Friday, October 28, 2011

Gingerbread Pear Cake

A chilly fall evening. A cup of hot tea. A good book by the fire. How could it be more perfect? A piece of moist gingerbread cake, studded with candied ginger and topped with sliced pears and brown sugar, that’s how.

1/4 cup butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

2-3 pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

2 cups flour

1/3 cup chopped candied ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup molasses

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

Heat oven to 350. Butter a 10” ovenproof skillet.

Combine brown sugar and butter in small saucepan. Stir until combined and continue stirring until butter melts and syrup comes to a boil. Pour into bottom of skillet. (it will be rather thick)

Arrange pears on top of syrup in skillet.

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Mix dry ingredients and make a well in the center. Whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour into the well. Mix until just moist. Pour over pears in skillet.

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Bake for 45 minutes or until pick inserted into center comes out clean. Remove from oven and immediately run a knife along the edge of the cake. Invert onto large serving plate.Let sit for about 5 minutes before removing the skillet.

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Serve cake warm or cold with whipping cream.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Czech Pork Roast & Hungarian Dumplings

My sister made this pork roast and absolutely insisted that it was the best pork she had  EVER had. Of course, I had to try it. I love eating ethnic food! Well, unless it contains some vital organ or eyes or whole insects…

The recipe was from AllRecipes and I only made a couple of changes. I didn’t think it needed three whole onions and it did not need the sauce… If you want the original, just check out the link above.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

2 tablespoons caraway seeds

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

5 pounds pork shoulder blade roast

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 cup beer

Make a paste from the first six ingredients and rub it over your roast. Let sit for about 30 minutes.

roast & dumplings 01

Place onions in bottom of roasting pan and set the roast on top of the onions, fat side down. Cover with foil or lid and roast for 1 hour at 350.

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Remove cover, turn roast, score fat and bake for another 2 1/2 hours or until it reaches 160 F.

Remove from pan and let sit for 20 minutes before slicing.

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The dumplings came from Give it to Wheat and were very tasty! Next time I am trying them with the paprika chicken in the recipe for the dumplings HERE.

2 cups flour

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup water

Large pinch of salt

In a mixing bowl, measure out the 2 cups of flour, and create a well in the middle.

roast & dumplings 03

Beat your two eggs well, and then pour them into the well in the flour.

Add your pinch of salt to the egg, and then mix egg and flour together with a fork.

Adding a little bit of water at a time, mix flour/egg mixture with a fork until you come out with a sticky dough.

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Boil salted water in a large pot.

Pinch or cut off about 1-inch pieces of dough and drop them into boiling water. Stir lightly to prevent them sticking to the bottom. When they begin to float, they are about done cooking.

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Fry dumplings in bacon fat or butter until lightly browned.

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You were right, Theresa! It was fantastic!!!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Easy Pumpkin Muffins

I found a recipe for easy pumpkin muffins on Pinterest but was rather disappointed that the recipe did not call for any spices at all… None! Pumpkin, in my book, must have the warm and spicy blend of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg… So, while I liked the idea of the ease and simplicity of the muffins, I had to change it!

Then, yesterday we made a stop at a Wal-Mart just south of us and found their holiday baking display full of baking chips that I had never seen before but HAD TO HAVE! I can’t believe I spent $12 on baking chips, but I knew they will be worth every penny! The cinnamon chips inspired me to make one more change to the recipe. And this morning’s muffins proved I was correct!

chips 01

Here is my version of easy pumpkin muffins:

muffins 01

1 box yellow cake mix

15oz pumpkin puree (see how to make fresh pumpkin puree HERE)

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1-2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice (here is the recipe for my blend)

spices 02

1/2 cup of cinnamon chips (see picture above)

Mix cake mix, spices and pumpkin together. Stir in cinnamon chips. Spoon into muffin tin and bake at 350 for 15-25 minutes, or until pick comes out clean.

muffins 02

They are moist, light and just the thing to go with a pumpkin spice latte!

Perfect Pumpkin Pie Spice

I love the spicy smell of pumpkin pie! Instead of buying pre-made pumpkin pie spice, I made my own. And to make it even better I added orange zest! It makes all my fall pumpkin desserts taste even yummier! And they smell… Mmmmm!!!

First dry the zest to two oranges in your oven on the lowest temp or in your food dehydrator, until dry. Be sure to zest your oranges right onto the tray you will dry on to get all of the lovely orange oil flavor.


3 Tablespoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves

dried zest from two oranges

spices 02

Place them in a jar and use in your favorite pumpkin recipes.

Pie Pumpkins

I have been drooling over the pumpkin recipes floating around the internet and aghast at the price of canned pumpkin at the grocery store. Thank goodness our local produce stand had lovely sugar pie pumpkins! I bought six of them…

Here’s all you need to do to have “better than canned” pumpkin for all your favorite fall recipes:

Wash a pie pumpkin (not a carving pumpkin).

