Monday, November 28, 2011

Pumped up Pumpkin Bread

Whooops! I forgot to post this before Thanksgiving, but I'm pretty sure that everyone still has plenty of family gatherings, holiday parties, gifts to give, breakfasts to eat, house guests you'd rather not have and all around free time to make some post-Thanksgiving pumpkin bread in the next month or I right??

I tried to find the pumpkin bread recipe that I normally use, but since I couldn't find it, I combed through a ton-age of others and decided that the classic Libby's recipe made the style of bread that I like the best. Their standard pumpkin pie recipe hasn't ever failed me, so why not try the pumpkin bread? Yum. Aside from calling for pumpkin pie spice (which is just an excuse to make you buy another spice you'll never use again) I was totally pleased with the recipe. And you can make your own pumpkin pie spice blend in about 30 seconds. Seriously.

For one teaspoon of Pumpkin Pie Spice:
Measure 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1/8 teaspoon of ground allspice or ground cloves, and 1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg into a small bowl and stir to blend.
The end.

Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from Libby's

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice**(see above)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups granulated sugar
1 (15-ounce) can 100% pure pumpkin
4 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup orange juice or water
1 cup sweetened dried, fresh or frozen cranberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease and flour two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans (or any variation below).

2. Combine the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Combine the sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil and juice in a large bowl. Beat until just blended. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until moistened. Fold in the cranberries. Spoon the batter into prepared loaf pans.

3. Bake for 60 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Alternative loaf sizes:
•For three 8 x 4-inch loaf pans:
Prepare as above. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes.
•For five or six 5 x 3-inch mini-loaf pans:
Prepare as above. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes.

Monday, November 21, 2011

On the Side

Green bean casserole again? There's something to be said for tradition, I guess, but maybe you could try something new at your Thanksgiving this year. I once made roasted brussels sprouts for my family who had either never had them before, or claimed to not like them. They ate them and liked them. And no one died. You can always cover your bases by making the old standbys.

Tuscan kale (the elongated, pebbly surfaced variety) may sound way too healthy for the decadence that is the Thanksgiving meal, but there are ways to prepare it that are a little less granola than you might expect. For example, making crispy kale chips to serve with a pre-dinner drink is a healthy alternative to regular chips, yet you still get the salty-crunchy experience. Or you could make a salad for your first course that is not as filling as a soup.

Tuscan kale, like all kales, is extraordinarily nutritious. One cup provides more than 100 percent of the daily value of vitamins K and A, and 88 percent of the daily value for vitamin C. (And you can fight off colds!) OK so it is very healthy...but you will need a little greenery to offset all of the buttery mashed potatoes and gravy! And stuffing. And pie. And green bean casserole.

(They may not look cute, but they are extremely addictive!)

Tuscan Kale Chips
(From Bon Appétit)

12 large Tuscan kale leaves, rinsed, dried, cut lengthwise in half, center ribs and stems removed
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 250°F. Toss kale with oil in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2. Arrange leaves in single layer on 2 large baking sheets. Bake until crisp, about 30 minutes for flat leaves and up to 33 minutes for wrinkled leaves. Transfer leaves to rack to cool.

Tuscan Kale Salad

4 - 6 cups Tuscan kale (such as Italian black/Lacinato/Cavolo Nero), loosely packed and sliced, stems removed
Juice of 1 lemon
3 - 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, mashed
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Red pepper flakes, to taste
2/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, or other flavorful grating cheese such as Asiago or Parmesan
1/2 cup freshly made bread crumbs from lightly toasted bread

1. Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and a generous pinch (or more to taste) of hot red pepper flakes. Let sit for a few minutes, then remove the garlic and discard.

2. Whisk the dressing and pour over the kale in a large serving bowl and toss well. Add 2/3 of the cheese and toss again.

3. Let kale sit for at least 5 minutes. Add the bread crumbs, toss again, and top with the remaining cheese.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Shock and Awe

Hallelujah! ConEd (boo!) and my landlord (boo!) finally turned the gas back on after TWO WEEKS! Yeah! Now I know what the phrase "cooking with gas" really means! This all dovetailed with the extra annoying snowstorm of October 29. I was without gas, heat and hot water on the 28th & 29th, and have been without gas until today. It actually had nothing to do with the storm, but then again, I have yet to understand what it had to do with. I couldn't get a straight answer out of anyone! Obviously it was nothing like what the people in the state of CT have been dealing with for the past 10 days, but still. Ordering in, making salads, and cooking in the toaster oven gets old after a while! BTW: Does anybody know if I can withhold a portion of my rent? I haven't looked into that yet...

So, in light of being able to cook and bake again, I bring you...lemon pound cake! To be truthful I made this over two weeks ago, but it felt somehow wrong to blog about baking when I actually couldn't! (I am dying to bake something autumnal and pumpkin-y this weekend though, so stay tuned.) Anyway, I have been on a super hard core purge/re-organization of my apartment, and not only came across 150 food magazines hiding in the back of my closet (Relax-I threw them out!), I found a few binders full of recipes, which I similarly didn't recall hoarding, I mean, having. I did quickly flip through the recipes to pull anything that looked appealing, and this pound cake was a clear winner. It was originally a recipe for orange pound cake, but since I can't stand anything orange flavored, I changed it to lemon. Delish. I pawned it off on the folks at work not knowing that it might be the last thing I ever bake...(sniff). I think I'm going to go boil a pot of water! Because I can!

Lemon Pound Cake
Adapted from Saveur

For the Cake:
14 tablespoons softened, unsalted butter
tablespoons milk
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
tablespoon grated lemon zest

For the Glaze:
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. For the cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 6-cup loaf pan with 1
tablespoon of the butter. Set aside. Put the milk, eggs, and vanilla in a bowl and beat until well combined. Set aside.

2. Sift together the flour, sugar, and baking powder into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk. Add the zest, beating on medium speed, then add remaining 13
tablespoons of butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, waiting until each is completely incorporated before adding more.

3. Slowly add the milk-egg mixture, beating constantly, until the batter is just mixed together. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 55-65 minutes. (Lightly cover the cake with a piece of buttered foil during baking if it begins to get too brown.) Allow the cake to cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan. Using a skewer, poke holes all over the top of the cake.

4. For the glaze: Combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Reduce the glaze by half. Brush some of the warm glaze over the top of the cake, reapplying the glaze until cake is saturated. Serves 8.