26 October 2009

The muffin cookie

A while back I set out to find a cookie recipe that didn't contain eggs, so that even the little guy, with his egg-sensitivity, could indulge.

I settled on a pumpkin cookie recipe studded with chocolate chips. It tasted pretty good, but there was something about the texture that I just couldn't get past. It didn't really seem like a cookie to me. But I thought with a little tweaking it could perhaps make a great breakfast cookie -- sort of a cross between a muffin and cookie.

I added oats, applesauce and traded the chocolate for raisins. It's subtly sweet, dense, and, perhaps the best part, it goes down easily despite fumbling little fingers. These cookies don't hold up well over a day or two, which at first I thought was a problem. Then I realized that they hold up very well in the freezer, so problem solved. I now make a huge batch and freeze them. I pop them out one at a time and either leave them on the counter for a couple of hours or zap them in the microwave for a minute on defrost.

I'm not a nutritionist, but I don't think it hurts to get a little fruit, whole grains and vegetables in our kiddos when we can. If you're worried that your crew wouldn't like some of the ingredients, try these options: You could replace the raisins with chocolate chips if you wanted. You could chop the raisins a bit to make smaller pieces. You could even try golden raisins for a more subtle addition visually. Using instant oatmeal (versus rolled oats) will give you less of a oatmeal texture. Even still, you could toss your oats in a food processor for a minute and add that instead. You'd get the same nutritional value, but it would be harder for the picky eater to discern the oats from the rest of the cookie.

It's the perfect snack or breakfast when you're short on time or on the go. But we also like them while sitting down at the table when we've got all the time in the world.

Oats and Pumpkin Breakfast Cookie

1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup apples sauce
1 cup butter
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup raisins
1 cup oats
Additional brown sugar for topping

In a mixing bowl, combine whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, cinnamon and baking soda. Set aside. Cream together butter and sugars. Add pumpkin, applesauce and vanilla and mix to combine. Add about 1/4 of the flour mixture and mix to incorporate. Repeat, adding 1/4 of the mixture at a time until it is all combined. Next, add raisins and oats, mixing just until combined. Roll rounded tablespoons of the dough into balls and dip one side in brown sugar. Set dough ball on cookie sheet with sugared side up. Using either a glass or empty measuring cup, lightly press on the ball to flatten slightly. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 10-12 minutes. Cookies should rise slightly and a toothpick inserted should come out clean.

Makes approximately three dozen cookies.

To freeze: Place baked and completely cooled cookies on a cookie sheet, making sure no cookies are touching. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for at least three hours. Transfer cookies to an airtight container and return to freezer. To defrost, pull out as many cookies as you need and either leave at room temperature for about two hours or place in microwave on defrost until cookie is defrosted but not hot.

20 October 2009

Soup Season Begins

It's soup season, folks, and if you're the type that loves pulling out the scarves and those winter boots, I imagine you're excited about a warm bowl of soup, too.

I happen to work with a fun little business that's known for soup. Here is a reprint of its famous Tomato Orange Soup. The recipe has been printed before in several venues over the years, including The Oregonian (which is where I'm pulling the recipe from), and it'll even pop up as a commonly searched item in Google. It's that popular. Think cream of tomato soup with orange flavor. May sound strange, but the combination of rich cream and acidic juice is excellent, so don't skimp with low-fat milk or less butter, it just won't taste the same.

This recipe is delicious, but, of course, it's not quite as good as the one you'll get if you visit Elephants, but it's still worthy of a weeknight dinner. You very likely have the ingredients at home right now.

Serve it with rolls, dress it up with croutons, make it a first course or make it the entree. It's just enough of a twist on your basic tomato soup to make it memorable and a favorite for guests.

Elephants Delicatessen's Tomato-Orange Soup

Makes 4 servings

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)

1/2 medium onion, diced

2 14 1/2-ounce cans unsalted diced tomatoes with juice (see note)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup fresh orange juice

1/2 cup whipping cream

In a saucepan, melt butter; add onion and saute until translucent. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, baking soda and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered about 15 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Puree in a food processor or blender; strain through a sieve or food mill.

Return to saucepan and stir in orange juice and cream. Bring to a simmer and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve hot.

Note: S&W makes unsalted diced tomatoes. If not available, substitute regular canned diced tomatoes and omit or reduce salt, depending on your taste.

12 October 2009

Pumpkin for dessert

I'm traveling this week, so I thought I'd pull out a recipe from a 2007 blog post that's perfect for the season. Too often we think those cans of pumpkin puree are only good for pies and quick breads. But they offer so much more than that. Add it to soups, cookies, pancakes or oatmeal any time of year. And this time of year, a warm pumpkin dessert just feels right.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding is so easy, I actually pulled it off last Thanksgiving while roasting a Turkey and nursing a 7-week-old baby. Bread pudding is best made with a challah loaf or some other type of soft, sweet bread that is quite delicious in its own right. This recipe calls for an egg bread, which challah is. Brioche would also work, and, I suppose, in a pinch, you could pull some Texas Toast white, so the cubes could be nice and large.

Make it. Enjoy it. And add ice cream.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding,
Bon Appetit

Bread pudding ingredients
2 cups half and half
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1 cup (packed) plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 cups 1/2-inch cubes egg bread (about 10-ounces)
1/2 cup golden raisins

Caramel sauce ingredients
1 1/4 cups (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup whipping cream

Powdered sugar

For bread pudding: Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk half and half, pumpkin, dark brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and vanilla extract in large bowl to blend. Fold in bread cubes. Stir in golden raisins. Transfer mixture to 11x7-inch glass baking dish. Let stand 15 minutes. Bake pumpkin bread pudding until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare caramel sauce: Whisk brown sugar and butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until butter melts. Whisk in cream and stir until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes.

Sift powdered sugar over bread pudding. Serve warm with caramel sauce.

06 October 2009

Figs for me

How I never ate a fresh fig before this summer, I do not know. The fruit is subtly sweet, and it's soft flesh and tiny seeds make for a pleasing mouthfeel that's easily devoured in one bite or two.

The season will soon be gone, so pick up some fresh figs quick. Steal them from your neighbor's tree (Dan). Or buy them at your farmers market (me). Just get them fast. And, if you manage to get them home without eating them all, slice 'em, dab them with goat cheese, pop 'em in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes and then drizzle them with honey.

Serve them warm, popping the whole bite in your mouth at once. Should you have a guest who doesn't dig them, politely ask them to move over because you'll want their shares!