Fall is my favorite time of year and these cupcakes are just what I need to get in the mood. The shadows are lengthening and out here in San Francisco, the air is more humid than usual and it’s warmer. When I lived on the East Coast, the arrival of Fall was all about feeling a cold nip in the air. Here in San Francisco where the summers are freezing, it’s quite the opposite. The weather heats up as the leaves are turning brown.
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed firmly
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1½ tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- pinch of salt
- ½ cup milk
- 1½ cups pure pumpkin puree
- For the frosting:
- 1 package cream cheese
- 1½ sticks (12 Tbsp) unsalted butter
- ⅔ cup light brown sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 tsp cinnamon, plus extra for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line cupcake tray (24) with paper liners.
- In a standing mixer, cream the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar on high speed until fluffy.
- Add eggs and vanilla and mix at a medium speed until well blended.
- In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Add about a third of the dry ingredients to wet, alternating with the milk, until all are incorporated. Add pumpkin puree and mix well.
- Fill cupcakes two-thirds full and bake for 18 – 22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and let stand for a couple of minutes. Then remove from muffin tin and let cool completely.
- To make the frosting:
- Let the cream cheese and butter soften before creaming them together on high speed with a mixer. Cream in the sugar, vanilla and cinnamon until smooth and light. Chill in the fridge overnight (or at least for a few hours) to let it set.
- Spread on cupcakes and garnish with a pinch of cinnamon.
Last weekend, I decided that my own back-to-school supply should be a new slow-cooker. I had a crock pot already, but I needed something that was larger and more programmable. So I purchased an All-Clad Slow Cooker similar to the one pictured here (and available at Amazon.com). I actually bought the one just larger than this one and it’s huge. I wanted to be able to make entire roasts in it.
Today, I am making one of my favorite slow-cooked dishes: braised lamb shanks. Lamb shanks, with marrow filled bones, and a layer of fat, are perfectly suited for slow-cooking. I think it might be impossible to overcook a lamb shank. The long cooking time simply works to make it extremely tender and falling off the bone.
This version of braised lamb shank is inspired by ossobucco recipes. It includes wine, tomatoes and is finished with a gremolata. Gremolata is a bright, flavorful mixture of lemon zest, parsley and minced fresh garlic. Adding this mixture at the end brightens up the long-cooked dish.
The best thing about the All Clad Slow Cooker is that the insert is stove ready, so you can brown food before setting it to cook for the rest of the day. This is a key step when making braised lamb shanks. I browned these shanks in batches, then added olive oil and onion, sautéeing the onion a bit before replacing the insert to the slow cooker for the rest of the cooking time.
- 3 large lamb shanks or 4 medium ones
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large, sweet onion, diced
- 2 cloves crushed garlic (I used Trader Joe's frozen crushed garlic)
- 2 cups mini carrots
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 2 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup red wine
- ½ 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
- Zest of one lemon
- ⅓ cup chopped parsley
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- Heat the slow-cooker insert over medium high heat (or use a skillet or dutch oven). Add lamb shanks, one or two at a time, and brown on all sides. Remove from pan and brown in batches to avoid over crowding.
- Remove shanks and add olive oil. Add diced onion and garlic. Toss to coat. Let sautée until wilted and starting to brown. Add shanks back in and return insert to the slow cooker.
- Add carrots, Bay Leaves, rosemary, salt, pepper, and wine and toss to combine. Add tomatoes and toss. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours or high heat for 4 hours.
- Serve over mashed potatoes, or noodles, or even rice. Garnish with the gremolata.
- To make the gremolata, simply mix together the lemon zest, chopped parsley and minced garlic.
So, why the image from the movie, you ask? Well, it’s just a pun I thought of a long time ago and always wanted to build a recipe around. What are your favorite movie title pun memes?
And finally today, this video of Jamie Oliver’s Britain features the tastes of York, which means of course, Yorkshire pudding. There’s also an interesting lamb shank recipe in this video, which draws more heavily on Moroccan flavors. He uses fresh mint instead of fresh parsley and even makes a mint oil to garnish his lamb shanks.
The other great tip he imparts is to use an immersion blender to blend the sauce leftover in the slow cooker once everything is finished cooking. Blend it and then thicken it by simmering it down over the stove. Perfection.
As summer draws to a close, it’s time to pause one last time and acknowledge the plum. All summer long, they have been a staple in my weekly CSA box and I have been thinking I must make an upside-down cake.
This one is particularly easy. I made it before work this morning while also packing lunches and preparing breakfast for my two kids. Slice the fruit and mix the batter. That was about it.
The great news is the cake come out light and fluffy and the plums work their own magic so the end result is delicious. I’ve added twice the normal amount of vanilla in this recipe which made the flavor of the cake really pop.
