Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Artisan Savory Pumpkin Rolls

Hello, everybody! Happy Hallowe'en!! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I have a really super recipe for you that is directly related to something actually FRESH (no hunks of meat, Kav!).

Here's a hint....
  Man, I miss those little bread shops. We just got an artisan bread shop in our tiny town and I'm in heaven! But I can't go running down there every day (like the French do). I actually have to make some of my own. Buying that much bread would cut into my BOOK budget, ya know?

  So, this is Cassey. (She's the one without facial hair). Here she is cutting a delicious WEDDING CAKE. And that guy? Well, he was once a cellar rat, but not anymore. 'Cause Cassey's magic.

  I know this because she first started babysitting for us when I had only three small children and I don't think I've ever seen her lose her cool. That's 9 years, three more kids, and a WHOLE LOT of poop and terrible twos and snotty noses ago. I feel bad for people who never got a Cassey. She's like Mary Poppins, but funnier. And she can cook.

  Anyway, back to the cake. She kissed a cellar rat and he turned into a winemaker, as she describes it. (You know, that magic thing we just discussed.)

Here they are stomping grapes... Ew. Good thing I don't drink wine.

But it's not all fun and games at Cougar Crest, especially at 'crush' time. That's when they harvest the grapes either really early, or really late since it has to be nice and cold. Then they put them in giant vats and when the berries rise to the top, they punch them down again, every few hours.  It sounds pretty simple, but apparently you can ruin hudreds of thousands of dollars of good crop by doing it WRONG. So, 'punchdown' is a big deal.

  When crush is on, and the guys are working 18 hour days, they still have to eat. And these people don't eat McDonald's. They've got to think of their palettes!

Cassey, at certain times of the year, turns into a wine widow and gets to bring snacks to the crew in the vinyard at odd hours. This is one of the things she brings over: savory pumpkin rolls. She just kinda made it up.

So, here is Edna filled with 4 cups of fresh pumpkin. You can use canned, but hey, we're going with what's in season! (BTW, Edna was very excited to be working with something that wasn't full of fat and sugar.)
We added FOUR EGGS and mixed everything up nice and good, then added FIVE cups of flour. It should be super gooey.
In a separate bowl, add one cup of flour to 2 tsp salt, 2 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 2 1/2 tsp lemon pepper seasoning, 1 tsp plain pepper, 2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp coriander, and 1 tsp parsley flakes.
Got all that???
I know... But I'm telling you- MAGIC.
To the wet mixture, add 1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese. (Doesn't she have pretty hands??)

Mix well, and add in the cup of flour and the other seasonings. Now, you might have to add more flour. It should total about 6 cups. Just add it until it looks like dough. :)

When you've got the oven preheated to 350F, you'll dust your hands with flour, grab a ball of pumpkin dough and plop it on a greased cookie sheet. Like so.
After about 12-15 minutes, the cheddar cheese will start to ooze out and they'll look nice and toasty. The white parts are the flour and it really adds to the deliciousness, so just let it be there. These aren't going to be perfect, cookie cutter rolls. They're artisan! (That means 'funky looking' in some other language, I'm sure of it...)

  The smell is AMAZING and my whole house was filled with 1) baking bread smell and 2) savory herb smell. YUMMY. We got them out of the oven and ate them right out of hand. No butter or toppings needed. The outsides were crunchy, insides fragrant and dabbed with bits of melted cheese.

Of course, she wraps them in a pretty cloth, pust them in a basket and brings them down to the field. (Look at that ring! I still can't believe it... In my mind she's a scrawny teenager lugging her violin everywhere, trying to cram in practice for the symphony between shifts at my house. Don't tell her I said that.)

Of course, we had to put up a nice picture of the goods. Ta-DAH!! Fresh apples and grapes set off those herbs perfectly.

And here's one more picture of the newlyweds. Aren't they adorable?? And that little guy is the cellar-rat-turned-winemaker's son.  For a 3 year old, he's totally zen. Usually. (She wondered why single dads were chasing her around the state. Smart guys know Mary Poppins when they see her.)

  So, step out on a limb and make some interesting food this week! Until next time!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cold Weather Cookin'

Let me just start by saying, that we are praying for those impacted by Hurricane Sandy. If I had my way, I'd be housing all of you who had to get out of harm's way and filling your bellies with good food. But alas, Texas is a bit of a drive. So our prayers will continue.

