Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ilse's Passover Mocha Nut Cake or more simply Ilse's Cake

I’m not sure how my Papa Alex fell in love with our beloved Ilse, but I believe it had something to do with her cooking. I was young when my Bubby died and I know my Papa was very sad. However it wasn’t too long until he found Ilse and we all discovered that the way to a man and a family’s heart is through their stomachs. Ilse was a tremendous comfort to Papa which made me comfortable too- because if Papa was happy, well, I for one, was happy, too.

I can only guess what she cooked up on their first date but my imagination leads me to believe that it may have been this cake.  It is a special cake not only because it contains love in the purest form, but also because I have never found any like it. So don’t lose this recipe. I guarantee you won’t be able to replicate it. Many years later when I was older I asked Ilse how long she had been making this. As you will see the secret ingredient in the frosting is hot cocoa mix. I had no idea they made hot cocoa mix in the 40’s but she informed me they did. Now something else you must realize-this was before food processors were standard fare in the kitchen, so all those nuts had to be chopped very finely by hand. And the egg whites were mixed with a hand beater. Quite a job and more than I would want to do, but Ilse did it and not just for Passover. (Yes, this is a Passover cake, because it contains no leavening or flour.) She made it often.

This heirloom mocha nut cake recipe is from Ilse, my grandfather's wife. Basically it is made with eggs, walnuts, matzoh meal and the most exquisite mocha frosting that you'd never guess what it was made from. Over 90 years old this cake just keeps on giving! We even make it for my daughter's birthday! #dessert #cake #Passovercake

Now, let me digress and admit something here. When I was younger, I did not like this cake, but I loved the frosting. I remember trying to eat around the cake and look like I really liked it. But all that does not matter now. One of the first things I wanted when I got married was this recipe. It is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. It then took me almost 20 years to get the recipe out of her mouth! It was over the phone and well, you can see exactly what I wrote. But now I am writing it up in recipe form so that it can be enjoyed by all.

And one last note. My kids LOVE this cake.  I have twins so I bake two cakes each year. We always do chocolate and we always do Ilse’s cake. And when they came home this year for winter break, it was Ilse’s cake that was waiting for them. It is only fitting that in the month of December when  Ilse would have been 91, that we use this cake to celebrate her. It is comforting to know that my kids will most likely be celebrating with this cake for many years to come. And in doing that Ilse will always be in our hearts and our thoughts. And dare I say- our tummies? Yes, I believe she would be proud AND happy.

This heirloom mocha nut cake recipe is from Ilse, my grandfather's wife. Basically it is made with eggs, walnuts, matzoh meal and the most exquisite mocha frosting that you'd never guess what it was made from. Over 90 years old this cake just keeps on giving! We even make it for my daughter's birthday! #dessert #cake #Passovercake

Ilse’s Mocha Nut Cake
(I use a 9” springform pan but Ilse used a 10”. I prefer it taller and I also think it stays moister this way. Keep in mind this is my interpretation of what you see on the above paper.)
Serves 8-12
Time to Make:
About 30 minutes
Egg Yolks
 8 large eggs separated with the whites in your mixing bowl. Yolks in another.
2c finely ground walnuts
1c sugar
3/4t almond extract
1/4t vanilla extract
1/2c matzoh meal
Whip egg whites until soft whip and then add 1/2 c sugar to make a very thick bowl of stiffly beaten egg whites.

Stiff Egg Whites
Beat egg yolks with whisk until very thick and lemony. Stir in remaining 1/2c of sugar. Add nuts, vanilla and almond extracts and matzo meal. Fold in egg whites.

Scoop into parchment lined 9” spring form pan. Bake at 375 anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour. Insert skewer to check for doneness. It should be clean or with very few crumbs clinging to it. You do not want it to over bake or it will become dry.  Cake will rise probably above pan. Cool on a rack. It will fall and actually look quite ugly. That is OK because now you get to make this most delicious frosting.

Mocha Frosting
(I do this recipe plus 50% more. You could also double it and then eat the rest with your fingers. Doubled is just a bit too much for this cake!)

2c powdered sugar
1 envelope Swiss Miss or hot cocoa mix
1 stick butter or margarine
2-3T of coffee (from a cup of brewed coffee)

Beat this well in a mixer and make sure to save some for the cake!

