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Star Anise Panna Cotta

Star Anise Panna Cotta

Star Anise Panna Cotta

Star Anise Panna Cotta is a great recipe for an indulgent breakfast treat or late day snack.  It’s also my entry for February’s Food ‘n Flix for the movie Pan’s Labyrinth.  (Food ‘n Flix is hosted this month by Katharina at Pretty Cake Machine).  Pan’s Labyrinth is a dark fairy tale directed by Guillermo del Toro.  The story takes place in post-civil war Spain in 1944.  There’s an undercurrent of political unrest and distress, and the film itself is a dark telling of a young girl following mythical creatures into the labyrinth.  I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice it to say, it doesn’t end well.  It’s one of those films that’s incredible for its filmography and story, but probably best not watched if you are depressed.

Both times I’ve watched this movie, I’ve done so kind of between my fingers – yep, I’m a wimp when it comes to dark movies.  Still, I was inspired to create my star anise panna cotta.  The inspiration came from the scene in which Ofelia encounters the Pale Man at a banquet.  Of course, much like Persephone going into Hades, Ofelia shouldn’t be touching any of the food at the banquet – and of course, all the food is beautiful and alluring (and of course, she eats something, thus jeopardizing her very future).  I was particularly drawn to the molded desserts, which got me to thinking about jello molds and the like – very old fashioned desserts.  The whole temptation and desire thing came to mind, too, especially since we are moving swiftly toward Valentine’s Day.

All of this led me to making panna cotta.  Panna cotta is a rich, creamy dessert that has that air of old-fashioned about it.  At first, I thought I might aim for a bright sauce for my panna cotta, but then decided to go a bit darker, landing on a star anise caramel for the sauce, which complements the star anise panna cotta nicely.

star anise panna cotta

star anise panna cotta

star anise panna cotta

Just in case you don’t want to try to get the panna cotta to cooperate coming out of its mold – this tastes just as good in a small jar.  It sets nicely, and you can just drizzle the sauce over the top, throw a lid on it, and call it an afternoon snack.

Star Anise Panna Cotta

Ingredients

    Brown Sugar Star Anise Simple Syrup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 star anise pods
  • Star Anise Panna Cotta
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 star anise pods
  • Star anise caramel
  • 1 cup sugar (either white or brown)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar star anise simple syrup

Instructions

  1. Make the brown sugar star anise simple syrup first. Combine the brown sugar, water, and star anise pods in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool for at least an hour (though for more intense flavor, refrigerate overnight). Remove the star anise pods.
  2. Make the star anise panna cotta. In a small saucepan, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water. Bring the gelatin/water mix to a simmer and fully dissolve the gelatin. Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine the heavy cream and the star anise pods and bring to a low simmer. Simmer for five minutes. Add the milk and sugar, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Take the mixture off the heat and add the gelatin (it will have formed a gelatin pancake - just scrape the whole thing into the heated milk and cream and mix until dissolved). Remove the star anise pods and pour the panna cotta into individual ramekins or half-pint jars. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or over night.
  4. As the panna cotta sets, make the star anise caramel. Combine the sugar, heavy cream, and butter in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low heat and stir occasionally for 7 minutes. Take off the heat and add the simple syrup. The caramel will thicken as it cools. If it gets too thick, microwave for thirty seconds or so.
  5. To serve, drizzle the caramel over the panna cotta and enjoy!
  6. Makes four servings.
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Rainbow Marmalade Pop Tarts

Rainbow Marmalade Pop Tarts

Fandom Foodies #Nyanuary is the inspiration for my rainbow marmalade pop tarts.

via GIPHY

Ok – so not the original Nyan cat, but who doesn’t love Pusheen?  The whole Nyan cat thing got me down the road of homemade pop tarts, and I happened to have blood orange marmalade on hand, so decided to make rainbow marmalade pop tarts.  I couldn’t resist a cat-inspired challenge, since our much loved cats both inspire me daily (inspire me to take more naps, relax more, and enjoy my food with great relish).

I couldn’t resist – they are so adorable!

