Sunday, December 02, 2012

Pumpkin Crunch Cake - The MLP Version

At work, we tend to have a lot of cook-offs/contests throughout the year. Usually, the end of October is the Pumpkin Carving Contest (which I've won twice but who's counting?). This year we did something a little different—a pumpkin cook-off! Who doesn't love fall food, specifically pumpkin-flavored food? Add "pumpkin" to the name and everyone gets excited. We've been doing the carving contest for years, so it was time for a little break. That, and we're really really good at eating.

I entered Pumpkin Crunch Cake, a little recipe I found thanks to Pinterest. Every time I made it last year people went bananas. I stepped it up a notch and added my own MLP twist to the crunch layer (again, are you shocked? No.) that makes it extra delicious.

Originally from The Picky Apple

• 1 box yellow cake mix
• 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
• 1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
• 3 large eggs
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
• 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom of 9 x 13″ pan. Mix pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Pour mixture into greased pan. Sprinkle dry cake mix over pumpkin mixture and top with pecans. Drizzle melted butter over pecans. Bake 50-55 minutes.

The difference here is in the crunch layer!

• 1 box yellow cake mix
• 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
• 1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
• 3 large eggs
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp. salt

- - - CRUNCH LAYER - - -
• 1 c chopped pecans – MUST BE ROASTED & SALTED!!! Otherwise don’t even bother.
• 1/2 – 3/4 c chopped pretzels
• 1/2 c toffee bits pulverized in a food processor to a dusty crumb (This, specifically. It does not contain chocolate like some versions do.)
• Kosher Salt
• Turbinado sugar
• 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted

Follow the same instructions as above. After you sprinkle the pecans over the top, sprinkle the pretzels, then the toffee bits. Drizzle melted butter (Yes, you want the entire 2 sticks. This is no time to act healthy.) over the whole thing. Then sprinkle liberally with turbinado sugar. I pour it into my hand and eyeball it. I’m guessing I use about 2-3 TBSP. Then sprinkle kosher salt over top. Don’t hold back. The extra salt makes it delicious! Bake for the same amount of time as above.
I promise you, it's beyond easy to make and really delicious to eat!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Craving: Avocado Toasts with Pine Nuts

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I'm going to let you guys in on a little secret. I really enjoy savory foods. A lot. I would reach for bread and olive oil over a piece of cake the majority of the time. I blame my father. I inherited his salt fanatic gene. I even salt my chocolate ice cream. Seriously. Try it. It'll rock your world, especially if it's a really deep rich chocolate. Salted chocolate chip cookies? Heck yeah! But anyway, I digress. You can imagine my intense yearning when I saw this old post on The Kitchn this morning—Avocado Toast. It's so simple. A baguette, olive oil, avocado, salt and pepper.

I was literally dreaming about this all day yesterday. Luckily I had to go to the grocery after work. I came home with baguette and avocado in hand, ready to mash that green goodness to a pulp! However, I wanted to add a little twist. My only problem with avocado is how mushy it is and I don't do well with savory mushy foods. I need texture. I need crunch. The toast would help, but why not add some nuts? Pine nuts! Or, if you're fancy, pignolis (that's the Italian term). I had pine nuts in my freezer left over from a batch of pesto awhile ago and the flavor pairing was actually perfect. You know how pine nuts have specific flavor to them? I don't know how to describe it—is that umami at work? (Anyone know this??) You could try pecans (my first consideration) or Marcona almonds, too. In my ideal world, I would also add a sprinkling of chopped bacon, but that can be another day.

While The Kitchn classified them as breakfast, I think these make the perfect little appetizer, the perfect little snack if you're hosting a gathering. After all, slices of baguette aren't that big so it's just the right size. Are you ready for this? Here we go.

::: Avocado Toasts with Pine Nuts :::
Adapted from The Kitchn

Baguette slices, approx .5-.75 inch thick
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher or Sea Salt
Pine Nuts (or nuts of your choosing)

Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet in the oven. I toasted mine at 350° for about 5-6 minutes. Check them after 3 minutes, flip them over, and toss the nuts on the baking sheet at this time. After those few minutes have passed, take the sheet out of the oven and drizzle the EVOO over the toast. I gave mine a good healthy covering. :-) Next, mash the avocado. There's no rule about how much you should put on the toasts so pile it up as much as you like! I generally think 1 TBSP can get you enough for 1-2 toast slices. Then sprinkle them liberally with big flakes of salt, pepper, and top with just a few nuts. Eat them while they're warm and you'll enjoy every second!

I made them later in the evening for my fiance. After he took his first bite he said "Yeah, these were worth dreaming about all day." See, I told you!
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Sunday, February 05, 2012

Beer Bacon Nuts

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The Super Bowl is starting in a matter of hours. Less than hours. Like 75 minutes. My boyfriend fiancee (that's right, we're officially engaged now!) and I are attending a Super Bowl party at a friend's house in just a bit. Besides the side we're bringing, we decided to make another snack. Food Network Magazine always includes a lovely little pull-out booklet that's 50 quick recipes focusing on a certain theme. Their latest issue's booklet was 50 Super Bowl Snacks. Hello, what's not to love??? Even better, there was a recipe for...wait for it... BEER BACON NUTS. While there are 49 fabulous other ideas in the little booklet, this sounded perfect. It's unique and tasty and did I mention there's bacon? So George, being the wonderful fiancee he is, took over this task and made these for the party. I give him full credit. My contribution was pointing at the recipe saying "OOOOOH!!!!!!!! Let's make this!" and then deciding that instead of putting all the nuts in a big bowl just to stick together in a big glob, I said "I know! Let's put them in cupcake cups." Because frankly, that's just really cute. And Super Bowl food is still allowed to be cute.

And honestly? They're delicious. Just follow the recipe and you'll be golden.

Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

1/3 c beer (we used a nut brown)
6 slices of UNCOOKED bacon (i know, it sounds weird, just go with it)
1 tablespoon salt
1 pinch cayenne
1 c brown sugar
1 1/2 c corn nuts
1 c almonds
1 peanuts
(We included pecans as well, but that's optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Slice the uncooked bacon. Boil the beer, the sliced uncooked bacon pieces, brown sugar, salt, and cayenne. Boil until the beer evaporates and it's a bit syrup-y, about 8 minutes. Mix in the nuts and spread on a baking sheet. You might want to consider lining the sheet with either foil or parchment. George did it straight on the baking pan and it's a hot mess. Save yourself the trouble and line the pan if you can. So anyway, pop the pan in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. We baked it until the bacon's texture was a little crispy. Afterwards, divvy the mixture up into little cute cupcake cups. It makes enough for about 20-22 cupcake cups, depending on how much you fill them.

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The mixture will harden a bit and they'll become cluster-y, so the cupcake cups are perfect. In my opinion, they could probably even use another slice (or two) of bacon. But since it's a pretty loose recipe, do whatever your heart desires!

And yes, if I would've been smart and planned this better, I would've used Super Bowl team colors instead of the "Oh, I never use these" collection. But hey... whatevs.
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