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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Slow Cooked BBQ Chicken

After yesterday's post, I just had to follow up with a great way to use the amazing barbecue sauce, so I'm sharing with you a simple recipe for slow cooked BBQ chicken.  I love making dinners in my slow cooker!  I can just throw the ingredients in and forget about it, and it always results in tender, juicy chicken.  Of course, with this sauce, you really can't go wrong!

This recipe requires very few ingredients.  Just onions, chicken, and the barbecue sauce.  The barbecue sauce lends so many flavors to the dish, you really don't need much else.  Served with a side of corn bread, this was the perfect meal for a relaxing night in.

Slow Cooked BBQ Chicken

1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced into half moons
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Layer the onions in the bottom of a slow cooker.  Place chicken on top of onions.  Pour barbecue sauce over the chicken.  Cover the slow cooker and cook on low until the chicken is fork-tender and the sauce has slightly thickened, about 5-6 hours.  

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Best Barbecue Sauce

I've never been a huge health nut, and luckily, have never had to care about my weight, but I still have concerns about eating right, simply for my own health and wellness.  When I shop for groceries, I like to look at the labels and make sure the products I'm buying do not have two things:  MSG or high fructose corn syrup.  Sounds simple enough...right?  

No!  Because high fructose corn syrup is in literally everything nowadays--salad dressing, juice, bread, cereal, and sauces, just to name a few.  So, whenever I can, I prefer to make these types of things from scratch.  Not only is it healthier, since I know exactly what I'm putting into it, but it tastes better and fresher too.  

This particular barbecue sauce recipe I found from Mel's Kitchen Cafe definitely lives up to its name. It is, by far, the best barbecue sauce I've ever had!  It's not terribly complicated to make, and the best part is, this sauce freezes very well.  You could double the recipe and freeze the leftovers in a freezer-safe container of Ziploc freezer bag for another use.  

The Best Barbecue Sauce

Recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
Yield:  about 7 cups of sauce

2 cups ketchup
2 cups tomato sauce
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 1/4 cups red wine vinegar
1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
2 Tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
4 tsp hickory flavored liquid smoke
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper

In a large saucepan, over medium heat, mix together all the wet ingredients and then add the seasonings.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The sauce will thicken as it simmers (and as it cools).  Ideally, plan ahead and allow the mixture to simmer for about an hour.  Use the sauce to brush onto meats the last 10 minutes of grilling, or use in any other recipe where barbecue sauce is used.

Once cooled, the sauce can be frozen or stored in the refrigerator for up to a month.  If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator and use as needed.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Coming up on The Beachside Baker...

I'm baaaaack!  Finally, my school semester is over, the Christmas madness has finally come to an end, my company started its winter shutdown, and I can start posting some recipes!  Although it may have been quiet here on the blog this past month, I've been really busy in the kitchen!  I'm excited to share some new things with you.  Here's a sneak peek of what I'll be sharing in the next few weeks:

The BEST barbecue sauce, which will be an important ingredient for...

Slow Cooked Barbecue Chicken

Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas (a favorite in our house)

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Mom's Famous Rice Stuffing (AKA Bacon Rice!)
Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
Scandinavian Almond Bars

Lemon Cupcakes

Chocolate S'mores Cupcakes

Can't wait to share them all with you!  Check back tomorrow for a new post!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Milkshake

Happy Thanksgiving!  

I hope everyone enjoyed their time with their families and ate a lot of good food.  I know I sure did!  I was very grateful to be able to spend time with my boyfriend's family this year, since this year we'll be visiting my family for Christmas.  We had A LOT of food, and some amazing desserts.  Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, traditional stuffing, rice stuffing, cranberry-blackberry sauce, and coleslaw were some of the dishes we enjoyed, along with plenty of pies--chocolate, pumpkin, and cherry pie!  We also had some amazing appetizers, such as warm brie with honey, nuts, and cranberries, bruschetta, and a variety of cheese and crackers.  Whatever you ended up eating for Thanksgiving, I hope you ended up full and satisfied, and remembered to give thanks to those things that we are very fortunate to have.  

