Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Yum! And so very easy to make, especially if you have pumpkin seeds from the jack-o-lantern that you carved for Halloween.

I bought two pumpkins post-10/31 for $1.99 each at a local grocery store.  They were Fairy Tale pumpkins, known to be very good for baking.  I didn’t realize how heavy they were – so I now have about 16#s of pureed roasted pumpkin in the freezer for future use throughout the holiday season and winter.  Good thing I like pumpkin!  🙂

Back to the Roasted pumpkin seeds.  It really isn’t difficult to roast them, and they are really good and good for you!

Clean and separate seeds from the “pumpkin guts”.  Don’t throw away the pumpkin guts!  They can be used, just like the pumpkin puree, for pumpkin bread (a post on that soon).

Once cleaned, dry the pumpkin seeds.  Put the seeds in a plastic baggie, add about a teaspoon of olive oil and coat the seeds.  Dump them on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast at 375* for about 20 minutes.  After 10 minutes, mix them up a bit and put back in over for another 10 minutes or so.  Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.

On a side note – I am interested in any ideas (beyond pie) that anyone may have on what to make with pumpkin.  Drop me a note in the comments with your ideas.  If you have any special recipes, point me in the direction of where I can find them; if they are on your blog, post a link. THANKS!

Walnut Pumpkin Bread

Need to put this on the holiday baking list!

CutterLight

Creamy, sweetened homemade ricotta cheese makes for a lighter, healthier delicious alternative to cream cheese in this cheesecake-like tart. In this version, slices of pears have been brushed with peach preserves prior to baking.

I was surprised how easy it was to make a ricotta-style cheese at home. My first batch of ricotta went into Jack’s moose cannelloni. A second batch was split between blintzes and a pear and ricotta tart. Infused with vanilla, the beaten egg and ricotta base was smooth, creamy and light. The sliced pears were brushed with a vanilla peach jam which added another subtle layer of flavor.

Pear and Ricotta Tart

Ingredients

  • pie crust
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 d’Anjou pears, halved, cored and sliced
  • 1 heaping tbsp of peach preserves

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Press pie dough into a 9-inch springform…

View original post 74 more words

Infamous “Nieman Marcus Cookies”

Have you ever heard or read about the “urban legend” story regarding the $250 cookie recipe from Neiman Marcus?

According to Neiman Marcus (via my web search), they deny ever charging anyone for their cookie recipe(s); but this urban legend and cookie recipe persists in turning up on the internet, and, well, on my blog today too.  Why you ask?  Well, mostly because I have made these Urban Legend Neiman Marcus cookies, and they really are great!  Every time I make them I get compliments on how good they are, along with requests for the recipe, and an inquiry as to what is my “secret” ingredient that makes them so yummy (it’s the ground oatmeal).

If this recipe can be found all over the web, why am I reprinting it here? Well, because I recently made these cookies for my Church’s upcoming annual Founders Day Fundraiser/Celebration.

Now, to make matters even more confusing, Neiman Marcus has made “public” a chocolate cookie recipe that they claim is “the original” cookie recipe, in an attempt to put the legend to rest (you can find it on the internet by simply googling Neiman Marcus Cookie Recipe) – I find only one problem with this – The Neiman Marcus recipe they have shared was only created about 12 years ago – the “urban legend” recipe has been around for at least a couple generations, and was originally passed around via regular USPS mail, not the internet.  PLUS – Neiman Marcus has been making their chocolate chip cookies for more than 12 years…

So, which is really true?  Well, the only way we will ever know is if someone with a very old “first edition” Neiman Marcus cookbook that has the original real recipe in it comes forward.   I have looked over the “Real Neiman Marcus Cookie Recipe” and have to tell you, it doesn’t sound nearly as delish as this one.

Any hoo – regardless of the origination of this recipe – I have to admit – these are THE BEST chocolate chip cookies I have ever made.  🙂

This recipe is a basically combination of an oatmeal cookie (sans the spices, and the oatmeal is ground into a fine powder), a chunky chocolate cookie, and a chocolate chip cookie, with nuts.