When cake is cool, slice through middle horizontally there by creating a layer that you can now fill. Replace top half and frost the entire cake. This is a great birthday cake, not to mention a very special Passover cake.  Apparently it is also a great cake to attract future husbands, too!

P.S. The teacup is also very special. It was given to me by Ilse at my bridal shower and was a cup from my Bubby's china set. I don't know what happened to the china but I have one very special teacup.

This heirloom mocha nut cake recipe is from Ilse, my grandfather's wife. Basically it is made with eggs, walnuts, matzoh meal and the most exquisite mocha frosting that you'd never guess what it was made from. Over 90 years old this cake just keeps on giving! We even make it for my daughter's birthday! #dessert #cake #Passovercake

Please Pin and Share:

This heirloom mocha nut cake recipe is from Ilse, my grandfather's wife. Basically it is made with eggs, walnuts, matzoh meal and the most exquisite mocha frosting that you'd never guess what it was made from. Over 90 years old this cake just keeps on giving! We even make it for my daughter's birthday! #dessert #cake #Passovercake

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ziti Al Fresco

Her return meant Ziti Al Fresco. Beautiful, spicy, rich, warm and basily, (it’s a new word) Ziti Al Fresco. The adjectives suit her and also the ziti. Yes, my daughter is home. There is no better feeling. At least until my son gets home. And then that is the best feeling because it means we will all be together at least for a short while until one of them leaves me again. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to that. But let’s stay in the happy zone and let’s not start thinking about them leaving before we’ve enjoyed each and every moment. So when Zoe is home it means pasta. Lots and lots of pasta. I don’t know how she stays a size two. I didn’t inherit that gene.

A long time ago, which in my world is pre kid, there was a restaurant in Denver named Al Fresco. It was downtown and was a fun and happenin’ place. Until one day it closed. I don’t know why, but it is there no more. It served grandioso Italian food with little garlic rolls that I inhaled and devoured before I could even look at the menu. And the menu included Shrimp Gamberoni that were delish but also included Ziti Al Fresco. It was required that one of us always had to order the Ziti. My, oh my, I have never forgotten the ziti or the rolls which led me to create my own Ziti Al Fresco. I haven’t made it in a very long time and when you look at the ingredients you will see why. Yes, it has horrible heavy cream as one of its prime components. My, oh my. But I knew my Zoe could take it She did and she’s still a size 2! My husband was in heaven as he ate and I don’t know if he was smiling because she was home or because of what he was eating. My, oh my. This ziti is magical.

The garlic rolls are lurking!

Ziti Al Fresco  Serves 4

(I can’t promise that this is The Ziti Al Fresco, but it is mine and it is magical. You will feel all warm and tingly after eating. I promise.)

1 lb penne or zit cooked al dente in salted water

1 lb hot, very good Italian sausage, not in casing (If you need to you can always add some red pepper flakes to the sauce.)
1/2 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic
2T olive oil
3T red wine for deglazing
½ can tomato paste
1c heavy cream
1 pkg fresh basil chopped.
1/3c sun dried tomatoes sliced (in oil, but drained)
Salt and fresh pepper to taste

Heat oil until hot. Add sausage, onions and garlic. Cook until no pink is showing. Use wine to deglaze pan. Turn heat to medium low. Add your tomato paste. Stir it in, then add heavy cream. Let simmer and thicken while blending in the tomato paste. If you need to loosen up the sauce or make it more liquidy add some pasta water or more cream. Your choice. Stir in sun dried tomatoes and let those break up a bit. When almost finished, stir in the chopped basil.

Add sauce to drained ziti. This makes enough for 4, but no hoarding allowed. Sprinkle with parmesan and more basil.

 Now finish that bottle of wine you used to deglaze with and you will understand why you deglaze a pan with wine and why the chefs always say to never use a wine to cook with that you wouldn’t drink on its own. Pour a glass, take a bite and discover that magical warm feeling. Maybe another day I'll give you the garlic rolls.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Only Gingerbread Waffles

Gingerbread Waffles
My kids are coming home soon. Truly, I can’t wait. I am even washing the slipcovers in preparation. Yeah, call me crazy. Now if I could just stick the dogs in the washing machine, too. But no, just ain’t gonna happen. In spite of all my frantic cleaning of the house, which yes, I do realize they won’t even notice, I am still cooking and finding good things for you to make.

