Chrysanthemum Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

Flavored like pumpkin, frosted like chrysanthemums, that is.

Everything is all right tonight.  That's a nice feeling, isn't it?

Kids in bed, sleeping sound.  Roast chicken for dinner, nice neighbors dropping in and sharing it with us.

It's still cold, of course.  Always cold.

But I have a blanket.

Sugar cookies are probably my favorite kind of cookie.  I'll pick them over a whoopie pie, I'll pick them over chippers.

Sometimes I get a terrible craving for a gingersnap, but there's nothing like a smooth, buttery sugar cookie.

I thought I'd throw some pumpkin in, just to get my last pumpkin baking in before the season ends.  It was a nice variation on a settled theme.

It's a bit late in the season for chrysanthemums but you know?  You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit.

That's how it is in our house.

Now eat your cookie.

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies
adapted from The Wicked Spatula

Makes 24 cookies, cut thick

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves

1 cup butter, softened
3 1/2 - 4 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a stand mixer, beat together your pumpkin, butter, sugar, powdered sugar, vanilla and eggs until smooth, about 3 minutes.

In another bowl sift together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and spices.

Dump dry ingredients into wet and mix until well incorporated.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Roll out dough, I like it thick so I roll it to about 1/4 - 1/2 inch thickness.  Choose your own adventure and adjust baking time accordingly.  Cut with flower-shaped cookie cutter (or whatever shape you want!).  Let your kid help.

Bake for 8 minutes, less for thinner cookies.  Just until barely golden at the edges.

Let cool, make frosting by beating together butter and powdered sugar for 3 minutes.  Add vanilla, salt, milk and cinnamon and beat for one minute more.

Frost!  And eat!  And share! 

Cinnamon Yogurt Twists

The weather is crazy!

This is the time of year I like to call "High Fall."

Its royal colors are iron gray and deep yellow.

My coat is deep yellow too!  But all the buttons are missing.  Can't have everything (don't wear your non-maternity clothes when you're pregnant).

There are frosty veins on rusty leaves when we walk to the crepe stand.

(They opened a crepe stand nearby!)

Fall is dramatic as an opera.

The down-side is the cold, of course.  It's started seeping in the windows and the places where you can see daylight in the doorframe of this 1970's house.

I guess I'd better get sewing those buttons back on.  And picking which knit hat I'll be wearing from now until April.

Cinnamon Yogurt Twists
taken from Taste of Home

Sometimes there is a fine line between a snack and a dessert.  These could even qualify as a breakfast, if you wanted them to.  They made a lovely snack or small lunch served with tea and pears.  Crunchy and sweet but not quite dessert sweet.  Cinnamon is the flavor of fall.

1 package (1/4 oz) active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3 3/4 - 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butter, cubed
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

In a large bowl combine the yeast, salt, and 2 1/2 cups flour.  In a small saucepan heat the butter, yogurt and water to 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit, add to dry ingredients.  Beat on medium speed for two minutes.

Add the eggs, vanilla, and 1/2 cup flour, beat 2 minutes longer.  Stir in enough remaining flour to form a stiff dough.  Do not knead.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Combine sugar and cinnamon; set aside.  Punch dough down (whee!).  On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12-in. x 9-in. rectangle.  Sprinkle 3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar over the dough; fold dough into thirds.  Give the new rectangle a quarter turn and repeat rolling out, sprinkling, and folding.  Do this three more times, totaling four roll-outs.

Roll into a 12-in. x 6-in. rectangle.  Cut into 24 1/2-in. wide strips.  Twist the strips!  (fun)  Place on baking sheet.  Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.  Bake at 350 F for 14-18 minutes or until golden brown.

Cranberry Cake with Warm Cream Sauce

I think my face is broken.

Do you ever get that?  Like you're fine, and you're fine, and you're fine, and then you're SOOOO TIIIIIIRED.

My eyes are sort of collapsin' like a stroke victim and I think a headache is gonna start pounding soon.

Pre-emptive Advil!  Or maybe five?

I'm all right.  It was just a long one.  I got stuck at the dentist's and I had to clean my kitchen.  And the baby cries.  How she cries.

So mundane.  Such is life.  The beauty is only ever in the details.  And that is why I love food.

The sunset was red-gold.  The polenta bread we ate with soup was soft.  The cranberry cake was exceptional.

