Thursday, December 15, 2011


Growing up in southern, rural Minnesota, I was surrounded by Scandinavian traditions. One of my favorites was fresh rosettes throughout the Christmas season. These were always a special treat at home, as they were one of the goodies that my family didn't make. (We had the tools to make them in our Christmas baking box, but for some reason, we never made any).

One day I was shopping at GoodWill, looking for unique dishes, and I ran across an old Nordicware Rosette tool kit, unused, in its original box. It wasn't priced, and the sales lady offered it at fifty cents - I couldn't pass it up!

In the years that I've been baking and cooking, I've never deep fried anything. (To be honest, the hot oil scares me!) I decided to give them a try. My husband has never had them, but he loves funnel cakes from the state fair, so I knew he would like these to.

Aside from overcoming the fear of frying, they really aren't difficult to make. While they may not make it on my annual baking list, I definitely plan on keeping the iron & recipe.

ROSETTES (From AllRecipes)
Makes approximately 4 doz rosettes

2 eggs
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine eggs, sugar and salt; beat well. Add remaining ingredients and beat until smooth.

Heat a rosette iron in deep, hot oil (375 degrees) for 2 minutes. Drain excess oil from iron. Dip in batter to 1/4 inch from the top of the iron, then dip iron immediately into hot oil (375 degrees).

Fry rosette until golden, about 30 seconds. Lift out; tip upside down to drain. With fork, push rosette off iron onto a rack placed over paper towels.

Reheat iron 1 minute; make next rosette. Sprinkle rosettes with confectioners' sugar prior to serving.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Popcorn Balls

Every Christmas, I look forward to holiday baking. There were certain treats we were allowed to help make when we were young, and others where we were encouraged to stay out of the kitchen. This was one of the latter - with the hot caramel sauce, and the rapid pace you must work, my parents preferred we watch from afar. When I got to my teen years, I finally worked up the courage to help my mom (I was worried about burning my hands!)

These are the best popcorn balls! (Although, I may be biased, but many people have converted to this recipe after trying them). Because of the caramel coloring, they cannot be dyed different colors (which is the appeal of marshmallow based recipes). As my husband says, you can make these as "healthy" or "unhealthy" as you want based on the proportion of popcorn to caramel. I prefer the "unhealthy" ones with lots of caramel goo!


1 cup whipping cream
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup

Cook ingredients to soft ball stage. Pour over popcorn. Mix into popcorn, using wooden spoon or firm silicone spatula.

Wet hands & form balls. Cool popcorn balls on cookie sheets.

Store either in tins (the big tins that popcorn comes in during the holidays) or put a trash bag (with a drawstring) over the cookie sheet the popcorn balls are on. (Of course, you could individually package them in bags if giving as gifts)

***How much popcorn to use?***

I don't have an exact measurement. We double the above recipe, and fill a large turkey roaster (base & the lid) heaped with popcorn. We've found that a 4 pound bag of popcorn makes about 3 double batches, so each batch (as listed above), is about about 2/3 of a pound of unpopped popcorn.

(And yes, we know that a 4 pound bag makes 3 double batches because that is often how much we'd make!)


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Lattes

One of my many favorite things about fall are Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I rarely visit Starbucks (aside from the occasional treat after a bad call, or going into a long shift), but in the fall, I have a hard time staying out. And of course, the Pumpkin Spice Latte is even more expensive than their regular flavored lattes - I think I spent almost $5 on a medium when it was released earlier this fall - OUCH!

I've tried various DIY versions over the past few years, and I've always been disappointed. They've always been gritty from the spices, or the pureed pumpkin, added directly to the latte, adds a funky taste or texture. This year, I found the recipe for a pumpkin spice syrup on Tastespotting, and I knew it would make the difference!

I had some difficulty finding pureed pumpkin - I ended up getting the last can of organic pumpkin at a local coop. Even though it was about twice the price of a can of Libby's, all of the ingredients for a batch of this syrup still cost less than the price of one latte. (And, I have enough pumpkin for a few more batches.)

I'm not going to give the directions on making a latte - everyone has different machines & preferences for espresso to milk ratio. I will be giving the recipe for the syrup - use as you would use any other flavor syrup.

PUMPKIN SPICE SYRUP (Adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride)
Makes approx 2 cups of syrup

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)

Cook sugar and water in a small pot over medium heat until the mixture is completely clear.

Whisk in the remaining ingredients and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Do not allow mixture to come to a boil.

Allow mixture to cool for 10-15 minutes. Strain syrup through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer into a large jar or bottle of your choice. (Straining will be slow due to the pumpkin)

Keep syrup in the fridge.

Use 1-2 tablespoons in your favorite latte recipe.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Caramel Apple Crisp

I LOVE the fall in New England (even though it's sadly over now that I'm finally posting this). Apple orchards, and all of the tastiness that goes with them, are plentiful and only a short drive from the city. Last year, we decided to try a different orchard so that we could bring our pup with us - he LOVES to get outdoors & run! It was great to have him along, and while it was a more "grown up" orchard with an associated vineyard & wine tasting, it just wasn't the same.

This year we decided to go back to the orchard we had went to the 2 prior years. First of all, it's an absolutely beautiful drive up the north shore. As soon as you arrive, you smell the aroma of apple cider donuts drifting through the air. We can't even make it out to the orchard without first stopping by the barn to pick up not 2, not 4, but 6 fresh donuts for the two of us!! (Hey, it's a one-time-a-year treat...I just keep telling myself that!)

To make us feel better about the donuts this year, we decided to walk out to the orchard instead of taking the hayride. It was a beautiful walk, with the crisp smell of fresh apples surrounding you. We always buy a peck of apples (plus eat a few along the way), and it always seems like so many apples, until we get home & dig into them. In fact, I had to go buy additional apples to make this!

