Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays because there is tons of candy, spooky stuff, horror movies and kids in adorable costumes. It is also the mark that Christmas is on its way and winter is coming which for me, especially now that I am so north, makes me excited about the first snow of the year.

Our neighborhood is super kid friendly so we got hundreds of trick or treaters with the cutest costumes (there was a little guy in a T-Rex costume!) but unlike Tulsa where the candy giving continues until around 9pm, things shut down by 7:30pm. It was weird. Logan and I went outside and wandered just to see if there were any stragglers because we have tons of candy left. Who would have thought it would end so early? A bit sad that it is all over but I now get to start planning my first Thanksgiving menu (I have always helped my mom so this one will be my first solo adventure) and also get to start thinking about Christmas decorations. One big expense moving from an apartment to a house is the fact that you need to get a Christmas tree, outdoor lights and all sorts of great holiday fluff.

Quick entry since I am slightly sick from eating too much candy so here are some pictures of our great Jack O Lanterns. I am so pleased at how they turned out! Logan carved the haunted house and I did the bat :)
My Evil Bat! Run for your life!
I got bored because Logan took forever to carve his so I carved our initials into the back with a sorta heart
Haunted House!
Delicious toasted pumpkin seeds
I love toasted pumpkin seeds and I have not had them in years so when we decided to carve pumpkins I was so excited! Always line your pans with aluminum foil and clean up will be a breeze so the ones up the picture are spicy (on right) and cinnamon sugar (on left). Just clean your seeds; I like to barely rinse mine because I think a bit of goo on them makes them taste more pumpkin-y and that's how I roll :) Anyway, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with whatever seasonings you like. For spicy I use cumin, paprika, red pepper, chili powder and salt. For cinnamon I use cinnamon, a bit of ginger, nutmeg and some sugar. Bake in a 325 degree oven for about an hour and stir every 10 minutes or so. Just be sure to watch or your seeds will get burned!

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 25, 2010

When times get tough, make vegan cupcakes

I am feeling a bit down today. Logan is on call (as he is every 4th night this month) so he left before 6 this morning and I won't see him until tomorrow afternoon. If I were in Tulsa this would be no big thing--I would hang out with my mom and aunt, have girl time with Katie and Ashley, catch up with work friends, church friends etc but here I am kind of aimless. I just really miss having people around.I entertained for one of the first times yesterday...wait for it...I had the 12 year-old girls who raked my yard in for hot apple cider and then they proceeded to talk my ear off for an hour so perhaps I should rephrase to I miss having people my own age. My neighbors are a good 10-15 years older and have kids so we are in very different life stages. I miss having someone to talk about the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy, to play silly games like Cranium and to simply share a glass of wine while chatting about newlywed life. I think Logan and I are going to have some of his work friends over this weekend so at least I'll get to entertain myself by creating a Halloween themed cocktail and fun spooky finger food.

On a happier note, Logan and I have continued to explore Connecticut. We went out to Storrs (home of the University of Connecticut) and we walked around the campus. It does not hold a candle to Norman--in my humble, unbiased opinion :)-- but it is stunning. The school has a farming program so they have a working dairy farm on site. They make ice cream there and have a Dairy Bar. Check out of the website but I warn you, you'll probably crave ice cream!
IT.IS.AWESOME. They have tons of homemade flavors and so I sampled pumpkin with graham crackers and Logan had Pistachio with walnuts and they were some of the best ice cream either of us have ever tasted.
Logan enjoying the beautiful day and his delicious ice cream
The fall colors are absolutely beautiful here. It is one thing I will say that I will miss we move back home is the fall color in New England. We walked around the pasture area just enjoying the view and the crisp fall temperatures.
Can you believe this is on a college campus?
So, in closing the vegan cupcakes...I halved the recipe and made 6 chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache frosting. There are still 4 left but the night is still young. Vegan recipes are great to half because there are no eggs so it is super easy to make only as many as you want. This was my first time trying vegan baking and honestly, if I wasn't the one who made it, I wouldn't have known. They are moist, chocolatey and delicious and since you don't use butter or eggs the calorie count is much lower. Anyway, they definitely make for a tasty treat!
Mmm....Cupcakes :)
The recipe is really easy and seems like it can be adapted easily since I tossed in some Godiva Chocolate liquor and it turned out great.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes (recipe makes 12 cupcakes)
1 cup soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup granulated sugar (1/2 splenda works fine)
1/3 cup oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

