Prosciutto & Gruyere Pinwheels

Sometimes the simple things in life are the most delicious. Especially when they involve cheese. And prosciutto; prosciutto makes everything better. These prosciutto and gruyere pinwheels made with puff pastry are simple, delicious and fitting for the next time you’re cooking for guests.

Every year my friend goes on a trip with the same group of women and for one of the nights they have an appetizer party. All the women bring a couple appetizers and they cook the miniature items up for dinner. Brilliant! Smaller sizes of candy is a total bummer. But bite sized food? Now that’s a whole different ball game. The joy of appetizers is that you can have thirds, fourths and fifths. Just do a little drive by on your way to refill your wine glass and pop a pinwheel in your mouth. No one will be the wiser!

This year my friend commissioned me to make her appetizers and these pinwheels made it on the list. According to my friend the pinwheels were one of the favorites of the trip. I tried one and the buttery flakiness of the puff pastry with the saltiness of the prosciutto and the creaminess of the cheese made it an incredibly satisfying bite. A kind of bite you would pull an oh-I-don’t-mind-if-I-do-definitely-not-my-sixth maneuver on.

Except I couldn’t do that. I could have one. As in singular. And that, my friends, is why I could never be a caterer. You make all this food, but aren’t able to sit down and have a major snarf session when it’s all done? Torture! So when you make these pinwheels cook up some extra so you and all your guests can have fifths and sixths.

Prosciutto & Gruyere Pinwheels
 
Yield: 16 pinwheels
Ingredients
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
Directions
  1. Defrost both puff pastry sheets according to the directions on the package.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Lay the defrosted puff pastry flat and evenly spread the mustard leaving a ½ inch border on 1 long side of the puff pastry.
  4. Evenly place the prosciutto on the mustard topped puff pastry.
  5. Sprinkle the shredded cheese evenly over the prosciutto.
  6. Brush the beaten egg on the ½ inch border.
  7. Roll the topped puff pastry up the long way starting at the long edge without the egg, similar to rolling a jelly roll. Make sure the roll is sealed.
  8. Wrap the roll in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
  9. Take the roll out of the fridge and cut into ½ inch slices.
  10. Place the slices on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Recipe adapted from Pepperidge Farms.

Halloween Witches’ Cauldron Cupcakes

Halloween is my favorite holiday, right after Christmas and my birthday. Just kidding about the birthday part… maybe. A day where it’s equally acceptable to gorge on candy, dress up in a ridiculous costume and watch Disney Channel Halloweentown movie marathons? Count me in! My love of Halloween also comes from my dad. Anyone who knows my dad is aware of how infectious his excitement and enthusiasm is, and since Halloween is his number one favorite holiday the fondness rubbed off on me throughout the years. From helping my brother and I with haunted house creations to every year faithfully taking us to the neighborhood with the best candy to embarrassing me by showing up at my college dorm in a full clown suit, my dad has always made sure I associated Halloween with fun and laughter.

These cupcakes may take a bit of work, but they are cute, fun and will definitely put a smile on everyone’s face this Halloween. I saw these cauldron cupcakes in last year’s Halloween issue of Food Network Magazine and have been counting down to Halloween so I could make them. The cupcakes look spooky and taste delightful so it’s win-win!

Halloween Witches' Cauldron Cupcakes
 
Yield: 16 cupcakes
Ingredients
  • 24 chocolate cupcakes in black or dark brown wrappers
  • 1 batch chocolate frosting
  • Red sugar sprinkles
  • Bright green decorator’s icing
  • 16 thin pretzel sticks
  • 1 bag cotton candy
  • Black licorice laces
  • 1 toothpick or skewer
Directions
  1. Unwrap 8 of the cupcakes and cut them in half horizontally (the top of the cupcake will be one half and the bottom of the cupcake will be the other).
  2. To assemble the cauldron, spread a thin layer of frosting on top of one of the still wrapped cupcakes. Top with 1 cupcake half and try to line the edges up as well as you can. They won’t match up exactly because of the rounded cupcake tops.
  3. Seal the cupcake half to the rest of the wrapped cupcake by covering the entire extra-tall cupcake with frosting.
  4. Pour some sprinkles onto a small plate and pile them together. Slowly press the edge of the cupcake nearest the wrapper into the sprinkles. I did this by holding the bottom of the wrapped cupcake in my right hand, slowly turning and re-pressing into the sprinkles, while pressing the index finger of my left hand into the top center of the cupcake to keep it steady. This is the trickiest part.
  5. Press your finger into the top center of the cupcake to make a small indent about half an inch deep and the size of a nickel.
  6. Fill the indent with the green decorator’s icing and squeeze it over the sides of the indent so it looks like it’s oozing out.
  7. Place a pretzel stick in the indent so it looks like a witch’s broom sticking out of the cauldron.
  8. Carefully place some of the cotton candy behind the green decorator’s icing. I used a fork to grab it from the bag and fluff it since it tended to lose its airiness if I pressed too hard with my fingers.
  9. Break off about a 3-4 inch piece of black licorice. Poke two holes into opposite sides of the cupcake with the toothpick. Carefully place one end of the licorice into the first hole then arch the licorice to create the cauldron’s handle and place the other end in the other hole.
  10. Repeat for the remaining 15 wrapped cupcakes.
Notes
Do not put these cupcakes in the fridge as it will cause the cotton candy to dissolve and shrivel. I found cotton candy in the candy section of my grocery store. I had to go to quite a few different candy stores to find black licorice laces, but you could always use red laces if you are unable to find black laces.

