Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Published June 20, 2016 by jenmatteson

When I first started cooking, I watched Food Network A LOT. I stuck to fairly simple recipes, which generally came from only a handful of shows. Semi-Homemade was one of them. The concept of this show was to make a dish using some premade ingredients, but jazzing it up by adding fresh ingredients as well. An example would be making a compound butter by adding a seasoning packet to butter (this would be instead of adding your own seasonings). These cupcakes remind me a lot of Aunt Sandy (you’d get it if you ever watched the show) and Semi-Homemade.

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Salted Caramel Cupcakes

The recipe came from my sister-in-law, who is a fantastic baker and dessert maker – hey that rhymed – not to mention a bad ass wife and mother of two pretty wonderful kids! I fell in love with them from first bite, and the rest of my family raved about them. There aren’t words to describe how beautifully moist (yes, I know, some people hate that word, but guess what, it fits here!) these cupcakes are. I usually don’t like overly sweet, so the bit of saltiness in the frosting is perfect. The cupcake as a whole, a little piece of heaven.

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I’ve made these for my co-workers twice now, and they continue to let me know when their birthdays are so I bring them again. Little do they know (until now😉 ) that these are semi-homemade! Also, the pictures are so bad because I had to take them at my desk because I forgot to take some at home. Ugh.

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Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Source: Adapted from Crazy Little Projects
Servings: 24

Ingredients:

For the cupcake:
1 box Devil’s food cake mix
1 5.9 oz box of instant chocolate pudding
1 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt (sour cream will work, too)
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
4 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

For the Caramel Sauce:
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp. unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1/2 cup heavy cream (at room temperature)

For the Caramel Frosting:
3 sticks unsalted butter (at room temperature)
4-6 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup caramel sauce

Directions:

  1. Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine cake and pudding mixes, Greek yogurt, vegetable oil, water, eggs and vanilla. Mix until combined; batter will be very thick.
  2. Scoop batter into paper lined cupcake tins, about 1/2 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until they are cooked through. Set aside and let cool completely.
  3. Caramel Sauce: Familiarize yourself with the instructions for the caramel sauce before beginning – the process moves quickly. Pour sugar into a saucepan and cook over medium heat. As the sugar melts into small rocks, begin to whisk. Continue to whisk as the sugar turns to liquid, until the sugar becomes a deep amber color (or 350 degrees if you have a candy thermometer). Stir in butter. Once this is completely incorporated, add heavy cream and continue to whisk until combined and smooth. Set aside for 10 minutes or so to set up.
  4. Caramel Frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, combine all frosting ingredients. If the frosting is too thick, add more milk. If it appears to thin, add more sugar. This tends to be more of a feel and taste type of recipe!
  5. Transfer frosting to a piping bag and frost cupcakes. Drizzle cupcakes with additional caramel sauce and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Brussels Sprout and Cashew Fried Rice

Published June 13, 2016 by jenmatteson

As I mentioned in the last post, there was a recent addition to our family, Milou. I’ve been busy running around with her, and not blogging. Shame on me!

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Just look at that sweet face! I bet you forgive me now😉 Okay, on to the food!

Who doesn’t love fried rice? I certainly do, and so does Nate. The hardest part about making fried rice is the rice. The rice has to be completely cool before using, and leftover rice works the best. Unfortunately, the thought to make rice one day and use it the next rarely occurs to me.

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Brussel’s Sprouts and Cashew Fried Rice

Until…my girlfriend snapchatted me her dinner one night. I immediately responded needing to know what delight she made. She promptly emailed it to me the next day with the recipe. What a friend! Now this is originally a vegetarian dish, but I did add shrimp to up the protein a little. Obviously, feel free to follow the recipe as written, or add whatever protein you like. Tofu would be a good option if you want to keep it veg, too!

I was curious to see how the flavors would come together with the maple syrup added in, but it was a great balance of salty and sweet. I would definitely make this again, and it’s so super simple. Nate also demanded it as he came up for air once while consuming!

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Brussels Sprout and Cashew Fried Rice

Source: Adapted from A Virtual Vegan
Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

2 tsp oil (I used a mixture of sesame and olive oil)
2 heaping cups halved Brussels sprouts
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. maple syrup (honey or agave can be substituted)
2 cups cooked brown rice, cooled (leftover is best)
1/4 cup cashews

Directions:

  1. In a large frying pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add Brussels sprouts an saute until just tender, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add onions and garlic and cook until onion is just beginning to turn golden brown, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add soy and maple syrup and stir to coat vegetables. Add rice and cashews and continue cooking for another few minutes until rice is hot.

