Made By Michelle Relaunches

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Thanksgiving Side: Coconut Corn Muffins

While I was making corn pudding last week, I remembered how much I like corn muffins. Now, I’ve rarely met a muffin I didn’t like, but corn is one of my favorites. I kept thinking about the muffins so the next day, I decided to make a batch using the copycat Jiffy Muffin recipe I found online. There was just one problem: I forgot to add the baking powder. I had always wondered what would happen if I forgot such a crucial ingredient while baking, and, sadly, I now knew the answer. My mistake rendered the muffins hard little clumps that unfortunately went straight into the garbage. Adding insult to injury, I had made a double batch.  So much for satisfying my craving. I didn’t have time to make more that day, but tonight we are having chili, and instead of corn bread, we’ll be having corn muffins as a side.  I tweaked the Jiffy recipe by using white whole wheat flour, coconut oil and half and half.

As you can see from the above photo, I couldn’t wait until dinner to sample the muffins, so I had one with my afternoon coffee. They have a delightful buttery flavor despite the fact that there isn’t any butter in them. I think it’s the half and half and coconut oil.  For those readers who don’t like the taste of coconut, it’s undetectable. And unlike many store bought corn muffins, this version isn’t too sweet, making them an ideal alternative to dinner rolls for your Thanksgiving feast. This recipe only yields six muffins, so if you do make them on Turkey Day, you may want to double the batch.

Coconut Corn Muffins (adapted from Chow.com)

2/3 cup white whole wheat flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons coconut oil, in liquid form (scoop a tablespoon or so  out of the jar and put it in the microwave for 30 seconds)

1/3 cup half and half

1 egg

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients together. Add the coconut oil and mix until all lumps are gone. Stir in egg and half and half and mix well. Spoon the mixture into muffin cups and bake for 15 minutes. Makes six muffins.

Thanksgiving Side: The Stuffing Wars

Thanksgiving 2008 was a memorable holiday. Johnny and I were recently engaged, and not only was it the first time our families were spending a holiday together, but it was my first time hosting—and preparing—the meal. I was mostly excited at the prospect, though, having never cooked a turkey before, I did have more than one nightmare about my bird shrinking down to a dry, inedible mess.

Deciding on a stuffing recipe also occupied quite a bit of space in my brain. Stuffing is by far my favorite Thanksgiving side (although corn pudding comes in a close second) and meals can be ruined over a subpar stab. After much planning and tinkering, I finally felt confident about my recipe.  When I debuted it at our holiday dinner, to my delight, everyone raved about how good it was. Everyone that is, except my future husband. “You should have just bought Stove Top,” he told me later that night. “You can’t mess with perfection.” Really? Stove Top is instant! And the seasoning comes in a packet! Isn’t the best stuffing, as is the case with so many things, made from scratch?

I filed his assessment away in the back of my mind and when Thanksgiving rolled around the following year, I again made my own sausage stuffing. The next night, while I was heating up leftovers, Johnny snuck out to the store. He came home with a canister of Stove Top. This was a losing battle.

As Thanksgiving 2010 approaches, I’ve begun thinking about my menu once more.

“I’m going to ask Liz for her stuffing recipe,” I told Johnny a couple of weeks ago. Liz is my cousin’s wife and she makes a terrific stuffing brimming with apples and sausage.

“But you’re going to make Stove Top too, right?” came his reply. I didn’t respond.

A couple of nights ago I was flipping through the November issue of Food and Wine, looking for inspiration, when I came across a recipe that was based on the flavor of Stove Top. Perhaps this would satisfy my need for fresh, unprocessed ingredients and his for the taste of his beloved pre-packaged bird dressing.

“I found a recipe that’s based on Stove Top!” I happily proclaimed.

“But you’re still going to make actual Stove Top, right?” came the response.

I was beginning to be worn down. So I compromised: I would demo the Food and Wine recipe and Johnny would taste test it. If he didn’t deem it good enough, I would make him a bowl of Stove Top to eat with his turkey on Thanksgiving.

After a trip to Whole Foods, I set to work this afternoon. Overall I was pleased with the way the recipe was written. I cut it in a half, but I found the finished product a bit too dry. So when I went to reheat the stuffing for dinner, I added another two cups of chicken stock to moisten it, which worked really well. I also used bulk turkey sausage that was seasoned with garlic and herbs from Whole Foods. It added a delicious, healthier, flavor.

I thought the taste was very reminiscent of Stove Top, but I wasn’t the one who needed convincing. When Johnny got home, I grilled up some ginger teriyaki chicken, made a salad, and reheated the stuffing. It was time for the taste test. He took a bite. Then another. Then one more…

“It’s pretty good,” he finally pronounced. “Definitely the best you’ve made. If you want to make this stuffing for Thanksgiving, I’m fine with that.”

I smiled, resplendent in the sweet swell of victory.

“But Stove Top’s still better.”

Sausage and Bread Stuffing

1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish

2 pounds good-quality white sandwich bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (20 cups)

4 inner celery ribs, finely diced (1 1/2 cups)

2 large carrots, finely diced (1 cup)

1 sweet onion, finely diced (2 1/2 cups)

1 pound loose pork or turkey breakfast sausage

2 tablespoons chopped sage

2 tablespoons chopped thyme

3 cups chicken stock

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350° and butter a large baking dish. Spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast for 25 minutes, stirring, until lightly browned and crisp.

Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, melt the 1 stick of butter. Pour half of the butter into a small bowl and reserve. Add the celery, carrots and onion to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and just beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Scrape the vegetables into a large bowl. Add the sausage to the skillet in lumps and cook over moderately high heat, breaking it up with a spoon, until lightly browned and cooked through, about 6 minutes. Return the vegetables to the skillet, add the sage and thyme and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the stock and cook, scraping up any bits stuck to the pan, until nearly evaporated, about 5 minutes.

Scrape the sausage mixture into the large bowl and add the toasted bread cubes. Add the remaining 2 cups of stock and stir until the bread is evenly moistened. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Spread the stuffing in the baking dish and brush with the reserved melted butter.

Bake the stuffing in the center of the oven for about 1 hour, until it is heated through and the top is browned and crisp. Let the stuffing stand for 10 minutes before serving.

The stuffing can be made ahead of time and refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Thanksgiving Side: Corn Pudding

I met Liz Wade my first semester of my freshman year at NYU. It was Prose Composition, a class all freshman in our program were required to take, and Liz and I ended up in the same section. I don’t remember how we started talking, but Liz became my first official friend at NYU, a friendship I am a grateful has continued to this day. Days, weeks, even months can go by without us seeing or talking to one another, but when we inevitably do get together, we always pick up right where we left off. My mother always told me this was a sign of true friendship.  I wholeheartedly agree.

When Liz and I do hang out, it almost always involves food. In fact, I’ve had some of my best dining experiences with her. She’s also really good about sharing recipes she’s discovered and thinks I might like. (I made Mark Bittman’s asparagus pesto over the summer after she forwarded me the recipe). We had met for lunch or dinner around this time last year, no doubt at some hidden gem one of us had uncovered, when we started talking about what we were making for Thanksgiving. That’s when Liz told me about a recipe for corn pudding she had gotten from her boyfriend’s aunt. She debuted the pudding at a party and was astounded at how quickly it was gobbled up. It was that good. I trust Liz’s opinion so I decided to make corn pudding as a side to my Thanksgiving dinner last year and it did not disappoint. Butter and sour cream rarely do.

As I pondered my Thanksgiving menu for this year, I knew I wanted to include corn pudding. But when I took a look at the recipe, I realized I had some tinkering to do. First, it calls for creamed corn, which always grosses me out when it emerges as a gelatinous blob from its can. I decided that if Whole Foods carried an organic version, I would buy it, though I wasn’t surprised when I couldn’t find it on their shelves. Their website, however, had a recipe for creamed corn which was rather simple, so I decided to try that.

The other ingredient that gave me pause was Jiffy Muffin Mix. I try not to eat pre-made mixes (especially ones that contain hydrogenated lard in them) so I needed to figure out a substitute. Luckily, someone out there had already done this for me, and I was able to find an all-natural recipe on Chow.com for a muffin mix that would mimic the taste of Jiffy.  It was time to make the corn pudding.

The top browned a little too quickly, probably because I made it in my toaster oven, which I use for smaller items because it has a much more accurate temperature than my oven. When the “pudding” emerges it will look like cornbread. However, once you scoop it out, the inside should be moist, almost like bread pudding.