Things were a tad cool around our parts this weekend. I can't tell you how happy I am to have weather like this. No, not as cold as some of y'all up north, but for us, it's heater weather.

Are you like me? Do you cook differently when the weather turns, be it cold or hot? I'm sorry, but when the temp drops below seventy (okay, sixty) I do not want a salad. However, a nice bowl of soup or stew might be just what I'm craving.

Saturday I really wanted some warm comfort food. On the other hand, I wanted something that wasn't too labor intensive. After all, college football runs all day :-)  And what says warms comfort food better than a nice bowl of stew?

For starters, you're going to need  2 - 3 lbs. of stew meat. I watch for it go on sale. Sometimes, I'll snatch up a nice cut of meat that on special and cut it up myself. But this day, I was looking for easy. Now sometimes the stew meat can be a little chewy, so the first thing I do is dump the meat into a zip-top bag and add about a half a cup of Worcestershire sauce. Zip that puppy up and let it sit for an hour or so to tenderize.

Drain off the sauce/juices and place meat into a bowl. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of flour and stir to coat meat.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a Dutch oven and add meat and stir until browned. I know, this looks kind of gray. But it stills smells yummy.

Mix a packet of Beef Stew Seasoning with 3 cups of water.

Pour mixture over beef. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.

While the meat is simmering, cut up 5 cups of whatever veggies you might like in your stew. I went for the standards--celery, onion, carrots, and potatoes because it's what I had on hand. Sometimes I'll add mushrooms and I wished I'd had some parsnips to add to this batch.

At the end of the 45 minutes, add the colorful veggies to the beef mixture and stir. Cover and simmer one hour.
While all this simmering was taking place, I had a loaf of bread going in my bread machine. I know, Ruthy...sacrilege. But I was not in the mood for any kneading. Just dumping and going. Letting the machine do all the work. And let's face it, fresh-baked bread is yummy regardless.

Boy, oh, boy, were my taste buds and tummy happy campers. And while this did take a bit of planning and time, I put forth little effort. I guess about the only actual work I did was cutting up the veggies. And that took me all of 15 minutes, maybe.
Best of all, we had leftovers. Enough for dinner on Sunday. Whooo-hoo!
So how does your cooking differ from summer to winter? What do you make that signifies the changing of the seasons?


Monday, October 29, 2012

Lazy Day, Sunday Afternoon

Sunday afternoons around here are...quiet.

The kind of quiet I hated when I was a kid, but the kind I cherish now that I understand.

You see, I take a Sabbath rest. I love this day of rest and worship.

Sunday breakfast is easy-peasy. Bagels. Cereal. Juice. Everybody gets their own.

And now that everyone is older, we actually get to church on time :)

Sunday dinner is easy-peasy. Crock pot. Breakfast tortillas. Sloppy Joes. Pot Roast. Meatloaf.

And all the prep work is done the day before, so all I have to do is heat it up. I don't really cook on Sundays.

Next comes a long Sunday afternoon of reading, playing a family game, maybe taking a drive up into the Hills...until fall arrives.

On chilly fall Sunday afternoons, I keep a crock pot full of hot, spiced cider going - adding to it as needed - and we all sip cider while we're reading, playing games...or watching football!!!

(I'm the only one who likes the football - the others ignore me while the game is on.)

So, who's going to join me for a pot of hot cider this week?

First you need a crock pot. I have two crock pots - one for meals and one for side dishes and cider. It holds about a gallon.

Fill the crock pot with cider or apple juice, add 1/4 cup brown sugar, and then add the spices:

2 sticks cinnamon
10-12 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Put all the spices in a bag. You can make one out of a coffee filter, or you can buy one of these spiffy paper tea bags my daughter found to use with her loose-leaf tea.

I break the cinnamon sticks in half so they fit easier, and fasten the top of the coffee filter bundle with a safety pin I keep just for cider.

Stir the brown sugar into the cider, add your spice bag, and turn your crock pot on high. It will take about an hour for the cider to heat up and get all spicy. Once the cider is hot, turn the crock pot down to low.

You can also use a pot on the stove. Once the cider is hot, just let it simmer.

The bonus is that sweet, spicy, appley fragrance filling your house all Sunday afternoon...

