Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

    I am as good as my word :) A seasonally appropriate breakfast/simple dessert item featuring both pumpkin and chocolate that is NOT pie. Not that there is anything wrong with pie, or eating pie for breakfast, which is what I assume many of us will be doing on Friday morning ;), but the Internet is swimming in awesome pie recipes right about now, and I wanted to feature something just a little different.

    This is a treasured recipe from some very dear friends of mine, and it's definitely one my favorite quick breads. From October to December, this bread is just perfect. Breakfast, snack, dessert, whatever, it is a divine Autumnal or Holiday nibble. This bread has a really nice balance of flavors, the pumpkin and chocolate are both very present, but you don't get bashed over the head with either one of them.  I love that this bread is made basically entirely of pantry staples, and couldn't be simpler in terms of prep. Monkey stir, monkey pour, monkey put in oven. I can handle that :)

   Oh! And for those interested, the pumpkin puree I used in this recipe was that homemade pumpkin puree I talked about in one of my most recent posts :) As you may recall, you are technically supposed to use the smaller sugar pumpkins for homemade pumpkin puree, but all I had on hand was a large, jack o' lantern type pumpkin. I'm happy to report that the puree worked beautifully, to no ill-effect in texture or taste. That, of course, doesn't necessarily mean that it would be a perfect sub in all cases, but there is cause for optimism :)



Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread
    -from the recipe files of Cheryl Lieberman

-3 cups flour
-2 cups sugar
-2 tsp. baking powder
-2 tsp. baking soda
-1/2 tsp. salt
-2-3 tsp. cinnamon
-3 cups pumpkin puree (NOT Pumpkin Pie Filling!!!)
-1 cup oil
-4 eggs
-1 bag chocolate chips (I used Toll House semi-sweet morsels, but use what you like)

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
-Grease and flour (or spray with nonstick cooking spray) two loaf pans or one bundt pan.
-Combine dry ingredients (except for chocolate chips) in medium bowl and whisk briefly to aerate.
-Add wet ingredients to bowl and stir to combine (you could certainly use a mixer if you wanted to, I usually just use a big spoon).
-Once mixture is combined, stir in chocolate chips.
-Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and bake at 350F for approximately 1 hour or until inserted toothpick or knife comes out clean of batter (a few smears of melted chocolate are okay)
-let cool briefly in pan(s), then remove and let cool on a cooling rack.
-Eat for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning with softened butter while you watch the Macy's Parade and putting the finishing touches on your Thanksgiving Feast :)

*Bread will last, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days, and (again, well wrapped) in the freezer for several months*

Printable? Here ya go :)

Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving :) I'm so grateful for you all!!!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Great Stuffing Debate (Thanksgiving Countdown, Week #3)

    One week out from Thanksgivng and I'm probably gonna set off some heated conversations with this one, but it's one of the great Thanskgiving Debates, so here we go:

    What do you put in your stuffing? Do you stuff it in the bird or bake it in a separate dish? If you bake it in a separate dish, do you still call it stuffing, or do you call it by it's technically correct name of dressing?

   Sandwich bread? Crusty Bread? Cornbread?

   Sausage? Apples? Celery? Sage? Mushrooms? Onions?

   Confession: One of my favorite parts of the Thanksgiving spread is the stuffing ;)

   For the record, in my family, we use crusty bread or good quality sandwich bread, the seasonings are simple: celery, onion, occasionally mushrooms, salt, pepper, and a little stock from the bird and an egg for binders. We bake it in a separate pan and do not stuff it inside the turkey.

  And you? Let's hear it!


DISCLAIMER: This is a judgement-free zone, but the food police will come after me if I don't say that if you do choose to cook your stuffing inside your turkey, please make sure that the stuffing, as well as the turkey, have reached the food safety temperature of 165 degrees F. Because salmonella sucks and should not be part of any holiday celebration.

Next up? A pumpkin and chocolate dessert/breakfast item that is NOT pie. Yup. I said it.

Love ya!


Friday, November 15, 2013

How-To: Pumpkin and Squash Puree

   A definite plus of getting back into food blogging is that it has inspired me to dust off my Culinary *To-Do* List. A big one on that list has been making my own Squash and Pumpkin puree to freeze and use for cooking and baking during the winter holidays. This past weekend, finding myself with a rare free-morning, I did just that.

