Monday, September 16, 2013

Happy Fall Y'all

     You know what time of year is my absolute favorite?  Fall!  I know many of you will agree with me that there's something about Fall that just makes you feel more alive.  The air gets cooler; the leaves start changing.  People start gearing up for the holidays. We Southerners come out of our summer hibernation.  We may even get a couple of days where we can open the windows and let a breeze blow through.  Yeah, this is my favorite time of the year.  Too bad it's still hotter than Hades here in Gulfport, MS and every tree I've passed is still as green as it was in July!  That is, unless it's brown from being scorched in the sun.  Oh well, in order to compensate for the lack of Fall in the weather, I'm making up for it in my cooking with these:

Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfaits
from the September/October 2011 issue of Cooking With Paula Deen

Here's what you'll need:
3 TBS butter
1/2 (1 lb) package gingersnap cookies, coarsely crushed *I used Murray's brand*
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup plus 2 TBS sugar, divided
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Garnish with pumpkin pie spice and/or gingersnap cookies (optional)

In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Add crushed gingersnaps, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes or until lightly toasted.  Remove from skillet immediately, and cool.  

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese at medium speed with a mixer until smooth; add pumpkin puree, 1/2 cup sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla, beating just until combined.  In parfait glasses (or mason jars) layer crushed gingersnaps and cream cheese mixture as desired, starting with gingersnaps.  Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.  

In a small bowl, beat whipping cream and remaining sugar at medium-high speed with a mixer until soft peaks form.  Dollop whipped cream over parfaits.  Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice, if desired.  Serve with gingersnap cookies.

     In the spirit of Fall, I've begun working on Monkey's costume, and I'm super excited about it.  I just hope it comes out right, because I'm not following a pattern this time.  I'm nervous, but if all else fails, we'll just head over to Spirit Halloween and hope they have a Wolverine costume for a little girl.....  
I guess I can't fail.  :-/

    The imminent weather changes also mean my cooking will be getting a bit heartier.  I mean, who doesn't associate Fall and Winter with big bowls of chili or homemade stews with lots of warm bread for dipping?  Hmmm....sounds good.  And I think I've finally found the perfect bread recipe for my collection.  It's perfect for slicing to make sandwiches, or it's good to slather butter over and dunk in your favorite soup or stew.  Here it is:

Homemade Sandwich Bread

2 cups warm water
2 TBS sugar
1 TBS dry active yeast
1 tsp salt
5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 TBS butter, softened

In a bowl, pour water and sugar.  Mix until dissolved; add yeast.  Mix until dissolved.  Let sit 10 minutes.  Add flour and salt.  Slice butter into smaller pieces, and add it to your bowl.  Knead ingredient for 10 minutes by hand, or 5 minutes with mixer.  It's done when it feels elastic, smooth and isn't sticking to anything.  Knead into a ball and place in a clean bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap that you've sprayed with cooking spray or rubbed with oil.  Set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.  After it's risen punch it down once or twice.  Knead again 1-2 minutes, forming a ball.  Cut ball into 2 equal pieces.  Knead once piece at a time, shaping each into an oval shape.  Place each in a lightly greased loaf dish.  Put both pans in a warm spot, uncovered, to rise for another hour.  Preheat oven to 350.  Bake for 35-40 minutes; they should be nicely golden on top.  Remove from oven, and let them cool in their pans for 5 minutes.  Next turn them out onto a cooling rack, and let them cool completely before slicing.  This prevents excess crumbling.  Store at room temperature in an air-tight container for up to 4 days.  (They won't last that long.)


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