Mmmm… Pumpkin Donuts

I can’t believe it has been over a year since I last posted, but after a lot of stress, leaving a job, relaxing, and taking on lots of new jobs, I’m back with a vengeance donut recipe.

I cracked and bought a donut pan.  I can’t bring myself to fry donuts.  Well, actually, I can. I just can’t bring myself to do it regularly because it will kill me before I pay for The Cleanplater-ette’s college. So I’m baking them. And with my previously proclaimed love of pumpkin, the first attempt was maple-glazed pumpkin donuts.

Donut Ingredients

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 cup of butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • possible substitution: the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves can be replaced by 3 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Glaze Ingredients

  • 1 1⁄2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup (use the real stuff. Hint: it has one ingredient. Anything in a squeeze bottle doesn’t count)
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Pancake Steps

  • oven to 350
  • spray donut pan with non-stick spray (or light coat of butter)
  • whisk dry donut ingredients in one bowl
  • whisk wet donut ingredients in another bowl
  • pour wet bowl into dry bowl, stirring to combine with a spatula. Get it good and combined but like pancakes no need to over stir
  • put batter in donut tray. The easy way is to fill a zip lock bag, seal it, can cut off a corner. Then squeeze batter out of the cut off corner. You’ll lose some batter to the bag but don’t worry, you have plenty.
  • bake for 13 – 15 minutes or until a toothpick is stuck in and comes out clean. You’ll get a great orange/golden hue
  • turn donuts out on cooling rack that you have placed over wax paper (makes glaze clean up easier)
  • let cool for 5 minutes before glazing
  • while donuts are in oven, make the glaze

Glaze Steps

  • combine all ingredients and stir like mad with whatever (spoon or spatula or fork or whatever), when it is combined and looks like donut glaze, you are good to go. (note: if confused about what donut glaze looks like then this is a perfect excuse to go to the store and buy a donut)
  • after donuts have cooled for 5 minutes, dip the tops (faces) of the donuts in the glaze, get it good and covered and return, glaze side up, to cooling rack
  • let rest long enough for glaze to set a bit

Okay, then you eat them. I couldn’t wait long enough for glaze to fully set and they tasted great. But the second donut the glaze had set more and had a glassy crispiness to it that I expect from damned good donuts.

These were indeed damned good donuts!

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Finally a Castle!

For years the Mars Cheese Castle was a rambling an some what run down foodery full of all sorts of local Wisconsin deliciousness.

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A bar, a deli, a bakery, a wine and beer shop, a cheese monger, purveyor of fine aged meats… Call it what you will, the one thing it wasn’t was a castle.

But behold! Mars has an eponymous new home!

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If I have to drive to Milwaukee then I’m going to have to stop and shop. More later!

Zucchini Bread

The Clean Platerette has really started getting into cooking. She puts on her apron, perches herself on the closest stool to the stove, and watches everything I do. She even asks questions like “what are you cutting now?” and “do we need to stir it?”

Today, she walked into the kitchen, climbed up the stool and said “Okay Dad. What we cooking?” Well, I wasn’t planning on cooking but who am I to argue with a two year old.  I had a couple of zucchini in the fridge and I just can’t handle any more marinated grilled zucchini this summer so why not zucchini bread.

We used this recipe from Simply Recipes as a base but made some changes: less sugar, less buter, more vanilla, and more zucchini (I didn’t actually measure but it looked like more than 3 cups).

Tools

  • two bread pans
  • 1 mixing bowl
  • 1 spatula
  • box grater
  • 1 chef knife
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • cutting board

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs (yeah, I don’t have a whisk above in the “tools” section. I used a whisk)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 medium zucchinis, roughly grated (this will be 3.4 to 4.5 cups)
  • 1 cup of butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 1 cup pecans
  • butter for greasing pans

Steps

  • preheat oven to 350
  • put eggs in the mixing bowl and lightly beat them (yeah, I don’t have a whisk in the list of tools. I just used the spatula, which I also used for all mixing below)
  • add the sugar and mix
  • add the zucchini and mix
  • add in the butter and mix
  • sprinkle the baking soda and salt on top and mix
  • add the flour one cup at a time, mixing it into the mixture well before adding each successive cup
  • sprinkle nutmeg and cinnamon on top and mix
  • roughly chop  pecans and mix them in
  • grease the two bread pans with butter, evenly distribute batter between both pans.
  • bake for 50 to 60 minutes. It is done with a wooden pick inserted in middle comes out clean.
  • Turn the bread out onto a wire rack and let cool

The Clean Platerette stirring

 

Pasta alla Clean Plater?

I was on the expressway, stuck in traffic, when I got the call: “I want pasta.” When your wife has a Clean Plater in the oven you don’t argue. Pasta it is! Immediately my mind went to the produce drawer full of eggplant back at Clean Plater HQ. Pasta alla Siciliana — I’ll make the sauce myself.

Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men…

I was standing in my kitchen (after half an hour of thinking of Pasta alla Siciliana) realizing I had no tomatoes, capers, anchovies, or black olives. This wasn’t going well. But hey! At least I have eggplant. The following is something I kind of threw together semi-inspired by Pasta alla Siciliana and whatever I had in my pantry.

Tools

  • large frying pan (with lid) or heavy pot (with lid)
  • wooden spoon (for stirring)
  • knife (for cubing and dicing)
  • can opener

Ingredients

  • Couple table spoons extra virgin olive oil
  • One large eggplant, cubed (half inch-ish in size)
  • 2 small onions, diced
  • 1 large green pepper, diced
  • 2 teaspoons of diced garlic
  • 4 oz jar of marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
  • 2 cans fire roasted tomatoes
  • dried basil, dried oregano, pepper to taste
  • pinch of salt

Steps

  • Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot or large frying pan over medium heat
  • Add in the eggplant, onions, and green pepper, stirring occasionally. Move to next step when the eggplant has gone soft.
  • Add tomatoes, garlic, artichoke, spices and salt, stirring it all together. Let it cook like this for a few minutes.
  • Bring heat down to medium low/medium and put the lid on. Let cook for 30 minutes.
  • Serve over fresh cooked pasta
Eggplant, onion and green pepper softening over medium heat

Eggplant, onion and green pepper softening over medium heat

Strawberry Balsamic Black Pepper Jam, Revised

I had a flat of strawberries that I bought from a road side fruit truck (can be found in quite a few neighborhoods in Chicago). Eight pounds of sweet and flavorful strawberries for $6. With my recent learning of canning and jam making I decided there was only one thing I could do with this haul: grown-up strawberry jam.

I dug through the first few pages of a number of google searches and I settled on a recipe that includes balsamic vinegar and fresh cracked black pepper.  It is all over the place and attributed to a number of sources, for example: here, here, here and here. I even contemplated without the pepper but I wanted the spice and earth that black pepper brings to it. Problem is, that these recipes had way more sugar than I wanted. Strawberries and a very good balsamic are sweet enough; no need to add so much.  Plus, everyone who makes this must like their jams soupy because none of these recipes cook them long enough to get a nice gelling. So, I give you Strawberry Balsamic Black Pepper Jam, Revised.

Notes

  • Don’t try measuring cups of hulled strawberries, the shapes of strawberries really throw off the measurement. Go by weight.
  • Use really really good balsamic. Strong flavor and sweat. If using the cheap stuff then just make plain strawberry jam instead.
  • Boiling strawberries will froth up and foam with some significant body so you’ll need a bigger pot than you think.
  • If you don’t have a potato masher, fill a mason jar with some water, put on the lid and use the bottom of the jar. The water isn’t necessary but the extra weight helps with the mashing.
  • Stirring early and often will help you control the foaming strawberries and will prevent burning and sticking to pot.
  • Stir with a wooden spoon. I don’t trust plastic or silicon or rubber here because this mixture gets hot!
  • If you’ve never canned before, google it. There are some important sterilization and sealing steps.

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds strawberries
  • 1 48-ish gram pack of pectin
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup of the best balsamic you have
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper.

Steps

  • Wash, hull, and dice the strawberries
  • Put half the strawberries in a heavy, big pot. Turn the flame on to medium high. Smash strawberries with a potato masher. Then do the same with the second half.
  • Add the pectin and about a quarter cup of the sugar.
  • Keep the strawberries going over the heat, stirring often, until you have a big heavy boiling going (might just be a tall head of foam).
  • Add the rest of the sugar and stir a lot at this point to get the sugar disolved.
  • Keep stirring often, if not continuously as you boil the mixture over medium heat for a good 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Test for gelling. I won’t describe that here. Google it. How to do it is very well explained on many sites.
  • If not gelled enough then put the heat back on and go another 3 to 5 minutes. Repeat as needed.
  • Remove from heat and cool. Skim off the remaining foam with a metal spoon.
  • While cooling add the balsamic and the black pepper and mix it in well with your wooden spoon.
  • Do your canning
  • Let it sit in your pantry a couple of weeks if not a month to let the flavors really meld and mellow (this part I’ve read, since I just made the stuff today I’m not sure how needed this step is).

