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Butternut Squash Stew w/ Chickpeas, Raisins, & Almonds over Whole Wheat Couscous

Butternut Squash Stew w/ Chickpeas, Raisins, & Almonds over Whole Wheat Couscous
I have some fantastic, seasonal decorations hanging out on my kitchen counter.  And on my kitchen table.  And wherever else they happen to land.  They're the same ones I have every autumn.  And every winter.  They're totally seasonal - and the rich colors just scream warmth and comfort.  Now, they're not the exact same ones as I had last year.  Or the year before.  Wanna know why?  Because those are probably out in the compost pile turning into black gold and scoring me a few compost pumpkins and squash.

Have I lost you?  What I was trying so unsuccessfully to convey was that it is winter squash time.  Again.  Which for me means that it's time for some lovely decorating.  Because, while I buy these sturdy, oddly-shaped squashes in shades of brown, green, and orange with the best intentions...uummmm, cooking them...I rarely do.  They just sit around and look pretty.

Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Married by Heather McElhatton {book tour}

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author: Heather McElhatton
series: (#2) Jennifer Johnson is sick of...
publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
source: TLC Book Tours
"foodie" elements: No, but there were some fun food references here and there, including wild-themed "Supper Clubs" throughout.
soft cover: 352 pages

random excerpt:  Thissss-ba-boom!  The massive chandelier plummets down, crashing with an explosion on the marble floor.  We stand motionless, in a rising plume of dust.  Nobody was hurt, which is too bad.  A little blood and we might've all known what to do next.  Instead the Japanese stand there staring at me in a V formation.

Then I farted loudly.

summary/synopsis (from TLC page):  Sometimes tying the knot just means getting strangled.

Not too long ago, Jennifer Johnson was stuck in a cubicle, lovelorn and addicted to Cinnabon frosting. Now she’s married to her Prince Charming—the handsome, wealthy son of a Midwestern department-store magnate. But the grass on this too-manicured other side is not as green as she’d thought.

After a honeymoon from hell at a gated Christian resort in the Virgin Islands—bought and paid for by the in-laws and complete with alcohol-free drinks, curfews, and Satan-free yoga—Jennifer is beginning to have her doubts about the whole “happily-ever-after” thing. Soon she finds herself organizing Valentine’s Day abstinence dances with her mother-in-law’s church committee and dining with the ladies of the country club, who have their own theories about how to hold on to their men.

Is this really all there is to married life?

my thoughts/review:  I haven't read the pre-cursor to this book, Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single, so I wasn't sure what to expect.  At first, I wondered if I was going to like it.  It's chick-lit, which as a whole, I like - but occasionally it can get a little bit cheesy.  Jennifer makes "lists".  It was these lists that initially put up a warning flag.  I found them an eensy-weensy bit annoying.  However.  I'm happy that I didn't close my mind to the book, because as it turns out, I wound up getting a kick out of it!

Some of the characters and situations were absolutely ridiculous, but that led to some laugh-out-loud R-rated hijinks and dialogue.  The best comparison I can make is Bridesmaids.  It was that kind of funny.  I actually guffawed out loud several times and even found myself with tears in my eyes from laughing so hard another time.

The characters were fantastic, as well.  I adored some - Jennifer, Addi, Nick, Pho Fang (and the whole Hmong crew), Dizzy Bee, Trevor, Lenny, Christopher.  And I wanted to grab others and shake them (or worse) - namely Brad and Mother Keller.  The situations were so unreal (at least in my world) that I found myself wishing they were real.  Just because I wanted to witness them happening.  You know, like watching a good movie or t.v. show (okay, or reading a good book).

Plus, the book had a happy ending.  And I'm a happy ending kinda girl.  Recommended for lovers of chick-lit and raucous comedy.  Must love both.  And not be easily shocked or offended.

about the author:  Heather McElhatton produced the award-winning literary series Talking Volumes. Her commentaries have been heard on This American Life, Marketplace, Weekend America, Sound Money, and The Savvy Traveler. She lives in Key West with her pug, Walter.

She is the bestselling author of Pretty Little Mistakes and Jennifer Johnson Is Sick of Being Single.

further info: website | facebook | twitter


*I received a free copy of this book to review from the publisher.  All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine.
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Shrunken Heads in Spiced Cider

Shrunken Heads in Spiced Cider
I had every intention of sitting down and telling you a little Halloween story.  Something about how trick-or-treating was so much different when I was growing up than it is now.  But, as things stand, my game just ended...fantastically, I might add...and I have to get something off of my chest.  Here goes.

