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Mini Gingerbread Cookies

Mini Gingerbread Cookies

I’m pretty sure that this is the first year I’ve ever made gingerbread cookies, and certainly the first year I’ve ever made these mini gingerbread cookies.  I think it may be because growing up, we were a sugar cookie family rather than a gingerbread cookie family.  I remember decorating sugar cookies when I was quite young and then taking over making sugar cookies in my early teens.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that I ever even made gingerbread: for several years in a row, I made Heidi Swanson’s black sticky gingerbread recipe instead of Christmas cookies for our Christmas dinner.

So what started my gingerbread cookie baking marathon this year?  It had everything to do with Food ‘n Flix and the December movie pick: Krampus.  After all, I had to have a gingerbread man to set on fire for this week’s Friday Happy Hour post.  Come back on Friday to see both the flaming gingerbread man, along with a flambe gingerbread cocktail.  Can I just say – setting booze on fire – best thing ever.  I digress.  In order to get a gingerbread man, I had to figure out how to make gingerbread cookies.  After some experimentation, I landed on this recipe.  It’s not a great construction gingerbread recipes (as I learned the hard way after an attempt to make a rudimentary gingerbread structures), but it does make an absolutely delightful cookie.

All the gingerbread shenanigans were also a great way to spend the first snow day I’ve experienced since moving to the Portland area.  My initial reaction last week was to scoff at the snow day without snow (which was how the morning began) and then later to realize that ice storms up here are no joke.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen my car encased in ice before.  I was glad to have these mini gingerbread cookies to enjoy with a cup of coffee in the afternoon.  These have also made great treats for lunch throughout the week.

Mini Gingerbread Cookies

Mini Gingerbread Cookies

Mini Gingerbread Cookies

Mini Gingerbread Cookies

Ingredients

  • Gingerbread Cookies
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons gingerbread spice mix (below)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Gingerbread Spice
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Gingerbread Spice
  3. Combine all the spices for the gingerbread spice in a small jar. This makes sufficient gingerbread spice for several recipes. Set aside.
  4. Gingerbread Cookies
  5. Combine all the dry ingredients, from flour through the freshly grated ginger in a small bowl.
  6. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add the molasses, egg, and vanilla. Combine. Add the dry ingredients and mix. Knead the dough a bit in the bowl to incorporate all the dry ingredients and to get the gingerbread to a smooth texture.
  7. Separate the gingerbread dough into four smaller balls. Roll out one ball at a time to about 1/4 inch thick and cut out using your desired cookie cutters. For mini gingerbread cookies, use small cookie cutters. Place the gingerbread cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Cookies can be placed fairly close to one another without sticking.
  8. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes, checking after 10 minutes. Cookies are done when they are lightly browned on the bottom. Ice with your favorite icing. Enjoy!
  9. Makes anywhere between 36 - 48 cookies depending on the size of cookie cutter.
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Vegan Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes and 1 Year Blogiversary!

Vegan Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes and 1 Year Blogiversary!

Vegan Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

I’m sharing my vegan chocolate cherry cupcakes recipe today on the blog, in celebration of Fix Me a Little Lunch’s one year anniversary!  It’s hard for me to believe I’ve been doing this for a full year now – it seems like just yesterday that I was setting everything up and stumbling around in WordPress.

As I was preparing to write this post, I went back in to see when I actually posted my first recipe.  As it turns out, my first recipe was posted on December 9, 2015 and it was a pasta and kale pesto recipe – no surprise there.  I love kale pesto this time of year and never say no to pasta as a comfort lunch food.  So much has happened in the past year since I started regularly blogging: I changed jobs, moving from a small rural Southern Oregon town to the growing metropolitan area of Portland, Oregon; we downsized a significant amount of our stuff to make moving easier, since I’m on a short-term contract right now and anticipate moving again in the near future; some other things happened in 2015 that were emotionally exhausting.  The blog has been a saving outlet for me – a creative safe space to explore food and food photography, and an opportunity to work with a community of bloggers I didn’t even know existed when I started.  There have certainly been challenges: as we were moving, I had to stop blogging for a bit as I simply didn’t have the time to cook.  I’ve figured out a lot of things the hard way (who knew you could easily resize photos in WordPress?  I didn’t until about a month ago).  I posted a recipe to a Food 52 contest and left out a key ingredient.  I’ve also delved into social media, starting an Instagram feed, which is so much fun, and learning the basics of Twitter.

