Cranberry Sauce Cake with Streusel Topping

Leftovers.  While pumpkin pie for breakfast and hot turkey sandwiches are two of my favorite post-Thanksgiving treats, leftovers can be somewhat problematic, especially when, economically speaking, the marginal utility diminishes with each consecutive day.  You soon begin to find that those mashed potatoes are starting to taste more like fridge than all of that creamy goodness you tried to whip into them, and that the stuffing has begun to resemble construction material more than something that you’d want to serve up on a plate.  This year I found myself with an unusual surplus of cranberry sauce, which, as much as I love cranberry sauce, was in danger of going the way of all leftovers if not somehow transformed into something with more universal appeal.  The holiday season always amps my craving for cinnamon, so I thought something involving streusel might be nice.  The following creation is a variation on a Blueberry Cake Recipe that I found on JoyofBaking.com. Sahtain!

Before

Cranberry Sauce Cake with Streusel Topping

Streusel Ingredients:

  • 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 c.  granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ c. cold, unsalted butter

Batter Ingredients:

  • ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • ½ c. quick-cooking oats
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • ¼ c. softened, unsalted butter
  • ¼ c. granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 c. milk
  • 2 c. (16 oz.) cranberry sauce (preferably the kind with whole cranberries in it)

Directions:

For Streusel: Combine flour, sugar and cinnamon and cut in butter using a fork or pastry blender until consistency is even and crumbly.  Set aside.

For Batter: Combine flour, oats, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside.  Cream together butter and sugar then add, by hand or with an electric mixer, egg and vanilla extract.  Gradually add milk and dry ingredients alternating between the two.  Fold in cranberry sauce with a spatula or wooden spoon being careful not to over-mix.  Pour into a greased 8×8 inch pan and evenly sprinkle streusel on top.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

After

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Baked Pumpkin Pie

One of the things I enjoy the most about living overseas is the challenge to re-create certain staples of die-hard American cuisine. Cream of Mushroom Soup was always a particular stumbling block growing up in a country without Campbell’s®, and the recipes for substitutes always proved so time-consuming that I often ended up scrapping the dish altogether.  Sour cream can be another surprisingly elusive ingredient, though the observant cook can often find close equivalents- in Uzbekistan we called it kaimok, and in Lebanon we use labneh.  It is during the holiday season that the lack of American ingredients is often most sorely felt, and this year’s Thanksgiving was no exception.  However, it is in these moments that necessity is indeed the mother of invention, ending in either creative masterpieces or epic failures.

While the grocery stores in Beirut tend to be fairly well stocked, canned pumpkin is one item chronically in short supply.  Clearly a necessary item in one of my seasonal favorites, pumpkin pie, I remembered how my mom used to bake her own pumpkins, and I decided to try it for myself.  For those of you who, either out of necessity or perhaps curiosity, would like to follow suit, here are the directions on how to bake your own pumpkin:

Baked Pumpkin

1)   Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2)   Slice the raw pumpkin in half and clean out the fleshy insides including the seeds.

3)   Place the two halves of the pumpkin face down on a cookie sheet or shallow baking pan.

4)   Place in oven and allow to bake until soft when poked with a fork- about 1½ -2 hours depending on the size of the pumpkin. Take care in lifting the pumpkin halves off of the pan as hot steam will be trapped underneath.

5)   Allow the pumpkin to cool slightly before scooping it out of the skin.

6)   Store in the fridge in an air-tight container until ready for use.

*You may also puree the pumpkin for a smoother consistency, but this may make it runnier and alter the consistency of some recipes.

I usually like to save the pumpkin seeds to toast in the oven with a little bit of salt- a tasty and healthy snack, but one of my roommates also found this recipe for Pumpkin Seed Milk.  We teased her endlessly for it, but Pumpkin Seed Milk is actually surprisingly good, especially if you like Soy or Almond Milk.  It is also extremely good for you- pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of Magnesium and Zinc among other things, and can help reduce cholesterol.

As far as pumpkin pie goes, I have yet to find a recipe that I prefer to the one straight off the Libby’s® can, but since Evaporated Milk is also often hard to come by, below is a modified recipe using reduced sugar and Sweetened Condensed Milk:

Baked Pumpkin Pie

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust
  • ¼ c. white sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves

Wet Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 c. baked pumpkin
  • 1 ½ c. Sweetened Condensed Milk

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2.  Roll out pie crust and place in a greased 9 inch pie tin.

3.  Combine remaining dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl.

4.  Beat eggs lightly and add pumpkin and dry ingredients using an electric mixer or by hand.

5.  Gradually add sweetened condensed milk.

6.  Pour into pie shell and bake for 15 minutes, then lower heat to 350 degrees and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until knife inserted into the middle of the pie comes out clean.  Cover with tin foil if crust begins to brown before fully cooked.

7.  Allow to cool completely, then store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Sahtain!

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Zaatar and Labneh

I would be remiss in my survey of Lebanese food if I didn’t take time to wax eloquent about the savory masterpiece that is zaatar and labnehZaatar in particular is an essential ingredient in Lebanese cuisine, both as a seasoning and as a spread.  This coarse grind of thyme and sesame seeds is often mixed with olive oil and used as a dipping sauce for the light pita bread. Zaatar w Zeit, a dining hot spot my friends and I jokingly refer to as the Panera Bread of Lebanon, is further evidence of the popularity of the local spice.  The name literally means “Zaatar and Olive”- a winning combination.   Labneh is likewise, a staple of the Lebanese diet.  This creamy dairy product is somewhat like a cross between sour cream and Greek yogurt.  It is often coupled with the zaatar for dipping bread or as a spread on the hot wrap sandwiches called sage. Zaatar and Labneh– so good, the Lebanese eat it all the thyme.

Zaatar and Labneh can both be purchased at any Lebanese or Middle Eastern grocery store.

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Oatmeal and Apricot Jam Muffins

Growing up, my mom would often get up before six o’clock in the morning to whip up a batch of homemade muffins for our family breakfast before school. So naturally, when I was feeling a little homesick this past weekend I decided to try my hand at a little muffin magic hoping it would taste a bit like home.  The following is a variation on a recipe that I found on Baking Obsession– the apricot jam and slivered almonds add a slightly Lebanese twist.

Oatmeal and Apricot Jam Muffins

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 c. quick cooking oats
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c. Demerara
  • 1/8-1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Wet Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. (1/2 c.) apricot jam (warmed slightly if refrigerated)
  • 1/2 c. plain yogurt (*I used the Lebanese Laban)
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Garnish:

  • slivered almonds

Directions:

Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately, then combine being careful not to over-stir.  The batter should be slightly lumpy.  Pour into greased or papered muffin tins (fill each tin about 2/3 full) and garnish each muffin with a few slivered almonds.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 15-20 minutes.


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