I just finished my easiest holiday shopping ever.
What makes it so easy you ask? Melina’s olive oil gift sets for all of our loved ones this year! No matter the level of culinary expertise, these little four packs of flavored olive oils are sure to please. I distinctly remember the first time I tasted real olive oil. I was in Italy in college and it was my first night, in a plaza in Milan. The complexity of the flavors and the, well goodness, of it is something I’ll never forget. I definitely have Italy flashbacks when I have Melina’s olive oil. I’m so excited to share that experience this holiday season!
I’m in love with Melina’s Pepperino chili pepper, garlic & rosemary infused olive oil. Pat and I have been using it like crazy! I finally had a weekend off after two straight weeks in the hospital and we celebrated by having a lazy morning at home, complete with breakfast. We made this spicy goat cheese and sweet potato egg skillet and elevated it a notch with a splash of Pepperino olive oil. I’ve been using it instead of my normal olive oil whenever I get a chance. It has the perfect amount of heat without that in-your-face sensation that adding hot sauce gives.
- ½ tsp Melina’s Pepperino olive oil
- ½ small onion, diced
- 1 T. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. turmeric
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ⅓ c. water
- 1 sweet potato, in ½” cubes
- Handful of cremini mushrooms
- 2 eggs
- 2 ounces goat cheese
- Cilantro to garnish
- In a large skillet, heat pepperino olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, 4-5 minutes.
- Stir in paprika and turmeric and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in water.
- Stir in sweet potatoes, over with lid and let cook about 4 minutes.
- Add mushrooms. Cook covered until sweet potatoes are almost tender.
- Make a small well in the center and crack eggs. Sprinkle goat cheese on top. Cover and cook until egg whites are set.
Melina’s Gourmet Giveaway
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Are you sick of pumpkin yet? Almost every food blog I follow has featured at least one pumpkin or pumpkin spice recipe this season. I’ve come close, but not quite, with my sweet potato cupcakes.
Before you declare that pumpkin has jumped the shark, try this amazing recipe for baked pumpkin doughnuts. I recently took them to a party and at least three people made a comment about fried doughnuts and how good they are. These puppies are so good that they don’t need to be dunked in hot oil. Ok, so they are still dipped in butter – you win some, you lose some…
I’m currently smack dab in the middle of an 18 day stretch without a day off. Residency sometimes feels like a party, in that I’m constantly surrounded by amazing people who are quickly becoming my closest friends. Still, it’s a party that can last 80 hours a week and I’m definitely looking forward to my weekend off! These doughnuts, made on my last day off, helped to ease my suffering. The nice thing about them is that they keep nicely in the freezer once baked. You can unthaw them, then sugar them and have pumpkin doughnuts on demand!
- 6 T. neutral oil, like canola or vegetable
- 4 T. unsalted butter, melted
- ⅓ c. buttermilk
- 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
- ¾ c. dark brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3 c. flour
- 2½ tsp. baking powder
- ¼ tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. coarse salt
- 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- ½ c. butter, melted
- 2 tsp. cinnamon mixed with ½ c. sugar
- In a large bowl, whisk the oil, butter, buttermilk, pumpkin, and brown sugar. Beat in the eggs.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Add to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
- Spoon the batter into a piping bag or a ziplock bag with one corder snipped off. 4. Squeeze the batter into prepared doughnut pans sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Fill about ¾ full.
- Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes and then remove onto a cooling rack.
- Once cool to touch, dip both sides of each doughnut in melted butter and then cinnamon-sugar mixture. I let them dry and then re-dip each doughnut in the cinnamon-sugar mixture for a more even coat!
- Doughnuts taste best eaten the same day. If you decide not to, keep the unsugared dougnuts in a ziplock bag in the freezer until use, up to two weeks. Let defrost on the counter about an hour before eating.