   Was this time-consuming? Yes, but it was not difficult at all, a perfect low-stress, lazy Sunday kind of thing. It probably would have gone a lot faster if I wasn't also making a big batch of applesauce, but on this particular occasion, I was not in any hurry. Also, the hands-on part is fairly minimal, the longest bit is when the veggies are roasting in the oven. These process shots (again, had to use my iPhone, as my USB adapter for my camera hasn't turned up yet) are a mix of acorn squash and pumpkin. As you'll see in some of these photos, I used a regular-sized, jack o'lantern type pumpkin. Technically speaking the smaller *sugar pumpkins* are probably better for this, as apparently the larger pumpkins produce a more watery puree, but I haven't attempted to cook or bake with my pumpkin puree yet, so I will report back and let you know how it went. You won't have long to wait, as I plan to use said pumpkin in my next recipe post. In case it is not clear, I roasted the acorn squash first and the pumpkin second, in other words, I made the two purees separately, I did not mix them together.

   Question: is a pumpkin a squash? Are squash and pumpkins both considered gourds? Are pumpkins, squash and gourds all different things? The interwebs are hazy on this point, help a girl out?

   Unsurprisingly, I am not the first food blogger to tackle a how-to of this type. Ree over at Pioneer Woman has a lovely tutorial (with much better pictures!) here if you want to check it out!

 Pumpkin and/or Squash Puree
 adapted from various Internet sources, but most prominently Ree Drummond at Pioneer Woman

-winter vegetables of choice (I used 3 acorn squash and 1 medium sized pumpkin)
(longest. ingredient. list. EVER.)

A WORD ON YIELDS: Every veggie will probably be a little different, so I don't know how accurately I can tell you about yields. For whatever it is worth, a medium sized pumpkin got me about 7.5 cups of pumpkin puree and three acorn squash got me about 3 cups of squash puree.

-Preheat oven to 350F.

-Give outer shell of squash or pumpkins a quick rinse or wipe with a damp cloth in case there is any lingering dirt.

-Cut squash or pumpkins in half or in quarters and scoop out seeds and stringy pulp.

-Arrange pieces cut-side up on an ungreased baking sheet and roast for 40-60 minutes or until flesh is soft and easily pierced with a fork (it took about 45 minutes for my acorn squash and about an hour for my pumpkin, start the *fork test* around 45 minutes and go from there)

-When flesh is soft, remove squash/pumpkin from oven and let cool until it can be handled safely.

-When pumpkin/squash is cool enough to handle safely, scoop flesh into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Sometimes the flesh will peel away from the shell in large chunks, other times you will have to scoop it out of the shell with a spoon

-Pulse pumpkin/squash in food processor or blender until smooth. If puree looks dry, add a little water to the mixture. If using a blender, you may need to add a little water at the outset just to help the blender along)

-Place puree in airtight containers and freeze until needed.

   I'm assuming you gathered this, but this treatment would work with pretty much any winter veggies. I used pumpkin and acorn squash, but you could really do any kind of winter squash, or sweet potatoes, or whatever tickles your fancy. Be advised there is no oil and there are no seasonings in this formula, I wanted to leave it plain so the puree could swing sweet or savory as needed in whatever recipe you will be using.


After some advice from the Internet wizard, I believe I have found a way to incorporate a print function!!! Click here and it should give you the option to view and save or print a PDF of this recipe :) Let me know if it works!!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mexican Rice

Full Disclosure,

    I have never been to Mexico. I am not Mexican. When I was graduate student, I taught English as a Second Language to Mexican Migrant Workers, and there are several very tasty Mexican restaurants in the city where I live, but I am by no means an authority; and whether or not this rice dish actually resembles anything that real Mexican people would actually cook is probably up for debate. I call it Mexican Rice because it contains flavors that I have come to associate with Mexican cooking, and I brought it as a side dish to a Dia De Los Muertos Party to be served alongside Chicken Mole, Empanadas, Pan De Muerto and other such delicious goodies.

   Here are a few shots from the party :) These were shot on my iPhone. I did actually find my camera (yay!), so now all I have to find is the adapter cord so that I can actually upload photos to my computer!
    We set up a small altar in honor of our dearly departed, and then commenced with the eating and the drinking and the merrymaking :) An awesome time was had by all :) And yes, there were men at this party too, they were the ones taking the pictures! I wish I had more pictures of the actual food, but trust me when I say everything was fabulous!

Onto the rice!

    The shell of this recipe comes from the Mexican Rice featured on Comfort Food Central, aka, The Pioneer Woman Cooks. I fiddled around and tweaked here and there, but the bulk of the credit has to go to Ree.

 Let's get to it!

Mexican Rice

Adapted from Ree Drummond at The Pioneer Woman Cooks

-2 tbsp Canola or Vegetable Oil
-2 small Onions or about half of 1 large Onion, diced
-2 cups Long Grain Rice (I only had basmati rice, so that's what I used, but any long grain rice will be fine here)
-2 cloves of Garlic, minced
-8oz Taco Sauce (this would be all of an 8oz bottle or about half of a 16-oz bottle, I used Ortega Mild, but if you have another brand that you like, or if the idea of bottled taco sauce offends you and you have some of the real stuff, have at it)
-1 small can Diced Green Chilies (if you like more of a kick, use 2 cans)
-2 cups Chicken Broth (have a little extra on hand in case it is needed)
-Cumin, Chili Powder, Salt and Pepper to taste.

