Monday, December 26, 2011


The holiday season is loaded with classic desserts for each family, yes?

What are you hiding up your sleeve? Tell me about it!!

Over the next few posts, I'll share a few of our favorites here on the Luce side of things. (My side of the family is a different story all together but with this being my first TN Christmas as a married lady away from the traditions I know so well, it's only appropriate that I take notes and tuck these recipes away for years to come!)

Captain (G's dad) loves classic tiramisu. As a pilot who has literally traveled the world, he knows his stuff. This recipe passed his test and was a lovely addition to Christmas Eve.

One more thing. I feel the need to boast to the internet cosmos that my sweet husband (and for that matter, both families) has now truly gotten the hang of gift giving when it comes to me. This butter dish!?! This recipe journal?!?!? This dream sweater??!!?!?! Love you, G.

Too blessed.

Start cranking out the New Year's menu, people!!

Classic Tiramisu
serves 10-12

24 ladyfingers
1 pound mascarpone cheese
1 and 1/2 c brewed espresso
2 tsp dark rum
6 egg yolks (*use high quality eggs)
3 tbs sugar
Bittersweet chocolate shavings

Homemade Ladyfingers
makes 24

4 eggs
2/3 c white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
3/4 c all purpose flour

- Preheat oven to 375 and line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Prepare a pastry bag with a number 6 tip or get out a sandwich bag with a zipper and scissors to cut a reasonably large hole for piping!
- Separate the eggs. In a stand mixer, beat the yolks, sugar and vanilla until pale yellow and smooth (5 minutes.) In a clean bowl, beat the whites until frothy then add in the salt and remaining sugar gradually, beating until medium-stiffness peaks are reached.
- Sift the flour over the egg mixture and gently fold in by turning with a spatula slowly to incorporate and not crush the whites.
- Pipe onto your prepared sheet into desired shape (oblong ovals is custom.) Bake for 15 minutes or until beginning to brown slightly. Cool on wire rack and store in an air tight container until ready to assemble tiramisu or for one week. Can also be frozen.

To assemble :

-Beat 6 egg yolks with the 3 tbs sugar until pale as with the ladyfingers. Add mascarpone and beat until smooth. Mix in one tbs espresso.

-Combine rum and espresso in a shallow dish and place a 9x13 next to it. Dip 12 lady fingers into the espresso for a maximum of 5 seconds each (or they will completely fall apart) and place in the bottom of the 9x13. Spread half of the mascarpone mixture over top the ladyfingers. Repeat with the other half of the ladyfingers soaked in espresso and top with remaining cream mixture.

-Refrigerate for 2-8 hours. Shave chocolate over dish before serving.

*tiramisu assembly adapted from giada

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lime Linzers

Anyone scurrying to make last minute cookies??

Hopefully not! But if you find yourself in that nightmare of a predicament, whip up some sugar cookie dough and some lime curd and assemble a beautiful cookie! Perfect for those without a whole day assigned to cookie baking!

Linzers are typically made with a sweeter jam or preserve but the tang of the lime curd really cuts through the sugary delight of the powdered sugar cookie, I'll tell ya.

We all go overboard with sweets during the season, so try to have something like this around to mask the inevitable sickeningly sweet feeling that will overwhelm you at some point this week.

Wishing you all a beautiful and restful holiday!

makes 24+ (depends on cookie cutter size)

3 sticks of salted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3.5 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
Confectioners' sugar for dusting
*adapted from Ina Garten's linzer recipe

- Preheat oven to 350. With a mixer, combine butter, sugar and vanilla until incorporated. Sift flour and salt into butter mixture. Shape into 2 round disks, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Roll out half of the dough onto a floured surface to 1/4 of an inch. Cut half with fluted rounds and in the center of the other half, cut with the smaller shape of your choice to expose the center. (Bake the excess for snacking!) Continue with second batch of dough.
- Place cookies on a cookie sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes before baking 20-25 minutes or until browning and crisp. Cool. Dust top shapes with powdered sugar before assembly. Store in an air tight container for up to a week alone - or if assembled with curd, in the refrigerator for 2 days.

