Saturday, October 31, 2009

Harvest Granola

I've been wanting to make granola for quite some time now and as soon as I saw this recipe, I knew it was what I was looking for. Ashlee, from "A Year in the Kitchen", made this granola with her favorite fall flavors. But she invited her readers to take her base recipe and make it their own. That's exactly what I did. I used walnuts instead of pecans, decreased the amount of oats, and added raisins, ginger, and black pepper to suit my tastes. Delicious!

Harvest Granola
adapted from Ashlee Wetherington, "A Year in the Kitchen"

1 1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. canned pumpkin puree
1/2 c. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly-grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. golden raisins
3/4 c. dried cranberries
1 TBSP canola oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl, toss to evenly distribute.

3. Pour onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat. Spread into an even layer.

4. Bake for 20 minutes, toss with a fork, then bake for another 20 minutes.

5. Remove from the oven and let cool on a cooling rack for four hours at room temperature. When completely cooled, store in an air-tight container.

It makes a yummy autumn parfait when layered with Greek yogurt and pumpkin puree with a little added cinnamon!

It also makes a great gift. Just pour into a mason jar and add some rafia!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon-Bourbon Frosting

Finally, FINALLY I'm enjoying my first day of truly chilly fall weather. The wind is blowing, the air is crisp, and I'm missing fall leaves, apple cider, and my college days in Washington, D.C. more than ever.

Not that I'm not happy with my life here in Phoenix. Honestly, I can't remember a time when things were this good for me. I'm loving my life. It's just that I could love my life even more if I had real, true fall here.

Luckily, I can bring a little more of fall to me via my kitchen. I can make hot apple cider (with bourbon, of course) and bake up as many yummy pumpkinny, mapley, cranberry treats as possible.

Starting with these delicious cupcakes. Bridget, of "The Way the Cookie Crumbles", chose these as the winner of her pumpkin cupcake comparison. When Bridget blogs, I listen. The girl knows what she's talking about. Especially with these cupcakes. Oh yum.

Thank goodness for fall evenings...

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon-Bourbon Frosting
cupcake recipe originally by David Leite, adapted by "The Way the Cookie Crumbles"
frosting recipe an "Apple a Day" original

Pumpkin Cupcakes

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. firmly packed dark-brown sugar
⅓ c. granulated sugar
2 c. cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. freshly-ground nutmeg
⅛ tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
½ c. buttermilk mixed with 1 tsp. vanilla
1¼ c. canned solid-pack pumpkin

1. Preheat the oven to 350° (175°C). Prepare a cupcake tin with 18 liners.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.
4. Add the eggs 1 at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each addition.
5. Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth.
6. Using a standard-sized scoop, divide the batter equally between the cups. (They’ll be about ¾ full.) Rap the filled pans once on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.
7. Cool the cupcakes on racks completely. Make frosting during cooling time.
Cinnamon-Bourbon Frosting

12 TBSP (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 c. confectioner's sugar
2 TBSP bourbon (Maker's Mark is my favorite)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter on low speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes.

2. Add confectioner's sugar in three additions, scraping down sides of bowl after each addition. Add bourbon and cinnamon. Mix until incorporated.

3. Frost cupcakes when completely cooled.

One year ago: recipe exchange chili

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Salmon with Olive Vinaigrette

As much as I love the process of cooking and baking, it is so much more meaningful when I know I'm making a dish with someone special in mind. I hope you've all been fortunate enough to have one of those moments where you're thumbing through a cookbook or magazine and you see something that immediately makes you think. "Oh my goodness! So and so would just love this!"

I had one of those moments with this recipe. As soon as I saw it, I knew M would be a fan. And he was. We both were, actually. I'll admit, I had my doubts when I first made the vinaigrette. But the more pungent notes were mellowed by the cooking process and the flavors meshed together so well. The final result was a rich and flavorful salmon quite different from any other I've ever had.

Salmon with Olive Vinaigrette
from Bobby Flay, Food Network Magazine, November 2009

1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/2 c. pitted Nicoise olives
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
1-2 TBSP honey (I used closer to two)
freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
4 (6 oz.) salmon fillets

1. Combine olive oil, vinegar, olives, cayenne, garlic, mustard, and honey in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Season with black pepper.

2. Place the salmon in a shallow baking dish and pour 1/2 c. of the vinaigrette over the top. Let marinate for 15 minutes.

