Slightly Cheaper Than Therapy

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No end in sight… October 29, 2007

Filed under: holiday foods — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 3:54 pm

While I didn’t cook anything with these pumpkins, I thought you might enjoy seeing what the Hubby and I can do when we get creative:

Mine

The Hubby’s

 

Some brownies and a mini pie. October 28, 2007

Filed under: Brownies,chocolate,Pie,Uncategorized — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 4:05 pm

 

You’d think after the pumpkin bread and pumpkin pecan pie, I’d have gotten my fill of pumpkin baked goods.  Ha!  Not a chance.  This week I kept wondering what new spin I could put on this yummy fall vegetable.  Something with cream cheese, for sure.  But cheesecake is out till I can get my hands on a new spring form pan.  I do NOT want a repeat performance of the pie.  I’m still trying to clean up my oven from that mess.  What works well with cream cheese….brownies!!  Yes, cream cheese pumpkin brownies.  THAT’S what I want.  So I searched and searched and actually couldn’t find a recipe for the exact confection I was craving. 

I’ve never been one to experiment with baking.  Everything has to be measured so precisely and added at the right time or you’ll end up with an unrecognizable ball of goo.  But this time I decided to take a chance.  I mean, really, what could I screw up by adding a little pumpkin pie filling to the cream cheese topping?  Turns out nothing.  I’m so glad I gave this a shot, because it turned out so well!!  Delicious fall spices and smooth, ever-so-slightly-sweet cream atop decadent chocolatey-ness.  How is it that no one else has come up with this before??  Well, turns out Cara at Cara’s Cravings came up with something similar for the last BrownieBabes event.  Maybe I didn’t exhaust all possible outlets before I set out on my own, but I’m still glad I took this challenge on.  I’m definitely more inspired to experiment more with my baking.

Also, I have to say that two of the components of this dessert I got from other sources–the brownie base is from Cooking Light and the Cream Cheese Swirl is from Ash at Delish.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Brownies

Brownie Base
5 tablespoons stick margarine
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
2/3 cup Dutch process or unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

 Pumpkin Swirl
1 cup cooked pumpkin purée
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg, beaten until frothy
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground allspice
Pinch of ground nutmeg

Cream Cheese Swirl
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F.  Melt margarine and chocolate in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in cocoa; cook 1 minute. Stir in sugar, and cook 1 minute (mixture will almost form a ball and be difficult to stir). Remove pan from heat; cool slightly. Gradually add warm chocolate mixture to egg whites and egg, stirring with a whisk until well-blended. Combine flour and baking powder; add flour mixture to chocolate mixture, stirring well.  Spoon batter into a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray.

Cream softened butter and sugars.  Add butter and heavy cream.  Add pumpkin, spices and vanilla.  Mix well.  Set aside.

Beat cream cheese and 1 Tbsp butter in medium bowl until light and fluffy. Add 1/4 cup sugar and beat until well blended. Beat in egg, 1 Tbsp flour and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Pour evenly over brownies.  Drop teaspoonfuls of pumpkin mixture across pan.  Set unused pumpkin mixture aside.  With a knife tip, make figure eights in the cream cheese and pumpkin mixtures until swirled, being careful not to mix in the brownie batter. 

Bake at 350F for 40-50 minutes.  Do not over bake.  Cool completely before cutting.

*Use the remaining pumpkin pie filing to make a mini pumpkin pie.  I used premade pie crust that I had on hand and a small salsa dish that just fit the amount of pie filling I had left.

 

I WIN!!! October 23, 2007

Filed under: Soups & Stews — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 2:18 pm

Fall Watch 2007 is officially over and I WIN!  Well, technically we all win.  But I’d like to think that my pumpkin baking did the trick.  :o)  For the past two days the highs have been below 70F!!  We didn’t turn the heat on last night and it was actually chilly when we woke up this morning. 

This kind of a victory called for some serious celebrating so I made Rob’s absolute favorite meal, which just happens to be the quintessential fall and winter dish.

Froggianna’s Chili

1 lb. of 93/7 or 85/15 ground turkey meat
1 medium-large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
2 c. water
2-14.5 oz. cans of petit diced tomatoes, undrained
1-6 oz. can of tomato paste
1-15 oz. can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1-15 oz. can of dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 bay leaf
2% sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Brown the turkey meat with the onion, garlic, cumin and chili powder.    Add water, tomatoes, paste, beans, oregano and bay leaf.  Stir well.  Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, if desired.

*If you can stand it, it really is better to cook this, let it cool and then refrigerate overnight before serving.  The flavors meld very nicely when given time to rest.

