Archive | pumpkin RSS feed for this section

Jurassic Pie Party complete with Dinosaur-Sized Wine

29 Oct

IMG_0560.JPG
Do you ever have a lot of things just sort of serendipitously collide at the right time?
I did not have a lot of these things happen but for name-related reasons I was absurdly pleased to receive wine from Modern House Wines to try. One of them was a GIANT bottle called, quite cheekily, “Go Big”. The name pleased me because I got this wine right before the next installment of Pie Party I was throwing with my friends Alice and Joel: Jurassic Pie.

IMG_0561-0.JPG

Dinosaurs are big. So was this wine. It was meant to be! More about the vino in a bit but…this party. You guyssssss, this party!

This was a Jurassic Pie Party, so-themed because I had dinosaur cookie cutters I really wanted to use. I decided that gingerbread dinosaurs would be exceptional parading across a pumpkin pie. I was so very right. Jungle-ish attire was suggested-I only rummaged up some leopard print but that’s okay.

We were also going to have a velociraptor dance contest. Somehow large amounts of pie(s), gingerbread cookies, Manhattans, and wine got in the way of that. But I’m sure there would have been some priceless velociraptor action if we actually got around to it.

IMG_0559.JPG
This was the infamous high-brow/low-brow dual crusted Frito-crusted pie, partially responsible for lack of ability to dance.

I had cookie cutters for a t-rex, a velociraptor, a triceratops, a brontosaurus, a pterodactyl and my personal favorite, the stegosaurus. Since the upscale frito-crusted pie I’ve been perfecting is sort of tex-mex we re-christened the t-rex as a T-Mex. He listens to Ice-T. This pie was demolished rapidly, and the pumpkin pies and apple tart fell almost as fast.

Joel and I were pitting a couple of different pumpkin pies against each other. His was a classic condensed milk recipe and mine involved evaporated milk and sugar. We ended up agreeing one wasn’t necessarily better than the other because they are two different breeds of pie. Mine had a lot more spices and his was a bit lighter, I thought, and tasted more purely of pumpkin. So it all depends what you are after.

The biggest winner(s) of the night though were the gingerbread cookies. I usually have good luck with Baking Illustrated and seeing as their classic gingerbread is my favorite gingerbread, I figured they would not let me down in the gingerbread cookie department. Good lord did they not.

Another important thing learned was that if you want to give your stegosaurus candy corn spikes then you need to freeze the candy corn before baking so it does not melt and spread.

The dealio on the vino. They are made for Target. Oprah likes them. I like that vintner behind them, Alexis Swanson Traina is female. That is rare, being as the booze-world in general seems to be largely a boys club. That may just be my perspective, I dunno, but if you have proof that the ratio of women vintners to male is equal, I would like to see it.

These wines are the wine equivalent of shopping at Target: Too easily done and you will end up consuming more than you planned. All of which is to say I enjoyed the wine. Really, very pleasant wines. Juicy. Not very dinosaur-y. But that is okay. Sometimes it is about size.

The normally-sized bottle I received is called Help is Here: light bodied, some spice, berries, makes me think of eating fluffy gingerbread on a hill. Enjoyable. Mildly vegetal in a good way. Smooth. Sweet.

Both pair well with these wondrous cookies. This recipe makes a decent amount of them but they were devoured practically before the party started. Dinosaurs are not as filling as one would think.

Gingerbread Cookies adapted from Baking Illustrated from the folks behind America’s Test Kitchen
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (measured by stirring the flour then dipping the measuring cup in then leveling the top)
3/4 cup light brown sugar (the book say to use dark but light is all I had)
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened but still cool, sliced up
3/4 cup molasses (pro tip:grease your measuring cup first and it will m=be much easier to get all the molasses out)
2 Tbsp. milk (I used almond)
In a food processor, process the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt just to blend. Strew the butter pats over and process until it looks sandy, around 15 seconds. With machine running, pour in the molasses and milk slowly and process until evenly moistened and forming mass.
Scrape it out and divide in two. Roll out each part between two sheets of parchment paper to 1/4 of an inch (I did some thinner to make them crisp enough to stand up) then put them on a sheet in the freezer for about 15 minutes until firmed up.

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line baking sheets with parchment. Take out your first section of dough. Remove top parchment paper then replace. Flip it over and flip and discard that parchment. Cut yer cookies and bake ten-ish minutes give or take. They will be set and if you stick a finger in one the impression will remain. But DO NOT over bake. Molasses is horrible when burnt.Let them cool on the sheet a couple of minutes then carefully transfer to racks. They will firm up more as they cool. Repeat over and over with the rest of the dough. Every time I rerolled scraps I had to stick them in the freezer again for a while so this is a process but it is worth it. I cooked these one sheet a a time. If you want to decorate with candy corn freeze the candy corn first or you will have a sugary melty mess. It will still taste good, if you are into straight up sugar which obviously I am since I like candy corn, but it will not retain the shape. So freeze it up. Bake it up. Do the dinosaur.