Place it in your oven at 350.

pumpkin 01

Prick them with a fork every 30 minutes until they are tender.

Remove from oven. They will have turned this gorgeous brownish-orange color!

pumpkin 02

Pop off the stems.

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Cut the pumpkin in half. Scrape out the seeds and “guts”.

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Scoop out the pulp with a spoon.

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Let pulp cool in fridge. Then puree in food processor.

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Measure into 1-2 cup portions and place in freezer bags.

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Use in your favorite pumpkin recipes!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Gingerbread with Pears & Cream

I think pears are so delicious with ginger… So, here’s what I came up with for a warm and comfy fall dessert.

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Hot Spiced Pears:

Wash, core and rough chop 4 Bartlett pears

gingerbread 01

Toss with 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp cloves and 2 Tbsp butter cubed.

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Place in crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

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Turn off the pears in the crock pot just before you start making the cakes. They shouldn’t be boiling hot when you put them on the cakes.


Gingerbread cake:

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup molasses

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy on high speed for about 5 minutes. Add egg and molasses and beat thoroughly.

gingerbread 04

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 tsp salt

3/4 tsp soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 cup boiling water

Combine dry ingredients and add to molasses mixture alternately with the boiling water. Beat well after each addition.

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Pour into greased and sugared (why use flour???) muffin tin. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until pick comes out clean.

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I used this cute little pan!

Remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes on baking rack. Remove from pan and place on serving dishes. You want to serve this warm.

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Spiced whipped cream:

While they are cooling a bit, beat some heavy cream with sugar, vanilla and a dash of cinnamon to taste.

Top cakes with hot pears and cream.

gingerbread 08

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pear Perfection

I may have discovered the secret to perfect canned pears! Unfortunately, I may not be able to reproduce the results ever again…

It may have been the beautiful bartlett pears I bought at Payton’s Produce here in town.

It may have been the ideal conditions in our basement bathroom to bring them to just the ideal ripeness in only two days.

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But I think it was the fresh lime juice that I squeezed into the soaking water while they waited to get packed into the jars. It was the only thing I had to keep them from discoloring and I was too lazy to go to the store I squeezed half a lime into each bowl of water and then dropped the half a lime into it, too to float around with the pears.

They didn’t discolor one bit! They look perfectly white in the jars! You wouldn’t even know I had canned them….

perfect pears 01

I also raw pack my pears. Shhh! Don’t tell because technically you are supposed to hot pack them.

I was actually thankful one of the jars didn’t seal so we could try them. Not only do they look gorgeous, but they taste FANTASTIC!!!

Here’s to hoping I can do it again next year…

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fall in Love with Your Crock Pot

Fall is the ideal time to cook with your crock pot! This meal was just what I needed on a day full of canning and errands, not much time to cook.

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First I made a batch of Slow Cooker Beef & Mushrooms from Sweet Anna’s.

Then came a big pot of mashed potatoes from our garden!

potatoes 04

For those of us that like squash, I baked up two acorn squash with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and a bit of hot chili powder. The sweet hot combination was fantastic!

The green beans were for those who wouldn’t eat the really delicious acorn squash.

Remember, some of the best comfort foods come from your slow cooker…

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sausage Bean Soup

My friend Annalise of Sweet Anna’s just threw together this soup in August (yes, the beginning of August was soup weather in the NW. Ugh!) and I saved it just waiting for Fall to arrive. And just like Annalise, I made it by throwing together stuff I had in the pantry (or freezer), so there are some little changes: I used bulk sausage instead of links, cooked my onion and garlic with the sausage (I’m also a very lazy, no, time efficient, cook), and used beef broth instead of chicken. Oh, and unfortunately I didn’t have a parmesan rind (but I really wish I did).

The original recipe is HERE and mine is as follows…

1 pound bulk pork sausage

1/2 onion, chopped

2 carrots, sliced or chopped

3 cloves of rough chopped garlic (I used 6 in ours)

5 cups beef broth

2 cans beans, drained but not rinsed (I used kidney and black)

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

2 tsp oregano

1/4 tsp cracked black pepper

Brown sausage in olive oil in a large stockpot. Before it is completely cooked, add onion and carrot and cook until soft. Be sure to scrape up all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.

Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 to 3 hours. Serve with thick slices of warm bread.

sausage soup 01

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Acorn Donuts

Today was the day we decorated for Fall! And in honor of the occasion I whipped up a batch of these super cute acorn donuts I found on Pinterest! They are super quick, easy and guaranteed to make any chipmunk green with envy…

acorn donuts 05

acorn donuts 01

First dip the top of donut holes in Nutella. (you could also use chocolate frosting, but why would you when there’s Nutella???)

acorn donuts 02

Then dip them into chocolate sprinkles. You could also do chopped nuts or toffee pieces.

Pop a piece of pretzel stick into the top and you got it…

acorn donuts 03