Friday, November 30, 2012

Pumpkin Butterscotch Cookies

I like winter and colder weather for a few reasons. I enjoy wearing my slippers around the house and cuddling up with a blanket on my couch. I love the feeling of extra blankets on bed when I'm falling asleep at night. The being cold right before you get into a nice warm shower is just wonderful. Snow covered trees and bushes are breathtakingly beautiful.

But some of those reasons are also why I don't like the cold weather. Like being comfy and cozy on the couch doesn't make me motivated to wash dishes (actually not much makes me motivated to wash dishes). And the warmth of my bed in the morning does nothing for getting me up and going early in the day. My showers take longer because why would I want to leave the hot water? And snow has a tendency to turn to an ugly grey color that is not quite as admirable.

Ah well, winter is something you deal with (the good, the bad and the ugly) when you live in the Midwest. In the words of Master Stark "winter is coming" and we gotta drag out our boots, coats, hats, mittens and scarves.

If you want to warm up your house a little bit without turning the heat up, I would suggest some baking. I've got grand plans of cookies, bars, candies and the such this holiday season so stay tuned for recipes. And feel free to send me your address and then maybe you'll get a goody bag in the mail (because we all know I shouldn't eat all the treats I make). 

To start off holiday baking season, I'm sharing with you some pumpkin butterscotch cookies that I made for Thanksgiving. Since our Thanksgiving festivities were smaller in number of people this year, we decided to make only one pie-- apple, which is definitely my favorite. My mom wanted something pumpkin-y and she really enjoyed my last pumpkin cookie, so I figured we should give these a whirl. I had made them before (like back in the day before Pinterest and this blog) so I knew they would be good. They are a nice soft cookie that is bursting with flavor. The dominate flavor is definitely the butterscotch but your mouth is left with pumpkin and cinnamon goodness at the end. I would recommend them for any holiday cookie platter!

Pumpkin Butterscotch Cookies (adapted from Annie's Eats)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
dash of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 canola oil
1 cup pumpkin puree (homemade or storebought)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon) in a bowl.

In a larger bowl, gently beat the eggs with a whisk. Whisk in the sugar until light in color, about 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the oil, pumpkin puree and vanilla extract. Stir in the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until just incorporated. Gently mix the in butterscotch chips.

Drop mounds of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 14-16 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. Allow to cool slightly on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack.

Makes 36-40 cookies of about 2-2.5 inch diameter.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wheat Rolls

Have you heard the good news?

The greatest show EVER is coming back; well, technically it is a whole new show but it is based on the child of two of the main characters and will have some of the same stars. You know what I'm talking about, right? BOY MEETS WORLD! Now we are going to have Girl Meets World!

Can you just imagine Cory Matthews, the first love of my life, as a father? And Topanga, she'll be the prettiest mom on the block. Any thoughts of whether crazy Uncle Eric will have settled down with a lovely lady? What about Grandma and Grandpa Matthews? Will be get to see Joshua all grown up? Will there be a third actress for Morgan? Oh and we could never forget Shawn, Angela or MR. FEENY.




We'll see how it unravels. I, for one, cannot wait! Come on over, I'll make the bread (like these delicious wheat rolls we had for Thanksgiving) and we'll get watching a seven season marathon of BMW!

Wheat Rolls (from King Arthur's Whole Grain Baking)
1 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
3 tbsp honey
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup instant dried potatoes (not cooked)
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted, for topping

Combine the water, orange juice, cubed butter, honey and salt in a large bowl. Begin to mix in the flours with a wooden spoon, but using your hands when the spoon no longer suffices. Knead the dough until you have a smooth dough, about 8-10 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap; allow to rise until it is puffy about 2 hours (maybe less if your house is warmer than mine).

Lightly grease a 9 X 13 inch baking pan.

Gently deflate the dough and transfer it to a lightly greased countertop. Divide into 16 equal (or as close to equal as you can get) pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Place the rolls into the prepared pan, making sure any seams are facing downward and spacing them evenly. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 2 hours. They will once again get puffy and end up touching each other.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Remove the plastic wrap and bake until they are brown on top, about 25 minutes.* Remove from oven and brush with melted butter, if desired. Serve warm.

