Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pumpkin Cookies

We love pumpkins, be it soup, bread, cookies, waffles, muffins, gnocchi, anything pumpkin, I find appealing. This recipe has been a family favorite for some time, typically we end up doubling it (as seen in the pictures). But be warned, the icing recipe makes a lot, so if you decide to double the cookie recipe, you're fine NOT doubling the icing part.

What you'll need:
  • 2 cups shortening
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 can 16 oz can pumpkin
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 package cream cheese
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 16 oz powdered sugar

Start off by sitting out your cream cheese so it came come to room temperature.

Combine your dry ingredients in a large bowl (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice).

Next, cream your shorting and sugar.

Now add your eggs and vanilla, combine, then add the pumpkin.

Once your pumpkin mixture is mixed well, pour it into the flour mixture and combine. I have had problems in the past with these cookies because they haven't been mixed well, it's a lot of flour so take the time, and work on your arm muscles by stirring, checking for flour pockets, and then stirring some more when you find them.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Take a cookie sheet, cover it with parchment paper and scoop out dough with a small cookie scoop about 1.5 inches apart.

Beware, you mind find one of these staring you at you, wanting to try a cookie. . .

Or, one of these!

 Bake for 12 - 14 minutes. If your cookies start to brown, they are over done.

Let them cool a bit, then add the icing. They don't have to be completely cool, but if they're too hot, it won't stay on it. I prefer a very light amount of icing, in fact I like them plain.

We had a fair amount of people stopping by to eat the cookies as they were being made, so I didn't get a final count, but I'm estimating the final count was close to 150 cookies for the doubled version. There are a lot of cookies, but they are additive, so they don't last nearly as long as they should. They do freeze well, so you can make a batch and pull some out a little at a time.

Friday, September 28, 2012


A timbale is an Italian molded food. My food personal food critic had one on a road trip to Green Bay a couple years ago and game back raving about the amazing dish he had at a small family owned restaurant. After a lot of searching, I found there aren't many recipes on the Internet for Timbale, and they seem to vary greatly in type of starch used, filling and size of mold used.

This dish can takes a little time to assemble, but it's well worth the effort. Typically, I have made this with a ground veal, onion and tomato filling. But, since we're eating a mostly vegetarian diet these days, I had to come up with a new filling. . .spinach, ricotta and tomato basil sauce!

Here's what you'll need for today's recipe:

Bread crumbs
2 eggs
1.5 cups arborio rice
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
1 cup freshly shredded rosemary asiago (or Parmesan or provolone if you would prefer one of those)
1 cup Tomato Basil Sauce (or about half of recipe)
3 cups fresh spinach

Start by bringing a pot of water to boil. Add the the rice, cover and turn down the heat. Cook for 12 minutes. Pour the rice into a strainer, then spread on a cookie sheet to dry. Set aside.

This timbale has three distinct pieces, the rice shell (pictured going forward in the bowl to the right), the cheese layer, that is used to keep the mold in tact (pictured in the middle), and the filling (pictured to the left).

Let's start with the middle bowl since it's the easiest, grate the asiago cheese. The middle bowl is now done until we need to assemble.

Now, let's talk about the rice bowl on the right. Start with your eggs, whisk together and add your mozzarella cheese. Once combine, add your rice as so. . .
Stir the rice into the egg mixture to combine. This bowl is not done and ready for assembly. Two down, one to go.

In the third bowl, start with your ricotta, add the chopped spinach (if you use frozen, make sure it's drained). Be careful not to add too much, if the filling has too much liquid your shape will not hold.

(Sorry, I didn't get a picture after I added the sauce to the spinach and ricotta.)

Now, take your spring form pan, butter or oil the sides and bottom.

Sprinkle breadcrumbs on the pan and shake until they're evenly spread around the bottom and sides.

Next, spread 3/4 of the rice mixture on the bottom and sides. Press it down to make it fairly solid. spread most of the asiago cheese to form a barrier between the rice and the next layer (reserving some for the top).

Add the spinach mixture, and top with the remaining rice mixture, sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake in oven for 20 minutes at 450 degrees.

Now is a good time to wash those dishes. . .

And now you should have something that looks like this. . .

Take let it rest for 5 minutes or so, then take a knife and run along the sides of the spring form pan. Take off the sides, and you get this. . .

Slice and enjoy.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tomato Basil Sauce

There are two distinct periods of my life as the primary cook in my household, the first 4 years, I refer to as" the cream of something and rice period", where most nights consisted of some sort of chicken and rice casserole with a cream of something soup and some sort of frozen vegeables. This time consisted of a lot meals that lacked a lot of flavor and took very little technique, in fact, I'm quite sure my Sous Chefs can already cook better than I did during that period.

During this same period, I routinuely would attempt to make homemade pasta sauce, there were a number of bad sauces, there were a number of horrible sauces, things that I have now learned should never be seen in the same pot together, were put together. But this sauce, is not one of the horindous, today's sauce is an example of how knowledge is power.

