Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Steel-cut Oats with Cranberries and Almonds

Well, it's snowing again. Still. We've got another snow day for the kids, another day of shoveling a foot of snow at a time, and that means another day of warming, filling foods. My mom gave me an unopened canister of steel cut oats when I was there over Thanksgiving. I'd been meaning to try them out - I'd heard good things about them - and we love oats in this house anyway. I was intrigued by others' description of the chewy texture, rather than the glue-like paste of some rolled oats' dishes.

This version is pretty low-maintenance to boot. Instead of standing over a pot for a half hour, stirring constantly to keep the oats from sticking, you start these the night before and then let them sit overnight to soak. In the morning you just heat them up, sweeten to taste and then serve.

Steel-cut Oats with Cranberries and Almonds
Makes 3 servings

  • 3/4 cup steel-cut oats
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon orange peel 
  • 1/4 cup chopped salted roasted almonds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • Agave nectar
  1. In a large saucepan, boil the oats, dried cranberries and orange peel in the water for 1 minute. Cover, remove from heat and set on a heat-resistant surface.
  2. Let sit overnight.
  3. The next morning, uncover the oats and bring them to a boil over high heat.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the oatmeal is hot and creamy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Garnish with the chopped almonds and some additional cranberries if you like and sweeten to taste with agave nectar.
One serving is worth 6 WW points.

  • There is a very large discrepancy between the points I got when I entered this recipe into the WeightWatchers online calculator and when I entered the nutritional data generated by Living Cookbook software. Like, a HUGE difference. I don't know what bit of pixie dust they have in the WW algorithms, but, man, it makes no sense.

    They revamped the points system to get away from assigning points value strictly on calories and to account for specific nutrients: fat, carbohydrates, fiber and protein. Still, when I entered that specific data which my software generated from the exact same recipe, I got a points value of 10 per serving. I think that the food database in my software might be hinky. :/

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Vegetarian Chili

It's still cold here. I burned off god knows how many calories shoveling snow today and it looks as though I'll be trekking back out there today to shovel some more. I am still in my soup/stew kick, and today made up a pot of vegan chili. I was not in the mood for a long time spent on the mise en place (lol I love saying that "mise en place"). I really wanted to toss stuff in a pot and let it simmer because I just wanted to sit and catch my breath and rest before I had to go back outside into the snowstorm. Right? So I thought to myself: "Hmmm. Chili. Yes."

Now, chili is one of those foods which can attract controversy and strong opinion. There are those who believe that beans have no place in chili, like the chili con carne often also called Texas chili. Others like a lot of beans and minimal meat in their chili, while still others like to call a chicken and white bean stew by the name "chili." Many vegetarian chili recipes will also include high-protein grains like bulgur, though many chili purists would turn up their noses at it.

Honestly, if it's good, I like it all.I won't fight to the death over some literal interpretation of what a dish is supposed to be called, I'll just eat it.

Vegetarian Chili
Makes 6 servings

  • 1 15-ounce can chili beans in sauce (I used Full Circle Chili Beans)
  • 1 15-ounce can dark red kidney beans
  • 1/4 cup red quinoa
  • 1/4 cup bulgur
  • 1 20-ounce can diced tomatoes, with the juice
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup Morningstar Farms crumbles
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 small dried chipotle chili pepper
  • 1 T dried minced onion
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon oregano

  1. Put all ingredients in a large pot bring to a near-boil and then reduce the heat and let simmer on low for about an hour. Stir frequently so that nothing sticks to the bottom and burns.  Or you could just throw everything in a crock pot, put it on low and walk away.
  2. Taste to adjust seasonings, remove the chipotle and serve.

One serving of this chili is 5 WW points on the new PointsPlus Plan.

Amount Per Serving
Calories From Fat (10%)
% Daily Value
Total Fat 2.83g
Saturated Fat 0.4g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 884.16mg
Potassium 888.31mg
Total Carbohydrates 46.75g
Fiber 12.87g
Sugar 9.08g

Protein 15.75g

  • This chili is flavorful but not spicy. The chipotle gives it a little bit of heat, but even better, a wonderful smokiness which I think rounds out the flavor. Of course, if you have to have a number of alarms on your chili, feel free to add diced jalapenos or hot sauce to taste.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Potato, Leek and Celery Root Soup

There's been a lot going on lately, not the least of which is that I have joined Weight Watchers for their all-new PointsPlus plan. One of the changes is that most fruits and vegetables are freebies, with 0 points. You can read more about the changes here. So, this means that I am going to be slimming down my recipes, at least for the next three months, although if I do a Cookie-Palooza again, I just won't be the one eating many of them.

Ok, maybe one or two, to "test" them. ;-)

Today, I kick-started it with a nice, warming and filling soup. It's a blustery winter day here in Syracuse, with a forecast for Lake Effect Snow until Wednesday; the kids have a snow day and we're all trying to stay warm, so I opted for a nice pot of soup. I had a celery root languishing in the vegetable crisper, and a few fresh leeks and potatoes.... can you see where this is going? I adapted the classic vichyssoise by adding the celery root for that crisp celery flavor and omitted the cream. The result was a thick, luscious soup that clocks in at 5 points per bowl, or 29 points for the whole thing, so you can divide it up as you like.

Potato, Leek and Celery Root Soup
Makes 6 servings

  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 cups thinly sliced leeks
  • 1 celery root, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 3 medium red potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • Salt to taste (optional)
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, plus additional for garnish
  • celery seeds

  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the leeks, cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the celery root and cook, stirring often, 5 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken broth and potatoes. Bring to a boil over medium high heat.
  5. Reduce the heat, then simmer 25 minutes, covered, or until vegetables are soft.
  6. Remove the sprig of thyme and discard.
  7. Puree the soup using a blender until nice and smooth.
  8. Season to taste with salt- though this will probable not be necessary if you used regular chicken broth. Garnish with thyme and celery seed.

  • I am trying out a new recipe software for maintaining my recipe library, and it includes an option to create a table with nutritional date for the recipe.

Amount Per Serving
Calories From Fat (44%)
% Daily Value
Total Fat 8.68g
Saturated Fat 5.13g
Cholesterol 20.35mg
Sodium 519.77mg
Potassium 614.77mg
Total Carbohydrates 19.31g
Fiber 1.53g
Sugar 1.63g

Protein 5.26g

Friday, November 19, 2010


I made some changes to my Crisis Brownies recipe.

