Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween: A Retrospective in Photos

2007 - First Halloween
2008 - Padawan
2009 -  Padawan again
2010 - Little as a little Pumpkin 
2010 - Big as Jessie the Cowgirl
2011 - Little refusing to be a dinosaur

2011 - Big as Rapunzel
2012 - Little as Elmo "i be elmo i get cannnnny"

2012 - Big as Princess Leia "with the wig buns"

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

White Chicken Chili

Lately, all I want is spicy food and I've become a little obsessed with this recipe.  When I made it last week, I ate all the leftovers within 2 or 3 days and last night I made another batch.  Now I'm at work looking at my yogurt, hummus, and veggies wishing I had brought the leftovers to eat for lunch.  You can make this a little thinner more like soup by adding broth or leave it thick like a true chili.  I like to eat it over tortilla chips (and pour Tapatio all over the top).  I haven't tried it in the crock pot yet but I think it would work well, especially if you only added the dairy at the end when you're ready to serve it.  My mom gave me the recipe awhile ago and I'm pretty sure it's from my Aunt Kathy - thank you!!

White Chicken Chili (makes 4-6 servings)

2 cups cooked chopped chicken
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
2 (15oz) cans Great Northern or Cannelini beans
1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chills
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup half & half or whole milk

Rinse and drain the beans.  In a large pot, saute onion in oil until soft. Add chicken, beans, broth, chiles, and seasonings.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.  Remove from heat; stir in sour cream and half & half.  Serve immediately.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pumpkin Time!

I don't have pictures of my kids in their costumes yet, but I'll post some soon.  I have pumpkin on the brain and wanted to re-post two of my favorite recipes for this time of year. I"m making both of these this weekend!

If you click on the "Pumpkin" label on the right side of the site, you'll see all the rest of the recipes!

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds (makes 1 cup)
from Martha Stewart's website

1 cup pumpkin seeds, fresh out of the pumpkin and rinsed
4 T sugar
1 T vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
cayenne pepper to taste

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (I think foil would work fine) and spread the pumpkin seeds in a single layer.  Bake in a 250 degree oven for about an hour, stirring once or twice.  You want the seeds to be really dry but not toasted or brown. 

Mix the spices in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of the sugar.  Heat the oil in a medium saucepan.  Add the pumpkin seeds and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Toast, stirring constantly, until the sugar melts and the seeds caramelize and turn light brown - about 45 seconds - 2 minutes. 

Dump the seeds right into the bowl with the spices and stir well to coat the seeds.  Let them cool off and enjoy!

Pumpkin Crumb Cake (9x13 pan)

1 yellow cake mix (18.25 oz)
4 eggs
1/2 c. butter melted + 3 T butter, softened
1 can pumpkin (15 oz)
3/4 c. sugar, divided
1/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 pan. Reserve 1 cup cake mix. In a large bowl, combine the rest of the cake mix with one beaten egg and 1/2 c. melted butter. Mix well and then pat into the bottom of the pan.
In another bowl, mix together the pumpkin, 3 eggs (beaten), 1/2 c. white sugar, brown sugar, and spices. Pour over crust.
In a small bowl, combine the reserved 1 cup of cake mix, 1/4 c. sugar, and 3 T softened butter. Crumble over the pumpkin filling. Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or until the pumpkin is just set in the middle.

Variations: I often make it in a large springform and cut it into wedges like a pie. You'll get fewer servings that way but it looks fancier. You can sprinkle 1/2 c. chopped nuts (pecans?) over the top right before baking.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Apple picking in Oak Glen

I don't think we're going to make it to a pumpkin patch this year - we'll probably end up getting ours from Trader Joes or one of those concrete parking lot "patches" nearby - but we did have a fun fall outing over the weekend.  Some friends told us about going to Oak Glen to pick apples (how have I never heard of this until recently, by the way?) and we decided to do the same on our way to Palm Desert.  Oak Glen is located over a mile above sea level in Yucaipa, about 20 minutes from the 10 freeway.  There are several little farms, restaurants, hiking trails, markets, and other attractions.  I picked Los Rios Rancho because they allow you to pick apples during the week instead of just on Saturday and Sunday.  You could also pick your own pumpkins and a family who was just leaving had picked strawberries and raspberries which I'm assuming are at the end of their picking season.  The cider press wasn't open that day so my original idea of fresh cider didn't pan out (it's readily available to buy, we  just couldn't press the apples we picked that day) but we're enjoying our fresh apples!

The actual apple picking was easy for the kids - lots of low-hanging fruit (literally, not in the figurative sense) and we got to pick Rome apples which are a little tart, crisp, and good for baking.  It was $20 for a peck (about 10 lbs) and it took us about 15-20 minutes to fill our bag.

We had yummy tri-tip sandwiches with cole slaw and fresh apple cider for lunch.  Fun outing - I'd do it again!

Check out this website for all sorts of information on Oak Glen.
If you don't want to make the drive, Wolfes Market in Claremont carries Oak Glen cider.