 

In lieu of SHF #36 October 22, 2007

Filed under: Cakes,Fruit — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 3:23 pm

This weekend I was supposed to be working on my Sugar High Friday #36 concoction:  Caramel Apple Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce.  Then I stumbled across a very cute (see the picture above) and worthy blogging event that immediately trumped SHF #36.  As many of you know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Marye at Apron Strings & Simmering Things has gone a step further in raising awareness by creating The Boobie Bake Off.  She’s even got a nifty click-and-donate campaign going on to help raise some cash too.  The rules:  Bake something pink and blog about it by October 31.  It costs $1 to vote on the best Boobie Bake Off concoction, and all the money raised will be donated in the name of the winning baker. 

We all have our own causes that we like to champion and this one is especially personal for me.  In her early 30s, my aunt battled and beat breast cancer.  However, my grandmother was not so successful in her battle with ovarian cancer.  It took her from us at the young age of 45.  I was not aware of this until a few years ago, but there’s sort of a triple threat that runs in families.  If your family has faced the trifecta of breast, ovarian, and colon cancers you have a very high risk of getting some form of it yourself.  Luckily we’ve only been faced with two out of the three and, therefore, I am not in the highest risk group.  Yay!!  Still, I feel compelled to help spread the word and raise funds for cancer research whenever I can.  I believe with my heart of hearts that this is a curable disease.  We’ve just got to keep searching for a cure and keep educating people about the early warning signs. 

 Do your part this month by checking out Apron Strings’ fantastic blogging event.  If you feel compelled, even donate a little to breast cancer research while you’re at it. 

 Strawberry Jello Cake

1 Box of Duncan Hines Golden Vanilla cake mix with pudding
3 T flour
1 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. water
4 eggs
1 small package of strawberry Jello
1 10oz. container of frozen sweetened strawberries in juice, divided into 6 oz and 4 oz.

Mix cake mix, flour, oil, water and eggs well.  Add jello and 6 oz. of strawberries and juice and mix well.  Pour into a bundt pan and bake for about 35-45 minutes or until an inserted tooth pick comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely.

Icing

1/2 stick of butter, melted and cooled
remaining 4 oz. of strawberries and juice
2-3 c. powdered sugar 

Combine all ingredients, adding sugar in 1 c. incriments until desired consistency is reached.  Pour over cake and serve.

  

 

We’ll call it a draw. October 19, 2007

Filed under: Breads — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 2:56 pm

 The black specs are walnuts, not raisins.

Fall Watch 2007 Update:  Yesterday, much to my chagrin, it hit 91F.  BOO!!!!  But then this morning when I got up to let the dog out, it was (dare I say it???) COOL!  According to the temperature gage in my car it was 56F when I left the house this morning at 7:45.  And in my book that counts as a step in the right direction.  The high today’s supposed to be just a touch under the 90-mark, but at this point I’ll take it. 

And just to prove that I’m serious about this cool weather thing, here’s my second offering to Fall:

Pumpkin Bread

1 1/2 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 2/3c. flour
1/2 c. oil
1/2 c. water
1 c. canned pumpkin
2 eggs
1/2 c. nuts (pecans, walnuts, whatever)

Mix all ingredients well and bake at 350F for about 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

 

Please? What if I use pumpkin?? October 16, 2007

Filed under: Desserts — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 7:31 pm

 

Perhaps I’m just not used to the rate at which the seasons change here in Central Texas, but it seems ludicrous to me that it is still hitting 90 degrees!  In mid-October!!  In fact, I consider this down right silly.  Fall has to be on its way, doesn’t it?  I mean it is going to dip below 80 this year, right?  Maybe it’s my fault.  Maybet my previous attempts to persuade Fall’s arrival haven’t been taken as sincere.  Soup isn’t necessarily a fall dish, I guess (gazpatcho anyone?).  And dressing/stuffing is sold year round (bleh…Stouffer’s).  What absolutely screams fall…?  PUMPKIN!  YES!! THIS WILL DO THE TRICK!!

Fall (or some cruel interloper) must have been whispering, “IF YOU BAKE WITH PUMPKIN, IT WILL COME,” in my ear, because I bought no less than three cans at the store, and I had absolutely no intention of doing so.  Somehow they all just jumped into my cart.  So what to make, what to make.  I let the Hubby take a look at the contenders I have been compiling for weeks and he finally decided on Pumpkin-Pecan Pie.  What a brilliant man I married!  I mean, really, what more could Fall ask for?  It’s like the double whammy of good, cool weather juju served in a flaky buttery crust. 

