Thursday, November 06, 2008

Out on a Date

Hubby and I went out on Saturday night - without our little one. It was the first time we got a baby-sitter to watch Logan at home. He's now old enough to have fun while we are out. I found out that his teacher is baby-sitting on the weekends and made plans the same day. What could be better? He's used to her, it would be in our house, she was bringing her son so they would play together. Date night! We ordered pizza for them and headed out. There is a restaurant a couple of blocks from our house that is pretty popular - Bazin's on Church. It's not a casual eatery and definitely not family friendly. The place is always busy any day of the week so we thought the food must be good. It was better than we thought... the food was amazing! We had a Pumpkin Ravioli with Mushroom Ragu for appetizer - it was the best ravioli I have ever had. Who would think of ravioli as an appetizer? Then I ordered a Maple-Miso Glazed Black Cod with Wasabi Mashed Potatoes, Baby Spinach, Tamari Cream - completely out of this world. Hubby ordered Grilled Filet Mignon, Fresh Mozzarella, Potato Puree, Garlic-Herb Butter, French Green Beans, Tamari Almonds with Red Wine Sauce. I can't remember having a more satisfying meal since The Inn at Little Washington a couple of years ago. The place is a little loud and busy and somewhat pricey but it was worth every penny.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

It Was A Dark And Stormy Night...

This is the best pumpkin bread ever. I am thrilled with the result. It was a rainy and cold Saturday. We took the day off from running errands to unwind at home. The plan was to read, watch TV, take naps, and bake. What a great way to spend a Saturday. I bought another pie pumpkin a few days earlier and made a puree. I am pretty tired of boring pumpkin cakes/breads/muffins that taste like canned pumpkin. So I adapted an old recipe and added a Brazilian twist - coconut - you can't think of pumpkin in Brazil without coconut. The result was amazing. Two things made a huge difference - homemade pumpkin puree and whole spices ground right before using them (cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon). Since I don't have a dedicated coffee grinder for spices I used a small food processor with a little bit of sugar.

Pumpkin Coconut Bread

1/2 flaked coconut
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons chilled butter or stick margarine, cut into small pieces
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup raisins
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup fresh pumpkin puree
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
Cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare topping, combine first 4 ingredients until crumbly. Set the mixture aside.

To prepare bread, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and the next 7 ingredients (flour through nutmeg) in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Combine the pumpkin and next 5 ingredients (pumpkin through eggs) in a bowl; add to flour mixture. Stir just until moist. Spoon batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with topping. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pumpkin Souffle

The picture is awful but the souffle was delicious. Just like any other type of souffle you have to serve right out of the oven. I didn't use canned pumpkin and it made a world of difference. I made a big batch of pumpkin puree the day before and kept it in the fridge for several recipes.

Pumpkin-Cream Cheese Soufflés

Cooking spray
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup evaporated fat-free milk, divided
2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon grated whole nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Dash of salt
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
3 large egg whites
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375º.

Lightly coat 6 (8-ounce) ramekins with cooking spray, and sprinkle evenly with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place flour in a bowl; add 1/2 cup milk, stirring well with a whisk. Set aside.

Combine 1/2 cup milk, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and cream cheese in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until cheese almost melts, stirring constantly. Stir in the flour mixture, and cook 2 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. (Cheese may not appear completely melted.) Spoon mixture into a large bowl. Add cinnamon and next 5 ingredients (cinnamon through pumpkin); beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth.

Using clean beaters, beat egg whites with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Gradually add 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks form. Stir one-fourth of egg whites into the pumpkin mixture. Gently fold in remaining egg whites. Divide pumpkin mixture evenly among prepared ramekins. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet. Bake at 375º for 25 minutes or until soufflés are puffy and set. Sprinkle evenly with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pumpkin-Chocolate Streusel Bun

This recipe turned great in spite of everything. My son - who is two and a half - helped me in the kitchen and some of the ingredients ended up on my counter instead of the mixing bowl. Then the following morning, I preheated the oven and set to 20 minutes, when I would come and check what the buns looked like and adjust the temperature/timer appropriately. Since it was taking way too long and the timer wasn't going off I went back to the kitchen and my half-baked buns were cooling off on the stove top. What?! I asked my husband, why did you do that?! He said it's been 20 minutes and he thought it looked done. Oh my, I put the buns back in the oven and after another 20 minutes they came out smelling and tasting wonderful.

Pumpkin-Chocolate Streusel Buns

To make these year-round, substitute canned pumpkin puree and add an extra cup of all-purpose flour.

1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/4 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup Pumpkin Puree
1/2 cup 1% low-fat milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Cooking spray

4 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces

3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tablespoon hot water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

To prepare the buns, dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl; let stand for 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Add 2 cups flour, pumpkin, and next 5 ingredients (pumpkin through nutmeg); beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of the remaining 3/4 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky).

Place the dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, for 45 minutes or until doubled in size. (Press two fingers into the dough. If an indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.)

Combine 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Punch dough down; cover and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll the dough into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Sprinkle with brown sugar mixture. Roll up the rectangle tightly, starting with a long edge, pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets; pinch seam and ends to seal. Cut roll into 12 (1-inch) slices. Place slices in a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 25 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375°. Bake the rolls at 375° for 25 - 35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes in pan on a wire rack.

