Friday, November 23, 2012

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

In the post-Thanksgiving haze, what a better way to gear up for the holiday season than by continuing to stuff ourselves? The fall season is on its way out, so I'm sneaking in one last autumn dish before transitioning to Christmas mode. All my girlfriends from high school went out to celebrate our best friend Kara's birthday this Wednesday, so I made these cupcakes as a birthday gift (not that we needed more food). The only thing better than great cupcakes is sharing them with great people. And I'm thankful to have so many great people to come home to each holiday season. :)

I found this cupcake recipe on Martha Stewart which has never failed me, especially when it comes to baking. These were super moist and perfectly spiced - I think I found a new go-to recipe for the fall! Autumn cooking has always been my favorite, so don't be surprised if you see a few fall-inspired dishes in the off season. (E.g. these pumpkin blueberry scones I squeaked in early fall of last year.) However, I am looking forward to making some great comfort foods this winter. Happy start to the holiday season, everyone!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from Martha Stewart)
Makes: 18 cupcakes  Prep: 20 minutes  Total: 45 minutes

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup butter, melted and cooled
4 eggs
1 15-ounce can organic pumpkin
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
Extra cinnamon for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix sugars, butter and eggs until smooth. Pour the dry ingredients into the sugar mixture, then add pumpkin. Pour into cupcake tins and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
In the meantime, make the frosting by beating cream cheese and butter in an electric mixer on high. Turn off the mixer, add powdered sugar, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice, then beat on medium speed. Put in a piping bag and ice cupcakes when cooled. Garnish with additional cinnamon.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Easy and Decadent Homemade Tomato Soup

I have had a lot of recipes flop recently, which has attributed to a month of no blog posts. There's nothing more disappointing than investing several hours of development and execution on a recipe that doesn't quite make the cut. Specifically, 4 1/2 hours (of cooking alone) on a butternut squash lasagna that was "good" but way below my expectations. Siiiigh. On the bright side, this recipe is definitely worth the share. Last month's Bon Appetit featured an amazing spread on this dinner party idea - homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese! They took something so basic and made it upscale and delicious. And who doesn't love this combination?

It's perfect soup weather here in Boston (cue sniffles) so I made a huge batch of soup and had some girlfriends over. Like the article recommended I gathered several different types of cheese, then fried slices of bread on each side and let my friends arrange their own toppings before popping them in the oven. This was much faster than frying each sandwich and allowed for some creativity. If you want to get really fancy throw some meat, veggies or fruits into the mix and discover other unique grilled cheese combos. For tons of awesome, cheesy ideas (or if you simply want to drool some more) check out one of my favorite food porn blogs: Grilled Cheese Social!

Creamy Tomato Soup (from Bon Appetit)
Serves: 8  Prep: 30 minutes  Total: 1 hour, 30 mintues

1/4 cup butter
10 thyme sprigs
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes
2 tsp sugar, divided
1/2 cup heavy cream*
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large pot and add thyme, onion and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes on medium heat or until onion is cooked through. Add tomato paste and cook for another 5 minutes. Next, add whole tomatoes with juice, 1 tsp sugar and 8 cups water to the pot and turn heat on high. When the pot reaches a simmer, lower to medium heat and cook for 50-60 minutes or until about one cup or liquid evaporates.
Remove from heat and get rid of thyme sprigs. Puree soup in a food processor in parts and return to pot. Stir in heavy cream and season with salt, pepper and remaining 1 tsp sugar. Simmer for another 15 minutes before serving.

*The original recipe calls for only 1/4 cup heavy cream, but I strongly recommend 1/2 cup to achieve a thicker consistency and richer flavor.
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