Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!!

I couldn't let Halloween pass by without making a seasonal cupcake. My office hosts a Halloween party and we are urged to participate in pumpkin carving, costume and dessert baking contests. Naturally, I had to join in! Although I didn't win (weird, right?) I made the most delicious and satisfying cupcakes I've had yet.

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

These cupcakes tasted just like biting into a caramel apple, minus the texture of course. They were so moist and exceptionally flavorful. The candy topping made them beyond perfect!

1 box spiced cake mix or carrot cake mix (makes no difference - and I actually made them both ways and like them both)
Water and eggs as directed on box
substitute apple sauce for veggie oil directed
2 cups, chopped Granny Smith apples.

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cupcake pans with liners and set aside.
2) Prepare cake batter, with apple sauce instead of veggie oil and blend.
3) Once fully combined, fold in apples.
4) Gently scoop batter into cupcake liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake as directed on box.

Icing Recipe:
20 cubes Kraft Caramel
3 tbsp milk

Place caramels in a microwave safe bowl. Add milk and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir then return to microwave for another 30 seconds. Continue the process until caramel is melted. Let it sit for 5 minutes before drizzling over cupcakes.

I topped my cakes with little candy, chocolate chips and peanuts to really add the caramel affect. It was a PERFECT addition! ;)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dinner Party Worthy Salad

Last week, my boyfriend and I got together with a group of friends to carve pumpkins and have one last BBQ of the season. Aside from perfect weather and good company, we had some GREAT food. Our grill master did an amazing job grilling pre-marinated pork-loin and hamburgers (sounds like a weird combo, but you just can't have a BBQ without a burger, in my opinion!) To go along with our meat, I took a short-cut, and baked frozen potato wedges. To round out the meal, I threw together what is now my new favorite salad.

I tossed together spinach with cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, pepper jack cheese, ranch flavored almond slivers (right from the package) with a balsamic and olive oil drizzle. It was so delicious and super easy to prepare. The hint of ranch on the almonds really mellowed out the kick in the pepper jack cheese. YUM! It is good in fact, I've been making it at home ever since. It would be a great dish to throw together when you need a little extra for dinner, or even better to serve at a dinner party.

Since I was busy in the kitchen, I didn't have much time to carve my pumpkin, so I did the simplest, yet cutest thing I could think of. A CUPCAKE! :)

I just love fall!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sausage - Cauliflower Spaghetti

I LOVE making pasta dishes and especially love trying new options. I was thrilled to see a recipe for Sausage - Cauliflower Spaghetti in Food Network Magazine. I was somewhat taken back at the idea of having cauliflower in pasta, but I did try their recipe that included potatoes with pasta and that was amazing, so I had to give this a try. Coincidentally, the night before making it, Iron Chef America: Battle Cauliflower was on FN. It was a sign! I had to make this dish.

After fumbling around my kitchen preparing this dish (because I didn't read the directions before hand, oops!) I sat down with my best friend Renee, who was visiting for the weekend, and devoured my meal. I loved how well the cauliflower and sausage married together, and a small pop of scallions really made the dish kick. I will definitely make this again. It's a great way to get all your main food groups in on bowl. :)



12 ounces spaghetti

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

12 ounces sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed

6 cloves garlic, sliced

1 small head cauliflower, broken into small florets

1 bunch scallions, chopped

1 cup grated parmesan cheese


1) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook as directed. Reserve 2 cups of cooking water, then drain.

2) Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Crumble the sausage into the skillet and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned and no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes. Clear a space in the pan, add the garlic and cook until just golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cauliflower and cook until the edges are browned, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of the reserved cooking water, cover and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the cauliflower is tender, about 8 more minutes. Uncover and boil over high heat until the liquid is almost evaporated, about 2 more minutes.

3) Add the spaghetti to the skillet along with the scallions. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Toss for a minute or two to wilt the scallions and coat the pasta with the sauce adding up to 1 cup cooking water, if needed, to loosen. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with the cheese and toss. Divide among shallow bowls and drizzle with more olive oil, if desired.

Photos Courtesy of: Renee Thomas

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Double Whammy!

One of the best things about Fall are all of the great seasonal flavors and nothing tops my list like PUMPKIN! A co-worker of mine made delicious pumpkin spice cupcakes recently, and I just had to try them. And what better time than now? My friend Lauren wanted to surprise her sister and treat her to 4 dozen of my scrumptious cakes for her house warming party and these were perfect for the job.

Since 48 cupcakes is quite a bit, I wanted to mix up the flavors so I made
2 dozen pumpkin spice with cream cheese frosting and 2 dozen orange infused chocolate cakes with orange zest frosting. They were heavenly!

