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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Candy Corn Drink




Well, I am just getting my Halloween post in under the wire.  I am very thankful that this got written at all, as I wasn't sure if the power was going to hold out with Sandy making her unwelcome and extremely LONG presence felt.  She's just like the annoying house guest that won't leave, even when you drop some not-so-subtle hints.  But, nope, as I write this she's still swirling overhead.  I really have nothing to complain about, since so far what we've experienced has been minor compared to the poor people in the northeast.  My prayers go out to them- for peace, safety, and a quick recovery.

I know a lot of people on the east coast are postponing their Halloween plans until this weekend. Our neighborhood is still debating on what to do, and I'm trying to not eat all of the candy I bought for the trick-or-treaters. I saw this recipe for candy corn punch in a magazine and thought it seemed so festive and fun for Halloween or a fall party.  In case you are curious at this point, this drink tastes like an orange mango punch and nothing like a drinkable version of candy corn (which I think is a good thing).  My favorite part was the  topping which was whipped cream flavored with honey (a homage to the candy corn) and was really delicious.  That's the first time I've combined whipping cream and honey and it was so good, I can't wait to try it in future recipes.

This punch is very simple and makes enough for about 8-8 oz. servings.  I think it actually makes more than that, as the punch is sweet and very rich so a little goes a long way.  You have to allow about 2 hours for the yellow layer to set slightly before you can finish making the drink so make to allow enough time for this layer to chill before you are going to serve the drink.

Candy Corn Drink

Ingredients:
1 4-serving-size package lemon-flavor gelatin
1 cup boiling water
2 cups mango nectar
3 1/2 cups orange carbonated beverage, chilled
1 cup whipping cream
2 tbs. honey
candy corn for garnish (optional)

Instructions:
1. In a large bowl, combine gelatin and the boiling water, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.  Stir in the mango nectar.  Pour mixture into a tall, clear 2-quart pitcher. Cover and chill about 2 hours or until thickened but not set.  Gently pour* carbonated beverage over gelatin layer in pitcher.

2. In a large bowl combine whipping cream and honey.  Beat with an electric mixer or large whisk just until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Spoon or pipe over carbonated beverage layer in pitcher.  If desired, add candy corn.  Before serving, stir to mix layers.

Serves 8 (8-oz. servings)

*To ensure that the carbonated beverage stays on top of the gelatin mixture, hold a wooden spoon above the gelatin layer and pour the carbonated beverage over the back of the wooden spoon.

Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens "Fall Baking 2012"






Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pumpkin Latte Coffee Cake




Sigh, pumpkin, how I love you.  What is it about this orange stuff that makes so many of us go nuts in the fall? When you think about it-- pumpkin really is an odd substance--  in color, in smell, as an addition to baked goods.  I mean, we're not talking about chocolate here! Yet I love it, and just tell me you've slipped some pumpkin in a dish-- whether it's cake, bread, lattes, pasta, or soup and I'll show up. Judging from the amount of pumpkin products I'm seeing displayed all over the place right now I can see I am not alone in my obsession.

In all seriousness, pumpkin, when not mixed with copious amounts of butter and sugar, is extremely healthy.  Low in fat, high in fiber and brimming with vitamin A (which aids vision) pumpkin is a handy as well as tasty vegetable to have around.  Also, as a side note, I've noticed that baked goods always turn out moist and fluffy whenever I use pumpkin puree in a recipe.. so I got that goin' for me, which is nice--name that movie!

Anyway, if you like pumpkin, and if you like pumpkin lattes, and if you like cinnamon streusel, you will love this coffee cake.  It's all of those yummy things rolled into one cake with a latte cream cheese swirl.  (So, this is not one of those healthy pumpkin dishes). As I said above, the pumpkin makes the cake deliciously moist and tender, not dried out like so many coffee cakes.  The cinnamon streusel was great, as how can you not love streusel? And, the coffee drizzle had just the right hint of coffee flavor to complement the pumpkin and spices without overpowering the whole cake.  I made this for my family a few weeks ago and they declared it one of the best things I had ever made for them.

The recipe calls for pumpkin pie spice in both the cake and the streusel but I just use a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger.  I've included the amounts I used in the ingredients in case you'd rather use that or, like me, don't have pumpkin pie spice.  I prefer to make my own because then I can mix it to my liking-- which is always heavier on the cinnamon and lighter on the nutmeg.  And you'll see that my measurements add up to slightly more than the called for amount of pumpkin pie spice, but that is on purpose-- I always add more cinnamon than the recipe calls for. If you aren't a cinnamon fiend like me, than you can adjust accordingly.  Finally, instant espresso powder can be tricky to find depending on where you live.  I found mine at Whole Foods, but did some searching with no luck before finding it there.  You may also be able to find it in the international foods section of your well-stocked grocery store.

Pumpkin Latte Coffee Cake

Ingredients:
5 eggs
2 tsp. instant espresso coffee powder or instant coffee granules
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbs. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or use 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. ginger, and 1/4 tsp. cloves)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup buttermilk
1 recipe Streusel (see below)
1 recipe Coffee Drizzle (see below)

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 13x9x2 inch baking pan; set aside. In a small bowl stir together
2 of the eggs and the espresso powder; set aside. In a medium bowl beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in the 2/3 cup sugar, the 2 tbs. flour, the 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, and the vanilla until smooth.  Beat in egg-espresso mixture; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl stir together the 3 cups flour, the baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside

3. In a large bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds; gradually add the 11/2 cups sugar, beating until fluffy.  Add the remaining 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in pumpkin.  Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to pumpkin mixture, beating after each addition until combined.  Spread half of the batter in prepared baking pan.  Spoon half of the cream cheese mixture by small spoonfuls on top of the batter.  Add remaining batter in spoonfuls; carefully spread over the cream cheese mixture.  Top with spoonfuls of remaining cream cheese mixture.  With a knife, swirl batter to marble.  Sprinkle with Streusel.

