Thursday, October 23, 2014

day 23: Irish soda bread

This post is part of the 31 Days of Delicious Fall series. Click here for the whole list!

Are you afraid of baking homemade bread? I know, it's really intimidating. I spent a long, frustrating time being a pretty good cook and baker who was completely inept when it came to bread, especially yeast breads. I've finally mastered that art (it just takes time and practice, friends!!), but I'm still grateful for breads like these that are pretty much foolproof.

This Irish soda bread is sooooo comforting and rustic and hearty. I've used both all-purpose and whole wheat flour, and when I'm serving it with onion soup (as I always am and was last night), I really prefer the whole wheat flour. All-purpose flour leaves it a bit too sweet and light -- don't get me wrong, it's delicious! But it just doesn't stand up to this thick, creamy soup the way a whole wheat loaf does. I've made some modifications to counter the heaviness of whole wheat flour, but if you generally find whole wheat bread too heavy or bitter, (I know some brands leave more of an aftertaste than others), I recommend a combination of the two flours.

Irish Soda Bread
adapted from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

gather these...
  • 4 cups flour, whole wheat preferred, see text above
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 1½ t. cream of tartar
  • 2 t. salt
  • 3 T. sugar
  • 4 T. (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 egg, beaten well
  • 1½ cups buttermilk or whey (or milk + white vinegar, see step 2), plus 2 more tablespoons if using whole wheat flour
do this...
  1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Grease and flour a 9-inch pan. (I will never tell you to flour a pan unless it really needs it. Flour this pan!!)
  2. If you don't have buttermilk or whey, stir together milk and about 2 t. (I don't measure) of white vinegar. Let stand while you complete the next few steps.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and sugar. Cut butter into chunks, then rub in with your fingers until completely incorporated. Mixture will still be very floury and dry.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the egg and buttermilk/whey/milk-and-vinegar mixture until dough begins to form. Turn out onto a lightly floured counter and knead until dough just comes together. If dough is too sticky, work in a bit more flour as you knead. Overworking the dough makes for tough bread! Don't handle it more than you have to.
  5. Form into a round and place into prepared pan. Score an X about ½ inch deep into the top of the dough.
  6. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce heat to 350° F and bake 40 minutes more.
  7. Cool on a wire rack, then slice and butter thick wedges to serve with your favorite soup or stew.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

day 22: creamy onion soup

This post is part of the 31 Days of Delicious Fall series. Click here for the whole list!

Confession: I'm a huge Harry Potter fan.

Oh, please don't stop reading because of that.

A few years ago, in anticipation of the release of the last movie, Husband and I hosted a Harry Potter-themed potluck dinner at our house using recipes from a cookbook that my mother-in-law had given me, The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook. I love this cookbook; it's one of the few I use anymore, as most of my recipes come from the internet. But it's such a fun read, and it includes recipes for so many of the foods Rowling describes in such mouth-watering detail over the course of the series.

So I sent recipes from the book out to party attendees, and we had a wonderful dinner: Molly's meatballs with onion sauce, boiled potatoes with herb vinaigrette, pumpkin pasties, treacle tart, the chocolate birthday cake Hagrid gave to Harry upon their first meeting, and -- of course -- pumpkin juice. There were three dishes that really stuck with Husband and me, and we've made them over and over again.

There's just something about fall that makes us feel like watching the movies. So over the next three days, we're going to be having "Harry Potter Dinner" here on the blog! Movie watching optional.

First, we'll make a wonderfully comforting (but not terribly indulgent, as calories go) creamy onion soup. Stay tuned for a rustic Irish soda bread and then beautifully roasted russet potatoes. Together, the three of them make for a perfect fall meal!

Creamy Onion Soup
adapted from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

gather these...
  • 4 medium onions, yellow or white variety
  • 4 T (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • 8 cups chicken broth (or 8 cups water + bouillon cubes or granules)
  • salt and pepper to taste (I start with around 2 t. of each)
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk, not skim

do this...
  1. Slice onions, not thinly. I measured mine because I am kind of a nerd, and they were around ¼ inch. 
  2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onions.
  3. Saute at medium-high heat for around 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn heat down to medium for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are a deep golden brown. If your stove runs hotter than mine, you might need to turn it down to medium-low. Be sure to keep an eye on it. You want onions that look like the ones below: thoroughly tender but not burnt.
  4. Add broth (or water/bouillon), salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. Whisk together flour and 1½ cups milk. Whisk out all the lumps.
  6. Remove pot from heat and slooooooowly drizzle in milk/flour mixture, whisking vigorously right where you're pouring. I have had lumpy soup far too many times to let you make the same mistake!
  7. Return to medium heat and bring to a boil, then immediately turn down to low. Add remaining 2½ cups milk and just heat through.

