Hello, December

Am I the only one who can’t quite believe we’re in the last month of the year? Whew, 2013–you were a fast one. I survived enjoyed Thanksgiving and thanks to The Kitchn I think I made my best pumpkin pies ever. File these tips away for next year.

And speaking of Thanksgiving, how cute are these little guys? They were for a lucky preschool class and involved heating, rolling out and cutting Starbursts to make the feathers.

Thanksgiving

Now, moving on to December. I just made cranberry, dark chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies for my first cookie exchange of the season and will share the recipe soon.

I’m looking forward to catching up with good friends, eating lots of delicious food and wearing outfits that sparkle. What are you looking forward to this month?

To help you get festive, watch Jimmy Fallon and Rashida Jones sing about the holidays.

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Boston

I now understand why so many artists sing about Boston. What a great city! Earlier this month I ventured to Beantown for the first time. We were lucky to have such beautiful weather in November to get out and explore, and of course—eat! We were only there a few days, but managed to do some pretty serious bakery research. Sorry, some of the photos are from my phone, all the desserts looked stunning!

Sweet Cupcakes

Sweet—This was our first stop and my favorite. Just as I found myself thinking, “I could really go for some tea and a cupcake,” we stumbled on to this shop. With four locations in the Boston area, it’s easy to see that they are enjoying sweet success. I had the dark chocolate cupcake, and I’m not usually a big fan of frosting, but this chocolate buttercream really hit the spot! Maybe I just really needed a little sugar buzz. For my gluten-free friends, they did have a few options for you. Bonus points!

Sweet

Café Vanille—We stayed near Charles St. so this hip area quickly became our go-to place. In the afternoon we stopped here and I had a quiche that was pretty tasty. My friend had a chocolate raspberry treat that competed for her top pick.

Curly Cakes—Also in the Charles St. area, this cupcake shop was the perfect way to end a long day of site seeing. We inhaled our triple chocolate cupcake and enjoyed some time off our feet in this tiny shop.

CurlyCakes

Flour—A bakery frequently topping “best of” lists is Flour. I was surprised to see this was a popular sandwich stop. It was packed but the service was friendly and the triple chocolate mousse cake was a delight. They have four shops in the area.

Flour

Don’t worry, we also sneaked in plenty of history, shopping and meals that skipped the sugar. I would definitely recommend Boston as a great fall trip.

I think I’ll go to Boston…

Boston

Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cupcakes

Last year I made Nutella Swirl Cupcakes and since then I’ve wanted to try a chocolate and peanut butter version. A fall birthday was the perfect occasion to try these out. This is an easy recipe, especially if you use a cake mix. (I won’t tell.) I should have done a better job taking photos of the process, but I promise it’s simple.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cupcakes

Ingredients

Your favorite chocolate cupcake recipe (grab a mix and take it easy)
1/2 cup peanut butter

  1. Line cupcake tray with liners and preheat oven according to your chocolate cake recipe
  2. Fill each with 1/3 full with batter
  3. Soften peanut butter for 10-20 seconds in a ceramic dish
  4. Spoon a nickel-sized amount of peanut butter on top of the batter
  5. Swirl with a toothpick
  6. Repeat each layer one more time
  7. Bake according to your chocolate cake recipe

Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cupcakes-Yum!

I added chocolate frosting, but these are great on their own as well! What other combos do you think would be good for the swirl technique?

Pumpkin Brownies

October

Okay, I admit it, I’m one of those girls. You know, the one that just can’t get enough of pumpkin. A recent trip to Trader Joe’s included:

2 boxes of pumpkin bread mix
pumpkin granola
pumpkin cream cheese
6 cans of pumpkin

…and that was holding back.

The cashier asked me what I was planning to do with all that pumpkin. Well, first off were these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies I discovered last year.

My most recent endeavor was pumpkin brownies. It’s a great easy baking recipe, you only need three ingredients. Thank you, Pinterest.

Pumpkin Brownies

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Ingredients 

Boxed brownie mix (I used Ghirardelli)
1 can of pumpkin
½ tsp of pumpkin spice

1.       Preheat oven to 350 and line a 9×9 pan with foil, lightly spray.

2.       Mix ingredients in a medium sized bowl.

3.       Pour in your pan and bake for 40 minutes.

These will be a little gooey, but depending on your brownie mix you may want to start off baking for 30 minutes and check in.

