turnip mash

this is the only time all year i am sick of mashed potatoes. i come from a group of potato lovers, and i count myself as one of them, but a girl can only eat so many. time to change it up. with turnips.

i've never had turnips before. at least not that i can remember. they were good. not great, but a definite contender for those i'm-sick-of-potatoes days. how can anything be bad simmered in milk & garlic and mashed with a stick of butter?


chicken & wild rice soup

need a break from the sweets? yea, me too. how about a bowl of vegetables spiked with chicken, half & half and wild rice?

really? that's it? that's all you've got? but what about something a bit more festive? a bit more complicated? i mean, just throw some vegetables, chicken, rice & cream into a pot. that's it?!

yep. that's all i'm asking of you.


because it's simply one of the best soups i've ever had. ever. 


holiday shortbread cookies

wanna impress your friends/coworkers/family/significant others with the easiest and least time consuming cookie recipe ever?

then whip up a batch of shortbread. butter + sugar + flour + mixins. and make them holiday by mixing in white chocolate, dried cranberries, and pistachios. that's it. virtually impossible to screw up.


chocolate peppermint pinwheels

one last christmas cookie post before the big day. as if you even have time for one more or haven't had your christmas cookie plan together for the last three weeks.

...or up to your ears in candy canes? add them to the peppermint half of the dough for extra crunch and minty flavor.

anyway, nothing says christmas like peppermint. how about peppermint + chocolate?


spiced thins

more interested in the cookies than the coffee? i don't necessarily blame you...

these super crunchy spiced thins are perfect with coffee. whether gingerbread flavored or not.

the secret? roll them out super thin. i'm talking a sixteenth of an inch - no, i did not measure - but get them as thin as you possibly can. towards the end of the batch, i got sick of rolling and did one sheet pan thicker. instead of the characteristic crunch, they were a bit chewy. the flavor was great, but the crunch is what i really wanted.

these are one of the few things crunchy enough to dunk in my coffee and not get soggy!

spiced thins
adapted from everyday with rachael ray
prep: 15 minutes, chill: 1hr+, bake: 1hr; makes about 6 sheet pans full

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (or 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon each of ground cloves, allspice, and nutmeg)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup unsulfured molasses
4 cups all purpose flour
  1. using an electric mixer, beat the brown sugar, butter, and shortening until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. mix in the spices, baking powder, baking soda, and vanilla. mix in the molasses.
  2. at low speed, gradually mix in the flour until incorporated. the dough will be quite thick.
  3. divide the dough into quarters and roll each into a ball. place each ball on a sheet of plastic wrap, flatten it with your hand into a disc, and wrap with plastic. chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
  4. preheat your oven to 325F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  5. roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8" to 1/4" thick. cut the dough into whatever size and shape you'd like. place on the cookie sheets. the cookies don't spread much when baking, so leave about a half inch space between them on the sheets. reroll the scraps until all the dough is used up.
  6. bake about 12 - 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
  7. let cool on the cookie sheet a few minutes until set. remove with a spatula and let cool completely on a wire rack. store in an airtight container.


gingerbread spiced coffee

those cheesy dunkin donuts commercials get to me. the one on the radio about making a gingerbread house out of dunkin donuts gingerbread lattes, coffee, and muffins. not only because i love dunkin donuts, but even more so, i love gingerbread.

so rather than forking over my hard earned money set aside for presents for pretty girls and boys, i decided to make my own. all you need is simple syrup spiked with the perfect mix of gingerbread spices. couldn't be easier. (or cheaper.)

while i'm sure the half and half or whatever your milk of choice is for coffee could be infused with the spices (similar to chai), i want to keep is as easy as possible. if you know how to boil water, you can make simple syrup. boil equal parts water and sugar until all the sugar dissolves and it's clear. mix in spices. add a spoonful or two to your coffee. done. perfect warm & spicy start to a dark, cold, blizzardy december morning.

gingerbread spiced syrup for coffee drinks
10 minutes, makes about 2/3 of a cup

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. bring the water and sugar to a boil. boil for a minute or so, until all sugar is dissolved and the mixture is clear.
  2. remove from heat. stir in the molasses and spices.
  3. strain through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth, if you wish.
  4. store in the refrigerator and shake well before using. addto taste in coffee, about a tablespoon per cup.