Oh boy do I have a treat for you today! I have been making pies for over twenty years (yes, since age 5) and I have just created and eaten the best pie ever. Today I’m going to share with you the recipe for Four & Twenty Blackbirds Salted Caramel Apple Pie. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, which is being released today. It is being released by Emily Elsen & Melissa Elsen, the sisters and owners of the famous New York pie shop by the same name.
The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book contains over sixty pie recipes organized by season – which I thought was great. My usual version of making a “seasonal pie” is grabbing a bag of blueberries from the freezer that I have tucked away from the summer. This book is full of unique pies that I can’t wait to try, like wild ginger strawberry and paprika peach. Each pie has its own beautiful photo taken by Gentl & Hyer, two of the best food photographers in the country. I took away so much inspiration in all of the photos and pretty crust designs – I just couldn’t put it down!
As soon as the book arrived, I flipped to the fall section and the Salted Caramel Apple Pie recipe caught my eye. This is one of the most famous recipes that Four & Twenty Blackbirds has created and is currently rated one of the top 20 pies in America by Travel & Leisure. I just knew I had to try it for myself. The result was incredible – mouthwatering with a perfectly sweet and flaky all butter pie crust topped with raw sugar and sea salt and filled with crisp and sweet apples and homemade caramel sauce. The recipe leaves a little caramel sauce left over, which is the perfect addition to a sundae – or just eaten by the spoonful (guilty).
One of the most important components of a pie is the crust – duh! I’ve done and had them all – the lard pie crust, the lard and butter pie crust, the vodka pie crust, and this one tops them all. I tell you, I have seen the light. The all butter pie crust from the pie book topped them all. I also love that the crust recipe calls for a pastry cutter, not a fancy food processor or any other gadgets. It’s been a while since I used my pastry cutter and it was nice to do it the old fashioned way!
Pat and I made quick work of the pie – between the two of us, it only lasted two days! It would have been one, but I made Pat wait until I had taken photos to dig in. For this pie, I used my new favorite eating and cooking apple – the Sweetango, which is the prettier and sweeter sister of the Honeycrisp apple. I was really impressed with how well they held up in the pie and will definitely be heading to the grocery store to buy another bag before they go out of season.
Salted Caramel Apple Pie with All-Butter Pie Crust
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ pounds (1 stick) unsalted butter
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 lemons
- 6 to 7 baking apples (about 2½ pounds)
- 2 to 3 dashes Angostura bitters
- ⅓ cup raw sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- One grind fresh black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon flake sea salt, plus more for finishing
- Egg wash (1 large egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water and a pinch of salt)
- Demerara sugar, for finishing
- For the All-Butter Crust Double-Crust Pie
- 2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- ½ pounds (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 cup cold water
- ¼ cup cider vinegar
- 1 cup ice
- Have ready and refrigerated one pastry-lined 9-inch pie pan and lattice strips to top (see below).
- Whisk together 1 cup of the granulated sugar and the water in a medium saucepan, and cook over medium-low heat until the sugar is just dissolved. Add the butter and bring to a slow boil. Continue cooking over medium heat until the mixture turns a deep golden brown, almost copper. Remove from the heat and immediately but slowly add the heavy cream – be careful, the mixture will bubble rapidly and steam. Whisk the final mixture together well and set aside to cool while you prepare the apple filling.
- Juice the lemons into a large mixing bowl, removing any seeds. Prepare the apples using an apple-peeling machine, or core, peel, and thinly slice them with a sharp knife or mandoline. Dredge the apple slices in the lemon juice. Sprinkle lightly with the remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Set aside to soften slightly and release some of the juices, 20 to 30 minutes.
- In a small bowl, sprinkle the Angostura bitters over the raw sugar. Add the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, black pepper, kosher salt, and flour, and mix well. Add the prepared apples to the sugar-spice mixture, leaving behind any excess liquids. Gently turn the apples to evenly distribute the spice mix.