If you are anything like me, you may have been doing a lot of pumpkin baking lately.  We've had a few different types of pumpkin recipes posted here during the last couple of months.  However, after baking so many pumpkin treats, I found myself stuck with a bit of leftover pumpkin.  I hate to waste perfectly good food, so if you have any leftover pumpkin sitting in your fridge, use it the same way I did and make a pumpkin pie milkshake!

I have to admit, I love pumpkin pie but I've always been skeptical of milkshake flavors that seem to stray from the norm.  Strawberry, vanilla and chocolate varieties are usually the only types of milkshakes I'm used to, but since I needed to use up my leftover pumpkin I decided to give this recipe a go.  I found this recipe on several blogs, but my first discovery of this recipe was from Our Best Bites.  

Ingredients:  milk, pumpkin, brown sugar, vanilla, ground cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla ice cream, and graham crackers.

Please believe me when I say this milkshake is amazing.  REALLY amazing!  I was never expecting to love it as much as I did, but I think this took my love of pumpkin pie to a whole new level.  The vanilla ice cream really adds to the pumpkin flavor, and I was pleased with the fact that this recipe calls for the individual spices, rather than "pumpkin pie spice," like I've seen in other pumpkin milkshake recipes (because who has pumpkin pie spice in their spice cabinet?  You use it only once or twice a year and then sits in your cabinet untouched.  I think its much better to just make your own, as needed).  

Most of the ingredients are things you should have on hand...just pick up a pint of vanilla ice cream and graham crackers if you don't have them, and you're set!  It's so simple and worthwhile to pull out the blender to make this milkshake.  It's a cold treat you won't want to pass up!

Pumpkin Pie Milkshake

Recipe from Our Best Bites
Yield:  one LARGE milkshake (or two small ones)

1/3 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/16 tsp cloves (or about one pinch)
1/16 tsp nutmeg (one pinch)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 cups vanilla ice cream
1 graham cracker

Pour everything but the graham cracker in a blender.  Blend until thoroughly mixed (you may have to stir it around a bit with a spoon as you blend like I did.  Some blenders may not blend well because of the thickness of the ice cream).  Pour into a large glass and sprinkle with crushed graham cracker.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream Cheese Filling


Lately, I've been seeing a lot of creative whoopie pies posted on the various blogs I read, and it has really gotten me interested in trying to make whoopie pies myself.  I've seen many recipes for the traditional whoopie pie:  chocolate with marshmallow fluff filling.  However, since it's almost Thanksgiving, I decided to choose something seasonal and make this pumpkin variation from Brown Eyed Baker.  

I love pumpkin, but what really got my attention was the maple cream cheese filling.  It sounded like the perfect flavor of filling to be sandwiched between the spiced pumpkin cake.  Biting into one of these amazing pies really brings out the flavors of fall.  The pumpkin cake has a very moist, delicate texture, and the addition of spices add a touch of Thanksgiving.  The cream cheese filling is light and creamy, with a subtle hint of maple that blends perfectly with the pumpkin.  It adds just the right amount of richness to this treat, without taking it too far.  

Since this was my first time making whoopie pies, I was initially a bit surprised by the amount of batter this recipe made.  I used a large bowl, and it was almost filled to the brim!  But, as I scooped the batter onto the cookie sheets, it ended up being just the right amount to make 12 large whoopie pies (about the size of a coaster)...so don't be alarmed if you try this recipe!  As long as you use a large heaping spoonful of batter for each cookie, you should end up with 12 whoopie pies.  You can also adjust your scoop size down to make smaller pies if you desire, and you'll end up with a lot more than 12!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream Cheese Filling

Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
Yield:  about 12 large assembled whoopie pies

For the whoopie pies:
3 cups all purpose flour
2 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
3 cups chilled pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling:
3 cups confectioners' sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper, or use a silicone baking mat, and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, and nutmeg.  Set aside.

In a separate large bowl, mix the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and the oil together.  Add the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine.  Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix well until combined.  

Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet mixture, and mix together until incorporated.  

Using a large tablespoon, drop a heaping spoonful of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.  

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  The tops of the cookies should be starting to crack, and should be firm when touched.  Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes.  Then remove to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

To make the filling:  beat the butter on medium speed until smooth with no visible lumps, about 3 minutes.  Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth and well combined, about 2 minutes.  Add the confectioners' sugar, a little at a time, then add the maple syrup and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.

