Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting

In the fall, my daughter would love to eat some sort of “pumpkin spice” item every day to celebrate the season. 😉 She loved these cupcakes!

These super moist cupcakes were delicious but it was the maple-cream cheese frosting that really put them over the top. The frosting was fabulously creamy with the perfect amount of sweetness.

The recipe was adapted from David Leite via smittenkitchen.com. I modified the method and used fine sea salt.

Yield: 18 cupcakes (with leftover frosting)

For the Cupcakes:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin

For the Frosting:

  • Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 4 T (1/4 cup) pure maple syrup
  • pinch fine sea salt

To Make the Cupcakes:

  1. Heat oven to 350° (175°C), preferably on convection. Line a cupcake pan with 18 liners.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each addition.
  5. Combine the buttermilk and vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup.
  6. Alternate adding the flour and buttermilk mixtures to the mixer, beginning and ending with the flour.
  7. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth.
  8. Scoop the batter among the cupcake liners — you’re looking to get them 3/4 full. (I used a cookie scoop.)
  9. Bake the cupcakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, rotating halfway through the baking time, about 19 to 20 minutes on convection or up to 20 to 25 minutes in a standard oven.
  10. Cool the cupcakes on racks completely before topping with the frosting.

To Make the Frosting:

  1. In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter to combine.
  2. Add all of the additional ingredients and continue to beat on medium speed until fluffy.
  3. Frost the tops of each cupcake, swirling decoratively. (I used a pastry bag and decorative piping tip.)
  4. Refrigerate cupcakes for 30 minutes to set up frosting prior to serving.

Eggplant, Tomato, & Chickpea Tagine

Lucky me! My friend gave be several beautiful eggplants from her garden. This flavorful North African vegetarian stew was a perfect way to use them. I served it over whole wheat couscous as well as with warm flatbread to soak up all of the delicious sauce.

The recipe was adapted from 177milkstreet.com. I modified the recipe to prepare it in my stove top pressure cooker. I also increased the amount of garlic, substituted my CSA beefsteak tomatoes for half of the grape tomatoes, and omitted the harissa. We ate it with steamed CSA broccolini on the side. It was healthy and hearty vegetarian feast.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 4 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 medium to large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups (1 pint) grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 large beefsteak tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (or substitute an additional 2 cups (1 pint) grape or cherry tomatoes)
  • 4 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 tsp Kosher salt, plus more
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more
  • 2 pounds eggplant, trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 of a lemon, plus lemon wedges to serve, if desired
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • harissa, for serving, optional (as a topping for a little spice)
  • whole wheat couscous, for serving (I cooked 1 cup of couscous per the package directions)
  • warm flatbread, for serving, optional (I served it with naan)
  1. In a stove top pressure cooker (or a 6-quart Instant Pot), sauté the oil and garlic over medium heat, stirring often, until golden brown, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. 
  2. Add the onion, tomatoes, ginger, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to release some of their juices, 2 to 4 minutes.
  3. Stir in 1/4 cup water, scraping up any browned bits. Gently stir in the eggplant, then distribute in an even layer.
  4. Lock the lid of the pressure cooker (or Instant Pot) in place. Over medium heat, bring to low pressure (first line on a stove top pressure cooker). Cook for 3 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, cook the couscous. Set aside.
  6. When pressure cooking is complete, quick-release the steam by moving the pressure valve to vent. Carefully open the pot.
  7. Gently stir in the chickpeas and lemon juice, then taste and season with salt and pepper.
  8. Stir in the cilantro.
  9. Serve over couscous garnished with additional cilantro, drizzled with additional oil (I omitted it) and with warm flatbread and lemon wedges on the side, as desired.

Caramelized Pork & Cucumber Stir-Fry

I have never cooked cucumbers before! The cucumber slices in this stir-fry were quickly sautéed until just crisp tender- great. I also loved the seasonings in the finished dish.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Christina Chaey. I used my largest skillet (14-inch) but would use a 12-inch next time. I don’t have a 14-inch splatter screen and I made quite a mess. :/ It was worth it.

