Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Oh no! Another argument that is going to increase my grocery bill.

This article from the San Fransisco Chronicle makes a good case for only buying C&H CANE sugar!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cream Cheese Frosting

This is a variation of the original from my cousin Shelly's cream cheese frosting recipe that goes with her pumpkin bars:

3 oz cream cheese
1/2 stick butter
.75-1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp. vitamin D milk
Powdered sugar: start with 1 cup, and add until it is the right consistency/taste. I think I ended up at 1.25 cups.

I use the KitchenAid mixer with the wire whip attachment.

Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Then put in the 1 c. of powdered sugar. Throw the vanilla and milk in on top of that and beat some more. REALLY whip it.


Some good and bad news from last night's cooking adventures.

The good news:
1) I had time to make one of the things I had planned this weekend. I made the two versions of pumpkin bars as a test. That is probably all I will get to, since we are going out of town at the spur of the moment (leaving early tomorrow!). I cannot handle the spontaneity.

2) Also, I got to see some good old friends tonight, and one subsequently sent me a cooking blog she has been reading. When my husband heard one of the posts was for Homemade Turkey and Chicken Jerky, I realized I would be adding yet another distraction. In return, I promised her links to two site that I like that have information about preserving food (i.e. how long you can store fresh fruits and veggies in the fridge).

They are:

The bad news:

1) I ate two (good sized) pumpkin bars. This is after some inevitable "quality control" tests of the cream cheese frosting. My stomach is less than happy with me.

2) I used to cook almost exclusively late at night. Now I remember why that is a BAD idea. Since it is late, and I was getting impatient. I definitely frosted both types of bars before they were cool. The "bar-like" bars may be slightly undercooked (or I just cut into them too soon). Actually, I think this contributed to the fact that they won round one of the test! They tasted a bit like pumpkin pie, but with cream cheese frosting! Yum! BUT, the bad part of this, is it is not a very good test of the recipe.

3) I did not update the original recipes with my amendments, comments, and pictures. This will happen soon. Here are the originals, plus the cream cheese frosting recipe (which I actually did type up with my changes!)

Here are the recipes:

I altered the frosting with Shelly's recipe and got it to a VERY good point!

Our parents will be guinea pigs today for the two recipes. Verdict and full recipes will come later. I will also post the recipe that I finally recorded this morning for the muesli mix that I make. It is modeled off of the ratios of grains, nuts, and dried fruits in Dorset Cereal's Simply Delicious Muesli.

UPDATE: New winner! Apparently, the bar-like pumpkin bars are only better gooey and warm straight out of the oven and very late at night. Unanimously, my in-laws, husband, parents and I chose Shelly's good old recipe (of course not quite Shelly's recipe--my minor amendments still to come). My mother especially (Shelly is her niece) enjoyed the good old recipe.

Bar-like pumpkin bars

Paul's pumpkin bars from Allrecipes. I have noted changes according to advice from the comments on that site to make them more bar-like.


  • 3 eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups white sugar (less, still over 1 c.)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (1/2 c. oil, 1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce)
  • 1 (30 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (less than this--a little more than half)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (less than this--a little more than half)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • Chocolate chips or nuts?
  • Need to put some vanilla in here!! Pioneer woman does 1.5 tsp for half the size recipe!
  • 1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened (more)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir into the pumpkin mixture until thoroughly combined.
  3. Spread the batter evenly into an ungreased 10x15 inch jellyroll pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in preheated oven. Cool before frosting.
  4. To make the frosting, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Stir in vanilla. Add confectioners' sugar a little at a time, beating until mixture is smooth. Spread evenly on top of the cooled bars. Cut into squares.

Shelly's Pumpkin Bars (updated with step-by-step instructions)

My cousin Shelly always brought these to Thanksgiving. As a picky kid, I refused to eat pumpkin or cheese in cake. Oh, what I have been missing all of my life.

