Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pork Wellington

Pastry-wrapped meat is delicious. And delightfully easy to make. And, once again, Alton Brown is a genius. That is all.

Pork Wellington
Courtesy of Alton Brown


1 whole egg
1 tablespoon water
1-ounce (about 1/8 cup) dried apple rings
1 whole pork tenderloin, approximately 1 pound
4 1/2 ounces thinly slice prosciutto ham
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed completely
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and heat to 400ºF.

Whisk the egg and water in a small bowl and set aside. Place the apple rings into the bowl of a mini food processor and process for 30 to 45 seconds or until they are the size of a medium dice. Set aside.

Trim the pork tenderloin of any excess fat and silver skin. Slice the tenderloin down the middle lengthwise, creating 2 separate pieces. Lay the tenderloin pieces next to each other head to tail, so when laid back together they are the same size at the ends.

Lay out a 12 by 16-inch piece of parchment paper on the counter and arrange the pieces of prosciutto in the center, overlapping them enough to create solid layer that is as long as the tenderloin. Top with a second piece of parchment, and using a rolling pin, roll over the prosciutto to help adhere the pieces to each other. Remove the parchment paper and sprinkle the prosciutto with the salt, pepper, and thyme. Set the tenderloin down the middle of the prosciutto. Spread the dried apples in between the 2 pieces of tenderloin and push back together so the apples are held between them. Using the parchment paper to assist, wrap the prosciutto around the tenderloin to completely enclose in a package.

Sprinkle the counter with flour and roll out the pastry to 12 by 14 inches. Spread the mustard thinly in the center of pastry and lay the prosciutto wrapped tenderloin in the center of the pastry on the mustard. Fold the puff pastry up and over the top of the tenderloin, then roll to completely enclose, brushing the edges of the pastry with the egg wash in order to seal. Turn the tenderloin over so the side of the tenderloin with the double thickness of pastry is underneath. Pinch the ends of the pastry to seal.

Brush the entire pastry with the egg wash. Place the tenderloin on a parchment lined half sheet pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the pork reaches an internal temperature of at least 140ºF.

Remove the tenderloin from the oven, transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ghirardelli Chocolate Brownies with Peppermint Bark

Now these are good peppermint bark brownies. Those other ones I tried are nowhere near as good. These are fudgy and delicious. And these are definitely best when kept cold. Yum.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Brownies with Peppermint Bark
Courtesy of Ghirardelli


1 1/2 cup(s) 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (12 tablespoons)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup(s) sugar
1/4 teaspoon(s) salt
1 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon(s) baking powder
8 Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark Squares, chopped into large chunks (for the brownies)
18 Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark Squares, broken in to large chunks (about 8 pieces per square) (for the finishing)

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with foil and grease with pan spray. In a medium saucepan, bring 2 inches of water to a gentle simmer. Put the 60% chips and butter in a heatproof bowl and set it over (but not touching) the simmering water. Stir the mixture with a rubber spatula until the better is melted and both ingredients are completely combined. Turn off the heat and leave the bowl over the warm water. Sift together the flour and baking powder and set aside. In a large bowl whisk together eggs, salt, sugar and vanilla. Add the egg mixture to the chocolate mixture and whisk together gently. With a spatula, fold in the flour. Immediately pour ½ the mixture into the prepared baking pan and spread it evenly. Next, sprinkle the chopped peppermint bark over the batter and then pour the remaining batter over this. Spread evenly.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. The center should be fudgy but not dry. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes.

Place Peppermint Bark chunks on top of warm brownies and allow them to soften for 1 minute. Using a spatula, gently swirl the melting Peppermint Bark to create swirls of melted chocolate. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Trim the 4 edges of the brownies by ¼ inch. And cut into 18 squares.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Caramelized Onion Tarts with Apples

Meh. For how good it smelled while it was cooking, it didn't end up tasting like much of anything. Real Simple recipes have been so disappointing lately...

Caramelized Onion Tarts with Apples
Courtesy of Real Simple


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced
2 red apples (such as Braeburn or Gala), cut into small pieces
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 sheets frozen puff pastry (from a 17.3-ounce package), thawed
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream

Heat oven to 400º F. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in the apples, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook until just tender, 2 minutes.

Place each sheet of pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Spread with the crème fraîche, leaving a ½-inch border. Top with the onion mixture and bake until the pastry is crisp and browned, 30 to 35 minutes. Cut into pieces before serving.

Pears with Bleu Cheese and Prosciutto

Eh. I'm not sure this was worth the trouble. The pears were totally underripe and didn't taste like anything, so I'm sure that didn't help. The other flavors were nice though, and the whole thing looked pretty. Pity.

Pears with Bleu Cheese and Prosciutto
Courtesy of Real Simple


2 pears (such as Bosc or Bartlett), each cut into 8 wedges
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup arugula
3 ounces bleu cheese, cut into small pieces
6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut in half lengthwise

In a large bowl, toss the pears and lemon juice.

Layer a slice of pear, an arugula leaf, and a piece of cheese on a piece of prosciutto and roll up.

Eggs in Baskets

I made these for Christmas morning, along with the totally delicious chocolate babka and yummy panettone from years past. I ended up overcooking the yolks of the ones baked in the deep muffin pans because the whites weren't setting up. But the ones I baked in a regular muffin pan came out better. But really, if I'm going to do an egg dish that's supposed to have a runny yolk, I prefer this one.

Eggs in Baskets
Courtesy of Sunny Anderson


3 large russet potatoes, peeled
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Nonstick cooking spray
6 slices prosciutto, about 2 1/2 ounces, chopped
2 tablespoons maple syrup
6 eggs
3/4 cup shredded provolone

Heat the oven to 350°F.

In a food processor fitted with the grater attachment, push chunks of the potato through the chute to grate. Once all the potatoes are grated, put them into a piece of cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel and squeeze to remove the moisture. Add the potatoes to a large bowl, stir in the melted butter and season well with salt and pepper, to taste.

Spray the muffin tin lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Press the grated potatoes evenly into the muffin cups being sure the potatoes go up the sides and a thin layer and covers the bottom. Bake until the top edges turn light golden brown and the potatoes are cooked through, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl toss together the prosciutto with maple syrup and a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.

