Friday, October 29, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Perfection Bars

The other day I got obsessed with It's a website where you flag topics that you are interested in, then click "stumble" and you are directed to sites that it thinks you will enjoy. It's like crack... I couldn't stop. I was directed to lots of food blogs, and one that came up had a recipe for pumpkin pie bars. Here it is. I made them, and Caenaan LOVED them. I was on the fence about them, as they were very soft and the flavor was a bit off. I decided to create my own recipe based on these pumpkin bars, and if I do say so myself, they are AMAZING. Here is the recipe!

Pumpkin Pie Perfection Bars

Crust Ingredients:
2 1/2 Sticks Unsalted Butter, room temperature
1 Cup Sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
3 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 Cups chopped pecans

1 Cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup brown sugar

Filling Ingredients:
1 (15 oz) can Pumpkin Puree
1 (12 oz) can Evaporated Milk
2 eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4-1/2 cup cinnamon chips (I found mine at The Good Food Store, but Hershey's also makes them)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a 9X13 aluminum pan with parchment paper, allowing it to hang over the sides.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix together butter and sugar until combined. Add the vanilla and almond extracts. Sift together flour and salt in separate bowl, and then add to the butter/sugar mixture. Add the pecans and mix on low speed until combined and dough starts to come together (it will be slightly crumbly, but will hold together when you press it). Press about 2/3 of the dough into the parchment lined pan, reserving the rest for the topping. Bake for 18-20 minutes (you want it firm but not browned).

While the crust bakes, assemble the filling. Combine the sugar, salt, cinnamon and cloves in a small bowl. Beat eggs lightly in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar/spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

Add oats and brown sugar to remaining crust mixture and crumble it together. Set aside.

When you remove the crust from the oven, turn the oven up to 425 degrees F and immediately sprinkle the crust with the cinnamon chips. Then pour the pumpkin filling over the top. Return to oven, bake for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees F. Remove the pan and gently sprinkle with the oat/brown sugar/crust mixture. You want an even layer, but might not use all of the mixture. (Save the extra and use it as a crumble topping for baked apples or berries. Yum.) Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 25-30 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the bars cool for about 15 minutes, then remove them from the pan, cut and serve. Ice cream might be necessary. O. M. G.

Hunting and Halloween and Homemaking...

Hunting season in Montana opened this past Saturday. Even though I had gone out and had WAY too much fun at MAT's Rocky Horror Show on Friday, I dragged my ass out of bed and went hunting with my husband. He is set on making me a mountain woman and has had so much fun buying me all sorts of hunting gear. I have my own gun, my own fanny pack, my own camouflage outfit, orange vest, hat and binoculars! We drove to Lolo, then went up Highway 12 and finally to Wagon Wheel Road. We spent about 3 hours driving slowly and quietly on all the back roads, up and down the mountain. Unfortunately, we didn't see a thing except for panoramic views of the gorgeous mountains. I had fun getting all dressed up, though, and spending the day with Caenaan.

Later in the week, I got to dress up for work every day. The first day, I got pretty ambitious and dressed up as one of my favorite characters from my childhood... Jem! She's truly outrageous. Jenny and I used to have a bunch of Jem dolls... I remember cutting Kimber's hair really short (I was known for torturing Barbies. I used to chew on Jenny's Barbie's hands and feet.) After I cut her hair, she was always the ugly doll and nobody wanted to play with her. Sad. Here is me, complete with a keytar from the '80s! (oh and by the way, I dressed as Jem TWENTY years ago for Halloween!!)

The next post will be about a few recipes I have tried this week!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mommy's Chicken and Dumplings

(This picture that I took sucks. But after searching for beautiful pictures of Chicken and Dumplings on Google to pass off for my own, I have found that all pictures of Chicken and Dumplings suck. I guess that's what you get when "dump" is in the title of your dish.)

I was sick this week. So sick, in fact that I did not go one day without a massive 2-hour nap. And even then, I was exhausted. One day, I woke up from said ginormous nap and Caenaan had brought home all I needed to make my favorite comfort food: my mom's Chicken and Dumplings. I had to make them myself, but I guess it's the thought that counts. That, and I don't think he could even read my recipe, considering that it is just a list of ingredients scratched on a notecard... I've made it so many times. So, here it is for you to enjoy. Every person should have a recipe like this in their arsenal... comfort food at it's finest!

Mom's Chicken and Dumplings (simplified)

Now, when my mom makes this, she of course makes her own chicken stock and uses the cooked chicken from that in this recipe. I am lazier, and find that it's nearly as satisfying to buy stock and pre-cooked chicken from the store. And that turns this into a 30-Minute Meal (ugh, Rachael Ray).


Two 32 oz Cartons Chicken Broth (or stock)
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 or 2 Tsp Poultry Seasoning (I like LOTS)
1 Rotisserie Chicken
Salt and Pepper

Dumplings (this is doubled... I like dumplings)
3 C Flour
1 Tsp Salt
3 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 C Shortening
1 C Milk

Remove the meat from the rotisserie chicken and set aside. Throw away the bones and skin, or save them to make your own chicken stock!

Pour chicken broth into large stockpot, whisk in cream of chicken soup and poultry seasoning. Heat over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally to remove lumps.

While broth heats up, combine flour, salt and baking powder in large mixing bowl. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender or a fork, until there are crumbs no larger than peas. Stir in milk until dough combines. Form into a ball. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick on a floured surface. Cut into strips about 2 inches wide, then cut those strips into pieces about 3 inches long. Add reserved chicken to broth, then drop dumplings one at a time into the boiling broth. Lower heat to medium. Let the dumplings float for a few minutes, then push them down into the broth gently. Don't manhandle them, or they'll disintegrate! Keep pushing the dumplings down every few minutes and after about 7 minutes of cooking, your chicken and dumplings will be done! Add salt and pepper to taste.

