Saturday, October 31, 2009

Chocolate Reese's Pieces Cookies

Happy Halloween! We really don't get any trick-or-treater's where we live (unfortunately), but every once in awhile, a couple of our friends will stop by with their little girl, if they happen to be in the area on Halloween. I like to have a little something ready for her, just in case. I can't imagine what would be worse than stopping by a house for trick-or-treating, only to find that there was nothing there! Last Sunday, I bought a big ol' gummy spider for her, in case she stopped by. But the more I looked at it, the more I thought it might terrify a 3-year old. It gave me the perfect excuse to make cookies. Four dozen of them, in fact. I wanted something that was a bit "Halloween-y", but not too labor intensive. I visited The Sisters' Cafe to see what they'd been up to, and I found this recipe, which I changed up a teensy bit.
The original recipe from The Sisters' Cafe called for Reese's peanut butter chips, but I had mini-Reese's Pieces. Earl and Shirley were cleaning out their pantry and brought me a bag of mini-M&Ms and this bag of mini-Reese's pieces. David and I ate the bag of mini-M&Ms, but I decided to save these for something special. And today I decided they would make the perfect "Halloween-y" cookies! These cookies are wonderful! I have a horrible habit of overbaking cookies. I like a chewy cookie, but when I take cookies out of the oven at the point where they'll be chewy when cool, I convince myself that they're not fully baked. Then I end up with hard, crunchy cookies. Today, I resisted temptation and pulled the cookies from the oven at 9 minutes. They seemed raw, but once they cooled, they were perfectly chewy!
It's almost 9pm, and I'm pretty sure that official trick-or-treating hours are over. We didn't have a single spook, ghost, or goblin show up, so now I've got about 3 1/2 dozen yummy cookies in my kitchen begging to be eaten. Help!
Chocolate Reese's Pieces Cookies
2 cups flour
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cup butter, softened (I used 1 cup)
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (10oz. bag) of Reese's peanut butter chips (or mini-Reese's Pieces)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together dry ingredients and set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well. Stir in peanut butter chips or Reese's Pieces. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8 to 9 minutes. Cookies will puff up during baking, but will flatten when cooled. Do not overbake! Cool slightly and remove to wire rack.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Potato, Ham, and Spinach Soup

I've had designs on making this soup for well over a year. I used a recipe from the Louisville Courier-Journal as my starting point, but I made several changes along the way. I clipped the original recipe out of the paper sometime last fall or winter, and tucked it away in my recipe file, which grows larger by the week. I finally decided to rummage through it last Sunday and found this one. It's perfect for a chilly fall day, except those seem to have left Kentucky. Now, we've got highs in the mid-70s! Good grief...I thought we'd finally gotten rid of summer for awhile, but she's reared her ugly head again. Fall, please come back!
This soup is full of ham, potatoes, beans, and spinach. It's the perfect soup to make when it's time to use leftovers, because you could dump just about anything in here, and it would be good. The original recipe called for smoked sausage and kale. I used ham and spinach instead. I've really tried to like kale, but I just haven't seemed to acquire the tastebuds for it yet. I'm still willing to try it, though...maybe I just haven't had it the right way yet. Anyway, here's the recipe for this yummy, hearty soup. If fall hasn't fled your area, it would make a perfect dinner for those nights when you're snuggled up on the couch watching football! Enjoy!
Potato, Ham, and Spinach Soup
adapted from a recipe from the Louisville Courier-Journal
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 lb. ham
1 large onion, diced
6-8 large cloves garlic, minced
4 large potatoes, diced
1 large bunch spinach
2 quarts chicken stock (or a mixture of stock and water)
2 15oz. cans of white beans, drained and rinsed
salt and lots of black pepper
Heat olive oil in a wide, deep soup pot over medium heat. Add ham, chopping it into bite-sized pieces.
Add onion and garlic. Stir often, until softened, about 5-10 minutes.
Add diced potatoes. Wash and remove long stems from spinach. Cut into wide slivers. Add potatoes and spinach.
Add chicken stock and increase the heat to high. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the potoates are very soft. Use a potato masher to roughly mash the potatoes in order to thicken the broth. Add beans and heat through. Season with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Cake That Started It All...

