Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What came first, the pumpkin or the pecan?

Yahoo! We are just days away from my second favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. There are a few reasons why i love this holiday. I would like to say that the first reason is the food, but I'd be lying. The biggest reason I love Thanksgiving is that I get to spend of full day of cooking, laughing and sharing memories with my family.

In my house we start cooking the night before actual Turkey Day. We have to make the cornbread for the stuffing (or dressing as we call it), pies are made the night before, and we also make a breakfast casserole to have in the morning. Then, at the crack of dawn on Thursday Mom and I are up, with coffee in hand and we are chopping away. Celery, onions, sausage, all meet the knife, and we are thankful for their sacrifice.

The rest of the day is filled with me, Mom and Dad moving about the kitchen, with pots clinking, burners boiling, and Mr. Turkey roasting away. The smells fill the kitchen quickly and little by little the magic starts to happen. Deviled eggs are made, green been casserole is browned, pea salad is refrigerating, marshmallows on the sweet potatoes are melting, biscuits are rising, gravy is thickening, cranberries are jellied, pickled and olives are trayed and of course Mr. Turkey is carved.

My plate is piled with food, and I'll probably go back for seconds. The crowd of family now moves to the living room to surround the TV and watch some football. The dogs sit close and stare with puppy dogs eyes, begging for a morsel. After a few hours and some games, the pies, pumpkin and pecan, are unveiled, coffee is brewed, wine is opened and we all sit around the table talking about memories past. This is also the time that we bust out the shopping ads and create our plan of attack for the next days shopping mission.

It is for all of these reasons that I love Thanksgiving. I love spending all day with my family, I love, love the food, I love the football game, I love playing games at the table, and I love to be able to reflect on everything I am thankful for.
This week I was thankful for TWD for a few reasons. Vibi from La Casserole Carrée was our recipe queen this week and she chose Dorie's Thanksgiving Twofer Pie. It's half pumpkin and half pecan. I was so excited about this one, because my pie crust actually worked. When TWD made our blueberry pie, my pie crust was dumped in the trash and store bought was substituted. But not this time! My pie is completely home/hand made! The pumpkin filling had an extra kick thanks to the rum, which I really liked. And I loved the crunchy topping and nutty pecans. If you're anything like my family where we always make a pumpkin pie and a pecan pie, your life may have just got a little easier thanks to this scrumptious hybrid!

Friday, November 21, 2008


I wish I could have an "A-ha" moment. Deep down inside I really have an urge to change my life, do something different and achieve my career goals. Only problem is I don't know what that career is. My mind has changed so many times that I have no clue anymore of what I want to do. I'd really like to start my own business, my ultimate goal would be some kind of bake shop. But, I'm not financially ready for that step yet.

So my mind wanders to other things. Personal Trainer, Real Estate Agent, something in Magazine Design, or even going to school to get my Masters...in what, I don't know. And with times being a little tough these days I feel like I would like to have a second source of income. I don't necessarily want to get another job. I'd like to find something easy that I could do in my "afterwork" hours, that doesn't have me working another 5 hours at night.
I just have so many thoughts running through my mind and I don't know how to sort them, where to take them, or what to do with them. I think about the woman that I want to be. Successful, financially independent, respected, entrepreneur, and innovative. Its connecting the dots to get to that woman that I'm having problems with. I just keep praying that while I'm having my coffee one morning I will all the sudden say "A-ha" I know now what it all means!
Until that day comes, I had an "A-ha" moment with this cake. I saw a recipe on Epicurious.com for Brown_Sugar Spice Cake with Caramelized Apples. The cake sounded so warm and comforting, some thing to help lift my spirits. Only problem was I didn't have any apples. Think, think, think. A-ha!!! I've had this jar of Pomegranate Jelly forever, and a can of pears in the pantry that needed to be used. So I figured I mix them together for my topping, and what do you know, I had one of the best cake I have ever, ever made! The flavors were so reminiscent of fall, and matched perfectly together that I found myself dying for another piece. At least I had some sort of an "A-ha" moment.
Brown-Sugar Spice Cake with Warm Pear-Pomegranate Compote
Adapted from Epicurious.com

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup dark amber or Grade B maple syrup
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter and flour cake pan, knocking out excess flour.Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in a bowl.
Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg until combined. Add maple syrup, sour cream, and vanilla and beat until combined well. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, then mix until just incorporated.
Spread batter in cake pan and bake until cake is golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes.

1/4 cup pomegranate jelly
1 can of pear halves, cubed

Place both the jelly and the pears in a bowl and microwave for 2 minutes, or until jelly have liquified. Mash pears, slightly to add texture. Spoon mixture over cooled cake.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

High Spirits

It's time to kick off Holiday Season! This year, the holidays are a little more special to me because I'm living on my own. It's my first time to ever go out and buy Christmas decor, decorate my own tree and host my own cocktail parties. Ever since I was little I always dreamed about this! I know, you may think it's silly, but I was raised in a Christmas loving family. My mom, god love her, has an entire shed in the backyard dedicated to Christmas decor. Every year our house would transform into this magical wonderland full of Gingerbread Kitchen, Snowmen Living Room, Santa Family Room. Every room had it's own theme, and there wasn't one spot of the house left untouched.

