Whoopie!

Pies!  Yes, Whoopie Pies.  I've made these delightful little treats before.  My mother made them for us when we were kids and we loved them.  But guess what?!  Just like there's an app for everything now, there's a gadget for these!  Wilton has come out with Whoopie Pie pans.

If you know me at all you know I had to have them.  Thank goodness Michael's is generous with those 40% and 50% off coupons!  I bought two so I wouldn't have to do batches and I found this cute Christmas whoopie pie pan on clearance for about four bucks!  I'm thinking gingerbread or maybe chocolate with peppermint filling?  There was only one of them so maybe the "bottoms" will just be round!


Wilton also has recipes for Whoopie pies.  Since it is the season for pumpkin I thought I'd try the Pumpkin Spice Whoopie Pies (even though they have a maple filling, I'm not a fan of maple!). The batter is simple to put together.  I put about 2 tablespoons in each cavity of the pan and baked them for about 12 minutes.  I was only able to fill 22 of the cavities with batter so maybe next time I'll do a little less in each.

 

They came right out of the pan and looked great!
 
 
 

While they were cooling I mixed together the filling.  In this case it's a cream cheese filling with maple flavor.  If memory serves the filling in the chocolate whoopie pies of my childhood had a fluffy white filling which probably included some marshmallow fluff.

I filled a pastry bag with the filling so they'd have pretty edges and in minutes I had 11 of these cute little "cookies". 



Dave liked them (he likes maple!) and we walked a few to a neighbor too.  Next time I'm making my favorite, chocolate with fluff in the middle.  Do you need a pan to make whoopie pies?  No.  Does it make making them easier?  Yes.  All of the cookies are the same size and they all have a nice flat bottom!

White Chocolate Cinnamon Pretzels

These are so addicting!  I had a five hour meeting at work today.  Five hour meetings should be banned, especially when the topic is foreign exchange as it relates to financial consolidations!  If I'm going to be stuck in a room for five hours, I'm bringing snacks!  I brought pumpkin doughnuts and these delightful little snacks.

These were yet another Pinterest find.  Here is the LINK to the recipe.

Here's what you do.  Mix up some oil, sugar and cinnamon.  Get yourself a 16 ounce bag of pretzels and dump them in a microwave save bowl.  The recipe used the hatched ones so I did too.  I obviously need a bigger microwave safe bowl!  Batches?  Who wants to do batches?

 


Toss the pretzels with the oil/sugar/cinnamon mixture and microwave for a minute.  Toss and microwave for another 45 seconds.

Spread the warm pretzels on baking sheets covered with parchment and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon sugar.  The recipe didn't specifically state the ratio of cinnamon to sugar for the sprinkling sugar.  I like one tablespoon of cinnamon to each 1/4 cup of sugar so that's what I used.




Finally drizzle the pretzels with melted white chocolate chips or white bark.  I used Ghirardelli white chocolate baking bar.  You will want to keep the drizzle as light as possible (meaning no big glops) so it will stick to the pretzels and not just fall off when you put them in a bowl.  Of course that's assuming you don't eat them all before you have time to put them in a bowl!


I think butter would work just as well as oil if you prefer that!

These are so simple to make I know I'll make them again.  What a great party snack?  And I'm thinking I can add a little color to the white chocolate and make them for any occasion, red, white and green for Christmas, maybe orange for Halloween!

Oh, and my coworkers loved them too!

Sesame Quinoa Spring Rolls

This recipe is yet another Pinterest find!  I love quinoa and am always looking for new ways to prepare it.  This recipe called for sesame oil so how bad could it be?

Here is a LINK to the recipe.

Like much of what I've been making lately, this recipe is simple.  Quinoa is very easy to cook.  Much like farro or couscous, if you can boil water you can make quinoa.  So set your pot to boiling, add the quinoa, let it sit for 15 minutes and it's done.


While the quinoa was cooking I whipped up the dressing which is made of rice vinegar, soy sauce, minced garlic, minced ginger and sesame oil.  The aroma of the dressing alone told me this was going to be good!  I minced the ginger very well.  I like the flavor of ginger but if you get a piece that is too big, well, it's overpowering and, in my opinion, nasty.

The recipe calls for "two handfuls of greens".  I sliced up some romaine and tossed it with the dressing.  Once the quinoa is done it is added to this mixture.  I drained my quinoa.  The recipe didn't call for it but there was quite a bit of moisture left even after the quinoa was cooked and I didn't want that oozing out of my wrap! 