We buried my grandmother today. She passed away Monday afternoon at age 95. As we were at the funeral home, everyone talked about what a great cook she was. At one point, it seemed the whole family was in the funeral home's kitchen, snacking and talking. My cousin Marcia said, "Isn't this exactly how Mommy (that's what her side of the family called my grandmother, whom we called Emmy) would have wanted it? You couldn't walk in the house without being offered a plate of food!" She was exactly right. Food was a big part of Emmy's life, and it was the way she showed love.
My sister and I went to Emmy and Pa's house every Monday and Friday afternoon after school, and we spent most Saturday mornings with them as well. Emmy was the person who "infected" me with the baking bug. All of my vivid memories of her involve cooking, canning, and baking. She even had a fully equipped kitchen in her basement, in addition to her main kitchen upstairs! We spent many hours in both of those kitchens, but I was always most interested in baking with her.
She always made lots of pies...your traditional apple and cherry pies, but also things like gooseberry pie and rhubarb pie. I always got the scraps and loved to cut shapes, sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar, and bake my own little snacks. She always encouraged my love of the "domestic arts," my favorite of which was cooking. Anytime I ever asked to cook or bake, she was ready to help. One day while at her house, I baked a cake "all by myself," which meant that I was under her watchful eye and had plenty of help with measuring and cutting! It was called a "Doctor Bird Cake," which I think is similar to what a lot of people call a Hummingbird Cake. I decided that there would be no more fitting way to honor Emmy's memory than to make that same cake tonight.
It's incredibly simple to make. My recipe, which came directly from Emmy, states in large, capitalized letters "DO NOT USE MIXER!" So I didn't. But I wonder if that has more to do with simply not wanting to clean up the mess that an 8-year old might make with a hand mixer than the texture of the completed cake! The whole cake is made in one bowl, and you need nothing more than a wooden spoon. The ingredients are simple (and fattening!), and the result is delicious.
This cake is full of bananas, pineapple, pecans, and cinnamon. It's topped with a simple cream cheese frosting. The next time I make it, I might increase the cinnamon and maybe add some nutmeg, but tonight, I made it just like Emmy taught me.
Doctor Bird Cake
Emma Bickers
3 cups flour, sifted
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups cooking oil (I used canola)
1 cup crushed pineapple in juice (undrained)
3 eggs
2 cups diced banana
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
DO NOT USE MIXER! Preheat oven to 350 degrees Sift all dry ingredients into large bowl. Add banana, oil, vanilla, eggs, and crushed pineapple (juice and all). Mix until just blended. Do not beat. Pour batter into a greased and floured tube pan. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool on cooling rack. After 10 minutes, turn cake out onto cooling rack to finish cooling.
For Frosting:
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 cups confectioner's sugar
Beat cream cheese on medium. Add melted butter and confectioner's sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Frost only the top of the completely cooled cake.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Skillet Cabbage and Ham

I'm really a very predictable person. I like order, rules, and routine. My life is very regimented, and while lots of people would think that's really boring, it suits me just fine! But sometimes I wonder if I rely on my routine a little too much. After all, I'm the person who forgets to brush my teeth if my morning routine gets out of whack...really. That's happened on more than one occasion. Even my weekends have routines. Saturdays, I clean up the house and wash clothes. On Sunday, we go to church and I do my grocery shopping. But last night, I did something out of my routine, and tonight I was thanking myself for it!
Each Sunday before I go to the grocery, I make my menu for the week based on the leftovers in the fridge, what's on sale, and what sounds good. I knew that I had Skillet Cabbage and Ham on my list, as well as a soup (that you'll see later this week). Well, last night, instead of just shoving my produce in the fridge after coming home from the grocery, I "processed" it for some of my meals!
This delicious Skillet Cabbage and Ham started out as a small head of cabbage and two big ol' carrots, which were chopped and shredded--last night! It was so nice to not have to do that tonight after work! When I got home and started fixing supper, all I had to do was chop an apple, dice up some ham, sprinkle in some dry ingredients, and add some chicken stock and vinegar. Dinner was ready in no time, and with very minimal effort. David and I have had this meal before, but it was long before I started my blog. It's unlike most things we eat, which always makes for a nice change of pace. I really think of it as a fall meal, but you could certainly enjoy it any time of year. We added some roasted butternut squash and were quite happy with our little menu. I made a few adjustments to the original recipe, and I'll put my changes in parenthesis. I hope you enjoy!
Skillet Cabbage and Ham
Family Circle Magazine, December 2008
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 large head of green cabbage, thinly sliced
2 large carrots, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup white wine (I used chicken broth)
10 oz. ham, cut into bite sized pieces
1 large apple, cored and diced (I used a Golden Delicious)
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add cabbage and carrot and cook, covered, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in wine (or broth) and simmer for 1 minute. Add ham, apple, vinegar, caraway seeds, salt, and pepper. Simmer on medium heat for 5 minutes, uncovered, stirring, until cabbage and apples are tender and most of the liquid has cooked off.
Cover and let stand a few minutes before serving.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Latte

