Monday, November 26, 2012

tis the season: cranberry walnut snack cake

If you, like me can't get enough of the tart goodness of cranberries I have a delightful snack cake recipe for you.  Thanksgiving with the Rogers family always means lots of cranberries for me because my mother in law and my Kelly are my only competition for the cranberries and we still make a nice big batch.  Cranberry "sauce" is so good on turkey sandwiches or paninis.  Especially since I don't eat condiments (read back if you missed this quirk of mine) you really need something to liven things up.  This year Becky made the cranberries and Kelly stayed in LA for the holiday so I know I'm still enjoying the leftovers sent home with me and I suspect there is a cranberry or two still in her refrigerator too.

And yep, this is my very own original start to finish banana oatmeal snack cake recipe revised for your seasonal enjoyment.  Sure there are lots of cranberry dessert bars out there (including Starbuck's cranberry bliss bar which is too sweet for me), but this one is really wholesome with the oats, Greek yogurt, whole wheat flour and walnuts.

Here's a little equipment tip for you, I love my King Arthur half sheet pan my girls gave my last year for Christmas because it's super sturdy and the corrugated texture and non-stick finish just rock.  But if you have a Crate and Barrel nearby, their branded bakeware is of very similar construction (just trying to save you some shipping dollars, tis the season for that too!).

Cranberry Walnut Snack Cake

1 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1/2 C plain Greek yogurt
1/2 C milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 C all-purpose flour
1 C white whole wheat flour
1 C quick cooking oats (big fan of the Bob's Mill brand in the bag)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt 
1/4 C King Arthur Flour Cake Enhancer (entirely optional)
one pound cranberries, rinsed and picked through
1 C chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a half sheet jelly roll pan or 13 x 9 baking dish.  
In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, oats, soda and salt.  In the bowl of your stand mixture cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after  each egg.  Mix in yogurt and vanilla.  Add flour mixture and beat until well-blended.  Stir in cranberries and walnuts.  Pour batter into prepared pan/dish and spread evenly.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until tester comes out clean.  If using a 9 x 13 pan you may need to bake for 30-35 minutes.  Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Right?  So I am adding this picture of a random hiker atop Runyon Canyon in the
Hollywood Hills from my visit with Kelly in LA.
Why?  Because apparently I did not take any photos of this cake!
But I like this photo and I want you to remember
just how perfect I am despite my lack of photos!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

it's Thanksgiving: family stuffing recipe

Thanksgiving is here!  Still can't believe it's November let alone Thanksgiving, but here we are so let's get to the grocery and start cooking.  My gracious mother in law is hosting this year, so I'm only responsible for three vegetable dishes.  Sara is home for a nice long break, but Kelly is spending the holiday in the land of sunshine, palm trees, mountains and the ocean.  We'll skype her in today and see how she does making my family's version of stuffing for her LA friends.  My dad is in charge of the stuffing back in Chagrin Falls and his version is so moist and amazing because he uses raw pork sausage and eggs mixed in with the usual suspects of celery, onion, bread cubes, butter, broth and seasonings.  He even tastes for seasoning with the raw egg and sausage in there and lives to tell about it.  I can't do it and I can't recommend you do it either but he's been mixing it up without consequence for a good 50 years.

Have a happy holiday!  So much to be thankful for as always.  Live in gratitude.  That's the yoga (and truthfully, the church in me) talking, but Oprah had it right when she told us to start a gratitude journal all those years ago.  I remember mine sitting by my nightstand the years we were doing all the moving. The girls were in their early school years and about every 12-18 months off we would go.  So stressful, but so much a part of our family story.  Every move they were each other's best friends for a while until they met new friends at school and in the neighborhood.  Every move we just had each other to keep us entertained and in a way it was really wonderful to have no where to go and nothing to do.  But then life just expands and we are all so thankful for all the amazing friends we have added to the fold along the way.  And of course we are thankful for our families, the constants in our crazy lives.  That is all.

