posts tagged with 'recipe'

it's not cake, it's bread!

In former times I had no qualms about wanting to make pumpkin bread all year long. Since then I've expanded my baked goods repertoire so it's now a more seasonal treat... and this is the season! The best thing about pumpkin bread is that, since it's clearly bread rather than cake—just look at the name!—you can eat it for breakfast. Which we did yesterday. Then, since it's packed with sugar we had it for dessert after lunch and dinner.

We had the first loaf with dinner the day before. We hosted friends and made roast chicken and mashed potatoes, so it all felt very Thanksgivingy. Our friends brought pumpkin cookies for dessert which weren't any sweeter than the bread, but they did have frosting on them.

Here's the recipe, if you want to try this decadence for yourself. Super easy.

Preheat oven to 375°. Beat together in the stand mixer:

1 cup oil
2 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 can pumpkin

Combine in a large bowl and whisk all up:

3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger

Add to the wet ingredients and mix til combined.

Bake in two ungreased loaf pans for 55-60 minutes.


part butter, part milk

pancakes on a plate

the pancakes of 2019

Eight years ago when I last wrote up a pancake recipe on these pages, I was still using canola oil rather than butter. Just laziness. Besides that it's a good recipe—as you can see by the fact that I'm still making pancakes almost the same way every Friday morning. Recently, though, we saw the biggest change in the recipe in years: we've switched to buttermilk.

A potential problem with making buttermilk pancakes regularly is that it can be hard to keep buttermilk around. I mean, what else are you ever going to be doing with it?! In our case, though, it went the other way: I wanted to have buttermilk for making cakes—not just for birthdays anymore!—but even with an accelerated cake-baking schedule it proved impossible to use up a carton before it went bad. So I thought I would try it in pancakes.

It turns out to be dramatically better than making them with milk. Who knew?! Actually, I guess lots of people knew. But not me. Thankfully, I'm now enlightened. In case you were also among the buttermilk innocents, the main difference is that buttermilk and baking soda make for a much better rise than baking powder alone (that's why buttermilk is in the cakes, too). Then the higher rise makes for a more tender crumb, which is good for its own sake, and also lets the pancakes soak up lots of syrup. Which of course is the real reason we're doing this breakfast!

Here's the (new and improved) recipe.

In a large bowl whisk together:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
3 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon

Beat well:

2 large eggs

Add to the dry ingredients, along with:

1 1/2 cup buttermilk
3 Tbsp melted butter

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix gently with a whisk until they're well-combined and smooth.

Put your skillet over medium-low heat and butter as required. Pour the batter (I use a quarter cup measure, not quite filled for each pancake) and cook until most of the bubbles on top have popped, then flip and cook the other side for about 30 seconds.

Serve with butter and slightly-warmed maple syrup or preserves.


gingerbread houses

An important part of our Christmas that I left out of yesterday's report was the gingerbread baking. Besides the cookies the boys made for Grandma and Grandpa, we also did our annual construction and decoration of gingerbread houses. We invited friends over to make the whole affair as festive and exciting as possible.

busy around the table with candy, frosting, and gingerbread

it's gingerbread chaos!

It was a pretty intense day. The boys and I started first thing in the morning making the dough: two batches, with a total of seven cups of flour. That might not sound like a lot but for scale, it's almost all of a five-pound bag. Or maybe it's not, and the bag was only empty because of how much we spilled. Which was a lot. But the dough got made, and we rolled it into balls and left it to chill.

the boys rolling the dough into big balls

the end of phase 1

A little later our friends arrived. Together we designed a house template, then each of the five kids worked (with an age-appropriate amount of help) to roll out their portion of dough and cut pieces for their walls, roofs, and auxiliary accessories. The adults were also making lunch at this time, so there was a lot going on. The house pieces were big enough that each house took up two baking sheets, and each one needed to be in the oven for 15 minutes. There was some confusion over which parts went to which house, but we got it all sorted out in the end. The frosting to glue the houses together took a pound of sugar, and then we needed another batch—another pound—for the decorating.

Which of course is what the kids were waiting for! (Some of them had such a hard time waiting they started decorating before their roofs were quite attached; it was only a little sad, because everything that fell apart was repairable.) We had a tremendous array of candy available, which was good because they expected to taste more-than-representative portions of each type. Decorating techniques varied: the 9-year-olds were guided largely by aesthetic concerns, whereas 7-year-olds and younger were more concerned with attaching the maximum volume of the types of candy they wanted to eat later. Never mind; all five houses came out beautifully.

five finished gingerbread houses lined up on the table


That was all a week before Christmas. I was talking a couple days ago with friends whose kids were having trouble letting go of the season—they're fellow 12-day-celebrators, but still hadn't taken down their tree two days past Epiphany. I told them my secret for helping the boys accept the end of Christmas: I didn't let them eat their gingerbread houses until the season was officially over! So there was something to look forward to on January 6th.

