Triple Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

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This is a very interesting pie!  Each bite I took left me trying to decide if I found it more “pumpkiny” or more “chocolatey.”  The verdict is out and you will have to make it yourself to decide!  The filling is very smooth and custardy—rich but not overbearing.  The crust is light, crispy, sweet, and delicious.  The bittersweet chocolate in between the crust and the filling offers a nice surprise.  This is anything but your grandmother’s traditional pumpkin pie! 

Triple Chocolate Pumpkin Pie:

Crust

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs, finely grated
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Filling

  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1   15 oz. can pumpkin
  • 1   12 oz. can evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • pinch of ground cloves

Topping

  • 1 ounce milk chocolate, melted

Make the crust:

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Combine all crust ingredients in a mixing bowl and toss until thoroughly combined.  Firmly press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate.  Bake until firm, about 9-11 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle bittersweet chocolate across the bottom of the crust.  Spread chocolate in a thin layer across the bottom and the sides.  It should be melty enough to spread.  If not, place in the oven for about one minute.

Make the filling:

In a double boiler melt the semi-sweet chocolate and butter.  Stir continuously until smooth.  Remove from heat.  In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, evaporated milk, brown sugar, eggs, cornstarch, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves.  Whisk 1/3 of pumpkin mixture into the chocolate mixture.  Whisk in remaining pumpkin mixture until completely incorporated. 

Place pie dish containing crust on a baking sheet.  Pour filling into crust.  Bake 50-65 minutes, or until center of pie is set, yet still wobbly.  (The cooking time entirely depends on your oven!  I suggest you check after 50 minutes and keep adding time until it is done.)  Let cool completely in pie dish on a wire rack.  Refrigerate at least 8 hours, or overnight.

Make topping

In a double boiler melt milk chocolate until smooth.  Pour into a decorator’s squirt bottle and drizzle on top of pie.  Serve immediately.

Original recipe found on MarthaStewart.com

Roasted Red Pepper, Chicken, and Olive Polenta

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I’ve had this bag of polenta on my counter for a few months now and I finally decided to go ahead and do something with it.  I opted to make the recipe right there on the back of the bag, with a few modifications.  This is a perfect side dish but also, it stands up well on its own. This recipe is so flexible!  You can add more veggies, different veggies or omit the chicken.  You can experiment with different cheeses or just use whatever you have on hand.  Add fresh herbs or dried herbs!  The possibilities are endless!  Have fun with it and enjoy! 

Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing: sundried tomatoes, green olives, feta cheese, parmesan cheese, fresh basil, pimentos, caramelized onions…

Make it yours!

Roasted Red Pepper, Chicken, and Olive Polenta:

  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups polenta
  • 2 red peppers, roasted and cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1 small can sliced black olives
  • 1 cup cooked chicken, shredded or cubed

Spray an 8-inch round cake pan with cooking spray.

Bring chicken broth to a boil in a large pan.  Add polenta and stir continuously about 10-13 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in cheese, peppers, black olives, and chicken until evenly distributed.  Pour into the round pan.  Use a rubber spatula (sprayed with cooking spray to prevent sticking) press polenta into the pan.  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Bake (in pan) for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit about ten minutes.  Invert onto serving dish and top with fresh grated cheese.  Slice into wedges to serve.

Adapted from recipe found on the back of Pastene Polenta bag.

Orzo with Sausage, Peppers, and Tomatoes

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 I always have my eye out for recipes that can be made ahead then easily reheated in single portions without compromising taste or texture,  so when I saw this recipe  at A Taste of Home Cooking  (which The Home Cook found in the  Serious Eats newsletter) I knew I would try it out.  Without a doubt, this is an easy and quick dinner to make.  I would definitely classify it as a ‘weeknight supper.’  The flavor is good–it is fresh and delicious but it is simple and straightforward.  I see this as a perfect “go-to” after a long day, when you come home hungry and want to eat something fresh, yet don’t exactly feel like cooking.  Pour yourself a glass of red wine and whip this up.  You’ll be eating a delicious bowl of pasta in no time.

(The day I made this, my cousin gave me some fresh parsley from his garden–score!!!  It really added to the freshness factor!) 

Orzo with Sausage, Peppers, and Tomatoes:

  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 pound orzo
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 sweet Italian chicken sausages, casings removed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 roasted red peppers, cut into 1/4 inch strips
  • 6 plum tomatoes (I used canned)
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

In a large saucepan, boil the chicken broth plus three cups of water.  Add the orzo and cook about 8-10 minutes, or according to package directions. 

