Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Zucchini and Tomato Tart on a Potato Crust

The pigs have happily made their debut and I thank all of you for stopping by and saying a thing or two.

Now onto a more nutritious entree. While it may not be the prettiest thing, it is pretty tastey.

Zucchini and Tomato Tart on a Potato Crust

2 cups shredded potatoes
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pecorino romano
1 teaspoon each oregano, basil
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 medium sized zucchinis, sliced thinly with a vegetable peeler or mandoline.
4 large tomatoes, sliced thinly
4 oz Fontina
4 oz mozzarella
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano
s and p to taste

You start with some shredded potatoes, chopped onion, egg, salt, garlic powder, herbs and Pecorino Romano. Mix in a bowl and place in a sprayed or greased jelly roll pan. Bake at 375F until crusty and golden.

Add a layer of cheese. I used some Fontina, mozzarella, and some more Pecorino Romano. This layer of cheese helps prevent sogginess from the ingredients that go on top.
A layer of peeled zucchini and a layer of tomatoes.

Bake again until the tomatoes begin to dry out. You want this crispiness at the bottom.

Slice and enjoy.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Vols au Vent

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

I have visited Steph's blog many times. Always something beautiful and delicious there. Not to mention she is usually full of helpful tips and good info. Go on now, visit her.

I must admit that MOST of my 'vols-au-vent' fell apart, rose too much on the inside but I must take the blame for not properly reading my directions. But I will say, I do so enjoy making puff pastry and working with puff pastry. I liken it to my love for play dough. It's really pretty easy to make and such a pleasure to work with. I have been wanting to make some wee little pigs for my kids. Happily, I made them and happily, they gobbled them.

Forming and Baking the Vols-au-Vent

Yield: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe below will yield about 8-10 1.5” vols-au-vent or 4 4” vols-au-vent

-well-chilled puff pastry dough (recipe below)
-egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a small amount of water)
-your filling of choice

Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vols-au-vent than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage. See the “Tips” section below for more storage info.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.

(This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d'oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)

Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.

Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.

Refrigerate the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)

Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)

Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings.

Fill and serve.

*For additional rise on the larger-sized vols-au-vents, you can stack one or two additional ring layers on top of each other (using egg wash to "glue"). This will give higher sides to larger vols-au-vents, but is not advisable for the smaller ones, whose bases may not be large enough to support the extra weight.

*Although they are at their best filled and eaten soon after baking, baked vols-au-vent shells can be stored airtight for a day.

*Shaped, unbaked vols-au-vent can be wrapped and frozen for up to a month (bake from frozen, egg-washing them first).

Little pig, little pig, let me in, "not by the hair of my chinny chin chin."

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

Steph’s note: This recipe makes more than you will need for the quantity of vols-au-vent stated above. While I encourage you to make the full recipe of puff pastry, as extra dough freezes well, you can halve it successfully if you’d rather not have much leftover.

There is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book. In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough (although they go on to use it in other applications). They do seem to give slightly different ingredient measurements verbally than the ones in the book…I listed the recipe as it appears printed in the book. To see a video demonstration click the link here: http://video.pbs.org/video/1174110297/search/Pastry

2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter

plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:

Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:

Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling the Dough:

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

Steph’s extra tips:

-While this is not included in the original recipe we are using, many puff pastry recipes use a teaspoon or two of white vinegar or lemon juice, added to the ice water, in the détrempe dough. This adds acidity, which relaxes the gluten in the dough by breaking down the proteins, making rolling easier. You are welcome to try this if you wish.

-Keep things cool by using the refrigerator as your friend! If you see any butter starting to leak through the dough during the turning process, rub a little flour on the exposed dough and chill straight away. Although you should certainly chill the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns, if you feel the dough getting to soft or hard to work with at any point, pop in the fridge for a rest.

-Not to sound contradictory, but if you chill your paton longer than the recommended time between turns, the butter can firm up too much. If this seems to be the case, I advise letting it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to give it a chance to soften before proceeding to roll. You don't want the hard butter to separate into chuncks or break through the dough...you want it to roll evenly, in a continuous layer.

-Roll the puff pastry gently but firmly, and don’t roll your pin over the edges, which will prevent them from rising properly. Don't roll your puff thinner than about about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick, or you will not get the rise you are looking for.

-Try to keep “neat” edges and corners during the rolling and turning process, so the layers are properly aligned. Give the edges of the paton a scooch with your rolling pin or a bench scraper to keep straight edges and 90-degree corners.

-Brush off excess flour before turning dough and after rolling.

-Make clean cuts. Don’t drag your knife through the puff or twist your cutters too much, which can inhibit rise.

-When egg washing puff pastry, try not to let extra egg wash drip down the cut edges, which can also inhibit rise.

-Extra puff pastry dough freezes beautifully. It’s best to roll it into a sheet about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick (similar to store-bought puff) and freeze firm on a lined baking sheet. Then you can easily wrap the sheet in plastic, then foil (and if you have a sealable plastic bag big enough, place the wrapped dough inside) and return to the freezer for up to a few months. Defrost in the refrigerator when ready to use.

-You can also freeze well-wrapped, unbaked cut and shaped puff pastry (i.e., unbaked vols-au-vent shells). Bake from frozen, without thawing first.

-Homemade puff pastry is precious stuff, so save any clean scraps. Stack or overlap them, rather than balling them up, to help keep the integrity of the layers. Then give them a singe “turn” and gently re-roll. Scrap puff can be used for applications where a super-high rise is not necessary (such as palmiers, cheese straws, napoleons, or even the bottom bases for your vols-au-vent).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Stellar Rice and Beans

If you read my blog at all you know that beans are a favorite of mine. As I learn to work with them, seasoning them so they are tastier, I like them even more.

There is a restaurant here called Salena's. It happens to be my favorite place to go. Matter of fact, it is a lot of people's favorite place to go. It was voted Best in Rochester many times- for good reason.

I wish I had their recipe for their salsa. I am so addicted to it. Maybe I should contact Gourmet or Bon Apetit and ask them to try and get the recipe for me...

Anyway, these black beans are strikingly close to their black beans (which I also happen to love).

You can make the beans in a crock pot as well. Or you can make them on a Sunday or whatever day you have off and you have them for the rest of the week. They freeze rather well. So, if you are having some Mexican fiesta, you can certainly make them ahead of time. Matter of fact they are always better the next day.

Frijoles de Olla
based on a recipe from, The Border Cookbook, by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison, The Harvard Common Press

2 cups dried black beans
8 cups water or more as needed
1 whole head of garlic, minced
1 dried chipotle
2 teaspoons dried epazote
1 plus teaspoons of salt, depending on your taste

Clean black beans, picking out any debris. Soak overnight. In the morning use the same water and add the garlic, epazote and chipotles. Bring to a boil and reduce to a gentle simmer. Cover and let cook about 2 hours, checking periodically to make sure the water level is good. Add the salt when the beans are tender.

You can add whatever you like afterward. I added some corn, it tasted better as well the next day when the corn had a chance to take on the flavor of the beans.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Moist Bran Muffins

While it may not be the most exciting of pictures, this little bran muffin packs a powerful flavor punch. Moist and tasty, and in no way related to those cardboard-y type bran muffins.

The extra step of pureeing the raisins may seem a bit tedious but you will be rewarded with amazing bran muffins. I used organic raisins as I heard the average raisin has a ton of pesticides on it.

Bran Muffins
Adapted from Pastries from La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton

2 cup wheat bran
1 cup dark raisins
1 cup, plus 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup buttermilk or plain low- or non-fat yogurt
a few swipes of fresh orange zest (unsprayed)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners.

Spread the wheat bran on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for six to eight minutes, stirring a few times so it cooks evenly. Let cool.

While the bran is toasting, heat 1 cup of the raisins with 1cup of the water. Simmer for ten minutes, or until the water is all absorbed. Puree the raisins in a food processor or blender until smooth.

In a large bowl, mix together the toasted bran, buttermilk or yogurt, and 1 cup water. Mix in the raisin puree, orange zest, and brown sugar. Stir in the oil, egg and egg white. In a seperate bowl mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and sift directly into the wet ingredients. Stir until the ingredients are just combined.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, making sure the batter is mounded slightly in each one. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the muffins feel set in the center.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

from scratch Samoa Bars

Today is my birthday, de ne ne ne ne ne ne neh (the Beatles, just in case you didn't get that). A great happy birthday to me. Today is my youngest daughters first day of preschool. I have two hours all alone for me. I consider that a little gift. Of course my kids, being present in my life, is the biggest gift of all.

