Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkin Dessert- Vintage style

So if something has been around a long time it is vintage, right? That is what this dessert today is. I am not sure when or where it originated but I know some variation of this has been circulating since the early 70's, so I will deem it vintage. I was hesitant to put this recipe on my blog since it uses... cake mix. I know that we all like to do things from scratch, but as my family said, once people try this they won't care if it uses cake mix! It is really that good. I took some to my daughter's art show last week and it was hit! Not only was every crumb scooped out of the dish by people standing around the table, folks came from all over the art department just to try it saying, " I heard there was a most incredible pumpkin cake here."

Now you may see variation on this pumpkin pie cake floating around the web. In the 60’s and 70’s, it was considered “modern”  and more efficient to use short cuts like cake mix.  I have to say, I tried a lot of them in my quest to recreate a childhood favorite. I like this one best. I like the way the pumpkin filling is encased is sweet crust. I like the texture. I use one of my baking secrets here of crushing up ginger snaps for the topping, too! You can skip that step but it really adds to the flavor and gives a nice crunch.

So this is a great pumpkin dessert, kind of a cake but reminiscent of pumpkin pie. I make it sometimes for thanksgiving since I like it better than pumpkin pie. It is one of my fall favorites.

Speaking of fall, ours has been interrupted by winter! Just as all the trees were starting to get really colorful…boom a foot or so of snow!! Crazy Colorado weather! We lost several branches, since all the trees were still decked out in the autumn party clothes and not ready for the burden of heavy, wet snow. I will post pictures at the end. I think I will declare our own snow day and watch a movie with my mom after a dust off some trees.  Or maybe I will make another batch of this pumpkin dessert!

Vintage Pumpkin Dessert
This is an old recipe with several variations. I have been working on this for years to re create something I remeber from childhood. This is made in three layers but it is super easy! It is best made the night before and chilled well but it can be served warm.  Serve topped with whipped cream.
Preheat oven at 350

Bottom Layer

1 box yellow cake mix
3/4 ish cup butter

In a large bowl, cut cool – room temp butter into mix with pastry blender or two knives slicing through to make small bits. Add cinnamon and blend.
Take out and set aside about 1 cups mix for later layer.
Add 1 beaten egg into main bowl. Mix well, press into 9 x 13 inch pan. May bake for 8 minutes while you mix the other things together. Gives it a bit more firmness.

Middle Layer

2 -15 oz cans ( or one large can) pumpkin *
3 eggs
 3/4 c. sugar, adjust to taste. Brown sugar is my choice here.

2 tsp pumpkin spice
10-12 oz evaporated skim milk **

Mix and pour over crust.
            *Don’t use pumpkin pie mix, just plain pumpkin.
**You may use a can of condensed milk instead of evaporated. I am not sure which way I like it better.  It is sweeter with condensed milk. If you use condensed milk in your pumpkin pie recipes then you would probably like it here too. Try it both ways and see what you think.

Top Layer

1 c. of reserved cake mix/butter
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin spice
2 -3 tbsp. butter

2/3-3/4  cup crushed ginger snaps, optional but highly recommended***
2/3  c. chopped  or whole pecans or walnuts, optional

Mix and crumble over pumpkin. Bake 50 minutes at 350 degrees or until well set not mushy. Best chilled several hours or overnight. Serve topped with whipped cream.
        *** To crush ginger snaps, use blender or food processor or put them in a bag and pound with     meat mallet till pulverized.

I collected leaves before the snow fell

The differnence between day and night. Two days ago, it was close to 80 and yesterday was a nice fall day.

The snow began early in the evening!

Big drifts of heavy snow, lots of trees have lost limbs and I am sure the leaves will be drab once this melts and we are warm again!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Corn Muffins with Yogurt

I have already told you how much I love making soups in the fall. One thing I like to make with soup is some kind of bread, muffin or crackers.  I love a nice crusty loaf with potato soup. I usually make some kind of cheese on bread for tomato. But there are several soups that just call for corn muffins. Bean soups, pea soup, and sometimes the butternut squash soup I shared the other day often get corn bread accompaniment. I have been making corn muffins since way back but the other day, I had a nice pot of butterbeans and black eyed peas and  I was in the mood for corn muffins that were a bit sweeter and less dense than my typical choice. I also had some buttermilk and yogurt I wanted to use up so I pieced together a few recipes for muffins and corn bread and came up with this.   I love using buttermilk in baked goods but if you don’t have any, never fear. I share a substitute that will work fine.

A few comments first. If you prefer oil instead of butter, I think that would fine. I made some very similar corn muffins with a mix of oil, coconut oil and butter. I like the butter flavor, though and prefer not to add any butter to corn muffins after they are baked so butter in the batter is nice. I use a generous amount of sugar here and it is perfectly fine to cut it down. My mom is very partial to sweet things and I like to tempt her to eat J
 I also want to point out that my photo shows these muffins in paper liners. I usually don’t use those for corn muffins but I had to be some place right after dinner and did not feel like cleaning muffin tins. Those liners do come in handy for just such an occasion but in general---corn muffins are so much better when you grease the tins and bake. They get a nice crust on them and if you skip using paper liners, you get to do your part to save the planet.  
Now this recipe is still a work in progress but I decided to share it here anyway. See what you think.