Remove the potatoes from the oven and gently crack an egg into each cup. Bake until the egg whites set but the yolk remains runny, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove from the oven and set the oven to broil. Top the eggs with grated cheese and put the maple prosciutto on another sheet tray. Broil both until cheese melts, and prosciutto crisps slightly, about 1 minute.

Top the eggs with crispy prosciutto and serve immediately.

Monday, December 19, 2011


After trying my first rugelach a couple of months ago, I thought I'd try the recipe that I'd seen Ina Garten make several times on her show. It's such a tasty treat. I love the combination of flavors.

Courtesy of Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa)


8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2-pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 9 tablespoons, divided
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
3/4 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup apricot preserves, pureed in a food processor
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash

Cream the cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, the salt, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and mix until just combined. Dump the dough out onto a well-floured board and roll it into a ball. Cut the ball in quarters, wrap each piece in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

To make the filling, combine 6 tablespoons of granulated sugar, the brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, the raisins, and walnuts.

On a well-floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9-inch circle. Spread the dough with 2 tablespoons apricot preserves and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the filling. Press the filling lightly into the dough. Cut the circle into 12 equal wedges—cutting the whole circle in quarters, then each quarter into thirds. Starting with the wide edge, roll up each wedge. Place the cookies, points tucked under, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Brush each cookie with the egg wash. Combine 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle on the cookies. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.

Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread

I actually think I like these better without the chocolate, but they're tasty and pretty all decked out with chocolate and some festive sprinkles. They took a little longer in the oven cut into star shapes, so I'm adjusting the recipe accordingly.

Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread
A variation on this recipe from Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa)


3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 3 by 1-inch finger-shaped cutter. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.

When the cookies are cool, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put 3 ounces of the chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. (Don't trust your microwave timer; time it with your watch.) Stir with a wooden spoon. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second increments until the chocolate is just melted. Add the remaining chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until it's completely smooth. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.

Drizzle 1/2 of each cookie with just enough chocolate to coat it.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

White Chocolate and Peppermint Brownies

These aren't bad, they taste pretty good, but they're not really my cup of tea. I've made better brownies, so I'll stick with them next time I want brownies. They also fall victim to the problem that seems to pop up a lot with layering white chocolate. I got a picture of the pieces that stayed together well, but a lot of the other pieces didn't stay together very well once I tried to move them anywhere. Oh well. They were worth a shot.

White Chocolate Peppermint Brownies
A variation on this recipe from Real Simple


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 ounces white chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon canola oil
1/3 cup chopped peppermint candies (about 15 candies)

Heat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line with 2 crisscrossed pieces of parchment, buttering in between and leaving an overhang on all sides; butter the parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine the butter and semisweet chocolate. Microwave on high in 30-second intervals, stirring between each, until melted and smooth. Let cool slightly. Whisk in the sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.

Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined (do not overmix).

Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, microwave the white chocolate and oil in 30-second intervals, stirring between each, until melted and smooth. Spread on top of the cooled brownies. Sprinkle with the candies and let set.

Holding the paper overhang, lift the brownies out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares (4 rows by 4 rows).

Cranberry-White Chocolate Cookies

Yum! These are great! And very festive. I read the reviews before making them and took the advice to soak the cranberries before adding them to the dough. It made them nice and plump and juicy, which added an extra level of tastiness. They also needed some extra time in the oven since I didn't flatten them out at all after putting them on the cookie sheets (another review suggestion). I really liked how keeping them fat gave them a nice crispy outside and a chewier inside. Just like I like cookies!

Cranberry-White Chocolate Cookies
A variation on this recipe from Southern Living


1 (6-ounce) package sweetened dried cranberries
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups white chocolate morsels

Cover cranberries in boiling water and let sit for 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; set aside.

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.

Add flour mixture to butter mixture gradually, beating at low speed until blended. Stir in white chocolate morsels and cranberries.

Drop cookie dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto lightly greased baking sheets. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Roast Mushrooms and Kale over Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Wow. This is crazy good. I won't go into every reason why because I will go on and on, but the mashed sweet potatoes are especially amazing. And I'm not usually a fan of sweet potatoes. And the combination of nutmeg and kale is totally delicious. Wow.

Roast Mushrooms and Kale over Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Courtesy of Rachael Ray


2 pounds mixed mushrooms (such as wood ear, cremini, portobello and shiitake)—wiped clean, stemmed if necessary and sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
A few sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Sea salt and pepper
5 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup whole milk or half-and-half
1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
A few dashes hot sauce
1 1/2 cups extra-sharp yellow cheddar cheese
1 pound cavolo nero (also called black, tuscan, dinosaur or lacinato kale), stemmed and coarsely chopped
Freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 450°F. On a large baking sheet, dress the mushrooms, garlic and thyme with 1/4 cup oil and spread out. Roast the mushrooms for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and season with sea salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a pot, combine the sweet potatoes and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, season with sea salt and cook until fork-tender, 15 minutes. Drain and return to the pot, then mash with the stock and milk (or half-and-half). Season with sea salt, pepper, the paprika and hot sauce. Stir in the cheddar until melted.

While the potatoes are working, in a bowl, toss the kale with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and season with sea salt, pepper and a few grates of fresh nutmeg. Arrange on a rack set over a baking sheet and roast until crisp at the edges, 10 to 12 minutes.

Combine the mushrooms and garlic with the kale and serve on a bed of the sweet potatoes.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chicken Mole

Meh. I can never find dry chili peppers anywhere, so I'm fairly certain that's what was missing. It definitely needed something. I miss the mole we used to get in San Francisco.

Chicken Mole
A variation on this recipe from


2 pounds chicken breast
1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
1/2 cup raw slivered almonds
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup raisins
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes (and juice)
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1/4 cup tequila
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
2 cups water
Salt to taste
Rice and/or corn tortillas

In a small pan, brown the raw sesame seeds and almonds on the stove. Set aside to cool.

