Monday, October 16, 2017

Pumpkin Streusel Bars

I was recently looking for a pumpkin cheese something, and I happened upon these little gems on Sally's Baking Addiction. Honestly, if you've never looked at her website, you really should. I've shared many of her recipes in the past, and they never disappoint! The same is true for this one! They're rich but not heavy, and have just the right amount of sweetness to let the pumpkin and spices shine through. And the gingersnap crust makes it even better!
 OK, ok,  I know it may seem like there are a lot of ingredients and a lot of steps, but it's really not that big of a deal. You just make each component and you layer it on top, that's all. Easy peasy! And one of my favorite things about this recipe is the fact that you do it ahead. Since it needs to refrigerate for several hours, you can easily do this a day or two ahead of time which makes it a time saver! Take it from someone who is ALL about time management when it comes to cooking for a big crowd. If you can do anything ahead of time, do it! So, thank you, Sally, for sharing your awesome recipe.
And if you love pumpkin as much as I do, you need to try this recipe. You'll be glad you did!

1 1/4 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

 8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree 
1/3 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon EACH ground cloves, ground nutmeg, ground ginger

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed

1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs milk or cream

 Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch or 9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, leaving enough overhang on all sides. Set aside.
For the crust:
Mix the cookie crumbs, sugar, and butter together in a medium bowl until combined. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan. The crust will be thick. Bake the crust for 10 minutes as you prepare the filling. Turn oven up to 350°F.
For the filling:
Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar together in a large bowl on high speed until creamy and smooth, about 1 minute. On low speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. On medium speed, beat the vanilla, pumpkin, sour cream, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger in. Continue beating until everything is combined and creamy. Pour the filling into the warm crust. Set aside.
For the topping:
Whisk the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour together in a medium bowl. Cut in the chilled butter with a pastry blender or two forks (or even with your hands) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over filling. Bake for about 45 minutes, making sure to loosely cover the bars with aluminum foil around the 30 minute mark. The foil prevents the top from getting too brown. The bars are done when the edges are lightly browned and the center is set-- this could be slightly before or after the 40 minute mark. Allow to cool in the pan set on a wire rack at room temperature for 1 hour. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill for 3 additional hours - or overnight. Lift the foil or parchment out of the pan using the overhang on the sides and cut into bars. I usually cut them into 16 smaller bars, but you can cut them into 12 larger bars.
For the glaze:
Just whisk the glaze ingredients together until smooth. Drizzle bars with glaze or top with whipped cream if desired.

Instead of sour cream, you can also use Greek yogurt, and instead of the spices, you can use Pumpkin Pie Spice blend (which is basically the same spices anyway. It's just easier!)
Instead of gingersnaps, use any kind of cookie you like! shortbread, vanilla wafers, and of course graham crackers would be great as well!
Wanna make it in a 9x13 pan? double everything!
Sally's make ahead tip is the bars stay fresh in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can freeze the bars for up to 3 months. Then, thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving and glazing.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Caramel Pumpkin Poke Cake

  Whenever I start to blog about a recipe, I always try to find something creative to add to the story. It could be where/how I happened to find the recipe, or maybe it was for a specific event or something seasonally festive. But somehow my blogs all wind up sounding the same "this recipe is so easy!" or "it's the perfect recipe to make ahead of time!" or "it's so delicious!" and of course "You should try this!"
 But here's the thing.. Those are my FAVORITE kinds of recipes! I mean, that's pretty much the best kind of recipe, right? One that is easy, convenient, and delish!! So I'm making no apologies for sometimes sounding like a broken record. There. I said it.
 So this brings me to this week's recipe! It's SUPER easy to make, it's a total do ahead, and you won't even believe how delicious it is!! (you knew I was gonna say that, right?).
 I made this for Anthony, one of my dearest friends in the whole wide world, and he texted me the very next day saying "I NEED to try to make this cake! It's my new favorite thing!" hehehe That works for me! I also shared some with my friend Michelle and she immediately asked me for the recipe. So there you go. This one meets all of the CWJ criteria and I'm owning the fact that I often say the same thing about my recipes because it's all still true!
Oh, and one more thing... You should definitely try this!!!!!

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice blend
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup whole milk

Caramel Topping:
1/2 cup caramel sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt

Whipped Cream Frosting
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease an 8x8 square pan.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, spice blend, and salt. In another large mixing bowl, beat together on medium speed the oil, sugar, and brown sugar until combined. Beat in the egg until smooth. Beat in the pumpkin and vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, adding the flour in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions (begin and end with dry ingredients). Spread the batter into the pan and bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the caramel sauce with the cream and pinch of salt. While the cake is still warm, poke roughly 16 holes into the cake (4 rows of 4 holes each) with the bottom of a long and round handle of a wooden spoon or similar object.  Pour caramel mixture over the cake, making sure to fill the holes. Let the cake cool completely. Stir the powdered sugar and vanilla into the heavy cream until dissolved, then whip into stiff peaks. Top your chilled cake with whipped cream (be sure to fill up the holes!) and serve.