They are really good. Fudgey, chocolatey, gooey.


I'll add the new recipe soon.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Almond Pastries

I had a hankering for a cheese danish the other night. Well no, first it was a craving for almond-filled croissants, croissants aux amandes, but then later on, I'd moved on to drooling after a good old cheese danish when the thought hit me: Why not combine them?!

So, practically the first thing I did this morning was take out my box of puff pastry from the freezer and let that last sheet of pastry thaw out. Then I took a look at what I had in the fridge that could simulate a cheese danish filling. A little cream cheese, confectioner's sugar, some ricotta, almond paste and an egg yolk formed the base of it. I added orange zest and almond extract to round it out, and finished it off with a lovely egg wash to give it a sheen.

Going into the oven, they were kind of a mess, I'll be honest. The crimped-together edges were not the least bit pretty and I wondered if I'd have anything photograph-worthy. I thought if the filling turned out ok, I could  troubleshoot the presentation the next time I made them, but to my surprise, when they came out of the oven, they were gorgeous, attractively puffed-up and golden brown.

The final test, then, would be how they tasted.

Sublime. The texture was just right, smooth and creamy, and the orange and almond flavors worked nicely with one another. It is strongly reminiscent of almond without being too strong.

Almond pastry

  • 3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 T ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 T almond paste
  • 1/2 t pure almond extract
  • 2 t grated orange zest 
  • 1 sheet  frozen puff pastry, defrosted
  • 1 egg beaten, for egg wash
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out with a rolling pin until it's a 12 by 8-inch rectangle. 
  3. Place the cream cheese and confectioner's sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and cream them together on low speed until smooth.
  4. With the mixer still on low, add the ricotta and crumble in the almond paste and let the mixer combine them well.
  5. Then add the almond extract, orange zest and egg yolk and mix on low speed until just combined.
  6. Cut the sheet of puff pastry into eight rectangles with a sharp knife.
  7. Place one heaping tablespoon of cheese filling into the middle of 4 of the rectangles.
  8. Brush the border of each pastry with egg wash and then cover it with a free pastry rectangle, pinching the edges together so that they stick together.
  9. Brush the top of the pastries with the egg wash.
  10. Place the pastries on the sheet pan.
  11. Bake the pastries for about 20 minutes, until puffed and brown. Serve warm.

Supper Popover

Growing up, this was my most-requested dinner dish. My mom said she'd found it in a magazine years ago (we're talking back in the 70s here, people). I've seen some people cite this as from a Betty Crocker cookbook. Whichever it is, I have always loved it. This and Pizza Without a Crust were my favorite meals growing up.

They were certainly way better than cube steak, which I had to eat all the time, my dad being a meat and potatoes kind of guy, and I could never stand it. I haven't eaten cube steak in almost 25 years now and despite Pioneer Woman's recipe for her husband's favorite sandwich, I don't think I will be able to eat it ever again. I have not-so-fond memories of trying to chew through grey bits of gristle, and yes, gagging.

This dish, on the other hand, I would eat once a week for dinner and gladly eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. My kids love it too.

Supper Popover

Ingredients :
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 can (15oz) diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 T sun-dried tomato pesto (optional)
  • 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 2 t Italian seasoning
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t salt
Instructions :
  1. Heat oven to 425.
  2. Brown the ground beef in 10-inch skillet until brown and cooked through; drain.
  3. Stir in the diced tomatoes, red bell pepper, garlic, onion, sun-dried tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, garlic powder and Italian seasoning.
  4. Raise heat to high. Cook 1 minute, stirring to make sure nothing sticks and burns.
  5. Add 1 T flour. Stir until well-combined.
  6. Pour into ungreased 9 x 13 baking pan. Sprinkle the cheese on top.
  7. Beat eggs, milk, oil, 1 cup flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt with hand beater; pour over cheese.
  8. Bake until puffy and golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

  • I once made a version of this using salsa in place of the diced tomatoes and substituted 1 cup of pepperjack cheese for some of the cheddar.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Snark, the Universal Seasoning.

The bigger you are, the larger target you present, so when you have your own magazine and morning talk show, you are a damned-large target. Really, Rachel Ray ought to know better than to post something like this as a recipe on the Food Network site:

The comments people are posting in response to Late Night Bacon are hilarious. They're as funny as those found in response to the Three Wolves shirt at Amazon.

"Wow! Thank god for this recipe! I had to use toilet paper because I was out of paper towels. Luckily, I use Charmin, so there were no little toilet paper bits left behind, just like the little red bears in the commercial. Well, maybe one or two little bits, but they just added to complexity of this amazing dish. Everyone who logs onto is looking for a great recipe like this. In the words of the master herself, it was "Deelish"."

or this one:

"An unabashedly modern twist on a seemingly-unimprovable classic! I like to substitute a country-themed tea towel for the paper on special occasions. I've found it even works at 10:00 am, in case you're considering adding "Late Night Bacon" to your next book club brunch menu. When I unwrap and reveal sur la table, everyone asks "How do you do it???" Only Rachel and I know for sure ;-"

and my favorite:

"This recipe saved my marriage."

Stovetop Mac and Cheese

As the title of the blog indicates, I am big into comfort foods. As much as I love elaborate meals with fancy ingredients, there is nothing quite so comforting as a nice bowl of super-cheesy mac and cheese. This is my standard stovetop mac and cheese recipe which has completely replaced the boxed stuff in our house. Just like with the boxed variety, the longest prep time for this recipe is waiting for the water to boil, so this is a fairly quick and, once you know how to make a white sauce from a roux, very easy recipe.

I usually double this recipe and bake it in a casserole dish, but for those times when we need a quick side dish, or God help me, fast main dish, this works for us. If this is a main course, I'll try to add some vegetables or leftover ham to add something nutritional to it, though I'll admit we sometimes jut eat a bowl of this and call it dinner.

