Desserts: Snickerdoodle Chocolate-Chunk Bundt Cake

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone! It’s a short work week for me, what with the upcoming holiday- so I’ll be tying up some loose ends and staying glued to my desk for the next couple of days so I can return to my office next week and not be completely swamped or overwhelmed. It’s all about prioritizing my tasks and my time properly!

To wrap up my series of Thanksgiving-inspired recipes before this Thursday arrives, I wanted to share one of my favorite dishes for one of my favorite parts of the meal- dessert, of course! This cake, a twist on the classic cookie- incorporates the expected flavors: brown sugar and cinnamon- but adds some chewy, gooey chocolate goodness to make it a rich, decadent finale to the one meal out of the year where it’s okay to be a little gluttonous.

While it may look like a lot of steps- I assure you that this recipe is surprisingly easy to pull off!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 2⅓ cups chocolate chunks, divided
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 12-cup Bundt pan with nonstick spray.
  2. MAKE THE CAKE: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, light brown sugar and ¾ cup of the granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the mixture to the wet ingredients in three additions, mixing until just combined after each and alternating with the buttermilk until both are fully incorporated. Fold in 1⅓ cups of the chocolate chunks.
  5. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining granulated sugar and the cinnamon. Pour half the cake batter into the prepared pan and top with half the cinnamon-sugar. Pour the remaining batter on top and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon-sugar.
  6. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 60 to 80 minutes. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes and then invert the cake onto a rack and cool completely.
  7. MAKE THE GLAZE: Place the remaining chocolate and cream in a medium-size heat-safe bowl. Microwave in 20-second intervals, stirring in between until the chocolate is melted and smooth.
  8. Pour the chocolate glaze over the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides and set for at least 15 minutes before serving.

This cake is packed full of flavor- chocolate, cinnamon, toasted brown sugar and a pinch of salt to balance everything out- and every bite is absolutely delicious. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a hot cup of coffee and you’ve got yourself the perfect way to draw a conclusion to the meal for your family and friends.

Enjoy your day, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

Advertisements

Side Dish: Stuffin’ Muffins

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! We’ve made it through another week and it’s time for the final stretch before the holiday season is officially underway. You know the markets and grocery stores are going to be packed this weekend with people picking up their last minute Turkey Day necessities- so be careful out there!

Continuing with my brief series of Thanksgiving-inspired recipes leading up to next Thursday, I wanted to move on from the starters/appetizers and onto a fun and easy side dish you can serve your guests that is not only full of flavor- but is also perfectly proportioned where everyone will get a fair amount, too!

Meet “Stuffin’ Muffins”- the mess-free, compact and convenient way to enjoy a classic recipe.

These measurements make 12 muffins- so adjust accordingly depending on how many people you plan to feed!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • ½ loaf crusty bread, cut into small (⅓-inch) cubes
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter, divided
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 4 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2½ cups turkey, chicken or vegetable broth

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the bread with 4 tablespoons of the melted butter.
  3. Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter into a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and celery, and cook until the vegetables are tender, 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute more. Stir in the parsley, thyme, rosemary and sage. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.
  5. Pour the onion and celery mixture over the bread and toss well to combine. Add the broth and toss well to coat. Let the mixture sit 10 to 15 minutes to absorb the liquid, tossing occasionally.
  6. Divide the stuffing evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Bake until the tops are golden brown and crusty, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving warm.

Warm, buttery, and crumbly with a kick of spice- these muffins are the perfect pairing to your ham/turkey/tofurkey and vegetables. They’re just the right amount of stuffing to keep you from feeling overly- well, stuffed- and they’re just as great to store for leftovers, too!

Enjoy your weekend, everyone! Next week I’ll be sharing a really fantastic dessert recipe to wrap up my Thanksgiving series- and I’ve got some fun changes coming to Blondie Birdie, too!

xx

– Ashley –

Starters: Prosciutto and Fig Salad Board

For the next couple of weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I plan on sharing a brief series of recipes that I handpicked to serve as creative and/or unexpected alternatives to a starter, a side, and a dessert for those gearing up to prepare the big “Turkey Day” meal but who want something a little different than the standard cheese and cracker appetizers, mashed potato side dish, or pumpkin pie finale.

The first recipe of the series I’m putting up on Blondie Birdie is the starter. This sweet and slightly tangy salad is lightweight and delicious- and only takes 10 minutes to prepare. The best part about serving it spread out on a board as opposed to tossed in a large bowl, however- is that all the incredible toppings and dressing don’t sink down to the bottom. Everything stays fresh and spread out evenly over and between the spinach to guarantee a ton of flavor in each and every bite!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces spinach
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces prosciutto
  • 12 figs, quartered
  • ⅓ cup crumbled blue cheese

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and Dijon. Gradually add the olive oil, whisking continuously until the mixture is emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the spinach and shallots. Add the dressing and toss well to coat.
  3. Spread the spinach on a large board and arrange the prosciutto and figs on top of it. Finish with a sprinkling of blue cheese. Serve immediately.

