Any longtime readers may remember that once upon a time, I wrote about food all the time. Then, for several years, Dan did almost all of the cooking and so I stopped having much inspiration. I’m great at coming up with good food combinations (the idea person) and Dan’s great at turning my ideas into actual food. But now that he’s spending every weekday away from home, I’ve had to start feeding myself again. Cooking for one isn’t my favorite thing, and I’ve actually lost some weight that I probably didn’t need to lose because I’m so uninterested in spending time to make a good meal for just me.
That being said, I tend to make really yummy things on Friday nights, so when Dan gets home he gets a good homecooked meal. Sometimes I feel like Donna Reed, but mostly I’m glad it’s given me a chance to branch out a bit more and remember why I liked cooking in the first place. So here are the two things I made this week that I liked and I bet you’ll like, too.
First, we still have a meellion apples on one of our apple trees, and second, it’s suddenly gotten really cold. I’ve been loathe to turn the heat on because propane is expensive (and also because why heat up the whole house when I’m pretty much just using one room during the day?), so yesterday when it was 57 degrees inside I decided to bake something with a few of the unidentified apples leftover from this week’s apple butter. I decided to bake something in easy-to-grab form, and settled on cupcakes (or, really, muffins, because they aren’t that sweet). I adapted a recipe I found for an apple spice bundt cake on allrecipes.com and made it my own.
MLE’s Spiced Apple Cupcakes (makes 12)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (one stick) butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp warm water
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 small apples – cored and chopped into small pieces. I decided to leave the peels on for extra fiber, and because I know they’re organic and unwaxed.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare your cupcake pan/muffin tin (add paper cups, grease& flour, or if you have silicone ones like I do, do nothing).
2. Cream together butter and sugar. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Stir together soda and 1 tablespoon warm water, and mix into the sugar mixture. Stir in flour, spices, and salt. Stir in apples.
3. Fill each cup about 2/3 full with batter. Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool before icing.
Note: Last weekend Dan made biscuits that turned out like hockey pucks, and my cupcakes didn’t rise very much. This leads me to believe we need new baking soda. It can get too old to function properly!
If I weren’t married to a crazy person that doesn’t like cheese involved in anything that could remotely be considered a dessert, other than tiramisu, I would have made cream cheese frosting for these cupcakes because it would be a perfect marriage. Sadly, had I done that he wouldn’t have eaten any of them, so instead I made browned butter icing.
Browned butter icing
1/3 cup butter
~3 cups powdered sugar.
splashes of milk
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
Brown butter in a saucepan and let cool. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add 2 cups powdered sugar, a splash or two of milk, vanilla, and salt, and beat with a hand mixer. Add more powdered sugar and another milk splash if needed to get icing to spreading consistency.
The truly spectacular part of our dinner tonight came from a recipe that my friend Caitie posted on twitter for pumpkin gnocchi. I’ve always wanted to try making gnocchi but never got around to it, and when I saw how simple the recipe was I decided I had to try it. The only change I made to this recipe was to substitute a gorgeous butternut squash that Karen and Andriy grew in their yard for the pumpkin, which turned out to be a great choice, especially considering how sweet it ended up being.
So first, I roasted the squash.
Once it was finished, I decided to rock it old-school style and put it through the ancient food mill rather than get the food processor down and have to clean it. I’ll say one thing for that Foley mill; it cleans up really easily. Plus, that way I didn’t have to add any water and the puree was already at the perfect consistency and moisture level for the gnocchi recipe.
I added the egg yolk, flour, salt, and nutmeg, and followed the rest of the recipe as written. It cooked beautifully and I made the suggested browned butter sage sauce to go with it. It was amazingly delicious, and definitely a recipe I’ll make again!