October 31, 2012

Honey Wheat Pretzels-- A Guest Post at Food Stories

I am without power you guys, so it will be a while before you hear from me again. Until then, check out these pretzels over at Food Stories. C.J. actually posted them yesterday, but hurricane.

I'm safe, I'll just be taking cold showers for the next week or so. And stealing power and wifi from work. So updates will be sporadic.

October 28, 2012

Whole Wheat Chocolate Banana Waffles

I hope all my fellow East Coasters are battening down the hatches: Frankenstorm is on its way. And New Jersey is right smack in its path. Luckily after Irene last year, we know that being this far north does not make us immune to hurricanes, so people are taking the threat seriously. Most of the shore is having voluntary evacuations, and the barrier islands are having mandatory evacuations and will be closed by 4 pm today. If you know anyone in those areas, you should check in with them and make sure they have somewhere to go. This is not a drill, people.

I'm not too worried about me. We live far enough inland that our main concern is the wind and downed trees. It's rare that we lose power (except that one time that lightning hit the transformer down my street-- good times), and we don't really flood. The biggest problem will be getting in and out of town. We are surrounded by rivers, canals, and creeks. After Irene, it was 48 hours before one road was opened out of town.

And the towns around us have barely recovered from Irene. They were literally under water. I saw Main Street turned into a raging river and Millstone turned into a lake.
For some reason, hurricane threats bring out the breakfast foodie in me. Last year I made oatmeal scones before Irene. This year, I made waffles. Whole wheat waffles. Whole wheat chocolate banana waffles. Because with the perfect storm looming on the horizon, you need comfort food.

Now, these waffles aren't hugely chocolatey or banana-y. (Unless you smother them with chocolate syrup and bananas, like I did) They've just got that little hint of sweetness and decadence while still managing to be a wholesome and filling breakfast. I actually really love these with a peanut butter drizzle (melt some peanut butter and honey together in the microwave, then drizzle on top), but that didn't look as pretty. XD

Now, my waffle maker made 7 waffles, but it also doesn't take a whole lot of batter (about 3/4 cup). You might get less depending on the size of yours. The good thing is that I have plenty leftover. I froze them in a zip-top bag, then you can toast them like Eggo waffles. Or, if I lose power, I can toast them on a skillet on my gas stove.
So to all my fellows in Sandy's path, be safe, remember to take appropriate precautions and stock up on water and non-perishables. Make sure you have flashlights and batteries, that phones are fully charged. If you have a smartphone, you can download the Red Cross' hurricane app. Remember what they say: If you plan for it, it won't happen. So let's all make sure to plan for the worst.

And if I make it through without losing power or anything too bad happening, I have something really cute planned for you for Halloween. Stay tuned!

Whole Wheat Chocolate Banana Waffles {Printable Version}
Yield: 6-7 waffles

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 cups buttermilk
1 small banana, mashed (heaping 1/3 cup)
¼ cup sugar
2 eggs


In a large bowl, sift together flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the buttermilk, banana, sugar, and eggs. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until a batter forms. Some lumps are fine; be careful not to over mix. Cook in a waffle maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve with butter and syrup, or peanut butter.

Recipe adapted from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook 

October 25, 2012

Spaghetti and Egg Pie

Work is sucky. It just is. Corporate is outsourcing our IT department. I like our IT department. And the people taking over are loud and obnoxious and mean. That's right, I said mean. No, I can't give you a security badge just because you say that you're from the company. Why? Because it's a security badge. No amount of yelling at me is going to change that. And if you're secretly a Russian spy trying to break in and steal all our sensitive information, I'm not getting fired over that.

(I should stop watching Covert Affairs before work, huh?)

And if that wasn't enough, we're closing another office with everyone moving in here, so they do all need security badges and name plates and directions to their offices and help with their phones. You know who they come to for that? That's right: me. And we picked up a new contract, so call center went on a hiring spree. Oh, and did I forget to mention this all happens the week Mr. Migraine decides to rear his ugly head? (Well the move has been happening all month, to be fair. But there were 18 this week. Plus the 30 call center people. Plus the mean people. I don't know how many there are of them. I think they multiply.)

I'm currently in migraine-hangover. So if I'm a little incoherent, I apologize. But the pain's mostly gone, and I was actually able to eat a real breakfast, rather than just choke something down to cushion the pain killers. And it's been gloomy and cloudy the last few days, like Mother Nature's trying to help me out by cutting out the sun glare.