Bread note:  this year I used some amazing stuffing bread from Costco that was highly seasoned and beautifully browned (like very delicious big croutons), so I did not add poultry seasoning and sage.  If you are using fresh bread, cut it into cubes and dry on a baking sheet in a 250 degree oven for an hour or so.  My mom always tore the bread the night before, heated the oven to 350, put the bread in the oven and turned it off and overnight it dried out nicely.

family stuffing

one pound breakfast sausage (sage is key)
4T butter (I use 1 T butter and 1 T olive oil to saute and stir in remaining softened butter with the stuffing)
2 C chopped onion
2 C chopped celery
6 C cubed Italian/french bread, dried (or use stuffing bread cubes sold in a bag but get some interesting ones with ciabatta or herbs or whatever looks really good)
1 egg
2 tsp poultry seasoning (do not use if using highly seasoned stuffing bread)
1 tsp dried sage or 1 T chopped fresh sage (same goes for the sage)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2-4 C chicken broth

Spray or butter a 9x13x2 dish and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large pan over medium heat, cook the sausage breaking it up and stirring frequently until cooked through, but not browned.  Line a plate or bowl with paper towels and pour sausage onto the towels to drain.  Wipe out the pan with a paper towel and melt the 4 T butter (or the 1 T olive oil and 1 T butter) over medium low heat.  Add the onions and celery and cook, stirring frequently until softened but not browned, about 5-7 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the bread cubes with the seasoning, sage, salt and pepper. Add the onions, celery and sausage.  Beat the egg lightly and mix in with the broth starting at 2 cups. If you reserved butter when you were sauteeing the vegetables, stir it in now too.  Add more if you like moister stuffing, but toss lightly so the bread is still more or less in tact.  Pack stuffing into baking dish and cover tightly with foil.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Remove foil and bake another 5-10 minutes to brown up the top.

This post is already a day or two late for this Thanksgiving and now I have some sort of photo storage glitch with google, so I will l just promise you pictures after I run this through my in-house IT manager, Sara.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Guglhupf breakfast: Bircher muesli

Finally visited the oft-mentioned, always in glowing terms and regularly frequented Guglhupf Bakery and Cafe in Durham, NC over family weekend.  To think I have missed 4 other opportunities to enjoy it!  Now it's firmly on the list of places not to be missed whenever I'm visiting Sara at Duke.  German bakery and German girl.  Love match.  Sara had amazing pancakes, Greg a beautiful omelet and for me?  The Bircher Muesli and a visit to the bakery after breakfast for some to-go treats.  Many thanks to Sara and her crew for conquering Guglhupf and showing us the way.

Best muesli I ever had prior to the Guglhupf version?  Bakery breakfast in Banff, Canada before our glacial river white-water rafting day.  Amazing food in Jasper and Banff on our Canadian Rockies trip with the girls a few years ago.  And it was not just the altitude and or the scenery.  But the Guglhupf version of muesli was perfection.  I had to tweak some recipes and make it for myself at home.  Can I tell you how many muesli mornings I have had since our trip down South?  No, because I have lost count.  It's the perfect food for me with enough protein to get me through the whole morning and the best part?  I whip up a two day batch after dinner a couple of times a week and I can grab a bowl before work (well, sometimes at work if time is short).  I've also started packing my work lunches at the same time.  Trying to streamline my life a little.  It's lovely when I pull it off.  Worth it.

Anyway, muesli is a cold cereal made overnight so the grains soften and the flavors meld a bit.  You can use other grains and any dried fruit and/or nut combination you like.  I've tried it with lemon juice, but the orange juice does not require squeezing and tastes just right to me.  You could stir in a little peanut butter or throw in a few chocolate chips.  Or both with some banana and raisins.  You could stir through some amazing fruit-packed jam.  It's the grated apple, oats, yogurt, juice and honey that are the base for your creativity.  Give it a go!

