This Bread Pudding is Bananas

B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

Sorry, if Hollaback Girl had to be stuck in my head the whole time I was making this, it’s got to be in yours too.

It’s finally March! Who’s ready? Honestly, the end of February… is there a worse time of year? It’s dark, it’s gloomy and it’s cold. Well, most places it is. In Hawaii, it’s sunny and warm, but there’s still that funk that sets in post-holidays while waiting for spring to roll in.

The GREAT news is my kitchen is up and running! I don’t want to share pictures yet, because we still need to do the backsplash and the lights over the island. That’s all cosmetic though, so my cooking life has gotten 1000% easier now that I have counter space, a sink/dishwasher and all my stuff put away in the proper cabinets. If you want a sneak peak, you can see a few videos the remodel process on my Instagram highlights: @thepickygourmet!

Since starting my blog a couple years ago, I’ve collected lots of cute bowls and platters and specialty dishes to use for pictures and recipes. Basically, if I see something I don’t have, and it’s on sale, it’s mine. (I’ve been on the hunt lately for a good deal on copper mugs for Moscow mules, for instance.) Sometimes I even forget I have stuff, which is the good thing about moving so much. I discover things in my own kitchen and get inspired, and this time it was my ramekins.

Sidenote: I learned I had no idea how to spell ramekins before I wrote this post. I tried, and in the words of Lloyd Christmas, “I was way off.” Thanks, spell check!

I decided I wanted to make something warm and cozy for everyone suffering through the end of winter and I settled on bread pudding. Not only is it perfect for this time of year, it was perfect for me because I had everything I needed already in my pantry. I love bread pudding because it can be a dessert, it can be a breakfast, it can be a snack… there’s never a wrong time for it.


Bonus: your kitchen is going to smell amazing

  • 4 slices of sandwich bread (I used a honey wheat)
  • 1/2 cup of banana chips, slightly crushed
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted & cooled
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  1. Grease four ramekins liberally with cooking spray or butter.
  2. Cut the bread into small cubes and toss with the crushed banana chips. Divide it equally between the ramekins, making sure to leave some room for them to rise when it bakes.
  3. In a bowl, mash the banana until smooth. Add the eggs, milk, butter, sugar, vanilla, ginger and cinnamon and whisk vigorously until all ingredients are well-incorporated.
  4. Carefully pour the mixture over the cubed bread in the ramekins, without overfilling (you may have a little leftover). Use a spoon to pack it all down, making sure all the bread is covered in the liquid. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour up to overnight.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the ramekins on a parchment lined baking sheet, in case any of them bubble over. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a fork comes out clean.


Don’t crush the banana chips into a powder, you want those bigger bits for a pop of texture

Obviously the wildcard here is the banana chips. I know those aren’t always in everyone’s pantry, but they aren’t hard to find at the store. You could also substitute for dried apples or cranberries or whatever you’re into.

I have always tried not to let food go to waste and now that we bought a home and are remodeling, I’m in full-on penny pinching mode when it comes to groceries. In a household of only two people, it’s hard to finish a whole loaf of bread sometimes before it gets stale. Bread pudding is an awesome way to use it all up, especially the heels, since no one ever wants those for a sandwich. If your bread isn’t stale, leave it out overnight to dry it up. It actually absorbs more flavor when it’s stale.

You can make this in an small baking pan if you don’t have ramekins or prefer a more family style presentation, but I like being able to make exactly the amount of servings I want or being able to adapt the recipe to the amount of bread I have to use. You can also make a couple the first day and save a couple in the fridge overnight for day two.


Bread pudding before going in the oven. Remember, they will rise like a souffle in the oven!

Having individual servings is also fun because you can try out different toppings. This bread pudding is not overly sweet (which I like) but you can always get fancy and add some powdered sugar or maple syrup before serving. Adding some chocolate chips into the mix would be a big hit with kids.

Well, I’d love to stay and chat longer but I’m actually heading off to my first luau tonight! I need to fuel up on bread pudding and start getting ready. I’ll be back soon with another new recipe and (hopefully) the final before and after photos of the new Picky Gourmet kitchen. See you then!

All About Apples

I’m taking a stand. Pumpkin spice will not take over my seasonal baking. Apple cinnamon deserves to be back on top.

Apple cinnamon has become the Jan Brady of fall flavors, sitting around going “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha” while everyone freaks out over pumpkin spice. Yes, it’s not the most exciting or trendy thing anymore, so we take it for granted, but I think it deserves more credit.

