Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Curry Butternut Squash and Pear Soup (Vegan Option)

Don't you love it when "happy accidents" happen in the kitchen.


The plan was to make butternut squash apple soup - I was in the kitchen, apron on, tunage playing, getting into the zone when I reached my hand in the fruit bowl only to find that I unkowingly devoured the last apple days before. Crap. With not enough squash to make a plain squash soup and no car to go to the store I was stuck - the only fruit in our house were three under ripe Barlett pears (which I had been saving to make a tart). And then, it hit me...apples are sweet and... pears are sweet so what's the big deal? Time to sacrifice that tart in the name of soup!


I have previously confessed my love of curry so you shouldn't be surprised at the savory - sweet combo. This soup blew my expectations! The sweetness of the roasted squash and pears meld perfectly with the savory back heat of the curry. you can easily adjust this recipe to fit a vegan diet too, just note the parentheses in the recipe!


Curry Butternut Squash and Pear Soup

serves 4-5

1 (2 pound) butternut squash
2 firm Bartlett pears, peeled and diced
1 TBS coconut oil
1 small onion, diced fine
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1 TBS yellow curry powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground thyme
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1/2 cup half and half (or soy milk)
salt and pepper to taste
sour cream and thyme to garnish (no sour cream for vegans obviously)

Directions:

1.Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut squash in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membrane. Rub squash down with a little vegetable oil, salt, and pepper. Place squash halves, cut sides down, on the prepared baking sheet. Roast in preheated oven until very soft, about 45 minutes. Scoop the pulp from the peel, and reserve.

2.Melt coconut oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion, cook and stir until the onion is soft, about 10 minutes. Add spices and toast until fragrant, about 2 min. Pour the chicken broth into the pot, and bring to a boil. Stir in the pears and the reserved squash, and simmer until the pears are very soft, about 30 minutes.

3.Pour the soup into a blender, filling the pitcher no more than halfway full. Hold down the lid of the blender with a folded kitchen towel, and carefully start the blender. Puree in batches until smooth (or you can use an immersion blender which is 1000 times more convenient). Return the soup to the pot, stir in the half and half (or soy milk), and reheat. Add salt and pepper to desired tastes.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Raising Awareness with Apricot Lane Boutique (GIVEAWAY)


If you frequent The Avenues Mall as much as I do, you might have noticed a new store by the name of Apricot Lane (located on the second floor down from the food court). Locally owned, this boutique offers everything from shoes to accessories and everything in between, with prices ranging from 10-60 dollars. But never mind the cute statement necklaces, seasonal chunky knit sweaters, and stylish boots, what makes this store particularly unique is that every month, Apricot Lane provides exclusive collections that give back to various charities with each purchase. For the month of October, they will be featuring EmiJay hair ties where 50% of the purchase of the hair ties directly donates back to a local Breast Cancer Awareness foundation. As if it couldn't get any better, they are also giving a 10% discount off of your entire purchase to any customer wearing the hair ties for the remainder of this month!

These stylish hair ties, which range from 5-10 dollars, were featured on Rachel Zoe's 16 Fashionable Finds That Give Back "Supporting this October’s campaign will provide direct assistance to women battling breast cancer and their families helping through the fight against the disease every step of the way. This will be accomplished with direct financial, medical and material aid given to these women in hopes to relieve the struggles they face due to the diagnosis of breast cancer and its treatments." As a person who knows many survivors of this disease, I cannot think of a more worthy cause!


Enter below to win a pack of these exclusive EmiJay hairbands and join the cause while receiving some awesome benefits! You can earn multiple entries by commenting below and liking The Nifty Cupcake on Facebook and Instagram, then at midnight this Saturday a winner will be chosen at random - good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 17, 2014

Turkey Chili with Skillet Cornbread

I know I usually dedicate Fridays to fashion, but since I worked today and didn't necessarily feel photogenic, I thought I'd feature this tasty bowl of chili instead...


