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.

Cranberry Orange MuffinsCranberry Orange Muffins are a great way to start out breakfast on Thanksgiving morning. Sweet, citrusy, and a little bit of crunch from the almonds – they’re wonderful for munching on during the parade.

Cranberry RelishAnd, while we’re on the topic of cranberries, a Homemade Cranberry Relish is a must-have on our Thanksgiving table. Cranberries, pecans, and fresh orange are comeI love using fresh cranberries while they are in season!

Roasted TurkeyThe bird. I like to brine mine the night before, then stuff with lots of citrus and herbs, and baste in a mixture of butter and hard cider. Haven’t had a dry bird in years!

Hard Cider GravyThis Hard Cider Gravy is pretty much perfection in a gravy boat. The hard cider adds a great depth of flavor that I don’t think is attained with wine. We love it!

Oyster StuffingOyster Stuffing is another must-have on any Eastern Shore Thanksgiving table. The oysters add a wonderful saltiness, complexity, and moisture to an otherwise bland dish!

Apricot Glazed Green BeansWe strive to have something green on the table, and these Apricot Glazed Green Beans are always my go-to choice. Plus, they include bacon – so what’s not to love?

Buttermilk-Chive Mashed PotatoesThese Buttermilk-Chive Mashed Potatoes are a jazzed-up version of a classic. Creamy and rich, who doesn’t love perfect mashed potatoes?

Sweet Potato BiscuitsSweet Potato Biscuits are another “must-have” item for Thanksgiving here on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. They’re a little bit denser than your traditional buttermilk biscuit, and they pair wonderfully with all the turkey and trimmings on the table! I’ve also got a great traditional dinner roll recipe too.

Pomegranate MargaritasAnd lastly, Pomegranate Margaritas. There’s nothing better than curling up with those you love after dinner, enjoying a cocktail, and watching some football on Thanksgiving evening.

I feel so fortunate to have all these wonderful boys to take care of, and a loving husband and father by my side. Not to mention the big move back to Chincoteague and being so close to family and friends again. Our family definitely has a lot to be thankful for this year!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Turkey Day, and take at least a moment out of your day to think about what we all have to be thankful for. Looking forward to getting the Holiday season kicked off in my kitchen. I have lots of delicious goodies to share with you guys in the coming month!

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

Chili con Carne

Chili is one of those dishes that everyone has their own special recipe for, which they swear by as being the best. Mine is no different! Meaty, spicy, and filling – it’s one of the things my boys most look forward to in the colder months. There’s nothing better than a pot of chili bubbling away on the stove on a lazy football Sunday!

I like to start with a mix of lean ground beef and a roll of hot pork sausage, plenty of beans, chunks of chopped tomatoes, and some tomato paste to thicken it up a bit. Then, some beer. It adds so much great flavor to the chili, and I’m always looking for an excuse to cook with the stuff. But, you could certainly use beef broth for your cooking liquid as well.

A couple hours simmering on the stove and you’ve got a delicious and hearty meal that’s always a family favorite. Leftovers are good for days, and great to re-invent into so many applications (Frito pie or chili dogs, anyone?). And, it’s great for a group too. A low maintenance meal for the cook, and guests can have tons of fun topping their bowls of chili with different ingredients – scallions, cilantro, sour cream, cheeses, jalapenos, guacamole, tomatoes or pico de gallo, poblano-corn salsa…the possibilities are endless!

Also, the possibilities are endless when it comes to the ingredients in the chili itself. I love to switch it up using a chuck roast instead of the ground beef and sausage. Or, using black and pinto beans in place of the kidneys. It’s so easy to make your own! So, if you’re still looking for that one perfect chili recipe, give this one a try! It’s our favorite, and it might just become yours too.

Chili con Carne

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground sirloin
1 lb bulk roll hot sausage (like Jimmy Deen)
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
6 Tbsp chili powder
3 Tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 (15 oz) can light kidney beans
1 (15 oz) can dark kidney beans
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (12 oz) can or bottle beer (your favorite is fine)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

In a dutch oven heat oil over medium-high heat. Brown the ground beef and sausage until browned well. Remove from pan into a bowl. Drain most of the rendered fat from the pan.

Throw onions into the pan and cook until onions are softened. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in the tomato paste and spices, and cook for about 3 minutes – until the tomato paste darkens in color. Add in the beef and sausage, tomatoes, beans, and beer. If it looks like it needs a little more liquid, add a splash of water.

Cover, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to low. Cook over low heat for about 2 hours. You could also cook up to this point, then place all ingredients in the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.

Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving. Serve with your favorite toppings.