I made these from her recipe (with my own slight amendments -- even family recipes I can't resist altering) for the first time this fall. These overwhelmingly beat out the Bar-like pumpkin bars altered from Allrecipes.

Since my husband's pants are really taking the beating from my cooking addiction, he requested trying to make these with 75% of the sugar. I will try this next time. However, I am quite averse to sugar substitutes, so I will probably do this by reducing the amount of frosting and the amount of powdered sugar in the frosting, and by just reducing the amount of sugar in the cake itself a bit. It will take some experimenting to see how far I can go.

Bars Ingredients
.5 c. canola oil
.5 c. unsweetened applesauce
2 c. sugar
2 c. pumpkin
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
Raisins or nuts, optional

Bar Directions
1. Combine the first six ingredients (oil, applesauce, sugar, pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla) in the kitchen aid mixer, until well mixed, light and fluffy.

2. Sift in the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice.
3. Mix until well combined, scraping the beater and sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is mixed.
4. Pour the batter into a greased (Pam works fine) commercial cookie sheet pan.

Note: In the step-by-step pictures, I was using a 11 1/2 by 8 in. pyrex, because I made a half recipe. The volume was not exactly half of the commercial cookie sheet I use for the full recipe, so the pictures in the pyrex are a bit thicker than what the cake looks like in the cookie sheet pan.

5. Bake in a jelly roll pan at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.

6. Let the bars cool a bit before frosting with Cream Cheese Frosting. I am not sure exactly how much frosting I use for the full sheet pan or how long I let these cool! I fail as a food blogger, clearly.

Something is missing from that pan!

Ah, here it is:

Where do these keep running off to ;) ?

Note: This Cream Cheese Frosting is my preferred cream cheese frosting. Below is the original recipe with Shelly's bars.
3 oz. cream cheese
1 3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 tbsp. cream
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 stick margarine

Flax and Walnut Bread

I really like this bread. A nutty wheat bread with good flavor.

Adapted from this Allrecipes recipe.

Flax and Walnut Bread


  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/3 cups whole wheat bread flour
  • 1.5 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast (or bread machine yeast)
  • 1/2 cup flax seeds (ground)
  • 1/2 cup crushed walnuts
Add in the order specified by your bread machine.

Apple-Cinnamon Granola Bread

This bread has a very good flavor, and is very dense as are most breads with this much whole wheat. However, it is not as good as other multi-grain recipes I have tried, because there are no nutty/chewy bits to go along with the generally dense texture of the bread.

Adapted from The Bread Machine Collection (2001)

1.5 lb Loaf
1 c. water
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
1 tbsp. walnut oil (or olive or canola oil)
3/4 tsp. salt
2 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/4 c. bread flour
3/4 c. granola
1/3 c. nonfat dry milk powder
4 tsp. packed brown sugar
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1.5 tsp. bread machine yeast

Place all ingredients in the bread maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Bake on the whole wheat, lightest crust setting.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

About the Cooking Addict

I have a cooking addiction. I am constantly planning what to cook, reading new recipes, and cooking them! I have to force myself not to cook or read or think about cooking when I should be doing other things (like research for my PhD)!! I have a husband who thankfully has a very fast metabolism, loves to eat, and indulges my cooking adventures. I secretly (OK not so secretly) have a pipe dream to run my own bakery or catering business someday.

I created this blog JUST FOR MYSELF. I realized I was trying and saving TONS of recipes, without keeping track of which were to die for, good, or not worth making again. Plus, I must amend almost every recipe I try, and I was losing all of these important amendments, additions, and notes in my head.

So, this blog will recount the good, the bad, and the ugly of my cooking adventures. The hope is that if I ever follow my pipe dream, I will have a set of recipes perfected. If I don't follow this dream, the goal is that when I am a busy mom someday (someday far away don't worry!) I will be as lightning fast AND delicious as my own mother in the kitchen. Finally, I hope that writing about my crazy cooking addiction will force me to realize just how out of control it is!!

