Sunday, October 25, 2009

More Pumpkin

I told you that I have wanting pumpkin lately! It's fall after all and nothing says fall like pumpkin and spice. So, here goes. This recipe is one that I pulled out of Cooking Light this month. I am less likely to feel guilty about baking if the recipe is one that is from Cooking Light. Maybe it's all in my head.

The picture is what drew me to this. A delicious looking cake with a nice cream cheese frosting. While cream cheese frosting isn't my favorite, I can make special exceptions. Plus, the best part? It's light!

My picture didn't turn out quite as pretty as the one in the magazine, but that's okay. Case in point:

My cake is flatter then the picture. I do have to say though, I cut this piece from the flattest part of the cake. The rest is much more springy and less condensed. Operator error I am sure.

The end results were very good! And anything when I can use my Kitchenaid is a good thing. Confession: I sometimes look for recipes that calls for a mixer just so I can use mine.

This is a moist cake made so by the canned pumpkin. It really is the star of the cake. After all, it wouldn't be a pumpkin cake without the pumpkin. The brown sugar gave it richness that white sugar couldn't, and the fact that it doesn't have much fat (butter) in it, is what makes it light.

The frosting does have a lot of powdered sugar and butter and cream cheese in it, but you aren't eating that much icing. The majority of the serving size is cake. Plus, the pieces are cut small which also helps in keeping this cake well under 200 calories a piece.

Frosted Pumpkin Cake
from: Cooking Light Magazine November 2009

10.1 ounces flour (about 2 1/4 cups)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
cooking spray

2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package (8 ounces) 1/3-less fat cream cheese
2 cups sifted powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. To prepare cake, weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.

3. Combine brown sugar, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined. Add eggs, 1 at a time, to sugar mixture; beat well after each addition. Add pumpkin; mix well. Fold in flour mixture. Spread batter into a 13x9 inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake for 25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

4. To prepare the frosting, combine 2 tablespoons butter, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and cream cheese in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until combined. Gradually add the powdered sugar, beating until well combined. Spread frosting evenly over top of cake.

Pumpkin For Breakfast

Remember when I said that fall is in the air? You know what that means? It's time for pumpkin! Starbucks has had their Pumpkin Spice Latte out for a few weeks now and I will admit that I have indulged. Quite a few times actually.

I made two pumpkin recipes this weekend. One was enjoyed this morning at breakfast. It's a recreation of Starbucks' latte. How did it turn out? It was okay. Of course, it wasn't nearly as good as the real thing, but it saved me money and a trip out of the house at 8:00 in the morning.

I prepared this recipe last night and chilled it in my baby crockpot in the fridge over night. My lovely husband then took it out of the fridge and started it at 6:00 this morning (he works swing shift and usually comes to bed around that time). So, when I woke up, I had my delicious coffee beverage waiting for me.

I would suggest using much stronger coffee than I did. While it was good, I prefer my coffee to actually taste a little like coffee. So next time I make this, it will be with the stronger stuff. Also, I imagine whipped cream would be delicious on this. I wouldn't know. I am trying not to gain too much weight during this pregnancy, so I omitted the whip. I am pretty sad about that because I think the whipped cream really adds to the flavor.

Overall, this was easy and yummy. I have some leftover for my breakfast tomorrow which makes me doubly happy.

Crockpot Pumpkin Spice Latte

2 cups milk (I used 1%)
2 tablespoons canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons white sugar (I used Splenda instead)
2 tablespoons (yes tablespoons) vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup brewed espresso or 3/4 cup strong brewed coffee

This will make enough for two people to have a big mug with a bit leftover. If you are having friends over, adjust the recipe accordingly. I used my baby crockpot (for dips and small things) for this, but you can double and use a bigger crockpot.

Add the coffee/espresso and milk to the crockpot. Whisk in the pumpkin, spices, sugar and vanilla.

Cover and cook on high for 2 hours if everything is cold. Whisk again.

