Thursday, December 23, 2010

What's Baking? December: Holiday Colors

For this month's What's Baking, the challenge was to bake something with holiday colors. I think it took me about 2 days to decide what to bake... I found a recipe for red velvet cookies and decided I needed to bake them.

To increase my use of holiday colors (in case the red velvet wasn't quite red enough), I tinted the frosting green. Note on food coloring: I've recently made the switch from the regular little bottles of liquid food coloring to gel food coloring. In the past I've enjoyed paste colors (from my Martha Stewart cake decorating kit), but even if you're careful and cap them tightly, they still dry out. The gel colorings seem to color food just as vividly as paste, but I find them easier to work with. My mom gave me a box of 8 colors of Americolor gel food coloring in my Christmas stocking last year, and I've used nothing else since. The green frosting took a single squirt of color, and I'm sure I'd have needed at least half the bottle of liquid color for that shade.

Red Velvet Sandwich Cookies
from The Family Kitchen

Note: for Christmas, I made a double batch, and got about 3 dozen sandwiches

1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2T buttermilk (or 2T regular milk with a dash of white vinegar, and let that sit for a few minutes before using)
1t vanilla extract
Red food coloring: 1T liquid or a healthy squirt of gel- add until you like the color
1 1/3 cups flour (I used AP, but part WW might be good)
1/4 cupcocoa powder
1t baking powder
1/4t baking soda
1/2t salt

Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the eggs, milk, vanilla and red color and beat a few minutes, til fluffy. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingedients (sifting is important, I did not sift and that's a mistake- my Hershey's cocoa stayed in chunks and I got Dune in my chocolately cookie (gold star if you get the reference).) and add to the wet ingredients (add in 2 parts, so you don't get flour and cocoa flying all over).

Here's where I differed from the recipe: drop 1T of dough on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. 2-3T makes an enormous cookie and you'll only get 12 cookies from the batch, which simply is not enough. Bake for 375F 12-15 minutes, until they're no longer gooey. Frost after they're completely cooled.

Frosting: I did not use the cream cheese frosting in the recipe, because I married Mr Red Velvet Connoisseur, who despises the use of cream cheese frosting on red velvet cake and declares it's just wrong. I used my own favorite childhood frosting, Suzie Q Filling, which is about the same as my husband's chosen frosting recipe (how interesting our favorite childhood frostings are the same...)

Suzie Q Filling
delicious on all sorts of chocolate cakes
recipe from my mom, who got it from someone at a Tupperware party in the 1980s

1 cup milk
5T flour
1/2 cup crisco
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2t salt
1t vanilla

In a small saucepan, whisk together the flour and milk. Cook over medium or medium-high heat for a few minutes, until it's very thick. Remove from heat and cool until it's just lukewarm. Mother says this is called "poor man's frosting".

In the bowl of your mixer, beat together the crisco and butter (you can use all crisco or all butter if you like). Add in the sugar and beat until it's fairly fluffy, then add in the salt, vanilla and milk/flour mixture. Mother's instruction: "beat like hell". This means turn your mixer on and go sort the mail, or vacuum, or check your email. I'm kind of kidding, but just let it beat for a few minutes (scrape down the sides if you need to, though). Add in food coloring if you like.

To make sandwich cookies:
unless you baked them perfectly and they're all exactly the same size, before you frost, match up pairs that are the same size before you start frosting. I find the easiest way to frost is to scoop the frosting into a plastic bag and cut off the corner to pipe onto the cookies, rather than spreading with a knife- that just gets messy. Pipe some frosting onto the cookie (not too much, these are more solid than whoopie pies, so when you bite in, all the frosting will squirt out the sides) and top with the paired cookie. And voila, sandwich cookies!

Note: I love the texture of these cookies- they're a cross between a whoopie pie and a cookie, cake-like, but nicely firm but not quite crisp on the edges. I could eat these all day long...

A note on Christmas cookies

I hear many people asking about frosting cookies. Oh it's so hard, how do you get the nice, even lines, etc. Here's a secret: I'm pretty lazy sometimes, and frosting cookies is one of those times. I'd love to do royal icing and make it fancy, but seriously, I have a lot to do, and no time to get out all my piping bags and tips and fancy sugars. (I wish I did, but I don't).

So here's how the lazy girl frosts cookies.

