Sunday, December 21, 2014

Spread Christmas Cheer by Baking for All to Eat

In the last post, I told you that I had only baked ONCE all of December- well, I have corrected that...I now have baked an additional 9 dozen cupcakes! Seven dozen of those being in one night...I get so excited about my baking plans they just tend to explode.  This year I really wanted to test out some new Christmas cupcake recipes instead of my standard Chocolate with Peppermint (don't worry I still made this flavor too just added some new ones to the mix). Everyone seemed to love these new flavors!

I finally settled on these four cupcakes:
Chocolate with Peppermint

Gingerbread Cupcakes - originally from Imperial Sugar
Makes 12 cupcakes

5 tablespoons salted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line cupcake tin and set aside.
2. Mix butter and sugar with electric mixer about 3 minutes until light and fluffy.
3. Add molasses and then the egg and egg yolk, stir to combine.
4. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, ginger, cinnamon and baking soda. Add to the butter/sugar/molasses mixture alternating with the buttermilk.
5. Mix until just combined.
6. Divide the batter between the 12 cupcake cups about 2/3 cups full.
7. Bake for 20 minutes I turn the pan halfway through baking
8. Cool completely before frosting.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing Originally from Creme de la Crumb
I got this recipe from a different post because well, cinnamon and cream cheese how can you go wrong?!

Ingredients for Icing
4 cups powdered sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2-4 teaspoons heavy cream

1. Beat the cream cheese until fluffy.
2. Add vanilla, cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons of heavy cream and mix until smooth.
3. Gradually add in powdered sugar. Add 1-2 more tablespoons of heavy cream until you get the consistency you want for the icing.
4. Frost your cooled cupcakes and enjoy! I used the star tip for these cupcakes

Eggnog Cupcakes Originally from Life, Love & Sugar
Makes 24 cupcakes
I was quite honestly the most worried about these cupcakes, they didn't turn out as pretty and almost "caramelized" in the oven BUT everyone LOVED them so please don't discard them because they might not be pretty!

1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
3 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2-3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup eggnog I just bought Barber's Eggnog
1/4 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line cupcake tins and set aside.
2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder in a large mixing bowl.
3. Add butter, egg whites, vanilla, nutmeg, eggnog and milk and mix on medium speed until just combined. Do not overbeat.
4. Divide batter among the cupcake tins.
5. Bake 18 - 20 mins again turning halfway through baking
6. Cool completely before frosting.

Ingredients for Eggnog Icing unfortunately, I can't find the exact eggnog frosting recipe that I used but I will share the one that came with the cupcake recipe
If using a piping tip, double the recipe.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
4 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons eggnog
1/4 teaspoon rum extract
1 teaspoon nutmeg

1. Combine butter and shortening until smooth.
2. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and mix until smooth.
3. Add eggnog, rum extract and nutmeg, combine until smooth.
4. Add remaining powdered sugar and mix in until smooth.
5. Add a little more eggnog and mixed until desired consistency.
6. Decorate your cupcakes and enjoy!

Chocolate with Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting, originally from Glorious Treats
Makes 24 cupcakes

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

1. Line muffin tin and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for about 1 minute.
4. Stir in boiling water your batter will be thin, this is correct.
5. Fill liners about 2/3 full.
6. Bake for 22-24 minutes, turning the pan halfway through.
7. Cool completely before frosting.

Ingredients for Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup butter
6 oz. cream cheese
4 cups of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream

1. Place butter in a mixing bowl and blend slightly. Add cream cheese and blend until combined.
2. Add powdered sugar, a little bit at a time, and blend on low speed until combined. Increase to medium speed until fluffy.
3. Add vanilla and peppermint extracts.
4. Slowly add cream, a little at a time until desired consistency is reached.
5. Beat about a minute, until fluffy.

Because I use a piping tool to frost I usually 1 1/2 the icing recipe, the ingredients above are the original ingredients

Before filling the piping bag or tool, take some of the icing and color it with red food coloring and get a good bit on a knife and drag it down two sides of the piping tool then fill with the white frosting. This works best if every time you refill you make sure you apply plenty of red frosting all the way down the side of the tool. Once you frost the cupcakes add a Hershey's peppermint kiss on top, I tend to only put the kisses on half the cupcakes in case some prefer them without. Enjoy!

