Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Boozy Pumpkin Madeleines

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and as a last minute dessert, I decided to do something a little different. My husband and I are heading to my mother- and father-in-law's house for dinner, and I hate showing up empty-handed. Instead of the usual cookies or cake, I wanted to go a different direction, and since I'd recently bought a madeleine pan, I figured this was a good opportunity to try it out.

In case you're not familiar with madeleines, they're a spongy French butter cake. They're tiny (about cookie-sized) and look like shells. You need a special pan to make them, here's mine --

...which I assumed would be expensive, but I was able to buy off Amazon for just over $10.

Being that it's autumn and the perfect time of year for pumpkin, I decided to put a little New England fall twist on these, and flavor them with pumpkin. I also put a glaze on them just for a little extra sweetness (hence the "boozy" in the title), which you could skip, especially if you're making them for kids.

Boozy Pumpkin Madeleines
Makes 16

1/2 cup salted butter (1 stick), melted
2 eggs
1 cup flour
2 1/2 tablespoons canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder

For the glaze:
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 tablespoon brandy
1 tablespoon canned pumpkin

Grease pan with butter and flour or Pam cooking spray, preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and set aside until completely cool.

In a mixing bowl, beat sugar, eggs and vanilla together. When combined, add pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix until smooth -- there should be no visible chunks/lumps of pumpkin.

Pour in melted butter slowly, and mix to well-incorporate. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time, mixing just to incorporate each time. Do not overmix or the cakes will be too dense.

Spoon a heaping tablespoon of batter into each mold, careful not to overfill.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until tops and edges begin to turn golden brown.

Allow pan to cool before attempting to remove the cakes -- which should slide out easily -- or you WILL burn yourself! Set the cakes on a cooling rack.

For the glaze, melt butter and sugar together in a pan on medium-high heat, continually stirring. Once they are melted together, add brandy and pumpkin, and continue to cook until bubbly (about 3 minutes) and frothy. Set aside for 2 minutes for mixture to settle, then drizzle over the cakes.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Make your holiday memories

Just taking a quick little break from the recipes to tell you about an awesome opportunity for bloggers!

Anyone who's been on the receiving end of almost any invitation from our family over the last few years is very familiar with Shutterfly.

We've used them for almost every creative project we've done since getting married three years ago… And I mean everything: We used our wedding photos and put together an album for ourselves and our parents (like these), and made Christmas cards with some of our wedding pictures on it to send to our guests.

Last year with the help of Shutterfly, cuteness in our house took on a whole new meaning. When our son was born in July 2009, we immediately turned to Shutterfly (and my newfound photography skills) to put together a photo-clad birth announcement, and we couldn't have been more thrilled with the results. We were able to include some precious pictures of our newborn, but also weren't forced to choose between photos or a cute design -- we got both!

Check out dozens of other adorable birth announcements here!

Then during the holidays, we turned Johnny's first time meeting Santa into a holiday card that our families still talk about (or, what we like to call, the cutest Christmas card in existence).

This past July, the little guy (not so little anymore) turned the big "1". To commemmorate the occasion, we found the perfect album-style birthday invitation for his party, and one still sits on our hutch in a frame today.

We love Shutterfly because their designs are clean, fresh and creative. Regardless of the product -- from photo albums to calendars, from mugs to photo enlargements -- Shutterfly has a variety to fit any style or budget.

This weekend, we took our son for his (now) annual Santa picture, and while the results weren't quite as angelic as last year, they will make for an equally memorable card. I won't be posting the photos until after we send out our cards, but I assure you, they are worth the wait. And of course, this year's memories will be captured on cards by Shutterfly.

To see some of the festive holiday cards at Shutterfly awaiting for your personal touch, click here! Can't wait to see what you come up with!

But besides cards, Shutterfly has tons of other products -- some of which I just discovered and OMG CALLING CARDS! -- to suit your holiday and every day needs.

Even better -- if you're a blogger and you love Shutterfly as much as we do, why not have 50 of your holiday cards ON THEM?

Click here for details!

Disclosure: I am receiving 50 holiday cards in exchange for this post. But trust me -- if I didn't REALLY love Shutterfly, I wouldn't have so many past projects to show off! :-)

Monday, November 15, 2010

New design and a big announcement!

First off, check out my new design! Isn't it fabulous? I am in love with it, and I hope you like it too. I can't take credit for this beauty though -- all the work was done by Jessica at The Frilly Coconut. She could not have been sweeter or more accommodating, and she got my design done in a week! If your blog is in need of a face-lift, I HIGHLY recommend Jessica! Please visit her!

Secondly, the holidays are upon us (sort of)! It's very hard for me to believe that Thanksgiving is next week, and we all know that as soon is that day is over, Christmas will be here before we know it.

So, in honor of my awesome new look, I wanted to announce something exciting...

Besides presents and trees, I know the first thing I think of when I think of the holidays is the food. So many parties, so many tidbits, so many desserts, and most importantly, so many delicious cookies!

To participate in the swap, you must be willing to commit to sending out containers of your cookies to other participants. You must be comfortable with others having your address (nothing will EVER be posted publicly. Until the it's time to start sending out the cookies, I will maintain the list privately) to send you your own stash.

The number of people who want to participate will dictate whether we'll send cookies to everyone or to a few selected people. In other words, if 20 people tell me they'd like to join the swap, I'm not going to make anyone send out 20 packages (unless they want to), I'll divide up the list into groups.

You don't have to be a blogger to participate, but it would be great if you participated in social media -- Facebook and/or Twitter -- and followed me on one or the other (not trying to limit the pool... just want to make sure I can know everyone and properly thank all the participants!). If you are a blogger, I would really love to see a post about the swap! It could be a recipe of the cookie(s) you sent out, or a rundown of what your received in return. All of the swaps I've ever done also asked that participants include a recipe of what they made in the package.