Lime Curd
makes 1.5 cups

1 stick of butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
juice of six limes or 1/2 cup
1 tbs lime zest
1/8 tsp salt
5 egg yolks
2 drops green food coloring (for fun)

- Combine all but egg yolks in a small saucepan and bring to medium heat, whisking to combine. Temper a small amount of the mixture into a separate bowl containing egg yolks, whisking constantly. Pour egg yolk mixture into saucepan and whisk continuously over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until a thick consistency is reached. Allow to cool (15 minutes or so) cover with plastic wrap (touching the mixture) and refrigerate for 6-8 hours. Can be kept in the fridge for up to one week.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Honey-Chipotle Butternut Squash Soup

As the weather finally cools down and the holidays quickly approach, it's time to busy ourselves with days and evenings full of gift wrapping, cookie making, fancy dinner planning and hopefully many a holiday party!

Before G and I scurry off to our first holiday party of the year, gingerbread cake and beverages in tow, I thought I'd stop for a brief moment of coveted blogging time.

With all of the insane baking I have had going on the past few days, it's been hard to meal plan! I've resorted to a few simpler dishes, most with zesty or spicy flavors to cut through all of the sugar we've been seeing around here! This soup will warm you head to toe, guaranteed, and can be thrown together along with all of the other baking going on in your kitchen.

Honey-Chipotle Butternut Squash Soup
serves 6-8

6 c butternut squash, chopped
1 medium onion, sliced into wedges
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 can of chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, diced ***this is SUPER spicy, so for less heat, use 2 chilies diced and 1/2 tbs juice
3 tbs honey
3 tbs olive oil
3 cups chicken stock
extra honey for drizzling
1/2 c sunflower seeds, toasted

-Preheat oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with foil or spray with cooking spray. Toss squash, onion, garlic, chilies, honey and olive oil in a large bowl and spread onto sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, rotate pan and bake another 20. Check for the squash to be well done.
- Transfer roasted vegetable mixture to a soup pot, add chicken stock. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes, covered. Blend via blender or other blending device. Drizzle with honey and top with toasted sunflower seeds! Serve.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

G and I are in Cleveland, playing Christmas concerts and hanging out with many old friends. It's certainly the most wonderful time of the year!

I have two things to tell you.

One : for those of us about to travel for holiday vacations, we may need to start thinking ahead for the various flights and roadtrips coming up! For us, it helps to travel with a little bit of food that we won't need to buy in transit. Muffins are great for this purpose as I am sure you all know! Breakfast or snacks, it's all good, people!

Two : this plate was a birthday gift from my sweet friend Rachel. I display it at all times because I can't get enough of the owl, his pipe or the saying on it that is Monsieur Hibou fume sa pipe. (Mr. Owl smokes his pipe. HOW CUTE?!?!) Cute. I die.

That's all, my friends. Have a lovely weekend!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Makes 16-20

1.5 c flour
1/2 c cake flour
2 and 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 c loosely packd brown sugar
1/4 c vegetable oil
3/4 c milk
1/2 c sour cream
1 can pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c choc chips

- Preheat oven to 400 and grease or line your cupcake tins. Sift the flours and spices. Mix together brown sugar and oil until incorporated well. Combine sugar and oil with the remaining ingredients except for the chocolate chips. Add flour mixture to incorporate and fold in chocolate chips. Pour into tins and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Sauce

Here's the deal. If you're going to like Christmas, you need to like the whole shabang, right? I'm not talking commercialism and the modern practice that has turned into Christmas, but you know, the old traditions and magic of Father Christmas, snowy evenings, fires, simple decorations... and don't forget baby Jesus in the manger!

But I have to tell you... even though one of our greatest traditions is huge gingerbread cookies that we decorate as a family, hang in the window and then eat later - I really only ever liked mine when it was piled with icing.

Gingerbread is crunchy.


I like chewy cookies.

And that is why I love this cake. All of the wonderful flavors of gingerbread but in a gooey cake topped with a lemony sauce. LOVE. it.

While I try to take my mind off of the fact that while taking pictures of this cake out on my balcony in my workout clothes (I mean, daylight is the best, right?) I was whistled at very loudly by a man across the complex (cue angry face here) ... I am looking up the history of this little piece of baking heaven. My mom says the recipe is officially titled Fort Atkinson's Gingerbread but I can't find out why? Does anyone know? I love finding out the history of recipes!

Enough jabber. Go make this cake. Perfect to follow Christmas dinner ... or just because!

