Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mulled Wine

Mulled wine ("gluehwein" in Europe) is a fantastic holiday party drink. It's easy to make, delicious, and makes your house smell amazing.

In a large saucepan, combine:

2 bottles of red wine, medium quality, not too sweet
1/2 cup Brandy
2/3 cup sugar
mulling spices in a tea strainer or cloth*
2 T orange juice

*To make your own mulling spices, get piece of muslin or cotton and make a little bag. Put in 1/2 a teaspoon ground cinnamon (or a cinnamon stick if you have one), 6 to 8 cloves (or 1/2 a teaspoon ground cloves) and tie tightly. Add to pot. Add 2 tablespoons of orange juice to the wine. If you have an orange, zest it and add that to the mulling spices.

Heat until wine is steaming but not boiling. Use ladle to pour into mugs and enjoy!

Less-alcoholic version: There is some debate about whether this is as tasty, but I've tried it and I think it is! Put your wine and brandy in the saucepan alone. Bring up to 140 degrees. Hold at that temperature for 45 minutes (check it often!) without boiling, adding the mulling spices, sugar and orange juice when there is 20 minutes to go. Enjoy! Please note this does not remove ALL the alcohol, just most of it.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


Last week I decided to have our first fire in our fireplace since we acquired one in July. For the first two hours, everything was going smoothly. The wood was crackling away, smoke was going up the chimney, and all was well and cozy.

And then the smoke started coming back down the chimney. I know, I know, check the flue... I did and it was open. It's been a week and I can still faintly smell the smoke. So rather than risk a repeat (that was a LOT of laundry to do!), I decided to opt for a cheaper, less-smelly, eco-friendly fireplace solution. This trick is far from original, and I think Martha Stewart started it, but I'm not sure.

The candles I got from Ikea for $10, and will probably last most of the fireplace-using season. Way cheaper than buying wood! Better for the earth, less smelly, less dangerous, and just as cozy.

If you don't have a fireplace, you could still create a fireplace-like effect by designating a certain counter or table as the candle area. I suggest putting a plate or tray down, as these candles will drip beautifully. Just be safe, and make sure your pets are smart enough to stay away.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pumpkin Cake

(Two cakes are pictured, but this recipe is for one).
Recipe courtesy of The Blissful Table*. I highly recommend the cake recipe alone, even if you don't frost it or make it into a pumpkin like she does -- it's light and moist and very flavorful. Everything a cake should be!

Ingredients for bundt cake:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup fresh or canned pure pumpkin (about 1/2 of a 15 ounce can)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups sifted cake flour (not the same as all-purpose)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
dash of nutmeg
1/2 cup buttermilk or homemade buttermilk substitute (see below), room temperature

1) If you are like most people and don't keep buttermilk on hand, prepare your substitute. You have plenty of options:

I used a cup of almond milk mixed with 2 tablespoons of vinegar. It came out perfectly! I imagine soy and rice milk would do equally well.
You can also use regular milk and vinegar.
Or yogurt and vinegar.
If you have no vinegar, use lemon juice instead.
The idea is that vinegar supplies the tangyness that is so distinguishable in buttermilk recipes.

Prepare your buttermilk substitute and set aside.

2)  Preheat your oven to 350. Put your butter in the microwave on "defrost" setting for a minute or two, until it's about room temperature. If it's slightly melted, that's ok.

3) Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes).  Add the  eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add the pumpkin puree and vanilla extract.

4) In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.

Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to the pumpkin batter, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Pour into prepared bundt pan.

5) Bake at 350  for approximately 30 -35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes and then invert ONTO A PLATE and remove cake from pan.

If you don't flip it onto a plate, you will have a hard time getting it onto one. This cake is so moist it breaks if you try to pick it up. Cool completely.

Halloween Cookies

Make sugar cookies. This recipe has been found in several locations, and I can't determine the original source.

Be aware the portions below will result in about 12 - 15 cookies that are the size of your palm.  Double, triple or quadruple accordingly. 

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Make a day ahead:

1) Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until fluffy. 
2) Beat in egg and vanilla. 
3) Sift flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg over; stir to blend well. 
4) Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead gently 1 minute. 
5) Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to 1 day. 

The next day:

Let dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.

1) Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter large baking sheet.
2) Cut dough into workable pieces, probably three or four from the ball. 

3) Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness, lifting and turning dough often and dusting surface very lightly with flour to prevent sticking. 
4) Cut out cookies. Pull away excess dough from around cookies. Transfer cookies to prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart (cookies will not spread). Gently reroll dough scraps; cut out more cookies. Transfer to same sheet.