I found this recipe on the King Arthur site. Lots of great recipes there.

Sorry Girl Scouts, but I like these a little better than your cookies. Of course I will always love your Thin Mints.

Coconuty from Scratch Samoa Bars
adapted from this recipe

1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) butter
1 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups (6 ounces) young coconut, toasted
1 cup caramel (recipe follows)
1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) milk or cream

Preheat to 350°F. Butter and line a 9 x 13 inch pan with parchment.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla, and egg. Mix in the flour, salt, baking powder, and 1 1/2 cups of the toasted coconut. Spread the mixture in an ungreased 9" x 13" pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and drizzle the caramel over the crust and return it to the oven for 10 to 12 minutes; when done it'll be medium-brown and the caramel will be bubbly.

Remove from oven and use a pizza roller or plastic knife to score into bars. Sprinkle the bars with the chocolate. Allow the chocolate to soften for about 5 minutes, then spread it evenly atop the bars. Sprinkle coconut over top of the chocolate. Set aside to cool completely.

Loosen the bars from the edge of the pan and lift them out onto a cutting board. Finish cutting them onto squares.

This recipe is based on the one from a reader who rated the King Arthur recipe. It is a very pourable type of caramel.

1 cup sugar
1 T Lyle's golden syrup
3T water
3T butter
1/2 cup heavy cream at least room temp or warmed in micro
2 tsp. vanilla extract

In heavy saucepan bring water, sugar, and syrup to boil. Using a candy thermometer, watch temp, maintaining around 380 until a deep amber color. Do not stir, just swirl the pot. Take off heat and immediately add the cream. This will bubble tremendously. Stir with a wooden spoon constantly until incorporated then stir in the butter and vanilla.
The mixture will thicken as it cools.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dippity Do Dah

Dips to me are one of those fun foods like meat on a stick or potstickers. Throw some homemade crackers next to it and wow but if you are in a hurry certainly store bought crackers work very well too. Really they are just a vehicle to get that dip into your mouth.
This is almost the same recipe as the one I received as part of the jam exchange. Here is the recipe:

Tomato Jam with a kick!

5 pound of ripened tomatoes, roma is the best but others will do
1 teaspoon chili pepper
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
3 cups of sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt*

Combine all of the ingredients in a large sauce pan or a soup pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Let it cook down. When most of the liquid has evaporated start to stir almost constantly as it is prone to sticking at this point. You want the mixture to drop of the spoon in chunks rather than drips. It will also become glossy near the end.

*If you are canning, it is important to use kosher salt or salt that does NOT contain iodine.

While this one is not so pretty, it is tastey. Mine comes out different every time. The key to great flavor is in the roasting.

Roasted Eggplant Dip (Baba Ganoush)

1 large eggplant
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste

Split eggplant in half. Place skin isde up on a baking sheet. Roast in a 375 F oven until it is soft. When you touch it with a wooden spoon it should depress. Remove from oven and let cool so that you are bale to handle it comfortably.

In a processor, mince the garlic. Add eggplant, yogurt, tahini, salt and olive oil. Regrigerate. Mixture will set up quite a bit after it has been refrigerated.

Lemon Clam Dip

2 cans minced clams, drained, reserving juice
1 - 2 tablespoon of reserved juice from the clams
1 - 8 oz. package cream cheese, room temp
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sour cream

Beat cream cheese and mix in sour cream, tabasco, salt and pepper, lemon juice and clam juice. For a thicker dip skip the juice or reduce them. Fold in chives, garlic and minced clams. Refrigerate to set at least an hour or so before using. For best results let dip sit overnight to develop the flavors.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Lie to Yourself Cake

This cake is one of those cakes that you tell yourself, "hey, this is good for me- lots of fiber and vitamins from that zucchini." Ah, yeah, it still has fat in it but don't even think about that. Slice a piece and sit down with a cup of tea. Place a small bite in your mouth and languish over it. Feel the chocolate melting in your mouth and the tender crumb. The way that moist delicious cake feels in your mouth. Close your eyes and let out an "oh my God, is this freaking zucchini cake or chocolate greatness cake."