- 7 Tablespoons butter, divided
- ⅔ cup sugar, divided
- 4 plums, thinly sliced - choose plums that are not overly ripe
- 1 egg
- 1 cup flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ cup milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
- Place one tablespoon of butter in a circular pie pan and melt in the oven for a couple of minutes.
- Meanwhile, cream the butter with the remaining sugar. Add the egg and beat until smooth.
- Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle ⅓ cup of sugar evenly around the bottom.
- Arrange the plum slices in neat, concentric circles on top of the butter/sugar.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder.
- Add the dry ingredients to the cream mixture in batches, alternating with the milk until mixed thoroughly.
- Add in the vanilla and mix until batter is smooth. If the batter is too thick, mix in another tablespoon of milk.
- Spread the batter evenly on top of the plums, working it all the way out to the edge of the pan.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. A knife inserted in the cake should come out clean.
- Remove from the oven and invert onto a plate immediately.
- Serve warm.
I can’t believe I haven’t already made carrot cake a million times, since I love to make Zucchini Bread, and of course, am always making Pumpkin Bread, but this is the fist time I’ve done a post about Carrot Cake. I like my carrot cake without raisins or nuts, so some will say that this is a stripped down version of carrot cake, but the flavor was great and it was moist too, so I’m sticking with this version.
I took a shortcut with the carrots and used a bag of shredded carrots I bought at the grocery store. I did pop the shredded carrots into my Cuisinart Mini Prep to make them even smaller, but it was super easy to start with the carrots already shredded.
To make the carrot with icing, I set a side two different reserves. One I added red and yellow food coloring to make orange and the other one, I added green. I put these into two sandwich bags and cut a little corner off. I squeezed the orange icing out back and forth to make a snaky carrot shape and then repeated for the green part.
- 1½ cups vegetable oil
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 Tbsp Pumpkin Pie spice
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
- 3 cups finely grated carrots
- For the icing:
- ½ cup butter, softened
- (1) 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2½ cups confectioners' sugar
- Additional milk as necessary
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9" x 13" pan with cooking spray (or two 9-inch round layer pans) .
- Beat the eggs into the oil and then beat in the sugar, salt, and spices. Mix the flour with the baking soda, and stir in. Add the carrots and mix until just blended. Pour into the prepared pan(s).
- Bake the cake(s) for 35 to 40 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
- For the frosting:
- Beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth.
- Add the salt and vanilla and beat in with the sugar.
- Add a teaspoon of milk if the frosting is too stiff to spread; add additional sugar if it's too thin.
I’ve been off McDonald’s for awhile, trying to erase the sins of the holiday season by following the plan put forth in Tim Ferris’ book, The 4-Hour Body. It’s all about rapid fat loss and it’s been working pretty well, so I’m not eager to mess with it, but the beauty of the program is that once each week, you are required, that’s right, required, to binge. One must do so carefully, but still.
So this Saturday, I’m planning to head over to a Bay Area McDonald’s and try a new, limited-time product they launched this week called Fish McBites. I’m a sucker for restaurant history, so I thought it was cool when I learned that this year, McDonald’s celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Filet-O-Fish sandwich. That makes it a perfect time to launch a new fish product, but in 2013, we must be careful about sustainability and McDonald’s is on it with this one. Fish McBites contain wild-caught Alaska Pollock that is responsibly sourced from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainable fisheries. That makes McDonald’s the first fast food chain in the U.S. to offer MSC certified sustainable fish on its menu all year long (the same MSC certified Pollock is in the File O’ Fish sandwich too).
Fish McBites are only available until the end of March. They timed the launch to coincide with Lent, a period of time in the Christian calendar when people often decide to give up things, like red meat.
And Fish McBite’s aren’t only available in grown-up portions. For the first time ever, the limited-time Fish McBites Happy Meal brings a fish entrée option to the iconic Happy Meal.
Fish McBites Happy Meals with 1 percent low-fat white milk, 100 percent apple juice or fat-free chocolate milk, meet new nutrition criteria in the Council of Better Business Bureaus’ Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative.
This isn’t the first time I’ve gone out on a limb to promote McDonald’s. See my post from last year called, 10 Reasons I Take My Kids to McDonald’s (Seriously).
For more information about Fish McBites, nutrition information, or Greater Bay Area McDonald’s commitment to the community and sustainability, visit https://twitter.com/McD_BayArea or http://bit.ly/McDonaldsBayArea.
I’ve had a cookie pan similar to the one pictured below for a couple of years and used it only a few times. You can purchase it from Amazon by clicking on it. Today, I thought, what if I try to make madeleines in these molds? They’re about the same size as a madeleine pan. Since it’s Christmas, I’m in the mood for chocolate, so how about chocolate madeleines? I have combined several madeleine recipe sources to create this version. These are relatively simple and quick and make a great holiday gift.
