Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mini Sweet Potato Cupcakes

Yes, I know we're on the precipice of springtime. And yes, these cupcakes were baked in the heart of winter squash and potato season... for a Winter term Finals potluck, in fact. Two rounds of finals later, I though I might have a chance to catch up on some of this blog backlog over Spring Break.

I also thought I'd be able to do my laundry. But Seattle had other plans and decided to become sunny and beautiful, mocking anyone who dared to do indoor things.

So instead of blogging I did a waterfall hike, some wine tasting, an underground city tour, brunch, BBQ and multiple Greenlake walks.

Now, finally, on Sunday night the rain has returned, returning my focus to a more wintry time. A time of studying, potlucks and

Sweet Potato Cupcakes (adapted from Southern Living, Nov. 2007):

- 2 cups sugar (reduce to 1 cup if making muffins)
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 large sweet potatoes
- 1/2 cup butter (softened)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 cup orange juice

- Cream cheese frosting
- Topping: maple candy and chopped pecans (or pre-candied nuts, chopped)

Preheat oven to 350.

The original recipe called for a can or mashed yams, but the only ones I could find at the store were fresh or candied. So I opted for fresh and just mashed them myself. Start by boiling some water, add a pinch of salt and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Peel and chop potatoes (smaller pieces for faster cooking), and add to water.

While potatoes are cooking, whisk together all dry ingredients except sugar.

When potatoes finish boiling (can be easily pierced with a fork), drain and pour into a large bowl. Mash together with the butter (just like making mashed potatoes). Whisk in the eggs and vanilla; then stir in remaining sugar.

Gradually add the dry ingredients, stirring just until all flour has been mixed in. Spoon into muffin tins (minis are fun!) and bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean (longer for full sized).

While muffins are baking or cooling (at least 30 min.), you can prepare the cream cheese frosting (any ol' recipe you like), and the nutty crumble topping. I am lucky to have parents who know how much I adore anything with real maple in it and who like to bring me treats from their travels. That made it easy for me to just chop up some maple candy with pecans for a yummy crumble topping.

Other alternatives are chopped candied nuts, or simply chopped toasted nuts to bring it down a notch.

Once cupcakes have cooled, simply frost, add some topping, and share!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Winter Squash and Black Rice

Squash went crazy in Seattle this fall. I'm sure that's always been the case (there's not a whole lot of cold-weather produce to promote), but for some reason it really caught my attention this year: Flats full of acorns and family every time I pass the QFC to and from the bus. Butternut squash soup on every Restaurant Week menu. Squash cooking tips at the pumpkin patch.

My first seasonal attempt began with a butternut dish for my dinner-party-turned-pot-luck. I was originally going for the squash, lentil, goat cheese salad; however I couldn't find black lentils at the store and was running too late to look elsewhere. The green and brown just didn't have that festive feeling, so lentils became black rice, and the goat cheese just got forgotten completely. So...

Butternut and Black Rice Salad (adapted from Smitten Kitchen):

- 1 large butternut squash, peeled, cubed and seeded (save the seeds)
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. sweet Spanish paprika
- 1/4 tsp. Cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss squash cubes in a bowl with olive oil, cumin, paprika, cayenne, cinnamon, and salt.

Begin boiling water for the rice (following rice-cooking instructions on package, the whole process will probably take approx 50 minutes... do while preparing the squash).

Rinse and dry the squash seeds. Toss on a baking sheet with a little oil and coarse salt and put in oven. Pay attention to popping sounds or burning smells and check frequently, stirring occasionally. Toasting should take about 10 minutes.

When oven is fully heated, spread squash cubes in glass baking dishes or baking sheets and roast in oven for about 20 minutes. Remove, flip the cubes, and roast for another 20 minutes or until browning on top and soft inside.

Remove and combine squash, rice, and toasted seeds. Drizzle with any remaining oil cooked together with squash and sprinkle with extra coarse salt if desired. Add goat cheese if desired (remembered):

Honey-Cheddar Corn Muffins....


- 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda

- 2 cups fresh corn kernels
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 6 tbsp. butter (melted) or oil (I did 3 of each)
- 6 tbsp. honey
- 2 cups coarsely grated cheddar cheese

Preheat Oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin tins.