Three days of pain and nausea and dizziness and decreased mental acuity (a side effect listed on my migraine meds) calls for comfort food. And what's more comforting than pasta and bacon and eggs and cheese? Baked in the oven and sprinkled with more cheese. Yeah, that's the stuff.

I was flipping through Old Reliable (is anyone surprised?) and saw a recipe for spaghetti with bacon and eggs. I decided to make it with tri-color pasta (of which I had fetuccine, so I used that). I also added in some garlic (because what's pasta without garlic?) and baked it. Then I smothered it with more cheese and baked it just a few minutes longer.
Although it worked well enough with the fetuccine (and was super yummy with the tri-color pasta), I think the pie would be a little more sturdy with spaghetti. I think spaghetti strands would just fit together better.

A few notes about the recipe: I used a 12 oz. box of pasta. It's an odd size, but that's how Ronzoni packages their tri-color pasta, and that's what I had on hand. 16 oz may have been too much.

Also, it's a little onion-y, so feel free to cut down on the onion. I liked it, but I also think my onions may have started to caramelize (I cooked them low and slow while waiting for the pasta to boil; it was entirely accidental).

Spaghetti and Egg Pie {Printable Version}

Yield: 8 servings

12 oz. spaghetti, or similar long, thin pasta (I like tri-color)
6-8 slices of bacon, chopped into small pieces
2 small onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
6 eggs
Approx. 1 cup shredded cheese, plus extra for melting (I use a Mexican blend)
Pinch of sea salt
Freshly cracked pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cook and drain the pasta according to the directions on the box, undercooking slightly. Rinse thoroughly with cold water to prevent sticking. In a large, oven-safe skillet* cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon and set aside. Add the onions and garlic to the bacon drippings and continue to cook until the onions are soft. Remove from heat. Add the pasta and bacon to the pan. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the salt and pepper. Add the cheese and eggs to the pan and toss until well mixed. Place the skillet in the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with extra cheese and cook another 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Serve warm.

*If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, add the mixture to a pie or baking dish before putting it in the oven.

Recipe adapted from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook

October 17, 2012

Pumpkin Bars with Browned Butter Frosting

Umm, did you guys know that NaNoWriMo is only 14 days away?

14. As in two weeks. As in less than half a month. As in 23,338 words (based on the average 1667 you need to write everyday in order to write 50,000 words in 30 days).


It's cool, though. Cause I has a plot. Actually, I even have a title and and a cover.

See? There's my novel info page. Ta da! Doesn't it just feel all official and pretentious-like?

Look, I know I had some problems gearing up for Camp NaNoWriMo this summer, but the sh**storm that hit is responsible for that. The main November session is sacred. It's been going on for 13 years at this point (whereas Camp was only in its second year), and there are hundreds of thousands of participants, all with their own special rituals and hints and tips, available on the forums day and night. There's even a forum called "NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul" specifically for people having a tough time of it. There's also a forum for people breezing their way through it, but I wouldn't suggest going on there unless you're doing the same, otherwise you feel like a loser and an underachiever. There's forums for newbies where they can find mentors and ask questions that they might feel are a little bit stupid without fear of ridicule. There's forums for age groups, genres, technical writing skills, technology, even a forum for off-topic discussions.

The community is what makes NaNo special. You can have friends and family cheering you on, but it's not the same as thousands of people doing the exact same thing you are. If I say to someone, "I can't write these last 500 words because my MC (main character) and I are no longer on speaking terms," all I get are blank looks and business cards for therapists. If I say it to another wrimo, I get, "Dude, you don't even want to know what my characters did to me yesterday," or, "I've been there. So I killed him off and got a new one."

Wrimos can be very violent. We're under a lot of pressure, and our characters often insist on having minds of their own and not doing what they're told.

I'm not crazy. My mother had me tested.