Some really great things have happened, too: one of my all time favorite bloggers, Toni at Boulder Locavore started following my Instagram feed.  One of my photos was (finally) accepted on Food Gawker.  I posted quite a few recipes to several of my favorite bloggy linkups, including Cook the Books, Food ‘n’ Flix, Cook Once and Eat Twice, and Novel Foods.  I realized I especially love blog challenges that combine my two loves: cooking and reading, so you’ll be seeing a lot more recipes inspired by the book selections for Cook the Books this upcoming year.  I’ve had a chance to get to know one of the bloggers, Becca, from the Facebook group The Blog Passion Project better via the holiday mug exchange.  If you get a chance, check out Becca’s blog: The Fit Foodnista.  All and all, it’s been a great year.

I’m definitely looking forward to a new year of blogging.  I’ve started up a real editorial calendar, as I’m finding it helps me stay on track and post regularly.  I anticipate that I’ll have a newsletter up and running some time in the New Year and I’m going to start working on an e-book.  I’ll keep sharing recipes for lunches, of course, but will also be posting recipes for freezer meals, for cocktails, for things I’ve baked.  I’ll also keep being seasonal, as it’s pretty much the way Clay and I eat all the time.  I’m sure I’ll be traveling in the New Year, so expect more Travel Thursday posts.  Wherever I land for a job, know that I’ll be exploring the food there and posting about it.

In the meantime, my little blog has turned 1 and in celebration of this first blogiversary, I made some vegan chocolate cherry cupcakes.  Fix Me a Little Lunch is a holiday blog-baby, so I thought I would cook something that would look and taste equally good on a holiday dessert buffet.  Thank you for taking the time to read my blog this year and I’m looking forward to many years of food to come.

Vegan Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

vegan chocolate cherry cupcakes

blogiversary-cakes-with-candle-and-ornaments

 

Vegan Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup soy milk or almond milk (unflavored or vanilla flavored)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 dried Bing cherries
  • For the vegan vanilla bean frosting
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon almond milk or soy milk
  • Seeds scraped from one vanilla pod

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients (from the flour to the baking cocoa) in a medium sized bowl. Stir to combine. Add the wet ingredients (from the coconut oil to the vanilla extract) and stir until most of the lumps are out. The batter will be a little lumpy, which is fine. Grease or use muffin cup liners for either a 24 cup mini-muffin pan or for 12 cups of regular sized muffin pans. If you are doing mini-muffins, cut the dried Bing cherries in half and place one at the bottom of each muffin pan cup. If you are using regular sized muffin pans, put one dried Bing cherry at the bottom of each.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes for mini-cupcakes (check after 15 minutes).
  4. Bake for 20-30 minutes for regular sized cupcakes (check after 20 minutes).
  5. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick or knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. While the cupcakes are baking, prepare the frosting. Combine the powdered sugar, soy or almond milk, and vanilla pod seeds in a small bowl and mix until they are combined. Add more powdered sugar or soy/almond milk if you desire a different consistency. Enjoy!
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This post is linked up to the Treat Petite for December, hosted by The Baking Explorer.  Check out The Baking Explorer and Cakeyboi for previous month’s petite treat recipes.

Biscuits and Gravy with Cacio e Pepe Scones

Biscuits and Gravy with Cacio e Pepe Scones

If you are looking for a post-Thanksgiving brunch recipe that doesn’t involve turkey, look no further than biscuits and gravy with cacio e pepe scones.

For some years, I’ve wanted to make the perfect biscuit, which is basically the biscuit of nostalgia – the biscuit that my grandmother used to make.  I watched her make biscuits for years: in fact, my first cooking experiments were rolling out a bit of biscuit dough and adding sprinkles and other oddball ingredients to them.  My grandma would dutifully bake these biscuit cookies along with the biscuits for dinner and I’m sure that my grandfather equally dutifully would eat and praise them.  For as long as I watched, though, I don’t actually remember what ingredients she used.

