RECIPE: Mild Pumpkin and Pecan Spice Bread

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The pumpkin ramen soup I posted last weekend left me with a lonely left over cup of pumpkin puree. I just have this thing about throwing stuff away. I wasn’t sure I could make pumpkin bread with just a cup of pumpkin puree. Usually pumpkin bread takes a whole can, at least. But I gave this a try using a Williams Sonoma recipe. What happened was that one cup of pumpkin was just enough for a mild, sweet pumpkin flavor. It was enough to carry pumpkin, but also not over power the amazing amount of spice in this recipe. I decided to also throw in some pecans, and some vanilla to help mellow out all the spice-a-palooza. These loaves turned out sublime.

Mild Pumpkin and Pecan Spice Bread
Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups flour
½ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. allspice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
11 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled slightly
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 cup regular sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup pumpkin puree
¾ cup chopped pecans


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350˚. Spray 2 bread loaf pans with non stick cooking spray and set aside.




In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and baking soda, salt, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon. Set aside.


With a stand mixer, beat the melted butter with both sugars until well whipped. Add the eggs and pumpkin puree and whip until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and mix well. Turn the mixer to low. Add the flour mix in two steps, mixing until just combined. Finally mix in the chopped pecans until evenly distributed.

Pour the batter into waiting pans, making sure there is an even amount in both. Bake on the center rack for about 50 minutes to one hour. Turn the pans midway for even cooking. Bread is done when a toothpick at the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 10-15 minutes, then run a dull knife around the edges of the pans and invert the breads onto a cooling rack to cool the breads completely. Wrap tightly to keep moist and keep for one week. This bread freezes really well.

RECIPE: Black Forest Biscotti (dried cherries, chocolate, hazelnut and a hint of coconut)

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It had been a while since I had been in a Costco-on a Saturday no less.

Yeah, what was I thinking? *shudder.

So as I tried to maneuver my way around insanity, a giant bag of dried cherries caught my eye. Originally I thought about my daughter’s lunches. She loves to snack on dry fruit. But then I thought of all the possibilities in the kitchen with these lovelies, so they found their way into my cart.

No big surprise, my daughter found them to be too tart for her lunch. SO now I have a never ending Costco sized bag of tart cherries to play with. The following biscotti were my first culinary idea. If you visit here often, you may know I am a fan of biscotti, and have shared a few recipes. This cherry-chocolate-hazelnut-coconut scented concoction my husband said was the best batch I have ever made. I am not sure if that’s the German in him? But they were also a big hit at work, so I think I’m on to something. You decide!


“Black Forest” Biscotti

Ingredients:

 8 Tbsp. butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tsp. coconut extract
2 cups flour
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup hulled and toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped
½ cup dried tart cherries, chopped
½ cup semi sweet chocolate, chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350˚, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.





Beat butter, then add sugar and whip until fluffy. Reduce to low and add eggs one at a time, whipping well after each addition. Add both flavor extracts and mix well.





Lightly mix the flour with the salt and baking powder with a fork. Turn your mixer on low and add the flour mixture in two additions, mixing only until just combined.



Add the nuts, cherries and chocolate and mix lightly with the stand mixer, just a couple of times. You may want to do this part by hand. The goal is that ingredients are evenly distributed but you don’t want to overwork your batter, either.




Divide the batter in two even batches, and turn them onto the parchment lined baking sheet. With your hands or a floured spatula, shape the logs into a 2 “ x  12-14” long that has an even thickness. The two logs will spread, so make sure there is at least 4” of space between them.



Bake for about 30 minutes on the middle rack. The logs should be lightly golden and the middle should spring back slightly when touched.


When they are ready to be pulled out, set them out on the counter to cool for 10 minutes. Lower your oven temp to 325˚. Once the logs have adequately cooled and “set” (do not rush this step, otherwise the cutting step is difficult), place logs carefully on a cutting board to cut with a serrated knife ½” wide strips. Place the cookie, cut side down, back onto the baking sheets. Bake them for 10 minutes, then turn them all over to bake for another 5-10 minutes.

Cookies should have hardened up slightly and have a light golden edge to the cut sides. Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container for about 1 week. These also freeze well.



RECIPE: Pumpkin Coconut Mushroom Ramen Bowl

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My daughter is obsessed with ramen. And ramen is ok for a cheap lunch where you just use hot water.  But ramen has really become a trend with many restaurants here where giant ramen bowls are filled with aromatic ginger and spices and swimming with vegetables and various proteins, making it quite a meal in a bowl.

This recipe I ran across on Pinterest and was curious how my family would like it. To make it more appealing for them-and healthier, I made some adjustments. The original recipe is here, if you want to check it out and also look at this food blogger, who I was very impressed with.

My adjustments included skipping the cubed squash (I felt the pumpkin was enough for my family's palette) and added green vegetables to help metabolize the fat content in the coconut. I kicked up the garlic and also used just typical ramen noodle soup packs you get in the soup aisle. I couldn't find just raw ramen anywhere. The result;  Surprisingly easy to prepare and both daughter and husband ladeling up seconds! Hubby said this needs to be in the week's menu schedule. NICE!

Enjoy the Slurp! Slurp!

Pumpkin Coconut Mushroom Ramen Bowl
adapted from Cookingforkeeps.com

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tsp. minced ginger
2  3 oz. packages Shitake mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
4 oz. Baby Bellas (or other button mushroom), cleaned, trimmed and sliced
1 Fresno chili, sliced
1 tsp. salt
1 lb. chicken tenderloins
1 1/2 cups frozen cut green beans
1 cup chopped baby spinach
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 can light coconut milk, well shaken
2 tsp. red curry paste
3 cups chicken broth (We like Better Than Bouillon Chicken)
2 3 oz. packages ramen soup packages (soup packet discarded, you just want the noodles)


Directions:


In a large stock pot, heat up the olive oil over medium high heat. Saute the onion, garlic and ginger until soft, then add the chili and the mushroom. Cook until the mushrooms release their juices.



