Baked Pumpkin Donut Holes

It’s September, it’s almost fall, and I do believe it’s pumpkin season. It certainly has been eons since I’ve posted anything, and now that I’m unemployed, I have very few valid excuses not to be posting. I’ve been doing lots of cooking, I’ve just been lazy about taking pictures of anything.

I had a craving for cider mill donuts. Alas, there are no cider mills around. I then remembered an old pumpkin donut recipe I had saved, and that I still had a can (or three) of pumpkin in the pantry. Several things were appealing about this recipe: it was quick, easy, had pumpkin, was a form of donut, and was baked! The recipe actually makes mini muffins, but they look just like donut holes. Also, they are dangerously delicious.


The donuts are baked, then dipped in butter and a cinnamon sugar mixture. They are moist and tender and totally hit the spot if you are craving donuts. The butter made them extra rich, which was a bit too much for me. I think in the future I would spray them with a butter spray before rolling them in the cinnamon/sugar. Also, the second day, the butter kind of oozed out of the donuts almost making them wet. I was able to revive them in the toaster oven though.

These are definitely worth making–just make sure you have some extra people around to eat them. Otherwise you will be tempted to eat 3-5 of them in one sitting.

You can find the recipe here.

Is it really July?

Has it really been multiple months since I posted something? Apparently it is so. The craziness of spring semester, summer school, my lack of motivation, dealing with pending unemployment and a life changing event have kept me a bit occupied. I have also been in the process of converting my recipe binders to a digital version. I apologize if you have been checking the site and not found any new inspiring recipes to try. I don’t even have one for you today. However, I can offer you a recommendation on a cookbook. I bought this a few months back and have been using it quite often.

The Test Kitchen put out another book of light recipes–this one is entitled: Comfort Food Makeovers: All your favorites made lighter. 

I bought it because I like to keep things light in the house, and because I love comfort foods that are not always good for me. The book is divided into several chapters. I’ll list things I’ve tried from each that are winners.

Appetizers and Snacks: I’ve yet to delve into this one
Salads, Sandwiches, and Pizza: Chicken Caesar Salad, Chinese Chicken Salad, Buffalo Chicken Salad, Classic Cobb Salad, Philly Cheesesteakds (I used provolone instead of American), Broccoli and Sausage Calzones and Thin crust cheese pizza (our all-time favorite pizza dough recipe).
The Soup Bowl: Not quite soup weather yet.
Classic Casseroles: Chicken tetrazinni, Mexican Lasagna, Ultimate Chili Mac, Baked Macaroni and Cheese, Meat and cheese lasagna
Baked Not Fried
A Chicken in Every Pot: Chicken Cordon Bleu, Chicken Parmesan with Spaghetti
Favorites from Land and Sea: Stir-Fried Beef and Broccoli, Turkey Tacos, Smothered Pork Chops
Pasta Night: Spaghetti and Meatballs, Pork Lo Mein, Pad Thai
On the Side: I’m usually too lazy to make a side dish, but they look delicious
Breakfast and Brunch: Blueberry Muffins, cinnamon rolls. I’ve been eyeing the Eggs Benedict recipe and the corned beef hash for sometime soon.
Chocolate Desserts: A whole chapter devoted to my love of chocolate, and I have made none of them! I haven’t been feeling the desserts lately.
Cookies and Bars: See chocolate Desserts
More Sweet Treats: See chocolate Desserts

Perhaps this will interest you in making a cookbook purchase. I am done with summer classes at the end of the month with no job lined up, so this should give me some time to post some recipes.

I hope you are having a great holiday weekend!



Creamy, Light Potato Soup

Due to inclement weather, the campus is closed today. It has been snowing since last night and will likely continue all day and into the evening. I didn’t actually think they would close the campus since they hadn’t before. I went to the school’s webpage to look at something else and saw the announcement just after I started my car. For some reason I couldn’t believe it and had to verify by texting another co-worker. I’m sure he’s tired of getting emails and texts from me outside of work. He verified this news and I sat staring, and not knowing what to do with myself. I have been ridiculously busy this semester and have been accustomed to the endless to-do lists. I honestly had no idea what to do with myself. It took Adam a while to convince me to change out of my work clothes because I really didn’t have to go in. Despite changing out of my work clothes, I will likely end up doing work in some form from home. This makes me a little bit lame, but I’m okay with that.

Adam is outside shoveling the snow and I’m watching Dr. Who and thinking about lovely warm soups on a snowy day like today. Exhibit A: Creamy, light potato soup.


