Pumpkin Pie Hot Chocolate

October 31, 2009

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I am one of those people whose always cold, even in the peak of summer… (and no, I am not a vampire!) In the colder months, I always warm up to cups and more cups of hot drinks. I usually go for my basic green-tea, but in the fall season, I usually crave for a little something special like this one. Red is usually the opposite of me, preferring something cold instead of warm, but he actually enjoyed this drink. If you love hot chocolate and anything pumpkin flavor, you should try this. And if you would like a little bit more caffeine kick, substitute the coffee granules with espresso granules!! This drink will warm up your soul! Happy Halloween!

Adapted from Group Recipes

Ingredient

1/4 tsp vanilla extract .
1 1/2 tbsps cocoa powder .
4 -1/2 c milk
1/4 tsp pumpkin spice .
2 1/2 tbsps sugar .
1/8 tsp almond extract .
2 tsps instant coffee powder

Directions

In a stove up, heat up the milk in a 2-quart sauce pan on medium low. When milk is warm, add the almond & vanilla extract. Stir.

Add the cocoa powder and whisk constantly until all of the coffee granules dissolve. Instant coffee powder and continue to whisk.

(At this point, I taste my drink and adjust some flavorings to taste. I added a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream for richness, and used Splenda instead of regular sugar).

Serve with homemade whipped cream.

Yield: 2

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Homemade Applesauce

October 30, 2009

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Yea I know, I know… I’m sure every house in America is baking or cooking with some sort of apples right now. But I really couldn’t help it–I had to find something to use up the leftover apples at the house that used them all up and I actually ran out of ideas of what to do with these apples! Some recipes called for a lot more, some called for a lot less. Since I only had several apples left, I did not have enough to make a whole batch–but this recipe was so flexible that I went ahead and made this! It was delicious, although Red reminded me gently that he doesn’t like apple sauce. I know that I can find a wonderful bread or cake or other baked goods that call for applesauce!

Adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients

2 large navel oranges, zested and juiced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 6 to 8 apples)
3 pounds sweet red apples, such as Macoun, McIntosh, or Winesap (about 6 to 8 apples)
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the zest and juice of the oranges and lemon in a large bowl. Peel, quarter, and core the apples (reserving the peel of 2 of the red apples) and toss them in the juice. Pour the apples, reserved apple peel, and juice into a nonreactive Dutch oven or enameled iron pot. Add the brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, and allspice and cover the pot. Bake for 1 hour, or until all the apples are soft. Remove and discard the red apple peel. Mix with a whisk until smooth, and serve warm or at room temperature.


Pear Clafouti

October 29, 2009

I have been waiting all summer long to make this simple pear dessert from Barefoot in Paris. I am always in the lookout for simple rustic dessert like this one to try and I was looking forward to make this dessert when pears are beautiful in the fall. A few weeks ago, I tried to hunt down some pears from my local grocery store and didn’t see any nice looking pears. But their Asian pears look amazingly perfect, so I bought those instead. And with the luck of the draw, the groceries somehow incorrectly priced these pears.  I came out from the check out lane terrified that I had just paid $12 for four of these pears. I turned around and inquired about the price disrepancy … and voila, they told me that I would receive these pears for free since they made a mistake. I came out feeling like a winner!

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But seriously, aside that it made me excited that I got one of my ingredients for free, this dessert was a gem! If you’re looking for a different type of dessert that is not a pie, a cake, or a cheesecake–this is worth trying! I did not have pear brandy or lemon zest, so I skipped those. But I still adored the flavor! The house smelled amazing when it was baking in the oven. The custard was delicious and the sweetness of the pears complemented the creamy and light–and not too sweet batter. I will definitely make this again, probably trying different type of fruits.

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Ingredients

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons pear brandy (recommended: Poire William)
2 to 3 firm but ripe Bartlett pears
Confectioners’ sugar
Creme fraiche

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter a 10 by 3 by 1 1⁄2-inch round baking dish and sprinkle the bottom and sides with 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar.

Beat the eggs and the 1⁄3 cup of granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. On low speed, mix in the flour, cream, vanilla extract, lemon zest, salt, and pear brandy. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel, quarter, core, and slice the pears. Arrange the slices in a single layer, slightly fanned out, in the baking dish. Pour the batter over the pears and bake until the top is golden brown and the custard is firm, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar, and creme fraiche.

