Sunday, October 28, 2007

Healthier Pumpkin Treats

As much as I love my Pumpkin Cupcake recipe, my jeans can only take so much. So how's a gal to get her fix during this glorious season of pumpkins pastries? I found a recipe from Cooking Light that sounded great, but 2 cups of sugar? How “light” is that? Plus, I thought I could health-ify it a bit more by substituting some wholesome whole wheat flour instead of plain old white. The result was pretty tasty, though not quite as dessert-like as a lot of pumpkin breads. It would be stellar with vanilla ice cream, though.

Unfortunately, our camera died this weekend so I didn’t get a picture (but – woohoo! New Sony Cybershot come to mama!). I’ll warn you that the tops didn’t come out quite as glossy as I expected, but they were quite dense and moist on the inside.

In the meantime:

Donkey Dragon says "Happy Howl-oween!"

Pumpkin Bread and/or Muffins
Makes 1 loaf and 6 muffins, or 2 small loaves.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup Splenda
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • Cooking spray


  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Combine flour and next 9 ingredients (through nutmeg) in a large bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, combine canola oil, eggs, and pumpkin in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk until smooth. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in raisins.
  • Spoon batter into pans (I made one loaf and six muffins, but the original recipe is for 2 loaves) coated with cooking spray.
  • Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean (20-30 minutes for muffins).
  • Cool and slice

Stuff It.

Yeah, two “stuffed” recipes in a week. I don’t know what to tell you.

Stuffed pork chops with pan roasted brussel sprouts and butternut squash

Stuffed Pork Chops with Apple and Onion
Serves 2


  • 2 boneless center cut pork chops
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 c. diced apple
  • 1/3 c. diced sweet onion
  • 1/3 c. dry herb stuffing mix
  • a little water or broth
  • olive oil
  • ¾ c. white wine
  • 1 pat cold butter


  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Pat porkchops dry. Cut a slit in the side of each to create a pocket. Season well with salt and pepper and set aside.
  • In an oven-proof skillet, heat some olive oil until shimmering. Add onions and apples and sauté until onion is translucent. Add stuffing mix and toss. Throw in enough liquid to soften stuffing. Let mixture cool for a few minutes.
  • Stuff each chop with half the stuffing mixture. Secure with toothpicks (stuck in at a slant so that the chops can lay flat in the skillet).
  • Heat a tablespoon or so oil in skillet. Brown the chops on each side. Carefully turn using big tongs.
  • Put the skillet in the oven and bake for at least half an hour, or until the temp at the end of the chop measures 145 or so and juices run clear.
  • Take the chops out of the pan and put skillet on medium heat on stove. Deglaze with wine, stirring up brown bits. Simmer for a few minutes until reduced. Take off heat and whisk in cold butter. Drizzle over top of chops and serve. Remember to remove toothpicks!

Feta and Roasted Pepper Stuffed Chicken

This is a pretty solid weeknight recipe. I roasted the peppers right on my gas range and then baked them until they were soft. You can also do it on a gas grill. Or, be less cheap than I am and just buy a jar.

Stuffed Chicken with a Greek-ish Salad

Feta and Roasted Pepper Stuffed Chicken
Serves 2


  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • ¼ c. crumbled feta (I like to use the herb seasoned kind)
  • ¼ c. roasted pepper, diced
  • 1 egg
  • ½ c. seasoned bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a foil-lined cookie sheet with non-stick spray.
  • Cover the chicken breasts with plastic wrap and pound them to an even thickness (about ¾ inch). Carefully cut a large slit in the side of the breast to create a decent sized pocket.
  • Combine the feta and peppers in a small bowl. Stuff the chicken and pat it down so that it lays as flat as possible.
  • Beat egg in a bowl and spread out breadcrumbs on a plate. Carefully dip stuffed chicken in the egg and then breadcrumbs. Set on cookie sheet.
  • Bake for about 45 minutes, until golden brown and juices run clear.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Chicken Salad with Rosemary and Almonds

Borrowed from my divine Aunt Jen, who I believe borrowed from the divine Contessa Ina. Everything is eyeballed and to taste, really. You can usually find smoked almonds in the candy/snacks aisle, not the baking aisle, of the grocery store. I love them with the dried cherries. One of my favorite aspects of this recipe is having the leftover almonds and cherries around just for snacking.