3. Preheat a gas grill or grill pan to high heat.

4. Remove the salmon from the marinade. Season with more salt and black pepper, if desired. Grill 3-4 minutes per side, brushing with the reamining vinaigrette every two minutes.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sauteed Broccoli Rabe

Many times, I've espoused my love for Giada deLaurentiis and every one of her recipes I've ever tried. "When has Giada ever steered me wrong?" I've often asked. Well sadly, I think she steered me wrong here.

Perhaps the recipe is fine and I just don't like broccoli rabe. Perhaps I didn't cook it properly because M and I were in agreement that the flavors never really meshed. The individual elements were okay, but they didn't work together to form a cohesive dish. Either way, I probably won't be making this particular recipe again. Sorry Giada, I guess your perfect streak had to end sometime...

Sauteed Broccoli Rabe
from Giada deLaurentiis, via www.

4 bunches (12 to 16 oz. each) broccoli rabe (rapini), stems trimmed
1/4 c. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 c. golden raisins
kosher salt, to taste
2 TBSP pine nuts, toasted (I used walnuts)

1. Working in batches, cook the broccoli rabe in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp tender, about 2 to 3 minutes per bunch. Using a slotted spoon or Chinese strainer, transfer the broccoli rabe to a large bowl of ice water to cool. Reserve about 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Drain the cooled broccoli rabe and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and saute until the garlic is golden, about 1 minute.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the broccoli rabe and toss to coat.
4. Add the reserved cooking water and raisins, and cook until the broccoli rabe is heated through and the stems are tender, about 4 minutes. Season with salt, to taste. Toss the mixture with toasted pine nuts, serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Vanilla Spice Oatmeal

I love breakfast. Love it, love it, love it. I'm one of those people who could probably eat breakfast for all three meals a day. I especially love hot breakfasts. Thankfully, the morning weather here in Phoenix is cool enough that I can eat oatmeal, which I love so much.

This recipe was quick enough for a weekday breakfast, healthy and filling enough to keep me going, comforting enough to make me smile, and delicious enough to want to make again. Try it...I think you'll like it, too!

Vanilla Spice Oatmeal
from Ellie Krieger, via www.

3 1/2 c. water
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
2 c. old-fashioned oats
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped, optional
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch freshly-ground nutmeg
2 TBSP dark brown sugar, plus more, to taste
1 c. lowfat milk, divided
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water and salt to a boil. Stir in the oats and raisins, reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
2. In the meantime, place nuts, if using, in a dry skillet over a medium-high flame, and toast, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

3. When the oats are cooked remove pan from the flame and stir in the vanilla and nutmeg. Swirl in the brown sugar and place the oatmeal in serving bowls.

4. Pour 1/4 cup of milk on top of each bowl, and top with toasted nuts and a sprinkle of cinnamon. 

**Note: For a quicker version using quick cooking or plain instant oatmeal: Cook the oatmeal according to the directions on the package. Stir raisins, brown sugar, and nutmeg into the cooked oatmeal. Top with milk, nuts (toasted or un-toasted) and cinnamon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thick, Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

In an attempt to impress M, I made him some old-fashioned oatmeal raisin cookies for our four-month anniversary. They were okay. He said they were good. Good. Blech. That's not good enough for me. I won't be happy with an oatmeal raisin cookie recipe until M takes a bite, sighs contentedly, smiles, and says, "OH MY GOSH THIS IS THE BEST OATMEAL RAISIN COOKIE I'VE EVER TASTED I MUST, MUST, MUST HAVE MORE! WHEN ARE YOU MAKING THEM AGAIN?" Is that too much to ask? (Rhetorical question--don't answer that.)

So on to the next recipe. M did love the flavor of these. He said it was "spot on". However they still weren't perfect. The texture needs some work. On my next round, I'll make a few modifications, mostly to my baking time and how I form the cookies. But this recipe's got potential to be "the one". Stay tuned!

**Note: The ingredient quantities are for a half batch. I got about 18 cookies out of it.

Thick, Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2/3 c. light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. whole-wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. rolled oats
3/4 c. raisins
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the flours, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, raisins and walnuts.
4. Place dough into refrigerator (after you've eaten a bite, like I did!) and let chill for 30 minutes.
5. Scoop cookies by the scant standard-sized scoop. They should be two inches apart on baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes (your baking time will vary, depending on your oven and how cold the cookies were going in), taking them out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top.
6. Let them sit on the hot baking sheet for five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Autumn Fruit Compote

This squash is so simple to prepare and is absolutely bursting with amazing autumn flavors. It's pretty good for you and it makes your house smell wonderful as it cooks. I ate every last bit I could scrape from mine.  I served it with five-spice pork tenderloin, but it would make a great meal all on its own. I know I'll be making it again, and probably soon. I hope you'll make it too!