The nostalgia factor is huge here. I have always requested apple pie for Thanksgiving dessert. Also, I think there was a year of high school that I ate those frozen toaster strudels everyday. Always the apple ones. I actually had to stop eating them for a while because I burnt out on them, but obviously, I got over that.


“I can’t quit you.”

Look, there’s nothing wrong with pumpkin. I like it, but since everything out there on the market these days is pushing pumpkin spice, I thought I’d give you three quick recipes for reuniting with your first fall love.

Before we start… I used honeycrisp and granny smith apples for each recipe. I like using two kinds of apple for a couple different flavors. Of course you can swap these out for whatever your favorites are, but I really recommend using a tart apple and something sweet to balance it out. If you don’t know what to pick, here’s a helpful guide from Whole Foods.

Now for the recipes!

Apple Chips

  • 1 honeycrisp apple
  • 1 granny smith apple
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Preferably with a mandolin, slice both apples very thinly. Remove all seeds.
  2. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a bowl, and drop each apple slice in one at a time and flip to coat. Place the apple slices on a parchment lined backing sheet.
  3. Bake for an hour or two, flipping the apples every 30 minutes.


Use a paper bowl for the cinnamon sugar… between that and the parchment, clean up is easy!

If you prefer a chewier bite, cook them for only an hour. You can leave them in until they are as crisp as you want them to be, but just check when you are flipping that the sugar isn’t burning. Cooking times can vary depending on how thick/thin they are, so this is one recipe you just have to keep an eye on.

These are a great healthy snack! Despite the sugar, you still totally taste the apple flavor. You could drizzle them with some caramel sauce and serve them up as a sweet snack for a fall party, put them in a leafy salad for some texture or replace greasy potato chips as a sandwich side.

Sparkling Apple Cider Sangria

  • 1 honey crisp apple, cored & chopped
  • 1 granny smith apple, cored & chopped
  • 1 bartlett pear, cored & chopped
  • 2 Tbsps lemon juice
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 cup rum
  • 2 1/2 cups apple cider
  • 1 750ml bottle of champagne or prosecco
  1. Place the chopped apples and pear into a pitcher. Add the lemon juice and stir or shake to coat the fruit. (This prevents browning.)
  2. Let the apples absorb the lemon juice for a minute, then add the cinnamon sticks, rum and apple cider to the pitcher. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  3. Give the contents of the pitcher a stir then pour in the champagne. Serve immediately, with fruit.

This is becoming a staple on weekends around here. This is the perfect cocktail for a autumn afternoon full of football or scary movies. The best part is eating all that fruit that soaks up the sangria!

P.S. The point of sangria is to fancy up cheap wines, so don’t blow your budget. Get some Andre or Cook’s, you know what I’m talking about. A bottle of wine or bubbly going into a sangria should be south of $10.

Apple Hand Pies

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1 box (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry
  • 1 can of apple pie filling OR follow this easy recipe I followed to make my own!
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the egg yolk and water together to create an egg wash in a small bowl.
  2. Roll out both thawed puff pastry sheets and cut out four 6″ circles from each. (Eight total. You can use a bowl as a guide)
  3. Place a spoonful of the apple pie filling in the center of each circle, away from the edge. Using a pastry brush or your finger, coat the very edge of the circle with the egg wash. Fold the dough in half and use a fork to crimp the edges together, creating a half moon shape. Brush the whole top of the pie with egg wash and slice three small slits on top to vent.
  4. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it over the pies. Place them on a lined or greased baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

So I have done these a couple times with the canned apple pie filling, and it works out so well. Plus, it takes away half the work and you can have “homemade” pies in no time that make everyone think you spent hours on them.

This time I decided to make my own filling and to jar the rest for future baking, and it was super easy! If you went apple picking or just have a lot of them laying around, I’d say make your own. If you want to keep it simple, or maybe want to get the kids involved in helping make these, go with the canned.

Wrap these guys up individually in plastic wrap and they will last for a few days. They make a great sweet breakfast on the go!

There you have it. Three different recipes using apples. Bonus points to anyone who goes all out and makes all three of these in one day! Send me pics if you do.

Where do you stand in the apple vs pumpkin debate? I hope I made a good argument for my beloved apples today. Let me know what you think of these recipes, or what your favorite fall treats are!


Cheers!

S’Mores Puffs aka S’Monuts

Alright everybody. We are in the last half of summer. For one reason or another, I think we are all feeling that creeping dread of looming responsibilities, whether it’s back to school shopping, having to say goodbye to the beach or prepping for big life changes (like our upcoming move).

