Saturday, October 31, 2009

CEiMB: Pumpkin Muffins

Now that I have a large refrigerated container of roasted squash, it is time to begin to create.  And what better place to start than with these mouth-watering Pumpkin Muffins ... another Craving Ellie in My Belly recipe by Ellie Krieger.  This week's recipe was chosen by Oddball OvenMitt ... and a timely choice it is as pumpkin fits perfectly with the autumn season.

Pumpkin Muffins

2006, Ellie Krieger
Makes 12 Muffins

  • I cooked a giant squash instead of using canned pumpkin .. it seems that pumpkin is not popular here ... canned pumpkin does not exist in Peten.  I did find some small fresh pumpkins at the Maxi-Bodega (Walmart) but they were too expensive.  In the end, I bought the giant squash at the market, thinking that the price would be better, and later that day, found the same size of sqash at the Maxi-Bodega for half the price.  Live and Learn.
  • There is only one type of flour here .. white flour.  However, a few years ago, when I wanted to start making and selling bran muffins to local hotels, I managed to convince a local store to carry bran ... so when I want a whole wheat flour, I mix the bran back into the white flour, using the concentration I need to create the finished product that I want.  For this recipe, I used 1 3/4 cups of white flour, and 1/4 cup of bran.
  • The brown sugar that I use is "panela".  Panela is the direct result of boiling down sugar cane juice until it goes past the molasses stage and actually hardens.  In effect, it is molasses that has been taken one step further in the refining process.
  • I'm pretty sure that the molasses that I used was not unsulphered.  Molasses is another ingredient that is not sold in stores here.  About 5 years ago, I looked everywhere for molasses to use to make some of Mom's famous molasses cookies, and eventually I found a rich farmer who had brought in a tanker truck FULL of molasses to sell to other farmers in the area ... I discovered that this is one of the ways of providing extra fattening nourishment for cattle, and is not eaten by humans!  I explained to him that I was looking for molasses for cooking (he had never heard of such a thing) and asked if I could buy some.  He was selling by the barrel, and didn't have any containers for smaller sales, but he poured the last of the Coke out of his 2-liter bottle, washed it out and filled it up from a spigot in the side of the huge tanker truck.  He refused to take any money for it insisting that it was so little, that it didn't matter.  So, I have had this 2-litre bottle of PURE MOLASSES lying in the bottom drawer of my refrigerator for a long long time (like years).  I could never bring myself to use it, not only because I wouldn't not be able to replace it but I also thought that it would be too strong for my recipes.  Thanks to this recipe, I have finally opened the bottle and begun using it.
  • Several comments mentioned that the spicing was nt strong enough so I used a liberal hand when measuring ... not doubling the amounts, but rounding up the measuring spoons.
  • I used my own home made yogurt instead of buttermilk

  • Cooking Spray
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-grain pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsulphered molasses
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup raw unsalted pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, molasses, oil and 1 egg until combined.

Add the other egg and whisk well.

Whisk in the pumpkin and vanilla.

Whisk in the flour mixture in two batches,

alternating with the buttermilk.

Whisk until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds.

Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of 1 of the muffins comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  Run a knife around the muffins to loosen them and unmold.  Cool completely on the rack.


Delicious!  The molasses really boosted the flavor of the spices and added to the distinctive "pumpkin pie" flavor.  The crunch of the pumpkin seeds made for a perfect topping.  I must have used smaller muffin cups that was called for, because I ended up with 18 muffins.  I'm glad I did or I might not have had enough to photograph!


Friday, October 30, 2009

Cooking with Pumpkin & Squash

I never cook with pumpkins or squashes.  I think this has something to do with the impenetrable nature of this vegetable.  I have never been able to figure out how to get into it.  What type of tool would one use to smash through to the meat inside?  Would an axe work?

After reading through the equivalent of a large book of pumpkin recipes in the last week, I decided I wanted to try a few of them, and since canned pumpkin is unheard of here, it was now necessary to figure out how to crack through this rock-like shell to the golden meat within.

I began by calling in help. I have watched the local men use their razor-sharp machetes for a huge variety of jobs ... from mowing the lawn to cutting down trees ... surely this method would work for a basic squash. Don Pablo was happy to show me how to do this job. I expected him to draw back his "cutlass" and smash it with unerring accuracy into the top of the squash, separating it immediately into two equal parts. However, I was completely wrong. I don't know why I didn't think of it myself. He DID use his machete ...

but WITH a hammer!!  He placed the machete in the middle of the squash and with a few light taps of the hammer ... voila!  Now why didn't I think of that?

The machete cut down through that squash as if it were butter ...

leaving me with two more or less equal parts and bringing me to the next stage of squash prep ... removing the green slimy stringy mass of seeds.