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Autumn Fruit Compote
adapted from The All New, All Purpose Joy of Cooking

2 medium acorn squash, halved and seeded
1 large apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1 ripe pear, peeled cored, and diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1/3 c. dried cranberries
2 TBSP maple syrup
zest of one orange
1 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. freshly-grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
2 TBSP olive oil
1/4 c. freshly-squeezed orange juice
1 TBSP bourbon
1/3 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Place squash cut side down in a baking dish. Add hot water until it is 1/4 inch deep. Bake for 40 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix all ingredients except the olive oil, orange juice, and bourbon.

4. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add apple mixture and cook until the fruit begins to brown, about five minutes.

5. Stir in the orange juice and bourbon and simmer until the fruit is tender, about eight minutes.

6. Remove the squash from the oven, our the water from the pan, and turn squash cut side up.

7. Fill the squash with the apple mixture. Sprinkle walnuts on top. Bake 15 minutes more.

One year ago: an absolutely fantastic baked whole-wheat penne with roasted vegetables

Fall Five-Spice Pork Tenderloin

I'm a big fan of pork tenderloin. It's healthy, lean, and packed with flavor. You really don't have to do much to it to make it fantastic. Case in point--this simple rub. Just mix it up, wrap it up, and let it hang out in the fridge until you're ready to cook it up. It really couldn't get much simpler...or tastier!

I served the tenderloin with acorn squash stuffed with autumn fruit compote. It was a fantastic, healthy, and filling fall meal!

Fall Five-Spice Pork Tenderloin
an "Apple a Day" original

1 1/2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder

3/4 tsp. dried sage

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 tsp. dried mustard powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/8 to 1/4 tsp. Cayenne pepper

freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

1 to 1/2 lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed

3 TBSP olive oil, divided

2 cloves garlic, minced


1. Mix five-spice powder, sage, thyme, mustard, salt, Cayenne, and black pepper together in a small bowl.

2. Rub spice mixture over entire outside of the tenderloin. Wrap in plastic wrap in place in the refrigerator for at least one hour, up to overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

4. Over medium-high heat, warm 2 TBSP oil in a deep, oven-proof saute pan. Add garlic and heat until fragrant.

5. Add the tenderloin to the pan. Sear each side until well browned, about seven minutes.
Add additional TBSP of oil during coking, if necessary.

6. Place tenderloin in oven and cook until center reaches 165 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes. (I like my pork medium well and found it to perfect at about 27 minutes.) Remove from the oven and let rest, in the pan, for five minutes before slicing.

One year ago:
spiced molasses cookies

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies

I have a slight problem. No matter the occasion, I want to feed people. You've got a birthday, I'll bring cupcakes. Retirement party, how 'bout some yummy dip? M and I's four-month anniversary? I've got just the thing.

M once told me his favorite kind of cookie is oatmeal raisin with walnuts. My first instinct was to rush home that night and whip up a batch. But I decided to hold off. After all, oatmeal cookies taste best when the weather is just starting to cool off a bit. At least I think so. So when M and I celebrated our anniversary this past weekend, I tucked a few of these gems in with his card. He liked the cookies and was impressed that I remembered he'd said they were his fave.

This recipe was very good. I'm not sure I'll keep it as my go-to oatmeal cookie, but I'll have to see. I'm already searching for other recipes for M to taste test. I hope he doesn't mind...

Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Baking


1 c. all=purpose flour

1/2 c. whole-wheat flour

1 tsp. baking powder
1 TBSP ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/2 c. granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats

1 1/2 c. raisins

2/3 c. walnuts, toasted and chopped


1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or a silicone baking mat.

2. In a bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter nad sugars on medium speed until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

4. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat on low speed until well blended.

5. Add the dry ingredients in three batches. Add the oats and mix until well incorpated.

6. When the oats are incorporated, add the raisins and walnuts and mix only until incorporated.

7. Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons or scant standard-sized scoop onto the baking sheet, spacing three inches apart. Bake cookies one sheet at a time until they are evenly light brown and the tops feel firm when lightly touched, 15--20 minutes.

8. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for five minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.

One year ago:
black bean soup with cumin crema