Month: September 2012

Light Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bundt Cake

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I’m in Austin. It’s a million degrees out here, on this second to last day of September. But I’m continuing in my quest to will it to be Autumn. Visiting a friend for a party tonight, I decided to bring a pumpkin cake. I like pumpkin bread, but tonight I wanted something more, yet light. This recipe has no oil or butter in it and makes for an ultra moist, but not too sweet dessert that’s great for company, coffee, or a night playing Beatles Rock Band. Breaking out my bundt pan and whipping together a brown sugar cream cheese filling, I set to work making an easy, but flavorful Fall cake.

Pumpkin Spice Cake

1 box Spice Cake Mix

1 15oz can pumpkin

1.5 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice

1 tsp nutmeg

1 3.4oz butterscotch Instant Pudding Mix

2 eggs

2 TBSP Greek Yogurt

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Filling

12 oz. room temperature Cream Cheese

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the cake ingredients. The cake batter will be sticky and thick, but fluffy, almost like icing. If it’s seems too thick, sticky, or dense to stir of manipulate add another big tablespoon of yogurt. In a separate bowl, whip together the cream cheese filling ingredients and place in the fridge for a few minutes.On a side note, I tend to not like things overly sweet and to me the pumpkin cake with cream cheese brown sugar mixture is more than enough. That being said, add 2 TBSP to 1/4 cup of granulated sugar to the cake mixture if you like it as sweet as usual cakes.

Grease or spray non-stick spray in a bundt cake pan and sprinkle with flour. Scoop in roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of the batter into the pan and spread evenly, making a little indenture in the center while doing it. The cream cheese will sit in this like a circular river of deliciousness. Next remove the cream cheese mixture from the fridge and dollop it in the indentation around the cake batter as evenly as possible. Next, top the cream cheese with the remaining cake batter, being careful to cover all the exposed cream cheese. Smooth the top as best you can.

Bake for 45-55 degrees or until a tooth pick comes out clean. Let cool at least 20 minutes before flipping out of the bundt pan. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar, slice, and serve. It’s moist, it’s delicious, it’s low fat, low sugar, and it screams Autumn comfort!

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Easy Cheesy Gourmet Drop Biscuits

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The last couple of things I’ve posted here have been on the healthier side of delicious. Tonight’s contribution is also delicious, but also needless on the scale of “Healthy”. Exhausted by a million things going on that I’m going to generalize under the catch-all phrase “Life”, I decided on a summery dinner of grilled London Broil and Tomato salad filled with herbs, easy and super flavorful. But, alas, the meat was not thawed come dinner time. Or an hour after dinner time. And by the time we were actually able to start making dinner we were ravenous. Which is how I wonder up ruining our healthy protein and veggie packed dinner with buttery, cheesy biscuits.

Easy Cheesy Gourmet Drop Biscuits

2-3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp black pepper

2 TBSP minced sun dried tomatoes

1 TBSP grated or shaved parmesan

1 TBSP grated mozzarella

2 cups flour

1 TBSP baking powder

1 cup milk

1 TBSP olive oil

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold butter, diced

1 1/2 tsp freshly chopped basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and set a rack for the upper third of the oven. Mix everything together in a bowl until a stick mass forms.

When I make biscuits, I make serious biscuits, which is the over dramatic way of saying I make them way too large. They are the Big Gulp of biscuits. I usually make 6 large biscuits, but you can make 8 or even 10.  I wouldn’t go much smaller than that, though, and cooking time is affected by size. Bake 6 large biscuits for 20 minutes, 8 medium for 15 minutes, or 10 small for 10-12 minutes. The bottoms of the biscuits should be evenly golden brown and the tips of the various points on top crisp and golden as well.

This are fluffy, flavorful, moist, and a super tasty and easy addition to any meal, whether or not they have any health benefits. They are also excellent with a poached egg for breakfast!

Crispy Pork Tacos (Paleo)

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On Sundays I always look to something special for dinner, which comes from my upbringing. Huge family dinners filled with love and hours of cooking and food – food – So Much Food! Now, my numerous cousins are scattered amongst different states, different countries. I’m not sure what many of them do for their Sunday dinners now, but I know that we do still all love food, sharing, nurturing. Which brings me to what I call The Absentee Dinner. I make something simple, but a little more involved than the other days of the week, something with protein, something that’s going to be delicious and worth savoring. I make something special. I do it in honor of my family, my upbringing, and I invite dear friends over whenever possible, just so we can eat in each others’ company. And maybe watch a little Doctor Who.

