Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Muffins

Muffins are not a go-to for me when it comes to baking. I have a great recipe for Blueberry Muffins that I normally make a few times a year and once in a blue moon I will make chocolate chip ones. I did try making a Pumpkin Crumb Muffin once and they were a disaster. By the time the muffins had finished baking the crumb topping had essentially melted into the muffin and let’s face it, the best part of any crumb muffin is the crumb topping!I did have success making these Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins a few months ago and decided to try another pumpkin based muffin again after coming across a recipe for Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins. They reminded me of a Cheesecake Stuffed Pumpkin Bread I have made a few times to rave reviews so I figured a pumpkin version would be just as delicious.

After making the batter for the muffins I divided it among a muffin tin that I lined with paper liner.

Next, I made the cream cheese mixture and then dolloped about a tablespoon of it over each muffin and then swirled it with a toothpick.

After baking in a 375F oven for about 20 minutes my muffins were ready.

And after letting them cool for a bit I tried one and it was delicious. The cream cheese swirl adds a nice sweetness to this super moist muffin.

FYI… I halved the recipe to use some leftover pumpkin puree I had from another recipe (a cookie one I will be sharing next week during Cookie Palooza). Also, instead of using a cupcake tin and making “mini” muffins, I opted to use a jumbo muffin tin and ended up making 6 large muffins. This also increased my baking time to 25-30 minutes.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Muffins

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups flour

1 tablespoons pumpkin spice

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 15oz. can pumpkin puree

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

 

Cream Cheese Swirl:

8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

1 large egg yolk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners and set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together the dry ingredients – flour, pumpkin spice, baking soda and salt until well combined. Set aside.

In a large bowl using a handheld mixer beat together the pumpkin, sugar and brown sugar. Beat in the eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Slowly add in the flour mixture and mix until there are no lumps.

Fill the muffin tins about 3/4 full.

In a medium bowl beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add in the sugar, egg yolk and vanilla extract and continue beating until combined.

Top each muffin with about 1 tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture and then using a toothpick swirl it into the batter.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the muffins comes out clean.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Recipe from The Novice Chef Blog

Slow Cooker Sunday: Corn Chowder

One of the best things to make in your slow cooker is soup. I normally make corn chowder during the summer months on the stove thanks to the abundance of fresh corn available, but, for this recipe, I used frozen corn and you guessed it, my slow cooker. And to be honest, using frozen corn requires a lot less effort. Shucking corn and getting the kernels off the cob is just not fun.

In a small bowl I combined 1/2 cup of the frozen corn along with a ¼ cup of diced red bell pepper and a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. After stirring it together I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and then refrigerated it until my soup was ready.

In my slow cooker I combined the necessary ingredients for the chowder and then set it to cook on low for 8 hours. In case you are wondering, no, I didn’t cook the soup with the thyme on top, after taking this picture I gave the soup a good stir so the thyme sprigs could work their magic while the soup was cooking.

After the 8 hours I transferred 2 cups of the soup to a blender and blended it until it was smooth and then returned it the slow cooker along with heavy cream and butter. I stirred the soup until the butter had melted and then it was ready to enjoy.

I served it topped with the pepper and corn. You may be tempted to pass on the corn and pepper topping but trust me don’t. The fresh lemon juice from the mixture adds a nice taste to the soup.

Slow Cooker Corn Chowder

Ingredients:

1/4 cup diced red bell pepper

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

4 cups (32 ounces) frozen corn

1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced

2 14.5 oz. cans of chicken broth

1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

 

Directions:

In a small bowl combined the diced pepper, 1/2 cup of the corn and the lemon juice. Stir together and the cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

In your slow cooker add the remaining corn, potatoes, chopped onion, garlic, thyme salt and pepper. Stir everything to combine and then cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Remove the thyme springs and transfer 2 cups of the soup to a blender and blend until smooth. Return the blended soup to the slow cooker along with the heavy cream and butter. Stir the soup until the butter has melted.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the reserved corn and pepper mixture.

Recipe slightly adapted from The Kitchn

Crocheted Hexagon Christmas Tree Skirt

I started this project way back in January. I actually posted a little about it in my Elusive Magic Ring post. By the way, I still cannot do a magic ring, but, I am not letting it hold me back. I am sticking with my chain 6 and join with a slip stitch method to get around it. So, why did it take me so long for me to complete it? Well, while I easily found enough skeins of red & gray yarn in the same dye lot I was having trouble doing the same for the green I wanted to use. After a while I just gave up looking. But then September rolled around and I knew that if I wanted to finish my tree skirt for Christmas this year I would have to find it. And so, luckily one day at my local Michael’s I came across three skeins in the same dye lot and I picked up a fourth one that looked similar just in case. I crocheted 12 green hexagons and I finally had the 36 I needed to make my Christmas Tree Skirt.

