In November of 2009, I ran a half marathon. This year, while my feet were not literally pounding pavement for 13.1 miles, it feels like I’ve been running nonstop. Now that the holidays are finally creeping up, I’m hoping to catch a break, down some GU, and start the new year off fresh, regardless of what marathons await.
Sure, running a marathon was a major accomplishment, but it barely measured up to the moment I missed – my dad’s gallery opening for his solo show at the Flywheel Gallery in Piermont, NY. He had the entire front room to himself to display his paintings, and a hungry crowd ready to devour the art as well as the various starters. I don’t know what pained me more: missing out on his big day or not being able to cook for it. No matter how you look at it, I had a lot to make up for during his second opening at the Flywheel, which took place this past Sunday.
With the metaphorical marathon I’ve been running at work, it didn’t seem like I would be on my game for this second momentous occasion in my dad’s art career either. But I managed to pull myself together enough to make four dishes. I’m hoping that by next year, I’ll be able to put the madness behind me and dedicate all my energy to his show. Truth is, he doesn’t deserve anything less. To see more of his magnificent work (what can I say, I’m biased), check out his site here.
Back to those four dishes. Two dips and two desserts. Pretty simple and fit for a crowd: sun dried tomato hummus, my favorite Parmesan walnut dip (after clicking the link, scroll down for the recipe), and two kinds of mini cupcakes.
If you can only choose one of the recipes from this menu, make it the chocolate mini cupcakes. I cannot even begin to explain how ridiculously easy and amazing these are. Perfect for a last minute dessert. I’m usually fundamentally against box cakes, but this recipe makes me want to reconsider. However, I still recommend using a vegan or organic brand to avoid the partially hydrogenated/completely fabricated ingredients. When it comes to ratios, this recipe couldn’t get any easier. One box of chocolate cake mix. One can pumpkin. One cup water. One weight watchers point (minus the icing). If it were a Chinese restaurant, it would be called the No. 1 cupcake recipe.
Easy 1 Point Weight Watchers Mini Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes
(only 1 Weight Watchers point minus the icing, of course)
1 box devil’s food or dark chocolate fudge cake mix (try an organic or vegan brand)
1 can pumpkin (see note)
1 cup water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix all the above ingredients until well incorporated. Drop spoonfuls of the batter into a greased or nonstick mini muffin tin. Bake for 12 minutes or until batter sets (toothpick inserted in center won’t necessarily come out clean, because the batter is just that fudgy).
Note: If you don’t like pumpkin, still give this recipe a try. The pumpkin flavor is very subtle and helps keep these minis super moist without overpowering the chocolatey goodness.
Spiced Applesauce Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from smittenkitchen.com and Gourmet.com
These cupcakes are also extremely moist, but unfortunately, they don’t fall into the 1 point category. Regardless of the weight watchers, they are well worth the splurge, especially with the addition of a cinnamon kick in the classic cream cheese frosting.
For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, placing a rack in the middle. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment or with an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla at high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, and beat well after each addition, then beat in the applesauce. At low speed, mix in the dry ingredients until just combined, then stir in the walnuts (if using). Don’t worry if the batter looks somewhat curdly, it will bake perfectly fine in the end. Drop spoonfuls of batter into greased or nonstick mini muffin tins (you can also make this into regular muffins or cake). Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (for a rectangular cake, bake about 35-40 minutes). Cool in pan for 15 minutes before removing. Cool completely before icing.
5 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Directions: Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy. Sift confectioners sugar and cinnamon over mixture, then beat on medium speed until incorporated, scraping down the sides with a spatula. Spread frosting on cooled cupcakes. Top with a pecan for garnish (optional).
Make ahead: This cake can keep up to three days, so it’s great for a make ahead recipe. Just store the frosted cake or cupcakes in the fridge in an airtight container.
Sun Dried Tomato Hummus
Adapted from the recipe that came with the package of Bella Sun Luci Sun Dried Tomatoes
2 15 ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 8.5 ounce jar sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 extra virgin olive oil (or use 1/4 cup oil from the sun dried tomatoes + 1/4 cup olive oil)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt, to taste
Remove sun dried tomatoes from oil and roughly chop (do not discard oil). Combine ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. If mixture isn’t coming together, gradually add more olive oil to help it blend. My blender wasn’t cooperating, so it had a few chucks of chickpeas, but I ultimately gave up and embraced the rustic effect it gave the dip. Serve with pita chips or tortillas. That’s it!