Archive for the ‘Stuff From Scratch’ Category


Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

This takes the gingersnap crust from another pumpkin pie recipe and a couple different pumpkin cheesecake recipes (mostly this one) to make a treat in the shape of a bar. Although I love pie, I am often frustrated that the crust distribution is so unequal across the slice. And while I love this gingersnap crust, it is a bit crumbly at its exposed edges in a pie. The bar solves these two problems. Plus, this swirled filling is nowhere near as rich as many cheesecake recipes, nor is it as cloyingly custardy as many pumpkin pie recipes. The texture is smooth, creamy and spicy. The overall ginger flavor is quite strong, so you might want to cut down the amount if that worries you. Finally, there are lots of steps and planning ahead, including two rounds with your food processor, but the final product is worth the time and effort, and none of the steps are terribly arduous. A perfect way to spend a fall day when you can be in and out of the kitchen.


9 oz. gingersnap cookies

1 cup pecan pieces

¼ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger (optional)

¼ cup butter, melted


1 6 – 7” sugar pumpkin OR 1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup chopped crystallized ginger

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

2 large eggs, room temperature

¼ cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon allspice

If making your own puree:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Cut the pumpkin in half vertically (through or right next to stem, or remove stem). Scoop out seeds and stringy stuff. Place pumpkin halves cut side down. Cover with more foil, not tightly, more like a tent.

Bake until tender – until you can pierce the skin and flesh all the way through easily with a fork – about 1 ½ hours. Remove from oven and cool until you can handle it. Scoop out the flesh into a medium bowl. Puree using an immersion blender. Pour off any excess liquid.

Baked Sugar Pumpkin

While the pumpkin is baking, make the crust:

Put cookies into food processor, then process into crumbs. Add pecans, brown sugar and ginger and process until nuts are finely ground. Add melted butter and process to blend. Dump into a Buttered 13 x 9” glass dish and press with spatula to cover bottom evenly. Bake at 350 until set and browned, 10 – 15 minutes, then cool completely.

Gingersnap Crust

Make the filling:

Pulse sugar and ginger in (cleaned) food processor until ginger is well chopped. Add cream cheese and process until smooth. Add eggs, cream, flour and salt and process until combined.

Whisk 1 1/3 cups of the cream cheese mixture (reserving the rest) with the pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Once the crust is cooled, pour the pumpkin filling over it and spread evenly. Pour the reserved cream cheese mixture on top and then swirl with a spatula. Bake at 350 degrees until center is just set, 35 – 45 minutes. Cool on a rack to room temperature (at least an hour), cover loosely with foil and chill for at least 4 hours. Then reward yourself for the delayed gratification with a nice large piece.

Just Baked Bars




This is a mash-up of Classic Pound Cake recipe from epicurious and one in The Joy of Cooking.  They both called for cake flour, which I subbed out.  A little laborious, but it makes a lovely dense, moist cake with a hint of citrus.  Not too, too sweet, either.

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup AP flour

¼ teaspoon salt

5 eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon each, lemon and orange zest

½ lb. butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

Butter a 9” x 5” loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Sift together the flours and salt and set aside.

In a medium bowl, preferably with a pouring lip, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and zests.

In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, beat the butter until lightened in color and fluffy.  With mixer running on low, gradually add in sugar, then raise speed and beat until very light, about 5 minutes total.  Stop the mixer to scrape down the sides if necessary.  Using the same technique, gradually beat in the egg mixture, dribbling in a tablespoon or so at a time and allowing it to be incorporated until it’s all in and the mixture is smooth.  Beat in the flour mixture in thirds, using a spatula to give the final mix.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake for 60 – 75 minutes, or until the cake is well-risen, cracked on top and golden, and tester inserted into the center emerges dry.

Cool cake in pan for a few minutes, then unmold onto a rack and turn over right side up to cool completely.