*If you are planning on freezing the rolls: I removed them from the oven, let them cool, covered them with foil and froze them. The day before Thanksgiving, I removed them from the freezer to let them thaw. To reheat, bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 8-10 minutes. Then brush with the melted butter.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Green Bean Bundles

While I was growing up we had family friends that lived almost right across the street. The daughter, Aimee, is my age and we went to school together for as long as I can remember. Once we were late for 3rd grade because we were playing on the snow banks in the church parking lot we had to walk through. I remember this vividly because I have always been, and will always be, a rule follower and walking into the classroom during the pledge of allegiance is not the action of a good little girl! We would play for hours with these plastic animals in her basement- my favorite was the family of white tigers. Sometimes when her mom and my dad were both out of town on business trips, we would combine the remainder of our families and head out to dinner at Ponderosa (don't even get me started on how terrible that place is...); the waitress once thought that Aimee and I were twins. 

Because both of our extended families were located in states far away, there were many Thanksgiving that we would break bread together. I don't know why (I will hazard a guess because my sister HATES green bean casserole) but one year Sara showed up with these green bean bundles. Both families loved them and they have become a permanent staple of our Thanksgiving feast. These guys a lot less labor intensive than the traditional GBC (especially if you make it from scratch, which is yummy, but not good for the mushroom haters) but a third of the ingredients is bacon. Come on, you can never go wrong with bacon, right? So try them out, even your green vegetable haters (aka my dad) will eat a bundle or two.

Green Bean Bundles (from the kitchen of our childhood neighbor, Sara)
2 16-oz cans whole green beans, drained
12-16 slices bacon, cut in half
1 8-oz bottle French dressing

In the microwave, cook the slices of bacon until they are slightly cooked but still malleable (about 1-2 minutes total). Pat dry with paper towel.

Arrange the green beans into bunches of 8 and wrap a half slice of bacon around each bundle, securing with a toothpick. Place all the bundles in a large baking dish. Pour the dressing over the beans. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Bake uncovered for 40 minutes, turning over the bundles halfway through the cooking time. Serve hot.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Orange Cranberry Sauce

I know this is a little backwards-- sharing with you Thanksgiving recipes AFTER the holiday. But I certainly cannot post recipes before I have actually made the dishes and until this blog has been around for awhile, I won't have the holiday dishes until after the holiday. So bear with me, ok? And enjoy the insight into Thanksgiving in my parents household.

Typically, Thanksgiving is all full of tradition at our house. Yes, the food is pretty traditional, but it is more the activities that make the weekend. My dad makes a pie (or two or three) early in the morning and a cinnamon crisp from extra crust for breakfast. We watch the Lions football game (because we're in Michigan). We eat food. We take at least one walk around the block (either before or after dinner or both). We scour the multitude of ads and make our plan of attack for Black Friday. We (the girls only-- my mom, sister and I) get up nice and early and head out with the crazies for some shopping which typically includes a soft pretzel partway through the morning and long lines and coupons and everything else associated with the madness of the day. Then we head home laden with bags to rest up for the afternoon. Friday night (and sometimes Saturday depending on the schedule) kicks off the Christmas season with leftover turkey sandwiches, chips and dip, pickle tray, and raw veggies in front of the television playing "White Christmas". We sing along (because obviously we know all the words) and lament the fact that every year the housekeeper cannot help but pick up the phone and overhear the wrong part of the conversation between Bob and Ed.

Well this year, unfortunately my sister and her family did not get to make the trip to Michigan for Thanksgiving. So we did a few things differently. Some of those included food! We have also been a canned cranberry sauce family (and don't get me wrong, I love the ridged deliciousness) but I had been itching to make my own and my parents were all for it. So we did. I read a lot of recipes online and we decided to add orange to enhance the flavor and start with a small amount of sugar and work our way up. We like tart things for the most part, so feel free to up the sugar if you want.