Inspiration from October 2012 issue of Food Network Magazine.
Find the chocolate cupcake and frosting recipe here.

Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes & Perfect Chocolate Frosting

This recipe is so delicious, so chocolately and so perfect in every way that we need to start talking about it right now. No wasting time reading about my childhood breakfast memories or my typical New Englander obsession with fall or my confusion about why anyone would ever think smaller sizes of candy are “fun” (I just don’t get it!). We need to be quick about this so you have time to run to your kitchen and start baking these cupcakes immediately. Your tastebuds will thank you. Your stomach, however, will curse you for eating three of them faster than someone can say, “Where did all the cupcakes go?” Or maybe you’re a normal unusual human being with self control around moist chocolate baked goods, in which case maybe you can teach me someday.

If you don’t yet have a go-to chocolate cake recipe you can stop your search right now. And if you do have one it’s time to make these cupcakes and reevaluate that statement. Over the last two years I have made this recipe dozens of times in the form of cupcakes, layer cakes and sheet cakes and it always comes out amazing. “Wow,” “omg” and “mmm” are the three most common exclamations when people try these cupcakes, typically mumbled while still mid-bite. Who knew a one bowl cake would be so life-changing? Yes, you read that right folks, one bowl. No separate dry ingredient and wet ingredient bowls to dirty up your kitchen.

When a cupcake is this good you need to make sure you have a frosting that is equally drool-worthy. This chocolate frosting is creamy, rich and as the title states, perfect. The combination of melted chocolate and cocoa powder provides a pure melt-in-your-mouth chocolate taste, instead of the overwhelming sugary or buttery attributes that are often associated with buttercream frostings. I made it for the first time this past weekend and there’s something so exhilarating about stumbling upon a recipe that you know you will return to time and time again. So go bake these cupcakes and get exhilarated.

Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes & Perfect Chocolate Frosting
 
Yield: 24 cupcakes
Ingredients
for the cupcakes
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup fresh hot coffee
for the frosting
  • 2½ sticks of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¾ cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate
Directions
for the cupcakes
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 cupcake pans with paper liners and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. Once the mixture is combined add the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla extract. Beat the mixture on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  4. Carefully stir in the hot coffee until well combined. The batter will be extremely liquidy.
  5. Pour the batter evenly between the 24 paper liners. Bake on the middle rack of an oven for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with no batter on it.
  6. Completely cool cupcakes on a wire rack before frosting.
for the frosting
  1. Set the chocolate over a double boiler on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a food processor or in a large mixing bowl with an immersion blender. Pulse until mixture is smooth and well combined, making sure to scrape sides as needed.
  3. Add the corn syrup and vanilla extract to the butter mixture. I like to lightly spray my measuring cup with cooking spray before measuring out the corn syrup because it helps the corn syrup from sticking to the measuring cup when you go to use it (this works well for honey, too).
  4. Pulse the mixture until well combined, making sure to scrape sides as needed.
  5. If the chocolate is completely melted and smooth, remove from the heat for a few minutes. Carefully pour the melted chocolate into the mixture and process until smooth.
Notes
*Although the original recipe calls for buttermilk, I always use the following substitute when baking these cupcakes since it is what I have in my fridge: Put 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup. Fill the measuring cup with milk (I use skim) until it equals 1 cup. Let sit for 5 minutes before using in the recipe.
*The coffee at the end of the recipe is what makes the cupcakes so moist and chocolatey. The cupcakes do not, even slightly, taste like coffee. The coffee is used as a flavor enhancer to help bring out the richness of the cocoa.

Cake from Foodess.
Frosting from Fun Foods on a Budget!

Grilled Steak and Peach Salad with Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing

I am not a huge fan of having a salad as an entrée. Maybe it’s because salads get a bad rap as diet food. Maybe it’s because it’s ingrained in my brain that dinner should be a hot meal. Or maybe it’s because munching on all that lettuce makes me feel a bit like a rabbit.

But sometimes between the pasta dishes and batches of peanut butter apple bars you just need a fresh break. All the recent baking and experimenting in the kitchen left me craving a salad. Of all things. Unbelievable.

This grilled steak and peach salad did not disappoint. Peach season is ending, but there’s still time to take advantage of this sweet fleshy fruit before it’s gone from grocery stores until next summer. Peaches are delicious, but grilled peaches are like a whole new species. The outer flesh caramelizes and develops a light smoky taste while the inner peach juices form a syrupy concentrate. For those of you who have not grilled peaches before, I apologize for sharing this secret at the end of peach season.

