Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pumpkin Brownies

Pumpkin Brownies. A cakey chocolate brownie bottom layer with a top that reminds me of a moist and spicy pumpkin bread. These are delicious and really easy to make. I am always on the lookout for a new and interesting cookbook and I stumbled upon a new one on Amazon last week called Fat Witch Brownies, a bakery in New York City that specializes in brownies. Anyone that can make a living by baking brownies and brownies alone is a genius and hero in my book. Not to mention someone I envy. She is living my dream life. Her,  and Meryl Streep in "It's Complicated" She had my dream life too. And my dream house.

I went on a baking binge yesterday and spent nearly all of what I budget for one weeks groceries on nothing but flour, sugar, butter, eggs, pumpkin,  coconut and chocolate chips of all varieties. My kitchen was covered in a 1/8' layer of flour that had me up until midnight cleaning but it was totally worth it. Anyway, here you go.

Pumpkin Brownies 

Brownie Bottom
7 T. Unsalted Butter
1/3 Cup Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
1/2 c plus 2 T granulated sugar
2 Large Eggs
1/2 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
1/3 c Unbleached Flour
1/4 Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (optional)

Pumpkin Top
6 T. Unsalted Butter (softened to room temperature)
1 C Granulated Sugar
2 Large Eggs
1/2 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Canned Pumpkin Puree (not pie filling
1 1/4 Cups Unbleached Flour
1/2 t. Baking Soda
Pinch of Salt
1/2 t. Cinnamon
1/4 t. Ground Ginger
1/4 t. Ground Nutmeg
1/4 t. Ground Cloves
1/3 cup Coarsely Chopped Walnuts (optional)

Grease a 9X9 inch pan with butter and dust with flour. Preheat oven to 350.

To make brownie bottom, melt the butter and bittersweet chocolate chips in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool. I use a double boiler. If you do not have one I suggest a heatproof bowl set over a simmering pan of water.

Beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla together until smooth. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and continue beating until well combined.

Measure the flour and salt and then sift together directly into the batter. Mix gently on ow speed until well combined and no trace of dry ingredients remain. If desired, stir in the semi-sweet chips. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and set aside.

To make the pumpkin top, beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla and continue beating until well combined. Add the pumpkin and mix well.

Measure the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves and then sift together directly into the batter. Mix until well combined and no trace of the dry ingredients remains. If desired stir in the walnuts.

Pour the pumpkin top evenly over the brownie bottom layer in the prepared baking pan. Bake for 34 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or with only crumbs not batter on it.

Remove from oven and cool on rack for 1 hour. Cut just before serving.

If I were you and I'm not telling you what to do but I would serve these with some whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Delicious Reading

As long back as I can recall for nearly every gift giving occasion my Mother would give me a cookbook and for as long as I can remember my Mother has loved cookbooks. She reads them. She reads them like most people read novels. Come to think of it I can’t recall ever seeing her read a novel. She certainly may have, and probably did but my vivid memory is of her with a largely published cookbook or a favorite community or church cookbook by her side.  I didn’t always appreciate them as gifts, often I would act excited when I received one but really wished it had been something else.  She would always add a message on the first page and sign and date it with her name. These cookbooks are now my most prized possessions.

I have often wondered how many cookbooks I actually have. I counted them today. I have eighty-six. I was actually a little disappointed by that number. I have always thought I had hundreds of cookbooks. I don’t have even one hundreds of cookbooks!
My cookbooks are lined up on the countertop; I have another pile on the top shelf in a cabinet and still others in boxes in my basement.

I grabbed a pile and sat outside with them to soak up some sunshine and to appear busy to my husband who was raking and realized just how much I enjoy them. One cookbook I looked at today I found in a box in the basement. I hadn’t looked at it for several years, maybe not even since receiving it Christmas 1995. I know this because it’s signed “To Suzie with love from Mother 12/95.”  It’s title is “The Country Mothers Cookbook, A Celebration of Motherhood and Old-Fashioned Cooking” I imagine she thought this was a good fit for me because at that time I was living somewhat of a country mothers life. I was living in the country raising three small children and tended chickens. Yes. I said tended chickens. These chickens terrified me for the most part. There was a rooster that once chased me across the yard and into the house and had reduced me to a screaming little girl. I ate him later that week.