I should note that the biggest change I've made to the recipe in the cookbook is to double it. The original recipe yields enough for about 4 bowls, but the Irish soda bread I always make to accompany it stretches much farther. So I just make enough soup to last as long as the bread!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

day 21: Dixie pie

This post is part of the 31 Days of Delicious Fall series. Click here for the whole list!

As previously stated in this series, I don’t believe chocolate gets enough play in fall recipes, and today I’ll go ahead and remedy that (as I’ve already done once, twice, maybe three times). This may not be a traditionally “fall” dessert, but as I seem to be making it for my dad’s October birthday more often than not, it’s become a fall dish around here.

I’ve mentioned before that I used to work for a wonderful local “restaurant and pie pantry” called Tippin’s that produced excellent pies. Even before I worked there, it was one of my family’s more regular places to eat out, and while I enjoyed taste-testing a variety of the 40-some pies on the menu, my dad rarely deviated from the Dixie pie: sticky and gooey, it's like a pecan pie but with walnuts instead of pecans, and with the excellent addition of chocolate chips. Dixie pie made a frequent appearance at special family gatherings as well, and after the restaurant closed, I decided it was time to make it on my own.

Something I only recently learned is that traditional Dixie pie often has raisins, coconut, and spices in it. Um… that’s not this pie. Coconut is a point of conflict across the board in my family (although I think it would be amazing here), and I can’t really get behind raisins in this application. We keep it simple and as close as possible to the Tippin’s pie we remember and loved.

Unbelievably rich and full of all kinds of “sometimes foods,” this pie shines at potlucks, holidays, and – of course! – birthday parties. Serve it warm (careful, the filling gets HOT) with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but do so at your own risk: this is a dessert people will request that you make over and over!

Copycat Tippin's Dixie Pie
adapted from

gather these...
  • 1 unbaked pie shell (I use the one from this post)
  • 5 T. unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 3 eggs 
  • 1 cup shelled walnuts
  • 1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Pie crust not shown. It was chilling in my fridge!

do this...
  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Melt butter in a large bowl. Add sugar, salt, vanilla, and corn syrup. Stir with a fork to combine thoroughly. (You can mix the filling with a mixer or hand mixer, but it isn't necessary.)
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs well with a fork. Add to large bowl, then stir in nuts and chocolate chips.
  4. Pour filling into pie shell.
  5. Cover crust with foil or pie crust shield. Bake 1 hour, or until filling starts to set. This is where other internet recipes and I disagree. I've seen plenty of recipes that recommend a bake time of 40-50 minutes, but I've baked this pie in at least three different ovens, and I always end up baking for 60-70 minutes. The filling should still be quite jiggly, but not still liquid, when you remove it from the oven. This is why it's really important to protect your crust! The long bake time will over-brown (or burn) your crust while the filling is still raw.
  6. Let pie cool on rack or hot pad until firm enough to slice, at least 3 hours. (It will continue to bake for a while after it comes out of the oven, then you need to let it cool so the filling doesn't just ooze out.)
  7. As a former Tippin's server, I must recommend that you enjoy this slightly warm and a la mode. The pie is so rich that it needs ice cream to balance it out!

Monday, October 20, 2014

day 20: E's autumn oatmeal

This post is part of the 31 Days of Delicious Fall series. Click here for the whole list!

Why are kids so picky? Even my baby-led solids kid isn't a fan of vegetables. And Big E... oh goodness. His tastes change daily, sometimes mid-meal. Drives me crazy. Back when we were spoon-feeding him, it was always a challenge to get him to eat what felt like a nutritionally complete meal. But he LOVED oatmeal. So we were always brainstorming what we could add to his morning cereal that would be baby-approved and get a variety of food groups into him. For the life of me, I can't recall how we came up with this combination... but he ate it almost daily for the better part of a year, maybe more. We even used to mix plain yogurt in during his failure-to-thrive scare, and he loved it. It's still a frequent request from him, so I present it here to you: our favorite, kid-approved, easy breakfast.