-Heat oil in sauce pan or saute pan lare enough to hold rice and liquid. Add onion and saute 3 to 5 minutes, or until onion has softened and taken on a little color.

-Add rice, garlic and diced green chilies to pan and stir all ingredients to combine. Let rice saute for about 3 minutes or until rice develops a toasted/nutty scent.

-Add Taco Sauce, Chicken Broth and Spices to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until rice is done. If rice appears too dry, add a few more splashes of chicken broth or water.

-Let rice stand covered, off heat for about 5 minutes, fluff with fork, adjust seasonings and serve with your favorite Tex-Mex goodies.

- My guess is that leftovers would be fine for a few days in the fridge and would reheat with no trouble, but ours was gone before I could find out ;)

Have a lovely weekend :) Next up, since Pumpkins and Squash are gonna be in the spotlight for the next month or two, I'm hoping to do some Pumpkin and Squash Puree tutorials. Stay tuned!

Love ya!

 (I am so, so happy I started blogging again, and if you're reading this, thanks for sticking with me!)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Talkin' Turkey

    We're one week into the countdown to Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays, and I think it's about time we talked some Turkey! (Vegetarians and Vegans and other non-turkey eaters welcome as well!) In case you missd this, I could talk about food all day, and so I shall :) I'll try and do one Thanksgivng-centric post per week, in addition to the other mischief I've got planned for the coming weeks :)

    Here we go:

    If Turkey is the centerpiece to your Thanksgiving Meal, what's your secret? Do you brine? Baste? Rub? Flavored Butter? Low and Slow? Deep Fried? (Around our place we brine using Alton Brown's Turkey Brine recipe that uses orange juice, brown sugar, peppercorns, kosher salt and chicken or vegetable broth). Any tips you want to pass along?

   If you're meat-free, what's your go-to Thanksgiving main dish?

   Discuss :)


Monday, November 4, 2013

Simple Unsweetened Applesauce

I promised you applesauce, did I not?

     DISCLAIMER: My camera has wandered away. It is either in one of our travel bags from when we went away a few weeks ago and never got unpacked, or it has been swallowed by the abyss of our spare room. So, the photos in my next few posts were shot on my iPhone, and I apologize in advance if the photos aren't great. I've never used photos taken on an iPhone in a blog post before, so I really have no idea of how the photos are going to look. Not gonna let loss of camera stop me!

    Anyway. Applesauce.

    This is really just a nice, basic, no-sugar applesauce that is great for baking, to feed to kids and babies, and for people who don't like really sugary or overly spiced applesauce. I found the recipe in the short-lived but awesome baby-food sub-blog over at Smitten Kitchen. The biggest change I made was that I did not peel the apples (okay, I peeled one, and then I realized how long it was going to take me to peel 4lbs worth of apples and I was working in a limited time-frame, so I skipped peeling the apples and everything was fine). This was a great way to use up apples that are just south of being good for eating. This whole thing went together quite quickly, and made my kitchen smell delicious :)

Unsweetened Applesauce
-Adapted only very slightly from Deb at Smitten Kitchen

- About 4lbs apples, cored and sliced (I used a mix of Honey Crisp and Macoun apples, but use whatever you like) Peeling is optional, do what you like.

-4 strips of lemon peel

-1 cinnamon stick (if you don't have a cinnamon stick, about 1/4tsp to 1/2tsp ground cinnamon would be fine)

-1/4 cup apple cider or unsweetened apple juice

-3/4 cup water

-Core and slice the apples (peel them if you are moved to and if you have more time than I did) and place them in a large pot.

-Add cinnamon stick, lemon peel, cider and water to the pot with the apples and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, cover, and let the apples cook until they are soft, about 30-35 minutes.

-Once apples are soft, remove lemon peels and cinnamon stick and let applesauce cool a bit.

-Depending on the consistency you like, you can mash the apples down further with a potato masher or whisk. Or, for a smoother cosistency, use a food mill, blender or food processor (PLEASE BE CAREFUL WHEN PLACING WARM LQUIDS IN FOOD PROCESSOR OR BLENDER). I pureed mine in the food processor and it is sooo lovely and velvety ;)


-The applesauce will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or two, and for months in the freezer :)

NOTES: As you can see, there is no sugar in this recipe, so if you're expecting a sweet sauce, you're in a for a surprise. The taste of this applesauce is very light and clear, with some really nice background notes from the lemon and cinnamon. The sauce tastes even better the next day after it has had a little chill time in the fridge :)

Next up? Mexican Rice :)

Hope this made your Monday a little brighter!

Lynn ;)