My husband, Clay, experiences the same nostalgia.  He has a biscuit memory from his grandma’s cooking, which we haven’t been able to pinpoint or reproduce, though we’ve tried.  I realized, though, after making scones some time ago that my scone recipe is remarkably biscuit like: light, fluffy, and buttery.  I’ve wanted to try out a savory scone/biscuit and then make gravy.

So this weekend, make up a batch of cacio e pepe scones and smother them in sausage and gravy – you won’t be disappointed and I think both our grandmothers would approve.

biscuits and gravy

 

Biscuits and Gravy with Cacio e Pepe Scones

Cacio e Pepe Scones
Makes 12 scones

2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/2 cup butter
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, Pecorino Romano or similar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and black pepper.  Cut the butter into slices.  Add the butter into the dry mixture and either use a pastry cutter or your hands to incorporate the butter until it forms pea size chunks.  Add the cheese and mix it in.  Add the heavy cream and egg gently incorporating until all the flour/butter mixture is wet and sticks together in a shaggy dough.

Turn the dough out onto a parchment lined baking sheet and form into a circle.  Cut the dough into twelve pieces that radiate out from the middle of the circle.  Gently separate each piece – you want just a bit of space between each scone so that they can rise.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the tops of the scones are golden brown.  These can be frozen and reheated wrapped in aluminum foil at 350 degrees for about thirty minutes.

Cream Gravy with Sausage
Serves 4

6 links cooked sausage, cut into small pieces.
1 tablespoon drippings from the cooked sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cup milk
Black pepper to taste

Heat the drippings and oil over medium heat in a small saucepan.  Add the flour a bit at a time, whisking constantly.  The flour may clump a bit and that’s fine.  Once all the flour is incorporated, add the milk slowly, continuing to whisk.   Bring to a low simmer and cook until the gravy begins to thicken.  Stir the entire time to keep the milk from burning.  When the gravy is to your preferred consistency, take off the heat and add the sausage.

Serve the cream gravy with sausage over one or more Cacio e Pepe scones, split in half.  Enjoy!

This post is linked to Cook Once Eat Twice November at Searching for Spice.  Check out the other great recipes!

cookonceeattwice-2

Mini Pumpkin Pies Four Ways

Mini Pumpkin Pies Four Ways

Like many American families, my family had distinct Thanksgiving traditions and rituals, particularly around food.  This mini pumpkin pies blend new traditions and old, giving a nod to healthier eating with small portion sizes, along with sharing two traditional pumpkin pie recipes from my maternal and paternal grandmothers.

As a child, I had a weird relationship with pumpkin pie.  I can remember being as young as three or four and absolutely hating pumpkin pie – I don’t know if it was the texture or the taste that was the problem, but I was not having it.  Somewhere around the age of five, though, my maternal grandmother decided to tell me that pumpkin pie was really chocolate pie.  I could buy it – the color was right, and that year, I ate pumpkin pie.  I don’t know exactly when they told me the truth, but I do know that by the time I was older, pumpkin pie was one of my favorite holiday treats.

I was very close to my maternal grandparents and less so with my paternal grandparents.  My grandma on my mom’s side was the primary Thanksgiving chef, though it was my grandfather’s responsibility to mash the potatoes and my mother usually made a pumpkin praline pie each year to contribute to the feast.  My grandma made the most perfect pie crust and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized her secret was adding in just a bit of apple vinegar to help the crust puff.  Her pumpkin pie had more sugar in it – I’ve cut the sugar down quite a bit, as too sweet is not to my taste.

The pumpkin praline pie was my paternal grandmother’s recipe.  It’s not a recipe I’ve seen widely reproduced, so I’m not sure if she got it from her mother or from a cookbook or a friend.  I do know that it is a rich, beautiful recipe that blends brown sugar, pecans, and butter in a layer under the pumpkin, giving the pumpkin a hint of nuttiness.  My paternal grandmother would make the recipe with either walnuts or pecans.  The variation with walnuts was born of thrift – pecans could be too expensive for the era in which this pie was conceived.

