Friday, December 23, 2011

Citrus Buttercream Sandwich Cookies

Citrus buttercream sandwich cookies were part of my Christmas goody gift package this year.  When I went soliciting ideas for Christmas cookies one of my friends suggested a citrus cookie.  Honestly it took me by surprise, as I'm a chocolate and caramel cookie kind of Witch.  A citrus cookie would be different and very holiday appropriate, after all the best citrus fruits are ripe in December.  I wasn't sure what kind of citrus cookie to make, however.  I tossed around a few ideas, a thumbprint type of cookie, filled with a citrus curd maybe?  What about a citrus shortbread with a citrus glaze?  Both sounded quite nice but really my mind kept wandering to a sandwich cookie, something that incorporated both of those ideas, filled and crispy all at once.  Now that the type had been hammered down to  a sandwich cookie, it was a matter of figuring out what kind of cookie I wanted to make for the sandwich.  Shortbread tends to really just crumble away for me so I decided it wasn't what I wanted here.  A standard drop cookie isn't structurally strong enough to support filling and a top cookie, not to mention their round shape isn't what I was looking for here.  Back to the drawing board.

That's when I went blog hopping and discovered Culinary Connection's by Peabody's recipe for Citrus sandwich cookies.  Immediately I knew I had my recipe.  The Witch changed a few very minor things; I used the zest of clementines instead of orange and I added lime zest into the mix as well.  The colors of the zest are so pretty in the pale yellow citrus dough, which was a pleasure to work with, not dry or crumbly and rolled out easily.  Baking the cookies released the essential oils of the citrus zests, adding their flavorful perfume to the cookie.  The filling is a reduction of orange and lemon juices whipped into a buttercream, their tangy acidity help balance the sweetness of the filling.  A touch of heavy cream keeps the melt in your mouth soft.

The cookies looked impressive once finished.  The colorful zest peeping through the cookie with the pale buttercream centers were very pretty.  The Kitchen Witch is very sad to say that she never got to taste one in it's finished state.  The recipe made 32 sandwich cookies, the exact number of recipients on my goodie gift list this year.  I was able to snag a broken piece of cookie, it was delicious, slightly chewy and rich, and the buttercream I sampled and enjoyed.  Yet the finished product I didn't get.  Sob!  That's ok, I'll just have to make these beauties again soon.  Enjoy!

Citrus Sandwich Cookies 
Makes 32 sandwich cookies
Source:  Culinary Connections 
2 cups all purpose flour
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
14 TBSP unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
 2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
 1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 tsp finely grated lime zest

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar at medium speed for 3 minutes. Add egg and zest and beat until combined.

Reduce to slow speed and add flour mixture just until well blended. Scrape dough onto a work surface and gather it up into a disk. Wrap the disc in plastic warp and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until firm(up to 3 days).

350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat.

Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle lightly with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a thickness of 1/8 inch.

Using a small cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies possible from the dough. Transfer dough to baking sheets and bake for 9-11 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom(not the top).

Transfer the cookies to wire racks and cool completely.

Citrus buttercream filling 
¼ cup orange juice
1 TBSP lemon juice
6 TBSP unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 TBSP heavy cream
pinch of salt

 In a small nonreactive saucepan, bring the orange and lemon juices to a boil over high heat and boil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until reduced by half (3T).  Let cool completely.

 In a bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter, powdered sugar, cream, salt and cooled citrus juices at medium speed until smooth and fluffy.

Pipe fiilling onto the bottom of one of the cookies. Top with another cookie. Press the cookies lightly together. Repeat with the remaining cookies and filing.

Store cookies in the fridge.  Allow to warm to room temperature before serving.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
  32 Servings
Amount Per Serving
 Total Fat7.6 g

 Saturated Fat4.7 g

 Polyunsaturated Fat0.3 g

  Monounsaturated Fat2.2 g
Cholesterol26.5 mg
Sodium23.6 mg
 Potassium16.4 mg
Total Carbohydrate18.1 g

Dietary Fiber0.2 g

Sugars12.0 g
Protein1.0 g

Traditional Beef Stew

Beef Stew was one of those things we rarely had growing up. My Witchy Sisters and I LOVED the canned Dinty Moore Beef Stew (sacrilege I know) until my parents freaked me out one day by saying they didn't know what kind of meat it was in the stew, it could be tongue or something like that. And in my oh so mature 13 year old mind I said "EW!!" and abandon the canned beef stew entirely. Not a bad thing necessarily! So, after I was completely grossed out about canned beef stew, I still had a beef stew jones that needed to be satisfied. I asked, begged even, my mother to make stew for us. Being a wonderful mom she did; however being a fairly lousy cook, it was 'Stew Starter' beef stew. Anyone remember this stuff? A paper canister filled with dehydrated veggies and flavors, a seasoning packet filled with salt and chemicals, just add water and beef and in 4 brief hours, voila, stew. Ish. Stew-ish is exactly what this was. The broth was thin and insipid, not rich and hearty. The beef was tough and chewy - obviously the wrong cut was used. The veggies were still slightly firm from the dehydration/rehydration process and lacked any nutritional value or flavor. Sure the canister says Stew Starter but man, what a disappointment. Finally the Witch said enough is enough and learned how to make beef stew. Real beef stew!

