Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pumpkin Cinnamon Pudding Cake

Yum, look at that nice caramelish delish!

Pumpkins are just so magical to me. Maybe it is because when I was younger I often dreamed of becoming Cinderella 2.0. I remember asking my mom if I could scrub the kitchen floor, not because I wanted to be helpful, but because in my mind if I scrubbed the floor my prince would finally find me. Alas, I scrubbed and scrubbed and and no prince ever came. Apparently his GPS is broken and he is too stubborn to ask for directions...typical. All scrubbing aside, I do love me some pumpkins.

Did you know that pumpkins are technically a fruit? Only because they have seeds, but really they are more like a vegetable in my opinion. I mean come on, if I ordered a fruit salad and they gave me apples and pumpkin I would probably be really confused. Then I would just eat it because the only thing that helps with confusion is eating. : ) Okay where am I going with this point? Did I even have a point?

My mom kindly bought me this magazine at the store the other day. It is called "Mixing Bowl", by Better Homes and Gardens. I had never heard of it or seen it before, but was pleasantly surprised by the recipes I found inside. I have several pages dog eared and on my "recipes to test" list. This recipe instantly caught my attention. First of all because it has pumpkin in it; second of all because it was different; and third, because it was so simple sounding. Of course I had to tweak it a bit because I am weird like that. It sounded like an awful lot of sugar so I cut back on the sugar, and I am glad I did. It was super yummy and loved by all!!!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Pudding Cake

adapted from the Mixing Bowl magazine

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a white casserole know the ones that are slightly bigger then and 8x8 pan.

Sift together the following and set aside:
1 1/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Cream together the following in separate medium bowl 2-3 minutes:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) softened butter
3/4 cup brown sugar

Then add the following and mix another 2-3 minutes:

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla

Add the dry to the wet and mix just until it comes together. Spread into pan and smooth with spatula. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon. Mix together 2 TBS butter and 1 cup boiling water until butter is melted and pour over batter and put into oven. Bake 30-40 minutes until the top springs back when lightly touched. Serve with ice cream, whipped cream, sweetened cream cheese, or mascarpone cheese.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

More Mocha cookies,,,Mocha Chewies to be exact.

Hey didn't I just post about Mocha cookies? Maybe there is a theme to this month...being tired and needing coffee in my system...but really isn't every month like that? Fall finally got the memo and landed in Texas, praise the Lord! Fall has always been my favorite season, it just makes me happy to wake up knowing I get to go outside and feel the nice breeze and wear a sweatshirt. Oh the simple things! I am currently sitting at my kitchen table surrounded by 5 wide open windows. Baking with the windows open always makes me feel as if I am living in some random Jane Austen novel, minus the whole breaking for tea time thing. : ) Now all I need is to break out into a nice Disney song...perhaps...but then again the windows are open and I wouldn't want to scare the neighbors. : )

Look people, I am going to be honest. If it were up to me I would make the mocha melty cookies I posted earlier this month...but if you want a chewy cookie and not a crumbly one this recipe is yours. It is all about preference. Paper or Plastic? Chewy or Dry? Oh the choices we face everyday.

In case the general public was wondering what on earth I am up to now and days, allow me to enlighten you. I was hoping to move back up to either Virginia, Philly, or Massachusetts and start selling my cookies at Farmer's Markets...but um yeah, I forgot about the whole "season of winter" thing, and unfortunately most of the markets in that part of the country are about to close and won't reopen until Spring. Of course Texas is always trying to be different and decided to do the opposite, so the Farmer's Market near me is just about to start. So, I am currently in the negotiation stage with a few bakeries trying to find a kitchen to work out of. Darn that whole health certified law...c'est la vive. I think I just need to get one of those big food trucks and drive around the country stopping in different towns along the awesome would that be?

Mocha Chewy Cookies

adapted from the Karen Cooks Blog

Sift together the following into a medium bowl:

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 TBS instant coffee powder

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

Add the following and mix until smooth. Scrape down and mix again.

2 TBS soft unsalted butter
1 egg room temp

Place in Fridge for 10 minutes. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Roll dough into small balls and then roll in powdered sugar. Place on parchment lined cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes. I got 10 1oz cookies from this recipe, so you might want to double it if 10 cookies just doesn't cut it for you.

Also, I have been listening to this happy song recently and thought I would share it with you all.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls of Paper.

You can't be afraid to cook. You might think a recipe looks too complicated or too advanced for you to try...but it isn't! Just try it! Trust yourself and your instincts and just cook! I have to admit that the most intimidating thing to me has always been bread. So scary, so time consuming. The more and more I try out new bread recipes the more and more confident and easy making bread becomes. Thanks to all the great "no knead" recipes out there bread really has become so much more accessible to the home cook. I recently purchased a no knead cookbook called, "Artisan bread in five minutes a day" by Hertzberg and Francois. I have tried 2 recipes from the book so far and have been extremely pleased with the simplicity and success of each loaf. So, if you are new to bread I suggest you pick this book up.

On that note I am going to give you this super cinnamon roll recipe from Sir Alton Brown. The next time you have overnight guests you should wow them with these yummy rolls when they wake up in the morning. They are so good your guests may never if you don't particularly like your house guests maybe you shouldn't make them. The great thing about this recipe is that they can be made ahead, and baked to order : ) I mean come on, what could be better then a fresh hot cinnamon roll straight from the oven with cream cheese icing melting all over the place....really, what is better then that?

The recipe can be found by following the link the video first it will make everything seem so much easier then it looks.

After eating too many of these delish rolls it finally dawned on me why they are called..."ROLLS"

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Basil Chicken Salad

Basil chicken salad on homemade focaccia bread

So I realize it is now Fall...but apparently Texas didn't get the memo on that and we are forever stuck in summer melting heat weather. Oh bother. Since it is still Summer here our basil plants are still growing nicely. What to do with basil that doesn't involve pesto, pasta, or dips? Make a chicken salad of course! I am not usually a chicken salad kinda girl, but somewhere along the line I decided to like it. I recently ate at this cute little Italian restaurant in Lafayette, Louisiana with my Mom and her dad, my Papa. We were stuck at the doctors for about three hours while my Papa had some eye stuff informed am I? : ) Anyway, we somehow forgot to eat before the appointment and were dying of hunger by the time his appointment was done, so we raced to this little bistro for a great basil chicken salad lunch. Perfect. Here is my rendition of it. It is great on top a bed of lettuce or some nice bread.

Basil Chicken Salad

4 cups cooked cubed chicken
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
3 TBS chopped pine nuts...or walnuts, pecans...your choice
3 TBS Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp kosher salt
pinch of cayenne pepper

Mix all together and enjoy!!!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bread Pudding

I know this looks burnt, but really it isn't...I promise : )

Have I mentioned Zea's before? If not it is probably because I don't want more people to know about it because then when I go the wait will be even longer then it already just forget we ever had this conversation. Zea's is the bestest restaurant in Lafayette, LA. Whenever we visit my mom's folks we always make it a point to go at least once, and hopefully twice. There are so many great things on their menu I don't even know where to start. Now if you know me you know it is rare to receive such praise from me about any restaurant. I am picky to say the least, and certain things have to be in place to receive my approval. Zea's food is so good that even my humble praise is not worthy of its greatness. Take a look at their menu and see for yourself. My favorites include the spinach salad, Mediterranean hummus, Thai ribs, coconut shrimp, and of course the sweet potato bread pudding.

Speaking of bread pudding that brings me to my next point. Bread Pudding. For some unknown reason I have never been moved by the spirit to make bread pudding. Maybe it is because we don't have a lot of bread hanging around our house, or maybe it is because the word "pudding" is really revolting to me for some reason. As a semi-Cajun I feel as if it is my God given duty to know how to make bread pudding...isn't there a passage in the Bible somewhere that says "Go forth and make pudding, and feed it to the people and it will be good, and there will be light among the nations." Sounds about right to me : ).

I am currently visiting my grandpa in Lafayette, and when we arrived he had some stale French bread that he had been hanging onto with the hopes that I would make his Lordship some bread pudding. I decided it was about time I made some, so I did, and it was good. My Grandpa grew up in New Orleans and was raised on the best of the best of authentic Creole dishes. I asked him to describe the bread pudding his Mom used to make and I would try my hardest to meet those standards. He said it had to be moist, not dry or crunchy; Sweet, but not too sweet; raisins and pecans were a must; and whiskey sauce was mandatory. I researched a bunch of recipes online and finally came up with a recipe that I thought fit his description. Now I know he is my Grandpa and his opinion is biased because he loves me, but I am uber critical and if this wasn't great I just wouldn't waste your that being said, I made it and it was excellent! So next time you find yourself with a loaf of stale bread hanging around I suggest you make this, not because I told you too, but because the Bible did.

New Orleans style Bread Pudding
by me, aka Dagny

Coat a casserole dish (you know those white pans with a glass top that everyone has in their cabinets somewhere?) with soft butter. Set aside.

In large bowl whisk together the following:

4 cups milk
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 TBS vanilla
1 cup raisins
1 tsp cinnamon

Add the following and toss together until coated.

6-7 cups cubed bread (12 oz) I used french bread, but many breads will work just fine.

Pour into buttered pan and press down. Chill in fridge over night. When you are ready to bake it mix together in small bowl the following and sprinkle over bread mixture:

3 TBSP melted butter
3/4 cup chopped pecans
2 TBS sugar or brown sugar

Bake in 350 degree oven for 1hour or until golden brown and slightly set. If you eat it straight from the oven the inside will look slightly undercooked, but if you let it sit for a while it will firm up. Bake longer if you like a more crispy pudding. I think this tastes even better if it sits in the fridge for a while and then you just reheat it.