Harvey breaking the roof off his gingerbread house


Harvey and Zion's houses aren't entirely gone yet, but what remains can fit in a tupperware container in the bread drawer. Lijah's is still standing; that's because, as he describes it, "I don't like gingerbread, just candy." I estimate another three days till all the decorations have been stripped off, then maybe we can put the remains out for the squirrels.

If you want to make your own houses, here's our recipe as I have it:

In a large bowl whisk together:

7 cups all-purpose white flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons powdered ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In the stand mixer, cream:

1 cup (two sticks) butter
1 cup sugar

Add and mix until well-blended:

1 cup molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla

Add the dry ingredients to the wet about two cups at a time, mixing until combined each time. If necessary, add:

up to 1/4 cup cold water

Form the dough into three or four balls, wrap each one in plastic wrap, and store in the fridge until you’re ready to make your houses.

At that point, preheat the oven to 325° F and grease a cookie sheet or two. Roll one ball at a time on a oured surface to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Cut out your house pieces and bake them on cookie sheets for 15-18 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces Let the pieces cool completely before assembling the houses.

For the mortar—er, frosting—combine in the stand mixer:

1 package powdered sugar
3 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter

Whip vigorously with the whisk attachment, adding more powdered sugar or water as necessary to achieve a thick, glue-like consistency.


slight variations in the pancake recipe

Our shopping schedule has been a little disarranged lately—not unlike our blogging schedule, clearly—so we're out of whole wheat flour. But Friday is pancake day without fail, so the whole wheat flour in this morning's batch had to be replaced with white. It's not the first time I've needed to make a substitution; a couple weeks ago we only had maybe half a cup of milk, so I filled out the rest with a mix of yogurt and water. You might be surprised to hear that it worked just fine! I wasn't. I knew it would.

I actually found the all-white flour pancakes to be more different than the yogurty ones. I had originally thought that I put in the whole wheat flour just to show my hippy credentials—crunchy granola and all that. But after seven-plus years of making the same recipe, I've gotten used to the whole wheat taste. This morning's version was fine, but somehow lacking in depth. I guess that means my hippiness is now deeply ingrained.

It actually makes me feel pretty old to see how long ago I came up with this recipe. It feels like just yesterday—and also like an eternity ago. That's what having kids does to you. It's just like how when they found the old iPod (pictured here) I noticed that the version of my music collection frozen within is very little different from what I have on my computer now. I thought my taste in alternative hip hop was pretty sophisticated; is it still avant-garde if it's from 12 years ago? Oh well, the boys really appreciated hearing that Antipop Consortium album.

The pancake recipe has changed ever-so-slightly from seven years ago. For the record, here's what it is now:

In a large bowl whisk together:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
3 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon

In small bowl beat:

2 large eggs

Add to the dry ingredients, along with

1 1/4 cup milk
3 Tbsp melted butter

Mix gently with a whisk until well-combined and not too lumpy.

Put your skillet over medium-low heat and butter as required. Pour the batter (I use a quarter cup measure, not quite filled for each pancake) and cook until most of the bubbles on top have popped, then flip and cook the other side for a few seconds.

Enjoy with or without 20-year-old music!


not-so-high tea

I made scones yesterday morning with the idea of passing them out at the bus stop and showing the other parents that I cared about them and was glad to have them as neighbors. I don't know how they feel about me as a neighbor, but none of them wanted any scones. Never mind, the boys sure wanted some—though since they'd just been treated to a big breakfast of fried eggs, toast, bacon, and oranges, I told them to hold off. Because it was scones, I told them we could have them for tea later. So we did.

Zion and Nathan sitting at the table for tea, looking serious

tea is serious business

We had friends over by then so they got to join in too. It was lovely, and the boys were totally ready to enter into the spirit of "tea" as a meal: "Take tiny nibbles," Harvey said, recalling instructions from some book or other. Then he kind of spoiled the effect by knocking over his teacup reaching for the tin of scones after the little boys didn't pass them quick enough. Luckily the cup only chipped rather than shattering—I was letting them use our finest Crate-and-Barrel wedding china—but the puddle of milky tea was mess enough. The little boys—Lijah and his friend Liam—didn't spill a drop, and so would have been within their rights to complain that I only trusted them with plastic cups, but they're more polite than that. They weren't huge fans of the tea, either, come to that, and much preferred the sliced mango to the scones.

Which I don't understand, because they were some tasty scones. I brought the rest of them to work this morning, where they were again properly appreciated. This batch was with orange zest and chocolate chips; the original recipe is from Joy of Cooking and is for raisin scones with cinnamon, like this:

raisin scones cooling on a rack

cinnamon raisin version

In a large bowl, whisk together:

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Cut in:

6 Tbsp butter

Stir in:

1/2 cup raisins (or orange zest and 3/4 cup chocolate chips, or lemon zest and 1/4 cup chopped candied ginger, or...)