This is a fantastic side for Thanksgiving. Making the creamed corn and muffin mix from scratch does not take long at all and it makes the flavor so much better. Also, I used mainly organic ingredients, so try to do the same wherever possible. I halved the original recipe because I didn’t want a vat of this highly addictive pudding in my refrigerator all week, but if you’re making it for Turkey Day and have a big crowd, double the recipe below and bake it in a 13×9 inch pan.

First, I made the creamed corn:

1 tablespoon butter 

1 tablespoon unbleached flour
3/4 cup whole milk (I used half and half because it’s always in my fridge)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/8 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
Melt butter in saucepan. Whisk in flour, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk in milk and then sugar. Whisk constantly over medium heat until steaming and thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add corn and salt. Continue to cook, stirring often for 3 to 5 minutes more, or until corn is piping hot.
While that cooled, I made the muffin mix:

2/3 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup yellow corn meal (I used Arrowhead Mills Organic Yellow Corn Meal)

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil  (I used canola)

Combine all dry ingredients and mix well. Add oil and mix until the dry mixture is smooth and all lumps are gone.

With both the creamed corn and muffin mixture made, I was ready to proceed with the rest of the recipe. Thanks Lizzie!

Corn Pudding

1 can whole kernel corn, drained

Creamed corn mixture, which is equivalent to one 15 ounce can of creamed corn

Corn muffin mixture, which is equivalent to one 8.5 ounce box of Jiffy Muffin Mix

1 1/2 cups light sour cream

1 stick of butter, melted

Combine all ingredients in an 8×8 glass baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. If you are doubling the batch you may need to bake for 55-60 minutes. The top should be lightly brown and set, like cornbread.

Biscotti Revisited

Yesterday was my sister-in-law Lauren’s baby shower and I offered to make biscotti for the event. As far as labor goes, biscotti is pretty easy. The dough comes together nicely and requires little, if any, kneading. What you need to be long on is time, since biscotti is a twice baked treat. For the shower I needed 150 pieces—two per guest—and since my oven only has one rack, this could have taken a VERY long time.  I knew I needed to come up with a way to speed this process along. I decided that I would divide each batch of biscotti dough into three logs, which would not only give me the smaller sized cookie that is just right for a favor, but would yield me more pieces per batch. After discarding the ends and burnt pieces (which went into a bowl that Johnny and I have been snacking on since) I was able to get about 30 cookies from every batch of dough. I had Christie print me festive tags, put Johnny to work helping me tie ribbon, and knocked this project out in one day.

Aren’t they pretty? In addition to the cranberry walnut and almond chocolate chip varieties I usually make, I also tried out a chocolate walnut version using dutch processed cocoa. I had never used this ingredient before in my baking but I’ve often read about what a difference it makes. Whole Foods had Rademacher Dutch processed unsweetened cocoa on sale so I bought some and added it to my dough. I can now tell you that doing so absolutely makes a difference. The flavor was rich and pure without being overly sweet. The cocoa is a bit of a splurge (expect to pay around $7-10 per box) but so worth it.

Biscotti is delicious any time of year but is especially popular around the holidays, so I wanted to repost my recipes. I use Giada de Laurentiis’s recipe as my base and then I change up the add-ins accordingly. Happy Baking!

Chocolate Walnut Biscotti

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until blended. Add eggs one at a time beating until smooth. Add dry mixture and mix until just blended. Stir in walnuts. Separate the dough into logs (you should have enough for three logs, but for bigger biscotti do two) and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the biscotti are pale golden. Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes.

Place the biscotti on a cutting board. Using a large serrated knife, cut the biscotti on a diagonal into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch pieces. Place cut side down onto baking sheet and bake for another 15 minutes, turning the cookies halfway through baking time. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Cranberry Walnut Biscotti

2 cups all-purpose flour (I also substitute one cup whole wheat flour or white whole wheat)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2/3 cup dried cranberries

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until blended. Add eggs one at a time beating until smooth. Add dry mixture and mix until just blended. Stir in walnuts and cranberries. Separate the dough into logs (you should have enough for three logs, but for bigger biscotti do two) and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the biscotti are pale golden. Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes.

Place the biscotti on a cutting board. Using a large serrated knife, cut the biscotti on a diagonal into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch pieces. Place cut side down onto baking sheet and bake for another 15 minutes, turning the cookies halfway through baking time. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Almond Chocolate Chip Biscotti

2 cups all-purpose flour (I also substitute one cup whole wheat flour or white whole wheat)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until blended. Add eggs one at a time beating until smooth. Add dry mixture and mix until just blended. Stir in almonds and chocolate chips. Separate the dough into logs (you should have enough for three logs, but for bigger biscotti do two) and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the biscotti are pale golden. Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes.