Empanadas: Apple w/ Almond Paste and Pumpkin w/ Piloncillo & Cinnamon

We're baaaaaaack.  Did you even realize that we were missing?  It's true.  Leslie and I haven't joined forces for She Made, Ella Hace since August (24th - that's over 2 months!) when we baked up a couple of our favorite Pan Dulces.  It's the first time we've skipped a month since we started, but September was a big old ball of life-changing moments for the both of us.  Life, ya know?  Fortunately we're back together this month...and we're making EMPANADAS!
When Leslie suggested we make empanadas this month, I knew I was going to go sweet.  And I pretty much knew that I was probably going to use pumpkin as the filling.  Or maybe apples.  I mean, it's that time of year.  Pumpkins and apple trees dancing in my head.  And when it came right down to it, I couldn't decide.  I wanted both.  So both it was.

The pumpkin filling is spiced with a hint of Mexican cinnamon and sweetened with those beautiful dark, raw sugar cones called Piloncillo.  It's like a decadent little pumpkin pie.  And the apples?  Well, they're caramelized until all golden and sexy.  And then they're combined with almond paste.  I'm a weirdo who eats almond paste from the block.  So I couldn't wait to see how it would combine with the apples.  That heady, creamy flavor of the almond paste is so perfectly mellow against the sweet, tart apple.  I can't pick a favorite.  So don't ask me to.
Since great minds think alike, Leslie had pumpkin on the brain, too.  She made a beautiful batch of Mini Pumpkin Empanada Bites that I know you'll want to dive into.  So pull up a silla (chair) and I'll pour the coffee (or milk.  or booze.  your choice) while you grab an assortment of empanadas!

Empanadas: Pumpkin w/ Piloncillo & Cinnamon and Apple w/ Almond Paste

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 30-45 minutes + 1 hour (unattended)
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes
Keywords: bake breakfast dessert snack vegetarian apples almonds pumpkin cinnamon Halloween Thanksgiving Christmas Mexican fall

Ingredients (~2½ dozen)
    for the empanada dough
    • 1 lb. (~3¼ c.) all-purpose flour
    • ½ tsp. salt
    • 2 tsp. sugar
    • 6 oz. (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cold
    • ½ c. shortening
    • ⅓-⅔ c. ice water
    for Pumpkin w/ Piloncillo & Cinnamon filling
    • 1 c. pumpkin puree
    • ⅓ c. chopped Piloncillo (Mexican raw sugar)
    • ½ tsp. ground Mexican cinnamon
    • ¼ tsp. salt
    for Apple w/ Almond Paste filling
    • 2 Tbs. butter
    • 3 (~1¼ lbs.) apples, peeled & diced into ¼"-½" cubes
    • 3 Tbs. sugar
    • 4 oz. almond paste
    • 2-3 Tbs. water
    • pinch of sea salt
    egg wash
    • 1 egg
    • 1 Tbs. heavy cream
    Instructions
    Begin by making the empanada dough and the fillings. You want time to chill the dough (1 hour) and also to cool the fillings down to room temperature before working with them.

    make the dough:
    Place flour, salt, and sugar into the bowl of a food processor; pulse to combine. Cut the butter and shortening into small pieces and scatter over the dry mixture. Pulse about 8 times to combine, the fats should be pea-sized (some slightly larger, some slightly smaller). Sprinkle ⅓ cup of the ice water over and pulse a few times. The mixture should start to clump and come together, if it doesn't dribble in a bit more ice water at a time and pulse again. Dump the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and gather into a ball. Wrap in the plastic and form into a disc. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

    make the fillings:
    To make the pumpkin filling, stir everything together in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. Once mixture starts to bubble, reduce heat and simmer gently (stir often) until very thick, ~15 minutes. Basically what you're doing here is letting the water in the pumpkin evaporate while the filling concentrates and dries out a bit. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

    To make the apple and almond paste filling, melt the butter in a wide skillet set over medium-high heat. When the butter starts to brown, add the apples and sprinkle the sugar over them. Stir often and allow apples to becomes tender and caramelized. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. Place the almond paste into a mini-food processor with the water and salt and whiz until you have a smooth, spreadable consistency. Set aside.
    make the empanadas:
    Remove dough from fridge and cut in half. Re-wrap and return half to fridge. Roll dough out on a lightly floured work surface into a thin rectangle that measures ~12"x16". Cut out twelve 3½"-4" circles. Brush the edges of the circles lightly with water.