But this is why everyone should do NaNo. Have you ever said to yourself, "One day, I should write a book"? Do you know how hard that is to do by yourself? Without the motivation of the blue stat bar of doom (it used to be red...)? Give me a reason why you can't, and I'll give a reason why you can. Don't have the time? Trust me, you have more time than you think. And meeting your daily word count goal is easier than you may think. Don't have inspiration? Visit the Adoption Society forums. It's where I picked up my title, and that inspired my plot (I had the premise, just not the plot). Need to bake for Thanksgiving? Here's your solution:
And how much did you love that segue?
Easy peasy, no mixer needed, season appropriate pumpkin bars with amazingly yummy browned butter frosting. Hardware is two bowls, a whisk, and a baking dish. Mixes up in 10 minutes and is completely foolproof (I know, because I messed it up like 12 times (Okay, that's hyperbole, but it was at least three times. (At least) and they still came out really good). As for the frosting, the hardest part is browning the butter. Then you mix all the ingredients together (Okay, here you do need a mixer, but you could just use a whisk if you don't mind an upper body workout.) and you get this super delicious frosting with that sort of smoky, caramely flavor unique to browned butter. I think I ate more frosting than I put on the bars, to tell the truth.

The bars weren't too sturdy, but that might be because of my screw-ups. I under baked it a little, and I confused my nutmeg with my cinnamon so I had to scoop it out, but I ended up scooping out a lot of the leavening, so I think I overcompensated for that. Still, they were super moist and delicious (though not hugely pumpkin-y, which is probably why I liked them).
I got the recipe from last year's Better Homes and Gardens Fall Baking magazine, and while it seemed like a good one, it also seemed a little plain. So I subbed half the flour with whole wheat, and 3/4 of the oil with applesauce. The other 1/4 I replaced with melted butter, because I find it has a better flavor than oil. Then I swapped out half the sugar with brown sugar and added in some nutmeg (probably more than I had intended. XD)

So you know, these are kind of health food. Whole wheat, vegetable from the pumpkin, fruit from the applesauce, dairy from the butter, protein from the eggs, you've got the whole pyramid here.

And sugar. Lots of sugar. But that just gives you energy to write your novel. And constant typing burns off calories fairly well. So you know, it evens out.

Look, I promote NaNoWriMo like it's my job (it's not. In fact, I donate money to them), but I wouldn't do that if it wasn't something that I loved and believed in. The hardest part of writing is just getting it down. NaNo gives you that chance, and gives you permission to do it poorly. It gets you out of your headspace, puts your inner editor on lock down, and just lets you get the words out.

And trust me: winning? Best. Feeling. Ever. Especially if it's your first. So if you're curious, or want tips on time management, or want to know all my writing secrets, please feel free to email me. We're internet buds; I'm here for you, bro. Word.

Pumpkin Bars with Browned Butter Frosting {Printable Version}
Yield: 15 bars

For the bars:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground cloves
4 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
15 oz. pumpkin puree
¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ melted unsalted butter

For the frosting:
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 cups powdered sugar
3-4 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour, or line with parchment paper, a 9x13 inch baking dish. In a mixing bowl, mix together flours, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, and cloves. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix the sugars with the eggs until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Mix in the pumpkin, applesauce, and melted butter until well combined. Whisk in the dry ingredients until smooth. Evenly spread the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until firm. Cool on a wire rack.

For the frosting: In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Continue to heat until it is a light golden brown. Take off the heat and let cool slightly. In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the sugar, 3 tbsp. milk, and vanilla. Add the butter and beat on low speed until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until spreading consistency. Add more milk if necessary.

Spread the frosting evenly over the bars and slice into squares. Store in the refrigerator.

Tip: The frosting spreads more easily if the bars are still warm. For fluffier frosting, use whipping cream instead of milk and whip on high speed until smooth and fluffy. Cool bars completely before frosting with the whipped version.

Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Fall Baking magazine

October 10, 2012

Oven Baked Pumpkin Pancakes with Pan-Fried Apple Wedges

You know what one of my pet peeves is? When I have an out-of-office employee come and sign in and say to me, "Gosh, I never realized how many farms there are around here!"

Every single time, I'm tempted to say, "Really? You knew it was called the Garden State, but you didn't realize we had farms?"

Look, New Jersey gets a bad rap. Most people only ever see Newark airport and the Parkway, which are two of the worst parts you can see (well, and Camden. But we won't talk about that). But me? I grew up in suburb that's more sub than urb if ya know what I'm sayin'. It's never unusual to drive past a field and see cows or sheep grazing, or a field of corn, or a roadside farm-stand. On my way to work, I pass a small dairy  farm, 2 horse farms, and at least one family-owned farm. In fact, one day when I was coming home, I was driving past the dairy and I saw two baby calves gamboling in the field. My day was made.