The stew I offer to you all today is quite possibly one of the best beef stews the Kitchen Witch has ever created. The beef is fall apart tender and oh so flavorful. The veggies have texture and flavor, all of which enhance the stew. Herbs are used sparingly, just enough to add the sweet perfume but not enough to overwhelm the rich brown gravy. Like most soups, this stew if very forgiving and accepting of pretty much any veggie you want to offer it. I kept it traditional with carrots, celery, onion, potatoes and peas. The gravy gets some extra rich flavor from the use of mushroom base, a product that the fine folks at Better than Bullion produce. It's basically concentrated mushroom soup in a jar, all natural and organic to boot! It adds a great depth of flavor with out any visual mushrooms, a great way to get that flavor in when you have mushroom haters around. The use of it isn't required but it will make your dish that much better. If you can't find it you can always sautee up some mushrooms and add them to the stew.

When beef stew is done properly it's as warm and comforting as a hand knitted sweater or a hug from your Mom. Since I'm the worlds laziest knitter, consider this my knitted sweater to you. I hope it keeps you warm and comfortable. Enjoy!

Traditional Beef Stew
Makes 6-8 servings
1 three (3) pound chuck roast, cut into 1.5 inch cubes, excess fat trimmed
6 carrots cut into rounds
3 stalks celery, diced fine
1/2 onion sliced thin
4 cloves garlic minced fine
3 sprigs thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
6-7 cups water
1 T Mushroom base (Better than Bouillon) - optional
3/4 c red wine (shiraz is fine)
1/3 c frozen peas
9-10 small red bliss potatoes, cut into quarters
salt and pepper to taste
3T corn starch
2T oil

Cut the meat into cubes and pat dry.  Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat and add the oil.  Once hot brown the cubed beef in 3 batches.  Brown beef aggressively, about 2-3 minutes on each side.  Once browned remove from pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Repeat until all meat is browned.

In the same pan add the onions, carrots, garlic and celery.  Cook about 5 minutes or until the onions start to brown and soften.  Add the water and mushroom base, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add meat, herbs and wine, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Cover stew and simmer on medium low for 1 hour.

Stir stew.  Taste for season.  Please note that the stew is NOT done and this is NOT a final season, it's merely a chance to add more salt if need be, or if it's too salty, a touch more water to dilute things a bit.  Adjust seasoning as needed, recover stew and continue cooking for another hour.

Stir stew.  Add the potatoes, recover and simmer for 30 minutes.  After 30 min stir the stew and taste for season.  Make a slurry of the cornstarch and about 2-3T of water and add to the stew, stirring well while adding to avoid lumps.  Allow stew to simmer for another 15 minutes before serving and enjoying.

Nutrition Factscalculated by SparkPeople Recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 508.7
Total Fat 12.7 g
Saturated Fat 4.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.7 g
Monounsaturated Fat 5.5 g
Cholesterol 126.4 mg
Sodium 643.2 mg
Potassium 1,754.4 mg
Total Carbohydrate 50.8 g
Dietary Fiber 7.1 g
Sugars 5.0 g
Protein 42.8 g

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Molasses Spice Cookies

Molasses cookies are the Witches' husband's favorite cookie ever. His Grandma used to make the BEST molasses cookies!! Last holiday season I was searching for a newer version of the molasses cookie, something to dress up the standard spicy treat. I stumbled across this recipe from a blog, but after over 365 days of NOT posting this post (because I forgot to take photos of the cookies, D'oh!) I have completely forgotten which blog it came from. And for that I apologize. The Kitchen Witch did do a google search to see if I could find it to give proper credit where it's due...alas I was unsuccessful in locating the original source. Sorry about that!

Back to the cookies! These molasses spice cookies start off the same as Grandma's, but they take a turn at Spicy Town with the addition of cardamom and black pepper. Yes, I said black pepper. In a baked good. It's tasty, too! A generous 2 teaspoons of ground ginger helps reinforce that these are indeed spice cookies and they pack a wallop! But behind that spicy bite is a mellow sweetness and a delightful chewiness to the cookie. The molasses really make these a crispy outside, chewy inside cookie, which makes me a very happy Witch indeed!

These cookies are not a favorite of the Little Witch, she thinks they're too spicy. I tend to agree with her, they are spicy, but I like that. They are spicy, not necessarily 'hot' but spicy and not overly sweet, and therefore tend to not be a preferred cookie of the kids. And that's ok in this Witches' opinion. After all the cloying sweet Holiday treats, it's nice to have a bit of spice and subtle sweetness. And best of all, Santa loves these cookies! I hope you enjoy them.