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes originally from Read it & eat
Makes 24 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line cupcake tins and set aside.
2. Combine flour, cake flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and whisk to combine.
3. In a separate bowl beat with an electric mixer, butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each egg.
5. Blend in the vanilla.
6. On low speed, add in the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the milk beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat after each addition until well mixed.
7. Divide batter equally among the cupcake tins.  Bake 18-20 minutes, rotating halfway through.
8.  Cool completely before frosting.

Ingredients for Frosting
If piping double the recipe
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3-4 cups powdered sugar

Ingredients for Garnish
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
Stir together and dust on top of each cupcake

1. Combine cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add vanilla extract.  Slowly add powdered sugar, mix well.
2. Frost the cooled cupcakes and add garnish to each cupcake.

Seven dozen cupcakes distributed among co-workers, friends, and my Pi Phi sisters and I still don't think that covered everyone sorry if you missed out on this go-round, promise it wasn't intentional!
One final recipe for today- I love when friends send me a link to a recipe or video or article that they just know I'm going to love and have to try (yes, this is a hint that you should send me over recipes that you'd like for me to try).  This is exactly what happened yesterday, Amanda sent me a video of how to make your own Peppermint tray. (It was on The Chew originally, thank you Clinton Kelly). This was SO easy to make and such a fun way to display my cupcakes at a recent Christmas party! I took pretty close to step by step pictures because I really didn't know how it was going to turn out, it turned out great!

You will need a cookie tray, wax paper, and a bag of peppermints.

1. Line your cookie tray with wax paper if you have any extra wax paper trim it so it doesn't hang over the tray.
2. Line up your peppermint candies with a little space in between each one.

3. Put it in the oven at 350 for 5-7 minutes- until the peppermints start to touch, once they are all touching remove the tray. 

4. Let it cool for about 30 seconds and then trim off the edges with a knife to make it nice and clean cut.

5. Use as a serving tray/statement piece at your next party!

Happy Holiday Baking!!!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hot Cocoa Cupcakes - the Holidays are here!

December is usually a busy baking month for me...I say usually because we are halfway through December and I have only baked ONCE!!! Don't worry, I'll be at it again shortly and will make up for my lack of baking at the beginning of the month. My go-to cupcake recipe during December usually is a Chocolate cupcake with a Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting but I wanted to try something different this year so I made Hot Cocoa cupcakes that I found on pinterest over a year ago. I have to admit I chose this recipe mostly for appearance but everyone raved on the taste too so I can't complain. I think the homemade whipped cream was what won so many over for this cupcake. When you are done, the cupcakes look like little cups of hot cocoa! Many have asked for the recipe so I won't make you wait any longer. 

Hot Cocoa Cupcakes originally from Lick the Bowl Good - makes 18 cupcakes

Ingredients for Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup prepared hot cocoa, cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Ingredients for Whipped Cream
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mini marshmallows
Mini chocolate chips
Crushed peppermints - I actually used crushed peppermint bark, a delicious topping
18 mini candy canes

Steps for the Cupcakes
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with 18 liners.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Whisk dry ingredients thoroughly.
3. Add oil, prepared hot cocoa, vanilla and eggs to the dry ingredients.  Whisk until well incorporated and no lumps, stir in the chocolate chips.
4. Evenly divide the batter among the lined cupcake tins.
5. Bake the cupcakes for 18-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out cleanI still turn my pan halfway through baking. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Steps for the Whipped Cream
1. Combine heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract.  Use an electric mixer on medium speed and beat until thick, creamy, and slightly stiff.  You want the whipped cream to be able to stand but you don't want to overbeat but make sure that it isn't still runny.

Assembling the Cupcakes
1. Pipe the whipped cream onto the cooled cupcakes.
2. Garnish with mini marshmallows, mini chocolate chips, and crushed peppermint.
3. Add a mini candy cane tucked into the side of the cupcake to make the handle of the hot cocoa "mug".
4. You can make ahead and cover and refrigerate but I do recommend saving the mini candy cane until right before you serve the cupcake!  The original recipe blog suggested covering and refrigerating leftovers....but leftover cupcakes are a foreign concept to me!