I whipped up this offering on Sunday during the noon game (before my Cowboys were knocked for a loop by the Pats), and while we haven’t seen 90 degrees this week, it still isn’t Fall.  But there is still hope!  Our weather mediums gazed into their murky crystal ball and said that (dare I say it?) a cold front is on its way!  So I’ll keep you all posted on Fall Watch 2007 and see if the pumpkin did in fact encourage the cooler weather along. 

Pumpkin-Pecan Pie

Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
3 to 4 tablespoons cold water

Pumpkin Filling
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg, beaten until frothy
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground allspice
Pinch of ground nutmeg

Pecan Syrup
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
2 small eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
1 pinch ground cinnamon
3/4 cup pecan pieces 

Pie Crust
Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and incorporate with your fingertips until the mixture resembles very coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle the water over the flour mixture in tablespoon increments, stirring continuously with a fork. Form the dough into a ball and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Pumpkin Filling
Combine all the ingredients thoroughly in a medium bowl; set aside.

Pecan Syrup
Combine all the ingredients thoroughly in a medium bowl; set aside.

Assembly
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease an 8-inch springform cake pan.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface to 3/16 inch. Very lightly flour the top of the dough and fold it into quarters. Carefully place the dough in the greased cake pan. Press firmly in place and trim the edges. Chill for 15 minutes.

Spoon the Pumpkin Filling into the pan, spreading evenly to distribute. Gently pour the Pecan Syrup on top. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Cool and serve with whip cream, if desired.

**I discovered that my springform pan is not suited for liquids this thin, as I lost about half the pecan syrup in my oven’s drip pan.  You can imagine how great THAT smelled.  Next time I think I’ll just bake this in a deep dish baking pan. 

 

Chicken Empanadas October 15, 2007

Filed under: Chicken,Hors D'oeuvre — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 2:26 pm

 

On any average day, I tend to walk the culinary straight and narrow.  This means nothing overly fatty (sigh), fried (hmph) or cheesy (BOO!).  But all I need is the teeny tiniest of excuses to send me digging through my Lick ‘Em & Stick ‘Em recipes.  These are so bad (read: lip-smacking, mouth-watering yumminess) that you might as well lick them and then stick them to your hips because that’s exactly where they’re going.  Unless you’re my friend Megan who has the metabolism of 15 average women and who, therefore, we all take turns hating. 

This week my excuse was our semi-regular Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournament.  I made these for the last tournament and they were such a hit that they got asked back to the party.  This is really saying something since the menfolk don’t care much for greasy playing cards.  Leave it to Paula Deen to charm the guys. 

 So Thursday night I spent the evening rolling out dough and filling up mini fried-pie type things.  Some argue that making empanadas from scratch is way too much of a PITA to deal with, but I disagree.  There is something strangely soothing and comforting about kneading and rolling out dough.  Even if it isn’t dough you’ve made from scratch.  In fact, I think it’s the perfect way to prepare for a poker tournament.  You’ll arrive with a batch of goodies that will distract all your opponents, while you sit there and rake in the dough (ha, sorry), completely calm and relaxed. 

Cheesiest Fried Chicken Empanadas
Paula Deen 

3 cups chopped, cooked chicken, about 4 to 5 chicken breasts
1 (8-ounce) package shredded colby and Monterey Jack cheese blend
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 chopped red bell pepper (I omit this.)
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie crusts
Water

Preheat oven to 375F. 

In a large bowl using a rubber spatula, combine the chicken, colby and Monterey cheese, cream cheese, red pepper, jalapeno, cumin, salt, and pepper. Remove 1 pie crust from pie tin onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 15-inch circle. Cut out rounds, using a 3-inch cookie cutter. Re-roll dough as needed. Repeat procedure with remaining pie crusts, making 12 to 15 circles total. Arrange 1 round on a clean, flat surface. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the edges of crust with water. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of chicken mixture in the center of the round. Fold the dough over the filling, pressing the edges with a fork to seal. Repeat with the remaining rounds and chicken mixture. Place empanadas on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until slightly golden.

Top with your favorite Mexican sauce (chili con queso, guacamole, salsa, etc.).

*Paula Deen’s original recipe has you deep fry these, which I did the first time I made them.  However, after testing out one baked empanada, I felt that they were just as delicious and actually were easier to eat during the tournament (see the aforementioned greasy fingers).  If you do want to deep fry these, just heat your oil to 350F, and drop 4 or 5 in for about 3-4 minutes or until golden brown.