Archive for October, 2011

This relish has an appetizing tang, kick, and sweetness.  Great with chips, but even better with chicken or fish and sandwiched in a taco.
Corn-Jalapeno Relish, adapted from Better Homes and Garden
2 tablespoons jalapeno pepper jelly
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups frozen or cooked, fresh corn
1/2 medium onion, chopped, cooked
3/4 cup chopped red sweet pepper, cooked
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions (optional)
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (optional)
  1. In small saucepan stir together pepper jelly, lime juice, chili powder, and cumin. Cook and stir until jelly is melted and mixture is bubbly.
  2. Stir in corn, sweet pepper, green onions, and fresh jalapeno (if using). Cook and stir just until heated through. Season with salt. Serve warm.
  3. Makes 2-3/4 cups relish.

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One morning I came across an article on Ina Garten discussing Thanksgiving.  Ina confessed she was not the biggest fan of pumpkin pie.  Sharing her feelings, I kept reading.  At the end, she offered this recipe – an individual pumpkin cake.  With a list of fairly wholesome ingredients (and no butter – a shocker for Ina, I think), I decided to give it a shot. 

This recipe has all the hallmarks of pumpkin pie – it tastes almost like the real thing, except it has the texture of a cake.  There is a scant amount of flour to bind the overwhelmingly liquid batter.  And the result is an extremely moist, custard-like cake.  I found the cake to be plenty sweet and satisfying without the maple frosting, so our version has a few crushed pecans and Health chips.  While I can’t say our family will tolerate a holiday table with a pie, this is great use-up for all that leftover canned or fresh pumpkin.

Pumpkin Cupcakes, from Ina Garten


1 cup all-purpose flour or white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup canned pumpkin purée (8 ounces), not pie filling
1/2 cup granulated sugar (or 1/4-1/3 for less sweet)
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Maple Frosting (recipe follows)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush or spray the top of 10 muffin tins with vegetable oil and line them with 10 paper liners.
  2. Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin purée, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.
  3. Divide the batter among the prepared tins (I use a level 2 1/4-inch ice cream scoop) and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.
  4. Spread the cupcakes with the Maple Frosting

Maple Frosting

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon Natural Maple Flavor
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and butter on low speed until smooth. Stir in the maple flavoring and vanilla extract. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.

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Beef Stew

As simple and rustic as this looks, nothing says comfort for my husband like a bowl of steamy stew, with chunks of vegetables and meat suspended in a thick, savory gravy.

Beef Stew, from Epicurious


3 1/2 pounds well-marbled beef chuck, trimmed of excess fat, cut into 2-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
2 cups soft, dry red wine, such as Merlot
4 thyme sprigs
4 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
4 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon coriander seeds and 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, tied in cheesecloth
1 quart beef stock or low-sodium broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound white mushrooms, quartered
1 cup water
1 pound turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice or potatoes
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 cups kale or collard greens

  1. Season the meat with salt and pepper. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil until it is shimmering. Add half of the beef and cook over moderately high heat until the meat is browned all over, about 12 minutes. Transfer the meat to a large, shallow bowl. Repeat with the remaining vegetable oil and meat.
  2. Add the garlic and onion to the casserole and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the casserole. Add the wine and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the thyme, tomatoes, carrots, bay leaf, spice bag and stock and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer over low heat until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Let cool, then refrigerate overnight.
  3. Cover the stew and rewarm it over low heat. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the quartered mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderately low heat until they release their liquid, about 6 minutes. Pour 2 tablespoons of the liquid into a small bowl and let cool. Cook the mushrooms over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until they are browned, about 6 minutes longer. Add the mushrooms to the stew.
  4. Return the large skillet to moderate heat. Add the water and turnips and season with salt. Cover the skillet and cook the collard greens/kale and turnips over moderate heat until they are just fork-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the turnips to the stew. Discard the thyme sprigs, bay leaf and the spice bag.
  5. Whisk the flour into the reserved mushroom liquid to form a paste. When the stew comes to a simmer, stir 1/2 cup of the sauce into the paste until blended. Stir the paste into the stew and bring to a boil. Simmer the stew over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Season the stew with salt and pepper, stir in the parsley and serve.

Make Ahead The beef stew can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring the stew to room temperature and reheat gently before serving. Serve With Buttered noodles

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Caldo Verde

The dark green cabbage traditionally used in this Portuguese “green” soup is not widely available beyond Portugal’s borders, but kale, swiss chard, or collard greens make a good substitute – perfect for us, since kale and swiss chard appear to be year-round producers for us.  This is a simple broth-based soup and the abundance of greens gives it a hearty, “clean” feel.  For non-spice lovers, substitute the chorizo (I typically have to for Rice Kernel) but, really, it’s best with good-quality chorizo.

Caldo Verde, from Williams Sonoma

1/2 lb. chorizo, linguiça or kielbasa sausages
3/4 lb. kale or collard greens
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large yellow onions, chopped
3 or 4 potatoes, 1 to 1 1/4 lb. total, peeled and thinly sliced
3 or 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
6 to 7 cups water or chicken stock
2 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil for serving

  1. Bring a saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil over high heat. Prick the sausages with a fork and add to the boiling water. Boil for about 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the sausages to a cutting board and, when cool enough to handle, slice them. (You may discard the sausage-flavored water or reserve it for making the soup.)
  2. Rinse and drain the greens, then remove any tough stems. Working in batches, stack the leaves, roll up the stack like a cigar, and cut crosswise into very, very thin strips. Set aside.
  3. In a large soup pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the potatoes and garlic and sauté, stirring often, until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the water and 2 tsp. salt, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the potatoes are very soft, about 20 minutes.
  4. Scoop out about 2 cups of the potatoes and mash well with a potato masher or fork. Return them to the pan, add the sliced sausages and simmer until the sausages are cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Add the greens, stir well and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes. Do not overcook; the greens should be bright green and slightly crunchy. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls and drizzle each serving evenly with extra-virgin olive oil, if desired. Serves 6.

