Monthly Archives: October 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites

During my parents’ visit earlier this month, we picked up two pie pumpkins during our trip to the apple orchard. The first one I used to make this delicious soup. The second one I had reserved for something sweet. I went ahead and roasted it, pureed it and ran it through a mesh strainer to lose some of the water (and still ended up with about 3 cups of pumpkin puree). Then I thought to myself – what in the world should I make? I seriously contemplated pumpkin pie. Tis’ the season after all. But I knew I would regret making, and then eating an entire pumpkin pie by myself. (And transporting via bicycle to work just seemed like a disaster waiting to happen). And so I found myself thinking back to these cheesecake bites I had made earlier this year.

Of course! Pumpkin cheesecake bites. The perfect solution, because I love pumpkin cheesecake even more than I love pumpkin pie. Here’s why it’s a great idea 1) No pie crust involved. 2) Instead you get to use spicy gingersnaps. 3) By making them cupcake size, the resulting crust to cheesecake ratio to (in my opinion) strikes the perfect balance. Oh, and 4) you can make as few or as many as your stomach desires.

I smothered mine in this salted butter caramel sauce I had leftover in my fridge. Don’t wait for a special occasion or Thanksgiving to make these. Make them for your lunches during the week. Or as something to tide you over while you’re making dinner. Or for no reason at all…

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites

makes 1 dozen

The Crust 
1 cup crushed gingersnaps
3 teaspoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
The Filling
1 – 8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon bourbon

1. Preheat oven to 325º. Line a cupcake tin with papers.

2. Pulse gingersnaps in food processor to a fine crumble. Add brown sugar and melted butter and mix together. Scoop approximately 2 tablespoons of cookie crust in each cupcake paper. Use the bottom of a small glass (my glasses from beer festivals are just about the perfect size for such a job) to pat down cookie crumbs. Refrigerate while making the cheesecake filling.

3. Cram together cream cheese and brown sugar until well combined. Mix in cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt. Beat in egg. Fold in pumpkin puree, vanilla extract and bourbon and mix until smooth.

4. Using an ice cream scoop, distribute filling among cupcake papers, filling about 3/4 full.

5. Bake at 325º for about 20 minutes. Cool in pan and refrigerate until set.

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie. Now that’s a blast from the past.

With the most recent cold snap in Minneapolis and a drawer full of vegetables from the last of my CSA, I’ve had chicken pot pie on the mind.

When I think of chicken pot pie, I reminded of the summer I spent taking care of my great-grandmother (the one who inspired this milkshake). I must have been 14 or so and my great-grandmother was living with my grandparents. My mom would drop me off on her way into work in the morning and pick me up on her way home. I would spend the day cleaning up my grandparent’s house, which meant dragging the 95-pound vacuum cleaner over the shag carpet and running the laundry, as well as making sure that my great-grandmother took her medications. I also got to pick out which pastel sweatsuit Grandma would wear for the day. During the in-between-times we would watch old episodes of game shows like Family Feud and the Price is Right. Well, I would watch the game shows and Grandma Pete would doze off in her chair. Other times I would dig through her jewelry box in awe (Grandma could rock the ugliest sweatsuit with a fabulous pair of pearl earrings).

I was responsible for making sure the old women ate – which was no easy feat. As a 14-year old in the kitchen, my skills were limited. I would poach eggs for breakfast and boil hot dogs for lunch. But for dinner, I would roll up my sleeves and make chicken pot pie. I think I must have made it at least once a week that summer. (Here’s my exact recipe from over 15 years ago, complete with girlish handwriting and mispellings…)

As a young person, my great-grandmother’s extreme old age scared me. I certainly didn’t take advantage of the time we spent together the way that I would today. She had an entire lifetime prior to that summer. And aside from my early childhood memories of banana milkshakes and grilled cheese, the only thing that I really know about her is that she was sent home from school (she was a teacher) for wearing pants to work sometime in the ancient past when such an action was deemed inappropriate for the fairer sex.

I regret that I wasted such precious time with somebody who had such gumption. I also regret that I made chicken pot pie with canned cream of broccoli soup, frozen vegetables and refrigerator rolls. At least I can rectify one of those regrets…

Chicken Pot Pie

serves 4-6

2 chicken breasts, cubed
1/2 onion, diced
2-3 medium carrots, diced
4-5 small potatoes, diced
1/2 head cauliflower (or broccoli)
2/3 cups frozen peas
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Biscuit topping
1 1/3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 egg
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 egg yolk

1. Cook the chicken in a large, deep sided frying pan over medium heat. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. Add onions to the frying pan and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the carrots and potatoes and continue to cook for 5-10 minutes more. Add cauliflower and frozen peas. Season with thyme and salt and pepper and continue cooking until vegetables are not-quite soft. Take off heat and add chicken back.

3. While the vegetables are cooking, melt butter in a pot over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for a minute before adding the milk. Cook until thick, about 10 minutes. Whisk in nutmeg and parmesan cheese, stirring until cheese is melted. Stir into the cooked vegetables and pour into a large, deep-sided pie dish or 9 x 13 glass casserole dish.

4. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in cold butter until it resembles cornmeal. Stir in cheddar cheese. In a separate bowl, beat egg and buttermilk together and then pour into the flour mixture and mix until dough comes together.

5. Knead a couple of times and pat out dough on counter to ~1/2 inch thick. Cut into biscuits, either with a glass or cute cookie cutter and place on top of pie filling about 1/2 inch apart. Brush biscuits with egg yolk.

