Thursday, October 28, 2010

Vanilla Bean Applesauce

A few weeks ago, my sister came to visit for the weekend.  I sent Joey off to his parents' house with Caroline, and we had a true girls' weekend.  No boys, no babies, just us sisters.  We ate yummy food, drank wine, had girl talk, and just enjoyed spending time together.  Our big outing of the weekend was driving to the North Georgia mountains and going apple picking (I know, we're wild and crazy).  We made a day of it and had lunch there, took our time browsing the store for gourmet goodies, and picking apples.  We came home with over 70 pounds!  The majority of the apples went towards making a year's worth of applesauce.  Most of it was pretty straightforward - apples, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.  But you know I have to do something "weird and fancy" as my sister would say.  So I found this recipe from Martha Stewart for applesauce that is full of fun stuff - ginger, apple cider, and a vanilla bean.  One of my favorite things about using vanilla beans is the cute little black specks that they leave behind!  The vanilla flavor isn't overpowering, but it lends a subtle depth of flavor that I just loved.  I also really loved the flavor from the apple cider and subtle spice from the ginger.  All in all, its not any more complicated than plain applesauce, but it is certainly more fun to eat!

One Year Ago:  Maple-Cider Glazed Chicken

Vanilla Bean Applesauce
adapted from Martha Stewart
makes 1 1/2 quarts
  • about 5 pounds ripe, firm apples (such as Gala or Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and cut into wedges
  • 2 Tbs granulated sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of kosher salt
Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, covered, 50-60 minutes, stirring often, until the apple have broken down.  Add more apple cider if necessary to keep the apples from scorching.

Remove the vanilla bean pod and the cinnamon stick, and mash with a wooden spoon.  Adjust seasonings as necessary.  Allow to cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween Candy Bark

Go ahead and file this little treat under the "why didn't I think of that" category.  It seems so simple, really.  Peppermint bark is so popular around the holidays, so why not make a fall version?  Take leftover candy and basically make a giant candy bar.  The ultimate candy bar, if you will.  Seriously so genius.  Let me break it down for you:  You start by spreading a layer of melted chocolate on a baking sheet, then you top that with broken candy bars, honey roasted peanuts, and Reese's pieces, and finish it off with a drizzle of white chocolate.  Once the chocolate sets, you break it into chunks, and feast!

The recipe calls for Butterfingers, Reese's cups and Heath Bars, but you could certainly mix things up and use pretty much any variety or combination of candy bars.  I think this would also be delicious with marshmallows, pretzels, or oooh maybe Fritos!

If you can wait until after Halloween, this is a great way to use up candy that you have left over from trick-or-treaters, but I wouldn't blame you one bit if you went right out and bought the ingredients to make it tomorrow.  I put a few in a plastic bag, tied it with a ribbon, and gave it to a friend who had us over for dinner.  It made such a cute presentation, that I plan to do the same thing for our neighbors and Caroline's teachers at school.  Anything to get this addictive snack out of my house.

One Year Ago:  Creepcakes

Halloween Peanut Butter and Toffee Candy Bark
Bon Appetit, October 2010
  • 1 pound bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 3 (2.1-ounce) Butterfinger bars, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 (1.4-ounce) Heath bars, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 8 (0.55-ounce) peanut butter cups, each cut into 8 wedges
  • 1/4 cup honey roasted peanuts
  • Reese's pieces, and/or yellow and orange M&M's
  • 3 ounces white chocolate
Line a baking sheet with foil.  Melt the bittersweet chocolate in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and pour over the foil-lined baking sheet.  Spread to an even layer that is about 12x10 inches.

Sprinkle the candy and peanuts over the chocolate, pressing lightly to adhere.  Be sure the all the candy is in contact with the chocolate.

Melt the white chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly.  Use a spoon or a fork to drizzle the white chocolate over the candy.

Chill at least 30 minutes, or until firm.  Break into 1-2 inch chunks.