- 2 eggs
- ⅓ cup superfine sugar
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
- ½ stick butter, melted
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spray molds thoroughl with cooking spray
- Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl.
- Add flour, baking powder, cocoa and melted butter and mix gently to combine.
- Spoon the mixture into the molds until ⅔ full.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until Madeleines are set.
I’ve been making Nestle® Toll House® Cookies for Christmas for 35 years. I’m almost 42, so you do the math. We always sprinkled colored sugar on top. There is no way I know how to improve on the Toll House recipe, except perhaps to add an extra dash of the vanilla extract. And of course, the quality of the chips matters. You can step up to Ghirardelli, or dare I say, Sharffen Berger, but when it comes down to it, Nestlé Semi Sweet Baking Chips really do the trick, and I bought a HUGE bag of them at Costco at the beginning of December, so we’re sticking to the old favorite.
What’s your favorite Christmas Cookie?
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
- PREHEAT oven to 375° F.
- COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
- BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
I baked these for the church bake sale and they were tender and rich. At first, I thought the dough was difficult to handle, but once I got it chilled enough, it was much easier to cut the shapes and transfer them to the baking sheet.
If you don’t have cream of tartar on hand, you can substitute baking powder. Baking powder is simply two parts cream of tartar with one part baking soda. It won’t be perfect, but you could use 1 tsp of baking powder instead of the baking soda and cream of tartar requirement.
- 1 stick butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup canola oil
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup confectioner's sugar
- 1 egg
- 1½ tsp pure vanilla extra
- 2½ cups all purpose flour
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- ½ tsp salt
- Sprinkles or caster sugar
- In the bowl of a standup mixer, beat the butter, oil, and two sugars until well blended and fluffy. Mix in the egg and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt and mix it in. Form the dough into a large ball. It will be quite soft. You may need to add additional flour, but don't overdo it. Just chill it for an hour first and then check it.
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Divide the dough into 2 large balls. On a floured board, roll out the dough until it is about ⅛" thick. Using cookie cutters, cut the dough into shapes and transfer them, using a spatula to help, to a non-stick cookie sheet. Scatter sprinkles on top. Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until starting to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before carefully transferring them to rack for further cooling.
I have a soft spot for Roy’s. I celebrated my first wedding anniversary there (in San Francisco) as a way to commemorate our wedding in Hawaii. I went again recently because my office was across the street for a couple of years. I don’t particularly associate chocolate with Roy’s because it’s a Hawaiian fusion restaurant. It’s their Ahi Poke I crave most. But I’m a sucker for molten chocolate cake, so I was thrilled to find that they make their recipe available publicly and that I could make it at home. Rather than making them in rings, I used ramekins. That way I didn’t have to worry about lifting off the ring at the end. If you don’t have the patience to let it refrigerate overnight, refrigerate it for a few hours and let me know how it turns out!
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 tbsp. cornstarch
- 4 eggs plus 4 egg yolks
- 12 tbsp. butter
- 8 oz. semisweet dark chocolate (make sure to use a good quality)
- In a mixing bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch. In a separate bowl, mix eggs and yolks together. In a saucepan, bring butter to a simmer, then add the chocolate. Mix until the chocolate is smooth and begins to simmer along the edges. Combine this chocolate mixture with the sugar and cornstarch and mix thoroughly. Add eggs and mix at low speed until sugar is dissolved and mixture is smooth. Refrigerate overnight in a bowl.
- Preheat oven to 375º. Line 4 metal soufflé rings with parchment paper and coat with non-stick spray. On a baking sheet, place each ring on a square of parchment paper. Fill ⅔ of each ring with the filling. Bake for 28-30 minutes. Remove the baking sheet. While holding each mold with tongs, slide a metal spatula underneath and transfer to a plate. Gently lift the mold off, remove the paper and serve with ice cream.
Sometimes you just want the brownie you grew up with – but made with really good chocolate. December 8 is National Brownie Day, so why not celebrate by going out and purchasing a Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar and turning it into an 8×8″ pan of awesomeness? These classic brownies have Ghirardelli Chocolate Chips in them too.
I live near San Francisco, so I learned, shortly after moving here 13 years ago, that it’s pronounced with a gggg as in good. Not a g is in geez. It’s Good Ghirardelli. Now you can be in the know too!
I’m going to be selling them at the Church Christmas Bakesale tomorrow! Nothing like a little chocolate for Christmas. Happy Holidays!
- 4 oz. Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Baking Bar (1 bar)
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ⅓ cup Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chips
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square baking pan.
- Chop the 4 ounces of semi sweet chocolate bars into 1" pieces. In the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water, melt the 4 chopped chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Stir the brown sugar and vanilla into the chocolate mixture. Add the eggs and mix well. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly fold the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture, mixing well until blended. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into 2-inch squares.