Colorful chocolate pretzel bites!

I talked about these in the latest issue of my newsletter (and if you haven’t subscribed yet, there’s a box at the end of the post so you can). I just made up this batch for parties — birthday and holiday — but it’s quite possible I’m going to need to make more before the first party, on Sunday. They’re tiny, they’re easy to munch, and my family loves them!mini pretzels with M&Ms

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My history with pumpkin

My earliest memory of eating pumpkin comes from when I was about four. My parents had decided to make a bunch of pumpkin stuff from scratch, although the only things I remember for certain were the pumpkin pie and pumpkin pudding. I also remember being violently ill that night. It may not have been related, but I reacted with a strong case of Sauce Béarnaise syndrome* — I developed an aversion to pumpkin. To this day, I still don’t like pumpkin pie.

When I went off to graduate school, I tried to update my tastebuds to a more “adult” standard of eating things I know are good for me, even if I haven’t particularly liked the taste in the past. In some things, I have succeeded; there’s at least one stew made with sweet potatoes that I’m fond of. So my first thought was to try savory preparations of pumpkin — baked pumpkin and pumpkin risotto. I ate them. I’ve even tried a couple different versions of risotto to see if my reaction was just a fluke, but no. I don’t like savory pumpkin.

On the other hand, there is one form of pumpkin I’ve always enjoyed (related to the one form of zucchini I’ve always enjoyed — go figure, my issues include both summer and winter squashes): pumpkin bread. This would be one reason why the most recent issue of my newsletter included a recipe for pumpkin bread. (If you’re not subscribed to my newsletter, which keeps you up to date on anticipated releases, as well as providing recipes, see the instructions at the end of this post!)

Thus, I started trying other forms of sugar-and-flour preparations of pumpkin: pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin scones with pumpkin butter, pumpkin cinnamon rolls… Not only did I like all these ways of preparing pumpkins, but my kids and husband tend to be fans as well. I’ve gotten into the habit of buying one or two pumpkins each fall, roasting** them, and saving the cooked flesh to use in recipes.

The most recent recipe I’ve tried is called pumpkin cheesecake sopapillas. (I found the recipe via Beth Cato and the Holy Taco Church, in case you were wondering — a group of authors who talk about food and books.) Now, I know what a sopapilla is: it’s fried dough that’s deep fried, puffs up, and is served with honey or powdered sugar. I understand that the top layer of these bars, coated with butter, is supposed to puff up in a similar fashion, but mine didn’t. For us, they’re just pumpkin cheesecake (with no egg!) bars — and they are delicious! Also, because the main ingredients are cream cheese, pumpkin, and crescent roll dough, I might have once or twice eaten some for breakfast on the theory that it was “healthy.” (Don’t tell my kids; they’ll want to do the same, or at least the boy will, as he loves these.)

I guess it’s fair to say that I have succeeded in incorporating pumpkin into my diet, although it’s debatable whether my diet is actually healthier with these examples! If you have any pumpkin recipes you think I should be trying, let me know in the comments.

*Sauce Béarnaise syndrome is a conditioned taste aversion based on getting sick after eating a food, so called because Sauce Béarnaise contains egg yolks and when improperly prepared can result in illness.

**I no longer cut up pumpkins before roasting. I put the pumpkin in a roasting pan, put it in the oven at 350F, and let it cook until the house smells like pumpkin and a fork stuck through the skin of the pumpkin shows it’s done. This past weekend, I paid $3 for a pumpkin, roasted it, and got 12 cups of pumpkin purée to use in recipes.

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It’s a cake! (No lie)

The most recent of my baking (literally — I only finished assembling it about a half an hour ago) is this cake that I made for my husband’s birthday. (Recipe found here.)

First thing this morning, while waiting to walk the girl to the bus, I did my mise en place so that everything would be ready. Then, of course, I went off and did other things so the butter could soften and the eggs warm to room temperature.

cake ingredients

Everything’s ready to go!

Then I baked it. I had some problems with the caramel sauce (it had solidified before I started to assemble the cake), but I added a little more butter and some cream, then heated gently until it was a nice smooth consistency. Voilà!

espresso cake with cookies and caramel sauce

The finished cake

Lots of yummy goodness

I’ve been mining Beth Cato’s Bready or Not posts this summer. Every week, she posts some new goodness. I know I’ve linked to her site before, but these are recipes I’ve tried since then.

