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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Stew

Writer's block. No idea what to say. Help.
Send cold meds. And tissues. And pity. While I'm waiting for those things, here's a really nice stew recipe--good for warming you up, and pretty, too.

Originally found on Allrecipes. Looked good, read the reviews, changed it up a little bit. There (posted by CRVGRL), it's called Brazilian Black Bean Stew. Is it really Brazilian? I don't know. And since I don't know for sure, and it's loaded with good things like sweet potatoes and black beans, Sweet Potato and Black Beab Stew it is. (See that? I didn't mean to spell "beab," but my nose is so stuffy, that must be how it sounded in my head.)

This makes a lot, so you can cut it in half if you're only cooking for a few people. Very much like chili, and not at all sweet from the potatoes and mangoes, and could definitely use more spicy heat. It's got a nice, but subtle smoky flavor from the chorizo and the ham. Good stuff.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Stew

*serves a small crowd

1/2 pound chorizo sausage, chopped
1/3 pound cooked ham, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled, cut in small cubes
1 large red bell pepper, diced
2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 small hot green chile pepper, diced
2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp adobo
2 (16 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 mangoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat a large pot over medium heat, add the chorizo and ham and cook for about 3-4 minutes.
Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
Stir in garlic and cook for another 2 minutes or so.
Stir in the sweet potatoes, bell pepper, undrained (*see note below!) tomatoes, chile pepper, broth, and spices.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. (Be sure you've cut them small enough to cook completely in this time--bite-sized.)
Add the beans and let them heat through, just a couple of minutes.
Stir in the mango and cilantro, and season with salt.

Does that look like a poached egg on there? It's not. It's a dollop of Greek yogurt, with a sprinkle of cayenne.

*Spellchecker says "undrained" should be "untrained." If all you've got is untrained tomatoes, then whip those suckers into shape and show 'em who's boss. Then kindly kick their butts into the pot.

That's all for today. Oh, I'll be waiting for the mail man or the UPS/FedEx guys with your outpourings of love in the form of strong cold medicine and double strength tissues.

Or just get well wishes. Those'll be juuuust fine. :)

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers, October: Pizza!

What a nice change of pace this month's challenge was! Don't get me wrong, it's a blast to try my hand at all those gorgeous cakes and pastries, but pizza is something we love to make. I'd been looking forward to making it all month, but then as the deadline approached, I wasn't feeling too great. I'm still fighting something off, and trying not to get what my daughter has been dealing with for the last few days.

But I went ahead and made the dough anyway. It had to sit overnight, and then it was ready to go. But I wasn't, hehe. Luckily, my husband, the resident pizza maker, stepped in and made the pizzas for me. I didn't even have the energy to think about toppings, so just cheese it was. But they were delicious!

For the whole scoop, or slice, hehe, see Rosa's Yummy Yums. Rosa's this month's host and what a great choice for a challenge!

Here is the recipe I used for the pizza sauce. Very simple, and this will be the one I use from now on. Just be sure to wait to salt the sauce only after it's done simmering.

This one was recommended to me by my good friend, Jen. Thanks, Jen!

Pizza Sauce Recipe

1 clove garlic, mashed and minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
dash red pepper, optional
Combine all ingredients. Makes about 1 1/2 cups, enough for 2 pizzas.

As you can see, I didn't put a whole lot of energy into taking the photos, either. It definitely tasted better than it looks!

Thanks, Rosa, for hosting this month, and for honoring the memory of Sher. Sher was originally slated to host with Rosa, and had shared her idea of doing pizza before she passed away this past July.

And thanks to my husband, Billy, for helping me out when I needed it. Love you! xo

See what other Daring Bakers are doing!

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pumpkin Pie Latte, to go with your Pumpkin Muffins

Mmmmm, coffeeeeeee! I love coffee. It doesn't love me. Well, decaf loves me, but I get such a buzz from regular coffee that I can't drink it. Weird, right?

My current favorite decaf is from Trader Joe's. It's their Smooth and Really Mellow Blend Whole Bean Coffee. SO good, as far as decaf coffees go. And since I can only have decaf, my choices for good coffee are very limited, hehe.

