mini pumpkin spice cupcakes

mini bites of fall. topped with brown butter and sugar.

short. simple. sweet.

and perfectly spiced.

mini pumpkin spice cupcakes

adapted from martha stewart's cupcakes
1 hour, makes 36 minis

3/4 cup butter
1 2/3 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
brown butter icing, optional
  1. in a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. cook until butter turns golden brown, but doesn't burn, about 5 minutes. pour into a bowl and leave behind any burnt bits. let cool for 30 minutes or so.
  2. preheat your oven to 325F. spray mini cupcake tins with non stick spray or line with paper liners.
  3. whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
  4. in a separate large bowl, whisk the pumpkin, sugars, eggs, and brown butter.
  5. add the dry ingredients to the wet and whisk until combined.
  6. fill mini cups about 2/3 full. bake about 12-14 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. let cool in the pan a couple minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.
  8. when cool, ice with brown butter icing if you wish.
  9. cupcakes are best within a day or two of making them. then they start to get gooey on the outside and dry on the inside. not a good cupcake combo.


pierogis and mushroom goulash

i was finally getting into the groove of summer when it ended. it's all over. on to fall.

and i know it's fall because the first thing i think in the morning is "it's too cold to get up." not too early. or i'm too tired. but it's simply too cold. the worst part is that it's only going to get worse! too cold now is a mere 50 degrees. nothing compared to the below freezing mornings i have to look forward to in january.

not that i'm complaining. see, i don't think i could ever leave the cold. at least not now. there's something about it. maybe it's not the cold so much, but everything associated with it. warm mugs of delicious drinks. cold noses and pink cheeks. skiing and sledding and skating and everything else that can only be done outside in the winter.

so maybe i'm getting a bit ahead of myself. i mean, it's only september. i haven't even picked apples yet, and i've already skipped past the cool transition from hot and humid to cold and dark. the transition, which in my opinion, is the perfect climate.

which means it's time again for cold weather food.

now i can't be the only one who cooks like this, with the seasons. a big pot of chili in the summer? nope, not for me. but now, it's perfect. a bowl of freshly churned ice cream in the middle of january? barring any crazy cravings, it just doesn't seem like the right fit. maybe it's just me, but i've got a feeling there are others too. especially with the influx of apple and pumpkin recipes flooding magazines, blogs, tv, and any other food related media you can get your hands on. and get them while they're hot, because soon, that mug of hot chocolate and pot of simmering chili will have their time.

pierogis and mushroom goulash
adapted from rachael ray
45 minutes, serves 4

1 pound frozen potato pierogi
1 pound button mushrooms, quartered
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
4 small-medium sized tomatoes, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons corn starch dissolved in ~1/4 cup water (whisk it in so there aren't any lumps)
olive oil, salt, pepper
cook the pierogi according to the package directions.
  1. coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil and place over medium low heat. add the mushrooms, season with salt & pepper and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. remove the mushrooms and their liquid (mushrooms have a lot of water that will cook out. don't get rid of it! it has tons of flavor) from the pan and set aside.
  2. coat the bottom of the skillet with olive oil and add the onion, pepper, tomatoes, garlic, paprika, marjoram, and coriander. mix well. add about a half cup of the reserved mushroom cooking liquid. cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. add the mushrooms back to the pan with the other vegetables. add the chicken stock and cook about 5 minutes.
  4. when your pierogi are almost done, add the cornstarch mixture to the mushroom sauce. mix well and cook until the sauce starts to thicken. it will go from a runny, thin liquid to a thicker, almost gravy like consistency. once it thickens, it's done.
  5. serve the pierogi with the mushroom goulash.


cinnamon basil shortbread cookies

on a whim, i bought a cinnamon basil plant early this summer when i picked up my lemon and italian basils. lucky for me, the cinnamon basil took off, and is now a huge bush overflowing from it's spot in the garden. i just don't know what the heck to do with it all!

i've looked high and low for recipes that use it - hasn't anyone else ever gotten sucked in by the cinnamoney aroma? i guess not. because there really isn't much out there for suggestions. so i did the only logical thing - added it to shortbread. my favorite, most requested by my friends and family cookie recipe.

surprisingly, it came out pretty well. i needed a lot of cinnamon basil for twelve cookies - about a full cup of loosely packed leaves - and the flavor was really great. subtle cinnamon with a nice herbalness to it.