Happy Yule to you and yours!

Molasses Spice Cookies makes 3 dozen, 2 cookies per serving
Source: Unknown; inspired by a blogger with good taste!
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
2 tbsp honey
1 large egg
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cardamom (7 pods ground)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a work bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in molasses, honey and egg until smooth.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices and salt.

Working by hand, or with a mixer on low speed, stir flour mixture into molasses mixture.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls and roll each ball in extra sugar before placing on baking sheet.

Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are set but not browned.

Cool for 5-10 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Nutrition Facts calculated at SparkPeople recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 177.8
Total Fat 5.6 g
Saturated Fat 3.3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat 1.6 g
Cholesterol 24.1 mg
Sodium 211.1 mg
Potassium 91.0 mg
Total Carbohydrate 30.5 g
Dietary Fiber 0.4 g
Sugars 17.3 g
Protein 2

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Cook's book for Cooks, GIVEAWAY WINNER!!

There were 25 entries for the giveaway of "A Cook's book for Cooks" written by Stephen Crout. The lucky winner was #16, Yenta Mary!!! Congratulations Yenta Mary on winning this cookbook, you're gonna love it!!! Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway. Your support means a lot to both myself and Stephen. Enjoy the book Mary!

Everyone else, don't fret, you can still order this book on Search BOOKS for Stephen Crout and you'll find it. Makes a great holiday gift for the foodie in your life!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mushroom marsala sauce

My Husband's birthday was last week so of course I had to make him something delicious for dinner. Between the two of us, we couldn't decide on what he wanted. One thing was for sure: he wanted beef. And mushrooms. And wine. The first thing he suggested was beef burgundy, delicious indeed, but we'd recently had beef stew, which is very similar and I didn't want those flavors again. Yes, it's his birthday, but I'm in charge of the food! Beef Stroganoff was suggested, we haven't had it in a while, but I've made that plenty of times before. Steak, sure, but what can we do to make it more special for his birthday??

That's when my good friend Phyllis and I got chatting. She told me about a recipe she'd concocted using shallot & mushrooms, a bit of marsala wine, sour cream and Parmigiana done up gratin style. The timing of our conversation couldn't have been better!! Here was something different that would pair perfectly with the beef the Witchy Husband had requested. And it has wine, a flavor he'd been thinking about. And mushrooms! And sour cream!! I couldn't wait to get working on this delightful birthday treat!

Phyllis' original dish was done in a casserole and baked to melt and brown the cheese. I decided to morph her idea into a sauce that could blanket the steaks. I cooked the beef using the grilled steak technique I've written about before, except I seared them on my stove top in a cast iron skillet. The skillet was then deglazed after the steaks cooked so that lovely browned beefy flavor could become one with my sauce. The sauce was done in a seperate sautee pan, starting with the butter, shallots and mushrooms. Once the 'shrooms were deeply browned the pan was deglazed with marsala wine. After reduction the Witch added the deglaze liquid from the steaks pan, a touch of water and sour cream. The resulting sauce was rich, velvety, lusciously and deeply flavored. It was the PERFECT companion to the medium rare cooked sirloins. Birthday dinner perfection!! Happy Birthday Hon, I love you!

Mushroom Marsala sauce
makes 2 servings
Inspired by Phyllis Davis
8 large white mushrooms, sliced
1 medium shallot, fine diced
3T butter, unsalted
1/2 c marsala wine, dry
1/2 c sour cream
1/2 t thyme crushed
1 c water, divided
parmesean cheese, fresh grated, about 4T
2 steaks, pan seared using reverse sear technique
kosher salt and pepper

In a sautee pan melt butter over medium high heat. Once it stops foaming add the finely diced shallot and sautee until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and toss to coat in butter evenly. The mushrooms will absorb the butter, this is ok, just let them cook. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until mushrooms are deeply browned.

Deglaze pan with marsala wine. Allow to reduce by half. Remove from heat and add sour cream, slowly stirring it into the sauce. Add 1/2 c water to the sauce and stir well.

Deglaze pan that steaks seared in with remaining water. Scrape up any browned bits from the pan and add this to the sauce. Add the parmesean cheese to the sauce, stir well, taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve over rested steaks.

*~*Kitchen Witch TIP: If you're cooking the steaks outside on the grill simply substitute the steak deglazing liquid with about 1/2 cup of beef broth.~*~
Nutrition Facts

User Entered Recipe

2 Servings

Amount Per Serving
Total Fat29.4 g
Saturated Fat18.3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat1.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat8.5 g
Cholesterol71.9 mg
Sodium37.6 mg
Potassium224.4 mg
Total Carbohydrate6.2 g
Dietary Fiber0.1 g
Sugars0.2 g
Protein2.8 g

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sweet Corn Gelato

Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a FREE copy of A Cook's book for Cooks! Click HERE to enter!