So easy, so good!

The brownies were a great dessert to follow these Butternut Squash Spinach Lasagna Rolls. So many great fall flavors!

Do you have any pumpkin recipes to share?

Buckeye Bars

It’s fall and if you live in Columbus it’s better known as Buckeye football season. This city lives for this time of year. Football season also brings an excuse to eat fantastic snacks. Our claim to dessert fame is the buckeye, a chocolate and peanut butter treat that resembles the nut. Just as tasty and way easier are Buckeye Bars. I’ve made these for years and they’re one of my most requested treats.

Buckeye Bars

Buckeye Bars

Ingredients 

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup butter
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 1/2 cup powered sugar
1 bag chocolate chips (I use cacao 60%)
3 tablespoons cooking oil

1. Soften in microwave and mix together peanut butter and butter.
2. Stir in graham cracker crumbs and powered sugar. Mix well.
3. Pat mixture into bottom of 9 x 13 pan.
4. On low heat, melt chocolate chips and stir in oil.
5. Pour over crust and refrigerate for several hours.
6. Cut into bars and enjoy!

Cheer on the buckeyes with these!

Sprinkles

Friends, let me tell you about my trip to heaven. I found it in the form of a cupcake shop in LA. You may have heard of Sprinkles, they’re famous for the Cupcake ATM and being the world’s first cupcake bakery.

Cupcake ATM
In my opinion, they make the most divine cupcakes on this planet. Many of their flavors are basic but they do them so well, there’s no competition. They also think outside the box with flavors like ginger lemon and chai latte. Heading to this flagship bakery was on the top of my list for my trip and I’ll be daydreaming of it for weeks. They recently added ice cream to the mix so I had a cupcake sandwich. Yeah. Dark chocolate cupcake and vanilla cherry ice cream. My world was rocked. If you find yourself near a Sprinkles cupcake, do yourself and favor and indulge. You won’t regret it.

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Lemon Berry Shandy Cupcakes

Although Labor Day has passed, it still feels like summer here in Ohio. I’m still clinging to all the wonders that summer brings to the kitchen. Yes, this means I’m still eating zucchini. My fridge is also stocked with some summer brews. One of my favorites has been Leinenkugel’s Lemon Berry Shandy and I decided it would be perfect in a cupcake. Originally, I envisioned topping the cupcake with raspberry buttercream but this post was almost named, “The Raspberry Buttercream Incident of 2013.” More on that later. First, here’s the recipe for Lemon Berry Shandy Cupcakes. A perfect way to say farewell to summer!

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Lemon Berry Shandy Cupcakes
(Adapted from The Brooklyn Baker)

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes

Ingredients
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup milk
1 cup Lemon Berry Shandy (or your favorite summer shandy)

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line cupcake pan with liners.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
3. In your mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the sugar gradually and continue to beat until the sugar is completely mixed in.
4. Add the eggs, beating after each.
5. Add the vanilla and lemon juice.
6. Mix the beer and milk in a cup. Add the mixture and the flour alternately.
7. Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake for 18 minutes. Cupcakes should be golden, do the toothpick test to make sure.
8. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost away. If you successfully make raspberry buttercream, I want to hear all about it!
9. Garnish with fruit of your choice if you’re feeling fancy.

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So about that raspberry buttercream…I’ve only strayed from traditional buttercream by making it a little boozy. I was armed with what seemed like a great recipe, but I failed. The fresh raspberries were just too juicy. I decided I had plenty of butter so I tried again. The end result resembled zombie brains and somehow found its way all over my poor kitchen floor. One day, I will conquer the raspberry buttercream. But for now, I picked up some icing from the store and called it a day.

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What has been your favorite recipe this summer? I made this zucchini pasta several times. I also loved making zucchini nachos. Yes, I may need an intervention about my zucchini obsession.

Summer Kitchen Tunes

In my opinion, nothing takes the stress away like a little baking and dancing to some great tunes. I put together a playlist of what I’ve been stirring and jamming along to recently. Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Summer Kitchen Playlist

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Highlights

Closer, Tegan & Sara: I have to admit, I was never a huge fan of this duo but I really like their latest album. Closer is just a perfect belt it and stomp it out song.