*I reduced the vanilla a little bit and added in some Godiva liquor and it was very yummy*

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and then mix the soy milk and vinegar and let it sit for a few minutes so it can curdle (I know, kind of gross but will be worth it). Add the sugar, oil and extract to the mix and beat until nice and foamy. Get all your dry ingredients together and add them to your wet ingredients in two batches and beat until no big lumps remain. Pour into your cute cupcake liners and bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting or it becomes a big mess!

Chocolate Ganache Frosting
1/4 cup soy milk
4 oz semisweet chocolate bits
2 Tbs maple syrup ( I used sugar free since that's what I had and it worked fine)

Heat your soy milk until boiling and then remove from heat and add chocolate and syrup. Stir until it is nice and smooth (you should now taste it...just to make sure its good...and maybe a second taste just to be 100% positive). Just dip your cooled cupcakes in and give them a nice chocolate bath. Let them sit for a while and the ganache will be less drippy but trust me, a hot ganache cupcake is just as delicious, if not more so, as a cold ganache cupcake.

Recipes from:
Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Moskowitz and Terry Romero
-I highly recommend this cook book. The recipes are yummy and have some really tasty sounding treats like Smores, Toasted Coconut, Green Tea, Hazelnut Mousse, Chai Latte, Mexican Hot Chocolate cupcakes but also your old favorites of vanilla and chocolate with a ton of great variation ideas.

Vegan baking. Who knew it was so easy and delicious?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New England Fall + Spiced Nuts

 "Delicious Autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." -George Elliot

I am over 1200 miles from home; it is currently getting down to the 40s at night; snow within the next month is a strong possibility. All of this is okay because I am in awe of my first New England fall.

In Oklahoma we get very beautiful fall colors but the trees here are just jaw dropping. Yesterday I drove out to the UConn campus for a meeting and along the drive I kept wishing I had my camera because I kept seeing beautiful tree after beautiful tree. Logan and I are going hiking this week so I will take more pictures but here is just one from my backyard. I was shocked when I got home from my two weeks in Oklahoma because all of a sudden the trees were ablaze with gorgeous color. I can't believe that this is my backyard...I love just sitting on the deck with a fire in the chiminea, drinking coffee with cinnamon and just enjoying the crisp fall air...I just wish Logan (or friends or family) were here to share it.
View from deck
Originally I was just going to post this as is but here is a really quick recipe that I whip out when I want a snack or need to convince Logan to mow the lawn.

Spiced Nuts
Beat one egg white (save the yolk and make some sort of custard or something later) and 1 Tbs of water till nice and frothy. Pour egg white/water mixture over about 3 cups of pecans (I imagine you could use other nuts but I always use pecans because I am sort of Southern and it is in my genes, also pecans are delicious) and stir until all the pecans are moistened. In a bowl, mix sugar, salt (I am a big fan of coarse sea salt...I am convinced it is more tasty than other varieties), cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg and then sprinkle over the nuts. Spread the nuts on an aluminum foil covered pan (helps with clean up) and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes stirring 2 or 3 times during baking. Watch your nuts for the last 10 minutes or so because some ovens cook faster/slower and you don't want to burn them.

The great thing about this recipe is you can modify it to make savory nuts with different spices. I have done some with rosemary, salt and pepper that were tasty. I also really liked a spicy version with red pepper, cumin and a bit of chili powder. Play with it and make some for when you have company coming for holidays; put them in a pretty bag with a ribbon when you need a quick gift or make them when you are hungry and scarf them all up.

Spiced Nuts
1 Egg White
1 Tbs of water
3(ish) cups of pecan halves
1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 tps of salt
1 1/2 tps of cinnamon
1/2 tps of ground cloves
1/2 tps of nutmeg

Happy Fall Color Watching and Nut Toasting!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pretty Crazy Delicious Pumpkin Bread

Hello Again! I am sorry about the long break but I spent almost two weeks back in Oklahoma and now am home again. Flying into Connecticut I was greeted by amazing fall colors and crisp fall temperatures that promise a coming winter (hopefully not too soon!). Therefore, is it really surprising that once I got home, I was back in the kitchen within a few hours? No, not surprising.

