Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust and Meringue

This, my friends, is one serious pie. If I were smart, I would have cut this into very small wedges to be savored. But I didn’t. Thanksgiving day exists in a place outside any concern for calorie counts or cardio workouts. For one day (okay, one LONG weekend), I eat all of the delicious foods of the season and revel in the holiday treats. So don’t feel too bad if you eat this pie, as I really do think it is worth the calories.

I’m not a huge fan of pumpkin pie, but I loved this one. The gingersnaps make for a great sweet/salty crust that balances perfectly against the creamy pumpkin custard. I add some almonds to the crust for a nice toasty flavor, and they add a nice chewiness to the crust. If you’re using gluten-free gingersnaps, I highly recommend using Pamela’s Ginger Mini Snapz for this recipe – I did you the favor of testing all of the gluten-free ginger cookies on the market, and these were the crunchiest and spiciest, and I like the molasses in them. Most Whole Foods stores carry them.

And if the decadence of a cookie crust and rich custard aren’t enough for you, why not pile on a meringue topping, right?! Meringue is a tasty trick not pulled out of the pastry hat nearly enough. It can stand in for whipped cream, but the toasted, creamy texture of the meringue is a beautiful thing…and is definitely the healthiest part of this pie.

Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust and Meringue Topping serves 8
Inspired by Closet Cooking

1 1/2 cups gluten-free Pamela’s gingersnap cookie crumbs (pulverized in the food processor)
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
6 tablespoons butter (melted)

Directions for crust:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Pour the gingersnap cookies into a food processor and pulverize into crumbs – I used the entire package of Pamela’s gingersnaps. Pour the crumbs into a medium mixing bowl.
  3. Pour 1/2 cup raw almonds into the food processor bowl and pulverize until the almonds are finely ground, then pour into the mixing bowl with the gingersnaps.
  4. Mix the gingersnap crumbs, sugar, ginger and melted butter in a bowl.
  5. Press the mixture into the bottom of a springform pan. Use the bottom of a drinking glass to press the crumbs down in an even layer, and to help get into the corners.
  6. Bake the crust for about 12 minutes, making sure to put a sheet pan under the springform pan in case of dripping (or your kitchen will fill with smoke like mine did – oops!).
  7. While the crust bakes, make the filling.

Pie Filling:
2/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
8oz evaporated milk

Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs lightly in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into the pre-baked pie shell, and then bake for 35-45 minutes, until the custard has set and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the filling. Remove from the oven, and allow the pie to totally cool before making the meringue topping.

Meringue Topping
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
6 tablespoons confectioners sugar
pinch of salt.

  1. You can top the pumpkin pie with meringue a few hours before serving, but you don’t want to do it a day in advance – the meringue will get tough.
  2. Preheat the broiler. Place all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer, whip the mixture on high speed until the whites get glossy, white and form stiff peaks when swirled with a spoon – it will take about 5-7 minutes of whipping, so be patient. Just when you think it’s not gonna happen, the whites are magically transformed into meringue.
  3. Spoon the meringue over the top of the pie, making a nice thick layer. Use the back of a spoon to make some sexy swirls and waves in the meringue. Place the pie under the broiler for 5-7 minutes, until the top is toasted and the meringue is set. Watch it carefully – don’t leave the stove, as it can burn quite easily.
  4. Serve the pie at room temperature.

479 cal per slice, 160cal from fat, 23.1g fat, 85mg cholesterol, 310mg sodium, 230mg potassium, 51g carbs, 2g fiber, 40g sugars, 9.6g protein

Horchata Ice Cream – dairy free

Last night we had a gathering of food bloggers at our house, including 3 gluten-free bloggers! Emily and I talk food all the time at work, specifically Rick Bayless’ Mexican food. Rick is our go-to man, and there’s nothing that we’ve cooked from his books that we didn’t love. So one day while chatting, we came up with the idea of having a Rick Bayless Fest, and then we decided to invite some other local bloggers whose blogs we enjoy reading.

So with that plan, we had 5 food bloggers in our home last night, and WOW – did we eat well! And I have to apologize, as we were so busy talking shop and eating, that we did not pause for one photo – of us, or our food! Bad bloggers! Lisa brought some spicy chicken tostadas and homeade salsa, Emily brought salsa verde and ceviche, Stacey and Jon brought black beans with mango and quinoa, Betsy brought some amazing margarita cupcakes. I made an achiote braised pork shoulder with homeade tortillas for tacos, and horchata ice cream.