Heat oil in a large skillet and add sausage and cook until done.  Add the garlic, peppers, tomatoes and red pepper until all are heated through. 

Drain the orzo, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking liquid.  Pour the orzo into your serving bowl then pour the 1 cup of reserved liquid over it.  (This will keep it moist and prevent sticking.) Top with the sausage mixture and toss gently to combine.  Top with freshly grated cheese and fresh parsley.

Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis’s recipe found here on SeriousEats.com

 

 

 

Lisa Garza’s Quick and Easy White Bean Cassoulet

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If you watched last season of The Next Foodnetwork Star, you remember Lisa Garza and her quick cassoulet, which Bobby Flay loved.  I’d had intentions to make the recipe from the moment I saw it.  I still clearly remember the cassoulet I ate in a small restaurant in Rennes, France on a cool fall night almost seven years ago.  The thickness sticks to your ribs and the depth of flavor is a result of the many hours spent cooking. 

 In a way Lisa’s recipe is sort of cheating–there are no hunks of pork fat, there is neither duck nor lamb, and it is certainly not cooked over the course of several days, or even hours, as most recipes suggest.  However, it allows those who can’t spend that kind of time in the kitchen to enjoy, what I consider, the most delicious and satisfying comfort food of all time. 

Quick and Easy Cassoulet:

  • 10 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf, dried
  • 4 cans cannellini beans
  • 2-4 cups chicken stock
  • 6 chicken sausages, sliced
  • fresh French bread, for serving

In a dutch oven, warm the olive oil and brown the sausages until no longer pink.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Add garlic, onion, carrots, and celery and cook until vegetables are soft.  Add chicken stock, beans, and rosemary sprigs.  Bring to a boil and simmer 45-60 minutes.  Drain away some stock if the texture is too “liquidy.”  Add sausage slices and cook an additional ten minutes.  Remove bay leaf and rosemary sprigs.  Serve in bowls topped with shredded parmesan or mozzarella.  Serve with fresh bread and salad.

 

Adapted from Lisa Garza’s cassoulet found here on Foodnetwork.com.

Pioneer Woman’s Spicy Pulled Pork (Crockpot style)

I apologize for the lousy un-orchestrated photo—I snapped it just before I was about to dig in.  This was one of those meals during which I got caught up in the moment and completely forgot to plate and photograph it all pretty for you.  I hope you don’t mind! If you have any doubts about how lovely this can look (when your food blogger isn’t starving) you can check it out here  or here.

People LOVED this!  It is so moist and tasty and can be used all sorts of ways.  I served mine in little sub rolls, plain and simple (not shown in the photo).  I have seen others use it as taco filling.  I think it would also be fantastic in a quesadilla along with some Colby Jack cheese, jalapenos, and sour cream. 

The crockpot allows this magic to happen while you are at work.  What could be better after a long day than walking into your delicious smelling house to a scrumptious home-cooked supper?  It doesn’t get much better than that, my friends.  Enjoy!

Pioneer Woman’s Spicy Pulled Pork:

  • 4-7 pound pork shoulder
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar

Rinse pork and pat dry.  Trim any large pieces of fat. Place in large crockpot.

Place onion quarters, chili powder, brown sugar, garlic, oregano,  cumin, salt, pepper, olive oil, and vinegar in blender.  Blend until combined.

Pour mixture over pork and rub into every fold and ever nook.  Add two cups of water to the crockpot and cover with lid.

Turn crockpot on low and set for 8 hours.

When it is done turn pork over in juice and let sit for 15-20 minutes.  Place pork on a platter and shred with two forks.  Pour some juice over the top and serve.

Adapted from Pioneer Woman Cooks.

White Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

I have had a thing for white chocolate lately—ever since I made those Orange White Chip cookies I have re-discovered my love for it—certainly not as a replacement for traditional milk or dark chocolate, just as a new and interesting flavor.  It is both light and rich at the same time, though that seems like it wouldn’t be possible.  And it pairs well with fruit flavors, which allows for all sorts of great combinations. 

I made these cupcakes for a christening (I blurred out the baby’s name to protect the innocent!) and I really enjoyed them.  My only complaint is the chips in the batter fell to the bottom so when you peeled off the cupcake liner it was strewn with sticky chips.  It didn’t ruin them by any means, but I would have preferred the chips remain suspended throughout the cake.  I feel like there must be some trick to ensure that happens.  If you know what it is please share your insight!