Stovetop Mac and Cheese

  • 4 oz. dried macaroni (half a standard box)
  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk - I usually use 2%
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar
  • salt and pepper
  • nutmeg
  • whole grain mustard (optional)
  • mustard powder (optional)
  • garlic powder (optional)


  1. Put the water on to boil in a large pot.
  2. Cook the pasta according to directions.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, melt butter over medium-high heat in a sturdy saucepan and warm the milk in the microwave.
  4. When it is melted and foamy, whisk in the flour.
  5. Keep stirring when the roux is golden colored, add the warmed milk and whisk constantly, making sure there are no clumps.
  6. Raise the heat to medium-high, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly and let thicken. Add the nutmeg.
  7. Add the grated parm and the cheddar and stir well until the cheeses have melted.
  8. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Now you can add mustard, garlic powder of whatever other spice you like to taste. Sometimes I add a dash of hot sauce.
  9. Dump the cooked, drained pasta into the pot and mix well.
  10. Serve.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pumpkin Pancake Puffs

I had some leftover pumpkin puree from when I made the gingerbread. It was not enough for a pie or another batch of gingerbread, and I didn't want to throw it out, so I thought it was time for another one of my "just throw some shit together and see what happens" types of recipes. In addition to the pumpkin puree, I had several items loitering around the kitchen I wanted to use up. Best of all, since I used packaged pancake mix, I get bonus Sandra Lee points as well.

These were pretty good. They're not really a muffin, which is denser, so I hesitate to call them pumpkin muffins. They were gone within 15 minutes of being pulled out of the oven, so I'll work out the kinks of the recipe for next time.

If I were totally depraved, I would deep-fry the batter as a sort of knock-off of Denny's Pancake Puppies, but I am not depraved. Also, I don't have a deep fryer. So, there ya go.

Pumpkin Pancake Puffs

  • 1 1/2 cups pancake mix ( I often have New Hope Mills)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt, sour cream or buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • cinnamon sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin puree, brown sugar and cinnamon.
  3. Add the yogurt and stir well.
  4. Add the beaten eggs, mixing well to combine.
  5. Add the pancake mix and stir well until it is all combined.
  6. Grease mini muffin tins and drop in the batter.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes until the tops are lightly golden and a cake tester come out clean.
  8. Dust with cinnamon sugar and eat warm.
  • These stuck to the muffin tins like hell. I don't know if I should butter and flour them next time or use muffin liners.
  • These were very tangy- possibly because I used Greek yogurt. I might add a bit more brown sugar to the pumpkin puree next time, or use cream instead of the yogurt, though I actually liked the tanginess.
  • I also might add bit more baking soda for more lift.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Seafood Lasagna

We tasted this some weeks ago at a family gathering. My kids, in fact, all of the kids there, absolutely devoured this dish. Every one of them went back for no less than thirds of this dish. If they had been allowed to sit on the kitchen floor in a ravenous huddle around the baking dish and scrape it clean with their graspy fingers, they would have. It amused the adults greatly.

Needless to say, I told my SIL that I would need that recipe. I am thankful that my kids are growing out of their pickiness. They have been gamely trying out new things I foist on them, but when I see that there is something that they seem to inhale off their plate and then request seconds of, well, I have to add it to my repertoire.

I won't lie to you: This is rich, with 4 cups of a cheese sauce, ricotta and seafood, but my goodness, is it tasty.

Seafood Lasagna

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick or 1/4-pound)
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth (I used Better Than Bouillon No-Chicken Base)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 t Old Bay
  • 12 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1/2 pound shrimp - I used frozen, cooked shrimp
  • 1/2 pound scallops - I used frozen scallops
  • 1/2 cup grated parm

  1. Thaw the seafood according to the package.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350.

  3. Saute the chopped onion in butter. Set aside once they are soft and translucent.

  4. Over low heat, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Once the butter is foamy, add the garlic and cook for a few minutes.

  5. Whisk in the flour and cook until the paste is golden and bubbly.

  6. Add the milk and broth, stirring constantly.

  7. Bring to a boil and then let boil for 1 minute, keep stirring.

  8. Lower heat and add the mozzarella, Old Bay and sauteed onions.

  9. Cook until the cheese has all melted.

  10. In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta and the grated parm.

  11. In another small bowl, mix together the shrimp and scallops.

  12. In an ungreased 9 x 13 baking dish, spread 1 cup of the cheese sauce on the bottom. Cover with 4 of the uncooked noodles, then spread more of the sauce on the noodles. Spread it out so that all of the noodles are lightly covered with the sauce.

  13. Spread half of the ricotta-parm mixture over the noodles, and then top with half of the seafood. Then ladle out more of the cheese sauce and top with 4 more noodles.

  14. Repeat one more time until all of the ricotta and seafood are layered in, top with sauce and then 4 more noodles and pour the remaining cheese sauce over the top. Let the excess sauce run down into the layers below.

  15. Top with extra grated parm and sprinkle a bit more Old Bay on top, then bake, uncovered for 40 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes, then cut into pieces. If it seems soupy, put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes, then serve, with fresh shredded parm on top.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bacon, Leek and Gruyère Tart

I've been on a puff pastry kick lately. A few weeks ago, I used up my box of pastry to make a savory appetizer and a sweet treat Puff Pastry Swirls, Two Ways, and have been inspired ever since to try out new recipe ideas with the puff pastry. I still had some slab bacon left over from last week's haluski, and two beautiful leeks in the crisper. I remembered the block of Gruyère languishing in the cheese drawer, bought a while back when I had been contemplating making French Onion Soup. I knew that I had to combine the three in some way.

I was torn between making the classic Quiche Lorraine or somehow adding the new box of puff pastry in the mix. Well, this morning I found this recipe at BBC GoodFood for a Leek, cheese and bacon tart and I just knew I had to make it.

Wow, it is ever amazing... and rich. Next time though, I have to use goat cheese in place of the cream cheese. This recipes needs that slight tanginess from the goat cheese.

Bacon, Leek and Gruyère Tart

  • 5 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 2 large leeks, tops cut off, washed well and coarsely chopped
  • 2 t dried thyme or 1 T fresh thyme
  • 1 oz Gruyère, shredded
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 oz cream cheese
  • melted butter

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.

  2. Thaw one sheet of puff pastry, laying it out on a baking sheet lines with a sheet of parchment paper.

  3. Cook the bacon until crisp. Set aside to drain on a plated lined with paper towels.

  4. Saute the chopped leeks in the bacon fat (oh yes) until they are soft, not browned.

  5. Add 1 t of the dried thyme (1/2 T fresh thyme) and saute another minute or so. Remove from heat and set aside.

  6. Spread the cream cheese on the thawed puff pastry, leaving free a 1-inch border along all four sides. Sprinkle a little thyme over the cream cheese.

