Orzo and Kidney Bean Soup with Kielbasa & Bacon

I was in the mood for soup on Thursday, and found this recipe on my favorite go-to recipe site, Cook’s Illustrated. I did change quite a bit from the original recipe, but it was a great launching pad for recipe creativity. I’m not a big cabbage fan, so I substituted kale instead and doubled the called for carrots and celery. I also wanted to make it more of a meal, so in addition to increasing the bacon slightly, I also added 8 oz. of chopped kielbasa to the soup. And I don’t care what anybody says about flavor; I think that gelatinous juice that canned beans are in is nasty. I rinsed and drained mine before adding to the soup. I was afraid that the soup wouldn’t have enough flavor with just using water as the base, so I eliminated some of the water and substituted 26 oz. of chicken broth instead. I wasn’t sure what to think of the cinnamon called for, but I used it. I can’t say I tasted it, but you’re free to use it or eliminate it. Although the original recipe called for only white pepper, I also added about ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.


Serves 6 to 8 as a main course.  

Original recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, published September 1, 1999.  Recipe altered significantly by Crafty Farm Girl, January 2012.

Don’t grate your potato until just ready to add it to the soup or it will discolor quickly. Adding the pasta to the pot last, when just about ready to serve, helps it hold onto its bite.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 
ounces bacon or pancetta, diced fine
  • 8 oz. kielbasa, quartered lengthwise and sliced about 1/3” thick
  • 4 oz. chopped kale (or more to taste)
  • 1 
medium onion, diced fine
  • 2
 medium leeks, white parts only, washed thoroughly and chopped fine
  • 2
 small carrots, peeled and diced fine
  • 2
 ribs celery, diced fine
  • 1
 potato, peeled and coarsely grated
  • 1
(16-ounce) can red kidney beans (red), about 1 1/2 cups, rinsed and drained
  • 1/ 4
teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4
 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • About ¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 6 
ounces orzo (1 cup)
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Brown the bacon in the olive oil in a large soup kettle or stockpot over medium heat. When it’s beginning to get brown add the sliced and quartered kielbasa and continue to cook, stirring frequently until the bacon has finished cooking and the kielbasa is a bit browned.

To that same pot add the chopped kale, onion, leeks, carrots and celery and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring a few times as you sauté . Add reserved potato, beans, peppers, salt, cinnamon, 1 quart hot water and 26 oz. chicken broth; bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer about 5 minutes to meld flavors.

Add orzo, reduce heat to low, and simmer until orzo is tender, 7 to 8 minutes. If you find soup is too thick, you can thin it with additional chicken stock or water.

Adjust seasoning with additional salt, if necessary, and serve, passing grated cheese separately.

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Banana Cream Pie

I saw the book Sarabeths Bakery—My Hands to Yours at a bookstore recently and had to have it. It’s a large, beautiful cookbook with lots of classic looking pastries and desserts. I’ve already worked my way through the Croissant Dough and made Pains au Chocolat and Almond Croissants with it that were divine, but when I saw this recipe for Banana Cream Pie I made it that same day.

I have never made a banana cream pie before. What I liked about this recipe was that she added unflavored gelatin and whipped cream to the custard so it wasn’t quite so heavy. I added a pinch or two of cornstarch and cream of tartar to the whipped cream topping so it wouldn’t get weepy. Now her recipe uses a almond pastry crust, and I will put the recipe for that at the  bottom of this post. In the interest of saving time, I used a ready-made crust (I love the one from Trader Joe’s). Next time I will definitely use the almond pastry dough to compare the two.

Banana Cream Pie

Recipe from Sarabeth’s Bakery; From My Hands to Yours by Sarabeth Levine. Altered slightly by Crafty Farm Girl, January, 2012

Makes 8-10 servings

Almond Pastry Dough (recipe below) or ready-made pie crust dough

Cream Filling
1 teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder
2 tablespoons cold water
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup superfine sugar
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
1 ½ cups whole milk
Seeds from ½ vanilla bean or ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas, cut lengthwise in half, then into 1/3-inch slices
¼ cup heavy cream

1-1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
3 tablespoons superfine sugar
Seeds from ½ vanilla bean or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted for garnish

Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 375 o F. Line a 9-inch pie pan with the dough. Pierce the bottom of the dough in a uniform pattern with a fork. Freeze for 15 minutes. Line the dough with some parchment paper or aluminum foil and fill with pastry weights or dried beans. Bake on a half-sheet pan for 15 minutes, until the pastry is set. Remove the parchment paper and the weights and continue baking until the pastry is golden brown, about 10 minutes more. Cool completely.