These get even better as the days go by... the dumplings break down a bit and thicken the soup even more. Mmm.... Thanks MOM!

The Best Frackin' Popcorn... Ever.

If you guys haven't tried making your own popcorn at home, you're crazy. While I do love that microwaved fake-buttery goodness in a bag, making your own popcorn is SO cheap and amazing. Most of the time, you just put a layer of popcorn kernels in the bottom of a large stockpot, barely cover them with oil, set the heat to medium-high, cover and shake till the popping almost stops. Seriously, it takes about 5 minutes. However, with 5 seconds more work, you can have ridiculously delicious kettle corn that will impress your friends... I would know. I made it for the first time last night, and Amy and Shelley FREAKED. So here goes...

Spicy-Sweet-Salty-Crunchy Kettle Corn. Aka: Crack.

1/2 Cup Popcorn Kernels
Enough neutral oil (Canola, Peanut, Vegetable) to barely cover them in a stockpot (maybe 1/4-1/2 Cup)
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Tsp Paprika, or a mix of Paprika and Chili Powder, or add some Cayenne in there for a kick!
Salt to taste

Put your popcorn kernels and oil in a large stockpot. Cover with a lid. Set burner to medium-high. While the oil and kernels heat up, mix sugar and Paprika in a small bowl. As soon as you hear one or two kernels pop, quickly remove lid and pour in the sugar/spice mixture. Replace lid before you get burned (I have a cute little blister from not heeding my own advice). Shake, rattle and roll until the popping slows to 1-2 seconds between pops. Remove from heat immediately, wait a few seconds for popping to subside and then remove lid and add as much salt as you want. Transfer to a bowl. You can eat this molten, sticky popcorn now, or wait a few minutes until the sugar hardens and the popcorn becomes really crunchy.

I made a big batch of this a half-hour ago, and as I typed this blog post, I ate it all. Go me. Now, go you, and make this crack-corn for yourself, or share it with friends if you dare.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sweet Potato Tots

It seems that this is the recipe y'all are most interested in, so here it is. If you've ever been to James Bar and had their sweet potato tots, well... these are better. And cheaper.

3 Large yams (often confused for sweet potatoes... sweet potatoes are yellow, not orange)
2 Eggs
1 cup flour
2 bags potato chips or 2-3 cups Panko bread crumbs
Oil for frying

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place sweet potatoes on an aluminum or parchment lined baking sheet. Roast until just fork tender, but not mushy. Lumps are okay! (If you'd rather, you can peel the potatoes, cube them and then boil them for 20 minutes or so.... basically, we're just making mashed potatoes to begin with)

Once potatoes have cooled, peel them and mash them in a bowl. Don't obliterate them, as this leads to mushy tots. Nobody wants mushy tots. Add eggs, flour, salt and pepper to taste. If the potatoes are too dry, you can add a splash of milk, but sweet potatoes have a higher sugar/moisture content than russet potatoes and so they tend to be much more moist.

Now would be a good time to start heating your oil up to 350 degrees. It's important to get that oil up to temperature before you add the tots, or the filling will ooze. No oozy tots.

While your oil is heating, you want to start forming the tots. Begin by crushing the potato chips into a shallow dish (or just pour the panko into said dish). Then, drop spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the crumbs. Roll the potatoes around in the crumbs, then form them into a tot shape. The easiest way to do this is to make a light fist around the tot, then pinch the ends with your other hand. You'll get the hang of it. Make all the tots before you begin frying, or you'll get behind! They take a bit of time.

Then, begin frying them in small batches. They like to stick to one another, so be gentle with them, or they'll fall apart. Fry till golden brown, turning periodically so they brown evenly. They should take about 5-7 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Add more salt to taste.

I like to serve them with this chili ketchup...

1 cup ketchup (I love ketchup.)
1-2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Mix everything in a small bowl. Dip your tots. Enter food bliss.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Holy Hiatus, Batman!

Well, as you can tell, this blog has gone by the wayside... The end of the summer was just too jam-packed and beautiful to be spent inside blogging. Then, my second year of grad school began, and my life got way too crazy way too fast. Caenaan and I barely had any time together, and when we did, the last thing we wanted to do was blog. Sleep was higher on the priority list. But I'll fill you in on a few things that have been going on since July...

I met a few famous people, including Alex Gemignani (Broadway: Les Miserables, Sweeney Todd, Assassins)

and Seth Rudetsky (Host on Sirius/XM's On Broadway, musical director and accompanist for tons of Broadway shows)

Went on a few great adventures....

Glacier Park with one of my long-time best friends Amie...

A few days in Cut Bank, spent cooking, traveling and hiking with my mommy....

We cooked Chinese Green Onion Cakes that mom had while she was in China

High tea at the Prince of Wales hotel in Waterton, Alberta, Canada...

Iceberg Lake with mom... Probably the most beautiful hike I've ever been on.

"Gourmet" tuna salad, made with hand-picked wild chives!

Mother-Daughter love

LOTS of fun cooking in my own kitchen! Recipes to come...

Sweet Potato Tots

Bread and Butter Pickles

Fig, Goat Cheese and Walnut Pizza with Balsamic Glaze

Saw some new sights in P-Burg... the mine up at Granite Ghost Town


Started working on Hair, but found some time to horse around and enjoy the weekend...

SOOO..... That's two months in a blog post. Now that my life is calming down a tad (after SIX weeks of school...) I may be able to update this thing more often... you guys really need the recipe for my sweet potato tots and quick dill pickles!

Mrs. Hatfield