Gingerbread Cake

1 stick of butter, melted (I like salted!)
1 tbs sugar
1 egg
1 c dark molasses
1 c boiling water
2 and 1/4 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon

- Grease and flour a 9 in round cake pan. Mix first three ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Set aside and whisk the molasses and boiling water to combine. Sift the remaining ingredients and combine all until incorporated.
- Bake at 325 for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve the cake warm with warm lemon sauce. I heat individual slices up in the oven for a few minutes if made ahead.

Lemon Sauce

1 stick of butter, melted
1 c sugar
1/4 c water
1 egg, beaten
Juice and zest of one lemon

- Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan well, then whisking constantly, bring to a boil and shut the heat off. Serve!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas! Christmas!

My dear readers! I hope you had a blessed time of thanks this past week!

It's funny how I'm sure we all want to furiously blog about our lovely holiday traditions but few of us find the time to do so during the time spent with close ones... and I think that's ok. Now we can return to each other!

One of the great things about Thanksgiving is that we all usually want some turkey day repeats for our Christmas dinner... and that's even better for those of us blogging so that we can share our favorites after the holiday and still use them next month!

While I get Christmas dinner suggestions rolling, here's a little look at my life right now and a recipe that uses up some of those odds and ends left over from Thanksgiving dinner.

G and I are very happy to bring great tidings of great joy.... in the form of our first Christmas tree! We drove over an hour to find just the right one AND when we realized the big ones were only 5 bucks more, we ended up with a ten-footer! I can't tell you what joy fills my heart over this tree. I am currently in the process of inviting everyone and their mother over to sit and look at my tree with me. Silly, I know! I can't help it! All are welcome - I'll be blaring Christmas tunes around the clock!

This is my first time truly decorating for Christmas in my own home. My goal is to incorporate all the sparkly glitter of Christmas with the more neutral, natural delights of winter.

A natural-looking doorway garland.

A few pinecones in a decorative bowl and frosted berries in a functional vase.

What is your holiday style like? Are you planning on any Thanksgiving repeats at your Christmas table?

Stay tuned for tasty favorites and maybe even some insights to our detox week that starts tomorrow!! Kind of excited. In the meantime, round up the stale bread and the leftover pumpkin and condensed milk for a breakfast treat.

Pumpkin French Toast
serves 2-3

4-5 slices bread, stale is great!
2 eggs
splash of milk
1/4 c pumpkin
2 tbs condensed milk or cream of coconut
1 tbs pumpkin pie spice
2 tbs butter

- Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Soak bread in remaining ingredients. French that toast (with some extra cinnamon!)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dad's Corncakes

Remember the old game where you try to one up your friend's dad with how cool your dad is? Well, I remember a particular friend and I used to argue in a similar fashion but with a twist :

"My dad can make cereal!"
"Well MY dad makes the best toast in the world!"
"Well one time my dad swirled pb j AND HONEY together!"

Totally weird. But kind of hilarious in hindsight.

My dad doesn't make much but he sure does appreciate delicious food. He does have one specialty, though. Southern corn cakes.

He loves breakfast-for-dinner nights and Saturday brunches and has always been known for his famous corn cakes. My friends always request them and for a very long time, this was the closest I'd get to a pancake.

I hated pancakes growing up. They made me feel like hurling. Whether or not this was due to a lack of portion control or just a strange happening, I only ate dad's corn cakes. They're delightfully Southern, super super easy (even dads can make them!!) and they don't make you feel like a blimp.

True love. In a Jiffy.

Do you see that little crust? I can't tell you how good that part tastes. You just have to go make them, drizzle with maple syrup and see for yourself.

Dad's Corncakes
makes about 12-15 small cakes

Jiffy Corn Mix (no, this blog is not sponsored by Jiffy!)
1 egg
2 tbs shortening (melted) or canola oil
3/4 c milk (plus a little for extra thin cakes)

- Whip this together and fire up your griddle to 400 degrees to ensure an extra crispy crust!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

One ingredient list, Two Meals!

Readers! I've missed you. A busy few weeks here.

And do you know what brings me joy during busy weeks?

2-in-1 MEALS!

Whether you have rehearsals and an ailing husband like me... or you're running to every kind of sports practice, studying for class or just swamped with work, we all need a little bit of a dinner break.

The worst thing you can do when you get overwhelmed... is slack on good food. When you're running around helter skelter, essential nutrients are exactly the thing you need! Not processed gunk!

SO! Don't sacrifice quality when you're tied up.

Instead... make a meal like this one! One day in the kitchen, two different meals.