See? Mine is a little pale. Use STRONG coffee!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fall Is In the Air!

When I think of fall cooking, two things immediately come to mind: Crockpots and pumpkin. Today was one of those days. I made something in the crockpot and I made something pumpkin. Not together however. That will have to wait until breakfast tomorrow. Stay tuned on that one.

I love my crockpot. It is probably my most used kitchen appliance next to my coffee maker and microwave. As you can see from prior posts, it gets a LOT of use in this house. What could be easier than throwing ingredients in in the morning and turning it on? Jason giggles because I use it so much, but he clearly loves the results.

This is a recipe I normally wouldn't make. I am not sure what caught my eye about it. Probably the fact that I love Thai food and peanut butter. So I figured why not? I have never made anything Thai inspired so it was worth a shot.

The ingredients aren't that far out there either. I didn't have to buy fish sauce or chili paste. As a matter of fact, I had all the spices on hand. All it takes is some soy sauce, garlic and red pepper flakes. Who doesn't have those things in their kitchen?

I will admit that I had to buy a few of the ingredients it calls for. I had regular peanut butter in the house, but Jason has been begging me to buy some chunky, so I obliged. I also had to buy the actual peanuts. Yes, I realize they are a garnish, but I wanted that extra crunch on top. Plus, I had to buy the turkey and the cilantro.

This was very very good. Not overwhelmingly peanut butter. I think that's probably due in part to the broth and soy sauce. Yes, you could taste the peanut butter, but you could also taste the other ingredients too. It was nice and spicy, just how we like things in this house.

I would recommend using either rice noodles or ramen (without the flavor packet) if you make this. I used just regular pasta, but I think rice noodles would be better. I didn't think about it at the time so I just bought thin spaghetti. Oh and my grocery store didn't have turkey tenderloins that weren't crazy marinated ones. So I just used turkey cutlets which were perfectly fine. You just dice the turkey up anyways.

Try this one, it's yummy! Fall is definitely in the air! Wait until you see my next post. That one DEFINITELY proves that fall is here.

Thai Turkey and Noodles
from: 365 Favorite Brand Name Slow Cooker Recipes and More

1 package (about 1.5 pounds) turkey tenderloins, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into short, thin strips
1.25 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 green onions, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter (not natural style)
12 ounces hot vermicelli pasta
3/4 cup peanuts or cashews, chopped
3/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Place turkey, bell pepper, 1 cup broth, soy sauce, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 3 hours.

Mix cornstarch with remaining 1/4 cup broth in small bowl until smooth. Turn slow cooker to high. Stir in green onions, peanut butter and cornstarch mixture. Cover and cook 30 minutes or until sauce is thickened and turkey is no longer pink in center. Stir well. Serve over vermicelli. Sprinkle with peanuts and cilantro.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fancy Macaroni and Cheese

This is neither macaroni and cheese nor is it "fancy", however, that is what my husband called it, so there you have it. It will now forever be referred to as Fancy Macaroni and Cheese.

This is a recipe off the Food Network. It's from Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis. I can remember watching the episode when she made this. It had to have been three or four years ago. Honestly though, I doubt that lady eats any of this because she's so darn skinny! And judging by the ingredients in this, you would have to have some meat on your bones.

Just looking at the picture makes me wonder how anyone can stay skinny while eating this?
However, I should point out that there are ways of making it lighter should you feel the need. Don't use as much butter as it calls for, use lean ham instead of the proscuitto, use fat-free or 1% milk rather than the whole milk. You catch my drift. Plus, you can always eat a smaller serving (surrrrre, try that, I dare you.) if you don't want to feel guilty.

This recipe's base is a bechamel sauce, which is generally a roux with a little cheese added. If you don't know what a roux is, it's butter and flour with some milk to make a white sauce. I recently made another macaroni and cheese recipe using a roux. It's not a hard task to accomplish. Knowing how to make a roux will give you the baseline to make pretty much any mac and cheese you want. The cheese is a fontina, which is delicious! It isn't your typical cheddar which many macaroni and cheese dishes use. See? Look at all these concepts that prove that this is not macaroni and cheese! Plus, it uses rigatoni pasta and not elbows.