Royals, Lorde: Oh my goodness. Obsessed. This girl isn’t even 18 yet and she’s already creating a ton of buzz after the release of her EP. Her debut album is set to drop in September. This song is sassy and I absolutely love it.

If You Didn’t See Me [Then You Weren’t on the Dance Floor], Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.: Hate the name, love the band. Check out the video for this one. I’m pretty sure this song requires some spin moves.

Earthquake Weather, Matt Nathanson: One of my favorite human beings just released his latest album on July 16 (just in time for my birthday). Every single song is fantastic. It’s like a love letter to San Francisco. When my favorite song is constantly changing I know it’s an amazing record.

Call Me Maybe (Cover), Us: I love a good pop song, and you guys, Call Me Maybe is a great pop song. I won’t deny it but this version makes me feel a bit cooler.

What have you been listening to lately? Do you have a genre you like to listen to while you’re in the kitchen?

Zucchini!

For me, nothing says summer like throwing some delicious zucchini in almost every meal I can. Zucchini Bread was a staple in our house growing up. My mom has it down to an art and now I’m going to share it with you!

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Connie’s Zucchini Bread

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

2 cups grated zucchini
3 eggs
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce (you could also skip the oil and just do 1 cup applesauce)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 350 and spray two loaf pans with cooking spray.
2. Grate zucchini.
3. In a large bowl whisk eggs and mix in vegetable oil, applesauce, lemon juice  and vanilla.
4. In a medium bowl mix dry ingredients and add to wet ingredients. Pour in zucchini and mix.
4. Divide batter in loaf plans and sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top of batter.
5. Bake one hour.

Another one of my favorite ways to enjoy this summer veggie is Zucchini Sticks. I’ve been known to make these every single day. They’re fast, easy and I always have the needed ingredients.

Tried and True Zucchini Sticks

zucchinisticks

Ingredients
1 large zucchini
1/4 cup grated parm
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 egg

1. Preheat oven to 425 and spray cookie sheet with cooking spray.
2. Cut zucchini in to strips.
3. Combine cheese and bread crumbs in a bowl. Mix egg in another bowl.
4. Coat each stick first with the egg and then roll into bread crumb/cheese mixture, place on cookie sheet.
5. Lightly spray cooking oil over the sticks and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Easily adjustable recipe if you want to make these for a crowd, just create a larger bread crumb and cheese mixture.

For months I was pinning new zucchini recipes to try this summer and these are my favorites so far:

Zucchini Roll-Ups: I used regular goat cheese, added some fresh basil and skipped the capers.
Zucchini Pasta: I use a garlic clove and regular olive oil.

Do you have any favorite zucchini recipes? What foods do you look forward to in the summer?

Easy Baking: Raspberry Brownies

I may have jumped the gun a little on my last post saying so long to winter. During the first week of April I was still wearing my winter coat and today I woke up to temps in the thirties. Those little details aren’t holding me back from spring fever. Here are a few favorites for April:

Hills Market Downtown: Just blocks from my office, it’s so nice to shop for local goodies here.
Red Pepper Pasta with Mushrooms and Spinach: This pasta was my favorite thing I’ve cooked in recent memory.
The Edible Balcony: Planning my garden with help from this book. This is the first time I’ve had some real outdoor space so I’m looking forward to my own veggies, herbs and flowers!

This time of year I want fast and easy recipes and these Raspberry Brownies are one of my go-to recipes that I try to always have the supplies for. The end result is delicious gooey squares with a great raspberry flavor. Bonus, you don’t have to feel quite as guilty eating these brownies. Next time you find yourself at Trader Joe’s, pick up some Reduced Guilt brownie mix and raspberry preserves so you’ll be ready the next time you’re having a chocolate craving.

Raspberry Brownies

Raspberry Brownies

Ingredients

1 cup light sour cream

1/4 cup applesauce

1 box Trader Joe’s Guilt Free Brownies

1/2 cup raspberry preserves

1. Preheat the oven to 350 and spray an eight inch square pan with cooking spray.

2.  In a large bowl, mix together the sour cream and applesauce. Add the brownie mix and stir until combined. Fold in the raspberry preserves with a spatula. Pour the batter into the pan.

3.  Bake 35 minutes.