Friday, December 13, 2013

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

I love these cookies. They are a little unique and always a favorite around the holidays. I was inspired by a recipe I clipped out of the Washington Post many years ago. After many changes and tweaks, I think it's just about perfect. These sandwich cookies are best eaten the same day, but if you're not going to eat them, refrigerate them as the center can get kind of goopy if left out for too long.

Makes about 36 sandwich cookies

For the cookies:
  • 1 C. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 C. packed brown sugar
  • 1 C. canned pumpkin
  • ½ C. milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 C. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
For the filling:
  • 8 oz. whipped cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ C. powdered sugar

To make the cookies:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper. 

In a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and brown sugar at medium speed for about 3 minutes or until creamy. Add the pumpkin, milk, egg, and vanilla, and mix on low speed until all ingredients are combined.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.

With the mixer running on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just combined. The dough will be sticky.

Use a tablespoon to drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets in evenly sized rounds, spaced about 1 inch apart. Bake one sheet at a time, for about 10 minutes, until set.

Cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Repeat to use all the dough, making about 72 cookies.

For the filling: 

Beat the cream cheese, butter, cinnamon, and vanilla for about 3 minutes on high speed, scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary. 

Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar until the mixture is creamy. 

To assemble the whoopie pies, spread the bottom of one cookie with some of the filling, then top with another cookie to make a sandwich.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cranberry-Orange-Almond Pie

We've had a little wintry weather here recently, and I was itching to do some baking. I'll be starting on my Christmas cookies at the end of the week, so I wanted to make something different.

I had extra pie crust dough in the freezer left from Thanksgiving, as well as some leftover whole fresh cranberries, so I came up with this pie. I like the combination of orange and almonds, but you could probably substitute another nut here if you wish.


For the crust - pate brisee - makes enough dough for 2 crusts:

  • 2.5 C. all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 C. (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • up to 1/2 C. very cold water
In a stand mixer or food processor (or by hand), mix the flour, salt, and butter, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Slowly add the cold water until the dough comes together in a ball. The dough should not be sticky.

Divide the dough into 2 equal portions and pat into disks. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. 

Remove one disk of dough and roll into a circle large enough to fit your pie plate. Press the dough into the pie plate, trimming the edges if necessary. Put the pie plate into the refrigerator for at least an hour to re-chill the dough.

For the filling:
  • 2 C. fresh whole cranberries
  • 1/4 C. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 C. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C. brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. corn starch
  • 1 C. sliced almonds
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 3 eggs, beaten

In a large bowl, combine the cranberries and melted butter and stir to coat evenly. Add the sugars, the corn starch, and the almonds and stir until combined. Add the orange zest and beaten eggs and stir to combine.

Pour the filling into your chilled pie crust and bake at 350 for an hour, until browned and mostly set in the middle.

Allow to cool completely before cutting. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Salmorejo - Tomato and Bread Soup - Spanish Cooking Club

Our latest cooking club found us preparing traditional foods from Spain. Although I have had my fair share of tapas, I was excited to try some other traditional dishes.

I definitely have prepared gazpacho many, many times - it's one of my summer favorites. I was intrigued to learn of another traditional Spanish chilled tomato soup, salmorejo. It is a very simple soup, consisting of just 5 ingredients (plus seasoning). Since there are so few ingredients, they need to be high quality. Do not skimp. The addition of bread helps make the soup creamy;  there is no dairy at all in the dish! It is very refreshing, even on a cool autumn day.

This recipe is based on one from noted local Spanish chef, Jose Andres. I am obsessed with his restaurants (such as Jaleo, Zaytinya, and Oyamel), so if you are from the DC area and haven't been to any of them, look him up!

Because tomatoes are not in season, I used canned whole plum tomatoes. If your grocery store carries them, look for tomatoes in a carton, rather than a can. They don't have the metallic taste (and no BPA either). Be sure to drain the tomatoes of their juice and then rinse lightly. Since you're not cooking the tomatoes, this will help them taste fresher.


  • 2 lbs. whole plum tomatoes, skins removed and any seeds discarded
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, skinned and smashed with a knife
  • 1/2 loaf of hearty bread, crusts removed and torn into pieces - the bread will enhance the flavor of the soup, so don't skimp here - I used a freshly-baked multi-grain loaf from the grocery store's bakery
  • 2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar - this contributes to the Spanish flavor, so best not to substitute a different vinegar
  • 1 C. good quality olive oil - see if you can find Spanish olive oil and splurge on good quality oil, it is worth it
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • hard boiled eggs, for garnish
  • serrano ham (or prosciutto), for garnish
Put the tomatoes, garlic, bread, and vinegar in a blender (or food processor). Blend on high speed and puree until smooth. Add the olive oil in a drizzle. This will help the soup emulsify. Taste the soup for seasoning. Add salt, pepper, and more vinegar and oil as desired. 

