Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin-Cream Cheese Drop Scones with Sticky Honey Glaze

So yesterday, my family and I went to the pumpkin patch at Mitchell Farms.  And I must say, I was very, very impressed.  I've never actually been to a pumpkin patch before, and this one had a lot going on for the very reasonable price of $8.00 per person.  Plus, every one of us got to pick out a free pumpkin.

And we decided we would take a picnic lunch, so naturally I wanted to make some goodies made with, duh, pumpkin.  And I had this great idea for a recipe that I just KNEW would work.  It was a bar recipe made with pumpkin, oatmeal, and butterscotch, and everyone would just love them, and I would be the hero of the day and yada, yada, yada.

So I made these *special* bars, and the batter tasted good, and I was all "I am soooo on to something here!"  That was, until I noticed there seemed to be some very weird air pockets forming while they baked in the oven.  I let them cool, then tasted them, and although the taste was not unpleasant, the texture was like, I don't know, rubber.  So I decided to add a quick powdered sugar glaze to distract from the texture. 

I packed them anyway, but my beloved family informed me at the picnic that they did indeed taste and feel like rubber, and what was the wet stuff on them anyway, mom?  (The glaze never did dry like I had planned, either.)

But we still had a great day at the pumpkin patch, and we are definitely putting it on the schedule for next year.  We were all completely zonkered out by closing time, and the joke of the day was "I'm so hungry, I could eat a rubber pumpkin bar!"

Well, hardee-har-har. 

But I would not go down in defeat, so I made another pumpkin recipe this morning.  This one is a tried and true recipe I wrote last year.  No rubbery texture here.  I'm proud to say these won the Better Recipes pumpkin contest last fall.  I hope you like them.

Here are my notes:

-Don't worry if your cream cheese mixture is a little lumpy.  It's supposed to be.

-I used an ice cream scoop to scoop mine out onto the baking sheet.  I only got ten today because my scoop was a little big.

-I used walnuts instead of pecans this time.

-I usually start cutting in the butter with a cutter, then switch to my fingers, then back to a cutter.  It should look like fine crumbs when the butter is cut in:

-These are drop scones.  No rolling out!  Yay!

 -They are awesome just out of the oven.  Yum. 

 -The glaze truly is very sticky.

Pumpkin-Cream Cheese Drop Scones with Sticky Honey Glaze

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 large eggs
8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
The zest of one orange
1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans
1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
4 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup finely chopped pecans

1.      Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
2.      In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and 1/3 cup light brown sugar.
3.      Cut in butter, using fingertips or pastry cutter, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. 
4.      In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 eggs, the softened cream cheese, the pumpkin and the orange zest until incorporated.  Mixture will be lumpy.    
5.      Add cream cheese mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until combined.  Add pecans and stir just enough to evenly distribute pecans.
6.      Drop dough into 12 equal mounds on a baking sheet that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray, about 1 inch apart.  Brush tops with the beaten egg.   Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
7.      About 5 minutes before scones come out of the oven, make the glaze.  Place the 1/2 cup light brown sugar, the honey and 4 tablespoons butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil stirring often.  Boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat.
8.      When scones come out of oven, place them on a wire rack over a baking sheet.  Drizzle with the glaze.  Sprinkle the tops with 1/3 cup finely chopped pecans.  12 scones.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cabbage Roll Soup

So I recently signed up for a Pinterest account.

What a brilliant idea for a website.  Why didn't I join sooner?

I'm still finding my way around on there, though, and I don't really understand the whole following part yet.  Are everyone's boards open to everyone?  If they are, then why would you need to follow someone?  Am I missing a setting that makes my boards private or only open to my followers?  And what if I have a board called "Swimsuits made of Spanx with tummy control panels that I would feel somewhat comfortable in next summer?"  Can everyone in the whole wide world see that?  'Cause that might be a little embarrassing.  Maybe I'll just delete that board.  I don't have a pin on it yet anyway.  I guess I'll have to spend some more time on there and figure it all out.

So the next thing is Twitter.  Then I think I will be completely media socialized.

About this soup.  Let me just go ahead and say that this soup is, well, ugly.  Not photogenic AT ALL, although I could have helped matters by baking a pan of cornbread or adding some crusty bread to go alongside it.  A sprig of fresh dill would have jazzed it up too.  But it is what it is.  And I stand by it.  Just like Tammy Wynette stands by her man, I stand by this soup.  Not every dish can be a chocolate espresso cupcake with salted caramel buttercream and sprinkles, now, can it?  Nope.  Eventually, one has to be nourished.  And this soup will do it.

So my inspiration was obviously cabbage rolls.  And what I love about this soup is the dill weed.  In fact, next time I think I'll increase it a little more.  Nothing complicated in this recipe, folks.