4.  Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean..  Cool in pan on a wire rack for 45 minutes.  Spoon Coffee Drizzle over coffee cake in lacy pattern.  Cool completely on wire rack.  Makes 12 servings.

Streusel Recipe:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. nutmeg (scant), 1/8 tsp, ginger, and 1/8 tsp. cloves)
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter cut into cubes,
Pinch of salt

Combine all of the ingredients.  Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the cold butter until crumbly.

Coffee Drizzle Recipe:
In a small bowl stir together 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar and 1 tsp. light-color corn syrup.  Stir in enough cooled espresso or strong brewed coffee (1-3 Tbs.) to make a spreading consistency.  Start by adding 1 Tbs. and then slowly add coffee while whisking, teaspoon by teaspoon, until you reach the desired consistency.  Drizzle over cooled coffee cake.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens "Fall Baking 2012"




Monday, October 15, 2012

Parmesan-Peppercorn Biscuits




I promised last week when I posted the Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup to share the recipe for these incredible Parmesan-Peppercorn Biscuits. Oh my, are these good-- and easy.  The Parmesan and pepper add so much flavor, you really don't need any other accompaniment, although I think adding something with a sweet element like fig or apricot jam would probably taste really good with these.

I came across the recipe for these this summer and have made them numerous times since.  The whipping cream makes these biscuits so nice and flaky and I love a recipe like this with only a few ingredients-- is self-rising flour the greatest, or what? This is a great recipe to serve with soup and salad-- such a nice variation from just regular biscuits (not that I'm knocking regular biscuits, goodness knows they're taken very seriously down here).  They're also good if you're having people over and want to make homemade bread but don't have time to make a yeast bread and deal with all of rising, etc.  I always have good intentions when I have people over of making homemade rolls or bread and have all of these recipes flagged to try when I have company, but then when we do actually have company, I usually don't have my act together enough to have hours to make homemade rolls-- except maybe at the holidays. Biscuits seem to be a good alternative. Thankfully, these can be whipped up in a snap and smell delicious while they're baking.  They would be wonderful served alongside a baked ham, roast chicken, or pot roast.  Comfort cooking at its best!

Parmesan-Peppercorn Biscuits

Ingredients:
2 cups self-rising flour
3/4 cup plus 3 tbs. grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 tsp. ground black pepper
6 tbs. butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup, plus 1 tbs. heavy whipping cream, divided

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, 3/4 cup cheese, and pepper.  Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles course crumbs.  Add 3/4 cup cream to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.

3.  On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/2-inch thickness.  Using a 2-inch round cutter, cut biscuits without twisting cutter, and place on prepared baking sheet.  Brush biscuits with remaining 1 tablespoon cream, and sprinkle with remaining 3 tablespoons cheese.

4. Bake until lightly browned, approximately 12 minutes.

Yield: 1- 1 1/2 dozen

Recipe from Taste of the South, "The South's Best Dishes" edition



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup




It is definitely soup weather here in Virginia and I couldn't be happier about it.  After a blazing hot summer, it's nice to have some relief in the cool fall weather and actually want to eat soup again.  It's been cold and damp here over the past couple of days, and I've started looking pulling out some favorite soup recipes to make during the week. Now that I'm outside numerous times a day with with our new puppy, coming inside to a warming bowl of soup sounds like the perfect thing.

This recipe for Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup is one of my favorite easy weeknight recipes.  It really checks all of the boxes for me-- delicious, easy, Weight-Watchers friendly, and uses pantry staples for ingredients. Can you get better than that? Because this soup uses canned whole tomatoes, it's easy to make this soup all year round without having to wait for tomato season.  The tomatoes roast with onions and garlic and a  balsamic vinegar dressing until they are lightly browned which brings out a rich and slightly sweet flavor.  The roasting process really takes away any of that bitter aftertaste that you sometimes get with tomatoes-- you never knew canned tomatoes could taste so luxurious!

I love to make this soup with my favorite Parmesan-peppercorn biscuits that you see in the pictures.  I'll be sharing the recipe for these later in the week. My husband is a particular fan of these and they couldn't be easier to whip up, which is great for weeknight dinners. There is nothing better with a bowl of creamy tomato soup than these hot cheesy peppery biscuits.  Of course, this soup would also be great with a grilled cheese sandwich (you can't get more comforting than that combo) or a nice side salad if you want to keep this Weight-Watchers friendly.

Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup

Yields: 4 Servings

Ingredients:
1 cup less-sodium beef broth, divided
1 tbs. brown sugar
3 tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
5 garlic cloves
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, drained
Cooking spray
3/4 cup half and half
Cracked black pepper (optional)

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Combine 1/2 cup of broth, sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce in a small bowl.  Place onion, garlic, and tomatoes in a 9x13 inch baking pan coated with cooking spray.  Pour broth mixture over tomato mixture.  Bake at 500 degrees F. for 40-50 minutes or until vegetables are lightly browned.

Place tomato mixture in a blender.  Add remaining 1/2 cup broth and half-and-half, and process until smooth.  Strain mixture through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids.  Garnish with cracked black pepper if desired.

Recipe from Cooking Light

Weight Watcher's Point's Plus Value: 1/2 cup= 3 Points Plus:  (1/2 cup= 4.7g fat, 14.9g carbs, 1.7g fiber, 3.8g protein)




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