Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Commence the drooling. I discovered these treats last fall when I was perusing through one of my Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, so I decided to make them on a whim. They were a HUGE hit, I must have made them four times before the year's end.

Per usual, I made a couple of changes to the recipe to make it my own. I'm not a huge fan of nutmeg so I removed it from the recipe, I also decided to add caramel and chopped pecans.

These cupcakes are the perfect start to fall, not to mention the fact that they make the whole house smell like pumpkin deliciousness. 

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes
Yield: 12 Servings

1 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil

8 oz cream cheese
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups confectioner's sugar

1/4 cup caramel (optional)
1/8 cup pecans (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, ground ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt). Mix them with a whisk until they're well combined. In another bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) combine the wet ingredients (eggs, pumpkin puree, white sugar, brown sugar, and canola oil). Mix them together until they're well combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix them together.

Place 12 cupcake liners into a muffin pan. Evenly spoon the batter into each liner, or until each one is 3/4 filled. Place the pan into the oven for 25-30 minutes or until you poke one with a fork and it comes out clean.

Meanwhile, in a medium size bowl soften the cream cheese and butter in the microwave for 20 seconds. Using a hand mixer, whip the cream cheese, butter, maple syrup, and vanilla together. Then slowly add the confectioner's sugar until the frosting is smooth. Finally, place the frosting into a ziplock bag and cut off the corner before frosting the cupcakes (it functions as a pastry bag).

When the cupcakes are completely cooled (no one wants melted frosting!), squeeze the frosting out onto each cupcake. Finally, drizzle the cupcakes with a bit of caramel and a few pecan pieces. Enjoy!



Shaved Asparagus Salad

Well hello again! Sorry for the lack of posts lately, moving was an awfully long process for me (not a far one though, I've only moved ten blocks away). 

Admittedly asparagus is one of my all time favorite veggies. It's perfectly delicious when cooked with just a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. However, I thought I would try something new by shaving the spears with a vegetable peeler. The result was amazing. Rather than having a mouth full of one flavor, shaving it allowed me to combine it with a citrus vinaigrette, crispy pancetta, and creamy goat cheese. The combination of flavors is out of this world. 

I think I've made this salad four times since its conception... it's on our list of staples for the summer. 

Shaved Asparagus Salad
Yield: 4 Servings

5 slices pancetta
1 lb asparagus
1/2 lemon, juice
1/8 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 oz goat cheese
kosher salt
black pepper
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lay the slices of pancetta onto a baking sheet, sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Place the baking sheet into the oven for 10 minutes.

To prep the asparagus, start by breaking the tough ends off of each stalk. Then use a vegetable peeler to shave the stalks of asparagus, you'll get about 5 pieces out of each stalk. 

Place a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, and shaved asparagus. Allow it to cook for 6-8 minutes, tossing it once every couple of minutes. 

Once the asparagus is cooked, add it to a serving dish, crumble the goat cheese onto it and set the crispy pancetta on the side along with a few lemon slices.



Maple Turkey Bacon

Turkey bacon has always been one of my favorite breakfast sides, but it's always so difficult to cook in a pan without burning it! So naturally I thought it was a good idea to cook it in a fashion similar to my Cinnamon Brown Sugar Bacon. With a drizzle of maple syrup and my oven at 400 degrees, turkey bacon was taken to a whole new level of greatness. It became crispy, sweet and salty. It's especially wonderful when paired with my Strawberry Challah French Toast!

Maple Turkey Bacon

1 lb turkey bacon
1 tbsp real maple syrup

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Lay out the turkey bacon onto a large sheet pan, being careful not to overlap each piece. Drizzle each piece with maple syrup, then place the pan into the oven for 15 minutes. Finally, remove the bacon and allow it to cool a bit before serving. Enjoy!



Strawberry Challah French Toast

There's nothing more satisfying after a long week than a really indulgent brunch on Sunday morning. This brunch in particular is one of epic proportions, Challah French Toast with Warm Strawberry Syrup and Maple Turkey Bacon. 

Challah is the perfect bread for french toast, once you have it you can't go back to regular bread. It's sweet and fluffy and really soaks up all of the delicious cinnamon vanilla custard, it's amazing.