I have this goal to cook "big" three times a week, have leftovers thrice and then eat out for date night with G. This meal fits really well into that plan, changing up the "leftover" meal to something a little different with just two extra ingredients.

Day 1 : Pan Seared Balsamic Chicken with Roasted Root Vegetables and Figs
serves 2 (with leftovers for Day 2!)

2 c butternut squash, cubed
1 sweet potato, cubed
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 c dried figs, slice half of them in two
1/4 c olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 tbs balsamic vinegar

-Combine above ingredients and pour out onto a baking sheet or roasting pan of your choice and place in a 475 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until potato is tender, stirring every 10.

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, butterflied
salt and pepper to taste
flour for dredging
4 tbs butter
3 tbs olive oil
1/3 c balsamic vinegar
1/2 c chicken stock
3 tbs honey

- In a large frying pan or skillet, melt 3 tbs of olive oil and 2 tbs of the butter over medium high heat. Salt and pepper the chicken, dredge in flour and add to the pan, searing for 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to plate and set aside.
- To sauce : Add vinegar, stock and honey to the pan, whisking to incorporate and scraping up brown bits. Bring to a boil, check for seasoning, place chicken back into the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate once more.
- Whisk in the remaining 2 tbs of butter into the sauce. Plate up veggies and chicken, pour sauce over and serve. (If making pizza below, reserve 3/4 c of the vegetable/fig mixture and 1/2 c of chicken, shredded.)

Day 2 : Roasted Veggie and Fig Goat Cheese Pizza with Shredded Chicken and Balsamic Reduction

1 large pizza crust or 2 small
olive oil for brushing
5 oz plain goat cheese
3/4 c reserved roasted vegetables
1/2 c reserved shredded chicken
1/3 c balsamic vinegar
3 tbs honey

- Preheat the oven according to your pizza's instructions. Bring vinegar and honey to a boil and reduce until syrupy, about 5-8 minutes. Set aside.
- Brush crust with olive oil. Crumble goat cheese over crust. Top with chicken and vegetables and bake for desired time. While pizza is cooling, drizzle with reduction and serve.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Pound Cake with Apple Cider Glaze

Happy Halloween!!

I'm not really into ghosts and goblins on this holiday. I just don't really like being scared, I tell ya!

Even if tricks aren't for me, treats sure are!

I might put on my Dorothy costume complete with red heels and throw Zoe in a basket for good measure.

I will most probably watch Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin to start off the evening.

And I am definitely digging into some chili, pumpkin carving, apple cider and this delicious pumpkin pound cake. Do you think anyone will mind that I already tried it?

Mine is gluten free for one of my gf friends I will be spending the evening with. But you can easily omit the xantham gum and replace the flours with 3 cups all purpose, if you would like to have a gluten filled version!

What are your plans?? Have fun and be safe, friends!!

Pumpkin Pound Cake

1/2 c granulated sugar
1 c loosely packed dark brown sugar
1 stick of salted butter, softened
4 large eggs
1 15 oz can pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 and 1/4 c brown rice flour
2 c oat flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp xantham gum
3/4 c buttermilk

- Butter and lightly flour a round bundt pant and preheat the oven to 350.
- Mix sugars and butter together on medium speed for a few minutes or until well incorporated. Add eggs, one at a time to incorporate then mix in pumpkin and vanilla.
- In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients with a fork. Add to pumpkin mixture, alternating with buttermilk until all is combined.
- Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, turn out. Glaze.

Apple Cider Glaze

2 tbs apple cider
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 c powdered sugar

(No pumpkin pie spice? No problem. Add a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and ginger!)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Raspberry-Pear Ricotta Muffins

It has rained for three Wednesdays in a row. Isn't that funny? I only know because I teach on Wednesdays and this is only my third week teaching and each time, there has been rain on the way to teach and coming back. In rush hour, this is a little nerve-wracking. But today it will be fine because I have a muffin in the passenger's seat.

In an attempt to find some kind of "normal" in our new life and town, I have days where I only organize and job hunt and practice and plan and work out and .... ummm... thrift... with no time for cooking or baking. And other days, where I just go buck wild and make everything that comes in my head.

Is there any balance in the world?

Apparently not.

I'll get there eventually.

I'm just a girl.

Here's one of many recipes from yesterday. Greg really likes these. Maybe you will, too.

With just a hint of spice, these are super light and airy with just a little sugar; perfect for breakfast. Maybe even with a little espresso.