butterfinger cupcakes with chocolate ganache buttercream

Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Scharffen Berger.

it's almost christmas and i still have halloween candy left. i have been eying the few snack size butterfingers left in our pantry for the last two months, trying to come up with a good use for them. so i smashed them up with a meat mallet and mixed them into my all time favorite yellow cake. topped with the best chocolate buttercream and it's the perfect butterfinger cupcake.

except the butterfinger flavor isn't as pronounced as i'd like it to be. yes, they taste like butterfingers. no, they aren't as peanut-buttery as butterfingers. and as my all time favorite yellow cake and favorite chocolate buttercream, it's the perfect cupcake anyway. as jason and i stuffed our faces with the "rejects" we brainstormed ideas to make the butterfinger concept even better:

  • chunks vs pulverized candy bars. when i crushed the candies, i did a pretty good job of crushing them almost into a powder. larger chunks might be better instead.
  • peanut butter cupcake, chocolate buttercream, and top with crushed candies. plain and simple.
  • swap the cupcake & buttercream flavors. instead of making the cupcake taste like peanut butter, make a chocolate cupcake topped with butterfinger buttercream. how exactly to make butterfinger buttercream we didn't get to, but it sounds delicious.

butterfinger cupcakes
adapted from yellow butter cake in martha stewart's cooking school
30 minutes, makes 20 cupcakes

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
6 mini or 2 full size butterfingers, crushed
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. line cupcake pan with paper liners. preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. in a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. stir in the butterfingers and set aside.
  3. in a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. reduce speed to medium-low and add eggs one at a time. gradually add the flour mixture. stir in the vanilla extract.
  4. fill each cupcake cup about halfway with batter. bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. while the cupcakes are baking, make the frosting. let cool in the pan about 10 minutes, remove from pan, and finish cooling on a wire rack. frost cupcakes when completely cool.
chocolate ganache buttercream
adapted from alton brown's chocolate buttercream in i'm just here for more food
30 minutes, makes 3 1/2 cups

1 cup semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips are ok, chocolate bars work better)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
  1. in a medium saucepan, melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and butter over medium-low heat until smooth. remove from heat.
  2. stir in the confectioner's sugar.
  3. place the pan in an ice bath. using an electric mixer, mix on medium speed until frosting gets lighter and holds it's shape. the frosting will slowly change in color from dark dark brown to light brown and will take about 10 minutes to beat. do not allow the pan to sit in the ice bath without beating the frosting, or the chocolate will actually freeze to the bottom of the pan.
  4. frost the cupcakes when they are completely cool.


teriyaki mushroom, spinach, and chicken salad

need a break from all the pie and cookies and stuffed birds and alcohol and pasta and all the other heavy foods we stuff ourselves with this time of year(...and we haven't even gotten into the thick of it yet)? yea, me too. this salad is perfect this time of year. the mushroom and chicken is perfectly spiced and just hot enough to wilt the spinach ever so slightly. and since it's thrown together in an easy thirty minutes, it's also the perfect weeknight dinner after an evening of battling the christmas crowds.

want a vegetarian meal? skip the chicken and double the mushrooms. you won't miss it.

teriyaki mushroom, spinach, and chicken salad
adapted from mark bittman, as seen in cooking light
30 minutes, serves 4

1/2 pound boneless skinless chicken, cut into bite size pieces
1 pound sliced baby portabella mushrooms
2 tablespoons peeled minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon (~ 2 cloves) minced garlic
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons mirin, sweet marsala wine, or dry sherry
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
6 ounces baby spinach (about 8 cups)
1 1/2 cups chopped green onions, dark green parts only
vegetable oil, salt, & pepper
  1. do all of your cutting and measuring before you start cooking. once you start cooking, it will go fast.
  2. heat a wok or large skillet over high heat and coat with vegetable oil. add chicken, season with salt & pepper, and cook about 5 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. remove chicken from the pan and set aside.
  3. add mushrooms to the pan and season with salt and pepper. cook about 5 minutes until the mushrooms are mostly cooked and almost all the liquid has been cooked off.
  4. add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, ginger, and garlic. cook about 30 seconds, stirring constantly, until fragrant.
  5. return the chicken to the pan. add the soy sauce, mirin, and rice vinegar. cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. remove pan from heat. toss the spinach and green onions together and serve the chicken and mushroom mixture over the spinach.