It's that time of year again...Starbucks has rolled out their Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and they are delicious! I look forward to those and the Gingerbread Lattes (at Christmas) all year long. But, of course, those Starbucks drinks sure are budget busters. And, believe it or not, there are people who don't live anywhere near a Starbucks and may not have ever experienced the beauty and deliciousness of a Pumpkin Spice Latte! So, for those who are pinching pennies and for those who don't have a local Starbucks, here's a simple and tasty knockoff that you can probably create with the things you have in your kitchen right now! I'll post the recipe as it was originally written, but I recommend that you don't use this quantity of pumpkin pie spice. Cut it in half, then if you want more, add it a tiny bit at a time.
Pumpkin Pie Latte
adapted from a recipe in Family Circle, November 2008
2 cups fat-free milk
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
3 1/2 Tbs. sugar (or Splenda)
4 heaping tsp. espresso powder or instant coffee
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (but this is way too much)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
In a small saucepan, whisk together all ingredients and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes 2 smallish servings.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Sorry, guys. No food tonight. Just a little tribute to my sweet husband to let him know how lucky I am to have him.
Three years ago today, I married my best friend. We've been together for 10 years now.
I'm looking forward to spending the rest of my life by his side, experiencing all that God has in store for us. Life is certainly sweet!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Stuffed Peppers

I haven't been keeping up with my blog like I'd like to. It's been kind of neglected for the last couple of weeks, but let me tell you why. David and I are in the process of building our house, and in the evenings after work, we go over there and clean up for an hour or two so the construction people/drywall men/etc. can work the next day and not have to walk around/on/through a bunch of debris. This means that our meals haven't been quite as exciting lately, and when they have been, they've been made after dark. And that means that the picture quality isn't great, but I'm figuring out a few spots in the house that will allow me to take a good picture. Tonight, we had stuffed peppers:
First, let me say that these weren't made using my favorite stuffed pepper recipe. I was in a super-big hurry this morning and couldn't find that recipe, but I did find this one. I ran around the house gathering ingredients out of the freezer and sticking them in the fridge in hopes that they'd be thawed out by the time I got home, so that I could assemble the peppers before going to the new house to clean. (But they weren't.) So, we had Ellie Krieger's Stuffed Peppers. They were okay, but I like my other recipe better. She says I should have used red peppers, which I like better, but they were over a dollar each. The green peppers were 88 cents each. That was an easy choice. I like the fact that she used bulgur, spinach, and zucchini in the filling, but there just wasn't enough flavor. If I make these again, I'll have to jazz these up a bit. I'd probably liberally season both the filling and the insides of the peppers with Cavender's Greek Seasoning. I think that would help a lot.
I do like the feta cheese that she suggested I sprinkle on top, but I don't think I used enough. The topping on my favorite stuffed peppers (the one that I can't find the recipe for) includes cornmeal and olive oil. It is delicious...crunchy, corny, and salty. Much better than tomatoes and feta cheese. But that's another post. If you like stuffed peppers, these are definitely worth a try, but they just aren't my favorite. Here's the recipe if you'd like to try them...
Greek-Style Stuffed Peppers

