Apple Spice Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream

This is the perfect Fall treat! Preparing the cupcakes as bite size treats will make plenty for a party of 72. John could not stay out of this kitchen as these baked, he was as curious as Chandon is when he smells peanut butter…but doesn’t see it.

They are moist, and have just the right amount of sweetness. The best thing about the buttercream is that it’s as simple as can be!

Apple Spice Cupcakes – 72 mini cupcakes
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk, room temperature
3 cups shredded Gala apples (about 4 medium apples), shred on large holes of a box grater

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.Line 2 mini muffin pans with paper liners. Alternatively, coat the wells with butter; set aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a medium bowl and whisk to aerate and break up any lumps; set aside.

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until very light in color, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue beating until the mixture is airy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until well combined, about 1 minute.Turn off the mixer and scrape down the paddle and the sides of the bowl. Set the mixer on low speed, slowly pour in the buttermilk, and mix until combined, about 15 seconds (the batter will look curdled, but it’s fine). Add the reserved flour mixture and mix until just combined, about 15 seconds.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the shredded apples and any liquid until just combined, about 1 minute.

Fill the muffin wells about three-quarters full (about 1/4 cup per well). Place the muffin pans side by side on the rack and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the pans and let cool completely on wire racks before frosting.

Maple Buttercream – for 72+ mini cupcakes
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar, maybe more
1 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with a whisk attachment and beat on low speed until syrup and sugar are incorporated, about 1 minute.

Increase speed to high and beat until mixture is light and whipped, about 5 minutes. Use immediately to frost cupcakes. Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container or freeze for up to 1 month.

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Also…Happy Halloween! Hope you enjoy the photo of Chandon. 🙂


Veggie Lasagna with Bechamel and Ragu

John has been making our Tuesday night dinners – since I’m in class for 12 hours that day. And I came home to the most amazing veggie lasagna ever! The mushrooms are quartered, so not only do they contrast with everything else in texture, but they feel “meaty”. The ragu has a lot of flavor, and everything comes together so wonderfully – that we ate this lasagna for the next 2 nights without complaints!

Veggie Lasagna – 6 large servings
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
5 cups milk
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 lbs portabello mushrooms, stemmed, quartered
1⁄2 lb spinach, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon rosemary, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
5 cups whole canned tomatoes, crushed
1 lb no-precook lasagna noodles
14 oz Scarmoza, grated
2 1⁄2 cups Pecorino Romano, grated

Butter a 9x 13 baking pan with 1 tablespoon butter. Drain sundried tomatoes, chop and set aside.

In a small sauce pan, heat 8 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add shallots and carrots, cook for 5 minutes. Add flour, cook 2 minutes. Whisk in milk and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, simmer, continue whisking, until thick, about 20 minutes. Add nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil and remaining butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, cook 10 minutes, or until evenly browned. Add sundried tomatoes, spinach, garlic, parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and tomato paste – cook 3 minutes. Add canned tomatoes with juices. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set ragu aside.

Preheat the oven to 375. Spread 2 cups tomato sauce in buttered baking dish. Cover with a layer of noodles. Spread 1 cup béchamel over top; sprinkle with 1⁄2 cup of each cheese and 2 cups tomato sauce. Repeat layering 2 more times. Top with remaining noodles, tomato sauce, béchamel, and cheeses. Bake covered with foil on a baking sheet for 1 hour. Remove foil; raise oven to 500 and bake until top is golden, 5-10 minutes.

Enjoy with spinach salad and buttered ciabatta! If your lucky, you’re significant other will whip some delicious bread up while you were in class/work to go with the lasagna!

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Sorry there isn’t a posed photo of the lasagna to display it’s many layers – but I was starving! And I make it up to you, by displaying my pup in his Halloween costume!

Curried Rice with Pineapples and Cashews

Curried Rice with Pineapples and Cashews
1/2 cup chopped green onions, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups uncooked long grain rice
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup cashews, toasted

In a large sautepan, saute 1/4 cup onions and garlic in butter until tender. Stir in rice and curry powder. Saute for 2-3 minutes or until rice is lightly browned.

In a saucepan, heat broth and salt. Pour over rice mixture; stir. Cover and simmer for 35-40 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from the heat; stir in cashews and onions.

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Oatmeal Bars with Walnuts, Dark Chocolate and Caramel

SORRY FOR THE DELAY! School has begun, and things are really hectic, so to make it up to you – amazing oatmeal bars – I have been keeping squares of it in my backpack!

I was inspired by “turtle bars”, a delicious treat you can find in plenty of local bakeries around Cincinnati. Typically they are made with pecans, and milk chocolate, but I prefer them with walnuts and bittersweet chocolate.

This is easy to make and yields plenty! Depending on how you cut the quares you could get about 12 large rectangles, 24 bars, or 36 squares. I recommend cutting a square out, and tasting it – that will allow you to decide the appropriate treat size.

Oatmeal Bars – 36 squares
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 3/4 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Generously butter a glass dish, 9-by-13 inches, set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking soda. Rub in the brown sugar, add the oats and stir until all the ingredients are combined. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the melted butter, and stir together the entire mixture until it’s wet and combined.

Divide the mixture into 3 parts, spread 2 parts evenly into the bottom of the buttered glass baking dish, reserving the 3rd part for the topping. Bake for 10 minutes, and remove from oven to cool, leaving the oven on. Once the bottom has cooled sprinkle walnuts and chocolate evenly across.

Meanwhile, make the caramel in a medium saucepan, over medium-high heat melt the sugar and butter together. Bring the mixture to a boil, for about 1 minute, whisking together to make sure the butter is absorbed by the sugar. Turn off the heat, add the heavy cream while whisking to incorporate. Pour the caramel over the walnuts and chocolate, and use a spatula to evenly spread caramel. Sprinkle the remaining oatmeal mixture over the caramel and bake for 11 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let the bars cool for about 30 minutes, then place the baking in the refrigerator for about 1 to 2 hours, the dish should be thoroughly chilled and the bars should be firm. Remove from the refrigerator, and cut how you prefer. Serve with cold milk!

For leftovers, wrap and refrigerate bars in a sealed container for about 5 days.

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