Pumpkin Bread from The Book of Bread

One of the benefits of working at a pumpkin farm is that I can usually snatch a few Long Island Cheese pumpkins left over at the end of the season. These large, squat buff-colored pumpkins -- the same color as butternut squash -- make a particularly beautiful pumpkin puree. (This post shows you how I do it.)  As a result, I'm always looking for recipes calling for pumpkin puree.

When I have a hankering for baking any kind of bread, the first cookbook I check is The Book of Bread by Judith and Evan Jones. The writing is great -- as well it should be, as Judith was the editor for Julia Child -- and nearly every recipe I've tried has turned out beautifully, with the curious exception of muffins. This recipe for pumpkin bread was no exception. It was very moist, and just sweet enough to be a yummy breakfast treat, but not feel like I'm eating cake. As with nearly all quick breads, I think this tastes best after an evening in the fridge.

Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from The Book of Bread by Judith and Evan Jones
Makes one 9-inch loaf, or small loaves

1 3/4 cups (217 grams) white flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt or 1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) white sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup pumpkin puree (I use fresh, but you could use canned)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1/2 cup chocolate chips, chopped nuts or toasted sunflower seeds, optional (if using chocolate chips, toss in a bit of the flour so they don't sink the to bottom)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine the flour, salt, sugar and baking soda in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk together the pumpkin, oil, water, eggs and spices in a large bowl. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ones, enough to mix. Fold in the chocolate chips, nuts or sunflower seeds, if desired.

Turn into a well buttered 9-inch loaf pan (or 3 small pans) and bake in a preheated 350 oven for 50-60 minutes. (For smaller loaves, start checking at 45 minutes.) Let cool for 5 minutes or so, then turn out onto racks and cool.

My Special Recipe from Joan Rivers

About 15 years ago, my Moms club decided to do a cookbook as a fundraiser. My bright idea: contact well-known local and national mothers and ask them to contribute a recipe in order to generate interest in the cookbook. Contacting those moms was a time-consuming process, but it was fun to check the mail (yes, the mail) each day to see who sent me a contribution.

Here's one of my favorites, from Joan Rivers, the way it appeared in print. Whenever I make it in the future, I'll think of her fondly. May she rest in peace.

A recipe for using up CSA greens

As a member (and employee) of the Wickham Farms CSA program, I get lots of greens – sometimes by themselves, as in kale, spinach and collard greens, other times attached to root vegetables like beets and turnips. They are great in that they are packed with nutrients, are high in dietary fiber and are low in calories. The trouble with them, though, is that they have strong flavors that can be hard to work with.

Here’s a delicious recipe to use up a lot of those greens. The Cheddar cheese has enough flavor to stand up to the strong flavors of the greens. Plus it’s versatile: serve it warm or at room temperature, for brunch or for an appetizer.

Greens and Cheddar Squares

2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 ½ pounds beet greens, Swiss chard, mature spinach, Tuscan kale, turnip greens, mustard greens, bok choy, or a mixture, washed well and thick stems removed (reserve the edible stems of the bok choy and Swiss chard for another purpose)
3 eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus additional salt & pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped spring onion, about 2 medium (scallions may be substituted)
1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
Cooking spray

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat 1 Tablespoon butter until melted. Add half of the greens, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until greens wilt, about 3-5 minutes. Repeat with the remaining greens. (If you are using different kinds of greens, you may want to sauté separately as they cook at slightly different rates.) Drain the greens, pressing on leaves to extract as much water as possible. Let cool a bit.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, beat eggs; add flour, milk, salt and baking powder and mix well. Stir in onion and cheese.

When greens are cool enough to handle, mass them on the cutting board and chop finely. Stir greens into the egg mixture.

Spray a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Pour greens mixture into pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until top is golden brown.

Cool thoroughly; they will be gooey when they come out of the oven, but will set up as they cool. Cut into squares or triangles. Makes 48 pieces.

Spinach and Goat Cheese Grilled Cheese

The original
I visited Rochester's amazing Jazz Fest earlier this week and I can't get something out of my head.

