Sunday, January 29, 2012

SPICED PECAN PUMPKIN BREAD - Williams Sonoma (cheating)

Yes, I cheated. Pumpkin bread not from scratch.  But don't you ever walk into your pantry or open up your cupboard and find the yummy quick bread mix that you bought, stashed away, forgot about, and then discover it's about to expire?  Maybe that's just me.  You all are probably super organized. I noticed the bread mix in the nick of time.  And then, as I rummaged around for a bread pan, discovered that I also bought a darling bread pan (on sale) for making this specific bread. A year ago.  What is wrong with my brain? Don't answer.

So, this morning I made this yummy bread adding in a handful of chocolate chips that were lonely in its 3/4 empty bag--nice to get rid of a few things on my pantry shelf.  And within 20 minutes my house was a divine atmosphere of pumpkin, pecans, and a hint of chocolate.  If you've ever wondered about Williams-Sonomas quick bread mixes, let me tell you they are excellent.

Monday, January 23, 2012

APPLE SHARLOTKA - Smitten Kitchen

I had a bin with some Granny Smiths that needed eating up.  So, even though I have posted several apple cake recipes (and loved them all) this one caught my eye.  Not too many ingredients, not too many steps.  Score.  

It is pretty but plain, not too sweet.  But ice cream doesn't seem fitting.  A dollop of Greek yogurt (really, we seem to put it on a lot of various goodies) and maybe a drizzle of agave syrup over the yogurt.  Perfect. Probably great for breakfast, too. 

Apple Sharlotka - Smitten Kitchen

Butter or nonstick spray, for greasing pan
6 large, tart apples, such as Granny Smiths
3 large eggs
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
Ground cinnamon, to finish
Powdered sugar, also to finish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper and the sides of the pan. Peel, halve and core your apples, then chop them into medium-sized chunks. (I cut each half into four “strips” then sliced them fairly thinly — about 1/4-inch — in the other direction.) Pile the cut apples directly in the prepared pan. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer or whisk, beat eggs with sugar until thick and ribbons form on the surface of the beaten eggs. Beat in vanilla, then stir in flour with a spoon until just combined. The batter will be very thick.

Pour over apples in pan, using a spoon or spatula to spread the batter so that it covers all exposed apples. (Updated to clarify: Spread the batter and press it down into the apple pile. The top of the batter should end up level with the top of the apples.) Bake in preheated oven for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a tester comes out free of batter. Cool in pan for 10 minutes on rack, then flip out onto another rack, peel off the parchment paper, and flip it back onto a serving platter. Dust lightly with ground cinnamon.

Serve warm or cooled, dusted with powdered sugar. 

Monday, January 16, 2012


My cute nephew and his girlfriend gave me Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything app for my iPad (which also transferred to my iPhone) and I love it.  So, as I sat in the parking lot after spin class scrolling through recipes, I quickly came across this one and lo and behold I had every single ingredient on hand (yes, every one of those spices, thank you Penzey's) and did not have to go to the grocery store--hooray!

I am a fan of Bittman's app--it is super easy and I think I'm going to love trying his recipes. I also made his Rice Pilaf, Seven Ways which was delicious.

Back to the chicken, I subbed chicken thighs for a whole chicken and used more chicken than the recipe called for, so it wasn't quite as saucy as I would have liked.  But the flavor was still excellent.  It is spicy but the adventurous eight year old twins who live next door gobbled it down, so if you have kids give it a try.  Perfect meal for a cold night in front of the fireplace (below 50 degrees here in AZ!) waiting for Downton Abbey.

Makes: 4 servings
Time: About 45 minutes
1/4 cup peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
1 whole chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 8 pieces, or any combination of parts
1 large or 2 medium onions, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped or grated fresh ginger or
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups yogurt
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
1. Put the oil in a deep skillet with a lid or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When hot, add the chicken, skin side down, and brown it well, rotating and turning the pieces as necessary; the process will take 10 to 15 minutes. (You can skip this step if you like; heat a tablespoon of oil and go directly to cooking the onions.)
2. When the chicken is nicely browned, remove it from the skillet and turn the heat down to medium. Pour or spoon off all but a tablespoon of the oil. Stir in the onions, along with some salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the onions soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and spices, along with 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Cook with the onions, stirring, until very aromatic, 2 or 3 minutes. Stir in the yogurt, then return the chicken pieces to the pan.
3. Cover and cook over medium-low heat so that the mixture doesn’t boil, turning the pieces every 5 minutes or so, until the chicken is cooked through,10 to 20 minutes (longer if you skipped the browning step); it’s okay if the mixture curdles a bit. The bird is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 155–165°F. Taste and adjust the seasoning, garnish with cilantro, and serve.

Rice Pilaf, Seven Ways

Makes 4 servings
Time: About 30 minutes, plus a little time to rest
Easy, fast, and reliable, pilaf has another bonus: Cooking it in advance (slightly) is not just possible but desirable.
2 to 4 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups rice, preferably basmati
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups stock
Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish
1. Put 2 tablespoons of the butter or oil in a large, deep skillet with a lid over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the rice all at once, turn the heat down to medium, and stir until the rice is glossy, completely coated with butter or oil, and starting to color lightly, about 5 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper, then turn the heat down to low and add the stock all at once. Stir once or twice, then cover the pan.
3. Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Turn the heat to the absolute minimum (if you have an electric stove, turn the heat off and let the pan sit on the burner) and let rest for another 15 to 30 minutes. Add the remaining butter or oil if you like and fluff with a fork. Taste and adjust the seasoning, fluff again, garnish, and serve.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Yes, I finally finished a book!  I've been a bit laid up recently (but am now on the mend) and for some reason could not plow through my current read, Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin.  Which is a bummer since I had hoped to finish reading the 400 remaining pages!

However, light reading was no problem.  So, I loaded The Attenbury Emeralds onto my Kindle and read away.  As I've mentioned before, I have a crush on Lord Peter Wimsey and am so happy that Jill Paton Walsh has continued the series created by Dorothy Sayers.

The aftermath of World War II, missing emeralds, murders, and the Wimsey family keeping up with societal changes makes for a satisfying read.  I recommend.