To assemble the whoopie pies:  Turn half of the cooled cookies upside down.  Pipe the filling generously onto one half.  Then place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling.  Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges of the cookie.  Repeat until all cookies have been used.  Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm before serving.

  • I highly recommend using 100% pure maple syrup.
  • For filling cookies, no need for fancy piping tips and piping bags.  Simply spoon the filling into a large Ziploc bag.  Seal, then cut the bottom corner of with a pair of scissors and gently squeeze filling out of the hole.

Monday, November 21, 2011

White Chicken Chili

I have a few more pumpkin recipes coming up, but I figured I'd break it up by first sharing this white chicken chili recipe.  This recipe has been a regular in my house ever since I discovered it a year ago, at Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  I've never been much of a traditional chili fan and didn't really grow up eating it as a child.  My mom cooked a lot of dinners for my family over the years, but chili was definitely not one of them.  Although I have grown to enjoy it, no traditional chili recipe will ever compare to this white chicken chili. 

This white chicken chili isn't just something I kind of like.  In fact, I can confidently say that I LOVE this chili.  Traditional chili reminds me more of a summer BBQ, but this chili reminds me of cozy nights at home, sitting on the couch with a blanket, listening to the rain outside...

...you get the idea?  It's pretty much my idea of winter in a bowl. 

I especially love the fact that this chili is made with chicken instead of ground beef or turkey.  The hearty cubes of chicken provide a healthy dose of protein, and blends wonderfully with the creamy white chili sauce.  I feel that the amount of spices are perfect.  The cayenne pepper gives a subtle amount of heat that provides just enough spice to give the chili a little "kick," but it is perfectly tolerable for those who aren't fans of spicy foods.  This is also a great base recipe that can be adapted to fit your own personal vegetable preferences.  You can even exchange the chicken meat for leftover Thanksgiving turkey!

This recipe is definitely one of the top ten recipes I make.  Plus, my boyfriend specifically requests this chili, so that alone makes it a keeper!  I highly suggest you try this recipe, because I am confident that you will not be disappointed.  And like I said, it's a great way to use those turkey leftovers!

White Chicken Chili

Recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
Yield:  Serves 6

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch  cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder or 2 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp oil
2 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chicken broth
2 cans (4 ounces each) chopped green chilies
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a large saucepan, saute chicken, onion, and garlic in oil, until chicken is no longer pink.  Add beans, broth, chilies, and seasonings.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in sour cream and heavy cream.  Serve immediately.

*Although I haven't tried the slow-cooker method yet, I've included Mel's slow cooker instructions below:

Slow Cooker Option: In a medium round slow cooker, place 1 pound chicken breasts (fresh or frozen) without cubing them. Add the chopped onion, garlic powder, beans, green chiles and all of the spices. Do not add the sour cream or whipping cream yet! Reduce the chicken broth to 12 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) and pour in over the other ingredients. Stir the mixture around a bit to incorporate the dry spices. Cook on low for 5-7 hours (if using frozen chicken you’ll cook on the longer end of that spectrum, fresh chicken will cook in less time). Remove the chicken to a cutting board and shred in bite-size pieces. Stir back into the slow cooker. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the sour cream and whipping cream  until smooth. Whisk the cream mixture into the crockpot with the other ingredients. Let the soup cook until heated through. Serve.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Muffins with Pecan Streusel Topping

I think it's about time that I share another pumpkin recipe, don't you?  This pumpkin muffin recipe was discovered about a month ago, just as the fall recipe season was really picking up in the blogging world.  I found this recipe at Brown Eyed Baker, a blog that I read on a regular basis.

I happen to love any sweet treat that includes pumpkin, so what could better than a pumpkin and cream cheese combination?  Plus, I really love the pumpkin and cream cheese muffin from Starbucks, so I figured I'd give this recipe a go.  And the results?  This muffin tastes amazing!  The cream cheese filling has just enough flavor to meld with the pumpkin flavor, without it being too overwhelming, and the subtle flavor of spices gives it that warmth that every fall recipe requires.  And the streusel topping...well, that just takes it over the top!  I love the nutty, sugary topping, which gives this muffin a delicate crunch.  I just wish I had used more pecans.  I loved the pecans!

Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, this would be a great muffin to have for breakfast on Thanksgiving day.  Their fall flavor will set the tone for the rest of the days treats, and will keep everyone's stomachs satisfied but not full, which is perfect, since we all need to save room for the turkey!  And since your Thanksgiving morning will probably be very busy, feel free to make these ahead of time and keep in a airtight container in the fridge.  These taste great even when heated up in the microwave.  I kept mine refrigerated and just nuked them for about 15-30 seconds every time I needed a quick snack.

If you love cream cheese and pumpkin, give these muffins a try.  They are guaranteed to be a hit!

Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Muffins with Pecan Streusel Topping
Print this recipe

Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker
Yield:  12 muffins

For the cream cheese filling:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the streusel:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

For the muffins:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
5 ounces (1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp) vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.  Set aside.

Make the cream cheese filling:  In a medium bowl, stir together the cream cheese and confectioners' sugar  until smooth.  Add the vanilla, and mix well.  On a piece of plastic wrap, form the cream mixture into a 12-inch log.  Wrap it and freeze for about an hour.

Make the pecan streusel:  In a small bowl, use a fork to combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and butter.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

In another bowl, lightly beat the sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil, and vanilla.  Pour the pumpkin mixture over the dry ingredients, and gently combine just until mixture is incorporated.

Remove cream cheese log from the freezer, and slice into 12 1-inch slices.  Scoop a small amount of batter into the prepared muffin cups.  Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each cup, then cover with remaining batter.

Sprinkle the pecan streusel topping generously over each muffin.  Press on the tops lightly to make sure the topping adheres to the batter.

Bake muffins in the oven until golden, about 20-25 minutes.  Cool in pan for about 5 minutes, then remove muffins and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Muffins may be brought to room temperature, or microwaved briefly before serving.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ground Beef Taco Bowls

I have a confession to make.  One that may make you think I'm strange, or make you think that maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about when it comes to food, because I do something some people think is really odd...but I'll let you be the judge.

I put ketchup on my tacos.  Not salsa.  Ketchup.

There. I said it. 

Is it really THAT weird?  Because my boyfriend seems to think so.  But...people put tomatoes in their tacos, right?  So isn't ketchup just an adaptation of that?  

Someone please tell me that I'm not the only one who does this...

The reason why I'm telling you about my strange habit is because sometimes I just get a strong craving for tacos, so instead of getting those unhealthy-but-oh-so-good deep-fried 99 cent Jack in the Box tacos (which unfortunately, is on my way home) I'll stop by the store and pick up one of those ready-to-eat roast chickens, and simply shred the meat and make myself homemade chicken tacos (with ketchup).  And it definitely makes me feel healthier...


...sometimes I don't want chicken tacos.  I want the ground beef goodness, with all the flavor and spices!  I suppose I could grab one of those taco seasoning packages at the grocery store, which is easy but also full of sodium and other unhealthy add-ins.  So, instead I make my own ground beef taco meat.  It is a million times better than the seasoning packet kind, and makes me forget about those Jack in the Box tacos.  The next time you're craving tacos, or just need to make a quick, simple dinner, make it a taco night and try this recipe.  Trust me, this homemade ground beef taco meat is satisfying and gooooooood!  

Ground Beef Taco Bowls

Recipe slightly adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
Yield:  Serves 4

2 Tbsp canola oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 pound ground beef
1 to 3 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (optional)

Taco shells or bowls
Additional taco garnishes 

In a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil and chopped onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the ground beef and cook, breaking up the meat, until cooked through and no longer pink, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and drain the remaining grease.  

Return the skillet to the stove and add garlic and dry seasonings.  Stir and cook for about 30 seconds and then add the tomato sauce and jalapeno, if using.  Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve in taco shells with your choice of toppings.

  • The tacos pictured have ground beef taco meat, black beans, fire roasted corn, shredded lettuce, and Mexican blend shredded cheese.  Tomatoes would be a great addition too and would add beautiful color, but I didn't have any at the time...but I DID have ketchup. ;)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bacon, Mushroom, & Spinach Quiche

Wow, I can't believe that it's almost Thanksgiving!  School has been busier than ever, so these last few weeks have been such a blur to me.  I started a new pre-nursing dosage calculation class a couple weeks ago, so I've had a lot of math on my mind lately, but luckily I've been able to squeeze in quite a few recipes.  That means that I've got a lot of posts coming up throughout the next few weeks so get ready!  To start, let's go back to a couple Sundays ago, when I made this delicious bacon, mushroom, and spinach quiche.

