Rum Pumpkin Pie

Rum Pumpkin Pie.  Its a thing, and its as good as it sounds. {Brittany's Pantry}In continuation of our pumpkin theme, I wanted to share with you my third favorite pumpkin pie recipe.  Now in case you think that a third place pie is kind of anti-climatic, let me explain.  My current favorite pumpkin pie recipe will be making an appearance on the actual turkey day-too late for you to make it yourself.  I could make two of them, one to share with you now, but I really want to save it for the actual holiday.  Silly, I know.  But that is my story and I am sticking to it.  My second favorite pumpkin pie recipe is actually a tart, and I was going to make it for you this week, but after making the following pie FOUR TIMES and finally getting it where I want it, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to post it here.  Rum Pumpkin Pie is most definately a holiday pie.  Thanksgiving is great, but it would be very much at home on your Christmas dinner buffet.  The flavor screams ‘special occasion’ and with a few minor substitutions it ends up being less calorie dense than regular pumpkin pies.  Bonus!  Seconds please!

I do find that this pie is a bit more rich tasting than other pumpkin pies, due to the addition of rum, and my testers agreed unanimously that it needs a scoop of plain vanilla ice cream on the side.  If you use whipped cream, just make sure it isn’t too sweet.  It might be a bit too much!Rum Pumpkin Pie.  Its a thing, and its as good as it sounds. {Brittany's Pantry} Here is my pie, about to go in the oven.  And all the crap on my counter.  Ignore the box of multi-grain crackers.  They didn’t go in the pie, but I needed something to settle my tummy while cooking.  I highly recommend baking your pie on a sheet pan.  Not only does it keep your oven clean in case of spillage, but it is infinitely easier to transfer a vessel filled with liquid across a kitchen and into a hot oven.Rum Pumpkin Pie.  Its a thing, and its as good as it sounds. {Brittany's Pantry}Rum Pumpkin Pie.  Its a thing, and its as good as it sounds. {Brittany's Pantry} One Year Ago: Marshmallow Pumpkin Dip

Rum Pumpkin Pie
Adapted from Eating Well
The rum extract in this recipe is optional if you want, but I found that it needs that extra boost of pure flavor without the addition of more alcohol.

1 refrigerated pie crust or homemade pie crust
In a large bowl, whisk together:
2 eggs
1 3/4 c pumpkin puree, or 1 can pumpkin
1-12 oz can evaporated milk, nonfat is fine
1/4 c molasses
2 T dark rum or 2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c brown sugar
1 T cornstarch
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp rum extract, optional but recommended

Place the pie crust in a deep dish pie plate, being careful not to stretch the dough.  Crimp the edges and then cover with plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge while you make the filling.  Once all filling ingredients are mixed together and smooth (take care to fully whisk in the cornstarch) pour carefully into cold pie crust and place on a baking sheet.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes or until center is just set and no longer liquid when gently shaken.  If crust is browning too quickly, tent pie with foil.  Remove and cool to room temperature.  Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

These yeasty Pumpkin Dinner Rolls are full of flavor and go incredible with leftovers! {Brittany's Pantry}So here is the first pumpkin recipe I am going to share with you that uses up some of that baked, mashed pumpkin we made earlier!  Between pumpkin dishes and the killer sweet potato casserole recipe I have for you, the next few posts are going to be…well…orange themed.  This is not intentional, but kind of inevitable when we are talking about fall foods and my favorite holiday-Thanksgiving!

Speaking of Thanksgiving, these dinner rolls would be right at home in a basket on your holiday table.  I mean, HELLO!  Pumpkin dinner rolls?  Could they be more festive?  I think not.
I came across this recipe while reading this blog and when I read that she got the original  recipe from King Arthur Flour, I was sold!  I have mentioned it before, but at the risk of repeating myself, I will say it again.  Websites of food products are a great way to get recipe ideas!  Land O’Lakes, Spice Islands, Hershey-and especially something like King Arthur.  They need you to cook and bake in order to buy their products!  They have whole departments of recipe developers for this reason so take advantage of it!  And around the holidays?  Sheesh!  Amazing food overload!  At first I read the recipe and I liked it but not enough to stop everything and test it out.  Then I read that Nicole liked to make sandwiches out of the rolls with leftover turkey and cranberry sauce.  All right!  That did it for me.  I immediately went into my kitchen and made them.These yeasty Pumpkin Dinner Rolls are full of flavor and go incredible with leftovers! {Brittany's Pantry} Now usually, I don’t like to post any recipe I haven’t made at least twice.  Then I know it is reliable and will turn out for you when you make it.  But in this case, it has gone through enough people, and being a simple dinner roll, I have complete faith that you will have no trouble with it.  These rolls are soft and unbelievably light.  Right out of the oven they are so fluffy you won’t believe it.  The pumpkin makes them wonderfully moist but they don’t have a very pronounced flavor to them.  Perfect to round out your meal and fantastic for sandwiches later.  I have a whole bag of them in my freezer, just waiting to be thawed and rewarmed just before the feast.  Mmmm.  I can’t wait for leftovers.These yeasty Pumpkin Dinner Rolls are full of flavor and go incredible with leftovers! {Brittany's Pantry} One Year Ago: Broccoli, Bean, & Cheddar Soup

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
Recipe adapted from The Galley Gourmet, originally from King Arthur Flour.
Yield 24 rolls.  You might want to halve this recipe or, like me, freeze what you don’t use for later.

