Apple Butter Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Apple Butter Cupcake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Pies tend to get all the glory at Thanksgiving and believe me, I’ve got nothing against a good pie.  But why not mix it up a little?  Offer an alternative for your cake-loving guests?  These cupcakes would be ideal.  A nice balance of sweet and spice, and the frosting, oh the frosting!  I browsed a lot of frosting recipes before settling on this one from Cupcake Project and the combination was perfect.  In my oh-so-very scientific poll, even those who usually skip frosting gave this one a favorable rating.  If you’re a frosting lover…heaven.

Did you really need another reason to make the Slow Cooker Apple Butter?  If you simply can’t wait, store bought apple butter (check your jams & jellies section) should work just fine.

Apple Butter Cupcakes
Yield: 12 Cupcakes
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup apple butter

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with cupcake wrappers.
2. Whisk together flour, salt and baking soda.
3. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, then add egg and beat until well combined.
4. Stir in dry ingredients, then apple butter.
5. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake for 20 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.  Cool before frosting.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting (from Cupcake Project)

Ingredients:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2-3 cups powdered sugar

Directions:
1. Mix cream cheese and butter until smooth and uniform.
2. Add cinnamon and vanilla.
3. Add powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached.

Slow Cooker Apple Butter

Slow Cooker Apple Butter

My poor Crock-Pot.  Sitting neglected up in a cupboard for years at a time without so much as a glance.  For all the time I spend stressing about what’s for dinner, you’d think it would have a prominent place on my countertop.  I finally pulled it down a few weeks back and it hasn’t seen the cupboard since.  I can’t keep it clean long enough to put it away!

Anyway, on to the real topic of this post, and that is apple butter.  Mmm…apple butter.  Growing up in Lake Tahoe, it was a fall tradition to drive down to Apple Hill and one of the things we often brought home was apple butter.  It’s delicious on toast, biscuits, pancakes, or a spoon.  Not only is it easy to make your own apple butter, but there’s an added bonus: it will make your house smell amazing.  Forget the candles and potpourri.  While it’s cooking you should go outside, just so you can come back in and experience the full effect.

Slow Cooker Apple Butter

You can use just about any kind of apples for this recipe. Jonagold apples were the star of my batch, Gala, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith or a combination of these will work well. This recipe was tested using a small (2.5 quart) slow cooker, it could easily be doubled if you are using one with a larger capacity. I used a blender to achieve a smoother texture after cooking. (Hey Santa, if you are reading, I want one of these!)

If planning to store your apple butter or use as a gift, you may wish to can it in a boiling water bath.  A step by step tutorial on this process can be found here.  Without canning, keep refrigerated and use within a month or two.

Slow Cooker Apple Butter (adapted from Eclectic Recipes)
Yield: 2 Pints
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

6 apples
1 1/2 cups apple cider (or apple juice)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:
1. Peel, core and chop apples, add to slow cooker.
2. Add cider/juice, sugar and spices.
3. Cook on high until bubbly.
4. Reduce heat to low and cook 6-8 hours, stirring every hour. When done, the apple butter will have thickened and be a deep brown color.
5. For a smoother texture, blend to break down any remaining chunks of apple.

You know what’s even better than apple butter?  Apple Butter Cupcakes of course!

Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins

Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins

Rarely do I need a reason to bake, but the 3 lb bag of cranberries I picked up at Costco last week gave me plenty of them. That’s a lot of cranberries! I adore the pairing of cranberry and orange and most of the cranberry baked goods I’ve made in the past play off of this combo. Since it is November and I had a few cans of pumpkin in the cupboard, I decided to take it another direction. Glad I did!

These muffins are sweet, but not overly so. I’d recommend them as a breakfast treat or afternoon snack. We liked them as is, but you could add a light glaze or powdered sugar dusting if you prefer a sweeter result. You could also substitute Craisins for the cranberries, add nuts or white chocolate chips. Hmm…so many possibilities, I might just have to whip up another batch.

Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins
Yield: 18 Muffins
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Combine flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. Beat together the eggs and sugar until well blended. Add pumpkin and oil, mix well.
4. Stir in the flour mixture until just moistened. Fold in the cranberries.
5. Line muffin tins with foil or paper baking cups and fill 3/4 full.
6. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick/cake tester comes out clean.

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home

Andes Mint Chip Cookies

Andes Mint Chip Cookies

We didn’t eat out often when I was a kid.  On the occasions that we did, one of my favorite places was a Mexican restaurant called Mi Casa Too.  It was here that I first had an Andes Mint, when they were delivered on the tray with the check.  I don’t know about you, but I think they’re about a million times more satisfying than the standard round peppermint candy.  I went years without them, then found them a pleasant surprise at the end of dinner on my first trip to Olive Garden.  Have you ever noticed that restaurants always seem to give an odd number of mints at the end of a meal?  Are they trying to cause fights?

Finally, as an adult, I realized you could simply buy them by the box.  Plenty of mints for everyone.  Then one day at Target I spotted something in the baking aisle.  Andes Crème De Menthe Baking Chips.  I threw a bag in the cart.  Then another.  The first thing I made was these cookies, an after dinner mint in cookie form.  Delicious.  I had to giggle at the fact that the recipe can be found on the Tootsie website, under the heading of “Healthy Living”.  I have my doubts that these have made me healthier, but they have been known to make me happier.

Andes Mint Chip Cookies
Yield: 4 Dozen Cookies
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 10oz package Andes Crème de Menthe baking chips (or approximately 2 cups chopped Andes Mints)
2 2/3 cup all purpose flour

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Blend butter, brown sugar, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla and eggs until well mixed.
3. Stir in Andes chips, then stir in flour until well combined.
4. Roll dough into 1 inch balls (or use small cookie scoop), flatten slightly and place on non-stick baking sheet.
5. Bake for approximately 8 minutes.
6. Allow to cool on baking sheet for a couple of minutes before removing to cooling rack.

Snickerdoodle Blondies

Snickerdoodle Blondies

Isn’t “snickerdoodle” a fun word? It’s even more fun when it comes out of the mouth of a two year old. “Stickernoodle.” “Stinkergoogle.” You get something different every time. I first spotted this recipe at My Baking Addiction a couple of months ago, and have whipped up a batch of chewy cinnamon-sugar deliciousness at least five times since. They are easy to make and even better than that – there’s a good chance you already have everything you need to make them! The only thing you’ll need to wait for is your butter to soften and your eggs to warm to room temperature.

Snickerdoodle Blondies
Yield: 20-24 Bars
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter (room temperature)
2 eggs (room temperature)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For topping:
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
a pinch of nutmeg

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line a 9×13″ pan.
2. Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together brown sugar and butter, beating for 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, then vanilla, beat until smooth.
4. Stir in the flour mixture until well blended.
5. Use a lightly greased spatula (or your fingers) to spread the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
6. Combine the granulated sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter.
7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until until the surface springs back when gently pressed. Cool before cutting into bars.

Recipe Credit: My Baking Addiction