Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Cake

Pumpkin-flavored things is a true sign that fall is here.  I, however, like to enjoy pumpkin goodies all year round.  I should probably just start a Pumpkiny-Things board on Pinterest.  I found this recipe this summer and have made it several times with great success.  The great thing about this recipe is that it makes cake much healthier by removing most of the traditional fats that go into it, including eggs, oil/butter, and some of the milk.  If you are concerned about your fat and cholesterol intake, but still want dessert, well now you can have your cake and eat it to.

(I apologize.  That was a terrible attempt at humor, but I couldn't resist.)

At its most basic, this recipe was only the box cake mix and the can of pumpkin stirred together and baked.  I added the spices and extra liquid to give it a more pumpkin-pie taste.

You will need:

1 box yellow cake mix
15 oz. can of pumpkin (I prefer Libby's brand)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

Empty the cake mix into a large mixing bowl.  If there are any large clumps break them up with the mixing spoon.  Stir in the cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger.  Mix the pumpkin in until well combine.  Add milk and vanilla and mix well.  Pour mixture in a greased 9x13 baking dish and spread so evenly distributed.

Bake at 350 F for 30-35 minutes. Let cool and frost if desired.

This cake is so good it doesn't really need frosting in my opinion.  In fact, the first time I made this recipe, I made it as muffins and I served them with a little whipped cream.  Sometimes with just a little powdered sugar on top.  However, we have discovered that cream cheese frosting and chocolate buttercream frosting are excellent choices.

Also, try making this with other cake mixes.  If you use a spice cake mix, you don't even need to add pumpkin spices!  I've also made it with a devil's food cake mix and it tasted...decadent.

You'll want to consume the cake within 4-5 days of baking and keep it covered.  Because it lacks the traditional sources/amounts of fat, the cake will get stale just a little quicker than normal cake.

- The Pink One

Saturday, October 6, 2012

French Chicken Soup

Here is another crockpot recipe for this brisk, fall weather.  This is a relatively simple soup, with only some liquids, chicken, and herbs.  Next time I will try adding some additional vegetables, perhaps some carrots and celery.  But it is still wonderful as is.  Get this one started in the morning before leaving for the day and come home to a house smelling of comforting goodness.

You will need:

3-4 skinless chicken breasts with bone still in
olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
8 oz can of tomato sauce
1/2 cup white wine
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sage
1 tsp rosemary
1-2 bay leaves
2 tsp Herbes de Provence (optional)

Start by preparing the crockpot, making sure it is clean and spraying a layer of non-stick cooking spray inside the crock.

In a large frying pan, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over a medium-high heat. Prepare chicken breasts by cutting off any fat.  Once pan is hot, saute the chicken breasts for a few minutes on each side until slightly golden brown.  Place chicken breasts in crockpot.

I had to cook them two at a time instead of all at once.  Make sure to not crowd the pan!

In the same pan you sauted the chicken, saute the onions for a few minutes over medium heat.  Then turn heat down to lowest setting and add garlic to the pan.  Let cook for about a minute, stirring all the while to prevent the garlic from burning.  Add garlic and onions to crockpot.

Add vegetable broth, tomato sauce, white wine, salt, black pepper, sage, rosemary, bay leaves, and Herbes de Provence to the crockpot.

Cook on low for 6 hours.

Remove chicken breasts from the crock and remove the meat from the bone.  The chicken should be so tender it will shred right off the bone.  If you have large pieces of chicken like we did, you may want to cut the chicken up a little to make them easier to eat with a spoon.

Discard bones and any other pieces you may not want in the soup.  Place desired piece of chicken back in the crock and let cook for another 20 minutes.

Serve hot with some crackers or some homemade bread.

- The Pink One

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pumpkin Scones

Once a week I have to get up earlier than usual to drive out to a rural school district.  Now that fall is officially here with winter right around the corner, that means I leave the house about the same time the sun comes up.  On days like today, the best part of my day is driving to school, watching the sun rise, and seeing all of the fall foliage light up.

A cup of coffee and the antics of a local radio morning show also help.  

On these earlier mornings I like to have something quick to eat before I leave the house.  Or something I can eat on the road.  These pumpkin scones are perfect with tea or coffee in the morning.  And they make your kitchen smell like autumn!

You will need:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
6 Tablespoons cold butter, sliced into 1/2 inch chunks
3/4 cups canned pumpkin puree
3 Tablespoons half-and-half (whole or 2% milk are acceptable)
1 egg

Go ahead and preheat your oven to 425 F (prep won't take that long).

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices.  Toss chunks of butter in the flour mixture.  If you have a pastry blender, use it to blend the butter into the flour mixture.  If you don't, a pair of forks will do the trick.  Cut and blend butter into the flour until the mixture takes on a corn meal texture and no large chunks are left.

In another bowl, whisk the pumpkin, half-and-half, and egg.  Pour into the flour mixture and stir until well combined.

Dump out onto a floured surface.  Shape into a rectangle approximately 4 x 12 inches.  Cut into 3 squares.  Then cut an X through each square, forming 4 triangles.  You'll have 12 scones in all.

I like to use a pizza cutter to make my cuts.

