Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pumpkin Curry Soup

Soup equals comfort.  We nurse it when we're sick and take it it's hearty warmth when the temperature starts to dip down in the fall.  I'm pretty sure it actually carries curative properties.   

It's usually pretty easy to throw together and is perfect as a main course or a side dish.

This particular soup - Pumpkin Curry - blends together the mild sweet of pumpkin and the robust kick of curry powder.  I got the recipe from a midwife, Susan, that I worked with for about 2 years.  She used to make it for her kids when they were younger.

I've served it with Thanksgiving dinner two years in a row with rave reviews and J and I enjoy it a few times each fall.  It's excellent next to a grilled cheese sandwich (think Chipotle Cheddar on Sourdough) but great on it's own as well.

The pumpkin can be fresh pumpkin puree or from a can (just make sure its canned pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling).  I prefer using fresh pumpkin puree.  There are several ways to accomplish this but I roast a sugar pumpkin (halved, removing seeds and pulp) in the oven at 350F for 45 min-1 hr until soft.  Then you scoop out the flesh and puree in blender.  You'll have enough for this recipe and maybe one or two other pumpkin delicacies (pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pancakes).  For alternative ways to cook a pumpkin go here

Pumpkin Curry Soup

1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 cup butter (can be cut it down to a tablespoon or so, and olive oil if needed)
1 tsp curry (more to taste)
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 to 1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
3 cups vegetable broth or stock (Both work)
2 cups (16 oz) pumpkin puree (see above note)
1 cup light cream
Saute onion and garlic in butter until soft.  Add seasonings, cook 1 minute. Add broth, boil gently 15-20 minutes.  Add pumpkin and cream, stir in, blend in blender, then heat for serving.

Note--it is fine served right away, but better prepared a day in advance. You can blend at whatever stage is easiest.

Beer and Bake Sales

Banging Chocolate Gingerbread Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Whew  - last week was crazy, and now I'm still recovering.  We had A LOT of babies last week, maybe because of the Nor'easter that came in Friday.  I have still been cooking and baking, just have not had the time to write about said cooking and baking.

I do have a confession  - I have another obsession.  It's roller derby.  I'm completely in love with this sport and have played for about a year now.  One thing we've started doing at our games to make some extra money is hold a bake sale, which I organize and always bake for.

So this past weekend was the last bouting weekend of the season and we had 3 games to put together.  It was all amazing and I was psyched because our bake sale pulled in double what we normally make.  After helping organize bake sales at maybe 5 events in the past 10 months, I'm beginning to catch on to what people like to buy.

So I've compiled a list of how to hold a successful bake sale for an adult crowd (although there are inevitably kids at a roller derby bout, and they flock to the bake table).

1)  Have a lot of cupcakes for sale - these babies sell out like crazy.  And for some reason, having something on top like a gummy eyeball or a candy heart, makes them even more appealing.  So go crazy with the decoration.

2)  Sell lots of stuff with frosting - this always goes - no explanation needed.

Copious amounts of Cream Cheese Frosting

3)  Do not wrap your items in individual bags - they will be ignored and you will end up eating bite size vegan muffins (that are very delectable by the way) for breakfast all week.  My feeling about this is that people want homemade items and even if the individually wrapped goods are homemade, people subconsciously think that it isn't.

4)  If at all possible, serve beer or sell baked goods in the general vicinity of beer drinking.

5)  Brownies and chocolate chip cookies always sell.

6)  So do Black and White Cookies (frosting + unity = world peace)

World Peace on a tray

The Baking Midwife made Smitten Kitchen's Black and White Cookies and Gingerbread Bagel's Chocolate Gingerbread Bars 

Both frosted and both sold well.  The best compliment of the night was when this guy said my Chocolate Gingerbread Bars were banging (well there was an expletive on the front of that, but I think my mom reads this...).

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Flourless Apple and Almond Cake

I, like many other aspiring cooks, have been thinking a lot about apples lately.  Apples are bountiful in the fall, as are the things you can do with them. 

I've recently discovered a wild apple tree near our home but I've been nervous to try the apples (crab apples) which may or not be to my liking.  Last year I saw a whole bunch of apples scattered in a bunch in a different area, several with large messy bites taken out of them.  My hypothesis at the time was that the bear that was rumored to be around the neighborhood was the culprit.  I've had a crab apple once, in North Carolina, and I remember distinctly not being impressed.  Maybe the bear was not impressed either. 


I am not brave enough or tall enough to try these apples however, and this cake came from apples I picked at a local orchard.  Macs and Gravensteins.  Although you could use basically any apple that is good for baking.  I always like a mix of sweet and slightly tart.
I got the idea to make a flourless Almond Cake when I saw a post on Honey Almond Cake from Anja's Food 4 Thought.  But I wanted to do something slightly different and definitely with apples, so I did some searching and came across Citrus and Candy's Flourless Apple and Almond Teacake.

I made several adaptations, the first was to cut the sugar significantly.  I've used almond flour before and really love the taste.  I also was hoping that the sweetness of the apples would carry the cake.

