Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pumpkin Thyme Pasta

I've already mentioned a time or much I LOVE this time of year. If I ever needed any help in getting motivated to cook (and write and photograph all the things that I'm cooking) all I needed was fall to come around. This next recipe really embodies everything about the fall, especially because the centerpiece of the dish is pumpkin, and I don't know about you, but whoever doesn't associate fall and Halloween and Thanksgiving with that plump little rotund and tasty squash, pumpkin (even the name eeks of cuteness), is a little off their knocker if you ask me.

Whenever I think of pumpkin, I automatically think sweet...pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin chocolate chip mom makes and AWESOME pumpkin cheesecake, but Surprise! Surprise! as I get older and reach the ripe old age of 30 (gasp!), I'm less interested in the sweet and more interested in the savory (see what I did there...ha! I'm so clever).

Anyways...I was on a mission to find a savory pumpkin recipe to use up the leftover pumpkin  I had from making these little delicious morsels, and I found the PERFECT one. This Pumpkin Thyme Pasta from 101 Cookbook  is delicious! The original recipe called for Rosemary, and I didn't have fresh Rosemary on I substituted Thyme, and it worked WONDERFULLY. It's the perfect savory pumpkin recipe I was searching for, not to mention the most perfect, comfort food and fall recipe.

I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did...Oh, and since it is the eve of Thanksgiving, I hope you all enjoy a very Happy Thanksgiving surrounded by friends and family and all those that you love!

Pumpkin Thyme Pasta

12 ounces penne
Coarse salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh Thyme
1 can pumpkin puree
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup reserved pasta water
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more for garnish (optional)

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta water; drain pasta and set aside.

In pasta pot, heat oil over medium. Add thyme and fry, stirring, until starting to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer rosemary to a paper towel, leaving oil in pot.

Carefully add pumpkin puree, garlic, half-and-half, Parmesan, vinegar, red-pepper flakes, and 1 cup reserved pasta water to pot. Stir sauce until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add pasta to sauce, and toss to coat.  Serve pasta sprinkled with fried thyme and, if desired, more red-pepper flakes and parmesan (I'm all about the cheese!)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Caramelized Brussel Sprouts

If you want to get the kiddos to eat their brussel sprouts, do I have a recipe for you? Well, at least I think I do. Honestly, since I don't have kids of my own, I'm not exactly an expert, but I do know that if you tried to feed me those funky looking mini green cabbages when I was a kid, I would have looked at you like you had four eyeballs.

BUT...and this is a big BUT, if you had saute'd those brussel sprouts in olive oil and garlic and then tossed them with brown sugar, sea salt and toasted chopped pecans, and basically made them taste like CANDY, I promise you I would have gobbled them up on site, which is EXACTLY what I did with these.

Please go make them now....I promise you won't regret it.

Caramelized Brussel Sprouts

12-14 large brussels sprouts
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch sea salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup roughly chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted

Slice each brussels sprout very thin until you have a mound of them Heat the olive oil over medium high in a large skillet and saute the garlic for 30 seconds. Add the brussels sprouts and continue sauteing for another 4-5 minutes, until bright green and tender. Add the sea salt and brown sugar and toss together. Finish by adding the toasted nuts.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Winter Squash Risotto

This recipe is the perfect comfort food....and this coming from someone who, unfortunately for my waistline....loves comfort food. Mac and Cheese, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Pizza....all huge achilles heels for me. This Squash Risotto can definitely be added to that list. It's creamy and cheesy and so good. It is also super filling and is all you need to warm up a cold November night for dinner.

It's also a great way to use such a tasty winter vegetable. I love squash. Roasted, saute'd, turned into soup and especially roasted and mixed in with this risotto.

If you've never made risotto before, it's pretty easy, just a little time consuming and it definitely gives your arm a workout since you have to stir the rice the entire time you're cooking it...(it's like a pre-dinner workout so you can have seconds!) And enjoy a nice glass of vino too!

At least that's what I told myself when I went back for seconds...

Winter Squash Risotto

5 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 Large Onion, Chopped
3 cups chopped peeled butternut, hubbard, red kuri or kabocha squash (1/2-inch pieces)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle olive oil over chopped and peeled squash pieces and bake in the oven 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Place broth in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat so the broth remains steaming, but is not simmering.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots; cook, stirring, until translucent about 3-5 minutes. Add thyme, salt and pepper, cook for 30 seconds.

