Sunday, November 29, 2009


My Inner Elf has popped up, just in time for holiday baking and crafts, so posts are being put on hold while flour flies in the kitchen.

Last Wednesday I made the third of three related loaves of tasty, whole grain yeasted bread to send with family who were returning to River City and them to the East Coast. The first loaf had been made the previous Tuesday and the second loaf a day or two later, but family visiting always trumps blogging so no posts were made until today.

Head on over to Bread Baker's Dog to get the full scoop and the recipes. The braided versions can make nice holiday gifts and/or grace your holiday table.

The URL is

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Expressing gratitude can be a way of life, not something that is just done once or twice a year. A day rarely goes by when I don't find some scene or experience that is just plain beautiful...and I make sure to give thanks right then.

This year I have an extra measure of gratitude because my Mother and the Fiddler-Who-Writes came to visit along with Second Sister Down and her fab got a little noisy (sorry Sweetie!) and a little crowded, but it was great fun and many good memories were made. We celebrated a special birthday of River City Sister...also known as Natasha...with afternoon tea in Benicia. It was a delightful afternoon!

I'm always grateful for health, hearth and hubby, for the privilege of living in a beautiful part of the world and the blessing of having an amazing family and many fond friends. As we drove around Northern California this past week and visited my work, too, I was reminded of my good fortune in having abundance in my life, including excellent co-workers and boss and their abundant talents and kind hearts.

I'm grateful for the ease with which one can participate in using the Internet, especially blogging, and for all of the generous and inventive people who blog and comment on blogs. I learn so much from other bloggers and from the comments on others' blogs, too. I'm especially grateful to those who read my blog. I might write it anyway, but it is fun to think that I might have a few readers and some even make the recipes...always a thrill when they do and let me know.

I'm grateful that my stove, refrigerator, freezer, and (especially this week) washing machine all work and that I have electricity, running water, indoor plumbing and a computer. I'm reading a book that Arcadia lent me about Pioneer Women of the Kansas frontier. They were so intrepid and optimistic and did so much with so little. Sure makes you appreciate modern conveniences.

What are you grateful for?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My, My... Pumpkin Pie

Never did make an apple pie when the Gravensteins were ready. The days just swirl by like the bright leaves falling from the trees. Right now I'm getting ready for big with family this week plus getting ready for clinic at work. It is unlikely that I'll find time to make a pie before Thanksgiving, and a dear friend is doing dessert, so no pie baking for me then, either. Instead, I made a pie today and rewarded Sweetie and Straight Shooter for replacing the tarp on the pump house roof, plus myself for all of the chores associated with becoming a temporary B&B.

Sparkle Plenty gifted me with a couple of lovely sugar pies, so pumpkin pie was the obvious choice, especially since I cooked the pumpkin flesh in the oven Friday.

A spin in the food processor turned it into a lovely golden puree. Mom's recipe for pie crust was tweaked just a bit by the substitution of whole wheat pastry flour for some of the regular flour. I used 2% evaporated milk and eggs, brown sugar and spices for the filling, along with that glorious fresh pumpkin.

The results were a delight. The filling was lighter in texture than it is when I use canned pumpkin and the pumpkin flavor was actually more subtle, so the spices were more forward. We all liked it better than the standard filling and the crust was just great!

If you are going to make this, the only tip I have is to allow enough time and to handle all of the crust ingredients lightly. It also helps to have the crust ingredients no warmer than room temp and colder is actually better. I keep my whole wheat flour in the fridge, so that cooled down the mixture nicely.

Hope you are enjoying the fall and looking forward to some fun, too, this week.

Fresh Sugar Pumpkin Pie with Whole Wheaten Crust

1 sugar pumpkin
2 large eggs
¾ cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
10 oz. evaporated milk or light cream
1 unbaked 9 inch pie shell (recipe below)

Pierce pumpkin with a sharp knife in a couple of places, then place on a baking sheet and bake in a 375 degree F. oven for about ½ hour to 45 minutes, or until the flesh is tender when pierced, although the shell of the pumpkin will be hard. Remove from oven and set aside to cool until cool enough to handle.

Using a sharp chef’s knife or cleaver, cut the pumpkin open and scoop away the seeds and stringy parts.