For goodness sake -make the lipsmacking ganache that you pour over the top- it truly takes this cake to a whole other level.

Chocolate "Lie to Yourself" Zucchini Cake

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) butter
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (4 ounces) sour cream or yogurt
2 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3/4 cup (2 1/4 ounce) Dutch-process cocoa
2 teaspoons espresso powder, optional but tasty
2 cups shredded zucchini (about one 10″ zucchini, about 12 ounces)
1/2 cup (3 ounces) chocolate chips

Chocolate Ganache Topping
6 oz heavy cream
9 oz chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly coat a 9″x13″ pan with baking spray

2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, oil, sugar, vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Beat in the eggs.

3. Stir in the sour cream or yogurt alternately with the flour. Then add the cocoa and espresso powder, mixing till smooth. Finally, fold in the zucchini and 1/2 cup chocolate chips.

4. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake for 35 – 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a rack.

5. To prepare the frosting, heat the heavy cream in a saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate chips. Wait 3-5 minutes then stir to combine. It may take a few minutes of stirring for the ganache to come together. When it cools and is still a bit warm pour over cake and smooth with offset spatula. Allow frosting to set for about 30 minutes before serving. (I stuck it in the fridge for a bit to speed up the process.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Back to School with Apple Cake Pops

It's back to school week here in NY. I always make something special for her first day and her last day of school. A Mom I know is very sad about her daughter returning to school. It makes me feel guilty for being a touch happy about my daughters return to school. You see I am happy because it's the end of a summer doing stuff with my kids, running around, playing, etc. And now, this almost 44 year old girl is supremely ready for a little R and R. Not to mention it will be nice not to listen to "stop touching me" and "that's mine, not yours" and "Mom, she scratched me". So these are the reasons I am happy and I am not going to feel guilty about it, I am not going to feel guilty about it, I am not going to feel guilty about it. Oh, sorry, I was just repeating my mantra.

I saw apples on Bakerella some time ago and knew my kids had to have one. While you see Bakerella's are "practically perfect in every way", mine are not. But mine are the result of using up some cake scraps and frosting from the last challenge of DB. Next time I will follow her recipe. I used Fruit Roll Up- sour apple for the leaves. And melting chips for the chocolate outside.

Best wishes my little one for a wonderful school year.
And all the little people out there heading off to school.
May it be safe, pleasant and chock full of learning.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pumpkin Cake with Cannoli Cream Frosting

I did Paper Chef again for September. I think I am too late with my entry but I wanted to share the recipe anyhow. I really liked the cake. The frosting needs work. I made cannolli cream frosting. It turned out so bad that I will not pass along the recipe but I would like to perfect it, so I will get back to you on that. Here's a few tips though that I learned. When experimenting go small to avoid lots of waste. More sugar to thicken frosting is NEVER a good idea. Way too sweet.

Pumpkin Cake
this is a definite make again.

2 cups white sugar
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups canned pumpkin or 1 - 15 ounce can
4 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a jelly roll pan and a miniature loaf pan with cooking spray or brush with oil. Mix sugar and oil together. Add in vanilla and pumpkin and finally the eggs. Stir baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices and flour together. Mix into wet ingredients. FIll jelly roll pan about 1/2 way and the rest pour intot he loaf pan. Bake for 25 to 40 minutes until cake begins to pull away from the sides and toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fat Tush

Just had to say it. Well, this fat tush loves fattoush. It's one of those must haves when tomatoes are in season. I am sure you all have such a list, no? Mine includes fattoush, avocado/tomato/hearts of palm salad, veggie sandwich and gazpacho.
Still have to do the gazpacho...

adapted from Panera Bread Company Cookbook

3 tablespoons chopped preserved lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 of a loaf of bread, cubed and toasted
6 roma tomatoes
2 regular tomatoes, beef steak, early girl...
1/4 cup fresh mint, chiffonade
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
1/2 cup kalamatas, pitted and sliced
1 English cucumber, diced
1 tablespoon za'tar

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients except for the lemon juice, honey and olive oil. Whisk the lemon juice, honey and olive oil together and pour over the salad.
Preserved Lemons
I learned to do these in small quantities as I am the only one that eats them.

