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Archive for October, 2012

RECIPE: Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

Carrot cake and carrot bread seem to be on the menu year-round; but fall means pumpkin bread. This recipe incorporates that other favorite fall ingredient, cranberries.

Thanks to Cheryl Indelicato, proprietor of HandCraft Wines in California, for sharing this recipe:


Ingredients For One Loaf

  • 1 cup solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

    Enjoy pumpkin bread plain as a snack cake, or pair it with ice cream or whipped cream for dessert. Photo courtesy Cheryl Indelicato | HandCraft Winery.



    1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

    2. COMBINE. In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat together pumpkin, sugar, water, eggs and oil. Sift in flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and spices; stir just until batter is smooth.

    3. ADD. Stir in cranberries and spoon batter into loaf pan that has been buttered or sprayed with non-stick spray.

    4. BAKE. Bake bread in middle of oven 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Cool in pan on a rack ten minutes.Turn bread out onto rack and cool completely.

    Bread may be made 4 days ahead refrigerated, wrapped tightly; or it can be frozen for future enjoyment.

    Let slices come to room temperature or warm in the microwave. Serve plain or with butter as a snack; or with ice cream (pumpkin spice, rum raisin, vanilla), mascarpone, or whipped cream for dessert.


    While the origin of the “bread” style of cake is unknown, food historians believe that it was originated in the 18th century with housewives experimenting with pearl ash. Banana bread became common in American cookbooks in the 1930s, with the popularization of baking soda and baking powder, and very popular in the 1960s, when variations with simple inclusions (nuts, chocolate morsels) created simple but delicious snack cakes.

    While some recipes use the terms interchangeably, a cake is a bit different than a bread-style cake, which is a sweetened version of a quickbread. The term loaf cake is often used. A sweet bread is similar to a muffin, except for the shape.

    Here are the key differentiators, which also differentiate a muffin from a cupcake:

    Density. A bread is leavened with baking soda instead of yeast, and is more dense than a cake. (This is not necessarily true for conventional breads, which can be as airy as cakes). In general, loaf cakes or “breads” have a denser crumb, a rougher texture and often less sugar than their cake counterparts. A cake is airy and eaten with a fork. A bread is dense like a brownie, and can be eaten with a fork or with the fingers.

    Frosting. Cakes are often frosted or otherwise garnished, for example, with confectioners sugar; the layers are filled. Loaf cakes may or may not be frosted.

    Moistness. A cake has more fat, and thus is moister.

    Sweetness. Cakes are sweeter.

    Shape. Cakes are baked in round or rectangular pans. A bread is typically baked in a loaf pan. Cakes can be single layers (like bundt cakes) or multiple layers; loaf breads are single layer.

    Find more of our favorite cake recipes.


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    COOKING VIDEO: How To Make Beef Jerky


    Sales of jerky and beef sticks more than quadrupled between 1995 and 2006. We don’t have statistics on homemade jerky, but given how easy it is to make, we’re surprised that more people don’t make their own—especially when there‘s a good sale on beef.

    Making jerky is a great way to preserve meat when you have more than you can immediately eat. That’s why our ancestors learned to make jerky thousands of years ago! Today we’re blessed with freezers; but instead of freezing that extra meat, make jerky.

    All you need are the meat, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, black pepper, red pepper flakes, onion powder, liquid smoke and honey. The equipment: just two resealable plastic bags, a cooking rack, tin foil and an oven or food dehydrator.

    After you’ve made the basic recipe in this video, you can get creative with flavoring. And remember: The more tender the cut of meat you use, the more tender the jerky will be.

    If you love your jerky, your friends and family will love it too. It might become your signature gift.



    Find more of our favorite beef recipes.

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cream Of Chestnut Soup & Other Chestnut Recipes

    Cream of chestnut soup is just one delicious way to enjoy roasted chestnuts. Photo © Evegny B | Fotolia.