On the acknowledgements page it states that it’s “a tribute to all those whose hands have rocked the cradle, and to the children whose lives the motherly touch has enriched.” Perhaps that is why she chose to give me this particular cookbook. It is filled with good old-fashioned recipes for food that brings me back to a potluck at an Aunt’s house or a day at our family cabin located on the Poplar River where everyone would bring a dish to pass.

It has recipes with names that make me  smile widely like  “Grandma Meekins’s Moist-Roasted Boston Butt” I’m not certain what a Boston Butt is but I certainly intend to find out and when I get one I will be making it. There is a recipe for Raspberry Crowdie Cream that sounds like something my family would like and for Billy Goat Gruff Cookies. Which brings me back to kindergarten when we would play that game on a wooden bridge we had in the classroom, one child under the bridge playing the role of the evil troll and the rest of us clip clopping over hoping not to disturb him. There is Gertrude’s Favorite Butter Cake with Pineapple Filling and Pineapple Butter Frosting.  I don’t know about you but who ever Gertrude was she surely knew how to make a cake. I can sort of picture her. She is wearing a handsome dress.  I know for a fact I will be making this cake within the month and blogging about it.

For me my favorite part about receiving the cookbooks, is not the recipes but how my Mother signed them. They really tell the story of my life, at least my adult life. One is signed “To Suzanne, Shawn does not live by steak alone – This should help. I love you. Mother” dated March 25, 1984.  I married Shawn in April of 1984. I imagine it was a wedding shower gift. I was just eighteen years old and knew only how to make steak.  He has a new wife now.

Another is signed Happy 41st birthday To Suzanne who’s talents and abilities in the kitchen knows no bounds. Love Mother.  Dated Feb 12, 2007. She always gave me far too much credit and entirely too much confidence. Just below that it’s signed Christmas 2006. Love Mother. I bet she realized after looking over all the gifts that Christmas I would have had more than the others, so she probably held on to it until February for my birthday. Or she could have just lost track of it.  She’s allowed, she has been juggling a Christmas list that rivals that of Santa’s for some 60 years.

I found one signed to “Scott, just one of the family chefs” Well I’m not married to Scott any longer either. Do you see a pattern?  Had he been out snow blowing the driveway like I’d asked rather than perfecting his chocolate chip cookie recipe, we might still be together.

Another cookbook is signed twice, once to my Aunt Karin and then again to me. Too bad Auntie Karin. It’s mine now!

Well I’ve spent the better part of an afternoon flipping through piles of cookbooks and taking in as much of the warm April sunshine as I could.  I am sufficiently freckled, and inspired to make some new “old- fashioned” meals.  Oh and I need to find out what a Boston Butt is, I think I have just the book for that. The Food Lover's Companion, a gift from a friend.

This little piggy goes to market.

I shop for my groceries with a hand basket. For me metal-shopping carts with their rattles and sticky wheels takes the fun, art and dare I say sexiness out of grocery shopping. One day while pushing a cart so full of food that I was unable to navigate a corner it made me wonder whether I was preparing meals or just eating.  My cart was filled with food but within it nothing that was inspiring or exciting, nothing that made me anxious to get home and put on an apron, turn on some music, pour some wine and get cooking.  It was time to make cooking  fun again.

Recently I was out of town for work with a few of my coworkers and we stopped at a  great Italian Market.  There is something magical about shopping in a market where the food is displayed beautifully and artfully. The shelves were lined with exotic looking cans of tomatoes. Seemingly endless packages of pasta in shapes that I’ve never seen before bearing labels I did not recognize.  Glass cases filled with delicious looking sauces in colors that varied from white to pink to red.  Fragrant sausage and meats, some with names I’ve never heard of nor can pronounce filled the air, blocks of hard cheese, wedges of parmesan and balls of mozzarella had my mouth watering and mind racing as to what I could make and more importantly fit into my already overstuffed car. Hanging baskets of breads and beans, the different varieties of olive oil in shades from yellow to green.  Bouquets of herbs, balls of fresh made pizza dough, fat braids of garlic, long sticks of pepperoni and the sweet delicate cream filled cannoli, had me convinced I had died and gone to heaven.