love shortbread, but aren't a fan of cinnamon basil? then check out my lemon shortbread. or lemon curd shortbread sandwiches. or omit the cinnamon basil and add 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips. or 1/4 teaspoon almond extract and some finely chopped almonds. they're all great combinations.

cinnamon basil shortbread cookies
adapted from ina garten's shortbread cookies

1 cup loosely packed cinnamon basil leaves, finely minced
8 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
pinch of salt
  1. cream the butter, sugar, and cinnamon basil until light and fluffy, about three minutes. add the vanilla.
  2. with the mixer on low speed, add the salt and then slowly add the flour until incorporated.
  3. turn the dough out onto a piece of wax paper, parchment, or plastic wrap (my fav). roll into a log about 2 inches in diameter (roll it wider or skinnier depending on how big you want your cookies). roll the log in your paper/wrap.
  4. chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours. i always make my dough a couple hours before i plan to bake it.
  5. when it's time to bake, preheat your oven to 350F.
  6. use a sharp knife to cut the dough log into slices. the thicker your slices, the thicker your cookies.
  7. arrange on an ungreased baking sheet. they will spread a little when baking, but not much.
  8. bake about 12 minutes. cool on the sheet for a couple minutes, then move to a wire rack to finish cooling. they're soft when still warm and firm up as they cool.


weekend breakfast bowls

last weekend when jason was still trying to muster up the energy to get out of bed on sunday morning, i turned the week's left overs into a great man breakfast. in our house, a man breakfast is any kind of egg dish that also includes meat. it has to include meat.

don't ask me, that's definitely not a phrase a woman came up with.

anyway, i sauteed leftover roasted potatoes - the potatoes have to be cooked already or they will be crunchy if you try to make them from raw potatoes - and cooked up some eggs. that was the bulk of it. covered the eggs with leftover pico de gallo and queso fresco cheese. add some bacon. done. i ate mine in the bowl and jason rolled his up into the tortilla.

i bet this would be really great with a poached egg too...

weekend breakfast bowls
15 minutes, makes 2

about 1 1/2 cups leftover roasted potatoes
couple strips of bacon per person
3 eggs
couple tablespoons half & half or whole milk
couple tablespoons left over pico de gallo
queso freso, monterrey jack, or cheddar cheese
2 tortillas
  1. cube the potatoes into bite size pieces if they aren't already. saute the potatoes over medium heat until heated throughout and they start to get a little crunchy on the outside (or however you like your breakfast potatoes).
  2. while the potatoes are cooking, fry your bacon (or bake it, if you like).
  3. in a small bowl, whisk the eggs with a splash of half & half or milk, salt, & pepper. make scrambled eggs. when the eggs are just about done, add a small (1/2 teaspoon or a small slice from a stick) amount of butter and mix it in until it melts. the eggs will be super creamy from the butter. you can use half & half instead of butter too.
  4. serve the eggs with pico de gallo and cheese alongside the potatoes and bacon. or if you're crazy, throw it all into a giant tortilla and make your own breakfast burrito!


tomato tart, crackers, and a soggy crust

i really really really wanted to love this tart.

don't get me wrong. the flavors are incredible. fresh picked tomatoes softened in the oven with fresh mozzarella, a drizzle of olive oil. baked in a garlic basil crust.

it's that darn crust that got me.

first it pulled me in. really?! crust with basil. and garlic?! why haven't i made this already?

i was hooked.

i made the dough. let it rest in the refrigerator, getting all cold, while i watched seinfeld. easy. i rolled out the dough, lined my pan, and blind baked it. easy. i filled it and baked it again. topped it with proscuitto. and it looked gorgeous. killer. i cut myself a huge slice and took the perfect first bite. into a soggy crust.

the flavor is incredible, just as you'd imagine. buttery, garlicy, basily, perfect. but soggy. maybe my tomatoes had too much water. or the cheese. i don't know, but i was devastated.

if you figure out the trick to the crust, let me know...

