Friday, October 21, 2011

Pumpkin Cake

I wanted to share this pumpkin cake recipe because it's one of the easiest cakes I've ever made, and it was moist and tasty. It got great reviews from all the folks I served it to. You might end up baking this cake several times during the holidays.

Originally this recipe was meant to be pumpkin bars, and baked in an 11 1/2 by 16 1/2 pan. You could make them instead, just bake them for 20 minutes instead of 30 to 35. Of course they would be wonderful cupcakes, too.

Tips: I do recommend using freshly grated whole nutmeg if possible. If you haven't baked in a while, do be sure your baking soda and baking powder are fresh. If you are making the frosting, don't leave out the fresh orange peel. It's my "secret" ingredient. Enjoy!


Whisk together:
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
4 eggs (room temperature, as always when baking)
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon table salt (not Kosher)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13 x 9 baking pan with non-stick spray. (If using a glass baking pan, bake at 325 degrees.)

Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients just until combined. Pour into baking pan and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until cake is done in center.

Optional Frosting:

Beat together:
3/4 stick of pure butter, softened (about 3 oz.)
8 oz. pkg. of softened cream cheese

Beat in:
2 to 3 tablespoons half and half, cream, or milk
A pound of powdered sugar (add sugar gradually or it will fly all over the kitchen)
A few scrapes of freshly grated orange peel--orange part only (no white part under peel)
A tiny pinch of salt

Frost when cake is completely cool.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Homemade Green Bean Casserole

Today I'm making a green bean casserole, because I found four pounds of lovely fresh green beans for .59 a pound yesterday. Last night I made a batch of beans (parboiled then briefly sauteed in brown butter) and tonight it's this casserole. I'm serving it with chicken, rice pilaf, carrots and a pumpkin cake.

This is Alton Brown's recipe, which I modified a little...I used water instead of chicken broth, more green beans, more mushrooms, but everything else is about the same. Here's a link to his recipe:
Alton's Brown's Green Bean Casserole.

Just a word about the nutmeg you can see a couple of pictures below. I really enjoy using fresh nutmeg. It keeps a long time and is easily grated with a micro-plane grater. Fresh nutmeg makes a real difference in some of the dishes I make, like sausage gravy, white sauces, and any dish that calls for "warm" spices (pumpkin pie, etc.). Some other examples of warm spices are cardamom, clove, ginger, and cinnamon.

Here's an overview of the casserole recipe. Toss thinly sliced onions with panko bread crumbs and flour and bake at a very high temperature for half an hour, stirring often. Meanwhile parboil the green beans (which I did yesterday) and make the mushroom cream sauce. Toss the beans and sauce with some of the onions, place the other onions on top and bake until bubbly. Enjoy!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Vegetarian Chili

Hi again,

Here's an easy meal everyone likes. I brought a batch to church recently and it disappeared quickly. You can spice it up or leave out the chipotle in adobo. I think it adds an important element, but use sparingly as it can really get hot. Chipotle peppers are ripe jalapeƱos which have been smoked, and adobo is a sauce made of tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, salt, and spices like cumin and oregano.

The "ground crumbles" are optional, but everyone I know who has tried this chili had no idea it wasn't prepared using an animal product. If you don't tell them it's vegetarian, they won't know. And, you get to avoid browning and draining off ground beef.

Be nice to your future self: make a double batch, label & date, and freeze.

Helpful hint: Recipes generally use a small amount of chipotle in adobo. Find the small cans in the Mexican/Latino area of your grocery. Chop the peppers in the can, pour and freeze them in a labeled and dated zip-top bag. They are easily available the next time you need them without any waste.


Vegetarian Chili (6 to 8 servings)

2 T. olive or vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped small
1 stalk celery, chopped small
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped chipotle in adobo (optional)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
½  teaspoons salt
1 12 oz. bag ground crumbles (in vegetarian section of grocer's freezer. I use Boca brand.)
1 (28 oz.) can chopped tomatoes or 4 cups finely chopped fresh tomatoes and juice (if you have a garden full)
4 cups water or tomato juice
1 can red kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can black beans

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, pepper, and garlic and cook for 10 to 12 minutes until veggies are soft but not browned. Mix in chipotle, oregano, cumin, chili powder and salt. Add crumbles, tomatoes, and tomato juice. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer over low heat, uncovered, 45 minutes. Add beans and simmer 30 minutes more.

Serve with condiments as desired: shredded cheddar jack, sour cream, corn chips, green onion, avocado, and/or jalapeƱo slices.