Archive | October, 2008

Iron Cupcake:Earth – Cheesy Goodness!

23 Oct
When I learned of this month’s secret ingredient, I was really excited, and looking forward to the challenge. Cheese is not only a staple in our home, but is an ingredient that we truly love and use quite often. The range of cheeses available is astounding; from Velveeta to Morbier, from a baby Swiss to Drunken Goat. One of our favorite cheeses is Brie, so I decided to use it as the base for my plans.

One of our favorite local restaurants, The Blackhawk Grille, makes an appetizer that’s to die for; composed of almond and coconut crusted brie, fried, and served with a cranberry marmalade, it’s perfection in every bite. I wanted to do a filled cupcake this time around, and knew that I wanted a dense yet tender cake to hold it up. I also wanted to incorporate some form of crispness to represent the crust, and a soft icing to echo the meltiness of the brie.

I chose to do an almond pound cupcake, filled with cranberry sauce and topped with a brie and cream cheese frosting and freshly toasted coconut. There’s also a slice of rind on top – not only does it look beautiful, but for those who chose to eat is along with the cake, it will add a depth and earthiness which works nicely with the tart, sweet, and nuttiness that the other components add to the product.

I loved this, and will definitely make it again. Everything came together quickly, and held together nicely. I loved the nuttiness of the coconut, the lusciousness the almond paste gives, the crispness at the edges of the cake, the tartness of the filling, and the buttery mouth feel of the frosting. I’d also try it with a cranberry whipped cream and the brie incorporated into the filling. I sent these to the office with E Thursday morning, and after getting there at 8 a.m., they were gone half an hour later. I’ve heard good things from our taste testers, and I may be whipping up another batch of these for the holidays!

The finished product
almond pound cupcake with cranberry filling
and topped with a brie-cream cheese frosting,
freshly toasted coconut and a slice of brie rind,
which adds a nice earthiness to the cupcake


Cross shot to show the cranberry filling and the cake’s texture
Voting opens on Sunday, October 26th at 12 Noon, and runs through Thursday, October 30h at 12 Noon at Nobody Puts Cupcake in a Corner. As always, I would love to have your support, and appreciate your votes. Tell you friends, your family, your mail man, your dental hygienist
well, you get the point!

In the last round, I placed 4th out of 62 entries – not too shabby! This time, as the only representative of West Virginia, I’m hoping for 1st!

This month, the prizes up for grabs are the following:

Iron Cupcake:Earth is also sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers.

Remember, without our wonderful sponsors, Iron Cupcake would not be possible, so please support them and shop away! With the holidays fast approaching, nothing can be quicker (or simpler) than purchasing your gifts online – pick something special up for the baker in your life.

Almond Pound Cupcakes
adapted from an Odense original recipe
makes 16 cakes
  • 7 oz. almond paste
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, and line muffin tins with paper cups.
  2. Using the large hole side of a box grater, grate almond paste into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the almond paste with the butter and the sugar until well-mixed.
  4. Add eggs in one at a time, beating well between each.
  5. Beat on high until light and fluffy.
  6. Combine the baking powder and flour, and add into the mix, alternating with the milk. Beat on low until just combined.
  7. Pour batter into prepared muffin tins, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.
  8. Cool, in tin, on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
  9. Take cakes out of tin, and cool on rack for another 30 minutes.
Brie and Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from “Cupcakes Galore,” by Gail Wagman
makes enough to top 12 cupcakes
  • 2 T unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 8 oz. Double-Creme Brie, rind removed
  • 1 t lemon juice
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar and the cheeses until fluffy.
  2. Beat in lemon juice on high for 30 seconds.
  3. If too soft or liquidy, place frosting in refrigerator until it reaches a good spreading/piping consistency.
Cranberry Filling
  • 1/2 cup whole berry cranberry sauce, canned
  1. Open can.
  2. Portion out 1/2 cup.
  3. Stir.

Seriously. That’s it.
You can make your own sauce, or you can be me, and pick the best money can buy, because it’s delicious.

Toasted Coconut
  • 2 cups shredded coconut, unsweetened
  1. Spread coconut on a baking sheet.
  2. Place in oven and broil on high until shreds start turning a light brown, and the smell of coconut starts wafting through your kitchen, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Cool for about 15 minutes, and use as desired.
Assembly
  1. Using a serrated knife, cut a little cone out of the top of cupcake, and remove.
  2. Fill with cranberry sauce, replace cake cone, and lightly press to even out the top.
  3. Pipe or spread frosting, and sprinkle with toasted coconut.
  4. Enjoy!
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Daalicious!

23 Oct

Since E and I were both under the weather, no household chores were getting done. I was way too sick to clean the house top to bottom, so I did some tidying up. It didn’t really help, but it did make me realize that if I just laid in bed all day, I would never feel better.

