Thursday, February 24, 2011

Got Leftover Canned Pumpkin? Make Chocolate-Chip Pecan Pumpkin Muffins

Chocolate Chip-Pecan Pumpkin Muffins

Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are all long past, yet I still have two big cans of pureed pumpkin in my pantry. I'm not surprised. I do the same thing every October. Upon spying the end aisle display of canned pumpkin, molasses and brown sugar, I become giddy. With visions of festive holiday pumpkin pie, pillowy soft pumpkin spice cookies and maple spiked pumpkin bread pudding clouding my judgement, I put at least six, sometimes eight, cans in my carriage. Then I'm happy. That is, until February rolls around.

Pumpkin pie in February is just wrong. Pumpkin cookies are decidely autumn treats best paired with mulled apple cider. Pumpkin bread pudding wears out its welcome by December. So what's a girl to do with all that remaining canned pumpkin? Make muffins. For some reason, pumpkin muffins taste right anytime from October to March. Just don't eat them in April. It's unseemly.

Chocolate Chip-Pecan Pumpkin Muffins
Makes 6 jumbo or 12 regular muffins
Printable recipe.

This is an adaptation of my mom's pumpkin muffin recipe. I used pecans instead of walnuts and added chocolate because, well, because it's chocolate. Oh, and Jeff asked me to mention that these muffins are even better with a generous smear of peanut butter or Nutella. 

1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup black strap molasses
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
2 cups all-purpose flour or white whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl combine oil, sugar, eggs, molasses and pumpkin. Stir well. In a separate medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Add slowly to the oil mixture, stirring well until flour is thoroughly dissolved. Gently stir in pecans and chocolate chips. Pour batter into the prepared muffin tin.

3. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned and a cake tester inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before removing.

You might also enjoy these recipes for baked goods featuring pumpkin:
Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes recipe from Annie's Eats
Pumpkin Scones with Spiced Glaze recipe from Brown Eyed Baker
Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Maple and Pecans recipe from Food Blogga
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cake with Maple Icing recipe from Gluten-Free Goddess
Low Sugar, Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins with Pecans recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen
Pumpkin Spice Cookies with Cranberries, Raisins, and Pecans recipe from Food Blogga

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Brownie Cookies from Debby Maugans's Book, Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers

Whether you live alone, are watching your calories, or simply don't want to bake a batch of 48 cookies when all you really want is one or two, you should consider treating yourself to a copy of Debby Maugans's cookbook, Small Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers, a scrumptious follow-up to her successful 2004 cookbook, Small Batch Baking.

Before delving into 100+ enticing recipes for cakes, cookies, muffins, pies, tarts, puddings and scones, Maugans shares many useful tips for successful baking. She teaches you how to properly measure and store ingredients, how to use your traditional bakeware for small-batch baking and even how to recycle cans into baking tins. Yes, she bakes lovely little cakes in cans and encourages you to do the same.

Maugans doesn't simply take traditional dessert recipes and halve or quarter them. She presents meticulously calculated recipes with measurements such as "1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour" and "1 tablespoon well-beaten egg." (Keep in mind that if you've never done small-batch baking, you'll have to get used to working with these pared down measurements and to storing leftover ingredients in the fridge.)

Chocolate purists will take comfort in classic recipes such as Chocolate Sugar Cookies and Chocolate Cherry Bread, while daring chocolate seekers will revel in Maugans's inspired White Chocolate Lemon Creme Brulee and Superrich Coconut Cream Hot Chocolate. Despite the recipes' tantalizing names, most chocolate lovers will wish that the book had more photos. (There are 16 color photos in total.)

brownie cookies

So far I have made three recipes from Maugans's book and am smitten with her crackly-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside Brownie Cookies. Think of them as the love child of brownies and chocolate chip cookies. I don't need to tell you that they should washed down with a tall glass of milk.

As Maugans says, with this book in your kitchen, "There will be no leftovers to lure you into overindulging, but you may be tempted to bake a different chocolate treat every day."

                                             Cookbook Give-Away!
Would you like to win a copy of Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers? Just leave a comment on this post, and I'll announce a winner on Thursday! Tweet about this post or mention it on Facebook, and you'll increase your chances of winning. Good luck!

Brownie Cookies
Makes 7 cookies
Printable recipe.

2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon well-beaten egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.

