Pumpkin ale cupcake with maple frosting and candied bacon

Rather than a wedding cake, we asked several friends to bake a dozen cupcakes for our reception. I cannot express how awesome they were! We had almond, hostess cakes, mocha, pumpkin chai, chocolate, sprinkles, maple, mini pies, marshmallow and more flavors than I can recall. It was amazing. And delicious! I promise to post pictures when they come in.

In the meantime, here’s the first recipe I collected, from our friend Justin. He kicked butt with the texture and flavor combination, having perfected the treats through trial and error. I present Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes with Maple Frosting and Candied Bacon:

Ingredients:
2 cups cake flobacon cupcakesur
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 TB pumpkin pie spice
1 cup pumpkin puree
6 oz pumpkin ale
6 TBS butter slightly cooler than room temp. firm but yields to a finger.
4 eggs separated
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tarter

Frosting:
6oz cream cheese, at room temperature
2.5 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
4 TBS butter, at room temp
3 TBS maple syrup

Candied Bacon:
4 strips of thick cut bacon (+2 more for bacon snacking while waiting for cupcake to bake)
3 TBS maple syrup
1/8 cup granulated sugar

Candied Bacon Instructions
Place bacon in a foil lined baking sheet and place in a cold oven. Set oven for 375F. Bake to desired level of crispness, 15-30 minutes. Set on paper towels to drain grease. While Bacon is cooling, heat maple syrup and sugar in a sauce pan over Medium/Medium Low heat. Heat to hard crack stage- syrup is dark and foamy,(300F with a candy thermometer, A spoon dipped in the syrup then plunged into ice water will form a hard candy shell). Use tongs and grab a slice of bacon and use a painting motion to get a candy glaze on each bacon strip. Cool candied bacon on parchment paper to avoid stuck bacon. chop into desired sized pieces for cupcake topping.

Frosting Instructions
Whip the butter and cream cheese until fluffy (5-10 minutes with paddle attachment on stand mixer on max). Add maple syrup and mix until incorporated. Add confectioner’s sugar and mix, slowly at first then on high, until frosting is light and fluffy. Frosting can be refrigerated until needed, just mix it up when applying.

Cupcake Instructions: Preheat Oven to 340F

Dry Ingredients
Sift Cake flour with baking soda, baking powder, salt, pumpkin pie spice in a mixing bowl.

Wet Ingredients
Cream butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy (about 10 minutes on max setting on my stand mixer, with the paddle attachment). While mixer is on, add egg yolks one at a time waiting for each yolk to be fully incorporated before adding next yolk. Batter should have thick ribbony texture. Mix pumpkin puree with pumpkin ale. Add beer/pumpkin mixture to batter while mixer is on. Batter will curdle. Don’t worry. Add cream of tarter to egg whites and whip until cream of tartar is incorporated and the egg whites have big bubbles( i used a hand mixer for the whipped egg whites). Add 1/3 cup of sugar to egg whites and whip until egg whites are at stiff peak stage.

Batter
Add dry ingredients to wet batter in thirds. Fold mixture until just barely incorporated. Add whipped egg whites to batter in thirds. Fold mixture until egg whites are barely incorporated.

Bake
Fill cupcake liners 2/3rd of the way full. Use a toothpick to do a quick stir of each cupcake to settle the bigger bubbles. Bake for 15-25 minutes until internal temp reaches ~200-210F or cake tester/toothpick comes out clean after inserted.

Cool. Frost cupcakes and sprinkle candied bacon on top.

Notes:
Makes 15-18 cupcakes. I think. I was never consistent enough on spooning in the batter to the liners that i can tell you how accurate this is. If you’re scaling the recipe, cream of tarter is 1/8 teaspoon per egg. Recommend doing candied bacon and frosting first before mixing the batter. I used smuttynose pumpkin beer for the cupcakes.

This was the basis of my recipe, http://www.generationyfoodie.com/2011/11/pumpkin-ale-cupcakes-with-maple-bacon.html, but the cupcakes were too thick and verged too close to the muffin realm, the frosting was too thick and not maple enough, and the bacon was barely candied.

“Holy moley!” Shrimp and Parmesan Grits

The only way to enjoy grits is to add butter and cheese. Then add more butter and cheese.  This was the first time I made this dish, and while it’s delish, it’s also decidedly not heart healthy. Which makes this recipe perfect for sharing!

For our first Friends-giving this week, B and I each made a memorable dish. His German Potato Salad is practically legendary now, but my shrimp and grits held their own in the taste test. I’d make this again. In fact, the hubby declared, “Holy moley! These are good!” Thanks for the recipe, Aunt Judy – and Southern Living.