  7. Brush the border with melted butter.

  8. Spread the leeks all over the cream cheese.

  9. Crumble the bacon and sprinkle on top of the leeks.

  10. Top generously with the shredded Gruyère. Sprinkle a little more thyme on top.

  11. Fold the edges of the pastry over and brush it with melted butter and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and nicely golden brown and delicious.

Gruyere Cheese- جبنة غرويير on FoodistaGruyere Cheese- جبنة غرويير

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pepperoni Bites

I love appetizers. Most of our family gatherings, aside from the big holiday dinner occasions, are feasts of appetizers and finger foods, from cheese plates and a big platter of shrimp with cocktail sauce to an assortment of mini quiches and potstickers. I am always on the hunt for new appetizers to add to the mix to feed the ravenous hordes.

Well, this recipe delivers. It's savory and satisfying like pizza, and not as much work as gougeres. Plus, the bite-sized morsels can alleviate the guilt of wanting to devour an entire pizza by yourself, unless you plow through a dozen of these like I just did in the name of "taste testing."

Pepperoni-Cheese Bites

makes 1 dozen

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 t Italian seasoning
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped pepperoni
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3/8 cup milk
  • shredded parm

  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F. Spray a mini muffin pan with cooking spray.

  2. Mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and Italian seasoning in a bowl.

  3. Cut the 2 T of butter into small squares. Add them to the flour mixture and rub in with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly. If this does not appeal to you, you can pulse them together in a food processor until the butter is worked in.

  4. Add the chopped pepperoni and the shredded cheese and mix together.

  5. Pour in the milk and mix until everything is well-combined.

  6. Drop by teaspoon into the mini muffin pan. This recipe is enough for 12.

  7. Top with a bit of shredded parm and bake for 12-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

  8. Serve immediately.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pumpkin Gingerbread

As you'll see from the blog, I've been on a pumpkin kick lately. One pie and a pumpkin gingerbread later, I still have some purée left over from the large sugar pumpkin I processed last weekend. I also have 2 sugar pumpkins chilling out in the basement waiting to be transformed into something fabulous so no doubt I'm set for purée for the next 6 months.

I searched around for pumpkin gingerbread recipes and settled on the King Arthur Flour's gingerbread recipe as a starting point. I made a few changes based on what I had on hand and spiced according to my taste preferences. The results were fantastic: Somewhat shamefacedly, I'll cop to scarfing down two pieces of it, still warm and topped with homemade vanilla ice cream, this morning. The edges were beautifully crisp and molasses-sweet, and the hint of black pepper paired with the ginger lent a zing to each bite. The pumpkin purée kept it moist without being too heavy.

Really, this might be the best thing I've ever made. :)

Pumpkin Gingerbread

  • 1 T cider vinegar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1¼ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 ¼ t baking powder
  • ½ t baking soda
  • ½ t salt
  • 2 t ginger
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 6 cloves, crushed
  • ¼ t allspice
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • dash of black pepper
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • ½ cup dark molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin purée
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

  2. Grease and flour an 8 x 8 inch baking dish.

  3. Mix together the apple cider vinegar and milk and set aside to let the milk curdle - otherwise you can substitute 1 cup of buttermilk if you have it.

  4. Put the flours, baking soda, baking powder, brown sugar, salt and spices in a large bowl and whisk well.

  5. Melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl and add to the molasses.

  6. Pour the butter and molasses mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing well.

  7. Add the curdled milk/buttermilk and stir well.

  8. Add the egg and mix until totally combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

  9. Fold in the pumpkin puree and mix well.

  10. Pour the batter into the prepared dish and bake 45-50 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

  11. Let cool or serve immediately with whipped cream or ice cream.

Just look at that crumb, would you? Mmm-mmm.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pannukakku; Finnish Oven Pancake

Here Chez Babs, we just love breakfast-for-supper, but really, who doesn't?

For starters, none of us were all that hungry tonight, plus I wanted something tasty but quick. I wasn't in the mood to make everyone an omelette to order and the kids didn't feel like scrambled eggs and cinnamon toast. I also didn't feel up to dealing with cleaning the waffle iron or the cast iron griddle either, and try though I may, I just can't justify coffeecake for dinner. Finally I remembered that earlier in the day, I had been thinking of making pannukakku for breakfast, but sloth got the better of me and I had a bagel instead.

So, Breakfast for Supper, the international edition!


Serves 4*

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 1/2 t sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t almond extract
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • Greek yogurt, vanilla flavored
  • berries
  • confectioner's sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

  2. Mix together the dry ingredients in a small bowl.

  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy, then add the milk and extract. Whisk well.

  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and whisk until everything is incorporated. Set aside.

  5. Put 1 T of butter in an 8 x 8 inch square baking pan and put in the oven for 5 minutes until the butter has melted and is bubbly.

  6. Take out, tilt the dish so that the bottom is evenly coated with the melted butter. Then pour in the batter and bake for 15 minutes or until it is puffy and the tops of the sides are browned.

  7. I like to slice it into quarters and serve with Greek-style vanilla yogurt, berries and confectioner's sugar.

  • Here is the pannukakku a few minutes after it's come out of the oven. It has deflated quite a bit. When I took it out, the entire thing was puffed up and the edges were up above the top of the sides.

  • I halved the recipe I like because I think that pannukakku should be eaten right away, not stuck in the fridge to be reheated later on. The full recipe makes enough batter for a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.

Pumpkin Pie

I never had pumpkin pie when I was growing up because my dad is not a big fan of squash. I'd heard people over the years talk longingly about pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving time, but never really cared that I might be missing out on something fabulous because we always had pecan pies and apple pies for the holidays.

Then I met my future in-laws and pumpkin pie and my whole world changed.

Not only did they introduce me to the wonders of pumpkin pie, but they opened the doors to the other squashes, butternut, acorn, pattypan, all wonderfully delicious and endlessly inspiring.

But still, I always come back to the pie. :)

Pumpkin Pie


For the Pastry:
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup ice water

For the Pumpkin Filling:
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups fresh pumpkin puree*
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6 cloves, ground
  • 6 allspice berries, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor and process until combined. Add the butter and process about 15 seconds, or until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

  2. Pour 1/8 cup ice water water in a slow, steady stream, through the feed tube until the dough just holds together. Add more water as necessary. Do not process more than 30 seconds.

  3. Turn the dough onto your floured work surface and shape it into a ball. Flatten the ball into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour before using.

  4. After the dough has chilled sufficiently, place on a lightly floured surface, and roll into circle about 1/4 inch thick.

