Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Where You Taste The Love

Pumpkin Spiced Crumb Cake

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My Pumpkin Spiced Crumb Cake is one of my family’s favorites. I do want to explain why I take help from my local grocery store whenever I make a cake. In the past, I’ve mentioned using box cake mixes. They’re a time-saver, most importantly, there are great box cake mixes out there. First, they’ve come a long way in their quality and variety. Second, why would you break out the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and or cocoa powder, when all these ingredients are already measured and mixed for you!

I start with a basic box cake mix, building a flavor profile of the type of cake I’m looking to make. For example; If I’m making a chocolate cake, adding brewed coffee will enhance the chocolate flavor. I also like to add Ricotta cheese to the cake batter. These ingredients I’ve mentioned. ultimately enhance or make for a more tender cake.

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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 to 40 minutes
Total Time: 45 to 55 minutes (Baking time may vary depending on the type and size of the pan you use)
Equipment: parchment paper, 8 x 8-inch or 9 x 9-inch square pan
Yields: 9 slices

Note: I’m using a store-bought pumpkin spice for this recipe. I’ve also included a homemade pumpkin pie spice recipe below.

Ingredients For Crumb Topping:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup + 2 tablespoons of cake flour
1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/3 cup of chopped pecans (optional)
1 stick (8 tablespoons), melted unsalted butter

Ingredients For Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice:
teaspoons of ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1 pinch of allspice

Directions For Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice:
In a small bowl, whisk the spices together until combined. Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place.

For The Pumpkin Spice Cake:
1 box vanilla cake mix (16.5 oz. Duncan Hines French Vanilla)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4  cup granulated sugar
1 cup of Libby’s pumpkin pie mix
1/2 cup Ricotta cheese, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup of water
pinch of Kosher salt
1 heaping teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
powdered sugar for garnish

Directions:
For the topping:
Using a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together the sugars, cake flour, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Pour in the melted butter and stir with a spatula until thick crumbles form. Set aside while preparing the cake.

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.

For The Cake Batter:
Spray pan with baking spray and line with parchment paper, then spray the parchment paper. Note: This will allow for easy removal.

In a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer, add oil, vanilla extract, sugars, pumpkin pie mix puree, and ricotta cheese. Once the mixture is smooth, add 1 egg at a time until incorporated.

In a medium-size bowl, add the box cake mix, pumpkin pie spice, and Kosher salt. Whisk these ingredients together. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Do not over mix! Note: If you are doing this by hand, you can use a spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading into an even layer. Cover with the crumb mixture. If needed, break up the larger crumbs into smaller ones.

Place into oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a cake tester, inserted into the center, comes out clean, and the center of the cake barely jiggles. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool in the loaf pans for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Top the cake with a dusting of powdered sugar.

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Crispy Pork Belly

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Pork Belly seems to be one of the most sought-after cuts of meat. The Iron Chef show is who really brought this cut to the forefront. In restaurants today, it’s become one of the hottest items to order. I mean, once you’ve ordered the Pork Belly, you’ll most likely always order it no matter the style it’s being served. It’s that delicious!  I sometimes think we may be a little slow when it comes to trying new things. Many Asian cuisines, have for many years, implemented Pork Belly into a variety of their dishes.

I have a great and easy way to prepare Crispy Pork Belly at home so it will come out tender, golden, with a crispy top. This recipe doesn’t require scoring the skin in any way. This will allow you to slice it later and it will retain its integrity. I think it’s worth mentioning, that Shaoxing rice wine is available in most Asian markets today.

If you love Asain cuisine and want to make delicious Asian dishes at home, Shaoxing rice wine should be a pantry staple.

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Prep Time: 5 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 4 to 12 hours
Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time: 13 hours 15 minutes
Yields: 10 large pieces
Equipment: Roasting pan with rack

Ingredients:
2-pound pork belly
1 cup of Kosher salt

Marinade:
1/4 cup of low sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup of Shaoxing rice wine
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup
1/4 cup of orange juice
2 cloves of minced garlic

Directions:
Using a paper towel, pat the skin of the Pork Belly completely dry. Whisk together all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and then pour them into a rectangle style baking dish that’s just big enough to hold the pork belly.

Carefully place the Pork Belly into the baking dish making sure only the meat touches the marinade. The skin on the top must remain completely dry. If the marinade level is too high, then discard any extra by pouring some of it off. Place the baking dish with the pork belly and marinade into the frig for at least 4 hours to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.