Icing recipe
powdered sugar, 2-3 cups, a little more, a little less
some milk, 2-3T
1/2t vanilla or other flavor (rosewater is good, if you want to surprise people)

Mix all that together with a fork or whisk. You want it to be thick, but soupy and spreadable. Add more milk or sugar, as needed. Add some coloring.

The method:
Pour your icing on a large dinner plate with a little lip on the edge (so it doesn't flow off the plate)

Take your cookie.
Hold it face down, perpendicular to the plate.

Drop it.
Pick it up,
let it drip and if necessary, scrape off the excess icing with a knife or fork.

Spread on a foil-lined cookie sheet, and let dry for a few hours.

I used to spread the icing on each cookie with a knife, but you can't imagine how messy that is. Your hands are covered in icing by the 3rd cookie, it's pretty annoying.

What I like best about this icing method (aside from being easy) is that if you slightly overbake your cookies so they're as crunchy as biscotti, the icing will soften them a bit so they're a little more chewy, and in a sealed container, they'll stay like that for several days.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Did you know...

Did you know that Christmas is coming?

No, seriously. I know we're all surrounded by lights and decorations and music and have been tripping over random Christmas junk at Target since October 3rd. And of course everyone has their tree, their lists, their schedules, their menus, their stamps, their dread of waiting in line at the post office (incidentally, when I went in this morning, there was NO ONE in line. I walked right up to the counter. When I left, the line was out the door. Thank you, karma!). I know you know it's coming. You know I know it's coming.

But don't you ever kind of half forget? And then you have a huge "oh crap!!" moment when you remember?

This happened to me today.

Now, when I wrote to you on Monday all about my hats and cheesecake, I didn't mention that I was sick. Oh boy, was I sick. I took 2 days off from work to sit around and feel rather like the time I had something nasty that turned into pneumonia (pneumonia was interesting- my lungs made noise when I breathed. I found it funny. My mother found it terrifying. That's how we are.) (oh and don't worry, my lungs aren't making weird noises this time). But I used my sick days wisely: I crafted. I finished the Christmas cards, I finished my lovely advent calendar, I finished decorating the tree, I wrote presents lists. What I did not do was make up the baking schedule.

And so, 2 days later, I'm just checking up on things, making the mistake of reading tastespotting and seeing cookie after cookie, candy after candy, that I want to add to my list, but I have to be reasonable and remember that I'm not giving dozens of cookies away like I once did, and suddenly it hit me: I have 5 baking days left til Christmas!

Shopping days don't matter, it's the baking time that's important.

And so I have Thursday, Friday, Monday, Wednesday and I'm hoping to squeeze out some time on Sunday, to bake. (If I stay up super late on Tuesday, I can stick a batch in then...) Here's the list.

pumpkin molasses cookies
chocolate covered cherry cookies
pistachio almond cookies
gingerbread biscotti
brown sugar spice cutout cookies
gingerbread men
red velvet cookies
coconut macaroons (or possibly coconut almond macaroons, or these, or these.)
cranberry noels (thanks to watching Martha Stewart all day on Tuesday- here's a link to the recipe, which isn't where I originally found it)
cranberry turkish delight (based on this)
peppermint marshmallows
mulled cider jelly candy
and the new addition I just can't resist: caramel marshmallows

So that's what has to get done between now and next Wednesday (since we're traveling next Thursday).

Tentative schedule:
Thursday: biscotti (2 batches), turkish delight, cider jellies, wash bottles for elderberry schnapps and start aliquoting into bottles. Make cranberry noel dough and freeze, bake later.
Friday: coconut macaroons, peppermint marshmallows
Sunday: ideally caramel marshmallows, pumpkin molasses cookies, bake cranberry noel dough.
Monday: sugar and gingerbread cutter cookies, chocolate cherry cookies, pistachio cookies
Wednesday: frost the cutter cookies (royal icing for sugar cookies, milk/sugar icing for gingerbread). Bake red velvet cookies, possibly frost at my parents' house on Friday. Coconut cookies.

Not to mention the other big thing: wrap the presents. That's scheduled for Monday, when my husband will be out of the house and I can wrap out in the open, in the living room.