Cranberry Cake with Warm Cream Sauce
adapted from Taste of Home

Anybody who knows me knows I have a weakness for old-timey foods.  This simple, single-layer cake is not too sweet, with a pleasant sauce that tastes rich but has less butter and sugar than frosting.  It's the kind of delicacy you could serve your friends for tea.  If you wanted to share it at all...

3 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh cranberries

For sauce:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Grease 9-inch baking pan, preheat oven to 350F.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in milk.  Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and gradually add to milk mixture.  Beat in the cranberries.

Pour into greased baking pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

For sauce, melt butter in a saucepan.  Stir in sugar and cream.  Bring to a boil, stirring often.  Boil 8-10 minutes or until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat, stir in vanilla.

At this point you can simply pour it over each slice as you serve it, as the original recipe recommends.  However I did not have time for that so I used a chopstick to poke holes all over the cake and poured the sauce over the whole thing.  It soaked in and gave it a delicious, moist, tres leches-type feel.  Predictably, I recommend doing it my way.

Brown Butter Millet Muffins

Now that we've all sucked the last of the sugar out of our molars, how about something more hearty?

Want to know a secret about these muffins? 

They were adapted from a doughnut recipe.

Aren't I clever!  Aren't.  I.  Clever.

Honey bear.  Baby food.  Apple slice.  I live here.

You may be wondering what the point of such a thing could be - leave the doughnuts alone!  What did they ever do to you?

This point of view is worth considering.

However, as a mom, I need to take into consideration things like healthy and sugar and appropriate snacks.

I know.  It's the worst.

But it's also a fun way to create something entirely new.

Have you had millet in baked goods yet?  Mm so crunchy!

My kid hates nuts, and I love nuts, and I was really puzzled about where to get my crunch fix.

Millet.  Millet is the answer.

Not bad for the first week of November, right?  And I'm going to get rid of all of that Halloween candy I confiscated from my son (for his health!  his precious health!) soon.

Super, super soon.

Brown Butter Millet Muffins
adapted from Joy the Baker

makes 12 muffins

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup millet

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Paper your muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, powder, soda, salt, nutmeg and sugar.  Set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt butter.  I usually use medium-heat, but some prefer it lower.  Just keep an eye on it.  It will start to brown and sizzle and foam.  When the foam starts to turn a light toasty brown you are where you want to be.  Remove from heat.

In a large bowl whisk together egg, buttermilk and vanilla.  Whisk in browned butter.  Add the dry ingredients and stir together until all the flour is almost incorporated, then add your millet and stir it in.  And then NO MORE STIRRING.  You don't want rubbery muffins, do you?

Dollop batter into your muffin papers.  About 2/3 cup full, if you want to be exact.  Bake for 8 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the biggest one comes out clean.

Let 'em cool, eat 'em up!

Halloween 2014

I Columbus'd this Day of the Dead alter.  It's the true meaning of Halloween!

Arg!  Apologies for being away so long.  Been having some technical difficulties.  Should be all fixed up soon.

A day late and many dollars short (as usual), here is my Halloween entry.  Try to remember what that long, long ago day was like as you read...

Happy Hurlaween!

Anybody else eat all the candy?  Eh?  Eh?

I had some of my kid's candy.  Better me than him, right?

Right.  Sucker.

For a Halloween party this year I made monster cake pops and ghost cupcakes.

I'm normally against using fakey things like 'Wilton Candy Melts', which are made of shortening and ground
up shards of glass.

But something about Halloween justifies the use of extreme sweets, vivid, unnatural colors, and mildly toxic chemicals.

Do we drown ourselves in a feast of sweets so strong they'll melt your teeth as a celebration of life?  Or an invitation to death.

This is a post-party cake pop.  This cake pop partied a little too hard.
The dead don't get to eat sweets.  Maybe we all know that is what we will miss the most.

Halloween is about remembering the dead and enjoying the pleasures of this life while we have them.  Something macabre, something sweetly, tastily rotten in there.

I love topsy-turvy carnivalesque holidays, where the air smells like something is burning and time goes out of joint.

And on November 1, I'm always a little bit glad it's over.

Halloween Treats

For my ghost cupcakes I did this simple vanilla cupcake recipe (with buttermilk, 1/3 cup of chocolate chips and a whole teaspoon of salt) with this confectioner's frosting, using milk in place of champagne.  Get your candy eyeballs from the candy eyeball store.

