Sunday, October 31, 2010

It's Still Pumpkin Season!

Yes, it's still pumpkin season! And as it turns out, I did make the pumpkin clove pancakes for our annual Family Day. Every year, we choose one day for the five of us to spend together, with each of us coming up with something special to do. Before setting off for our day, we had breakfast together and the pumpkin clove pancakes were once again requested.

These are pretty special pancakes and what I really love is that we can all enjoy them, including the health fanatics of the family (Tim and I), the neutral ones (Gillian and Connor), and the one who is highly offended when you sneak whole grains into her food (Carly). In fact, Carly came over while I was just getting the ingredients out to make them and she stopped and said, "Wait- you're not going to make them with whole wheat, are you?" And I delighted in saying that as a matter of fact, they've always been made that way!

The kids like these with butter and pure maple syrup. Tim and I had them with Greek yogurt mixed with a little agave nectar and berries. Very special!

The next recipe is pumpkin cookies with dark chocolate chips. I made these today for Halloween, and again they pleased my non-healthy eater as well as Connor's friends before they went out trick-or-treating. I started out with a recipe I found on the Food Network website and made my usual adjustments. The longer you bake them, the crispier they are, although they are still going to be cake-like. Lots of flavor, and again, you're getting the whole grains (whole wheat pastry flour), vegetables (pumpkin) and antioxidants (dark chocolate).

Continue to enjoy pumpkin season! I know my family will, well through November.

Pumpkin Clove Pancakes
(original recipe from, but this recipe is the one I make with some substitutions)

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
6 tablespoons raw cane sugar or organic brown sugar (I've also used agave nectar instead, but needed to add a few more tablespoons of flour or the batter will be too runny)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup canned solid pack pumpkin
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 250°F. Mix first 6 ingredients in large bowl to blend. Whisk buttermilk, pumpkin, eggs and melted butter in medium bowl until well blended. Add to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls into skillet. Cook pancakes until bubbles form on top and bottoms are golden brown, about 2 1/2 minutes. Turn pancakes over. Cook until bottoms are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet; place in oven to keep warm up to 20 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter, adding more butter to skillet as necessary for each batch.

Serve pancakes hot with your favorite toppings!

Pumpkin Chip Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 or 3/4 cup agave nectar
1 cup natural cane sugar or organic brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups (12-ounce bag) 60% cacao chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli)
Nonstick cooking spray or parchment paper
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray or line them with parchment paper.

Using a mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Beat in the agave nectar and brown sugar, a little at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Slowly beat the flour mixture into the batter in thirds. Stir in the chips. Scoop the cookie dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are browned around the edges. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes. Take the cookies off with a spatula and cool them on wire racks.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

It's Pumpkin Season!

Every October, my family waits in earnest for the first pumpkin pie of the season. I have become the pumpkin pie maker of the family, and that includes my extended family as well. Thanksgiving is at my parents' house every year and my contribution is always enough pumpkin pies to satisfy the 25 of us!

I think the biggest difference between my pumpkin pie and one made from the recipe on the Libby's can is the texture. Most pumpkin pies are thin with a highly concentrated pumpkin flavor. Mine is thicker, creamier, less pumpkin and more spice.

Now as pies go, pumpkin is one of the healthiest and lowest in calories. But you had to know that I would create an even healthier version, one with no processed sugar and a whole wheat crust. I made both versions recently when we had Tim's brother and his girlfriend over for dinner. The healthier pie was admittedly not as good as the original, but still very satisfying. Oh, and in case you are wondering, the healthy version is on the left. It comes out darker in color.

Pumpkin season doesn't have to begin and end with pies! Today, I made a batch of pumpkin muffins that started with a recipe I found online and with a few substitutions turned out to be both delicious and healthy. Try them- no one will ever know they aren't indulgent!

Enjoy pumpkin season! I know my family will. They are already asking for the pumpkin clove pancakes I make on Thanksgiving morning. If they weasel them out of me before then, I'll post that recipe too!

1 lb. pumpkin puree
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
Combine all ingredients until thoroughly mixed. Pour into an unbaked pie shell. I use this one :
Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes (I use a pie shield to prevent the crust from over-browning) and then reduce heat to 350 and continue to bake for 30-40 minutes until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

THE HEALTHY VERSION: Omit both sugars. Substitute 3/4 cup agave nectar. Increase the spices as the agave may overpower flavors. Use this whole wheat crust: You will need to bake this pie slower on a lower temperature because agave nectar will chrystalize at high temperatures. Start it at 375, then turn down to 325 until done.

