Thursday, June 30, 2011

Vanilla Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting

As some of you know, my life has been turned upside down over the past few months. Major changes have affected the course of the future and I have faced my fair share of struggles. First and foremost, a big heartfelt thanks to everyone out there who has lent me their shoulder, ear, and kind words during this transition. I promise to keep bribing you with baked goods!

A few weeks ago I had another foodie order, this time for vanilla cupcakes with peanut butter buttercream frosting for someone's birthday. With this challenge at hand, off I went to dig up something tasty and inevitably put together these goodies using a Martha Stewart recipe for the cupcakes and a recipe for the frosting. Even thought I didn't receive any feedback from the folks who received the cupcakes, I am fairly confident this is the best vanilla cupcake recipe I've ever made and the peanut butter buttercream frosting was to die for!

On a side note, please be on the lookout soon for a special posting collaboration I'm doing with Frosting For The Cause. It is a wonderful group doing good things to raise awareness of the fight against cancer and am very excited to be able to participate!

Vanilla Cupcakes 
Adapted from: Martha Stewart 

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature 
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups rice milk
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated; scrape down sides of bowl, and beat in vanilla.
  • Add flour mixture and milk alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl.
  • Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about three-quarters full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan, and let cool completely on wire rack.

Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from:
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter, don't use old-fashioned or natural brand
  • 1 1/8 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 1/2 pinches table salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
In standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat butter and peanut butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add confectioners' sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds; scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bananas Foster Bread

Why yes, this bread is just as delicious as it looks! My new fad - add yummy (alcoholic) flavors to breakfast breads. Someone had already thought of this one, over at Sweetpea's Kitchen, however I still had to try my own take on it.

This is yet another example of why I MUST distribute my baked goods immediately or else I run the risk of being the human vacuum cleaner of food. I think I literally ate half a loaf of one of these bad boys. And it was worth every bite!

I didn't change much with the receipt other than to double it and modify a few ingredient amounts; it honestly didn't need it. And with the leftover rum, I am jumping into a few cupcake ideas which I plan to share with you lovely folk soon. Enjoy! And happy summer!!

Bananas Foster Bread
Adapted from: Sweetpea's Kitchen 

  1. 2 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana
  2. 2 cup packed brown sugar, divided
  3. 12 tablespoons butter (3/4 cup), melted and divided
  4. 1/2 cup dark rum, divided
  5. 2/3 cup plain fat-free yogurt
  6. 4 large eggs
  7. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 
  8. 3 cups all-purpose flour
  9. 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  10. 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  11. 1 teaspoon salt
  12. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  13. 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  14. 2/3 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and sides of two 9 x 5-inch loaf pan; dust with flour, tapping out excess.

In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, combine banana, 1 cup brown sugar, 10 tablespoons butter, and 6 tablespoons rum. Cook over medium heat until mixture begins to bubble. Remove from heat; cool. Place banana mixture in stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add yogurt, remaining 1 cup brown sugar, and eggs. Beat at medium speed until combined.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, flaxseed, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and allspice. With the mixer on low, add flour mixture to banana mixture and beat just until blended. Pour batter into the prepared pans. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove bread from pans; place on wire rack.

While the bread is cooling, make the glaze by combining remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter, remaining 2 tablespoons rum, and powdered sugar; stir until well blended. Drizzle over the warm bread. Try not to eat it all at once! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Whipped Herb Butternut Squash

Freshly returned from my first camping trip of the year. I'm one happy panda today. And I'm very grateful that we had a day of sunshine before the June rains returned. Yes, I said June. Sitting here warm and snug as a bug on the sofa, there are few things that sound more satisfying on a cloudy day than some homemade whipped herb butternut squash.

I don't know about you, but I am a HUGE fan of baked squash. The various squash plants in my garden are proof of this. One of the easiest and most versatile ways to eat squash is to whip it up like you would mashed potatoes. It's an extremely easy recipe and lends to any flavor matrix of your liking. This time around I made a herb blend with fresh sage and thyme - yummy! I highly encourage you to pick up some of your favorite hard skinned squash and have fun finding your own favorite dish. Enjoy!

Whipped Herb Butternut Squash
Similar to: 
  • 1-2 butternut squash, halved and seeded
  • Butter or Earth Balance Spread 
  • Herbs and seasoning of your liking
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Place squash halves cut side down in a medium baking dish with an inch or two of water. Cover, and bake 30 minutes. Then flip the squash over and bake open face up for another 20-30 minutes or until tender and able to pierce with a fork. Feel free to add butter and/or honey and/or seasonings at this point. 

Remove from the oven and let slightly cook. Then scoop squash from skin into a medium bowl, and mix with butter and seasonings. Whip until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. 