apple chicken chili

this is another one of those i make this every year recipes. and it's true. and go good, sometimes i make it twice. and yes, it's another one from rachael ray (only this time from her magazine, so it was developed by someone on her staff). and i think stephanie's right - i don't really care for her much anymore. one day, ten (!!!) years ago, she was this sweet, plain, every day kind of girl, looking to make dinner a little easier on all of us. now, she's a mega empire, with a scratchy voice (seriously, does she ever sleep?!), referring to her friends rocco dispirito and jamie oliver - you know, because we all have celebrity friends. but what gets to me the most are her recipes. they either don't look very appetizing or they are a variation on another recipe she developed years ago. needless to say i didn't renew my subscription to her magazine last year and never looked back.

anyway, on to the chili, which i ripped out of her magazine a few years ago, before the talk show and line of cookware. jason and i went on our apple trek again this year, picking around 40 pounds of apples. first thing on the list (after applesauce) was this chili.

i'll be honest, the first time i saw it, i wasn't sure how much i'd like hunks of apples mixed in with spiced up chicken and beans, but it works surprisingly well. the apples don't taste so much like apples, but more like a slightly sweet crunch. and the apples take on the chili powder and cumin perfectly.

apple chicken chili
adapted from everyday with rachael ray
1hr, serves 8

2 pounds of chicken, cut into bite size pieces
4 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 apples cut into bite size cubes
1 onion, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup 2% or whole milk
15 ounce can pinto beans, rinsed
15 ounce can white beans, rinsed
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded monterey jack cheese
tortillas or crusty bread for serving
  1. coat the bottom of a large sauce pan or dutch oven with olive oil and place over medium heat. add the chicken, chili powder, and cumin and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes. transfer the chicken to a bowl and set aside.
  2. in the same pot, coat the bottom with olive oil again. add the apple and onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. add the apple onion mixture to the chicken and set aside.
  3. in the same pot, melt the butter over medium low heat. when melted, whisk in the flour and cook a couple minutes until the flour browns. add the chicken stock and milk, whisking continuously, and cook until thickened, a few minutes.
  4. stir the apple chicken mixture and the beans to the stock mixture and bring to a simmer. stir in the cheese. serve with tortillas or crusty bread. and it makes great leftovers.


gingerbread apple upside down cake

i love a good cake, but i always need an excuse to make one. it seems pretty silly to bake a whole cake for two people. silly, simply because i'll end up eating cake for dinner while jason looks on in awe.

is cake/cookies/pie/pick-your-favorite-dessert for dinner a woman thing? every woman i know has, at some point in her life, eaten a piece of cake for dinner and not thought twice about it. do men do that too? or think we're crazy?

lucky for me, chris whipped up some tacos for dinner and i brought dessert! i had been eying this cake on deb's blog for a while and since we had fresh picked apples, it was the perfect time to make it. i followed her recipe exactly, but instead of the 45 minutes hers took to bake, mine took an hour and fifteen minutes, so make sure you keep an eye on it.

and the leftovers? perfect for breakfast.

gingerbread apple upside down cake
click the link to get the recipe at smittenkitchen


vanilla strawberry & vanilla peach risotto

i don't know about you, but i love vanilla. it's warm and comforting. and perfectly sweet. i also love a good risotto - so why not put them together??


baby tomato & spinach risotto

that's it. it's over. no more tomatoes.

actually, i should have said that about three weeks ago when i finally gave up and pulled up my tomato plants, chock full of green tomatoes. what a waste. i don't know about you, but i didn't have very good luck this year. sure, i had a good crop earlier in the summer, but it seems like the majority of them came just in time for the cold. stinks. especially after last year - the first year in our house and thus the first year with a garden - when something ate my tomato plants down to 6 inch stubs. needless to say, i haven't had the best luck with tomatoes.

this meal was the celebration of the end. end of tomatoes. end of the summer. there's no better way to usher in the cold than with a nice warm bowl of pasta.