Add the salt and the green beans, and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan. Cook another minute or so.


Add the chicken broth, red curry paste, coconut milk and pumpkin puree and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken tenderloins and poach in the broth for 7-9 minutes. Once the chicken is cooked, pull out of the broth and place on a cutting board. Continue to simmer the broth. 





Shred the chicken, and pour back in the broth while adding the chopped spinach. Bring back up to a simmer and add the ramen noodles. Cook until the noodles are loosened and tender about 2-3 minutes. Serve up hot in ramen bowls.




LIFESTYLE: Lisa and Flora's Top Ten "WTH?" at Goodwill during our Girl Scout Retreat!

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Every year, my Girl Scout coleader and I take a fun winter weekend retreat with other Girl Scout leaders up in Wisconsin. We all stay up at a GS campground and enjoy fellowship, rest, relaxation and idea sharing. It is really a way for many of us to not only catch up with each other, but also take some time out for ourselves. I look forward to this weekend every year. Lisa and I have so much fun trolling around a nearby small town, browsing antique shops and eating a local Friday night fish fry. Some years we travel to nearby Lake Geneva for the snow festival, but lately we tend to support the small shop owners closer to camp and do more thrifting. One of our funnest stops is the local Goodwill. We both usually pick up some great frocks for a steal. This year, we also were picking up trinkets for Lisa's new beach themed bedroom.

It is often said that anther man's trash is another man's treasure. That is why I love thrifting. What may not fit one person any more (taste or size) may still be awesome for someone else. But some things you will find thrifting may really be there for a reason. Some things will leave you scratching your head and wonder, well, just because you CAN make or manufacture something, doesn't mean you should. So as we looked around the Goodwill, we found some things that made us laugh out loud.

Here is our "Top Ten WTH?" for this year.


NUMBER 1
We had no idea what this was for. It was ceramic. The bonnet and pacifier was removable. It was the size of a large soup bowl. I use WAS because just after we took a picture of it, giggled and walked off, some other customer picked it up in bewilderment and dropped it. We heard a large crash and the gentleman picked the pieces up and gently put them back on the rack like nothing happened. SO sadly, the baby-pacifier-bonnet-ceramic-soup-mug-bowl-thing is no more.


NUMBER 2
A large chocolate pen the size of your head? Because a squeeze bottle just won't do the same thing. Just what a kitchen needs, more ridiculous gadgets. Extra large, pastel blue gadget with 30 extra tips to keep track of. Lordie.


NUMBER 3
This at first isn't so bad. A cute chef holding a wine bottle. Nice. Now envision this poor chef being impaled through the middle of his mid section with a wine bottle. Eww. I'll pass. Poor chef. Such violence. Also, not really sure it would even balance right and work to actually hold the wine bottle? Laws of physics, a necessary evil.


NUMBER 4
Lisa is modeling the most gauche dress we had ever seen. This picture doesn't do it justice. Imagine a cheap polyester balloon window shade got into a wrestling match with a neon paintball gun. And there you are.


NUMBER 5
This glittery delight was in the men's section. We couldn't tell if it was misplaced or if it was truly a men's sweater. Either way, tinsel belongs on a tree, not woven on a sweater.

 
NUMBER 6
Lisa was drawn to this treasure from the clash of pattern you could see from 2 aisles away. It almost looks like someone upcycled an imported rug from World Market. Upon closer look, my eyes widened at the funky buttons on top of the cacophony of patterns, making the whole jacket just a car crash of design and color. Some people may be able to pull this puppy off, but not I. It hurt my eyeballs.


NUMBER 7
Speaking of hurting the eyeballs, these pants baffle the mind. Especially when looking at the label, which made us pretty sure they were designer made. These poor pants look like they rolled around the cutting floor at a fabric store. They are just too much!


NUMBER 8
Imagine your husband/son/boyfriend's delight when you bring him home these pajama pants with horse/donkey looking creatures all over them. But wait, there's more. Accompanying these cute little animals is a quippy quote, "PASTURE BEDTIME". Awww. And the animals are munching on grass. Get it?


NUMBER 9
The men's section at Goodwill deserves it's own top ten post. There is so much wrong there, it boggles the mind. The baseball caps/hats alone may amuse you for hours. The tie section has some of the most obnoxious ties you have ever seen. We pulled this one out to share. It looks like an M.C. Escher attempt at a tie. Once you start looking at it, you get drawn into the fun house pattern and can't get out. Look away...look away...save yourself.


NUMBER 10
What gets an A in effort gets an F in practicality. Lisa assured me this was a crib blanket, and once we figured that out, I was convinced that this crazy pattern/design would freak out a baby. Not only that, but there was glitter-sparkles in the sky, yarn ties and other trinkets sewn into various areas of the blanket. If any of that stuff loosened would cause a choking hazard for the baby. The actual design of this blanket was just crazy. Imagine if someone had some hallucinogens and imagined Noah's ark or what the Garden of Eden looked like in fabric. Crazy.


*********
That concludes our "Top Ten WTH?" items at Goodwill. Stay tuned when we visit again. Now on the same trip, Lisa found awesome trinkets for her beach themed bedroom, and I found an adorable polka dot dress with bell sleeves that received a ton of compliments last Friday at work. SO in the midst of all the eye rolling and giggles, we bought great stuff for a song. Goodwill; delivers on fun AND deals. Give it a try!

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