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  • Have a Spooky Halloween!

    Cheddar Witches Fingers - Cheese straws in the shape of fingers, complete with a black almond "finger nail." Delicious and totally spooky.

    Candy Apples - You don't need to go to the fair to get my favorite treat because you can make these at home. Black food coloring gives them a festive touch.

    Pumpkin Caramel Sauce - Having a not-so-scary Halloween party? Serve ice cream with this pumpkin infused caramel sauce on top.

Monthly Archives: October 2010

Cheddar Witches’ Fingers (Spooky Cheese Straws)

Cheddar Witches

I first posted this recipe way back in 2008.  Since I like to think my writing and photography have gotten better since then, I thought these deserved a repost.  I’ve seen several recipes floating around for sweet witch’s fingers, but I’m always in need of more savory treats, which is one reason I especially love these.  If you’re looking for a quick and tasty Halloween treat, then you definitely need to make these!

Halloween, as I’ve mentioned, is one of  my favorite holidays.  I would make Halloween treats all month if I could, but there’s no way Eric and I could eat all those goodies.  I couldn’t let Halloween pass without making these, though, because they’re so much fun to make.  Plus, they taste absolutely delicious and add spooky flair to any party.  The extra sharp cheddar makes them intensely cheesy, and they bake up nice and crispy.  The coarse salt adds a nice crunch on top.  Since I like my cheese straws a little spicy, I’ve adapted the recipe to include cayenne pepper.  If you don’t want the heat, simply leave it out.  They’ll still taste fabulous without it.  I also adapted the recipe to include wetting the dough before pressing the almonds on because many of them fell off after baking without this step.  I painted the almonds to give them a spookier appearance, and I love the way the black nails look against the orange fingers.

Cheddar Witches

Cheddar Witches’ Fingers
Makes 30 fingers

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces (1 cup packed) shredded, extra sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
1 large egg
coarse salt
30 sliced almonds
black food coloring gel, optional

Combine butter, cheese, flour, cornmeal and cayenne (if using) in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until mixture has the texture of wet sand.  Transfer to a bowl.  Using a fork, mix in egg until dough holds together.  Turn out onto a sheet of parchment paper about 12 inches long.  Top with another sheet of parchment and press dough into a 1/2 inch thick circle.  Freeze for 15 minutes or refrigerate up to 3 days. Remove dough from freezer and roll into a rectangle about 8 inches wide and 10 inches long. Return to freezer for an additional 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, if desired, paint almonds.  Mix a tiny amount of food coloring with a tiny bit of water.  Using a small paintbrush, paint color onto almonds and set aside. Remove dough from freezer and preheat oven to 350º.  Peel off top sheet of parchment.  Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into 30 1/2-inch wide strips.  Place strips on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with coarse salt, to taste.

Use your fingers to shape each strip, rounding the ends and bending in various directions to create a knobby shape.  Using a sharp knife, score “knuckles” onto each “finger.” Lightly dab one edge of each finger with water, then gently press the almonds into the dough. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the fingers are golden and crisp. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Adapted from My Recipes

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Two Ways

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Eric and I love carving pumpkins.  I save our pumpkin seeds every year, but I always end up tossing them before I can figure out what to do with them.  I was determined not to do that this year.  With the abundance of seeds we had, I decided to roast a batch of sweet and a batch of savory.  It took longer for the seeds to dry than it did for me to roast them, though I’ve read you can quickly dry the seeds using a hair dryer (but I haven’t tried that).  The fun thing about roasting pumpkin seeds is that you can make several different varieties all suited to your personal tastes.  It’s incredibly easy to adapt the recipes to make them sweeter or spicier.  You could even mix it up and do a sweet/spicy combination.

Since cumin is one of my favorite spices, I decided to start there for the savory roasted pumpkin seeds.  I then added ancho chili powder, garlic salt and a little pepper, which gave the seeds just a bit of kick and the perfect amount of saltiness.  I had quite a bit of cinnamon sugar left from the apple cider doughnuts I made last week and used that as the base for the sweet seeds.  With nutmeg, ginger and a hint of clove, the sweet roasted pumpkin seeds had all the deep fall flavors I love.  Both batches of seeds turned out crunchy, but I found the smaller seeds had more of a crunch than the larger ones.

If you’re carving pumpkins this week, don’t throw out your seeds!  Save them and make a delicious snack everyone in your family can enjoy.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Cumin Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
1 cup pumpkin seeds, cleaned and dried
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
1 cup pumpkin seeds, cleaned and dried
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of ground cloves

To clean the seeds, place them in a strainer and set it in the sink. Under running water, pull off any large pieces of pumpkin that may be stuck to the seeds. Allow to dry overnight on a wax paper lined baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 350º and line two small baking sheets with parchment or foil. In two small bowls, combine all ingredients for each batch of pumpkin seeds.  Stir to coat completely.  Spread evenly onto the two prepared baking sheets.Bake for 8-14 minutes, or until seeds are crunchy.  This will depend largely on the size of your seeds, so check them frequently.

Cook Like a Champion original

Apple Cider Doughnuts

Apple Cider Doughnuts

One of my favorite things about living in Virginia is being so close to the mountains.  At this time of year, all the leaves are starting to change colors, and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking.  Recently, Eric and I took a drive to Charlottesville to spend the day with our friends and attend an apple festival at Carter Mountain Orchard.  It was unseasonably hot that day, but we all enjoyed being outside and picked quite a bit of apples.  One thing that several of my friends raved about were the apple cider doughnuts there.  We each had a doughnut after lunch.  I liked mine, but I didn’t love it.  I think I expected it to have a stronger apple cider taste.  Since we already had apple cider at home (from a different orchard), Eric and I decided to try making our own apple cider doughnuts.

Apple Cider Doughnut Batter

The dough for these comes together pretty quickly.  It does need some time to chill before cutting and again before frying, but neither one is too long.  Since these are cake doughnuts, there’s no need for rising.  The apple cider is reduced before being added to the dough, which I think gives these doughnuts a more concentrated cider flavor.  These were much lighter than other cake doughnuts I’ve tried, and I liked that they weren’t heavy or dense.  The dough is sticky, so make sure to flour your surfaces and hands when working with it.  Chilling it helps make it more manageable.  Lightly spiced, these doughnuts taste delicious on their own.  Top them with cinnamon sugar or apple cider glaze, and you’re in for a real treat.  We made both toppings and had some cinnamon sugar left over, so you can make less if you’re not planning on using it on all the doughnuts.

Apple Cider Doughnuts

Apple Cider Doughnuts
1 cup apple cider
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus additional for work surface
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
vegetable oil or shortening, for frying
For the toppings:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon

-In a small saucepan over medium or medium-low heat, reduce the apple cider to about 1/4 cup, 20 to 30 minutes.  Allow to cool to room temperature.
-Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg in a large bowl and set aside.
-In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue mixing until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
-Reduce speed to low and gradually add cider and buttermilk,  mixing until just combined.  Add flour mixture and mix just until the dough comes together.
-Line two baking sheets with parchment or wax paper and sprinkle generously with flour.  Set aside one and turn the dough out onto the other one.  Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour.  Press or roll the dough to 1/2 inch thickness.  Place in the freezer for about 20 minutes or refrigerate for an hour (until slightly hardened).
-Cut the dough using a doughnut cutter or a 3 inch round cutter and the bottom of a large icing tip.  Place the rounds on the second prepared baking sheet.  Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.  Re-roll the scraps, refrigerate briefly, cut and refrigerate again until all the dough is used.
-Meanwhile, prepare toppings by whisking together confectioners’ sugar and cider in a small bowl to make glaze.  Whisk sugar and cinnamon together in another small bowl.  Set aside.
-Line a plate with several paper towels and set next to the stove.
-In a dutch oven or other deep sided pot, add at least 1 1/2 inches of oil.  Attach a candy thermometer to the side and heat on medium until the oil reaches 350º.  You may have to adjust the heat as the doughnuts are frying in order to maintain a steady temperature.
-Add a few doughnuts to the oil and fry for about 60 seconds.  Flip and continue to cook another 30 to 60 seconds.  Drain on paper towels for about a minute.  Dip into glaze or cinnamon sugar.  For doughnut holes, simply place in bowl of cinnamon sugar and roll around.  Place on a cooling rack if not serving immediately.  (These doughnuts are certainly best eaten within a day, but Eric’s coworkers enjoyed them through yesterday.)

Makes about 18 doughnuts + 18 doughnut holes (I prefer doughnut holes, so we made 14 doughnuts and  several more doughnut holes.)

