Mini Pumpkin Cakes with Cinnamon Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting

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Things this past week have been crazy.  I got home finally from pretty much one and a half month’s solid stretch of traveling.  Which was awesome, don’t get me wrong, but my routine was severely disrupted.  And, judging by the fact that I literally had obligations every single night after my return, I hardly had time to even think about the blog.

But, now that I’ve effectively done about 8 loads of laundry, gotten enough sleep, and sorted all the mail, I’m back in the game.  It’s good to be back.

The lovely folks over at Pacific Foods decided to send me a few sample packs of their pumpkin puree (as a side note, Scout loves pumpkin puree in her food.)  Seeing this as a perfect opportunity to make something completely sinful as a Thanksgiving dessert, I dove right in.

Originally, this recipe is for “pumpkin bars”.  As I realized that I had left a baking sheet in my office at work (long story), I decided to cook these “bars” in two 8-inch cake pans and then use a 1 and 1/2-inch cookie cutter to make little cake forms.  I cut each cake into two pieces horizontally and then piped some frosting in between each piece.  And what’s better than a little cinnamon vanilla bean cream cheese frosting (long enough name, eh?).  No, they aren’t the most healthy dessert in the world, but at least they are “bite-size”.  At least that’s what I am telling myself.

 

 

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Mini Pumpkin Cakes with Cinnamon Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting

Servings:  approximately 24 cakes

 

Ingredients

For the cakes:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 and 1/2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

4 eggs

One 15-ounce can/package pumpkin puree (I used Pacific Foods, which came in a 16-ounce package.  You can use canned or tetra-packed pumpkin puree-or obviously, homemade.)

1 cup canola oil

For the cinnamon vanilla bean cream cheese frosting:

One 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

Seeds from one whole vanilla bean (Slice the vanilla bean down the center and scrape out all the seeds.  Discard the shell.)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2-3 cups powdered sugar (to taste and your desired consistency)

 

Instructions

1. For the cakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In the bowl of your standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl using an electric hand mixer), combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and ground cloves, mixing on low speed until combined.

3. Add the eggs, pumpkin puree, and canola oil until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

4. Pour the batter into lightly greased 8-inch cake pans (or using a large rectangular baking dish).

5. Bake the cakes until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.  Let the cake cool at room temperature for about two hours prior to frosting.

6. For the frosting:  In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter (using your standing mixer or an electric hand mixer) on medium speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes.

7. Add the vanilla bean seeds and cinnamon, mixing until combined.

8. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and gradually add the powdered sugar, until the frosting reaches your desired consistency, adding more if needed.

9. To assemble the cakes:  Using a 1 and 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut each cake out from the pan.  Horizontally slice each cake into two halves.

10.  Pipe a small dollop of frosting on the top of one cake half, top with the other cake half, and pipe your desired amount of frosting on the top of each cake.  Enjoy.

 

Source:  Pumpkin cakes from Better Home and Gardens Ultimate Cookie Book, frosting a Curvy Carrot original.

November 25, 2013 - 9:03 am

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar - I love how these are stacked! Such a fun recipe!

November 25, 2013 - 10:34 am

Phi Kelnhofer - Welcome back!! 8 loads of laundry-wow, that’s impressive!! These look absolutely amazing, and perfect for the upcoming holidays, thanks for posting!

November 25, 2013 - 2:49 pm

Kelly Mitchem - These sound absolutely amazing! I love the look of them.

November 25, 2013 - 7:29 pm

Joanne - I think we all deserve a little indulgence around the holidays…especially where pumpkin and cream cheese frosting are concerned!

November 27, 2013 - 1:35 pm

Dina - they’re cute and look yummy!

November 27, 2013 - 3:11 pm

Koko @ Koko Likes - I;m thinking of making just one big cake instead of minis, do you think all of the amounts will be the same (particularly for the frosting?)

November 27, 2013 - 5:47 pm

srlacy - Hi Koko!

Yes…I actually used 2 round 8-inch cake pans to make this-the cake batter was enough for that. I had a lot of leftover frosting, too, so you should be ok with the amounts I provided. If you want a lot of frosting, though, I would double the batch.

November 27, 2013 - 6:43 pm

Koko @ Koko Likes - Just made it just as the recipe said and my layer cake is perfect! Thanks again!