Add and mix until combined (you'll have to knead it against the side of the bowl with your hands to get all the flour up):

1/2 cup cream
1 egg, beaten

Shape the dough into a disk maybe 3/4 inch thick, cut it into 12 wedges, and put them on a baking sheet. Brush them with cream or milk and sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar (for the raisin ones; or plain sprinkling sugar for the others).

Bake at 425°F for 12-15 minutes or until they're golden brown.

And if you want to replicate our experience, serve with decaf Earl Gray tea with cream and sugar, milk, and mango slices.


recent recipes

I had a bad day, so it's a pleasant diversion to look back on some accomplishments from the past couple days—cooking ones. Like this cake.

a pumpkin cake


We had folks over yesterday evening and I realized I hadn't thought about a desert. There wasn't time to make a pumpkin pie (or at least not to let one cool enough to eat) but a pumpkin cake seemed reasonable. I searched the internet and printed a likely-looking recipe, but on reflection it wasn't quite likely enough—I wasn't prepared to make a cake entirely with vegetable oil. So I triangulated between that recipe, our family pumpkin bread, and what I know about making cakes. The result came out pretty good, with cream cheese frosting between the layers (sadly not to Harvey's taste) and powdered sugar on top. Here's the recipe, for future reference:

In a large bowl whisk together

2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a stand mixer, beat on medium-high for five minutes

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add one at a time, scraping the bowl and beating between additions

4 eggs

Add the dry ingredients in three even bunches, alternating with two even glops of

1 can canned pumpkin

Divide the batter between two buttered and floured 8-inch cake pans and bake at 350° for... um... until they're done. Maybe it was like 40 minutes? Let them cool.

For the frosting, combine 4 ounces (half a package) cream cheese, 2 tablespoons butter, and 1 cup powdered sugar in the food processor and pulse until combined. Or if you ask Harvey, leave out the cream cheese and make a proper butter frosting. After I had already started making the frosting I realized we were out of powdered sugar. Heading across the street to borrow some I passed the boys playing with the neighborhood kids—it all felt pretty old-fashioned!

The day before I was totally out of ideas for supper—out of ideas and out of ingredients. But even though we're getting into pumpkin season we still have lots of zucchinis. So why not zucchini quesadillas? I grated some zucchini and onion, salted it for a bit to get out some of the water, then cooked it in bacon fat with cumin and garlic powder. Then I made the quesadillas with the cooked zucchini and cheddar. Every new quesadilla I make is my favorite, and this was no exception. Zion wasn't a fan, of course, but you can never please everyone. With cake and quesadillas at least I managed to please myself!


cooking omnibus post

All kinds of things lately, including some good food. For example, we celebrated spring a couple days ago with the first asparagus, which I cooked in a little butter and served up with bulgur, lentils, and poached eggs (also because spring). Life can't be too terrible when you can get asparagus and eggs from the backyard and cook them within five minutes of bringing them inside. Not that it's all spring all the time around here; yesterday was cold and raw and Leah's roasted root vegetables were just what we wanted.

A couple weeks ago I wanted something to bring along on our first trip to the Stevenses new house where we were going to help paint, and I made up another muffin recipe. It came out tasty enough that I wanted to write it down here so as not to forget.

Applesauce Muffins

In a large bowl, whisk together:

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat bran
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves

In another bowl, combine:

1 cup unsweetened applesauce (I used some very sour sauce made from Cortland apples)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg, beaten well
1/4 cup canola oil or melted butter
2 tablespoons molasses
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine. Spoon into greased muffin tins and bake for around 20 minutes at 375°F. Makes 12 regular sized muffins (or 30 little ones, as I did it the first batch).

Also on the baking front, I've been enjoying eating oatcakes made with this recipe from Orangette, which I was pointed to by this post on Soulemama. Oatcakes are a thing that, once I'd heard of their existence, I wanted to try, but in my research last year or thereabouts I didn't find a satisfactory recipe. This one is perfectly satisfactory and very tasty with jam (or Leah's chocolate-chip cookie dough dip).

A while ago Jo linked to a tortilla recipe that uses oil instead of shortening (and cooks in a skillet instead of the oven, as in the Joy of Cooking version), which I find delightfully easy and delicious. Homemade tortillas are wonderful and make rice and beans seem like something special. We're also putting immense quantities of cilantro on many things, when we have it around, which is also special.

The cilantro may be a side effect of reading Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace a couple months ago. Other signs we've internalized some of her messages in that inspiring book are our increased consumption of home-made croutons and breadcrumbs and the fact that when I cooked the lentils the other night I saved the water they cooked in—which is now a remarkable broth, how could I have ever thrown it away?!—in a jar in the fridge. A jar that is even labeled. (The poached eggs of the first paragraph are also Adler-related.)

