Thursday, December 12, 2013

Archive Recipe of the Week: M&M Cookies

This time of year is busy. In addition to working our normal jobs and taking care of our normal (or perhaps not-so-normal) families, there’s so much else to do: snow removal, shopping for and wrapping gifts, mailing cards, keeping secrets until Christmas, trying not to catch a cold or the flu…I rarely get a chance to try all the cookie recipes I hope to, but I usually can make the time to exercise my license to cookie with these M&M cookies.

This cookie recipe and method is really a holiday no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. Just about everybody who eats cookies likes chocolate chip cookies and the addition of seasonally colored M&Ms pressed into the dough before baking easily turns simple (but pretty darn good) chocolate chip cookies into a Christmas cookie. Cookies that are easy to make and are crowd-pleasers? Ho ho ho indeed!

I like to use milk chocolate chips here along with original milk chocolate M&M’s, because I think these cookies taste extra-good when the chocolates match. You could also use semi-sweet chocolate chips and dark chocolate M&M’s if you prefer.

This is another Archive Recipe that I had really hoped to re-photograph for this post, but I just didn’t have time to make a batch before getting this post together and I really think this recipe is too important to delay. I love these cookies and so does everyone I share them with. Happy holiday baking!!


Milk Chocolate Chip and M&M Cookies
Adapted from various chocolate chip drop cookie recipes.

This dough can be baked immediately after mixing, but I find that a nicer cookie results if the dough is chilled at least a few hours, preferably overnight.

1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) butter, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 (11.5-12 ounce) package milk chocolate chips
1 (11.6 ounce) package M&M candies (plus more if needed), preferably in seasonal colors

1. Place the butter, granulated sugar and dark brown sugar in a large bowl or in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer.  Beat on medium speed until pale in color and very creamy.  Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each is added.  Beat in the vanilla extract.

2.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.  Stir or whisk together to combine well.  Add to the butter mixture a little at a time and mix on low speed until well combined.

3.  Add the chocolate chips and either stir them in with a spoon or mix them in slowly with the electric mixer until well distributed through the dough.

4.  Cover the dough and chill for at least 2 hours, or wrap very well and freeze for up to a month (I have frozen it longer.)

5.  When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 F.  Lightly spray cookie sheets with cooking spray or line them with parchment paper.  Place the M&Ms in a small bowl.

6.  Scoop or pull pieces of cookie dough about 1-1 ½ tablespoons in size and shape into rough balls.  Press the dough balls into the M&Ms.  Gently press the M&Ms into the dough and set the dough balls on the prepared cookie sheet(s), candy side up and at least 2 inches apart. 

7. Bake at 375 F. Partway through baking, the cookies will have a chance to spread leaving space for additional M&Ms. Open the oven and gently press additional M&Ms in the top of the cookies. Continue baking for a total of about 10-11 minutes, or until the cookies are browned on the edges and no longer pale on the top.

8.  Remove from the oven and cool on the pan on a wire rack for about 2 minutes.  Remove the cookies from the pan and cool completely (actually, they’re perfect a little warm) on a wire rack.  Store in an air-tight container at room temperature for a few days or wrap well and freeze. 

Makes 50-60 cookies.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Rum Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

I’ve always got so many cookie ideas this time of year! Way more than I could possibly eat my way through. Well, really they’re mostly the ideas of other people, but the idea that I should make them and share them and eat them is all my own. Occasionally, however, I get an idea to modify a recipe or combine a couple of good-looking ones. That’s pretty much what happened with these Rum Raisin Oatmeal Cookies.

Of course oatmeal raisin cookies are pretty standard and I had wanted to turn this recipe with apples into a raisin cookie because I liked the oatmeal cookie base so much. Then, I also saw a recipe in Tish Boyle’s The Good Cookie in which she macerated raisins in rum before stirring them into cookie dough. (Her recipe is for a chocolate chip cookie, which is probably pretty fabulous.) This idea helped me really kick up the flavor of my oatmeal raisin cookies. There's enough oatmeal in the recipe to make them almost feel wholesome, and I also added some chopped pecans for extra crunch.

There’s just a hint of extra complexity in the flavor of these cookies from the rum-soaked raisins. An extra taste of rum from rum extract, something with which I became quite enamored a couple years ago when falling in love with these muffins, is an especially delicious addition. The cookies don’t come out boozy, something I appreciate and something that allows them to be brought to share in the workplace without too much controversy.

And I did take these cookies to share at work where they received rave reviews. My husband also shared some with his friends, perhaps folks who have a little more appreciation for rum, and they loved them too. So, you don’t just have to take my word for their especial deliciousness. And you probably don’t need to put the rum in them at all, but I think the rum-soaked raisins and bit of extra rum flavoring are just the spirit these cookies need to raise them out of the every-day cookie jar and onto the holiday table.