And then after evening service, my dear husband loves to have a quick supper. Fried egg sandwiches are his favorite. No recipe needed!

And please, please tell me I'm not the only one who remembers the Moody Blues! If you don't remember their song, go here to listen. This is called a lesson in cultural literacy :)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Simply Saturday Guest Blogger Mary Connealy's Easy Shrimp Chowder

I picked this one from Mary's collection of "quick and easy" recipes because it's cold and rainy right now.

If it had been hot and sunny, I might have moved to chopped Julienne salad or something like that.




1/4 cup chopped green onions
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 to 2 cups sliced mushrooms (optional)
1 Tablespoon butter
12-16 oz. fresh or frozen shrimp 
2 cans cream of potato soup (Ruthy note: Bear Creek Cream of Potato soup would be even better, just make according to directions and use seasonings listed here)

8 oz package cream cheese, light  (You know that's not a Ruthy recommendation, right? Because why on earth are you making chowder with cream of potato soup and going with light cream cheese. Use the real stuff and don't TELL MARY.)

2 soup cans milk (if you use canned soup)

If you use the Bear Creek Soup, double the seasonings listed here. Bear Creek makes a 1/2 gallon of deliciousness. Twice the seasonings works out perfectly.)

Saute the onion, garlic and cayenne pepper in the butter (I added a smidge more butter, but not to Paula Deen levels, more like... Julia Child levels. Like 1/4 cup)

Blend these seasonings into soup. Add the shrimp and mushrooms about ten minutes before serving and let them heat through. A cooked, cubed potato or two is never a bad idea, right?

I'm Irish. There is no such thing as too many potatoes.  :)

Serve hot with crusty bread on the side, and do NOT COUNT CARBS TONIGHT.


Spare yourself the angst.

For this one time, ignore the carb count and enjoy!

Friday, October 26, 2012

It's Pumpkin Time! (And World Series Time!)

Missy, here. I had this great plan to bring you this wonderful recipe I discovered. But alas, my helpful husband put the butter back in the fridge (the butter that was supposed to be room temp and softened)! When I went to make the muffins, that butter was cold and hard as a brick, plus I HAD A BASEBALL GAME TO WATCH!!

And yes, the Giants and our nephew, Buster Posey, won game 2 of the World Series! Buster made an outstanding tag at home plate. I inserted it here just in case you wanted to watch. :) 
Blanco and Scutaro made amazing throws, and Buster (#28) made the tag. For those who know about his terrible injury from last year, I have to tell you that my heart stops every time I watch plays like this! But this one turned out nice. :)

Here's a link to check out the play. Click here. But come back!
Thanks for letting me celebrate just for a minute there. :)

Back to the food. I've learned the hard way there's no getting around letting that butter sit out to get to room temp. Microwaving it just doesn't work.


I grabbed a new mix that I bought yesterday. I thought it looked good and wanted to try it. Libby's Pumpkin Bread Kit.

It was easy as pie to make. Well, not really pie. But you know what I mean. :)

Just follow the directions. Mix up wet ingredients. Add the dry mix. (You'll need 4 eggs and oil on hand.)

We wanted the pumpkin bread to bake faster so did 6 mini-loaves.

It even came with a packet of icing to drizzle on top. Yum!

Nice and moist. Very flavorful and spicy. A perfect taste of fall.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pam Hillman's Getcha Good "Kashi Go Lean" Breakfast!

 I discovered something interesting several months ago.

Every body is different.

Yes, two words.

Every. Body.

Every body does not require the exact same amount of fiber, protein, fats, and carbohydrates as the next body. The percentages recommended by the Food and Nutrition Board are just that: recommendations, not fact.

Long story short. I have not been getting enough fiber for years. But I didn't know. Do you know how hard it is to get enough fiber? Well, let me tell you, it's not easy! Maybe it's the meat, bread, and potatoes lifestyle I've lived most of my life. Once I figured this out, I decided to do something about it.

After a very scientific search with the assistance of Mr. Google and my local Wal Mart, I perfected the following yummy tasting, healthy breakfast combination.