This year, I decided to create a homage to both grandmothers and to both my younger and older selves by making mini pumpkin pies with four variations: a pumpkin pie using my maternal grandmother’s recipe, a praline pumpkin pie using my paternal grandmother’s recipe, a chocolate pumpkin pie (for my five year old self), and an eggnog pumpkin pie to celebrate changing tastes and the fact I’m old enough to buy and add booze to my pie.   Note that if you choose to make all four variations, you’ll end up with a lot of mini pumpkin pies – each variation makes approximately 36 pies.  You can, however, take the basic pumpkin pie recipe and make three of the four variations from the one pie recipe: the basic pumpkin pie, the praline pumpkin pie, and the chocolate pumpkin pie.  Simply split the basic pumpkin pie mix into three bowls, leaving one without add-ins, adding the praline mixture to the base of one, and adding the cocoa powder and crème de cacao to the third.   The really good news about the mini pumpkin pies is that they freeze beautifully and can be made in advance of Thanksgiving.  Simply let them sit in the fridge for a few hours before dinner and they will be ready in time for dessert.

pumpkin-pie-shells

pumpkin-and-eggnog-pies-prebake

Mini Pumpkin Pies Four Ways

Basic Pumpkin and Pumpkin Praline

Mini Pumpkin Pies
Makes 36

Perfect Pie Crust
3 cups flour
1 ½ cups salted butter (if using unsalted, add ½ teaspoon salt to the dough)
1 ½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar
½ cup cold water

Mix the flour and the salt (if needed).  Cut the butter into chunks and add to the flour.  Using a fork, a pastry cutter, or your hands, mix the butter into the flour so that there are pea size chunks of butter throughout.  Don’t over mix.  Add the apple cider vinegar and a tablespoon of water at a time until the dough starts to stick together.  Use a spoon or your hands to mix the dough until it sticks together and is manageable.  Put the dough in the fridge for two hours.

Basic Pumpkin Pie
½ can of evaporated milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until they are combined.

Split your dough into 36 small balls of roughly the same size. Flatten each out and either roll or stretch until they are large enough to fill a mini-cupcake/muffin pan cup.  Flute the dough around the top of the cup.  Pour the pumpkin pie mix into each cup, filling to the top.   Note: if you have only one mini-cupcake pan, put 12 of the dough balls into the fridge, along with the remaining pie mix and bake in two separate batches.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the pie mix is set (or a knife inserted into a mini-pie comes out clean).  Let cool completely.  If not eating right away, either freeze or store in the refrigerator.  Enjoy!

Variations

Pumpkin Praline Pie
Basic Pumpkin pie mix from above
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons butter

Combine the brown sugar, pecans, and butter in small bowl.  The mix should form a crumb.  Fill the muffin pans with dough as above.  Place a scant teaspoon of this mixture at the base of each dough cup.  Fill each cup with the basic pumpkin pie mix and bake as directed above.

Pumpkin Chocolate Pie
Basic Pumpkin pie ingredients from above
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon crème de cacao

Add the cocoa powder and crème de cacao to the basic pumpkin pie mix.  Fill the muffin pans with dough as above and fill each with the pumpkin chocolate pie mix.   Bake as directed above.

Eggnog Pumpkin Pie
¾ cup eggnog
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon rum
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Fill the muffin pans with dough as above and fill each with the eggnog pumpkin pie mix.  Bake as directed above.

Note – if you don’t want to make mini-pies, each recipe and variation above will make one pie.  If you are making one full-size pie, reduce the dough ingredients to 2 cups flour, 1 cup salted butter, 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and ¼ cup cold water.   Baking time will be 50 minutes for a full sized pie at 350 degrees or until set.

This post is linked to the Saucy Saturday #71 Linky Party.  For more wonderful holiday recipes, check out the hosts’ sites:

Take Two Tapas, La Petit Chef, Mid-Life Croissant and The Flavor Bender

Cacio e Pepe Scones

Cacio e Pepe Scones

Cacio e Pepe Scones

Cacio e Pepe scones are my contribution to Food’n Flix this month.  Food’n Flix is a fun blogging opportunity to watch the same movie as other amazing food bloggers and be inspired.  This month’s movie, Burnt, was hosted by Caroline Makes. Burnt is an absolutely quintessential cooking movie about a burned out chef who makes a major come back and finds love and inspiration along the way.