  If you want to use a 9x13 pan, just double everything! Then you'll be able to use up the whole can of pumpkin instead of using just a cup and then having nothing to do with the rest. The can of pumpkin may be just shy of the doubled amount, but I think it'll be close enough that you can get away with it. Don't forget to double the caramel mixture as well!
If you like, you can add a little extra salt to the caramel and cream. Because, well, salted caramel.
  As always, whenever I'm baking something in a pan, I like to line it with parchment paper with a couple inches hanging over the edge. Then I can use the paper as a sling to lift the whole thing out of the pan at once. In this case, I left it in the pan, poured the caramel sauce over everything, then chilled it in the fridge before removing it from the pan.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Cream Cheese-Filled Pumpkin Bread

 For years and years, any time I've ever made pumpkin bread, I've used my Mom's recipe for Pumpkin Loaf. It's simply perfect as it is, doesn't need any bells or whistles (as my Mom would say), doesn't need any icing or even powdered sugar. It's perfect as it is.
 But then I saw this recipe on a blog called Averie Cooks, and I thought "Why not? Lets switch things up this time!" So I did! I figured this one probably falls into the "how can this not be good" category, and I was absolutely right.  It's just as delicious as you'd think a rich layer of cream cheese filling in the middle of your pumpkin bread would be. So that's really all there is to say about it! If you're always looking for your next pumpkin something to try (like I am), then you should try this one! Oh
Oh wait, actually, there is one other thing I should say..
I love all of the tips that are included right in the recipe about testing for doneness. My favorite sentence is "Watch your bread, not the clock." I think that hits a note with me because that's how Mom always cooked. If you asked her how long to cook something, she'd say "Until it's done." Gotta love it! Thanx, Averie!

1 large egg
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup liquid-state coconut oil (canola or vegetable may be substituted)
1/4 cup cup sour cream (lite is okay; or Greek yogurt may be substituted)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2  teaspoon baking powder
1/2  teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt, optional and to taste

 Cream Cheese Filling:
1 large egg
4 ounces softened brick-style cream cheese (lite is okay)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

 Preheat oven to 350F. Spray one 9×5-inch loaf pan with floured cooking spray, or grease and flour the pan; set aside. 
Bread – In a large bowl, add the the first ten ingredients, through ground nutmeg, and whisk to combine. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, optional salt, and fold with spatula or stir gently with a spoon until just combined; don’t overmix; set aside. Turn about two-thirds of the batter out into the prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula and pushing it into corners and sides as necessary; set aside. 
Cream Cheese Filling – In a large bowl, add all ingredients and whisk to combine. Alternatively, mix with a hand mixer. Evenly pour filling mixture over the bread, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula and pushing it into corners and sides as necessary. Top filling with remaining pumpkin batter, smoothing the top very lightly with a spatula as to not disturb cream cheese layer and pushing batter into corners and sides as necessary. Bake for about 48 minutes or until the top is domed, golden, and the center is set, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. Note this is tricky because the cream cheese never gets totally solid so the toothpick test isn’t the most accurate. Tip – Tent the pan with a sheet of foil draped over it at the 35 minute-mark if you feel the tops and sides will become too browned before center cooks through. Baking times will vary based on moisture content of pumpkin, cream cheese, climate, and oven variances. Bake until done; watch your bread, not the clock. Allow bread to cool in pan for about 15 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving.

I didn't have coconut oil, so I used regular vegetable oil. Worked perfectly! I added extra spice because I like a spicier pumpkin bread, and in my opinion there's no such thing as too much cinnamon! I also added the optional pinch of salt because it makes everything taste better!!
On Averie's blog, it says "Bread will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months." My only thought is that there's no way this will last a week sitting on the counter. Mine was gone after the first day!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Joey's Sauerkraut and Sausage Casserole

 Whenever I'm planning to have friends over for dinner, my first question is "what is your favorite food?" Dinner is almost guaranteed to be a success if you cook someone's favorite, am I right? So when I asked my friend, Anthony, what his favorite dish is, he said that he loves sauerkraut! I immediately thought of my brother, Chris, who makes the BEST homemade sauerkraut EVER! Perfect! But now, I can't just serve a bowl of sauerkraut. I need to make this into more of a dinner. (Although, I'm sure Anthony wouldn't have minded one bit). Then I figured, why not turn it into something even more fabulous! I added some smoked sausage, some aromatics, and a few fresh herbs. Boom! We have a casserole! Basically, I just started throwing a few things into the pan, and it all seemed to work out perfectly! Anthony loved it, and I must say I did too. Oh, and I also got full approval from Chris, who is already working on the next big batch of sauerkraut! (I'm really gonna have to do a how-to video with him one of these days.)
 So if sauerkraut is high on your list of food faves, you should give this a try. It's seriously everything you want a sauerkraut casserole to be!