    Spoon a scant tablespoon of the pumpkin mixture in the center of each circle. Fold dough over the filling and press edges together to seal. Seal tightly by pressing the edges together with the tines of a fork or by twisting into a "rope". Prick once or twice with the fork. Set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
    Gather up the extra dough and set it in the fridge while you work with the other half.

    Repeat process with second half of dough, adding 1 teaspoon of the almond paste topped with 2 teaspoons of the apples.

    If you like, gather up all of the remaining dough from both times and re-roll it. I am able to make about 33 total empanadas, using all of the dough and filling (but the ones only rolled out once are always more tender and flakey). Place the trays of formed empanadas into the fridge or freezer for one hour.
    Preheat oven to 425° F. Beat the egg with the cream.

    Slide a tray into the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes (20 if they were in the freezer) or until they start to get a little color. Remove from oven and brush with egg wash. Return to oven and bake for another 5 minutes or so until golden. Repeat with remaining tray. Best while still warm (but still good later).

    notes:
    The fillings and the dough can be made a couple of days in advance and kept in the fridge, covered.

    The filled and formed empanadas can be frozen on parchment-lined baking sheets until solid. Transfer them to a freezer bag. Bake from frozen (20 minutes, then brush with egg wash, 5 more minutes).

    adapted from Fiesta at Rick's
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    What happens when two American girls who are both married to Mexican guys find out that although one of them lives in the U.S. and one of them lives in Mexico, they both love eating the same food?  Well, naturally they decide to get "together" the only way they can and cook up the same dishes.  Or perhaps take the same ingredients and talking about them in their own voice or using them in their own way. 

    Leslie and I have teamed up to occasionally cook/bake/make a our own versions of the same food.  We want to see how similar (or how different) they turn out.  Other times we will pick an ingredient and use it however we choose...or maybe just talk about it.  Good food knows no borders and we hope to share the food we love with you.  It's not a competition, it's a showcase.  We will post on the same day as each other and would love to hear your thoughts on what we've made and how you make it. 

    Join me (here at girlichef) and Leslie in her kitchen (at La Cocina de Leslie) for some delicious food.
    She Made, Ella Hace Banner- girlichef.com and lacocinadeleslie.com

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    Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Doughnuts w/ Vanilla Icing

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    Remember when I said that I was for sure going to be getting my butt in gear and making-slash-sharing a holiday treat every week from now until the end of December?  Well, I didn't outright say it, but I implied it.  It's a good thing that I didn't pinky-swear, because I sailed right through the following week without doing so.  Typical.  I don't know about you, but my weeks go by way too fast.  And I refuse to acknowledge that the season of stress and commercialism is upon me.  So that said, my personality full of contradictions is shining through.  Brightly.

    Speaking of contradictions, our weather forecast is full of them.  It was 77° yesterday.  And it's shaping up to be the same today.  In two days, it's supposed to snow during the nighttime hours.  That is absolutely unacceptable to me and I'd like to know who I can take it up with.  It looks like we're in for another backwards season.  I mean, who said it was okay to wear flip-flops, shorts, and a tank top while crunching through the red and brown leaves that line the sidewalk?  Although that part I'm actually okay with.  It's the matter of having to wear my padded coat, fuzzy mittens, sherpa hat, and boots 3 mornings later that gets my engine all revved up.
    I think the situation calls for doughnuts.  Warm, cozy homemade doughnuts.  I mean, 'tis the season and all.  And the thing about doughnuts is, you can enjoy them all warm and sticky with a hot coffee on a cold day...or you can enjoy them at room temperature with a cold orange juice on a hot day.  Whatevs.  Equal opportunity fattening breakfast.

    Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Doughnuts

    by Heather Schmitt-González
    Prep Time: 15 minutes + up to overnight (unattended)
    Cook Time: 10-15 minutes total
    Keywords: fry breakfast dessert nut-free soy-free vegetarian sour cream Christmas Easter doughnut American

    Ingredients (9-12 doughnuts + 15 holes)
      glaze
      • 350 g (~3½ c.) confectioners sugar, sifted
      • 1½ tsp. light corn syrup
      • ¼ tsp. fine salt
      • ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
      • ~75 ml (⅓ c.) + 1 Tbs. hot water
      doughnuts
      • 255 g (~2 1/4 c.) cake flour + more for work surface
      • 1½ tsp. baking powder
      • 1 tsp. fine salt
      • ~¾ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
      • 100 g (~½ c.) sugar
      • 2 Tbs. shortening
      • 2 large egg yolks
      • 165 ml (⅔ c.) sour cream
      • oil, for frying
      Instructions
      starting the doughnuts:
      Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.