Raspberry-Pear Ricotta Muffins
makes about 16

2.5 c all purpose flour
3/4 c brown sugar, loosely packed
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 c ricotta
1/4 c milk
1 tsp vanilla
4 tbsp butter, melted
3/4 c raspberries, washed
1 pear, diced
1/2 tbs table sugar
1/2 lemon for squeezing
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash nutmeg and cloves

- In a small bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- In a larger bowl, combine eggs, ricotta, milk, vanilla and butter. Combine with dry ingredients until incorporated.
- Use that small bowl once again to place raspberries and pear in. Squeeze lemon over and sprinkle sugar and spices over fruit then toss. Gently fold fruit into batter and place in lightly buttered tins to bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Apple Picking and the Dumplings that Followed

Apples fresh from the tree, sliced and placed in buttery pastry, accompanied by a rosy, fragrant cinnamon sauce...

Does it get better than that?

Not for this girl!

Growing up, my most favorite fall treat was my Mama's apple dumplings. Why she didn't let me eat eight in one sitting, I'll never know. But it's high time I shared them with you all!

I've been in Cleveland with some of my most treasured friends, eating, drinking fancy espresso, baking, talking. But one of the best times was our trip to an apple farm to pick apples, pumpkins, eat fritters the size of your head and experience real kettle corn. And that day?

That day started with Donut Day at a local home where a lovely family provides donuts for the entire neighborhood. Heaven.

Oh, fall!! I love you so and Cleveland for embracing all that is you.

Mama's Apple Dumplings
makes 8

for the sauce :

3/4 c sugar
1 and 1/2 c water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
4 tbs salted butter

- Combine all but butter in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn heat down, stir in butter and one drop of red food coloring for a sweet, rosy apple color. Set aside.

for the pastry :

2 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2/3 c shortening
1/2 c of milk
3 cups skinned, thinly sliced apples (baking apples!)
cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg for sprinkling (and a few extra tbs of butter!)

- Preheat the oven to 375 and lightly butter a 9x13.
- Combine dry ingredients, cut in shortening and add milk to combine. Separate dough in half (and refrigerate one half.) Roll out into a circular shape, cut into 4 sections. Fill each section with a few apple slices, sprinkle with above sugar (about 1/2 tsp) and spices, finish with a pat of butter and press dough to fold into a dumpling shape. Continue to do this until all dumplings are formed and in pan. Pour sauce over each dumpling and into the pan and cook for 30-35 minutes. Serve warm.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Silk Road. An Epicurean Event!

In Austin? Looking for a good cause to help out while enjoying culinary delights? Look no further!

SAHELI is an incredible organization helping to end domestic violence and trafficking in immigrant families in Austin, TX!

Check it out!

Silk Road – An Asian Epicurean Journey

October 15, 2011 - 7pm-10pm

Mexican American Cultural Center

Journey down the Silk Road, from China to the Middle East, and experience exquisite Asian cuisine paired with unique wines and spirits.

This unique culinary experience includes seven food and wine pairings from local Asian restaurants, a tea bar sponsored by Zhi Teas, and a silent auction. Sommeliers Rachel Wilson and Claudia Alarcon, will be your guide to this fun evening covering each food region and wine pairing.

Vegetarian options are available. Must be 21 or over to participate.

All proceeds benefit SAHELI for Asian Families, which provides critical services to domestic violence, sexual assault and trafficking survivors. What other opportunities do you get to stuff yourself silly while doing good for others?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pumpkin Banana Bread

I had a really, really lovely birthday (week.)

Sometimes, the best things happen when you least expect it and I think that is just the very best.

You know I like banana bread for any circumstance. And back on that pumpkin kick, I bring to you an all purpose banana bread with a healthy dose of pumpkin. The result is a very moist, flavorful bread. Great with cream cheese. And perfect with a cup of hot tea.

Better start making some before everyone around you gets a cold. I'm getting one right now.

Next time, I'll share some special birthday treasures with you. Right now I am just moving way too slow.

Reserving energy to go to Taste of D.C. I'll let you know how it is!!

