Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Bars

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When we were invited to a pumpkin-carving party in anticipation of Halloween, I knew three things– 1) I was going to carve a fabulous pumpkin; 2) I was going to bring desserts; and 3) that dessert would also have to include pumpkin.

Last year for this event I made cupcakes– these cupcakes, to be exact— but while they were delicious and well-received, they were kind of a pain to transport in my two-tier cupcake carrier, while carrying a pumpkin. Also, cupcakes aren’t the ideal serving size for parties where there’s a buffet’s worth of food options– too big for people who want to sample multiple desserts. So this year I decided to solve both problems and make pumpkin bars.

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Easy Apple-Cinnamon Biscuits

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Last weekend I woke up before everyone else in the house (except for the cats, they were bugging me for food), and decided on a whim that I wanted to bake something for breakfast. Biscuits seemed just the thing, but they sounded kind of boring, so I tried to figure out a way to spice things up a bit. I considered jam– in college I used to whip up a jam scone-type thing that was always well-received– but didn’t have enough of any one flavor of jam in the refrigerator to make it worthwhile.

Instead I decided to go with cinnamon sugar, and to evoke the classic cinnamon roll I ended up doing a cinnamon swirl rather than just a topping. At the last minute, I added one small apple, chopped, which I think added both flavor and textural interest. All in all, a pretty decent result that took less than an hour from start to finish, though in all honestly it wasn’t so incredibly delicious that I’ll be crowing about it to all of my friends. Will I make it again? Perhaps, if I’m ever in the mood for something sweet at breakfast and have limited time to make it in.

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Chocolate-Orange Ricotta Cupcakes

ricotta-cupcakes

I can’t believe I haven’t posted about these before– these are some of my very favorite cupcakes. Cupcakes that are soft and warm and full of chocolate; cupcakes that contrast the rich creaminess of ricotta with the slight bitterness of good marmalade; cupcakes that one of my coworkers has dubbed “the best cupcakes in the world.” And you can have them out of the oven and ready to eat in an hour.

The base of the recipe is from a lovely blog I read, Orangette, but I’ve tweaked it just a bit to make it a little more decadent (though you’ll still need to go out and buy ricotta). The result is fantastic– if you’ve ever daydreamed about crossing a fresh cannoli with warm chocolate cake, this is what you’d get. They’re wonderful as-is, but if you ever wanted to gild the lily, you could top them with a thin drizzle of chocolate ganache, and watch your dinner guests go into a chocolate coma!

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Key Lime Pie Ice Cream

key-lime-ice-creamI admit, this is just a riff on my Key Lime Pie Tartlets, but I did say at the time that it was possible to add whipped cream to the original recipe to make it fluffier– this is just another application of the concept!

Basically, I whipped 2 cups of heavy cream and folded it into the original mixture, which I augmented with additional lime juice, corn syrup, and sugar to balance out the flavors and keep the texture creamy when frozen. Add some graham cracker crumble and presto– instant key lime pie ice cream!

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Butterscotch Sauce- Tasty! White Peach Cobbler- Meh.

caramel-pudding

This is a story about a delicious butterscotch sauce– but in order to fully appreciate it, you need some background on the culinary exploits leading up to it…

Our story began when I came into work this week to find a large bag of peaches on the counter, up for grabs. Unfortunately these were not exactly prime peaches– they were a bit mushy, some were bruised, and they were clearly on the verge of being good only for jam (not that jam is a bad thing). I informed the office that if there were any left at the end of the day I would take them home and make something delicious out of them, and apparently people took my words to heart, because I ended up with almost the entire bag!

I decided to make a cobbler, figuring that it would easily feed a crowd, but was somewhat stymied to realize upon cutting into the peaches that they were white peaches, rather than yellow as I’d assumed. White peaches are much milder and sweeter than their yellow cousins, and I’d never actually baked with them before, usually preferring to eat them straight out of hand. Since this was definitely not an option with these particular peaches, I decided that I’d add lemon juice and go light on the sugar, and hope for the best.

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Tahini Swirl Brownies

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I was invited to a last-minute barbecue the other day, and with nothing in the house to contribute I was forced to scramble for a dessert idea! A quick survey of my fridge revealed a mostly-used can of tahini, and as luck would have it I had a decent-sized chunk left from a Trader Joe’s Pound Plus bar of dark chocolate. Clearly, brownies were in order.

I did a search online and found a frequently-lauded recipe for tahini-swirled brownies from Milk Street Magazine. I lifted the recipe in its entirety, though I admit to making a careless error and accidentally using 4 oz. of butter rather than 4 tablespoons of butter! Oops! Luckily it didn’t seem to hurt the recipe any– the interior of the brownie was moist and plushy in a way I’ve never seen in brownies before, and I really liked it. I’m tempted to keep the revision, but I’ve printed the recipe below as written so you can try the original. You’ll have to tell me how it turns out for you!

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Cheesy Eggplant Pasta Bake

eggplant-bake

When I was a kid my dad would occasionally make eggplant for dinner– he’d slice it lengthwise, put some kind of seasoning on the cut side, and roast it in the oven until the insides went all brown and mushy. I thought it looked disgusting. This was not aided by the fact that Dad would tell us that the brown part in the middle was actually a giant worm that lived inside every eggplant and was extra tasty when cooked. Ugh!

That story put me off eggplant for a while, honestly, and while I eventually recovered enough to enjoy eggplant parmesan and Chinese-style eggplant with spicy bean sauce and pork, I never really felt the urge to make eggplant myself.

That being said, when my local farmer’s market had a $1/lb. deal on eggplant, I decided it would be worth a shot to get myself a bagful. After a little digging online, I found this recipe, originally from Giada de Laurentiis but re-blogged by Smitten Kitchen. I tried making it with a few substitutions (canned tomatoes instead of the more expensive freshly roasted cherry tomatoes, omitting the pine nuts because I didn’t have any in my pantry), and it was pretty darned good! I decided to tweak it a little more to make it amazing, and the resulting recipe is something I’m definitely going to put into the rotation.

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