Feb 22, 2012

Cream Cheese Filled Pumpkin Muffins

If you're thinking this is the wrong season for pumpkin muffins... You're wrong. It is never the wrong season for pumpkin anything. And also if you're thinking that - we can't be friends anymore and you can't come to my birthday party. 

Speaking of birthday parties, I made these for my hubby's birthday breakfast. I had him look through my recipe binder and I said I'd make him anything he wanted. He chose these. I knew we were a match made in pumpkin heaven. I'm really not sure there is any food on this earth that I love more than muffins. Cupcakes fit in the muffin category since they are basically just a muffin on crack. A muffin to the nth power. The "it" girl at the muffin high school. A muffin all dressed up with nowhere to go... but my mouth. 

However, these muffins are almost like an inside-out cupcake. They have everything perfect about a muffin (sweet, moist, perfect crumbly streusal top) but they have a sweet, creamy, smooth filling. And they have pumpkin!!! I made them in my jumbo muffin pan and they were perfect. If you don't have a jumbo muffin pan, you could make them in a regular size muffin pan - but I prefer the jumbo because the topping-to-muffin and filling-to-muffin ratios are so much better in the jumbo. Not to mention the fact that the jumbo just means more muffin for your mouth! Also, the jumbo muffin pans are super cheap on Amazon

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons brown sugar

Streusal Topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons chopped pecans

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups canned pumpkin
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin pans with paper liners.
To make the filling: In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese until soft. Add egg, vanilla and brown sugar. Beat until smooth, then set aside.

For the streusel topping: In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Add butter and cut it in with a fork until crumbly. Set aside.

For the muffin batter: In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Make a well in the center of flour mixture and add eggs, pumpkin, olive oil and vanilla. Beat together until smooth.

If making Jumbo Muffins: Place 2 tablespoons pumpkin batter in muffin cups. Make a bit of a well in the batter, without going all of the way through to the bottom. Then add two tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture right in the middle of the batter. Try to keep cream cheese from touching the paper liner. Next, cover with 1/4 cup more batter. Sprinkle on the streusel topping.

If making regular size muffins: Place 1 tablespoon muffin batter in muffin cups. Make a bit of a well in the batter, without going all of the way through to the bottom. Then add one tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture right in the middle of the batter. Try to keep cream cheese from touching the paper liner. Next, cover with 2 tablespoons more batter. Sprinkle on the streusel topping.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out without any orange batter on it (white cream cheese is ok).

Feb 21, 2012

15 Bean Ham Soup

This is a super simple and cheap meal that we make every time we have a ham hock to finish off. The bean package (complete with recipe on the back) can be found in any grocery store in the dried beans section. You can add the seasoning at the end, but I think the soup is amazing even without the extra ingredients-that-I-can't-pronounce. 

I can't take any credit for this one, since we just make it exactly as it instructs on the back of the bean bag (minus the seasoning packet). The only thing I add is salt and pepper. Delicious served in bread bowls! After it has finished cooking, remove the ham hock and any meat off it,  then add back to the soup. 

1- Package Hurst's 15 Bean Soup
1 lb. ham, ham hocks, or smoked sausage
1 cup onion, chopped
1 15 oz. can diced or stewed tomatoes
1 tsp. chili powder
Juice from 1 lemon
1-2 cloves minced garlic



Soaking- Place beans in a large pot, cover with 2 quarts of water. Allow beans to soak overnight, or at least 8 hours.
After soaking, drain excess water, and add 2 quarts of fresh water and meat.
Bring to a rolling boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 2.5 hours.
After simmering, add onion, tomatoes, chili powder, lemon and garlic. Simmer for an additional 30 minutes.
Add contents of ham packet 1 to 2 minutes before cooking is completed. Salt and pepper to taste.

Feb 20, 2012

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Peanut Butter Cupcakes - AKA Super rich, super delicious, super need-a-glass-of-milk, super want-5-but-luckily-your-belly-probably-can't-hold-more-than-3-in-a-ten-minute-period cupcakes. Super yummy! 

After 15 years of college (minus two years for a church mission), my amazing husband finally earned his Bachelors Degree in Business. When he was still attending college full-time, we made the choice to leave and move back home to follow a promising business opportunity. FAIL. But, that move allowed us to live with my mom in the last year of her life - an experience worthy of any sacrifice. 

That move also slowly pushed my husband's career in the right direction for our family and he has become very successful in what he does. He now has a job that he enjoys, supports our family, and allows him to work from home. I wouldn't change a thing about his career choices. He's worked hard and the effor thas paid off. Through it all, he's been working on his degree... and he just finished! 

We surprised him with a graduation party a few weeks ago and I, being the amazing self sacrificing wife that I am (ha), made him these cupcakes. I tried to think of what kind of treats he loves that I never make because I'm not a fan. Peanut butter treats were high on the list. I have never been a big fan of peanut butter anything - except Reese's. However... I LOOOOOVED these! Like really really loved. 

