Food Buzz


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween! How about a pumpkin scone?

I had half a can of pumpkin leftover from my pumpkin hummus and decided I wanted to make something sweet with it.  I came across a great recipe for pumpkin scones on and made them.  Don't be afraid of making scones (even if you don't bake all that much).  There is no rising, no rolling, no kneading.  And if you have a food processor, all of you have to do is pulse everything then form it into a 9x3 brick, slice and bake.

These scones have the wonderful, warm, autumn flavors of cinnamon and nutmeg.  It also has cloves, which I am typically not a fan of, but a little sprinkling in the dough won't overwhelm you with strong clove flavor.  I felt there was way too much icing so I would cut the icing recipe in half or less (I include the full recipe below).  Also, I didn't have ground ginger and so chose to leave it out. Feel free to leave out one of the spices if you don't want to spend the money on my mind the cinnamon and nutmeg were most important. Otherwise don't change a thing.

Pumpkin Scones (from

2 cups all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
6 tablespoons cold butter
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
3 tablespoons half-and-half
1 large eggs

  Powdered Sugar Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
2 tablespoons whole milk

  Spiced Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pinch ginger
1 pinch ground cloves

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
2.  Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Using a pastry knife, fork, or food processor, cut butter into the dry ingredients until mixture is crumbly and no chunks of butter are obvious. Set aside.
3.  In a separate bowl, whisk together pumpkin, half and half, and egg. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Form the dough into a ball.
4.  Pat out dough onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a 1-inch thick rectangle (about 9 inches long and 3 inches wide). Use a large knife or a pizza cutter to slice the dough twice through the width, making three equal portions. Cut those three slices diagonally so that you have 6 triangular slices of dough. Place on prepared baking sheet.

5.  Bake for 14–16 minutes. Scones should begin to turn light brown. Place on wire rack to cool.

1.  Mix the powdered sugar and 2 tbsp milk together until smooth.
2.  When scones are cool, use a brush to paint plain glaze over the top of each scone.

1.  Combine the ingredient for the spiced icing together. Drizzle this thicker icing over each scone and allow the icing to dry before serving (at least 1 hour). A squirt bottle works great for this, or you can drizzle with a whisk.

Happy Halloween everyone!  Enjoy your day (and your candy!)

Chow for Now!  :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Boo-rific Pumpkin Hummus!

Tomorrow, I am going to carve pumpkins with friends who have a 20 month old.  This is my little buddy's first Halloween where he understands that everyone dresses up in cool costumes, there are "punkins" on everyone's front porch and the houses in the neighborhood are decorated with scary but fun witches, skeletons and cobwebs.  Wait until he goes trick-or-treating and finds out he can collect candy from his neighbors!

I want to bring over a snack to eat while we are carving (to offset the candy and sugary snacks he will likely get on Sunday!).  I decided to make something I know he really likes... hummus! To make it more festive, I made a pumpkin hummus recommended by the fabulous blog: Cooking with Trader Joe's.  I used cookie cutters to cut TJ's Olive Oil Wheat wraps into pumpkins and bat shapes.  I then sprayed them with olive oil spray and sprinkled a little salt and cumin on them for flavor and color and baked them in the oven at 325 degrees for about 8-10 minutes (keep an eye on them!).  What a tasty and healthy treat!

Pumpkin Hummus
1 15 oz can garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 can pumpkin puree (about 3/4 cup)
1 tsp crushed garlic (1 clove or 1 cube frozen garlic)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sesame tahini paste (in refrigerated section next to premade hummus)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon

1.  Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and puree until hummus is smooth.  If mixture is too thick, add water, one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved.
2. Taste and adjust for seasonings.
3. For best flavor, store in fridge for a few hours before serving.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Serves: 8

I used a little more tahini, salt and cumin than the recipe calls for.  This seemed to give it the flavor I was looking for.  I sprinkled a little more cumin and dripped a tiny bit of olive oil on top.  What do you think?

