Ghosts and goblins, squash and pumpkins
Found on every aisle
As the shippers rush home with their treasures
Hear the whispers, see the costumes
Sitting there on display…
And above all this bustle you hear
It’s creepy time in the city.
Soon it will be Halloween.
City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
See the kids walking by
At each door they will ask for some candy.
Hear them all say “Please” and “Thank You”
As they say “Trick or Treat”
Soon it will be Halloween.
It’s creepy time in the city.
Soon it will be Halloween.
(Original poem written by yours truly…think of it as corny or creative…your choice)
This is the only time all year that you will see the color orange plastered everywhere you look. Suddenly you look up, and there’s almost as much orange to be as you look around as there is green.
I personally love this time of year because pumpkins are about the only food out there with such a sweet, cinnamon-y taste…a taste that reminds of us Halloween and Thanksgivings as we were growing up.
Read the next few posts for some ideas for great homemade gifts to give your neighbors, teachers, and whoever gives me an unexpected gift during the upcoming holiday season.
These posts will highlight ways to cook with pumpkin…make awesome coffee…decorate…and stir up your own DIY beauty concoctions, such as hair masks and facials.
But first let’s take a brief look at which pumpkins to buy so that you don’t end up leaving the produce section with a lemon.
Going to the closest pumpkin patch to pick out your pumpkin(s_ can actually end up being more stressful than you would think.
Suddenly you find yourself surrounded by all of these small round spheres in all sorts of colors and sizes…
Which one should you actually buy?
Let’s take a quick look at your options, and your best bets.
The Gray Ones
Kakai...These are the gray ones with orange stripes or ribbing…even though these pumkins are edible, they are better known for their blue seeds, which can be roasted.
The Green Ones
Fairytale…These are the flat, dark green ones with deep vertical ribbing that are about 15″ around and 6″ high and weight anywhere from twenty to thirty pounds. Use these for cooking, especially for baking pumpkin pies.
The Orange Ones
Baby Bear…These are the flat orange ones out of this grouping…and are best for…pies, roasted pumpkin seeds, and using as a bown to serve soupf, stews, and chili.
Baby Pam…These are the deep orange, ir yellow if immature. .very smooth ones. These supposedly have a sugary, starchy, string-less, and dry flesh…choose these if you are willing to spend the extra time prepping the pumpking.
Long Island Cheese…These are the pale yellow or orange ones that .have light vertical ribbing on their exterior.
Musee de Provence:…These are the yellow-orange ones with deep and distinct vertical ribbing. These are great for snacking on because they have a rich, sweet, creamy, taste. In fact slices of this pumpkin are often sold in French markets.
Tiger…These are the flat yellow ones that have orange mottling that are about 5″ around and 3″ high in size. They have a recessed stem and deep vertical ribbing the top that fades at the bottom
Winter Luxury…These are pale orange round ones with a unique netted-looking
The Red Ones
Lakota…These are the red ones with green and black markings and light ribbing…and supposedly they taste like butternut squash.
The White Ones
Baby Boo…These are the bright white palm-sized ones out of the group. Supposedly their flesh is inedible…so use these only for…decorating.
Casper…These are the bright white ones that are .more round than squat…and have slight ribbing on their exterior.
Lumina…These are the bright white., smooth ones.
Marina Di Chioggia…These are the squat green ones that have a thick and warty skin. They are actually a favorite for cooking because they have such a sweet flavor.
White Ghost…These are the pure white, squat ones.
I feel like I have gone on so many tangents while writing this blog that they couldn’t possibly be counted.
I have gone all the way from learning to live a cruelty-free lifestyle and clean eating…to making scones with lots and lots of sugar and butter.
This latest tangent has been a result of “the resident five year old” going back to school.
Realizing that he never eats his lunch at school, I have learned the importance of making him a good breakfast instead.
So I have wanted to build myself an arsenal of breakfast recipes to keep him well fed…and hopefully well behaved at school.
So before we go on, let’s give our “breakfast cookbook” a Table of Contents…
Table of Contents
In the last post, we talked about how to make the perfect biscuits…
Now let’s learn how to make the biscuit’s closest kid—the scone—anotherf quick bread that is made using very similar ingredients and techniques.