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Gnocchi Gratin

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I’m back in the United States after one of the best weeks of my life…in Argentina!  I’ll tell you more about it later, but for now…it’s my main dish choice for Thanksgiving 2013.

Ah, pumpkin gnocchi.  (Actually, ah in general for gnocchi).  What could be better than light, pillowy pumpkin-y dumplings nestled in a bit of melty, ooey gooey cheese?  I figured this might be the perfect vegetarian dish for me this year.  And, in all honesty, these little guys don’t take all that much time to make.  You could even make the gnocchi a few hours beforehand, chill, and then simply assemble/bake them right before serving time.

I adapted the recipe here to use whole wheat pastry flour instead of an all-purpose flour, so feel free to play around with what kind of flours you use (I kept the all-purpose flour in the bechamel sauce because I felt a little uncomfortable experimenting with that part.)  You could also substitute another squash puree here-like butternut or acorn squash (just make sure you get all of the excess moisture out).  I also made a few smaller servings in little au gratin dishes, as well as a larger 8 x8-inch baking dish.  You must watch your dishes closely during the baking time to make sure that the cheese doesn’t burn.  My baking time of 15-20 minutes worked well with both baking dish sizes.

Although the sauce here has a little bit of butter in it, it’s worth the extra step of making it.  I took one bite and literally squealed-the sauce makes the dish here.

From me to you, Happy Early Thanksgiving.  I’m thankful for so so many things this year.  :)

 

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Whole Wheat Pumpkin Gnocchi

Servings: about 4-6

 

Ingredients

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons dry white wine

1 and 1/2 cups vegetable broth

Pinch salt

For the gnocchi:

1 and 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon paprika

Salt and pepper, to taste

 

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Instructions

1. For the sauce: Over medium heat in a saucepan, melt the butter.

2. Stir in the 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.

3. Add the wine and vegetable broth, and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.

4. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 3 minutes or until thick.

5. Add a pinch of salt.

6. Remove from heat; set aside, and keep warm.

7. For the gnocchi:   In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, pumpkin puree, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and nutmeg.  Stir until a smooth dough is formed (it will be a little sticky).

8. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface.

9. Shape the dough into a 12 x 3-inch-long roll.

10. Cut roll lengthwise into 6 (1/2-inch-thick) strips, and cut each strip into 12 (1-inch) pieces.

11. Place gnocchi on a lightly floured baking sheet; set aside.

12. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

13. Bring about 10 cups of water to a boil in a large Dutch oven.

14. Add half of the gnocchi; cook 3 minutes or until done (they will float). Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon; place in a colander to drain off excess moisture. Repeat with remaining gnocchi.

15. Lightly spray au gratin dishes (I used Le Creuset’s petite au gratin pan) or a baking dish (I used an 8×8-inch baking dish for the leftovers) with cooking spray.

16. Place the gnocchi in the prepared dishes and cover them evenly with the sauce.

17. Sprinkle with cheese, paprika, and salt/pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

 

Source:  Adapted from Cooking Light as part of my monthly contribution to the Cooking Light Bloggers’ Connection.

November 19, 2013 - 8:23 am

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar - I love that you made this a gratin!! So delicious!

November 19, 2013 - 11:15 am

Sweetphi - These look absolutely amazing! My husband loves when I make Butternut Squash Gnocchi, but this recipe with the bechamel sauce…not even gonna lie…I might just be the best wife ever and make this tonight!

November 19, 2013 - 1:24 pm

Maria Tadic - Mmmmmm that looks so good!!! I definitely need to try this – love gnocchi AND pumpkin!

November 19, 2013 - 10:52 pm

Joanne - I’m going to make these for me and The.boy this year as a pre-Thanksgiving dinner! Gnocchi are one of my absolute favorite things and homemade just take the cake!

November 21, 2013 - 12:42 pm

Pinterest popular - Hummmm i surlike this gratin.. I will try it
Thanks for share !

December 28, 2013 - 10:58 pm

Courtney - While I liked this recipe and would make again, I could not taste the pumpkin very well and thought the sauce was too thin. Next time I would up the flour by another tablespoon or reduce the broth by half a cup. I made a double batch of the gnocchi and froze half, they cooked up beautifully after being frozen for about a week.

