Friday, January 21, 2011

Zucchini Spice Cupcakes

Martha Stewart is my hero. Seriously. Who else can make a poncho the hottest must have item of the season all from the confines of a 6x8 jail cell? Although, I'm not a poncho girl, I do love her recipes.

The first time I made Martha's Zucchini Spice Cupcakes, it was for a friend's backyard BBQ party. To say they were a hit would be an huge understatement. They flew off the plate and left it rocking in its wake. The second time I made them was for a girlfriend's baby shower. I was almost adopted by the family.

There is something wonderful about zucchini. Aside from all the health benefits, it's such a versatile fruit. Yes, that's right, I said fruit. My mother would grow it in her garden every year. She would plant it one week and be cursing the high heavens the next because it had taken the entire backyard hostage. Yet, there she was every winter planning for her next bountiful crop with, you guessed it, zucchini taking first place.

I am thankful for zucchini. Although it's virtually tasteless on it's own, pair it with roasted red peppers, onions, and goat cheese on a panini and you got yourself the best damn sandwich this side of the hemisphere. Zucchini bread with a nice cup of tea on a cold January morning?

Sign me up. Like yesterday.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 cups packed grated zucchini, drained VERY well
1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

In another bowl, whisk together oil, eggs, vanilla, and zest until well blended; whisk in brown sugar until smooth.

Stir in zucchini

Add flour mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in walnuts. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three quarters full.

Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

Now for the best part....


I halved the original recipe because it made SO much!

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add sugar, ½ cup at a time, and then vanilla, and mix until smooth.

Yield: About 24 cupcakes.

Happy Baking!

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Confessions of a Foodie

Food brings people together. No matter what the occasion or season, it is an important and essential part of the moment.

My name is Jenny. And I am a foodie.

While I have many passions in life, if I had to pick one that stands out above the rest, baking definitely takes the pun intended. If baking is the addiction, cookies are the drug. If there was a $10 bill and a cookie on the table, I'd take the cookie.

There is something special about creating delightful desserts and confections using simple ingredients such as butter, eggs, flour and sugar. It's like a group of close girlfriends. Each of them are wonderful on their own, but put them together and the end result is something better (most of the time) than what you started out with.

I fell in love with the culinary arts when I was about 13. I can't pinpoint my "AHA!" moment, but I do remember my Home Economics teacher telling me that I had made the prettiest cheesecake she had ever seen. It wasn't long after that I became obsessed with food and perfecting it.

Once cooking programs really hit the airwaves, I was hooked. I remember the first time I watched Martha Stewart on TV. She was making a gorgeous rustic apple tart. I sat there thinking, 'I can so do that!' I found myself glued to her 30 minute program every weekend, jotting down recipes on the back of my math homework. (Which could explain my calculus teacher's surprising weight gain that year).

Before long, I became a bit of a cookbook fanatic. I would hit bookstores, garage sales, church rummage sales, my mother's collection - you name it, I needed to have it.

By the time I was 25, I had about 50. Of course, as the years went on, I would purge to make room for new editions, but I can proudly say I have used every cookbook that was in my possession at least once! My collection is now down to about thirty due to space issues, but it's so hard to pass one by.

I have also learned to become quite adventurous in the kitchen. Over the years, I gained the knowledge to know what flavors and spices work best with what dishes and what recipes would become instant classics and which ones needed to run for the hills. I am happiest when I am in the kitchen - and so is my husband. I often joke that I put the Woman's Movement back 50 years because I enjoy cooking, baking, and, wait for it - cleaning too. I could possibly be the only woman in North America that gets excited to receive kitchen utensils, appliances, and gadgets as gift.

Thankfully, my passion was passed along to my favorite little sous chef. She got the baking bug at the tender age of two and was mastering the hand 'mixert' - as she called it, not long after. Now four years old, she is a whiz the kitchen. I can only hope my little man is just as lucky.

I am super excited to take this journey and see what comes of it. I know I will have many successes and many fails, but it'll be fun to see where it takes me. I hope to meet other folks who love food as much as I do and share passions with them. That's where the fun will really begin.

We'll just have to wait and see.....

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