...or skip the crust all together - sandwich the tart filling between a bagel. it makes a really great saturday breakfast (or lunch).

oh, and don't toss your crust scraps. roll them out real thin, cut them into squares, and bake at 375F for about 10 minutes for great, homemade crackers. next time i'll make the crust just for the crackers!

tomato tart
adapted from annie's eats
2 hours, makes 1 9" tart

for the crust -
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
3 cloves garlic
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into marble size pieces
cold water

for the filling -
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced or shredded
3-4 ripe tomatoes
fresh grated romano cheese
a couple fresh basil leaves
4-6 slices good proscuitto
salt, pepper, olive oil
  1. make the crust. in the bowl of a food processor, chop the fresh basil and garlic. add the flour and kosher and mix well. add all the butter and process until the dough looks like small pebbles, about 20 seconds. add a tablespoon of water and mix. if the dough hasn't come together, add another and mix. continue adding water until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  2. turn the dough out of the food processor and onto a piece of plastic wrap. cover and smush into a flat disc. chill at least 30 minutes.
  3. when the dough is chilled, preheat your oven to 425F. take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll into a sheet the size of your tart pan. line the pan with the dough and cut away the excess. save the excess for crackers!
  4. poke holes into the bottom of your tart shell with a couple times with a fork. bake the empty tart shell about 12 minutes, until light brown.
  5. while the tart shell is baking, prep the filling. slice or shred the cheese and slice the tomatoes. mince the basil.
  6. when the tart shell is finished baking, fill it and lower your oven to 375F. cover the bottom with mozzarella and then layer tomatoes over it. cover with more mozzarella if you wish. sprinkle the top with salt, pepper, and basil. drizzle lightly with olive oil. bake for 30 minutes.
  7. use a paper towel to soak up any moisture that may have collected on the surface of the tart while baking.
  8. allow to set for five minutes before serving.

basil garlic crackers
10 minutes

leftover tart dough from above
or a whole recipe of the tart dough for even more crackers!
  1. preheat your oven to 375F. smush the dough scraps into a ball. use a rolling pin to roll them out about a eighth of an inch thick.
  2. cut into squares, circles, or whatever shape you like.
  3. transfer to a baking sheet and bake about 10 minutes, until light brown.


tomato and corn risotto

i picked up those beauties at a roadside farm stand on the way home from work. you know the kind - with a piece of two by four holding up the awning and a locked cash box for your honor system payment. is it like this everywhere? can you pull over and buy that whole bowl of tomatoes for a measly dollar? and four corns for a dollar more? or are you stuck waiting until your farmer's market? or maybe you're lucky and your farmer's market is more frequent than once a week.

we had a cold, rainy week in mid-august. the kind of week where, for a split second, you wonder if summer is already over, it's time to get out the fall sweaters and buy halloween candy (which has already showed up in wegmans and walmart). but it's a fluke. a weird low-70s week bordered by hot, humid, mid-90s weather.

to feed my need for fall, i picked up those gorgeous sweet as candy low acid tomatoes  and the corn and tossed them with a good handful of my own baby romas. and made risotto.

the perfect creamy summer risotto. the tomatoes cook down just to wilt them so they still have body and don't melt into the pasta. and the sweet crunch from the corn is perfect.

it's hard to imagine, but i bet some of you are getting tomatoed out. corned out. in need of something new. try fresh peas or zucchini. or potatoes. even leeks! yes, leeks! toss in whatever vegetable combination sounds good to you and make it your own.

...and what to do with leftovers? make risotto cakes, of course!

into risotto but aren't digging the tomato corn combo? check out three cheese risotto, risotto with bacon, peas, and leeks and gruyere risotto with mushrooms.

summer tomato and corn risotto
adapted from styleandsyntax.com
45 minutes, makes 4 hearty servings (or 2 servings and 4 risotto cakes)

5 shallots, minced
2 cobs worth of cooked, leftover corn cut off the cob
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
1/2 pint yellow grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 pint baby roma tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
salt, pepper, olive oil
  1. coat the bottom of a large dutch oven with olive oil and warm on medium. add the shallots and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. in a separate pan, heat the vegetable stock and water to a simmer.
  3. in a bowl, drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, and thyme. set aside.
  4. when the shallots are cooked, mix in the rice. stir to ensure all the rice is coated with oil.
  5. add a ladle (about a cup) of the stock/water mixture to the rice and stir. cook the rice until the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. add another ladle of stock/water and cook until absorbed. continue until about 2/3 of the stock/water has been used.
  6. stir the corn into the rice. continue adding the stock/water and cooking until absorbed, until all stock/water has been used.
  7. mix in the tomatoes, remove from heat, and cover. let sit a good five minutes.
  8. uncover and stir in the parmesan.

creamy tomato pasta


so many tomatoes i don't know what to do with them all!

i've waited patiently all summer. watched the two tomato plants my grandpa gave me grow taller and taller until they overtook their cage and filled with so many tomatoes i was almost afraid they would all come at once.