 Today I asked my husband to get out the waffle maker which is hidden above the dryer cabinet, to which he responded “Didn’t know we had one.” He then proceeded to bring me the George Foreman grill to which he also responded, “Didn’t know we had that either.” So after sorting out the small appliance stuff I got to work on these waffles. They are easy. No, you don’t have to whip the egg whites either. These are all made in one bowl and they are really good. Plus, they make your house smell good, which would seem really fitting in a clean house, which mine is not yet.

But back to the gingerbread waffles. They were a good way to start my cleaning on this wonderful Sunday. No, I didn’t linger reading the newspaper, but we did have the football game on all afternoon. It was especially loud so we could hear it through the whole house. And it was an incredible game-and this is coming from someone who really has never liked football much. But the Broncos are getting very, very interesting.

So we did have enough waffles left over from breakfast that we could have had them for dinner, too. But we didn’t. And I will save that recipe for another day.

Plopping the dough

Gingerbread Waffles

2c flour
1/2t salt
1t ginger
2t cinnamon
1/4t allspice
1 1/2t baking soda
1/2c brown sugar
1/2c butter melted
1 c sour cream
2 eggs
1/4c milk

Preheat your waffle iron. I have an Oster and it only takes a few minutes to heat. It makes 2 standard 4” waffles. This recipe makes about 12.

Golden Waffles
Sift together dry ingredients. Melt butter and stir in brown sugar. Add sour cream and eggs and milk. Stir in dry ingredients. Mixture should be thick. If it seems to thick add a little more milk.

Butter your waffle maker lightly. Use a ¼ c of waffle batter for each waffle. Just plop it on the top. Do not spread. Close it. Waffles take about 2 minutes to bake. Keep warm without stacking in a 300 degree oven.

I served my waffles straight up with butter and real maple syrup. They would also be good with sautéed bananas or cinnamon apples. You could also mix pecans into the batter and candied ginger. And if you want to have these for dessert they would be awesome topped with ice cream and caramel sauce. Oooh, maybe that’s what I’ll do with my leftovers.

Whatever you serve them with, just make sure you serve them to good friends and family. Otherwise you may have your not so good friends nagging you to have them over again soon!

Lookin' Good!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiday Spritz Cookies

Spritz Cookies

Spritz Cookies

Spritz cookies are definitely a holiday tradition. It doesn’t matter whether you are making cute little Christmas trees or pretty pink poinsiettias. They are a fun cookie to make. I’ve eaten them for years and not just at the holidays. My third grandmother used to press them out of the little star shaped disc and made long wavy shapes. They were always kept in a shoebox lined with wax paper and they were always available when we dropped by for a visit. So Christmas cookies aren’t just for Christmas anymore! In our case, they were Jewish cookies because no one told us any different.

It is often debated whether Spritz cookies are German or Swedish. I don’t really care! Either way they are delish. However, I did learn that spritz is a German word for squirt and since you “squirt them out” onto a cookie sheet, maybe they really are German. I can also remember a Yiddish word used in such a way that it meant you were sweating or perspiring. Like in, “It’s hot today. I’m really spritzen.” And I also remember my kids fighting and asking each other (when they were really upset), “Now you gonna squirt a little?” I guess they could have just substituted the word spritzen. It has a nicer ring to it don’t you think?

Regardless, these cookies are a way to get your holiday baking started. They keep for a good while in an airtight container and they can also be frozen. This year I tried the star shape that my Ilse used to use. They are fun to do and then I chose to douse them with powdered sugar, though it isn’t necessary. And I will say that her Spritz cookies were always golden.

Ilse would also tell you that there is no need for a mixer to make these. Just put all your ingredients in a bowl and mush everything up with your hands. Since this is what she used to do, I know it works. This seems like a good way to teach your kids about baking! I tried baking them lightly colored and also until they were more golden all over. Personally, since I didn’t dye the dough I like the golden ones better. It really brings out the butter flavor when you bake them longer. And we all know just how good butter is!

Spritz Cookies (unfortunately not Ilse's recipe as I never got it!)

2 sticks butter
1 1/2t vanilla
1/2c sugar
1 egg-extra large or jumbo
2 1/2 c flour

Preheat oven to 400 with rack in the center of oven.

In mixer, cream the butter. Add vanilla and sugar and beat well. Beat in egg. On lowest speed gradually add flour, scraping the bowl and beating until smooth.

