Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's the Holidays...Eat Some Gingerbread

Hi guys!  I’m backJ  As you may have noticed…I took last week off.  I relied on a couple of fabulous guest bloggers to get me through.  We had a great Thanksgiving!  We spent Thanksgiving with Chris’s family in Rough and Ready, CA.  Did you know there is a town named that?  It is right outside of Grass Valley/Nevada City.  All three of those towns are probably the cutest towns ever.  Great little old fashioned downtowns that are so cool to walk around.  You should go;)

We spent the day after Thanksgiving with my family in Concord.  No Black Friday shopping for me.  I have always wanted to try it, but I have yet to get the guts to do it.  Mainly because sleep is so important to me.  If I am getting up at 4am….the house better be on fire.  My second reason is that I have horrible road rage….so I don’t how that would translate to Black Friday shopping.  Probably not well.  But we had a great day with my family, and most importantly….I learned how to play “Words with Friends” on Friday.  That is a story for another time though…..

We put our Christmas tree up on Sunday!  I love, love, love having my Christmas tree up!  So I am officially on the Christmas countdown.  I thought I would kick us off with a recipe that screams “Holidays”.  I am going to show you how to make a Gingerbread Pound Cake with Lemon Sauce.  This is kind of an homage to my mom.  She always talked about how her mom would make her gingerbread with lemon sauce.  Now her gingerbread wasn’t in pound cake form, and her mom used a box of lemon pudding mix (made with extra milk to keep it thin) for the sauce.  So yeah, I used creative license when making mine.  I happen to prefer a pound cake version of gingerbread, and my lemon sauce is actually a homemade lemon curd.  And  yes, this recipe takes a bit more time than my usual recipes….but it’s the holidays folks.  Let loose.

 Let’s start this thing…..

For the pound cake, I used butter, eggs, flour, brown sugar, white sugar, baking powder, molasses, vanilla, salt, ground nutmeg, ground ginger, cinnamon, and ground cloves.  This is how you would make regular gingerbread, it just has more butter and eggs.  This makes a denser cake.  I love a good pound cake, and I am not above buying a nice Sara Lee from the freezer section…..but nobody makes a Gingerbread Pound Cake….so make it I must.  Also, I’m not sure why I just turned into Yoda right there.

The cake starts just like any other cake.  With a hand mixer, I beat together softened butter with both sugars until light and fluffy.

Then, I beat in the molasses and vanilla.  If you are tempted to taste the molasses….don’t.  I was fooled, once.  I thought “I love stuff with molasses in it.  Straight molasses must be delicious”.  It isn’t.

Once the molasses and vanilla are incorporated, I beat in the eggs, one at a time. 

Now for the dry ingredients…..I whisked together anything dry, i.e. the spices, flour, baking powder, etc.  You really don’t have to “sift”, just whisk.

The dry ingredients get beat into the wet, slowly.  You don’t want to over mix this, so once everything is blended…put down the mixer.

I poured (or rather scooped…this stuff is thick) my batter into a 9x5x3 loaf pan that had been lined with parchment paper and sprayed with cooking spray.  You don’t have to use pinking shears to cut your parchment….they happened to be the only scissors I could find.

This bakes at 325 degrees for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  When it is done, the top will be dark brown and cracked.  Also, a wooden skewer poked in the middle will come out clean.  It ain’t the prettiest thing, but it will taste amazing!

Let the cake cool before you take it out of the pan.  If you used parchment, it should pop right out.

Let’s make some sauce.

If you read my blog about Margarita Cupcakes, then you know how to make a fruit curd….but let’s go over it again.

I used eggs, butter, sugar and lemon juice.  Feel free to use fresh, real lemons.  I didn’t.

First, you need to make a double boiler.  Just put a glass bowl over a pot that has about 2 inches of simmering water.  The water should not touch the bottom of the glass bowl.  A see through bowl would be preferable….but I prefer to make things harder on myself.