For those of you who are worried about making hummus "from scratch," I will tell you it is pretty simple - especially if you have a food processor.  But, if you prefer, you could take CWTJ's advice and use pre-made plain hummus and mix in pumpkin and spices!  You can also purchase bagged pita chips to make life a little easier.

Cooking With Trader Joe's also lists some other creative and fun recipes for you to try, using mostly Trader Joe's ingredients. I highly recommend checking out their website!

Are you steering away from the sweets this Halloween? Have any healthy recipes to share?  Please feel free to do so here!

Chow for now!  :)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Devil's in the Birthday Cake

My friend, M's birthday was this week.  She had a few people over for cake and wine so I offered to make the cake.  I have made plenty of cakes before but only a few from scratch, fearing a too dense or too sweet cake Or even worse a cake that just didn't taste that great..  

M's fond childhood memories of devil's food birthday cake with vanilla icing prompted me to recreate my own version for her.  It was a lot of fun and a lot of hard work!  I don't know how bakers do it day in and day out!  So much prepping and whisking (my right arm hurts today) and waiting and baking and waiting again.  And don't forget icing!  I literally ate nothing but cake batter and icing until yesterday evening.  Needless to say, I had a sugar high all day.  I guess that's what kept me moving.

I chose to make a recipe I saw on  Food Network's website. I did this mostly because the recipe made a two layer cake, not a three layer cake like many others that I found.  I just think two layers is perfect.  Three layers is a little but over the top.  Also I substituted buttermilk for milk.

I have to say, it came out really delicious.  Moist without being heavy.  Chocolately and sweet, but not too sweet.  The icing was a vanilla butter cream but I ended up adding a few teaspoons of cooled coffee to it in order to cut the sugary sweetness.  It was really delicious and gave the icing a nice "latte" hue.  I also made my grandmother's version of "7 minute icing."   This icing requires whisking egg whites, corn syrup, cream of tartar, salt, water, sugar and vanilla in a double boiler for, you guessed it, 7 minutes.  I used this icing to pipe flowers and writing on the cake.  It was shocking white so made a nice contrast on the buttercream.

I used a pasty bag for the first time.  What fun!  I would love to work with it again - trying new techniques (and of course, perfect mine).  But I think I did pretty good for a first timer, What do you think?

I can't wait to make my next cake!  Do you have a favorite "from scratch" cake recipe?  Please share with me here!

Chow for now!  :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Potato Leek Soup for a cozy day

Third day of rain in LA...and not sure what to do with myself!  Believe me, I am not complaining. We have at least 325 days of happy sunny weather in LA but after a few days of rain and temperatures almost cold enough to put on the heat, I decided to make potato leek soup.

For those of you who have never cooked with leeks before, they are part of the onion and garlic family and are sort of like a thicker, less bitter scallion or green onion.  It's important to cut them vertically and to clean them well as the layers catch a lot of soil when they grow.

I perused a bunch of recipes - most of the ingredients were the same, potatoes and leeks (obviously), milk or cream, water or stock, butter or oil and some spices. So I decided to make up my own recipe and I have to say it came out pretty darn good. I did not have cream nor did I want those extra calories so I used non-fat milk and I still thought it was thick and rich.

Potato Leek Soup

2 leeks, tough dark green leaves discarded and remaining white and light green parts cut in half, cleaned well and sliced into half moons.
1 tsp fresh thyme (leaves pulled from stem)
1 T olive oil or butter
3 small potatoes, peeled and cut into one inch dice (I used russets)
3 cups of low sodium vegetable stock or chicken stock
salt to taste
white or black pepper to taste
1/2 cup cream or milk

1. Place pot over low to medium heat and add olive oil or butter until heated.  Add sliced leeks and sweat them about 10 minutes until tender (don't brown them).  Add thyme during last few minutes of sweating.

2.  Add potatoes and stock and increase heat until simmering.  Lower heat, partially cover and cook for about 45 minutes.  Taste and add salt, pepper as needed.  Turn off heat.

3.  Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until pureed (or alternatively, blend batches in a stand up blender, being careful not to burn yourself).  Taste again and season if necessary.