Pumpkin Spice Cupcake Recipe:
1 box spice cake mix
eggs, water, oil as directed
15 oz can of pumpkin puree

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Prepare spice batter as directed on box. Mix well then add in 3/4 of the can pf pumpkin puree. Continue mixing until puree has combined.
3) Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full. These cakes don't rise very much, so don't underfill. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes.
4) Top with cream cheese frosting.

Orange Infused Chocolate Cupcake Recipe:
1 box devil's food cake
eggs, 1/2 cup water and oil, as directed on box
3/4 cup orange juice

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Add egg, oil and 1/2 cup of water to cake mix. Blend until combined then add 3/4 cup of orange juice, mixing until combined. (Most devil's food mixes require 1 1/4 cup of water. The orange juice substitutes part of that, then the water fills in the remaining. If you really love orange flavoring, substitute for all water.)
3) Fill liners and bake for 18 to 22 minutes.

Orange Zest Frosting Recipe:2 to 3 tbsp of orange zest
3 tbsp butter, at room temp
1/4 cup milk
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1) Cream together butter and orange zest.
2) Beat in milk, sugar and vanilla. If needed, add more sugar to thicken.
3) Frost cupcakes and serve.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happy Anniversary to ME!!!

I am so excited to say it is my ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY of Stirring Up A Dream!!!! To make my celebration even more exciting, today also marks my 100 post!! These are two huge feats for me.

If you asked me 1 year ago today where this blog would be I wouldn't
have had a concrete answer. My original reason for starting this was to cook outside the box, literally! (By box, I meant pasta box.) I knew the idea of the blog would stick for a while, but like most things, I assumed this would fall to the wayside. Well, here I am! 1 year and 100 posts in. I've had some amazing dishes and some pretty funny failures, but each and every new dish has made me a better cook. It's made me more aware of what you can do with a little butter here or heavy cream there. Things I never knew how to do a year ago have become second nature to me. It's such an incredible feeling for me. Every time I try out a new dish, I expand my horizons and cannot wait to continue to do so. I'd love to take a look back at my top ten favorite dishes...which by the way have been so hard to pick since EVERY time I make something, that becomes my new fave.

Before I can share my favorites with you, I want to take a moment to remember some of the best blunders. How about the time
my Chicken Adobo recipe called for 15 cloves of garlic, and stupid me bought 15 HEADS because I didn't know the difference. Ooops! That garlic sure lasted a long time. Then there were the infamous shallots! For over 6 months, I thought shallots and scallions were the same thing! Not so much! And after trying the REAL shallots, I fell in love and cook with them all the time. There were countless overcooked steaks, and one steak relish that caught my pan on fire, my overly BBQ'd blue cheese burgers and most recently my fried rice, gone rice crispies. I'm sure there will be many more to come in the next year, so be sure to check back.

Anyway... on to the best!

10) Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

9) Chicken Cordon Blue - Italian Style

8) Tortellini with Peas and Pancetta

7) Spicy Corn, Mac & Cheese Hot Dog

6) S'more's Bars

5) Greek Turkey Meatballs

4) Scallops in Shallot Wine Sauce

3) Caramel S'more Brownies

2) Baked Potato Soup

1) Honey-Mustard Chicken with Apples


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cooking Party #3: Chicken Marsala

Emily and I were well over due for our second cooking party together, so we met up last Thursday with one thing on our mind: DINNER! I was stuck in work later than expected so we picked a recipe that would be somewhat quick to make, but equally delicious. Emily had Cookbook packed full of great options so we settled on Chicken Marsala.

This dish is always available on almost any Italian restaurant you go to, but oddly enough I've never tried it so I couldn't wait. And to top it off, Emily and I only had to buy a few ingredients so this meal was very budget friendly.

I have only have one complaint about this was so good that we were both so full after that we felt sick!!

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1.5 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp veggie oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp shallots, finely chopped
3/4 lbs white button mushrooms
1/2 cup dry marsala
1/2 cup chicken stock

1) Season the chicken with salt and pepper then dredge chicken in flour, shaking access off.
2) In a large frying pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts and cook, turning once, until lightly brown on both sides and barely firm when pressed in center, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to plate and cover to keep warm.
3) In the same pan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add sliced fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 6 minutes. Stir in shallots and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add Marsala and raise heat to medium-high and boil for 30 seconds. Add stock and return to boil.
4) Return the chicken to pan and turn to coat chicken with the sauce. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sauce is thickened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with rice or potatoes.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Last weekend, my boyfriend and I took a trip to Philadelphia to enjoy the city before the cold weather hits us. I heard about Reading Terminal Market from watching Throw Down with Bobby Flay on FN. I was interested to see what this market was and once we arrived, I could not believe my eyes! Isle after isle of food shops ranging from cheese markets to fish mongers, delis to bakeries and so much more.

