Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hot Soup on a Warm Night?

I don't know what the weather has been like in your neck of the woods, but this past week it was rainy, cold and all around gloomy.  I'm right up at the front of the line wanting fall to be here, but I hate the misty nasty rain that keeps you from being able to go out and enjoy the cooler weather.  YUCK!

In preparing for the drop in temperature, I planned to try out some new soup recipes.  I looked though my Pinterest page to see what popped out and found a little gem for Cheeseburger Soup.  Sounded like a winner!  I had best laid plans to do this early in the week...and then this week happened.  I've been having some killer headaches with this little bun in the oven and this week they were in full swing.  So, we lived off leftovers and pizza for the better part of the week, but by Friday I was ready to go!  Of course, Friday was the first day the sun came out and the temperature went up.  Oh well...soup I was craving and soup we would have!

Still, I wanted a little something more to go with the soup.  And what goes better with soup than bread?  The hubs LOVES bread and reminds me often that we don't have it at dinner enough.  Since it had been quite some time since I made fresh bread, I was excited to try out a new recipe there as well.  My biggest craving with this pregnancy, strangely enough, has been beer.  So when I came across a recipe for Basil Beer Bread, I was sold!

Some tips for recreating this meal.  The soup is meant to be made in the crock pot.  I started the soup in the crock pot...and then ran out of time for not starting soon enough...and switched it to a pot on the stove.  This wasn't the best idea.  Unless you are going to stand over the stove and stir this soup constantly, make sure you leave yourself the extra time to let the crock pot do the work for you!

In the end, the soup was pretty thick.  I didn't mind this since I like a heartier soup anyway, but if you wanted it a little thinner, I would suggest doubling the chicken stock.  Between the cheese and the hash browns, a lot of liquid is soaked up!

The bread is probably one of the simplest you will make...EVER!  The recipe wasn't really specific about the type of beer to use, so I picked out a nutty ale at the grocery store.  Here's the one I used:
 It was pretty perfect!  If you can't find this exact beer, I would stick to something a little stronger and in the "nut ale" family.  The flavor really comes through in the bread.  Even the little one ate it all up so it must have been good!

The bread also called for fresh basil, which I thought I had, but turns out I was wrong.  I substitutes about 2 T dried basil for the fresh and the flavor came though.  I would love to experiment with this again to see if I can taste a difference by using fresh basil, but in a pinch dried will work beautifully!

Cheeseburger Soup - Serves 8-10 (I wish I could credit the person who originally pinned this, but the link was broken.  Thankfully the ingredients were in the description!)

1 pound ground beef; browned and drained
2 pounds Velveeta; cut into cubes
2 pounds shredded hash browns (I used 2 packs of Simply Potatoes Hash Browns, one original and one Southwest style for a little kick)
1 pound bacon; cooked, drained and crumbled
30 ounces chicken broth (more for a thinner soup)
1 T each dried basil, garlic, pepper, salt, tarragon and thyme

1 - Make sure beef is browned ad drained and bacon is cooked, drained and crumbled.  Throw all ingredients in a crock pot and cook over high for 2-4 hours or low for 4-6 hours, stirring every now and then to mix everything up.  Easy as that!
Basil Beer Bread - Makes 1 loaf, size of the average meatloaf pan (Adapted from Drizzle and Dip)

3 cups AP flour
1 bunch of fresh basil; chopped (or 2 T dried basil)
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 T brown sugar
330mL beer; room temperature

1 - Using a stand mixer with dough hook attachment, mix the dry ingredients together.  Add beer and mix on low speed for 3-5 minutes until the dough bounces back when you press it.
2 - Grease a meatloaf pan.  Add the dough and press down so the dough covers the pan evenly.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes until lightly browned.  Allow to cool slightly before slicing and eating.

On a side note, the wonderful hubs found my camera battery charger!  No more phone pics for this girl!!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Can You Smell Fall Coming?

It's been almost a month to the day since we moved into the new house in Clayton.  Although we are still having some hot days, the cooler mornings and evenings are proof that fall really is on the way, and I couldn't be more excited.  See this time last year we were packing up to leave the country for the rest of the year and basically missed fall.  Sure it got cooler and cold in France, but the leaves didn't change, the holidays weren't celebrated the same and everything I love about this time of the year was gone.  So this year I want to do everything I can to enjoy every minute!!