I began by laying out all of the hexagons on top of my old Christmas tree skirt to ensure that the 36 hexagons would be enough. It ended up being a little smaller than my old one, but not by much. I also wanted to make sure that I laid the hexagons out in a pattern that I liked. I basically placed them haphazardly but also made sure that there weren’t too many of one color in one area. I probably switched the hexagons around once or twice before finally settling on the design.

And once I did I began stitching the hexagons together to create columns.

And then I stitched those columns together to form the tree skirt. As you can see, my new skirt isn’t that much smaller than my old one. I was initially think of adding 2 hexagons to each column (one on top and one of the bottom) but I decided against it because I felt that the skirt would be too big and it may take away from the overall design. Also, if I did that I would then need to add another column on each end consisting of 5 hexagons each to balance it out, and I just didn’t have enough yarn to do that. I only had 1 skein of each color left over and that would give me another 12 hexagons and with the added hexagons I was thinking of I would have needed an additional 24 hexagons… Eeek!

And to make sure I can easily place this around my Christmas tree I left two columns unstitched. Choosing one near the center just made the most sense.

I think it looks perfect under my tree…

 

Hexagon Christmas Tree Skirt

Yarn: Bernat Chunky Yarn (3 skeins each of Berry Red, Dark Green & Gray Heather – you should get 4 hexagons from each skein)

Crochet Hook: L / 8.0 MM

Hexagon Pattern:

Round 1: Ch6 and join with a slip stitch in the first chain*. Ch1 and then Ch2 more, dc in ring, ch2, *2dc, ch2* 5 times into ring. sl st to join last ch to the top of the first series of 3 ch. (You will have 6 sets of 2dc + 2ch. The 2 dc will become the sides of the hexagon and the 2 ch gaps will become the corners.

*Alternately you could start with a magic loop

Round 2: Ch3, dc in next dc stich, *[dc, ch2, dc in chain gap from previous round], dc in next 2 dc* (5 times). dc, ch2, dc in last corner gap. sl st to join last ch to the top of the first series of 3 ch. (Each hexagon side now has 4 dc stitches, separated by a ch 2 space)

Round 3: ch3, dc in next 2 dc, *[dc, ch2, dc in chain gap from previous round], dc in next 4 dc* (5 times). dc, ch2, dc in last corner gap. dc in remaining 1 dc. sl st to join last ch to the top of the first series of 3 ch. (Each hexagon side now has 6 dc stitches, separated by a 2 ch space)

Round 4: ch3, dc in next 3 dc, *[dc, ch2, dc in chain gap from previous round], dc in next 4 dc* (5 times). dc, ch2, dc in last corner gap. dc in remaining 2 dc. sl st to join last ch to the top of the first series of 3 ch. (Each hexagon side now has 8 dc stitches, separated by a 2 ch space)

 

sl st – slip stitch

ch – chain

dc – double crochet

 

Once you have all of your hexagons made lay them out in 7 rows. Your 1st and 7th row will have 4 hexagons each, your 2nd & 6th will have 5, your 3rd and 5th will have 6 each and the middle row (row 4) will also have 6, but, you will leave a space in the middle for your tree / tree stand to go through. The hexagons will be staggered so that the final skirt will somewhat look like a hexagon as well. You may have to use your imagination to see it.

Once you like the pattern, begin by stitching the hexagons together into columns.

Once you have your columns done, stitch them together to complete the skirt. When you have decided which half of your skirt will be the top and which will be bottom (or in terms of laying it down for the tree, which will be the back part and which will be the front part) be sure not to stitch one side of middle column to the adjacent column so you can easily place your skirt around your tree. You can use leftover yarn to tie the two columns together while the skirt is around your tree to prevent it from moving around.