Best hits and what may come for the Gruel: Opinions wanted

31 Dec

20131230-163916.jpg

Happy happy! It is a new year. Yayza. In this delightful little post I am going to recap part of vacay, make a proposal, and then recap a few favorites on this lil’ blog of mine.

I went to St. Louis for Christmas. Whilst there, with my lovely fwife Eleanor I went to the MOST awesome of places, Blood and Sand. The MOST friendly of people work there. They can deduce exactly what you MOST want to drink, even if you do not know.

I drank the two MOST fantastical drinks, along with eating some MOST delightful truffled tater tots. One of the drinks had the MOST awesome of names: “Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives”. It was so much the MOST of the most-ousitous of times. The drink consisted of Rittenhouse rye, brown sugar simple, Punt e Mes, lemon juice, allspice dram and rosé sparkling. If rye and apple pie had an alcoholic child, this would be it. I am contemplating if the different elements of the name stand for different ingredients of the drink, and if so, which. I intend to recreate this come heck or high water. Clearly high standards I have for 2014.

I want to get y’all’s opinion on something. What if I did little restaurant/bar/food reviews from time to time? I do like to get out of the house to dine, shockingly enough. Between trying new recipes for the Gruel and also for my Hello Giggles column The Book Cook, I am getting a bit stressed. And much as I love writing and food-oriented opportunities I want to keep my mind on the acting game and not get too distracted. I still would still do mostly recipes, and I have some exciting theme weeks like a “Carrot Caked” week planned, but I’d like to have the options. I’d like to try new things, maybe even recommend a wine or two from time to time. Could be fun. Why am I nervous about this? I feel like I am asking you to go on a date or something.

It’s my blog and I can do what I want, obviously, but I want to know if there are any major objections out there to the review thing. Ooh, I may not be asking you on a date but maybe I could even go on some blogger dates and tell you about them. There are some LA bloggers I’d like to meet. That would be fun for all. I think.

Okay, now a little bit of year end wrap-up. Because I can. I am going to link you up with some of your most favorite-est recipes. I’m basing popularity, or at least reader interest, on the stats of what was clicked on the most. I’d also like to round up some of MY favorite things, especially from the early days of the blog when my photography sucked even more and not many folks were reading. I could revisit the less viewed recipes and get some better shots of them. Maybe next week. The blog may be a bit more sporadic in January and February, so don’t freak out or anything. I’m still here.

Oddly enough, the recipe that got THE MOST hits this year was this one for a clear chocolate martini. Quite frankly I am a wee bit distressed by y’all’s standards. Is a clear chocolate martini really what you want? With a photo like this?:
20120930-002719.jpg
I am disturbed. But my hope was renewed when I saw the second most clicked upon recipe was for Mark Bittman’s Creamed Bulgur and entitled Bulgur Not Vulgar which of course means it was NOT a chaste entry. But delicious:
20131009-210958.jpgNext up was a Pumpkin Polenta Pizza I would deem to be worthy, taste-wise if not aesthetically, of a few more clicks:
20120404-010431.jpg
Next-most clicked upon this year, and the most clicked upon of all time is this pumpkin soup:
20120423-220546.jpg
It helps that the photo was pretty, I imagine. But I was proud of my recipe too.
The least popular recipe, at least as I write this, was from the long-ago waffle week. I waffled a bran cracker. Enough said.
20120225-015123.jpg

Me me me

29 May

20130529-153035.jpg
This is a totally selfish acting post. I figure I gave you five freakin’ delicious pumpkin recipes last week, and that should tide you over nicely.
So the acting news is that I’m on the telly this Friday the 31st on the Chiller Network. It’s an anthology of five short films called “Chilling Visions: the 5 Senses of Fear” and I am in the short called “Listen My Children”. It is going I air a few times this Friday starting at 9pm eastern time and so if you get the Chiller, I do so hope you check it out! I think “Listen My Children” is the last in the line-up of shorts.
Think of it as gruel for your eyeballs.

Third Annual Pumpkin Week in Spring Day Five: Black and White Pumpkin Cookies

24 May

20130323-171420.jpg

It ain’t a good meal if there isn’t dessert at some point. Seriously. I HAVE to have dessert every day. Just like I have to have a bedtime snack. I need a bedtime snack. I’ve practically broken up with a guy because he never had food at home. Sometimes I like my bedtime snack to be followed by it’s own special dessert. Considered breaking up with someone over that too.

Get yer mind out of the gutter Cliffy!

I am en route soon to do my second show with my improv group, Commonwealth at the Neon Venus Theatre, so I best be getting out of the gutter and into the game.

Then when the night is over I shall have rum, and maybe, just maybe, a cookie.

Incidentally, these cookies are not really black and white. They are black and beige (from the cinnamon) and orange. The world ain’t just black and white and has much more than just variants on the color grey.

