Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cookie Carnival: Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

October's cookie for the Cookie Carnival hosted over at Tami's Kitchen Table Talk was this Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookie, and I must shout from the roof tops: THIS IS MY NEW FAVORITE PUMPKIN COOKIE! The addition of oatmeal took this pumpkin cookie to a new level, and it was heavenly. The recipe called for white chocolate chips and chopped dried cherries, but I had cranberries on hand so that's what I used. They were so, so good! Next time I'm going to try them with semi-sweet chocolate chips--my mouth is tingling just thinking about it!

I did change the recipe a little: I used half whole wheat flour/half all-purpose flour (because I almost always add some whole wheat flour to stuff I bake), and I made my usual high-altitude adjustments--a little more flour, and a little less butter and sugar. And I didn't have pumpkin pie spice, so I increased the cinnamon and used a little ground nutmeg and cloves.

These cookies are so Autumn-y and wonderful! Thanks so much to Jamie of My Baking Addiction for her recipe and to Tami for picking it for the carnival!

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies (as I made them--go here for the original recipe)
printable recipe

1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oatmeal
2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

1. Heat your oven to 350, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars until fluffy. Add the pumpkin, egg, and vanilla, mixing well after each addition.

3. Add both flours, oatmeal, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt, and mix well. Add the white chocolate chips and cranberries and mix on low until well combined.

4. Use a cookie scoop to drop dough onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 12-14minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned (mine were exactly 12 minutes). Cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 48 cookies.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Roasted Delicata-Carrot Puree

I've had this puree on my mind ever since I bought the delicata squash at a local farm last week. They were so cute I couldn't resist! The flavors of the squash and carrots blend to a perfect sweetness, and a touch of butter adds just a bit of richness. And I really liked the texture; smooth but slightly grainy. The seasoning is simple: kosher salt and pepper. I served the puree with a little extra butter and fresh black pepper, but fresh Parmesan cheese would also be very tasty.

The delicata squash weighed about 1 pound each and were the size of a child's football. They are an heirloom variety of winter squash that was popular from 1894 through the 1920's, when they fell out of favor because they were difficult to transport and store due to their thin skin. But now they're back, and I'm so glad!

(I found the date info, plus lots of other great info about squash here.)

Roasted Delicata-Carrot Puree
printable recipe

2 delicata squash, about 1 lb each, halved lengthwise, and seeds and pulp removed
1 1/2 lbs carrots, scraped and sliced 1/2-inch thick
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
kosher salt
fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons butter, softened, plus extra for serving

1. Heat your oven to 425. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray.

2. Put the 4 squash halves, cut side up, on one half of the cookie sheet. Brush the flesh of each with about 1/2 teaspoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put the carrots in a large zip-top bag; add the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Seal the bag (with air in it) and gently shake and turn the bag to coat the carrots evenly. Pour the carrots onto the other half of the baking sheet.

3. Roast until tender and slightly charred, 40-50 minutes, stirring the carrots two or three times to prevent burning; let cool 5 minutes. Scoop the flesh out of the squash halves and put it, the carrots, and the butter in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.

4. Puree until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl at least once. Serve with a little more butter and fresh black pepper if desired.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups, or 4 servings

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Braised Acorn Squash and Kale

I've been crazy busy with my Mom visiting from Texas, helping to plan a Fall Festival at my daughter's elementary school (which is Friday--thank goodness!), and a pantry re-model (what was I thinking?!), so here is a blast from past--well, from last December, anyway. This recipe was one of the first times I used kale, and I really liked it. I've made this dish several times since and it's always really good. I've even substituted chopped spinach for the kale with great results.

This started out as Braised Squash with Bacon, Sage, and Apples from Daily Unadventures in Cooking. I was seduced by the gorgeous picture and the promise of unfamiliar flavors. I'd done plenty with winter squash, but kale had always been "the weird green leafy stuff that I don't ever buy".

For my first try, I followed the recipe almost exactly--well, OK, I botched it; I didn't have sage or apple cider, and I totally forgot the bacon. Even with my recipe butchery, it was a beautiful dish. But I couldn't get past the taste of the apple cider vinegar; it was just too strong for me. And I didn't really love the pieces of apple. But I still loved the idea of the recipe, and I really liked the kale, so I tried it again without the apple and apple cider vinegar (I substituted chicken broth). I added some shredded Parmesan cheese and it was wonderful! A simple, delicious, healthy side dish that will add some beautiful color to your plate.