Apple Crumb Pie

I’m wrapping up my mini apple week today with a pie that would be a perfect addition to your Thanksgiving dessert table… An Apple Crumb Pie. I make my fair share of desserts for Thanksgiving and this year I decided to make things a little easier on myself and forgo making any pies with a decorative pie crust. My baking list for Thanksgiving usually includes about 6 or 7 different desserts so taking that small thing off of my list is definitely going to help me get everything done in a timely fashion. And since I normally head to the city to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons get inflated the night before Thanksgiving I have limited time on that day to bake so I normally end up baking one last thing on Thanksgiving morning and I am trying to avoid that this year. Coupled with no decorative pie crusts I am also thinking of baking one or two things ahead of time which should definitely free up some time for me.

To begin this pie I started by making the crumb topping. Once I mixed all of the ingredients together I placed it in the freezer so it could firm up. Next, I covered a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and placed it on the bottom rack of my oven and preheated it to 400 F. And finally I made the filling. I added all of the ingredients for the filling to a large bowl and using a rubber spatula gently folded them together.

Now, I’ve never had much success in making pie crust from scratch so I always opt to either use refrigerated pie crust or my real favorite frozen pie crust. I apologize to those of you who are cringing right now. I just find it fool-proof, especially the frozen one, and since I am usually more concerned with how the filling is going to come out and perfecting a decorative crust it’s just easier for me. To be honest, when I do make a decorative pie crust I use a frozen crust for the filling and a refrigerated pie crust to decorate it. It’s so much easier to make cut outs or cut long strips with pie crust that is already the perfect thickness. If you’re thinking of following my trick here’s another one. If you want to decorate your pie with cut-outs make sure you refrigerate them after cutting them out before placing them on your pie. Same thing goes for the strips you would use for braiding or a lattice design. Handling the pie crust softens it quickly and then when you go to place it on your pie it won’t place as well or may start to break (especially if you are making a lattice design), firming it up again makes it easier to work with and it will bake better. Okay, so back to the pie at hand. I used a frozen 9-inch deep dish pie crust. I kept the pie crust in the freezer until I was ready to fill it. I spooned the filling into the pie crust and then gently topped it with the crumb topping, breaking any pieces of crumb that were too large. I carefully removed the hot pan from the oven and placed the pie on it and then returned it to the oven.

Look at those nice pieces of crumb topping… YUM!!!

I baked it at 400 F for about 25 minutes and then reduced the oven temperature to 350 F and baked it for about another 50 minutes. My apples were a tad soft to begin with (I got them a few weeks ago from apple picking) so my pie was ready rather quickly. About 25 minutes after reducing the heat I covered the top of the pie with a piece of aluminum foil so the crumb topping wouldn’t burn. Once I removed it from the oven the crumb topping was a perfect golden color and the filling had bubbled out just a bit.

After letting it cool completely I placed it in the refrigerator covered with aluminum foil for a few days before cutting into it -I baked it on a Thursday night and sliced it on Sunday. Final verdict… It was the best apple pie I’ve ever made. I would say pie in general, but that distinction belongs to Key Lime Pie. Per requests, I am planning on making two of these for Thanksgiving!

 

Apple Crumb Pie

Ingredients:

1 Frozen 9-inch deep dish pie crust*

Crumb Topping:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces at room temperature

Filling:

3 pounds mixed apples, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

*You could also use a homemade pie crust or a refrigerated pie crust. If using either, once you have prepped your pie plate with the crust place the dish in the refrigerator until the crust is firm, at least 1 hour or overnight. If using a frozen pie crust, you can fill the crust right out of the freezer.

 

Directions:

Make the crumb topping: Mix the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Add the butter to the mixture and use your hands to mix it until crumbs form. Place in the freezer until ready to use.

Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and place it in the bottom rack of your oven and then preheat the oven to 400 F.

Make the filling: Mix the apples, melted butter, both sugars, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Spoon the filling into the pie crust. Sprinkle the filling with the frozen crumbs. Breaking any large crumbs into smaller pieces and making sure to spread them evenly over the pie and patting them down while doing so.

