Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fall's comfort food: 3 great recipes

Some cinnamon rolls I made two weekends ago. 
Liebe Freunde!  It's been a couple of seriously rainy, cold and cozy days here in Germany.  The clouds seem to have gotten trapped above our sleepy little valley and are emptying out all of their contents on our heads.  The streets and pathways are strewn with fragrant, wet, fallen leaves and smoke rises from the chimneys of all of the houses.

The newly cool weather and gray skies have left me craving all things autumn and in the mood to cook and bake.  Pumpkin, which I had to buy at an American store over the internet, has been my secret weapon.  It has always been my favorite and an autumn staple; but, after realizing it was impossible to find canned here last year, I had to settle for an entire year without it.  I am still trying to use it sparingly, as one can costs about 4 EURO (about 6 dollars) plus shipping.  But, I have been able to make pumpkin bread, pumpkin and ricotta stuffed shells and pumpkin breakfast bars with just one large can!
Tomato soup with grilled cheese from last Friday night.

Typically, I devote this blog to design tips on a small budget but, it was never my intent to stop there.  As the subtitle of the blog states, my goal is to share with you a few of my tips for leading a really rich life, full of beauty, fun, friends, family, experiences and more, without spending much.  I have absolutely nothing that qualifies me to do this, nor do I think that I have any right to give anyone tips.  I just like pretty, fun, happy, wonderful things and want to write about them.
French toast with sauteed pears and nectarines from last Saturday.
 So, I stray.  The point is, I freakin' LOVE autumn.  And I freakin' LOVE pumpkin.  I love autumn and I love pumpkin.  And because I want you to have a wonderful, magical fall, here are 3 great recipes that I have made in the last three weeks.  Celebrate this beautiful, simple, cozy time!

Apple, Walnut, Yogurt and Olive Oil Cake
This recipe is from Cannelle et Vanille originally.

makes 1 bundt pan

Note: these measurements are using a 125 ml container of yogurt.
1 measure (125ml) plain yogurt
1 measure demerara sugar
1 measure sugar
4 eggs (3 if they are extra-large)
1 measure light olive oil
1 vanilla bean, split and seeded
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 measures gluten free flour mix or all purpose flour
1/2 tsp xanthan gum if using the gluten free mix
1 Tbs baking powder
pinch salt
handful of chopped walnuts
2 pink apples
2 tsp butter
2-3 Tbs sugar

Butter and flour the inside of a bundt pan.

Slice one of the apples thinly. Heat the butter and 1 Tbs sugar in a pan. Add the slices of apple and cook for a minute on each side. The sugar doesn't have to caramelize. Let the slices cool slightly and then line the bottom of the bundt pan with them, overlapping slightly.

Dice the other apples and cook them in the remaining butter and sugar. Let them cool.

In a bowl, whisk together the gluten free flour mix, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugars, eggs, olive oil, vanilla seeds and cinnamon. Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and mix. Fold in the chopped walnuts and sauteed apples.

Pour batter into pan and bake in a 350F (180C) oven for about 30 minutes or until done (depending on the size of the pan)

Apple, Walnut, Yogurt and Olive Oil Cake.

After making this, I decided you should double the amount of apple in it.  I would put two layers of apples on the bottom of the cake and one layer of apple on the top (or a layer in the middle).  The apple was the best part.  This is a really moist but dense cake, with an excellent, almost woody flavor.  

Delicious Pumpkin Oatmeal Breakfast Bars. 

4 cups oatmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup pumpkin
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla 
1 cup raisins, dried cranberries (or my choice, a mix of the two)  
handful of chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

Preheat oven to 325˚F (or 162˚C).  In a large bowl, combine oatmeal, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.  Mix in remaining ingredients.  Spread in greased 9x13 pan.  Bake for 40 minutes.  Let cool.  Cut into bars and enjoy! 

Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells
Image from Country Living.
Adapted slightly from Country Living Magazine

24 jumbo pasta shells (or, small shells or cannelloni)
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
2 cups ricotta cheese (the original recipe calls for fat-free but I think it's tastier with full fat)
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree (plus a few scoops if you happen to be using a larger can and then making pumpkin bars...the more pumpkin-y the better)
3/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons pecorino Romano, grated
1 large egg white
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped sage
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 jar (26 oz.) store bought tomato sauce

Cook pasta shells according to package directions, but take a minute or two off so that they are still al dente.  Drain, transfer to a baking sheet, drizzle with oil and let cool. 

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix ricotta, pumpkin, 3/4 cup of pecorino Romano and remaining ingredients, except the tomato sauce.

Preheat over to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).  Spread sauce into  9x13 in. baking dish.  Fill each pasta shell with about 3 tablespoons of ricotta-pumpkin mix and arrange in pan. Cover pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes. 

Remove foil, sprinkle shells with remaining pecorino and bake uncovered for 15 minutes more.  

I made these when I had company last weekend and I absolutely love them.  The original recipe calls for a half of cup more ricotta but I didn't have that much.  I left it out because my mom made them with the correct amount of ricotta and she said they weren't pumpkin-y enough.  Mine were perfectly cheesy, pumpkin-y and tasty.  Yummm.  

So, get cooking, invite over some good friends and enjoy this cozy time! 

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