Friday, October 24, 2008

Pumpkin Oat Muffins

Tonight I decided to try a pumpkin muffin recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks Moosewood Restaurant Low-fat Favorites. I have made quite a few changes to the original recipe, not because I didn't like it or thought I could make it better, but because I just wanted to use the ingredients I have. So I will post the original recipe here with my substitutions/additions in pink. Makes 12 muffins.

1 1/4 cups unbleached white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup rolled oats
1 whole egg
1 egg white
3/4 cup pumpkin, winter squash, or sweet potato puree (I used Libby's canned pure pumpkin)
3/4 cup evaporated skimmed milk (I used reduced fat cultured buttermilk)
1/2 cup unsweeted pineapple juice (I used unsweeted orange juice)
2 tablespoons canola or other vegetable oil
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 to 5 tablespoons apricot preserves (I used my own homemade apple butter)
1/4 cup currants (or you could use raisins, or nuts or whatever you like)
2 tablespoons demerara cane sugar or other coarse granulated sugar

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a standard muffin tin with paper liners, cooking spray, or a light coating of oil. Put currants to soak in a cup of warm water for about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Whirl the oats in a blender or food processor until they reach the consistecy of cornmeal and add them to the flour mixture.
  • In another bowl, lightly beat the whole egg with the egg white. Stir in the pumpkin puree, evaporated skim milk (or buttermilk), pineapple juice (or orange juice), oil, and brown sugar. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. Drain the currants and stir into the batter.
  • Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin and dot the center of each muffin with a scant teaspoon of apricot preserves (or apple butter). Sprinkle the top of each muffin with coarse sugar. Bake 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean and dry. Cool in muffin tin for about 5 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.
I am very pleased with how these muffins turned out. They are moist and only mildly sweet with a little pumpkin flavor and a touch of orange flavor. The apple butter really tops them off nicely. The original recipe did not suggest adding any dried fruit or nuts, but I had some currants to use up and I think they go well in these muffins. I would caution against using paper liners, I had trouble with the muffins sticking to the paper even after they were cool. Greasing the muffin cups and using no liners or maybe spraying the liners lightly with cooking spray should solve this problem. I would also like to try the recipe the way it is written sometime, I think the apricot preserves would be delicious. These muffins are 150 calories each the way I made them.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My First Homemade Pizza

For dinner tonight I made my very first homemade pizza from scratch. I have been wanting to do this for a while, but I've been a little intimidated by the large variety of pizza crust recipes out there. I wasn't sure where to start until I found this very simple crust recipe from The Fresh Loaf. I'm not sure who posted this one, but it is apparently from Peter Reinhart's American Pie. I'm not familiar with any of his books, but I have seen a lot of good stuff posted from them on The Fresh Loaf. To see the post I took this recipe from, click here. I am posting the recipe here as I adapted it using the tips suggested in the post on The Fresh Loaf. First, I halfed the recipe. I also used some bread flour as suggested in the tips.

The Dough:
Makes 2 10-inch pizzas
1 1/2 - 2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup bread flour
1/2 Tablespoon sugar or honey
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup room-temperature water

  • Combine all ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon(or mix with an electric mixer). After all ingredients are combined, allow the dough to rest for 5 minutes. Stir again for 3-5 minutes, adding more water or flour as necessary. The dough should be wetter and stickier than your typical bread dough, but dry enough that it pulls away from the side of the bowl as you stir/mix it. It should not be dry enough to knead by hand.
  • Divide the dough into two pieces, and place each in an oiled freezer bag (I just spray a little olive oil into the bag before putting the dough in). You really only need to mix up this dough an hour before you want to bake your pizza, but a long slow rise at room temperature or cooler allows for better flavor development in the dough. You can freeze the dough, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator for 8-24 hours before you want to use it, and take it out of the fridge and let it warm to room temperature 1-2 hours before you want to bake it. You can also place it in the refrigerator if you want to bake it later the same day, and take it out 1-2 hours before baking. I froze half of the dough this time and let the other half sit in the oiled bag at room temperature for about an hour before shaping, topping, and baking it.
  • When you are ready to bake your pizza, preheat your oven to 450-500 degrees (I used 475). Place a pizza stone in the oven if you have one, or you can use the back of a cookie sheet or whatever you have. I happened to have a round aluminum pizza pan with little holes in it. You can shape your pizza dough by hand stretching it or using a rolling pin to get your desired thickness. I used a combination of the two to get a thin crust. You also want to prepare and top your crust on a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil (don't forget to spray the foil with cooking spray first). This makes it much easier to transfer the pizza into the oven - you just put it in there paper/foil and all.
  • For the sauce, I used the leftover marinara sauce I made for my Baked Ziti Casserole. You can use whatever sauce recipe you prefer. I will probably try the one recommended at The Fresh Loaf next time. After the sauce, I added a few chopped mushrooms and about 1 cup shredded part skim mozzarella cheese. I baked the pizza at 475 for about 11 minutes. Cut into 4 pieces, it was about 200 calories a slice the way I made it.

