Pumpkin Mushroom Soup

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Hmmmm….this just might be my favorite soup recipe of all time.  It is another throw back from my time at the Peacock Cafe, though I don’t have that original recipe.  In fact, I lost the recipe I did have, so this one is just a guess!!  😀  Tastes good still, so that is all that matters.

It is definitely easier to use canned pumpkin, though that is something that just doesn’t seem to exist here in England.  If, like me, you will be using a fresh pumpkin, be sure to choose a small, sugar or pie type.  They are more flavorful than their jack o’ lantern counterparts.   To prepare your fresh pumpkin, first cut it into fourths.  Then remove the seeds and stringy bits.  Place into a large stock pot full of about 3 inches of boiling water, cover with a lid and let steam for around a half hour. (alternatively, you could roast them in the oven until cooked) Remove from the water and let cool.  Once they are cool, spoon out the flesh and puree.  It is not safe to can fresh pumpkin  (something about being low acidity, causing embolism…) but you can freeze it with no adverse side affects!

p.s.–Adding un-hulled pumpkin seeds to soup is not a good idea…even if it does make it look pretty.  Remove the shell from the seeds first!

pumpkin mushroom soup

Pumpkin Mushroom Soup

Ingredients:

1 large onion, chopped

1 Tbsp butter

8 oz (250g) mushrooms (oyster, chesnut or baby bella), sliced

1 Tbsp curry powder

2 Tbsp flour

3 cups veggie stock

2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree

2 Tbsp honey

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup heavy (double) cream, to serve

Method:

1. In a large stainless steel stock pot, melt the butter over medium high heat.  Add the onion and mushroom and cook until the veg is soft.

2. Mix the curry powder and flour together in a small bowl.  Add to the stock pot, stirring to coat evenly.

3. Pour the veg stock into the pot and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat to a high simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.

4. Add the pumpkin puree, honey and salt and pepper.  Cook for another 10 minutes.

5. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. Adjust seasoning and add the heavy cream to serve.

 

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

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Tis the season to slice open everyone’s favorite squash!!  While pumpkins are very cute in their reincarnation as a spooky lighting device, they are also extremely good for you!  So, to celebrate the pumpkin harvest and the Halloween season, this week I will be featuring recipes all to do with pumpkin!

First off, lets start off with something really easy and at hand.  Most households this week will be carving a pumpkin for Halloween.  So, why not reserve the seeds and make a tasty, healthful snack?!

toasted pumpkin seeds

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients:

pumpkin seeds

sea salt

Method:

1.Preheat the oven to 260*F (130*C).  Remove the seeds from the pumpkin and separate all of the thready bits.

2. Place seeds in a colander and rinse in cold running water.

3. Place a dish towel on a baking tray. Pour the seeds on top and pat them dry, removing as much water as possible.

4. Remove the dish towel, spreading the seeds out on the tray. Season with sea salt and bake for about 20-30 minutes, stirring twice during. The seeds should be crunchy, but not brown.

5. Allow the seeds to cool before storing.

Blackened Salmon with Lemon Spinach Cous Cous

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In a word, Yum.

This meal is SOOOOO quick to make and super healthy, full of omega 3’s, iron, and protein.  Plus, Myles loves it!  😀

I’ve had the cous cous recipe for years…and it is one of the few that has stood the test of time!  I love it now just as much as the first time.

lemon spinach cous cous

Blackened Salmon

Ingredients:

2 salmon fillets

1 tsp butter

1 tsp cajun seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.

2. Prepare the salmon by washing and patting dry.  Season with cajun seasoning, salt and pepper.

3. Add the butter to the hot pan; place the salmon skin side down into the skillet and cook for about 5-6 minutes (the skin will be crispy); carefully flip to cook the other side, covering with a lid to lightly steam, until the flesh is light pink and flakes easily with a fork.

 

Lemon Spinach Cous Cous

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups veggie broth

1 cup cous cous

1 tsp butter

1 tsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic

2 cups spinach, washed and sliced fine

juice of 1 lemon

a small handful of pine nuts (optional)

freshly grated parmesan (optional)

freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:

1. Bring the broth to a boil over high heat.  Add the cous cous and cover. Remove from the heat and let steam for 5 minutes, or until the water is absorbed.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a wok over medium high heat.  Add the garlic and pine nuts and saute until fragrant.