1 lb. lean ground beef
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 medium zucchini, coarsley grated (about 2 cups)
1 small onion, minced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup bulgur
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, cores and ribs removed
2 (14.5 oz.) cans low-sodium stewed tomatoes, finely chopped
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine the beef, spinach, zucchini, onion, bulgur, egg, oregano, salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Mix until throughly combined.
Arrange the pepper halves cut side up in a 9x13-inch baking dish and fill each pepper half with the meat mixture. Pour the tomatoes over the peppers and sprinkle with the feta cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until the meat mixture is completely cooked and the peppers are tender, about 25 minutes longer.
Now, I'll leave you with a picture of the kitchen. We've still got a ways to go, but it's looking better every day!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Apple Muffins

I'm back again with more muffins! These are the last ones, for a little while, though. When I went on my muffin-baking binge last weekend, my plan was to use up some ingredients that needed to be used. I had some golden delicious apples that we hadn't finished eating, and I didn't want them to go bad, so I went on a search for apple muffins. I found these yummy ones at Smitten Kitchen, where the food is always good and the pictures are always beautiful (and these days, you might even see a picture of a beyond-adorable baby boy!)
I ran across Deb's Smitten Kitchen website not long after I discovered food blogging. I've tried several of her recipes, and they never disappoint. She's truly talented at this whole cooking thing, and I'm amazed that she does it all in a NYC apartment kitchen. Wow.

These muffins were very simple to make, and again, I had all the ingredients on hand. As Deb mentions in her post about these muffins, they're super moist, which I loved. Of the three kinds of muffins I made last weekend, these were David's favorite. They were my second favorite...a very close second behind the pumpkin muffins. They're definitely a recipe that I'll keep in my muffin rotation. I'm not going to post the recipe, because I want you to go to the Smitten Kitchen. Just click here, and you'll go right to the post/recipe for these delightfully apple-y muffins! I didn't make any substitutions or changes to her recipe...I did exactly as Deb said (even not skimping on the topping!). I used golden delicious apples in my muffins, but I think you could use just about anything.
I've gotten a couple of comments about my groovy Halloween muffin liners. They came from Kroger. My Kroger has an aisle of seasonal products that changes fairly frequently, and that's where I always get my muffin/cupcake liners. They always have the cutest designs. I got some super-cute Christmas ones last year, and I've also gotten some Valentine's day ones, too. If you have a Kroger, check to see if they have a seasonal aisle. In my experience, the cute liners are never with the baking supplies. Good luck! Oh, by the way...they're Wilton brand, so you might be able to find them through Wilton, as well.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pumpkin Muffins

More muffins! Last Saturday afternoon, I got onto a serious muffin-makin' kick and made three kinds of muffins to take to church the next morning. You saw the Allspice Crumb Muffins, which were delish, even though there was a puddle of butter in the bottom of each cup of the muffin tin. I made some apple muffins, too, which will be coming to the blog soon, but these were my favorite...
Pumpkin muffins! When I was planning my muffin-baking marathon, I didn't want to have to go buy any ingredients, and I wanted to use up some things I had on hand. I happened to have some pumpkin puree on hand, and since it's fall (the most wonderful time of the year), I knew I needed to make pumpkin muffins. I thought about searching the Internet for a good recipe, but I thought I'd check Dorie's cookbook (Baking: From My Home to Yours) first. Lo and behold, there on page 13 was a recipe for pumpkin muffins, and I had all the ingredients right here in my little kitchen! Score! They were a breeze to put together, and they came out beautifully!
I loved these muffins. They're full of goodies...spice, pumpkin, golden raisins, and pecans. Yum! The batter was very dense, and it made for beautiful muffins. The tops didn't spread out and get flat around the edges like a lot of muffins do...these were the best-looking muffins I've ever made. I only made one tiny substitution...Dorie says that you should sprinkle raw sunflower seeds over the batter in the muffin cups, but I didn't have those. I did, however, have pepitas (a fancy word for pumpkin seeds). They worked well and gave the final product a nice look.
These muffins were the perfect compliment to a nice warm cup of coffee on a crisp fall morning. For those of you who haven't purchased Dorie's wonderful book, I'll post the recipe and hope she doesn't whip me. Enjoy!
Pumpkin Muffins
Dorie Greenspan
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of ground allspice
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup moist, plump golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
About 1/3 cup unsalted raw sunflower seeds (or pepitas), for topping
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until soft. Add both sugars and continue to beat until light and smooth. One by one, add the eggs, beating for a minute after the eggs are incorporated, then beat in the vanilla. Lower the mixer speed and mix in the pumpkin and buttermilk. With the mixer at low speed, add the dry ingredients in a steady stream, mixing only until they disappear. To avoid overmixing, you can stop the machine early and stir any remaining dry ingredients into the batter using a rubber spatula. Stir in the raisins and nuts. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups and sprinkle a few sunflower seeds (or pepitas) over the top of each muffin.
Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a thin knife insterted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the muffins for 5 minutes in the pan, then carefully remove each one from its mold and finish cooling on the rack.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