When I think of fall baking my first thought is pumpkin. It is so versatile-use it in a savory soup, a sweet pie, or a fragrant and moist bread. In honor of my husband's birthday I chose to make a pumpkin bread. It is one of his favorites because I always add extra cinnamon, nutmeg and do a pecan streusel topping. It is such dense, moist bread that it is more like cake in a lot of ways. My favorite way to enjoy it is a nice slice with a smear of cream cheese with a cup of coffee--add in a bunch of fall color and a deck overlooking the woods and you pretty much have my favorite place-home.

Pretty Crazy Delicious Pumpkin Bread: So first off this recipe makes two loaves if made in a 9" pan so I halved it because I have no idea what I would do with two loaves other than covet them like a squirrel with peanuts so hence: halved recipe.

The best thing about these types of breads is that they come together really fast. You find out you are having company in an hour? you can whip up this bread in 15 minutes tops and then bake and not only does your house smell amazing but you can impress your guests with fresh baked deliciousness.

So first off you beat your eggs, sugar, and oil together till nice and light and frothy. Then mix up your flour, spices (I kind of go crazy with the cinnamon and nutmeg since I love them but be as adventurous as your palate allows), baking soda and salt and set aside (try to avoid stepping away and thus letting your cat stick their paw in the flour because this makes a huge mess and happened about 10 seconds after this picture...I suppose this is only applicable if you have slightly evil kitties)
Libby's Pumpkin...oh how I love you since I never actually have time to roast my own pumpkin
Alternately add your flour and water into your egg mixture until just mixed. Stir in your pumpkin and your good to go. I always taste it at this point to see if I need more cinnamon, salt etc but also cause batter is delicious and I don't care if it has raw eggs in it...the amount of cookie dough I have consumed in my life is a testament to the harmless nature of raw eggs (at least when combined with sugar, flour and other cookie components...perhaps alchemy is involved?)
Making my streusel topping in my awesome immersion blender (yes, the same one from the butternut squash lasagna!)
Pour into your greased 9" pan and if you not feeling like a streusal topping go ahead and pop it in the oven but if you are feeling like a crunchy, sweet and yummy topping mix some brown sugar, cinnamon, a bit of flour and cut in your butter. I am now using my immersion blender because I think it is super awesome and I kind of hate using a pastry blender but to each her own--just get your butter in there till it looks like crumbs. Then put in your chopped pecans and sprinkle on your bread.
Ta Da!
Now bake the bread in a 350 degree oven for about an hour or until a toothpick comes out clean when poked in the center. If you made the topping, I like to cover it with aluminum foil for the last 10-15 minutes or so just because it can get a bit brown and you don't want burned nuts (haha dirty sounding)
The finished product! Don't be jealous of my cat pot holders...I know they are super cool.
As I said earlier, I love this bread with a smear of whipped cream cheese on it and with a cup of coffee but it is delicious plain, heated, or with some cinnamon butter...mmm...the possibilities are endless.
I didn't realize when I took this that Logan had already taken a bite when I wasn't looking. He swears it is delicious.

Pretty Crazy Delicious Pumpkin Bread
*This recipe makes 2 9" loaves,  or 3 8" loaves--it is really easy to half so feel free*

3 Cups Granulated Sugar (does fine with half splenda)
1 Cup Oil
4 Eggs
3 1/3 Cups of Flour (does fine with a 2:1 ratio of whole wheat flour)
2 tps. Baking Soda
1 1/2 tps. Salt
1 1/2 tps of cinnamon (I tend to use between 2-3 tps because cinnamon is delicious)
1 tps of nutmeg (I tend to use more just because nutmeg is amazing)
2/3 Cup of Water
1 15 oz. can of pumpkin

Streusel Topping: I don't really have a recipe for this so these are estimates so feel free to mess with it to fit your tastes :)
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
3 Tbs of Flour
Some Cinnamon
2 or 3 Tbs. of butter (just add enough to make it look like crumbs)
1/3 Cup chopped Pecans (or whatever nut you prefer)

Happy Pumpkin Baking!