Pumpkin Beer Bread

PhotosIt’s finally fall, and not in a “September is the end of summer” sort of way. I mean we’ve finally hit cold mornings and cool afternoons, leaves changing colors, and the end of summer tourists.  As a native New Englander I can finally embrace boots, scarves, and the flood of apple/pumpkin flavored everything. Oh happy day! Actually for me the official start of fall is the Eastern States Exposition, also known by the locals as the Big E. Regardless of whether the cold has come early or we’re experiencing an Indian Summer, the Big E has always signaled the start of school and fall outings. Candy apples, clam fritters, a Maine baked potato, and now that I’m older –  local craft beer. I don’t live around the corner from the fairgrounds anymore, but I make a point of going every year. I’ll be there this weekend with my family and friends eating everything in sight. See food, eat food right!

In the mean time I’ll have to settle with a fall favorite – pumpkin bread. In this case pumpkin beer bread. I came across this recipe last year and it has become a fall staple in my kitchen. This recipe is also very flexible. I’ve substituted or eliminated different ingredients many times and the dough is pretty tolerant to change.

Pumpkin Beer Bread

Modified from My Recipes


Yields 2 loaves

  • 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • ½ cup water
  • 1/3 cup ground flaxseed (if you don’t have flaxseed, then add 1/3 to the total flour. I’ve done this several times in the past and the recipe comes out fine)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 2/3 cup olive oil (you can use canola oil, however I prefer olive oil and use it in most of my baking)
  • 2/3 cup beer (I would recommend a pumpkin or Oktoberfest style brew to compliment the pumpkin in the bread, but use whatever you like)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 15oz can pumpkin

Note: This bread can be finished with a topping or left plain. In the past I’ve used candied ginger, pumpkin seeds, or a streusel topping.  For the streusel topping see below.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice) in a bowl. Stir with a whisk to combine.

Combine water and flaxseed in a separate bowl (if you’re not using flaxseed, skip this step). In a large bowl beat sugar, oil, beer, and eggs until well blended. Add flaxseed mixture (or just water if not using flaxseed) and pumpkin; mix at low speed until combined.  Add flour mixture, and beat until combined.

Divide batter between 2 greased loaf pans (9×5 inch). Distribute desired toppings over batter. Press gently into batter to adhere. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pans and allow to cool completely.

Streusel Topping

Modified from Damn Delicious


  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted

Combine all ingredients above in a bowl until crumbly. You should have a mixture of large and small crumbs. Set aside until ready to use.

Cookie Dough Truffles

Background 1Last weekend Adam and I finally had a small house warming party for the apartment we moved into August 1. Better late than never right? We decided to do a board game night, and therefore we made small hand held food that could be easily eaten while playing a game. Most of the stuff we made was either prepped ahead of time or made in a slow cooker. I made these little devils for dessert, even though they were a tad more labor intensive, and let me tell you, they went pretty fast. Our friends had a hard time saying no.

The recipe is another Pinterest find. I had never even thought of these before Pinterest, and now I can’t imagine life without them. I went with the adapted recipe linked below over some of the others I saw because it was a Paleo version.  While I don’t stick to Paleo, Gluten Free, or any other specific diets, if I can get a tasty treat using healthier ingredients I’ll usually go for it. I must say these are really fantastic. They’re a little high in butter, but the recipe makes enough for between 2 and 3 dozen balls, depending on size. Besides, it’s supposed to be a treat anyway. If you were really concerned, you could always sub out some or all of the butter for peanut butter or some other nut butter of your choice. The undipped dough isn’t as sweet as you’d expect, but once you dip it in chocolate it doesn’t make a difference. I’d also speculate that this dough would be great for cookie dough ice cream. Just saying…

Photo 1

Cookie Dough Truffles (Gluten-Free)

Adapted from Frisky Lemon


Total Time 90 minutes

  • 1 ½ cups almond meal
  • 1 cup quinoa flour
  • 3 Tbsp Tapioca Flour
  • 8 Tbsp butter, softened and cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/3 cup agave
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • ¼ tsp sea salt or grey salt
  • 2 cups mini chocolate chips (you could go less, but why would you?)
  • 1 12oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted and tempered for dipping (See How-To Temper Chocolate below)

Allow the butter to soften to room temperature, and cut into 8 pieces. I find that the cut butter is easier to work with. Put butter into a stand mixer and begin to beat until smooth. Add agave and vanilla. Cream together until combined and smooth. Next add the almond meal and quinoa flour one cup at a time, blending until smooth between each cup. Next add the tapioca flour and beat until combined. (Note: At this point the balls should look rather sticky. If they are dry add a little more agave to moisten them up. If they look too sticky don’t worry. We are going to chill the mixture slightly before rolling the balls.) Next add the salt and mini chocolate chips, and mix until combined. Cover the mixture, and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes until firm.