Put the chicken into the crockpot. Cover with everything else. Cook on low for about 8 hours. Shred meat with forks, and serve over rice and/or with corn tortillas. Salt to taste.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ultimate Mac 'n' Cheese

This was the least interesting/complicated mac 'n' cheese I've made in a long time, but it was super super good because of the ingredients. I tweaked the proportions a bit in order to be able to have some leftovers as well as a good ratio of cheese sauce to pasta. I also used Panko instead of using the called-for sourdough bread to make the breadcrumbs. I ran out of time to grind up some of the bread I keep in my freezer for that very reason. I prefer the crispiness that Panko gives to the top of mac 'n' cheese, so I think I'll just keep it that way for future reference. I'm very happy there's some more of this waiting for me in the fridge.

Ultimate Mac 'n' Cheese
A variation on this recipe from Sunset


24 ounces cavatappi, macaroni, or other tube-shaped pasta
1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for cooking pasta
6 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup finely chopped shallots
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
14 ounces gruyère, grated
6 ounces aged gouda, grated (see Notes)
4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons minced fresh chives, divided
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup Panko

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook pasta according to package directions in a large pot of boiling, well-salted water until tender to the bite, 7 to 12 minutes. Drain, but do not rinse.

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Add shallots and cook until light golden, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle shallot-butter mixture with flour; cook, stirring often, 1 minute. Add wine and stir, picking up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil. Add cream and stir well. Sprinkle in cheeses, one large handful at a time, stirring until each handful is mostly melted before adding the next. Stir in 4 tablespoons chives, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, cayenne, and nutmeg. Stir cooked pasta into cheese mixture, then pour all into a 2-quart baking dish or ramekins.

Combine Panko with remaining chives and salt. Sprinkle mixture over pasta and cheese, dot with remaining butter, and bake until top is browned and cheese is bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pepperoni Pizza Monkey Bread

This won me one of the favorite appetizer prizes at an appetizer exchange I went to last night. It didn't quite do the monkey bread thing properly, we had to cut it, but it tasted great. I loved how it had a bit of a foccacia bread feel, with all sorts of fun pizza flavors added. I'm definitely adding this to our Christmas appetizer dinner menu.

Pepperoni Pizza Monkey Bread
Courtesy of What's Gaby Cooking


2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups bread flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup Asiago cheese, finely grated
1/2 cup pepperoni slices, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
Pizza sauce

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a medium bowl, combine the bread flour, all-purpose flour and salt. Set aside.

Combine the active yeast and water in a mixing bowl fitted with a dough hook. Let it sit for a few minutes to make sure your yeast is working. Add the sugar and mix for a quick second. Add the flour mixture in batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Let the dough hook work its magic for 5-6 minutes until the dough has come together into a large mass. Remove the dough to an oiled bowl and let rise for 60 minutes.

After an hour, remove the dough from the bowl and cut into small 1/2 inch cubes. Dust with flour to prevent them from sticking together. Set aside.

Spray 6 small bundt pans with PAM or cooking spray. (You could also use a large bundt pan)

Melt the butter in a small bowl.

Combine the cheese, pepperoni, oregano, salt and garlic in a large bowl. Add the melted butter and mix together with a spoon. Toss in the cut dough and make sure it all gets a coat of the butter mixture. Start layering the cubes into the bundt pans until they are 3/4 of the way full. Let sit for 30 minutes for the dough to rise a little more.

Place bundt pans into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the bread and cheese is golden brown. Serve with warmed pizza sauce.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup with Fontina Crostini

I love butternut squash soup. And adding a cheesy bread thing to go with/on/in it just makes it that much better.

Butternut Squash Soup with Fontina Crostini
Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis


2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 7 to 8 cups)
6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 baguette, sliced diagonally into 1/2-inch thick slices
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
1 cup (2 ounces) grated fontina cheese
Kosher salt

In an 8-quart stockpot, add the butter and oil and melt together over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the squash and the chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the sage. Continue to boil until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Keep the soup warm over low heat.

For the crostini: Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sage. Sprinkle the cheese on top and season with salt, to taste. Bake until the cheese has melted and the bread is light golden, about 6 to 8 minutes.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the cheese crostini.

Cook's Note: The cooked vegetable mixture can also be pureed (after cooling for about 5 minutes) by ladling, in batches, into a food processor or blender and blended until smooth.

Banana Cupcakes

Since we liked this recipe so much for Benjamin's birthday cake, I thought I'd tweak it to make some cupcakes for Jillie's school birthday celebration. They got mixed reviews from the kids, but overall, they seemed to work out well. Though I am always surprised by how big cupcakes look in the hands of 4-year-olds. Happy birthday to my baby girl!

Banana Cupcakes
A variation on this recipe from Gourmet


For cupcakes:
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed very ripe banana (about 2 large)
1/4 cup plain yogurt or well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs

For frosting:
1/2 pound confectioners' sugar (about 1 7/8 cups)
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla

Make cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease muffin tin or line with muffin cups.

Into a bowl sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl whisk together mashed banana, yogurt or buttermilk, and vanilla. In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy and beat in eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in flour and banana mixtures alternately, beginning and ending with flour mixture and stirring after each addition until just combined. (Do not overmix.)

Divide batter evenly into muffin cups. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool completely on a cooling rack.

Make frosting: Into a large bowl sift confectioners' sugar. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat together cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy and beat in vanilla and a pinch salt. Beat in confectioners' sugar, a little at a time, and beat frosting until smooth. Frost cupcakes, adding food coloring and/or decorations, as desired.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner 2011

I decided to do the entire Thanksgiving dinner all on my own this year. My sister is getting married in a few months, so this was our last time having her and my mom all to ourselves. It was time to pull out all the stops. And I had to try to redeem the turkey that I attempted at Christmas last year and failed due to a power outage. So I got another fresh turkey from Wolff's, and I got myself organized. I put together a menu that I thought would flow well in terms of scheduling everything, that would satisfy everyone's tastes, etc.

And then...

Everything worked! The electricity stayed on. And I was able to get everything ready pretty much around the same time. It was a crazy few days of preparation, but I was proud of the work I'd done.

Although... I'm not sure I actually like roasted turkey anymore. It smelled fabulous while it was roasting, but after all that preparation, it just didn't taste that good to me. I brined it using Alton Brown's brine recipe, which had been good when I tried it before (though I also used his roasting recipe before, so that may have been the difference?). The injected sage butter seemed totally useless since it didn't really infuse the turkey but rather just kind of made pockets of oddly-colored turkey. I just don't think it was worth all that fuss. Especially since I ended up throwing away a lot of the turkey due to most of it being so fatty I could barely get to the meat from all the fat. Plus, really, I love the turkey leg meat more than pretty much anything else, so I'm thinking maybe next time I do Thanksgiving, I'll just get turkey legs and cook those in some kick-ass way.

