Archive for ◊ October, 2010 ◊

31 Oct 2010 Pumpkin Spice White Hot Chocolate and Mochas

One of my daughters doesn’t drink coffee.  How she managed to grow up in this house and not drink coffee is a mystery.  She’s not into tea either.  It’s shocking!  She’s left out when the rest of us sit around enjoying the serenity and civility of  good cup of coffee (or tea, when the English relatives stay with us).  As a good Mama, I am trying out some hot chocolate recipes so she can join us for a cuppa.  Last year I found a winner in Chai Hot Chocolate.  This year, and just in time for Halloween and Thanksgiving, I have found another winner, Pumpkin Spice White Hot Chocolate, which I found posted at Good Life Eats.

Note:  I upped the cocoa powder a bit, reduced the white chocolate a bit and upped the milk a bit because I found it unbearably sweet at first.

When I tasted this concoction, it was just crying out (yes, crying out) for coffee.  So I gave it some. YES!  Beautiful!  Perfect!!!  So, not only do I have a delicious Pumpkin Spice White Hot Chocolate for my daughter, but the rest of us can enjoy Pumpkin Spice White Mochas!  (To make a mocha, combine equal parts of the base mixture and a very strongly brewed coffee–see recipe below).  YUM!

I love it when things work out like this!  Everyone in the family gets just what they like, with almost no extra work. Aaahhh, I can’t wait until they all get home and we canhave a cuppa together!  Having a cup of coffee, or a cup of tea, together is an honored ritual the world over, and for good reason.  Take the time!

Pumpkin Spice White Hot Chocolate

6 cups milk (I used 2%)
1 bag (11 ounces) white chocolate chips (Ghiradelli or Guittard, NOT Nestle)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1  teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon allspice

In a heavy saucepan, combine 2 cups of milk, white chocolate, and cocoa powder. Cook over medium heat, whisking periodically, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is well combined. Whisk in the pumpkin puree, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, and ginger. Add the remaining milk, 1 cup at a time, until the desired consistency is reached. Makes six servings.  Top with whipped cream, if desired.

Pumpkin Spice White Mocha

Brew some very strong coffee, 1 cup ground coffee to 4 cups water.  For each serving combine equal parts of the strong coffee and the Pumpkin Spice White Hot Chocolate from the recipe above.

Isn’t this a perfect recipe for a family to enjoy together this time of year? Thanks SO much for stopping by my kitchen today!

30 Oct 2010 Doggie Cupcakes

No recipe with this post, I just wanted to brag on my daughter Abby.  Look at the cute “Pupcakes” she made for her nephew’s second birthday party!  Isn’t she talented?  She got her inspiration from Martha Stewart’s book, “Cupcakes”.  BTW, these cupcakes were not cheap.  By the time she bought the ingredients to make the cupcakes and to decorate the cupcakes, she had spent $50.  (I know because she charged it on my credit card.)  $50 divided by 24 cupcakes is just over $2 a cupcake!  (But there are enough leftover ingredients to make another batch or two.) They also took a lot of time, it took her and a friend about 4 hours, just to decorate the pupcakes.

29 Oct 2010 Rum-Pum Pumpkin Bundt Cake

It’s Fall!  The goal is to eat a pumpkin rich food every day, right?  Today, Rum-Pum Pumpkin Cake!  I’ve been making this cake since I cut the recipe out of a newspaper in the nineteen-eighties.  The cake is moist, pumpkin rich, studded with 2 cups of dried fruit and nuts, with a splash o’ rum, a hearty heap o’ cinnamon and topped with an orange-cinnamon glaze.  What’s not to like?

