Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pumpkin Caramel Pound Cake

Baking is my thing. If you're having an event, and you invite me over, put me down to bring dessert. I'll bake a pie, a cake, cookies...whatever you want. Just let me do dessert.
Thanksgiving was no exception. I told Mom that I would bring sweet potato casserole and a dessert. I cut this recipe for Pumpkin Caramel Pound Cake out of the Louisville Courier-Journal over a year ago and hadn't made it yet. The recipe comes from Chris Weppler, who's Pumpkin Caramel Pound Cake won a ribbon at the state fair. I had high hopes for this one. I was honestly kind of disappointed.
The cake was simple enough to make, but the flavor just didn't have as much "oomph" as I thought that it would. And parts of my cake never baked completely through, even though I rotated the cake halfway during the baking time. (But maybe that problem was due to operator error...who knows?) The cake was fine, but it wasn't as special or tasty as I hoped it would be for the Thanksgiving holiday. But I guess that's what you get when you make an untested recipe for a family gathering!
Pumpkin Caramel Pound Cake
Chris Weppler
2/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
3 cups sugar
3/4 cups caramel ice cream topping
1 cup canned pumkin pie mix (not pure pumpkin puree)
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
5 eggs
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbs. caramel ice cream topping
4 tsp. water
Pecan halves for garnish, if desired
Finely chopped (or crushed) pecans for garnish, if desired
For the Cake:
Grease a 10-inch tube pan. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine shortening, butter, and sugar, and beat to blend evenly. Beat in caramel icecream topping and pumpkin.
Combine and sift flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and other spices. Add eggs and dry ingredients to creamed mixture, alternating eggs with dry ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
Bake 70 to 80 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then remove and cool completely.
For Glaze:
Combine sugar, caramel topping, and water, and beat until no lumps remain. Drizzle over completely cooled cake. Garnish with nuts if desired.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Recap

Thursday afternoon, David and I headed to Mom and Chet's for Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving. Aside from setting aside time to really consider the many blessings we have in our lives, it's about the food. And I love the food! This year, the celebration involved David and I (of course), Mom and Chet, Allison and Larry (my sister and brother-in-law), and Paul and Marty (Mom and Chet's neighbors). We had quite the spread for the eight of the end of the afternoon, we were stuffed. Here's a recap of the Thanksgiving deliciousness! Chet carved the bird. He brined it overnight, and it was moist and delicious! I focused on the dark meat this year...something new for me. And oh, it was good!
The stove was a busy, busy place! Gravy, broccoli, and noodles up top, and rolls in the oven.
Here's the platter piled high with turkey. This was maybe half of the bird. Again, most and delicious!
One of my favorites...cranberry sauce! This year, Chet made his own, and it was wonderful! It was full of fresh cranberries, apples, pecans, and orange zest. He has promised me the recipe. Oh, it was good!
And the dressing/stuffing...whatever you want to call it. Chet's stuffing is a mixture of cornbread and regular bread (I think). Anyway, it's good. It's not dry and crunchy like some dressing is. This stuff is moist and full of yum!
This is fall broccoli that just came out of Chet's garden last week. I didn't even know you could grow fall broccoli, but now I know. Oh, it was good. I love fresh broccoli.
And noodles! I guys are probably thinking that we're some kind of freaks at Thanksgiving. No mashed potatoes in sight, but we do have broccoli and egg noodles! I never really thought of egg noodles as Thanksgiving food, but when Mom and Chet got married, Chet fixed them for Thanksgiving because his family alway had them with Thanksgiving dinner. Yeah, I thought it was weird at first, but now, they just seem like a part of Thanksgiving. It wouldn't be the same without them. I like to pour dressing over my noodles and dressing, then eat a little noodle and a little dressing at the same time. Carb overload! Yum!
This sweet potato casserole was one of my contributions. I love this stuff. There aren't words to describe how much I adore this stuff. It's really sweet, but I love to have it with holiday (Thankgiving and Christmas) meals. The sweet potatoes are mashed, and then there's the crunchy, sweet topping. Oh, mercy. It's the perfect foil to all the savory stuff. You'll find the recipe at the end of this post.
These yeast rolls are absolutely wonderful. They're Chet's mom's recipe. And they're made with lard. Don't even think about trying to make them without the lard. Chet's pretty much got the recipe down pat, and they are the hit of Thanksgiving and Christmas. I've got to learn to make'll force me to get over my fear of yeast.
Here's the holiday table, ready for us to devour everything in sight. See the pretty fruit salad? Paul and Marty brought that, and it was wonderful!
For dessert, I brought this. It's a pumpkin caramel pound cake. I was less than impressed, but I'll post the recipe tomorrow. Paul also brought one of his famous cheesecakes...pumpkin! How in the world I got out of the house without a picture of it is beyond me. I was snapping pictures like a fool. Allison said I was the food paparazzi. Anyway, as you can tell, we were gluttons on Thanksgiving. We ate too much, but it was so nice to spend a lazy Thursday afternoon with family and friends.
Sweet Potato Casserole
Cathy Lawrence (my mom)
For the Casserole:
40 oz. sweet potatoes in syrup
1 1/2 cups white sugar (you could probably back off to 1 cup)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
For the Topping:
1 stick butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup Rice Crispies
1/2 cup crushed nuts (optional, but I always use them)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain sweet potatoes well. Mash potatoes, and add sugar, eggs, milk, nutmeg and cinnamon. Mix until all ingredients are well incorporated. Pour mixture into a greased casserole dish (9x13 is a good size, but I used a 12-inch round tart pan) and bake for 30 minutes. To make the topping, melt the butter and mix in brown sugar, Rice Crispies, and nuts. Spread over sweet potato mixture and return to oven to bake for another 15 minutes.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

