Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bonus Thanksgiving Post: Pumpkin Cookies and a Dairy Free, Egg Free Pumpkin Pie

Moe has taken a couple of trips to the allergist recently for some tests to determine whether or not he can eat some things with milk or eggs. The official word from the doctor is that YES, he can absolutely eat any baked good with those ingredients: bread, cake, cookies, muffins, etc. He is still allergic to eggs and dairy products--he still can't eat cheese or scrambled eggs or quiche or even pumpkin pie or meatloaf with egg mixed in--but donuts and cupcakes and brownies (so long as they don't contain nuts) are fair game. The allergist also advised me to serve him these kinds of treats EVERY DAY to help him build his resistance, and maybe down the road he'll be able to eat more and more dairy and egg products.

I want to share two recipes with you today; one is the dairy-free egg-free pumpkin pie that I make almost every year for Moe. This year he decided he wanted pumpkin cookies instead (made with real egg, of course), so I'm going to share that recipe, too.

I remember when Joe and I were newlyweds, he mentioned that his mom used to make pumpkin cookies when they were kids, so could I please make him some? I pulled out the only cookbook I owned at the time, The Joy of Cooking. I followed the recipe exactly, and when they were finished, Joe took one look at them and said, "Oh, no, those don't look anything like the ones my mom made." You can imagine how crushed I felt right then, until Joe took one bite and exclaimed, "These are DELICIOUS!!" All was forgiven.


(It's supposed to make 5 dozen, but really it only makes about three dozen.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream together:

1 cup butter or shortening

1 cup sugar

Add and mix well:

1 cup cooked pumpkin

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift together and add to above mixture:

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

Stir in:

1 cup chopped nuts*

1 cup raisins*

Drop cookies onto a well-greased cookie sheet and bake about 15 minutes.

*Moe is allergic to nuts, and I didn't have any raisins; so I substituted about half a bag of chocolate chips (about 6 oz.)

From The Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker; 1995 edition, p. 709

What I love about these is that they have a cake-like consistency, kind of like a little cookie-sized muffin. Someday I'll try making a gluten free version, because it was absolute torture taking these out of the oven knowing I can't eat them.

Now for the pumpkin pie (sorry I don't have a picture):

Dairy-Free, Egg-Free Pumpkin Pie

Makes 6 servings.

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
1 cup low-fat soy milk or rice milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
9-inch unbaked pie shell

In a large bowl, mix all filling ingredients, blending until smooth.
Pour into crust and smooth the top. Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees
F, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Bake until
filling is set, about 50 to 60 minutes. Chill.


Moe loves this pie (although I will admit that the rest of us have never been brave enough to try it), and one year on the day after Thanksgiving, Grandma B. let him eat a piece of it for breakfast. He thought he had died and gone to heaven. And if I make this one at Christmas, I will be sure to post a photo!

Have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Choice: Grilled Shrimp Kebabs with Watermelon-Pineapple Salad

Our heroes, Gabby and Travis, have spent a fun-filled day with Travis' friends and family. They've gone swimming, parasailing, and had a feast on the beach. (Click here for more, and to see what we cooked.)
When they return in the late afternoon, everyone is tired. Gabby plans to return to her house next door to relax, and maybe give her boyfriend a call. Travis invites her to have dinner with him instead--shrimp kebobs grilled on his deck. How could she resist?

I had some tomato-less peach barbecue sauce that I picked up at the farmers' market a while back, and decided to try it on the shrimp.

I was able to find local peppers in a variety of colors.

Ready to go on the grill. Joe bought those skewers in Turkey not long before we met. I've always wanted to go to Turkey...