1/2 c warm water
1 1/2 T (5 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
1/2 c warm milk
2 eggs, room temp
1 1/2 c pumpkin puree
2 T softened butter
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cardamom (optional)
1 tsp salt
7 c+ flour

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, blend together the warm water and the yeast.  Let this stand for a few minutes to ‘bloom’ and then add the rest of the ingredients through the salt.  Add 2 c of flour and blend together until smooth and combined.  Add 2 more cups of flour and mix until incorporated.  Continue to add the last of the flour in 1/2 c increments, adding more flour or using less if necessary in order to form a smooth dough that forms a ball and doesn’t stick to the bottom or sides of the mixing bowl.  Just leave it on low and if the dough starts to stick to the sides, shake in a bit more flour.  Let the dough knead on low until it springs back when poked with your finger, about 6-8 minutes.  Alternatively, combine the ingredients with just enough flour to make a sticky dough and using plenty of flour, knead on a counter top until smooth and elastic.  When dough is ready, lightly oil a large bowl (I just use the same mixing bowl) so the dough doesn’t stick and cover it with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.  Set in a mildly warm place and let rise until doubled in size.  When dough has risen, punch it down and divide it into four equal parts.  Then divide each part into six even round balls of dough, placing twelve on a sheet pan until you have 24 rolls total.  Let rise for 30 minutes until puffed and bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree

How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think!I know pumpkin has been on the radar for a month or so, but with Thanksgiving right around the corner, it seems that now, more than ever, it has the potential to be a star at your table.  Yes, I am talking about pumpkin pie and soon I will share with you my favorite recipe for it but for now, I wanted to give you a quick How To on baking your own pumpkins.  Making mashed pumpkin for baking is extremely easy and inexpensive.  If you have never tried it, welcome to your tutorial!  Doesn’t that bowl look awesome?!  I love the color of pumpkin!

Just to be clear, let me reiterate that using canned pumpkin for any recipe at any time is just fine.  I do it myself, especially during the off months when I can’t  get a fresh pumpkin and I want to make muffins or pancakes or something.  If you are reading this and thinking to yourself, “Yeah right.  I will never do this.  Bring on the canned stuff!” that is totally OK.  But if you ever really wanted to make something totally from scratch and you kept seeing these pumpkins at the farmer’s market/grocery/pumpkin patch and wondered how hard it would be to do, let me put your mind at ease.  It is ridiculously easy.  Check it out!How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! So this is a sugar pumpkin.  Or pie pumpkin or baking pumpkin.  It depends on how they are labeled where you pick it up but they are usually a little darker in color than your regular carving pumpkin a bit smaller than a volleyball.  These pumpkins are less stringy and the flesh has a sweeter flavor and smoother texture than your average garden pumpkin.  They are also much easier to manage than an enormous Jack-O-Lantern size pumpkin!How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! I have two here and they have just been washed off.  Please please please rinse of your pumpkins, watermelons, cantaloupes, honey dew, etc before you  cut them up and eat them!  No, you don’t eat the outside, but that is the part that is now sitting on your clean counter and you have no idea who has handled it, where it has rolled around, what it was exposed to, or how far it has traveled!  I don’t want that unknown grime on my cutting board.  Eew Eew Eew.How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! Cut them in half from top to bottom.  Over the years I have discovered this seems to be the easiest way to get the seeds out and scoop out the flesh.  Use a large sharp knife and be very careful!  Some varieties of pumpkins have a thicker shell or rind on them than others so this may be easy to do and it might be tough.  I usually have my husband cut them in half for me because his hands are bigger, he has better upper body strength to keep the knife steady, and also so I can give him smooches of thanks when he is done.  Ahem.

Anyway, scoop out the guts and save the seeds!  This is your opportunity to make Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, an extremely healthy snack!  Don’t let the opportunity pass you by to try these if you have never done it!  It always makes me feel all resourceful and stuff.How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! Scrape the stingy membrane away with a spoon until the inside is smooth and clean.How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! Finish cleaning all your pumpkin halves and then place them on a sheet pan lined with foil.How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! Place them cut side down.  I have discovered that they steam nicely this way instead of actually roasting.  This is perfect since you want the flesh to be nice and smooth, not browned or crispy on the edges.  Bake the halves in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the flesh gives easily when pierced with a knife.  Some pumpkins have a harder shell on them than others so you may need to turn a half over to see if it is nice and soft.How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! Scoop the flesh out of the shell and into a large bowl.How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! Isn’t that a beautiful big bowl of pumpkin?  Mmmm.  Smells good.How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! This is where people differ a bit.  Some people put the pumpkin in a food processor and whiz till it is baby food.  I prefer to just mash the heck out of it with a potato masher.  If you have cooked your pumpkin until it is good and soft, it will smooth out just fine.  See?How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! Nice and smooth.  Now just cool it to room temperature and chill in a covered container in the fridge.  If your pumpkin collects a bit of moisture around the edges, just pour it off.  I like to do this while it cools in a bowl on the counter.  You don’t want it to be soupy so I don’t like to stir in any of the excess water that surfaces.  But it really doesn’t matter.  Unless your puree is really watery, it should be just fine as is.  Measure it out just like you would the stuff from the store in a can!  Mashed pumpkin will last at least a week in the fridge but feel free to freeze any you don’t use.  It is super easy to just thaw it out and bake with it at a later date.How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think!How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! Lovely.  Now you can make Pumpkin Pie Muffins or Marshmallow Pumpkin Dip.  You could also make Sweet Potato Biscuits, but replace the potato with mashed pumpkin.  Scrumptious!