It's a lot. Wish me luck, I'll need it! I have no idea how people with kids manage (fewer cookies, I suppose).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Oh, hi... have some cheesecake

You thought I forgot about you, right? I didn't... I've just had other things going on. Most of them are definitely not as enjoyable as blogging, but the rest of the things have been crafting, so of course they're super fun and I can't wait to get home from work each day so I can craft. Wanna see?

I made some hats
I knit the purple one first, for a swap, and I loved it so much (despite having a hell of a time getting started) that I knit the white one for myself. It fits well and is cute, but is kind of worthless on a windy evening.

I made a pair of gumdrop wreaths for the Wadsworth Tree Festival in Hartford, CT, shown ehere on either side of the large wreath.
That was fun, I made them exactly like last years, but sprayed them with 5-6 coats of acrylic sealant spray (stinky, stinky) and after the final coat, sprinkled them in white Martha Stewart glitter. I'm now making more and more- we'll hang last year's (which didn't last all that well without being sprayed, but are good enough for another month) and I have given and will give more as Christmas gifts.

I made a cheesecake. Little known fact- I hate cheesecake. Like, gag, it's nasty. This is kind of unfortunate, because I used to love it, and it's because of a sad association with an illness. However, I used to spend many, many calories on cheesecake, which I no longer do, so I'm viewing this as a positive diet change. So why did I make a cheesecake?

I have no idea. Plus, it was for a party.

Now, since it was for a party, and at this party I had no camera (this party was the post-concert reception of my choir's Boar's Head Festival, which was rather awesome), so I can't show you how pretty it was. Fortunately, the blogger I got it from has a lovely picture, so just go see hers.

Savory Cheesecake with Onion Pear Compote
taken from Josie at Pink Parsley

3 8oz packages of cream cheese, softened (I used neufchatel cheese)
8oz blue cheese, crumbled
6oz parmesean cheese, grated
4 eggs
1/4 cup cream (I used fat free 1/2&1/2)
1/4t black pepper

Beat the cheeses together until creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the cream and pepper. Pour mixture into a greased 9inch springform pan wrapped in foil so that the water from the water bath doesn't seep in to the pan, and bake in a water bath for 45-50 minutes at 350F, until the middle is not quite set and the edges are slightly brown.

Chill overnight, then remove the sides of the springform pan and serve on the bottom of the sprinform pan, topping with the compote.

I know there are tricks to get it to not crack, but.... I wouldn't worry too much. You're going to cover it with the following compote, which will cover up any imperfections.

Onion Pear Compote
4 cups onions, chopped
2t olive oil
2 cups pears, peeled and chopped (about 2 pears)
2T vinegar (recipe says pear or raspberry vinegar, but I just used balsamic, which was good)
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 t salt
pinch cayenne (I omitted, not knowing the preferences of the guests at the party)

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onions and cook over medium until softened, then reduce heat and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the pears, vinegar, sugar, salt and cayenne and cook until pears are soft (about 20 min more). Note: here the recipe says to then remove the onions and pears and reduce the liquid in the pan til it's thick, but I didn't actually have any liquid in the pan, so I skipped this.)

I tried some of this, and even though it's savory and lovely and blue cheesey, it's still cheesecake. The compote was good enough to disguise that on my second bite, but... I can't do cheesecake. Everyone else loved it, though!

I know, I know, why did I bring a dish I hate? It caught my eye, that's all I can say.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

November What's Baking?

I hosted our What's Baking bake-along this month, and since I knew everyone would be busy baking goodies for Thanksgiving, I chose Thanksgiving as our theme. I love the variety in what everyone chose!

Amanda from Our Italian Kitchen made an Edible Cornucopia. What a cute idea, it's both a centerpiece and simple snack for later!
Dunne' from With a Cherry on Top made apple pecan cheesecake, a nice change from the traditional apple pie!

Cara from The Boys Made Me Do it made a rustic apple crostata, an easy twist on apple pie.

Jen, the Beantown Baker, made pumpkin cranberry pecan upside down cake- I can't wait to try this one!Ange from the Tiny Tyrant's Kitchen made The Pie That Won't Die (aka pumpkin cream pie). Who can resist trying a recipe with a name like that?

Heather Lynne from Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks made cranberry apple mini pies. So cute!

Carrie from Carrie's Sweet Life takes a break from pies and cakes with a sweet potato trifle.

