Pharm Fresh

The foodie alter-ego of a pharmacy student

Moist Pumpkin Bread September 15, 2009

Filed under: bread,dessert,fruit,snacks — pharmfresh @ 3:57 pm
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I don’t know about everywhere else in the world, but for the past few weeks here, it has been HOT. Like, mid to high 80’s. I know that sounds really wimpy, but hey, it’s Michigan! And northern Michigan, at that! We had a really mild summer here, so for it to get this warm while I’m already back in school is really weird. I am definitely more of a fall girl. I love the cooling temperatures, the turning leaves, bringing out the sweatshirts and jeans and most especially, fall foods.

We’ve made this bread every single year around Thanksgiving and Christmas time for years. It’s one of my most favorite fall treats. It’s very easy to make, uses mostly ingredients you probably already have on hand, and it makes the entire house smell fabulously autumnal while baking. You can’t get any better than that!

Feel free to play around with the amount of spices in the recipe.  The original recipe called for only a teaspoon each of cinnamon and cloves, but I found that it wasn’t spicy enough for me.  I like to add a little bit of nutmeg, ginger and allspice as well.  Play around with it a little and if it doesn’t have enough flavor the first time, try putting in more next time!


Moist Pumpkin Bread

Makes: 2 loaves

Source: my mom!

2/3 c. shortening

2 c. granulated sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 c. pumpkin puree

2/3 c. water

2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. salt

2 tsp. cinnamon

3/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. ground allspice (optional)

3 1/3 c. flour

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease two loaf pans.

2) In a large bowl, cream the shortening and sugar until combined.

3) Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.

4) Stir in water and pumpkin puree, then add baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.  Mix until completely combined.

5) Stir in flour, mixing until smooth.

6) Bake for one hour, until a knife inserted in the middle of the loaves comes out clean.


Guacamole! August 31, 2009

Filed under: appetizer,snacks,vegetable — pharmfresh @ 10:30 pm
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Well, our Kalamazoo celebration weekend went well.  Very well!  The weather didn’t really cooperate very much with us, but we made due and still had a good time.  I have such great friends!

I made this to take with me to Jen’s along with the salsa.  I love guacamole so much!  This is a super easy (and super cheap!) recipe that’s really customizable.  You can add more or less of whatever you want…and even my measurements are really only approximations.  I usually just start adding things and I eventually stop when it tastes right to me.  So feel free to change up amounts or completely substitute/leave out ingredients as you see fit.

Make sure to buy very ripe avocados for this.  You should look for fruit with very dark, black skin that gives quite a bit when squeezed.  Unripe avocados don’t have quite as much flavor and are almost impossible to smash without breaking kitchen utensils.  Which we definitely don’t want.



3 large, very ripe avocados

1 plum tomato, roughly chopped

1/2 large or 1 small white onion, roughly chopped

1-2 tbsp. fresh lime juice

1/4 c. fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced

salt and pepper, to taste

1) With a large knife, halve each avocado by cutting all the way around the pit and twisting to separate the sides.  Using a large spoon, remove the pit and discard.  Spoon out the flesh of the avocado and place in a large bowl.

2) Using a fork or a potato masher, mash the avocado to form a relatively smooth consistency.  (I prefer the avocado to be smooth, but if you want chunks, leave chunks!)

3) Stir in about 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice and the onion, jalapeno and tomato that you previously chopped.

4) Place the minced garlic on a cutting board.  Sprinkle with about 1 tsp. kosher salt.  Using the flat side of your knife, press down on the garlic and drag across the cutting board, crushing it under the knife.  Repeat until a paste forms, then stir that paste into the mixture.

5) Gently mix in the cilantro.  Taste, and add salt, pepper and more lime juice, if needed.

6) To store, cover first with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap right onto the top of the guacamole.  Even though we added quite a bit of lime juice, the parts that are exposed to air will turn brown, but the plastic wrap will help.  Then either cover with foil or an air-tight top.


Roasted Tomato Salsa August 27, 2009

Filed under: appetizer,snacks,vegetable — pharmfresh @ 7:37 pm
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I’m back!  Did you miss me?

I can’t believe the summer is already almost over – it flew by so quickly!  As I’m sure you’ve noticed by the lack of posts these past few months, I took a little summer hiatus from blogging, and cooking in general.  I moved in with my little sister for the summer and didn’t want to lug my tons of cooking equipment with me for just a three month stay and little sister doesn’t do much cooking at all aside from making a bowl of cereal every now and again.  To be honest though, other than the bowl of spaghetti every now and then, I think I only actually cooked twice this summer.  Twice! I know, I can’t believe it either.

The good news is that I’m back and all moved into my house in Big Rapids and school starts on Monday, so I’ll be doing much more cooking (and blog updating!) now.  This weekend my group of pharmacy school friends are going on a little getaway to celebrate the last weekend before classes start.  My friend Jen (who made an appearance in the last blog post) has a gorgeous house right on a lake in Kalamazoo, so we’re all traveling down there and staying for the weekend.  It’s going to be so much fun – I can’t wait!

Jen asked everyone to either donate money so she could go grocery shopping, or bring some food to share, so I naturally volunteered to bring some food.  It felt so good to get back to cooking again!

This is one of the snacks I volunteered to bring.  I saw this recipe ages ago on 101Cookbooks and I’m so glad I finally got around to making it!  I’ve never made a salsa that involved cooking the ingredients, but it turned out really well.  Roasting the tomatoes brings out their natural sweetness and gives them a little hint of smokiness that goes really well with the chipotle chiles.  The flavor is definitely different than that of a fresh salsa, but I think this makes for a nice change every once in a while.