She peeked at the skewered shrimp and brightly colored peppers and onions. As if on cue, her stomach grumbled. "Wow," she murmured, hoping he didn't hear it. "They look great." (The Choice, p. 127)

Travis serves slices of pineapple on the side. I decided I wanted to have something even better, and I remembered a cookbook my children bought for me years ago for my birthday:

Joe had taken the kids to Border's (oh, how I will miss that store) to help him choose a book I would like. In the cookbook section, I'm told, little Curly spotted The African Kitchen and decided right then and there THAT was the book they were getting and would settle for nothing less. It was written by a chef who has worked in various safari camps and lodges in the African wilderness. (One recipe is called "How To Build a Pizza Oven Out of a Termite Mound in Less Than Two Hours." I kid you not.)
I have to admit I haven't cooked much from this particular book, but there is one recipe which we all love, and it's super-easy and amazingly delicious:


1 lb 2 oz watermelon, cut into bite-sized chunks (Seriously, who actually weighs their watermelon to see if it's exactly 1 lb 2 oz? I chose a small seedless one from the produce section.)
1 lb 2 oz pineapple (Whatever, they're all about the same size, anyway)
1 onion, thinly sliced
1-2 tbsp cilantro
6 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
Place the fruit, onion, cilantro, lime juice and red wine vinegar in a bowl. Toss, add pepper to taste, then chill before serving. (From The African Kitchen by Josie Stow and Jan Baldwin, p. 72)

Delicious with a gluten-free Redbridge beer!

As we're getting ready for Thanksgiving (Oh, that gives me an idea! I have a dairy-free egg-free pumpkin pie that I make every year for Moe. I'll try to share that with you if I have time), I'm already thinking about what my next project will be: a chicken and pasta meal like the one Gabby will cook for Travis, only better.

Oh, and I finished Nick's latest book, The Best of Me. Everything you hope for in a Nicholas Sparks novel, and more! Well done as always, Nick. What am I reading now? Late, Late, at Night: A Memoir by the ever-dashing (even at age 62) Rick Springfield. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with that one, to tell you the truth; it's fascinating, but with lots of TMI, if you know what I mean. I hope I can finish it.

I don't know if I'll be back here before Turkey Day (unless I post that pumpkin pie recipe; and I might put that one over on Musings of a Catholic Mom), so let me take this opportunity to wish you all a very blessed Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Choice: Jalapeno Popper Sliders With Beans and Fall Fruit Crisp

There are LOTS of great things cooking in The Choice.

The story? Travis Parker is single. He lives in Beaufort, North Carolina, where he grew up. Gabby Holland, also single, has just moved in next door. Gabby has a boyfriend, Kevin, who lives in Morehead City. She also has a dog, Molly. When Molly ends up pregnant, Gabby is convinced that the father is Travis' boxer, Moby. Gabby confronts Travis with her suspicions, and Travis assures her that Moby is not the dog that knocked Molly up; and besides, she might not be pregnant, and maybe she should take her to the veterinarian to have her checked out. When Gabby takes Molly to the vet, she discovers two things: that the veterinarian is Travis, and that Molly is indeed pregnant. When the time comes for Molly to give birth, Travis is right there to help. Over the next few days, Travis offers advice and help for Molly and the puppies, and he invites her to join him and his friends one Saturday for a morning of parasailing, swimming, an picnicking on the beach. Reluctantly, she goes along.

Okay, let's pause it for a second. I've been to the beach many times, and many times I've seen boats go by towing a person and a parachute high in the sky behind it. I always say to myself, "That's insane. Why on earth would I ever want to tie myself to the back of a boat and allow it to pull me through the air?" It's like water-skiing--which I hate--only worse. Parachute or no parachute, I'd be scared to death. (I pretty much feel the same way about hang gliding and skydiving.) But I will tell you this: after reading about Travis and Gabby's parasailing adventure, I've started to rethink my attitude towards it, and maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all. Check this out:

"Look over there!" he said, pointing. "There's a ray! Can you see it?"

She saw it, black and sleek, moving beneath the surface like a slow-motion butterfly.

"And a pod of dolphins! Over there! Near the banks!"

As she marveled at the sight, her nervousness started to subside. Instead, she began to soak in the view of everything below--the town, the families sprawled on the beaches, the boats, the water. As she relaxed, she found herself thinking that she could probably spend an hour up here without ever growing tired of it. It was extraordinary to drift along at this elevation, coasting effortlessly on a wind current, as if she were a bird. Despite the heat, the breeze kept her cool, and as she rocked her feet back and forth, she felt the harness sway. (The Choice, p. 105-106)

After parasailing, everyone gathers on the beach for a cookout:

They reached for some plates as they eyed the appetizing variety of side dishes spread out on the table--beans, casseroles, potato, cucumber, and fruit salads--all of which smelled delicious. Gabby grabbed a bun, added some ketchup, mustard, and pickles, and held out her plate. Travis...lifted a burger from the side of the grill and added it to her bun.

