May 31, 2010

Pumpkin Waffles

I woke up Saturday morning itching to make something with the pumpkin puree defrosting in the fridge. My first thought was to make pumpkin bread, or muffins with a tried and true recipe, but it just didn't sound as exciting. I thought about making pancakes, but M and I would probably rather have waffles when given the chance... so waffles it was. Pumpkin waffles. 

I remembered a recipe posted on Smitten Kitchen a while back and decided to give it a try. The result was pretty fantastic. They are not too sweet, and the taste and texture is much better than mix from a box. I was kind of amazed at the amount of waffles the batter made. I expected to get a few since there are two cups of buttermilk and flour, but I felt like I was cooking waffles for 30 minutes! Maybe my waffle iron is slow. I wouldn't doubt it. I did turn on the oven to keep them warm while they were cooking. A great trick if you are serving them for your family and you want to eat at the same time. But it was useless because M and I each ate only one belgian style waffle. 

The only change to the recipe was using pumpkin I roasted and pureed in the food processor instead of canned. I have nothing against canned pumpkin though, it is one of the best canned vegetables you can by since it has the least added to it. I also toasted a handful of walnuts to add to the top. I think the walnuts are a necessity. A delightful crunch to an already tasty bite. Since the batter made so many, I froze the rest and am hoping they will make a good quick breakfast when the need arises. 

Pumpkin Waffles
Smitten Kitchen recipe

2 1/2 C flour
1/3 C light brown sugar
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
4 large eggs, separated
2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
6 T unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil for brushing waffle iron or cooking spray
1 T per waffle of coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted 
Preheat oven to 250°F and preheat waffle iron. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, brown sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, and spices. In another large bowl, whisk egg yolks with buttermilk, pumpkin, and butter until smooth. Whisk in dry ingredients just until combined.
In a mixing bowl with a whisk attachment or using a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks (they should fold over slightly when you remove the beater. Folk them gently into the waffle batter, until just combined.
Spray your waffle iron with cooking spray and and spoon batter into waffle iron, spreading quickly. For a 7-8 inch belgian waffle, I used 3/4 C batter. Cook in medium high heat until there is almost no steam escaping.
Transfer waffles to rack in oven to keep warm and crisp. Top with real Maple syrup and toasted Walnuts. 
To toast walnuts, spread them onto a cookie sheet and bake in your already heating oven for 10-15 minutes - or until fragrant. You can also spread them onto a skillet and toast over medium-low heat on the stovetop until fragrant and crisp. I like to taste them for doneness. 

May 29, 2010

Easy Bake cOven - Blondies

This month, I decided to ask everyone to make whatever recipe they wanted. Usually one member selects the recipe of the month, but I thought it would be fun to see what people made when given the chance. It is sometimes hard to find time to make the chosen recipe; either for lack of time, or lack of event that needs baked goods. I'm always looking for these events so M and I don't eat ourselves into sugar comas. Don't laugh, I'm not joking here. Food comas happen and sugar comas can happen too, thankfully not too often. 

I know it has been a while since I last posted, so before I share with you the recipe pictured above, I'll tell you a little about what's been happening this past month…. 

Work was busy during the beginning of the month. It's good to be busy. I'm pretty sure that M and I had something going on almost every night of the week before we left for vacation… and then we left for vacation. We visited family on the East coast, and set foot in the state of Texas to see more family courtesy of our unexpected layover. I didn't bake anything 3/4 of the month, but made it all up the Sunday after we returned. 

Since I am making our office birthday cakes now, I needed two for this past Monday. Yes, two. Why share on your birthday? And when my office has the opportunity for more cake, they will definitely take it. (The standing joke is screening new hires for birthday months we don't currently have). I also needed a sample cake for a large party I'm doing next weekend. Ambitious yes, possible yes. I even had time for a movie, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you have one of those squishy gel mats they advertise for chefs in the back of my design magazines. Tired feet. 

So that Sunday I made ten six inch cake rounds, and assembled a single layer cake, a double layer cake, and a triple layer cake. The other layer is hanging out in the freezer for now. I guess you could say I made up for all of that non baking in one giant swoop. Satisfying. I'm not posting about cake though. I'm posting about Blondies. The ultimate cookie-bar-brownie-like dessert. They have chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut flakes, and walnuts. That is a lot of stuff in one bite. They are extremely sweet and will probably give you cavities if you don't brush you teeth, but I say worth eating. And worth passing out to your friends (remember - avoid sugar coma). I made these once before and it was a catastrophe. My oven would not ignite, my batter sat too long on the counter, and the leavening reacted too early. Later we learned to turn off the heater when we needed to start the oven - our 1920's era apartment may not have the necessary electrical service required to support all of our gadgets. Someday I'll have a kitchen of my own (with two ovens) and baking ten cakes in one day will literally be a  piece of cake. 

Be sure to check out the Easy Bake cOven blog for more recipe entries this month. 

adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours, Dorie Greenspan
Baking: From My Home to Yours

2 C flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 C light brown sugar
1/4 C sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 C chocolate chips
1 C Butterscotch chips
1 C walnuts
1 C shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 325˚F. Butter a 9x13 inch baking pan. (I don't have one so I used a 10x15 inch jelly roll pan - it makes thinner blondies - but for the thick version use a 9x13 pan). 

Cream Butter for 3 minutes with the paddle attachment. Add sugars and cream again until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix for one minute in between. Add vanilla and mix until incorporated. 

Mix the dry ingredients together and add slowly to the mixer. Mix on low speed until just combined. (this means there might be a little flour visible). Add chips, nuts, and coconut with a spatula - or if you are feeling risky you can use the mixer on low. Spread the batter into the pan and even out the top. Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is nice and golden and the bars begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. A knife tested in the center should come out clean unless you happen to stick it into a melted chocolate piece. 

Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, invert, and turn topside up to finish cooling. Cut into bars - yields 32. 

May 7, 2010

The Lovely Lady Baker Cooks Shrimp Tacos

Sometimes when I need a mental break at work, I think about dinner. I try and remember what is in the fridge that we need to eat, and what I might need to pick up from the store on my way home. I'm trying to be better at meal planning, even if it only happens a few hours in advance. The night I made these shrimp tacos, I actually had everything on hand except corn tortillas. Lucky for me the grocery store is one block from work, or another one block from home. I decided to stop after work rather than settle for a vegan corn tortilla (probably minus the corn) that I might find at my local market. I do love that little grocery store, but sometimes you need really good corn tortillas. 

I got home fairly late after my first outdoor swim since I've lived in SF. Burrrrrrrrr. (I would have added more r's but I guess my point gets across all the same). Yep, it was really windy. I thought of my sweet parents when scaled the steps into the 55˚ air. They would stand at the end of the pool during our chilly night swim meets in the suburbs of KC with a towel in hand ready to wrap my sister and I up like burritos as soon as we got out of the pool. I think they did this even in to our teens. How nice it would have been! 

So, since I was so late (and cold), I was happy to make a quick dinner (more time to thaw in a hot shower). I started some Spanish rice. I like the Near East brand of rice - good every time. Then I defrosted and shelled some shrimp. Once the rice was halfway done, I sauteed corn and shrimp together with some spices until cooked and lightly fried some corn tortillas. I made Mango and Avocado salsa the night before, sliced a radish and shredded some cabbage. The whole dinner was ready in just over 20 minutes and it was tasty! I'm not a big fan of mangos by themselves, but within a sauce (like mango ketchup) or combined with other foods, they are much better. 

The combination of shrimp and corn, spicy radishes, citrusy salsa, and crunchy cabbage was great. You could use a variation of toppings, we just happened to have all of these items on hand. Hopefully the mangos will be just as tasty the next time we have an inkling for island-style tacos. Maybe we'll try making sweet potato fries like one of our favorite cheap seafood restaurants here in SF, Pacific Catch

Mango & Avocado Salsa

1 mango diced
1 avocado diced
1 small tomato seeded and diced
1/4 C diced red onion
1 jalapeno minced (and seeded if you don't like spicy)
1 clove garlic minced
1 tsp salt
juice of 1/2 a lime

Mix all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate. Serve within 1 day of preparing. 

Shrimp and Corn Tacos
Serves 2 with leftovers

12 - 16 shrimp (enough for 3-4 per taco)
1/2 C frozen corn
1/4 C diced onion
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp old bay seasoning
1-2 radishes sliced thin
1 C thinly shredded cabbage

Heat 1 T olive oil over medium heat, add corn, onion, and saute for 1 minute. Add the shrimp and seasonings and saute until shrimp are cooked through but not overdone. About 8 minutes total. Set aside.

To make the tortillas: 
Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a small saucepan over medium high heat. Test a tortilla for heat - if the oil is ready, it will start to bubble as soon as you touch the tortilla to it. Gently lower the tortilla into the oil and cook 10 seconds on one side. Flip and cook another 8 seconds, or until it puffs up. Drain on a towel. Repeat with the remaining amount of tortillas you need. 

To assemble:
Spoon some corn onto the hot tortilla, add shrimp, mango salsa, radishes, and cabbage. Serve immediately with rice. Beans would be good too! 


May 4, 2010

Nutty Nutty Bar Cookies

Not your typical Little Debby bar, but two thousand times better... and not to forget better for you (I mean ingredients you can name here - not health food). I made some bar cookies for our second Tea and Tales Book Exchange, and they happened to be loaded with nuts. It seemed appropriate to call them "Nutty Bars" and think back to my slight addiction to the Little Debby version in my childhood. We didn't have the healthiest snacks in the pantry (our neighborhood friends loved visiting the kitchen), which may pinpoint my chubby phases, but none the less, these cookie bars topped with your choice of nuts, puts peanut butter and wafers to shame. 