Jey of The Jey of Cooking really mixed things up with a bacon and cheddar apple pie.
Lindsey from Our Share of the Harvest made a beautiful pumpkin roll with cream cheese filling.

And I made Pilgrim Bread.
I love the variety we got this month, and I can't wait to try all of these delicious looking recipes!

Stephanie will host next, and she has chosen that December's What's Baking? theme will be Holiday Colors! (such as red and green for Christmas, etc). Happy baking!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

What's Baking? November: Thanksgiving baking

It's round 2 of What's Baking! November's theme is Thanksgiving Baking. I hosted this month, so in a few days I'll post the round up of everyone's entries.
While I did a lot of normal baking for Thanksgiving (all the pies in the last entry), I also baked some bread. It's a good, simple, hardy bread that's rather delicious. I plan to make this often, it'll be a good sandwich and toasting bread. I originally planned to serve it at Thanksgiving dinner, but since we had so much food then, I saved it for our second Thanksgiving dinner.

Pilgrim Bread,
from The Local Cook

Whisk together the cornmeal, brown sugar and salt. Whisk in the water, then the oil, and set aside to cool (this takes a while- you want it to be warm, but not hot- less than 100F). Stir in the yeast, and let the yeast wake up and get frothy, about 10 minutes (or 30, whatever). Stir in the WW and rye flours, and then stir in the AP flour, one cup at a time. Knead for a few minutes, until the dough is elastic and springs back when you poke your finger in. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until double (it only took an hour, but I left it for 3 hours). Punch down the dough and form into 2 loaves, set in greased loaf pans, and let rise another hour. Bake for 45 min at 375F.

I highly recommend this recipe.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Round up!

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you all had tasty Thanksgiving dinners. I actually had two: on Thanksgiving Day, we all went to my grandma's house for the traditional dinner, but my parents had bought a turkey, so we had TG part 2 the next day with just the four of us.
I photographed part 1, but when I went to photograph the different dishes we had at part 2, I found this...


This morning when I got out of bed, I knocked Clint's iphone off the table and it fell on top of my purse. On the very top of my open purse was my camera, so I believe the corner of the iphone landed on the lcd screen. The camera still works, but obviously you can't use the lcd screen anymore... I've hijacked my parents' old camera, and it looks like I'll put a new camera on my Christmas list. But seriously, a food blogger without a camera? Disaster. The loaner camera is only 4 megapixels, as opposed to 6 (not great, but still). Sigh. However, I did splatter peach jam all over my camera this summer, so the lens cover doesn't always completely close, so I did actually need a new one.

Anyway, Thanksgiving.

In my family, we're pretty standard. Turkey, not cooked in any special way (the deep fried turkey year, while not quite a disaster, was not anything to remember), mashed turnip, mashed butternut squash, mashed potato, boiled onions, two types of stuffing, cranberry walnut bread, and everyone's favorite, chicken pie. Back in the day, grandma's house was a working farm (originally tobacco, I'm not sure what they grew in her day) with a fully-stocked chicken coop. They'd expect at least 40 people for Thanksgiving, so they'd get a single turkey and gather up the chickens to bake into a chicken pie. Each person got a small piece of turkey and a healthy helping of chicken pie, and the pie is rather delicious. My uncle makes it now, and I really need to get his recipe.
But we obviously specialize in desserts.

Clockwise from the right: apple crisp, apple pie, pumpkin pie, hubbard squash pie, maple pumpkin pie, Turkey ginger cookies, Roly Poly (or perhaps that's just the name of the bakery- a layered cake of vanilla cake, vanilla custard, fruit and orange jello), vanilla sponge cake with coffee cream glaze, Marlborough pudding pie, apple cranberry ginger pie.

I can tell you more about the maple pumpkin pie, Marlborough pudding pie, and the apple cranberry ginger pie.

Marlborough Pudding Pie was this year's new addition from my kitchen. There was an article in my parents' newspaper the week before Thanksgiving, and my mom was so intrigued she sent me the recipe. I was equally intrigued, so I made it. It's basically an apple sauce and custard pie, and I like the idea. Unfortunately, my take on it, while well-received by everyone else, was not to my liking. I did an alcohol substitution that made it incredibly strong- and if you like bourbon (like everyone else in my family), it's great.