Oh, and what magical spell am I missing that makes gravy thicken properly? Because I've never been able to do that. And it's annoying. The gravy tasted good though, even if I did forget to add the balsamic vinegar at the end.

As for the side dishes, everyone loved the Brussels sprouts. And the green bean casserole was lovely. The only thing I did differently with that is that I didn't steam the green beans during the preparation process. It made for some crunchy green beans, but I prefer them crunchy rather than mushy, so that's why I went that way.

The dressing (called that because I didn't stuff it into anything) was just okay. It tasted good, but it just wasn't that exciting. I didn't use sausage in the dressing because I wanted to use pancetta in the Brussels sprouts, but I think it really could have used it.

I made the cranberry sauce that I made at Christmas last year, which is super good. I'm going to make biscuits tomorrow since we discovered last year that it works especially well as a kind of jam on a bread product.

As for dessert, I made the cinnamon-streusel pumpkin pie that I made back in September, which was yummy. But then I also made a chocolate-hazelnut tart, which was a giant hit with the whole crew. It was basically a hazelnut cookie topped with Nutella pudding. I'm not sure how that couldn't go over well.

So overall, the meal was pretty good. The turkey disappointment was a big one because it was the most labor-intensive part of the meal, but oh well. Everyone was here, seemed pleased, and went to bed tonight with full bellies. So I'm very thankful for that.

Roast Turkey with Garlic, Sage and Fennel
Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

1 20-pound turkey
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 heads garlic
1 small onion, cut into 6 wedges
2 cooking apples, quartered
1 large bunch fresh sage
1 small bulb fennel, cut into 6 wedges
1 small carrot, cut into 3-inch pieces
4 sticks unsalted butter
8 cups low-sodium chicken or turkey broth
4 bay leaves
1/4 cup instant flour (such as Wondra)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Bring the turkey to room temperature 1 hour before roasting. Place a rack in the lowest position of the oven and remove the other racks; preheat to 350°F. Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey; discard the liver and reserve the neck and the rest of the giblets. Dry the turkey inside and out with paper towels and season the cavity with salt and pepper. Halve 1 head garlic crosswise and stuff into the cavity along with 3 onion wedges, the apples and 1/2 bunch sage.

Place the remaining 3 onion wedges, the fennel and carrot in the center of a large roasting pan with 1 cup water. Set a rack above the vegetables and place the turkey breast-side up on the rack. Season all over with salt and pepper. Chop 3 tablespoons sage, then melt 3 sticks butter with the sage and salt and pepper to taste in a saucepan over medium heat. Fill a meat syringe with the sage butter and inject it into the breasts, legs and thighs; continue until you have used about half of the sage butter. Brush the bird with the rest of the butter and tie the legs together with twine.

Roast the turkey, uncovered, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue roasting until a thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 165°F, 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes. Turn off the oven but leave the turkey inside until the thermometer registers 170°F, 15 to 20 more minutes.

While the turkey roasts, make the gravy: Melt the remaining 1 stick butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the reserved neck and giblets, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until brown, about 10 minutes. Peel and smash the remaining head of garlic, add it to the pan and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and bay leaves, cover and simmer over medium-low heat, about 2 hours. Discard the bay leaves, neck and giblets.

Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and let rest 20 to 30 minutes before carving. Transfer the vegetables to a blender. Pour the drippings into a liquid measuring cup and skim off the fat. Add 1 cup drippings and the flour to the blender and puree until smooth. Whisk the remaining drippings and pureed vegetables into the broth mixture. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the gravy is smooth, about 10 minutes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar; season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the turkey to a platter and garnish with any remaining sage. Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy.


Classic Dressing
A variation on this recipe from Food Network Magazine


16 cups white bread, cubed
1 stick unsalted butter
2 cups onions, diced
2 cups celery, diced
1 tablespoon sage, minced
1 tablespoon thyme, minced
Salt and pepper
3 cups turkey or chicken broth
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place bread cubes on cookie sheets and toast in oven for 15 minutes, tossing halfway through. Set aside.

Increase oven temperature to 375°F. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, celery, sage and thyme; add salt and pepper and cook 5 minutes. Add 3 cups broth and bring to a simmer. Put parsley in a large bowl; add toasted bread, then pour in the vegetable-broth mixture and toss. Transfer to a buttered baking dish and dot with butter. Cover and bake for 30 minutes; uncover and bake until golden, 30 more minutes.


Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

2 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1 shallot, diced
2 ounces pancetta, chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss all ingredients together and place in a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake for 25-30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes.


Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Shallots
A variation on this recipe from Ellie Krieger


1/4 cup olive oil
6 medium shallots, sliced into rings (about 1 cup)
1 1/2 pounds thin fresh string beans or haricots verts, trimmed
1 pound button mushrooms, sliced
6 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3 cups low-fat (1%) milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add 1/4 cup shallots and cook, stirring, until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining shallots, cooking 1/4 cup at a time. Reserve the oil in the skillet.

Add the mushrooms to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushroom liquid is evaporated and they begin to brown, about 12 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Transfer the mushroom mixture to a bowl.

Whisk together the milk and flour until the flour is dissolved. Add the mixture to the skillet and, whisking constantly, bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium low, whisking occasionally, until thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the green beans, mushroom mixture, 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, the parsley, nutmeg, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Coat a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon the green bean mixture into the prepared dish and sprinkle the top with the crispy shallots and the remaining 2 tablespoons cheese. Bake until golden on top and bubbling, about 20 minutes.


Chocolate-Hazelnut Tart
Courtesy of Food Network Magazine


For the Crust:
1/2 cup blanched hazelnuts
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Filling:
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Make the crust: Toast the hazelnuts in a skillet over medium heat until golden, about 8 minutes. Let cool. Transfer 1/3 cup nuts to a food processor. Add the flour, sugar and salt; pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Drizzle in the egg and vanilla; pulse until the dough starts to come together.

Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and pat into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour. Coarsely chop the remaining hazelnuts and reserve.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch round. Press into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, then trim the excess dough. Prick the bottom all over with a fork. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the crust with foil, then fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the edges are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and continue baking until golden brown all over, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Whisk the cornstarch into 1/4 cup cream in a bowl. Combine the remaining 1 3/4 cups cream, the chocolate-hazelnut spread, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring and scraping the sides of the pan with a rubber spatula. Once the mixture starts to boil, stir constantly until thickened, about 2 minutes. Pour into the crust and swirl the top. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. Top with the reserved hazelnuts.

Cranberry Vodka Tonics

I made these for the cocktail and hors d'oeuvres portion of Thanksgiving. I liked them, but they didn't really taste like cranberries at all. They tasted a lot more like vanilla. Which definitely wasn't a bad thing. It seemed like a lot of fuss for something that didn't really taste like what it was supposed to taste like, so I'm not sure I'll do it again, but it was fun to give it a shot.

Cranberry Vodka Tonics
Courtesy of Michael Chiarello


1 pound fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 cups vodka
1 liter tonic
Lime slices, for garnish

Combine the cranberries and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the vanilla extract or split vanilla bean and cook, stirring, until the cranberries burst, 5 to 6 minutes.

Divide the cranberry mixture between 2 large mason jars. Divide the vodka between the jars. Cover and refrigerate for 1 week. Strain out the cranberries. Store the flavored vodka in a clean jar in the refrigerator.

For each drink, pour 2 ounces cranberry vodka over ice in a tall glass; top with tonic. Garnish with a slice of lime.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash Mac 'n' Cheese

I enjoyed tweaking this recipe to fit this month's craving for mac 'n' cheese.

The amaretti cookies that were in my pantry just didn't smell or taste right, so I ended up using panko breadcrumbs for the topping instead. I'm sure it changed the flavor a lot, so I'll have to try it with the cookies next time.

I also added some onion and garlic since I thought it would add nicely to the dish.

Roasted Butternut Squash Mac 'n' Cheese
A variation on this recipe from Closet Cooking


1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 pound macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sage, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1 pinch nutmeg
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cups cheese, shredded (your choice)
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Toss the squash, onion, and garlic with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in a baking dish and roast until tender, about 1 hour. Set aside.

Cook the pasta as directed.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat add the sage and cook until the butter is bubbling and it has turned golden brown. Mix in the flour and let simmer until it returns to a light golden brown. Add the milk, nutmeg, mustard and cheese and simmer until it thickens and the cheese has melted.

Mix the squash mixture, pasta and cheese sauce and pour into a baking dish topping it with the breadcrumbs.

Bake until golden brown on the top and bubbling on the sides, about 40 minutes.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Crispy Pork Medallions with Roasted Root Vegetables

Crispy this pork is not, but it is moist and very tasty. A delightful Sunday dinner option.

Crispy Pork Medallions with Roasted Root Vegetables
Courtesy of Cooking Light


Pork medallions:
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 8 medallions
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Roasted root vegetables:
8 ounces quartered small red potatoes
2 thinly sliced carrots
2 thinly sliced parsnips
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced

Make the vegetables: Preheat oven to 450°F. Combine potatoes, carrots, and parsnips in a medium bowl. Add olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic; toss well to coat. Arrange vegetable mixture on a rack placed in a broiler pan. Bake for 28 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes.

Make the pork medallions: Rub mustard evenly over pork medallions. Combine panko, thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Dredge pork in panko mixture. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add pork; sauté 2 minutes or until golden brown. Turn pork. Place skillet in oven with roasting vegetables; bake for 8 minutes or until pork reaches 145°F. Let stand 3 minutes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

This is quite possibly the tastiest and most beautiful lasagna I've ever made. I used leftover the meat sauce that I just made last week, which I'm sure added a lot of flavor. I also used chopped fresh baby spinach rather than the kale the original recipe called for. I didn't think it needed to be blanched before it was added to the dish, and it worked out great just using it raw.

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna
A variation on this recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen


1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped small
6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped small
1 teaspoon ground fennel
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 1/2 cups marinara sauce
1/3 cup water
4 cups finely chopped fresh baby spinach
2 cups low-fat cottage cheese
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
6 uncooked lasagna noodles
2 cups low-fat Mozzarella or other low-fat white cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy frying pan over medium heat; add onions and saute until they start to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the chopped garlic, chopped mushrooms, ground fennel, and dried basil and saute about 5 minutes more, or until the mushrooms lose their water and the liquid has evaporated. Add the vegetarian marinara sauce and water and turn heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

In a bowl, mix together the chopped spinach, cottage cheese, beaten eggs, and finely grated Parmesan.

Spray a 9x13-inch lasagna dish with nonstick spray. Lay 3 uncooked lasagna noodles across the dish. Cover with 1/2 the tomato-mushroom sauce, spreading it across the noodles so they're all covered with sauce. Then add 1/2 the spinach mixture, spreading it out with a rubber scraper, and sprinkle over 1 cup of the grated low-fat Mozzarella. Make a second layer of lasagna noodles, tomato-mushroom sauce, spinach mixture, and cheese.

Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake 50 minutes without removing the foil. Take the dish out of the oven and remove foil. Cook 25 minutes more with foil removed, or until the lasagna noodles are soft, and the lasagna is bubbling and lightly browned on top. Let lasagna cool 5-10 minutes before cutting; then cut into pieces and serve hot.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Indian-Spiced Roasted Squash Soup

Delish. And I just love love love how roasting vegetable smell. And it goes especially well with the garam masala biscuits I decided to make.

Indian-Spiced Roasted Squash
A variation on this recipe from Cooking Light


1 cup chopped yellow onion
8 ounces carrot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 (1-pound) butternut squash, peeled and cut into (1/2-inch) cubes
1 (8-ounce) acorn squash, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and black pepper
2 cups water
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 (14-ounce) cans fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
6 tablespoons Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 500°F.

Arrange the first 5 ingredients on a jelly-roll pan. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss. Roast for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender, turning once. Cool for 10 minutes. Peel acorn squash; discard skin.

Combine vegetable mixture, 2 cups water, curry powder, garam masala, and red pepper in a food processor or blender; pulse to desired consistency. Scrape mixture into a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in broth; bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with a dollop of yogurt.


