Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!!!!!

Fall!! Fall!! Fall!! My favorite time of year. To step outside and feel the cool breeze on the skin makes me feel alive. Tonight was the perfect evening to take a long "walk" along the river with the sun setting (if I am being realistic this was more exercise than enjoyment but it doesn't sound as peaceful as I want it to...). It is a beautiful setting with the different colors, the turning leaves and the reflections on the river.  Sometimes these moments are the best when you can enjoy the peace and quiet and just BE!!!

In today's culture, there are moments we all need to stop and enjoy being who we are. I know that may sound crazy but I love it when the weather starts getting cooler. It helps me remember to be who I am and not to get caught up in the rest of society!

Along this same line, did you know it takes a pumpkin 4-5 months from planting to harvest. Plant in late spring and the harvest can be enjoyed in October right it time for the holiday. Something so enjoyable and an important part of the Fall is the perfect example of taking time and keeping things simple to get the end results.

So I hope every time you see a pumpkin just remember to stop and enjoy the falling leaves and the autumn sunset. This Halloween enjoy these Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes
2 sticks Unsalted Butter, melted and cooled
3/4 C White Sugar
1 1/4 C Brown Sugar, packed
4 Eggs
2 C Pumpkin, fresh (or can)
2 C Unbleached Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1 Tsp Ginger, ground
1/4 Tsp Allspice, ground
1/4 Tsp Nutmeg, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with liners and set aside. 

In a bowl,  combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. In another bowl, combine white sugar, brown sugar, butter, and eggs and mix until well combined. Next add flour mixture until blended. Add in pumpkin and mix well. Fill each liner with batter about halfway full. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 23 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool. 

Salted Caramel Buttercream 
Salted Caramel Sauce
3/4 C White Sugar
4 Tbsp Light Corn Syrup
1 Stick Salted Butter
2 Tbsp Heavy Cream
1/8 Tsp Sea Salt

Put sugar and corn syrup in heavy large saucepan (it will expand so need to have room) over medium heat (about 2 minutes). Stir to combine until sugar is dissolved. Once dissolved, continue to cook until it turns a golden amber (about 5 minutes but keep an eye). Once amber color appears add cream (it will bubble up) and stir. Then add butter in pieces stirring until combined well. Add sea salt and remove from heat. Let cool until barely warm but still pourable.  (Note: Can use this sauce for other desserts)

Cream Cheese Buttercream
2 pkg Cream Cheese, room temperature
1 stick Unsalted Butter, room temperature
5 C Powdered Sugar
1 Tbsp Vanilla

In bowl, combine cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. On low speed, add a couple cups of powdered sugar and mix until combined. Then add the lukewarm caramel sauce (Be sure it is lukewarm... if too warm it will harden when added or melt the butter) then increase speed until combined well. Turn speed back down and slowly add the rest of the powdered sugar. On a higher speed, mix until combined and smooth. Place frosting in refridge for about 40 minutes before using. (You may need to run through mixer before you use to make smooth again.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Perfect Fall Day in Iowa....

Here's a little peek at next week's blog - Pumpkin Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting.......I have been working on tweaking ideas for Halloween parties coming soon. A version of this one I hope will be the end result so ......I hope you will come back next week to find out!!!

This weekend was a perfect day for a roadtrip....65 degrees and sunny! The next question was where to about SE Iowa?? Yeah, when I thought if that I had friends say "what in the world is in SE Iowa??" My answer - Who Cares!...Let's just go for a drive!!! And I am glad I did. The first stop was Christian Herschler District Winery. This winery is one of the few restored limestone structures in the United States (if I remember correctly). It was a great stop along the way.
The next stop was the entire reason for this trip. Last Christmas, a stranger at the Minneapolis Airport told me about an amazing General Store in SE Iowa. So this weekend I was finally able to venture that direction and I am glad I did. Dutchman's is a Old General Store the length of the city's main street (which is 1 block long). It was an amazing store and worth the several hour drive.
The store is divided into three areas - fabric and sewing, clothing and food. While I am not talented in sewing, I could imagine this area (several rows long and full of fabric) to be a dream for someone who is. The next section in the building contains clothing, shoes, school supplies, etc. I have to be honest, I skipped this part since I was so excited to get to the food section.