Place the chocolate and butter in a medium, microwave-safe bowl; microwave on medium power until soft, about 1 1/2 minutes. Stir until smooth. Stir in the brown sugar; whisk in the egg, vanilla, baking soda, and salt until well blended. Stir in the flour. Cover and refrigerate until the dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

Spoon the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Bake until the cookies have puffed them flattened, about 14 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

You can buy Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers (St. Martin's Press, 2011) online or wherever books are sold. In full disclosure, this review copy was gratis from the publisher.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Make Escarole and Parmesan Risotto Before You Fly

escarole and parmesan risotto

Before I leave my house for a trip, I have to use up all of the food in my refrigerator. If I don't, I'll be wracked with guilt, or worse. Like the time I had a full-blown panic attack somewhere in the blue skies over Arizona because I had realized that I had forgotten to use up the last half of a head of radicchio.

So prior to leaving for New Orleans recently, I made sure to use up all of the produce, meat and dairy in my fridge well before I even boarded the plane in San Diego. That's how I ended up making this Escarole and Parmesan Risotto.

The night before we left, I opened my crisper drawer to find a lonely head of escarole. Since I didn't have any cannelini beans, I knew escarole and beans was out, so I did what any good Italian would do and carbed up with risotto.

Whether you love making risotto or become short of breath at the mere thought of all that stirring, you might like to check out my NPR article, "Taking The Risk Out Of Risotto." I show you how to make perfect risotto every time without constantly stirring. I also share  recipes for Autumn Risotto with Apples, Pancetta, and Sage, Risotto with Broccoli Rabe and Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pumpkin Pie Risotto with Candied Pecans.

Oh, and you might like to know that my trip to New Orleans was turbulence-free.

Escarole and Parmesan Risotto
Makes 4 servings
Printable recipe.

3 1/2 cups regular or low sodium vegetable broth
2 teaspoons butter, plus 1 tablespoon
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 shallot, diced
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4-5 packed cups escarole, thinly sliced, divided
The zest and juice of 1/2 of a medium lemon
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring broth to a simmer.

2. For the risotto, heat 2 teaspoons butter and 2 teaspoons olive oil in a wide, shallow, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add diced shallot and saute 3 minutes, or until tender and translucent. Add the rice and toast for 1 to 2 minutes, or until slightly translucent. Add the wine and stir until it has evaporated. Add 3 cups escarole and a couple of pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir well. Cook the risotto at a slow simmer, adding heated broth a half-cup at a time. Stir occasionally, making sure the risotto absorbs the liquid before adding more. Use slightly more or less broth as needed. Continue cooking in this manner for 18 to 20 minutes. Near the end of the cooking process, stir in the remaining escarole and lemon zest and juice; season with more salt and black pepper. Taste the risotto — it should be creamy and thick. It's best al dente, which means it should be fully cooked, yet still retain some firmness when you chew it.

3. When the risotto is cooked, turn off heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of butter and 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve risotto on warm plates and sprinkle with extra grated cheese and, if desired, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately.

Here are more delicious risotto recipes you might enjoy:
Lobster Risotto recipe from Food Blogga
Winter Risotto recipe from Proud Italian Cook
Risotto with Swiss Chard recipe from The Way the Cookie Crumbles
Butternut Squash Risotto with Seared Scallops recipe from gourmet traveller
Sweet Potato and Spinach Risotto recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mac n' Cheese Meets Sausage and Peppers

Italian Sausage and Pepper Macaroni & Cheese

After returning from a two-week holiday stay with family in Rhode Island, Jeff and I were in a bit of a funk. San Diego suddenly seemed too quiet, too sunny, too bland. We missed the crunch of snow beneath our feet, the hearty bowls of quahog chowder and the sight of a pink and orange Dunkin' Donuts on every street corner. More than anything, we missed the accents.

"You want sugah in your cawfee?"

"Hey, Joe, we got any more baked, stuffed lobstahs in the back?"

"How much rigawt cheese you want?" (That's ricotta in case you didn't know.)

But my personal favorite, which you'll hear most commonly at Italian delis, is, "Yeah, give me a sossig and peppiz."

Sossig and peppiz. It's one of the ultimate Italian-American comfort foods. Sweet or hot Italian sausage is pan-fried with onions and peppers and stuffed into a long Italian roll. Melted provolone or mozzarella is optional.

Since we were really missing home, we feared that sossig and peppiz alone wouldn't be enough. We needed more solace, specifically in the form of pasta. Hence today's recipe: Italian Sausage and Peppers Macaroni and Cheese

Spicy hot Italian fennel sausage, onions and red bell peppers are sauteed until browned and glistening. Then they're tossed with chewy lined penne and drowned in a soothing cream sauce made with Italico cheese

Italico cheese

Like mozzarella, Italico is a mild, slightly sweet and tangy semi-soft cheese that turns irresistibly gooey when it melts. It was destined for macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches and pizza. It's also one of the cheeses used for the Wisconsin's Milk Marketing Board's second annual 30 Days, 30 Ways with Macaroni and Cheese blog, in which I'm participating. 