We all loved it. It is safe to say this is a permanent replacement (or depending on how many people are in town for the holiday maybe a permanent addition?) to our Thanksgiving feast. It would go great with pork or beef, if you are looking for a quick and easy side for Christmas as well. My only regret-- that we didn't make more!

Orange Cranberry Sauce
12 oz bag of fresh cranberries
zest of 1 orange
juice of 2 oranges, plus water to reach 3/4 cup
dash of cinnamon
4 tbsp granulated sugar
4 tbsp brown sugar

Rinse and drain cranberries. Place them in a medium pot. Add the orange zest, juice with water, cinnamon and 3 tbsp of each sugar. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Taste the cranberries and add last 1 tbsp of each sugar if still very tart. You can add additional sugar, equal amounts of each type, until you get to your desired sweetness. The total of 8 tbsp leaves it pretty tart; I've seen recipes up to double that amount so go wild if you want it sweeter.

Remove from the heat and refrigerate for a few hours until it sets up. Serve cool.

Makes about 2 cups of cranberry sauce.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all! I'm thankful for so many things in my life including my family, friends and you! Thanks for reading and sharing this journey with me.

Here are some pictures to share our day of food with you. A few recipes will follow eventually. I hope you are enjoying your meals, football, basketball, and shopping this weekend.

Tom, the turkey!

A little bit of wine

Sausage, cornbread and sourdough stuffing

Green bean bundles

Whole wheat rolls

Lime jello salad

Citrus cranberry sauce

Mashed red potatoes

The full spread!

My dinner plate

Apple pie (sorry it's half eaten :))

Okay. I'm about to fall asleep into a tryptophan coma.

Happy thanksgiving!

P.S. Make sure you save the bones from your turkey--- we're making turkey stock!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Butternut Squash Ravioli

Homemade pasta has been on my bucket list for a long time. I like the idea of making the dough, rolling it very, very thin, tossing it in boiling water for such a short time and ending up with a delicious bowl of noodles (of course garnished with some sort of delectable sauce). Aww... it would feel as if I was in Italy...

However, I do not have a pasta roller so although this dream may one day become reality, I rely these days on pre-rolled thin pieces of noodle for my homemade pastas. The first time I came across wonton wrappers as shells for raviolis in a Cooking Light cookbook, I knew I had to try it. Boy did they work great.

This butternut squash ravioli is a perfect use for that squash you picked up during one of the last farmers' markets of the season (the first time I made it I used a squash from my CSA box in NC). The squash and sage compliment each other perfectly, the butter becomes nicely caramelized, and the walnuts add a satisfying texture. You and your guest will feel like you are eating at a 4 star restaurant as you dig in to this dish.

Butternut Squash Ravioli (adapted from Easy Food and Wine)
For ravioli:
1/2 cup low fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup cooked and mashed butternut squash* (about 1/2 squash)
dash of nutmeg
16-20 wonton wrappers

For sauce:
2 tbsp butter
1/2 small onion, diced
1/2 tbsp fresh sage, minced
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Combine the ricotta cheese, squash and nutmeg in a small bowl and mix until combine thoroughly. Working with a few wonton wrappers at a time, add 1-2 tsp filling to the center and then moisten the edges with water. Bring the edges together and twist to seal. Repeat until all the wrappers are filled. Heat a large pot of water to boil.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Add the onion, sage, and walnuts and cook until the onion is softened about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese.

Once the water is boiling, add the raviolis and cook until they float to the top of the water, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from water with a slotted spoon.

Serve with the raviolis topped with the sauce.

Serves 2.

*You can roast the butternut squash until soft enough to mash. Or for a quicker cook, cut the squash in half, scoop out seeds, place the cut sides down in a baking dish, add 2 tbsp water and microwave for 7-10 minutes until the flesh is cooked.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Apple Cinnamon French Toast Casserole

I know, I know. Thanksgiving is all about dinner. The turkey. The mashed potatoes. The green beans. The rolls. The cranberry sauce. The stuffing. The gravy. The pies. The eating way too much that you have to loosen your belt. The falling into a food coma while watching the Lions play (and maybe win this year?). The "we should take a walk" because we ate too much. The leftover turkey sandwiches on Friday.