Press dough through a cookie press. No, it doesn’t always come out perfect the first time but you can reuse the dough. Do not press onto a warm cookie sheet either. You can dye this dough and decorate it before baking. Or you can do like I did which is just to squirt them out and sprinkle with sugar when warm.

Bake for about 10 minutes, more or less.

Clean up and get ready for the next round!

Camera just ran out of battery!

P.S. Remember it is free to subscribe! Just sign up with your email address and you will get all my recipes!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

German Apple Pancake

My morning started out rough. My car didn’t start. I think it felt ignored the last 6 days as I didn’t venture out because of the COLD weather. I am sorry car, but you made me miss the Macy’s morning sale. Now I will probably have to buy you a battery, but I don’t think Macy’s sells those. So instead of being at Macy’s I am now at home writing this blog. It is a good one about German Apple Pancakes and the person that inspired them. Think of this my readers, German Apple Pancakes – 1 - , Macy’s - 0 -.

Many people call German Apple Pancakes Dutch Apple pancakes, but they are the same thing. One article I read said that Dutch had a warmer ring to it than German. What can I say? In my background it was definitely a German pancake made by a very special third grandmother. Now keep in mind that I never tasted this special pancake made by my special grandmother. I have only had the pleasure of hearing about it. And when it was mentioned it was mentioned with awe in the voice. I really believed that this pancake must have been a miracle. So years ago I discovered a recipe about this pancake called a Dutch Baby. I actually make it quite often as it is very simple to make. And it is awe inspiring when you see just how simple it is. You can actually measure everything except the butter in 1 4c measuring cup. So this equates to not as many dishes to wash which to me is a very good thing!

Now I don’t know if this is as good as my Ilse used to make, well actually I do know, because nothing could ever be as good as your Grandma could make; but when you make it just think of her. She would be proud.

A few notes:

I make this in a cast iron skillet.

They have a delicious apple pancake at the Original Pancake House if you are so lucky to have one in your neighborhood.

It can be made with or without fruit. I think pears would be a nice change if I ever had any in the house.

If you don’t make this with fruit, squeeze lemon wedges over the top and serve with preserves.

I make this a full meal and serve it with candied pepper bacon and my favorite hash browns.

If you are watching, “The Next Iron Chef” the last episode featured Chef Zakarias sprinkling powdered sugar on a soufflé. One of the judges who is not my favorite- a stiff old codger from Britain-I won’t name names- thought powdered sugar was passé and not necessary. Well, I say, “Take that Mr. Old Codger, is that all you can complain about? There are more important things to worry about than sprinkling beautiful powdered sugar on a beautiful soufflé.” In that vein, sprinkle all the beautiful powdered sugar you want on top of this most awesome German pancake.

German Apple Pancake (inspired by Ilse)

3/4c unbleached all purpose flour
1T sugar
1/2t salt
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of vanilla
4 large eggs
2/3c whole milk or skim with a dash of cream or just skim (I’m easy)
2T unsalted butter, melted

3 large apples, cored and sliced thin
3T butter
3T dark brown sugar
1/2t cinnamon

Powdered Sugar
Maple Syrup (to gild the lily)

Preheat oven to 450.

Melt 3T butter in skillet. Add apples and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in dark brown sugar and cinnamon. This should be nice and syrupy. If you want more cinnamon feel free to add it.

While apples are cooking measure dry ingredients for pancake into your 4c measuring cup. Add the eggs, milk and vanilla and stir or whisk until well combined. Add the melted butter and whisk in well.

Pour over the prepared apples and bake for 15-18 minutes, until puffed and golden. If you would like more sugar and cinnamon on the top, feel free to sprinkle more on top of pancake about 12 minutes into cooking when it has just started to puff.

Cut into 4 big wedges and serve with maple syrup. You may not need it. Oh-don’t forget the powdered sugar.

Ready to Eat!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sweet and Hot Green Onion Mustard

The Original Recipe in my Mom's handwriting
The holidays are here and that means mustard. It began years ago when a family friend delivered this mustard to our door every year with little Pepperidge Farm Toasts to slather it on. Yummy, yummy. Very yummy. So yummy, that I try to make it also during the holiday season. It is great served with dried sausages or on kosher salami. Super duper on sandwiches and well, I will tell you, just by itself on toast. My mouth is now watering. Now I know for many of you that  mustard is not something you often think about. But once you make THIS mustard you will not forget it. It keeps in your fridge forever, but it will not last that long.