The first time I watched Burnt was on an airplane on my I-Pad on the way to Indianapolis a few weeks ago.  I thought that creating food inspired from this movie would be easy – it’s a movie about a chef and about food, after all, so how hard could it be?  After watching the movie through the first time, I realized it was going to be more challenging than I’d originally thought.  There are so many fast paced camera shots of all the food that the main character Adam, played by Bradley Cooper, plates, serves, and eats that I couldn’t quite figure out what was actually being cooked.  Then I was distracted by the plot line and found myself more engaged with the drama between the characters than the food.  So I watched the movie a second time this past week while I was in Chicago, pen and notebook in hand.  It provided a great distraction from all the real-world drama that was going on with the US election.  So much beautiful food: seared shrimp, bouillabaisse, summer vegetables on ricotta cheese, turbot, beets, oysters, omelettes, mushrooms, beef, lamb.  But my favorite food moment in the film is at the very start when Adam suggests adding chopped sage to a luscious looking bowl of cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper pasta).  I got to thinking about the combination of cheese and black pepper and then even more about food and how it can bring such comfort – whether one is taking care of a chef who has gone on a binge by cooking a simple omelette or if one is just trying to recover from the election hangover.   I love cheese and black pepper and I love scones, so decided to see what would happen if I combined these elements.

I have to say that I’m very pleased with how these scones turned out.  I even went digging through the pantry to find a jar of tomato jam I made last year to see how it would taste on a scone (it’s delicious).  These are so creamy they are nearly biscuit like, so I’m pretty sure we are going to make some sausage gravy next weekend and warm up a few scones in lieu of biscuits.   I also think these would be great with a glass of a robust red wine as a holiday appetizer.

cacio-e-pepe-scone

multiple-scones

Cacio e Pepe Scones
Makes 12 scones

2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/2 cup butter
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, Pecorino Romano or similar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and black pepper.  Cut the butter into slices.  Add the butter into the dry mixture and either use a pastry cutter or your hands to incorporate the butter until it forms pea size chunks.  Add the cheese and mix it in.  Add the heavy cream and egg gently incorporating until all the flour/butter mixture is wet and sticks together in a shaggy dough.

Turn the dough out onto a parchment lined baking sheet and form into a circle.  Cut the dough into twelve pieces that radiate out from the middle of the circle.  Gently separate each piece – you want just a bit of space between each scone so that they can rise.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the tops of the scones are golden brown.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Date Bread

Pumpkin Date Bread

The October/November pick for the Cook the Books Club was Jessica Soffer’s Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots.

book

I had very mixed feelings about this book.  It was well written enough for me to stay engaged and read it to the end, largely because I connected to the main character, Lorca, though throughout the book, I really, really found myself disliking her mother and her absolutely blase disregard for her daughter’s desperate need for her love.  Full disclosure here – in another not too long ago life, I worked very closely with populations of both adults and young adults who were highly at-risk and often engaged in very risky behaviors, of which self-mutilation was often the least of it.  I think that’s why I struggled with this book so much – I know that it takes a lot of perseverance for someone to save themselves and few get so lucky to find a Victoria, the other main character and a former restaurant owner, to help them.

Ok – now that that’s out there…the book was a feast of good food.  After all, the entire focus is on how food can bring those who are desperately lonely together, and that particular theme resonates for me.  I left the book with the feeling that food could transform Lorca’s life and make her into a resilient adult and that made me happy.  It also made me happy to go flipping back through the book when I was done and think about what inspired me.  I finally landed on a variation of date bread, because of this line of Victoria’s: “‘Date bread,’ I said. ‘From my country.’ Oldest trick in the book: bake something to make guests feel at home.”  It is November, after all, and I’ve been in a baking mood.  My pumpkin date bread relies on the flavors of the season with a good dose of pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin puree.  The dates give it an extra punch of sweetness.  It’s dense and chewy and goes really well with a cup of coffee in the afternoon.

This is also pretty easy to put together and makes a generous two loafs – perfect for having a loaf to eat now and one to freeze for later.  Last, but not least, this is a low-fat pumpkin date bread, which gets much of its moist texture from unsweetened apple sauce and Greek yogurt.

full-loaf-pumpkin-date-bread

pumpkin-date-bread

 

Pumpkin Date Bread
Makes 2 loaves

3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree (or 1 15 ounce can)
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup chopped dates

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the dry ingredients, from the flour through the white sugar in a large bowl and mix.  Combine the wet ingredients, from the pumpkin puree through the eggs in a small bowl and mix to incorporate all the ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing just enough to incorporate all the dry ingredients.  Add the dates.