I was thinking ahead in the afternoon when I made the ice cream, and snapped a few pictures when the ice cream was done churning. This ice cream is light, airy, dairy-free, and has a lovely cinnamon flavor. I made the ice cream using cannella, also know as Mexican cinnamon. Cannella is softer than Chinese cinnamon, so it’s easy to crumble up to steep for the ice cream, but the scent of cannella has me hooked. Cannella has a very floral aroma, that almost reminds me of my favorite Market Spice tea, with the almost orange blossom-like note to the fragrance. Give this ice cream a try if you’re a fan of horchata or cinnamon.

Horchata Ice Cream
Makes about a quart
1/2 cup serving: 333 calories (190 from fat), 22.6g fat, 120mg cholesterol, 25g carbs, 22g sugar, 2g protein

3, 5″ sticks of canela (mexican cinnamon), crumbled
2, 13.5oz cans of coconut milk (chaokoh is my brand of choice)
3/4 cups white sugar
pinch of salt
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1 T vodka

  1. Pour 1 can of coconut milk into a small saucepan, along with the sugar, pinch of salt and the crumbled canela. Stir, and heat the mixture until quite hot, but not boiling. Then, cover the pot, turn off the heat, and allow the canela and milk steep for an hour.
  2. While the canela steeps, pour the other can of coconut milk into a medium sized bowl.
  3. When an hour has passed, use a fine mesh sieve to strain the milk into a clean bowl. The pour the canela milk back into the small saucepan and re-heat until warm.
  4. Whisk the egg yolks in a cereal bowl, then temper the yolks by SLOWLY pouring the heated milk into the yolks, whisking the entire time. Once you’ve poured most of the milk into the yolks, then pour the yolk mixture back into the saucepan, and use a spatula to stir constantly over med-low heat as you create the custard. After about 10 minutes, the custard will get steamy and magically thicken and nicely coat the back of a spoon without dripping.
  5. Set your fine mesh sieve over the bowl with the second can of coconut milk in it and then pour the custard into the bowl. Stir the mixture together, then add the vanilla and vodka. Chill overnight before turning in your ice cream maker.

Grilled Peaches with Balsamic Glaze

I think I have a new favorite dessert – and it’s healthy! Grilled peaches with balsamic glaze have been popping up on food blogs and in magazines for awhile now, and I have no idea why it took me this long to give it a try. I love peaches, and always have a few ripening on the counter this time of year.

Grilling the peaches not only makes them all warm and a bit melty, but concentrates the flavors of the lush fruit. The balsamic glaze adds a layer of puckery sweetness, and the basil adds a green earthiness to balance the whole dish. I could have eaten all four of those peach halves, they were so good. Next time I’ll toss an extra peach on the grill, so I can have some leftovers on my breakfast cinammon quinoa. Try this one out while the peaches are still in season!

Grilled Peaches with Balsamic Glaze
Serves 2, 69 calories per peach

2 peaches, halved and stones removed
4 T balsamic vinegar (the cheap stuff is fine)
2 tsp brown sugar
1 T fresh basil, sliced very thin

  1. Oil the grill area where you will be grilling the peaches. Preheat the grill to blazing hot. Place the halved peaches on the grill facedown. Grill for 4 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, pour the vinegar and brown sugar into a small pan, and bring to a boil. Reduce until it gets syrupy and will coat a spoon. Turn off the heat and set aside. Roll the basil leaves up into a cigar shape, and then thinly slice (the chefs call this “chiffonade”).
  3. Take the peaches off the grill and drizzle with the balsamic glaze and sprinkle basil over the peaches. Enjoy!

Roasted Banana & Mango Compote

The idea for this recipe came straight from the roasted banana ice cream recipe. I fell in love with the roasted bananas cloaked in bubbling brown sugar and butter, and I wanted MORE! I had 2 bananas leftover on the counter, plus a mango, so I decided to combine the two, and roast them up in the oven. The result is a bowlful of tropical, caramel magic. It’s very desserty, and would be brilliant on top of some homeade vanilla ice cream, but I’m going to use this as a very decadent oatmeal topping for my breakfasts this week. Yum!

Oven Roasted Mango & Banana Compote
Makes 2 cups

2 very ripe bananas
1 champagne mango
3 T brown sugar
1 T butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel and dice the banana into 1/2″ slices. Peel and dice the mango into 1/2″ cubes. Combine the fruit in an oven proof bowl and toss with the brown sugar. Dot the top of the bowl with the pieces of butter. Bake for 20 minutes, stir. Bake for 20 more minutes, then take out of the oven and enjoy.