Stay tuned for more recipe ideas to use up your pumpkin puree!

Ultimate Peanut Butter Cookies

These really are the Ultimate Peanut Butter Cookies! {Brittany's Pantry}Mmmm.  Peanut butter cookies.  Just saying the name makes me happy.  I really love peanut butter so the cookie version is just another way of feeding my addiction.  Although ultimately I am a purest and crunchy peanut butter on thick slices of homemade wheat bread with honey is nothing sort of stellar.

Speaking of peanut butter, when I lived in San Diego there was an open market that I would go to down by the beach.  I don’t know if you could call it a farmer’s market exactly, as the vendors sold a lot of prepared foods, fresh caught fish, watermelon lemonade, jewelry and the like, but there were several stands that had plenty of fresh fruit.  Local fruit and fresh caught fish and seafood is definitely one of the things I miss most about living on the ocean.  So anyway, there was this man that would sell homemade peanut, cashew, and almond butters.  I think he actually owned a health food kind of cafe and this was just something he did to promote is own products, but whatever brought him there, I was grateful!  He didn’t just have plain nut butters.  Instead he had every conceivable combination you could think of!  Honey peanut butter, honey cinnamon peanut butter, super extra crunchy peanut butter (you almost had to eat that one with a fork), dark chocolate chunk cashew butter, white chocolate chunky almond butter, carmel chocolate peanut swirl butter…way more than I could ever list.  He had big open jars of everything and you could taste as many as you wanted over and over.  It was peanut butter heaven!  Not only was it the perfect late night snack, right out of the jar with a spoon, but it brought me back to my childhood peanut butter days.  Fresh nut butters have a different texture  and flavor than those commercially made and not everyone likes the difference.  But as a kid, my Mom would get fresh peanut butter at the local co-op in huge half-gallon tubs.   Don’t forget, I have five siblings so we went through a ton of peanut butter.  The natural oils in it would rise to the top and we would have to stir it every time we got a spoonful.  College and the introduction to JIF by my roommates temporarily changed my tastes, but that market brought it all back.  Although my local grocery store here doesn’t carry it, most major chains have started to offer natural peanut butters, usually found in the refrigerated section due to the lack of preservatives used.  If you have never tried it, give natural peanut butter a go.  You just may be converted.

But back to cookies, this recipe is my new basic peanut butter cookie recipe.  I got rid of all my others after having made this a few times.  I added Reeses Pieces to give them a Halloween kind of look, but normally, I would leave them out.  There is no need to make the criss cross fork marks in these, but if you want to stick to tradition and need them on your peanut butter cookies, by all means go for it.These really are the Ultimate Peanut Butter Cookies! {Brittany's Pantry} One Year Ago:  Sweet Potato Biscuits

Ultimate Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

1 c (2 sticks) softened butter
1 c brown sugar
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 c peanut butter, crunchy or creamy, but not natural
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 c chopped peanuts
1 c Reeses Pieces, optional

Cream butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add the eggs, vanilla, and peanut butter and mix until all combined.  Add dry ingredients slowly and mix.  Fold in peanuts and candy.  Drop by rounded Tablespoonful onto a greased or parchment lined sheet pan.  Cross hatch with a fork if desired. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.  Let cool for a few minutes on the pan to set up then remove to a wire rack.  Freezes well.

These Spice Muffins are loaded with pumpkin, chocolate chips, and topped with streusel! Plus, a spice cake mix make them quick and easy! {Brittany's PantryI had every intention of posting this yesterday.  Or even the day before that.  I don’t like it when this much time passes between posts.

But my Internet was down.  For yesterday and most of today actually.  And I was pretty sick yesterday.  And tired.  And kinda cold.  So I wasn’t that disappointed that my computer was toast.  It was a wonderful excuse to reheat leftovers for my family and curl up on the couch under a blanket, repeating over and over that the current state of my body was temporary and the result is soooo worth it.  In addition to the drama caused by this pregnancy, we are currently potty training our youngest.  Seriously, we are just a barrel of fun at our house these days.

All sarcasm aside, I have actually been working on developing a recipe for an apple snack cake.  Using up my over abundance of apples has become a top priority, but after numerous attempts, I just could not get the recipe quite where I wanted it.  I mean, it is good and passable, but not great.  So I kind of got tired of it and decided to do something entirely different.  It was about that time that my energy sort of fizzled out, what little food I had eaten that day threatened to make a second appearance, and the couch beckoned.  But I still wanted to whip something up.  A few days before this, I had been reading The Noble Pig blog and saw the following recipe.  It sounded really good.  Now, I am not the biggest fan of what I call ‘cheater’ recipes (recipes that are made based on some kind of convenience food), but I won’t deny they have their place.  I have a cookie recipe that I absolutely love that is made with a box of chocolate cake mix and Corn Casserole is based off of a corn muffin mix.  When it is a winner, it is a winner.  OK, fine.  I guess I should clarify that I don’t like to use ‘cheater’ recipes a LOT.  I prefer the old fashioned, from scratch, taste much better kind of method.  But like corn casserole and those killer chocolate cookies which I will share with you one of these days, this one is a winner.  It is fast and easy and tastes great.  No matter what kind of cook I am, I can always use a little help once in awhile.  And this past week, I needed the help.  Oh!  Did I tell you we have been continuing to remodel our house this week too?!