Guglhupf Bircher Muesli
when this is what your latte looks like, it's a good sign

upstairs at Guglhupf with Sara
(we were going to Duke basketball later in the day, can you tell?)

it is adorable

bakery goodies

Bircher Muesli

one large or two small Granny Smith, Macintosh or other tart apple(s), peeled and grated
1 C old fashioned oats
1 C nonfat Greek yogurt
1/2 C low sugar orange juice
1 T honey
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 C or more dried fruit (partial to blueberries and or raisins)
1/2 C walnuts or almonds, optional
one banana, sliced (if you are keeping it for more than one day, add banana when serving)

Grate apples into mixing bowl.  Stir in all remaining ingredients.  Taste for spices and honey.  Add more juice to thin (it will thicken quite a bit as the oatmeal expands).  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Serve cold the next morning.

blurry ingredients at night in my winter kitchen

grated apple

stirring together before refrigerating

next morning:  my Bircher muesli!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

perfect timing: pumpkin french toast casserole

Company coming?  Overnight casseroles are an excellent breakfast answer.  And this one for pumpkin french toast just kind of rocks.  Just like Mallory, one of my lulu co-workers who brought this in all nice and warm to the store one morning.  We kind of have our own little two person cooking club going on.  We share a mutual appreciation of Barefoot Contessa recipes, food blogs and husbands that appreciate good food.  This is just all kinds of delicious and so easy.  Perfect for Thanksgiving weekend!  I used the always worth it challah bread and pumped up the spices and served it to rave reviews our last home football weekend when we had guests to join us in the misery that is Purdue football.  This is so divine on it's own with it's struesel topping, but warm maple syrup just takes it to another level. 

Now I need to learn how to make "crack bacon" like Kelly and I devoured at Grub in a 1920's Hollywood bungalow.  Of course we ate our brunch outside being Midwestern girls who find sunny 60 degree November days perfect for patio dining, particularly if you are surrounded by heaters.  Turns out Grub is the restaurant of Betty Fraser from Top Chef, which means little to me but will surely give it some cache to my BFF Susan and all the other Top Chef devotees.  Side note:  Finally DVR'ing a Top Chef season.  I know, it's obviously something I would love and Susan's been reminding me of that for years.  I'll surely post a  "crack bacon" recipe as soon as I figure it out.  And I'll give you my review of the show.  Nothing like being a little late to the party.

Grub in Hollywood, CA just one of many amazing meals coordinated by
travel planner extraordinaire, Kelly
Pumpkin French Toast Casserole

One loaf challah bread, torn into big chunks (any day-old bread will do)
6 large eggs
2 1/2 C milk (skim is fine)
1 C pumpkin puree
3/4 C sugar
2 T vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves

1/3 C flour
1/3 C packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
5 T unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces

Spray a 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray.  Place bread chunks evenly across pan.  
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin, sugar, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg.  Pour evenly over bread, turning to coat if needed.  Cover pan with plastic wrap (or lid if your baking pan has one).  Store overnight in refrigerator.  

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.   Add butter pieces and cut into flour mixture using a fork, pastry blender or your hands until mixture clumps together in pea-size pieces.  Cover topping and store in refrigerator.  

When you are ready to bake the casserole, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Remove casserole from refrigerator and carefully distribute the streusel topping over the french toast mixture.  Bake, uncovered for 45-55 minutes or until the french toast is set and golden brown.  Serve hot or warm with warm syrup, if desired.

ingredients with torn challah bread ready in baking pan

whisking together milk, eggs, pumpkin and spices

pouring it over the bread

ready to chill

struesel topping ingredients

struesel topping

Well, I'd love to show you the casserole sprinkled with the struesel and the baked finished product.  But  I had Greg bake the casserole while I was at yoga and it was half-eaten by the time I got home.  Oops.  I'll make it again.  I am sure you an imagine it.....

Friday, November 9, 2012

Chicken and Egg strikes again: Chicken with Charred Cauliflower and Peppers

Because I have the oven heating up to make banana bread to fly with me this evening to see Kelly in LA and because I have three baking posts in the queue I feel the need to post a savory recipe.  Here's another recipe adapted from a current favorite cookbook, "Chicken and Egg".  I had cauliflower, a Costco bag of red/yellow/orange peppers and two fresh skin on and bone in chicken breasts and that's pretty much what this recipe required.  So instead of grilling chicken and roasting the vegetables, I roasted them all together.  The charred and roasted veggies with the lemon kick were so amazing.  Perfection.  Definitely roasting vegetables again with the addition of lemon juice to the usual olive oil, kosher salt and pepper and the not as usual garlic (always worried it might burn, but it did not with all the oil and juice).  I have forgotten for about two months to buy a battery for my instant read thermometer and I have to get that to the top of the errand list.  If you want your chicken to be a little moister than mine, baste it with the pan juices, check the internal temperature for doneness or just use chicken thighs or drumsticks.