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Dal Makhani

Dal Makhani

It seems mine and Eric’s tastes are constantly evolving.  I find we’re both more open to trying new dishes than we would have been one or two years ago.  This dish is a perfect example of that.  I can’t believe we only recently tried Indian cuisine for the first time.  I feel like we’ve been missing out!  Now that we’ve made this dish, I foresee us making many more Indian recipes in the future.

I can’t tell you how authentic this dish is, but I can tell you that it tastes absolutely amazing.  The lentils have a wonderfully earthy flavor, and the dish is incredibly comforting.  I don’t think there’s a way to go wrong when crushed tomatoes and cream are involved.  There’s just a bit of subtle heat to this dish, which, along with the fresh ginger, helps cut through the creaminess and richness.  This dish requires very little work, but ends up tasting like something that cooked all day.  It’s perfect for chilly nights and can be served with rice or naan.

The original recipe called for about half a can of crushed tomatoes, but I ended up using the entire thing.  I noticed the dish drying out a bit and decided to add the rest of the tomatoes instead of water.  I thought the lentil to tomato ratio was spot on and loved the flavor and texture the extra crushed tomatoes provided.  For the lentils, I used a combination of red and green, but I think black lentils are more traditional.  However, any type of lentil would be fine for this dish, so use what you can find.

Dal  Makhani

Dal Makhani
1 cup dry lentils
1 (14 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

-In a large saucepan, add lentils and enough water to cover by two inches.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.  Allow to simmer for 10  minutes, until lentils are open and tender.  Drain and return to pot.
-Using a wooden spoon, stir lentils around pot, using spoon to mash some against the side of the pot.  Add tomatoes, ginger, garlic, cayenne, water, butter, salt and pepper.  Cook over medium heat for about an hour, or until thickened.  Periodically check to make sure the water has not cooked out.  If so, add a bit more and cover pot for remaining cooking time.
-Stir in cream, garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.

Serves 3-4

Adapted from Steamy Kitchen

Nutella Filled Ebelskivers

Nutella Filled Ebelskivers

As I’ve mentioned several times before, Eric and I always enjoy our Saturday morning trips to the farmers market.  One of our favorite vendors is a couple that makes ebelskivers with different fillings.  We usually get a box of six, three each of two different varieties.  Our favorite ones, by far, are the ones filled with Nutella.  I found myself wishing I could make them at home, so I wouldn’t have to wait until Saturday to get my fix.  When my sister asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I quickly told her I would love to have an ebelskiver pan.  Being the awesome sister that she is, that’s exactly what she got me.

Ebeleskivers (or aebleskivers) are a Danish treat (basically a puffed pancake) that can be filled with almost any savory or sweet ingredient.  They cook quickly and make enough to feed a crowd.  You can make several varieties at once, which is an easy way to please everyone and help the indecisive ones who can’t decide between something savory or something sweet.  The taste is every bit as delicious as you can imagine.  Their soft, fluffy, pancake-like exterior gives way to a warm chocolate interior.  Depending on what you use to fill them, the ebelskivers can have contrasting textures and flavors.  I can’t wait to try more varieties (apple, pumpkin, bacon and cheese).

Ebleskivers are made by pouring a small amount of batter into the pan and then topping that with the desired filling.  A little more batter is then added, and the ebelskivers are turned when starting to brown on one side.  Traditionally, knitting needles are used to turn them.  However, any wood, plastic or heat-resistant nylon utensil can be used.  I actually used chopsticks to turn mine, so use whatever works for you.  Once the other side is browned, you’re left with a spherical pancake that is portable and doesn’t even need syrup.

Nutella Filled Ebelskivers

Nutella Filled Ebelskivers
3 eggs, separated
2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for cooking
1/3 cup Nutella
powdered sugar, for dusting

-Place egg whites in a small bowl.  Using a hand mixer, beat until stiff and set aside.
-In a medium bowl, beat together egg yolks and buttermilk.
-Sift together dry ingredients and add to buttermilk mixture.  Stir in melted butter and stir until smooth.
-Gently fold in egg whites.
-Place pan over medium heat and lightly brush with melted butter.
-Once pan is hot, add about a tablespoon of batter to each cup.  On top of batter, add 1/2 teaspoon of Nutella, then top with scant tablespoon of batter.
-Cook for about one and a half minutes, or until batter is bubbling around edges.
-Turn and continue to cook a minute or so longer, until evenly browned.
-Remove and immediately dust with powdered sugar.  Serve immediately.

Makes 32 ebelskivers

Heavily adapted from: Æbleskiver and More: A Sampling of Danish Recipes