Once the dough is chilled, roll the dough into balls roughly 1 inch in diameter. They should be just large enough for one or two bites. Place the dough balls on a lined cookie sheet and return them to the refrigerator for another 30 minutes. At this point you can either eat them as is or continue on and dip them in chocolate…and who doesn’t want cookie dough dredged in chocolate?

Once chilled, dip each ball in tempered chocolate, tap off the excess, and place on a lined baking sheet. Once all the balls are dipped in chocolate, return the sheet to the fridge for another 30 minutes. Once the chocolate has hardened the truffles are ready to eat!Photo 3

How-To Temper Chocolate

If you’ve watched enough food shows on either Food Network or TLC you’ve probably heard the word temper in reference to chocolate. You’ve probably also seen professional chocolatiers pulling out chilled, smoothed granite cutting blocks, repeatedly spreading melted chocolate back and forth over the granite, before returning the still melted chocolate to a larger container of melted chocolate. This process is called tempering, and it had far more importance than to just impress people with their magic chocolate skills.

When we melt chocolate we are also breaking the bond between the chocolate molecules that hold the chocolate together, give it shine, and a sharp snap when you break it. Allowing melted chocolate to cool on its own doesn’t temper it, and if you’ve ever done this you’ve probably noticed your chocolate has a flat, matte finish, bends more than snaps apart, and sometimes gets a white powdery finish on it. This white coating is called a chocolate bloom and is a pretty sure way to know the chocolate wasn’t tempered properly. There’s nothing wrong with un-tempered chocolate, but it doesn’t have the same look or textured as un-tempered chocolate. When the chocolatier from above spreads the melted chocolate on the cool stone he’s chilling the mixture, and forcing the molecules to reestablish connections. Then when he adds that tempered chocolate to the rest of the batch, it allows the remaining chocolate to build on those new connections.

Now, for all of us amateur cooks in our kitchens there’s no need to purchase a granite cutting block for tempering. There’s a simpler way that can get you close enough for your own cooking adventures.  You can do this in either a microwave or on a stove top. I personally prefer a stove, because it’s easier to keep the chocolate at a workable temperature without needing to re-temper it.  I would like to note that once you temper your chocolate you need to work quickly. So have everything you’re dipping or molding ready to go before you begin. The more you have to re-heat your chocolate to keep it workable, the more likely that you’ll need to re-temper the chocolate.

For a stove top, either using a double boiler or working in a small pot with the burner on low, slowly melt ¾ of the chocolate you plan on working with, stirring constantly. Therefore, if your recipe calls for a 12oz bag of chocolate, like it does above, melt 9oz on the stove. Once the chocolate is heated, remove from heat and stir in the remaining chocolate. Your chocolate should still be melted and workable, but it will be slightly cooled. Then dip, dunk, or pour your melted chocolate as you see fit. If your chocolate starts to stiffen up, put it back over your heat source just long enough to make it workable.

For a microwave, melt ¾ of your chocolate in a microwave bowl on low in 30 second intervals, stirring the chocolate in between. Once your chocolate is completely melted, add the remaining  solid chocolate and stir until smooth. Again, if the chocolate starts to tighten up, put it back in the microwave on low for 30 seconds to loosen it up.

So let’s talk real quick about what’s happening here. In short, when you add the solid chocolate to the melted chocolate, the solid chocolate is reestablishing the connections between the molecules that you broke during the melting process.  Remember it’s these connections that give chocolate its shine and snap. It’s a similar process to our chocolatier above, except less theatrical and we’re not making a mess. Enjoy, and regardless of how the chocolate looks, it will still taste good. It is chocolate after all.

Photo 2

Roasted Red Pepper Risotto

2013-09-08 21.07.10Sorry for the short post today. It was a busy weekend and over way too fast. And with fall here the weekends are only going to get busier!

