Vanilla Peppermint Cupcakes

I found this on Oprah’s website while searching about how to become a guest on her show. Just kidding (not really). I brought them to my Aunt & Uncle’s house for Christmas Eve dinner and everyone loved them, or at least they told me they did.

Ingredients & Directions:

Vanilla-Peppermint Cupcake:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour , sifted
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk , room temperature
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. peppermint extract
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter , room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg , room temperature
  • 2 large egg whites , room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together milk and extracts; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended. With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary, until just blended.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes.

Transfer muffin tin to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely in tin before icing.

Vanilla-Peppermint Frosting:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter , firm but not cold
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar , sifted
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
  • 1/2 tsp. milk

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until incorporated. Add the extracts and milk and beat until smooth and creamy.

Do not overmix or the frosting will incorporate too much air; it should be creamy and dense, like ice cream. Add additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, if frosting does not have a spreadable consistency.

Top with crushed candy canes!

This is from Two Coast Table, where I am doing most of my food blogging these days. Check it out! Hope you had a great Christmas.



Pumpkin Creme Brulee

Every year on Thanksgiving I make Pumpkin Creme Brulee for dessert. I only make once a year to keep it special and it is always my favorite dessert I eat on Thanksgiving. This recipe is super simple and I recommend it to everyone.

Ingredients & Directions:

2 C heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla
8 egg yolks
1/3 C sugar
1 C pureed pumpkin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 C sugar (for caramelized tops)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together heavy creme, vanilla, egg yolks, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Blend well. Strain into a large bowl to remove foam or bubbles.

Divide mixture among ramekins (I usually use 6-8 ramekins). Place in a water bath, and bake until set around the edges, but still loose in the center. Approximately 35-45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave in water bath until cooled. Remove ramekins from water bath and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days. When ready to serve, sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of sugar over each custard. Caramelize sugar (I used my little torch, but you can place in broiler). After caramelizing, re-chill for a few minutes before serving.

I wrote an entire post about my Thanksgiving dinner at my other blog Two Coast Table. Check it out!


California Chicken Club Bites

Occasionally I take something out of the freezer without knowing what I’m going to make for dinner. Last night I took chicken and bacon out with the idea of doing some play on a California Chicken Club Sandwich, without bread (since I didn’t want to go to the store). I decided to make California chicken club bites instead of a sandwich. If I were to make these again I would definitely add some tomato and use fresh mozzarella probably resting on top of the chicken.


Chicken breasts or tenders, sliced into bit sized pieces
1/2 C Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
Avocado Spread (see below)
Olive Oil

I started cooking the bacon first, then placed the chicken in the electric frying pan with a little garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Cook the bite sized pieces until they are full cooked and lightly browned on each side.

Avocado Spread:

1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil (plus more if needed)
1 ripe avocado-halved, peeled and pit removed, and chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 onion diced
2 tsp salt
1/4 C mayonnaise

This one is simple. Place all ingredients into a food processor (I used the magic bullet) mix until it is smooth or desired consistency.

You may need to add more olive oil to make it smoother. Set aside if using right away, otherwise refrigerate.

Putting together the bites:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Once the bacon and chicken is cooked you can start the process of making the bites. I sliced the chicken in half lengthwise. Placed some avocado spread on one piece and then bacon on the other.

Repeat for each piece of chicken you have. Put the two halves together and then place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with some mozzarella cheese and cook in the oven for about 3-5 minutes, or until cheese melts.

You can serve these as an appetizer or with your favorite side for a meal. I ate some brown rice with these.


Stepping Out of My Kitchen: Cupcake Class at the BCAE

This past Wednesday night I helped out at Dustin's 'How to Bake the Perfect Cupcake" class at the Boston Center for Adult Education. If you know me, you know I love cupcakes, and I would never pass up an opportunity to bake and eat them for three hours. We made 13 different cupcakes and eight different frostings. Amazing, right?

The class was broken up into stations and each of the stations worked on a different cupcake and frosting. While the cupcakes were cooking, Dustin talked about different tips and answered questions.

