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Sunday, April 12, 2020

Pantry Crumb Cake

Like many other across the country, I'm baking more than normal these days. It's more for comfort and less out of boredom in my case; the current situation is providing a new test of my limits. I'm working from home, overseeing schooling for two older boys, caring for a toddler and a preschooler, and helping everyone deal with their emotions while also feeling quite a few emotions myself. So every comforting banana muffin helps.

Among the multiple recent batches of banana muffins are almond joy rice krispy treats, rice krispy treats with peppermint marshmallows, chocolate bread pudding, and this new-to-me pantry cake. A commenter on the original recipe suggested renaming it Covid Comfort Cake, so I'm not the only one who has enjoyed it. I hope it's comforting to you!



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Pantry Crumb Cake


1  8 or 9-inch round or square cake
Source: New York Times Cooking https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1020946-pantry-crumb-cake

To bake at altitudes around 5000 feet make these changes to the cake amounts:
add 1 1/2 T flour
remove 1/2 T sugar

For the topping:

1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c unsalted butter, melted
1/4 c all purpose flour
1/4 c oats
1 teas spices (cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, or nutmeg in any combination; I used 3/4 teas cinnamon and 1/4 teas cardamom)
1/2 teas salt

For the cake:

1 1/2 c flour
1 teas baking powder
1/4 teas baking soda
1/2 teas salt
1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
2 teas vanilla
2/3 c sour cream, yogurt or nondairy yogurt, buttermilk, crème fraîche, or milk acidified with 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon or orange zest (optional)
½ cup fresh, frozen and thawed, or canned fruit, such as blueberries, raspberries, cherries, grated apple or pear, chopped pineapple (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F and butter your cake pan. This will work in an 8- or 9-inch round or square pan.

Mix all the topping ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

The original recipe was fiddly about combining ingredients. Here's my lazy version: beat the butter and sugar in a mixer for several minutes until fluffy and light. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat again, scraping down the sides of the mixer bowl a couple of times. Mix in the sour cream fully, then add the flour, baking powder and baking soda and mix until just combined. If using, fold in the zest and/or fruit by hand.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Stir the topping mixture so it breaks up into crumbs and then sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the batter. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean, and let the cake cool in the pan. 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Pumpkin, Cranberry, Chocolate Chip Baked Oatmeal

A couple of weeks ago I made this for breakfast on our first morning of social distancing. It's healthy and it's comfort food, although chopping the oatmeal and stirring in chocolate chips makes it seem quite like a dessert. Maybe that's not a bad thing at the moment.


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Pumpkin, Cranberry, Chocolate Chip Baked Oatmeal


Source: Food52
Serves: 6-8

2 c rolled oats
1/2 c dark brown sugar
2 T unsalted butter
1 teas cinnamon
1 teas ground ginger
1/2 teas salt
1 teas baking powder
3/4 c pumpkin puree
1 T grated orange zest
1 T lemon juice
1 teas grated fresh ginger
1 c milk, (any variety)
1 teas vanilla
1 egg
3/4-1 c coarsely chopped fresh cranberries (or dried, see note below)
1/2 c chocolate chips, semi-sweet, dark, or white
1/2 c toasted pecans or walnuts
cream, or milk for serving

Heat the oven to 375F. Butter or spray a 9-inch pie plate or round cake pan.

Place the oatmeal, brown sugar, cinnamon, ground ginger, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a processor and run it for a few seconds until blended. Drop the butter in the processor and run it until it is completely mixed into the oat mixture.

Add the pumpkin puree, orange zest, lemon juice, fresh ginger, milk, vanilla, and egg and pulse a few times until well blended.

By hand stir in the cranberries, chocolate chips, and nuts. Place the mixture into the prepared pan and move to the preheated oven.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the oatmeal begins to brown on top and a testing toothpick comes out with no liquid.

While hot, cut into wedges or serve with a large spoon and pour milk or cream over each serving. It's also tasty with yogurt.