Yield: 8 servings


Power of Pink: Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

October 28, 2009

To promote October as a breast cancer awareness month, I wanted to make something pink. Jen from the Beantown Baker started this challenge last year, and I knew that I wanted to participate this year.  Since fall is truly here, I decided to whip up something with pumpkin flavor. I knew that several of my co-workers and friends really enjoy pumpkin flavor and cream-cheese frosting and I have been wanting to try this quick (seriously, very quick) recipe for pumpkin cupcakes.

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Whether you’re making or enjoying these delightful pink treats, please remember the importance of early detection and prevention to fight this deadly disease. Check out the websites for National Breast Cancer Foundation for more information on how we can all make a difference!

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Source: Blissfully Delicious original, inspired by several recipes on the Internet

Ingredients

1 box of yellow cake mix
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tsp of pumpkin-pie spices
5 tbsp of homemade applesauce
1 (15-oz) can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

Directions

Mix the eggs, homemade applesauce, pumpkin and spices together in a mixing bowl until smooth.

Add the cake mix.  Blend until smooth. Divide batter into 18 muffin cups.

Bake at 350 degree for 17 minutes.

Yield: 18

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from The Cake Bible

Ingredients

3 (3-ounce) bars white chocolate (I use Ghirardelli)
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
6 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Directions

Break the chocolate into squares & place in the top of a double boiler set over very hot water (no hotter than 160F) on low heat. The water must not touch the bottom of the double boiler insert.

Remove the double boiler from the heat & stir until the chocolate begins to melt. Return to the heat if the chocolate cools, but be careful that it does not get too hot. Stir 10 seconds or until smooth. (The chocolate may be melted in a microwave IF STIRRED EVERY 15 SECONDS. Remove before fully melted & stir, using residual heat to complete the melting.) Allow to cool.

In a mixing bowl beat the cream cheese (preferably with a flat beater) until smooth & creamy. Gradually beat in the cooled chocolate until smoothly incorporated. Beat in the butter & lemon juice. Rebeat at room temperature to ensure smoothness before frosting.


Zucchini Ricotta Cheesecake

October 27, 2009

This was a recipe that I have tried a couple of months ago, but I haven’t gotten around to blog about it! I found myself with about two cups of leftover shredded zucchini and tried to find a way to use them up. Then I saw this recipe on Heidi Swanson’s website, which quickly intrigued me. I like cheesecakes, but have never tried a savory kind.  I decided to pick up some ricotta cheese and decided to try this!

Ricotta Cheesecake

I don’t have the size of pan that she had recommended for the recipe, which I believe made the tart a lot thinner than what Heide would have intended. But I didn’t mind it thinner, since it’s a cheesecake. I really like the flavor, however I must have either used too much lemon zest, but it was too lemony for my taste. I would definitely try this again, since this is great recipe–but I will try it with a lot less lemon, and use a thicker pan.

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Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

2 cups zucchini, unpeeled & grated
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
2 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
zest of one lemon
2 large eggs, well beaten
1/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled
drizzle of olive oil

Preheat oven to 325F degrees, racks the middle. Butter/oil a 7-inch springform pan.

In a strainer, toss the shredded zucchini with the salt and let sit for ten minutes. Now aggressively squeeze and press out as much moisture as you can. Set aside.

In the meantime, combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, shallots, garlic, dill and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Stir in the eggs and continue mixing until well combined. Now stir in the shredded zucchini. Fill the spring form pan with the ricotta mixture and place on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for sixty minutes. If there is any moisture left on top of the cake at this point, carefully use a bit of paper towel to dab it off. Now sprinkle with the goat cheese and return to the oven for another 20 -30 minutes or until the goat cheese is melted and the cake barely jiggles in the center (it will set up more as it cools).

At this point, if the cake is baked and set, but the top isn’t quite golden, I’ll zap it with the broiler (just about a minute) to get a bit more color on top. Remove from the oven and let cool five minutes, then release the cake from its pan. Cool completely, serve at room temperature drizzled with a bit of olive oil and a few sprigs of dill.

Serves 8.