Place the pie on the baking sheet in the oven and bake until the crumbs lightly brown, about 25-30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 F and continue baking until the apples are completely soft when pierced with a knife, about an additional 60 to 80 minutes. If you find the crumb topping is getting too dark cover it loosely with a piece of aluminum foil. Transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Food Network

Apple Cider Doughnut Cake

I’ve mentioned it quite a few times before that one of my favorite things about going apple picking is getting freshly made apple cider doughnuts. I posted about a baked version last year. And while those were good, there is something about a fried doughnut that just can’t be topped. If you are not sure about frying doughnuts (I tried once and it was a fail) check out my post for Apple Cider Fritters. They’re bite size and so good you may end up guilty of eating one too many. So, when I came across a recipe for a twist on my favorite doughnuts in a cake form (including a cinnamon sugar topping) I knew I had to try it. Well, at first I was going to pass on it. I try to stick with recipes that require ingredients that I have on hand or that I know I will use again. So, when I saw that this recipe included wheat flour as one of the ingredients I was a tad bit skeptical. I know, wheat flour isn’t something that is all that odd, but, there aren’t many recipes I come across that require it so I was a bit concerned that it would end up just sitting in my cabinet or refrigerator indefinitely. I also wondered why both? Which of course required a Google search. And what I learned is that using a combination of all-purpose and whole wheat flour produces a cake that is lighter in texture and rises better. And by mixing the two you also get the added benefits of more fiber and nutrients thanks to the whole wheat.

So, a slightly funny story while making this cake. One of the ingredients is unsweetened applesauce. I had a jar of it in my refrigerator from another recipe but I never actually checked it until it was time to add it to the batter. So, I had all of my wet ingredients in a bowl and was about to add in the applesauce when I saw there was mold on top of it. Okay, not so funny. I didn’t bother to check it since it wasn’t set to expire until next year. But, this will definitely be a lesson to me to check those odd ball ingredients just in case. This is a good example of what I was saying before, buying ingredients that will sit without being used for a while. I ended up covering the ingredients with a piece of plastic wrap and ran out to the store to buy a new jar of applesauce. Hopefully the same thing won’t happen to this one. I guess I better come up with recipes for whole wheat flour and applesauce ASAP.

Letting the ingredients sit for a bit of time didn’t have any affect on the final cake. It did somehow separate while baking, but, I doubt it was because of the time my ingredients were left sitting. If you are having trouble seeing it in the picture below it’s on the right-hand side.

After adding a cinnamon sugar coating to the cake and letting it cool completely it was time to slice in to the cake and enjoy a piece. It didn’t taste exactly like my favorite apple cider doughnuts, but, it was just as good.

Apple Cider Doughnut Cake

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoons kosher salt

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 cup apple cider

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 large eggs, at room temperature

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees. Spray a Bundt pan with baking spray or coat with butter and flour.

In a large bowl whisk together both flours along with the baking powder, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, baking soda and salt.

In another bowl whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the sugar, apple cider, olive oil, applesauce, vanilla and eggs. Once well blended add to the flour mixture and whisk both mixtures together until well combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack set over a large bowl or rimmed baking sheet to cool for 15 minutes. While the cake is cooling mix together the remaining sugar and cinnamon and melt the butter.

Invert the cake onto the wire rack. Brush sections of the cake with melted butter and the sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Continue doing this until the entire cake is coated with the butter and cinnamon sugar. Let the cake cool completely before serving.

Recipe from Martha Stewart

Individual Mini Apple Crisps

While pumpkin recipes have been the focus of most of my recent blog posts, there is another fruit that deserves some love this time of the year… Apples. I went apple picking in early October and while I didn’t get to pick my favorite apple, Honeycrisp, I did end up with a good amount of delicious apples that I have been enjoying. As my bag of apples begins to dwindle down some of them aren’t as crisp for eating so I have finally started baking with them. So this week I will be bringing you three recipes apples related. Today’s Individual Mini Apple Crisps, an Apple Cider Doughnut Cake (which didn’t require apples, but, fresh apple cider which I picked up while apple picking) and finally an Apple Crumb Pie. This pie is perfect if you love apple pie but are a little intimidated with making and/or decorating pie crusts.

While these apple crisps are perfect to serve as a dessert if you are having people over for dinner or part of your Thanksgiving desserts (the recipe can easily be doubled or halved as I did) they are a great make ahead dessert as well. I prepped them, covered them with aluminum foil and then refrigerated them until I was ready to bake it. I didn’t change much from the recipe, well, I did make my own apple pie spice since I had the spices on hand and it was cheaper than buying it.

I began by combining the ingredients for the crust and topping (the crisp part) in one bowl. And in another bowl I combined the ingredients for the apple filling. I began assembling the crisps by pressing two tablespoons of crisp mixture into the bottom of ramekins I sprayed with cooking spray. I then evenly divided the apple filling into each of the ramekins. And finally, I sprinkled the remaining crisp mixture over the apple filling. At this point you could bake the crisps in the oven on a baking sheet or, do what I did.