To make the filling, sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small bowl. Set aside until the gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Whisk the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch in a heatproof medium bowl until combined; set aside. Place a heatproof bowl with a medium-mesh wire sieve near the stove.

Heat the milk in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over medium heat until very hot. I added my scraped vanilla bean and the pod to the milk as I was heating it up. If you are using vanilla extract, wait to add it until directed. Gradually whisk the milk into the egg yolk mixture. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Whisking constantly, being sure to reach into the corners of the saucepan, cook over medium heat until the filling thickens and comes to a full boil. Reduce the heat to low and whisk for 1 minute.

Remove from the heat, add the gelatin mixture, and whisk until the gelatin is completely melted (the pastry cream will thin slightly—don’t worry). Strain through the medium-mesh wire sieve into the clean medium bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract if using. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface (this discourages a skin from forming), and pierce a few holes in the plastic wrap with the tip of a sharp knife. Let stand on a wire rack until completely cooled and thickened but not set. Remove the plastic wrap and fold in the bananas. (I forgot to cut my bananas in half lengthwise before cutting, but I will do it next time for sure.)

Using a whisk or a handheld electric mixer, beat the cream in a small bowl just until it forms soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the banana mixture. Fill the cooled pastry shell and smooth the top. Cover the plastic wrap and let the filling set in the shell in the refrigerator, about 1 hour.

To make the topping, beat the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla just until it forms peaks. Transfer to a bag fitted with a 3/8-inch diameter open-star tip, such as Ateco #824. Pipe swirls of whipped cream to completely cover the top of the pie. Refrigerate until the pie is chilled, at least 1 hour. Just before serving, top with the toasted almonds. Serve chilled.

Almond Pastry Dough

Makes enough for one 9-inch pie

This delicious, buttery crust bakes into a crisp, nut-flavored shell.

3 tablespoons sliced natural almonds, toasted
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
3 tablespoons superfine sugar
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes, chilled
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon ice water, plus more as needed
Seeds of ½ vanilla bean
¼ teaspoon almond extract

Grind the almonds in a coffee grinder with 1 tablespoon of the flour until powdery. Combine the remaining 1-cup flour, the ground almond mixture, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the butter cubes and toss to coat with the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender, cut in the cutter until the mixture looks like coarse meal with some pea-size pieces of butter, about 2 minutes. Using a fork, mix the egg yolk, 1-tablespoon ice water, vanilla seeds, and almond extract in a small bowl. Drizzle the yolk mixture all over the flour mixture and, using a wooden spoon, combine just until the dough clumps together. If the dough is too dry, add more iced water, a little at a time.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and shape into a 1-inch-thick disk. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled but not hard, 30 minutes to 1 hour. (The dough can be refrigerated up to 1 day, but it will be very hard, and should stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before rolling out. The dough can also be frozen, double-wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 2 weeks. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight.)

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Pear, Apple, Fennel & Cheddar Pizza

You might have read about the amazing meal my sister and I had recently at Leon’s Full Service in Decatur, Georgia. One of the appetizers I had (that’s right folks, I had more than one), was a flatbread with apple butter, grilled fennel, apple slices and cheddar cheese. It was amazing. Sweet and savory. Unexpected. Delicious. I was worried that it would taste like anise, but the grilling must do something to the fennel, because it just gave the pizza a wonderful flavor and a little crunch.

I set out to re-create this while on vacation in Wyoming with Amanda’s help. I decided I wanted to try a pear butter instead of an apple butter. This was purely aesthetics on my part; I didn’t like the dark brown colors of the apple butter I was finding at the stores, but I came across a beautiful pear butter.

Of course when I went to make it here at home for this post I couldn’t find any pear butter, so I had to make my own. It was easy and really delicious. I put the seeds from 1/2 a vanilla bean in a heavy, non-reactive pot with some seeded, roughly chopped peeled ripe pears and a little apple cider and reduced, mashed, reduced, and reduced some more until almost all of the liquid evaporated. I did not add any sugar as it was for this savory pizza and my pears were nice and ripe, but if I were making it to preserve it, I would have added some sugar. I would only make your own if you can’t find it in the stores ready-made or if you’re planning on making a bunch to can at the same time.

Now the dough was interesting. I found the recipe from Bobby Flay on Food Network’s website. Lots of the people that left comments noted that the dough was very wet. When I made the dough in Wyoming (altitude of 6329 feet), and I made it twice, the dough was absolutely perfect; not too wet at all. When I made the dough in Connecticut (sea level), the dough was almost too dry and hard. It was fine after it rose, but I did consider adding some liquid back into it when I first finished it. My point here is pay attention when you’re making it. It was a lovely dough though and easy to work with and roll out. I’d recommend it for any pizza or flatbread recipe.


