ANNOUNCING: Change is part of life, and apparently, it's part of blogging, too. As of September 5, 2013, I'm merging The Virtual Goody Plate with Disco Mom Takes on the World and whatever else may henceforth spill from my fingertips (and kitchen), into one great new blog. I hope you'll join me there in exclaiming, "THIS IS AWESOMELAND."

Monday, November 30, 2009

VGP Coming Tomorrow!

"The Original VGP" happened last year when I decided to make and post 31 different holiday goodies, one each day in December. It was super fun and turned out awesome. I started making and writing months ahead - 31 is actually a lot of goodies to make. I stocked up on butter, and was loving the month-long special on eggs at Safeway.

I was planning on it again this year - yeah, let's make goodies!!! Then I became pregnant and was laid out sick and hardly functional, much less baking, through the crucial months of September and October. November saw me with house guests the first week and a vacation the third week, so it wasn't looking good for thirty-one goodies on the blog in December.

But every problem has a solution. I only had to think a little to realize what it was. I contacted some of my favorite fellow bakers to see if they wanted to help. People stepped up. I sent them lists of recipe titles and they made their choices. I mailed and emailed recipes to Colorado, South Carolina, Massachussetts, England and Virginia, and received back photos and write-ups of such delectable caliber that I regretted not making them each myself. I had obviously chosen the right team.

So, starting tomorrow, you and I both have a month to look forward to. Make your goody plate list of friends and neighbors. Stock up on pretty holiday plates (mine are from the dollar store and after-Christmas sales last year), tins, ribbon, and plastic wrap (craft stores sell big cello bags that go over plates and baskets.) Invest in some aprons for your kids and maybe a new set of measuring cups. And get ready to get baking; this is the month to make everyone happy!

And just in case you can't wait for a new recipe each day, go visit December 2008 in my archives. By way of easy review, here are my Top Ten from last Christmas:

1. Chocolate Turtle Cookies
2. Jr. Mint Meltaways
3. Hazelnut Chewies
4. Peppermint Bonbon Cookies
5. Buried Cherry Cookies
6. Chocolate Marshmallow Meltaways
7. Chocolate Peanut Butter Blow-out Cookies
8. Chocolate Chewies
9. Cranberry-Orange Pinwheels
10. Lemony Bonbon Cookies

Friday, November 20, 2009

French Toast Baked in Honey-Pecan Sauce

When I was still single I went to a bridal shower for a friend and someone gave her the cookbook Intercourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook. I looked it over and was hooked. Who cares if I didn't have a honey? I wanted the food! So I got the book and my roommate and I had some pretty awesome dishes from it - strictly platonic - while watching things like Friends and Ally McBeal.

After Ed and I married, we have gotten the book out on occasion and made a dish together on Valentine's Day or our anniversary. But even though these foods are supposedly seductive (chapters on pine nuts, strawberries, black beans, rosemary, etc.), there are some seriously good recipes in there for any time or relationship.

This is one of my favorite, and definitely most-made, recipes from Intercourses (from the Honey chapter.) Especially if I have half a loaf of French bread sitting around that would otherwise go stale. Just put it together at night, bake it in the morning. Yummy deliciousness - or, as the book calls it, "puffy clouds of ecstasy" - for everyone!

French Toast Baked in Honey-Pecan Sauce
4 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 T brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 thick slices French bread
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup chopped pecans

1. Combine the eggs, half-and-half, brown sugar, and vanilla extract in a small bowl. Pour half the mixture into a baking dish. Place the bread in the pan and top with the other half of egg mixture. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.
2. The next morning, preheat oven to 350. Melt the butter in a 9x13 baking dish and stir in the brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, and pecans. Add the soaked bread slices. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until puffed and brown. Serve immediately, with sauce from the dish.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wait for It...

Things are a little hectic around here. We just had houseguests for a week, and I am scrambling to get laundry and a million other things done in time to leave on vacation for a week for Thanksgiving. Plus I am pregnant and possibly also coming down with a cold. I have done some good baking in the last few weeks, but just haven't found the time to write it up properly. I still hope to get a few up this month, but just don't know for sure.