Mash those strawberries!

It only takes a few minutes for the cooking strawberries to begin to break down.

Boiling strawberries can really foam up. Notice how much closer this is to the top of the pot. Nothing more was added. This is simply what heat can do.

This is the jam cooling. Notice it is much much darker now. This is because the dark balsamic vinegar and black pepper has been mixed in.

Watermelon Popsicles

Last weekend I couldn’t make it out of the grocery without buying “a great big watermelon” that my daughter was requesting.  How do you say no to a kind who wants to eat fruit?!?

The problem is that I now had a ginormous watermelon and not nearly enough mouths to polish it off before it got too mushy to be appetizing.  So, I sliced it all, put it in gallon bags in the fridge and gave us a few days to make a dent.  Then, I took what was left and made popsicles.

I started by filling my blender with roughly 5 cups of roughly diced watermelon. I used seedless watermelon, but if you are using the seeded variety then make sure to remove them when dicing.  Then I squeezed in the juice of one lime because a little bit of sharp, tart citrus will really make the watermelon flavor pop! Then I liquified.

Our watermelon was incredibly sweet but even with that an entire lime worth of juice was probably too much because it was a little tart on tasting.  I wanted the lime to bring out the watermelon, not drown it out.  A quick squeeze of light agave took care of that.  Honey or plain old sugar would work too. I recommend doing a very little bit at a time. You can always add more but you can’t take it back out.  Add a little, pulse blend to mix it in and try the taste test again. Repeat until sweetened to taste (I don’t like mine much sweeter than eating a slice of watermelon).

I wasn’t really measuring figuring I’d make as many of the molds as the mixture filled and if I ended up with leftovers than I had an awesome mixer for rum. But low and behold the above filled my 10 popsicle mold exactly.

A collage of making water melon popsicles and the finished product.I left the mold in the freezer overnight but that was only because I wanted to go to sleep.  All they need is about 4 1/2 hours in the mold.  The next morning I let them thaw for a few minutes and then pulled them out, put them in plastic fold-over sandwich bags, twist tied them around the stick and then put them right back into the freezer for later.

The only issue I encountered was that when freezing the pulp floated to the top, causing a kind of neat looking separation of color. This also caused a slight separation of flavor, where the light pink has some watermelon flavor and the dark pink TASTES LIKE WATERMELON. Anyone know how to stop this from happening?

Zucchini Corn Fritters

I can’t stress enough how important it is to read (and re-read) recipes.  You read enough of them and you have the basics of meal in your head when you open the refrigerator and wonder what it is you are going to eat.

This is what happened to me last week when I (and Mrs. Clean Plater and Clean Plater-ette) wanted lunch and had no particular desire for anything.  I opened the refrigerator door and stood there staring at all in front of me, seeing random bits of food here and there. And somewhere, deep in the recesses of my hungry brain, I recognized zucchini, corn, and eggs, some synapses fired, and there was a subconscious whisper of “Hey, I can make up some zucchini and corn fritters.”

So, here we go, this is roughly what I remember doing…

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of coarsely shredded (using a box grater) zucchini
  • 2 carrots, shredded (using same box grater)
  • one medium onion, diced
  • 2 ears of corn, corn taken off of cob
  • A heaping half cup of flour (probably more like 3/4 a cup)
  • diced fresh chives (to taste)
  • 3 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • canola oil for frying

Steps

Grate the zucchini and put it in a colander, tossed with some salt (to help bring out the liquid) and let the the zucchini drain while doing the next steps.

Lightly scramble three eggs in a big bowl. Add the corn, carrots, onions, chives, flour, and salt and pepper.

Next, grab the zucchini one small handful at a time, squeezing it to get out as much liquid as you can. But no need to go over the top here; you are removing excess liquid, not working on firming up your handshake.  Put the zucchini in with the other stuff.  Use a spoon or spatula to fold it all together, making sure to have a mixture that is evenly moist.

Heat an inch or so of canola in a heavy pot or cast iron pan.  Once oil is hot drop fitter sized globs of the mixture into the oil (gently!) and do a few at a time.  When they are fried enough to stick together when you pick them up with tongs flip them over and cook until golden brown.  Then let them cool on a metal rack (over some paper towel that can catch any dripping oil).

They should be crispy on the outside and cooked, but custardy on the inside. These turned out great!  The whole family loved them for lunch and Clean Plater-ette even said “can we maybe have fritters again tomorrow?”  When you get a question like that you know you’re winning.