Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Family Holiday Favorite

I love holidays and I make a big deal out of all of them, especially Christmas. My favorite part of Christmas is finding fun things to give to my family members but my second favorite is, of course, the food! Christmas is probably my best excuse to make boatloads of cookies, fudge, and other holiday treats. When I have the time, I go through flour and sugar like I do oxygen. So the natural Christmas related post from me would probably be some sort of gingerbread cookie (my favorites) or other baked good, but my family spent the week before Christmas in Orlando and I lost pretty much every opportunity to make Christmas cookies.

This year, however, I took charge of Christmas dinner and have a recipe I'm really excited to share. I came across this recipe last year when planning on Thanksgiving meal and it has quickly become a family favorite. I don't remember where I found this recipe for butternut squash stuffing so I wrote out the recipe with a few of my own notes :)

Butternut Squash Stuffing:
12 cup(s) (from 1-pound loaf) sourdough bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

-Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Divide bread between two 15 1/2" by 10 1/2" jelly-roll pans or large cookie sheets. Place pans on 2 oven racks and toast bread 30 to 35 minutes or until golden, stirring bread and rotating pans between upper and lower racks halfway through toasting. Cool bread in pans on wire racks.
*I don't follow this part of the recipe very closely. I'm a big fan of whole grain/wheat bread so I usually just pick whatever crusty, nutty loaf looks the best that day and usually end up using the whole thing. I usually throw all the bread cubes in one pan and let them cool in that.


8 ounce(s) bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
-Meanwhile, in nonstick 12-inch skillet, cook bacon over medium heat 15 to 20 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. With slotted spoon, transfer bacon to very large bowl.
*I don't usually use quite this much bacon, but I also don't measure my bread cubes either... now would probably be a good time to admit I really don't measure anything in this recipe. I use a whole butternut squash without weighing it (see below). I like an equal amount of squash and bread and prefer my stuffing drier, so I guesstimate measurements to turn out that way :)


1 (2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1⁄2-inch chunks
3 stalk(s) celery, chopped

8 ounce(s) (about 4 large) shallots, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

2 tablespoon(s) chopped fresh sage leaves

Salt and ground black pepper

3 cup(s) chicken broth

-Remove all but 3 tablespoons bacon fat from skillet. Add butternut squash, celery, and shallots, and cook over medium-high heat 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender and shallots are lightly browned, stirring frequently. Remove skillet from heat; stir in sage, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
-To bowl with bacon, add bread and broth; toss to mix well. Add vegetable mixture and toss.

-Use squash mixture to stuff 12- to 16-pound turkey, or spoon into greased 13" by 9" glass baking dish. Cover baking dish with foil and bake stuffing in preheated 325 degrees F. oven 20 minutes. Remove foil and stir stuffing. Bake 25 minutes longer or until heated through and lightly browned on top.
*My family has never used the stuffing to actually stuff a turkey, but I'm guessing it would be delicious that way, too!


I swear this is the PERFECT holiday side dish, but it doesn't quite make a meal. My dad made a delicious turkey breast, Sally baked a big bowl of macaroni and cheese, and I threw together a couple more sides:

Fresh green beans sauteed with shallots and slivered almonds

Spinach salad with sliced pears, dried cranberries, toasted walnuts,
and goat cheese, tossed in champagne viangrette

Happy holidays :)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Banana Split Cupcakes

I told myself I would keep up with my cooking blog during the fall semester after neglecting to write more than a few posts over the past year, but with barely any time to cook I unfortunately didn't have time to write either. I've spent the past couple months living off 10 minute meals when I could make it home for dinner and Jimmy John's when I couldn't. Although I could write about a few of the dishes I created to survive the first semester of my Junior Year I'm more interested in showing you some of the recipes I'm making time for now that I-Core is finally over. I have big plans for the rest of winter break, but this first recipe is something I've been dying to try: Banana Split Cupcakes.

A couple years ago I made a Banana Split layer cake for my birthday and it was amazing. Banana-pineapple cake layered with chocolate ganache, chopped strawberries, and heaps of homemade whipped cream... probably one of the prettiest cakes I've made. I loved the recipe (which you can find here: and figured making a cupcake version would be pretty easy. I spent nearly 5 hours baking and assembling two dozen cupcakes, but now that I have time for things like this it was SO WORTH IT.


The base for the cupcake is a banana and pineapple batter. Some people like super light cupcakes, but I've always preferred a somewhat denser cake and the texture of this cake is pretty much perfect.


The next step is a chocolate ganache, a mixture of melted chocolate and heavy whipping cream. It's hard to believe, but it gets better still.


Because the original version of this cake layers all the ingredients I was kind of making this up as I went. I decided to core each cupcake and pipe in as much ganache as I could fit, but I'm sure there are other ways to put these together.


The recipe calls for fresh strawberries but, figuring strawberries weren't going to be very great this time of year, I bought frozen ones instead. I wouldn't recommend doing so. The strawberries are a really great addition, especially since they keep the recipe truer to a "banana split," but frozen ones were hard to work with. I managed to get a layer of sliced strawberries on half of my cupcakes before I gave up and started frosting them without.

The homemade whipped cream frosting is my favorite part of this recipe. Absolutely delicious. I'm not a huge whipped cream fan, but made-from-scratch whipped cream is incredibly more delicious than the canned version. My roomie and I were eating the leftovers straight out of the piping bag.

Banana Split Cupcakes

I added sprinkles to add to the sundae idea (and cover up my somewhat shoddy piping job), but these are even better yet with a bright red maraschino cherry on top.

Banana Split Cupcakes

I recommend attacking these with a fork... but no matter how you want to eat them these are delicious, I promise!