3.  Add the spinach and cook until wilted.  Remove from heat.

4. Stir in the lemon, cous cous and black pepper.  Sprinkle with parmesan if desired.

 

Spicy Black Bean Burgers

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I am ever on the hunt to find a good veggie burger!  So, when my old cafe friend Kelly passed on this recipe I couldn’t wait to try it! Unfortunately, black beans are almost impossible to find in the UK.    :/   Fast forward two years, I finally found them in Waitrose (a store I try to avoid, as it is so expensive…ah, well).

These burgers have quite a kick to them, so feel free to switch up the spicing if you want something more mild.

 

Spicy Black Bean Burgers

Ingredients:

1 can of black beans

1/2 bell pepper (any color), minced

1/2 a small onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 egg

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp cumin

1 tsp Sriracha

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs

Method:

1. Heat a large non-stick skillet on medium high heat.

2. Meanwhile, mash the black beans with a fork in a medium sized bowl.

3. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring to combine.

4. Form the patties in your hands (they will be very wet!) and add to the oiled skillet.

5. Cook on both sides until browned.  Serve on a multi-grain bun.

 

Chicken and Cashew Stir-fry

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Part 1 of the Chinese Fake-away.

One of my favorite dishes to order at a chinese restaurant is the Kung Po Chicken (tofu).  It’s spicy and it involves cashews…I’m in!

So, when I found this recipe online which is reminiscent of it, I jumped at the chance to make it! I love finding recipes that can easily convert to veg, and a good stir-fry definitely fits under this catagory. The dish cooks very quickly, so have everything prepped and ready to go in before anything hits the wok.

chicken and cashew stir-fry

Chicken (Tofu) and Cashew Stir-fry

Ingredients:

2 chicken breast or 1 block of tofu, cubed

olive oil

1 green bell pepper, deseeded and chopped

1 red bell pepper, deseeded and chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1-2 birds eye chilies, opt.

1/4 cup sliced scallions

1/8 cup cashews

2 tbsp cornstarch (corn flour)

1/4-1/2 cup water, depending on how saucy you like it 😉

4 Tbsp hoisin sauce

1-2 tsp Sriracha

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Method:

1. Place a wok on high heat.

2. Meanwhile, make the sauce by stirring together the cornstarch with 1/4 cup of water. Whisk in the hoisin sauce, Sriracha, and white wine vinegar.  Set aside.

3. Add a good drizzle of olive oil to the pan and immediately add the chicken (or tofu). Keep the wok moving!

4. When the chicken is white on all sides (or the tofu is crispy on all sides) add the peppers and onion, stirring constantly.

5. Toss in the cashews and half the scallions.

6. Add the sauce, cooking until thick and hot.  Feel free to add more water at this stage to loosen it up.

7. Serve with steamed rice, sprinkling the remaining scallions on top.

Recipe adapted from: http://www.cooklikeachampionblog.com/2011/02/cashew-chicken-stir-fry.html

 

 

Spinach and Mushroom Quesadillas with Salsa

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When I first moved to Pennsylvania, back in 2003, I worked as both a waitress and cook at this little place called Peacocks Cafe.  One of our signature dishes was the chicken and cheese quesadillas (or quack-a-dillas if you asked my friend Val).  They are very quick and easy to prepare and can be varied to suit many tastes.  I made the chicken and cheese for my hubby last night, a plain cheese one for Myles (well…don’t tell him, but I minced up some peppers and threw those in as well :P)  and these Spinach and Mushroom ones for me.

Serve them with salsa, guacamole or sour cream, if desired.

quesadillas

Spinach and Mushroom Quesadillas

Ingredients:

1 handful of spinach, washed and sliced fine

1/2 onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced fine

salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp olive oil

2 tortilla wraps (I used 50/50 blend of white and wheat)

1/4 cup grated cheddar

Method:

1. Saute the onions, garlic, and mushrooms in the olive oil over medium high heat until soft.  Add the spinach, salt and pepper, cooking until the spinach wilts.  Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Once hot, drizzle some more olive oil in the pan and dip the tortillas into this  on both side to distribute the oil.

3. Leave one tortilla in the pan, cover with cheese and the spinach mixture and top with the other tortilla.  When the bottom starts to brown, carefully flip over to cook the other side.

4. Remove from the heat and cut into wedges.  Serve with salsa.

 

Here is a very simple salsa recipe that is quick and easy to make.