PARMESAN GRITS:
1 tsp salt
2 cups uncooked quick-cooking grits
14 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (not the powdery stuff)
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 TBS butter
SHRIMP SAUCEshrimp n grits
At least 2 pounds unpeeled, medium-size, raw shrimp
pepper and salt
vegetable cooking spray
2 TBS olive oil
2 TBS all-purpose flour
1 tsp corn starch mixed with 1 TBS water til smooth
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped green onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 TBS fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp hot sauce
2 cups fresh baby spinach
parsley and lemon slices for topping
DIRECTIONS:

1. Prepare Parmesan Grits: Bring 1 tsp. salt and 8 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in grits. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes or until thickened. Whisk in cheese and pepper and butter until smooth. Taste and keep warm. TIP: Use a whisk – it helps the fluffiness factor.2. Prepare Creamy Shrimp Sauce: Peel shrimp; devein and/or detail, if desired. Sprinkle shrimp with pepper and 1/8 tsp. salt – I tossed them with salt and pepper in a colander. Cook in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat 1 to 2 minutes on each side or just until shrimp turn pink. Remove shrimp from skillet with slotted spoon.
3. Keep the skillet on the stove. Reduce heat to medium. Add oil; heat 30 seconds. Whisk in flour; cook 30 seconds to 1 minute. Whisk in broth, green onions, grlic, lemon juice, half of the lemon rind and all the hot sauce. Bring to a boil and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until thickened. TIP: If the roux never thickens add the corn starch mixture and boil one minute. Stir in shrimp until heated through. Taste broth and add salt, pepper and/or more hot sauce as desired.
4. Pour grits into serving dish. Add spinach leaves. Top spinach with shrimp and sauce. Sprinkle with parsley, lemon slices and lemon rind. Serve immediately or keep warm. TIP: Nobody likes congealed grits.
This made a LOT of grits — more than one 9×13 pan could handle. Next time I’ll serve in two pans, but in the meantime, who is excited about leftovers? This girl!

Easy Broccoli Cheese Soup

I woke up yesterday to a broken heater and a balmy 59 degree apartment. After calling, emailing and leaving a voicemail for the maintenance service, I curled up in sweats next to a space heater and the cat.

I normally wouldn’t get near this much dairy but my HUSBAND of one week (we got married!) mentioned a hankering for broccoli-cheese soup. I swallowed several Lactaid pills and we went to work.

This is a good recipe: solid, 30-minute, one pot comfort food. Serve with crusty bread for sopping. The base recipe was Cooking Light’s, but as we all know, you always add more cheese.

Ingredientsbroccoli-cheese-soup

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 bottle non-stout beer – we used Anchorsteam
  • 1 (16-oz) package frozen broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup grated spicy cheese (chipotle, pepper jack, etc.)
  • 2 1/2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 TBS Worcheshire sauce
  • 1 tsp + black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 10 oz processed cheese, cubed (such as Velveeta)

Directions

Heat a large nonstick saucepan coated with olive oil and cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; saute 3 minutes or until tender. Add broth and frozen broccoli. Bring broccoli mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Add beer and Worchestire sauce. Reduce heat to medium; cook 10 minutes.

Separately, combine milk and flour, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Add milk mixture to broccoli mixture. Cook 5 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Stir in pepper, salt and spicy cheese.

Remove from heat; add Velveeta cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Optional: use immersion blender for 20-30 seconds to smooth out portions while leaving most of the broccoli florets whole. Eat with glee! Pairs well with beer.

Easy Spicy Pumpkin Soup

It’s no secret that one of my life goals is to promote pumpkin as more than a seasonal fall food. Pumpkin is so undervalued in savory foods and baking! While I continue as pumpkin ambassador, here’s an easy pumpkin soup recipe to warm your cold anti-pumpkin soul. Modified from the Nutmeg Nanny recipe.

INGREDIENTS:spicy pumpkin soup

30 oz. (2 cans) pumpkin puree
1 onion, diced
2 TBS olive oil
1 can light coconut milk
1 can regular coconut milk
1 TBS red curry paste
2 TBS curry powder
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less according to desired spice level)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Add onion and olive oil to large pot. Saute until onions are soft and translucent.

2. Add everything else to a pot and heat on medium low until warm. (Do not boil)

3. Using immersion or regular blender, whip until desired consistency. Taste and adjust heat and salt.

For an extra prettiness factor, top with a swirl of coconut milk, a shake of red pepper and a few toasted pinenuts or pumpkin seeds.

Angry Chicken (Arrabbiata)

The word “arrabbiata” in Spanish means angry, and this sauce is meant to make your mouth burn. That was my goal at least, as I’ve been trying to kick a wicked sore throat for days and have a very unscientific theory that spicy foods will heal the hurt.

This sauce turned out GREAT, and earned happy sighs and compliments from my fiancé as well. It’s spicy but not overboard, easy but layered in flavor. I’m making this again with shrimp!