'Tis the Season
It doesn't take a lot for me to find a reason to bake so the reason I decided to make these adorable cupcakes was that some of my running buddies and I were getting together to run and look at Christmas lights and after we enjoyed Hot Cocoa, cookies, and these hot cocoa cupcakes! I would say they were a hit and we have started an annual tradition! Yes...we may run because we really love food! Below is a picture of us from our Christmas Light Run!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Holiday Traditions

I love this time of year, Christmastime! We have so many family traditions around the holidays and that is what makes this time of year so special to me! I would love to hear some of your favorite family traditions.  I have always been use to be a stickler for NO Christmas decorations until after our Thanksgiving meal, however that seems to be harder each year to wait until after Thanksgiving.  I do my best to still wait until after Thanksgiving to decorate but may sneak some Christmas music here and there.  One of our traditions is a real Christmas tree and my mom has a very special way of putting lights on the tree to make it look amazing, I'm happy to say for the first time in the four years I've been decorating my very own tree I think I may have gotten it close to Mama Gordon standards! She was in town and helped instruct me but I put all the lights on my tree and am very happy with them minus a few bare spots that my OCD self can't quite handle but I'm getting there. Overall, I am very happy with my tree this year and love that I'm typing this blog post while sitting next to my beautifully lit tree with a Sparkling Snow candle burning - may I say 'Tis the Season!

One tradition we have always had growing up is that we make Stromboli while we decorate the house for Christmas! This recipe is easy to make ahead, freeze, and heat when needed!

Ingredients for Meat Mixture
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon fine chopped onion
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/8 teaspoon oregano
6 slices mozzarella cheese
This year we added pepperoni and salami slices

1. Brown beef and onion in a skillet.
2. Add tomato sauce, ketchup, Parmesan cheese, garlic and spices.
3. Cook for 20 minutes.

Ingredients for Bread Preparation
6 sub buns
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika

1. Mix butter, garlic powder and paprika. Split buns and spread on butter mixture.
2. Put mozzarella cheese on bun. Put pepperoni and salami slices on bun.  Spread on meat mixture.
3. Wrap individually in tin foil.
4. Bake in tin foil at 350 for 15-20 minutes.  If you freeze, take out a day before and bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Enjoy your Stromboli, Christmas music and get ready to decorate your home!

Another family tradition is that each year on Christmas Eve we received matching Christmas pajamas! A few years ago my mom took that special tradition and made it into something that I will always cherish - a beautiful quilt with some of our past pajamas. It is BEAUTIFUL and one of my favorite Christmas decorations to pull out each year.

There will be plenty of baking posts around the holidays but I just wanted to start off the season with some of my favorite traditions - don't forget to send me some of your holiday traditions

One last photo to leave you with, this is Harrison first Christmas tree and he seems to like it!

Merry Christmas

Thanksgiving Blessings

I love Thanksgiving for the time spent with loved ones and the time in the kitchen but I'm going to go ahead and open this blog post with a confession, I'm not a huge fan of Thanksgiving food but it is Thanksgiving so I do enjoy the traditional dishes each year.  This year I was thankful that I was able to host a small Thanksgiving meal for my mom and aunt. It was a wonderful way to spend the day and I hope that each of you were able to spend the day with your family and friends!

Now on to the prep of Thanksgiving- if you have ever hosted Thanksgiving you know it is not something you can throw together in an hour (and if it is, I want to know your secret).  I know I still have lots to learn about hosting the perfect Thanksgiving but each year I learn something new!  Thanksgiving prep begins days before Thanksgiving with making the menu, grocery shopping, cleaning, and prepping some of the dishes the night before. Thankfully if your mom comes into town for Thanksgiving you may just be able to convince her to do the grocery shopping! After we had all the ingredients I made the desserts the night before Thanksgiving and prepped the Cornbread for the dressing and made my time schedule for Thursday! My time schedule included anything and everything, even if I thought it was a given it went down on the schedule and am I thankful it did!  Okay, enough babbling about my routine for Thanksgiving this year let's get straight to the menu!