Seasoning options (not to be used all at the same time): sage, thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, honey, brown sugar, maple syrup, nutritional yeast, sour cream or yogurt, the options are endless here!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Big Girls & Flock Integration

My little feathered ladies aren't so little anymore. And my gosh, are they gorgeous birds! Doesn't Athena look very regal?

In this shot, LeLu is up front and inquisitive as ever, followed by the ever standoffish Barney, and a few tail feathers of the the blonde one of the bunch, Athena. They are definitely in their teens as pullets, but are showing some signs of calming down and leading normal chicken lives.

Over the last few weeks, I've slowly tried to integrate the two flocks (Starbuck seen above from the mature flock). For any chicken owners out there, you know how tricky this can be. Funny as it sounds, there truly is a pecking order within the lives of chickens. At the moment, Starbuck's near-twin Ramona is at the top chicken in the older flock. I don't think the younger ladies quite know much about this chicken hierarchy yet, but they are sure curious!

I admit, I have a sweet spot for this little lady. LeLu (one of the sci-fi named birds) is the sweetest little thing. She let's me carry her around, coo to her, and is the most calm of the pullets. Notice her tiny little crow developing? Yes, I'm becoming that crazy chicken lady (if I wasn't before).

Barney is definitely a wild bird in spirit. She never wants to be held, touched, petted, or have someone come too close to her. Her feathers are finally all coming in, and becoming so dark she is taking on a greenish-hue in the blackest areas (very pretty).

As of now, I have the newer flock's chicken tractor parked in the fenced in area where the older ladies roam. This has allowed the two flocks to observe each other through the safety of the chicken wire that keeps the pullets in their tractor.

Every few days, I let the two groups out together to graze, positioning myself in between the flocks to diffuse any tension. Ramona, being on the top rung, inevitably goes after one of the pullets to show her dominance, however every time we do this exercise it takes her a little longer to show aggression (a good sign). Once the pullets grow a wee bit more, likely another week or two, I will attempt the full on integration. Stay tuned because it will likely involve a few ruffled feathers!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Herb Garden

No home chef setup is complete without some sort of fresh herb garden. Whether it be a kitchen window garden or containers throughout your yard, fresh herbs go a long way for any dish. Plus there is some intrinsic connection between desiring a specific flavor and returning to the earth to collect it to add to your meal.

Therapy through gardening; enough said.

Over the years, I've added and subtracted from my herb garden. Other than the plants that won't make it more than a season, I keep my herb garden in containers as I tend to lead a semi-nomadic lifestyle. Being able to move my hardy herbs, like rosemary and oregano, allows me to maintain the ability to have a micro herb garden on the go.

Not too long ago I gifted a friend a bouquet of herbs as a foodie present. It contained a snip or sprig of everything I had to offer. Starting with the purple sage at noon on the plate above, going clockwise the bouquet had some peppermint, lemon balm, more peppermint, rosemary, two types of oregano, lavender, chives, tarragon, and two types of thyme (center). I also have some chamamile, but didn't add it to the gift as it is making its comeback at the moment. In a few weeks, I hope to make an even bigger herb bouquet with the addition of cilantro and basil, my seasonal herbs.

As I may have told you before, I am super blessed in that a neighbor a few streets over runs a full fledged nursery from her large yard. If you're a Eugenian and are on the hunt for some starts for your garden, stop by her facebook page for info/details and pay her a visit. Trust me, it's worth it! She has some of the best starts and plants in town. Happy gardening!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Easy Breezy Cornbread

On the fly, on the go - my motto during weeks of travel. And a week of travel awaits me! While I may be wandering off to the edge of the Midwest this next while, my heart and thoughts will be with baking. Sometimes I lay in an anonymous hotel room daydreaming of the next dish I plan to whip up upon my return home or showcase at an upcoming Shire-inspired event (Shire being my pet nickname for Eugene). This batch of cornbread was a very last minute idea, based off of a friend's amazing vegan cornbread recipe utilizing coconut milk and a sale on Bob's Red Mill products as my local grocery store.

What can I say? Yes, it is very much what I call a cheat recipe. Cheating in that the main staple isn't made from scratch, in this case being the cornbread mix. While I am a big supporter of eating the least processed food possible, especially packaged mixes, I trust Bob's Red Mill products to deliver good results. And I was pressed for time (who isn't these days??). The end result was scrumptious! And transformed into perfect cornbread stuffing as an upcycled leftovers dish. Enjoy!

Easy Breezy Cornbread
1 package of Cornbread Mix, such as Bob's Red Mill
1 1/2 c light coconut milk
2 tbsp canned diced green chilis
2 tbsp olive oil
2 eggs
1/4 c corn, frozen or fresh

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease an 8"x8" or 9"x9" baking dish.

Loosely following the directions for the cornbread mix, mix eggs, olive oil, coconut milk and green chilis together. Then incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, adding the corn along the way, and stir until mixed.

Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake as directed by the cornbread mix (usually around 30 minutes) or until a tester comes out clean when tested in the center.