Recipe courtesy Bobby Flay

Prep Time: 15 min, Inactive Prep Time: 4 hr

Serves:  4 individual flatbreads or 1 large flatbread

1 1/2 cups warm water (105 to 110 degrees F)
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil, plus more for bowl

Mix water and yeast in a large bowl and let stand 5 minutes to proof. Gradually pour in 2 cups of the flour and stir to incorporate. Mix for about 1 minute to form a sponge. Let stand, covered, for at least 1 hour.

Put sponge in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook, add the salt and oil, then add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, to form a dough. Remove from bowl and knead. Place in a clean oiled bowl and let rise, slowly, about 2 1/2 hours. Divide dough into 4 balls, let rise again for 1/2 hour, and then roll out as desired.

Pear, Apple, Fennel & Cheddar Pizza

Recipe by Crafty Farm Girl, January, 2012

1 recipe flatbread dough
pear butter, either store-bought or home-made
1 large, crisp apple, peeled, cored & thinly sliced (I used Honeycrisp)
Fennel bulb, cleaned, outer leaf removed if necessary, thinly sliced & grilled
Some tender ends of fennel stalks
chopped walnuts
sharp white cheddar cheese, grated (don’t get extra-sharp)
cornmeal (to dust pizza pan with)

Mis en Place. I, of course, forgot the walnuts.

You can cook your pizza on a pizza stone if you have one (put it in the oven before you pre-heat your oven), or on a metal pizza pan, or just on a baking sheet as I did. Dust the pan lightly with cornmeal to prevent sticking. If you are using a pizza stone, then turn a baking sheet over and dust the underside of the pan with the cornmeal. You can easily slide the pizza off the back of the pan onto the heated pizza stone from there. Preheat the oven to 475o F. Allow oven to preheat completely before putting pizza in.

Once your flatbread dough is ready, and depending on whether you want two large flatbreads or 4 smaller ones, (or you can save and freeze some of the dough to use another time), divide your dough. On a lightly floured surface roll out dough until thin. Move dough to prepared pizza pan.

Spread a thin later of the pear butter over the entire pizza crust using an offset spatula, leaving the edges clear.

Evenly distribute grilled fennel around pizza.

Now of course I forgot the walnuts this time, but don’t you forget them, because they add an important flavor to the pizza! I have a picture of that part from one of the Wyoming pizzas.

Then evenly distribute the apple slices around the pizza.

Sprinkle the cheddar cheese around just short of the edge of the pizza.

And finally add some of the tender fennel greens around on top of the cheese.

Put pizza into preheated oven (or slide off pan onto pizza stone), and bake until cheese is just beginning to brown a little, about 6-12 minutes. This time will vary a lot on pan or pizza stone and individual ovens.

Pear, Apple, Fennel & Cheddar Pizza

Slice using pizza wheel or large knife and serve immediately.

If you’re in the mood to try something a little different, you’ll be pleasantly pleased with the outcome of this pizza.

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French Crullers

I am back from our two-week vacation in Wyoming. As you may have noticed, I took a break from blogging for the most part. It was a necessary break to recharge my creative batteries (and recover from a nasty cold).

While I brought out a donut cookbook I had, I never did get around to making any out there. Today though, with reality knocking (loudly) on my door and the kids moaning about school tomorrow, I decided some crullers would be the perfect treat for all of us. Now I’ve made crullers before, but I felt like I was just short of getting them ‘just right’ the first time. This time I incorporated all that I learned the first time with things I thought of after, and this time, they were about as close to perfect as I could imagine.

I am not a big donut fan; I find them heavy and doughy, and usually not worth the calories consumed for the pleasure (or lack of) eating one. A good cruller though is light and airy and a perfect treat. So much more impressive-looking than your average donut, and because they are made from a simple Pâte à Choux Dough, they are actually much easier to make than a normal raised, yeasted donut.

Recipe from the book Donuts by Elinor Klivans. Adapted slightly by Crafty Farm Girl, January, 2012.

Pâte à Choux Dough

Makes 8 crullers

4 tablespoons (2 oz.) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup (4 fluid oz.) water
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 teaspoon vanilla extract
Canola oil for brushing parchment and deep frying
Vanilla-orange glaze (recipe follows)

Place a wire rack on your work surface with parchment, waxed paper or newspaper underneath to catch dripping oil and glaze.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine water, the butter, sugar, and salt and bring to a boil. Stirring to melt the butter. Add the flour all at once and stir viforously with a wooden spoon until the flour is incorporated and the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan in a ball. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. The dough will continue to pull away from the pan sides in a large clump.