Rum Raisin Oatmeal Cookies
based on recipes from The Good Cookie by Tish Boyle

1 cup raisins
¼ cup rum
1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon fine salt
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup (8 tablespoons or 1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rum extract
1 ¾ cup rolled oats
¾ cup chopped pecans

1. Combine the raisins and rum in a small bowl. Let stand 6 hours or up to 24 hours.

2. In a medium-size bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Whisk together or sift to combine thoroughly. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer (my preferred method) or in another large bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Beat at medium speed until creamy and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and rum extracts. Beat until smooth.

4. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, stirring until just moistened. Stir in the oats. Stir in the raisins along with any of the remaining rum. Stir until combined. (I prefer to refrigerate the dough for at least a few hours or overnight at this point, although you could continue if you do not want to take the time to rest the dough.)

5. Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly spray cookie sheets with cooking spray or line them with parchment. Scoop and drop the dough by heaping tablespoons (I used a 1 ½ inch scoop) onto the prepared pans.

6. Bake at 375 F for 11-13 minutes or until set in the middle and gently browned on the edges. Let cool on the pan for a minute or two, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies. Store in an airtight container for a few days.


One year ago: Gingerbread Muffins

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Archive Recipe of the Week: Mint Chocolate Cookies

Of course there would be nothing wrong with making these cookies any time of the year. Chocolate and mint can fit into any cookie-making occasion, including no occasion at all. A co-worker recently declared these cookies, “better than Thin Mints,” and we certainly don’t have those at Christmas time. Well, some of you who stock up when you can get them might have a few on your Christmas cookie plate.

The point is that I really only make these cookies when preparing to celebrate Christmas. As good as they’d be the rest of the year, they just seem perfect for December. I mean, come on. Chocolate and mint.

In the original post of this recipe, I made a lazy but flavorful change from the way I first learned to make these cookies. I simply stirred in Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips (Andes brand) and made an especially minty cookie. In the recipe below, I describe the original way these were made in my family: by melting a piece of Crème de Menthe candy on top of each cookie as it comes out of the oven and spreading it around the crackled chocolate cookie top. This not only gives the cookie a pleasantly minty kick, but a thin but firm chocolaty-minty cap. Super-delicious and a bit elegant, too.

Whichever way you make these Mint Chocolate Cookies, you and all the people you bake for are bound to be satisfied if not enthralled. Well, there are those who cannot have or dislike chocolate and/or mint, or wheat flour, etc. and I don’t mean to offend them. The rest of us will just have to eat all of these cookies and find something else for those folks to like.


Mint Chocolate Cookies
From my aunt, Tina Thibeault

For a slightly faster baking experience and more mint flavor, simply stir a 10-ounce package of Andes brand Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips into the batter before chilling. Bake as directed, skipping the step of melting the candy on the baked cookies.

¾ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 ½ cups dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
a 12-ounce package semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate chips (about 2 cups)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
about 2 packages (28 pieces each) Crème de Menthe chocolate candies (such as Andes brand), unwrapped

1. In a medium-size saucepan, combine butter, dark brown sugar, water, and chocolate chips. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until about half the chocolate has melted. Remove from the heat and stir until the chocolate has completely melted. (If necessary, rewarm the mixture gently to finish melting.)

2. Pour the mixture into a large bowl (or the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer) and let stand 10 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Whisk or sift together. Set aside.

4. Add the eggs to the chocolate mixture and beat at medium to high speed until well blended. (You can use a hand mixer or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.) Gradually add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until well blended. Refrigerate the dough until it is easy to handle and no longer sticky, probably about 2 hours. (Or, refrigerate the dough overnight and allow it to warm up so that it is easy to handle when you wish to bake.)

5. Coat cookie sheets with a thin layer of nonstick cooking spray, or line them with parchment paper. Roll the chilled cookie dough into 1 ½ to 2-inch balls and place them at least 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

6. Bake at 350 F for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies appear set and slightly dry on top. Remove from the oven and immediately place ½ of an unwrapped crème de menthe candy on top of each cookie. Allow to melt. Once the candy has melted, swirl it on top of the cookie with a butter knife or the back of a spoon. Remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack.

Makes about 6 dozen cookies. Store cookies in an airtight container.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sweet Pumpkin Dip

I guess you could say that I’m not quite ready for gingerbread and peppermint. The main reason for this is that I’m usually not quite ready for anything. I still have a couple cans of pumpkin puree in the cupboard, not to mention the better part of a large butternut squash in the refrigerator. How am I supposed to use them up and/or fulfill my pumpkin recipe fantasies (barely even delved into) if I move on to warm, spiced Christmas cakes and cookies and candy?