I mean, we can’t leave it looking like this, can we?Construction Granted, it looks better than this right now, but the work seems to be never ending.  Actually, shortly after this picture was taken, an extremely large television was mounted on the wall to the left of that door.  Aside from electronics, we have a lot to do.  Mike and I are hosting a cocktail party the beginning of December so Thanksgiving is kind of our unofficial try-to-have-as-much-done-as-we-can-with-the-exception-of-furniture cut off date.  Furniture-and we need a lot of it-is expensive.  That kind of stuff we are picking up bit by bit over time.  Everything else like trim, painting, a kitchen back splash, doors, hanging stuff on walls, painting, trim, and all that other finishing stuff is fair game.  *sigh*

So back to these cupcakes-er, muffins.  Yeah, so they are really good.  Honestly though, they are really cupcakes, they just have streusal instead of frosting, making them kinda muffin-like.  Whatever they are, in spite of the abundance of flavors going on (spice, pumpkin, chocolate) the flavors work.  The chocolate chips with the pale orange cake makes them almost festive.  Very easy to whip up and take to work or share with family.  No matter what you may have going on this week…These Spice Muffins are loaded with pumpkin, chocolate chips, and topped with streusel! Plus, a spice cake mix make them quick and easy! {Brittany's Pantry One Year Ago: Vegetables W/ Pasta

Spice Muffins W/ Pumpkin, Chocolate, & Streusal
Recipe from The Noble Pig

1 box Spiced Cake Mix
1 can pumpkin
1 c sour cream
1/4 c canola oil
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1-12 oz bag chocolate chips

Put all ingredients, minus the chocolate chips, in a mixer and combine.  Once mixed, turn up the speed and lightly beat for a minute, till color pales slightly and batter is light and fluffy.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Divide among sprayed or paper lined muffins cups (it should make 18-24 muffins).

Top with streusal:
3 T softened butter
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c flour
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice, optional

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl and sprinkle over muffins.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

Maple Pecan Shortbread

This Maple Pecan Shortbread from Brittany's Pantry has only a handful of ingredients. SO EASY!I am particularly excited to share this recipe with you.  Why?  Because it is one of those treats that is super easy, super fast, and very, very, good.  All things that we all like in a recipe, right?

Shortbread, it seems to me, is one of those cookies that everyone likes.  It is basically a sugar cookie, but generally a little crisper and with less ingredients.  Remember my Brown Sugar Shortbread? Three ingredients.  Flour, sugar, butter.  That is pretty much all shortbread is.  This recipe has a few more ingredients but it needs them to keep the texture of the cookie when adding a liquid like maple syrup.This Maple Pecan Shortbread from Brittany's Pantry has only a handful of ingredients. SO EASY! I have been making this recipe for several years and one of the reasons it is so nice is the convenience.  Shortbread, made with softened butter, needs to be firm enough to slice into rounds.  Hence the overnight chill time.  This makes it and ideal recipe to make when expecting company.  I did this myself this past week.  I mixed up the dough the day before and keep it in the fridge for several days until ready to bake.  Then, you will not only have freshly made cookies for your guests, but it will make your house smell like a bakery.  Talk about a warm welcome!!

Also, I don’t mean to panic you, but the holidays are right around the corner.  Add this quick cookie to your Thanksgiving or Christmas cookie list and it will become an instant tradition.This Maple Pecan Shortbread from Brittany's Pantry has only a handful of ingredients. SO EASY!This Maple Pecan Shortbread from Brittany's Pantry has only a handful of ingredients. SO EASY! One Year Ago: Overnight Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Maple Pecan Shortbread
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Don’t forget this has to chill overnight, so plan ahead.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine:
1 c (2 sticks) room temperature butter
3/4 c sugar
1/4 c pure maple syrup
1 egg yolk
pinch of salt
When smooth and combined, add:
2 1/4 c flour
1/2 c cake flour

When thoroughly mixed, stir in 3/4 c pecan halves, chopped finely.  Scrape the dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper and shape into a log, about 2 inches in diameter.  Roll carefully until smooth and round and place in the fridge to chill overnight.  Sometimes, if I can’t get it perfectly round, I let it chill for a half hour and then roll it again to smooth it out.  Dough can be made to this point up to five days ahead of time.  When ready to bake, slice with a thin sharp knife in 1/4 inch thick slices and place on a parchment lined sheet pan.  This recipe seems to consistently give me two dozen cookies-or exactly 2 sheet pans full.  Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, rotating 180 degrees, halfway through cooking.  The cookies should be just barely browned at the edges.  Let cool on the pan for at least 5 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.  Cookies will continue to crisp as they cool.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Healthy Pumpkin Spice Muffins are my favorite pumpkin muffins. Period. {Brittany's Pantry}Yup.  This is just for you.  An autumn recipe that makes your house smell fantastic and is actually good for you.  Here it is, for your eyes alone.  No one else except the World Wide Web.  We are keeping this between you and me.Healthy Pumpkin Spice Muffins are my favorite pumpkin muffins. Period. {Brittany's Pantry}The above is no exaggeration.  This recipe will make your house smell just like the front of the fall issue of the Pottery Barn catalog looks.  It basically makes you want to dress like a pilgrim and dole pumpkins out to your neighbors.  The fact that it may remind you of pumpkin pie (hence the happy feeling) is irrelevant.
I actually make these year round.  They taste so fantastic and are so good for you, why limit yourself to a season?  As a matter of fact, when canned pumpkin goes on sale during the holidays I stock up.  Like, my purchase of cans goes well into the double digits.  In the fall, when sugar pumpkins are everywhere, I prefer to just bake my own, scoop out the flesh and keep it in the fridge to cook with, but during the off season, canned pumpkin is a great substitute.  Pumpkin is incredibly good for you with more potassium than a banana and more Vit A than carrots.  The high potassium make these a great snack before or after you exercise.  These muffins are light, fluffy, and full of flavor.  Don’t be intimidated by the length of the ingredient list.  A lot of it are the warm spices that help make them so irresistible.  This batch makes a lot of muffins so don’t forget to freeze those which you won’t eat right away.  Although I can guarantee they won’t last long.  They are so moist, these muffins are nearly cake-like in texture.Healthy Pumpkin Spice Muffins are my favorite pumpkin muffins. Period. {Brittany's Pantry} Pumpkin Pie Muffins
Adapted from Ellie Krieger
To make your own mashed pumpkin, cut a small, baking pumpkin in half from stem to stem and clean the seeds it out with a spoon.  Lay the two halves cut side down on a sheet pan covered with foil or parchment paper.  Bake at 350 until you can easily pierce the sides with a knife without resistance.  Let cool slightly and scoop the flesh away from the shell into a separate bowl and mash with a potato masher or fork.  Store in the fridge for several days and use just like you would canned pumpkin!  Here is a step by step!