            Side bar-- is anyone else hungry now? I'm so ready for all that food to be in my mouth on Thursday. Can. Not. Wait.

But in addition to dinner, you'll probably be eating breakfast; you know, to stretch out your stomach and warm up for the real show. Or maybe you'll need breakfast on Friday or Saturday before the family leaves to head back to reality. If so, you'll probably want something that doesn't take a lot of effort (since you're putting so much time and energy into dinner). I have the perfect solution for you! Overnight french toast-- specifically this apple cinnamon french toast. It is delicious and so easy. It's kinda like sweet stuffing that you eat in the morning. Feel free to multiple to feed the hoards of people at your house.

I expect this to be on your holiday menu (doesn't have to be Thanksgiving, but certainly around Christmastime). You'll enjoy it. I promise :)

Apple Cinnamon French Toast Casserole
4 cups white bread (I used Vienna bread), cut into 1 inch cubes
1 apple, cored and diced
2 oz cream cheese, diced
4 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup milk
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Grease a 8 X 8 inch baking dish. Place half of the bread and half of the apple in the dish. Top with the cream cheese. Top with the rest of the bread and apple.

Combine the eggs, milk, syrup and cinnamon. Pour over the bread. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Bake for 45 minutes until set. Serve topped with more syrup (and alongside crispy bacon!).

Serves 3-4.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Wheat Potato Bread

I've gotten into this habit of making breads on the weekends. This is certainly not a bad habit. It's actually a great habit. My house smells of baking bread and I get to enjoy fresh from the oven, soft and chewy bread on a weekly basis. Apparently this week is extra bread-y because this is my second yeast recipe (see baguettes); I didn't actually make them in the same weekend. Just getting to posting them both now...

ANYWHO... One of my goals after starting my postdoc was to experiment with yeast a little more (outside of lab, I'm not working with yeast in lab). I would say that is a goal that I've been sticking with... it keeps me away from campus at least one day a week and experimenting in the kitchen.

I wanted to make potato bread because for some reason, completely forgotten to me now, I bought one of those boxes of instant potato flakes. I know it was for some recipe because I think instant potatoes by themselves taste like wet cardboard, but somehow they got shoved to the back of my pantry and I didn't end up making my planned dish (whatever it was). In trying to find new things to do with this box o' flakes, I came across this potato bread recipe that used either leftover mashed potatoes or instant potatoes. Obvi I went with the instant ones. I decided to sub in some whole wheat flour for some of the all purpose.

The potato bread was good and worked for sandwiches and toast, however it doesn't quite have the feel of normal sandwich bread. It is a little more dense and flaky bordering on a quick bread. But I still enjoyed it.

I can't wait to experiment more with yeast. Come along on the journey with me :)

Wheat Potato Bread (adapted from The Frugal Girl)
3/4 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup mashed potatoes (rehydrated instant flakes as described on box, or leftovers)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tbsp salt
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 - 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Combine the warm water and yeast in a bowl and let sit for a few minutes until foamy. Stir in the potatoes, sugar, oil and salt. Stir in the whole wheat flour and enough of the all purpose flour to make a sticky dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 7-8 minutes, adding more all purpose flour as needed, until the dough is smooth.

Place the dough in a large lightly oiled bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rise 1 hour. Punch down the dough and roll out into a large rectangle about 8 inch by

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Seafood Risotto

I think that risotto is becoming one of my most favorite meals ever! I am just impressed about how it goes from crunchy mealy rice to silky creamy smooth deliciousness; plus it is so adaptable depending on your pantry and fridge ingredients, mood, and desires. Was it really only a few months ago when I was intimidated by this dish? Although it does take a little bit of effort, you can put a restaurant quality dish on the table in less than a hour. Plus, it gives you an excuse to stand over the stove sipping wine (because of course you are going to drink the rest of the bottle of wine you opened for the recipe).