Chipotle chiles (which are smoked jalapenos) can be found in most major supermarkets, usually in the ethnic foods aisle.  They come in a small can, usually labeled “chipotle chiles in adobo sauce.”  The original recipe calls for a dried guajillo pepper as well, but I couldn’t find any at my grocery store, so I just left it out.


Roasted Tomato Salsa

Adapted from: 101 Cookbooks

2 lbs. roma tomatoes

1 large onion

3 cloves garlic

2 tsp. kosher or sea salt

3-4 tbsp. olive oil

1-2 chipotle chiles (canned, in adobo sauce)

1/2 c. cilantro, roughly chopped

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2)  Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and place, cut side down in a single layer, on a large cookie sheet.  (I like to lightly cover my cookie sheet in cooking spray, just in a case.)  Cut the onion into large wedges and place on the cookie sheet with the tomatoes.  Place the garlic cloves on the cookie sheet, too.

3) Drizzle olive oil over tomatoes, onions and garlic and sprinkle with salt.

4) Roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until the tomatoes have started to sink in the middle and the onions are lightly browned on the edges.  Set aside and let cool.

5) Once everything has cooled a bit, puree 3 tomato halves, the garlic cloves and chipotles in a food processor until smooth.  Roughly chop the rest of the tomatoes and onion and stir into the pureed mixture.  Stir in the cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste.


Mom’s Cheese Ball February 18, 2009

Filed under: appetizer,snacks — pharmfresh @ 8:18 pm
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There are very few things that I will eat with reckless abandon.  This is one of them.  I think I could eat this for days on end, and never get tired of it.  It doesn’t matter if I’ve just eaten a full Thanksgiving dinner, I can still find room for this stuff.  I swear, it’s like crack.  Cheesy, garlicky crack.  And better yet, crack that’s not likely to kill you.

I have no idea where this recipe originated, but my mom has been making it for as long as I can remember.  Every holiday and family gathering just isn’t the same without mom’s cheese ball.  I think she started out actually shaping this into a ball, but lately we’ve found that it’s much easier (and just as delicious!) to just spoon it all into a big bowl.  I’ve made this for quite a few friends and parties through the years, and I’ve never found even one person who didn’t like it.  In fact, it usually goes over extremely well, which is both good and bad.  Good because, well, who doesn’t like it when their food is a hit?  And bad because I never have any leftovers for the next day!

This is a really forgiving recipe, and can be altered to suit your personal taste quite easily.  The original recipe calls for Kraft Roka Blue and Old English cheese spreads, but I usually have a hard time finding Roka Blue.  I usually substitute in Pimiento, which I actually like more than Roka Blue anyways, because it gives the dip a little bit of extra spice. I also like my cheese ball heavy on the garlic.  I used about 2 1/2 tsp. of garlic powder in this, which was pretty intense, even for my taste.  I would start with 1/2 tsp. and taste it.  If it doesn’t taste garlicky enough, keep adding more in increments of 1/2 tsp., tasting every time, until it tastes right.

You can find these small jars of Kraft cheeses in most supermarkets in the refrigerated cheese section, usually near the cream cheese.  I’ve also found them in the non-refrigerated section next to the Velveeta.


Mom’s Cheese Ball

2 blocks (8 oz. each) cream cheese

1 jar (5 oz.) Kraft Old English cheese spread

1 jar (5 oz.) Kraft Pimiento cheese spread

1 jar (5 oz.) Kraft Roka Blue cheese spread (optional)

1/2 – 2 tsp. garlic powder (see note above)

assorted crackers (Triscuits, Wheat Thins, Ritz, etc.)

1) In a medium bowl, combine all cheeses.  Beat with an electric mixer until smooth.

2) Add garlic powder in increments of 1/2 tsp. tasting after each addition until the desired taste is attained.

3) Serve with assorted crackers (Triscuits are my favorite to have with this!)


Cinnamon Roasted Almonds January 7, 2009

Filed under: snacks — pharmfresh @ 6:35 pm
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I’ve had an incredibly lazy week so far.  Mostly I’ve laid around the house, watching reruns of NCIS and Unsolved Mysteries and hung out with my parents.  I think it’s a good way to get a final little bit of rest in before next week, when I plunge headfirst into a whole new semester of pharmacy school.  I’m going back to Big Rapids on Friday, so I’m trying to soak up as much family and boyfriend time as possible.

To break up my incredibly busy schedule for the day (ha!), I decided to try my hand at cinnamon roasted almonds.  My dad loves the kind you can buy at the mall during the holidays, and I’ve always wanted to try to replicate them.  This is the first of two recipes that I found for these.  This one is egg white based, and you bake the entire combination, while with the other you make a cinnamon flavored syrup on the stovetop, and simply coat the almonds and let it harden.

The verdict?  These taste almost exactly like the nuts from the mall, but the nuts themselves are softer.  The coating has more of a grainy texture, and the mall nuts had more of a hard candy-esque coating.  It’s definitely not bad, though.  I quite like them.  Definitely a passable first attempt, and seeing as I’m eating some right now, I’m pretty happy with it!

Cinnamon Roasted Almonds

Adapted from various recipes on


1 egg white

2 c. whole almonds

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. cinnamon


Separate the egg white into a medium bowl.


Whip egg whites to stiff peaks.  See how the peak on the edge of the beater stands straight up?  That’s what you want.

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Add in the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla.  Mix gently, until everything is incorporated.


Mix in almonds until completely coated.


Spread almonds onto a greased cookie sheet (I use foil for easy cleanup).  Make sure the almonds are in a single layer.

Bake at 300 degrees for 10 minutes.


Remove from oven and stir the almonds, breaking up the larger clusters as you go.  Put back into the oven and bake for 10 more minutes.  Once cooled, break the almonds up into single pieces and store in an airtight container.


The leftover crispy bits make great dog treats!  (By the way, meet my adorable chihuahua, Ella)