I would love to sit and chat, but it's pretty out and I have some outside work to do while the going is good and then I need to shower up and finish packing for my LA adventure with my LA girl.  Can't wait!  Duke girl comes home next Friday.  It's all good in November!

look, something savory instead of sweet in my oven
Chicken with Charred Cauliflower and Peppers

1 head cauliflower, leaves removed and cored then cut into small florets (about 4 cups)
2 large red, yellow or orange peppers, seeded and cut into one inch dice
3 T olive oil
2 T fresh lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, minced
11/2 tsp kosher salt or coarse sea salt
1 tsp  tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds chicken thighs or drumsticks *I used breasts, but they were a little dry in this recipe so use the dark meat if you can
2 tsp cumin

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  If you do not have a seasoned stoneware rimmed baking sheet (you see my vintage Pampered Chef model in a lot of recipes), lightly brush a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.

In a large bowl, stir together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.  Reserve about 1/3 for chicken and toss the cauliflower and peppers in the remaining mixture and spread on the baking sheet.

In the same bowl, add back the reserved oil/lemon juice mixture and add the cumin with the chicken pieces and turn to coat.  Nestle the chicken pieces amongst the vegetables on the baking sheet.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring the vegetables once or twice until vegetables are tender and charred and the chicken is no longer pink in the center.

Serve immediately.

olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper in large bowl

all tossed and nestled and ready to bake

charred, roasted and delicious

those are some seriously delicious vegetables on my chicken!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

unnecessary goodness: brown sugar cinnamon crusted apple custard pie

Here's the recipe promised from a few weeks ago when my fellow lemon and I, Shannon were having our "Chicken and Egg" bake-off.  This is a ridiculously good apple pie.  So unnecessary, but completely delicious.  I made it a couple of Sundays ago when I had the perfect combination of time on my hands, a warm sunny breeze coming through the windows and football on the radio and tv while Greg was out golfing and the cat and I were enjoying a rare Sunday at home.  So nice.  So glad I maximized that day.

I have this crazy theory about soaking in all the last warm sunny moments every Fall so I can call them up in my mind when it's bone chilling cold in February.  And the crazy thing about this is I got the idea from reading "Frederick" a very sweet children's book I have known all my life and read about a hundred times to my girls.  He's a little mouse who doesn't store up food for the winter, but instead stores up the warmth of the sun.  I risk sounding completely silly, but I really do sit in the sun coming weakly through the windows in the Winter and think back to the warm sunny Fall days.  Somehow that warmth is more accessible than the Caribbean sun or the Florida beach.  I know whey the Florida beach mental imagery does not work, however.  We are very lucky that my husband's family owns condos in Fort Walton Beach on the panhandle and it's gorgeous there, but not necessarily so over Spring Break.  I think we've hunkered down through too many barely 70 degree windy days on the beach for thoughts of Florida to warm me up in a reliable way.  I'll just be like Frederick.  Well, with the notable exception that I do store up a lot of food all year round.  Pretty hard to go hungry here as long as the gas stove works.

And maybe those thoughts come from thinking of everyone affected by Sandy.  No power and none in sight for days.  We're all praying for you.  Some days it's good to be from "flatlander" country here in the good old Midwest.  Thankful.

But back to the pie:  so yummy you don't need ice cream to go with it, but I did like it best warm.  Amazing that just stirring an egg into a little heavy cream could change the character of the apple pie into some heavenly, creamy thing.  The brown sugar and cinnamon in the crust is brilliant.  You can roll a pie crust.  I'm very serious about this.  If it gets a little crumbly on the edges and you have to patch it together, if your crimping does not look like a Martha Stewart photograph, if it's too brown on the edges:  you still did it and it will still taste amazing!  Try it.