For cake pops I did the same vanilla cake recipe without the choco chips, crumble it up and mix it in with the same frosting recipe, shape into balls, stick lollipop sticks into balls, freeze your balls, dip your balls in melted Wilton candy melts (also available at the candy eyeball store) and decorate with candy eyeballs and candy.

Fun was had!

Chilaquiles Verdes

Chilaquiles are like a Mexican version of nachos.

Did you think nachos were Mexican?

*food snob moment*

Apparently tortilla chips aren't even properly Mexican!  Although I hear they're catching on.

(And I'm really not judging, just because they aren't Mexican doesn't mean they aren't delicious after all.)

But back to chilaquiles.  It's like nachos except you make your own tortilla chips and then soak them in salsa, red or green depending on your mood.

I'm pretty sure that if you want to change a food from Mexican-American to straight up Mexican, just replace cheese with salsa.

Also cut the cumin.  And no sugar!  I'm looking at you, fans of sweet chicken tacos.

Geez, such a snob.  Sorry, I'll stop.

(I won't, I live for this)

Sprinkle these with queso fresco, some white onion slices, cilantro and crema and there it is.

The breakfast of your dreams!

They're wonderful for using up aging ingredients like excess tortillas or salsa.

Some people top them with fried eggs.  I didn't go so far in my endeavor.

Don't judge my messy kitchen!  This is how I live.

Go where I did not.

Chilaquiles Verdes
adapted from The Food Network

I made my own salsa but you certainly don't have to.  For a more authentic flavor that can be found in most grocery stores I recommend La Costena brand.  Of course if you have access to more locally made, go for it!

1 lb tomatillos
3 jalepeno peppers (or serranos)
6 garlic cloves
1 large white onion
olive oil, as needed
salt and pepper
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/3 cup vegetable oil
10 corn tortillas, the staler/dryer the better
queso fresco, to taste
Mexican crema (sour cream works too), to taste
Sliced white onions, to taste
Fresh chopped cilantro leaves, to taste

Preheat broiler.

For the salsa:  peel and rinse the tomatillos.  Put chiles, onion and tomatillos on a baking sheet.  Season with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.  Broil until softened and slightly charred, about 7 minutes.  Take the tops of the chiles, put broiled things and fresh garlic in a blender with about 1/4 cup of water, and blend until smooth.

For chilaquiles:  heat 1/3 cup vegetable oil in a pan over medium/medium-high heat.  Fry dry tortillas until browned and crisp.  Drain tortillas on paper towels and wipe oil out of pan with a paper towel.  Add salsa in, bring to a simmer.  Break up tortillas into halves and quarters and toss into the salsa.  Cook together about 5 minutes.

Pour tortilla/salsa mixture into a serving bowl and top with queso fresco, creme, fresh sliced onions and fresh cilantro. 

Pumpkin Patch 2014

I am lucky to live in a place with so many farms.

There is a wide variety here; some cater very strongly to agritourists (that's a real word!) with playgrounds and animal activities and well-organized U-pick seasons.

Others are clearly more interested in the actual business of growing and selling food, with haybales rather than play structures and open pens of questionably friendly goats instead of well-stocked petting zoos.

View from the carrier.  I know it's blurry but look at that face.

Some are good for apples, some for strawberries.  Some grow the most beautiful flowers and others sell grass-fed beef and locally-milled wheat.  One grumpy old man won't open his storefront to save his life but if you ask he'll pit your cherries for you.  I don't choose which ones to go to over others because, why?

Where did Gray learn that this is what a smile looks like?

 I go to all of them.

Oh right

My favorites happen to be a pair that are within close range of each other, Lone Pine Farm and Thistledown Farm.  Lone Pine is an agritourist joint and it does its business well.

Their Halloween festivities are particularly well-done, with hayrides and corn mazes and caramel apples and a haybale maze for the kiddies.

This is the kiddie pumpkin patch.  The bigger one was squashy with mud and vines and overgrown with mammoth dying sunflowers that bent over like they were trying to get a better look at you.  I was good with the pumpkins-on-the-lawn type of patch.
Thistledown is a bit more down to earth, but they're flush with homegrown food and they'll take you on a hayride if you ask.  Also they have a corn maze from which you may never emerge.

 Halloween is more fun with kids.

Food is more fun with farms.