He scooped some fruit salad onto his plate; Gabby added a taste of pretty much everything. When she was finished, she looked at both their plates with an almost guilty expression, which Travis thankfully didn't seem to notice. (The Choice, p. 115-116)

In almost every Nicholas Sparks novel, someone grills burgers. Or steaks, or hot dogs. I decided since we grill burgers at least twice a month (even in winter), always the same way, that this cookout in The Choice was a good excuse to try something different. I remembered a summer issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine that had all kinds of recipes for burgers, and that I hadn't tried any of them yet. I thumbed through the magazine and found this one:

POPPER SLIDERS (Of course, I had to try it because we love spicy things, and since going gluten free I haven't been able to eat jalapeno poppers)

3 fat, fresh jalapeno chile peppers

EVOO (That's Rachael Ray Speak for Extra Virgin Olive Oil) or vegetable oil, for drizzling

1 red fresno chile pepper, sliced*

8 oz cream cheese, softened

2 tbsp grated onion

1 large clove garlic, grated or pasted

A small handful of cilantro leaves, finely chopped

1/2 tsp ground cumin

Salt and pepper

2 lbs coarsely ground beef sirloin (lean) or chuck (fattier)

1 brick (2-by-2-inch) sharp yellow cheddar or smoked yellow cheddar cheese (about 4 oz), thinly sliced

12 slide rolls, such as 3-inch brioche rolls or cornmeal -topped rolls, split

Get Started: Preheat an outdoor grill, indoor griddle, or grill pan to medium-high heat.

Step 1: Cut off and discard the tops of the jalapenos. Using an apple corer or fork handle, scoop out and discard the seeds; slice the jalapenos into strips or rounds.

Step 2: Heat a little EVOO in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, add the halapeno and fresno chile peppers* and toss for a couple of minutes until crisp-tender and charred at the edges.

Step 3: Combine the cream cheese, onion, garlic, cilantro, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Season the beef with salt and pepper,** form 12 patties (thinner at the center). Coat with EVOO, grill or griddle for 2 to 3 minutes. Fip and top with some cream cheese mixture and sliced cheese.

Step 4: Grill with the lid down (or tent with foil) until the cheese is melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve on the rolls topped with the chile pepper slices.

*I couldn't find fresno chile peppers, so I used poblanos instead.

**Moe wanted me to mix some of the jalapeno pieces in with the meat; I was happy to oblige, and they were great.

(From the June/July 2011 issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray, p.112)

The leftover cream cheese mixture makes a GREAT dip for corn chips!

I ended up making 10 sliders instead of 12, so they were slightly larger, but still on the smallish side. We had to make a couple without cheese for Moe.

I found these rolls at the farmers' market, made at a local bakery.


I found some local baby lima beans at the farmers' market.

I chopped a few slices of bacon and browned it; then I steamed the lima beans slightly and added them to the skillet. After cooking and stirring them together for a few minutes, they were ready. Easy-peasy!

When I make a fruit crisp, I don't really follow a recipe. On this night I chopped up some local pears and apples and added some honey, cinnamon, and cornstarch. I made a topping of about half a stick of butter, and about a half cup each of rolled oats, brown sugar, and gluten-free Bisquick, along with a little salt and cinnamon. I sprayed a baking dish with cooking spray, added the fruit mixture, and sprinkled on the topping. I baked it at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes.

Great with ice cream! (Store-bought this time.)

Gabby, Travis, and their friends arrived back at Travis' house late in the afternoon. The group dispersed quickly as some couples had young children who were tired. But guess what? Gabby and Travis had another meal together that night, and I'll share that one with you next time!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Dear John: "Cowpuncher" Beef Stew with Cornmeal Dumplings

October was a busy month for us. I haven't had much time for blog posting. I did manage to try three new cooking projects for this blog, though; my apologies for not getting them to you until now. First came a new beef stew I hadn't made before, and I think these cool November days are great for a hearty bowl of warm stew! (Check out the beef stew I made around this time last year.)