1 acorn squash (or other winter squash)
1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2/3 cup chicken broth
3 cups kale, lightly packed, stems removed and chopped
fresh ground pepper to taste
freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Halve squash and remove the seeds. With the cut side down on a cutting board, slice the squash into wedges along the "ribs", peel each wedge, and cut into 1-inch chunks. Set aside.

2. Spray a large non-stick skillet with non-stick spray, and heat it over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and cook until it's started to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the squash and chicken broth, and bring it to a simmer. Cover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the squash is easily pierced with a fork. Stir in the kale and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, cover the skillet, and cook for 5 minutes. Use a potato masher to mash the squash as much or as little as you want. I left about half of the squash intact. Stir in the pepper, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and serve.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Utah Natural Meat, Buying a cow & Hearty Beef Chili

I've wanted to find a local farmer to buy meat from for a long time. Then a few weeks ago, through a friend's Facebook post (I love Facebook), I found Utah Natural Meat, a local, family-owned ranch that raises grass fed beef and free-range chickens. I was so excited! The first thing I did was buy 4 chickens, then several dozen eggs (over a few weeks), and then we took the plunge and ordered a cow. Well, 1/4 of a cow, so I guess it was a mini plunge. Since it wasn't the whole cow I wasn't sure what cuts of meat we would get--it was a little exciting.

I picked up our beef this morning and this is what we got:

2 round steaks, 2 round cubed steaks, 2 top sirloin steaks, 2 sirloin tip steaks, 3 rib steaks, 1 tenderloin (it's mine), 7 T-bone steaks, 1 rump roast, 2 shoulder roasts, 1 pot roast, and 32 1-lb packages of ground beef. All for a total of 113.5 lbs of good, fresh, tasty beef that was raised on grass and fresh air.

I was thrilled to get so many pounds of ground beef (I make a lot of meatballs, meatloaf, etc). There are also several cuts that I've never used before, like the cubed steaks and rib steaks, so I'm excited to try some new things.

After getting the meat all tucked away in our garage freezer it was time to think about dinner. I grabbed one of the 1 lb packages of ground beef, but what to make? I decided a pot of thick, hearty chili would be perfect for the cool fall day we were having.

The meat cooked up nicely, and crumbled better and more evenly than the ground beef I used to buy at the store. And it didn't have the weird, sour smell that was sometimes present when I cooked store-bought ground beef. The meat was also incredibly lean (by virtue of the breed of cows they raise, and that they aren't fed corn), and I didn't have to drain a drop of fat. I did forget to taste it when it was done browning--darnit!--so I can't say what it tasted like straight, but it was wonderful and tender in the chili.

Thanks Utah Natural Meat, I'm so happy I found you!

Hearty Beef Chili
printable recipe

1 lb lean ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
1 large green or red bell pepper, diced
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 15-oz can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained
1 15-oz can black beans, drained
2 cups chicken broth or water
grated cheddar cheese, thinly sliced green onion, and sour cream for serving

1. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook and crumble until no longer pink. Remove meat to a bowl and keep warm. Reduce the heat to medium.

2. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and garlic powder and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney and black beans, and broth. Bring it all to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

4. Serve with grated cheese, green onion, and sour cream if desired.

Makes 2 quarts chili; 4-6 servings.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Chocolate Turtle Cake (disaster?)

I made this today for my daughter's 14th birthday party. I normally make decorated cakes for birthdays, but as she's gotten older it's been harder to her to decide on a theme she likes. When she saw this Chocolate Turtle Cake in my October/November 2010 Cook's Country magazine she begged me to make it for her party. I didn't argue; I really like making decorated cakes, but I've wanted to make this cake ever since I got the magazine.

The cake is made of chocolate cake layers with caramel and chopped pecans in the middle. It's iced with chocolate ganache and topped with another layer of caramel. The picture in the magazine is gorgeous, the ingredient list is short, and the directions seemed simple.

Turns out it's one of those recipes that make people think they can't cook.

And one of those recipes that makes me wonder if anyone actually made the cake by following the directions before it was published.

Let's start with the directions for the ganache:
"In a medium saucepan, cook 1/2 cup heavy cream, chocolate, and corn syrup over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until smooth. Transfer mixture to medium bowl and refrigerate until thickened but still spreadable, about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. (Alternatively, refrigerate mixture overnight until set. Let sit at room temperature until softened and spreadable, about 1 hour.)"
The melting and whisking part went just fine, it was the rest that was a joke. After sitting in my fridge for 20 minutes the ganache was so firm I couldn't stir it; 2 hours would have made it rock hard. I had to put the bowl in my oven, which was still warm from baking the cakes, to soften it enough to where it was something I could use to frost a cake. As for the alternate directions about refrigerating it overnight and letting it soften on the counter until it was spreadable, that would never work. I had about 3 tablespoons of ganache left over, and after sitting in the bowl while I finished the cake and cleaned up, it was so firm it would never have spread on a cake.

Now for the top layer of caramel:
"Spread chocolate icing over top and sides of cake and refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes. Spread reserved caramel mixture over top of cake, allowing caramel to drip over sides."
This sounds straight-forward enough, but in the real world, what do you think happens when you pour melty caramel on a chilled cake? And then try to spread it around? The caramel started to firm up almost immediately, and when I tried to spread it toward the edge of the cake it came up in globs, pulling ganache with it, mixing the ganach in with the caramel.

Bah! Yes, I was a little stressed about getting everything ready for the party, but when the caramel started mixing in with the ganache I wanted to scream. I consider myself a fairly experienced cook, but the directions for this cake had me stumbling all over myself. I was....displeased. I was able to get some of the caramel to go over the edge on about half the cake. I even got out my kitchen torch to try to soften the caramel enough that I could make it go over the edges of the other half. It sort of worked.

Another problem with the caramel is that the part I managed to get to drip over the side didn't stop dripping. It continued to ooze down the side of the cake (dragging pieces of ganache with it)until it was all pooled on the cake plate. By the time we cut the cake there were no more drips, just a moat of caramel all the way around the cake.

This was not the cake in the magazine.

When we cut the cake I understood why the picture in the magazine was of the whole cake, and not the cake with a slice cut out: the cake doesn't cut nicely. After cutting through the top the knife was coated in caramel which made it tear through the rest of the cake. Add to that the chopped pecan/caramel mixture in the center, and the cake was a ripped up mess by the time I got a piece out. As someone for whom presentation is important, it killed me to pass out plates with the pieces of mangled cake. The teenagers didn't care, but I sure did.

Part of me is tempted to try it again (the flavors were quite delicious); I know what to do differently with the ganache, and there must be a way to make the caramel work. And there is the issue of cutting the cake. Individual cakes, maybe? But the other part of me wants to just bag it because the list of dessert recipes I want to try is utterly, ridiculously long.

We'll see what happens. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Coronado Subs & National Sub Sandwich Day

This adorable couple is Adam and Sonya Peterson and they own Coronado Subs in Riverton, Utah. Sonya is a good friend and I've wanted to write about their shop ever since they opened on April 8, 2010. And, as it happens, National Sub Sandwich Day in this Saturday, October 9, so this is the perfect time to highlight Coronado Subs and it's awesome sandwiches (they have salads and soups, too, but today we're talking subs).

Adam has worked in the food industry for 30 years, working his way up from associate to managerial positions, and then area manager positions. When I asked him how long he's wanted his own store he said, "29 years." Sonya was less eager to take the plunge; when you're the owner of a small business you're on your own in many ways.

When Adam finally felt that his recipes were perfect (and the economy cooperated, making it possible for them to buy a shop for a fraction of the normal cost), he decided it was time. A year later they served their first customer. My family and I went for subs that first day, and I remember how great it was to be there and share in their excitement. I had the Coronado's Meatball Sub (see below), and it was heavenly. I've since tried several things on their menu and the meatball sub is still my favorite.

Adam makes most of his sauces from scratch, including the buffalo-style sauce on this Coronado's Buffalo Chicken Sub. This sub comes sweet or savory, the sweet with Coronado's own ranch mayo and the savory with bleu cheese mayo. The tangy buffalo sauce sets off both dressings beautifully.