Thai Garden Chicken Wonton Broth Bowl

Published April 18, 2016 by jenmatteson

I haven’t been to Panera in a long time. A really long time. Until recently. And I noticed their menu has changed quite a bit. They seem to have a bit more global flavors than I remember, and I really like the change!

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Granted, they aren’t too far out there, as I can understand they want to continue to appeal to the general public, but some new fun items none the less. The Thai Garden Chicken Wonton Broth Bowl (not sure why it just can’t be called soup) really caught my eye. And, I loved it! And of course, I thought how hard could it be to make it at home?

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The hardest part of this broth bowl was making the wontons. And really, it wasn’t hard at all, it was just really tedious. The recipe called for a pound of ground chicken, but seeing as though a little goes a long way, I only  used 1/2 pound, and it still made about 25 wontons. Another great option is to use frozen pre-made wontons. Costco actually has some pretty good chicken wontons. Because I made a large pot for just the two of us, the only thing I would have done differently next time is add only the wontons I intend to eat that day. The wonton wrapper itself started to fall apart by day 3 from sitting in the liquid so long. I would keep the others uncooked and wrapped up to throw in when I heat up the soup. Overall, I really liked it. Nate was kind enough to let me know that I can make that any time I want…meaning he really liked it, too!

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Thai Garden Chicken Wonton Broth Bowl

Source: Adapted from Spark People
Servings: 8

Ingredients

1/2 pound extra lean ground chicken
1 tbsp. dried minced onion (I subbed 1/4 of a fresh onion, diced finely)
4 cloves garlic, minced, separated
1 tbsp. Ponzu sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp plus 2 tbsp. ginger root, grated, separated
1/2 tsp. seasoned rice vinegar
48 wonton or pot sticker wrappers
8 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cup water
3 medium carrots, julienned
4 oz. Portabella mushrooms, sliced
2 crowns broccoli, cut into medium florets
2 tbsp. Miso
2 tsp. sweet red chili sauce
3 green onions, rough chopped
1 cup Napa cabbage, rough chopped
sesame seeds, toasted

Directions

1. In a medium bowl, combine ground chicken, onion, 2 cloves minced garlic, Ponzu, sesame oil, 2 tsp ginger, and vinegar. Scoop one tablespoon of chicken mixture on wonton wrapper. Seal edges with water and set aside.

2. In large soup pot or Dutch oven, bring chicken broth and water to a boil. Add carrots and continue to boil for 3-5 minutes.

3. Lightly sauté 2 tbsp. ginger, remaining garlic and add mushrooms, about 5 minutes until mushrooms are soft and fragrant. Add mushrooms, broccoli, miso and sweet chili sauce. After simmering 10 minutes, add green onion, cabbage and wontons. Cook wontons until chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Serve and garnish with sesame seeds.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Published April 11, 2016 by jenmatteson

Over the weekend, we went to my parent’s house to visit our new puppy, Milou. Isn’t she precious?

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She’ll be coming to her new home in mid-May, so in the mean time, we’ll keep visiting when we can. The benefit of visiting her is that we get to spend time with my parents. This generally means playing cards and having a few cocktails. Always a great time!

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Since we went over for dinner, I wanted to bring a dessert to share. Thankfully, my freezer holds many treasures, two of them being strawberries and rhubarb. We can never seem to go through one of the big tubs from Costco, but the price is basically the same for the larger container as it is at the regular grocery store, so why wouldn’t I buy it from Costco?Because it’s wasteful? Nope. I just freeze the extras so I can use them for times like these.

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You can also easily make this in on 8″x 8″ pan if you don’t want to use individual ramekins. My mom absolutely loved these. She had two in one night! While it seems like a large rhubarb to strawberry ratio, the strawberries and sugar make the dessert a perfect balance of sweet and tart.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Source: Adapted from Food Network
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

3/4 slivered almonds, toasted
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 stick butter, cold and cubed

6 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup roughly chopped strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

heavy whipping cream
confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a food processor, pulse the almonds until finely ground.  Add flour, sugar and salt.  Pulse until incorporated.  Add butter and pulse until butter is dispersed in walnut-sized pieces throughout.  Set aside.

2. Mix rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest and lemon juice in a large bowl.  Evenly divide among 4 4-inch ramekins.  Sprinkle about 2 tbsp. of almond crumble over each and place in oven.  Bake until filling bubbles and the topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Let stand for 5 minutes.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine heaving whipping cream and confectioners sugar and whisk until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Top each ramekin with a dollop of cream and serve.