I could spell out the "recipe" for you, but it really isn't like that. Just prepare the oatmeal, however you usually do, and then add applesauce and pumpkin puree to taste. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Drizzle in some milk or cream if it's still too hot. Other add-ins we've enjoyed are brown sugar, raisins, dried apples, and chopped nuts. It's warm and comforting and oh-so-good for you!!

Also: oatmeal is a galactagogue.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

day 19: black bean & sweet potato enchiladas

This post is part of the 31 Days of Delicious Fall series. Click here for the whole list!

Every month or two, I get together with my friends at Hy-Vee (a local grocery store) to assemble a bunch of freezer meals in the store's club room. The store provides all the food (meat is pre-portioned and cut appropriately for each meal), ovens, utensils, etc.... and then the store employees clean up when we've gone. We each select a meal or two beforehand, make those meals for the entire group, and take home 10-15 meals apiece. It's been a HUGE blessing since Baby G was born. I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen, but there are plenty of days when a decent dinner just wouldn't happen if it weren't for the freezer meals. Besides that, I get to spend an evening in a kitchen (that I don't have to clean up!) with my friends. It's a very productive way to get out of the house for a few hours, recharge my mommy battery, and go home feeling very accomplished.

Additionally, I've added some great recipes from the Hy-Vee database to my everyday repertoire. Today, I'm modifying one that Husband and I LOVE: butternut squash enchiladas. I haven't replicated at home before because butternut squash is such a chore to prepare -- and, oddly enough, although I can eat it all day long with no problem, handling it makes my hands feel leathery, like I've added another layer to my skin. SO weird, and no lotion or scrub makes it go away. When we grew butternut squash in our garden a few years back, I processed a bunch of it to freeze for the winter, and my hands felt awful all night. So I'm done with that, but it hit me: cheaper than butternut squash and not a skin allergen to me... sweet potatoes!

I know some of you will turn up your noses at the very idea of the ingredient combination, but we love it. I promise, it doesn't taste like sweet potato. The filling is just creamy and slightly sweet against a backdrop of spicy enchilada sauce. I've modified the recipe quite a bit, but original credit goes to the chefs at Hy-Vee who have created a wonderful range of freezer-safe meals. Next time I make this, I'm certainly going to freeze a batch. There's nothing better than having a pan of enchiladas ready to pop into the oven!

gather these...
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes (give or take -- my potatoes totaled 1.25 pounds)
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 t. minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • half of a 7-oz. can chipotle sauce (save the other half for Day 25's recipe!!)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese or Neufchatel
  • 1 t. cumin
  • ½ t. ground nutmeg
  • 3 stalks of green onions, diced
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 large (16-oz.) can or 2 small (10-oz.) cans enchilada sauce
  • 10 whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded cheese, your choice (we always have Colby Jack in the house, but cheddar or a Mexican blend would also be fine)

do this...
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Prick sweet potatoes with a fork, then microwave on high 8-10 minutes, or until cooked through, turning once or twice. Allow to cool enough to handle (or protect your hands with an Ove Glove), then remove the skin and mash in a large bowl.
  3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat, then add onions and saute until soft. Add garlic several minutes in so it doesn't burn.
  4. Combine cooked onion and garlic in bowl with potato flesh, chipotle sauce, cream cheese, spices, green onions, and black beans. Mix well. After mixing, I like to use my rubber spatula to make indentations in the mixture (shown below) so my enchiladas are filled evenly.
  5. Spread about 1 cup enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 pan.
  6. Fill tortillas, then roll up and place in pan, seam side down.
  7. Top with remainder of enchilada sauce and sprinkle with cheese.
  8. Bake 30-40 minutes, until sauce is bubbling, then broil 2-3 minutes to brown cheese.
  9. ENJOY!!

day 18: honey salted caramel Greek yogurt

This post is part of the 31 Days of Delicious Fall series. Click here for the whole list!

There have been a lot of heavy, rich, indulgent foods on the blog this month. So I'm taking a quick break to bring you another grocery store find.