Monday, October 25, 2010

PPQ: Autumn Pumpkin Bread with Pecan Streusel Topping

This week's Project Pastry Queen recipe was chosen by Joelen of What's Cooking, Chicago?  This was one of the first recipes in the cookbook that caught my eye (it is pumpkin, after all), so I was looking forward to trying it.  As published, the recipe makes 2 loaves, or 36 muffins.  Or 1 loaf and 18 muffins.  I chose to halve the recipe to make 1 loaf.  I made several changes, so I'm going to go ahead and write out the entire recipe instead of just linking to Joelen. 

For some reason, I don't like it when baked goods call for water.  Call me crazy, but I'm always afraid its going to dilute the deliciousness.  So I subbed apple cider, which I think worked wonderfully.  I also used a mixture of brown and granulated sugar, added some extra spices, and finally, I subbed some of the flour with whole wheat flour.  Because if I can make a recipe even a smidgen healthier without compromising taste, I'm all for it.  Oh and I also omitted the nuts that were in the bread - while I love pecans, I really am not a fan of nuts in my baked goods (heehee).

This bread is really really good.  Very moist (so much so that it broke in half when I took it out of the loaf pan.  Nevermind that I think I forgot to grease the pan...).  The spices are perfect, the streusel is to die for, and I really think using apple cider gave it that final oomph that puts it right over the edge.  I'd love to make this as muffins for a brunch or to take to a friend or neighbor.

Thanks, Joelen, for finally forcing me to make this delicious fall bread - head over to her blog for the original recipe.  And check back next week - we're making pancakes!

One Year Ago:  Blue Cheese Souffle

Eddie's Autumn Pumpkin Bread with Pecan Streusel Topping
adapted from The Pastry Queen, by Rebecca Rather
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 3/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup toasted pecan pieces
Preheat the oven to 350.  Arrange the pecan pieces on a baking sheet and toast 7-9 minutes, until golden brown and aromatic.  Set aside.

Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan, or 18 muffin tins with butter or cooking spray.

Whisk the oil and sugars in a large bowl.  Add the eggs, pumpkin, and cider and whisk to combine.  Stir in the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt.  Pour into the prepared loaf pan.

To make the topping, stir together the sugar, butter, cinnamon, and pecans.  Sprinkle liberally over the loaf before baking.

Bake the bread about an hour, until the top has set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Chocolate-Chocolate Whoopie Pies

After all the fall-inspired baking and cooking I've been doing lately, the one thing I'm craving is CHOCOLATE.  Sure, I love cinnamon and spice in desserts, but my one true love is and always will be chocolate.  And since I've been dying to try my hand at whoopie pies, I decided to go all in and make double chocolate whoopie pies.  My chocolate craving was so intense that marshmallow filling just wasn't good enough.

Chocolate was what I wanted, and its what I got.  The cake (cookie?) portion of the whoopie pies are pretty chocolatey and rich on their own, but add in chocolate marshmallow frosting, and they just go over the top.  Joey was shocked that I was able to eat more than one in a sitting (really, I don't understand when people say a dessert is "too rich."  I take that to mean they are a wuss).

I think these would be super a welcome addition at a Halloween party - next to some pumpkin whoopie pies, perhaps?

Double Chocolate Whoopie Pies
makes about 1 dozen sandwiches
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 Tbs baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Chocolate Marshmallow Frosting
  • 1 (7-ounce) jar marshmallow fluff
  • 3/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1-2 Tbs cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup half and half, or as needed
For the cookies, preheat the oven to 400.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar over medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla, and beat until well combined.  Decrease the speed to low, and slowly add the dry ingredients.  Beat until just combined.

Using a small cookie scoop, place cookies on the baking sheets, leaving at least 1 inch between each cookie (about 12 per sheet).  Bake 12 minutes, or until they spring back when lightly pressed.  Remove to a rack to cool.

Meanwhile, make the filling.  Beat the marshmallow fluff, 1/2 cup sugar, chocolate, cocoa powder, and butter until well combined.  Alternately add the half and half and remaining confectioner's sugar until the desired consistency and sweetness is reached.

Pair the cookies off by size, and pipe filling onto 1/2 of each cookie sandwich.  Press the other half down lightly, and serve. 