The sights, smells and sounds instantly made me forget that my heritage says I’m more apt to be making Swedish Meatballs than Spaghetti and Meatballs.  That the dishes my Mother handed down to me say “Var sa God” not  “Cucina Italiana” Never mind that I knew the word Smorgasbord and could use it in a sentence correctly by the time I was in Kindergarten.  Part of the pleasure in eating is from what enters your eyes and ears and this market has me humming  “That’s Amore” within minutes of my arrival.

I selected a quart of Marinara Sauce, I usually make my own but wanted to try some of theirs to see how mine measured up. Some Italian Sausage dotted with fennel and some meatballs. These meatballs were as big as bocce balls,  more than twice the size of the meatballs I grew up eating.  A quart of spaghetti sauce, some mascarpone cheese, by the way , if you’ve never had it, do yourself a favor, quickly get some and combine it with some Nutella which if you’re not familiar is a chocolate hazelnut spread wildly popular in Europe. You can find it near the peanut butter in most grocery stores. Put it on a cracker or a croissant or even your finger, it doesn’t really matter what, it’s better than sex, well maybe not, but it’s really, really really good. Trust me.

I was still shopping when with my arms full and barely able to balance it all when I noticed in a dark corner piled high my old friend the hand basket, these aren’t your ordinary run of the mill hand baskets, these were small wooden bushel baskets, had it not been for the four walls and the ceiling over my head I would have believed I was in an open air market in Tuscany. Not that I’ve ever been to Tuscany, but
it ‘s what I imagine it would be like.  I placed my items in my basket and was able to buy a few more things before it was time to get back. Not a single shopping cart in sight, it would have been as alien to this place as a jar of pickled herring.

Once home I made a pot of spaghetti and meatballs using the things I bought at the market, added a nice salad of mixed greens, some crusty French bread and invited my son and his fiancé over for dinner. It was absolutely delicious.

I read somewhere once that the trouble with eating Italian Food is that five or six days later you’ll be hungry again.  I agree.

   Homemade Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs (serves 6)


      1 pound lean ground beef
      1 cup fresh bread crumbs
      1 tablespoon dried parsley
      1/4  cup grated Parmesan cheese
      1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
      1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
      1 egg, beaten
     3/4 cup onion, chopped small
     5 cloves garlic, minced
     1/4 cup olive oil
     1(28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
     1 (14 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
     1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
     2 teaspoons salt
     2 teaspoons white sugar
     1 bay leaf
     1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
     3/4 teaspoon dried basil
     3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
     1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


   1. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, garlic powder and beaten egg. Mix well and form into 12 balls. Store, covered, in refrigerator until needed.
   2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is translucent. Stir in tomatoes, salt, sugar and bay leaf. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 90 minutes.  Remove bay leaf and using an immersion blender or food processor blend 2/3 of sauce. Stir in tomato paste, basil, oregano,  pepper and meatballs and simmer 30 minutes more. Serve over spaghetti noodles.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Seriously Good Chicken Enchiladas.

When I'm craving pizza, I get a Sammy's Pizza.  When I want Mexican food, I go to Mexico Lindo. But in the last two weeks I have had a pizza making party with friends and last night made Chicken Enchiladas. My expectations were not very high for the enchiladas, but after pulling them out of the oven I was delighted to find that they were easily the most delicious I've ever eaten.  Not only did I think they were great my good friend Denise also sang their praises. This is a real winner, these are so good you should all go out and buy me something nice for sharing. Just kidding. No I'm not. Yes I am...I like wine ALOT if you're feeling like maybe I'm serious though.

Don't even think about subbing flour tortillas here. You can either prebake these like I did or not depending on whether or not you like them a little bit crunchy. I did and they were great.

This makes more than enough filling for the 12 tortilla shells. I purchased Azteca brand corn tortillas 10 to a package and if I wanted to I could have squeezed about 4 more alongside the edge of the pan for leftovers. 


