Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday Favorites and a Few Free Cookbooks!

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving! I hope all my US readers had a wonderful holiday surrounded by LOTS of good food and loved ones. I definitely did and am so THANKFUL for the people in my life right now. Since P's schedule (off work at midnight on Thanksgiving and back to work at 4 am on Black Friday) ruled out our usual tradition of driving to see his family, I did my best to create a little feast for us as well as my mom here: P's favorite tomato vodka pasta, scallion cheddar biscuits, steamed broccoli with hollandaise sauce, dijon mustard lemon roasted potatoes, Mom's celery mushroom wheat gluten stirfry, and tiramisu served in individual glasses.

In support of the holiday spirit (and to prevent my apartment from exploding from the pressure of too many unused cookbooks), I've decided to give away 4 cookbooks that are gorgeous and have gotten great reviews, but that I simply don't see myself using to full advantage anytime soon. To keep things simple, I'm giving these away on a first come, first serve basis, and I'll pay for shipping within the continental US. Simply comment with the title you want to enter. Limit 2 cookbooks per person, but feel free to name an alternative in case your 1st choices are taken.

1. Fresh in Summer by Alastair Hendy (Photography by David Loftus)
1 Fresh in Summer
2. The Essence of Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg
2 Essence of Chocolate
3. Holiday Cupcakes by Annie Rigg (Photography by Kate Whitaker)
3 Holiday Cupcakes
4. Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters by Marilynn and Sheila Brass
4 Heirloom Baking
Food Photography Favorites

Apple Pecan Whole Wheat Scones from Naturally Ella
1 NaturallyElla Apple Pecan Whole Wheat Scones
Blue Poppy Cake by The Fondant Flinger
2 FondantFlinger-Blue Gumpaste Poppy Flower Painted White Inside Fondant Cake Idea
Savory Autumn Leaf Pies from Martha Stewart
3 Martha Stewart-Savory Autumn Cutout Leaf Vege Hand Pies Empanada Idea
Buttermilk Pancakes with Blueberries and Spiced Maple Butter from The Food Dept
4 FoodDept-Buttermilk Pancakes Blueberry Spiced Maple Butter
Purple Artichokes Photographs from At Down Under
5 AtDownUnder-Purple Artichokes Ingred
Ruffled Wedding Cake by Wow Factor Cakes
6 WowFactorCakes-Bronze Tan Upside-down Ruffled Button Flower Fondant Wedding Cake Idea

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pumpkin Nut Streusel Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling

Pumpkin Spice Muffin with Cream Cheese Filling and Pecan Streusel
With all the treats I bake, I have to admit my standards are getting higher and higher. And considering the 7 pounds I've put on since starting this job, maybe that's really not a downside =p. Either way, where this is going is that I knew these muffins were winners when even I found myself going back for seconds (and barely resisting a third!). The blogosphere is awash in pumpkin muffins these days, but there's a great reason for that! Pumpkin's not only quintessentially fall in color and flavor, it's also packed with nutrients and keeps your baked goods incr-edibly moist! A hint of rum in my cream cheese filling and the crunch of pecan streusel set my pumpkin muffins apart from the pack. Give these a shot, and I guarantee you'll be going back for more...=p.

Pumpkin Nut Spice Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling [Printable Recipe]
Adapted from Annie's Eats
Makes 11 muffins

XIAOLU'S NOTES: Filling needs to chill for at least 1 1/2 hours, so plan accordingly. Cooled muffins can be sealed in an airtight freezer bag and frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw then reheat in an oven at 350 degrees F.

3 oz. cream cheese, softened [low-fat is fine]
1.5 oz. (Scant 1/3 cup) powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp unsulphured molasses
1/3 tsp pure vanilla extract
Rounded 1/2 tsp dark rum (optional)

3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp flour
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into 6 pieces
2 Tbsp walnuts OR pecans, lightly toasted and finely chopped (optional)

Muffin Batter
1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz.) all purpose flour
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp ground cloves [1/3 to 1/2 tsp if freshly ground]
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Large pinch of ground cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
Scant 1/4 tsp baking powder

2 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup PLUS 2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 Tbsp unsulphured molasses
1 cup pumpkin puree
6 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

To make the filling, combine all filling ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well until blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1 inch in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log, and place on a plate wide enough to hold the entire log straight and flat. Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 1 1/2 hours.

To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Add in the butter pieces and work into the dry ingredients with a fork or your fingertips until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Add in chopped walnuts and mix to distribute evenly. Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the muffin batter, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease top of standard muffin pan, then line with 11 paper liners OR skip the liners and grease the cups. Sift dry ingredients flour through baking powder into a medium bowl and whisk to blend; set aside. In a separate large mixing bowl, combine ingredients eggs through vanilla. Mix on medium-low speed or by hand until blended. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.

To assemble the muffins, fill the muffin cups just under full with batter, then sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each. Next, remove the frozen log of cream cheese filling from the freezer, slice into 11 equal pieces, then quickly place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin cup.

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, then bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the upper muffin part (avoid the cream cheese). Let muffins cool in pans for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack. Let cool COMPLETELY before serving (the cream cheese filling will be very hot!).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Saturday Favorites

I have a long weekend due to Veterans Day this week! Especially since I work for a veteran-owned company right now, the courage and sacrifice of those in service is never far from our minds. Just want to take a moment to thank all of those who dedicate their lives and risk their safety to keep us secure. We are so grateful for them, and I'm glad to have the chance to give back through several charities our company's working with this holiday season =). 

The extra long weekend is a godsend as it's giving me a chance to grab some much-needed sleep (hopefully to avoid catching that cold that's going around these days...), catch the new Bond movie with P (really excited about Skyfall!!), and check out all the new music and food posts I've gotten so behind on. My blog reader is probably at least twice as huge as you'd imagine, but there's just so much inspirational stuff out there that I always look forward to taking it all in and showing you all my favorites. Hope you fall in love with these like I have!

Upside-down Clementine Cakes from Drizzle and Drip
1 DrizzleandDrip-Upside-down Clementine Orange Ingred Cupcakes Glaze Idea
Sea-colored Wedding Cake with Gold Branches by Cake Opera Co.
2 CakeOperaCo-Sea Colors Gumpaste Flower Gold Branches Fondant Square Round Wedding Cake
Apple Pie from Paulina Kolondra
3 PaulinaKolondra-Apple Pie, Buckle Cake Slice Chair Idea
Roasted Vegetable Salad with Poached Eggs from Everyday Food
4 EverydayFood-Roasted Vege Salad Beet Potato Poached Egg Fall Idea
Feather Cake by The Caketress
5 TheCaketress-Gumpaste Flower Feather Fall Fondant Wedding Cake Idea
Royal Icing Bird Cookies by Nelle Cakes
6 NelleCakes-Lace Piped RI Birds Heart Cutout Decorated Cookies Idea