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Source:  Cookies from Martha Stewart, filling adapted from All Recipes

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Peanut Butter & Jelly Swirl Bread

Like so many others, I have a pretty serious addiction to peanut butter.  As in, I think I have 6-8 jars of various flavors and types in my pantry and refrigerator right now (Target now carries a Vanilla Cranberry flavor - are you kidding me??).  And given that Caroline is prone to allergies, I was terrified that she'd be allergic, but lo and behold, she isn't!  And she loves it!  I still remember giving her her first taste, and how her face absolutely lit up when she tried it.  PB&J is her standard lunch, but imagine how insane it becomes when its made on... wait for it... PB&J bread!

I have become quite taken with yeast breads, and King Arthur Flour is pretty much a limitless resource for all things bread.  This bread immediately caught my eye, and I set right out to make it.  It is basically a honey-oatmeal bread with a PB&J swirl.  Much like a cinnamon-raisin swirl in other breads.  The bread itself is great on its own, and would make a fantastic sandwich bread, but adding the swirl really takes it to the next level.  I wasn't thinking clearly and I rolled mine from the wrong side, so that's why the swirl pattern isn't quite perfect, but trust me when I say that it still tasted fantastic.  And using this for French toast... well...its pretty much out of this world.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Swirl Bread
adapted from King Arthur Flour
makes 1 loaf

Oat Mixture
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1/2 Tbs kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 1/4 tsp instant yeast (1/2 packet)
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1 cup whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2-2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup jam or jelly
Combine the ingredients for the oat mixture in a small bowl and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, or until the oats have softened.  Cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the yeast, honey, and warm water.  Mix at low speed to just combine.  Add the oats mixture and the whole wheat flour and the all-purpose flour, and mix to form a dough.  Switch to the dough hook and knead until a smooth and satiny ball has formed, about 5-8 minutes, adding more flour as needed.

Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and allow to rise about 1 1/2 hours, or until its doubled in bulk.  Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan and set aside.

Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead it just a little to expel any air bubbles, then roll out into a 10x12 inch rectangle.  Spread the dough with the peanut butter, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides.  Spread the jelly on top of the peanut butter. 

Fold the edges over the peanut butter and jelly, then roll in a tight log, starting with the short end of the dough.  Place in the prepared loaf pan, and allow to rise until the dough has puffed and cleared the top of the loaf pan, about 45 min- one hour.  Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes, or until the bread is nicely browned and sounds hollow when tapped.  Cool completely before slicing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Wrapinis

I feel like I've been posting an overabundance of indulgent treats lately, so I'd like to share something healthy, easy, and quite tasty. 

One of the questions I receive the most is what to do with leftovers.  I for one eat them for lunch, or I reinvent them for later dinners.  One of my favorites is using leftover veggies on a salad at lunchtime, or making quesadillas with leftover meat.  These wraps were born out of the need to use up leftover grilled vegetables and chicken from a tailgate.  I recalled Annie posting open-faced veggie melts last week, and I thought maybe I'd do something similar.  I'm not really sure how that turned into grilled wraps, but I'm not sorry at all.  I just diced up the veggies and chicken into bite-sized pieces, added some fresh tomato, topped with some provolone, and wrapped them up.  Then I grilled them (improvising with a heavy saucepan since I don't have a panini press), and served with Caesar dressing for dipping.  The beauty of these is that they are completely customizable - shrimp, beef, or pork tenderloin would work wonderfully here, and any number of veggies or types of cheese would be great as well.

Joey isn't typically the biggest fan of leftovers (especially leftover veggies), but he definitely loved these wraps.  And you can bet that the next time we have grilled chicken and veggies (which will probably be next week), I'll make enough to use in some delicious wrapinis later!

