November 18, 2015

Pumpkin Bread

When I came across this recipe from Yammie's Noshery, I immediately bookmarked it because it's nearly hunting season in Wisconsin. And hunting season has become synonymous with me baking all sorts of goodies for my family and our out-of-state friends who join us for the week. And one of those friends has gluten intolerance, which means I always need a few tasty treats for him since he can't partake in a portion of what I prepare.

Hence this bread, which said it worked equally well with flour or rice flour. And I had a bag of rice flour on hand, so I made two loaves with my toddler. It was extremely easy to make a double batch in separate bowls to keep one gluten free. Both baked up beautifully, and we cannot wait to dig into them. (My toddler has been repeatedly asking, but they're currently tucked in the freezer for safe keeping.)

Pumpkin Bread
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour (or rice flour)
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a standard-size loaf pan with foil. Combine the pumpkin, eggs, oil and vanilla. Add the sugar, and mix well.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and spices. Add to the wet ingredients, and mix until just combined. Pour into the loaf pan, and bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool before removing from the pan. Peel off foil, and serve. Makes 1 loaf. (You can easily double it or convert it to one dozen muffins baked at 375ºF for 20 minutes.)

Beef Stew with Pearl Couscous

Two savory recipes in a row on my blog. Two recipes that are essentially beef stew on my blog. I guess weirder things could happen.

This version from How Sweet It Is gets the nod of appreciation for the technique of cooking the roast. Regardless of whether I make this stew again, I need to cook a roast in this manner and devour it. I'm certain my 4-year-old and I could have eaten nearly the entire roast if we tried (or showed a lack of self control). So note to my future self who forgets about this: buy beef, and cook it this way.

Oh, and the stew was tasty. And I miraculously got both my boys to eat bowls of it. (I added a few potatoes and carrots and eliminated the squash from the original version.)

Beef Stew with Pearl Couscous
3 lbs. beef chuck roast
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1 cup pumpkin beer
1 onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
16 oz. sliced mushrooms
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
4 cups low-sodium beef stock
1/2 Tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
2 cups cold water
2 Tbsp. flour
1 cup whole wheat pearl couscous
Heat a large stock pot over medium high heat. Season the roast with the salt and the pepper evenly (adding a bit more if needed). Place olive oil and 2 Tbsp. butter in the skillet. Add the roast, and sear on all sides until golden brown. Reduce the heat, and pour in the beer. Cover the pot, and cook on low heat for 3 to 4 hours, turning once or twice, until the beef is falling apart. Keep an eye on the beef, and add more liquid if you need it. You want the liquid to be slightly simmering the entire time.

When the roast is falling apart, transfer it to a large bowl with the remaining liquid in the pot. Set the heat to medium-low, and add the remaining tablespoon of butter. Add the onion and garlic, stirring to coat. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are slightly soft, another 5 minutes. Add in the nutmeg, shredded beef (and liquid), stock and herbs to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are just softened.

Combine the flour and water to make a slurry. Add the slurry to the stew, and stir well. Increase the heat a bit until the stew is simmering. Let it cook for 30 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and season additionally if needed. 15 minutes before serving, stir in the pearl couscous. Cook for 10 or 15 minutes, just until the couscous softens. Serve with freshly chopped herbs on top. Serves 6.

Steak and Ale Pie

Even though we've escaped the winter weather thus far, comfort food like this has been at the top of my list. I made this recipe from Foodness Gracious.  When my husband says I could make it again even without the puff pastry (sacrilege!), you know the inside is goodness.

I followed the recipe nearly exactly, with the exception of transferring the completed meat and vegetables into individual ramekins. Perhaps next time I'd switch up the veggies and add a few potatoes and carrots, but it was excellent as is.

Steak and Ale Pie
2 lbs. chuck roast steak
1/4 cup flour
3 Tbsp. canola oil
1 cup sliced onion
4 oz. diced prosciutto
1 large garlic clove, minced
1½ cups dark ale beer or stout, divided
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped rosemary
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped thyme
1 cup beef broth (I used water and a splash of liquid smoke)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
7 oz. mushrooms, quartered
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. water
1 egg beaten
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Cut the chuck roast into cubes about 1½-2 inches, and place in a bowl. Toss the beef until covered evenly in the flour.