Los Rios Rancho
39611 Oak Glen Road #13
Yucaipa, CA 92399

In Palm Desert, we had to bake something with our fresh apples and decided on turnovers.  They were delicious and super easy.

Apple Turnovers (serves 8)

1 lb of apples (2 medium) peeled, cored, and diced
1 T flour
2 T unsalted butter
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 T sugar
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1 egg, separated
1 pkg (17.3 oz) frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss diced apples with flour.  Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add apples, raisins, sugar, lemon juice, and ginger.  Cook, stirring, 4-5 minutes or until apples are tender.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Stir in egg yolk.

Unfold one pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface.  Roll out slightly to measure 11 inches square.  With a pizza cutter (or sharp knife), cut into 4 equal squares.  Spoon 1/4 cup of the apple mixture into the center of one square.  Brush the edges with the egg white.  Fold in half diagonally to form a triangle.  Use a fork to crimp the edges to seal and transfer to an ungreased baking sheet (I lined mine with parchment paper).  Repeat.  Bake at 400 degrees for 14-15 minutes until puffed and nicely browned on top.  While the first 4 turnovers bake, repeat rolling, filling, and folding with the remaining pastry sheet, ingredients, and egg white.

Remove turnovers from pans to wire rack to cool, 10 minutes.

Appx 330 cal/serving.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The bread

I regularly made yeast bread for a few years early in our marriage when I was working from home part of the week and didn't yet have kids.  One day I stopped and I never picked it up again.  I still have my tattered copy of my beloved honey wheat bread recipe that I'd often make but when I decided to make bread again last week, it was with a much easier method.  So easy, in fact, that I was pretty skeptical about how it would turn out.  I found the recipe on Pinterest which made me doubly skeptical.

But, it was amazing!  I've thought about it since and I'm making myself refrain from making it every day because my big ol' belly (and big ol' everything else) doesn't need all that white flour-y goodness every day.  Even if bread intimidates you (and even if you're gone from the house a lot), you can make this.  You don't need to knead, punch it down, or attend to it hardly at all.  You just need an hour and a half or so on the day you're going to serve it to heat your oven and bake it.

The easiest bread ever (yields one round loaf)
from this post  (good photos of each step)

3 cups of flour
1 cup of water
3/4 teaspoon yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 T chopped rosemary and zest of one lemon (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast.  Add water (and rosemary & lemon if you're using it) and mix until a shaggy mixture forms.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 - 18 hours.  Overnight works great.  

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  When the oven has reached 450 degrees place a cast iron pot with a lid in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, pour dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball.  Cover with plastic wrap and let set while the pot is heating.  Remove hot pot from the oven and drop in the dough.  Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes.  

After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes.  Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool. 

On the blog where the original recipe is posted, she has other flavor combinations (rosemary & gruyere, sharp cheddar, etc).  It seems really versatile and you stir your additions in when you add the water.  Next time, I'd probably leave out the lemon and just go with the rosemary.  My friend was suggesting cranberry and orange or olive with the rosemary - yum!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The baby is . . . .

A girl!  

The ultrasound tech had a good sense of humor and was stringing us along quite a bit as we looked at the baby but finally said he was 90% sure it was a girl.  We're really excited to welcome another baby sister in March.

There were 4 (out of 14) guesses for a baby girl in my contest.  I used a "Random Number Generator" online and the winner was #3 - Nicole!  I can mail your "fall baking" prize to you or we can hang out sometime :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Barley & Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard

Play the game!  Guess if we're having a boy or girl in the comments to this post and you could win a prize!  The game ends on Friday morning when we have our ultrasound.

I went to download the photo of this recipe and discovered that Big had been using my digital camera.  She's really not a bad photographer.  There's this plant in our backyard that she's in love with - she plays with the flowers all the time and it attracts butterflies so she's always watching the butterflies in the yard.  Apparently, this plant and her little sister were her major inspirations. 

Thanks for indulging me in sharing her pictures - it's fun to see a glimpse of how things look through her eyes.  She tells me all the time "Mom, take a picture" of something she sees or likes.  

On to the food.  I love soup and I'm so happy it's cool enough to actually serve to my family!  This is a pretty basic recipe but I liked the combination of the cumin with the sprinkle of dill at the end.  You could double the lentils (put them all in when you would put the barley in and cook for about 30-40 minutes or until tender) if you're GF and you could easily use another dark leafy green (kale or spinach?) if you don't have chard.  And, the perfect thing to serve with soup is bread.  I made my first homemade bread in years but I'll save all that for another post!

Barley & Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard (serves 4)
adapted from Gourmet 2/05

1 T olive oil
3/4 c. chopped onion
3/4 c. chopped peeled carrots
3/4 c. chopped celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 tsp. ground cumin
5 cups (or more) low-sodium vegetable broth
1/3 cup pearl barley
1 cup diced tomatoes in juice
1/3 cup dried lentils
2 packed cups coarsely chopped Swiss Chard
2 T fresh dill

Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat.  Saute the onion, carrots, and celery unit the onions are golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cumin and stir for about a minute.  Add the vegetable broth and barley.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and lentils.  Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Add chard to soup.  Cover and simmer about 5 minutes, until the chard is tender.  Season with dill, salt, and pepper.  Thin with more broth (or water) if necessary.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Rice Krispy Treats

Today is my husband's birthday.  We've been married for eleven years and I love him so much.  I'm not telling this story to poke fun at all, I just love how it's a typical interaction in our family and it conjured an image of my very early cooking experiences living at home.