Well, I really think this creamy, sweet dip deserves a bit of undivided attention as well as a place on a holiday party table. It tastes pleasantly of spiced and sweetened pumpkin and is smooth and thick enough to not run off of anything you dip into it. It’s quite good on apple slices and downright dangerously delicious on cinnamon-sugar pita chips. Like, really dangerous! Proceed with caution unless nobody will mind if you don’t share and the pair pants with the post-holiday waistband is waiting in your closet! (Talk about being ready for the holidays!)
This recipe also just takes a few minutes to get ready and lasts for a few days in the refrigerator. It’s also a good way to use up the remainder of a can of pumpkin that you opened for another recipe. If you do have to open a can of pumpkin puree to make this dip, however, the following recipes can help you use up the rest of the can. Each of them calls for 1 cup of pumpkin or less.

Butterscotch Pumpkin Fudge
Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Sugar Frosting
Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins
Savory Squash Bread Pudding with Bacon and Onions
Winter Squash Risotto

I may not be ready for a chocolaty, minty, gingerbread-y, cookie-dense celebration diet just yet, but dipping a few apples (or those dangerous cinnamon-sugar pita chips) in this Sweet Pumpkin Dip while I pore over a few million recipes, old and new, doesn’t sound so bad. Now, about Christmas shopping….You guessed it: not ready.

Sweet Pumpkin Dip
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

I used 1/3 – less fat cream cheese to make this. I almost always find it to be a reasonable replacement for full-fat cream cheese, but I don’t generally recommend nonfat cream cheese.

½ cup pumpkin puree (canned is just fine)
¾ cup (6 ounces) cream cheese
½ cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon maple syrup
½ teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice

1. Combine the pumpkin puree, cream cheese and brown sugar in a medium-size bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until well-blended.

2. Add the maple syrup and Pumpkin Pie Spice. Beat until very smooth. Cover and chill until ready to serve. Serve with apple slices or cinnamon-sugar pita chips or whatever you like.

Makes about 1 ½ cups.


Another recipe like this one: Caramel Dip for Apples

Monday, November 25, 2013

ARoW: Grandmama's Pumpkin Pie

Even though I recently said that I’d rather delay my pumpkin pie gratification until Thanksgiving Day itself, I really had hoped to make Grandmama’s Pumpkin Pie last week, just so I could post some better photos of it here. Sure it’s pumpkin pie and so it looks like pumpkin pie, but this is such a delicious and fabulously traditional recipe that it deserves some better photographic representation.

Alas, I didn’t get a chance to make it, and now I’m fretting a bit, wondering when I’m going to get a chance to make it at all. I have to work Thanksgiving Day, and live too far from the family celebrations, so I won’t be cooking, or even eating, a traditional Thanksgiving dinner (although I have some plans in the works for a Charlie Brown-style meal on Thursday and hope to cook turkey, etc. for my husband and I on Saturday). Whatever happens, though, I’m determined to celebrate somehow with Grandmama’s Pumpkin Pie, even if it’s almost Christmas.

Here are a few other recipes from The Messy Apron Archives that might go well on a Thanksgiving table:
Vegetarian Main Dishes:
Beans and Rice Stuffed Squash
Quinoa Stuffed Squash
Winter Squash Risotto
Butternut Squash Pie with Feta and Mint
Winter Squash and Leek Empanadas with Sage
Winter Vegetable Galettes with Cheddar, Mustard and Caramelized Onions

Side Dishes and Salads:
Carrots with Ketchup-Ginger Dressing
Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry Sauce with Persimmons and Spice
Roasted Cauliflower, Chickpeas and Olives
Roasted Vegetables
Wilted Savoy Cabbage with Warm Walnut-Butter Vinaigrette
Barley and Wild Rice Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette
Brown Rice Salad with Walnuts, Pears and Blue Cheese
Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Maple Walnut Vinaigrette
Arugula Salad with Squash and Lentils
Spinach Salad with Apples and Maple Walnut Vinaigrette
Radish and Carrot Slaw with Zesty Citrus Dressing
Shaved Vegetable Salad with Cider-Sage Vinaigrette

Desserts (if you dare to deviate from the traditional pumpkin pie):
Applesauce and Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Beet and Orange Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes
Apple and Cranberry Crisp
Ginger Spice Ice Cream
Apple Turnovers with Dried Fruit
Cranberry Bars
Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake with Chocolate Crust

And if you have leftover turkey:
Turkey Salad with Sherry Vinegar and Smoked Paprika
Chicken and Vegetable Tetrazzini (replace the chicken with leftover turkey and skip the cooking step)

Grandmama's Pumpkin Pie
It is likely that you will have more filling than you can easily fit into the pie shell. If so, pour the excess in a ramekin and bake it alongside the pie. It will take less time than the pie to fully bake.