All I can say about the food section, I had been waiting for this point all day. My friend with me told me I couldn't look into the next aisles since I kept getting even more excited. While wandering, it was so much fun to find great deals on produce...(ex: apples for $.49 a lb...yes 49...) then Rada knives......(It is so great to be able to locate knives worth purchasing but at prices that are reasonable.) ....on and on it went.
Moving on to the next aisle, I was in heaven. This aisle is the entire reason for me to make the trip. It was the bulk spices, fruit and flour section. I immediately scoured over all of the flours available - all-purpose,  soy, pie, wheat, almond, etc. How do you choose??? I ended up with a bag that contained over 12 lbs of flour....(yes, I said 12....and you dont want to know how quickly I will use it all). And then I was able to pick up a bag of Oatmeal (all 7 lbs.) ...which reading this blog you know is my favorite...So now you know why it is heaven!! I could go on and on but let's just say I actually had to behave at the end or I would have bought everything.

I hope your weekend was as great as mine. If you find yourself in SE Iowa, be sure to take your time and venture down a back may never know what you will find!! I hope you find time to enjoy life's little adventure!!! Take a moment and just sit back and relax.....

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Spring" the Fall???

This Statue made me laugh when I saw it in NYC - so I had to share! 

Have you ever had a moment when you knew you needed to clean? 

I am not talking about the regular weekly cleaning hopefully kept up with in your life. I mean....those times when you need to clean things out of your life ...things as simple as items from cabinets to issues with individuals needing to be resolved. This was one of THOSE weeks!!!

As the week progressed, I had the opportunity to clean out a lot of issues this week. To my surprise, these encounters made me realize there are times when closure or even moving beyond is the best decision one can make. It is amazing how peaceful things become when issues are discussed or a realization that the decisions you made in the past were right even months later. Always nice to learn your instincts and decisions were right the first often does that happen??

To keep with this theme, I decided to focus on the baking cabinet and select from the For those who know me, this collection seems to consist of a variety of chocolate and other mix-ins from past recipes. This week I am happy to offer you Chocolate Toffee Cookies. I hope your "Spring" cleaning is as productive as mine was!!! Enjoy...

So what would you like to "Spring" Clean???

Chocolate Toffee Cookies
1/2 C Unbleached Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1/4 Tsp Salt
11 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate
1/3 C Butter

1 2/3 C Brown Sugar, packed
4 Eggs
1 Tbsp Vanilla
5 oz.  Heath Bar, crushed

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Over a double boiler, melt chocolate and butter until smooth. Remove and let cool until warm.

In a separate bowl, mix eggs and sugar about 4 minutes until thick. Add in chocolate and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture and toffee pieces until combined. Chill batter for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drop batter with a 2 Tbsp scoop on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Transfer to rack. Cool and enjoy.

Note: These cookies can be use for homemade ice cream sandwiches. Just a recommendation!!! LOL

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Home Sweet Home

NYC.......Have you ever been??? I would highly recommend a trip. 

This last week I was able to take a trip back East to visit family. I always get excited for this trip every year since it blends family time with the Big Apple (who could ask for anything better.....maybe a beach but I am happy!).

During this trip, I was able to spend some quality time in NYC. Since I reside in the quiet Midwest it is a nice change of pace. It is a great experience if you have never been. To be able to hear and see such a vibrant city is always a nice time. My favorite things about this city is the ability to access anything one's heart desires - unique cultures, sights and even art. The ability to wake up every day and choose your own experience is so worth the visit.

During this trip, I was able to visit several amazing bakeries in Brooklyn.  Since I wasn't able to bake during the trip I forced (lol) my siblings to multiple desserts from these amazing places. (I am sure they weren't too upset by these taste I hope in future posts to be able to share with you ideas and experiences I enjoyed.

While this is a great trip, it is always nice to get home and get back to routine. Not sure if all of the laundry and mail is the part I enjoy of this "routine" (lol) but I will take it if it allows me to get back to baking. ...Oh how I missed it!!!! So this week I wanted to offer to you  - English Lace Cookies.

A simple recipe for those times when you want a one bowl recipe with just a handful of ingredients you have sitting around the house. When I had these cookies as a child,  I always thought they contained coconut or something similar since they were so chewy. Now I realize it is just the blend of oatmeal,  sugar and butter making these cookies so enjoyable.

So what one-bowl cookie recipe is your favorite????

English Lace Cookies

1 C Oatmeal, quick-cook
1/2 C White Sugar
1/2 C Brown Sugar, packed
1 Egg
1 Stick Unsalted Butter
2 Tsp Vanilla
3 Tbsp Unbleached Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with aluminum foil or a Silpat. Set aside.

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and drop by teaspoonful onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 8 minutes or until cookies are a light brown. Remove from oven and transfer foil to cooling rack until cookies are completely cool. Once cool, peel away foil from cookies and enjoy.

Note: Foil can be reused for each batch but cookies will need to cool on foil before you can reuse.