baby tomato & spinach risotto

45 minutes, serves 2-4

2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup dry sherry
3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup finely diced baby cherry tomatoes
2 cups loosely packed spinach, coarsely chopped
1/4 to 1/2 cup diced fontina cheese
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
olive oil, salt & pepper
  1. heat a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium low heat. add 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil to the pan and add the onion and garlic. saute until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. in a separate saucepan, heat the vegetable stock to a simmer.
  3. when the onion and garlic are translucent, add the rice, and stir to coat, about 30 seconds. add the sherry and cook until the sherry is mostly absorbed.
  4. add about a half cup of vegetable stock and cook until absorbed, about 4 minutes. continue adding the stock and cooking until absorbed, until about half the stock has been used.
  5. add the tomatoes to the rice and continue adding stock, until about a cup remains.
  6. add the spinach and continue adding stock until it is all absorbed.
  7. stir in 1 tablespoon butter, the cheeses, and season with salt & pepper. mix to melt the fontina and parmesan. serve with crusty bread.


portobello sandwich

we eat a lot of mushrooms around here. in goulash, paninis, as the perfect ravioli filling, my all time favorite soup, and as a perfect meatless version of stuffed shells. it's no surprise that this take on a philly cheesesteak gone vegetarian is now added to my regular mushroom line up.

no, it doesn't taste exactly the same as a beef sandwich, but what do you expect from a vegetable? let's just say it filled the two of us up perfectly on its own. and it's quick and foolproof. the perfect weeknight dinner.

portobello sandwich
adapted from eating well
20 minutes, makes 2 sandwiches

1 onion, sliced
2 large portobello mushrooms
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 slices provolone cheese
1/2 loaf of soft italian bread
olive oil, salt & pepper
  1. coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil and place over medium high heat. add the onion and cook until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. while the onion is cooking, prep the mushrooms by removing the gills on the underside of the mushroom with a spoon and then slice them.
  2. add the mushrooms, bell pepper, and oregano to the onions and season with salt and pepper. cook until the vegetables are softened, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. reduce heat to low and sprinkle the flour over the vegetables. stir well to coat.
  4. add the broth and soy sauce and mix well. continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens.
  5. turn the heat down to low and lay the cheese over the vegetables. cover until the cheese melts.
  6. using a spatula, scoop the vegetable mixture onto the italian bread.


mini baked chocolate cake donuts

growing up, donuts were for special occasions.

when i was little and spent the night at grandma's, she always had a box of mini chocolate covered donuts. always. and when mom came downstairs in the morning, we always got the look for not eating something with a but less sugar.

then for the really special days - thanksgiving, christmas, easter, memorial day - my uncle would get up before all of us and pick up a box of dunkin donuts.

when i was older and slept in way past noon (as i suspect all teenagers do), every once and a while when i rolled out of bed, there would be a box from the corner bakery with two lonely donuts. long johns, slit down the middle, filled with fresh whipped cream and raspberry jam. one for me, one for kristy. and every once in a while, only half of one would be left. dad found the box.

maybe that's why it's taken me so long to make them from scratch. and the fact that i don't have a donut pan. which i found out, you definitely don't need. i mean, sure, my baked donuts are missing the hole in the middle, but does that really matter? the flavor is still the same. chocolately, sweet, and nice and light.

nutmeg sounds weird, i know. but don't skip it, or you'll have a chocolate muffin. nutmeg is the characteristic donut flavor.

mini baked chocolate cake donuts
adapted from lara ferroni
30 minutes, makes 15 mini donuts

1 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
  1. lightly grease a muffin tin (or mini donut pan, if you're so lucky). preheat your oven to 350F.
  2. sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda together (be sure to sift it and not just whisk it, to break up the lumps of cocoa). whisk in the sugar, nutmeg and salt. use your fingers to add the butter. crumble it together with the other dry ingredients until it resembles coarse sand. set aside.
  3. in another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, sour cream, vanilla and egg. add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and mix just until combined.
  4. fill each muffin tin (or donut mold) 1/2 to 2/3 of the way full. bake for about 8 minutes, until they spring back when touched. turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
  5. dip the entire donut in glaze (whisk milk & powdered sugar until it's the consistency you want) or dip the top in caramel sauce.


iced pumpkin chocolate spice bundt cake

in the last couple years, more than ever, my mom goes all out for halloween. which is somewhat surprising, since my dad is a self proclaimed "never liker" of halloween and my sister and i were never all that into it growing up. but mom, somehow she has halloween fever.