Just so you know, the sossig and peppiz mac n' cheese did the trick. Jeff and I have been feeling much better, though we still miss seeing Dunkin' Donuts.

Italian Sausage and Pepper Macaroni & Cheese

Italian Sausage and Pepper Macaroni & Cheese
Makes 6-8 servings
Printable recipe.

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 pound hot fennel Italian sausage, removed from the casing 

1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 pound lined penne
8 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
6 cups whole milk
4 cups (16 ounces) Italico cheese, grated
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
A few shakes of salt and black pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, thinly sliced

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with butter or cooking spray.

2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm olive oil. Add onion and saute 3 minutes or until softened. Add sausage and cook for 8-10 minutes or until browned all over and no longer pink.  Add red bell pepper and cook 2 minutes until softened.

3. Cook pasta in salted water, about 2 minutes short of being fully cooked; it will finish cooking in the oven. Drain the cooked pasta, but do not rinse.

4. Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour. Gradually add milk, whisking continuously until it reaches a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-7 minutes, or until thick and bubbly.

5. Add cooked sausage and pepper mixture, Italico cheese, cream sauce, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper, basil and parsley. Stir well. Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the cheese sauce is bubbling around the edges.

For more delicious macaroni and cheese recipes, check out

You might also enjoy these cheesy pasta recipes from Food Blogga:

Heaven-Sent Macaroni and Cheese (with Gruyere cheese)

Italian Macaroni and Cheese with Pancetta (with Fontiago Cheese)
Orange Cauliflower Mac 'n Cheese (yes, it's healthier and good)
Light and Creamy Parpadelle with Mascarpone Cheese and Broccolini

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Game On! 11 Awesome Super Bowl Sunday Party Recipes.

Something strange may occur this Super Bowl Sunday: The game might actually be better than the commercials. Not possible, you say. Yes, it's true. It's hard to beat this year's match up between the brawny Pittsburgh Steelers and the clever Green Bay Packers. But no matter how good the game is, it should never be better than the food. So to ensure that doesn't happen, here are some game-winning Super Bowl party recipes for you.

Blue 28! Blue 28! Hut! Bacon Guacamole! The ruling on the field stands: Every Super Bowl party must have guacamole. In fact, this Super Bowl Sunday, over 8 million pounds of guacamole will be eaten. Make sure yours has bacon in it. This Bacon Guacamole recipe is from my book, Recipes Every Man Should Know, which Monica Bhide featured on her tasty blog, A Life of Spice. Run down the field to get the recipe! Photo by Sala Kannan of

spicy black bean dip and chips DSC_0017

Since the average Super Bowl party has 17 guests, chances are good that there will a vegetarian or vegan at yours. Don't fret. Make my lively Spicy Black Bean Dip which is also found in Recipes Every Man Should Know.

buffalo wings with blue cheese dressing

When it's third and two, guests are gonna need something to gnaw on to release their nerves. Make them classic Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Dressing.

maple-beer-chili chicken wings DSC_0021

For some scrumptious play action pass, try my sticky, sweet, spicy Maple-Beer-Chili Chicken Wings.

tequila-lime shrimp pizza

With millions of Americans ordering pizza on Super Bowl Party, don't wait in line. Make your own. It's easy and tastes so much better, especially when made with booze, as in this Tequila-Lime Shrimp Pizza.

very best whole wheat veggie pizza DSC_0015

Throw a deep pass to the vegetarians again. Make them this Whole Wheat Veggie Pizza. But be warned: It's so good, they may have to tackle the carnivores who will no doubt try to intercept the pass.

beef and beer chili

Like a hulking 320-pound defensive lineman, every Super Bowl party needs a big, bad bowl of chili. Here's yours: Boozy Beef Chili, which is also found in Recipes Every Man Should Know.

apple, onion, and cheddar beer bread

Your guests are gonna need something to sop up the juices of the chili, so make a batch of super fast, super easy, super delicious Beer Bread, also from my book, Recipes Every Man Should Know.

maple bacon chocolate chip cookies DSC_0007

Despite three and half hours of endless gorging, your guests will not turn down dessert, especially when you serve them my salty, sweet, chewy Maple Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies.


If some of your guests throw a red flag at chocolate and bacon cookies, then hand off a Gingersnap Cookie instead.

beer ice cream float DSC_0018

If you don't feel like baking, then make Real Beer Floats, also found in Recipes Every Man Should Know. Yeah, that's right. Beer and ice cream. They're like a victorious Hail Mary pass that wins the game with two seconds to go.

With this playbook in hand, you're guaranteed a winner at your Super Bowl Sunday party.