    When the air becomes crisp and the autumn leaves rustle, the aroma of roasting chestnuts fills the air. Served up by street vendors in our town, this is old-time comfort food.

    In addition to snacking on roasted chestnuts, we have a passion for chestnut soup and for the classic French dessert, Mont Blanc, which uses sweetened chestnut purée. (More about that below.)

    Much of our canned chestnut supply is cultivated in, and imported from, southern-central France. Canned chestnuts are peeled and pre-cooked, so they can be enjoyed without “roasting on an open fire.”

    Look for the Roland brand at your grocer’s or specialty food store. They’re available whole, peeled and pre-cooked, in water, or as a cream or purée. (If you’re new to cooking, please note: Chestnuts in water are NOT the same as water chestnuts. You want the former.)

    Chestnuts are chock full of antioxidants, and studies show that they may reduce the risks of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Chestnuts also deliver one’s daily dose of vitamins B6 and C, and are a good source of fiber and potassium.


    Chestnut soup is an easy-to-make comfort food and a classic to ward off the fall-winter chill. A recipe from chef and beekeeper Laurey Masterton follows. It’s from her forthcoming “The Fresh Honey Cookbook” (September 2013 / Storey Publishing).

    “From-scratch advocates may want to roast and peel their own chestnuts,” says Laurey, “which is easy enough to do although time-consuming. Or you can purchase whole, peeled chestnuts.”

    Don’t pair chestnut honey with the chestnuts. “Chestnut honey has too strong a flavor for this recipe,” she advises. “Instead, I suggest eucalyptus, a dark honey that doesn’t have an overly assertive taste, so the chestnut flavor can shine.” (See the different varieties of honey.)

    The recipe serves 6–8.

    We don’t like a lot of sweetness in soup, so we use only a teaspoon of honey.



  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 pounds cooked, peeled chestnuts
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock, plus more if needed
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream, plus more if needed
  • 2 tablespoons honey, preferably eucalyptus or other dark honey
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 3 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Garnishes: whole or halved roasted chestnuts plus smaller pieces, fresh thyme and/or sage (or parsley)

    1. COMBINE. Melt the butter in a large soup pot over low heat. Add the onion and sauté until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the chestnuts, carrots and stock. Simmer over low heat until the chestnuts are very tender (until you can poke a fork through one), about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

    2. BLEND. Blend the soup with an immersion blender until completely smooth, or drain the vegetables in a colander and pulse them in a food processor until smooth; return to the pot and blend with the broth.

    3. ADD. Add the cream, honey and sherry. Add the salt and a few grinds of pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings. If the soup is too thick, add additional stock or cream. Warm over medium-low heat but do not boil, as the cream will curdle.

    4. GARNISH. Garnish as desired and serve. We like the combined garnishes of chestnut pieces and fresh herbs, but you can serve the soup plain, with just a bit of fresh pepper and/or a simple crouton.

    Find more of our favorite soup recipes.

    While chestnuts can be eaten raw, cooking them allows for a sweeter, more delicate flavor. Other delicious uses include:

  • Roast as a snack in the oven or toaster oven (recipe below in footnote)
  • Sliced and sprinkled on a salad
  • Chopped and stirred into risotto or rice pilaf
  • Candied, as a delicious sweet treat
  • Chopped and added to stuffing
  • As a rich dessert, Mont Blanc,† a classic French recipe of sweetened chestnut puree in a meringue shell, topped with whipped cream
    *For a snack, preheat oven to 425 F. Place chestnuts in a shallow baking pan and roast for 30 minutes or up to 40 minutes for larger chestnuts. For even cooking, shake the pan several times to rotate the chestnuts. If you just the chestnuts for a recipe, cooki them for 10 to 15 minutes; then you’ll be able to peel them. Peel as soon as the nuts are cool enough to handle. Once completely cool, they are difficult to peel. But if they cool before you get to peel them, you can reheat them briefly to soften the shells.

    †The dessert is named after the highest mountain in the Alps (and the entire European Union). It lies between the regions of Haute-Savoie, France and the Aosta Valley in Italy.