TWD: Allspice Crumb Muffins

It's not just a simple Tuesdays With Dorie post's also my 100th blog post! I can't believe it! I couldn't decide whether to do something special for this post, or to just go along as if it were a regular post like any other. I pretty much decided to let it go like any other post, mainly because I had no idea when I'd find the time to plan or execute something special. Then...I realized that if I waited long enough, I could have a TWD post as my 100th post, which I thought would be quite fitting. After all, my joining TWD was the whole reason to start this blog in the first place!
This week's TWD assignment was a welcome one. It was chosen by Kayte, of Grandma's Kitchen Table. This was a very easy recipe to put together, and I had pretty much all the ingredients on hand. While I was making these last Saturday, I decided to go ahead and make a couple of other kinds of muffins to take to church the following morning. You'll see those in future posts. Anyway, these muffins were delicious and well-received during Sunday School.
I just had two little issues with this recipe. First, the crumb topping. I know some of the other bakers had some problems with the crumb topping sliding off the muffin during baking. I took their advice and lightly pressed it into the batter, so that kept the crumb from sliding off. However, it still didn't turn out the way I expected it to. I guess I expected something more along the lines of a streusel topping, and that's not what I got. It was very tasty, but just not the look I had hoped for. The next issue was with excess butter. When I removed the muffins (which were baked in groovy-looking Halloween cupcake liners) from the tins, there was a puddle of butter left behind. YUCK! The muffins didn't taste greasy or overly buttery, but I just couldn't get rid of the visual of the muffins sitting in a puddle of butter. Plus, it made the bottom of my liners buttery/greasy which was kind of messy during transport.
Overall, these muffins were great! I enjoyed the allspice flavor...I've never used it as a primary flavoring, and it was nice to really taste it. It's got a light "fall" flavor to it, which is perfect this time of year. Kayte has posted the recipe on her website, which you can find here. Happy baking!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

White Chicken Chili

It's definitely fall in Kentucky! The leaves are turning colors and there's a nice chill in the air. Fall is without a doubt my favorite season of the year. I love the colors, the chilly weather, wearing sweaters and sweatshirts, drinking hot chocolate, and sneaking afternoon naps to the sounds of football. I love the flavors and foods of fall, too. Probably one of my favorite fall and winter foods is soup. And, believe it or not, I used to be intimidated by making soup. For some reason, I always thought that making soup was really difficult. I don't know where I got that idea, but I'm glad that I forged ahead and started making soup, because now it's one of my favorite things to make! Poor David...I'll probably soup him to death by the time Spring rolls around, but I can't help it. It's the perfect cool weather supper! Saturday, I decided to make one of our very favorite soups...White Chicken Chili.
I got this recipe last fall while we were on vacation in Florida. We had flown down for a few days to see David's mom and dad, and I cut this gem out of the Bradenton Herald. It was hard to be in the mood for chili while visiting sunny Floria, what with all the fishing, boating, and sunning on the beach, but I knew we'd be back in chilly Kentucky before long, and this soup sounded so good! I'm so glad I saved this recipe. We've made it a dozen times since then, probably, and I even make it for last year's Spring Soup Supper at our church (not to be confused with the Chili Supper), where it was very well received. It's so simple to make, and the flavors are wonderful. As with most chilis, the flavor is even better the next day! I wish I knew who to give credit to...I only know that the recipe was titled "Michelle's White Chicken Chili" and was featured in the Bradenton Herald last fall. If you know Michelle, please let her know that her White Chicken Chili is wonderful!
White Chicken Chili
Michelle/The Bradenton Herald
2 packages McCormick White Chicken Chili seasoning mix
1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 can navy beans
1 can cannellini beans
1 can great Northern beans
1 can black beans
1 can cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 can Ro*Tel tomatoes with mild green chiles
4 cups chicken broth (or more, depending on the desired thickness)
Heat the oil in a large soup kettle. Add the chicken. Cook and stir about 5 minutes until no pink remains.
Drain and rinse all the beans. Stir in the seasoning mix, beans, soup, tomatoes, and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover and simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to blend flavors.
Erin's Notes: I usually use the leftovers from a whole roasted/rotisserie'd chicken instead of cooking chicken specifically for this soup. If you've got smoked chicken, by all means, use it. I had some and used it in a pinch one time last year, and it makes the flavor out of this world. It makes for the best.soup.ever. I also don't use the Ro*Tel tomatoes...just plan ol' diced tomatoes. David and I are wusses when it comes to spice, and whatever spice is in the flavoring packets is plenty for us. But if you like a little kick, by all means, go for the Ro*Tel!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chocolate Maple Pumpkin Cake