- Tightly layer the apples in the prepared pie shell so that there are minimal gaps, mounding the apples slightly higher in the center. Pour a generous ½ cup to ¾ cup of the caramel sauce evenly over the apples (use the larger quantity of sauce if you’d like a sweeter pie). Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of the flake sea salt. Assemble the lattice on top of the pie and crimp the edges as desired.
- Chill the pie in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to set the pastry. Meanwhile, position the oven racks in the bottom and center positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack, and preheat the oven to 400F.
- Brush the pastry with the egg wash to coat, being careful not to drag the caramel onto the pastry (it will burn), and sprinkle with the desired amount of demerara sugar and flake sea salt. Place the pie on the rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pastry is set and beginning to brown. Lower the oven temperature to 375F, move the pie to the center oven rack, and continue to bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes longer. Test the apples for doneness with a skewer or sharp knife; they should be tender and should offer just the slightest resistance.
- Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
- The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days.
- For the All Butter Pie Crust
- Stir the flour, salt and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a bench scraper or spatula. With a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to overblend).
- Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup or small bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix and cut it in with a bench scraper or spatula until it is fuly incorporated. Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, using the bench scraper or your hands (or both) to mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining. Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine. Share the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow. If making the double-crust version, divide the dough in half before shaping each portion into flat discs.
- Wrapped tightly, the dough can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 1 month.
Ok, so enough gushing. I give this cookbook my highest recommendation, but you don’t have to take my word for it. The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book is available today and one lucky Running Blonde reader is going to win a copy!
Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book Giveaway
Please use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway:
My brain is so confused right now. Having recently transplanted myself from Wisconsin to San Francisco, the fact that the weather here has been consistently in the high sixties and even low seventies recently is blowing.my.mind. It’s late October and I’m still running in shorts! There does seem to be a chill in the air that has recently developed and Karl the Fog seems to be back in town, but it’s still much warmer than I’m used to. One of my friends recently Instagrammed a photo of frost and it snapped me back to reality – it’s truly autumn!
I think the thing I miss the most is the fall color – like the ones featured so beautifully in our engagement photos. In the words of a friend, ‘the leaves do change here – that palm tree outside my house wilted last week’. Even though we don’t have the fall leaves, I can still enjoy one of my favorite items of fall produce – the sweet potato. When I saw a recipe for Autumn Delight Cake on Sweetapolita, I was intrigued by the idea of baking a cake out of sweet potatoes! Her cake is truly a work of art and I knew nothing I could do would even become close. To make things a bit easier, I turned Rosie’s recipe into cupcakes! These lovelies are stuffed with toasted marshmallow buttercream and topped with the homemade marshmallow frosting from my S’mores cupcakes - and don’t forget the candied pecans to seal the deal!
Tip :: To make easy stuffed cupcakes, use an apple corer to gently twist out a section from the top of your unfrosted cupcake.
Makes ~2 Dozen Cupcakes
- Sweet Potato Cupcakes
- 3 large sweet potatoes (about 900 g)
- 2 c. (400 g) sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temp
- 1-1/4 cups (315 ml) canola oil (or other neutral oil like vegetable, safflower, or sunflower)
- 2 c. (230 g) cake flour
- 1 T. (7 g) ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp. (8 g) baking powder
- 1 tsp. (7 g) salt
- 1 tsp. (3 g) ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp. (1.5 g) ground ginger
- 2 T. (30 ml) brandy or dark rum
- 2 tsp. (10 ml) vanilla extract
- Toasted Marshmallow Buttercream
- 16 large white marshmallows
- 1 c. (125 g) powdered sugar (confectioners’ or powdered), sifted
- 1 c. butter (227 g)(2 sticks), at room temp
- ½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) pure vanilla extract
- 1 jar (213 g) marshmallow cream (such as Marshmallow Fluff)
- Homemade Marshmallow Frosting
- 8 egg whites
- 2 c. sugar
- ½ tsp. cream of tartar
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 T. (28 g) unsalted butter
- 2 T. (24 g) brown sugar
- 1 c. (100 g) pecan pieces
- To make the cupcakes:
- Place the sweet potatoes on a microwave-safe plate and pierce each a few times with a fork. Microwave until they are pierced easily by a fork, flipping once (~7-8 minutes per side). When they are cool enough to touch, remove the skins and mash the flesh with a fork until they are in a rough puree.
