Friday, October 30, 2009

A dentist's favorite time of year

Halloween is tomorrow! I hope I'm not the only one who misses trick-or-treating. Grown-up parties just aren't the same, so it's hard for me to muster up excitement for a fun costume (this year it's cop out #1 or cop out #2). I can clearly remember sitting at the kitchen table with my sister, counting and sorting our haul of sugar, and setting aside the "gross" candy (hard candy, black licorice, etc.) for my dad to take to work for his candy dish. Ha!

I'm curious to know what other people remember about childhood Halloweens. What was your favorite treat? Did you have any special family traditions? I'd love to hear!

Holy crap, I just started thinking about Sixlets... man alive... Happy Halloween :o)

Thursday, October 29, 2009


In green plaid.

Pumpkin bisque

Bisque-y Business, y'all!

Oh, that's right, I'm not above corny titles that reference 1980s movies. You thought I was? You thought wrong, my friend :)

This recipe came from a surprising source -- the Market District Giant Eagle in Shadyside. Take it from me that you should always do your grocery shopping on Saturdays or Sundays between 11am and 4pm. Samples are everywhere!

I tasted this pumpkin bisque at the beginning of my shopping trip and was still thinking/talking about it an hour later and even weeks later until I was able to make it. Before I begin, I must say that this is the quickest and EASIEST soup I've ever made or seen in a recipe.

GE suggested serving with sour cream. I opted for crusty (pumpernickel) bread for dipping. The soup is very hearty and filling, perfect dinner on a cold night or late afternoon lunch. It's not overwhelmingly pumpkin-flavored, so I will definitely be making this a few times throughout the fall and winter months. And it's just so darn pretty to look at!

Pumpkin Bisque
(serves 8)

4 Tbsp butter
3 leeks, cleaned and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh thyme
1/4 tsp ground gloves
1 28-oz can of pumpkin
1/2 cup white wine
6 cups vegetable stock (I used 4 c veggie stock, 2 c chicken stock due to available containers at the grocery store)
1 pint heavy cream
Salt and pepper, to taste

A quick tip for cleaning leeks -- rinse, cut in half and chop. Fill a bowl with cold water and put the chopped leeks in and let soak for a few minutes. Any residual sand or grit will sink to the bottom. Easy!

Heat butter in a large pot and add leeks, garlic and thyme. Sweat for 10 minutes. Add cloves and canned pumpkin, and saute for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the half cup of white wine to deglaze the bottom of the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes until the wine is almost evaporated. Add stocks and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove pot from heat and blend with a hand blender while adding heavy cream slowly. (If you are using a standard blender, add soup a cup at a time and be careful to let steam from the hot mixture escape between blending pulses.) Blend until desired texture is reached (that's up to you, cook!). Place soup back in pot and on stove to summer for an additional 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pumpkin spice cheesecake brownies

Now that I'm 12 hours removed from my activities of last night, I can see that someday I will drive my friends and family crazy with my enthusiasm for themes and holidays... but they love me, so they'll have no choice but to deal with it. That being said, last night was simply awesome. I got home and first thing, thanks to some foresight to put out cream cheese that morning, immediately mixed up a batch of pumpkin spice cheesecake brownies.

Though I made these for a book club meeting tomorrow, I had to try one. The pumpkin flavor is really mild and is most prominent when chilled. Don't worry, ye who fear pumpkin. It's certainly not an intense pumpkin flavor, like pie or custard, and the chocolate (as always) is a pleasant complement to the cheesecake top half of the brownie. If you're looking for a more convenient (or, daresay, mini) baking method, try lining a standard or mini muffin pan with paper liners and filling each with the batters in the same fashion. Bake at 350F but check the centers after about 20 minutes and bake until set. Let me know if any of you try this!

While the brownies were chilling, I plopped myself in front of my TV to watch Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin whilst carving a pumpkin of my own. (I take back what I said... my kids will enjoy this until they are about 12 years old, then they will resent me during adolescence.) I also did a little more cooking with pumpkin, but I'll save that for tomorrow.

Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Brownies
(adapted from this recipe)
- makes 16 (roughly 2" x 2") brownies

A few notes: Having both the cream cheese and egg at room temperature will yield a smoother and more uniform batter.  In other words, it's worth it to plan ahead.

Brownie batter:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon

Pumpkin cheesecake batter:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp flour
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 tsp pure vanilla extract
2/3 tsp cinnamon
1/3 tsp ground ginger
1/3 tsp ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8x8" square metal baking pan with nonstick spray. Line with parchment paper along one side with a two inch overhang on opposite ends.

In a large bowl, whisk together melted butter, sugar, and vanilla, then beat in eggs one at a time. Combine dry ingredients in a separate medium bowl, and then gradually stir into butter mixture with a wooden spoon. Mix until just incorporated, and be careful not to overmix. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together cheesecake batter ingredients until smooth.

Spread about 2/3 of chocolate batter into prepared pan, and spoon cheesecake batter over.  Dollop remaining brownie batter over cheesecake batter. Swirl the batters together by running a butter knife back and forth through the pan. Swirl as much or as little as you want.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until center is set. Cool completely on wire rack and chill in fridge 1 hour. Holding ends of parchment paper, remove from pan, cut and serve (or chill in a sealed container until ready to serve).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Well, hello there!

Welcome to my little home! Though I'm totally new at this blogging thing (and admittedly still a big hesitant about it), I have decided this would be a good outlet for my never-ending, bordering on clinically significant obsession with food. I will also occasionally post about crafty, do-it-yourself adventures in my quest to eventually dethrone Martha Stewart. Oh, and of course, anything mini... I'm talking food, decorations, animals, cars, bows on headbands, you name it. But send me something awesome in mini form, and I will love you forever :)