This is a recipe I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I developed this recipe several years ago based off a few different flavored risotto recipes I’ve used in the past. I love this dish with just straight aborio rice. But last year, while down in DC I had the chance to try barley risotto, and it just seemed to work so well. It took a while to find barley at the grocery store, and even longer to find a package small enough to give this a try. I personally like to pair this dish with a small steak, but you could certainly eat it alone or as a side dish for any protein. Enjoy!

Roasted Red Pepper Risotto

Time: 30-45 minutes

Yields: 4 servings

  • 2 large red peppers
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • ½ medium onion
  • 1 ½ cup quick barley (or aborio rice)
  • 1 cup white wine (I used Chardonnay)
  • 2+ cups chicken stock
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

First turn the oven to broil. Coat the peppers in 1 Tbsp of oil, and place in a casserole dish.  Place under the broiler until the pepper skin is charred, turning periodically. It should take about 10 minutes a side. Once done, remove from the oven and tent with aluminum foil for 5-10 minutes. This will allow the peppers to steam, and for the skin to more easily release form the flesh.

Once the peppers have steamed, cut off the tops, drain out the seeds, and scrape off the skin. Place pepper flesh in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. Put the pepper puree to the side.

Place the remaining tbsp of oil in a large skillet. Heat on medium high heat. Mince the garlic and onions, and cook in heated oil until onions are translucent. Once cooked, turn the heat down to medium, add the barley, toss, and cook for 5 minutes. Add wine – there should be enough to just cover the top of the barley – and simmer until the liquid has cooked off. Then add the chicken stock one ½ cup at a time, allowing the liquid to cook off, until the barley is cooked al dente. Remove from heat, and add the puree, butter, and cheese. Stir until combined. Serve immediately.

Note: I used quick barely. If you used normal barley or aborio rice you may need to adjust the amount of chicken stock used.

Glazed Brown Sugar Scones

2013-09-02 09.51.33 HDRI love fresh baked pastries on a Sunday morning, especially with a hot cup of coffee. I don’t know about you, but morning coffee has become mandatory for me. I’ve done short no-coffee kicks in the past, the last being a few years ago between undergrad and graduate school. I went a full 4 months with no coffee or caffeine, a record for me. I know that the caffeine, creamer and sugar, are not good for me, but what it comes down to is I simply like the flavor. It’s the little vices that get you right? So this Sunday came around and I realized I had no creamer in the fridge. I’m a half and half at a minimum kind of girl, so I went off for an early morning grocery run for the precious liquid.

Note to future self, walking around the grocery store when hungry is a bad idea.

So while I’m salivating at everything in the store I remembered that I had pinned this recipe only a few weeks ago. I had never made scones before, and figured this would be a good Sunday morning experiment, so I pulled up the recipe on my phone – gotta love the smart phone – and picked up the few ingredients I was missing.

Overall I found this recipe very easy, despite my last minute adjustments to the toppings. The original recipe was for cinnamon scones, however I found out when I got home that I had no cinnamon. Who runs out of cinnamon? Anyway, one comment I would make is while the dough acts as a good scone base, it doesn’t have a ton of flavor. I would recommend adding some cinnamon chips or some kind of fruit – maybe diced apples – to give it more flavor depth.

Glazed Brown Sugar Scones2013-09-02 09.51.18

Adapted from Money Saving Mom


Time 15-20 minutes

Yields 8 scones

Scone Dough

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup butter, cool and cut into pieces
  • 1 egg, separated into two bowls
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 1/3 cup butter milk (or 1/3 cup milk with ½ tsp of lemon juice)


  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • ¼ cup brown sugar (I used light brown sugar, but you could use dark brown as well)


  • 1 cup powered sugar
  • 1+ tsp milk (add more to bring glaze to desired thickness)
  • ½ tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) in a bowl. Cut in butter until it’s even distributed and the mixture has a crumb-like texture.

Mix egg yolk, honey and buttermilk until combined. Add to dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Form the dough into a ball, and roll out on a floured surface until the dough is circular shaped and roughly a half inch thick. Using either a knife or a pizza cutter, cut the dough into eight equal pieces and transfer onto a greased cookie sheet. Whisk the egg yolk until frothy and brush over the tops of the scones.