If you don’t have Pumpkin Pie Spice on hand, replace it in this recipe with ¾ teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground allspice, ¼ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves, and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1 ½ cups milk

3 tablespoons (about 1 ½ ounces) butter
3 eggs
¾ cup (about 5 ½ ounces) sugar
15 ounces pumpkin puree (canned or homemade)

2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 unbaked pie crust, arranged in a pie pan
whipped cream for serving

1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Heat milk in a medium size sauce pan over medium heat until it reaches 180 F. This is just before the milk boils. (Do not bring all the way to a boil.)

2. Remove the milk from the heat and add the butter. Stir to melt the butter and set aside to cool somewhat.

3. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and the sugar together in a large bowl until they are fluffy and pale. Add the pumpkin and the spices and whisk together. Slowly add the milk mixture and whisk until very well combined.

4. Place the crust in the pan on a large baking sheet. (This will make the pie much easier to maneuver.) Pour the filling into the prepared, unbaked pie crust. Reserve any filling that does not fit and bake it separately in a ramekin for a treat for the cook.

5. Cover the exposed edges of the pie crust with strips of aluminum foil. Carefully transfer the baking sheet with the pie into the 450 F oven and bake for 20 minutes.

6. Reduce the oven heat to 350 F. Bake 15 minutes. Remove the foil from the crust. Bake an additional 15 to 25 minutes. The crust should be golden brown and the center of the pie should wobble just a little when the pie is very gently shaken. Remove from the oven and cool completely before slicing. Serve with whipped cream.

Makes 8 to 10 servings. Eat leftovers within a couple days. Recipe is easily doubled to make two pies.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

ARoW: Cranberry Sauce

Stop right where you are! Take your hand off the can opener. Set it on the counter and back away slowly.

You don’t need a can of cranberry sauce. Ever. EVER! You can make cranberry sauce yourself. Yes you can! You can turn on a stove, right? Okay, then.

If I could get more people to read these pages I would go on a personal crusade to eliminate canned cranberry sauce from the Thanksgiving vernacular. It’s so easy to make really good fresh cranberry sauce. The only problem is that it’s so different from the canned goo that you might have to explain what it is.

One year I offered to bring something for Thanksgiving dinner, and was not asked to bring the cranberry sauce (or the pumpkin pie; that sad, sad story is told here.) I never have let that happen again. If I’m coming to Thanksgiving dinner, I will say, “…and I’ll bring the cranberry sauce.” There is no further discussion.

I’ve always made this simple accompaniment with apple cider or orange juice, but I recently tried it with dry red wine and it was just as delicious. Apple cider tones down the bitter and sour cranberries. Orange juice accentuates the bright acidity. Dry red wine works with the cranberries’ bitterness. Even water makes good cranberry sauce. There will be no excuses. And as you get more comfortable with the recipe, you can even add other fruits and spices to the mix.

I love this stuff. It’s simple, delicious and takes no time or skill to make. You can make it ahead, even a few days, and store it in the refrigerator until a few hours before you need it (it’s best at room temperature). Trust me. The canned stuff is obsolete.

Cranberry Sauce
See? Just three ingredients. Easy, easy, easy!

1 12-ounce (340 g) package fresh or frozen whole cranberries
1 cup (250 ml) sugar
1 cup (250 ml) flavorful liquid, such as apple cider, orange juice, red wine – or- water

1. Combine the cranberries, sugar and liquid in a medium-size saucepan. Stir together and cook over medium-high heat.

2. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes more or until the cranberries have all burst and the sauce has thickened slightly. Remove from the heat and cool. Serve at room temperature.

Makes about 2 ¼ cups.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Butternut Squash Pie with Feta and Mint

I used to make this savory supper pie at least once every autumn, finding it rather elegant and a bit fancy but still not too difficult to pull off, especially for how delicious it is. I’ve let this recipe slide out of my fall repertoire for a few years, however, forcing me to reconsider labeling it a relatively easy recipe. Now that I have a lot less time to cook than I once did, I’m less inclined to think of this as a trouble-less weeknight meal. It may not require much special skill, but there is phyllo dough involved. And if you don’t have a food processor with a shredding blade, there may be hand shredding of winter squash involved as well. Enter at your own risk.

Really, it’s not that difficult to make this pie. For one thing, you don’t have to make a pastry crust for it. Layers of buttered phyllo encase the filling instead, and this application of those thin, finicky layers is pretty forgiving. Since even the best of my phyllo creations look like poor attempts at papier-maché projects anyway, I don’t worry about it too much. (At least here I can blame the crummy lighting in my kitchen and the bad photography…)

The delicious filling of this pie is what you want to focus upon. Sweet shredded squash mixed with bulgur to keep it from getting too moist, rich feta and Parmesan cheeses, and a kick of fresh mint make a perhaps non-intuitive but nonetheless lovely combination. I think this basic idea could be flavored other ways as well, say with green onions or sherry and smoked paprika. Or how about Gruyere, sage and thyme instead of feta and mint? I’ve always stuck with original taste profile, but who knows? I may be missing out on something even greater.