One of the first ones I tried this summer was Oreo Fudge. I wasn’t entirely sure it would work, but what was the worst that could happen? If it didn’t set, it would top ice cream. If it was too grainy, it would still be delicious. Well, it did work — I took it to a party where it was a big hit, and the next week I made more for home.

The next recipe I tried, crock pot pesto ranch chicken thighs, was a bit more experimental — I loved everything in it, but I figured the kids might be hesitant about the pesto. Oh, my! So delicious! The girl ate a little, the boy liked it (“It’s okay”), and my husband had seconds. That’s definitely going on the recipe rotation. I made my own pesto, but next time, I might buy jarred stuff to make my life easier.

And the most recent recipe? Well, I’m in the middle of making bacon crack (chocolate covered bacon toffee). Toffee’s setting in the fridge now, and I’ll do the chocolate coating tomorrow. I have no worries, though — I nibbled some off the spoon, and it’s fabulous.

She has lots of other recipes I want to try, too. For example, my husband likes biscuits and gravy for breakfast, so I might try her recent(ish) buttermilk biscuit recipe. I highly, highly recommend checking out Beth’s recipes.

More food from around the web

Just a couple of the recipes I’ve been eyeing over at Serious Eats:

Lamb-stuffed collards. I’ll probably make these with kale rather than collard greens, and the odds are really good (given the price of lamb) that I’ll play around with hamburger and/or ground turkey first. It’s been years since I’ve had my mom’s stuffed cabbage rolls, and this looks to be an updated take on that idea. (And I’m just generally a big fan of food that’s wrapped up.)

Ultimate fudgy brownies — with Nutella swirled in! ‘Nuff said.

I’ve been seeing some lovely rhubarb and strawberry-rhubarb recipes, but both are so very expensive this year, I think I’ll have to give those a pass.

And this weekend, I’m planning to try another of Beth Cato’s recipes; I shall report back next week on how the blondies work.

What about you? Any new food ideas catching your eye?

May and more recipes

The weather here can’t seem to decide whether it’s spring or not. Yesterday felt like winter again, so we were back to chili and cornbread, while today was mid 70s and humid, meaning we had chicken Caesar salad for dinner. The recipes I’m looking at are all over the map.

First up, I found a recipe for Mexican chorizo — which is fresh, not smoked like Spanish chorizo. For some odd reason, it’s much harder to get fresh Mexican food in eastern Pennsylvania than it was when we lived in California! I’ll probably try a small batch first (next week, maybe) and see whether it meets with my husband’s approval (I’m nowhere near as picky as he is about chorizo); if it works, we’ll be having chorizo, eggs, and tortillas for breakfast more regularly!

Then, the wonderful Beth Cato posted a recipe for buttery beer bread. This sounds wonderful to me, and I haven’t been using my mini loaf pans anywhere near often enough!

And to finish off for now, the one recipe I’ve actually made this week: magic seven layer cookie bars. Now, let’s be honest — there are not seven layers here. The graham crackers and butter are blended together, which means at most there are six layers, and that’s assuming the butterscotch and chocolate chips don’t intermix to form a single layer. Doesn’t matter; they’re still delicious. And I get half the batch to myself because I used pecans on top! (If I’d used almonds, my son would want them all. He’s happy with the ones without nuts, though.)

Any new recipes on your radar this week?

Mid-April recipe round-up

Yes, I’m posting two weeks in a row! I really do see a lot of fabulous recipes. It’s not really my fault if so many of the ones that catch my eye are desserts, is it?

First up, this wonderful recipe for Cadbury Egg brownies from Beth Cato. It’s definitely the time of year to think of Cadbury Eggs, but cutting the sweetness a notch by pairing them with a brownie base? Genius!

Then, because my son loves Almond Joys (and I love magic layer bars), I present double chocolate magic bars. Yes, with almonds and coconut — which means my son and I are the only ones who will eat them around here. (I haven’t made them yet for that reason.)

This recipe I did try — it’s super easy, with only two ingredients (white chocolate chips and pre-made frosting), and you can make it in a variety of flavors (depending on what type of frosting you grab). The recipe was for easy strawberry fudge; I made Key lime. There’s only one piece left, though, and I think the next batch is going to be strawberry.

And last but not least, a recipe for General Tso’s chicken from scratch. As written, it’s probably too spicy for my kids, but they love Gen. Tso’s, so I’ll probably be playing with this.

(And yes, I put all the desserts first for a reason. Life is uncertain, right?)