Ok – back to the food.  I’ve thought about making pop tarts for quite some time – they are pretty easy to make, since they are basically pie dough, filling, and frosting.  They make a great coffee treat first thing in the morning, as well as go well with afternoon tea.  I had so much fun playing around with these – who doesn’t enjoy decorating with rainbow sprinkles, after all?  Creating a good Nyan cat out of pop tarts, frosting, and sprinkles turned out to be more of a challenge than I expected.  Clay came in at one point and told me my creation was #nailedit.  Ok – that might be a fair assessment of the final product.  Still.  I did all my photos and then realized I needed at least one photo with my maneki-neko cats and a rainbow marmalade pop tart.

rainbow marmalade pop tart

Here’s the Nyan cat attempt:

rainbow marmalade pop tart

And here are some better photos of the actual pop tarts – both frosted and un-frosted:

rainbow marmalade pop tart

rainbow marmalade pop tart

Put it all together, and you definitely have #Nyanuary

rainbow marmalade pop tart

Hope you enjoy making these rainbow marmalade pop tarts as much as I did!

Rainbow Marmalade Pop Tarts

Ingredients

    For the dough
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 - 6 tablespoons cold water (or as needed)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • For the filling
  • 1/2 jar of marmalade
  • For the frosting
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk (or as needed)
  • Rainbow sprinkles to decorate

Instructions

  1. Combine the flour, butter, and vanilla in a small bowl. Use a pastry cutter or knife to cut the butter into small pieces and incorporate into the flour until the butter/flour/vanilla mixture is the consistency of small peas. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time until the dough starts to hold together. Knead a couple of times and then refrigerate for an hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll the chilled dough out on a floured surface to 1/4 inch in thickness. Cut the dough into rectangles that are 2 inches x 3 inches. I was able to get 16 rectangles out of the dough for a total of 8 pop tarts.
  3. Place half of the rectangles single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Put 1 tablespoon of marmalade in the middle of each rectangle. Cover with the remaining dough and crimp the edges using a fork. Using the fork, poke three rows of holes on the top to reduce the amount of marmalade that spills out. Bake for 15 minutes or until light brown. Cool completely.
  4. To make the frosting, combine the powdered sugar and milk and stir. Add more powdered sugar or more milk to get to the desired consistency. Frost and sprinkle with rainbow sprinkles. Enjoy!
  5. Makes 8 pop tarts
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This recipe is linked up to Fandom Foodies #Nyanuary, hosted this month by Pretty Cake Machine

Blood Orange Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

Blood Orange Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

blood orange vanilla bean pound cake

Blood Orange Vanilla Bean Pound Cake is my contribution to Cook the Books for January.  The December/January pick for Cook the Books was Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home by Jessica Fechtor.  Stir is a memoir that chronicles Jessica’s experience with having a sudden aneurysm while on a treadmill at a hotel at a conference and her subsequent surgeries, and slow recovery.  Throughout the memoir, memories of food abound and it is cooking and food that Jessica credits for helping her come back to her self after her trauma.   Jessica includes many recipes and food memories – so there was ample inspiration from the book.  I ended up with a full page of notes of all the various foods described.  But for whatever reason, the thing that stuck with me when I went back to my notes was vanilla bean pound cake.

I have to say that this wasn’t a book I particularly enjoyed reading.  It’s a well written memoir and there’s no doubt that Jessica Fechtor is an amazing woman who came through a traumatic experience and is inspirational because of her determination to get herself back on her feet, back in the kitchen, and back into life.  It’s just that her descriptions of her trauma were hard for me to read.  I don’t watch medical shows and I try to avoid books about medical anything.  So the book itself was something that definitely stretched my boundaries for what I would normally read.

Here’s the thing, though, and how this book came to be inspiration for this particular blood orange vanilla bean pound cake recipe.  I read the book over the holiday break and set it aside.  I got busy with other blogging work and other projects.  I had my notes and the general intention to make a vanilla bean pound cake and then got the idea to incorporate blood oranges in some way, as I had just received the tremendous gift of 40 pounds of blood oranges from a friend in Arizona.  I had everything planned out to make this recipe the weekend before last.  And then that Friday night, one of our much loved kitties, Grace, passed away, very unexpectedly.  She was just going on ten years old and had been with us since we found her in our garage in Tularosa, New Mexico.  When we found her, over nine years ago, she was only eight weeks old, weighed 2 ounces, and was incredibly dehydrated and sick.  I absolutely babied her – came home from work to bottle feed, kept her in a soft-sided carrier to sleep on the bed with me so I could watch her at night.  If you have pets, you know how this goes.  She wrapped her furry grey self around my heart.  Unfortunately, as a moderately feral stray, she was always tightly wound, and we are pretty sure she had either an aneurysm or a stroke.  It was positively devastating for us, our three other cats, and even for Daisy, our lab mix, who was accustomed to sharing under the bed space with Grace.