Marlborough Pudding Pie
from the Hartford Courant, recipe originally from the Publick House, Sturbridge, MA (incidentally, one of my favorite restaurants)

1 apple, peeled and cut into thin wedges and 1-2T apple cider (or water) (or use 3/4 cup of applesauce as a shortcut)
1/2 cup whole milk or cream
3/4 cup cooking sherry or white port (**here was my error- I used 1/4 cup Maker's Mark bourbon and 1/2 cup ginger brandy)
6T butter, melted (I think this is too much- it all separates out of the custard, anyway. I will do 3-4T next time)
4 eggs
1/2t salt
1/4t nutmeg
1 pie crust

First, stew the apples (or just use applesauce). Dump the apple wedges in a medium saucepan with a good splash of apple cider (or water) and cook on low for 15 minutes, flipping the apples occasionally. They'll get really soft, so be careful. You can puree them, but I like the effect of whole apple wedges.

Preheat your oven to 400F. Line a pie dish with the pie crust.

In a medium bowl, stir together the milk, sugar and alcohol. Stir in the apples or applesauce, then beat the eggs separately and add them. Stir in the spices and salt. Pour apple custard mixture into the pie crust, and bake at 15min at 400F, then turn to 350F and bake for 45 min more, or until the custard is just set (it'll still be wobbly). Serve at any temperature you like.

Our old favorite is apple ginger cranberry pie. I first found this recipe in 2001, my senior year of college, and I've made it every year since. It's just a simple apple pie, but with cranberries and minced crystallized ginger added, and it's really delicious.

Apple Cranberry Ginger pie
from Williams Sonoma

2 pie crusts
4-5lbs apples (I like a mix, this time I used cortlands, macs and some random eating apples (braeburn and honeycrisp) we had lying around)
1/2 cup sugar (or more or less as you prefer)
1/2 cup minced crystallized ginger
1.5 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

Peel and cut the apples (chunks or wedges). Toss with sugar, ginger and cranberries. Line a pie dish with one crust, dump the apple mixture in, and add the top crust. Bake at 400F for 20 min, then turn temp down to 375 and bake for about 45-50 min more, until the crust is nicely browned. Optional, but pretty: brush top crust with an egg, egg white or milk/cream to make it shiny.

Pumpkin maple pie: a new addition this year! Normally I make Martha's standard pumpkin pie, but I came across this one and liked the sound of it. It uses maple syrup instead of sugar, which goes great with pumpkin and the standard pumpkin pie spices.

Pumpkin Maple Pie

from Fake Ginger

2 cups pumpkin (or 1 15oz can- I used a mixture of orange and white pumpkins that I roasted, pureed and drained myself)
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup fat free 1/2&1/2 (or really, use 1 cup of whatever dairy you like)
1/2 cup maple syrup (the real stuff!)
2 eggs
3/4t cinnamon
1/4t ginger
pinch of cloves
pinch of salt
1 pie crust

Beat the eggs and pumpkin together, add the dairy, maple syrup and spices. Line a pie dish with the crust, then pour the pumpkin mixture into the dish. Bake for 20 min at 400F, then turn the temp down to 375 and bake for another 50-60 minutes, until the custard is just set.

Note: for all these pies, I used Martha Stewart's standard pate brisee, it's what I almost always use (unless I make a cornmeal crust or pate sucree). This year I made the crust 2 days ahead and kept them wrapped, all in disks that made 1 pie crust, in plastic wrap in the fridge.

Overall, I think the Marlborough pie was the most liked, but that was because no one had ever heard of it (except those that'd also read the article in the paper). I loved the apple cranberry ginger just as much as ever, but I've now found a new favorite pumpkin pie recipe. Also, I plan to try the Marlborough again, with the proper alcohol... or maybe I'll use apple cider or something.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pumpkin party: Main dishes, part 2

Part the second of our pumpkin party main dishes! This post will tell about the popular main dishes, both were found browsing tastespotting.
Pumpkin, Spinach and Leek Quiche
adapted from The Little Teochow, originally from Homestyle Vegetarian by Murdoch Books
1/2 small pumpkin pie (sugar) pumpkin
2 leeks
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed but otherwise left whole
4 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup fat free 1/2&1/2
2/3 cup milk
1T parsley
1T cilantro
1t wholegrain mustard
6-9 sheets filo pastry, depending on how big your pie dish is
2 cups fresh spinach, blanched and drained
freshly grated parmesean cheese

Turn your oven to 350F. Slice the pumpkin into 1 inch thick slices (leave the skin on for now), and arrange on a baking sheet, along with the leeks (each leek cut into 3 or 4 pieces) and garlic. Roast for 1 hour. When they're all cool, mince (or press) the garlic, chop the leeks into small pieces, and peel the skin off the pumpkin.

