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Pumpkin Spice Cake

This cake is light, fluffy, and full of pumpkin flavor. It really was delicious!

Pumpkin Spice Cake (The Novice Chef)

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a bundt pan. In a medium bowl, sift or whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices; set aside. In a large bowl combine eggs, sour cream, pumpkin, and oil. Beat well with a hand mixer (or use a stand mixer), scraping down sides with a spatula, until everything is well blended. Add flour mixture a little at a time, beating well after each addition, until everything is well combined. Scrape down sides, then blend in the vanilla extract.

Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan and bake in the center of a 350 degree oven for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack for ten minutes, then invert cake onto wire rack and let cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar immediately before serving if desired.

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Pumpkin Blondies

I’ve never made blondies before, so when I saw this recipe, I really wanted to try it. Anything pumpkin usually is a big hit, however while I enjoyed these, I still prefer pumpkin bread.

Pumpkin Blondies (From Annie’s Eats)

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¼ cups granulated sugar (or brown sugar, I used brown)
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup white chocolate chips (I skipped this)
1 cup butterscotch chips
½ cup chopped, toasted nuts (optional, I skipped)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a 9×13-inch baking dish with foil. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt. Stir together and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well combined. Mix in the pumpkin puree. With the mixer on low speed add the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated. Fold in the white chocolate and butterscotch chips (and nuts, if using) with a rubber spatula.
Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake until the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs, about 35-40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely before cutting.
To serve, lift the cake from the pan using the foil and transfer to a cutting board. Peel off the foil and using a sharp knife, cut into 24 squares.

Spanakopita

Need a quick appetizer? Well, this probably isn’t it! However, using the puff pasty is a great time saving trick and the result tastes very good.

Puff Pastry (Cheater’s) Spanakopita (From Elly Says Opa)

Makes 18 spanakopita triangles

a little olive oil
1/2 cup sliced leeks or about 1/4 cup diced onion
fresh dill, to taste
fresh parsley, to taste (you can tell this recipe is very technical)
1/2 lb. fresh spinach (right around 1 bunch)
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
2 eggs, divided
salt and pepper
1 box (2 sheets) puff pastry dough, thawed

Preheat oven to 375.

In a large skillet, heat a little bit of olive oil until shimmering. Add the leeks or onions and saute until tender. Stir in the spinach and then turn off the heat. The spinach will start to wilt down, but not much.

Meanwhile, roll the puff pastry dough into a square, making it slightly thinner and then cut each sheet into 9 equal squares by making 2 horizontal cuts and 2 vertical cuts.

To the spinach mixture (you can move it to a bowl if you like), add the feta, parsley, dill and salt and pepper to taste. Beat one egg and add that into the mixture.

Spoon about 1-2 Tbsp. of the spinach mixture in each puff pastry square. Brush the sides of the square with a little water and then being 2 opposite sides together to form a triangle. Press with your fingers to seal. Place on a baking sheet. Beat the second egg and then brush the tops of the triangles with the egg. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden.

Honestly, the cake part of this recipe sucked. I actually made it twice and it still was dense as a rock. Maybe thats how it was supposed to be. It also had a very strong eggy taste. In a last minute move, I ended up using a box white cake mix and the cake was fabulous! Loved the filling and frosting. If I were to make it again, thats the route I would go. Plus, its a lot easier 🙂

Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Curd and Mascarpone (epicurious.com)

Ingredients:
Lemon curd
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Cake
6 large eggs, separated
14 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 cups sifted cake flour (sifted, then measured)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Filling and frosting
2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
3 8-ounce containers chilled mascarpone cheese*

Directions:
For lemon curd:
Whisk first 4 ingredients in medium metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water). Whisk constantly until thickened and instant-read thermometer inserted into mixture registers 160°F, about 10 minutes. Remove bowl from over water. Add butter; whisk until melted. Transfer 1 cup curd to small bowl for spreading on cake layers. Reserve remaining curd for filling. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of both curds. Chill overnight. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled.)

For cake:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Line bottom of two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides with parchment paper (do not grease pans or parchment). Using electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 7 tablespoons sugar in large bowl until mixture is very thick and slowly dissolving ribbons form when beaters are lifted, about 4 minutes. Using clean dry beaters, beat whites in another large bowl until soft peaks form. Add remaining 7 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff and glossy. Fold half of whites into yolk mixture, then sift half of flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt over and gently fold in until incorporated. Fold in remaining whites, then sift remaining flour over and fold in just until combined, being careful not to deflate batter.

Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Cool in pans on racks.

Run knife around edge of pans to loosen cakes. Invert cakes onto 9-inch-diameter cardboard rounds, tapping on work surface if necessary to release cakes. Cut each cake horizontally in half (layers will be thin). Peel off parchment.

For syrup:
Place sugar in small metal bowl. Add 1/2 cup boiling water; stir to dissolve sugar. Stir in lemon juice.

For filling and frosting:
Beat whipping cream and sugar in large bowl until peaks form. Add mascarpone to lemon curd in medium bowl; whisk until blended. Fold whipped cream into lemon-mascarpone mixture.

Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Brush with 1/4 of syrup. Spread 1/4 cup lemon curd over, then 1 cup lemon-mascarpone filling. Top with second cake layer; brush with 1/4 of syrup and spread with 1/4 cup lemon curd and 1 cup lemon-mascarpone filling. Repeat with third cake layer, syrup, lemon curd, and filling. Top with fourth cake layer. Brush with remaining syrup, then spread remaining lemon curd over. Spoon 2 cups lemon-mascarpone filling into pastry bag fitted with 1/4-inch star tip (to be used for rosettes). Spread remaining lemon-mascarpone filling as a frosting over sides of cake. Pipe small rosettes of frosting over top of cake, covering completely. Cover cake with cake dome; refrigerate at least 6 hours and up to 1 day.

For my husbands birthday I made him two cakes (yes he is really lucky!). This cake is really delicious because of the mocha mascarpone filling and frosting. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making the cake itself, you could easily use a box cake mix and then use the filling as described below. Enjoy!

Coffee-Chocolate Layer Cake with Mocha-Mascarpone Frosting (epicurious.com)

Cake:
2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
3 large eggs
11/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 3/4 cup hot water

Frosting:
1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 8-ounce containers chilled mascarpone cheese*
Bittersweet chocolate curls (optional)

Directions:
For cake:
Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 325°F. Generously butter two 9-inch cake pans with 2-inch-high sides; dust with flour, tapping out any excess. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper.

Sift 2 cups cake flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add brown sugar and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions, beating just until blended after each addition. Gradually add hot espresso-water mixture, beating just until smooth.

Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on rack 15 minutes. Run small knife around sides of pans to loosen cakes. Invert cakes onto racks; lift pans off cakes and remove parchment. Place wire rack atop each cake; invert again so top side is up. Cool completely. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap each cake in plastic and store at room temperature.

For frosting:
Sift cocoa powder into large bowl; add espresso powder. Bring 1 cup cream to boil in small saucepan. Slowly pour cream over cocoa mixture, whisking until cocoa is completely dissolved, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup cream and sugar; stir until sugar dissolves. Chill until cold, at least 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; keep chilled.

Add mascarpone to chilled cocoa mixture. Using electric mixer, beat on low speed until blended and smooth. Increase speed to medium-high; beat until mixture is thick and medium-firm peaks form when beaters are lifted, about 2 minutes (do not overbeat or mixture will curdle).

Using pastry brush, brush off crumbs from cakes. Place 1 cake layer, top side up, on platter. Spoon 13/4 cups frosting in dollops over top of cake. Using offset spatula, spread frosting to edges. Top with second cake layer, top side up, pressing to adhere. Spread thin layer of frosting over top and sides of cake. Chill 10 minutes. Using offset spatula, spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake, swirling decoratively. Top with chocolate curls, if desired. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome; chill. Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes before serving.

Sorry for the poor picture, but the dip does taste better than it looks there. You can make this dip the day before your party and pop it in the oven just before. Serve it with some crusty french bread.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip (Mary Ellen’s Cooking Creations)

Ingredients
½ sweet yellow onion finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 10 oz box frozen spinach
2 cans artichoke hearts in water, drained and coarsely chopped
2 packages cream cheese, softened
½ cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup mozzarella cheese
Few pinches of red pepper flakes
Salt

Directions
Saute onion and garlic in olive oil and set aside
Cook spinach according to package directions; drain.
Mix spinach, onion, and garlic in large bowl.
Add cream cheese; mix
Add mayonnaise, sour cream, cheeses, red pepper flakes, and salt. Mix well.
Add artichoke hearts; mix; transfer to a baking dish
Top with some cheese.
Either store in fridge until ready to bake or bake on 350 degrees until hot and bubbly.

Chicken Marsala

A very simple delicious chicken dish that you can make on any night after work. It really doesn’t take that much time at all.

Chicken Marsala (What’s Cooking Chicago)

Ingredients:
4 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
All-purpose flour, for dredging
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced (I used bacon since thats what I had on hand)
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, stemmed and halved
1/2 cup sweet Marsala wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (skipped)

Directions:
Put the chicken breasts side by side on a cutting board and lay a piece of plastic wrap over them; pound with a flat meat mallet, until they are about 1/4-inch thick. Put some flour in a shallow platter and season with a fair amount of salt and pepper; mix with a fork to distribute evenly.

Heat the oil over medium-high flame in a large skillet. When the oil is nice and hot, dredge both sides of the chicken cutlets in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess. Slip the cutlets into the pan and fry for 5 minutes on each side until golden, turning once – do this in batches if the pieces don’t fit comfortably in the pan. Remove the chicken to a large platter in a single layer to keep warm.

Lower the heat to medium and add the prosciutto to the drippings in the pan, saute for 1 minute to render out some of the fat. Now, add the mushrooms and saute until they are nicely browned and their moisture has evaporated, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Pour the Marsala in the pan and boil down for a few seconds to cook out the alcohol. Add the chicken stock and simmer for a minute to reduce the sauce slightly. Stir in the butter and return the chicken to the pan; simmer gently for 1 minute to heat the chicken through. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with chopped parsley before serving.