IngredientsSeasoning
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 6 boneless chicken thighs or 3 breasts
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 TBS minced garlic
  • 1/2 diced red onion
  • 1 (24 oz.) marinara sauce
  • 4 tomatoes, roughly chopped or 1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (or more to taste)
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne or chili powder
  • 12 oz. pasta for serving
  • Goat cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. Season the chicken thighs with a pinch of salt, pepper and cayenne.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken. Brown the chicken on both sides (5-7 minutes each side), then remove the chicken from the skillet.
  3. After the chicken is removed from the skillet, add the onion and minced garlic to the pan, loosening the browned bits. Sauté briefly until onion and garlic are soft.
  4. Add marinara sauce, tomatoes with juices, basil, crushed red pepper, and chicken broth to the skillet. Stir to combine.
  5. Return the chicken to the skillet with the sauce, and spoon some sauce over top of each piece. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer. Taste it and adjust the heat and salt. Simmer the chicken in the sauce for 30 minutes, turning the chicken over half way through to make sure both sides receive adequate heat and sauce.
  6. Serve the chicken and sauce over cooked pasta. Top with goat cheese.

Adapted from Budget Bytes.

P.S. Don’t serve this over brown rice pasta. They’re lying. It’s not the same as normal pasta and you will be disappointed.

Baked Pea and Spinach Risotto

Generally I’m not a fan of Real Simple recipes; they’re bland and dull. Simple taken too far = boring. However, with the addition of my trusty cooking sidekick, Lemon Pepper seasoning, this baked risotto comes together easily. Plus, there’s a fair amount of veggies you can add to risotto to keep nutrients high. And the best part? No standing at the stove sweating for an hour, hoping the broth incorporates!

Ingredientsbaked_spinach_risotto_300

4 TBS butter
2 shallots, chopped
salt and black pepper
1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups Arborio rice
1 package frozen peas
8 ounces baby spinach, roughly chopped (about 4 cups)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago, plus more for serving

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 425° F. Heat the butter in a medium Dutch oven or ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper and cook, stirring often, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until almost evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add the broth and rice and bring to a rolling boil. Add 1/2 tsp lemon pepper. Stir briefly.
  3. Cover the pot and transfer to oven. Cook until the rice is tender and creamy, about 25 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven. Add the peas, spinach, Parmesan, 1/2 tsp lemon pepper, and ¼ teaspoon pepper to the pot and stir to combine.
  5. Return to oven for 5 more minutes. Remove and stir. If the risotto is too thick, add up to ¼ cup hot water. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan before serving.

You can half ingredients, and adding protein is always an option. As is, it made 6-8 servings. Now we have leftovers for days!

Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

I’m feeling miffed this morning at the lack of awareness for health equity. I first read this piece during ‘Sociology of the Family’ my freshman year at college, and it profoundly impacted my worldview. The full list of 50 ways white privilege is hidden is available online.


White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
by Peggy McIntosh

“I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness,
not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group”

DAILY EFFECTS OF WHITE PRIVILEGE

I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those conditions that I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can tell, my African American coworkers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and time of work cannot count on most of these conditions.

1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.
12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair. 
13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.
16. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.
17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.
18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.
19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.22. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs
of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my race.
25. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.
28. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.
29. I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree with me.

Peggy McIntosh is associate director of the Wellesley Collage Center for Research on Women. This essay is excerpted from Working Paper 189. “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming To See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies” (1988), by Peggy McIntosh; available for $4.00 from the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, Wellesley MA 02181. The working paper contains a longer list of privileges.

Miracle Work on 38th Street: Connecting a Family at Life’s End

In my work at Seton Healthcare Family, I had the privilege of interviewing this family about their experience in one of our hospitals. All they wanted was time for the father to say goodbye. They got a great deal more.  

“We expected to visit the hospital, get him stabilized and then take him back home. Suddenly, everything changed.”


Eduardo’s sister, Cecilia, holds a photo of him at school.

On a humid Sunday morning, a young man with Down syndrome entered the emergency room at Seton Medical Center Austin (SMCA), part of the Seton Healthcare Family, Austin, Texas. Accompanied by his mother and sister, he struggled to breathe. Thirty-two-year-old Eduardo Martinez had recently been diagnosed with kidney disease and was told he had six months to a year left. Within the hour, the prognosis changed dramatically. Eduardo was given less than two days to live.

“We were floored when the doctor told us the news,” said Cecilia Martinez, Eduardo’s sister. “We expected to visit the hospital, get him stabilized and then take him back home. Suddenly, everything changed. I started calling family to come to the hospital.”

Though Eduardo’s mother is local, his father lives in Mexico and had not seen Eduardo in 16 years. The family asked Seton to help the father cross the border and say goodbye.