Bake cookies until light brown, about 11 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on sheet. Transfer cookies to rack; cool. 
For the pumpkins I used and apple-shaped cookie cutter and bent it to be more pumpkin-like. And used orange frosting.

Repeat with remaining dough pieces, baking 1 sheet of cookies at a time. Cool baking sheet completely and butter sheet lightly between batches.

These can be frozen for weeks, so why not make a whole bunch extra and not have to make any cookies this holiday season?

Make a very quick cookie glaze:

Combine a box of powdered sugar with a few tablespoons of milk (almond or soy milk work too) and a splash of vanilla. Add a teaspoon of cream of tartar if you have some. Food coloring optional.

I used a tulip-shaped cookie cutter to make ghosts, which chocolate chips for eyes.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Yogurt Pancakes

At work on Monday I noticed we had about 12 containers of yogurt. So I decided to mix it up for snack while they were napping and give the tots a treat.

  • 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour - or combine a 1/2 cup whole wheat with 1 and a 1/2 white flour

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 1/2 cups yogurt

  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk, rice milk or soy milk

  • butter

  • Pure maple syrup

  • Combine flour and baking powder and baking soda. Mix well. 
     Create a "well" in the center and pour yogurt and milk into it.
     Mix well but don't over mix.
     Butter a skillet and make like regular pancakes.

    My preschool students came back for seconds and thirds.
    Courtesy of Epicurious*.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    "Second Date" Chicken

    In the early stages of dating I made this recipe for JT. I think it's true the quickest way to the heart is through the stomach...

    2 or 3 fresh or thawed chicken breasts
    1/4 cup soy sauce
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1 minced clove of garlic
    1 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
    1 tablespoon brown sugar
    1/2 cup white or Rosé wine

    Tip: On weeknights when I get home, I'm too hungry to wait for chicken to thaw and then bake for an hour. Slip the chicken breasts into a gallon bag and leave in a bowl of warm water in your sink while you're at work. They'll be ready to go when you get home.

    Preheat oven to 375. Arrange chicken breasts in a dish, overlapping if necessary. Don't be too worried about getting the measurements of the ingredients exact, it will come out delicious however you make it.

    Drizzle soy sauce and olive oil over chicken. Sprinkle with garlic, ginger, oregano, and brown sugar.

    Lightly drizzle wine over everything, moistening the brown sugar. Cover the dish with foil and bake 50 minutes to 1 hour. Serve with rice.

    The result: JT is still around.

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    Mint Facial Mist

    My mint plant is very happy on my deck, and now that summer is over there are fewer food recipes that call for it. I could make tea, but I'd rather start making Christmas gifts. And it's been awhile since I posted something that wasn't about food!

    Mint Facial Mist
    -1 c. witch hazel (available at most drug stores for about $5)
    -1/2 c. fresh mint
    -1/2 c. fresh rosemary
    -Peel from 1 orange, 2 tangerines or a lemon

    1) Combine ingredients in an 8 oz. glass jar or other container you can tightly seal.

    2) Cover with a lid and shake well.
    3) Leave in a cool, dark area (such as a pantry or cabinet) for at least one week.
    4) Strain off solids using fine muslin or a paper coffee filter.

    5) Put solution in a pretty misting bottle.

    Courtesy of Design Sponge.

    Sunday, October 24, 2010

    Angela Pia

    This tasty, bake-free holiday dessert, whose name translates to "pious angel," is rich, flavorful, and simple to make. The only ingredients you might not have on hand are whipping cream and unflavored gelatin.

    I once heard that a major newspaper called for any recipe readers had for this lovely mousse-like dessert, which had once been the signature dish at a local restaurant that had closed. The paper received 300+ responses, and every single recipe was identical. What are the odds?

    1 package unflavored gelatin
    1/4 cup water cold
    3 large eggs, separated
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/2 pint heavy whipping cream (1 cup)
    1 oz brandy (2 oz if you have no rum)
    1 oz dark rum (2 oz if you have no brandy)
    1 tsp vanilla

    1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted,
    1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate shavings or dusting of cocoa powder


    1. Sprinkle gelatin in the cold water in a heatproof dish and allow to soften about 5 minutes. Place dish in a hot water bath and stir to completely dissolve the gelatin.

    2. Optional step (if you are serving children or people who choose not to consume alcohol): boil rum and brandy together for about five minutes to remove alcohol but maintain flavor.

    3. Beat egg yolks in a large bowl until frothy. Slowly add the sugar and continue to beat until thick and pale. Beat in brandy and rum. Add gelatin and mix thoroughly. Set aside.

    4. Whip egg whites until stiff but not dry. Set aside.

    5. Whip the cream and vanilla to soft peaks.

    6. Fold into the egg mixtures. Spoon into individual serving bowls with a ladle to avoid drips, and refrigerate covered for at least two hours or overnight.

    Optional: Garnish with sliced, toasted almonds, shaved chocolate, or a dash of cocoa powder, or any combination. Crushed candy canes would be good too!

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Black Bean Chili

    Adapted from an Epicurious recipe.
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • one large chopped onion
    • one large chopped bell pepper
    • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 2 tablespoons chili powder
    • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional... add more if you want it spicier, but a little goes a long way)
    • 3  15 ounce cans black beans, drained but not rinsed
    • 3/4 cup red wine or beer. If you have none, use 1/2 cup of juice from your bean cans.
    • a 16-ounce can tomato sauce, preferably chunky. You can also add diced tomatoes.
    • 1/2 cup corn (optional)
    • Get creative! Add other veggies as you feel inspired.
    Optional toppings:
    • Cilantro
    • Sour cream (yogurt works too)
    • Grated cheese
    • Green onions
    Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell peppers, and garlic; sauté until onions soften, about 10 minutes. 

    Mix in chili powder, oregano, cumin, and cayenne; stir 2 minutes. 

    Mix in beans, wine or beer, corn and tomato sauce. Bring chili to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until flavors blend and chili thickens, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

    Ladle chili into bowls. Top as desired. Delicious served with tortilla chips.

    Extra can be stored in the fridge up to one week. Makes a good workday lunch if you have access to a microwave.

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    Easier Banana Bread

    This recipe is less work, less ingredients, and just as delicious. Courtesy of Heidi Bakes*. Topped with Streusel*.

    1) Preheat oven to 350.
    2) Butter or spray one bread loaf pan. Try putting a rectangle of baking parchment on the bottom of the sprayed pan, and spraying the parchment. Makes the bread slide out easier after it's baked.
    3) Combine ingredients in the following order:
    • 5 or 6 over-ripe bananas, smashed
    • 2/3 cup melted butter
    • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 tsp vanilla
    • 2 tsp baking soda
    • dash of salt
    • 3 cups cups flour
    4) Pour into loaf pan.
    5) Add streusel if it fits your fancy.
    6) Bake for an hour. This bread rises a lot, so be sure it has plenty of room to rise in the oven. Mine got a little caught in the rack above it.
    7) Put in an airtight container or bag. Freeze if you won't eat it within 3 days.

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Key Lime or Lemon Meringue Pie

    * You will need a baked pie crust*. If you want to skip that step, place a package of graham crackers in a gallon plastic bag with 2 T melted butter and mash into crumbs. If it's still dry, add more melted butter. Line pie pan with it. It's good!

    Pie filling:
    1/2 cup key lime or lemon juice
    1/4 cup plus 2 T cornstarch
    3 egg yolks (save whites for meringue)
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    2 T butter
    1/2 t salt
    green or yellow food coloring (optional)
    lime or lemon zest (optional)

    3 egg whites
    1/2 t cream of tartar (I don't think this is crucial)
    1/2 cup sugar

    1) Boil 1.5 cups water
    2) Place lime/lemon juice, 1.5 cups sugar, corn starch, egg yolks, 1/2 cup cold water, butter and salt in a medium saucepan. Mix well. Add 1.5 cups boiling water. Turn on heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until it looks kinda like this on your whisk:
    3) Take off heat and let cool for at least 20 minutes.
    4) Preheat oven to 350.
    5) Beat egg whites on high until frothy. Add cream of tartar. Continue beating. Add remaining sugar gradually, mixing until soft peaks form, and it looks kind of like this:

    If you want to make fancy peaks with your meringue, continue beating until sharp peaks form.
    6) When your pie filling has cooled for 20 or more minutes, pour into pie crust.
    7) Spread meringue gently on top of pie.

    8) Bake for 15 minutes.
    9) Allow to cool completely (probably at least an hour) before cutting and serving. Can be refrigerated.

    Just Streusel It

    Ever bake something and think it needed a little something extra? Now you know what to do. Make some streusel and bake it on top. Courtesy of Heidi Bakes.

    1/3 c sugar
    1/3 c brown sugar
    1/2 c flour - I see no reason gluten-free flour wouldn't work
    1 t or more of cinnamon, plus any other spices you want to use. Pumpkin pie spice is tasty.
    6 T cold butter cut into small squares
    1/2 c rolled oats

    Combine sugars, flour and spices and mix. Add butter and use electric beaters on low to mix. Stir in oats by hand so they don't get smashed.

    Pour on top of unbaked muffins or bread or something else yummy.

    Can be baked over an hour without burning. Shown here on banana bread: