October 29, 2010

... Pepita Granola

Have I mentioned my love for granola?  I've bought it more often than I've made it, but when I made it here and it was really tasty... and easy... and probably so much better for me than the store-bought stuff. 

When I came across this recipe on one of my go-to blogs, I couldn't wait to make it.  It seemed so Fall-ish with its pumpkin seeds, nuts and spices... it was just what I was looking for.

And when it's paired with pumpkin butter and plain yogurt, it's perfection on a crisp Fall morning.

Pepita Granola

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup green (hulled) pumpkin seeds, sometimes called pepitas (not roasted)
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup mild honey
pinch cinnamon
pinch salt

1 cup tart dried cherries
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup dried pears (1/4 inch dice)
1/2 cup diced dried apricots (1/4 inch dice)
1/3 cup golden raisins


2 3/4 cup mixed dried fruit of your choice

Accompaniment: plain yogurt flavored with vanilla extract, pumpkin butter, or apple butter.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Stir together all ingredients except the fruit in a large bowl until combined.  Spread mixture evenly on a large (17x12) shallow baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes, but checking every five minutes after the 15-minute mark because it burns quickly.  Transfer granola, in pan, to rack to cool stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.

Stir in dried fruit.

Granola keeps frozen (the fruit's moisture softens granola if not kept frozen) in an airtight container, for a few months.

Taylor's Notes:

Ok, she's really not kidding about how quickly granola can burn.  I baked mine just like she said, for 15 minutes, stir, and then check every 5 minutes.  I took it out after 20 minutes... total.  And when I do it over again, I'll probably take it out at 17 1/2 minutes.  It burns quickest at the edges, so be sure to pay close attention to those areas when stirring.

As far as fruit, I used 1 cup of dried figs, halved, 1 cup of dried sweetened blueberries, and 3/4 cup of dried tart cherries.  I'm still on the hunt for dried pears... yum.


October 24, 2010

... Pumpkin Butter

Who else is glad the 'Great Pumpkin Shortage of 2009' is a thing of the past?  This girl is, that's who.  And when I found this recipe I knew it for sure.

I don't know what flavor screams "fall!" more than pumpkin.  Add to that brown sugar, and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and you have the makings for one sweet treat.

And why not share the love?  Pack that pumpkin in some cute little jars to give to friends and you'll soon realize you just might need to make another batch... for yourself!

Pumpkin Butter

1 (29 ounce) can pumpkin puree
3/4 cup apple juice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Juice of half a lemon (or 3 tablespoons lemon juice)

Combine pumpkin, apple juice, spices, and sugar in a large saucepan; stir well.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened.  Stir frequently.  Adjust spices to taste.  Stir in lemon juice, or more to taste.

Once cool, pumpkin butter can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

To preserve: Spoon hot pumpkin mixture into hot jars, filling to within 1/4 inch from top.  Remove air bubbles; wipe jar rims.  Cover at once with metal lids, and screw on bands.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Taylor's Notes:
After I realized just how quickly I was going through that 'cute little jar' I decided to make another batch.  I'm not quite sure how, but the two batches were totally different.  The first was runny and took forever to thicken up (splattering and making a huge mess in the process) and the second was perfectly thick from the get go.  What I know to be true is that I definitely forgot the lemon juice in the second batch and I may or may not have only added a teaspoon of cinnamon to the first batch.  Don't ask me how... I must have been overcome with the amazing aroma that I wasn't concentrating on the recipe.  But, what I also know to be true is that both the batches taste really great.

I wasn't quite sure how preserving would work, so I called Grandma and got some great advice, as usual.  Follow the recipe to preserve as written above, but instead of processing the jars in a water bath, flip the jars over and let them sit until the metal lid has popped.  If you push down on the lid and it pops back, flip those jars back over and let them sit a while longer.  Just to be safe, I'd recommend keeping the pumpkin butter in the refrigerator, but to be honest it probably won't be around long enough for it to go bad. 

I was able to fill four 8-ounce jars with one batch of the mixture... which made for six lucky friends and just enough left for me.


October 4, 2010

...Shrimp and Corn Chowder

It's Fall and you know what that means... soup, chowder, and chili... oh my!  Fall is absolutely my favorite season and I'm pretty sure part of that has to do with the comfort food.  So warm and cozy, how could you not love it?

This chowder was really easy to make and had great flavor with all the veggies and, ahem, bacon drippings (see below).

Serve it up with hot crusty roasted garlic bread and Fall will quickly become your favorite season, too.

Especially if you follow it up with Apple Crisp for dessert... thanks Mom!

serves 4 (in reality, more like 6)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 leeks (white and light green parts), chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
kosher salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
3 cups whole milk
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 pound cooked peeled and deveined medium shrimp
1 10-ounce package frozen corn
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the leeks and fennel, season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 4 to 5 minutes, stir in the flour.

Add the clam juice, milk, and potatoes and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 12 minutes.  Stir in the shrimp and corn and cook until the potatoes are tender and the shrimp and corn are heated through, 3 to 5 minutes.  Stir in the parsley and lemon juice.  

Tip: Top it with crumbled bacon.  Cook 6 slices in a large saucepan until crisp.  Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and use the pan drippings instead of the butter to cook the leeks and fennel.

Taylor's Notes:
This is the first time I've ever cooked with leeks or fennel.  Leeks... easy!  Fennel... what the heck do I do with this thing?!  I treated it like an onion and just chopped it up.  Not sure if that's exactly right, but it worked, and look at me trying something new!

I took the tip of sauteing the veggies in the bacon drippings and, although I haven't had the recipe the other way, I'd definitely recommend the bacon.  Everything is better with bacon, amiright?

It was a really easy and tasty recipe and perfect for a cool, fall evening.  


October 3, 2010

...Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

A fall barbeque on a gorgeous day calls for a fall treat and these Pumpkin Cupcakes were just the thing!

Made in a mini cupcake version, they're the perfect bite-size treat... whether you have one or three!

The cardinal rule of baking things for other people is that you must taste them first... always.  Even if that means you have to have it for dinner... always.  I tell you what, it's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
makes 24 cupcakes

1 18.5-ounce box yellow cake mix (plus ingredients called for in the package directions)
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
2 8-ounce bars cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
24 pieces candy corn

Heat over to 350 degrees.  Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.  Prepare the cake mix as directed but with the following change: Add the pumpkin pie spice and substitute the can of pumpkin puree for the water called for in the package directions.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin tins and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes.  Let cool.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until creamy.  Spread on the cupcakes and top each with a piece of candy corn.

Taylor's Notes:
I used Duncan Hines yellow cake mix and followed the directions on the box for the lower fat version, but added the pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice as directed above.  I also added a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the batter. 

I set out to make mini cupcakes and baked them for 18 minutes.  I had a bit of leftover batter so made regular size cupcakes as well and ended up baking them for a minute or so longer.  It'll likely vary per your oven, but use the toothpick and you'll have success every time!

For the cream cheese frosting, I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese with the 2 cups of powdered sugar.  I added 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the frosting, too, and about the same of nutmeg.  I think I'll add a little more next time... it adds to the autumn spicy-ness of the cupcake.

I didn't add the candy corn on top this time, but I did last year as a Halloween treat and they were really cute!