If you would like to participate, you can comment on this post, @reply me on Twitter, leave a post on Facebook or email me directly using the links on my header. Please let me know if you have a food allergy!

I would also appreciate any publicity, through a tweet or a post or anything in between! It would be great if you could take the image above and post it somewhere on your sidebar!

Looking so forward to tasting some of those delicious cookies!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Heavenly Roasted Garlic

My family is loud.

When I was a kid, we would occasionally (for a birthday or no reason at all) go out to dinner all together -- me, my sister, our parents, my uncle, cousin, and our grandparents. We always had a blast.

The only trouble we ever had was finding a restaurant that could contain the GINORMOUS personalities seated (at least sometimes) at the table. My dad and uncle tell stories that cause uproarious laughter, my grandfather inevitably gets carried away joking around with our waitress (or waitressES -- we're what servers call "needy"), my grandmother and mom get into heated political discussions and too many desserts get ordered.

There were a few restaurants that could (would?) accommodate us, and while my sister and I didn't care where we went, we definitely had our favorites. One of which was a place in Mansfield, Conn., called Angellino's.

They served hearty Italian food and have HUGE portions. Their menu is a mix of classics, inventive and seasonal dishes, and has been for as long as I can remember. We never had a bad meal, and I've been back since childhood and it was just as good as it's always been.

We'd pile in, check out the menu and order, and like many carb-craving Italians were just as excited for the bread basket to arrive at the table as we were for the main dishes. That's because Angellino's serves a special little gem with their bread -- fresh oven-roasted garlic.

I'm not talking about a little clove in your olive oil, I'm talking BIG TIME. An entire head of garlic was included with your bread. You'd take a slice of bread, use the spreader to finagle a clove out of the papery wrapping and smear it onto the bread in all its fragrant goodness. It was magical.

It goes without saying -- check any entree recipe on this blog -- that I am a huge fan of garlic. Raw, cooked, minced, chopped, powdered, doesn't matter. I love it all. But as hot as the tawdry love affair has been... I do realize that there are people who DON'T like garlic. I call them "traitors," but for the sake of inclusion, we'll call them anti-garlicites. I won't pretend I understand it, but I'll accept it.

This is something even anti-garlicites may enjoy. It's not that it doesn't TASTE like garlic, but it's not the same texture. The oven-roasting brings out a sweetness and full-bodied flavor that raw and even sauteed garlic doesn't usually have.

I concede that cooking with garlic can leave your hands smelling of the stuff for days. It can get under your fingernails and sting a little. If you burn it even slightly, the smell and taste of it are horrid. It can cause less-than-pleasant breath. On the other hand, it keeps vampires away. I digress.

What was so awesome about Angellino's roasted garlic was that as much as I had loved the flavor my entire life, I'd never seen it become spreadable. I had to figure out how to do it, and once I did, I couldn't believe how simple it was.

A head of roasted garlic goes great with Italian bread, on a focaccia, or with pita bread. I've even used it to flavor hummus before. It takes a little time but minimal effort, and it is so unbelievably worth it.

Preheat oven to 425. Take a large head of garlic and cut the top off, exposing the tops of all cloves (leave the paper on).

Sit in a large piece of aluminum foil, and crunch it up to form a little package.

Before pinching the top closed, drizzle about two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over the top of the garlic head. Seal up package and sit directly on oven rack.

Allow to roast for 45 minutes. Use caution when removing the package from the oven as the foil will be the same temperature as the oven -- definitely use tongs. Allow the package to sit somewhere and cool off for about 10 minutes. Unwrap, serve with bread and a spreader -- enjoy!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pumpkin Fudge

This is a simple and fun treat to make on a weekend afternoon, especially if you do it on Halloween like I did. You get LOTS of fudge from it, and family and friends will be more than happy to help take it off your hands!

Pumpkin Fudge

1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons salted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar (light)
2 cups sugar
6 ounces evaporated milk
12 oz. white chocolate chips
7-ounce jar Fluff*

9x9 pan

First, my assistant was working with me for this recipe -- he served as taste-tester later on and I assure you this exceeded his rigorous quality control standards. ;-)

Cover a 9x9 baking dish with foil. Doing a double layer will help make it easier to lift the fudge later. Press the foil into the corners as much as possible without tearing a hole.

Heat milk and sugar until they boil over low-medium heat. Stir from time to time to keep from scalding.

Add pumpkin, nutmeg, salt and cinnamon. Mixture should still be boiling. Carefully add Fluff, butter and vanilla -- be VERY careful, the sugar mixture could burn you if it splatters, and it will if you put spoonfuls of the fluff in from too high up. Try to stay as close to the saucepan as possible during this step. Once Fluff has been added, mix to combine -- this will take a minute or two, as it breaks down. Once smooth, cook, stirring frequently, for 25 minutes. Mixture will darken in color.

Remove from heat and add white chocolate. Stir continuously until all chips have melted. Some small pieces may remain, but most should have broken down.

Pour into 9x9 pan, and allow to set for 2 hours. Do NOT refrigerate or mixture will not set properly. Remove fudge from pan (once set, you should be able to overturn the pan onto a cutting board and have one large solid piece of fudge).

Cut into squares using a sharp knife to prevent crumbling, store between layers of parchment paper to avoid sticking. Fudge should be eaten within 4-5 days.

*Fluff: Fluff is the name brand of marshmallow creme. It was invented in Massachusetts, and I'm going to be elaborating on its many (delicious) recipe possibilities in a future post. I'm not sure if the brand name is available nationwide, but if it isn't, just look for a jar/container of "marshmallow creme" in the same section as peanut butter and jelly in the supermarket.