A little while ago, I was looking up some stuff about brewing coffee, and came across this page from Alton Brown. Now, I love Alton Brown, and already do most of what he advises there, but 2 heaping tablespoons of coffee per 6 ounces of water? Wha??? This did not compute. My mom, who made great coffee, always used one tablespoon.

But you know, it's Alton, so I figured I'd brew a small pot, to see if he was right.

And yep, you know it. He was. My coffee has gone from good to great! It's not stronger or bitter, it's full bodied. Yes, I finally know why people say "full bodied" when they talk about coffee.

It's a coffee revelation. For me, anyway. I guess I've been living under a rock. Or a bad pot of coffee, you decide.

Which brings me to Starbucks. Their coffee always tastes burnt to me. Always! And the prices? Holy coffee beans! With the way the economy has been sliding down it's slippery slope, saving some cash everyday would be good, right?

They have a new Pumpkin Spice Latte this season. I don't know how much it costs, but I'm guessing it's way more than it costs to make this one. This latte is from New England Coffee, who by the way, is a close second to Trader Joe's decaf. And it's incredibly easy! Make the latte part while your morning coffee is brewing, then mix the two, pop it in your travel mug, and you're ready to go! Or any time you want a warm, (very) slightly spicy latte. It's delicious, and I enjoyed mine with a nice warm, Pumpkin Morning Glory Muffin. Pumpkin overkill? No, it's very subtle in the latte. And though I drink my everyday coffee with half & half, but no sugar, I like my latte-ish coffee drinks sweetened. So I added sugar to taste in this.

Pumpkin Pie Latte
Adapted from New England Coffee

1 serving

1 tablespoon canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup milk
1/2 cup of your favorite coffee
-cinnamon, nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice for sprinkling over the top

In a saucepan, heat milk and pumpkin until steaming, or even easier--mix the milk and pumpkin in a 2 cup measuring cup and microwave for 2 1/2 minutes.
Stir in vanilla and cinnamon.
Pour the milk mixture in a blender, and blend 20 seconds until it's all foamy and pretty.
Pour into your favorite mug, then add coffee.
Add sugar to taste, if you like.
A sprinkle of nutmeg, cinnamon, or pumpkin pie spice over the top, and drink up!

Pumpkin Pie Latte

Forget the expensive coffee drinks at the pricey cafe, make ...

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Pumpkin Morning Glory Muffins, perfect for cool Fall mornings

"My name is Elle and I'm a muffin addict."

Whew! I just had to get that off my chest. (As if you guys didn't already know that, right?)

A month or so ago, when we were out on one of our day trips, I picked up a Morning Glory muffin at a bakery, planning to save it and have it the next morning. My adorable husband brought it to me when he was getting in the truck and said "I thought you might want this now." I didn't , but I didn't tell him that, I just put it aside.

About an hour later, he was scoping out the bag with my muffin in it. "Want some?" I asked. I know him so well. Within 5 minutes we had that huge muffin
completely gone and were fighting over the crumbs, hehe. He asked me to make him some just like that one. I can't say no to him, so of course I said I would. Plus, I'm always up for making muffins, because, you know, I have that addiction going on.

I found this recipe online, by Pam McKinstry, which is supposed to be the original Morning Glory Muffin recipe. Is it? I don't know, but who am I to argue? I figured it was as good a place as any to start. I made some years ago (BH: Before Husband) that were also delicious, but had a huge amount of oil. Geez, there was enough oil in those, I don't know what, but there was a lot, ok?

This recipe also has one cup of oil, and for one batch, that's just a whole lot. So that's where the pumpkin comes in. "Hello, Pumpkin!" I cut the oil by half and made up the rest with canned pumpkin. It's such a great way to cut some of the fat out of baked stuff, isn't it? And at this time of year, it fits right in!

So enough jabbering on, here's the recipe. Oh, I also added some white whole wheat flour in place of some of the AP flour in there, too. AND used a little chai spice, but you can use all cinnamon, if you like. AND I cut the sugar.

Pumpkin Morning Glory Muffins

Makes 17 muffins

scant 1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp chai spice (use all cinnamon if you wish)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
3/4 cup raisins
1 large apple, peeled and grated
8 ounces (1 cup) crushed pineapple, drained
2 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
3 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup canned (plain) pumpkin
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Put your rack* in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the first 7 ingredients (or 6 if you're using only one flour), then add the coconut, raisins, apple, pineapple, carrots, and nuts. Stir this all together. It will be messy looking and dry, but stay with me.

