October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween and Ghastly Pumpkin Chocolate Swirl Cupcakes

I probably said this last Halloween but I'll say it again, I LOVE Halloween.  Unfortunately this year I haven't done such a good job of showing it.  You see, I thought and thought about an idea for a costume and when my friend Julia finally came up with one that was perfect for me (Cruella Deville) I turned all lazy and perhaps a bit too frugal.

So here I am on Halloween with no awesome costume to match previous years (Wednesday Addams, Minnie Mouse, 60's flight attendant, Betty Boop) but a lot of festive food* to make up for it.  Hopefully, Halloween will forgive me.

*I will be posting another Halloween themed recipe tomorrow!

Spiced Pumpkin Chocolate Swirl Cupcakes with Light Cream Cheese Icing
I found these cute little ghost shaped baking tins at Target, but obviously regular baking cups or even a bread or brownie pan will work just fine, for the latter two you will likely need to adjust the cooking time though.
Loosely adapted from Cooking Light and Make Me Hungry

1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cloves
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup non-fat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons melted butter
scant 1/4 cup canola oil
1 15oz can canned pumpkin

For the chocolate swirl:

1 cup batter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1/4 cup skim milk

For the icing:

These measurements are inexact, basically you just want to achieve an spreadable consistency.  Not too liquid-y and not too thick, unless you like it that way.

1- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon skim milk
1 tablespoon softened butter
3 tablespoons whipped cream cheese

Chocolate for decorating:
~2oz dark chocolate
splash milk or cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside.  In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, yogurt, vanilla, pumpkin, melted butter and oil and stir until well combined.  Pour the wet mixture into the dry and mix until everything has been incorporated.

Take 1 cup of the batter an transfer it into a medium bowl, add the cocoa powder, agave, and milk and mix well.

Spoon enough of the pumpkin batter into a prepared muffin tin (or ghost) to just cover the bottom, then add a spoonful of the chocolate batter and another spoonful of the pumpkin batter (until the muffin cup is 1/2- 3/4 full, depending on how big you want them to be) and swirl together with a knife.  This doesn't have to be precise, experiment with different ways and see what works best for you.

Bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Icing and Decorating

For the frosting, mix all ingredients together in a bowl until your desired flavor and texture are achieved. Wait at least 30 minutes for the cupcakes to cool before frosting them.

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler with a splash of milk or cream and then transfer to a pastry (or heavy duty ziploc) bag.  If using a ziploc, cut a tiny hole in the corner of the bag and then squeeze out the chocolate for decorating.

October 18, 2009

Mole Chili

I've been busy lately.  So busy that I missed my blog-iversary which, for the record, was October 14th.  It's strange to think that I started this blog a year (and 4 days) ago; before then, I hardly ever read food blogs and I was totally unaware that such a vast array of them existed.  Now, reading other food blogs, as well as keeping up my own, is something of a habit that I can't quite imagine my life without.

Unfortunately, ringing in a new blogging year came with a lot of flops.  In the past few weeks I've made a handful of things which weren't terrible by any means but were certainly nowhere near outstanding either and thus, in my limited time, not worth posting.  It wasn't until I came back to an old favorite, and one of the first real meals I started to cook from scratch, that I finally had some success.

The chili recipe below is a re-vamped version of a recipe I fell in love with a few years ago.  As I mentioned a while ago, it was my friend's Dad who first introduced me to homemade chili.  His was a hearty, healthy, and simple vegetarian chili that was comfort food without the subsequent bloating.  My recipe below is a spin on his simple chili with added cocoa powder and cinnamon for complexity and depth of flavor, lean ground beef for slightly more body, and fire roasted tomatoes for even more warmth.  This is my idea of the perfect cold weather fare.

Mole Chili*
This recipe is extremely adaptable.  Aside from the flexibility you have with seasonings, you can easily leave out the ground beef for a vegetarian version and add more beans or veggies such as zucchini, mushrooms, corn, peas, or celery.  In addition, you can play around with texture by using a food processor to prepare the vegetables or chopping them slightly larger by hand.


2 small sweet onions (or one large), diced
2 carrots, diced
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1- 2 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
2 bell peppers (red, green, yellow, whichever), diced
1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 28 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1/2 lb lean ground beef
1 14 oz can kidney beans

1/3- 2/3 cup water, broth or wine added as needed
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare all the vegetables, then coat the bottom of a 6 quart or larger stock pot with cooking oil and add the hot red pepper flakes.  When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the onions and carrots and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the peppers and stir all together.  Let the veggies wilt another two minutes or so and then add the remaining spices and herbs.

Add the tomatoes.  Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to a low simmer.  As you wait for the mixture to simmer, brown the ground beef in a medium sauté pan with a few spinkles of chili powder, salt and pepper.

Add the beans and the ground beef and simmer on low for at least 45 minutes adding extra liquid (water, broth, wine) as needed.  Stir occasionally to make sure the chili doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom of the pot. Taste to correct for seasoning (hotter?).

Serve over brown rice, polenta, millet, egg noodles or with a side of cornbread (or whatever else you'd like) and garnish with chopped sweet onion and shredded cheddar cheese.

* I know this isn't a traditional mole, per se, but the complex blend of spices in mole is what inspired this recipe.

October 7, 2009

Butternut Squash Risotto with Fried Sage

I love fall and pretty much everything about it. The air is crisp and comfortably chilly, the colors are warm, the food is wonderful and Thanksgiving is in the near future :). Some of my favorite falls foods (and I'm sure many of yours as well) are pumpkin, butternut squash and sweet potatoes. All orange, all hard, all delicious.

So to celebrate the beginning of fall and its produce, I wanted to make something perfectly seasonal. And wow, did this hit the spot. I know it's quite a bit more indulgent than the recipes/food I usually post (and eat, for that matter) but indulging once in awhile is fine by me, as long as it's worth it. And yes, if you were wondering, this is definitely worth it.

I don't know if you know this, but risotto is like savory pudding. It's amazing. I could hardly keep my fork, or spoon (or hand?) out of this risotto; it was that good. The fried sage is the perfect garnish too; it allows for a slight crunch and a concentrated earthy kick to this supremely creamy and utterly heavenly dish.

You will thank me for this.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Fried Sage

Serves 4, generously
Adapted from both Just Vegging Out and Simply Recipes
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
6 sage leaves, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup dry white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)

~ 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil for frying
extra sage leaves for frying and garnish

Melt 2 tbsps butter in a large saucepan. Add onions and squash cubes and sauté until squash is tender and slightly mashable. Lightly mash some pieces with your spoon.

Heat broth in a medium pot. In a large pot heat 1 tbsp butter until melted. Add the rice and stir until all the grains are coated. Add the squash and onion mixture and stir until combined. Then add 1/2 cup of the wine and cook until almost fully absorbed.

With a ladle, begin adding hot broth until the rice is just covered. Let the broth evaporate/ absorb into the rice and add more until just covered. Repeat this process until the broth has been used up.

To fry to the sage, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Gradually tilt the skillet so the hot oil pools on one side and add 5 or so sage leaves (per batch). Stir until they turn just a shade lighter and crisp up (about 30 seconds). Transfer to paper towels to drain. Continue to fry in batches until you have your desired amount.

In the last few minutes of cooking the risotto, add the remaining 1/4 cup of wine and stir until absorbed. Then add the Parmesan and stir. Garnish with fried sage. Devour.