4.  Stir in milk or cream.  Serve!

This is a much lighter version of some other potato leek recipes (like Alton Brown's) and i am pretty happy with the way it turned out (and I have no guilt because it is low fat)!

You know what happened once I sat down to eat it, right?  The sun came out. :)

What's your go-to comfort food for a rainy day? Feel free to post your favorites here!

Chow for Now! :)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Stocking the pantry.

This week I got home from a friend's house, it was drizzling out, and I had "nothing" to make for dinner (or so  I thought).  So, I began opening up my cabinets to see what I had that could be thrown together for a nutritious and fairly quick dinner.

My eyes were immediately drawn to a box of orzo and since it was raining and icky out I thought pasta could be comforting.  I looked at my canned goods and saw garbanzo beans and chicken broth.  I knew I could whip something together...pasta and beans are a natural pair.  So I made a sort of blended pasta e fagioli (with garbanzos in place of white or cannelini beans) using only items that I had on hand.  It was yummy and only took about 30 minutes to whip together.

For singles, couples or family dining, it is a great idea to keep your pantry stocked with items that you can throw together - it really makes life easier when you just don't feel like going to the grocery store.  Having a selection of canned, boxed, jarred and long lasting refrigerated items on hand can make life simple and can help you make satisfying, quick meals.

I recommend going through your cabinets now, check for expired items and throw them away.  Then print a list of items from those below and shop.  Keep these items in stock and replenish them as needed.  Obviously don't include items you don't like (for me that would be sardines) or don't eat very often and buy more of those items that you use regularly (low sodium chicken broth, olive oil, canned diced tomatoes for me).

Beans: An assortment of canned (white, garbanzo, black) and dry.  You can also use the dried beans to help weigh down a pie crust when par-baking!

Oils: Vegetable or canola, sesame and olive oils.  Consider buying a spray bottle to add your own olive oil to (instead of buying those already canned and very expensive per oz).

Mustard: Jarred Dijon or whole grain and dry (dry mustard adds a nice touch to macaroni and cheese!)

Pasta: Assorted sizes and grains (whole grain, whole wheat, and even gluten free rice pasta are available now).

Rice/grains: Arborio for risotto, white/brown and whole grain for easy side dishes.  Also couscous, quinoa and barley for soups and hot or cold side dishes.

Sugar: Brown (sealed tight so it doesn't become a rock), white, confectioners and agave and/or stevia (for those not using true sugar sweeteners)

Honey: to add to hot tea, Asian stir-fry and in place of sugar in some recipes

Canned tomatoes: whole San Marzano's or Italian plum tomatoes for marinara, paste (for thick and rich sauces), diced (no salt added) for a quick sauce to serve over spaghetti squash, fire roasted for zing

Dried and fresh herbs: I have just about every herb known to man in my cabinet, it's important to smell and taste them every few months to make sure they still taste the way you should.  I also buy and grow fresh herbs.  I wash, trim and freeze them in freezer bags (labeled!) for future use.  Trader Joe's also sells Dorot frozen cubed herbs like cilantro and basil that I keep on hand.  These are a life saver!

Onions, garlic and shallots: I use one or more of these in most meals.  Keep them in a cool dry place and they will last a while.

Flour: If you bake a lot consider buying bread or cake flours but an all purpose flour should do well in most cases.  The regular grocery store has an array of different flours available these days from rye to whole wheat to gluten free flours.

Sauces: Low sodium soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, hot sauce (like Cholula or Tabasco), Worcestershire (I mix this with ground turkey, egg, bread crumbs, salt and pepper for a great flavor!). Any of these sauces can add more flavor to your dishes.

Broths/Stocks: I keep vegetable and chicken stock on hand either home made and frozen in easy to defrost containers, or bought from the store (low sodium!) and kept in my pantry.  Use for soups, gravy, basting...

Nuts: I always have raw almonds in my cabinet, they can be used as a quick snack, can be ground into almond flour for baking, chopped for cookies and browned with brown sugar and butter with other nuts and herbs for a party snack.  I also like to have walnuts (for salads) and pine nuts (for pesto).