The perect scones are moist, light, tall and fluffy…slightly crispy on the outside…puffy and tender on the inside…with just the right amount of sweetness…served with jam, clotted cream, butter, or simply eaten plain. the perfect treat for breakfast or afternoon tea.
That is, assuming you’re an American.
True British scones are actually drier and more crumbly.
The “original” scones, called “bannocks,” were actually large round breads that were made simply of oat or barley flour and water…and then dry-fried on a griddle before being cut apart into wedge shapes.
When it comes to making the perfect scones, you have to have quality ingredients and know the correct method of making them instead of just slopping all the ingredients together and hoping that they come out fit to eat.
By now, whenever you read a recipe for a bread that uses baking soda or baking powder…instead of yeast…to make the bread rise, you should see a pattern emerge.
This pattern of doing things is called the “quick bread method.”
Once you see just how easy it is to make scones yourself, they will no longer be a rarely eaten treat served only for special-day breakfasts and formal high-tea fare….scones that are just as good, if not better, than the ones that I fork over how much money at Starbucks every time that I splurge and buy myself coffee there.
So let’s get started.
- 1Tbsp baking powder
- 2C flour
- 1/2tsp salt
- 1/2C sugar
- 1/2C butter
- 1 egg
- 1C heavy cream or buttermilk
- 1tsp vanilla
The Baking Powder…If you forget the baking powder, your scones will not rise…go figure…
The Sugar…This may seem like a lot of sugar…feel free to experiment to find out if you still like the taste using less sugar…but remember that changing the amount of sugar that you use will chl
If you are making savory scones, reduce this amount to about 2Tbsp.
Brown sugar often makes certain flavors of scones taste even better, but if you are using brown sugar, you should whisk your wet ingredients until you get out all the lumps of brown sugar…otherwise, guess what your scones will contain…
Lumps of brown sugar…obviously.
The Butter…Butter is responsible for the crisp edges, flakiness, flavor, and rise of your scones.
The Egg…Eggs add flavor, lift, and structure.
The Milk…The thicker this dairy ptoduct is, the more your scones will rise and the better they will taste. If you are looking for a “politically correct” form of milk, choose one from this previous post regarding milk options.
The Vanilla Extract… because all baked goods require vanilla, right?!
Wrong…Don’t use the vanilla if you are making savory scones…as opposed to sweet ones.
Optional Ingredients…The optional ingredients that yuu can incorporate into your batter change the taste of your scones and make them much more fun.
A few options include the following…
Chopped Nuts…Add these after cutting in the butter…but before adding the liquid.
Citrus Zest…Add one of the following into the liquid ingredient
Extracts…Add one of the following into the liquid ingredients
Fruit…Use either fresh or frozen fruit. If using frozen fruit, do not thaw the fruit out first. Peel fruits such as apples, peaches, or pears before chopping.
Glaze or Frosting…Top your cooked, slightly cooled scones with one of the following…
- Brown butter icing
- Cream cheese frosting
- Lemon curd
- Lemon icing
- Maple icing
- Orange icing
- Powdered sugar glaze
- Raspberry icing
- Salted caramel frosting
Herbs…Add one of the following into your dry ingredients…
Spices …Add 1/2 to 1tsp one of the following into your dry ingredients….
- Chocolate chips
- Toasted coconut
The Prep Work
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Adjust oven rack to center position.
Line two rimmed cookie sheets with parchment paper and/or spray with nonstick vegetable oil spray or baking spray.
Stick your butter in the freezer.
The Dry Ingredients
Whisk together your dry ingredients—the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder— in a large bowl.
…or simply pull out your KitchenAid to do this instead.
Actually we moved last month and I’ve had to hide the red KitchenAid that I love so much because there’s not enough space between the lower and upper kitchen cabinets for it to fit.
Regardless which method you are using, be sure to use a big enough bowl that will allow you lots of room to work in when combining your ingredients..
Add any herbs or spices that you have chosen at this point.
Working with the Dough
I am so not a morning person…I do not function well until I have had at least two pots of coffee.
So anything I can do the night before—such as make school lunches, lay out clothes, and so forth—I try to always do this the night before.