This evening while the boys were being wonderful playing with playdough (Leah makes that—most recently a double batch of blue and yellow) I pulled out a recipe I hadn't made in a while: banana bread made entirely in the food processor (well, except for the part when it's in a pan in the oven). It's good stuff, but I come to doubt the efficiency of using the machine. Yes there are fewer things to clean up then there would have been if I'd used the two bowl "muffin method" (as Alton Brown calls it), but cleaning the Cuisinart is so aggravating that it carries as much mental weight as three or four bowls. Also I'm not sure I trust that spinning blade to mix things up properly. Oh well, every once and a while in the name of variety—and of using up those two brown bananas.

So, we have some food here. Come by if you're feeling hungry!


even our cookies are healthy now

two healthy-looking chocolate-chip cookies

bite to show texture

We're eating healthier than ever around here lately thanks to a new initiative from Leah that she might write about some day. She's also been cooking more than ever, so on the few occasions when I do manage to get into the kitchen I feel like I have to go all out—like, for example, making up a new cookie recipe. The new program also involves a lot of vegetable purees, so luckily there was plenty of sweet potato for me to experiment with.

And including sweet potato wasn't the only wild experimental step, either! Alternative sugars, whole grains, (relatively) low fat—these cookies are healthier than most of the breakfast food I make! Given my family's tastes, though, I just couldn't leave out the chocolate chips. Here's the recipe.

Sweet Potato-Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookies

In a large bowl, whisk together:

1 cup oat flour (made from chopping up rolled oats in the food processor)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup no-sugar-added dried coconut
1 teaspoon banking powder
1 teaspoon salt

In the stand mixer, cream together:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar

Add and mix until smooth:

1 egg
1/2 cup sweet potato puree
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix on low speed until combined. Add and mix until evenly distributed:

1 cup chocolate chips

Drop the dough on a greased cookie sheet—whatever size you like. Smush down each ball of dough, to about 1/2 inch tall, or else the middles won't get cooked. These cookies don't expand much during baking so you can get them fairly close together.

Bake at 350°F for 11 minutes or so.

Makes... um, not that many cookies. We didn't count, though, before a significant number of them were eaten, so I can't give you a solid number. Maybe the next batch!


apple-pecan muffins

We're about at the end of fresh apple season, sadly, but if you're anything like us you still have plenty of apples around and plans to get more. We never have enough applesauce made! Of course, we've also been eating our fair share, but even with our best efforts some of the eating apples have passed their prime, at least as far as crispness is concerned. Happily, apple muffins are a great way to use them up those mushy but still tasty Empires or Cortlands. Below is the recipe I made up over the last two-three times I tried to put apples in muffins; nothing special, but I like the results at least (Harvey complains about the nuts—sorry boy, not everything can have chocolate chips in it!).

If I were a real food blogger I'd have some awesome close-up pictures, but I'm obviously not. All the photogenic muffins were eaten long before anyone thought of getting a camera.

Apple-Pecan Muffins

Preheat the oven to 375° and grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, combine and let sit for 15 minutes or so:

3 small apples or two large, peeled and grated
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl whisk together:

1 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat bran
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg


3/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped

To the apple mixture add:

6 Tpsp melted butter or canola oil

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold together just until all the flour is combined. Distribute evenly into the muffin tin. Sprinkle the top of each muffin with a mixture of:

3 parts white sugar
2 parts brown sugar

Bake for 18 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.


veggie dinner 5: black bean enchiladas

Alright, after this I'm done. For now.

I love these enchiladas because black beans and cream cheese, very prominent in the recipe, are two of my favorite foods. And they're especially good left over!

Black Bean Enchiladas

You can make the bean mixture and the sauce ahead of time and then assemble the enchiladas just before baking. At the appropriate time you'll need to preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a large saute pan, heat

1 Tbsp oil

Saute until soft

1 chipotle pepper canned in adobo sauce, minced
1 medium onion, minced

Add and simmer for 10 minutes

3 cans black beans, rinsed
3/4 cup orange juice

Mash about half the beans, stir, and simmer for a few more minutes.

While the beans are cooking, make the sauce. Mix

1 cup mild or medium salsa
1 cup tomato sauce
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin

Divide the bean mixture evenly among

7 flour tortillas, soft taco size

Top each with an equal portion of

1 package (8oz) cream cheese

Lightly oil a 13x9 inch baking dish, then spoon some of the sauce onto the bottom. Roll the tortillas and put them into the dish. Top with the rest of the sauce and

2 cups grated monterey jack cheese

Cover the dish with foil and bake it for 25 minutes, then uncover it and bake a couple minutes more. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.