Friday, November 29, 2013

Book Report: Black Beauty

I've had a really busy week, and I'm giving the reins to Big who has another book report to share:

What was this book about?
It was about a horse named Black Beauty.

Who was your favorite horse?
Black Beauty because she is the main character and I liked her.  My second favorite was Ginger because she was Black Beauty's friend.

What part did you like the best?
When Ginger and Black Beauty saw each other again.  Black Beauty was in a nice stable and Ginger came in but she was hurt.  I was sad when they first were taken away from each other so I was happy when they got to see each other one more time.

Who was your favorite person?
I liked John Manley because he was good and kind.

What did you learn about animals from this book?
I learned that you should treat them nicely and never do things to hurt animals.

What is your recommendation to other readers?
You should read this book because it's a good story that teaches you a lesson.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pumpkin Gingerbread Pie

I love to make a twist on traditional recipes but I come from a family big on making the traditional dishes.  This year, I'm excited to be making my grandma's sweet potatoes and a turkey for the Thanksgiving meal that we'll be having at my mom's.  But, before the big day and all the traditional fixings, I decided to make one of my favorite combos:  a gingerbread pumpkin pie.

I found this recipe years ago in a Better Homes & Gardens magazine and have made it a few times.  It calls for a gingerbread mix, pretty readily available this time of year, and one of these days, I'd like to experiment with making a "real" gingerbread base instead of the mix.  But, right now easy is good!

Hope you have a blessed holiday!

Past Thanksgiving Posts with Recipes:
2012 part 1

Pumpkin Gingerbread Pie (serves 8)
from Better Homes & Gardens

1 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 slightly beaten egg
1/2 cup half and half
1 (14.5 oz) package gingerbread mix
whipped cream for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a 10  inch pie pan with baking spray (or butter) and set aside.  Combine pumpkin, sugar, pumpkin pie spec and egg and sit with a fork until just combined.
Add half and half and mix well.

Prepare gingerbread mix according to package directions.  Spoon into the pie plate and spread evenly.  Lightly spoon the pumpkin mixture over the top and swirl gently using a table knife.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a pick inserted in the gingerbread portion comes out clean.  Serve with whipped cream.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Butternut Squash, Pancetta & Gorgonzola Galette

Look at that title - if those ingredients aren't MFEO, I don't know what is.  A friend of mine posted a picture of this on Instagram and I was sold.  It was a bonus that I had pie crust dough in the fridge from making the apple galette the week before and a container of gorgonzola cheese.  The smells in my kitchen of the butternut squash were so amazing.  I love, love butternut squash and normally just make soup or something but this dish was perfect.  I'm imagining little tartlet versions of this as appetizers for the holiday season - yum.

Recipe note:  You can add 1 T each of chopped fresh thyme and sage like the original recipe.  I didn't have it so I substituted the dried thyme.

Butternut Squash, Pancetta & Gorgolzola Galette
from Bash & Farmhouse Table

1 medium  butternut squash (neck only) peeled and sliced into half circles
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme

1 T minced fresh rosemary
salt & pepper
pinch red chili flakes
2 T olive oil
1 T butter
1/3 c. ricotta cheese
1 egg
2 oz. gorgonzola
3 slices pancetta

Preheat oven to 350.  Toss squash slices in a bowl with shallots, herbs and red pepper flakes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Heat butter and olive oil in a skillet and briefly saute squash slices, until just barely tender.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Whisk egg into ricotta cheese.  Transfer pastry circle to baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Spread ricotta egg mixture on pastry circle, leaving a 2-3″ border.  Arrange squash slices on top.  Crumble gorgonzola and scatter on top of squash.  

Fold an edge of the pastry over the filling to form the crust.  Continue around the crust, pleating the edges as you go. Drape pancetta loosely over the filling.  Bake in middle of oven for about 45 minutes, until pastry is golden, cheese is bubbling and pancetta is crisp.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pumpkin Blondies

You should know by now that I love to make pumpkin desserts . . . I usually start in September or October and it doesn't stop until well after Christmas.  I keep a stockpile of pumpkin puree and recently, bought pumpkin pie spice after all these years of mixing up my own (fresh spices are key to good flavor!).  Now blondies are a recent thing for me - I only started baking them the past two or three years.  I had always associated them with butterscotch (a flavor I'm not super fond of) but this is the third version that I've made and really liked . . . maybe it's because I've only made coffee-ish or pumpkin variations!  Check out the Mocha Blondies and the Irish Coffee Blondies here on the blog.

Pumpkin Blondies (Makes 2 dozen)
from My Baking Addiction

2 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 T pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (15oz) can pure pumpkin puree
1.5 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease the bottom of a 9x13 pan.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.  Mix in the egg and vanilla. Mix in the pumpkin (it might look curdled but it's ok).  Reduce speed to low and stir in the flour mixture until just combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a tester comes out with some moist crumbs.  Cool completely in the pan before cutting and serving.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Slow Cooker Potato Soup

First, a little Mini update.  Mini girl is now 8 months old.  She weighs in at about 13.5 lbs and is still wearing 3-6 month clothes.  She can sit up and wave, she recognizes her name and the names of people in our family, and loves to be outside.  It's amazing to see similarities between my girls at this age and I've been feeling sentimental about my girls as baby lately, so here are some photos of all three at 8 months.

First, the youngest (and the most recent photos):

Next, middle when she was 8 months old (and already crawling everywhere):

And finally, from back in 2008, Big at 8 months old:

This is a super easy crockpot soup - you chop some stuff, put it in the crockpot, and turn it on.  There might be more depth of flavor if you browned the onion and leek first (maybe with garlic and olive oil?) but I threw it all in there raw and it turned out great without the extra step.