Meanwhile, brush each piece of filo with olive oil, then arrange them in a greased pie dish- do the sheets one at a time (brush with oil, then lay in dish, then get the next sheet out). Arrange them so they're 6 layers deep, I had a few layers with more than one sheet in the layer, just to fit the pie dish.

Arrange the pumpkin in the pie dish, like so.
Arrange the spinach on top.
Beat the eggs, milk, 1/2&1/2, mustard and herbs together, and pour over the veggies, pressing the spinach in to get everything coated in the custard. Top with the grated parmesean, and bake at 357F for 40-45 min.

Ok, now the pizza! This pizza is really easy, and we've made it several times since the party. It's full of good, simple fall flavors, and it just tastes fresh and not heavy at all, like some pizzas can be.

Pumpkin, Apple and Ricotta Pizza
from Straight from the Farm
(picture soon, I forgot to take it off my camera)

pizza dough (your choice, I used my favorite pumpkin pizza dough, to increase the pumpkin usage for the party, and because I have a ton of it in the freezer, ready to go at a moment's notice!)
1/2-2/3 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 of a small pumpkin pie (sugar) pumpkin, peeled and sliced thinly (as thin as you can, slicing a pumpkin isn't easy)
1 apple, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch thick pieces
1T fresh sage, chopped
small handful of freshly grated parmesean

Roll out the pizza dough. Spread with ricotta cheese. Arrange apple and pumpkin slices, sprinkle with safe and parmesean. Bake at 450F for about 15-20 minutes (depending on the thickness of the dough). I sprinkled with a little kosher salt before serving.

Pumpkin Party: Main dishes, part 1

I'm only 3 weeks behind on posting.

You may have guessed, but yes, stuff is going on in real life. Stuff interferes with blogging, with baking, even with exercising (sigh!). Hopefully stuff will improve soon, but in the meantime, we all have to eat, and I have plenty of recipes saved up to try (I know, that doesn't help you at all).

Back to the pumpkin party. November, and even December, is still pumpkin season, so these are still good for making now.

At the pumpkin party, I served pumpkin chili with pumpkin cornbread, as well as pumpkin gnocchi, pumpkin pizza, and my favorite, pumpkin, spinach and leek quiche.

Let's quickly start with the gnocchi.
Oh, man. This was my first time making gnocchi- even my first time eating gnocchi. So I didn't quite know what I was doing. I followed this recipe, which I found on taste spotting and chose because the blogger is Italian, and of course, an Italian would undoubtedly know how to make gnocchi. I think the Italian knew more than I did and either lost info in translation, or makes assumptions I don't know about, but this was a huge recipe fail. I wish I'd used Lidia Bastianich's recipe from a recent issues (October 2010, perhaps) of Bon Appetit- next time.

However, we do have a silver lining: the cinnamon walnut cream sauce (inspired by the suggestions of a Nestie) was delicious and almost saved the dish. The cream sauce was made by making a roux of 1T butter and 1T flour (melt the butter in a saucepan, then whisk in the flour and cook a couple minutes), then slowly adding about 3/4 cup of fat free 1/2&1/2, cooking til thickened (a few minutes- I really wasn't paying full attention) and then sprinkling in about 1/2t cinnamon and 1/4 cup crushed toasted walnuts.

Moving on.