In a smaller bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, pumpkin, and vanilla. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix to combine.

Grease your muffin tins, or use paper liners if you prefer. I don't use the papers, but that's a personal preference. Fill each muffin cup? space? area? (what the heck do you call the muffin spaces on a muffin tin????) all the way to the top.

Bake for 30-35 minutes and do the toothpick test. (should come out clean.) Cool muffin in the pan for 10 minutes and then cool completely on your rack (*giggle!).

*See that? On the inside, I'm still 13 years old. Maybe I even have an inner 13 year old boy, who knows? hehe!

**Leaves courtesy of Mother Nature and one of our Maple trees.

Pumpkin Morning Glory muffins

A twist on the old favorite! Using pumpkin cuts some ...

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Holiday Baking, Week 3: Caramel Corn

This is good stuff. And dangerous! I made a double batch last week, and just got around to taking the photos today. Good thing, too, or it would have been all gone! It's addictive. And in my opinion (my opinion. no hate letters about how your grandma's caramel corn was served to heads of state and therefore rules, please, lol) it's the perfect caramel corn. It's not too sticky or too sweet, and it's not soggy--the caramel coating dries to a nice finish so you don't feel like you're eating a mouthful of sticky taffy. Because who wants to have to give a chisel as a gift alongside their caramel corn? "Here, it's a little sticky, so here's a sharp object to remove it all when you're done eating it!" (How thoughtful, hehe.) I have to tell you, I've tried dozens of caramel corn recipes, and never get results like I do with this recipe. It never fails. Where did I get this recipe? In a magazine that my mom brought home years ago. It looked easy (and it is!) so I clipped it and kept it all this time.

And the best part? It's made right in the microwave! It couldn't get any easier, really. Pop some microwave popcorn, mix up a few other things in the microwave, stir in the popcorn, and you're basically done. A little drying time on the counter and that's it. Dig in!

Or...package it up in pretty little bags or boxes, add a ribbon, and give it to some lucky person. They'll think you slaved over a hot stove making caramel. Don't tell them how easy it was and they'll never know. Or you can attach the recipe so they can make it themselves.

The nuts in this are totally optional, but I really, really love them in my caramel corn. Use whatever kind you like. I usually use Spanish peanuts, but use what you've got. I've actually thought about making a batch without the popcorn--Just Nuts! (Think "Just Jack!") How good would that be?

I have made this so many times, I can't even count. And yes, it calls for corn syrup, which I know can be hard to find for many of you. So this time, I used Lyle's Golden Syrup to test it out. It worked perfectly!

Microwave Caramel Corn

1 (3.5 ounces) bag microwave popcorn or 2 quarts plain popped popcorn
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup light or dark corn syrup, or Lyle's Golden Syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp baking soda
peanuts, optional (or you can use a different type of nut if you prefer)

Prepare microwave popcorn as directed on bag.
Remove any unpopped kernels. (This step is really important, because a broken tooth is not a good gift.)
In 2 quart microwave-safe bowl, microwave butter on high until melted, about 1& 1/2 minutes.
Stir in sugar and corn syrup, and microwave on high for 4-5 minutes.
Stir in vanilla and baking soda until well blended.
Stir in popcorn, mixing well.
(It may be a bit tricky to mix the popcorn in at first, but the more you stir, the easier it gets. I like to add half, stir it to coat, than add the rest.) If you are using nuts, add them here too.
Microwave on high for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes to coat popcorn evenly.
***Watch it carefully--if you have a very powerful microwave, watch closely so it doesn't start to burn, and you may want to reduce the 2 minute intervals to 1 or 1 1/2 minutes.
Transfer caramel corn to tray lined with parchment paper.
Cool and break popcorn apart.
Store in airtight container.

Yield: 2 quarts
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Ready in: 18 minutes

Microwave Caramel Corn

This is good stuff. And dangerous! I made a double ...

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Grass Fed Beef Giveaway, and this time, it's not mine, hehe.

My good friend, Mike--aka Extreme Dictator of That Cookbook Thing II, has been asked to do a giveaway on his blog, and I'm helping to get the word out.