I covered each of the ramekins with aluminum foil and placed them in the refrigerator until I was ready to enjoy them.

When I was, I placed the ramekin on a baking sheet and baked it in a 350 F preheated oven for 30 minutes. As a note, I prepped these on a Sunday and enjoyed my last one on a Wednesday so these will definitely keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

I then topped it with a few scoops of ice cream before digging in. If you omit the ice cream, these are pretty healthy. The crisp is made with old-fashioned oats, raw almonds and honey. While the apple filling just requires a few tablespoons of sugar. This is definitely something I will be making again. Probably next time though I won’t halve the recipe. Since I know for sure that the crisps will keep in the refrigerator for a few days I wouldn’t mind having a few more on hand for a dessert fix.

Mini Apple Crisps

Ingredients:

Crust & Topping:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoons apple pie spice*

1 cup crush raw almonds**

1 cup old-fashioned oats

Apple Filling:

3 unpeeled medium apples, chopping into 1/2 inch pieces

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoons apple pie spice

Vanilla ice cream, optional

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray 6 ramekins with cooking spray.

In a large bowl mix together the butter, honey, vanilla extract and apple pie spice. Add in the almonds and oats and toss together until well coated. Press two tablespoons onto the bottoms of each of the prepared ramekins.

In a medium bowl combine the apples, sugar, lemon juice and apple pie spice. Toss the ingredients together well and then divide it evenly among the ramekins. Sprinkle the top of the filling with the remaining oats and almond mixture.

Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the apples are soft and topping is golden brown. ***

Serve warm, topped with ice cream.

*To make your own Apple Pie Spice combine 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoons of nutmeg and 1 teaspoon allspice.

**I used raw sliced almonds. I put them in a resealable bag and then rolled them with a roll pin to crush them.

***Alternatively you can cover each of the ramekins with aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator to heat at a later time.

Recipe from Taste of Home

Skillet Tamale Pie

You may recall on Sunday I shared a recipe for a Slow Cooker Shredded Mexican Chicken, well, today I am sharing the recipe that I used the chicken for… A Skillet Tamale Pie. I came across this recipe when I clicked on an article about using Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix for recipes other than corn muffins. I think that Jiffy Corn Muffins is one of the first things that I baked when I was younger. It had been years since I purchased a box before I purchased the one I used in this recipe. I’ve tried making cornbread and corn muffins from scratch using cornmeal and to be honest I don’t know why. It never has the sweetness that I want and the texture is always a little off. I should just stuck with this tried and true box mix.

To make the skillet tamale I began by generously greasing a 9-inch cast iron skillet with softened butter and preheated my oven to 400 F. In a large bowl I combined 1 box of Jiffy mix with buttermilk, an egg, cream-style corn and a can of diced green beans. I stirred these ingredients together until they were just combined and then poured them into the prepared skillet and baked it for about 25 minutes, until it was set.

I removed the skillet from the oven and poked the cornbread with a fork several times. I then topped the cornbread with the cooked shredded chicken. Next I poured red chile enchilada sauce over the chicken and topped the sauce with shredded Monterey-Jack cheese. I returned the skillet to the oven and baked it for about 15 minutes, until the cheese melted.

This was so delicious and filling and something I will definitely be making again. Maybe next time though with ground beef.

 

Skillet Tamale Pie

Ingredients:

1 box Jiffy Corn Bread Mix

1/3 cup buttermilk*

1 egg

1 14.75 oz. can of cream-style corn

1 4.5 oz. can of diced green chiles

1 8 oz. can of red chile enchilada sauce

1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey-Jack cheese

 

For serving:

Crema (Sour Cream)

Cilantro

Salsa

Lime Wedges

 

*I made my own buttermilk by stirring together 1/3 cup whole milk with 1.5 to 2 teaspoons of white vinegar in a measuring cup. After letting the mixture sit for about 15 minutes at room temperature it began to curdle on the top which let me know it was ready to use.

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Grease a 9-inch cast iron skillet generously with softened butter and set aside.

In a large bowl combine the Jiffy mix, buttermilk, egg, cream-style corn and green chiles and stir together until just combined. Pour into the prepared skillet and bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until set.

Remove the skillet from the oven and poke the cornbread with a fork several times. Top with either cooked shredded chicken or ground beef and top the meat with the enchilada sauce and then the shredded cheese.

Return the skillet to the oven and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese has melted.

Recipe from All Hail Jiffy Cornbread Mix