The pumpkin chili was a huge success in comparison. It was like a standard chili of ground turkey and beans and the standard spices (lots of cumin, oregano, cilantro and chili or chipotle powder), but had a nice subtle pumpkin undertone. Love, love, love.
Pumpkin Chili,
adapted from The Family Kitchen

1-1.5 lb ground turkey
2 15oz cans beans- I used red kidney and black beans
4 cups pumpkin puree (canned or fresh, I used 2 15oz cans)
56oz tomatoes (the original recipe calls for 2 large cans of diced tomatoes, but I used 1 14oz can and 48oz peeled tomatoes that I'd frozen over the summer)
4 cups chicken broth (if using canned, choose low sodium- you know I used my homemade stock)
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1T cumin
1t chipotle powder
1t salt
1t black pepper
small handful of fresh cilantro, or 2t dried
2t dried oregano

In a large pan/pot, brown the meat. When it's about half cooked, add the diced onion. Transfer to your crock pot (or, alternatively, you can leave everything in the large pot and cook on the stove top). Add in all the rest of the ingredients. Cook on low for 6-7 hours, or high for 4 hours. (or on the stove top, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook 2 hours).

Serve! Garnish with cheese and sour cream, and whatever else you like on your chili.

To pair with your chili, make some pumpkin cornbread. Now, I have to admit, this wasn't as huge a success as the chili itself- mostly because the cornbread was simply too sweet. It was more like cornmeal cake for dessert than something to have with chili, so next time I will reduce the brown sugar by half or more.

Pumpkin Cornbread,
taken from Recipe Girl

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1T baking powder
1t salt
1/2t ground cinnamon
1/4t ground nutmeg
1 cup cornmeal
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
2/3 cup brown sugar (I'd go 1/3 cup or less, maybe even just 2-3T)
¼ cup canola oil
1T molasses

Combine dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, salt, spices, cornmeal). In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, then add the pumpkin, brown sugar, oil and molasses, whisk together and then add to the dry ingredients- stir just until combined, don't overmix. Pour batter into a greased 8x8 pan, and bake for 30-35 min at 400F.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

3rd Pansy-versary!

That's right, 3 years of Pansy!

She hasn't gotten much bigger, but she's definitely gotten fluffier and funnier.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pumpkin Party: Appetizers, part 3

Is salad really an appetizer, though? At a sit-down dinner, often, but not really at a buffet. Oh well.
I'm excited about all aspects of this salad. The salad itself was pretty standard: CSA lettuce, grated CSA carrots and tomatoes. I wish I'd tossed in some freshly grated parmasean, but I didn't think of that til later.

The rest of the salad is what I love so much.

Pumpkin Vinaigrette
taken from The Heart of New England
I'd recommended quadrupling this recipe, you'll want to use it again and again, and even though it says to make it fresh each time, it's fine a few days old, although the oil separates out a bit, so you'll just need to stir it up a bit for the next time.

2 cloves garlic, minced (or pressed in a garlic press)
2t maple syrup (or honey)
1/2t salt
1/4t freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup
pumpkin puree
1/4 cup rice vinegar (or a mix of white and cider vinegar is good)
1/4-1/2 extra-virgin olive oil
(you know I always skimp on the olive oil, use the larger amount if you don't skimp)

Mix everything but the olive oil together. I mixed by hand, you can do it in a food processor if that's easier for you. Then drizzle in the olive oil until it reaches a good consistency. Toss in your salad.

Pumpkin Croutons

my own "recipe"

about 8 slices of bread, cubed- I used my pumpkin challah, that I'll tell you about soon)
some olive oil (maybe 1/4 cup?)
salt, to taste (I used about 3/4 t)
dried thyme (I used about 1t), or other herbs you like

Toss the ingredients together to coat the bread well. Dump on a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet (totally not necessary, but makes for easier clean up) and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Let cool, and toss in salad. Store leftovers in tupperware or a ziploc bag at room temp.

Ok, now, I'd like to share a recipe that I didn't serve at the pumpkin party- but I definitely wish I had. This was one of those dishes I expected to be ok, but was actually incredibly tasty. I only wish I'd discovered it back when we were inundated with CSA kale!

Massaged Kale Salad
adapted from Aarti Sequeira
I used her procedure but not her vinaigrette, since I still had pumpkin vinaigrette left. I actually used only half a bunch of kale, because I was the only one eating this salad. 1/2 bunch of kale really would make enough for 2 people.

1 bunch kale, washed, stems removed and chopped into small pieces
2T olive oil
2T lemon juice
Pumpkin Vinaigrette
other veggies as desired (grated carrot, cucumber, tomato)
freshly grated parmesean

Combine the kale in a large bowl with olive oil and lemon juice, and with your hands, massage for about 3 minutes. This softens the kale.