Discard seeds or use for another purpose. Discard stringy parts. Scoop the pumpkin flesh out of the shell and set aside to cool to room temperature. This can be done a day or two in advance of baking the pie. Put the pumpkin flesh in a cover container and refrigerate. Return to room temperature.

Prepare the pie shell as described below, or use a pre-made pie shell if desired.

In a mixing bowl beat the eggs slightly, then add the brown sugar and beat to combine. Add the salt and spices and combine well.

Take the pumpkin flesh and put into the bowl of a food processor. Process with the steel blade until a smooth puree develops. Measure out two cups. Reserve the rest for another use.

Add the prepared pumpkin puree to the egg mixture and combine then slowly add the evaporated milk or light cream. When blended, pour the filling into the unbaked pie shell (which has been placed on a baking sheet), making sure to leave at least ¼ inch of the sides unfilled to allow for expansion during baking. If you have remaining filling, you can bake it in a buttered ramekin or custard cup as a treat for the cook!

Place the cookie sheet with pie in a preheated 425 degree F. oven fore 15 minutes. Then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. and continue baking for another 40-50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack at least 45 minutes, up to 2 hours. Serve at once or refrigerate. Not a good idea to freeze this pie.

Whole Wheaten Pie Crust
based on Mom’s pie crust in Family Food
makes a 2 crust pie or two single crust pies…you only need one crust for the pie above

1 ¼ cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup shortening
about 1 cup ice water, measured by tablespoons

Sift the flours and salt into a bowl. (If the wheat flour particles from the whole wheat flour won’t go through the sifter, dump them on top of the sifted flours and whisk the mixture with a wire whisk to combine all.)With a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut shortening into flour until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle the water, a tablespoon at a time, over the mixture, stirring gently with a fork until all flour is moistened (6-8 tablespoons usually). Press dough gently into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill before rolling out. (I cut the dough in half and wrapped into two discs to chill.)

If chilled as one ball, divide dough into two pieces. Roll out each piece until it is slightly larger than the pie tin. Fit into the pie tin and flute the edges for a pie shell. Makes one 2-crust pie or 2 9” pie shells.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gourds and Pumpkins of Fall and Meeting Sparkle Plenty

Howard's Station in Occidental California is a great little place to have breakfast. There are all sorts of breakfast foods to choose from, great photos of turn of the 20th century Occidental when it was still a lumber town with a railroad going through it, the waitresses and waiters are fast and funny, the coffee is strong...and this time of year they have a wonderful assortment of gourds, pumpkins and other winter squash as decor. This grouping is at the front door.

We had breakfast there this morning with friends. Sweetie even kept one of his heart shaped biscuits (yes, freshly made, yummy, biscuits) for the Bread Baker's Dog. No photo of the biscuit...Xam ate it too quickly to photograph.

While we are on the subject of pumpkins, Sparkle Plenty, a friend of a friend whom I met a week ago and baked bread with...surely a great way to become friends...passed along two beautiful little sugar pumpkins this week. One has already been baked, seeded and scooped, almost ready to be turned into pumpkin pie (maybe tomorrow). The other is decorating my deck. Since nights have been in the 30s, this 'outdoor refrigerator' is perfect for hard shelled squash keeping.

A quick check of past posts shows that I never posted about the baking day. Arcadian invited me to her lovely home in Oakmont for lunch. I brought along some of the 2 Squash Soup to share. Sparkle Plenty made a perfectly wonderful veggie quiche in an oatmeal crust. I loved the combination of mushrooms and peppers and the rich filling, but the crust was amazing...crisp and crunchy but not crumbly...the perfect textural contrast to the smooth filling. She sent me the link to the Food Network recipe. Sparkle used Swiss cheese so we are going to call it Carmelized Onion, Mushroom and Swiss Quiche with Oat Crust and the link is here:

The bread we baked together is quite used shredded wheat biscuits as part of the dough.

The dough is to play with and perfect for creating the shaped rolls we made.
It can also be used to create the wheat sheaf bread for autumn (you knew I'd sneak autumn in again, didn't you?) since it is the dough that was used to make the wheat sheaf in the book, not the milk bread I used.

A big 'thank you' goes to Arcadia for putting it all together and to Sparkle for the yummy quiche and those lovely pumpkins and the greens. We all hope to do another baking afternoon after the holidays at Sparkle's.

See what pretty rolls we made?

