Category: Baking

Thankful

I had one of the nicest Thanksgiving holidays this year that I’ve had in a while. Mike and I have been together for five years now and we’ve been splitting holidays between our families ever since. I’m an only child (and an only grandchild on my dad’s side) so it’s tough to juggle holiday time among all the special people in our lives, so this year we decided we’d spend Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania with my family and Christmas at home in Jersey. Our agenda for Thanksgiving this year involved lunch at my Mommom and Poppop’s house with my Dad and dinner at my Nana’s house with my Mom. It was such a nice day!

Thanksgiving Table
Nana’s Thanksgiving Table

We started the day with lunch at my Mommom and Poppop’s house. Mommom knew Mike and I would be having a big turkey dinner later in the day, so she decided to make an untraditional PA dutch favorite – chicken pot pie. It was topped with my Great Grandmother Mary’s (her mother) pie crust and packed full of chicken, veggies and gravy. After lunch I helped her decorate the house for Christmas so she wouldn’t have to do it on her own. We’re a great team and we got the whole house (inside and outside) decorated in about two hours. We had a ball!

At around 5 PM we called my Uncle Brian who lives in South Korea to wish him a Happy Thanksgiving from America. It was already Friday morning there and he was getting ready to go to work since Korea doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. He’s coming home for Christmas, so we’re all really excited to see him and his wife Mee for a few days. They’re even staying with Mike and I for a night!

After we said goodbye to him we headed down the road to my Nana’s house. She and my mom are lucky to live right next door to each other, so Nana has been hosting holidays at her house for a while and they both pitch in to prepare the meal. You know dinner is almost ready when we start carrying things over from Mom’s oven to Nana’s table! How amazing does their turkey look? Mom brined it for a little more than a day and it turned out juicy and flavorful. Uncle Brad did an awesome job carving this baby up so we could dig in.

Turkey

Dinner included mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts, green bean casserole, cornbread, cole slaw, applesauce, and more. It was amazing! After we indulged in dinner it was time for dessert. That’s where my baking skills came into play. I was in charge of dessert this year, and I didn’t mess around.

French silk pie and pumpkin dream cake. Yes, that happened. And it was delicious. I used a recipe from The Pioneer Woman to make the pie and another from Lemon Sugar to make the cake (same recipe I used to make my pumpkin cake pops last month). Yum!

French Silk Pie

Pumpkin Dream Cake

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving if you celebrate it, and if not – thanks for sharing mine with me. I’m so thankful that you stopped by. Get an even closer look at our Thanksgiving celebration in our vlog below. Happy Thanksgiving!

Romantic Dinner

If you caught my post yesterday, you know it’s been a trying week in the Genovese household. To top it off, Mike had to head to his company’s North Jersey office on just a few hours sleep (we’re always up late working) so Thursday was a long day. I was working from home yesterday, so when the clock struck 5 I shut down my laptop and took advantage of the fact that I didn’t have to commute home by putting together a nice little surprise for Mikey to come home to. I figured a special weeknight dinner would be just the thing we needed to relax after a long week.

Romantic Dinner

I started with a special table setting using some of the flowers that were still going strong from Laura’s birthday dinner. I put together a few candles and threw in a sparkly ‘G’ that I got a few months ago from Michael’s to round out the centerpiece (I’m hoping to incorporate the ‘G’ into our holiday decor). I added some Tahari napkins I purchased on clearance at T.J. Maxx to tie in with the color of the ‘G’ for an extra special touch, and aerated some of our favorite wine in a decanter to go with dinner. Here’s a closer look.

Table Setting

Napkins

Centerpiece

And here it is with the candles lit. The ‘G’ was shedding glitter all over the table. I didn’t mind. You’ll notice some similarities to my last dinner party, but this setup was much more simple.

Candle Light

I’ve been on a ‘let’s use up everything in the freezer and pantry’ kick to save a little money on our grocery bill, and I didn’t have time to go to the store – so I got resourceful with the menu. After taking a quick inventory of the meat we had in the freezer (we were running a little low) I decided to go all-in and make oven slow roasted ribs. We had purchased them over the summer on a really good sale and never used them, so I figured why not? I knew Mike would love it and it’d be a special treat since we rarely have ribs. I had just enough time (2 hours) before he’d be home to get them roasted to perfection. Pumpkin cornbread muffins and creamed spinach rounded out the meal.