and every year it's something new. usually based off the martha stewart living halloween issue - so much so that jason jokes when we're in the checkout at the grocery store that we should look through it to see a preview of their house.

and each year there's something equally as odd as the year before. this year, i got the request early in late september, so early i hadn't even thought about halloween yet. black snakes. black plastic snakes. or green ones she could spray paint black. to make a wreath.

needless to say the black snake wreath was missing from the party last night. but that rat, that fake rat grandma wasn't supposed to tell me about, was staring back at me in the bathroom. had i not known, it would have gotten me. good.

almost as good as it got jason last night, before he went to bed.

iced pumpkin chocolate spice bundt cake
cake adapted from eatingwell
1 hr 30 min, serves 16

for the cake:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
15 ounces unsweetened pumpkin puree
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (or 1 cup granulated sugar + 2 tablespoons molasses)
1 egg
1 egg white
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

for the pumpkin buttercream:
1/4 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups powdered sugar
  1. to make the cake, preheat your oven to 350F. spray a bundt pan with nonstick spray.
  2. whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a medium bowl. set aside.
  3. in a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk, pumpkin, and brown sugar until smooth. add the whole egg and egg white and mix until smooth. add oil, corn syrup, and vanilla and mix until smooth.
  4. add the wet ingredients to the dry, and fold until combined, be careful not to overmix. transfer batter to the bundt pan and spread out evenly.
  5. bake 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until a skewer comes out almost clean. let cool in the pan about 15 minutes. remove the cake from the pan and let cool completely, about 2 hours.
  6. while the cake cools, make the buttercream. whisk the pumpkin, butter, and cinnamon together. add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, mixing until smooth after each addition, until all three cups of sugar have been added. the buttercream will be relatively thick, but still somewhat thin and spreadable.
  7. when the cake is cool, use a spoon to add dollops of buttercream evenly around the top of the cake. tap the buttercream with the back of the spoon until it starts to slide down the side of the cake. 
2012.10.08 this is crumb blog's pick for the secret recipe club!


spaghetti & meatballs

it's no secret that i'm not a huge fan of meatballs. silly, right? most of the time when i want pasta, i want the rich garlic sauce or the meaty mushrooms to come through. but there are a few times - when it finally feels chilly outside or it's hovering around freezing in february and there's a foot of new snow on the ground - when spaghetti and meatballs are the perfect food.

i've made them before the alton brown way by baking the meatballs individually in mini muffin cups. sounds clever. and easy. it turned into a big mess. the meatballs stuck to my muffin pan so more than half fell apart while i tried to scoop them out. and the outside doesn't brown the same as when they're sauteed. needless to say, it's a nice idea, it just didn't work so much for me.

so i switched back to the saute pan, cooking the meatballs in batches and monitoring their perfect brownness. just make sure they sit long enough to brown on each side before trying to move them, or they'll break in half.

spaghetti and meatballs
adapted from smittenkitchen, who adapted it from ina garten
serves 4, one hour

2 pounds meatloaf mix. for me, this was 15% pork, 5% veal, and 80% beef.
1 1/4 cups italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 egg beaten
olive oil
1 pound spaghetti
your favorite sauce
  1. to make the meatballs, mix the meat, bread crumbs, cheese, salt, pepper, garlic, and egg in a medium bowl. add about 3/4 cup water to bring the mixture together.
  2. use your hands to form into 1 1/2 inch meatballs. you should have around 24.
  3. in a large saute pan, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium low heat.
  4. when the olive oil is heated, add half the meatballs. let brown about 3-4 minutes, turn, and continue cooking and turning until all sides are brown. cook the other half in the same way.
  5. now is a good time to start your pasta water and cook the pasta according to package directions.
  6. when the meatballs are done, add your favorite sauce to the pan. set the meatballs in the sauce, cover, and simmer about 25 minutes. serve with spaghetti and parmesan cheese.


perfect caramel sauce

if you haven't caught on yet, i'm a sucker for sweets.

cakes. cupcakes. bars. cookies. scones. ice cream. jam. i love them all. but nothing is better andhas been more difficult to tackle than caramel.

first thing's first: i never realized how unbelievably simple caramel is. melt some sugar. let it brown. add some butter and some heavy cream. done. you should have seen my face when i realized i could make this stuff at home. why it always the simple things that get me?

