie for 30 minutes. Reduced the oven to 400 degrees. Bake pie for 30 minutes. Brush with heavy cream(about 1 tablespoon) and sprinkle with sugar( 1 tablespoon) Bake until golden brown about 30 minutes. Cool before slicing.

Enjoy!



Friday, August 12, 2011

Country Peach Cobbler



Peaches have are one of my favorite fruits. My grandparents always had peach tree in their yard. My grandmother would can a large batch each summer for winter eating. Growing up in Levittown Pennsylvania all the house were landscaped with one apple, one pear and one peach tree. I waited all summer for the peaches to grow and ripen, picking at the just perfect time. Our peach tree produced an abundance of fruit enough to just eat fresh and for my mother peach pies. When I want to make a quick and easy peach dessert I turn to a cobbler. You can make a cobbler with peaches, blueberries, nectarines and more, just use your favorite fruit.  I like this cobbler for the bisque topping as opposed to a sweet crumbly topping. The peaches are the star not the topping.

8 large peaches, sliced into thin slices
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoon cornstarch

For biscuit topping
1 1/3 cup flour
2 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl combine sugar and corn start. Add peaches and lemon juice. Mix gently. Turn into nine inch baking dish. I like to use a deep dish pie plate but use can use a square baking dish.

Biscuit topping: In a large bowl combine sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With a pastry blender cut int the butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add the egg and yogurt working together with the blender or spatula until dry ingredients are moistened. Drop dough by 9 heaping tablespoons evenly over the fruit. Bake 30 minutes or until tester inserted in middle of the topping comes out clean. Serve warm. I like rich vanilla ice cream with my cobbler.

Enjoy!



Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summer Farmer's Market Dinner




Wednesdays find me at the wonderful Dedham Farm Market to choice the simple ingredients for a delicious easy meal. Today I was not disappointed with all that I purchased at the Farm Market. Luscious purple peppers, sweetly flavored Thai eggplant, just picked corn, plump tomatoes, bursting blueberries, spicy lettuce, leaping off the boat fish, and more.  Once home I quickly made a simply delicious evening meal.

Mussels in white wine sauce, fresh corn, grilled zucchini and swordfish.
For the mussels I just sautéed garlic and shallots in 2 tablespoon olive oil for five minutes. Add 2 cups sliced cherry tomatoes, 1 cup white wine, 1 tablespoon each basil and thyme. Cook on low for another five minutes. Add 2 pounds mussels cover and simmer on low until mussels open about 10 minutes.

I purchased small ball shaped zucchini and cut in half. Spray lightly with pam, season with fresh basil, thyme and oregano. Place on hot grill and cook for 15 minutes.

For the swordfish I just drizzled with fresh lemon juice, seasoned both sides with Chesapeake bay seafood seasoning, grilling for about 15 minutes.

Enjoy!



Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cheesecake Devil's Food Chocolate Cup Cakes





Ah, what  a wonderful combination, cheesecake and devil's food cake together in a fantastic tasting cupcake. I am not just bragging,  these cupcakes just won best tasting cupcake in the First Annual Sheep Skate Yarn and Craft store cupcake bake off.

Cake
2 cups(packed) brown sugar
1 3/4 cup cake flour - I like King Arthur's
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa- I use Ghirardelli
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup strong coffee, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs

Cheesecake Filling
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

Icing
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened at room temperature
3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoon milk or heavy cream

Chocolate Batter:  Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cup cake pans with baking cups. I made 12 large cup cakes or you can do 24 regular. (If you do large cupcakes make sure you use large not regular baking cups.) Whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in large bowl to blend.  Add buttermilk, coffee, oil and eggs, whisk until smooth.

Cheesecake Filling: Beat cream cheese and sugar in medium bowl to blend. Beat in egg, then flour.

Fill each cupcake baking cups 1/4 filled with chocolate batter. Divide cheesecake filling between each cupcake, sprinkle evenly with mini chocolate chips. Top each cupcake with remaining chocolate batter.
Bake 20-25 minutes until tester inserted comes out clean.

Cool cupcakes completely and then freeze for three hours.

Spoon icing into pastry bag fitted with a tip of your choice and have fun decorating the cup cakes!
Can be made a day ahead. Just refrigerated and let cupcakes stand at room temperature 2 hours before serving.

Enjoy

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Grilled Cornish Game Hens




Sunday I had an urge to grill Cornish Game Hens. A very easy but a tasty Sunday dinner. I served them with grilled vegetables, fresh corn and a salad.  From my mother I learned to be very fussy when cleaning any type of poultry. First I split the hens, cutting not on the breast side but the back side, butterflying the birds. I like to first put sea salt in the cavity of the bird for about 10 minutes. I then thoroughly rinsed the hens. I then but the birds in a large bowl and covered with water. I added one sliced lemon, four sliced garlic cloves, a tablespoon of sea salt, a teaspoon fresh ground pepper, 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil, a tablespoon fresh rosemary, and a tablespoon thyme. I refrigerate for two hours to let the hens become flavorful.
Heat grill to medium. Drain hens and pat dry. Rub a little olive oil on the breast of hens, season with chopped basil, rosemary, pepper and thyme. Place hens on grill breast side up.  Grilled cover turning every ten minutes for about 35 - 45 minutes. Juices should run clear from hens.
Place some seasonal vegetables in a grill pan, season with fresh herbs and garlic.  Cook for about 20-25 minutes.

An easy, simple heat beating summer dinner.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Luscious Nectarine Blueberry Pie




Summertime and wonderful fruit pies what could be more perfect. A delicious piece of pie with vanilla ice cream simple but oh so good!  I especially love the combination of nectarine and blueberries.  I made my own pie crust and the recipe follows. But for a quick and easy pie you can buy the refrigerated pie crust. I like the Pillsbury brand.  Don't be intimidated by a home made pie crust, as I've always said, the more you practice the better you become.  If time is an issue you can make the pie crust the day before and refrigerate over night,  then just roll out the dough the next day, add the filling, bake and in no time you have a wonderful home made pie.

Pie Crust
Makes 2 crusts

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 sticks chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 " cubes
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. salt

Process flour, butter, vegetable shortening, sugar and salt  in a food processor until butter is crumbly, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a large bowl. Gradually add 3/4 cups ice water, using a folk stir mixture until dough forms a ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.

Filling

6 ripe large nectarines(halved, pitted and slice 1/2-inch thick)
1 pint blueberries, washed and picked over
3/4 cups sugar
3 Tbsp. quick-cooking tapioca
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest

Glaze;

1 egg
1 Tsp. milk
1 Tsp. sugar(for sprinkling)

Heat oven to 425 F and adjust rack to lower to middle position. In a large bowl toss nectarines, blueberries, sugar, tapioca, lemon juice and lemon zest. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Divide dough into two balls, one sightly larger. On a lightly floured surface roll larger pastry ball into a circle about 2 inches larger than 9-inch pie plate. Line pie plate with pastry, trim edge leaving 1 inch overhang.  Fill the pie plate with the fruit. Roll out smaller pastry ball for top curst. Place on top of fruit pie.  Trim pastry edge leaving an inch overhang. Fold overhang under, then bring up over pie plate rim, pinch to form fluted edges.   Brush top with some of the egg glaze. Make a few decorative slits in the top and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 and bake for 40 minutes. Then brush again with remaining egg glaze, sprinkle sugar and bake for about 5 minutes more until golden brown. Cool on wire rack before serving.

I serve with vanilla ice cream!

Enjoy!