Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Buttercream

Is anyone as excited for the Holidays as I am? We had a great visit with Jon’s family over Thanksgiving, and now I’m looking forward to getting the house decorated this week – and ready for Christmas! We’ll be going to get our tree this weekend, *squee*.

I couldn’t help but kick-start my excitement a few weeks ago when I was asked to develop a recipe for Eggland’s Best to celebrate holiday baking. Did you know that their eggs contain 25% less saturated fat than other supermarket eggs? Or that they are typically to the supermarket within 72 hours of laying? Impressive.

Anyways, the cupcakes. I used my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe, which is as moist and chocolaty as it gets. Then I topped it with a delicious peppermint buttercream frosting, and garnished with pieces of broked up peppermint candies. They were nothing short of incredible! I loved the crunch of the candies with the smooth frosting. And they were so pretty to look at!

So if you’re looking for something to get you in the kitchen, and holiday baking underway before the cookie exchanges and whatnot start up – make these cupcakes. They’re fun and festive, and sure to please!

Eggland’s Best has also graciously offered to host a giveaway for our readers! I have a $25 Visa gift card and a coupon for 1 dozen free eggs for one lucky reader. What a great way to get started on your baking! To enter just leave a comment telling us your favorite holiday baking memory. Contest ends at 12/7/14 at 11:59 PM. A winner will be chosen by random number generator and announced on December 8th. US residents only, please.

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Congratulations to Carla, who had Comment #23! Thanks to everyone who entered.

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by the good folks at Eggland’s Best, and as always all thoughts are my own.

Sweet Potato Pie

Have you guys ever had sweet potato pie? It’s pumpkin pie’s “Black Sheep” cousin. It sounds kind of weird in theroy, but upon first bite you discover it’s absolute deliciousness. A little bit lighter and less filling than pumpkin pie, but still just as festive for Fall.

We grow lots of sweet potatoes here on Virginia’s Eastern Shore – most notable, a white-fleshed sweet potato variety called Haymans. You rarely find them off of the Eastern Shore because they’re in such high demand with the locals. I still haven’t been able to get my hands on any this year…I’m hoping to track some down before next week for Thanksgiving, so keep your fingers crossed for me!

If you’re worried it might take more time and effort than a pumpkin pie, don’t be – it’s just as easy, with an even shorter ingredient list. It’s one of those recipes that the little ones like to help make too! Plenty of stirring and whisking involved. It may seem strange that there’s no brown sugar or nutmeg – but just go with the lemon extract. It adds such a bright note to the sweet potato, and really makes it sing.

So, if you’re looking for a new dessert that’s still traditional – you’ve found it. The perfect addition to your holiday Thanksgiving table that everyone is sure to enjoy! Have a great weekend, everyone.

Source: Mrs. JoSue

Baklava

Happy National Baklava Day! If there ever was a dessert worthy of it’s own day, I’d say baklava was it. I’d never had the pleasure of trying it before moving here to the Eastern Shore. I’ve made mention before how our little island has quite a few Greek families that live and operate restaurants here. Jon worked in one of them growing up  (Famous Pizza for you locals), so baklava was a favorite for him at a young age. He introduced it to me, and it quickly became one of my favorite as well!

Tender, crunchy, golden brown layers of phyllo dough encasing layers of finely chopped spiced nuts and brown sugar, all enrobed in honey. It’s pretty much as close as one can get to perfection in a baking dish. I can’t believe it took me this long to get around to making it in my kitchen. I was afraid it would be super time consuming or tedious, neither of which it was. Took all of about 15 minutes to assemble, and the results were in-sane…

I used a mixture of the traditional walnuts and pistachios for a little depth of flavor. I also added a few slices of lemon to the honey syrup. Jon said he remembered Rula (the owner) putting lemon in her syrup when she made baklava at the pizza shop, and thought that sounded like a great touch.

I actually need to make another batch soon, the poor folks at Jon’s work didn’t even get to enjoy any! That’s how we know something is really good, when leftovers don’t make it into the office. If you’ve never made baklava, or worse – never even tried it, do yourself a favor and make this soon!

Source: adapted from TheKitchn and Famous Pizza on Chincoteague Island, VA.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Did you guys know that such a wonderful thing even existed? They do indeed, and they’re as wonderful as you’d imagine. They are pretty much a food group here on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, and it is where I was first introduced to them. After years of enjoying them, I thought it was high time I passed the recipe along to you guys!

It’s your basic biscuit dough with the usual suspects – flour, buttermilk, flour. But then you invite some pureed, roasted sweet potatoes to the party. It adds great flavor and color, and also some additional moisture. Which is always welcome in a biscuit!

They aren’t quite as fluffy as your standard buttermilk biscuit, just because the addition of the sweet potato adds some density too… but, what they lack for in fluffiness they more than make up for in deliciousness.

I like to serve them with a bowl of soup, or just plain with some jam or pumpkin butter. But, our favorite way to enjoy them is sandwiching a few pieces of ham. Very thinly sliced country ham is a treat, but more often than not it’s just plain deli ham. It makes for one delicious and easy meal – for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

Source: adapted from The Lee Bros Southern Cookbook and Food & Wine, Nov 2013