Overnight Honey-Wheat Rolls

October 26, 2009

I love getting together with friends for a great meal.  There is something so soothing about having a great homemade meal surrounded by close friends.  I’m so lucky that my friends love my cooking and baking (…at least, in front of me they claim that they do!). They understand that I have this obsession with keeping a mental list of items that I’d like to make on the weekends. I usually know what I am going to bake when–and I usually have an idea of what I am going to make for a dinner party a few weeks ahead.

I have been singing the praises of homemade breads, and I have been wanting to make this overnight honey wheat rolls when I saw the recipe several weeks ago. The beauty of this recipe that it doesn’t require kneading (yey!!), but then it needs to sit overnight, which can work both to your advantages or disadvantage! It’s a huge advantage because you have one less thing to do on the day that you need them. But at the same time, you need to plan well, since this dough needs to rise overnight in a refrigerator.

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These rolls turned out to be a crowd-pleasing when we brought these over to our friends’ house for dinner. They had a nice soft crisp skin in the outside with a nice texture inside, with just enough hint of honey. I forgot to cover these as soon as I made them into knots (and as a result they didn’t rise right away!). When I noticed that they didn’t rise, I covered them for about 45 minutes and they had a nice rise to them (not doubled as the recipe stated below). Everyone loved them, and we enjoyed them not only for dinner, but also for breakfast!

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Adapted from Taste of Home Holiday-Thanksgiving 2009

Ingredients

1-1/4 cup warm water (110 to 120 degrees F)
1 package (1/4 ounce) active dried yeast
2 egg whites
1/3 cup honey
1/4 canola oil
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 -1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons kosher salt
Melted butter, optional

Directions

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in a 1/4 cup of warm water. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add yeast mixture, honey, oil, salt, whole wheat flour and remaining water. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes or until smooth. Stir in enough all-purpose flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky–and I had to add a tablespoon of water to make it moist, due to the humidity in my kitchen). Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a well-floured surface, divide in half. Shape each portion into nine-balls. To form knots, roll each ball into a 10-in rope; tie into a knot. Tuck ends under. Place rolls 2-inch apart on a greased baking sheets.

Cover and let rise until doubled, about 50 minutes. Bake at 375 degree for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with melted butter if desired.

Yield: 1 to 1-1/2 dozens


Dulce de Leche

October 25, 2009

I first tried dulce de leche flavor in a pint of Haagen Dazs ice-cream. I thought that it tasted like caramel, but with so much more depth and character to it. I enjoyed the flavor so much that I finished an entire pint of Haagen-Dazs in one sitting… yea, my connection to that flavor was that strong!  There was nothing like coming home to pint of this deliciousness after a long hard-day at work. When I moved to Iowa, I was no longer able to find this kind of ice-cream at our local grocery stores. I would like to call it a blessing of disguise, since daily consumption of Haagen-Dazs ice-cream would provide a significant challenge to my waist line.

Finally, after a couple years of denying myself this wonderful flavorful caramelized milk, I decided to try making my own… after all, the girl has to have something we call “shameless indulgence” right? I landed on David Lebovitz’ website and saw that he had a recipe for homemade dulce de leche. It sounded simple enough, using condensed milk and a pinch of salt, and throw it in the oven for a little bit over an hour. There was also another recipe from Chez Pim that uses whole milk, which I know that I will try in the future when I have a little bit more time (and patience). But for now… I am enjoying the fruit of my labor: my very own sweet intoxicating… dulce de leche… and *I still wonder why I waited so long to try this!*

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Adapted from The Perfect Scoop (Ten Speed Press)

Ingredients
1 can (14-oz) sweetened condensed milk
a pinch of salt

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425° F (220° C).

Pour one can (400 gr/14 ounces) of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk) into a glass pie plate or shallow baking dish. Stir in a few flecks of sea salt.

Set the pie plate within a larger pan, such as a roasting pan, and add hot water until it reaches halfway up the side of the pie plate.

Cover the pie plate snugly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 to 1¼ hours. (Check a few times during baking and add more water to the roasting pan as necessary).
Once the Dulce de Lecheis nicely browned and caramelized, remove from the oven and let cool. Once cool, whisk until smooth.
Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Warm gently in a warm water bath or microwave oven before using.