How about we forget about that stuff for a few minutes? I have a dessert recipe that uses only 5 ingredients. Yup, only 5, and they are all things that are probably in your kitchen right now.

One of my favorite summer treats is s’mores. Why?

Exhibit A

It’s a classic, so I decided to take the idea of s’mores and mesh it with one of my favorite dessert hacks: frozen puff pastry sheets. This recipe is so easy, there’s no need to even give you measurements. You need a bag and/or box of each of the following items:

  • frozen puff pastry sheets
  • milk chocolate chips/bars
  • marshmallows
  • graham crackers
  • one egg (for egg wash)


I left the poor egg out of the family photo

Boxes of puff pastry typically have two sheets in them. Once they are thawed, I like to put it on parchment paper with a dusting of flour. This keeps it from sticking and makes clean up really easy because you can prep everything on it, or you can use a large cutting board.

You want a 12×12 inch square, so you might need to roll the dough out a bit before you cut it into 16 pieces (cut it in half length and width wise, then repeat). Since we are going to be sandwiching the dough together, each sheet makes 8 puffs.

Whisk together an egg with a Tbsp of water for your egg wash. And no, water doesn’t count as an ingredient! Put some chocolate chips (or break up a chocolate bar into small pieces) in the center of one square then brush the edges of the dough with egg wash. Place a second square on top and use a fork to seal the edges. They will look like giant raviolis, it’s kind of funny.


Stuff as much chocolate as you want in there, just make sure to leave room on the edges

Heat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a baking sheet… you probably could have done that earlier. I don’t know why I’m not writing this like a typical recipe, it just seemed easier this way. And it’s too late now!

ANYWHO.

Put a couple graham crackers into a ziploc bag and crush them up into a powder. I wanted to get cinnamon ones at the store, but they didn’t have any! I cheated and added some cinnamon to the crushed crackers, but you don’t have to. Use whatever kind you want.

Put your weird, mutant raviolis onto the baking sheet. I like to smush the edges in to the center, kind of rounding them out a bit before I brush them with egg wash and generously sprinkle on the crushed graham crackers.


Ready to get baked

When they bake, they come out kind of looking like donuts that way. Or maybe I should say cronuts, because they are flaky like croissants… wait, did I just invent the s’monut? (I’m calling that, and immediately editing the title of this post.)

Bake them for about 10 minutes, until they are golden and puffed up. Take them out of the oven and top them with marshmallows. I had mini ones on hand, that were kind of a pain in the butt to balance on top, but I got it done. Next time I think I am going to get the big ones and cut them in half. Bake them for another 3-5 minutes until the marshmallows start to melt and brown.

Optional toppings would be a sprinkle of powdered sugar or a drizzle of chocolate sauce if you really loooooove chocolate.


There’s enough chocolate inside for me

Let them cool a little, because the chocolate inside can be quite hot. Oh man, though. These fresh from the oven are like heaven. They also hold up really well on the counter for a couple hours or you can keep them in the oven on warm if you are waiting for guests.

This would be an adorable sweet treat at a summertime brunch, or an outdoor bridal/baby shower. I had my friends try these, and when I told them how simple they were to make, their minds were blown.

This would also brighten the mood on a rainy weekend when you can’t get outside to make real s’mores. This is a super easy recipe to make with kids, they will love to be on dough duty. The beauty of these puffs is that they are not meant to look perfect, they are just meant to be delicious.

C’mon. It’s the end of July. If you are doing summer right, you’ve been spending it with friends and family, outside and grilling. Someone always brings stuff for s’mores, and there’s always stuff leftover. Try this out!

Everything Bagel Breakfast Bake

I don’t post many breakfast recipes. Probably because I’m not much of a morning person, and the idea of cooking the second I get up doesn’t usually strike my fancy. A typical morning meal for me is a smoothie bowl or something quick out of the toaster.

Weekend mornings are actually when my husband gets to take over the kitchen. He loves making breakfast, especially banana pancakes. But, as you know by now, he is currently deployed, so I’m on my own if I want to treat myself.

The other night I was thinking about how every Christmas morning, my mom makes a french toast casserole. It’s insanely delicious and easy, because you make it the night before, and then just pop it in the oven when you wake up. I love a meal that you can prep ahead of time, so I wanted to come up with something similar.

Sweet or savory is always the first choice you make when deciding what to eat for breakfast. I actually spent the last two days in Denver for a wedding and encountered spectacular examples of both options.


