Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holiday Season

While I'm sure there will be many more posts of soups and winter meals, in my head the holiday season has started so I thought it appropriate to dress up the last post of November as we head into the land of sweets.

I didn't put up as many decorations as usual but, I had to show my welcome sign.  I apologize, I'm thinking I got this from my mother-in-law, but if I'm wrong I'm sorry!  I've always loved this sign, but just had it sitting on a ledge in the past. This year the lack of stress has let through a few creative juices and I thought - but wait - I have the perfect place for it where the welcome sign normally is and I have some red raffia that will act as the perfect hanger.  Two minutes later - ta da!

I don't put up a tree every year because we always see one when we visit family.  No family this year, so I decided a tree was in order.  It's a little rough and I'm not sure how long the needles will last, but it's twinkly, gold, red, festive and makes me smile.

In the coming month, I wish everyone:
  • Time with friends and family
  • Laughter
  • Joy
  • Renewed energy
  • Time for self
  • A couple of your favorite cookies - don't settle for the ones that aren't important!
  • Reflection on the past and excitement for the future
  • And for us skiers......Snow, Snow, and more Snow!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pumpkin Pecan Pie

Those of you that know my husband, know he's a pie guy.  Unfortunately, with my attempts to eat low sugar he doesn't get as many pies as he deserves.  When it comes to Thanksgiving pie, he's also a Pecan Pie guy.  I made an attempt to satisfy both of our tastes here, and while this is a very good pie, I think I should just make two pies in the future. 

I obtained this pie from FoodBlogga's blog.  It's actually a pie from Dorie Greenspan, so that there tells you it is worth making!  It's called Dorie Greenspan's Thanksgiving Twofor Pie.  It's not just a pumpkin pie topped with pecans, it really has mixed the pumpkin and pecan fillings.  It is very good and Joe seemed happy, but the pecan filling piece made it way too sweet for me. 

I think I'll stick to my pumpkin in the future and just make Joe a real Pecan Pie.  But, for those of you that don't think "too sweet" is possible, try this pie!  I topped it with some Cinnamon Whipped Cream for Joe.

My head is starting to think it's baking season.  How many cookies I make, is really going to depend on how many I can give away as my office mates don't eat many these days!  Watch for more cookie and dessert postings coming up - along with a very happy husband I am sure!

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Makings of a Thanksgiving Appetizer

I hope everyone had a very enjoyable Thanksgiving.  My contribution to this years Thanksgiving meal with friends turned out to be rolls and appetizer.  As I thought about what type of appetizer to make, I thought it shouldn't be too filling.  One of the things I've been having fun with in the past year or so is making homemade crackers.   They are so easy!  And.... they give me a reason to use those silly specialty cookie cutters I bought in a moment of weakness.

So first, I went to the old standby book King Arthur Flour's Whole Grain Baking and chose the tried and true Wheat Thin recipe on p. 164.  This is a book everyone should have if you like to use whole grains.  It covers everything from crackers to flatbreads, yeast breads, cookies, cakes, and more!  As you can see, I used small leaf and acorn cookie cutters.

Wheat Thins

1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) whole wheat flour, traditional or white whole wheat
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
4 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

To make the dough: Combine the flour, sugar, salt and paprika in a medium bowl.  Cut the butter into small pieces and mix it in thoroughly, using your fingers, a pastry blender, a mixer or a food processor.  Combine the water and vanilla, and add to the flour mixture mixing until smooth. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Lightly grease the baking sheets or line with parchment paper.

To Roll and Cut the Dough: Divide the dough into 4 pieces; keep the other pieces covered while you work with one at a time.  Lightly flour your work surface and your rolling pin and roll the piece of dough into a large rectangle, which should be at least 12 inches square when trimmed.  Keep your pin and the surface of your dough evenly floured.  Flip the dough frequently to keep it from sticking, but too much flour will make it difficult to roll.  Keep rolling until the dough is as thin as you can get it without tearing, at least 1/16 inch thick.  Trim the dough to even the edges and use a pizza cutter or a sharp knife to cut the piece into squares approximately 1 1/2 inches wide.  Transfer the squares to a prepared baking sheet; you can crowd them together, as they don't expand while baking.  Sprinkle the squares lightly with salt, if desired.  Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.  Save the scraps under plastic wrap and reroll them all at once just one time.

