Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

I'm almost fairly certain that you saw this recipe, saw the word pumpkin, and thought "Enough is enough. Thanksgiving is over.  Fall is done.  Pumpkin season is, too.  Let's move on to gingerbread."

I fully support your thoughts on that.  But here in Phoenix, things like weather and seasonal flavors have a mind of their own. The day after Thanksgiving I drove home from K's to find that the tree across the street from my house had just exploded with gorgeous yellow leaves.  Trees do that here, they just sort of decide when they feel like being dressed in reds and yellows, or when they want to bring forth their own green (as a freshman in college, I found this to be the most curious and confounding thing. I still do). So I spent several minutes jumping and crunching in the leaves in the gutter, and then decided that I wanted to make one last pumpkin flavored item.

yes, I am still wearing my fall pants. no judgement.

I wanted to feel the joy that comes from eating something pumpkin when it is actually fall out and also to use up the last of my homemade pumpkin spice and puree that I really don't want to have sitting in my pantry all year reminding me of the season I always miss out on.

Serendipitously, our mother recently sent us all a text proclaiming the goodness of this recipe, the lack of fat, and finally the details of how to accomplish it.  If you'll recall from earlier guest posts by our Mum,  she's quite busy but eager to share with her daughters any new discoveries she makes in the kitchen.  As the first of the family to make the recipe, I'll allow her to share it with you in a similar fashion to her typical guest post/recipe sharing: via an enthusiastic text message.

Later notes from Mum: she made them with walnuts in the batter and cinnamon and nutmeg in the frosting and they were "stupendous". 

A few things:

1) Mum calls them muffins.  You could totally call them muffins, too, if you went without the generous slathering of cream cheese frosting that I went for.

go ahead, lick the spoon. you know you want to.

Or you could go for the cream cheese frosting, add a little maple syrup to really outdo the fall flavor, and garnish the top with your leftover pumpkin spice.  But just be real and call them cupcakes, eh?

2)  I took Mum's advice and added a handful of pecans.  I could pretend that I am totally the sort of pinterest-esque cook that ran outside to my pecan tree (I really have one of those, it's lovely) and cracked them fresh and tossed them in.  But instead I'll level with you and admit that cracking pecans is actually quite difficult, and today, I just wanted simple and easy (which these cupcakes totally fulfilled).  I'll level with you, and then we can all go back to pretending I'm that type of cook when I pin this in a few minutes.

tree-picked pecans not used in the making of this recipe

3) I called them vegan because you remove the eggs and replace with pumpkin, but for it to be truly vegan one would need to check the box mix before baking and not add the cream cheese frosting (clearly).  These could easily be gluten-free, also, if one found a gluten-free box mix instead.

There.  I'll eat this under my pecan tree and then go put up the Christmas stockings I bought for my roommates and make some gingerbread or something. Promise.  Holiday season, here we come.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Spiced Molasses Holiday Pie

After three years of various people trying this spiced molasses pie, it was time for a post update. As it turns out, this pie is a delicious hit with everyone we know. However, it seems there should be two options for different palates. Below, you'll find a recipe for a strong, rich, not-so-sweet pie and a slightly modified recipe for those who prefer a very sweet holiday treat. 

**This post was edited again in September 2014 to give a little background on our favorite special holiday pie!"

This is a recipe for a rich and gooey molasses pie with gingerbread spices that K developed three years ago. The original recipe is still in our archives, but the pie has been so popular it deserves an update. First, some background. This delightful holiday pie was born from a long review of other recipes for molasses pie and shoo-fly pie. The traditional recipes fittingly come from Pennsylvania Dutch country where our Mom grew up. They seem to have a crumb layer in addition to a "wet" molasses filling. Our version instead offers straight-up gooey goodness, with a filling that we think was originally based on this recipe in particular. (K didn't take good notes during her search, so unfortunately we've  never really been sure how it came to be, but that looks very close. If you find something that looks closer, tell us and we'll attribute it here!)

Option One: Spiced Molasses Pie with Maple Whipped Cream: Strong and Rich
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
1 cup white sugar
Splash of apple cider vinegar
3 eggs (4 if your eggs are small)
1 T vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
Nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, ground cloves to taste

Melt 1/2 cup butter, then simmer with 1/2 cup of blackstrap molasses, 1 cup of white sugar, and a splash of apple cider vinegar. Stir constantly. Remove from heat and slowly beat in 3 eggs, 1 T vanilla, 1/4 tsp. salt, and generous amounts of nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, and ground cloves to taste.

Pour filling into an unbaked pie shell and cook at 400 for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for 25 more minutes.

