Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It's Cupcake Season

As many of you know I'm not a through and through cupcake lover. It's not that I don't love the way these little packages bring joy and sweet to everyone, it's just that most times they don't taste phenomenal. And I think all desserts should be phenomenal!

However, I think I may have been converted - from a cupcake enjoyer to a cupcake lover. That is of course if I'm eating a little package of joy created from one of Joanne Chang's recipes. Her cupcakes are the perfect balance of sweet and indulgent without being over-indexed with sugar and butter, which is where I find my dislike for many cake treats.

My partner-in-crime requested carrot cake cupcakes to celebrate his birthday and I knew exactly where to turn to create the perfect ones. Joanne Chang's Flour Cookbook, where she let's you inside the world of Flour Bakery and the amazing treats that make this one of best places in Boston (yes, I think this is the truth!).

Adapted from "Flour" by Joanne Chang and Christie Matheson


Carrot Cake Cupcakes
2 eggs
1 cup (220 grams) packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup (150 grams) canola oil
3 tablespoons nonfat buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (160 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups (260 grams) tightly packed shredded carrots
1/2 cup (80 grams) raisins
1/2 cup (50 grams) walnuts, toasted and chopped

Cream Cheese Frosting
12 ounces (340 grams) cream cheese, left at room temperature for 4 hours
1/2 cup (1 stick/114 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups (230 grams) confectioners' sugar

Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment (or a handheld mixer), beat together the eggs and brown sugar on medium-high speed for 3–4 minutes, or until the mixture is light and thick. (This step will take 8–10 minutes if using a handheld mixer.) In a small bowl or pitcher, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, and vanilla. On low speed, slowly pour the oil mixture into the egg-sugar mixture. This should take about 30 seconds.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the egg-sugar mixture. When most of the flour mixture has been incorporated, add the carrots, raisins, and walnuts and continue to fold until the batter is homogenous. Divide evenly among the prepared muffin cups.

Bake the cake flour for about 1 hour and 20 minutes (or the cupcakes for about 50 minutes), or until the top is golden brown and springs back when pressed in the middle with a fingertip. Let cool completley in the pan on a wire rack.

Cream Cheese Frosting
While the cake is baking, put the cream cheese in the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute, or until smooth. If you have forgotten to take the cream cheese out of the refrigerator 4 hours in advance, you can softren it in a microwave on medium power for 30 seconds. Add the butter and continue to beat for another 1 minute. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the confectioners' sugar. Beat for 1 more minute, or until well mixed. You should have about 3 1/2 cups.

Cover the frosting and refrigerate for 2–3 hours before using to allow it firm up enough to pipe and spread. (The frosting can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)

Remove cupcakes from the muffin tin. Fit a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch star tip and fill the bag with the frosting, then pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes. Or, spread the frosting on the cupcakes with an icing spatula.

The cupcakes can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It is best served a littel cooler than room temperature, so remove it from the refrigerator about 2 hours before serving.

Makes 12 perfectly yummy and delicious cupcakes! 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Little Food Thoughts

And back to Monday....I'm already planning the events of next weekend, which include fun trail walks with the pup and some new dishes to enjoy with my partner-in-crime. How cute is the pup sleeping while standing (Sorry I couldn't stop myself from posting this)???
However this past weekend was a mixed bag of great and....well, let's say not so great. On the food side there were some frustrations. I'm used to living in a location where I have access to a variety of ingredients from various sources and don't have to think twice about finding a cut of meat, a specific herb or even your standard fresh vegetables. I've learned that where we now live I have to revamp my strategy and seek out what I need instead of assuming it will always be readily available. So I've made the decision to sign us up for South Shore Organics, where we can get fresh, local fruits and veggies delivered to our house each week.
This puts a smile on my face - big plus for the weekend!

On another note, I've determined that milk tastes better out of a glass jar. But not any glass jar, one that comes straight from a farm. For someone who doesn't drink a lot of milk I've found that the taste of fresh milk is a whole new world from the standard carton drink.
If anyone knows a good farm that delivers fresh milk - I'm all ears

And lastly - I've decided I won't give up on finding the perfect cappuccino. It may come down to purchasing our own machine and learning, but I won't give up. I can't, I miss these perfect little cups of bliss from Italy.
Happy Monday - how was your weekend - filled with food stories?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

We Love You, Butternut

Mac & cheese is a classic comfort food favorite in it's original form. And of course you can add some fun things to spice it up, but I've found that any "lighter" version is bland and most recipes don't warrant even being tried...

That was until I stumbled across an amazing recipe from Cooking Light - I was still skeptical but thought I'd give it a try. And boy am I glad I did. This butternut squash mac & cheese is light yet flavorful and places our orange fall friend as the highlight of the dish without omitting the cheesy creamy taste you want from classic mac & cheese.

And even if you still don't believe me, I tested this recipe twice on some very picky mac & cheese lovers and they've requested it again. So very happy that we can enjoy falls favorites, combine them with classic comfort food and healthfully enjoy.

My New Favorite Mac & Cheese - (thank you Cooking Light!)


3 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 [1-pound] squash)
1 1/4 cups
fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups
fat-free milk
2 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon
kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons
fat-free Greek yogurt
1 1/4 cups
(5 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese
1 cup
(4 ounces) grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup
(1 ounce) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1 pound
uncooked cavatappi
Cooking spray

1 teaspoon
olive oil
1/2 cup
panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons
chopped fresh parsley


1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Place the hot squash mixture in a blender. Add salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt. Remove the center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Place blended squash mixture in a bowl; stir in Gruyère, pecorino Romano, and 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until combined.
4. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well. Add pasta to squash mixture, and stir until combined. Spread mixture evenly into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.
5. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add panko, and cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the hot pasta mixture. Lightly coat topping with cooking spray.
6. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Oystering the Weekend Away

It's the end of a season folks - oyster season that is. As many of you know one of my absolute favorite foods is oysters. I've told many a friends that if I had to pick a "last meal" it would be oysters and champagne, it seems like heaven just thinking about it.

Well to say goodbye to oyster season here on the east coast my partner-in-crime and I went to the Wellfleet Oyster Festival this weekend. It was pretty much my personal heaven. I think I smiled the entire weekend, ate oysters before 11am and never thought twice about it.

Some of he highlights included oysters with sour cream and caviar....
These are definitely extravagant little treats!

And grilled oysters - something new to me but the garlic flavor was to die for

But the oysters I ate the most were those deliciously, fresh Wellfleets with a splash of lemon

This is one happy food blogger. I'll miss you oyster season, but I'm counting down the days to your return.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Make Some Memories

I started this blog to talk not only about food and recipes and restaurants but to connect each of these with a memory, a person and a smile. This past week we lost a digital icon, Steve Jobs, who redefined the way we use technology and also the way we look at our lives. It's people like this that make a true impact not only on the world but on many individuals.

This past weekend my family lost a dear member who lived life every day. I don't think he ever just went through the motions but rather enjoyed all the moments of each day. He was the life of the party who I remember for always drinking great wine, enjoying every family get together and dancing the night away. Age didn't matter to him, but memories did. It's people like this that remind us to enjoy each day, drink the night away and make a memory out of everything.