Add rice; stir until translucent, about 1 minute. Add wine and cook, stirring, until almost absorbed by the rice.

Stir in 1/2 cup of the hot broth; reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid has been absorbed. Continue adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until all the liquid has been absorbed, until the rice is tender and creamy, 30 to 40 minutes total. (You may have some broth left.) Remove from the heat and stir in cheese.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Roasted Beet, Grilled Chicken and Toasted Gorgonzola Cheese Crouton Salad

 Remember a few weeks ago when I had my first experience with Kale....well my friends, my little organic delivery box of fruits and veggies also delivered another newbie for me. Beets. I was terrified of beets. They're always that weird side dish on a Thanksgiving table that you can't really tell what it is, and so most kids and some adults (like me) shy away from it. I have never had beets before in my life until the other night, and I'm so glad I finally discovered them!

They manage to be super hearty and just a bit sweet (I didn't know that combination was a possibility) and they are so delicious when roasted to perfection. I combined them with grilled chicken, red onion, toasted pecans and a delicious panko crusted goat cheese crouton (recipe I took again from the AMAZING Deb over at Smitten Kitchen - her cookbook came out and I'm impatiently waiting for mine to arrive in the mail!). All of these flavors blended absolutely perfectly together. It was the BEST dinner I've had in a long time and has officially become my new favorite dinner salad. I literally took my first bite and "wowed" out loud over a salad. It was that good. So if you want to have the same experience...GO MAKE THIS NOW. 

Roasted Beets

4 large beets, peeled and sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Simply slice the beets, and wrap them in foil and let roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven and let steam in the package for an additional 5 minutes. 

Goat Cheese "Crouton"

4 ounces fresh goat cheese, softened
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/4 cup Panko** breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon coarse or sea salt
Olive oil, for frying
Freshly ground black pepper

Form the goat cheese into large medallions. Stick in the refrigerator (or freezer) to chill. This will help them maintain their shape as you are frying them. While the goat cheese is chilling, put flour in one bowl, a beaten egg into another and the bread crumbs into a third. Season the Panko bread crumbs with salt and pepper.

Heat a skillet on medium high heat and add the olive oil.

Remove your goat cheese from the fridge, coat it in flour, then the egg and finally coat the goat cheese medallions in a thick coating of bread crumbs. Fry the "croutons" in the skillet and top your salad with this delicious, melty and cheesy crouton. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Autumn Spice Cupcakes

This is one of my all-time favorite cupcake recipes that I've ever made. I discovered it two years ago in Country Living, when hosting a "Friends-Giving" for Thanksgiving a while back. I made it a cake that night, but then started using it as a cupcake recipe and I've never turned back. Since it's the beginning of November, and lots of people are planning their Thanksgiving menus (me included), I thought this was the perfect way to start off the month! 

These are the perfect dessert for Fall. Whether it's Halloween, Thanksgiving or you just need a little pick me up when the weather gets cold, dreary and rainy (I'm learning that happens a lot in my new city, Portland, OR...but don't worry PDX, I still <3 you very very much!) 

They have everything a yummy spice cake should have, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves...they even have a little hint of chocolate in them (because really, who doesn't LOVE chocolate?). The original recipe called for a Maple Cream Cheese Frosting, which I'm sure would be delicious, but it seemed a bit much and I thought it might overpower the cake, so the first time around I did just a basic cream cheese frosting. I've altered that as well and stuck with a basic buttercream frosting. It really makes the flavor of the cake stand out and I like it that much more. 

So if you're looking for your next Fall dessert to bring to a party, or just need a little pick me up, I suggest you go make these. They're delicious, if I do say so myself!

1 stick butter, softened
1 cup shortening
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon Dutch-processed cocoa
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line Cupcake pans with liners. 

Beat butter, shortening, and sugars together until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth and light. Stir the buttermilk and vanilla together. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and spices together in a large bowl. Alternately stir the flour mixture and buttermilk, in thirds, into the beaten butter. Blend well with each addition.

Pour batter into the cupcake pans and bake 18-20 minutes until center tests clean. Let cool completely before frosting.