As I mentioned earlier this week, I made this seafood risotto for my parents while they were visiting. I think my dad enjoyed learning how to make it (you can tell he was excited enough to snap some photos). My kitchen is pretty small so my mom was tasked with peeling and deveining the shrimp then she retired to the living room to play on her iPad. :) 

Seafood risotto had been on my mind for awhile. Ideally, I would have sauteed up some scallops to set atop the rice, but since scallops do not play nice with my mom, we went with crab and shrimp. To tell you the truth, we didn't miss the scallops at all. I'm sure they would have been good, but the flavor of the crab really stole the show (and it was from a can!). We added some mushrooms to deepen the flavors and they complimented the seafood perfectly. I debated throwing in peas for a burst color, but my dad does not play nice with green vegetables so we skipped them. Didn't miss those either. I'd make this again in a heartbeat; you should too!

Seafood Risotto 
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
6-7 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth or seafood broth)
1 cup white wine
2 cups sliced mushrooms
6 oz can lump crabmeat, picked over to remove any shells
1/2 lb shrimp, peel and deveined
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
salt and pepper
1/2 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Bring the broth to a simmer in a saucepan over medium high heat. Cover and reduce to low to simmer.

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium heat until softened about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice and cook, stirring quickly until the rice in well coated, about 2-3 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently until the liquid is almost gone, about 5-7 minutes. Add the broth, about 1 cup at a time, and stir the rice constantly until almost all the liquid is absorbed, about 5-7 minutes. Continue to add broth until the rice has been cooking for 15-20 minutes. Add the mushrooms and add more broth continuing to stir completely absorbed. It will take around 35-45 minutes for the rice to cook completely. Taste periodically to see if the rice is tender and not mushy. Continue to cook, adding more liquid to keep moist until you reach the desired consistency.

When the rice is almost done, heat the 1 tsp olive oil in a small pan. Add the shrimp and sprinkle with Old Bay and salt and pepper, to taste. Cook for about 1 minute on each side until pink and cooked through.

When the rice is completely cooked, stir in the crabmeat and cooked shrimp. Mix completely and remove from the heat. Stir in the parmesan cheese. 

Garnish with additional cheese as desired.

Serves 4.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Carolina Nachos

In honor of Duke's win over Kentucky last night, I bring you North Carolina Nachos! And no way do I mean that they are UNC nachos. Nachos inspired by the state of North Carolina that happens to be home to my most favorite basketball team ever-- DUKE!

You can literally turn anything into a good nacho dish, right? Here I went with leftover pulled pork and some swiss cheese. Topped it off with coleslaw in place of salsa. Delicious.

Get in there and check it out. And get ready for basketball season. :) I am!


Carolina Nachos
Tortilla chips
Leftover pulled pork
Swiss cheese
Coleslaw (vinegar based)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Spread the tortilla chips on the aluminum foil. Top with shredded swiss cheese and pulled pork. Bake for approximately 10 minutes until cheese is melted and heated through. Remove from oven and top with coleslaw.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Whole Wheat Baguettes

Ok I just realized that Thanksgiving is next week! W-H-A-T?! How did that happen? Where did November go? Take that back-- where did September and August go?

Have you planned your Thanksgiving meal yet? Are you a traditionalist or are you trying something new this year? At my parents' house we typically follow the same recipes but in their old age they are becoming more adventuresome so we are trying out a few new things this year as well. Don't worry I'll be sure to share everything with you.

Speaking of new things, my love affair with freshly baked bread is continuing to flourish. I'm currently making my way through this cookbook from King Arthur Flour dedicated to whole grain baking (it will take me some time since it is a giant book!). The first recipe I tried was these baguettes. I mentioned yesterday that I served them with pulled pork when my folks were visiting ad they really liked them. I also dunked them in soup, toasted slices and slathered them with peanut butter, and made them into garlic bread, enjoying each and every bite. You can store them (I still have one baguette left) in the freezer and they reheat very well, so definitely make the whole batch.