Bundt cakes serve a lot of people, so invite the neighbors over for coffee and cake.  It’s a fun thing to do, and there’s no stress if you do it on-the-spur-of-the-moment.  While the cake is baking, send this email,  “Hi Neighbors, I’ve baked a cake, and we can’t eat it all ourselves.  Soooo, we’d like to invite you to drop by our house for coffee and a slice of pumpkin cake between 3 and 4 PM this afternoon.  Stay for 10 minutes, or stay for 30…just come on by! Come as you are, of course. We’ll see you soon.”  See how easy that is?  Now, no one would blame you if you wanted to close the blinds, encircle the cake, and eat it all yourself…the choice is yours!

Rum-Pum Pumpkin Cake

1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
1 ½ cup vegetable oil OR 3/4 cup applesauce plus 3/4 cup  veg. oil
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tablespoons dark rum (The rum flavor is not very pronounced.  If you want a stronger rum flavor, use rum extract for part of the rum)
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cinnamon (yes, 2 tablespoons–it works, and is not overpowering)
2 teaspoons grated orange peel (optional)
2 cups dried fruit (Last time I used 1 cup dark raisins, 1/2 cup cherries, and 1/2 cup apricots. Use any dried fruit that appeals to you, or that you have on hand.  I think golden raisins and snipped apricots are especially good. Dried cranberries are also good)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (I substitute 1 cup diced chopped and peeled Granny Smith apple)

Preheat oven to 350º.  Spray a 10-inch bundt pan with a baking spray or butter and flour.

Mix pumpkin, oil, applesauce and sugar together with an electric mixer.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Stir in rum.

In another bowl whisk together flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and optional grated orange peel.

In a third bowl combine the dried fruit, and the nuts or chopped apple.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoonful of the flour mixture over the dried fruit mixture and stir to combine.  Set aside.

Add remaining flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and beat well.

Stir flour dusted dried fruit and nuts/chopped apple into pumpkin-flour mixture.

Pour batter into prepared bundt pan and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for approx. 1 hour.  (Original recipe said 1 hour and 25 minutes, but I have never had to cook the cake for that long.

Remove cake from oven when done, cool for 3 – 5 minutes, then turn out to a baking rack to cool completely.

When cool, drizzle with cinnamon-orange glaze.

Cinnamon-Orange Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon orange extract OR grated rind of one orange
2 tablespoons dark rum

Beat all ingredients together until smooth.  Drizzle over cooled cake.

Now invite some friends over (or close the blinds).  Enjoy your impromptu party to welcome Fall! Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.

27 Oct 2010 Fun Face Cookie-Pops

Is it a cookie?  Is it a lollipop?  It’s a Fun Face Cookie Pop!  My kids  loved these, both making them and eating them.  We’ve been making these candy studded spice cookie pops  every Fall  since 1998 (unfortunately I don’t remember where I originally found the recipe). One of the great things about this cookie is the kids see this as a lollipop.  Get it?  If it’s a cookie, they want two or three.  If it’s a lollipop, they think one is enough! (and with all the candy on each pop/cookie, one is enough). Make these with your kids for a Halloween party (I’ve served several consecutive life sentences as a Room Mother and often took these as treats for a party) or make them after Halloween with some of their Halloween candy.  Fun Face Cookie-pops are a great lunch box treat for that week after Halloween!

A few hints about this recipe. One, the dough is extremely soft, so be sure to allow enough time, at least an hour and up to overnight, for the dough to chill in the refrigerator. Two, the cookies spread a lot, so leave enough space between each pop on the cookie sheet (as you can see by some of the pictures, I did not leave enough space).  Three, be sure to bake the cookies long enough.  If you don’t the cookie will be too soft and will drop off the popsicle stick.  Four, M&Ms, chocolate chips (and butterscotch, peanut butter, and cinnamon chips, too–vanilla chips brown unattractively), sprinkles and colored sugars are the most versatile candies for this project.  Rolos, Hugs, Kisses and mini Reeses Peanut Butter Cups are a bit big but super yummy on the cookie.  I have used candy corn to decorate these cookies, and it often melts into the cookie. Oh, and Five! Popsicle sticks are available at Michael’s or any another craft supply store. Be forewarned though! They don’t sell SMALL boxes!  One purchase will equal a life-time supply and only set you back about three dollars 🙂

Have FUN with this recipe,  it’s a GREAT kid-grownup cooking project!