Garam Masala Biscuits
A variation on this recipe from Alton Brown


2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup buttermilk, chilled
Heavy cream

Preheat oven to 450°F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and garam masala. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (The faster the better, you don't want the fats to melt.) Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.

Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting. (Biscuits from the second pass will not be quite as light as those from the first, but hey, that's life.)

Brush with heavy cream and bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chewy Candy Cookies

I wanted to take the mounds of Halloween candy we have in the house right now and make something a bit more interesting out of it... And I'm a big fan of these kinds of cookies, so here's my version. It has certainly curbed any desire whatsoever to dip into the remaining candy in our pantry. The cookies themselves are wonderfully chewy and delicious, and the candy adds a lovely addition of sweetness and flavor. I will happily make these cookies, post-Halloween and other times when these candies pop up in my life, for years to come.

Chewy Candy Cookies
A variation on this recipe from Fun and Food Blog


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup combination of M&M’s and Reese's Pieces, divided

Heat oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and keep ready.

Stir together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well.

Gradually add flour mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in 2/3 cup candy. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto cookie sheet, leaving enough space in between to let them expand. Press 4-5 of remaining candy on each cookie before baking.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly, then remove from cookie sheet and allow to cool completely on the wire rack. Eat a few immediately, storing others in air-tight containers for later.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Slow-Simmered Meat Sauce

Wonderful sauce. It takes a little doing before you get it into the crockpot, but it's worth the effort. I tweaked things a bit so that I wouldn't have to split a package of sausage (I used all sausage instead of a beef/sausage combo). And I'm not usually totally keen on olives, but I added them because I knew they'd add a nice depth of flavor (which they totally did). I served the sauce over egg noodles with some lightly-dressed greens on the side. I'm thinking I'll add a little garlic bread and red wine and serve this when we're having guests over during the holidays.

Slow-Simmering Meat Sauce
A variation on this recipe from Cooking Light


1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
6 small carrots, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds hot and/or sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
6 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, undrained
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
16 ounces uncooked pasta
Shaved or grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and carrot to pan; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Place vegetable mixture in a 6-quart slow cooker.

Add sausage to skillet; sauté 6 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove sausage from skillet using a slotted spoon. Place sausage on a double layer of paper towels; drain. Add sausage to slow cooker. Stir olives and remaining ingredients (through dried basil) into slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW 8 hours.

Prepare pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Serve sauce with hot cooked pasta; top with cheese.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Black Bean and Pumpkin Chili

Delicious. It made the house smell wonderful and then tasted great. It also goes particularly well with these cornbread muffins. I used cooked pork instead of cooked turkey, but I'm excited to try this again with some leftover turkey after Thanksgiving.

Black Bean and Pumpkin Chili
A variation on this recipe from Taste of Home


1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups chicken broth
2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 1/2 cups cubed cooked turkey or pork
1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large skillet, sauté the onion and pepper in oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Transfer to a 5-quart slow cooker; stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or until heated through.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Another lovely pumpkin treat. Though the pumpkin (as well as the applesauce) really adds more of a moist texture than a distinct flavor to the bars. Which is nice since I've found a lot of other granola bars to be on the dry side.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
Courtesy of two peas & their pod


3 ¼ cups old fashioned oats
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup applesauce
¼ cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an 8 by 8 baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk oats, spices, and salt together. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk brown sugar, pumpkin, applesauce, honey, and vanilla extract until smooth. Pour over oats and stir well, until all of the oats are moist. Stir in chocolate chips.

Evenly press oat mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. The pumpkin keeps the bars moist, so make sure they are golden and set-you don't want them to be under baked. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

Using a sharp knife, cut into bars. Remove from pan and let cool completely.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkin Cake Pops

I made these for Jillie's preschool Halloween party. While they are cute, fun, and very tasty, they were a pain in the butt to make, so I'm not sure I'll do it again. I didn't have nearly enough candy melts to coat all of the pops, so I have a bunch of naked cake balls in my fridge (that sounds so very wrong). There was also no way I could dip the cake balls in the candy coating without having them completely fall apart. So I ended up having to carefully spread on the coating. Which was a pain. in. the. butt.

However... In making this pain in the butt treat... I have discovered the tastiest pumpkin cake and chocolate frosting I've ever had in my life. I may not make these cake pops again, but I will happily make the cake and frosting, either together or separately, over and over in the future. Scrumptious!

Pumpkin Sheet Cake
A variation on this recipe from

1 (15-ounce) can canned pumpkin puree
2 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a mixing bowl, beat pumpkin, 2 cups white sugar, and oil. Add eggs, and mix well.
In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add these dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture, and beat until well blended. Pour batter into a greased 9x13-inch baking pan.

Bake at 350°F (175°C) for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cake tests done. Cool.


Creamy Chocolate Frosting
Courtesy of

2 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, sift together the confectioners' sugar and cocoa, and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth, then gradually beat in sugar mixture alternately with evaporated milk. Blend in vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. If necessary, adjust consistency with more milk or sugar.


Pumpkin Cake Pops
Courtesy of Elizabeth LaBau, Guide


One 9 x 13 cake, any flavor
One can (16-ounce) prepared frosting, any flavor
1 pound orange candy coating
About 48 lollipop sticks
Food-safe markers, gel icing, or 2 tablespoons chocolate chips

Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil or waxed paper.

Place the cake in a large bowl, and crumble it roughly with your hands. Once it's in fine crumbs, add about 2/3 of the frosting and begin to mix it with your hands into the cake crumbs, working until the mixture is evenly moistened. You want the cake mixture to easily hold together when you press it into a ball, but still retain a little texture. My personal preference is to have some “crumb” left to the crumb, so that it is not just a gooey ball. Of course, tastes vary, so if it seems as if the cake mixture is too dry, or you like a gooier taste, add more frosting until you're happy with the taste and texture.

Using a cookie scoop or teaspoon, form the mixture into small balls. Roll the balls between your palms to round them, then press them down slightly so that they're squat balls, similar to a pumpkin shape. Once all of the pumpkins are formed, place them on the prepared baking sheet and freeze until firm, at least 1 hour.