Honey-Garlic Infused Turkey
Creamed Corn
Sweet Potato Casserole
Cornbread Dressing
Sautéed Spinach
Cranberry Sauce
Hummingbird Cake
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Truffles

I won't go into much detail about the turkey, corn, or cranberry sauce but will give the recipes for everything else! In the past we have brined the turkey and this year we bought a honey-garlic seasoning that I injected into the turkey before putting it in the oven.  Creamed corn is my favorite, growing up we had my corn (creamed corn) and my siblings' corn (Corn pudding), while I've learned to like Corn Pudding it still isn't my first pick. I usually get the frozen creamed corn put a little butter in a pan on the stove and heat the corn through.  Finally, with the cranberry sauce we cheated and got the canned cranberry-it served the purpose!

Sweet Potato Casserole- recipe originally from Baked in Arizona 

3 1/2 to 4 cups sweet potatoes, mashed (I cheated and used canned sweet potatoes)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, melted

For the topping:
1/3 cup flour
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar, packed

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a casserole dish
2. Combine sweet potatoes, sugar, eggs, vanilla, buttermilk and butter in a medium bowl.
3. Pour into casserole dish and bake for 25-30 minutes.

If you would like to make this dish ahead, mix everything up, cover and put it in the fridge.  When ready take it out and bake uncovered, it can be made up to 2 days before.

While the casserole is baking make the topping.  Combine flour, pecans, butter and brown sugar in a small bowl.  When casserole is done baking remove from oven and evenly sprinkle topping over it.  Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.  The topping should be lightly browned and crunchy. Let it sit for 30 minutes before serving.

Cornbread Dressing - this is my GranMary's recipe
1 recipe of cornbread, baked and crumbled
6-8 slices of bread
Celery Seed
Onion, chopped
Green pepper, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
4 eggs
Lots of turkey juice, use Chicken Broth if you do not have enough juice from the turkey - you want it as moist as possible before you bake it

1. Break up cornbread and bread into crumbs.
2. Add all other ingredients and stir well.
3. Bake at 400 until brown - about 45 minutes

Sautéed Spinach- found through Pinterest this is not a traditional Thanksgiving side for me but it was delicious and will definitely be repeated as an everyday side

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 bags spinach, rinsed
1 tablespoon lemon juice I was out of lemon juice so substituted lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Heat oil in saucepan on medium-high until hot, add garlic and cook 1 minute or until golden.
2. Add spinach, in 2 - 3 batches.  Cook 2 minutes or until all spinach is in the pot.  Cover and cook 2 to 3 more minutes stirring once. 
3. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and salt.

Finally, it is dessert time!!

Hummingbird Cake I have a difficult time explaining this recipe to friends but after several friends tried it and fell in love with it this week I don't think it needs much of a is covered in Cream Cheese Frosting, enough said! This cake recipe is one of my favorites from my mom's cookbook compilation of our favorite recipes.

Cake Ingredients
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
8 ounces crushed pineapple, undrained
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups chopped bananas

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
3. Add eggs, vanilla, and oil.
4. Stir in pineapple, pecans, and bananas.
5. Pour mixture in greased cake pans.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  This recipe made 3 layers.

Cake Frosting Ingredients
1/2 cup margarine, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
16 ounces powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Steps for Frosting
1. Cream margarine and cream cheese together.
2. Blend in sugar and vanilla.
3. Frost on the cake.

Hummingbird cake is best each day after baking and the cake needs to be refrigerated after baking but served closer to room temperature.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Truffles - I told you it was my new favorite fall dessert and in case you didn't make it after the first blog post I'm reposting the recipe

1/2 cup of white chocolate chips
1/3 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs
1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of fine salt
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups white chocolate almond bark I used 3 cubes

1. Melt the 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips, stir often to avoiding burning.  Transfer to mixing bowl.
2. Add gingersnap crumbs, pumpkin, graham cracker crumbs, sugar, zest, cinnamon, salt and cream cheese and beat with electric mixer until smooth.
3. Cover and chill in fridge for about 2 hours or until solid enough to roll into balls.
4. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and work on rolling mixture into balls (about 1 teaspoon).  I then put the cookie sheet in the freezer for about 30 minutes.
5. Melt almond bark, at no more than 30 second intervals, stirring often until melted. Dip truffle in chocolate and place back on cookie sheet and refrigerate until completely set, about 1 hour.
6. Sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs and ENJOY!

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and maybe next year can add some of these recipes to your table!