Combine all dry ingredients (cornmeal, flour, salt, pepper, baking soda &powder) and whisk together in a large bowl.

Use a food processor or other blending utensil to puree 1 cup of the corn. Combine pureed corn with oil, butter, buttermilk, honey, and egg. Whisk together. Add to dry ingredients and stir until almost combined. Fold in grated cheese (except 1/4 cup) and remaining corn kernels.

Spoon into muffin tins and top with remaining cheese. Bake for 20 minutes. If tops are not browned, increase heat to 500 and bake for another 5 minutes.

Remove, cool, and serve with honey.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Honey-Cheddar Corn Muffins

A picture is worth a thousand words...? Or, hopefully, at least worth my limited grad school hours. Here's the picture-book of these muffins:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sweet Heirloom Sauce

Summer's hanging on by a thread.

I wore a skirt today and walked home from class but never took of my jacket. You can almost feel the anticipation brewing for wool sweaters and crisp leaves. I've also been fighting off my first cold of the season (new Seattle germs...) and leaning towards warm comfort foods. Grilled cheese is always a good one, but a batch of cheap cheap heirloom tomatoes a the Queen Anne farmers' market got me excited about sauce.

Warm and deliciously fresh sauce. Sweet sauce. I've added a small dash of sugar to the past few tomato sauces I've stewed up, to appease Steve's sweet tooth, and they always taste amazing. But this time I wanted to see if I could achieve the same effect in a different way: ripe heirlooms (sweet), fresh basil from my new housewarming herb-garden (sweet-ish), and removing the seeds (bitter-ish when cooked).


- 3 to 4 large heirloom tomatoes
- 5 to 6 fresh basil leaves
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- salt and pepper
- dash or sweet paprika (optional)

Slice the tomatoes and remove the seeds. For really ripe heirlooms, the flesh is so dense that there will be very few seeds to remove, as compared with roma or hothouse.

Dice roughly, cover and simmer with olive oil, salt and pepper for about 5 minutes. Remove lid and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes, or until sauce starts to thicken. At this point, you can blend or food-process, or let the chunks live.

Chop the basil and stir in with paprika.

Assemble with optional accouterments (sauteed broccoli and feta!)

The results? Perfectly yummy and comforting, but no comparison to the spoonful of sugar for sweet-tooth satisfaction.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Stone Fruit Summer Pie

As the weather turns dreary up north, I'm reflecting back on this past summer and thinking: "Man, I made a lot of pies!"

Well, sure, I actually only made two. And, yeah, it was really only because I got the fruit for free (Closing time at the farmers market, in the ugly section). But still, two pies feels like a lot when I'm generally not a big fan of either making or eating them-- I'll pick a crisp or crumble over a pie any day.

It's not that I have a problem with fruit (or pumpkin or pecan, if you prefer); it's just the crust that bugs me. It's finicky to make and work with, and then when all is said and done, I've never found it to do much flavor-wise. It's either dry or soggy (mostly dry and bland), and it gets in the way of my un-adulterated enjoyment of the filling.

But that's all changed, now that I have Dori in my life! I used her sweet tart dough with nuts in Ali's birthday tart, and it worked so well that I'm never going to try anything else ever again. It tastes unbelievably yummy, and it's so buttery-soft and easy to work with that you can turn a crust disaster into perfection in less than 30 seconds:

I used fresh cherries, pitted by hand (yeah, that sucked), and an assortment of white and yellow peaches and nectarines. The white ones are incredibly sweet, but I think yellows give more flavor when baked.

To prevent sogginess, I mixed up a small bowl with 1 part flour, 2 parts oats, and 2 parts brown sugar and scattered a thin layer on the unbaked crust before adding the fruit.

Drain the juices from the fruit (set aside in a small bowl), and assemble pie. No sugar or sweetener necessary when you have such ripe produce... just toss together and dump into the crust.

For finishing touches, I added some butter to the oat/sugar mix and sprinkled on top of the fruit (sneaking in some crisp and crumble bits), and I brushed some of the reserved fruit juice around the remaining exposed crust. Bake on 375 for about 40-50 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

And say yes to leftovers!