Notes:

The use of the food processor to chop up the oatmeal results in texture more like a shorter sweetbread. The next time I baked it I used only half the oatmeal in the food processor and added the rest when I stirred in the cranberries, etc.

This recipe originally called for soaking dried cranberries in brandy but I couldn't bring myself to ignore the fresh berries I still had in the fridge. If you want to bake this when cranberries aren't in season take a look at the original post on Food52. Or if you don't have or want to use brandy, use a bit of boiling water to re-hydrate the dried cranberries.


Sunday, March 15, 2020

Coconut Cream Pie

This pie is a dream come true for this coconut-lover. And not just for me--it was the first of three pies to disappear at Thanksgiving. Each layer has coconut in it, so the coconut flavor is strong (but not overpowering). And it comes together fairly quickly, with the cookie crust.


Recently I was reminded of my great-grandmother Lydia Savage Peterson and her pie making. At age 51 in 1943, she was widowed and had four sons (ages 9-16) to care for. She commuted from Snowflake, Arizona to Flagstaff during the work week, leaving her sons while she prepared to become a teacher. The boys' adult half-siblings were nearby in town, so they weren't entirely on their own, but Lydia would bake 9 pies every weekend for her boys to eat during the week. Usually fruit pies. My grandfather had a lifelong love of apple pie, probably from this period in his life. When I make pies, I often feel connected to my pie-baking predecessors, on both sides of my family, though I have to admit I feel a special connection to Lydia, who also raised a bunch of boys. 

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Coconut Cream Pie


Source: slightly modified from Cook's Country 
Yield: one 9-inch pie

Crust:

2 c ( 4 1/2 oz) Nilla Wafer cookies (34 cookies)
1/2 c sweetened, shredded coconut
2 T sugar
1 T all purpose flour
1/4 teas salt
4 T unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

3 c whole milk (separated)
5 large egg yolks
5 T cornstarch
1/4 teas salt
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 teas vanilla extract

Topping:

1 1/2 c heavy cream, chilled
2 T sugar
1 teas vanilla extract
1/4 c coconut, toasted (either sweetened, shredded or unsweetened flakes will work)

Planning: cool the crust for at least 30 minutes before you start the filling. And the filling needs to be refrigerated for at least 3 hours before you add the cream and serve.

To make the crust: Heat oven to 325F. Add cookies, coconut, sugar, flour, and salt to a food processor, and run until finely ground, about 30 seconds. Add melted butter and pulse about 6 times, until the mixture is combined. Then add the crust to a 9-inch pie plate. Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate; use your fingers or the bottom of a dry measuring cup. Bake until fragrant and set, 18-22 minutes. Let the crust cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the filling: whisk 1/4 c milk, egg yolks, cornstarch, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside. Add sugar and remaining 2 3/4 c milk to a large saucepan and bring it to a simmer over medium heat.

Next, temper the egg yolk mixture by slowly whisking in half of the hot milk mixture. This brings the eggs up to temperature without forming yucky clumps.

Add milk-yolk mixture back to the remaining milk in the saucepan. Whisk constantly and cook over medium heat until custard is thickened and registers 180 degrees. This may take only a minute or two, or a few minutes longer. Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut and vanilla. Pour the filling into the crust and spread into an even layer.

Spray a piece of parchment paper with vegetable oil spray and press it down onto the surface of the custard. It should be covered completely. This will prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold and set, 3-24 hours.

To make the topping: whip cream, sugar, and vanilla on medium-low speed for a minute or so, until foamy. Then increase the speed to high and whip until stiff peaks form. Spread whipped cream evenly over the pie. Sprinkle coconut over the top, and enjoy.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Sheet Pan Salmon and Brussels Sprouts

This is one of those recipes that hits all of the dietary needs in our family: low carb options, deconstructable for picky eaters, a healthy meat, and delicious on top of it all. If you shred the sprouts in a food processor, it's not bad on time, either.