Divide the batter between two bread pans that have either been buttered or that are lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 45 minutes or until a knife or skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Enjoy!

 

Many thanks to Cook the Books Club – I’ve had so much fun developing recipes based on the last two challenges.  I’m looking forward to more reading and cooking in the future!

cookthebooks

I’ve also linked up with this month’s tea time treat challenge, which is all about comfort food (and what’s more comforting that fresh bread?).  Check out the wonderful hosts of Tea Time Treats:  Lavender and Lovage, Travels for Taste and Jo’s Kitchen. Lavender and Lovage is hosting this month, so be sure to check out all the recipes for Tea Time Treats here.

Tea Time Treats
Pumpkin Pie Spice Biscotti

Pumpkin Pie Spice Biscotti

I’m so delighted that fall is here!  I couldn’t resist baking a batch of pumpkin pie spice biscotti this weekend, just to celebrate the start of October.  These cookies make the entire house smell like the holidays – the pumpkin pie spice is so fragrant.  I’m pretty generous with ginger in my spice blend and it comes through in a nice subtle way in these cookies. 

I’ve been thinking some about the pumpkin pie spice craze – I’ll admit that as soon as it started raining, I was in line at Starbucks for my first Pumpkin Pie Spice Latte for the year, which really, honestly, tastes nothing like pumpkin or spice.  I’ve since been sampling similar lattes at other coffee shops and have found a few favorites to get me through the season.  I’ve also thought a lot about pumpkin pie spice – I don’t know when it became de rigueur to DIY pumpkin pie spice.  I remember buying the premixed spice and having it around as a staple in the spice pantry.  It’s so simple to mix up the spices yourself though, so I’m happy about this particular cooking trend. 

And since this post is all about starting fall off with pumpkin, I recently read an interesting article that most canned pumpkin isn’t actually pumpkin at all, but is generally a blend of other winter squashes, like butternut squash because other winter squashes are less stringy than pumpkin and make a smoother puree.  This was a bit of a revelation for me: I’ve been making my own pumpkin puree for years now and every time I open up a roasted pie pumpkin, I’ve thought – this thing looks more like an orange spaghetti squash than pumpkin puree, so what am I doing wrong?  Then I put the thought aside, mash it up some, and throw it in the freezer to be used in things like these pumpkin pie spice biscotti or pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.   The stringiness isn’t noticeable when it’s cooked into a baked good or even when it’s blended into a smoothie, so I’ll keep on making my pumpkin puree with pumpkin. 

The bottom line here is that pumpkin and spice is a winning combination.  Enjoy these pumpkin pie spice biscotti with a cup of coffee (or a pumpkin spice latte) or a cup of tea and sit back and watch the leaves fall.

pumpkin-pie-spice-biscotti-2

Pumpkin Pie Spice Biscotti
Makes 2 dozen

½ cup pumpkin puree (recipe for DIY pumpkin puree here)
1 egg
4 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (see below to make your own)
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
To dip or drizzle:
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugar in a medium sized bowl.  Add the pumpkin puree and egg and mix.  In a smaller bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and combine until all the dry ingredients are mixed in. 

Turn the dough out onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Divide it into two sections and form each into a loaf.  Flatten each loaf out a bit on top. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. 

Remove the biscotti loafs from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.  Use a serrated edged knife to slice the loafs into ½ slices – you’ll be able to get about 12 cookies from each loaf.  Place the biscotti back on the baking sheet in a single layer.  As they will not rise anymore at this point, they don’t need space between them, so you can fit all the biscotti on one baking sheet.

Bake the sliced biscotti at 325 for 25 minutes or until they are brown and crispy looking.  I usually flip them over about half way through to ensure even baking on both sides. 

When the biscotti are baked, open the oven door and let the cookies cool in the oven for 15 minutes for a very crisp biscotti.  Pull them out of the oven and finish cooling on a cooling rack. 