Delicious fried chicken & biscuit sandwich with honey & stone-ground mustard from the Denver Biscuit Company (left), french toast & pancake sampler from Snooze in Union Station (right)

I usually lean towards sweet when I cook breakfast but I want to change it up, so that’s where I started. A savory dish that I could make the night before.

I opened my pantry and right in front of my face was a bag of everything bagels, one of my go-to quickie breakfasts. After a little more rummaging, I realized I had all the things I needed to create an everything bagel breakfast bake. Check this out:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 diced white onion
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 10 cups cubed everything bagels (4-6 bagels depending on size)
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onion (white & light green parts, set the rest aside)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • additional eggs for frying, to be used as garnish (optional)
  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and minced garlic and stir for a couple minutes, until onions become translucent. Remove from heat and let cool.
  2. Place the everything bagel cubes in a large bowl and mix in the cooked onions & garlic, sliced green onions and shredded mozzarella. Spread out the bagel mixture out evenly in a greased 9×13 baking pan.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and stir in salt, pepper, garlic powder, thyme and crushed red pepper. Whisk in the half & half until well-incorporated. Pour the egg mixture over the bagels in the pan. Gently stir to get it all the way to the bottom, then lightly pack it all down with a spatula so the surface is even. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle the shredded cheddar over the top and bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with the leftover sliced green onion tops. Optional: While it cooks, you can also fry some more eggs to use as a garnish, sprinkled with salt & pepper.


Fresh out of the oven

First things first. This sounds heavy, but it came out so light and fluffy. It’s somewhere in between a stuffing and a bread pudding. I like using mozzarella to hold the casserole together, because it’s a great melting cheese, and then using cheddar on top for a little more flavor. You can always switch it up if you have preference.

I highly recommend putting an egg on top, because became like sauce. It’s kind of like how we drizzle maple syrup over my mom’s french toast casserole; it doesn’t really need it, but it’s so darn good it’s hard to pass.


Cracking the yolk is the most satisfying part

This breakfast bake can stand up as a meal all on it’s own, or in a smaller portion, it would be a great side. It’s a great option for any weekend, whether you are hosting a brunch party or having a cozy morning with family. It also holds up really well as leftovers. I was picking at this thing for a couple days, even after I gave some away to friends.


I got fancy with my leftovers & drizzled on some sriracha for an extra spicy kick

Operation savory, make-ahead breakfast was a success. It was easy and yummy, my two favorite things. I hope you try it out! See you again in two weeks with a new post.

Recipe Redux: Brown Sugar Cinnamon Baked Pears

Hi everyone! Time for another look back in time on The Picky Gourmet Blog. This recipe is probably my all time favorite breakfast recipe. I’ll admit, I am not a morning person. Getting up and fixing a big meal is not something I do often. I joke with my husband that the only time the kitchen is his is weekend mornings, when he makes waffles for us. After that, lunch and dinner is all up to me.

Usually my breakfast is a smoothie or yogurt bowl topped with fruit and granola and whatever good stuff I have on hand. Sometimes I make them pretty, which you may have seen if you follow my Instagram. But a lot of times I just throw it all in a bowl and get it over with. I reserve my creativity for later in the day… when I’m actually awake.

If I am feeling a little more ambitious and having a “treat yourself” kind of day, I refer back to my brown sugar cinnamon baked pears. I wanted to bring this recipe back because it’s so perfect for fall. Served with yogurt and granola, it’s a fantastically sweet start to the day, but this could easily be a great dessert over some vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.

I typically use bartlett or comice pears, but this works with whatever you refer. You can also do this with apples, so if you have a bunch of them laying around after an afternoon of picking, this is perfect for you.

Of course, over the months I’ve tweaked this recipe slightly. Not too much though. Honestly, it’s hard to go wrong when you have fresh fruit, butter, sugar and spices.


This is the smell of fall right here

Yields 2 servings.

  • 2-3 pears (depending on size)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 cups greek yogurt or coconut milk yogurt
  • 4 Tbsp granola
  • 1 Tbsp coconut flakes (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Peel the pears, cut them in half and remove the cores and seeds. Place them cut side down in a small baking dish or pan lined with parchment paper.
  3. In a bowl, combine melted butter, honey, cinnamon, brown sugar, vanilla and ginger. Whisk until incorporated.
  4. Pour the sauce over the pears and bake for 30 minutes until the pears are soft and caramelized.
  5. Divide the yogurt between two bowls, top with the baked pears and garnish with granola, coconut flakes and extra sauce from the pan.