I have made this with and without the nuts in the past, both are equally delicious.

Below is the original recipe, but instead of a Hershey chocolate bar, I use dark chocolate (60-65% cocoa) instead.

It is easily halved as well – which I do when I often make them.  In fact, you could make the dough, sans the nuts, divide it in half, and then add half the amount of nuts to one half of the dough, so you get “two kinds of cookies” out of one. 🙂

Neiman Marcus Cookie Recipe

(Recipe may be halved):
2 cups butter
4 cups flour
2 tsp. soda
2 cups sugar
5 cups blended oatmeal**
24 oz. chocolate chips
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 8 oz. Hershey Bar (grated) or chopped, actually, I put the chocolate bar in a plastic freezer bag and pound it with the smooth side of my meat mallot until I get the general size of chunks that I want
4 eggs
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups chopped nuts (your choice)

** Measure oatmeal and blend in a blender to a fine powder. Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla; mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and soda. Add chocolate chips, Hershey Bar and nuts. Roll into balls and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 112 cookies.

This is also a great recipe to make ahead, and freeze the cookie dough in pre-formed balls on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  When they are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag.  When you are in the mood for the cookies, take out 6 – 12 cookie balls and bake them.  No need to defrost, just bake them for a couple minutes longer than indicated above – but keep a close eye on the cookies, so you don’t over bake them (unless you like crunchy cookies).  🙂

Calzones

Tonight I was in the mood for pizza, but decided instead to give making calzones a try. 

Calzones may sound daunting to make, but they are really easy to make.  You can make them any size you want.   Make them small, and make multiple calzones to reheat for lunches or a quick dinner with a nice salad.

When I was growing up my mom always bought “Jiffy” brand pizza dough mix.  They still make it, and it was only 69 cents at my local grocers. 

You can used canned toppings ( mushrooms, roasted peppers, pickled peppers, etc) of you want.  I prefer to start with fresh produce.  I dis “cheat” and picked up a bag of shredded Italian cheese.  🙂

image

I make my pizzas and calzones on my pizza stone.  As you can see, it it very well “seasoned” as we say on the cooking world.  I have had my pizza stone for over 20 years, and I love the way my pizza crusts come out nice and crispy on the bottom.

My stuffings included onions, mushrooms, green and red pepper, all of which I sauteed for about 5 minutes; pepperoni and the shredded Italian cheeses.

I preheat the oven, with the pizza stone in it, to 500*. 

Assemble the calzones by hand stretching the dough gently into a circle, add toppings on 1/3 of the dough leaving an edge to crimp it shut and enough dough to stretch over the top without tearing it.

Set it on the hot pizza stone, and bake for 5 minutes.  Then brush a small amount of olive oil over the top of the calzones and bake for another 5 minutes.

image

Serve with your favorite sauce.  Marinara, Alfredo, pink sauce, etc. or no sauce at all.

image

I had some marinara and Alfredo.sauce that I combined to make a pink sauce for mine tonight.

Whatever your favorite pizza toppings, they can be your calzone stuffing.

Best Sticky Buns Recipe EVER – The Search is OVER!

Many years ago, I started this search and have been through several “promising” recipes, only to end up with dry and hard cinnamon buns.

I remember one such recipe where I discovered a mis-print in the cookbook (after the fact).  The recipe was supposed to require 2 teaspoons of yeast, but the cookbook print said 2 tablespoons!  I followed the cookbook thinking, well, that must be right…

OMG – have you ever seen the old “I LOVE LUCY” show where Lucy tries to bake bread and when she opens up the oven in her small kitchen the bread starts coming out of the oven until she is back up against the cabinet on the other side of the kitchen?  Well, that is what it felt like having used 2 tablespoons of yeast for those buns!  The dough just kept rising and rising and rising!  If I recall correctly, the recipe was supposed to make about a dozen cinnamon rolls, but I ended up with about 4 times that many – PLUS the size of the cinnamon rolls would put the “CINNABUN” rolls to shame!  Unfortunately, they were also hard as a rock…

😦

And thus started my quest for the best ever sticky bun recipe.  🙂

I discovered this “Winning Recipe” in a summer edition of Bon Appetit.  It was part of the Master Sweet Dough series of recipes, where they provided the base sweet dough recipe and then 5 variations on different rolls and breads that you could make with it.

