Monday, October 28, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Candied Pumpkin Seeds

J'aime l'automne (I love the Fall). The weather, the colors, the clothes, and especially Fall foods - pumpkins and butternut squash top the list. These pumpkin cupcakes are so delicious you'll want to make them throughout October and November. They are the perfect Fall dessert. The pumpkin purée adds a nice earthiness to the cake and the rich cream cheese frosting is sweet and tart - it's a great compliment. The crunchy, sweet pumpkin seeds are an ideal topper, making a delightful palate combination of soft, creamy and crisp. Mason and Gabrielle love them and I think these cupcakes will help them acquire a taste for pumpkin, squash and other Fall flavors and spices. I made mini versions for Mason's soccer team as an after game snack and the kids really enjoyed them! If you make these cupcakes, they will definitely become a Fall dessert staple in your home. Enjoy and Happy Fall!

My favorite brand.

Gabby loves the mini version.

Any good recipe starts with quality ingredients and the pumpkin purée from Farmer's Market is my favorite.  It's organic, the can liner is BPA free and it's verified non-GMO.  It doesn't get much better than that!

I made a version of these cupcakes in Mason's pre-school class last year.  Contrary to the date on the photo, this was taken last Fall before we moved.  We loved this class.  Mason's teachers Ms. Courtney and Ms. Robin were wonderful!  We miss them a lot.  Kids are so interested and excited about cooking and baking.  They love to learn about the ingredients and what they do.  I love the curiosity.

*This recipe is very easy to make dairy free. Just use traditional frosting instead of cream cheese and Earth Balance sticks in the cake and frosting as well. I am still working on the egg free version.
Mason's class last year.  He is right next to me.
Two of Mason's friends, Kayla and Brooke.
La Recette:



2 1/2 cups gluten free baking mix - I like Bisquick
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra for dusting the top
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
3 extra large eggs, separated and at room temperature
1/4 cup 2% plain greek yogurt, room temperature
1 - 15 oz. can pumpkin purée


8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 cups powdered sugar

Candied Pumpkin Seeds

1/4 cup fresh pumpkin seeds, cleaned
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line two traditional cupcake trays with liners.
  • In a medium bowl mix the GF flour/baking mix, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and set aside. 
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the flat beater attachment, combine the butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. 
  • Next add the eggs yolks one at a time (reserve the whites) and then add the vanilla. Mix until well incorporated. 
  • Then add the pumpkin and yogurt and mix until just combined.
  • Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. I always take a spatula halfway through and scrape the bottom to make sure all of the ingredients are getting incorporated.
  • Meanwhile, take the egg whites in a medium sized bowl, and with a handheld mixer beat the whites until stiff peaks form. 
  • Gently fold the whites into the pumpkin mixture (don't over mix) and fill the liners 3/4 full.
  • Bake for about 20-22 minutes and the tops are golden
  • Remove from the oven and let them cool completely


-In a stand mixer with the flat beater attachment, combine the cream cheese and butter and mix until combined. Next add the powdered sugar and mix well. 2-3 minutes. The frosting should have some consistency to it and not be too soft. You can spread on the cupcakes with a knife or pipe on with a pastry bag. Either way it's delicious, just make sure the cupcakes are completely cool :)

Candied pumpkin seeds
  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well making sure all of the seeds are covered with the mixture.
  • Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray. Dump the seeds onto the baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool completely. They will become hard. When the cupcakes are ready to be finished after frosting, I break off a small cluster on the top of each cupcake. After the seeds go on, I sprinkle the top with a little cinnamon.

*Makes at least 24 cupcakes. You can always freeze extra dough in an airtight container for three months.
*If you want to cut down on the sugar, these are delicious without the frosting as well!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Giving Thanks for Giving

This holiday season, I am partnering with Cooking Planit to celebrate the givers in our lives and communities. Do you know someone who gives to others without looking for recognition or reward? Tell us about him/ her in a short, inspiring story and five stories will be selected for a $250 reward. The grand prize winner will win $1000 for the charity of their choice. Five winners will be chosen from all of the entries based on how inspiring their story is and how they empower others through their efforts.

In 300 words or less:

*Recognize an individual who is making a difference in the lives of others in your community.
*Share how they donate their time, energy or love with a focus on helping others without necessarily thinking of themselves.
*Give details on how they are working to improve the lives of others.

If your inspiring person is chosen, they will receive $250 gift card to help them celebrate Thanksgiving, and you will win $100 as our way of saying thank you. So warm up your pens and warm up the hearts of all of us this Thanksgiving.

Enter your inspiring story on Facebook: or on the Cooking Planit Giving Thanks page:

Check out the details on how you and your nominee can win a little something to make this holiday season brighter.

Because my blog is participating in the contest, I am not able to submit a personal story of my own, but I thought I would share one here as an example.