When the biscotti are cooled, melt the chocolate chips (in two separate saucepans) and use them to drizzle to decorate.  You can also dip the cookies in chocolate and nuts or just in chocolate.  Let the cookies air dry and then store in an airtight container.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Pie Spice
3 tablespoons cinnamon
2 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
2 ½ teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons allspice
1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves

Mix all the spices together in an airtight container. 

Kale, Walnut, and Prosciutto Flatbread

Kale, Walnut, and Prosciutto Flatbread

I’ve been toying with the idea of making flatbread for lunch for a while now, so when I saw a big bunch of Lacinato Kale at the market this weekend, I decided it pair it with walnuts and prosciutto to make kale walnut, and prosciutto flatbread.  This is a riff on a pasta dish I used to make all the time that included kale, walnuts and feta cheese.  If you wanted to do a vegetarian version of this flatbread, I think feta would make a lovely substitution for the prosciutto.

At the same time that I start to miss tomato season, fall in the PNW responds with an abundant of fall veggies, including kale.  I enjoy the texture of Lacinato Kale (and particularly love the fact that it’s more common name is Dinosaur Kale – I envision large primordial kale plants being munched on by some veggie loving dinosaur).  Walnuts and kale are such natural partners, especially when the walnuts are lightly toasted.

You could use a pre-made flatbread for this, or use my quick no-rise focaccia recipe.  The top of the focaccia was very uneven, so I flipped it over and used the bottom for the top of the flatbread.  I’ve been eating this for lunch this week, along with the last of the figs of the season with some Greek yogurt.  It’s been a good lunch for cooler days, particularly after I’ve taken a little break to walk around the neighborhood where I work and watch the leaves fall.

fall-flatbread-with-kale-and-prosciutto

Kale, Walnut and Prosciutto Flatbread
Serves 4

No Rise Focaccia
2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons yeast (or one package)
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups flour

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

Prepare two cake pans by either cutting out parchment paper to fit the bottom and up a bit on the sides or thoroughly oiling them.  Combine all the ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl and mix.  Flour your hands (the dough is very sticky) and split the dough into two pieces.  Pat each piece into a cake plan until the dough covers the bottom of the pan.  Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the top is golden and the bread sounds hollow when gently tapped.  Set aside on a cooling rack to cool.

Kale, Walnut and Prosciutto Flatbread
2 no-rise focaccias or 2 store-bought flatbreads
1 bunch Lacinato kale, de stemmed and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped walnuts
8 pieces of prosciutto
½ cup parmesan cheese

Set your oven to broil.  Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the kale and salt.  Sauté until the kale is wilted.  Divide the kale between the two flatbreads, spreading it evenly over the surface of each.  Layer the prosciutto on top and sprinkle with the walnuts.  Top with parmesan cheese.  Broil for five minutes or until the cheese is gently browned and melted.  Enjoy!

Pear and Chocolate Scones

Pear and Chocolate Scones

These pear and chocolate scones came about because I drank a cup of Earl Grey tea the other afternoon and decided that my next cup of tea needed to be accompanied by scones.  That, and, through a moment of marital miscommunication at Trader Joe’s last weekend, we ended up with two boxes of butter, two dozen eggs, and two containers of heavy cream, which neither of us realized until we were home and unloading the groceries.  Fortunately, scones use heavy cream, eggs, and butter and even more fortunate still, it was a rainy and gloomy weekend, which made it perfect for scone experimentation.

I also bought pears, which are a somewhat ambivalent fruit for me.  I like pears and I feel obligated to buy them in the fall.  Unfortunately, I often forget that they are lurking in the fridge (though I recently read they shouldn’t be stored in the fridge at all), and end up with pear mush.  This time of year, I see all the lovely pear recipes – pear galettes, pear tarts, fancy whole pears in cakes – and think, this will be the year I make something fancy with pears.