I decided to beat this into submission! I wasn’t up to cooking a full meal, so I asked E to stop on his way home from work to pick up some Naan and basmati rice from our favorite Indian restaurant, and I made some roasted asparagus and some spicy lentil daal to accompany it.
This turned out really hearty, earthy and delicious, and was definitely what we needed!


Spicy Lentil Daal
Adapted from 28 Cooks
makes 4 servings

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1 T ginger paste
  • 2 t Balti seasoning*
  • 1/2 t crushed chili flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup eggplant, cubed
  • 1 cup summer squash, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, no salt added
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup dried red lentils
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 T fresh cilantro, minced
  • 3/4 t kosher salt
  1. Heat olive oil in large pan.
  2. Add onion, ginger, Balti seasoning, crushed red pepper, and garlic.
  3. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Add in eggplant, summer squash and tomatoes (drained, reserving liquid) to pan, and stir. Saute for 1 minute.
  4. Add tomato juice, water, and lentils. Bring to a boil, stirring well.
  5. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 20 minutes, or until lentils are tender.
  6. Stir in peas, and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice and cilantro. Taste for salt, and add in more if necessary.
  8. Serve over basmati rice.


Roasted Asparagus

  • 2 1/2 lbs. asparagus, trimmed
  • about 1 1/2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 T lemon pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Lightly drizzle or spray a baking sheet with half of the olive oil.
  3. Sprinkle with seasoning, and redrizzle or spray with the remaining olive oil.
  4. Roast for 30 minutes.


*can be substituted with curry powder of your choice, or with 1 t turmeric and 1 t cumin seed

Monday Post

21 Oct

Due to being under the weather last week and running out of most of our staples, I was unable to do or even follow a meal plan, and this week will feel the after-effects. I’ll mostly be throwing some things together, and will update if any turn out. Meanwhile, if you have any questions on a previous meal featured in the meal plan that I haven’t addressed or updated on the results, please leave a comment, and I’ll be happy to post a follow-up.

Also, Iron Cupcake’s deadline is fast approaching, and I have less than 4 days to submit my entry. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get it done in time, and if I do, I’ll be posting here once again, begging for your votes 😀

I wanted to share with you a great money-saving deal that I received today through Thrifty Florida Mama. I always feel guilty about spending money on meat and seafood, since E can’t eat such items, and good-quality product is expensive, even when on sale. Well, I don’t have to worry for a little while! Thanks to Geico and Omaha Steaks, I was personally able to get 18 4 0z. burger patties, a 6 piece cutlery set and a cutting board for only $3.98, including shipping. 12 of these burgers are normally $32.99, and shipping and handling is $13.99, so this was definitely a steal!

Here’s how I did it:

  • Go to Geico Privileges, and register. You do not have to be a Geico customer, but you do have to be over the age of 18 and a U.S. resident. Within a couple of hours, you’ll receive a gift certificate code for $25, good any purchase.
  • Head to Wow Coupons, and look for the 6 free burgers, cutting board and cutlery deal (it was the first listed when I last checked)
  • Once you head over to Omaha Steaks, add the item(s) of your choice to your cart. As long as it’s over $14.99, it’ll work. I chose to get 12 4 oz. burgers, which are currently on sale for $14.99.
  • Head over to the checkout; it’ll have added your gifts, and the shipping and handling fees. Enter in your certificate code (no pin required!) that you received in your inbox, and your total will be updated, as mine was, to reflect the changes.

I’ll be receiving my burgers by October 29th – even ignoring the free gift and cost of s+h, the meat ends up costing me about $0.88/lb, which is amazing!

Omaha Steaks now takes Paypal if you don’t have or want to use a credit card, and this deal is good through October 31st.

Cozy in a Bowl

19 Oct

Fall is definitely my favourite season. I love that it means hoodies and jeans, apple picking, and the cool, crisp smell of the air (the next best thing to the smell of snow). The leaves start to change, making the forests seem like they’re on fire.

Fall and I are best buds – if I had my way, we’d be together 24/7.

With Fall around, I definitely gravitate towards heartier, homier, stick-to-your-ribs cooking. Stews, casseroles and soups feature prominently around here, giving your insides a great big hug. A couple of weeks ago, I was definitely in a nesting kind of mood, and decided to put together a meal of pure love.

Taking inventory of my pantry, fridge and freezer, I knew I had all the ingredients for Broccoli and 3 Cheese Soup, and decided to put together an Irish Soda Bread to accompany it. The prep work on this meal was quick, and it was really easy to put together. Man oh man, do you get rewarded for your efforts! The bread was dense, with a nice crisp crust, and the soup was cheesy, creamy and just all around delicious. This is definitely going into our Tried and True folder!

