Thursday, September 24, 2009

How to Cook a Pumpkin

In all the years I have been baking with pumpkin (pies, cakes, muffins, cookies, etc.) I have never, ever used a real pumpkin. I know the stuff in the can is labeled Real Pumpkin but I'm talking about the non-canned variety that only shows up in the grocery stores in the fall and winter. Not the big, jack-o-lantern ones, the other ones. The ones that sit with all the other gourds that I don't know what to do with, besides decorate. I actually set out today to buy a can of pumpkin for a cake recipe but, upon discovering that the store did not have canned pumpkin in stock, I decided to try baking a whole one. What I found is that it's ridiculously easy, fills my house with an amazing aroma, and a medium size pumpkin yields about 3 cups.


This is how I did it:

1. Cut the top of the pumpkin off, close to the stem.

2. Cut the pumpkin in half, lengthwise, and remove the seeds and stringy stuff.


3. Spray a baking pan and place pumpkin halves in pan, face down.

4. Cover with foil and bake at 375* for about 1 hour.


5. When cool enough to handle, scrape pumpkin out of its shell. At this point you can mash or puree, if you like, but mine was so soft that it wasn't necessary.



So easy! I may never buy canned pumpkin again!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Spicy Szechwan Shrimp

My youngest son absolutely loves shrimp and has been asking me repeatedly to make his all-time favorite shrimp dish, spicy szechwan shrimp. So, that is what we are having tonight. Here is the recipe:

Marinade:
2 TBSP dry sherry
1 TBSP dark sesame oil
1 TBSP hoisin sauce
1 TBSP dark soy sauce
1 TBSP honey
2 tsp. Asian chile sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP fresh ginger, minced
3 TBSP green onion, minced
2 TBSP cilantro, chopped

1 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp, tails removed

2 TBSP grapeseed oil

1. In a medium bowl, prepare marinade by combining the sherry, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, honey, chile sauce, garlic, ginger, green onion, and cilantro.

2. Add shrimp to marinade; cover and refrigerate up to 8 hours.

3. Preheat a wok to high. Add grapeseed oil to coat the wok. Add shrimp to the wok, reserving marinade. Stir-fry until shrimp are pink, 1-2 min. Add marinade and toss to coat the shrimp. Serve immediately over rice.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bavarian Apple Torte

The great thing about doing all the cooking around here is that we're always having exactly what I'm hungry for ;) and lately I've been craving apples. I made this Bavarian Apple Torte from Taste of Home a few days ago and everyone devoured it without any knowledge of how ridiculously easy it was to make! The crust has a nice shortbread flavor that hubby and I thought went well with the apples (Granny Smith). Here's the recipe:

3/4 c. real butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Filling:
2 - 8oz. pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Topping:
3 c. thin sliced and peeled tart apples
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

1. Combine the first four ingredients. Press onto the bottom of an ungreased 9-in. springform pan.

2. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Pour over the crust.

3. Combine topping ingredients and arrange as pretty or as messy as you like over filling.

4. Bake at 350* for 55-65 minutes (mine was done in 60) or until the center is set. Cool on a wire rack. Store in the refrigerator. Cut into wedges with a serrated knife.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Why Aren't We Having Waffles Tonight?

Because we're having chicken spaghetti tonight, that's why. Everyone loves it, we haven't had it in awhile, and I think it sounds pretty good.

Everything was going along just fine as I'm cooking the chicken breasts, chopping veggies, etc. when my teenage son comes in the kitchen and, seeing the recipe on my stand asks, "Whatever happened just plain ol' spaghetti?" The fact that we are known to have "plain ol' spaghetti" on a somewhat regular basis has completely escaped his memory. No matter though because that is not the point. The point is that, in the minds of these particular teenage boys, it almost never matters what I am making as it is almost never exactly what they are craving at a given moment in time.

For example, my other teenage son had kept insisting I make a certain chicken dish. So one evening I decide to make it, thinking he would be happy about it. Here's what actually happened: He came in the kitchen as I was preparing dinner, saw that I was making the meal HE SPECIFICALLY REQUESTED and asked me, (I swear this is true) "We're not having sushi?" What?! Sushi?! What in the world made him think we might be having sushi?! I'll tell you what - NOTHING!!! See what I mean?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rigatoni with White Beans

I have made this vegetarian dinner twice now and we have had no leftovers either time. It's delicious, healthy, and super easy. At first I wasn't sure how I would feel about the sage in this recipe as I had never used it with pasta. I was pleasantly surprised with it though as it really is quite good. Here's the recipe:

8 oz. rigatoni
1/4 c. chopped onion
1 TBSP olive oil
1 c. fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 can diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings, undrained
1 small jar artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 tsp. rubbed sage
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
3 c. chopped kale
1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.

2. In a large, deep skillet, heat oil and saute onion and garlic until tender.

3. Add mushrooms and cook an additional 5 min.

4. Stir in beans, tomatoes, artichokes, sage, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 5 min.

5. Stir in the kale. Bring to a boil, cover the pan, and cook until kale is wilted, usually 3-5 min.

6. Two options here: (1) Add the pasta to the mixture; (2) Spoon pasta into bowls and top with bean mixture. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve immediately.



* Recipe adapted from Taste of Home.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Morning...

I have spent the morning working on a dinner menu. I have two weekly planning sessions, Monday - Thursday and Friday - Sunday. I know some people shop once a week or (gasp!) even less than that but twice a week works for me. This is what I have so far:

Monday

Rigatoni with White Beans and Artichokes
Roasted Tomatoes
Caesar Salad

Tuesday

Yankee Pot Roast
Mashed Potatoes
Peas
Homemade Rolls

Apple Torte for dessert... :)

Wednesday

Chicken Spaghetti
Green Beans

Thursday

Leftovers, if there are any. Otherwise, I'll come up with something between now and then.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Good Morning - Dinner is Ready! (Almost)

It's in the 60's this morning and the weather is not forecasted to reach beyond the 70's all week. Fall is here and I can already feel myself slipping into my winter food mode - comfort foods with lots of carbs. I'm thinking of making my fabulous chicken and dumplings in the Crock Pot today. It's a recipe that I've developed through experimentation of adding different ingredients, adjusting cooking times, and so on. I'll post the recipe later when I have some photos. It's delicious. Plus, there is something very appealing to me about having dinner pretty much *done* by 10am. ;)
***Update: I didn't get a picture after all. I usually make this meal a few times over the course of the fall and winter though so hopefully I can get one next time. :-/

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hearty Vegetarian Enchiladas

Every once in a while, I can serve a vegetarian meal hearty enough that the kids don't even question whether or not it contains meat. This is one of those dishes. It's a heavy dinner and I frequently only serve chips and guacamole on the side, which seems to be plenty for us. Here's the recipe:

1 green pepper, chopped
1/4 c. white or yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves minced garlic
1 TBSP olive oil
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1/4 c. salsa
1 TBSP chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 c. brown or white rice, cooked
8 - 6" flour tortillas
1 c. salsa
1 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
3 TBSP fresh cilantro, chopped

1. In large skillet, saute green pepper, onion, and garlic until tender.

2. Add beans, tomatoes, 1/4 c. salsa, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until heated through and mixture begins to thicken slightly.

3. Add rice and cook an additional 5 min., stirring to blend everything together.

4. Add 1/2c. of the mixture to each tortilla, carefully roll up and place in a greased 9x13 glass pan.

5. Pour 1c. salsa over the rolled tortillas

6. Cover and bake at 350* for about 25 min.

7. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese and cilantro. Return to oven for 2-3 min., or until cheese is melted.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Chocolate Chip Pecan Blondies

The secret ingredient here is dark rum. I used Myer's Original Dark. It should be noted that these blondies would also be excellent without the rum but the purpose of its addition is to help bring out the flavor of the pecans. Here's the recipe:

1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp.baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. real butter, softened
2 c. light brown sugar, firmly packed
3 large eggs, room temp.
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 TBSP dark rum
1 1/2 c. pecans, chopped
3/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 c. white chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350*. Line 9x13 pan with foil. Lightly grease foil.
2. In medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. In large bowl (or electric mixer), beat butter and brown sugar on medium for about 2 min., until light in color and texture. Scrape sides and add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
4. Beat in vanilla extract and rum. At this point the batter will smell amazing!
5. On low speed, add dry ingredients, just until combined.
6. Stir in 3/4c pecans and all of the chocolate chips.
7. Pour batter into pan, top with remaining pecan pieces, and lick the spatula. Go ahead, it's good!
8. Bake 35-40 min. When testing, toothpick should be clean but not dry. Cool completely on wire rack.
9. Using a double boiler (or the microwave on defrost setting), melt white chocolate. Pour into a plastic bag, snip a little off the corner, and drizzle chocolate over the top.
* If your bag has a blowout (like mine did), you can always just spread the white chocolate across the bars (like I did). Maybe not as fancy as it could be but ... you know. ;)



Also, you could totally make these the day before you need them. They're good the first day but they are awesome the next!!! Enjoy!

**I've made some minor changes here to the original as printed in The Good Cookie by Tish Boyle.

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