I followed this recipe for the ribs, and they came out amazing! Two hours of slow roasting with a brown sugar chili rub and a quick basting with BBQ sauce followed by a few minutes under the broiler to crisp them up – and these babies turned out perfectly. This is one of the best recipes I’ve tried for ribs, so I definitely recommend it. Check out a close up of the finished product.

Slow Roasted Ribs

I also loved the pumpkin cornbread muffin recipe. I got the original recipe here, but I tweaked it a bit based on what I had on hand. Here’s a look at the ingredients I used.

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins Ingredients

Here’s the recipe for Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins, adapted from Nancy Creative. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  •  1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, brown sugar, and cornmeal (using a whisk to blend these ingredients works well); after blending ingredients well, set aside.

In a large bowl, beat eggs, then stir in the pumpkin puree, canola oil, and honey.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until combined. Spoon batter into 12 lined muffin cups (each cup should be about 2/3 full of batter).

Bake CORNBREAD MUFFINS at 375 degrees for 14 to 15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or almost clean (do not over-bake, or muffins will be too dry and may brown on the bottom).

Nigella’s Nutella Birthday Cake

I’m sending a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY shout out to my BFF Laura Vitale today! We have a standing hump day date with the Vitales where we nosh on whatever Laura has filmed for Laura in the Kitchen that day and catch up on our favorite shows (thank god for DVR). With Laura’s birthday falling on a Thursday this year, I decided to turn our Wednesday with the Vitales into a fancy schmancy birthday dinner – and I kept all the details a surprise from Laura until she walked through my front door last night. As far as she knew we were having a normal weeknight dinner. Nothing special. Boy, was she wrong!

Nigella Nutella Cake

I’m working on a full recap of my planning and execution of Laura’s birthday dinner in a post slated for next week, but I wanted to share one very special detail with you while it’s still fresh (both literally and figuratively). Per Laura’s request – while she’s simultaneously testing and shooting very rich Thanksgiving recipes – I kept dinner simple and light, so I wanted to WOW her by baking the perfect birthday cake. This girl doesn’t do baked goods unless they’re from scratch, so I had quite a task ahead of me, and Nutella was my inspiration.

After a quick search I stumbled upon this recipe from Nigella Lawson for Nutella cake. If you follow Laura in the Kitchen you know Nigella is one of Laura’s favorite chefs and Nutella is one of her very favorite sweet treats, so I knew this recipe was a match made in heaven.

Overall, this cake was fairly simple despite one difficult step – making my own hazelnut meal when I couldn’t find it anywhere in my local grocery store. I have to thank my husband Mike for being a trooper and shelling an enormous bag of hazelnuts for me that I ground up in my food processor to make the one cup of hazelnut meal needed for this recipe. Best hubby award? I think so. Pinched fingers and all.

Hazelnut MealThis is a very damp cake. The hazelnut is the only dry ingredient so it was definitely one of the most moist cakes I’ve ever had. Here’s a quick look at the ingredients you’ll need to make it.

Nutella Cake IngredientsLook at that heaping bowl of beautiful hazelnuts. You’d never know it took Mike two separate hour-long sessions to get through all that nut cracking. But it sure was worth it! I texted him the above photo of the hazelnut meal the next day as a, “Hey, look what you helped accomplish!” momentum of gratitude. He certainly keeps me going, that’s for sure.

When all was said and done I arranged the Nutella cake on the vintage ice cream parlor table in my kitchen, complete with a festive pink pumpkin and a Happy Birthday sign. I loved the pumpkin’s homage to fall (since Laura is a November baby, after all) and the fact that its pink color was perfect for the theme of the evening. And my purchase of the pink pumpkin supported breast cancer, so it truly was a win-win.

Nutella Cake Presentation

All of Mike’s hard nut-cracking work wasn’t in vain. This cake was truly the perfect sweet ending to an even sweeter birthday celebration.

Happy Birthday, Laura!

B & L

 

 

Pumpkin Cake Pops

Fall is upon us, and that means an overabundance of pumpkin-flavored fare. I look forward to seasonal ‘pumpkin spice’ flavors all year, and I also grumble a bit when pumpkin gives way to peppermint after Thanksgiving. So, while the calendar still says November, bring on the gourd-y goodness!

Pumpkin Cake Pops

If you follow our vlogs, you’ll know that I made Pumpkin Cake Pops for my friends annual Oktoberfest party this year, and you’ll also be keenly aware of the mental battle I’ve fought each and every time I’ve tried to make these puppies. I’ll be the first to tell you these aren’t easy if you make them the right way. And by that, I mean individually rolling each delicious-yet-devious cake ball – not cheating by using one of those newfangled cake pop pans. But my third time making cake pops truly was the charm. I had two rounds of cake pop making under my belt, and I knew what pitfalls to avoid going into this arduous delicious undertaking.