I don’t know that these scones exactly fit the bill of fanciness with pear.  However, they are a good start in that direction and may inspire me to break out the rough puff pastry next week and cook up some pastry laden pears.  In the meantime, these go really well with a cup of coffee, as well as with a cup of tea.  They were fairly quick to put together, too, and can last a few days in an airtight container, so make a great morning-at-work snack.

pre-bake-scones

(I didn’t mean to cut these as crazily as I did – I was aiming for mini-scones and went off the rails.  My advice – make the cuts like you would for a pizza.)

scones-post-bake

chocolate-and-pear-scone-with-tea-and-pears

Pear and Chocolate Scones
Serves 12

2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
½ cup heavy cream
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pear, chopped into small pieces
½ cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Cut the butter into slices.  Add the butter into the dry mixture and either use a pastry cutter or your hands to incorporate the butter until it forms pea size chunks.  Add the heavy cream, egg and vanilla and gently incorporate until all the flour/butter mixture is wet and sticks together in a shaggy dough.  Add the pear and chocolate chips and gently incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a parchment lined baking sheet and form into a circle.  Cut the dough into twelve pieces that radiate out from the middle of the circle.  Gently separate each piece – you want just a bit of space between each scone so that they can rise.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the tops of the scones are golden brown.  Enjoy!

Chicken, Broccoli, Cheddar Calzones

Chicken, Broccoli, Cheddar Calzones

For this week’s Sunday Supper, I want to share one of my comfort foods: chicken, broccoli, cheddar calzones.  Calzones are such a perfect food – dough and filling.  Best yet, they are very, very freezer friendly, so, though they can take a bit of time to put together, they work well for super easy weekday meals: pull the calzone out of the freezer and toss it in the oven (still foil wrapped) for 45 minutes or so at 350 degrees.

It’s started to rain again in my part of the PNW, so I have little desire to do much beyond sit around, read, and cook comfort food.  With this weather, I’m also much more likely to want to cook something “fancy” on the weekend, so you’ll likely see a few posts like this one this fall and winter.  I also can’t resist roasted garlic – so if you aren’t a fan, feel free to leave it out.  Calzones are so very versatile – I highly encourage you to think of other great combinations for the filling and use the dough as a base for your own creations.

baked-calzones cheesy-broccoli-and-chicken-calzones-both-sides

 

Chicken, Broccoli, Cheddar Calzones
Serves 6

Calzone Dough
2 cups warm water
2 packets active dry yeast (or 4 ½ teaspoons yeast)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
6 cups flour

Cheese Sauce
Roasted garlic from one head roasted garlic
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
¾ cup half and half
¾ cup shredded cheddar or gruyere cheese

Filling
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 head broccoli
¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place chicken thighs into an oven proof dish and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with one teaspoon salt.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees.  Once thighs are cooked, set aside.

While the chicken is cooking, make the dough.  Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let sit for a few minutes until the yeast becomes foamy.  Add the olive oil to the yeast, and then one cup flour and the salt.  Mix.  Continue to add flour until the dough comes together in a shaggy ball.  Turn out on a well-surface and knead for 6 to 8 minutes.  The dough should be a bit sticky still but not so much so that it sticks to your hands or to the surface.  Let the dough rise for an hour in a bowl covered with oiled plastic wrap or a few clean tea towels.  Punch the dough down and let it rise for another hour.

Reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees.

In the last half hour that the dough is rising, prepare the cheese sauce. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat and add the roast garlic.  Stir a few times and then whisk the flour in a little bit at a time.  Once the flour is fully incorporated, let cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for a minute.  Add the half and half slowly, continuing to stir until it is fully incorporated. Continue to stir until the sauce starts to thicken.  Take the sauce off the burner and stir in the cheese. Set aside.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Chop the broccoli into small pieces. Sauté in a non-stick pan for five to seven minutes to slightly soften. Chop the chicken into small pieces.

In a large bowl, combine the chicken, broccoli, sauce, and remaining shredded cheese. Stir well.

Punch down the calzone dough and split into six pieces. On a well-floured surface, roll out the first piece into a circle. Place 1/6th of the chicken and sauce mixture in the middle of the circle and fold half over the filling. Crimp down around the edges and place the calzone on the parchment lined baking sheet. Do the same with the remaining dough and filling.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the calzones are golden brown on top and bottom. Enjoy!

I’m pleased to have this recipe on the Saucy Saturdays Blog Hop.  Please take a minute and check out the links to the hosts’ websites – these are some of my favorite blogs and Instagram feeds!

La Petit Chef
Mid-life Croissant
Take Two Tapas
The Flavor Blender

 

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