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add:
1/2 c canola oil
4 eggs
1 1/2 c brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/3 c molasses
1 can (2 c) solid-packed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
Mix well, scraping down sides if necessary.  In a separate large bowl, whisk together:
2 c flour
2 c white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Measure out 1 1/2 c low fat buttermilk and with the mixer running alternate adding the dry ingredients with the buttermilk, ending with buttermilk.  Mix just until combined, stirring by hand at the end to make sure the sides and bottom is scraped clean. Bake in paper muffin cups or a sprayed muffin pan at 400 degrees for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

Double Chocolate Banana Bread

This Double Chocolate Banana Bread from Brittany's Pantry is as easy an easy quick bread that tastes like the best cake in the world!!I often struggle to come up with the correct words to make you understand just how good a recipe is.  Granted, ALL of the recipes I post here are good or I would not actually pass them along to you.  That is the whole point of this, right?  I test and search out different recipes and I share the best ones with you.  That is how this relationship works.

But are you really making these?  I wonder sometimes.  Should I have been more insistent about just how fantastic the Sweet Potato Biscuits are, especially with apple butter smeared on them while still warm from the oven?  Was I successful in describing the ease at which Simple Soup goes together, making it the ideal fall/winter weeknight meal for one person or ten?  Yes, it is silly to lay awake at night thinking about these things, but it is true!  I mention it now because I came across a recipe this week that I have made many, many, times before, but not for at least a year.  It was one of those moments where my eyes light up and I get all excited and say, “Oh, yeah!  I forgot about this bread!  I haven’t made this in ages!”  And then I make it and I can’t be-lieve that I have been without it for so long.  I have no idea where I got the recipe, but I always follow it exactly.  No tweaking necessary.

There are a few things that make this bread irresistible.  While I like food that contains chocolate, many times you have to melt it separately and then add it to the baked good or dessert.  True, this isn’t the end of the world.  But depending on the food, and in this case banana bread (something that shouldn’t take you all day to make) I didn’t want to mess with the extra step.  This version uses cocoa powder; way better for you, faster, and simpler to do.  Also, instead of a chocolate bread with bananas in it, this is a full on banana bread with super banana flavor-AND a chocolate bread.  It has all the moist sweetness that makes banana bread addictive, but it is actually fudgy with chocolate.  Not healthy by any stretch of the imagination, but it could be worse, right?

So have I convinced you to make this?  Was my description enticing enough to make your mouth water with anticipation?  Just trust me.  Make this.  Make it.  Make it make it make it make it make it!

One Year Ago: Simple Soup

Double Chocolate Banana Bread
As with most quick breads, these freeze great.  Make sure your bananas have speckled skins for the best flavor.

In the bowl of an electric mixer add:
1 c sugar
3 bananas
1/3 c canola oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
Mix to break up the bananas and combine all ingredients.  Add:
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c cocoa powder, sifted to break up the clumps
Mix just until combined and fold in:
1 c chocolate chips

Bake in a large, sprayed loaf pan at 350 degrees for about 1 hour, or until toothpick inserted into the center (try to avoid a chocolate chip!) comes out clean.  Cool for a few minutes and then turn out to cool completely on a rack.  This can be made in smaller loaf pans or even muffins tins, just adjust the baking time accordingly.

Basic Granola

Easy Basic Granola that you can customize to suit your tastes! {Brittany's Pantry}Hello all!  I am currently in the middle of a family vacation so this post comes to you from a hotel lobby!  Recipes may not be quite as frequent for a few weeks, but I still have a few things ready to share with you!

Speaking of on the road, one of the snacks we have packed for munching in the car is granola.  Several months ago I was planning for this trip and started collecting all my recipes for granola, figuring I could eliminate a few on site and then just whip up a couple batches and choose our favorites.  Badda bing.  Badda boom.  Turns out, it is not that simple.  Where one recipe may be made with brown sugar, melted butter and cinnamon, another might be maple syrup, canola oil, honey and orange juice.  The oat, nut, and dried fruit combos didn’t bother me because those I could mix and match to suit our tastes.  But the actual syrup base that gets poured over everything, making it crunchy and toasty-endless combinations.  The other problem I had was that they all tasted good.  I mean, other than maybe bland, have you ever had bad granola?  I didn’t think so.  It is good for you, crunchy, sweet, great on yogurt, and if you grew up in my parent’s house, usually served dumped in a bowl with milk.  Whats not to like?!  How could I choose?

