Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pumpkin goodness

I cannot get enough of pumpkin flavored things in the fall. And this recipe did not disappoint. The cookies are very cake-like, but get a nice crust on the outside. And the cinnamon glaze? Well, that's the icing on the cake.
I usually sneak in some whole wheat flour in cookies, but I was all out this time around. I added some quick cooking oats instead. Not a lot, but enough to give the cookie a bit of texture. Barely noticeable, but it's nice to know there is a bit of whole grain in there. I would imagine you could easily substitute half of the white flour for whole wheat.

Pumpkin Cookies with Cinnamon Glaze
(Adapted from Iced Pumpkin Cookies at allrecipes.com)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup quick cooking oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Cinnamon Glaze
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls; flatten slightly.
  3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove from heat and transfer to cooling sheets.
  4. While cookies are cooling, make the glaze. Combine confectioners' sugar, milk, melted butter, cinnamon and vanilla. Add milk as needed to reach the right consistency (thick but "dunkable").
  5. Allow cookies to cool, then dunk them top first into the glaze. Don't store the cookies in a closed container. They'll do fine out on the counter for a couple of days.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How I spent my summer vacation, Part I

My house is quiet. Really really quiet. The kids are in school. The pets are lounging in their favorite cozy spots. The hubby's at work. I'm here. Alone. Hold on, I'm taking a moment -

...Wow. This is kind of weird... and nice.

I realized about a week after all the busyness and craziness of summer were behind me that I still have a blog, which has been neglected since the start of the summer. I didn't really intend to take the summer off from blogging. Last summer, I had a bunch of blog posts with all the things I was up to creatively. But this summer, it kind of got pushed aside. With both kids starting school this year, I wanted to spend as much time as I could with them. That fuzzy sentiment started waning around late July when I heard the umpteenth fight over whose turn it was to play with Luke Skywalker/the red piece of sidewalk chalk/the giant stick in the yard/the sand bucket/the BIG shovel/the other shovel... you get the idea. I know, I know - bad mom. But thankfully, I had my little guy's 3rd birthday and a vacation to ready for, and then it was back to school mode through the start of school.

But I do have a few projects to share from the summer....

I made these guys for two birthday boys this summer. I'm not sure what to call them, since disembodied heads of Star Wars characters doesn't sound right. Stress balls? Hackysacks? No wait, please don't kick them. I don't know. I think they're kind of cute though. I winged the pattern for them, but I think they turned out ok. I'm going to try to replicate them for my kids, so when I do, I'll probably write down what I do.

I've got a few more projects I can't wait to share. I was able to finish most of my summer projects, and have a few recipes to share too. And I am blocking my Featherweight Cardigan as I type this, which is very exciting. I missed my goal of having it done by my vacation, but it will be a great sweater for the fall and spring.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What's for Dinner: Sticky Chicken Wings

I love when my kids surprise me. I made these Sticky Chicken Wings from Everyday Food for my husband and myself. For the kids, I made chicken nuggets. The reasoning was simple:  the recipe had too many kid strikes against it. First, the wings themselves. Visible bones are generally a huge turn off with my kids. Next, the "sticky" factor. It's borderline odd how much they dislike getting dirty while they eat. And anything that looks like it could get them dirty seems to be a deterrent for them. And then there are the ingredients - a jalapeno pepper? Fish sauce? I shudder to think of the reaction should they ask what was in the sauce.

So, I was quite pleased with myself that I had the foresight to make them something I knew they would approve of, while my husband and I enjoyed something I figured we would like. I set the plates down, and everyone started eating. My daughter was the first one to notice something was amiss.

Daughter: "What are you eating?"
Me: "Chicken wings."
Daughter: "They look good."
Me: "They are. Do you want to try one?"
Daughter: "Ok....(taking a tentative bite). Mmmm!" (stealing the wing from my hand)
Son: "I try one too!"
Me (eyeing the dwindling number of wings on my plate): "Oh... sure."
Son: "Mmm! Yummy!"
Daughter: "Why didn't you make us these?"

And so it goes. The chicken nuggets were no match for the sweet and salty wings. As an aside, I have never had wings turn out this well from my kitchen. They always seem to get watered down and rubbery. These came out of the oven with a truly crispy exterior and a rich glaze. I made it a dinner by serving them with brown rice and shelled edamame, but this would be a perfect snack for a game or party. I'll definitely be making these again - this time, for everybody.

Sticky Chicken Wings
from Everyday Food
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1-inch piece fresh ginger, smashed and peeled
1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, halved lengthwise
2 pounds chicken wings, cut in half at joint (wing tips removed)

1. Preheat oven to 300. In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, whisk together brown sugar, fish sauce, lemon juice, and soy sauce until sugar dissolves, 2 minutes. Add ginger, pepper and chicken wings; toss to coat. Arrange wings in a single layer.
2. Bake wings 1 hour. Increase heat to 450 and bake until sauce is reduced and wings are glazed, 30 to 35 minutes more, turning wings occasionally. Serve with additional sliced jalapeno, if desired.

Friday, June 3, 2011

In the Kitchen: Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

Strawberry season is here! I love finding new recipes to make with all the delicious local strawberries out there right now. Of course, they're great for just eating fresh, but there are a lot of fun ways to use up all those berries.

This recipe came to me from Martha Stewart's Cookie of the Day e-mail, Strawberry Shortcake Cookies. It really is like a portable strawberry shortcake; the cookie itself is like a sweet biscuit. They were amazing - slightly crisp on the outside with a great biscuit inside -  on day 1, but by day 2 were a bit soggy. I'd suggest making them on a day or for an occasion where you know you will consume them all that day. The upside is that they are so easy to put together, it isn't a lot of trouble to make - and eat - them on the same day.