Scrape the dough into a large bowl, Using an electric mixer set on medium speed (use the paddle attachment for a stand mixer), beat until the dough forms large clumps, about 1 minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, beatinguntil smoothly blended after each addition. Add the vannilla and beat until smooth.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour about a teaspoon of oil onto the parchment and with a pastry brush, brush the oil all over the parchment. Use more oil if necessary. Cut the oiled parchment into 3 strips and each strip into 3 squares. Place another piece of parchment on the baking sheet and arrange the oiled parchment squares onto the baking sheet.

Fit a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch star tip and full the bag with the dough. Pipe a 3-inch circle of dough onto each of the 8 squares of oiled paper.

Pour oil to a depth of 2 inches into a deep-fryer or deep, heavy saute pan and heat over mediun-high heat until it reads 360 degrees F on a deep-frying thermometer. Place the piped crullers into the freezer while your oil is heating.

Vanilla-Orange Glaze

Makes about 3 cups glaze

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2-1/2 cups (10 oz.) confectioner’s sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
5 tablespoons hot water (plus more as needed)

In a bowl, whisk together the melted butter, confectioners sugar, vanilla and orange extracts and water until smooth. Whisk in 1-2 teaspoons more hot water if needed to give the glaze a thin, light, consistency. Use right away.

When the oil has reached 360o F, remove the crullers from the freezer. Turn over one of the dough-topped paper pieces and slide the dough circle into the hot oil. You may need to use a thin spatula to get it started, but then it should gentle fall into the oil. Repeat to add 1 or 2 more dough circles to the oil. Be sure not to overcrowd the pan. The crullers should increase in size. Deep-fry until golden on the first side, about 2 minutes.

Using tongs, a wire skimmer, or a slotted spoon, turn and fry until dark golden on the second side, about 1-1/2 minutes longer. I found that some of the crullers got cracks in them as they were frying, and a few extra brief turns in the oil sealed those up. Transfer to wire rack, fluted side up, to drain. Fry the remaining crullers.

I found that glazing the donuts while they were still pretty warm but not hot worked best. It allowed just the thinnest layer or glaze the remain on the donut, leaving it nice and light. Place the crullers, one at a time, into the glaze, and turn it with a fork to cover completely. Lift it out and allow as much glaze to drop off as you can. Replace on wire rack and allow to cool.

Crullers are best eaten the day you made them.

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The Last Supper • Asian-style Chicken Noodle Soup

As I madly ran around Friday night trying to finish last minute preparations for my crack-of-dawn departure for my road trip, I did manage to at least make one more meal for my family. I’d made some home made chicken stock on Thursday, and that evening I took that out of the fridge, skimmed off the fat that had collected on the surface, and re-heated it on the stove.

Of course as we sat at the table eating it the kids acted like it was the last meal they would EVER be eating with me, like I was abandoning them forever to go and join the circus or something.

You can easily use store-bought chicken broth and chicken to make this too. You can also add any other ingredients you’d like to it — maybe some mushrooms or chopped bok choy. I used the ingredients I had on hand, and so can you.

Assemble all of your ingredients.

To the simmering broth I added some medallions of peeled ginger (from a 1″ piece).

Add some medallions of peeled ginger.

And then I added some finely diced, peeled, carrots.

Add some finely diced, peeled, carrots.

I let that simmer for about 10 minutes, and then added the shredded chicken I’d reserved from making the stock.

Add the shredded chicken.

Let that simmer for a few minutes until the stock comes back to a simmer, then turn the heat up to medium-high. Add the chinese egg noodles (they look like ramen noodles, but without the seasoning packet; you can find them in the asian-food section of the grocery store). Let that come to a boil and separate the noodles as they soften using two forks.

Add chinese egg noodles to boiling stock.

Working quickly, as you don’t want the noodles to overcook, add some chopped cilantro to the stock and stir to combine.

Add some chopped cilantro and quickly stir to combine.

Quickly plate the soup into individual bowls, distributing the chicken evenly with tongs. Serve while piping hot.

Ricotta & Chive Gnocchi

I recently posted gnocchi in a brown butter sage sauce that was delicious. That was the first time I’d made gnocchi in probably 25 years. It was fun! When I was at my local library for the lecture by The Beekman Boys for their new 1802 Heirloom Cookbook, I saw that Amanda Hesser and Merril Stubbs were going to be there this coming Monday promoting their new cookbook Food 52. I had never heard of this book (trust me, I own enough cookbooks already), but Erin, one of the librarians at the library, was explaining the book to me, so I checked it out on Amazon. It was really highly reviewed, so I decided to order a copy and bring it with me to the Library. I kind of liked getting out of the house at night!