 Seriously Good Chicken Enchiladas

     1 medium onion, chopped fine
     2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped fine (you could also use jalapeno slices from a jar)
     1 teaspoon canola oil
     3 cloves garlic, minced
     3 Tablespoons chili powder
     2 teaspoons ground cumin
     3 teaspoons sugar
     1 15-oz can tomato sauce
     3/4  cup water
     4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
     1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2 large breasts)
     1 cup extra sharp white cheddar, shredded
     1 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
     1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
     12 (6-inch) soft corn tortillas
     cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425.

Combine the onion, jalapeno, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and oil in a large saucepan. cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the onions and peppers have softened, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and sugar, and cook until fragrant, less than 1 minute. Stir in the tomato sauce, water, and chopped tomato. Bring to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Place the chicken into the sauce. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through about 12-20 minutes. If you aren't sure of if it's cooked throughly, it should register 160 on a meat thermometer. Transfer the chicken to a plate, and set aside to cool.

Strain the sauce through a strainer into a medium bowl, pressing the onion mixture to extract as much liquid as possible. Transfer the onions to a large bowl and set aside. Season sauce with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add to the onin mixture, and add 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce, 1 cup total of the cheese mixture, and the cilantro. Combine.

Stack the tortillas on a plate and cover with plastic wrap; Microwave on high until warm and pliable, 40-60 seconds. Spread the tortillas on a clean work surface, and spoon 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture evenly down the center of each. Tightly roll each tortilla and lay seam-side down in a greased 9x13 inch baking dish.

Lightly spray the tops of the enchiladas with cooking spray. Place in the oven, uncovered, for about 7 minutes, or until the tortillas start to brown slightly (skip this step if you don't like the crunch).

Reduce heat to 400. Remove pan from oven and pour sauce evenly on top. Top with the remaining cheese. Cover dish with foil, and bake an additional 20 minutes, or until heated through.

Remove foil and bake another 5 minutes, until cheese browns. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with sour cream, guacamole, salsa, additional cilantro, etc.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Jumbo Blueberry Muffins

Jumbo Blueberry Muffins make for a Jumbo Suzy. My son is getting married next summer and  I'd like to lose about 25 pounds by then, so waking up in the mood to bake is problematic and the fact that I made Scones, Chocolate Chip Cookies and Blueberry Muffins certainly didn't help my cause today but I figure I have until July of 2011 so what the hell. I had  a little extra batter so I made some mini muffins,  I at least have that going for me. Unless of course I eat those along with the Jumbo's.

This Blueberry Muffin recipe was featured in this months Midwest Living Magazine. I really love this magazine. It's always full of great things to bake and cook, places to see and usually features a great home that inspires me to clean mine.

This recipe makes 6 Jumbo or 16 standard sized  muffins.

Jumbo Blueberry Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 to 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Line muffin pan with paper baking cups. In medium bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
In large mixing bowl beat butter with electric mixer for about 30 seconds. Add 1 cup sugar, beat until well combined. Beat in eggs, milk and vanilla (mixture looks slightly curdled) Stir in flour until just moistened (batter should be lumpy) Gently stir in berries.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups filling each nearly full. In small bowl combine the 1 tablespoon sugar with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle mixture over batter.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or 35-40 (jumbo) or until golden and a wooden toothpick inserted in centers come out clean. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from pans. Serve warm.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Beef Stew with Butternut Squash over Couscous

Today was easily the nicest day I've spent home in a very long time. All alone, no offense to my husband or daughter, but lately I've had no time alone and it's sometimes just what you need to reset your dials.

My day started out with me taking my coffee out to the hot tub where my eyelashes and hair got crispy with frost. I did some house cleaning, listened to some Dylan and then at my cousin Rusty's suggestion I had another soak in the hot tub with a glass of wine. Rusty is a musician, knows how to have fun and has figured out how to spend his life doing what he loves most. So I took his suggestion and enjoyed a glass of Cabernet at 1:00 in the afternoon in my hot tub. It was a perfect day. The best feeling is knowing I have another day off tomorrow, except for one small thing I have to attend to in town tomorrow I may just be spending it like I did today.

Now my day wasn't all wine drinking and hot tubbing. I cleaned and cooked too. I made a Beef Stew with Butternut Squash. I served it over couscous.