Pumpkin Banana Bread
makes 1 loaf

1 c brown sugar, loosely packed
1 stick butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 of a 15 oz can pumpkin
1.5 bananas
2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp clove
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 c buttermilk

- Combine brown sugar and melted butter. Add eggs, pumpkin and bananas to it.
- Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl and add to wet. Pour in buttermilk and incorporate. **Remember, you can always make buttermilk with a tbs or two of vinegar or lemon juice into your milk. Let sit a few minutes and you've got buttermilk!
- Pour batter into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 for 40-60 minutes. My oven is wacky, so check your bread at 40 just to make sure.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Yogurt and a Birthday

We pause this pumpkin recipe extravaganza to bring to you a most necessary post.

Don't worry... I haven't entirely escaped pumpkin!

Today is my birthday and although I had to be away from G so that I could teach in Connecticut, my fantastic brother-in-law and girlfriend had a most delicious pumpkin birthday cake made for me with layered orange glaze and chocolate cream cheese frosting. To. Die. For.

Birthdays are about getting old. And about enjoying life. What do you need for both of those things?


Don't ask, you just do.

And with this recipe, you can have it all of the time, made from scratch, for a fraction of the price and with a minimal amount of babysitting. I've been making it regularly now and got it from Rachel's site. Highly recommended!!

Crockpot Yogurt
makes about a half gallon

1/2 c greek yogurt
1/2 gallon whole milk

- Set crockpot to low. Poor in milk. Once milk reaches 170 degrees (2.5-4 hours) shut off crockpot and keep lid on, checking for temperature to cool to 110 degrees (an hour or so.) Stir greek yogurt into a cup of the warmed milk, then add yogurt mixture to crockpot. Cover with towels and allow to culture for 8-24 hours. Store in container, refrigerated, up to 4 weeks.
*** Keep 1/2 c of this yogurt for your next batch!!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Pumpkin Donuts

Is anyone worried about a pumpkin overload on this website??

No, that would be silly.

Hopefully everyone reading this has a cute little donut pan. I will wait here until you go get one to finish reading this post....

Now we're ready! I totally lucked out and found a donut pan along with a ton of other great steals at this huge thrift store RIGHT across from my apartment complex. I can't tell you how many stellar finds I have acquired through thrifting in the D.C. area. It has simply never been so good. Sifting through 99% crap to find that 1% of treasure is quite a task but one I'm willing to take on at least once a week. For a small fee, I can take you on this ultimate thrift trip of at least 5 big stores. Who's coming?

Back to donuts.

I've been obsessed with them since I was a little girl. Dad's fault! And I have had a few "pumpkin" donuts in my day. But never ones that brought true satisfaction. However, on a whim and with a bit of extra pumpkin left over from the previous post, I whipped these little delights up for a Sunday morning breakfast.

Airy and light, with just the right amount of chewiness that only donuts have and that spicy pumpkin flavor.... mm! Good to go.

Yeah, I've been going nuts baking and eating pumpkin treats the last few weeks. A few friends, my sister and I are running Disney's Wine and Dine Half Marathon tomorrow here in Orlando. Wouldn't want to get too skinny! Wish us luck! And don't fret - I have at least two more pumpkin recipes to share with you in the following posts.

Now go try these! QUICK!

True Love.

Pumpkin Donuts
makes 24 minis
1 c all purpose flour
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp baking powder
dash of nutmeg, ground cloves, ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c milk
1/4 c canned pumpkin
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

- Preheat oven to 325 and mix dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Add wet ingredients and stir to incorporate. Pour into buttered donut pan and bake for 8-10 minutes or until donut springs back and looks done. Cool in pan. Lift out with a little TLC. Do the around the sides with a knife, and under the four corners to gently lift up and out of the pan. Serve with cream cheese frosting. (See previous recipe for those instructions!)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pumpkin-Carrot Treats, Three Ways

We just celebrated my little fluff muffin's fifth birthday and for the event, in the name of pumpkin, I made a few baked goods to suit both guests and furry friends! With one can of pumpkin, I made dog treats, cupcakes, gluten free cupcake bites and had enough for pumpkin donuts the next day (check back for that one soon!!) I thought that was stretching pumpkin too far but I think it worked out just right.

I didn't sample the dog treats like some party members but I have to say, the gluten-free bites were my favorite over the gluten-filled cupcakes! Wonders never cease. Both were delicious, so you might just need to try them all for good measure!!