Irish Soda Bread
adapted from Joy of Baking by Stephanie Jaworski

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 T granulated white sugar
  • 2 T oats
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk (I made my own by combining 1 1/2 T of white vinegar to 1 1/2 cups of skim milk and letting it sit for 5-10 minutes)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and place rack in the centre of oven.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, soda, salt and oats.
  3. Make a well in the centre, and add in most of the buttermilk. Using your hands (or a wooden spoon), mix until you have a soft moist dough. Add in more buttermilk as necessary to acheive said dough.
  4. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface, and knead gently into a 7 inch round that’s about 1 inch thick.
  5. Place the round on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper, and with a sharp knife, cut an ‘x’ into the dough about 1/4 inch deep.
  6. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and a toothpick comes out clean. You can also test for doneness by tapping on the bottom of the bread and listening for hollowness.
  7. Serve warm.

Broccoli and Three Cheese Soup
adapted from A Year of Crockpotting
Note: Although this makes what seems to be a lot of soup, it was just enough for E and I to each have two bowls, with about 1/2 cup left over for his lunch the next day. Also, you can use whatever cheese you like in this recipe, so feel free to customize to your tastes.

  • 4 cups no-chicken broth
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 20 oz. frozen broccoli
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1 cup Fontina cheese, grated
  • 1 cup Sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 cup shredded Casserole Mix cheese
  1. Dice your onion pretty finely, and add to a 6 qt crockpot.
  2. Top with milk, broth and spices, and stir in frozen broccoli.
  3. Cook on high 4-6 hours, or on low for 7-9. You’ll know it’s ready when the onions are softened. Mine reached this point at about 3 1/2 hours on high.
  4. 30 minutes before serving, stir in your cheeses.
  5. Serve!

I served the soup and bread up with some spiced tomato jam, flavoured with cinnamon and cloves, that we picked up on our honeymoon and some butter.

It was amazing, and one of the best meals I’ve ever made.

Seriously.

It was just that good.

E and I decided that we could eat this every day, and for the next few months, we’ll probably come close.

The Milton Pumpkin Festival

17 Oct

Milton, West Virginia is home to the West Virginia Pumpkin Festival, which was started in 1985 and held on October 2nd through the 5th. The event draws about 60,000 people annually, so it’s quite a big deal around here, and very popular.

This was my first time coming out to the festival, and E and I had a blast, going both the first and the last day.

Once arriving at WV Pumpkin Park, we were greeted by a large smiling pumpkin, who we’ve affectionately dubbed ‘Mr. Punkin.’ The event is fairly affordable, with parking costs at $1, and entrance at $5 for adults.

There was a lot to see and do, with live entertainment, giant pumpkins being auctioned off, sheep shearing, karaoke, chainsaw art and more. The pumpkin auction is probably one of the biggest attractions at the festival, and is for a wonderful cause. The money raised is in fact used to award 3 $2000 scholarships to local students, which is presented to the winners at the end of the auction.

Not only were there several crafts and food vendors, but many had interesting displays and set-ups showing how their product was made. There were folks selling freshly roasted corn on the cob (a definite favorite of E’s), which was bright, smoky and creamy.

A couple of gentleman were making and selling sugar popcorn – they were really sweet, and it was fun watching them make it.

Lincoln County FFA students were selling their Sorghum Molasses, which was really interesting. As a project, the students cultivated it through planting, cutting, harvesting and cooking.

Having made 150-250 gallons, the molasses was sold to raise money to send the kids to a national convention.

Of course, being a fall festival, there were plenty of pumpkins, gourds and scarecrows for sale. We didn’t pick any up, but we had fun looking at all the different varieties up for grabs.

I loved the sign at this booth, and couldn’t help but smile at its adorableness!

We did pick up some pumpkin donuts, a pumpkin roll, 2 quarts of sugar-free apple butter, some marinated green tomatoes, several varieties of mustard, some cheeseball mixes, spiced pecans and some green pepper pickled relish.

We also picked up a couple of crafts that are perfect for Christmas, including a Marshall University snowman wreath that I can’t wait to hang up. GO HERD!

This booth made stone ground cornmeal and flour, and it was really interesting to see the process. It seems like a lot of hard work, and made me that much more appreciative for the conveniences that modern life affords me!

Also, there were several participants who had ‘booths’ that were focused on what life was like in the times of the pioneers.

Not only was it interesting to see, but it was really fun seeing how the various children at the festival reacted to the unfamiliar, and participated.

I also had my first honest-to-goodness American corn dog – it was definitely different from the ones back home! It was almost sweet in some ways, with a really crisp outside and smooth interior.

We had a great time, and if nothing else, the festival allowed us to meet some great people, enjoy some delicious food, and reminded us of our connection to the earth, and where food really comes from.

I think that for me, the best part of the festival was spending time in the crisp fall air with E, walking and talking and just sharing the memory.
I can’t wait for next year!