Wheat Bread Dough for Harvest Sheaf or Rolls
Makes 1 loaf or about a dozen rolls
From The Festive Bread Book by Kathy Cutler

1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon light molasses
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large shredded wheat biscuit
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 tablespoons warm water (105 - 115 degrees F)
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 eggs
2-2 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 egg, beater with 1 tablespoon water for Glaze

Heat milk, butter, honey, molasses, salt, and crumbled shredded wheat biscuit to warm (105 - 115 degrees F). Dissolve yeast in warm water. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Combine yeast mixture, milk mixture, and whole wheat flour. Mix thoroughly.

Add wheat germ, eggs, and enough all-purpose flour to make a soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth - about 10 minutes.

Place in greased bowl, turning to coat top. Cover; let rise in warm place until double - about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down dough. Shape into loaf, braided loaf, wheat sheaf (see Bread Baker's Dog for directions) or rolls.

Cover; let rise in warm place until doubled - about 30 minutes. Gently glaze with egg wash.
Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F oven about 25 - 30 minutes or until done. Cool on wire rack.

This is my attempt at a four strand braid on a small loaf...looks pretty crazy, but was yummy anyway. That is the fun thing about this can play with it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Intense Chocolate Cookie Revisited

Those round little starry starry night cookies ( ) were delicious and would look perfect on a cookie assortment platter or with afternoon tea, but all of that scooping and rolling and freezing wasn't going to happen again...and I still had about half the batter left to bake!

My solution was to create a starry night sky bar cookie by laying down parchment on a baking sheet, then doing a generous sprinkle of sugar all over the parchment, then taking super sized scoops of the batter, fresh from the fridge, flattening them a bit with my hands, then laying them down over the sugar in a more-or-less flat layer. I used waxed paper laid on top to allow me to flatten the rectangle even more evenly, although it was still pretty bumpy. The last thing was to sprinkle moooore sugar over the top. All that sugar helps with the starry look.

Into a preheated 350 degree oven it went. As a bar of chilled batter they needed to cook a little longer. I think it was about 15 minutes, but check at 12 minutes.

The house again smelled wonderfully of deep, dark chocolate.

After they had cooled 5 minutes, I cut them into bars. They are still small because these are truly intensely chocolate, but I cut the time taken to make 'em significantly. Sweetie sacrificed to do a taste test and pronounced them as good as the round ones.

So now you have a choice if you make this batter...round ones good enough to sell in the finest bakery, or bars, uneven but still sparkly with sugar and delicious. Y'all know I'm unlikely to have a bakery, so I seriously needed that shortcut. Besides, I have no customers to complain that they are supposed to be round.

Favorite Things

Autumn...the Fall...two names for my favorite season. The air turns crisp, the light changes so that afternoon light seems to make colors more intense and full of sparkle on a sunny fall day. This is actually taken with morning light, heading into the redwoods near my work. This combination of the dark come-hither draw of the woods and the bright autumn dance of leaves on the branches and swirled on the pavement is one of my favorite things.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Intense Chocolate in a Cookie

If you are a baker and love baked goods, it's likely that at some point you have thought about opening a bakery. Imagine the fun of making cakes and pies and cookies and bread for others to enjoy...and making money doing so.

If you, like me, have had that fantasy, you might enjoy reading Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado. She was a Hollywood hack and gave it all up...gladly! rise in the wee hours, drive treacherous roads to a small town bakery and spend her days making all sorts of wonderful baked goods for sale in her bakery. The upside includes the regulars and the opportunity to ride that baking passion and play with flour and sugar on a daily basis. The downside (besides that wee hour of the morning thing) include bureaucracy, not much profit, lots of worries and baking the same thing over and over and over, among other things. I highly recommend you read the book. It is well written, pretty short, and moving if you have a baker's soul...funny, too. Oh, and there are a bunch of great recipes, as well.

One of the recipes that I knew I had to make was the Starry Starry Night Cookies. Don't you just love that name?

Deep dark chocolate, crunchy sugar, and not too big, plus they use almond powder and I still have some on hand from when I made the Daring Baker macarons:

These are not quick to make morsels. Similar to truffles in some ways, the chocolate-almond-egg-sugar mixture has to chill to become firm enough to scoop. Then you scoop it into tiny balls and roll those in sugar. More time is taken freezing the tiny balls for at least an hour. We still aren't ready to bake them because they get rolled in sugar again!