This is adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe in “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook”.  Halved it, simplified it a little, and made it completely vegetarian.  The French green lentils are nice, but I’ve also made it with red or regular green lentils (even in combination, see picture below).  What really makes this quick soup special is the dash of vinegar before serving.  Sounds weird, but don’t skip it!

½ lb. French green lentils

this was a double batch

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups diced yellow onions

1 ½ cups diced carrots (3 – 4 carrots)

1 ½ cups diced celery (3 – 4 stalks)

1 teaspoon dried bouquet garni, or thyme

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

½ teaspoon cumin

3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced

1 quart vegetable stock

15-oz. can diced tomatoes with juice

1 bay leaf

red wine vinegar and parmesan cheese for serving

After picking them over for stones, etc., place lentils in a large metal bowl, cover with boiling water and let stand 15 minutes.  Drain.

In a large stockpot or dutch oven, sauté onions carrots, celery with spices, salt and pepper with olive oil over medium heat, until onions are translucent and soft, 15 – 20 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté for another minute.

Add stock, tomatoes, bay leaf and drained lentils.  You might also want to fill the (unrinsed) tomato can with water and add that.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about one hour, until lentils and vegetables are cooked through.  Add salt and pepper as needed.  Serve hot, with a dash of vinegar and a sprinkled of grated parmesan on top.

Printable version here:  LENTIL VEGETABLE SOUP


Will not last long.

This is a simple and satisfying recipe that comes together pretty easily, adapted heavily from a Bon Appetit June 1991 recipe.  Totally do-able for weeknight cooking.  I used a combo of Crimini and baby Shitake mushrooms, but your favorite mushrooms will do.  You can also sub a yellow or red onion for the shallots, other cheeses like Monterey Jack, cheddar or fontina and cottage cheese or plain greek yogurt for the sour cream.  This goes well with the WHOLE WHEAT PIE CRUST (SAVORY) recipe.  This just fits into a regular 9” crust, or easily into a deep dish crust.

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup finely chopped shallots

2 tablespoons minced garlic

8 – 12 oz. mushrooms, sliced

splash dry white wine

6 oz. fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped


dough for one 9” pie crust

1 ½ cup grated Gruyere cheese

4 eggs

½ cup sour cream

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon dried basil

Heat butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Saute shallots until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté for one minute.  Add mushrooms and sauté until they begin to release their juices.  Add splash of wine, raise heat, and sauté until juices are almost evaporated.  Add spinach in handfuls, with a few pinches of salt and sauté just until wilted.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Roll out dough to fit your pie pan and fit into it.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Beat eggs, then beat in sour cream and spices.  Put half the cheese on the bottom of the pie crust, then layer in vegetable mixture, then other half of cheese.  Pour egg mixture over top.  Bake about 50 minutes until filling is set.  Cool slightly and serve.

Printable version here:  SPINACH AND MUSHROOM QUICHE

Morgan likes it.


This is adapted from one in “Recipes from America’s Small Farms” by Joanne Lamb Hayes and Lori Stein.  They called for shortening instead of butter which I just can’t do.  I also added ground flaxseed and buttermilk, and changed the mixing method, so it’s pretty heavily adapted!

can be found at Whole Foods and TJs

1 stick butter, cold

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

½ cup AP flour

¼ cup ground flaxseed

¼ teaspoon salt

3 – 4 tablespoons very cold buttermilk

Open up the butter package, and cut the butter into chunks while resting on its waxed paper on a plate.  Put the plate into a freezer.

ready to go in the freezer

Blend together the flours, flaxseed and salt in the bowl of a food processor until well combined.before adding butter

Remove chilled butter from the freezer and dump the butter chunks into the flour mixture.  Pulse until butter is about the size of small peas.

Then, with the processor running, pour buttermilk through the feeder tube, 1 tablespoon at a time.  When dough begins to come together, stop processor.

Gather dough into a ball on a sheet of plastic wrap.  Flatten slightly into a disc, wrap very tightly and chill for 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours.  Remove from refrigerator about 10 minutes before rolling out.  Makes one 9” deep dish pie crust.