To Bake the Crackers: Bake the crackers, one sheet at a time, until crisp and browned, 5 to 7 minutes. If some of the thinner crackers brown too quickly, remove them and return the remaining crackers to the oven.  These crackers bake quickly, so watch them closely -- even 30 seconds can turn them from golden brown to toast!  Remove the crackers from the oven and cool on the pan or on a plate; they cool quickly.  These crackers will stay crisp for several days, but are best stored in airtight containers.

I find a sure winner for a light appetizer addition to be a spiced nut.  I made the following Spiced Party Pecans.  I obtained this recipe from the Cooking Light Community - Great Food Discussion Thread, but it was listed as being from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.

Spiced Party Nuts
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups shelled whole almonds or pecan halves
1 tablespoon Kosher salt (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Mix cumin through cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over low heat.  Add the spice mixture and stir well.  simmer to mellow the flavors 3-4 minutes.
  4. Mix the nuts with the spices and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice.
  5. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, and using a spatula, toss the nuts with any spices and oil on the bottom of the sheet.  Sprinkle with salt as desired and allow to cool.  Store in airtight jars.
The full appetizer included a Smoked Salmon Dip that was enjoyable with the wheat thins, but since I never follow a recipe for my Smoked Salmon Dip, I didn't take a separate picture!  :)

Joe and I are very thankful for wonderful friends, with whom, we can share meals, laughter, stories, and wine.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Soup and Rolls

Winter has arrived and to be honest I am fully enjoying the regular snow.  It's hardly been cold, so we can't complain about cold, we just get to enjoy the snow.  The best part was it came in Saturday afternoon after giving us a last good Saturday morning to blow, rake, and otherwise collect the final leaves from the front and back yard.  We mulched as many as we could fit in the compost area that holds the brown compost and trucked the rest to the green dumpsters!  Well after a morning of leaf work, my stomach was calling for soup.

I made this lovely Lentil soup that is very good and I'm enjoying for lunches this week.  Sorry, I didn't follow a recipe.  It started with the normal saute of onion, celery, carrot, and I added the ham about 1/2 way through.  Then I sauteed some cumin and black pepper for just a few seconds and added the rinsed lentils, 2 diced tomatoes, chicken broth, and a bay leaf. 

On Sunday afternoon, I wanted to test drive a roll recipe for Thanksgiving.  These did not turn out real pretty, meaning perfectly round.  But they are really good!  They are called Fast and Flexible Whole Grain Rolls.  They are 100% whole wheat flour and they called for bulgar, but I was out.  This was a surprise to me, so I had to choose a different grain, or walk the whole 3/4 block to the store ... I chose another grain.  So these were made with cracked wheat.  They are surprisingly light for Whole Wheat.  It's hard to make a bread recipe come out perfect here the first time because of high elevation. I cut back the yeast, but next time will add a little more moisture also to see if they rise more.  Also, since I used plain whole wheat flour, not bread flour I may add some gluten next time.

Fast and Flexible Whole-Grain Rolls
from The New whole grains cookbook by Robin Asbell
2 cups water, divided, for Bulgar, or 1 1/2 cups water for cooked grains
1/2 cup Bulgar or 1 cup cooked grain
1/4 cup honey (not raw honey, it may kill the yeast)
1/2 cup olive oil or nut oil
1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon quick-rise yeast
5 cups whole wheat bread flour, divided
2 teaspoons salt

Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add the Bulgar and return to a full, rolling boil.  Cover, lower the temperature t a simmer for 10 minutes, then let stand for 5 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup cool water to bring the temperature down.  (If you planned ahead when making last nights dinner and are using cooked grain, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil, add the cooked grain, and remove from the heat.)

Stir the honey, oil, and vinegar into the hot grain mixture.  Take the temperature of the mixture, and follow the yeast package recommendations, letting it cool if necessary.  In a stand mixer or larger bowl, mix 4 cups of the flour with the yeast and salt.  Using the dough hood, stir in the grain mixture.  Knead to mix.  When the flour is mixed in, knead in the remaining cup, to make a soft dough.  The dough will seem sticky in the bowl, but you should be able to handle it without it sticking to your hands.  Oil a large mixing bowl and scrape the dough into the bowl.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for at least 45 minutes and up to 3 hours.

Oil a heavy sheet pan.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  The dough should be bigger than it was.  Tear off small handfuls of dough, about three-fourths of the size you would like the rolls to be.  Roll each piece into a ball, and place on the oiled pan. Lightly cover with a sheet of plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm spot for at least 30 minutes.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Slide the rolls off the pan onto a rack to cool.