Here are my notes:

-Like I said, I might have upped the dill weed a bit to 3 teaspoons but I was afraid my family wouldn't like it.  The seasonings are always adjustable to taste.  Fresh dill would be better, but I don't have access to the fresh.

-I think ground turkey would be great in this, or maybe a combo ground beef /ground pork.  Or maybe some bulk sausage.

-I thinly sliced my own cabbage, but I have used a bag of coleslaw mix in the past and it works perfectly.  My daughter's only complaint about this soup when I made it today was that my cabbage needed to be shredded more finely.  Try the coleslaw mix in the bags.

-I always like to cook my rice or pasta separately from my soup base.  I just add a scoop of rice to the bowl first, then ladle the hot soup over it.  That way, the rice doesn't continue to swell and swell as it absorbs the water.

-I used brown rice, but white would be fine.

-As with all soups, the flavor gets better and better as it sets.  It's much better the next day.

-This is pretty darn cheap to make.  And healthy too.  Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable, you know.

-Make sure you dig those bay leaves out of the soup before serving.  People can get choked on them.  So don't play "Whoever gets the bay leaf in their bowl wins!"  If you want to play games at the table, try balancing a spoon on the end of your nose.  No one should get hurt that way.

Cabbage Roll Soup

1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
6 cups of water
6 chicken bouillon cubes
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons dried dill weed
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 head shredded cabbage or 1 bag coleslaw mix
3-4 cups cooked rice

Cook ground beef in a Dutch oven medium-high heat until crumbled and done.  Drain grease.  Add onion, garlic, and bell pepper and cook until vegetables are soft.  Add 6 cups of water and 6 bouillon cubes.  (Or substitute 6 cups of chicken stock or broth.)  Stir in the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes.  Add bay leaves, paprika, dill weed, and brown sugar.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the cabbage and cook just until tender, but not too soft.

To serve, place a spoonful of rice in a bowl, then ladle hot soup over the top.  Store rice and soup separately in fridge.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Biscoff Banana Cannoli Sandwiches

Can you tell that Biscoff spread has swept me off my feet?  It most certainly has and now I think my daughter may be more addicted than I am.  That's why she jumped on the chance to create a Biscoff recipe with me for their Lunch Envy Challenge contest.  We put our heads together and came up with an easy and fun recipe geared towards kids, but I'll be honest here--we've eaten more than a few of these ourselves.  We were inspired by our love of cannolis, but we managed to sneak in some healthy components to our dessert-like recipe to make it a nutritious lunch for growing kids.

And speaking of kids, guess who loves our recipe as much as we do?

Him.  That's who.

So here's our super simple recipe for the Biscoff Lunch Envy Challenge.  If you are a food blogger, check out the rules here.  You still have time to enter for a chance to win two iPads among other prizes! 

Biscoff Banana Cannoli Sandwiches

1 whole grain thin sandwich round bread, split in half horizontally
2 tablespoons Biscoff spread
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1 medium banana
1/3 cup whole grain cereal with nuts, finely crushed

Flatten each sandwich bread half with a rolling pin until very thin.  Spread each half with 1 tablespoon Biscoff, followed by 1 tablespoon ricotta cheese, spreading to the edges.  Peel banana and cut in half horizontally. Place the crushed cereal on a plate or shallow dish. Place each banana half in the center of each sandwich.  Press the bread around the banana, slightly pressing a small amount of the filling out.  Dip the edges and ends of the sandwich in the cereal, pressing to coat well.  2 sandwiches.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Peanut Butter-Stuffed Gourmet Caramel Apples (Look, Ma! No core!)

Question:  What's better than a caramel apple coated in chocolate, white chocolate, and butterscotch drizzles, then sprinkled with peanuts and crushed candy bars?

Answer:  A caramel apple that has had it's core removed, then had the hole filled with a sweet peanut butter filling, then is coated in chocolate, white chocolate, and butterscotch drizzles, then sprinkled with peanuts and crushed candy bars Duh, silly!

I started making these gourmet apples a few years ago to get rid of the major flaw of caramel apples everywhere--the inedible core. (Inedible unless you're a horse.)  The core kind of interrupts the whole caramel apple flow for me, so I removed it, then stuffed the hole with a sweet peanut butter filling.  *pats self on back, then high fives self*

Read my notes carefully before attempting this recipe.  It's not hard, but there are some tricks.

And remember....friends don't make friends eat around the core.

Here are my notes:

-I used one bag of caramel bits with 2 tablespoons of water.  You could also use the caramels that have to be unwrapped, but the bits are SO much easier.  I used 2 medium green apples and two medium red apples, and there was just enough caramel to cover those.  (And I mean NO extra.)  It's going to depend on the size of your apples how much caramel you will need.  You may want to buy 2 bags to be on the safe side.