6. Bake at 425º for about 15 minutes or until the biscuits are a golden brown.

Salted Butter Caramel Sauce

I have a philosophy:

If you’re going to indulge – indulge all the way.

Alongside that there’s:

Quality over quantity.

And it’s only getting worse as I get older. It turns out I have luxurious tastes. Now, I’m not out of control … but I won’t bat an eye at spending $100 for a dress when ten years ago that would make my eyes pop out of my head. But I would rather have fewer things that I love, than a bunch of stuff that I only kind of like.

The same holds true for food as well. I like tasty, full-fat, full-sugar, full-flavor foods. I can’t help myself, it’s in my nature. But there is one lovely benefit to being a food snob (a label that I coming to terms with as more and more people in my life are calling me that). I hardly ever buy uber-processed foods. I may have five different types of flour, six different types of sugar and eight kinds of vinegar in my pantry but you wont find store-bought bread, cookies or salad dressing.

I recently resumed my affair with caramel. Especially salted caramel. Talk about indulgence – butter, sugar, heavy cream … and a dash of vanilla. There’s nothing in it that is good for you – unless you’re talking about good for your soul. Because this salted butter caramel sauce is heavenly.

Use it as a dipping sauce for apples, use it as a topping for cakes and ice cream … or just eat it by the spoonful. In moderation, of course.

Salted Butter Caramel Sauce

From David Lebowitz

makes ~1 1/2 cups

6 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse sea salt

Melt the butter in a deep-sided saucepan. Stir in sugar and cook, stirring frequently until the sugar is a deep golden brown and starts to smoke.

Remove from heat and whisk in half of the heavy cream – this will bubble up! Stir until smooth. Stir in remaining cream and then the vanilla and salt.

Will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks.

Curried Pumpkin Soup

Sometimes I don’t have words. The past week has left both my heart and my stomach full.

I love the people in my life. They do my heart and soul good. There is an ease to spending time with them, no matter how long since our last visit that is unbelievably satisfying. I just wish they all weren’t so far away. I spent the past few days in Chicago (after spending a few days with Scott in Florida) with my dear friends Jenny and Sayan.

They love food as much as I do. I was called to Chicago for very important bridesmaid duties, which just happened to include both a dinner tasting Spiaggia (and had that butternut squash pasta that I tried to replicate here) as well a dessert tasting. And Jenny threw in a 5-course tasting menu with wine pairings at Takashi, for no particular reason. Except that we both love food and needed to have a deep philosophical conversation about marriage. So perhaps its no surprise that we would end the evenings on the couch with a glass of wine watching House Hunters. (Note: six years ago, you could find us in a similar situation only we’d be watching Sex in the City. Does that mean anything?)

When I left Minneapolis, we were in the midst of an Indian summer and when I returned, the temperatures dropped and the weathermen have been talking about snowflakes in the forecast. This does not do my heart good. Before I left for my trip I made a huge pot of Curried Pumpkin Soup and tucked it away in my freezer, awaiting my return. Warm and toasty, bright and beautiful – I was glad to return home for the soup, if not for the weather.

Curried Pumpkin Soup

1 small pie pumpkin
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves
2 tablespoons minced ginger
3 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sweet curry powder
3 cups chicken stock
1 – 14 ounce can coconut milk

Halve pumpkin and remove seeds. Place cut side down in a casserole dish and fill with 1/2 inch of water. Roast at 350º for about an hour and a half.

Melt butter in a large stock pot. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic and ginger and cook for another minute or two. Season with cumin, coriander, cardamom, red pepper flakes, salt and curry powder. Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Scoop out roasted pumpkin and add to soup. Transfer soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Return soup to a simmer and add the coconut milk, stirring until incorporated.











Turtle Brownies

Do you know what I love more than baking?

Baking for somebody other than myself.

I was in Florida for a couple of days. Which meant Scott bore the brunt of my baking addiction. I try to be thoughtful and make things that appeal to him.

Like these turtle brownies.

Chocolate. Caramel. Pecans. Even if they were a flop, I am pretty sure they would be a delicious pile of goo. A timeless combination, which makes it appropriate for Florida, as the weather here has been somewhat undefinable, in terms of seasons.

These are intense. I have no other words. Not a quick and simple brownie by any means, but well worth the commitment. And let’s face it, Scott is worth it.

Turtle Brownies

adapted slightly from Gourmet
Brownie batter
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup 60% cocoa chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Caramel sauce
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup toasted chopped pecans
1/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Toast pecans for about 15-20 minutes. Leave oven on and line an 8-inch square glass baking dish with aluminum foil.

Make brownie layer:
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.

Melt chocolate and butter in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth, then remove from heat. Cool to lukewarm, then stir in brown sugar and vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition until mixture is glossy and smooth. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Pour batter evenly in baking dish and bake for 30. Cool completely in pan on a rack.

Make caramel-pecan layer:
Bring sugar, water, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then boil, without stirring, until mixture turns a golden caramel color, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully add cream and vanilla (mixture will bubble and steam). Pour over brownie layer, spreading evenly. Sprinkle pecans over the caramel layer. Cool completely in pan on rack.

Prepare garnish:
Melt remaining chocolate chips in the microwave (heat for 30 seconds, stir and heat for 30 seconds more). Drizzle melted chocolate decoratively over brownies.

Chill brownies, loosely covered, until caramel and chocolate are firm, at least 4 hours.