- Using a paddle attachment, beat the sugar and eggs on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the oil and beat on medium until combined. Add the sweet potato puree and mix until combined.
- Combine dry ingredients (cake flour through ginger) and sift, then add to sweet potato mixture.
- Add the alcohol of your choice (brandy or dark rum) and vanilla.
- Scoop the batter into a muffin tin filled with cupcake liners. Bake at 350F for 17-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. I got about 2 dozen cupcakes. Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack.
- To make the toasted marshmallow buttercream:
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Place marshmallows on the sheet and broil marshmallows until toasted and brown on top, about 30-60 seconds. Keep an eye on them as they go from toasted to burned very quickly!
- Combine the butter and icing sugar in a bowl and mix with paddle attachment for about 1 minute. Add vanilla, increase speed to medium-high and blend for 3 minutes.
- Add the marshmallow cream and toasted marshmallows and mix on low for 1 minute.
- To make the Marshmallow Frosting
- Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. Set over a saucepan filled with simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Use immediately.
- To make the Candied Pecans:
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the brown sugar and pecans and toss to coat. Cook on medium low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Turn out onto parchment paper or aluminum foil and let cool.
- To Assemble the Autumn Delight Cupcakes
- Use an apple corer to gently twist out the center of each cupcake. Fill each with a tiny spoonful of Toasted Marshmallow Buttercream.
- Pipe the marshmallow frosting onto each cupcake. I used a #1A large round frosting tip.
- Sprinkle each cupcake with a few candied pecan pieces.
- Using a kitchen torch, lightly toast each cupcake until golden brown.
Have you heard of Cook’s Illustrated? They are my go-to recipe source when I want exceptional results and delicious recipes. Cook’s Illustrated is the brainchild of a bunch of science nerds who love to cook – just like me. They perfect basic recipes – like pie crust or Thanksgiving turkey – through countless recipe “experiments” until they have the ultimate of whatever dish you’re looking for. They come up with innovative techniques to fix a typical recipe flaw – like with this recipe for vegetarian lasagna. Typical vegetarian lasagna has a variety of issues, from soggy veggies to goopy ricotta. This recipe of theirs fixes that, by precooking the veggies and replacing ricotta with tangy cottage cheese.
I don’t normally share Cook’s Illustrated recipes on the blog, as it is a paid subscription service. I’m making an exception with this post to share one of my favorite recipes for their vegetarian lasagna because I want to spread the word about this awesome resource for chefs of all experience levels! I am absolutely not affiliated with Cook’s Illustrated in any way – other than being their biggest fan! Check it out here.
- No-Cook Tomato Sauce
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- ¼ c. chopped fresh basil
- 2 T. olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
- No-Cook Cream Sauce
- 2 c. (4 oz.) grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 c. cottage cheese
- 1 c. heavy cream
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp. cornstarch
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- ½ tsp. pepper
- Vegetable Filling
- 1½ lb. eggplant, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes (about 7 c.)
- ¼ tsp. kosher salt
- ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 pound zucchini, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 4 c.)
- 1 pound yellow squash, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 4 c.)
- 5 T. plus 1 tsp olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 T. minced fresh thyme
- 12 oz. baby spinach (about 12 c.)
- 12 no-boil lasagna noodles
- ½ c. minced pitted kalamata olives
- 12 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese (about 3 c.)
- 2 T. chopped fresh basil
- Make the No-Cook Tomato Sauce: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl; set aside.
- Make the No-Cook Cream Sauce: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl; set aside.
- Make the Lasagna Filling: Toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Line surface of large plate with double layer of coffee filters or paper towels and lightly spray with vegetable oil spray.