You start with the base sweet dough recipe.  when you have prepared the dough, it will look like this before placing it into a greased bowl to rise.

Smooth and silky, stretch nicely and be easily removed from the dough hook and the bowl, though it will be a bit sticky.

The Ultimate Sticky Buns (as published in Bon Appetit’)

Topping

  • 1 3/4 cups chopped pecans (about 8 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted  butter
  • 3/4 cup (packed) dark brown  sugar (if you don’t have dark brown sugar – check out the recipe I posted on how to make it at home here)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream – I didn’t have cream in the house, so I just used regular 1% milk, which worked just fine.
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest  (optional) – while this is optional, I highly suggest that you use the orange zest – it added just a hint of flavor that I think really took these sticky buns “Over the TOP”!

Buns

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room  temperature
  • 1/2 cup (packed) dark brown  sugar
  • 3/4t easpoon ground  cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated  nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • All-purpose flour (for  dusting)
  • 1 large egg
  • Coarse sea salt (such as  Maldon)
  • Special Equipment:

    An 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan.  (alternatively, you can use a couple of round cake pans)  I made the buns in two cake pans, putting one of the in the freezer to make later.  When ready to make the second pan of buns, remove from the freezer the night before and allow to thaw and rise (covered with plastic) on the counter over night, they should be ready to bake by the time you get up in the morning.

Preparation

Dough

  • Follow the Master Sweet Dough Recipe I posted here
  • Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in  size, 1–1 1/2 hours (or 2–2 1/2 hours if dough has been  refrigerated).
  • Chill dough for 2 hours.

Topping

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Spread out nuts on a rimmed baking  sheet. Toast until fragrant and slightly darkened, 10–12 minutes. Let cool  completely. Set 1 1/4 cups nuts aside for buns.
  • Melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir  in brown sugar, cream, honey, salt, and orange zest, if using. Bring to a boil,  reduce heat to medium, and simmer until glaze is golden brown and glossy, 3–4  minutes. Pour 1 cup of glaze into baking pan, tilting to coat bottom and sides.  Set aside remaining glaze. Sprinkle 1/2 cup toasted pecans over bottom of baking  pan and let cool.

Buns

  • Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, sugar,  cinnamon, nutmeg, and kosher salt in a medium bowl until light and fluffy, 2–3  minutes. Set filling aside.
  • Punch down dough; transfer to a floured work surface. Lightly  dust top with flour. Follow our step-by-step guide for assembling buns with filling and 3/4 cup  pecans. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill buns and  remaining glaze separately. Store remaining pecans airtight at room  temperature.
  • Loosely cover pan with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let  buns rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1  hour, or 1 1/2–2 hours if dough has been chilled overnight.
  • Arrange a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350°. Whisk egg  with 1/2 tsp. water in a small bowl. Brush tops of buns with egg wash.
    Bake,  rotating pan halfway through and tenting with foil if browning too quickly,  until buns are golden brown, filling is bubbling, and an instant-read  thermometer inserted into center of buns registers 185°, about 50 minutes. Let  cool for 5 minutes. Spoon remaining glaze over. Sprinkle 1/2 cup pecans over.  Let cool in pan on a wire rack.
  • Lightly sprinkle sea salt over.  (I forgot about the sea salt, so don’t worry if you don’t want to use it, they are fabulous even without it)

    Buns, right out of the oven, before topping them with the sauce and more nuts

    Finished buns, topped with sauce and nuts.

    Once the buns have cooled for about 5 minutes and you have added the sauce and nuts on top, I suggest you immediately invert them onto a plate, otherwise the bottom glaze will harden and stick to the pan, making them difficult to remove, and leave all that yummy goo and nuts in the pan.
    Serve buns warm or at room  temperature

Need Brown Sugar?