I stirred together the sugar, lemon juice and butter in the glass bowl.  Keep whisking as the butter melts.

Once your butter as melted, beat the eggs in a separate bowl.  The eggs need to be “tempered” which means they are brought to the same temperature as the butter, sugar, lemon mixture slowly.  If you skip this step, your eggs will scramble.  So what I do is add about ¼ a cup of the hot mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly.  Once the eggs have been brought to closer to the same temperature, slowly whisk the egg mixture into the mixture in the double boiler.

This was me…..tempering.

I kept cooking the curd over simmering water until it thickened.  Once it starts to thicken….it goes quick, so watch it.  And whisk it.  Remove it from the heat once it is thickened.  The curd will thicken a lot once it cools….just heat it up to thin it out.

Awwww yeeeaah.  Christmas on a plate.  Chris claims to not like gingerbread…but he loved this.  So did the kids.  Addy liked it so much she had it for breakfast today too.  I think your family and friends will love this.  I bet my mom will love it too!

I will see you all on Thursday!

Gingerbread Pound Cake

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened

¾ cup brown sugar

½ cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

½ cup molasses

5 eggs

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat together softened butter with both sugars with a hand mixer.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Slowly beat in the molasses and vanilla.  Once that is mixed, beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Beat until smooth.

In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients.  Slowly add dry ingredients to wet, keeping mixing speed on low.  Beat until incorporated.

Pour batter into a greased 9x5x3 loaf pan.  Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Cake should be dark brown and cracked on the top.

Let cool before turning out of pan.

Lemon Curd

½ cup lemon juice

½ cup sugar

¼ a stick (2 T) of butter

2 eggs

In the top of a double boiler, place lemon juice, sugar and butter.  Cook over simmering water until butter is melted, whisking the whole time.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs.  Add ¼ cup of hot lemon mixture to eggs, beating the whole time.  Once the eggs are warmed, slowly beat eggs into lemon mixture in double boiler.  Keep cooking over simmering water until curd is thickened.  Stir often.  Remove from heat once curd is thick.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thumbprint Cookies and PB&J Bread

Hi!  I am still on vacation from blogging, but I do have a fabulous post for you today.  It comes courtesy of my good friend, Courtney Pankrat.  She is a fabulous cook, and I think you will love these recipes!

Thumbprint cookies

I found this recipe in Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook (my father’s daughter).  It’s a beautiful cookbook and the recipes are delicious.

These cookies are super easy and really tasty.  Here’s what you need:

2 cups of barley flour (you can use regular flour but I like them better with barley flour)

1.5 cups of almond meal (you can put raw almonds in a blender or just buy almond meal)

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ cup maple syrup

½ cup Canola Oil

Fruit spread of your choice (I’ve tried these cookies with all three of the Gourmet Rooster spread flavors and all of them worked out wonderfully)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all ingredients in a bowl (except for the fruit spread)

Form the dough into little balls and put them on a cookie sheet.

Next you need to make indentations in the cookies.  You can use your finger/ thumb.  I like to use the wrong end of a wooden spoon because it makes perfectly symmetrical indentations.

With a small spoon, put a bit of fruit spread in each cookie.

Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes (I usually go for 18 so the cookies aren’t dry).

The last step is very important:  Let cool before eating.  The first time I made these I couldn’t wait to let them cool and the fruit spread was so hot it completely burned the roof of my mouth.  Be careful with this!

Peanut Butter and Jelly bread

Bread has always seemed to me like a difficult thing to make.  Then, I discovered Jim Lahey’s method of making bread.  It takes time (you have to let it rise for 12 or 13 hours) but it is really simple.

I got this recipe from Jim Lahey’s book called my bread.  This book has lots of good tips and recipes for bread.

