Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pumpkin Dream Cake

I've noticed that I haven't done any new pumpkin recipes this fall. But I did stock up on some pureed pumpkin that I've roasted and pureed. Its sort of been my tradition every year ever since my older daughter was born - to buy loads of pumpkin around Halloween and then roast and puree them for later use. I use them to make my now famous Pumpkin Cake Roll that I make a ton of around the fall, as well as Pumpkin soup, and Pumpkin Spice Pancakes.

This year, I'm so excited to finally get a chance to make this Pumpkin Dream Cake from one of my favorite blogs, The Novice Chef. I've had this recipe saved up ever since I first saw it on her blog last year. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it then because I was in my first trimester of my 2nd pregnancy, suffering from a bad case of morning sickness. So no pumpkin puree or any pumpkin recipe in the fall of 2012. But I vowed that it would be my first pumpkin recipe to try out. And boy was it worth the wait.

I never used to like anything that had to do with pumpkin. But I discovered that it was the spices associated with pumpkin that I didn't like: nutmeg, ground ginger, all spice, cinnamon. Don't get me wrong. I love all those spices. Just not all together with pumpkin. I guess that's why I don't like pumpkin pie or pumpkin spice latte that's been all the rage lately. I'm pretty selective with the spices and flavorings I use with pumpkin in my recipes. This cake hardly has any of the traditional spices in the cake. Which is why I absolutely love this cake. And its so moist and fluffy. After testing this recipe out, hubby has asked me to make it for his family's Thanksgiving luncheon. And I was happy to oblige.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups pumpkin puree (or 1- 15 oz can puree)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk

Cinnamon Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
12 oz (1 1/2 packages) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 Tbsp. pure maple syrup (optional, because I didn't have any)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
6 cups confectioner's sugar

1) Preheat oven to 300 deg F. Grease 3-8 inch pans. Set aside.

2) In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

3) In a large bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla, pumpkin and vegetable oil. Slowly beat in flour, alternating with the milk. Continue beating until well combined.

4) Divide batter evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes until toothpick test comes out clean. Remove pans from the oven and immediately place in the freezer to cool for 45 minutes. This will keep the cake moist by immediately stopping the baking so the cake does not continue to bake when you remove it from the oven.

5) For the frosting: In a large bowl, cream together butter and cream cheese over medium speed until smooth. Beat in maple syrup (if using), vanilla and cinnamon. Slowly add confectioner's sugar on low speed until combined, then on high until frosting is smooth.

6) Assemble the 3 layers with a thick layer of frosting in between each layer. Then apply a thin crumb coat on the top and the sides. Place in the freezer to harden the crumb coat for about 10 minutes.
Then apply one thick layer of frosting around the outside of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

Hubby and I love, love, love my old Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe. I haven't made it in a while. So I was so excited to find this make-ahead casserole version on Pinterest from Tasty Kitchen to try out. I love making this in 2 smaller casserole dish - one to eat right away, and the other to freeze for later. Make-ahead-meals are my life savers nowadays, being so busy with my 2 kids. So this recipe has made several rounds in our household. And hubby and I thoroughly enjoyed this version. Probably more so than my original recipe.

1 rotisserie chicken (or 4 boiled chicken breasts), shredded
1/2 lb. deli sliced ham, rough chopped
1/4 lb. sliced Swiss cheese

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 Tbsp. flour
3 1/4 cups milk
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. mustard
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. white pepper (you can also use black pepper)

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. dried parsley (or 2-3 tsp. fresh chopped parsley)

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Butter a 9x13 baking dish (or 2-8x8 baking dishes if you want to freeze half of the recipe). Set aside.

2) Even spread shredded chicken on the bottom of the baking dish. Top with the chopped ham. Layer the sliced cheese on top of ham. Set aside.

3) In the meantime, make the sauce. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour to make a roux. Cook for about a minute. Do not allow it to brown. Slowly whisk in milk. Continue to cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until sauce thickens.

4) Stir in lemon juice, mustard, salt, paprika, and pepper. Bring the sauce back up to a low boil and remove from heat. Pour sauce over the casserole, covering all the way to the edges.

5) In a medium bowl, melt butter in a microwave. Stir in breadcrumbs, salt and parsley. Sprinkle on top of the casserole.

6) Bake for 45 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Note: To serve after freezing, allow the frozen casserole to thaw completely in the refrigerator overnight prior to baking.