I love caramel apples, so I thought I'd try something different this year. I'm posting the original caramel sauce, which I used in my dish. However, I felt like it tasted like a sugary sauce, and wasn't a very true caramel flavor. Maybe I've been spoiled by years of homemade caramels growing up, or maybe I messed up and didn't let it darken enough. Personally, when I make this again, I'd either buy a jar of caramel ice cream topping, or find a different caramel sauce recipe.

CARAMEL APPLE CRISP (Adapted from Show & Tell)

5 large apples of your choice - peeled, cored & thinly sliced
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon instant vanilla pudding mix
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl & allow to marinate while preparing the following parts.

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, cut into pats
1 cup whipping cream

Over medium high heat...put sugar in heavy bottom saucepan. As it begins to melt whisk in butter. As the mixture caramelizes, remove from heat & SLOWLY add in whipping cream. Continue to whisk til smooth. Set aside & allow to thicken.

1 small box of instant vanilla pudding mix (I used the remainder from the filling)
1/2 cup flour
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup quick cook/instant oats
1 cup of butter softened and cut up into pats

Mix all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in the butter - it will be fairly dry.

ASSEMBLE in baking dish:
1) Marinated apple filling
2) Pour approximately 1/2 of the caramel sauce over the apples
3) Crumble the topping over the caramel & apples

Bake at 350F for approximately 45 minutes. Allow to cool some prior to serving.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Banana Caramel Muffins

This year is my third and final year of residency (well, technically, I'm sticking around to be Chief Resident next year, but I'll be attending at times by that point). I had very ambitious thoughts about bringing in breakfast on the Monday mornings that we didn't have conference. Sadly, the 12-15 hours shifts tired me out and I only brought in breakfast twice (and one time I cheated with a boxed coffee cake mix!)

I brought these in to share with my wonderful interns & medical students. They were AWESOME! It was like having dessert for breakfast with the caramel glaze, but was a great way to kick off the week. You'll have more glaze than needed - I have to admit I ate a spoonful before throwing it away. If you're having guests, you could probably double the muffin portion of the recipe and have plenty of the glaze with a single batch of it.


One Bowl Banana Muffins (Adapted from Herbavoracious)

2 large ripe bananas, peeled
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 375. Line 10-12 spots in a muffins tin with muffin/cupcake liners, or grease the pan with non-stick spray.

Mash the bananas in a microwave safe bowl. Add the butter and microwave 20 seconds at a time until the butter is softened but not melted. (It is fine if a little bit of it melts).

Using a potato masher or whatever you have to hand, mash the bananas and butter together until there isn't a lot of lumpiness left.

Thoroughly stir in the sugar, beaten egg, milk, vanilla extract, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Fold in the flour until just moistened. (Do not over beat)

Distribute the batter into the tins. Bake until quite dark brown, and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry, rotating once about halfway through baking. Total baking time was about 25-30 minutes. Remove from pan & allow to cool completely.

Caramel Glaze (Adapted from Taste & Tell)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons heavy cream
1 cup powdered sugar

In a saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Whisk in the cream and powdered sugar until no lumps remain. Immediately spoon over the muffins, or dip the top of the muffins into the glaze.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

Strawberries & lemons are a common flavor combination. In fact, one of my favorite summertime refreshing beverages are strawberry lemonades. When my husband asked me to make some cupcakes for a party for his boss (who achieved tenure at Harvard!), and the weather forecast was in the 80-90's, I knew this would be a perfect, refreshing treat to share.

Everyone enjoyed the cupcakes, and the wonderful party - where his boss was not only surprised by the party, but the way he was greeted was by all of his employees throwing water balloons at him! (It was his wife's idea!) Thankfully, he's a great sport, and started catching the balloons & throwing them back at people!

STRAWBERRY LEMONADE CUPAKES (Adapted from Tips for a Typical Mom)

Lemonade Cupcakes
1 box white cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon extract
Yellow Food Coloring (optional)

Follow instructions on box and bake into cupcakes

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
4 large strawberries
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4-6 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon strawberry extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Chop strawberries finely and place on paper towel to soak up some of the moisture. Add butter to bowl and beat with a mixer until fluffy, add vanilla & strawberry extract, and about 2 cups of the sugar. Blend well, incorporate cream. Add in small amounts of powdered sugar, beating well after each addition, to reach the desired consistency.

Frost & decorate as desired. (I topped with lemonhead candies)


Monday, September 12, 2011

Cheesy Smashed Potatoes

Growing up, adding cheese was a guaranteed way to get me to eat something healthy. (Or not so healthy, I remember eating a lot of "cheese bread" consisting of a slice of Velveta on a piece of white bread, microwaved until melty - Yuk!)

One of my aunts used to make some cheesey mashed potatoes - so cheesey, that I think there was more cheese than potato in them. I wanted to make something similar, but keep them *slightly* healthy, and retain some of their texture. These were a great combination between baked potatoes & creamy mashed potatoes. The cream cheese & sour cream blended into the mashed potatoes well, but the skin (and nutrients) remained.

(Sorry for the awful picture!)

Cheesey Smashed Potatoes

5 lb bag of potatoes
8 oz sour cream
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 cups cheddar cheese

Clean potatoes, cut up (keeping skin on), and boil until tender.

Place approximately half of the potatoes into a bowl with the sour cream, cream cheese & garlic. Mix until well blended. Add in 1.5-2 cups of the cheddar cheese, milk as needed for creaminess and remainder of potatoes. Mix *just* until blended (it will still be chunky).

Place in a 9x13 inch pan. (You can place these in the fridge at this point if you are preparing a day or two early.) Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes, then add additional 1/2-1 cup of cheddar to the top. Place back in the oven for an additional 10 minutes.