TWD: Cran-Apple Crisps

I had planned on making these little Cran-Apple Crisps last week for TWD, but life just got in the way, as it is wont to do these days. I finally got around to making them late tonight, just in time for David to have a little snack during the UK game. These were the perfect warm-up for tomorrow's Thanksgiving feast.
These little crisps are the perfect fall dessert. The apples, cranberries, and raisins are perfect complements to one another. The crisps aren't too sweet; in fact, it's the tart cranberries that make it work, I think. The crumble on top is wonderful...David said it was his favorite part. With brown sugar, oats, and sweetened shredded coconut, what's not to like?!
Dorie's recipe makes 8 individual crisps, but tonight, I just made for me and one for David. But I made the whole recipe of the crumble topping. I thought it would freeze well and be very handy to have for future impromptu crisps this winter!
Em, of The Repressed Pastry Chef, chose these tasty little desserts as her TWD selection. And her blog is actually right above mine in the TWD blogroll, so we're neighbors! You can check out her blog for the recipe. These came together very quickly and easily, which is always a plus, especially this time of year. Great choice, Em!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tuscan Chickpea Soup

I'm not a picky eater, but I do have a little problem with texture. If the texture of a food gives me the creepin' willies, I just can't eat it, no matter how good it tastes. Tapioca is a fine example of this. The flavor of tapioca pudding is delicious, but the texture of those tapioca pearls is too much. I feel like I've got a mouth full of fish eyeballs...I just can't do it.
David, on the other hand, will pretty much eat anything that won't eat him first. There are some things he doesn't like much, but he still eats them. But this soup? Nope...not on the list. He hated it. He admitted that the flavor was fine, but he couldn't get past the texture. He said he felt like I was serving him baby food!
You see, I had used the immersion blender (thanks, Earl and Shirley!) on this Tuscan Chickpea Soup. I had in mind that it would have a delightful, velvety mouthfeel. It was pretty good (not quite velvety), but David just didn't care for the texture at all! So we won't have Tuscan Chickpea Soup here at the Orr house ever again, but it's worth trying, if you don't have any "texture issues" in your household! I took it for my lunch for several days, and it reheats nicely. It's a hearty soup, what with all the chickpeas and all, and it great on crisp, cool fall days. It's easy to throw together, and of course, you get to use the immersion blender!
Tuscan Chickpea Soup
adapted from a recipe from Core and More Recipes
2 Tbs. canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, chopped (I omitted this)
1 large bell pepper
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary (could've used more)
salt and cayenne, to taste
3 (15.5 oz) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
14.5 oz diced tomatoes, drained
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
Heat oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, jalapeno, and bell pepper and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in stock and next 5 ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Use an immersion blender to process/puree the soup until smooth. You can also puree the soup in batches using a regular blender. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and serve with a splash of additional balsamic vinegar on top.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Dip