1/2 cup dried berries
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup raw brown sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (I used 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ginger, 1/8 tsp. nutmeg and 1/16 tsp. cloves)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup oil (grapeseed, almond, hazlenut, canola are good choices)
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or other nuts)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12 cup muffin pan, or line with paper liners. Place the dried fruit in a cup, and add enough hot water to cover. Let stand for a few minutes to plump.
2.In a large bowl, stir together the whole wheat flour, brown sugar, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the center, and put in eggs, pumpkin, oil and agave nectar. Mix just until the dry ingredients are absorbed. Drain excess water from fruit, and stir in along with the nuts. Spoon into muffin cups so they are about 2/3 full.
3.Bake for 18 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool in the pan before removing from cups.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Thai Pizza- Inspired by Rochester Public Market

I have a new obsession- Rochester Public Market. Winner of the 2010 America's Favorite Public Market title, this place is a foodie's heaven. I visited the market today for only the second time in the fourteen years that I have lived here. The produce is abundant and inexpensive, and both times I was happy to score a whole basket of Asian pears for $2.50 since they are $2.00 for only one at the grocery store!

Two of my sisters and I talked and laughed as we swam upstream like salmon through the crowds of people with strollers, rolling carts, and bags full of already purchased items. It is a great place to people watch, as well as look for interesting food finds. One woman smuggled her little dog in (there are no dogs allowed for obvious reasons) by wrapping him up in a blanket and pushing him in a stroller. Really? You can't leave your dog alone for an hour or two while you are at the market? My sister Jen bought some amazing maple cashew granola. She pretended to balk at the price while the granola man gave his sales pitch, but as granola is one of her very favorite things- she was easy. As we walked away I told him, "You had her at 'hello.'"

My highlight was when my sister Linda urged me into a little Italian cheese shop called Giordana Import, Inc. I've never seen so many varieties of cheese in my life- all Mediterranean and unique. In addition they have Italian meats, olives, oils, vinegars, and other Mediterranean foods. They do specialty sandwiches and gift baskets too. This was obviously a family owned place with a grandpa singing in Italian and a little girl helping behind the counter. Everyone was warm and friendly and entertaining as I held my number waiting to be called. When it was my turn, I ended up trying a Stilton with lemon that I was in love with!! I bought a nice big hunk without caring at all about the price.

But I haven't yet told you how this trip to the market inspired tonight's dinner. One of my purchases was at the homemade sausage case. During my first time at the market, my dad had bought me some Italian sausage with onions and peppers and I had used it in my sauce. Very delicious! So I decided to get some more sausage this time. The Thai chicken sausage caught my eye, and not knowing what I was going to do with it, I bought a pound. The girls and I started brainstorming and when I said, "What about a Thai pizza?" both sets of eyes went wide and I knew I came up with an interesting idea.

So after some searching for ideas online, I came up with a whole wheat Naan pizza with peanut sauce, peanuts, Thai chicken sausage, green onions and fresh mozzarella. The peanut sauce came from a Paula Dean recipe and it made so much, I now have leftovers to make chicken satay. Tim, Gillian, Connor, and I all loved this pizza and I will definitely make it again. Next time, I think I will drizzle a little of the straight Thai peanut sauce over the top of the cooked pizza for some extra color and zing. And if you can't find Thai chicken sausage, you can always substitute cooked chicken breast.

**One hint I have for making Naan pizzas-- If you bake them in the oven, as soon as the cheese melts, transfer it to a pan on the stove and the bottom will get nice and crispy! Or you can cook the whole thing in a pan or panini maker. Just be sure to only cover it partially- just to melt the cheese but not completely or the steam will make it soggy.

Naan Pizza with Thai Chicken Sausage

For sauce: Warm half a 11.5 oz. jar of Thai peanut sauce with a can of lite coconut milk. Mix 2 T cornstarch with 2 T water. Whisk that into the sauce and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cool.

Pour sauce on Naan, sprinkle with chopped unsalted peanuts, chopped grean onion, and cooked Thai chicken sausage. Top with shredded or sliced fresh mozzarella. Bake at 375 until cheese melts. Transfer to a pan to crisp bottom of crust. Drizzle with some of the leftover jarred Thai peanut sauce before serving.