I thought that I was going out on a limb with the idea of strawberry syrup, but it was incredibly delicious. Just a little bit of butter and brown sugar turned juicy strawberries into a sticky sweet syrup. I also made Maple Turkey Bacon (recipe to come later this week), it was the perfect salty complement to the sweet french toast. Yum!

Strawberry Challah French Toast
Yield: 6 Servings

1 loaf challah, sliced into (12) 1" slices
8 eggs
1 cup 2% milk
2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or extract)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3 tbsp butter

1 1/2 cup chopped strawberries
1 tbsp butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract), cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Mix them together with a fork until they're well combined. 

Place a large saute pan over medium-low heat, add 1/2 tablespoon of butter and allow it to melt. Submerge two slices of challah into the custard and place them onto the hot saute pan. Allow them to cook for 5 minutes on the first side, or until they're golden. Then flip them, and allow them to cook for an additional minute or two. Place the cooked french toast onto a platter. Then add 1/2 tablespoon of butter and continue to cook the other 5 batches of french toast in the same fashion as the first.

Meanwhile, place a small saute pan over medium-low heat, and add 1 tablespoon of butter. Then place the strawberries into the pan along with the brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon. Allow the strawberry syrup to cook for 8 minutes, stirring it once every minute or so. Finally, remove it from the heat and spoon it over the cooked french toast. Enjoy!



Mother's Day Brunch

With Mother's Day just around the corner, I wanted to make sure that all of you were prepared with some great brunch ideas. I love the idea of brunch: a nice leisurely paced mid-day meal, where having a mimosa or two at 11am seems perfectly appropriate. It's no wonder that this is the classic Mother's Day meal!

Not only does this Lemon Butter Bundt Cake look fabulous, but it's also incredibly delicious. This cake would be the perfect centerpiece for your special meal (whether it be brunch or dinner).

Frittatas are the perfect egg dish to serve to guests because they don't involve any last minute work on the stove, you just throw it in the oven! This Spinach & Goat Cheese Frittata is no exception (not to mention that the little bit of julienned spinach on top makes it look extra special).

To say that these Pecan Sticky Buns are a crowd pleaser, would be a serious understatement. Not only are they incredibly easy to make, they also taste as if you purchased them from the fanciest bakery.

Last but not least, my prized Cinnamon Brown Sugar Bacon. It's salty and sweet, with absolutely no mess because it's cooked in the oven.



Sunday Pot Roast

I have such fond childhood memories of my mom preparing a huge pot roast on Sunday mornings, and the amazing smells that would fill our home as it baked for the rest of the day. Last week, I was eager to recreate that wonderful meal that I recalled, but with my own twist on it. I turned the heat a little higher than the traditional pot roast temperature, 325 instead of 250. This way I didn't have to wait all day for it to finish cooking. 

I also added a few of my favorite things, Cabernet, rosemary, cremini mushrooms, and garlic. I started by coating the meat with olive oil, salt, pepper, and minced rosemary. Then I seared the outside in a hot saute pan, this created a beautiful crust that helped to seal in the juice. I then deglazed the pan with the red wine, and tossed the garlic and mushrooms in with it. Finally, I added all of this to a baking dish.

After an hour and fifteen minutes in the oven, I was left with a gorgeously cooked pot roast. It was light pink in the center and deliciously tender. Not to mention how delectable the cabernet soaked mushrooms and garlic were. 

Sunday Pot Roast
Yield: 4 Servings

1.5 lb Chuck Roast
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp rosemary, minced
1.5 cups Cabernet Sauvignon
20 cloves garlic, peeled
1 lb cremini mushrooms
2 rosemary sprigs

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Start by coating your meat with olive oil, then evenly rub on the kosher salt, pepper, and minced rosemary. Place a large saute pan over medium-high heat, and allow it to heat for 2 minutes. Place the roast onto the pan for 1-2 minutes per side, for a total of 7-8 minutes. Remove the pot roast and place it into a baking dish. Turn the heat of the saute pan down to medium, and add the wine, as well as the garlic and mushrooms. Allow it to cook for 6 minutes, then remove it from the heat and pour it over the pot roast in the baking dish. Top the pot roast with the additional sprigs of rosemary. Place the baking dish into the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. When it's done cooking, remove it from the oven and cover it with foil for 10 minutes. After it has rested, place the meat onto a cutting board and slice it. Enjoy!