which they did. at least some of them did. i still have a couple dozen green ones i've been watching like a hawk, waiting for the tinge of orange so i can figure out which one of the million "best tomato _____ ever!" recipe i want to make next.

i wanted sauce and pasta. but i had just slaved over this one and was in the mood for something different.

the perfect combination: tomatoes and cream and cheese. it was even better than i expected.

toss together a quick tomato sauce. i used fresh tomatoes and i'm sure you could use jarred pasta sauce instead. but i'm warning you - it takes about five minutes to make it from scratch and the flavor is well worth it.

while it's cooking down, make an alfredo sauce. in this case, cook's illustrated's light alfredo sauce (which is really great on its own, but you might want to toss in another crushed garlic glove or two). when the sauces are done, toss them with pasta.

guaranteed you'll fight over who gets seconds, just like we did.

creamy tomato pasta
alfredo sauce adapted from cook's illustrated
30 minutes, serves 4

for the tomato sauce -
1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes (about 9 medium)
1 small onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves minced
1/4 cup minced fresh basil
olive oil

for the alfredo sauce -
(if you want to lighten it up, halve the alfredo and keep the tomato sauce the same)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons flour
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup half & half
2 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 pound farfalle or other short cut pasta
  1. bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.
  2. start the tomato sauce. bring a large pot of water to boil. score the bottom of the tomatoes, blanch in the boiling water for about a minute, cool and peel. discard skins. roughly chop tomatoes and set aside.
  3. in a small saucepan, sweat the minced onion and garlic in about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium low heat for about 5 minutes, until soft.
  4. add the tomatoes to the onion and garlic. if you want a thin sauce like mine, blend the sauce with an immersion blender. cook about 15 minutes until thickened.
  5. while the tomato sauce thickens, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions.
  6. while the pasta and tomato sauce are cooking, make the alfredo sauce. melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. whisk in the flour until smooth and cook about 2 minutes, until brown.
  7. whisk in the milk, half & half, and garlic and season with salt & pepper. continuously whisking, bring to a simmer and cook about 2 minutes until thickened. fish out the garlic with a slotted spoon and discard.
  8. whisk in the parmesan. the sauce will be very thick, so add 1/3 cup of the hot pasta cooking water to the alfredo sauce to thin it out a bit. remove from heat.
  9. drain the pasta and add to the alfredo sauce.
  10. mix the basil into the tomato sauce and add the tomato sauce to the pasta. mix well. 
2015.04.05 this was adventures in all things food's pick for the secret recipe club!


corn chowder

i'm on a mission for a good corn chowder recipe. got one? one you're willing to share with me?

i've seen what seems like a million corn chowder posts show up on tastespotting and foodgawker and the other couple dozen blogs i subscribe to in the past month. and i thought the same thing as them - what a good way to have corn on a cold, rainy summer night.

so i set out to find the best one.

i sorted through at least a dozen. some complicated. some loaded with cheese and heavy cream (if i wanted cream, i'd stick with my favorite mushroom soup). others without potatoes or onions or any other vegetable besides corn. some stuffed with ham or bacon. until i settled on a vegetarian version. ok, a couple vegetarian versions that i slightly cobbled together to get mine.

only it wasn't the best. the texture was fine, but it definitely lacked flavor. there's something about it that i can't put my finger on that just wasn't quite right. 

so i'll return to my search for the perfect chowder. something that highlights corn and all it's summer glory and tastes like summer in a bowl. 

corn chowder
adapted from a bunch of corn chowder recipes found online
45 minutes, serves 4-6

3/4 cup diced scallions, white and light green parts only
1/4 cup flour
4 cups skim milk
2 cups vegetable stock
4 ears of fresh corn, corn cut off the cob (don't throw away the cobs yet!)
1 large russet potato, peeled and cubed in bite sized pieces
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  1. in your soup pot, saute the scallions in olive oil over medium heat until soft.
  2. whisk in the flour and cook about 2 minutes, until golden.
  3. whisk in the milk and vegetable stock and bring to a boil.
  4. turn the heat down to a summer, add the corn cobs and cook about 10 minutes.
  5. add the corn kernels and diced potato and simmer another ten minutes.
  6. using an immersion blender, blend the soup so about half of it is smooth. blend more or less to your liking.
  7. stir in the cheese and season liberally with salt & pepper.
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