Sunday, November 23, 2008

palm-sized pumpkin whoopie pies

i'm in the fall spirit like whoa. i've got my pumpkin pie wax snap melting away and my gingerbread spiced latte candle burning in the other room...everyday. i'm giving fall as much time as i can while my mental finger secretly hovers over mariah carey's all i want for christmas in my itunes holiday play list. i'm trying not to rush and this fall, i've decided that if i can add pumpkin or cranberries to make something more autumnal, well, i'm going to. so i bought eleventy billion cans of pumpkin (not pie filling) and i've been pushing orange-hued baked goods ever since.

i've seen these whoopie pies popping up all over the web...a variety of "cookie" flavors forming sandwiches around whipped frosting. from vegan chocolate to the ones i used from peabody, these pies are making a come back. unless they never really left, in which case they're just still here.

let's make the cookies!

these whoopie pies are pretty easy, but for every 2 cookies you get only 1 "pie", so plan ahead. as i linked above, i've used the recipe from culinary concoctions by peabody...which she lists as being from a cookbook called baked.

pumpkin whoopie cookies
3 c flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 c sugar
1 c dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 c canola oil (i substituted with applesauce)
3 cups chilled pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. in a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and spices
2. in a separate bowl, whisk sugars and oil (applesauce) together
3. add pumpkin puree and whisk to combine
4. add eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined
5. sprinkle flour mixture over the pumpkin mixture and whisk until completely combined
6. use a small scoop with a release mechanism to drop heaping tbsp of dough onto baking sheets, about 1 inch apart
(i used a regular tbsp measuring spoon with decent results)
7. bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick comes out clean
8. remove from the oven and let cool completely

before and after

once you've got cooled cookies and have decided that no, cookies alone will not suffice, it's time whip up some frosting.

maple syrup cream cheese filling (again, peabody)
3 c powdered sugar
½ c unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla

1. beat the butter until smooth with no visible lumps
2. add the cream cheese an beat until combined
3. add the powdered sugar, maple syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth

to assembly these little cake cookie sandwiches, turn one cookie upside down and pipe frosting to cover the base. grab another cookie and place it flat side down onto the filling. repeat until you've matched up all cookies with their mates. refrigerate for 30 minutes to set before serving (if you can wait/if you care).

pumpkin. maple. cream cheese.

i brought these to an election party (obama whaaat! oops how'd that get there?) and we ate them while history was made. that was pretty epic, and so were these cookies (i'm not comparing here). they are cakey and pumpkiny and filled with sweet cream cheese. i'm not sure there's something here that's not to like. i don't think i've had a "real" whoopie pie, but i'm down with the person that decided cookies alone just would not do.

stay tuned for how to use cranberries three times in one week.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

nature walk november 8, 08

i'm not a great photographer, this i know, but i am working at it. i've been trying all kinds of things. i obviously take food photos, i try to work on portraits (i'm going to get some of the new baby next weekend!), and when nature and i get along, i take some outside, too. i took these photos a weekend ago on husband's birthday.

almost spiraling staircase

it seemed like an overcast day and maybe not a good one for pictures, but the gray sky lent itself well to these images. more true to fall in pittsburgh, at least.

husband and puppies

to be so honest and show how truly little i know about photography, i just went ahead and took these with my macro lens. yikes! i had been taking closeups of the leaves and the dogs and wasn't in the mood to switch...while these don't have a crispness that i would prefer, they do offer a great look at the beautiful transitional colors and dense leaf cover on our walk.

a dreamy end

i also used some basic photoshop (including some pioneer woman actions). when i was in middle and high school i was so good at photoshop. version 1..maybe 2? ha, i don't know. but before they started adding letters i actually knew what i was doing and i cared to learn more. i got in a rut when i had no computer of my own and didn't get back into it until i purchased one not so long ago. now i am relearning very, very slowly. i can stamp and blend and fix little problems. i understand various features but i'm still working on putting things together and working with layers properly, so good luck to me. i did manage to remove the tagging ties from the trees in the above photos, so they look as pristine and natural as i imagined the walk to be.