There were so many delicious recipes in the book that I can’t wait to try, but while Amanda was home from college this weekend she was really looking for some of Mama’s comfort food. She asked me to make meatloaf’s for her that we froze and she took home in her suitcase. Apparently one fell out of her carry-on onto the kid  sitting next to her who exclaimed “sick!”.  She also had me make my spicy hummus, which she took home in small containers, and she made some of the chocolate chip cookies I recently posted to bring down to her friends, too. We decided this gnocchi recipe should be the first one we tried. They were terrific. The crust from frying them after you boil them made them extra yummy. I added

Ricotta and Chive Gnocchi

Recipe from The Food 52 Cookbook by Amanda Hesser & Merril Stubbs. Adapted (slightly), by Crafty Farm Girl, November, 2011.

Serves four to six

3 Russet potatoes
2 Eggs
1 c. ricotta
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/3 cup chives
2 cups Flour (making sure you have extra on hand for rolling them later)
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt & pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the russet potatoes. Boil for 45 minutes, draing the water through a colander, and let the potatoes cool. Following what I learned from the earlier gnocchi recipe, I peeled and riced the potatoes carefully while still hot and spread them out to cool on a rimmed baking sheet. Discard the skins.

Once the potatoes have cooled down, add the eggs and stir into the mixture. Once the eggs have been incorporated, stire in the ricotta, parmesan, and chives.

At this point, the mixture should be very thick, but it needs to be thick and maliable as dough. Add the flour and stir together until you get that consistency. I found this easiest to do by turning the mixture out onto a clean work surface and kneading it until it came together. Continue kneading, flouring the work surface as necessary, until it’s more dough-like and doesn’t stick to everything in sight. Cut the dough into 4 pieces.

Begin rolling the dough, a section at a time, with your hands as if you’re forming a large snake. I found it easiest to cut the coil into two pieces about half-way through to make it easier to work with. Continue rolling until you form rolls that are no bigger than a quarter in circumference. (Any bigger and you’ll have difficulty cooking them.) I probably made mine about the size of a nickel around.

From the skinnier rolls, take a knife or pinch off little sections and roll them around in the palm of your hand to make the gnocchi. You may need to continue dredging them in a little flour as you go, which is fine. Set all the finished gnocchi on a large plate to the side. I found it easiest to cut all the gnocchi, and then I went and rolled each one to form a more evenly rounded shape.

Once all the gnocchi have been formed. Dump them into a boiling pot of hot, salted water. Boil the gnocchi for five minutes to ensure their centers are nice and dense. (They will automatically start popping up to the top of the pot once they’re cooking, but make sure you give them a little extra time in the water.)

Drain the boiled gnocchi through a colandar or remove from the boiling water with a strainer. Then, in a very large saute pan over medium high heat, add two tablespoons of oil and butter. Add just enough gnocchi to the pan where they have enough space to get a light, brown crust around them. I seasoned them with salt and pepper in the pan. Add more oil, butter, and gnocchi when the first batch is done. When plating the gnocchi, lightly season them with a little kosher salt, parsley, or extra chives and some grated parmesan.

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Pumpkin Cake Roll with Maple & Orange Buttercream

I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year. As far as family, only my immediate family will be there, and Amanda is coming home from college for the long weekend. I can’t wait to see her! We will be having dinner for 14 people, and included will be my best friend, Cyrena, my ex-husband, my friends the Hiltons, and Lorraine Hilton’s sister. Everyone is bringing something, even Lorraine, who is in the middle of a kitchen renovation and only has a hot plate and a microwave to use!

I am not a fan of pumpkin pie, but felt that some sort of pumpkin dessert should be on the menu. I make a mean pumpkin cheesecake, but just wasn’t in the mood. For some reason I felt like a pumpkin roll cake seemed like the right thing. I searched the internet and found several different recipes. Taking a bit from each one, I changed so much that I really can’t call this anything but an original recipe. However, to use correct blogging etiquette, these are the recipes I primarily referred to: Taste of Home Pumpkin Cake Roll, Wilton Pumpkin Roll Cake, and Cook’s Illustrated Classic Coffee Buttercream Icing.

What I like about this recipe, besides it being really delicious, is that you can make it as simple or as fancy as you want, or have time for. If you’re pressed for time, or don’t want to make it so fancy, you can just make one flavor buttercream and spatula ice the cake simply. If you have the time or interest, make both flavors of the buttercream, pipe a little icing along the bottom edge and put the grated chocolate and edible gold flakes on top.

Note that you really need to roll the cake when it is still very warm. If you wait until it has already cooled you risk cracking the cake.