Next time I have time to fiddle with phyllo dough, I may have to find out.


Butternut Squash Pie with Feta Cheese and Mint
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

It’s easiest to use the shredding blade on a food processor to shred the squash, but it can be accomplished with a box grater if you don’t mind the extra work.

I find it works best to thaw the phyllo dough over night in the refrigerator and work with it quickly once the package is opened.

4 cups shredded butternut squash (from about 1 pound peeled squash flesh)
¼ cup dry bulgur
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
¾ cup (about 3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
½ cup (about 2 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
4 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
8 sheets phyllo dough, thawed if frozen

1. In a large bowl, combine the squash, bulgur and salt. Cover and let stand at least 30 minutes. (Refrigerate if leaving longer than 30 minutes.)

2. Heat the olive oil in a medium-size skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook 5-8 minutes or until tender and just beginning to brown.

3. Add the cooked onion, feta cheese, Parmesan cheese, mint and pepper to the squash mixture and stir to combine.

4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Melt the butter.

5. Generously brush the bottom of a 10-inch deep-dish pie pan with butter. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo dough on the bottom of the pan allowing the ends to extend over the edges. Brush the phyllo with butter. Repeat with another sheet in a crisscross design. Butter that sheet as well. Repeat with 2 more sheets of phyllo and more butter. (The remaining 4 sheets will be used to top the pie.)

6. Spoon the squash mixture over the layered phyllo in the pie pan. Place a layer of phyllo over the filling. Brush it with butter. Repeat in a crisscross pattern with the remaining 3 sheets of phyllo and the remaining butter (you may have more butter than you need). Fold the edges of the phyllo dough to fit the pie pan and form a rim around the edge.

7. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until the phyllo crust is golden brown.

Makes about 8 servings.


Got leftover phyllo dough? Make these delicious croutons from Giada De Laurentiis at the Food Network!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Archive Recipe of the Week: Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

This is a fairly quick and simple recipe to tide you over. Because you know you want pumpkin pie. Now. Not in 17 days when it’s Thanksgiving. But can you justify pumpkin pie, even though it’s actually relatively simple as desserts go, right now? Will the Thanksgiving pie be as special if you sneaked in another one earlier in the month?

Well, all that is up to you, of course. I, personally, like to save the expected pie for Thanksgiving and use the rest of November (and also October and perhaps part of September) to try other pumpkin recipes. I also like the idea of throwing these cupcakes, which are almost like crustless mini pumpkin pies, together to stave off cravings when necessary. (Even though I can’t remember if I’ve made them again since I originally posted the recipe.)

These cupcakes, which don’t rise up much when baked and sink down in the middle when cooled, really are more like pumpkin pie filling than like a cake in texture. They also really are better served chilled with a nice garnish of lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes might not exactly fill the niche of your favorite pumpkin pie, but they don’t need to. They just need to tide you over. And they’re so quick to make that you can mix up the batter, bake them, cool them, and hide them in the freezer to keep them all for yourself before anyone else is the wiser.


Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes
Adapted from the blog Baking Bites

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon fine salt
1 ½ teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
2 large eggs
3/4 cup half and half
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree (or use homemade pumpkin puree)
½ cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Whisk together to mix well and ensure there are no lumps. Set aside.

2. In another medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Add the half and half and beat well. Add the pumpkin, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract. Whisk together until well-combined and very smooth.

3. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and whisk together until smooth.

4. Line a 12-cup muffin/cupcake pan with paper liners. Spoon about 1/3 cup batter into each lined cup. Bake at 350 F 20-25 minutes or until the top and edges appear well set. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan. They will sink in the middle as they cool. When the cupcakes are cool, cover and chill. Serve cold with sweetened whipped cream.

Makes 12 servings. Can be frozen by wrapping and sealing in a freezer bag or freezer-safe container.

Other recipes like this one: Grandmama's Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Waffles, Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins, Pumpkin Oatmeal Quick Bread with Dates and Pecans, Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Sugar Frosting


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Pumpkin Waffles

Nothing says, “I have the day off,” like going out for breakfast. But coming in second place might just be making waffles for breakfast at home. Last Saturday gave me just such an opportunity, and, for once, I embraced an opportunity wholeheartedly. Of course there was pumpkin (from a can, which is okay by me), Pumpkin Pie Spice, and maple syrup in the house to sweeten the deal.

I had a pumpkin waffle recipe in the binder in which I kept recipes that I liked before I started The Messy Apron. I couldn’t remember when I made them or how good (or not) these waffles were, but I wanted pumpkin waffles in the worst way, so I tried the recipe again. For supper. Hey, it’s the only mealtime I had available.