I can't believe October is going by this fast. Ever since summer I have been having visions of fall recipes dancing around in my head and now, suddenly, it's mid October! I noticed my soup section is looking pretty scarce so I think I will focus on more savory soups and stews this coming fall/winter, especially since the weather is finally starting to cool down. I have to say I've made quite a few chili's in my day but this one is on of my faves. I like corn in my chili because to me it breaks up the monotonous textures of meat and beans, this was also my first time using fresh tomatoes and while they added many prep steps, the end result was super delicious (as you can tell from the half devoured pictures).


For the Chili...

serves 3-4

1 medium sized onion, diced small
1 TBS olive oil (I used garlic infused oil)
1 lb. ground turkey ( I used 93% lean)
2 TBS tomato paste
2 TBS red chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1 cup yellow corn
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
4-5 steamed, skinned, seeded, and diced plum tomatoes (or you could use canned)
2 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
sour cream, shredded cheese, and fresh herbs for garnish

Directions:

1. In a large sauce pan, heat oil on medium high heat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add ground meat and cook until pink color disappears. Add spices and tomato paste and cook for 1-2 minutes.

2.Add beans, tomatoes, and corn and combine. Gradually add chicken stock and simmer for 10-20 minutes, you may need to add more stock if you prefer a more loose chili, keep in mind it will become thicker as it cools.

For the Cornbread...

recipe adapted from Alton Brown

2 cups yellow cornmeal (I used yellow grits because I didn't have cornmeal, hence the course looking texture)
1 tsp salt
1 TBS sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup heavy cream OR half and half
2 eggs
1 cup creamed corn
2 tablespoons canola oil (for the skillet)

Directions:

1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet into the oven.

2.In a bowl, combine the cornmeal, salt, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk together to combine well.In a large bowl, combine the cream, eggs, and creamed corn, whisking together to combine thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir to combine. If the batter will not pour, add more milk to the batter.

3.Swirl the canola oil in the hot cast iron skillet. Pour the batter into the skillet. Bake until the cornbread is golden brown and springs back upon the touch, about 20 minutes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pumpkin Donut Bites with Salted Caramel Glaze

Just look at all that glazey goodness...

Well, it's that time of year again! That time of year when shorts turn into pants, lemonade to hot cocoa, and a little bit of pumpkin goes into everything! I don't know if this is an extremely foodie nerd thing to say but, there's just something about that first smell of raw pumpkin that's so comforting. It's a little bit sweet with a hint of earthiness and a whole lotta love.
I also finally had the opportunity to use this awesome fall themed baking mold I received as a gift years ago. I used my former Pumpkin Donut Recipe but decided to switch up the topping and whip up a glaze, it also gave e a chance to use some leftover vanilla bean syrup and let me tell you, this glaze completes this muffin. I wanted to take a bath in this stuff! It's semi-sweet but also has elements of butterscotch and of course that little bit of saltiness takes it to the next level.

For the Donuts...

makes 12 regular sized muffins or 24 mini muffins

recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

10 TBS (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cups pure pumpkin puree (from a 15-ounce can)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs

For the Glaze...

1 cup packed light brown sugar
4 TBS butter
1/2 cup half and half
pinch of sea salt
2 TBS of vanilla bean syrup*

*If you do not have this, you can use 1 TBS light corn syrup and 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease two doughnut pans (or muffin pans, or fancy pans) with cooking spray. Set aside.

2.In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk and pumpkin puree. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions pumpkin mixture, and beat to combine.

3.Bake the doughnuts for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

In the meantime, prepare the Salted Caramel Glaze
Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan and whisk over medium low heat until sugar granuals have dissolved and mixture has thickened (about 4-5 minutes).
Dip the cooled donuts in the glaze and serve.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Film Flash Back Philadelphia Edition

Most people don't know that my love of photography started with an old film camera. Years before I ventured into the digital world, I would always have an old Konica FS-1 with me and I would be that ONE person in Walmart that still made use of the film development kiosk. It's weird to think that this generation of kids are totally oblivious to what film is (man I sound old) when it was the only option available to so many artists that I admire such as Ansel Adams and Margaret Bourke-white. Even though I appreciate the convenience and more diverse options of a digital SLR, there's just something about film photography that a digital camera could never replicate. I will be starting a new mini-series on this blog of all my old film pictures I took over the years, I recently discovered a whole album of of them at my old house and I had forgotten just how expansive my collection was!

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