The only changes are I’ve cut back on the honey for more brown sugar, added ginger and instead of using powdered sugar as a garnish, I use coconut. I’m also really digging coconut milk yogurt lately. It’s got the same tang as Greek yogurt, but its dairy free. I use vanilla flavored yogurt in this recipe for a little extra flavor.

The other great thing about this recipe is it’s quick. The only time consuming part is peeling the fruit, but it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to get this in the oven. Then just sit back and wait for your house to start smelling like cinnamon sugar goodness.

So this isn’t a huge departure from my original baked pears, but this is truly one of my favorite recipes. This was posted way back in January, when my blog as just starting, so I want to make sure all the followers I have now get a chance to see this! Especially now that pears (and apples) are everywhere.

Hopefully you are all enjoying autumn and all the wonderful, seasonal treats that come with this time of year. Stay tuned for one more recipe redux post coming this week that will include more than one makeover for a go-to weekday meal!

Muffin Pan Party Hacks

Hellooooo summer! I hope everyone had a lovely Memorial Day weekend. Mine was great: mini golfing, happy hour, quality time with my guy and a big surprise birthday party/cook out for a friend. Most people I know kicked off the weekend of summer with a party and there will be plenty more between now and Labor Day.

It got me thinking about easy ways to feed a crowd, besides a package of hot dogs and a bag of chips. The best kind of food for a party is something people can just grab and go. Individual portions, cute presentation, easy transportation… It all brought me to my muffin pan. Here’s three ideas I have, and trust me, they aren’t muffins.

Baked Mac & Cheese

If you are headed to a cook out, you can pretty much expect a big bowl of slimy pasta salad, sitting out in the sun all day. But if you were going to an authentic barbecue spot, you’d be served warm, gooey mac & cheese.

I started by making a big batch of macaroni and a sauce of cheddar cheese, milk & butter. Use whatever recipe you like or you can make the kind out of the box if you want to keep it even simpler. I lined the muffin pan with cupcake liners and sprayed them all with a little cooking spray. Fill the cups with the pasta, making sure you don’t go over the rim. Then I mixed equal parts Italian bread crumbs & Parmesan cheese, with a dash of Cajun seasoning, and sprinkled it over the top of each cup.

At this point, you could cover with foil if you are traveling somewhere. All it takes to finish these up is to bake them for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. I haven’t tried it out yet, but I’d love to see how they turn out by putting the pan on the grill. The pasta is cooked, so it’s really just about getting that bread crumb topping crunchy & golden.

What you get is an adorable side dish that’s so easy to serve. It stays contained and doesn’t spread all over the plate. It’s so easy, but guests will be so impressed. They are great for dinner at home too, because they help with portion control and kids will love them.

Mini Calzones

These probably aren’t the first thing I would think of for a cook out, but a rainy summer day? A game night with friends? A casual pot luck dinner? These will blow everyone’s minds.

I used store bought pizza dough, the kind that comes in a 13 oz tube. I needed two of them. I divided it equally into a dozen parts and flattened them into circles. At this point, you can stuff these however you’d like. I made three kinds.

  • Mozzarella, fresh basil & pesto
  • Cheddar, bacon & pickled jalapeño
  • Mozzarella, spinach, carmelized onion & blue cheese crumbles

Put the ingredients in the center of a dough circle, then carefully stretch the edges over the stuffings and pinch together. Place seam side down in a greased muffin pan. Brush the top of each calzone with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan (or garlic powder, or Italian seasoning, or all three!). Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes until golden brown.

I served mine with some marinara (great for the pesto) and ranch dressing (great for the bacon/jalapeño) to dip. The spinach/onion ones were so creamy from the two cheeses inside, I didn’t bother to dip those in anything at all!

These were so delicious and a huge hit all around. I still recommend a fork and knife, but my husband dove right in and ate it by hand. Just beware of molten hot cheese! These also keep in the fridge really well for a couple days, so you could totally make these ahead of time and reheat them.

French Toast Cups

This is kind of a French toast/bread pudding mash up. Everyone loves French toast, everyone can make it, but this is a fun, new way to present a classic.

I used cinnamon raisin bread and cut it into small, uniform cubes. Then I whisked together a tradional French toast batter of milk, eggs, sugar & vanilla in a large bowl and added the bread cubes. Let them soak for about 5-10 minutes, stirring a couple times to make sure they all get saturated. Place the mixture into a greased muffin pan and bake for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees. I serve mine with maple syrup and a little powdered sugar.