Who wouldn't love getting grass fed beef delivered to their door? Ok, maybe the vegetarians out there, but maybe you know someone who loves beef--so you can still enter if you want! The beef is from an 88,000 acre ranch in Montana called La Cense.

And after you all enter, be sure to take a look around Mike's place. He's got some great posts up, and I'm not just saying that because he lives in the same city that I do. he's a great writer with an awesome sense of humor.

So scoot on over there and enter for some fresh beef delivered to your door! And say hi to Mike for me!

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Holiday Baking, Week 2 : Sea Salted Smoked Almond Bark

This one is always a favorite! It has two major things going for it. Well, three. It's incredibly easy to make, with just three ingredients. It has that wonderful sweet/salty combination of flavors, and ladies, you all know how that hits the spot, right? And it tastes fabulous! It also looks pretty on holiday trays. And a bonus--your non-cooking friends will be amazed that you made them chocolate bark, hehe.

This one is from Nestle, but I like to use Ghirardelli bars. Whichever you choose, just make sure it's a good chocolate. Since there are only three ingredients in this recipe, each one of them stands out.

I know some of you probably don't like smoked almonds, and even of you do, you can only eat so much of them, right? But combined with the chocolate and the salt? The smokiness totally mellows out and makes this one a winning chocolate bark.

Who doesn't love smoky nuts??

So let's get to this (un)complicated recipe, ok? The actual recipe name is more complicated than the recipe itself! Oh! I always double this. It's so easy, so why not? One piece for you, one-two pieces for me. Two pieces for you, one-two-three pieces for me...hehehe. Takes me back to my Bugs Bunny watching days. (Like....last weekend...)

Sea Salted Smoked Almond Chocolate Bark

Long list of ingredients:

-8 oz. Nestle Chocolatier 53% Cacao Dark Chocolate Baking Bar, broken into pieces (OR your favorite dark chocolate--not too bittersweet because you want some sweetness to balance out the salt and smoked almonds)
-1/2 cup smoked-flavored almonds, coarsely chopped, divided (but I use more)**
-1/8 teaspoon sea salt (preferably large crystal) (I also use more than this)**

**Eyeball these two, ok? If you think you want more nuts, go for it. And the salt--1/8 tsp? Who are they kidding? I like some in every single bite, so I sprinkle some all over, I don't measure it--but it's more than a skimpy 1/8 tsp.

Extremely complicated directions:

Line 8-inch baking pan with parchment or wax paper.
Microwave the chocolate in uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on high for 1 minute, then stir. The chocolate may keep some of it's shape. If necessary, microwave at additional 10- to 15-second intervals, stirring just until smooth.
Stir in 1/4 cup almonds.
Pour into the lined pan.
Sprinkle with remaining almonds.
Tap pan several times to spread the chocolate and settle the nuts.
Sprinkle with sea salt.

Refrigerate for about 1 hour or until firm.
Break into pieces.
Store in air-tight container at room temperature.

See? Wasn't that easy? And just wait till you taste it.

Sea Salted Smoked Almond Chocolate Bark

This one is always a favorite! It has two major ...

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Is it AC/DC...or has Elmo left Sesame Street for bigger and better things???

Just a quickie today. This past Saturday, we took a day trip to the mountains--it was a gorgeous day! Beautiful weather and amazing foliage. Photos coming soon, but here's a small sample:

So anyway, to get to my point. We have Sirius Satellite Radio in my truck. If you are sick of regular radio, you should definitely check them out. I'll bet you never go back.

They've recently changed the Punk channel
(yes that's one of my presets, ok? hehe) to the AC/DC channel. I'm not sure if it's permanent--I think it's only to coincide with the release of their new album. But we've been listening to it a lot. I'd forgotten how many great songs they have!

Which brings me to my point. I know, finally! hehe. We're listening to Shoot to Thrill. And as it's getting closer to the end of the song, it hit me.

Oh. My. God. Brian Johnson sounded just. like. Elmo! I was laughing my butt off! I even hit rewind (another reason to get Sirius!) so the kids could tell me what they think, and yeah--they thought so, too.

I don't know if this is something everyone but me knew about, because I can be out of the loop on stuff. But for your listening pleasure, here is Shoot to Thrill, by AC/DC, and I want you to listen to it while looking at sweet little Elmo's face, ok? It's mostly at the end of the song, when there's about one minute left, so be patient--or fast forward if you hate AC/DC.


photo by How Stuff Works

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Apple Crisp that makes me feel like a kid again.