My boyfriend came up with the idea to make a quiche after a morning of watching football.  This was a great idea for two reasons.  #1:  Tony LOVES quiche...and so do I.  #2:  I had some extra veggies in the fridge that I needed to use up, so throwing them in this quiche recipe was a great solution.  I was able to throw this quiche together in about 15 minutes, and return to watch the game while it baked in the oven.  After 40 minutes of baking, this quiche was ready to eat.  The edges of the crust were crisp and golden brown in color, and the egg filling was cooked to a perfect, firm texture.

The combination of bacon, eggs, cheese, and veggies results in a very satisfying mid-day meal. This recipe is a great go-to quiche recipe, and is very adaptable to whatever veggies you have leftover in your own kitchen.  Since I wasn't in the mood to spend a lot of time in the kitchen that day, I used a store-bought pie crust, but you can definitely use a homemade crust recipe if you have the time!  I will probably update this post with my own crust recipe if I make it in the future, but for now, enjoy the simplified version.

Bacon, Mushroom, & Spinach Quiche
Print this recipe

Recipe adapted from Picky Palate
Yield:  8 servings

1 refrigerated 9-inch pie crust
1/2 pound chopped bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
4 oz sliced mushrooms
4 oz fresh baby spinach
8 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line a 9-inch pan with pie crust.  Using a fork, poke holes in the bottom of the crust and partially bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and cook bacon, stirring until browned, about 10 minutes.  Transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate and discard drippings.  Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 10 minutes.  Add mushrooms and spinach, and cook for about 5 more minutes, until mushrooms are tender and spinach is wilted.  Remove from heat.

Add eggs, milk, salt, and pepper to a large bowl and whisk to combine.  Add cooked bacon, onions, mushrooms, spinach, and about half of the shredded cheese to the egg mixture and mix together.  Pour egg mixture into pie crust, and sprinkle the remaining cheese and parsley on top.  Bake for 40 minutes, or until edges are golden and center of quiche is firm.  Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before slicing.


  • I apologize for my so-so quality pictures.  Since I made this quiche later in the day, the lighting wasn't very good for food photography.  I contemplated even posting this recipe, but it was so delicious that I had to share, good quality photos or not!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Soup (with Bacon & Maple Croutons)

Every year when October rolls around, I get so excited to see all of the bright orange pumpkins on display in the grocery stores.  The sight of pumpkins piled high in the grocery bins causes my mind to immediately drift toward thoughts of pumpkin breads, muffins, pies, and any other type of common pumpkin-flavored treat.  However, although baking with pumpkin is something very familiar to me, I am quite a novice when it comes to using pumpkin in savory types of dishes. 

Ellie, of Gourmand Recipes, has caused me to rethink my use of pumpkin, and has inspired me to try something new.  She recently posted a recipe for Pumpkin Soup, which includes bacon and maple croutons.  Bacon and maple--you can never go wrong with this flavor combination!  As if these additions weren't convincing enough, she is known for including beautiful food photos in each of her recipe posts, and this pumpkin soup recipe is no exception.  Her food photography is really something extraordinary.  Not only do her photos make the food look delicious, but they always seem so bright and comforting.  I can only hope that my photos can someday come close to her level, but for now, I do what I can with my handy digital point-and-shoot camera.  I really recommend going to her website to find some other great recipes and see the amazing photos.

When I first saw this recipe, I couldn't help but be interested in the idea of using fresh pumpkins to make soup.  I've never made pumpkin soup before, but the recipe sounded easy enough.  The bacon and homemade maple croutons sounded like their flavors would meld perfectly with the comforting flavor of the pumpkin. 

I used one 4-lb fresh sugar pie pumpkin from Trader Joe's to make this soup.  Since it was my first time, I did a little research to learn how to prepare this sugar pie pumpkin.  I found a great tutorial here.  Despite the requirement of removing the seeds, peeling the skin, and cutting into cubes, it was well worth the effort!  It resulted in an amazing, comforting soup that was the perfect dish to welcome fall.  If you're in the mood for something that is hearty and satisfying, head over to Gourmand Recipes for this great recipe!