  5. Roll the dough over your rolling pine and gently transfer to a deep dish pie pan. Brush off any excess flour and tuck the overhanging pastry under itself. Refrigerate the pastry, covered with plastic wrap, for about 30 minutes before pouring in the filling.

  6. In a large bowl whisk the eggs. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie shell and place on a large baking pan to catch any spills.

  8. Bake the pie for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then lower the temperature to 350 and bake for 40 minutes, or until the filling is set and the crust has browned, though the center will still look wet and jiggly.

  9. Turn off the oven, leave it open a crack while it cools and take it out, to minimize cracking.

  10. Place the baked pie on a wire rack to cool. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

  • I like using fresh pumpkin instead of canned puree:
    • Buy a small sugar pumpkin, also sometimes called pie pumpkin.

    • Cut it in half and scrape out the seeds and stringy fibers.

    • Place cut side up in a roasting pan. Pour in water until it's about 1 1/2 inches high. Then roast in a 400-degree preheated oven for about 45 minutes to an hour.

    • Take out and let cool, then scoop out the flesh.

    • I often like to puree the pumpkin in a food processor and then add the spices sugar and cream, and process it together. Then I scoop it into a large bowl with the beaten eggs, stir well and then pour int the crust.

Breaded Fish Fillet

Convenience foods aren't really all that convenient, because they rarely taste as good as food made from scratch. Sure, you can save time, but at the cost of taste, texture and nutritive content.

I was able to wean my kids off fish sticks with these homemade, breaded fish fillets. No more paste-textured breaded fish-bits from some undefinable fish, these fillets have a golden-brown crunchy coating encasing a most, delicate, tender fillet of white fish. Plus, they take so little time to prepare, it takes about the same time as fish sticks. Just prepare the fish fillets as the oven preheats and you're good to go.

Seriously good eats.

Breaded Fish Fillets

  • 4 fish fillets cut into thin strips - haddock, tilapia, whiting
  • mayonnaise - I like Vegannaise
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • shredded pecorino romano
  • panko bread crumbs
  • cooking spray

  1. Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Mix Old Bay, shredded romano and panko in a pie plate.
  3. Spread the fish with mayo. You don't want huge oozing gobs of mayo, you want a thin layer for the crumbs to adhere to.
  4. Dredge the mayo-coated fish through the crumbs, coating nicely.
  5. Place in the baking pan.
  6. Spray with cooking spray.
  7. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 20 minutes.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Last weekend, in preparation for Hallowe'en, my girls and I carved pumpkins basically all day long on Saturday. We each picked out a fairly elaborate pattern to carve out, and my ambitious plans to bake pumpkin bread, a pumpkin pie, a loaf of multigrain bread and roast the seeds came to naught.

We got the pumpkins done, but were all pretty sick of anything pumpkin-related, especially by the time I had finished picking out the seeds from the gigantic bowl of pumpkin guts. I washed them and let them sit in a colander, oh, all week until today when I finally said, "Hmm, I really ought to roast those suckers."

I did, and despite the 5-day wait, they were just as delicious as they always have been.

I will be making a pie at some point this weekend. ;-)

Spiced Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

  • pumpkin seeds, unshelled
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • Old Bay

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.

  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  3. Put the pumpkin seeds in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil.

  4. Add salt liberally and toss with some Old Bay.

  5. Spread out into an even layer on the baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

  6. Take them out and stir them around, flipping them over, then put them back in for another 5 minutes.

  7. Check to see how they're doing, you don't want them burned, but if they're not roasted enough, they won't have the right amount of crunch to them.

  8. When they're done, put them in a bowl and snack away.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Haluski with Spaetzle

You read that right, that's haluski with spaetzle.

Some of you may be shuddering in horror at the thought of haluski made with anything but homemade noodles, potato dumplings or egg noodles, but the way I see it, as I browsed through recipes of "authentic Slovakian haluski," no one could agree on what noodle/dumpling/potato addition was right. So I said, what the hell, spaetzle are a noodle-type dumpling, right? I like to walk on the crazy side sometimes.

The verdict: It was fantastic!

The spaetzle soaked up all the flavor of the dish without being too doughy. I used fresh-cut slab bacon from the butcher's counter instead of packaged bacon, and I have to say, I think that made a huge difference. If it makes sense, that bacon tasted more "bacony" than any other bacon I've ever had. Its saltiness complemented the cabbage's sweetness perfectly.

Adding the caraway seed was a last-minute inspiration, but it worked. I can't wait to eat the leftovers tomorrow after the flavors have melded even more.

Haluski with spaetzle

  • 1/2 pound slab bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced
  • 1 head of green cabbage, cored and chopped coarsely
  • caraway seed
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • caraway seed
  • cooked, buttered spaetzle*

  1. Cook the bacon until nicely crisp, then remove to a paper-towel lined plate.
  2. To the rendered bacon fat, add the sliced onion and cook over medium-high heat until they start to soften.
  3. Sprinkle some garlic powder over the top and then add the chopped cabbage.
  4. Cover to let steam. Cook for five minutes covered, and then stir to be sure it is cooking evenly. Add a little bit of salt, pepper and caraway, stir and cover again.
  5. Let it cook down, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is soft but not limp. It should still have a little bit of bite to it.
  6. Add the buttered spaetzle, and combine well. Let it cook for a minute, then add the reserved bacon pieces.
  7. Taste to check the seasoning and then serve.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground caraway seed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, caraway seed and nutmeg.
  2. In another mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together.
  3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients to the dry ones.
  4. Combine well until smooth. This will be somewhere between a dough and a batter, and it will be quite thick. Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  6. To form the spaetzle, press the batter through your handy-dandy spaetzle press into the water, one batch at a time, cooking for about 5 minutes, until the spaetzle is all puffy and have floated to the top of the pot. stirring gently to prevent sticking.

    - If you don't have a spaetzle press, you can use a large holed colander or slotted spoon over the simmering water and push the dough through the holes with a spatula or spoon.
  7. Scoop out the spaetzle with a slotted spoon and set in a bowl to rest.
  8. Add a small pat of butter and stir well.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Spicy Corn and Linguiça Chowder

My week of soups got delayed a little bit by a last-minute invitation to a family gathering on Friday and my kids' insistence on a Chinese Food Weekend, so my big plans for a new soup a day had to be taken off the back burner and refrigerated.