-I used an apple corer to remove the cores.  May be worth investing in if you don't already have one.

-I used a spoon to push the peanut butter filling into the apple holes, but a piping bag may have been easier.  You can see from the picture above that the filling is being pushed through to the other side, although it's not quite there yet.

-The dowels I used worked really well.  They had a tapered end, but were not super pointy or sharp. I'm sure you could use the popsicle sticks that come with the caramel.  I just like the look of a really long dowel or stick in my caramel apples, plus they're easier to hold.

-Wipe off any water, juice, or excess peanut butter from your apples so the caramel will stick well.

-Do NOT forget to spray the wax paper with cooking spray!  We're talking caramel here.  Sticky, sticky, sticky.

-I used semisweet chocolate ships, white melting disks, and butterscotch ships for my drizzle because that's what I had on hand.  The chocolate chips and white disks melted perfectly.  I added about a tablespoon of cream to thin out the butterscotch chips and make it drizzleable.  (Is drizzleable a word?)  I used approximately 1/2 cup of each, but I didn't really measure.  Melt them in a microwaveable bowl, in 30 second intervals, stirring several times between heatings.  Shouldn't take over about 90 seconds.  Stir until smooth.  I put mine in little quart sizefreezer bags used as piping bags.

-I had enough peanut butter filling left to fill one more apple, but not enough caramel cover another apple.  Was this a problem for me?  Uh, no.  I just ate the rest with a spoon.

-I let the caramel covered apples set up in the refrigerator for about an hour before drizzling, then I let put them back in the fridge again to let the chocolate harden.  Let them come to room temperature before eating!  The caramel gets really hard in the fridge.  It really needs to soften to room temperature.

-I used what I had on hand to do my sprinkling which were peanuts and crushed Butterfinger candy bars, but how cute would some colorful M & M's be?  The options are endless.

-Obviously the dowel will not be secure if it is poked just through the peanut butter filling, so turn the apple on it's side and poke it in that way, through the hole and into the other side, but not exiting out of the apple.

-These would make great gifts.  Place them in a clear gift bag, then tie with some ribbon or raffia.  

-The green apples were definitely more perfectly round in shape, and when covered with the caramel you couldn't tell that they were on their side like the red ones which looked a little bit wonky.  I just prefer the taste of the red apples.  Use whatever you want.

-And if one of your apples doesn't stand straight like the other ones, is this cause for alarm?  I think not.  There are worse things in the world. 

Like having to eat around an apple core. :)

Peanut Butter-Stuffed Gourmet Caramel Apples

1/2 cup peanut butter
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup finely crushed graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 medium apples, washed and thoroughly dried
Non-stick cooking spray
1 (11-ounce) bag caramel bits
2 tablespoons water
4 wooden dowel rods, about 12 inches long, 1/4-inch diameter, found in the craft section
1/2 cup chocolate chips or bark or melting disks
1/2 cup white chocolate chips or bark or melting disks
1/2 cup butterscotch chips or bark or melting disks
Chopped peanuts for sprinkling
Chopped Butterfinger candy bars for sprinkling

  1. In a small mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter, butter, graham cracker crumbs, and powdered sugar until smooth.  Set aside. 
  2. Core each apple with an apple corer.  Divide the peanut butter mixture evenly between the apples, filling or stuffing each hole using a spoon.  (use the spoon to push the mixture into the hole.)  Level off excess peanut butter mixture at ends.  Turn each apple on its side.  Insert a skewer into the middle of the side of each of the apples, through the peanut butter filled hole, and about halfway through the next side.  Set aside.
  3. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Heat the caramel bits and water in a medium heavy saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth, stirring often.  Dip apples into melted caramel one at a time, spooning caramel over apples to coat.  Let excess drip off and place apples on wax-paper, skewer straight up (apples may not stand up perfectly straight, but that’s okay).  Refrigerate for about 1 hour, or until caramel sets.
  4. Place each of the three kinds of chips in a small microwave-safe bowl and heat one at a time on high heat for 60-90 seconds, stirring every 30 seconds, until chips are melted and smooth.  Fill 3 zip lock sandwich bags with each of the melted chips, pressing to one corner like a pastry bag.  Cut a very small hole (no more than an 1/8 of inch) in the corner of each bag.   Pipe stripes up and down the apple by squeezing the mixture gently through the hole while turning the apple with the skewer.  Sprinkle apples with the chopped peanuts and/or Butterfingers.  Refrigerate for 10 minutes or until chocolate hardens.  Bring to room temperature before eating. 

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