Monday, September 26, 2011

Pumpkin Nut and Chocolate Chip Bread

Ok... so the name of this bread might be a mouthful, but so is this bread once you start eating it! *ba-doom,cshhh*  If you hadn't gathered, that was supposed to be the sound of a rimshot.  Over the summer I made Gina's Mango Nut Bread several times and loved it. I decided to play with the recipe a bit to make a pumpkin alternative and the outcome was a yummy bread, with a subtle pumpkin spice flavor. Obviously I substituted pumpkin in for mango, and chocolate chips in for coconut.  I love baking in the fall and having the aroma of pumpkin in the air! Enjoy!

Yields: 16 slices             PointsPlus Value: 3 Pts+ each
1 cup pumpkin (canned)
1 large egg
2 tbsp melted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar (I used the Splenda alternative)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, brown sugar, and spices. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts. In a small bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, melted butter and egg. Once mixed thoroughly, combine with dry ingredients. Stir until just blended. Pour batter into a 9x5 loaf pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.  Cool for 10 to 15 minutes before removing from the pan. Let cool completely before slicing.

Helpful tidbit: Me being the novice I am, thought a hand-mixer would work well with this. (I love using my kitchen gadgets, so I figured, hey! why not...).  I'll tell you "why not?"... if you use a hand mixer, you end up with a ball of dough at the end of said mixer and a lack of mixing being done. Not exactly my brightest moment, but it was an easy fix. :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pumpkin Petites

I have to say, this discovery is probably one of my prouder "creative cooking" moments.  I had the idea for these "turnovers" last week when I received an email from Pillsbury advertising their refrigerated pie crusts. Of course, none of the recipes they included were of a "lightened" up sort, and after investigating further, none of them were really getting good reviews. So, I decided to expand my horizons and make something of my own!

 Originally these were going to be Peach Petites, but I had leftover pumpkin in the refrigerator just calling my name, so pumpkin it was! The Pumpkin Petites are a perfect serving of the warm, harvesty goodness you expect from a pumpkin pie.  Make sure you're sitting down when you take the first bite into one because you'll need a moment to close your eyes and go "mmmmmmmmmm". They are that good.

Yields: 16 servings (16 petites)  Points+:  4 per serving

1 box refridgerated pie crusts (contains 2)
1 1/2 cups Pumpkin (I used canned)
1/4 cup evaporated milk
2 tsp cornstarch
1 egg
1 tsp Pumpkin Spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
8 tsp Splenda brown sugar substitute
Powdered Sugar (a dash for the tops of each, this doesn't change the Pts+ value)

To prepare crusts:  Set crusts out for 10 minutes prior to baking, allowing them to reach room temperature.  Cut each crust into 8 triangular pieces (kind of like a pizza), creating 16 triangles.  

To prepare filling: In a medium bowl, combine and mix pumpkin, egg, evaporated milk, cornstarch, spices, and brown sugar. 

Petites... ASSEMBLE!  (To assemble Petites): Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Stretch the dough out a wee bit (just enough so it's a little bit more flexible, but without ripping holes in the crust), this will make it easier to pack more pumpkiny goodness in the Petite.  Put 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling on each section of pie crust.  Fold over corners, pinching the two top corners slightly together so the petites stay in form.


Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until crusts are golden and a toothpick inserted in the filling comes out clean. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and let stand for a few minutes before digging in.  You don't want to burn those precious taste buds!! 

Shepherd's Pie

Going with the theme of casseroles, this next post is for you "meat and potatoes" kinda folks!  I honestly can't remember ever having a traditional Shepherd's Pie, but as soon as I told Chris that I was thinking of making one, his eyes lit up. He took this hearty dish in for lunch, and when he got home I got the "That was the best Shepherd's Pie I've ever had."  ((proud moment)).  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Yields: 12 servings  Points+: 6 per serving

1 lb ground beef (I had 80/20 at my disposal)
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup (98% fat free), undiluted
1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 bag frozen vegetable medley (I had a lima beans, corn, carrots, green bean mixture), thawed and drained
1/2 cup 2% milk
5 medium potatoes
1 cup sour cream (light)
Salt, pepper, and parsley to taste.


For the potato topping, boil potatoes in a pot of water until tender. Once potatoes are tender, drain the water then mash with sour cream. Add salt and pepper to your liking. Set aside. 

In a large sauce pan, cook meat, onions, and peppers until meat is no longer pink.  Stir in milk, soup, and vegetables.  Once combined, evenly pour the mixture into a sprayed casserole dish.  Spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the mixture.

Cook uncovered at 350 degrees for a half an hour, or until heated through and potatoes are turning golden brown.  Let set 5-10 minutes before eating, this will allow the casserole to solidify a little more! 

See!? Simple as... pie!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Boston Cream Pie

A while back, one of the older men Chris works with had a heart attack.  During recovery, I passed along the message with Chris that once he got out of the hospital I'd have a cake waiting for him.  Well... it's been quite a few months since this happened, and I still owe the man a cake!  Chris asked him a while back what his favorite was and his response was a Boston Cream Pie.  Being the noob that I am, I honestly had no idea what making  this delicious cake required.  I had several questions: could I used a cake mix? Is there any form of premade filling? And what about frosting?