I’ve made a lighter version of baked potato soup before, which was delicious in its own right. This newer version has the same great components, but some of the potato is replaced with pureed roasted cauliflower. This contributes to some of the smooth flavor without adding the starchiness of the potatoes. The soup is hearty and warming and tastes light and rich at the same time. Mmm. Soup. What is it about rain, snow, cold that makes soup sound so good?

Creamy, Light Potato Soup

From: Cooking Light Jan/Feb 2013

Serves 8


1 ½ tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup chopped onion
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 lb cubed peeled baking potato
1 lb cubed Yukon gold potato
5 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 tsp kosher salt, divided
¾ tsp ground black pepper
Cooking spray
1 ½ cups 2% reduced fat milk
¾ cup chopped green onions, divided
½ cups reduced fat sour cream
2 oz grated sharp cheddar cheese
4 slices center-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled


  1. Preheat oven to 450.
  2. Heat 1 ½ tsp oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, thyme and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes or until everything is tender. Add the potatoes, stock, ½ tsp salt and bay leaf. Bring this mixture to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce heat and simmer for 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are very soft, stirring occasionally.
  3. While the soup mixture is simmering, mix 1 tbsp oil, ¼ tsp pepper, ¼ tsp salt and cauliflower in a large bowl. Spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast the cauliflower at 450 for 30 minutes until nicely browned, turning once.
  4. Place the cauliflower in a blender with milk (or use an immersion blender in the big bowl). If using the blender, make sure to live the center lid piece off to allow the steam to escape. Blend until the cauliflower is smooth. Pour cauliflower into a large bowl if you used the blender. Puree the potato mixture until it is coarsely chopped, or stick immersion blender directly in the pot and do this. Add cauliflower to the pot with the potatoes and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the remaining ¼ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper, ½ cup green onions, sour cream until smooth. Serve the soup with extra green onions, cheese and bacon.

Herb Roast Chicken

I love roasted chicken. I love them roasted laying on a rack, I love them roasted on a beer can and I even enjoy the occasional store-bought rotisserie chicken. They require little effort and are seldom a disappointment to my taste buds. A little bit of spices or herbs can be changed in order to bring on an entirely different flavor profile. Of course you know of my love of the beer-can chicken and how much I have wanted to get a uni-tasking roaster. Thus far I have been able to hold off on getting myself one. After making this particular herb roasted chicken, I may change my mind.



This semester I am teaching the forensics chemistry lab. This lab requires me to learn and re-learn a lot of instrumentation so that I can show the students how to use it. Consequently, our instrument facility manager has been seeing a lot of me this semester. I was very happy to learn that he loves to eat as much as I do. We enjoy lengthy discussions of food and how often we like to eat. Working on frustrating instruments goes by quicker when you can talk about all things delicious (in my opinion). Anyway, my co-worker gave me a tip on buying meat in the area. I had noticed this little meat market before, and had even gone in. However, when I was there, the selection was not very impressive. I learned though, that I just have to ask the butcher and he will get me what I want if it’s not in the display case. Thus far, I have not been disappointed with the high quality of meat we’ve gotten from there.

Enter whole roasting chicken that was on sale. The chicken was a little more spendy than what I might have paid at Wal-Mart, but it was most certainly loads more tasty. I tucked fresh herbs under the skin of the chicken as well as on the outside. Then I tied up the bird and let him chill in the refrigerator.



After he came out of the fridge, I started roasting him breast side down in my gigantic roasting pan. After some time, I flipped him over and finished him on his back. When the chicken was golden brown and fully cooked, it rested on the cutting board while I made a luscious herb sauce.

In my eagerness to carve and eat the magnificent smelling chicken, I forgot to get a snapshot of my finished product. I served the sliced chicken with the sauce, brown rice and roasted vegetables (parsnips, carrots, potatoes and red peppers). The herb sauce was velvety and smooth and further heightened the flavor of the chicken. I was horrified that I had over cooked the chicken since I turned the beeper off on my meat thermometer and it was over temperature when I pulled it out of the oven. Nobody likes over cooked chicken breast! To my surprise, the breast was not only in tact, it was moist and tender. Mmm. I may have to get another chicken this weekend. . .