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Sheet Pan Salmon and Brussels Sprouts

1 pd (or more) brussels sprouts, trimmed
3-4 scallions, trimmed, white and green parts thinly sliced (about 1/2 c), optional
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced (about 1/4 c), optional or to taste
2 T toasted sesame or extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper
4 (6-oz) skin-on salmon fillets, about 1-inch thick
1/4 freshly squeezed lemon, lime or tangerine juice
2 T rice vinegar
2 T soy sauce
Honey, to taste, optional

Prepare your sprouts. You can either slice them thinly (which is about 4 1/2 c) or you can shred them in the food processor. Though I prefer the slices for eating, I'm going to use the processor in the future for time's sake.

Heat oven to 400F. On a large sheet pan, mix the sprouts, scallions, jalapeno, and oil, then spread over entire pan.

Pat the salmon dry, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then place them on the sheet pan amongst the brussels sprouts. Roast until the salmon measures at least 120F on an instant read thermometer, about 12-15 minutes.

While the fish and brussels sprouts are roasting, mix together the juice, vinegar, and soy sauce, along with 2 T water.

Drizzle the sauce on your own serving of fish and brussels sprouts, according to preferences. Serve with a side of basmati rice and enjoy. 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Chili

This is simply a basic meat and bean chili and the recipe served me well for many years.


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Chili                                 



Adapted from an old recipe shared decades ago by a friend named Joyce from our first Air Force assignment
Yields a Dutch oven full of chili.

For the beans:

2 cups pinto beans, sorted and brined overnight in 2 quarts of water and 1 1/2 T salt
1/2 onion
1 carrot cut into 2 inch chunks
1 stick of celery cut into 2 inch chunks
2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 bay leaf
Water

Before cooking, drain the beans from the brine and rinse in a colander. In a large saucepan (I used a 4 quart pot) place the beans and the vegetable aromatics (onion half, carrot and celery chunks, garlic) and bay leaf. Cover generously with water (an inch or two above the level of the beans) and bring to a boil, watching so you avoid a boil-over. Lower heat to a simmer and cook for several hours until beans are done (the amount of time this will take depends on the age of the beans but mine took about three hours).

The rest of the ingredients:

1/2-1 pound of ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 teas salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teas pepper
2 T chili powder
1 can tomato paste
1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes (or crushed tomatoes)
1 (4-oz) can of diced green chiles or 1/2 c frozen chopped chiles, or to taste
1 cup water.

In a Dutch oven cook the ground beef, onions, and salt together until browned. Add the garlic and cook for half a minute or so until fragrant. Move the mixture to the edges of the pan and place the spices in the center of the pan and toast for a minute. Stir the spices into the meat and add the tomato paste and cook for a few minutes until the paste has darkened. Pour in the liquid from the whole tomatoes. Crush the tomatoes by hand or in the blender or food processor and place in the skillet. Stir in the green chiles and water. Bring to to strong simmer and then lower the heat and simmer for a couple hours stirring occasionally. If it gets too thick add some more water or some of the bean broth.

Note: To streamline this process you can worry less about building flavor. Add the garlic, spices, and tomato paste together. Then stir in a can of crushed tomatoes and the green chile. Continue with the recipe.

When the beans are done and are beginning to break apart remove some of the bean broth (hold a generous amount in reserve) and all the spent aromatics. Drain most of the remaining liquid, if needed. Pour the beans into the meat mixture in the Dutch oven. Stir well. Add some of the reserved bean broth until the chili is the consistency you prefer. Stir again and cook together for an hour at a low simmer. Check the consistency again and add more bean broth if needed. Taste for seasonings and add salt. If you like spicier chili add more chiles or stir in a bit of powdered cayenne. Serve with warm cornbread.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Maple Molasses Oatmeal Cookies

I made these unique, delicious cookies back at the beginning of November. The flavors definitely fit fall season baking (and since I didn't manage anything pumpkin, this will have to be my one seasonal nod), but they also seem right at home for Christmastime baking.