One Year Ago:  Risotto Marsala

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Wrapinis
a Pink Parsley Original
  • 2 large tortillas
  • 3/4-1 cup mixed cooked vegetables, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cooked boneless, skinless, chicken breast half, shredded
  • 1 tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 2 slices provolone cheese, each torn in half
  • olive oil
  • Caesar Salad Dressing, for dipping
Preheat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add 1-2 teaspoons of the oil to the skillet

Lay both tortillas flat and evently distribute the vegetables, chicken, and tomatoes between them.  Top each with the provolone cheese, and close ends then roll tightly.  Lay seam side down in the skillet, then brush the tops with oil.  Using a heavy saucepan, press down on the wraps to flatten them.  Cook, with the saucepan on top, 2-3 minutes, and flip.  Continue to cook until the wraps are golden brown, remove from pan, and cut in half.  Serve with Caesar dressing for dipping.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Mushrooms

For me, fall means all things pumpkin, apple, and pear (as if that weren't obvious given my most recent blog posts).  While obviously I've been baking with these ingredients a lot, I've been using them in savory recipes as well.  Martha Stewart has some great slideshows showcasing seasonal ingredients on her site.  I like to go on there and just flip through ingredient after ingredient when the mood to cook strikes, and that's where I found this recipe.  I have been wanting to make gnocchi for quite some time now, and though I had plans to make potato gnocchi, I just couldn't pass up a chance to cook with pumpkin.

I was a little discouraged as I was making this, as the dough required significantly more flour than is called for.  Though to be fair, I used canned pumpkin over fresh, and that could have made a difference.  I might have also just added too much, but it was so sticky there is no way I could have shaped anything out of it.  I honestly don't know how much more I added, I just added a tablespoon at a time until I reached a dough I was happy with.  My gnocchi-shaping skills leave much to be desired, but practice makes perfect, so I guess I'll just have to make more gnocchi!

After forming the gnocchi, the recipe comes together quite quickly.  They are cooked in boiling water while you make a sauce of shallots, mushrooms, more pumpkin, sage, and cream.  This is a really indulgent meal, but trust me when I say that a little bit goes a long way.  I ate what amounted to one serving, and I was really really full afterwards.

We all really enjoyed this dinner, which is saying a lot because Joey doesn't typically care for pumpkin.  He even went so far as to say it was one of the best things I had made in the past few weeks.  The gnocchi are soft little pillows of dough, and the pumpkin plays very well off the richness of the cream and the earthiness of the mushrooms. While I made this on a Monday night, it is better suited for a weekend meal, and would be an impressive dish to serve to guests as well.

One Year Ago:  Easy Crockpot White Bean and Chicken Chili

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Mushrooms
adapted from Martha Stewart, originally from Chef Frank DeCarlo
serves 4
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups flour, plus more as needed
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg, plus more for serving
  • 1 1/4 cups grated Pamigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 6 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 fresh sage leaves
  • 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
Mound the flour, nutmeg, and 1 Tablespoon salt on a large work surface.  Form a well in the center, and add 1 cup of the grated cheese and all but 1/4 cup of the pumpkin puree.   Slowly incorporate the flour, beginning from the inner rim of the well.  Form dough into a rounded mass, and knead 4-5 minutes, adding more flour as necessary.

Divide the dough into 4 equal portions, and on a well-floured surface, roll each portion into a cylinder of about 1-inch diamter.  Cut the dough into 1/2-inch segments and set aside.  Repeat with remaining dough.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Add the gnocchi, and cook 4 minutes, or until they rise to the surface.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallots, sage, and mushrooms, and saute until softened, 3-4 minutes.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup pumpkin, stock, white wine, cream, and 1/4 cup grated cheese.  Cook, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds.  Season with salt and pepper

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the gnocchi from the boiling water to the skillet, and toss to combine.  Divide evenly among serving bowls, and top with additional cheese and a sprinkle of nutmeg.  Serve immediately.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

PPQ: Pumpkin Yumkins

When I first flipped through The Pastry Queen, the pumpkin yumkins immediately caught my eye.  What could they be?  Some sort of cookie?  A cake?  Candy?  Bars?  It turns out that they're pretty much just a pumpkin cupcake with orange cream cheese icing.  Yumkin indeed.

Rebecca Rather describes these as a cross between a muffin and a cupcake.  It is a thick pumpkin-y batter studded with toasted nuts and dried dates.  The cake is dense like a muffin, but sweet like a cupcake.  Thanks to a whole can of pumpkin for 12 cakes, these stay very moist.  I actually left out the nuts and dates, and added a teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg.  I also added a little butter to the icing.  I really liked the combination of orange, cream cheese, and pumpkin, and when I make pumpkin cupcakes in the future I'll remember this addition.