However. You are in for a treat in December. A treat just like the one that started all this magic last year. Yes, friends, you can look forward to a different delicious holiday goody on here every single day in December. I'm working on it. In fact, several people are. So while this month may be a bit sparse, just wait for December.

I promise it will be worth it!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

500 Kinds of Popcorn

My friend Shanna makes the best caramel popcorn. Whenever there is a movie night I insist she make a double batch - one for me, one for everyone else. It is soft, sticky, buttery and delectable. She gave me the recipe and I tried to make it once. I overcooked it of course but then she came over and made it with me and I think I'll do better next time - it takes a few times of practice to get it right on your own stove, she says.

Well last week we hosted a Popcorn Night for some ladies from church. Shanna made the corn, I provided the setting - I admit, my kitchen is awesome for cooking demos - all I'm missing is the mirror overhead.So below are the four kinds we tried. Sorry it's not really five hundred. Shanna made "Mom's" ahead and brought it for snacking. I made "Jello" ahead. Then with the audience she made "Shanna's" and "Coconut-Almond." Everyone ate plenty of popcorn, and we sent baggies home. Fun and yum all in one night!Tips:
* Always start with fresh air-popped corn. Check the expiration date on your jar!
* Don't ever put the full amount of popcorn in the bowl in the beginning. Start pouring the sauce and add popcorn as you need it. That way, the popcorn will be nicely coated instead of patchy.
* Don't overcook the sauce. This may take a few tries to get the feel of it right but even mistake batches are tasty.
* Always lay popcorn out on wax paper to cool so it's not a big clump.

Mom's Soft Caramel Corn
This one is Shanna's favorite because of good memories eating it growing up. But it takes the longest to make - about 40 minutes - and I find the molasses flavor strong.

2 gallons popped corn
1 1/3 cup brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup cream or milk
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Have popcorn popped and ready. Bring brown sugar, white sugar, evaporated milk, cream/milk, and butter to a boil. Add molasses, corn syrup and salt. Boil stirring constantly, until it forms a medium firm ball (228 to 230 degrees.) Add baking soda and stir until foamy. Pour and stir evenly over popcorn. Pour out on wax paper to cool.
Jello Popcorn
I got the recipe from Shanna's sister, and when I naturally messed up the first batch, I checked the Jello website; they were pretty close. My problem had been getting the Jello and the sugar to dissolve into the small amount of liquid. So on my second batch, the green one pictured, I tried sugar-free Jello. It meant less sugar to dissolve, but still had a bright, strong, sweet flavor due to the added sugar in the recipe.

What's so fun about Jello popcorn is you can make it any color Jello comes in! Try green and red for Christmas. How about orange, drizzled with chocolate, for Halloween? Or pink and blue for baby showers? You see where I'm going. My sister had the idea of doing orange Jello, add orange zest, and cashews or pecans. Really - improvise like crazy!

8 cups popped popcorn
1 cup nuts, optional
1/4 cup butter
3 T corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1 pkg (4 serving size) any flavor Jello (sugar-free is fine, too!)

Optional - If you want it crispy, preheat oven to 300. Line large cookie sheet with silpat, foil or wax paper.

Place butter and syrup in small saucepan; cook on low heat until butter is melted. Add sugar and Jello; stir until gelatin is dissolved - about 8 minutes. Bring to boil on medium heat. Reduce heat to low; simmer 2 to 3 minutes. Pour immediately over popcorn mixture and toss to coat well. If you want it soft and gooey, spread out on wax paper to cool. If you want it crispy, spread onto prepared cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Cool, remove from pan, break into small pieces.
Shanna's Awesome Ooey Gooey Caramel Corn
Shanna calls this "Suzanne's Caramel Corn" after her sister but hello, I don't know Suzanne and Shanna is the one that makes it for me! This is my oh-so-favorite yummy yummy favorite movie snack! One time she made it for me and I saved some in a ziploc bag. I brought it in the car to church the next day and it was a heavenly snack on the way to and from church. This batch was nut-free but try it with almonds - my favorite!

12 cups popped corn
3 cups chopped nuts (especially almonds and pecans)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Cook the sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt over medium heat, stirring occasionally until just starting to bubble around the edges. Start timing - cook from this point, stirring, for 4 minutes - NO LONGER! Remove from heat. Stir in baking soda until foamy. Pour over popcorn and nuts (see tips above.) Pour out onto wax paper to cool. If you want it crunchy, bake 1 hour in 200 degree oven, stirring every 15 minutes.