I used Ghirardelli Chocolate Squares, Sour licorice, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and mini chocolate chips to make cute little graduation caps on top (just do a Google image search for graduation cupcakes). But make sure you don't use mint flavor. Mint + peanut butter = no bueno. Blech.

I asked my husband, the college graduate (wooo!), to briefly describe these and he said, "Phenomenal. Practically Perfect Peanut Butter Cupcakes. I used alliteration. It's cool." See? 13 years of college did him well. 

Cupcake Recipe (adapted from Martha Stewart's Peanut Butter Cupcake recipe)
makes 18

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup natural, creamy peanut butter
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in peanut butter. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.
Reduce speed to low. In a small bowl, add vanilla to sour cream. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream mixture and ending with dry. Scrape sides of bowl. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each with 1/4 cup.
Bake cupcakes until testers inserted into centers come out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks. 

Frost with Peanut Butter Frosting:
1 cup natural, creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons milk


Beat peanut butter and vanilla until blended. Add 3 tablespoons of milk and the sugar while beating. Add the rest of the milk and beat until smooth. Add more milk, if needed. 

Drizzle with Chocolate Ganache:
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Melt chocolate and cream in double boiler, stirring consistently.
A double boiler is just a metal or glass bowl set on top of a pot of simmering water. 

Feb 7, 2012

BBQ Chicken Calzone

I know that typical American calzones are much more stuffed and overflowing with cheese than the one pictured above, but don't let the simplicity fool you. This baby was jam-packed with amazing flavor and was the perfect texture. My flavor-addict husband raved about it and even my picky eaters asked for seconds.

If you've been keeping up on recent posts, you'll know that pizza is like crack to me. Seriously - does life get better than warm, fluffy pizza crust slathered with tomatoes and cheese? Throw in some pineapples and I might just marry you. *drool* So, if you are as pizza-addicted as I am, I know you'll love this calzone.

Have you ever seen someone eat a slice of pizza folded in half like a taco? My dad ate his pizza like that and I always thought it was so funny. It just seemed like he was trying to find the most efficient way to get the pizza into his stomach, instead of savoring each bite. Kind of like when my husband throws a whole handful of M&M's in his mouth. He can go through a bag in 5 minutes. It takes me at least a week.

Back to folding pizza in half... a calzone is the perfect solution to you efficient pizza folders because it's basically just a pizza folded in half. Pizza dough is used, but instead of spreading the toppings all over the pizza, the toppings are spread on one half and the other half is folded over and sealed, trapping all of the yumminess inside. For this version, I used BBQ Sauce (and bacon!!!), but traditional pizza sauce and mozzarella make a really good meal, too.

This recipe makes 2 large calzones... which I thought would serve my family for two nights. Wrong. It was so delicious they all went back for seconds... and thirds... They would have gone for fourths but it was long gone by then!

10 slices bacon
1 small onion, chopped
4 cups cooked, shredded chicken breast meat (about 2 lbs)
1 cup barbecue sauce + more for dipping
1 recipe perfect pizza dough made just until the 1 1/2 hours of rising time is over
8-16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese (we did 8 ounces to be a little healthier, but cheesier always tastes better!)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees with a pizza stone (or pizza pan) inside.
Fry bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove from the pan to drain on paper towels; crumble. Add the onion to the hot bacon grease in the pan. Fry over medium heat until onion is tender. Add and shredded chicken and stir in 1 cup of barbecue sauce, and remove from the heat. Mix in the cooked bacon.
On a sheet of parchment paper, roll one pizza dough into a 16"circle.* Do the same to the second pizza dough. Divide the chicken mixture between the two circles of dough, spreading on only half of each piece to within 1/2 inch of the edge. Sprinkle the cheese and cilantro over the top. Wet the uncovered edges of the  pizza circle. Fold the uncovered portion of dough over the filling, and press the edges together with your fingers or a fork to seal. Spread oilive oil over surface with a basting brush. Cut two slits in the top for air to escape.
Lift parchment paper with one calzone onto hot pizza stone in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until browned to your liking. Cool for a few minutes, then slice and serve with extra barbecue sauce for dipping.

*You can just roll it out onto a counter sprinkled generously with cornmeal or flour, but the parchment paper makes transferring to and removing from the hot pizza pan so much easier.

Feb 6, 2012

Root Beer Float Cupcakes

There are some recipes that I am just SO excited to share with you that I bump right to the top of my list. This is one of them. A couple of days ago I was needing a sweet fix, but not having the energy to actually make anything. Usually when I have food cravings, but can't/won't/don't want to cook, I fill those cravings by planning to cook something. I know, there's something wrong with me. Finding and planning to cook a fabulous recipe is almost as good to me as actually eating one. Weird, right? 

Weird or not, you'll be grateful for my quirky habits when you bite into one of these babies. While searching for a fluffy and sweet cupcake, I found these. Root Beer Float Cupcakes??? Does life get any better? They have Vanilla Frosting on top and are stuffed with super flavorful Root Beer Frosting. It's like a soda party in your mouth. But better because it comes with a cupcake. Heaven...