We've been slowly making our way through Dear John; we've met John and Savannah and witnessed the beginning of their romance. But as is the case with many romances--especially the ones in Nicholas Sparks' novels--there is often a time of separation between the two characters. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it also presents many challenges, too. (Did you know Joe and I lived 200 miles apart when we first started dating? That wasn't easy, but we persevered and now we've been married for sixteen years. Someday I'll share our story with you.) John's furlough from the Army came to an end, and he had to go back to his base in Germany. John and Savannah wrote many letters to each other. They counted down the days until they could see each other again, and shared their dreams of a future together. Their time apart was lengthened, however, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, John was shipped off to Iraq, and after a while they wrote to each other more rarely.

Fast-forward a few years, and we find Savannah living on her family's ranch in Lenoir, North Carolina. She hasn't seen John since that blissful month in Wrightsville Beach. Okay now for the spoiler--Savannah has fallen in love with someone else. I'll try not to give anything else away, but when John shows up to Savannah's ranch, he finds her alone, and learns that her life with this new love is more complicated than anyone ever imagined it would be. As the two catch up on old times and talk about Savannah's new life, Savannah warms up some leftover stew from her fridge.

I wanted to make something that was different from the stew I usually make. I decided to pull out a cookbook that I haven't used yet:

When I saw the recipe for Cowpuncher Stew, in the section called "Chuck Wagon Chow," I just had to try it. It's something that, according to my cookbook, cowboys often would eat out on the trail. Maybe a woman living on a horse farm might appreciate it, right?


1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut in 1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour*

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons shortening

1 1/2 cups strong coffee

2 tablespoons molasses

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1 1/2 cups water

4 carrots, cut in 1/2-inch slices

4 small onions, quartered

3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut up

1/4 cup cold water

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour*

Coat beef cubes with a mixture of 2 tablespoons flour* and 1 teaspoon salt. In Dutch oven brown meat on all sides in hot shortening. Stir in the coffee, molasses, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, Worcestershire, oregano, and cayenne. Cover, simmer over low heat till meat is almost tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Add the 1 1/2 cups water, carrot slices, onion quarters, and potato pieces. Simmer, covered, till vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Blend 1/4 cup cold water into the 3 tablespoons flour*; add to stew mixture. Cook and stir till mixture is thickened and bubbly. Serve in bowls. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

(*I used cornstarch)

From the Better Homes and Gardens Heritage Cookbook, p. 204

I started with a local free-range London Broil steak. I remember hearing Julia Child say once that you should ALWAYS use good steak for your beef stew, and NEVER use stew meat because it tastes like dog food. I don't know whether that's true or not, but I've always followed Julia's advice.

Browning the meat

Before the vegetables go in. I love the chocolate-brown color.

MMMMmmm, looks delicious!


There was also a recipe in the same cookbook for cornmeal dumplings; they are meant to be cooked with a different recipe, but I thought they would go great with the stew:


In saucepan, combine 1 cup water, 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to boiling. Cook and stir till thickened. Remove from heat. Stir moderate amount hot mixture into 1 beaten egg (or, 1 1/2 heaping tablespoon Egg Replacer mixed with 2 tablespoons water). Return to hot mixture. Stir together 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and dash pepper (I replaced the flour and baking powder with gluten-free Bisquick.). Add to cornmeal mixture; beat well. Stir in one 7-ounce can whole kernel corn, drained. (Instead, I used one ear of fresh corn right off the cob.)

Drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls onto boiling stew mixture. Cover, simmer till dumplings are done 10 to 12 minutes.

(Heritage Cookbook, p. 204)

This was some of the last locally grown corn-on-the cob.

Step One--the cornmeal, water, and salt

Ready to make the dumplings

I honestly didn't know how they would taste, and almost expected the kids to wrinkle their noses at them. The dumplings were a huge hit, and they asked me if I would please make more next time.

A lovely fall dinner!

There may be one--possibly two--more projects from Dear John that I might come back to later, (and they're similar to one's I've already done), but for now we'll move on to The Choice with some delicious jalapeno burgers. Stay tuned!