Wow, this one is TOTALLY out of season but it deserves to be posted nonetheless. I made this late summer with my friend Phyllis, and just now realized that I'd not published it yet. D'oh!

Sweet corn gelato. Yes, that's corn flavored ice cream. Wait, no don't leave, I promise its good! Really really good. Really! Phyllis suggested we try this gelato and I was all in. Being both a corn and ice cream lover, I could see how this could be awesome. I'm here to tell you that it indeed IS awesome! We made this with late summer Olathe sweet corn and it was wonderful. The recipe calls for fresh corn off the cob however if I couldn't get good corn I'd use frozen corn and omit the portion of the recipe that refers to the cob. Enjoy!

How's it taste? Surprising, different, salty, sweet, like the best corn on the cob you've ever had, but only cold. It has a smooth texture with no trace of corn husk or kernal to be found yet it is the very essence of corn. The only one who enjoyed the gelato more than I did was the Little Witch. She LOVED it! The photos don't do this frozen treat justice. If you like corn you need to try this.

Sweet-corn Gelato
makes about 5 cups gelato (10 1/2 c servings)
Source: recipe comes from New York and was served at Gramercy Tavern and then at Babbo

3 ears of sweet corn
3 1/2 c. whole milk
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. heavy cream
8 large egg yolks
1 t. kosher salt

Cut kernels from cob and break cobs into 2-3 pieces. Add the corn, cobs and milk to a sauce pan and bring up to a boil. Allow it to boil for 1 minute then remove from heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Remove cobs from milk and discard them. Puree mixture in batches in a blender. Set a course strainer over large bowl and strain mixture pressing on solids and then discard them. Add more milk if needed to measure 3 1/2 c of milk and corn mix.

Bring mixture, 1 1/4 c. sugar, and cream. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar.

Set a strainer over med bowl and set aside.

Whisk remaining 1/4 c. sugar, egg yolks, and salt and gradually whisk in hot milk, return to saucepan and stir constantly for about 2 min to reach 175 degrees on instant read thermometer.

Immediately pour custard through strainer and place bowl over ice water to chill, about 5 min. Cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight and then process per manufacture directions with your ice cream freezer. Transfer to container and freeze at least 1 hour before serving. Lasts up to 1 month in the freezer.

Nutrition Facts calculated at SparkPeople Recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 288.2
Total Fat 11.2 g
Saturated Fat 5.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 3.7 g
Cholesterol 188.8 mg
Sodium 243.5 mg
Potassium 262.0 mg
Total Carbohydrate 42.8 g
Dietary Fiber 1.2 g
Sugars 35.9 g
Protein 6.5 g

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Stuffed Pumpkin with Cheese, Bacon and Chipotles

Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a FREE copy of A Cook's book for Cooks! Click HERE to enter!

Halloween may be over but that's no reason to say good bye to the beloved pumpkin. The orange squash is king of Autumn and until December 21, it's still Autumn, so bring on the pumpkin recipes! Today I happily share with you a pumpkin stuffed with cheese, bacon and chipotle chilies. Holy cow, this thing is good! And rich! And delicious!! This gorgeous dish was found at the Homesick Texan's site. I'm not from Texas (I'm from Michigan!) but this dish makes me homesick for Texas as well!!

The stuffing in this pumpkin is filled with all sorts of deliciousness: French bread cubes, Gruyere and white cheddar cheeses, thick cut bacon and spicy smoky chipotles. A touch of garlic, cumin and cream crown the already rich and flavorful filling. After a long 2 hour baking time the pumpkin is tender and easily scrapes out of it's shell. The sweet and yet bland squash play perfectly with the spicy and rich filling.

Stuffed pumpkin makes a great lunch on its own or would be perfect as a side dish. It'd also be very welcome on the Thanksgiving table. Imagine if you will, the beautiful turkey, golden brown and fragrant, the bowl of red glistening cranberry sauce, fluffy white mashed potatoes, rich brown gravy and this, amazing orange whole baked pumpkin stuffed with cheesy spicy goodness. It's truly a vision of delicious loveliness!

Stuffed Pumpkin with Cheese, Bacon and Chipotles
Source: Homesick Texan
Makes: 4 servings

One 3-to-4 pound pie pumpkin
Salt and black pepper to taste
4 ounces French bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 pound Gruyere, shredded (1 cup)
1/4 pound white cheddar, shredded (1 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 or 2 chipotle chiles en adobo, diced (depending on how fiery you want it)
1/4 pound cooked bacon, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Small pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup heavy cream or half-and-half

Arrange a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 8x8 pan or baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.