Thanks to Amanda of Fake Ginger for choosing a fun treat.  Check out her blog for the full recipe.  Next week we're staying with pumpkin and making pumpkin struesel bread. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Apple Spice Cookie Bars

Caroline is under the assumption that any round fruit is an apple - peaches, oranges, plums, and pears are all apples.  Or as she calls them, "ah-holes."  Quite honestly I'm surprised I didn't get a note from her teacher last week for inappropriate language when they studied apples.  Joey and I laugh because over the past few months we've been commenting that we really need to pay attention to our language.  And here she is inadvertently cussing.  And the more we try to correct her pronunciation, the more adamently she repeats "Ah-hole!  Ah-hole!"  Anyway, I just thought I'd share our current situation, but I"ll also take the opportunity to share a picture of her on her first day of preschool - wearing her apple dress no less!

So I made these apple spice cookie bars a few weeks ago, and they were really delicious - somewhat of a cross between a cookie and a blondie, with lots of great apple-cinnamon flavor.  They are a cinch to throw together, travel well, and keep for several days.  An ideal treat for fall, and an great use for apples. 

One Year Ago:  Orange-Chipotle Pork Tenderloin and Tex-Mex Twice Baked Potatoes

Apple Spice Cookie Bars
  • 2 cups plus 2 Tbs all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • pinch ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbs vanilla extrac
  • 2 apples, cored and diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar + 1 Tbs ground cinnamon (for sprinkling)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line a 9x13 inch baking pan with foil.  Spray with cooking spray.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the sugars and butter and beat at medium speed for about 1 minute.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed until just combined.  Fold in the apples, and spread the batter in the prepared dish.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Cook 30 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly pressed.  Allow to cool, then remove from the baking dish, cut into bars, and serve.

Source:  Good Things Catered

Sunday, October 10, 2010

PPQ: Brie and Brisket Quesadillas

I have a funny story about brisket.  A few years ago, we were having dinner at Joey's grandmother's house, and my sister-in-law and myself were sent to the kitchen to bring out dessert.  Nana made brownies and banana bread, so we brought them both out to offer to everyone.  The banana bread happened to be in a tupperware with "brisket" written on the outside, and Lisa walked into the dining room and announced that we had brownies and brisket for dessert.  It has become a bit of a running joke, much to Lisa's embarrassment.

My pal Tara chose this week's recipe for Project Pastry Queen (PS go vote for her to advance in Project Food Blog!).  I'd had my eye on this recipe because, hello, it has brie in it.  Overall, its a lot of work for a quesadilla, but I love the idea behind it.  I'll definitely make these again with leftover pork, chicken, beef, etc.  Quesadillas have always been one of my favorite leftover options, but I've never thought to use brie.  It was magical (um, its brie after all).

The brisket is rubbed with a simple spice mixture of salt, chile powder, and garlic, then cooked in coke.  I opted to shred it instead of slice it, mixed it with homemade mango barbecue sauce, then topped with Monterrey Jack and brie.  Joey was in love with this dinner, so I'll definitely keep it in the back of my mind for the future.  Because while the process wasn't exactly a quick dinner, if you're using leftover meat and already have barbecue sauce, it comes together quite quickly.

Check out Tara's blog for the full recipe, and come back for next week - we're making Pumpkin Yumkins!

One Year Ago:  Pumpkin Magic Cookie Bars

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Peppered Pear and Goat Cheese Scones

I'm really regretting using my Friends reference to the beef trifle in a previous post - because this one is definitely more of a head-scratcher.  Pear scones - good.  Goat cheese scones - good.  Peppered scones - good.  All three?  Somehow, it's gooooood.

I was actually pretty apprehensive about these as I mixed them up, but I was so intrigued that I forged on.  I was also tempted to decrease the pepper, but it turns out that the combination of the sweet pears and spicy pepper was my favorite part of these scones.  I was even more apprehensive as I shaped them, because they were really crumbly and dry.  But again, I forged on, and when they came out of the oven they had transformed into moist, flavorful scones.  Absolute perfection.  I served these on the side of a main-dish salad that very night, and then enjoyed the leftovers for breakfast and snacks. 