Moroccan Spiced Beef Stew with Butternut Squash

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound stew beef, cut into chunks
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound peeled cubed butternut squash, cut into cubes (about 2 1/2 cups)
One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
11/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups cooked whole-wheat couscous
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown and fragrant, about 2 minutes
4 teaspoons minced fresh parsley

Heat the oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate, leaving the juices in the saucepan. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 additional minute. Return the beef to the pot and stir in the squash, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef broth, cumin, cinnamon, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the beef is tender, 30 to 35 minutes.
Spoon the stew over the couscous, and sprinkle each serving with almonds and parsley.

I buy my couscous in bulk from the coop but you can also purchase it boxed in the organic section of the grocery store or in the rice aisle. I made mine with vegetable broth, but you can make it with water alone or chicken broth, adding spices if you wish.


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Coconut Rum-Raisin Cupcakes

These are GREAT if you like Rum. If you don't, well then not great. You get my drift?  I like all things Rum and Coconut. I also really like raisins so I knew these would be right up my alley. This recipe comes from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes cookbook. I fully intend to make every single cupcake in the cookbook. Well except the stupidly decorated ones. And by stupid I mean fancy and those that require more attention and time than I am willing to spend on frosting a cupcake.

Oh...and not to be bossy here but when you bake and the recipe says butter and eggs at room temperature. Do it. It's important. Butter at room temperature should be able to dent easily when you place your thumb onto it. Eggs should be set out about an hour prior to baking. If you're in a hurry you can always place the eggs in a bowl of very warm water. OK. I'm done with that.

 Coconut Rum-Raisin Cupcakes

1 1/4 c unsalted butter, room temperature (more for tins)
3 cups all purpose flour (plus more for tins)
1/2 c dark rum
1 cup raisins
1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
2 3/4 cup plus 2 T packed light brown sugar
6 large eggs at room temperature
2 t pure vanilla extract
3/4 c heavy cream
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Rum-Caramel Glaze
(recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 325. Brush standard muffin tins with butter, dust with floor, tap out excess. In a bowl pour rum over the raisins and set aside to soak.  In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

Cream butter and brown sugar in bowl of electric mixer n medium speed until fluffy and pale in color. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each until well incorporated. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour alternating with cream until combined. Add raisin mixture and coconut.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake for about 30 minutes (mine took less time) Let cool completely.

To serve, place one cupcake on dessert plate and spoon glaze over each.

Rum-Caramel Glaze

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup dark rum
1/4 cup heavy cream

In a heavy medium saucepan cook water and sugar until sugar is dissolved and syrup is clear. Stop stirring and cook until boiling. Continue to boil until it turns amber in color. Remove from heat and carefully and slowly stir in rum and cream. Stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Let cool, stirring occasionally until thickened.

Chicken Quesadilla with Pico de Gallo

So I am definitely craving Mexican food. I went to a Mexican Restaurant the other night before a movie, about ten years ago I ate at the same place. I hated it then and I still hate it. Everything about it,  the food, the atmosphere, the obnoxious decorating. I honestly think my Mexican food is better than their "Authentic Mexican" food. Maybe they should try their hand at Swedish Meatballs.

Here is my recipe for Quesadillas.

Chicken Quesadilla's with Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo
2 tomatoes diced small
1 small onion diced small
juice from 1 lime
chopped fresh cilantro
jalapeno seeded and diced
salt and pepper to taste

Mix the above ingredients together in small  bowl and set aside.
For the Quesadillas
2 T olive oil, divided
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into strips
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 (12 inch) flour tortillas
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup sour cream, for topping
  1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add chicken and saute until cooked through and juices run clear. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.
  2. Put the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the hot skillet and saute the sliced onion and green pepper until tender. Stir in the minced garlic and saute until the aroma is strong. Mix in half of the pico de gallo and chicken breast meat. Set aside; keep warm.
  3. In a heavy skillet, heat one flour tortilla. Spread 1/4 cup shredded cheese on the tortilla and top with 1/2 the chicken mixture. Sprinkle another 1/4 cup cheese over the chicken and top with another tortilla. When bottom tortilla is lightly brown and cheese has started to melt, flip quesadilla and cook on the opposite side. Remove quesadilla from skillet and cut into quarters. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Serve quesadillas with sour cream and remaining pico de gallo.