      Mix sugar and shortening on low speed until "sandy". Add egg yolks and mix for another minute on medium speed, scraping sides of bowl as needed, until mixture is thick and light in color.

      Add reserved dry ingredients to the bowl in three additions, alternating with the sour cream, until just combined. Dough should be sticky, sort of like cookie dough.

      Transfer to a clean bowl, cover, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours (but at least 1 hour).

      prepare the glaze:
      Place confectioners' sugar, corn syrup, salt, vanilla, and hot water in a bowl and whisk until you have a glaze that is not too thick. If needed, thin out with a bit more hot water (add a teaspoon at a time).

      finishing the doughnuts:
      Pour oil (vegetable, canola, coconut) oil to a depth of at least 2-inches into a heavy pot or deep fryer. Clip a thermometer onto the pan and bring oil to 325° F.

      Roll out the chilled dough on a generously floured work surface to ½" thickness. Dip a 2¾" doughnut cutter (or round cutter w/ a smaller cutter for hole) into flour and cut out as many doughnuts and holes as possible, gently re-rolling dough, as needed.
      Shake off any excess flour and gently lower a few doughnuts at a time (don't crowd them) into the hot oil. Once the doughnuts float, fry for 15 seconds, and then carefully flip them over and fry for another 75-90 seconds, until golden and cracked. Flip back to the first side and fry for another 60-75 seconds, until golden. Transfer to a wire rack.
      Let sit a few seconds and dip one (or both) sides into the glaze while the doughnuts are still hot. Set back onto wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough.

      slightly adapted from Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts
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      Yeeccckkkk. Speaking of engines revving...going out in snow to warm up the car at 5:20 am?  Not looking forward to it.  I will need hot doughnuts and coffee.

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      Bloomin' Mushroom & Swiss Sourdough Loaf

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      So.  I made this loaf of ridiculously cheesy, ridiculously addictive bread the weekend before last.  It was for World Bread Day.  World Bread Day was the 16th.  Ummmmm...the 16th was 8 days ago.  Sigh.  That would be year numero dos that I've "missed" World Bread Day.  What can I say?  I was there in spirit.

      Have you seen this bread "around"?  Because I have.  I've been eyeing it from afar for quite some time now. Or some variation of it.  The first time I caught a glimpse of it was at Cathy's place.  Her loaves were inspired by these loaves.  After wiping the drool from my chin I swore I'd be making some.  Like immediately.  I didn't.  And then I noticed this bad boy.  And this one.  Finally I decided I'd had enough of the eating with my eyes.  It was time to eat it with my mouth.
      And wouldn't you know, Lea Ann made a loaf recently and posted it the other day.  At the same time I was looking at my "lost" World Bread Day post just hangin' around in draft.  So, while I have no idea why I waited so long to make this the first time around, I know that I will not be waiting long to make it again.  I'm definitely going to be trying a Bacon, Cheddar, and Ranch version.  Can't get the thought of it out of my head.  And maybe a Pizza Bread version with Pepperoni, Mozzarella, and Basil with a little red sauce.  And let's not leave out the sweeter side - a Cinnamon Bun-inspired version will ensue.

      Until then, I think you need a loaf of this to munch on during the next football game.  Just sayin'.

      Bloomin' Mushroom & Swiss Sourdough Loaf

      by Heather Schmitt-González
      Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
      Cook Time: 25-35 minutes
      Keywords: bake bread snack appetizer bread cheese mushrooms Labor Day Super Bowl tailgating American

      Ingredients (serves 4-6)
      • 8 - 12 oz. mushrooms (½ crimini / ½ white button), sliced
      • 1 Tbs. (½ oz.) butter
      • few sprigs fresh thyme
      • salt
      • freshly ground black pepper
      • 1 (16 oz.) loaf sourdough bread (preferabley a boule)
      • 8 oz. Swiss cheese, thinly sliced
      • 4 oz. (1 stick / 8 Tbs. / ½ c.) butter, melted
      • 4 large green onions (~½ c.), thinly sliced
      • 2 tsp. poppy seeds
      Instructions
      Preheat oven to 350° F. Set two long sheets of foil on a baking sheet, crossed (one side-to-side, one up-and-down).