Place the biscotti on a cutting board. Using a large serrated knife, cut the biscotti on a diagonal into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch pieces. Place cut side down onto baking sheet and bake for another 15 minutes, turning the cookies halfway through baking time. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Trail Mix Biscotti

2 cups all-purpose flour (I also substitute one cup whole wheat flour or white whole wheat)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup pepitas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until blended. Add eggs one at a time beating until smooth. Add dry mixture and mix until just blended. Stir in add-ins. Separate the dough into logs (you should have enough for three logs, but for bigger biscotti do two) and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the biscotti are pale golden. Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes.

Place the biscotti on a cutting board. Using a large serrated knife, cut the biscotti on a diagonal into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch pieces. Place cut side down onto baking sheet and bake for another 15 minutes, turning the cookies halfway through baking time. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Poor Man’s Lasagna

In my family, pasta is often a focal point at gatherings and this dish definitely made an appearance more than a few times. We called it Poor Man’s Lasagna, though I’m not really sure where that name came from. I’m guessing it’s because it’s an easy and inexpensive way to mimic the taste of lasagna without all of the work that goes into assembling it. I had a couple of late season eggplants in my fridge that were starting to wilt so I wanted to make eggplant meatballs. Pasta seemed like a natural accompaniment but I wanted to add a little more protein to the meal. I had ground turkey, homemade sauce and fresh pasta. That’s when Poor Man’s Lasagna came to mind!  After a quick trip to Russo’s for some fresh mozzarella and Locatelli, my dinner was starting to take shape. (My mom also put ricotta in her version, but I decided to leave that out for a healthier option).

I used homemade sauce and fresh pasta, but you can use jarred sauce (try and make it organic). Throw in whole wheat pasta for more fiber, go light on the cheese, and this meal is actually relatively healthy!

Poor Man’s Lasagna

Serves 2-3

1/2 pound ziti or rigatoni

1 cup fresh mozzarella, cubed

1/2 pound ground turkey

1 cup marinara or meat sauce, plus more for topping

Romano or Parmigiano cheese for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add salt and then pasta, cooking until al dente. Meanwhile in a skillet or saute pan, brown ground turkey until cooked through. After draining the pasta, pour it back into the pot and add the turkey, mozzarella and sauce. Mix together and transfer to an oven proof dish. Top with grated Romano or Parmigiano and bake until the cheese is lightly brown, about 20 minutes. Top with additional sauce. Serve hot.

Thanksgiving Appetizer: Crab Meat Muffins

The first year I hosted Thanksgiving, my now sister-in-law, Lauren, offered to bring an appetizer that had become a tradition at her family’s holiday dinners. The little bites were called crab meat muffins and consisted of a cheesy crab mixture that was spread atop quartered English muffins and baked until golden brown. As I watched Lauren prepare them, I wondered how good these muffins were going to taste—truth be told the mixture looked pretty unappetizing. But Lauren reassured me that once they emerged from the oven, I would be astounded at the results. And she was right. These “muffins” were fantastic. Buttery and warm and just all around good. The platter barely made it to the table before every last one was devoured. My family liked them so much, I got the recipe from Lauren and made them for Christmas Eve dinner.

I thought about the muffins again this summer when they showed up at my friend Heather’s bridal shower, courtesy of her now sister-in-law. The name was different—Jeannine calls them crabbies— but they tasted just as good, as evidenced by the speed at which our guests ate them. Yes this recipe is a crowdpleaser, but there was just one problem: it calls for Old English Cheese spread, which is about as processed a food as they come. It’s made by Kraft and looks like a gelatinous orange blob in a jar. And it’s almost impossible to find in New York City grocery stores, which should probably tell you something right there.

As I started thinking about my Thanksgiving dinner for this year, I began to wonder if there was a way to make my own unprocessed Old English cheese spread. I Googled this, and lo and behold a recipe came up. I decided I would make the muffins using fresh crab meat and multigrain English muffins. And I would try this new and improved version out on our friends Emily and Andy, who were coming over for pre-dinner cocktails last Saturday night.