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For my, graham crackers brings back childhood memories – memories of s’mores, slices and slices of my Mom’s favorite dessert, New York Cheesecake, and just snacking on graham crackers from the box.  Although we don’t buy graham crackers often these days, I had some leftover from our recent coconut cream love pie and decided graham cracker muffins would be a sweet breakfast treat.  I know, “cracker” and “muffin” don’t logically follow one another in a title.  But, trust me, give these a try – they are a childhood taste packaged in an unexpected form.

Graham Cracker Muffins, from Kansas Wheat Commission


1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, finely crushed (approx. 10)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries or raisins
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 egg whites, slightly beaten
1/3 cup vegetable oil

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease bottoms only or line with baking papers 12 (2-inch) muffin cups.
  2. In large bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour and brown sugar; mix well. Stir in dried cranberries or raisins.
  3. In small bowl, dissolve baking soda in buttermilk. Add egg whites and oil; mix well.
  4. Add to dry ingredients; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.
  5. Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full. (An ice cream scoop works well for this.)
  6. Bake 17-18 minutes or until done.  Remove muffins from pan; cool on wire rack.

Nutritional Analysis: One muffin provides 241 calories, 4 g protein, 39 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 1 mg cholesterol, 2 g dietary fiber, 46 mg calcium, 131 mg potassium and 289 mg sodium.

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While this soup features summer ingredients like corn and fresh tomatoes, the flavors are perfect all year.  Substitute canned tomatoes or frozen corn – it’s equally delicious.


3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil; more for the sauce
1-1/2 tbsp chopped garlic, plus 1/2 tsp. finely grated or minced garlic
2 lb ripe tomatoes, cored and large diced (about 4-1/2 cups)
1 cup dry white wine
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika (Spanish pimentón)
1/4 cup mayonnaise or yogurt (I usually omit, as we enjoy a clearer broth)
Kosher salt
1-3/4 cups homemade or canned chicken stock 
1 large pinch saffron
1 lb halibut, cod, or other firm white fish, cut into 1-inch chunks (and/or shrimp/mussels/clams)
2 cups fresh corn kernels (from 4 medium ears)
1-2 potatoes, diced (we added for some starch)
Parsley for garnish


  1. In a 5- to 6-qt. soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the 1-1/2 tbsp chopped garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and wine and simmer vigorously until the tomatoes are broken down and the mixture is slightly soupy, about 15 min.
  2. While the tomatoes are cooking, whisk the 1/2 tsp grated garlic, paprika, and mayonnaise in a small bowl. Whisk in a little olive oil and enough cool water to make a creamy, pourable sauce. Taste and add salt if you like.  (Add potatoes here, if using.  Cook 10-15 minutes.)
  3. Add the broth and saffron to the tomato mixture and simmer to slightly reduce the broth and concentrate the flavors, 5 min. Add the fish and simmer until it’s opaque throughout, 3 to 5 minites more. Stir in the corn. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve in large bowls with a big drizzle of the sauce on top and a generous sprinkle of parsley, if using.

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While this is a chocolate chip cookie recipe favorite, I wasn’t planning on discussing it because (1) the recipe is ubiquitous and (2) all white (butter, all-purpose, flour, granulated sugar, and vanilla pudding mix) and, hence, not typical of our posts.  But then I unconsciously made two “mistakes” and ever-so-slightly “cleaned up” this indulgent family favorite.  First, I interpreted 1 cup of butter as “1 stick.”  I knew something was up when the dough was a bit stiff.  But it mixed well and was thoroughly moist.  So I ignored it.  Then I reached for the white whole wheat flour and dumped in 2 cups before I realized it wasn’t all-purpose.  I did use AP flour for the remaining 1/4 cup, if that earns any points in the authenticity column.

Right after these cookies left the oven, my neighbor came over.  She’s trying to lose weight so I didn’t try to convince her they were healthy… but then it hit me, 1 cup is not 1 stick.  1 cup = 2 sticks.  Duh.  Fortunately, the neighborhood kids / family were none the wiser.

The vanilla pudding mix does it’s magic to create a delicious gem – even with half the fat and the addition of whole grains.  The cookies are soft and chewy with a slightly crunchy edge.  Apparently they are also quite versatile and forgiving.  While I remained true with vanilla pudding mix and chocolate chips, feel free to substitute either one.  (King Arthur Flour has a pistachio pudding mix / pistachio nut recipe variant.) 

Next time you’re pining for an indulgent, chewy chocolate chip cookie, consider this fail-proof recipe.  Now, it’s also a bit more forgiving on your waistline.

Vanilla Pudding Chocolate Chip Cookies, inadvertently adapted by Rice Kernel from everywhere on the Internet

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (original recipe calls for 1 cup)
1/2 cup brown sugar (original recipe calls for 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3.4 oz. package vanilla instant pudding mix (I used Splenda vanilla but feel free to use other flavors)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat (original recipe calls for AP flour.  I think only regular whole wheat might be too dry, though.  Mix it with another type of flour.) 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1- 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (or any mix-in: white chips, butterscotch, peanut butter chips, candy bars, coconut, nuts, raisins)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat and set aside.
  2. Using a mixer, beat together butter and sugars until creamy.  Add in pudding mix, eggs, and vanilla extract. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips.
  3. Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until slight golden and set.  Remove cookies from oven and let cool on baking sheet for two minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

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