Homemade Salsa

Ingredients:

1/2 of a red onion, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

6 tomatoes, diced and smushed

2-3 jalepenos, diced

1 tbsp cilantro, chopped fine

juice of half a lime

1 tsp brown sugar, optional

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1. Mix together all ingredients, tasting to adjust the seasoning.

2. Alternatively, blend for a smooth salsa.

Banoffee Cupcakes

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And with this recipe, I declare myself done with baking for at least a month! Not sure if it’s just the food blog thing, but I really felt an obligation to celebrate Cupcake Week to the full. Funny how this feeling doesn’t include all food holidays. This week is Welsh Food Appreciation Week. Hmmmm….I think I’ll pass on the Laver Bread and Cockles. Bleh…..

I first tasted Banoffee Pie when my friend Sara made it many years ago. Her father was living and studying in London and when he came home to visit, he brought home tales of this very British dessert. Fast forward five years, now I live in the UK and it is everywhere! If you have never heard of it, banoffee pie is a graham cracker (digestive biscuit) crust, topped with toffee sauce, freshly sliced bananas and whipped cream. Some drizzle chocolate on top, some don’t. It is rich and gooey and fresh all at the same time.

While I love the pie, this recipe takes the cake! (pun intended)

banoffee cupcakes

Banoffee Cupcakes

Ingredients:

sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup bananas, mashed

1/4 cup milk

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

freshly whipped cream, shaved chocolate and sliced banana* to garnish

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 350*F (175*C). Line a muffin tin with baking papers.

2. Pour the condensed milk into a small oven proof dish, cover tightly with aluminum foil and place in a casserole dish of water. Bake in the oven for about 2 hours, or until it turns light brown and thick (dulce de leche).

3. Meanwhile, make the cupcake batter. Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and milk, stirring until combined.

4. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Slowly add to the butter and sugar mix, stirring until completely mixed.

5. Spoon into baking papers and bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

6. Once cool, cut a cone into each cake, filling with the dulce de leche. Garnish with whipped cream, chocolate and bananas.

*Note: Bananas oxidize when cut; to prevent browning, squeeze some lemon juice on top.*

Recipe adapted from: http://www.squidoo.com/banana-cupcake-recipe

Apple Pie Cupcakes

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So, I have a confession to make.  I am addicted to cooking shows.  Like, bad!  They are great because, I always feel inspired to try new things, but bad because inspiration usually strikes late at night.

Ah, well.

Sidenote–why are competive cooking shows so dramatic?! I get that it is stressful, but they seem to take it a bit overboard.

On Food Network, they have just added the new show Cupcake Wars to the line-up.  Love this show!  It’s just amazing the diversity that one can achieve in such a little cake.  Filling them has taken this form of baking to a whole new level for me. *sigh*  My ass will never be the same.  😛

I looked around for a recipe for apple pie cupcakes, but in the end decided to just mash together my own.  The cake is an adaptation of a pecan pie cake that I found in a Southern Living cookbook; but instead of pecans, I used walnuts.

My vision was to make a cinnamon buttercream, but I ran out of cinnamon ( 😦 ) so, I just used a vanilla buttercream and drizzled some caramel sauce over the top.  This made the cupcake very sweet.  I love it that way, but if it is too much for your palate, consider using freshly whipped cream on top.

apple pie cupcakes

Apple Pie Cupcakes

Ingredients:

1 batch of walnut cupcakes (recipe follows)

1 batch of caramel apple filling, reserving some of the caramel for garnish (recipe follows)

1 batch of vanilla buttercream frosting

Method:

1. Once cupcakes are cool, make a well in each cake by cutting a cone into the top, then removing the narrow point.

2. Fill each cake with a spoonful of apple pie filling.

3. Frost with the buttercream and drizzle a little caramel on the top.

Walnut Cake

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

5 eggs

1 tbsp vanilla

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup milk

1 cup walnut pieces

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 350*F (160*C).  Line a muffin tin with baking papers.

2. Cream together butter and sugar.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until blended.  Stir in the vanilla.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and baking soda. Sift into the wet ingredients.

4. Add the milk, stirring just enough to incorporate into the batter.

5. Fold in the walnuts.

6. Spoon into baking papers and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Caramel Apple Filling

Ingredients:

3 apples, peeled, cored and chopped very small

1 tbsp butter

4 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

Method:

1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.

2. Add the apples and cook until starting to soften, approximately 5 minutes.

3. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and cinnamon.