      Add one tablespoon butter to a medium skillet set over medium heat. Once butter melts, add sliced mushrooms. Sauté for 4-5 minutes until they start to release water and get soft. Run your knife through the thyme leaves a few times and throw them into the pan with a big pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Sauté another minute or two, until most of the liquid is evaporated. Set aside.

      Add the 4 ounces of butter to a small pan along with green onions and poppy seeds over low heat until melted. Swirl everything around to coat and turn off heat. Set aside.

      Next, it's time to slice the loaf of sourdough. Carefully cut through bread in ~1-inch intervals both ways (so that you have a checkerboard pattern), stopping about a ½-inch or so before cutting all the way through. You want your loaf to "bloom". When cutting through in the second direction, grab the outsides of the loaf and sort of hold it together with your other hand- this makes it much easier to cut nicely.

      Slide the slices of cheese down between the cuts. Divide your mushroom mixture over the cheese, being sure to tuck it in. Drizzle the melted butter mixture over the whole shebang. Bring the foil up and around your loaf and seal.

      Slide into preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Unwrap the foil from the loaf (just let it sit underneath it, on the baking tray). Put it back into the oven to bake for another 10-20 minutes or until cheese is melty and the crust gets golden brown on the tips and edges.

      Enjoy. Immensely.

      adapted from Beantown Baker
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      Spicy Crystal Head Bloody Mary inspired by Attack of the Killer Tomatoes {food 'n flix}

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       For Immediate Release from the office of the President of the United States: 
      TOMATOES GONE ROGUE!

      A team of specialists had been put together to stop this threat.  This team will be headed by Mason Dixon, and includes a disguise expert, a Navy diver, an Olympic swimmer, and a soldier (with parachute).

      Proceed with extreme caution, tomatoes have already killed several people.  Most attack outright, but a few isolated incidents include tomatoes juicing themselves and disguising as a popular beverage.  One glass will cause immediate death.

      These fruits (yes, they are fruits) have been known to cower upon hearing the song Puberty Love.  If possible, stay armed with a copy of this tune at all times.  If you encounter a tomato, play song loudly and stomp on tomato to eliminate the threat.
      DISPOSING OF THESE KILLER TOMATOES:

      Once you have eliminated the threat via smashing, combine with some form of alcohol to eliminate all harmful toxins.  May I recommend one particularly good option...some even believe it has magical properties - Crystal Head Vodka.  Although the bottle looks like a skull and some may associate that with death, it is only the death of that nasty "killer tomato virus" that will occur, as the Crystal Skull is actually a symbol of life, spiritual power, and enlightenment.
      So, once you've helped rid the world of killer tomatoes, why not kick off your celebration in style with one (or two) of these Spicy Crystal Head Bloody Mary's...

      Spicy Crystal Head Bloody Mary

      by Heather Schmitt-González
      Prep Time: 5 minutes
      Cook Time: n/a
      Keywords: beverage tomatoes alcohol vodka Halloween

      Ingredients (serves 1)
        for the rim:
        • 1 Tbs. sea salt
        • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
        • ½ tsp. celery salt
        • lemon wedge
        to garnish:
        • 1 tender, leafy celery stick
        • 1 pimento-stuffed green olive
        • 1 slice salami
        • 1 small pickled jalapeño
        • 1 lemon wedge
        for cocktail:
        • ice cubes
        • ¾ c. Spicy Vegetable or Tomato Juice (preferably low-sodium)
        • 1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
        • couple dashes Worcestershire Sauce
        • pinch celery salt
        • 2 oz. Crystal Head Vodka
        Instructions
        Combine ingredients for rim on a small plate. Run a lemon wedge around the rim of your glass and invert it onto the salt mixture; coat rim well.

        Prepare a skewer of all the garnish ingredients, except the celery.