You'll note that the recipe from start to finish takes three days because there are two overnight steps. They are totally worth it though; I'll certainly be making this recipe again!

Whole Wheat Baguettes (from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking)
For pre-ferment:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cool water
pinch of instant yeast

For dough:
All of pre-ferment
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp cool water
1/4 cup orange juice
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp instant yeast

Mix the pre-ferment ingredients in a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rest overnight at room temperature.

Transfer the pre-ferment to a larger bowl and add in the rest of the ingredients, mixing with a wooden spoon until you cannot mix it anymore. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead by hand until the dough is cohesive, about 7-10 minutes. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow to rise 3-4 hours. Approximately every hour, gently deflate the dough and turn it over.

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and divide into 3 pieces. Shape each piece into a flattened oval. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Starting with one piece of dough, fold  in half lengthwise and then seal the edges. Flatten and fold and seal again. With the seam side down, gently roll the dough into a log that is about 16 inches long. Repeat with the other two pieces of dough. Place the logs on the prepared pans. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for 30 minutes. Refrigerate overnight.

Remove from fridge and let the loaves rest at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours. Preheat oven to 425 F about 30 minutes before baking.

Uncover the loaves and place the baking sheets on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 18 minutes. Tent the baguettes with foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes, until they are golden brown. Turn off the oven, crack it open and allow the baguettes to cool complete in the oven.

Use immediately, or cover with aluminum foil and freeze. To refresh, thaw if frozen, bake wrapped in aluminum foil for approximately 10 minutes at 350 F.

Makes 3 loaves.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

My apologies for the lack of posts lately.

Some weeks pass you by without permission and you realize you have only uploaded two blog posts. This past week (actually a little over a week) has been crazy. Last weekend (well, not yesterday weekend but the weekend before), my parents were in town from Friday to Sunday. We had a blast and they even let me experiment on a couple new recipes for them. I introduced them to my honey bourbon barbecue pulled pork that I served with homemade whole wheat baguettes (recipe to come this week, promise!). On Saturday, we made risotto (recipe this week as well!). Apparently I was trying to liquor them up since both dinners I made were laden with booze. ;)

So after the 'rents left on Sunday I started to feel sick. I thought it was maybe the flu but as the week progressed it turned into a severe head cold with a on-and-off fever that just exhausted me to my core. I was in bed every night before my clock hit 9:00 pm, no joke. I had to get better because I had a whirlwind weekend planned for this past weekend; I was back in NC celebrating the wedding of one my dearest friends from grad school. Luckily, my sickness was on the mend and I got to enjoy my time back there. The weather was AMAZING for early November, Kate was a beautiful bride (with a gorgeous dress), and I had a wonderful time catching up with so many friends. My plane landed in Indy late last night and I had a two hour drive home in the pouring down rain. I think my hands and shoulders are still sore from gripping the steering wheel so tight on the drive home. I fell into my bed last night completely exhausted.

Who would like an extra day or two to catch up from the craziness?


I'm sharing with you today another recipe I made for my parents when they were in town. Remember the homemade pumpkin puree? Here it is again, this time in a nice sweet dessert. My mom loves anything pumpkin but my dad is definitely not a pumpkin pie fan. These little guys satisfied them both. They taste like pumpkin bread with a delicious maple cream cheese frosting. They would be a great addition to your holiday dessert table.

Pumpkin Woopie Pies (adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)
For whoopie pies:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
dash of salt
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 canola oil
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (homemade or canned)
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For maple cream cheese frosting:
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper.

In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg together.

In another bowl, whisk together the sugar, brown sugar and oil. Whisk in the pumpkin puree followed by the egg and vanilla. Add the flour mixture in small portions and whisk until completely incorporated.

Drop the batter by rounded tablespoon onto the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the cookies comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack until completely cooled.

Make the frosting by beating the butter and cream cheese using a stand or hand mixer until smooth for about 5 minutes. Beat in the powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time, incorporating completely. Finally beat in the maple syrup and vanilla until smooth.