One of my favorite tips is his use of the ice cream scoop to fill the cupcake tins. You get the same perfect amount in every cupcake without the mess you might get when using a spoon.

The best frosting of the evening was the peanut butter frosting. I included the recipe.

Peanut Butter Frosting Recipe:

  • 1 C Butter Flavored Vegetable Shortening
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 4 C Confectioners' Sugar
  • 2 T Milk
  • 1 C Peanut Butter

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add peanut butter and mix thoroughly.

Another fun tip I loved was using white chocolate to make spiderwebs (or other shapes depending on the season) to decorate the cupcake. Simple ideas like that really add to the presentation.

Here are a few of the sample cupcakes Dustin made. The Necco wafer flower cupcake was really cute, but my favorite was the peanut butter and strawberry jam cupcake (use jam instead of jelly because it holds up better and will not run like jelly).

If you are in Boston check out some of the other classes Dustin is teaching at the BCAE. I am looking forward to the Cupcakes & Cocktails class!


Two Coast Table

Recently, my friend Meg & I started a new blog called Two Coast Table. Here's an excerpt from our 'About' section:

We want this blog to be about many things. We want it to contain recipes that we really make, that are easy & simple to follow. We want to talk about our favorite things, whether it be a restaurant, our favorite kitchen gadget, our favorite places to go in Boston (Steven) or Portland (Meg), and many other things we love. We want it to be about us, cause we love us and know that you will too. We want this to be a place where you will come to to laugh, cry, cook, and tell us secrets (we promise not to tell anyone, beside the few 1000 people that visit our site daily…fingers crossed!). We want to be your Paula Deen, your Oprah, your Tyra, your Mo’nique, but most of all we want you to sit at our table and enjoy the company.
Check it out won't you & tell your friends. We are also running a contest that you should participate in with some Nasoya products, like the wraps I used in my Chicken Egg Rolls.

We also love to twitter and have a twitter page.

I will still be posting here, but definitely more so at Two Coast Table. Let me know what you think.

Thanks, Steven


Crab Cakes Benedict

I happen to be searching the internet for recipes the other day and came across one for crab cakes benedict. I knew instantly that I would be eating this for dinner that night. I generally like to keep my dinners simple & easy, not too many steps, and something I can cook while doing other stuff. Crab cakes benedict at least fit most of those requirements (I had to stay focused on this meal so my bacon wouldn't burn and my poached eggs wouldn't get too hard). IN the vain of keeping things simple, I stopped at the store, Harvest CO-OP, and bought pre-made crab cakes. I have been eying those for sometime and today was just the day. It cost $2.00 for two crab cakes. How can you go wrong for that price? I had everything else at home that I needed, so in my mind my dinner cost $2.00 and there is nothing better than that feeling.

Ingredients & Directions:

Crab Cakes (Pre-made saves time, but you can make your own)
Eggs (One for each crab cake)
Blender Hollandaise Sauce
Fresh Parsley, chopped
Cooking spray or Olive Oil

You should start by cooking the bacon. While the bacon is cooking, put the crab cakes in a pan to heat thoroughly and brown a little (they come pre-cooked, but you will need to warm them through). Keep the crab cakes on a low heat so they can come off the pan and on the plate once everything is ready to be plated. Also, make sure you flip them over every so often, you don't want to burn them and waste that $2.00. Continue to check the bacon, cooking until your desired readiness. Follow the instructions for a blender hollandaise I made before (you could always make this first and then warm it up if you want). See directions below for poaching eggs, but you should start this process now too. Once the bacon is done cooking, set on some paper towels to soak up the grease.

Directions for poached eggs:

First bring water in a saucepan to almost boiling. If the water is already boiling, lower the heat until it is no longer boiling. At this point, you can add one or two teaspoons of vinegar to the water, if you want. The vinegar will help the egg whites to congeal more easily. I used rice vinegar. Working with the eggs one by one, crack an egg into a small cup, then place the cup near the surface of the hot water and gently drop the egg into the water. With a spoon, nudge the egg whites closer to their yolks. This will help the egg whites hold together.Turn off the heat. Cover. Let sit for 4 minutes, until the egg whites are cooked. Lift eggs out of pan with a slotted spoon.

