Thursday, October 28, 2010

Apple Cake and Pumpkin Bars

I am falling for fall!

I made two delicious fall desserts using my two favorite fall fruits--pumpkins and apples. Take your pick.

Pumpkin Bread with Maple Cheesecake layer

enjoyed these from Chez Us!
They fed a very hungry soccer team.

Note one substitution. Also, I made this in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. I poured most of the batter in, then swirled the cheesecake right on top, and added the remaining pumpkin batter over the cheesecake.

Maple Cheesecake Layer

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons dark amber real maple syrup, we use grade a
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 large egg

Pumpkin Spice Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda (I used 1 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp baking soda)
½ tsp salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly grated
1 teaspoon ginger, freshly grated
1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1 cup pumpkin puree, plain, not pumpkin pie
½ cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 325F. Lightly grease and flour loaf pan. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all the maple cheesecake ingredients, beat until smooth. Set aside. In another bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Set aside. Mix together pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl of an electric stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat for about 2 minutes until fully mixed. Add flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture and mix just until combined.
Fold in the pecans. Pour half of the pumpkin bread batter evenly into the loaf pan. Spoon cream cheese mixture on top of pumpkin batter layer and then pour on the remaining pumpkin batter. Bake in preheated oven for 90 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Cool the bread in the pan for about 15 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack, let cool to room temperature. Serve. Eat.

Otehlia's Skillet Apple Cake
This is the best apple cake I have had. If I may say so myself.


4-6 medium apples, peeled, cored and slices.
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup Yahara Bay Apple Brandy

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
3 tbsp vanilla or plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp soda
1 tsp salt

Crumble Topping

1/3 cup butter, cold
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp flour

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix apples pieces with 1 cup cane sugar and brandy, set aside.

Mix flour with dry ingredients in a bowl..

Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl.

Pulse all crumble ingredients except butter in food processor until crumbly. Add butter and pulse til well mixed.

Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients, then add apples.
Pour into 12 or 14" skillet. Top with crumble topping and put in oven for 30-40 minutes, until knife inserted into center comes out clean.
Let cool a few minutes, and serve (with whipped cream?).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Apples, Pumpkins and Venison, oh my!

Apple-Venison Chili and Pumpkin Bars with Almond-Graham Crust

I have fallen hard for hard cider this year. After having Furthermore's Fallen Apple on tap at the Malt House, it has become one of my favorites. I have never been a big cider fan, but am enjoying it this year as an alternative to white wine. Drummer Man bought me a bottle of organic hard cider recently (dare I tell you that he told me he bought it for me because it is cheaper than wine?!--he better not admit that on my birthday!) At any rate, I couldn't finish the whole bottle, and not wanting to waste it, was inspired to pour some into a pot of chili I was making.

The chili itself was inspired by a beautiful pack of Four Corners Gold beans that Betsy sent me from Native Seeds /SEARCH. I used to work there, and their mission stays dear to my heart: Preserving Native American heirloom seeds in the Southwest. These beans are so beautiful, mottled like a pinto horse. They retain their coloration even after cooking, and pair beautifully with a bit of onion, tomatoes and venison in a big stew pot.

What is dinner without dessert? I had a few pie pumpkins left over from my last CSA box (don't even remind me how badly I fell off the write-every-week-about-my-CSA bandwagon. Oh well. I was too busy cooking.) Anyway, this pie pumpkin called to me. So I baked it, scooped it, mixed it with some yummy ingredients, poured it over a crumbly, buttery crust, and baked some bars.

I LOVE fall, and was very happy to finally have an weather-related excuse to make soup and bake.

I can't wait to try more recipes with hard cider, but will enjoy sipping a nice, lovely glass of wine while I cook, too. (hint, hint)

Apple-Venison Chili

½ pound beans (four corners golden), soaked and boiled until soft
1 lb ground venison (or meat of your choice)
1 onion
1 large can diced tomatoes.
ancho chili powder (1 tbsp)
cinnamon (½ tsp)
chili powder (to taste)
unsweetened dark chocolate powder or bar (1-2 tsp)
1 tsp oregano
salt to taste
2 cans water (tomato can)
½ cup hard apple cider

Soak bean overnight, or do a quick soak by bringing to a boil in water, then turn off stove and let the beans soak for an hour.
Rinse the soaking water, then boil bean in fresh water til soft, about 2 hours.