Vinegars: I have white, apple cider, champagne and good balsamic.  Rice wine is also a good one for Asian dishes.  Balsamic can be reduced for a gorgeous thick sauce to put over meats, fish and even strawberries!

Baking supplies: Baking powder and soda, chocolate, dry yeast, various extracts and sea salt are all must haves for me, but leave these out if you aren't a baker.

Frozen items: I always have a bag of frozen, uncooked large shrimp in my freezer that I can thaw quickly to make a stir fry or shrimp tacos.  I also keep frozen corn, peas and fruits for smoothies.  Butter also freezes well.  I buy lots of sweet cream butter when it's on sale and throw it in my freezer.

Other items to consider, depending on your taste and what kind of food you enjoy cooking: olives, anchovies, jarred artichokes, jarred red peppers, capers, clam juice, ketchup, maple syrup, vanilla extract, corn meal...

What are some of your favorite items that I might have left off the list?  Feel free to share with us here!

Chow for now!  :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Italian class, part II

To quote one my favorite comedians and current regional manager of Sabre (formerly Dunder Mifflin), "CARBOLOAD!".  Last night was a feast that required working out before, during and after the meal. In fact, I should have jogged home after school last night.  Last night was PASTA and CHEESE night in class.

Our team made linguini with white clam sauce and we also made home made spinach ricotta and chicken sausage ravioli.  Other teams made penne with alfredo sauce (cheese, egg yolks, butter, cream, you get the picture), elbows with a spicy Bolognese, CPK's spinach and artichoke dip, Butternut squash ravioli and polenta with roasted pork loin.

I also brought in my homemade foccacia and Chef brought in Tiramisu.  All in all a delicious meal and one that will require that I eat salads the rest of the week.

Making ravioli was less daunting than I thought it would be and a lot of fun.  The dough is pretty simply made in the food processor or by hand and it makes about 20-30 ravioli depending on size.

Spinach and sausage ravioli

1 1/2 c flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 T olive oil
2 large eggs

1/2 c ricotta cheese
1/4 c dry chopped spinach
1 tsp Italian herbs
1/2 c cooked chicken sausage

1.  Put all ingredients in a cuisinart and pulse a few times to blend.  Remove and knead on counter until smooth.
2.  Shape into a flat disc and wrap in plastic wrap 
3.  Refrigerate at least one hour or overnight.
4. Once refrigerated, take out and cut into 4 even pieces.  Using a pasta machine roll the dough through each size from large to small until the dough is thin and you can see the outline of your fingers through it.  Repeat once more so you have two long pieces of equal size. 

5. Put all filling ingredients into cuisinart and pulse until a smooth paste is formed for the filling.
6.  Lay one piece of dough out and using a teaspoon, measure out spoonfuls about 1 1/2 in apart in the center of the dough.  

7.  Lay  the other piece of dough over and tuck the dough around each "hill" formed by the filling.  
8.  Using a round or square cutter cut each ravioli out and fork around the ends to make sure they don't come apart in the water.
9. Cook in a large pot of salted water about 10 minutes or until al dente.

Some pictures from the evening!
Linguini with white clam sauce
Ravioli with a garlic butter sauce
What is your favorite pasta and sauce?  Mine is a toss up between Bolognese and Baked Ziti.....and Vodka sauce..... and marinara.  Ok, so I like Italian food.  But seriously, what is your favorite?  Feel free to share here!

Chow for now! :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hey Mambo, Mambo Italiano!

Yes, you guessed it, we are learning about Italian cuisine in class this week and next!  Last night our menu included three different pizzas (including the homemade dough), marinara sauce, habanero sausage risotto, arugula and fuji apple salad and chicken parmesan.  Our group, being the advanced team, made two pizzas and the salad.  Busy busy and SOOOO fun!

Most of you are well aware of my love affair with my Breadman, the machine does all of the hard stuff (mixing and kneading) while I just take the dough and bake it.  Most people could do that with no problem.  The true art is in the kneading... You don't want to knead too much (making the dough too tough) and you don't want to knead too little (texture of the bread will not be smooth and won't stretch onto a pizza pan).  We watched Chef make one dough and then went off to work.