How do I tie this all to Stir and to pound cake?  Here’s how: by Sunday, I was back in the kitchen.  I don’t exactly remember what I cooked, but I know my first recipe turned out fine.  Then I decided I would try to make a blood orange vanilla bean pound cake.  I created a version of a recipe I’d found, adding in Greek yogurt and eggs and reducing the sugar and just generally trying to be my normal bad ass cooking self.  The pound cake cooked in an astonishing 30 minutes (should have taken an hour).  I knew something wasn’t quite right when one edge of it rose up to the side of the pan while the rest of it sunk low.  It was the perfect metaphor for how I was feeling.  I knew when I took it out of the oven it was an unmitigated cooking catastrophe.  I cried – but not for the pound cake.  I cried because that’s all you can do when you are on the edge of being broken, but know that healing is somewhere out there in that dark void.  I know enough about grief and trauma to know this – healing is like baking a cake.  Sometimes you look done around the edges, but the middle is still as soft as it can be.

I also knows that, at least for me (and for Jessica Fechtor as well), cooking is a great vehicle for healing.  Somehow, I felt better for that catastrophically gooey pound cake.  I could set aside the recipe, the planning, the blog calendar and just spend some time taking care of me, my husband, my other pets.  Holding those little wakes that we do for pets who have passed – remembering all the good times. In Grace’s case, the good times included dunking her favorite toy in the water dish when she was a kitten, getting super excited about Salmon Temptations, and spending lots of time at night snuggled up to my hair and kneading it.

This weekend, I tried again.  It’s a different week.  I’m better rested.  The other cats are filling in the spaces Grace left behind.  The Blood Orange Vanilla Bean Pound Cake is a different recipe (no Greek yogurt – that was just a bad idea – and this time I added salt – that might have made a difference).  I’m a little more healed around the edges.  So while I have mixed feelings about the book Stir I think it’s only because I’m sometimes not so thrilled by trauma and healing and all the work it entails.  I hate being reminded of what hard work it is to heal, but then again, maybe I needed to be reminded.

Blood Orange Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

Blood Orange Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

Blood Orange Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

Blood Orange Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup softened unsalted butter
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Seeds scraped out of a vanilla bean pod
  • 1 ¾ cup all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Zest from a blood orange
  • 2 tablespoons blood orange marmalade (or regular marmalade)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Butter a bread pan and set aside.
  2. Cream the butter and sugars in a medium sized bowl. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until they are incorporated. Add the milk, vanilla extract, and vanilla beans and mix. Add the flour, baking soda, salt and zest and mix until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
  3. Pour half of the mixture into the prepared bread pan. Dollop the blood orange marmalade in a line down the middle of the mixture in the pan. Top with the rest of the mixture.
  4. Bake for an hour or until a skewer or knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely and remove from the pan. Enjoy!
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cookthebooks

 This post has been linked to January 2017 Foodies Read.  Check out all the wonderful books about food and recipes inspired by those books!
Casa Costello
It’s also been linked to #BakeoftheWeek at Casa Costello.  Thanks to Helen (Casa Costello) and Jenny (Mummy Mishaps) for hosting.
Kahlua Marshmallows and Homemade Instant Hot Chocolate

Kahlua Marshmallows and Homemade Instant Hot Chocolate

Kahlua marshmallows and homemade instant hot chocolate are a perfect holiday gift and a super cozy self-care treat for days when the snow is coming down or the rain is pouring.    Many years ago, I went to a presentation at a conference for women in higher education and heard a president of a community college in Oregon whom I very much admire talk about the concept of self-care.  This was several years before I formally entered into therapy (long story there) and hadn’t thought about the idea of work-life balance in any sort of depth.  What really resonated for me from that presentation was the idea of “bliss breaks”: brief moments during the day in which you do something just for you, whether it’s taking a walk in the autumn leaves or drinking some hot chocolate.  This recipe is perfectly designed for a bliss break: it’s easy to make, so low stress on the weekend, and can be stored in a plastic snack baggie in your desk drawer.  Add hot water in a pretty mug, stir and call it a happy moment.

