Pumpkin Bars

I’ve been doing a lot of pumpkin carving this week to get ready for Halloween. Then last night the Great Pumpkin was on TV. All this pumpkin stuff going on around me made me crave pumpkin bars. Pumpkin is not typically one of my favorite flavors. Someone else can have my slice of pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner! These bars, though, are an exception for me. They’re moist and cake-like in texture, and I love the cream cheese frosting. These bars are very easy to make and they make plenty to share. Just for fun I used a pumpkin shaped cookie cutter to cut out the bars just before serving – Pumpkin shaped pumpkin bars. I might be on pumpkin overload! 🙂

4 eggs
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
1 can pumpkin
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a jelly roll pan with cooking spray. Mix eggs, oil, sugar and pumpkin in a large bowl. Mix the remaining (dry) ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting

8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 to 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Whip together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar. Spread on cooled bars.

Happy Halloween!
– Jodi

Baked Potato Soup

Last night we raked up all the leaves in the yard and we had pumpkins that needed carving so I needed a quick dinner. All the cold damp weather we’ve been having here in Minnesota has made me crave soup pretty much every day. I decided to make this recipe from the kraft foods website, I just changed out some of the ingredients for healthier versions.

1 lb. baking potatoes (about 2), cubed
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) chicken broth (I used fat-free reduced-sodium)
1 cup milk
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese (I used reduced fat)
1 sliced green onion
1/4 cup sour cream (I used the fat free)

Microwave potatoes in large microwaveable bowl on high 5 min, stirring after 2-1/2 min. Stir in broth and milk. Microwave 10 min, stirring after 5 min. Carefully crush potatoes with potato masher.
Reserve 2 Tbsp. each bacon and cheese and 1 Tbsp. onions for topping. Stir remaining bacon, cheese and onions into soup.
Serve topped with reserved bacon, cheese, onions and sour cream.

This was a fast meal for a busy weeknight. Mine took a little longer because I didn’t cut up the potatoes small enough, so next time I’ll try 1 inch cubes. Even using the lower fat ingredients this soup was very creamy and hearty. Definitely one I will make again!
– Jodi

Apple Cinnamon Bread

Last week I made a Braided Onion Loaf that turned out very well. I thought I’d play with the fillings on this bread a little bit to see what other kinds of bread braids I could make. Since I still have way more apples than I know what to do with I wanted to incorporate them somehow. I decided on a sweet apple cinnamon filled bread. I used the same dough as last week, but to keep it simple I’m posting that info here too.

1 pkg (1/4 oz) active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup warm milk
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 apples finely diced, about 2 cups
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp apple pie spice (I use this recipe)
1/4 cup butter, softened

Topping (approximate measurements here, I just threw this together):
3-4 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the milk, butter, egg, sugar, salt, and 2 cups flour; beat until smooth. Add enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

In a small bowl, combine the filling ingredients. Punch dough down; turn onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into thirds. Roll each portion into a rectangle about 20 in X 4 in. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting from a long side.

Place ropes on a baking sheet lined with either parchment or a silicone baking mat; braid. Pinch ends to seal and tuck under. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with melted butter/Topping above, remove from pan onto wire rack.
This was much messier coming out of the oven than the onion loaf, probably because it was a much moister filling. Definitely use something to line the pan because the butter/brown sugar does leak a little around the edges and caramelize. It was also a much heavier loaf than last week’s and a little difficult to move from the pan to the rack without it separating. But, that said, this was totally worth the effort. The bread is chewy and moist with a lot of apple cinnamon flavor. Perfect for snacking on this very chilly fall Sunday!

– Jodi

P.S. I couldn’t resist sharing this little picture of my kitchen “helpers”! They’re always waiting to see if I’ll drop anything, and they are loving all the apples around here. 🙂

Au Gratin Potatoes

I’ve had a ham in the freezer for a while now, and finally this week decided I’d cook it up.  Scott doesn’t really like ham all that much, so I thought I’d make a nice side dish I knew he’d like so the meal wasn’t a total loss for him. I enjoy ham by itself, but really want the bone and the leftovers for some soup! Anyway, I decided on au gratin potatoes because I happened to have everything on hand and they sounded like a good pairing. I used this recipe from allrecipes.com. They were very easy to make, cutting up the potatoes took me the longest. They turned out creamy and cheesy, and were great with the ham!

4 russet potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 onion, sliced into rings
salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (I used white cheddar, I’m addicted to it!)

Preheat oven to 400, spray a 1 quart casserole dish with cooking spray.
Layer 1/2 of the potatoes into bottom of the prepared casserole dish. Top with the onion slices, and add the remaining potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
In a medium-size saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Mix in the flour and salt, and stir constantly with a whisk for one minute. Stir in milk. Cook until mixture has thickened. Stir in cheese all at once, and continue stirring until melted, about 30 to 60 seconds. 
Pour cheese over the potatoes, and cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake 1 1/2 hours.

– Jodi

Apple Danish Tartlets

This past weekend I went to a local orchard with my mom and sister. I came home with lots of apples, pumpkins and other little goodies. So now, of course, some apple recipes are in order! I found this one and it reminded me of the coffee cakes I used to pick up now and then at the grocery store bakery. This was my first homemade pie crust, and I think it came out great!

Pie Crust (you can use 1 premade refrigerated if you want to save time):
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into one inch pieces
1/8 to 1/4 cup ice water

In a food processor, place the flour, salt, and sugar and process until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal (about 15 seconds). Pour 1/8 cup water in a slow, steady stream, through the feed tube until the dough just holds together when pinched, no more than 30 seconds. If necessary, add more water. Turn the dough onto counter and gather into a ball, then flatten into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about one hour before using.

After the dough has chilled sufficiently, remove from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry into a 12 inch circle.  Use an over-turned glass (or any circle cutter) to cut out individual crusts, re-rolling dough scraps to use up (I ended up with 12 small circles). 

Heat oven to 375. Spray 12 muffin cups with cooking spray. Brush off any excess flour and press one pastry circle to fit in bottom and up sides of each muffin cup.

2 medium apples, peeled, diced (about 2 1/2 cups) I used Honeygold apples
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 8 oz pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 tsp milk

Mix apples, brown sugar, flour, lemon juice and cinnamon in a medium bowl until apples are coated. In separate bowl beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla and egg with mixer on medium speed until creamy.  

Spread 2-3 tsp cream mixture in each muffin cup. Top each with one heaping tbsp of apple mixture. Place pan on bottom rack in oven and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until filling is set and crust is light golden brown. Cool on cooling rack about 30 minutes, then refrigerate about 4 hours. 

Just before serving, mix 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 tsp milk. Stir in additional milk 1/2 tsp at a time until thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle glaze over tartlets. Store in refrigerator. 

These are sweet, but the cream cheese does tone it down a bit. The original recipe makes one regular sized tart, but I love mini desserts so I modified to individual muffin sized tartlets. I’ve been warned if I’m going to want to have any more for myself I better put them aside now or they will be gone. 🙂

– Jodi