This sandwich is called The Captain's Sub. It's Adam's sub, being the captain of the Coronado Subs family, of course. Beef brisket, pastrami, Muenster cheese, and a vinaigrette make this sub hearty and flavorful. There's also a sub called The First Mate's Sub. It's one of their speciality subs with oil-browned turkey breast, Havarti cheese, and Coronado's own cranberry mayo. Adam wanted to call it The Sonya. I believe Sonya's response was something close to, "Don't you dare." She says she doesn't like to be front and center, but I can't help wonder if it would have been just a bit weird to have people at the register, "Yeah, I'll have a Sonya, with everything on it,"

And this is my favorite, Coronado's Meatball Sub. I'll give you a moment to soak it in. I've had meatball subs before, and while edible, they weren't something I craved or went back for again and again. This meatball sub is all that and more. The Italian meatballs are perfectly seasoned and Adam pairs them with a zesty marinara sauce and melted provolone cheese. The Italian seasoning sprinkled on top gives your taste buds a first layer of flavor before you bite all the way through the cheese, marinara sauce, and finally the meatballs. It's a simple sub with nothing extra to complicate the flavors that go so perfectly together.

You want one, now, don't you? I knew you would.

The Coronado Subs team getting it done during the lunch rush. The sub shop is next to the high school, so their first rush starts around 10:45 a.m. when students from the school's first lunch walk over for something much tastier than cafeteria food. Then there's another rush around 12:25 p.m. when students from the school's second lunch, plus other folks on their lunch break (from work, shopping, driving, errands) line up--almost out the door--to buy one of the shops subs or salads.

Nation Sub Sandwich Day is Saturday, and you could just go to Subway or Togo's or another sub chain, but I really encourage you to look for a sub shop that's making it's way separate from the corporate world. And if you're in the Salt Lake Area, it's worth the trip to Riverton to get yourself some Coronado's. You'll be so glad you did! Leave me a comment if you do, and we can all bask in the Coronado-love together.

Coronado Subs is located in Riverton, Utah at 2762 West 12600 South. They're open 10:30 a.m.-9:00 p.m. Monday-Saturday (closed Sunday); their phone number is 801-254-2313. You can also follow them on Facebook.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Works For Me Wednesday: Grinding my own cornmeal

When I got my wheat grinder I stopped buying cornmeal. I buy polenta (corn grits) by the 25 pound-bag full (I love polenta) and wondered one day what would happen if I ran it through my grinder. Sure enough, it went in polenta--which is just very coarse ground corn--and it came out cornmeal! I was thrilled!

Here's the finished product after the grinder treatment. I run it through on the most coarse setting, but it still might be a bit more fine that store-bought cornmeal. It works perfect for my corn bread, though. And I can't wait to try it for a Lemon Cornmeal Cake with Blueberry Sauce Amanda from Amanda's Cookin' posted a while back. Yum.

Using my wheat grinder to make cornmeal out of polenta I already have definitely works for me.

You can go here to see more Works For Me Wednesday tips and ideas for this week.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Chicken & Dumplings Experiment

OK, so I made Chicken & Dumplings for the first time tonight. It was an experiment since I only sort of knew what I was doing (I don't think I've ever even eaten chicken & dumplings before). All I knew was dumplings are like biscuits and that they are steamed as they sit on top of the simmering soup. And when they're done they should be dry in the middle.

I used my pancake mix to make my normal biscuit dough--with some added some green onion--and then dropped spoonfuls of the dough onto the top of the simmering soup. I covered it and let the dumplings cook for 10 minutes. By then the centers were dry, but my soup had gone from brothy to thick. It makes sense to me, what with my dropping balls of dough into the broth, but I don't know if this is normal. I looked online and some of the pictures show soups that are definitely not as thick.

So I have a question for anyone who has made chicken & dumplings: What is the finished soup supposed to look like? Thick or thin? And are dumplings just steamed biscuits? Or did I end up with thick soup because I used my biscuit batter instead of mixing up "dumpling" batter?

Oh, and the dumplings are kind of gooey on the botton; is that normal?

Thanks in advance!

Homemade Yogurt

Making my own yogurt wasn't something I'd ever considered...until I read this post from The Frugal Girl. She makes her own yogurt on a weekly basis, and figures she saves over $500 a year doing so. (Read her post about why she does it here.) Making your own yogurt also means it won't have any extra added ingredients. I wasn't convinced I'd be able to pull it off, but I really wanted to try.