Don’t be overwhelmed by all the photos. This is not a terribly hard recipe. Even if you don’t want to try the whole recipe, you can make the delicious cake and spread vanilla ice cream in the roll and ice it with Cool Whip. It will still be yummy.

Pumpkin Cake Roll with Maple & Orange Buttercream

Recipe by Crafty Farm Girl, November, 2011.

Makes about 16 servings.


• ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
• ¾ cup all-purpose flour
• ½ teaspoon baking powder
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ½ teaspoon ground cloves
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 4 eggs, separated
• 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
• 2/3 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• ½ cup ground pecans

Filling & Icing
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
pinch table salt
1 pound unsalted butter (4 sticks), softened, each stick cut into quarters
4 oz. pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon finely minced orange zest
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (or 1/2 teaspoon orange extract)
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
¼ teaspoon orange extract
Grated bittersweet chocolate (optional for decoration)
Edible gold (optional for decoration)

For the cake, preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease an 11 x 17 in. jelly roll pan, line with parchment paper; grease and flour parchment paper. Set aside. Spread a clean kitchen towel on a wire cooling rack and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Set aside.

In medium bowl, sift together flour, spices and salt.

In large bowl, beat egg yolks until frothy with electric mixer.  Add ½-cup sugar; continue beating 3-5 minutes until thick and light in color. Add pumpkin and flour mixture; mix until well combined.

In separate bowl, beat egg whites until frothy with electric mixer. Add lemon juice; continue beating 2 minutes. Gradually add remaining ½-cup sugar; continue beating until soft peaks form.Add pumpkin and flour mixture; mix until well combined.

Sprinkle ground pecans over egg whites; gently fold in.

Fold about 1 cup of egg white mixture gently into pumpkin mixture to lighten. Add another 2 cups egg white mixture and fold in again.

Add remaining egg white mixture and fold again until no white streaks remain.

Spread evenly into prepared pan. Bake 20-25 minutes (mine took exactly 20 minutes). Remove cake from oven. Gently loosen edges of cake from pan. Carefully turn cake onto prepared confectioner’s sugar-dusted dish towel. Cool cake 3-5 minutes. Carefully remove parchment paper.

Starting at a short edge, roll up cake with kitchen towel. Transfer rolled cake to cooling rack; cool completely.

For icing combine eggs, sugar, and salt in bowl of standing mixer; place bowl over pan of simmering water. Whisking gently but constantly, heat mixture until thin and foamy and registers 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer. Beat egg mixture on medium-high speed with whisk attachment until light, airy, and cooled to room temperature, about 5 minutes. Divide mixture evenly between two bowls (use a kitchen scale if you have one.

Place half of mixture back into mixing bowl and on medium speed, and 2 sticks of butter, one piece at a time. (After adding half the butter, buttercream may look curdled; it will smooth with additional butter.) Once all butter is added, slowly drizzle in maple syrup, increase speed to high and beat 1 minute until light, fluffy, and thoroughly combined. Remove maple icing and place remaining egg mixture back into mixing bowl.

Follow instructions as above, but once you’ve incorporated all of the remaining 2 sticks of butter, drizzle in the extract, liquor and orange juice, and then mix in the orange zest. Increase speed to high and beat 1 minute until light, fluffy, and thoroughly combined. (Buttercream can be covered and refrigerated up to 5 days.)

Cut a piece of cardboard about 2” longer and wider than cake roll. Cover with aluminum foil and tape securely.

On a clean work surface, unroll cake. Using an offset spatula, smooth the orange buttercream to edges of cake. You may have a little icing left over, depending on how thick you want the icing. Carefully re-roll the cake (without the towel this time!), being careful to get a tight roll, but no so tight that you squeeze out the icing. Using a large, sturdy spatula, move the cake roll onto the prepared foil-covered cardboard. If you have a little icing left over, smooth some onto the ends of the roll. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes to firm up the cake before you ice the outside.

Remove the cake from the fridge, and using the maple buttercream, spatula-ice the outside of the cake. If you want to get a little fancier you can put some of the remaining icing into a pastry bag with a star tip and pipe a decorative shell border around the base of the cake. If you want to take it another step, grate some bittersweet chocolate with a grater and sprinkle that over the top of the cake. For the last level of fancy, sprinkle the cake with edible gold flakes.

Refrigerate the cake for about 30 minutes to firm up the buttercream, then you can cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Keep refrigerated until about 3 hours before serving, and then remove to room temperature until serving. Buttercream is always best when served at room temperature.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

There was a lot of postings on Pinterest the other day of The Other Side of 50‘s version of the New York Time’s chocolate chip cookie recipe. It looked delicious and her post was funny. With the week I’ve had I needed a chocolate chip cookie.