F1 Kashi GoLean Breakfast

3/4 cup of Fiber One Original Bran Cereal - 90 calories / 21g fiber
.25 cup of Kashi GoLean Honey, Almond, Flax Granola Cereal - 50 calories / 2g fiber
1/10 cup of dried cranberries - 39 calories / 1g fiber
1 TBSP slivered almonds - 43 calories / 2 g fiber
1/2 cup 2% milk - 61 calories / 0 g fiber
2 packs of truvia or sweetener of your choice if desired

Total Calories: 283; Carbohydates: 69g; Fat: 9g; Sodium: 246g; Protein: 11g; Fiber: 26g

Sure, the Kashi cereal adds 50 calories for only 2gs of fiber, but have you ever had Honey Bunches of Oats w/almonds? That's one of my favorite cereals, In comparison, 1 cup of HBOO w/Almonds and 2% milk has almost the exact same amount of calories as my F1 GoLean concoction, but HBOO has less than 3g of fiber!

Throughout the rest of the day, I make a conscious effort to add in some fiber-rich foods in my diet. Chicken salad with craisens, raisens, or an apple, and pecans or almonds for lunch. And, I try to keep a Kellogg's FiberPlus bar in my purse. Those things pack a whopping 9g of fiber for 120 calories. Sure, the apple has about 5 grams of fiber for 100 calories, but it's not the easiest thing to keep in your purse, you know.

Last tip. Don't increase your fiber drastically overnight. Gradually do it and drink lots of water. Water and fiber go together like peanut butter and jelly. Just sayin'

So, what does a typical day without exercise look like for me? This is what I posted on My Fitness Pal on August 1, 2012

Coffee w/Sweetleaf English Toffee sweetener - 0 calories / 0 fiber

F1 GoLean Breakfast - 283 calories / 26g fiber

16 ounces of water before noon

Lunch: Tuna or chicken salad on Nature's Own 3x the fiber Wheat bread - 300 calories / 7g fiber

16 ounces of water with lunch

Dinner: Green salad with grilled chicken - 400 calories / 5g fiber

16 ounces of water with dinner

Snacks: Chobani Greek Yogurt - 160 calories / 0g fiber

Kellogg's Blueberry Special K bar - 90 calories / 3g fiber

16 ounces of water throughout the afternoon/evening. MORE if I exercise.

Total 1233 calories, and 41g of fiber. Even though I'm not really tracking carbs, protein, fat and sodium, I was almost right on target with carbs, a little over on the fat (salad dressing and mayo), and had plenty of protein and my sodium was under my target.

Speaking of exercise. If I burn 400 calories exercising, then I get to splurge and eat some of those calories back. So, I'd add something like peanut butter and nutella, or a Skinny Cow Truffle bar. Or even that piece of leftover ice cream cake in the deep freeze.

Which reminds me. I already ate the ice cream cake, so I'm off to get rid of those extra calories....


Award-winning author Pam Hillman writes inspirational fiction set in the turbulent times of the American West and the Gilded Age. Her second book,Claiming Mariah, releases January 2013 from Tyndale House Publishers. Claiming Mariah won the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis contest and the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart contest. She lives in Mississippi with her husband and family.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Man food

Hello everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I'm going to make a dish that keeps my husband happy. Well, he eats it and feels happy. It doesn't last forever, but when he's had a hard day and is grumping at everyone, we'll take a short burst of happy. :)

 (That's me on the left, him on the right, mid-grump.)
 And if I let him go hungry long enough, he turns into this. And the kids follow suit. Nobody wants this in their living room. The smell is atrocious.

  So, even though he doesn't really eat Italian food, if you give the dish enough carbs and meat, he'll consume it. Man food= carbs + meat.
MMMMM. Tasty. But I don't have any buns and I think he'd probably have a heart attack if I let him eat like this, so let's see what's on hand.

Locally grown beef. Wow. That's a lot of meat. (Hide your eyes, Kav.) Edna's refusing to help with this one. Even she has limits.
All natural pesto with pine nuts. I was saving this. But it's an emergency. Cave man approaches!
Pesto goes in with the meat, a chopped onion, and 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs. I used Panko last time and it was great. This time I used some store bought can of something and they fell apart. Soooo, I'm assuming Panko is better. That's all I got for you, write it down.
Some dried cheese stuff. Came in a can. Smelled sort of... cheesy.
Hmmm.  Looking lumpy. Lots of small cave people are watching.
Now, Edna was feeling unhappy because I was cooking without her. She's not a fan of grumpy cavemen. So, out of desperation, I got out my special dishes. My great uncle brought these back from Japan during WWII. They're Marine issue officer's dinner ware. Edna was suddenly much quieter.
I piled on the spaghetti, added the chunky homemade sauce, topped it with some giant meatballs and set it near Edna. I'm pretty sure she swooned. A manly plate full of manly food. *sigh*
An once grumpy hubby had some MAN FOOD, he went back to his usual charming self.  *whew* Crisis averted. And it's very quiet in the kitchen. Can wait to hear what Edna says about our Marine. She's sort of picky. Maybe she's found the one? Only time will tell...