Yield: Serves 3 to 4

  • 1 large English/European cucumber, peeled in alternating lengthwise strips, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, halves sliced crosswise on a diagonal 1/2-inch thick (I used a melon baller to remove the seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp Morton kosher salt (or 1 tsp Diamond Crystal), plus more
  • 2 T oyster sauce
  • 2 T soy sauce (I used Trader Joe’s light soy sauce)
  • 2 T Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine) or medium-dry sherry (I used dry sherry)
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 3 T grapeseed or vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 Fresno chile, halved, ribs and seeds removed, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1 one-inch piece ginger root, peeled, finely grated
  • 2 to 4 large garlic cloves, finely grated or pushed through a garlic press
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground white or black pepper
  • white rice, for serving (I used white Basmati rice)
  • minced cilantro, for garnish, optional
  1. Toss cucumber slices and kosher salt in a medium bowl to coat evenly. Let sit until cucumber slices start to release their liquid, about 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, stir oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sherry (or Shaoxing wine) in a small bowl to combine; set aside.
  3. Using your hands, form pork into six small patties. Season lightly with salt; set aside.
  4. Drain cucumber slices in a colander and rinse well under cool running water. Drain, shaking off any excess water, then pat dry with a kitchen towel.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet (12-inch) over medium-high. Cook cucumber slices, tossing vigorously, until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate.
  6. Wipe out skillet and heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high.
  7. Add reserved pork patties; gently flatten with a spatula. Cook, pressing occasionally to help meat make contact with pan, until deeply browned and crisp underneath, about 4 minutes.
  8. Flip patties; cook until other side is deeply browned and crisp, about 4 minutes.
  9. Break up pork into large pieces; continue to cook until no longer pink, about 1 minute.
  10. Add chile, ginger, garlic, and pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  11. Add cucumber back to skillet along with reserved sauce. Cook, tossing often, until sauce is reduced and evenly coats pork and cucumber slices, about 1 minute.
  12. Serve stir-fry over rice. Garnish with cilantro, if desired.

Chicken & Corn Stir-Fry

I have a couple more dishes featuring sweet summer corn to share. This quick stir-fry was perfect to serve after a busy day outside. After prepping the ingredients in advance, it was fully prepared in the time that it took for the rice to cook.

This recipe was (slightly) adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Chris Morocco. The original recipe notes that peppers, peas, mushrooms, or summer squash could be substituted for the fresh corn. Great!

Yield: Serves 4

  • 3 T oyster sauce
  • 1 T unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 4 to 5 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 1 lb), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 4 T vegetable oil, divided (I used canola oil)
  • 1/2 medium red onion, sliced
  • 4 to 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped (about 1 T)
  • 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper (or other mild chile flakes or paprika), or more, to taste
  • 3 ears of corn, kernels cut from cobs
  • cooked rice (I used white Basmati rice)
  • cilantro leaves with tender stems, for serving
  1. Stir together oyster sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Trim the chicken and cut into 1-inch pieces. Place in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Prep the red onion, garlic, ginger and corn. Set aside.
  4. Cook the rice using your preferred method.
  5. While the rice is cooking, season the chicken pieces with salt and sprinkle with cornstarch; toss lightly to coat.
  6. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large well-seasoned wok or nonstick skillet over medium-high. (I used a 14-inch stainless steel skillet.)
  7. Cook chicken, tossing occasionally, until golden brown and nearly cooked through, 6–8 minutes.
  8. Add red onion, garlic, ginger, Aleppo-style pepper, and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Cook, tossing, until vegetables are softened, about 2 minutes.
  9. Add corn kernels and cook, tossing often, until tender, about 3 minutes.
  10. Stir in reserved oyster sauce mixture and cook, tossing often, until reduced nearly to a glaze, about 2 minutes.
  11. Taste and season with salt if needed.
  12. Serve stir-fry with rice, topped with cilantro.

Ethiopian Chickpea Stew (Shiro Wat) & Stewed Collard Greens (Gomen Wat)

My sister introduced me to Ethiopian food many moons ago. Ever since, we have really enjoyed eating at Ethiopian restaurants but I have never prepared any dishes at home. After receiving collard greens and parsley in my CSA share, this seemed like a fitting menu to try. It could be served any time of year. For us, it was a perfect meal to serve on a rainy and cool June evening.

I loved the brightness that the grated ginger, lemon, and chopped fresh chile added to the tender, stewed collard greens after cooking. The chickpea stew recipe utilizes the genius technique of incorporating ground red lentils to thicken the base.

The recipes were adapted from 177milkstreet.com. I changed the proportions and decreased the heat intensity. I served it over rice with dollops of whole milk Greek yogurt to offset the spice. I also omitted the fresh chile garnish in the chickpea stew. In a restaurant, these dishes would be served with injera, Ethiopian flatbread.

