Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hot Dates on Nights Alone

Simply because my husband works most nights (and I'm stuck at home with no car) does not mean I don't have incredibly hot dates.  They just happen to be with my kitchen stove.

You sexy beast, you.
The past two days, we've spent a lot of time together.  My goal for this year is to make a lot of edible Christmas gifts.  (My other goal is not to keep all of them for myself.  In my stomach.)  I'm currently working on making a blackberry-infused vodka, and yesterday I made two kinds of jam, and applesauce.  Well, the applesauce is for me.  Hey, it's not my fault that it doesn't keep very long.

Today, I fell a little bit more in love.

Why, you ask?  How could you fall even more in love with cooking?

Several reasons.

1) I'm continually finding new and amazing ways to enjoy pumpkin through the last vestiges of fall.
2) I caramelized onions for the first time.

Enough said.

I made Bacon and Pumpkin Pasta, and it was delicious.  Thank you, Pinch of Yum.  Thank you.  This is a thick, creamy, filling pasta.  And it has bacon.  I for one, needed nothing more to be said.  And for those among you who think that pumpkin and pasta should definitely not go together?  Well, you may be crazy.  And you also may not have heard the word "bacon."

Not just for pies, friends.

Bacon and Pumpkin Pasta, with Caramelized Onions
adapted from Pinch of Yum
(tripled original recipe to serve 6, because who doesn't love leftovers?)

6 c. dried pasta (original recipe called for shells, but I didn't have any and used rotini)
1 can pumpkin puree
4 oz cream cheese
3/4 c. evaporated milk
1/4 c. heavy cream
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
3/4 c. cooked, crumbled bacon
2 small-medium onions, caramelized*

*Original recipe suggests sliced scallions or green onions (would need 3/4 c. to go with above proportions), but I really, really loved the buttery sweetness of the caramelized onions.  For me, it made the dish.

Cook pasta according to packaging, drain, and return to pot.  Turn heat to low.

Stir in pumpkin, cream cheese, evaporated milk, heavy cream, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Stir over low until cream cheese has melted.  Top with the bacon and onions.

For leftovers, keep the bacon and onions in separate airtight containers to maintain crispiness.

Tolstoy also approves this recipe.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Belated Cupcakes

This is not to say that I have any cupcakes lying about, going stale.  Because that really never happens in this house.  This is just to say that I really did mean to post this brilliant, life-changing recipe a week or so ago.

But, well, curling up in a chair with a blanket and some cider was really much more appealing.  Sorry.

However, I'm here now, with the recipe for the completely delicious, so-close-to-being-my-new-favorite cupcake, Fauxstess Cupcake.

Now, I did a lot of research for these.  I was commissioned to make them (and two other types of cupcake) for my friend Jessica's birthday party, and I wanted them to be just right.  I settled on separate recipes for the cake, the filling, and the ganache, because I was never satisfied with one complete "hostess" cupcake recipe.  For the cake, I used Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake.  I found the type of cream filling I was looking for in a discussion board on Chef Talk, and a basic ganache on Joy of Baking (wherein I learned that to get a dark and shiny ganache, you simply add in a bit of corn syrup).

I like to think that the result was completely delicious.  Everyone else seemed to agree, as they were the first to disappear at the party.  And by first, I mean within the first five minutes.

"Fauxstess" Cupcakes
from Hershey'sChef Talk, and Joy of Baking
(makes 24 cupcakes)


2 c. sugar
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 c. milk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c. boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line cupcake try with liners.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla and beat with a mixer on medium speed until combined (about 2 minutes).  Stir in the boiling water until completely incorporated.  The batter will be very thin.  

Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full.

Bake 22-24 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool in try 5 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.  Let cool completely.

Cream Filling:*
2 tsp hot water
1/4 tsp salt
1 7 oz jar marshmallow creme
1/2 c. shortening
1/3 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp clear vanilla

Combine hot water and salt in a small container, set aside.

Mix together marshmallow creme, shortening, powdered sugar, and vanilla combined and no longer sticky.  Mix in salt water.

When cupcakes are cool, put filling in an icing bag fitted with a medium to large tip.  Insert the decorating tip into the middle of the cupcake and fill with the cream filling.  Be careful not to overfill, or the cupcake will begin to crack!

Reserve remaining cream filling to make the signature swoops on the top.

*Note: I would double this amount next time, as I didn't have quite enough to fill and ice all 24 cupcakes.

8 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (or, even easier, processed in a blender or food processor)
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 tbs corn syrup

Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl.

Heat cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring just to boiling point, then immediately pour over the chocolate.  Let stand for several minutes, then stir gently until smooth.  Add corn syrup for that shiny glaze look.

When slightly cooled (but not too thick!), spoon the ganache on top of the cupcakes and spread carefully to cover.  It should not be dripping down the sides (unless, of course, that's what you're into).

Once set, use the reserved cream filling (refitted with a small round decorating tip) to pipe swoops on top of the ganache.

Enjoy.  Because oh, you will.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Also, Extravaganza

As many of you may know, this past month featured the 4th Annual Michelle Mynx Pole Dancing Extravaganza!

It was my second year performing, third year attending, and it was just as good as any other year.  I performed my own compilation of two Frank Sinatra songs: "I've Got the World on a String" and "Come Fly with Me," and learned a great deal in the process.

1) How to mix music.
2) How to compress music files.
3) How to alter a men's shirt into a woman's halter top and add trim and sequins, all by hand.
4) How to get over big ambitions to make something work (though I really thought I'd learned this before).
5) How to stop worrying and love the bomb... er... how to stop worrying and just dance, because there's nothing left to do.

And now, for photos.

Photo Courtesy of Virginia C. Harold

Photo Courtesy of Ricky Sherman

Photo Courtesy of Ricky Sherman

Photo Courtesy of Ricky Sherman

Photo Courtesy of Ricky Sherman
Favorite Photo, Courtesy of Ricky Shermam

Fall Pros and Cons... But Mostly Pros

It's been a beautiful fall. To be honest, fall is one of my favorite times. The cooler weather, the leaves changing, and, of course, the baking. The cooking. The fall vegetables. The applesauce. The cider. The pumpkin and black bean chili that is currently simmering in the kitchen.

I may not be the biggest fan of Halloween, but everything else? Adore. Did I mention soups? Sweet potato pie?


Oh yeah, and the Cardinals just won the World Series!

So the cons?

Well, I'm currently home sick in my pajamas. Fall, with its wonderful cooler weather and beautiful changing leaves, wreaks havoc on my sinuses. So, there's that.

But there's still soup. And pie. And chocolate tarts. And curling up with blankets and nooks and puppies.

So... I call it a win, overall. Especially once my nose stops running.

Note: Though I may not love Halloween, I love dressing up.  Alec and I went as an adventuring steampunk couple this year, and I made correspondingly extravagant cookie cupcakes.

"Gear" cookie cupcakes!

Got to play beer pong for the first time.  Lutheran Beer Pong.

Please ignore the caveman in the background.