Mix the crumb topping ingredients in a bowl and sprinkle over the tops of the scones. Press into the dough lightly to adhere.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes (mine took 12 minutes, but I think my new oven is running cool). Once done, remove from the oven and allow to cool 5-10 minutes.

Mix together powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla until glaze forms. Adjust the milk for desired glaze thickness. Once scones have cooled slightly, drizzle with glaze and enjoy!

2013-09-02 09.52.26

Cajun Chicken Alfredo

2013-08-24 22.31.33 HDRI have finally found something Adam will eat! Okay that’s a lie; he will eat anything I put in front of him. But he’s used to eating dinner that comes from a freezer bag or is ready in 2 minutes from the microwave. So having a home cooked meal most nights has been an adjustment I’m sure.

As for me, my ego is directly tied to how well my food is received. You could not like me personally, and I’d take that better than if you didn’t like my food. Weird I know. So while Adam has eaten everything I’ve given him, and hasn’t complained about any of it, I was thrilled when I made this dish and he actually ate seconds! Success! Victory! This will certainly be a recipe I keep in my back pocket.

While I love the (almost) one pan nature of this meal – you do have to boil water in another pot, but please humor me – I will say this is a bit more work than I’d like in a typical evening meal. So I think this will be reserved for more special occasions, where I don’t mind extra work or not fitting into my pants the next morning.

I will also say this has the making of a good base recipe, perhaps using some other type of vegetable or a different collection of spices on the chicken. Also I’d say feel free to use normal milk in the sauce if you’re trying to watch your fat intake. Just keep in mind it will be a thinner consistency.

Happy Eating! Enjoy!

Cajun Chicken Alfredo

Courtesy of Comfortably Domestic


Yields 6 Servings

  • 4 small boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 ½ Tbs. Cajun blackening spice (like Paul Prudhomme’s brand)
  • 2 Tbs. butter, divided
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil (or more if needed)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 C. (1/2 pint) grape tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ C. dry white wine (or chicken broth) – I used just enough to coat the bottom of the pan
  • 1 ½ C. half-and-half
  • 1 ½ C. Italian cheeses, or more (I used the Italian Blend from Trader Joes, which has Asiago, Fontina, and Parmesan, but you could use freshly grated too.)
  • 3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt (or more, to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper (or more, to taste)
  • 1 pound cooked pasta (I used penne)

Start with the chicken. I had thin sliced chicken breasts on hand, but if you don’t make sure to pound out the breasts with a meat mallet before cooking. Sprinkle both sides of the breasts with Cajun spice – I was very heavy handed with this – and press spices into the meat. Heat 1Tbps of butter and olive oil in a skillet pan over medium high heat, until butter begins to brown. Place chicken in pan and cook on each side until chicken is cooked. Remove from heat and place to the side. Once slightly cooled, cut into strips or bite sized pieces, depending on your preference.

2013-08-24 22.31.15 HDRNext add white wine to pan and whisk to remove the browned Cajun spices off the bottom. Add garlic and tomatoes, and cook until tomatoes are softened, stirring occasionally. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Reduce heat to medium low and add half and half, stirring constantly. Add salt, pepper, and remaining butter, stirring as the butter melts and the sauce simmers. Add the cheeses and continue stirring until all the cheese melts.

(Note: I like to work in batches when working with cheese, so start with ½ cup, stir until combined, then add another ½ cup and continue until the sauce is to your desired cheesiness.)

Remove from heat. Add cooked pasta and chicken. Toss to combine, and then eat! You could add some fresh basil or parsley if it’s on hand. This would be a great dish to serve family style, or simply out of the skillet like we did.

Chipotle Peach BBQ Pulled Pork

2013-08-16 19.43.17 HDRWho knew making pulled pork could be such an ordeal! Short version – Adam and I have been in our new apartment for about a month. It’s great, we love it. But the move didn’t fare well with all of our stuff – mainly Adam’s electronic equipment. When I decided to give this recipe a try it was the night after Adam’s speakers had finally given out. In our apartment no speakers = no TV sound. We had yet to receive a working cable box for said TV, so it wasn’t really a problem. But as anyone who has moved knows, one broken item is just one more thing to buy.