The only downside to making this is having patience to wait for the milk to thicken. Honestly, considering how easy the rest of the recipe is, waiting 10 minutes is no big deal. And hopefully you have an easier time julienne'ing (is that a word?) the prosciutto. Mine looked like a pile o' ham rather than neat strips. It worked out in the end. I just broke it up as it went into the pan.

Enjoy! This is creamy, rich and delicious! It isn't too bad heated up the next day as lunch leftovers either.

Baked Rigatoni with Bechamel Sauce

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 quart whole milk at room temperature
pinch of nutmeg
sea salt and white pepper
1 cup grated fontina cheese
1/2 pound thinly sliced prosciutto, julienned
1 pound rigatoni
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

1. In a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth (about 2 minutes). Always stirring, gradually add the milk and continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (10 minutes). Remove from the heat and stir in nutmeg, 1/2 cup cheese, prosciutto and season with salt and pepper; set aside.

2. In a large pot, boil water, add rigatoni and cook until al dente. Drain. Return pasta to the pot and pour in bechamel sauce. Mix well.

3. Pour into a greased 13x9 inch baking dish. Smooth out top and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup fontina. Dot the top with the diced butter and bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.

I love that my picture looks pretty darn close to the one on the Food Network website. I must have done something right!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lazy Lasagna

This recipe is titled Lazy because I didn't actually assemble this lasagna today. I actually put it all together yesterday morning. Which was nice for me because then all I had to do today was bake it. This recipe is great for people who are lazy. Or, can I recommend that you assemble this and bring it to some nice new mother? I can't imagine anything better than having someone show up at my door with lasagna in hand. All I would have to do is bake it! Hint, hint.

In my cooking extravaganza yesterday, I threw together........Well, not really threw. That would have gotten messy. It was very easy to assemble, which makes me wonder, why do a lot of people hem and haw when having to make lasagna? It really wasn't hard. Maybe because they have to boil the noodles which are a pain? They do make those no-boil noodles nowadays. Easy and cuts down on the prep time. Or maybe it's because they make their sauce from scratch? They do make fairly decent jarred sauces these days.

I am sure I have made lasagna before, but I honestly can't recall a time where I made a real from-scratch one. My husband was shocked to hear that I was going to attempt. Maybe he better taste it first to make sure it passes muster. Yes, I admit. I have baked a ready-made lasagna before in times of pure laziness. Heck, those Costco ones are pretty darn good!

Notice where this recipe came from? I think this cookbook has made more appearances in my blog than anything else. What can I say? Most of the things in it are very good. With maybe one or two exceptions. This was not one of the exceptions. Meaning, it was very very good! My husband had two servings. I had one and a half servings. The only thing I would do differently is use maybe 1/2 a pound of sausage next time. The ground beef was a little bland, even though I added some spices to it in the cooking process.

The cheese was perfectly melted. The noodles, even though you don't cook them prior, were cooked. That concept is really strange to me but whatever! Very tasty. No complaints here!

Here is the lovely lasagna before baking.

Lazy-Day Overnight Lasagna
from: Pillsbury One-Dish Meals Cookbook
1 pound ground beef or mild Italian sausage
1 jar (28 ounces) spaghetti sauce
1 cup water
1 container (15 ounces) ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 egg
8 ounces uncooked lasagna noodles
1 package (16 ounces) sliced mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. In a large skillet, cook ground beef over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until thoroughly cooked, stirring frequently. Drain well. Add spaghetti sacue and water; blend well.

2. In medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, chives, oregano, and egg; mix well.

3. In ungreased 13x9 inch baking dish or lasagna pan, spread 1 1/2 cups of the meat sauce. Top with 1/2 each of the uncooked noodles, ricotta cheese mixture and mozzarella cheese. Repeat with 1 1/2 cups meat sauce and remaining noodles, ricotta cheese and mozzarella. Top with remaining meat sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cover; refrigerate 12 hours or overnight.

4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Uncover; bake 50 to 60 minutes or until noodles are tender and casserole is bubbly. Cover; let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Here is the lasagna after. Not a huge difference although the cheese is gooey and melted and starting to brown around the edges. Just the way I like it!

Early Thanksgiving

It was early Thanksgiving at our house yesterday. Although I didn't actually roast a turkey, I did roast a chicken. Really, all I wanted was stuffing. Namely, the family recipe stuffing. It's so good. I get it maybe once a year (on Thanksgiving, imagine that!) so this was a treat.

Here is a picture of my lovely chicken and roast veggies:

I started a cooking extravaganza yesterday morning. I started out by making the stuffing and then moving on to Lemon Blueberry Bread, then Lasagna for tonight's dinner and then finishing off with Hearty Chicken Vegetable Soup. In between chopping and stirring, I also managed to clean out my entire kitchen cupboards and re-organize them. I know, weird right?

This stuffing is very easy to make. If you are really lazy, I suppose you could use those premade bread cubes that they sell in the store. In my family, we always used to save the ends of breads, aka: The Heels. Or, if a loaf was starting to get a little stale, we would throw it in the freezer for the next batch of stuffing. Since our freezer space is limited, I just bought a cheapie loaf of wheat bread and toasted it up in the oven to dry it out. It worked perfectly fine!

Can you believe that with all the cooking I do I didn't have most of the spices in this recipe? I have never made stuffing at home so I didn't have the sage, rosemary or poultry seasoning. So I had to buy them. At least I will have them on hand for next time. When I was growing up, my Mom used to tell me that there's a song about these spices. Is that true? That is how she remembered which spices to add. Sage, rosemary and thyme. Or something like that.

I didn't stuff the chicken. I didn't want to mess around with that. So, I baked my stuffing in a casserole dish. Don't do what I did: Overcook the stuffing. I probably should have pulled it out of the oven at an hour rather than an hour and fifteen minutes. It was still edible, although dry. Heck, I was craving it. It could have been burned and I would have still eaten it.

Even better? I pulled it out of the refrigerator today and sliced some off to make myself a chicken and stuffing sandwich. Yay for leftovers!

from: My Mom
2 eggs, beaten
medium to large onion, chopped
one tablespoon parsley
1/4 teaspoon sage
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 1/2 loaves bread, dried, cubed
4-8 tablespoons melted butter
boiling water (enough to moisten)

* Add all ingredients together and mix with your hands. Stuff in bird or bake in a casserole dish.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bite Sized Goodness

I found this recipe from someone else's blog ( and I decided why not? After all, I love brownies. That is obvious based on the several brownie recipes I have posted before. Secondly, I figure this is portion control. Right? I can only pop one or two of these before I start to feel guilty.

These are very simple to make and awfully cute. I know my sister will agree. She likes mini things. Mini horses, mini dogs, mini cupcakes, you get the picture. As I was taking these out of the muffin cups, one accidentally broke. I can't tell you how disappointed I was. I had to eat it! Isn't that terrible? I ate it and it was mighty tasty.

These whipped up in no time. Being the nice person that I am, I am considering taking a batch of these to class with me on Wednesday. It depends on my mood and if I am feeling generous or not.

I would definitely recommend these and encourage you to make a batch. People won't be able to stop saying "awww, those are so cute!". Plus, they are really yummy with a glass of milk.

Two Bite Brownies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 24 mini-muffin cups (or an 8x8 pan).

In a large bowl, mix:
2 eggs
1 cup white sugar

6 tablespoons cocoa powder (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
Mix well.

2/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix well again.

Use heaping teaspoons to fill mini-muffin cups. Bake 10-12 minutes (watch carefully). For an 8x8 pan, bake for 25 minutes.