Heat the oil in a large pan, at least 10-inches wide, over a high heat. (I used my cast iron skillet for the entire cooking process.) Gently drop in half of the beef, and sear on each side until brown and crispy around the edges (about 2 minutes per side). Transfer to a plate, and sear the remaining meat, transferring it to rest with the rest of the meat.

Once the beef is out of the skillet, add the onion, garlic and Pancetta. Cook until the onion starts to get soft over a medium heat. Add a half cup of the beer, and deglaze the pan by scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon. Simmer for 2 minutes.

Add the Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, sugar and herbs, and stir. Add the remaining 1 cup beer and the beef broth. Season with the salt and pepper.

Mix in the mushrooms, and the seared beef and stir to combine. Transfer the filling to a pie dish (or continue cooking if you use an oven-safe skillet. Bake in the oven for 2 hours, covered with foil. After 2 hours, cook for a further 30 minutes uncovered.

Take the pie out of the oven,  and raise the oven temperature to 400°F. Dissolve the cornstarch with the water. Add it to the pie filling, and gently stir through. If desired, transfer to individual ramekins at this point.

Unroll the pastry from its package into a square. Lift the pastry onto the pie, and brush it with the beaten egg. Place the pie back into the oven, and bake for another 30 minutes or until the pastry is a deep golden color and has risen up a little. It may take less time, but that's OK because your filling is already cooked.

Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 4-6.

October 26, 2015

Pumpkin Pie Spice Caramel Corn

My addiction to homemade caramel corn is well documented through the years on my blog, so it wasn't surprising to me that I bookmarked this recipe from Cookies and Cups. I made it, consumed it in place of a few meals and then took it to a Halloween party. (I'm smart enough to know by now that caramel corn is much like an open bottle of alcohol ... it should only be transported stowed securely in the trunk. Otherwise it disappears on the drive. The caramel corn, I mean, not the alcohol.)

Like most caramel corns I've made, this is so easy to make. It's a nice twist for fall, especially for those of us who can't stand coffee, regardless of how much you spice it with pumpkin.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Caramel Corn
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
16 cups popped corn

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat, and set this aside.

In a small saucepan, melt butter, brown sugar, corn syrup salt together over medium heat. Bring to boil. Boil for 4 minutes without stirring.

Remove from the heat, and stir in the vanilla and pumpkin pie spice. Place popcorn in a giant bowl, and pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn, stirring to coat evenly.

Spread popcorn onto prepared baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Allow the popcorn to cool completely. Makes about 16 cups.

Bourbon Salted Caramels

I've made caramels only once before, these Apple Cider Caramels, which I remember being so delicious that I wanted to make them again this fall. But when I saw these caramels with bourbon from Spicy Perspective, I knew I had to make them for my friend's birthday because she's a bourbon girl.

They are good, although it's a bit tedious to wrap an entire batch of caramels by yourself. (Thankfully my husband helped cut more wrappers as I wrapped, which helped.) It's still worth the effort, considering I filled an entire quart jar for my friend, took a bunch into work, kept a few at home and took a bunch to my brother when I visited him in Iowa.

I still think I need to pull out a jug of apple cider to thaw for the other caramels. 
Bourbon Salted Caramels
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup salted butter
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup bourbon
1 Tbsp. vanilla 
Course or flake sea salt
Place the sugars, heavy cream, butter, corn syrup and bourbon in a large (and I mean large) sauce pot. (My pot was on the verge of boiling over, so I had to switch pots mid-process.) Attach a candy thermometer to the edge of the pot with the tip touching the ingredients, and then place over medium heat.
Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Allow the mixture to simmer until it reaches 245-250°F and is the desired color you like for caramel. If the temperature starts rising faster than the caramel is browning, lower the heat even more to give it time to caramelize.
Meanwhile, line a 9 X 13 baking dish with parchment paper. Spray the parchment with non-stick cooking spray. (The original recipe calls for testing the caramel and you can find instructions how in the original link, but I did it by temperature when it was about 248°F.) Once it's ready, remove from heat, and stir in the vanilla extract.
Carefully pour the caramel into the prepared dish, and allow it to cool completely. You can speed up the cooling process by placing the dish in the refrigerator. Once cooled, sprinkle generously with sea salt. Lift the parchment paper out of the dish by the edges, and cut caramels into 1-inch squares. Wrap each candy in small pieces of wax paper. Makes approximately 80 caramels.