After the pumpkin cake pops have been frozen, remove them from the freezer. Melt the candy coating in the microwave and stir until completely smooth.

Use a skewer to poke a hole in the top of a pumpkin, then dip the tip of a lollipop stick in the candy coating and press it into the hole. This will help anchor the stick into the cake pop.

After all of the pumpkins have been skewered, dip a pumpkin fully into the candy coating until it's submerged. Take it out of the coating and gently tap the stick against the lip of the bowl so that excess coating drips off. Sit the pumpkin back on the baking sheet with the stick up in the air and let the coating set completely.

Once all of the pumpkins are dipped and the coating has hardened, melt chocolate chips and put the melted chocolate in a plastic bag. Snip a corner off the bag and use it to pipe on their eyes and mouths. An easier alternative is to use a food-safe marker to draw faces on the pumpkins.

Store pumpkin cake pops in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. For the best taste and texture, allow them to come to room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I love popovers. Especially with soup. The soup pictured in the background is this one. Just make sure you don't forget to preheat the pans, otherwise, they'll end up like this.

Courtesy of


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Spray a popover pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place pan on center rack of oven and preheat for 2 minutes.

Blend flour, salt, eggs, milk, and melted butter until it looks like heavy cream, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Cut chilled butter into 6 even pieces. Place 1 piece of butter in each cup and place pan back in oven until butter is bubbly (about 1 minute).

Fill each cup half full with batter and bake 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 325°F and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chocolate Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

I think I prefer just plain pumpkin whoopie pies. These are quite tasty though, and I certainly had no problem eating them.

Chocolate Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Courtesy of Burn Me Not


For the cookies:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the filling:
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup canned solid pumpkin
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg

Prepare cookies: Preheat oven to 375°F. Line baking sheet with non-stick baking mat or parchment paper; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter, shortening, and both sugars. Using the paddle attachment, mix on high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add egg; mix until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in half the flour mixture, then milk and vanilla, and finish with the remaining flour mixture.

Drop about a tablespoon of dough onto prepared baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake 12-14 minutes or until cookies spring back when lightly touched. Place baking sheet on wire rack and let cool 5-10 minutes. Remove cookies from baking sheet and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Prepare filling: In a medium bowl, mix together cream cheese, butter, and confectioners sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix until smooth, scraping down bowl as necessary.

Assemble whoopie pie: Pipe or spoon filling on the flat sides of half the cookies then sandwich with remaining cookies.

Pumpkin Pasta with Sausage and Wild Mushrooms

This is a slightly different version of this recipe. And it's also one of the first recipes that I made early on that really wowed Jonathan (we guessed about 6 years ago?). It stands the test of time too... He loved it tonight just as much as he used to. Yay!

Pumpkin Pasta with Sausage and Wild Mushrooms
A variation on this recipe from Rachael Ray (via The Savory Notebook)


1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
1/4 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 portobello mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock or broth
1 14-ounce can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 pound penne rigate, cooked to al dente
Romano or Parmigiano, for grating
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Heat a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil to the pan and brown the sausage in it. Transfer sausage to paper towel lined plate and return pan to the stove. Add the garlic, onions and mushrooms. Sauté 3 to 5 minutes until the onions are tender and mushrooms are browned. Season with salt and pepper.

Deglaze the pan with the wine. Add chicken stock and heat for one minute. Stir in pumpkin and incorporate - it will be thick. Return sausage to pan, reduce heat, and stir in cream. Season the sauce with the cinnamon and nutmeg, and salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer mixture 5 to 10 minutes to thicken sauce.

Return drained pasta to the pot you cooked it in. Combine sauce and pasta and toss over low heat for 1 minute. Top with cheese and parsley.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fall Vegetable Curry

This is so easy and SO tasty. I added some almonds because I thought it could use a little variation in the texture. And I'm really glad I did. It added some great flavor as well as some crunch. Perfect weeknight dish!

Fall Vegetable Curry
A variation on this recipe from Cooking Light


1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup diced peeled sweet potato
1 cup small cauliflower florets
1/4 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
1/2 cup organic vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup almonds
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Cooked rice

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sweet potato to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Decrease heat to medium. Add cauliflower, onion, and curry powder; cook 1 minute, stirring mixture constantly. Add broth and next 3 ingredients (through tomatoes); bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Add yogurt and almonds, and simmer for another couple minutes, or until heated through. Sprinkle with cilantro; serve over rice.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chicken Rollatini with Spinach alla Parmigiana

Anything stuffed and dipped makes a mess when you're making it, but it was totally worth it. This is a fabulous dish to make for company. Pair it with some greens (I lightly dressed arugula with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper) and some garlic bread (I didn't make that this time, but I definitely will next time), and it's a really impressive but comforting meal.

The proportions of ingredients made it so that I used chopped fresh baby spinach rather than half a standard 10-ounce package of frozen spinach. I added a little extra ricotta to make the filling smoother. I may use cottage cheese instead of ricotta next time; not only because I just like it better than ricotta, but also to add a little more creaminess.

Ooooooohhhhhh... And I just read in the original recipe commentary that this recipe originally had prosciutto in the filling. Um, yeah, I'll be doing that next time too. And um, yeah, I'm just kind of totally unskinnying this recipe. Oh well.

Chicken Rollatini with Spinach alla Parmigiana
A variation on this recipe from Gina's Skinny Recipes


8 thin chicken cutlets, 3 ounces each
1/2 cup whole wheat Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
3 eggs, divided
1 6-ounce bag fresh baby spinach, chopped into ribbons
1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese
6 ounces part skim mozzarella
Olive oil non-stick spray
1 cup pomodoro sauce or marinara sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash and dry cutlets, season with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 450°F. Lightly spray a baking dish with non-stick spray.

Combine breadcrumbs and 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese in one bowl and 2 beaten eggs in another.

Shred or finely chop 1.5 ounces of mozzarella cheese and combine with remaining grated Parmesan cheese, spinach, 1 beaten egg, and ricotta cheese.

Lay chicken cutlets down on a working surface and spread 2 tablespoons of spinach-cheese mixture on each cutlet. Loosely roll each one and keep seam side down.

Dip chicken in egg mixture, then in breadcrumbs, and place seam side down in a baking dish (no toothpicks needed). Repeat with the remaining chicken. When finished, lightly spray with olive oil. Bake 25 minutes.

Remove from oven, top with sauce then cheese. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbling, about 3 more minutes. Serve with additional sauce on the side and grated cheese.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

Meh. I think I'd rather just make actual snickerdoodles. The meringue frosting is fine, but it gets funky quickly. And I didn't have time to pipe it, just kind of plopped it on, so it's not nearly as pretty as it should be. Oh well. It was worth a try.

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes
Courtesy of Martha Stewart


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self- rising), sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, plus 1/2 teaspoon for dusting
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for dusting
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
6 large egg whites, room temperature

Make cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together both flours, baking powder, salt, and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until combined after each.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored up to 2 days at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

Make frosting: Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar with the water and corn syrup in a small saucepan; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Continue boiling, without stirring, until syrup reaches 230°F.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer running, add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, beating to combine.

As soon as sugar syrup reaches 230°F, remove from heat. With mixer on medium-low speed, pour syrup down side of bowl in a slow, steady stream. Raise speed to medium-high; whisk until mixture is completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl) and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 7 minutes. Use immediately.

To finish cupcakes, combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 2 tablespoons sugar. Using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip (Ateco No. 809 or Wilton No. 1A), pipe frosting on each cupcake: Hold bag over cupcake with tip just above top, and squeeze to create a dome of frosting, then release pressure and pull up to form a peak. Using a small, fine sieve, dust peaks with cinnamon-sugar. Cupcakes are best eaten the day they are frosted; keep at room temperature until ready to serve.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Italian Herb Bread

This is a great bread for soups. It's a recipe made for the Oster bread machine I have, but I imagine you could tweak it to accommodate whatever bread machine you have.

Italian Herb Bread
Courtesy of Oster


1 1/4 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons dried onion flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Measure and add liquid ingredients to the bread pan. Measure and add dry ingredients (except yeast) to the bread pan. Use your finger to form a wel (hole) in the flour where you will pour the yeast. Yeast must NEVER come into contact with a liquid when you are adding ingredients. Measure the yeast and carefully pour it into the well.

Snap the baking pan into the breadmaker and ctose the lid. Press “Select” button to choose the french setting. Press the “Crust Color” button to choose light. medium or dark crust. Press the “Start/Stop” button.

Pasta Fagioli

Easy and tasty. And my entire family, all 4 of us, ate the same dinner tonight. Which is a miracle. Woot!

I sautéed all the chopped vegetables (not just the onion and garlic) before adding the other ingredients to set the soup to simmer. And I discovered after chopping everything that I had forgotten to get the crushed tomatoes, so I used an equal amount of pasta sauce instead. I'm sure it gave the whole thing even more flavor, so I just might keep it for the future.

Pasta Fagioli
A variation on this recipe from Gina's Skinny Recipes


1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans
1 16-ounce jar pasta sauce
1 large bay leaf
1 tablespoon basil
1 tablespoon parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
2 (14 ounces each) cans fat free chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegetarians)
2 cups water, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) dry Ditalini pasta or other small pasta
Grated Parmigiano or Romano (optional)

In a deep pot, sauté onion, garlic, celery, and carrots in olive oil over medium heat.

Blend the can of beans with one can water in electric blender until almost smooth.

Add blended beans to pan, then add the pasta sauce, chicken broth, basil, bay leaf, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Add 1 cup water and bring to slow boil. Let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pasta and cook uncovered until pasta is al dente, according to pasta directions.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with grated cheese.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Corn Chowdah Mac 'n' Cheese

Yuuuuuuuuuuum. Yum.

Corn Chowdah Mac 'n' Cheese
Courtesy of Rachael Ray


Salt and black pepper
1 pound mezzi rigatoni, penne rigate or cavatappi pasta
4 ears corn, husked
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1/4 pound bacon, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 baking potato, peeled and diced into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning (half a palmful)
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 red chile pepper, such as fresno, seeded and chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped into 1/4-inch cubes
1 small red onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
A few sprigs thyme, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard
About 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Few grates fresh nutmeg
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp yellow cheddar cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook to al dente. Drain and return to the pot.

While the pasta is working, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the broiler. Place a small bowl upside down in a large bowl. Stand each ear of corn on the small bowl and scrape down the kernels.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and the bacon and cook until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Add the corn, potato and Old Bay to the bacon drippings in the skillet and brown for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the celery, chile pepper, bell pepper, onion and garlic; season with the thyme, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, then the milk; season with the mustard, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Cook until the sauce coats a spoon thickly; lower the heat to low. Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Add the corn-potato mixture and the white sauce to the pasta in the pot and stir together. Transfer to a casserole or serving dish, top with the cheddar and bacon and broil until brown and bubbly, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Chocolate Orange Shortbread Cookies

Meh. Not great. If I'm going to make shortbreads, I'll make these. And if I want holiday chocolate cookies, I'll make these. Oh well. They were worth a try.

Chocolate Orange Shortbread Cookies
Courtesy of Simply Recipes


1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange zest

Preheat oven to 325°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a bowl. (Do not skip this step as cocoa powder has a tendency to clump. You want the dry ingredients sifted to ensure a tender cookie.) Set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed in a mixer for 5 minutes, being sure to scrape down the sides and bottom as needed. Add the vanilla and orange zest and mix for 30 seconds. Add about half the flour mixture and mix on low speed. Scrape down the bottom and sides and add the rest of the flour mixture. Once incorporated mix at medium speed for 2 minutes.

Lay out a sheet of parchment paper and place the dough on it. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper and roll out to 1/4-inch thickness with a rolling pin. (You can also lightly flour a work space, but I find my method far easier, cleaner, and the shortbread keeps a sandy texture by not picking up the extra flour.) You may find the dough getting too soft. If it does, place it in the freezer for ten minutes to firm it up before you continue rolling or cutting. (The dough is very hard to work with when soft.) Cut into desired shapes and place on the baking sheets about 1-inch apart.

Bake for 13-15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. It can be difficult to tell when these cookies are done, so when they smell like freshly baked cookies and the edges are slightly firm but still give a bit then consider them done (simply enough, it takes some judgment on your part). Remove the pans and allow the cookies to cool for a minute or two before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.