I made extra portions of this salad to bring to work with me this week- that’s how good it was.  The fig gives it an unexpected texture and sweetness while the mixed in Dijon mustard adds a kick to each serving. Depending on your preferences, you can add/reduce certain ingredients- but I really like it the way it is!

xx

– Ashley –

Fall Foodie: Candy Corn Cake

Alright, let’s just get this out of the way- candy corn is actually really gross, you guys.

I don’t know anyone who willingly eats it and it’s always the last ditch resort for those who didn’t buy their candy for Trick-or-Treaters in enough time and just grabbed whatever was left at the store. Even “fresh” candy corn tastes/feels stale- and there’s no way it doesn’t cause permanent damage to your teeth. It’s just a flavorless, chewy nightmare.

BUT the colors are nice- and are quite appropriate for the Fall- so I decided to make a lemon, orange & vanilla bean layered cake inspired by the white, orange and yellow trio that comprise this triangular crime against humanity and decent candy-lovers everywhere. The taste of the cake was considerably better than the candy itself- and it’s pretty easy to whip up if you have a little bit of extra time and a couple of round baking pans to play with!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 3 boxed cake mixes (1 vanilla, 1 orange and 1 lemon. I used Duncan Hines Signature mixes!)
  • 3 cups of water
  • 9 large eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 containers of your choice of frosting (I used a white buttercream for the one pictured above.)
  • One small bag of candy corn and decorative toppings of your choice. Don’t worry- the candy corn is more than likely going to go in the trash when it’s all said and done.

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350°F for metal and glass pans (325°F for dark or coated pans)
  2. Grease sides and bottoms of pan(s) and flour lightly.
  3. Working box by box- blend the cake mix, 1 cup water, 3 large eggs, and ⅓ cup vegetable oil in a large bowl until mixture is completely moistened.
  4. From there, beat the mixture at a medium speed for approximately 2-3 minutes.
  5. Pour the batter in your pan.
  6. Repeat the process with the remaining two boxes of cake mix- using the same amount of water, eggs and vegetable oil- until all of your batter is smoothly mixed and poured evenly into their separate/respective pans.
  7. Bake the pans in the center of your oven for approximately 22-27 minutes. Be sure your cake layers are cooked through evenly by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake and checking that it comes out clean.
  8. Cool your cakes on a pan/wire rack for about 15 minutes before removing them from their pans.
  9. Your cakes should be layered with vanilla on top, orange in the center, and lemon on the bottom. Be sure to frost each layer before stacking them on top of one another to get them to stick together and not slide around!
  10. Frost your stacked cake and decorate with sprinkles and candy corn.
  11. Take as many photos as needed.
  12. Pick off the candy corn and promptly throw it in the garbage. From there- enjoy the rest of your cake!

While I typically enjoy more citrus-flavored desserts in the Summertime- this was an excellent and festive treat to bake now that Halloween is right around the corner. The vanilla and the orange/lemon zest really paired well together!

I’m actually whipping up a batch of cupcakes using this same recipe (just a different type of pan, of course!) to bring to my company’s Halloween party next week. I’m hoping they are just as big of a hit as this cake was for my friends!

xx

– Ashley –

Fall Foodie: Mini Mason Jar Apple Pies

Happy Friday, everyone! I’ve been in the midst of a 6-day vacation from work (I’ve been out of the office since Wednesday and I return next Tuesday) just because I needed a break- but before I left- I wanted to make a quick treat for some of my co-workers since we’ve all been busting our asses in recent weeks and I thought it’d be a nice change of pace for a bit. I’d seen a couple of variations of this recipe floating around on social media and Pinterest over the past few days- and finally caved in and tried making my own variation of it. After a quick stop at Michael’s Arts & Crafts to pick up these cute glass mini mason-jars and gathering some apples I had recently picked at a local orchard- I was ready to put my canning/jarring skills to the test.

The recipe below will make 6 jars. I had to double up on everything to accommodate 12 co-workers (excluding myself).

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 baking apples, peeled and chopped (like Honeycrisp, Granny Smith or McIntosh)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 packages store-bought pie dough (4 circles total)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1½ teaspoons turbinado sugar

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Have ready six ¼ pint (½ cup) mason jars on a baking sheet.
  2. In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the apples and sauté until nearly tender, 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the sugar, flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and vanilla extract, and sauté for 2 minutes more. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until it is flat and slightly thinner than it originally was. Cut the dough into six 3-inch circles and six 2-inch circles.
  5. Press a 3-inch circle into a mason jar, pressing it firmly to the base and sides and taking care not to poke holes in the dough. Trim any excess from the top edge with a paring knife. Repeat with the remaining 3-inch circles and jars.
  6. Scoop the cooled filling into the pastry-lined jars, mounding it about ½ inch over the top rim.
  7. Place the 2-inch rounds over the filling and tuck the edges under so they meet the edge of the jar. Crimp the edges with your fingers or a fork. Chill the pies for 10 minutes.
  8. While the pies chill, whisk the egg and water together to combine. Brush the egg wash over each pie top, and then sprinkle the top of each with ½ teaspoon turbinado sugar. Cut small vents into the top of each pie with a paring knife.
  9. Bake until the pies are golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

I would like to mention that I didn’t fold over or crimp the tops of the pie crusts to the jars since I didn’t want to risk them getting damaged during transport from my home to the office. Instead, I cooked them separately as individual discs and brought them with me to place on top of the jars as they were being served. For the record- nobody seemed to mind!