After that test, I decided they were delicious, but a bit heavy. Separating the eggs, beating the whites and folding them into the batter might help that, so I decided to try it. While it’s possible to beat one egg white (the original recipe called for one egg) without much trouble, as I learned from this recipe, I thought I’d make it a little more worth the time and energy and double the batch, therefore using two eggs.  This would have the added benefit of creating leftover waffles that I could keep in the freezer for weekday breakfasts.

Folding in the beaten egg whites did indeed solve the problem of the heavy-ish waffle. The end result was lighter and fluffier, but just as flavorful. And leftover waffles available for reheating during the week are, if not quite as good as the freshly-made ones, still a thing of beauty. Alas, they are only a joy for a limited time. I don’t know when I’ll have the opportunity to make pumpkin waffles for breakfast again, but, as I admitted above, they’re not just for breakfast. I think I see some more supper waffles in my not-too-distant future.


Pumpkin Waffles
Based on a recipe in Cooking Light magazine, October 2001

I used a smallish (7-inch) waffle iron to make these waffles. If yours is larger or smaller, you may end up with a different number of waffles.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil or vegetable oil
2 large eggs, separated
1 cup pumpkin puree
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup milk

1. Preheat a waffle iron. Preheat the oven to 200 F. Place a wire cooling rack on the oven rack in the middle position.

2. In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, Pumpkin Pie Spice, and salt. Whisk together or sift until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

3. In another medium-size bowl, whisk together the oil and the egg yolks. Whisk in the pumpkin and brown sugar. Whisk in the milk, continuing to whisk until smooth. Set aside.

4. In a medium-size bowl beat the egg whites on high speed with an electric mixer until they form stiff peaks. (That is, when you lift the beaters away from the egg whites, they stand up in peaks.) Set aside.

5. Pour the egg and pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture. Stir just until there are no longer any lumps of dry ingredients. Fold (that is, gently stir) in the beaten egg whites a little at a time, being careful not to deflate the mixture, until just a few small puffs of egg white can be seen in the mixture.

6. Spray the preheated waffle iron with cooking spray (or brush it with oil or melted butter.) Pour or spoon an appropriate portion of batter onto the waffle iron and bake each waffle according to manufacturer’s instructions.

7. When each waffle is done, place in the preheated oven on the wire rack to keep warm until ready to serve. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with butter and maple syrup.

Makes about 8 7-inch waffles.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Archive Recipe of the Week: Cabbage, Cauliflower and Apple Salad

I don't really have an excuse for not having an Archive Recipe of the Week for last week. It's not like there aren't a lot of previously posted fall recipes that I love. It's not even like I didn't make anything from the archives. On the contrary: I made Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies and a version of these peanut butter cookies, plus Pasta with Squash Puree and Blue Cheese Sauce and Soup Beans.

I guess I was holding out for a chance to talk about getting back to this Crunchy Cabbage, Cauliflower and Apple Salad, which has gone sadly neglected for years. It had been…I don’t know how long. Embarrassing.

But when I went crawling back to it, the experience was like rebirth, like seeing, tasting, smelling again for the first time. Okay maybe that’s a bit overboard, but this is a great salad and quite a wonderfully refreshing use of otherwise stodgy seasonal vegetables (and fruit). The caraway is a dynamite addition and the cider vinegar really jazzes up the flavors.

This salad also keeps well, so you can enjoy it for a few days. The vinegar keeps the apples from turning brown, and everything stays crisp and bright. Yes, I’ve been seeing other salads and even other recipes from the archives, but my love for this one stands the test of time and neglect. Reconciliation never tasted so good.

Crunchy Cabbage, Cauliflower and Apple Salad
Modified from a recipe in Eating Well magazine.
1/3 cup (75 ml) mayonnaise
1/3 cup (75 ml) sour cream
2 tablespoons (30 ml) apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) caraway seeds, coarsely crushed
½ teaspoon (2 ml) salt
¼ teaspoon (1 ml) freshly ground pepper
¼ cup (about 1 ounce or 30g) finely chopped red onion
8 ounces (250g or about 2 cups) chopped green cabbage
8 ounces (250g or about 2 cups) chopped cauliflower
1 chopped tart, crisp apple, cored (no need to peel)

1. Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, red onion, cider vinegar, caraway seeds, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Whisk to blend well.

2. Add onion, cabbage, cauliflower and apple to the dressing. Toss well to coat with the dressing.

Makes about 6 servings.
Can be made ahead of time, since the vinegar in the dressing keeps the apples from getting brown. Keep chilled. Leftovers last a few days in the refrigerator.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Winter Squash and Rice Casserole

I can’t remember clipping this recipe from a magazine. (Maybe because it was published in September 2002!) I can’t remember how it sifted itself to the top of my recipe to-do list. I can’t even remember how I decided that I had to make this NOW, rather than some other time this fall, except that I had a squash laying around and all the rest of the ingredients seemed to be on hand.

