Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Spiced Green Tomato Cupcakes

With the onslaught of darkness and cold, most of us gardeners out there have likely spent the last few weeks turning our gardens from summer wonderlands of bountiful fruit into leaf-covered, compost piles that will yield happy soil come spring. Picking the last of the green tomatoes is always a favorite time of year for me as I use the opportunity to come up with spiffy new recipes for using them up. No wasting around here!

This time around I decided to make a batch of cupcakes with my green tomatoes. Using two recipes as a starting point, I eeked out a delicious cupcake akin to carrot cake. To top things off, I opted for a low-fat cream cheese frosting which made the cupcakes outstanding.

Hands down, these babies have been the most popular baked good I've made all year. As with most of the tasty recipes, I had to gift away as many cupcakes as possible to prevent devouring them all. I think I stopped myself after I had consumed six cupcakes in a row...

Now, I highly encourage all of you to grab those last few green tomatoes laying around the house or yard and make a batch of these for the upcoming holiday. As you sit there, licking your sticky fingers, smiling at the delicious goodness of these cupcakes...you can thank me. Enjoy! 

Spiced Green Tomato Cupcakes 
Inspired by: Spiced Green Tomato Cake 
  • 2 1/2 cups pureed green tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Puree the green tomatoes in a food processor. Blend until smooth.

Preheat the over to 350 degrees F. Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners.

Cream together butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes in a mixing bowl, until well incorporated. Add eggs and beat until creamy. Next add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix. Finally, add the pureed tomato mixture and mix.

Sift together flour, spices, baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a separate bowl. Then add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, followed by the raisins and walnuts.

Pour the batter evenly into the cupcake pan, using 2/3 of a cookie scooper often works well.

Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow to completely cool before frosting.

Low Fat Cream Cheese Frosting
Inspired by: Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe 
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature 
  • 1 8-oz package of low fat cream cheese, room temperature 
  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
With an electric mixer, mix the butter and cream cheese together, about 3 minutes on medium speed until very smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

Add the vanilla extract and mix. Slowly add the powdered sugar. Keep adding until you get to desired sweetness and thickness.

Either spread on with a blunt knife or spatula, or spoon into a piping bag to decorate each cupcake. Refrigerate any leftover frosting for up to 4 days. It tastes especially delicious eaten by the spoon. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mediterranean Vegetable Pie

There is talk of snow for the coming weekend. I don't know about you, but I am certainly not ready for snow. The lazy, golden days of summer are still a recent memory for me and I want to revel in them for as long as possible. My first 10k race of the cooler season is this Saturday, with a forecast for freezing rain. Oh Northwest, how you tease and torment me. 

To keep warm and happy during these gray days, I am trying to eat as many vegetables as possible. Hearty dishes filled with tasty ingredients and love. This included my version of a Perry's Plate recipe, the Mediterranean Vegetable Pie.

Not being a fan of eggplant, I opted out of that ingredient from the start. I also modified the recipe by using fewer tomatoes, as well as both red and green ones. The farmer's market had fabulous yellow beets the weekend I made this dish, hence how they found their way into the pie. This is definitely a comfort food kind of recipe, perfect for a cold day. Enjoy and stay warm! 

Mediterranean Vegetable Pie
Adapted from: Mediterranean Roasted Vegetable Pie 

  • 2-3 small to medium green tomatoes, halved and cored
  • 1 large red tomato, halved and cored
  • 2 yellow beets, diced 
  • 1 medium-sized zucchini, cut into 1/3-inch dice
  • 1 medium-size onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup + 1 T olive oil 
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 T each, chopped fresh parsley, basil, and oregano leaves
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
  • 1 T rice wine vinegar
  • 4 T butter, melted
  • 8 sheets of phyllo dough (about 14x18 inches each), defrosted if frozen
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9x13 baking dish and a large rimmed baking sheet or shallow roasting pan.

Arrange tomatoes, cut-side down, in a single layer in the baking dish. Roast for about 30 minutes, until tomatoes are tender and begin to turn brown in spots.

Meanwhile, toss the beets, zucchini, and onion in a large bowl with 1/4 cup of the heat-safe oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Arrange in a shallow layer in the other prepared pan. (No need to wash the bowl. You'll use it again later.)

Place the roasting pan in the oven with the tomatoes. Roast for about 30 minutes until vegetables are tender and beginning to turn brown, stirring every 10 minutes or so. If both pans don't fit in the oven together, place the tomatoes on the middle rack and the vegetables on the bottom rack. Rotate them a couple of times for even roasting. When you remove all of the vegetables from the oven, reduce the temperature to 375 degrees F.