The only other problem I had with the recipe is that my scones didn't brown on top.  I know its a minor complaint, but I think next time I'll brush the tops with melted butter instead of milk.  This was such a surprising cooking success, and I can't wait to make them again - perhaps an apple and cheddar version next time?

Peppered Pear and Goat Cheese Scones
adapted from Savory Baking, by Mary Cech
makes 6-8 scones
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbs granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 stick butter, grated and frozen for 10-15 minutes
  • 1 medium pear, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled into walnut-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk or yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Stir together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and 1 tsp of the pepper in a medium bowl.  Add the butter, pears, and goat cheese, and stir to incorporate.

Pour the buttermilk and whole milk over the flour mixture and lightly blend with a spatula.  The dough may look dry, but it will come together in the oven.

Using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, scoop the dough into mounds evenly spaced on the baking sheet.  Brush the scones with the melted butter, and sprinkle with extra pepper.  Bake until lightly browned, about 25 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pumpkin-Maple Granola

One of my favorite summer breakfasts is Greek yogurt, fresh berries or peaches, and granola.  Its filling, delicious, and nutritious.  I have made my own granola in the past, but it has been a long time.  I'd forgotten how much tastier homemade is (though really, isn't that the case with just about everything?)!

I'd had the idea to make pumpkin granola, and there were several versions online that caught my eye, but none were "the one."  Some had added sugar, which I knew I didn't want, some had obscure (to me anyway) syrups or ingredients that I don't keep on hand, and the proportions just seemed off for some.  So I just decided to start experimenting and see what I could come up with.

I was really pleased with how this granola turned out.  A little sweetness from the maple syrup and dried fruit, a little spice from the cinnamon and nutmeg, and a nice toasty flavor from the oats and nuts.  The whole combination is just about perfect - not too sweet, and utterly addictive.  I've had to stop myself from constantly grabbing handful after handful as I pass through the kitchen.  Besides snacking on it, I've enjoyed it in my morning yogurt with chopped apples or pears, and I've also added to to salads for lunch - its a great crunchy topping!

One Year Ago:  Butternut Squash Risotto

Pumpkin Spice and Maple Granola
a Pink Parsley Original
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup pepitas
  • 1/2 cup whole almonds
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2/3 cup coconut
  • 2 Tbs cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped dried figs
Preheat the oven to 350, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, maple syrup, oil, and honey.  Add the oats, flax, pepitas, almonds, sunflower seeds, coconut, and spices, and mix well to combine.

Transfer to the baking sheet and spread to distribute the mixture to a uniform thickness.  Cook 30-40 minutes, stirring the granola every 10 minutes, until golden-brown and crispy.

Allow to cool to room temperature, and mix in the dried fruit.  Store in an airtight container.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Grits and Greens Casserole

In my never ending quest to convice Joey that he does, in fact love greens, I pulled out the big guns - mix them with bacon, cheese, and grits.  And guess what?  It worked!  As a matter of fact, we all really enjoyed this meal.  I served this with sauteed apples and onions to round out a wonderful weeknight dinner.

For a meal that sounds indulgent, this is actually surprisingly light.  Sure, there is bacon and cheese, but its used sparingly, and that's pretty much the only source of fat.  It also contains a pound of greens, which we all know are a powerful superfood.  And I made it even healthier (and allergen free for Caroline) by replacing the egg with pumpkin.  I'll admit that I was a little nervous about the substitution, but I think it actually worked really well.  The pumpkin gave a nice subtle flavor, and the grits still had a great creamy texture.  Topped with hot sauce, this was such a great and comforting dinner.  This can also easily be made vegetarian by omitting the bacon (just use olive oil to cook the onions) and replacing the chicken broth with vegetable broth or water.  With all the kale, turnip, and mustard greens we'll be receiving in our CSA this fall, grits and greens casserole is sure to become a dinner (or brunch) staple. 