Yield: Serves 4

For the Stewed Collard Greens (Gomen Wat):

  • 1 1/2 T ghee
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 T minced fresh ginger, divided
  • scant 1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 pound stemmed collard greens, cut into 1/2-inch ribbons and roughly chopped
  • 3/4 to 1 cup chicken, vegetable or beef stock, divided
  • 1/2 to 1 Fresno or serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the Berbere Spice Blend: (you will have a little extra)

  • 1 T smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 1 /2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • scant 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • heaping 1/4 tsp freshly ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil, ground or crushed into a powder
  • 1/8 tsp ground cumin

For the Chickpea Stew (Shiro Wat):

  • 2 T red lentils
  • 3 T ghee
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cups (1 pint) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 8 to 10 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 T minced or grated fresh ginger
  • 2 T Berbere Spice Blend (above)
  • 2 15.5-oz cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño or Fresno chile, stemmed and chopped, optional (I omitted it)
  • cooked rice, for serving, optional (I served both dishes over white Basmati rice)
  • whole milk Greek yogurt, for serving, optional
  • injera (flatbread), for serving, optional

To Make the Stewed Collard Greens:

  1. In a large pot over medium, melt the ghee. (I used an enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  2. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes. 
  3. Stir in the garlic, 1 tablespoon of grated ginger, the cardamom and turmeric. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 1 minute.
  4. Add about half of the collards and cook, stirring, until slightly wilted, then add the remaining collards.
  5. Stir the stock and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the collards are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. (I cooked it for 30 minutes.)
  6. Off heat, stir in the chopped chile, lemon juice and remaining 1/2 tablespoon ginger.
  7. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a serving dish.

To Make the Spice Blend:

  1. In a small bowl or jar, stir or shake together all ingredients until combined. The berbere will keep in an airtight container in a cool, dry spot for up to 2 months. (I used a recycled glass spice jar.)

To Make the Chickpea Stew:

  1. In a spice grinder, pulse the lentils until finely ground, about 10 pulses; set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan over medium, melt the ghee. (I used a low and wide enameled cast iron pot.)
  3. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic, ginger and berbere. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have given up their liquid and the mixture is beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
  5. Add the chickpeas, ground lentils, 2 cups water and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Boil over medium-high, then reduce to medium and cook at a simmer, uncovered and stirring often, until the sauce clings to the chickpeas and the desired thickness and consistency is achieved, about 15 to 20 minutes. (If serving over rice, cook the rice at this time.)
  6. Off heat, stir in the parsley and chili (if using).
  7. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  8. Serve the stewed collard greens and chickpea stew with injera or over rice topped with a dollop of yogurt, as desired.

Sheet-Pan Chicken Meatballs with Charred Broccoli

Red Lentil Soup with Warm Spices

I absolutely love red lentil soup. I have made several versions and I have always been pleased with the results. It’s easy, healthy, and delicious. This version was incredibly creamy. I loved the pop of color from the flavorful toppings too.

This recipe was adapted from America’s Test Kitchen. I modified the proportions. We ate it with a green salad and warm naan- a perfect light dinner. Vegetable stock can be substituted for the chicken stock for a vegetarian version.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

For the Soup:

  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped fine (I used a food processor)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch cayenne
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 cups chicken stock (I used 4 cups chicken stock & 4 cups homemade turkey stock)
  • 4 cups water
  • 21 ounces (3 cups) red lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 4 T (1/4 cup, about 1 lemon) freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus extra for seasoning

For the Topping:

  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • 3 tsp dried mint, crumbled (I omitted it)
  • tsp paprika
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

To Make the Soup:

  1. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and 2 teaspoons salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add coriander, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in tomato paste and garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Stir in broth, water, and lentils and bring to simmer. Simmer vigorously, stirring occasionally, until lentils are soft and about half are broken down, about 15 minutes.
  6. Whisk soup vigorously until it is coarsely pureed, about 30 seconds. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and extra lemon juice to taste. Cover and keep warm. (Soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Thin soup with water, if desired, when reheating.)

To Make the Topping:

  1. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in small skillet or in the microwave. (I only did 1/2 of the topping because I froze 1/2 of the soup!)
  2. Remove from heat and stir in mint and paprika, as desired.
  3. Ladle soup into individual bowls, drizzle each portion with spiced butter (about 1 teaspoon), sprinkle with cilantro, and serve.

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