I was in
heaven!!! I literally walked from shop to shop snapping photos as I went. For those of you not in the Philly area, check out how cool this place is! And if you live near by, you have to go see it yourself. You could spend the entire day in their eating and sampling the local foodie hot spots.

Our first stop was Hershsel's Eastside Deli, where we shared a corned beef sandwich. It was delicious!

Next up, Naturally...I went to find myself a cupcake and ended up at The Flying Monkey. I had a mocha latte cupcake, filled with mocha frosting, topped with powdered espresso. Amazing!!!

Now on to the rest...

Bobby's Throw Down contestant: Delilah's!

Monday, October 4, 2010

(un) Garlic Ginger Chicken Thighs

I've been on a cooking kick lately and chicken has been the main course. Like I've mentioned A LOT lately, The October issue of Food Network Mag is amazing! If you haven't picked it up yet, you should.

Once section of the mag contained Guy Fieri's 10 Tailgating Rules (and recipes), one of them being Dirty P's Garlic-Ginger Chicken Thighs. Sounds good, right? But how does one prepare such a dish for a tailgate? Guy's tip: marinate over night so all you have to do is unpack and cook the meat at the tailgate.

I don't do much tailgating myself, but thought this would be a perfect work-night dinner. It's quick and packed full of flavor. If you paid any attention to my title of this, you might be asking yourself "Why did she name this (un) Ginger chicken?" Well.... to be honest, the recipe called for it, and it was the only ingredient I didn't have at home and was so lazy and tired from work that day, so I skipped that part. Oops! I don't think missing the ginger did anything to ruin the dish, but I bet the flavor would have been even better if I had used it. Oh well.. next time. ;)

2 pounds skin-on, boneless chicken thigh (I used bone-on thighs, they came out just fine.)
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp minced peeled ginger (or not, in my case)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup fresh tangerine or orange juice (fresh?? Not so much...try Tropicana)
Ground Pepper
Vegetable Oil, for the grill

Guy's Directions: (If cooking by grill)
1) Combine chicken, onion, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, juice and 1 tsp of pepper in a large resealable plastic bag. Seal and shake to coat the chicken with marinade. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or overnight.
2) Preheat a grill to medium high and oil the grate. Grill the chicken skin-side down until marked, 5 to 6 minutes. Flip and continue to grill until cooked through, about 5 more minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

My Directions: (cooked at home via oven)
1) Combine chicken, onion, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, juice and 1 tsp of pepper in a large resealable plastic bag. Seal and shake to coat the chicken with marinade. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or overnight.
2) Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil to an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Cook skin-side down for about 6 minutes. Flip and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Place skillet into the oven and cook 15 to 20 minutes, until cooked through. Remove, let cool, then serve over rice or potatoes. (In my case, overly fried was like eating fried rice crispies. Better luck next time on that.) ;)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Breakfast Cupcakes

My friend's Lauren and Megan both have birthdays just days apart and I couldn't let the occasion go by without baking for them. Lauren's party was during the work-week so I waited until Meg's party to whip something up I searched high and low for morning-friendly cupcakes, since we were meeting for brunch to start the celebration and found a great recipe for Strawberry Filled Oatmeal Cupcakes.

Cupcakes for breakfast sold me immediately! And after baking them, I was hooked. I ate mine right out of the oven and couldn't get over how great the warm oatmeal cupcake tasted with strawberry filling oozing out. The recipe calls for a touch of cinnamon and that just topped it off!

These would be great not only for breakfast gatherings, but also if you were hosting a shower or girls night. They definitely don't leave you feeling stuffed like many rich, chocolately cakes do. Plus, who doesn't love a filled cupcake? Look at how amazing these look when split open!

Cupcake Recipe: Makes 12
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup rolled oats (I used Quaker instant)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temp
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
12 tsp strawberry jelly

Oatmeal Crunch Topping Recipe:
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tbsp (heaping) all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into little pieces

1) Put all of the topping ingredients in a food processor and proccess until lumps form. Set aside. (I used a mini worked great.)
2) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3) Mix dry ingredients together and set aside.4) In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Alternately add dry ingredients and sour cream, blending well after each addition.
5) Spoon half the batter into 12 cupcake papers. Make an indentation and place 1 tsp of jelly in each cupcake. Fill cupcakes with remaining batter. Using your fingers, sprinkle a little topping over each cupcake. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until cupcakes are golden brown on top. Remove from oven and cool.

While baking, some of my cupcakes had large divots from the strawberry filling dropping, but they still tasted amazing!