Corn muffins with Yogurt
These are sweet, tender and moist!

5-6 TBSPN unsalted butter*, melted ( may use oil )
2/3  cup sugar( or less)
2 large eggs
8 oz yogurt- honey, plain, or greek
½ cup buttermilk **
1 ½ cup corn meal
1 ½ cup flour, unbleached all-purpose preferred
1 TBSP baking powder
1 tsp salt
Oil for muffin tins

*I have been playing around with different oils such as a mix of coconut and canola and these work well too. I prefer to use a bit of butter with a bit of each of these( 2 TBSP each). This recipe does not seem to be too picky about type of oil/butter. You can vary amount to even 4 TBSP but I liked the extra butter in these.
**I love having buttermilk on hand now for baking, breading and other uses but if you don’t have any, use extra yogurt or make some by adding a TBSP of lemon juice or white vinegar to milk and let it sit for about 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F.
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Add yogurt and buttermilk.
In another bowl, combine dry ingredients.
Gently fold dry ingredients into wet and mix together without overworking.
Oil muffin tins- you can bake about 12-18 muffins depending on size of muffins.

Place in oven. Check after 7 minutes to make sure they are baking evenly, rotate pans if needed.

Check for doneness at 14 minutes. They should be nicely browned. It usually takes between 14-18 minutes depending on size. Let them cool a bit before serving.
Serve with honey and butter.  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Potato Soup with Kale and Sausage

       Okay, I have a recipe to post now J My problem is not a lack of original recipes to share. I have a computer full of recipes! It is really the photos that slow me down. Getting a good photo is difficult and half the time I make something and forget to get a picture.I just made a favorite pumpkin recipe but took it to my daughter’s art reception with a bunch of other food and was so busy I forgot to take a picture! But I have a photo to share with today’s fall recipe!

One of the reasons I love fall cooking because I love soups. You can get so much flavor in a soup. You can mix in all kinds of good things and adjust it as you go! I love a nice hot bowl of soup with some kind of crusty bread or corn bread muffin or perhaps a batch of pumpkin biscuits…mmmm!

Here is another one of my signature soups. My mom declares that this is the best  soup I make.  This one is a hearty bowl of intense  yet comforting flavors. I first began experimenting with this recipe after tasting Olive garden’s Tuscana Potato soup but soon added other layers as I researched various potato sausage soups such as Portuguese versions. This recipe is blend of potato sausage soup from several cultures.
          By the way, this can easily be made vegetarian but omitting sausage and using vegetable broth.The sausage adds a lot of spiciness so do add extra spice, salt and pepper.

It is just fine for lactose intolerant to make without cream/milk. The big flavors in this soup make it versatile.

One of the things I do to make this soup is to bake about half of the potatoes and boil the other half. You don’t have to do this but I like the texture it gives the soup. You can use all russet potatoes or part russet and part red or white. The mix is nice because russets tend to be flakier and break up well and reds or whites are waxy and absorb less water, keeping their shape better.
Any kind of bulk, ground sausage will work but the hot Italian is my favorite, of course J

 A word about kale- it is a powerhouse of great nutritional value and you should be eating it often. Seriously great nutrition with a good taste.
Purple kale is another variety along with Dino kale which is good in the soup

It is a  near perfect protein and an incredible source of Vitamin K at 684% and Vitamin A at 206% of the RDA. It is an excellent source of Vitamin C, B6, manganese, and calcium and a good source of many other B vitamins, copper, potassium with some iron and magnesium. It is high in phytonutrients which fight cancer. Kale has more calcium per calorie than dairy products and may be better absorbed  This soup, along with kale chip recipe on here which you must try, are great ways to have kale because it tastes so good!!

Potato Soup with Kale and Sausage
  3 -4  russet potatoes with nice skins for baking

 2 -3  Russet, white, red potatoes or  peeled and chopped

  12 -16 oz  ground sausage,  Hot Italian is best

  1/2  cup  onion, diced  

  3  cloves  garlic, minced or pressed

  1   teaspoon herb blend such as Herbs de Provence  or Italian

½   teaspoon garlic powder, onion powder, crushed red pepper flake,  crushed fennel seed and/or crushed rosemary, optional

 4 cups  low-sodium Chicken or veggie broth

 1cup water, or so as needed for consistency of soup

salt  and pepper to taste

3   cups or so chopped Kale

½   cup  chopped parsley -- optional

  3-4   green onions, finely sliced,optional

1/3 cup half and half, cream or milk, optional

Preheat oven to 400. Wash, dry baking  russets. You may, if you wish, rub a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with  kosher salt and pepper. You may place them in foil for softer skin. Bake until soft, about 45-50 minutes. .( If you are in a hurry you may pre-cook in microwave  for 7 minutes and then place in foil and finish in oven for 20 min or until soft).