  • 1/4-1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1/4-1/2 c. mayonaise
  • Cooked chicken (from a roasted chicken, store bought rotisserie chicken, whatever). 4 cups-ish?
  • 1/2 c. chopped smoked almonds
  • 1/2 c. chopped dried cherries
  • 1-2 tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 c. finely diced red or sweet onion
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • In small bowl, mix together mayo and sour cream.
  • Dump rest of ingredients in large bowl, add mayo/sour cream and mix.
  • Serve on croissants, wraps, rolls or just a bed of lettuce.

Cold Enough to Roast a Chicken

I was thrilled to finally unburden my freezer of one roasting chicken this weekend. For just the two of us (We can make it if we try, just the two of us, you and I. Wait, where was I?Anyway . . .) a six pound chicken turns into many, many meals. Some yummy, warm, autumnal meals. We have a few nights of chicken soup and a few lunches of chicken salad ahead of us. Below is the standard recipe I use, ever since I first made it for a group of friends in college. If a half drunk junior can make it in a crappy rental house kitchen, you know it can't be that hard.

Shhh . . .the chicken is resting. She would have looked more lady-like had I tied the legs with twine, but we're not into bondage.

Perfect Roast Chicken

  • One roasting chicken (about 6 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, 2 springs fresh rosemary (my contribution to the recipe)
  • 1 cup chicken broth or stock
  • A half hour before cooking, take out chicken and butter and bring to room temp.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Prep the chicken - remove giblets, rinse bird and dry with paper towels.
  • Smash the garlic cloves and prick the lemon all over. Toss inside chicken with the herbs and a liberal seasoning of salt and pepper.
  • Smear your nice soft butter all over the outside of the chicken. Again, season liberally with salt and pepper.
  • Slice onions into 1/2 inch slices. Lay on bottom of roasting pan. These will act as a mini roasting rack for your chicken. Set chicken on top and throw into hot oven. I always do breast down to ensure it will be moist.
  • Now, walk out of kitchen and marvel at the wonderful smells already wafting through the house. Also, put some nice white wine in the fridge.
  • After about an hour and a half, start checking the temperature. The chicken should have a lovely golden skin by now, but don't let it fool you into thinking that it's actually done. Look for a temperature of about 180 in the thigh and clear juices. Sometimes it takes my bird nearly half an hour longer and I'll throw a piece of foil over the top so that the skin doesn't burn.
  • Carefully remove chicken to cutting board to let it rest while you make gravy. Yes, gravy. It's not that hard. Call it "pan sauce" if that's less intimidating.
  • If you have one, pour off the drippings from the pan into a fat separator (this is awesome). Or, pour it into a shallow bowl, let it rest for a minute and spoon off the fat. Pour the de-fatted, somewhat strained drippings back into the pan. Heat pan on stove over medium high for a minute to get it going. Add one cup broth/stock and turn to high. After a few minutes it should reduce and thicken. If you're having trouble, just make a little slurry of flour and extra broth and stir it in.
  • Remove the aromatics from the chicken cavity, slice and serve with gravy.

Plated, with braised purple cabbage and smashed potatoes. And lots of gravy. I'm still working on my photography, obviously.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Moist, pumpkin-y, perfect. Sorry, no picture. I ate the last remaining cupcake without even thinking about snapping a pic.

From Domino Magazine. Makes 24 cupcakes.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp., plus 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 cup sugar
  • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup orange juice
  • Preheat oven to 350°. Line the muffin pans with liners or spray them with baking spray.
  • Sift together the flour, spice, baking soda and salt.
  • In mixer, combine the sugar, pumpkin and eggs, and mix until smooth. Add in the oil and the orange juice until the batter is smooth.
  • Add the flour-spice mix to the pumpkin mixture and fold together until well incorporated, but do not overmix.
  • Bake 20–25 minutes.
  • Frost with cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
From the Cake Mix Doctor. Makes enough for 24 cupcakes.

  • 1 stick (1/4 c.) butter, room temperature
  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3.5 c. confectioners sugar
  • Whip together butter and cream cheese until very soft and fully mixed. Add vanilla.
  • Slowly add confectioners sugar. Mix until smooth.
  • Use pastry bag to pipe icing on cupcakes or spread with spatula.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Smokin' Up

Adventures in Pulled Pork with Grillmaster Bob

Like getting your driver's license or turning 21, smoking your first giant slab of meat is a right of passage in my family. Sure you might be married, have a college degree and maybe even kids of your own, but you aren't a full Clements until you've spent a few hours out back next to the Smoker. The clothes you wear are your badge of honor -- wreaking of a distinctive mix of pork fat and smoke, like a wild hog caught in a forest fire. However, I don't believe that anyone has ever documented this multi-day process, so I thought I would give it a go. Essentially, you apply a rub to the meat and refrigerate over night. Then you smoke it for a few hours, put it in the oven for a few hours, pull the meat, then add some home made barbecue sauce.