        Put a few ice cubes into the prepared glass and then add all the ingredients for the cocktail, in order listed. Stir with the celery stick, then set the garnish on top and serve. Enjoy!

        note:
        I like to have a little bowl full of extra garnish ingredients to munch on while sipping this Bloody Mary. Because really, a Bloody Mary is like a meal to me.
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        Elizabeth from The Law Student's Cookbook is hosting this round of Food 'n Flix. You still have time to cook up something inspired by Attack of the Killer Tomatoes - submissions aren't due until October 28th!
        Food‘nFlix
        *I received one little sample-size bottle of Crystal Head Vodka for free. I bought the other one all on my own. And I would have bought a "regular" size bottle were it not the price of a small country.  Kidding...sort of.

        Spiced Shawarma Chicken Wraps

        Spiced Shawarma Chicken Wraps
        Can I just say how much I adore deceptively simple recipes?  Deceptive in that, although fairly quick and definitely no-fuss, they are absolute crowd-pleasers.  That would be exactly the case with the recipe that we are highlighting this week for our Mid-East Feast featuring Faith's upcoming book, An Edible Mosaic.

        Date Crumb Pie

        Date Crumb Pie
        Years ago, when I decided that I wanted to cook and bake...as in, all the time...the first thing I wanted to master was pie making.  I don't think it was a conscious decision, it just sort of became "my thing".  I started by baking pies to bring to Thanksgiving dinner.  I would always make two different kinds.   Apple being my favorite.  Apple with a crumb topping and long, thin slices of Parmesan to eat with it.

        Sometimes I would make Pumpkin.  Sometimes I would make Rum-Runner Pecan Pie.  Other times a variation on one of those three - perhaps Upside Down Apple (apple inside, pecan "outside") or Pumpkin-Pecan.  Other times, Chocolate Pecan or Bourbon Sweet Potato.

        In summertime, it was Concord Grape, Blueberry, and my most favorite, Cherry Pie.  Spring made me think Lemon Meringue, Strawberry-Rhubarb, or Coconut.  Basically, I'm a pie-anytime kinda girl.  A slice of pie (a la mode, perhaps) and a cup of good coffee is pure comfort to me.
        Date Crumb Pie
        I love giving pies to others, as well.  I love seeing the look on somebody's face when I hand them a homemade pie.   Something you spend so much time lovingly chopping, rolling, and forming definitely says "I Care".  This Date Pie was made for somebody very special this week.

        When the world is gray and bleak
        Baby don't you cry.
        I will give you every bit of love that is in my heart
        I will bake it up… into a simple little pie.
        Baby don't you cry, gonna make a pie
        Gonna make a pie with a heart in the middle.
                                                                                           -Adrienne Shelley

        Date Crumb Bars (or Date Crumb Pie)
        Thick oat streusel layers surrounding a rich date center.
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        Date Crumb Pie
        by Heather Schmitt-González
        Prep Time: 15 minutes
        Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
        Keywords: bake dessert vegetarian dates nuts Christmas Thanksgiving pie bars American

        Ingredients (16 bars or 8-10 slices)
        • 12 oz. pitted dates, coarsely chopped (to equal 2 c. packed)
        • 1½ c. water
        • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
        • 2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
        • 1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
        • ½ c. whole wheat flour
        • ¾ c. firmly packed dark brown sugar
        • ½ tsp. baking soda
        • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
        • big pinch sea salt
        • 1½ c. coarsely chopped walnuts
        • ½ c. finely chopped crystallized ginger
        • 8 oz. (2 sticks) salted butter, cut into tablespoons, at room temperature + extra for pan
        Instructions
        Combine chopped dates and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook at a slow steady simmer, stirring from time to time, until the dates are very tender and cooked into a thick jam, ~15 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in vanilla. Set aside to cool.

        Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a 9-inch square pan (or a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate) with foil, pressing it in to the sides or edges to conform to the pan, and leaving a bit of an overhang. Butter the foil lightly all over. Set aside.

        Stir together the oats, both flours, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Toss in the walnuts and ginger. Add the butter and use your fingertips to work the butter through the mixture until it is very well combined and crumbly.

        Press and pack half of the crumb mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan (if using a pie dish, bring it up the sides a bit as well). Spread the date filling on top of the bottom crust. Sprinkle the filling evenly with the rest of the crumb mixture. Gently give the topping a little press so that it adheres to the filling.

        Slide into preheated oven and bake for ~50 minutes - 1 hour (if using pie pan, check after 40 minutes or so), until edges are beginning to get golden and filling feels "set" when you press it it a little with your finger in the center.