Were they worth the wait...and that significant amount of bittersweet chocolate?

I would say yes!

They are just a little chewy, very chocolaty, not too sweet and not too large...a nice chocolate delight when the chocolate beast comes to call. Besides, they can be frozen...a good thing at this time of year when visions of cookie assortments start dancing in my head.

Starry Starry Night Cookies
From Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado
Makes about 80 mini cookies

8.2 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon butter
2.6 oz (about ¾ cup) slivered almonds ground to a fine powder (about 5/8 cup slivered almonds measured before grinding
½ teaspoon salt (I would reduce it to ¼ teaspoon)
1 tablespoon non-dutch processed cocoa powder
2 large eggs at room temperature
2.4 oz. (1/4 plus one tablespoon) sugar, plus additional for dipping
1 tablespoon honey

Note: To get almond flour, grind almonds and 1 teaspoon of the sugar in a food processor until they become a meal, almost floury, but be careful not to process so long that the almonds become a paste.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl over simmering water or at half power, 1 minute at a time in the microwave (stirring after each minute) until melted. Cool slightly. Set aside.

Toss the almond flour, salt, and cocoa in a bowl until well combined. Set aside.

Combine the eggs, sugar, and honey in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat with the whisk attachment on high speed until the mixture reaches a thick ribbon stage.

Add the almond-cocoa mixture to the melted chocolate and mix until fully incorporated. Add one quarter of the whipped egg mixture to the chocolate mixture to lighten it.

Stir until no egg is visible. Gently fold the rest of the egg mixture into the chocolate until well combined, being careful to maintain the aerated quality of the eggs.

Chill well until firm.

Place a few tablespoons of sugar into a small bowl. Using the smallest cookie scooper available (I used on the size of a melon baller), scoop individual cookies, dip them in the sugar, and place on a parchment-lined sheet pan ½ inch apart. Freeze uncovered until very hard, about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Just before baking, dip each cookie in sugar again. Bake 10 minutes, turning the baking sheet front to back after 5 minutes to ensure even baking. Cookies should be slightly cracked but he sugar should not be browned.

Notes from Gesine: “Starry Starry Nights are black with chocolate. Dipped in sugar twice before baking, they take on a complex crackle of shiny white sugar offset by veins of ebony. They are profoundly chocolaty, matching a pure ganache truffle for cocoa value ounce for ounce. But they don’t melt and you can freeze them. And, of course, they are baked.”

These cookies “are as much careful process as they are high-quality ingredients. It’s easy to cut a corner and court disaster. Pay attention: to the chocolate, to the eggs, to the temperature and feel of your ingredients at every stage. Make sure to have extra chocolate on hand to nibble as your work; it calms the impatient baking beast beautifully.”

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Almost Turkey Time

If you don't live in the U.S.of A., the coming of fall probably doesn't mean that it is time to gather up the recipes for cooking a big turkey for a family, or extended family, or family and friends dinner toward the end of November.

If you do celebrate American Thanksgiving, you probably have a raft of family traditions associated with the feast.

It might be Aunt Mabel's green bean casserole with onion rings or Uncle George's special meatball appetizer or Grandma's super sweet, marshmallow covered sweet potato casserole. With the way that tastes change over time, this might be the year that you decide to try something new and different...well, at least for one dish.

If you are the brave soul that is willing to stand up against family pressure and make a casserole that has fresh green beans and no fried onions in sight, or something with sweet potatoes that is actually savory, perhaps with some sage butter, or even a different stuffing for the turkey, you might need some suggestions for new recipes to try. I'm selfish enough that I want you to make one of the recipes I've blogged about if thats teh case...besides they are good!

There will be round ups and lists to be found around the Internet. My group of Thanksgiving ready recipes will be limited to ones I've posted here in the Land of St. Honore' at Feeding My Enthusiasms. That might make it a short list, but that makes it easier for you to scan it, check out any that look interesting to you, then pop on over to the next blog (which might be one on my likely blogs list...if you are smart).

Here goes....drumroll please.....


White Bean Dip, hits a lot of high notes - robust taste, not too filling, good-for-your-heart legume based, great with either crackers or crudites, easy to make and ...Yay!...can be made ahead and tastes even better if you do.

