Saturday, January 21, 2012

Strawberries & Cream Cupcakes

Valentine's Day will be here before you know it and we've created the perfect cupcakes for the occasion! Sweet, light, and fruity, these cupcakes are sure to show your sweetie just how much you care.

We made our strawberries & cream cupcakes miniature sized and topped them off with cream cheese frosting and tiny edible pink hearts. They were almost too cute to eat!

We used cream cheese in our batter and it made all the difference in the world compared to most cupcakes we've made in the past. These little cakes were so moist and perfectly formed. With a fresh burst of sweet strawberries in each bite, it was pure cupcake bliss.

Strawberries & Cream Cupcakes
Serving Size : 2 mini cupcakes
Makes : 24 mini or 12 regular sized cupcakes

Ingredients :
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
7 tbsp butter, room temp
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
1 large egg, room temp
2 large egg yolks, room temp
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped strawberries

Instructions : Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and adjust oven rack to the middle. Wash and dice strawberries into small pieces. Sprinkle with 2 tsp of your sugar and set aside. In large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add butter, cream cheese, eggs, and vanilla. Mix at medium speed until batter is smooth and creamy. Add liners to your cupcake pans and start spooning in mixture. Do not overfill your cupcakes. They should measure about 2/3 up your liner height. Once batter is divvied out, add 1 - 2 tsp of diced strawberries to the top of each cupcake. Using a toothpick, gently push the strawberries down into the batter and evenly distribute them around. Bake until the tops of cakes are golden brown, or 10 minutes for little cupcakes and 15 to 20 for regular sized cakes. To check if your cupcakes are done, insert a toothpick into the center. It should come out clean. Transfer your cupcakes to a wire rack to cool. Cupcakes should be room temperature before frosting.

Click here to view and download the high resolution recipe card

Everyone is sure to swoon over these! And a quick tip - we made a double batch of this recipe and they didn't last too long... Plan accordingly :)

Enjoy and Bon Appétit!
Nicole & Aaron

Monday, January 16, 2012

Harvest Maple Ham & Bean Soup

Aaron and I recently remade an old classic to help get us through some cold winter days. We've always loved ham and bean soup and wanted to give it our own flavor flare.

I quite enjoy the taste of ham paired with sweet maple syrup. Always have. It probably has something to do with my father making the best pineapple, maple ham roasts all my life and now plain ham holds nothing for me. So, our ham for the soup became lightly browned maple glazed ham. Instead of a more stock based broth, we wanted a creamy flavor that would compliment the ham and beans. Cream of asparagus soup was an excellent addition. It added a really mild, slightly sweet base to the entire soup.

With so many fresh and rich flavors mingling together, this soup is delicate and robust all at the same time. 

There's something so warm and inviting about this combination of ingredients. You just know it's going
to be wholesome, healthy, and happy soup.

The recipe makes a fairly decent amount, more than enough to freeze several helpings for later. It heats
back up fantastically after being frozen, just make sure to stir it well as the stock will separate some at first. As you can see from the images, we made skillet corn bread to eat with our soup. With butter and honey, it was the perfect "in between bites of soup" dessert!

Harvest Maple Ham & Bean Soup
Serving Size : 2 cups
Makes : 16 cups (4 quarts)

Ingredients :
1 lb ham, cubed
10 oz dried mixed beans
1 1/2 cups chopped green beans
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 tsp cajun seasoning
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 can cream of asparagus soup
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water

Instructions : Add dried bean medley to a pot with water, asparagus soup, and stock. Begin to bring to a slow boil. After cubing ham, drizzle with maple syrup and sauté on low heat until ham is slightly browned. While ham is browning, chop up all fresh ingredients and add all remaning items into the pot. Simmer on lower heat for 4 hours or until beans are cooked thoroughly.

Click here to view and download the high resolution recipe card

Enjoy and Bon Appétit!
Nicole & Aaron

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Salted Caramel and the Things You Can Do

Aaron and I are on a pretty big salted caramel kick right now. We whipped some up a few days ago and have been finding all sorts of delightful uses for it... :)

Salted caramel is pretty easy to make, you probably have everything you need on hand for it. It just takes some patience and time. We have gotten pretty used to adding a spoonful into our coffees each morning, oh my goodness! It is so rich, so buttery, so amazing.

like a pot of gold :)

Salted Caramel Sauce
Serving Size : N/A :)
Makes : 1 cup

Ingredients :
2 cups brown sugar
2 tsp salt
8 tbsp butter
4 tsp water
1 tsp vanilla

Instructions : Melt butter, salt, and vanilla over low heat, stirring your blend occasionally. Once mixture is fully melted, turn heat to medium and slowly stir in brown sugar. Add 4 tsp of water and continue to stir for 5 minutes or until all sugar is dissolved into the butter. If it begins to boil, immediately turn the heat down. You do not want your caramel to burn. Once sugar is dissolved, turn heat back down to low until you are ready to pour your sauce.

Click here to view and download the high resolution recipe card

The first night we made our caramel sauce, we decided to whip up some caramel rolls on the fly. We had some uncooked pie crusts in the fridge and after some deliberating, decided that chopped pecans were just what we needed yet to get started.


 With only 3 ingredients, these rolls couldn't be easier to make.