Heaven forbid that I stand up for how long making slice after slice of French toast.
Fortunately there is an awesome way to make French toast the night before.
In fact, not only does this make ahead French toast casserole allow you not to stand any more than you have to…to serve everyone at the same time…to make rushing out the door even easier because you already have breakfast made…
Refrigerating this casserole overnight allows the bread to soak up the custard and makes the dish taste even better than it would have otherwise.
The perfect French toast has a sweet custard-like flavor, the texture of ordinary French toast, a crispy layer of streusel topping on top, and just the right amount of cinnamon.
- 1 loaf crusty bread—such as French bread, sourdough, challah, brioche or ciabatta
- 6 eggs
- 1-1/2C milk
- 1-1/4C brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp powdered sugar (don’t leave it out, trust me)
- 1Tbsp vanilla
- 1tsp cinnamon
- 4Tbsp melted butter
- 3Tbsp brown sugar
- 1tsp cinnamon
- 1/2tsp nutmeg
- Dried cranberries
- Maple syrup
- Powdered sugar
- Fruit…such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, kiwi, pineapple, or bananas
1. Bread….Pretty much anything other than normal sandwich bread will end up making an even better French toast casserole. Save that for your kid’s lunchbox peanut butter jelly sandwich that you have to make each night instead.
If you do use loaf bread, your casserole will typically end up tasting soggy and lacking texture.
Instead, explore with other options—such as challah or brioche.
Choose breads that are “crusty”…the crust will add texture to your dish.
Your French toast casserole will also taste much better if you use stale bread, instead of freshly baked….(another reason to make this casserole, right…as you clean out your pantry or make out your next grocery list and find that bread that you forgot that you bought sitting there just begging to be eaten)…
Cream Cheese…Cream cheese is optional…(wait, in a Southern girl’s world, c ream cheese is NEVER optional, right, Paula?!)..but if you do choose to use cream cheese, be sure that you use only a high quality full-fat cream cheese, such as Philadelphia brand.
2. Milk...Whole milk will give your casserole the richest taste and texture.
3. Powdered Sugar...Powdered sugar is another optional ingredient…at least for anyone not both in the Deep South.
Tear bread into cubes. Place the bread in a warm oven for minutes to dry slightly.
Spray your 9×13 with cooking spray.
Layer half of the bread into a 9×13.
Combine flour, eggs, milk, half and half, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Pour this on top of the bread.
Top with the remaining bread.
To make the struesel…Combine melted butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
Pour the struesel evenly over the top of the casserole.
You can go ahead and bake it at this point…or you can make it ahead of time and refrigerate it.
If you are going to go ahead and bake your dish now, wait about twenty minutes first so that your bread can soak up the cream cheese mixture..
When you are ready to bake the dish…
Preheat oven to 350.
Cover dish with foil.
Bake for 20min.
Bake 20min…until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
- n2C flour
- ¼C sugar
- 4tsp baking powder
- ½tsp salt
- 2tsp vanilla
- 1½C milk
- 1 egg
- ¼C melted butter
Mix together these dry ingredients.
You can do this with either a whisk or a Mason jar.
You want to go ahead and mix your dry ingredients enough to get rid of any lumps at this stage in order to avoid big lumps….and because later you will need to avoid over-mixing the batter once you add the wet to the dry,
The Baking Powder…Be sure to check the expiration date on the baking powder canister. If your baking powder is old or expired, your pancakes will not right…and will end up flat, instead of light and fluffy.
If you would like even fluffier pancakes, feel free to double the amount of baking powder.
You might also want to try using only 2tsp of baking powder and then adding 1/2tsp baking soda.
The Flour…Spoon your flour into a measuring cup instead of scooping the flour out of the flour canister with a measuring cup, like most of us do…including me.
Scooping the flour causes your measuring cup to be filled with too much flour, often resulting in tough pancakes.
Don’t restrict yourself to only using all-purpose flour…be adventuresome by swapping out half of the flour with another type of flour—such as whole wheat, buckwheat, brown rice, corn, oat, or gluten-free.
Mason Jar Method
You can also use a Mason jar to shake your ingredients together.