Marshmallows are incredibly easy to make and lots of fun, particularly because marshmallow fluff has a tendency to be very active as you are making it – crawling up the mixer beaters, for example, and creating beautiful peaks and valleys as it is being mixed.  A few tips that I learned the hard way: first – when you finish with the sugar mixture and it’s been added to the gelatin, immediately start soaking your saucepan and candy thermometer.  Otherwise, you’ll be chipping out sugar from your pan.  Do the same with the bowl and any utensil that the marshmallow fluff comes in contact with – the faster you clean it out, the easier it will be, as marshmallow sticks to everything!  The second is to butter the spatula that will come into contact with the marshmallow when you are transferring it from the bowl to a pan to set.  This makes it so much easier to get it moved from bowl to pan.  Finally, used powdered sugar liberally on any other utensil you’ll use on the marshmallow.  I was able to cut out the cutest shapes from the set marshmallow by dipping the cookie cutters in powdered sugar first.  The same goes for the knife you’ll use to cut the marshmallows if you decide to cut them into squares.  I’ve also read that you have to have a stand mixer to make these.  While I’d imagine it would be about a thousand times easier to do this with a stand mixer, I’ve used a hand mixer without any problems.

I’m going to enjoy Kahlua marshmallows and homemade instant hot chocolate while gazing at the lights of the Christmas tree and listening to Pink Martini’s holiday collection.  With any luck, we’ll get a white Christmas here in the PNW or at least a pretty icy one.  Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

Kahlua Marshmallows and Homemade Instant Hot Chocolate

Ingredients

    Instant Hot Chocolate Mix
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup dry milk powder
  • 1 ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ½ crushed candy cane (optional)
  • Kahlua Marshmallows
  • 2 packets Knox Gelatin
  • 1 cup cold water, divided into ½ cup portions
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Kahlua
  • Powdered sugar

Instructions

    For the Instant Hot Chocolate Mix
  1. Layer the ingredients in a jar and mix by either stirring or putting a lid on the jar and shaking. This can be stored in a dry place for several months. To use, combine ¼ cup of the mix with hot water and stir.
  2. For the Kahlua Marshmallows
  3. Prepare a baking sheet or cake pan by greasing it thoroughly with butter and coating it with powdered sugar (similar technique to greasing and flouring a pan for a cake). Set aside.
  4. Sprinkle the gelatin over ½ cup of cold water in a large mixing bowl and set aside. (If you are using a stand mixer, do this part in your bowl for the mixer).
  5. In a large saucepan, combine ½ cup cold water and the sugar. Bring to a boil. Stir continuously and check the temperature with a candy thermometer. When the sugar and water mixture has reached 240 degrees (soft ball stage), take the mix off the heat.
  6. Add the sugar/water mixture to the gelatin. Add the Kahlua. Use a stand mixer or hand mixer to beat the combined ingredients for about 10 minutes or until the marshmallow is light and fluffy and starts to hold its shape. I generally figure I’m at this stage when the marshmallow is crawling all the way up the beaters to the mixer
  7. .
  8. Butter a spatula thoroughly. Use the spatula to release the marshmallow fluff from the bowl and spread into your prepared pan. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the marshmallow and set aside to set – about thirty minutes or so. When the mixture is set, cut with a buttered knife or cookie cutters and roll the marshmallows in powdered sugar.
  9. Marshmallows will last for several days in an airtight container. Enjoy!
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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.

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

Wine-y Dark Chocolate Brownies

Wine-y Dark Chocolate Brownies

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I suspect if I have a life’s motto, it’s when life is in chaos, eat chocolate and drink wine. This recipe is the best of both worlds, as it incorporates lots of chocolate and a good, robust wine. The addition of dried Bing cherries gives the brownies a bit of chew and compliments the dark chocolate chips.