One more note: The recipe from the web site says it makes 3 dozen. I used a bigger scoop than called for and got 1 dozen. Whoops. I am an admitted sugar freak, but I thought the palm-sized cookies that resulted were a good serving size. And since they are best eaten that day, I think 12 larger cookies is much more doable than 3 dozen.

Strawberry Shortcake Cookies
from Martha Stewart Living

12 ounces strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2/3 cup heavy cream
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine strawberries, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 7 tablespoons granulated sugar in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, or rub in with your fingers, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in cream and strawberry mixture until dough comes together.
  2. Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment, spacing evenly apart. Sprinkle with sanding sugar, and bake until golden brown, 24 to 25 minutes (this might take longer if you make the larger size). Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool. Cookies are best served immediately, but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What's for Dinner: Greek Quinoa Burgers

Quinoa. I feel so pretentious just saying it. Keen wah. Keen wah. Fun. Oh well - it's a tasty and versatile protein. So there. I've been wanting to make more with quinoa for a while now, ever since I tried and loved this quinoa and walnut stuffed red pepper recipe, which I subsequently lost. (On a side note, I'd love to make that recipe again, so if anyone knows of something that sounds like it or close to it - it had parmesan cheese as well, I think? - please let me know!)

I really have no idea how I came across this recipe, but when I saw it was a vegetarian burger with some Greek influence, I knew I wanted to try it. My husband and I thought it was fantastic. The kids liked it to a certain extent as well, but were much more enthused about the pita that came with it.

A note about the recipe: It calls for a sauce to go on top made with Greek yogurt. I didn't make it. One of the benefits of having a Mediterranean grocery story in your neighborhood (Pitaland, for those in the area), in addition to amazing pita made on site - is an equally delicious prepared gyro sauce. I took full advantage. If you do go with the sauce in the recipe below, I'd add some dried oregano to it, perhaps in place of the scallions - I think it would really add to the taste.

Greek-Style Quinoa Burgers
from wholeliving.com

1/2 cup rinsed quinoa
1 medium carrot, cut in large chunks
3-6 scallions, thinly sliced
15 ounces great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Coarse salt
Ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

4 pitas (each 6 inches)
1 cucumber, thinly sliced diagonally
  1.  In a small saucepan, bring 3/4 cup water to a boil; add quiona, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until liquid is absorbed, 12 to 14 minutes; set aside.
  2. In a food processor, pulse carrot until finely chopped. Add cooked quinoa, half the scallions, beans, breadcrumbs, egg, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; pulse until combined but still slightly chunky.
  3. Form mixture into four 3/4-inch-thick paties (dip hands in water to prevent sticking). If too soft, refrigerate 10 minutes to firm. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium; cook burgers until browned and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes per side.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, and the remaining scallions; season with salt and pepper. Serve burgers in pita topped with cucumber and yogurt sauce.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lazy afternoons... right.

My little guy has been fighting me tooth and nail on naps. It's made for a wonderful series of comical mishaps during our afternoons as we try to work though the whole "if you don't want to nap you need to stay in your room for some quiet time" thing. Broken mirrors! Foot after foot of tooth floss emptied out of containers! Missing keys! Headless toys! Cries for snacks every 15 minutes! Comical, right? I'm sure I'll look back on it some day that way. I hope.

In the meantime, though, it hasn't left much time for writing on my blog. I like to keep my evenings to actually making things instead of blogging about making things, so the afternoon nap/quiet time is the perfect time to sit down and write. Not so much the past couple of weeks.

But the making has continued, even if the blog has not. I've tried a few new recipes, which I can't wait to share, and I've got a new make - these very-cool-if-I-do-say-so-myself earrings, made with Habu Silk Stainless. I love them, and I can't wait to keep playing with this yarn.

I'll need to add a picture of me actually wearing them, but right now I've got the whole its almost 90 degrees outside and I've got no air conditioning look about me, so that will have to wait until later.

I need to get back to working on my Featherweight Cardigan. I am making some decent progress on it -- I'm currently working on the second sleeve. I had a bit of delay because of couple of my size 6 double pointed needles went missing (likely from the same imp mentioned above), but have since reappeared. My goal is to have it done by the first (official) day of summer.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What's for Dinner: Baked Maryland Lump Crab Cakes

This was probably the sixth or seventh crab cake recipe I've tried out - partly because I'm always looking for the perfect crab cake recipe, and partly because I forget which ones I've tried. The first time I tried making crab cakes, I hadn't really read through the recipe thoroughly. And I had no idea what all went into crab cakes. But I followed the directions diligently, and was whisking egg yolks and adding oil as I whisked away.... then it dawned on me that the recipe was having me make my own mayonnaise. Needless to say, that recipe was not used again (and I think I took much joy of shredding it into my garbage can).
This recipe isn't by any means the best recipe, but I liked that I was baking the crab cakes instead of frying them. Kind of makes the neon orange macaroni and cheese nestled beside the crab cakes not so terrible (ok, not really).

Baked Maryland Lump Crab Cakes
adapted slightly from Allrecipes.com

1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons Old Bay™
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 pound lump crab meat
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a baking sheet.
  2. Combine bread crumbs, baking powder, parsley, mustard powder, pepper, and seafood seasoning; set aside. Stir together mayonnaise, butter, Worcestershire, and egg until smooth. Fold in crab meat, then fold in bread crumb mixture until well blended.
  3. Shape mixture into 12 crab cakes, about 3/4 inch thick, and place onto prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, then turn the crab cakes over, and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until nicely browned.