So I start with the whole coking thing. I pull out the crockpot – I purposely used a recipe that could be cooked for 24 hours so I wouldn’t have to watch it for a full day – start cutting onions, garlic, put the meat in the pot, season, put the lid on, hit the on/off button, and…no light. The thing wouldn’t turn on! Imagine having all the scent of spiced in your kitchen only to know you won’t be eating this yummy treat tomorrow because the crockpot won’t work! Adam tried to fix it, but it was long gone. Electronics 2, Adam/Geri 0.  The next day, Adam bought us a new crock pot, and finally we could get rolling on the deliciousness that is pulled pork. Raw pork goes into the new crockpot and in a day the meat is falling off the bones.

This is the first recipe from my Pinterest challenge. I found the Peach BBQ Sauce recipe relatively recently on Pinterest. With the end of Google Reader I have just to find a suitable substitute to manage all the blogs I used to follow. I know there are other reader sites out there, but none provide the easy access or distraction Google Reader did from my ever open Gmail account. So I’ve substituted my lack of new recipe ideas by perusing Pinterest. The pulled pork recipe I had to track down the old fashioned way – a good ol’ Google search.

2013-08-16 19.42.54 HDR

Note: In my opinion the pork was a little dry, so I’d suggest coming back on the cooking just a bit. Also the BBQ sauce was a bit sweet for my taste, and not quite spicy enough. Next time I’ll adjust the spices a bit more.





Crock-Pot Pulled Pork

Courtesy of Generation X Finance


Time 12-24 hours

Serves 10-12 people

  • 5-7 pound whole pork shoulder (mine was about 5 pounds)
  • 1 medium to large onion
  • A few cloves of garlic
  • BBQ Rub Seasoning (enough to cover the whole pork shoulder)
  • 2-3 Tbsp Liquid Smoke
  • BBQ Sauce (I used the Peach Chipotle BBQ Sauce, but any kind will do. This is more based on personal preference. I ended up using all of the BBQ Sauce I made, but if your pork is juicier than mine you shouldn’t need as much sauce.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mince the garlic and cut the onions in quarters or eights. You’ll discard them in the end so there’s no need to cut them any smaller. Place them in the bottom of your crock pot. Next rub the pork shoulder with BBQ rub. Make sure you’ve got a nice thick layer on the entire shoulder, not just the top. I used several tablespoons for this.  Next place the pork in the crockpot over the onions and garlic. Sprinkle the Liquid Smoke over the top of the pork shoulder, cover the pot, and turn on your roast. I assembled mine after dinner the previous night, set it to low and let it go for 24 hours. However you could easily make this in the morning and cook it at a higher temperature.

Once the pork is finished, pull it out and place it in a separate bowl. Discard the liquid in the crock pot. You could make stock out of it, but it’s a bit too fatty for my taste. Shred the pork in the bowl with a pair of forks. Add BBQ sauce, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve on buns or eat plain.  I didn’t quite do the math before cooking the pork, so we also ended up with a LOT of pork and were eating it for a few days.

Peach Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

Courtesy of Cookie Monster Cooking


Yields about 2 ½ cups

  • 1 ½ cups ketchup
  • ½ cup molasses
  • ½ cup peach preserves
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced chipotle in adobo sauce (I ended up using about 2 tablespoons)
  • ½ teaspoon liquid smoke
  • dash of hot sauce (or more to taste)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Whisk together all ingredients in a medium bowl. Use for Pulled Pork above, or store in an air tight container in the refrigerator.

The Pinterest Challenge

pinterest_badge_redYou hear that the first step to recovery is to accept your addiction so here it goes – I am addicted to Pinterest. I love the site. I have boards for everything – the food I want to make, the clothes I want to buy, places I want to visit, potential gifts for people. I am even one of those girls who has a wedding board even though I’m not getting married any time soon, and could not afford half of the things I pin.

I am also one of those people who forgets what they’ve pinned, so that I end up with two of three duplicated of the same image. It’s fine when you’re pinning inspirational images for your closet or imaginary wedding, but often when it comes to food I pin recipes with every intention of making them and then completely forget that recipe exists! I remember my mother and grandmother having piles of magazine clippings of recipes, stuffed into binders and shoe boxes. Whenever we wanted a new meal we’d look into the box or binder and pull one out. Today we use Pinterest and tumbler instead of boxes in the hopes that we’ll be more organized, but we still end up forgetting what we’ve saved.

So I’m challenging myself to make every recipe pinned on my Pinterest food board…which is over 250 items and growing!

Wish me luck!