Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pumpkin Date Scones with Maple Glaze

This past week, cooler temps finally came to Southern California - and I've been baking up a storm to take advantage of it! One yummy fall creation I came up with are these pumpkin date scones:

They have just the right amount of flakiness while still being moist - and have all the fall/pumpkin spice flavors I've been craving of late. The dates and maple glaze, while optional, add moisture and richness -- plus a little extra sweetness, as the pumpkin scone base itself uses little sugar. And while some scone recipes can be intimidating, this one is very easy - I promise (check out the helpful photos below). As long as the fall weather holds out, I see another batch coming our way very soon!

What's your favorite fall treat - pumpkin pie? apple cobbler? something else? I'd love for you to share!

Pumpkin Date Scones with Maple Glaze
(Adapted from King Arthur Flour - Makes 12)

2 3/4 c. all purpose flour
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 stick (1/2 c.) cold butter, cut into 1/4-1/2" pieces
2/3 c. pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1 c. pitted dates, chopped into small pieces

For the glaze:
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. confectioner's sugar

In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices.
Add cold, cut-up butter and pulse until crumbly.
In a separate bowl, mix pumpkin puree and eggs until smooth. Then stir in the chopped dates.
Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin-date mixture and mix just until all the ingredients are evenly moist.
Dump the dough out onto parchment paper (or foil) and divide in half.
Form each half into a 5-6" circle:
With a sharp knife, cut into 6 wedges:
Carefully pull the wedges apart so there's at least 1" of space between each one:
Transfer the whole thing (parchment and all) to a plate, then place in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes. (This will help the scones "puff up.")
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F.
When oven is fully heated, remove plates from freezer and transfer parchment (& scones) to a baking sheets.
Bake at 425°F for 22-25 minutes, rotating baking sheets 1/2 way through. Scones are done when toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Set the scones aside to cool for a few minutes. While they're cooling, prepare the maple glaze by whisking together the maple syrup and confectioner's sugar until smooth.
Drizzle over the top of the scones.

Serve immediately, or store in a tightly covered container. Enjoy!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole

Have you heard about Meatless Mondays? It's a campaign spearheaded by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health to get people to eat meat 1 less day per week, and in doing so, help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer and obesity while also reducing your carbon footprint.

Now, I'm all about meatless meals. My husband, on the other hand, generally believes dinner isn't complete until meat makes an appearance. So, I'm always experimenting to see if I can turn some of his favorite recipes into meatless alternatives -- without complaint. This vegetarian enchilada casserole is a big win on that front. I've swapped out the usual chicken or ground beef for pinto and black beans for a meal that's still filling and packed full of protein. It happens to be gluten-free to boot. Plus, it's covered with yummy cheese - how can you not like that?!

I highly recommend giving this recipe on your next Meatless Monday - or any other day!
(Note, however, that this recipe is not reflux-friendly. I thought mild enchilada sauce would be OK, but I'm not quite ready for that yet, I guess. It was worth the Tums®, though!)

Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole
(Serves 4-6)

9 6-inch corn tortillas
1 1/2 c. mild enchilada sauce (or green salsa)
1 15 oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 c. light sour cream
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 c. low-fat shredded Mexican cheese blend

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Tear 3 tortillas into 4 pieces each. Dip into enchilada sauce to coat thoroughly, then spread pieces out to cover the bottom of a 9" x 11" baking dish.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix pinto beans, black beans, sour cream, chopped bell pepper and chopped fresh cilantro. Spread 1/2 of the mixture on top of the sauce-coated tortillas.
Sprinkle 1/3 cheese on top.
Tear another 3 tortillas into 4 pieces each. Dip into enchilada sauce to coat, then layer evenly on top of sprinkled cheese.
Top with remaining bean/sour cream mixture.
Sprinkle another 1/3 cheese on top of that.
Tear the remaining tortillas into 4 pieces each. Coat well in enchilada sauce, then layer over the top. Pour any remaining enchilada sauce over the top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Cover with foil, and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes.
Remove foil, and bake another 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly and starts to brown.
Let cool 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Celebrating with Dulce de Leche Cupcakes & #CoolWhipFrosting

As I get older, I realize more and more how important it is to show your love for friends and family members often and to celebrate everyday accomplishments - not just big holidays or events. This has been on my mind a lot lately since my husband's been working long hours on a project and we haven't gotten to spend a lot of time together. So, when he mentioned his project was starting to wrap up and he might actually get home at a reasonable hour, I decided to celebrate by baking up some yummy dulce de leche-filled cupcakes.

When it comes to holidays and special occasions, I usually make my own cakes or other desserts from scratch. But for a weeknight celebration, I'm more than happy to go "semi-homemade." For this recipe, I picked up the new light and fluffy Cool Whip® Frosting:

And some other baking-made-easy goodies:

You can check out my full shopping adventure here on Google+.

If you're a regular reader, you know I did some prep work ahead of time by making my homemade dulce de leche for filling the cupcakes. I suggest making that the night before, or at least in the morning so it has time to cool. The rest of the recipe comes together fairly quickly.

Dulce de Leche Cupcakes
(Makes 12)

1 box Betty Crocker® butter yellow cake mix
1 cup water
1/3 c. butter, softened
3 eggs
1 recipe homemade dulce de leche
1 tub vanilla Cool Whip Frosting

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 12-tin cupcake pans with paper liners.
In a large bowl, beat cake mix, water, butter and eggs until smooth.
Divide batter evenly into 24 cupcake tins (filling each about 2/3 full).
Bake at 350°F for 17-22 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Cool completely. (Note that while a box makes 24 cupcakes, you only need 12 for the rest of this recipe. I suggest freezing the other 12 for another day!)

Once cupcakes are cool, using a knife or cupcake corer to make a well in the center of each cupcake:

Using a pastry bag or a spoon, fill the wells with dulce de leche. (If your dulce has been in the refrigerator, warm it up a little first to get it to spread more easily.)

Using a pastry bag and a large star tip, pipe vanilla Cool Whip Frosting on the top of each cupcake:

Using the back of a spoon, drizzle some of the remaining dulce de leche over the top of each cupcake:

Refrigerate until ready to serve. When you are ready to indulge, get ready for this gooey goodness:

The rich dulce de leche goes perfectly with the light, airy Cool Whip Frosting (which to me, tastes like the "whipped" frosting they use on bakery cakes).

My husband made it home even earlier than expected (6:30 is amazing as of late!) and definitely enjoyed his pre-dinner dessert:


To find out more about the new Cool Whip Frosting, check out their Facebook page. Or browse for Kraft Recipes here.

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This content has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Kraft Cool Whip. #CoolWhipFrosting #CBias #SocialFabric

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Easy Homemade Dulce de Leche

Dulche de leche ("candy of milk") is a creamy, smooth, sweet treat that's popping up more and more on dessert menus, in cookies - and even in coffee shops. If you've never had it before, it's kind of like a really thick, milky caramel. It's amazingly delicious - and surprisingly simple to make!

Traditionally, dulce de leche is made by boiling milk and sugar on the stove top for hours until the water evaporates and the sugar caramelizes. A simpler method is to use pre-sweetened milk - aka sweetened condensed milk. There are many different preparations out there - some of which include boiling the sweetened condensed milk right in the can (yikes - the risk of explosions, BPA contamination and who knows what else scares me!). For safety and ease, I decided to go with an oven recipe from one of the dessert gods - David Lebovitz.

2 ingredients, basic equipment, no frequent stirring and amazingly creamy results - what more could you ask for?! You can see the simple recipe and instructions below.

I'm planning on using my gooey goodness in another dessert later this week (stay tuned!). But it can also be used as a simple dip for fruit or as an ice cream topping. Have you ever had dulce de leche? How do you like to use it?

Easy Homemade Dulce de Leche
(Adapted from David Lebovitz)

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1/8 tsp. salt (about 1-2 pinches)

Preheat oven to 425&degF. Bring a tea kettle (or sauce pan) full of water to a boil on the stove.
Pour sweetened condensed milk into a shallow pie pan:
Sprinkle with 1/8 tsp. salt. Cover tightly with aluminum foil, and place inside a larger roasting pan or casserole dish.
Place nested pans on a lower rack in the oven. Carefully pour boiling water in the outer pan until it comes about 1/2 way up the side of the pie plate:
Close oven and bake for about 60-90 minutes (adding water to the outer pan every 20-30 minutes to keep the level consistent as it evaporates) until sweetened condensed milk thickens and turns a rich caramel color:

Carefully remove pans from oven and take pie plate out of water bath. Let cool about 20 minutes, then whisk mixture until smooth. Cover and store in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave (or by warming in a pan of hot water) before serving.

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