When I was little, we went pumpkin picking on school field trips, and I went apple-picking every year with my family. I had a friend who's parents owned an alpaca farm. And lest you think I grew up in some strictly rural area, you're never really more than a 10 minute drive from a highway or shopping center around here. You've got the middle-of-nowhere feel without the inconvenience.
My point is, these pancakes were topped with hand-picked apples from an orchard not far from my house, and pumpkin-- well, the pumpkin came from a can, but it could have come from the farm stand just down the road. It didn't, but it could have.
Have you ever had a fresh picked apple? Not only do those suckers tend to be huge, but the flavor is so much better than those tiny flavorless things in the grocery store. The brother and sister-in-law went apple picking and brought back a big ole grocery bag of the things. Now, I'm weird. I love apples, I love apple-flavored things, but I hate baking with apples because it's such a pain in the behind to peel and core and chop. Usually I feel like it's a bit of a wasted effort too, because cooked apples tend to be mushy and too sweet and don't taste much like apples.

But then I was flipping through Old Reliable and found a recipe for pan-fried apple wedges. The recipe only called for butter, apples, and apple jelly, and I was intrigued. I reduced the apple jelly slightly, added in just a little bit of brown sugar and just a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg. And holy fried apples was it good. The apple wedges were cooked just enough to be soft while still being firm with a bit of a snap, there was such a great apple flavor without being overly sweet, and you just got a slight savory note from the butter. And they're drenched in this sort of sticky apple syrup that tastes like sunlight and crisp fall air and fresh-picked apples (though mostly the third thing). I may have eaten the entire pan of apples by myself.
The only question that remained was what to put them on. Old Reliable suggested serving them as a side to ham or pork, or over pancakes. I wasn't going to bake a ham or roast a pork loin, so pancakes it was. Except I'm kind of pancake-incompetent (I can never figure out how to flip them), so I went with oven-baked. I was going to use a plain recipe that I've used before and liked, but then I remembered all the pumpkin puree I had left over from my last post. What's more season appropriate than apples and pumpkin?

To tell the truth, the pancakes aren't my favorite, but they do go very well with the apples. Neither are overly sweet, so together they're just the right amount. And my pumpkin-loving mother liked them, so it might just be me and the fact that I'm not the hugest pumpkin fan. They're a good vehicle for the apples and isn't that the point?
And in nerd news, who watched the world television premiere of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog last night?

Right? Right? I own Dr. Horrible on DVD, so I'm not sure why I was so excited to watch it with commercials. And I own the soundtrack. And a shirt (but that was for charity, so there). And I can quote the entire movie from memory, and I sing all the songs. You don't want to watch with me unless you're already a fan.

Also, New York Comic Con tomorrow! Anybody else going? Anyone? Bueller?  I got the 4-day pass because I had the vacation time saved, and now I'm kind of wishing I'd gotten the 3-day pass, because no one's available to come with me. *sad face* And I have a wedding on Saturday up in the Catskills, so I don't even know if I'm going to be able to go on Sunday (which is my favorite, because it's kid's day and you see all the little kids dressed up and you see little Captain America fighting a guy in a tiger costume and it's so cute). So if you're planning a wedding, don't plan it for the same weekend as Comic Con. Word to the wise.

Oven Baked Pumpkin Pancakes {Printable Version}

Yield: 4 servings

2 tbsp. unsalted butter
½ cup pumpkin puree
½ cup buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. ground cloves

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the butter in a 9 inch pie plate and let melt in the oven. Swirl the butter
in the plate to coat.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, buttermilk, egg, and brown sugar until well-
combined. Whisk in the dry ingredients and mix until fully incorporated. Add mixture to the prepared
pie plate and bake for 25-30 minutes until the edges are browned and the middle is puffy. Slice and
serve immediately. Serve with butter and syrup or Pan-Fried Apple Wedges.

Recipe by Kim

Pan-Fried Apple Wedges {Printable Version}

Yield: 4-6 servings

2 large apples
2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 cup apple jelly
Cinnamon & nutmeg, to taste
Lemon juice

Peel* and core the apples, slicing into thin wedges. Toss the wedges with a few squirts of lemon juice as
you slice to prevent them from browning. Add the sliced apples to a mixing bowl and toss with brown

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the apples in a single layer and cook 5-7
minutes, flipping once halfway through, until the wedges are tender crisp. Stir in the jelly, cinnamon,
and nutmeg, and heat through. Serve over pancakes, waffles, or ice cream, or as a side to baked ham or
roast pork.

*If desired, you can leave the peels on.