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Wine-y Dark Chocolate Brownies
Makes 40 brownies

¾ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cup flour
½ cup milk
½ cup red wine
1 cup dark chocolate chips
½ cup dried cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine the butter, sugar, and cocoa powder in a medium saucepan over low heat and stir until the butter is melted and the sugar and cocoa powder are combined. Take the mixture off the heat and let cool for about five minutes.

Add the eggs and vanilla to the melted butter/sugar/cocoa mix and stir to thoroughly incorporate the eggs. Add the milk and red wine and stir. Combine the baking powder, baking soda, and flour in a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients slowly to the chocolate mix, stirring after each small addition. The batter will be a bit lumpy. Add the dark chocolate chips and dried cherries and stir until these are incorporated.

Spread the brownie mixture in a well-buttered 11×7 baking dish. Bake for 35 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle of the brownies comes out clean.

Small Batch Raspberry Panna Cotta

Small Batch Raspberry Panna Cotta

I’ve been experimenting lately with making just enough panna cotta to make it through the first few days of the week. In my experience, panna cotta can hang out in the fridge without unduly losing any of its creaminess for about three days, so three days worth of panna cotta is my perfect amount. This also helps to get through the first three days of the work-week with a perfect little afternoon snack, and really, in my mind, it’s the first three days of the week that are the hardest. Past Wednesday, the weekend is right around the corner.

I’m also heading into that time of the year when I’m scrutinizing everything that’s left in the freezer from the prior season. To that end, it was time to rescue a bag of raspberries I picked last summer. Thus, small batch raspberry panna cotta was created.pannacottaraspberries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small Batch Raspberry Panna Cotta
Serves 3

Raspberry Sauce

1 cup raspberries – fresh or frozen
¼ cup sugar

Combine raspberries and sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until the raspberries begin to break down and the sugar is fully dissolved. Set aside to cool and then refrigerate until ready to use.

Small Batch Panna Cotta

½ cup milk
1 teaspoon gelatin
1 ¼ cup half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla

Put ¼ cup of the milk in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Set aside.

Combine the half and half, the remaining ¼ cup milk, and the vanilla in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly until it reaches a simmer. Pour the milk and gelatin mixture and stir, continuing to simmer for one minute. Divide the panna cotta into three small jars – half-pint jars work very well for this. Let the panna cotta cool and then put in the refrigerator until it is set – about 6 hours. Once set, divide the raspberry sauce over the panna cottas. Keep refrigerated until ready to eat.

Pumpkin Pudding with Candied Hazelnuts

Pumpkin Pudding with Candied Hazelnuts

This week was all about two things: quick snacks and comforting food.  I still have a box of hazelnuts from the fall and, unfortunately, three bags of frozen pumpkin puree leftover from the holidays.  This is often my problem with stocking up so efficiently on fall produce – by January, I’m ready for asparagus, arugula, and peas.  But those are months away still, and there’s a ready supply of pumpkin in the freezer.

In some ways, I still feel this is a recipe better suited for November.  On the other hand, on a rainy day, there was something very comforting about a pumpkin spice pudding with lovely caramelized hazelnuts on top.

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Pumpkin Pudding with Candied Hazelnuts

Serves 4

Candied Hazelnuts
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup hazelnuts

Combine all ingredients in a non-stick pan. On medium heat, stir and keep stirring for 7 to 10 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if the sugar and butter starts to look a bit pasty – it’s ok. The hazelnuts will get dark and look caramelized. Take them off the heat and let them cool. (I left them in the non-stick pan to cool and didn’t have too much trouble getting them out. The pan definitely needed to soak for a night to get the sugar off, but all and all, these weren’t nearly as messy to make as I thought they might be.)

Pumpkin Pudding
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 ¾ cups milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
½ cup pumpkin puree

Combine the maple syrup and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Combine the egg and milk in a small bowl and whisk to break up the egg. Put the saucepan over a burner set at medium heat and slowly add in the milk and egg. Stir with a whisk and continue to stir as the mixture comes to a boil. Cook for a minute, then turn the heat down and cook for another minute. The mixture will thicken noticeably. Stirring is essential to keep out large lumps. Once the mixture is done, take off the heat and stir in the vanilla, pumpkin pie spice and puree.  Refrigerate for three or four hours before serving.

Serve with five or six candied hazelnuts.

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