Tag Archives: cupcakes

Pumpkin Cupcakes w/ Cream Cheese Frosting for Halloween!

29 Oct

Halloween… what a fun holiday! I love seeing all the cute trick-or-treating kids and derive endless entertainment from dressing my dogs in costumes. They tend to get a little depressed when they’re dressed up, but hey, I only do it once a year 😉

But my dogs weren’t the only ones dressed up. Last night I hosted a Halloween costume party for students in my grad program. I went as Joan Holloway from Mad Men. I mostly just wanted to buy a 50s dress, hehe 🙂 And you know I couldn’t be a 50s wife without baking a dessert for a party!

I made my favorite cupcakes in the world, which I adapted from a pumpkin bar recipe by Paula Deen. And here’s a fact: mini cupcakes are at least 50 times better than regular sized cupcakes. Mini cupcakes have the best frosting to cake ratio, and are good when you need smaller snacks for parties.

The cupcakes are moist and have all the lovely cinnamon and nutmeg flavors of a pumpkin pie, and are paired perfectly with sweet creamy frosting on top. To make them halloweeny, I simply used decorative cupcake liners, added some green food coloring to the frosting, and topped them with black and orange sprinkles. Pretty cute, eh?

Mini Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

(adapted from pumpkin bars recipe by Paula Deen)


For the cupcakes-

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 15-ounce can pumpkin
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

For the frosting-

  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line mini cupcake pans with cupcake liners.
  • Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy.
  • Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt ,and baking soda.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth.
  • Fill each cupcake liner about 3/4 full.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool completely before frosting.
  • To make the frosting: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled cupcakes.

Makes 72 mini cupcakes!


Grilled Panzanella Salad & Becoming BFFs with a Top Chef

4 Jul

Wow, it has been almost a month since I’ve posted. I’ve been doing a lot of travel in the past month, including a trip home to New York state (not the exciting part) for my sister’s high school graduation, and going to Columbus for a friend’s wedding. In between all of the travel, I’ve been super busy with my summer class, and my husband has been doing the grocery shopping, and we’ve slipped into a routine of eating a variation of the same seven meals each week. So boring! Well yesterday I finally did the grocery shopping myself and picked up some ingredients for a new recipe I’ve been meaning to try, Grilled Panzanella Salad. Minus the meat, of course (vegetarian alert).

But before I get to this delicious recipe, allow me to update you.

Let’s start with New York. My baby sister graduated from high school which was rather emotional for me, but I am so proud of her! She is a little genius. Think I can take credit for her brilliance because I always used to “play school” with her and teach her all of the material I was learning in school, even though I’m seven years older?? I like to think so 🙂

My mom and I spent nearly an entire day on cupcakes for my sister’s graduation party the following day. After baking and decorating 100 cupcakes, my delusions of someday opening a cupcake bakery have vanished. It was hard work! But the result was impressive, if I do say so myself.

Ghiradelli squares on top of Reese's peanut butter cups for caps, and pirouette cookies for diplomas

To add to the excitement of graduation day, one of my favorite celebrity chefs, Angelo Sosa from Top Chef D.C. and Top Chef All Stars, was in attendance!! Remember, I am not from the exciting part of New York, and my tiny hometown of approximately 6,000 is not used to anyone important being in our midst. But Angelo’s nephew was graduating with my sister, and I could not pass up the opportunity to meet one of my idols. So after the graduation, we had a wonderful conversation about Top Chef, food, my dad’s restaurant, and my life in Indiana! Hooray! Hopefully this means we are now BFFs.

Me and Angelo Sosa!! By the way, he is the most beautiful man I have ever seen in person. The pictures really don't do him justice.

But now I am back to my dull and school-filled life in Indiana. All the more reason to grill up something special for the holiday weekend.

As my luck would have it, about two minutes after I started grilling some lovely vegetables for the Grilled Panzanella Salad, my propane ran out 😦 But you know my motto, when life gives you lack of propane, make Grilled Panzanella Salad with a panini press. Or something like that. Using the panini press was less time-efficient, but the end result was a close enough approximation to what I could get on the grill.

The salad is lovely. Perhaps it’s not truly a panzanella salad because I omitted the salami, but I don’t think anyone would miss it. You get a delicious charred flavor on the vegetables, with soft cubes of grilled ciabatta bread to soak up all the lemon vinagrette. Top it with some fresh herbs, and you’ve got a bright, flavorful dish that would be a welcome addition to any cookout.

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend! Happy birthday, USA!

Vegetarian Grilled Panzanella Salad (adapted from recipe by Food Network Magazine)


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing and drizzling
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (from about half of a medium lemon)
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 medium tomatoes, halved
  • 6 scallions
  • 2 large bell peppers (any color), quartered
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 1 10-ounce loaf ciabatta or semolina bread, halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Dried (or fresh) basil, to taste (I used approximately 1 tbsp dried)
  • Freshly grated parmesan


  • Preheat a grill to medium high. Make the dressing: Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a bowl.
  • Brush the grill with olive oil. Put the tomatoes in a large bowl; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill cut-side down until slightly charred, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet.
  • Put the scallions, peppers and zucchini in the same bowl; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Brush the bread with olive oil.
  • Grill the bread and vegetables until charred, about 2 minutes per side for the bread and scallions and 4 minutes per side for the peppers and zucchini. Transfer to the baking sheet and let cool slightly.
  • Cut the scallions, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes and bread into bite-size pieces; transfer to the bowl. Add the herbs,  dressing and any juices from the baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and toss.
  • Top with parmesan cheese.

Makes 3-4 servings.