To prepare the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon water, and vanilla extract in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Drizzle glaze over buns. Serve warm. Optional: Instead of Sugar glaze, melt chocolate for 1 minute in the microwave and drizzle over buns.

Pumpkin Puree (Yield about 2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree)

1 (2-pound) pumpkin

Cut the pumpkin in half lengthwise, discarding seeds and membranes. Place pumpkin halves, cut sides down, in a baking dish, and add 1/4 cup water to the dish. Cover with heavy-duty plastic wrap, and vent. Microwave at high 10 minutes (or about 5 minutes per pound) until pumpkin is tender when pierced with a fork. Cool slightly, and scoop out filling.

Too good to be true

Most flavored coffees use artificial flavors. This was a great finding: Coffee with real Chirardelli Chocolate. The chocolate flavor is subtle and irresistible.

Drinking and Eating Pumpkin

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Pumpkin on My Mind

Shrimp Chili Cornbread Casserole

The cold weather is here to stay. I love Fall Foods and I was craving some comfort food over the weekend. I thought of a recipe that made my mouth water when I first saw it, it can be considered a savory cobbler. I served with Couscous and white Wine. It came out of the oven nice and steamy - perfect for a cold evening. This recipe gained a spot on my "favorite recipes" binder.

Shrimp Chili Cornbread Casserole (adapted from Cooking Light)

Shrimp chili:
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium zucchini, diced (about 5 cups)
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 14-ounce cans reduced-sodium diced tomatoes
1 1/2 pounds small shrimp, (41-50 per pound), peeled and deveined
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Cornbread topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup nonfat, milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg

To prepare filling: Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in zucchini; cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Stir in Old Bay, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon and salt; cook for 20 seconds. Pour in tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat. Stir in shrimp and cilantro. Pour into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Use only half of the liquid from the chili - discard the other half. It won't evaporate much in the oven so if you use everything it will be quite soggy.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

To prepare cornbread topping: Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Whisk milk, oil, egg and honey in a medium bowl until smooth. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Drop by heaping tablespoons over the shrimp mixture.

Bake the casserole, uncovered, until the top is browned and the filling is bubbling, 40 to 45 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Chocolate Cupcake Cones

A few years ago a friend of mine made these cupcake cones for a Super Bowl Party. At first I didn't think anybody would eat (or even notice) them because it was an all grown-up party with Mexican food and lots of beer. Boy, was I wrong! It was a big hit! It wasn't just a cupcake, it was a fun cupcake. So last weekend our neighborhood had our annual Crab Feast. Each family brings a side or dessert. Of course I went for dessert. I made Chocolate Cupcake Cones with Cream Cheese Frosting. Yummy! The kids loved and so did the grown-ups.

Chocolate Cupcake Cones with Cream Cheese Frosting

For the cupcakes:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cup water
2/3 cup unflavored vegetable oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Adjust the rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F.
In a medium bowl sift together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla.
Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients, stirring until just smooth. Stir any longer and you will over mix the batter and end up with less-than-tender cupcakes.
Arrange ice cream cones on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Fill 2/3 of the cones with batter.
Bake for 25 minutes. Insert toothpick in the middle of a cone, toothpick should come out dry. If it's still wet, bake for an additional 2 - 3 minutes and insert toothpick again.
Let it cool for at least 30 minutes before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
One 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 stick unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar

In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and confectioners' sugar. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld mixer, beat on medium speed until well combined and fluffy, about 10 minutes or until smooth. Spread the frosting on the top of the cones and sprinkle with Sugar Sprinkles.

What's for Brunch?

We had friends over for Brunch on Sunday. We served Coconut French Toast and English Muffin Strata with Canadian Bacon and Cheese. The beauty of both dishes is that you can make the day before and refrigerate overnight. I think they even taste better if you make them ahead of time and bake right before serving. It was great. Nothing better than starting the day with great friends and great food.

Baked Coconut French Toast with Tropical Fruit Compote

1 1/2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
1 cup chopped peeled mango
1 cup chopped peeled papaya
1 cup chopped peeled kiwifruit
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

French Toast:
16 (1-inch-thick) slices diagonally cut French bread baguette (about 10 ounces)
Cooking spray
1 1/4 cups light coconut milk
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut

To prepare compote, combine first 6 ingredients. Cover and chill for 8 hours or overnight.
To prepare the French toast, arrange bread in a single layer in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Combine light coconut milk, eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 tablespoon vanilla, stirring with a whisk, and pour evenly over bread. Turn the bread over to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Remove bread mixture from refrigerator, and uncover. Turn bread slices over, and sprinkle evenly with flaked coconut. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes. Bake, uncovered, at 350º for 30 minutes or until coconut is golden. Serve warm with fruit compote.

English Muffin Strata with Ham and Cheese

6 English muffins, split
Cooking spray
3/4 cup chopped Canadian bacon (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese
2 1/2 cups unsweetened soy milk
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash of ground red pepper
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites

Cut each muffin half into 6 wedges. Arrange half of muffin wedges in bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with bacon. Sprinkle with half of cheese. Arrange remaining muffin wedges over cheese. Top with remaining cheese.
Combine milk and the remaining ingredients, stirring with a whisk until blended. Pour milk mixture over muffin mixture. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 325°.
Uncover strata and bake at 325° for 1 hour or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.