Overall these were delicious.  I kept the frosting thick and it reminded me of those candy lollipops my mom used to make for our nursery school birthday parties.  You know the ones

White Chocolate Cupcakes:

  •  2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2/3 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1  1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1  1/4 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 325 F.  Insert liners into 2 dozen regular size cupcake tins.

Combine milk and vinegar in a cup.  Stir together and set aside for at least five minutes.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Beat well after each addition.

In a small saucepan combine 1/2 cup of the white chocolate chips and the water.  Stirring continuously, heat until melted.

Add the vanilla and white chocolate mixture to the butter/sugar mixture.

In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients (flour, salt, and baking soda).

Add the dry ingredients (in three parts) to the butter/sugar mixture, alternating with the milk/vinegar mixture.  Beat for one minute after each addition.

Gently fold remaining white chocolate chips into batter.

Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on your oven.

Cool in pan completely before frosting.

White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:

  • 1.5 cups white chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temp
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4.5 cups confectioners’ sugar

Heat the white chocolate chips, butter, and milk in a saucepan until melted. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.  Slowly mix in the sugar (using an electric mixer) until you reach your desired spreading consistency.  Add more milk if necessary.  Add a few drops of food coloring, if wish, noting, however, that doing so could change the consistency of the frosting.  (I added blue!)

Adapted from Krystina Castella’s Crazy About Cupcakes available for purchase here.

Cupcake design inspired by Sugar Cups.

Plum Macademia Nut Tart

This tart is not only very beautiful and elegant, but also it is decadent.  It reminds me of France because as with most French food, a small portion satisfies the palette.  Don’t let the sliced fruit fool you–this is rich!  And because it is aesthetically pleasing it adds a lovely touch to any table.  I won’t lie, this takes some time to make, but because there are different elements (the crust, the filling, the glaze) you won’t be slaving for consecutive hours.  And the result is well worth the effort.  

One thing I must tell you: don’t forget to toast the nuts!  As I have said before, it really does make a difference! 

Plum Macadamia Nut Tart:

Crust

  • 6 oz. macadamia nuts, toasted (no skins) and finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1.5 cups flour plus an additional tablespoon
  • pinch of salt
  • 9 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Pastry Cream + Fruit

  • 9 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 large egg yolks (Save the whites and make yourself an omelet!)
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups light cream, scalded
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4-6 plums, pitted and sliced

Glaze

  • 1 cup apricot jam

Make the crust

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Mix finely chopped nuts with sugar in a bowl.  Add the flour and salt.  Cut butter into small pieces and us fingers to mix it into the nuts/sugar.  In a separate small bowl, lightly beat the egg and add the vanilla to it.  Work this mixture into the flour mixture a little at a time.  Pull the dough into a ball.  If it won’t stay in a ball or if it feels too dry, add a tablespoon of water.

Butter a 10-inch tart pan very well.  Make sure every little crack is filled with butter.  It is better to over butter than to not butter enough here!  (Just think how sad you will be if your tart sticks to the pan!)  Evenly press the dough into the pan.  Chill for at least 30 minutes. Remove from refrigerator.  Use a knife or fork to poke a few holes into the dough.  (This will allow air to escape and prevent it from puffing up while baking.)  Bake for 25-45 minutes, depending on your oven.  You’ll know it is done when it is a nice golden brown.  Keep an eye on it!  Cool completely before filling.

Make the pastry cream

In a saucepan whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until they are thick and lighter in color.  Stir in the flour and salt.  Slowly add the scalded cream in a steady stream, whisking all the while.  Place over medium heat and stir constantly.  Bring to a boil.  (It is imperative it comes to a boil.)  Keep whisking.  Once it has boiled for a few seconds remove from heat and add vanilla.  Strain through a wire strainer.  Cool in the fridge or by placing the saucepan in a bowl full of ice.  Cover with plastic wrap touching the cream and chill in the fridge. 

Make the glaze 

Heat jam in a saucepan until soft.  Strain through a wire strainer. Use while warm.

Assemble the tart

Pour cooled pastry cream into cooled crust.  Arrange sliced plums on top in a decorative pattern.  Brush delicately with glaze. 

Adapted from recipe copyright Roberta Dowling.