My friend Joey and I throw a mean tea party. Joey is in charge of the savory and I'm in charge of the sweet. Our guests usually bring a good assortment of supplements as well. At our first tea party, we had so much food you couldn't see the counter. We did a lot better this time, and still had fantastic foods. Joey made Sausage Rolls with Sweet Hot Mustard, a surprisingly delicious combination, and I made cookie bars. We also served some left over tarts that Joey filled and decorated. We had fresh fruit, pear and brie sandwiches on tiny pumpernickel bread, and assortment of pastries that our friends brought over. 

Photo Courtesy Design Sponge, Photographer Kristina Gill

We had a smaller group than last time, but I still ended up with about 20 left over books on the coffee table to deliver to our neighborhood bookstore. Since we had a manageable group, we actually sat around and discussed some of the books, rather than relying on the blurb on the back written by some witty critic. A bunch of 20-30 something women are much better critics.... We also, left to our own measures, will offer scrunched facial expressions and hmmms when we read the first line of books like, "Before my life started properly, I was doing the usual mewling and sucking, which in my case occurred on a pair of huge, soft black breasts." from The Power of One, Bryce Courtenay. After we are all confused to what this book might be about I took the liberty to read the first 10 pages. No, its not what you think, its about a child growing up with an African wet nurse among an Afrikaans speaking people who himself only knew english. Apparently as the title suggests, he learns the Power of One at some point. I may keep this one around just to see.... 

I had a lot of nutty bars left over that I will probably contribute to the Bake sale at M's office. I switched around the recipe a bit, hopefully you are no longer surprised by this revelation. The recipe called for a 9 x 13 inch pan but I didn't want massively thick bars, so I used my 10 x 15 inch jelly roll pan instead. I mentioned before you can use whichever nuts make you happy, and I used chopped Pecans, Walnuts, and Almonds in a 2, 2, 1 ratio. I also reduced the sugar a bit, but it probably could be reduced even more. They freeze exceptionally well, and since they make so many this is a good thing. The addition of buttermilk provides a nice balance to the sweet crust and nuts. The options are endless you could also add coconut which would crisp nicely, and drizzle them with chocolate or a dusting of powdered sugar. Maybe you will should make them for your next summer party. 

Nutty Bars - or - Mixed Nut Bars
adapted from The Biggest Book of Cookies, Better Homes and Gardens
Biggest Book of Cookies: 475 All-Time Favorites (Better Homes & Gardens)

2 C flour
3/4 C butter
1/3 C brown sugar
1 C sugar
1 C buttermilk
3 eggs
1/4 C butter melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 C coarsely chopped mixed nuts (no peanuts though)

To make the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, mix butter, flour and brown sugar until fine and crumbly. Pat it evenly into an ungreased 10 x 15 inch pan. Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven. 

To make the filling:
Dust out the mixer bowl, and add to it eggs, sugar, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla. Mix on high for 2 minutes, then add the nuts and mix to coat. Pour over the partially baked crust and spread out the nuts evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes more, or until the center is set and it is beginning to turn golden brown. Cool in the pan on a wire rack until the pan is cool enough to grab by your hand. Then stick it into the freezer for about 20 minutes. This will make it much easier to cut. cut into 3 inch by 1 inch bars. Stack them up like jenga blocks to serve.

May 3, 2010

Meatless Mondays

Image courtesy of Make a Whisk

Meatless Mondays. Has a nice ring to it. Kind of like Wordless Wednesdays from one of the blogs I follow. Meatless Mondays is a non-profit initiative in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, determined to help reduce meat consumption by 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet. Endorsed by Paul McCartney and Michael Pollan, the campaign has achieved social status and reached our city leaders here in SF.

Recently, San Francisco supervisor Sophie Maxwell introduced this movement to the Board of Supervisors, who passed a resolution for the Bay Area to follow suit and try and reduce meat consumption on Mondays. This resolution is extending from home, to restaurants, and public schools to encourage vegetarian options for consumption on Mondays. Although it cannot be enforced, at least our political community is aware of the overconsumption of meat and the consequences it causes.  

The Meatless Mondays website gives some history on how our country has done this successfully in the past, during both world wars. Spearheaded by Herbert Hoover, during the World War, Americans living in New York City saved 116 tons of meat in one week. They passed out pamphlets and recipes, much like the MM website has done today. This campaign began in 2003 as an awareness campaign to help Americans reduce saturated fats and reduce the risk of preventable disease, like heart disease. 

The website also has an assortment of Recipes to try for all meals. Surely there is something in there for us all. I really like this idea and starting Monday, today, M and I are going to follow suit and not eat meat on Mondays. We have drastically cut our meat consumption over the past two years or so, but having a day set aside specifically for vegetarian meals is a good thing. It is also easy to plan for, and not easy to pass up since it is the beginning of the week. If it were meatless Thursdays, we could possibly end up going out for chinese food and having a hard time passing up green bean chicken.... 

So to all of you out there who might be up for a change, a healthy change, join us for Meatless Mondays next week. 

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