Caprese on a Skewer, is colorful, fun to make and fun to eat. Finding flavorful tomatoes might be a challenge, but you can use cherry tomatoes which are usually sold in pint baskets. They generally taste good. You can substitute flat leaf parsley (Italian parsley) leaves for the basil leaves. The flavor combo will be different, but the skewers are still pretty that way. You can Serve the skewers by sticking the end in a small pumpkin or you can corral a bunch of filled skewers in a tall glass, fanning them out.


A tossed green salad is always welcome, but if you want a make-ahead salad, try this Composed Orange Salad, . You can arrange the lettuce and orange slices on salad plates, stack them up in the 'fridge, then dab on the mayo, add the cherry and sprinkle on the raisins and coconut shortly before guests sit down and put them a plate at each place. The orange is refreshing and light which is a good way to start a meal that is heavy on the starches.

If the day is chilly as November often is, starting with a nice bowl of soup is warming and welcoming. Try a seasonal favorite like Two Squash Soup, rich with roasted butternut and pumpkin squashes, plus onions, sweet potato and apples. With a sour cream and diced red pepper garnish it's quite festive and flavorful.


The main event is usually a roast Turkey, golden and juicy. Turns out that I haven't blogged a turkey recipe, so I'm sending you to the experts. The Butterball turkey folks have a great helpline and website if you need a recipe or help. I usually cook mine in a brown-in-bag because it makes it difficult to over cook the bird, plus clean up is so easy.This one wasn't cooked in a brown-in bag and it is overcooked.


What is a turkey without stuffing? No nearly as good! My Mom makes the best stuffing (you knew I'd say that, right?...well, it's true) and the Stuffing, recipe I posted last year is based on her bread and corn bread stuffing. You'll need a slightly drier stuffing if it is going inside the bird than if it goes in the casserole, so add a little extra broth to the casserole baked stuffing. You can make it your own by adding favorite dried fruit, different nuts, and so on. Make plenty because people usually want seconds of this stuffing!

Good turkey benefits by the accompaniment of cranberries. There's something about the sweet-tart fruitiness that brings out the best in the bird. Cranberries also ripen in the fall, making them a fall favorite since Colonial times. If you want to break away from cranberry relish, try Elle's Wild and Brown Rice with Cranberries, for a side dish instead. It has the nutty flavors of wild and brown rice, plus apple juice soaked cranberries and a dash of orange flavor for zest.

(You can still open a can of cranberry jelly for purists).

Swiss chard is a seasonal green that is all too often forgotten makes a wonderful side dish. It is refreshing and savory and light...just right with such a rich meal. Try it fixed as Swiss Chard and Spinach with Onions, Currants and Lemon Zest, an interesting mix of greens, onions with the contrast of currants and the zip of lemon zest.


Even though the usual Thanksgiving meal has plenty of carbs without it, everyone loves freshly baked rolls. Pile the bread basket with these Refrigerator Rolls, which can be partially made ahead. They are from my other blog, Bread Baker's Dog, devoted to bread baking. Pop them in the oven when the turkey comes out. They'll bake while it's resting and being carved and you will be a star when you pass the bread basket and people get a whiff of freshly baked bread.

If you are feeling artistic and want to really impress, make the Harvest Sheaf bread, also found on Bread Baker's Dog. It is easier to make than it looks. To serve, I just sliced across the sheaf.


The last morsel of turkey has been polished off and the coffee is brewing. Now comes my favorite part, dessert. Here are three desserts that use seasonal fruits. They make a nice addition to the dessert table, which can also include a traditional pie.

The first Double Apple Bundt Cake with or without Rum Glaze, features crisp, tart apples complemented with spice in an easy to serve bundt cake with a decorative rum glaze.

The next two are a bit unusual but delicious. Try Stuffed Figs and Plum Clafouti, with the added kick of bittersweet chocolate hiding in the figs.

Pomegranate Lemon Tart with or without Spiced Poached Pears, makes use of the season's pears and is very pretty with the sweet-tart pomegranate lemon pastel tart filling and the fan of bi-colored pear slices on top.

