Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Grain-Free (Paleo-ish) Pumpkin Spice Scones

The past week and a half has been what is know as exam week around UCCOM. It consists of exams on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Monday. It consumes all of our time and energy. It is brutal. And when it rolls around to the Saturday between the Friday and Monday exams, I am pretty burnt out. Add to that the jealousy of seeing EWeage post on the blog the pumpkin spice latte/ chai cupcakes, and you can only imagine the yearning I had to get back into the kitchen. So, as a study break, I decided to try my hand at grain-free pumpkin scones.

But here is the deal with these scones. I had to develop my own recipe because I couldn't find a recipe online for these puppies made with almond flour. So what follows is my first plunge into the world of recipe development. I had about five tabs open on my computer looking at different recipes, trying to deduce the best ratio of almond flour to pumpkin to egg to spices.
I ended up with what follows. But before that, I will say that, while they do taste pretty good, they are not perfect. I am definitely going to be fiddling with this one in the future. (For example, I would add more spices. Its hard to get enough cinnamon for me, but I was worried about going overboard)

Grain-Free Pumpkin Scones
2 1/2 c. + 3 Tbs almond flour
1/2 c. pumpkin
1 egg
2 Tbs honey
1/3 c. chopped toasted pecans
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Mix all of the ingredients together. The dough will be slightly moist, but you should be able to form it into a circle and cut it into 8 pieces like a normal scone. If not, add a bit more almond flour. Bake at 350 F for 20-30 minutes. I think I took mine out a bit too soon, but that just meant that they turned out perfectly when I reheated them in the mornings in the toaster oven.

Spiced Glaze
2 Tbs pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 Tbs honey
1/2 c powdered sugar (this is the not-so-paleo part...)

Mix up the ingredients, and then I poured them into a plastic bag, cut the corner off, and used it to drizzle.

**As a side note, as with any grain-free baking that I have done, these are very absorbent. Unless you are going to eat them right away, I would suggest not glazing until when you want to eat them. Second option is what I did, glaze them all, and then put them in the toaster oven to warm up when you want to eat them.

Autumn Chicken

Sometimes I eat things other than cupcakes, cookies, or ice cream.  Sometimes KWeage isn't the only one who cooks real food.  Today was one of those sometimes.  This recipe, originally (but uncreatively) titled Chicken with Dates, Olives, and Cinnamon, seemed the perfect dish for these cool, rainy, fall days we've been having recently.  It has hints of sweet cinnamon and dried fruit, lemony fresh ginger, and savory cumin and coriander.  Hmm, how many commas do you think I can use in one paragraph?

We made a similar dish in India with a yogurt based sauce, which I may try to recreate with a portion of the leftovers.  Couscous or quonia is the perfect pairing for this main course.  However, I opted for a garlicy hasselback potato as my starch.  More on this later!  But in case you just can't wait, follow the link to Joy the Baker's recipe.
Autumn Chicken (adapted from Cooking Light, October 2011)
2ish pounds chicken thighs (Take the skin off, unlike what I did.)
fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large yellow onions, sliced
1/2 inch ginger root, minced
10 green olives, sliced
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon chili powder (If you want a real kick add at least double.)
1-2 inches cinnamon stick
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup craisins (or dried cherries or apricots or dates)
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
fresh basil, for garnish

Melt butter in skillet (or Dutch oven if you're lucky enough to have one).  Add olive oil.
Sprinkle chicken with pepper and salt.
Place chicken in pan.  Cook for about 4 minutes on each side until browned.
Remove chicken and set aside.
Add onions and ginger to pan.  Cook until onions are translucent.
Add olives and cook for a minute.
Add flour and spices through cinnamon.  Stir for a minute.
Add broth and bring to boil.
Return chicken to pan.  Simmer for about 20 minutes until chicken is done.
Add craisins and lemon juice in last 10 minutes of cooking.
Serve with couscous and garnish with basil leaves.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Browned Butter Toasted Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made the mistake of giving the last two spiced pumpkin chai cupcakes to the intern and student from my sister team.  This made their senior pretty upset that he had missed out, especially when they began talking about how delicious the cupcakes were in front of him.  In an attempt to make amends, I asked what he'd like me to bring to him this weekend.  His response?  "I like pecans."