Suzy's Delicious Black Bean Soup with Cilantro Sour Cream

I warned you all that I would probably lose interest in blogging about the things I cook and I did not disappoint. My last entry was Dec 3rd. Trust me when I tell you it was not the last time I cooked! My scale tells me different.

Today I was really craving some flavorful soup and after looking through my refrigerator I had some cilantro, limes and a red pepper along with a whole lotta other stuff that I must have bought for some other use and forgot what I was going to make with it. This happens to me often. I have some very odd cans and jars of things in my cupboards and have no idea why I would have bought them except for a recipe long since lost. Anyway I'm rambling. On to the soup. This could be made as I did or if you like a thick pureed soup you could blend 1/2 or all. Personally I like seeing all the beautiful vegetables I'm eating so I left it as is.

 Suzy's Delicious Black Bean Soup

I used canned black beans for this but if you prefer you could certainly start with dry.

1 large onion diced small
4 T Olive Oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced  (I used about 1 T of jarred jalapenos)
1 red pepper chopped
1 yam chopped into 1/2" cubes
2 carrots diced small
1 celery rib, chopped small
1 granny smith apple, peeled and chopped small
1/2 t salt
1 T cumin
1 t chili powder
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 cup chopped smoked ham
2 slices bacon chopped small
3 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 T molasses
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper

1. In large soup pot  heat olive oil over low heat and add the onion, garlic, salt celery, sweet potato, apple, carrot (ham and bacon) and jalapeno. Cook all until softened. Stirring occasionally. Approx 10 minutes.

2. Add cumin and chili powder, cook another 5 minutes.

3. Add drained beans, broth, water, molasses and simmer until all vegetables are tender and flavors have meld.

4. Add juice of 1 lime and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cilantro Sour Cream 

1/2 cup sour cream
2 T minced fresh cilantro
juice of lime

Mix together and serve a dollop on top soup with extra cilantro leaves as garnish.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I like little bundts and I can not lie!

I went out to cut some pine bows and dogwood branches for my holiday decorating and popped in to see my Mom. She sent me home with a new Ina Garten cookbook,  a spring form tube pan, a fluted pie plate (I think) and a mini bundt cake pan. I knew immediately I wanted to play with the mini bundt cake pan. I decided these would be wildly popular at the Red Mug so brought it to work. I wasn't doing the cooking and baking today but my co-worker Anna was happy to try out the recipe that was originally from Martha Stewart.

I would love to say I know first hand how delicious these were but I can't,  they all sold in a matter of an hour. A huge success. I did ask a few of my customers how they liked them and they said they loved them and thought we should offer them again. Who could resist their very own little bundt cake! So not only do I like big bundts, I like little bundts too! Hurry, go buy a mini bundt cake pan!

 Little Almond Bundt Cakes

Makes 6
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
6 tablespoons sliced almonds
1/3 cup coarsely chopped almonds
5 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream, or plain yogur
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter six mini Bundt pans; set aside. Spread sliced almonds out on a baking pan, and toast until golden brown. Transfer nuts to a bowl to cool. In a medium bowl, combine chopped almonds, light-brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg; set aside. In another medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 6 tablespoons butter and granulated sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg; beat until combined. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, and beat until smooth. Add 1/3 of reserved flour mixture and half of sour cream; beat to combine. Repeat. Add final third of flour mixture, and beat to combine.

Fill each Bundt pan with 3 tablespoons batter, and spread evenly with a small offset spatula or spoon. Sprinkle each with 2 tablespoons of reserved almond-spice mixture. Top with additional 3 tablespoons batter; the batter should come to within 1/2 inch of the rims of the pans.

Bake until cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer cakes to a wire rack to cool completely. Unmold cakes. Place cakes, flat sides down, on a wire rack placed over a baking pan.

Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat until color turns nut brown, about 5 minutes. Pour butter into a medium bowl, leaving behind any dark sediment. Stir in confectioners’ sugar, remaining 2 teaspoons vanilla, and 3 tablespoons milk until smooth; add an additional tablespoon milk, if necessary, so glaze is pourable. Drizzle glaze over cakes, and sprinkle with toasted almonds. Serve.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Coconut Macaroons

Okay, these are SO GOOD. I love coconut and these are full of coconut, The hardest thing about making these cookies was figuring out how many cups of coconut is equal to 14 oz. I tried to make these to sell at Red Mug today but had no idea how to convert the 14 ounces of coconut to cups as I had 10 pounds of coconut that I was dealing with not a 14 oz bag. So when all else fails you GOOGLE IT. Well I'm glad I didn't rely on the answer I found online because I found a site that said it was 1.75 cups. It didn't sound right to me, I ran to the store and bought a 14 oz package of coconut and right on the front of the package it says it is 5 1/3 cups. Well, here is the recipe I found in another new cookbook by Ina Garten. if you have a sweet tooth and you love coconut you will be glad you made them.


14 ounce package of sweetened shredded coconut
14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1 t. pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eg whites, at room temperature
1/4 t. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl and set aside. In separate bowl whip the egg whites and salt on high speed until they make medium firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper using about a tablespoon of mix. Bake for 25- 30 minutes until golden brown. Cool and serve (yeah right...I popped one in my mouth and burnt my mouth but it was so worth it!) The skin on the roof of your mouth is overrated.

These cookies stay fresh for a few days if wrapped well and left at room temperature. Makes 20-22 cookies.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Butternut Squash Lasagna

I wish I could tell you I haven't been doing much cooking or baking and that is the reason I haven't posted anything but that would be a lie. I have been cooking and baking and EATING like mad. My only excuse is that I have a short attention span and easily get bored. Since Fall has arrived I have been cooking and baking like crazy with pumpkin and squash.  I found a recipe that sounded really good in a Cooking Light magazine and although I managed to completely screw up the recipe because of my short attention span it turned out deliciously. If you like the idea of a vegetarian lasagna and like squash and spinach I encourage you to try it. If you don't follow the instructions closely no worries. I assembled the lasagna almost totally wrong and it still came out wonderful.

Butternut Squash Lasagna
adapted from Cooking Light


  • Cooking spray
  • 3  cups  chopped onion
  • 10  cup  fresh spinach
  • 3/4  cup  (3 ounces) shredded sharp provolone cheese
  • 1/2  cup  chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 2  large eggs
  • 1  (15-ounce) carton part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1  (15-ounce) carton fat-free ricotta cheese
  • 3  cups  diced peeled butternut squash
  • 6  cups smoky marina sauce (recipe below)
  • 12  oven-ready lasagna noodles (such as Barilla)
  • 1  cup  (4 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375°.
Heat a large Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add spinach; sauté 1 1/2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Combine provolone, parsley, salt, pepper, eggs, and ricotta cheeses in a large bowl.

Place squash in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and cook on high 5 minutes or until tender.

Coat the bottom and sides of a 9X13 baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 1 cup Smoky Marinara in the bottom of prepared dish. Arrange 4 noodles over sauce; spread 2 cup's of cheese mixture over noodles. Arrange squash over cheese mixture; spread 1 1/2 cups sauce over squash.
Arrange 4 noodles over sauce; spread 2 cups cheese mixture over the noodles. Arrange 3 cups onion mixture over cheese mixture; spread 1 1/2  cups sauce over spinach mixture.

Arrange 4 noodles over sauce; spread 2 cups Smoky Marinara evenly over noodles. Sprinkle with 1 cup Parmesan. Cover each pan with foil.

Bake at 375° for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes.

Now I already told you I messed up the layers of this. But if you've ever made lasagna I think you probably know it doesn't make much difference as long as you end up with cheese or something on the top layer.

Smoky Marinara Sauce

Yield: 6 cups (serving size: 1/2 cup)


  • 1  tablespoon  olive oil
  • 3  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4  cup  chopped fresh basil
  • 2  tablespoons  chopped fresh parsley
  • 2  tablespoons  chopped fresh or 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2  teaspoons  balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon  pepper
  • 1  (28-ounce) can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained (I used diced)
  • 1  (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, undrained


Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, basil, parsley, and oregano; sauté 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in vinegar and remaining ingredients. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. You'll end up with extra of this so if you would rather use smaller cans of tomatoes and adjust seasoning you can do that or you can save and use the remaining marinara within a few days or freeze.