So this is what I did.  I tested and tweaked and came up with my own basic recipe.  Nothing fancy, minimum ingredients, least amount of steps.  That is what I was going for.  I still have a stack of ideas for other, more complicated, and I am sure just as good, granola recipes.  But when I want to make it in bulk, fast and simple for everyday use, this is now my plain, base recipe.  Good crunch and good flavor.  Great sprinkled on yogurt, ice cream, stirred into cookies, or added to trail mix.  Or go old school and just dump it in a bowl with milk.

One Year Ago: Spiced Peach Jam

This will keep for several weeks in an airtight container.  If you want to make a double batch, it freezes for several months as well.

3 c rolled oats-not quick cooking
1 c sliced almonds
1 c chopped walnuts or pecans (or a mix of the two)
1 c shredded sweetened coconut
1/3 c brown sugar
1/3 c pure maple syrup
1/4 c canola oil

In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, coconut, and brown sugar.  In a separate bowl mix together the last two ingredients.  Pour over the oat mixture and mix and toss until thoroughly combined.  Dump onto a parchment lined sheet pan and bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes, or until toasted to desired color.  Be sure to stir it every ten minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Add dried fruit of your choice.

Note: You can use honey in place of the maple syrup, but we found we liked the flavor of the maple better.  Feel free to change it up if you like.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Chocolate Zucchini Bread is as amazing as it looks and super easy! {Brittany's Pantry}Just a quick entry to pass this recipe along.  So here it is!  I promised you a recipe for Chocolate Zucchini bread, and this gal delivers.  Yes, this tastes a lot like cake, but because it is baked in a loaf pan and very much resembles the other zucchini bread recipes you have seen-but with chocolate-I am calling it a bread.  Feel free to use this excuse to justify eating it for breakfast…”But its bread!  Practically health food!”

In other news, I found my recipe for double dark chocolate tea bread.  This is a very good thing…

In case you are looking for other ways to use up your zucchini, some of these might help.  Try Earth BreadZucchini & Corn with Basil, Vegetables with Pasta, and Shepherd’s Pie.  And don’t forget to try the One Year Ago recipe.  So mouthwatering!Chocolate Zucchini Bread is as amazing as it looks and super easy! {Brittany's Pantry} One Year Ago: Tortellini W/Shrimp, Zucchini, and Tomato Cream Sauce

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
This bread tastes even better the next day.  It also freezes beautifully so go ahead and make a double batch to use up even more zucchini.  Cool the loaves completely and seal in a freezer bag.

1 c flour
1 c white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
1/3 c cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
3 eggs
1 1/4 c sugar
3/4 c unsweetened applesauce
1/4 c canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 c grated zucchini (about 1 medium)
3/4 c chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)

Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, applesauce, oil, and vanilla.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and carefully combine with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Fold in zucchini and walnuts, if using.  Divide batter evenly among two, 8 inch loaf pans that have been sprayed.  Smooth out the tops and bake at 325 for 50-60 minutes, or until center is dry and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack.

Quick & Easy Cocoa Cake

Quick and Easy Cocoa Cake via Brittany's PantryOK.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  I don’t like to post two sweet recipes in a row.  Mainly because, while chocolate and sugar taste good, it isn’t what feeds us and our families.  Easy, healthy (uh…usually…) and balanced foods are what we all need the majority of the time.  If any of you stopping by this site are inspired to try something new or perhaps cook more from your pantry, fridge, and farmer’s market, and less from a box or take-out menu, then I have accomplished what I set out to do.

All right?  You got that?  You smell what I’m cookin’?  You pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down?  Now on to the cake!

So last week, I was searching for something new.  A new dessert recipe, to be specific.  I needed a dessert that I could transfer to a to-go container, didn’t need to be refrigerated, and was easy enough to just pick up and eat.  I didn’t feel like making something I already was familiar with so I did what I usually do when I don’t really have any idea what I am looking for, but would know it when I see it.  I opened the left side of my pantry, sat on the floor, and started pulling cookbooks.  And I have a cookbook or two…Quick and Easy Cocoa Cake via Brittany's PantryPlease excuse the fact that there are still exposed boards and missing trim in the picture.  Our house isn’t finished yet.  Instead of working on the house this summer, we have been at the pool, riding motorcycles (my husband, I just go along for the ride), gardening, blogging, picnicking, praying for rain, and generally trying to avoid the heat.  But I digress…

I was looking for a recipe.  I pulled out Gale Gand’s Short & Sweet figuring a cookbook written by a pastry chef wouldn’t let me down.  If you have never heard of her Gale Gand is the head pastry chef and partner of TRU, a restaurant in Chicago.  I discovered her in college, about the same time I was introduced to cable-gotta love dorm living!  She had a show on the Food Network that was kinda interesting.  Short & Sweet is a neat cookbook because it is divided into sections based on the time it takes you to make the recipe.  15 minute recipes, 30 minute recipes and so on.  I can’t say that I use the cookbook a lot, but every year when I go through my whole kitchen and purge that which I do not need, it makes the cut and stays in the cabinet.  And I am soooooooo glad!Quick and Easy Cocoa Cake via Brittany's Pantry This is BY FAR my new favorite cake recipe.  I actually ended up making this cake several times in a week and it turned out exactly the same every time.  I could not stop eating it.  It is moist, with a fine crumb, but not crumbly.  The flavor is not complicated or busy, just straight up chocolate.  It is very simple to mix up; no melting or tempering of chocolate to add to the batter.  Just cocoa to keep it light and airy.  This cake is very reminiscent of a boxed mix, but with easy ingredients that you can pronounce!  Now that I have mastered it in a bundt pan, per original recipe instructions, I am going to try adapt it to bake in two 8 inch rounds.  I really like layer cakes so I’ll keep you posted on further experimentation.