Grits and Greens Casserole
adapted from Savour Fare, orginally from Eating Well Magazine

  • 4 slices bacon, chopped

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 2 cups chicken broth, divided

  • kosher salt

  • 1 lb. chopped southern style greens

  • 2 cups water

  • 1 cup old-fashioned grits

  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese, divided

  • 1/3 c salsa

  • 1/4 cup pumpkin or butternut squash puree

  • hot sauce, for serving

  •  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and spray an 8x8 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
    Cook the bacon in a large dutch oven until browned and crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel. 

    Remove all but about 2 teaspoons of the bacon grease, and add the onion.  Saute until tender, and add the garlic.  Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  

    Add 1 cup of the chicken broth and a hefty pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil.  Add the greens, a handful at a time, and stir to wilt.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until greens are tender, 5-10 minutes.  Add water if the greens stick or the liquid evaporates.

    Meanwhile, bring the remaining broth and 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add the grits in a stream, constantly whisking to prevent lumps from forming.  Season with salt, and bring to a simmer.  Whisking often, cook until thickened.

    In a large bowl combine 3/4 cup of the cheese, salsa, pumpkin, and salt and pepper.  Add the grits and stir well to combine.  

    Spread half the grits in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with the greens, then sprinkle hot sauce over the top (use your own discretion depending on your tolerance for heat).  Top with the remaining grits.  Smooth the top with a spatula, and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese and reserved bacon.  

    Bake 20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.  Serve with hot sauce.

    Sunday, October 3, 2010

    PPQ: Pear Maple Cobblers

    It's my turn to pick the Project Pastry Queen recipe again!  I love it when its my turn, but I definitely feel the pressure.  What if no one wants to make my recipe?  What if no one likes it?  I have been pretty obsessed with fall fruits lately, so it came down to a choice between pears, apples, and pumpkins for me.  I figured others would choose pumpkin (I was right), and since I'd made both the caramel-apple cheesecake pie and the apple-spice layer cake recently, I went with pears.  And since I absolutely love maple, I went with pear-maple cobblers.

    This is a great dessert for entertaining, and they are easy to make as a last minute dessert.  The filling comes together in minutes, and as it bakes, the cobbler topping is quickly thrown together.  This is a super easy dessert that would be absolutely fabulous with either some maple-spiked whipped cream or cinnamon ice cream. 

    I made a few small changes.  The nutmeg was a little heavy-handed for my taste, so I'd recommend cutting half of it with cinnamon.  I also diced my pears, as the thought of quartered pears didn't seem quite right.  I also added an extra pear for every 2 cobblers to make a higher pear-to-cobbler ratio.  All in all, this is a wonderful fall dessert.  It will definitely stay in my rotation as an easy dessert option - you know, when you just need something sweet.

    We're going savory next week - Brie and Brisket Quesadillas!

    Individual Pear-Maple Cobblers
    adapted from The Pastry Queen
    makes 6 servings
    • 5 pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
    • 2/3 cup pure maple syrup
    • 2 Tbs all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
    • 2 Tbs chilled usalted butter, sliced into 6 even pats
    Cobbler Topping
    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled
    • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbs heavy cream
    • 1/2 cup  + 1 Tbs maple syrup
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 3 Tbs sugar
    Preheat the oven to 425.  Combine the pears, maple syrup, four, salt, vanilla, and nutmeg in a bowl.  Stir well and divide the mixture evenly among six ramekins.  Top each with one pat f butter.  Bake until heated through and bubbly, about 18-20 minutes.

    To make the topping, combine the flour, baking powder,  and1/8 tsp nutmeg in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Combine the remaining nutmeg, cinnamon, and sugar in a small bowl and set aside.  Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and set aside.  Cut the remaining 6 tablespoons into 6 pieces and add them to the flour mixture.  Process until fine crumbs form.  Add the cream, maple syrup, and vanilla, and process until just combined.  Drop by spoonfuls over the warm pear filling.  Brush the topping with the melted butter, and sprinkle with the reserved sugar mixture.

    Bake 14 minutes, until golden-brown and firm to the touch.  Serve warm.