With a sharp knife, cut a circle around the pumpkin stem about 1 inch away from the stem. Remove the top and clean out the seeds and stringy bits from inside the pumpkin. (You can save the seeds for roasting, if you like.) Lightly salt and pepper the inside of the pumpkin.

Toss together the bread cubes, shredded Gruyere, shredded cheddar, garlic, diced chipotle chiles and cooked bacon, and stuff into the pumpkin. Stir the cumin and nutmeg into the cream, adding a bit of salt and black pepper to taste. Pour cream mixture into pumpkin over bread and cheese.

Place the top back on the pumpkin, and place the pumpkin into the baking pan. Bake for 2 hours or until filling is brown and bubbling.

To serve, remove the top and spoon out portions of the filling along with bits of the cooked pumpkin. You can either leave it in the pan, or by using the foil or parchment paper, you can carefully lift it out of the pan and place it on a platter. Serve warm.

Nutrition Facts calculated at SparkPeople recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 497.3
Total Fat 30.4 g
Saturated Fat 18.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.8 g
Monounsaturated Fat 5.4 g
Cholesterol 101.9 mg
Sodium 1,691.2 mg
Potassium 1,004.7 mg
Total Carbohydrate 37.5 g
Dietary Fiber 4.9 g
Sugars 4.2 g
Protein 21.9 g

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Cook's book for Cooks, GIVEAWAY!!

The Giveaway is CLOSED at this time.
My fellow blogger and friend Stephen of the Obsessive Chef has written a book! A Cook's book for Cooks is his pride and joy, and it's quite entertaining. Stephen is an incredibly talented writer and cook. His take on this book is different than your average cookbook, it's more of a dialog about food. You won't find carefully measured ingredients or a strict recipe to follow; rather you'll have to depend on your own palette and senses of like & dislike to create a meal you'll be proud of. I for one am very proud of Stephen for this book as well as its concept. As a blogger and avid cook I like to look at recipes for inspiration, but rarely follow them. Be brave, everyone, its OK to play with a recipe, that's how you learn what you like and start to develop your palette as well as cooking skills!! The Witch is enjoying this book immensely, it's almost like having a friend who can cook sitting with you, discussing what's for dinner.

If you're a cook or know someone who is a cook, please consider giving Stephen Crout's book A Cook's Book for Cooks. It would make a fabulous holiday gift for the foodie in your life!

Best of all, Andrea the Kitchen Witch, compliments of Stephen Crout himself, is going to give away one of these books to you, my wonderful readers! If you can't wait to win the giveaway either click on the title above OR search for Stephen Crout. (searching for the title only won't work, tried it and now I'm telling you all)

Entry is easy: There are 2 ways to get entry to this giveaway:
1. Become a follower of this blog using Google Friends Connect (GFC) on the left side. Click on FOLLOW. Then leave a comment here that you've a follower and that's it, you're entered. Current followers, please leave a comment that you're a follower and you're entered.

2. LIKE Andrea the Kitchen Witch on facebook (there's a gadget on the left you can click LIKE there) and leave a comment here that you're a facebook fan. Again, current facebook fans, enter a comment for your entry.

The Giveaway is CLOSED at this time.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

On a chilly fall afternoon nothing smells or feels quite as homey as a batch of pumpkin baked goods in the oven. That's what the Witch was thinking when she went blog surfing to find a new and different pumpkin recipe to make. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bars: been there, done that. I wanted something different, not seen before in the Kitchen Witches' kitchen. That's when I went to the guru of all things pumpkin, Annie of Annie's Eats!! Annie is a certified pumpkin lover and I knew that if I was looking for baked delicious pumpkin goods Annie's site was the place to be.

I was right! After browsing her pumpkin collection I stumbled upon pumpkin whoopie pies. I'd seen these on her site before. Heck, I had bookmarked them on my old computer, but it died before I could make them. Now was the time!! The Kitchen Witch has never made whoopie pies before so I had no point of reference to go by other than what I knew about the pies; soft, fluffy cake cookies with a creamy filling. Annie's recipe provided both of those things. The pumpkin cake is soft and tender like most pumpkin baked goods are, delicatly flavored with spices and just sweet enough. The filling is the amazing, cream cheese maple icing!! Seriously, this is the best and easiest cream cheese icing I've ever attempted.

The whoopie pies come together quickly; the batter is scooped onto sheet trays with a 1.5T scooper and after a 12 minute bake they're done. After mixing up the delicious icing in the stand mixer I transferred it to a large plastic bag which I cut the end off one corner to make a piping bag. A quick swirl of filling and the pies are finished with a topping cake. Whoopie pies have captured our hearts and taste buds, so much so that the Husband asked for these as his birthday cake. I take that as recipe success anyday! Thanks Annie for the great recipe, we love it!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Source: Annie's Eats
Makes: 32 pies

For the pumpkin cookies:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup canola oil
3 cups chilled pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the maple cream cheese filling:
3 cups powdered sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract

To make the pumpkin cookies, preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and spices. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk sugars and oil together. Add the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the pumpkin mixture and whisk until completely combined.