To do this, layer your wet ingredients first—milk, egg, and oil…and then your dry ingredients—flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a wide-mouth quart-sized jar. Seal the jar tightly . Shake the jar vigorously for at least two minutes…until the ingredients are combined. Once the ingredients are combined, you can either cook pancakes immediately or stick the jar in the fridge for later.
To make your pancakes, simply pour the batter straight from the jar onto your griddle or pan…and cook them…(more on that later)…
Combine your liquid ingredients.
The Butter…Using unsalted butter allows youu to control the taste of your pancakes better..
The Buttermilk...Butttermilk is what makes your pancakes tenderest. If you do not want to use milk or buttermilk, use water, coffee, or juice as your liquid base instead…reducing the amount of liquid called for in the original recipe by.one-fourth of the amount.
The Eggs…Bringing your eggs to room temp before mixing into your batter will give you the best results.
To make your pancakes even fluffier, take the time to separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. …beat your egg whites with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form…and finally fold the beaten egg whites into your batter gently with a rubber spatula until just combined.
You should have already whisked your dry ingredients together before you added in the wet ingredients…so you should be able to combine your wet ingredients and dry ingredients together very easily.
Now gently fold your dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just combined.
Stir until the flour is moist, but there are still a few small clumps of flour.
.Do not over-mix the batter. It’s okay to leave some lumps in the batter.
If you overmix the batter, you will end up with tough and dense pancakes, not fluffy.
At this point, you should add any ingredients that you would like to add to your batter…such as…
- Banana…one mashed ripe banana
- Cream cheese…3oz finely chopped cream cheese
Lemon…1tsp grated lemon peel
- Orange…1tsp grated orange peel
Pecans…1/2C…toast and chop finely
- Walnuts…1/2C…toast and chop finely
Resting Your Batter
Now that all of your ingredients have become friends, it’s time to rest your batter. What does it mean to “rest” your batter?
To rest your batter means to simply leave it alone for anywhere from ten to thirty minutes. The longer you rest your batter, the better your pancakes will turn out…
Why should you “rest” your batter?
Resting your batter will…
- dissolve any small lumps
- give the baking powder enough time to activate
- give the flour a chance to absorb liquid in the batter
As far as what kind of pan to use when making pancakes, the best option is an electric griddle…
An electric non-stick griddle makes flipping your pancakes much easier.
But if you’d rather cook your pancakes on top of the stove or don’t have an electric griddle, use a large, about 12,” non-stick skillet with sloping slides….preferably cast iron.
Cast iron will give you even heat distribution allow you to brown your pancakes without having to use tons of butter.
Heating the Pan
Heat your pan or skillet over medium heat until drop of water sizzles..
Heat a little bit of vegetable oil…(for other types of oils to cook with, check this previous post out)…
Avoid using regular butter because the butter will be more likely to burn and make your pancakes turn out funky tasting.
Reduce heat to medium-low.
Muffins can be another healthy breakfast food…
…but store-bought tend to be fairly calorie-dense, usually contain preservatives and other hard-to-pronounce ingredients, and tend to be very high in sugar…oversized nutritional disasters packed with tons of calories and fat and little protein.
Instead make your own muffins…they are so easy to bake and freeze in bulk…not to mention cheaper.
The following base recipe allows you to be creative by adding different fruits or nuts…and is totally sugar, oil, and gluten free.
Fruits and nuts may add calories, but are worth it. Dried or fresh fruits…such as raisins, cherries, blueberries, apples…are packed with antioxidants. Nuts…such as walnuts, pecans, almonds… provide heart-healthy fats.
The carbs in the whole-grain flour will help fuel your muscles, and the high fiber will keep you feeling full.The substitution of applesauce for oil reduces the fat content of the muffins.
2C whole-grain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4C ground flaxseeds
2tsp baking powder
3 ripe bananas
1/2C unsweetened apple sauce
1C unsweetened almond milk
1/2C dried, fresh, or frozen fruit (optional)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350. Fill a muffin tin with 12 paper muffin cups.Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Slightly beat the eggs. Mix in the milk and applesauce. Add wet ingredients to the dry mix. Stir until just combined, sprinkling in the nuts or fruit. Spoon into muffin cups. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until muffin tops are golden brown.