not something totally made...but i'm stretching the rules. it's my blog!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

baby shower pin-ons!

pin-ons. ever heard of them? yeah, i hadn't either before i chose to make them from a list of tasks for a baby shower. i looked them up online and found lots of lace, ribbon, and plastic objects. not being a huge fan of gaudy, lacey items at baby showers (or really, anywhere), i decided to set out on a mission: make pin-ons that were actually cute.

i made husband accompany me to michael's (it was his family baby shower i was attending, afterall) and we searched for the cutest things we could find that didn't have any lace. i came across these baby turquoise blue felt animals with contrast stitching and settled on them. we then found coordinating polka dot ribbons and finished by selecting matching stardream papers. husband searched for the pins and i found a perfectly dotty hole punch. it was pin-on heaven.

cute-to-the-la here people.

these were simple to assemble. i cut out the paper and punched the bottom edge. the animals were sticky, so i placed them with room for the bows. i hand tied the ribbon and hot glued to a corner of the paper. a final strip of glue to the back to affix the pin, and i was done! i made 32 pins plus one for the mommy-t0-be (using a "boy!" sticky cardboard thing).

i was totally in love with these. it helps that felt animals (whales, rocking horses and elephants) are adorable on their own and i have an extreme love for ribbon and bows. i have no idea what the people at the shower thought, but i assume they fit the pin-on bill enough that nobody missed the lace.

here they are in action! this is the mom-to-be (hidden by the cute baby bear suit), her mom (2 pins!) and her sister.

in case you were still wondering, the pin-ons serve as a game. our game was as follows: everyone gets a pin. if you say baby (or a buzz word of your choice) and someone hears it, that person can take your pin(s). as you collect pins, others around you become more cautious. if you hear someone say baby, you get all of their pins! at the end of the game you an either name the winner as the person with the most pins or (in this case) have the pin marked with a dot - done before the game - be the winner. while people thought they were collecting the most pins, the winner could be someone with just one pin...but the right one! baby shower games are so exciting.

if you were also wondering, the baby made his entrance to the world earlier this week.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

mm, looks good, right?

ok, you can blame my mom for this one. i didn't want to hurt anymore chickens. i wanted to roast them nicely, resting on their backs, cooking gently. but no...she didn't want that. she pressured me, phone call after phone call - "have you tried that chicken i told you about?" she would ask. "i haven't seen it on your blog." so i caved and roasted my most recent whole chicken on a bundt ban. apparently it's all the rage.

you can't really tell what's happening here. not yet...

i didn't use a recipe for this here roasted bird. but i'll outline it for you anyway.

bundt roasted chicken
1 whole roasting chicken
butter, melted (you measure!)
olive oil (you measure!)
herbs (fresh or dried will do; i used herbs de provence)
salt & pepper

1/2 c chicken stock, beer, or white wine (base this on your seasoning)
bundt pan and foil (i wouldn't normally list the pan, but you can't do this without it)

1. cover the center of the bundt pan with foil
2. coat the bird with a mix of melted butter and olive oil; rub it inside the skin layer, too
3. generously season with herbs, salt and pepper
4. set the bird atop the bundt pan, tucking legs and wings in
5. pour liquid into bottom of bundt pan
6. roast at 425F for 15 minutes, lower to 375F and cook until internal temp is 175/180F (cover top with foil if browning)

7. remove bird from oven and allow to rest before carving

when you remove the bird from the pan, i warn you, things will not be pretty. oh no. this is violation central right here, folks. you don't bring this guy (gal?) to the table. carve in the kitchen and bring out lovely slices on a platter. ok? because you don't want your guests/children/grandma to see this:

holy mother of...

yeah. i told you.


ok, back to good, clean blogging here. while my bird was resting (out of the pan, actually), i used the leftover liquid goodness to make a gravy. i'm rather good at making gravy these days. i've come a long way since lump/bland-ville and i'm pretty proud of that. i served slices of chicken with parmesan roasted cauliflower and fingerling potatoes with gravy.

this chicken was good, but if i'm going to shove something up the cavity, i'd rather it be a beer (grapefruit soda) can or lemons, onions and garlic. or maybe i could do this again and add those things (not the can) plus potatoes and chunky carrots to the base? it was good, but it wasn't blow your mind juicy or savory. i don't necessarily blame the cooking method, so i can't be sure. but mom, i hope you're happy.

the dogs love roast chicken nights. innards, anyone?