Pan Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Fennel

Published March 28, 2016 by jenmatteson

I love sweet potatoes. While they seem to be more of a fall/winter vegetable, I can eat them all year long. As a matter of fact, this recipe is wonderful to make in the summertime while you are grilling. Throw everything together and in the oven, and forget about it for about an hour. All you have to do is watch the meat and make sure you have a fresh drink!What more could you ask for?

Pan Roasted Sweet Potatoes

The brown sugar adds just a hint of sweetness to these potatoes, while the fennel pulls it all together with a pop of freshness, especially using the green tops. This is great for entertaining, or making it on Sunday for a week-long reheatable side dish.

Pan Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Pan-Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Fennel

Source: Adapted from Food and Wine
Servings: 10

Ingredients:

4 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
4 fennel bulbs, halfed lengthwise and cut into 3/4-inch wedges, some of the feathery tops finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp. light brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground mace
salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, toss the sweet potatoes and fennel with olive oil, brown sugar, mace, salt and pepper.

2. Spread the vegetables on a foil lined baking pan. Roast for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potatoes and fennel are tender and caramelized. Transfer them to a platter, sprinkle with t he fennel tops and serve.

Drop Biscuits

Published March 21, 2016 by jenmatteson

These are by far the quickest and easiest biscuits to make, and wonderful for entertaining. The best part is that the dough can basically be assembled far in advance. A few quick steps, and they can be in the oven in less than 5 minutes.

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You can prepare the dough up through step one (all the dry ingredients and butter), and have buttermilk measured and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Just pour, mix and drop. These biscuits come out nice and flaky, buttery and rich. They melt in your mouth – no joke! I often make these for Thanksgiving, and are the last thing I put in the oven while everything else is getting to the table. Works like a charm!

Want to make these at a moment’s notice, but don’t have buttermilk? Don’t worry – you can make your own buttermilk substitute with these two ingredients you probably do have: milk and vinegar. Simply measure out 1 tbsp. of vinegar and pour into a liquid measuring cup. Pour milk into the measuring cup with the vinegar, filling up to the 1 cup line. Let sit for 10-15 minutes. Viola! Buttermilk substitution.

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Drop Biscuits

Drop Biscuits

Source: Adapted from Fresh Direct
Servings: 8-12 biscuits

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 cup buttermilk

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.

2. Dump into large bowl, and stir in buttermilk with wooden spoon until just combined. The dough will be very sticky. Using the spoon, drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Lightly spray with olive oil.

3. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 12-15 minutes.

Butternut and Acorn Squash Soup

Published March 7, 2016 by jenmatteson

It’s March in Minnesota, and as someone who has lived here my entire life, I know the weather can be completely unpredictable. It was 60 degrees over the weekend, and currently 61 as I write this, but that doesn’t mean we are out of the clear and into spring…yet. So despite the warmer weather, everyone could still use a simple soup recipe, just in case we have another cold snap again! Or, if you’re like me, you like soup year round😉

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While the ingredients scream fall, squash is readily available year round, and it can stay fresh at room temperature for several weeks (Sometimes I tend to over-vegetable-shop, so I can always leave my gourds for last!)

This soup is awesome! Not only is it rich and filling, but it’s incredibly healthy! Plus, you will definitely get your daily dose of veggies. I like to add a bit more broth because it can get a thick, but that will depend on the size of squash you use. The apple brings a subtle sweetness without being overpowering, and the nutmeg adds a depth of flavor that brings all the flavors together! I know it’s early to start thinking of Thanksgiving, but this is a fantastic first course/appetizer for the big meal. I drizzled with a bit of lemon olive oil before serving for an added freshness.

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Butternut Acorn Squash Soup

 

Butternut and Acorn Squash Soup

Source:
Servings:

Ingredients:

1 medium acorn squash
1 medium butternut squash
1 Fuji apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 cups vegetable broth (chicken broth is fine if you’re not going for a vegetarian soup)
pinch nutmeg
salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut each squash in half (through the stem) and remove seeds and stringy insides. Place face down in baking dish or baking pan with a small amount of water on the bottom. Bake until tender when pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

2. Once squash is cool enough to handle, scrape insides into a large bowl. Heat butter and olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onion and apple and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add squash and broth. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 15 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender (or transfer to blender or food processor – make sure the mix is then cool, otherwise you’ll have a mess on your hands). Add nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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