I buy the Colman’s brand dry mustard that comes in a 4 oz tin that is equivalent to about a cup of dry mustard. It is spicy and you can feel your nose burn just a bit when you smell it. I prefer to think of it as a magical tingle. I did go to the Colman’s website- and read that they use a special mix of white mustard and brown mustard seed. I think this is what makes it so potent. You can use other brands of dry mustard which I think probably cost a bit less. I did see it available online for less than the grocery charges.  (Just a tip). If you make this it will be your easiest, most remembered gift and you will then have to make it for the rest of life. But you won’t mind. The hard part is you have to let it rest for 5 days on your countertop before you refrigerate it. This lets it ripen and mature so that it is ready when you just can’t take it any longer. So, if you can muster the strength, pass the mustard, Please!

Ane one last note that I picked up from the Colmans site-mustard increases your metabolism. So starting January 1 you can bet that a spoonful of mustard will be in my tummy daily! Well, if not before.

This is all you need!

Sweet and Hot Green Onion Mustard 

(I changed the proportions a bit since Colman's comes in a 4oz can and what would you do with leftover dried mustard; though I could think of a few things!)

1 1/4c flour sifted
1/2c plus 1 1/2T sugar
1T plus 3/4t salt
1 c dry mustard
1 1/2c plus 1 1/2T white vinegar
6 green onions minced

Mix flour, sugar, salt and mustard together. Add vinegar and mix until blended. Stir in green onions. Let ripen 5 days on countertop. Then refrigerate.

This makes one quart. Now go buy some cute little jars while it is ripening so you have them ready for gifts!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lotsa Garlic Pasta or Pasta 4444

It is one of those days-again. I haven’t gotten to the grocery so I’m left with my pantry and a few staples. My staples always include garlic and pasta. I make sure I never run out of these because then I’m guaranteed that I can eat. Actually with pasta there are many ways to go but today I’m sticking with the basics. Aglio olio as the Italians would say. I’m not sure that my recipe is the same as theirs but I can assure you that this really hits my spot and I bet it would hit yours, too.

Pasta is a favorite of mine and I’m sure if you stick with me through my blogging life you will see many varieties come forth. It is simple and quick and this dish is also comfort food for me. (I guess I’m needing a lot of comfort this week.) If you don’t want the garlic you can do this with just cheese which is my daughter’s favorite. And if you don’t have garlic use garlic powder. The point I’m trying to make is that this can be whatever you choose it to be. I like it just the way it is but you could add cream for extra richness. Chicken if you want something more substantial. There is no wrong way to make this. SO—just do it and your tummy will be happy.

And sorry this is so short. Both kids just called and my husband needs something and the dogs are ready to go out. Just one of those days…

Simpler than Pie

Pasta with Lotsa Garlic or Pasta 4444

4T olive oil
4T butter  (or you could use all oil or butter)
4 cloves garlic chopped, sliced, smashed (I don’t care)
4T Parmesan cheese (parmesan reggiano, the good stuff)
½ t red pepper flakes
1 big spoonful of pasta water

1 lb spaghetti cooked al dente (not the mushy stuff)

ALWAYS cook your pasta in well salted water or it will have no flavor. And please do not run it under cold water. Where did that ever come from?

Garlic Butter Goodness
Melt butter and oil together over medium heat. Add garlic and cook slowly until golden. Add hot pepper flakes. (At this point you could add some cream or wine or lemon if you want but then it won’t be true aglio olio.) When pasta is finished cooking take a spoonful of the well salted pasta water and add it to your garlic. You should have a good sauce by now though you may want to season with salt.

Toss it well
Now this is my BIG TIP.  After your pasta is drained add the cheese first. This gives a good coating to the pasta which makes all that good garlicky sauce stick to it. Now stir in the sauce and toss well. Garnish with more cheese and parsley if you want. Add a salad and bread for a full meal. Got your fork ready?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cranberry Chipotle Wonton Cups

Thanksgiving is almost here and if you are like me, there are always last minute things to do. This year is a quiet one for us but I still like to try new things. Of course we love all our favorites but it is always fun to try something new. Since it is the day before, I wanted to try a simple appetizer that was quick and delicious and pretty. Something your friends and family might think you spent a lot of time on-but you don’t want to give away the secrets now, do you? And I always seem to have leftover pumpkin or cranberries, so this year I’m sharing some new favorites that I quickly invented.

I love wonton wrappers. Yes, you can make dumplings or wontons, but you can also make these cute little cups. And they are fast and easy. OK, you need to own some of those mini muffin tins, but I promise that if you have them, you will use them. Give these a try, you won’t be disappointed and besides my husband declared them worth printing about!  Then he quickly ate them!

Now I had leftover cranberries from the sauce I made so I used those in this recipe. But don’t think you have to follow that step. I won’t tell if you go buy a can of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. It works just fine. You can doctor it up if you want with a bit of cinnamon, bourbon and orange zest. And a note about chipotles, since I do use them a lot. They come in a can and are found in the Mexican section of the grocery. They are a smoked jalapeno pepper. There is a sauce with them and that is also good spooned into things for flavor. Since you don’t use very many at a time, I transfer the rest of the can to a jar and they keep indefinitely in the fridge.
Other ideas to put in these cute little cups:

Caramelize some onions and top with Gruyere cheese and you have French Onion cups.

Spoon in some shrimp mango salsa.

Artichoke dip is great as a filler.

And last but not least I used my leftover pumpkin and made a pumpkin sage filling that I topped off with cheese and bacon. Yum.

Cranberry Chipotle Wonton Cups with Blue Cheese and Bacon
18 wonton wrappers (These keep if you want to bake them ahead and save them for another use.
2c berried cranberry sauce
1/3c crumbled Gorgonzola
1 minced chipotle
Bacon for garnish         
Preheat oven to 350.
Spray your mini muffin tins with cooking spray. Press the wonton wrappers into each cup. If you think the corners are too big you can use a scissors to clip them off.  Bake for about 10 minutes or until the corners start to brown.

Stir a finely chopped chipotle and the blue cheese into the sauce. Spoon into your cute little cups. Bake in oven for about another 10 minutes.

Let cool and then top with a few crumbles of crisp crumbled bacon. Now you’ve got yummy in the tummy.

Other cranberries:
Frozen Cranberry Salad (A Family Favorite)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pumpkin Brown Sugar Muffins

I’m lucky I’m alive. Really. I went to the grocery store today. I didn't realize it was such a dangerous place. Just be careful. It is dangerous out there. And be particularly careful of old ladies with carts. Carts can be lethal weapons. It began in the baking aisle. It was packed. Needless to say I only needed sugar so I began to maneuver around everyone congregating by the spices and that is when I spied her. White hair, tennis shoes and wire rimmed glasses. Well, I didn’t know old ladies could move so fast. She came toolin’ up from the other direction with her eyes on her list-talking to herself.  Someone else spied her too. She knew I wouldn’t make it. Yeah, she made a spot for me and my cart while this old lady just wizzed by. And then I looked at my savior and we both burst out laughing. Honestly, it was too funny. I mean this old lady was on a mission. I’m not sure for what but I’m guessing this lady was a track star in her day. But it was a good laugh to those of us in the baking aisle. And that felt good.

Filled halfway
So soon it will be Thanksgiving and the stores will clear out until Christmas. I assume you don’t have to go running back for some last minute item. I assume you will stay home and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and I assume you will want a cup of coffee. I assume you may also want some of these pumpkin brown sugar muffins with it. Yeah, you will. After all, you have to prime the pump and get it ready for the real meal to come.

Out of the oven

Pumpkin Brown Sugar Muffins (makes 12)

1 ¾ c flour
1t baking soda
1/2t salt
1 ½ t cinnamon
a good shaving of  fresh nutmeg or don’t use it
1 1/2c brown sugar
1/2c oil
1/3c water
1c canned pumpkin
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1/2c walnuts or pecans chopped medium fine

Topping and Filling
1c brown sugar
 1/2t cinnamon
1/2c mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 and fill muffin cups with liners or oil well.

In large bowl whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together. In another bowl whisk together sugar, oil, water, pumpkin, eggs, vanilla and nuts. Add flour mixture to liquid. Combine well.

Fill muffin tins halfway and sprinkle with a spoonful of filling. Now fill muffin tins all the way and sprinkle with the rest of the filling/topping.

Bake for about 20 minutes. Enjoy the peace while you can.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pecan or Walnut Shortbread Bars

Walnut Shortbread Bars
Just a bite. Make it a sliver. Oh, how I admire those people. I always wonder if they really mean it. I mean usually I really want a giant piece but I try to be polite. After all, I could go back for more. I guess it has to do with self control. Something I’m not particularly good at.  But I try, I promise, I really do try. And of course, some days are better than others.

Which leads me to these cute little, yes little 2 bite bars. I love them. No they don’t have chocolate, but I still love them. Delectable, yes they are really delectable. I like that word. They are rich and sugary and well, you will probably want another one. What can I say?

I cut them for two bites.
I make these when my husband wants a pecan pie and I don’t. It satisfies him and most definitely satisfies me. They can be made with pecans or walnuts or even a combo. Sometimes you don’t want to make another pie for Thanksgiving but this suffices for those who might want something extra with that ubiquitous pumpkin pie.  And of course you could make it into a tart but then there goes the two bite rule.

These are fast, which I guess is good, since they disappear quite fast also. I think they are elegant, but I think nuts in general are elegant and decadent. I’ve never met a nut I didn’t like. So, instead of pecan pie this year, try these. I think, no, I know, you will like them. And don’t tell me if you cut them bigger than two bites.

Pecan or Walnut Shortbread Bars
2/3c confectioners sugar
2c unbleached flour
2 sticks sweet butter

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 pan.
Stir sugar and flour together. Cut in butter using 2 knives or a pastry blender, until fine crumbs form. Pat crust into prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes and remove from oven.

2/3c melted sweet butter
1/4c honey
1/4c maple syrup
3T Greek vanilla yogurt or heavy cream
1/2c brown sugar
3 1/2c coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

Mix melted butter, honey, syrup, yogurt and brown sugar together. This will make a carmely syrup. Stir in nuts until well coated.  Spread over prebaked crust.

Return to oven and bake for 25 minutes more. Cool before tasting so they don’t burn your mouth.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mushroom Lovers Pastry

Gorgeous Mushrooms

I LOVE mushrooms.  There, I said it.  My dreams are of eating fresh porcinis in Italy and gorging until I can’t take it anymore. “Make me suffer.” I would say.  Did I mention that I was being fed by the muscular, to die for model in the Ralph Lauren Polo ads?  The tall, dark and handsome one? Who I think I read was married and has two children and really plays polo. Well, we all should have dreams, shouldn’t we?  Alas, back to the mushrooms.

Saute the Mushrooms

This dish falls under appetizers or it could be served with a salad in which case it makes a delightful light lunch or supper- since I know not many of us lunch anymore. I used creminis in this recipe but portabellos would work good too. And I did mix in about 1/2c of dried mushrooms consisting of porcinis and shitakes.  (Reconstituted of course!)  Yes, these would also be a great Thanksgiving appetizer for many reasons. Want to hear them? OK-they are quick. And they are hot. And they are flaky and crispy and soothing. And who doesn’t need soothing now and then? Oh, and did I mention buttery?  And easy. And you could make them ahead and reheat them for a few minutes in a 350 degree oven.

My very even 4" squares

I will give you the recipe, but please, first YOU HAVE TO READ THIS. I feel very alone out here in cyberspace. I know many of you are reading what I’m writing because I’ve had over 600 views which I think isn’t bad for my first month. I’ll take it and I’ll try to take better pictures but please, could someone just leave me a comment? It would make me feel like I’m not talking to myself. All you have to do is click comment at the end of this rant and a little comment box should pop up. Please?

Not Perfect, But Scrumptious!

Mushroom Lovers Pastry

1 lb mushrooms sliced and cleaned (See notes above)
½ lb wild mushrooms or a ½ c dried and reconstituted
2T olive oil
2T butter
2 sliced garlic cloves
1/2t dried thyme or 1t fresh
2T cognac
2 T sour cream or heavy cream
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 pkg frozen puff pastry, thawed and rolled to ½ its thickness

Preheat oven to 400.

Clean and slice mushrooms. Heat oil,  butter and garlic in large frying pan. Add shrooms and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes until they start to release a bit of water. Add wild shrooms and thyme and cook for another 5 minutes.

Deglaze pan with Cognac. Lower heat and add cream and simmer for a minute, Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cut pastry after rolling into 4 inch squares. (You can see how accurate I am.) Place on parchment paper. Leaving a ½ inch border place about a tablespoon of shrooms in the lower right hand corner of the square. Fold the upper corner over the top and you should have a cute little triangle. Repeat. Crimp edges with a fork.

Bake for 25 minutes until pastry is puffy and golden.

I couldn't leave him out, could I?

Not bad, huh?