Polly’s Fun Face Cookie Pops

½ cup butter
½ cupsugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour

Beat butter for 30 seconds.  Add in sugar and spices.  Beat in molasses, baking soda and egg.  Stir in flour.

Refrigerate dough for at least an hour, up to overnight.

Divide dough into 16 equal pieces, about 1 oz. each.

Roll each piece of dough into a ball.  Stick a popsicle stick into the middle of each ball.  Flatten each ball with the palm of your hand.

Decorate cookies, making faces, with m&ms, nuts, chips, sprinkles, colored sugars, Rolos, Hersheys Hugs or Kisses, mini Reeses peanut butter cups, etc.

Bake in preheated 350º oven for 12-13 minutes.

Let cookies cool on tray for 2 minutes then remove to rack to cool completely.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  Here’s a picture of my Grandson, Zade, decorating his first Fun Face Cookie Pops on his second birthday!  He ate the peanut butter cups, and some of the M&M’s, and his Mom did the decorating.  He is not, alas, a cookie decorating genius just yet!


26 Oct 2010 Pumpkin Parmesan Pasta

A few weeks ago my friend Nancy and I went to a free cooking class at Williams-Sonoma.  We like free. Part of the free class was a sales pitch, which we had to sit through before the the free food was served.  We were shown $300 pans we couldn’t cook without, $500 blenders to blend and boil soup (I am not kidding), and a $12 bottle of Pumpkin-Parmesan Pasta Sauce that would change our lives.  We like free; a $12 bottle of pasta sauce was out of the question…, but that boiling blender was sooooo tempting. I still dream about it. But I digress… After downing the free samples (and not being that impressed), I went home to Google Pumpkin-Parmesan Pasta Sauce Recipes.  Five popped up. I compared them. Combined them.  Made them. I fed the first batch to my grandson. He loved it (and he doesn’t love everything).  My daughters had the leftovers and they said the words that make me swoon, “This is really good, Mom”.  I love those girls. Feeling I was on the right track, I upped the spices a bit, and made another batch for my Dining For Women group. They liked it too! YAY! They asked me to post the recipe. I love those women.  I hope you bought an extra can of Pumpkin Puree. You are going to want to use one to make this recipe at least once this season.  It’s tasty, it’s different, it’s nutritious and it’s just the thing to be eating this time of year and, drum roll please, it’s FREE!

My only caution about this recipe: don’t make it ahead of time.  Make it, and then serve it immediately. Right after combining the sauce with the pasta, it’s all nice and creamy, but it doesn’t take long for the two parts to congeal into a big blob.  Other people didn’t seem to mind, but I did. Perhaps I need to add more liquid to keep it creamy longer?

I wanted to serve the sauce with cheese tortellini or cheese ravioli tonight, but I forgot to buy some, so I had to make do with what I had in the cupboard, Rotelle. I’ve also made this with with Penne and Bowties, too, and both were good. But I really wanted to try it on cheese ravioli 🙁  If you try it on ravioli, let me know how it is, please!

I serve this as a side dish.  Recipe will serve 6-8.  This sauce goes together quickly.  Not as quickly as opening a $12 jar of sauce, but almost!

Pumpkin-Parmesan Pasta Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 chopped shallot (about ¼ cup)
½ cup chopped onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 box pasta (penne, rotelle, bowtie)
1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¼ tsp. ground sage
½ tsp. nutmeg (freshly ground is best)
1 ½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

Fill a pasta pot with water, bring to boil, add salt.

While the pasta water is coming to a boil, heat the olive oil in a skillet and stir in onions and shallots.  Saute until translucent.  Stir in minced garlic and saute for another minute or so.

By this time, your water should be boiling.  Stir in pasta, and cook according to package directions.