Herb Roast Chicken
From: America’s Test Kitchen Light and Healthy 2012
Serves 4

Note: Do not substitute dried herbs, they will turn your chicken gritty


½ cup minced fresh parsley
1 tbsp minced fresh thyme
½ tbsp minced fresh rosemary
1 garlic clove, chopped coarse
Salt and pepper
½ tbsp olive oil
1 (4-lb) whole chicken, giblets discarded, trimmed of all visible fat
½ cup plus 1 tbsp water
¾ cup low sodium chicken broth
1/8 cup dry white wine
1 tsp cornstarch
½ tbsp unsalted butter, chilled


  1. In a food processor, process parsley, thyme, rosemary, garlic, ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper until a coarse paste forms (~2 minutes). Reserve ½ tsp of the paste to use later in the sauce. Combine 1 tbsp of herb paste with oil in a bowl. Save the rest of the paste for under the skin.
  2. Rinse the chicken with cool water and pat it dry with paper towels. Gently loosen the skin under the breast, thighs and drumsticks with your fingers. Rub the herb paste under the skin. Make sure to distribute it evenly. You can also spread the paste around by pressing on the outside of the skin. Rub the oil-herb mixture over the outside of the chicken. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the wings behind the back. Transfer the chicken to a big plate, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Move your oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450. Place your chicken breast side down on the V-rack in the roasting pan. Roast the chickens until the thighs register 135-140 degrees, 35-40 minutes.
  4. Remove pan from the oven and flip the bird over. You can use wadded up paper towels or silicone oven mitts if you have them. Add one cup of water to the roasting pan. Put the roasting pan back in the oven and continue roasting until the breast is 160 degrees and the thighs registers 175 degrees, about 30 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a carving board and let it rest.
  5. Pour the pan juices and any accumulated chicken juices into a fat separator. Let the liquid stand and settle for 5 minutes. Pour ¼ cup of the juices into a saucepan and throw the rest of the liquid again. Stir in the broth and wine and bring it to a simmer. Cook until the sauce is slightly thickened and reduced to ~3/4 cups, 8-10 minutes. Whisk cornstarch and 1 tbsp water together until no lumps remain. Return sauce to simmer and cook until thickened, 3-5 minutes.
  6. Remove the saucepan from heat and whisk in the butter and remaining ½ tsp herb paste. Season with salt and pepper. Carve the chicken and serve, passing the sauce separately.

Moussaka–a labor of love

I have mentioned Moussaka a long time ago in a post. If you’ve never had it, I dare say it’s a Greek Lasagna, and it’s absolutely delicious. Moussaka is layered with potatoes, eggplant, red meat sauce and a luxurious Bechamel sauce to top it off. I refer to it as a labor of love because it is. It takes the better part of the day to make it. However, at the end of the day, you have an entire casserole of it!



There are a few tricks to making this marvelous dish. Egg plant in any dish can be pretty gross if you don’t cook it right. It can be mushy and bitter and quite unappetizing. A huge trick a co-worker taught me was to salt the eggplant. It sounds weird, but salting the peeled and sliced eggplant actually draws the water out. I put paper towels on several baking sheets and salted both sides of the eggplant slices. Then I left them alone for about 30 minutes.


Can you see that moisture glistening? After all that water came out, I blotted/pressed the eggplant with more paper towels to soak up the moisture. I then threw all the paper towels out and sprayed the eggplant slices and potato slices with olive oil spray. The potato slices and eggplant got baked. The sauces were prepared and a huge mess was made with pots, measuring cups, etc.



All that was left was to assemble the potatoes, eggplant, meat sauce and bechamel sauce and to bake it. My casserole dish was so full I put it on a baking sheet in case it bubbled over during the baking process.



Several hours after starting this dish, it was ready to cut into.



This Moussaka is as good as ones I’ve eaten in Greektown in Detroit. All the flavors marry together so well. It’s delightfully rich without being heavy. There are a lot of places in the original recipe I found that used large amounts of unnecessary butter. I cut that butter out and I know we don’t miss it! The eggplant is not soppy, the potatoes are tender and all of the spices and cheese lend a flavorful Greek lasagna.

Adapted from:
Serves 8

2 potatoes, sliced thin
3 eggplants, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch thick slices
olive oil

Red Sauce
1 pound lean ground beef
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
2 onions, chopped
3 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup red wine
3 eggs

Bechamel Sauce
4 cups milk
6 tbsp butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
salt to taste
ground white pepper, to taste

1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese (You can also use Feta here)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions (Preheat oven to 450)

  1. Lay the slices of eggplant on paper towels, sprinkle lightly with salt, and set aside for 30 minutes to draw out the moisture. Spray eggplant with some olive oil spray bake at 450 til soft (15-20 minutes). Spray potato slices with olive oil spray and bake for 15 minutes.
  2. Turn the oven down to 350. In a large skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef, salt and pepper to taste, add onions, and garlic. Sprinkle in the cinnamon, nutmeg, Italian seasoning and parsley. Pour in the tomato sauce and wine, and mix well. Simmer for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, then stir in 1 beaten egg.
  3. To make the bechamel sauce, begin by scalding the milk in a saucepan. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Lower heat; gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking constantly until it thickens. Season with salt, and white pepper. Allow to cool, and then stir in 2 egg yolks, mix well. Fold in 2 egg whites beaten to stiffness.
  4. Arrange a layer of potatoes, on the bottom of a 9 X 13 baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray. Layer the half of the eggplant next. Cover eggplant with all of the meat mixture, and then sprinkle 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese over the meat. Cover with remaining eggplant, and sprinkle another 1/2 cup of cheese on top. Pour the bechamel sauce over the top, and sprinkle with the nutmeg. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  5. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees F.