With the reminiscence complete, let me say that while I like the depth and complexity of Asian flavors – sweet yet sour, spicy yet cool and crisp, you don’t have to follow this style. A great alternative to this, perfect for Game Day at your house is RECIPE RECOMMENDATION MISSING. Hmmm. I’ll tell you what: if you want that full recipe from me you’re going to have to wait until next week.

Crispy Pork Tacos, Asian Style

1-1.5 pounds Boneless Pork Loin Center Chops

2 TBSP minced garlic, divided

1 TBSP low sodium soy sauce

1/2 TBSP Hoisin sauce

1/2 tsp chile oil

2 tsp Sriracha

1 tsp black pepper (or red pepper flakes if you like it spicy)

Juice of one lemon

1TBSP water

1 TBSP white vinegar

1 TBSP brown sugar

2 tsp freshly grated ginger or 1 tsp ginger powder

1 Napa cabbage, leaves cleaned. Cut about 2 inches off the bottom of each leaf.

1/2 corn starch (if making “extra crispy”, see below)

2 TBSP olive or vegetable oil

Topping

Pre-shredded Broccoli slaw

1 cup bean sprouts

1/4 red wine vinegar

2 tsp salt

1. 5 tsp black pepper

3 tsp sugar

About an hour or two prior to cooking, marinate the pork. Slice the pork in large bite sized pieces, I like strips, and set aside. In a bowl, whisk together half of the garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chile oil sriracha, pepper, lemon juice, water, vinegar, brown sugar, and ginger. Add the pork to the bowl and tossed making sure each piece is coated. Let marinate for 1-2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.

While marinating, make the crispy slaw topping. You can swap the slaw for kimchi. Toss the pre-shredded slaw mix, bean sprouts, salt, pepper, and sugar in a bowl, and set aside. This can sit some time and the flavors will just continue to marry while staying bright. Toss periodically in the time prior to serving.

Once the pork is marinated you have the option of sauteing or pan frying. On this night Chip and I made our Crispy Pork Tacos extra crispy, but you certainly simply dump the entire marinade mixture into a sauce pan heated with with the oil over medium high heat, cooking about 7-9 minutes. For extra crispy, however, remove the pork from the marinade and toss in the corn starch until evenly, but lightly coated. Discard the marinade, and heat the oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Pan fry the pork about 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a paper toweled plate to drain for a minute or two.

Taking one of the napa cabbage leaves, we set to work assembling our “Tacos”. We topped our pork with a sprinkling of slaw, a bit of the remaining minced garlic, a little chopped cilantro, sesame seeds and even some fresh diced mango. Serving with a wedge of lime, this would be perfect with a side of tropical quinoa or rice. Of course, we ate ours with squash, though, because I’m trying to will it to be Autumn here in Austin.

Healthy & Light(er) Spaghetti Squash Alfredo

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love Autumn. There’s not much Fall to be had in Austin, but each and every year I try to will this season to occur. The leaves don’t chain color, unless you count the grass dying, the weather barely cools, but I still make my house smell like synthetic pumpkin, I wear layers in earth tones, and I make squash. Lots and lots of squash.

In an attempt to make squash more than a side dish, I decided to make a Spaghetti Squash Alfredo. Creamy without being heavy, filling without being packed with carbs. To lighten the sauce, I skipped the usual heavy cream, cut back on the butter, and made a roux instead.

Spaghetti Squash Alfredo

1 Spaghetti Squash

3 TBSP butter

4 TBSP all purpose flour

1/4 cup chicken stock (or dry white wine)

1/2 cup milk (I used 1%, but any will do)

2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

Juice of 1 half lemon

1/2 TBSP dried parsley flakes or 1 TBSP freshly chopped parsley

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds. In a 4 sided cookie pan or large pyrex fill with enough water to fill about 1/4-1/2 inch up the sides. Place the squash (which at this point will look nothing like spaghetti) face down into the water. Roast the spaghetti squash for 35-45 minutes or until tender. I like my pasta al dente, so I took the squash out at 35 minutes.

The sauce comes together quickly, so make this no more than 10 minutes before the squash needs to come out.  Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour until you make a paste of even consistency.  Add the milk and chicken stock or wine, whisking to incorporate. Add the garlic and let simmer for about 3 minutes, whisking periodically. Sprinkle in the parm and the garlic powder, whisking to combine. If the alfredo sauce seems to thick, add chicken stock or white wine a TBSP at a time. As it sits and simmers it will thicken, so be sure to whisk periodically. It is best, however, to make the sauce a little thick because the squash does contain a lot of liquid naturally and that will moisten the sauce once tossed together. Just before serving, whisk in the lemon juice for brightness. You can also sprinkle the lemon juice directly over the squash prior to topping with sauce if preferred.