Pumpkin Soup (with Bacon & Maple Croutons)
Recipe from Gourmand Recipes
Yield:  Serves 6

Get this recipe here!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gourmet Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

I love Halloween.  Not just because of the costumes and parties, but because of all the nostalgic activities there are to do that remind me of being a kid.  Pumpkin carving, roasting seeds, and watching Halloween movies on TV (like Hocus Pocus and Addams Family) are all Halloween traditions that bring back memories, and I still enjoy to this day.  

This past week, I went to Trader Joe's and bought two medium-sized pumpkins for Tony and I to carve.  Despite our busy schedules, we finally got the chance to sit down and carve our pumpkins last night, while watching the USC vs Stanford college football game.  It's been a few years since I've carved a pumpkin, but it was a lot of fun, and a nice change from our usual Saturday night activities.  I think even Tony, the self-proclaimed "non-artistic" one, enjoyed carving his pumpkin.  His came out very good, and very scary looking!

Tony's pumpkin

My pumpkin
Although pumpkin carving is fun, I think I was more excited to get the seeds out of the pumpkins than to actually carve them!  I love homemade roasted pumpkin seeds; they have a toasty flavor that you can't get from store-bought roasted pumpkin seeds.  Also, I had recently found recipes for some unique flavors on one of my favorite blogs, Dollhouse Bake Shoppe, so I was very anxious to try them out.  Lindsay, from Dollhouse Bake Shoppe, always has a lot of creative baking ideas so please check out her blog when you have the time.  I think you may find a lot of other great ideas there!

After cleaning and drying the seeds, I ended up making four different flavors:  Parmesan-Garlic, Flamin' Hot, Pumpkin Pie Spiced, and Butter & Salt.  Tony and I both thought that they were all pretty amazing, although with my sweet-tooth, I automatically favor the sugary pumpkin pie spiced seeds.  If you are planning to carve pumpkins tonight or if you already did and saved your seeds, try these recipes from Dollhouse Bake Shoppe! They provide a great variety of flavors, and are definitely delicious and addicting!

Gourmet Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Recipe from Dollhouse Bake Shoppe

Pumpkin seeds from a medium-sized pumpkin (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
*Seasoning blend of your choice:

*SWEET - Pumpkin Pie Spiced
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
*SALTY - Parmesan Garlic
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
*SPICY - Flamin' Hot
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
*TRADITIONAL - Butter & Salt
1/4-1/2 tsp salt, depending on your taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Prepare a sheet pan by lining with parchment paper or foil.  Set aside.
Toss seeds with butter and seasonings, to taste.  Pour the seeds into the prepared pan and spread out in a single layer.  Bake for about 30-45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool before eating.  Store in an airtight container.

I used seeds from 2 medium-sized carving pumpkins plus one sugar pie pumpkin, and split each recipe in half to make all four flavor variations.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Caramel Apple Cider Cookies

Fall baking for me can be a little tough...


Because my boyfriend, Tony, isn't a huge fan of pumpkin.  (He's crazy, I tell you.)  But let me add that he is not a picky eater at all, although this may seem to be the case.  Thank goodness, he is pretty open to any strange food I put in front of him...just as long as it's not pumpkin.

Or blueberries.

Or mustard.  DEFINITELY not mustard... 

So, even though I do buy pumpkin and make a variety of pumpkin baked goods every year when October rolls around, I've had to make an effort to also find fall recipes that use other fall ingredients.  Over the past month, I've been sifting through the endless posts on Pinterest, and organizing a collection of Fall recipes.  Among the many I've collected, one recipe that stuck out in particular was the one for Caramel Apple Cider Cookies.

This cookie recipe was from the website, Gimme Some Oven, one of my favorite food blogs.  When I first saw the picture on Ali's blog, I couldn't help but immediately crave a bite of one of these.  The gooey caramel in the middle of the cookie looked so amazing, and I love the flavor combination of apples and caramel. 