Place on a greased baking pan and bake for 15 minutes.  Let cool slightly and remove to cooling rack.

These are great plain, but phenomenal with chocolate or cream cheese frosting.  

- The Pink One

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Slow Cooker Grown-Up Mac n Cheese

I'm going to start out by stating: this is NOT a healthy recipe.  Healthier than making macaroni and cheese from a box?  Probably.  But its a great recipe to bring to a potluck.  Also, I will warn you that this recipe is not creamy-cheesy, but it is full of wonderful flavor.

You will need:
1 pound uncooked pasta (macaroni, rotini, penne, or shells will work best)
2 cups milk (whole or 2%)
12 oz can evaporated milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
3 eggs
1 tsp salt
2 tsp red pepper flakes
4 cups of shredded cheese (I used half Italian blend and half mild sharp)
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Begin by cooking the pasta.  In salted water, boil pasta for only 3-4 minutes.  Pasta should be even less tender than al dente.  Don't worry, it will finish cooking in the crockpot.  Drain and set aside to allow to cool.

Spray the crockpot with a non-stick spray.  Pour in milk, evaporated milk, and butter and give it a quick whisk.  Add eggs one at a time, whisking well.  Better yet, use an emulsion blender. Stir in salt, red pepper flakes, and about half of the cheese.  Stir in cooked pasta, green onions, garlic, and the rest of the cheese, making sure the pasta is coated with the milk mixture.  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.

Cook on High for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to Low and cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Reheats reasonably well, but best eaten right away.

- The Pink One

Friday, September 14, 2012

Peanut Butter and Nutella Cookies

Nutella is possibly the best thing to come out of Italy since gelato and and the modern road system.  It's hazelnuts and chocolate blended into a smooth, creamy butter that tastes better than anything has the right to.

And finally there is a recipe that brings this chocolaty concoction into cookie form.  I'll shut up now and give you the recipe.

You will need:

3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
2 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup Nutella

Cream butter, peanut butter, and sugars together in a large mixing bowl.  Once creamed, stir in eggs one at a time until well combined.  Stir in vanilla extract.  Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt until well-combined and dough is formed.  Take Nutella and place in large dollops on top of dough.  Using a butter knife, swirl Nutella throughout the dough so that the dough becomes marbled with chocolaty goodness.  Put dough in refrigerator for one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F.  On a greased cookie sheet place dough by the spoonful at least 2 inches apart.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Let cook slightly before transferring to a cooling rack.

- The Pink One

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Pesto and Tomato Penne

Now that I've shared my pesto recipe, it seems only fitting that I share a pasta dish that uses it.  This is a quick and easy dish we put together after a long day of classes.

You will need:

1 cup uncooked penne pasta
1 Roma tomato OR 4-5 cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons of pesto sauce

Cook penne in salted water.  Drain water.

Chop Roma tomatoes into small, bite-sized pieces or cherry tomatoes in half.  In the same pot you cooked the pasta in, place pasta and tomatoes.  Cook over a medium-low heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add pesto and stir to coat pasta.  Let simmer for a few minutes.

Serve with a little grated Parmesan cheese and glass of wine.

- The Pink One


We love the local farmers' market.  Even though The Olive and Yellow Ones have been nurturing tomatoes, squash, and herbs all summer, sometimes you need more of one thing than the garden can provide at once.  This weekend one of the deals I spotted at the market was on basil.  This huge bag of basil for only $4.  I decided it was time to make another huge batch of basil pesto and to share the recipe with you.

Pesto is one of those things you have to make partially by site, as the amount of liquid in the basil can vary.  Here is my general recipe.  I also adjust depending on how much basil I have available.

You will need:

1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted (see instructions below)
2 cups fresh basil leaves (pack it down into the measuring cup)
1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
Pinch of salt and pepper 

Start by toasting the pine nuts.  Place a non-stick pan on the stove top and pour pine nuts in.  Toast on a medium-low level. Stir nuts frequently.  Keep a sharp eye and nose on the pine nuts.  Due to their oil content they can go from nicely toasted to burnt to a crisp in no time flat.  As soon as the nuts reach toasty goodness, remove from heat and set aside to cool down.  If you burn them, throw them away and start again.



In a food processor or blender, place basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and salt and pepper.  Pour about half of the olive oil in and pulse, making sure all of the basil leaves and pieces of garlic are being processed.  Keep blending and add enough olive oil to make the mixture the consistency of a thick, oily paste.  The amount of oil needed can vary, but I typically try to add the least amount needed.

If you are making a large batch like I did, you will need to add the leaves in batches.  Get all of the other ingredients in with the first batch (minus half of the olive oil) to insure they are properly processed.  Add the remaining basil in small batches, adding oil as needed.

Store in an air-tight container in the fridge.  It will keep well for about 3-4 weeks. You can also freeze the pesto sauce.  There will be some browning of the top layer either way.  This will not affect the taste of the pesto, but place a piece of clingfilm directly on top of the pesto to prevent air from getting to it if you are concerned.  

Enjoy in your favorite pasta dish or try it on some fish or chicken.  Click here for a favorite quick pasta dish.

-  The Pink One