In the past I’ve made red velvet and chocolate flavored cake pops, but this time I wanted to stay true to the changing seasons and go right for that first punch of pumpkin. After a quick search, I found this recipe for Pumpkin Dream Cake with maple cinnamon cream cheese icing and I was sold (um, hello – with a name like that it didn’t take much convincing). Here’s a quick breakdown of the ingredients you’ll need:

Ingredients

I whipped together the cake and the icing by using the ingredients and measurements from the original recipe from Lemon Sugar. I knew I’d just be crumbling the baked cake into a mixture of cake crumbs and icing to form the cake balls, so I threw the entire amount of cake batter into one 9×13 baking pan rather than dividing it among three 8 inch round baking pans that the recipe calls for.

Once the cake is baked, let it cool completely before you dig in with your hands. Then follow the following steps to assemble your pops:

  1. When it’s fully cooled, crumble the cake into a large mixing bowl in uniform crumbs.
  2. Add a small amount of the frosting (about 1/2 cup) to the cake crumbs and combine with the paddle attachment of your mixer until you get a smooth texture and all the icing is combined. Cake Crumbs
  3. Roll the cake and icing mixture into uniform cake balls roughly one inch in diameter. I recommend lining a cookie sheet with parchment paper and placing the cake balls in rows as you form them. This step will take you a while as the recipe yields about 90 cake balls.
  4. When your cake balls are complete it’s time to let them chill before securing the lollipop sticks into them with melted chocolate. Some tutorials I’ve read have suggested refrigerating or even freezing the cake balls at this step to harden them a bit. I recommend sticking them in the fridge for no more than 10-15 minutes.
  5. Melt your chocolate candy melts in the microwave ON THE DEFROST SETTING! I can’t stress this enough. It may sound silly, but getting the candy melts to melt without overheating, or worse, burning, is one of the hardest steps for me every. Single. Time. When making this batch of pumpkin cake pops I finally got this step down to a science (god, I hope). I popped the candy melts in the microwave on defrost for about 15-30 seconds before giving them a stir. About 15 seconds more and they were melted. These little buggers are tricky because they don’t seem to be melted at first, but overheating them causes the melts to harden into one big chocolate-ty glob. #fail. Be sure to give them a good stir and they should melt into the perfect texture after 30-45 seconds on the defrost setting in the microwave.
  6. Melted chocolate in hand, take a lollipop stick and dip the end in about 1/2 inch. Then carefully insert the lollipop stick into the cake ball. It’s important to be gentle with this step to avoid cracking. If your cake balls got too cold in the refrigerator they’ll crack very easily, so if you start out and you have one after another cracking, give them a few minutes to warm up before proceeding.
  7. When all the lollipop sticks are securely in place, it’s time to dip the entire cake pop into the melted chocolate to achieve that glorious hard candy shell. I sometimes use a spoon to make sure the candy covers the entire cake pop all the way down to the lollipop stick – just to make sure it’s extra secure. Hold the cake pop over the bowl for a few seconds to let it harden before moving on to the next.
  8. Repeat the dipping step for all of your cake pops, and then let them dry until the candy shell is completely hardened.

There’s several ways to display cake pops, but leaving them upside down with the stick pointing up has proven to be the easiest way to let them dry and transport them to a party. If you’re cake pops are staying put at home you can experiment with ways to invert them vertically by using a cake pop holder, floral foam or even a pumpkin. Hey, I’ve done it!

As I said before, this recipe yielded 90 cake pops, so you better believe my neighbors were the lucky recipients of a few Pumpkin Cake Pops that weekend, too. Here’s how I wrapped them in small batches as a gift:

IMG_0065

I also made the Pumpkin Dream Cake recipe as cupcakes with the leftover maple cinnamon cream cheese frosting about a week later – and they were DIVINE! My husband even said they were quite possibly the best cupcakes he’d ever had. Though he was probably just trying to butter me up, I’m going with it! Best cupcakes ever, for the win!

Here’s the full recipe for Pumpkin Dream Cake that you can pair with my instructions above to make Pumpkin Cake Pops for your next get together this fall. You can also see me tackle my batch of cake pops step-by-step in this vlog. Enjoy!