In the meantime, baking it in a bundt pan is faster and easier.  This cake is easy enough to bake for dessert on Sunday night, and then munch on for most of the week.  It lasts in an airtight container on the counter for at least four or five days so plan on packing a slice into those kids school lunches that will be upon us soon!  Yikes!Quick and Easy Cocoa Cake via Brittany's PantryCocoa Cake
Recipe from Gale Gand.  I didn’t change a thing!  This cake tastes even better the day after it is made!

12 T (1 1/2 sticks) softened butter
1 3/4 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c cocoa powder
2 1/4 c cake flour, sifted
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy.  Add the sugar and mix till combined.  Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix until smooth.  In a separate bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients.  Fill a large measuring cup with 1 1/4 c of very cold water.  Slowly add a third of the dry ingredients to the mixer, mixing just until barely combined.  Then a third of the water and so on and so forth, mixing after each addition.  Mix the last few turns by hand if you need to.  Pour into a sprayed and floured bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until springy and dry in the center.  Cool completely in the pan before turning out onto a serving plate.  If desired, dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

Oatmeal Cherry Chocolate Chunk Cookies

The Very BEST Oatmeal Cherry Chocolate Chunk Cookies! Crispy on the edges and chewy on the inside! {Brittany's Pantry}OK.  So, I am having a bit of a hard time posting this recipe.  Actually, for several reasons.  Two.  Two reasons.

First off, there is a good chance that most of you out there already have a tried and true oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe.  It is a fairly common combo after all.  Do you really need another one?  Perhaps not.  The other reason is that there are so many other things I am cooking right now that I could post about.  Things that have to do with summer and fresh produce and these wonderful months of bounty!  For example, I can’t even begin to say how many times I have wanted to tell you about Salmon Nicoise, and instead of taking pictures and posting about it, I eat it.  I roll my eyes and groan and slap the table and shake my head in disbelief: it is that good.  I literally cannot bring myself to slow down enough to share it with you.  Hmm…that may be revealing more about my character than I would like…  And!  You can only eat it in the summer because it is all about fresh tomatoes, and string beans and-not a dish for January.  Now is the time!  If you were here you would yell, “Brittany!  Get it together!”  Actually, if you were here, you would probably tell me to fold the laundry on my couch… *Ahem*  Yet, here I am craving oatmeal cookies.   Making batches and batches of oatmeal cookies when it is a gazillion degrees outside.

But you know what?  I don’t care!  I made cookies and they were good!  And I would do it again!  I am guilt free!  Well, except for the whole salmon situation…The Very BEST Oatmeal Cherry Chocolate Chunk Cookies! Crispy on the edges and chewy on the inside! {Brittany's Pantry}The Very BEST Oatmeal Cherry Chocolate Chunk Cookies! Crispy on the edges and chewy on the inside! {Brittany's Pantry} One Year Ago: Margaritas, June Bug, Herbal Iced Tea

Oatmeal Cherry Chocolate Chunk Cookies
This recipe is a mix of so many different recipes.  Cookie recipes can be really similar but once I find the right combination that gives me the texture I like, I try to stick to that recipe.  Half cup (1 stick) butter to 1 c sugar to 2 c flour is a common formula to start cookies from.  That was where I started with mine and then branched out from there.  These are chewy and crispy, without being too sweet.  I should also mention that while the flavors are similar to this recipe, it is very different.  This one is NOT healthy.  And sometimes, that’s a good thing.

2 sticks softened butter
1 c sugar
1 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
2 c flour
2 c rolled oats
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 c chocolate chunks or chocolate chips
2 c dried cherries or cranberries (I like to chop the cherries up a bit before I add them)

Cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla.  Add the next five ingredients, mixing just until combined.  Fold in the chocolate and dried fruit by hand.  Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a sheet pan covered in parchment and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

Cherry Hand Pies

Cherry Hand Pies are so much easier than you think!  via Brittany's PantryYes.  These are good.

I am telling you this in response to the comment you undoubtedly made when you saw this picture.  Did you not just say to yourself (perhaps silently) “Wow!  Those look good!”?  I thought so.  So I am answering you, as I often do while writing, just as if you were sitting in my kitchen, across from me at lunch, or curled up on a couch while our children play nearby, having a conversation about food.  In fact, they are very good.  You should make them.

You should also know that these don’t taste anything like the fat and sugar laden kind from the gas station.  If you actually like those pies, don’t worry.  These are better.  If you never liked those pies, don’t worry.  These are better.
Why?  They are made with store-bought puff pastry; I don’t know anyone who has the time or desire to make it from scratch.  Using puff pastry, as opposed to a pie crust type of dough, means that the layered crust is buttery, flaky, crispy, and so delicately wonderful you will close you eyes and sigh.  It also makes this dessert/snack/breakfast come together quick and easy.  I would tell you that these would be fantastic to pack for a picnic, but I wouldn’t know if that is true.  Ours never make it that far.Cherry Hand Pies are so much easier than you think!  via Brittany's PantryCherry Hand Pies are so much easier than you think!  via Brittany's PantryCherry Hand Pies are so much easier than you think!  via Brittany's Pantry One Year Ago: Earth Bread

Cherry Hand Pies
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit
When I first made these, I didn’t have time to bake them.  I made the filling and put it in the fridge for a day or two until I had time to assemble and bake.