Last Saturday, I took this Pumpkin Pie Dip to a get-together at a friend's house. My friend Leslie said, "Is that that pumpkin dip?!" She'd had it at a party at my house last year, and I took it as an ultimate compliment that she remembered it that well over a year later! But this Pumpkin Pie Dip is absolutely delicious, so I shouldn't be surprised. It's a breeze to make, and everyone loves it. It's the perfect dessert to take to any holiday party! And the leftovers also made a delicious swirl in my Double Pumpkin Cake! It's got all of the flavors of pumpkin pie, but it serves a crowd. Plus, you don't have to make a pie crust. It's a winner!
There are actually two ways to make this yummy dip, and I've used both of them. Which one I make mostly depends on whether I happen to have a can of pumpkin pie filling in my pantry or not. I think I actually prefer the recipe made with the pumpkin pie filling, but both are delicious. You choose! But if you're not sharing this dip with lots of friends or family, either be prepared for leftovers, or cut the recipe in half.

Pumpkin Pie Dip I
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
15 oz pumpkin pie filling (not pure pumpkin puree)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
apple slices, for dipping
gingersnaps, for dipping
cinnamon graham crackers, for dipping
Beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.
Add pie filling, cinnamon, and ginger, beating well.
Cover and chill 8 hours.
Serve with gingersnaps, apple slices, and graham crackers
Pumpkin Pie Dip II
recipe by Yvette Swearingen
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
15 oz. canned pumpkin
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 cups powdered sugar
4 oz. Cool-Whip
Gingersnaps, for dipping
Cinnamon graham crackers, for dipping
Apple slices, for dipping
Using an electric mixer on low speed. Blend the pumpkin and cream cheese until smooth.
Add pumpkin pie spice and powdered sugar and blend with mixer until smooth and creamy.
Fold in the Cool-Whip and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Serve with gingersnaps, cinnamon graham crackers, and apple slices.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Double Pumpkin Cake

Happy National Bundt Cake Day...a day late! I've been mesmerised by Mary the Food Librarian's Thirty Days of Bundts leading up to yesterday's big day. Seriously, the lady baked a different bundt cake every day for thirty straight days! I really enjoyed checking her blog every day for the latest bundt, and I've got quite a few new recipes I'll have to try now! Anyway, I'm a day late posting my bundt, but I figure now is better than never!
Since it's fall, I decided that I wanted to make some kind of a pumpkin bundt, but it needed to be pretty quick because I had lots of stuff to get done this evening. I pulled out my Citizen's Union Bank cookbook (it's my husband's workplace, and they made cookbooks as fundraisers for their Relay for Life team last year) and found a recipe to use as a starting point. I knew I was going to "doctor" whatever recipe I chose. You see, Saturday, David and I went to the 10th Annual Waford Bowl at our friend Brett's house. For the past 10 years, a bunch of our friends have been getting together to play football each fall. When we were young and carefree, all the girls played, and we played full tackle footbal with the guys. Now, the guys are getting older, and most of the girls have babies, so the game is now all guys, and it's flag football. Anyway, we always have more food than we can eat. My contribution was my Pumpkin Pie Dip with gingersnap cookies and graham crackers. We had lots of dip left over, but no gingersnaps or graham crackers. I didn't want to throw my dip away, so I decided to use it as a filling in my cake. It was just an experiment, but it worked out pretty well!
See that line that looks like it's not quite set? That's the pumpkin dip filling. I knew it wouldn't really show up, seeing as how it was pumpkin-colored, but you can taste it. It makes a nice addition to the cake. I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. A quick drizzle of Dorie's maple glaze finished it off and made a nice little snack for David while he watched the UK game.
Here's the recipe for the Double Pumpkin Cake...I'll post the Pumpkin Pie Dip tomorrow (TWD will have to be WWD this week). Enjoy!
Double Pumpkin Cake
adapted from Lisa Mullins' Pumpkin Bread recipe
1 box spice cake mix
1 can pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
3/4 cup (more or less) Pumpkin Pie Dip
Maple glaze:
6 tbs. powdered sugar
2 tbs. maple syrup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Do not use mixer. Stir cake mix, pumpkin, sugar, water, oil, and eggs together. Pour 1/2 of the batter in a well-greased bundt pan. Top batter with Pumpkin Pie Dip, then cover with remaining cake batter. Swirl with a knife. Bake for 1 hour, or until cake tests done with a toothpick. Glaze cake with maple glaze.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Chicken Barley Bake