Last Saturday, our church had our annual chili supper. The women of the church all pitch in and make a variety of desserts for the dinner, and we had quite a selection! Since I love to bake, I made three desserts...banana cream pie (which you've seen), blackberry pie bars (which you've seen), and a chocolate maple pumpkin cake, which you're seeing tonight for the first time.
The banana cream pie and the blackberry pie bars were a little labor-intensive (especially since I started baking at 9:30am and needed to be at church at 3:00pm), so I needed something super-quick to put together. I found this recipe in the October issue of Country Living. You begin with a boxed German chocolate cake mix and make substitutions of real maple syrup for water and pumpkin puree for the oil (the original recipe called for pumpkin pie filling, which I didn't have, so I went with the pumpkin puree instead). Delicious! The flavors were subtle, but it was definitely more than just a plain chocolate cake. I iced it with canned cream cheese frosting and decorated it very simply with some little fall sprinkles. It was quick, tasty, and pretty. Just what I needed!
Chocolate Maple Pumpkin Cake
adapted from Country Living Magazine (October 2009)
1 box German chocolate cake mix
1 1/4 cup dark maple syrup (instead of the water)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (instead of the oil)
Any other ingredients called for on boxed mix.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cake mix according to package directions, making substitutions listed above. Distribute the prepared cake mix between two 8-inch cake pans coated with cooking spray. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees, then cool 10 minutes in pans before turning out on wire rack. Cool completely and frost/decorate as you like.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

TWD: Split-Level Pudding

Well, I can mark another "first" off of my list. This is the first pudding I've ever made from scratch. I've always been an instant pudding kind of girl, but this was super-easy. Not quite as easy as ripping open a package and whisking in milk, but still quite simple on the cooking scale. Plus, the flavor is so worth the extra effort!
Garrett, of Flavor of Vanilla was our host this week, and he chose this yummy little dessert because it reminded him of his childhood. I think I must be one of the few people who doesn't really associate pudding with childhood. I don't know why, but I don't think we ate much pudding as kids. I do remember making pudding pops a couple of times, though. That was super-cool. Butanyway, Garrett made a great choice. This is definitely "grown-up" pudding; the chocolate isn't super-sweet, but the vanilla flavor is intense. It's a perfect balance of the two flavors.
Several TWDers have mentioned that they prefer this pudding warm. Again, I think I'm in the minority...I do not like pudding warm. To me, pudding is a cold food, and this pudding was delicious, especially cold! If you're interested in makig your own "grown-up" pudding, you can visit Flavor of Vanilla...and while you're there, take a look at all of his other TWD recipes. While I was there, I spotted a twist on one of Dorie's recipes...Blackberry Spice Bars. I've got tons of frozen blackberries in my freezer, so I'm on the hunt for new blackberry recipes to try.
In other news, my 100th blog post is coming up very soon! What should I do? Should I do something special to mark the day? Or should I just let the 100th post be a regular ol' recipe? What would you like to see?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Beef and Bulgur Casserole