Use a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets (about 1.5-2 tablespoons.), about 1 inch apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the pan for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

To make the filling, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter until smooth with no visible lumps. Add the cream cheese and beat until combined. Add the powdered sugar, maple syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth. Be careful not to overbeat the filling or it will lose structure.

To assemble, turn half of the cooled cookies upside down. Pipe filling onto the flat side of the overturned cookies. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges of the cookie. Repeat until all the cookies are used. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to firm before serving.

Nutrition Facts calculated by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 262.2
Total Fat 12.6 g
Saturated Fat 4.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat 5.7 g
Cholesterol 27.1 mg
Sodium 210.8 mg
Potassium 109.0 mg
Total Carbohydrate 38.4 g
Dietary Fiber 0.7 g
Sugars 27.8 g
Protein 2.3 g

Friday, October 28, 2011

Hot Caramel Apple Spiced Cider

Hot spiced cider has always been an Autumnal favorite of the Kitchen Witch. When I was a kid we used those apple cider packets, tasty yes, but really, how hard is it to heat up cider and spice it?? Turns out not hard at all!! And its SO much better than the packets. The flavor of cider really shines when its heated, the crisp apple just begs for some cinnamon to compliment it.

Nothing goes better with the fresh fall flavor of apple then sweet buttery caramel. I made a batch of my favorite caramels, salted of course, and dipped a few apples into it. Oh boy were those good!! It seemed only natural to add some of that luscious caramel to the hot cider, allowing it to melt into the drink, adding a different layer of sweet, salty and rich to the mix. You can use store bought caramels if you don't want to make your own, but I promise, its a lot easier than you think and oh so much tastier! Caramel sauce (like for ice cream) would work in a pinch, too.

Finally I topped off each mug with a splash of heavy cream. You could use whipped cream instead, but honestly, I was too lazy to whip up the cream when it was going to just melt into the drink anyway. Whip the cream or not, the choice is yours. Regardless, you'll be very happy with the resulting drink, sweet, tart, salty and creamy. Hot Caramel Apple Spiced Cider is the perfect ending to a busy fall day! Enjoy!

Hot Caramel Apple Spiced Cider
makes 4 servings
4 cups apple cider
1 t cinnamon
1/4 c heavy cream
4 pieces of caramel (homemade is AWESOME but store bought will work too)

In a microwave safe bowl OR a sauce pan heat the cider and cinnamon until it simmers. Add caramels and stir until they melt into the drink. If you're in a hurry you can microwave the caramels until they just start to melt before adding to the hot cider. Once caramels are melted ladle hot cider into your favorite mugs and top with cream, whipped or not.

Isn't that Witch awesome?? She was the cake topper on my 6th birthday cake. I love her!

Nutrition Facts calculated by SparkPeople Recipe Calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 165.8
Total Fat 3.6 g
Saturated Fat 2.4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.9 g
Cholesterol 10.9 mg
Sodium 27.7 mg
Potassium 30.1 mg
Total Carbohydrate 8.4 g
Dietary Fiber 0.4 g
Sugars 6.6 g
Protein 0.6 g

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Israeli Couscous salad with beans and tomatoes

Israeli couscous, have you all seen or tried this yet? Ever wonder what the heck it is? Well, Israeli couscous isn't a strange and exotic grain. It's not a grain at all, rather, it's pasta, just like all couscous. Yes, you read that right, ALL couscous is really just tiny beads of pasta that cook up super quick due to their tiny size. Israeli couscous is no different except its beads are larger than normal couscous, making them more pearl like. They cook up very fast also, less than 10 minutes, and are tasty! I like to get my Israeli couscous from the health food store, they have it available in bulk and you can buy as much or as little as you'd like. It's really really cheap, too, bonus!

Israeli couscous is toasted from the factory. Personally, I wanted more of that roasty toasty flavor so I decided to further brown my couscous in melted butter. Nothing wrong with that! A small amount of onion was added for flavor, but not so much that it overwhelmed the delicate toasty flavor of the couscous. The Witch used chicken broth to cook the couscous in for additional flavor, but if you're looking to make this dish completely vegetarian water or veggie broth would work just fine also. As the couscous cooks it releases a lot of starches which make the texture of the cooked Israeli couscous more like a good risotto than couscous.