This is awesome for a breakfast or brunch with friends and family. French toast can be messy and tedious, because you can only cook a couple pieces of bread at a time on the stove top. This way everyone has a perfectly sized, perfectly warm helping of French toast at the same time. You could even plastic wrap the pan and travel with it before baking it off. I had leftovers, and reheated them later at night, topped with some cinnamon ice cream. Yum! Double duty, breakfast & dessert!

I hope you try some of these tricks out. They are three well-loved and familiar recipes, simply scaled down to, well, muffin size. I promise these will be the star of your summer gatherings. Do you have any ideas for a creative muffin pan hack? Let me know.

Party on!

Apple Pie Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

I’ve said it once, I will say it again. I am not an expert baker. Baking requires such exact measurements and methods that its basically a science. Cooking is more of an art to me, where you have more freedom to experiment and try new things, and still end up with a great dish. When I experiment with baking, I usually end up with a result that’s less than ideal. Or less than edible, on occasion.

But you guys, I did it! I came up with a cupcake and it doesn’t suck! I based it off my favorite vanilla cake recipe, kept adding things here and there, and it worked! I mean, it didn’t work right off the bat. This is probably my 3rd or 4th try at some variation of this cupcake. Finally, I’ve perfected it.

This is a mash up of two of my favorite desserts. It’s the apple pie cupcake! It’s topped with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting that will leave you licking the bowl. Let’s get to it!

Yields 12 cupcakes

  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp cinnamon, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup vanilla yogurt (can be Greek yogurt)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 can apple pie filling
  1. Place liners in a cupcake/muffin pan (for a dozen large cupcakes). Lightly spritz the bottom of the liners with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1 tsp cinnamon in a bowl and set aside. In the mixer bowl, whisk 1 cup of sugar into the melted butter until smooth. Add egg, yogurt, milk, vanilla and brown sugar and stir on the lowest setting until well combined. Slowly add dry ingredients while the mixer is running, until batter is thick and smooth.
  3. In a small bowl, mix remaining 1/4 cup of sugar with remaining 2 tsp of cinnamon. Distribute the cinnamon sugar into the cupcake liners, creating an even layer in the bottom of each. Fill each liner with batter until they are 3/4’s of the way full. (It should be about 3 Tbsps each)
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely.
  5. Using a small knife, carefully cut a hole in the top of a cupcake, about an inch in diameter. Remove the top, about 1/8 of an inch thick, and set aside. Using a small spoon, hollow out a hole in the center of the cupcake. Make sure you don’t scoop out so much that you break through the bottom.
  6. On a cutting board, spoon out some apple pie filling and chop the apple pieces into tiny chunks. Fill the cupcake with the apple and replace the top of the cupcake to seal it. Repeat for each cupcake.

Here’s a visual of filling the cupcakes.

The top two have been hollowed out. The top left has the apple filling inside, the top right is empty. The bottom two cupcakes have been filled and covered, ready to be frosted.

Speaking of which, here’s the frosting recipe.

  • 6 Tbsp softened butter
  • 4 oz softened cream cheese
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  1. Beat butter and cream cheese in the mixer on a low setting, until light and fluffy. Slowly add sugar while the mixer is running. Add vanilla and cinnamon, and continue mixing until well combined and smooth. (You may need to stop and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula a couple times.

My husband used to make fun of my frosting skills in the beginning. I bought some bags and the fancy tips to try and make them look pretty, and always ended up just taking a butter knife and smoothing them over. Not this time! I think I’m actually getting the hang of it.

Granted, these are three of the best. There were a couple unfortunate looking ones, but those were eaten before photo time. You obviously don’t have to spend time getting fancy with the frosting, it’s fine to just use a knife and spread it on. I am just trying to teach myself, and practice makes perfect.

What I like about this cupcake is the cinnamon sugar crust on the bottom. Spraying the liner before filling helps it to crisp up without crumbling or sticking. It’s just this added little crunch element that you don’t always get in a cupcake. I like having that play of textures.

And speaking of textures, I love giving these to friends and seeing the apple filling surprise them when they bite into it. If you pack it in well, it’s not going to spill out or anything. I just love that at first glance, it’s simple looking. Then you unwrap it and take a taste, and you get these fun elements like the crust and the filling.

If you love cinnamon as much as I do, this is your dream frosting. It’s not too sweet, but it compliments the apple so well. There’s cinnamon and brown sugar in the actual cupcake, but not enough to to really make the entire thing taste the same. It just helps bring all the elements together.