When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, pull the skins off. This should be easy, but don't worry about stubborn parts that stick. Combine the peeled tomatoes and roasted vegetables in the large bowl you used earlier. Add the garlic and fresh herbs. Toss to mix well, then gently mix in the cheese. Season lightly withe salt and pepper (to taste), adding the vinegar, if needed, to balance the sweetness of the tomatoes. DO AHEAD: You can make the filling up to two days ahead. Just cover and chill until it's needed.

Combine butter and remaining 1 T of oil. Brush some of the butter on the bottom of a deep 9 or 10 inch pie plate. Center 1 sheet of phyllo in the pie plate, allowing the edges to hang over. Brush the phyllo with a bit of butter. Top with 4 more sheets of phyllo, brushing each with butter before adding the next. (Arrange the sheets so there is excess hanging all around the pie plate instead of in just two places.) Spoon the vegetable and cheese mixture into the pie plate. Fold the edges over, brushing them with a little butter. Layer the remaining 3 sheets of phyllo over the top, brushing each layer with butter and either tucking the edges in the side of the plate or folding them toward the middle.

With a sharp, serrated knife, cut the pie into wedges through the top sheets only. Don't cut all the way through the bottom layer. Bake for 30 minutes, until crust is golden brown. (Maybe a few minutes longer if the filling has been refrigerated.)

Let the pie rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Many of you wonder what I do with my time besides bake. Funny thing is, I actually do quite a lot that doesn't involve an oven and a taste tester. One of my most recent endeavors has been exploring other areas of writing beyond the foodie realm, specifically submitting work to share on MyLivingDays. A brilliant forum for sharing news, stories, lifestyle tips, foodie exploration, and just about anything else you can dream of, MyLivingDays has become a creative outlet of sorts for me. Easy to use, share, and comment, MyLivingDays coins itself a midlife magazine for those seeking to take a departure from other busy, confusing social media platforms. A close friend is one of the co-founders and has done me the wonderful service of reminding me that there is an entire world of stuff to write about, if I would simply put down the measuring cup for a while. We all have our vices, right?

Here are a couple pieces I recently contributed. Check their website frequently for updates as they are soon to launch a small suite of social tools. Feel free to join and contribute to the voice of the masses!

Family Trumps Oktoberfest
Fall Into Great Food
The Elephant Called Grief
Tips: Navigate Airports Like A Pro


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pear Panda Puffs

After the Mediterranean themed foodie fest from last month, I ended up with leftover phyllo pastry sheets. What is a baker to do? Create a new recipe, of course. And that is exactly what I did with these little bundles. 

I call them Panda Puffs due to their adorable size, tasty filling, and the way they leave a smile on your face when you are finished. Finger licking goodness right here. 

It's insane how easy it was to make these. After doing one batch and realizing this, I went back to the oven and made a second batch for my pals (primarily because I had eaten my way through the first one). 

My changes to the original recipe include adding more spices for a fuller flavor and marinating the pears in Frangelico (a favorite of mine). I even made a little pear Frangelico cocktail with the leftover marinade (uber tasty). 

Don't forget to let the phyllo sheets thaw out overnight in the fridge. It makes them much easier to work with. Enjoy! 

Pear Panda Puffs 
Adapted from: Spiced Pear Phyllo Bundles 

  • 16 sheets frozen phyllo pastry, thawed overnight in the fridge 
  • 3/4 c melted butter
  • 1/2 c sugar + more for sprinkling over the top
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated is best)
  • 1/4 tsp ginger 
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 4 large pears, cored, sliced & marinated for at least 1 hour in Frangelico 
  • 1 egg + 2 tsp water (beaten together for eggwash)

Core and slice pears, then marinate them in a small bath of Frangelico for at least an hour. The longer the better!

Mix together spices and 1/2 cup sugar, then set aside.

Brush a sheet of phyllo pastry with butter and sprinkle the entire surface with about 1 tsp sugar. Top with a second sheet of phyllo pastry. Brush half this sheet with butter and sprinkle with about ½ tsp sugar. Fold the sheet in half to make about a 9x12 inch rectangle which will now have 4 layers of phyllo pastry. Place a pear half in the center of the shorter side of the rectangle and spoon about 2 tsp of the sugar and spice mixture over the pear half. Fold the two longest sides of the pastry to meet at the center of the sheet covering the pear half. Roll up the pear in the phyllo, leaving the seam on the bottom of the pastry covered pear.

Repeat for the other pear halves.

Brush the tops of the pastries with the egg wash and sprinkle the tops with turbinado sugar if desired.

Place the pastries, seam side down on a parchment covered cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is evenly golden brown. Makes around 8 bundles.