Roasted Banana Ice Cream

Okay, okay, I know I’m out of control with all the blog posts about ice cream, but I can’t help it – ice cream is what’s inspiring me right now! After 6 months of blog posts, I feel like I’m floundering around a bit for new recipes to post here. Most of the time we eat variations on a theme of stuff I’ve already talked about here, and no one likes blog re-runs, so it’s been a little quiet on the blog lately.

But not to worry, our summer veggie farm share is about to start, so every week we’ll be getting a giant box of produce and eggs, and I love the creative challenge of coming up with new dishes based on the very seasonal produce we receive – so expect a summer of veggie-love ahead!

In the meantime, enjoy this nearly dairy-free ice cream. I was reading David Lebovitz’ Perfect Scoop again, and he had a recipe for roasted banana ice cream, and I loved the idea of it, as it reminded me of my favorite dessert at Cafe Iberico – bananas with homeade caramel. I love anything with caramel! I wanted to make a mostly dairy-free ice cream, and add a little spice to it with some ground cloves, and a bit of crunch with pecans. This ice cream is simple to make, and chock-full of banana flavor – use your super-ripe-on-the-edge-of-spoiling bananas for this recipe. The addition of the maple pecans and topping it with some homeade hot fudge truly made this one a de-constructed banana split.

Roasted Banana Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart

4 very ripe bananas
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 T butter
2 cups of coconut milk
1 T vanilla
1 pinch of ground cloves
1 pinch of salt
2 T rum

Maple pecan mix-in:
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 T maple syrup
pinch of salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel and slice the bananas into 1/2″ slices ans place in an oven-proof pyrex and toss with the brown sugar. Dot the top of the bananas with small pieces of butter. Bake for 40 minutes, sitrring once halfway through.
  2. While the bananas are roasting, make the maple pecans. Toast the chopped pecans in a pan over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, shaking the pan often so that they don’t burn. When the pecans are fragrant, pour in the maple syrup and stir quickly to coat the pecans, adding a pinch of salt as you stir. Turn the pecans out onto a piece of parchment, and pop them in the freezer.
  3. When the bananas are done, scoop them into a blender quickly, before the caramel hardens up. Pour in the coconut milk, salt, vanilla and allspice. Puree the mixture, being careful to vent the top of the blender while covering with a towel so that the hot bananas don’t explode. Pour the smooth mixture into a large bowl. Stir in the rum, and chill in the fridge until you’re ready to turn the ice cream.
  4. Turn the ice cream in your ice cream maker for about 30 minutes. When the ice cream is just about done, carefully pour in the maple pecans, breaking them up as you go. Spoon the finished ice cream into a freezer container, and store for a couple of hours before you serve. If you care to, top the ice cream with some homeade chocolate sauce or hot fudge.

Brown Sugar Kahlua Ice Cream

I had a pretty rough week at work last week. Come Friday afternoon, after a few days of sustained programming time, my brain had been converted to a throbbing blob of jello, and I needed a break and some creative time in the kitchen. So, I took Turbo (the resident greyhound) for a long walk by the lake, and let the soft sounds of the waves drain the stress out of my body. By the time we turned around to head home, my thoughts began to wander back to the cooking plan for the evening.

I knew that we’d toss a couple of steaks on the grill and make a big, green salad for dinner, but that would not fulfill the need for creative time, so my thoughts turned to ice cream. Of course. And what’s more fun than coming home and looking through the cupboards to see what might make a nice custard ice cream base?!

I really loved the tiramisu ice cream I made last week (I’ll have to talk about that recipe some other time, as that quart of ice cream disappeared in record time), but what I loved most was the coffee flavor of the ice cream base. I still had the bottle of Kahlua and some espresso powder, so I made up a plain vanilla custard, and then added the Kahlua after the base had cooled a bit. After the ice cream had been turned, I added a homeade fudge ripple as I spooned the frozen custard into the storage container.

Brown Sugar Kahlua Ice Cream
makes about a quart

2 cups whole milk
1 cup half & half
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 egg yolks
pinch of salt
2 T dutched cocoa powder
1 T vanilla extract
1/4 cup kahlua
1 T espresso powder