This is a pretty easy cupcake to make, but the result is so much more interesting than just a plain vanilla or chocolate cupcake. Kids will like it, adults will like it, and hey, with all that apple and cinnamon, you might as well have one for breakfast the next day. Almost the same as coffee cake, right? (Not really, but I won’t judge. They are really great with a cup of coffee though.)

Well I can’t promise a ton of baking recipes in the near future, this was pretty much a fluke. I’ll also be hitting the road on Monday to drive from California to Massachusetts for my wedding with my friends. I have a couple posts ready to go for while I’m traveling, so I won’t be disappearing for very long!

Make sure to follow my Instagram, I’m sure I’ll have some updates from the road. Happy cooking, and baking!

 

My Favorite Kitchen Toys, Part 1

I’m going to start off with my most prized kitchen possession, my Kitchenaid mixer. Every homecook and baker I talk to has this or wants this. My family gave me one for Christmas this year and I honestly don’t think a gift has been more exciting since my mom got me a Furby and a Tamagotchi in the late nineties. There’s something magical about them.

Just like my approach to cars, color is most important. I went with aqua sky (yes that’s the real color name). I wanted something that was classic, but not the obvious red, white or black. I try and hide most of my toys away when I am not using them, but my mixer is always displayed where everyone can see it. It’s the kitchen equivalent to an Andy Warhol screen print. Bold, modern but classicly designed and a piece of pop culture.

Beyond the beauty, it’s changed my baking life. I’ve made bread, bagels, pizza dough, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, all these things that were so scary to me, all from scratch. I need to start investing in some fun attachments. Or if anyone from Kitchenaid happens to see this, send some my way, I’d love to review them! (Wink wink)

They can be pricey, but they are worth every penny. I have the 5 quart artisan mixer and it generally retails for around $279. The accessories aren’t cheap either, hence me not having any yet. There’s meat grinders, an ice cream maker, a spiralizer and more. I have my eye on one of the pasta attachments. I would love to make all my own pasta from scratch some day.

My mixer is my current favorite, but a close second is the first big kitchen toy I ever got: my slow cooker. I got my first one five or six years ago, but now I have two. Such a lifesaver at thanksgiving to have mashed potatoes in one and mulled cider in the other. I actually might do a whole post in the future on slow cooker cocktails, they are so great for parties, particularly at the holidays.

When I was living in Massachusetts, it was my tradition every year on the first really chilly weekend of the fall to get my slow cooker out and make chicken cacciatore. From that day until spring I would use it pretty much bi-weekly. I would love getting snowed in during the winter so I could watch movies and use my slow cooker.

A few recipes I’ve shared so far on my blog have utilized it. I make pulled buffalo chicken for a number of different dishes often and my very first post, coconut curry chicken, is also done in the slow cooker. I love making big batches of pasta sauce that I can jar, soups and stews, mashed potatoes, chili, you can do so much. Of course the red meat eaters out there use it for pot roasts and beef stews. Honestly the possibilities are endless.

I moved to California last Septemeber and have had to adjust to autumn and winter tempatures being in the 70s. Not complaining, but it was weird to not see leaves changing and walking past houses with Christmas lights when I was wearing shorts. But I still got my slow cooker out and made my chicken cacciatore to force the feeling of the seasons into my home.

I like to slow cook on lazy weekends, but it can also be a real time saver for a busy family. Throw everything in, set it on low and forget about for a few hours. The only hard part is resisting the urge to open the lid to smell and taste along the way. There’s also one for every budget. They can range from $20 to hundreds of dollars. I think I remember my first one being around $100, for a large 6.5 quart Cuisinart, which has held up beautifully over a number of years and a lot use. I lucked out and inherited my second, smaller cooker for free from my sister when she was cleaning out her kitchen. Score!

Of course fancy gadgets aren’t going to make you a good cook, it’s about what you do with them. But it certainly helps out the execution of meals when you have quality equipment. It’s fun too. I get so pumped whenever I get a new kitchen toy to play with. Unfortunately (but fortunately for my wallet) I only have so much space left in my kitchen, but look out for a couple more posts featuring my other cooking essentials in the future!

My First Try At Homemade Bagels

Bagels were actually included in the handful of foods I would willingly consume as a small child. Back then, they had to be Lender’s cinnamon raisin, frozen then lightly toasted, with just a tiny bit of unsalted butter. I don’t know how that became my thing, but all my fellow picky eaters out there know how important brands and food rituals can be. You find something you like and you don’t change it. EVER.