These cookies are really easy to make!  The recipe is pretty straight-forward.  The only unusual ingredients you will need to buy is a box of Alpine spiced apple cider drink mix and some chewy caramel candies.  Ali used Kraft caramels.  I couldn't find these at the store, so I used Werther's chewy caramels, cut into halves, instead.  The rest of the ingredients are pretty common items that you should already have in your kitchen. 

I encourage you to try these cookies.  These definitely gave me the feeling of fall and made the house smell so good!  If you have someone like Tony in your life who doesn't like pumpkin, or is tired of the same old pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, etc., then this is definitely a cookie recipe that you must try!

Caramel Apple Cider Cookies

Recipe adapted from Gimme Some Oven, slightly adapted from The Cooking Photographer via Scrambled Henfruit.
Yield:  Approximately 4 dozen, depending on the size of your dough

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 (7.4 oz) box Alpine Spiced Apple Cider Instant Original Drink Mix (not sugar free)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 (5.5 oz) bag Werther's Original Chewy Caramels, cut into halves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silpat (to prevent melted caramel from sticking to pan).
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon, and set aside.  In a medium sized bowl (or bowl of an electric mixer), cream together butter, sugar, salt, and all 10 packages of apple cider drink mix, until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, until combined.  Add vanilla and mix well.  Gradually add flour mixture to wet ingredients, and mix just until combined. 
Scoop out cookie dough ball about the size of a walnut (about 2 Tbsp).  Flatten the ball of dough in the palm of your hand. Place a caramel candy in the center of the dough and seal the dough around it, covering it completely.  Reshape the dough into a ball and place on prepared cookie sheets, about 3 inches apart. 
Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until very lightly browned on the edges.  Remove from oven and carefully slide the parchment paper off of the cookie sheet and onto the counter.  Let cookies cool for a couple minutes on the parchment paper, then carefully twist off the parchment paper and allow to finish cooling upside down. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hummingbird Cupcakes

When I first saw this cupcake recipe on Annie's Eats, I had no idea what kind of cupcake to expect.  The name, "Hummingbird Cupcake," was very unfamiliar to me.  However, after reading through the ingredients list, I discovered that it sounded like something I would definitely enjoy!  Plus, I've tried many cupcake recipes from Annie's Eats, and none have ever disappointed me, so I knew that this recipe would be no exception.

This cupcake consists of a blend of banana, pineapple, shredded coconut, and chopped walnuts, giving it a fruity, slightly tropical flavor.  The addition of cream cheese frosting blends perfectly with these flavors, resulting in a sweet, delightful cupcake!

I made these cupcakes to bring to work (in honor of my supervisor's belated birthday) to share with co-workers, so I decided to make half of the batch with walnuts, and half without.  I also experimented with the topping, garnishing some with toasted shredded coconut, and some with toasted chopped walnuts.  Out of the two, I preferred the "with-nuts" version, but they taste great either way!

Although my method was simpler and quicker, I really like the idea Annie used to decorate her cupcakes.  She actually used fresh pineapple to make beautiful dried pineapple flowers (see her photos and the "how-to" here).  When I make these again (and I will!) I would like to try making the flowers.  They really add an elegant touch to the appearance of the cupcake, and make them look so fancy!

Hummingbird Cupcakes

Recipe from Annie's Eats
Yield:  about 24 cupcakes

For the cupcakes
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
11 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/3 cups mashed ripe bananas
2/3 cup crushed pineapple, drained
2/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (I used sweetened, but reduced the sugar to a little over 1 cup)

For the frosting:
8 oz cream cheese
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted

For the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare cupcake pan with paper liners.  In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Whisk together and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter, vanilla, and sugar, until well blended and smooth.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add the mashed bananas and mix until combined.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually add in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Gently fold in the pineapple, nuts (optional), and coconut with a spatula until evenly mixed. 

Divide the batter into cupcake liners, filling each about 3/4 full.  Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:
Combine the cream cheese and butter in a bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth (about 2-3 minutes).  Add the vanilla extract and mix until combined.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the confectioner's sugar until incorporated.  Increase the speed and beat until smooth.  Frost cooled cupcakes, and decorate as desired.  