And it did.  I used 1/2 cup raw sugar with 1/3 cup honey.  I think it would be delicious with just honey too although you could increase the amount slightly.  I also reduced it to 3 eggs and added 1/2 cup plain low fat yogurt mostly to keep that almond flour nice and moist.

This was one of those recipes where you've changed so much that you put it in the oven and send a little prayer up to the baking goddesses that everything is gonna be alright.  I had a moment of panic where I thought, this looks awfully watery, should I add some all purpose flour?  I decided against it and am glad I held out.

The resulting cake was delicious, with crisp apples on top, the ones on the edges sunk into the flaky almond pastry, and moist, almondy apples inside peppered with cloves.

Flourless Apple and Almond Cake
Adapted from Citrus and Candy
5-6 apples (mixture of sweet and tart)
1/4 tsp ground cloves
4 Tbsp butter
2 c Almond Meal
2 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c raw sugar, plus more to sprinkle on top of cake
3 eggs
1/3 c honey
1/2 c plain yogurt (low fat or whole milk)

Preheat oven to 325 F.  Butter 9 inch springform pan and set aside.  

Cut 3 of the apples (unpeeled) into small wedges.  In a skillet over medium heat, melt 2 Tbsp butter, then add apples.  Add ground cloves and 2 dashes cinnamon and cook apples for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Cook apples until they are soft and just starting to change color.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together almond flour, baking powder, ground ginger, and salt.  

In a separate medium bowl, beat together eggs, sugar, and honey until the mixture becomes pale and thickens.  This may take about 4-5 minutes.  Now add yogurt and beat together for another minute or so.  Add almond mixture and stir together gently.

Fold in sauteed apples and pour mixture into greased springform pan.  Take remaining apples and slice thinly (start with 2 but have the third handy in case you need it.)  If you have a stand-up mixer, you can slice the apples while the egg mixture is mixing.  

With remaining 2 Tbsp of butter, melt in microwave (5 second intervals) or on the stove, then let cool slightly.  Place sliced apples on top of cake batter in concentric circles.  Apple slices may sink in slightly.  Drizzle melted butter on top and then sprinkle on small amount of raw sugar and cinnamon.

Bake in the oven 60-70 minutes at 325F, until knife comes out clean.  Let cool before serving.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Baked Eggs Over Goat Cheese, Spinach, Red Pepper and Cherry Tomatoes

I love breakfast, but am not a morning person.  This is not really a dilemma on days off or if you have a job that doesn't require your presence at any particular time.  Unfortunately the latter is not the case for me.  Most days I need to be at work at 8 or 9 am.  Which I know, is not particularly trying, but for a non-morning person, you don't get up at the same time everyday to make breakfast on the late days.  You sleep in and then continue to press snooze until you just have enough time to shower, dress, and pick up an iced coffee at the local liquor/bagel/ice cream shop (I have no idea how they came up with this particular combo, but it works).

Last week, I had a quiet night on call Monday, so ended up sleeping in my own bed.  I woke up early without the alarm, because I was still adjusting from my jet lag.  And I decided to take the opportunity to make breakfast.

Baked eggs had been on my mind for more than a month, and we still had a few things left from the garden.  I picked a pepper and some cherry tomatoes and set to work.

Baked eggs are cooked in individual ramekins, which Partner in Crime and I decided makes them even more appealing.  Now I had never done this before, but decided for construction I would place the sauteed veggies on the bottom of the ramekin (after buttering), place a round of goat cheese on top, and then break the egg on top of that.  This turned out to be perfect, and dipping in with some toast divine as you get to each layer.  One baked egg with toast would probably be sufficient for a breakfast serving, but we indulged and ate two each.

Baked Eggs Over Goat Cheese, Spinach, Red Pepper and Cherry Tomatoes
olive oil
butter (for the ramekins)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 medium red bell pepper
15 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 large handfuls of baby spinach
crushed red pepper
goat cheese, about 2 oz
4 eggs
3-4 Tbsp of cream, half and half or whole milk
Serves 2-4, depending on how hungry you are.

First grease 4 individual ramekins with butter and set aside.  Preheat oven to 350F

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a medium sized frying pan over medium heat.  Add garlic and stir while it cooks.  Be careful not to burn the garlic.  Now add the red pepper, stirring occasionally, and cook until just tender.  Add cherry tomatoes and spinach and cook until spinach is wilted.  Add 1-2 dashes of crushed red pepper and 2 dashes of salt.  Remove mixture from heat.

Now divide vegetable mixture equally among the 4 ramekins.   Place a 1/4-1/2 inch round of goat cheese on top of the mixture in each ramekin.  Break an egg in each ramekin, taking care for the yolk to remain intact.   To keep the top moist, pour 1/2-1 Tbsp of half and half (or cream or whole milk) over the top of each egg.  Start with 1/2 Tbsp and add more as necessary to moisten to entire surface of the egg.

Bake at 350F for about 12-15 minutes until the white of the egg is completely cooked and the goat cheese is beginning to bubble up around the edges.  Serve warm with toast for dipping.