Toss the kale with vinagrette, other veggies, parmesean, and croutons.

Pumpkin Party: Appetizers, part 2

Sadly, sans pictures- for now. I've apparently lost all my pumpkin party pictures. Even so, all of these dips are delicious, and I highly recommend them.

Savory Dips

Pumpkin Hummus
idea inspired by Miss Smart of The Smart Kitchen, and her love for hummus

1 cup pumpkin puree (home made or canned, I used canned)
1 cup plain hummus
1/2 nutmeg
1/2 cumin
dash of chipotle or chili powder (optional)

Mix all together. Serve with plain crackers or assorted veggies.

It's super simple- and yes, I used storebought hummus, because, why not? One day I'll make hummus starting with tahini and chickpeas, I promise.

Pumpkin Olive Tapenade
from Food, Not Fuss

(I doubled the original recipe)

1 cup olives (I used pitted kalamata), finely chopped. I recommend using the food processor, I did it by hand and they were chunkier than I'd have liked.
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2t lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced

Mix all together. Serve with plain crackers or baguette.

Both of these will keep in the fridge for a few weeks. I'm a bit leery of old hummus though, so I always try to eat it up in a couple weeks.

Sweet Dips (just one)

Pumpkin Pie Dip
taken from Creating Nirvana Today

2 cups pumpkin puree (I used canned)
1 8oz brick of cream cheese (I used low fat), softened
1/4t ginger
1/4t ground cloves
1/4 cup brown sugar

Mix all the ingredients together (I'd recommend whipping the cream cheese first, then adding everything else to it, to avoid lumps). Serve with crackers, gingersnaps, or bread.

This really tastes like pumpkin cheesecake made into a dip, and it's nice and easy! Unless you expect a lot of people to eat it, I'd recommend cutting the recipe in half.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pumpkin Party: appetizers part 1

Finally, the recipes from the Pumpkin Party.

We'll start small- wamozart12 is forgetful and overwhelmed, and can't seem to track down all the pictures.

First. let me present the shining pumpkin star of the pumpkin party,
Pumpkin Garlic Knots.

This is the same basic recipe I used on the beet pizza dough I made a while ago, but they use pumpkin puree (canned, in this case) instead of beet puree. I also used honey instead of agave nectar. The recipe is from (never)home maker. I actually doubled it to make 1.5 recipes of garlic knots, and used the remaining dough for the pizza I'll tell you about in the next post.

Pumpkin Garlic Knots,
from (never)home maker


1 cup warm water (not hot! I'd recommend 100F or less, despite what some cookbooks say- but I am the Yeast Whisperer (so says my husband) and that's what I say.
1T active dry yeast
1-2T honey
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1T olive oil
1t kosher salt
3.5-4 cups AP flour

In the bowl of your KA mixer, combine the water, yeast, and some of the honey. Mix around, let sit for 10 minutes, until the yeast wakes up and makes it frothy.

Stir in the remaining honey, pumpkin, olive oil and salt. Then add the flour, 2 cups at first and mix to combine, then add a cup at a time and stir with your bread hook (or by hand) until the dough is the right consistency- it comes together, and is still a little sticky, but not horribly sticky. Even if it is sticky, you can add a little more flour as you form the knots, after rising.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, at least 2 hours.

Punch down the dough and start to form the knots. Alternatively, divide in 2 or 3 pieces and use for pizza dough. At this point, you can wrap the dough in plastic wrap and store in the fridge or freezer.

Knots: take a small bit of dough, about 2T. Roll into a snake, then tie into a regular old square knot. This won't be neat, the dough will probably stick itself- but messy is fine! You're just going to eat it later, anyway.

Preheat your oven to 425F, place the rolls on a parchment-lined cookie sheet or on your pizza stone, and bake for 10-20 minutes, depending on how large your rolls are. They're done when they're beginning to brown.

Once the rolls have cooled a bit, you can eat them as is, or make them into garlic knots. I combine 4-5 garlic cloves, finely minced, 1t kosher salt (sea salt is even better) and about 1/4-1/3 cup olive oil in a bowl (or for easy cleanup, a zip top bag). Then I threw the rolls in and mixed them around, til they were coated in the garlic, salt and olive oil. Best served a little warm. If you don't eat them all at once (what?!), they'll get a little soggy after a few days, from the olive oil.