Discussing this with KWeage, she brilliantly suggested JTB's Brown Butter Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Wow!  I am so glad she did.  About half an hour in when I had only toasted the pecans and the butter was not quite sufficiently browned I wondered if all this work was really worth it.  I mean, if I had made just plain chocolate chip cookies and threw in a few pecans I would have been done and I'm pretty sure everyone at the hospital would be happy.  But no, I had to try something new and labor intensive!  However, as soon as I poured the brown butter from the skillet into a bowl to cool I caught the first full whiff of the rich nuttiness and I was sold.  Extra brown sugar and toasted pecans add to the depth of these chewy, caramely cookies.

Browned Butter Toasted Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from JTB, Smitten Kitchen, and Recipe Girl)
1 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 cups white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2/3-ish cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Heat chopped pecans in a large skillet over medium heat.  Stir every few minutes once you begin to smell the toasty aroma.  Transfer to a bowl.
Add butter to skillet.  Melt over medium heat.  You'll begin to see bubbles and hear an almost boiling sound.  That's just the water evaporating.  When the butter becomes quiet, watch carefully for it to start to brown... you don't want burnt butter!  Takes 15-20 minutes.  Transfer to mixing bowl and let cool in the fridge for about 10 minutes.
Now turn on the oven to preheat to 350*
Add sugars to butter.  Beat.
Beat in eggs.
Pour in vanilla.
Add baking powder and salt.  Beat.
Slowly add flour.  Beat until well mixed.
Carefully mix in chocolate chips and pecans.
Taste raw dough.  (If you get salmonella don't sue me!)
Drop tablespoons of dough onto greased cookie sheet.
Bake for 10-12 minutes.
Makes 2 1/2 to 3 dozen cookies.
If you're into the whole salted caramel thing like my roommate and I are, sprinkle a bit of sea salt on the tops of the cookies as you pull them out of the oven.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

South Indian Coconut Fish Curry

Two years ago I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to India for five weeks with four other students from my med school class.  We worked with a passionate missionary couple doing medical camps, visiting church members, and spending time at orphanages.  Upon arrival we were all gungho about preparing and eating authentic Indian food.  Several meals of rice and gallons of filtered water later (let's just say I wasn't accustomed to spicy food), I was more than ready for food that would not cause my mouth to burn for hours after eating.  So desperate we were that pizza was made using ketchup as the sauce.  However, this coconut curry was prepared early in the trip and by far was one of my favorite dishes.  Prepared with fish purchased from the roadside vendor caught fresh (we hoped) that morning.  And just enough kick to convince you that it's Indian, but not enough to elicit tears or sweating.  What it lacks in color and presentation, it more than makes up for in delicious flavor!

South Indian Coconut Fish Curry (adapted from Chris' cookbook, 1000 Indian Recipes, I think!)
1 serrano chili pepper
1 tablespoon coriander
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon black peppercorn
1 small onion
3 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1.5 pounds white fish
1 large onion, sliced
1 inch section of ginger, diced
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Grind first 7 ingredients, through salt, together to make a paste.  A food processor, blender, magic bullet etc will work.
Rub paste on your choice of fish.
Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 min- 4 hours.
Saute onion and ginger in oil.
Once mostly cooked, add fish.
Cook fish halfway.
Add coconut milk.
Cover and cook until tender, less than 10 minutes.
Garnish with chopped cilantro.
Serve with rice, couscous, or quinoa like I did here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes Two Ways

 When I saw the explosions of fb statuses about the return of pumpkin spice lattes over Labor Day weekend, I couldn't wait to have my first of the season!  And now I've picked one up on my way to every night call this month.  I was extremely pleased when I saw a recipe for pumpkin spice latte cupcakes on Annie's Eats... How could I not be?  This combines two of my favorite things.  The only disappointing thing is that I didn't think of it first!  Then my genius sister suggested pumpkin spice chai cupcakes.  So here you have it, fall cupcakes in two flavors.