Here’s what you need for the peanut butter and jelly (PB&J) bread:

1 egg (beaten)

2 ¼ cups of bread flour (you can use regular flour; I’ve found it’s about the same)

¾ tsp salt

¼ tsp yeast

1 + 2 tbsp water

3 tbsp peanut butter

¼ cup of peanuts

1/3 cup of fruit spread (I tried it using Gourmet Rooster’s Whiskey Apple and it was great!)

Okay, so there are peanuts in the paper bag.  I didn’t think to put them out on display when I took the photo.  Give me a break, I’m new at this! J

Mix together the flour, salt, yeast and all but 1 tbsp of the beaten egg.

Put the peanut butter and water in a blender and blend the two ingredients

Mix the peanut butter water in with the dry ingredients.  The dough should form and be a little bit sticky.  If it isn’t, add a bit of water (not too much).  I always find I have to add a little extra.

Cover the bowl and wait 12 – 16 hours.

When you uncover the dough it should have doubled in size and should be kind of bubbly.

Take the dough out of the bowl and lay it on a lightly floured surface.  Spread it out so it forms a rectangle and spread the fruit spread of your choice on it.

Sprinkle some of the peanuts over the spread and roll the dough up.

Spray a loaf pan with non stick cooking spray and sprinkle some of the peanuts on the bottom of the pan.

Put the bread mixture in the pan and sprinkle the rest of the peanuts on top.

Cover the bread for 1 or 2 hours to let rise again and preheat the over to 450.

Brush the leftover egg on top of the dough mixture and bake for about 1 hour.  If the peanuts start to burn, cover the bread with aluminum foil.  The recipe says to cook it for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  I only cooked my loaf for 45 minutes and it was definitely enough.

As soon as you take the bread out of the oven, take it out of the pan and let cool.  Wait until it has cooled before cutting into it.  And now you’ve got your own homemade bread!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Guest Post: Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Hi guys!  I am taking the week off from blogging.  Today's post is a recipe created by a friend of mine who is an actual pastry chef!  His name is Curtis Hall, and I have pretty much known him forever.  He has a degree in "Baking and Pastry Arts", so I thought....who would be more qualified then him?  Nobody I know;)
He gave me a recipe for Caramel Apple Cupcakes using Gourmet Rooster Whiskey Apple spread.  It sounded so good that I knew I had to make it too.  So the pictures are mine, but the recipe is all him.  Hope you like 'em!

This recipe uses brown sugar, vegetable oil, an egg, flour, Whiskey Apple spread, baking soda, water and salt.  The great thing about this recipe is you don't even have to get your hand mixer out....it is all done with a whisk.

You start by whisking together the brown sugar and egg. 

Once that is smooth, whisk in the oil.

Then comes the water and Whiskey Apple spread.  I also added some vanilla extract because I add it to pretty much anything I bake.  Your choice.

After the wet ingredients are mixed, fold in the flour, baking soda and salt with a spatula.  Once that is all mixed, it is ready for the cupcake liners.  These cupcakes cook at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Once the cupcakes cool, they are ready to be frosted, and let me tell you.....the frosting is the best part!

With a hand mixer, beat together butter, cream cheese and powdered sugar.  Once it is the consistency of frosting, drizzle in some warm caramel sauce and keep mixing.

Are you kidding me???  These are so good!  They are sweet, a bit spicy from the cinnamon in the spread, moist and totally delicious.  Nice work, Curt:)

Whiskey Apple Cupcakes with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
1 - egg
1 c - brown sugar
1/2 c - vegetable oil
1 c - Gourmet Rooster Whiskey Apple Spread
1/2 c - water
2 c - all purpose flour
1 tsp - baking soda
1/2 tsp - salt

- whisk EGG and BROWN SUGAR together until combined
- drizzle in OIL while mixing
- add the APPLE SPREAD and WATER
- when everything is well combined fold in the FLOUR, BAKING SODA and SALT with a silicone spatula
- fill cupcake pans 2/3 - 3/4 full
- BAKE @ 375 for about 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean

4 oz - cream cheese (soft)
4 oz (1 stick) - butter (soft)
2 c - powdered sugar
Smucker's Hot Caramel Sundae Topping
- heat HOT CARAMEL as instructed on the jar
- with an electric mixer, mix together CREAM CHEESE and POWDERED SUGAR until smooth with no lumps
- slowly add the BUTTER
- once everything is combined, drizzle in the HOT CARAMEL to taste (I used about 1/3 of the jar)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Turkey Pesto Stuffed Shells

So let’s pretend it is the day after Thanksgiving…..Are you wondering what to do with your 50 pounds of leftover turkey?  Of course there is sandwiches, tacos, soup, etc……but I have something different for you.  I have a great recipe for Turkey Pesto Stuffed Shells.  It takes just a bit of time to assemble, but it is a great freezable meal or great for a crowd.  You know, in case you still have a bunch of Thanksgiving guests that won’t leave;)

I love stuffed shells.  I actually love any kind of baked pasta.  I think it is all the cheese that goes in a baked pasta that makes me love it.  I also love making a big ‘ol pan of baked pasta and freezing it.  Then I can bust it out on a day that I know I will be too busy to cook.  Freezable meals are also a great thing to make for someone that has just had a baby, or maybe just got out of the hospital.  My bff is having a baby next week, so don’t spoil the surprise for her if you know her……because she is getting a pan of Turkey Pesto Stuffed Shells.

The first step for this recipe it to boil a box of big shells according to package directions.  Put a little bit of oil in the boiling water.  This will keep the shells from sticking to each other.  After you drain them, lay them out on a baking sheet so they can cool.

Now let’s make the sauce……

This is a béchamel sauce.  You have seen me make this before.  It sounds fancy, but it really is super easy to make.  I use butter, flour, milk, pesto, garlic, mozzarella cheese, dried basil and onion powder.  I also use salt and pepper which, once again, didn’t make the picture.

I use homemade pesto, but you can totally use store bought.  I like to make my own because I prefer spinach pesto over basil pesto.  I make it in huge batches and freeze it.  If you are using store bought basil pesto, you can omit the dried basil.

I start by melting the butter in a medium sized sauce pan.  I also have added some crushed garlic to the butter.

Once the butter has melted, I add a couple tablespoons of flour.  This gets whisked together to make sure there are no lumps…..beyond the garlic lumps.  The paste that this makes needs to cook for about a minute to get rid of the flour taste. 

This is a roux.  The roux is what will thicken our sauce.  We are using a light roux, meaning it never really changes color.  A light roux has more thickening power then a dark roux.

I use about two cups of milk to make this a sauce.  If you want to lighten it up a bit, use one cup of milk and one cup of chicken stock.  BTW-I use 1% milk, which is fine, but don’t use skim. 

This will thicken as it comes to a boil.  Make sure to stir it a lot so the bottom doesn’t scorch.  Once the sauce thickens, after about 5 or so minutes, add the spices, pesto and cheese.

Your sauce will be a pretty pale green.  It should be thick!  Keep this on low heat while you make your filling.

The filling for these shells is leftover turkey, ricotta cheese, diced tomatoes, more pesto, more dried basil and onion powder, and mozzarella cheese.  There is parmesan cheese in this picture because that will get sprinkled over the top.

Again, if you are using store bought basil pesto, omit the dried basil.

And oh yeah, I also drain the diced tomatoes to keep the filling from getting too loose.

All the ingredients get mixed together.  My bowl probably looks fuller than yours will.  I doubled the recipe to make two 13x9 pans.

Before we start stuffing the shells, put a little bit of the sauce in the bottom of the pan you will be cooking your shells in.  Use just enough to cover the bottom of a 13x9.