Our first pizza was a Ricotta Pesto pizza.  We made the dough, set it aside to rise then made a beautiful basil and pine nut pesto using a mortar and pestle (the only way to do it, according to Chef).  Next we mixed ricotta and mozzarella in equal parts and set aside.  Once the dough was done rising, we parbaked it for 12 minutes until lightly browned. We spread a little pesto mixed with olive oil on the bottom.

Then we took the remaining pesto and mixed it with the cheese mixture and dropped it in spoonfuls over the dough.

We baked it for about 6 minutes more and it was done.  Isn't it gorgeous?  It was very tasty.

Our second pizza was a Halloween themed pizza (bright orange tomatoes from the school garden, pepperoni, black olives and green onions).

Pizza Dough

1 c water @ 110-120 degrees
1 T dry yeast
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 c flour plus 1/3 cupfuls later

1) Warm bowl and the liquid measuring cup by filling with warm water
2) Measure all ingredients, measuring water last.
3) Put warm water into warm bowl using a wire whisk, sprinkle in yeast and stir with wire whisk
4) Add sugar and stir to dissolve, wait a moment
5) Add salts and stir with wire whisk
6) Add 1 c of flour and stir with a wooden spoon until well blended
7) Using a wooden spoon stirring in only one direction, add 1/3 cupfuls of flour until the dough is thick enough to stick to spoon and be lifted out of the bowl.
8) Flour the counter where you will knead the dough and flour your hands.
9) Place all dough in a blob and set into the flour on the counter
10) Knead* the dough about 8 minutes until the dough is smooth, soft and elastic (like a baby's bottom)
11) Oil the dough and place in a bowl to rise (covered with a towel and set in a warm area of the kitchen)

*Kneading the dough:  PUSH away with heel of hand, FOLD in half towards you, quarter TURN to the right (push, fold, turn).  Do this until the dough is a nice smooth ball and then "tuck and spin" so it looks like this:

Let it rise until it's 2-3 times it's original size then bake as directed above.
This dough was a little thicker and more bread-y than I typically like, but had great flavor.  One of my teammates, Carol, suggested that maybe throwing it up in the air makes the difference (we didn't try that!).  All I know is even though our pizzas were good and we were proud of our final product, my brother in law makes 'em even better.  Must be the New York Italian side of him. :)

What are your favorite toppings on pizza?  Are you a NY or Chicago pizza fan?  Please share your thoughts here!

Chow for Now!  :)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Farmers market finds for the week!

This morning I went to the Studio City Farmer's market because my fruit and veggie supply was getting low and I really wanted some fall apples and other ingredients to make some yummy fall recipes.  Here are today's finds:

Starting at 6 o'clock on the photo above and going clockwise I bought leeks and potatoes to make a comforting potato and leek soup, fragrant sage to use with some already purchased butternut squash to make an autumnal butternut squash risotto, crunchy sugar snap peas to eat as is as a snack or to add extra crunch in a salad.   From Arnett Farms (the best farm stand in town for stone fruits, figs, apples and citrus), I chose emerald drop pluots (pale green plum-apricot hybrids) that are sweet and delicious for a morning or afternoon snack and crisp gala apples to eat with peanut butter or perhaps turn into a baked dessert.  Next I picked up sweet strawberries to slice over oatmeal with some walnuts for a heart-healthy breakfast, delicate squash blossoms to serve stuffed with herbs, garlic and goat cheese, breaded, then pan fried until crunchy and melty, and finally, my favorite find (and most expensive at $20/lb), a small lobster mushroom from LA funghi.  I overheard someone from the market telling a customer to saute them in butter for 2-3 minutes to get the going, then to add diced or thinly sliced shallots to finish them off.  I think I will try that.  These mushrooms are a gorgeous orange/red color, and apparently have a slightly "marine" flavor like that of a lobster.  Should be an interesting side dish!

Do you have any fall farmer's market favorites to share?  please feel free to do so right here!

Chow for Now! :)