The rolls are made with rice paper wrappers.  I have never used rice paper wrappers before but they looked so pretty I just had to try.  Out of the package the wrappers have the consistency of a very thin piece of plastic.  They are hard!  The process calls for soaking them for 30 seconds to soften them up so that you can roll them.  The recipe warns not to soak them too long or they will fall apart.  Yep, they fall apart!


I found that I needed about one and a half times the filling that was called for to make a nice looking wrap.  I also found that once I took the won ton wrapper out of the water, placing it on a piece of paper towel helped dry it a little so it was easier to work with.


 Aren't they pretty?

But how do they taste.  I'll admit I tasted the filling before I made my first wrap.  It was delicious!  In the wrap it was good too, but the wrap didn't really add anything but 350+ calories.  My hubby loved them, he ate three!  I decided not to waste the calories on the wrapper and make lettuce wraps out of mine.  This I loved!  Next time I make them I will use less ginger.  I think it was a little overpowering and I wanted to taste the garlic and soy too.


For my vegan friends, this is a winner!
 

Spicy South Indian Cauliflower

This is another dish I made as a result of the cookbooker.com challenge to try and review the recipes of Martha Rose Shulman.  Many of the recipes in her book use lots of Mediterranean and Mexican spices and this one is no different.  That's one of the reasons it hit my short list of recipes to try!  That and we love cauliflower!

Here is a LINK to the recipe from the NY Times website.


The recipe calls for whole coriander and cumin seeds, toasted.  This recipe was a great reminder to toast my spices before using them.  I don't always do it and I don't know why.  Toasting the seeds really enhances the flavor.  And when I crushed them in my mortar and pestle I think you could smell them in the next room!

 

There is a little cayenne in this recipe but most of the heat comes from a couple of serrano chilis.  I removed a little over half of the seeds and the finished dish still packed quite a punch.  I did use gloves to chop the peppers and I chopped them on a board I could throw in the dishwasher.  I didn't want the next thing I chopped on my wood board to taste like serrano!

Like with the tomato sauce for the halibut (see Baked Halibut with Tomato Caper Sauce) out of this same book, the recipe called for tomatoes and again I used fresh.


The cauliflower is steamed which caused me a little concern.  I love roasted cauliflower.  Steamed just seems boring.  Then again there was going to be a lot added to the cauliflower so maybe steaming is ok.

This goes together pretty quickly.  The ginger, cumin and chilis are sauteed in peanut oil (or canola but I chose peanut!)  and then the cauliflower is added.  To be honest, if the recipe stopped right there it would have been a really good dish!  But don't stop there!


Next the tomatoes, ground coriander, cayenne, turmeric are added and everything is simmered until heated through.  To be true to the recipe you would add cilantro at this point but, well, I don't like cilantro.


It's a very pretty dish and I was hoping to love it.  I just liked it.  I think I still prefer a simply roasted cauliflower either finished with balsamic or tossed with herbs or maybe some Chinese Five Spice.  Maybe I left in too many seeds from the serrano pepper but the cauliflower was just hot.  I didn't really get the other wonderful spices that were in the dish, just heat.  So I'll chalk this on up as OK, but probably not something I'll make again. 

Baked Halibut with Tomato Caper Sauce

I've started my cookbooker challenge!  I have no hope of winning anything during this one as I am so far behind the other reviewers, but I'm doing it for fun and to find some new, healthy recipes that will maybe help me get back down into the size I should be.

As a reminder the cookbooker.com challenge this time is to review the recipes of Martha Rose Shulman.  On page 300 of the book I found a recipe for Baked Halibut with Tomato Caper Sauce. 

Here is a LINK to the recipe on the NY Times website.

There was nothing terribly unusual about how the halibut was cooked, but the sauce really piqued my interest (there's a quarter cup of capers in it) and this time of year I can find lots of tasty tomatoes at my Farmer's Market.

The fish preparation is simple, oil a baking dish, add the fish, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with more oil, top with a slice of lemon and bake.  I forgot to take a picture with the lemon so imagine a lemon slice on top of the fish!


The sauce takes a bit more preparation.  There were things I had done before, like chopping an onion, then a preparation I hadn't done before, mashing garlic in my mortar and pestle until it's a paste.

A quarter of a cup of capers are chopped fine too.  This smelled so good.  I love capers!

The recipe said to use 2 pounds of peeled, seeded tomatoes or a can of tomatoes.  This time of year it would be a sin to use canned tomatoes so I chopped!  I will admit I didn't peel the tomatoes and I don't think it harmed the dish.