I'm thinking of finding a reason for a pizza party (wait... do I need a reason?), with these as the dessert. Pizza with root beer is in my top 5 favorite meals. If I was ever stranded on an island and could only bring one food, it would be pizza. If I could have a drink with my pizza it would be orange juice (I said I was weird!). But second choice would be root beer. And if I could have a dessert? Cupcakes! 

These were super fun to make and everyone loved them! 

Makes 12-15 cupcakes

1 1/8 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons root beer concentrate (at the grocery store next to the vanilla)
1/3 cup root beer
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat egg and sugar until smooth and no lumps remain. Add cream, butter and vanilla, and mix until combined. Stir in sour cream. Sift dry ingredients together and add to wet mixture. Add root beer concentrate and root beer. Mix until batter is smooth. Line a muffin tin with liners and add 1/4 cup batter to each cup. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Let cool before frosting.

Vanilla and Root Beer Frosting
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon root beer extract

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, cream butter until smooth. On low speed, add powdered sugar one cup at a time, increasing speed to bring the frosting together. Add milk and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth. Remove almost all of the vanilla frosting, leaving behind about 1/2 cup in the mixer. Set vanilla frosting aside. Add root beer extract to remaining frosting in the bowl and beat until it comes together.

Prep two pastry bags (or you can simply use spoons) and fill one with vanilla frosting and the other with root beer frosting. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, fill each one with root beer frosting (I simply plunge the pastry tip into the cupcake and squeeze), then top with vanilla frosting. Top with chocolate sauce.

I liked these best kept in the fridge, but they were also super yummy when I first made them. And remember, I'm weird. 

Filled with Root Beer Frosting

Topped with Vanilla Frosting

Drizzling the amazing chocolate sauce. 

recipe adapted from how sweet it is

Feb 4, 2012

Chocolate Sauce

1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
3 Tablespoons milk
1 1/12 ounces dark or unsweetened chocolate chips
1 Tablespoon butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix the cocoa powder and cornstarch in a bowl. Stir in the milk.

Place chocolate chips, butter, and corn syrup in a small saucepan on medium/low heat. Mix and melt ingredients until well blended. Add the cocoa mixture and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring continuously. Simmer for one minute, remove from heat, and add vanilla.

Serve warm or store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

(serve over crepes, ice cream, cupcakes, waffles, pancakes, strawberries, etc.)

Feb 3, 2012

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

My seven-year-old daughter and I were looking through a magazine and she saw an ad for store-bought Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread and asked if we could buy it. Being the stingy creative mom I am, I instead told her we'd find a way to make it! After not loving any of the recipes I found, we came up with this one. She loved it so much (as did everyone else) that we instantly made it again the next day. It's amazing just fresh out of the oven, but also toasted with a little bit of butter, made into french toast, or slathered with cream cheese. 

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 Tablespoons milk
2 Tablespoons shortening
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
5 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons yeast
1 cup raisins

Swirl Filling:
1 egg, beaten
4 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Place all bread ingredients - except raisins - in Bread Machine in order recommended by the manufacturer. Select the dough setting. If your bread machine has an alarm for when it's time to add nuts or raisins, add the raisins then. If not, just add them in the last five minutes of the kneading cycle . 

When dough is ready, remove and place on a surface sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Roll dough out into a large rectangle - approximately 18 inches by 30 inches (I just went as deep as my counter would let me):

Spread beaten egg on dough, followed by butter. Be sure that every surface is covered. Then spread with brown sugar and sprinkle with cinnamon. 

Starting at the short end, roll dough. If using regular 9" x 5" loaf pans, slice bread roll in half, and place each loaf in a well greased 9" x 5" pan. I have a 16" pan so I just put the whole roll in the pan:

Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size - about one hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 30-40 minutes or until crust is brown and loaves sound hollow when tapped. 

French Toast:

Feb 2, 2012

Shrimp Pasta with Orange Sauce

A friend of mine had some shrimp and scallops sitting in her freezer all lonely because her husband isn't a big seafood fan. Luckily, we are! So she passed them along to us and my husband whipped up this fancy dish. Super yummy and could be made with just shrimp, just scallops, shrimp and scallops, a white fish, or even some chicken.

1 pound of cooked shrimp, washed and patted dry
2 Tablespoons butter
1 medium onion - diced
1 Tablespoon of flour
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup white wine
1 lb pasta noodles (we used bowtie, but anything would do)
1 small bunch fresh dill
1 tablespoon fine orange zest
1/2 cup orange juice


1. Heat the butter in a pan over medium-high heat and brown the shrimp for about 1 minute on each side, then remove from the pan with a slotted spoon.

2. Add onions to the same pan and cook until translucent. Sprinkle the flour over them, stir, and brown lightly. Pour in the cream and wine. Reduce heat to low and simmer for ten minutes.

3. While sauce is cooking, boil water and cook pasta according to package directions until al dente.

4. Add the shrimp to the sauce and heat for 2 minutes. Rinse and shake dry the dill, setting aside a few sprigs for garnish, then chop the rest. Add the chopped dill, orange zest, and orange juice to the sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Drain the noodles. Serve with orange sauce and garnished with remaining dill.

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