Because this was an entire meal I knew that I needed some protein in there somewhere so I added white beans that I have in my pantry. The soft texture and gentle flavor of the cannellini bean was delightful against the soft, rich creamy flavor of the couscous. Having an abundance of cherry tomatoes from the garden it was a no brainer to add a handful of the sweet red treats into the couscous. Feta cheese was in the fridge and its flavors as well as very granular texture again worked fabulously with the couscous. Now all it needed was a dressing! In a small mason jar, or any jar with a lid, add the juice of half a lemon, a touch of honey to counteract the tart of the lemon and 2 parts olive oil. I just eyeballed the amount in the glass jar, when it looked like I had a 2:1 ratio of oil to lemon juice I stopped. It was about 3T of oil. A touch of garlic and fresh herbs including mint, oregano and parsley completed this easy and tasty dressing. The dressing will make a lot more than you need for one serving, you'll actually be able to get about 3 couscous salads out of this dressing, so save the leftovers in the fridge for another tasty salad.

The final results of this are savor, rich, creamy, tart, sweet and plain yummy. The herbs in the dressing added great flavor, just enough to keep you interested in taking another bite. The tomatoes give bursts of sweet tart flavor that counter the rich creamy taste of the couscous. A nice salty tang is provided by the feta and the creamy beans kept me full for hours! This recipe was developed as a quick and easy lunch for myself. Imagine my surprise when the Little Witch wanted to try some (shock!) and then declared that she LOVES couscous and wanted more! (double shock!) If you're looking for a quick lunch, easy side dish or a meatless main course, look no further than this Israeli couscous dish. Enjoy!

Israeli couscous salad with beans and tomatoes
makes 1 main dish sized serving
1/2 c Israeli couscous
3/4 c chicken broth OR water
2 t butter
1 T minced onions
1 T minced green pepper (optional)
6-8 cherry tomatoes
1/3 c white beans (cannellini beans), drained and rinsed (1 can will make 3 salads)
2T feta cheese
3t dressing, recipe follows

Lemon herb dressing
makes enough for 3 salads
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 parts olive oil, approx 3T
1t honey
1 clove garlic sliced thin
pinch kosher salt & pepper
fresh minced herbs: parsley, mint and oregano (small bit of parsley, 5 leaves each mint & oregano)

Make dressing first: combine all ingredients in a small lidded jar and shake well to mix. Set aside.

Prepare salad:
In a small sauce pan heat butter over medium high heat until it foams. Once the foaming stops add the uncooked couscous, stir to coat all pearls in butter. Toast for 2 minutes then add the onions. Stir to coat onions in butter and continue to toast for 3-4 minutes longer, until couscous is browned and smells nutty.

Add the broth or water and bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Add the beans, cover the pan and allow to cook for about 5 minutes. Check couscous for tenderness, if soft all the way through then drain couscous of any remaining liquid. Return to pot. Add the dressing, tomatoes and feta, stir well to coat everything evenly. Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts calculated at SparkPeople recipe calculator
Salad only, no dressing 1 Serving
Amount Per Serving

Calories 459.6
Total Fat 9.6 g
Saturated Fat 4.8 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.2 g
Monounsaturated Fat 1.2 g
Cholesterol 25.0 mg
Sodium 308.7 mg
Potassim 294.2 mg
Total Carbohydrate 16.6 g
Dietary Fiber 4.8 g
Sugars 0.7 g
Protein 17.7 g

Nutrition Facts calculated at SparkPeople recipe calculator
Lemon herb dressing only -- 3 Servings
Amount Per Serving

Calories 130.5
Total Fat 14.0 g
Saturated Fat 2.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 10.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 96.3 mg
Potassium 14.9 mg
Total Carbohydrate 2.9 g
Dietary Fiber 0.1 g
Sugars 2.1 g
Protein 0.1 g

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pork Red Chili

Chili is a great dish to serve in fall, is slow cooked flavors will warm bellies on the coldest of days. It's also very budget friendly, with the bulk of the ingredients being pantry staples. Most of the time red chili is made with beef. Being a rebellious rule breaking Kitchen Witch, I decided to use pork in mine this time. Green chili with pork is amazing, so I figured why not try it with the red version. I found country style boneless pork ribs on managers special for $2.80 and couldn't resist. These ribs do need a long slow braise to maximize their flavor as well as make the darn things tender. Chili seemed like a perfect match for the cut of meat I had on hand.

So, in addition to the super cheap package of pork there was something else that really made me want to make chili, other than the fact that its delicious. The Witch is a savvy shopper - get this deal! I scored a new Food Network 5.5 qt dutch oven, enamel covered cast iron, with a metal handle on the lid making it oven proof, for $46 at Kohl's!! The pan is normally $100, on sale for $70, I had a 20% off coupon AND a $10 off coupon, making my total before tax $46. Not too shabby!!! And the best part, other than the screamin' deal I got, is that its green!! My favorite shade of avocado green! I LOVE IT!