In a large saucepan, combine:
2 c fresh cherries, pitted or 12 oz of frozen cherries, unthawed
2/3 c dried cherries
1/2 c sugar
pinch of salt

Cook over medium heat until the cherries pop and release their juice.  In a small bowl, mix 1 1/2 T of cornstarch with 2 T of water.  Add to the fruit and continue cooking a minute more until thick.  Remove from heat and add 1 tsp of vanilla.  Cool to room temp or chill and hold for a day or two.

To Make The Pies:
1-14 oz pkg frozen puff pastry, thawed in the fridge overnight
flour, for dusting the counter
1 egg white
sugar, raw or granulated

On a clean counter, roll out 1 sheet (half the package) of pastry dough, just until it is a bit thinner and an inch or two bigger all the way around.  With a small sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut into 4 equal squares.  Spoon about 1/3 of a cup of filling in the center of each square-note that this should use up half your fruit.  Bring one side over to make a rectangle and press the edges with a fork to seal.  Repeat with remaining dough and filling making 8 pies total.  Beat the egg white with a splash of water and brush over pies.  Sprinkle with sugar.  Make 2 or 3 tiny slashes in the top of each pie for steam to vent.  Place pies on parchment lined baking sheet and chill for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 375 and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.  Cool on rack for 10 minutes, if you can wait that long.  Caution!  Filling is hot!  Store at room temp tightly sealed for up to 2 days.  They start to lose their crispness after the first 24 hours.

Oatmeal Raisin Snack Bars

Oatmeal Raisin Snack BarsFor several years now, a friend of mine has been dealing with issues in relation to food.  Like, major stuff that would totally bum me out if I was her.  Heck! Lets be honest.  I would cry if I had to give up the things she has had to give up.  Cry a lot.  She on the other hand, has handled it much better than me or anyone I know ever would have.  So now, after a very long wait, she is slowly starting to expand her menus again.  Its a tentative process and still limited, but nevertheless improving.  We converse quite often about food; the science of it (why are my brownies boiling?!), how recipes can be altered and changed to include certain ingredients, what processed foods can be made at home with good results, that kind of thing.  Knowing that I generally like to cook healthfully for my family, I don’t cower in horror when she brings up the price of keifer (she actually makes her own, the superwoman), the availability of spelt flour, or the continuous search for 101 ways to use applesauce in baked goods.  I admire her very much as a person and as a cook, so I decided to create some recipes for her.  This is one of them.
Oatmeal Raisin Snack BarsNow, I should make it clear that oatmeal raisin is one of my favorite combinations.  I usually choose it over chocolate chip.  I mean I love oatmeal, but its the wholesome, nutty, chewy goodness that pulls me in.  These hit all those marks without tasting ‘flat’ like healthy snacks sometimes do.  They are very quick to throw together and freeze great.  Pull one out of the freezer for breakfast on the go or a quick snack.  I already know they are going to be a regular part of my daughters lunch box this year!  That is if I don’t eat them all first!

Oatmeal Raisin Snack Bars
Recipe updated 7/2012

In a medium mixing bowl:
1/2 c canola oil
1/2 c applesauce
1 c raw sugar
1/4 c egg substitute or 1 egg
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
Mix all ingredients until well blended.  Add:
1 c white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
2 c rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon(opt)
1 c raisins

Combine all ingredients well and spread evenly into a sprayed 9X9 glass or metal baking dish.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until firm in the middle and lightly brown around the edges.  Cool before cutting and removing from pan.

Plum Crunch

Plum Crunch via Brittany's PantryThis is the first of what may be several plum recipes that I share with you.  My daughter LOVES plums and I always have a stock pile of them in my fridge whenever they are in season.  And I must say, this is my current favorite way to eat them!  I mean, really!  Top just about anything with crunchy, toasty, buttery, sugary, oatie goodness and you have your self a winner!

This is just fresh enough to taste like a lovely summer dish, not an autumn dessert.  Serve it with fresh cream or vanilla ice cream, and it becomes absolutely sublime.Plum Crunch via Brittany's PantryPlum Crunch via Brittany's PantryPlum Crunch via Brittany's PantryPlum Crunch via Brittany's Pantry Plum Crunch
Adapted from Ina Garten

1 1/2 lbs red or black plums (we like black because they are sweeter) pitted and quartered
3/4 c brown sugar
2-3 T flour, or more, if your plums are super juicy
3/4 c flour
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c sugar
pinch of salt
3/4 c oatmeal
1/2 c chopped walnuts
1 stick cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

Toss the fruit, brown sugar, and flour together in a bowl.  Dump into a small, shallow casserole dish.  A glass 8X8 or 9X9 would be fine too.  Combine all topping ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer using a paddle attachment.  Mix on low until it starts to get crumbly and holds together when you squeeze it in your hand.  Sprinkle evenly over fruit.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, or until bubbly and browned across the top.  Let cool slightly and serve warm or at room temperature.  Serve with fresh cream or ice cream.