If I was able to nominate someone for this contest, it would be my parents, Mike and Patty Newton. I realize that if I were really writing this story for the contest it should just be about one person; however, I think of them as a team. They are unconditional givers and two of the most selfless people I know. When I was younger, I definitely took all of their wonderful acts for granted. Being young, immature, and naïve, I just figured that all parents were the same and always acted in a giving way. As I grew older and a little wiser, I've realized how incredible they are and what a support they have been and always will be in my life. We've moved quite frequently in the past few years and they are there every time, helping us pack, watching and playing with our kids, doing our laundry, cleaning or offering a shoulder for me to cry on when needed. My kids, Mason and Gabrielle, call my parents Nana and Nonno (Italian for Grandfather). Nana and Nonno visit us all of the time. They love to be with Mason and Gabby and it gives Jake and I a break. They give a very tired Mom and Dad a much needed reprieve. Their help, love, and guidance is so invaluable. They help me to be a better Mom and I love them more than I can express. They have set a great example and I will always do the same for Mason and Gabby. They are not only like this with family but with their friends and neighbors as well. Thanks Mom and Dad for everything. You truly are the best.

Thanks everyone and I hope to read your inspiring stories soon! xoxo!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Penne with White Beans and Escarole and Crispy Asparagus

This is my new favorite fall dinner! The pasta has so many scrumptious flavor combinations. The salty briny capers, sweet tomatoes, toasty garlic and crisp escarole - it's so hearty and really warms you up on a chilly night. A great part about this is that it can be made vegan - you just leave off the Parmesan cheese. I also found it's a great way to introduce new flavors to your child's palate. For some reason, my kids seem to hesitate eating tomatoes and anything green. Call me crazy but I think this is a common problem. If your kids eat green vegetables readily, I am jealous! It's hard work for me. I start with fixing them a noodle dish with a little butter and cheese. I sauté the garlic and throw in the capers (pickled berries). My kids love capers because they remind them of pickles. Once, they are comfortable with those flavors, I add in the beans and then try to sneak in the tomatoes and escarole. I love the asparagus too. I am still working on my kids to eat this veggie but the bread crumbs and Parmesan make it more tempting for them to take a taste. Enjoy!

La Recette:

12 oz. gluten free pasta - I like Bionaturae. If you don't need gluten free pasta, regular pasta works here too.
1 head escarole, washed, dried well, and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, I like San Marzano
1 14ish oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup capers, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan, plus extra for serving


  • Add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a sauté pan and turn the burner to medium high. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and parsley and cook until fragrant - about 2 minutes.
  • Next, add the cannellini beans and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Then, add in the tomatoes. Quickly squeeze them with your hands to break them apart and use your spoon as well (make sure you are wearing an apron because the tomatoes will squirt). Add in the bay leaves and let it cook and reduce down for about 10-15 minutes.

  • In the meantime, bring a large saucepan with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to boil (the salt helps to flavor the noodles and the oil helps the gluten free noodles from sticking). Cook the noodles al-dente, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
  • While the noodles are cooking remove and discard the bay leaves and add the escarole to the tomato mixture. It will look like a lot but it will cook down quickly.

  • Once the escarole starts to cook down (5-8 minutes), add in the capers and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Add in the salt and pepper and mix well. Turn the heat off.
  • Try to time the pasta so that it is finished shortly after you put the capers into the tomato/escarole sauce. I would put the pasta into the boiling water about 10 minutes after you add in the bay leaves while the tomato sauce is cooking.
  • Drain the pasta and add 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid to the tomatoes and escarole. Reserve the remaining 1/2 cup and use only if the sauce is too thick (1-2 tablespoons at a time).
  • Add the pasta to the tomatoes and escarole and mix well.
  • Mix 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese into the pasta and reserve the other 1/4 cup to sprinkle on each serving. Enjoy!

*Serves 4


1 medium bunch asparagus, washed and trimmed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 gluten free bread crumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


  • Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil
  • Place the asparagus on the baking sheet and drizzle 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, making sure they are coated well.
  • Combine the bread crumbs (I've mentioned this before but never buy breadcrumbs. Use the ends of your bread and put them in the food processor), cheese, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix well. Sprinkle the mixture over the asparagus.
  • Bake for 15 minutes

*To start my kids out with this dish, I reserve a quarter of the pasta, 2 tablespoons of the beans, and use an extra tablespoon of capers. Using the same saucepan that I cooked the noodles in, sauté 1/2 teaspoon of garlic until fragrant - 2 minutes. Add the noodles and 1-2 tablespoons of pasta water and 1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil. Next, add the beans and capers and 1/4 cup of Parmesan. They love this and I can slowly work in the tomatoes and escarole.

*This entire recipe is so easy to make vegan. Just hold all of the cheese and it won't compromise the integrity of the recipe in any way.

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