Recipe adapted from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook

October 3, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Icebox Cake

Despite the fact that this is the time of year for pumpkin flavored everything, I've never actually been the hugest fan of pumpkin anything. Pumpkin bread is okay, but I'd much rather some banana. Pumpkin pie never appealed, and pumpkin cheesecake... ick (although to be fair, that's the reaction any cheesecake gets from me).

But Kim, you're saying, I am a diligent reader and I read the title of your post. The words pumpkin and pie are very clearly there and meant to be said together.

That is very true, diligent reader. And there is not only pumpkin, but cream cheese in the recipe.

So, you say confused, it's like a pumpkin cheesecake? But you just said...

I know what I just said. I wrote it after all. This isn't the final week of NaNoWriMo where I'm writing so much so fast that I don't remember writing half of it. This is October which means holycrapNaNoWriMoislessthenamonthawayandIdon'thaveaplotandIhavetodotheblogtooandmakeChristmaspresentsand....

*Deep breath*
Phew, okay. Sorry about that. Minor freak out, nothing to be worried about. (they'll be a lot worse in November).

Anyway, I was in a no-bake mood, and decided to go with my newest favorite dessert in the entire world, the icebox cake. Now, I waxed eloquent about how much I love these suckers the last time I made one, and I had a Costco box of graham crackers left over from Sunday S'mores, so this was a bit of a no-brainer. The only question was the flavor. Pumpkin was the next logical step because, well, 'tis the season and all.

The next question was how to make it pumpkin. Pumpkin whipped cream, maybe, but I wanted something a little more stable than just pumpkin whipped into whipping cream. No-bake pumpkin cheesecake filling might work, but I didn't have enough cream cheese, and a lot of recipes called for instant pudding and cool whip. I don't have cool whip or instant pudding. I have heavy cream and unflavored gelatin. I realize that's the exact opposite problem that normal people have, but I'm not a normal person. I'm a foodie. This is a problem.

In the end, I solved my problem by doing a little bit of both. I took a little inspiration from a (plain) no-bake cheesecake recipe and a little from my chiffon pie. I subbed the pumpkin for the missing cream cheese, used the unflavored gelatin to stiffen it up, and folded in some whipped cream. In the end it was more like a cheesecake mousse, but super light in both texture and flavor.

I did end up liking it, much to my surprise. It's not my favorite, because it still uses flavors that I'm not the hugest fan of, but my mother assures me that she would have no trouble eating the entire cake. By herself. In one sitting.

This would also make an awesome pie filling. Just slap it into a graham cracker or cookie crumb crust, and call it a day. (Gingersnap anyone? Or maybe Biscoff?). There might even be enough for two. I don't know; I haven't tried it.
Here, try a bite.
I also made some dulce de leche to drizzle on top, but while being super yummy, it was too thick to drizzle. So I decided to be fancy and swirl it on top, but it wouldn't stick to the filling and ended up being a hot mess. So I covered the top of the cake with five million chocolate sprinkles. Sprinkles fix everything, don't you think?

Pumpkin Pie Icebox Cake {Printable Version}

Yield: 8-10 servings

1 cup boiling water
½ cup plus 1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. (1 packet) unflavored gelatin
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 cup whipping cream, chilled
Approx. 1 box graham crackers*

Prepare the filling: whisk the boiling water, ½ cup sugar, and gelatin together until the sugar and gelatin are completely dissolved. Set aside. With an electric beater, beat the cream cheese, pumpkin, vanilla and spices together at medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and carefully stream in the gelatin mixture. Beat until completely mixed, cover, and refrigerate for 1-2 hours, until thickened. Meanwhile, whip the cream and remaining tbsp. sugar at high speed until soft peaks form. Carefully fold the whipped cream into the thickened pumpkin mixture.

Assemble the cake: line a loaf pan with plastic wrap. Spread the filling evenly in the bottom of the loaf pan, about ¼ inch thick. Place a row of graham crackers on top, filling as much space as possible. Top with another layer of graham crackers and spread with filling. Repeat until the top of the loaf pan is reached, ending with the filling. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

To serve: invert the loaf pan over a serving dish to release the cake (it should pop right out). Frost the sides with the remaining filling. Serve chilled.

Tip: You can also make a freeform cake. Just line the serving dish with graham crackers and layer from there.

*Gingersnaps, Biscoff cookies, or chocolate wafers would also work well

Recipe by Kim

This recipe is featured on Foodie Friends Friday Linky Party.
Foodie Friends Friday