Coconut-Almond Popcorn
You already know my favorite but this popcorn was the smash of the evening. Almost everyone proclaimed it was their favorite, and with reason. It is really, really divine and some people had the idea to add almond or coconut extract with or instead of the vanilla to boost it even more. Truly, if you're going to try one popcorn from this post, try this one. Everyone will love it!

1 lb butter (4 sticks - it makes a lot!)
2 2/3 cups sugar
1 cup white corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 lb. chopped almonds
1/2 lb. shredded coconut
A lot of popped popcorn (the recipe that was handed out did not specify amount, but look at the silver bowl in the sink in the picture - about enough to nearly fill it)

Melt butter on low heat. Add sugar and corn syrup; cook on medium heat. Boil until butter mixes in, then boil for 1 1/2 minutes more. Add vanilla. Pour over popped corn, adding almonds and coconut and mixing. Mix well and pour out on wax paper to cool.

BONUS: Aunt Karen's Honey Popcorn
We didn't make this corn, and I've never had it, but it was included on the recipe sheet Shanna handed out, so I'm putting it out there. My candy thermometer has marked what temperature soft ball stage is; otherwise I would have no clue since I'm still new with cooking sugar. But yum, I love honey so I bet this is good.

9 qt. Popped corn
3 cups sugar
1 cup honey
1 1/2 cups cream

Cook sugar, honey and cream to soft ball stage. Pour over popcorn. Spread onto wax paper to cool. Cook a bit longer if you want to do popcorn balls. Wrap in saran wrap to keep ball form.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sour Cream Pumpkin Bars with Browned Butter Frosting

Mild and sweet with super yummy frosting and a little pecan crunch. I might add a little pumpkin pie spice next time just to jazz them up, but there's something nice about their simplicity, too.

Hazel (4) had a piece one night for dessert. I asked what she thought, and she replied, "Mmm! Whatever would be best of the world if we didn't have these?"

I leave you with that final thought on this last day of Pumpkin Week.Sour Cream Pumpkin Bars
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup dairy sour cream (or plain yogurt)
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Browned Butter Frosting (see below)

1. Grease a 15x10x1-inch baking pan; set aside. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs, pumpkin, sour cream, milk, and vanilla until combined. Add flours; beat until combined. Stir in 1 cup nuts.

3. Spread mixture evenly into prepared baking pan. Bake for about 25 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack.

4. Prepare Browned Butter Frosting; spread immediately over cooled bars. Cut into bars. If desired, top each bar with a pecan half. Makes 32 bars.

Browned Butter Frosting
1/2 cup butter
3 cups powdered sugar
2 T milk plus a little more if needed
1 tsp vanilla

1. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low. Continue to cook, without stirring, for 5 to 6 minutes or until butter becomes brown and fragrant. Remove from heat; cool slightly.

2. Transfer butter to medium mixing bowl. Add powdered sugar, 2 T milk and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer until combined. Beat in additional milk, 1 tsp at a time, to make a spreadable frosting. Use immediately. Makes about 1 cup.
Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Baking magazine, December 2009

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Yeasted Pumpkin Bread with Cinnamon Pecan Swirl

This may be a good post to explain my brother Dave's reaction to Pumpkin Week. I think he likes pumpkin slightly more than I do, but not much. He's more of a savory guy anyway. Earlier in the process, I was telling him the titles of some of the recipes I might try.

After listening to a few, he said, "What you have to ask yourself is - Does it sound better without the pumpkin? If so, don't make it." For example, Pumpkin Ginger Nut muffins actually did sound better as just Ginger Nut muffins. Therefore, those were not invited to Pumpkin Week. By that argument, though, I was afraid anything would sound better without the pumpkin. His great contrasting example: Roasted Pumpkin Soup. Roasted Soup doesn't sound better without the pumpkin. Which doesn't help us here of course because soup is not a VGP item.

But I took his point to heart and tried to stick to recipes that really make the pumpkin play an improving role rather than just get included. I understand determining that is totally subjective, but it works for me.