A couple of months ago, I got on a whole grain kick. We'd already made the switch to whole-wheat pasta, which wasn't too tough. Then, I switched us to brown rice instead of white rice. Again, no big deal. They were easy substitutions that didn't require much thought. Then I heard about things like pearled barley, quinoa, steel cut oats, and bulgur. I didn't have any idea about what to make with them, but it sounded like a challenge. During one of our trips to the "big city" of Louisville, David and I stopped by Whole Foods, because the Kroger and Wal-Mart in our town don't have many whole grains outside of whole-wheat pasta and brown rice. I was amazed by the bulk food section at Whole Foods. I didn't even know what half of the stuff was, but I was in awe of the different granola blends. And then I saw where you can grind your own peanut butter. WHAT?! Incredible. Anyway, I stuck to the whole grains list and got a bag each of quinoa, bulgur, and pearled barley.
Then I got the stuff home and thought, "What in the hairy am I gonna do with this stuff?!" Once again, the Internet came to my rescue. I found several yummy recipes for ways to use my fancy, exotic grains, and one of my favorites is the one I'm sharing with you tonight: Beef and Bulgur Casserole. I absolutely love this stuff! I try to lighten it up some by using extra-lean ground beef and reduced-fat cheese, and I don't feel like I'm missing anything. There's a lot of sodium in the recipe, so if that's a concern for you, you'll want to use reduced-sodium tomatoes and broth. But I like things salty, so this is right up my alley.
This was definitely a great meal to help usher in my favorite season...fall! The leaves are changing and there's a little chill in the air, so it's time to dust off all my hearty fall and winter recipes. Yum!
Beef and Bulgur Casserole
1 1/2 lbs. extra-lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
14.5 oz Italian diced tomatoes, drained
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup bulgur, uncooked
2 cups water
1 Tbs. fresh parsley (or 1/2 Tbs. dried)
2 tsp. beef bouillon granules
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. pepper
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook ground beef and onion in large skillet, stirring frequently, until beef is browned. Drain. Stir in remaining ingredients (except cheese). Pour into ungreased 2.5 quart casserole dish. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake 45 minutes, or until bulgur is tender. Stir in cheese, and sprinkle a little more on top for good measure. Serve hot.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Dessert Heaven...

I've gone to the same little country church since I was born. We're a small congregation...about 35 of us (at the most) on Sundays. And for as long as I can remember, we've had either a fish fry or a chili supper each Fall. The fish fry was held every September, until just a few years ago. My grandfather, uncle, cousin, and other church members fried the fish out back, and the women of the church provided the cole slaw, other fixins' and desserts. But it finally became apparent that we just couldn't really even break even with the fish fry. The fish was good, but it was expensive. So we switched to a chili supper, which is much more cost effective. Anyway, everyone in the church had their niche. Miss Ida (my Sunday school teacher from the time I was a toddler until high school) and Verlene always took care of the "pie room." They were responsible for cutting all of the pies and making sure that the dessert table was full. Miss Ida passed away earlier this year, and Verlene is getting older, so the pie room responsibility has passed on to me, it seems.
And I love it. Look at that picture! Pies and cakes as far as the eye can see. I spent a solid hour cutting and plating pies and cakes before the chili supper started, and I kept on cutting well into the evening. I did my best to fill every spot as soon as a dessert was taken. I wanted to be sure everyone had plenty of choices! One of the other church members told me, "Verlene will be proud!"
What did we have? EVERYTHING! We had brownies, cheesecake, banana cream pie, upside down German chocolate cake, pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, Derby pie, chess pie, pumpkin cheesecake, chocolate maple and pumpkin cake, pecan pie, apple dumplings, pumpkin rolls, apple pie, peach pie, blackberry pie bars...and I'm sure there are more. Those are just the ones I distinctly remember cutting.
This is my favorite picture. I can't think of anything that's more satisfying than seeing a dessert buffet after a meal of piping hot chili! But, oh...the leftovers. There was so much stuff left! We'll be sending folks home from church tomorrow with to-go boxes of desserts! I wanted to eat a little bit of everything, but I used some restraint. Not much, but a little.
The chili supper at church is one of my favorite days of the year. It's a sure sign that it really is fall. I love the sense of togetherness and community that I feel while we're all working together to make the supper come together. But I think I love the desserts the most.
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