I was probably in middle school the first time I ordered a bagel from Dunkin Donuts. (GASP!) It was still cinnamon raisin, and I refused the cream cheese, but inside I was thoroughly impressed by my new found “adventurous” streak. In high school, a couple of my friends worked at a smaller bagel shop. I tried a cinnamon sugar bagel, and eventually a plain bagel with cream cheese. I know, I know, I was getting out of control!

Eventually I came to realize bagels are a magical vehicle for all kinds of flavors. (I also realized I was crazy for not embracing cream cheese earlier than I did.) It probably helped that my sister and a few friends went to school at NYU and on my visits to see them, my eyes were opened to the wonderful world of New York bagels.

In the past year, I’ve been dabbling in baking. Mostly simple cupcakes and pizza dough, and most recently I’ve experimented with bread. It’s not my strongest suit, but it’s a lot of fun and I hope eventually I can get more comfortable. The other day I was in the store and saw malt syrup, and I remembered hearing on many a cooking show that it was the secret to bagel making. Other than the water in Brooklyn, of course. So I decided to give it a go.

Unlike my cooking, I can not bake things off the top of my head yet. Especially not something I’ve never made before. So I followed this recipe.

Follow this word for word. My bagels came out AMAZING. I have never had a more successful first try at baking anything. I made eight bagels. They were medium sized, like what you would find in the grocery store. If you wanted a big bakery sized bagel, I would make six. Based on what I had in my pantry I made two plain, two sesame, two onion and garlic, and two apple cinnamon.

Apple cinnamon was my nod to my younger days. I didn’t have raisins, so I improvised by making apple chips the day I made the bagel dough, which has to rest overnight. I coated apple slices in cinnamon and sugar, and baked them for 45 minutes in a 250 degree oven until they became mostly dehydrated. I didn’t want them completely crispy and dry so I let them cool slightly, put them in a plastic bag and they went into the fridge with the dough.

The day of baking, I finely diced the apples and applied them as a topping the same way the recipe explains using the sesame seeds or onion and garlic. When the bagels were done baking, I sprinkled on some cinnamon sugar and let those two bake for a couple minutes more. Avoid getting the sugar on the bottom though, or the bagels will stick to the pan. My husband I didn’t even slice these guys, we ate them like cinnamon buns the moment they were cool enough to shove in our mouths.

Bonus tip! Today I decided to have some fun with a plain bagel and try a couple different toppings. I toasted it and spread cream cheese on both halves. For my savory side, I sprinkled on some garlic flakes, chopped green onion and fresh chives. For my sweet side, it was cinnamon and a drizzle of organic honey. Best. Breakfast. Ever.

Nine year old me would only eat frozen bagels from the grocery store. Twenty nine year old me can’t imagine buying a bagel from the grocery store ever again. It’s homemade, or at least from a bakery, from now on.

And always with cream cheese.

{follow me on twitter & instagram: @thepickygourmet}

Baked Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pears

This might be my new favorite breakfast. It’s easy, it’s fairly healthy and it’s so flippin’ delicious. While the pears were baking, I was having trouble walking away from the oven, because the smell was so lovely.

This dish has the same flavor profiles of a heavier breakfast like French toast, but without the guilt and without making you feel like you need a nap after. Not that I’m knocking French toast! (I had a recipe for that posted a couple weeks ago) French toast, a couple mimosas, that’s heaven. But this is just as heavenly.

Yields 2 servings.

  • 3 pears
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp honey, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 4 Tbsp granola
  • 1 Tbsp powdered sugar (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Peel the pears, cut them in half and remove the cores and seeds. Place them cut side down in a small baking dish or pan. Make sure there’s not a lot of extra negative space, you want them packed in so the sauce doesn’t spread out on the bottom of the pan. I actually fit my pears in a bread loaf pan.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, honey, cinnamon, brown sugar and vanilla. Stir over low heat until the butter is fully melted.
  4. Pour the sauce over the pears and bake for 30-35 minutes until the pears are soft and carmelized.
  5. In two bowls, put a cup of Greek yogurt topped with 2 Tbsp of granola and drizzle with a little honey. Serve with 3 baked pear halves in each bowl. If there’s excess sauce in the baking pan, drizzle it over the pears and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Play around with the yogurt toppings. We had cherry vanilla granola in the pantry and it was great. But any granola, dried fruits or nuts would work. What you are looking for is that crunch element, because the pears and yogurt are both so soft in texture.

I am obsessing over this because the textures are great, it looks great, it tastes great and (holy $#!+) it smells great. Four out of five senses, not bad. Maybe next time I’ll put on some smooth jazz or 90s R&B to really bring it home.

{follow me on twitter & instagram: @thepickygourmet}