Pumpkin-Carrot Gluten-Free Dog Treats

1 c brown rice flour
1 egg
1/2 c canned pumpkin
1 tbs grated carrot

-Combine ingredients, mash out onto a piece of parchment paper (like you would a biscuit dough to about 1/4 inch.) Cut with cookie cutter, place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 350 for 20 minutes per side or until completely dried out. Store in air-tight container.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Carrot Cupcakes
makes 24 minis

3/4 c brown rice flour
3/8 tsp xantham gum
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 tsp cinnamon (and a dash of nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ginger!)
1/2 c brown sugar
2 tbs sugar
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 c grated carrots
1 egg
3/8 c canned pumpkin
1/2 tsp vanilla

- Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl with a whisk or fork. Add in carrot, egg, pumpkin and vanilla and stir to incorporate. Bake in greased tins at 350 for 8-10 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly in pan before placing on cooling rack. (Top with cream cheese frosting when cooled. Recipe at bottom of post.)

Pumpkin-Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

3/4 c cake flour
1/2 c all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg (and a dash of cloves, ginger and allspice for good measure)
1/4 c vegetable oil
3/4 c loosely packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c pumpkin
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 and 1/2 c grated carrots

- Mix dry ingredients together. Add in wet to combine. Pour into lined cupcake tins. I adapted this recipe from the food network website and they said 10 cupcakes but my batter made 11, probably because I changed a good bit. Strange number, I know.

For the Frosting

4 oz. cream cheese
4 tbs butter
2 c sifted powdered sugar
1 tbs orange juice
1 tsp vanilla

-Mix cream cheese and butter until smooth with a hand or stand mixer. On low speed, add sugar, oj and vanilla until lump free.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Syrup

Bubbly apple pie.Warm bread. Steaming soup. Pumpkin pie. Pumpkin muffins. Pumpkin bread. Pumpkin cake. Pumpkin soup. Pumpkin cookies. Pumpkin granola... Ok, I'm a little pumpkin heavy when it comes to fall. Although I miss Austin a WHOLE LOT, I am so happy to be in the land of four seasons, where fall treats match the weather!

I'd like to blame my fall obsession on something worthwhile. I'd like to say that maybe just maybe I'm going nuts for fall over here with garlands and homemade goods because I'm trying to encompass the fall spirit for my upcoming performance of Vivaldi's Autumn. But this ritual happens every year, so there's no excuse. Good thing I know most of you are crazy for it, too. I'd love to hear about your favorite fall dishes and traditions!!

To kick this thing off right, I'd like to share a recipe with you from my friend Katelyn. She shares the pumpkin obsession and made a pumpkin syrup that really kicks up your classic latte, chai or cup of coffee. In fact, I'm sure you could put this in a ton of things to make them seasonal.

This is the one syrup you can't buy in stores, so when Katelyn concocted this delicious recipe, I nearly cried with joy. The first time she made it, she used fresh ingredients and whole spices (ground in the coffee grinder.) Highly recommended but jarred spices do the trick quite nicely, too.

Katelyn's Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup
makes about 2 cups

1.5 c water
1.5 c sugar
1 can pumpkin
1 tbs cinnamon
1 tbs nutmeg
1 tbs cloves
2 tsp allspice
1 tsp mace
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp vanilla

- In a small saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil to dissolve. Stir in spices, reduce to a simmer and stir in pumpkin and vanilla. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Allow to cool and store in the fridge in a jar for up to one week.

Monday, September 19, 2011

100th post! 2nd blog anniversary! Julia Child Croissant Challenge!!

On this, my second blogaversary (and 100th post! Not even planned!) I invite you dear readers, into this lovely challenge of croissant-making!!

In honor of this anniversary, I would like to thank you, my friends, fellow bloggers and of course, my very supportive family (am I receiving an Emmy right now? I'm a dork!) for always giving me such lovely compliments about this little blog, when you are in fact the ones who inspire it all. As many complaints as I receive about the interwebs and the lack of face-to-face interaction therein, there is something very comforting about sharing my cooking life and otherwise with all of you. That's how it started out two years ago and that is how it will continue!

But I tell you this ; for the very sweet words some of you often give me about my knowledge of things culinary, I'd like this post to bring me on back to earth with it. Croissants just ain't easy. But just as the awe inspiring Julia Child was known to be raw and ever-real in the kitchen, throwing caution (and rolling pins...and omelets) to the wind, not afraid to mess up, so was I in joining in this challenge.

