October 30, 2010

Pecan-Crusted Pumpkin Squares

Halloween is upon us, so I thought a pumpkin recipe would be appropriate.  When I read the name of this recipe in the The Weekend Baker cookbook, I thought it was going to be a type of bar, but it is actually a quick bread.  It came together quickly and the wet and dry ingredients can be mixed up to one day in advance. 

I really liked having the pecans on the outside of the pumpkin squares, it was almost like a crust (thus the name "Pecan-Crusted").  :)  The squares were moist and delicious.  They definitely put the feeling of Fall and Halloween in the air. 

Happy Halloween!

Pecan-Crusted Pumpkin Squares

3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1 1/2 cups all-purpose and 1/4 cake flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar (I used 1/2 dark brown and 1/2 light brown)
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin (not seasoned pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup canola or corn oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Position an oven rack on the middle rung.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Generously butter - be generous or the nuts won't stick - the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking dish.  Add the nuts and tilt the pan to coat the bottom and sides evenly.  Carefully spill out and save the excess nuts for the top.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and cloves.  Whisk until well blended.  In a large bowl, combine the sugar, pumpkin, oil, eggs, and vanilla.  Whisk until smooth.  (You can prepare the dry ingredients and wet ingredients up to 1 day ahead.  Cover the dry ingredients and keep at room temperature, and cover the wet ingredients and keep in the fridge.)  Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and gently stir just until blended.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.  Scatter the reserved nuts evenly over the batter.  Bake until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it, about 30 minutes.  Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for about 15 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into 2-inch squares.

Wrap the uncut, cooled square in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Makes 9 2-inch squares

Hat Tip - The Weekend Baker by Abigail Johnson Dodge

October 18, 2010

Taco Soup

I've decided that I like to hoard library cookbooks.  It's sad, I know, but I just can't help myself.  There are so many cookbooks at the library and so little time to look at them all.  I usually check out about 5 books at a time, then I have books on hold that come available.  Right now I have 15 library books!  It's crazy!  I guess I have another obsession brewing . . .

One of the cookbooks I currently have is Make it Fast, Cook it Slow by Stephanie O'DeaWith Fall upon us, I thought it was time to bring out the crock pot, so I checked this cookbook out.  I came across this taco soup recipe.  It is super simple, so I had to make it!  The most time consuming part is opening 8 different cans.  I did the can opening while browning the meat.  I used 3/4 pound of ground beef instead of a pound.  Not a big difference, but a slight cut back.  This soup could be made vegetarian by omitting the beef or by replacing it with ground crumbles.

Sweetie and I loved this soup!  We ate our soup with tortilla chips.  The soup wasn't spicy and it had a great flavor.  The soup makes 12 servings, so needless to say with only Sweetie and I eating it, we had A LOT leftover.  :)  That's okay with me, we will get several meals out of it.  I put some of the leftovers in the freezer.

Taco Soup

1 pound ground turkey or beef, browned and drained
1 medium onion, chopped
2 (15 oz) cans kidney beans
2 (15 oz) cans pinto beans
2 (15 oz) cans corn with their juices
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes with their juices
1 (14 oz) can tomatoes with chilies, with their juices
1 packet taco seasoning
1 packet ranch dressing mix
Sour cream and cheddar cheese, for garnish

Use at least a 6-quart slow cooker.

Put the meat and onion into the slow cooker.  Drain and rinse beans, and add to the cooker.  Add the corn and tomatoes.  Stir in contents of the seasoning packets.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or on high for 4 hours.  Ladle into bowls.

Add a handful of cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream to each bowl before eating.

Serves 12

Hat Tip - Make it Fast, Cook it Slow by Stephanie O'Dea

October 13, 2010

Beef Stew aka A Hug in a Bowl

I look forward to cooler/colder months, so I can make comfort food.  I love comfort food!  It is so yummy and gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling.  This recipe does both of those things.  This is the second time I've made this recipe.  Both times it has been a wonderful success.  I come back to this (ok, sometimes, I dream about it) because the meat gets so tender, it almost melts in your mouth!

The stew is made in the slow cooker, with some prep work before dumping everything in.  The meat has to be browned.  It can be a little messy, but definitely worth it!  Once the stew starts cooking in the slow cooker, the smell is so tempting.  It is hard to wait 7 1/2 hours to eat.  If you can't wait 7 1/2 hours, you can cook it on high for 4 hours.  :)

Slow-Cooker Classic Beef Stew

4 pounds bottom round, well trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup olive oil (plus more if needed)
2 large onions, diced (2 cups)
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
1 pound potatoes, cut into 2-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
1/2 pound baby carrots (about 2 cups)
2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Coat the beef in the flour.  Heat a few tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Brown the meat, a few pieces at a time, adding more oil as necessary.  Transfer to a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker.

Add the onions to the skillet and cook over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste and coat the onions; transfer to the cooker.

Pour the wine into the skillet and scrape up any browned bits; add to the cooker.  Stir in the potatoes, carrots, broth, salt, thyme, and bay leaf.

Cover and cook on low heat for 7 1/2 hours, or on high for 4 hours.  Add the peas and heat through.

Serves 8 to 10

Hat Tip - Real Simple

October 10, 2010

Pumpkin Bread

Fall is finally upon us.  Yay!  To me, fall means crunchy leaves, cool nights, sweaters, pumpkins, apples, and only a short time until winter.  Most of my favorite things are lumped into one beautiful season.

I thought pumpkin bread was a good way to start the season.  A couple of weeks ago, I went to Sur la Table and purchased my own copy of The Art & Soul of Baking.  It was a very exciting day!  I couldn't wait to make something from it, so I went with pumpkin bread.  The bread was delicious!  Warm spices, nuts, and pumpkin all in one.  It was simple to make, using the muffin method.  I did have to cook my bread longer than the instructions stated, but it wasn't a big deal. 

Pumpkin Walnut Bread

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup neutral-flavor vegetable oil (such as canola)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position an oven rack in the center.  Lightly coat a loaf pan with melted butter or high-heat canola-oil spray and line it with a piece of parchment paper that extends 1 inch beyond the edge of both sides of the pan.  In the large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, and salt until thoroughly blended.  Add the pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract and blend well.

Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until blended and smooth.  Add the walnuts and stir until they are evenly distributed.  Use a spatula to scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and level the top.

Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until the bread is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely.  To serve, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices by sawing gently with a serrated knife.  Any leftovers should be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Makes 1 loaf

Hat Tip - The Art & Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet