The Great Pumpkin

I purchased a few small pumpkins at the grocery store. I have always wanted to try roasting a pumpkin, it’s not hard, but I’d have to agree with the popular vote that canned is just as good as fresh, and all the work is done for you. But, now I can say that I’ve done it and I got some good pumpkin puree as well as some nice chunks of the squash.

I whittled down my reading list on Google so it’s more manageable and I’m able to keep on top of it. Therefore, I’ve been reading it again instead of being so overwhelmed that I just select “mark all as read” from the menu. This past week I found some interesting recipes, with the air being a bit cooler (and wetter), and autumn officially arriving I knew that I just had to try them.

Garret over at Vanilla Garlic (http://vanillagarlic.blogspot.com/) posted a loose write-up for pumpkin curry with leeks and onions. I took it a step further and made this:

Pumpkin and Tofu Curry

 1 Tbsp canola oil

1 (12 oz) package of extra-firm tofu, drained and cubed

1 cup oven roasted pumpkin, cubed* (optional)

1 Tbsp salt

2 Tbsp butter

4 leeks, white part only, sliced

2 medium yellow onions, halved and sliced

6 cloves garlic, chopped rough

4 cups vegetable stock

1 (10 oz) can coconut milk

2 tsp roasted red chili paste

2 – 4 tsp green curry paste (according to how much heat you want)

1 cup fresh or canned pumpkin puree**

1 (10 oz) can sweet corn or baby corn

Salt and pepper

 

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu and pumpkin cubes, season with salt and fry until golden brown on all sides, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Remove to paper towel, and set aside.

 

Melt butter in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks, onions, and garlic; cook and stir until tender. Stir in stock, coconut milk, pumpkin puree, chili paste, curry paste, and corn. Return the cubes to the skillet. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 

Eat as a soup or serve over rice. OMG, the yum!

*How to Roast a Pumpkin (from http://www.seedsofknowledge.com)

You can only do this with a freshly carved pumpkin! Do not use on a pumpkin that has been carved and sitting out for several days.

To bake a fresh 6 to 7 pound pumpkin, halve the pumpkin crosswise and scoop out the seeds and strings. Place halves, hollow side down, in a large baking pan covered with aluminum foil and add a little water. Bake, uncovered, at 375ºF for 1 ½ to 2 hours or until fork-tender. Remove. When cool, scrape pulp from shells and puree, a little at time, in food processor or blender. Mix with a little salt.

 

**To use pumpkin puree for recipes: Line a strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth or a flour sack dish towel and let the pumpkin sit to drain out the extra moisture BEFORE cooking with it. Pumpkin is very moist, so in order for your recipe to come out correctly, you MUST strain it.

 

To freeze pumpkin puree. Put 1-2 cups in freezer bags along with spices and use in pies.

 

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins (http://kidscuisine.net/)

1 1/2 cups yellow or white cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 egg
3 Tbsp canola oil
3/4 cup fresh or canned pumpkin
1 1/2 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Spray a 12-cup standard muffin tin with cooking spray or use muffin cups.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, flours, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Mix well to remove any lumps, sifting if necessary.

Beat the egg lightly in a mixing bowl.  Add the oil, pumpkin, and milk to the egg and beat together until well-combined.

Gently mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stirring just until combined. Some lumps may remain; this is okay.

Divide the mixture evenly among the 12 muffin cups.

Bake at 350ºF for 20-25 minutes, checking at 20 minutes to see if they are done.  They will be done when a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 12 muffins

Fabulous with honey butter!

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From Apartment Therapy:

Just because I want to remember this . . .

Flickr Find: Clean the Grill With an Onion?

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We came across this Flickr photo entitled “Matt cleaned the grill with an onion…” and we were instantly intrigued. Cleaning the grill with an onion?

We had never seen this particular method before, so we did a little searching.

It seems that rubbing a hot grill with half a cut onion (cut side down) will loosen up baked on grit and grime and basically take it all right off the grill. It’s best to heat the grill super hot first and burn down any remaining food or crud, then rub it hard with an onion stuck on the end of a fork (as seen above).

We haven’t tried this yet, but we love that it’s a totally green option too! No icky grill cleaning chemicals.

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My Parents’ 40th Anniversary Dinner Menu:

Princess Lasagna

Strawberry and Feta Salad with Candied Walnuts and Berry Vinaigrette

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Grilled Italian Chicken

Pita Garlic Bread

4 kinds of Tortes (Chocolate, Almond, Cheesecake, and Raspberry)

 

Princess lasagna is a marrying of two really great recipes into a fantastic journey of your taste buds.  When I was a young girl, with the bloom still on my cheeks, my parents would often take us to Youghiogheny (pronounced yah-kuh-GAIN-ee ) Country Club (YCC) for dinner or brunch.  When it was on the menu, we always ordered Princess Soup, a rich, velvety experience that was the perfect way to start your meal.  It’s quite simple to make and if you don’t want to incorporate into the lasagna it is quite good all on its own.

 

Princess Lasagna

 

1 (8 oz) package lasagna noodles (I use Barilla no boil noodles, so there’s no prep for them)

Princess Soup (recipe follows)

2 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp olive oil

6 cloves garlic, sliced

16 oz mushrooms, rinsed and sliced

5 cups ricotta cheese

1 large bunch of fresh baby spinach, torn into large chunks

4 cups shredded mozzarella

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  If you use regular lasagna noodles, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain, and rinse with cold water.

 

In a stock pot prepare soup as directed below.

 

Heat olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat, cook and stir the garlic for 1 minute, then add mushrooms, cook until mushrooms cook down, about 5 minutes.

 

Lightly coat the bottom of a deep dish pan with enough soup mixture to coat.  Layer with 1/3 of the lasagna noodles, 2 cups ricotta, 1/2 of the spinach, and 2 cups mozzarella, and repeat the layers. Place the remaining noodles on top, and spread remaining soup.

 

Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven or until brown and bubbly. Top with  the remaining cup of mozzarella and cup of Parmesan cheese, and continue baking until cheese is melted and lightly browned.

 

Youghiogheny’s Princess Soup

 

2 carrots, finely diced

2 small onions

5 Tbsp butter

4 Tbsp flour

1 qt chicken stock

1/8 tsp mace

1 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

2 cups heavy whipping cream, scalded

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

 

Sauté the vegetables in butter, about 5 minutes until carrots are soft and onions are translucent, stir in flour, one tablespoon at a time, stirring continuously. Slowly add chicken stock, add seasonings, and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain cream and add. Stir in cheese and parsley. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. Heat through but do not boil.

 

Strawberry and Feta Salad with Candied Walnuts and Berry Vinaigrette

 

3 Tbsp seedless raspberry jam

2/3 cup canola oil

1/3 cup raspberry white wine vinegar

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

12 cups Mesclun (pronunciation: MESS-klunn) (salad mix of assorted small, young leaves like spring mix)

1 small red onion, sliced thin

1 cup reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled

2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

3/4 cup easy candied walnuts (recipe follows)

 

Place jam in microwavable bowl and microwave for 10-15 seconds until jam is melted. Add the jam, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to a container with a tight fitting lid, and shake well. Refrigerate any unused dressing.

 

In a large salad bowl, combine mesclun, red onion, and strawberries.  Toss with two tablespoons of dressing to marry the salad.  When ready to serve, top with feta and walnuts. Serve with extra dressing on the side.

 

Easy Candied Walnuts

 

You can store these in a container with a tight lid for a couple of weeks, but if your house is anything like mine, they disappear very quickly.

 

2 Tbsp butter

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1 Tbsp water

2 cups walnuts

 

Microwave butter in a 2 quart glass bowl until melted. Add remaining ingredients and stir nuts until coated. Microwave the bowl, uncovered 4-5 minutes, stirring every minute, cool in a single layer on wax paper.

 

Grilled Italian Chicken

 

So easy, but so yummy! The microwaving cuts down on grilling time, so the meat is cook, but still tender and juicy.

 

5 lbs chicken breasts, boneless and skinless

2 bottles of your favorite Italian dressing

 

Marinate chicken breasts for as little as 30 minutes or for a long as 3 days in Italian dressing, depending on how much time you have. Preheat grill. Place chicken in a 9×13 glass casserole dish and microwave for 3 minutes on high or until the edges of the chicken turn white.  Grill the chicken for 5 minutes on each side, or until chicken is cooked through.

 

The Macaroni and Cheese, Grilled Garlic Pita Bread and Tortes were not made by me, so I don’t have the recipes, but they were very good!

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Meal Plan July 13 – 19

I haven’t even looked at my food blog in months, no time, but we are planning meals and doing strict grocery runs, so I figured that I would post meal plans. I need about 10 more hours in a day to get everything acomplished and I’m not working. How does anyone get things done?

Sunday – Leftovers
Monday – Herb Roasted Chicken and Spring Vegetables
Tuesday – Nicoise Salad
Wednesday – Hashbrown Casserole
Thursday – Spaghetti and Meatballs
Friday – Sloppy Joes
Saturday – ?

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Pizza, Chicken Curry, and Absolutely No Free Time

Between the kids’ soccer practice, twice a week, and starting my MBA, it seems like I have no time.  But, eventually, it will all work out.  I’m also in the process of organizing my house, and it’s coming along very nicely, it’s just that very little blogging has been done.

Pizza!

Dough
1 c + 2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp bread machine yeast

Place all ingredients in the bread machine in the order listed. Select the dough cycle and press start.
Move the oven rack to the lowest position. Heat oven to 400°.  Grease two pizza stones or two cookie sheets, or some combination of the two.  Divide dough in half.  Pat each half into 12-inch circles on cooking surface with floured fingers.  Spread with favorite toppings.  Bake 18 – 20 minutes or until crust is light brown.
Makes 2 crusts

I find that the dough is very sticky and I use a lot of flour to knead it into the shape I want.

Sauce
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
3/4 c warm water
3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic paste
1 Tbsp honey
3/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp pepper
salt to taste

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix together. Sauce should sit for 30 minutes to blend, spread over pizza dough and prepare pizza as desired.

Since we only used red sauce on one pizza I have tons of this left over, I bottled it and stored it in the fridge.

We topped our first pizza (for the kids) with sauce, fresh mozzerella cheese slices, and pepperoni. The second pizza (for the adults) with olive oil, fresh basil, spinach, goat cheese, fresh mozzerella slices, sliced yellow onion, and strawberry tomatoes.

Chicken Curry with Pineapple

We serve this over sticky rice.

1/2 Tbsp green curry paste
1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk
2 Tbsp fish sauce*
1 Tbsp packed brown sugar
1 cup chicken stock
4 chicken thighs, skin and bones intact (You can remove them later, but they add such a good flavor) – I say this everytime I use chicken thighs.
1/2 c baby carrots
1 c fresh green beans, ends trimmed
1 (8 oz) can of bamboo shoots in sesame oil*
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp water
3/4 c crushed pineapple

In a saute pan braise the chicken in the chicken stock over medium heat for 10 minutes, covered, turning halfway through cooking time. Remove stock and set aside. Place chicken back in pan and cover, again.
In a medium saucepan combine green curry paste with coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in fish sauce, brown sugar, and chicken stock.
Place the carrots, green beans, and bamboo shoots with sesame oil in the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-hig heat, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the vegetables are cooked, but still crisp, about 15 minutes. Shred chicken thighs with two forks and add to the curry mixture.
Whisk together cornstarch and water. Stir into curry. Mix the pineapple into the curry and cook until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.
Serves 2

* found in oriental food stores

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Meyer Lemon Night

The one thing that I love about cast iron is that it easily goes from one cooking medium to another. Tonight, it went from the stove top to the oven to the broiler.

Baked Lemon Chicken with Meyer Lemon Sauce
1/4 c unsalted butter
2 Tbsp yellow onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 c Dry White Wine
1 c Low Sodium Chicken Broth
3 Tbsp Meyer lemon juice, freshly squeezed (or substitute regular lemons)
2 tsp Meyer Lemons zest
8 chicken thighs, skin and bones intact (It’s easy to get rid of these later, but it gives the meat such a nice flavor.)
1 lemon, sliced

Preheat the oven to 350°.  In a cast-iron skillet, melt butter. Add onions, garlic, salt and pepper, and cook until transparent, about 5 minutes, over medium-high heat. Add wine, chicken stock, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Place chicken in skillet, top with lemon slices, and and transfer the oven. Bake for 45 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Heat broiler to high and transfer skillet to broiler for 3-5 minutes, until top has browned. Divide chicken among plates. Spoon sauce over.
Serves 8.

Meyer Lemon Risotto adapted from 101 Cookbooks
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 c unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp sea salt
2 c uncooked rice (I used sushi rice)
1 c dry white wine
3 c chicken stock
3 c water
1/4 c Meyer lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Grated zest of 4 Meyer lemons
1/2 c Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
1/2 c sour cream
3 big handfuls of greens, chopped (I used spinach)
Handful of toasted pine nuts, for garnish*

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, then add the onions, shallots, garlic, and salt and saute, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften.
Add the rice to the pot and stir until coated with a nice sheen, then add the white wine and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes, until the rice has absorbed the liquid a bit. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle, active simmer.
In increments, add 3 cups of stock and 3 cups of water, 1 cup at a time, letting the rice absorb most of the liquid between additions; this should take around 40 minutes. Stir regularly so the grains on the bottom of the pan don’t scorch. You will know when the rice is cooked because it won’t offer up much resistance when chewing.
When the rice is tender remove the pot from heat. Stir in the lemon zest, Parmesan, and sour cream. Taste and adjust – add more salt if needed, more lemon zest. Then stir in the greens. Garnish with toasted pine nuts and a dusting of extra Parmesan before serving.
Serves 6 to 8.

* You can toast the pine nuts in a 350° oven for 5 minutes.

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Succulent Crab Salad

A while ago my local Giant Eagle had a seafood sale. There were tons of BOGO specials, including lump crabmeat, 2 lb bags of EZ-peel shrimp, tuna steaks, etc. Needless to say that I stocked up.

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Succulent Crab Salad
1 1/2 Tbsp Salted butter
2 Tbsp Shallots, minced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 c Lump crabmeat, pick through
pinch Cayenne
Salt and pepper
1 oz Goat cheese, crumbled
1 tsp Truffle oil or Truffle infused olive oil
Spinach

Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a skillet. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the crabmeat, salt, pepper and cayenne and cook for one minute. Place crab mixture on a bed of spinach leaves, top with goat cheese and drizzle with truffle oil.

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