Cut a few lemons into quarters, stopping short of the end of the lemon. So its quartered but all stuck together at the bottom. Take a few lemons and juice them, set aside.

In a sterilized pint jar or whatever size you intend to use, pack some kosher salt at the bottom. The reson why it needs to be kosher is that you do not want the iodine is regular salt- it is not good for preserving/canning. Place a lemon down, add more salt. Keep going untilthe jar is filled. Pour the lemon juice of the mixture. Cover and store in a dark, cool place for three weeks.

At this point I refrigerate them and use as needed.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Hello Pumpkin Bars, Goodbye Pumpkin Body

I can't help it lately I have been making lots of goodies lately. So why is this overweight girl making all these yummy, fattening delectables? Good question. You see I've recently got a new lease on life. A new perspective.

The new perspective comes from a guy named Paul McKenna. He recently released a book called "I Can Make You Thin"(published by Sterling). It involves four basic concepts, which no doubt you will say to yourself, "duh, of course." But as a matter of fact, while the words are obvious, the actions are hard to do but quite literally the key to success. Really the golden key to weight loss success.

Number one: When you are hungry, EAT.
Number two: EAT WHAT YOU WANT, not what you think you should.
Number three: Eat CONSCIOUSLY and enjoy every mouthful.
Number four: When you think you are full, STOP eating.

I know it is all very simple really. I do none of this. But THAT is changing. You see he has found that overweight people (and some thin people too) obsess about food all the time and when they sit down to eat they shovel it in so rapidly that they really never taste it. Oh so true, I found.

I won't tell you everything about the book. It really is very interesting but the one thing it offers that is different from other weight loss books, is a hypnosis CD. I faithfully have listened to it for a couple weeks now. While I have not seen weight loss yet there is a definite shift in my eating habits, my thought processes and my overall mood even.

I will keep you posted with my results.

BTW - I did not feel the need to eat all of these amazing bars because I knew if in the future I wanted them, I could make more. (A subtle shift but you see the impact).

These pumpkin snickerdoodles were adapted from this recipe over at a Dozen Flours. I have to say that her recipe is a stroke of genius. We loved them!

Pumpkin Pie Snickerdoodle Bars

Snickerdoodle Layer:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Pumpkin Pie Layer:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree or canned

Glaze for drizzling:
1 oz white chocolate, chopped
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch pan and lay a piece of parchment paper across the pan, so that it extends the pan slightly.

To make snickerdoodle layer:
Sift together flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt and set aside. In large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture until well blended. Spread evenly in prepared pan. Set aside.

In a mixer bowl, with a paddle attachment, mix together the pumpkin pie ingredients until well combined. Pour the mixture over the snickerdoodle layer, smoothing out the top.

Bake for 35-45 minutes (maybe more depending on your oven) or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean. Let the bars cool completely (about an hour). They will deflate a bit and remain a bit pie-like on the top layer.

After the bars are completely cool, place the chopped white chocolate into a bowl or zip-lock bag and melt on low power. When it's completely melted, add the pumpkin pie spice and mix (or knead if using a zip lock bag). Use a spoon or cut a small corner off the bag and drizzle the melted chocolate over the top of the bars and let it cool and harden.

Use the parchment paper to lift the bars out of the pan. Place on a cutting board and cut into bars. Store in the refrigerator but bring to room temperature before serving. Although they are plenty good cold.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Persuasive Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownies

One of my stops in my blog travels is at Lisa's blog, Parsley, Sage, Dessert and Line Drives. While visiting one day I saw her amazing peanut butter cheesecake brownies. I knew I had to make them for my brother and his family, mainly my nephew. I had not realized that he really wasn't a big fan of peanut butter. He did eat them anyway. Well, we all ate them. I am not a big brownie fan. These, however, were a winner and could really change my mind about brownies.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownies
recipe by Lisa Michele and used with permission.

Brownie Layer
7-ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Swirl
8-ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1 whole, large egg

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square pan with foil or parchment paper, making sure it goes up all four sides. Use two sheets if necessary. Mist with non-stick spray or grease lightly.