Saute onion in a large soup pot in olive oil until soft. Add ground meat and saute until brown.
Add chili powders, cinnamon and cocoa powder and saute a couple more minutes.
Add tomatoes, cider and water and simmer for an hour or so, partially covered, until it's yummy.
Salt to taste.
Venison on FoodistaVenison

Pumpkin Bars

Preheat oven to 350.


1 cup ground graham crackers
½ cup ground almonds
1 tsp sugar
½ cup butter, softened
pinch salt

Okay this is approximate. Basically pulse the crackers, nuts in processor until you have the quantity you need. Add in butter and spices, pulse again.
Press into 9x13 pan.
Bake at 350 about 5 minutes.


Scoop and clean pumpkin halves. Turn cut side down onto oiled baking sheet and bake at 350 til soft.
Scoop out about 1.5 cups of pumpkin—or use canned:)
mix with 1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1/2 cup each sugar, brown sugar
pinch or more of cinnamon, ginger, vanilla
pinch salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup flour
2 tbsp masa harina (not corn meal!)

Mix pumpkin with all other ingredients until blended well.
Pour over pre-baked crust.
Bake at 350 about 30 minutes until filling is set.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Love at First Bite-Milwaukee

My husband, Drummer Man, and I spent a weekend last month in Milwaukee. Without kids.
We were there for a very special occasion--our anniversary, and the celebration of our dear friends' wedding. And celebrate we did.

I have never spent much time in Milwaukee, even though it is just over an hour from Madison. We stayed downtown, right along the river which is a beautiful part of the city--whether you are a partying college kid, or grownups celebrating another year of marriage.

But first things first. We started the weekend right after work Friday. My mom stayed with the kids, bless her heart, and my husband and I drove straight from Madison to Milwaukee for a night on the town.

At the recommendation of Lori from Burp! we went to Crazy Water. Lori recommended so many places that sounded great, but we like the name, and the menu, at Crazy Water.

I loved it. The atmosphere was lively, yet cozy, and the wait staff seated us in a little bench-nook. It was the best seat in the house. We must have been giving off the married-couple-spending-anniversary-without-kids vibe.

The food was great, featuring lots of local flavors combined in delectable ways. We started with a bacon, escarole and apple salad with cheddar cheese dressing. And wine. For the main course I had a perfectly sweet and tender pulled pork with rice, and Drummer Man had lamb medallions and risotto. Great food in a great spot.

Fast forward 12 hours. Though tempted to stop in a brew pub or two, my husband and I spent our first morning at the Milwaukee Public Market. What a great place! An old warehouse converted into a market where you can buy anything from fresh cheeses, to sweets, to amazing baked goods, to meat and fish. We decided to grab coffee and a pastry--a chocolate sticky bun, I think--and take it to the burrito place near the front entrance. We had a hard time choosing between all of the amazing burrito options, but settled on a Chipotle Chicken burrito and a Steak Burrito Verde.

I enjoyed our weekend a lot. We reveled in the luxury of finishing sentences, thoughts and meals together. And we shared our love with our friends by drumming and dancing at their wedding.

We have been married 3 short years, but it is as if our love has grown like a tree; a strong trunk supports bountiful, supple branches and sweet fruit. But enjoying the sweet reward of the (sometimes very) hard work of marriage wasn't my favorite part; it was sowing new seeds of love.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dancing for Love and Shrooms

I raked in more tips after dancing last weekend than ever before.

Hey, not that kind of dancing—it was African Dance! WADOMA had the great privilege of performing at the annual Monroe Street Festival in Madison, WI.

And since I don't usually receive tips, two tips—both money and food—was a lot.

We had a great time dancing, although I have to say it chalks up to one of the weirdest performances of the season. We usually dance barefoot, but October 2, 2010 proved to be a chilly day. So we donned sneakers and fleece-lined boots. And vests, and long sleeve shirts. And then stuck some cowrie shells on top to make it look African, which it did not, and we are not, so it was a bit of a stretch.

It was a very family-friendly performance. Many of the kids in the audience decided that they would also like to perform, and danced their way onto the stage. Every once in a while we had to scoot them over so we would not kick them. I think they did a better job of capturing the audience attention than we did.