For today's sauce, you will need:

1/4 cup olive oil
3 gloves garlic chopped
2 cans San Marzano tomatoes (this is a must, do not try to make a sauce with any other type of canned tomato)
2 tsp Beef Boulioun
Fresh Basil, chopped

Start by heating a stock pot over medium heat.

While your pot is heating, empty the cans of tomatoes into a bowl. I personally think the whole tomato with its seeds make the sauce too watery, so individually, I squeeze each tomato over the sink to get out most of the seeds. Depending on your preference of tomato size, you may also wish to blend or puree your tomateso to a less chunky consistency, for today's use, I wanted tomato chunks. Sit aside.

Once the pan is heated, at the olive oil, and when that is heated, add your garlic, stirring for about 1 minute, until fragrant.

Now you can add the tomatoes from earlier, along with some salt and pepper to taste and the beef bouillon. Let that heat a bit, then add in your fresh basil. Let that simmer for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

Tomorrow, I'll show you what you can do with your fresh ricotta and tomato basil sauce.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


If you haven't noticed yet, we've been consuming a lot of milk. About 10 days ago, I stopped by Whole Foods and stocked up on our favorite non-homogenized milk. Typically buying a case of milk (9 cartons) is not a problem for us, however, we've been trying to cut back on cereal eating a bit, which means less milk for breakfast, and the Little Guy (LG), who typically drinks a ton of milk was fighting off a nasty cold and hardly drank for 3 days. So those two things together, resulted in a lot of extra milk.

So, after three batches of pumpkin soup and a batch of pudding, I still had 2 full gallons worth left, EEK!

What's a quick way to use a  half gallon? Homemade ricotta cheese!

Start by pouring a half gallon WHOLE milk (it only works with whole), heat over a medium-low temperature to 185 degrees (stirring throughout so it won't burn), once it reaches 185, add either 3 TBSP lemon juice, OR 3 TBSP white vinegar and some salt. Remove from heat and cover with a tight lid, sit aside for 15 minutes.

Next, cover a colander with a cheese cloth (note, I can't find mine, I have one, I looked all over for it, and after 2 weeks, I'm giving up, it's being added to my Christmas list). Never fear though, if you don't have cheese cloth, in a pinch, I have placed a strainer in a bowl (pouring our the left-over liquid so the bottom of the strainer isn't wet). With or without the cheesecloth, let it sit and drain for 15 - 30 minutes, then squeeze the excess liquid.

You can serve immediately, or refrigerate for later. (Or stay tuned later this week for a recipe to use your fresh ricotta).

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


 Guacamole seems to be either loved or hated by most people, you don't find many in the middle. Somehow, we managed to not eat this green stuff until about a year ago, but now it seems to be always in the house.

After several failed attempts, I have finally found a good recipe for guac, however I have to admit that picking the right avocado can still be challenging. Last week, I bought 5, 1 was perfect, 1 had fuzzy mold on the inside, 2 looked like they were on the verge of growing mold and the last one was about half usable. So, my grand plans for a guacamole side were ruined.

This week, I let someone else pick the avocados, he did a much better job :)

So, if you would like to make some of your own guac, here's what you need to do:

Chop 1/4 an onion (about 1/4 a cup), 1/4 a red pepper and 3/4 - 1 cup fresh cilantro and toss into a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine.

 Add 3 avocados to the food processor and pulse until mostly combined. Remove the blade and stir the last by hand so there are still a few larger pieces of avocado. Add some kosher salt to taste (you'll need a fair amount), stir in with a spatula. Enjoy!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Poached Eggs

For some reason, eggs are my Achilles heal. I never really liked them much growing up, so it's definitely an area I try to grow and improve. I have scrambled mastered, and am fairly consistent with my omelet making. So after watching an episode of MasterChef this summer, I decided I needed to start working on poached. I have prepared them a number of different ways, today's is the most simple where it's just an egg on a piece of toast, seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika.
Previously, I used a swirling water technique that would more often than not result in the egg whites feathering. I recently found these poach pods though and they form perfectly formed eggs every time. The only issue? Well, with this being the first time I used them, I wasn't sure how long to cook the eggs. So, I googled, found a site that said 6 minutes, so that's what I went with. WAY too long! I'll be trying 5 minutes next time. But, the good news is they hold the shape and are super easy to use. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012


I honestly don't think it would be possible to cram one more activity into this weekend, we cooked so many things just today, I think I have a weeks worth of recipes just from today, here's a preview of some of the upcoming recipes, as well as our weekend highlights.

Yesterday we went to Oktoberfest Zinnzinati, where the little ones enjoyed eating their first cream puff. . .

After looking at the schedule, we were pleased to find out the Bratwurst eating contest was close to starting, so we walked over to watch Joey Chestnut eat WAY too many brats, way to fast. While it's as amazing as it is disgusting to watch, someone managed to sleep through the whole thing, including the eat off after there was a tie. . .


Ok, so that was all yesterday. . .TODAY I cooked the following:

Pancakes (no picture, but they were yummy
Poached eggs

Apple Cider

Ricotta Cheese

Marina Sauce



Chocolate Chambord Pudding (YUM!)


Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Soup again!

As you can see, it's been a long day, recipes for everything above coming this week.