I used an ice cream scoop to stuff my shells, but you can use spoons.  I stuff as many shells as I can into the pan.  You will probably end up with extra shells.  This means you can pick out the pretty ones and toss the rest.  Some will get damaged when they boil.  Survival of the fittest;)

I poured the remaining sauce over the top of the shells.  It will sink down in all the nooks and crannies, which is fine.  I also topped the shells with more mozzarella and some parmesan cheese.  The more cheese, the better.

I covered the pan in foil, and baked this for 35 minutes.  Then, I removed the foil and bumped up the heat.  I cooked it for an additional 15 minutes at a higher heat to brown the top.

These shells come out gooey and delicious.  The pesto is great with the turkey.  I think this is a welcome change from your usual Thanksgiving turkey leftovers.  I am pretty sure your family will love it too.  Or your Thanksgiving interlopers that haven’t left yet;)  Perhaps if you give them a frozen pan of this, they will take the hint that it is time to go……


I hope you keep this recipe in mind when you are staring down 10 bags of leftover chopped up turkey!

Turkey Pesto Stuffed Shells

12 ounces Jumbo Shells, cooked and drained

Béchamel Sauce:

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon onion powder

½ cup pesto

1 cup mozzarella cheese


8 ounces ricotta cheese

14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

½ cup pesto

½ teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon onion powder

1 cup mozzarella cheese

1&1/2 cups turkey, chopped


1 cup mozzarella cheese

½ cup parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make béchamel:

In a medium sized sauce pan, melt butter with minced garlic.  Whisk in flour over medium high heat.  Cook flour and butter together for 1 minute.  Whisk in milk.  Simmer sauce over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Sauce will thicken as it comes to a boil.

Once sauce thickens, stir in spices, pesto and cheese.  Keep sauce on low heat while you make filling.

To make filling:

In a large bowl, mix together ricotta, tomatoes, pesto, spices, mozzarella and turkey.  Stuff cooked shells with filling.  Fit as many shells as you can in a 13x9 baking dish that has béchamel sauce coating the bottom.

Once pan is filled, top with remaining sauce, and cheeses.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.  Turn heat up to 400 degrees and cook, uncovered, for an additional 15 to 20 minutes.  Top should be golden brown and bubbly.

Serves at least 6

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More Cranberry Sauce.....

As promised, I have a couple more quick recipes using the cranberry sauce that I showed you how to make yesterday.  I have eaten this sauce about 10 times in the last 2 days, and I still like it....so that says a lot.  It's that good;)
My first idea is for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving.  Do you have leftover sweet potatoes?  If they are all sweet, meaning they don't have anything savory in them (even salt and pepper), puree the potatoes and throw then in pancake or waffle batter.  Then, top them with cranberry maple syrup!  Simmer together 1/2 cup of maple syrup and 1/2 cup of cranberry sauce....just until heated through.  Pour this over your pancakes or waffles.  So, so good.  I promise.  I had it this morning just so I could make sure it was good enough to tell you about.  The things I do for you people;)
Doesn't it look good?  Fuel up on this before you hit the Black Friday sales.

My next recipe, and cranberry sauce use up, is Pumpkin Cranberry bread.  I made this today and holy moly, it was good.  My kids loved it too.  Paisley said it was "the goodest thing she has ever eaten".  Perhaps I should cook less and focus on her grammar, but I will save that for another day.
This is a "quick bread" meaning it is more like a cake then a bread.  It doesn't have any yeast in it.  I used canned pumpkin, but you could use leftover sweet potatoes too.  As long as they are all sweet!  No pepper!!

Here is the recipe:

Cranberry Pumpkin Bread
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup cranberry sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, whisk together oil, sugar and eggs.  Once mixed, whisk in vanilla and pumpkin pie spice.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  Slowly whisk dry ingredients into wet.  Stir until mixed.  Stir in pumpkin and cranberry sauce.
Pour batter into greased loaf pans.  I used two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 loaf pans.
Cook loaves at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Top with glaze.

Orange Glaze
1/3 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice
Whisk orange juice and sugar together until smooth.