Aldi is really the only place where I allow myself occasional impulse buys, usually because they are so inexpensive that it's a lot easier to talk myself into deviating from the list. This was one of those occasions. I'm a sucker for pretty much everything on this label: I make my yogurt as thick as possible, I think honey alone is the best yogurt sweetener there is, and I was in love with salted caramel -- and salted chocolate, and salted whatever-dessert-you-have -- long before it exploded all over Pinterest. So when I saw this on the Aldi "special buy" shelf for $2.99, I had to pick it up.

It's velvety and smooth, not too sweet, and much better for you than the salted caramel mocha you can get at your favorite coffee shop (520 calories?!). But it feels decadent, and of course it's packed with protein. It's really the perfect fall snack when you've eaten too many goodies (read: most of what I've been blogging about this month). Big E likes to stir in some cinnamon, and I think it's best with just a few more grains of fine sea salt sprinkled over the top. If you see it on your Aldi shelf, give it a try!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

day 17: oatmeal scotchies

This post is part of the 31 Days of Delicious Fall series. Click here for the whole list!

Back when Husband and I were facilitating Financial Peace University in our home, I provided snacks for our class every week. Some may have found this to be burdensome, but I viewed it as a delightful excuse to try out new recipes. One week, I found myself pressed for time and without a plan. Enter Pinterest! I needed something fairly simple that I could make with ingredients I had on hand*. And I was, as I often am (if I'm honest), craving cookies.

I couldn't have been more happy with what I made that afternoon. These cookies are so thin they're almost lace-like -- you can actually see through them in places -- and despite what you might expect from that description, they're chewy. But there are crisp edges, and the butterscotch chips provide little bits of crunch throughout. They're everything I love in a cookie, rolled into one.

Wait. Not everything. There is no chocolate. Oddly enough, in these, I don't miss it. And while you can of course enjoy any cookie at any time of year (no one has ever said, "But it's March! This isn't peanut butter cookie season!"), I find butterscotch to be decidedly fall-like. Enjoy these with a glass of milk if you must, but believe me when I say that the classic coffee-and-a-donut combination has nothing on an oatmeal scotchie with homemade spiced hot cocoa. Ahh, there's the chocolate.

gather these...
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • ½ t. salt
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 2½-3 cups oatmeal
  • 8-12 oz. butterscotch chips

Note: the original recipe calls for 3 cups oatmeal and 12 oz. (1 package) butterscotch chips. But I was running low on some ingredients and am not crazy enough to interrupt baby naptime to go to the store... so in case you're in the same boat, I can tell you that using less of each will not kill the recipe.

do this...
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. and grease two cookie sheets (or use silicon mats, preferred).
  2. Soften butter. For some reason, when I'm making this recipe in particular, I always get absentminded and let the butter go for too long in the microwave, and half of it ends up melting. No biggie. It'll be fine.
  3. Cream together butter and sugars. Someone recently asked me what that meant, so here it is: beat on high speed until you've incorporated enough air that the fats and sugars lighten and become fluffy, as shown below. Creaming takes a minute or two; don't just beat for 20 seconds and call it good.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
  5. Stir flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together in a separate bowl, then gradually mix into the dough.
  6. Incorporate oats by stirring or beating at lower mixer speed. Stir in butterscotch chips.
  7. At this point, you can either refrigerate the dough or bake cookies immediately. I prefer to give it some refrigeration time, but that's just because it's less messy that way. The end results are exactly the same regardless.
  8. Roll dough into balls or drop by spoonfuls onto your cookie sheet, pressing down slightly. These cookies will spread a lot!!! so be sure not to crowd your baking area. Bake 9-11 minutes or just until edges start to brown. (Personally, I'd rather these be a bit overdone than underdone. I love the contrast of a crispy edge against the chewy middle, and something about the way the oats soak up the butter means that I've never had one taste burned -- just caramely. It's lovely. And underdone scotchies are really hard to handle; they fall apart so easily if they're not adequately baked.)
  9. After removing from the oven, allow cookies to cool on the sheet until they have "fallen"(they'll look a bit puffy immediately after baking) and had a chance to firm up. If you try to transfer them to a cooling rack immediately, they are so soft that you'll just have a bunch of scotchie pieces oozing through the rack. Still tasty... not so pretty. This is why I specify to prepare two pans. You'll want to give one sheet almost an entire baking time to cool before moving the cookies to the cooling rack.

*I know not everyone has butterscotch chips on hand all the time... but I try to.