        Cool on a wire rack. Gently lift the bars or pie from the pan, using the foil overhang, and cut into bars or wedges. Fantastic with cold milk or hot coffee. Even better with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream.

        slightly adapted from Baking for Friends by Kathleen King
        Date Crumb Pie

        Date Crumb Pie

        Date Crumb Pie

        Tate's Bake Shop: Baking for Friends by Kathleen King: cookbook review


        author:  Kathleen King
        publisher: Ingram Book Company
        photos: yes
        hard cover: 208 pages

        chapters/sections:  muffins, scones, & shortcakes - tea loaves & quick breads - pies, tarts, & crisps - cookies - party cakes & cupcakes - healthy & lifestyle baked goods - icings, frostings, & sauces

        fun features:  A warm, personal introduction to Kathleen and this book, plus a section titled Baking My Recipes.  Here she talks all about the the types of flours, eggs and dairy, sugar and sweeteners, flavorings, chocolate and cocoa she uses.  She talks about toasting nuts and about the equipment she uses to bake the recipes in this book.  Since baking is a science, I recommend reading this section as a point of reference before using the book.  Not that there's anything unusual or out of the ordinary, but it's definitely helpful to have this insight - especially if you're not a regular baker.

        (a few of the many) recipes destined for my kitchen:  Maple Bacon & Date Scones, Honey Cake, Hakan's Fresh Fig Cake, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, Candy Cane Chocolate Chip Cookies, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies, Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies, Chocolate-Dipped Orange Shortbread, Graham Crackers, Pecan Squares, Cherry Chip Party Cake, Chocolate Chip Layer Cake, Nutella Whipped Cream, Cranberry Sauce Crumb Bars

        my thoughts/review:  Beautiful photography and well-tested recipes combine to form a baking book that you won't want to put down - especially with the holidays looming close.  Kathleen King is a pro, and I trust her recipes to turn out.  So much so that I do not even test them before baking something of hers to take to an event or potluck.

        Much like the Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook, I have so many ideas swirling around in my head about which recipes I want to make and who I want to share them with.  I can't put it down.

        Recommended for those who love to bake...and share their baking.  This would make a lovely gift, especially when given with a baking sheet and a package of chocolate chips, dried fruit, or a bag of good flour.

        recipe(s) I have already tried:
        Cranberry, Maple, & Oatmeal Cookies (click for recipe)

        Date Crumb Bars (in the form of a pie- post w/ recipe up tomorrow)

        Chubby Tates
        Chubby Tate's

        by Heather Schmitt-González
        Prep Time: 15 minutes
        Cook Time: 16-18 minutes
        Keywords: bake dessert chocolate cookie American

        Ingredients (~3 dozen)
        • 2¼ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
        • 1 tsp. baking soda
        • 1 tsp. fine salt
        • 1 c. firmly packed dark brown sugar
        • 12 Tbs. (1½ sticks / 6 oz.) salted butter, at room temp.
        • ½ c. granulated sugar
        • 1 Tbs. light corn syrup
        • 1 large egg, at room temp.
        • 1 large egg yolk, at room temp.
        • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
        • 12 oz. (2 c.) semisweet chocolate chips
        Instructions
        Preheat oven to 325° F. Line one or two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.

        Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, cream butter, both sugars and corn syrup on high. Beat in egg, yolk, and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and mix the flour mixture in gradually until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips (using a rubber spatula).

        Drop onto prepared sheets in 2 tablespoon (1 oz.) scoops, leaving ~3-inches between each cookie. (If baking two trays at once, make sure they're in the middle and top ⅓ of the oven.)

        Bake until cookies are lightly browned on the edges (rotating pans halfway through if baking two at once), ~15-18 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. Repeat until all cookies have been baked.

        notes:
        Once you've scooped the dough into balls, you can freeze them like this on the trays. Transfer the frozen balls to a freezer-safe zippered baggie for up to 1 month. Bake without thawing.

        slightly adapted from Tate's Bake Shop: Baking for Friends
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        about the author:  The authentic essence of Kathleen King's baking comes from her upbringing on Long Island's North Sea Farms, where she began baking at age eleven.  She found joy in sharing her chocolate chip cookies with friends and neighbors-and they loved every crunchy, buttery bite.  Kathleen became a neighborhood sensation, and her cookies became instantly iconic.  Now Kathleen is the Hamptons' most beloved baker, and she still finds joy in sharing her desserts.

        further info: website | blog | facebook | twitter

        *I received a free copy of this book to review from the publisher.  All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine.

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