I occasionally do some other things besides cook. I spend my time:
  • Working on my PhD,
  • Spoiling my nieces and nephews like a good aunt should,
  • Exercising (I also have a mild running and soccer addiction),
  • Volunteering,
  • And babying my dog in an attempt to make it up to him that we live in an apartment and kidnapped him from a farm when he was a puppy.

My sister's Halloween bash

One of my lovely Chicago sisters (who is far more social than me!) is hosting a Halloween bonfire next weekend (no rain please!!)

Because of my cooking addiction, my immediate thoughts went to which foods I could bring. She is providing the main meal and told me she was also going to buy several sheet cakes from CostCo (dessert for 70 people). Other guests are bringing the rest of the dishes.

Since buying sheet cake is clearly unacceptable when the sister you have invited is a cooking addict, I offered to bring enough for everyone. My plans WERE:
  • Yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting (these are her husband's favorite, and we are also celebrating his birthday at this party!)--I even purchased Halloween cupcake holders.
  • The new to-die-for, amended Martha Stewart Mint Brownies. I want to use up the last of my orange colored, pumpkin shaped York peppermint patties before Halloween. So that I remember, I amended it by making it times 1.5 the recipe and baking in my 11.5 by 7.5 pyrex. I put half the batter on the bottom, and dusted the York's in cocoa and flour so that they would not sink. I put Reese's on one end. I added a throw together frosting of melted semi-sweet chocolate, milk, maybe vanilla?, and powdered sugar. Next time, I will add a bit of vanilla to the batter because it makes everything better.
  • Mom's recipe Texas Sheet Cake
  • My cousin Shelly's pumpkin bars. This is another sheet cake type recipe with cream cheese frosting--as an intelligent adult, I know this is fabulous. As a stupid kid I did not like the idea of pumpkin in cake one bit and refused to eat these bars. Why are kids so stubborn?????

Now, I also wanted to commandeer her main meal and make my mom's recipe for maid-rites (this is an Iowa thing, check Wikipedia if you do not know what this is!!) and barbecue pulled chicken (my long lost Switzerland sister adapted a recipe from somewhere for our long lost family, bulk cooking nights).

I WAS going to make the main dishes and brownies and freeze them (I have frozen all of these things with great success in the past) this weekend. BUT my sister cannot fathom that these cooking adventures would provide me with a glorious weekend while my husband studies for his upcoming exam. So she has ordered me to ONLY make the pumpkin bars and Texas Sheet Cake.

So this weekend to get started:

Frosting Practice: I have a very fancy cookware store WITHIN WALKING distance. This is very dangerous. Last weekend I bought my first set of pastry bags and tips (yes my first!!). So I may make the buttercream to practice making pumpkins and writing this weekend for the cakes. I still have to decide exactly how I want to decorate these, to mix birthday and Halloween.

Maid-rites: I may also end up making maid-rites on the chance my sister wants me to. Plus I need to have meals made ahead for the week, since cooking on weeknights is always a mess (literally and figuratively!)

Pumpkin Bars: Now, since I myself have never made pumpkin bars, and I have not had Shelly's in several years, I will do a test run in half a sheet pan this weekend. I also need to test how my despicable dark Chicago Metallic sheet cake pans do for sheet cake. They do NOT do well for cookies! Or at least, I cannot adapt to them. I am going to try half the recipe as Shelly wrote, and half according to the comments on Paul's pumpkin bars from Allrecipes to make them less cake-like and more bar like. If it fails, I will make Ina Garten's Carrot and Pineapple Cake into a sheet cake. I KNOW this recipe is amazing.

Pumpkin Puree: Finally, I need to test out Pioneer Woman's homemade pumpkin puree. Because I am now also a Farmer's Market addict, I must use the pumpkins I bought on an impulse there. And since I have never made homemade pumpkin puree, I must use Pioneer Woman's recipe, because she has not failed me yet.