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of getting your ingredients ready to bake something scrumptious, just to find that you are either completely out of, or short of brown sugar that is necessary for your creation?  I hate it when that happens… but no longer will I have to drop everything and run out to the grocery store, where I will inevitably end up buying more than just brown sugar.   If you are an avid baker, you are bound to have white sugar and molasses in your pantry, and if you do, you have all you need to make your own brown sugar!  The best part – your brown sugar will be so full of flavor because it is made fresh that you won’t want to buy pre-packaged, mass produced brown sugar ever again!

Grab a cup of sugar and, depending on whether you need light or dark brown sugar, one or two table spoons of molasses

When you are done, if you are making dark brown sugar,  you should have something that looks like this:

Two of the things I love about making my own brown sugar is that it is so fresh, the flavor is fantastic, and because I make it in a freezer bag, I just squeeze out the air and seal the bag and in the pantry it goes.

The research I did about making your own brown sugar said to put the sugar in a bowl, add the molasses, and fluff and massage it with a fork until the molasses was completely incorporated.  I decided using the “freezer bag method” that I came up with would be much easier, and make a lot less mess, and your brown sugar is already in the storage bag.  You gotta love that!

Bake on!! 🙂

5 Minute Old-fashioned Wooden Spoon Chocolate Brownies Recipe

5 Minute Old-fashioned Wooden Spoon Chocolate Brownies Recipe.

Oh yes, on this rainy Saturday afternoon in Houston, these are going in the oven… in about 5 minutes!� 🙂

via 5 Minute Old-fashioned Wooden Spoon Chocolate Brownies Recipe.

Orange Scones for Saturday Morning Breakfast

Yesterday late afternoon I found myself in the mood to bake.  Scones came to mind as I was looking for a sticky bun recipe made from the sweet dough that I posted about recently.  While I really wanted to make the sticky buns, the sweet dough would take longer than I wanted, so when I spied a Sweet Lavendar Scones recipe I cut out of the May 2012 edition of Bon Appetit’, I knew that was what I would be baking.

The original recipe called for culinary lavendar buds, of which I did not have any, as well as lemon zestx which I was also out of.  So, starting with the basic scone recipe, I modified it just a touch and came up with some yummy Orange Scones.

These are great with your morning cup of java or tea.

Orange Scones

Makes between 16 – 24 scones, depending on how you cut them.

Preheat oven to 425*

3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for surface

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk (if you don’t have butter milk, make some using 1 cup milk and 1 tablespoon lemon juice, or white wine vinegar.  For this recipe, just add 1 tablespoon more of milk to get the total amount noted.)

2 teaspoons orange zest (I eyeballed this from some orange zest I had frozen in the freezer)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons sanding or granulated sugar

Arrange racks in oven before starting to preheat oven.  If you use 2 baking sheets, place racks in upper and lower 1/3 of oven.  if using only 1 baking sheet, place rack in middle of oven.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and soda together in a large bowl. Add butter and using knives, a fork or a pastry cutter, cut butter into mixture until you have coarse mixture that resembles corn meal.

Whisk together 1 up milk and all other wet ingredients, including orange zest.  Add this to the flour mixture and mix together just until combined.  Use your hands to mix, not a mixer.  You want the dough to be tender. Mix until a shaggy ball forms.

Transfer dough to floured surface and knead about 4 – 5 times to bring the dough together.  Pat down into a 10 x 6 inch rectangle.  Cut the dough to the size of scones you want.  I cut mine into small squares, so I got 24 scones out of the recipe.

Place on baking sheets  brush with remaining buttermilk and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake at 425* got 13 – 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and tops are lightly browned.  Remove from oven, transfer to wire rack to cool.

I also made some orange flavored icing and topped a few of the scones with this for a more “dessert like” scone.

Feel free to add other things to the scones like dried cranberries, dried cherries, or nuts of your choice.