Assemble the whoopie pies by flipping over half of the cookies, spreading the frosting on the bottom of them and topping with another cookie.

Store them in the fridge until ready to serve.

Makes 18-24 whoopie pies, depending on how big you make them.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Homemade Vegetable Broth

A couple of weeks ago Meijer failed me... in three consecutive trips. For some reason, completely unknown to me, the chicken/vegetable/beef broth/stock shelves were completely empty. I mean no expensive organic kind, no fully sodium-ed store brand, nothing. It was so weird. It was at this point that I thought, I gotta make some homemade broth/stock for my freezer so I never have this problem again. I also thought to myself, why purchase a whole bunch of extra veggies to use up in stock when every day when I cut up vegetables for recipes, I end up throwing parts of them away. So at this point, I started collecting my vegetable scraps in the freezer. I collected a whole gallon sized freezer bag of potato skins, onion skins, mushroom stems, carrot ends, celery pieces and such. Then I threw them all into a big pot, covered them with water, added some herbs (thyme, parsley and peppercorns), and simmered away for 1 hour. After straining and cooling I had myself a bunch of vegetable broth to be used in so many dishes.

This is so easy that you should really do it! The skins of the onion give it the beautiful brown color, so make sure not to skimp on them. Also make sure that you do include carrots and celery (potentially cut up some extra to add in) because they will make the broth more hearty. I wouldn't suggest using any super strongly flavored vegetables like cabbage or brussels because they will probably take over the flavor. Also, make sure that you do not include any vegetables that have become rotten!

Homemade Vegetable Broth
Gallon ziplock bag of vegetable scraps such as potato skins, celery, carrots, onion (red or yellow with skin), bell pepper, mushroom stems, corn cobs etc.
2-3 garlic cloves, whole and peeled
Fresh herbs such as thyme, parsley, basil, oregano, etc.
3 whole peppercorns
Cold water to cover vegetables

Collect vegetable pieces over the course of a few weeks to months in a ziplock bag in the freezer. When the bag is full, dump it into a large stock pot and cover with cold water. Add the garlic, herbs and peppercorns. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, uncovered.

Strain the broth and cool to room temperature. Aliquot into freezer bags and ice cube trays and freeze.

Use in place of chicken or vegetable broth in whatever recipe you desire.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Red Red Salad (Beets, Pomegranates and Bacon)

I voted. Did you?

I think you should go out there and exercise your rights. I was talking to one of the visiting scientists in my lab and she was asking if I was going to vote. I said, yes. She replied and told me she has never voted and that that is what happens in communism. You see, she's from China. But here in the United States, despite all the problems our government has, the imperfectness of our society and the people (no matter who you vote for, they aren't perfect) that make and pass the laws, we still have the ability to go out there and make our voices heard.

So I really hope you have voted already or that you plan on doing it today. You may have to wait in a long line in the bitter cold, but it is worth it. Get out there, make an informed decision, and act on it!

Ok, that's it. I'm done being political. Let's get back to food that is important to everyone no matter what your political affiliation. Here's another easy fall salad. It's beautifully red from the beets, pomegranates and bacon.

Roasted Beet, Pomegranate and Bacon Salad
2-3 cups green leaf lettuce (or other lettuce)
1/8 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 slices bacon, crisp cooked and crumbled
handful croutons (homemade or storebought)
2 roasted beets, peeled and sliced*
handful pomegranates
freshly grated parmesan cheese
1-2 tbsp salad dressing (I used poppy seed, but raspberry vinaigrette would be great too)

*To roast the beets, preheat the oven to 400 F. Wash the beets and cut off the stems. Cut large beets in half, to decrease cooking time. Place the beets on a piece of aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil. Bring together the ends of the foil to seal into a package. Bake for 35-55 minutes until the beets are softened through. Let cool until you can handle them, peel and slice.

Place the lettuce on a large plate. Top with the red onion, bacon, croutons, beets pomegranates and cheese. Finally top with the salad dressing.

Serves 1.