Usually I've got an earworm that's a riff or a line from a song I've heard. This year I can't stop thinking about a sandwich.

I had a grilled cheese sandwich from a food truck called Cheesed and Confused. It had spinach, spicy mustard and goat cheese on a sturdy bread, and I paid an extra dollar for a couple of slices of tomato. (I was glad I did, because the tomato added sweetness and acidity.) Oh my, what a good sandwich. I had two people stop me on the street and ask me where I got it.

My version
It was on my mind so much that I thought I'd recreate it for lunch at home, using ingredients I had on hand. I had a good amount of spinach, because it's in season at the Wickham Farms CSA. I had honey goat cheese I had bought for another recipe, whole grain dijon mustard, Wegmans white bread with whole grain, and a tomato (not in season, but purchased for a recent family taco night). It wasn't quite as tasty as the original -- I wished I had a goat cheese with more tang, a mustard with more bite and bread with more texture -- but all in all, it was enough to alleviate its recurring presence in my brain.

 Here's how I'd make it next time:  

Spinach and Goat Cheese Grilled Cheese

Olive oil
A large handful of fresh local spinach, roughly chopped
A sturdy bread, preferably whole grain
Spicy brown mustard
A tangy goat cheese
Sliced tomatoes

Warm a teaspoon of olive oil in a medium pan. Add the spinach, season with salt and pepper and sautee until wilted, about two minutes. Remove the spinach to paper towels and squeeze out the moisture. Wipe out the pan.

Spread a slice of bread with mustard to taste. Crumble the goat cheese on top. Top with the sauteed spinach, sliced tomato and sprinkle with more goat cheese. Top with the other piece of bread. Brush the outer surfaces of the bread with olive oil. Grill over medium heat until the outsides are golden brown and the insides nice and warm.  

Hungry Girl Coming to Rochester

Lisa Lillien (aka Hungry Girl) is coming to the Pittsford Wegmans this Thursday, May 8, at 6 p.m.

I joined the daily Hungry Girl email newsletter many years ago, and followed with interest as Lisa started doing promotional appearances, then got her own show on the Food Network. Truth be told, I'd be VERY interested in learning about her business and the ascendancy of the Hungry Girl brand. She sure seems like a savvy businesswoman.

But that's not what her event is about. She's promoting her new book -- The Hungry Girl Diet -- along with products that are featured on the diet.

I agreed to help publicize this event on my blog, and was delighted to receive this great package in the mail with her The Hungry Girl Diet book and assorted Flatout products. I've been paging through the diet -- haven't jumped in yet --  and my family immediately got to work testing those Flatout goodies. We've been really been happy with them; I'll post about them separately.

Here's a link to the Facebook page for the event.

(Disclosure: I've agreed to blog about this event for a small fee. Don't tell them, but I would have done it for free.)

Easy (and Light) Coconut Cake

I had a delicious meal with my Cooking Light group yesterday. Our dessert was this coconut cake, which was easy, absolutely delicious and somewhat light (I wouldn't call it "healthy" but it's not as loaded with fat as some other desserts).

We remarked that it would be easy to color the coconut green for Easter and garnish it with some jelly beans or other candies. If I was hosting guests that liked coconut, I'd totally go that route. That's not the case, though, so I'll save it for another time!

Easy Coconut Cake
Adapted from this recipe on Cooking Light

Cooking spray
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 (18.25-ounce) package white cake mix (cake mixes have gone down in size since this recipe was written, but a regular boxed mix works)
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon coconut extract
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
1/4 cup flaked sweetened coconut
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
Coconut-Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below)
Flaked coconut for topping, optional

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with cooking spray; dust with flour.

Combine cake mix and next 5 ingredients (cake mix through egg); beat at low speed of a mixer for 30 seconds. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with flaked coconut and brown sugar; top with remaining batter. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool the cake completely in pan. Spread the Coconut-Cream Cheese Frosting over top of cake. Sprinkle with extra coconut. (You may wish to dye the coconut first – such as green for Easter.)