I scraped and cleaned the seeds out of the middle, gave half of them to Don Pablo for planting in his garden, and saved the other half to plant in my own garden.  I couldn't get any more of the green slimy strings out, but I figured that they might be easier to remove once the squash was cooked.

I didn't get any photos of the last stage, but I rubbed olive oil all over the inside, and baked both halves, open side up, at about 350' for about 2 hours.  The green strings cooked into the yellow squash, so it was impossible to separate them once cooked ... however ... I discovered that it didn't matter.  I used 1 cup of the squash for my first pumpkin recipe, and it was excellent.

I ended up with about 5 cups of squash ... stay tuned as we cook it up in a variety of sweet and savory dishes!


Friday, October 9, 2009

BB: Cheddar Corn Chowder

There is no way a photo can do justice to the superb flavor of this Cheddar Corn Chowder. This weeks Barefoot Blogger recipe was suggested by Jill of My Next Life. Being from Southern New Brunswick, I've eaten a lot of corn chowder, but this one has them all beat hands down.

Cheddar Corn Chowder

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
10 to 12 servings

I cut way back on this recipe.  There are only two of us, and it uses a lot of dairy so I didn't want to freeze it, so I made about 1/3 of this quantity.  It turned out to be 4 good servings.

The bacon that I used was really good, but really fatty, so I didn't add much olive oil, and I poured about half of it off before I made the chowder.  Then I didn't add extra butter to the pan either.

Instead of half and half cream, I used half home made yogurt, and half whole-milk powder with water.

The closest I could get to a "sharp white cheddar cheese" is this "Taco Mix", that is not sharp, not white and just barely cheddar cheese.

I made my own chicken stock from backs/necks/wings of chicken that I keep frozen for just this purpose.


  • 8 ounces bacon, chopped
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 6 cups chopped yellow onions (4 large onions)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 6 cups medium-diced white boiling potatoes, unpeeled (2 pounds)
  • 10 cups corn kernels, fresh (10 ears) or frozen (3 pounds)
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated


    In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes.

    Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium,

    add the onions and butter to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

    Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes.

    Add potatoes,

    And chicken stock

    bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
    If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cob and blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. (If using frozen corn you can skip this step.)
    Add the corn to the soup,

    then add the half-and-half

    And the cheddar

    Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted.
    Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
    Serve hot with a garnish of bacon


    This chowder was rich and creamy and full of flavor.  The smoky, salty base of bacon made a perfect background to the sweet corn.   I'm glad I used the yogurt instead of cream as it gave it a tangier cheese-like flavor that helped make up for the fact that I didn't have any sharp cheddar.  I would like to have had a few cobs of New Brunswick peaches and cream corn, but even the canned variety tasted great in this recipe ... next time I would use more.  This recipe is definitely my new main recipe for corn chowder.


    Sunday, October 4, 2009

    BB: Beatty's Chocolate Cake

    This cake received the highest recognition that this our home has to offer ... before I could get it frosted, several inches from one end disappeared. And met with vocal approval!

    This is the second time this month that the Barefoot Bloggers have chosen to bake cake. Cakes are not my forte. I've been thinking about this a lot (since I've been baking so many cakes lately!) and realizing how much of an art form it is, not only to bring together the perfect ingredients and bake them to perfection, but also to assemble all the perfectly cooked and blended parts to create a beautiful integrated whole. Thanks to Mary of Passionate Perseverance, I get to practice again this week!

    It has taken me a lot longer than I was anticipating to get this cake cooked and blogged. I began early enough to have it posted in time, only to discover that my chocolate powder had all gone bad. The only place to buy a new package is in Santa Elena, so it wasn't until grocery day that I was able to restock and prepare again to bake the cake.

    Beatty's Chocolate Cake

    2006, Barefoot Contessa at Home, All Rights Reserved


    I don't have any round pans, but I figured that the rectangular ones that I have were about the same volume.

    The sugar we buy here is not nearly so refined and wouldn't go through the sifter. I sifted the ingredients that would go through, then just added the un-siftables to the bowl as they were.

    I used yogurt instead of buttermilk.

    I didn't think the coffee in the cake batter was strong enough, so added some extra granules of instant to the mix as well.

    I don't have a paddle attachment on my food processor, so I did the mixing of the cake batter by hand. I mixed the frosting in the food processor.

    I used semi-sweet chocolate chips in the frosting.

    When making the frosting, I thought that it was already very moist and didn't add more water with the instant coffee.


    Butter, for greasing the pans
    1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
    2 cups sugar
    3/4 cups good cocoa powder
    2 teaspoons baking soda
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 cup buttermilk, shaken
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee


    (Chocolate Buttercream, recipe follows)

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

    Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.