These were a big hit with my co-workers, which made me happy- and when I tried one that I had made for myself when I got home after I’d left work for the day/week- I had no complaints! These came out amazing and I think they’re going to be a success when I attempt them again this coming Thanksgiving. I’m actually thinking of trying some different versions, as well- like lemon meringue and key lime pie.

I’m kinda’ craving one right now, actually.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

Fall Foodie: Butternut Bisque

Continuing with posting some of my favorite Fall-inspired dishes that are best enjoyed during this beautiful time of year, I wanted to share a quick and easy soup recipe that I whip up from time to time- particularly to serve on the chillier Autumn nights here in New England- and that I personally feel really captures some of the best flavors a good harvest has to offer!

Butternut squash is an ingredient that is so versatile and can be used in a ton of different ways- but this rich and creamy bisque might be one of the better ones. With 15 minutes of prep and about 30-40 minutes of actual cooking/pureeing time required to make this correctly- this is a good recipe to have on hand when you want something fast and filling for yourself or your guests!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 can (14½ ounces) of low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon dry thyme
  • 1 large butternut squash (about 4 pounds): peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup Half & Half
  • Sour cream, for serving

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat butter over medium. Add onion, garlic, thyme, cinnamon, and cayenne. Season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, (5 to 7 minutes)
  2. Add squash, broth, half-and-half, and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, and cook until squash is tender, (about 20 minutes.)
  3. Working in batches, puree in a blender until smooth. Stir in lemon juice; season with salt. Serve bisque with sour cream, garnished with dried thyme, if desired.
  4. Store your leftovers in a covered and microwave-safe Tupperware container to bring with you to work/school/anywhere, really- to enjoy at a later time. Simply reheat the soup- give it a good stir- and savor the flavors some more!

In just three easy steps you can make a huge serving of this bisque- and trust me when I say it tastes amazing- even when it’s reheated the next day! I brought some of this with me to work the day after I’d first prepared it for myself and some of my family that were over for a visit and enjoyed it just as much as I had the first time around. It’s hearty and packed with quite a few flavors that keep it from tasting dull.

I’m looking forward to bringing this in a thermos for a camping trip my friends and I have planned in a couple of weeks!

xx

– Ashley –

Fall Foodie: Chocolate, Pumpkin and Peanut Butter Fudge

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone! Now that September is in full-swing, I can start sharing some delicious Fall-inspired recipes I’ve been holding onto for the past month or so- both old favorites and new finds alike- and while a few of them do include a little bit of pumpkin spice here and there- I made sure to mix things up a bit for those of you who might need a break from that “basic bitch” goodness and are looking for other alternatives to cook or bake for your next bonfire or harvest festival.

This recipe, which takes 10 minutes to prepare and 2+ hours to let sit and settle inside your refrigerator (making it perfect to whip up in the morning before you head off to work/class/your errands for the day so you can enjoy it by the time you get back home!) is a sweet and salty mix of chocolate, peanut butter, and pumpkin- making it an indulgent treat that is ideal to enjoy, on your own or with others- during the cool, crisp Autumn weather.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 can (14-oz) sweetened condensed milk, divided
  • 1⅓ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree (not to be confused with pumpkin pie filling!)
  • ½ cup smooth peanut butter
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ⅓ cup chopped pecans

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Line a 8 x 8″ pan with foil; grease with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a microwave-safe dish, combine the semi-sweet chocolate chips and ¾ cup of sweetened condensed milk.
  3. Microwave on high for 1 minute; stir and put back in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until completely melted.
  4. Pour chocolate mixture into prepared pan and spread it evenly using an offset spatula; set aside.
  5. In a microwave-safe dish combine white chocolate chips and canola oil; melt on high for 1 minute.
  6. Remove from microwave and stir; put back in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until almost all chips are melted.
  7. Remove from microwave and stir in the rest of the sweetened condensed milk, pumpkin puree, peanut butter and pumpkin pie spice; stir until thoroughly combined.
  8. Pour over previously prepared chocolate layer and spread evenly using an offset spatula.
  9. Sprinkle with chopped pecans
  10. Refrigerate for 2 hours (or until firm.)
  11. Cut and serve immediately
  12. Refrigerate leftovers to savor at a later time.

I enjoyed squares of this over the weekend during my designated “Cheat Day” and I have no regrets. The fudge is a combination of some of my favorite Fall flavors- all rolled into one- and was especially delicious when paired with a piping hot mug of apple cider.

I’m baking up another batch later on this week to bring to my office for my co-workers to enjoy- and they’ll undoubtedly be making an appearance when I have some of my family over for dinner soon! I’m sure they’re going to be a big hit!

xx

– Ashley –