After digging a little deeper, I discovered a few things.
1) Although it's "cheating", you can definitely use a cake mix. (good thing I've never been one to worry about cheating by using a cake mix ;) )

2) You can use vanilla pudding for the custard filling.  That being said, don't, especially when you're making a Boston Cream Pie for a man who's had a heart attack.... .....wait, what? O.o  I suppose if I was making this a lightened up version, I may have diverted from the recipe a little bit, but I wanted to make this authentic, so I left all the good-for-the-soul, not-for-the-body goodness in.

3) I can make custard from scratch!! Today was a proud day in the land of Kristina's baking. Does anyone remember McDonald's custard holiday pies?  Yes, the filling that goes into those, I know how to make it from scratch.  I know what I'll be making this year for holiday goodies!

4) I finally figured out how to thicken a runny frosting. I used flour, and the frosting still turned out pretty good.  Does anyone else have any tips with how to deal with runny frosting?

5) I also learned how to correctly grease/flour a cake pan. Who knew using butter instead of spray could make such a difference!

Ok, anyways, moving on to the gloriousness that is cake...

Warning: Since I wasn't making this with the intention of posting points, or well... eating it myself, I didn't calculate the points for the frosting or the cake.  

1 box of yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1 1/3 cup of water
1/3 cup of vegetable oil 
1/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup light cream

1 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup light cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners' sugar....
and then although the recipe I used didn't call for it, I used about a 1/4 cup of flour to get it to thicken up to the consistency I wanted it.

Bake the cake according to directions on the box using 2, 9-inch circular pans. Once cakes are done, cool 15 minutes before removing from pans and transferring to cooling racks.  Let cool completely before putting the filling and frosting on.

To Make The Filling: Combine the 1/2 cup light cream with 1/4 cup of the milk and cook over medium heat until bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan. Immediately add 1/4 cup of the sugar and the salt, stirring until dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat. 

Note: My store doesn't carry "light cream".  I honestly had no idea what light cream was until I Googled it once I got home. However, I did have heavy whipping cream and 2% milk. In order to bring the fat content of the whipping cream down, I used 1/4 cup of 2% milk and 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream to make the 1/2 cup of light cream I needed.  I don't know if this will work for every dish I ever make that calls for light cream, but for this instance, it did. 

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the milk with the cornstarch and whisk to remove lumps. Whisk in the 2 eggs. Add the hot cream mixture in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Return to the mixture to the saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens and is smooth (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and allow to cool to room temperature.


To Make The Chocolate Frosting: In a heavy saucepan over low heat, stir the chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons butter until they are completely melted. Remove from the heat and, stirring constantly, add the 1/4 cup light cream in a thin steady stream. When mixture is smooth, stir in the confectioners' sugar and beat vigorously. Stir in the 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. 

This is where the frosting was still just a little too runny for me.  I added flour until I got the consistency I wanted. 

To assemble the cake, pour the custard on the bottom piece and spread leaving about an inch between the edge of the cake and the end of the frosting (see above picture).  I did this so when I put the top layer on the custard wouldn't go over the edge of the cake.  Put the second cake on top of the custard, and while pushing down lightly, move the top cake in small circles until the custard makes its way to the edge.  Pour the chocolate frosting on the top cake and spread to your heart's content

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pumkin Alfredo Sauce

You know what I'm excited for? Fall. The harvest season where acorn squash are less than $1.00.  Pumpkins are everywhere, the brilliant colors of the hills when the trees are aflame with oranges and reds. Yes. The smell of pumpkin spice in the kitchen, hot caramel apple cider, walking around in jeans and hoodies and so much more. One of my friends pointed out the other day how excited I get when a new season approaches, but I have to say, that Fall is my favorite.  I made the first batch of pumpkin devil's food cake cupcakes this week, and there will be many more to follow.

I decided to expand my use of pumpkin this year though. And why not?  It's so hard to find once the holidays are over, so I'm going to start stocking up now.  I love realizing I have all the ingredients for something new I want to make. Tonight it was Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce.  It all started with a simple question: What are we having for dinner?  Tonight was also one of the rare nights when Chris didn't have to work til later and we could actually fix a nice dinner.  We're kind of getting low on a few staples, but one thing we did have was pasta.  Instead of our usual tomato sauce, I was in the mood for something creamy.  I figured "it can't be that hard to make alfredo... maybe I have all the ingredients".  I hopped online in search for the basic instructions of a cream sauce, something I've never attempted before.  Who knew it could be so easy! This recipe is one I took from Taste of Home, but cut the recipe back a bit, with a little bit more pumpkin than they called for. I hope it inspires you to explore new ways of using this awesome ingredient!

Yields 5 servings.  Points+ Value: 2 points
1 cup 2% milk
7 oz. fat free chicken broth
1/2 cup of pumpkin puree (I used canned pumpkin)
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
parsley, nutmeg, sage to taste

Whisk milk, broth and flour in a medium mixing bowl.  In a large saucepan, saute garlic in butter until tender. Stir in milk mixture, pumpkin, herbs, and cheese with garlic in saucepan.  Heat on medium until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally (approximately 10-15 minutes).    

Chris was so excited about actually getting to use butter for this recipe. :) And I quote "the only thing better than garlic in butter... is you".  That's saying something. hahaha

It even looked yummy before it thickened up!

We put ours over pasta and also added chicken on top for a heartier meal.
I will warn those who are making this however, that Chris and I love garlic. I almost wonder if using only a clove of garlic would have been enough. We could taste the pumpkin, but I think I'm going to use less garlic next time in hopes that the pumpkin will come out more.  This was my first ever attempt at a cream sauce, and I counted it as a success. :)  If anyone else has any favorites they'd like to suggest, let me know! :)