As Julia is the idol of so many, including myself, it's only appropriate on this celebratory day to take part in a fancy challenge with other incredible bloggers, far my superior on all things baking. Thank you, Stevie from weirdcombinations, for bringing the challenge to my knowledge and for letting me take part! You can follow all of our journeys through this Julia Child recipe by visiting each blog that took part! We all put our own spin on her classic croissant recipe. What fun to see the creation just flowing out of these blogs. Sit tight and bare with me on this, my maiden voyage of croissant making. It doesn't matter who you are, the first time making croissants is just difficult.

Enjoy reading the other blogs who took part and at least laugh at me and my lack of pastry knowledge that somehow didn't result in total disaster. In the meantime, hope you like the new look! As sad as I was to take my beautiful wedding dress (and husband, of course) off of the banner, I think two years of marriage and blogging are cause for a change of scenery.

Julia Child Croissant Challenge Bloggers:

Stevie from Weird Combinations

Vanessa at Sweet Artichoke

Joumana at Taste of Beirut

Christina at Thyme to Be Loved

Faith at an Idebile Mosaic

my pain au chocolat, inspired by my favorite bakery that
makes the most incredible version of these!!

Julia Child's Croissants : My Way
This post and recipe taken from the step-by-step depiction of Julia's original recipe on Mamaliga

I followed her instructions to the T, made a few changes, took a few notes and did it again.
In the end, I was more satisfied with my results the first time around but both times made Pain au Chocolat and Butter Croissants with Basil Jelly.

Basil Jelly
makes 2 cups

1 cup water
12 basil leaves
1 cup sugar
1/4 box pectin

Steep finely chopped basil leaves for 20 minutes after water has come to a boil. Stir in pectin and sugar (and a drop of green food coloring for fun but NOT three drops or you will have kyrponite like me!) Allow to cool at room temp in a bowl then refrigerate, covered, to allow the jelly to set up for about one hour.

On my first OR second go around, I could not find pastry flour ANYWHERE and used all purpose unbleached. This produced the most croissant-like result. The second time I incorporated cake flour, which I do not really recommend but it does work, if you're in a pinch.

* = my diversion from Julia's recipe/suggestions that helped me

1 tsp dry yeast
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tbs sugar
1/4 c warm water (not to exceed 110 degrees)

Combine and allow to sit for up to ten minutes or until foamy.

2 c flour mix *I used 2 c all purpose, unbleached
1 tbs sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 to 1/2 c tepid milk (only use as much as the dough needs or it will be too sticky!!)
2 tbs oil (4 tbs if using bleached flour)

Combine with yeast mixture and mix together with spatula to form a heap of dough. Knead for 3 minutes or until glossy. Julia recommends the lift-and-throw as well as old school punching and rolling with the heals of your hands.

Place in a bowl (*I recommend a lightly oiled bowl) and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise 1 to 1.5 hrs in a warm (75 degrees) place until doubled in size.

Punch into a flat circle, cover with wax paper and chill for 30 minutes.

The dough and butter must stay cold in these next steps. Work very quickly and if butter starts to poke out from your dough, dust with flour. You will be dusting with flour for the remainder of this process, I assure you...

Remove from fridge and quickly roll out into a 9 inch dough circle. You will need a ruler at this point or a lovely measured mat like my mother had. QUICKLY beat a stick of butter with a rolling pin until smooth and place it in the middle of the dough circle to measure about a 5 inch radius. Fold over on all sides and roll this out to a 5x15 inch slab. Fold into an envelop shape. Roll out once more to a 5x15 slab, fold into an envelop, cover with paper and chill for 1-2 hours.

In order to achieve the 82 layers of dough and 81 layers of butter, you must repeat the former process that we call "turns" 2 more times and again chill for 2 hours.

After this 2 hour chill, Julia says to roll the dough out to a 5x20 rectangle, cut in half and chill half of the dough until ready to use. Then to cut into three sections, cut crosswise and roll into croissant shapes that way.

For Pain au Chocolat, cut into 6 smaller rectangles, place a row of chocolate (I used 60% chips) and roll loosely, seam side down and place on a lightly buttered baking sheet, covering with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 1 hour or until doubled.

For croissants, instead of the crosswise cutting, I recommend rolling the dough out into a circle and cutting like a pizza to achieve even croissant shapes! Also place these on a lightly greased baking sheet and allow to rise for one hour. I covered mine with baking cloths.

For the one hour of rising time, I went ahead and set my oven to 475. Once they have risen, cover with a light egg wash with one tsp of water and bake for 8-10 minutes or until browned. Allow to cool on a rack for 10 minutes before serving!