Crud, I was headed back into the gutter there.

Black and White Pumpkin Cookies adapted oh so slightly from the Joy the Baker Cookbook by Joy Wilson
Cookies:
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
1 15 oz. can of pumpkin
1 tsp. vanilla
White Frosting:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Up to 1 tsp. water
Chocolate Frosting:
2 oz. (about 6 Tbsp.) oz. bittersweet chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli)
1 heaping Tbsp. butter
Pinch salt
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
FOR COOKIES:
Heat the oven to 325 F, line a baking sheet or two with nonstick foil.
Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In another bowl whisk your eggs and sugar. Put some muscle into it, you want it to get jut slightly lighter in hue. Then whisk in pumpkin, applesauce and vanilla. Fold in the flour mixture until totally incorporated. Dollop by heating tablespoons onto the sheet and spread to a 2-inch circle. Bake, start checking around ten minutes doing the clean toothpick test. When you stick it in the middle and it comes out clean, take them out if the oven and put pan on a wire rack for ten minutes, then grab a spatula and move cookies to the wire rack to cool.
FOR GLAZES:
Whisk powdered sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and cinnamon, adding water drop by drop if necessary until it is spreadable.
Melt the chocolate and butter. I put my chocolate in the microwave for 2 minutes at 50 percent power, then add butter and stir. Continue to zap at 50% for shorter periods of time, stirring when you stop, until it is melted. Add the salt and corn syrup.
Turn the cookies over so you are putting the frosting on the flat side. Spread on, half and half, then give them some time for the frosting to get firm. Teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony. Then eat.

Third Annual Pumpkin Week in Spring Day Four: Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

23 May

20130420-233857.jpg

Omg you guys, there’s like, totally another Ellen. I’m not talking about Degenerous either. There’s another Ellen food blogger who calls her blog Ellen in the Kitchen and naturally I am seized with the fear that she may be prettier, recipe-er and wittier than I. So I say to myself, “Cliffy, it ain’t a competition”, which is true. At least that is what I’m saying to myself. I must say she did well with this soup which I changed only a little bit from the original recipe.

Pumpkin black bean soup is luscious, it almost has chocolate notes. That was the only inspired prose I had for you.

So I fed it to the same gentleman who gave me the description of “gourmet McNuggets” when I asked him about his sweetbreads, and this description made it past my editor at Blackboard Eats in my Joe’s review, so naturally I will quote him here.

He said “tastes like autumn”.

Feel the brilliance.

He also mentioned that this bowl of autumn would be good with croutons. He was eating the last of my soup (I accidentally typed soul instead of soup which may be accurate too) when he mentioned the croutons so I didn’t try it yet.

Perhaps one of you would like to prove him right.

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup adapted from this here blog
1 cup pumpkin purée
1 can o’ black beans (about half of them mashed with a fork)
1 cup of diced tomatoes (I used canned)
Olive oil spray
1/4 c. Diced onion
1 clove minced garlic
2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
Dash cayenne
2 c. Veggie broth
It’s easy. Spray a pot with olive oil. Sauté the onion and garlic in it. Add everything else. Simmer to thicken. Purée with ye olde immersion blendere.

Third Annual Pumpkin Week in Spring Day Three: Pumpkin balls

22 May

20130421-010510.jpg

I must interrupt this regularly scheduled pumpkin post to pimp my acting. I had the joy of acting in this lil’ ditty:

Beware the Gluten Monster!

Now onto this recipe. Which is NOT free of The Dreaded Gluten.

Pumpkin balls?
Hell to the friggin’ yes.
This is Thanksgiving in a ball.

Pumpkin Balls adapted from the allrecipes app
Olive oil spray
1/4 c. Onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. dried sage
1 1/2 pieces wheat bread, toasted and crumbled
6 Tbsp. pumpkin purée
2 Tbsp. beaten egg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 375 F. Spray a pot with olive oil and sauté the onion until soft and clear, then add garlic and sage and sauté a bit longer. Transfer to a bowl and stir in everything else. Shape into balls. Put them on a greased or Pam-ed baking sheet and bake until firm, around 15 minutes.

Third Annual Pumpkin Week in Spring Day Two: Pumpkin protein pancakes

21 May

20120429-015730.jpg
In a shocking move on my part, I’m going to say these are not the pancake to put butter on.
Observe cottage cheese and cinnamon topping.
It’s Tuesday. You’re busy, I’m busy (doing my mistress) and I think I should just get on with the goods.
Pumpkin Protein Pancakes from the NuNaturals recipes originally from Foods of April
1/2 c. Cottage cheese
1/2 c. Liquid eggs whites(3-ish)
1/2 c. Pumpkin
1/3 c. Oats
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking powder
A few drops of liquid stevia
Use a blender, food processor or immersion blender(weapon of my choice) and blend.
Heat up a pan or griddle, give a spray of something non-stick, and cook em up.