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    This could just be the “perfect poison” you’re seeking for Halloween entertaining.

    The ingredients are simple, except for finding that perfect candy spider:


    Ingredients For One Drink

  • 2 ounces Frangelico
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce grenadine (you can buy HFCS-artificial grenadine or make the real deal with this grenadine recipe

    1. SHAKE. Shake Frangelico and lime juice with ice.


    Bite me! Photo and recipe courtesy Frangelico Hazelnut Liqueur.

    2. STRAIN. Strain into a rocks glass, fill with ice and garnish with a spooky Halloween treat.

    3. GARNISH. To drip grenadine “blood” on the glass, reduce some grenadine in a sauce pan until it becomes thick and syrupy. Use a small squeeze bottle or a medicine dropper to dribble the “blood” from the rim of the glass.
    Find more Halloween cocktail recipes.

    Find more delicious Frangelico recipes at


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    FOOD HOLIDAY & RECIPE: National Soft Pretzel Day

    Bake big, soft pretzels and invite friends to
    bring the beer.


    Whether or not it’s actually National Champagne Day (see previous post), we know that it’s National Soft Pretzel Day.

    Hard pretzels are ubiquitous, but soft pretzels have become so popular that they’re no longer a ballpark or theme park snack. You can now find them in your grocer’s freezer case (look for SuperPretzel and other brands).

    Or, bake this soft pretzel recipe from scratch.

    Here are some garnishing tips from SuperPretzel. Be sure the pretzels are cool enough to eat; then garnish:

  • MUSTARD. Dip them your favorite mustard (we use a knife to spread the mustard, rather than double-dipping).
  • OTHER DIPS. Before baking or reheating, lightly apply butter and garlic powder to the top. Serve with ranch dressing, salsa or queso dip.
  • BAGEL STYLE. Top with a light spread of butter, jam, peanut butter, cream cheese, or a combination.
  • CHEESE. Before baking or microwaving, cover the pretzel with shredded cheese and a dash of oregano or chili flakes. Let cool an extra couple of seconds.
  • GOURMET. Brush with garlic butter or other compound butter(recipes) and sprinkle with sesame seeds or dill (or both).
  • PIZZA STYLE. Sprinkle with a shredded mozzarella, then bake or reheat. When sufficiently cooled, top with warm marinara sauce and oregano.
  • SANDWICH STYLE: Monte Cristo. Make a Monte Cristo sandwich using the pretzel as bread. Carefully slice the pretzel horizontally. Beat an egg with 3 tablespoons of milk. Over medium heat, melt some butter in a sauté pan until foaming stops. Dunk the bottom half (outside only) of the pretzel into the batter and place in the pan. Place layers of ham, turkey, and Swiss cheese on top of the pretzel half. Dunk the top half (outside only) of the pretzel into the egg mixture, and place on top of the sandwich. When the bottom is golden brown, flip sandwich and brown the top. Remove from pan when cheese is melted and sandwich is golden brown and heated through.
  • SANDWICH STYLE: Open Face Crab. Place a slice of pepper jack cheese onto a room-temperature pretzel. Top with a scoop of crabmeat. Sprinkle with Old Bay seasoning and add more pepper jack cheese. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven until the cheese is melted. (You might need a knife and fork.)
  • SOUTHERN FRIED. Make dip by mixing ¼ cup of mustard with 2 tablespoons dried onion soup mix. Let sit a few minutes to blend. Deep fry room temperature pretzels in 350°F oil, top side down, for 1-2 minutes. Drain on paper towels, let cool a bit, and enjoy with the onion mustard dip. For an optional twist, sprinkle with garlic powder right out of the fryer.
  • SUNDAE-STYLE. Add chocolate sauce, a dollop of whipped cream and a maraschino cherry.
    Do you have a favorite way to eat soft pretzels? Let us know.
    Check out the history of pretzels.

    Take our pretzel trivia quiz.


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