It’s an intriguing recipe because it uses a combination of cake and bread flour, but no all-purpose flour. She used a combination of semi-sweet and unsweetened chocolate in hers (because that was all she had in the house). I had all kinds of good chocolate in the house. I had big blocks of 65% and 70% bittersweet chocolate and white chocolate, and bags of Barry Callebaut semi-sweet and white chocolate as well as his espresso chunks. I liked the way she’d used grated chocolate in her dough though so decided I was going to use that idea. I didn’t measure anything precisely with the chocolate except for the final weight, which I kept at 20 oz., but it was approximately 4 oz. white, bittersweet, and espresso chunks, and 4 oz. each of grated white and bittersweet chocolate.

Everyone that has eaten these cookies this week, from my mom to my husband to my kids, have said they were the best chocolate chip cookies they’ve ever eaten, so there must be something to that unusual combination of flours. This recipe is definitely one for the recipe file.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Original recipe adapted from Jacques Torres and published: July 9, 2008, New York Times. Adapted (slightly) by Crafty Farm Girl, 2011

Time: 45 minutes (for 16-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate chunks & grated chocolate, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
Sea salt

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

3. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside. I used a level 4-tablespoon ice cream scoop that Scoop to form the cookies, and placed 6 onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. I made several batches of these to get the cooking timing just right. Of course it helps if you have an oven thermometer so you are sure the oven is at 350 degrees as well. If you used a 4-tablespoon scoop, bake the cookies for 14 minutes 30 seconds. They will not look like they are cooked enough, but they are (or they were in my oven).

5. If you don’t have a scoop that size just make your cookies from 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls), making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. For cookies made this way, bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes.

6. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Note: The chocolate chunks and bulk chocolate I used is available at kingarthurflour.com.

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Potato Gnocchi with Browned Butter and Sage

I haven’t made gnocchi in years, but I saw this recipe on the cover page of CooksIllustrated.com last weekend and decided it was time to make it again. I love brown butter sage sauce. There’s a great short tutorialright now on the cover page of Cook’s Illustrated.com that shows you step-by-step exactly how to cook these gnocchi. It’s really quick and shows you all the steps to get it right. I made them twice now in 2 weeks. The first time I was in the middle of like 5 other things so the potatoes rested a little long after coming out of the oven. I don’t think it affected their flavor or texture, but I think it made the rolling of them a little more difficult. The second time I was just concentrating on the gnocchi, and made the dough with hot, riced potatoes that I cooled on the pan for 5 minutes as the recipe called for, and the dough was much easier to form.

Potato Gnocchi with Browned Butter and Sage


Original recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, published September 1, 2011.

Serves 2 to 3 as a main dish, or 4 to 6 as an appetizer

Making gnocchi is simple: Cook the potatoes; peel and mash; knead the cooked spuds into a dough with a minimum of flour; shape; and boil for a minute. And yet the pitfalls are numerous (lumpy mashed potatoes, too much—or too little—flour, a heavy hand when kneading, and bland flavor). We wanted a foolproof recipe for impossibly light gnocchi with unmistakable potato flavor. Baking russets (streamlined by par-cooking the potatoes in the microwave) produced intensely flavored potatoes—an excellent start to our gnocchi base. To avoid lumps, which can cause gnocchi to break apart during cooking, we turned to a ricer, which gave us a smooth, supple mash. While many recipes offer a range of flour, which ups the chances of overworking the dough (and producing leaden gnocchi), we used an exact amount based on the ratio of potato to flour so that our gnocchi dough was mixed as little as possible. And we found that an egg, while not a traditional ingredient, tenderized our gnocchi further, delivering delicate, pillow-like dumplings.

For the most accurate measurements, weigh the potatoes and flour. After processing, you may have slightly more than the 3 cups (16 ounces) of potatoes required for this recipe. Discard any extra or set aside for another use.



  • 2
 pounds russet potatoes
  • 1
 large egg , lightly beaten
  • 3/4
 cup plus 1 tablespoon (4 ounces) all-purpose flour , plus extra for the counter
  • 1 
teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon salt
  • Sauce

  • 4 
tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 4 pieces
  • 1
 small shallot , minced
  • 1 
teaspoon minced fresh sage
  • 1 1/2 
teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4
 teaspoon salt
  • Instructions

    FOR THE GNOCCHI: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Poke each potato 8 times with paring knife over entire surface. Microwave potatoes until slightly softened at ends, about 10 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway through cooking.

    Transfer potatoes directly to oven rack and bake until skewer glides easily through flesh and potatoes yield to gentle pressure, 18 to 20 minutes.