Back to the chili! After browning the pork and onions in the dutch oven I added the spices and allowed them to toast to develop their flavor. I used my favorite Black Canyon Chili Powder blend from Savory Spice - it's combination of cocoa powder, cinnamon, chili powders, garlic and toasted onion really make red chilies shine, in this Witches' opinion. The cinnamon and cocoa powder really remind me of a good slow cooked mole, in a fraction of the time. If you don't have Black Canyon chili powder, well you can order some from Savory Spice OR you can make a knock off version at home by combining unsweetened cocoa powder, cinnamon, chili powder, onion and garlic powders and you'll have a fair representation on what the Black Canyon powder is all about. The pork in this chili was amazing, tender, flavorful and very rich. It worked so well with the cumin and ancho chiles that I may never make a beef chili again!

Pork Red Chili
makes 4 generous servings
1 lb country style pork ribs, boneless
1 large onion diced
5-6 cloves garlic peeled and smashed but left whole
2 t ground cumin
1 T Black Canyon chili powder
1 T ground ancho chilie
4 bay leaves
kosher salt
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can beans, kidney, black, your choice, drained & rinsed

In a dutch oven heat over medium high heat and brown pork ribs. Brown all 4 sides well then add the diced onions. Allow onions to soften and brown slightly, about 5 minutes. Add the spices and stir well, sautee for about 3-4 minutes. Spices will stick to the bottom of the pan, that is fine.

When spices are very fragrant add 2 cups water and scrape up browned bits from bottom of pan. Add the diced tomatoes and cover. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 hours.

After 2 hours have passed stir the meat, it should be starting to get very tender and fall apart. Allow it to shred naturally while stirring. Add the 2nd can of tomatoes, drained beans and reseason with salt & pepper. Cover again and allow to simmer for 1 1/2 hours longer. Once done shred up remaining chunks of pork - you should be able to squeeze the chunks with your tongs & they will just fall apart. Serve with corn bread or tortilla chips. Top with jalapenos if desired.

Nutrition Facts calculated at SparkPeople Recipe Calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 331.0
Total Fat 12.2 g
Saturated Fat 4.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 65.0 mg
Sodium 1,835.9 mg
Potassium 252.5 mg
Total Carbohydrate 27.7 g
Dietary Fiber 8.4 g
Sugars 6.2 g
Protein 28.2 g

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Jalapeno Corn Cakes

Today I'd like to introduce you to a fabulous foodie and cook, Phyllis Davis. Phyllis isn't a guest blogger; rather she has been a guest in the Witches' house for various cooking dates. Please allow me to introduce Phyllis Davis!

"I was a caterer in Texas in the 70's, a sous chef for six years at the Broadmoor Cooking School during the 80's and assisted: Jacques Pepin, Marcella Hazen, Guiliano Bugialli, Stephan Pyles, Paula Wolfort, Martha Stewart, Ken Hom, and others, became the Food and Restaurant Critic for KKTV in the 80's, taught private cooking classes throughout my cooking life, and now I have the pleasure of cooking with you, Andrea."

Holy cow how did I get so lucky to find a friend and foodie with such a varied and rich history? I'm one lucky Witch, that's for sure! Phyllis and I have a great time cooking, chatting, knitting and generally enjoying each others company. Most recently we made 2 dishes, sweet corn gelato (to be posted soon) and jalapeno corn cakes. Both recipes were delicious and will be/have been repeat offenders in the Witches' kitchen already! The corn cakes were particularly delicious, I loved the crunch of corn, slightly crispy exterior and gentle heat of the jalapeno and the cool sour cream topping was perfect. I've made these twice since then and LOVE them! They are really good for breakfast, too, if you are into a more savory type of AM meal.

Confession time: Phyllis and I made these dishes in August when corn season was at its peak. Yours truly has had a run in with a little thing called LIFE - between a beloved dog passing away, getting a new puppy and a Little Witch starting preK, we have been busy, hence the lack of posts lately AND the unseasonality of this post.

Jalapeno Corn Cakes
Makes 6 servings, 2 cakes each
Source: Sunset Magazine
1 lg egg
1 c milk
3/4 c. medium-grind cornmeal, preferably stone ground
1/2 c. flour
3/4 t. kosher salt
2 t. baking powder
1 t. chopped marjoram (optional, we omitted)
2 green onions, chopped, plus more for garnish
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
2 c. corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
1/4 c. veg or canola oil
Sour cream

Whisk egg, and milk and add the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder & marjoram stirring to combine.

Fold in chopped onions, jalapeno, and corn.

Heat 2 T. oil in large nonstick skillet over med heat and scoop 1/4 c. portions of batter into pan. Cook, turning once, until puffed and brown - total about 6 minutes.

You can also make smaller bite size cakes, they are wonderful appetizers!

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 272.4
Total Fat 14.0 g
Saturated Fat 2.8 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3.6 g
Monounsaturated Fat 6.8 g
Cholesterol 38.3 mg
Sodium 428.5 mg
Potassium 224.0 mg
Total Carbohydrate 32.2 g
Dietary Fiber 3.0 g
Sugars 3.9 g
Protein 6.7 g
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