As usual, I increased the spices in this recipe.  A little extra cinnamon never hurt anyone!  Since I had instant coffee instead of espresso powder I almost doubled the suggested amount.  It gives a nice coffee after taste, but if you want a stronger coffee flavor add more to the batter or make coffee flavored whipped cream.  I also decreased the sugar the second time around because they were just a little too sweet.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes (adapted from Annie's Eats)
Cupcake Batter
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons instant coffee (10 single serve packets)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
½ cup coffee or espresso, for brushing

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup powder sugar

Preheat oven to 350*
Mix pumpkin, granulated and brown sugar.
Add eggs and oil.  Beat.
Add spices, powder, soda, and salt.  Beat.
Add coffee crystals.  Beat.
Add flour slowly.
Fill lined cupcake tins 2/3 full.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.
Pour a very small amount of coffee on top of each cupcake.
 Beat whipping cream until peaks begin to form.
Add vanilla and sugar.  Beat a touch more.
Fill piping bag and top cupcakes.
Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Pumpkin Spice Chai Cupcakes

Cupcake Batter
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 spiced chai tea bags
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup powder sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350*
Mix pumpkin, granulated and brown sugar.
Add eggs and oil.  Beat.
Add spices, powder, soda, and salt.  Beat.
Add contents of tea bags.  Beat.
Add flour slowly.
Fill lined cupcake tins 2/3 full.
Bake for 20 minutes.

Beat whipping cream until peaks begin to form.
Add vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar.  Beat a touch more.
Fill piping bag and top cupcakes.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Variations on a theme: Meat, Caramelized onions, and Reduction of EtOH

So this will be a quick post given that it is one week until the first exam week of Year 2 of medical school here at UC. But in the past two days I have made two dishes with meat, caramelized onions, and a reduction of an alcoholic beverage.
Heres the quick low-down. Friday afternoon, guest photographer EL and I were reading cookbooks and I came across one that sounded tasty and simple. It was for chicken with caramelized onions and red wine. So we went to the grocery store and picked up the ingredients, along with what we needed to make one of my favorite side dishes (yes, I have exposed yet another unsuspecting soul to the wonders of brussel sprouts). The results were pretty delicious if I do say so myself.
Saturday I was back in my apt at dinner time after a long day of studying. I looked in my fridge and noticed I had pork chops, onions, brussel sprouts, and pumpkin cider, and since it felt much like fall outside, I went with a more fall-flavored version of the previous night's dinner.

Variation 1
Chicken and Red wine:

2 chicken breasts (pounded down to 1/2 thick, or you could butterfly them)
1 onion (~1/4 in thick slices) (the original recipe called for shallots)
1/4 c chicken broth
1/4 red wine (recipe called for something "fruity" not sure what that means...used a Pinot Noir)
1 Tbs sugar
fresh tarragon (the original recipe called for chervil and rosemary)
Salt and pepper to taste
Loads o' butter

Throw down some butter in a saute pan on med/med-high (make sure it is big enough for the next step). Put the onions down in a single layer if possible. Now here is the though part. DON'T TOUCH THE ONIONS. Well, until they are nice and golden-y on the first side. You will be tempted to stir the pan. Just drop the spatchula and walk away. You can turn down the heat a bit if you think they are going to burn before they caramelize. Once the first side is done, stir the pan, add the sugar (and maybe a splash of chicken broth) and continue with the caramelization. Once they have a beautiful color on them, remove them from the pan, and set aside.
The recipe then said to wipe out the pan before adding the chicken. I ignored them, which required me to add extra cooking liquid at this stage to prevent burning of the sugar left in the pan. So, do what you want.
Add more butter to the pan. Add your chicken that you have pounded and generously seasoned with salt and pepper. Cook the chicken until it is nice and golden brown on the outside, and fully cooked on the inside. (We were in a bit of a rush, so I threw in some extra broth, cranked up the heat, and put a lid on the pot...)
Once the chicken is done, remove it from the pan, and place on a plate and tent with aluminum foil.
Add the onions back to the pan, pour in the red wine and chicken broth to deglaze, and toss in some finely chopped fresh herb (about a tsp should do the trick, or more if you like). Stir and let it come to a boil to reduce to a thick sauce.
Serve the chicken with generous scoops of onion-redwine.

Brussel Sprouts a la delicious: (Sure to turn any doubter into a lover of the sprout.)