Still need some recipe ideas? Check out the index by clicking on the set table photo at the top right corner of this blog.
Happy Thanksgiving! East well and enjoy time with family and friends. XOXOXO Elle

Friday, November 06, 2009

"Soups On" and It's Two Squash Soup

We had a light rain today, which is actually a fine thing since we get most of our moisture during fall and winter rains. I worked this morning to cover for my job share mate. She is flying home today after spending a couple of weeks in the Denver area, most of the time in the hospital where her son was fighting for his life. He is a brave and valiant young man, 30 years old, and was successful (along with lots of antibiotics and excellent hospital personnel) in beating back the pneumonia and lung infections. Lots of people were praying for him and sending good thoughts, so it is wonderful news that he is now home from the hospital! I was happy to cover her hours while she was gone so that she wouldn't worry about work, but it will be nice to have some time next week so I can get ready for expected family visitors. We might even have some of this soup since I made a double batch!

A while back I made a wonderful butternut squash soup and I've made it since but there were no changes, so I didn't post about it.

Today there were two kinds of squash to play with so I pulled out the old recipe and re-worked it a bit.

This soup uses both the butternut and pumpkin squashes, but you could substitute your favorite winter squash or even add it. I'll probably make this later in the winter with some acorn or Hubbard squash for variety.

If you are careful when you puree this you can have a soup that has some very smooth and some slightly less smooth pieces for a wonderful mouth feel.

Because there is also sweet potato and a tart apple as part of the soup there is a little bit of sweet and sour by-play going on. Since the squash are baked this time, there is some carmelization going on there, too, plus a bit with the onion at the beginning of the recipe. That's why I like to add extra black pepper and/or red pepper for bite and some plain yogurt or sour cream as a garnish for tang. The red pepper dice adds crunch, some a few extra vitamins, plus a punch of pretty color.

This soup is perfect for a rainy night like tonight, or could grace your Thanksgiving table with ease. Cooking the soup early and letting it sit overnight for the flavors to mellow makes it perfect for the busy holiday season. Just re-heat the soup when you are ready to serve it.

Two Squash Soup
Serves 4-6

1 average-sized butternut squash
1 medium-sized pumpkin
I medium onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium to large sweet potato
1 large Golden Delicious Apple
1 large Granny Smith Apple
3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
½ cup skim milk
½ cup fat-free buttermilk
½ teaspoon dried ginger powder
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
fresh ground pepper to taste (I used a LOT - gave it a nice kick)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Sour cream and small dice of red bell pepper for garnish

1. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy parts. Cut the pumpkin in half or in chunks, and remove the seeds and stringy parts. Place all of these, cut side down, on a foil or silicon mat lined rimmed baking sheet and cook in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the squash is cooked through. Let cool enough to handle and remove the skin from all pieces. Discard the skin and set the squash and pumpkin meat aside.

2. Peel onion and cut into ¼" chunks. Set aside. Peel squash, potato and apples and cut into ¼ “chunks. Re: Squash - I found it easier to first cut it into large pieces and then cut the skin from the pieces, then chop into chunks.

3. Over medium heat in a large saucepan/stock pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil and stir onion and garlic until tender.

4. Add chicken stock, potato, apple, and seasoning. Give it a good stir, reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are fork tender. Remove from heat.

5. Add the cooked squash and pumpkin, cut into cubes, to the stock mixture. Heat through on medium-low heat.

6. In a blender (or with an immersion blender), scoop about 1/3 of the mixture into blender. On low speed, blend until nicely pureed. While doing this, add about ¼ cup of milk and ¼ cup of buttermilk until creamy. Transfer this to a bowl or a 2nd pot.

7. Repeat step 6, adding another ¼ cup of milk and ¼ cup buttermilk and transfer to bowl or pot; continue until all soup has been creamed. (Alternatively, you can puree the soup with the stock being the only liquid, then stir in the skim milk and buttermilk once all the pureed soup is back in the soup pot.)

8. Put soup back in the pot and put on low heat, stirring to blend, and adding lots of black pepper...yum! Simmer for 15 minutes and taste soup. Adjust seasonings and, if desired, add maple syrup. Simmer another 5 minutes.