It is a Monday evening after dinner.  I walk into the kitchen to find my husband standing in front of the cupboard wishing there was some "good" junk food but instead, settling for eating a stale marshmallow from a bag.

Him:  You should make Rice Krispy Treats or something out of these

Me:  I know - I've been meaning to make something or throw them out.

Tuesday evening after dinner.  He's standing in the same spot, this time not only eating the marshmallows but also feeding them to Little because she finished her dinner.

Him:  You should make Rice Krispy Treats or something out of these.

Me:  I know but I haven't been to the grocery store since you told me that yesterday.

Him:  I didn't tell you yesterday; I told you  on Monday.

Me:  Today is Tuesday.

Him:  Oh.

Wednesday afternoon after gymnastics

Me:  Hey [Big]!  Let's make some Rice Krispy Treats.

Big:  What's that?

Me:  You know, those marshmallow crispy bars.

Big:  We can make those at home?

We make a big pan.  It's gone in about 3 days and I'm not sure if my husband actually ate any of it.

When I was young, my cooking repertoire consisted of Rice Krispy Treats and Kraft Mac & Cheese.  After not making Rice Krispy Treats for a decade, here are my reflections:  Why aren't there more desserts like this that you don't have to bake?  Can you imagine how many chocolate chip cookies we'd eat if they were that fast?  I mean, I know you can burn the roof of your mouth really badly if you don't wait for Rice Krispy Treats to cool, but this is the easiest cooking method ever.  Did the marshmallows always stick so badly to the pot and is there a trick to cleaning them up?  Isn't it amazing that a 9x13 pan can hold so much goodness that has absolutely zero nutritional value?  How many marshmallows did my kids actually eat before I took their picture and took them away?

If you need a recipe for making these, it's on the back of even the generic rice crispy cereals at the grocery store.  Or here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

Fall baking is in full swing!  I made this for a visit with an old friend last week and it was yummy.  Big didn't like it that she could see the flecks of zucchini in the bread (picky!) but Little ate it up.  I think if I had put in some mini chocolate chips, she could have been persuaded, but oh well - more for the rest of us!  It made a little more than 4 small loaf pans but you could do two large or even make muffins (not sure how many . . . probably 18?).

Pumpkin Zucchini Bread (2 large loaves or 4 small loaves)
Adapted - original recipe here

3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup oil
1 T vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cloves
1 cup shredded zucchini

In a bowl, combine eggs and sugar.  Add pumpkin, vanilla, oil and applesauce and stir well.  In another bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Gradually add to pumpkin mixture and mix well.  Stir in zucchini.  Pour into two greased and floured 9x5 in. loaf pans (or 4 small ones or muffin tins).  Bake at 350 degrees until bread tests done (my small loaves took about 20 minutes.  Original recipe says 45-55 for big loaf pans).  Cool in pans 10 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Pear Spice Cake

It looks like we're heading into some fall weather this week!  I have some lentil & barley soup on this week's menu and homemade bread.  I made this Bundt cake for church potluck last week and it turned out really good.  The pear flavor was noticeable and the spice cake was moist and well-balanced.  I made a simple powdered sugar icing but a browned butter or praline topping would be good too.  You could probably also easily replace the pear with apple or persimmons.  Bake something with fall spices - your house will smell awesome and it will put you in a good mood!

Don't forget to play the game on my last post - I bought a cute prize for the winner!

Pear Spice Cake (makes 1 Bundt cake)
adapted from Joy the Baker

2 cups all purpose flour
1.5 tsp cinnamon
1.5 tsp ground allspice
1.5 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
4 small pears, peeled and grated

Butter and flour your Bundt pan or spray it with baking spray.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl.  In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg at medium high speed until fluffy (about 3 minutes in a stand mixer). Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and then beat in the vanilla.

Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately in batches, mixing well after each addition.  Gently fold in the grated pear.  Spoon batter into pan, smoothing on top and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 40 minutes.  Cool cake in pan 10 minutes and then turn out into a wire rack to cool completely.

Put 2 cups of powdered sugar in a bowl.  Add milk, a couple teaspoons at a time until it's the consistency you want.  Drizzle over the cooled cake.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Big, Middle & Little

Big sister

Middle Sister

Little Sibling
Coming soon . . . March 2013!  We're hoping to find out the sex of the new baby on October 19th.  If you want to play along, leave your guess as to whether baby #3 is a boy or girl in the comments.  I'll randomly pick someone from among the winning guesses and send you a prize . . . probably something related to fall baking (Pear Spice Cake recipe coming next).