    Holding each potato with potholder or kitchen towel, peel with paring knife. Process potatoes through ricer or food mill onto rimmed baking sheet.

    Gently spread potatoes into even layer and let cool for 5 minutes.

    Transfer 3 cups (16 ounces) warm potatoes to bowl. Using fork, gently stir in egg until just combined. Sprinkle flour and 1 teaspoon salt over potato mixture. Using fork, gently combine until no pockets of dry flour remain.

    Press mixture into rough ball, transfer to lightly floured counter, and gently knead until smooth but slightly sticky, about 1 minute, lightly dusting counter with flour as needed to prevent sticking.

    Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and dust liberally with flour. Cut dough into 8 pieces.

    Lightly dust counter with flour. Gently roll piece of dough into ½-inch-thick rope, dusting with flour to prevent sticking. Cut rope into ¾-inch lengths.

    Holding fork with tines facing down in 1 hand, press each dough piece cut side down against tines with thumb of other hand to create indentation. Roll dough down tines to form ridges on sides. If dough sticks, dust thumb or fork with flour.

    Transfer formed gnocchi to sheets and repeat with remaining dough.

    FOR THE SAUCE: Melt butter in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, swirling occasionally, until butter is browned and releases nutty aroma, about 11/2 minutes.

    Off heat, add shallot and sage, stirring until shallot is fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice and salt; cover to keep warm.

    Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add remaining 1 tablespoon salt. Using parchment paper as sling, gently lower gnocchi from 1 sheet into water and cook until firm and just cooked through, about 90 seconds (gnocchi should float to surface after about 1 minute).

    Using slotted spoon, transfer cooked gnocchi to skillet with sauce. Repeat with remaining gnocchi. Once I put the gnocchi into the skillet I turned the heat back on to mediun-high to rewarm the sauce briefly. Gently toss gnocchi with sauce and serve.

    Potato Gnocchi with Browned Butter and Sage

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    Mongolian Beef

    I saw this recipe on Pinterest the other day and tried it that same night. It was one of those days where I was running all afternoon to doctor’s and soccer games, and it came together pretty quickly. I used  flank steak and cut it diagonally against the grain. I think it’s important to use a good cut of meat  for this to not be tough and chewy.

    The original recipe only served 2, so I adjusted everything up and while it fed our family of 5, I would say that it would serve 4, since my kids don’t eat much. *Also, she had 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes for spicy. I doubled that and ours was pretty spicy, but my red pepper flakes were very fresh. If you don’t like things very spicy, adjust down to 1/2 teaspoon or less.This was really good and I’ll definitely be making it again. 

    Mongolian Beef

    Original recipe from Pink Bites. Altered by Crafty Farm Girl, November, 2011.

    Serves 4

    You will need:

    •  1-3/4 to 2 lbs. of flank steak, thinly sliced on the diagonal
    • 1/2 cup of cornstarch
    • 4 tablespoons of canola oil, divided
    • 1 tablespoon of grated ginger (1-1/2″ piece)
    • 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic (about 6 large cloves)
    • 3/4 cup of water
    • 3/4 cup of soy sauce (I use low sodium)
    • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
    • 1/2-1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes*
    • 6 large green onions, sliced crosswise into thirds

    Prepare the meat:

    Since this was a large steak, I cut it in half horizontally. To ease the slicing, I stuck it in the freezer for about 45 minutes. Slicing slightly frozen meat thinly is so much easier than slicing raw meat. Forty-five minutes to an hour is enough time that it slices well, but any slightly frozen parts will thaw quickly.

    First, make sure the steak slices are dry (pat them dry) and mix them with the corn starch. Using your hands or a spoon, move them around to make sure all pieces are coated. Place beef slices in a strainer and shake off excess corn starch.

    Make the sauce:

    Heat half of the oil in a large wok or large flat-bottomed skillet at medium-high and add the garlic and ginger.

    Immediately add the soy sauce, water. Be careful, mine made a terrible sputtering mess when the soy sauce hit the hot pan, so work quickly.

    Quickly add the brown sugar and pepper flakes. Cook the sauce for about 2 minutes and transfer to a bowl. Don’t worry if the sauce doesn’t look thick enough at this point. The corn starch in the beef will thicken it up later.

    Cook the meat and assemble dish:

    Turn the heat up and add the remaining oil to the wok or skillet. You may want to cook the beef in two batches. I probably should have. Add the beef and cook, stirring until it is all browned (this is a quick thing).

    Add the green onions to the beef and cook very briefly while stirring, about 30 seconds. Pour the sauce back into the wok and let it cook along with the meat. Now you can choose to cook it down and reduce the sauce or leave it thinner.

    Serve it hot with rice.

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