The molasses taste here will be rich and strong. To soften this a bit, and to make a prettier pie, pipe a thin layer of homemade maple whipped cream (1 cup heavy cream, 3 T maple syrup) over the top. The molasses lovers at your table will really enjoy slivers of the pie, especially with strong coffee or tea. The texture--soft and gooey--is amazing.

Option Two Modification: Spiced Molasses Pie with Cinnamon Whipped Cream: Sugary Sweet
For those who are entertaining a crowd that loves very sweet desserts, we recommend adding another 1/4 or 1/2 cup of sugar or reducing the molasses by 1/4 cup and replacing with a 1/4 cup of honey. With the sweeter version, we recommend topping with homemade cinnamon whipped cream rather than the maple! (Just add cinnamon to heavy cream prior to whipping.)

Crust Options
The first year, we made this with a Whole Foods frozen gluten-free pie crust, but also thought it would be tasty with the almond meal crust we use for other pies. This year, K used Smitten Kitchen's all-butter, really flaky pie dough recipe with great success. To make it gluten free, she just swapped the regular flour for equal amounts of Pamela's gluten-free artisan flour blend.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

(Easy as) Pumpkin Cream Pie

As you well know by now, K and I long for true fall every year here in the desert and our favorite way of combatting that is through food.  Parady sister classic move, right?  From this, two A&K traditions have been born - the pumpkin spice latte date (the first day of fall each year) and the Thanksgiving pie bakefest.

For the last several years, K and I have spent Thanksgiving with P's kind and welcoming family (notoriously kind - P's father washed my car for me the first time we met).  Our job is to bring the pie, and so for the last several years, pie baking has become an adventure and a favorite activity.  This year, I received an email from K titled: "November 1: THANKSGIVING DESSERTS", which should give you an idea of just how excited we get.  I'm fairly certain we traded about 25 recipes before narrowing down to our planned four and going shopping for ingredients.

This pie is one that actually didn't make the cut this year (read: better things are yet to come), but I instead made it for Friendsgiving this past Sunday, a lovely event that occurred in my side yard with lots of Christmas lights strung in the trees and potluck-style delicious food.  I am not usually a fan of pumpkin pie, but I thought I could give pumpkin cream a shot, and I am so glad I did.  This is officially The World's Easiest And Most Delicious Pie, and I think I've already made four of them, each time to rave reviews from friends and several requests for the recipe.  The only thing to plan for is time for it to chill in the fridge.

Look at Friendsgiving. Isn't it grand? We highly recommend you celebrate Friendsgiving, too.
Joy the Baker is my personal food blog hero.  She's funny, witty, feels like your best friend and also is responsible for the original posting of the recipe.  Click it, bake it, eat it, love it.  Have her become your new best food blog friend, too.  My only variation would be I only chilled it for 4-5 hours each time.  It leaves the flavors much stronger, making for a very rich pie, but myself and my friends thought that that was fabulous.

fall leaves not included.

If you are needing some last minute pie ideas, feel free to visit some favorites of years past, Spiced Molasses Pie with Maple Whipped Cream, Maple Cream Custard Pie and Maple Buttermilk Pie.
But most of all, look forward to hearing what we have been whipping up tonight for this year's treats.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Easy, Savory Tomato-Garbanzo Soup

This soup was a happy accident, the result of leftovers from a riff on Katelyn's Italian Fried Garbanzos.  I will be making it again!  It's a nice way to sneak some protein into a soup, it's hearty and filling, and it could not be easier to make.

Here's all I did:

1.  Rinse 1 can garbanzos.  Heat these, 1 sliced leek, and 4 sliced garlic cloves in olive oil, with plenty of salt, paprika, and cayenne.

2.  Once garbanzos, leeks and garlic are fried, throw them in your soup pot with the contents of two large (28 oz) cans of whole canned tomatoes.  Heat.  Blend with immersion blender.  Adjust seasonings.  Gobble, with bread and maybe some shavings of hard white cheese.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Vegetarian Pho & Banh Mi (feat. my new favorite tofu)

Last month I got married, and went to California for a week-long honeymoon road trip.  The end of the road was San Francisco, and one chilly morning when Chris went running, I took myself out for breakfast pho.  I can see why it's a morning meal in Vietnam - hot broth is very comforting in lieu of a warm bed.

Denver has plenty of delicious, delicious Vietnamese food, but I would still like to get a pho broth down, since none of it is in our neighborhood.  Last weekend I gave it a shot for a group of friends, using this recipe.  I think it really does need fish sauce for the flavor to come out right, and vegetarian "fish sauce" is not too hard to find, so don't skip that if you can help it.  Also, leaving the broth in the fridge overnight before straining out the flavor elements helped the flavor a lot. 