Today's Spicy Corn and Linguiça Chowder was completely worth the wait. I can't wait to try out the other soups. :)

Spicy Corn and Linguiça Chowder

  • 3 ears corn
  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • large white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 pound linguiça sausage, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces - For a little more spice, I'd use chouriço.
  • 1 small hot red pepper, finely diced
  • ½ red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • salt and pepper
  • Smoked paprika for garnish
  1. Husk the corn and remove all the silk. With a sharp knife, slice the corn from cob. Set the corn aside in a bowl.

  2. Break the cobs in half and place them in a large soup pot. Add the cream, stock, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and 1/4 cup of the chopped onions to pot. Simmer over very low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

  3. Strain the mixture through a sieve set over a large bowl, pressing on the solids very well with the back of a large ladle to squeeze out every drop of creamy corny goodness.

  4. Set the creamy corn stock aside. You can even refrigerate it for a few days if you like.

  5. Cook the linguiça in large pot or dutch oven over medium heat until cooked through, nicely browned, turning occasionally. Remove the sausage and set aside.

  6. To the rendered fat from the sausage, add the remaining chopped onion, minced hot pepper and the red bell pepper and sauté 5 minutes.

  7. Add the flour and stir well, cooking for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the creamy corn stock until smooth.

  8. Add the browned sausage and potatoes. Cover and cook about 25 minutes or until the potatoes are fork-tender.

  9. Add the fresh corn and cook 10 minutes. Taste and then season with salt and pepper. For extra spice, a few drops of hot sauce would work out well, too.

  10. Ladle chowder into bowls. Garnish with smoked paprika and serve.

  • You can easily prepare this a day or so ahead. Just cover and refrigerate it, then reheat in the microwave or over a low burner before continuing, thinning with additional chicken stock if necessary.
  • I made the creamy corn stock three days ago and then just refrigerated it until today. It worked out great.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mushroom Barley Soup

Who doesn't love soup?

"We both have so much in common. We both love soup."

Well, there you go. lol

Soup really cures what ails you. When you have a cold, what could be better, more satisfying and nourishing than a bowl of mom's special chicken noodle soup? Or, on a chilly day, nothing warms the stomach and the soul quite as well as a nice filling bowl of hot soup. Cold soups like gazpacho or a fruity melon-cucumber soup help relieve the heat of summer, while delicate bisques, with their subtle complexity of flavors, form the perfect complement to an elegant dinner, and hearty bean soups provide all the warmth and solidity of a full meal in a single bowlful.

No soup is foreign to me. Hell, I'll even drink a cup of a well-made broth as a small warming snack. I love the onset of cool weather so I can try out new soup recipes and return to old friends. One of my favorites is this mushroom-barley soup, which is endlessly adaptable, accommodating different types of mushrooms, broth and even the addition of meat.

Mushroom- Barley Soup

  • 4 - 5 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 small celery root, finely diced (or 1 stalk of celery)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pearl barley (pearl or quick-cooking)
  • 1/2 oz dried wild mushrooms, reconstituted and chopped (comes to 4 oz)
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 T fresh thyme
  • black pepper
  • butter
  1. Saute onions, carrot, celery root in butter until nicely softened.

  2. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes.

  3. Add the reconstituted wild mushrooms until they start releasing liquid, and then gradually add the rest of the mushrooms.

  4. Add the barley and stir to coat. Add the salt and some black pepper, then 2 cups of the broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover, letting it simmer.

  5. Check on it frequently, gradually adding more broth until the barley has cooked and the consistency is to your taste. If you use quick-cooking barley, the soup only needs to simmer for about 20 minutes. If you use pearl barley, it will take quite a bit longer, closer to 45 minutes.

  6. Stir in the thyme near the end. Taste, taste and taste again, adjusting the salt and pepper to suit your taste.

  7. If you like, you may add some cream, a dollop of sour cream, or sherry just before serving, though I like it as is.

  • I used celery root because I was out of celery, too lazy to go to the store and, oddly enough, had a celery root handy. I had been saving it for a creamy leek and celery root soup, but alas, I have no leeks either. Maybe next time. :p

  • In addition to the 4 oz (half a standard package) of baby bellas (cremini), I used a mixture of dried porcini and morels. It's a lovely mix of mushrooms.

  • This makes a small batch of soup, about 4 servings. It doubles very well for larger batches, but if you are planning on making a large batch to refrigerate or freeze for later, bear in mind that the longer it sits, the more liquid gets absorbed by the barley, changing the texture.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mustard-glazed Carrots

Like many moms out there, I am always on the hunt for a vegetable side dish which is easy to fix and palatable to kids', well, palates. Bonus points go to a dish which is also somewhat healthy. Sure, you can batter, deep-fry and then serve a vegetable smothered with some fake-orange cheese sauce made from canned cheese soup and then watch in horror as your kids devour it, but that does not make it the best choice for a veggie side dish. An easy choice, yes, but not the healthiest.

I often set out a platter of fresh, raw vegetables cut into strips and small bowls with hummus, Ranch or Italian dressing. My kids' favorites are red bell pepper strips and chunks of zucchini, while I love the cherry tomatoes and Persian cucumbers. In cooler weather, once summer's fresh vegetables are just a fond memory, we're left with the root vegetables and winter squashes. My kids love carrots, but get tired of the standard raw carrot sticks. I tried this recipe out last week and, color me delighted, my older daughter went for seconds of this, saying, "Gee Mommy, these carrots are pretty good."

High praise, man. Gotta love it. ;-)

Mustard-glazed carrots

  • 4 large carrots, peeled (I ended up with about 3 cups of carrot slices)
  • water
  • 2 tablespoons butter or vegan margarine
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

  1. Slice the carrots on a diagonal, creating long, elliptical carrot slices.

  2. In a large saucepan, bring carrots and enough water almost cover the carrots to a boil.

  3. Reduce the heat, cover and let simmer for 10 minutes or until tender to your liking. Drain and set aside.

  4. In the same pan, melt the butter until it is foamy. Add the brown sugar, mustard, and ginger, cooking over medium heat until the sugar and ginger are dissolved. Add the carrots back to the pan, tossing to coat.

