Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pumpkin Praline Muffins

Some of life's best inventions come from improvision.  (Is that a word? I was going to use improvising, but I think that's a dangling participle.  Oops inner geek alert!)  Anyway, Monday was Boss' day and I had been planning all weekend to make a pumpkin cheesecake to take into work.  Well, at 3pm on Sunday, I realized my springform pan was somewhere in a dank storage unit.  Clearly, I had no motivation, nor the time to truck on over and go digging around in my menagerie of a storage unit.  I wanted to bring a fall treat using the ingredients I already had on hand.  As I was sifting through my Better Homes and Gardens Baking book, the recipe for Pumpkin Praline Muffins called out to me.....Make me, make me!!!  I have loved pralines since about the age of 9.  There used to be a little ice cream shop here in town named the Big Scoop.  This is where I had Pecan praline ice cream for the first time and so began a life long love affair!  The pralines in these muffins are super simple to make and the Boss' as well as the other members on my team gave me such kudos, and I am now the go-to gal of baking in the office....sorry not trying to brag.  Like my cousin says, we just show our love and appreciation for others with the food we make.  Try these.....as Miles said, they are "To die for!" 

The recipe I am making was altered.....I only had 1/2 a cup of pumpkin puree in the fridge and no time to cook down another pie pumpkin so I improvised and used applesauce. I don't think it mattered much....people scarffed on these babies!

Preheat oven to 375.  This only made 14 muffins so you may want to double this recipe.

1/3 c brown sugar
2 tbsp sour cream
2/3 chopped pecans
2 C all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 beaten egg
3/4 c buttermilk
1/2 c pumpkin puree
1/4 c applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 c butter melted

Line muffin pan, in a small mixing bowl, stir together 1/3 c brown sugar and sour cream. Stir in pecans set aside

In a medium mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cloves. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture

In another bowl combine egg, buttermilk, pumpkin, vanilla,  2/3 cup brown sugar and melted butter. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir till well combined.  It will be a really thick batter. I use a large cookie scoop or an ice cream scoop to make the muffins a uniform size. Fill each cup about 3/4 full.  Then spoon 2 tsp pecan mixture on top of each muffin.  Bake @ 375 for 25 minutes.  Best served warm. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Marinated Cherry Tomatoes

The weather this Spring was weird, very wet and rainy.  There were days I didn't think it would ever quit raining.  I always look forward to Spring and seeing all the flowers pop up and I love watching things grow!  I have always wanted my own garden and one of the most romantic things any boyfriend has ever done for me was to have a truckload of dirt dropped off in their driveway all for me.  I mean, he picked out a spot and we shoveled all the dirt and he put the preen down.  What a dream boat!  The next weekend we went and got the plants.  I remember him telling me at the start of this project that the plants had to be in that night before he got home.  This was back in June.  They were.  I think he was very leary about this whole undertaking.  We ended up with a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes.  They arrived after the hot hot month July midway into August.  I had bowls and bowls full of them.  The plants grew to be eight feet high and I had to buy bamboo stakes to hold them up! The garden was a success.  It produced a ton of hungarian and green peppers as well as many many cherry tomatoes.  I am not looking forward to buying them at the store again.

Canning is another one of my pastimes.  I love seeing the results after they've processed.  I picked up the Better homes and gardens special canning issue and decided to make these Cherry tomato pickles I read about!  They are like a ketchup sunburst exploding in your mouth.  My friend Becky provided me with a rosemary plant earlier this summer and my friend Chelsea bought me a bottle of WHITE BALSAMIC VINEGAR for my birthday, each gift helped out with this epicurian treat!

Pickled Pear Tomatoes with Rosemary

5 Cups yellow pear cherry tomatoes, round red cherry tomatoes and I used some black japanese heirloom cherry tomatoes that I grew!
1 cup thinly sliced chipolini onions
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
6 cloves of garlic thinly sliced.  Bellevue Farmers market has the BEST garlic!
2 1/4 C White balsamic vinegar
3/4 C water
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp pickling salt
1 tbsp or more fresh rosemary
1 1/2  tsp peppercorns
1 bay leaf

Combine tomatoes, onion, red pepper flakes and garlic in a bowl.

Brine: Combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt, rosemary leaves, peppercorns and bayleaf in a larg heavy saucepan.  I used my dutch oven for this step.  Bring to boiling reduce heat. simmer 10 minutes and discard the bayleaf.

Pack tomato mix tightly in the jar till you can't fit another single tomato in the jar. ( I used half pint jelly jars) Pour the hot brine over tomatoes. Leave 1/2 inch headspace.   Remove air bubbles and adjust your lids. Process in water bath canner for 15 minutes. Makes 7 half pints and they're super pretty to look at!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

I love comfort food....I love food in general. But every fall, there are several dishes I make every year. Macaroni and Cheese just happens to be one of them. My boyfriend's dad just retired and they decided to have a bonfire for family and friends to celebrate. Everyone brought a dish to pass and so I opted to make the macaroni and cheese because several others said they would make cupcakes. Which is fine because at the end of the night, there wasn't a crumb left. You can use any old cheeses you have sitting in the fridge with this recipe. Some of the combos I've used were gruyere and emmental, parmesan and asiago but for his get together, I used cabot sharp white cheddar and extra sharp cheddar. You can use those bag cheeses but seriously, spend the money on good cheese instead of gross processed cheese you will notice a huge difference. I make quick work of the shredding by using my grater disk attachment for my food processor. This Macaroni and Cheese beats anything you'll find in a box. I altered this recipe a touch from gourmet magazine.

20 servings

1/2 stick butter
1-3/4 Cups Panko bread crumbs
1/4 Cup Extra Sharp Cheddar
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1 Stick butter
6 Tbsp Flour
5 cups whole milk
6 cups cheese
1/2 cup parmesan
1 lb box elbow macaroni

Preheat oven to 400
Melt butter Stir together with panko and topping cheeses in a bowl set aside.

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium low heat and stir in flour Cook the roux about 3 minutes and whisk in milk. ( I make this in a 5 1/2 qt dutch oven ) Bring sauce to a boil whisking constantly then simmer stirring occasionally 3 minutes....Don't leave this alone, because you will scald the milk on the bottom of the pan. Stir in cheeses 2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp pepper until smooth remove from heat.

Cook your macaroni and drain stir together with the cheese and put in greased 9x13 pan. Put on top rack of your oven. On the lower rack, put a cookie sheet otherwise, you will have your oven smoking because this baby will over flow. Sprinkle topping evenly over macaroni and bake for 20-25 minutes.