4 tbs butter
1 lb kielbasa or other smoked sausage
1 large onion, sliced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 lb sauerkraut, drained
4 large red potatoes, roughly diced
2 tbs brown sugar
a few sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from the stem
a few sprigs fresh oregano, leaves removed from the stem
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350ºF.
In a large skillet, melt the butter. Slice sausage into coins and saute over medium heat until browned. Add onions and garlic. Continue to saute a few minutes longer,, until onions have softened. Meanwhile, add remaining ingredients to a large bowl. Add sausage mixture and toss all ingredients until well combined. Pour all into a casserole dish, and cover with foil. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.  Can serve with a big dollop of sour cream, if desired.

Note- if you want to save a little time, chop your potatoes into smaller chunks. Larger pieces take longer to cook!

As always, whenever I'm making a casserole, the amounts in the recipe are just guidelines. If you like a lot of onions, add a lot of onions! If you worship in the house of garlic, go for it! Make it the way YOU like it!
Not a fan of kielbasa? Add any other kind of sausage you like! Of course it would be great with hot dogs. You could even do it with chunks of boneless pork! Yum.
I always prefer fresh herbs to dried, but if you only have dried herbs, use 'em! I would say probably just about a half tsp of each, but add as much or as little as you like!
Another variation would be to add a diced apple to the onions as you saute. That would be a delicious hit of sweet with the sour! Hmm.. I think I'll do that next time!
Oh, btw, I didn't rinse the sauerkraut. I always feel like that just washes away all that delicious flavor. But if your palate finds sauerkraut to be a bit harsh, then by all means give it a good rinse!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Slow Cooker Peach Cobbler

 At this time of year, I always feel a little bummed out that our summer produce will be gone for a while. Since I live in The Garden State, every summer I'm lucky enough to have access to some of the best produce you'll ever taste! And then come September, I have to say goodbye to them and spend seemingly endless months looking forward to next summer's crop. Honestly, if you've never had Jersey Corn and Jersey Tomatoes, you are not living your best life. And the peaches... OMG THE PEACHES. Frankly, I've never met a peach ANYTHING that I didn't like, and I'm forever looking for new and different things to make with them. So, as this summer comes to a close, I find myself wanting to do one more peach recipe before saying goodbye to them until next summer. But what to do? I've already done cakes, pies, jams, and cobblers, but I wanted to do something NEW! (or at least new to me!). 
 And then I thought of my slow cooker. This was definitely the way to go! Seriously, if you don't have a slow cooker, you NEED to get one! I literally have 4 of them (in different sizes) and I use ALL of them! So it made perfect sense to find a peach recipe that uses one. This is a recipe that I found on a blog called Recipes That Crock, only I tweaked it to use fresh peaches.
 It turned out just as perfectly as I had hoped! SO GOOD! (and it made my whole apt smell HEAVENLY!) When I sent out a text to my gang of friends asking if anyone would like to have some cobbler, my friend Nate's response was "Oh God, YES.". LOL He was an immediate fan! And of course, you MUST serve it with vanilla ice cream. I'm pretty sure that's a law.
 So if you love fresh peaches as much as I do, give this recipe a try. It's really crazy simple to throw together, and I know you'll love it!!

Peaches (maybe 4 or 5?)
a spritz of lemon juice
1-2 tbs sugar

1 stick butter, melted
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon

Peel and slice peaches. Place them in a bowl with the lemon juice and 1-2 tbs sugar depending on how sweet your peaches are or how sweet you like your cobbler). Toss to coat peaches, set aside.
 Place melted butter in the bottom of your slow cooker. In a mixing bowl, stir together remaining ingredients. It will the consistency of a thin pancake batter. Pour the batter over the butter. Do not stir.  Spoon the peaches (including any accumulated juices) over the batter. Again, do not stir. Place a paper towel or clean tea towel under the lid to catch any condensation. Cook on high for 2 hours or until cobbler is set. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

This recipe can be prepped in advance, and then kept in the fridge until it's time to bake. It's a great way to free up the oven if you have other things to bake!
I purposely didn't specify how many peaches to use. Just add as many as you like on top of the batter. (or as many as will fit, depending on the size of your slow cooker). If you don't have fresh ripe peaches, you can definitely use canned peaches, including the syrup. Just omit the sugar and lemon juice.
Although I haven't tried it yet, I'm sure this recipe will work perfectly with other kinds of fruit. Of course, apples would be my first choice, but I bet you could use any variety of fresh or canned fruits or any combination of fruit.  Be creative!!