Things did not go as well as I had hoped. I made the cheese spread and then put it in the refrigerator to chill as the recipe dictated. Only when I went to retrieve it, it had hardened into a firm block, which I then had to reheat, causing the oils from the cheese to separate. The claw crab meat overpowered the other ingredients, I didn’t add enough butter (it called for a 1/4 pound of butter, which I read as a 1/4 cup. But a 1/4 pound of butter is really a 1/2 cup) and the multigrain muffins didn’t mesh well with the other flavors. So while the apps were edible, they weren’t nearly as fabulous as the ones that inspired it.

Before I could blog about it, I knew I had to fix this recipe. Which, thankfully I just did. This new batch just emerged from the oven and they taste delightfully good.  This time I halved the cheese spread recipe and used Mammoth aged cheddar, but I think any medium cheddar will do. (Try and use a brand that’s rbGH free). I also went with canned crab meat, but I opted for white lump and I made sure to read the label—the first ingredient was lump crab meat, which was a plus. I also used regular English muffins rather than multigrain, but I bet whole wheat would be fine too. If you are looking for an appetizer for your holiday dinner, this is it. But be forewarned: they won’t last long.

Old English Cheese Spread

1/8 cup mayonnaise

1/8 cup half and half

1/2 pound medium cheddar cheese, cubed

1/2 teaspoon spicy brown mustard

1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/6 cup tomato juice

1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons horseradish

1 tablespoon scallions, thinly sliced

In saucepan, combine mayonnaise, milk, cheese, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and garlic powder. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in juice, horseradish and green onions.

Once the cheese mixture was done, I immediately added the following:

1 6 ounce can of white lump crab meat

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/2 cup butter

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoned Salt (I made my own version of seasoned salt, the recipe for which is further down)

You’ll also need 6 English muffins, split in half, and then each half quartered.

Stir everything together and then spread the mixture on top of the muffins. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.

Seasoned Salt (adapted from Food.com)

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon tumeric (I left the tumeric out, but if you have it on hand, add it in)

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon cornstarch

Mix all ingredients together. Store in an airtight container.

Perfect Pumpkin Pie, Take Two

A few weeks ago, I made my first pumpkin pie completely from scratch. It was definitely palatable, as most pumpkin pie is, but the flavor was a little too subtle for my taste. But with Thanksgiving still a ways away I had plenty of time to practice. And when my friend and colleague, Nicole Williams, invited me to a dinner last night at her  fabulous apartment, I knew the time had come to try another version. You may have seen Nicole on TV before—as a successful career expert she’s frequently on the Today show—or have checked out her website, WORKS By Nicole Williams, (edited by yours truly) but what I learned recently about her is that she’s slightly obsessed with pumpkin pie. Which means she’d be just the person to test out a recipe I found on SimplyRecipes.com that I’ve been eager to try.

I had a feeling this recipe would be good because it calls for lots of spices—cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and cardamom. And oh was I right. This is a fantastic pumpkin pie recipe! It’s incredibly flavorful and the distinct spices really come through. I made two versions, one using heavy cream and one with evaporated milk. After tasting both, I think the heavy cream gives the pie a smoother texture.

As with my last pie, I used fresh pumpkin and I made a pate brisee crust, but this time I used whole wheat pastry flour, which worked beautifully. The crust is light and buttery. The only other change I made was using light brown sugar instead of dark because that’s what I had on hand. If you are looking for a pumpkin pie recipe for Thanksgiving, this is it. Everyone at last night’s dinner raved about how good it was (two of Nicole’s guests had never eaten pumpkin pie before!) so this is the recipe I’ll be using come Turkey Day. Now if I could just perfect my stuffing…

 

Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Pie

2 cups of pumpkin pulp purée from a sugar pumpkin or from canned pumpkin purée

1 1/2 cup heavy cream or 1 12 oz. can of evaporated milk

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/3 cup white sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs plus the yolk of a third egg

2 teaspoons of cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest

 

Preheat oven to 425°F. Mix sugars, salt, and spices, and lemon zest in a large bowl. Beat the eggs and add to the bowl. Stir in the pumpkin purée. Stir in cream. Whisk all together until well incorporated.

Pour into pie shell and bake at 425°F for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes reduce the temperature to 350°F. Bake 40-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours.