My husband, Drummer Man, and I often bring our two kids, King of the Mountain and Queen of the World, to these performances, and usually they do a good job of “letting” me perform. But not this day. Queen Fiona clung to my leg, oblivious to the jostling as I danced. King Jarra mouthed, mid-performance, “I'm thirsty! Mooooom! I'm thirsty!” I tried to mouth back, “Wait!” but it was lost on the back of his head as he turned to climb a wall after a friend. Queen Fiona returned to her post at my leg and whispered, “I have to pee.” We are smack in the middle of our coupe decaler number. But professional I am, and as I continue to dance I ask my friend, who is seated about 12 inches from my nose, to take her. Whew!

I guess our performance earned the generous tip one youngster gave me. As she handed me a shiny nickle, she whispered, “You dance beautifully.” I love that girl. It made my day.

The icing on the cake was the large hunk of Maitake (Hen of the Woods) mushrooms that Donovan gave me. He had been pushing a cart loaded with ruffled-edged mushrooms around, selling them for $12/pound. I never, ever experiment with mushrooms, but these beauties were handed to me. Did he know what that meant to me? He instructed me to soak them in salt water, then simply saute in butter with salt, pepper. I didn't want any of the mushrooms to go to waste—the chunk probably weighed about 5 pounds—so I shared with another dancer, and a friend.

The rest I soaked and sauteed as instructed. The first night, we ate them on top of organic beef burgers. Their meaty flesh was like a burger itself. They were so flavorful. The next night they topped homemade pizza. The favorite? A flame-grilled pie topped with homemade sauce from golden tomatoes, the Hen of the Woods and provolone cheese. The one pictured here has olive oil, pesto and sun-dried tomatoes. Simply delicious.

Earning these tips, weird as they were, gave me such a feeling of love that the chill of the October air just seemed to disappear.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

POM Wonderful Moose Track Mousse

Looks can be deceiving. Take the dragon fruit, for example, the spiny, magenta fruit that many of my fellow food bloggers such as Megan at Foodalution have been sampling lately. Spiky and dangerous on the outside, sweet and creamy on the inside.

POM-Lime Mousse is another example. At least the way I made it. I started out with high hopes after the generous people at POM Wonderful sent me a box of POM juice. My mind immediately went to beautiful, whipped magenta mousse. Perfect, I thought.

Lime and pomegranite juice seemed like a marriage made in heaven. Tart, crisp flavors, beautiful colors all melded into a light, frothy dessert.

I followed the basic recipe I found on Kevin Week's Seriously Good blog; it seemed easy and straightforward.

I replaced some of the lime juice with POM juice (I did not have key limes, but used regular lime juice instead.) The color was brilliant. I was psyched. In another sauce pan I heated the egg yolks (some mousse recipes only use whites, but since these eggs were fresh from my very own chickens, I couldn't bear to waste the yolks). The minute I added in the POM and lime juice to the egg yolks, I realized my mistake. The concoction turned a beautiful shade of...brown.

I forged ahead, making a mental note to add the POM juice later next time. I dissolved the gelatin, added it to the thickened yolks and let it cool. Maybe a little too much. The yolk-juice mixture quickly turned into a stiff glop. This was not looking good, but the flavor, upon testing, was delicious. Waste not, want not.

I beat the egg yolks into stiff peaks, whipped the cream, then folded them together. Now, to add the gelatinous brown glop. So I did. At that point, I decided that I couldn't name this mousse POM-anything. It looked more like Moose Track ice cream, white and creamy with brown chunks throughout. Hence, the name Moose Track Mousse. It was not pretty. But it was tasty. Very tasty. Sometimes our failures are, in fact, great accomplishments.

If I did again, I would do differently. I would be ready to mix in the yolk mixture before it congealed. I would also mix POM into the whipped cream and then fold that gently into the egg yolk/white mixture to retain the beautiful color. Or I would use an egg-white only mousse recipe.

POM-Key Lime Mousse

1/3 c fresh Key lime juice (8-10 Key limes)

1/3 cup POM
3 tbsp warm water
1 pkg unflavored gelatin
4 ea large eggs — separated, at room temperature
1 tbsp lime zest
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c sugar
1 c chilled whipping cream

Sprinkle gelatin over warm water and set aside to soften.

Whisk yolks in a small saucepan to blend. Then whisk in POM-lime juice, 1/2 cup sugar, and lime zest. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens to the consistency of heavy cream. Remove from heat and stir in gelatin and vanilla extract. Set pan in cold water and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form.

In another large bowl, beat whipping cream until soft peaks form, add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff.

Fold egg whites into whipped cream. In increments of a third, fold lime mixture into whites and cream. You can either divide the mixture into 6 individual serving dishes or leave in the large bowl. Chill until set. Serves 6.