Monday, October 30, 2017

Joey's Autumn Harvest Stew

Ok, so let's talk about my FAVORITE new recipe in quite a long time.
Every so often, I'll come up with an idea that I can't seem to get out of my head, and this was absolutely one of those times. I was thinking that I wanted to do a savory something with fresh pumpkin. A one-pot dish sounded like a good idea... maybe a soup? or a stew? Yes, definitely something along those lines. I also thought it might be cool to add a few other autumnal ingredients. Another kind of squash, maybe some corn, and definitely something green for color. I also had the idea to include barley to add a little body to the stew. Again, ideas that just stick in my mind until I go ahead and try them. I did some googling, found a couple recipes to use as inspiration, and this was the result! This stew has the most AMAZING flavor, you won't even believe it. I'm not even kidding when I tell you that I couldn't stop eating it! It's rich but not heavy, hearty but not too filling, fresh but still very deep with flavor. It's also cozy and comforting and it'll definitely hit the spot. It only took about an hour to make, but it has the taste of something that is simmered all afternoon. And it lends itself to any number of variations. I think that's one of my favorite things about this recipe. I'll probably NEVER make it the same way twice! Want to make it completely vegetarian? Use vegetable broth and leave out the meat. Don't like barley? Add rice instead! The possibilities are endless.
 I think the reason I love this one so much is that it feels like something my Mom would make. She used to say to me "Just put it in a pot and let it cook." It sounds simple, but seriously, that's how she always did it. It's definitely the best way to cook and it's how I learned! So you should absolutely give this one a try. It definitely tastes like home, like a big hug in a bowl.
 I hope you like it :)

2 tbs butter 
2 tbs olive oil 
1 medium onion, chopped 
2 cloves garlic, chopped
several sprigs of fresh thyme, tied together with cotton twine 
2 tbs fresh sage, chopped
1 or 2 bay leaves
2 tsp kosher salt 
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika 
2 cups fresh pumpkin, peeled, seeded, cubed
1 acorn squash, peeled, seeded, cubed
1 can cream style corn
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup pearl barley, uncooked 
2 big handfuls of kale, chopped
1/2 rotisserie chicken, pulled from the bone and shredded
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup flour 
crisped and crumbled bacon, optional

In a large pot, melt butter and oil together over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Saute for just a few minutes until the onions begin to soften and the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the herbs, seasonings, pumpkin, and acorn squash. Toss all until well coated. Add the corn and the chicken broth. Bring it to a bowl then reduce the heat to simmer. Add the barley and give it a good stir. Simmer for about 45 minutes. Add the chopped kale and the shredded chicken. Stir in the cream. Make a slurry with the flour and 1/2 cup cold water. Add to the pot. Stir and simmer until it thickens. Adjust seasoning if needed. Remove thyme bundle and bay leaves from the pot. Serve deep soup bowls. Garnish each bowl with crumbled bacon, if desired.

This is one of those recipes where you really don't need a recipe. The amounts are just guidelines. Taste as you go, and add as much or as little as you like. It will all work!
I used pumpkin and sweet dumpling squash, but you can use butternut, acorn, or literally any of the nearly 150 varieties that are out there. Use any kind you like! Use potatoes instead of barley, add carrots, parsnips, turnips, or any other root vegetable. Use the recipe as a springboard to make it your own!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Joey's Pumpkin Salsa

 This one is as surprisingly delicious as it is unexpected. I'm the first in line when it comes to pumpkin spice EVERYTHING, but I'm sure I've never thought of doing a pumpkin SALSA! And guess what!?!? It's absolutely DELISH!!! It has a few of your regular salsa ingredients but then it also has pumpkin and cinnamon too! Who knew?? Whodathunkit? Seriously, it really does work! I had a few friends over for a pumpkin themed dinner and movie, and they immediately LOVED it! They could instantly tell that it was PUMPKIN, but it still tastes like salsa! Crazy, right?? I think that tiny little bit of cinnamon is what makes it. It's really good!!!
 So if you're having a party, or just a simple movie night with a few friends, give the unexpected a try! The pumpkin fans in your life will thank you for it!

olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 10oz cans diced tomatoes with chilis
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and membranes removed, minced
1 cup purchased salsa (your choice of hot or mild)
1 15oz can pumpkin puree
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, (or to taste)
Small handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

Add a couple tbs of olive oil to a small sauce pan. Add minced onions and garlic. Gently saute until they begin to soften. Remove from heat. Add to a large mixing bowl, along with all remaining ingredients. Stir until well combined. Chill until ready to serve with your choice of chips.

-If you are not a fan of cilantro, just use fresh parsley!!!
-The next time I make this, I'll definitely add a can of whole kernel corn. I would have added it this time, but I didn't happen to have any on hand. You could also add a can of (drained and rinsed) black beans.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Pumpkin Cheesecake

 If you're looking for a CLASSIC pumpkin cheesecake recipe, this is definitely it! As I was searching for recipes and comparing ingredients, I chose this one specifically because it doesn't have too many bells and whistles. Sometimes I find recipes that have so many fillings and toppings and spices that the main ingredient gets completely lost. But with this one, it's just straight up pumpkin and cream cheese, not too many spices, and a little cinnamon and whipped cream on top. In my humble opinion, it's how pumpkin cheesecake is supposed to taste!
 Ok, now, don't be intimidated by the thought of making a cheesecake. It's really easy! The most important thing is to buy a springform pan. After that, it's all downhill! Just follow the directions and there you go! This recipe is from Betty Crocker, but I tweaked it ever so slightly. It's so perfectly delicious. I think this is now my go to pumpkin cheesecake recipe.
 Once you taste it, it'll be yours too!

1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 24 squares)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted

1/4 cup flour
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp rum extract, if desired
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
4 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
5 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream

 Heat oven to 325°F. Grease 9-inch springform pan with shortening.  In small bowl, mix cracker crumbs, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, and the melted butter. Press crumb mixture in bottom of pan. Bake crust 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Cool 5 minutes at room temperature. Refrigerate about 5 minutes or until completely cooled. Meanwhile, in another small bowl, whisk flour, pumpkin pie spice, rum extract, and pumpkin together until well blended; set aside. In large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Gradually beat in brown sugar and granulated sugar until smooth. On low speed, beat in 1 egg at a time just until blended. Gradually stir in pumpkin mixture and heavy cream until smooth. Pour filling over crust. Bake 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 25 minutes or until set but center of cheesecake still jiggles slightly when moved. Turn oven off; open oven door about 4 inches. Let cheesecake remain in oven 30 minutes. Run knife around edge of pan to loosen cheesecake. Cool in pan on wire rack 30 minutes. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight before serving. To serve, run knife around edge of pan to loosen cheesecake. Carefully remove side of pan before cutting cheesecake. Top with whipped cream, if desired. Store covered in refrigerator.

 The original recipe called for adding 2 tbs brandy. I decided to add 1 tsp rum extract instead. It was a total game changer! In fact, I think it's what makes this pumpkin cheesecake stand out from all the rest! I also added the heavy cream to the batter (which was also not in the original recipe) because I think it makes it more velvety and smooth. Just sayin!
If you're worried about your cheesecake cracking in the center, I've heard that it helps to put a pan of hot water in the oven on the rack below your cheesecake. TBH, I'm not sure if that works or not. As far as I can tell, the main factor in cheesecake crackage is temperature. If you take a hot cheesecake out of the oven and put it in the cold fridge, you're gonna wind up with the San Andreas Fault right down the middle of your cake. Best to leave it in the oven and turn off the heat, then let it SLOWLY cool to room temperature before you put it in the fridge to chill. And if you do wind up with the San Andreas Fault, don't worry! Just cover the top with whipped cream! No one will ever know!

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!