I was excited to find a yeasted pumpkin recipe - definitely different from the others this week. It was easy and fun to make, not taking itself too seriously, and the result was surprising and fun! We took it to my sister's house for dinner and all the kids liked it, which is always a top endorsement to me. And it makes three golden loaves so you really feel you're getting your time's worth - eat one, share two (or vice versa) - enjoy!Yeasted Pumpkin Bread with Cinnamon-Pecan Swirl
1 cup warm water (100-110 degrees)
2 T rapid-rise yeast
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp salt
5 to 6 1/2 cups bread flour

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup currants, optional

Finishing Touches:
1 large egg, beaten
Ground cinnamon

1. In a mixer bowl, whisk water and yeast and a pinch of sugar; let stand 2 to 3 minutes. Briskly whisk in pumpkin puree, butter, sugar, egg, and salt and blend. Add 4 cups bread flour and mix. Attach dough hook and knead on lowest speed of mixer 8 to 10 minutes, adding more flour as necessary to make a soft but elastic dough.

2. Place dough in greased bowl; spray dough with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise about 30 minutes or until almost doubled.

3. Meanwhile, for filling, in a small bowl, blend together butter, brown sugar, and spices. Have pecans and currants nearby ready to go.

4. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently deflate. Divide into three portions. Press each into a 10-inch oval or circle. Scatter brown sugar mixture over surface of each piece and then scatter pecans and currants over each.
5. Spray three 8x4 loafpans with nonstick cooking spray. Roll up each oval or circle of dough into a snug jellyroll. Place each in a prepared loafpan. Place loafpans on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet and cover entire sheet loosely with plastic wrap.

6. Let dough rise 45 to 60 minutes or until almost doubled. Brush each loaf with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

7. Preheat oven to 350. Bake on lower oven rack 30 to 35 minutes until lightly browned.

Recipe from A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman

Friday, November 6, 2009

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with Chocolate Topping

October 21 was National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day so I'm sorry to be late for the honors, but I had to save this one for Pumpkin Week.

I know a lot of people like pumpkin pie but why, oh why would you have that mushy mess when you could have these and be so much happier? There's a crust. There's a creamy middle. But it's got chocolate on top. And the crust is like an oatmeal cookie. And the middle is still pumpkin...pumpkin and two blocks of cream cheese - WOW and YUM! Yummy yummy yum. I've got my new Thanksgiving dessert.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with Chocolate Topping
1/2 cup butter
1 17.5-oz pkg oatmeal cookie mix
2 8-oz pkgs cream cheese, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 15-oz can pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
1/4 cup butter
48 pecan halves, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a 15x10x1-inch pan with foil, extending the foil over pan edges. Lightly grease foil. Set pan aside. In a large bowl, use a pastry blender to cut 1/2 cup butter into dry cookie mix until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press mixture evenly onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes or until set.

2. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and sugar. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition until just combined. Stir in pumpkin, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Pour pumpkin mixture onto the hot crust.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes more or until mixture is slightly puffed around edges and just set in center. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

4. In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate pieces and the 1/4 cup butter. Microwave on 100% power for 30 to 60 seconds or until softened; stir until smooth. Drizzle chocolate mixture over the cooled bars and carefully spread evenly. Gently press pecan halves evenly across top of uncut bars. Cover and chill for 2 to 24 hours. Using the edges of the foil, lift the uncut bars out of the pan. Cut into bars, cutting straight down with a large knife. Makes 48 bars.

To Store: Place bars in a single layer in an airtight container; cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookies magazine, December 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

The great trinity of sweet breads - zucchini, banana, and pumpkin - are all made better with chocolate chips. And I've got an army of kids, neices, nephews, a sister and a brother-in-law that will back me up on this loaf. Not that any of you should actually require convincing.
I made these loaves - I love that it makes two - on a Sunday morning and left them to cool while we were at church. Ed had to give someone a ride home after church, so the girls and I beat him home by about 10 minutes. By the time he walked in, we had devoured an entire half a loaf. Keeping hungry kids at bay for two minutes while I took quick pictures was no small feat, either.