Chill for several hours in the refrigerator before serving. Best served the same day. Garnish with hard boiled egg wedges and serrano ham.

Here are some other photos from our Spanish feast!


Jamon and Cantaloupe; Banderillas; Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp with Garlic Sauce) - by Emmy
Tortilla Espanola - by Susanne


Albondigas - by Terri
Patatas Bravas - by Kristin
Esofado de Vaca Aragones (Spanish Beef Stew) - by Maria 
Paella - by Jennifer 

Flan - by Angie
Almond Orange Cake - by Maliha
Arroz con leche - by Prassu

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Curried Tofu with Butternut Squash and Kale

Since September, I have been cooking only vegetarian food at home. We are still eating meat, poultry, and fish occasionally, when dining out at restaurants or others' homes, but here at home, we have been strictly vegetarian. I made this decision for health, environmental, and economic reasons, and so far, it's going great!

This meal is actually vegan, and wow, was it delicious. Perfect for the cooler weather we've been having recently.


  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable or coconut oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 package extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes
  • 1 Tbsp. curry powder
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 small bunch of kale, washed and torn
  • 1 C. coconut milk (can substitute lite coconut milk, but it will be less creamy)
In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes until softened. Add the garlic and saute for one minute, until fragrant. Add the squash and saute 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned on all sides. Add the tofu and season all ingredients with the curry powder, ginger, cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tofu is browned on all sides. Add the kale and cook until slightly wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and heat through. Taste for seasoning. Serve over rice or another grain, like bulgur, wheat berries, quinoa, or farro.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Cooking Club #5: German - Kartoffelpuffer (Potato Pancakes) with Homemade Applesauce

Our cooking club continues its culinary tour around the world; after tastes of India, France, England, and Italy, our next stop was Germany.

I typically make latkes for Hanukkah every year, so I was happy to make the German version, called kartoffelpuffer. Since it is prime apple-picking season around here, I also made some fresh homemade applesauce to serve with them.

The potato pancake recipe makes about 2 dozen large pancakes and the applesauce makes about 4 cups. Both recipes can easily be cut in half.

For the potato pancakes:

  • 12 medium russet potatoes
  • 2 large yellow onions
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 C. flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • vegetable oil, for frying
Scrub and peel the potatoes. Place a large colander in the sink and line with a clean dish towel.

Grate the potatoes and onion directly into the dish towel. Try to work quickly as the potatoes will begin to oxidize and turn brown. If you have a food processor, you can save yourself a lot of time.

Twist the dish towel into a ball and squeeze as much moisture as possible out of it.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the potatoes, flour, and salt and stir to combine.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in one or more large cast-iron or other heavy duty frying pans. You want a good coating of oil on the bottom, maybe about 1/4" or so.

To see if the oil is hot enough, I take a small amount of batter and put it in the pan. If it sizzles, then you are ready to cook. Your pancakes will be greasy if the oil isn't hot enough.

Scoop the batter into the pan (use a 1/3 cup for large pancakes or 1/4 cup for smaller ones). Use the back of the measuring cup to flatten the pancakes.

Fry for 2 minutes on each side. 

Then drain on a paper towel and serve immediately, or place in a warm over (200-250 degrees) until ready to serve. Serve with applesauce and/or sour cream.

For the applesauce:
  • 8-12 sweet apples - I used Gala, but you can use a mix of your favorites, cored and quartered - leave the skin on
  • 1.5 to 2 C. water
Notice there is no sweetener needed for this applesauce, as long as you use sweet apples.

Put the apples and water in large stockpot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the apples are soft. Most of the water should have evaporated during the cooking. 

Pour the apples and remaining water into a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. If you have a high-powered blender like a Vitamix, don't use the highest setting unless you want a baby-food like consistency. You can also use a food-mill, if you don't have a blender or food processor.

You can taste and add vanilla, cinnamon, and/or nutmeg, but I prefer mine plain.

Here are some other photos from our German feast...

Appetizers, including herring salad (prepared by Maliha), carrot salad and cucumber salad (prepared by Sherry), and Abendbrot ("evening bread"), homemade German farmer's bread topped with various cold cuts, cheeses, and pickled vegetables (prepared by Kristen).

Sauerbraten with Kartoffelkloesse (potato dumplings) and Rotkohl (red cabbage), prepared by our hostess Susanne.

Cauliflower in cream sauce and Spaetzle (prepared by Nehal).

Sauerkraut (prepared by Terri)

Rouladen (prepared by Jennifer)

And wienerschnitzel (prepared by Laura)

That's a lot of food!

And finally, dessert!!

There was bienenstich (bee sting cake), prepared by Emmy.

Hazelnut cake, prepared by Terri.

German apple cake, prepared by Prassu.

And Rote Gruetze (red berry pudding), served with vanilla sauce (prepared by Laura).

I'm still full the next day!