Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pumpkin Cheesecake: It's Just Good

Source: Food Network

A few weeks ago, I posted on Pinterest that pumpkin is one of my top 10 reasons for living. I'd say that statement is only about 50% hyperbole. People, I just love pumpkin. In my oatmeal. In my chili. And definitely in my cheesecake.

If you're one of those cheesecake purists, read no further. But if you're over snoozy New York-style cheese cake, keep reading. (Sidebar: Why is the cheese cake from New York when the cream cheese is from Philadelphia? That kind of stuff makes me crazy.)

Here's where I'd bring this if I were you: To Sunday dinner. To church coffee hour. To work. (I've done it, and it will earn you gratitude.) To bed -- just eat carefully and don't get crumbs in the sheets.

The recipe I like to use comes from Food Network Magazine. I'm a recipe tinkerer, so I usually mix it up a little, but the basics are here and they are good. Make sure you listen to the advice about letting it cool in the oven -- it prevents cracks.

How do you like to use pumpkin? Do tell. Below. Like, in the comments.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Shopping for a Cook

Are you making your list and checking it twice? If there's a cook on your Christmas list, I have a few tried-and-true recommendations for you.

1. The classic Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer
It mixes. It kneads. It makes ice cream. Well, if you have the ice cream attachment. (Come on, people. It's a mixer, not a magician.) My Kitchen Aid stand mixer is a real workhorse and probably the one small appliance I wouldn't want to cook without.

2. Envirosax Reusable Bags
The earth-friendliness is nice, I guess, but I just think these bags are super cute. If you're going to carry a lot of groceries, you should do it in style.

3. Vintage dishware (photo via Pinterest)
Sure, it's nice to get brand-shiny-new dishes, but there's a certain charm to vintage kitchen goods, especially bowls, plates and cups -- the kind of stuff that seems to stand the test of time. I think old Pyrex can't be beat. Same goes for Fire King. Etsy and eBay are great places to start searching.

4. A sassy apron
Because when you look good, you cook good. True story.

Speaking of gifts, we have a winner for the new Cook's Illustrated cookbook! Congrats, Patricia! Check your email for information on claiming your prize.

Merry Christmas and happy cooking!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Classic Mac and Cheese -- and a Giveaway!

Hey friends. Did the soothing effect of your Thanksgiving tryptophan wear off too soon? Are you still feeling the Black Friday frazzle? Are you weeping in your Maxwell House this morning because you have to return to work after four glorious days of non-work activities? Sounds like you could use some comfort food. And your old pal Abbie has just the thing.

Mac and cheese, people. I'm talking about mac and cheese. Warm. Gooey. Good for the soul.

You're sold, right? But wait! Put down that blue box! The best comfort foods do not require powdered cheese product. This is one you can make from scratch, and it's easy. I promise.

This recipe comes to us from Cook's Illustrated, which just published a new cookbook. It's called, as you might guess, The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook, and it's packed with 2,000 tested-to-work recipes. That's a lot of quality kitchen time, my friends.

If you'd like to add The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook to your collection, you can win one here. You could also give it as a gift -- to you mom, your gourmet uncle, or as an "I'm sorry" present to that little old lady you knocked down on your dash to score the last Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 at Walmart before dawn the day after Thanksgiving. I'm sure all would be forgiven. Little old ladies love to cook.

So, back to the book. If you want to win, details follow the recipe.

Classic Mac and Cheese (from Cook's Illustrated)
  • 6 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter,3 tablespoons cut into 6 pieces and chilled
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • Salt
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 5 cups milk
  • 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)

Pulse bread and chilled butter in food processor to coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses; set aside.

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat broiler. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until tender; drain pasta.

Melt remaining 5 tablespoons butter in now-empty pot over medium-high heat. Add flour, mustard, 1 teaspoon salt, and cayenne, if using, and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk; bring mixture to boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Off heat, slowly whisk in cheeses until completely melted. Add pasta to sauce and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is steaming and heated through, about 6 minutes.

Transfer mixture to 13 by 9‑inch broiler-safe baking dish and sprinkle with bread-crumb mixture. Broil until topping is deep golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Cool casserole for 5 minutes before serving.

It's as easy as that, friends. Get something gooey going right now. (What, it's breakfast time? That's okay. You can make mac and cheese for breakfast. No one will judge.)


To get the recipe for classic mac and cheese and 1,999 other tasty dishes, leave a comment here telling me your favorite food to make this season and how you follow this blog. You can comment until Sunday, Dec. 4, until 11:59 p.m. EST. Winner will be drawn at random the next day.

Good luck and good cheese.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pumpkin Muffins: Energy Food for Runners (and Other People)

So, here are some things I like to do: I like to cook. I like to eat. I like to run. Occasionally, all three come together for me. A trifecta of happiness, if you will. Like when I make (and consume) recipes created with runners in mind.

This past weekend, I did a race in Raleigh that I'd been looking forward to for weeks. Because of the running, sure, but mostly because of the carbo-loading the day before. Bagels, pizza, animal crackers, Starbursts. The foods of champions, my friends. But my favorite carb of the weekend? Pumpkin muffins.

I adapted my recipe from one by Mark Bittman, published in Runner's World a few months back. Mark is super-smart and knows good food, so you can totally trust the original, which uses sweet potato. But if you're looking to cut out a little fat, my version uses applesauce instead of oil. (I've tried this recipe with both, and they tasted the same to me.)

I'll warn you: these aren't Starbucksy muffins. They aren't cakey. Or all that sweet. But they are incredibly fluffy, especially for a baked good made with whole grains. And the pumpkin keeps them super moist. (I really hate the word "moist" but I love these muffins so much I'm willing to use icky words to deliver an accurate description.)

And if you're a runner who likes to track carbs and calories and all that stuff, I've done the nutrition figuring for you.

Check that vitamin A. Yowzah!

Pumpkin muffins for runners and other humans
  • 2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour (about 300 grams)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 c wheat germ
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Heat oven to 375° F. Grease 12 muffin cups.

Combine flour, sugar, wheat germ, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together butter, applesauce, pumpkin egg and buttermilk. Fold the butter mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. The batter will be very thick.

Fill muffin cups about three-quarters full and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for about 20 minutes.

The food: Pumpkin muffins
The verdict: Gourds never tasted so good