Add pumpkin, broth, cream, vinegar and spices to the onion/shallots/garlic mixture in the skillet.  Simmer on low for 5 minutes or so.

Gradually stir in 1/3 of the cheese to the sauce.  When that cheese has been incorporated, repeat with another 1/3 of the cheese.  Then repeat again with remaining cheese. Stir in chopped fresh sage.

By this time, your pasta should be cooked.  Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

Stir the drained pasta into the sauce.  If the sauce seems too thick, add a bit of the reserved pasta water until the sauce reaches desired consistency. Serve immediately. Enjoy!  Happy Fall!

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  Raise your hand if you are a pumpkin junkie! (I am, I am!!)

24 Oct 2010 French Onion Soup

As a newlywed, wed to a man who owned a copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking“, French Onion Soup was one of the first things I learned how to make well, thank you Julia Child, and one of the first things I got high praise for. I first made this soup in 1981. It seems everyone loves French Onion Soup, and since it’s getting harder and harder to find a good French Onion Soup at a restaurant, there is  always an appreciative fan base.  French Onion Soup isn’t hard to make, it’s just a bit time consuming to finely slice 5 cups of onions and then  caramelize them, but once that is over it’s smooth sailing.

I remember the first time I had the so-called French Onion Soup at Marie Callender’s.  I was so disappointed, it was the worst; sliced onions boiled in beef stock topped with a crouton and too much cheese.  Shame, Marie, shame.

Here’s the first tip for French Onion Soup, the onions need to be caramelized, Julia’s method is the best I’ve found.  Tip number two, the better your beef broth, the better your French Onion Soup.  For years I used canned beef broth, and was happy with it (just go easy on the salt elsewhere in the dish).  The new “Better than Bouillon” bases would probably work, too, but again, watch the salt.  I’ve just now started to make my own beef broth.  It’s not as intuitive as chicken broth.  Basically I buy two packages of meat from the market, approximately one pound of stew beef, and two pounds of beef bones (often beef ribs).  I throw them in a pot, along with with some onions, carrots, and celery, a bit of garlic, a grind of pepper, and a bay leaf, cover with water and simmer for 2-4 hours.  Then I strain, refrigerate overnight, remove the hardened fat, strain again, and then use in the recipe.  It’s a bit of a bother, but I feel good about the broth,  it’s real food, with no additives or preservatives., and it’s no more expensive than buying cans of processed beef broth.

French Onion Soup is a bit of a bother to make, but it’s worth it.  Larger bowls, with two croutons, are satisfying as a meal (as long as there is a nice dessert!  Ohhhh…, some people might want a sandwich or a baked potato or a slice of quiche, too), and it’s very elegant in small bowls, with one crouton, served as a starter.  Most people swoon over French Onion Soup, so it’s usually a safe dish to make for company.

French Onion Soup

5 cups thinly sliced yellow/brown onions (slice into rings, or half rings)
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 quarts hot beef broth (canned, or make your own)
1/2 cup dry white wine
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons of Cognac (approximately)
6 slices of a good quality French baguette
approx. 2 cups grated Swiss cheese

Melt butter, stir in olive oil to blend, then stir in sliced onions.  Cover and saute for 15 minutes.  Uncover, stir in salt and sugar, and cook for an additional 30-40 minutes.

In another pan, heat the beef broth to simmer.

Stir 3 tablespoons flour into the onion mixture over medium heat.  Stir constantly for 3 minutes, then remove from heat.

Immediately stir in one scoop hot beef broth.  When broth has totally been incorporated into the flour, gradually stir in the rest of the broth.  Add wine, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Partially cover pan and simmer (not boil) for 40 minutes.

Toast the baguette slices.

To serve: ladle the soup into ovenproof bowls. Stir in 1/2 tablespoon Cognac.  Top with a toasted crouton and approx 1/3 cup of cheese. Broil until the cheese melts.  Then serve. Makes six servings.

Now you too can make better French Onion Soup than any restaurant. I guarantee it. Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.