    In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.

    With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.

    With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

    Pour the batter into the prepared pans

    and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
    Cool in the pans for 30 minutes,

    then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely

    Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

    Chocolate Frosting:


    6 ounces good semisweet chocolate (recommended: Callebaut)
    1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
    1 tablespoon instant coffee powder


    Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.

    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla

    and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners' sugar,

    then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended.

    Don't whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

    I'm embarrassed to publish a picture of the finished cake ... :-(


    Don't let appearances fool you. This was a really delicious cake. It was moist and chocolately and I loved the hint of coffee ... I would probably add a bit more if I made it again. It is the first time I had made a buttercream frosting, and it really made the cake. As a matter of fact, in my desire to level out the cake itself, I ended up with almost as much frosting as cake. Fortunately, it was like creamy cool chocolate fudge and highlighted the texture of the cake.

    I realized that I am no cake decorator, and this is a huge part of the presentation of the cake. Unfortunately, since I very very seldom eat sweets, and since this was quite expensive to produce, I probably won't be getting enough practice to become fluent in the art of cake decorating. I would, however, make this cake again should a special occasion arise.


    Saturday, October 3, 2009

    Chicken-Broccoli Casserole

    Every once in a while, I come across a recipe from my early years of cooking (when I was cooking for kids) that catches my eye and makes my mouth water to remember. Such was the case when I was visiting with Mom in June. My sister-in-law and I were looking at Mom's cookbooks, which of course, hold many memories, not only because of the foods she made, but for the occasions and people that she made them*. One of the cookbooks was put together by a local community group, and had several of my own early recipes in it, notably my favorite Bacon-Spinach Salad, a recipe for Spanokopita that I remember being given by a friend in Calgary about 35 years ago and which became such a family favorite that my sons continue to make for their families for all special dinners .... and this recipe for Chicken-Broccoli Casserole. I was so excited to have those early recipes again, that my sister-in-law and I drove all the way to the Shoppers in the mall to get photocopies of those particular recipes. I had brought them home and filed them in with my "to make soon" pile (which seems to grow by the day) and then didn't get around to putting them on the menu until this last week. Beginning with this super-easy and super delicious (at least I remembered it that way) dish of baked chicken and broccoli.

    Chicken-Broccoli Casserole


    1. Since there are only two of us, I halved the recipe and it made enough for 4 good sized servings (for us it made 6 perfect servings ... I froze the extra servings for fast meals later)
    2. I baked a whole chicken, and used half of the meat for this recipe and saved half for another.
    3. I used the drippings from the chicken to make the cream of chicken soup. (As an aside, I can't help but wonder what it says about the diet of a small jungle community and the effectiveness of global advertising, that the only two types of canned soup that you can buy here are Campbell's Chicken Broth and Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup ... both used, as it seems they are all over the world, as ingredients for cooking, and not as soup)


    3 lbs. frying chicken
    2 fresh bunches of broccoli
    1 cup mayonaise
    2 cans cream of chicken soup
    1/4 tsp curry powder
    1 Tbsp. lemon juice
    1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
    1/2 cup bread crumbs
    1 Tbsp. melted butter


    1. Cook or boil chicken ... cool ... debone

    2. Steam broccoli until desired doneness ... drain

    3. Grease 11 X 7 inch casserole dish

    4. Place a layer of chicken on bottom of casserole dish.

    5. Place the broccoli in a layer over the chicken.

    6. Combine mayonaise, soup, curry and lemon juice.

    7. Pour sauce mixture over the broccoli layer.

    8. Combine crumbs with cheese and melted butter and sprinkle over the top. ( I took a bit of a shortcut here, and just put pats of butter on top of the crumb/cheese mixture).

    9. Bake at 350' F for 30 minutes.


    It was just as good as I remembered it! As a matter of fact, E. loved it too and has asked that it become one of our regular meals (the highest recommendation!).

    Its fast and easy to prepare (even faster and easier if you go the canned soup route), freezes well and tastes even better when re-heated. Its pure homey comfort food!!

    * I've been noticing lately how many of my memories are based around food and how often the sight, smell or thought of food will trigger a memory of some long ago event. In fact, its hard to even think of a memory that I have that doesn't revolve in some way around food. I wonder if food is a trigger of memories for all of us?

    An Addendum: What are the chances that two bloggers would pick the same recipe from the past to cook/blog in the same week? I just discovered that Drew at How to Cook Like Your Grandmother, has just posted the same dish! Which I also discover is called Chicken Divan (I've heard of Chicken Divan before, but had never realized that it is the same as my Chicken-Broccoli Casserole).


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