It was another quick and easy dinner night, and another brand new recipe. I've mentioned before that I went on a whole grain kick awhile back, which left me with Mason jars full of "exotic" grains (at least they're exotic to me): pearled barley, whole wheat couscous, bulgur wheat, steel cut oats, etc. I'm slowly but surely working my way through my supply, and it's been exciting to find new recipes and try new things. Tonight's recipe features pearled barley, which is very tender and mild. I think it's kind of like puffy, chewy oatmeal, but in a good way.

For this recipe, I combined my pearled barley with onions, carrots, garlic, chicken broth, and poultry seasoning. I sweated the onions, garlic, and carrots, then added my barley to the skillet, just to toast it a tiny bit. I added the chicken broth and poultry seasoning, then brought the whole thing to a boil. The barley mixture is dumped into a 9x9-inch pan, some skinless chicken thighs are plopped on top, and then the whole mess goes into the oven for about an hour. Then, you get this:
It looks kind of boring, and it doesn't have over-the-top flavor, but it was good. It could use some doctoring up, which is what I plan to try in the future. I'd like to add some broccoli and spinach to the barley mixture. It also needed some salt, and next time I'll certainly add some Greek seasoning. That should help.
Why have I not been using chicken thighs for the past three years? I've always thought that I didn't like dark meat, but I've discovered that it's really my favorite! There'll definitely be more chicken thigh purchases in my future...and they're cheaper than chicken breasts. More flavor for less's a winner!
If you're interested in introducing whole grains into your diet, this would be a great place to start. I actually found pearled barley in my regular grocery store (Kroger), instead of having to go to Whole Foods! Kroger keeps the pearled barley with the dried beans, just in case you need a little help finding it.
Chicken Barley Bake
Adapted from a recipe from Heather's Site
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped carrots
3/4 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup pearled barley
1/4 tsp. chicken bouillon
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 chicken thighs, skinned (1.5 lbs)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, sweat onions, carrots, and garlic, just until the onions are translucent. Add barley and toast for about a minute (don't let it burn!). Add broth, barley, bouillon, and poultry seasoning. Bring mixture to a boil, then pour into a 9x9-inch baking dish. Arrange chicken thighs on top of mixture. Season chicken thighs with salt/pepper and any other seasonings you'd like. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 45 minutes. Uncover chicken and continue to bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

TWD: Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies

All this month, the TWDers are baking out of sequence. This week, I chose the Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies...mostly because I thought they'd be easy to throw together. And it didn't hurt that over the past couple of weeks, I've seen other bakers who've made these, and they look delicious! As you can imagine, molasses is a main ingredient in these cookies. Molasses isn't something I particularly enjoy, but I remember my grandfather eating molasses on biscuits pretty regularly. And I think my little sister likes molasses, too. But around here, we call it sorghum. As in, sorghum molasses. I don't know if I had sorghum molasses, but I know it was store-bought, so probably not. If you know what sorghum molassses is, and if it's any different from the molasses you buy at the store, please let me know!
Anyway, let's get to baking. This is the picture of all my dry ingredients. I love pictures of flour topped with spices. Here, we've got ginger, cinnamon, allspice, pepper.
After mixing together the dough, you leave it in the fridge for about 30 minutes, because it's so darn sticky. After a quick chill, you pinch of little dabs of dough, roll into balls, then roll in sugar. After they've been placed on the silicone-mat lined baking sheet, you press them with the bottom of a drinking glass so that they're sugar-coated discs of goodness. Aren't they pretty?
When they come out of the oven after baking for 12-14 minutes, they're supposed to pretty much look the same...only darker and crinkly/cracked on the top. Except I didn't pay attention to the baking directions and put 12 on the cookie sheet instead of 9. So they spread like crazy and I got a few fairly good looking square cookies:
But most of them got mangled as I tried to wrestle them apart, so they looked like this:
No, they're not pretty, but they are delicious! These are simple little cookies to make, but I think they've got a sophisticated taste. They're "grown up" cookies, but I think little ones would like them, too. These are cookies that you could be proud to serve to company...which is a good thing, because I've got a disc of dough frozen in the fridge. If you stop by sometime soon, let's have some of Dorie's Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies!
Next week, you should be able to find the recipe on Pamela's blog, Cookies with Boys. She's the baker responsible for these delightful little morsels! Thanks, Pamela!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Balsamic Chicken and Mushrooms