Light Cream Cheese Frosting 
6 ounces 1/3-less-fat block-style cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups sifted powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese and vanilla at high speed of a mixer until creamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating at low speed until well-blended.

Basics Banana Bread

During one of the many snowstorms during the past winter, I wanted to bake a comforting banana bread. All of my usual recipes, though, included ingredients, such as buttermilk, that I didn't have in the pantry or fridge. There way no way I was venturing out, so I searched the internet for a recipe the called for only the basics. I found this one on a lovely website called Urban Comfort. I adapted made it into mini loaves in an effort to exercise portion control. I'm not sure it was effective in that regard, but at any rate it was moist and just sweet enough. I'm sure it will be a part of my regular banana bread rotation.

Basics Banana Bread 
Slightly adapted from the Urban Comfort website

Unsalted butter or cooking spray
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
2 large, very ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour (or spray) a 9-by-5-inch metal loaf pan (or mini pans).

In a medium bowl, whisk the 1 1/4 cups of flour with the baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk the eggs with the oil, sugar and mashed bananas. Stir the banana mixture into the dry ingredients.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake in the center of the oven for about 50 minutes, until the bread is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool for 15 minutes, then turn the bread out onto the rack and let cool completely.

If you are using mini loaf pans, start checking at 30 minutes.

Butterscotch Bars in the Blizzard

The Blizzard made me do it.

On days like these, as Vulcan unleashes its wrath on Rochester (that's my husband and his snow blower), all I want to do is bake, bake, bake. I deliberately didn't buy chocolate chips when I went to the store yesterday, because I didn't want to be tempted to do so. (I sure don't need the calories.) That was silly; I just scrounged around and found something else to make.

This recipe, from a long-ago issue of Cooking Light, used to be in my regular rotation when the boys were little, but I haven't made it in years. Finding an open bag of butterscotch chips in the cupboard brought it to mind. It sure tastes good warm out of the oven.

Here's the recipe:

Butterscotch Bars 
Adapted from Cooking Light, January 2000
The original recipe was for a smaller pan; find the original recipe as well as the nutrition info here.

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
4 large egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray (or use the butter wrapper)
1 cup butterscotch morsels

Preheat oven to 350°. Beat sugars and butter at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended (about 4 minutes). Add egg whites and vanilla; beat well.

Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; stir well with a whisk.

Add flour mixture to sugar mixture; beat at low speed just until blended.

Spread batter evenly into an 13x9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray or butter from the wrapper. Sprinkle the batter evenly with morsels. Bake at 350° for 28 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in
center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Special Scotcheroos Fooballs

I'm a sucker for a theme, but I don't have a lot of time for fussing.

Today's Super Bowl treats: Special Scotcheroo footballs. I whipped up a batch of Special Scotcheroos, pressed them into a jelly roll pan, and refrigerated until they were not quite firm.

I cut them into football shapes. (I didn't have a football cookie cutter, so I bent an egg cookie cutter to be close to footballs.) I then used white chocolate to make the laces. (Melted white chocolate is a pain to work with because it oozes so much more than a frosting. I found it was easiest to make the center line by piping the white chocolate using a sandwich bag, then using a toothpick to make the laces.)

Fun and easy!

Karen's Ham Salad

I cooked a ham for Christmas Day leftovers, and as usual, had a ton of leftovers. My usual go-to recipe for leftover ham is my mother-in-law's recipe for open-faced ham sandwiches.

I happen to spot a post for ham salad on the lovely blog Savoury Table, written by cooking contest friend Karen Harris. It looked like a tasty way to use up ham and I thought I'd try it for a a change. It was yummy! I made it just as she did, but reduced the amount of rosemary (which I had in the freezer from CSA time), and pulsed all of the ingredients in the food processor, except the mayo. I wound up using a bit more mayo than she did.

My son and I enjoyed the ham salad on crackers. It would be a great football snack.

For the recipe, head to Karen's post at Savoury Table!