Brown Sugar-Apple Custard Pie

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Crust
2 C flour
2 T packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 C cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3-4 T ice water

Pie Filling
3 C peeled and sliced Granny Smith apples
3 C peeled and sliced Macintosh apples
1 T fresh lemon juice
2 T flour or 2 T King Arthur Flour Pie Filling Enhancer
3/4 C packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 C heavy cream

1 egg white, lightly beaten until frothy
1 T sugar

Make the crust processing the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt together (whisk, use a paddle attachment on a stand mixer or use a food processor).  Pulse or cut in cold butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Pulse or stir in cold water starting with 3 T and adding more if needed (I put ice cubes and water in a measuring cup and measure tablespoonfuls out of it) until crust comes together in a ball.  Divide in dough in half and flatten each ball into a fat disk.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and make the filling.  Toss all of the apples in a big bowl with the lemon juice, flour/pie filling enhancer, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Measure the cream and whisk in the egg.

Roll out the bottom crust on a lightly floured surface (sprinkle a little flour on top of the disk too as you roll so your rolling pin does not stick).  Line the pan with the crust.  Heap the apple filling in the crust and pour the cream mixture evenly over the apples.  Lightly flour your surface again and roll out the top crust and lay across top of pie.  Crimp edges together with your fore fingers and thumbs.  Cut about 6 slits in the top of the crust.  Brush beaten egg white on top crust and edges.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar.  Lightly cover crimped edges of crust with pieces of foil.

Bake pie for 25 minutes.  Remove foil from crust edges (I used my pie shield and it stuck to the crust, I usually put this on after 20-25 minutes so you choose) and bake an additional 25-30 minutes until the crust is gold brown and the apples are tender (you can check with a thin knife point through the vents in the crust).  It will be ready after 45 minutes, don't sweat it.  Cool and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.


crust ingredients

all pulsed

coming together

dough disk

apple filling

all tossed

roll out crust

cream and egg

pouring it on

vented crust

egg wash applied

pie shield

baked crust


Thursday, November 1, 2012

they are good for you: roasted brussel sprouts with lemon

Sorry, even my kids like brussel sprouts better than I do.  There are a few "good for you" foods I've just not been able to embrace.  Salmon.  Ugh.  It's pink.  It's salmon-pink and I've always hated that color.  Really.  And then there is the odor.  Ugh.  I know I'm missing all my omega 3's.  Maybe I'll grow to like it someday.  Beets.  Can't do it.  Mainly because growing up they were always the "pickled" variety and I do not like "pickled" anything.  I really should give them a try.  I'll roast them.  At least they come in hues I deem acceptable.  And then there are brussel sprouts.  So cabbage-y and bitter.  Until my family insisted I try them roasted.  Okay, a little better.  Then Real Simple told my to roast them and toss them with breadcrumbs, butter and lemon.  Ah-hah.  I love just about anything citrus.  And my German grandmother made everything with butter and breadcrumbs and that's a combination it's hard not to like.  I made an herb foccacia last week and clearly did not add enough olive oil because it was a bit like a big fat cracker.  So I cut it up and dried it out in a slow oven and then crushed it into lovely herb breadcrumbs.  Perfect.  But if you don't happen to have a less than perfect herb foccacia laying around, panko or fresh bread crumbs will be perfectly fine.  I only used a pat of butter.  I don't even know if the recipe needed any butter really, but YOLO on the butter.  I served them to my husband and his parents and was surprised there were any leftovers.  I am officially converted.

Pretty sure this dish will make it to the Thanksgiving table.  Really good.

see, they are no longer scary
Brussel Sprouts with Lemon

2 1/2 pounds Brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved (the nice big bag at Costco is prefect)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 T olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 T unsalted butter
1/2 C fresh bread crumbs or panko
3 T lemon juice

Heat oven to 425 degrees (I'm a big fan of my convection oven for faster roasting).  Toss brussel sprouts, garlice, olive oil, about 1 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp pepper in a large bowl.  Spread out on one or two baking sheets (mine fit fine on one full-size baking sheet).  Roast, stirring to turn once or twice, until tender or about 15-20 minutes.  While hot toss with butter, bread crumbs and lemon juice in your serving bowl.

Serves 8

ready to toss 

all roasted