Place the crab cakes on the plate, bacon will rest on top of the crab cakes, place the eggs gently on top of the bacon, and then drizzle the hollandaise sauce over the entire thing. Sprinkle with a little fresh parsley.


Apple Pancakes

Seriously, who doesn't aspire to be like the Smitten Kitchen? Consistently beautiful photographs, delicious recipes, and story-like blog posts all make this one of my favorite food blogs. I went to Smitten Kitchen determined to make something for make breakfast on Sunday morning. I also had one requirement, it had to contain apples; I hate to waste my freshly picked apples. The apple pancakes stood out to me simply because they were easy and I had all the ingredients. Pancakes, beside my all time favorite eggs benedict, are my favorite breakfast food. Blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes are two of my favorite versions, separately of course (although together I bet it would be delicious!).

Ingredients & Directions:
(from Smitten Kitchen)

2 Eggs
1 1/2 C Milk
2 C Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 C Sugar
3 Apples, peeled and coarsely grated (I used a grater, but may use a food processor next time for speed)
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
Vegetable oil, for frying
Confectioner’s Sugar, for dusting

Mix the eggs with the milk in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together. Combine the wet and the dry ingredients and stir in the apples and cinnamon. Heat a thin layer of oil in a skillet over low to medium heat. Drop large spoonful of batter into the pan and flatten it out a little (otherwise, you might have trouble getting them to cook in the center) and cook until golden brown underneath. Flip the pancakes and cook them for an additional two or three minutes.

The original recipe uses a cast iron pan and that is one kitchen item I am putting on my Christmas list. I am dying to make corn bread in a cast iron pan, just one of those things that I have always wanted to do. I should really compile my mental list of things I want to try cooking on paper. Do other people do that?

I dusted the pancakes with confectioner's sugar and a little more cinnamon, before a drizzled a little maple syrup over them.


Squash Cream Sauce

I love making different types of sauces for pasta and with it being fall I wanted to make something fall-like. I had a butternut squash in the refrigerator and decided I would use that, but wasn't sure what to do. I went to the trusty internet and googled squash sauce. I found a recipe that I have adapted here, but I will be revisiting this recipe and making the whole thing, not just the sauce. Check it out!

Ingredients & Directions:
(recipe adapted from here)

1 but­ter­nut squash
2 T but­ter
1 Onion, chopped
salt and pep­per to taste
1 C heavy cream
1/2 C grated parme­san cheese
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 C apple juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash in half length­wise and remove seeds. Place on a greased cookie sheet cut side down and roast for about 45 minutes or until tender. Set the squash aside to cool. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add onion, salt, and pep­per and saut√© until onions are translucent. Once squash has cooled, pure√© in a blender with cream. Add the squash & cream mix­ture to shal­lots along with apple juice, cinnamon, and parmesan cheese. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low, sim­mer­ing for 10 min­utes. Makes roughly 3 cups of sauce, depend­ing on the size of your squash.

I think this sauce would be great with some fresh made pasta, but I was not in the mood to make any, nor did I have any fresh pasta in the house.


Apple Tart

I had so many apples left over from apple picking that I needed to start cooking them and the best way (and my favorite way) I know how is in pies, cakes, or tarts. I now feel like I have been making apple pies and apple tarts every day for a week now, but I could never tire of eating them, so it's all worth it.

Ingredients & Directions:

1 Pre-Made Pie Crust, thawed
3 Apples (your choice), peeled, cored, sliced thin
2 T butter, melted
3 T Cinnamon Sugar
1/4 cup raspberry jam, melted (or use whatever you have at home)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or grease a pie pan (which is what I did here). Arrange apples in pie crust, overlapping apple slices and leaving border clear. Brush apples with melted butter; sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Brush melted jam over apples. Bake tart until golden, about 8 minutes longer. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I waited until the pie had only five minutes left before I started melting the raspberry jam. Once it was melted I set it aside in a dish to cool a little. I used the pastry brush the apply the jam and then returned it to the oven to finish cooking.

This tart was easy & delicious. I am really interested in trying it with different jams to see what I like the best. I think blueberry or apricot may be next!