I went and left the second loaf in my sister's kitchen, whose family was returning late that night from an 8-day vacation. Yummy breakfast. We had it for breakfast the next day, too, and I actually wrote down a quote from Hazel's morning prayer: "...and we thank Thee that Mommy made delicious delicious delicious pumpkin chocolate chip bread..." When it makes it into the prayer like that, you know it's good.

For a pumpkin bread that's actually made from pumpkin, not Trader Joe's mix, I think this one would be very hard to beat.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice or ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups cooked pumpkin or 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda. In another bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, pumpkin and oil. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in chocolate chips.

3. Pour batter into two greased 8x4 loaf pans. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Makes 2 loaves.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Spiced Pumpkin Doughnuts

Yay, doughnuts! This was one of the recipes that re-motivated Pumpkin Week. I figured fresh doughnuts with some pumpkin and fall spices could be enough to convert anyone, so I gave it a shot. Super exciting since it was my first time making doughnuts.

Not bad at all for my first time. The dough was perfect and delicious and so were the fried results. I had a heck of a time keeping the oil the right temperature, though. It's that darn electric heat - so hard to control, plus the fluctuations with new dough going in. I tried, I did, but my electric stove sucks. I understand deep electric skillets are good for a job like this, with their heat dials that hold steady. Naturally I used to have one, but didn't use it much so I got rid of it in one of the moves. Maddening!
So considering the fact that my oil was too hot or too cold two-thirds of the time, the doughnuts really turned out great. I think the dough must be quite forgiving because all the ones I tasted were neither too doughy nor too greasy. Really, really good.

I doubled the recipe. I figured, if I'm making doughnuts, let's GO THERE. I rolled half in cinnamon sugar hot from the oil, and glazed the other half with a made-up cinnamon glaze. Then I realized we could NEVER eat them all so we loaded up paper plates and went out to make deliveries. I think they were enjoyed by all.

In fact, here are direct quotes from my girls:

Ginger (age 2 1/2): "Too much yummy!"

Hazel (age 4 1/2): "Mom, these are g-g-g-g-g-g-g-good!" (a supreme compliment indeed.) "There's only one problem - " (very seriously) - "I want another."
On a side note, this post supports my case of needing a Lowel EGO light. These days it is almost always dark or darkening when I finish baking (especially when there's a 3-hour chill like in this recipe), so I can't use the natural light by my window for pictures. So we're stuck with the crappy-to-tolerable pictures we can get from my kitchen lights. So much for close-ups and macro details. So if anyone is feeling generous, the Lowel would really make my winter. Now, back to doughnuts!

Spiced Pumpkin Doughnuts
2 T butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil for frying
Spiced sugar (1/2 cup sugar, 2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg)

1. In a large bowl, beat butter with electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in pumpkin, buttermilk, egg, egg yolk, and vanilla until combined. Cover and chill 3 hours.

2. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to a 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with a floured 2 1/2 inch doughnut cutter, dipping cutter into flour between cuts. Reroll as necessary.

3. Fry doughnuts, two or three at a time, in deep hot oil (365 degrees) about 2 1/2 minutes or until golden (mine were quicker), turning once. Using a slotted spoon, remove doughnuts; drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining doughnuts and holes. Coat warm doughnuts in Spiced Sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes about 15 doughnuts and holes.

Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Baking magazine, December 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pumpkin Cornmeal Muffins

These muffins really surprised me. Especially since I don't really like pumpkin and I don't really like corn muffins. I mean, I didn't used to. I had some good ones at a restaurant in New York once, and I like the corn bread topping on my crockpot enchilada casserole, but I don't really turn to corn muffins as a bread of choice. Until now.These are good on their own of course, but really best as a side dish to some kind of hearty soup or stew. We had them with vegetable soup, and our little family of four made a large dent in the batch. Daddy finished them off for a late night Sports Center snack.

These muffins come from Real Simple magazine. I used to subscribe, but after awhile got overwhelmed by all the good ideas I couldn't implement, so I let it run out. But once in awhile my search on brings up a Real Simple recipe, and every single time those recipes are indeed simple and reliably awesome. Seriously, if you have doubts but are open minded, give these a try. So surprising - so good!
Pumpkin Cornmeal Muffins
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
4 eggs
1 15-ounce can solid pumpkin
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves

1. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly coat muffin tins with cooking spray (12 regular cups or 24 minis.)

2. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to slow, add the remaining ingredients, and beat for 3 minutes or just until smooth.

3. Spoon the batter into the muffin pans. Bake 25 to 30 minutes (15 to 20 for minis - watch them) or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Makes 12 muffins or 24 mini muffins.

Recipe from Real Simple, October 2001

Monday, November 2, 2009

Chocolate-Pumpkin Marble Cake with Chocolate Glaze

This was one of the first new pumpkin recipes I tried and it gave me a very promising start! Pumpkin makes things moist; so does buttermilk, so you know this baby's not going to be dry. And if there's one flavor I do love with pumpkin, it's chocolate. They really do go great together, as you'll see in at least half the recipes this week.

It also doesn't hurt that this cake is gorgeous - golden orange from the pumpkin swirled with dark earthy chocolate makes it delectable to both eyes and tongue. If you're not a fan of pumpkin pie, this cake is a great alternative for your holiday table.Chocolate-Pumpkin Marble Cake:
1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2/3 cup buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt cake pan.

2. Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium until well blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Beat in vanilla. Scrape half the mixture into another bowl.

3. To make pumpkin batter: Beat pumpkin into half the butter mixture until well blended. In another bowl, stir together 1 3/4 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and beat on low speed or fold in with a flexible spatula just until blended.

4. To make chocolate batter: In another bowl, mix remaining 1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt and the cocoa. Add flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk to the other half of the butter mixture (starting and ending with flour mixture), beating after each addition just until blended.

5. Spoon half the pumpkin batter into prepared Bundt pan. Drop half the chocolate batter by spoonfuls over, but not entirely covering, pumpkin batter. Repeat to spoon remaining pumpkin and chocolate batters into pan. Gently run the blade of table knife around the center several times to swirl batters.

6. Bake about 55 to 75 minutes, until a wood skewer inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let cake cool 10 minutes in pan, then invert onto rack, lift off pan, and allow cake to cool completely.

7. Prepare glaze.

Chocolate Glaze:
4 oz. chopped semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 T butter
1 tsp corn syrup

1. In a heatproof bowl or top of double boiler, combine all ingredients. Bring an inch or two of water to boil in a pan (or bottom of double boiler), then remove from heat. Place chocolate mixture over water and let stand, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth, about 10 minutes.

2. Pour warm chocolate glaze over top of the cake, letting it drop down sides. Sprinkle glaze with chopped roasted peanuts or pumpkin seeds, if desired. Let stand until glaze is set, about 2 hours, or chill about 30 minutes. Makes 12 to 16 servings.
Recipe from Sunset magazine, November 2003

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It's Pumpkin Week!

I don't really like pumpkin. Or any of those winter squashes, really - butternut, acorn, etc. Or even sweet potatoes, which also fall into that sweet-and-savory-starch category. Blech.

I mean, at Thanksgiving I'll have a sliver of pumpkin pie, with a large portion of whipped cream on top. And it's OK. But I don't really like pumpkin. Which is why I'm doing Pumpkin Week.

I like the idea of pumpkin. I love autumn and the spicy kitchen scents we associate with harvest time. And as you know, I love Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread and Muffin mix, so I thought there might be hope. I figured if I could find seven pumpkin recipes I like, then I'd have a foundation to work from each fall. I would be able to participate in festive harvest baking and actually like eating what I make. And maybe, just maybe, I could get to the place where I can say, "I like pumpkin, sometimes."

It hasn't been easy. Pumpkin Week almost didn't happen. I collected about 15 recipes several months ago and started working my way through them, all the while trying to keep up with regular non-pumpkin VGP posts. And it's not like I could make several pumpkin recipes in a row; I had to pace myself. So when three out of the first five experiments were mediocre or disappointing, I almost gave up. How could I get to seven? So I stopped for awhile.

Then some of the holiday baking magazines started coming out and I found some new concoctions that inspired. So I tried again. And would you believe I ended up with so many successes I had to make cuts to fit into a week? So go stock up on pumpkin and meet me back here tomorrow for Day 1.

Hooray for expanding horizons and HOORAY for Pumpkin Week!
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