*Depending on how much frosting you use, you may need to increase the recipe.  If you decide to pipe on your frosting like I did, I recommend increasing the frosting recipe by 50%.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sweetheart Cookies

Sweetheart cookies are made on a regular basis in my house, so pretty much anyone who knows me well has tasted these cookies at least once.  This is my go-to recipe for parties, unexpected visitors, or just because.  Not only are they delicious and pretty to look at, but they are so simple and easy to make!  They require only a few ingredients which I almost always have on hand, so they can be made at a moments notice.

I first made these cookies years ago, after purchasing the 2003 Taste of Home Christmas Cookies recipe booklet that I found while waiting in line at the grocery store.  Who knew that in that booklet was this gem of a recipe (along with many other great ones)!  The $4.00 spent on that recipe booklet was the best $4.00 I've ever spent!  I've made this recipe too many times to count.  In fact, so many times that I have the recipe memorized.

These sweet, buttery cookies have the perfect texture.  They are light and crispy, and contain a well of tart raspberry jam.  I'm excited to share these cookies with you all, because they are the most requested cookie recipe I own, and did I mention, these are SO SIMPLE!

I made these cookies this weekend, after learning that we would be having some friends over to visit.  Since these friends were from out of town, I wanted to make something special to serve to them upon their arrival.  I immediately knew these sweetheart cookies would be perfect.  In less than one hour, I had these cookies baked, dishes washed, and ready to serve!  Our friends loved them, and of course, the cookies were finished by the end of the night!
Try these cookies!  It's a quick, simple recipe, and a great addition to your recipe collection.  I guarantee they will become a favorite in your home too!

Sweetheart Cookies

Yield:  about 2 dozen cookies
Recipe from Taste of Home's Christmas Cookies (2003 edition)

Due to copyright policies, I am unable to re-post the recipe directly on this blog, but please follow the "Get this recipe" link above to access the Sweetheart Cookie recipe from the Taste of Home website.

  • I always use Knott's seedless raspberry jam, for best results.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chocolate Bacon Brownies

From a glance, they just look like your average chocolate brownie...but trust me, they're not.  In fact, they are probably one of the most surprisingly delicious brownies I have ever tried!  The lackluster appearance of the brownies actually adds to the shock value, because it includes an unexpected combination of ingredients.  The most important ingredient of any brownie, of course, is chocolate.

Melted semi-sweet baking chocolate and butter--with these two things, you can't go wrong!
But what really takes these brownies to the top is the most surprising ingredient of all...


If you take a bite of these unusual brownies, you can expect to taste chocolate, which you do at first...but then, you'll begin to taste something meaty and flavorful.  The salty, smoky flavor of the bacon is the perfect contrast to the sweetness of the chocolate brownie.  It's subtle enough to not overwhelm the recipe, yet it provides another layer of flavor that will delight your taste buds in a extraordinary way.

You may have seen chocolate-covered bacon at your local county or state fair.  However, if you've tried it before and didn't like it, don't give up on this recipe yet!  I didn't like chocolate-covered bacon either, but decided to give these a try and I'm so glad I did.  The bacon in this recipe is precooked and chopped, then mixed in the batter.  This eliminates the strange textural issue I had with the chocolate-covered bacon from the fair.

I suppose if you're really brave, you can even cook some extra bacon and sprinkle the chopped bacon on the top of the batter before baking.  Another idea I had was making a caramel-bacon sauce to drizzle on the top of the baked brownies.  Either make your own caramel sauce, or use the store-bought kind, and simply infuse it with bacon flavor by mixing in the leftover bacon grease.

I know that the combination of bacon and chocolate may be strange, but at least give it a try!  It just might surprise you as much as it surprised me!

Chocolate Bacon Brownies
Print this recipe

Recipe adapted from the Ghirardelli Classic Brownie recipe, located on their baking bar label
Yield:  16 squares (one 8"x8" pan)

4 oz Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate baking bar (1 bar)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
3/4 cup & 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped
Reserved bacon grease

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.  Butter and flour an 8" x 8" pan.  In a heavy 1 1/2 qt. saucepan, melt chocolate bar and butter over low heat, stirring until smooth.  Remove pan from heat; cool to room temperature.  Stir in brown sugar and vanilla.  Add eggs, mix well.  In bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Slowly fold in flour mixture; mix well.  Stir in bacon pieces and 2-3 Tbsp of bacon grease.  Pour batter in pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.