9. To serve immediately, heat to serving temp, spoon into bowls and add a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt if so desired then sprinkle with about a teaspoon of red pepper dice. Otherwise, you can chill it to serve cold or to reheat later. Can also be frozen, probably up to six months. If you have time to cook this ahead, the flavors really combine well when the soup is chilled overnight and reheated just before serving.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Mmmmm Pumpkin

I blame Costco. There I was today, minding my own business, headed for the produce section, when I passed a whole end filled with HUGE pumpkin pies..probably 12 inches across or larger. To make matters worse, these enormous pies were less than $6 each. Now all I wanted was to eat pumpkin pie!...or at least something with pumpkin in it. There is no way that Sweetie and I should ever have a pie that big in the house unless we will be having guest over, too, because we could eat the whole thing at one the pie stayed at Costco. Since the yen for pumpkin was now fixed in my brain, I made some little pumpkin fairy cakes instead. That way we can each have one and I can freeze the rest for another time when the urge for pumpkin and spices and sweetness comes over me. This also gave me a way to use up some of the left over cream cheese frosting from the macarons. Always a good thing to use up left overs, right?

You can bake this as one large pumpkin flavored pound cake as the recipe was originally written, too. Just slather the top of the cooled loaf with the frosting or dust with sugar.

Pumpkin Spice Fairy Cakes
adapted from Instant Gratification by Lauren Chattman

1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 large eggs
One 15 oz. can pumpkin puree (or equivalent fresh cooked pumpkin puree)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray small cake pans, muffin tins and/or loaf pans with cooking spray and dust with flour if not included in the spray. I recommend Bakers’ Joy if you are using Nordic ware pans as I was today for the small heart shaped fairy cakes.

Combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in the work bowl of a food processor and pulse once or twice. Cut the butter into 8 or so pieces and add to the bowl (I distributed the butter pieces evenly around the bowl).

Add one of the eggs. Process until the dry ingredients are moistened.

In a mixing bowl mix together the pumpkin puree, second egg and vanilla.

With the food processor running, add the pumpkin mixture through the feed tube and process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans with the spatula and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The time will vary with the size of the pan but the small cakes took about ½ hour and the mini-loaf pan took about 45 minutes. If you make this in a regular size loaf pan as the original recipe calls for, allow about 1 hour 10 minutes.

Let cool in the pan(s) on a wire rack about 10 minutes. Invert the pans or gently remove from the pans, reinvert and let cool completely.

Sprinkle cooled cakes with powdered sugar using a fine mesh strainer, or frost with icing. I used the leftover cream cheese maple apple frosting from the macarons.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Lucky - Late Season Strawberries

Sometimes you get lucky…like yesterday when I passed the strawberry stand that had been closed each time I passed during the last 3 weeks. I was sure that the fresh strawberry season had come and gone. Imagine my delight when I saw the “Open” sign posted and saw the flats of berries on the counter.

This is a roadside stand and the same family that sells the berries also plant, water, and pick the berries. They are amazingly good and so fresh and fragrant. Of course I had to buy three pints to enjoy.

I had to work yesterday afternoon, so I carefully parked in the shade (it was 80 degrees this afternoon!) and left the windows down a little to let in the breezes. Wouldn’t want to spoil the berries before I could get them home.

For dessert last night we had a decadent treat…chocolate dipped fresh berries. First I washed them carefully and dried them well…didn’t want any water to spoil the chocolate. Then I made a ganache with chocolate chips, whipping cream and a little vanilla. Since it was just meant for two, I used a small amount of the ingredients, but you could easily double it or triple it to make more chocolate covering…just keep microwaving at half power, a minute at a time, stirring after each microwave session, until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Once you dip the berries, place them on parchment paper or a silicon mat, then put that on a baking sheet and put it in the fridge or freezer to harden the chocolate. Taking a berry at a time and feeding each other is optional, but fun.

Fresh Strawberries Dipped in Chocolate

10 fresh large strawberries, gently washed and thoroughly dried. (I like to leave the greens on at the top, but you can hull them if you prefer)
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1 tablespoon whipping cream
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a small microwave safe bowl, stir together the chocolate chips and whipping cream. Microwave on half power a minute at a time, stirring well after each minute, until the chocolate is smooth.

Let cool for a few seconds, then stir in the vanilla. Dip the berries in the chocolate, leaving a little of the strawberry showing at the top. Place the dipped berries on parchment paper of a silicon mat that has been placed on a baking sheet. Once dipped, chill the berries in the refrigerator or freezer to harden the chocolate.

Serve cold or at room temperature.