How big you chop the pieces depends on whether you plan on blending the soup or not . . . if you're going to leave it chunky, dice the potatoes, carrot, celery, and onion smaller.  Make sure you wash the leek well before adding to the soup.  I found that with low-sodium broth and the milk, I needed to add some salt before serving it.

Cream of Potato Soup (serves 8)

2 lbs red potatoes, cut into pieces
1 carrot, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 leek, sliced
1 onion, diced
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups water
2 tsp salt (more to taste)
pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
1 cup evaporated milk

Optional garnish:
cooked chopped bacon
fresh parsley
grated cheese

Put everything but the evaporated milk in the slow cooker.  Cook for 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low (I did 2 hours on high and then turned it to low for 3 more hours).  Add the evaporated milk and mash up the soup with a potato masher (or for a smoother consistency, use a blender).  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Bring it back to a simmer (the milk & blending will have cooled it off) and serve with bacon, chives, parsley, and cheese to garnish (if you want to).

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Salsa Verde Poached Eggs

I love spicy egg dishes for breakfast like huevos rancheros or chilaquiles.  While we're on the topic, my favorite Huevos Rancheros are at Cafe Verde in Pasadena . . . yum!!  Anyways, a few weeks ago I dreamed up this version of fake chilaquiles, made it for brunch with friends, and loved the result.  I'm looking for an excuse to make them again!

Some recipe notes:  Poaching eggs is a healthy way to enjoy them and doing it in salsa brings a lot of flavor (and is easier than poaching in boiling water which I don't quite have down).  You could make your own salsa verde but I love the Trader Joe's version.  I make these tortilla strips for tortilla soup and for taco salad and it works great here too.  Baking the tortilla strips omits the frying part of most chilaquiles recipes which turns me off from making the more authentic version.  You can use cotija cheese for a more authentic flavor but really any shredded cheese will do.  I used pepper jack to make it spicier.  It's easy to do several batches in the same salsa (add a little to it after scooping out the first batch of eggs) to feed a larger group.  If you're GF, check the ingredients on  your corn tortillas.

Salsa Verde Poached Eggs (2 servings)

4 eggs
2-3 cups salsa verde
2 corn tortillas
1/2 - 1 cup shredded cheese
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
olive oil spray

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  With a pizza cutter, cut corn tortillas into thin strips and then cut in half.  Spread them in one even layer on a cookie sheet that's coated with olive oil spray.  Sprinkle with salt if you want to (I did but the salsa was pretty salty too so next time, I'd omit the salt from the tortilla strips).  Bake for about 10 - 15 minutes or until the strips and crispy and light brown.  Set aside.

In a skillet, heat the salsa verde until barely bubbling.  Depending on the thickness of the salsa, you might want to let it simmer until it's thickened up.  If the salsa is too thin, the eggs won't hold their shape as well while poaching.

Make little wells in the salsa and pour a cracked egg into each well.  Cover and simmer over medium heat until the egg is poached to your preferences (I like the whites to be firm and the yolks to be a little runny).  Right at the end, sprinkle the cheese on top of the egg.

Put some tortilla strips on a plate.  Spoon an egg and some salsa verde on top.  Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Pumpkin Tiramisu & Kids in Costume

Halloween was so much fun!  It was our first year trick or treating in Claremont; we went to the village in the afternoon and after supper with friends, around our neighborhood.  My mom made the adorable octopus legs for the baby and her costume was a huge hit . . . there's something about babies dressed like animals that's adorable.  Little kids would come up and squeeze her legs to see if they were real and one kid asked if she was a spider.  I guess we could also have done 8 black legs and made a spider!  Middle was so excited to see other costumes and when she saw another Disney princess (which happened quite a bit) she would say "Oh, look, you're my friend!"  She's convinced that the Disney princesses are all friends and hang out together somewhere (maybe Disneyland?).  Big told me it was "the best day ever" because of all the candy . . . but without being asked, she counted out her 10 pieces this morning and handed over the rest.  I let her "trade" her candy to me for a new DVD.  

On to today's recipe - "Tiramisu" is being used very loosely here - there is no espresso or coffee flavor - but the structure is similar with layers of lady fingers with a whipped mascarpone filling.  When I saw boxes of lady fingers at Trader Joe's, I was inspired to make something with them and this was the result.  It turned out delicious and I'll be making it again.  A bonus was that by substituting apple cider for the traditional espresso or rum, it's kid-friendly.  I used the Spiced Apple Cider from Trader Joe's and if you opt for plain apple cider, consider adding a half teaspoon or so of pumpkin pie spice to the cider as well.  The dessert has to set up overnight, so it's a good option to make ahead for a holiday gathering!

Pumpkin Tiramisu (8-10 servings)
adapted from Bon Appetit 11/06

1.5 cups chilled whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 (8oz) container mascarpone cheese
1 (15oz) can pumpkin puree
3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 (3oz) packages lady fingers
1/4 cup apple cider
2 oz crushed ginger snaps or amaretti cookies

Beat whipping cream and sugar until peaks form.  Add mascarpone cheese, pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice; beat just until filling is smooth.

Line bottom of 9 inch diameter springform pan with 1 package ladyfingers, overlapping and crowding to fit.  Brush the ladyfingers with half of the apple cider.  Spread half of the filling over the lady fingers.

Repeat with more lady fingers, remaining apple cider, and remaining filling.  Smooth the top.  Wrap tightly in plastic, then foil and chill overnight.

To unmold, run knife around the inside edge of pan.  Release the pan sides; sprinkle with crushed cookies.