I love the smell of sauteing onions and  when garlic is added it's all that much better.  At the same time I was making this dish, I had another of Martha's recipes going, Spicy South Indian Cauliflower.  The kitchen smelled wonderful!


The tomatoes are added and the sauce is seasoned with salt, pepper and a little thyme and simmered until thick.  I took a spoonful and it tasted every bit as good as it smelled!


This is a perfect sauce for fish!  It went beautifully with the mild fish.  The fresh tomatoes gave it a wonderful tomato flavor and it has a perfect saltiness from the capers.  I think this would be delicious on pasta or just as a dipping sauce for bread!  And I love how simple it was to put together.

I served it with the Spicy South Indian Cauliflower and some homemade whole wheat bread.  Delicious!

Fabulous Fall Breakfast Courtesy of the Noble Pig

It's cold in Minnesota this morning.  It was 34 degrees outside when the dogs decided we had had enough sleep.  We didn't think so, but they were insistent.

Curled up on the couch with a good book (I'm reading Low Pressure by Sandra Brown, one of my favorite authors) and a hot cup of coffee, my stomach started rumbling and I started thinking about what to make for breakfast.  We have some leftover ham steak from yesterday's breakfast and I picked up some good aged cheddar at Farmer's Market yesterday, I could do omelets.  No.  That's not what I wanted.  I'd made a loaf of artisan whole wheat bread yesterday so Dave suggested whole wheat french toast.  No.  That's not what I wanted either!


I don't know what made pumpkin pancakes pop into my head but it did and that was what I wanted.  We declared today would be a "pajama" day.  Lounging, watching a movie, reading my book, as few "responsible adult" activities as possible.  So I didn't care how long it would take to make breakfast, we weren't in a hurry to do anything.


So off to the computer I went in search of a good recipe.  I started with the Noble Pig blog.  Cathy had just posted a recipe for pumpkin Whoopie Pies (maybe that's why pumpkin was in my head?) so I was hoping she had a recipe for pumpkin pancakes.  The Noble Pig did not disappoint!  I found a recipe for Pumpkin Pancakes with Cinnamon Syrup that sounded good and based on the 70 comments made on the blog I was pretty confident in the recipe.

I started with the syrup which is incredibly easy.  You simply mix white sugar, brown sugar, a little flour, cinnamon, vanilla and water in a saucepan and heat to boiling.  The smell is amazing, caramel, cinnamon, sweet all at once.  The sauce thickens up quickly so that was done and just set aside and kept warm.


The pancakes are pretty easy too.  Mix up the dry ingredients, mix up the wet ingredients (which includes the pumpkin puree and the yolk of one egg) and combine the two.  The egg white is then whipped to stiff peaks and folded in.

 
 
On to the griddle they go!

Dave requested I put chocolate chips in some so with a little batter left I added chocolate chips!  Pumpkin chocolate chip bread is one of my favorites so this should be good too!

 
The recipe made this beautiful plateful of pancakes!

These were delicious.  I didn't even put butter on them and I am a butter only on my pancakes girl!  No syrup for me (I don't care for maple flavor) just butter, but the syrup was so good and these pancakes were so good it was like having dessert for breakfast!  The pancakes had good pumpkin flavor and the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg are the perfect fall morning spices.  Top that with the cinnamon syrup and I was in heaven!  I tried one of Dave's chocolate chip pancakes but honestly, I liked the plain ones better!  Of course we had a side of Otis bacon and these beautiful and very sweet raspberries from yesterday's farmer's market.


 

I saved the left over syrup.  I'm thinking this over bananas over ice cream will be delicious!

I was really hoping for a pajama day but for the entire time I've been writing two little pleading eyes have been staring at me from across the desk.  He doesn't understand it's not even 40 degrees outside and that's cold.  He doesn't understand what a pajama day is.  And how can I say no to those eyes?  Guess I'll be bundling up and heading out for a walk.  I wonder if I can find my mittens and hat? 


Another Cookbooker Challenge!

Cookbooker.com has started another cookbook challenge!  The last one I did was back in September of 2011.  That challenge was to cook our way through the Barefoot Contessa's first cookbook.  I made quite a few dishes out of that book and even won a new Barefoot Contessa cookbook during the challenge!

So I'm up for the next one.  Summer has turned to fall and what's available at the farmer's market and grocery store is changing so what a great time to try out some new recipes.

This year's challenge is to cook from from the books (and NY Times website) of author Martha Rose Shulman.  I'll admit I've never heard of her before but according to the website she specializes in cooking for both health and flavor.  How bad can that be?  She also uses a lot of Mediterranean and Mexican spices which sound perfect for the fall season!