It's awfully late for me to be posting, but I've neglected my little blog for far too long. It's almost been a week since I left a post, and I can't stand it. This won't be much of a post, but at least it'll be something!
David and I went to Homecoming at LWC this past weekend, and we went a little overboard on eating. We did okay for breakfast Saturday morning, since we had a 5K race to run, but at lunch, we went hog wild. We went to Tray's Garden, a delightful little Chinese buffet, and we put the hurt on it. But we were so hungry! We didn't do so well on the car ride home, either. We split some nachos while watching the ballgames (we sat on the bleachers for 5 1/2 stinkin' hours...and suffered through a double-overtime!), then just ate junk in the car on the way home...pretzels, popcorn, and pepperoni pizza flavored Combos. Tonight, we needed something flavorful, but light.
So we had chicken! I think we've had this recipe before, but tonight it tasted so much better! I love balsamic vinegar and mushrooms, so I didn't figure I could go wrong with this flavor combo. I found the recipe from Heather's Website, which is one of my favorites when I'm looking for a recipe that's light, healthy, full of flavor, and sure to push me out of my comfort zone. This one didn't really require any strange ingredients or unusual flavor profiles, but it was easy to throw together with things I had in my pantry/fridge. The only thing I needed to purchase were the mushrooms.
I served the Balsamic Chicken and Mushrooms with green beans and roasted new potatoes. (We LOVE new potatoes and could eat them roasted every night...but we try not to!) Be sure you try this yummy recipe soon...I think this might go into our regular rotation.
Balsamic Chicken and Mushrooms
2 tsp. canola oil
3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard (I used coarse was all I had)
1 clove garlic (I used 2 big ones)
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups mushrooms, quartered (I used baby portobellos)
1/4 tsp. thyme, crushed
1/3 cup chicken broth
Heat 1 tsp. oil in a nonstick skillet. Mix 2 tbs. balsamic vinegar, mustard, and the garlic. Add chicken and turn to coat.
Transfer chicken and marinade to skillet. Saute chicken until cooked through, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer chicken to skillet and keep warm.
Heat remaining tsp oil in skillet. Add mushrooms and saute 1 minute. Add broth, thyme, and remaining Tbs. of vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are deep brown, about 2 minutes longer.
Serve chicken topped with mushrooms.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

TWD: All In One Holiday Bundt Cake

I love bundt cakes. Maybe not quite as much as Mary, The Food Librarian, but they do have a special place in my heart. They're a homey dessert. Simple, not fussy at all. You can frost them, or just dust them with powdered sugar. They're perfect. And I've had my eye on this one ever since I got my copy of Baking: From My Home to Yours...the Dorie Greenspan cookbook that inspired the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group. I love fall flavors, and I love bundts, so this was perfect.
It's full of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger...fall spices that I adore. And diced apples, fresh cranberries, pumpkin puree, and pecans. All of the flavors of our favorite holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas!) are in there. What's not to love?! As is the case with all bundts, this one is very simple to put together. Britin, of The Nitty Britty, made a great's probably what I woudl have chosen, if I didn't happen to be the 251st person in the recipe rotation!
Anyway, I'm very thankful that Laurie has given us permission to bake the recipes out of sequence this month. I wouldn't have had time to make (or acquire the ingredients for) the Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake this week, but I could throw this together in my spare time Sunday night. If you visit the other TWD bakers this month, you'll see that we're all probably baking out of sequence, which I think will be pretty fun and interesting. You'll notice in my pictures that I didn't make the maple icing... and that's because this beautiful bundt is going in the freezer for a future date.
There it is, all wrapped up. I loved the scent of this bundt baking, but it's killing me to not know what it tastes like! I'm keeping it for any number of upcoming holiday events. It might end up at CUB's Thanksgiving potluck, or I might keep it myself for our Thanksgiving dinner. I can't decide. But I do have plans on making another batch of the batter and baking it in my mini loaf pans for Christmas gift. Yum!
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