Put sausage in large pot or dutch oven; break up as cooking on med-low heat. While sausage cooks, prepare the rest of the potatoes by peeling and dicing.  When sausage is just about  done, drain well. There should be very little grease. Add onion, garlic, spices to pan. Cook for a 5 minutes then add cut up potatoes for a few more minutes and then broth, water to cover about a couple inches or so over potatoes.  Cook until potatoes are very tender, around 18-24minutes. 

Once baked potatoes are cooked, cool slightly. Chop potatoes, making sure to cut skin into small pieces. Remove large pieces of potato skins. Add to soup. To prep the Kale, cut leaves off tough stalks and veins and chop well.

Add parsley, green onions. If soup is very thick, add a bit more water. If it is thin, cook a while uncovered, or add several spoons instant potato flakes. Turn off heat and cool slightly , if using,  stir in cream or milk,  and heat but do not boil.  You may skip milk but it does add a really nice creaminess to the broth.
Recipe by Denise Birdsall
Serving Size  : 8-10 
While I did forget to take pictures of the food, here are more important picture from my daughter's art show.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

New Recipe tomorrow...Rocky Mountain Fall colors today

I have a very good reason for taking a bit more time between posts than I ought to take. It is Fall. That's pretty much it. It is just so beautiful outside! This weekend, besides a concert and a party, I knew I had to get in a drive up the mountain. I live about 50 minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park and my favorite time to visit is Fall. Summer is rather crowded. Spring can still be icy and cold.Winter is the favorite of many people around here for snow shoeing or cross country skiing, but it is cold!! Fall is perfect!

The leaves are starting to change down here at the foot of the mountain but they are further along up top. The elk are not in as much abundance as usual, I think it is just too warm yet. We are still going to be in the 80's this week. Crazy weather for Colorado.

 I will post a recipe tomorrow but I wanted to show you what kept me away.

So what is fall like where you are?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Spring greens and baby spinach with roasted pecans and cranberries in sweet vinaigrette

We love salad year round but for fall my favorite twist has been roasted pecans and dried cranberries when the autumn weather hits. I provided salad for a dear friend’s wedding this week and I wanted to see if I could come up with a special dressing for it.  I usually my basic vinaigrette or a store bought raspberry walnut. I wanted something sweet-tart  to offset the spicy, bitter of the greens I was using. So I blended a few different vinegars together and added a generous portion of sugar. Now you could cut back on the sugar here but I really like the way this turned out. Honestly, with a dressing this intensely flavored, a little goes a long way and you don’t actually use much at all to get great flavor. You could also just use two vinegars. I love the balsamic flavor but don’t want to use so much that it gets really dark. The white wine is mellower and the apple cider gives it a kick…but whatever you have on hand should work.

The wedding I made the salad for was wonderful!  The wedding party was dressed quite snazzy and fun and everyone had a great time. I will put up some pics at the bottom of this post.  Best wishes the bride and groom J

Spring greens and baby spinach with roasted pecans and cranberries in sweet vinaigrette

¼ cup white wine vinegar
2-3 TBSP balsamic raspberry vinegar ( or just balsamic if you can’t find raspberry)
2 TBSP Apple Cider Vinegar
1/3 cup white sugar( may use a little more for bitter greens)
½ each salt, onion powder,
½ tsp. roasted garlic and herb seasoning (OR garlic powder or crushed garlic)
½ cup light olive or canola oil

For Salad:

Spring greens and baby spinach mix- very large handful per person
About a cup of pecans
¾ cup dried sweetened cranberries ( or cherries and raisins)

Dressing:  First make the dressing. I like to use the blender if possible.  Put all the dressing ingredients except oil into blender. Cover and mix well. While blender if going on lowest setting, remove the little center piece of lid being careful of splatters,  and begin slowly drizzling oil in. Close lid tight and increase speed to medium high. Let it blend till thoroughly incorporated and creamy. Serve immediately or leave in blender till serving so you can re-mix right before. If you can’t blend, shake very vigorously  before serving.

Roast pecans: Preheat oven to 350 and place single layer of pecans on baking sheet. Bake for about 6 minutes and turn them over, bake about 3-4 more minutes. Remove to plate to cool. These are so great- you should make extra!

Salad: You can use any greens such as spring, baby romaine, red leaf, or baby spinach. I like half spring greens and half spinach. Don’t forget—ALL greens must be washed, even if it says prewashed! There was an E-coli incident with bagged spinach a few years back. Be safe.  I have heard you use about a lb of salad for 10 people but I use the handful measuring method J

Use a salad spinner or paper towels to completely dry greens. Place in a mixing bowl, add a bit of the dressing- start with very little dressing and add more if needed.  Toss well. If everyone can eat nuts,  sprinkle with a ½ cup or so of nuts and ½ cup cranberries. Toss again. Sprinkle a bit more on top and  place the extra in small bowls on the table. Serve immediately. Enjoy!