And that's no small feat! We won't talk about which birthday I just celebrated, but my 5 year old son tells me I'm still cute, so that helps. A lot, hehe.

This is the kind of apple crisp I remember having as a kid. My mom never made it until I was older--she didn't really like to bake much, but it's the kind you find in a good diner or mom and pop restaurant. Not that we ate in diners a lot, but there was always something special about having apple crisp back then since we never had it at home. It's nice and oaty and crumbly on top, and underneath--nice, sweet, cinnamon kissed apples.

Every year we go to Gould Hill Orchard in Contoocook, NH. (Sounds like Con-took-cook.) It's a family run farm that's 225 years old, and they have over 85 unique varieties of apples, not to mention gorgeous views of the area. They also make their own apple cider that is so refreshing.

Views from the orchard.

We were there in late September, and got a peck of mixed apples including Honeycrisp, Jonathan, Macoun, Paula Red, Swiss Gourmet, Porter--and of course, Cortlands. So I have no clue which apples were used in this apple crisp. For a complete list of varieties and when they're available at Gould's, check out the site. And if you're in the area, I urge you to check out their farm--it's beautiful and peaceful. And you just can't beat the views. If you're bringing kids with you, they have a nature museum in the barn. There's so much to see there, and they have activities and prizes for the kids. We go all over the place with our kids, and inevitably, someone is always bored. ugh. I was floored when we visited their museum, because every single one of my kids--5, 8, 11 and 13--found something to do there that interested them. We spent a good 90 minutes just hanging out there and learning new things. It's run by a dedicated and very approachable former teacher and some wonderful volunteers who loves to share their knowledge with kids and adults alike.

Here are a bunch more pictures I took at Gould's Orchard, because it seems a waste to just let them sit there on my hard drive, never to see the light of day.
As you can see, they also have some cute gifts and locally made products for sale.

Now for the apple crisp! I combined two recipes to make this one. Some of you may remember my ugly, yet so delicious apple pie. I knew I wanted a lot of cinnamon in this crisp, so I immediately went for that filling, from Ann Hodgman in her Beat This! cookbook. That one and Beat That! are two of my favorite cookbooks. Ann has a great sense of humor, and these two books are fun to read cover to cover. I adapted her apple pie filling and her apple crisp topping to come up with this one.

I used 12 apples and got a good sized 9x13 pan full of apples. And by the way, if you make a lot of apple desserts, or even if you make one apple dessert a year that takes 12 apples, you should invest in one of these Apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer gadgets. Mine isn't from Pampered chef, but if you're going to get one, get one that clamps on to your counter like that one, not the kind with the pencil sharpener suction cup that never works. You put your apple on the torturous looking prongs, turn the crank, and in seconds, your apple is peeled, cored, and sliced into a long spiral. Run a knife down through the apple after removing it, and you've got perfect apple slices. It's such a timesaver!

So between the topping and filling, there's 5 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Yes, really! Noooo, it's not too much--and don't be tempted to cut back the nutmeg, either. It can be overwhelming sometimes, but not in this. Really! And if I'd thought ahead, I'd have had some fresh whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, anything like that. But no, didn't have any. Damn. Ah well, it was good, just the same. And even better the next day, and the next day...

Cinnamon Overload Apple Crisp
Adapted from Beat This!


1 cup flour
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 cup unsalted butter, melted


12 cups (about 12 apples) of your favorite baking apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (see how that gadget would come in handy here?)
1 1/2 TBSP lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
4 1/2 TBSP cornstarch
3 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 TBSP unsalted butter

Heat oven to 375. In a medium bowl, combine all the dry topping ingredients. Add the melted butter, stir until crumbly, and set aside.

Put the apples in a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice. In a smaller bowl, combine the remaining filling ingredients, mixing the butter in with your fingertips until the mixture is crumbly.

Stir the spice mixture into the apples and combine the two, then pour the apples into a lightly greased 9x13 pan. Pat the topping over the apples and bake for 30-35 minutes.

Serve with fresh whipped cream or ice cream.

Cinnamon Overload Apple Crisp

This apple crisp has 5 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon ...

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