Happy Birthday Katherine!

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While most of you are probably busy wrapping (or buying) last minute presents, I have a special place in my heart for Christmas Eve for several different reasons. Not only is it my parents’ anniversary (27th this year!) but it’s also my friend Katherine’s birthday!

Happy Birthday Katherine! I hope it’s the best yet xo

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For her early birthday this year, I made Katherine these strawberry cheesecake cupcakes. Her favorites are strawberry and cream cheese frosting (as coincidentally are mine) so these were the perfect surprise birthday treats!

And if you know Katherine, you will know she is THE sparkle, glitter, sequin queen. So in lieu of topping them with strawberries or graham cracker crumbs, I sprinkled some edible silver glitter and colored sugars on top. They were incredibly delicious and fun!

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{cheesecake + cupcake: best of both worlds}

I adapted the proportions of this recipe quite a bit as it made way too much graham cracker crumbs and cream cheese frosting. The recipe below is how I would suggest the cupcakes should be made– this is now one of my favorite cupcake recipes!

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes
adapted from Joylicious

  • 2 sleeves of graham cracker crumbs (about 18 whole crackers)
  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup sour cream/Greek yogurt
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and coarsely chopped (and more for garnish)
  • Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe below

(1)  Preheat oven to 350° F and line 20-22 muffin tins with cupcake liners. 
(2)  Mix graham cracker crumbs with butter using a food processor.  Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of the crushed graham cracker into the bottom of each prepared muffin tin.  Press down using a ¼ measuring cup and bake for 3-5 minutes or until slightly browned.  Remove immediately from oven and set aside to cool.
(3)  In a medium bowl beat the egg whites until stiff, glossy peaks appear, about 3-4 minutes, be careful not to overbeat. Set aside.
(4)  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
(5)  In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy and then add the vanilla.
(6)  Next, add half the flour mixture and incorporated on low speed until it’s almost all incorporated.
(7)  Then mix in the sour cream/yogurt. Add the remaining flour and mix until just blended. Don’t over mix.
(8)  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter until combined, do not over mix the egg whites or the cake will fall flat. Add remaining egg whites and fold in the chopped strawberries.
(9)  Fill each muffin tin almost to the top and bake for about 20-22 minutes depending on your oven. You can test to see if they are done by sticking a toothpick through the center and seeing if it comes out clean.
 

Cream Cheese Frosting 

  • 1 block (8 ounces) cream cheese
  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

(1)  In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth.
(2)  Add the sugar slowly in small batches, beating on low speed until incorporated. Once all sugar has been added, increase the speed to high and mix until light and fluffy.
(3)  When ready to serve, spread icing on cupcakes or use a pastry bag with a star tip. Garnish with freshly cut strawberries and graham cracker crumbs and serve.

Makes about 20-22 cupcakes

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butternut squash soup

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Ok, so I’m pretty obsessed with this butternut squash soup. In the past month or so, I’ve made three full batches. For myself. But when the weather’s as dreary as it’s been these days, soup really is the best comfort food. I eat it by the bowlful or if it’s super gloomy outside, with some grilled cheese sandwiches (dill havarti on pumpernickel, it’s the best).

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Use the best, freshest ingredients and you can’t go wrong. The soup does require some prep work and chopping but it’s well worth it. I freeze half the batch so that it’s always there whenever my butternut soup craving hits. Mmm… I love winter!

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Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 (32-ounce) container vegetable or chicken broth
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup half and half, optional

(1) Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat, melt the olive oil and butter. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes until translucent.
(2) Add the chopped apples, butternut squash, and garlic. Saute for another 10 minutes until the squash begins to slightly soften.
(3) Pour in the broth then add fresh thyme leaves (discard the stems) and cayenne pepper. Raise the heat to medium high and bring to a boil, reduce to medium-low heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the squash is tender. Remove from heat.
(4) Puree the soup, in batches in a blender until smooth. Be very careful when pureeing the hot mixture to start blending slowly and let the steam vent.
(5) Return to Dutch oven and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring back to a simmer and stir in the half and half for a richer consistency (I usually find it doesn’t need it though).
 

Makes 8 servings