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    Apple-Spice Layer Cake with Caramel Swirl Icing

    Rebecca Rather doesn't mess around.  She takes her desserts very seriously, no joke.  Just look at this cake.  You see the title, and you probably think "Oh, ok, another apple cake."  But wait - this cake is 3 9-inch cakes.  Full of fresh apple flavor, fall spices, and enough butter to make Paula Dean's head spin.  Then, its iced with mascarpone buttercream that's swirled with caramel, topped with even more caramel, and adorned with pecans.  And no joke, I think it weighs 5 pounds.  I'm most certainly not one to shy away from eating rich desserts.  When someone puts down their fork and says they can't finish a dessert because its so rich, I make fun of them in my head.  But well, I was one of those people with this cake.  I'm ashamed (or proud?) to admit that I couldn't even finish a tiny sliver.  Never mind that I had already eaten pumpkin pot pie, rolls, salad, and snacked on cheese and crackers all afternoon.  I always make room for dessert, but I just didn't have it in me to finish this cake.  Its that rich.

    I was really excited and nervous to make this cake, because I haven't had very much practice with layer cakes.  Cupcakes I've got down, but I always feel like my cakes are crooked, or domed, or not iced very well, etc.  The nice things about this cake are that you don't have to worry about slicing perfect layers.  Each layer is a cake.  Also, Most of the icing is covered, either by pecans or caramel.  So a "rustic" icing job will do just fine.  It came together fairly quickly, and while I had to make a little extra icing to finish the detail work, I was pretty generous while filling the layers and icing the top.

    While most people have been obsessed with pumpkin (okay, myself included), I've really enjoyed baking and cooking with apples and pears this fall.  And if you can't get enough - check out the Featured Recipes Page.  I've updated it with some great apple-ly recipes to try this fall.

    One Year Ago:  Vidalia Onion and Gruyere Tart 

    Apple-Spice Layer Cake with Caramel Swirl Icing
    barely adapted from Rebecca Rather, The Pastry Queen Christmas
    • 3 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
    • 3 cups sugar
    • 2 Tbs molasses
    • 6 large eggs
    • 3 cups cake flour
    • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
    • 2 Tbs ground cinnamon
    • 2 tsp ground allspice
    • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
    • 1 tsp ground ginger
    • 1 cup sour cream
    • 3 granny smith apples, peeled and shredded (1 1/2-2 cups)
    • 1 Tbs vanilla extract
    • 1 Tbs fresh minced ginger (optional)
    • 1 1/2-2 cups caramel 
    • 3 sticks butter, at room temperature
    • 2 Tbs heavy cream
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 3 cups powdered sugar
    • 1 cup (8 ounces) mascarpone
    • 2 cups pecan pieces, toasted (optional)
    Place one oven rack in the bottom third of the oven and place a second in the top third.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease 3 9-inch cake pans, then line each one with a parchment paper round and grease the rounds.

    In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the molasses, and scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl.  Add the eggs one at at a time, beating well after each egg.  In a medium bowl, sift together the four, baking soda, salt, and ground spices.  Add the sour cream and flour mixture alternately to the batter, starting and ending with the flour mixture (flour in 3 increments, sour cream in 2 increments).  Stir in the shredded apples, vanilla, and fresh ginger.

    The batter will be thick, so use a spoon to transfer evenly into the three pans (I actually used my kitchen scale to make sure I had even layers - anal much?).  Place 2 of the pans side by side on one rack, and the third on the other rack.  Make sure they are staggered so that no layer is directly under or above another.  Bake 35-40 minutes, rearranging the layers about halfway through, until firm to the touch.  Monitor the layers carefully, as they may be ready at different times.

    Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges and carefully unmold the cakes to a cooling rack.  Cool completely before icing.

    To make the icing, cream the butter on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes, until fluffy and pale.  Add the powdered sugar over low speed until combined, then add the cream and vanilla.  Increase speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the mascarpone and beat over low speed just until combined - it may seperate and curdle if its overbeaten.

    Reserve about 1/4-1/3 cup of the caramel, then stir the remaining caramel into the frosting, using large strokes to create swirls throughout.

    Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate or decorating stand, and spread a layer of icing on top.  Top with the second cake, then repeat with more icing, then the final layer.  Cover the cake with an even layer of frosting.  Pat (or fling) the toasted pecans onto the sides of the cake, then decorate the top as you desire.  Drizzle the remaining caramel over the top.