but it's come with it's own set of struggles. and i know, i know. every recipe i've consulted comes with a warning - don't let it cook too long or the sugar will burn. swirl the pan, don't stir, or the sugar will crystallize into a huge mess. be careful when adding the butter and cream. or my favorite - as tempting as it seems, don't lick the spoon!

with all the warnings, it's a miracle anyone tries to make this, let alone does it successfully. after several botched attempts - burnt sugar, clumpy, crystallized messes - i finally did it. the perfect, thin, creamy, vanilla salty goodness. success!

but then, i got greedy. or was it cocky? while searching for a good recipe through my cookbook collection, it was a tossup between this version from the joy of cooking and david liebovitz's from ready for dessert. even though i made the joy of cooking version, i decided since i had 1/2 cup of heavy cream left (the perfect amount to make a half batch of david's rich caramel sauce), i would have a caramel taste off. perfect! until i burnt the sugar. bad. so bad it was inedible. bummer, because i really want to try his sauce too - it has the same sugar, butter, heavy cream ingredients, but cooks the sugar in melted butter, instead of adding the butter once the sugar is melted.

so my words of advice: good luck. and don't let the sugar get too brown.

tips for making caramel from real experts:
david liebovitz's ten tips for making caramel & how to make the perfect caramel
smitten kitchen's deep dark salted butter caramel sauce
baked bree's step by step caramel sauce
pioneer woman's ice cream pie with easy caramel sauce

perfect caramel sauce

adapted from the joy of cooking
20 minutes, makes about 1 1/2 cups

1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, diced (1 stick)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch kosher salt
  1. in a sauce pan with high sides, cook the sugar and water over medium heat until the sugar melts completely and the mixture is clear, about 5 minutes.
  2. when the sugar is completely melted, turn the heat up to medium high. when the syrup comes to a boil, cover it, and cook about 2 minutes.
  3. remove the cover and continue to cook until the edges turn light brown., between 5 and 10 minutes. don't let it go too long, or the caramel will burn.
  4. remove the pan from heat and stir in the butter until melted. be careful - the sugar will splatter when the butter is added (that's why you're working with a pan with high sides).
  5. when the butter is melted, add the heavy cream and stir until smooth. if the mixture is a little lumpy, put over low heat and stir continuously until smooth.
  6. add the vanilla extract and salt and mix well.
  7. serve warm and store in the refrigerator. a quick 45 second spin in the microwave melts it back to pouring consistency.


peanut butter iced banana scones

got a blackened banana sitting in your fruit bowl? sick of making banana bread. or bars?

yea, me too.

which brings me to tuesday evening. last week when i whipped up these pumpkin scones, i had a simple thought - what other fruits and vegetables could i replace the pumpkin with? seemed easy enough. i wanted something simple that could be made all year round, because let's face it, pumpkin only comes around once a year. and who really wants a pumpkin scone in may? not this girl.

so the banana scone was born. perfectly moist. perfectly spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg.

and oh, the peanut butter. the peanut butter glaze is the best part. don't skip it!

peanut butter iced banana scones
inspired by pumpkin spice scones
30 minutes, makes 16 small scones

for the scones
2 cups flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup (about 1 regular size) mashed, super ripe banana
3 tablespoons half & half
1 egg, beaten

for the peanut butter glaze
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1-2 tablespoons milk
  1. preheat oven to 425F and line a sheet pan with parchment or use a silicone baking mat.
  2. whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and spices together in a large bowl. using your fingers or a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture is crumbly, similar to really coarse sand.
  3. in a separate bowl, whisk the banana, half & half, and egg together.
  4. add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix just until combined.
  5. turn the dough out onto a cutting board (it shouldn't be wet enough to stick to the board, but if it does, add a bit of flour). form into a loose ball and flatten into a rectangle about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. cut into quarters and cut each quarter into quarters (for 16 total scones) and place (so they aren't touching each other) on the baking sheet.
  6. bake about 10 minutes, until light brown. cool on a wire rack.
  7. while the scones cool, make the glaze. whisk the peanut butter and sugar together. slowly add the milk a teaspoon at a time, making sure to blend in each teaspoon before adding more, until it runs off the whisk. drizzle over scones when cool.