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Maple Molasses Oatmeal Cookies


Source: Dough Eyed
Yields about 4 dozen cookies

This is a high altitude recipe; it will work at 4,000-6,000 feet above sea level.

1 1/2 c softened butter
2 c sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c molasses
3 teas maple extract (I used imitation)
4 c flour (2 c whole wheat flour is nice)
2 c oats
2 teas cinnamon
2 teas baking soda
1 teas salt
1/2 c or more additional sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 350F and prepare two baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.

Beat together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until creamy. Add the eggs, molasses, and maple extract and stir until combined. Then add the flour, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Beat until a dough forms, and every ingredient is incorporated.

Use your hands to create dough balls about 2 T in size. Then, roll each ball in the additional sugar until fully coated. Bake on the prepared sheets with about 2 inches between the dough balls; 14 minutes was about right in my oven. The cookies should be cracked and set. Let them cool completely.


Holiday Rum (or Root Beer) Balls

Rum Balls are a holiday treat found in multiple cultures around the world. For the home cook they are an easy to make "candy" and come in a number of varieties. Here are three--two with rum and one for kids and those who avoid alcohol.



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Chocolate Rum Balls


Yield: between 36 and 48 depending on size

When this recipe was first being tested Nabisco chocolate wafer cookies came in 12 oz. packs but by the time the recipe was printed they were in 11 oz. packs. Cook's Country said using an 11 oz. package was all right for the recipe. However, sneaky Nabisco has further reduced the amount of wafers in the package to 9 oz. and that will adversely affect the recipe. We'll have to buy 2 packs and have left over wafers. 

1/2 c-3/4 granulated sugar
5 c (12 oz) chocolate wafer cookies
1 1/4 c pecans, toasted (for this amount I recommend using the oven at 300 degrees)
1 c confectioners' sugar (4 oz)
6 T dark rum
1/4 c light corn syrup
1/8 teas salt

Place the sugar into a shallow bowl in which you'll roll the balls after forming them. I find that half a cup is sufficient but I have to work a bit harder to get them coated. So use 3/4 a cup for greater ease.

Place the cookie wafers and the pecans in a food processor and run it until they are finely ground. Pour into a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir until well combined.

The mixture may look too crumbly, but it will come together in your hands. Using either a half tablespoon or full tablespoon measure scoop out dough and roll between your hands. Place the rolled balls in the shallow bowl of sugar and swish and shake the bowl until the balls are completely covered by a thin layer of sugar crystals. Place on a tray or plate.

Refrigerate the balls for at least one hour. These can be held in the refrigerator for a week.

Notes:

Chocolate graham crackers can work in this recipe, too. Or a combination of wafers and graham crackers.

I haven't done this but I think you could substitute vanilla for the rum, but only use 1 tablespoon. You might have to add some water to make up for loss of liquid.




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Root Beer Balls


1/2 c granulated sugar
5 c (12 oz) vanilla wafers
1 1/4 c pecans, toasted (for this amount I recommend using the oven at 300 degrees)
1 c confectioners' sugar (4 oz)
1/4 c root beer
1 T vanilla, alcohol free imitation, if you prefer
1/4 c light corn syrup
1/8 teas salt

Follow the instructions above, substituting the root beer for the rum.







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Ginger Rum Balls

1/2 c granulated sugar
5 c (12 oz) vanilla wafer cookies
1 1/4 c pecans, toasted
6 T chopped crystallized ginger
1 c confectioners' sugar (4 oz)
6 T dark rum
1/4 c light corn syrup
1/8 teas salt

Follow the instructions above, but include the ginger with the wafers and pecans in the food processor.

Note:

I haven't tried this yet but believe you could substitute rum flavoring if you want to avoid most of the alcohol, although the rum flavoring, like vanilla, is often alcohol based.