Her instructions are so, so easy, and they worked perfectly. You don't need special equipment, just glass quart jars, a big pot, an instant-read thermometer, and a cooler big enough to hold the jars and a gallon of water. And the taste? Smooth and very mild--even with nothing to sweeten it I could eat it straight with a spoon. Of course, it's much better with something. While berries were in season I would just crush some into the yogurt, my husband likes to eat it with granola and some honey or agave, but our favorite way is to blend it into smoothies with frozen berries (sometimes I add whey protein powder, especially if the smoothie is for breakfast).

Note: She recommends using whole milk, which I've done. I want to experiment with 2% milk, though; I've read you can add unflavored gelatin to lower-fat milk to help it set up more like whole milk.

Go HERE for the instructions. You really will be so glad you did!

My first batch of finished yogurt (I've made 3 batches at the time of this post).

Look how gorgeous it is!

A smoothie with homemade yogurt, fresh strawberries, and a frozen mix of marionberries, blueberries, and blackberries. No sugar necessary.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Gingerbread Cupcakes

I have fallen off the wagon: the check-out lane cookbooklet wagon. Ten years ago I was a check-out lane cookbooklet addict. I bought almost every one I came across. One day I finally decided I had a problem, and 1. went through my ridiculously huge collection and got rid of most of them, and 2. committed to stop buying them. I've done great all these years. Until now.

Last week I was in a forever-long line at the store and picked up the latest Betty Crocker cookbooklet to help pass the time. "Ooo, look, Bakerella and her cake pops are on the front! Good for her!" And then I turned it over and saw the back.

oooo...gingerbread cupcakes...

And before I knew what was happening, it was in my cart. In my car. On my kitchen counter.

Like I said, off the wagon. I guess now I just need to make sure I don't fill my wagon with a whole bunch of new cookbooklets.

Bakerella has a really nice, big section--Cheers for the Queen of Cake Pops! There are some really great looking things in the rest of the booklet, too, including these Gingerbread Cupcakes. I love, love, love gingerbread--gingerbread cookies are one of my top 5 favorites cookies--and I was so excited to try the cupcakes.

My kitchen smelled so good while they cooked and they had a really nice flavor. Of course, the cream cheese frosting was the perfect final touch. Don't leave out the lemon zest. I almost didn't put it in (I was feeling lazy), and I'm so glad I ended up using it. The lemon in the cream cheese frosting complemented the gingerbread perfectly. Yum.

I did alter the recipe a little. To accommodate my high altitude I reduced the sugar a little; I used half cake flour since I'm usually not happy with the texture of cakes made with all regular, all-purpose flour; I changed the spice measurements a little because I like more cinnamon, and I used cloves and nutmeg instead of allspice; I used buttermilk instead of water.

The cupcakes had a very nice crumb, but did get a little dry and crumbly after sitting in the fridge. The next time I make them I'll add some oil, probably 3 or 4 tablespoons, to see if it keeps them from getting as dry.

Note: I measured my flours by weight.

Gingerbread Cupcakes (adapted from Betty Crocker)
printable recipe

1/3 cup sugar (recipe called for 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup light molasses
2 eggs
5 oz all-purpose flour
5 oz cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup buttermilk
Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below)

1. Heat your oven to 375 and line 18 regular-sized muffin cups with paper liners.

2. In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter until creamy. Add the molasses and eggs, mixing well after each addition. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix well. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and add the buttermilk and mix well.

3. Fill each cupcake liner 1/2-2/3 the way full and bake 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pans to cooling racks. Cool completely before frosting.

The cupcakes had a gorgeous craggy top. I don't know if they were supposed to (could have been my altitude or changes I made with the flours or buttermilk), but I thought they looked cool.

Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from Betty Crocker)

1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups (1 lb) powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons cream

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Add the lemon zest, cinnamon, and vanilla and mix well. Add the powdered sugar and mix until combined and crumbly. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the cream and mix well until desired consistency.

I used a disposable decorating bag and a #808 decorating tip to pipe the frosting on the cupcakes. You could also use a huge star tip or just spread it on with a metal spatula.

More practice pictures trying to figure out my light box. I think I need brighter light blubs...

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