  5. Serve, adding salt & pepper to taste.

  • You may argue with me about how healthy this is, since the glaze includes some butter and brown sugar, but I don't think that a little butter now and then is a bad thing. It has GOT to be better than a platter of french fries, tater tots and fried mushrooms as a side dish. :D

Friday, October 8, 2010

Maple Brown Sugar Apple Crisps

I love fall. The cooler, blustery weather, the colors of the changing trees, the late-season vegetables and fruits, it's difficult to think of something that I don't like about this season. I don't mind the shorter days and long, dark nights, as they contribute to a delicious sense of coziness as I sit on my couch wrapped in flannel while something tasty and fragrant with the special smells of autumn cooks in the kitchen.

We're well into fall now, and I thought I'd celebrate this autumnal mood with apples. I took a trip to my favorite local orchard, Navarino Orchard, and picked up 1/2 a bushel of my favorite baking apple, Northern Spies, and two sugar pumpkins. On the drive home, my mind was filled with all the different dishes I'd be making: pumpkin gingerbread is one likely suspect, and my Pie for Breakfast Apple Pie is another.

I had a hankering for that lovely maple brown sugar combination with the tart apples, so I made these individual apple crisps.

Maple- Brown Sugar Apple Crisps


  • 2 apples - I used 2 Northern Spies.
  • 4 maple sugar candies, pulverized to a fine powder (about 2 T maple sugar)
  • 2 T brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 T butter, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. Put the pulverized maple sugar candy and the brown sugar into a bowl. Mix well.

  3. Peel and slice the apples into very thin slices. Add to the sugar mixture in the bowl and toss well with a fork, making sure the pieces are all coated.

  4. Put the mixture into greased ramekins. This made enough for three.

  5. In a food processor, pulse the walnuts until coarsely ground.

  6. Add the oats and pulse again until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.

  7. Dump this mixture into the same bowl that held the apple mixture. The bowl should still have some of the maple / brown sugar mixture in it. Stir well.

  8. Add about 1/4 cup of brown sugar (I usually add it in tablespoon increments and taste as I go) and mix well.

  9. Add the melted butter, and work with your hands or a pasty cutter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

  10. Divide between the three ramekins, packing down the crumb topping firmly.

  11. Bake in a 375 oven for 25 minutes or until it's bubbling nicely around the edges.

  12. Take out and let cool on a rack for a bit and then serve warm topped with vanilla ice cream. You can serve it in the ramekin or scoop it out into a larger bowl.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Puff Pastry Swirls, Two Ways

Chocolate Hazelnut Swirls

Here is another one of my Sandra Lee-esque recipes using items which are ready-made. It's easy to assemble and the end result is tastier than an almost-ready-made tidbit ought to be. I got inspired to make this after recent Nutella adventures. My kids have discovered its wonderfully nutty, chocolatey goodness and have declared it to be the Best Thing EVER!

  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • Nutella
  • chopped hazelnuts
  • melted butter

  1. Thaw 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry on the counter for an hour. Preheat the oven to 375.

  2. Unfold it onto a sheet of parchment paper. If the pastry has cracked and separated where it had been folded, press the pieces together gently with your fingers. Flip the pastry over and press the seams on the other side.

  3. Spread Nutella all over the pastry, leaving about 1/2 border around the edges.

  4. Sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts on the Nutella. Press them in firmly.

  5. Roll the pastry into a jelly roll, and slice into 10 pieces.

  6. Place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops of the pastry with melted butter.

  7. Bake for 17 minutes or until the tops are nicely browned.

To balance out the rich sweetness of the chocolate swirls - and they are rich, sweet and delightfully chocolatey - I decided to make something savory with the remaining sheet of puff pastry. I saw many recipes for puff pastry appetizers that used spinach, but I wanted something different. I thought maybe I could use a bruschetta spread from artichoke hearts and cheese as the filling to make a nice savory treat.

I was right. These were amazing.

Savory Artichoke Cheese Swirls

  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts (6 oz), drained
  • 1 T minced shallot
  • 1/2 cup shredded pecorino romano
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 T sun-dried tomato, minced
  • 1 T mayonnaise
  • 2 T shredded mozzarella
  • olive oil

  1. Thaw 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry on the counter for an hour. Preheat the oven to 375.

  2. Unfold it onto a sheet of parchment paper. If the pastry has cracked and separated where it had been folded, press the pieces together gently with your fingers. Flip the pastry over and press the seams on the other side.
  3. Chop the artichoke hearts and add the minced shallot, garlic and sun-dried tomato to the mixture.

  4. Add the mayo and the cheese. Mix well.

  5. Spread the mixture all over the puff pastry, leaving 1/2 inch border around the edges.

  6. Roll the pastry into a jelly roll, and slice into 10 pieces.

  7. Place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops of the pastry with olive oil.

  8. Bake for 17 minutes or until the tops are nicely browned.

  • I could have baked these longer and let the pastry get more brown, but I had forgotten to set the timer (doofus) and honestly, they smelled too incredible and I pulled the out early. They were delicious even if they weren't very brown on top.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Well, yet again, despite my best intentions, the vegan experiment did not last. I may settle for being mostly-vegetarian.

*big sigh*

Anyway, in honor of my birthday yesterday (huzzah) I decided to go whole-hog and bake myself a cheesecake. If you can't have a full-fat, sugar-laden cheesecake on your birthday, then life might not be worth living. I asked my kids what flavor cheesecake they wanted me to make, and the vote was unanimous: Pumpkin.

I've been making this highly-spiced pumpkin cheesecake for years now, and it always comes out thick, rich and creamy. I like my pumpkin pies and pumpkin cheesecakes to have a strong hint of spices, so I love the addition of cloves and allspice to the spice mixture. Of course, if you like your pumpkin pie spice blend, then go for it and use that instead.

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake


  • 4 cups gingersnaps
  • 3/4 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree - canned or fresh*
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 8 whole cloves, ground to a powder ( 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves)
  • 6 allspice berries, ground to a powder (1/4 teaspoon allspice power)
  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

  1. Line a 9 inch springform pan with buttered parchment paper. Put an oven rack in the middle position in the oven and preheat to 350°F.

  2. Place gingersnaps and pecans in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is pulverized nicely.

  3. Place the crumb mixture and the brown sugar in a large bowl. Add the melted butter and mix together until combined well. It will be dark and moist and stick together nicely. If it is too crumbly and does not stick together, add more melted butter.

  4. Press the crumb mixture evenly onto bottom and 1 inch up the side of pan. You may have extra crumb mixture which you can sprinkle over the top of the cheesecake when serving. Or, you could eat it in great heaping handfuls while the cheesecake bakes. It's up to you.