  1. Separate the yolks from the egg whites, and place the yolks in cereal bowl, and stir the yolks together. Store the whites in the fridge for later use.
  2. Place 1 cup of the milk in a small saucepan with the sugar, salt and cocoa powder. Whisk the cocoa powder in, and warm the milk – it doesn’t need to get too hot, just enough to incorporate the cocoa and melt the sugar. Pour the warmed milk into a medium sized bowl, stir in the vanilla, and set aside.
  3. Return the saucepan to the heat, and pour in the remaining cup of milk and the cup of half & half. Gently warm for a couple of minutes. When the milk is warm, ever so slowly pour the warm milk/cream into the yolks, whisking the entire time. You want to temper the yolks, and avoid scrambling them. When you’ve filled the cereal bowl with the milk, then pour the eggs and milk back into the saucepan and return to the burner over low heat.
  4. Now you must stir the custard constantly and heat the custard gently. When the custard is just about done, it will thicken all of a sudden and get steamy. When it’s done (at about 170 degrees if you’re using a thermometer), the custard will coat the back of a spoon, and if you wipe your finger through the custard on the spoon, it should stay clean where your finger swiped.
  5. Cover the large bowl containing the milk with a fine gauge strainer. Pour the custard through the strainer into the bowl with the milk and stir together. Let the mixture cool for a couple minutes, then pour in the kahlua and the espresso powder. Stir until the espresso powder dissolves, then stash in the fridge and chill completely before turning in your ice cream machine.

Spiced Sweet Potato Ice Cream

Your mom always told you to eat your vegetables, so why not eat them for dessert?! The inspiration for this one came from David Lebovitz, but I wanted a bit more spice in my recipe, and to give it a shot as a dairy-free ice cream. Sweet potatoes and coconut milk are fabulous together, so I guessed that it would work well here, too, and I was right! The best part of this ice cream is that it’s so simple – baking the sweet potato is about as difficult as it gets – after that, you just peel the potato and chuck everything in the blender to puree, and then you’re done!

The finished ice cream was subtly spiced, not too sweet, and full of fresh sweet potato flavor – it tastes very much like pumpkin pie. The candied pecans added some nice crunch, and a touch of extra sweetness. I really enjoyed this ice cream, and will definitely make it again, though I’m considering a curried sweet potato ice cream next. I’m always thinking of the next batch of ice cream.

Spiced Sweet Potato Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart

1 large sweet potato, about 1 lb
1 14oz can coconut milk
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp dried ginger
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 T rum
freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of salt
squeeze of lemon juice, less than a teaspoon.

1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 T maple syrup

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Poke a few holes in the sweet potato with a knife or fork, and bake the potato on an oven-safe plate for about an hour, until the potato is tender all the way through when you prod it with a knife.
  2. While the sweet potato is baking, toast a half-cup of chopped pecans in a pan on the stovetop for a few moments. When the nuts are fragrant and toasty, pour in the maple syrup and stir around for a minute or so – the maple syrup should be bubbling. Then, turn the candied pecans out onto a bit of parchment and chill.
  3. Peel the potato and cut into a few large chunks. Put the sweet potato and all other ingredients in the blender and puree until smooth. Taste, and adjust seasoning if needed. Chill, and turn in the ice cream maker. In the last minute of turning, pour in most of the pecans, separating them as you pour them in. Reserve a few pecans to garnish your scoop of ice cream.

Sweet Success: Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

It’s been a rough week in our house, with a wonderful end to the weekend. All month we’d been looking forward to participating in a 30-mile bike ride for the American Cancer Society’s Walk & Roll event, and today was the big day. We rounded up a few friends to join us on the ride, and together we raised $1,350 to support the services of the American Cancer Society!

And then, on Tuesday I got “doored” on my ride home…for those not familiar with this foe of urban bikers, it’s when a person in a parked car opens their car door and hits a biker. In my case, I was riding at a brisk pace, and was thrown from my bike. Thankfully, nothing was broken, but I’ve got some large and very colorful bruises and a torqued shoulder. The shoulder pretty much put me out of commission for the rest of the week as far as biking goes. Then on Wednesday, Dave – a member of our cycling team, got hit by a car on his ride home from work…only Dave’s accident required an ambulence and ended in a broken wrist and wearing a cast for 6 weeks. So, Dave and I were benched for the ride, and Danielle was kind enough to join us for the 5-mile walk option for Walk & Roll, serving as official escort of the walking wounded. Greg and Mark ended up being the only cyclists for Team Responsible Adults, but they did us proud, finishing the 30 miles easily and safely!

Special thanks to all who supported us today – your gifts will help many cancer patients in Illinois receive care and services that they need to fight cancer.