  Keep those cavemen away, until next time!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Apple Cake, Texas Style!

Yee-haw! Kick up your heels, gang, because today we've got something that's perfect for these cool fall nights. Or days, whichever you prefer.

A couple weeks ago, Virginia, aka the Fresh Pioneer, shared an amazing recipe for apple cake. Today I'm going to share one with a Texas flare that's bound to have Edna ready to take a walk on the wild side.

This is called Chipotle Apple Pecan Cake. Now before all you folks north of Oklahoma get to hollerin', let me just say IT AIN'T THAT HOT. Really. I promise. Would I steer you wrong?

Okay, don't answer that last one.

This cake just screams autumn with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Not to mention apples. But unlike your average apple cake, this one will warm you up on the inside. Again, it's not hot.

So here we go.

Your list of ingredients:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground chipotle pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cup cooking oil
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 3 large sweet-tart apples, peeled, cored, and diced (about 3 cups) **I used Honeycrisp apples
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans
  • Spicy Caramel Glaze (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 10 inch bundt pan and set aside.

In a bowl, combine 3 cups flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, chipotle, ginger, white pepper, salt, and cloves. Set aside. (Time for author intrusion. I see you, staring at the chipotle and white pepper. I know what you're thinking. First, let me just say that I am not a fan of spicy-hot foods. Yes, these ingredients lend a little warmth, but not a real heat. It's the kind you feel in the back of your throat a minute or two after you swallow. Just a nice warm sensation. However, if you want to be a total weenie, I will let you omit the chipotle. I do recommend, however, that you at least try it once. If the whole teaspoon scares you, try a half a teaspoon.)

In a mixing bowl, beat oil and sugar with electric mixer (like Edna) on medium speed until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Beat in vanilla and as much flour mixture as you can. (The mixture is thick, but I managed to get all of mine in with out burning up the motor on my mixer)

Stir in remaining flour mixture, apples, and pecans.

The mixture will be very thick. As evidenced by the wooden spoon stuck in the middle.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake for 75 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. (mine was finished in about 60-65 minutes)

AS SOON AS YOU PUT CAKE IN OVEN (I'm being very emphatic so you won't miss this part), prepare Spicy Caramel Glaze.

Okay, gang, I'll be honest with you, this glaze is where the heat is. The first time I made it, I thought my lips might burn off. But I ate it anyway. It was kind of addicting. In subsequent times, though, I've cut back on the amount of chipotle pepper the recipe calls for.

In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/4 cup butter, 1/4 cup whipping cream, and 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle powder (that's the red stuff you see - I cut that 1/2 tsp. back to about 1/8-1/4 tsp and it was perfect - my lips were happy)

Bring to boiling, stirring occasionally. Boil gently 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 tsp. vanilla. Let stand until slightly thickened. (Okay, I failed to read all of the instructions the first time I made this and waited until the cake was about due out of the oven. Then I saw it was supposed to cool. Yikes! So, I put the hot mixture into a bowl then placed that over some ice water and whisked it. Voila! In just a couple of minutes it was the perfect consistency)

When cake is done, cool in pan for 10 minutes. See my little contraption, there? Baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then the cooling rack on that. You'll see why in just a sec.

Invert cake on rack and drizzle warm cake with Spicy Caramel Glaze, respooning glaze that drips on the baking sheet over the cake.

Cool completely before serving.

Look at those chunks of apple and pecan. I love pecans. This cake is very moist with all the right flavors. Like I said, the perfect fall cake.

Now it's time to fess up. If you were to make this recipe, would you go for the gusto and follow the recipe as is, or would you totally ignore any ingredient with the word pepper in it?

Go on, give it a whirl. You know you want to.