Smoked Pulled Pork
(This serves about 15 people, we tripled it and smoked 3 Boston butts)

  • 1 7lb Boston butt pork roast
  • 1 tbs salt
  • 1 tbs pepper
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 2 tbs chili powder
  • 2 tbs paprika
  • 1 tbs dry mustard powder
  • barbecue sauce (recipe further down)
Special Equipment:
  • a smoker (or charcoal grill. America's Test Kitchen has good pointers for that.)
  • charcoal
  • kindling and newspaper
  • apple wood, soaked in water
  • a large metal steamer tray filled with water
  • Combine the 6 dry ingredients to make a rub. Rub all over pork. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.
  • The next day, prep your smoker. Fill with balled newspaper, kindling and half a bag of charcoal. (We actually used lighter fluid and thought it was fine, evidently that was a no-no, but oh well)
  • Place steamer tray of water above fire and under grill plate.
  • Once the fire gets going, add the apple wood.
  • At the point, you can put your pork (unwrapped) on the opposite side of the grill from the fire. Make sure it is fat side up, so that the juices self-baste the meat.
  • Close the lid. Drink some beer. Wait 3 or more hours.
  • After a few hours, you have some choices. You can wrap it and continue smoking or you move it to the oven. We wrapped the meat tightly in many layers of foil, making sure to keep track of which side is the fat side. I then put it in a steamer pan with an inch of water and covered the whole pan tightly with foil. If the meat is coming straight off the grill, you can do 325 for 2 hours. Our pork was refrigerated in between smoker and oven, so I did 375-425 for 2.5 hours.
  • Take out of the oven and take a fork to the edge of the meat. If it flakes off easily, you are probably good to go. Let it cool a bit before pulling completely apart. I found that using my hands was easiest to pick out bits of fat.
  • Mix with 3/4 c. -1 c. of barbecue sauce, just enough to keep it moist.
  • Serve with kaiser rolls, bread and butter pickles, extra barbecue sauce and cole slaw.

Barbecue Sauce
Makes ~4 cups

  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 c. ketchup
  • 1/4 c. molasses
  • 1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 c. dijon mustard
  • 1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tsp. liquid smoke
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 2-3 tsp. pepper sauce or hot sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • Heat about 2 tbs oil in dutch oven (enough to coat bottom of pan) over medium.
  • Add onion and garlic, saute until translucent.
  • Add remaining ingredients and bring to simmer.
  • Turn heat down to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Cool and keep in airtight container in fridge.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Ray's The Classics

Yay! Chris came through for my birthday and made reservations at a place I've been eager to try. We never made it in last year when Ray's The Classics (sibling to Ray's The Steaks in Arlington) opened. A combination of lots of buzz, lack of reservation-making foresight on my part, and no participation (the nerve!) kept us away. Anyway, we had a relatively early dinner on Friday and the food was great. I had the crab bisque, 12 oz. house special steak and key lime pie for dessert. The crab bisque was lovely and silky. Chris has the spiced onion soup and the same steak, only larger. Our steaks, both perfectly done, came with creamy mashed potatoes and some seriously good creamed spinach. Complimentary sides were a pleasant surprise after visiting Sam & Harry's and BLT Steak last month where everything is a la carte. Because Chris has mentioned my birthday when making reservations, the key lime pie was also complimentary - how nice!

We both thought it was an excellent meal at a decent price. In fact, when our bill arrived, I noticed that since dessert was free we'd actually spent less than we would have at others places during Restaurant Week. Our only gripe was the sloooooow service. We didn't notice all too much, since we were enjoying a cozy corner table and a bottle of wine, but we did have four different servers and dinner took more than two hours for just the two of us. We had to ask for the check twice (from different people). I don't think we'll be holding that against Ray's though, we had a very good meal and a nice night out. They even wished me a happy birthday on the way out the door : ) I'd definitely go back for a special occasion meal that won't blow the budget. I just wouldn't recommend it for impatient eaters or vegetarians (half the menu is steak, after all).

P.S. - I won't be updating until after our party this weekend, but I plan to be back with lots of recipes and even a how-to for smoked pork barbecue!