Pie????: I have a feeling once I get going, I may end up buying more pumpkin at the Farmer's Market for next week, and some to try out Martha Stewart's Pumpkin Pecan-Praline Pie, because I have always thought plain pumpkin pie was boring and kind of a gross texture (yes, I said it). I am going to Thanksgiving for the very first time at my mother-in-laws, and I am hoping to bring the desserts (at least) to help her feed her RIDICULOUSLY hungry boys. If I dare bring a non-traditional pumpkin pie, I had better test that it is good.

Pie Crust: I will use the pie crust in my freezer--again, thanks to Pioneer Woman's recipe for Perfect Pie Crust. Although I need to watch how Martha makes crust in the food processor. In the future I must go back to my grandma's crust recipe, just because it is sad not to. Finally, I must try to incorporate some of the fancy lard I bought (again, on an impulse at the Farmer's Market).

Next up for real

Next up for real is dinner tonight. While I mostly want to cook a mountain of baked goods, I realize I must satisfy my husband's meat addiction, and provide us with something reasonably healthy to eat. So tonight's plans:

  • On our amazing cast iron grill pan: steak, grilled onions, portabella (google is failing me on this spelling!) mushrooms, and bell peppers with fresh basil
  • Salad with a variation of Fran's vinaigrette from For the Love of Cooking
  • Update: I made the vinaigrette a bit ad hoc (I doubled--plus a bit extra seasoned rice vinegar). I used much less oil, and used avocado oil from Trader Joe's instead of canola oil. It did not have enough garlic so I threw in some garlic powder at the end. I also added cayenne for some kick. I added fresh basil and a tablespoon of well diced red onions.
  • Apple-Cinnamon Granola bread from the Bread Machine Collection cookbook in my NEW bread machine. I am going to try it on the whole wheat setting, 1-1/2 lb loaf. I am using a Kashi GOLEAN Crunch, Honey Almond Flax which has been languishing in my cabinet for over a month, so hopefully that does not affect the bread. I will also use my special walnut oil instead of butter. I will throw in a 1/4 tsp vanilla because it really does make everything better. Hopefully this bread will taste as good as it did in my trusty old bread machine, which I know has gone to a very happy new home.
  • Update: It did taste AS good as in the old bread maker, but I like the Hearty Multi Grain Bread I made a few weeks ago (from Allrecipes) much better. I will have to make that again and note all my amendments. I also like the Flax and Walnut Bread better. I think I may be abandoning this recipe in favor of one of these.
This weekend:

See my post about the things I am doing this weekend to jump start my cooking for my sister's party NEXT weekend.

I will also make the very healthy Bran Muffins from Farm Girl Fare. I have made a couple variations of these before, and I like to keep a whole bunch of them in the freezer. They are much cheaper and healthier than the bagels my husband buys if I do not send him to work with these for breakfast (is he spoiled or what?). Since I need to use up my farmer's market apples and cranberries, these are going in this time. I'm also going to try to cut down on the oil. If I have extra cranberries and apples, I might make the recipes I just found for cranberry cookies and cranberry pie from Allrecipes (recipes to come if I make them!)

If you read all of the above, and the linked post with more of my plans for this weekend, you will see how my cooking desires ALWAYS exceed the time I have to cook, and people I have to eat my cooked food! Because what I should be doing this weekend:
  • Taking my dog out whenever it is not raining to see his friends.
  • Finishing the thank-yous from my wedding (yes, I am not quite done with this).
  • Cleaning and laundry? This is most likely NOT going to happen, unless I find out my husband has been re-wearing his socks again.
  • Planning my winter trip to another continent!!!!
  • And mostly, what I really SHOULD be doing is studying for my midterm and working on research!

My current "next dessert"

White Chocolate Walnut Blondies with Maple Butter Sauce At the Tasty Kitchen Website