Getting back to the squash, once done roasting, remove from cookie sheet or pyrex and let cool about 5 minutes. Wrapping the back of the squash in a tea towel (the side with the skin on it) lightly separate the innards of the squash with a fork. I stuck the tines of the fork into the squash meat and gentle twisted, revealing the meat to be spaghetti-like.

Once the squash meat is cleaned out of the skin, place your “spaghetti” into a paper towel lined colander in the sink. The one draw back to this dish is that the squash contains a lot of moisture and you want to try to remove some of that prior to serving, just so the meal doesn’t get watery. Once the sauce is done or the squash has drained a bit in the colander for 5 or so minutes, which ever comes first, place the spaghetti squash into a large bowl and toss with the sauce, reserving about 1/4 of alfredo for topping if desired. Plate topping each serving with a little extra sauce and a small sprinkling of parsley. I also topped mine with a shredded slice of prosciutto, but sautéed chicken or shrimp would also be perfect as well to add a healthy and light punch of protein. I  really couldn’t detect much of a difference in flavor between the squash and regular spaghetti at all. It was a wonderfully flavorful Autumn dinner, without weighing us down, whether or not Fall was actually happening outside.

Lemon White Chocolate Craisin Cookies

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A rainy day in Austin is like Christmas. To be able to open one’s windows, allow the breeze to come through is a rarity that must be thoroughly appreciated. I celebrate by making cookies. I don’t like to bake sweet crap too often, but when I do, I normally do it on a Sunday so the extras can either be baked into individual servings for lunches throughout the week or just brought into the office and dumped on less fatty coworkers.

Rather than making those heavy super mega chocolate cookies I normally make, I decided I wanted something lighter, fresher, something that would be great with a cup of coffee. I decided to take a usual cookie recipe and tweak by lightening the sugar and adding a little lemon, fruit, and love. Okay, not love, but I did really like the way they turned out. I call them Lemon White Chocolate Craisin Cookies ’cause I like the alliteration at the end there. I’m sure it should probably be something like the Lemon White Chocolate Craisin is a trademarked name of the Ocean Spray Company Cookies, or the much less exciting Lemon White Chocolate Dried Cranberry Cookies, but who the hell cares?

Lemon White Chocolate Craisin Cookie

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup backed brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

2 TBSP juice of a lemon

1 tsp lemon zest

2 1/2 cup flour

1/2 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 cups Ghirardelli white chocolate chips. I know, that’s pretentious, but they really are the best for baking.

1/2 cup dried cranberries (Guess which brand I used?)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the butter and sugar until delicious creamed. Add the egg and vanilla; beat until incorporated. Add the lemon juice (and take the 2 seconds and spend the 30 cents on a reallemon for that) and zest, and whip until it’s all combined.

Now at this point I’m supposed to tell you something like “In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda, then add slowly to the butter mixture…”, but I’m not going to tell you that. I made this recipe a couple of times (that’s what you do when you test and create recipes), once doing the flour and crap whisked in a separate bowl, and once at the end just adding it ingredient by ingredient. I’m going to blow your mind: It made NO difference. None. I bake to make my house smell all warm, fuzzy, and comforting, and to make my fatass fatter. Not for the delicate art of it all.

SO, once you got the butter and everything else mixed, add the flour. I added it a cup first, mixing well, then a cup and a half just so it wouldn’t make a mess. Then the salt, and then the baking soda. Mix until everything is combined. Add the white chocolate and the Craisins last; I have to do this quickly or I find my friends poaching the best ingredients.

Spray a cookie pan with nonp-stick spray and bake heaping tablespoon balls of dough, eight at a time per sheet for 10-12 minutes. I like my cookies chewy, so I did about 11 minutes on these. This recipe makes 24 good-sized cookies, not “fun” size, which is a size I call “small as crap”. I took a picture below of the sized balls of dough versus the final product to give you an idea of size. I don’t have huge man hands or weirdo tiny girl hands like I’m still a child, but I don’t like the way they look in this photo either…

I found these the right sweetness to have with a cup of coffee in lieu of a biscotti. There is a simple glaze, however, that really gives them an extra punch of lemony flavor. When I asked my buds if they “needed” the glaze their response was thus:

“I’m not going to say the need the glaze, because they’re very tasty, but….well, everything’s better with stuff on top.”

My friends loved this glaze like a six year old loves Dunkaroos, but I prefer them without, or with very little glaze.

Simple Lemon Glaze for Anything, but Especially Good with these Cookies

1 cup confectioners sugar

3 TBSP lemon juice

The zest of 1 lemon

Whisk everything together and drizzle lightly over cooled cookies. Or french toast. Or pork chops. Hell, it’s simple and awesome, throw it on anything. But make sure to enjoy the cookies.