1/2 bag of brussel sprouts (coarsely shredded, I halve them, and then run the knife quickly through the halves)
Butter. Lots.
Pecans (toasted and coarsely chopped)
Dried cranberries (yup, coarsely chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste (we happened to have bourbon-smoked sea salt. go ahead, get fancy)

In a saute pan, melt 2 Tbs of butter. Then brown the butter (i.e. leave it on medium heat and swirl the pan every once and a while. Wait until the color changes from yellow to lightly brown. Then, get that sucker off the stove because we do not want burnt butter). The browning of the butter produces a nice nutty flavor. Pour off the butter into a dish. Add maybe 1 Tbs of fresh butter to the pan. Saute the brussel sprouts. You want them to be cooked, but not to a mush. Once they are done, add back in the browned butter, the pecans, and cranberries. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Variation 2
Autumn Pork Chops with Caramelized onions and Pumpkin Cider (a.k.a. taste of fall in your mouth)

2 Butterflied pork chops
1 onion
toasted pecans (chopped)
Woodchucks Pumpkin Cider (good luck finding it. probably any other cider would do).

As recipe above, caramelize those onions. I added a swirl or two of honey instead of sugar. And a generous amount of cinnamon, and a dash of allspice and nutmeg and a bit of the cider. Then, remove from pan. Add a bit more butter, and the pork chops seasoned with those same spices in addition to some salt and pepper. Cook until they are done (Internal temp of 145 so you don't get trichinosis). Remove the pork. Add back in the onions, toasted pecans, and maybe a 1/4 c of the cider. Reduce it down. Serve pork with onion/cider mixture spooned over the top.

Brussel Sprouts for Brussel Sprout Lovers:

1/2 bag of brussel sprouts (cut into quarters)
hint of garlic powder

Heat up butter in saute pan. Add in the brussel sprouts. Cook 'em until they are pierce-able with a fork. Lightly season with salt/pepper/garlic.

**Special thanks again to guest photographer EL for the pictures of Variation 1.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

So it is tradition in the Weage family for the youngest child to celebrate a birthday month. And by tradition, I mean that I declared it to be so when I became the youngest child. As the "birthday princess" I forced everyone to bend to my will, and if they did not comply, they were bopped on the head with my birthday wand while I declared, "Poof! You're a peach!" (I have no idea how I decided that a peach was the proper punishment for a disobedient subject, but in my mind it was clearly appropriate.)

This year, instead of forcing everyone to do my bidding, I have decided to provide them with a pie for my birthday. And not just any pie. The love-child between two of the best pies I have ever consumed (and for those of you who like to say that there are many categories of pies, this is the best dessert pie I have ever eaten. Not to be confused with fruit pie, or meat pie of course). The first pie has been a part of my recipe repertoire since high school.
While in high school, I often used the website to find easy recipes to use. Our church had a picnic at a local camp and the meal is potluck style. This particular year they decided to have a pie baking contest. I wanted to participate, so I went on to and discovered this little gem. It's called Mile-High Fudge Brownie Pie. I won the contest. And for good reason. Not for any of my baking skills, but because it was a great recipe. We continued to bake that pie on many occasions. Then the unspeakable happened. And some things that should not have been forgotten...were lost. History became legend...legend became myth. Until, when chance came, it sparked a new flame...My precioussss. (But I digress).

The second recipe came to me in an even more modern fashion. I stumbled upon it. Literally. Through the use of I have the tendency to email both EWeage and my roomie when I find recipes I think should be tried. My roomie decided that this is what she wanted for her birthday, and so I gave it a shot. And boy am I glad I did. It was a huge hit. And then I made it again.
But my thirst for the perfect pie could not be quenched. I continued to think about how to improve the pie, although it was pretty close to perfection. Until I came up with a crazy idea. Why not combine the two best pies into one. And that is when this pie was born. (As a side note, we still have yet to come up with a fitting name for this pie, so if any of you out there have a suggestion, feel free to leave it in the comment section).

