Saturday, October 31, 2009

Paula Deen's Caramel Nut Pound Cake

1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup sugar
5 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Lightly toast pecans in preheated oven on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes. Let cool.

Thoroughly grease and flour a Bundt or tube pan. I used to use a paper towel to spread the shortening on. Now? I just dig in with my fingers. It seems faster that way.

Cream butter and shortening. Gradually add sugar, beating well at medium speed on
mixer. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir in vanilla and pecans. Pour batter prepared pan.

Bake at 325 for 1 1/2 hours or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan 10
minutes. Remove from pan and cool on rack.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if you like.

I mixed up a glaze of sifted confectioner's sugar, milk, and vanilla, and the cake so didn't need it. It's plenty sweet on its own.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Candy Corn Bark

All sweet, all sugar -- perfect for Halloween.

16 Halloween-colored chocolate sandwich cookies, chopped
1 1/2 cups broken small pretzels
1 1/2 pounds white chocolate, chopped into small pieces
2 cups candy corn

(If I were making this for me, I'd add chopped peanuts since I think nuts (peanuts, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts) enhance pretty much any sweet dish. Since it's for kids who may or may not have peanut allergies I didn't add any. If I were making this for me, I'd also use semi-sweet chocolate instead of white chocolate since white chocolate is not chocolate at all. It's candy and that's great but it's not chocolate.)

Line a medium-ish sized baking sheet with parchment paper, waxed paper, or a silpat.

Melt white chocolate in a double boiler over low heat. Or melt it in your microwave if you know your microwave really well and you're on good terms with it. I put the chopped white chocolate in a bowl and microwaved it for about 20 seconds, then stirred, then another 20 seconds, then stirred, repeat, repeat. White chocolate can burn - it gets all clumpy and gray looking - in a second so watch it closely. Take it out before it's completely melted and stir it for a bit and it should be fine.

While you're negotiating with the microwave, spread the pretzels and cookie pieces on the prepared baking sheet.

Pour the melted chocolate over the pretzel and cookie pieces. Spread with a spatula (don't worry about getting it smooth) and top with candy corn. Let sit until it hardens and and break or cut into pieces.

I filled clear cellophane bags with a few pieces and tied them with orange and black raffia, which I then failed to take a photo of. The kids seemed to like them at the Trunk or Treat.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups dark brown sugar*
1 teaspoon cinnamon
dash each of nutmeg, ground cloves, and ginger**
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (I ended up using most of the entire can.)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups peeled, cored and chopped apple, chopped in a fairly small dice (I almost grated the apple instead. I wonder how that would have turned out?)

* The original recipe called for white sugar but I live on the edge and I substituted brown sugar and dark brown sugar at that. I think it gives a deep, rich flavor to this type of autumnal baked goods.

** Pumpkin pie spice was what the original recipe called for but I don't have a tin of Pumpkin Pie Spice in my cupboard. I don't see the point of buying a container of something I'll use maybe three times a year. So I used a combination of cinnamon, ginger, ground cloves, and nutmeg. I have no idea how much of each. Just toss in some of your favorite seasonal spices.

Streusel topping:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Line 18 or so*** cupcake cups with paper lines.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, brown sugar, and spices. In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, pumpkin, and oil. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture; stirring just to moisten. Fold in apples. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.

In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons flour, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle topping evenly over muffin batter.

Bake in preheated oven for about 35 minutes.

I used Granny Smith apple, which was pretty tart. Next time I'll try another baking apple.

Also, next time I'd add some toasted walnuts or pecans to both the batter and the streusel topping.

*** This recipe made 24 muffins, although the original recipe said it would yield 18.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sunday Supper: Soup and Cornbread

Winter Soup

1 1/2 pounds ground beef or ground turkey
2 medium onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
28 ounce can tomatoes
2 15-oz cans tomato sauce
1 large potato chopped in small dice
2 16-oz packages frozen mixed vegetables
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 tablespoon salt (That seems like a lot of salt but it seems to need it. You can cut back on the amount, of course, and add other seasonings.)
1/2 cup red wine
1 teaspoon pepper
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock (or water)

Brown meat in large pot. Add onion, bell pepper and celery – cook until soft. Add other ingredients and simmer 3 or 4 hours. Freezes well.

If the recipe sounds familiar, it's a reprint from last season. It's easy and tasty and makes a big pot full of soup. Three of us ate it for dinner last night and we put up five containers in the freezer for other Sunday night suppers.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Turkey Meatloaf with Feta and Sun Dried Tomatoes

We saw an episode of Giada at Home over the weekend and decided to give this one a try at our home.

I don’t like meatloaf and haven’t since I was about four years old. But I loved this: flavorful and easy and so good. We filed it away under “keeper.”

Vegetable cooking spray
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped garlic- and herb-marinated sun dried tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced, optional
2 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons whole milk (I used skim because that’s what I had.)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat (We used a mixture of ground white and dark meat.)

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, if using, eggs, milk, feta, salt, and pepper. Add the turkey and gently stir to combine, being careful not to overwork the meat.

Carefully pack the meat mixture into the prepared pan and bake until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and slice. Put on a serving platter and serve.

Make-ahead dishes are the bomb. This one we could mix up a day ahead and the next day when we got home, all we’d have to do is pop it in the oven.