Overall, I'm very pleased with my first attempt at pizza. I would have like the crust a little crispier. I think it could have stood a few more minutes in the oven, or a higher temp. I'm looking forward to playing around with this recipe and perfecting it to my taste!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Okay, so I know everyone is baking something with pumpkin in it, and I am planning to do that later this week, however I have been wanting to try this gingerbread recipe for a while. I found this one at The Fresh Loaf. This is a wonderful site for bakers and I have found many good recipes posted there. To go directly to the gingerbread one, use this link. Thanks to Floydm for posting this.

Makes 1 large or 3 small loaves

1 3/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt (can be omitted if using salted butter)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
1 egg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup molasses
1/2 cup warm water
3 tablespoons crystalized ginger, 1/2 cup raisins or other dried fruit (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 350. Combine the butter, egg, brown sugar, and molasses in a bowl and stir until combined. Mix in the dry ingredients, then add hot water and stir until just combined. Pour batter into greased baking pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, between 30 and 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan.
  • I made 3 small loaves and it took right at 30 minutes in my oven. I did not add any crystalized ginger or raisins because I didn't have any, but I'm sure it would be delicious. Also, I only had a 1/2 cup of molasses, so I combined about two tablespoons of blackstrap molasses with enough dark corn syrup to make up the remaining 1/2 cup I needed for this recipe. I admit I was a little underwhelmed with the flavor of the gingerbread right out of the oven - it was good but not what I had expected. Today however, it has really developed into that delicious spicy gingerbread taste I was looking for. It just gets better if you wait a little while! If you cut each small loaf into 6 slices, it will be 160 calories per slice.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Knitting Project - Mohair Poncho

I recently taught myself to knit using the book shown in this picture. I learned to crochet a long time ago, although not very well, and I have been using the Knifty Knitter Looms for a while now, but I felt like that was cheating a little bit and I wanted to learn to knit the "real" way. I thought I would have to take a class or beg someone to show me until I found this book at my local library. I have never been good at teaching myself to do things from books, but this book (Never Too Old to Knit: Beautiful Basics for Baby Boomers) has very clear, easy to follow instructions and pictures. It includes easy beginner projects from simple scarves and hats to sweaters, cardigans and socks. Of course I am far from being a baby boomer, but I certainly won't overlook a good book just because it was directed at a different audience. A couple of important points - this book is not for people who already know how to knit. Also it seems to be written by someone who is younger than baby boomer age and while doing research for this post, I read some reviews from people who thought the book was written in a way that was condescending to those of a certain age. I did not sense any of this, but it would be hard to insult me considering I knew next to nothing about the subject when I started. Another thing to consider is the book is sponsored by Lion Brand Yarn so all of the projects use their yarn. I have no problem with this since I actually like their yarn. You could certainly use whatever yarn you prefer as long as it is of the same weight/type called for. I think it is a good book! I checked it out of the library so many times I eventually bought my own at my local Hancock Fabrics. Anyone who is interested in the Knifty Knitter Looms, I still use them and like them and they are easily found at your local Michael's or Wal-mart for the same price as Amazon and you don't have to pay shipping! I will be sure to show you all the finished project when I get it done.