Month: October 2012

Happy Halloween?

Halloween, you and I go way back. Some years, we’ve had a blast — like the year a group of friends went out together and saw a great 80s cover band, and taking the day off last year to hang out with my then-roommate and make apple cider donuts in our pajamas.

Other years, you’ve let me down. I’m still waiting on an apology for 1991, when you were canceled — CANCELED!?!? — because of a huge blizzard. (It isn’t like you’ve never experienced a Nebraska winter before… come on. There was candy to be had!)

And now, I hear rumors you might be standing me up again because of Hurricane Sandy. Seriously? Oh. No. I will have none of that.

Well… I hadn’t intended to host a Halloween party this year, but if I have power and my friends don’t, come on over. :)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

You didn’t think I’d forgotten, did you?


Pumpkin Trifecta #3: Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.

I first started making these pumpkin cupcakes from Smitten Kitchen a couple years ago. I love that they aren’t overloaded by oil or butter, which keeps them feeling light while allowing the pumpkin and spice to shine through. This is what a fall dessert should taste like.

These are a great treat all through fall, but they are especially fun for a Halloween party. For an easy but impressive decoration, pipe a few circles of black decorator frosting or gel and pull a toothpick from the center.

Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 18 cupcakes

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)

For frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a cupcake pan with 18 liners.

In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt into a medium bowl.

Add the eggs one at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each addition. Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth.

Scoop batter into cupcake liners, about 3/4 full. Tap the filled pans once on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

In a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar. Frost cupcakes.

Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good

Pumpkin Trifecta Day, Recipe #2.

I have a soft spot for pumpkins. I also have a soft spot for the folks over at Bon Appetit’s The Feed. Not only do they keep me in a constant state of inspiration with their posts, they also regularly review and give away cookbooks.

Last fall, I was a lucky winner, and as it happened, I already owned the cookbook I’d won — the review was that good, I’d already gone out and bought it. I casually mentioned to the sweet editor who contacted me that I owned the cookbook, and was there any possibility of switching?

“Yes, we could give you a different cookbook. I have a gazillion ones sitting in front of me. Want to give me an idea of what you’re looking for and I can suggest some titles?”

Enter Dorie Greenspan. I’d been swooning over Around My French Table for awhile, and had recently come across one of the featured recipes, “Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good.” If even a dozen recipes looked half as good as that one, I knew it would be right up my alley.

The editor agreed, and a few days later, a big, beautiful hardcover cookbook with gorgeous photos and mouthwatering recipes was sitting on my coffee table, just waiting for me to dive in.

So far, “Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good” is still my favorite recipe from the book. It’s really more of an outline than a recipe, meant to be adapted as the mood strikes you.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The original recipe calls for stale bread, but I like cooked rice for the risotto-like end product. Dorie also suggests adding cooked sausage or ham, nuts, chunks of apples or pears, or cooked vegetables such as kale, spinach or chard. These all sound absolutely perfect.

You have choices for serving, too: cut wedges of the pumpkin and filling; spoon out portions of the filling, making sure to get a generous amount of pumpkin; or dig into the pumpkin with a big spoon, and pull the pumpkin flesh into the filling and mix it all up. Serve with a salad as a cold-weather main course, or as the perfect fall side dish. It’s a worthy addition to any Thanksgiving table. Omit the bacon, and it’s also vegetarian.

Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good

Adapted from Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010)

Makes 2 very generous servings or 4 small servings

1 sugar pumpkin, about 3 pounds

Salt and pepper

1 1/2 to 2 c cooked rice

1/4 lb cheese, such as Gruyere, Emmental (Emmenthal), cheddar or a combination, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used Trader Joe’s Emmental)

4 strips bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and crumbled (I used Trader Joe’s applewood smoked bacon)

1/4 c snipped fresh chives

1 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme

1/3 to 1/2 c cream

Pinch of nutmeg

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a heavy-duty baking sheet with a baking mat or parchment, or use a Dutch oven or casserole dish slightly larger than the pumpkin, coated with butter, oil or cooking spray.

Wash and dry the pumpkin. Using a sturdy, sharp knife, cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle (like carving a jack-o’-lantern). Clear away the seeds and strings from the cap and the inside of the pumpkin. (I like to use an ice cream scoop). Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper. Put the pumpkin on the baking sheet or in the pot or casserole.

In a bowl, toss together the filling ingredients (everything except the cream and nutmeg). Season with pepper. (Note: you can also add salt to the filling, but the cheese and bacon may make it salty enough; be sure to taste it first.) Pack the filling into the pumpkin. The pumpkin should be well-filled; you might have a little too much filling, or you might need to add to it. Stir the nutmeg into the cream and pour into the pumpkin to moisten the ingredients. You don’t want the ingredients to swim in cream; the pumpkin will exude some additional liquid while cooking.

Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for 90-120 minutes, checking at 90 minutes. Everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling, and the flesh of the pumpkin should be tender enough to be easily pierced with a fork. If desired, remove the cap during the last 20-30 minutes so that the liquid can bake away and the top can brown a little.

Carefully transfer the pumpkin to a serving platter or to your table.

This dish is best eaten immediately. Scoop out any leftovers, mix them up, cover and chill; reheat the next day.