Printable version here:  WHOLE WHEAT PIE CRUST savory


Here in California, walnuts are local and arugula is fantastic in late winter and early spring. Last week I went to a Farmer’s Market class at The Gourmandise School in Santa Monica where we made pesto totally without basil, which was new to me. We had a bunch of arugula in our garden that needed harvesting and I thought: make pesto! This is an adaptation of the recipe we used in class.  Ingredients and amounts are fluid: feel free to adjust to desired taste and texture, and to substitute nuts or greens or hard cheeses.  You can combine spinach with the arugula for a milder taste, use pecans or the traditional pine nuts, pecorino or romano for the cheese.  You can blend until its really smooth, or keep the leaves and nuts coarse for a more rustic pesto.  This will keep in the fridge for several days in an airtight container and freezes well, too.

1 ½ cups walnut pieces, toasted and cooled

4 – 6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

3 cups packed arugula leaves

1 cup grated parmesan

¾ cups olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Pulse the nuts and garlic together in a food processor, just until nuts are in very small pieces.  Don’t turn it to butter.  Add arugula and cheese and pulse about ten times.  Scrape down edges if necessary.  Add oil in a slow stream while processor is running, until you reach the desired texture.  Taste; add salt if necessary and stir in lemon juice to preserve color.

Serving suggestion: 

Prepare 8 oz. pasta according to package directions. When the pasta is almost done, stir a few handfuls of thinly sliced kale leaves into the cooking pasta.  After another minute of cooking, drain pasta and kale.  Squeeze a bit more lemon juice on top, and toss with about ½ cup of pesto in a large serving bowl.  You can also add fresh mozzarella, dabs of goat cheese, sundried tomatoes, etc.  Top with additional toasted nuts and/or grated parmesan and enjoy!  Serves 2 – 4.


I’m an enthusiastic participant in Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.  Head on over to her blog to link your posts on any foodish topic: cookbook reviews, recipes, food for thought…from Beth Fish Reads


Adapted from Barefoot Contessa: Family Style by Ina Garten.  I have added extra veggies and simplified a few things to make this more do-able on the weekdays.  It’s a very flexible recipe – I am loosey goosey with measuring on the filling and it always comes out fine.  You can also substitute a pie or puff pastry laid rustically over top for a change from the biscuits, or leftover turkey for the chicken.

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

(or several cups of diced leftover roasted or grilled chicken)

2 ½ cups chicken stock

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup onion, diced

1 cup carrots, diced

1 cup celery, diced

1/2 cup flour

¼ cup half ‘n half or milk or cream

1 cup frozen peas

¼ cup minced parsley (optional)

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon baking soda (eliminate this if you sub milk for buttermilk)

1 stick unsalted butter, diced and chilled in freezer for a bit

¾ cup buttermilk or milk

1 egg for wash, beaten with 1 tablespoon water (sometimes I skip this)

Poach the chicken breasts if using raw:  rinse and then immerse in water in a large pot.  Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and let sit for 20 minutes.  Remove from water and after cooling a bit, dice.

Preheat oven to 375.  In a saucepan, heat the stock without boiling and keep warm.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and then add and sauté the onion, carrot and celery over medium-low heat until translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.  Add the hot chicken stock and cook over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring until thick.  Add 2 teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon pepper and the half’n half and combine well.  Stir in the chicken, peas and parsley.  Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the biscuits.  Mix the first six (dry) ingredients in a food processor until blended.  Add the chilled butter and process until the butter is the size of peas.  Add the milk and process about 45 seconds, until the mixture just starts to form a ball.

Turn onto a well-floured board and roll out to about 3/8 inch thick.  Cut out desired size round biscuits. Or, just roll into the shape of your dutch oven and cut into rough squares.

Remove stew from the oven and arrange the biscuits on top.  Brush the biscuits with the egg wash and bake for another 20 – 30 minutes until the biscuits are browned and the stew is bubbly.  Serve immediately.

Printable version here: HOMEMADE CHICKEN POT PIE