Salted Caramel Rolls
Serving Size : 1 roll
Makes : 12 rolls

Ingredients :
1 - 9" uncooked pie crust
3/4 cup salted caramel sauce
1/2 cup pecan pieces

Instructions : Spread out pie crust on counter or block dusted with flour. Cut dough into strips measuring approximately 1 1/2 inches wide by the length of your crust long. One uncooked pie crust should yield about 12 ideal sized rolls. Once the strips are cut, liberally spread salted caramel sauce over each piece of dough. Save a little of your caramel sauce for drizzling. Sprinkle pecan pieces over the caramel and then roll your strips up from end to end. Place in glass or metal cooking dish. If desired, drizzle any leftover caramel sauce over rolls. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until the dough is no longer soft and moist. When finished, the dough of the rolls should be almost flaky.

Click here to view and download the high resolution recipe card

And! Another you could do with your new favorite salted caramel sauce is make miniature pumpkin pies with salted caramel sauce! Lol, I have a personal weakness for pumpkin as you may have noticed by now. I used to help my grandma make pumpkin pie (as it was my favorite) all of the time when I was a little girl. We had so much fun together in the kitchen and I used to make her add so much sugar and spice to it to the point where almost no one else liked it. Well, now that I'm older, I still love that spice level to my pumpkin, but can cut back on some of that sweetness.

We wanted to make cute miniature pies this time, so we used our cupcake/muffin pan to form little pie crusts into. When forming your crusts, make sure that your dough is not too thick that your little pie tastes like all dough, nor too thin that it falls apart when you try to take it out of the pan.

Salted Caramel Pumpkin Pies
Serving Size : 1 pie
Makes : 12 pies

Ingredients :
2 - 9 inch uncooked pie crusts
1/4 cup salted caramel sauce
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 - 15 oz can pure pumpkin
1 - 12 oz can evaporated milk
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Instructions : Beat eggs in large bowl until frothy. Stir in pumpkin and milk, mixing until smooth. Add sugar, vanilla, and all spices. Mix well. Roll out uncooked pie crusts onto counter or block covered with flour. Use a round cookie cutter or cup to cut out your mini pie shells. Using a cupcake pan to cook with, your mini circles of dough should be about an inch larger than the cupcake hole to form a crust with. Form each circle of dough into the cupcake tray, working the dough around and into the holes. Pinch and knead the edges around to form a crust higher than your pie. Be careful to keep the edges of your crusts from touching. Spoon in 1/2 tsp of salted caramel into the bottom of each mini pie, then carefully pour your pumpkin mixture on top leaving yourself .25” from the top of your crust. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for 15 minutes or until it is no longer runny in the middle. Serve or refrigerate immediately.

Click here to view and download the high resolution recipe card

Thanksgiving may be over, but in my family, we eat pumpkin pie well into Christmas! I'm pretty sure we will now always have a jar of salted caramel sauce on hand. The possibilities are endless for what you can make with it. Hope these recipes serve you well!

Enjoy and Bon Appétit!
Nicole & Aaron

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Wooden Cutting Boards

We're always on the lookout for unique wooden cutting boards. There are so many styles and choices out there, all with their own look and purpose. We put together three style boards with some of our recent favorite finds. Follow the links under each set to find where to buy that item!

top left -  Ironwood Gourmet Square Board,   top right - Brookstone bamboo board,  
bottom left - Proteak rectangle cheeseboard,   bottom right - Zebra wood board

top left - Rustic Cherry Footed Platter,  top right - Natural Edge Maple Board,
bottom left - French Oak Cheese Plate,  bottom right - Architec Gripper Board

top left - Picnic Time Cutting Board,  top right - JK Adams Artisan Set
bottom left - Catskill Ultimate Chef's Set,  bottom right - Wedge Cheese Board

We would be happy with any of these lovely boards. Personally, I am more drawn to the rustic boards. They're so warm and homey, so unique. Might have to have Aaron make us one soon...! Which style are you more drawn to?

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, we had a fantastic dinner at our friend Tim's place. What happens when a bunch of professional chef's and foodies get together for Thanksgiving? Pure food magic ~ We'll post all about it later :)

Have a great day!
Nicole & Aaron

Friday, November 25, 2011

Spicy Pumpkin Oatmeal

It's the day after thanksgiving and we still have not gotten enough pumpkin! We had a can in the cupboard ready to go and decided to whip up some spicy pumpkin oatmeal this morning. Aaron and I very loosely followed the recipe on the back of the can of pumpkin, with some modifications. We like our sweet pumpkin dishes to be extra spicy with the tastes of cinnamon and nutmeg.

We used the old fashioned oatmeal and garnished the top of each bowl with a sprinkle of uncooked, dry oatmeal. Those little bits of crunch, once stirred in to a warm bowl, were quite tasty! This oatmeal
is just perfect for cold autumn mornings. We covered the leftovers and they will keep pretty well for the next couple days. More tomorrow!

No warm and lovely dish is complete without a photo shoot :)  We created a free printable recipe for everyone.

Click here to view and download the high resolution recipe card

Serving Size: 1 cup
Makes: 4 servings

4 cups water
2 cups plain dry oatmeal
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup condensed milk

Instructions: Bring water to a boil and then add oatmeal, salt, and pumpkin. Cover and cook 5 minutes at medium heat. Reduce heat to low, then add spices, sugar, and milk. Stir and taste.

Enjoy and Bon Appétit!
Nicole & Aaron