  5. Whisk together pumpkin, brown sugar, cream, vanilla and bourbon in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Add the spices to the mixture and taste to adjust seasoning.

  6. Add the eggs and mix well.

  7. Stir together the sugar, cornstarch in large mixing bowl. I use the mixing bowl of my stand mixer.

  8. Add the softened cream cheese and beat with the flat beater of an electric mixer at high speed until creamy and smooth, about 5 minutes.

  9. Reduce speed to medium, then add pumpkin mixture and beat until smooth, another 3 minutes.

  10. Pour filling into crust, smoothing the top, then put the springform pan on a shallow baking sheet in case the pan leaks.

  11. Bake until center is just set, 50 to 60 minutes. The cheesecake should still jiggle in the center when you take it out. Don't worry, it will firm up and set as it cools. Transfer to rack and cool 5 minutes.

  12. Cool the cheesecake completely in pan on rack, about 2 hours. Then, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours.
  • I like to make my own pumpkin puree from sugar pumpkins. It is very easy to do:
  • Cut a baking pumpkin in half and scrape out the seeds and stringy fibers. Then place, cut side down in a baking dish and roast for 45-50 minutes at 400°F. Let the pumpkin cool, and then scrape out the flesh into a food processor, puree and then use as you would canned pumpkin. If the pumpkin is especially watery, I'd strain out the excess water with a cheesecloth.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Vegan Again

Hi everyone, I wish I could explain away my lapse in blogging with tales of fantastic vacations and a whirlwind culinary tour of Europe.

As if. HA!


It's been an eventful, though pedestrian, summer of stressing over my joblessness, shepherding the kids to swimming lessons and, most fun of all, dealing with the pouty-faced aftermath of my older daughter breaking her leg while playing soccer. Oh yes, that's been fun. *deep sigh*

In food news, I hit rock bottom last week.

Oh yes. I was in the dressing room at J.C. Penney's, shopping for an outfit for an upcoming job interview and I nearly had a stroke when I saw the size label on the pants which I barely managed to squeeze over my ass. Now, I am certainly not the first woman to hit rock bottom in a department store fitting room, and will probably not be the last, but BY GOD, I swore to myself, Rock Bottom would never again be associated with a pair of pants from the "Women's" department.

So here I am, once again, cutting out animal products and trying to do some sort of carb-conscious vegan diet. I may be crazy, but I sure am motivated! Fret not, I do also plan to toss in some sport of exercise routine once on a while.

The first thing I did was to reawaken my vegan blog from last year only to find that in my absence, the list of people following it has grown! I thought that was amusing and wondered what sort of hidden message there might be in that.


Anyway, please come join me there. I'll be putting up vegetarian and vegan dishes and certainly the recipes for any breads I bake, because carb-adoration is a way of life around here and definitely one of my biggest failings.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Healthy Eating

For the past few days this week, I have been eating healthier: More vegan and raw foods, though not totally vegetarian. I can not give up my weekend pizza gorge-fest, so I am trying to offset any potential damage by eating the best foods possible during the week. Besides, when it is hot out, I'd just as soon not turn on the oven.

For breakfast: Raw Apple Breakfast.*

Snacktime: persian cucumbers stuffed with a vegan cashew puree (sometimes called cashew cheese**) and topped with zesty sprouts and sunflower seeds.

For lunch, I had a tomato and avocado salad with watercress and a lime-cayenne dressing on homemade flatbread. Sorry, no picture. I practically inhaled it before it even occurred to me to take a photo.

But about these flatbreads***, one of my favorites. It is amazing how a lump of dough can go from this:

To this, in just about an hour and a half.

This particular recipe I like to cook on a griddle even though it smokes the hell out of my kitchen.

Look carefully, you can see smoke.

But the end result is worth it.

Raw Apple Breakfast
  • 1 tart apple (I like Granny Smiths)
  • 1 T almond butter
  • agave nectar or honey
  • 1 T flax seeds, ground in a coffee grinder
  • pumpkin seeds
  1. Take one apple, peel and all, core it, cut it into quarters and toss it into a food processor with the almond butter.

  2. Process until nicely chopped.

  3. Then put in a bowl and drizzle the agave nectar or honey over it and top with ground flax seeds and, my favorite, pumpkin seeds.

    You can also top with fresh berries or, if you like to live dangerously, some Greek yogurt. Wheat germ sprinkled on top is also a nice option.

  4. It is filling, packed with fiber and very tasty.

**Vegan Cashew Cheese


  • 2/3 cup raw, unsalted cashews
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 T lemon juice
  • 8 large fresh basil leaves
  • 1 T Bragg's Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce)
  • 1 tbsp cold-pressed olive oil oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt


  1. Put everything in a food processor and blend very well until it is nice and creamy. If it's too thick, add more water slowly through the feed tube until it reaches the consistency you like. If it's too watery, toss in a few more cashews.

***Sesame-Flax Whole Wheat Flatbread

  • 2 teaspoons dry active yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 cup flax meal
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 3 to 4 cups of whole wheat flour (or a combination of whole wheat and bread flour)
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/3 cup untoasted sesame seeds

  1. In a large bowl, mix together yeast and warm water. Let sit for 10 minutes in a warm place until the yeast mixture is foamy.

  2. Add the flax meal, bread flour, and 1 cup of the whole wheat flour, one cup at a time, mixing well until you have a rough, shaggy dough that starts to drag on the sides of the bowl.

  3. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes. When it is done, you will have a messy-looking sponge. Don't worry, it is not supposed to look pretty at this point.

  4. Add the sesame seeds, salt and oil, mix well and then add the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until you have a nice stiff dough. Sometimes you may need only 2 cups of the flour, and at other times, you will need the full 3 cups.

  5. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead well for 8-10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.

  6. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise int a warm spot for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

  7. Preheat a cast iron griddle or skillet over medium-high heat.

  8. Punch down the dough and divide in half. Section it into 8 pieces. Roll out each ball of dough to about 1/4 inch thickness.

  9. Lightly coat the griddle with cooking spray.

  10. Place a round on the griddle (mine can hold two at a time). Let it cook for 15 second, then flip it. Let it cook for about a minute until bubbles start to form, then flip it back over and let cook another minute.

  11. Repeat with remaining dough.

  12. Wrap the breads in a kitchen towel to keep warm.

Note: This will smoke the hell out of your house, so have the windows open and the fans cranked, but it is so worth it.
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