 

Farro With Butternut Squash

As I continue my love affair with grains, I’ve been wanting to add farro to the mix. Farro is often called the “first grain” as it’s the grain that all others descended from and has been around for thousands of years. My friend Anne is a big fan of its nutty, flavorful texture and cooks often with it, but when I went to buy some at Whole Foods, I was struck by how much more expensive it was then other grains. $10 for a small bag! (Farro is more difficult to grow then its sister grains which accounts for the higher price point.) So I backburnered the farro for a bit. Then, over the summer I was at Zinc in New Haven, CT (a “must eat at” if you are ever in the neighborhood) and I had their scallops with farro risotto. It was so tasty I was tempted to lick my plate clean. Maybe this farro was worth the extra pennies. I stopped into Russo’s last week for some fresh pasta and lo and behold I spotted a bag of farro on their shelves. I bought it (for $6.49) and began thinking about what I would make with it.

Yesterday, I took stock of what I had in the house. The butternut squash sitting on my table was crying out to be paired with the farro so I googled farro and butternut squash to get some inspiration. A recipe from 101 Cookbooks popped up that piqued my interest. She roasted her squash with red onion, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt which sounded fantastic to me. I omitted the goat cheese in her recipe in favor of ricotta salata and cooked my farro in a vat of homemade chicken stock I made last week. I toasted up some walnuts, and then dressed the “salad” with a few swirls of olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar. I also added grilled chicken for a bit more protein.

Oh my, this salad was freakin’ fantastic! Seriously. I couldn’t believe how incredibly flavorful the farro was. The nuttiness of the squash and the sweetness of the red onion only enhanced the grain and I understand now why people say good balsamic vinegar makes all the difference. It does. I used Lucini, aged 10 years. A little goes a long way.

If you can find farro (check the pasta aisle at your grocery store or try an Italian specialty store) pick some up and make it tonight. If not, barley would also work really well since they’re of a similar consistency. Opt for the semi-pearled variety which cooks a little faster. Also, a note about cubing butternut squash: I read recently that when buying squash you should look for ones that have a long neck, as they’re easier to cut and peel. I tried this and it’s true. As for the recipe, I am posting it below, but I’ll be honest: I didn’t measure out every ingredient exactly. These are estimations, so feel free to change the ratios up a bit to your personal taste.

Farro With Butternut Squash, Red Onion, Walnuts and Ricotta Salata (adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

2 cups farro (look for the semi-pearled variety which cooks faster)

5 cups water or stock (I used about 4 cups stock, 1 cup water)

2 1/2 to 3 cups butternut squash, cubed

One medium red onion, cut into eighths

1/2 cup walnuts

1/4 cup ricotta salata

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Salt to taste

Rinse and strain the farro. In a large pot, combine the water and/or stock and farro. Bring to a boil, then cover and let simmer for 30 minutes. Taste the farro often as you want it to be a bit chewy and not too soft. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the squash and red onion on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, olive oil and a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and roast for 20 minutes or until the squash is fork tender. Then toast the walnuts until fragrant.

When the farro is done, strain in a colander and place in a large bowl. Add the squash, red onions, walnuts and ricotta salata. Dress with a swirl of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add salt to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

I’ve been on a pumpkin roasting kick lately and am vowing to eat as much pumpkin as possible while it’s in season. I saw this recipe adapted on Brown Eyed Baker’s site, only she used cinnamon chips in her version. I stuck with the original, courtesy of Two Peas and Their Pod. I doubled the recipe and made them in a 13 x 9 inch brownie pan, but if you do so, I wouldn’t double the chocolate chips. Doing so makes them very chocolately (which I don’t mind, but you might) and overpowers the pumpkin a bit. I had trouble cutting mine, which is why they’re more squares than bars, but I put them in the refrigerator which helped them harden up nicely.

All in all, I was really pleased with this recipe. Johnny took some to work and his colleagues liked them as well, though they suggested adding fruit and nuts to the mix to make them more like traditional granola bars. Hmmm…

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

3 1/4 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup applesauce
¼ cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8 by 8 baking pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk oats, spices, and salt together. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk brown sugar, pumpkin, applesauce, honey, and vanilla extract until smooth. Pour over oats and stir well, until all of the oats are moist. Stir in chocolate chips.

Evenly press oat mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. The pumpkin keeps the bars moist, so make sure they are golden and set-you don’t want them to be under baked. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

Using a sharp knife, cut into bars. Remove from pan and let cool completely.

Makes 10-12 granola bars

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