Well, her magic decorating elf dust has sprinkled its self on me. For now I find myself roaming the stores planning out my themed rooms. Buying up endless amounts of red and green. And with each purchase I make I find my self smiling more and more. I never knew that creating my Christmas Wonderland could lift my spirits so much.

To compliment my "high spirits" theme, I decided to give my Arborio Rice Pudding of this week's TWD challenge some added spirit. When I saw that Isabelle of Les Gourmandes d'Isa chose this recipe I decided to stray away from the original flavors of vanilla and/or chocolate. I wanted a little kick to my rice pudding, so I added a little cinnamon, orange zest and Grand Marnier.

I also noticed that many TWD-ers were having probably with their puddings being to liquidy, so I actually used 1/2 c of rice and reduced the milk by about 3/4 of a cup. I was left with silky, creamy, orange-y rice pudding. I was tempted to eat my whole margarita glass, but I put the spoon in the dishwasher before I had a chance :) This recipe was such a cinch to make, and has endless possibilities to it. So I raise my glass and toast to the kick off of the Holiday Season, may all your days be merry and bright!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Turning Old Into New

With the economy heading south for the winter, the time to stretch every penny is upon us. I find myself now making sure to use every last drop of milk, saving every last piece of chicken thinking that I can use it as part of my lunch the next day, even using my tea bags twice or reheating old coffee just to save a few bucks. The funny thing is, that it actually feels a little rewarding to find new, inventive ways to pinch the penny.

So, after successfully baking TWD Kugelhopf and having two or three slices of it, I was left staring at a whole loaf of Kugelhopf that was almost destined to make it to the trash. Not that I wanted to throw it away, but I just couldn't eat that much Kugelhopf on my own! When I thought all hope was lost for my little friend, a spark of hope glimmered in the distance.

That spark of hope is called bread pudding! That's right! I took my crusty three day old Kugelhopf and turned it into a White Chocolate Pecan Bread Pudding. Since cool dark nights are swallowing the sunshine of my day earlier and earlier, I couldn't think of anything better to cuttle up to than a warm bowl of bread pudding. And kugelhopf is actually a great "bread" to use, it was crusty on the top, but light and custardy throughout the center.

To all of you out there who are battling these tough times, I raise my spoon to you and say Show Them What You're Made Of! Because we are a nation, a species, a world who have overcome many, many tough times. We will make it through this, just as we have before and come out on top, stronger and ready to face a new day!

White Chocolate Pecan Bread Pudding with Cinnamon Syrup
3/4 c whole milk
3/4 c half and half
1/2 c sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Dash of salt
3 eggs beaten
4 1/2 c (1/2 inch) cubes of Dorie Greenspan's Kugelhopf
1/4 c white chocolate chips
1/2 c chopped pecans

Combine milk through eggs in a bowl and whisk together. Place Kugelhopf cubes into 8 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Pour milk mixture over Kugelhopf. Press down on bread to absorb the milk mixture. Sprinkle white chocolate chips and pecans over top. Cover with foil and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place baking dish in a 13x9 pan, add hot water to pan to the depth of 1 inch. Bake, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake and additional 10 - 20 minutes, until wooden skewer comes out clean.

Cinnamon Syrup
1 c water
1 c packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine water and brown sugar in saucepan and bring to boil over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil for about 10 minutes, until mixture is reduced to about a cup. Remove from heat, and whisk in the cream and cinnamon. Keep sauce warm and serve over warm bread pudding.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Rising Again

Hello Blog World!! I am so happy to be back! My surgery went perfectly, although they did discover that I have arthritis at the age of 24, but other than that all is fine. I am now in my recovery stage. Today was the first day, in three weeks, that I was allowed to take my stiff-leg brace off. And boy does it feel good to bend (slighty) my knee!

As with todays' TWD, I feel like I am rising again, on my way back to my full potential. It's gonna take some time to be completely 100%, but like a good Kugelhopf (chosen by Yolanda of the All-purpose Girl), it's all about the waiting process! I don't think there couldn't have been a better chosen recipe to represent these last few weeks for me!

I must admit, I was a little nervous about making this recipe, not only because it had been a few weeks since I have even looked at my mixer, but also because of the dreaded word Y-E-A-S-T. As you may remember from the TWD Sticky Buns I was very apprehensive about a yeast recipe, because all of my previous attempts with yeast had failed. But I tell you, there's something about Dorie's recipes that always seem to work out. I now have two successful yeast baked recipes under my belt, and am slowly starting to warm up to the bubbly, fermenting little guy!

I wanted to switch up my Kugelhopf, maing it a little more suited for the fall season that has hit New Mexico like a shcokwave. So, I opted to used dried cranberries and white chocolate chips. And boy what a match. The sweet/tartness of the cranberries gave the perfect zing the the airy, buttery dough, and the scattered bite of white chocolate was a sweet, melty surprise. And who says you need a traditional Kugelhopf pan? I made half the dough in my Brooche molds, and the other half in a tube pan, and they worked perfectly. I can't wait to make this recipe again, but try different additions!