When I heard about the challenge I ordered the cookbook (love Amazon Prime!) and spent some time last night flipping through it.  My goal is going to be at least one recipe a week until the challenge is over on November 1.  I'm already behind other cooks as this challenge started on August 1.  Where was I?  Oh yea... new job...

I've picked out three to start with and weekend errands and other duties permitting I think I'm going to start with these three:

For a Saturday or Sunday afternoon appetizer or football game snack I'm going to make Tunisian Winter Squash Puree.  The squash is mixed with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, caraway, coriander, and cayenne!  This is served over with olives with lettuce leaves or warm flatbread for scooping or dipping.  Hmmm... maybe homemade flatbread is in the plan too?

There are still tons of tomatoes at Farmer's Market so the Baked Halibut with Tomato Caper Sauce also made the top of my "to try" list!  The recipe states that there will be two and a half cups more sauce than is needed for serving with the fish so I'll have left over to go over some of that homemade pasta I made a week or so ago!

Finally to get me going I'm going to make a side dish of Spicy South Indian Cauliflower!  The spice mix in this sounds delicious, ginger, toasted cumin, serrano chiles, toasted coriander, turmeric and cayenne!  It also calls for cilantro but I might just forget that ingredient.  Fresh tomatoes are roasted with the cauliflower so this is going to be a very pretty dish.

Well watch this space and see how I do!  If you've heard of Martha Rose Shulman and have a favorite recipe I'd love to hear about it!

Farro Risotto

Oh my!  This is one of the best side dishes I've had!  I think I saw this recipe first on Pinterest.  I pinned it and with the weather getting cooler, it sounded like the perfect thing to try this week.

Note to self, read the directions carefully!  Do not just read the ingredients and think "oh that sounds good I'm going to make that tomorrow"!  Why?  This recipe took 45 minutes to put together!  Don't get me wrong, it's totally worth it, but after work, when you have a cake order to do and still have to log back into work, well, maybe 45 minutes for the side dish is a little ambitious.  It didn't stop me though!


Here is a LINK to the recipe.

As I mentioned, it was the ingredients that piqued my interest, butternut squash, sage, farro, shallots, garlic, thyme, wine and, oh yea, mushrooms.  I don't like mushrooms.  I don't mind the flavor of a mushroom so much but the texture just gets to me.  My mother and I used to argue about getting them on pizza.  She'd tell me they don't taste like anything and I'd reply with "if they don't taste like anything why are we paying extra for them"?  I learned at an early age to pick mushrooms out of my food!

The squash in this recipe is roasted, one of my favorite preparations!  You simply toss it with some olive oil, salt and pepper and throw it in the oven while you make the rest of the preparations.

Farro is one of my favorite grains.  It's very easy to prepare and has a nice nutty flavor.  I like it warm or cold, mixed with things or all on its own.  A little of the cooking water is retained for a later step!

The mushrooms (yuk) are sauteed in olive oil for a few minutes then set aside.  In the same pan, in three tablespoons of butter, shallots, garlic and thyme are sauteed.  That smelled really good!


The recipe instructs you to then add the farro and toss until every kernel is coated with butter.  How did I do?

Then the white wine is added, another kitchen aroma I just love!  I used a nice Fess Parker Chardonnay!
 
Now the tough part, the stirring, and stirring, and stirring as two cups of liquid (chicken stock and the reserved farro cooking water) are slowly added to the farro.  The process of adding the two cups of stock, 1/4 cup at a time, took about half an hour!  Lucky for me I had my flu shot today and needed to keep my left arm moving!

During this process a little of the white wine fell into a glass and little slivers of the Parmesan cheese kept sliding off the chunk!
Finally the cooked squash and mushrooms are added along with a cup and a half of shredded Parmesan cheese and a little creme fraiche and chopped sage.  At this point you are instructed to season with salt and pepper.  I tasted it and with all that Parmesan, no salt was needed for me!

Was it worth the time and effort?  YES!  It is delicious!  I didn't even pick the mushrooms out!  I think it could be made with less cheese (or even no cheese it was pretty good even before that was added!) and more squash.  I love squash!  It has a nice earthy flavor from the mushrooms (still don't like the texture but they added a great flavor to this dish) and the squash is sweet.  If you need a different side dish for Thanksgiving this year, this might be the one!  That is, of course if you have time to stand and stir!

This was the perfect side to pork tenderloin grilled with some Penzey's Galena Street Rub! 

 

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