Brownie Crust
4 ounces (squares) Baker's Semi-Sweet Chocolate
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup flour
Preheat oven to 350*
Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwaveable bowl for 2 min. or until butter is melted
Stir until chocolate is completely melted.
Add sugar; mix well.
Blend in eggs and vanilla.
Stir in flour until well blended.
Spread onto bottom of a greased 9-inch pie pan.
Bake for 30 minutes.
When cool, scoop out middle, making a crust and saving the crumbs (Picture 1).

Peanut Butter Fluff
8 ounces (one bar) cream cheese
2/3 cup peanut butter

Beat until well blended.
Spread into brownie crust (Picture 2).
Chocolate Ganache
2-3oz good (preferably dark) chocolate

Chocolate Pudding Deliciousness

2 packages (3.9 oz. each) Chocolate Instant Pudding
2 cups cold milk
1/2 tub (8 oz.) Cool Whip

Beat pudding mix and milk together.
Fold in Cool Whip.
Add brownie bits scooped from crust.
Pile it high on the ganache layer (Picture 4).

Top it all off with the remaining Cool Whip and chocolate shavings (Picture 5).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Walnut Chocolate Chip Spiced Pumpkin Scones

There have been so many facebook statuses this week about the return of pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks.  Though I haven't had one of my own yet (a problem which will be remedied on my way to night call this evening), I'm definitely in the autumn spirit.  The temperature has drastically decreased and I've seen several red leaves lying on the sidewalk over the past few days.  Now the rain without thunder or lightning is getting old, but none the less I love fall.  And after the hot humid days we've been having I'm definitely ready for jeans and sweatshirt weather, trips to the cider mill, and hearing the local high school marching band practice while walking around the neighborhood.

Some of my favorite seasonal recipes start to make an appearance with the falling of the leaves.  Warm butternut squash and chick pea salad, apple flax bread, and anything pumpkin.  My tea and hot chocolate supply will also start to be used on a daily basis.  And what goes with a mug of hot beverage than a scone and a good book?

Walnut Chocolate Chip Spiced Pumpkin Scones (adapted from Joy of Baking)

1 cup white flour
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chilled butter
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
1/3-1/2 cup buttermilk (to make buttermilk add a little vinegar to regular milk and let sit for 5 minutes)
3/4 cup pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
Splash of milk
Preheat oven to 410*
Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl.
Add chunks of cold butter and cut in with a knife or a pastry blender.  There should be pea-size chunks.
Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips.
Stir in buttermilk, pumpkin, and vanilla.
Turn out onto floured surface and kneed until well blended.
Divide in half and form two circles about 1/2 inch thick.
Cut each circle into 8 triangles.
Place on parchment lined baking sheet.
Beat egg and milk together to form egg wash.  Coat scones with a thin layer.
Bake at 410* for 20 minutes.
Cool on wire rack.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Happy Birthday, Rachel!

 We've been celebrating a lot of birthdays around here.  For me, birthdays mean an opportunity to make an extra special sweet that I usually wouldn't.  Rachel's birthday cupcakes pushed this to a whole new level.  Remember that Chocolate Guinness cake we had at Kell's in Portland?  Well, I had seen a few cupcake versions on various food blogs and thought it would be the perfect surprise.  So yes, I love Rachel so much I purchased alcohol for the very first time!  You're welcome :-)  And a special hello to all of her co-workers to enjoyed the leftovers!

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey's Frosting adapted from Nook & Pantry.
Cake Batter
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup softened butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs

2/3 cup sour cream
11.2 ounce bottle Guinness (What kind of measurement is this anyway?!)

Preheat oven to 350*
Mix dry ingredients, through baking soda, together.  Set aside.
Beat white and brown sugar with butter until fluffy.
Add eggs and vanilla.  Scrape bowl and beat.
Add sour cream.  Scrape bowl and beat.
Add beer and beat.
Slowly add dry ingredients.  Scrape bowl and beat.
Pour about 1/4 cup batter into lined cupcake tins.  I had enough for 24 cupcakes plus a mini cake for Rachel.
Bake at 350* for 20-25 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Bailey's Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8 ounce bar of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla.
4 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream

Beat cream cheese and butter together.
Slowly add powdered sugar.  You may need a little less or more depending on how thick you want your frosting.
Add vanilla and Bailey's.  Beat.
Refrigerate while cupcakes are baking and cooling.
Use piping bag to decorate cooled cupcakes.