Enter Dr. Truly Hall and Eileen West. Dr. Hall is the director of the Seton Adult Inpatient Medical Services (SAIMS) program at SMCA, which is on 38th Street in Austin. She is board certified in internal medicine, with seven years at Seton under her belt. Eileen West is a medical social worker at SMCA, spending every other Monday through Friday in the 4-North unit. On the weekends her role expands to “the whole house,” meaning she covers all cases that are not in the Emergency Department or labor and delivery.

Around 2 p.m. that Sunday, West received a call from Dr. Hall about a family standing vigil in the ICU for their terminally ill son. The request for border crossing assistance was not a surprise. “Maybe once a year we have a case like this, and I’ve written to the Mexican Embassy for an emergency visa,” said Dr. Hall. “But never on a Sunday.”

Given the political upheaval at the Texas/Mexico border, West was concerned. “I said I’d get right on it, but then realized the Mexican Embassy was closed,” she said. West spoke with Cecelia and decided to contact the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, since the family knew which one of the 26 crossing stations the father was going to enter.

How did she know where to start? “I just Googled it,” she said nonchalantly. “I got a phone number, then was transferred and passed around a bit, but I ended up on the phone with a humanitarian care unit.”

To cross the border on such short notice, Eduardo’s father required detailed paperwork. Dr. Hall and West compiled six pages of materials outlining the situation. West provided Border Patrol agents with her personal cell phone, work phone and home phone. Then she hit a snag.

“The Border Patrol told me that I needed to give the paperwork to the family, and that the family should deliver the documents to the father at the border,” said West. “But I told them,  ‘No. This young man is dying and the family is not leaving his side.’” Several faxes later, the paperwork was approved.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services allows foreign residents to apply for humanitarian parole for emergency situations. Handled on a case-by-case basis, approval generally takes between 60 and 120 days. With West’s tenacious prodding, it took mere hours. West attributes her success to “A bit of luck – and someone must have taken pity on us!”

Meanwhile, Eduardo continued receiving comfort care. “Every single doctor, nurse, all the people we met – they are great people,” recalled Cecelia. “We moved Eduardo to the third floor, and the nurses brought us pillows, blankets and a folding bed. Someone from the ICU made sure that we got a bigger room so we could all be near Eduardo. Even though it was a tough situation, the doctors and nurses never treated us or Eduardo dismissively. They knew it was hard.”

A fitful night passed as the family waited. At 9 a.m. the next day, Eduardo’s face split into a grin when his father walked into the room. As Cecilia described it, “I kept saying, ‘Wow.’ We didn’t expect him to cross the border at all, especially on a Sunday. I am so impressed by Eileen. She was an angel for us.”

Cecilia isn’t the only one impressed by West’s actions. “A lot of social workers — especially on a Sunday — they wouldn’t even have tried to help the family, and no one would have batted an eye, considering she was also covering the whole house,” said Dr. Hall. “The chaotic border situation didn’t deter her; Eileen took care of everything. I don’t know how she did it!”

Garry Olney, vice president and chief operating officer at SMCA concurred, adding, “This is amazing! It is what Humancare is all about. Eileen did a great job.”

Lifted spirits were short-lived, however. Over the next few days, Eduardo’s condition deteriorated. In his final hours a nurse noticed the family focused on the plummeting numbers and screeching beeps of the monitors surrounding him. She disconnected the monitors and encouraged the family to focus on Eduardo, adding, “He is more important than any numbers.”

Thanks to West’s thorough initial work, Eduardo’s father was able to stay in town long enough to attend the burial. When asked why she went to such great lengths for this family, Eileen’s answer was simple: “The most important thing I could do for the family was to get the father here.”

She downplayed the significance of her actions, adding, “Every social worker does this; it’s not out of the ordinary in our department. In fact, this is what many social workers accomplish before their first cup of coffee or morning rounds!” Caffeinated or not, West exemplifies Humancare, going above and beyond her required duties to impact lives.

Cecilia has a message for the staff at SMCA: “We are very thankful for Seton. From the ER to the final day in the hospital, everybody treated us like family. A lot of people discriminate against people with disabilities, but Seton showed great love and care for my brother. There are several hospitals we could have gone to and we ended up at the right one. We received so much support. I don’t have the words to describe the experience. Please tell all the Seton staff thank you.”

About Humancare

Humancare challenges the status quo of healthcare. By adding humanity back into a system that seems to have lost its human touch, we’re moving closer to being able to provide person-centered care. This recommitment to the people we serve modernizes our mission to care for and improve the health everyone in Central Texas, and beyond. Humancare is how we bring our mission to life, everyday. On this page you’ll find resources to help you understand, experience and share Humancare. setonhumancare.org