This is one of my favorite books, the author does a great job of introducing lots of different grains and using them a variety of ways.

Monday, November 15, 2010


It was a lovely visit to La Jolla last week. But to be fair, it started out lovely.

What is that a picture of you ask?  Leg room ... glorious leg room.  There was no seat in front of me!  Nobody putting his/her seat back into my knees.  Take note everyone, that is someone else's space or knee caps you are impinging on when you put your seat back.  On the flight to Tampa, I stood for two hours, bless those kind flight attendants, because my legs were literally cramping after one hour of my knees hard against his seat.  Apparently, he needed that space more than me, so I kindly just got up and stood, so he wouldn't have to sleep with my knees in his back.  That apparently brought me good karma, as I easily obtained exit rows both ways on this trip. Karma rocks!  Well, except between Rock Springs and Denver, but if you've been on those planes, you'll understand that it's just easier to sit with legs in the isle on those planes, in all the seats!

The conference was nonstop from Wed - Sat Noon, but I did manage in that time to eat some great food, all of it seafood, either in the raw sushi form or the Bouillabaisse form. Then Saturday afternoon, those of us not flying out till Sunday, went down to the beach, for the whole afternoon, we successfully alternated between the beach and beer. 

Yes, a perfect afternoon and early evening.

It is the beginning of a very different, but still beautiful week here.  I'll leave you with a picture that, while it does not show the amazing blue sky that is outside my window, does show our unmarked driveway.  Covered in snow with no place to go.  It's going to be a great winter!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pumpkin Flan

On Sunday we were lucky enough to be invited for dinner and some Packer game watching at a friends house.  I brought this Pumpkin Flan.  It went pretty well, considering I've never made flan before, but had some Pumpkin and wanted something custard like.

from Pumpkins and Squash by Kathleen Desmond Stang

Brazilian Butternut Flan (I subbed Pumpkin for Butternut squash)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cups mile, half and half, or canned evaporated milk
Dash of salt
1 cup butternut, calabaza, or other winter squash puree

Place 1 cup of sugar in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook, without stirring until the sugar begins to melt.  Reduce the heat to low and cook and stir until it turns a golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.  Quickly pour the caramel into a 9 or 10 inch deep dish pie plate and tip to coat the bottom and sides.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and put water on to boil.

Beat the eggs with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar.  Stir in the milk, vanilla, salt, and squash.  Strain the mixture and pour into the Carmel-lined pan.  Place in a large baking pan and add boiling water halfway up the side of the pie plate.  Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until set in the center when gently shaken.  Remove from the hot water and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.

To serve, loosen the custard with the tip of a knife.  Place a platter on top and quickly turn over.  Hold in place until the caramel flows out.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Roasted Beet Pizza

I can hear everyone going really?  Roasted Beet Pizza, has she lost it?  Perhaps, but it was still yummy!

One night when Joe was gone, I roasted some beets in smaller than normal cubes, sauteed up some beet greens with garlic and shallot and rolled out a small thin round of whole wheat pizza dough.  I layered the beets, beet greens, and feta cheese on the pizza and baked.  Next time, I may try it with goat cheese as that was my hardest decision this time.. feta or goat cheese?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Final Garden Bounty

Last weekend was closure for the garden this year.  The shallots and garlic for next year were planted a couple weeks ago, so we dug up everything else in the garden.  This is what we still had thriving as of October 31st.  Swiss Chard, Cabbage, Kale, Parsley, Carrots, Beets, Cauliflower, Broccoli, and 2 little Kohlrabi.

After digging up the vegetables, we mixed in this summers batch of compost and loosened all the soil.  Lorna scored some straw off the local pumpkin patch on Monday to cover the garlic and shallots.  It is ready for a long. cold winter.  It's starting out warm and mediocore - but a ski girl doesn't give up hope for a long, cold winter!

Then I went home and looked at everything I carried into the house. I stored, most of it, but dealt with the parsley.  I made 2 batches of Parley Walnut Pesto.

I just tossed in parsley, walnuts, parmesan, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste. After whirring it up in the food processor, I sprayed two ice cube trays lightly with some oil, put in the pesto and froze for a day.  The next day I pulled them out, popped them out of the ice cube trays and put them all in  quart baggy.  So I have about 1-2 tablespoon portions of pesto to use throughout the winter to throw fresh taste into vegetables and pastas.