4.  Stirring every few minutes, cook until the caramel sauce reduces and becomes thick.

Rich Chocolate Cupcakes with Mint Buttercream Frosting

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And, round two of National Cupcake Week bake-off!!

Generally speaking, I tend to make the same kind of cake over and over again.  So, in honor of this most prestigious of holidays, I was on the hunt to branch out and try something just a bit different.  And, purely by chance, I came across the Cupcake Bakeshop.  It was almost a religious moment for me!  😛

So many new and different combinations of cakes to try!  Yum!

The one that screamed out to me first to try was this one.  I love chocolate and mint together! And, per this genius woman’s suggestion, I ousted the ganache filling; so they were actually very easy to make.

Saying that, though, I doubt I will use this cake recipe again.  8 eggs is a bit over the top…

Then again, you could almost call these nutritious!  Antioxidants from the dark chocolate and crazy amounts of protein and iron from the eggs.  😀

Definitely, though, the mint buttercream is worth another go.  It’s a very mild flavor, as it doesn’t call for too much peppermint extract.  What it does add is a really nice cool after feeling in your mouth.

Very yum!

choc cupcakes

Rich Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients:

200g bar of high quality dark chocolate (I used 70%), chopped into small pieces

1 1/2 cups butter

2 1/4 cups sugar

8 eggs

1 1/4 cups flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder, unsweetened

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350*F (175*C). Line a muffin tin with baking cups or grease and flour.

2. Using a ghetto double boiler method,  place the chocolate pieces and butter in a bowl over simmering water.  Stir until everything has melted.  Remove from heat, add the sugar and let cool for ten minutes.

3. Beat the mixture for three minutes.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring for a good 30 seconds in between.

5. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Sift into the wet ingredients, stirring constantly.

6. Spoon into baking cups and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Mint Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened

4-5 cups powdered sugar (icing sugar)

1/4 cup milk

1/8 to 1/4 tsp peppermint extract, depending on taste

green food coloring (optional)

Method:

1. Combine the butter and powdered sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer.

2. Add the milk, peppermint extract and enough food coloring to get a light green tint.

3. Frosting should be smooth and spreadable, yet still “peak”.  Adjust by adding extra powdered sugar if too runny or adding milk if too stiff.

4. Pipe onto cool cupcakes and decorate with an edible silver bead.

Recipe taken from: http://cupcakeblog.com/?p=44

Aren’t they pretty?!

cupcake week!!

Lemon Curd Filled Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

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It’s National Cupcake Week here in the UK!!!!  So, of course, I’ve been celebrating.  Last night, I had a couple of my gal pals over to help bake some cakes.  Nikki (or Mikki, if you ask Myles :P) was kind enough to teach me how to pipe icing onto these cakes, as my decorating skills are rather depressing.  And Stacie….well, she just came to eat some cake!  😀

I first made these lemon curd cupcakes when I was in labor with Spencer.  I had a home birth-best decision EVER!- so, I had plenty of time at home to waste whilst the contractions did their work.  Of course, I couldn’t eat any while everything was going on, but the midwives, my husband and I all had a cake in Spencer’s honor after he was born.  It was kinda like his first ever birth day cake.

So, these cakes are very dear to my heart.  I hope that you enjoy them.     🙂

lemon curd filled cupcakes

Lemon Curd Filled Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

1 batch of white cupcakes (recipe follows)

lemon curd

1 batch of vanilla buttercream (recipe follows)

sugarpaste flowers to decorate (optional)

Method:

1. Once the cupcakes are cool, make a well in the middle by cutting a cone into the top (wide base on the top) using a sharp knife.  Taking the cone, cut off the narrow bit, reserving the cake top.

2. Fill the well with lemon curd and replace the cake top.

3. Pipe the buttercream frosting onto the cake and finish with a small flower.

 

Simple White Cake

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup of sugar

2 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups flour

1 3/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup milk

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 350*F (160*C). Line a muffin tin with baking cups or grease and flour.

2. Cream together butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until mixed.

3. Stir in the dry ingredients.

4. Add the milk and stir until well mixed.

5. Spoon batter into each baking cup til they are 3/4 full.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

 

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

3 cups powdered sugar (icing sugar)

1/3 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1 to 2 tbsp milk

Method:

1. In a small electric mixer, combine the powdered sugar, butter and vanilla. This will be dry and crumbly.

2. Add the milk, a tbsp at a time until the frosting is smooth and spreadable, yet still “peaks”.  If too thin, add powdered sugar; if to thick add milk.