- Spread eggplant in even layer over filters. Wipe out and reserve now-empty bowl. Microwave eggplant, uncovered, until dry to touch and slightly shriveled, about 10 minutes, tossing once halfway through to ensure that eggplant cooks evenly. Let cool slightly.
- Return eggplant to bowl and toss with zucchini and squash.
- Combine 1 T. oil, garlic, and thyme in small bowl. Heat 2 T. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.
- Add half eggplant mixture, salt and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Push vegetables to sides of skillet; add half of garlic mixture to clearing and cook, mashing with spatula, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir to combine garlic mixture with vegetables and transfer to medium bowl. Repeat with remaining eggplant mixture, 2 tablespoons oil, and remaining garlic mixture.
- Return skillet to medium-high heat, add remaining teaspoon oil, and heat until shimmering. Add spinach and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Transfer spinach to paper towel–lined plate and drain 2 minutes. Stir into eggplant mixture.
- Spray 13 by 9-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in bottom of baking dish; shingle 4 noodles on top of sauce. Spread half of vegetable mixture over noodles, followed by half of olives, half of cream sauce, and 1 cup of mozzarella. Repeat layering with 4 noodles, 1 cup tomato sauce, remaining vegetables, remaining olives, remaining cream sauce, and 1 cup mozzarella. Place remaining 4 noodles on top layer of cheese. Spread remaining 1 cup tomato sauce over noodles and sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella.
- Lightly spray large sheet of aluminum foil with vegetable oil spray and cover lasagna. Bake for 35 minutes at 375F on the middle rack of your oven, until bubbling. Cool on wire rack 25 minutes. Cut into pieces, sprinkle with basil, and serve.
Is posting an ice cream recipe in October the blogging equivalent of wearing white pants after Labor Day? If so, I’m happy to break the rules. #SorryNotSorry
Here in San Francisco, we’re experiencing some of our best weather of the year, so I’ve been inspired to make and eat ice cream (let’s be serious, it doesn’t take much inspiration). Dulce de leche is basically carmel sauce being the best version of itself. It’s milk based and is practically a staple of the Argentine diet, which is where I first encountered it. There, it’s spread on toast, sandwiched between two cookies and eaten in snack packs. Buying dulce del leche in the store here can be expensive – if you are even able to find it. Luckily, there’s an easy way to make homemade dulce de leche sauce from a can of sweetened condensed milk. My favorite way is to use your oven, but you can also find recipes online that use the stovetop or microwave.
I’ve learned that despite how easy it is to make homemade dulce de leche, I’m best served by not keeping a jar handy. I just don’t have the willpower to keep myself from eating it by the spoonful. It’s my kryptonite. This recipe for dulce de leche ice cream is similar. I think this batch lasted all of two days in our house. I came home from work to Pat sitting on the couch looking guilty and the ice cream container sitting next to him – empty.
- 2-214 oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
- 1 c. heavy cream
- 2 c. whole milk
- ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
- Make your homemade dulce de leche: Empty the sweetened condensed milk cans into an oven safe baking dish like a pie pan. Cover tightly with foil. Place in a larger roasting or casserole pan and create a water bath by filling it with water about ¾ the way up the sides of your smaller dish. Bake at 425F for 1-2 hours, checking every 30 minutes to see if the water level needs to be refilled. It should be brown and caramel-colored when it is ready. The longer you let it cook, the thicker your dulce de leche. Whisk until smooth and let cool.
- Make the ice cream: Combine milk and cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
- Remove from heat and whisk in 1½ cups of the dulce de leche until dissolved. Whisk in vanilla and transfer to a mixing bowl. Chill in an ice bath by putting bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stirring occasionally until cold, about 20 minutes.
- Freeze mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions.
- Gently fold in the remaining dulce de leche leaving visible swirls. Transfer ice cream to a freezer-safe container and harden in the freezer at least 1 hour.