Completely line a roasting pan with foil. Pour an inch of water into the bottom of the pan. Place a wire rack on top to hold the Pork Belly.

Remove the baking dish with the marinated pork belly from the frig. While the pork belly is still in the baking dish, spread 1 cup of Kosher salt evenly over the fat cap of the pork belly as seen in the pictures above.  Next, transfer the Pork Belly onto the wire rack. The Pork Belly will cook above the water and the drippings will fall into the water.

Note: If one part of the Pork Belly is slightly lower or shorter on one side, use an oven-safe item to prop up that side so the pork will cook evenly. Bake for around 40 minutes.

Adjust oven temperature to 470-degrees F.

Remove the Pork Belly from the oven. The salt should have formed a crust that can easily be removed. Refer to the side by side picture of the Pork Belly with the removed salted fat cap.

Place the Pork Belly back into the oven and bake for an additional 30 minutes. The skin should be bubbly and crisp.  Using an instant-read thermometer, the internal temperature should be 165-degrees F.

Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes before cutting and serving. Crispy Pork Belly is a great appetizer and one I know you’ll make over and over.

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Autumn Squash Soup

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This soup is so delicious and is a great way to ring in the fall season. I like to serve my Autumn Soup with a drizzle of *E.V.O.O,  Homemade Ciabatta Croutons, fresh chives, and roasted (Mexican pumpkin seeds) Pepitas.

It’s a nice way for your family and/or guests to customize their soup. There are a few steps in making this soup, but they are all really easy.

Mozzarella in Carrozza, which means carriage in Italian, is a type of fried cheese sandwich, in Italian cuisine, that’s super popular in the Campania region of Southern Italy. The perfect sandwich for dunking.

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Pumpkin Puree

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Chives (2)

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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Yields: 4 to 6 servings
Equipment: 1 (10-cup) food processor, 2 rimmed baking sheet pans, 1 (6-quart) heavy-bottom saucepot, 1 medium-size mixing bowl, 1 large mixing bowl

Note: The soup alone is gluten-free.

Ingredients:
2 large butternut squash, peeled and seeded, 1 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup of olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons of Kosher salt, divided
1 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper, divided

6 heaping cups of diced butternut squash, roasted
1 cup of onions, puréed (1 1/2 large onions, diced)
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped and puréed
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground chipotle powder ( add more if you like more heat)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 (15-ounce) can of pumpkin purée
1 1/2 quarts (6 cups) of chicken stock, unsalted
2 tablespoons of heavy cream
1/4 cup of chives, finely chopped for garnish
1/2 cup of Pepitas for garnish, roasted
Ciabatta croutons (optional)
*E.V.O.O. to drizzle over soup
Mozzarella grilled cheese sandwiches (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425-degrees F.
Start by peeling and seeding the butternut squash. Dice into 1 1/2-inch size chunks. Spread them out onto 2 rimmed baking sheet pans in one even layer, Drizzle olive oil, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. Using your hands, toss to coat. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes or until caramelized and fork-tender.

In a food processor add diced onions and garlic, pulse until puréed. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In small batches, add the roasted squash to the food processor pulse until puréed. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Repeat until all the squash has been processed.

In a saucepot over medium heat, heat olive oil, ground cumin, ground chipotle until the oil becomes fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the puréed onion mixture stir until coated with the spice mixture. Add Kosher salt and brown sugar, stir to combine. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Next, add the puréed butternut squash and pumpkin to the pot, again, stir to combine.

Add the chicken stock to the pot, stir to combine. Once the soup comes up to a very low boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

Next, add the heavy cream then give that a big stir. Turn the heat off and cover to keep warm.

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.
Soup’s ready! While it’s staying nice and warm, spread the Pepitas out in an even layer. Toast for 5 to 7 minutes or until you begin to smell their aroma. Chop fresh chives. Transfer both the Pepitas and chives to two small garnish bowls Serve with Homemade Ciabatta Croutons.

To serve, ladle my Autumn Soup into a porcelain serving bowl. Garnish with chives, Homemade Ciabatta Croutons, toasted Pepitas, and finally a drizzle of *E.V.O.O.

*E.V.O.O. is an acronym for extra virgin olive oil.

Homemade Ciabatta Croutons

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