Remembering all that stuff might be overrated, however, as long as I remember to make this Winter Squash and Rice Casserole whenever squash is in season. Since it is made with hot broth and Arborio rice, it’s kind of like an oven risotto, but less soupy and creamy. And less demanding of your undivided attention. The squash is roasted first, some aromatics are sautéed, the rice gets a quick blast in the sauté pan, and then everything is tossed into a baking dish and the oven does the rest of the work. Oh yeah, it all gets topped with Parmesan cheese near the end. What could be bad about that?

I loved the flavors of the sweet squash, sage, garlic and onion in this fairly simple casserole. I used a butternut squash, since butternuts seem to be the easiest to peel and chop. If you happen to have a tougher squash to handle, you could pierce the skin several times with a knife, roast it whole at 350 F for 20-30 minutes, cool it until you can handle it easily, and then peel it and cut it into cubes. These cubes of squash might be tender enough to add right to the recipe as described, or you might need to cook them a little more. However you cook the squash, that part of the recipe could even be done a day or two ahead of time.

I also think this might work with another variety of rice. I’d like to try it with brown rice to bump up its Whole Food Quotient and add some nutty, whole grain flavor. Perhaps if that works, other grains, such as barley or quinoa, might work as well. Cooking times are likely to vary with these other grains, of course. I’m getting away from the risotto idea with these thoughts, but the casserole that comes out of the oven isn’t much like risotto in texture anyway.

This Winter Squash and Rice Casserole is really, really delicious, though, and quite simple to put together. I’m glad this recipe reached out and grabbed my attention from amidst the ancient recipe stacks and archives in my ridiculous collection. Even if I don’t remember how it got there.

Note: Sorry about the bad pics, folks. It’s that time of year when there’s no sunshine at suppertime, and food photos by a rank amateur like me suffer greatly.


Winter Squash and Rice Casserole
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

I find butternut squash to be easiest to use here, but any good squash that you don’t mind taking the time to peel and cut into small cubes will work.

1 pound peeled winter squash cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
¾ teaspoon coarse salt, divided
3 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice, or other short-grain rice
¼ cup dry white wine
¼ teaspoon black pepper, preferably freshly ground
½ cup freshly grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, toss the squash cubes with 1 tablespoon olive oil and ¼ teaspoon salt. Place in a single layer on a lined or greased baking sheet or in a roasting pan. Bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes or until the squash is tender, but still holding its shape.

2. Remove the squash from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 400 F. Prepare a 13 x 9-inch baking dish by coating it with cooking spray or by greasing it with your preferred method. Set aside.

3. In a medium-size saucepan, combine the vegetable broth and sage. Bring just to a simmer. Do not boil. Keep warm.

4. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and ¼ teaspoon salt and sauté, stirring frequently, until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook about 30 seconds more. Add the rice and cook 1 minute, stirring often.

5. Add the wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the cooked squash, hot broth, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and black pepper. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6. Transfer the rice mixture to the prepared baking dish. Bake at 400 F for 30 minutes. Stir the mixture gently. Top with the Parmesan cheese. Bake 5 minutes more or until the cheese is melted.


Makes about 6 1-cup servings.

Another recipe like this one: Winter Squash Risotto

Monday, October 21, 2013

Archive Recipe of the Week: Pumpkin Alfredo

Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce is great in so many ways and for so many reasons. It’s easy. It’s delicious. It ushers in pumpkin season without much fuss. In the original post, I had served it over cheese tortellini, but I recently served it with some delicious four-cheese ravioli, and it would be great tossed with just about any noodle you like.

This recipe is quite rich, which, to me, means I can enjoy a small serving and stretch one pan of sauce and pasta over a few meals (although the sauce can separate a little when reheated. I don’t mind.) I’m beginning to think this could be lightened a bit by using half and half instead of heavy cream, or by adding a little or a lot more pureed pumpkin or squash. Next time I make it, I think I’ll try the latter idea, since I rarely have anything against more squash, at least for the next month or so.

You could also stir some sautéed or roasted vegetables into your pasta and Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce. Since this is so simple there’s lots of room for trying new variations. And since it’s so delicious, it would be pretty difficult to ruin it by trying some of those brilliant ideas I know you have.


Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce
Adapted from Food Network Magazine

hot cooked tortellini or ravioli, from about18-20 ounces fresh or frozen
about ½ cup cooking water from the pasta

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoons finely minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup pumpkin or winter squash puree (canned is fine)
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
about 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup grated parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano

¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
finely chopped parsley and additional parmesan for garnish, if desired

1. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft and just beginning to brown, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute more.

2. Add the pumpkin and cook about 1 minute more, stirring frequently. Add the cream and stir until smooth. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and boil gently for about 5 minutes or until the cream begins to thicken.