deep dish apple pancake

i first found this recipe in an old everyday with rachael ray magazine a couple years ago. and every year since i make it at least once, on a saturday morning, when the first apples are finally available.

i like it because i don't have to fumble around making pancakes, worrying if each one will become a burnt mess of a breakfast. sure, you can arrange the apples all nice in the pie plate, but who cares? i like it better all haphazard, apples going every which way, especially when drenched in syrup.

mmm i bet this would be excellent with pears too...

deep dish apple pancake

adapted from rachel ray
30 minutes, serves 4

2 apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup pancake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
  1. preheat your oven to 450F.
  2. combine the 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon. add half to the apples and mix to coat. set aside the remaining half.
  3. coat a round pie plate with nonstick spray. add the apples, cover with plastic wrap (try to wrap it so an end of the plastic sticks out, so you can uncover the dish easier when the apples are cooked), and cook in the microwave on high for 5-6 minutes, until soft. be very careful when removing the plastic wrap from the cooked apples. the steam will be super hot, and you will burn your thumb. trust me on this one.
  4. while the apples are cooking, combing the 1 tablespoon sugar, pancake mix, eggs, and milk until smooth.
  5. when the apples are done, uncover, and add the pancake mix. sprinkle the top with the remaining cinnamon sugar mixture.
  6. bake uncovered for 10 - 12 minutes, or until light brown. let cool in the pan a couple minutes, or the juices from the apples will run when you slice it. serve with warm maple syrup.


chai (+ mini wedding cake)

a year ago today, i had the most amazing wedding.

the best food. the best friends. the best family.

i married my best friend.

and went to the best party i'll ever go to. ever.

this year was different.

instead of dancing the night away, we hiked through the woods, checking out the fall colors.

and instead of a three tier, lemon soaked raspberry and fudge filled masterpiece

we snacked on our own mini version while watching saturday night live

instead of nibbling on hand passed bites and drinking the night away,

we sipped homemade chai with pancakes and eggs in our pajamas.

and as much as we joke "too bad we can't get married every year", life isn't the party. not the dress. or the flowers. or the cake. or even the music. it's the lazy sunday mornings sharing homemade pancakes with the one you love. and you wouldn't trade it for anything.

chai tea

adapted from joy of cooking
makes 2 small servings, 30 minutes

1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cups milk (use whatever kind you have in your house)
2 tablespoons sugar
8 cardamom pods, crushed
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 inch piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon good quality black tea (or two tea bags)
  1. in a medium saucepan, bring the water, milk, sugar, and spices to a boil. cover and let sit 20 minutes.
  2. bring the mixture back to a simmer, add the tea, remove from heat, and let steep about 2 minutes. strain and serve hot.


pumpkin spice scones

got some canned pumpkin leftover from one of the other 15974116 pumpkin recipes you've made (or have book marked to make) already? then whip up these scones!

and if you're thinking to yourself "hm, i hope these taste like those scones from that-super-fancy-seattle-based-coffee-shop" then you're wrong. they don't. they're a million times better. soft and super moist with the perfect blend of spices. like the cupcakes, only in breakfast form.

i love a good scone. and for me, the perfect one is thick - at least two inches tall. instead of rolling and cutting with a biscuit cutter, i form the dough into a small and tall circle and then cut into wedges. there's nothing worse than a pancake scone.

pumpkin spice scones
adapted from almost every pumpkin scone recipe i found online
30 minutes, makes 8

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
3 tablespoons half & half
1 egg, beaten
  1. preheat oven to 425F and line a sheet pan with parchment or use a silicone baking mat.
  2. whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and all spices together in a large bowl. using your fingers or a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture is crumbly, similar to really coarse sand.
  3. in a separate bowl, whisk the pumpkin, half & half, and egg together.
  4. add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix just until combined.
  5. turn the dough out onto a cutting board (it shouldn't be wet enough to stick to the board, but if it does, add a bit of flour). form into a loose ball and flatten into a circle about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. cut into eight wedges and place (so they aren't touching each other) on the baking sheet.
  6. bake 12-15 minutes, until light brown. cool on a wire rack. drizzle with spice glaze when cool.

spice glaze

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (a splash) of milk
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  1. whisk the sugar and spices together. add the milk 1 teaspoon at a time until thin enough to not completely hold it's shape. drizzle over cooled scones.
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