Between the succulent grilled peaches, the tender steak and the creamy mild dressing this salad made me forget all about my salad doubts. And I didn’t even think about rabbits once.

Grilled Steak and Peach Salad with Easy Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
for the steak
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pound sirloin tips
for the dressing
  • ½ pound cambozola cheese crumbles, or another mild blue cheese of your choosing
  • ⅓ cup light sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon pesto
for the salad
  • 2 peaches, halved and pitted
  • 4 cups mixed romaine, raddicchio and butter lettuce, or the greens of your choosing
  • 1½ cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ of a red onion, thinly sliced
Directions
  1. Place the steak in a shallow dish. Whisk together the first 9 ingredients in a small bowl then pour over the steak. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or for at least three hours. Remove the marinated steak from the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking.
  2. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and let it get hot. Place the steak tips on the grill pan, being sure not to crowd the pan, and let them cook 5-6 minutes per side for medium depending on the thickness of the tips. Remove to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes before cutting into thin slices.
  3. While the steaks are cooking make the dressing. Put half the blue cheese into a small mixing bowl with the sour cream, lemon juice, vinegar, honey, chives and pesto. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
  4. While the steak is resting, finish the salad. Brush the cut side of the peaches with extra-virgin olive oil then place them cut side down over a grill pan on medium-high heat. Grill the peaches for 3 minutes then flip and grill the other side for one minute. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Once peaches are cool enough to touch, slice into wedges.
  5. Toss the greens, grape tomato halves and red onion slices in a large bowl. Divide onto the four plates then top with the sliced steak, peach wedges, dressing and the remaining blue cheese crumbles.

Recipe adapted from September 2013 issue of Food Network Magazine.

Blueberry Sour Cream Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup

When weekdays often consist of grabbing a bagel on the way out the door or eating a yogurt at the office there’s something so satisfying about sitting down for a hearty Saturday breakfast. Growing up, weekend family breakfasts consisted of bacon, eggs and homemade pierogies. If you haven’t had the fortune of tasting a pierogi it is an outrageous potato and cheese dumpling, but that’s a story for another day.

Unfortunately, since living on my own I don’t have my grandma to stock my freezer with homemade pierogies and for the sake of my recently acquired slow adult metabolism I try to only keep bacon in my apartment for special occasions. But sometimes I wake up on a Saturday morning with an urge that can only be satisfied by a grand mid morning meal and pancakes have become my new savior.

Do you have some eggs, milk and a few essential baking ingredients? Boom! Pancakes! I tend to have leftover ingredients from my different kitchen experiments and I always end up having to be creative about using them. A few Saturdays ago I was staring at a half empty container of light sour cream in my fridge when a light bulb went off. I ran to my bookcase (okay, I probably walked), pulled out my Pioneer Woman cookbook and there it was: “Edna Mae’s Sour Cream Pancakes.”

If you’re sitting here reading this thinking, “Yuck! Sour cream pancakes?”, shame on you! These golden discs from the heavens are crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside and have a nice lightness about them that you don’t get from regular pancakes.

More fridge staring inspired the addition of the blueberries. Berries are expensive so I didn’t want to just plop them in the pancake batter. If I was going to use these berries I was going to make them shine. This blueberry syrup is laughably easy, but the tartness of the berries mellowing out the sweetness of the syrup will take your pancakes to the next level. I used a combination of fresh and frozen blueberries so feel free to use whatever is staring at you from your fridge or freezer.


Blueberry Sour Cream Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup
 
Yield: 2 servings
Ingredients
for the pancakes
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • Butter
for the syrup
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1½ cup blueberries
Directions
  1. Put the sour cream in a medium mixing bowl. Sift in the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
  2. Stir together until just combined. The batter will be lumpy.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the two eggs with the vanilla.
  4. Pour the egg mixture into the sour cream and flour mixture. Stir until just combined.
  5. Place a frying pan or griddle over medium-low heat. Once the pan is hot melt a tablespoon of butter and wait for it to bubble.
  6. When the butter is bubbling, pour ¼ cup of batter for each pancake. Try not to overcrowd your pan; the amount of pancakes you can fit will depend on your pan's size. Leave some space between the pancakes as they will expand when you add the blueberries.
  7. As soon as the batter is in the pan, place a small handful of blueberries on each pancake.
  8. Cook until the pancake is covered with tiny bubbles on the top, then flip. Cook for another two minutes then remove from the pan.
  9. Add some more butter and repeat with the remaining batter until you have cooked all your pancakes.
  10. While the pancakes are cooking, make the syrup. Put the syrup and the blueberries in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Let the syrup boil for 3 minutes then remove from the heat. Slightly mash the blueberries with a wooden spoon or potato masher, keeping some of the blueberries whole. Pour the syrup into a small pitcher and place on the table with the pancakes.
Notes
I add my blueberries to each pancake individually as I have noticed when I add them to the mixing bowl they all sink to the bottom. Adding individually means you get to be more precise, but it also does spread out the pancakes quite a bit so be cautious when determining how many pancakes will fit in your pan.

Pancakes from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl.
Blueberry syrup from Nigella Lawson at Food Network.