4. Stir in the nutmeg, Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Stir in the cooked pasta and cook just until well coated and heated through. Add some of the reserved cooking water if the sauce seems too thick. Serve with parsley garnish and additional parmesan cheese if desired.

Makes about 4 servings.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Beef Empanada Pot Pie

When posting another of my husband’s favorite recipes, I referred to my great aunt’s bridal shower advice to cook my new husband’s favorite meal every once in a while as a surprise. Well, I don’t really do surprises so well, and I’m always trying new recipes, so I was in danger of neglecting that very good advice. I recently devised a list of several favorite recipes, however, and I’m trying to make one of those recipes each week. Some are simple (thank goodness for simple tastes!), but some, like this Beef Empanada Pot Pie, require a little more forethought and preparation.

This is a rich and savory pot pie, originally from the pages of Cooking Light magazine. I’m afraid I may have “un-lightened” it somewhat, adding more flour to a filling that I though was too runny and adding more olives. (I wish “light” didn’t have to mean skimping on the olives.) This makes a big stew with a flavorful crust that can feed us most of the week if we let it. It’s very beefy, but there are also a lot of diced potatoes that make the filling very, well, filling.

Speaking of those potatoes, I highly recommend cutting them into very small chunks so they cook through and aren’t unpleasantly hard. I used thin-skinned potatoes this time around, and they only needed to be scrubbed, but you can peel yours if you wish. Actually I had made this potpie just a week before I made the one in these photos, which is an unprecedented level of repeat around here, but it wasn’t until I got it into the oven, crust and all, that I realized that I had left the potatoes out entirely. I hadn’t even cleaned and chopped them. Total neglect. (The pot pie was actually very good without them, really, but it didn’t stretch to as many servings without the potatoes’ extra bulk.)

This is a delicious meal, and, although I can’t handle quite so much beef, nor as large a serving as my husband, I like it almost as much as he does. It’s like a stewy-er version of a perky, savory, slightly spicy empanada with an empanada crust on top rather than enfolding the filling. I reserve it for meals in the colder months, since it requires some hot oven time and is so filling and hearty. Since the colder days seem to be here to stay for a while, Beef Empanada Pot Pie goes on the “Deserving Husband’s Favorites” list for a while. I can’t help it if I really enjoy this one, too.

Other recipes from the archives on the “Deserving Husband’s Favorites” list:

Italian Chickpeas
Soup Beans
Spaghetti Pie
Beef and Guinness Pot Pie


Beef Empanada Pot Pie
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

I use the dark Mexican beer, Negra Modello, for this pot pie. I also usually use a fairly lean ground beef and do not feel I need to drain any fat after browning it. If yours is less lean, you can drain some of it off before adding the vegetables to the pot.

for the crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon fine salt
¼ cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
3-5 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

for the filling:
1 pound ground beef
1 ½ pounds diced potato, peeled if desired (about 4 cups)
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped bell pepper
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 small fresh chile pepper, minced
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon fine salt
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup beer (I use a dark Mexican beer)
1 (10.5 ounce) can beef consommé
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
¼ cup chopped green olives (pimiento-stuffed are fine)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1. To make the crust: combine the flour, cumin, chili powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and process until the butter is in very small, flour-coated pieces.

2. Add the vinegar and about 3 tablespoons ice water. Pulse until the mixture just begins to come together in a ball, adding more water as needed.

3. Turn out the dough onto a surface lined with a large sheet of plastic wrap. Press mixture gently into a rectangle and cover with another sheet of plastic wrap. Roll the dough between the plastic wrap sheets into an oval or rectangle roughly the size of the dish you plan on using to make the potpie, about 12 inches by 8 inches. Refrigerate until ready to use.

4. Preheat oven to 400 F. Place the ground beef in a very large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook until the meat is browned. Drain excess fat from the meat if desired and return the meat to the pan.

5. Add the onion, bell pepper and potato. Cook about 10 minutes or until the onions and peppers are tender. Add the chile and garlic and cook about 30 seconds more. Stir in the oregano, chili powder, cumin and salt. Add the flour and cook, stirring for about 1 minute.

6. Add the beer and scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the beef consommé and tomatoes. Cook, stirring often, for a few minutes or until the liquid has thickened. Stir in the olives and cider vinegar.

7. Pour the mixture into a deep casserole dish, approximately 11 inches by 7 inches. (I used a 3-quart oval casserole.) Remove the plastic wrap from one side of the crust. Place that side of the crust down onto the filling. Remove the remaining sheet of plastic wrap. Fit the crust to the sides of the dish, folding over as needed. With a sharp knife, make 3-4 slashes in the crust.

8. Bake at 400 for 35 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Cool 10 minutes before serving. Cover and refrigerate leftovers for re-heating.

Makes 6-8 servings.