Savory Twice-Baked Potatoes

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Ah, the classic potato side dish.  My (secret) favorite of all the characters traditionally found in a Thanksgiving spread.  That ultimate comfort food-whether they are mashed (butter, please), fried, or even served in a salad-potatoes are all good.  Last year I went with a Duchesse version (also very tasty).

This year I wanted something that could just stand alone, as I was planning on making a big batch for just myself.  So I played around with a twice-baked version with lots of different savory fillings so that this could serve as a stand-alone entree that I could easily pack for lunch during the work week or quickly reheat during a busy weeknight for a simple meal.  These fit the bill.

When the weather gets colder and I’m hibernating in my apartment on the weekends, I like to bake/roast a whole bunch of different things in one single shot to be a little bit more energy efficient.  I usually line two oven racks with squash, potatoes, and sweet potatoes (Scout loves getting squash with her food), bake everything thing, and then, during the week, I just use my microwave to reheat things quickly.  This is what I did here.  I baked the potatoes for this recipe, the sweet potatoes for this recipe, and roasted the beets for this recipe…all at the same time.  Efficiency is my modus operandi.

As for these potatoes, you can totally play around with what kind of filling you end up making.  I wanted something hearty and savory, so I used spinach and mushrooms here.  I tried to lighten them up a bit by using nonfat Greek yogurt, but you can substitute sour cream, of course.  Skip the cheese to make them even skinnier.  As for baking the potatoes, I lightly rub them with olive oil and coat them with Kosher salt-then wrap them in foil to bake.  I find that the coating of salt (although a lot of it falls off) makes the skins a little bit crispy and salty…which then makes me want to eat more of the skins (which, of course, is the most nutritious part of the whole potato.)

Enjoy.

 

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Savory Twice-Baked Potatoes

Servings: 5  (I wanted 4 servings, so I bought 5 potatoes, just in case.  I ended up with 5 twice-baked potatoes.)

 

Ingredients

5 Russet poatoes, baked  (To bake:  Lightly prick each potato with the tines of a fork, brush with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with Kosher salt, and wrap in aluminum foil.  Bake at 400 degrees until soft-mine took about 55-60 minutes.)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1/2 cup mushrooms (I used baby bella/crimini), chopped

2-3 cups fresh spinach leaves (I used Earthbound Farm.)

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

Salt and pepper, to taste

 

 

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Instructions

1.  Once the potatoes are baked and cool enough to handle, cut about 1/2-inch slice of skin/flesh longitudinally off each potato.

2. Very carefully/gently, scoop out the flesh from each potato and transfer to a large bowl.  Set aside.  (You can discard the tops of each potato-make sure to get any extra flesh off of each one, though.)  Transfer the potato shells to a rimmed baking sheet.

3. In a saute pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering.  Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

4. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is translucent and softened, about 5 minutes.

5. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

6. Add the chopped mushrooms, cooking until the mushrooms release their moisture and soften a bit, about 4-5 minutes.

7. Add the spinach leaves to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until the leaves turn bright green and wilt a bit, about 2-3 minutes.

8. Remove the pan from the heat and add the spinach mixture to the bowl of potatoes, stirring to combine.

9.   Add the cheese and Greek yogurt to the bowl, mixing until thoroughly combined.  Season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper.

10. Very carefully, using a large spoon, fill each potato shell with the mushroom/spinach/potato mixture.  I liked mounding mine a bit higher than the edges of the shell.  **You might have a bit of filling left over.

11. Bake the potatoes (again) until heated through and the tops start to turn golden brown, about 30-40 minutes.  **Watch your potatoes carefully, as oven temperatures can vary significantly.  You don’t want to burn them.

 

Source:  A Curvy Carrot original.

November 14, 2013 - 8:04 am

Joy //For the Love of Leaves - Yum! This looks so good! I always forget about twice baked potatoes…not anymore!

November 14, 2013 - 8:05 am

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar - Twice baked potatoes are the best!! This version is so creative :) Yum!

November 14, 2013 - 6:54 pm

Joanne - I would be totally happy eating these as a main course on Thanksgiving! Love the bits of spice and cheese!

November 19, 2013 - 4:17 am

Matskafferiet - Yum, looks so delicious!

November 24, 2013 - 11:23 pm

Marisa - I’m in charge of the sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving and I’m definitely going to follow this recipe! I know russets are creamy, but I have a thing for sweet potatoes and I think these savory additions will be perfect! Thanks for sharing!