Whiskey or Brandy Sauce:

Melt 1/2 cup butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 cup of sugar and 1 egg and whisk immediately or the egg will scramble. Continuously whisk and cook over medium heat until thick. Do not simmer, if it starts to bubble turn the heat down. Add 1 cup whiskey or bourbon and whisk. Remove from heat and serve warm over bread pudding.

We ate this for breakfast, but it also makes a nice dessert or snack before any workout : ) Carbs give you energy right?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mocha Melties

Oh joy, oh bliss! What a wonderful find! Imagine chocolate, coffee, and sugar coming together in one small bite and perfectly melting on your about heaven! At first I was skeptical of these little guys, but was so pleasantly surprised by their lightness and appeal that I have to make them again...and soon.

I am sure most people have encountered the usual suspect in their tins of Christmas Cookies from neighbors, friends, or families..."the Mexican wedding cookie." Or A.K.A. Butterballs, Russian Tea Cakes, Swedish Tea Cakes, Moldy Mice, Sandies, or Sand Tarts. I understand the sand like names, referring to the delicate cookies melting texture and sand like consistency. I also understand the butter names, referring to the simple butter taste that is so evident in each bite. Now the moldy mice name is just gross and so unappetizing...why would anyone ever want to eat a moldy mouse? Yuck.

I have often wondered what makes these tea cakes Russian, Mexican, or Swedish. Do they go well with vodka? Can they break out a mean salsa move on the dance floor? Or do they just like to say "ja" a lot? I then figured it must be the kind of nut you use that makes the cookie Russian, Mexican, or Swedish...but no I was wrong. I looked at tons and tons of recipes and could not find a definitive agreement that one nut was to be used for each nationality of cookie.

I started thinking about it and decided to make up my own answer. I googled each nut and found out where it originated from, where it is primarily grown, and what its overall presence in ethnic dishes was. Pecans are a true Southern nut, they are also grown in I decided that "Mexican Wedding Cookies" are made with pecans. Next I though about almonds and how they are prominent in a lot of Scandinavian I then decided "Swedish Tea Cookies" are made with almonds. Then I thought about walnuts...they are strong, stubborn, and hard core...kind of like guessed it...I decided that "Russian Tea Cakes" are made with walnuts. Don't you like my logic? Of course the only thing that matters is what kind of nut you have in your pantry so call it what you will. If you have any family secrets or thoughts on this, please do share.

I was blog surfing the other day and came across this recipe for mocha flavored wedding cookies. Did I dare? Yes I did dare. Did I like? No, I did love! They are so cute and lovely, and just fall apart in your mouth. So good for the soul. So, I now expect each and every one of you to add these to the tins of cookies you hand out at Christmas time

I would now like to interrupt your regularly scheduled programmed recipe to bring you, "Nutty facts about Nuts."

The Chinese see almonds as a symbol of everlasting sadness...and female there a connection there?

Walnut shells are very useful little bits. They are used to thicken if you find your kids licking the walls they may just like walnuts. They are also used as a filler in if you are making these cookies and find you are out of nuts just go find your dynamite stash and empty out the contents...hum just kidding, and please don't do that.

Straight from Wikipedia: "Pecan" is from an Algonquian word, meaning a nut requiring a stone to crack. Also, if you want to be a true Yankee and call it a "Pee-can", please do so alone and not in the South, really, its just embarrassing to everyone.

Mocha Melties
adapted from Taste of home

Cream in large bowl with mixer:

1 cup soft unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Then beat in:

2 tsp vanilla

Sift together and then add to above and mix until combined:

1 3/4 cup flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 TBS instant coffee

1/2 tsp salt

Then mix in:

1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans)

Roll into balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 14-16 minutes. When cooled roll in powdered sugar.

*fyi...I am currently making chocolate malt cookies...I hope they taste as good as they sound...I promise to report back to you!!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

If you like it then you should of put some honey mustard dressing on it...

When it comes to eating I always have some kind of idea of what I want to eat...except when it comes to lunch. Poor lunch, it is majorly overshadowed by the glorious meals of breakfast and dinner. I could honestly eat the same thing for lunch everyday and be completely content with that...and well, I do basically eat the same things everyday. Apple and almond butter, a salad, or leftovers.

I usually eat this wonderful artichoke dressing with my salads, but recently we have been out so I have found myself improvising and making my own dressing. For instance, the other night we had taco salads, so I made some pico de gaio and then mixed it with some yogurt and cayenne pepper to make a nice light dressing. My other favorite is honey mustard dressing. I know there are probably millions of recipes out there for honey mustard dressing that are better, but my recipe is simple, light, and satisfying. If you like a little more kick to your dressing just add more mustard.

Honey Mustard Dressing (for one)

1 TBS plain yogurt

1 tsp honey

1 tsp Dijon mustard, or country Dijon

Mix all ingredients together and serve over salad.