Monday, November 3, 2008

pumpkin-gruyère focaccia

remembered i had some yeast, a whole bag in fact, and i thought i might try my hand at some bread again. i did it once before and loved the potato focaccia, so i searched or a fall-friendly (i'm into that these days) recipe for some savory bread. i came across this and decided that the 2 loaves would be perfect; one to bring to work, one to eat here at home.

all of my ingredients

in story book manner, i will tell this tale of savory pumpkin bread making. i'm only doing this because i took a billion photos (and none with a flash!) and need some where to put them. first, i went out and bought all of my ingredients (see above). then i got to work. i'm actually not going to post the recipe here for two important reasons. one: there are a lot of photos and it's already really long. i haven't even typed down there ↓... two: my office is really cold and i have a combination of mouse-hand (frozen digits due to long exposure to mouse holding) and house-hand (frozen hands due to long exposure in the frigid, tundra-like apartment i call home).

kneading the dough. photos credit husband.

as you read in the recipe, there is lots of rising time (it's bread!) at this kneading point of the game, all of my ingredients have been mixed together in the proper order. i've already let the yeast and sugar and water get all happy and warm and i'm kneading until elastic and smooth. i plop the dough back in my bowl and let it rise for 1 hour.


i check the dough after an hour. it's barely changed in size. i realize the dough should be in a warm place. ha! have i mentioned this old apartment and it's old joke a of a heating system? i mean, we could turn it way up and sure, it would get kinda warm. but then i wouldn't be blogging anymore. or taking pictures. or eating. i would have to sell everything and live out of a cardboard box because it costs too much to turn it way up. and then i certainy wouldn't be complaining about my fancy-pants focaccia not rising. so i turn the heat a little up and put the bowl near the heat duct. i give it another hour and success! large ball of dough. i punch, i divide, i make 8 inch discs. i even use a ruler. (i'm not kidding, i measured.)

corn meal! pretty.

i dust the sheets with really coarse corn meal which i later regret. i take artistic photos of cornmeal and think of the corn palace. memories properly remembered, i place the dough discs on top and cover one with just cheese and one with cheese and walnuts. tsquared is allergic and i don't want him dying just to try this bread. then i put the dough in the oven. then i take it out because i realize i forgot to let it rise again. bah! bread making is hard. back it goes after 20 minutes.

and then it was done! i let it cool for 15 seconds and cut a piece out of the walnut one. i had that one on the top rack and of course, it got darker than it should have. stupid oven. but the insides were still good and even the toasted top was still ok. but, oh, ouch. coarse cornmeal + regular human teeth = damage. so i scraped as much as i could off both loaves.

that would be one of two warnings i have about this recipe. one: use finely ground corn meal. two: watch the loaves so they don't get too dark. i was watching mine and bam, then they were brown. (my cursor is missing right now and on top of mouse/house hands i am struggling to type this...i can't freaking find my place!)

i have no idea how the office felt about this bread, but i liked it. i liked the plain gruyère better than the one with walnuts, but that may have been because it wasn't as "done". the bread wasn't too pumpkin-y and had little pockets of cheese inside. it would be great in a panini as the original recipe suggests. i consider this bread a success.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

boo! happy (belated) halloween

um, i've been a bad, bad blogger. i've just been so busy, then sick, and now here i am trying to catch up. i've got lots to post about and i'll be doing more of that soon. look for some craft posts and more food! until then, enjoy our household's last-minute-carved-at-7 pm-on-halloween pumpkin.

if you weren't aware, husband has a lot of plants. how nice of him to make room for seasonal decor.