On the night I served it, I brought the broth to a boil and briefly boiled bok choy leaves, small squares of tofu, and paper-thin slices of onion in it.  Serve spooned over hot noodles, with jalapeno slices, lime wedges, sprouts, leaves of basil, mint and cilantro (and the wonderful lemony ngo om if you can get it), sriracha, and plum sauce on the side.  

We also served banh mi with tofu for vegetarians and pork for meat-eaters.  This tofu banh mi recipe, which advises freezing your tofu and then caramelizing it with onions in simple syrup with pepper and fish sauce, is a stunner - definitely the best tofu I've ever made; I can't wait to repurpose it for the holidays.  Served on Vietnamese baguettes (which I understand have some rice flour in them so they're a bit more chewy) with cilantro, jalapeno, pickled carrot and daikon (which you can buy at a Vietnamese market and skip making your own), cucumber, and a spread of mayo + sriracha and small amounts each of melted butter, honey, and fish sauce.

Oh, and I forgot to mention!  Dessert was red bean cakes from the same Vietnamese bakery where I picked up bread, served w/homemade green tea ice cream.

Sadly, the only pic I took in the flurry of getting everything on the table was the herbs and such waiting to be tossed into bowls of pho:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Pumpkin Seeds

You know those ideas that are pathetically simple, yet leave you wanting to run around your house fist pumping and yelling about how awesome you are?

That's only a Parady sister thing? Oh.

Well, this is one of those.

Last night I made this soup for my poor sick roommate, but only after the classic phone call to an older sister (you know this-and-this recipe that you made that one time? what if I did such-and-such to it?) that resulted in also adding squash to it at the end.

With the leftover squash seeds, genius was born.  Yes, the title of this recipe is a lie, because I couldn't resist that perfect alliteration. I didn't use pumpkin seeds, but YOU could and they would be AWESOME. *fist pumps all around*

Here's how it goes down, the simplest possible steps to feeling like a food master:

Clean seeds out of squash, rinse any leftover goo off of them.  Spread in the bottom of a baking pan.  Drizzle olive oil over the top.  Sprinkle cinnamon, sugar, and pumpkin pie spice on top.  Roast in oven until brown and crispy.  Eat whilst fist-pumping.

*As the sister who is consistently scolding the others for not taking pictures of food, I sincerely apologize for the lack of images in the post.  I was too busy basking in the brilliance. More impetus for someone else to make them, and take pictures!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Italian Fried Garbanzos with Crispy Leeks and Egg

The stretch from late spring through mid-fall was sort of a doozy for us Today I Cooked sisters.

After graduating from college, A got her first post-college job doing work on asset-based community development, said goodbye to many friends headed off on new adventures, and moved into a beautiful rental house. K passed her prospectus defense, taught in New Zealand, got married, and began a dissertation grant-writing bonanza. S did what she does best, taking on and winning complicated and intense legal battles while planning a New York City wedding that just *happened* to fall on the same weekend as Hurricane Sandy. And just like all of you who are reading, I'm sure, we were busy doing these things while trying not to be derailed by the shitty things that happen, like illness and fighting and now of course this storm, which caused so much pain for so many people who were not as incredibly fortunate as our family was.

So now it is November 1st, and S is on her honeymoon after getting on one of the last flights out of the city on Sunday. A is still stranded in New York, but safe and able to come home soon. And me? Well, I also got out of NYC on one of the last flights to clear the storm, but my sweet P is still stuck. So I've had a lot of quiet time, and today I realized that this will be the first month in which I have not flown in well over a year. 

All of which is a very, very long-winded way of saying that to celebrate the beginning of late fall and an upcoming period of relative calm and hopefully less shitty things, tonight I made a warming, filling, nourishing meal. 

Italian Fried Garbanzos with Crispy Leeks and Eggs

Note that I use canned garbanzos because I never go to the right places to buy them dried. I have no doubt dried would be better but canned works just fine. 

1 can garbanzos, rinsed and dried
1 leek, washed and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Handful of sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
Whole-grain mustard
Fresh basil if available, shredded
Italian Spices
Olive Oil
1 egg

Heat olive oil in a medium sized saute pan. Add sliced leek and minced garlic, increase heat until leeks begin to get crispy. Add the chickpeas and toss. Stir in chopped sun-dried tomatoes and generous amounts of salt, pepper, Italian spices, and fresh basil. Let fry for a few minutes, then pour into a dinner bowl. Stir in whole-grain mustard to suit your tastebuds...I was really generous with this and it was delicious.

Crack an egg into the same pan and fry to your liking. Add to chickpeas and enjoy! Would also be delicious with some good Gruyere or Parmesan melted over top and served over grains or greens.

Considerations for food allergies and ethics: dairy-free and gluten-free. Omit the egg for a vegan option.