Moving is always stressful, so I was excited to meet our new neighbors almost as soon as we moved in.  Everyone we have met is super friendly, more proof that we moved to the right place!  This week I got invited to a ladies Bunco night in the neighborhood with the instructions to bring a bottle of wine or a snack.  Since I can't drink with a little bambino growing in the tummy, I decided to use this opportunity to try out a new cupcake recipe.  Trying out new sweet treats is a little more challenging now that we've moved since the hubs isn't a fan of desserts and I no longer have his employees I can send them too.  I wanted something new, something that was a perfect fall welcome and something everyone could enjoy.  That's when it hit me the one "fall thing" that has been trending on all the social media lately...Pumpkin Spice Lattes.  That little Starbucks drink that people everywhere wait all year for.  Pumpkin is pretty much the "end all be all" of fall flavors so why not turn the legendary drink into a cupcake?

So I turned to the place we all go for inspiration...Pinterest!  Really, what did we do before this website existed?  To my surprise, I found tons of recipes out there dedicated to turning the flavors of the beloved drink into all things edible.  After weeding through several recipes that used a box cake mix as the base...which is a HUGE pet peeve of mine...I finally landed on one from Table for Two.  I made an adjustment here and there to make the recipe my own and the outcome was amazing!  The little one ate hers up, hubs gave it his "other people will like this" stamp of approval and I left the party with a clean platter!  Since my camera battery is still in a box somewhere and said camera is dead, I didn't get a good picture of my actual cupcakes.  But here's one from the Table for Two blog to show off the yummy goodness!

I only made a few small additions to the original recipe.  Once I mixed the batter, it still tasted like it needed something so I added some vanilla, which did the trick.  I also mixed up a quick cream cheese filling to go on the inside of the cupcakes which I felt added a nice little break up of flavor overall.  The simple whipped frosting is the perfect finishing touch and definitely reminds me of the actually latte topping!  Careful with it though, since it's just sweetened whipped cream, it will melt easily if put in the heat! 

Getting back in the kitchen to do some baking really got me excited for the upcoming season and seeing how many more twists of classics I can come up with!  Let the recipe testing begin!!

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes (adapted from Table for Two)
Makes 2 dozen cupcakes or one 2 layer 9 inch cake

     2 2/3 c all purpose flour
     3 T espresso powder
     2 tsp baking soda
     2 tsp baking powder
     1/2 T pumpkin pie spice
     15 oz can pumpkin puree
     1 c sugar
     1 c brown sugar
     1 c vegetable oil
     1 T vanilla extract
     4 eggs
     1/2 c coffee; brewed and slightly cooled for brushing
     1 c cream cheese
     4 T cinnamon
     2 T sugar
     1/2 T pumpkin pie spice
     2 1/4 c whipping cream; chilled
     1/4 c powdered sugar
     10 caramel candies (or make your own caramel if you're feeling ambitious!)
     2 T whipping cream

For cupcakes:
1 - Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin tins with cups or grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans.
2 - In a bowl, whisk together flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder and pumpkin pie spice.  
3 - In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle, combine pumpkin puree, sugar, brown sugar, oil and vanilla.  Mix until well combined.
4 - Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each before adding the next one.
5 - Add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing each just until the ingredients are incorporated.
6 - Divide batter evenly between muffin tins (using about 1/4 to 1/3 c for each tin) or between the two cake pans.
7 - Bake 15-20 minutes until tester comes out clean.
8 - Allow cupcakes to cool slightly.  Brush the tops of the cupcakes or cakes with coffee.  Apply three coats total, allowing the coffee to soak in between each coat.  Remove cupcakes from tins or cakes from the pans and allow to cool completely on wire racks.

For filling:
1 - Put all ingredients in a stand mixer with whip and cream until smooth.  
2 - Using a corer or small spoon, remove a small part from the center of each cupcake.  Pipe the filling into the center of each cupcake.  If making the cake, simply spread the filling on top of one cake layer before adding the second layer.

For frosting:
1 - In stand mixer with whip, whip cream to soft peaks.  Gradually add powdered sugar and whip to stiff peak.  Pipe as desired onto cupcakes.  (Note: More frosting will probably be needed if frosting a 9 inch cake.  I would start by upping the recipe by half and whipping more cream as needed.)

For topping:
1 - Combine the caramels and cream in a small sauce pot over low heat, stirring occasionally until the caramels are melted.  Allow to cool completely before drizzling on cupcakes or cake.

Now you can drink your Starbucks and eat it too!  ENJOY!