After the beautiful walk this morning, I decided that we needed a sweet end to the beautiful weekend, so I happily opened my brand new ice cream cookbook, The Perfect Scoop, in search of inspiration. I found exactly what I was looking for in a chocolate peanut butter ice cream. I know I write about ice cream a lot, but it’s not only a dessert that I love, but it’s so simple to make at home, and to make gluten-free! I switched up the original recipe a bit using half-dairy/half coconut milk as I normally do (and this would work fine with all coconut milk if you’re dairy-free). I also made my own peanut butter by simply tossing peanuts in the food processor and running it until it turned to butter, adding 1tsp walnut oil to loosen it up just a touch. The final touch to the ice cream came when I decided to make some chocolate covered peanuts to add in as a mix-in. The finished ice cream was incredible – the ice cream was a perfect creamy balance of peanut butter/chocolate flavor, and the sweet/salty chocolate covered peanuts took it right over the top. We’ll be savoring this quart of ice cream for a few days!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream
adapted from David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop

Makes one decadent quart

1 1/2 cups half & half
1 14oz can coconut milk
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 cup agave syrup
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter
2 T rum

  1. Whisk together the half-and-half, coconut milk, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt in a large saucepan. Heat the mixture, whisking frequently, until it comes to a full, rolling boil (it will start to foam up). Remove from the heat and whisk in the peanut butter, stirring until thoroughly blended. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes, then add rum and blend in the blender for a few seconds until smooth.
  2. Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Chocolate covered peanuts
1/4 cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup roasted peanuts
pinch of salt

  1. Melt the chocolate chips, then stir in the peanuts to coat, along with a pinch of salt. Scoop coated nuts onto a small sheet of parchment paper and smooth as best you can into one layer. Pop in the freezer to chill quickly. When the ice cream is almost done, remove the peanuts from the freezer, and break up the peanut mass into bite-sized chunks, or chop with a knife. Fold the chocolate peanut chunks into the finished ice cream as you pour it into a storage container.

Mango Lime Sorbet

It’s mango season right now, and as mangoes are one of my very favorite fruits, you may be seeing quite a bit of them around here for awhile. I’m a bit picky about my mangos, though. I like them ripe, and that means that they must be very soft to the touch. The regular green-red Mexican mangos are okay, but I adore the golden Manila mangos – they’re also called “Champagne” mangos at some stores. They’re smaller than the green mangos, and the flesh is much creamier, and less fiberous. When Manila mangos are perfectly ripe, they’re not only soft, but the skin begins to get a tiny bit wrinkly. Manila mangos are perfect for a sorbet application.

You’ll also find the best price on mangos at your local ethnic produce market. I stocked up on 5 Manila mangoes on Sunday, and by Wednesday morning they were perfectly ripe. One word of advice for the mango lovers out there – pick up a serrated vegetable peeler for prepping your mangos – it’ll easily peel even the ripest mango, without bruising the flesh.

This evening I made up a fresh batch of oatmeal in the rice cooker, and stirred in a finely diced mango to the finished oatmeal – I’ll be looking forward to breakfast tomorrow. Next, I moved on to the mango sorbet. I use a good amount of lime juice in this sorbet, and it really highlights the ripe mango flavor…and makes me want to make up some mango-margaritas as soon as the weather warms up!

Stay tuned for more mango madness in the next couple of weeks. I’ve got my eye on a few of Kevin’s vast library of mango recipes, a few of which may make an appearance on this blog.

Mango Sorbet

Makes 1 quart

Serves 8

5 large, ripe manila (also known as champagne) mangos, about 4 cups of cubed flesh
juice of 2 limes
2/3 cup simple syrup
2/3 cup water
2 T tequila

  1. Heat the sugar and water in a small pan on the stove, stir a few times. Turn heat off when all sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool a bit.
  2. Peel the mangoes with your serrated veggie peeler. Slice the flesh off the pits and cut into large chunks. Place the mango, sugar syrup and lime juice in a blender, and puree until smooth. Add 2 T tequila, and pour into a storage container, and chill in the fridge until cool. Turn the chilled puree in your ice cream maker, and then serve.

143 cal per 1/2 cup, 35g carbs, 18g sugars

Blueberry Frozen Yogurt

Ice cream is becoming a weekly treat in our house, it seems. It’s so easy to make, why not?! This week, I went for frozen yogurt, and settled on blueberry. After blending up the base, it was hard to set it aside to chill, and not just pour it into a glass to drink as a smoothie – yum! The finished yogurt was delicious and light, and the lemon really brought out the flavor of the blueberries.

Blueberry Frozen Yogurt
Serves 8
Makes 1 quart
3 Weight Watchers Points per serving

2 1/2 cups frozen blueberries, thawed
3/4 cup agave nectar
juice of 1 lemon
zest of one lemon
1 cup greek yogurt, 0% fat
3/4 cup half & half

Place all ingredients in the blender, and puree until smooth. Refrigerate until well chilled, then turn in your ice cream maker. Scoop & serve.