Teaching Moments and Warm Fuzzies

I’d like to think my recipe postings will resume with some sort of regularity, but that is something I just can’t promise. I had an inkling that this semester would keep me busy, but I didn’t imagine it would be this crazy and time consuming. I will be back at some point with a recipe, that is certain. But today, I wanted to share a few teaching moments.

1. On Monday I had the task of teaching my own 2 lectures, a general chemistry lecture and presenting my graduate research. My nerves were high during the general chemistry because I was being observed by faculty. This was also not a regular class of mine, so the students were not familiar with me. I went about my lecturing trying not to let on that I was in full sweat. A few students here and there mumbled answers to my questions. At one point in the lecture, I put up a practice problem on the board and invited the students to share their answers on the board. This is usually when students avoid eye contact with me to save themselves the embarrassment of going to the board. Before the waiting period got awkward, a student popped up and went to the board. This is pretty huge, especially in a class of ~70. I honestly didn’t expect anyone to go to the board, but this young lady did, and even explained her answer. I was quite proud. The faculty told me afterward they were floored to see the same thing and never expected that to happen.

2. My presentation was on and odd day and so there wouldn’t be very many students at the talk. Adam had offered his students extra credit for coming to the talk and writing a paragraph about what they learned. I had a feeling that my research presentation would be over the heads of a lot of the undergrad students. I tried to bring the level down to one they could understand, but I could see the confusion in their eyes while I was talking. Not to be defeated, I maintained my excitement about the research and trudged through. A few days ago Adam’s students turned in their assignments and I got to read them. Reading these things gave me warm fuzzies. Despite their confusion, they did actually learn a few things from my talk. Here was my favorite comment:

* “I thought this was a pretty interesting project besides the fact that some of the things being discussed were too advanced for me at this point. All in all great presentation! Actually got me excited about chemistry.” This was extra great since Adam said this particular student had been struggling with the class and needed a boost.

Some other students told Adam they thought I seemed like a sweet, quiet person but changed their opinion of me upon finding out that I was involved in designing a contraption to irradiate mice that later died. Apparently that makes me an evil scientist. I argue it was for the good of cancer research.

3. Although this last teaching moment/warm fuzzy isn’t a particular one moment, a few of my students have come to my office for help and leave saying, “I’m actually getting it!” or “This is so much easier than I thought it was going to be!” It’s just nice to know that they are learning something.

Teaching is often a thankless and underrated profession, but I still love it.

Interesting Tidbits

1. This semester I am teaching 2 lectures: Organic chemistry 1, and Nursing Organic/Biochem.
2. I am teaching 3 labs: gen chem, O-chem, and Forensics. I never took forensics, so I have to sit in on the class also (night class). The Forensic lab makes me feel like I am teaching 3 lectures with all the prep/translating required.
3. Next Monday I will be teaching my lectures at 8 and 9 am, then another prof’s lecture at 11 am, then giving a research talk at noon. Any bets on whether or not/when I will lose my voice?

4. The gen chem lab I teach is at 8 am. the Forensics lab is from 6:30 PM -9:30 PM. Then I have to teach again on Wednesday at 8 am. I sure will miss my early bedtime!

5. Because of my crazy schedule, it seems I will be eating at work a lot, hence having to prepare extra meals on Mondays and Wednesdays.

6. The other day I was cleaning up after dinner and there was a bit of cheesy goodness on the back of the wooden spoon. I licked it. It was not cheesy goodness. It was a bunch of smushed garlic. Cheesy goodness does NOT equal smushed garlic. It took a long time for that taste in my mouth to go away.

7. I had to work yesterday and today (see #2 re: Forensics lab). I am quite certain that I will be working a lot of weekends this semester. What is this, grad school?

8. My mom called me while I was in the office this afternoon. When I informed her I was at work, she asked if it was because I was lazy/doing fun things all weekend which meant I now had to make up for my laziness. Nope, just a lot of work.

9. The car starter my brother hooked me up with at Christmas works from my office!

10. I’m ready for this semester to be over and we are only starting week 2. Sigh.