2. Stir chocolate and butter in medium saucepan over low heat until smooth; cool 10 minutes. Using electric mixer on low speed, or stir in with a wooden spoon – sugar, eggs, and vanilla into cooled chocolate mixture, until uniform. Stir/beat in flour, cocoa and salt. Spread half the batter in pan.

1. In a separate bowl, beat together the cream cheese, peanut butter, whole egg or egg yolk, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. DO NOT OVER BEAT!

1. Drop large spoonfuls of the peanut butter cheesecake batter across the top of the first layer of brownie batter. Don’t swirl them together. Cover the peanut butter dollops with the remaing brownie batter and the remaining peanut butter cheesecake batter in dollops, then take a knife, spatula, spoon handle, or whatever you have on hand that can ’swirl’ well, and swirl the TOP layer of peanut butter cheesecake batter with the brownie mixture. Lift up some of the brownie batter to insure the brownie mixture swirls in as much as possible, since it can be little heavier than the peanut butter cheesecake batter, depending on whether you use a whole egg or just the yolk. As mentioned above, it’s ok if some of the first layer of both batters swirl also, just not too much.

2. Bake for 35-37 minutes, or until the batter in the center of the pan feels just set, or a skewer contains a few moist brownie crumbs sticking to it (you would stick the skewer in a chocolate area).

3. Let cool, then lift the brownies up and out using the foil or parchment paper and peel it away/off. Cut the brownies into equal squares.

Makes about 16 brownies, depending on how large or small you cut them.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Georgia Peach Pie with Amaretto Cream

This has been a wonderful end of summer vacation. It's been nice to see my brother and his family and hang out. We have played Phase10 quite a bit. We all enjoyed the Knoxville Zoo and the Aquarium in Chattanouga. There is so much to see in Tennessee.

Being down in TN means having a few Southern comforts. Peaches would be one of those comforts, Georgia peaches. We hit the mother load. At a farm stand we picked up firm, ripe peaches that were bursting with peachy flavor. Everything about them was perfect. I made some of my peach amaretto jam, leaving a few behind and I just had to make peach pie. Especially after my brother asked for pie. How often do you get to make something nice for a special brother?


8 large ripe, firm peaches
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup plus1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 tablespoons butter

pie crust:

1 tsp salt

2/3 cup ice water
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 cup plus 5 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

In a bowl combine salt and flour. With a pastry blender or a fork, mix butter into flour. Keep cutting up the butter with the fork until the flour and butter look like a coarse meal. It's okay if there are some pieces of butter that area little larger (you actually want that). Slowly add the water and mix, until the dough starts to come together, but is not completely smooth.

Lay down a piece of plastic and transfer half of the dough to the plastic wrap. Pull up sides and form into a disk. Chill for at least an hour or up to overnight.


Place peaches in boiling water for just a minute or so to loosen the skin. Peel peaches and cut into eighths. Sprinkle with the sugar and lemon juice. Gently stir in the flour.

Preheat oven to 400F. Roll pie crusts out to fit one large pie pan or two small ones. Pour peach filling over crust. Dot with butter. After rolling out the remaining dough, cut into strips to make a lattice. Weave the lattice making a weaved pattern over top of peach filling. If desired brush with an egg wash and if desired sprinkle with sugar (egg yolk, plus 2 tablespoons water).

Bake at 400 F for about 20 minutes for smaller pies and 30 minutes for a large pie. Reduce the oven temperature to 375F and bake for about 20 to 40 minutes more, depending on their size. You want the crust to be golden.

Amaretto Whipped Topping

1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon Amaretto liquor

In a large cold bowl, combine sugar and cream. Whip the cream until it thickens. Add the liquor and continue to whip until firm peaks form.

Here are a few pics I would like to share with you.

A butterfly that thought my 3 year olds hands had something sweet on it- probably it did.
I have never seen a green butterfly.

My daughters new love. How could you not fall in love with those beautiful, big eyes. She only has three legs but never let's it stop her which makes her that much more endearing!
Figs! I picked figs. Made fig chutney but accidentally left it all in TN. Boo hoo.
A view of the river.